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Sanctification in Daily Work
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Pope Francis’ special Urbi et Orbi blessing

Pope Francis Urbi et OrbiIn case you missed seeing the ceremony in Rome last Friday in which Pope France read his Urbi et Orbi message and then provided a unique blessing at the end of Adoration you can still see it. You can also still receive a special plenary indulgence for doing this. Here’s some information about that.

You can watch the full ceremony on the Vatican Facebook Page here. You can read the full text of his meditation here. There is also a one minute version of the blessing on the Vatican channel here.

Live Streaming Sunday Mass on Facebook

Live Streaming Sunday MassThis past 4th Sunday of Lent I had the honor to help Fr. Callipare live stream Mass via the parish Facebook page. In case you would like to watch please click on the image or the embed below.

This was very successful with almost 1,000 views as of this morning and almost 100 comments. Father says he has received very positive feedback. So, this Wednesday, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, we will live stream Mass again at 9am Central. We’ll start about 5 minutes early with a view of the Altar and some music. Then on Friday evening at 7pm we’re planning to live stream the Stations of the Cross with me following Father through the stations.

I do this kind of work in my business so I am thrilled to be able to put those skills to use in this way at such a crazy and unusual time. May God bless you and I pray for a rapid end to this virus pandemic.

Public Mass Suspended – More Prayer Needed

Weekday MassBy now just about everywhere in the U.S. public Masses have been suspended during this pandemic virus situation. This photo is from the last public Mass at my church, Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, Pensacola, last Thursday. To say it was emotional would be an understatement. Bishops have granted a dispensation from attending Sunday Mass while this suspension is in effect.

During this time of change, challenge, fear for many, worry, anxiety, stress, the Mass with our Lord Jesus Christ offered a haven of quiet, prayer and meditation for many, many people. Hopefully this will be a very short situation.

It is good to keep in mind that Masses will still be said every day throughout the world. In fact, I am going to be helping our pastor set up the ability to livestream the Sunday Mass this weekend at 9am central on Facebook.

This also presents us with an opportunity for additional personal reflection and prayer. So many people are now out of work or required to stay home. We need to pray for them and their need to care for their families.

You can find the statement from Most Reverend William Wack, Bishop, Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, here. Also included is a 14th century prayer to the Blessed Mother for protection from the Plague. This is in all our church missals and we started saying after each Mass just recently.

Here is that prayer, just to make it easier:

Star of Heaven,
who nourished the Lord
and rooted up the plague of death
which our first parents planted:
May that star now deign
to hold in check the constellations
whose strife causes in people
the sores of a terrible death.
O glorious star of the sea,
save us from infection.
Hear us: for your Son,
who honors you, denies you nothing.
Jesus, save us, for whom
the Virgin Mother prays to you.

V. Pray for us O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. God of mercy and forgiveness, moved to pity at the affliction of your people, you commanded the destroying Angel to stay his arm for the love of that glorious Star, at whose precious breast you sweetly drank the remedy for the poison of our sins: come to our help with your divine grace so that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary your Mother and Blessed Bartholomew your beloved Apostle, preserve us from all contagion and untimely death, and mercifully save us from the danger of perdition. Through Jesus Christ, King of glory and Savior of the World, who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Do I Love God?

This question came up in my morning meditation today. I just finished Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us by Wilfrid Stinissen. The concept of love and love for God who we cannot see made me question myself.

For many years I have worked on my spiritual life. That has included a daily plan of life which consists of Mass when possible, the rosary, morning/evening prayer, examination of conscience, spiritual reading. Why would I do this if I don’t love God? Do I really think about what loving God means? These are questions I started asking myself. Of course, when we surrender ourselves to in complete abandonment it is really me that loves God so much to allow Him to take over me and ultimately let His will direct what I do. I’m not yet sure how this works and what it will be like and how long it will take to get to that point.

