Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bartholomew is Trending

 Just a quick little post.

    I was just scrolling on facebook and reading the many statues and articles about the earthquake in Italy. I became deeply sadend when I heard about this quake and prayer for those affected. However, as I continued to scroll down my facebook I saw this on the trending:

St Bartholomew, the apostle of Jesus, is second on the trending list on facebook. I think this is a small way of how Catholics and Christians are evangelizing through social media. Something so small, but can be so significant. I see this as a mini accomplishment for the faith. It also made me smile and I had to share it :) 

This isn't the first time a saint or religious figure has trended. A few months ago, 'Jesus Christ' was trending on Twitter, and some other saints as well.... a good sign 

You can click HERE to go to Pray To God Todays Facebook page to keep track of recent posts, and other pictures and saint quotes. 

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How I became a Refugee

   One of the main events of World Youth Day, the climatic point of the entire week, is the vigil and final mass. There we keep vigil during the night, praying to the Lord, and we awake the next morning for mass with Christs representative on earth, Pope Francis. At the end of the beautiful Mass the vicar of Christ announces where the next World Youth Day will be held. Let me explain my experience with this intense event.

     If there is one accurate phrase to sum up the vigil experience for me, it would be, I became a refugee.  Here I was, carrying everything I brought to Poland in my travelers backpack, weighing around 40 pounds, walking down the streets, not knowing where to go, but following the crowd. I was clueless, and trusted that the direction I was heading would lead me to my destination. We traveled for four and half hours in the direct sun walking every step of those nine miles, getting closer and closer to Campus Misercordes.
My group and I were in Section A7
     When we finally did reach our section, at Campus Misercordes, we had to claim our land, claim our territory for our group. All the while, the sun shined and the temperature rose making it uncomfortably hot. I made the mistake of not buying water the night before, so by the time we reached the field I had only half a bottle of water left. The water that was available was a sparkling water that was different than what we have here in the americas. A couple of us from our group struggled to set up a 'tent' which in reality was anything we had to get out of the sun. We stretched a rope around a pole to create V shape. We then stretched shower curtains and blankets across to create a shaded spot for us to lie down in. It wasn't the most visually appealing thing, but it was something, it was shelter, it was worth the effort.

    As we lied down in our make shift shelter, we began to snack on the small amount of food we were given. We had a strawberry yogurt shake, a bueno bar, tymbark, and a veggie and rice dish that was preserved in gelatin. The rice dish was personally inedible. I took one bite and became instantly sick. As I walked around the campus, many people didn't like it either, as their were plenty containers of it piled high along the barricades and on the streets.  So for those two days of the vigil and final Mass I was running on little sleep, little food, little water, and little energy.

    As I sat there in our shelter reality hit me and one single thought took over my mind,  I am tasting the life of a refugee.  When I realized how miserable I was and how in actuality it wasn't that bad compared to an actual refugee who is going through, what I experienced in two days, their entire lives.

   After the final Mass we waited and waited to go back to let crowds go and by 1:00 we started our trek back to the hostel. As we walked among the thousands of people our group was split in two. Someone had gotten hurt, but a group of us ( who some how managed to stay together) were to far ahead for the message to be carried forward. So we continued, and after about an hour of travel, we decided to wait for the rest of our group. Ten minutes past, then fifteen, then half n hour, still no sign of the other half of our group. Some people in our group had decided to split from us because they just wanted to get home. We continued to wait for another half n hour. Still no sign of the other half of our group for that time. We decided to google map our way home, and set foot.

    It was about ten minutes into our walk that it began to rain. It really rained. It poured to be exact. There was thunder and lightning and the rain continued to fall harder and harder. Instead of pulling over and waiting the showers out, we continued walking. We walked for an hour in that rain, continuously going forward without stopping. It was raining so hard that as we walked the streets our shoes were submerged  in the water.

    Of course by the time we did make it back to our hostel, the sun came out.

    As I laid down in the bed in the hostel my mind went again to that of refugees. I realized how out of touch I was with the reality of refugees. Yes it is one thing to see it on tv and have actual images, but as we see those images, we are in the comfort of our homes. But to experience a sliver of what so many people experience every single day, opened my eyes and made me sad. It made me sad for the lack of prayers I've said for refugees. I became sad because it disturbed me that other humans beings can cause other human beings to be forced to live in inhuman ways and to struggle for the basic human necessities. It bothered me to see that people are forced to live a life where they don't know if they will be alive tomorrow.

