One of the greatest dangers with new age thinking on the angels is actually as old as the oldest stories in the world. It is the confusion of earthly things with heavenly things; it is the confusion of the things that are below with the things that properly find their home above. And so one finds in the ancient world men bowing their heads and bending the knee to the very things that were beneath their feet. The soil, the stone, the wood taken from the tree; these very earthly items could and often did become idols because we mistook and misunderstood their participation in creation. And the more the thing from below seemed to participate in God’s beauty or power or knowledge, the more this confusion embedded itself in our common experience.
There is so much emphasis today on taking care of the body. I just read a statistic from STATISTIC BRAIN that says Americans spend about 24 BILLION dollars on annual gym and health club memberships each year. That is a lot of money! People go to health food stores and shop for healthy products. This is quite commendable. The body is a very special gift that God has given to us and we should take good care of it. What I find disturbing is that people are often very concerned with the physical body and forget about the true wholeness of who we are. We, as a person, consist of so much more than just the physical body. We have a mind that needs to be taken care of, and a spiritual side that needs to also be cared for. Unless we properly feed and exercise all three parts of our person, we will suffer. I would like to take a look at the body, mind and the spirit and how we can help them to grow healthy. I see three main things to consider: Intake, Avoidance and Exercise. I will look at all of these in relation to the body, the mind and the spirit.
BODY – The body is a wonderful creation. It gives us mobility, sight, hearing, touch, sex and reproduction and the ability to experience so much in God’s creation. Anyone who studies the body quickly realizes that it is a complex mechanism. God knew what He was doing when He created our body. It is up to us to keep the body what it is meant to be. In order to do that, we need to consider three main things:
1 – Intake: The foods and drinks that we take in should be healthy for us. We really should be eating whole grain foods, and lots of fruits and vegetables and nuts. There is a lot to be said for true organic foods as well as healthy meats. Our body also needs a great deal of water. Water not only replenishes the body but also helps to remove toxins.
2 – Avoidance: Fast foods, processed foods, “recreational” drugs, soda. Red meats should be kept at a minimum and only healthy oils such as Olive and Canola oils should be used. It is also good to keep alcoholic beverage to low or moderate use.
3 – Exercise: Walking, running, swimming and aerobic exercises are very important. Weight lifting is also a positive thing to do.
MIND – There is a saying that “the mind is a terrible thing to waste”. This slogan was adopted by the United Negro College Fund in 1972. It was actually one of the most successful campaigns in television history. The saying is so true. Our mind needs to be educated and stimulated. There is no doubt that the mind/brain is very complex. It, like the body, needs sustenance, avoidance and exercise.
1 – Intake: The brain/mind is made to take in as much information as possible. For me that means reading good books and studying various subjects. I take many various courses, both online and in person. I also read many different types of books and I love researching things on the internet.
2 – Avoidance: Pornography is a very serious assault on what the mind is meant to do. Spending time mesmerized in front of the television is also counterproductive.
3 – Exercise: When you are reading you are definitely exercising the brain. When you study for courses you are exercising the brain. When you just take time to think, you are exercising the brain. Things like cross word puzzles are great too.
SPIRIT – The “thing” that gives us our personhood is the Spirit or Soul. This is the most precious gift of all. With that we are like God in that we will live forever. The Spirit is ultimately what is in charge of the body and the mind. It works along with the mind to bring us thoughts and reason. It lifts us up to far above the ordinary. This Spirit needs Intake, Avoidance and Exercise too.
1 – Intake: There is no doubt that graces are given to our Spirit by the sacraments of the Church. Baptism starts the journey and the Holy Eucharist is food for the Spirit. Confirmation strengthens the work of the Spirit within us and gives us many gifts. The Sacrament of Reconciliation can lift the Spirit out of the difficulties that sin causes us. Holy Orders and Matrimony empower our Spirit to work in the vocation that God calls us to. Even the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick heals the Spirit as it heals the body. For me, the reception of the Eucharist each day is my daily bread that enlivens my Spirit. The sacrifice of the mass, and participating in it, again lifts our Spirit. The pondering of God’s Word in the Bible feeds the Spirit.
