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Are You A Lukewarm Catholic? You Better Read This!


 

“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rv 3:15-16)

For the majority of my life, I was a lukewarm Catholic. I went to Mass each Sunday, received Holy Communion and even went to Confession a few times each year. What’s interesting is that I thought I was being a good Catholic. My attitude at the time – “Hey, I go to Mass each week…what more do you want?”

My problem was that I…

1. Only prayed when I needed something.
2. Repeatedly committed many serious sins even though I knew they were wrong.
3. Didn’t care about serving others, just myself.
4. Did not read the Bible or any spiritual books.
5. Didn’t feel the need to learn about my Catholic Faith.
6. Never spoke about my Faith to anyone…(c’mon, Catholics don’t evangelize!)
7. Looked down on other Catholics who didn’t attend Mass.

But most of all, my most pathetic quality as a Catholic was that I just didn’t care about my Faith…AT ALL!

Fortunately, I am still alive and have not yet been judged by the Lord. Furthermore, I now do care about my Faith, but I need to be careful each day that I continue to care! When I look at Our Lord’s words about the lukewarm (in the Book of Revelation), I cringe because I know that some people will not take them seriously. If you’re a lukewarm Catholic, please listen to what Jesus is saying. You do not want to hear these words on your judgment day (which could come at any time). I encourage you instead to accept His offer, which appears a few verses later. It is something you’ll never regret!

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne.” (Rv 3:20-21)

How Should Catholics Vote?


 

Sorry if this disappoints you, but I’m not going to tell you who to vote for in the upcoming United States presidential election. What I will do, however, is give you some Catholic voting guidelines based solely on Church teaching. I will echo the words of Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput and remind Catholics that primarily we should primarily vote AS CATHOLICS, not necessarily as Democrats or Republicans. And we should not take that responsibility lightly, as one day we’ll have to defend our position when we stand before God on our judgment day.

How should we vote in the upcoming presidential election? Let’s look at some comments by the United States bishops, from their document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States) as well as my own observations. For the sake of brevity, I will focus on one issue, the right to life. There are other issues that are important, but this one should be at (or VERY near) the top of every Catholic’s voting issues list.

As Catholics, who should we vote for?

7. In this statement, we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth.

This is good. While the Church will not tell us who to vote for, she should and will provide us with the guidelines needed to vote as Catholics. More than “just another opinion”, when the successors of the Apostles speak…we should listen!

How should conscience come into play when voting?

17. Catholics have a serious and lifelong obligation to form their consciences in accord with human reason and the teaching of the Church. Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a mere “feeling” about what we should or should not do.

In other words, we MUST look to the teachings of the Church when making moral decisions. Voting is a very serious moral obligation and should be done in accordance with the teachings of the Church. As Catholics, we have the responsibility to explore and understand the teaching of the Church before voting.

Are some things always wrong?

22. There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.

Abortion and euthanasia are ALWAYS evil and must ALWAYS be opposed.

Are there any cases when abortion and euthanasia can be supported?

28. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.

As a Catholic, can I morally vote for a candidate who supports a grave evil such as abortion?

34. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental
moral evil.

Technically yes, but only if the alternative is worse. If you are voting for someone who supports abortion, there has to be an EXTREMELY good reason. For example, his opponent must pose an even greater threat to life than murdering the unborn. In my opinion, that’s just about an impossibility.

How about if neither candidate is perfect when it comes to issues of life?

36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

Although the bishops allow us to make the choice of not voting, they call it an “extraordinary step”. That means it should only be a last resort. If both candidates support an intrinsic evil such as abortion, our first choice should be to vote for the individual who will do less harm. In the case of abortion, which candidate will cause less children to be murdered?

How does abortion rank when it comes to other issues? What if I feel that the pro-abortion candidate will do a better job with the economy?

37. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions.

Intrinsically evil acts (such as abortion) carry more moral weight that non-intrinsically evil acts (such as economic issues).

Can I decide to NOT vote for a candidate just because he supports an intrinsically evil act (such as abortion) even if I agree with his other positions?

42. As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.

Yes, you can. Even though Catholics should not be “single issue voters”, you are morally justified in refusing to vote for a candidate solely because he supports abortion. That is a powerful statement by the bishops.

