Catholic Soup is a food for thought blog based website designed to provide Catholic insight through personal experience.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gift & Grace, Spirit & Sport

It has become very clear to me through the help of my formators, spiritual directors, and brother friars that our lives are full of continuous instances of grace. Grace, in the measure that we recognize its presence, is always moving and is always active. We are moved by grace and we are born into the family of Christ's Mystical Body through the saving acts of Sanctifying Grace in our baptism. The Sanctifying Grace that we experience commonly comes from the seven sacraments offered by the church. Actual grace, seems to me to be the one that we experience at specific times. In prayer, in Eucharistic Adoration, maybe in sunsets or the outdoors, experiences of overwhelming peace and consolations that satisfy our souls I would say, are all examples of actual grace being present in our lives.

Basically, it is the invigorating presence of God allowing us to be moved into love for love of a living God. 

With grace, it's fascinating because we can't see it or touch it. We can, however, feel it emotionally, we can experience it and sense when the presence of God is near us and moving within us. The beauty of it all is that grace is always active in our lives, giving life to every living thing, guiding us in every circumstance and present in everything that we do. Throughout my years of formation I have learned much about the presence of grace and the spirit and my own need to respond to the actions of the spirit in my life.

That grace, is a gift, it is freely given because we are sons and daughters of God. Grace gives us life, the Spirit of God gives us life, and through it we can recognize God coming into our lives, born in our hearts to shatter our darkness and to bring life to a soul that might be dead.

I was reflecting the other day and thinking about the presence of grace, it's gift and how often I forget about it's very presence. How often do I forget about the presence of God and the real necessity to cultivate and train my soul and body to the ways of the spirit? There are many times in our days, in my days, when I might be so caught up with the things that I "need" to get done that I literally make no time to respond to the actions of the spirit. To use an analogy, it would be like somebody knocking at our door at different times of the day, without any answer and that person is virtually left outside, separated from our lives.

"To the Heights" on three!
All this week I was asked by Fr. Chris to help out at a Basketball Camp run by a Catholic based group called Frassati Sports & Adventure. We were invited to lead the group in prayer, help run drills and maybe ref some games. Fr. Chris was available for confessions and we celebrated daily mass throughout the week. It was great seeing these kids play the game and show tremendous improvement from the first day. Some of the drills included fundamentals like dribbling, passing, defensive slides, pick and rolls, communication, shooting forms and then competitions. Throughout the week, we talked about how the game of basketball can be very similar to the spiritual life. How we should be training to improve our game, our skill and our talents, understanding the game can similar to recognizing grace and the beautiful gift that has been given to us.

Whatever sport it may be, the reason that we train is to be the best, to train our muscles by memory, to form a habit and ultimately to conquer. It is the same with heroic virtue, the goal is to develop good habits that create a conviction to do good. "We are training for heaven. Forever!" The beauty is that the gift that we've been given can be formed and cultivated.

Alright so why all of a sudden am I talking about sports and training?

This is our shot at the Dominican Friars who posted
a picture of themselves playing hockey. Did we win?
Well the point is, if we can train our bodies and muscles to perform in our activity through sports, we can also learn to train our hearts, minds and souls to see and receive, the gift of grace and the spirit constantly at work in our lives. See the gift of grace, recognize the gift you've been given, practice it, and never forget that within both, the spirit and the sport, that God can always be glorified to a much greater degree when we are made aware of them. The grace and the spirit of God throughout history has been the help for all of mankind. In the spiritual life, we are slowly chipping away at ourselves with the help of God's grace and love, so that we can come to know ourselves and all that we were made for and from that, we see and recognize a God who points us to Himself. This is the gift of the sport [and the spirit], that by practicing it we see ourselves dimly in a mirror and slowly we begin to uncover the fruit that is being made by the work that has been done. God's working through you in Grace and in Sport. Practice it.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Saint Clare of Assisi: A Woman of Light.

