st. catherine qoute

(St. Catherine of Siena)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Get Holy or Die Tryin'

Growing up, history was always my favorite subject in school. I was drawn to read about and learn more about the period around the of WW II, particularly the Holocaust. A very sad and cruel thing the Holocaust was, it somehow struck a chord with me; more so the stories of hundreds and hundreds of courageous men and women whose lives were powerful examples of real heroes.
One man in particular is recognized by the Catholic Church today, on his feast day August 14th. His name is St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Fr. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan friar; the two great loves of his life were Jesus Christ and Our Lady, Mary the Blessed Mother. Maximilian was born in 1894 to simple family. As a child he was strongly influenced by a dream he had of the Blessed Mother: "That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both."

While a student studying in Rome, he witnessed vehement protests against the Pope, and was inspired to organize and create, the Militia Immaculata, or the Army of Mary, to work for conversion of sinners and enemies of the Catholic Church through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. The Immaculata friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques in publishing catechetical and devotional tracts, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million.
In 1919, he returned to the newly independent Poland, where he was very active in promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, founding and supervising the monastery of near Warsaw, a seminary, a radio station, and several other organizations and publications. Between 1930 and 1936, he took a series of missions to Japan, where he founded a monastery at the outskirts of Nagasaki, a Japanese paper, and a seminary. During the War, Fr. Kolbe provided shelter to some 2,000 Jewish refugees in Poland and openly condemned the Nazi activities on the radio.
February of 1941 Fr. Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned until May 28 when he was transfered to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670. As if the life of this holy priest didn't already scream holiness, his remaining months were a living testament to the words of Jesus, "No one has greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend" (John 15:13). He gave away his meager food portions to other prsioners; he forgave the guards and even heard some of their Confessions. In July 1941, 10 prisoners were selected for death by starvation as punishment for another's escape attempt in Block 13. One such man, Francis Grazonigeck, cried out, "My wife! My children!" Fr. Kolbe stepped forward and took that man's place to die in the starvation cell. In the starvation cell, he celebrated Mass each day for as long as he was able and gave Holy Communion to the prisoners covertly during the course of the day; the bread given to prisoners was unleavened and so could be used in the Eucharist, and sympathetic guards gave him materials, including wine, that he could use. He led the other condemned men in song and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe and three others remained alive. He encouraged others by telling them that they would soon be with Mary in Heaven. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered. When Kolbe was the last survivor, he was killed with an injection of carbolic acid. Some who were present at the injection say that he raised his left arm and calmly waited for the injection. His remains were cremated on August 15, the feast of the Assumption of Mary. Pope John Paul II declared St. Maximilian as "The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century"

Fr. Kolbe's is just one of the many stories of what true holiness looks like. His entire life even up to the moment of his death was given for others out of love for Jesus and Mary.
In a special way on his feast day today, may St. Maximilian (and all the saints in Heaven) pray for each of us individually, our lives, and our world.
Dear St. Max, please pray for us all...and thank you for your witness!

Friday, August 13, 2010

I love you, Lord

Do you ever have those songs that are constantly playing in your mind??? Like a broken record that just keeps going and going? Well recently I finally learned how to use and upload songs onto the iPod I have owned for 6 months (pathetic, it's true). I was so excited to remember certain songs I love and being able to listen to them at a click's notice. One such song is by an amazingly awesome Catholic musican named Matt Maher. The song is called "I love you Lord" and based off Psalm 18.

That has been a recent prayer that I just keep repeating to myself, "I love you Lord, I love you Lord, I love you Lord, You are my strength." Whether I am walking up to receive Holy Communion or am just in my personal prayer, for me that phrase perfectly sums it all up. Recently I have noticed that I see daily prayer as more of an obligatory formality instead of peaceful talking and listening between two dear friends. I am the type of person at times that feels like I have to "do all this stuff" to show Jesus how much I love Him. In recently seeing my spiritual director, we talked a lot about how prayer is simply conversation (and also listening) with Jesus...not just lip service. Traditional, formal prayers, like the Our Father and Hail Mary are good, benefical, and have a place in the spiritual life. However, if the only way you can "be" with Jesus is just rambling off a bunch of memorized words, that you are really missing the boat. Talk from the heart to Jesus; tell Him what is going on in life, joys, fears, concerns....bring it all to Him, and then you listen for that small, still voice Scripture talks about so often. The more I pray from my heart, "I love you Lord, I love you Lord, I love you Lord; you are my strength," is it like the quiet stirring that begins my own conversation with Jesus.

