Saturday, June 22, 2013

Looking For A Priest, St. Eustorgio & A Priest From Milan. By: C.C.


    The year was 2008 and I was in my fourth year of studies at York University. My parents had gifted me with a trip to Milan to visit my family and also a friend named Stefania who was studying there for a semester. It was a time in my life that was truly transitional. It was time of many difficult experiences and simultaneously many blessings. 
      I have often opened up on my blog and shared stories of ways in which the Lord was truly revealing Himself to me despite my ignorance. Through my "unknowing"  and lack of will, I was often unable to see the beautiful ways of His works. I have come to see that our Lord's love is no less powerful and present in our times of sin, disillusion,  and darkness. It is us who looks away. Our Lord is ever near and still seeking us during these times, shining His light of love and mercy upon us so that we may turn receptively toward Him. It took me some time to come to the place where I am today. And in arriving where I have in faith, humility, surrender, and love for our Lord I have come to partially understand the beauty of the story our Lord has written for each of us as His children. 
       It was February 14th, 2008 when I walked the streets of Milan alone in need of a Church, and in need of  Priest for Confession. It was strange for me to have this yearning in my heart, given that I had been away from the Church for a long time. I had not gone to the Sacrament of Confession at this point in my life for many years. Yet, somehow I knew that being in a Church and in the presence of my Lord is what I most needed. My friend Stefania was in school at Bocconi University and so I spent many days exploring the city on my own. This day in particular was much different than the others. I was very unhappy with my state in life and with myself. Very upset at many of the decisions I had made, and simultaneously aware that it was God who would be able to bring peace within my heart. I knew the amount of sin that resounded within me had blinded me to so much. God's love broke through all of this and it was the beginning of a journey toward Him. 
    I went into the Church beside the University of Bocconi but there was no Priest present to hear my Confession. There was a young man praying there and I left in silence and in my tears to continue seeking another Church. Considering I was in Italy, I figured this would not be that difficult. I walked outside and the young man who was in the Church followed me outside and introduced himself. His name was Giuseppe and he was a law student at Bocconi. I was a mess, truthfully the last thing I wanted to do was talk to anyone. I spoke to him in Italian and said that I am in need of a Priest and a Confession. The young man looked at his watch, and told me that he knew where another Church was and that he would bring me there. He did have an exam to write that day, and told me that his time was short. He motioned toward his vehicle, and apprehensively I said to him that I would not be travelling in a car with him as I do not know him. I was being "street smart" even in my state of personal disaster. He exclaimed a slightly frustrated "Va bene" and said he would walk me there. A walk that he said would take about 30 minutes. I could not believe the selflessness of this mans gesture to me. We spoke on the walk about faith, and religion. He shared about himself and his journey of faith and the very reason for his success of studies and in life was due to his faith in the Lord. He asked me bluntly if I was religious, I did not know how to respond to such a question. I was not religious, in fact I did not have any relationship with my faith life at that time. Although, I did talk to him about Padre Pio because I had just finished reading his life story, which I feel was largely responsible in aiding me to be walking the streets of Milan distressed and looking for a Confession.
  Giuseppe had much to say about Padre Pio. In fact he was very devoted to him.  We approached this beautiful Church and he walked me inside. He spoke to the secretary for me and asked when the priest would be returning. She notified him that it would be a couple of hours. He parted with me and said ``be faithful and be strong``. He had to get back to Bocconi, and I agreed that I would wait inside of the Church for a priest. 
   This Church was beyond words. There were people everywhere taking pictures. I knelt in tears in one of the pews and continued to weep for a rather long time. I did not recall the name of this Church and for years it has bothered me. I remained there for over two hours in silent tears of prayer. I did not end up seeing the Priest but there was still something seemingly profound and sense of home that I felt in being there within the Church. By God`s grace I would eventually find a priest for Confession. When I left this beautiful Church I took a picture of it to remember it forever. It would be years until I would realize the incredible holiness and sacred ground that I was kneeling upon. I learned that the place I was led to by Giuseppe was a basilica!
   Last week, while in attendance at the International Thomas Merton Society Conference in Connecticut I encountered a priest from Milan. I quickly realized that maybe he would be able to tell me the name of this Church in Milan where I was years before in tears and in search of a priest. 
   Fr. Mario Zaninelli did in fact tell me that this Basilica where I was at in 2008 is called Sant` Eustorgio. It is one of the oldest Churches in Milan and the original location of the relics of the Three Kings. It is also named after St. Eustorgius (I) who was Archbishop of Milan in 343-349. He was appropriately referred to by St Ambrose  as `confessor`. In learning about this Basilica the memory of this moment in my life took on even greater meaning. I am able to re-witness the beautiful orchestration of our Lord and the way He allows us to know His love. I am also grateful that the Lord  has finally brought me a priest from Milan. I jokingly said to Fr. Mario last week after sharing this story `Padre where were you in 2008`!! (C.C.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Extraordinarily "Ordinary" In Christ: By.CC