These past few days I have been really fascinated by the life of St. Clare of Assisi. There are so many moments in her life that tell us how courageous she was, often trusting in God through providence, faith in his plan and portraying His light through her life of virtue. She was a model of virtue indeed, showing the people of her time true humility, obedience, firmness, gentleness, and compassion.

[a Light born for Light]

                Born a noble woman in a family of knights and wealthy relatives, her family was one of the largest in Assisi and they lived in the upper part of the city. At the time, only the wealthiest lived at the high ends of the city, while the poor lived in the lower city slums and the middle class lived somewhere in between. Born in 1194, she was given the name Clare from a vision that her mother had during pregnancy. As she was praying before the crucified Jesus for a healthy deliver, she heard a voice:

                “Do not be afraid woman, for you will give birth in safety to a light which will give light more clearly than light itself.”

Amazed at these words, her mother asked that her daughter be named Clare, which means, light or clarity. At a young age, Clare was taught the basics of faith by her mother, whose name is Ortulana, which means, gardener. A fitting name for a mother who cultivated a beautiful garden that would soon give many fruits for the whole Church in the years to follow.


[Splendor of an Early Saint]

In her early years, Clare was known to have a sincere heart molded by the Spirit interiorly, always giving to the poor and the needy out of the goodness of her soul. She prayed frequently, keeping prayer on her lips always. She began fasting and acts of penance as a means of mortifying the flesh and the “mirrors” of the world. She wore hair-shirts, slept on hard beds, and ate close to nothing during meal times with her family. Many times, she would gather leftovers to give to the poor and pray especially for those living in the slumps at the bottom of her city. When her family asked her to be married, she refused. When Lord Ranieri di Bernando of Assisi proposed to take her hand in marriage, she refused and vowed from then on to entrust her vocation and virginity to God himself.

             
   In her late teenage years, around seventeen, she heard of St. Francis and his zeal for Christ and He also heard of her, mostly because of her care for the sick and giving of alms that she did throughout her life. The two soon-to-be saints would meet with each other secretly for the next year, confiding in each other, encouraging each other, supporting each other, and building that community of faith that was first founded by Jesus in the first Apostles with Mary. Clare would share with Francis her desire to serve Christ by living out the gospel, seeking advice on how to do so. 


[the King's Marriage Proposal]

  In a planned event advised by St. Francis, Clare attended the Palm Sunday mass along with all the woman in the city being “beautifully adorned with flowers, in brilliance and with all their finery.” The custom then was to dress for the King’s entrance into the city, they would have done the same with their noble knights during the years of war. As the people began processing through the Church to receive their palms, Clare stood still shy and nervous. When all of a sudden, the Bishop of Assisi makes his way down to her after seeing her face and places in her hands a palm branch. Clare immediately, consoled by the Bishop’s gesture affirmed in her heart by way of peace the desire to serve God with all her mind and heart. This event indicates a few things: The bishop’s permission to flee her home and follow Christ, it affirms that Clare is participating in a spousal relationship with Jesus and recognizing her Honor as a true Bride. The marriage has been set!

 [a Happy Marriage]

That night Clare sneaks out of the back door of her family’s home, breaking through a door of wooden beams and an iron rod. She ran two or three miles through the city gates, down the hill of Assisi, and past the lower city slums to the small church, Saint Mary of the Portiuncula. There the brothers along with St. Francis would greet her and after putting aside everything she left in the city of Assisi she is sheared of her golden hair, and left with a tonsured head, a penitential act that is symbolic of entering into the religious life.


“A happy marriage and a happy profession, a chaste embrace, a joyful love, a sweet union, a restless desire, a fervent love! Great is the piety, wonderful is God’s honor through which the devoted soul is wedded to God, the fragile flesh to the Word, the lowly to the Most High, and the trifling to the dear!
  

