Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How to Change the World

The Kingdom of God
starts very small
like mustard seed or yeast
yet when it grows
it changes all
the greatest from which was least

Our efforts seem
to no avail
or seem to take too long
yet when we see the good that's grown
happily we are wrong.

Your task it is
to sow the seed
to be tiny leaven
by action, deed
prayer, and thoughts
help others on to heaven.

Be not discouraged by failure
or slow inperceptable growth
it is the smallest act of love
that changes the world the most.

Friday, October 21, 2016

King Brump and the Orb

The young toad sat on the stone absorbing the warmth of the last rays of an October sun.  All about him he could hear the various sounds he was accustomed to in his little kingdom.  He watched as the humans of various sizes patrolled the borders keeping out all who might harm him.  The humans belonged to him, they were part of his kingdom.  They ran this way and that in great excitement brandishing their polished silver clubs with black handles repelling roving bands of scoundrels hunting for the Orb.

The Orb had arrived in the kingdom years ago, no one can really remember when.  It was at a time when the young toad still had a tail and his kingdom was much smaller.  The Orb was magnificent to behold with it's unnatural smooth green coat and 365 facets, each one marking a day in the long year.

On Arrival Day each year, that is the day that King Brump emerges from his deep sleep, he ventures out through the kingdom summoning the humans and searching for the Orb.  It is never where he left it on Delving Day, the last cold day when King Brump delves into his deep sleep.  The humans, in their constant vigilance, move the Orb to protect it while the King sleeps.

His humans often move the Orb, in fact, they move it daily.  He has commanded them to do so.  In part, this is to protect the Orb but also because King Brump enjoys the big adventure of finding the Orb.  Each time it is moved he travels through the Kingdom on his quest for the Orb.  Often he will find the Orb in crafty hiding spots created by the humans.  They will place it in tall grass beside the Fair Lawn by striking it with their clubs.  They fain looking for it to throw off the enemy and then run off with a yell to another part of the Kingdom.  At other times, in times of great haste, they will strike the Orb with perfect precision placing it in a spot within the Stone Cave where only he can retrieve it.

There have been times that he has found it by the ancient Wind Mill on the Eastern most edge of his realm.  More than once has he had to reprimand one of the younger humans for such carelessness.  But in his kindness he allows them to pick him up and parade him around the Kingdom.  The parade often makes him feel nauseous and he is thankful when the large human guards insist that he be positioned on one of his many thrones and left to Kingly affairs.

And so it goes day in and day out in the peaceful Kingdom of King Brump.  I hope that one day you will be able to visit his Kingdom if you haven't already.  I truly believe you would wonder at the majesty of it with it's flowing streams, careening waterfalls, gentle slopes, and peaceful walking paths.  The Kingdom is known in the world of humans by a different name.  This is part of King Brump's plan to keep the Kingdom safe.  The wise among you will recognize it in the human tongue as Adventure Mini-Golf or sometimes Magic-Mountain Mini-Golf.  Mini-Golf is the secret word King Brump devised to make his hidden Kingdom known to humans.

When you visit do not enter the Kingdom without a polished club for although it is a very beautiful land, it is dangerous and there are great perils for you and the Orb in your care.  When you see him, make sure to bow low before King Brump and if he summons you to take him on parade, be gentle, for it can make him nauseous.

This story was written as a personal challenge to myself this morning.  A weird challenge nonetheless.  I decided to work on a little creative writing by writing a story about the last picture I took on my phone.  It just happened to be of this little toad one of my boys found while we were playing mini-golf last Sunday.  

If you are writer or just adventurous, I challenge you to do the same.  Write a short story about the last picture you took on your phone.  Link to my story and I'll link to yours on your blog or website.  Any brave participants will be listed below.  

If you are not a writer, I'd be interested in your thoughts on this story?  Did you enjoy it?  Did you realize what I was writing about instantly or did it take some time?  Do you see a moral to the story?  Any feedback is appreciated, just use the comment box.  Have an awesome day!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

In Conversation with God


Me: Jesus, can we talk?

Jesus: Sure, we can talk anytime. What's up?

