The Daily Effect

8/4/2018

I went to Confession today for the first time in over two months. It’s not like I was basking in mortal sin, but, hey, nobody is perfect! I like to go once a month, but this past eight weeks have just been very busy.

I must admit, I had forgotten how wonderful going to Confession is, and what a gift Christ gave us with this Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Of course there is the natural trepidation in the 30 minutes to an hour waiting to enter the confessional. Every single Catholic feels it, at least a little, regardless of how many times they have confessed their sins to a priest. After all, it is not a natural act.

As humans, we are hardwired by our environment to conceal those incriminating details about ourselves, lest they lead to our punishment. But therein lies the magic of the Act of Confession: we can’t hide our actions, good or bad, from God.

God has no need of us telling Him our sins for He already knows, but the act of confessing them is no less important. God does not need us to tell Him our sins, but he does want to know we are truly penitent. The humility involved in confessing that which we would rather leave unsaid is our role in our forgiveness and our return to friendship with God.

Jesus left very clear instructions with the Apostles on this matter: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, whose sins you retain are retained.” Is it possible to be forgiven by God without going to confession? Of course. All is possible with God.

But many times we humans tend to think we know the mind and heart of God a little better than we really do (or even could). When Catholics hear those beautiful words “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” we know – because we trust the promise of Christ – that our sins have been forgiven. We have acknowledged that our actions have offended the Lord and humbled ourselves. And that is what God wants from us.

In fact, Confession is arguably the most vital sacrament for the salvation of mankind. It is the words of absolution spoken by the priest while he is in persona Christi, which remove the stain of sin from our soul and allow Grace to once again abide within.

It is only in the State of Grace that we can partake in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Without being able to confess our sins and have them absolved, we would never be capable of attaining the state worthy to share in the body and blood of Our Blessed Lord. We would be left with two choices: never receiving the Eucharist or taking it while not in a State of Grace (an act that is a most grave sacrilege, as warned by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29).

The feeling I have when walking out of the confessional is difficult to describe – but wonderful. Though I know the sins I had to confess were proof that I am not strong enough to remain in the State of Grace, I also know that God will always forgive me, like the loving Father He is.

It is this deep feeling of love and trust in God that grants us another benefit from the Sacrament of Confession: it strengthens our resolve to avoid sin. When you feel the deep state of being clean, you don’t want to lose it. Thus our souls are made stronger in their defenses against the temptations and snares of the Devil.

If you are a Catholic and have not been to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a while, I suggest making a beeline for the nearest confessional. Most churches hold Confession before the Saturday evening Mass, but priests are usually willing to hear confessions by appointment also.

Don’t worry about what the priest might think about what you confess, he will not know who you are. Confession is done behind a screen and is completely anonymous (with the possible exception of a priest you know well and him recognizing your voice). But you don’t have to confess to your own priest.

I make my confessions in a different church than my home parish, and that is perfectly acceptable. Remember: who the individual priest is does not matter – it is God who will be forgiving your sins.

Take advantage of this most beautiful sacrament. I promise you, you will emerge a changed person with vigor and seemingly superhuman strength.

God Bless.

1/28/2018

I am a lector at my wonderful church, St. Paul the Apostle, and today at Mass, I had the honor of doing the first reading, from the Book of Deuteronomy. Moses tells the Israelites that God will bring forth new prophets after he dies. Our priest, Fr. Murphy, delivered a fantastic homily discussing the need for modern-day prophets.

This was the climax of a weekend retreat that I helped with, for 24 of our young parishioners who will be making their Confirmations this year. During the retreat, I had the fortune to be able to discuss the importance of the rite, with the confirmands.

Confirmation is in many ways, a similar (though not strictly the same) experience as what happened at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, forever changing the trajectory of the world.

The Apostles had been spiritually and mentally broken, having lost Jesus. Although He had appeared to them and assured them He would always be with them, they were weary. The Romans were hunting them because they thought they had stolen Jesus’ body to fake His resurrection, and the empire needed to stamp out Christianity before it gained any momentum.

However, as Jesus had promised, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and they were filled with courage and certainty, speaking with tongues of fire and fearlessly proclaiming the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the face of the Roman Empire. The Catholic Church was born and the rest is history.

As Catholics, Confirmation seals us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and unites us to Jesus and the mission of His Church, enabling us to “…bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds.” (CCC 1316)

The Church – and the world – need Catholics to stand up and proclaim the truths of the faith, without fear or timidity. The faith must never be forced on anyone, but it must be available to them.

Many will reject the faith, but convincing them is not the objective. The primary reason we proclaim the truth is to make it known to those who want a relationship with Our Lord, and give them the resources to make that happen.

Catholicism is under attack from many sides by relentless enemies who will not rest until the light of Christ is extinguished, leaving people completely at the mercy of the world – and the Devil. We will reject these attacks with all we have, guided by the Holy Spirit and with complete trust in Jesus Christ, for the glory of God the Father.

The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church, but there will be many souls lost, if those of us who are able, do nothing.

