Category Archives: Communication

On Being Bullied – by A.J. Avila (PLUS a new novel)


Not too long ago, I published a blog post about how I was spurned in church during the Sign of Peace (see https://reflections911.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/spurned-at-church and also shared on this blog).  Then I made a huge mistake. I mentioned the post on a forum.
You would not believe the negativity I got. I was told what a horrible person I am, how being spurned was my own fault, and how I should have been more sympathetic to the woman who had treated me so poorly.
Silly me. I thought it was a teachable moment. I thought I made it clear this was something I needed to work on, that since St. Paul had rejoiced in his sufferings, I should learn to do that too.
I guess I should have known better than to mention what happened since you would not believe the reactions I’ve gotten when I disclose that I used to be bullied as a kid. I’ve grouped those responses into seven categories:
1. “I Don’t Believe You”
You’re told you’re either delusional or making a mountain out of a molehill. Like Holocaust deniers, some folk find it impossible to believe others, especially children, could be so cruel. Therefore, you must be making the whole thing up, probably to gain unwarranted sympathy for yourself.
2. “You Must Have Done Something to Deserve It”
Folks who tell you this also believe others wouldn’t be so cruel—unless, of course, you’ve given them a reason. You must have been a bully first and the treatment you received was simple retaliation. When you protest that you didn’t do anything, you’re not believed.
3. “Why Can’t You Just Shrug It Off?”
People who tell you this have probably experienced some bullying themselves. I agree that most likely few kids get through childhood without such a confrontation or two happening to them. What this fails to consider is that you’re not talking about a couple of isolated incidents. You’re talking about daily bullying, and not just by other children but by those—like teachers—in authority over you. A person who tells you to just shrug it off has no idea how much shrugging this would take.
4. “Grow a Backbone!” You should have a stiff upper lip and let the insults slide off you like water off a duck. After all, sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can never harm you. What the person telling you this fails to understand is that you were only a child and that names can harm your self-image, especially if it’s chronic name-calling.
5. “You Should Have Fought Back!”
This one seems to envision two little boys slugging it out on the school playground, and the bully, once thoroughly whooped, stops antagonizing his victim. Well, golly gee willikers, why didn’t I think of that? Oh wait. I did—with disastrous results. The problem here is that you’re not bullied by just other kids but by those in authority. So if you call your bully a name, she goes whining to the teacher, and then—behold!—now you’re the bully! It doesn’t matter if you do only a tenth of what the bully did to you. In everyone’s eyes, you are automatically wrong. In fact, you’ve just demonstrated that you deserve everything you’re getting.
6. “You Were the Victim of Bullying? Oh, Goody! I’ve Been Looking for One of Those!”
Amazingly, when you mention that you were bullied as a child, adult bullies, like a shark smelling a drop of blood in the ocean, come out in droves. I’ve been told by people who don’t know me at all that I’m a terrible, horrible person who has all kinds of physical and psychological problems.
7. “It Happened to Me Too”
Every once in a while, I come across a soul I can commiserate with. Unless you’ve been a victim of this yourself, you can only imagine what it’s like. Dealing with daily badgering isn’t easy, and I entirely disagree with the extremes of either jumping off a building or shooting up a classroom. So . . . just what do you do to survive this? My own tactic was to retreat into a world of books. When my nose was in a book, I was less likely to be accosted, and each novel I read allowed me to share an adventure in another world where I wasn’t bullied. I ended up reading a book a day—and if anything good came out of this, it helped prepare me for when I myself would be the novelist creating other worlds.

A.J. Avila has a brand new novel.  Take a look below.

My third Christian novel, Amaranth, is now available in paperback.
Here’s the story:
Would you take an elixir that made you perpetually young and physically immortal?
What if the price for it was your eternal soul?
Billionaire Desmond Sceller acquires such a wonder drug. But when eighty-year-old Marie Long is rejuvenated by it against her will, she quickly discovers unending beauty and youth is not the paradise it seems. Sceller, however, intends on using the elixir to entice all mankind into submitting to his tyrannical control. When Marie and her grandson Peter unearth this evil scheme, they soon discover that only an extraordinary sacrifice on their part can free humanity from Sceller’s nefarious plan.

Click here to purchase Amaranth on Amazon
Also, right now the Kindle version is on sale for just 99¢.

 

Lopsided Relationships by A.J. Avila

Lopsided Relationships by A.J. Avila at ajavilanovels

There’s an old saying that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you get your Prince Charming.

