Saturday, December 24, 2011

Four Years of Focusing on Christ. So Much to Reflect and Rejoice About.

Each of our lives is a journey. In the end, we hope to hear the words: "Well done, good and faithful servant".

My personal journey has continued each day with a deepening of my faith. Some days are difficult, others are relatively smooth. I often wonder where God is in my life, other times I knowingly stare him in the face. The past few months have been devoid of any posts from me, as I have felt God calling me to a deeper reflection with him, while balancing work, teaching Catechism and other commitments. I've witnessed tragedy on an immense scale and seen God provide consolation and reassurance that he is there with me through extraordinary ways. Thus, he has allowed me to again take a revealing journey with him and find focus in my life.

When I actually take the time to stop and reflect, I am continually amazed at the blessings in my life. We are often too wound up in the world to actually stop and relax. Sitting down this Advent season, I have reflected on the fact that it is a year ago that I started this blog and four years since I returned to the church. This blog began with the intent of sharing my story. Since sharing it, I have heard from those who have fallen away from the sacraments and since returned, shared many of my encounters with Christ, and had my story featured on Why I'm Catholic. I have been asked again this year to do some of the readings and scripture reflections at Midnight Mass, to which I am humbled and grateful for. It is an honor to serve Christ's church in any manner, no matter how big or small. We are all called to serve the church with our actions, words, time, and talent. I am also reminded that it is difficult to keep our eyes continually focused on Christ.

This Christmas, we must remember that God came to us in a small, humble manner, in the form of a child. It also requires us to humble ourselves. Our pride often trumps God's messages while we blaze our own paths through this life. This past week, I was able to connect things in my life to the messages that God wanted me to hear.

The words I distinctively recall from a priest at a recent talk were "We see God the way we see our father". "Sure. I see that. Doesn't really apply to me", I thought. I know that we are formed by our earthly father, or some father figure in our lives. It could be in a positive manner, or a negative manner of various sorts. I've seen others affected by it. That's what I seemingly told myself...

It wasn't until the next day that it connected to me in a powerful way while I was driving to work. It was one of those 'epiphany' moments where it all became so clear and time stood still. I realized that I was approaching our heavenly father feeling unworthy, not good enough. I saw an image of myself in the confessional beating myself up and saying I was not worthy of God's love. I hadn't reached perfection. This was a revelation that I needed. I didn't see how I was treating myself and approaching God. It is true that the Catholic faith can come across as overly harsh and difficult. We may not hear "God Loves Us" directly. However, the fact is that God Loves Us. He created a church with the sacraments and it will set us free over time. It takes a peeling away of areas of our lives to reveal the true self and the treasure that lies within. The same wise priest that reminded me how to look at God also reminded me that we must carry the Cross with Christ. Christ did come as a cute infant we may all want to pick up and hold. He did die for us on the Cross, yet we still have to do our part, saying 'Yes' to him.

May we all seek to see the face of Christ in our lives, no matter how difficult it is.

I will end this post with a thanksgiving to God for the continuing work in my life and a video from one of my favorite Lay Apostolates, Catholics Come Home.

Deo Gratias.

Friday, September 2, 2011

World Youth Day

Been so many blessings in my spiritual life lately. Turns out myself and three friends made a last minute pilgrimage to World Youth Day. I never thought I would make it to one, nor did I know what to expect! What can I say other than it was an amazing event! If you ever have the chance to go, do so! It is an unbelievable experience and encounter with Christ. I do not know the final numbers, but camping out with 1 million plus people at a vigil service truly shows that the church is one unified body of Christ. The Holy Father's homilies and reflections, including the stations of the cross moved many to tears, including myself. Seeing a half mile of confessionals, adoration chapels and celebrating Mass with the Pope are all just part of the whole story.

I was interviewed by a group who promotes Manga Hero Anime books on the faith. Below is my brief interview. Their website for the trip with many interviews is

Mike - California from Green Egg Media on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

How many times have I grumbled and questioned to myself - "Do not be afraid? You have to be kidding me!".

The Lord's words can be hard to accept at times when we are in the middle of trials and tribulations of life. They can also be troubling when God asks something of us that we feel we are not ready for. Take for example my first big lectoring experience as described here: "Come, come, can you Lector?"

Today's Gospel is indeed another powerful one. Our pastor celebrated the Mass that I was lectoring today and boy was he on fire in every word he said. The Lord really spoke through him in a way that had me listening to every word. Sometimes homilies speak personally to everyone or just a few.  I'm not sure about everyone else, but today, I felt like I could listen to the pastor's every word and say "wow" when he was done. His point was simple and spot on. So many times, the nature is to feel like God is not with us during the "stormy" times of our lives. We fall away from prayer, don't trust God, and feel like we are abandoned. But, as I have come to learn personally, these are the times where we really learn more if we listen to the Lord and take a lesson away from the situation. I've found that I have had to humble myself in so many ways and just stop and listen, rather than babbling to God in prayer. It's a two way street and when I've stopped and listened to him, he's there speaking.