Me: What's up? What's up? Today's Gospel is "what's up." I can't make heads or tails of the whole thing. Just when I think I know You, everything changes!

Jesus: What? What did I say?

Me: Okay look, over and over I have been told things like Jesus is the Prince of Peace and the Devil is the author of division. Every "You" lover shouts "peace!" Heck, sorry, I've even heard You say things like, "blessed are the peace makers." Then there are the songs, "Peace is flowing like a river", "Make me a channel of your peace", and on and on.

Jesus: So what was your question?

Me: Are you the Prince of Peace or a divider?

Jesus: Yes!

Me: I thought you might say that. What does it mean? This whole scripture passage today is filled with contradictions - fire/baptism, peace/division, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law/mother-in-law getting along with daughter-in-law!?

Jesus: Does fire consume what it burns?

Me: Yeah.

Jesus: And as it consumes it, does it not provide fuel for the fire which in turn gives light and heat? And would you rather have My fire cast upon the earth or the devil's fire? Where my fire burns and purifies giving light and heat, his destroys.

Me: Okay, I get the point. But what about Baptism?

Jesus: I desired that baptism in order that the spark of faith might strike the world and the wind of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost might fan it into flame.

Me: Cool, I never thought of it that way. But what about the peace and division thing?

Jesus: Can division often bring peace? And can peace often bring division? When one is divided or separated from sin do they not find peace? And when one finds peace can those who do not yet understand this peace often divide or separate from the one who is at peace? I did not come to bring peace to the world but peace to the soul. I did not come to divide the soul but to divide the soul from the world.

Me: Do you always answer questions with questions?

Jesus: In your mind I do.

Me: Why do you always have my voice when we talk?

Jesus: If I didn't, what do think would happen? Really?

Me: Yeah, your right. Hey, what about the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law thing? I mean really, You sure called that one right even if the division isn't because of You.

Jesus: Let's not go there...who knows who might be reading this....

Going Deeper

Of course this post is a little tongue-in-cheek but I feel like I often have these "conversations" with the Lord about things.  Very often they are more than conversations and turn to heated debates, I should probably talk to a priest about that.

If you are interested in deeper meditations and a real "conversation" with the Lord (not in the format above) I would highly recommend the In Conversation with God library of books published by Scepter.  This set of books covers the entire liturgical year and has at least 3 meditations for the readings each day.  Divided in this way, this library of books offers the reader 3 years of meditations for the readings give to us by the Church.

Many of the books may also be purchased individually.

(This is an affiliate link.  By clicking on this link I may earn money by your purchase.  I do not recommend anything I haven't read or used personally and believe is of value to you the reader.  Thank you)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Responsibility for Souls

My post yesterday included a story of a school teacher and her class in an attempt to illustrate how easily we can be distracted from what is truly important. I thought that today we could revisit this story briefly with a small twist. Let us suppose that the teacher didn't expect the clown to arrive that day and that it was the teacher's job to keep the children focused on the alarm clock until it rang. Let us further suppose that this task was given to her by her superior and that she would be held accountable if the children were not focused when the bell rang.

When we look at this same story through this lens we have an inclination as to the weighty responsibility of those charged with the care and custody of souls. This could include parents who promise at their child's baptism to raise them according to the teachings of the Church. It could include parish priests charged with tending the flock of the bishop and leading them closer to Christ or at the very least keeping them focused on Jesus. Furthermore, it would certainly include the bishop who is responsible for the souls of all the faithful in his diocese. Finally, this weighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Supreme pontiff, the Pope. The greater the height the heavier the weight.

In yesterday's Gospel Jesus tells us that we must be ready for His eminent return. Today, Peter asks if this message is meant for the disciples as well. Jesus answers that it is and in a far more important and difficult way. Not only must the disciples keep their own souls steadfast in the seemingly never-ending wait. They must also see to the care of the many souls entrusted to them by virtue of their office.

Jesus shows us that this responsibility is so great that if one were to fail he is to be assigned to the place with the unfaithful. Hence Saint John Chrysostom's famous saying, "The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops."