That was certainly the case for me. One young man, with whom I had a summer romance, had to have everything his way. And I mean everything. A sandwich, for example, had to be made to his exact specifications: “First the mayonnaise, then the lettuce, then the meat, then the tomato, in that order only.” If the sandwich had all the same ingredients but the mayonnaise was next to the tomato, he absolutely refused to eat it.

This attitude of his drastically affected our relationship. Any behavior of mine that wasn’t completely up to his standards was cause for criticism. For example, he told me how rude I was for phoning him while he was watching television – as if I could have known what he was doing while I was dialing. Trust me, nothing makes a girl feel more special than being told talking to her is not as desirable as watching reruns of The Munsters.

One night, at the end of our date, we arrived at my home, only to find two police cruisers, their red and blue lights flashing, parked at my house. Desperate to find out if my family was okay, I jumped from his car and ran inside. Fortunately, it turned out the police had overreacted to my mother’s complaint about a neighbor. But would you believe my boyfriend griped that I hadn’t kissed him goodnight first? In fact, he told me, I should have spent at least five minutes making out with him before checking on my family.

The last straw was what he said when he was leaving at the end of summer to go back to college. He told me that if I wanted to hear from him, I needed to mail him a self-addressed, stamped envelope “because it’s too much work to get an envelope and a stamp together.” Guess I wasn’t worth even that much to him.

[SIDENOTE: Don’t you occasionally wish you could go back in time with the perfect retort? Only years later did it occur to me that I should have responded with “You’re right. It’s too much work. I don’t think I can manage it.”

If you’re wondering why I put up with such abuse for an entire summer, I can only say that like many young women, I was desperate to be loved. I was willing to endure an awful lot of bad for the little scraps of good I was getting. People do this far more than they realize. Consider: who hasn’t spent half an hour in the hot sun waiting in line for an amusement park ride that lasts just a few minutes? At the time the trade-off seems worth it.

Anyway, when I thought back on this relationship, it got me thinking about how we sometimes treat God the way this young man treated me. Instead of saying “Thy will be done” how often will we “eat the sandwich” only if it’s made exactly the way we want it? How many times do we tell God “Don’t bother me right now. I’d rather watch an inane television show” instead of communicating with Him through prayer? And, worst of all, how often do we insist that God kowtow to us by doing all the work of our relationship with Him while we just sit back and reap the benefits?

I know I’m often guilty of such behavior.

My relationship with God is already far too lopsided for me not to put into it the effort that I should.

In case you’re wondering whatever happened to my ex-boyfriend, I managed to track him down on Facebook. I saw that, not only is he still single, but the first post I read by him was a complaint about women.

Thank goodness I had enough sense to break up with him.

And thank goodness that, despite everything, God hasn’t broken up with me.

 

THE BENEFITS OF DAILY MASS by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               Attending daily mass is so important to me, and I have been reaping the benefits of it for several decades.  I am retired now and it is easy for me to attend the 9:00am mass, right after I am finished with the gym.  When I was working, I had to attend the 7:00am mass and then go to the gym and then to work.  Either way, I made the decision to go to daily mass and to go to the gym.  I figured I needed to be healthy both spiritually and physically.  It is hard to separate the two.  I would like to share with you some of the benefits I have seen by going to daily mass in hopes that you too will try to attend daily mass or that if you already do, you may find support for what you are doing.

1 – Being in the Presence of the Lord.  I try to get to mass about 20 minutes early so that I can just sit in His presence.  I offer Him praise and sit quietly listening for any Word he may give me.  So often I have grown in my love of Him and grown in my ability to learn to trust Him in all things.  Our God is an awesome God and His love for us knows no limits.  It is so good to be in His presence.  It is unbelievable how a short time alone before the Lord in the tabernacle can improve your prayer life all day long.

2 – Listening to His Word.  Every day at mass we have two readings and a responsorial psalm.  The first reading is usually from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the second reading is from the Gospels.  The Church does a wonderful job of presenting cycles of readings so that you basically go through all of the important parts of the whole bible in three years.  Sundays are set on a three year cycle and weekday readings are set on a two year cycle.  If you only attend Sunday mass, you do not get the fullness of the readings cycle.  Beginning each day listening to God’s Word and the homily about it can really impact you all day long.  The Church also follows different Liturgical Seasons such as Advent, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary time.  The weekday readings emphasize the importance of these Seasons on a daily basis.  Immersing yourself in God’s Word is power giving.

