Catholic Community Commentary

Posts tagged “Jesus

Komen…What’s the Controversy?

            Recently Bishop Blair wrote a letter concerning fund-raising for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. His clear statement addressed the problem of cancer research and the use of embryonic stem cells. While Susan G. Komen ofNorthwest Ohiodoes not directly fund cancer research, it does send 25% of the collected donations to the parent company which does offer grants for cancer research.

          Bishop Blair is responsible for imparting the teaching of the Catholic Faith to the people ofNorthwest Ohio. It is a responsibility that he neither takes lightly nor can choose to ignore. In that capacity, the Bishop addressed the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, one of those teachings. Since some cancer research institutions use unwanted embryos from fertility centers for their research, there is potential that these small human lives are not being respected.

          In addition to support of life in the womb, Bishop Blair also offered support for those struggling with cancer when he suggested directing donations to the Mercy Cancer Centers. The Northwest Ohio Susan G. Komen Foundation had been sending money to the Mercy Cancer Centers as part of their outreach so the Bishop’s suggestion does not diminish this work.

          It is very important for us to realize that any past fund-raising we may have done for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, done in good faith, was not wrong. However, knowing what we do now, it is important to direct our donations to life-affirming organizations.

          Finally, since embryonic stem cells have been used in research, they have never been proven to assist with any medical condition. In fact, they react much like cancer cells. On the other hand, adult stem cells, which harm no human being, have been proven to help with leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, juvenile diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, sickle-cell anemia, heart damage, corneal damage, and dozens of other conditions. Just from a scientific perspective, it does not make sense to direct funds to research that has proven itself ineffective and away from such a viable alternative.

          I would hope, though, that we would approach this issue through the eyes of faith. I pray that as Catholics we can see that when we treat any human being, no matter how small or vulnerable, as less than dignified, we tear at the very fabric of our own humanity, our connection to the Creator.

Jan Kahle, Respect Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Toledo


The Hand of God and Snow Angels

Hi to you bloggers,
     I’ve been away for a while due to vacation and Christmas activities.  It is good to be back.  Today’s topic is seeing the hand of God. 
     Recently, our parish put together something unusual and touching.  We decided to put together a project called “Andy’s Angels in the Outfield.”  An invitation was put out to get participants to line up on a lighted baseball field and to fall backwards into the snow (in zero degree weather) to make snow angels for a recently departed angel named Andy.  Our expectations of a few angels showing up were soon overwhelmed as hundreds of angels showed up for the fundraising event to help the family with expenses due to Andy’s illness.  Although we raised a nice financial nest egg, we raised the spirits of the family and community. 
     To say that we will never forget, and that love will never die, is part of our faith and our hope.  To express that so well on that night will be remembered.  It was truly a God-event for many.  Tears were shed and hearts were touched.
     For me, I had the best seat in the house for the event.  I was in a tower, high above the ball field.  As an organizer, I also knew how things came together.  That itself was the hand of God.  A six inch snowfall days before made for beautiful angels.  The timing of the participants walking in lines across the frozen outfield could not have been better planned.  Everyone was in place with 10 seconds to spare.  The 8 o’clock bell rang, a shout of one, two, three rang across the tundra, and hundreds of angels fell to the earth to flap their wings in support of a fellow family member and friend.  From the tower, it was just like a movie.  Hundreds of colorful angels marching across the snowy white field to land for a moment, before flying in unison while looking into the sky. 
     I have to believe Andy looked down and smiled because we looked up and smiled.  It is not so hard to believe that heaven and earth can be united.  It happened on a snowy field in Ohio.  That day, the hand of God looked like snow angel wings.

Fr. Mark


Have a Song in Your Hearts this Christmas

Merry Christmas. 

     When it comes to Christmas, I have my favorite songs.  Music always brings me places. 

The “Barking Dogs Jingle Bells” makes me like Happy Gilmore.  I find a happy place. 

The “Carol of the Bells” takes me to a reflective quiet place. 

“Mary Did You Know?” makes me gentle. 

Any Karen Carpenter song makes me a member of a choir, as I love to sing with her. 

“Some Children See Him” makes me an advocate for world unity and peace. 

“I Wonder as I Wonder” makes me extra holy, as I wonder at the plans that God worked through a child, a son, a Messiah.  I wonder how God will touch my life as I begin a new year. 

“The Friendly Beasts” brings me back to a time when I was a farmer and my dad would invite us kids to treat the animals particularly well on Christmas because Jesus came to change all creation.

