Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.

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It is easy to be discouraged. All we have to do is to make a fair and honest assessment of today’s culture from the news to pop culture. The evidence of a fallen world abounds and if we are honest and look ourselves the picture doesn’t look any better. We are fallen creatures in constant need of conversion, prayer and growth in faith, hope and charity.

As our culture becomes more and more secularized and the memory of a Christian West starts fading into the history it will become more and more difficult to abide by the side of the everlasting man. As Cardinal Francis George said:

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square”.

Yet many people who quote him often forget to quote what he says next:

His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

A time may come when Christianity will be brutally persecuted in the West, but it will not be the end. It will only be a new beginning. History has proven this over and over again from the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire to the persecution Orthodox Christianity by the Arian heretics during the early centuries of Christianity; from the persecution of the Catholic Church in England during the revolt of King Henry VIII to the brutal persecution of the priesthood during the French revolution, the Church has always emerged to pick up the pieces and stand for Truth and the Light of Christ.

A few weeks ago the teens from my parish were confirmed in their Catholic faith through the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation. That is the laying of the hands and the infusion of the Holy Spirit into their hearts:

“Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit”.

Acts 19:6

“Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, instruction about baptisms and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And we shall do this, if only God permits”.

Hebrew 6:1-3

Confirmation is one of the most beautiful modern rite of passage. It is an opportunity for teens not only to learn about their Christian faith but also to take ownership of their Faith. The catechism of the Catholic Church explains it very beautifully:

“Confirmation…gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross…”

CC paragraph 1303

This is a call to boldly confess the name of Christ and to never be ashamed of the Cross. This can be especially hard for Christians today because it is such a counter cultural statement to profess the sanctity of life, the beauty of chastity as a single and as a married person, to defend the poor, the weak and the dying and to promote the reference to that which is holy.

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God gives us the graces to accomplish all these things through the Holy Spirit. The question is:

What are we going to do with the Graces that God has given us?

There can only be two answers to this question: either we take these graces seriously and become saints or ignored them and become indifferent. Indifference always leads to death.

Indifference implies certain a level of understanding, for you can’t be indifferent about things that you know. For Christian indifference mainly arises out of willful ignorance because people are afraid of genuinely committing to understand because they know what it will demand of them. After all Jesus said:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. He gave us everything and yet we are hesitant of giving anything back.

Mathew 16:24-25

These are tough words! But he also said talking to Peter, who was sinking in the middle of a storm:

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Mathew 14:27

He is speaking to you and me today as he was speaking to his disciples:

Be not afraid of your own weakness because He will be there to strengthen you.

Be not afraid of your own ignorance because He will be there to enlighten you.

Be not afraid of your own impurities because He will be there to purify you.

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

He also says:

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.* And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Mathew 28:18-20

He promised us to be with us until the end of the age!

He is really there in the Holy Eucharist, His Body, His Blood, His Soul and His Divinity. Just waiting for you!

He is there when we go to Confession; when the Priest says: “I absolve you of your sin”. That is Christ telling you: “I absolve you of your sins”.

He is there preaching the gospel to all nations through His Church.

He is there in the silence of your heart. When you say: father, please show me the way because I don’t know.

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Mathew 14:27

This is how we are able to boldly proclaim his name and never be ashamed of the Cross because he is always going to be with us!

As we look forward to the Week that changed the world, let us look at Him on the Cross, look at his tortured body, at his pierced holy hands, at the wound in his chest from which blood and water pour for the salvation of the world…and listen, just listen to him…

He yearns for you.
He did it for you.
How can you be afraid?

My top 10 Movies for Lent Part II (5 to 1)

As we approach Holy Week here are my top 5 movies for Lent. I really appreciate Debbie recommendations and the reminder that 1) there are great Christian films out there (like Diary of Country Priest, Courageous, For Greater Glory, Unbroken, The Ten Commandments, The Son of God, Fire Proof and Spielberg monumental classic Schindler’s list among many other) and 2) that this is just a humble and insular list of some of my favorites movie with Christian themes.

For my Top 10 (10 to 5) list clear here.

5. Ben Hur

The sheer epic scale of this movie is worth watching considering that it was made in the pre-digital effect era. I really like how this film intertwines the story of Ben Hur (play by Charlton Heston) and the life of Christ. Although not perfect it’s a movie worth watching….

4. A Man for all Seasons

This movie from the 60’s tells the story of the martyrdom St. Thomas More. It has one of the most beautifully crafted screenplays of all time. One of my favorite dialogues is between The Duke of Norfolk and St. Thomas More:

The Duke of Norfolk:

Oh confound all this. I’m not a scholar, I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!

St. Thomas More:

And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?

This is brilliant writing! It not only shows the integrity of St. Thomas More’s moral character but also shows the great reverence that this man of faith had for reason and the importance of following once conscience.

Coincidently Robert Bold, an agnostic, wrote the screenplay for this great Christian movie.