These particular pieces of Scripture have struck in my prayer time recently:
Peter says to Jesus, "Lord, you know everything...You know that I love you." How often do I feel like dear St. Peter here!!! Jesus, You KNOW it all...and amid my screw-ups and lack of faith much of the time, you see into the depths of my heart; a heart that burns brightly with love for You. In St. Luke's Gospel (7:36-50-The Pardon of the Sinful Woman), particularily in vs. 47 Jesus is speaking to Simon the Pharisee, saying "...she has shown great love..." Jesus is making a point to Simon that this sinful woman showed Him such heartfelt, pure love in washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. However, Simon the Pharisee did not even show Jesus the least bit of welcome or hospitality...but that woman showed such love in her actions that her expressions of love were what really mattered to Jesus.

Jesus, keep giving me the grace to come before You each day as I am in to just "be" with you more...You lead our time together. Grow me in the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and to pray constantly in the Spirit as St. Paul challeneged the early Church. And when I forget or get a little slack, always know Jesus these words are on my lips and heart.........
"I love you Lord, I love you Lord, I love you Lord; You are my strength!"

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Highlight of the weekend

Another lovely summer weekend has come and gone...
So my highlight of this past weekend? Was it the delicious fresh perch with a glass of pinot grigio wine? No, although that was a yummy dinner. Was it the time spent with friends and later curling up with some good books? No again. What made the weekend for me was when a young person I know asked me if we could go to Confession together on Saturday afternoon. Yup, that was it hands down....yeah I know, weird, maybe nutty to some. Oh well.

This 19 year old entered the Catholic Church this past Easter. I was honored and privelaged to be his Confirmation sponsor, and lead him through the RCIA (Rite of Christian for Adults) classes over the past year. It just really touched me that he made the effort to go to Confession, that he wanted to go.
The sacrament of Reconciliation a.k.a Confession is one of the bestest things (and there are many in my opinion ;-) about being a Catholic Christian. There is something to be said about the humility of confessing our personal sins to another fellow sinner, the priest sitting in front of you. The priest is not just some dude who is listening to what you are saying, but he is representing Jesus to us...the priest, with the power of Christ, absolves us (forgives) from all our sins. In this way, the loving mercy of our God can continue till the end of time. The mercy of Jesus is like a frying pan; He LOVES to constantly dish it out to us in abundance. So every time we go to Confession, Jesus is wiping our slate clean again, so we can continue to grow closer to Him without all that excess sin on our souls.

Jesus gave the power to absolve sins to His favorite 12 dudes, the Apostles. In John 20:22-23 the Apostles receive this power- there is explicit teaching here that the Apostles have the power to forgive sins. In Matthew 18:18 this theme is repeated; Jesus says what the Apostles bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, a clear reference to the fact that the Apostles have the power and authority (given by Christ) to forgive sins. Since Jesus gave this authority to the original 12 Apostles, it has been past down through the ages of the Catholic Church through today even to our current priest's. So the priest in the Confessional has a direct link to the orginal 12 Apostles and Christ himself; very amazing! Some other Scriptural references to the sacrament of Confession include: James 5:13-15, II Corinthians 5:17-20, Matthew 9:2-8, and the above ones mentioned. Catholics explain things like this with both use of Sacred Scripture as well as sacred Tradition, which has been passed down to us from Jesus and the 12 Apostles

All of us will admit we are a sinner; we cannot get around that fact. However, we have a great gift Christ left us to help us on our life of holiness to keep our souls from getting to nasty and dirty from sin. Our God is so amazing and loving, that He givesd us the privelage to constantly keeping coming back to the fountain of mercy. Whether you are Catholic or not, take an opportunity to learn more about this wonderful sacrament!

Start with this video I came across on youtube.......Yes, you may think it is cheesy or whatever, but it is concise and gets to the point:

Want to know more, check out a great site that explains the Catholic faith.