The Kerygma, as given to St. Catherine of Siena by the LORD

From the dialogue On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor

The eternal Father, indescribably kind and tender, turned his eye to this soul and spoke to her thus:

‘O dearest daughter, I have determined to show my mercy and loving kindness to the world, and I choose to provide for mankind all that is good. But man, ignorant, turns into a death-giving thing what I gave in order to give him life. Not only ignorant, but cruel: cruel to himself. But still I go on providing. For this reason I want you to know: whatever I give to man, I do it out of my great providence.

‘So it was that when, by my providence, I created man, I looked into myself and fell in love with the beauty of the creature I had made – for it had pleased me, in my providence, to create man in my own image and likeness.

‘Moreover, I gave man memory, to be able to remember the good things I had done for him and to be able to share in my own power, the power of the eternal Father.

‘Moreover, I gave man intellect, so that, seeing the wisdom of my Son, he could recognise and understand my own will; for I am the giver of all graces and I give them with a burning fatherly love.

‘Moreover, I gave man the desire to love, sharing in the tenderness of the Holy Spirit, so that he might love the things that his intellect had understood and seen.

‘But my kind providence did all this solely that man might be able to understand me and enjoy me, rejoicing in my vision for all eternity. And as I have told you elsewhere, the disobedience of your first parent Adam closed heaven to you – and from that disobedience came all evil through the whole world.

‘To relieve man of the death that his own disobedience had brought, I tenderly and providently gave you my only-begotten Son to heal you and bring satisfaction for your needs. I gave him the task of being supremely obedient, to free the human race of the poison that your first parent’s disobedience had spread throughout the world. Falling in love, as it were, with his task, and truly obedient, he hurried to a shameful death on the most holy Cross. By his most holy death he gave you life: not human life this time, but with the strength of his divinity.’

Lift High the Cross

He saves us by our pain, because He has shared it.

God is so amazing that:

That by which we fall He saves us. Remember this. It is one of those eternal truths.

Believing the lie from the serpent in the garden led to death. What was the first sin? Pride. Distrust of God.

The serpents in the desert led to death. What was the sin? Grumbling, complaining…again…distrust of God.

What brought them healing and new life? Looking upon the serpent on a pole, held up by Moses. Trusting in the Word of God, “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live” (Num 21:8).

There are Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-15).

And later He also says in John, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:40, my emphasis).

Jesus was lifted up on the Cross. By His death, He conquered Satan, the serpent in the garden, with something he is incapable of understanding—enfleshed merciful love that gives selflessly to others.

When we look upon Him and believe, we have new life, just as those in the desert.

When we believe His Word and look upon Him, and say “Amen, (I believe), ” and receive Him in the Eucharist…we not only spiritually, but materially have God’s eternal life-giving flesh within us.

Where we are weak He is strong. He is there in our weakness, in our pain. Placing our weaknesses and our pain at the foot of the Cross joins us to Jesus. He suffers with us and heals us, bringing peace into our hearts.

That by which we fall He saves us. Turn to Him and tell Him all about it. “Do not forget the works of the Lord” (Ps 78:7b). Jesus, I trust in You.

Baptism is about Belonging

Baptism is not just a magical formula. It is not about words that mean different things to different people. Especially today we fight about particular words and their meaning: fatherhood, motherhood, marriage…are just a few. Getting their meaning right is important for communication. I mean, who would tell you that black is white?

Since the time of Christ, since the time when He actually spoke the words written in Matthew 28:19-20 [“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”] and John 14, the words of Baptism have been So Important.

(I paraphrase): “Go out and unleash the Good News of what God has done for you! Go to all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. You are my disciples. You now speak for me. You will do greater things than I have done! I and the Father are One. I will send the Holy Spirit, and we will dwell in you. Through the Holy Spirit, you are in ME and I in YOU, and we will dwell together, in LOVE, for eternity.

Jesus didn’t use these exact words. I have condensed two Gospel passages.

But the above is what I believe that He meant. And this meaning is exactly why Baptism, as the Rite of Initiation into the family of God, is so important. Jesus gave us the words. Peter elaborates in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Again, Jesus gave us the words, and now Peter gives us the person, in Whose name, they are spoken. To do anything in Jesus’ name is to make that thing happen.

Once we are baptized, we belong to God, and the words Jesus spoke to His disciples in John 14 are realized.

These words, among others, are spoken in the Catholic Rite of Baptism:

“[Name of person], the Christian community welcomes you with great joy. In its name I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his cross. I now trace the cross on your forehead, and invite your parents (and godparents) to do the same. (Priest, parents, Godparents mark a cross on child’s forehead).

“[Name of person], I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (Priest thrice pours water over person’s head).

