Our Lives are Interwoven: We Need to Encourage & Inspire Others

Fr. Paschal Breau

Today’s Reflection is my Speech from the Ordinandi Dinner last night.  Thanks to our local Serra Clubs for all of the great work they do and another great evening.  Thanks to the Ordinandi Class of 2018 for the gift of their vocation.  Tonight’s talk was three short stories of two lives interwoven.  Fr. Paschal Breau, SA who passed away in 2007 was a dear friend and mentor for me but so much more.  He is also Maurice (Paschal was his given religious name).  Our lives are interwoven and these stories speak of that but allowed me to share a message of how important it is we all encourage and support vocations:

Tonight I’d like to begin by telling you a story that was told to me.  In 1937, a shy, nervous sixteen year old kid name (Morris) from a suburb of Moncton, New Brunswick took a long train ride to Garrison, New York across the river from West Point and with a few personal things made a 5 mile trek to Graymoor in the Appalachian Mountains, where he joined with other young men becoming Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.  He barely said anything for fear of saying the wrong thing.  The friars who were in charge were strict and intimidating to Morris unlike the nice one who came to meet him and his family at home (the nice one was a Vocation Director, by the way).  A young 16 by his own admission and more than 1,100 kms from home even his name was changed, chosen for him by the Founder, an old priest who seemed rather stoic and stern.  And just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse, he was told he would have to get up in front of all the hundred or so Friars and introduce himself to everyone.  It was the scariest moment of his young life.  He stumbled, he stuttered, he froze for a time and had to be told to speak up.  It was the worst experience of his young life; that was until a few months later the cold, windy weather took its toll on him and he developed pneumonia and had to be sent home; then that became his worst day ever.

The 2nd story is in the process of being written.  It is the story of this 32 year old bus driver who’s quite content to drive his bus and to be invisible in the world.  A bus driver who has been on a Christian journey for a few years and is only a couple of months a baptized Catholic.  He has come to discover in the process of his becoming Catholic a deep love that God has for him, and a deep love he has for God and His Church but he’s far too new at this Catholic thing to feel he might be called by God to the priesthood.  And the reasons he has for being content at being “invisible” are his fears which he has been good at avoiding throughout his life.  He fears public speaking and always has.  He fears the things he believes he’s not good at and has found enough that he is good at to be satisfied in life.  He fears being alone, he fears taking any kind of major or dramatic step in life because he draws back on his own failures and fears of failure.  At 32, he’s gotten pretty good at saying “maybe later”, “maybe tomorrow” or “that’s for others”.  The most real and serious thing he has in life is this relationship with God and once his parish priest opens the door to his thinking about priesthood, God won’t let him stop for some reason.

So after a couple of months of these thoughts pre-dominating his prayer time with the Lord, he decides to go on retreat.  He meets a lot of people; priests, religious sisters & brothers, other people on the same retreat and they all seem more sure than he is.  He listens to them introduce themselves, and while their personal stories are all very interesting – they’re not his story.  After the sharing he’s ready to leave.  He walks out the door, towards his car and a priest is standing close by.  He says hello, he introduces himself and remarks, “you’re the bus driver” and proceeds to ask him if he’s ever heard the joke about the priest and the bus driver.  They talk for the rest of the evening and he stays for the weekend.  This begins the third story.  The bus driver has the opportunity to speak of his fears and finds in this priest, who’s 82 many of those same insecurities challenged him. The difference is he faced them; he didn’t overcome them but faced them.  But he can’t help but see more abundantly in this priest real joy and real love for God and His Church.

Though 50 years apart in age, they form a great friendship, deep and mutual in many ways, but the bus driver also finds in the priest a mentor, a spiritual companion and a role model for the life in Christ he’s seeking now to live.  The bus driver is inspired by the priest’s life; his deep love and dedication to his vocation.  The bus driver has never met anyone as truly joyful as this priest – ever.  He inspires, he encourages, he invites the bus driver into his life, which he comes to see is not exactly his life but the life of Christ in this world.  And through the telling of the story of his life, the priest impresses upon his young friend that this life can be complete and not missing the deep love and friendship we need.  It’s a life of great joy and freedom if you’re willing to face your fears and face them with God.  This Life in Christ won’t lack anything.  The priest and the bus driver continued on the Christian journey together as Friends in Faith but so much more.

