Saturday, December 21, 2013

Simply Incredible - The Generosity of a Woman

Now you may think my post will be about the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ (especially since Christmas is right around the corner) as Scripture refers to her as "the" Woman.  But you'd only be half right.



I want to share with you what happened to me today.  I want to share how I became the recipient of an incredible Christmas gift from a woman (though I DO think the Woman, Mary the Mother of Christ was behind it anyway! For her own sake I'll keep THIS woman anonymous, though.)

I went to do buy some Christmas gifts today at the local Catholic bookstore *I just arrived back in the States the other day for Christmas!*  I used to work there so I know the owners and other workers pretty well.  Chatting with the owner I was told that he was going to give me a 40% "employee" discount.  Wow.  That was generous enough!

So I browsed and thought I'd take advantage of such a great gift and picked up several things for various family members.  I was given an extra Christmas stipend just for that reason.  I made my way up to the counter.

A woman I know took care of me.  An extremely kind and very charitable woman.  So charitable that she felt moved to purchase all of my items for me!  Every year she finds a creative way to pass on a particular rebate which she and her husband get annually - I was this year's grateful recipient!  I tried to insist that she couldn't do this! This was too much! But she insisted even more and truly wanted to buy the items for me.   I was, and remain, stunned.

Moreover, she wrote me a Christmas card during my time in the store  When I got home and opened it I saw a check for $200.  Shock.  I praise God for this woman's generosity towards me.  She wanted to help me out simply because I am a seminarian studying to become a Priest.  

So this woman did a tremendous thing for me today.

The first Christmas began with the generosity of a Woman.  This Christmas sees another generous act from another woman.  I pray that God may reward her.

:)

-MM




Sunday, December 8, 2013

I Found Myself in a Cemetary Today

I found myself in a cemetary today.

Last year at Mundelein Seminary I could just have easily said: "I found myself in a seminary today."

- "...Not funny, boo!"

Thanks for keeping me honest, faithful blog reader.

But seriously there I was today sitting on a bench in a cemetary. I was in a place of hope.

Now, yes, cemtaries are places of sadness, grieving, and the like.  But I'm a Christian.  I don't believe death is the end.  If it is the end then everything that exists is absurd - even your reading of this blog.

But we know - if we're honest - that deep down our most intense aspirations for eternal life are not absurd.  What is absurd, I think, is how seldom we consider the fact that one day we will die.

One day you will die.

It could be tomorrow.  It could.  

Ask someone who works in an Emergency Room at a hospital how uncertain tomorrow is...they'll tell you.  They see it all the time.  They see life end all the time.

How often do you consider your eventual death? I don't mean to be morbid.

Considering the end of our lives on earth helps us grow in wisdom; helps us see things more as God sees them.  Suffering can do that, too.  Or one could become bitter through it.  That only happens if one has lost hope.

At the cemetary today I sat and listen to a soccer game going on a few hundred feet away just beyond the cemetary walls.  It was ironic to me that a place of such liveliness could be so close to a place where the dead are laid to rest.  Often, we seek to distract ourselves with some amusement.  But how often do we forsake our distractions for the sake of not becoming distracted from the most important things in life.

For example, I will die someday.

Does that thought make you smile?  If you have hope I think it should.  In hope we know that death is not the end.  It's a door.  In Jesus death, God entered through the door of death so that when we ourselves eventually enter through that door we would not be alone. In Jesus' resurrection and ascension, God linked death to eternal life so that when we die in   friendship with God we are able to follow the path traced out for us by Christ - all the way to Heaven.



So, I found myself in a cemetary today.  You, too, will someday find yourself in a cemetary.  

I hope that happens before you die.

-MM




Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Opening Up the Corridors and Letting in New Light - Advent Reflection Part II


Do you ear what I ear?

- "Eww, Matt! Is that a picture of your ear??"

Spot on, faithful blog reader! That is a picture of my ear.

You may be wondering why I took a picture of my ear but that's not the purpose of this post. The theme for today's reflection is listening. Listening to God speaking to our hearts.

- "But it's an ear!"

Look, that's not th..

- "Look?! Are you going to post a picture of your eyeball now and tell us to 'look' around or something??"

... *Sigh*...

Right. Moving on then.  In part I of the Advent reflection last week I discussed how we need to listen to the Lord knocking on the door of our lives, let Him in, and then not be afraid to give Him full access to every part of our heart..

- "Every part??"

Yes... every part.

- "Even.."

ESPECIALLY that part.

