Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vocation Essay by Oscar T. 7th Grade

Most people are taught to live out their vocation in their lives by the influence of others. If they are taught about God and his teachings, they will have a better understanding of how exactly to live out their vocations to the fullest. Some of those who teach us about vocations and give us the knowledge to know, love, and serve God are priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters. These individuals not only help us to understand what a vocation is, but also how to live it out in everything that we could possibly do. But how do these people influence us to follow our own vocations? It’s really quite simple.

Priests are one group of people that help us to follow our own vocations. While in church, the priests teach us the Word of God. When they teach us the Word, they are essentially giving us the information to know how to live our own vocations. Using the priest’s teachings about God as guidelines to live out His calling in everything that we do, we can know, love, and serve God more easily.

Another group of people that help us in vocations are religious brothers and sisters. These people give complete devotion to the Lord. They have to take three vows: chastity, poverty, and obedience. Taking these vows means that they have to give up freedoms that others have, such as getting married. However, they don’t care about not having those freedoms. They are so dedicated to God that they don’t need to worry about having petty freedoms like those, especially while they’re in God’s hands. People who need help with their own vocations could be inspired by the religious brothers and sisters and their great devotion to God so much that they may consider becoming one themselves. And if they don’t want to go that far, at least they would be inspired to live out their vocations to their fullest.

The last group of people is the deacons. The deacons assist the priest in various church tasks, such as Communion. Communion is an incredibly important part of Mass, because it allows for those who are in the church and taking Communion to become closer to God. Deacons also have to go through a lot of training to get in their position, and that takes true dedication on their part. Much like the way that religious brothers and sisters influence the people, deacons could inspire people because of their dedication to their position. In addition, receiving the Eucharist can cause people to become closer to Christ, causing them to be encouraged to live their vocations to their fullest.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Wait for the Lord with Courage; be Stouthearted and wait for the Lord

Today the Psalm reminds us to wait for the Lord with courage and to be stouthearted. The Gospel shares the beautiful and intimate story of Mary anointing Jesus' feet with oil and drying them with her hair.

What gift can I give Jesus this week? How can I wait on Jesus? What does it mean to have courage and to be stouthearted? This week Jesus will experience just how faithful His friends and disciples are. What kind of a friend will I be to Jesus? Will I wait with courage by Jesus' side...or will I deny and betray Him?

Jesus, help me stay close by your side. Let me never cease serving and loving you. Thank you for the gift of salvation.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for Palm Sunday

Readings: Is 50:4-7; Phil 6:2-11; Luke 22:14-23:56

In the almost ten years that I have been chaplain here at Our Lady of Grace, one of the regular parts of my mornings has been watching the morning TV news while getting breakfast. How often it happens that the news commentator describes some serious traffic accidents that have occurred during the morning rush hour or in the late night of the evening before. There are pictures of mangled cars and reports that fatalities were involved or that several people were flown by Lifeline to area hospitals. As I watch, I begin to muse that in the blink of an eye some lives have been changed forever or even ended. One moment those people were speeding along, thinking about another day at work, or some family problems, or the upcoming weekend—and then (!) in just a moment everything changes. Or in the late night people are going home from a great party. They are still talking in the car, remembering the fun, the camaraderie, and the car drifts over the center line. And in an instant everything changes. Later they might desire with all their strength to have that one moment back again, to have things the way they were before, but they can never put it all back together again.

This feast of Palm Sunday and the reading of the Passion account remembers and anticipates a similar sudden change in the lives of Jesus and his disciples. How thrilling and joyous was that triumphal entry into Jerusalem! How deeply moving was that supper that Jesus celebrated with his closest followers! After the meal they went out into the night singing, as was Jewish custom, the Hallel Psalms (##115-118) and the Great Hallel (#136): "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love is eternal. Give thanks to the God of Gods; His love is eternal." Joyous with the meal, the celebration and the wine they nodded off in the garden while Jesus prayed. Then in a flash the soldiers arrived, Jesus is arrested, and they run away in fear. The unthinkable had happened. Everything changed in that moment. Palm Sunday reminds us of that change as we read the Passion account.