3 – Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Jesus made it extremely clear that if we want to be filled with the fullness of life, we need to eat His body and drink His blood (Read John Chapter 6).  I would have to say that His Body and His Blood fill me with graces constantly.   Sometimes there is a reason that I cannot attend the morning mass (snow, Doctor, etc) and when that happens, I feel such a loss.  We are used to taking daily multi-vitamins and daily coffee etc. to pick us up, but to me, nothing picks me up better that receiving Him at daily mass.  The strength given to me by that lasts all day and affects every part of the person that I am.  I believe that I have an abundant life because I receive my Lord every day in the Eucharist.

4 – Experiencing Community.   Daily mass has less people in it than does Sunday mass.  Because of this, you get to meet these people and share your lives with them.  I know this can be true of Sunday mass, but daily mass emphasizes it.  You learn of your fellow parishioners ups and downs and you share a better level of community.  In our parish, every Wednesday we go over to our parish center and share with each other what the readings of the day have meant to us.  We usually have about 20 attend and it is a wonderful experience.  Also, at daily mass you get to know the things that are happening as they happen, not one week later like at Sunday mass.  We always have people who are struggling with health and life issues and daily mass allows us to be more supportive, especially on the days that they need it the most.  Community is a very important gift.

5 – Know your Priests and Deacons.  Daily mass gives us more of an opportunity to know the clergy that support our parishes.  They also get to know you better.  There is usually more time for meeting with the clergy.  You can also get to appreciate the homilies that they give.  You can bring support to them, and they can bring support to you.

               In closing, I cannot emphasize enough how important daily mass is to me.  I feel that I am a much stronger Christian because of it.  I know that I am closer to the Lord, and hear His voice better because of it.  It is also wonderful to know that people all over the world are hearing the same scriptures and receiving the same Lord at the same time I do.  You certainly get a fuller appreciation of the gift that the Church is to the world.  There are so many great books on the mass, but one that really touched me is Scott Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth”.  In it we see that we are really sharing in a little bit of heaven every time we attend mass.  I personally want to do that every day.

               I will end with some quotes that Dr. Taylor Marshall found about the Eucharist.  They say so much.  He says: These quotes remind me of the hidden mystery of the Holy Mass. I plan to review them before Mass during Lent. I’d encourage you to do the same if you also struggle with distractions. I may print them out on a card and put them in my missal:

  1. When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar. ~ St. John Chrysostom
  2. The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass. ~ St. Augustine
  3. If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  4. The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross. ~ Saint Thomas Aquinas
  5. Once, St. Teresa was overwhelmed with God’s Goodness and asked Our Lord “How can I thank you?” Our Lord replied, “ATTEND ONE MASS.”
  6. “My Son so loves those who assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that, if it were necessary He would die for them as many times as they’ve heard Masses.” Our Lady to Blessed Alan.
  7. When we receive Holy Communion, we experience something extraordinary – a joy, a fragrance, a well-being that thrills the whole body and causes it to exalt. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  8. There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  9. When we have been to Holy Communion, the balm of love envelops the soul as the flower envelops the bee. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  10. It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass. ~ St. Pio of Pietrelcina

That last quote from Saint Pio is profound. The entire cosmos is sustained by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…

 

 

Teach as Jesus Taught – in 12 Easy Steps by Deacon Marty McIndoe

TO TEACH AS JESUS TAUGHT – IN 12 STEPS

Jesus was a fantastic teacher.  We can learn from His example, and from the scriptures, how we too can be a great teacher.  Whether we are a professional teacher, home school teacher, religious education teacher, parent or grandparent, Bishop, Priest or Deacon, layperson, we can follow 12 easy steps to teach as Jesus taught.   

The first six are about you; the last six are about your teaching 

1 – Keep growing in your own personal relationship with Jesus

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

 

2 – Dig in to the Scriptures

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16

 

3 – Stay in touch with the Holy Spirit

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”  John 14:26

 

4 – Be a person of service/ministry

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” 1 Peter 4:10

 

5 – Take time for focused learning

“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” 1 Timothy 4: 7,8

 

6 – Take time to rest and pray

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11: 28-30

 

7 – Know your students

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” 1Peter 3:8

 

8 – Teach in stories

“Jesus told them a story to teach them that they should keep on talking with God and not give up.” Luke 18:1

 

9 – Seize teachable moments

Read any of the more than 50 parables of Jesus

 

10 – Engage other viewpoints

““You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5: 43-47

 

11 – Keep up with dialogue

There are many bible verses that present stories of people in dialogue with each other.  Good teachers also dialogue with their students.

 

12 – Teach by example

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

 

Final thoughts:

 “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”  Titus 2:7-8

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”  Luke 6:40

 “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

 

And finally, “What we need is a cup of understanding, a barrel of love, and an ocean of patience.”  Saint Francis de Sales

COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT by A.J. Avila

Complaint Department  (Link to original post)

Posted on November 29, 2016 by ajavilanovels  (link to A.J. Avila’s blog)

Why does it seem to be human nature that our first instinct is to complain?