- "*gasp*"

You said it faithful blog reader: *gasp* is right.  God wants in - especially the places we're least excited about.

Advent is a time when we anticipate the coming of our "God-hero" as Scripture calls Him; our Savior.  We need to be saved from so much - sin, lies, fear, shame, difficulties of all kinds.  There is a lot down there in the depths of our hearts.  There are many rooms which remain locked, many rooms which have never seen the light of truth, many rooms with "Caution" tape blocking the entryways and "Danger: Do Not Enter" signs posted outside.  



Yes, these rooms ARE dangerous.  There is a reason that caution tape hangs outside those rooms.  We are weary about letting anyone enter them - even ourselves.  We often prefer to leave the doors of our past - the lies, the shame, our sins, the wounds which we've received from others' lack of love towards us in one way or another.  It is much too painful and causes too much turmoil and confusion when anyone gets too close to those areas.

But can you hear the sound of footsteps coming down those steps into your heart? "How beatuiful... are the feet of Him who brings good news!" (Isaiah 52:7, a common Advent Scripture) Do you know that He alone can redeem, heal, bless, and make whole again those parts of your life which are "off-limits?"  How will you react when Jesus reaches for the doorknob of that first room?

What IS the first room He wants entry to? Is it a memory of some past hurt? Is it a past sin you're terribly ashamed of? Is it some recurring sin of self-importance, lust, anger, greed? Is it a lie which you don't want to admit is a lie? 

Where does Christ want to go next in your heart?  How will you react when He asks your permission to enter in there?

If you won't let Christ in can you let the Holy Spirit in? He's more "neutral" to some people.  Or can you let in the child Jesus rather than the adult Lord?  Advent is about welcoming in this Divine Child - God's Son and the Son of Mary - into the dark cave we call our heart and letting His light shine through.  "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)

But we have to let Him in first!  What is Jesus' next move in your life? What is the Savior wanting to save now?  

Listen... He's speaking to you. He comes for you.

-MM

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Reflection: Part 1 1/2

Before doing part 2 of the Advent reflection I began last week I'd like to offer an "in between" thought.

A simple thought.

A question actually.

...

What do you need from the Lord?

We often ask God for what we want.

Ok.

But have you taken time recently to reflect on what you need?

Those are the prayers that God answers swiftly.

They go something like this:

"Lord, I need to know your love more."
"Jesus, I need your help in gowing in humility."
"Heavenly Father, I'm too quick to judge other people.  Please show me the faults in myself which I think I'm seeing in others."
"Lord, I'm not nearly as grateful as I ought to be.  Please forgive me.  Give me a grateful heart!"
"Jesus, I need to love you more.  Help me to love you more!"

I'm reminded of the blind man sitting alongside the road calling out "Son of David, have pity on me!"  Jesus comes up to him and asks "What do you want me to do for you?" The man responds, "Lord, I want to see!"

His need became his want.  He desired what he needed.

Do you desire what you need? Or perhaps a better place to start is to ask do you need what you desire?

God provides for all our needs! God grant that our needs be the same things as our desires this Advent and Christmas.  There is a gift Christ wants to give to you; it is precisely what you need!

But do you want what you need?

-MM

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Just a Peak - A Child's Faith




Yesterday, a child pressed himself to the lower part of the cloudy glass door of the Adoration Chapel peering inside- perhaps he just wanted a peak at Jesus.

2,000 years ago that child would have seen more or less the same thing physically: Visible matter, whether in human form or bread form.  Neither in themselves really reveal what - or rather Who - is really inside.   The eyes can only see so far.

Though with the sight of the spirit - what we call faith - we, along with that child, can discern the unseen God hidden under the physical and the visual; the Invisible underneath the visible. 

Christ's physical body is the vehicle, the corridor, through which faith can arrive at His invisible Divinity because the Divinity permeats and is one with that bodily nature. 
The bread? It merely makes invisible what had previously already kept the Divinity invisible - His body.  So the bread hides the body which hides the Divinity.  Hidden, yes, but through faith we know: "There! There He is!"  Hidden but not unknown.

2,000 years ago men and women saw His body but many did not acknowledge the Person inside. Today, why would Christ again make Himself visible if so few even really want to know Who He is in the first place? He hides Himself out of mercy so that only those Who want to see His Person can while those who don't won't.

He can be seen now only by those who truly desire to see Who is inside - the child, pressed up against the cloudy glass just to have a peak at Who is inside:

Jesus.

