My Most Magnificent Blessing

Sometimes we fail to notice the most amazing messages, even when they are right in front of us. If we’re lucky, we can recall those images later and catch the miracle.

Ten years ago, while on vacation in Arizona, my wife Lucy and I visited Antelope Canyon. It is extremely narrow and twisting. As a result, only thin shafts of light can get to the bottom, and only very close to noon.

Light ShaftAs we walked around, I noticed that one of the shafts of light was resting on the ground in the shape of heart. I knew the shape would be gone in a few moments, so I rushed to take a picture. But first, I asked Lucy to get behind the shaft so that it wouldn’t be ‘just another picture’ that I could get from any tourist book. In other words, this was personal. At the time, however, I didn’t know just how intensely personal it really was…

Looking back, I can see that the scene was, in miniature, what God was doing in my life. Here, in an instant, he whispered his plan to me. He was streaming down his light upon me from heaven, in the shape of love, through Lucy.

It is no coincidence that her name means ‘Light’. Continue reading

Fast and Pray for Our Country

Fast and Pray for Our CountryRecently, Father John Riccardo made a ‘proposal’ to his parish.  He suggested that they come together – as a parish family – to fast and pray for the spiritual health of our country.  In his homily, he includes some amazing quotes from early U.S. presidents who asked our country – as a whole – to pray and fast for our nation.  At the conclusion, he quotes from a different author.  It left me speechless…and crying.

Why didn’t he simply suggest prayer?  Why did he have to include fasting?  Because Jesus taught the Apostles that the most dangerous things that we face “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting”.  (Mark 9:29, emphasis added)

So, how did Father John’s parish respond?  Three days after his homily, eight hundred parishioners showed up at an evening Mass after having fasted for the day, and they solemnly prayed together for the health of this nation.  Each of them ‘broke their fast’ with the Eucharist.  They will continue to do this each Wednesday for the remainder of the year.

If you are concerned about the spiritual direction of this country, I hope – with all my heart – that you’ll spend a few minutes and listen to this homily.  Perhaps you will consider joining Father John’s parish in your own home, in your own way.

Peace,
Greg


Bonus:  After you’ve listened to the homily, click here to watch Father John explain a few details about fasting.

 

Journey Home Q&A

Immediately after the Journey Home show aired, I received e-mails asking me to explain (or defend) some of the Catholic positions on issues of faith. While I do not claim to be a Biblical or Catholic scholar, I’ll give it my best shot – from my ‘logical’ point of view. Continue reading

About The Journey Home Appearance

*** If you missed the episode, you can click here to see it online. ***

Several weeks ago, I was invited to be the guest on EWTN’s ‘The Journey Home’ program for the episode that aired Monday, April 4th, 2016.  To say that I was excited about the invite is an enormous understatement.

While the show airs on EWTN, it is produced by The Coming Home Network.  The folks there are positively amazing.  Each one is smarter and nicer then the next.

In the picture above, it may seem like Marcus and I are roughly the same height, but he’s actually at least 4 or 5 inches taller than I am — a big, gentle bear of a man.  I assume he has had his seat lowered to make his guests feel more comfortable.  A gesture like that would certainly match his personality: welcoming, kind, and genuine. Continue reading

What does ‘Entirely Catholic’ mean?

Featured

The term ‘EntirelyCatholic‘ has a specific meaning for me, but it does not mean that I claim to be ‘Entirely’ good, faith-filled, holy, or any other nice adjective.  Actually, I’m so far from perfect that I don’t think I can even see it from where I am…

The actual meaning comes as a result of my decades-long search for faith. I did just about everything wrong, but still wound up finding faith (Jer 29:13 is true!).  I started attending Bible study as an agnostic, and found my ‘logical side’ digging into first-century culture, word meanings, and consistency between verses.  The toughest part was finding an interpretation that stayed consistent as I moved from verse to verse and book to book.  Occasionally, I’d run up against two (distant) verses that contradicted each other, based on my current understanding.  To make a long story short, I started doing a lot of ‘logical’ research and found that the Continue reading

‘A Two-Second Friendship’

Featured

Can you have a sincere and meaningful friendship that only lasts two seconds? I believe so. And I believe I had one this past Friday.