But in the meantime, meditating on, do I love God, is making me look at everything. That includes my actions, feelings, decisions, fears, worries, anxieties. When I realize that I do Love God it seems like a weight has been lifted off my mind and body. How can I worry or be afraid of anything? Things like my business, what others think of me, when I will die and how, reaching Heaven. If I have abandoned my whole being to God who loves me then I should be at peace.

Of course I still have to work, make decisions, deal with difficult people. But if it is God in my who is directing my thoughts and actions then so be it and that’s that.

BTW. I’m posting notes from my annual retreat again on Twitter. Feel free to follow and comment if you’d like.

Merry Christmas From Sisters of Carmel

Sisters of CarmelMerry Christmas. I thought I’d share an excerpt from my latest email from the Sisters of Carmel.

Dear Friends of Carmel,

Christmas offers to all souls a moment of peace, a sigh of relief. After a busy year, full to the brim of its sorrows and struggles, a welcome moment of profound silence comes into the midst of what seems a more and more chaotic world. Let us leave behind us for a time that sad world and attend to this holy silence; revel in the nearness of the Holy Child, come to earth for us; and with Him rest in a gracious Mother’s arms and in the watchful protection of St. Joseph… Let us relish this moment of quiet, profound joy. We are with the Holy Family!

2019 Annual Retreat Complete

Featherock Conference CenterI may have had to change the dates for my annual retreat but I got it done last week. It was very worth it and I got so much out of it that I almost can’t wait until 2020. Of course, learning to be more patient is something I’ve had to work on for years.

Father Jerry who presented the meditations at the Featherock Conference Center also heard confessions and provided personal spiritual direction. I was very happy to have the opportunity since I have not had a spiritual director for a year now. Apparently there is a distinct lack of spiritual direction on a personal basis in our diocese here in north Florida.

I took a few photos while walking around the center property. They have a new walking path which is very nicely done and winds through some trees. I saw lots of deer tracks and on the last morning I saw three does just leaving the pasture behind the center. It was early morning and made my whole day.

Here are my photos if you are interested: 2019 Featherock Retreat Photo Album

Meditating on the Beatitudes

One of my favorite authors of books that are excellent spiritual reading is Jacques Philippe. I have just started one of his recent books, “The Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about the Beatitudes, “The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven”

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.

These promises have always made me feel more secure even when I have suffered from anxiety and worry. I don’t know about you but today’s world seems to be an increasingly crazy place. So many people are only focused on themselves and don’t want any restrictions on what makes them “feel” good in the moment. However, that’s just not realistic. In fact, as we see so many strange laws and regulations being created, we’re losing personal freedoms and natural rights. It’s easy to despair and become depressed about this if you focus on it too much. Instead, I’m already finding that meditating on the Beatitudes helps release the worry, anger, hopelessness of our crazy world where I hear more and more people saying, “You just can’t make this up!” at the latest story making headlines.

So, I highly recommend this book for spiritual reading and hope you might find the same kind of value for your meditations.

Getting Motivated When You Don’t Feel Like It

Ever felt like you have lots of things to do but you just can’t seem to bring yourself to make a decision and take action? Or wake up feeling overwhelmed by all kinds of things and not being able to get back to sleep? Yeah, me too.

In fact, I’ve been going through a stage of this. It has happened at other times in my life and I learned a number of ways to combat these feelings. I say feelings because there is always some level of stress when you have a job or in my case, have my own business. Stress itself isn’t the only thing that causes a lack of motivation. How you feel also plays a big role.

I’ve read lots of self help books on this subject, especially ones related to dealing with anxiety and fear. Some have been helpful. However, I believe the number one help for me has been my conversion. I was raised Catholic but it wasn’t until adulthood, after having to leave my first business, that I had a St. Paul moment of clarity and my life was changed forever.

So, back to motivation and overcoming feelings of being overwhelmed and afraid of the future. When I wake up and can’t go back to sleep I usually find myself thinking and worrying about all kinds of things. An example would be the sinus surgery I had last week or the surgery my wife, Cindy, will have tomorrow. Another might be why I have so many people I work with not returning my calls or emails. I think I could make a pretty big list of these.