This Palm Sunday let’s take a few moments to remember all those people whose lives are changed in an instant, whose worlds are suddenly shattered. Things will never be the same for them—never again. They know the same kind of distress and utter confusion as the disciples of Jesus when they fled the capture of Jesus. Let’s pray that they have courage in their hearts to face what has happened and the ordeal ahead. And if we ourselves should ever come to know a similar Passion-moment of sudden transition, let’s pray now for courage in our hearts.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Holy Week is Upon Us...

Tomorrow we celebrate Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem...the day that begins Holy Week.

I find myself reflecting back to Ash Wednesday. Has this Lent been any different than any other Lent in my life? Has my heart been changed? Did I draw deeper into the heart of God? Did I make good on all my Lenten promises? Do I even remember what I promised to do? I often fall short of my promises to Christ. Lucky for me...Christ never falls short of His promises to me.

Over Spring Break I had the opportunity to spend a few days with my brother, Fr. Zach. He recently was assigned to a new parish in Evansville, IN. I wanted to see his new parish and to spend time with him as well as my other siblings who live in Evansville. I had a great time with my family. I was also blessed with quiet time. (I was able to make 10 Rosaries over the break.) One evening my brothers, Zach and Bernie, were invited to hear confessions at one of the local parishes. Having just gone to confession the week before I had decided to not go to this particular service. However, I changed my mind after Zach and I listened to a CD of Matthew Kelly explaining the importance of confession. As it turned out I did go to the penance service and I did receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I was so touched when the priest blessed me and assured me that, "Every sin I ever committed has now been forgiven and God NEVER remembers my sins." I was overwhelmed with gratitude and love for my sweet Jesus. I needed to hear those words of forgiveness. My heart has grown deeper into the heart of God.

It's with mixed emotions that I look forward to this week of holiness. It's never easy to hear the Passion. To reflect on how Jesus died for me. Today's Communion Antiphon is, Christ was sacrificed so that He could gather together the scattered children of God. Thank you sweet Jesus.

If you haven't been to Reconciliation lately...give yourself the gift of forgiveness and take time this week to confess your sins and make a return to our merciful and loving Savior. He waits patiently for you with His arms wide open ready to welcome you home.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Vocation Essay by Matthew D. 7th Grade

Priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters, using what they have learned by their life and ministry, invite others to share in the teachings of Christ using the examples they set. When good examples are set they are showing us what they have learned and telling us of what we will learn.

During his time on earth, Christ was always doing what he thought was best for others, not himself. Through his preaching of good news and miracles of all sorts we are inspired to live life as Christ did. What our brothers and sisters of Christ are trying to do is help us to live like Christ. Through all they do, whether if it’s praying the rosary, reading the Bible, or going to church, just like Christ, they inspire us to be the best we can be.

When we do hateful things such as hurting others and disobeying our parents and guardians we are not only ignoring others, we are ignoring Christ as well. This weakens our relationship with Christ. That is why we have these religious brothers and sisters: to deepen our faith in God and to help us live a healthy relationship with Christ and all his children.

They are also here to help us find our vocation in life. A vocation is a calling from God to do or say something that will bring others closer to Christ. For example, some people are called to serve in the military, some are called to be teachers, and some are called to dedicate their lives to God. Whatever the vocation, it is important because just remember, it is what God called you to be.

A vocation could be anything from a firefighter to a policeman. You won’t really know until it is time, but no matter what, all vocations have a meaning, all vocations help others in some way, and all vocations are sent from God.