3. Into a Great Silence

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

-Mother Teresa of Calcutta (St. Teresa of Calcutta)

This German documentary is a meditation of God’s love reflected in the life of monks and priest of the Carthusian Order. For more than 900 years men and woman have joined this order to dedicate their life to a life of austerity, silence, contemplation and prayer. The introduction to their order website says it all:

(http://www.chartreux.org/en/)

“Whoever you are, whatever led you to this site, welcome. You will not find anything fashionable, not even a concern for being different”.

“The Carthusians consecrate their lives entirely to prayer and seeking God in the secret of their hearts. They intercede for the Church and for the salvation of the whole world”.

21 years in the making this documentary welcome people from all walks of life to have a look inside this faith filled monastery and walk right into a great silence.

2. Of Gods and Men

What does it means to give your life for others? What does it means to risk martyrdom in order to give witness of Christ love? Most of us will never have to confront these questions but sadly many Christian around the world know very well the answer to these questions. This powerful movie tells the story of French Trappist monks who were martyred in Algeria by Islamic terrorist for not abandoning their community that they served.

1. The Passion of the Christ

Words are not needed to describe Mel Gibson masterpiece. It is simple the greatest movie ever made.

Look at how salvation was nailed to the Cross… How can you keep from crying?

An Energetic Calm

joseph_i

In an age where manliness is objected and detracted and man has forgotten how to be a real man our society is in dire need of a real man. Yes, that boisterous, industrious, adventurous, let’s go, make it happen, take-charge type of men. Throughout the history of salvation, there have been many models of true manhood, some of them less perfect than others but all of them obedient and docile to the will of God. That is what true manhood really is: to fulfill the vocation that God has placed in your heart and become a Saint in the process.

One of the great models for sainthood that we find in the bible is the humility and obedience shown by St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. Although there is relatively very little recorded about St. Joseph in the Gospels, we know that he was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19) and that every single time he submitted his whole life to the will of God: take a pregnant teenager as your wife, checked; abandon the place of your youth and emigrate to a foreign country, checked; start all over again by returning the holy family to the promise land, checked; protect the Word incarnate and teach him about God’s commandments and human labor, checked; all in true humility and obedience. What a man’s man!

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of this great Saint. Patron of the Universal Church and in his honor I would like to ask you to pray for another man who is about to start a great journey in the service of God and his Church by entering the seminary to become a priest next fall. His name is Richard Sullivan and he is an amazing young man who like St. Joseph is saying an unconditional yes to the Lord. Pleas visit his blog Age of Discernment and discover in his writing a great love for Jesus, a great love for Mary and great love for the body of Christ through extraordinary love in ordinary things:

http://theageofdiscernment.com

I hope you keep him in your prayers and take a look at his many posts that are full of whimsical observations about life and deep love for NorbertinesJesus.

Help him get to seminary:

http://www.youcaring.com/tuition-fundraiser/help-send-richard-to-the-abbey/300521

St. Joseph, patron saint of the Universal Church pray for us!

The Age of Discernment

It was 6:35 in the evening, on the Twenty-Seventh of January when my phone buzzed. The alert indicated that I had a new voice-mail, though it was strange that my phone didn’t ring, despite having full cell. (Perhaps it’s because my phone has been trying to die for the past year. The other day, my co-worker actually called it a “dinosaur.”)

I was in the middle of another Scrubs episode, and had not been expecting a call.  That’s when I picked up my phone and saw who the message was from. My stomach instantly became a pit of knots, I held my breath, and I felt my skin turn clammy. I stared at the screen, not sure if I actually wanted to click the alert; but I figured there was no better time, considering my otherwise relaxing evening. I pressed play and held the phone to my ear:

“Hello, Richard! This is Father…

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Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work,
too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.

Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.

Amen.

St. Augustine of Hippo

Top 10 Movies for Lent Part I (10 to 5)

We are entering Lent at full altitude now that we are closely approaching the third Sunday of Lent. One of my pet peeve is to find redemptive Christian qualities around me, especially in movies. So I decided to come up with my Top 10 movies to watch during Lent.

Some of the movies that made my list are not necessarily overtly Christian but that does not mean that they aren’t Christian films. I rather think that what make a film a Christian film is its subject matter and its resolution. The list is not an exhaustive list of movies since is restricted to the limited number of films that I have watched.

10. Gran Torino

This is Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece about redemption that showcase one of the best Christ like figure in modern cinema. I was hesitant to include this movie on this list, since it’s crude language but it is not gratuitous but rather serve the plot of the story.

9. Locke

This is Tom Hardy best role to date. This is an engaging account of a man trying to make things right and the consequence of his past sin in his life. I was mesmerized by the brilliance of its screenplay.

8. Up

This is Pixar’s fantastic movie about marriage, family, and old age. What I love about this movie is its portrayal of love and marriage and its reverence to old age.

7. The Kid with a Bike

This is another gem from the Dardenne brothers. The story centers on a kid who is longing for his absent father. It does a great job at showing the value of fatherhood and the consequences of its absence in the life of a young boy.

6. The Mission

Considered by some to be an anti-religious movie an odd statement given that it made the Vatican top list for religious movies. For a great review at visit: http://www.decentfilms.com/reviews/mission

What do you think…any favorite movie that should be included in the top 5?