Rotating Header Image

death

Give Up Worrying For Lent!


 

Since A Worrier’s Guide To The Bible was released, I’ve been doing a lot of speaking about anxiety. As I visit various parishes, I encounter many people who are worried about a variety of things. And I have to admit that some of their problems are monumental. I have also met several individuals who have serious problems, but who are at peace. What gives? How can some people be peaceful even though storms are raging around them.

In his letter to the church at Corinth, St. Paul touches on the key to achieving this kind of peace. It’s something that he knew about first hand and it enabled him to remain calm and peaceful in the midst of many sufferings:

Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

Despite all the suffering that Paul endured, he understood that there was a bigger picture. Looking at that big picture, and not focusing on our problems, can allow us to feel peaceful even though the waves are crashing around us.

So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Cor 5:6-10)

Mindful of the fact that this life is temporary, St. Paul confidently states that “we walk by faith, not by sight”. Or do we? Whenever we begin to worry about the problems in our lives and lose sight of the fact that our ultimate goal is to reach heaven, we do the opposite of what Paul recommends. So many of us are anxious and miserable precisely because we are not walking by faith. Instead, we are walking by sight. When we do that, we allow the problems we see in our lives to rob us of God’s peace.

So, what’s the answer? As I mention many times in my talks, FAITH is the answer to FEAR! If our faith is strong, our fear will fade away. A strong faith allows us to trust in God and His providence. We know that everything happens for a reason (Romans 8:28) and that everything that happens in our lives can help us to achieve our ultimate destiny – life in heaven! If you’re looking for some Biblical evidence to substantiate my claim, try this on for size:

He got into a boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. (Matthew 8:23-27)

Why were they afraid? Because they had little faith! Despite the fact that we many not want to admit it, fear and faith are at two opposite ends of the spectrum. Given that this is the Year of Faith (as declared by our Holy Father) and that we are entering into the season of Lent, wouldn’t it be great if we could use this holy season to move from FEAR to FAITH? Well, the good news is that we can and I’m going to be doing something on my daily radio show to help us achieve that goal!

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Feb 13, I’ll be leading a Lenten Retreat which will help us journey from FEAR to FAITH. The theme will be “Purification” (don’t worry…it’s not as bad as it sounds!) and it is designed to help us take our eyes off of earthly attachments and focus on our heavenly destination. In addition to the daily Mass readings, I’ll be using the book My Daily Bread by Fr. Anthony Paone, SJ as the basis for the retreat. Originally written in 1954, this outstanding little book uses Ignatian principles to help free us from our inordinate attachment to “things”. The basic format of the retreat will be as follows:

Week 1 – Conversion (A Thoughtful Look At Human Life)
Week 2 – After Conversion (Facing The Old Routine With A New Spirit)
Week 3 – Temptations (Their Nature and How To Control Them)
Week 4 – Conquering Bad Habits
Week 5 – Self Conquest Through Mortification

As we walk through this Lenten retreat together, we’ll find ourselves concentrating more on the things of heaven and less on the things of earth. As a result, we’ll not only grow closer to the Lord, but we’ll experience a great deal of peace. If you’re interested in participating in the retreat, please
email me
(gary@followingthetruth.com) and put “Lent” in the subject. I’ll send you further directions and let you know how you can listen to my radio show. It will cost you nothing. Why not make a pledge to make this your best Lent ever? Together we can travel the road…

From FEAR To FAITH!

Sandy Hook – A Time For Mourning, Not Lecturing!


 

Before I begin this post, I want to make a few things clear. I am 100 percent pro-life and have written about the evils of abortion many times. In addition, I pray the rosary with a group of people each week outside of an abortion clinic. I believe, as the Catholic Church teaches, that abortion is murder. No exceptions…it is ALWAYS murder! I also believe that most people who support abortion are unaware of what takes place as unborn children are pulled from their mothers wombs. I feel that there is a great need to educate the world as to what really takes places under the guise of “the right to choose”. All things considered, however, I think it is WAY too early to compare the murders that happen legally in this country every day with the horrible crime that took place on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Twenty children (between the ages of 6-7) were gunned down at close range, 6 adults unexpectedly lost their lives and faced their judgment (quite possibly unprepared to do so), the lives of those who lost loved ones in this tragedy were shattered at a time of year when peace and joy should be the prevailing message. A community, a country and the entire world is devastated and confused, perplexed as to how God could allow this to happen.