“Normally Our Lord asks us to give a Christian witness through our ordinary lives, engaged in the same ways of earning a living, tackling the same concerns as other folk.  We have to act in such a way that others will be able to say, when they meet us:  This man is a Christian, because he does not hate, because he is ready to understand, because he is not a fanatic, because he is willing to make sacrifices, because he shows that he is a man of peace, because he knows how to love.” (Fr. Francis Fernandez)

     Our "ordinary" lives can do extraordinary things for God. There is an opportunity in the most simple and humble ways to glorify the Lord by our lives.  We can often be misled by thinking that it is the most extraordinary measures and ambitious strivings that serve our Lord best. We need only to humble ourselves before Him and allow His greatness to resound within us. It is in this way that we will be able to reflect the extraordinary and achieve the unimaginable through Christ. 
    When we cease striving for external ambitions and pause, we are able to awaken to the interior of ourselves. We can begin to understand that in order for us to act in such a way that allows our Christianity to shine forth, we must first accept and allow God to dwell within our hearts. Recognizing that our Lord truly meets us where we are in the "ordinary" to carry out His extraordinary works. 
   In our seeking to do something "more" for our Lord we miss out on the opportunity to do the most in each and every circumstance. May we surrender every moment to our Lord and only seek to make ourselves hidden in the heart of Christ and the Immaculate heart of Mary. The greatest gift we can give to God is our love, trust, and surrender. His gift to us is an outpouring of immeasurable love. May we continue to be a witness of faith in our daily dealings. May we seek to always live in love, understanding, sacrifice, peace, and joy. (C.C.)  

"Christians are ready to proclaim the Gospel because they can’t hide the joy that comes from knowing Christ." (Pope Francis)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"More Than Words". By: C.C.

"Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God's heart. You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips, but with your heart. In fact on certain occasions you should only speak to Him with your heart." (Padre Pio)

   Many of the most beautiful moments that one experiences in life are beyond words. Although profoundly capable of communicating emotions, sentiments, and facts, there are those circumstances which exceed the limitations of language. In the absence of language one is able to communicate more and not less.
   Saint Francis of Assisi once emphasized the importance of sharing the Gospel, not through words alone but by action. This action although done in silence is still able to communicate something profound about Jesus' message of love if we are truly rooted in the Gospel.
    Things of divine nature demand more than words and exceed the tangible things of this world because they are supernatural and not of this world. The mystery of God does not fit into the confines of our human knowledge and understanding. It requires us to go deeper and to rest in stillness and silence. To pray from ones heart in silence is powerful beyond measure.
    In seeking to connect with God we often distract ourselves from this by disrupting the emerging prayer from our hearts with the use of our tongues. While vocal prayer is undoubtedly powerful it must simultaneously be filled with the movings of our heart and soul. In order to experience this fusion we must first spend time in silence. We must take the time to recognize the movements of our interior so that the words we speak to God are born out of the depths of our heart. It is in this manner that we will invite our Lord to truly dwell within us; we will be able to welcome His voice and immeasurable love.
   As we seek God's heart through prayer may we constantly surrender ourselves in silence to Him. May we be given the clarity to recognize our need for silence and stillness in order that we may truly further unite with our Lord in prayer.(C.C.)


Monday, June 17, 2013

Seeking and Surrendered to Serve. By: C.C.

      To serve God faithfully is to surrender everyday with conviction and love; living as if yesterday's graces never were and accepting that our works if not persistent are empty. It is to continually open our hearts offering everything to God by emptying ourselves so that we may be filled with the outpouring of love that He unconditionally gives. It is in this way that we are enabled to live as He intended. 
    It is a great work, requiring perseverance and courage. The graces of yesterday are gifts to us; allowing the hand of the Lord to touch us and show us the irreplaceable joy that belongs in Him alone...leading us to share this joy in service through love with others.
   We must wake everyday renewing our vow to follow and to serve- to be so hidden in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. May each morning and each moment of our lives be an offering of love; trusting that this journey, though difficult is not unaided. We must only be open and say Yes "Let it be done". (Amen) C.C.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Pathway to Perfection. By: C.C.

