Category Archives: Holy Spirit

Running on Empty is Never a Good Thing

Running on empty is never a good thing. I remember a recent road trip where had a van full of nieces and nephews who I was bringing back home with me. We were enjoying ourselves tremendously as we drove across the state. About two hours into the drive, I suddenly remembered that I never filled up with gas before leaving. I did a quick check of my gas gauge and realized that I was running on fumes in a section of the state that has no gas stations. In fact, that area is simply miles and miles and miles of country land. My prayers began in earnest. I called upon my Guardian Angel, St. Christopher and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I knew how few miles I had left before I ran out of gas. I also knew the next gas station was further than the gas in my tank could take me. This was a moment of desperation, and my prayers rose to a high pitch. May I add that it was a very hot day and we had little or no water in the car. I was envisioning myself and the children sitting on the side of the road sweating and dehydrated.

By this time, my prayer was sweating out of my pores! I tried to hide the tears streaming down my face. Suddenly, an exit with a gas station appeared. I quickly made my way to the gas station and filled up my tank. I know exactly how much gas my minivan’s tank can hold. However, when I filled my tank, the meter read .1 gallons more than my tank could hold. How was that possible? I have no idea but I surely know now that full is so much better than empty!

I share this story to say that I spent the weekend with my oldest children at an amazing conference put on by Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. I have to tell you that spiritually I had been running on empty. I was not taking the time I needed to fill myself up with God’s grace. This weekend was like standing under a fire hose of the Holy Spirit! To say I am “full of grace” does not seem like an understatement. I recognize now that I need to stop running so hard and take time to fill up throughout my day. Enough of the running on empty. Too scary. Too tiring. Too worrisome. Instead I will pray, I will make time to read scripture, and I will spend time with our Lord in the Eucharist. I pray that my grace will overflow on those around me and fill them up! (and so on, and so on, and so on!)

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A little old soul

He was an old soul that I had never seen before. His hair was as dark as coal, and his eyes drew you in. He walked slowly but with purpose. His deep red vestments made him look like a king. When I first saw him, I thought, “Now, that’s how you wear red!” My mother-in-law commented on the gorgeous roses that covered the altar. They were beautiful, but my focus was elsewhere.

Today is the Feast of Pentecost. The day our Church was founded. The day when the Holy Spirit, the Consoler, the Advocate, the Unifier, came into the lives of the Apostles like a roaring wind and flames of fire. This huddled group of fear-filled men and the Blessed Mother received the very Love of God the Father and God the Son in the form of the Holy Spirit. It changed them forever.

As the incense rose from the altar, my thoughts rose to Heaven. The swirls of incense were very visible today, and seemed to move wherever they wished. This reminded me that God’s tremendous gift of the Holy Spirit with His many gifts and graces was washing over the entire Earth today. My heart was open and ready to receive. I prayed deeply for my entire family, for my friends, for my community and for our world.

That’s when this old soul, the priest I had never seen before, began to sing in Latin the Veni Sancti Spiritu or Come Holy Spirit. He humbly sat, pulled the microphone down to his level, and began to sing. His voice is a pure gift from God. It was so awe-inspiring that you could hear a pin drop once he started. When I heard this beauty, I closed my eyes and thought, “Now, that’s how you sing!”

His homily was an amazing story about Blessed John Henry Newman. About 150 years ago, he had traveled to Rome and was heading back to England by ship. His heart was heavy because he had come to believe that the Catholic Church was the one true church, but accepting this truth meant many losses for him. He felt stuck, and then the ship got stuck. The wind just stopped altogether. For an entire week, his ship was stuck on the sea outside the port of Rome, yet not on its way to England either. He realized that God was perhaps allowing this to show him the state of his soul. Newman could do nothing to change his heart or his physical situation. It was up to the “wind” or the Holy Spirit to come into his life and help him move towards the truth. And the wind did arrive, pushing Newman towards a major change for his entire life.

We all must pray for the Holy Spirit to give us the same courage and love that He gave Blessed John Henry Newman and the Apostles. May our hearts burn with this love and give it freely just as we have received it freely.  We will see that God does make all things new.  Won’t you pray with me?