"For now we see as through a glass darkly." (1 Corinthians 13:12)

"Amen, I say to you unless you turn abd become like children you will never enter (see) the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 18:3)

Why? Because you wouldn't even want to be there - much less see it - unless you were a child.

"But to those who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God , to those who believe in His Name." (John 1:12)

"Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water." (Revelation 22:17)

Do you know how thirsty you are? Have you ever prayed for God to reveal to you the true depths of your thirst, your emptiness, your longing for more? As children let us never settle for "enough."  Let our anthem to our Heavenly Father resound, "More please!"

More than just a peak.

I want more of You, Jesus.

More, please.

-MM

Friday, November 22, 2013

Open the Door!...Please? Getting EXCITED about Advent (Quietly)

So imagine Jesus comes to pay you a visit


Expecting His knock at the door you begin to panic


Then He approaches, He knocks...


You don't answer.


So He waits...and waits...


and waits.

Why is it so hard sometimes to let the Lord into our lives, our hearts?

Why do we make God wait? Why do we keep Him locked out?

God - if He is not already on the inside of our hearts - will occasionally knock

He'll occasionally call out to us through the closed door, "Can I come in, please?"

But He's greeted with silence.

Silence is dangerous.  Silence is like a vacuum which longs to be filled.  That vacuum can be filled with the same old lies we cling to which have come to us from others, it can be filled with our own thoughts and imaginings (Heaven forbid we be full of ourselvds!) or it can be filled with the truth - God can speak into our silence.

Whose voice do you tend to listen to? What do you believe about yourself, your life, the world, religion, humanity's destiny etc.?  What fills the silence in you?

We all, after all, have to learn the truth.  A student needs to receive his lesson from the teacher and, in order to do that, he must remain silent while the teacher speaks.  The student could, of course, choose not to listen thus filling his own silence with his own thoughts.  That's dangerous if the truth is trying to be communicated.

In our world we are very wary of teachers.  We hesitate to give ourselves over totally, we hold back, we're not sure if we can trust everything we're told.  That can be appropriate sometimes with other human beings.  We do need to filter and evaluate what we're told from time to time because we can't be naive and ought not believe everything we hear.

But that can be so tiring in the spiritual life. Yes, we need to be on guard spiritually since not all spiritual insights that come to us are from God.  Sometimes religious teachers "get it wrong" or well meaning friends can be in error on something.  So where can we turn for sound, infallible truth about the most important (and frankly, most interesting) questions in life?

Is there anyone (or anything) which we can allow into the door of our hearts and simply drink in what we are told?  Sounds dangerous - I know - especially since many of us have often before been burned and we're tired of putting out the painful flames.


Isn't there anyone that we can allow access to the deepest parts of our hearts in order to learn the truth? Well, judging from the title of my post and the first few lines I'm sure you can guess where I'm going with this.

But you'll have to wait for part II where we'll discuss more deeply how we can let God into our lives; even into the darkest, deepest, most silent corners of our hearts.


It is into that silence which Christ wants to descend.  The Word stands outside our doors anticipating to echo His truth and love through the halls of our hearts. 

 We are, after all, approaching Advent which is a season of waiting, of patient expectation.  We remain in joyful hope of Christ's coming in a new way into our lives.

Maybe this year we'll finally open the door to the Lord once and for all.

That is, I think, Jesus' joyful hope at least.

(to be continued...)

-MM





Thursday, November 21, 2013

Beautiful Churches, Camels, and the Poor.


These kids are so happy 


because they're riding CAMELS


in FRANCE!

Come on! How awesome is that? 

I think this was the first time I've ever seen a camel before (unless I've seen one in a zoo before but I don't remember.)


This picture above was taken outside of our window.  The locals were having a festival.  They know how to throw a party because there were camels there.


Tents were set up around town selling goodies.  Games and rides were strewn about. The merry-go-round looked fun.

And there were camels.


Here's some pictures of the inside of the Basilica.

Note the lack of camels.  Camels don't belong in Church.


They sure don't make 'em like they used to. Churches I mean.


There is a poor woman who sits and begs just inside the entrance of the Church with her little dog. (Dogs are allowed inside the entryway but not camels.)  Her name is Jaqueyln.  There is another man who often comes around asking for money for his next meal.

I'm glad they have a beautiful Church like this to pray in if they want to.

It's available if they want it.  It's like God - always available if anyone wants Him.

Because, after all, this Church belongs just as much to the poor as it does to anyone else.

They have a beautiful place to go and pray.   That, to me, is beautiful.