Personally, I felt renewed this week and empowered to speak the first and second readings today. After the homily, I was even more ready to lead the faithful in the prayers of the faithful. But, it was the Gospel that spoke so deeply to me, even though I've read it so many  times.

"After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”"

Simply put.... Why can't we seem to take God at his word and trust him? Today's Gospel actually sets up the tone for the Eucharist.  It comes in the Bible after the feeding of the 5000 where the disciples doubted Jesus. Here, he again says "Trust me." - that is to step out in faith and he will lead us to the truth.  This is tough at times, as our human nature seems to doubt God and want to test everything with science or some pass/fail test.  Sometimes, we want him to show us everything in miracles. "Come on statue, wink at me, wave a pinky.. do something!". True, sometimes some miracle or private revelation may be the way to show us his reality. But, he asks us to have faith and look at him for his word. We don't need to see a miraculous healing every day, a eucharistic miracle, or a Transfiguration to believe. We simply have to say "Yes" to God and he will reveal himself in the daily walks of life.  The thing is that God will pick us up if we fall. God knows that we stumble, doubt, and unfortunately sin.  However, he has placed a church with sacraments, including reconciliation which allow us to "Get up" and go back to walking with faith. One priest has given great advise to me in the confessional - saying essentially that God allows us to use our free will. He'll allow us to fall and use it to bring good for him, teaching us powerful lessons. I know this is true for me. I've learned so much from all the trips, stumbles and falls in my life.

Sometimes, I feel that the responsorial psalm may not fit well for the particular day. Today, it fit oh so well and I will end with this psalm and a prayer.

"I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD — for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation."

My prayer for the day -
"Lord, always help us to see your truths each day and believe your words. When we doubt, speak to us in ways that we can come and submit fully to you in the faith. Allow us to stop and listen. As the psalm says, let us see your kindness and grant us your salvation."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Christian Love & Charity

Christian love is simply found by looking no further than the Cross, which flows right into God's word and his promises.

God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you."

This past Sunday's readings show us Christian Love and Charity unlike no other. This love is a two way street, with our cooperation being a key part of the equation. Opening with the book of Kings, Solomon is front and center as God asks him for anything he wishes. Solomon however doesn't ask for selfish things. He simply asks for wisdom, understanding and humility, which are aligned with God's desires for all humanity. God then gives him what he asked for and so much more! How often do we ask for things from God like a vending machine, rather than trusting him in his infinite wisdom?

In the responsorial psalm, we are reminded that our lives are much more than material things. Living God's law and avoiding the many things of the world can be difficult at times, even though they are overly appealing and draw us away from him.

"Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part
is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

In this, I can't help but see a connection in the psalm to Judas' selling out Jesus's location for 30 pieces of silver.

Moving to the second reading, Romans continues to teach us so much more...

"We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified."

God will take us down a path of sanctification if we simply ask and accept the graces he gives us. This is all too often not an easy thing to do. Justifying us, we glorify him in return.

Putting all this together, we get a whopper of a Gospel that certainly opened my eyes.

"Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.

So true! Once the grace of God shows us the love he has for us in the kingdom of heaven, we always want to find it anew and share it with others. Unfortunately, this can be problematic if we don't share it in the best way possible. We can become prideful, pushy, or even agitating towards others if not done with patience, love and simply letting our actions speak for themselves. I know how I've wanted to share God's word with some individuals so much that it caused harm more than it did good.

I have found myself battling Christian Love and Charity throughout my return to the church. Moreover, I seem to catch myself not being charitable to those who don't see the faith in its true light. This can be from fellow Catholic Christians to Christians of other denominations. This is one area that God is working on within me. Many thanks to the Lord for continuing to show me how to be a better person in all respects. Deo Gratias!

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet Jim and Joy Pinto ( who have a radio show on EWTN called "At Home With Jim and Joy". What a great couple full of Christ's love! I learned so much from their talks at the family conference they were headlining. Certainly, if you have never listened to their show or dvd's,  you are missing out. Both have powerful testimonies of how God has worked in their lives and taken them on a path to the Catholic church. After speaking with them at the event, they asked me to call into their show to share some of my testimony. What an honor, as I was on the show for about 5 minutes on Monday. Thanks be to God for the opportunity to meet them and share some of my story to the listeners on the show!

I will close with a powerful prayer called "The Face Prayer. Jim and Joy Pinto ask people to pray this daily and live it out in their daily lives. I have heard them pray this numerous times on the radio, but it really came alive for me during their live talk. I am now praying this every day and reminding myself of it every time I have a thought or action that would not be Christ-like.