Much like the Israelites, the world needs prophets to rise and lead the vulnerable back to their Heavenly Father, who loves them so dearly and wants them to come home. Prophets today need not predict the future – only confirm the past. And they must stand up for the truth against these lies of the Devil that God is either a tyrant, or non-existent.

Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest Catholic theologians ever. He was a master of theology and his 60-plus body of work is considered the go-to source for knowledge about the Catholic faith. St. Thomas was a fierce apologist for the faith and a model for modern-day Catholics.

I shall conclude with a quote from St. Thomas that sums it all up:

“Better to illuminate than merely shine, to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

1/23/2018

Generosity. It is a term that is far underused – and even more misunderstood; but it is at the very heart of why America is in turmoil and how it can rebound.

America has always been a shining beacon on a hill to the rest of the world; I remember as a child in my beloved Ireland, I felt there was always something magical about America. There was an innate sense of the openness and generosity of the land and her wonderful people. That generosity still exists, but all too often, it gets drowned out by something else: fear.

Don’t misunderstand my point here, I’m not saying that everything was pie in the sky in America – it wasn’t. There are terrible stains on her history including, but not limited to, the treatment of American Indians and the legacy of slavery. But this post is not about reality – it is about perception. What is perceived influences what is believed. America is no longer perceived to be the most generous nation on Earth, anymore.

This perception is completely false; Americans are still one of the most generous people (as a whole) in the world. When tragedy strikes home, regular people in this country come together to lend a helping hand, pick up the pieces and even stand in line for hours to donate their own blood. When something terrible happens abroad, ordinary Americans open up their checkbooks and donate much-needed funds to help their fellow man. And if it ended here, all would be well – but it doesn’t.

Politics has driven this nation into chaos. The battle between the two political parties is at a fever pitch. Americans are now very much divided along hard lines and those who benefit from this division have successfully cultivated an environment in which it is not deemed irrational to feel disgust (or even hatred) for one who disagrees with us. This is a recipe for disaster – disaster that will serve the sinister few who have fostered it.

It’s not only politicians – though they parasitically benefit from it and thus bear heavy culpability – that have brought us to this. A ratings war between powerful media outlets ravenous for loyal viewers has given birth to a new breed of pundits who sow the seeds of fear and harvest the crops of hate. No matter your political leanings, there is no difficulty finding your particular flavor of pundit, once you find the right news station.

Celebrities, those people who are famous (sometimes bafflingly so) and more wealthy than they can handle, chime in on serious events and all of a sudden their fans are embroiled in a tidal wave of anger about whatever the incident is. Marketing-savvy and highly opportunistic activists stir up emotions of hatred, fear and anger among the masses – typically resulting in actions that cause more pain and destruction – and they increase their public profile, regardless of the social cost to the regular people who get caught up in it.

This has led to a caustic environment in the country; but there is hope, because it too is fake. Look at the news and you would believe the U.S. is on the verge of civil war, divided upon racial, religious, national and gender lines. A powder keg where like associates with like and nobody trusts anyone who is different than them. An uneasy place where Muslims and Christians don’t speak to each other; a place where African-Americans and Caucasians don’t trust one another; a place where immigrants are shunned as outsiders. In other words: a place of fiction.

The powers-that-be would love us to believe that this is an accurate image of the country in which we live – because it keeps us suspicious of each other rather than them. But the truth may be found quite easily by observing ordinary everyday life in America. An office with a diverse staff where everyone gets along and there are close bonds of  friendship across any ethnic lines you wish to choose. A local bar where a highly-anticipated sports match is on television – the only division therein is based upon which team one is rooting for. Walking down a busy sidewalk and a lady trips and falls to the ground – more than one person will rush to her aid, regardless of ethnicity.

The problem is not in the lies we are told, for they have always existed; the problem is that we are starting to believe them. It is time for the American people to take back their identity. We can do it, and quite easily so. We simply need to discern, whenever a loud voice is speaking, whether that voice stands to gain from our reaction to the problem it is proclaiming. And we will do it. We will make America generous again, in image as well as in practice. We have to. If we don’t, the nation will fall – as will the dream.

Our Lord stated quite clearly: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” (Mark 3:24) It’s time we started listening to Him.

1/22/2018

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him who is considered greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus directed them to observe a child who was nearby. He answered them that only those who could humble themselves and become like the innocent child, would hold a place of honor in Heaven. He continued, “whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” (Matthew 18:1-5)

There are many example of Jesus placing special emphasis on the value of children, including when His disciples attempted to shield Him from the group of children who were seeking His blessing. Jesus commanded His disciples to “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

Jesus’ love for children was not readily understood by the world in which He lived; a world in which children were cheap labor, at best, and far worse than that, at worst. Even the Apostles, who were closest to Jesus, could not understand why the Son of God would be concerned with the care of lowly children, when He had far greater matters to attend to. It was difficult for even those chosen by Our Lord, to look outside themselves and look at the world the way God looks at it. Children are His greatest creation, made in His image and pure at heart; innocent.