     Christmas songs move me.  And I truly believe that Christmas is supposed to move us also.  If a song can take us places, how much more can the One, who makes Christmas what it is, take us places we never imagined?  To have a song in one’s heart is one thing.  To have Jesus there is quite another story.  To know we are so loved, through the birth of God’s Son, makes traveling through this world to the next a journey of love.  Love moves us to do amazing things.  Let Christmas move you.  Let the Lord move you, for love is born on Christmas Day.  

   Merry Christmas to all of you.  Have a song in your hearts.  Have the love of God, Jesus, there also, today and every day.       

     I’ll be home for Christmas.  Not because of my traveling, but because He has made His home in me.                                          

Fr. Mark


God is Love? But What’s Love?

            We often hear the statement that “God is love.” It appears in Scripture and in descriptions of God, and rightly so, for God truly is love; however, that idea does very little to help us understand God. I mean, we all appreciate the concept of love; but we usually associate love with a feeling of peace and contentment, happiness and joy. In reality, those are the after effects of love. Those are the feelings we receive from love. They are not love, itself.

            So what is love? Fortunately, St. Paul spoke to the Corinthians about love. He named love’s characteristics. He helped them, and us, to recognize love as it appears in the world. He shared the truth about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

            Now we can look at the individual characteristics of love. We can see the truth about love – patience, kindness, no jealousy, no arrogance, no exaggeration, no rudeness, no self-centeredness, slow to anger, no brooding, no happiness about wrongs, happiness in truth, tolerant, faith-filled, hopeful, enduring. Those are things we can look for and recognize. Those are traits we can emulate. Those are the things we appreciate in others.

            When we focus on the characteristics of love to understand our God, we have a clearer picture of Him:

  • He is patient. He would never force Himself into our lives, but waits for our invitation.
  • He is kind, so no mean thing comes from Him. His plan was not to have illness, disasters, pain, or death. His plan was and still is paradise for all of us.
  • He is not jealous. He wants the best for us.
  • He is not arrogant. After all He is God, He could be demanding of our choice and behavior, but He is not.
  • He is truth. Even if the information is challenging, He shares what He knows we need.
  • He is not rude. He does not want us to fail or to be hurt or to be less than all we can be.
  • He is not self-centered. His desire is for our happiness.
  • He is slow to anger. Just imagine the number of times we would have done away with humankind if we were in charge.

The litany could go on and on.

            If we understand God in this light and if we choose to be more like our Father, we have a real path to follow. In Jesus, we have a clear picture of God and how to walk that path. We can be love for one another and love our God.

God is love. There is no greater choice than to be more like our Father.

– Jan


Everyone is a Missionary

October 21st is the feast day for St. Gaspar, the founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.  When I was considering what type of priest I wanted to be, I reflected on going to a foreign land to spread the knowledge of God.  There are different kinds of priests.  Some minister to a local area (diocesan priests) or others have teaching as their focus (Jesuits), but I chose to be a missionaryA missionary doesn’t always mean going to a different country or culture but an attitude of active preaching, living and learning of our faith.  Missionary is just as much learning God from the people you are living with as much as bringing your idea of God to others.
This past week I got to observe God Happenings right in front of me.  During the tornado watch, the kindergarten through 5th grades came to the basement of St. Michael’s Church.  It was a time of confusion and fear.  For some, this was the first time they felt this fear without their parents being at their side.  We gathered together to put ourselves in the Lord’s care as we prayed.  It helped to pray together and be God’s arms for each other as siblings calmed each other or classmates assured each other with a hug.  The kids were being missionary to me as I witnessed care, concern and love overcome fear and doubt.  I was pretty proud of our young ones.
At the soccer games this week, the missionary spirit came forwardWe prayed for a victory and placed the players in the Lord’s hands.  Even though the victory was not won on the field of soccer, I saw students and parents hanging around to console, comfort and encourage the team and coaches.  This strong sense of community is nice to behold.  When this spirit reaches out from a local community to a world community or even a neighboring community, that is being missionary.
Our faith is played out on many fields and locations not necessarily in a church building.  This week I was reminded what it means to be a missionary.  Thanks to everyone who showed the face of God to me this week.
Have a blessed week.  Fr. Mark

Jesus, the Eucharist

            A while ago I heard an elderly person struggling with issues of old age say that in his life Jesus endured every kind of human suffering except old age. I thought how true, he was only 33 years old when he died. He could not have faced any challenges that we might experience as we grow older. However, I recently realized how wrong that statement was.

