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Help For Making Difficult Decisions

As Christians, we want to ensure that any major decision in our lives is in accordance with God’s will. While we can never be absolutely certain that this is the case, there are steps that will help to improve our chances. On the April 8th, 2011 edition of Following The Truth, I discussed some great steps as outlined in the book Help For Making Difficult Decisions by Fr. Eamon Tobin (1987, Ligouri Publications). Although I believe the book is out of print, used copies can be found on the Internet.

In summary, when faced with a major decision, the book urges us to use the following steps:

1. Formulate a Proposition – Define the decision you are trying to make.

2. Gather the Relevant Data and Input – Make a list of pros and cons.

3. Bring The Gathered Data to Prayer – Pray about the various alternatives.

4. Make a Decision – Make your decision, but DON’T act on it yet.

5. Live With the Decision – Continue to meditate and pray about the decision that you have made. If it’s in accordance with God’s will, you should begin to think of additional reasons to support your choice. If not, your decision may not be correct.

6. Act On the Decision – This is the difficult part…Act on your decision.

7. Confirm the Decision – Does “living the decision” bring you peace? If not, it may be necessary to backtrack if possible.

While there is no guarantee that following these steps will ensure you make the correct decision, your chances are MUCH better than if you didn’t use them!

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The Healing Of Peter’s Mother In Law

On the April 6, 2011 edition of Following The Truth, I discussed Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Covered by 3 of the Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), this simple tale reminds us all that the Lord can heal us of any infirmity, spiritual or physical.

Here are the 3 versions of the story that we covered on the show:

Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him. (Mt 8:14-15)

On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. (Mk 1:29-31)

After he left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them. (Lk 4:38-39)

Listen to the episode here:

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"May It Be Done To Me According To Your Word!"

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the day when Mary agreed to become the mother of the Savior. It is a special day and certainly has a large impact on our lives. Because of Mary’s “yes”, Jesus was born to suffer, die, and rise from the dead, making it possible for us to live forever in Heaven. We sometimes lose sight of the fact that Mary could have said, “no”. God did not force her to go along with His plan. She freely assented to her mission, despite a serious lack of details.

To a lesser extent, you and I are asked to say “yes” to the Lord on a daily basis. Our “mission” can be as simple as being kind to those around us or as complex as becoming a missionary in a foreign land. Just as in the case of the Blessed Mother, we are often asked to say “yes” without knowing all of the details. Although it’s not easy, that is what faith is all about.

As we reflect on this great episode in the story of salvation history, let us turn to Mary and ask for her assistance in trusting in God’s plan for our lives. We are all asked to say “yes” in different ways, but doing so produces the same result – advancement of God’s Kingdom on earth!

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

Saint Joseph And Scripture – Less Is More!

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. Considering that none of his spoken words are recorded in the Bible and very little is written about him, we often dismiss the fact that we can study his life in any detail. However, I think we can gain valuable insight by taking a close look at what is written in Scripture about this great man. Let’s look at some of Joseph’s qualities and explore some of the reasons why he’s so worthy of emulation.

Just – Scripture tells us clearly that St. Joseph was “a just man” (Mt 1:19). This powerful statement is made in reference to his initial decision to divorce Mary after she became pregnant. While at first this sounds like a contradiction, there are several opinions about Joseph’s motivation. St. Justin Martyr, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Augustine felt that St. Joseph suspected Mary of adultery and decided to obtain a divorce (which was permissible under Mosaic law) until the angel explained the situation to him. St. Jerome held the view that Joseph couldn’t explain Mary’s pregnancy and decided that a “quiet” divorce was the most charitable option. Finally, St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Thomas Aquinas subscribe to the theory that Joseph was fully aware of Mary’s mission, but felt unworthy to be a part of the plan. Therefore, he decided that a quiet divorce was the best option. While these theories are quite different, the common thread is that St. Joseph wanted to do the right thing.
Humble – The fact that so little is known about Joseph helps us to see the importance of humility. The vast majority of us perform our daily work in relative obscurity, but that’s how we achieve our sanctification. St. Joseph shows us that we don’t have to be famous to do great things.

Obedient – Throughout his life, Joseph was obedient to God’s Will. When the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and explained the virgin birth, Joseph took Mary as his wife (Mt 1:20-24). When the Lord instructed him to take his family to Egypt, he did so without complaint (Mt 2:13-15). He then obeyed the angel’s subsequent commands to return to Israel (Mt 2:19-20) and settle in Nazareth (Mt 2:22-23).

If we can learn to imitate St. Joseph and become just, humble and obedient to God’s Will, we will be on the road that will lead us to eternal life in Heaven. While any of these qualities are difficult (if not impossible) to master on our own, with God’s help ALL things are possible. Through the intercession of St. Joseph, let’s ask the Lord to help us become just, humble and obedient!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

"This Is How You Are To Pray…"

Did you ever have one of those days when you just “can’t pray”? You try and try, but the words aren’t there. When faced with this situation, we often give up and figure that we can try again tomorrow. By doing this, we overlook the power and efficacy of formal prayer.