Come Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Whoosh, Heat, and Whisper

Sometimes, the Holy Spirit arrives like a whoosh that moves through you from head to toe. Other times, He’s like a radiating heat the moves outward from the inside. And yet, there are times when He is just a small whisper that you must be very still and listening to hear.

At my daughter’s Confirmation in the Basilica, the whoosh arrived as the entrance hymn began. I almost had to sit down. The whoosh often makes tears begin to fall from my eyes which is very humbling for me. I have spoken about my gift of tears in prior blogs. It is not something I would ever choose. But it is a gift and I do accept it now.

When I visited my niece at the hospital, she told me that as I was praying over her and blessing her with St. Jude oil, she could feel a heat radiating from me. It was real and tangible for her and I knew it was simply the Holy Spirit.

This week, I had the honor of sponsoring my friend’s daughter for Confirmation. I expected the whoosh, but it didn’t come. I waited for the radiating heat, but it wasn’t there. It was when my friend’s daughter kneeled in front of me to receive the Holy Eucharist on her tongue from the Archbishop who said, “Body of Christ” and she whispered “Amen” that the Holy Spirit made Himself known to me. What an amazing gift to receive the Eucharist and the indwelling of the Holy Trinity. I felt so unworthy to receive, but I, too, whispered, “Amen.”

 

 

 

And the next Judas is….

Today is the Feast Day of St. Matthias. If you are not familiar with him, he is the apostle who replaced Judas Iscariot the betrayer of Jesus Christ. In fact, the apostles had to choose between Matthias and another witness of the resurrection, Barsabbas also known as Justus. Wow, how do you make that choice? Well, the apostles give us a great lesson in decision-making:

1) Identify the real problem. St. Peter does this well in the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 1: 15-17. Judas was “allotted a share in this ministry.” And now Judas is gone. Who will take up that allotted share?

2) Turn to God’s Word (the Bible) for solutions. Of course, at this time, it would be from the Old Testament, as the New Testament wasn’t yet written. St. Peter quotes the Book of Psalms, “Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it. and: May another take his office.” God is telling them that they must find another person to take up Judas’ office of ministry.

3) Consider friends or family who have walked the walk. St. Peter explains that whoever they choose to replace Judas should be someone “who accompanied us in the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.” Although there may have been quite a number of disciples, St. Peter understood how critical it was for their community to have leaders who actually saw and believed from the very beginning.

4) Pray for guidance. Even after selecting two candidates, St. Peter and the apostles called down the Holy Spirit to guide them in this decision.

5) Trust in God to provide the answer. Using lots, they discovered it was Matthias who should serve in Judas’ place.

I have always wondered how it felt to be St. Matthias. He was there since the beginning, hanging around the twelve apostles and Jesus. He actually witnessed the Resurrection. And now, God bestows on him the ministry that Judas turned away from. Did St. Matthias ever imagine this plan of God’s? He most likely had no idea that he would be called to fill in for such an important role in history. He was probably simple and humble and faithful (having been there since the beginning). He most likely thought that Barsabbas would be a better choice, but prayed that God’s will be done. What a surprise God had in store for him!

 

Never Argue with the Devil

I am embarrassed to admit how many times I have read the story of the Temptation of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 4 but never even realized what exactly Jesus was doing here. All along, I thought that Jesus was outwitting the Devil! I was so focused on how Jesus could not be trapped by Satan and his empty promises, that I assumed that Jesus was just a better debater. I fundamentally overlooked the most important part of this Gospel and it has affected me terribly in life.