I have been seeing way too many comments on Facebook and other social media sites that are using this tragedy as an argument for many different agendas. In my opinion, this is not the time for Planned Parenthood comparisons, statements about the need for gun control laws or criticism of President Obama for expressing outrage and sorrow for what transpired. Rather, it is a time to pray for our brothers and sisters who lost their lives. It’s a time to mourn along with those who were affected in any way by the tragedy. It’s a time to do what we can to live out our Christian faith every day, which includes loving one another. It’s also a time to remember that there is evil in the world, but that the Prince of Peace, who we are preparing to welcome can and will bring good out of that evil.

There will come a time when we should point out the need to mourn for the many children who are legally murdered every day, but it’s too soon. There will be a time to discuss gun control laws or the need to return God to public schools. However, the victims from the Sandy Hook massacre have not even been buried yet. Let’s first show some respect and compassion for those souls who passed away and for their families, many of whose lives will never be the same.

Layoffs, Death and Preparation

 

A man must always be ready,
for death comes when and where God wills it.
(St. John Neumann)

Several weeks ago, an email was sent from the president of our company.  He spoke of the need for a reduction in staff and informed us that a layoff would take place on or before a certain date.  Immediately upon receiving this email, people began to do one or more of the following:

  • Worry that they would be one of those laid off.
  • Prepare for a possible layoff by updating their resumes and exchanging email addresses.
  • Clean out their offices, taking home personal belongings.
  • Pray.

As the time grew closer, I began to prepare.  Eventually, we reached the final day.  We were informed that those affected would be summoned beginning at 9 AM.  Like everyone else in the company, I sat at my desk and waited for my manager to appear.  Although I prayed for acceptance of God’s will, I would lapse in and out of worrying as I watched several of my coworkers being escorted to the door.  Despite the tension, I was comforted with the thought that I was prepared.  My desk was cleaned out, I exchanged business cards with several friends and final emails were sent.  Approximately 90 minutes into the process, my manager appeared at my desk and asked me to come to his office.  Fifteen minutes later I was being escorted out the door and my 15 year career at the company had come to an end.

In many ways, the layoff process is similar to death.  We all know that it’s coming, but we don’t know when.  Any day could be our last.  Although we know that death is inevitable and most know that they will be judged, people prepare in different ways.  Some worry, others ignore it, and some prepare by trying to lead a good life and/or repenting from sinful behavior.  One thing is for certain, once death comes, the time for amending our lives is over.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):

Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.  The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith.  The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.  Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, — or immediate and everlasting damnation. (CCC 1021-1022)

In his book the Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis offers some profound advice:

How dull we are and hard of heart, for we think only of the present and make little provision for the life hereafter!  If you were wise, you would so order your life as though you were to die before the day is over…In the morning think that you may not live till night; and when night comes, do not be sure that you will live till tomorrow.  Therefore always be ready, and so live that you will not have an unprovided death. (Chapter 23, Meditation on Death)

At my former company, people questioned the president’s logic of sending the email announcing the layoff in advance.  For some, their Christmas was ruined because they spent the time worrying.  For the vast majority, however, they used the notice to prepare for the reality of the event.  Each of us will die one day and be judged for how we lived our lives.  The results of that judgment will determine whether we spend eternity in heaven or hell.  Changing our lives now can definitely help us to achieve the former.  Why not take advantage of the warning and prepare?

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

Contemplating Death

“Tempus Fugit, Memento Mori” (“Time Flies, Remember Death”)
–  a motto of the Knights of Columbus

I know it’s not a popular activity, but meditating upon the realities of death is extremely important to our spiritual well being.  If we desire to lead a good, holy life and live forever in Heaven, thinking about our death is imperative.  Why?  Because doing so reminds us that the temporal things of this life will pass and that we will be judged on how we lived our life.  That judgment, occurring immediately after we die, will determine whether we spend eternity in Heaven or hell!  Doesn’t it make sense to be prepared?