2 – Avoidance: We must stay away from the occult, even things such as Ouija boards. We must stay away from all the temptations of the Devil.
3 – Exercise: We should make ourselves available to all of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We should read and pray the bible. We should spend a considerable amount of time each day in prayer. Specialized prayers such as the rosary and divine mercy chaplet are great forms of spiritual exercise. The Church’s Liturgy of the Hours is a fantastic way to pray. I always recommend that people find a Spiritual Director.
In conclusion, we must remember that the Body, Mind and Spirit are all so interconnected that failure to take care of any one of them may harm the whole person that we are. Because of this interconnection, some things that I mentioned in one subject will actually help not only in that subject but in others as well. We are one unbelievable miracle and creation of God. We must take care of who we are.
Romans 12: 1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
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.
January 4th is the feast day of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. She is the first native born American to be canonized the Church. She is a convert, was married with children, and the woman who started the first Catholic School in the United States. She was a prolific reader and loved the scriptures and the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary. She also gave me the gift of my daughter (see below).
Elizabeth was born two years before the American Revolution and was from the upper class of New York City. She married a wealthy man and was extremely happy for many years. Unfortunately, her husband became quite ill and lost his import business. She cared for him and his younger siblings when his parents died. Elizabeth brought her sick husband to Italy to help his health, and they stayed with friends, but he finally died there from tuberculosis. While in Italy she was influenced by their friend’s Catholic faith and converted to Catholicism. She returned to the United States to settle in Baltimore. There, at the suggestion of the president of St. Mary’s College, Elizabeth started a secular school. It didn’t take long for Elizabeth to decide to change it to a Catholic School. She started an order of sisters known as the “Sisters of Charity” (following closely the rule of St. Vincent de Paul in France) who helped children by establishing schools and orphanages. Even though Mother Seton contracted tuberculosis herself, she worked tirelessly guiding the order. Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming Catholic. She was beatified by Pope John XXIII in 1963 and canonized by Pope Paul VI on September 14th, 1975.
Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton is very special to me. I attribute the gift of our daughter to her. My wife and I desperately wanted children but after many years of trying and then going to doctors, we decided that God wanted us to adopt. The doctors never found anything wrong with either of us, but we were never able to conceive. Back in the 70’s it was very difficult to adopt. I didn’t have the money to go through a private adoption and I was worried if we would ever have any children. One day, both my wife and I felt, through prayer, that the time was right for us to go through an agency to try to adopt a baby. We really wanted a newborn, but most agencies just laughed when we told them. However, we felt inspired to not give up and to keep trying. We called the Long Island Adoption Services number and they told us to give a call to New York Foundling Hospital in Manhattan. They said that this hospital offered classes twice a month on ways to adopt.
When we called NY Foundling Hospital, the woman on the phone seemed so excited. She told us to come in to the next meeting that they were having on September 14th, 1975. We signed up for that and drove in that day. We found ourselves in a room with eleven other couples and one single person. The social worker came in and said she would explain different ways to go about adopting. She first said that she would show us pictures of some older children that were awaiting adoption. Most of them were special needs children that really tugged on your heart. They were also older children. She then explained ways that you could adopt younger, normal (I really don’t like that word, but that is what she used) children. At that time, Korean children were popular and she explained how to get them. She also told us that there were a number of black American children available and how to get them. She then paused for a moment, quite dramatically, and said that she had something very important to tell us. Both Martha and I were sitting there a little stunned by all that had been presented to us. We were quite curious what was left to tell.