In her autobiography The Story Of A Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux writes, “I say an Our Father or a Hail Mary when I feel so spiritually barren that I cannot summon up a single worthwhile thought. These two prayers fill me with rapture and feed and satisfy my soul.”

In the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus warned against “babbling like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words” (Mt 6:7). Often Our Lord’s words are misinterpreted as a condemnation of formal prayer, but nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than condemning formal prayer, Our Lord taught us a formal prayer and held it up as as an example of how we are to pray!

Even on those days when the “words come easy” and we have no problem conversing with the Lord, we should make time to work the Our Father into our daily prayers. For when we pray it slow and pay attention to the words, we’ll be fulfilling Our Lord’s instructions, “This is how you are to pray…”!

Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Need Help Listening To God?

As a Catholic evangelist and blogger, I’m always interested in books that feature quotes from the Saints and holy people. I’ve found that a brief inspirational quote placed on Twitter or Facebook can often do more good than a long dissertation. Therefore, I was delighted to discover Listening To God with Mother Teresa by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker. This short, but powerful, book will provide you with several quotes that are sure to bring you closer to the Lord.

The book features 100 brief observations from this holy woman, each accompanied by a corresponding scripture verse. Imagine starting your day by reading some of the following gems:

“Moodiness is nothing else but the fruit of pride.”

“The best way to show your gratitude to God and to people is to accept everything with joy.”

“Like Mary, let us be full of zeal to go in haste to give Jesus to others.”

Listening to the opinions of saintly people can inspire us all to live holier lives. I highly recommend this powerful book, especially to those who don’t have a lot of time for reading. Reading one quote and a short scripture passage each day will serve as an excellent Lenten exercise and will assist you greatly in your walk with the Lord!

(This review was written as part of the Catholic Book Reviewer program for The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Listening To God with Mother Teresa. Also be sure to check out their great selection of baptism gifts!)

And So It Begins…

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. (Jl 2:12-13)

As we begin the holy season of Lent, we’ll once again hear the words of the prophet Joel proclaimed at the Ash Wednesday liturgy. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve listened to those words and they went “in one ear and out the other.”

This year, I’m going to try to do better. I’m going to use Lent as a time to “return to the Lord”. I pledge to look at my life, identify my shortcomings and ask the Lord for the grace to do improve. I have no guarantee that I’ll ever see another Lent, or even another day. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to get closer to Jesus, while there’s still time!

Dear Lord, I am a sinner, but I would like to become more like You. Please help me to identify the things in my life that separate me from You and give me the grace to improve. I love You and want to share in Your suffering, but I am weak and lazy. Please give me the courage and strength to persevere. Amen.

Saying "Y-E-S" To God During Lent

It’s often difficult to determine what we should “give up” or “do” during the season of Lent. If you’re still undecided, why not just say “Y-E-S” to God this Lent? Here’s my latest article for CatholicLane, which offers some suggestions:

http://catholiclane.com/saying-%e2%80%9cy-e-s%e2%80%9d-to-god-during-lent/

What’s The Deal?

Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. (Mk 11:24)

The above words of Jesus seem very clear, but they can be a big source of frustration. Our Lord’s statement becomes especially difficult when our prayers appear to be unanswered. If I pray to win the lottery and it doesn’t happen, is it because my faith is too weak?

Not necessarily. It could be that winning the lottery isn’t the best thing for your salvation. The wealth could cause you to abandon God and live a life that will result in the loss of your soul. Thankfully, God knows us better than we know ourselves and if we stay close to Him, he will help us to stay on the right path. While it’s true that we can still “mess things up” for ourselves, God will ensure that the odds are in our favor.

We should always keep the lines of communication with the Lord open by prayer, Scripture reading, and receiving the Sacraments. These actions will enable our will to align more perfectly with that of the Lord. The end result will be that our desire for “bad things” will decrease and we’ll begin to seek those things which will bring us eternal life. And we must continue to ask God to increase our faith. While we can’t just make up our mind to “believe more”, we can ask Him to help us to believe more.
If we do these things, the Lord’s comment above will make perfect sense!

How Often Must We Carry Our Cross?

All three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) record Jesus’ words that all of His followers must “carry their cross”. Like it or not, suffering is an essential element of the Christian life. Just as Our Lord carried His Cross, His followers are asked to do the same.
The following verses summarize this teaching in the gospels:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. (Mt 16:24)

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. (Mk 8:34)

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Lk 9:23)

Did you notice Luke’s additional requirement for the Christian? He reminds us that we don’t pick up our crosses every Sunday or only when catastrophe strikes. Instead, we are asked to carry our crosses every day. Part of our job as followers of Christ is to recognize our crosses, even when they are small. Bad weather, annoying coworkers, heavy traffic, illness, anything that is uncomfortable can all be offered up and united with the suffering of Jesus. By doing so, our suffering becomes redemptive.

Do you want to follow Christ? If so, begin by identifying and accepting the crosses in your life. Oh, and one more thing, there are no “days off” for the Christian. We will have some form of suffering every day of our life. Take consolation in the fact that Jesus can grant you peace, even in the midst of suffering. Remember also that those very crosses which made life difficult will be the means by which you will attain eternal happiness.

Sounds like a good deal to me!