"Heavenly Father, I embrace your grace this day,
So that I might not:
Think of another,
Speak to another or
Touch another,
without first looking for
Your Face in the other.
I ask all this through
Jesus Christ:
God Incarnate,
God with Skin,
God made Poor,
God with a Face. Amen!

-by James Pinto, Jr, MEV"

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gardening Part Two... and some 'Wisdom'

This Sunday's readings continue the Parable of the Sower, beginning with a reading from Wisdom and Romans, then culminating with the Gospel of Matthew.  My first thoughts from today emanate from a the title of a book that stands out on my bookshelf which says "Welcome Home". It contains stories of those who return to the Catholic faith after grace filled moments and personal encounters with Christ's love & forgiveness.

This past Sunday's readings ( are about God's goodness and forgiveness. I am glad to be home in Christ's church even though the process has hurt immensely at times and left me scratching my head in wonder...  The responsorial Psalm (86 verse 5) says it all:

"Lord, you are kind and forgiving, most loving to all who call on you."

Nearly 5 years ago, God answered my prayers when I had called on him to help me return to the church and become a better Christian. This was accomplished through several awakening events in my life and a fellow Christian who served as the primary instrument, for which I am forever grateful, yet are still striving to see God's plan in all of this. God continued to show me a path to his door over time and in December 2007, I responded with a 'Yes' to those answered prayers, returning to the church. My opening the door (Rev 3:20) began a floodgate of grace and faith filled moments. The entire process has not been easy, nor has it been comforting at times, however God has consoled me in many respects along the way.  I was reminded of this on Saturday as I attended a wedding for two very faithful Catholics who exemplify God's love to each other in so many ways. They both pursue devout Carmelite spirituality and see God in everything that they do. Their wedding cake laid out Mother Teresa's words so eloquently and plainly:

"Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self."

That's right - Love is not painless. It's a total giving of oneself to another amidst all trials, temptations and struggles. Sometimes we think things should just be easy. But yet, life is a continuous gardening process.

Sunday's readings remind us that God Loves us, no matter what we do, as characterized at the end of the Gospel passage: Matt 13:36-43

"Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the evil one,
and the enemy who sows them is the devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear."

So, as always, we need to be attentive to what is going on around us, cleaning our gardens, sowing good seed, and most of all, trusting God. I will never forget a personal message given to me saying to trust God. It's the famous Proverbs 3:5-6:
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not;In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths."

This is more easily said than done!

I proclaimed the first and second readings at Mass this Sunday from the ambo and they certainly spoke to me when I was up at the ambo. I vividly recall a non-Catholic Christian (actually a former Catholic) commenting once to me "Wisdom? I've never heard of that book".  The thing is that the book of Wisdom has actually taught me a bunch of wisdom in life and I simply cannot see how protestants have tossed seven books out of the bible and can defend doing so, especially with a book like Wisdom. Sunday's reading is simply powerful.

"There is no god besides you who have the care of all,
that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.
For your might is the source of justice;
your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.
For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;
and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.
But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
and with much lenience you govern us;
for power, whenever you will, attends you.
And you taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are just must be kind;
and you gave your children good ground for hope
that you would permit repentance for their sins."

Let us pray that true wisdom and God will guide us each day of our lives into absolute truth.

The reading from Romans is rather striking when we see that God works in mysterious ways and along with such, will "intercede" when necessary. I see this as the events in my life where I was on one path where God was definitely trying to work on me while I was off in another world pursuing my worldly interests. It reminds me of how much I used to be attached to my hobbies and things of the world that were leading me away from God.

"Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will."

The following blog rolled into my email box this morning. What timing. It's definitely something I have been struggling with in my call to the Catholic desert! It is so easy to swing to either side of the pendulum in the faith. Having a balance is certainly key as I see where I have definitely swung wildly at times. Being an engineer, I guess I could model the over damped or under damped response ;)

"How do I get my focus back?"

May God always continue to work in our lives with our grace and acceptance. And as always, may we continue to de-weed our gardens.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weeds in the Garden

The Mass readings from this past Sunday (July 10th) are definitely a powerful set, culminating with the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 13:1-23). Who can't forget the ever popular Parable of the Sower? This is a popular set of verses that many will use and have numerous discussions on in relation to planting seeds with believers and non believers alike. It's a very simple message, yet is one of the most striking  when the message is clearly heard, accepted, and most importantly, lived out.

July 10 Mass readings: 

Beginning with Isaiah 55:10-11, the readings really ask us to open our eyes and see correctly the work God is doing and the work that needs to be done in our gardens in order for us to cultivate our own healthy garden and provide good fruit. One can't help but see the church's divine wisdom in setting up the Mass readings to be so inter-connected throughout the year.

After the psalms and the second reading (more on that later), the Gospel of Matthew pulls us into the heart of the story (verses 18-23).