The social worker said to us that for the first time in about eight years, their “white infant” list was growing short. Their adoption committee decided that they could not advertise that they were taking new names for this list because too many would apply. Since they placed only two or three babies per year, they decided to open the list only to the people who showed up at the next adoption class, the one we were attending. Martha and I both looked at each other, recognizing that this was no coincidence that we were here. We knew God was at work. We immediately put our names in and were told that we would be contacted in within 30 days by a social worker. Martha and I walked out of the class and went downstairs and went in to the chapel to thank God. We knew we were there as part of His plan. I remember a large statue of Elizabeth Ann Seton just outside the chapel. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that she winked and smiled at us. We later found out that New York Foundling Hospital was operated and founded by the Sisters of Charity who were founded by Elizabeth Ann Seton. We were told that the process could take several years, first we had to be checked out, and then we had to wait until we were next on the list and a baby arrived. Martha and I drove home to Long Island praising and thanking God.
A little before Christmas in 1976 we were called and told we were next up. It was a great Christmas for us. On January 4th, 1977, we were called and told that our daughter was born the day before and we could pick her up at New York Foundling Hospital on January 7th. I looked on the calendar and we were called on the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. We had remembered that when we were driving in to the initial session in September 1975 at New York Foundling, the radio was covering the news that Elizabeth Ann Seton was just canonized that day. We had received our daughter through the Sisters of Charity, the order she founded. We saw the hand of God at work in all of this and felt that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was an integral part of his plan, and knew we had to name her Elizabeth Ann McIndoe. Our social worker told us that she had been doing this for many years and had never seen a baby go to a couple that shared so much of the same ethnic background as the child. Not only was our daughter from basically the same Irish, English and a little Italian background, but her mother was Catholic and her father protestant, just as Martha and I had been. Our social worker told us that Elizabeth’s birth mother became pregnant in High School and would not abort her baby due to her Catholic faith. I thank God that her birth mother saved her life and offered her for adoption. She was a very strong, faith filled young woman. Our social worker told us that many of the babies that they placed were born to drug addicted mothers and needed special medical help. Elizabeth was born from a drug free mother and in perfect health. God is so good.
The evening before we had to pick our daughter up in Manhattan a winter storm was brewing. We woke up to find about 11 plus inches of snow on the ground. The roads were not good and we had to drive almost 60 miles in to the city. I called the hospital and told them that we planned on coming no matter what the weather. It was a slow trek in to the city, but we made it. Nothing was going to stop us from getting our daughter. A last worry was parking near the hospital. If anyone has been to NYC, they know that parking is always a problem. When you have a snow storm, it becomes much worse as there is no place to put the plowed snow. I remember coming up to the hospital, praying that God would get us a parking spot close to the hospital. Just as we pulled up to the entrance we needed, a parked car pulled out and gave us a place. God answers prayer, even for parking spots.
We drove home with our little miracle adopted baby. We were so very happy. To this very day, exactly 40 years later, our daughter has brought us so much joy. She has also given us three wonderful grandsons who light up our life. There has never been a time that I haven’t thanked God for the precious gift he gave us, through adoption, of our daughter, Elizabeth Ann.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, we thank you for your role in bringing us our FANTASTIC daughter. God works through His Saints. God is so good!
Full disclaimer, I am a “new dad”. I don’t have 5, 10, or 15 years of experience under my belt. I have 4 children, a 3 year old son Luke, a 1.5 year old son Jude, one baby in heaven, and one baby on the way! I am constantly learning how to be the best dad I can be, with many of these learning moments coming from my faults. With that being said, I am not writing this attempting to fool anyone into thinking I have this whole dad thing figured out (I mean, we haven’t even hit the rebellious teenage years yet.). Nonetheless, I write this with conviction as I have witnessed many authentic, God-fearing, wife-loving, child-raising fathers in my life, my own father being a prime example.