God sends these vocations for one reason and that is to get across to us what our true callings in life are. When we fulfill these callings we are preaching the good news. That is why religious brothers and sisters are here to help us with. Whether if it reading the Bible, praying a prayer/rosary, or going to church, brothers and sisters inspire us to follow our one main vocation: to know, love, and serve God.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 5th Sunday in Lent

Readings: Is 43:16-21; Phil 3:8-14; Jn 8:1-11

I’ve really grown to love celebrating the Eucharist in the Health Care Center’s dining room. It’s the simplest of services—no music and just one minister who reads the first reading and helps with the distribution of the Eucharist. It definitely counts as a no-frills service. Yet there can be such warm and marvelous (and humorous) touches to it. One such moment that moves me is saying the Our Father together. The elderly participants try with the barest of gestures to make an attitude of prayer. Some hold their hands open; others reach out and take someone else’s hand (Pat and Margaret Moriarty are good at that); one elderly lady reaches over and grabs on to a chair or table if no other person is near. It’s a very heart-warming moment. I mentioned that one time to Pat Moriarty. He replied: "Father, when you are as old as I am, you got a lot that needs to be forgiven." In today’s gospel story I don’t think he would have been one of those who picked up a stone.

This gospel story usually gets interpreted as an instance of Jesus’ great the woman taken in adultery. However, one could make a good case that the story is really about recognizing the need for forgiveness, especially for those who don’t think they need it. After all, we really know nothing about the woman’s state of mind; we have no idea if she felt any need for forgiveness; we don’t even know how she reacted to Jesus’ forgiveness of her. But the scribes and Pharisees in this story didn’t reflect much about their own need for forgiveness;
they were ready to launch headlong into a condemnation and perhaps execution of the woman taken in adultery. Jesus reminds them of their own need for God’s forgiveness, which, in their rush to condemn someone else, they had forgotten.

The need to suspend judgment of others was one of the great goals of the early desert monks. They realized that the battle against rash judgment constitutes one of the greatest challenges for people (including monks), and one does not easily conquer the tendency. One of the most profound insights in the desert tradition is recognizing that each of us tends to build a wall around ourselves. That wall is composed of the various pieces that we consider to be descriptive of a moral person (good, generous, sharing, etc.); it also contains the pieces that we think go into the definition of holiness (prayerful, quiet, devout, etc.). This wall serves as a protection that we hide behind to fire out at those who disagree with us. The key here is realizing that the wall is something we have become comfortable with. Things that don’t fit into our wall we have a tendency to attack.

This tendency is described succinctly in one of the stories of the Desert Monks. There was one desert monk who came to visit Abba Arsenius, an old man famed for his holiness. After his visit he met another monk who asked him how the visit went. The visitor wasn’t happy; he said that it didn’t seem to him that Abba Arsenius was practicing a serious asceticism at all. The monk then asked the visitor what he did before becoming a monk. He responded: "I was a shepherd; I slept on the ground and ate sparse meals." "Ah," the monk said, "Arsenius was a tutor in the imperial family. He used to dine on sumptuous foods, drink fine wines and sleep on silken sheets. The simplicity of the desert is a great change and hardship for him." The visitor’s wall got a piece chipped out of it.

Another step is breaking down that wall of judgment is recognizing (really acknowledging) that there are many different ways of holiness. The desert monks told a story about that too. A visitor went to see several of the more famous desert monks. One of them edified him greatly with his silence; the second shocked him by offering him some honey cakes to eat. He left refusing to partake of them. On leaving he saw a vision—a river with two boats in it; in the first knelt the one monk in complete silence and in the other the second monk with his friends eating honey cakes. And there were angels delighting in both of them." This gospel story
challenges us to examine our judgments of each other.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vocation Essay by Josh C. 8th Grade

Each day and every day many are taught by a religious person, whether that be a priest, nun, deacon, or a religious brother and sister. If you go to church on weekends or any other day you are being taught by a priest. When I say that you are being taught I mean that the priests are helping us to hear God’s call to follow him. Everyone needs to know what God is calling them to do. If God is calling someone to do something in their lives then they should do it. God is choosing the best path for his children. People are blocking out God from their minds and they don’t choose the right path. They would rather go down a road of temptation and sin. As most people know, the more that you sin the more that you will get closer to the ring of defiance.