What is the Democratic Party’s position on abortion? This is taken from their website:

Protecting A Woman’s Right to Choose: The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.

What is the Republican Party’s position on abortion? This is taken from their website:

The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life: Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion and permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended. We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions – gender discrimination in its most lethal form – and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia. We call for a ban on the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

We also salute the many States that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation. We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy. We salute those who provide them with counseling and adoption alternatives and empower them to choose life, and we take comfort in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.

The two parties differ drastically when it comes to abortion. Make absolutely certain that you read and understand their positions before you vote!

Although many of us have political party affiliations that go back many years, we should take seriously our duty to vote AS CATHOLICS. There is A LOT at stake in this presidential election and we must carefully examine Mr. Romney and President Obama’s positions on critical issues, such as abortion. In the United States, it is currently legal to murder the unborn. Does this matter to you? It should. Please don’t put yourself in the position of having to explain to God why you didn’t do anything to stop the slaughter. Even worse will be having to explain why you helped the slaughter to continue!

Mark Houck – Rallying Men For The Kingdom


 

As a full time Catholic Evangelist, I have the privilege of meeting and working with many people who share the “Good News” of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. Although they preach a common message, their styles often differ dramatically. I find that to be a good thing because different approaches are often needed. On a personal level, some of these folks inspire me more than others. As a result, I have a set of “go to” people who I turn to when I need to get “fired up” about my faith.

A few years ago, while still working as a computer programmer, I was driving home from the office and tuned into Holy Spirit Radio (a Catholic station based in the Philadelphia area). Fully expecting to listen to an EWTN program, I was surprised to hear a local show – The King’s Men. As I started to listen, I was drawn in by the sincerity and passion of the host, Mark Houck. As a man, it meant a lot to hear another male openly proclaim His love for Christ and the Catholic Church.

In the months that followed, I investigated Mark’s apostolate and continued to be inspired. I was especially excited when I discovered that Mark was scheduled to appear on EWTN’s Life On The Rock. I watched with admiration as Mark spoke about the need for men to embrace their faith and be witnesses to the world. He spoke about the King’s Men and their mission to combat the evil of pornography and abortion. He also explained the concept of authentic male spirituality, which was something that I needed to hear. After I finished watching the show, I told my wife that more men need to speak like this…I was energized!

As I got more involved in Catholic evangelization, I eventually was able to meet Mark. Since we both live in the Philadelphia area, I was invited to speak at a King’s Men meeting and I had the opportunity to witness the great work that these men were doing. I saw how Mark Houck and Damian Wargo (the co-founder of the King’s Men) encouraged and supported men who were struggling to live Christ-like lives. I listened as men shared their stories of struggling with pornography and the evils of the world, only to be comforted and strengthened by Mark and Damian. I left the meeting feeling inspired and confident.

When I made the decision to venture into the scary world of full time Catholic evangelization, Mark was one of the first people to volunteer his assistance. “Let me know whatever I can do for you, brother” (BTW, it’s not a coincidence that Mark calls every man he meets “brother”. He REALLY believes that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ!). After that initial offer, he continued to reach out to me and my apostolate. He had me as a guest on his radio show and even allowed me to guest host the program while he was on vacation. Unlike some people in the public eye who disappoint you once you get to know them, the private Mark Houck is every bit as passionate and caring as the public persona. He is “the real deal”!

If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Mark Houck speak…do it! If you are looking for a speaker to fire up the men in your parish or conference, Mark is your man. He will encourage you, he will inspire you and, most of all, he will help you to do what all Christians are called to do…become imitators of Jesus Christ!

(This post was written as part of Support a Catholic Speaker Month 2012)

Have You Burned Your Boat?


 

Last week, I was speaking to my good friend, mentor and fellow Catholic Evangelist Richard Lane. As is usually the case when I speak with Richard, I was feeling energized and inspired when I hung up the phone. In particular, he told me a neat story about the importance of “not looking back” once you commit your life to Christ. A few days later, I was listening to the radio and I heard the exact story. Considering that I’ve never heard the saga in my 50+ years, I assumed that there is a reason I heard it two times in a week.