Let me start at the beginning:

  1. Jesus is “led by the Spirit.” That explains my first mistake. I have lived my life basically leading myself–my goals, my dreams, my life. Really, I did not leave a whole lot of room for the Spirit to even visit, let alone lead me anywhere. I wasn’t open to this or aware of the need for it as a young person.
  2. “To be tempted by the Devil.” Okay, so this should have taught me that in reality there are going to be temptations in life that are brought on by the devil. I live in a time when most people no longer believe or teach that Satan is real. And don’t even mention “sin” because according to those same people, sin no longer exists either. (P.S. I now know that these are both big lies!)
  3. “He fasted for forty days and forty nights.” I think about the self-mastery necessary to fast for this long, and realize that Jesus knew that he must cleanse himself first before facing “other.”
  4. “And afterwards he was hungry.” Do you want to know who you really are? Let yourself get really hungry–do not eat for an entire day or two while still maintaining your usual work load. By the end of the day, review how you have acted towards those around you. How kind were your words? Did you help others before helping yourself? Could you maintain your peace? When I am hungry, I feel my inner toddler coming out and it is not pretty at all. I can only imagine if I had to face Satan after 40 days of fasting. Would I have the inner fortitude to survive?
  5. “The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” A-Ha! Eureka! This is the passage that blew my mind and our good Pope Francis was the one who broke it open for me. Jesus was NOT, I repeat, NOT arguing with the Devil. He was quoting God! He turned to verses from the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament for Christians) and quoted God to the Devil. In fact, every single reply that Jesus makes is from the Scriptures.

Now, maybe you are reading this and wondering why I am so excited about this Eureka moment. I think it is because I have lately been seeing very clearly just how duped we are by Satan and his empty promises. People that I know and love are trapped by their ignorance of Satan and his lies and cannot even see it. I was becoming a bit depressed or despairing because I could not figure out how God could expect us to battle such a strong enemy with our limited human capacities. I mean, really? Human versus Angel is not a very difficult contest! That’s when I realized what a gift the Word of God is for us. We already have the answers we need to combat Satan, if we are willing to spend time turning to God’s Word and his Church in our times of temptation.  If Jesus Christ, Son of God, would not directly engage with Satan, then neither will I. As for me, I will let Christ’s example teach me how to fight this enemy!

The Book Whisperer

I’ve been praying for God to show me those areas of my life where I am blind to my own sin, and boy has He decided I’m ready. Yesterday, a friend handed me a couple of boxes full of books that she no longer will be using. She explained that she had tried to sell them, but for a whole host of reasons, they never were sold. As she explained all the shenanigans (is that a word?) she went through to sell the books but to no avail, she then realized and knew that they were supposed to be given away. She is someone who listens to the Holy Spirit, but also must get banged over the head like me sometimes to listen. So, she saw me and felt compelled to hand all these books over to me.

I have to admit books are my weakness. I know the whole world is in love with e-books and kindle and nook, but me, I like a book in my hands. I like the whole experience–carting it with you places, marking it up, deciding not to mark it up because it is just too good, picking which books to keep on your low shelf or high shelf. If you saw my bedside table, and you like orderliness, you might fall over dead. I have the active book pile, the intermittent book pile, and the near-future book pile. In the active pile, I have many books because I can read three books at one time. The intermittent pile is for when the content is just too much to process or I am not ready for it, so I read a little and then I sit the book aside. The near-future pile are the books I have ordered because they just sounded so great and I want to read them, but I must finish the three I am currently reading.

Okay, so God talks to me through books quite often. Some blog, I will have to share the story of how a book changed my life. But for now, suffice it to say, in that pile of books I found a book I needed to read. I started it right away (preempting all piles on my bedside table) because it was written for young men entering adulthood. I thought to myself, “That’s my son!” I started glancing through it and got hooked. Why? Because the author uses real life examples and his advice is so wise. It is very different from any other book for young men that I have ever seen or heard about. I am about halfway through it, but I realized that some of his advice was for me. As he explains why a person should handle themselves a certain way, I realized that I don’t do that well or at all. I saw so clearly where I am weak, that it became hard to read. I don’t know how to explain this well but it is a bit like watching a train wreck that you are part of?!  I felt thrilled that my son could read such wonderful advice and appalled because I really have some voids in a lot of these specific areas.

So, as you can tell, this was quite a “ride” reading this book. Before panic took over me, I realized that this is why God brought my husband and I together! I started thinking about my glaring weaknesses, and realized that my husband is strong in almost all of them. Seriously! It’s like God saw me as I am really am and said, “She needs some help in these areas.” Meanwhile, God saw my husband and said, “He needs some help in these other areas.” Together, we are a pretty good team, as long as we stay centered on God.