Take, for example, my husband’s gripe that the Swiss cheese I bought didn’t have enough holes in it. That’s right: he complained that it didn’t have enough nothing.

Why do we see the negative so much more readily than the positive?

I sure got an earful of it the time my parents asked me to pick them up when returning from a vacation in Hawaii. I had invited my brother to come with me to the airport, and as we were watching passengers disembark from the plane, I nudged him. “You know what?” I said. “After we get the luggage, I’ll ask Mom and Dad how their trip was. I bet they say nothing good about it at all.”

“You’re on,” he answered.

Eventually our folks showed up, and after the customary greetings, we gathered their luggage and found the car. My brother sat up front with me, and my parents took the two back seats.

“So,” I said as we exited the parking lot, “how was your trip?”

Well, you would have thought it was a vacation in Hell itself instead of a tropical paradise. The plane ride going out was bumpy, and the one coming back was worse. The hotel room was dirty, and the window faced away from the ocean. Prices were horribly high, and the food was terrible, especially the poi.

[SIDENOTE: Okay, I have to give them that last one. Poi does taste terrible.]

During the trek home, my parents recounted in detail their horrendous experience, and the story got worse the farther we drove. My brother and I, occasionally glancing at each other, had to restrain giggles at my prediction about their predicament. I actually had to bite the inside of my cheeks to keep from bursting into laughter.

Yet . . . to be fair, how many times have I spent all my energy complaining instead of complimenting?

I used to work at a bookstore, and my manager told me that studies had shown that if a customer had a complaint, he was likely to repeat it to something like a dozen persons. On the other hand, if he had a compliment, he was likely to repeat it to maybe a couple of people.

In other words, when we are happy with something, instead of expressing gratitude, silence is usually the norm. I have to admit I have been exceedingly guilty of such silence.

When I realized this about myself, I resolved to take steps to alter my attitude. So now, if I, for example, eat at a restaurant, besides leaving a tip, I also leave a bit of praise about my meal. If I stay at a hotel, along with my room key, I drop a compliment at the front desk. A comment on how well the checker at my local store processed my order costs me not a cent and only a moment of my time.

When I started doing this, I admit I was a bit shocked at how eyes would widen and jaws drop. And that reaction was always followed by the blossoming of a smile.

Why is it so hard to do this? Take just a moment to make somebody’s day?

The truth is that it’s not.

So I guess my only complaint is about doing nothing but complaining.

Forgiveness, a Truly Miraculous gift by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Detective Steven McDonald and his son, NYPD Officer Conor McDonald.

               In a previous post I talked about miraculous healings that have occurred in the scriptures and throughout history in to this present day.  I even shared some that I personally witnessed; but what about the person that doesn’t seem to receive a miraculous healing?   Does that mean that God has ignored him or her or that God is not at work?   First of all I think that God is at work in all things.  Secondly, what we see as a lack of healing, or lack of a miracle, is just another way that God has chosen to work.  Often the real miracles are those that are not apparent.  I would like to give you an example of this in the Life of Detective Steven McDonald of the New York Police Department.

               On July 12, 1986, New York Police Officer Steven McDonald went in to Central Park with Sergeant Peter King as part of their normal, everyday duties.  They were on alert for petty crimes as well as looking for clues to a recent string of bicycle thefts in that area.  They saw a group of suspicious looking teens who began to run as soon as they saw the police.  The police officers chased them, Steven McDonald going in one direction, and his partner in another direction.

               Steven McDonald stopped several of the boys to question them.  He tells us that he spotted a bulge in the sock of one of the youngest boys and believed it to be a gun.  He bent over to examine it and a tall 15 year old boy came and pointed a gun at the police officer’s head.  Officer McDonald said that he then heard a deafening explosion, saw a muzzle flash and felt the bullet strike him just above his right eye.   He immediately fell flat and the boy shot him a second time hitting him in the throat.  Then, while still lying on the ground, the boy shot him a third time.  Officer McDonald recalled, “I was in pain; I was numb; I knew I was dying, and I didn’t want to die. It was terrifying.  My partner was yelling into his police radio: “Ten Thirteen Central! Ten Thirteen!” and when I heard that code, I knew I was in a very bad way. Then I closed my eyes…”

               When the first officers to respond arrived on the scene, they found Sergeant King on the ground, covered in Steven’s blood, cradling him in his arms.  Sergeant King was crying. They knew that every second counted so they carried Steven into the back of their vehicle and rushed him to Harlem’s Metropolitan Hospital, twenty blocks away.  There the medical staff saw the severity of the shooting and worked hard to stabilize him.  They did not expect him to live.  The Chief Surgeon told the Police Commissioner, “He’s not going to make it. Call the family. Tell them to come say goodbye.”   But Steven’s will to live stood firm.  His survival is a miracle itself, but his injuries left him completely paralyzed from the neck down.  He couldn’t even breathe on his own.

