Friday, June 29, 2018

St. Therese of Lisieux-Friend and Inspirer-Summertime Reading

For the final book that my parish Summer Book Club will read and discuss in September is the classic autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux-"The Story of a Soul." I will read it over the summer to lead the discussion. It will be my fourth reading of this spiritual classic. I even took a course about St. Therese from the Carmelite Institute many years ago. When you study the writings of St. Therese, or pray for her intercession, she befriends you in a mystical, mysterious way and I am certainly not the only person who has said that, many others confirm that as well.
St. Therese has been called "the greatest saint of modern times." She was canonized on May 17th, 1925 by Pope Pius XI and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II (now a saint himself) in 1997.
Therese wanted to be a saint, she was very focused on her love for Jesus and her little way of spiritual childhood. She knew that to be a saint she would need God's help. She couldn't do it on her own and so she asked God to lift her to heights, she couldn't possible reach on her own and be her  "divine elevator." One of the most remarkable things about Therese is that she attained every one of her goals though some were attained after her death.
I have two of her relics, small pieces of her brown Carmelite habit, which I have for many years and which were attained from Rome.
Therese has a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and her religious profession was on the day that the Church celebrates Mary's birth- September 8th. Therese took the day of her profession very seriously, she sent out wedding invitations! September 8th is an important day in my life too, as I was born on that day. So I feel connected to Therese and the Blessed Mother, in a special way, because of my birthday. It's a great grace to be born on a Marian feast day. I'm not boasting, it is what it is.
So I expect many graces to come from reading, "Story of a Soul," again. I'm not sure what they are but I'm positive that St. Therese will work from Heaven as she always does, to bring some added grace or graces into my life.
NJA

Friday, June 15, 2018

Suicide Rates Are Lower For People Who Practice Their Faith-Another Benefit of Belief in God and Prayer

I recently read something which I firmly believed in my heart to be true since I've read other studies about the positive effects that faith, worship and belief have for human beings. People of faith go through crisis better, handle misfortune better, and are usually healthier and live longer than people who don't. Why this is true is up for debate but the data supports what numerous studies have found and I've written about many times. And I've experienced firsthand the inner strength, courage and hope that belief in God gives, especially in times of loss.
And so I thought faith, religious practice and worship would also affect suicide rates and as it turns out, I read an article to support my belief. Such vindication!
This is what I read in an online article, "Against a grim backdrop of rising suicide rates among American women, new research has revealed a blinding shaft of light: One group of women-practicing Catholics appears to have bucked the national trend toward despair and self-harm. Compared with women who never participated in religious services, women who attended any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide between 1996 and 2010, says a study published by JAMA Psychiatry.
Faith and belief in God and of course, prayer, gives you courage, inner strength and the ability to realize that no matter how bad the disappointment , hurt, sorrow and/or rejection is today, tomorrow will be better. At least a little better. There is always hope because we trust the words of Sacred Scripture and the words of Christ. "God is my protector, my rock, my shield in whom I trust.""
For a few weeks in June and then again for a week in September I lead a Summer Book Club in my parish. Our first book this year was recommended by a Jesuit priest, the book is a highly recommended book titled, "In His Spirit-A Guide To Today's Spirituality." We are enjoying reading it and discussing it. Seems like the Church doesn't talk about the Holy Spirit enough...not sure why.  The Spirit is enlightener, sanctifier, one who guides and empowers and prompts us towards God and the will of God for our life.
"The goal of Christian spirituality is to recognize and respond to the continual interior movements of the Spirit, for the Spirit will always lead us toward greater union with Christ and greater love and service of God and others." ("In His Spirit.....")
Veni, Sanctus, Spiritus!
NJA

The Lord is waiting to show you favor and he rises to pity you. For the Lord is a God of justice, blessed are all who wait for him.  (Isaiah 30:18)


Friday, June 8, 2018

Copycat Suicides-Bourdain and Kate Spade-Hopelessness Ends Lives

It's hard to get one's head around the news this morning that Anthony Bourdain, a celebrity chef, author and host of Parts Unknown on CNN would take his own life. I watched his show often, he was gifted in many ways. I loved how he related so well to people of all religions and cultures throughout the world and how through food and cooking he could create good will. I always marveled at how he overcame drug addiction as he explained on one show, he was a heroin addict when he was young. So I thought to myself from heroin to becoming a celebrity chef and TV personality. Pretty good! But it was not all good because in the end, his demons got the best of him. You have to say, "Why?" What makes a successful person who came from so little and became rich and famous and related so well to all kinds of people die in such a horrific, hopeless way.
And then there was the other baffling news story of another successful, rich person, Kate Spade, whose name is everywhere taking her own life in a horrific way. Death by strangulation. That's pretty bad. It's pitiful. What's worse is who is left behind. Both Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade had teenage daughters. How will they ever be the same? I feel so bad for Bourdain's daughter Ariane, aged 11 and Kate Spade's daughter Frances age 13. Such a difficult time in life as it is for young girls growing up in this uncertain world and they have to deal with such grief and pain.
It just doesn't make sense to me. This is the reason I hold my deep faith very close to me and know of it's importance. Because even if one day seems hopeless or I am disappointed I know tomorrow I will wake up feeling better because Jesus walks with me in good times and bad. You can't minimize mental illness, I understand that, but I know how much hope my faith gives me. And because of that, it's priceless to me.
Rest in Peace Kate and Anthony
NJA

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Does The Church Need An Order of Married Catholic Priests? I Think So