Here’s 3 easy things every dad should be doing:
1. Love your wife. Children are so observant. I am constantly amazed when I hear one of my boys attempting to hum a song I was humming 2 minutes ago. Or after dinner when I start taking dishes to the sink, being followed by Luke and/or Jude, with a cup in hand, hurling his cup into the sink attempting to do his part. Our kids watch and replicate so many of our actions which is why they need to see their dad loving their mom. My sons will learn how to treat women by observing how I treat their mother. Likewise, if I am blessed to have a daughter(s), she will learn how she should be respected and the inherent dignity she has as a woman by the amount of respect and dignity I show her mother.
2. Have family prayer. Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton famously said, “The family that prays together stays together”. If you don’t have a family prayer routine, start small and continue building up. As the spiritual leader of the home, lead your family in prayer before meals. At first it may seem awkward and uncomfortable but typically that discomfort is only on your end. Push through that discomfort and it will soon become as natural as breathing.
When it’s the kiddo’s bedtime, we all have nightly routines. Take a bath, brush teeth, comb hair, get pajamas on, and maybe a bedtime story. Before that bedtime story, you, your wife and children kneel down by their bed and have a bedtime prayer. It can be as simple as, “Now I lay me, down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” It’s quick and easy but sets an example of praying before bed… an example that I carried on from when my parents taught me.
3. Bless your children. Before my boys go to sleep or any time I have to leave for a couple days on business, I make the sign of the cross on their forehead while praying, “May almighty God bless and keep you and may you always stay under the protection of our Mother Mary.” It’s quick and simple. Takes me all of 5 seconds. Our Lord ordained men as heads of the Domestic Church, which is a miniature of the Universal Church. This means each man is a priest of his home. A great way to embrace the role as a priest of your family is by blessing your children. My boys have come to love and expect this nightly ritual and always give me a happy grin as I pray it. (For a great book on this topic, Click here.)
About Adam Minihan:
Adam is the Vice President of an award-winning local Catholic radio station and the host of The Catholic Man Show. Adam and his best friend/co-host, David Niles, had 0 experience in the radio business before being presented with the opportunity to start a Catholic station in 2014. Taking a leap of faith, they launched St. Michael Catholic Radio and it has now grown into covering the whole Tulsa Market, airing multiple local programs, and carrying EWTN content. Adam is married to his beautiful bride Haylee and they have 2 young boys Luke and Jude. They live in Tulsa, OK where they are active in many Catholic bible studies, church functions, apologetic groups, and Cursillo. You can follow Adam on twitter or like St. Michael Catholic radio on Facebook!
My wife and I just celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary. So far, for June, I have presided at three different weddings. I really enjoy presiding at weddings because I love to see the joy of the couple and I know how important weddings are to the Church. I thought it would be a great time to look at this gift that God has given us in Marriage. For us as Catholics, the Church tells us that The Sacrament of Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the Church. We then immediately know that, as a Sacrament, it is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace. This Sacrament of Marriage is one part of the two “Mission” sacraments, along with the Sacrament of Holy Orders. We speak of having a vocation to Holy Orders (Bishop, Priest or Deacon) and/or a vocation to Matrimony. In actuality, deacons can have both. They both are so important in the mission of the Church. Remember that Vocation literally means a calling from God. Let us look at this special calling from God when we discern that we are called to be married.
Unfortunately today the Church has seen a drop in the number of people who want to get married in the Church. So many young people have pushed God to the side in their lives and a Church wedding isn’t that important to them. I find this to be sad, as I believe very strongly that when a couple enters in to the Sacrament of Marriage, it is a forever gift of Divine Grace to them. I certainly would not want to say that people who marry outside of the Sacrament are not helped out by God in their marriage. God works through all things. However, those people who know what Sacramental Grace is all about, would definitely want to have the Sacrament of Marriage. I also know that the Church, because it holds this Sacrament up so high, makes it somewhat hard to receive it, if the right conditions are not met. Those who have had a previous marriage know that they must first deal with that previous marriage by either annulment or “defect of form”. Each case varies so much that it is impossible to cover it all in this article, but your local priest or deacon will help you.
