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Sanctification in Daily Work
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Imitating Christ in our Daily Life

The Imitation of ChristI read “The Imitation of Christ”, by Thomas Kempis, many years ago and remember how much it meant to mean then. IDK why but I picked up this version of the book which I have had for a while and started from the beginning again. Amazingly, it speaks to me even more powerfully than I remember. It’s as if the thoughts and words in this book seem to talk about today, what is happening in the world and in my life.

Even in the forward I highlighted this: “But we forget that we are made up of body and soul and all this hyperactivity leaves no time for the soul to breathe.” The world today seems very frantic with an overwhelming urge to constantly be doing something, anything and at all times. Maybe by meditating on this little book you and I can change and slow down, be patient and enjoy the day and find ways to become more like Christ.

This book can be purchased on Catholic Book Publishing.

A Holy Week Reflection

Liturgy of the HoursDuring this season of Lent it is especially good to take time for personal examination and to meditate on the life of Jesus and what the coming Easter Triduum means. There are many good guides or prayer books for this time. I’ve been finding meaningful reading in my daily Liturgy of the Hours, especially Morning Prayer. This is a quote from yesterday’s Morning Prayer, Antiphon 1, Psalm 43, “Defend me, O God, and plead my cause against a godless nation. From deceitful and cunning men rescue me, O God.”

This immediately hit home with me emotionally. In my life I don’t ever remember seeing so much hatefulness, animosity, anger, lack of faith, and actual direct persecution of Christians. At least in my own country. We have elected leadership that I truly believe are working to tear our society apart and complete the ongoing effort to remove God from our our institutions and people. I find it truly heinous what is being done to children and including those unborn who have been aborted.

So, I have read and re-read more of the Psalm and it not only brings home the reality of what Jesus had to endure on our behalf but also provides hope that we will be saved from these “deceitful and cunning men.”

Let there be such oneness between you. . .

Let there be such oneness between you that when one weeps the other will taste saltI love this quote. I first saw it in my chiropractor’s office. I don’t know who the author is. I searched but found multiple different results. This one says “Anonymous.”

The quote: “Let there be such oneness between you that when one weeps the other will taste salt.

One of the places I found it was on a list of suggested quotes for the father of the bride at a wedding. This really has a lot of meaning for me. The first time I read it I immediately thought of my wife. I thought about how much I have loved her since I met her in college and I thought of how much I missed her when we were apart. I thought of the many rough spots we’ve had over the years when I would know that she was hurt and especially if she was crying. Having the feeling described here is very powerful and has been a topic of my meditations many times.

I think this can apply to other people and even to other things. A recent example would be what is happening in our country. I love our country and it is weeping through the millions of people who are suffering. I taste that sadness and it is salty. I can provide more examples but I just thought I’d share this quote in the hopes you may like it.

Year of St. Joseph and Prayers That Are Needed

St. Joseph the WorkerWe are well in to the Year of St. Joseph as proclaimed by Pope Francis. I think this is a very special opportunity to find time to meditate on such a marvelous saint about whom we know very little. That may be the case but his “silence” says so much as you can find in the writings of many theologians. There are also many St. Joseph prayers you can find that may have special meaning to you.

I decided to spend more time in prayer to this saint and just to ask for his strength, wisdom and patience as the craziness of what is going on in our world has not let up and I’m afraid we’re going to see much more of it. We need St. Joseph’s help to overcome the problems so many people are facing, especially in trying to keep their faith and to remain calm.

One of the prayers I’m using for the first time is the Seven Sundays Devotion to St. Joseph. This coming Sunday will be #5.

I keep this mini icon of St. Joseph the Worker on my desk as a constant reminder to think about him and perhaps utter a short prayer. When I am having trouble figuring out what to do with my business and my work I turn to St. Joseph and think about what his days and years taking care of Jesus and Mary might have been like and how he handled his business and work. He made it through some very tough times too.