Last night, on my Following The Truth radio show, I devoted the program to this important topic and discussed the fact that none of us know when we will die.  Michael R., a good friend and listener, sent me the following email this morning.  His words are so powerful that I asked if I could share them.

I enjoyed your show last night.  It is strange that songs telling us that “everybody wants to go heaven, but nobody wants to go now”, commercials telling us what we have to have now in order to be happy, better people, the struggle to make a better life for ourselves and our children and our desires to have all the toys we can get, all are in direct opposition to the Glory that God offers us.  How can they compare?
 
Oh, we of such little faith that spend every minute trying to be happy now and completely blowing off the future.  How easy it is for me to tell my children that they should wait for something and yet I run out to grab that cheeseburger or some other thing that is forgotten in 5 minutes.
 
We should eagerly anticipate a good death but we know we aren’t ready to have that face to face with God.  I don’t think that it is really the fear of the unknown that bothers us as much as the fear of what is known of ourselves that haunts us and is suppressed because of our selfish desires.  We are really good at denial.  At least I am! 
 
It is a good thing to contemplate death or rather that instant of it.  Truly we are contemplating life, or our lives, leading up to it.  It aids us putting our true desire to enter into the Kingdom paramount to all else- to love the Lord with our whole being always!
 
Oh, most blessed Mother, pray for us now and at the hour of our death because my faith is so weak I sorely neglect living well so that I may die.  Let me remember always that all I want to hear then is “well done, my good and faithful servant “.
 
Gary, may you live well so that your death is a springboard into Heaven!
 
Enjoy this day the Lord has made!  It might be the last one you have to endure.

Dominican Sisters Care For The Dying While Relying On God’s Providence

“It’s the most unusual place I’ve ever been. You’re not conscious of people being ill here. We all have cancer and we’re all terminal, but it’s serene and there are lots of moments of fun and laughter.”  (Harriet Boyle, resident of Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, NY)

I recently ran across a story about the Dominican Sisters Congregation of St. Rose of Lima, who operate a palliative care facility in Hawthorne, NY (north of New York City).  The sisters care for the terminally ill in a home known as Rosary Hill, totally free of charge.  Even more amazing is the fact that they don’t accept government funds or insurance reimbursements.  They rely solely on God’s providence.

This story is inspiring in so many ways.  For one thing, we see an example of women dedicating their lives to caring for the dying.  These sisters aren’t doing this for money, they’re doing it out of love.  We can also see a great example of trusting in God’s providence.  In this Sunday’s gospel (Mt 14:22-33), Peter learned how easy it is to lose sight of the Lord, especially when faced with major problems.  Although it’s often counter-intuitive, it’s precisely at these difficult times that we must rely on the Lord’s help.  Both the sisters who work at Rosary Hill and the patients seem to seem to have a strong understanding of this concept.  As a result,  they are surrounded with God’s peace, even in the midst of uncertainty.

We can all learn so much from this great story.  In addition to the obvious lesson of providing for our brothers and sisters in need, we are reminded of the importance of trusting in God’s providence.  Just as St. Peter started to sink the minute he began to focus on the storm (instead of the Lord), we too will struggle when we attempt to tackle our problems without God’s help. 

The full story about the Dominican Sisters’ work at Rosary Hill can be found here.

What If Today Is Your Last Day?

“Since, when the hour of reckoning comes, you’ll be sorry for not having used this time in the service of God, why don’t you arrange and use it now as you would wish you’d done if you were dying?” (St. John of the Cross)

Six years ago, I started experiencing some scary medical symptoms.  My doctor was concerned and ordered a series of tests.  I suddenly became aware of my mortality and was forced to come to grips with the fact that I could be meeting the Lord soon.  Unfortunately, the thought of that meeting (and the accompanying judgment) was very frightening to me.  Although I was a “practicing” Catholic, I knew that I was just doing the bare minimum.  I decided that I’d use the rest of my life to learn and teach the Catholic Faith.  As it turned out, the doctors never did figure out what was wrong with me and the symptoms gradually disappeared.  If my time was really up, I would have been in serious trouble.