In the book of Genesis we hear how God first creates man and the animals but then sees that man needs something more than animals to fulfill his life. It is then that He creates woman from the very side of man (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh). Genesis also clearly states that God is VERY pleased with what He has created. Genesis also tells us that when God created man and woman He created THEM in His very image. For me, that means that if I really want to see the image of God, I cannot look at just a man or just a woman. I need to look at both of them to see His image. A man and woman joined together in marriage reflect who God is. The love and care and concern and nurturing and fruitfulness of their relationship reveal God himself. God created us as equals, but also quite different. As the French say, Vive la difference (literally, long live the difference). We cannot help but to see that the idea for marriage between a man and a woman comes to us directly from God at the very beginning of creation.
Our God is a God of LIFE! He decided that we would join in with Him in co-creating Life. He made the difference between man and woman a means of bringing forth new life. Anyone who has been pregnant or been around someone who is pregnant cannot help but to be in awe at this gift of life. When a man and woman come together to bring forth life, they are living their own source and summit of their marriage (yes, I know these words are often used concerning the Eucharist which is the high point of our Christian life and worship). It is definitely the high point of their call. However, just like God, married life should be totally surrounded by LOVE. A man and woman who are called by God to come to the Sacrament of Matrimony are called by the great LOVE that they have for each other. It is this LOVE, which is the very essence of God that brings LIFE in to a marriage.
Life in a marriage is much more than just having children, although that is certainly important. Life in a marriage means that the man and wife help to bring LIFE to each other, every day. They are there to help each grow in relationship to each other and in relationship to God. They are there to support and encourage each other and to assist each other in the ministries that God calls them to. In my marriage, each of us has different ministries. Some we do separate from each other, and some we do together. No matter what, we support each other in our ministries. Certainly one important ministry is raising our children. This is a joy filled, but difficult, endeavor. We need each other to assist one another and support one another. But, we also need to have time alone for each other. When I do marriage preparation (Pre-Cana), I always tell the couples that they need to have time alone with each other. There should always be some kind of “date night”. I know that this is sometimes difficult to do, but we really need to do it. Let grandparents or aunts and uncles or friends come in to watch your children while you go out. If money is tight, you don’t need to spend a lot. Sometimes a walk on a beach or in the woods, or downtown, is all you need. The Church realizes that the family is the basic building block of the Church and the bond between the man and woman is the basic building block of the family. We also know that marriage is a rich symbol of the relationship that Jesus, the groom, has with his Church, the bride. When we see man and wife loving each other and caring for each other and supporting each other, we can see what Jesus does for the Church.
I don’t think that it is an accident that the first miracle recorded in the Gospels that Jesus performs is the turning water in to wine at the Wedding Feast of Cana. Jesus, in doing this, shows us that with him we can have the very best wine, not just some lower grade. With Jesus in our marriage, we can have the very best marriage. One that people will recognize as a gift from God. Jesus talks about marriage in his Gospels. He recalls the Genesis account on the creation of woman and said that “therefore a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH”. He then tells them that “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.” This is why the Church takes such a tough stand on divorce.
Marriage, as good as it is, is still difficult at times. Having two different people living together in the same space and having to make important decisions is not easy. That is where God’s grace comes in. I have no doubt in my mind that if my wife and I hadn’t invited Jesus in to our marriage, we would not be together today. Now, after 47 years of marriage, I can tell you that even counting the difficult times, it is the best thing that I have done. I give thanks to God for the way He works through both of us and I pray that you, in your marriage, will open yourselves up to inviting Jesus in more and more each day. With Jesus, marriage can be full and sparkling and enjoyable, like the very best wine.
When Deacon Marty asked me to write about being a father, and fatherhood, I was both honored and humbled that he asked me. As I was thinking about what to write, in a limited amount of words, I began to put my thoughts together.
As I began to compose this, I am sitting in the surgery waiting room at St Charles Hospital after just kissing my daughter Ivana good bye as she went into surgery. And two thoughts came into my mind; fatherhood is sometimes when you have to make choices and put those you love dearly in the hands of professionals, who are Gods helping and gifted hands here on Earth.