            Consider Jesus today. It is really, truly Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist – body, soul and divinity. All that was Jesus during his 33 years of life on Earth is all present as the Eucharist. Certainly for us as humans, the visual presence of Jesus has changed, but that does nothing to alter the fact that it is the same Jesus. With that in mind consider what he continues to endure in his “old age”.

            Like a person confined to home or a health facility, Jesus waits for his brothers and sisters to come visit him, he can not go out to them without help. He sees that some come willingly, anxious to be with him. He sees those who come grudgingly, inattentive, sharing nothing with him. He sees those who are distracted, focused on something else. He sees those who smile and those who scowl. He witnesses the closeness of some and the distance of others. Perhaps most of all, he is painfully aware of those who did not come at all. Jesus knows exactly what it is like to be immobile and unable to communicate.

            With that in mind, how are we responding to Jesus in his “old age”? Do we come willingly and openly to Mass? Do we participate and include everyone? Do we make time to share an extra visit with Jesus in addition to Sunday Mass? Do we take advantage of Eucharistic Adoration to gaze on him? Are we aware of his look of love toward us?

            Sometimes our worship as Catholics is picked apart because it is different from other religious denominations. It needs to be different. It can not be the same as a social gathering – the King of the Universe is in our midst. We can not receive the host without reverence – we hold the Savior of the World. The reverence of the priest and the people is the only way we have to outwardly communicate that Catholic worship is different because present physically in our gathering is God.


How Parents Can Take a Stand

This is a guest post by Connie Cleemput the Director of Religious Education.

Where do you stand on abortion, on underage drinking, on the death penalty?  Where do you stand on taking time to pray as a family, on having a meal together or attending church on Sundays as a family?  Where we stand, so stands our children.  They mirror what we say and do as their parents, as their role models, as they people they look up to.

When practicing songs and prayers for Mass (after three weeks of practice) I mentioned to the First and Second graders to ask their moms and dads to take them to Mass on Sunday mornings or Saturday afternoon.  I said “Your parents will say yes, just ask them.”  I can not tell you how disheartened I was when a second grader told me that he had asked his parents and they said no.

Where do we stand?  How can you, as parents, help your children be the best Catholic they can be?  How can you help them form their consciences so they can make good, moral decisions?

As parents we have a moral obligation and a Catholic obligation to help form and support our children into whom God calls them to be.  Yes, God calls all of us to take a stand.  God has placed these children in our care, knowing and trusting we will do our best to raise them in our Catholic faith.

Take a stand.  Take them to church, pray as a family around the dinner table at least once a day, tell them about God.  Look in the mirror and you will see a reflection of your child.  Listen to your voice and you will hear your child.  Do you like what you see and hear?  Take a stand.


Surviving Marriage and Locusts

It’s October and St. Michael’s always puts on a Pre-Cana to help couples get
ready for living their marriage.  Topics such as communication, finance,
in-laws and faith are covered in the day.  Much time is spent putting on
a festive event.  During our Pre-Cana time, we try to look at putting on a
festive life.

I love weddings.  I have done over 900 weddings and love every one of them.

It is nice to share in the excitement, joy, fear and commitment of the couples and their guests.  It is often at these heartfelt times, in the
depth humanity, God is found.  I love weddings.

Some of my best priest stories happen around weddings.  With over 900
weddings that I have witnessed as a priest, there have been some very human  and very Godly times.  Here are a couple of stories.

I had a wedding when the 17 year locust epidemic was in full bloom in
Virginia.  As the bride made her way to the church, the locusts were
attracted by a white moving object.  By the time she got in church, the
dress was a moving living brown outfit.

With 5 minutes before the ceremony, bride remembered to pick up her mom at  the hotel which was 45 minutes away from the church.

I got to marry a couple in the hospital two days before the groom went to
his eternal reward.

I got to be the DJ at the reception when the hired help became intoxicated.
(There was a lot of “Brick House” (my favorite dance tune) being played that night.

I especially like to talk to couples in my office to hear their stories
first-hand.  My job is to talk them out of getting married.  If I can talk
them out of getting married they were probably not too ready in the first
place.  (There is a movie starring Robin Williams which has the same story
line.)  If a couple passes my interviews, I’m ready to celebrate their vows
with them.