Matt: 13:18-23  "Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

At first glance, who doesn't say to themselves "Yeah, I'm keeping good soil for the Lord to plant things in. Plant away Lord!"? The harsh reality is that we are fooling ourselves if we aren't looking deeply at ourselves, our actions, and how God is working in our lives. Too often the "noise" and "business of the world" prevent us from working the ground and ensuring that we let the seedlings attach and take root.  A lot of the times, it is the friends we keep and run into that are the weeds of the world. Instead, we end up planting (going to Church), forgetting to water and de-weed, even though we think we are doing the proper work. We leave church with a fresh mind, knowing how to plant properly, but are soon swallowed and surrounded by the weeds of the world which snatch that word from us. This definitely underscores the point of surrounding ourselves with solid Christians who will help us live our faith.

I can't tell you how many times I've gone into my own yard and said "Whoah, when did all these weeds pop up? They were not there yesterday! Where are the plants I seeded?"

Sure the weeds were there. I just wasn't looking... and was ignoring the yard work. "Sure, I'll get to it tomorrow".

This past week was one of the most challenging of my life. A relative passed away, which resulted in a funeral and it seemed like at every corner things were just more difficult. However, God uses this to teach us lessons and slow down in life (which I've been feverishly working on). It was the pulling away from the world during the funeral and time away from life that has made me realize many things over the past week.  It's these events that help realign our priorities in life and make those important course corrections. Just as I was worshiping other things before I returned to the church nearly 4 years ago, we always find weeds lurking in the garden and priorities that need changing.

I typically don't go to 8pm Mass much, unless the day decides otherwise or if I am scheduled to lector it. Because I was away all weekend, I returned just in time to make the 8pm Mass. I believe it was a providential thing that I was away for the weekend and went to this particular Mass on Sunday. The priest that gives this Mass is one of my favorites for teaching. He's a very solid, retired Jesuit who still serves at a myriad of Masses all week. Some think he can even bi-locate. He actually takes time to interject historical comments in-between the readings, psalms, Gospel,etc - All which bring the Mass alive if one is truly listening.

The thing is that this pulling away for the majority of the week and culmination of the readings at Mass really made me realize as much as I didn't think there was, there were weeds in my garden that did not let seeds grow in my life. Granted God has done huge things in my life and pulled a lot of big weeds, but I now see more clearly where I was not letting some seeds fall on good ground because I hadn't fully de-weeded things. In fact, the weeds were there, but I just couldn't see them. Often weeds are at the base of plants and shrubbery. One can look from the outside and all appears well, but deep down, the weeds are slowly taking over the plants, not allowing new fruit to grow. In many respects, the weeds blend right in and look like a good plant or grass. However, they are slowly taking over our lives and we simply do not see it. 

As a Christian, life is not easy. It takes constant working of the soil and de-weeding of our garden, even if we think our soil is ready. Before the Gospel of Matthew, the second reading from Romans (8:18-23) reminds us to pick up our cross, endure the sufferings of the world, and let God work in our lives so that we can attain the final goal of ever lasting life through redemption.

"Brothers and sisters:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies."

The funny thing is that I had felt the nudge to look deeper at this subject some time ago. I began writing this blog post 6 months ago and felt that the Lord was working on the right time for me to finish writing it, but it wasn't just quite there yet. Isn't it great how the Lord teaches us lessons and provides the inspiration and timing as he did this past week? I kept telling myself my soil was good, but it still needed work. In fact, the soil will always will need constant work!

St Fiacre, Patron Saint of Gardeners provides us a great lesson in gardening - He shows us to work our garden not with big equipment, but with fine care as he did with the point of his staff!

My prayer for the day:
"Lord, thank you for all the gifts of life you have given us. May we always listen attentively and allow for them to truly work in our lives. Many times we feel that we plant seeds with others and they may not take simply because their soil is not ready. May the Lord always help us de-clutter our own gardens and help work in other's with Christian charity and love. And most important of all, help us keep clearing the garden every day, being on guard for those weeds trying to take us away from attaining the glories of Heaven."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reflection, Personal Discernment & the Rosary

I've spent the past few months reflecting on my spiritual life, beginning in Lent. As I mentioned before, this year's Lenten season drove me deeper than ever before in many respects.  One of the major issues that I have been dealing with is related to discernment of certain experiences that I've had in life.  Ignatius's Discernment of Spirits is the go-to book in many respects when one starts to look at how spiritual events affect your life and it requires a thorough understanding of the rules of discernment and a good spiritual director. My return to the faith is driven by numerous notable events that I cannot explain with anything other than faith in God. The issue is that I don't quite understand the meaning of all of them. Thoughts range from the enemy (Devil) being involved to them being straight from God. What I do know is two things:

1. I would not be back on fire practicing the faith if it was not through the Grace of God.
2. Practicing and keeping the faith is NOT EASY. It takes a humble and contrite spirit along with a daily picking up of one's cross.