                 Officer McDonald had been married just eight months to his 23 year old wife, Patti Ann.  She was three months pregnant.  Together they would have to face the unbelievable changes that being paralyzed causes.  Not quite fair for a young married couple.  It would be very easy for them both to be filled with self pity, hatred and spite.  But these two practicing Catholics decided to choose another course.  At Detective Steven McDonald’s funeral, 30 years after his attack, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that Steven McDonald inspired New York City by choosing a spiritual journey over self-pity and spite.  He inspired not only NYC, but the world.  To me, Steven McDonald exemplifies how God can work, even in the worst of situations.  I know it was a miracle that he survived, but there was no miracle to bring him healing of his paralysis.  Perhaps the biggest miracle is what Steven did with his life.

               About six months after being brutally assaulted with gunfire by Shavod “Budda” Jones, Officer Steven McDonald made a statement, through his wife, saying, “I forgive him and hope he can find peace and purpose in his life”.  This defined the rest of McDonald’s life.  Jones was sentenced to ten years in prison for attempted murder.  McDonald said, “Strangely we became friends. It began with my writing to him. At first he didn’t answer my letters, but then he wrote back. Then one night a year or two later, he called my home from prison and apologized to my wife, my son, and me. We accepted his apology, and I told him I hoped he and I could work together in the future. I hoped that one day we might travel around the country together sharing how this act of violence had changed both our lives, and how it had given us an understanding of what is most important in life.”  However, three days after his release from jail, Jones died in a motorcycle accident.  That hope was never realized, but McDonald continued his crusade for forgiveness and peace.

               The New York City Police Department kept McDonald on their roster in a special position.  He was eventually promoted to the rank of Detective.  Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association called McDonald “a true American hero.”   At his funeral Lynch said, “Steven McDonald was the most courageous and forgiving man I have ever known.  Despite the tremendous pain in his life, both physical and emotional, his concern for his fellow police officers and for the people of New York City never wavered. Since that fateful day in 1986, Steven dedicated his life to fighting hate and encouraging forgiveness through his actions. He was a powerful force for all that is good and is an inspiration to all of us. His, was a life well lived. We join his family, a true New York City police family, his friends and fellow officers in prayer and mourning the loss of a truly special man.”

               The influence of Detective McDonald was felt not only in New York, but worldwide.   He took his message of forgiveness and peace to Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Israel.  He met with world leaders such as Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela.  He spoke at two Republican National Conventions.  He was interviewed by Barbara Walters on TV and attended many civil and religious functions in his area.  I was fortunate to see and hear him and can attest to the fact that he was a man of deep faith, and love of God and His people.  He was a die-hard hockey fan of the New York Rangers.  His relationship over the years with them has been a source of real blessing to so many.  The Rangers named an award in his honor.

               About six months after the shooting, Steven’s son Conor was born.  Conor followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and great-grandfather in becoming a NYC Police Officer.  I have a good friend who is a NYC Police Officer who worked with Conor and praised him for being such a good person and good Police Officer.  A family of faith and desire to serve keeps bringing forth good men.  In an article by Johann Christoph Arnold, he states,

                              “When visiting Steven in his Long Island home (since meeting in 1997, we have become close friends), I am often struck by the extent of his incapacitation. Life in a wheelchair is hard enough for an elderly person to accept, but to be plucked out of an active, fun-loving life in your prime is devastating. Add to that a tracheotomy to breathe through and total dependence on a nurse and other caregivers, and life can seem pretty confining at times. Steven is matter-of fact about this:

                              “There’s nothing easy about being paralyzed. I have not been able to hold my wife in my  arms for two decades. Conor is now a young man, and I’ve never been able to have a catch with him. It’s frustrating – difficult – ugly – at times.”

                              So why did he forgive? Again, he himself says it best:

                              “I forgave Shavod because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart. Such an attitude would have extended my injury to my soul, hurting my wife, son, and others even more. It’s bad enough that the physical effects are permanent, but at least I can choose to prevent spiritual injury.”