We can cut the Apostles some slack, as it seems we still have not learned the lesson Jesus was teaching. Today is formally designated on the Catholic Church calendar as the “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.” 45 years ago today, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the legal right for a mother to abort her pregnancy.

The debate rages on: the rights of women versus the rights of the unborn.

I am not here to argue the issue; there are valid points on both sides of the debate and – although I am a Roman Catholic who affirms the dignity and value of life from natural conception until death as a gift from God – I accept and am thankful that the nation is not a theocracy and my religious beliefs, regardless of how strong they are, do not supersede the law of the land.

So we Catholics follow Jesus’ example and respect the laws of the land as they are; but we will pray; not for the laws to change, but for hearts to change.

We will pray that the hearts of doctors who perform abortions will open to see what it is they are destroying: the very human life they took an oath to defend.

We will pray that the young women and girls who have found themselves in the terrifying and isolating situation of being pregnant and feeling like they have no other choice will see that they are not making a choice to solve a problem – they are making a choice to destroy the most sacred part of themselves.

We will pray that God will turn the evil tide of opinion that says it’s ok to end another human being’s life simply because of the circumstances – circumstances that would not be a legal defense in any court in the land, only a few months later.

We will pray because we trust Our Lord – and He will deliver. Abortion will end one day, if for no other reason than, much like any other antiquated barbarism, the human species will simply outgrow it. But until then, we must pray and we must never cease speaking up for the rights of the unborn. They have no voice with which to speak (or cry), but they have a right to live – regardless of what the world says.

1/19/2018

King Saul’s envy and insecurity regarding David knew no bounds. When Saul raised 3000 of his men to pursue David into the desert of Engedi, the Lord kept His promise to protect his chosen one. At one point, David was actually able to sneak up to Saul and had the opportunity to kill him. But David didn’t kill Saul – but he did secretly cut a piece of his robe.

David’s servants reminded him that the Lord had promised to deliver his enemies into his hands, including King Saul. But David refused to take the opportunity to kill him, because Saul was still God’s anointed king. David’s love for God was so deep that he would not kill one who the Lord had favored, even though Saul, sought to kill him.

David eventually showed Saul the piece of his robe as roof that he wished the king no harm. David told Saul he did not kill him when he had the chance because he followed the old proverb “From the wicked comes wickedness.” (1 Samuel 24:14)

Because he sought the heart of God, David had an innate drive to live in a manner that pleased the Lord. This was a foreshadowing of the message of peace that would be delivered by Jesus Christ. We can see here that the message eventually comes full circle.

There is much we can learn from how David handled his problems with Saul. David saw Saul as special because God had anointed him as king of Israel. Even though Saul had lost God’s favor, the fact that he once had it gave him a status of reverence in David’s eyes. Fast forward to Jesus Christ and we can take this example from David to understand Christ’s commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

All human beings were made in the image of God and thus deserve respect. Even if, like Saul, a human has wronged us, we must view that person with compassion. Not so much to just be nice, but because that person, though presently lost, has the image of God on their heart. Like David’s decision not to kill Saul out of reverence for God we too must have that same respect and honor for the Lord in our encounters – especially our conflicts – with others.

It’s not easy, but Jesus never said that following Him would be.

1/18/2018

David’s slaying of Goliath got him noticed by King Saul, who took the youth into his family. Saul soon put David in charge of the army. When David and Saul returned home after the defeat of Goliath, the women of Israel came out into the streets singing praises to their king – and to David. The women sang a song that went:

“Saul has slain his thousands, David his tens of thousands.”– (1 Samuel 18:7)

Saul became very jealous of David because he felt the he should be getting the higher praise; after all, he was the king. Soon after this, Saul plotted to kill David, but he would never complete the task. God would protect David from Saul.

We have all faced (if not, we will someday) similar situations as Saul. No matter how good we believe ourselves to be at a particular task or how popular we feel we are, there is always someone better or more charismatic. Thus, having the goal of being the best so we can collect accolades is a self-defeating mindset.

Saul wanted the love of his people but, more than that, he wanted their praise and their approval – David wanted, only, the approval of God. The Lord favored David because of his pure heart, and that pure heart led David to seek the heart of God. God protected David and set events in motion for his unlikely rise to the throne of Israel. Remember, David hadn’t even been called to the assembly by his father, Jesse, when Samuel announced that God had chosen one of his sons to be the future king.

David faced many perils because of these events. Saul sought to kill him. But David remained steadfast like a rock in his trust in God. He never doubted that God was with him – and that gave him indefatigable strength.

Ego was the catalyst for Saul’s downfall. He lost favor with God by disobeying Him after the defeat of the Amalekites and he destroyed his own throne by becoming envious of David, whom he considered his inferior. We should take the lesson to check our egos at the door. The ego brings nothing but self-destruction. Indeed, the ego is the father of one of the worst of the seven deadly sins – pride.

Pride is the Devil’s favorite weapon in his war to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. When we allow our ego to drive us, we have unwittingly agreed to play on the Devil’s turf; we have given him home field advantage – and we will lose.