The priest saw his friend the bus driver, enter the seminary, finish and graduate with a degree in philosophy which he knew was one of the greatest fears he faced, he helped him face several other fears but moreover helped him always see & reflect on the joys of everything he experienced.  At 87, the priest joyful prepared for the next part of his Christian journey through death into eternal life.  His friend, once a bus driver & not far from being ordained a priest himself wanted him to be with him at the altar that day.  The priest assured him he would be, with the best seat & place in the cathedral.  Shortly after that, as he was close to death, his friend got to be with him.  He asked him to help him make the sign of the Cross and then, the priest went to sleep in Christ.

Some of you may already know, I am the bus driver and this is part of my own story.  The priest is Fr. Paschal Breau who I honour by telling you part of his story tonight.   The joke he told me is the joke I told to begin my Ordinandi Dinner speech six years ago & I was thinking of him as my heart pounded coming up here.  He is also Morris, the teenager from the first story.  There wasn’t time that night 6 years ago to talk much about this priest who inspired me, walked with me, encouraged me and shared his vocation with me.  As you can see, all 3 of these stories are profoundly interwoven.  Fr. Paschal who in his 80’s became a part of my life as a part of God’s plan was inspired by others who reached the heart & soul of young Morris, helping him face his fears throughout his life.  From 1937 and onward – I am eternally grateful to those who inspired him and he paid it forward.  We are 2,000 committed Christians here tonight – and we need to be aware of how we are interwoven into the lives of others.  The deacons tonight will talk about the people who have helped bring them here; the Cardinal talks about the priest who inspired him in his own vocation story, I don’t want to be presumptuous but I hear more vocation stories than most people here and I can assure you, the people who encourage us, inspire us, help us and support us matter a lot.  I also know how disappointment, rejection and discouragement can get in the way of a vocation too.

For those of us who have “found” what the Lord is calling us to do – we have to make a commitment here this evening.  This is most definitely for the bishops & priests here, but it’s the married folks and parents, the teachers, the parish staff and people ministering in chaplaincy! It’s the Serrans, the CWL and the Knights of Columbus.  We need to commit ourselves to strive for holiness and to be inspiring Catholic Christians!  We need to encourage people to seek holiness for themselves.  We need to encourage them and help them to be open to all vocations; priesthood, religious life & entering into holy, healthy marriages.  One of the greatest challenges I face as a Vocation Director is to have one of the seminarians or someone whom I’m working with decide they’re not called to priesthood.  But when I’ve listened to where their prayers are leading them, I know if God’s leading them and they found what they were searching for – and praise God, the Church will be richer for it!  My disappointment or desire as a Vocation Director should never be a factor in their lives.  No parent should project their disappointment or worry on their children discerning a vocation.  We should never offer discouragement to anyone who looks up to us, even if we feel they could be the Prime Minister of Canada or the C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company – because what every joyful, faithful bishop, priest, religious sister will tell you is that there’s no greater company to serve in than the Lord’s.  And I know many people working in our parishes, chaplaincies, Vocation Office – who could be making more money doing other things, but who serve the Lord and love their lives of service.  We have many people in each of our lives who are discerning.  The best we can do is pray for them, as the Serrans and so many others do.  And then we can love them and share our lives with them and show them that what they may do matters to us.

We need to pray ceaselessly for vocations, all vocations.  We need to be inspiring Christians ourselves and show others the way by what we do, not telling them what to do.  Don’t for a single second think you have nothing to offer.  No one gets a single thing out of any of us playing small in the world.  Encourage, support and be joyful.  Look at where you are right at this moment.  The Serrans are ordinary men & women who pray and do what they can.  Their discipleship has led to gathering more than 800 students and nearly 2,000 people at two events in one day.  The Lord assures us we all have an important part to play.  Be assured the Lord who has begun all of this good work will bring it to a glorious fulfilment.

Turn Away from Sin-Turn Towards Jesus

Today begins my Lenten reflection series.  A Most Blessed Ash Wednesday and Lent to all.

Passion of the Christ

Today we will hear these or similar words: “turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel”. I hear these words anew each year and they mark for so many of us a time of new beginning. As an adult convert, I hear many of my contemporaries and people much older than I am who believe that we should not focus much or any of our attention on sin. Their experience is that this was an unpalatable part of their Catholic upbringing, and it’s what makes the Catholic Church antiquated and out of touch: that we focus on sin too much. That’s not my experience of the Catholic Christian Church at all. In fact having lived my life by no religion and even hostile to Christianity for some of it; I am indeed glad that I am reminded to “turn away from sin” and given an alternative – Jesus Christ!