                             ” When I was a very young kid, Dr. King came to my town in New York. My mother went to hear him speak, and she was very impressed by what she heard. I hope you can be inspired by his words too. Dr. King said that there’s some good in the worst of us, and some evil in the best of us, and that when we learn this, we’ll be more loving and forgiving. He also said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it’s a permanent attitude.”  In other words, it is something you have to work for. Just like you have to work to keep your body fit and your mind alert, you’ve got to work on your heart too. Forgiving is not just a one-time decision. You’ve got to live forgiveness, every day.”

               This is a lesson that the world needs to take in.  Steven McDonald spoke and lived out that lesson.  Sure, it was a miracle that he lived through the gunshots and it would have been a great miracle if he could have been freed from his paralysis, but to me the greatest miracle is what Steven did for so many other people working through his disabilities.  His faith and desire to spread the message of forgiveness and peace resounds throughout the world.

               Detective Stephen King, New York City Police Officer, husband, father, devout Catholic and ambassador of forgiveness and peace died of a heart attack on January 10, 2017 in his Long Island home.  His life continues to touch many.

              

 

 

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listening to God’s WORD by Deacon Marty McIndoe

truthandlife

God’s WORD in the scriptures is active and alive.   It is a real source of strength and direction for all of us.  It is so important to read and study God’s WORD in our everyday life.  We are really called to be immersed in the WORD.  We hear God’s WORD at every mass we attend and every Catholic service that we attend.  Listening to God’s WORD is so important.   Sometimes we can get so much more from listening to it than from reading it.  Thanks to modern technology, we can now listen to God’s WORD anywhere, in our homes, our cars, wherever we are.   Mike Stark, of Truth and Life Audio Bible brings us the bible in dramatized audio form.  Not only do you hear the WORD, but you experience it along with music and sound effects that add to the listening experience.  Noted actors read the WORD and you can not only listen, but follow along the written WORD as it is displayed on your computer or cell phone screen.  It is available in all the normal formats and you can get a free version (limited) to try.  The full version is very reasonable.  I would certainly recommend it to anyone.  Here is a description from their website:

Dramatized Audio Bible

The Truth & Life Dramatized audio Bible New Testament is endorsed with an Imprimatur from the Vatican and includes a foreword by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Voiced by award winning internationally-renowned actors including: Neal McDonough, Kristen Bell, Sean Astin, Michael York, Blair Underwood, Malcolm McDowell, Stacy Keach, Brian Cox, Julia Ormond, John Rhys-Davies and many more. The Truth & Life audio New Testament is a first of its kind dramatized audio Bible from the RSV-CE.

check it out at their website by clicking here: Truth and Life Audio Bible

The Dynamic Duo: St. Peter and St. Paul – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

StPeterStPaulImage of St. Peter and St. Paul (available at www.orthodoxgoods.com)

June 29th marks the Catholic Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.  Since these two men are usually considered the most important Christians of the apostolic age, you would think that they would each have their own Feast day.  However the Church, in its wisdom, has always celebrated these two men together.  We can learn a great deal about living as a Christian, and about Church structure, by looking at these two fascinating men and their relationship to each other.  They both died in Rome and their bodies remain there to this day.

According to Roman legend, Rome was founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus.  Their background and early raising was quite tumultuous and their decision to found together a new city proved fatal for Remus.  Ambition and sibling rivalry reared its ugly head, but the city of Rome was founded.  Rome became one of the most powerful cities (and Empire) in the world, but it lost its worldly power about 400 years after Jesus was born.  About 25 years after Jesus died and resurrected, two new brothers (in the Lord) founded a new spiritual city of Rome which to this very day maintains its spiritual power throughout the world.  St. Peter and St. Paul have been considered the new co-founders of this spiritual city of Rome.  Early Christian writers made this comparison many times.  We know St. Peter as being the first Pope and St. Paul as being the greatest evangelist, and scripture writer.  Let us take a look at their relationship.

St. Peter was hand chosen by Jesus to lead the Church.  Peter had known Jesus and followed Jesus for many years.  He was a true disciple of Jesus.  St. Paul, on the other hand, never met Jesus until after Jesus died and rose again.  In actuality, St. Paul was an arch enemy of the early Christians because of his zeal to remove the followers of the Jesus sect from his most loved Judaism.  St. Paul was even there for the first martyrdom of St. Stephen.  St. Peter fervently loved Jesus, and St. Paul fervently loved Judaism.  When St. Paul met the Resurrected Jesus, on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, St. Paul was literally knocked to the ground.  This one time meeting with the resurrected Jesus was enough to totally change St. Paul from persecutor of the Church to evangelizer for the Church.  The early Christians, including St. Peter, were quite skeptical but came to see the change in St. Paul and his zeal for building the Church.