The story involves Spanish con­quis­ta­dor Hernan Cortes and his arrival in Mexico in 1519. Along with 600 men (none of whom had protective armor), Cortes prepared to conquer the land that for the past 600 years had been unconquerable. As they marched inland to battle their enemies, the conquistador uttered 3 shocking words to his soldiers:

“Burn the boats!”

This radical command left this Spanish soldiers with only two choices: emerge victorious or die! The lack of an exit strategy caused these outnumbered warriors to fight as if their lives were at stake…and they were! As a result, Cortes became the first man in 600 years to conquer Mexico.

While it’s a great history lesson, what does it have to do with our faith? In reality, it has EVERYTHING to do with it! One of the costliest mistakes that we make as followers of Christ is failing to “burn our boats”. Although we profess to follow the Lord, we often have a tendency to “look backward” and hold back a bit. We’re afraid that if we get too close to Him, we might have to suffer excessively. We’re nervous about giving too much to charitable causes because we might “need that money one day”. We fail to expect miracles when we pray and often pray for “safe things” in order to avoid disappointment. While we want to be called Christians, we’re sometimes unwilling to speak out and defend our faith when necessary. If we say too much, people might not like us or think we’re strange. By holding back in these ways, we never really FULLY commit our lives to Jesus and always entertain the possibility of reboarding our boats if the Christian life becomes too challenging. What did the Lord say about this?

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)

Once we make the decision to truly follow Christ, there can be no turning back. Even though we’ll be tempted to backslide and “take the easy way out”, we have to remain firm and not look to the past. We all have “boats” or “safety nets” in our lives…those tendencies, possessions or attitudes which hold us back from following the Lord as fully as possible. If we truly expect to be “fit for the Kingdom of God”, we must cease looking at what was left behind and start looking at what lies ahead.

Have you identified your “boat”? Once you do, burn it and remember that when it comes to following Christ and one day living with Him in Heaven, failure CANNOT be an option!

Attention Catholics…It’s Time To Get Serious About Evangelization!


 

“The task of preaching, teaching, growing and living the Catholic faith in our time, in this country, belongs to you and me. No one else can do it.” (Archbishop Charles Chaput at the Los Angeles Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Sept. 18,2012)

On October 11, 2012 we officially begin the celebration of the Year of Faith, as promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei. The Holy Father has declared that the Year of Faith is “a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world”. His hope is that this commemoration will “arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope.” If you’re Catholic, there’s a good chance that the Holy Father’s words about professing the faith will make you a little uncomfortable. Why?

Catholics are known for many things, such as novenas, devotions to saints, love for the Blessed Mother, and abstaining from meat on Lenten Fridays. One thing that generally doesn’t come to mind when we hear the word “Catholic” is evangelization. To be totally honest, the vast majority of Catholics view evangelization as a negative thing. There is a belief among many Catholics that our relationship with God is a highly personal matter and that “we shouldn’t impose our religious beliefs on others”. I must admit that I felt this way for many years. Even though I went to Mass every Sunday, talking about God to others was something for Protestants and “Jesus Freaks”. I considered it offensive to tell others how they should believe. Furthermore, I didn’t want others to think I was strange. Evangelization is “not something that Catholics do”. To take it a step further, many Catholics don’t feel the need to learn or understand their faith, let alone share it with others. While that may be a common opinion, is it really what the Church teaches? Not at all! As Catholics, we are not only called to study and understand our faith, but we are mandated to evangelize.

Now that I’ve either piqued your curiosity or caused you to suffer a panic attack, let me present some evidence to support my claim and give you some simple and painless ways to fulfill the Church’s instructions. On December 8, 1975, Pope Paul VI issued an Apostolic Exhortation entitled Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN), which addresses evangelization in the modern world. In this document, the Holy Father explains the importance of Christian evangelization:

…the presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people’s salvation. (EN, Paragraph 5)

The above paragraph spells out the importance of proclaiming the “Good News” of Jesus Christ. It is not something that is “nice to have”, but is necessary for people’s salvation! That’s all well and good, but isn’t evangelization the job of priests, religious and deacons? Not exactly…

Thus it is the whole Church that receives the mission to evangelize, and the work of each individual member is important for the whole. (EN, Paragraph 15)

In other words, evangelization is not only the responsibility of the religious and clergy; it is a requirement for the laity as well. Every member of the Catholic Church is personally responsible for sharing the gospel message with others. The Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, teaches that all baptized Christians “must profess before men the faith they have received from God through the Church and participate in the apostolic and missionary activity of the People of God”. This profession of faith involves both actions and words. While it is crucial to set a good example, the Church teaches that we must also share our faith verbally.