We are sinners, but loved sinners. We are sinners who must stay close in relationship to our Redeemer; there’s no other way. Where and when this became a distasteful thing, I have no idea. As a man who lived for himself for many years, I can assure you I have searched for something better and never found it. The Gospel is the Way, the Truth and I can assure you that Life flows from it. As a spiritual director (and as a Vocation Director too), I have always encouraged a regular practice of confession, not to move anyone to scrupulosity but rather so that our sins and weakness clearly have no dominion over us and we can pick ourselves up and get on with the best part of what it means to be Christian: Discipleship and living the mission!

I love Lent; it renews us as Christians. Even the best of us get caught up in the busyness of life and through the forty days as we journey again with our Lord to the Cross are reminded of the essence of what real love, sacrifice, perseverance; and real triumph is all about. Our sense of contrition and desire to amend comes from a recognition of the great things others have done for us; namely Christ.

Our Gospel today reminds us that this is not about making a show of things, that is definitely not what Lent is about, but we must give witness. We must seek to become day by day better people, better Christians. We must seek to reserve judgment against others, instil kindness, love, compassion, generosity, faith and a sense of hope. These things by the way we give witness will help encourage others to follow the Lord. And then we will be doing our jobs; of getting ourselves to heaven and bringing as many with us as we can.

God Calls Us All: Part I – Becoming a Catholic Christian

Ordinandi

Rev. Fr. Chris Lemieux,
Director of Vocations
Archdiocese of Toronto since July 2014.

As I make my way from place to place as Vocation Director, I am asked to share my vocation story.  At times when I am called to share, I think to myself “what’s so special about my life, I ought to share this?”  At other times of introspection, I feel profoundly loved by God that in the midst of my unremarkable but unique life, He would call me to the Holy Priesthood.  Here is my story:

I was born and raised into a very ordinary life.  My family were blue-collar people who worked hard and raised me to have good values and respect for others, but my parents weren’t people of religious faith.  My mother did teach my sister and I to read from the Holy Bible and she tried at times to take us to the local church, but she was raised without much religious practice in her family either.  The Bible stories seemed cool to me as a little boy and I had, for a while, God as my imaginary friend; a friend I could talk to on my knees at my bed but whom I had no real sense heard or responded to me.  This is where it all began and for quite some time, where it ended too.  From my childhood and into my adulthood I would not have called myself an atheist or an agnostic because I was completely indifferent and didn’t waste much time thinking about religion or God.  I did have a personal hostility to the people of faith whom I had met who were in my opinion hypocrites and I carried that bias with me for many years.

Despite a decent upbringing, I managed to make a mess of things throughout my teenage years and my young adulthood.  I wouldn’t say I went completely off the rails but I didn’t live a very moral or good life and I was constantly caught in a web of selfishness and self indulgence.  All of it to say I was headed in the absolutely wrong direction in life if I were to find passion, purpose, meaning and most of all love.  I had “things” and got by with my gifts; but I had no idea where or Who had given me those gifts until much later.

At a very low point in my life; I had a great friend (my best friend’s sister) who was herself a good-living Christian.  She never hid her Christian faith and she never forced her religious beliefs on anyone.  If you were to ask her where her strength and courage came from; where her joy and satisfaction in life came from; you would know it was Our Lord Jesus Christ.  She was not perfect and didn’t profess to be perfect and her life was not perfect – she had many of her own struggles; but her strength and joy amid hard times was infectious.  We talked a lot about life, meaning, purpose, being positive and finding joy and I will admit I wanted to have what she had at the core of her life without Jesus and without religion.  But I came to discover I could not find all this without Jesus.

Zena took me to Alpha where she was a group leader and it was in Alpha that I met Jesus for the first time really, and met some of His Disciples whom I saw the same things Zena shared with me.  I wasn’t going to “buy in” and while I appreciated what all my new Christian friends were doing, and I was at least not openly criticizing Christians anymore I departed that community of believers and went on my own “search” which led me to various Christian congregations Sunday after Sunday.  I would still go to Alpha and I began to read the Gospels and the Epistles.  More and more I came to discover Jesus and desired a faith life in Him.