We don’t know for certain how many times St. Peter and St. Paul met, but scriptures tell us of three incidents.  The first one seems to occur around the year 51 when in Galatians 1:18 Paul tells us that he went to visit St. Peter in Jerusalem for 15 days.  The interesting part of this is that the word that St. Paul uses for the visit is historeō which has a very rich meaning.  It implies meeting to gather data, to learn, observe and inquire.  Our word history comes from that root.  That must have been an interesting meeting.  St. Peter was probably still somewhat skeptical of St. Paul, and St. Paul was probably trying to learn as much as possible about Jesus and His followers.

In Galatians 2:1 St. Paul tells us of another meeting he had with St. Peter 14 years after the first meeting.  St. Paul came to Peter and James and John, the pillars of the Jerusalem Church, to present to them his form of evangelization and to verify the fruits of his evangelization.  He seems to have been checking with them to make sure he was doing it well.  St. Paul records that they found nothing to add to what he had been preaching and that they recognized him as being the evangelizer to the Gentiles.  They gave him their right hand of fellowship and encouraged him to keep preaching to the Gentiles while they preached to the Jews.  He ended by saying, “They only asked us to remember the poor– the very thing I also was eager to do.”

The third time that scriptures (again Galatians) mention the two meeting is at Antioch.  This some people play up as a confrontation between the two.  However, it appears that it is a great example of collegiality, and fraternal correction.  The background for this meeting goes back to the Council of Jerusalem where St. Peter made the judgment that Gentile converts to Christianity did not have to observe the Jewish kosher laws.  Now when St. Peter was in Antioch, he was staying with many Jewish Christians who felt that new Gentile converts should keep the kosher laws.  Peter even followed the kosher laws when he was with them.  St. Paul brought to the attention of St. Peter that he was being hypocritical.  It appears that St. Paul really did this out of love and for fraternal correction and that the bond of love that they each had for Jesus triumphed.  Later scriptures and tradition show that these two men kept their fraternal love for each other.

We know that towards the end of their lives, both St. Peter and St. Paul move to Rome.  All of the early Christian writers talk about them being the new brothers who formed the new Rome.  This time, however, there was no ambition or rivalry to separate them; quite the contrary.  Tertullian, an early Christian writer born in 155 tells how both St. Peter and St. Paul were imprisoned together during Nero’s persecution and both were martyred by Nero.  He recalls that they spent many hours together in jail sharing their stories of spreading the Gospel and he added that they blessed each other for their upcoming martyrdom.  St. Peter was crucified upside down (he said he was not good enough to die the same way as Jesus) in the Vatican square and immediately buried in a nearby cemetery, now below St. Peter’s in Rome.  St. Paul was beheaded with a sword.  He was a Roman citizen and due a quick death.   He was beheaded at quae Salviae, which is now known as Tre Fontane (three fountains).  According to legend, when the sword cut off St. Paul’s head, it bounced three times and at each spot where it landed, a spring of water sprung forth from the ground.  His body was taken away and buried nearby.  The beautiful Church of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls stands over his burial place.  It is interesting to note that the Tiber River flows through Rome.  St. Peter was martyred and was buried on one side of the Tiber, and St. Paul was martyred and buried on the other side.  Early Christian writers see this as both “founders” having given their blood to bless both sides of the city.  Though these two dynamic men were individuals, they were seen as a major force of  a unified two.

St. Peter was a simple Jewish fisherman with probably little education.  St. Paul was well educated (taught by the best rabbi in the land) and a Roman citizen.  They both were good Jews.  St. Peter was married and St. Paul was a celibate.  St. Peter was impulsive and St. Paul was enthusiastic.  They certainly had their differences.  They both have in common that when they met Jesus their lives were totally changed.  They both loved Jesus and His Church.  Even though both were quite dynamic men with great leadership skills, they learned how to work with each other for the good of the Church.

For us today, we should see that when we truly love Jesus, we change for the good.  When we truly love the Church that Jesus founded, we learn to work together with each other, even when we don’t always agree with each other.  It is almost incomprehensible to understand how these two men accomplished so much in such a short time.  The only way we can understand that is to see them as lovers of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, who respond to “go forth” and spread the good news and build up the body of Christ.  I can only imagine the great time the two of them are having with Jesus right now.  I look forward to meeting them some day.  St. Peter and St. Paul pray that we too can love Jesus with all that we are.