Today, Friday, Ivana has surgery and Kyle graduates from grammar school. How I wish I could split myself in two but that is not possible. So, one of the characteristics of being a father is making choices. I so wanted to see Kyle walk down that aisle, after learning how to walk after 10 years, and being a successful recipient of a kidney transplant almost 4 years ago. Thank God for technology!!
I can probably be most effective about my experiences of being a father by telling you my story. Next week it will be 36 years since I married my childhood sweetheart, Barbara. Together we have 23 children. 6 biological children and 17 adopted special needs children. But we never make any distinction between the two. They are all Mongillo’s. I love being a Dad. I never imagined that I would be a father to this number, but if I had to do it again, I would do it all again the same way.
My Dad was a traditional Dad. He was the breadwinner and Mom was the nurturer. I am completely the opposite of that. I love being a part of the everyday lives of my children. I love sharing in their triumphs and always support them and sometimes have to get them back on their feet when the chips are down.
I always try to see the good and positive in each one of them. I also strive to give them wings so they can too can become better Moms and Dads. And, soon becoming a Grandpa for the sixth time, is a gift.
Both Barbara and I try to plant a seed in each one of them. And we are blessed to see the fruit of these seeds in their actions and words. Being a Dad is a true gift from God. There are not enough words to describe this role. Being successful in my career was important, but far less important than being a good father. God has been good to me and blessed me. He has helped us in our time of need. When three of our children were called home to God, He gave us, and continues to give us, the strength to cope with loss. So, as we set aside this special day to honor Dads, I wish all the Dads blessings today and every day.
Deacon Bob Mongillo is currently a deacon at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Patchogue, NY. He was Born in Woodhaven, Queens, NY and married Barbara in June 1980. He is the father of 23 children. He lived in East Meadow for 22 years before moving to Patchogue. He was ordained a deacon in May 2001 from St Raphael’s, East Meadow. He served as Deacon, Business Mgr and Director of Parish Social Ministry, St Rosalie parish in Hampton Bays, NY for 10 years.
Goodness, how God loves women!
God loves women so much; I’m tempted to say He’s unfair to men.
What is God’s greatest work of creation? It’s not stars and planets. It’s not plants or animals. It’s sentient beings with immortal souls. And we know of only two kinds of those: angels and humans.
Well, angels don’t reproduce. Cherubim might be portrayed as chubby little babies, but they’re nothing of the sort. Angels don’t have sexual relations with each other. Angels don’t get pregnant, and they don’t give birth.
But women do. God has allowed women the biggest role (next to His own) in the incredible work of bringing new immortal souls into creation.
Oh, men have their part in that, and I don’t mean to downplay it. But it is a fact that if, after a man and women have relations, the man gets hit by a bus, any baby can survive that. If the woman gets hit by a bus, however, both mother and child die. Her role, biologically speaking, is far more crucial.
Twice I’ve been pregnant, and both times I was amazed at what I was doing. Those first little butterfly-like kicks in my body signaled that the life growing inside me was indeed a separate entity. In time the kicks grew stronger, and I could sometimes even tell where an elbow or a knee was. Yes, I had morning sickness, swollen ankles, and of course a painful labor at the end of it. But it was worth it. Oh, how it was worth it! You can never feel as close to another human being as you do to the child growing inside your body.
Sometimes I think the reason God allows only men to become priests is because He had to give them something to make up for denying them all of that.
And when you think about it more deeply you can see that these two roles: mothers and Fathers (as in Catholic priests) are complementary. Mothers, through childbirth, bring the people to God. Fathers, through the Eucharist, bring God to the people. As Dr. Peter Kreeft once put it, the two most sacred places in the world are wombs and altars.
Only once has this role been changed, and it was for a very special occasion. The Blessed Virgin Mary, through childbirth, brought God to the people.