What I have been fighting internally is not having peace on issues and actions that I have happened in my life. I tend to alternate between frustration, desolation and consolation. Part of the problem is that we tend to want answers "NOW", when we don't realize that they are on God's timing. However, I keep turning my negative and frustrated thoughts to those of thanks to God for how he has worked in my life. Sometimes in ordinary ways - other times in very extraordinary ways. Always turn to prayer in times of need. Often this is how God helps draw us back to him...

This July marks two years since I began praying the rosary daily. If it was not for the perseverance of often having to force myself to have the discipline of praying the rosary, I do not think I would be as strong as I am today. Reflecting and meditating on Christ's life through the rosary is so simple, yet powerful. I can't tell you how many ways I have realized new things about Christ through meditating on the mysteries of the rosary.  While our protestant brothers and sisters often claim the rosary is leading us into idolatry and away from God, I would say just the opposite. God certainly works in mysterious ways, including bringing us to him through his blessed mother.

Here are some articles on the role of Mary if you are searching for more info and have an open heart and mind.

I often listen to archived EWTN radio shows of Mother Angelica on satellite radio when on the way to work. Her words are simple yet profound at times. This morning she was talking about how we can read scripture so many times, yet it's that random umpteenth time we read it and go "WOW". Yes indeed.  God works on us indeed. If you don't know Mother Angelica's story, have a look at or  for a brief bio. She's definitely dedicated in her faith.

"Lord, continue to always reveal yourself to us".

Deo Gratias.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Spiritual Desert... and Bloggers Block!

I haven't fallen off of the face of the earth just yet. I've been telling many that I've been called to the spiritual desert the past few years since my return to the church. However, I really feel that this year's Lenten season was one that pulled me deeper than ever before and I truly didn't expect it. In fact, it surprised me so much that I felt the need to back off of blogging for some time and to focus on the areas that God was calling me to, which included concentrating on Lectoring, Catechism and other ministries that I am currently involved with. Not to mention the fact that I had felt "Bloggers Block", which is mightily similar to "Writer's Block". Hah!

With that said, I have some good reflections coming from the past few months, as soon as time allows for them to be conveyed to my keyboard.

Deo Gratias!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ok, Lord... that's enough, lay off, will ya?

We all probably have said to ourselves at times "Lord, I've got enough on my plate. Can't you lay off the temperature a bit?".  It's like saying we are carrying too heavy of a cross. The simple fact is that no cross is as big as the one Jesus carried.

Lent calls us to the desert, if we truly let the Lord to lead us where he wants us to go. I've been struggling with this a lot lately. In my journey over the past several years, God keeps calling me to a higher level and with each step of this spiritual ladder, life certainly is not easy. I've seemingly found myself waking up to realize how involved I have become in various ministries, events, and catechism classes at our local parish. While I appreciate it, I catch myself complaining about it at the same time.  The catechism students were brutal today, I don't have enough time for me, what good am I doing?, etc... What I do find is that God has a meaning for this and teaches profound lessons that we may not understand at that moment. Sometimes we realize it quickly, other times it takes awhile.

However, as God reveals truth to us, we are called to share that with others. Today's Mass readings for the 4th Sunday of Lent lay out truth with no apology. I found the second reading (Eph 5:8-14) the most powerful. I actually found it affecting me as I read it aloud into the microphone while lectoring today. After Mass, a good friend said I looked a bit "stiff" while reading today. Undoubtedly so.

"Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness
and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention
the things done by them in secret;
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light."

This reading shows that the Lord will lead us from darkness and awaken ourselves. But, this process is not easy, nor does it happen overnight. We have to always be reminded to live as Christ wills us to.

Tonight, a friend randomly texted me the following, which really struck me. In fact, I needed that message at the exact moment in time. God uses others to deliver messages in many respects. Tonight's was delivered by a simple buzz from my phone. 

"we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed;" 1 Cor 4:8-9

So, Instead of finding myself complaining about troubles in life, I find that I need to turn it to thanks; Yes, thanks to the Lord for all that he has given me, and in his infinite wisdom he knows why we need to undergo trials and suffering to reveal his message.

Deo Gratias!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Taking out the trash

While I certainly take out the physical trash at home each week, my goal is to take out the spiritual trash at least once a week (or as often as necessary) through the sacrament of confession. I feel so blessed to have a local parish that offers confession daily before each Mass (there are 27+ Masses a week!). Thus, there is never an excuse not to take advantage of the sacrament.