…even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified – what Peter called always having “your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have” – and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed. (EN, Paragraph 22)

Now that we know what is expected of us, do we need to stand on street corners and hand out Bibles? Are we required to preach at the office and quote scripture all day long? While there is a time and a place for that approach, there are simpler and less threatening ways to “get our feet wet” in the world of Catholic evangelization. Here are some simple ways to get started:

1. Learn – We need to learn about the Catholic Faith. There is no way that we’ll ever be able to share what we don’t know. There are many great online resources to assist you in learning about the Catholic Faith. Among them are the USCCB and Vatican websites. Additionally, my Recommended Resouces page lists many authentically Catholic websites and books, all geared toward individuals with a basic or intermediate understanding of the Faith.

2. Witness – Christian witness lays the foundation for evangelization. Avoiding foul language, making the sign of the cross and saying grace before meals, having a positive disposition, and avoiding gossip are all ways that can be used to set a positive example for others. These techniques can be used anywhere: in the workplace, at school, in the home, even at the grocery store. People may notice that there is something “different” about us and could begin to ask questions. This provides the opening to share our “secret”, which is the Catholic Faith.

3. Share – There are many painless (but effective) ways to verbally share our faith with others. We can offer to say a prayer for a coworker who is sick or in a painful situation. We can explain how our faith comforts or sustains us in time of need. We can casually relate a message heard in a homily at Sunday Mass. This technique not only gives us the opportunity to share a positive thought, but it also sends the message that we attend Sunday Mass. Non-threatening techniques such as these are often very effective because they do not involve “beating people over the head” with our Bibles.

4. Pray – The most important step in being an effective evangelist is often the most neglected. We should always remember to pray, especially for an increase in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Everyone who is baptized and confirmed has received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but we need prayer and grace to help them grow. Prayer and frequent reception of the Sacraments will allow these gifts to grow and will ultimately lead to greater success of our efforts. We should also pray for the individuals to whom we are evangelizing.

As we begin to follow the Church’s command to spread the gospel in the world, there are a few things that are important to remember. We should not become impatient or discouraged if our efforts don’t appear to be effective. The Lord never asks us to be successful, instead He asks us to be faithful. In the end, any success we have should be attributed to God alone. Also, we must never forget to be charitable when sharing God’s message with others. Our goal must be to win souls, not arguments. Turning to Sacred Scripture, St. Peter provides an excellent one sentence summary of what is expected of us as Catholic evangelists. Staying faithful to his instruction will ensure that we are fulfilling the Lord’s command of charitably spreading the gospel to all nations:

“Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15)

WorrierWarrior.com is now live!

 


As promised, my new website devoted EXCLUSIVELY to a Christian remedy for worry and anxiety is now available! If you have a tendency to worry are looking for relief, be sure to visit (and bookmark)…

www.WorrierWarrior.com

While Following The Truth will continue to be my main website, I’ll use the new site to focus on worry and anxiety. The site will be expanded substantially in the upcoming weeks, so be sure to bookmark it and visit often. In addition to informative articles and resources collected from the web, this site will feature my Worrier Warrior blog. Please be sure to share this new site with any of your friends who are worriers.

If you’re ready to rid yourself of all useless worry, simply click on the following picture to visit WorrierWarrior.com!

WorrierWarrior.com - Declaring War on Worry!

The One Lesson We Should All Learn From Saint Ignatius Of Loyola

 

Earlier this year, I used my nightly radio show to lead a retreat based upon the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Although it was hard work it produced great benefits in many of our spiritual lives. Even though I’d heard of St. Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises for many years, I knew very little about him or his teaching. Looking back on the experience, there was one lesson I learned that changed my life forever. It’s a simple concept and it can change your life too. It involves St. Ignatius’ motto:

“Ad majorem dei Gloriam”

Latin for “for the greater glory of God”, this expression is much more than a “cutesy” catch phase. When put into practice, it will not only ensure that you’re giving God your best effort, but it will put you on the fast track to Heaven! What it means is simply this – everything that you do should be done for the greater glory of God. Yeah, so…don’t we all do this? Not really. When we have to make a choice between two options, we often go with the choice that “feels good” or is less unpleasant. Unfortunately, that’s not always the choice that gives God the greater glory. He sometimes wants us to do something that we’d rather avoid. You know, like talking to that annoying person after Mass or turning off the TV and saying some prayers instead. Think about the many choices you make each day and then think about why you make them. How often do we take the easy way out instead of doing the right thing? While judging our personal motives can sometimes be tricky (because we fool ourselves), frequent prayer can open our eyes and help us to look at things objectively.