[a Model of Love]

Soon after her family found out where she was and rushed down to the church of the Portiuncula with the intention of bringing her back home. Clare immediately grabbed the altar cloths and as her family began pulling her away, she revealed her tonsured head and her family left. She stayed in her place without the slightest thought of being separated from the love and service of God that she had already committed to.  Clare loved Jesus Christ so much that it bore fruit and caused many more woman to follow in her steps. She loved the Eucharist with great fervor and her love for Christ began to show in her prayers and love. Then encouraged by St. Francis, Clare would write the new and holy observance of the Poor Ladies, also known today as the Poor Clares.

"O how great is the vibrancy of this light and how intense is the brilliance of its illumination! While this light remained certainly in a hidden enclosure, it emitted sparkling rays outside...Yes, Clare hit, yet her life was come to light. Clare was silent, yet her fame was proclaimed. She was hidden in a cell, but was known in cities."


On August 9, 1253, two days before her death, she would receive the approved Form of Life issued and signed by Pope Innocent IV


Today, St. Clare is a model of faith, of light in the darkness of night. She’s a model of trust when there is no surety and courage when there is fear! St. Clare, pray for us! 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Jesus the Good Shepherd

“I am the Good Shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep and mine know me.”

In the Gospel of John we are given beautiful insight into the life and role of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Not only does Jesus lead us but he walks with us, guides us, anoints us and never abandons us. This image of the Good Shepherd is a reminder for us to experience the living, relational God, the Emmanuel God who is always with us.  The challenge is that we have a tendency to forget that what God has told us from the beginning as true. Jesus depicts us as the sheep of His flock for a reason. We are so easily led astray and it isn’t soon after that we feel God is the one who left us. Today in the Gospel reading of the Good Shepherd, Jesus reminds us that no matter what He will always be there for us and a part of our lives as much as we allow Him.

Many times in my encounter with the poor, the homeless or the distressed, there comes a cry that begs for the care that only the Good shepherd can give. One recent experience I had with a man named Tee in the nearby park was a very life giving moment. After seeing him a few times in the year, we always talked for long periods of time and almost always he expressed to me that he needed help, spiritual help. He said he felt alone and abandoned by his friends, his family and in many cases felt abandoned by God. I remember telling him that God never leaves us; He is always with us even when it feels like He’s not. He began to cry as he reached out for a hug; it was a beautiful moment because it was so simple. All this man needed was somebody to tell him that He was loved, that God was with him and it shattered his own thoughts of abandonment and cleared his day.

The unfortunate thing is that so often we are confound to believe that we aren’t worthy, that we are alone, that we should be ashamed, and afraid so why bother? There might be so much going on in our lives that in the mix of all the chaos and feelings of rejection we begin to think that we have no help, and that God is not even around to listen so why even bother to pray? These are the thoughts that are alive in our society and sadly it is part of the division that is present in our world. It’s what the evil one wants: to separate us from perfect union with God.

Today the Good Shepherd reminds each of us, that He is there at the moment of our suffering, in our darkest night. This union is a time to hear his voice, the voice of the Shepherd that accompanies us out of love. Jesus the Shepherd calls us to move out of those thoughts that tell us we are alone and move into the comfort of his guidance. It is a reminder to move into a life of sacramental grace by returning to His care and renewing our baptismal promise. Jesus knows us by name; He cares for us and loves us. He will always find us if we have strayed and even then will He hoist us up on his shoulders. Not only are we called to be the sheep of the Shepherd’s flock but we are also called to be Shepherds of Love, leading all to know the true Shepherd. May we come to know Christ the Good Shepherd, the God who walks among us, and never abandons us. Amen!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Pitch Your Tent: A guide to Seeking Christ in Every Moment