Since my return to the church in 2007, I find myself reflecting where I  am currently in my spiritual life as compared to the previous year. With this, I have also gained a deeper appreciation for Lent. As we are called to repent in this time period, I continue to look at areas that I need to work on. This means frequenting the confessional with a deeper sense of renewal in my life.  Each rung of the spiritual ladder that I climb works away at those vices and sins. As I continue on my path of sanctification, God seemingly calls me to a higher standard in so many respects. This means understanding sin better and making more sincere and well thought out confessions.

I often find myself scribbling notes for confession on a piece of paper before going into the confessional, or I tend to forget things. Today, I used a bookmark (a receipt) in a Lenten book that I am reading for those notes. When I got back to my vehicle after confession, I tore up the receipt. The sound of tearing paper seemed to resonate loudly. With the pieces then set on top of the book, the imagery of what I just did struck me in a powerful way that I didn't expect. At that moment, I realized how my sins were forgiven in God's eyes. Just like the destroying of the receipt, God forgot my sins at the instant of confession, cleansing my soul. Often times, I tend dwell on the past and the sins that I have committed, feeling like they drag me down. In the tearing of the paper, today was a great reminder that those sins are forgiven and forgotten in God's eyes. Deo Gratias!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Isn't this the unfortunate truth?

The Mass readings this past week have been powerful in many respects, but they all come down to trusting the Lord, which can be difficult at times in this world. I came across the following button at another parish I was visiting for a meeting. One doesn't have to look further than the cycle of sin in the Old Testament that even continues in a rampant fashion today. God kept saying to trust him and his commandments, but it people chose their own paths of destruction. We just don't seem to trust God and choose our desires even when it comes to the Ten Commandments. Society just wants to pick and choose like a cafeteria...

Deo Gratias!

Thanks be to God! Lots of great stuff going on in my spiritual life lately. I can only be thankful for all the graces that I continue to receive. Here are a couple of them.

Last weekend myself, and all the other Lectors in the Parish, were formally installed into the Lector ministry at our Parish during a Saturday Mass. What an honor! We each had a Benedictine cross that was blessed during the installation and then placed around our neck by the Pastor. We'll wear it every time we proclaim the readings at Mass.  This particular cross was chosen by the Pastor, given the fact that our current Pope is Benedict.

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise."

In other news, my reversion story appeared on "Why I'm Catholic" this past week.  I have had a profound reversion back to practicing my Catholic faith, when I returned to the church in 2007. My first blog post (Three Year Anniversary of Coming Home) is what the story on Why I'm Catholic was based on. Have a visit to their website, as this Lay Apostolate is doing great work to share people's conversions to the faith.

The Lord continues to surprise and bless me in so many ways. Don't get me wrong, some of these blessings come as storms, but when one sees the message and meaning, it is powerful.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tantum Ergo... Benediction... Adoration... huh?

I'll never forget the first time that I came to Mass one weekday during benediction and exposition. I had no clue what the parishioners and priest were doing, nor what they were saying. I also had no clue how lucky I was. The parish I attend offers perpetual (24/7) adoration of the blessed sacrament and this blessing is one I came to truly appreciate as time went on.

One of the examples that relates to this was given by Jeff Cavins. He mentioned that when he was a protestant, he mentioned something to the effect that if they announced they were having a 24 hour prayer session and said Jesus would be present,  the whole world would come. Many churches advertise the heck out of it, make a big deal of it,etc . I've even seen an advertisement for "Burn 24-7" where Christians do 24 hours of constant praising of the Lord in music,etc. That's great! Amen to praising the Lord and giving thanks.

Yet, adoration and prayer happen around the world 24-7 in the Catholic faith and it goes unnoticed by many, including Catholics themselves. It is essentially unadvertised, and not boasted. It just happens. Faithful spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, praying for the world and those in need, some who don't even know that they are being prayed for! I am so fortunate to have a local parish with 24-7 adoration. What a blessing!

Lest we also forget that somewhere in the world, there is a Catholic Mass being held this very instant! 

Some good commentary:

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.

Genitori, Genitoque
Laus et jubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"Come, come. Can you lector?"

"Come, come. Can you Lector?". These were the words coming from one of the religious sisters, as she motioned me her way. What could I do? God had called, even if I didn't think I was ready...

That's how the 5:00 Mass began for me that day. Except the Mass had not started and it was 5:02pm. The next thing I know, I was genuflecting as I exited the church and on my way into the sacristy.

It was an interesting day as I ended up lectoring twice this day, having never lectored before in my life. The first time was in the morning for about 60 young boys at a retreat. The second was later that evening at the Pentecost vigil in 2010. Talk about baptism by fire!