Through-out the years the number of religious men and women have decreased. There are less priest, deacons, and nuns in the world. That means that there are less people to preach the word of God. God is calling us to be the light of the world and to preach the word of him. When people would go to school about twenty years ago all of the classes were taught by nuns. These days only a few nuns teach in Catholic schools. They mainly teach religion classes. God is calling us to love him and serve his people. When people don’t listen to God’s call God grows further away from us. He is asking us to teach the word of him so that he will feel more able to become closer with us.

Priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sister help us to hear God’s call by teaching us the way of the Lord. We need to listen to them when they are teaching it. When you go to mass the priest has a sermon right after the gospel. We need to listen to what the priest tells us. He is telling us that we should always have our hearts open to God no matter what the topic is. We should always listen to what God says because in the future it will matter.

Nuns also tell us to always open our hearts to God. They tell us that God is our friend and our mentor. They also tell us that we should always be close to him because God is the one who plans out our life. He is the one who has brought us to where we are and that we need to give back to him. When we give back to the Lord he will help us out more in our lives. It may not happen when we would like but it will happen when he believes that it should happen.

Remember that every day there is a shortage of religious people. we need to hear what God is calling us to do because who knows, when we hear the right call, it will change our lives.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 4th Sunday in Lent

Readings: Josh 5:9-12; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Lk 15:1-32

I mentioned last week how humbled and inspired I have been while hearing confessions at parish reconciliation services this Lenten season. There’s a flipside to that observation, one that fits very nicely into this Sunday’s gospel. The flipside is that there are "few human situations that cause more anger, more anxiety and worry, more guilt or more tears than family problems." Today’s gospel is rife with family problems: the younger son demanding his share of the family inheritance early, the father grieving the loss of his son and then later welcoming him home, the elder son’s inability to accept his brother’s reconciliation and his father’s generosity.

And those are only the surface issues. This gospel passage just cries out for a midrashic expansion. Midrash was a Jewish literary technique that tried to "read between the lines" of a scriptural story. So many of the stories in the bible are tersely told; the reader just thirsts to go deeper. The midrashic writers attempted to do that. The most-commented on midrashic passage of the Hebrew bible was the story of Abraham taking his son up the mountain to be sacrificed. The biblical text says nothing about Abraham’s state of mind as he’s walking with his young son up the mountain. The rabbis tormented themselves with the question: What in God’s name was going through his mind in that conflictive situation—that the ways of God should be so contradictory? (Don’t we still deal with that today!) Many midrashic writers tried to fathom that!

When I consider a midrashic reading of the Prodigal Son story, several issues come immediately to mind. The father sees the younger son returning even before he gets to the house. You have to wonder: how long has he been looking and hoping for his son to return, for years? You wonder: how often he turned over in his mind: where did I go wrong? What did his mother and I do to make him leave home in such a way? (From hearing lots of confessions I know these questions still trouble many parents today.) Then there’s the issue of the younger son: what exactly were his motives? Did he just want to make sure he got his share of the inheritance? Did he just want to sow some wild oats? Ah yes, and there’s the older son. Instead of seeing all the remaining house and lands as totally his, did he fester for years with the thought that his younger brother had a chance for a blast and he didn’t? Why does he cope so poorly with the reconciliation between his father and his brother? The gospel doesn’t tell us, but if one reads many of the "Dear Abby" columns in the newspapers one can answer pretty clearly----they don’t do it very well. These are just the three main protagonists in the story; we
haven’t touched what the mother and the servants might have felt. In the end we can understand the truth of the saying: "few human situations cause more anger, more anxiety and worry, more guilt or more tears than family problems."