In this day of individuality I often am moved to weep for my bishop. The weight upon his shoulders must be immense. Daily he must face those from the left and the right and with equal charity. He must keep his balance and perspective while constantly being assailed by often well meaning self-centered souls.

Our bishops and priests need our prayers, support, and obedience no matter how difficult it may be for us at times. God will reward us for our faithfulness to those He has placed over us, and based on how they have led us, they will be punished or rewarded. Therefore, let us be obedient but more importantly let us pour out prayers and sacrifices so that Our Lord may "put him in charge of all of his property."

FROM THE SAINTS - The power of obedience! The lake of Gennesareth had denied its fishes to Peter’s nets. A whole night in vain. Then, obedient, he lowered his net again to the water and they caught ‘a huge number of fish.’ Believe me: the miracle is repeated each day.”
St. Josemaria Escriva
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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

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Waiting is the Hardest Part

The 4th grade teacher gathered her class in a circle in the middle of the room. In their midst she placed an old-fashioned alarm clock with a face and bells. She then proceeded to make a deal with the class. If they could sit silent in the circle for 30 minutes, until the alarm rang, she would give them a free day and provide them with pizza, drinks, and candy. The students eagerly agreed. What the students didn't know was that outside the classroom door stood her husband. He was dressed in a clown suit and was carrying a few dozen balloons in one hand and in the other two leashes attached to two golden retrievers.

After ten minutes had passed the teacher opened the door and invited the clown and all his trappings into the room. The circle held fast for a little while. The children looked at the dogs and then back to the clock slowly ticking away. The pressure was too much and finally one student stood up and began playing with the dogs. The clown handed the child a balloon or two and began talking to the student. The other students stood fast but when they saw how much fun their classmate was having with the clown and the puppies their resolve began to fade. There were only ten minutes left until the alarm bell would ring. Another student slowly rose and then ran to the dogs and the clown and the three played and laughed. This was too much for the remainder of the circle. Almost instantly, the remaining students jumped up and ran to the clown.

The students laughed and played. They bounced their balloons off the ceiling and wrestled with the dogs. At the height of their rambunctious play the alarm bell rang and the room stood silent except for that lone little clock sitting in the middle of the floor on the other side of the room ringing. At that moment the clown took hold of the dogs and quickly vanished out of the classroom. The students learned a valuable lesson that day.

Today Jesus once again reminds us to be ready. He tells us that He will be returning and we will be blessed if we are prepared and in fact looking for His return. Often the things of this world distract us from our good intention to stand ready. In our hearts we want to be ready but then the world enters the room with passing joys. So far, if you are reading this, you, like me, have been lucky. The alarm hasn't sounded while we were concerned with the trappings of this life and we have been able to return to our watch. Nothing is more heartbreaking than the thought of having that bell ring while we are doing something other than God's will. Our loss would be far greater than a free day or pizza.

Lord Jesus, help me to be vigilant and give me the grace and strength to remain vigilant even when the slow ticking of the clock seems endless.

FROM THE SAINTS - "Lord, by the words of consecration the substance of the bread and wine is converted into the substance of your Body and Blood. All powerful Lord, say over me the word which will change me into You." - Saint Anthony Mary Claret

Monday, October 17, 2016

New Retreat Begins Wednesday!

Wednesday will mark the beginning of our 3rd online retreat with over 160 members participating.  This retreat will begin on October 19th and end on the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, November 21st.  

We'll be using the book by Fr. Michael Gaitley, 33 Days to Merciful Love.  You may purchase the book at any Catholic bookstore or here.  

Consider joining us on these 33 Days and if you are able, join us online in our Facebook group where we will be sharing spiritual insights and graces throughout the preparation.

May God bless you and yours!


Jim & Nicole Hahn and Family

Are You Possessed by Your Possessions?

A Story

As the young novice knelt in his cell he prayed for detachment.  After years of having many possessions and living a worldly life, he asked for the grace to be able to detach himself from the desire to have or keep worldly things.

