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

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...

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

Friday, April 15, 2016

Trusting in God: 5 Methods

With the Easter season in full swing the message of Hope and trust seems to be a constant theme for us. Jesus has risen, so we should have hope in finally conquering a death that keeps us from Christ. We should also trust that a greater plan is coming into fulfillment. The plan of light that is truly able to overpower the darkness or the plan of hope over fear, maybe even trust over worry. It’s that image of finally being able to see what has been hidden in the dark for so long. There are just a few things that have to be done so God’s light can reveal to us what it is we have been seeking the answer to.

                Discernment in the house these past few months has demanded another level of trust and confidence in God’s plan. I say that because of the darkness that’s been presented. It’s rocky and cloudy so I think naturally there is doubt and fear. Just like the Resurrection account we hear in the gospel, there was fear within the community of Apostles because they had no idea what would happen to them. The problem for many of us is learning how to trust God even when we don’t know and can’t see. Here are a few methods that have help me to trust in God’s working under the shadows of fear or worry.

Don’t fear! That’s right you’ve heard it a thousand times from Saints, writings, even in the Old Testament. Do not Fear. God is with you in your struggling and He knows what you are going through. The obligation for us is to turn to God, pray to God asking him for courage because He walks with us and accompanies us wherever we are being sent. He said this to His Apostles, sending them with His Spirit, but accompanying them in their journey. The challenge for us is to recognize that God is with us, seeing the Emmanuel in our lives and using that knowledge to stir up courage.

“God Is Still Good” This is a phrase that has come up in meditation quite often. To me it is being able to believe in the power of God’s love even when things go wrong. God never holds back His love from us, if he did just for a moment than we would cease from existence. This is proof that He loves us! So being able to trust in God even when you understand the consequences of being hurt is real trust. True trust in my opinion is moving forward despite realizing and recognizing those things that can go wrong in our lives. For me it has been a blessing to recognize my faults, to stand up, shake off the dust and say “God Is Still Good” and nothing has changed.

Jesus There is nothing better than taking those things that bog you down to the Eucharist. God brings so much to the table of the Eucharist, why would He not allow us to bring so much to him. Take those worries and fears and present them to Him. Receive Jesus Christ body, blood, soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. Find out if there is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at a Church near you. Saint John Paul II says “Jesus Christ, our hope, is a sure compass to guide you on your journey. Look to him and trust in Him, advancing courageously on the path to Holiness.”

Look Where You’ve Been …Imagine your hiking up a mountain. You start becoming more and more exhausted with each step you take. As you look back to see where you have been, it begins to push you because now you realize how much further you need to go. In Saint Paul’s opening letter to the Philippians, he tells them,” I am sure of this, that He who began the good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ.” The good work in us has been started! A big part of trusting in God for me has come through reflecting on recent events or times in my life. We begin to realize that God was with us back then, and so is certainly with us now.

Lastly,  Remember God’s Faithfulness continuously meditate on the faith that God has toward his people, especially in the Old Testament. Countless times we see God always reminding his people that he is with them and that he will never leave them. He was there for the Israelites throughout the whole Exodus; He made it known to Joshua that He is with Him, for him to be strong and courageous in facing those enemies.

With these in mind, let us each place our trust and faith in God that He delivers us from all our fears and worries and place us carefully under his love. May we always work to strive to do your will, for the building up of your kingdom and not our own! Jesus I trust in you!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Saint Francis: Convert amidst the Darkness