If there’s one thing that we should learn from the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, it’s that every decision, every action, every word we speak should be done for the greater glory of God. When faced with a decision, asking the question, “what would God want me to do?” puts St. Ignatius’ important teaching into practice. By doing that, we can honestly say that we’re loving God with all of our heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 6:4)!

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

The Family That Prays Together…

 

…Stays Together!!!

Believe it or not, these pictures aren’t staged. Every night when Eileen, Mary, Elizabeth and I kneel down to say our evening prayers, Gracie comes running as soon as she hears the beginning of the Our Father! Now, if your pet doesn’t pray with you, don’t feel bad. Gracie hasn’t learned all of the words to the Lord’s prayer yet and her examination of conscience (prior to the Act of Contrition) leaves something to be desired, but…

we’re working on it!

A Story Of Courage And An Urgent Prayer Request

 

It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord works in my life. I often think that I’m doing something for one reason, only to realize that the Lord was attempting to accomplish something completely different by my actions. As many of you know, I’m a full time Catholic lay evangelist. As you can imagine, it’s not easy to earn a living in this line of work. It requires a great deal of trust in God’s Providence (I’m still working on that!) and a close relationship with the Lord (working on that too!). In order to earn some additional income, I’ve been exploring various affiliate programs, which will allow me to earn a percentage of all sales referred by my website. Yesterday, I signed up with ChristianShirts.net and put their link on my website.

I started browsing their site more closely (in order to make sure nothing conflicted with Catholic teaching) and I was startled to see the following message:

Due to the loss of our baby, orders placed recently, today, and in the near future will be delayed. I appreciate your patience. Please pray for us at this difficult time. -Rachelle

I said a prayer and then I followed a link which explained the entire story of Rachelle’s pregnancy and subsequent loss of her child. You can read the full story here (and I recommend that you do because it’s powerful), but in summary:

Rachelle had chemotherapy in her teens, which put her at risk for heart complications during pregnancy. Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened during her pregnancy. She went to a high risk obstetrician, who informed Rachelle that there was a 50 percent chance of her dying if she continued on with the pregnancy. Devastated by the news, this young woman was not prepared for what she heard next. In her words…

She began by holding my hand and asking what religion I was. I replied Catholic, and she said “Let me tell you what I know about God. God is loving and forgiving, and He will understand if you have an abortion.” She added that she had worked in a cardiac clinic and had seen many Catholic women die for the decision to continue with a pregnancy. We had already mentioned that we did not want to terminate, yet she pressed on, even reminding me that I would not want to leave my 18-month-old son without a mother. She made it clear that I would most likely end up in the hospital for several weeks – maybe months – and we had to prepare for that. There was no compassion, no caring about my unborn child that was already loved and very much wanted. When we continued to explain to her that we were not going to have an abortion, she mocked our beliefs and told me that I had better start praying. I left that appointment distraught and beside myself. It was enough to take in that I had a 50% chance of survival, yet to be coerced to try to get me to have an abortion on top of that was just too much.

As if hearing this from her doctor wasn’t bad enough, Rachelle was also encouraged by some family members to abort her child. She refused, stating “I was willing to risk my life for my unborn child. In my eyes, it was no different than risking my life for my born child.” One week later, an ultrasound revealed that her baby had died. Rachelle is currently undergoing further testing on her heart to determine the prognosis for future pregnancies.