On the other hand, David is an excellent model for we who live in this era of endless competition and constant pressure to appear to be something we are not. Like David, we can find our success in our faith in God. He wants us to succeed, but He needs us to trust Him; and to love Him. This does not mean that troubles will not come – it simply means we will be able to handle them. And when we say our prayers at night, instead of petitioning God to grant us what we want, we need only petition that His will be done in our lives.

God, our loving Father in Heaven, who knew us even before we were in our mother’s wombs and to Whom we are so precious that He has all the hairs on our heads counted, wants the absolute best for us and He knows better than anyone else how to get us there. When we submit our lives to God’s will, we will find what will always elude us outside of His love – our true destiny.

1/17/2018

Life is never easy, and to feel like you are facing it alone can make it unbearable – but you are not alone, none of us are.

When the Philistine army sent the mighty Goliath to challenge any one of the Israelites in combat, there was no one brave enough to face him. Every morning, for forty days straight, Goliath stood in front of the army of Israel waiting for a challenger to fight him one-on-one – but none emerged.

Young David was busy tending to his work when he heard of the Philistine’s challenge and the fear it was causing King Saul. David volunteered to face the giant warrior. Quite predictably, his offer was dismissed as foolhardy by Saul. David was young, small and had no battle experience. Goliath was a massive, battle-hardened grown man. But David had faith in the Lord.

David assured Saul, “The same Lord who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear will deliver me from this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 3:37) Saul reluctantly agreed and bid David wel in his challenge.

When David came out to meet Goliath, the giant warrior mocked him. Goliath saw the small stature of David, armed not with a sword or shield but a sling and a few stones, and believed he would have an easy time of dispatching the boy. David responded to Goliath’s mockery with a profound truth: “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have insulted.” (1 Samuel 3:45)

We all know how the story ended: David the shepherd boy defeated Goliath with the use of a single, well-targeted stone from his sling. But the sling and the stones were not the catalyst for David’s victory; David’s faith in God was.

St. Anthony the Abbot, whose feast day is celebrated on this day in the Catholic Church, was a man who, though born wealthy, embraced Christ’s message of taking up his cross and rejecting earthly goods. After hearing a reading of Matthew 19:21 at Mass – “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in Heaven” – St. Anthony did just that.

He entrusted his young sister, to whom he had become guardian after the death of his parents, to a convent. He sold the 300 acres of land he had inherited and went to live a solitary life of prayer and fasting. St. Anthony strove to become exactly the type of person Jesus wanted him to be. Many came from far and wide to learn from him, though he was reluctant to take any apparent position of teacher. He believed and taught that the key to living correctly was faith, not action.

St. Anthony’s faith was tested in many battles with the Devil. Satan tempted the servant of God in a variety of insidious ways. He sowed anxiety in Anthony’s head about his sister, loneliness and doubt about whether or not his choices would lead him to do God’s true will. As Anthony emerged victorious – though scarred – from these battles, the Devil changed his approach. He began to praise Anthony and marvel at how strong he was for resisting his best attacks.

Though they left him battered spiritually, mentally and physically, St. Anthony resisted these attacks and he repeatedly called upon the name of Jesus Christ to drive the Devil from his presence. The Devil left, but returned frequently. One day, after once again being beaten down, Anthony asked God where He had been while Anthony needed Him. God responded that He was always with Anthony, and he praised his faithful servant for rejecting such powerful tactics from the Devil. And because he had proven his faith, God promised to protect Anthony from future attacks. *

We are often faced with challenges similar to both David and Anthony. Like the Israelites, we could hide from our troubles and hope they would go away. Like Goliath, though, our problems will rarely, if ever, just go away on their own. But how do we face them? Bills there is never enough money to pay, illness that tears our life apart or the empty scourge of loneliness can all make us feel like there is no hope. But there is always hope.

Like David facing Goliath, and St. Anthony facing the Devil, we must put our complete faith in God. Even when things are going badly and it seems as though the Lord doesn’t hear our cries, He is with us. He is watching and will be there to catch us when we fall – as long as we put our trust in Him. As we walk through this crazy and treacherous road of life, we must remember we are called to serve a higher purpose. We must live lives of service and seek to help others whenever or wherever we can. And we must never forget, God is with us. So live boldly and do not be afraid – just have faith.

*Information about St. Anthony gathered from: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=23

1/16/2018

The Pharisees, ever seeking a way to undermine Jesus’ authority, confronted Him about His disciples picking grain on the sabbath. Jesus responded by reminding them of the time David, when hungry, fed himself and his companions from the stores of bread of offering that was lawfully reserved only for priests. Jesus put a final note on this by telling the Pharisees that “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

Following Saul’s disobedience, God sent the prophet Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint the one whom the Lord had chosen to be the next king of Israel. The Lord told Samuel the chosen one would be one of Jesse of Bethlehem’s eight sons. Before dispatching him on the mission, the Lord told Samuel not to judge the boys by their appearance or stature; rather, Samuel was to judge them the way God does. “The Lord looks into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

One by one, Jesse presented his sons in order of strength, athleticism and other characteristics the he assumed a king would have. One by one, the Lord rejected them. Ultimately it was young David – who was out tending the sheep at the time because nobody thought it would be worthwhile to have such an unimpressive figure present – who was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel.

