What Holds You Back from Authentic Discipleship?

The Lord wants to free us of what holds us back from being the best Christian Disciples we can be.  What is holding you back?

As you can well imagine, as Vocation Director, my main mission is to speak of the Holy Priesthood most often, religious vocations next to that (religious community life and consecrated life – vocations primarily for the work of the Church) and I have occasion when I am preaching to speak about the beautiful vocation of marriage too.  Discipleship is required for any and all of these vocations, as well as a desire to live our primary vocation, that is to be holy; to desire to be with God and close to Jesus Christ in our lives.  All of us, I would suggest without exception have something that holds us back from that.  I know I certain do.  There are days we can see we’ve served God well and we’ve helped bring people closer to Christ by our words or more often our actions by the authentic witness we have given in some way.  Then there are other times or days we may feel like hypocrites because we realize that we don’t or haven’t lived up to our faith in some way or by some action; some indifference or inaction even.  And of course, thanks be to God we have the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to ask the Lord’s pardon, mercy and forgiveness for those times and we truly do make a firm purpose to amend our ways and to try, try again.  How many of us can become frustrated or disappointed with ourselves for what holds us back; our weaknesses or our sins?  I think most of us do.

Today’s Gospel finds Jesus healing a woman of what holds her back in life.  He is challenged by others who quite obviously are held back from their narrow minds and narrow manner of thinking.  They want to restrict or place conditions on mercy.  Today’s Gospel ought to inspire us to realize Jesus wants every single one of us to acknowledge that we need Him and He is more than willing and ready at this very moment to heal us of what holds us back – but we are also reminded that God gives us free will and in freedom we have to desire and actively respond to God – not just go along for the ride.

There may be things that hold us back; but nothing, absolutely NOTHING needs hold us back from authentic witness or true discipleship.  Grace is not refused us, and need we look any further than the Church we are a part of?  Multitudes, numbers beyond our imagining have made it to heaven through the Holy Church which was founded by Jesus and Twelve.  Twelve people, by God’s power made that great a difference throughout the whole world, a world beyond even their own knowing.  Jesus took away what held them back, He did for the woman long suffering.  What does Jesus need to heal you from, or take away from you; that which is holding you back?

Weakness is a Strength to the Lord


A reflection on God’s love for the poor and the weak for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

One of my favorite Scripture verses for meditation comes from 1 Cor 1:18: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  I reflect upon this because like many of us, I have many good and well-meaning people in my life who have given up or rejected the Gospel because they believe it to be a fool’s game to believe.  “Catholics who hang onto all of this are foolish because they let somebody/something rule their life and lack freedom and ability to think for themselves”.  Does that sound remotely familiar?  Surely we all have those who think we are weak for believing.  Weak for allowing the Gospel to “rule our lives”.  There was a time when these kinds of comments irked me greatly.

Truthfully now, I guess I see where some of the people who make these comments are coming from because if they don’t know or have somehow blocked or been blocked by knowing the One True God through His Son Jesus Christ, I can see how this might all seem ridiculous to them.  But they don’t know what I [we] know, even if I [we] want them to. When we constantly turn to the Lord in prayer when we struggle, in our weakness, with our lacking and wanting – it must seem a fool’s game to many.  Of course we know, and we seek to know in greater and greater ways that the Lord does indeed answer prayers and He is never far away.

The verse from 1st Corinthians is important to me in my moments of weakness to realize that non-believers are right!  We might seem like fools, but brothers and sisters, we are God’s fools.  Just like His Son and Our Lord!  We are weak, we are fools and we need a “crutch” to help us and the Lord is that crutch!  The irony is that we ought not be insulted by what is meant as an insult, we ought to be proud that we have received every grace and heavenly blessing to be close to Jesus Christ in our weakness as He was close to us in His weakness – that is, our shared humanity.

And this is who I seek to be priests of Jesus Christ, men and women with religious vocations.  Weak people.  Strong in Christ, growing stronger in faith and trust but with weaknesses and failings.  Why?  Because in our weakness, we know we need Jesus.  In our strength we often don’t struggle nearly enough to be close to Christ, because we get it in our heads that we deserve things…that we can do anything on our own…that we’re the real deal…  It’s our weakness and not our strength that humbles us, or at least affords us humility.  It’s an even greater humility we find when we make our way to receive the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation.  And we receive Mercy, Complete Mercy and the embrace of God but it’s so subtle that many deny it or refuse it.  Only the weak who know that they are empty want it.