I had always wanted to lector at some point in my journey of faith. I have had significant experience talking in front of crowds, from small groups of 50-100 at local club/organization meetings to an outdoor event with 1000+ people. Sitting in the pews, I had thought that there would be a time where I could lector as God calls us to use our talents to serve his Kingdom. I prayed about it, and when I wasn't expecting it (like many other occurrences), the Lord called.
Indeed, the Lord prepares us and calls us for his will. He prepared me for this in the morning, when I was asked to do the readings for confirmation students at a morning retreat. In fact, I had a distinct feeling that I would lector again that evening. This feeling is one that I've had several times since my return to the faith. While a private revelation, I firmly believe these events have done nothing but strengthen my faith.

On Saturday mornings, I would normally be at another parish teaching catechism, but since the parishes are run by the same religious order, I was asked to help at the retreat. This day, back at the other parish, our students were taking their midterm, and the retreat needed assistance.  After the retreat ended, I called my friend who I teach with, asking how the students did on the midterm. During the discussion I mentioned that I had lectored and then said to him, "Brian, I have a feeling that I will be lectoring again really soon.  I don't know what it is, but it is that same feeling that I've had before with other things in the faith".

That same Saturday evening, something prompted me to go back to the 5:00 vigil Mass. I sat in the pews, praying in front of the blessed sacrament. Something just felt odd. At that point, I decided to look over the readings, realizing that the Vigil ones were different than the Sunday readings for Pentecost. I also noticed that it was quiet at the Ambo, as no lector had come to prepare the readings. Instead, I noticed one of the sisters who sets up the sacristy running around, seemingly looking for someone. As the time ticked off, I essentially heard a thought to myself "Michael, you will lector tonight". Shrugging it off, I told myself "Nah, not possible". I turned my head and glanced around the church, looking toward the entrance. Something definitely felt weird. I noticed a few of the religious sisters sitting in their typical position, a few pews behind me.

I kept kneeling and praying.

It was now 5:00 and something was amiss. No lector to introduce the procession. 5:02 rolls around and one of the sisters comes running up the isle, looks at me, looks back to the other sisters, goes back to them, comes back up to me, turns and says "Come, come. Can you Lector?"


What could I say? I knew God had called and he had prepared me that morning to lector. I was whisked back into the Sacristy (I had never been there before), when the sister realized the procession had already gone to the entrance of the church. No training or instructions for me tonight from the priest! Luckily, the cantor introduced the first song, and asked everyone to rise. I felt like I was on stage at a major event, but hadn't had proper time to read the script.

It then came time to do the readings. I of course, was literally shaking the entire time and felt like 1000 people's eyes were on me. As I got up to do the first reading, all I could hear were pages turning in the Missalettes in the pews. One feels like all eyes are on them, and since you are elevated compared to the congregation, you can hear all the noise, even a pin drop.

Luckily, I survived the evening and life has continued on... It was just another page in my personal faith journey.

The Lord does answer our prayers. I prayed about lectoring, as I saw my talents able to help in this ministry. I soon inquired about becoming a lector at this parish (which is quite large, and has seven Masses on Sundays!). A few months later,  when I was not expecting it, the head lector contacted me and the next thing I knew, I was officially being trained to be a lector.  In fact, the greatest honor thus far in lectoring is being asked to lector the Midnight Mass at this church on Dec 24, 2010. This date was very special to me. It was the three year anniversary of my coming home to the Catholic Church. What an honor! Thanks be to God for all he has done in my life!

If you feel that you have a talent that can be used at your church, do not be afraid.  Offer to help. God uses all of us in different ways to build up his Kingdom.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Walk for Life West Coast 2011

Last weekend (January 22nd), I attended the West Coast Walk for Life in San Francisco. This is the second year in a row that I've gone and boy, is it empowering to be with some estimated 50,000 like minded people!

A panoramic view of the plaza for the kick off rally
(click for larger view)

While the event itself is amazing, the most profound moment of the day didn't come while I was at the walk in San Francisco. It came after the walk at an event that night.  I was at a function that evening when a friend there asked what I did that day. At first, I hesitated to say explicitly what I was doing, commenting just that I was in San Francisco. Of course, he asked what I was doing in San Francisco.  So, I then commented that I was at the Walk for Life, and was there sanding up for the dignity of life in all forms. His face said it all when we began to talk. He admitted of a girlfriend once having an abortion when he was young and how he went with her for the abortion procedure. That event changed his his mind about abortion. Today, when he sees any documentation of a date near the timeframe of this abortion, or meets someone around that age, he says "that could be my child".  


Let us all pray for an end to abortion and a common understanding about the dignity of human life at all stages.
Further information:

More photos... (click to enlarge)

It took us three hours to walk the entire route! It was packed with people the whole way and stretched for miles.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Truth, what Truth? - Prayers for Christian Unity

In recent years, I have traveled quite frequently for business. One place was Tillamook, Oregon. It is a small town of approximately 6000 people and famous for its cheese. Upon entering the town, there is a cross with 19 names of local churches listed. This cross begs the question of "Truth" and shows us the clear problem of division in Christianity. Each proclaims to have "the truth". I know first-hand how hard it can be to dialogue with others who share different views of faith. Most of the time, the discussions are not pleasant and don't leave one at a state of peace.