I like this excerpt about St. Joseph: “He protects those who revere him and accompanies them on their journey through this life — just as he protected and accompanied Jesus when he was growing up. As you get to know him, you discover that the holy patriarch is also a master of the interior life — for he teaches us to know Jesus and share our life with him, and to realize that we are part of God’s family. St Joseph can teach us these lessons, because he is an ordinary man, a family man, a worker who earned his living by manual labour — all of which has great significance and is a source of happiness for us.”

St. Josemaria Escriva
Christ is Passing By, no. 39

Finding Peace in this Pandemic World of Fear

Preparation for Total ConsecrationI think this is my original book, “Preparation for Total Consecration” according to St. Louis de Montfort. It has been an annual companion for many years. I often sat in my deer blind in Missouri reading and saying my daily prayer because the season there was always scheduled right after I had started this incredible set of prayers. You can find the new version at Montfort Publications here.

I’m not bringing this up just to say you should try this spiritual exercise. Although I certainly recommend it. Rather I bring it up because I know so many people who are in depression and filled with anxiety and fear because of COVID-19. I see it in their social media writings and hear it in phone conversations and even Zoom meetings. I understand and I firmly believe this is a great tool to battle these negative feelings right now.

Even before the pandemic I have been struggling with frequent bouts of all the above. My wife and I have our own business that for many years has thrived on traveling to industry events throughout the year and around the world. That all ended in March and now we’re getting announcements of events going virtual only or completely cancelled all the way out to June, 2021.

With the agriculture industry already facing tough economic times before this year and then not even being able to travel, we have struggled and I have felt helpless at times. But I started re-dedicating myself to saying my morning prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours and I’m getting ready to add evening prayer back now. This brings me a lot of calm each morning. And then I started this annual consecration prayer and I have felt much more peaceful. Time and again this year my little business has found new types of work and new clients to work for. You might call it miraculous.

Besides these spiritual exercises I mention I have also payed more attention to the writings of various saints in them as well as daily reading a little bit of the New Testament. This has been a huge help in better understanding my faith in Jesus and acknowledging Him as my Lord and Savior. Somehow, the negative thoughts are much fewer and I’m even sleeping better. Of course there are other devotions that have played a big part in my ability to overcome fear that can paralyze you from thinking clearly and doing nothing. These include spending a weekly holy hour with the Blessed Sacrament and in my case, contributing to Sunday Mass by live streaming it on Facebook for our church and saying my rosary every day regardless of the time of day or night.

I will close by just saying that God loves you. Focus on that when you can. Maybe 5-10 minutes a day. Reach out to people you know just to chat with them. You’ll both feel better for it.

Morning Prayer Buddy

Prayer BuddyUntil March of this year I have traveled extensively for my work and business. But that all changed and other than family visits and a couple trips to my hunting club camp, I have only spent two days on the road for work. So, it has made for a much more regular home (office) schedule. One of those is my first cup of coffee with the Liturgy of the Hours and my little Maltese, Croix, by my side.

It is a very relaxing and quiet time to say my morning prayers and spend at least a few minutes in contemplation of the readings as well as examining my conscience. The changes to my business and ever changing rules about what we can and can’t do have made it difficult to concentrate at times. The uncertainty of what will happen next is very disconcerting. This time of prayer helps me collect my thoughts and make a plan for the day.

Still Live Streaming from the Basilica

Oboe String QuartetWay back in March when I started helping my parish, Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, by live streaming Mass on the church Facebook page I had no idea I would still be doing this today and with no end in sight. But I am not complaining. I consider it an honor to use a skill I have for this reason.

Besides Mass I also recently live streamed a very good oboe string quartet that performed on the altar in the church. It was a beautiful hour of music in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle. You can watch it here.

I have to add to this post how grateful I am for my faith, family and friends plus all the wonderful people who have provided my company with work during this very stressful time. Business has looked very bleak at times and then we have received a project to work on. It has seemed miraculous in light of the status of the agribusiness sector we work in.