It's the Second Sunday of Lent and coming up to half way through our journey of faith. We walk with Jesus through the desert for 4o days--fasting, praying and observing.
This Sunday Jesus takes Peter, James and his brother John up a mountain. According to scripture, it's a pretty high one too. It's here that Jesus reveals to his disciples His glory. He is transfigured and his face "shone like the sun" and his clothes becomes a bright white as light. The clouds open and out from the sky we hear the same voice that spoke to his at Jesus' baptism saying, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased, Listen to Him." What happens next from Peter is very much a response to Christ's magnificence and glory and I think we can use it as a beautiful lesson to keep in mind as we continue through our Lenten journey. Peter is captivated by God's revelation and power through the light of Christ transfigured and he intends on sticking around, so much that he plans on spending the night. He has recognized God's presence in that very moment, without even thinking his first response is to pitch a tent and stay, totally emerged in the Divine and in awe because of it. So what can we learn from Peter? Basically this, to seek God in every moment of our lives and learn to stay in those moments with your whole heart. Pitch your tent, to live in every grace filled moment that God gives. Here are some ways for us to be open to God's powerful presence in our lives, like Peter.
Be grateful. Being grateful is more than not complaining. It means showing appreciation for things that might not even be recognized. Learning to see the good in everything even the worst of times. The fact is that God reveals himself to us through every living thing, powerfully and specifically with the help of grace. When we are grateful for God's goodness and beauty in the world we are able to more receptive of the deeper ways He communicates himself like in the Eucharist, encounters with people, the Cross. This reception is the cause of a response, to love and carry out his will. Be grateful, appreciate God's presence in your life.
Be Silent. being silent is a difficult thing, but in my mind it can be a way to listen. Paying attention and with great awareness of God alive in every moment. Taking on an interior silence that comes from God allows us to respond  to His graces and also to the needs of our friends, family, maybe those strangers. The beauty is that the silence is more than just not talking, it can be stripping ourselves of any noise that keep us from responding to God's love and invitation to serve.
Be Prayer full. learn the ways that help you pray and use that to be open to the presence of God. Prayer is simply having a conversation, there is no rubric and no guideline to pray. God is a Father who loves and listens to everyone. The church uses different expressions of prayer that have been handed down through tradition. The Holy Mass is a prayer of Thanksgiving, the Liturgy of the hours is a prayer of communion. The beauty too is that every moment of our lives can be a prayer, our walk, our talk, and our breath. Learn to be prayerful through the day, the great saints tell us that prayer is like a cleansing for the soul.

With these three guides we can respond to those moments of grace in prayer, in love, in silence and with grateful hearts. It's here in our response that we are able to see God clearly, his transforming light and his perfect plan for us. God through our action of love and prayer, will make his glory known as believers we are called to seek out these moments, listen to these moments that Christ makes himself known and pitch our own tents. Lord, let your glory be made known to us!


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Advent IV with Fr. Robert Barron


Bishop Robert Barron celebrated the 4th week of Advent here for our Franciscan community. I thought it would be great to post his homily on entering into God's presence and direction for our own lives just as Joseph did. The message was to get outside of our own worlds and our own selves and simply enter into God's. "Learn how to Dream big" he says, because like St. Paul, we've all been sent. Here's the audio, enjoy!
 

Second, the band got some great positive feedback after playing in the mass. I also recorded the recessional song called "Come To Us" by Greg Walton, a third Order Franciscan who I meet in Los Angeles during the Religious Ed Congress. I entered his drawing to win a free CD that weekend. Well after the conference I checked my email and lo and behold, I had won that free CD! This song, was on that CD and I instantly feel in love with the words and the melody of it all. I had no idea I would be playing this exact song 8 months later for Bishop Robert Barron during Mass in Santa Ynez Valley California. Take a listen.

 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent: Being Prepared for God

This time of the year there are so many things that demand our readiness and preparation. Like Thanksgiving or black Friday and family visits. It’s the holiday season and so much of it requires that we are ready for everything that’s about to happen. The turkey has to be prepared, the famous green-bean casserole in the oven, pies out to cool and the table set. It’s the time of the year that we’re all on our toes, preparing, getting ready for a time away from our busy lives with the people we love. Not only is it a time of preparing for the seasons in our homes, but it’s also a time of preparing in the Church beginning with the season of Advent. 