Putting differences aside, this week (Jan 18-25) is focused on prayer for Christian Unity.

Let us all pray "that they may all be one" (John 17:21)


It is sad that Christianity is so divided and full of dissension. Catholic Answers has a great tract on the Church's foundation, called "Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth".

Sunday, January 16, 2011

If Starbucks marketed like a church...

Today, I lectored the 12 noon Mass at our church. It's probably the largest of the seven Masses held on a Sunday there. Stepping up to the ambo in front of some 800+ people can be an overwhelming feeling at first, but each experience provides me with a vivid insight of the church and leaves me with much mental imagery.

Having been a lector for 4 months now, I am fortunate enough to see and learn much more about the Mass than one typically gets from sitting in the pews. Instead of "going through the motions", I have to know more and more about the so called "motions". Each time I participate, I delve more deeply into the Mass. Scripture comes alive! The Mass is a beautiful thing and it doesn't need to be marketed. It markets itself! All of the thoughts in my head today reminded me of the following video, which I've been meaning to post. It's sad that non-Catholic churches go to extremes like the parody here to pull people in, trying to "Feed" them. Jesus didn't send direct mailers. Actions spoke louder than words or trumpeting in the streets.

Alas, no Eucharist they have to feed the flock.

As my post about "The Price is Right" discussed, actions should be done without trumpeting, and the church services don't need to be tailored to the people. We have to conform to the church.

Anyways, have you "Planted a Bean Today?"...

Monday, January 10, 2011

"Late Have I Loved You"

On the Feast of Our Baptism of the Lord, the following words really spoke to me from St Augustine, because I came to realize how I was 'Late' in seeing the banquet put before us on the altar. Thanks be to God for showing me the way.

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace." - Confessions of St Augustine

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Many of you have probably had those "Ahah!" moments at Mass. You finally get something. It took a long time for me to fully understand incense. It was one day at Mass where the visualization of many images, descriptions, and bible verses came together at an instant for me to realize the full value of incense. It also took the right lighting in the church, as I saw the incense being offered at the altar, rising up slowly, as the prayers of the priest and faithful were being represented. What imagery!

Rev 8:3-4
"Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel."

As to incense... These guys sure offer it up in Spain!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Two Notable Conversion Stories

I thought I'd post a couple of good video conversion story testimonies of several converts to the Catholic faith. Both endured sacrifices and gave up a lot in their lives for their conversions.

Dr Thomas Howard is famous for his book "Evangelical is Not Enough"

Part one of his story is in the following video, with four parts following.

Alex Jones is a former Pentecostal Pastor who gave up much to become Catholic. His story is in five parts on youtube. After his conversion in 2000, he wrote a book called "No Price too High" which documents his conversion and wife's initial struggle with it. When he converted, 50 members of his congregation followed him! It all started by a study of the early church 2000 years ago.


Come on down! It's the Price is Right!

The Price is Right? At a church? Well, the first video below exposes (in my opinion) a widespread issue in Christianity. Let me first say that I do wholeheartedly admire their zeal for Christ and what they have done for the member, but a lot of this seems rather prideful in the fact of showcasing it to the congregation.

Let me clarify my point further before you write angrily at me for apparently putting down Christians who are placing an honest effort to help someone out in need.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:1-4 - "(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

Part of the problem is that a lot of Christian churches are in competition. I mean, how else does the pastor get his salary? From the offering. Simply put, no people in the pews, no pay.  They have to entertain and draw in people, and keep them. A second video below illustrates the point of the "seeker" church movement. Does it seem like things like this are a lure to get people to come to the church? See, we give away stuff, we help people, come! Free coffee. We do great things! Look at us! Attention! We sent out 50,000 door hangers to the unchurched,etc. Join the revolutionary church reaching to the unchurched! Well, Jesus is the same yesterday and today (Heb 13:8), and his church doesn't need to modernize. In fact, Jesus gave us a model for worship at church services, the Eucharist.  He didn't show case what he did at the feeding of the 5000. He just did it.

The next video illustrates further...

The question is, are they truly being fed? Of course,  outside of the church that Jesus founded, they don't have the Eucharist. Take an hour out of your day and listen to the following audio of Jeff Cavin's faith testimony. It is powerful.

This is one of the beautiful things I admire about the Catholic faith. It operates day-in-day out, doing uncountable charitable works in the world, not blaring a trumpet about what it does. It just does it for the glory of God, and not man. It's also universal and has no real competition between parishes. (shouldn't).  The bottom line is let the actions speak for themselves. I see no need to tell the whole church you gave away a car to someone. Jesus didn't advertise what he was doing. In fact, he just did it and people followed.