We have a good time in the office and the questions are fun.  The youngest couple to come in to get married was 14.  The oldest person I married was 92.  Marriage is a lifetime in which a couple picks each other to share in the fullness of life, to share in finding the Lord.  They celebrate that God has called them to share in the fullness of life as a couple.
I have lots of weddings coming up including three family weddings.  The best to all of you.  The best to our Pre-Cana weekend.

What advice can you give our Pre-Cana couples this weekend?


Parents, It’s Time for You to Talk to Your Kids about the Three Letter Word

Hi to everyone.  Last week was supposed to be Catechetical Sunday in the parish, but I got sidelined.  So it has been pushed back to this Sunday.  So I’d like to put in a plug for teaching. 
Many people admit that it is a difficult time for children.  They get so many messages out there.  So much of our children’s time is spent with technology; television, phones and computers.  Who or what is teaching our kids the important lessons of life.  Believe it or not, children still learn from their parents.  Parents are still the largest influence on their children.  So on this catechetical weekend, here’s a salute to parents.
So have you had that talk with your kids yet?  Fathers, have you had that talk with your sons?  Moms, have you explained where life comes from to your daughters?  Do they know about the birds and the bees and heard it from a reputable source?  There is a lot of information out there and not all accurate.  It is a subject that is difficult to talk about.  How do you get started?  Will it be embarassing to the kids?  You would think that a discussion about a three letter word wouldn’t be so difficult.  I still remember when my dad talked to me. 
Yes, I remember when my dad talked to me about “God”.  What three letter word were you thinking of?   
Yes, it was my intention to trick you.  In our society, we hear so much language about so many things including other three letter words.  God language used to be part of our vocabulary and social gatherings and home life. 
With children being so busy with their own social lives, where do they get to learn the real life lessons: that God is the source of all life?  There is no substitute to the home.  Religion classes and going to church are good complements to what is taught in the home.  But speaking in religious language seems to be difficult to do.  I was blessed to have parents that spoke about their faith and backed it up by going to church and practiced it in the home. 
On this Catechetical Sunday, I challenge all families to claim their faith, to claim God.  God has claimed us.  Shouldn’t we do the same and do it for our families.  If you aren’t praying in your homes at table or at bed time with your kids, make a start.  God is everywhere.  Shouldn’t He be in your home?
Sorry to have tricked you but wasn’t that easier to talk about than the other three letter word?  Talk God this week.    


Living the Sweet Life

It’s Pioneer Days in Kalida and it will be a busy weekend. I’ll be working with the Bingo booth, Duck Races, flipping social burgers, calling square dances and most of all enjoying the food and atmosphere.

When I was young, church festivals and fairs were tough to attend because I did not have money for a lot of extras.  That meant I had to be careful of how I spent my quarters, dimes and pennies(yes, I am old).  I thought to myself of how neat it would be to run away with the circus, so to speak.

I’d be surrounded by cotton candy, taffy and parades all the time.  I think I was secretly called to be a carnival person rather than a priest.  As a young person I was looking for the sweet life, and that meant cotton candy.  My mom always said that too much cotton candy would make my teeth fall out.

Either my mom was telling me stories, I didn’t eat enough to make my teeth fall out or there was a lesson my mom was trying to teach me.  I’m banking on the latter.  Life isn’t always a sweet carnival. There is real food that must be eaten sometime.  Sweets are fine for short intervals but will I really grow without substance?

I believe this lesson goes not only for the body but for the whole person.  To be a whole person there will be things on our plate that might not be the sweetest but may bethe best for us. Sacrifice and hard work are hard to swallow but may help us grow more than selfishness and laziness.

Mom always said our teeth would fall out if we had too many sweets.  Mom made sure our teeth didn’t fall out due to proper eating habits at the table and in life.  I am better for it and smile with my own teeth.

I believe we want a sweet life for our kids and for ourselves.  Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full.  When I see the kids here I smile and want the best for them.

Today, I don’t think they have to run away to the circus to be filled with sweet things.  The circus is here. As a nation and a community we have been blessed with many sweet things.  The challenge for parents and our community is to help the kids keep their teeth and to smile because they have a full life.

And yes, I will have some cotton candy this weekend.  I’ll also work the booths to keep our community strong.

In the spirit of Pioneer, what are you most looking forward to in this weekend’s festivities?


Mass-a comfort zone?

Hi to all you bloggers.  After a week off, I’m ready to get back in the saddle.  Last week, I kind of bucked and kicked a bit, but now I’m settled in again.  After a tough week, sometimes it is nice to settle back into something comfortable and familiar, even on a spiritual nature.