In the First Reading from today’s Mass, God used the unaware Assyrians to punish his disobedient people. In a similar way I think he used me as I searched for new funding sources for my work. I thought that I was simply entering into an agreement with a great Catholic company struggling to do the Lord’s work, but more importantly, I experienced a powerful witness of trust in God’s Providence (which I really needed!) and I discovered a woman desperately in need of prayer. I’d ask you to kindly keep Rachelle and her family in your prayers and please consider making a donation for travel and burial expenses. I’ll close with Rachelle’s powerful words…

We think of our business more as a ministry – spreading Pro-life and Christian messages through affordable clothing which will spark conversation – and we make barely enough to pay our bills. It is not about the money. However, we are planning on traveling out of state at some point to bury our baby in the same cemetery where all of our relatives are buried. This will leave us behind in a lot of ways, but we believe it is well worth it for our spiritual and emotional healing. If you find it in your heart to donate for travel and burial expenses, we greatly appreciate it. If you would prefer to donate to a pro-life organization in our baby’s name (which we will announce when we decide on a name), please let us know so we can send a thank you.

More than donations, please keep us in your prayers. I have a long road ahead of me with my heart condition, and we are still praying that testing might reveal that my heart is strong enough to withstand another pregnancy.

Dear Lord…Thank You For My Enemies!

 

For the most part, people who read my blog care about becoming more spiritual. If I had to guess, I’d say that the vast majority of my readers are just like me…Catholics who want to learn more about the Church’s teachings and grow closer to Christ. Despite wanting to follow the Lord’s commands, however, some of us tend to struggle with pride and often have a bit of a short fuse. Speaking for myself, there are times when I conveniently overlook (or even ignore) some of the core teachings of Jesus Christ because of my pride. In my opinion, one of the Lord’s most difficult teachings is the following:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

The words of Christ are clear and there’s really no wiggle room…He’s telling us to love not just those who love us back, not just those who ignore us, not just those who annoy us, but OUR ENEMIES! That means those who threaten us, insult us, curse at us and even want to harm us physically. That’s a really powerful and challenging commandment. It’s also one I fail at (to some degree) every day and I know I’m not alone. If we’re going to get to Heaven, however, this is a command that we’re going to have to understand and follow. Rather than look at this challenge negatively, let’s turn the tables and address it in a more positive way. As crazy as it sounds, I propose that we learn to thank God for our enemies. Once we begin to do so, we’ll find it a lot easier to love them. Why should we be thankful for our enemies?

They Allow Us To Be More Like Christ – As Christians, we should be striving to imitate Jesus at all times. Reading through the Bible will remind us of just how many enemies He had. His teaching was rejected, He was thrown out of towns, He was threatened and challenged, and finally, He was humiliated, tortured and put to death. By experiencing rejection and hatred, we can share in Our Lord’s suffering and understand some of what He experienced. Without enemies, this would not be possible.

They Let Us Love As Jesus Loved – Can you imagine enduring what Jesus went through and still being able to say, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)? To a lesser degree, every time we love someone who offends us, we love as Christ loved. When we forgive those who offend us, we imitate Jesus.

They Help Us Conquer Our Pride – I like to be “right”, especially when someone tells me that I’m “wrong”. When challenged about a variety of issues, I have a tendency to want to win the argument. Often that desire (even when trying to defend the Faith) causes me to fall into sin. By learning to walk away and let someone else “win”, I become a bit more humble. Now, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t proclaim the truth – not at all! We should (especially when it comes to the teachings of the Church), but we must always keep in mind that our words aren’t responsible for converting others. Rather, it’s the work of the Holy Spirit. If we plant some seeds and get rejected, that’s OK. We did our job…God will do the rest.

They Remind Us Of God’s Mercy – When people attack me, I remember all of the times that I attacked others. Throughout my life, I’ve treated many people unfairly. My words and actions have often be hurtful and offensive. I’ve been sarcastic and arrogant. But, in spite of it all, Jesus never stopped loving me and was always ready to forgive me. I should do the same for others.

They Are Often Right – Although it can be sheer torture, the accusations and insults of our enemies often open our eyes to the fact that we’re wrong. We can become so blinded by our sinful habits that we don’t even notice them. Sincerely listening to the words of our enemies, even though they may sting, can make us see that we need to make some changes in our lives. That is an invaluable gift.

Loving our enemies is challenging, but is necessary if we expect to get to Heaven. With God’s grace and by learning to appreciate their presence in our lives, we can better live our Catholic Faith and be an example to those around us. Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to have enemies!