Peace vs. Fear

How often in the history of our nation – indeed the world – has there been civil strife?  How often has there been threat of contagion and disease?  Who found peace in those times?  Where did they find true peace – in their own hearts?  The ones whose focus was Jesus Christ.

In our own country a few come to mind: Fr. Andrew White – who was taken from Maryland to England in chains for exercising his priesthood, St. Junipero Serra – who spread the Faith to over 6,000 Native Californians and defended them against Spanish oppression (his statue was just desecrated in California), Fr. Augustus Tolton – the first black Catholic priest in our country who had been born into slavery, St. John Neumann – who regularly had his parish church attacked when he was pastor in Buffalo, St. Damien of Molokai – who took care of the lepers on Devil’s Island in Hawaii, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini and Mother Katherine Drexel –who established schools, hospitals and missions for African Americans and Native Americans, and Fr. Vincent Capodanno – who laid down his life on a Vietnamese battlefield to give the final sacraments to dying Marines.  There are so many more in our country and throughout history.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14:27).

It is only in Jesus Christ that we find peace – His freedom in our hearts.  Often I quote from Fr. Jacques Philippe who is a contemporary French writer.  In his book, Nine Days to Welcome Peace, he gives very practical guidance for obtaining peace and making decisions.  If you will permit me to again cite his wisdom for our times.

Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli, a 16th century spiritual writer, said: The devil does his utmost to banish peace from one’s heart, because he knows that God abides in peace and it is in peace that He accomplishes great things (p. 24-25).

Fr. Philippe continues,

Trying to keep the peace of our hearts and fighting against worry, trouble and spiritual agitation are indispensable conditions for letting God act, thus allowing us to grow in love and in giving our lives over to the fruitfulness to which we’re called.

I would add that it’s only in peace that we can discern rightly.  When we’re not at peace, when we’re filled with worry, agitation, or trouble, that’s when we’re at the mercy of our emotions, and we don’t have an objective or accurate outlook.

When a problem comes up that makes us lose our peace, the urgency is not in resolving the problem in the hope of regaining peace; rather, the urgency is in first recovering some minimum amount of peace, and then seeing what we can do with the problem (p. 26-27).

What is the predominant emotion in our country – maybe in the world – over the last few months?  How about FEAR: fear of disease, fear of my fellow man, fear of the future, etc?

Fear does not give peace.  It causes anxiety, worry, agitation and trouble.  Philippe’s words are good advice: . . . the urgency is in first recovering some minimum amount of peace, and then seeing what we can do with the problem.

And, how do we recover some amount of peace?  One has to re-focus on and love Jesus and not the problem that is causing the worry, agitation and trouble.  Get to Mass, Confession, Adoration, pray Mary’s peace plan daily – the Rosary,  etc.  And, SHUT OFF THE SOCIAL MEDIA!  How can you possibly think you will be able to focus on Jesus when you are bombarded with FEAR!

Then, focus on being a saint today in your vocation – marriage, single life, or consecrated life.

The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything (Philippians 4:5).

God bless

FRVW

Trying Times Surrounding Pentecost and Holy Trinity

Well, what a week it has been.

I was looking forward to our first public Masses since March 16, 2020.  It was terrific to have people back in the church for Mass.  It was the high Church Feast of Pentecost, the Birthday of the Church:  the Holy Spirit coming down upon the Apostles.  The same Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the courage and wisdom to go into the world and spread the Truth of Jesus Christ; to endure hardship, suffering and even death for His Name.  What a glorious feast it is.

Thank you to everyone who helped with cleaning and preparing in various ways. (And have done so this past weekend.)

It would seem the lengthened Lent of COVID-19 without public Mass – and the various other restrictions placed upon us – was lessening.  Ah, but the devil does not give up so easily.

COVID engendered, and still does, fear, loneliness, isolation, sadness, frustration, discouragement, etc.  These are tools of the devil.  He also uses chaos, fear and hatred to separate man from God and man from man.

The headlines are no longer COVID, but racial tensions.  The tools are still the same as mentioned above. Satan is behind all the fear, sadness, discouragement, hatred, violence and chaos.

The headlines are of the tragic death of an African American man (George Floyd), riots and violence.  (Yes, there have been peaceful marches in the midst of the headlines.  We had one here in Gainesville.  But, peaceful anything doesn’t sell as well as crisis and chaos.)

I am still struggling with the question, ‘Why?’

Why the violence?  Why the fifteen people dead?  Why the simple businesses attacked?  (Agreed, there are professional agitators using racial tensions to cause chaos.)  Is there a solution to all of this unrest?

Yes.  His Name is Jesus Christ.  He Died to set us free; free from hatred, violence and chaos.  Free to forgive.  Free to love my neighbor as myself.

When we look at so many throughout our Catholic history we see many, many who have experienced prejudice.  When they were able to forgive, they were able to love.  They were able to become saints.

One that comes to mind is Fr. Augustus Tolton – the first African American priest in America.  He was born into slavery in 1854 and suffered greatly.  He later became a very holy priest after, he says, the priests taught him how to forgive.