They are poor, yes.  I don't know why.  I don't know why they have to beg for their next meal from people they don't know.  

Sometimes people say the Catholic Church should sell beautiful Churches like this or sell the beautiful artwork inside and give the proceeds to the poor.

I think that would be stealing from the poor. The poor also have a spiritual hunger (as everyone does) which beauty helps alleviate because beauty lifts the mind up, like those high Church ceilings, to God.  

This Church/Basilica belongs just as much to the poor as to the rich; perhaps even more so.  The poor need beautiful places to go especially since they don't have a beautiful family to welcome them and a beautiful house to go home to like so many other people.

So I say we allow magnificent Churches to remain where they are - on hills where their glory and beauty can give light to all; especially for those most in need... if they want it.

God, help us to want it.

But keep the camels out.  Camels don't need beautiful Churches.

-MM

Monday, November 18, 2013

He is THERE! He IS there! HE is there!

Pointing to the tabernacle where Jesus in the Eucharist reposed, Pere Jean Vianney exclaimed:

"He is THERE!
He IS there!
HE is there!"



Descending the pulpit the Cure of Ars has made his point in perhaps 
the world's shortest sermon.

(I tend to listen to people whose bodies are still incorrupt after hundreds of years.  They probably knew what they were talking about...just sayin')

"He is there!"

Jesus - God Who became man, the Savior, the Lord - is there in the Eucharist.

Here's a link to a video on Eucharistic Adoration.  It's part of a new series called 
"From the Visible to the Invisible."

The young Eucharistic martyr certainly would agree with St. John Vianney:

"He is there!"

May this post, like St. John Vianney during his sermon, point you to Jesus in the Eucharist.

"He is there!"


-MM

(I had difficulties embedding the video into my post but would love some comments on what people think of the video, the stories/testimonies, etc.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Part II: Just Buyin' Time - The Other Side of the "Widow's Mite" Coin


"Dear Matt, who are these people and why is their picture on your blog?"
-Sincerely, Your typical blog reader

_______

An excellent question and a perfect lead in to my topic for today.
Mah-wijh is waht bwings us togeva tooday

(If you've not seen the movie "The Princess Bride" then you probably think I have A.) I have a terrible spelling problem B.) I've been looking at too many "lolkatz" or C.) I've completely lost it

"A" is not the case (I loved spelling in grade school!)
"B" is also not true (though lolkatz are one of my favorite things)
"C"...maybe true...at least some days

MAH-WIJH! (i.e. Marriage) is a beautiful thing.
But it's not for everybody.

It was, though, for those two people pictured above. The very devoutly Catholic Duke of Luxemburg and his bride chose to get married here at the Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene (St. Maximin, France.)  In fact, one of them has a degree (or is pursuing now, I can't remember) a degree in Catholic bioethics! Wow.  They got married a couple weeks before I first arrived here so I couldn't attend the wedding. 

"But that's not the point of your post, Matt!'

...True.  

MAH-WIJH is a beautiful thing.
But it's not for everybody.  Some are called to consecrate their whole lives to God.

"Matt, that's crazy!"

Yes.  By the world's standards, that is crazy.

To believe God became a human being in Jesus Christ.
To believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
To believe Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist; in every tabernacle 
within every Catholic Church.
To believe everything Jesus Christ has revealed to the world through the Bible and the Apostolic Tradition of His Church.
To believe the Catholic Church is - simply put - the oracle of God in the world.

Yes.  By the world's standards, that is crazy.

But to become a Saint I think you have to be a little crazy.  Only someone mad with love becomes a Saint

The souls that totally consecrate themselves to Jesus are out of their minds with love.
They want, no, they need to be near Him - like Mary Magdalene needed to be near Him.

Even to the point of going to be with Him at the Cross.

"Where He is I want to be." That is the Magdalene motto, the philosophy of a consecrated, Eucharistic soul.

Jesus is in the Eucharist.
So they want to sit at His feet there
As much as possible

The Widow from the gospel passage I quoted in my last post gave from her poverty.  The busy Catholic lay person, the married person, those who are very active - when they give an hour to Jesus in the Eucharist weekly, even daily - they give a LOT because they give from the poverty of their time.  They have their many duties and so they do not have much spare time just like the poor widow did not have much spare money.  But when they give all that they can spare to the Lord they often are giving more than those of great wealth - whether that wealth is measured in terms of their finances or their free time.

Do you follow me so far? The poor widow and the busy Catholic give a lot when they give what little they can spare - whether what they give is money or time because it's from their poverty.