We Catholics often make the same mistake as the Pharisees in that we want to follow the rules while forgetting the reason those rules are in place. Being too rigid in the application of laws – church or state – can lead us to overlook the two great laws upon which all the other laws depend: love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves.

The rules are in place for a good reason, to help us live lives that bring us closer to the Lord. However, if following the rules leads us to ignore or break the two great commandments, then we would have best not followed the law at all.

Human beings look at things from an outward position, but God looks inward. Humans see appearance, stature and accomplishment – God sees love, intention and faith. If we want to get closer to God (which should be our primary objective as faithful Catholics) then we must at least attempt to look at the world from the perspective that God view it.

The world is God’s creation and we are His children. God’s priority is always the best interest of His children; and our priority should always be to serve God by looking out for the best interest of our brothers and sisters.

Jesus acted in seeming contradiction to Mosaic Law on multiple occasions, but He never once strayed from the spirit of the law nor the two great commandments. We should follow His lead and not be so rigid about being right, that we forget to be loving.

1/15/2018

Jesus said “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak [because] the fullness pulls away the new from the old and the tear gets worse.” He continued, “no one pours new wine into old wine skins. Otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined.” (Mark2:21-22) This was in response to a challenge about His disciples not keeping to the traditions of the Pharisees. Jesus’ point was clear. His message was incompatible with the perversion of God’s law that they had committed.

It is well-known that everything the Pharisees did was to project an image of holiness in order to maintain their power. Jesus taught and acted in direct opposition to this. The result was always going to be trouble.

In 1 Samuel, the Lord commanded Saul – the king of Israel – to destroy the Amalekites and kill their king, in retribution for harm the Amalekites had inflicted on the Israelites following the Exodus out of Egypt. Following Israel’s victory, Saul made the decision not to put everyone to the sword, and took the Amalekite king, Agag, as a prisoner. Saul also took the finest oxen and sheep the Amalekites possessed, so he could sacrifice them to the Lord.

Samuel – the prophet of the Lord – rebuked Saul for disobeying the command God gave him. “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings as much as in obedience to the Lord’s command? Obedience is better than sacrifice, to listen better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

This act of disobedience cost Saul the favor of God and, as a result, the throne of Israel.

Each of these stories, though hundreds of years apart, bears a common message: rely on the Lord for guidance, not your own opinion or self-interest. All too often, we try to skirt around what we know God wants us to do – and we usually end up on the losing end of the situation.

The Pharisees kept their traditions that would keep them in power, while failing to keep the love of God in their hearts. They were focused on how they appeared to others rather on really pleasing God. Saul disobeyed God because he wanted to keep the glory for himself by sacrificing the animals to God, failing to realize that the Lord does not care about sacrifices – the Lord cares about our obedience to His will.

These two very different stories are as relevant today as they were in their own time. In the United States, today is the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King had a vision of a nation where people of different races, creeds, religions and nationalities could live together in harmony, strengthening each other through their differences. We have gotten closer to it, but we’re not there yet.

Jesus gave us two great commandments: love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Like Saul, we sometimes decide that we can interpret a very simple command and change it up. We focus on politics and what could go wrong or how we could be hurt. We think we must defend our religion in the face of challenges from atheism and other religions. We forget that God does not care that we defend our religion if, at the same time, we neglect the care of our brothers and sisters.

Change takes time; we are creatures of habit. Our habits form our identities and give us a feeling of stability. Sometimes, however, our habits can become chains that hold us back from the light of God, who wants nothing more than to share it with us.

There is much division in this country and indeed in the world. No one group or ideology has the answers. The animosity has grown to a boiling point and those in power seem unwilling – or unable – to cool it down. So it is up to us. We must return to following the two great commandments: love God and love neighbor. If we do this, we will approach the problems we face today from that position of love. We will support the passage of laws from a position of love. We must be prudent, but we must also be compassionate. And perhaps we will create the world Dr. King could only dream about.

11/15/2017

While undertaking my hour and a half drive home from the office today, I wondered at the most amazing spectacle of the sun’s rays beaming through cloud formations in the sky. Many times Christians will point to the magnificent splendor of nature as evidence of God’s existence.

I disagree. I don’t believe that the beauty of nature does anything to prove God’s existence. However, if God does exist, the beauty of nature proves His greatness.

God bless.

10/14/2017

My daddy always told me it would be a sin on his eternal soul if he didn’t get me confirmed before he died. For many years, the odds were against him.

Usually, a Catholic is confirmed in his or her teen years – upon reaching the age of reason – and it must be performed by the Bishop. I had missed the boat and it didn’t show any signs of coming back. Ultimately I assumed I would never be confirmed as a Catholic, and I told myself that, at my age, it didn’t matter. I believed in and loved God, and that was it.

