Saturday, December 13, 2014

But Catholics Do Have a Relationship With Christ

This post is featured in Catholic Stand.

I had to stop reading a novel written by one of my favorite Christian authors.  One of the characters, a minister, delivered a sermon about how he would rather have a relationship with Christ than belong to a religion of rules.  I couldn’t get past that misconception swiped at the Catholic Church.

            Whoa, preacher! Who says both are mutually exclusive? Plenty of Catholics have both a relationship with Christ and follow the rules of Christ’s Church precisely because of the loving relationship with Our Savior.  Catholics, over centuries, have discovered that the more we follow the rules, delve into Sacraments and understand the traditions of our religion, the deeper one’s relationship with Christ grows. Often, this relationship culminates in a devotion to the Eucharist.  When we receive the Eucharist, we are transformed, become one with Christ and this unity becomes another light to the world, exactly what Our Lord called us to be. 

          It is heartbreaking when Catholics leave Holy Mother Church in favor of this so-called “relationship,” as if it were another galaxy alien to Catholicism. Have you former Catholics sought this relationship within the Church?  Maybe you haven’t fully explored all that the Catholic Church has to offer. There is a plethora of more intimate groups within a parish or Diocese that a Catholic can choose from depending on the kind of relationship you are seeking.

            For instance, a youth group. If you’re a young Catholic who likes upbeat worship music, enjoys fellowship, and listens to appealing speakers on a variety of topics, you could sign up for a youth group in any of the parish or in your college or attend the World Youth Day.  Young people openly speak of struggles in a supportive group setting and your fellow members will help make Jesus your role model and friend.  St. Alphonsus Liguori encourages this: “Acquire the habit of speaking to God…familiarly and with confidence and love, as you would a dearest friend.”

            If you’re up for a bible study, personal “sharings” and testimonies, spontaneous vocal prayer or Christian music for praise, the Charismatic prayer meetings is an optional way to gather with other like minded Catholics outside of Mass.  Here, you can meet outgoing Catholics who are on fire with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, inspired by scripture passages and refer to Jesus as their brother.

            Seeking a more contemplative spiritual life?  Join a rosary prayer group, where families and individuals contemplate the life of Jesus from scripture in the mysteries of the rosary.  In praying with the Blessed Mother, rosary devotees honor their love for Jesus by following in the footsteps of His mother, whom He also honored in his life and who followed him to Calvary. Marian Catholics reflect on Mary’s scriptural “fiat” (her humble “yes”) to God’s will, rely on her motherly assistance and intercession and penetrate the depth of St. Louis de Montfort’s theology: “the more consecrated one is to Mary, the more consecrated to Jesus.”

            If you’re a Catholic who identifies being a servant of Christ, there’s volunteer work in Catholic Charities, prison ministry, or St. Vincent du Paul Societies.  You’ll get a chance to minister to the immigrants, prisoners, homeless, aging or the sick, encounter Our Lord, and find meaning in Jesus words “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it to Me.”

            If you’ve been impressed by and want to shadow the great saints with their distinct charisms like St. Therese of Liseux (characterized with childlike faith), St. Francis (the peacemaker who surrendered all for Christ), St. Dominic (preacher for Christ specializing in doctrine and theology), there are Carmelite, Franciscan and Dominican orders who will teach you spirituality and guide you on meditative prayer. Surely, any one of the Catholic Church’s thousands of orders will secure a spot to welcome you.  The first orders are for those called to a religious or consecrated life; third orders for the laity.

            These are only a handful of the intimate groups that are housed in the Catholic Church.   But if you prefer to go solo, Eucharistic Adoration is where you can worship quietly and study the Benedictine practice of lectio divina (scripture meditation).  If you desire a one-on-one spiritual direction or a 30 day spiritual exercises retreat, the Jesuits will teach you discernment with the Holy Spirit, and the cozy daily “examen” prayer guide.

             I wish baptized Catholics appreciated that our God-given destinies began when God laid us in the cradle of Catholicism and that our most fulfilling path to everlasting life is mapped within the membership of the Body of Christ, the Catholic Church. I wish we would all discover the niche where our talents and gifts promote the fullness of truth and realize that our personalities can flourish within our home, the Church, because God foresaw that it would when He entrusted us into the arms of Catholic parents and gifted us with graces through the Sacraments.

I love my Catholic Faith.

          More than one person has admitted that Catholics who leave the Church use the ‘relationship clause’ as an excuse to discard its rules because they find it hard to follow the narrow road of the cross of Church teachings. But anyone who has been in a lasting relationship knows that its longevity is based in humbling ourselves to unwritten rules, to give in to the good of the soul of other, and serving the other as a committed form of love.   If we loved Christ, we would love the Church He started through St. Peter and build it up as God’s kingdom on earth.  “Its not hard to obey when we love the One whom we obey,” says St. Ignatius.

             Our relationship with Christ is how we choose it to be. It is founded on constant prayer and refined by obedience to Christ who gave His life for us, continues to give us life through the Eucharist and promised that the Catholic Church would never be destroyed by the jaws of hell. 

P.S. I know you've seen this one but I never get tired of watching and sharing the Catholic come home video.


Saturday, December 06, 2014

Care to Join Me for the Mystical Rose Hour of Grace?

The Mystical Rose ‘Hour of Grace’ may not be new to many of you.  But about six years ago, this devotion came to my attention at the time I needed it most.  We were trying to sell a house in a market that had crashed, and in desperate need of graces, I called on the “Mystical Rose” for help.  She didn’t fail me.

            The history is traced to a small town in Northern Italy called Montichiari.  Sometime in the spring of 1947, Our Lady appeared to a nurse named Pierina Gilli.  The Mother of God continued to appear to Pierina eleven times.  (For a detailed description of the apparitions and messages, click here) On December 8th, 1947, the seventh apparition, Our Lady introduced the Hour of Grace Devotion in the crowded parish where she was scheduled for an apparition and the rosary was being prayed in anticipation.

            “I am the Immaculate Concepcion,” she said with a smile. 

“I come here to Montichiari because it is my wish to be appealed to and venerated as the ‘Rosa Mystica’.  I wish people to celebrate each year on December 8th at noon the hour of grace or the whole world.  With this exercise, one will receive numerous spiritual and bodily graces.  Our Lord, my Divine Son Jesus, will be abundantly merciful as long as good men go on praying for their fellow men.  As soon as possible, let the Supreme Shepherd of the Church know that it is my wish that this hour of grace be publicized and spread throughout the world.  If someone cannot go to church at this time, he is to pray at noon at home, and he will receive graces from me…”

            The apparition was accompanied by miraculous healings.  Further instructions on how to pray during this hour came later:

     1.     The hour starts at noon; 
            2.   As an opening prayer, Psalm 51 must be prayed three times with arms outstretched;
    3.     One must be in continuous prayer at church or home until 1:00, with the rosary or personal prayer or silent prayer.

            Our Lady also said that this hour of grace will “produce great and numerous conversions.  Hardened and cold hearts resembling this marble will be touched by divine grace, and they will become faithful to Our Lord in loyal love.”

            With such a promise, I have a list of names of people to pray for.  If you can’t make the hour yourself and want me to include you and yours, I’d be glad to.  Please email me

The present Bishop, Msgr. Giulo Sanguineti, encourages pilgrimages and expressed openness to the apparitions in a letter to Dr. Mark Miravalle.