When the priest says “I baptize you;” when anyone says “I baptize you,” with proper Trinitarian form and matter (water), the person is baptized. The newly baptized belongs to the the family of God. The Holy Spirit dwells within the person, and the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity (the life of the eternal God) are infused. All sins are forgiven, including Original Sin. The virtues, a free gift from God through this rite of baptism, will carry this person through earthly life to earthly death, and to eternal life with the Father.

This is the eternal now. Once it happens it is done for eternity. Persons are claimed for Christ. They belong.

Because God is so good, because God is so loving…He can and does work outside this Sacrament. He doesn’t need it. But we do, so that we know.

Baptism gives us the right to say, “Lord, I claim you as my FATHER.”

Baptism gives us the right to say, “Jesus, I claim you as my SAVIOR.”

We Belong!

The Spirit of Truth actually lives within us, and propels us back to Abba, no matter what we have done!  Who can forget the story of the Prodigal Son?  We often do not even consider the Father’s love; we concentrate on the son or his brother.  The Father’s love was so unconditional, the son knew he belonged, and he returned. The faith of our parents, the faith of our friends -whoever brings us to baptism – has been enough to bring us, too, into the bosom of the Father for eternity.  Who can forget the story of the paralytic, whose four friends brought him to Jesus? “And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you’” (Luke 5:20, my emphasis).

Again, because God is so good, so loving, He still calls us in our hearts back to him. Even when we haven’t been baptized, or even if the words weren’t right, He is still calling us to himself, through Baptism. He calls us to take the plunge!

This is why we Christians remind ourselves of our Baptism with Holy Water. “I claim you for Christ” now becomes our own, “Father, I claim you as my daddy!”

Many who are reading this understand that I am writing in response to the pastoral crisis in the Archdiocese of Detroit that has come about because the correct formula was not used for Baptism for many, many people. There are parents who are devastated at this news. Many have sons and daughters who now do not go to Church. For such a time is this… let us go to St. Monica and to St. Augustine to intercede for us — for all of the sons and daughters affected by this; all of the mothers and fathers — Lord, bring us back to YOU. Call us by name in our hearts. Give us the grace to return to YOU.

Amen

Please see the links for St. Monica and St. Augustine — Their feast days are Thursday and Friday of this week — August 27 and 28.

Lectio Divina: He Knows My Name…and Yours

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, and I just “went” to Mass in my living room with my beloved family.  This pandemic has given us the opportunity to change our ways of doing things — a hidden blessing is that we talk about the readings together.  I teach the Bible, but I usually don’t force this upon my own family…(They often remind me that they get enough through everyday conversation, lol).  Today I couldn’t help myself.  For reference, click the link for the readings from Mass today, the 4th Sunday of Easter: USCCB.

St. Peter begins in the Acts of the Apostles: “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:14, 36).

Granted, the readings for today skip over a wonderful review by Peter of Salvation History (skipping Acts 2:15-35), still, I asked the family the following question, knowing that they could answer it:  “Who is Peter talking to?”

“The Jews,” my oldest daughter said.

YES!  The Jews.  The reading continues, saying that they were “cut to the heart” and they asked what they should do.

“Repent and be baptized!” Peter said.

Aha!  Baptism!  So I asked the question, “What is the big deal about Baptism, and what does it have to do with today’s readings?”

The answer is everything (not my family’s answer!), when we consider the Rite of Baptism in the Catholic Church.  The rite begins with questions, and the second question is the most relevant to today’s readings.  

“What is the name of the child you bring for Baptism?

Our given name is so important, especially when we are baptized.  This is our adoption, through Jesus, into the Holy Family of God.  We become tabernacles of the Holy Spirit, imbued with the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.  We are brought into the Blessed Trinity of Love.  We are washed clean of Original Sin, given the light of Christ, and we “put on” the white garment of Christ.  All this is done with our own name, and in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In the psalm today we chant, “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” (Ps 23:1).  He leads us and guides us, for HIS name’s sake.  He gives us everything we need.  This psalm is good to remember and to pray, especially when we move to the second reading, where we hear from St. Peter again.

Peter begins, “If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps” (1 Pt 2:20b-21).

This man whom God made Lord and Christ suffered for us (recall first reading). This man said to us, “Follow me.” (Many times in the Gospels). When we are baptized we put on His garment, we receive His light — for a glorious purpose — to share in His victory over sin and death. St. Peter concludes, “For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (ibid, v. 25).

Why do we follow Him?

Because He is the Good Shepherd, but not only this. He is the gate. “Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture” (John 10:9), Jesus says in today’s Gospel.

How do we know to go through Him?