My wife and I arrived at the emergency room at about 8am. For the first time, it was actually my wife in distress and not me. The symptoms led us to believe that Lucy was passing a kidney stone: sharp, severe, lower-back pain that had eventually expanded around to the lower belly.

Lucy underwent some tests, and she was given fluids and pain medication. As anyone who has suffered through a kidney stone will tell you, the pain is incredible.

The first dose of morphine didn’t even make a dent, so they went to a higher strength medication. Continue reading

Jeff Cavins – Bible Timeline

Lunch – and an indescribably good conversation – at the beach with Jeff! Is life great, or what?

Last night, I dropped Jeff Cavins off at the airport after he essentially ‘handed’ the entire Bible to us — in a single day — with his powerful and energetic explanation of the story of salvation history. It was an incredible event. I am still trying to absorb everything I heard, but the following things stand out: Continue reading

Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, and Corpus Christi

I am constantly amazed at how many things are hinted at in the Old Testament (OT), and then fulfilled and ‘perfected’ in the New Testament (NT).

One of the ‘official’ ways to describe this is by using the terms ‘type’ and ‘anti-type’.  A ‘type’ is an event (or thing, or person) in the OT which points to an upcoming fulfillment in the NT.  The ‘anti-type’ which occurs in the NT, is the ‘type’ made perfect.

To me, the term ‘anti-type’ is a bit confusing, because it seems to be a ‘negative’ word – but it’s just the ‘removal of the shadow’ so you can see the ‘real thing’ that God wanted to share with us all along.

There’s a very good reason that has God revealed things to us this way. Continue reading

‘Magnetic Paternity’

Why is Father’s Day 2014 a bit special for Catholics?

Well, in a fortunate coincidence – this weekend we celebrate the ‘Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity’ – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

So this year, Father’s Day coincides with the day that we stop and ponder the mystery of the Triune God.  (The last time was 2011, and the next time will be 2019.)

I’m especially excited to be lectoring this weekend because of one particular line that is contained in the second reading. Continue reading

‘What I’m Learning While My Dog is Dying’

My dear, sweet dog is showing the signs of a dog that knows it’s time on Earth is coming to a close.  Confusion, shaking, weakness, behavior changes, loss of ‘control’, and the dreaded signs of not wanting to eat or drink.  Luckily, one of the medications has jump-started her desire to eat, but she hasn’t touched anything to drink in two days.  I’m mixing water into her food, but I know it won’t work forever.  Katie just wants to curl up with either me or Lucy – and be loved.  I’m supremely grateful that we’ve got time to say goodbye while she’s still able to walk outside with us, still able to enjoy a ‘good sniff in the wind’, still able to recognize us, and return our love.

Never in my life have I so wanted to be wrong about something, but I think she’s going to be moving on soon.

Amazingly, I’ve been learning some very interesting things over the last few days. Continue reading

‘Time and Anxiety’

I’ve always wondered what age I will be in heaven…

Well, I read something a little while back that gave me a clue.  A very young girl had been revived after being clinically dead for a short while.  When she awoke, she told her family that she was met by her (departed) grandmother and that they had spent some time together.  As she relayed the encounter to her family, there was one element that stood out.  The little girl spoke calmly, and as if nothing was strange, about the way her grandmother had looked.  It was as if her grandmother was a young girl, a young woman, and an older woman all at the same time – as if there was one face that showed ‘all’ of her grandmother in one glance.

Perhaps it’s a glimpse into how God sees us.  In this life, we have to go through one year before we get to see the next one – we know what has past, but do not know what is to come.  But God stands ‘outside of time’.  It’s as if he has a deck of cards and can flip all the moments of our life ‘face up’ on a table and view our entire life ‘in the present’.  He can see our entire life in one glance.  There is no future or past for God – it’s all right now.