 

The Mouth as a Lethal Weapon by Patti Maguire Armstrong

Words can hurt in more ways than one. The tongue can be a lethal weapon of mass destruction, inflicting damage on others, on relationships, and on the soul of the one who uses them in a harmful manner.
In theory, it would seem easy to control our tongue. It’s small and even can be kept locked up simply by shutting our mouths. Yet, for something that weighs so little, it so often weighs us down in sin and destruction.
Fr. Gary Benz, Pastor, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary in Stanley pointed out that it is often the misuse of speech that destroys relationships, particularly the marriage relationship.
“In our time, a staple of advice given to married couples is the need to communicate,” he said. “You have to talk to each other; you have to communicate daily.” However, he noted that often, the problem is not so much a lack of communication, but too much negative communication.
“Married couples, I find, do talk to each other, but they are saying the wrong things,” he said. “They put one another down; they constantly point out one another’s faults; they make selfish demands; they tell their spouse to be quiet; or they bombard their spouse with words of anger or disdain. Yes, technically, these are forms of communication, but they do little good within married life.”
According to Fr. Benz, communication in marriage should be rooted in love. “Saint Paul reminds Christians, including married couples, in his First Letter to the Corinthians that love is kind; it is not arrogant; it is not rude; it is not irritable; it is not resentful; etc.” He said that true communication in marriage is to communicate like Christ, who is love.
“Jesus’ words to us are always kind, loving, merciful, good, and gentle,” Fr. Benz said. “Couples must imitate this Christ-like way of communication. In doing so, they will have great peace and love within marriage and some day when their spouse passes from this life, they will live with no regrets.”
Another way he said that we let our tongue cause damage is when we have a responsibility to use it and do not. “The mouth can be dangerous when it says nothing,” he said. “When we refrain from fraternal correction and allow people to engage in grave sins which destroy the life of grace in the soul and threaten their salvation, we are hurting them by not using our mouth to speak in the name of Jesus Christ, who uses us daily as His instruments of salvation.”
Fr. Joshua Ehli, who has been serving at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck while on break from studies at the North American College in Vatican City, also noted that words have the power to seriously fracture a marriage.

“Through the exchange of consent using simple words (“I do”) God unites a man and a woman in a sacramental bond so strong that only death can fracture it,” he said. “We know the power of simple words like ‘I love you’ or ‘You are beautiful’ to uplift the soul and fill our hearts with love.” Unfortunately, he explained, spoken words can also be seriously detrimental to the spiritual bonds of love and communion. “It is for this reason that St. Paul declares that, ‘No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.’ (Eph. 4:29).”
Therefore, he said that this is the reason that the Church takes very seriously the sins of detraction and calumny. Both “destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor” (CCC 2479). Detraction harms the bonds of love between people by disclosing “another’s faults and failing to persons who did not now them”, while calumny, “by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others…” (CCC 2477).
“When we engage in gossip, or idle and fruitless talk about others,” Fr. Ehli said, “we very easily move into the realm of either detraction or calumny, or even both. The extent of damage can be so severe that the Church even makes provision for significant canonical sanctions (penalties) to be applied to one who ‘injures the good reputation of another.’” (CIC 1390).
“It is clear how seriously Mother Church considers the spiritual damage that can occur through sins of the spoken word, as well as the written word,” he said. “Through His Church, Jesus asks us to be ever vigilant to the power of the tongue and exhorts us to use it to build up bonds of communion and love, avoiding at all costs, no matter how difficult, the spiritual destruction that comes by way of gossip giving way to detraction and calumny”.
In the Church’s Tradition and in basic human experience, it is evident that spoken words can have tremendous effect in building and maintaining bonds of love, according to Fr. Ehli. “Jesus, Himself– the ‘Logos’ or Word–restores the life of Grace in the sinner through a priest’s words of absolution. He also strengthens and nourishes the life of Grace in the faithful who approach Him is the Great Sacrament of the Altar.”

Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband Mark are the parents of ten children–two AIDS orphans from Kenya.  She is a speaker and author of 10 books, was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s “Amazing Grace” series, published around 1,000 articles, appeared on Fox & Friends, EWTN Bookmark program, EWTN LIve, and Catholic TV as well as radio stations across the country. She also won the About.com 2011 Reader’s Choice award.

Patti has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration. Writing began as a hobby while raising children. After giving her gift of writing back to God, Patti went from writing for gossip tabloids and secular magazines to authoring Catholic books and articles.

For more information and inspiration, check out Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families. Your children will laugh while learning spiritual lessons with Dear God, I Don’t Get It! and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious.

Follow Patti at Twitter and like her Facebook pages at Dear God Books,  Big Hearted Families and  Catholic News & Inspiration on Facebook.

http://PattiMaguireArmstrong.com