It wasn’t that I had anything against making my Confirmation. It was just that the whole process seemed so drawn out that I didn’t feel I had time.

Typically, confirmands complete religious education and catechesis classes where they learn the fullness of the Catholic faith. I had already read, studied and grasped the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and figured I was good.

Well, not only was I not good – I was wrong, very, very wrong.

Confirmation in the Catholic faith is not simply a ceremony – it is the full descent of the Holy Spirit upon the confirmand, permeating the person’s heart and bestowing upon him or her the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord.

I lamented my lack of this most important sacrament in my life, but was not optimistic about getting it. I was too old and too busy.

In my doubt, I had neglected the promise that our Lord has repeatedly made to us: He will grant us anything we ask Him for, as long as it is in accordance with His will.

I prayed that God would lead me to become confirmed as a Catholic. I knew that, although I loved Him with my mind, body soul and spirit, I was essentially riding the train without paying for the ticket.

Surprise, surprise: The Lord answered my prayers.

In 2015 during the season of Pentecost – the celebration of the original event during which the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles – our Bishop announced that local parish priests could confirm all adult Catholics who had not been previously confirmed.

This was a fortuitous – and in retrospect an auspicious – event. My daddy was my sponsor into the faith, Father Murphy – who anointed my dad before he passed and also blessed my beloved rosary beads which I prayed over my daddy as he left us – held a Saturday Mass and confirmed me Catholic, along with several of my fellow stragglers.

My Confirmation was wonderful and magic and almost surreal – and it’s a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life! It completed my commitment to Jesus and the church He founded, and it made me realize that I could no longer be an armchair Catholic – because souls were hanging in the balance.

It was in that moment that The Malone Effect was born.

Tonight, we at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church welcomed 14 young fellow parishioners into the battle against Satan for the souls of our brothers and sisters. Bishop Olson was there to anoint the confirmands. In hearing his message – along with remarks from Fr. Murphy – I was taken back to my own Confirmation. And it has energized me.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are unbelievably powerful and it is the duty of every Catholic who has received them to do what they can for the souls of sinners.

Yesterday was the 100 year anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady at Fatima and the verified miracle of the Dancing of the Sun. The primary message of Our Lady to the three children at Fatima was to sacrifice and pray unceasingly for the conversion of sinners. Emphasis on pray for the conversion of, not judge, ridicule or condemn.

Our Lady said most souls who end up in Hell – though it is ultimately always because they choose to separate themselves from Our Lord – end up there because there is nobody to pray for them.

Catholics could learn from this message and begin using the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit to change this world, rather than condemning it. As Our Lady told young Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco over a hundred years ago, Jesus wants people to be saved from the eternal misery they are unwittingly condemning themselves to – but He will not interfere in the gift of free will.

He can, however, answer the prayers of His flock of faithful. Guess what, Catholics: that’s us: so let’s get to praying, stop condemning and start building bridges.

God Bless.

10/2/2017

We can’t always know when or how, but our lives can change in an instant. The world can be a chaotic environment. Who would imagine that (at last count) 59 people would lose their lives while attending a country music festival in Las Vegas, and more than 500 others would be injured.  How do we make sense of it all?

I have long been aware of the presence of evil in the world. I have seen it with my own eyes and no matter how many times I encounter evil, it never fails to shake me to my core. I don’t know how to make sense of those who want to destroy, rather than build. I don’t know how to make sense of those who want to kill, rather than heal.

And I don’t very much care to either.

I don’t want to understand evil anymore. I don’t want to know what makes these bad people do the things they do. I don’t want to know the minds of those who enjoy tearing others down. All I need to know, is that they exist.

Evil cannot be countered with more evil; it can’t be countered by vengeance; it can’t be destroyed by hatred. Evil can only be destroyed by good. And because of that, the good must be patient.

Many people on all sides of the spectrum will tell us how we can stop bad things from happening, but the truth is, we can’t. Our brothers and sisters at that country music festival in Vegas had their lives irrevocably changed last night. We cannot do anything about that. Nor can we do anything about the next time it will inevitably happen.

I find solace and peace of mind in the Lord. Though I do not understand why bad things happen, I do know that God always brings a greater good out of the bad things that happen in the world. I trust Him, and that gives me peace. It does not, however, relieve me of the responsibility to do good, wherever I can. And I call upon you, my brothers and sisters, to do the same.

Do not succumb to the temptation to turn on one another over this tragedy. There is already much we have lost. This is the time to strengthen our bonds. Show love to each other, now more than ever.

Bad things will continue to happen. We cannot stop them. But we can control how we treat each other. In the words of Our Lord, let us love one another.

God bless you.

9/27/2017

The Iraqi Kurds voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Iraq, today. Many governments are opposed to this, including the U.S., the U.K. and the Iraqi government itself. In fact, the Iraqi government has threatened the use of force against the Kurds, calling the referendum “unconstitutional.”

Although I am an outsider, I have studied Middle East politics –  and wars – for a few years, now. I would caution any government against taking on the proud and hardy Kurdish people.