In Advent, a word translated to mean ‘arrival’ or ‘coming’ from the Greek word Parousia, we are entering a waiting room, a room that prepares our hearts and our souls for the coming of a King. The King comes to us in three beautiful ways. One, in the liturgy of the Word when we open the scripture. Two, in our hearts when we experience the living God in our lives and have personal encounters with him and lastly, the King comes to us in the Incarnation when we remember Jesus’ birth in the Nativity at Christmas AND at Mass during the celebration of the Eucharist where we re-visit that moment of the Word becoming Flesh and experience the Incarnate God who humbled himself for our sake becoming fully present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. We can experience Christ in the Word, in our Hearts and in the Eucharist and all He asks is that we be ready.

During this season of Advent, the gospel tells us to always “be prepared” and to “be alert” comparing the second coming of God a thief in the night so we should “be ready” and “Stay awake”. Just a few days ago, I felt the invitation to participate in the PARA (Prepared, Alert, Ready & Alive) of the spiritual life. I was walking on a popular street in Santa Barbara. Walking aimlessly for I don’t know how long, looking up and around, window shopping and caught up in just the motion of walking. It wasn’t until a homeless man recognized me, grabbed my shoulder and as I turned he open his arms and embraced me with a hug. It was then that I realized where I had been. I was up in the clouds not really paying attention to the people I was walking past.


What that man did was bring me back down to earth where the real connection and relation happens and he helped remind myself that I always need to be prepared to encounter God in each moment and through each person of my life. It was a lesson of PARA for me and It parallels with our own seasons this time of the year. That we should be prepared to meet God in our own prayers or encounters the same way we go to dinner prepared to eat. And we should be ready to greet God when he comes this Christmas the same way we greet our family and friends when they visit. So in this Advent season, I ask God to give all of us the grace to be prepared, alert, ready, and alive to experience God in every moment of our lives. Amen.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Vineyard of Love



In the Gospel of John we hear about a vineyard and how so much of keeping up with that vineyard, maintaining it, requires attention. It requires pruning, cultivation, sacrifice, and connection. All of these things have come to life for me in a very real way and it also helped me understand a little more of what Christ speaks of in John 15

                “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5

The image of the vine and branches becomes a very beautiful way of understanding God’s love and the different gifts and graces He can provide to us throughout our lives. The vineyard in the gospel is symbolic of our spiritual life and our relationship with Christ. How we maintain our “vineyard” will determine how successful the fruit of our own harvest will be. Cultivating the ground requires water, turning and clearing from weeds that prevent a strong healthy vine. Pruning, in our lives as we all know, is a very painful thing to do and so often requires sacrifice. But Christ calls us to prune, and he’s there to help. In an unpruned vineyard, the water, the life-giving nutrient is being divided among so many branches and vines that the grapes become small, with little or no chance of growing. That concept, is having our focus on so many things that there is never really a full, concentrated attention on one thing, our fruit becomes virtually small and therefore useless after harvest. The invitation is to place all our trust and focus on Christ being the living water, providing for us all that we need. Christ says that the Father prunes so that the vine bears more fruit, and much bigger fruit. God being the vine-grower, knows exactly what parts of us to keep, and those parts to throw away. So what might the challenges be for us? 

Pruning away those extra things in our own lives so that we become liberated from the distractions and divisions that keep us from a fruitful and complete relationship with God the Father. Having so much trust in God that, upon pruning those things out of our lives, we are able to enter into a greater, fulfilling and life-giving connection with God. 

"Remain in my love."
 
As we were harvesting our year’s grapes, I found a prayer rising out of my own heart. To let God be the vine-grower in my own life, pruning away things that so often get in the way, distract or prevent me from being all that I can be. To help me place a complete trust in Him so much that within me there is always a desire to remain in His vineyard, and in His love.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Thank You

Man...I don't even know where to start. The long, long anticipated date of being invested with the Capuchin habit finally found it's way around. ­­After two years of formation with the friars, I can say that there were times I felt like this day would never come. Spiritually, there were days that went up and down, over and over again. With resident candidacy and postulancy in the picture to help with my discernment process, I felt deep in my heart that I was ready to approach the novitiate year with a certain steadiness and completeness enough to where I can be stable in prayer and go to God with the surety that I would come out with an answer. I said I was ready to experience the year and experience the voice of God in the silence of my own prayer. As the investiture ceremony got closer, I tried to prepare myself...
Investiture

I asked God in my prayer to allow me to remember my faults, my weaknesses and everything that I had done wrong and ultimately get it all out, lay it all down so that He could take it all up. As they called my name a realization came to me, that as I was thinking about all this God had brought out the once feeling of shame and sadness and He had replaced it with love and an immeasurable joy in my heart.