The purpose of these stories and their midrashic expansions is precisely to draw the listeners or readers into the story, not to give advice but to make us re-examine our own family issues. We are to more carefully consider the family attitudes we have and the choices we have made in the past. Family issues can always weigh heavily upon us, but it’s also true that often we haven’t thought through carefully our attitudes and behaviors—like the other brother in the gospel, who couldn’t see how good he had it. Or sometimes, like the younger brother, we have to come to our senses and admit our past rash decisions. That takes a lot of humility and courage—particularly in family situations. Or like the father we have to live with the uncertainty of knowing fully our own implication in what has happened. Our family concerns never really come to an end....because we ourselves are part of the story. We are still shaping the answers by how we live. So let’s take a few moments of quiet to consider again this story of family relationships, because there’s a pretty good chance that we are already very much
in the story ourselves.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vocation Essay by Hannah B. 7th grade

Priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters are very important in our lives. They tell us about God and how God wants us to live forever in our hearts. God created us so that we can serve Him. It is our choice if we live the life God wants us to.

Priests are very important because they baptize us and that is the beginning of trying our best to live a holy life. Also, during reconciliation God gives the priest power to forgive us our sins and we can start over. Priests also can share their story of why and how they became a priest. They can inspire young men to want to be a priest so they can spread the word of God.

Religious sisters also help us follow God's calling. Some sisters tell us about our faith and why we are on this earth and what God wants us to be, not perfect, but a holy person who can inspire others. Sisters also inspire us to praise God every day.

Religious brothers are not priest, but they still preach the word of God. They teach us to have faith in our religion and to serve God. Deacons also try to guide us to follow God's calling. God sent people like those to show us to Jesus and God. Jesus lived a holy life and God wants us to do that, too.

Priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters tell us that we should know, love, and serve God. These people guide us to live out our vocation and praise God all our lives. It's our decision to go the right direction in life.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 3rd Week of Lent

Readings: Ex 3:1-15; 1 Cor 10:1-12; Lk 13:1-9

Moses before the burning bush is one of the great revelatory events of religious history for both Christians and Jews. This moment will lead to the revelation of God's "personal name," a disclosure that created a special covenant between God and all those who accept and believe in that Name. Yet, as momentous as was the revealing of God's name, a complementary, though lesser known, aspect of that passage deserves equal consideration. Moses received the marvelous revelation precisely because he was open to it, because his basic attitude allowed him to respond fully to the divine invitation. The text says: "When the Lord saw him coming over to look at it more closely..." The wonder and awe of Moses let him be attracted to and then captured by the strange phenomenon of a burning bush not consumed by fire. This Mosaic attitude of astonishment and surprise is the advance preparation which enables God's revelation to be fully received.

The Jewish writer Abraham Joshua Heschel describes this attitude well: "To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all things, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living, It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live." (Quest for God, p. 5) Notice his point: to truly wonder in amazement is to pray. The fullness of Christian faith requires a preparation built on an openness to wonder, an attitude which revels in amazement. We should also note more precisely what this attitude of wonder entails in the story of Moses! First of all, it implies a fundamental openness of awareness and perception, a capacity to be surprised. Moses sees the wonder and immediately approaches to examine it more closely: "I must go over to look at this remarkable sight." Secondly, this attitude of wonder involves a receptivity that allows ourselves to be touched and captured by the marvel, taking it in and letting it change us. Wonder describes a total attitude of life that recognizes a marvelous dimension to all existence, delights in it and is open to its re-creative power. Wonder lies at the base of full faith and ever remains part of it.

These thoughts are extremely important for us because our American culture has become severely diminished in its reveling at marvels; instead it promotes suspicion, criticism and defensiveness as fundamental human attitudes. The public media expose too many scandals: politicians who break the law, clergy who satisfy their own desires for power or sex, business leaders who ignore public safety to increase profit margins. Many common people no longer expect much good to come from public institutions or public officials (they all cut corners for their own benefit). If we hear an advertisement say, "All we want to do is serve you," an immediate skepticism kicks in, "Yeah, right!" We Americans are rapidly losing a sense of wonder. We are no longer prepared to be surprised by anyone or anything . . . even by God’s revelation. No wonder religious faith is eroding quickly in this cultural atmosphere.