But some people are rich.  Rich in money, rich in time.

The souls who feel called to consecrate their whole lives to Christ are called to become very wealthy spiritually.  They are given an abundance of time.  

They inherit a great wealth of time.  They choose to renounce marriage, they choose to live a contemplative life to - all so as to pursue the "one thing necessary."

Again, like Mary Magdalene.

They trade the world's goods (money for example) and natural goods (like marriage) so as to buy a tremendous amount of time.

The consecrated, Eucharistic soul sells all that it has to buy time - time with Jesus in 
the Eucharist.
The Pearl of Great Price.

Do you feel called to buy time with Jesus?
He'll give you eternity in exchange.
What would you sell in exchange for constantly being with Him? To get that Pearl?
The rich young man from another Gospel passage went away sad because he couldn't bring Himself to sell all that he had (for he was very rich in worldly goods) in order to follow the Lord.

Don't come to the end and go away from this life sad wishing that you had sold everything to buy all the time in the world to be with Jesus.

When St. Margaret Mary (the Saint to whom Jesus revealed His Sacred Heart) asked Jesus what in her most displeased Him, Jesus responded that it was her inattentiveness to His real presence in the Eucharist.  He said that in the Eucharist He thirsts to be loved.  That is where He said His Sacred Heart thirsts to receive mankind's love - in the Eucharist.

Do not go away from this life regretting decisions not to pay a visit to Christ in the local adoration chapel, or to stay 15 minutes after Mass to abide with Him in Holy Communion, or to arrive 15 minutes before Mass to prepare for the feast.  Don't come to the end of your life having never tried to eradicate Jesus' greatest displeasure from your soul - inattentiveness to His real presence in the Eucharist.

He is there.  Buy time wherever you can in your life, trade what you are able to and 
with that time go to Him!
He waits for you. 
Just for you.
He thirsts for your love.
Only you can quench His thirst for your particular love.
No one else can console Him like you can.

We must not torment Jesus anymore! We must reciprocate His love.  He burns to have the consolation of your real presence in front of Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

Buy as much time as you can.  Pour out your life like sweet smelling oil at His feet. Anoint Christ's Eucharistic presence with all of your life - with all of your time.

If you give Him all of your time He'll give you all of His eternity.

O sweet exchange!



-Matt



Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Mitey Widow


Do you remember the story of the Widow's Mite?

Mite means a very small contribution

It might be all you have to give

If so, mite makes right.

When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, "I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood."
Luke 21:1-4


Perhaps you feel that what you give to God

Just isn't enough

Perhaps you think

That it just doesn't measure up


I want to encourage you

God wants your mite

Not your might

He wants you to give from your poverty

Not from the abundance of your strength


Will you give one hour to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?

Will you keep watch and keep Him company?

"Could you not watch one hour with Me?" -Matthew 26:40

At least one hour?

He is, after all, setting the minimum.  

The mite.

Can you who live in the world

Who work at your job

Who take care of your kids

Who are busy with so many good things that you have no

Time.

Can you give Jesus the mite of your time?

One hour?

I think that those busy about the Lord's work

Busy about their God-given duties

Actually give God much more than they know

Because they give from their poverty


He waits for your mite

He said, "I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood."

-MM

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Eye See You! - Fruitful Faith


Why is this Polish seminarian holding two little oranges up to his eyes?

...

Well, because I asked him to.

...

Faith is fruitful!

Is your faith producing fruit in your life?

What fruit should we expect to come from faith? I think we have an ideal model in the one who is "most blessed among women" - Mary, the Mother of Christ.

Once when Jesus was out preaching a woman called out from the crowd to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed!" Jesus responded (perhaps after a brief pause coupled with a smile,) "Rather (the Greek could also translate "also") blessed is the one who hears the Word of God and obeys it!" (Luke 11:27-28)

Jesus, fully aware of the fact that His Mother is "most blessed among women," (Luke 1:42) highlights the higher grace - the grace which led to her being His Mother in the first place - Mary's faith.

Mary's faith was fruitful. Her unconditional "Yes" to God in faith led to a reception of God's Word in such a total way that God's Word became incarnate in her womb.  Her faith was so fruitful that she became the Tree of Life and bore the most blessed fruit possible - the incarnate Son of God, the Savior.  "Blessed are you among women" and "Blessed is the fruit of your womb"

Jesus

Faith lets one see as far as God sees. Faith doesn't block God's "vision" for our lives. Faith always say yes to God.