That night it was hard for many of us to contain our excitement. We had just been robed with the habit of St. Francis, the garb of the leper, the garb of the lesser and those who had always been left out. This is what Friars wore for the past 600 years since the birth of the Capuchins, and 800 since St. Francis had founded the Order. That thought was circling my mind through and through as I walked around outside looking up at the california sky with millions of stars visible.

 And if you live in the mountains at all or in the country you know that looking up is sort of like looking straight into the eyes of God. And I think with that you get a powerful, tiny glimpse of who God is, and his infinite love for us. Even if it's only for a moment, it leads us to understand God and his divine care and unconditional love for each of us. In that moment, not only had I been invested with the Capuchin Habit but I was invested also with the reminder that since the beginning God had invested me with his love. It's beautiful to think about God investing us with his love so it was an amazing experience to share with my brothers.
Friars from Province of Mid-America, Fr Frank Grinko (Novice Master) and Fr. John Cousins (Vicar-Provincial)
Seventeen guys from the various provinces around the US

The thing is we are all robed with God's love, we are all invested with His love. Despite of our faults and weaknesses, God still places on us his love through the habit of grace.This has been the message for me.


  Lastly I want to thank everybody who has supported me in my discernment thus far. My family, you've been amazing in support and prayer, encouragement to fight and never give up. To my brother Nick, my sisters, mom and dad, Thank you. To all my friends from Lifeteen, WT Catholic Student Center, Pro-Life Bootcamps, DC March for Lifes, Conferences, The Knights of Columbus, everybody I've had the pleasure in knowing at St. Gregory's, the monks, seminarians, priests throughout my days. Capuchin Friars who have guided me on the journey the past 2 years, thank you. To those who have dedicated prayer time to me, time to write me letters and send me cards, thank you from the deepest part of my heart for your support and encouragements, it won't be forgotten. If I missed you, than I'm talking to you.
                                                                                                                                                                             Thank You,

                                         -Br. Vincent 'Vinny' Mary, OFM Cap

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Newspapers & the Mighty Deeds of God

     
A couple years ago I had the privilege in working at a Vet home in Denver as a Resident Staff Member. I worked graveyard shift, often writing residents up for coming in late, giving them breathalyzer tests and making sure they were sober when they entered the house. Some days I would ride my bike to work, which was about a two mile ride from the house. As the normal shifts began, some of the residents would come in and talk. We laughed, joked with each other, they shared some stories on how they got where they are now or how they use to be homeless. At the time we had one resident named Mike, a New York native who grew up in Brooklyn. Mike would come in with his east coast accent talking about the girl he can't wait to see, or the red convertible Camaro he had in the garage outside. As the time for him to leave got closer, he mentioned one day that he had something to give me.

"Sorta like a memento...I want you to remember me." he said. 

So he left the office and came back with a black hefty bag full of articles and newspapers. Basically, all these papers from the New York Times that he had collected through the years while he was homeless in New York. Some of them were dated Sept 12, 2001 with the headline from 9/11. He gathered all these up and just gave them to me so I could remember him. That next morning is still a vivid picture in my mind, because not only did I have to ride with a 30Ib backpack full of newspapers, but I had to do it uphill. It was a long bike ride home, I think I ended up getting a flat that morning. But anyway, thinking about it now not only do I remember that day and the morning, but I remember Mike, just like he had asked. It worked, I hope you know Mike!