And that brings us to today; the Gospel of the Pharisee & the Publican.  We know who’s weak in this parable.  We know who thinks he’s got it right.  We know who is esteemed in the Lord’s eyes, and we know that it was the Publican’s humility and weakness that brought him closer to God.  My friends, take some time today to think of your own weaknesses and what has weakened you.  Is it your health?  Your inability to seem to be able to get ahead?  To have what others have?  Is it in your struggle with sin?  Whatever makes you weak, take heart because the Lord sees all and knows all.  Keep close to Him in prayer and whatever humbles you, we must trust is in the Lord’s Divine Plan.

Called to Serve: Priesthood but First Diaconate


It was a great blessing to have been able to celebrate a momentous anniversary in the Eternal City; Rome. On October 15, the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, I celebrate my anniversary of ordination – not priesthood but the Transitional Diaconate, the occasion I received the Sacrament of Holy Orders for the first time. I celebrate this day because although I prepared myself for the life-changing event of entering the clerical state. It was when I became Rev. Mr. Lemieux that everything I had prepared for became very, very real.

I was ordained a deacon at St. Gertrude’s Catholic Parish in Oshawa. It was October 15, 2011 (five years ago). Although I was given a choice of the parish I worshipped before entering seminary, I chose St. Gertrude’s because this was the parish I served in on my internship year, where I learned to truly be a servant of the People of God. My vocation was strengthened, my resolve that God was calling me to the Holy Priesthood was made firm here by the love of the people. I have been blessed with love from the people I worship with, and it was the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ that helped me consider priesthood in the first place. Throughout my adult life, by the grace of an open ear [God’s gift to me before I had faith] I found faith with the help of my best friend’s sister, I found my calling to priesthood through many people I journeyed with in RCIA and I was affirmed in love at a school Christmas pageant where the teachers, the parents, the children – the parish community affirmed me in love, and I felt a great and deep love for all those whom I had served for a short time really.

I was back in seminary and beginning my last year of theology when I was ordained a deacon. I had a retreat to make as well to help spiritually prepare me for ordination. The People of God, the people of the parish came together and planned so many things and made it one of the most beautiful moments, experiences I had in my entire life. I was overwhelmed with tears of joy when I lay prostrate on the ground in the position of humility submitting myself as the saints of the Church prayed over me; the Litany of the Saints. I had asked that each of the Holy Canadian Martyrs, John Paul II, Andre Bessette and Teresa of Avila (whom I only really got to know before my ordination) pray for me. I also knew that the faithful people of God were praying for me and it began to dawn on me that I had (have) a lot to live up to and do with my life for the people who have shared their abundance of faith with me.

One of the parishioners whom I had come to know well on my internship year, spoke with Cardinal Collins (who ordained me) after the ordination. He told the Cardinal that he had been one of the founding members of the parish in the late 1950’s and felt like Simeon. He said that he had witnessed every other sacrament and on that day, an ordination. Again, this beautiful moment Archbishop Collins shared with me spoke to me of the importance of my ordination. Although it was a special moment in my life, it was ultimately and importantly for others as my priesthood is too.

I am blessed as Director of Vocations to have the opportunity to visit the parishes of the archdiocese. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to return several times as a deacon and as a priest to St. Gertrude’s. The love is still there, as it is at every parish I have served at. I am ordained not for myself, but for Christ and to bring our Lord Jesus to His people. I am reminded of this by way of my anniversary. I am reminded of how important this date is too. Before I was a priest I was a deacon and the role of the deacon most clearly and distinctly is to serve. I am ordained to serve, not to be served. I find myself very often as a priest being served because the People of God love their priests but I must never take that for granted. It is a desire to honour the priesthood and not because I deserve it and not because I have earned a higher place. I share this short reflection as my brothers in Christ, our Toronto men who are men of deep love and humility are preparing in these coming days and weeks to be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate. May God continue to bless them and the people they will love and tirelessly serve by their ministries.