Mary's faith allowed enough room for God - in His fullness - the enter into her very body.  He Whom Heaven and Earth cannot contain willed to enter His creation first through the faithful and fruitful heart of an Immaculate Virgin, whose vision was unsullied by the world's way of seeing and whose soul only ever received God's Word. As an aside, THAT'S why she's an Immaculate Virgin- she only knew God's pure Word. She knew not sinful man, nor the sinful world, nor the author of sin - the Devil and his lies.  Her virginal soul, a "garden enclosed" (see the Song of Songs) admitted only God and His truth, His Word.  "You are all beautiful, my love, and there is no flaw in you." (Song of Songs 4:7)

Her faith was fruitful because within her heart she made room for the seed of God's Word and this Divine Truth was born of her as a fruit is borne of a tree.  Because she is the Spouse of God the Holy Spirit she becomes Mother of God the Son.  

If you gave yourself over to God completely imagine what He could do through you.

"If you are what you should be you will set the world on fire." - St. Catherine of Siena

Mary, our Mother, sets us an example and teaches us her children how to be a Christian, how to be God's beloved daughter or son.  She also shows us what happens when we finally and completely say "Yes!" to God.  

"Let it be done to me according to your word."(Mary's words in Luke 1:38)




Where in your heart does God not have access to? What door do you still need to open for Him? Believe, make room in the "Inn" of your heart for Christ to be born anew - Don't turn Him away as the Inkeeper of Bethlehem. "There was no room in the Inn."

But a Marian soul is different - a Marian soul means "room for God alone."

Become like your Heavenly Mother ("Behold, your Mother" John 19:27) and "prepare the way of the Lord."

"I mean to stay at your house today!" (Luke 19:6)

-Matt




Monday, November 4, 2013

There can be nothing greater than that

We had a pretty darn good time.

We shared a meal.


We laughed.


We didn't cry though... Well, that's not exactly true.

Mother Myriam is known for crying when she starts talking about God.

She loves Him so...

A couple weeks ago during a visit from Mother Myriam's (Rosalind Moss, a Jewish convert) new community (The Daughters of Mary, Mother of the Hope of Israel) we here in St. Maximin were blessed to hear words similar to the following from a tearful spiritual Mother terribly in love with God:

"Do you understand the implications of that statement?? GOD... became a MAN! If you don't realize that there can be nothing greater than that then you don't know what that statement means." 

GOD...became a MAN!
There can be nothing greater than that.

The Christian challenge to the world has always been that
the greatest possible thing that could have happened has happened

GOD...became a MAN!

I would say that if that realization hasn't radically changed our lives then we have, in fact, not really realized it at all.

God

became

a man.

...

Your move.



Monday, October 21, 2013

"...You are anxious and troubled about many things."


As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.

She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.

There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her"

Luke 10:38-42

_______

Well, at least Martha let Jesus into her house.  Most of us don't even get that far.  Our hearts are too scattered; like a messy home.  So we refuse to let the Lord in.  Yet, even if we are divided and distracted and pulled and anxious and worried about many things we at least need to let the Lord in.  He doesn't mind the mess we've made and we shouldn't mind letting Him clean up!  In fact He wants to bring some order to the mess, some unity.  Yes, he wants a unified, undivided heart but He's the One Who has to give it to us in the first place.  We need to let Him have all the fragemented parts of our heart. He will recreate and order our hearts.  But we at least need to let Him in the door.
 
Where's your heart? Is it scattered in many places, divided between this and that? Are you talking to the Lord about it? I mean, Martha does the right thing.  She relates her frustration to the Lord.  She prays.  She prays. Mary prays, too, and while Mary's prayer is better, purer, more attentive, at least Martha prays.  She doesn't hold it all in, she releases the frustration she has to the Lord.  She's honest.

"Lord, do you not care??"

Yes, He cares.  You know He cares even if sometimes it doean't feel that way.  Then listen to Him.  Even if we can be distracted and anxious, we can still choose to let the Lord into our hearts, into our honest reality, the real situation we're in, and slowly put down each care and worry before the Lord. Lay your cares before the Lord. Put down the pots and pans, Martha.  Let the soup simmer.  The table can be set later.  Stop.  Sit down. And pray.

I would submit to you that prayer becomes more real when it's honest.  Where are you at? I mean, really? What's really on your mind? What are you feeling lately? What do you want?

"What do you want Me to do for you?"