    The final events of World Youth Day were eye opening and defiantly a heart opener as well. Through experiencing the walk to the vigil, the hot sun in the middle of a field, sleeping at night in the field, the lack of food and water, the lack of comfort, made me realize and experience the life of a refugee. This one unique and immense experience has changed my life and it is something I defiantly won't forget. World Youth Day made me a Refugee.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How WYD Made the Nicene Creed Real

    On August 3rd I returned back to Winnipeg after two and a half weeks in Poland while participating in World Youth Day. As I sat on the air plane that took nine hours to get me back to Canada, I began to contemplate and review the many unique experiences that I gained from this amazing pilgrimage. That plane ride gave me the time to digest the over flowing plateful of adventure I had just undergone. As I sat there on the dimly lit plane, one phrase was the base for all my thoughts: "  One, Holy, catholic, and Apostolic church" 

     That one phrase, from the Nicene Creed, can accurately sum up my World Youth Day experience. Notice in that phrase that their is a small c on catholic. The small 'c' catholic means universal, diverse, inclusive. All these adjectives were fully alive and evident in these two lively weeks.  Here was  gathered in the 'City of Saints', as Krakow is refereed to, millions of young people from all around the earth, all at peace. Nationalism was clear,  flags were waving back and forth for as far as the eye can see and the constant shouting of chants from particular countries. However, it was apparent that something greater, something more important was present, the presence of Christ.

Flags for as far as the eye can see

    It is the faith, in the One Holy catholic and apostolic Church that surpasses all division. It is the faith in the good shepherd that exceeds the nationalistic separations of humans.  It is Christ that gathered us together, gathering us in faith and in total harmony.  In the book of Jeremiah 23: 3 God speaks to Jeremiah saying, " I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture" The days that I was in Poland it was evident that God had called his flock there and it is there, in the saintly city, that any division created by nations and governmental disagreements no longer mattered, because they were not the focus of the events... It was Christ. He is and was the center of the entire pilgrimage.

    Christ was evident. He was working among the 2.5 million young people gathered. He was a visible sign in the Holy Father, who went by four feet in front of me. His face showed holiness, mercy, and sincerity. Just by his gaze, you could tell that he is a man of compassion. He does not want to judge, but rather wants to meet you where you are. Pope Francis talks often about the gaze of Jesus  towards St. Matthew. This gaze, Francis has said, is one that changes the heart, one that " brings you to grow, to move forward, that encourages you, because the One who looks upon you loves you"  ( Pope Francis Homily on Feast of St Matthew)  This is the gaze I felt when Pope Francis looked at me. A gaze that encourages you to grow in faith, drawing you closer to God.

    It was during these amazing two weeks that the words we pray in the Nicene creed came alive and real to me. The faith truly is One. Christ calls people all over the world to an authentic faith in him and in our common heavenly father. It is this authentic faith, that is grown together, in peace and harmony,  through all times, through all divisions. Through this authentic faith experience the youth of the world, were able to come and gather in the City of Saints to deepen our faith, by being close to the Holy Father, gaining wisdom through the catechesis and by being able to openly share our common faith.

   World Youth Day was an experience that proves how catholic our Catholic Faith is.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Feed My Sheep

During this Easter season we are given the opportunity to listen and reflect on the word of God from the Gospel of John. For the third and final time this weekend, we will hear a post-resurrection appearance of Christ to his apostles. It is through these appearances that Christ proves his resurrection, dispels the darkness of doubt in his apostle’s mind, and commissions them to make known the love and joy of these events to the world.

The Gospel this weekend tells us that after the death and resurrection of Christ, the disciples have returned to fishing, as they once did before they followed Christ. These skilled fishermen do not catch anything all night, until a man comes on the shore of the beach and tells them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, and they catch an abundance of fish, that the net should have broke, but it did not. After they caught these fish, the apostles realized that it was the Lord, who has now called them a second time from their job of fishing to become fishers of people.

Jesus has prepared a meal for the disciples around a charcoal fire. The last time a charcoal fire was mentioned in the Gospel of John was when Peter was around it, warming himself, and denying Christ. Jesus welcomes the disciples around the fire for a meal, and during that time converses with Peter, to make amends to what Peter had previously done. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, to which Peter full heartily answers “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” To each of these responses Jesus replies, “Feed my sheep” Thus reconciling Peter with Christ.

It is interesting to note that the original Greek, from which the Gospel was translated from, uses two different words for love, “Agape” and “Philia.” In the New Testament Agape is used to reference the love that is and comes from God. It is used to describe the nature of God and the unending love that God gives us freely. Philia is the family love, the community love that we share. Jesus uses Agape the first two times and then uses Philia the third and final time he questions Peter.

Peter is asked if He loves Jesus and because of his affirmation of love in him, Peter is called to share that love, to “feed my sheep.” The love we have for Christ is expressed in the love that we share with one another. It is fulfilled in the kindness and sincerity of our actions, the mercy and compassion we share with one another. The love we have for Christ is shared in the humility of our service and in the ways we communicate with one another. The love we have for Christ is expressed in the ways that we live out our faith and make Jesus known to others. Love is shown when we take to heart the words of Christ and feed his sheep.

As we celebrate this Easter season Jesus is asking us as well, “ Do you love me” to which we must an answer. It is this answer, that if it is with a full and open heart, like Peter, will be expressed in our lives through the many encounters we have in feeding his sheep.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday.