“The way of perfection passes by way of the cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2015)

     We are imperfect. This point is the essential humble beginning required to lead a life striving for holiness. There is much danger in assuming that through having faith alone we are perfected, and that we are somehow excused from the way of the Cross. 
   The humble awareness that we are imperfect leads us into the ongoing battleground of purification. A battleground that we are equipped for by our loving Lord who desires our holiness. This first requires our acceptance and openness, it requires persistent commitment and perseverance to gradually shed the things that keep us from living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.
   Though painful at times, the path toward holiness is one of love. As we are faced with imperfections within ourselves and the weaknesses that may keep the divide between us and God great, we must rejoice in them. We must find in these moments a means to praise our Lord for loving us so much as to make us more like Him; to aid us in cleaning out the shadows within that burden us and further wound us. In these times we must keep our eyes on the Lord and remain faithful to Him. Desiring to be holy, and desiring to grow in faith is pleasing to God, and therefore it is through Him where the strength and courage to persevere is provided.  
   The spiritual journey is not about shame or focusing on our wounds by dwelling upon them. It is about freedom. It is about offering up these wounds to our Lord and allowing His love to penetrate our heart so deeply that we are left with the continual desire to give everything without reservation. 
"The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross", a Cross that we do not carry alone. Let us persevere with joy and hope, remaining faithful to serving the Lord in all things. May we find great strength and inspiration from the lives of our Beloved Saints. Courage, you are loved beyond measure! (C.C.)

St. Michael - Pray for us

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Loving God in All Things By: C.C.

“Good when He gives, supremely good; Nor less when He denies: Afflictions, from His sovereign hand, Are blessings in disguise. (Brother Lawrence)
How easy one may find their journey of faith when they are in a time of consolation. The degree to which we love and trust in the Lord is most revealed during our times of affliction. The way we handle the grace of consolation is usually one of joy and thanksgiving. Often in our time of affliction we can become rather sour faced toward our Lord. 
   Love is not dependent upon merit. It is not a matter of feeling or of physical sensation. It is a commitment and decision made. It is a call for each of us. To love God is to embrace what He gives and what he permits to happen to us with love. These moments of affliction along the journey allow us to build virtue. They allow for us to recognize our need for growth, for purification, for more love, and ultimately show us how much more we need God. 
   Our Lord did not promise us a flight from the human reality of life, He offers us a profound way of living within it. The choice is ours. Through the gift of faith we are given a supernatural gift to embrace the physical tangible reality of this world. Much of what we face is seemingly unbearable and often confusing to understand. The strength to carry our burdens, to accept what we may not understand, and to embrace all things comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. This first requires love, faith, and prayer. As we spend time in prayer with our Lord and reflect on the lives of our Saints we quickly come to realize that the path toward holiness was not a leisure filled Sunday afternoon, but a journey filled with unimaginable tribulation. Who on earth in their right mind would sign up for that??? Those who realize that He who assigned them to this world to begin with has a plan for them that exceeds all understanding and promises joy beyond measure!
  The ability to endure what comes to us is given to the extent that we trust in God's love and His plan for our lives. As Brother Lawrence reminds us, everything God gives is good because it comes from His sovereign hand. May we recognize this throughout our lives in all of our dealings as to better serve our Lord in faith, trust, and love.(C.C)

"Everything is Grace" St. Therese of Lisieux

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Discerning? Love and Trust The Lord! by: C.C.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

 "What on earth does the Lord will me to do with my life?" This question itself is the beginning of a beautiful openness to the Lord and one which demonstrates a willingness to relinquish ones will and trust in that of the Heavenly Father.
  These words from Scripture are extremely comforting in times that we are confused as to where the Lord is leading us. The Lord reminds us that He has plans for us that are designed for a future of hope and prosperity. Often in our lack of trust and willingness to hold onto all control we assume that any plans without our hands on them is leading toward despair.
  We may battle to accept the will of our Lord and fail to trust in Him due to our lack of understanding about our Heavenly Father. It is by grace and faith that we come to reach for a deeper understanding of who He is, and ultimately who we are as created by Him.
   In seeking God through prayer, we come to an understanding that anything sought and chased after outside of His plan for us will not prosper or bear joyous fruit. The emptiness as a result of worldly seeking is a gift; it reminds us that we are created for Something more. 
 In humble, faithful, and surrendered seeking it is our Lord who will gently guide and reveal Himself to us. He has first sought us.  It is by seeking God with all of our heart that we will find Him. In finding God we too find ourselves guided on a path toward hope and prosperity.
   May we each turn to the Lord with trust knowing that as we speak He truly listens, in silence He is most heard, and by being still we come to know that He is Lord. (C.C.)

“Father, I am seeking: I am hesitant and uncertain, but will you, O God, watch over each step of mine and guide me.” St. Augustine 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

This Is The Body and Blood Of Our Lord: By:C.C.