Then, during this Sunday’s homily, something hit me when I heard the phrase ‘we have regrets about the past, and have anxieties and worries about the future’.  Something about that phrase just struck me. Continue reading

‘If God Already Knows Everything, Why Pray?’

It’s a fair and reasonable question.  Time and time again, we’re told that God knows, well…everything.

He knows when each sparrow will fall (Luke 12:6), he knows our thoughts (Psalm 139:2), he knows our sins (Psalm 69:5), and he’s numbered all the hairs on our heads (Matt 10:30).

Yet we’re still told to pray ‘unceasingly’ (1 Thess 5:17).  We’re told to beg forgiveness for our sins (prayers of contrition), to ask for things (prayers of petition), and – most amazing of all – to just sit and talk with God (prayers of ‘relationship’).

But why pray when we’re told that he already knows our sins, our desires, and our inner-most thoughts?  Doesn’t his qualities of being infinitely merciful, giving, and loving already take care of things for us? Continue reading

‘Harden Not Your Heart’

In a couple of weeks, I lector at an 8am Sunday Mass.  There are a few things that the lector does differently at that Mass, and I’ve goofed up once or twice.  I don’t like goofing up while in the direct service of God, so this morning I was going over a mental checklist of what I have to remember for the ‘special’ 8am Mass a few weeks from now.

For one thing, the priest, deacon, and lector don’t do a full procession down the center aisle, we simply come in from the side and bow to the altar.  At a normal weekend Mass, the lector has two short readings, as well as a few other responsibilities — but at the 8am Mass, the lector also leads the responsorial psalm in between the first and second readings – and then says (or sings) the Alleluia after the second reading, just before the Gospel is read.  That makes four separate things to do – in a row – before sitting back down.  To me, it always seems like ‘a long time’ up there, and I feel like I should be ‘getting out of the way’ to let the Mass continue – so towards the end I mentally rush.  In fact, I have been known to forget the Alleluia all together – which leaves the priest (or deacon) walking across the altar to read the Gospel in an awkward silence.

So – that explains why the Alleluia was on my mind this morning before Mass.  Now, I happen to like singing the Alleluia (along with the aptly-titled ‘Alleluia verse’) – but that means I need to know what that verse is ahead of time, because it changes each week and I have to make up a little tune for it.  As I was still getting ready for Mass, I couldn’t look up what the verse was going to be, but because of my own ‘hardness’ lately, I was really hoping the verse was ‘If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart’.  I even started making up a little tune for it.

So when I get to Mass this morning, guess what the ‘response’ to the responsorial psalm was?  You guessed it!  (Or, if you didn’t guess it — well, c’mon…catch up!)

Everything I’ve typed so far is simply lead-in.  For me, the phrase ‘harden not your heart’ reminds me of when God tells Moses to offer Pharaoh a choice: free the Israelites, or else suffer terrible consequences.  Now, we all know the story of the confrontation and the plagues, but what strikes me is that God tells Moses that he will ‘harden Pharaoh’s heart’. Continue reading

‘My Dog’s Personal Space’

I’ve never had kids, but I am a doting doggie daddy.  We’ve had Katie for a little over two and a half years now, and she’s an absolutely beautiful, sweet-tempered dog.  I spend a lot of time trying to ‘communicate’ with her.  I’m ‘sure’ she loves me, and I’m ‘sure’ she knows I love her – but it would be great to just have a few sentences in a common language to express it directly.  Alas, it’s not to be – it’s not quite the way we were designed.  We just have to ‘know‘ the love is there.

She has various ailments – so I sometimes have to poke, prod, check, and apply ointments.  She just stands there patiently.  She doesn’t understand what I’m doing, but she ‘knows‘ I’m trying to help her.