I don't write this lightly. I take this subject very seriously as I do my love for the Catholic Church. Warts and all. But in God's holy name how can the Church continue to have as a Church law  mandatory celibacy, for all Roman Catholic priests, with the situation as it is. And everyone knows what I mean by that. And as we know, Church laws can be changed.
I have worked in the Church , I know many holy, married laymen, of outstanding character,  who would make excellent priests. Then there are the deacons in the Church who could enter an Order of Married Priests. As I mentioned in my last blog entry,  I visited a Greek Orthodox Church last week on Long Island with the Rosary Society of my parish and their Divine Liturgy was reverent, beautiful, sacred and holy. All three priests on the altar were married, their wives were present and one of them had an adorable little daughter in the congregation that day.
Celibacy is certainly a call and valuable discipline for some men, called to the priesthood, but not for all.
If the Church doesn't examine this with clear vision and through prayer to the Holy Spirit, and act with common sense, it risks a lot.
I've seen so many changes take place within one generation. It use to take many generations for social changes and traditions to change, but now in the modern world, things are changing rapidly. I fear young people are going to keep leaving the Church, with all the bad publicity involving sexual abuse and large payouts. This is a very different world than the one I grew up in.
What is God's will for the Church in this matter? To me the answer is obvious. What matters is God's word is preached, Eucharist is shared and people are cared for and ministered to. That's more important than anything else.
NJA


Thursday, May 17, 2018

What Roman Catholics Can Learn From the Greek Orthodox Church and What They Can Learn From Us

Today members of the Rosary Society of my parish along with our pastor and a seminarian visited the Greek Orthodox Church of The Archangel Michael in Port Washington, Long Island, NY. We were invited by one of their church organizations and priests to celebrate, along with their congregation, the Divine Liturgy of the Ascension and to share fellowship afterward.  It was a very moving experience. I came away with a lot of impressions.
First of all when we arrived 15 minutes before their liturgy began, the priests were already in the midst of worship, prayer, chanting and incensing the sanctuary. So even before the liturgy began, the priests were deep in prayer and worship. Now you know what I was saying to myself, don't you? Of course I was saying, why don't we do this in the Roman Catholic Church, (at least on feast days and Sundays).  I get annoyed sometimes at Sunday Mass because I always arrive a half hour before Mass begins to read the readings beforehand and to pray and usually there is someone near me talking, which drives me crazy. So that would solve that problem......and it wouldn't have to even be done for a half hour but what about 10 or 15 minutes of prayer before Mass begins. I thought it was very holy and sanctifying and gave me a transcendent feeling.
The Divine Liturgy (as they call the Mass) was amazingly uplifting, holy and sacred. Before Communion was given out, the priests processed around the Church with the Blessed Sacrament while a priest was walking backwards and incensing the Blessed Sacrament.
It is a beautiful Church and the liturgy was very beautiful and sacred as well.
All of the priests, as we later found outwere married. All of their wives who we met at the fellowship, were helpful and very nice. But that's another story.
What can they learn from us? Some observations I made in a short time. They wanted to hear about the rosary, so the President of our Rosary Society showed them a rosary and explained how we recite it. Our pastor explained the mysteries. They don't say the Hail Mary as one parishioner told me.
But of course, they revere the blessed Mother, so why don't they recite the rosary or pray the Hail Mary? I have no idea, but I find it perplexing.
It was a wonderful morning and the welcome we were given was a blessing to all of us.
NJA

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Killing Of A Priest

Such a sad story coming from Notre Dame of Fatima, a Roman Catholic Church in the Central African Republic. The Church was attacked during Mass and the parish priest, the Rev. Toungoumale Baba was killed along with at least 15 other people. Innocents-worshipping God, praying, during the  sacred Catholic Mass and evil came through the door. Using grenades and gunfire the killers desecrated the holy Church and brought death and despair and pain to God. The worst of humanity.
A large crowd, protesting the violence and the death of their beloved priest carried his body to the presidential palace. But evil won the day. Their pastor is gone. The good priest died at the hands of the most fanatical, the most cruel and evil side of humanity.
And its not over. People want revenge. So the vicious cycle of violence will unfortunately most likely continue. No one wins. The children of the parish witnessed unspeakable horror.
I pray for the soul of the good priest who died celebrating Mass and those who care for him. So tragic. In this day and age, at this time in history and still, good, holy priests and good people are slaughtered because of misunderstanding, conflict and hate.
God bless the people of Notre Dame of Fatima Church, may God be with them during these difficult days. The United Nations peacekeeping group will have to work quickly to stop the spread of violence, God be with them and inspire their work.
NJA

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Good Things Happening on the Korean Peninsula-Is Peace Within Reach?

Praise God good news is finally coming from the Korean Peninsula. I have been praying for the conversion of Kim Jong-Un, because I feel for those in North Korea who are not free to worship God or attend religious services or have have their basic needs met. And tonight I saw South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong- Un on TV,  meeting in the Demilitarized Zone between the Koreas and shaking hands, just like friends would do. It was a very encouraging sight.  Their meeting will hopefully open the possibility and likelihood that Kim Jong-Un will meet with President Donald Trump.
Pope Francis has praised the summit this week between the two Korean leaders and urged them to "have the courage to be artisans of peace."
Peace in the world, peace on the Korean peninsula would be a great move forward for humankind. The Pope said that the summit would be, "a concrete route toward reconciliation and regained brotherhood with the aim of guaranteeing peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the entire world."
And in the entire world............the peace and love of God in the entire world. That would be a miracle! The world is certainly ready for peace, the poor people of the Middle East, Africa, and other countries who have been mired in conflict for decades desperately need peace. Children have suffered for so long, in too many places in the world, because of civil wars.
Lord send your divine guidance, your blessings and wisdom upon all leaders of the world so that peace may prevail and solutions found to age-old conflicts and misunderstandings.  Amen.
NJA