For many people, the Sunday Mass is a comfort from life’s adventurous ride. The familiar prayers with familiar people praising a familiar God brings peace to the close of a hectic week, and begins the new week with the hope of promised blessings.

I love the Mass.  Even though I get scared every time I have to preach,I enjoy the blessings of the Lord with great people.  Even in a big church like St. Michael’s I see everyone and everything.  I pray for families who have shared stories of life and death with me.  I pray for parents with little ones who make it hard to pray.  I pray with joy as I see newlyweds returning from honeymoons.  Sometimes it is hard to pray because I’ve had a tough week, weekend or night, but the opportunity to celebrate Godly moments and God’s love with so many keeps me coming back.

In October, I will be talking about the Mass during the sermon time.  I know that many people have questions about the Mass.  If you could get those to me before I do my talks, I will try to answer some of them within the talks. It’s nice to be back in the saddle again.


Why Can’t I Have Sex Before Marriage?

           The question about having sex before Marriage is an important one to grasp. It hints at something more than a common, usual experience. It alludes to something desirous that needs to be treated in a special way. Thus it is imperative to understand the act of sex and how it can manifest love.

            The union of man and woman during sexual intercourse is a unique gift of giving and a clear role in the action of creation. The sanctity of sex is reflected in the ultimate communion of two people, the complete giving and receiving of one for another. In addition, that union may be further mirrored in a new human life. The act of sex brings man and woman together as one. It continues the story of creation. It must be an action of love.

            For this reason, we can not treat sex as a casual, earthly event. When we recognize the sacred nature of this union, we must surround it with the reverence and appreciation that it deserves. The Church looks to Christ to understand the complete giving of self for another and how to embrace full communion.

            When we consider how Christ became a man, suffered, died and rose for us, we have the truth about love. He is what love looks like. His witness shows that love is given totally, freely, faithfully, and fruitfully. He gave Himself without holding anything back. He did so freely, not forced. He remained faithful to us throughout his entire life on earth and continues to be with us in the Eucharist. The fruits of His action of love are mercy and the opening of Heaven.

            By using this lens to look at having sex before Marriage, we can see the shortcomings of that action. Pre-marital sex is not a total and faithful giving of oneself because it lacks a complete commitment, no witnessed pledge or vow. Pre-marital sex is not often given freely, but rather coerced as a ‘show of love’ or ‘just something that two people do next.’ Pre-marital sex does not strengthen the family unit that children need.

            With this truth of Christ before us, we see why sex is an action of love between husband and wife. Through the Sacrament of Marriage they have answered the questions that most identify a loving relationship:

  1. “Have you come here freely to give yourself to one another without reservation?”
  2. “Do you promise to be faithful until death?”
  3. “Do you promise to receive children lovingly from God?”

Their vows to one another are a witness to us that they desire to love one another as Christ loves his Church – TOTALLY, FREELY, FAITHFULLY, FRUITFULLY – and every time they unite in sex, it is a renewal of those vows.

–Jan


To Hell and Back

There have been a number of people make comments on the first blog regarding after-life and what I experienced nearly 45 years ago when I got shot at the age of 8.  There are parts of that near death experience that I will never forget. 
Through the years, I have spoken with a number of people who have shared their near death experiences.  There are a number of things we have in common in our “visions” of the next life.  Nearly everyone I have spoken with have shared the presence of an amazing light, the feeling of complete peace and the feeling of not wanting to come back. 
These aspects are common, but the second part of my near death experience is not necessarily common.  I have only found a couple of people who have shared with me the second part of their and my near death experience.  We got to experience a vision of what hell would be.
I remember after I experienced such amazing peace and light with a heavenly gathering, I found myself completely alone in such a darkness, where shadows lived and so did pursuant beings.  I knew I would never experience what was once so near and so right.  To be pursued by darkness and nothingness was completely scary.  (If you have ever seen the movie “Ghost” with Patrick Swayzee you may have some idea of the darkness which pursued me.) 
I remember the fear, which I have never experienced since, that filled me.  I remember the aloneness.  I remember knowing that I would never be able to leave that place.  My memories of hell were of darkness, loneliness, being pursued by evil and pure fear.  I’ve experienced a lot of fear in my lifetime but nothing like that portion of the near death experience.  
There are questions that I have asked myself after I came back.  Why did I go there in the first place?    Why did I go there after I went to the heavenly place first?  What I tell people is that if heaven is like I experienced it, heaven is the place you want to be, and I don’t tell them about the dark vision. 
For me, I am not driven by a fear of the darkness.  I am so influenced by the light of the Lord that there is little room for darkness.  To be in the presence of the Lord is heaven.  I see glimpses of that light in my ministry, through people and nature. 
I believe in the reality of hell, that people have the capacity to choose to be away from God’s love and other’s love.  I believe hell is living a life without God.  To be pursued with something other than light and never know fulfillment or peace scares me.  To never give love or take love in is hell and darkness.  As opposed to my heavenly vision where there were lots of people, I saw no one in hell.  
 