Saddam Hussein saw the Kurds as such a threat to his regime that he chose to unleash a disgusting chemical war on them, killing 100,000 in the process. But that didn’t stop them. Quite to the contrary, they are some of the most resilient and formidable people on the planet.

When the international campaign against Daesh became bogged down (due to politics), it was the Kurds who kept the  battle alive. Iraq certainly owes the fact that it is not now completely under the control of Daesh to the Kurdish resistance.

The Kurds deserve – and have more than earned – their freedom. I for one would caution governments in the region – be it Turkey, Iran, or Iraq – against misguided notions of going to war to try to keep them from it.

I pray that God leads those in power to accept the will of a very proud and resilient people and not try a futile attempt to stop them from tasting the freedom they have earned.

Above all, I pray for peace.

God bless.

9/26/2017

As I briefly mentioned earlier this week, 62 Catholic theologians and lay scholars have issue a letter of “filial correction” to Pope Francis over his apparent “upholding of heretical positions” regarding the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics and the Eucharist.

I have not read the 25-page letter (though I printed it tonight) but I will approach it with caution. I have great faith in the leadership of Pope Francis and more than that, I believe his heart is always in the right place; in him I see a man who always looks at the world through the eyes of Jesus.

Heresy, as defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same. In layman’s terms, it is the denial of an essential belief of Catholicism. It is a very serious charge. I am familiar with the pope’s comments on marriage, divorce and communion. Though not traditional –  not much of Francis’ papacy has been – I initially find it to be a giant leap to call them heretical.

That being said, I will read the letter and consider the charges. Then I will do the only thing I can – I will write about it. Until then…

May the grace of God the Father, the love of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

9/25/2017

The Dallas Cowboys epitomized the word class this evening. I am not a huge sports fan, but I am a Cowboys fan – because I have such fond memories of watching them play, with my daddy. Whether they won, lost or were about to win and then blew it in the waning minutes of the game, my daddy stood by the Cowboys.

Amidst all the controversy, anger and rhetoric, the Dallas Cowboys proved they are truly America’s Team. Tonight, with Jerry Jones right there alongside them, the Cowboys – in a rare moment of solidarity with  their long-time rival Arizona Cardinals – kneeled with arms locked for just under 30 seconds, then rose to stand, keeping their arms locked, in observance of the national anthem.

The moment struck the appropriate chord for the time. Passions are blazing hot on both sides of the debate, and moderation is desperately needed. Tonight, the Cowboys and the Cardinals showed that moderation. But moderation must also be taken in moderation.

Colin Kaepernick, the protagonist in this entire saga, sacrificed much to kneel while the anthem played; it may behoove us all to reflect upon why. The man was vilified, threatened and ultimately exiled from the league because he had the courage of his convictions.

I am not a huge sports fan and as such, I do not look up to professional athletes. Certainly I respect their athleticism and innate talent, but it’s not a great deal to me. For the most part, I consider pro athletes to be in the same category as famous musicians and actors: talented at what they do but quite loathsome when they ascend their soapbox.

Kaepernick is different. Like him or not, agree with him or not one must respect him. He gave up millions of dollars and a flashy lifestyle to take a stand against what he saw to be an injustice. And he continued to put his money and his time where his mouth was even after he was ostracized from the NFL. It’s a bit refreshing in an age where a major Hollywood star will chastise the world on the subject of climate change while travelling to all the major hotspots of the globe in his private jet.

One of my go-to defenses for the logic behind the truth of Christianity is the fact that the apostles were all willing to suffer horrendous deaths rather than recant their testimonies of Christ’s resurrection. I believe the same principle applies to Colin Kaepernick. In today’s no-honor world where all that matters is how we can get our piece of the pie, Colin had his piece – and he gave it up.

Much like I will challenge the fiercest opponent of Christianity to ponder why the apostles would hold fast and suffer so much if the story were not true, I will pose the challenge to anyone as to why would Kaepernick follow through with his protest if he did not truly and deeply believe in it? And if he believes in it, then we all should, at the very least, examine his reasons, without the politics.

Christ called His followers to be beacons of light on this planet. If we have brothers and sisters who believe they are being oppressed, we are not allowed the luxury of staying on the sidelines. When someone is willing to give up millions of dollars and also the life he dreamed of since he was a little boy – the life of an NFL quarterback – we must get take heed.

We are brothers and sisters in this world, we cannot avoid that for it is how our Creator made us. If we wish to be worthy of the title of Christian, we must act like it. This is not about politics; this is about doing what pleases God.

Regarding the disagreement over players kneeling during the national anthem, well the Cowboys and Cardinals solved that issue tonight. They knelt in solidarity and in protest, and then stood in respect for the national anthem. And with that beautiful compromise, all should be satisfied – but the problem remains. A significant percentage of the population of this nation feel disenfranchised and outright targeted. Most may be able to look the other way, but Christians cannot.