He was off to a good start.  His cell was located in a courtyard near the old stables behind the 
monastery.  The room was basic.  A small cell with a door and in the door a window the size of a man’s face allowed him to look out over the snow-covered courtyard.  There were simple, modest furnishings in the room.  Along one wall stood an old rickety desk and chair with a few sheets of paper and a dull pencil sitting on top.  Beside the paper was a dog-eared Bible that had been left by the ancient priest who had previously lived in the cell for forty years before his glorious departure to be with the Lord.  Across the cell from the desk on the floor was a thin straw-filled mattress and above the mattress hung a simple wooden crucifix.

As the young man was praying there was a knock upon his cell door.  A priest from the monastery 
informed the young novice that a visitor had arrived in the night and was in need of a bed.  The priest asked the young man if he would consider giving up his bed for the night for this visitor, who may be Christ in disguise.  The novice thought of the cold uncomfortable floor that was hidden beneath his straw mattress and then he remembered his recent request of the Lord.  He offered his bed and cover as well.

The following morning the same priest returned with some terrible news.  As it turned out, the visitor was actually a thief who ransacked the chapel and started a fire with the straw mattress that destroyed the interior of the chapel.  Since the chapel had been gutted, the priest asked the novice if he could part with his desk for they needed an altar for mass.  He also asked for his Bible and crucifix so that mass could be offered with some dignity.  The young man thought long and hard.  He knew he would miss sitting down with Sacred Scripture but he willingly gave the priest the desk and the Bible.  The crucifix was harder to part with for many reasons.  It was a gift from his mother when he entered the religious life and she had passed away shortly after.  To look at the crucifix was comforting because he remembered his mother and at the same time entrusted her to the Crucified One.  As he looked at the crucifix he again remembered his prayer for detachment and with a smile removed it from the wall and handed it to the priest.

That night he lay on the cold stone floor in his habit looking at the rickety chair in the middle of the cell by the light of the moon.  The room was quiet and cold and he could hear whispering outside his door.  In an instant the door was kicked in and two men entered his cell.  He jumped to his feet without saying a word.  The thief and an accomplice had returned to the monastery to find more items of value but all they could see in the cell was the rickety old chair.  As one thief turned to leave the light of the moon shone through the doorway and onto the trembling young novice.  Without a word one thief grabbed the young man and threw him to the ground ripping his habit from his body and began kicking him.  The other picked up the chair and began striking the novice until the chair fell to pieces.  The thieves beat him until he was nearly dead and then ran off.

The light of the moon shone brightly on the young man’s face as he lay there naked and dying.  He 
remembered his prayer for detachment and a smile came to his face.  He had been stripped of all his worldly possessions and he was quickly fading but he was happier now than at any other time in his life.  He was happy because he still had one possession that no one could take.  He came into this world with nothing but he would leave this world with one single possession.  He was happy because he was possessed by this greatest possession, this great treasure, the pearl of great price, Jesus.


In his book Happy Are You Poor* (Ignatius 2003), Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. writes, “for us wounded human beings, possessing imperceptibly slips into being possessed.”  

We live in a culture of things.  The world tells us that our happiness and fulfillment exists in objects.  For the most part our grooming and education is geared toward the goal of accumulating items of value.  Those of us who try to live lives that are faithful to the Gospel are not exempt. Often our religiosity can lull us into believing we are detached from the desire for worldly goods when in fact we are possessed by the very objects we claim to possess.

For a Christian in today’s society this detachment can be extremely difficult to achieve.  It is difficult 
because the radical nature of Christ’s message has been diluted.  In many denominations Jesus is either the friend next door that will hang with you no matter what you do or He is the social justice superhero of the Twenty-first century.  The predominate Christian message today is that we should all “love” each other and we are all free to make up our own definition of “love”.  Hardly ever do we hear the message that Jesus wants us and wants us without any baggage!  I have never heard a radio evangelist call those listening to renounce all they have and follow Jesus.    I have never heard a priest call his parishioners to sell their second car and give the money to the poor.  

Too often we rationalize by saying, “I give this much to the Church and I pray and I am a good person.”  The Gospel has a blunt and difficult answer for us if we have the ears to hear.  When the rich young man approaches Jesus and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus tells him to follow the commandments.  The young man replies that he is doing all of that.  In short, he is a “good person.”  Jesus replies that the next step would be for him to sell what he has, give it to the poor, and then follow Him.  This disturbs the young man and he goes away.  Here we could ask a simple question, “why couldn’t the young man simply follow Jesus?  Why did he need to detach himself from his worldly goods?”

