Have you ever had someone say to you, “I’m spiritual, but I’m just not religious.”? There are times I have reflected on what that actually means, so here are a few thoughts.
The word “spiritual” refers to the deepest part of our being where we experience God. Spirit is the dimension of each of us whereby we are always aspiring to be in union with God. Can such moments occur outside of a church? Certainly they can happen – in the woods, on a lake, or wherever you feel God’s presence. But true spirituality needs to be nourished so that it may grow. To be truly spiritual, we must continue to grow closer and closer to Jesus, sometimes in ways we may never imagine. Stagnant spirituality is equivalent to being a lukewarm Christian. Jesus warns us of that danger over and over in the Gospels.
Then what is “religious”? It is simply the practice of someone’s thought about or worship of a divine being. The key word here is “practice”. When we are religious, we practice our spirituality; we put it into action. When we are here together at the Mass, praying, singing, meditating, we are in reality practicing our spirituality.
It would seem to me (realizing this can be argued) that we need to be religious to get closer to Jesus. Experiencing him in nature is great, but to get closer to the one who created us, we have a necessity to be religious. And our Catholic faith (religion) offers us the absolute, most intimate humanly possible way to get closer to Jesus: It is called the Eucharist, and it is truly the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. If you want to experience the ultimate in spirituality, to feel God’s presence deep inside of you, I beg you to experience this wonderful Sacrament as much as possible! If you do, I guarantee you will get closer and closer to Jesus every time and he will continue to change your life in ways you may never realize!
- Deacon Jeff
A week ago, Fr. Ryan and I spent three days at the annual Clergy Congress for pastors, administrators, and pastoral leaders. The focus of this event was largely on vocations to the priesthood. The speaker was superb. Following a little reflection on those days, I am stirred to share some of my feelings.
First, the goal of Bishop Ricken and our Diocese of Green Bay is to have 30 young men in priestly formation (seminarians) every year by 2025. Currently, we have ten men in seminaries and another seven who are in what is called the Kairos year – a year of discernment to determine if God is indeed calling them to the seminary. I have brought back from the meeting new prayer cards, listing the men in formation/discernment and I ask you if you are willing, to take one and pray each day for the intention of that day of the month. This is a very simple task and will take you a minute or so each day to fulfill.
Second, I am convinced there are young men here at Prince of Peace being called to the priesthood, and furthermore, young women being called to the religious life. Here is where each of us – especially me – can help! We all need to see the traits in a young person that may be leading them to the priesthood or religious life. If so, we need to necessarily tell them! This is a difficult task, but the more they hear that message, the more God will work on them IF this is their vocation.
Finally, I say this. As a parent of two boys (now men), I realize it can be difficult to actually pray for them to be priests someday. After all, that would mean less or no grandchildren, and most of us would love to have grand-children. I love them! But when you had your child(ren) baptized, the first goal for you as a parent from that day forward is to get them to Heaven. If they accomplish great worldly things but do not get to Heaven, as parents, we have failed them – and God.
Please consider praying for vocations daily by taking one of the cards. And please pray God calls young people from this parish - maybe even your son or daughter to the priesthood or religious life!
- Deacon Jeff
The month of October is known as the month of the Rosary. We actually celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7. This celebration has gone on for over 450 years. The Rosary was prayed by many in earnest, led by St. Pius V, to bring a successful end to a war at that time. By the way – it worked!
Today, we can use the prayer of the Rosary for so many different reasons: In thanksgiving for prayers granted, in petitioning for healing of someone, for our country, our state, our parish...I could go on and on. There are countless reasons to pray the Rosary, yet many of us do not take advantage of this wonderful prayer. Why? For many, my guess is that it is too long (not enough time), too repetitive (boring) and that we are not able to focus enough to really be “praying”.
If you don’t have enough time, pray just one decade (10 Hail Marys), which would take at most 2-3 minutes. If you do not have enough time to do that, you obviously don’t want to pray. If you think it’s repetitive, you are correct! But this gives you a chance to reflect on the mystery of the Rosary you are praying or the petition you are praying for. And if you think you are not really “praying” because your mind is wandering during the Rosary, that’s perfectly fine! Jesus and his mother are so pleased you are coming to them, even if your mind is not totally there; just the fact you decided to say these prayers is great!