Around 2000, when I was about 29 I entered St. Jerome’s Parish for Sunday Mass for the first time.  I knew that Sunday I was home.  Without all the words to describe it; God was so present to me there.  There was something sacred taking place there and I felt so at home.  It compelled me to come again and again and I came to Catholic Mass from then on.  I didn’t begin to consider becoming Catholic for almost two more years.  Finally in August or September of 2002 I made contact with the parish office and inquired about becoming Catholic.  I entered RCIA then and was received into the Catholic Church on April 19, 2003.  It was the greatest day of my life to that point; receiving Holy Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist that day.  I spent a long time in those years from Alpha and onward getting to know Jesus, and on that evening at the Easter Vigil becoming part of His family, marked forever as a member of that family.

And in the final months of preparation, something else was taking place as the fire of the Lord’s love began burning, and as I prepared to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I was being called to something very mysterious, scary, dramatic and unknown to me.  My baptism was not just an event in my life; it was a moment when I committed my own life for Jesus and with an open heart and mind, the Lord had something else in store for me.

(continued in Part II)

God Calls Us All: Part II – Is God Calling Me to the Priesthood?

Ordinandi

Rev. Fr. Chris Lemieux,
Director of Vocations
Archdiocese of Toronto since July 2014.

As I make my way from place to place as Vocation Director, I am asked to share my vocation story.  At times when I am called to share, I think to myself “what’s so special about my life, I ought to share this?”  At other times of introspection, I feel profoundly loved by God that in the midst of my unremarkable but unique life, He would call me to the Holy Priesthood.  Here is my story (Part II):

On April 19, 2003 I became a Catholic Christian.  I received Holy Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist on that evening but the second part of my story begins a week before that night when we “Elect” who were nearing the end of our preparation had a mini-retreat at the parish which included confession.  Because I wasn’t baptized (and Holy Baptism wipes away Original Sin and all our sins at once) I did not need to go to confession.  My pastor, Fr. Vid Vlasic had a conversation with me on that day.  Instead of simply wishing me well, he firmly planted a seed that would forever change my life.

Fr. Vid offered me a suggestion: “maybe you should think about becoming a priest”. Although I have no vivid recollection of what I said in response to that, there were many things which I remember thinking about all of this.  Others had suggested it, and I thought it outlandish at first.

  • They couldn’t possibly have known I was a notorious sinner
  • I can’t do what they do (celebrate Mass in front of crowds and preach)
  • They’re very educated – I’m not
  • I’ve never wanted to be a priest
  • It’s just because I’m a single guy
  • What about the wife and family I want to have
  • I don’t want to be a part of the priesthood (the sex abuse scandal broke in Boston just before I entered RCIA – it certainly made priesthood unattractive)

If I needed more, I could have found more.  It meant a lot that Fr. Vid was encouraging me but I had a lot of doubts.  I was new to trusting God and though I had an ever-growing and strengthening faith I was not spiritually mature enough at first to seriously consider priesthood.  I did however believe that God had put various people in my life to draw me to Him.  I had sense enough to listen to Him through these people and Fr. Vid gently but consistently encouraged me to keep thinking about it.  I went to weekend retreats where I met “normal” people who were thinking of priesthood and religious life.  I continued to pray and every once and a while think about priesthood.  I grew to not be opposed or closed off to the possibility.

A major consideration was my job; a career really.  I had worked for a number of years as a bus driver at Mississauga Transit and could have retired at 52.  Job security, stability and greater and greater seniority allowed me a comfortable life.  I had very good friends whom I was close to, family whom I was growing closer to and to add to it; it hadn’t gone unnoticed by me the beautiful Catholic ladies whom I had every intention of dating!

About a year after becoming Catholic I met a Franciscan priest who would become one of my best friends, a mentor to me and would help me to see my way into deeper and deeper discernment.  Again, yet another person in my life I know God graced me with to find my way.

Fr. Paschal Breau was a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement and had been over sixty years religious when we met.  He had been Vocation Director for his community and so he was full of wisdom and knowledge.  He was a retired priest when we met on a retreat and we became instantly good friends.  Fr. Paschal had never imagined he would be a priest and had spent nearly 30 years a brother in the community before studying for the priesthood.  He was admittedly not a gifted academic (I could relate), he had been terribly shy when he started out as a very young man (I could relate).  His life as he revealed it to me, helped me to see that I presumed a lot of gifts that priests may or may not have.  Fr. Paschal had a deep love of God and people and a desire to serve them.  This was the greatest witness he gave to me as a priest, and so much more as a friend.