That experience taught me the meaning of Jesus command to “always be ready” (Mt 24:44).  Every morning when I wake up, I kiss the crucifix and say, “Thank you, Lord for another day.  Please help me to serve You”.  I try my best to make good use of the time that he has given me, knowing that he doesn’t want me to waste it.  I don’t ever want to take the chance that death will catch me by surprise.   

How is your relationship with God?  Do you go to Church, receive the sacraments and try to lead a good life?  Is there a grudge that you’re holding?  Are you living in the state of mortal sin?  If you’re reading this, it’s not too late for you.  An hour from now, a day, a week…who knows?  Don’t take the chance that you’ll have tomorrow.  Make the decision NOW while you still have time!

Why Bother Praying For Kevorkian?

When I heard that Dr. Jack Kevorkian died, my first thought was to pray for his soul.  Did I want to?  Not especially, but it was the same thought that occurred to me when Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein passed away.  While we often find it difficult to pray for people who did “bad things”, it’s something that we must do.  Here are 5 reasons why we should pray for Kevorkian, bin Laden, Hitler and all of the other people who we “don’t like”:

1. Some People Need More Help – By all accounts, Dr. Kevorkian assisted many people in committing suicide.  Osama bin Laden, Hussein and Hitler’s transgressions are well documented…they all did some “bad” things.  They have a lot to account for.  They need our prayers BADLY!

2.  It’s A Spiritual Work Of Mercy – Praying for the living and the dead is a spiritual work of mercy, as taught by the Church.  We are commanded to pray for all of the dead, not just the “good ones”.

3.  Show Mercy =  Receive Mercy – If we refuse to forgive or show mercy to Kevorkian, bin Laden, and other “bad men”, then we can’t expect the Lord to be merciful to us.  In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7).  When it’s my time to be judged, I want all the mercy I can get!

4. They Can’t Help Themselves – We are given a finite period of time to merit the reward of eternal life.  Once we die, the time for proving ourselves is over.  The souls of the deceased can no longer help themselves and must depend on our intercession.  In an excerpt from her diary, St. Faustina documents the powerful message given to her by Jesus:

” Pray as much as you can for the dying. By your entreaties, obtain for them trust in My mercy, because they have most need of trust, and have it the least. Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moment depends on your prayer. You know the whole abyss of My mercy, so draw upon it for yourself and especially for poor sinners. Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul. (1777)

5. The Bible Tells Us To – In 2 Maccabees 12:46, Judas Maccabeus made atonement for the dead, in order that they may be delivered from their sin.  The fact that he prayed for them to be “freed from their sin” implies that it’s acceptable to pray for sinners!  Praying for the dead has been a constant practice of the Church as evidenced by the following statement from a bishop and doctor of the Church:

“Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.” (St. John Chrysostom)

Even though it’s difficult, the Church teaches that we should always remember our deceased brothers and sisters.  The fact that they committed evil acts doesn’t make one bit of difference.  Furthermore, when you are facing your own judgment day, some of these same “bad guys” may be praying for you!

The Four Last Things – Judgment

The second of the “Last Things” is Judgment. The Church teaches that immediately after death, we will be judged. Based on our works, we will either live forever in Heaven (possibly by way of Purgatory) or Hell. We’ll discuss more about our potential destinations tomorrow, but today’s focus is on judgment.If we were to die tonight, do we feel we did all that was possible to merit eternal life in Heaven?

Did we only say good things?
“I tell you on the Day of Judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Mt 12:36-37

Did we seek to “let it go” when we were angry at someone?
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment “- Mt 5:22

Did we always speak up when people were criticizing the Church or belittling our Faith? Are we proud to tell others that we are Catholic?
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in Heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in Heaven.” – Mt 10:32-33

Could we maybe use another day to “clean up our act” a bit? If we get one, maybe a “thank you” to The Lord would be appropriate.