The capacity to see a burning bush (or a child, or bread and wine, or a simple act of love) and be astonished by it is a necessary foundation for a sound spiritual life. The renewal of a sense of wonder stands as a major spiritual task for all the Christian churches. We can begin by asking ourselves: where is the wonder in my life? I’d like to offer just one little suggestion. (It’s a heightened feeling I get in this Lenten season from hearing so many confessions at parish reconciliation services.) Let’s try to give a little more attention to having a sense of wonder at the small marvels that occur in people’s relationships and actions. We can easily think of the wonders of nature. Less easily do we bring to mind the teenager who really works to control a drug habit, the husband and wife who recommit their relationship to each other, the man or woman who chooses to care for an elderly relative. These also are marvels that can amaze and surprise us. Like Moses we should look at these as remarkable sights, and then we might hear the Lord’s voice whisper to us: "you are approaching holy ground."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Vocation Essay by Jake F., 8th Grade

How do priests, deacons and religious brothers and sisters by their life and ministry, invite others to come and see Christ and discover their own vocation? They do many things to help us hear God’s call or vocation.

At the time of baptism God calls each of us by name and made us by his own. It is the original call by God that stands at the center of all vocations in the church.

The definition of vocation is defined in a religious environment is an occupation for which a person is suited, trained, or qualified. Often those who follow a religious vocation have an inclination to undertake what is often called a calling. This type of vocation is either professional or voluntary and can include many different religious backgrounds.

God helps Priests lead us closer to our vocation. The priest is the one who baptize us through God. So in this way God is working through priests today. Deacons also help in this.
Sister help teach us about what God wants our vocation to be. They teach us about the Bible which can help us deepen our relationship with God. Which God is the one who tells us what our vocation is going to be even if it is becoming a priest, deacon, sister, or anything else. Brothers do the same things as sisters. They teach us about God.

All of these people lead us in the right direction towards our vocation. God also plays a big part in this. God leads us to these people to help guide us to the right path, to find our vocation.
Our vocation can be anything from becoming a doctor, police officer, teacher, or becoming a religious person. Whatever vocation it is we should do it for God.

We also need to use our vocation to help one another. That’s the main thing God wants is for us to use our vocation in life to help others.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Jesus' March Message

Each month, Anne, a lay apostle, receives a message from Jesus. This is the message for March. To read more about the locutions Anne receives from Jesus and His Blessed Mother click on this link: Direction For Our Times.

My dear friends, you are making progress. I, the One who sees all, can mark progress in many ways which are not available to you. I can mark progress in terms of your holiness, which you will experience as a greater awareness of your flaws and weaknesses. I can mark progress in terms of the advancement of My plan, which I experience in an increased longing for goodness in My children. I can mark progress in the commitment of more and more of My little apostles to the spread of My healing graces. I am pleased. Your time on earth will be used to the fullest possible extent, if only you will remain fixed on My presence in your day. So much depends on this awareness of Me. Your comfort in this time of change will largely depend on this and that is why I have come in the way that I have come and in the time that I have come. I prepare you, My friends, so that you can then prepare others. There is a groaning in My Church, a sigh of exertion as she pushes forward into a renewed period. You feel this aching strain but you also feel the spark of My hope. Dear apostles, for what reason would I come to you in this way if not for a good reason? Why would I deluge My Church in grace if not to renew her? Please. I urge you to rejoice. I am the Messenger who brings salvation. You are the heralds of My salvation. Does a herald look downhearted and hopeless? Of course not. One who heralds the King’s return stands with eyes alight, filled with anticipation and happiness. Be this for Me in this world where darkness is delivered by so many. Be heralds of the Light, rejoicing, so that others may see their future.