So get used to going to the light.  It is where we all want to be, forever.

2 Women in Toledo Choose Life

Jan Kahle received the following email last week from Ann Barrick, of the Pro Life Connection, about two girls who chose life after contemplating abortion (when approached at the Center for Choice, in Toledo, OH).  Jan wanted as many people as possible to hear this story:

PRAISE GOD!!  Two women chose life for their babies this evening!!  I thought you might like to hear the stories…  Enjoy!

A young couple passed by a sidewalk counselor as they went into the abortion center.  The man took the information that the counselor offered but didn’t stop to talk, just looked at her strangely.  Five minutes later, he walked out of the center right to her and stood there.  She asked him if he wanted to talk.  He said, “I just can’t stay inside that place!  It’s so depressing!”  The counselor talked to the man for awhile, and he kept trying to justify the abortion.  Meanwhile, 3 teens, 1 pre-teen and a woman was praying on the sidewalk in front while another counselor was across the alley praying.  God touched the man’s heart at some point in the conversation because he softened and eventually listened to the advice, “Go fight for your baby!”  He said, “I’m going to go talk to her!”

Not much later, a girl and her mother came out and walked over to get rosaries from the counselor.  They were there to schedule an abortion but told me that the plan had changed!  The mother of the girl was in the room when the ultrasound was done, and when she saw on the screen her grandchild move, she said, “You’re not aborting my grandbaby!”  Her daughter is 7 months along!!   And that baby could be aborted!!  Thanks be to God that the grandmother saw that ultrasound!!

As the girl was showing the ultrasound photo to the counselor, the young man mentioned earlier walked by so the counselor asked him to come look at the photo.  After a few minutes of looking and talking, he told the counselor, “Go talk to her!”   His girlfriend came over and talked to the counselor and told her that she wasn’t going to have an abortion.  She said that her boyfriend had changed his mind after talking to the counselor and that helped her because she had seen “the children praying” and that made her not want to go through with it!!

PRAYER AND WITNESS!!  The girl who’s mother saw the ultrasound—she was the recipient of prayers even if she never talked to anyone!!  The same with the young woman—and the presence of those young people touched a chord.  It is SO important that we never forget the power of prayer and witness!!

I also want to put a plug in for Heartbeat Pregnancy Center which is located across the alley from the Center for Choice.  They, along with all pregnancy centers, are crucial in the pro-life movement.  However, they particularly need our help since they ARE located near the abortion center!  They need financial help to get an ultrasound machine and all the expenses that  go along with it.  Can you imagine if they had that and we could just walk someone over for an ultrasound?!?  They also need more volunteers so they can be open longer hours, especially on Thursday evenings.  Please let others know how important our local pregnancy centers are!!

Remember—40 Days for Life is coming and we need you prayer warriors!  However, we are praying at the center year round.  Visit the Stand & Pray page at ProLifeConnection.com for more information!

In Christ our Hope,

Ann


A Glimpse of Heaven

Is that all there is?  Over the past 25 years as a priest, I’ve been asked that question or one like it, many times.  The questions take many forms, but they all come back to, “If there is a heaven, what’s it like?”  I recall my first week at my first assignment at morning Mass.  A mom came out of Mass with a concerned look on her face.  As she approached, I could also see the concerned look on the face of her daughter of 8 years old.  As they approached the little girl sobbed an important question,  “Do turtles go to heaven?”  Her pet turtle had died that morning and church was the only appropriate place for some comfort and maybe an answer. So how do you answer such an important question to a child or to an adult whose faith is challenged?   