The answer is earlier in the Gospel reading: “But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (Jn 10:2-3, my emphasis).

Do we see the importance of our name?  Do we see why the Church asks for this name for Baptism? When He calls our name… when we hear His voice… we remember, and we follow!

Jesus is always calling our name, because we belong to Him through Baptism.

Recall Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday — when did she recognize the Lord, her Shepherd?

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’” (Jn 20:16). We read this only a few weeks ago.

Fast forward to another book in the Bible. Jesus echoes the words of Peter from today in the Book of Revelation. Here is ‘the rest of the story’:

“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev 3:5).

Jesus is our Shepherd, our Defender.  He knows our name, and we know Him.  The Father sees us and loves us through Him, and brings us into union with the Trinity, in the Holy Spirit.

My Holy Week Miracle

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. 

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act (Ps 37:4). 

It was February of 2017 and I was in the midst of the most difficult spiritual and emotional trial I had ever experienced in my life. There was an event that occurred in previous months that had exacerbated the deep pain I was experiencing — something that opened the can of worms, so to speak. I was a bit uneasy in my job trying to balance home and work, and this event added to my emotional stress.  I don’t want to go into the details of these days except to give the underlying cause of it: I didn’t have a father. The above psalm verse spoke to me deep in my heart at this time, so much so that I put it on my computer desktop so that I would read it everyday.  It gave me hope that there was peace and healing at the end of this emotional pain I was experiencing.

It may seem strange to say that I didn’t have a father.  Everyone has a father, don’t they?  And indeed I do too, but there were some very difficult circumstances regarding our relationship.  To make a long story short, my father abandoned me.  I met him when I was 16.  We had 10 years of seeing each other a few times a year, and then, after I had my first child, we had a falling out and he wouldn’t talk to me anymore.  By the time I placed this psalm quote on my desktop it had been twenty years since we had spoken.  I had sent him many cards throughout the years, and even tried to speak to him on the phone one Christmas.  Nothing.  I was, however, in contact with my aunt, his only sibling.

For this next section of the story I would like to give a different quote from Sacred Scripture, because it provides the purpose of this testimony: 

Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Pt 3:15).  

Fast forward to Tuesday of Holy Week of 2017.  The date was April 11.  I was up early to say my morning prayers.  Since it was Holy Week I was trying to pray the Office of Readings every morning. The Letter to the Hebrews spoke of how fathers discipline their children (cf. Heb 12:1-13).  The passage from Hebrews quotes the book of Proverbs:

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights (Prov 3:11-12). 

I was surely feeling like I was being punished or disciplined, yet I didn’t know why or by whom.

In whom he delights…” I thought.

“Show me that you delight in me, Lord!” I cried out.  This idea of “delight” was intriguing to read, because my spiritual director kept telling me this — that God delights in me — but I didn’t believe it.  (nota bene —This is an example of spiritual darkness that can happen to anyone).

My thoughts immediately went to St. Joseph.  I thought of how he must have loved Jesus so much, and how he took such good care of Him.  I looked for a picture on Google of Joseph with Jesus.  I found the one above, and put it on the background for my phone, so that every time I looked at my phone I would see an image of a father’s love for his child.  I said a little prayer to St. Joseph: “Please be with me.  Pray for me to know that God delights in me.”

I finished my morning preparation, got the kids off to school, and went to work.  I began my work day with Mass, still offering this intention and asking St. Joseph to intercede for me.  I worked at my computer that morning preparing binders for the Sacred Triduum Masses.  At 10:22 a.m., about 4 hours after I had cried out to God, I received an email from my aunt, with subject line, “Your Dad.”

The most important information in the email was, “Your dad would definitely like to speak with you.  If you could find it in your heart to call him, I know it would help him very much to hear from you.”

I was stunned.  Find it in my heart?  I looked at the picture on my phone.  “You really came through, St. Joseph!  I don’t know what exactly this means, but you really came through!”

Twenty years had passed since I last spoke to my dad, and now he wanted me to call.  Amazing… and it happened right after I had cried out to God…during Holy Week.  It was truly a miracle.

This miracle was the beginning of a lot of healing that God has done in my heart for the last three years.  I was able to see my dad again, and he was able to meet my children.  Nevertheless, he was never a father to me, nor a grandfather to my children.  But he and I are two souls to whom God wanted to bring His healing grace.  God brought my dad a necessary reconciliation towards the end of  his life, and He brought me a better and increasing knowledge of Himself as my Heavenly Father who created me, loves me, and delights in me.  

He has truly given me the desires of my heart.

My dad died September 9, 2018.  Every Holy Week from now on is not only a beautiful reminder of what God has done for all of us, but what He has done personally for me.  God is truly a Good, Good Father.