As if He only came for Mary? As if the Lord only wants to have an intimate relationship with "holy people;" monks and nuns? No.  He wants to talk to you.  He is your friend just as much as He is Mary's.  Mary just happens to have figured it out sooner than Martha. Ok.  You can do that, too.  So tell Him what's going on.  Bring Him the real you. What else could He possiblly want but you?


(Above: Painting in Sacristy of the
Basililca of St. Mary Magdalene)
 
Unless you have better things to do... but, Mary knew better from the start and that's why she more quickly chose the better part.  That doesn't mean Martha can't lay herself at Christ's feet at any moment.

Whatever it is, whatever's going on, just bring it to Him.  He knows you're anxious and worried about many things.  He knows.  That's why He came to your house.  He wants to talk to you. Honestly.

Give Him everything you've got - which is you.
Then receive everything He's got - which is Himself.

That's prayer.
Real, honest prayer.

-MM

Thursday, October 17, 2013

American Humor and Broken Windows: Huh-larious

Yesterday, whilst sitting in the kitchen (which is essentially the social hub of the house,) a group of us sat chatting.  Fr. Florian walks in and asks me and Gary,

"How about at 3:30 I show you how to fix a window?"

I thought to myself, "O boy I was hoping you'd ask me that today!"

I laughed and laughed.

He didn't understand why it was so funny! I later told him that I thought it was a particular characteristic of American humor which appreciates the random and unexpected things in life. 

_______


(Above) Pere Florian (right) and Gary (not on the right) fixing a window.


(Above) A view from a non-broken window at the parish center, second floor


(Above) Ye olde parish center - used to be a convent but now...it's a parish center
_______

To me, a comment like that out of the blue is hysterical! Like, I'm sitting around shootin' the breeze and someone asks "Hey, how about I show you how to fix a window!"

Huh-larious

But I'm from 'merica.  

I also thought it was funny when Fr. Florian put his foot through the window sill while showing us how to fix the window.


(Above) Huh-larious
(He agreed with me on that one)

-Matt Malicki

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I live next to Jesus and Mary Magdalene (and you thought YOU had nice neighbors!)

One of the things I love about being here is going to Mass and adoration every day at the Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene (aka Basilica of St. Maximin..long story for another post!)



The top picture is the Basilica.  I got sprayed with water from some construction work being done nearby whilst taking that photo for you...  You're welcome.  The bottom picture is a rotund pigeon which was walking outside.  He was a little suspcious of me following him trying to get a close up.  I like pigeons.  

Anyway

Today when I was leaving the side chapel where they have Eucharistic Adoration during the day I walked near the crypt where Mary Magdalene's remains are and I decided...

"I'm going to pray for a little bit down there."



It is an incredible blessing to be able to ask such a great Saint who loved Christ so much to pray for me that I would also love Him.  Mary Magdalene had such a profound, radical conversion - like night and day.  I want that.  I find myself praying lately for perfect contrition; for the grace to see reality as it is and how ungrateful and lukewarm I am.  Daily I receive the King of Kings into my heart through Holy Communion, I live in a house where He rests in the tabernacle underneath my bedroom, I'm able to visit Christ Himself whenever I want just like Mary Magdalene did (the only difference being now,in the Eucharist, He just appears to be bread) - and how does this change me?

Not nearly enough.

God give me your eyes.


Half that number (it counts when you enter and when you leave) and that's the number of visitors that have come to the crypt since they installed the counter.  When was that you might ask?...I don't know. But that's a lot of people coming to honor and ask prayers from a woman who saw reality and was changed forever.

Mary Magdalene saw Jesus - as He truly is.

"Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 9:5, Paul's words to Jesus)

Who are You, Lord?...

God heal our blindness and show us Who You are.

- MM


Monday, October 14, 2013

Russian Fun. With a Little Christmas to Boot.

So as I said previously, those kind Russian Orthodox folk came by with some gifts for us.  One was the icon which I showed you of St. Seraphim.  Another was a delicious box of chocolates (the box wasn't delicious, I meant the chocolates.) Now the final gift was really unique.


.......


BEHOLD!
The Christmas Stocking Filled with Crouton-Like Things!



Now, I don't quite understand Russian culture.  But I think this gift was awesome. When you ate the little pieces of bread it made the loudest sound imagineable.

Again...

BEHOLD! Loud Crouton Sounds While Studying French with an Australian!





Friday, October 11, 2013

Anybody Read Russian?? More Providential "Coincidences"

"Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved." - St. Seraphim of Sarov

I'm not Orthodox, I'm Catholic. I mean, I'm an Orthodox Catholic; don't get me wrong... but I'm not Orthodox.  Confused yet?