Hopefully, this weekend I will finish reading the book and pass it on to my son. Then, he will have his Dad’s example to help him through those weaknesses of mine. How blessed we are to have each other!

 

What Happens When the Easter Bunny Forgets His Job

I knew our family had changed when I awoke early on Easter morning and realized that the Easter bunny had not come. Our family was so focused on the real meaning of Easter on Holy Saturday that even the Easter bunny forgot to do his job. As I crept past my youngest who had found her way onto the couch, trying not to wake her, I realized what an amazing change this was for all of us. On the counter was my youngest daughter’s favorite plastic bunny with a note hanging around its neck that read: “Dear Easter bunny, Wishing you the blessings and joy of Easter!”

As I frantically put together baskets as quietly and quickly  as I could, praying all the while to my youngest’ guardian angel to keep her sleeping while I did my duty, I realized that while Easter bunnies are signs of Hope, my family understands that Jesus Christ is the real Hope. By the time the family dog heard my scrambling and woke my daughter, the Easter bunny had safely delivered his baskets once again.

Fast forward to today. I think my son had it right. I told him this morning that he has soccer practice tonight. His response was, “On Easter Monday?” Because we celebrate the Season of Easter in our family, we take Easter week off. Yes, you read that correctly. Easter is not just Easter Sunday. It actually is a season that lasts 50 days. My son asked, “Why would they schedule practice during Easter Week? That doesn’t seem right.” Let me be clear, he loves to play soccer and never grumbles about practice. My response, “No one knows or they don’t care. But we do, so we have to both celebrate and offer up these crosses for them.”

Many Christians I know don’t even realize Easter is a season. They ask me, “Why 50 days?” Well, there’s this really important thing that we celebrate on day 50. It’s called Pentecost. That’s 9 days after the Ascension which is another celebration during the Easter Season. Of course, the Blessed Mother and the Apostles prayed for 9 days to prepare for Pentecost. That would be the first Novena! And the Pentecost is the founding of the Church. So, we have Easter Sunday, the day of our Lord’s Resurrection, followed by Divine Mercy Sunday, then the Ascension and it all culminates in Pentecost when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was so immense that a group of fearful, tentative followers began to share the Good News so profoundly that it changed our world forever!

If you have never celebrated the Easter Season, I suggest you find some resources about these next few weeks and learn more about how to glorify our good God and to prepare for the Holy Spirit coming into your life on Pentecost. It may fundamentally change the way you and your family will celebrate Easter.

 

Holy Wood or Hollywood?

“Putting on Christ” changes everything. It changes the way we see other people, it changes the way we spend our day, it even changes the way we act! My son just finished his role as Jesus in the Passion of Christ. We had two requests for the children to bring the play to other groups. I found this a bit odd because our group is just a group of 14 children with very limited resources and no real acting experience.

However, an email arrived this morning that explained why there was so much interest. Our director, a professional actress who is on the national scene, explained that she learned a tremendous amount from our children. “Really?” I thought to myself. As she explained the details in her email, it all started making sense.

Apparently, there are two significant problems for professional actors: 1) Memorizing their lines and 2) Delivering those lines with sincerity that fits the character.  Our children did the “impossible” by conquering both of these quickly.

Our director spent some time explaining how modern acting has really moved away from Stanislavski who encouraged his students not to manipulate the scene but to find the truth of the scene and to be open to the truth each time that a scene is performed. If you and I go to most theatrical shows, we will see the actors manipulate the scene in a way to manipulate the audience.  As an audience member, we might not even realize that we are being manipulated, because some directors and actors are very good at this craft.  Also, if that is all we see as an audience member , we just accept that is how it is supposed to be.

Stanislavski did not know that when you put this discipline in practice that what you are in fact doing is opening yourself to The Truth and allowing the Holy Spirit to cooperate with it using the actor as an instrument.  I think this is what happened when our innocent acting troupe took their memorization and listening skills seriously. I also saw how many people wanted their photo taken with my son, “Jesus” after the play. They just wanted to share in the moment of Truth which we all had just experienced. What a blessing we had a Director who showed us the truth and beauty of the art of acting!