For me, there are different ways to answer.  One is by the scriptures.  When we recall the love of God through the Son who rose from the dead, we are called to something beyond death.  God loves us eternally.  God loves us even before we are and beyond who we are.  Death can’t stop that kind of love.  After Jesus’ resurrection He ate with his friends, comforted those hurt by His death and made clear that we would be joined with Him forever.  Isaiah says it will be a place of choice food and wine.  Scripture gives us many images of God’s eternal, heavenly love.  So what is heaven like?

In 1965, when I was 8 years old, I was in a terrible accident.  I was shot through the heart, lungs and stomach.  The doctors gave me no chance to live, but here I am today.  While in the hospital, the doctors came out to speak with my parents after one of the surgeries.  The doctor said that they had lost me for a while but got me back.  It was at that time that I became one of those people who encountered a “near death experience”.  It wasn’t a common thing to talk about, and seven years later, my mom asked if I believed in “near death experiences.”  That was the first time I told anyone that I was one of those people.      

If heaven is anything like what I “experienced” it is the place to go.  Yes, I saw the light, but the light is nothing compared to the amazing peace, joy, wonder and rightness of where I had gone.  I remember asking myself while there, “Where could I be?”  It took no time to realize that I was with God, others and creation in heaven.  There was the beauty of creation all around.  (I could tell the little girl that I believed her turtle was in heaven.)  If heaven was a place of all beauty and goodness, why wouldn’t creation be there?  There will be clover fields to run through barefooted with my brothers and sisters, surrounded with the sweet aroma of clover and chasing rabbits.  I think we all have some heavenly thoughts that will be more than fulfilled in heaven.

In my “experience” I saw lots of people, people I knew and people I didn’t know.  And they were experiencing the same wonder that I was.  I also saw people on earth and knew, by God’s prompting, that they would be alright also. 

And I knew God was there in my “experience.”  It just wasn’t God’s goodness being there, but I knew God was there to be my God where nothing could harm or be wrong.  All made sense.  I believe we get glimpses of the Kingdom here on Earth, but it will be special when it is our time in heaven. 

Why did I come back?  God knows, and I trust that. I trust Him. Some things are best left up to God. I believe while we are on Earth we serve, enjoy and ponder God’s time that he gives us.  But He calls us to life to the full.  We should live in that kind of fullness of life here.  And that includes loving the best we can until we are loved forever in perfection.   


What Everyone Ought To Know About Heaven

Since none of us are getting out of this world alive, most of us have a huge fascination with the afterlife. It is comforting to know the details about where we will go and what we will do there. Despite the mystery we usually associate with it, we do have information that helps us to know what to expect; and we have someone who has been there and come back.

Jesus spent His earthly life sharing information about Heaven, namely God’s desire for us to be there and specific directions about going. He told stories and gave details that help us visualize both Heaven and hell. Most importantly, His passion, death and resurrection make our journey to Heaven once again possible.

As the Book of Genesis tells us, we began our existence in Paradise, a lush and beautiful place, where our relationship with God was open and close. Through our own choice, we separated ourselves from God. Not His desire, but our choice to sin (and don’t blame this one on Adam or Eve, we have each chosen to do wrong in our own time). Fortunately, the story does not end there. God so loved us (even though we are the ones turning away from Him) that He sent His only Son to save us – making Paradise possible for us again.

So what will Heaven or hell be like? Well, Jesus shared the story of the poor, beggar Lazarus who died and was carried to Abraham in Heaven, so obviously we will enjoy the company of those who choose to follow the path to God. But when the rich man from the story died, Jesus said that he was in torment in the netherworld. Clearly, hell is a place of great sorrow, experiencing the absence of God. (Luke 16:19-31)

In another example, Jesus told his apostles that “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places” and that “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:2-3) This explanation obviously allows us to visualize a real dwelling, a place, a home. We will after all, like Jesus, rise from the dead – soul and body.

Jesus shared that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding feast (Matthew 22). We are all invited to come to a wondrously, glorious event – who wouldn’t want to be part of that?  But Jesus also said that it is better to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand rather than have it cause us to end up in hell. That picture is clearly foul and unpleasant. (Matthew 5:29-30)

As He was dying, Jesus promised the repentant thief “today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) The invitation is open to all who want to go home to Heaven. Our repentance and openness to forgiveness seem to be the needed key. The choice is ours and the options are unmistakable. As much as God wants us with Him, He places the decision in our hands.

Be sure to come back tomorrow to hear about Fr. Mark’s experience in Heaven.

–Jan


You’re wearing THAT to church?