Many years ago now I realized that perhaps not being able to go back to sleep was a call from my guardian angel that it was time to pray. So, I started saying my rosary. I found out that I usually don’t make it all the way through five decades before I fall asleep! It doesn’t always happen this way but more often than not by a big margin.

So, there is one of my main go-to solutions for a lack of motivation. Prayer. After a time of prayer most of the things leading me to a lack of motivation, feelings of helplessness and more just seem to go away.

The Concept of Holy Shamelessness

Here’s a concept many, many of us don’t really think about and may have never heard of. However, it is one that I first found in the writings of St. Josemaría in “The Way.” In writing about our sanctity he says, “If you have holy shamelessness, you won’t be bothered by the thought of what people have said or what they will say. (The Way: 391)” We should laugh at scorn and ridicule. Do you make a sign of the Cross when you say the blessing before a meal in public? I know I used to think other people would laugh at me so I convinced myself that just saying a silent blessing was enough. But why, when I don’t mind making a sign of the Cross at home or alone? Really, why should I care what others think when I believe that what God thinks is most important?

Anyway, this is just a concept that has really stuck with me because you can apply it to many things. Another personal example is when in a group conversation people start using profanity or making jokes about very inappropriate things> What do you do? Laugh along? I don’t anymore. I have asked people to not use the Lord’s name in vain when talking with me. That was very hard to do but I found out I didn’t get the kind of negative response I thought I would get. There are many more ways to look at this concept and how it can apply in anyone’s life.

Registered for Annual Retreat

How about an annual retreat to get your spiritual batteries re-charged? I missed attending one last year and really felt it. So I’m determined to make one this year. I’ve already made my reservation at Featherock Conference Center.

Spiritual retreats held at Featherock are opportunities to reflect on the truths about our existence in the presence of God. It is a time to pray, seek advice and return home with renewed vigor and practical resolutions.

Important to me is that the spiritual aspects of the retreat are entrusted to Opus Dei, a personal Prelature of the Catholic Church. I have had to change the dates I can attend but am hoping nothing else will interfere at this point.

There are many retreat opportunities around the country that would be excellent to attend. However, I have found myself attracted to Opus Dei from the beginning of my spiritual conversion. The main reason is its simplicity which is easily summed up in this quote from St. Josemaría, “Human life – your life – and its humdrum, ordinary business, have a meaning which is divine, which belongs to eternity.” So, no matter what kind of work we do or how “high on the ladder” we may be, we are all called to holiness and it is achievable through our faith.

I highly recommend going on a retreat once a year if possible. It can change your life and it will help you gain strength to do what we’re all here for and that is to become saints.

Thoughts on Social Media

Social media platforms have been an integral part of my business and the work I do since they were started. It was easy to see the potential for communicating on a self-publishing platform. However, it took several years to introduce social media and that potential into the business sector I’m involved in, Agriculture. I remember doing lots of public speaking, presentations, consultations and training for subjects like best practices. There was a lot of skepticism and fear about being “personally” public and not sort of hiding behind a corporate face.

That has all changed. Today there are many, many farmers using these platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more) to tell their story about how they farm, what takes place on their farms, how they are embracing new technology for better efficiency and sustainability. Agribusinesses and member organizations are doing the same.

For some time this seemed to be a pretty good place to be for communicating to an internal and external audience. However, today it has, IMO, become a cesspool of abuse to feed personal egos and attack and destroy those who don’t agree with you.

Here’s an excerpt from Pope Francis’ message on World Communications Day this year that contrasts the good potential with the bad reality.

We need to recognize how social networks, on the one hand, help us to better connect, rediscover, and assist one another, but on the other, lend themselves to the manipulation of personal data, aimed at obtaining political or economic advantages, without due respect for the person and his or her rights. Statistics show that among young people one in four is involved in episodes of cyberbullying.

I have struggled with the distaste of all the negative and hateful information and messages that bombard you if you are frequently checking social media channels, which I have to do to stay current and relevant in my industry. Outlandish lies and “fake news” is pervasive, even within the agricultural and food industry. The worst garbage comes from activists who seem to be acting more out of self gain than actually believing in their mission and goals.

