Anyone in the area of northern Wyoming has an opportunity to participate in this unique event with Bishop Etienne. Please RSVP by July 15 to allow enough time for adequate preparations to be made.
Are we drawn to the light? Before the start of a wedding rehearsal recently I snapped this photo of the sanctuary. There is something about the structure and the well-placed lighting that captivated my senses. I found myself starting at the lower levels of the wall focusing on the tabernacle at first. The pulsating rays of gold projecting out from the tabernacle signify the power and presence of Christ.
My sight then focused on the crucifix with palms located on both sides. The triumphant entry of Jesus which we celebrate on Palm Sunday is contrasted with the gibbet of the cross. Looking at this particular crucifix and the surrounding environment reminded me of those moments in my own life when I celebrate Christ as King but then so easily turn away and pursue my own will instead of God's will. Sin enters into my life and I join the crowd with those awful words, "Crucify Him!"
Finally, my sight was drawn upward even further to the stained glass window. The natural light flowing through the window grabbed my attention more forcefully than the image contained in the window. There was a significant difference between the artificial lighting and the natural light penetrating through the stained glass. It made me ponder the reality of heaven. What will it be like when we stand in the presence of God? I can only imagine the Light of Christ in the context of the Transfiguration account in the Gospel. The brightness will surely be immense.
Sacred spaces invite us into prayer and contemplation. I invite you to take some time to quietly sit in your local church, or visit another church, when there are no scheduled services. Allow the silence to penetrate the depths of your being. Let your mind and heart reflect upon the essence of being in the presence of God. Lord, it is good that we are here.
It is no secret that television has impacted our lives in some dramatic ways. It may not have tempted us to drive fast cars and run from the police on a repeated basis as it did the Duke boys. On the other hand, it may have prompted some of us to take an occasional risk or two that we had not previously considered. I am guessing that the show pictured here may have caused more than one young man to look at short shorts in a less than pure manner as well. Let's face it; the images that go into our minds impact us either in a positive or negative way.
There is much good to be derived from all of the means of communication which the world possesses today, but there is also a huge danger as well. The immorality that is frequently depicted does nothing to build us up as individuals or as a society. The question becomes more and more prevalent all the time: Why do we allow images into our mind that lead us into sin and degradation? Why do we fill our minds with things that don't matter? How do we keep our heart and mind focused on God if we WILLINGLY invite images to enter our psyche that are filled with lust, hatred, violence, and blasphemy? Do we not care about our eternal well-being?
Our relationship with God is of the utmost importance. Why would we dare to be careless or lackadaisical in our approach to responding to God's call in our life? What will be the repercussions of such an attitude? If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, what happens when we don't even have good intentions? If we are making choices and decisions which corrupt our moral life, it is time for us to revisit our intentions. What do our baptismal promises really mean to us? What are we saying when we profess the Creed? Do we believe any of it?
My dear people, it matters how we live. God's grace is there to guide us. If we choose to ignore God's love and walk in darkness, what profit will it be to gain the whole world? Please don't allow the television, the movie theaters, the computer, pornographic magazines, or any other device or evil enticement lure you away from God's redeeming love. Be steadfast in your commitment to Christ. Remember, God chose us in Christ before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight. We are called to be great saints!
The flag on top of the General Lee has now suddenly become an issue as well.
The beauty of the snow-capped mountains can capture the imagination. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to Estes Park, Colorado to simply get away for a few hours. I found this setting near the golf course looking up toward the Stanley Hotel with the peak of the mountain situated perfectly in the background. It was a mixture of lush green grass in the foreground, a fascinating hotel that some say is haunted in the middle, and a reminder that it is still cold up in the furthest peaks of the mountains off in the distance.
The beauty of nature has been drawing my heart to God recently. I don't know exactly why this sentiment has been so strong and prevalent, but I suspect that life circumstances have played a role. Being ill for a couple of months earlier this year certainly reminded me of the value and precious gift of good health. The difficult times in life have a way of reminding us not to take for granted the good times. My awareness level has most likely been heightened from this experience as well as my mom's struggle to recover from her broken hip. Pain and suffering bring a different perspective into our lives.
"The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." ~James 5:16
I want to invite and encourage you today to pray for someone in need of healing. This can include physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual healing. It can also be the healing of broken relationships. I sincerely believe that our prayers are powerful and effective just as the Scriptures tell us. Thus, we have a duty and a responsibility to lift others up in prayer. This is also a tremendous privilege. Allowing God's grace to work in us and through us for the building up of the Kingdom is a blessing we don't want to miss. Take some time today to call to mind any people in your life who could benefit from your intercessory prayer. Lift them up to God and watch the blessings flow.