In September 2005, almost two and a half years after becoming Catholic, I entered Serra House in Toronto.  At that time, it was a House of Discernment; a place men lived as they tried to get a sense of whether God might be calling them to enter seminary.  I loved my time there; it was joyful but also challenging.  I did my best but struggled with philosophy at 35, back in the classroom.  It was the one of the greatest challenges for me learning how to trust God; having to tell myself over and over “if God wants you to be a priest, He will help you here!”.  He did.  I struggled my way through philosophy but finished in 2007.  In 2006 I entered the seminary.  I had Fr. Paschal with me to the very end and at my graduation when I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy.

Early on, I remember speaking to Fr. Paschal about his being an important part of ordination, a conversation that might have been too early.  He told me that he knew the Lord had something special planned, but that he believed he would be with me at my ordination in a “special place”.  Fr. Paschal passed away when I was preparing to enter Second Theology, a loss I felt but bittersweet as it was mingled with blessing.  I was with him at the end, and I was strengthened in my faith by the witness of his.  I felt strong in my faith through the next years of formation and I know that Fr. Paschal and others prayed for me to receive great grace along the way.

I was ordained a transitional deacon at St. Gertrude’s in Oshawa on October 15, 2011 and a priest on May 12, 2012 at St. Michael’s Cathedral.  In addition to the Communion of Saints who prayed for me (as they do for us) I know my dear mother who passed away in August 2004 and my dear friend Fr. Paschal were with me that day in spirit and memory.  I had the great honour and grace to offer Holy Mass as I celebrated my first Mass of Thanksgiving for my mother at St. Paul’s Basilica the next morning; Mother’s Day 2012.

I had my doubts and fears, which I allowed the Lord to free me of through the years of discernment.  I feel blessed and love being a priest.  The Lord certainly has lived up to His end of the bargain; gifting the one (me) He has chosen.  I spend every day trying to be a better man – and trying to live up to my end of the bargain.

True Strength Found in Love & Mercy

This blog post is a homily given to the “Associates” today.  These are men discerning the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Toronto. 

Prodigal Son

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be”. I’ve always liked this very accurate assessment of things, and not only do I think it to be true; I know it. Not just for the United States, but for Canada and for everywhere in the world. I know it not only because I’ve encountered it in the parishes I’ve ministered in, but I know it’s even something I meet with men discerning, in seminaries and among priests. And before you hear this as a striking condemnation or my pointing the finger at any one of you (I’m not) – I have been and often am guilty of doing the same. Before it appears that any one of us are villains in this way, I would add that the Apostles and disciples were often guilty of holding misperceptions and untruths as dear to them too – not just the Pharisees. And it doesn’t always make itself as manifest as hating the Church. The very same lack of understanding or holding of mistruths can lead us to hold an “us versus them” mentality of believing that part of what we are doing is saving the Church from its people or that we are saving these people from things that they quite truthfully are not going to be saved from by us.

What I mean by this, is that there are many who see the key role of the priest is to safeguard the sacraments from the people who I presume are abusing them. Brothers, we are all in need of saving, surely my saying hasn’t escaped any of you. Although certainly in the history of our Catholic Church there have been moments when we have held on tightly to the title “defenders of the faith” and there are times when it seems we have to defend our faith to others more than we would wish to – but our Lord requires us first and always most importantly to live it out. To live by what He calls us to. To look at the Sacraments as Gifts of Love and Mercy; that which they are.

In the Gospel today, it’s fairly apparent that Jesus is misunderstood even by those closest to Him. He is out of His mind! Misunderstanding follows our Lord everywhere He goes. Among His family & relative, among His friends, the Apostles. Certainly we have to be careful because among us as His friends, disciples and through the Holy Priesthood assistants to the Apostles – we too, all of us are prone and susceptible to being wrong, sometimes more than we are right. To being defensive when we should be compassionate. To being uncomfortable with being loving & merciful when it will make us appear weak. Again and again, Jesus appears weak and I think this is why He is so misunderstood and perceived wrongly because it’s so very easy for us to have an incorrect notion of what strength really is. We all need to think about that. I’m sure that we can think about people who have strength of character, strength of faith, strength of persistence in love and showing compassion and mercy. These are not necessarily the same kinds of things we think of when we think of strength.