Just now I was noticing her limp a little, and I felt her shoulders and noticed a significant difference in the warmth over one of her shoulders as compared to the other.  What was she thinking?  Maybe she thought Continue reading

‘We Stole Our Gifts’

A random musing inspired by this afternoon’s lunch conversation with a good friend…

There was a moment, before we were born, when we were left alone in a candy shop.

Innocently, we looked around and saw plenty of attractive things, and we took some of them.  And then we walked out of the store without paying.  We didn’t know any better.

God let us keep those gifts.  He graciously blessed them and he let us think they were things that we rightly owned.  Then he wiped our memory clean of our childish theft.

The gifts that we have in our life – our wisdom, strength, joy, goodness – our generosity, self-control, our families, and even our very lives – are not our own.  Like a good-natured thief, we took them one day, and now we can’t even remember our own petty theft. Continue reading

‘Praying Over Cars’

I helped out at the Youth Group car wash fundraiser Saturday morning – and saw some amazing things.

First off, twenty kids (give or take) just working like crazy to wash cars.  No slacking, no whining, no excuses – just working hard – constantly – with nothing but smiles.  Between 9am and 11am we had a non-stop barrage of cars – and no complaints from anyone.  Just wash, wash, wash – dry, dry, dry – and vacuum…well, you get the point.  These kids had the cars looking great.

In the back of my mind, throughout the entire event, was the fact that this was all being done to raise money to help some of the high-school kids afford to go to the faith-building Steubenville event in Orlando.  But there were lots of middle school kids there – working hard.  And a few high-school kids were there that might not be attending – but still working hard.  All of them graciously working hard to send their fellow Youth Group friends to a conference designed to strengthen their faith.  The kids of our parish were not there to receive, but to give.  Amazing. Continue reading

Father John: How to Thrive

Yesterday evening, at Bible Study, I played an 11-minute long homily by Father John Riccardo.  It was well received, so I am passing it along to everyone.

The homily has no official name, but could easily have been titled ‘How to Thrive’.  It is useful for all of us, but it was specifically geared towards high school graduates that will have their faith ‘challenged’ as they go on to college or enter into ‘life’.  (Father John’s parish includes a school, and this homily was delivered on the weekend of graduation.)

Play: Father John’s ‘How to Thrive’

It is far from being a somber list of ‘what not to do’ in college.  Instead, Father John offers an absolutely inspiring guide to how to thrive in life.

If your kids are the right age – and you can get them to sit still for 11 straight minutes – this might be a particularly great moment to spend with your kids, sharing some beautifully spoken help as they begin their final steps toward adulthood.

Peace,
Greg

‘Why Are We Here?’

Oh, great idea, Greg.  Try to tackle this one in a few sentences…

I had this question posed recently, and it got me thinking.  It’s the ‘great question’, and it’s been pondered by philosophers and theologians, musicians and poets, optimists and pessimists, believers and non-believers.  Each with their own ‘take’ on the issue.  So I asked myself – what’s my take on it?

If you had asked me a year ago, I would have looked at my life and asked back, ‘Well, why not be here?’  After all, I’ve certainly had my share of serious struggles, but I’ve lived quite the charmed life.  I’ve been astonishingly lucky at love, somehow managing to talk an absolute angel into marrying me, someone who continues to take my breath away after over 30 years.  I’ve invented clever things, I’ve helped deserving people, I’ve been recognized for my accomplishments, I’ve seen beautiful parts of this world – and I have a gorgeous dog.

But then everything changed about nine months ago.  At 30,000 feet over the Atlantic, and after 48 years of searching, I finally came to believe in God.

I had always assumed that if this crucial search ever bore fruit, that I would be ‘relieved’ – that I could finally ‘rest’.  Far from it. Continue reading

The Surprise Dove

I was gathering images for my talk next week and an image of a dove appeared in the search results.  This was unexpected, as I was researching cathedrals, and the search words really shouldn’t have lead to this picture of a flying dove – an unmistakable image of the Holy Spirit.  (I added the words and the fancy lens flare – but the dove itself came from the search.) Continue reading