More recently, I recall reading Justice Clarence Thomas’ book wherein he tells of racist Catholic seminarians.  It led to him leaving the seminary and losing his Catholic Faith for a time.  Thankfully, he returned to the Church many years ago.

Close to home, I am mindful of our local law enforcement – black and white – who have endured many insults – and injuries – over the last ten days: all silently as not many media are interested.  In speaking with them, they hold no hatred in their hearts.

Is my fellow man a child of God?  Does he have dignity from God?  Is he my brother?  Is she my sister?  Isn’t this one facet that makes us different as Catholics, as Christians?  Isn’t this the mentality that has converted empires?  To see Christ in my neighbor. To love my neighbor as myself!

How did St. John Paul II deal with prejudice from the communists in Poland and worldwide.  He spent hours each day with Our Lord Jesus.  He prayed daily to the Virgin Mary.  He spoke.  He wrote.  He met peacefully.  His presence brought about the greatest human revolution in the world – the downfall of one of the greatest forms of persecution the world has ever known, Communism.

Who is the One Who heals wounds?  Who reconciles?  Who brings peace?

Jesus Christ.

May we truly know Him that He may set us free.

Nine Days That Changed the World – Coincidence?

Pope St. John Paul II’s 1st Visit to Poland as Pope – June 2-10, 1979

(9th centenary year after the death of St. Stanislaus, Patron of Poland)

The following two paragraphs were part of Pope St. John Paul’s homily on the Eve of Pentecost, June 2, 1979.  Please be mindful that he was speaking to millions of Poles who had lived under atheistic communist dictatorship since World War II.  He was surrounded by communists and their military at this Mass.  They, who had tried for decades to silence the Catholic Church.  They, who had closed Catholic churches and attempted to limit Catholics’ access to the Mass and the Sacraments.  He did not begin his first visit to Poland with platitudes to the ruling party!

To Poland the Church brought Christ, the key to understanding that great and fundamental reality that is man. For man cannot be fully understood without Christ. Or rather, man is incapable of understanding himself fully without Christ. He cannot understand who he is, nor what his true dignity is, nor what his vocation is, nor what his final end is. He cannot understand any of this without Christ. (My emphasis).

Therefore Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude of geography. The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man. Without Christ it is impossible to understand the history of Poland, especially the history of the people who have passed or are passing through this land. The history of people. The history of the nation is above all the history of people. And the history of each person unfolds in Jesus Christ. In him it becomes the history of salvation.

St. John Paul ended his homily with the following prayer to the Holy Spirit in his homily on Saturday, June 2, 1979, the Vigil of Pentecost:

Let your Spirit descend.
Let your Spirit descend.
and renew the face of the earth,
the face of this land. Amen.

Was it coincidence that this Pope from the Iron Curtain was to visit his country for nine days – the length of days the Apostles prayed from the Ascension to the Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; the first Novena?  Was it coincidence that his first public Mass was on the Vigil of Pentecost?  Communism was doomed at the conclusion of the above prayer by the Successor of St. Peter whom the Holy Spirit had chosen to be pope less than a year before.  In less than a decade Communism was all but gone in Eastern Europe beginning in Poland.

Nothing is coincidence with God.

How applicable are St. John Paul’s words to us.  How we can learn from his example and prayer.

It is no coincidence that we find ourselves nine days from Pentecost.  Let us learn from Pope John Paul to ask – implore – God, the Holy Spirit, to come upon our families, our parish, our diocese, our nation, our world during these times of crisis.  We can pray as he did:

Let your Spirit descend.
Let your Spirit descend.
and renew the face of the earth,
the face of this land. Amen.

Please consider praying the Novena to the Holy Spirit over the next nine days (Friday, May 22 – Saturday, May 30) for a greater fervor for Mass and the Sacraments; for many to return to Our Lord and His Church; and for religious liberty of the Church wherever She is being persecuted.

The Novena to the Holy Spirit can be found at:

https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/devotions/novena-to-the-holy-spirit-for-the-seven-gifts-309

God bless

FRVW

(Please know that I hope to write a second post on Friday re: Holy Communion Outside of Mass and related topics.)

Happy Easter, and some “Wise Words”

Happy Easter, middle schoolers!
Wise Word Wednesday: “Embrace Your Test”

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Divine Mercy Sunday Reflection and Schedule

We will live-stream the Divine Mercy Sunday Devotion as follows:

2pm – 3pm Drive by Adoration

3pm Bilingual Divine Mercy Chaplet (sung)

3:15 Benediction

You may be asking yourself, “What in the world is ‘Drive by Adoration?!'” Fancy you should ask. It is the alternative to having Exposition/Adoration in the church as we normally do on Divine Mercy Sunday. We will place Our Lord in the monstrance outside the church doors and underneath the center archway – as we do on Corpus Christi Sunday. Those who would like to make a ‘visit’ can drive by the front of the church slowly. The caveat is that no one can get out of the car.

At 3:00pm we will sing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. If you have access to Youtube it will be live streamed. At the conclusion of the Chaplet, we will have Benediction. If everyone remains in their cars we can have many more participate than just ten persons in the church.