It is the day when true love was shown to the world-when God showed to us how much he really loved us. He so desires to be have a relationship with each and everyone of us that He sacrifices His son, His only Son, as atonement for our sins. It is from this atonement that is hung on the cross, that we learn to love and show mercy to one another. It is through Christs' Passion that we learn that we must die to ourselves and live for others.

While walking through the Samaria, Christ had met a women, and the first thing he said to her was " I thirst." This simple saying, was not because he physically was thirsty, but rather because he thirsted for the faith of people- of the Samaritan women. He thirsted that she, and this community may come to know who He really is.

On the cross, we hear that Christ said again, " I am Thirsty." Again, He was not physically thirsty. Rather he thirsted for the faith of the people who crucified Him. He thirsted that his mission, of bring people back to God, shall be fulfilled. When he hung on the cross, He thirsted that this may happen. However, it would only be till after his death, that the solider converts, that the curtain splits in two and the earth quakes. His death is a sign that brought people closer to God, and still does everyday. It is this, that he thirsts for, and continues to thirst for.

Hanging on the Cross, Christ showed us what commitment is. He showed us that following God is not always easy, however, when he rises from the dead he shows us how beautiful it can be. He shows us that following God is not easy, but becomes fruitful. Christ came to bring us closer to God, to follow God again. Through His passion and death, he shows us how to fully follow Gods unique and fulfilling plan for each of our loves. Through his death, Christ endured the physical suffering from us yet he was committed until his last breath of wanting to bring people closer to His father.

It is in following Christ that we learn to follow. It is through His Cross that we learn to love on another, that we learn to be committed to one another and to God. Through the Cross of Christ, we are healed and brought ever closer to God. As we approach the Cross, may we come and acknowledge the sacrifice of Christ and grow in our relationship with God knowing that Christ paid for our sins so that we can. As we approach the Cross, may we come and acknowledge the true love story that is happening, and may we come to thirst also, that others may come and experience the love and mercy of God!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday

     Every year I look forward to the unique and special week that is Holy week. It is always a week that was remarkably different from all the other weeks and it is always a week the "wakes up" my faith. Growing up, and still now, I was always interested in the Mass and the different actions of the priest. To see such differences during Holy Week and the different vestments that the priest wore, really caught my interest and something that I looked forward to.

     This weekend we begin this unique week. We begin the week that saved us from our sin and brought to us forgiveness, salvation, and the love of God. Beginning the the magnificent entrance into Jerusalem we embark on a special journey with Christ. We live the experience- not as a historical re-enactment- but as a sign of faith and remembrance.  We walk as Christ walked, we go where Christ went so that we can increase our faith and become closer with him. We begin this weekend by starting in a different location and then make the procession into the church- marking Christs entrance into Jerusalem.
    We enter into a week with many mixed emotions. We begin with today, praising the Lord and hailing him as he enters into the eternal city. But soon, very soon, we turn against him and we shout with passion that this same man shall be crucified. Not because he did something wrong, but because he was not the man we envisioned him to be. He was not the great prince who came to start a revolution against the government, but rather a man who came with a simple message- mercy, forgiveness and love. 

    This weekend we hear the Passion of Christ read from the Gospel of Luke.  During this reading we hear the love Christ had for life and the people in it. He sweat drops of blood at the thought of losing his life, he healed ears that were severed , forgave those who crucified him, promised life to the robber,  and spoke nothing against anyone. Christ loved life and was scared to lose it, but he spent, especially his final hours, using it help others and accepting the will of God. 

   I think we all love life- we love friends, family, and we can enjoy life. Many opportunities  and experiences define life for us and they make it enjoyable. However, as proven throughout Christs ministry on earth and his final hours, the true happiness and fulfillment of life is a twofold action: living it helping others, and living it accepting the will of God. 

   While he prayed at the Mount of Olives, Christ was sweating tears of blood. He knew exactly what faced him in his near future and he was scared. Christ prayed that he might not go through this- he asked that this pain might not come upon him. But at the end of his prayer, he accepts that his suffering and death is part of Gods greater plan. He accepts that it is through him the sins of the world will be placed upon and forgiven- but to do so he must endure physical pain. 

   Through  this special week, in which Christ triumphed death and passed over into new ever-lasting life, we can see the fathers love poured out. This week is a love-story reaching its climax, the most important and exciting part, in which the most crucial  actions shall be completed.  Through out this week we will walk with Christ to the cross and be there every step of the way. We begin that walk today. A walk where we experience events out of the ordinary, events that catch out attention. These Masses and events that take place reveal in the most perfect way Christs ultimate love for us, so that we may be one, with him. 

Let us join with people shouting, " Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" 

We welcome the Lord Jesus into the Eternal city of Jerusalem!

We welcome the Lord Jesus into our hearts as he makes his triumphant entrance. As we journey through this week, we must choose if we turn our cheer into one of sentencing and death or keep with him, even when times are tough.