Brothers, it might be nice for us to imagine that with some of the attacks we can see upon our Church even today, upon Christians even today that we utilize our “army” of Catholic Christians, said to be 1.2 billion worldwide to defend Holy Mother Church. And I know that there is and will continue to be a current of belief that we should exercise a show of force this way. But the show of force we should exercise, and which I hope is the show of force all of us here desire to show – is a show of the power of our love for everyone; enemy & friend alike. A show of mercy, if God willing you’re called to the Holy Priesthood, to be a compassionate and merciful confessor, but to offer forgiveness always, inside and outside of the confessional. A show of force in how we pray for all, for one another, for what’s best for each other.  Compassion, love, patience, kindness and dedication to the “least”. I can assure you that if you begin to exercise these kinds of things in your life, if this becomes your message, our message – there will be some, many even who think “he’s out of his mind”, just as they did our Lord. But rest assured you are doing His work.

This is what the Catholic Church is about. This is what we as members must allow to be our show of force; commitment to prayer, lived out in compassion, love, mercy and we must give ourselves totally and completely for that.

32nd Thursday in Ordinary Time: Live for Your Faith

We are cautioned by today’s Gospel not to take for granted what was given to us – that could include many gifts from God but today we focus on one of the greatest gifts; that is, our faith. What has brought each of us together here this morning is something which may be profoundly personal and which you may never have revealed to another person; that is, God has revealed Himself to you! We don’t get up for Holy Mass, many of you having travelled further than I did to get here today without God having revealed Himself to you. That can never be something small or insignificant.  Since God’s not small and insignificant, neither then can His personal revelation of Himself to you be small and insignificant. Nonetheless, as we know it’s easy to begin taking that for granted or overlooking it. We can get caught up in the outer trappings of life, and when we do we also begin to minimize the revelation of God, we lose perspective. You might wonder how I can say all these things, as though I speak from authority on it?  Well, I’m no exception. The Lord revealed Himself powerfully to me, so that I entered the baptism at 31 and was in seminary formation three years later, a priest ten years after my conversion. Nonetheless, I find myself often distracted from the glory of God revealed and focussed on the pessimism of the world. I find myself easy to criticize, to find fault, to be of fault, to lessen the kingdom sometimes by my actions. Where I’m leading with this is that if we don’t get ourselves back on track in our faith, we will find that we don’t recognize the Lord in His majesty, mystery and awesome wonder if we don’t keep our faith fresh and ignited. This is a caution for us, but it’s also an opportunity for us to turn things around again. Let God reveal Himself to you now! Let Him forgive you of your transgressions in the Sacrament of Penance. Let Him speak to you through the Word and His Greatest Action of His Most Holy Body and Blood. Know that filled with the Eucharistic Presence, ignited by His word and ready for action – that the Lord our God reveals Himself to each one of you now, to go out into the world making disciples for Jesus Christ. My friends, we are not in danger of missing God if we are ready at this very moment and hereafter to receive Him.  May God bless you.

32nd Wednesday in Ordinary Time: God’s Given a Lot; Are We Aware?

In the Gospel today, we see something which mirrors faith activity which takes place in our world today. The Lord makes Himself known in many different ways, gives grace and gift to us all, and yet there is only a small percentage of us responding to that gift and mystery.

I choose this term “gift and mystery” for a reason. If you’ll recall, that’s what St. John Paul II entitled his own vocational account, recognition that his life, every talent and grace he had received which led to his vocational response was both gift and mystery.  There was part of what God had given that was apparent and known; there was a greater part that was unknown to him.  For our late pope and now saint and for you and I.  Even when he wrote his own autobiography; could John Paul II have had a total awareness of what God would do with the gifts He had given to him?  Could he have known what was in store for him as he began his vocational discernment?  He couldn’t have, nor can we – hence, mystery.  But we can make the glory of God present here and now, God gives us all that power.  We have to accept that He can and He will – and if we do we will be truly amazed at how He manifests Himself in this world through our humble response.

31st Tuesday in Ordinary Time Nov 4: Do we make excuses for not living our vocation?