The Rosary is a very powerful weapon that Satan hates almost more than anything or anyone! He even hates people who carry the Rosary around in their pockets! So, if the Rosary is in your car, your home, your purse, your pocket, you already have a powerful defense against Satan. There’s only one other thing to do – pray the Rosary as often as you can!
- Deacon Jeff
When you walk into the church here at Prince of Peace and look above the sanctuary at the round stained-glass window, you will see a beautiful chalice and host. This is a representation of the second person of the Trinity: God the Son, or Jesus. How many of us can look at that window and actually see an image of Jesus?
When Father holds up the chalice and host before Communion and says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world…” do we see Jesus? Do we see the Lamb of God who does take away the sins of the entire world through his sacrifice on the Cross?
The Mass holds so many beautiful moments within it; moments that we easily take for granted. Although what we physically see is a gold cup and a piece of bread, that IS the Creator and Savior of the world! How can it be? Because Jesus told his apostles so! But Jesus loves us so much that he wants us to see him through the eyes of our faith.
St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote this prayer of thanksgiving for himself (and us) to recite after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist:
“Receive, Lord, my entire freedom. Accept the whole of my memory, my intellect, and my will. Whatever I have or own, it was You who gave it to me; I restore it to You in full, and I surrender it completely to the guidance of Your will. Give me only love of You together with Your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more. Amen”
May this help bring the real presence of Jesus to you in an even more special way!
- Deacon Jeff
Recently, I have given thought about what it means to be “good” in the world. Maybe I need to start with a definition of good, which is: The concept of good denotes the conduct that should be preferred when posed with a choice between possible actions. Good is generally considered to be the opposite of evil. Since we are all created by God, who is perfectly good, everyone has at least some good in them.
Although every person (even the most evil person) does good at some moment in their life, the goal of life should be to do as much good as we can in the time we are given here on earth. Now I am sure there are a lot of self-help books written and available on this topic, but I’d like to offer a few of my reflections on what “good” means to me. Note that I fail at these often and these points are in my opinion very difficult:
Put others needs in front of your own. Understand that everything you have; your material goods, your health, your time, your talents, are a gift from God. Thus, it is necessarily your responsibility to share all your gifts with others. IF God and all the goodness of God is important to you, it has to show in the way you live your life. It simply cannot help but happen. Whatever you do – do your very best every day. Doing only the very least just to get by disappoints God, and it should disappoint you as well.
So many times in my life I fall short of one or all of these goals of being “good”. In my mind, that is sinful and I ask God to forgive me for my failings. My hope is that this becomes a daily prayer for each of us: no matter where we are in life, may we all do more “good” in our lives! Deacon Jeff
A major part of Jesus’ ministry as God and man here on earth was to perform miracles. We all have some sort of idea of what a miracle is, but it is defined as an “unusual, unexpected or surprising event not explained by natural or scientific laws and therefore considered to be from a divine agency.” When we read or hear these stories from the gospel, do we really believe they happened or do we say they are simply a “coincidence”?
Just because miracles cannot be explained by natural laws, it does not mean they are a violation of nature. God and nature are not opposite of each other, but the society we live in today would like us to believe they are opposites. Jesus never worked a miracle to amaze a large group of people, even though they happened (feeding the 5000). He usually performed them with very few people around. So why is that? Jesus did not perform miracles to impress anyone. He was never paid for performing miracles. He did not perform miracles to earn a living.
So then, what exactly is the purpose of miracles, both in Jesus’ day and presently? In my humble opinion, they are to show us God exists in the world – always! Bad things happen in life; that is our human nature, our sinfulness, our brokenness. Jesus wanted everyone to understand then and now that since God created the world, there will be signs every day of God’s presence. Are you open to these signs or is the word “coincidence” a part of your daily vocabulary? Isn’t it great God gives each of us the freedom to decide for ourselves?
- Deacon Jeff