Christ called us to be a bright light in a very dark world. How can we possibly do that if we turn a blind eye to the suffering of our brothers and sisters in our very own country? Whether we agree or disagree is not the issue; the issue is whether or not we respect and acknowledge the suffering of others? If we dismiss the suffering of our brothers and sisters, we can no longer claim the title of Christian.

The situation in the world seems almost hopeless, right now. But we must remember: with man it may be impossible, but with God all things are possible.

9/24/2017

What a weekend! The President of the United States had earlier demanded that NFL owners fire any player who did not stand during the playing of the national anthem – the results were undoubtedly not what he had hoped for. More players than had before took a knee, sat on the bench or stood with arms locked.

A letter of “filial correction,” sent to Pope Francis six weeks ago was released to the public yesterday after the Pontiff refused to respond to it. In it, 62 scholars of varying positions within the Catholic Church accuse Pope Francis of spreading heresies stemming from his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. These scholars believe that Francis’ assertions in the document contradict Catholic teaching regarding who can and cannot receive communion and will ultimately lead to major crises within the Church.

In the midst of all this, 65 million people in the world stand as refugees due to war or poverty in their respective homelands, virtually all of the Caribbean islands have been destroyed by hurricanes, Mexico has been pounded by multiple massive earthquakes and the world is seemingly on the brink of nuclear war.

It’s enough to make an average person wonder what’s the point; however we are not average people – we’re Catholics!

As Christians, our prerogative should not be to condemn our brothers and sisters for protesting in a manner we feel is disrespectful; as Christians, we should be investigating why our brothers and sisters feel that there is such injustice that they must resort to such methods to draw attention to the situation.

The Christian should approach all situations from the position of love and compassion, never from judgment or anger. If it is at all possible that people have been persecuted and are suffering injustices, we must be willing to help. Whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him.

Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church, and we can have faith in His words. Regardless of the current crisis within the political ranks of the Catholic Church, Jesus is watching. He will not allow the Church to fall. Don’t be afraid, just have faith.

Neither natural nor man-made disasters will ever be enough to separate us from God’s love and protection. Natural disasters will continue to occur as our planet cools due to the natural laws set in motion by God over four and a half billion years ago. There will always be a leader or tyrant who is willing to threaten all of humanity to further his or her own agenda. We must trust in God to shepherd us through these times. When the time is right, He will let us know what to do.

All in all, it’s been a crazy weekend. But take heart, we can handle whatever comes our way because He is with us always, even unto the end of the world.

9/23/2017

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un seem determined to ensure that the collision-course the two nations are currently on comes to a brutal end. The recent back-and-forth has more resembled a celebrity beef than a disagreement between heads-of-state. But this is no irrelevant “diss-fest” between heavy egos – this is a situation that can and may result in tens of millions of deaths.

Politics aside, I would caution my brothers and sisters who support the president’s drumbeat to stand down Kim to consider the ramifications if these events reach the point of no return. Clearly President Trump’s comments about Kim in his speech to the U.N. touched a deep nerve in the North Korean dictator – and that is reason to moderate the rhetoric.

Totalitarian dictators are notoriously thin-skinned and acutely aware when their image has been publicly attacked. Kim Jong-un found it necessary to respond personally to Trump by giving what is believed to be the first address ever to the world by a North Korean leader.

Kim Jong-un has wreaked unspeakable suffering upon the people of North Korea and the fall of the Kim Dynasty would be a step in the right direction toward liberating a completely paralyzed people. However, to engage in a mind-bogglingly  juvenile name calling affair with Kim is extremely reckless. As the world has seen with deranged dictators time and time again, Kim is unpredictable and has absolutely no regard for life.

Most dangerous of all is that Kim believes himself to be a god and appears willing to take apocalyptic measures to prove it.

North Korea has a population of just over 25 million. These people are already living in hell on earth and they will undoubtedly suffer more if this battle of egos escalates to a tipping point. Ultimately it is the human factor we must consider. These people need our help, but they do not need us to push the world into a war that could see the use of nuclear weapons.

Does the U.S. win a nuclear war with North Korea? Trick question – in a nuclear war there are no winners.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly defines the conditions necessary for a war to be considered “just.” They are:

-the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain;

-all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

-there must be a serious prospect of success;

-the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition. – CCC 2309

I am fully aware that governments – especially the U.S. – are not bound by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. However, as a Roman Catholic, I am. I feel especially concerned not only about the intensifying rhetoric on either side, but also about the report that President Trump’s advisors specifically warned him not to attack Kim personally in the speech to the U.N., precisely because of the North Korean leader’s volatility.

Most of us can do nothing but watch as this horror story plays out but make no mistake, we are all intimately involved. God is watching and – contrary to the words of a certain Southern Baptist pastor and spiritual advisor to the president – God has not given President Trump permission to destroy North Korea.

Time will tell how this saga goes but it is imperative that all Americans, regardless of political leanings, understand the ramifications of the events playing out on the world stage. If this results in war, it will change the world – and we will have to answer to our children for it.

In the words of St. Padre Pio, whose feast day is today: “Pray, hope and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayers.”

I think it’s time we all did a little more praying, especially now.

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