In order that we might know Francis’s life and his sanctity in a way that attracts and stirs, we are given a beautiful description of what he experiences and goes through, specifically in his conversion. Francis, growing up in the time of civil war, wrestles with his service and his ego. He asks himself many times it seems, “Whom should I serve and how should I serve?” For him early on, it was his country that he felt he should serve through knighthood and being recognized by honor and fame. From the very beginning God placed in him this desire to serve. God fulfilled his perfect will by having him serve by becoming a lesser brother, taking on the clothes of the outcasts, living with them and caring for them in such a way that becomes attractive to many. During his conversion and transformation from being this loud, rowdy leader of bandits, he was called to more than that. He was called to be a quiet, calm and prayerful father for those who wished to follow his own radical way of life. We are told that Francis was a builder before he was a brother. He built churches as a response to God’s call; little did he know that while he was begging for rocks instead of bread and building churches, he was also building within him a home for Christ to stay in. Francis exemplified this in his life. He won the hearts of those he spoke to, and people wanted to follow him. I think they saw within him a love and a peace that was attractive and desirable. When he preached penance, people saw joy. When he gave to the poor, he gave freely. People began to listen to this sunny prophet who preached redemption to sinners and to sad hearts the secret of regaining joy and gladness. So many people were brought to the light of God by his humility, charm and uniqueness that men wanted to follow him. Francis, robed with a beggar’s garb, was designated as a guide. Some thought that a new form of religious life had been born; and disciples eager to follow it soon presented themselves.So he had brothers. A major part of his conversion was his solitude, contrary to that of the world, he prayed and experienced great conversion of heart in the darkness and in the caves. This area of Saint Francis' conversion can give us hope in today's world. While many times we experience the darkness of our days and our world, the greater aspect is that through that darkness lies a conversion very similar to what Saint Francis experienced. Places like the cave or in those times of silence and solitude is where Francis was formed and heard clearly the very voice of God and it can be the same for us. 
There is a fire to follow, but more importantly I think it has left me with a challenge to live like Saint Francis did. That is loving as best I can, in servicing as freely as I can and in being as joyful as often as I can. All three it seems are vital traits to adopt while responding to a Franciscan calling. In love, Francis loved his brothers and companions and also those he served. I think they recognized this rather quickly. In service, it seems that father Francis placed himself at the needs of those who were without. He did it willingly and obediently knowing that it was God whom he was serving. In joy, I have read that Francis was always in the spirit of joy, even in suffering, because of this he encountered God in the most ominous circumstances. To end, may there always be a movement toward these virtues that are the very charisma of the Franciscan spirituality. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent: Greet the King

During advent season, the church dedicates this time for waiting and expecting the arrival of the King, the Savior who is to be born of a Virgin and save the world. Jesus has been expected for 9 months now after the annunciation to Mary from the angel Gabriel. We hear in the narrative that at the birth of Jesus the wisemen visited Jesus and entered into his abode.

"They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. They they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." Matt 2:11

When I think about the wise-man (Magi) and their journey to Bethlehem, it reminds me of so much patience that had to have taken place, the persistence to travel afar and greet the King for themselves. What a testament to the faith for these guys to be so immersed in following the Star of David, so diligent in seeing the Savior with their own eyes. In my own life, threatened by the need to be impatient and always in a hurry, I feel like that is a natural part of today's society. To be always in a hurry, most-likely skipping over those things that need the most attention. The reality is that waiting or being patient is not a norm for today's secular world. With constant activity and fast-paced technology, anything that forces us to be still and quiet, or slow and steady is a power threat in our lives.

The lesson is clear this Advent season, we can learn a thing or two and apply it in our daily lives. The first, is that a King is coming and so we should expect his return. Not only is he coming in the form of a man, but through a Virgin who humbled herself to accept the will of the Father. Because of his coming we should not only wait for him to arrive, but greet him with homage and gifts just like the three wise-men did. Two is that a Savior is born to come a set us free from all of our sins, therefore we should turn to him with contrite hearts, knowing and believe that Jesus will relieve us all once again. Three that all of this involves waiting, therefore we should be patient but also expect Jesus with joyful hearts. Wait in line for Christ on his return and he will greet you at the door. I believe that during this advent season, the lesson for us is to not only about learning to wait and be patient for Christ's coming, but also to get up and greet him with everything that we have and everything we are.

This Advent season, not only should we wait for the return and birth of Jesus but we should greet Him with the gift of love.