To follow Christ and to follow Him closely requires a complete detachment from earthly goods.  We 
cannot serve God and mammon.  We cannot have it both ways.  This in no way means that we can possess nothing but that we should not be possessed by anything.  Our soul, spirit and disposition should be one that could care less about any possession we claim to possess.  This sounds easy but we are, as Fr. Dubay says, “wounded human beings.”

Think of the last gift you received and the person who gave it to you as well.  Now imagine parting with it.  Is it hard to imagine parting with this object?  Why?  Is it because you look at it often and enjoy its beauty?  Is it because the gift has deep sentimental value?  Why is it so hard for you to imagine being without this item that until recently you never had in your possession?  Have you imperceptibly slipped into being possessed by that object?

If you are truly honest you will admit that when faced with the above questions you rationalized many reasons as to why you should not part with the particular item.  That is our fallen human nature at work.  With this simple self-examination we find that not only are we fighting against a world that offers all that glitters, beeps, and tastes wonderful but also against our fallen desires and a tempter who one moment is our advocate and the next our accuser.


How can we live this radical call of Jesus?  How can we detach ourselves from everything to the point that we haven’t a care for anything except Jesus?  How do we get over the speed bump of being a “good person” and back on the road to being a holy person?

Like the young novice we should constantly pray for detachment and then stay awake so that we recognize when Christ is asking us to give up yet one more thing.  We should be ready to give everything away.  Like the novice we should be able to detach ourselves from anything regardless of material or sentimental value.  Finally, like the novice our main concern should be with the one possession that rust does not affect and moth cannot destroy.  We should be concerned with the one possession that can never be taken from us.  We came into this world naked and with nothing but we can take one thing with us when we leave and our life must be spent being possessed by this one possession, Jesus Christ!

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Should I fear the Lord?

"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more.  Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna, yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one."

So, who is "that one"?  For years I thought that Jesus was referring to Satan as the one whom we should fear.  However, I no longer believe that to be the case.  

Jesus is referring to God the Father.  Only he has the power to cast us into Gehenna.  Only he has the power to release us from our sentence.  Only God knows what we speak in secret.  He alone knows what we have said and done behind closed doors.  Only God knows the hairs on our head, or in my case the lack thereof!

What does it mean to fear God?  When I was younger I understood it to mean cowering, waiting for the hammer to fall.  It meant walking around on eggshells just waiting to be smote for something I did wrong.

As I've grown and experienced more of life, I've come to a different understanding.  I would liken it to my relationship to my wife.  I could easily say, "fear of my wife is the beginning of wisdom."  By this I don't mean that I'm peeking around every corner waiting for a frying pan.  Rather, it is a fear of offending her, a fear of hurting her, a fear of damaging my relationship with her.

Having a holy fear of the Lord is very similar.  As we progress in the spiritual life, as we fall more deeply in love with the Lord, this fear of damaging the relationship becomes clearer and more important.  

When I first came back to the Faith I would often avoid sin out of fear of punishment and hell.  I didn't want to die with that sin on my soul so I'd run to Confession.  It wasn't a heart thing but a fear thing.  Now, I avoid sin (not perfectly, sadly) out of fear of damaging my relationship with God.  It's not so much hell that I fear but moreover I fear letting God down, disappointing Him with my actions, thoughts, and omissions.

So let us pray today that our fear of the Lord will continue to mature.  Let us ask for the grace to not just avoid sin out of fear of punishment but rather out of fear of damaging a beautiful relationship.  If you think you've already damaged that relationship, take heart, God is a patient lover and invites you and me back over and over until the thought of hurting him causes us to cry out with the saints, "death rather than sin."

Just a reminder, our Anniversary Sale for Real Life Rosary will continue until Sunday October 16th.  Use code 14YRS to get 25% off of your order.  Learn more here.

Also, we are still in the midst of our Rosar-A-Day Giveaway where we giveaway one of our handcrafted rosaries each day during the month of October.  Learn more here.