Well, ya should be!

The worldwide Church was probably pretty confused, too, around 1054.  That's when "the Great Schism" took place between Eastern and Western Christianity.  Largely political while throwing in some doctrinal points this rupture has some confusing history.  But first... Some cool, gigantic pictures! (for effect AND clarity)
+++


This is St. Seraphim of Sarov.  He was a miracle worker of the Russian Orthodox Church in the late 1700's/early 1800's.  And how do I know that? I looked it up on Wikipedia of course.  (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seraphim_of_Sarov)


Because, as you can clearly see, this thing is not in English.  

"Matt, why are you, a Catholic seminarian, posting about an Orthodox Saint?"

I'm glad you asked, reader.  Do you remember my previous post about the crazy, providential run in I had with that Priest in Ars this previous weekend?

"I sure do, Matt! I read all of your posts!"

Wow, thanks, reader! I wish I had more dedicated followers like you.  Well anyway, a long long time ago, on an airplane far far away (my flight over to Poland from America which was going to connect me to a flight into France on Sep 26th a few weeks ago... I hope that confusion is bubbling over now) I met a lady name Tamara, from Poland.  She was born Russian Orthodox.

"What's that mean, Matt?"

Well, I'm not entirely sure, but I'll share what I know soon.  Stop interrupting!

"Sorry, Matt."

It's ok... Now where was I? O yes, Tamara.  We sat next to each other on the plane over the pond and she shared how she was searching for the Truth in her life.  She had a Russian Orthodox background and clearly had faith in God.  She was going back to Poland to be with her dying mother.

We had a wonderful conversation about life and faith and, at the end of the trip, she handed me a prayer card which had a Russian Orthodox Saint on it named St. Tamara! This, too, was all in Russian.  In exchange I have her a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a "miraculous medal" of Mary and we parted ways.  I think it's what any faithful, Catholic seminarian would do.  (Her son apparently wants to become an Orthodox Priest so that's pretty cool, too.)

I arrived in France that night and met a Catholic religious sister (think "nun") who is associated with our community (Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist) in some way.  They (Fr. Sean actually) told me that she goes over to Russia frequently to work with the Russian Orthodox people.

"Crazy coincidence, Matt!"

I know! So I handed her the prayer card and asked her to translate.  She doesn't speak much English so I don't think she understood me but she was very surprised that it was St. Tamara who was depicted.

"Why, Matt?"

Because Sister's name is "Sister Tamara!"

"Wooooaaaahhhhh!!!"

So I gave her the prayer card and asked her to also pray for the Tamara I met on the plane. Those were the first two Tamaras I've ever met in my life within a span of 10-12 hours or so.

"Wooooaaaahhhhh!!!"

So I pray for Tamara and have a new Saint to pray to: St. Tamara. Though I don't have her prayer card anymore.  I'm sure she understands.
Today, some Russian Orthodox people came and gave our community some crunchy crouton-like bread in what looked like a Christmas stocking, some out of this world chocolate, and the icon pictured above.  The community decided to give it to me.

"But it's not St. Tamara..."

That's not the point! These encounters have reminded me of the great need to pray for unity in the Church and has opened my heart more (hopefully) to the Orthodox who are so close in faith to the Catholic Church.  After the schism in 1054 between east and west, various segments of these Orthodox groups came back into full communion with the Catholic Church.  In fact, there isn't just one way to be Catholic (Roman Catholic) - there's 22! (like the Byzantine Catholics, the Syro-Malabar Catholics etc. all in doctrinal communion with the Bishop of Rome (da Pope!) who is the visible head of the universal, Catholic Church. (The Orthodox, Protestants, etc disagree but that's beside the point, too)

We need to pray for unity!  St. Seraphim (not only honored by the Orthodox but also by Catholics as Pope John Paul II mentions him in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope - thanks Wikipedia!) is a great Saint and now a new friend of mine (along with St. Tamara, the Polish lady Tamara, and Sister Tamara.)  St. Seraphim has a great quote:

"Acquire a peaceful spirit and thousands will be saved."

"Why is that, Matt?"

I think because, ultimately, real peace is a sense of unity with those around us.  When we have true peace within - I mean God's peace in Christ - it makes others around us say "Why are you that way?" And those thousands of people around us will be able to catch fire with the same peace which radiates from our hearts because when they experience it in us they'll say

"I want that."  

Then we'll introduce them to Jesus, the Prince of Peace...

And thousands will be saved.

+++

Now can anybody read Russian??