My own mother has been gone almost ten years now. So that means I have two mothers in heaven: my biological mother and the mother Jesus gave me from the cross.
This Mothers’ Day let us pay homage to both of our mothers, for they both co-operated with God’s great work of creation.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein
My wife and I just saw the movie, “Miracles from Heaven” starring Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson and Queen Latifah. It was certainly a movie that I would recommend to anyone. It is based on a true story about an initially happy Christian family living in Texas. When the movie opens, everything seems as it should be. There is good family communication, a beautiful farm that they live on, and every Sunday they attend an active Evangelical Church with good music and worship. The father even says to the mother, “this is the good life”. Then, the ten year old daughter, Anna, becomes ill. She has a rare, incurable, digestive disorder where her body cannot handle food. This disorder causes her severe pain, and there doesn’t seem any hope from the medical world.
The girl’s mother, played extremely well by Jennifer Garner, will do anything to help her daughter. She struggles with doctors until she finally forces herself upon a specialist in this field at Boston Children’s Hospital. Even this specialist doesn’t give her much hope. The mother never gives up on her daughter, but does give up on her faith in God. The family exhausts all of their financial resources trying to bring comfort to their daughter. The scenes where she is suffering so badly, while the family cannot do anything to help her, are quite intense and you certainly feel the mother’s anguish.
Then, something happens. The daughter is climbing a tall dead tree in their yard in Texas. A branch breaks and Anna plummets thirty feet in to the hollow tree. It takes rescuers many hours to get her out. When they do, she is brought unconscious to the hospital. When Anna awakens, the symptoms of the incurable disease are gone. Anna shares with her mom how God spoke to her in heaven about how he was healing her. I don’t want to get in to too much detail because I don’t want to spoil the story for you, but her healing is seen as a real miracle by all involved, including the doctors. This miracle brings back the faith of her mom as well as the faith of many involved.
At the very end, the mother speaks to their church and says some things that are very important. She recognizes the miraculous healing of her daughter, but also shows how she saw miracles happen throughout the whole journey involving many different people in what would be seen as doing ordinary things. There is a lot of power there, especially when they flash back on these things. After the movie ends, they have pictures and videos of the real family. Make sure you stay for those.
As Catholics, we believe strongly in miracles. Our history is full of them. We also know that miracles don’t always happen in the way we want them. To me, the strength of this movie is not just the actual miraculous healing, but in the family and friends and what they did during the difficult times. God works miracles in so many ways. More often than not, he works them through every day, ordinary actions of love. I would really suggest you take the time to see this movie. It is so much better than so many movies we are exposed to. The faith, love, and gift of family and friendship that this movie offers is so refreshing. God bless.
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.
God is very much still active in the world today. To help illustrate that fact, I’d like to share a personal story. It’s a love story. One of the best, in my opinion. Course, I’m biased.
“We can’t do this. It’s not right for either of us.”
So were the words I spoke to a former girlfriend and fiancé. At that point, I had been wrestling and praying about this decision to get married to her or not. We were a little over two months out and I couldn’t bear to go another minute realizing that this was not the path that either of us were called to. Once we discussed it, and after shedding many tears, we both realized that it was the right choice. The Lord was working and had a plan; I just had to make sure I was open to his promptings.
About 6 years ago, as I type, I realized that I loved Liz. I tried to check it. I tried to be objective about it. Alas, it was to no avail. At this time, as I explained above, I was praying a lot. I went to adoration during lunch time at our tiny Newman center and prostrated myself before the Lord. It was so peaceful. I would set an alarm so that I would wake up when lunch was over. I could have spent the entire day there. While I was praying about my situation, I was including how I should be taking these feelings. I was in another relationship for goodness sake! This was not supposed to be happening. But God had different plans. I submitted that God knew better than I did at this point.
Remember, I had just ended my previous relationship and didn’t want to jump into anything too soon. We were just friends. Really. But, God had different plans.