Living out on the prairie has some drawbacks during the cold and windy winter months. There are times when the snow drifts prompt me to look at housing closer into the city. Then there are times like today. As I drove up the road and into the driveway I was enamored at the beautiful color of the entire landscape. God's handiwork was evident and plentiful.
Although my day at work was quite full with numerous appointments and meetings, a brief visit to the great outdoors was refreshing and relaxing. There is also a chance of viewing the "Northern Lights" in the nights ahead. That would be a phenomenon I would love to see. Typically, this is something that doesn't get this far south. However, it is apparent that some atmospheric elements have lined up in such a way as to make it possible. I am hopeful that the clouds decrease and give us a glimpse at this beauty as well.
I want to invite you to read and reflect upon a couple of Bible readings. The first is from the Gospel of Matthew 6: 25--34. The second is from the Gospel of Luke 12: 22--34.
"For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." ~Luke 12:34
The temperatures have warmed up and the rain has subsided. The prairie is green due to all of the moisture. Flowers are in bloom and a sense of calm surrounds my life. Summer is a welcome guest. A little tranquility is good to soothe the troubled soul.
The challenges of life will always be around. Illness, injury, loss of a job, a broken relationship, death of a loved one, or a myriad of other afflictions can enter our lives at any given time. The troubles of the day are sufficient without looking ahead to tomorrow. Are we able to grasp the serenity and contentment when opportunities to do so present themselves? Are we able to rest in the Lord?
The month of July tends to be my time to recuperate, regroup, and refuel for the next eleven months. I am grateful for the slower pace and I typically try to get away for at least a few days of vacation. Obviously, Cheyenne Frontier Days brings the party right to our front door at the office near the end of the month. The parade beckons us to come outside and take a look at the festivities, not just once, but twice during the workweek. How can we refuse the temptation?
July provides an opportunity to do more reading as well. I can dive into some of the many books that continue to accumulate in my office and near my nightstand at home. Preparing for another year of presentations, workshops, and retreats requires diligent study and planning. This is a task I take seriously and I prefer to utilize slower times to get a jump on these types of preparations. In the midst of it all I can prayerfully reflect upon the message I feel guided by the Holy Spirit to prepare. These are blessed moments in my life.
It is my hope that each of you have an opportunity to experience some time for relaxing during these days of summer. Let God speak to you in the process. Whether you are going on an exotic vacation, a camping trip in the woods, or simply sitting on your porch enjoying a stay-cation, invite the power and presence of God to join you. Enter into prayer during these quiet moments. Give thanks for the blessings. Ask for strength to endure the trials and tribulations. Most of all, recognize that this is the day the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it!
When will the violence end? It seems that we have become accustomed to the reports of extreme violence and senseless killings. The pain and grief for these families in South Carolina must be immense. Indeed, it is a pain reaching all across the country.
The situation is sad enough, but leave it to media commentators and political pundits to make it worse. The motto rings true again, "Don't let a good crises go to waste." It is incomprehensible that individuals and groups strive to make gains with their political viewpoints in the midst of such tragedies. I guess this behavior simply reflects the cultural climate of modern times.
My hope and prayer is that some day we will become more aware of the people around us. Do any of our family members or friends exhibit signs of needing help? Do we recognize warning signs that a person in our midst is in danger of hurting themselves or others? Will there come a time when we acknowledge the need for a mental health evaluation utilizing the tools at our disposal including psychological assessments and spiritual direction?
The anxiety and stress in today's world is evident. Add to that any number of contributing factors and we see a disaster waiting to happen. Broken families, substance abuse, poverty, and a sense of hopelessness can contribute to some horrendous decisions. We may not be able to see these things all coming together to create a scenario for disaster, but once in a while I hope someone observes the warning signs and steps in to intervene before a tragedy happens again.
My dear Christian people, continue to pray. Get involved in your communities. Sitting on the sidelines doesn't improve the situation. Be the Light of Christ in your home, your church, and your community. The world is in desperate need to see your faithful witness to Jesus Christ.
We are midway through the month of June and I am still looking for a small glimpse of summer. Will the rain ever decide to take a break longer than a few hours? It is nice to see everything so green from all of the rain, but it makes it tough to get a tan.
The weather patterns can run in cycles just the way many other things do. We can see cycles in our own lives. Sometimes my disposition will demonstrate a sunny side for a considerable amount of time. Other times it can reflect the darkness and storminess of the clouds waiting to pour forth a thunderstorm or hailstorm. (Hopefully, my disposition never reflects a tornado or some similar natural disaster.)