When I was considering the priesthood, I was a new and zealous Catholic, living my faith, going to daily Mass, enjoying my life, the sports I was playing, hanging out and enjoying my friends and many good and healthy relationships. My heart was being drawn towards the priesthood (I see that now) but I was also very caught up with my life and the easier thing to do was to dismiss or ignore the very quiet call assuming that this too was a sign.  I said “maybe later” and “maybe when I retire”.  I was a city bus driver before becoming a priest and having started young, I could retire when I was 52 – a great time to decide to become a priest.  But that’s not how the Lord calls us.  We are called to live our life with faith; to live it fully and completely, to live it joyfully.  When we do that we can be assured that the Lord will move our heart to discover our calling, our meaning and purpose in life.  We can be assured that He urges us on to this, because this is what every human being (whether they accept God or not) desires.  It’s hard, virtually impossible to figure this out completely without God but with Him, He will lead us to it!  We can be assured that while we pray for it, asking our God for it, that it’s the Lord desire “…who begins the good work in us, will bring it to fulfilment”.  It’s His desire but He needs us to desire it too.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that this “good work” is disrupted when we make excuses, when we find other things to do, when we don’t give back to God from the gifts he gives to us.  It reminds us too, who are living our vocation never to take things for granted, never to become complacent, not to undervalue what we’ve been chosen to do.  We are invited into a great life through our vocation – I see that in my own vocation to priesthood. Despite the challenges and difficulties and obstacles to faith in the world, I find different ways to evangelize through actions and through priesthood every single day.  My friends, I offer today’s Gospel as words of encouragement for all of us.  As hard as it might be, there is one less place in the world made better when we make an excuse not to live and give witness to Jesus Christ by our vocation.  The world we live in really can’t afford or be without that.  May God bless you.

31st Week in Ordinary Time – Monday: Is it for us or is it for God?

It’s easy even in the midst of a genuine life of faith, one given in service to be compelled to start doing for others to serve our own needs, if even it’s the need to be needed. Our Gospel today is a reminder that all of us need to really reflect and reflect again each and every day to assess just what is motivating our actions.  When men come to discuss their own calling with me, what makes a calling blessed, and the thread I listen for is the call to service.  If a vocation is not founded and doesn’t develop a spirit or desire of service; of genuine service it might be something else, but it’s not God’s vocational calling for you.  To love God so greatly that we desire to do His will is of course the essence of our calling, but if it’s authentic, God reveals Himself and compels us to serve.  We know at a critical time; Jesus serves by washing the feet.  In fact, Jesus’ whole life was about service.  But amid the great joy of discovering and living out our vocation, in our own spiritual lives, we can sometimes find ourselves with the wrong motivations in our actions no matter how well we are progressing in the spiritual life.  We all long for love, and sometimes we are motivated to do for others for the love and affection we will get in return.  Unfortunately, that’s the temptation we must resist because it skews true service, and it isn’t the true living out of our vocation.  Friends, this is not a Gospel that should leave us feeling dejected or without hope.  If we reflect and try our best to always have the right motivation in mind, to serve the glory of God and love of our brothers and sisters, we can be assured that our lives will be better and more joy-filled and we will bask in the love of God, which is the greatest love we can be given.  We will recognize that love if we give ourselves to Him.  Especially as a diocesan priest, I think of the greater glory of reaching out to those whom I haven’t reached and it gives me the joyful mission and motivation for the day!  I think of a hero of mine; St. Francis of Assisi who in prayer heard the Lord say “rebuild my church”.  These words are recorded not as some kind of legacy for St. Francis – they are there for you and I.  We are the ones!  We are the ones who through our vocations are rebuilding the church today and into the future.  May God bless you.

30th Thursday in Ordinary Time: Let Us Accept the Prophet in our Jerusalem

The prophets are rejected in Jerusalem. My friends, you don’t have to go to the Middle East to find that place either!  Jerusalem is all around us.  Just because we are Christian, we are not immune from rejecting the Word of God; in fact when we act like hypocrites, when we think that others are in any way inferior to us, when we act in anyway unchristian towards others – we too are the ones rejecting the prophet.  Is that any of you?  Well, it can certainly and often times be me.  As I ponder the word of Christ in today’ s Gospel I know that there have been many times in my life that I have allowed my own doubt to guide me and my actions.  There are many times I have allowed my own insecurities and issues motivate me not to be as kind to others and in fact to be downright uncharitable.  I have rejected God, and yet He has never, ever rejected me.  But there is hope!  Jesus has given me (and you) a brand new day and has called upon me to seize that day to make today a better day, and tomorrow an even better day than that.  On the third day, I remember that all was accomplished and the Son of God gave me that opportunity, mindful of yesterday and what the last moment was of my failings to be now and opportunity to be a greater, better Christian.  My friends, let us consider in this moment that instead of worrying about who’s going to think or say or do what to us (Jesus isn’t concerned about Herod) let us concern ourselves with living and giving witness to the Gospel in the place we are at this very moment in time.  May God bless you.