For now I want to focus on being calm and patient. There is so much trouble in our society and country right now that it is easy to lose focus on what is important. I do pray for an end to abortion, violence, hatred, rioting and persecution.

Good News in a Crazy World

Basilica of St. Michael the ArchangelThere is so much for us to be anxious, fearful, depressed about that I’m trying to narrow my focus to what is really important and what eliminates these things. The most famous saying of Pope St. John Paul II is “Be not afraid.” His motto – Totus Tuus (Totally yours). These are powerful points for meditation and living, so necessary in a world of so much trouble (pandemic, racial strife, lawlessness, persecution).

At Mass this weekend we got to see the renovation work on our sanctuary. For weeks it has been full of scaffolding as the arch, columns and more have been painted. It is not finished and more is being done in the church pew sections. Basically, all areas of the church. We hope to be completed by the end of July.

Sitting in Mass, while live-streaming on our Facebook page, I was struck with how beautiful the work is. At the same time our Rector, Fr. Callipare, talked about the idea of not being afraid. I find it difficult to not become anxious about what is happening in our world and what is happening in my business. I don’t know what the future holds. But what I have found through meditation and prayer is that these things aren’t real in the sense of what is most important. That is our faith and our spiritual life. That’s what’s real! And nothing can keep us from it.

In order to come to this realization and to live it, daily meditation is necessary in my opinion. This means taking 5-10 minutes a couple times per day and shutting out the material world we live in and focusing on our relationship with God. Talking to Him one on one and putting ourselves completely in His hands. It isn’t always easy to do this but like so many things, practice makes perfect!

COVID-19 Stay at Home Effects

As we continue to live under stay at home orders of various kinds and locations I have been thinking more and more about the damage to people’s emotions, especially those who suffer from depression and anxiety. I’m concerned about our loss of jobs and liberties too.

But before you think I don’t care about every human life I can assure you nothing could be further from the truth. However, we live with death around us everywhere in the world. Abortion is the most extreme example. Terrorism, suicide, vehicle crashes and a variety of diseases like heart disease and cancer, are not new.

I don’t even pretend to be an “expert” on this COVID-19 virus as so many proclaim loudly on social media. But, the more and more data I see and hear make me doubt that our governments have made a good decision to essentially shut us down. Even experts who are doctors contradict each other.

I’m not afraid of the future though, because of my faith in Jesus. But besides the people who have died of this virus I am also concerned about all the people who are now un-employed, the businesses who are out of business or soon will be, the people who are shut in from their loved ones or not allowed to see them, the people sick with other diseases or injuries who are not allowed to see their family. I think we will look back on this as a very dark spot on the history of our country and culture.

I’d like to think more positive about “getting back to normal,” but I doubt that will happen. In some ways there might be some good that will come from what we’ve been through but that will only happen if people make real changes in their lives, permanent changes. You can probably think of a lot of examples for this. Will it happen? IDK. But I sure hope so.

Holy Mary, our hope and seat of wisdom, pray for us!

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.

My Shoulder to Bear

Just over a week ago I had rotator cuff repair surgery. It doesn’t really sound too intimidating until you learn about it and especially those first few days after the surgery. I confess that I was dreading it and scared of it. I had to make a promise to myself to quite Googling every term, medication, outcome, problem.

To start with, it means that I can’t drive for at least six weeks and have to have my arm in a sling night/day. So that means no business travel or the kind of field work I do. Then I have another six weeks before I’m allowed to lift anything with my dominate right arm.

Lots of questions about how this is going to affect my business, how am I going to be one-armed and left handed, will the surgery be successful, etc. were running through my mind constantly.

