Monday, April 25, 2016

Feast of Divine Mercy--What Is God's Will For Your Life? Pray to Find Out.

Blessed Mother Teresa found her calling, the call within the call as she described it. Her calling was to the poorest of the poor and she had to change direction in her life, from being a teaching nun to going out onto the streets of Calcutta.  Many of the saints have said that the most important thing in life is uniting your will to the will of God. Sometimes we might be doing great things for the Lord, but it might not be what God's will is for your life. It's tricky finding out the will of God and then acting on it. Mother Teresa was successful, her beautiful and noble work for the poor continues after her death. What a great tribute to sanctity and fulfilling the will of God that her work continues in so many places in the world.

On Divine Mercy Sunday, I spent the day in prayer and sharing knowledge.  I spent part of the day in prayer during Eucharistic Adoration, in reciting the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and I gave a talk on St. Faustina and divine mercy. I led participants in prayer and others did as well. I knew it would be a powerful day because it was the Feast day of Divine Mercy in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I mentioned that in my talk that it was a special day which wouldn't happen again in our lifetimes, the Feast Day landing in the Year of Mercy.  The 3:00 PM hour was especially grace-filled.  It took me some time to realize the affect it had on me, but what I think happened that day, for me, in my own spiritual journey is that God made it clear to me that something I've been working on has to be completed. That's God will. I feel it strongly. I procrastinate, sometimes, which of course is not good. I wonder if anyone will read the book I have to finish but that's not important ...what's important is that I get it done.

So that was the "fruit" of Divine Mercy Sunday, the grace of the day for me. I wonder what the others were given because I'm sure graces were given freely and abundantly that day. I was given direction. Now I have to act.
NJA

Monday, April 11, 2016

Poverty and the Zika Virus and Pope Francis' Call To Help the Poor

As Pope Francis so often reminds us, we can't forget about our poor and marginalized brothers and sisters in the world. Those who are trapped in poverty cannot overcome their situation without help. We can all do more.
I sponsor a little girl from a third world country and through my monthly giving, I help her to have basic necessities that her family could not otherwise afford. I give to other charities as well.
But we can all do more.
I recently read an article in the New York Times written by a medical doctor,  Dr. Peter Hotez, who is warning that the Zika virus spread by a certain type of mosquito and which is believed to be responsible for babies being born with a devastating brain birth defect (microcephaly), will soon spread in areas of poverty in the southern United States.  As he wrote in the article ("Zika is Coming"), "In crowded places, mosquitoes have lots of access to lots of people. Poor people often live in proximity to garbage, including old tires, plastic containers and drainage ditches filled with stagnant water, where this species of mosquito lives and breeds. And they often have homes with torn screens on their windows. The combination creates ideal conditions for the Zika virus to spread."
He also wrote that "the extremely poor cities of Brazil's northeastern states make up the epicenter of the epidemic."
I've seen pictures of Brazilian mothers holding and comforting their babies who have been born with small heads and brain damage. It is heartbreaking to see these poor mothers who have so few resources to begin with, now having to care for these babies. They need help from charitable organizations and from government agencies.
So Pope Francis' message of compassion for the poor and more equality and better paying jobs and opportunities for the poor, wherever they exist in the world, is needed now more than ever.  When will we listen and act upon his wisdom?
NJA


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Immersed in Divine Mercy and St Faustina-2016

Happy Easter to All! Blessed Easter Season! This week I will be immersed in the Diary of St. Faustina, the message of Divine Mercy and the reading of a book I just ordered, "7 Secrets of Divine Mercy" by Vinny Flynn. I received a call recently and asked if this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, I could give a talk on Divine Mercy. I agreed. A few days later, a woman sitting in the pew in Church, in front of me, had the book by her side, "7 Secrets....." so I just knew I had to read that book for my talk, seemed providential to me. As it turned out that woman was giving a talk on Divine Mercy a week later which I attended. People of faith always amaze me when they show the benefits of their faith and how it has positively affected their lives. It's a fact that people of faith can weather life's "storms" and trials better. During the talk that she gave on Divine Mercy, she shared that her husband of 40 years asked her for a divorce a couple of years before. He had met someone else (younger naturally). It came as a complete shock to her. He recently re-married and though she looked disturbed as she shared the story, she still had it together, she still had her deep faith, she was brave and focused on the good and positive in her life. People of faith can pick themselves up, dust themselves off and move on. Belief in the Resurrection, nourishment from the Eucharist and the healing power of Jesus can do that. I've seen it over and over again. I've experienced it in my own life, going through the death of loved ones.