"When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now," - (Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta)

    Today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. It is a time for us to especially commemorate the institution of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a time to reclaim and affirm the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Today we are reminded of the mystery of our Lord and the wonderful gift that we receive at every Eucharistic celebration. We come to recognize that the strength required to live out our Christian lives dwells within us as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Through the Eucharist Jesus shows us how much He loves us and longs to remain with us.
   We are called to the table and to the feast not so that we may dwell on the pain and sufferings of our Lord, but so that we may partake in the joy and love that was offered up for us in His Sacrifice. We are called to the table so that we may experience the immeasurable love that our Lord shares with us. Through the Eucharist, we are receiving the Body and Blood of Christ enabling us to live out our faith with perseverance and courage.
   The Eucharist is not solely a symbol.Jesus is fully present before us, offered to us, in order to dwell within us. He is to be adored, to be embraced, and to be loved. Though we are all unworthy that He should enter under our roof He does so willingly, freely, and lovingly. May we strive each day desiring to make our dwelling place for the Lord rich in virtue by being committed to the path of holiness; recognizing that the strength to endure whatever comes rests upon the measure of our faith and the immeasurable mercy and love of our Lord. Receiving the Eucharist is to receive Christ fully. He is the source of my joy, my hope, my strength, and the reason I am. In receiving the Body and Blood of Christ into my emptiness at every Mass I am abundantly filled with the outpouring of Love impossible to explain and to comprehend. It is by faith that I have come to know that This is The Body and Blood of our Lord. "Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed" Amen (C.C.) 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Madonna Delle Stelle and A Man's Tearful Prayer. By: C.C.

      Growing up Italian-Canadian I was exposed to much of the cultural celebrations throughout my childhood. In addition to the food and family traditions I was also exposed to the cultural ways that the Catholic faith is experienced, expressed, and celebrated as an Italian growing up in Canada. 
   Much of these sacred traditions have become a means of gathering family together, sharing time, and also to honor "La Madonna". I was greatly confused while growing up and did not understand the various "Madonna's" that were venerated. Depending on one's region (paese) that they come from there is usually a feast for "La Madonna" of this region annually. 
   My family is from S. Angelo Limosano in Molise Italy. The Madonna that we celebrate bi-annually (once in August and again in January) is "La Madonna Delle Stelle" or Our Lady of The Stars. Growing up the feast for "La Madonna" was a very exciting time. It is where I spent time with my cousins, ate a lot of food, and was able to be exposed to something about the Catholic faith that I would reach for many years later. Sadly, the focus of this gathering was often missed in the ignorance of my youth. However, the reverence of these elderly people in attendance is something that has never left my mind. As my cousins and I enjoyed time together in the simplicity of childhood many sat in front of the statue of "La Madonna" in quiet prayer.
    In August we celebrate the feast outdoors which begins with a Rosary followed by a Mass. January's feast is celebrated at a Church, and following Mass everyone heads to the basement of the parish to enjoy time together, food, and dancing.
  It was during the feast of "La Madonna" when I was about twelve years old that something beautiful happened. I recall this moment now as I look back on my faith journey and recognize how present God always was, even if I felt Him to be so far away. He is always there calling us quietly toward Him in love. 
  While everyone was in the basement parish hall following Mass I snuck upstairs into the Church and sat quietly in a pew by myself. I did not have much of a faith then, and was not regularly attending Mass. Catholicism in my family was seemingly more of a cultural experience than a profound truth and necessity. Still, through the small exposure to the faith that I had, I was able to somehow by grace come to understand the beauty of it all. 
    As I sat in the parish talking to God a man entered the Church tearfully, and knelt at a pew in front of "La Madonna". I remember feeling uncomfortable and that I should leave him alone in prayer.  I decided to stay and was taken by his reverence as he knelt in tearful prayer. 
  This man's witness was a profound lesson for me. Through this man God showed me that Church is where you come with tears, with prayers, with brokenness, and with surrender. This is where you come to encounter God. 
      My adolescent years were those that I am not often entirely proud of, and yet they are still moments where I know God was gently calling me and there for me. During my times of difficulty I remembered this man who tearfully knelt before "La Madonna" , it was his witness that led me to enter into Church in my own tears, in my own brokenness, and with my prayers. It was through this witness that I came to understand where it is we run to. I came to see Who it is we must return to.
        Years would definitely pass before I would see the immense healing power of God's grace, experience His unconditional mercy, and be filled with the joy of His presence and love. In returning fully home to the Catholic church and striving to live out my faith daily, I have come to realize that our Lord calls us away from our brokenness and our tears in love. God calls us to prayer to encounter Him so that He can heal our wounds and help aid our brokenness. He yearns for us to kneel before Him always and not only in our pains. God desires for us to live in peace, joy, and in love. May we turn to Him always trusting in His providence, and may we pray for the intercession of our Blessed Mother who is always there in love for us yearning to carry us into the heart of Her Beloved Son Jesus Christ. Amen. (C.C.)