As bad as it is in the online conversation, which is how I’ve described social media from the start, it is still a mechanism for good. I’ve just had to learn to ignore the noise from the people who are abusing the system and other people involved in it. Since I think of it as a conversation I have had to realize that my messages may be falling on deaf ears but that happens even in face to face conversation. I may never know the positive effects of publishing good, helpful content and not giving in to arguments and the bullies.

So, I am going to try to write here more. Besides the extra time it takes I will admit to not wanting to deal with the critics. In meditation I have found that there is no good reason not to make use of social media for a very personal channel to communicate. I hope that I can stick to this resolution.

Spiritual Reading: Catholic Guide to Depression

For anyone who has dealt with depression, either personally or with a loved one, this book is not only incredibly helpful but qualifies as excellent spiritual reading. You don’t have to be a theologian or priest to understand it. I am just finishing it and it has helped me with my own spiritual growth and helped me feel more positive than ever about my faith and the future.

Here is an excerpt from the description of the book.

Countless Christians — including scores of saints — have suffered profound, pervasive sorrow that modern psychiatrists call “depression.” Then, as now, great faith and even fervent spiritual practices have generally failed to ease this wearying desolation of soul.

In these pages, Catholic psychiatrist Aaron Kheriaty reviews the effective ways that have recently been devised to deal with this grave and sometimes deadly affliction — ways that are not only consistent with the teachings of the Church, but even rooted in many of those teachings.

You can find the book on Amazon in either paperback or Kindle versions.

All Souls Day Prayer Ceremony

This past Friday evening at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Pensacola, FL our Bishop William Wack provided a homily during an annual ecumenical prayer ceremony attended by 82 people. We had a beautiful sunset and setting on “Priest’s Hill” in the cemetery.

Cindy and I assisted in the setup for the ceremony with the Women’s Sodality at the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel and my Knights of Columbus council. This is what I’d like to be able to do more of. My travel schedule for our business takes me to many interesting places in the U.S. and many other countries but it also makes it difficult to attend church activities and even write here, which is painfully obvious.

This month let’s pray for the faithfully departed and gain a plenary indulgence for them. Here’s more information:

The Church offers an Indulgence for a Cemetery Visit that is available as a partial indulgence all year round, but from November 1 through November 8, this indulgence is plenary. Like the All Souls Day indulgence, it is applicable only to the souls in Purgatory. As a plenary indulgence, it remits all punishment due to sin, which means that simply by performing the requirements of the indulgence, you can obtain the entrance into Heaven of a soul who is currently suffering in Purgatory.

The Apps I Use The Most

After years of apps for mobile devices I’ve tried many of them that are faith related. I’ve pretty much narrowed them down to just a few.

The screenshot shows one of the newer ones I started using. It is The Examen Prayer by Father Michael Denk. “What’s the one most important prayer we should pray every day? St. Ignatius said you should never omit the Examen Prayer, also known as the Examination of Conscience, from your daily prayer.” It was recommended by my spiritual director and I use it primarily on my iPad and really like the journal feature.

Others include:

I still use my printed four volume Lituergy of the Hours when I’m home but these apps are what I’ve found to be the most handy while traveling. Most of my spiritual reading is now on my Kindle (app on iPad).

Relaxation Time

My shoulder surgery recovery is going well enough that I spent a couple hours on the beach doing some fishing. The Gulf waters had some strong breakers and lots of grass but this bluefish found my bait. He became lunch for today.

It’s amazing how tired out you can get doing something like this after major surgery. Besides pain, the hardest part for me is patience and wanting to do more than I should. I can’t deny getting down sometimes when it seems like everything hurts and I can’t do something I want to do. But I am very thankful for all the people who have helped me, starting with the doctors and nurses and all my family.

I keep thanking God for the challenges in my life and all the blessings. Pain is a good thing to offer up and I try to remember to do so.