What to wear, what to wear?  Things sure were more simple years ago when we had three options: school clothes, work clothes and, what we in the Hoying family called, “Sunday, go to meeting clothes”, the best outfit in the closet.  

What to wear in New Zealand was easier also as nearly every school had uniforms.  From Monday through Friday the same outfit was worn.  But now, it’s the weekend and what do you wear to church?  There’s always something to do right after church, like a ballgame, a neighborhood gathering, a movie or other social events.  And if you are like me, you hate to keep changing clothes.  And it’s Summer.  How much clothes do I have to wear to be considered dignified for church?  

What to wear, what to wear? Even in workplaces, fashion has changed.  Wearing of a tie and business suit is rare.  What is the proper fashion for a church setting?  When considering an outfit I always try to consider that going to church is a community gathering to give praise to God.

If my outfit distracts from the worship, I’m probably wearing the wrong clothes.  If I were to wear a skirt to church in Fiji or Samoa it would not distract from worship. If I wore a skirt here, all the women would be jealous of my legs, and the prayer would be distracted (ha ha).  Sometimes clothing or lack of clothing needs to be considered when determining what to wear to church.  God will hear my prayers no matter what I wear, but if my outfit prevents others from praying, I’m probably not looking out for my neighbor as well as I should.


How Prayer led Fr. Mark to the Priesthood

When people ask me how I knew that I wanted to be a priest, I tell them that it was in me.  That feeling has been in me for a while.  Believe me, to give up farming, a wife and kids and a permanent home were hard decisions to make.  I took lots of time to answer these questions with the help of deep prayer.  There were many times I asked God if He was sure because I surely wasn’t that certain.  But when I came down to looking at what was in me, priesthood still came out
When I needed that time to pray deeply, just God and me, I would go to a special place.  At the back of the farm was a corner of property which was not farmed because of a crossing creek.  Small trees, brush, rabbits, deer and lots of song birds were my companions in prayer.  I’d take time out to sit and listen to what was in me and see what was true.  If truth was to set me free, I’d have to listen to God, the Truth.  I’d spend time to see what I could live with or without.  I knew God wished me to live life to the fullest, I just had to figure that out and how I would do that.  As the idea of priesthood kept coming to mind I figured I better give it a shot.  It was only through time in prayer that I could say that it was in me. 
One other reflection was that the tractor was always a special place to pray until something happened-we got a radio on the tractor.  I loved music and would sing loud enough to hear me over the diesel engine and for the neighbors to hear me.  My question for especially the young bloggers is, where do you find your quiet place?  How do you know what is in you so that you can live life to the fullest?  With so many music opportunities out there, and distractions to quiet, where do you pray best? 

Top 5 Reasons to Attend Mass

It’s funny how our attendance at Mass has always been associated with the 10 Commandments, particularly to “Keep Holy the Lord’s Day,” when actually it is for our benefit not God’s. With that in mind, here are five motives to go to Church on Sunday:

  1. 1. To feed a spiritual life – We often hear “I can pray better at home or in the mountains or alone.” Prayer at anytime is wonderful and necessary, but prayer at Mass is unique. It is God’s children gathering to share a meal. One form is not ‘better’ than another but ‘as important’ as the other. We need both types of food to nourish us.
  2. 2. To draw on God’s support – Much like any meal, we are strengthened and renewed to continue our work when we have eaten. If we dine on a meal of foul language and rude behavior, much like junk food, it will have its effect. If we enjoy a meal of God’s Word and the Body & Blood of Christ, it also will have its effect. In the case of Sunday Mass, we are gathering the nourishment we need for eternal life.
  3. To develop community – Just like any family gathering, we need to come together to strengthen our bonds and ties to one another. Just consider how much closer you are to brothers, sisters, or parents whom you see more regularly, as opposed to cousins and grandparents that you might not. 
  4. To strengthen one another – The whole reason for strengthening our bonds and ties through our gathering for Sunday Mass is to be able to support one another. How would I know you without gathering with you? And how can I reach out to you if I don’t know you? We are the physical presence of God in this world, so it’s important to be with one another to do His work.
  5. To worship God – When it comes right down to it, we are built for LOVE. We have an interior desire and pull toward God, who is Love. We often try to fill that desire with things or activities, but we always come away wanting more – that intangible something.  St. Augustine said it best, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

Why should we go to Church on Sunday? For very selfish reasons, to bring about our own peace and joy. God knows that. He even made it a commandment for our sake.

What are your personal reasons for attending mass? Please share them in the comments below.