I was finding it very hard to concentrate on my prayer life and to trust in God that no matter what happens it is His will and He will give me strength to deal with it. So, I’ve made it a part of my meditation each day to just let God help me, provide me with inspiration. Then when this subject came up speaking with my wife and Chelsea, my daughter who was paralyzed in an auto accident 17 years ago. I was complaining about how annoying having my arm strapped to my side was. She casually reminded me that she wore a very restrictive collar around her neck for months after her spinal cord surgery. Wow. Did that ever put things in perspective for me. I almost started crying on the spot out of shame for this trivial little matter that will most likely be very successful for full arm use and within less than that amount of time.

How can I not be thankful to God for this? It happened when I picked up a heavy object and there was a loud (to me) pop and pain in my shoulder. Yep, torn tendon. Not good. But then, maybe it really is. I can thank God for this and offer up my pain united with His on the Cross.

I have still had a few early bouts of what I guess they call situational depression while sitting in a recliner and feeling sorry for myself. Worse, I’ve imagined all the things that can go wrong and started focusing on the challenges my business faces, family relationship problems and more.

It’s pretty easy to become lukewarm with my faith at these times but that does no good. By the end of my first week post-surgery I am feeling a renewed energy and positive outlook for the future. I know my goal on Earth is to become a saint and look at this wonderful opportunity God has given me to work toward that.

I continue to pray that I’m worthy of God’s love, dedicate myself to my prayers and finding ways to help others, by starting with my wonderful wife and business partner. I take her for granted so much. She is the wonderful mother of my children and on this Mother’s Day I want her to feel special, needed, valued and loved. I pray to my Mother Mary to pray for me and for us as we move forward on the path to holiness. Amen.

Beatitudes for Daily Examination of Conscience

BeatitudesOne of the most beloved parts of the Bible is the Beatitudes. I highlighted it in mine a long time ago.

Recently I was visiting friends back in Jefferson City, MO. This included one of my friends who is also involved in the work of Opus Dei. The subject of daily examination of conscience came up and in particular what to search your conscience for when you really haven’t committed any mortal sins against the ten commandments. As is often the case, my friend made a brilliant suggestion that I would not have thought of. He suggested using the Beatitudes during daily examination.

So I started doing that. There is a lot of comfort you can take from these words of Jesus and meditating on them in light of your own words, thoughts and actions put them in a whole new context for me. For example, using “Blessed are the merciful . . .” I am asking myself if I’ve been merciful in what I think, say and do. If I have not, then that is a clear case of an opportunity for atonement and to resolve to be more merciful in the future.

What do you think about using the Beatitudes for this purpose? Make sense?

Closing Out Year of Faith

Pope FrancisOn Sunday Pope Francis closed out the Year of Faith that had been proclaimed by Pope Benedict. It is my hope that many, many people viewed this past year as a journey to come in closer contact with God. Here’s an excerpt from his homily.

Todays solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.

Your Public Example

Another point from The Way by St. Josemaria Escriva is this one in the first chapter.

How I wish your bearing and conversation were such that, on seeing or hearing you, people would say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ.

One of the points that struck me when I first read this was “bearing and conversation.” This said to me that living out my faith does not mean putting on a robe and sandals or having a large cross hanging from my neck. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that. However, most of us living in the world and not in an order don’t need to dress out of the ordinary. Some people need to wear a uniform for work for example. By ordinary I do not mean like a lot of the inappropriate clothing that is so common today.

No, we need to wear our faith by our actions, by the words we use. Can you imagine if no one used profanity, shared pornographic images or jokes or talked bad about someone else? What if everyone did their job without complaining? What if we helped each other instead of thinking only of ourselves and ignoring those around us in need? It would be a very different world.

We’re called to this and even if no one else lives their faith, we should. People will notice. They may make fun of us. But we’ll make them think and we’ll be an example for them.

I admit it’s not always easy. A very simple but tough thing for me was getting in the habit of making a sign of the cross and saying a blessing at a public meal, either by myself in an airport or at a convention banquet. I have had strangers come up to me and thank me for doing it though. Talk about some positive affirmation. Let’s all give it a try.