So as I prepare for my talk on Sunday and as I spend the next few days reading about St. Faustina's message and the benefits of trusting in God (no matter what!), I look forward to study and growing in both my trust in God and my knowledge of what's really important in life.
NJA

"Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; for God's mercy endures forever."  (Psalm 117:1



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Church Dispensing God's Mercy On The Urging of Pope Francis

I was fortunate to have spent a week visiting near a very vibrant parish in the Diocese of Venice, Florida which observed "24 Hours of Mercy," while I was there.  Bishop Frank Dewane, in consultation with his priests designated March 4th and 5th to be the time in which the people of that Diocese would observe the "24 hours of Mercy."
I attended the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and I watched as the pastor and an associate pastor stayed in Church and ministered God's mercy. Many tearful and fallen away Catholics came. Observing from a distance and sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I could not know what people were sharing, of course. Some were going to Confession, others were seeking spiritual guidance. Many needed tissues to wipe their tears. Yes, this was the "field hospital" that Pope Francis has spoken about, set up in a parish church, in Southwest Florida. And though I stayed about an hour and a half in Church, I was greatly moved by what I saw. This went on from 1:00 PM until 11:00 PM. on Friday. The next day on Saturday it continued in the morning until Mass which was at 11:30 AM after Benediction. I attended the Mass, but the Mass had to start a half hour late, because people were on line and they were given the opportunity to confess or share and then the Mass began.
At Mass last Sunday the pastor said that over 100 fallen away Catholics had come to the Church seeking Confession or spiritual guidance. Many had been encouraged by their friends to come.
The whole "24 Hours of Mercy" was not only fruitful but awe-inspiring. The best of the Catholic Church in view. God's mercy being administered by caring priests of God. It's as good as Catholicism gets and I saw it there in that Church, the healing and blessing of God's mercy being administered by good and generous priests.
NJA

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar Acceptance Speech Brings Awareness To a Cause Close To His Heart and That of Pope Francis

Leonardo DiCaprio recently met with Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican (I wrote about it in a previous blog entry). He was very grateful for the private audience with the Pope and he brought his father along. He gave Pope Francis gifts, among them a check for the Pope's favorite charities. Very generous. Though it doesn't seem like they would have anything in common, they do. They share a common interest in helping the environment and protecting the Earth. It seems Leonardo's meeting with the Pope brought him some blessings and good luck and on Sunday night he won an Oscar for acting in the role of frontiersman Hugh Glass in the movie, "The Revenant."
The Revenant has an interesting title and the word means, "A person who has returned supposedly from the dead."
The writer of the book on which the story is based has an interesting background. The writer, Michael Punke is a deputy U.S. trade representative. He wrote the historical novel in his spare time, waking up early in the morning to write. That impresses me.
But back to Leonardo. In his acceptance speech, he said, "Climate change is real and its happening now......It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. "
Leonardo also urged support for political leaders who speak for humanity. I wished he had mentioned Pope Francis but he didn't.
DiCaprio has been called out by members of the media, questioning the huge carbon footprint he contributes to as he travels  often in jets, around the world, not just for his career but for pleasure.
No one is perfect and DiCaprio may be a polluter to some degree (aren't most of us to some small degree?)but he does give to charities that support the environment and endangered animals. He is trying to bring awareness to the issue of climate change and global warming. He used the Academy Awards as a platform to try to bring awareness to an issue dear to his heart, with millions watching. Who knows the good that he did?
NJA

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pope St. John Paul II's Friendship With American Philosopher Comes to Light

It is no secret that Pope Saint John Paul II had many good friendships, with Christians as well as people from other religions.  Friendships are good for human beings. St. Augustine wrote about the blessings a good, holy friendship can bring into one's life.

 I was however surprised to read in an article that Pope St. John Paul had a special relationship with a woman philosopher that spanned many decades. I had never heard of it before and that's why I found it so surprising.  But recently letters that he wrote to the American philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka have been made public and they show that they had a deep, intellectual friendship that they both found rewarding and special. He called her "a gift from God." How endearing.
Pope Francis spoke about the relationship to reporters on his recent trip back to the Vatican from Mexico. He remarked that he was aware of the special relationship between St. John Paul II and the American philosopher Anna-Teresa but that he felt it was fine for even popes to have good, healthy, holy friendships with women. I would agree.

As Pope Francis pointed out,  many saints have had special friendships such as St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi and the Carmelite saints,  St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Also St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac were friends and co-founded the Daughters of Charity. So friendships between saints is nothing new or between a saint and a layperson.
Unfortunately,  when some people have tried to have good, intellectual, platonic friendships because of gossip and lies, lives have been ruined. There's nothing wrong with friendships but sometimes in the Church, people like to gossip and spread misinformation and that's a cause for concern because a good friendship based on intellectual respect can become suspect. That's unjust.

As far as Pope St. John Paul II having a special friendship with a woman, I think it makes him more human, at least in my eyes. He had the need for friendship with another intellectual and given the pressures he had in life and all he accomplished in his blessed life, it seems it was a good thing for him.
NJA

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Who Will Help Care for and Support Poor Babies Born With Microcephaly from Zika

The first day of the penitential season of Lent is as good a time as any to think about those poor babies born with microcephaly, a condition linked to the mosquito that transmits the Zika virus. The World Health Organization has called the Zika virus and the birth defects it apparently causes an international health emergency.
These babies are being born into poor families in Brazil and other Latin and South American countries as well as the Caribbean.  Families already living in poverty are now being challenged with having a baby with special needs. One mother was quoted as saying, "How can we do this, how can we support this child?" That remark has haunted me. Doctors are haunted by mothers who ask them if their babies will improve, if their small heads will grow larger.
I hope that Catholic Relief Services will begin a program to support these families. I intend to write them, but I'm sure they've already thought of it.
There are many people who would be willing to help these families and international organizations who try to set up programs for these children as they grow.
In this Year of Mercy, these children must be shown mercy, compassion and love and their families supported, so that their burden is lessened.
NJA