Psychologists and motivational speakers have repeatedly shared the positive aspects of living with a good attitude. There is little doubt that living our day-to-day lives with a positive attitude will bear significant fruit. If that is the case, why do we so frequently witness negativity in our homes, our workplaces, our politics, in our communities, and even in our churches? Do we need an old-fashioned high school pep rally?
Our faith journey runs much deeper than a superficial "rah rah" speech. We are people of hope because of our faith in Jesus Christ. If we find ourselves a bit on the gloomy side of things, and there is not necessarily a medical condition involved, how do we go about finding rejuvenation and renewal? What does it mean for our faith journey if we become content with a sour disposition?
Maintaining our physical health requires certain things like food and water. If we neglect these necessities our health quickly declines. The same can be said of our spiritual health. If we only pray once a week we are starving ourselves spiritually. If we never study about the Church, how do we expect to grow in love with the Church? Finally, do we keep ourselves spiritually fit by putting our faith into action? When was the last time you did something nice for someone else?
Even if the sun doesn't shine for an extended period of time during a rainy cycle, we can still radiate and reflect the light of Christ to others. The way we live impacts the people around us. Make sure you are letting your light shine!
Pump! Pump your legs! I have no idea how many times I heard those statements when I was learning how to swing. Apparently, I wasn't the quickest learner around. It seemed to take forever before I could swing without needing someone to push me. I think I will blame it on the plain swings that were a part of my childhood. I would have succeeded more quickly with horse swings.
Learning new things takes time. I spent a lot of time crashing into the water as I tried to learn how to water ski. Attempt after attempt seemed to result in less and less graceful ways of wiping out. Once I figured out what I was doing wrong and I was able to glide along the top of the water instead of crashing into it, water skiing actually became fun as opposed to frustrating.
Living on a farm and learning to drive a tractor as an adolescent was an arduous task. "Let out the clutch slowly," my dad would say. As the tractor jerked, and the hay bales on the wagon were jolted around, I knew it was bad news for me if the bales had to be picked up a second time. As I got older and was the one bucking the bales I clearly understood the angst. Eventually, the workings of the clutch became second nature.
As an adult I learned to drive a tractor-trailer (semi). Making it go forward was difficult enough. Backing it into tight parking spots required another level of expertise. It was so refreshing to get to the point where I was no longer scared to back it up. I knew where it was going and I knew how much room I needed to get it into the desired spot. The bigger the challenge the more I enjoyed the task at hand. Delivering a 105 foot long utility pole into the downtown streets of St. Louis was one of the bigger challenges. Backing an oil tanker into an electrical substation could also be a bit unnerving. If the station was still "hot" the driver had to worry about the electrical current arcing over and zapping the trailer or truck. Thankfully, I never experienced that event personally. Seeing the results on someone else's vehicle was enough to heighten my awareness level.
Why am I spending time describing these various learning scenarios? I want to compare and contrast learning some of these types of things and our spiritual life. Do you pray? If so, how did you learn how to pray? Is it second nature to you now or do you still feel a little awkward and apprehensive about "doing it right?" Have you learned about the faith to the degree that it is now second nature to you? Does your day consist of making decisions automatically with the principles and teachings of the Church forefront in your mind? Is being Catholic (Christian) second nature to you?
Being a follower of Jesus Christ requires persistence. We don't simply accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and then walk perfectly in His ways. We still have free will. It necessitates prayer, study, and repeated good actions to develop the habits needed for a vibrant Christian life. We may fall frequently. Do we have the courage and tenacity to get back up and begin again. Remember, we aren't just called to be mediocre followers of Christ. We are called to be great saints.
We can find all kinds of things in which to blame our failures and shortcomings. I have tried it. When I couldn't get up on the water skis I blamed the skis, the rope, and the person running the boat. Bottom line is that I was still spending more time in the water than gliding on top of the water. Having a fancy swing or a plain swing wouldn't have made any difference when I was trying to learn how to pump my legs correctly. I needed guidance and practice. The same is true for the spiritual journey. I need guidance and practice. I also need to be accountable. A good spiritual director can play an awesome role in the journey.
In closing, I simply ask you the following:
1. Are you "practicing" the faith? This includes daily prayer and at least weekly Mass attendance.
2. Are you continuing to study the faith on a regular basis? Do you know what the Church teaches and how it applies to your day-to-day life?
3. Are you putting your faith into "practice"? Faith without works is dead.
Let the journey toward sainthood continue!
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