I had known Liz for about 3 years prior to her internship. We’d met when I was a senior and she was a freshman. Part of the reason she was so cool was that she was Catholic and she loved her faith. That alone made her attractive as a person. Luckily, that was only one of the things that made her attractive, in addition to everything else. We got to know each other through the Newman center on campus. For such a small school as Eureka College, to have a Newman center was a miracle in and of itself. We were able to come to know each other as friends first because each one of us was dating other people. There were no expectations. When I graduated, I immediately began work for my alma mater as an admissions counselor. I was able to stay involved with the Newman center as a staff advisor. Again, God was at work. These were formative years for Liz and I and we didn’t even know it at the time.
In late May 2010, I said a temporary goodbye to a good friend and someone who I really respected as a person. This moment was to be the start of a truly amazing (and ongoing) love story. Liz was going to intern at the Kansas City zoo for the summer since she planned on becoming a veterinarian. We promised we would keep in touch. We ended up writing to each other daily. I would always look forward to reading and composing the night’s e-mail. Luckily, we still have them to look back upon.
During the e-mail exchange, I would joke around with her about coming to visit if she made fun of my age just one more time. (We’re only two years apart, by the way.) She did and I planned a visit. Then I went. I said a rosary as I departed and I’m pretty certain that I sang the entire way there. I barely had a voice by the time I got to KC. Of course, at this point, I had realized that if we started dating, this was it. I was going to marry this girl. Finally, I was starting to see His plans.
It rained the first night there and we tossed around a football, splashing as we went around the condos where she was being hosted. I’ll admit (and she will too) that I wanted to kiss her then and there. However, I didn’t want to show my hand just yet. I didn’t want to give my heart to her just yet, even though I was pretty sure she felt the same way. I also didn’t want to lose a friendship if it was not supposed to be the way I wanted it to be.
We had fun during her off days from the zoo and I played a song on my guitar that I had written (for her, she just didn’t know it yet). We sat on a rooftop and watched the sun go down. I still hadn’t put my heart on the line yet. It was coming. God was making it just right.
By the third day, I finally got enough gumption and I said we should go out to my truck and listen to some Frank Sinatra on a mix tape I made. I’m old school like that. During the song “You Make Me Feel So Young” I said a little prayer and grabbed her pinky with my pinky. Then she moved her fingers into mine and we interlocked our hands. It was complete. We were meant to be. You know how I know? The first thing she did after she turned her head was ask, “Did you pray about this?” I laughed and said that I had. I completed a novena and everything. She had as well. Everything finally made sense.
From that point on, as they say, it was history. We started dating that day, still discerning, but this time about our potential marriage. I asked for her hand a little over a year later and we were married the following July. Now we have a beautiful daughter, born just this past January. We couldn’t be more blessed. Yes, yes we can because “The Best Is Yet To Come.”
At every point, God has been directing us and our lives. Through the hard breakups, to the points where we were discerning different paths and then discerning each other, to our marriage, and now in our current situation, God has been with us every step of the way. Sometimes it’s hard for us to come to grip the fact that our God is at work daily. It’s hard to trust some days, but then I look back on everything that has happened in my life and realize how amazing He has been to me. Truly He loves me. Doesn’t He deserve our love back? He wants to be in our lives, if we only let Him and if we are disposing ourselves to receive His messages. The Church is a good help for that. God wants to give you the best; He desires it because He loves us. His power is manifest everyday throughout the world and in our everyday lives. We just have to make sure we take the time to realize and see it.
If anyone is interested in the overly detailed love story of my wife and I, let me know. It’s better than a fairy tale.
Matt Vander Vennet currently works as a research assistant and is pursuing his doctorate in Church History both at The Catholic University of America. He also writes for EpicPew.com. He is married to a beautiful redhead named Liz and is daddy to their newborn daughter! He loves a good brew, good music, the Green Bay Packers, & also plays guitar. Feel free to check out his website below. Matt resides in northeastern Virginia with his family.