But yesterday as I was thinking about Jesus in the gospels, the images of my life came to mind. All of the blessings, the people that I've experienced, the different graces, God-moments, and then even all the madness and chaos. Everything that involves me being where I am today, is a work of God. In my mind, they are all great deeds that have been performed by God, they are in fact, His mighty deeds. 

Of the many messages in the Old and New Testaments, one might be for us to remember the mighty deeds that God has performed in our lives. For the Israelites, God wanted them to remember how he had lead them out of the land of Slavery. In the Gospels, Jesus performs so many deeds, to reveal not only the glory and greatness of God but so that the people could repent and turn to God.

I can just hear God, crying out to us, his people, begging us to remember Him and the deeds He has done for us. 

For us to take that with us on the journey that we travel uphill or downhill. Metaphorically it fits, that the black bag full of the deeds of God, blessings and battles should be placed on our shoulders and taken so that we could remember the very greatness of God in our lives. In those time of struggle, suffering or doubt. What we should do is pull out a newspaper, and think back on the many many ways God has been there for us, blessing us and providing everything that we need. "Think about such things" says St. Paul.


"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."  -Phil 4:8


Thursday, April 21, 2016

St. Conrad of Parzham: the Holy Porter

On the edge of the Rott Valley in Lower Bavarria was a German-Christian family, fourteen strong.  Of the twelve is John Birndorfer, the second youngest of the bunch.  John, now known as Saint Conrad of Parzham, was born on December 22, 1818 and was the first German saint to be canonized after the reformation.  At a young age he experienced his share of trials and sufferings within his family and the Catholic Church. Both his parents suffered from the Napoleonic Wars, his mother died at the age of fourteen and the Church at that time was becoming more and more secularized. Germany was losing its Catholic identity, seventeen Catholic Universities had been shut down and twenty-two dioceses in the country were reduced to just five. 

                Still in the midst of all this chaos, John remembered the strong teachings handed down from his mother. He prayed rosaries, attended confession and received communion as often as possible. Soon there came a point when he was discerning religious life. To his surprise, his confessor told him to visit the Capuchins saying, “That’s where you belong.” Thirty-one years into his life, John taking the name Conrad, went through the same doors that he would be opening for the rest of his life. On October 4, 1852, the feast of Saint Francis, Conrad professed and consecrated his whole life to God and the Capuchin Order, thus entering fully into the Order. Saint Conrad was assigned Porter for the friary. For forty-one years Saint Conrad was faithful to his duty as a Capuchin brother, he remained calm and patient with everyone he received.  He opened not only the door of the friary, but also the door of his heart to everyone he met. Saint Conrad came into contact with so many people that he was able to experience the glory and misery of the world. Often getting up early, sometimes two or three in the morning, he would open the door to children and mothers, the poor and the homeless, the hungry, the sick and even the unemployed. He was opening the door to Christ in his own eyes and because of that he gave his heart with compassion to everyone.

As we celebrate the life of Saint Conrad of Parzham, I think we can gather a few things when it comes to being a doorkeeper of our own hearts in relationship with Christ our Savior. As Conrad was faithful to his work, he opened the door for many; he opened the door for the weak. We hear in the gospels that Christ himself dwells in those people! 

"Truly I tell you, Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matt 25:40

The call for us is to open the door of our hearts, to let Christ enter for a dwelling but also, so that He can change and renew us from the inside. The effect of this is that we remain always with the Father and the Father in us.  

The call for us is also to greet the Lord, to give him our attention and undivided hearts. Just like Saint Conrad, always listening and never growing tired of his ministry, when we greet the Lord we are turning our hearts to Him with a desire to listen to what might be said and of course, with a willingness to speak! Let us greet the Lord.

I think that lastly, the final message from the holy porter is to see the Lord. See the Lord in the world despite the violence and chaos. Find glory in the weaknesses of the world.  Saint Conrad found Christ in each and every person he opened the door to. He sought the Lord in Heart, mind and soul by opening the door of his heart. 


Saint Conrad of Parzham, Pray for us

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