Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Great job to our lectors this morning as they double-teamed the first reading.
I’d like to share with you my most embarrassing moment at St. John’s. But first, I need to ask our first graders (who were in kindergarten last year) a special project they did with Mrs. Tessier that relates to the Gospel. Can you remember? I’ll give you a hint…you put something in a cup…it needed sunlight and water…something grew [at this point their hands shot up]. “Plants!” Yep. The dumbest thing I did happened after Mrs. Tessier asked me to water her plants in the kindergarten room. I looked around and saw one tree and gave it some water. As I poured water in the pot, something seemed off. There was Styrofoam covering the dirt and water coming out the bottom. Only then did I realize it was a fake tree! Then I noticed the cups by the window and got your plants watered.
What does it take to grow a plant? “Dirt.” “Water.” “Time.” (Very metaphysical of you). “Sun.” “Room to grow.” “Patience.” Okay, I think we have it covered. Plants need a lot to grow.
Jesus uses the parable of the sower to teach us about our faith. Now the sower who sows in the parable is not a sewer of thread and needle. This sower planted seeds. The seeds fell on four different types of ground. Which good listeners can tell me the type of ground the seed fell on? “Thorny ground.” Nice work. And what happened to those seeds? “They got choked and couldn’t grow.” Excellent.
Jesus said the seeds were the Word of God—the Bible. He is comparing the ground to our souls. He taught that some receive God’s Word in their heart but other things can get in the way—today these could be cell phones, video games or sports.
What’s another type of ground the seeds fell on? “Good soil.” Yep. Let me get back to that one in a bit as that shows the point of Jesus’ parable.
What next? “Rocky ground.” And what happened to these seeds? “They didn’t grow because they didn’t have deep roots.” We must always be careful to let the Word grow deeply in us. Sometimes we may feel very close to God or get excited in our faith—like we may feel in Adoration and praise and worship after Mass. Yet if our faith is only about feeling, the roots of God’s Word won’t have depth.
What’s the last ground? “The road.” What was the result for these? “The birds took them.” And who did the birds represent? “The devil.” Exactly. When it comes to our faith we must have a protected place in our heart. This is a major blessing of coming to Catholic school—we are all united by Jesus Christ. Your friends and family are meant to protect your faith from evil.
The point of this parable is that we must have good soil in our souls to produce fruit for God. This is what our Catholic school is all about. We want you to grow close to God in prayer, sacraments, learning, playing and making friends. We pray that our experience at St. John’s School, especially during Catholic Schools Week, may bear abundant fruit.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
There was a lot of excitement in the church this morning. Towards the end of our individual prayer times, Fr. Rich and I realized we both thought we had Mass. As we both love St. Thomas Aquinas it almost came to blows—and after he ran to his office he realized I was indeed on the schedule.
Speaking of Fr. Rich—he has gotten the best of me ice skating and in our fundraising competitions. But I’m pretty sure I have him in one area [pulling out the five volumes of St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica]. Fr. Rich, have you read the entirety of this work? “Nope.” Well there you go, I have!
With this in mind, I want to quote the introduction from St. Thomas’ Summa: “Because the doctor of Catholic truth ought not only to teach the proficient, but also to instruct beginners…we purpose in this book to treat of whatever belongs to the Christian religion, in such a way as may tend to the instruction of beginners.” Fr. Rich, I don’t know what this says if you haven’t even read these five volumes for beginners.
This shows just how bright St. Thomas was. This five-volume work he considered for beginners. The Summa was this most brilliant man’s crowning achievement. And he did treat of almost anything you can think of in our faith—sacraments, angels, morality, anthropology, philosophy, etc. But this was only one of his vast library-of-books he wrote. He was so smart he often wrote four or five works at the same time. He would dictate to one recorder a section, then move to the next, and the next, and the next, then start again with the first.
Yet despite his obvious intellectual excellence, St. Thomas said he grew closer to God through prayer than learning. He lived out Jesus’ declaration: “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Two inspiring stories are told of St. Thomas’ mystical prayer experiences. In one he had a vision of God that stopped him in his tracks. Having written a ton, he said, “All I have written is straw.”
In another, Christ spoke to Thomas through a corpus on the cross. The Lord said, “Thomas, you have written well of me. What reward will you have?” Thomas’ request: “Lord, nothing but yourself.”
As we seek to live as brothers and sisters and mothers of Christ, may we, like St. Thomas, desire nothing but Himself.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Last night I heard a great talk at the Guiding Star dinner. In it, Jayson Jones—the keynote speaker—observed about politics that we have a lot in common. No matter the political party, we all want students to get a good education, for people to be safe and well fed and healthy.
At the same time, our political system in the United States is as polarized as you can get. The risk for us is for this division to seep into our Church. Yet we must remember the words of Jesus, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
Frequently moral issues divide us—often because they are split politically between Democrats and Republicans. In the face of such division, we must be one. And we can be one because the Church proclaims the truth in the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Holding fast to our teachings is a tricky business, especially when it comes to voting. But in our daily lives, our assent to Christ’s teaching through his Church will keep us united.
The light of Christ at St. John's Catholic School: 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Catholic Schools Week Mass)
I’m going to start with a quiz question. It’s kind of hard, but the sixth graders should know the answer because I was in the classroom when they had a presentation about our readings today. How is the first reading and the gospel from today related? [6th grader answers:] “Some of the words were the same.” That’s right. In fact, Matthew quotes our first reading from Isaiah in his own writing.
The key line is: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Isaiah said this to encourage the Israelites who were facing utter defeat. Their nation had just been defeated by the Babylonians and they faced destruction and devastation in their cities and homes. Many were exiled from their homeland to a foreign place.
Matthew uses the same expression to point to Jesus. Since Jesus has come we, who walk in a dark world, can see a great light. We can always have hope in Christ who shines in the darkness.
One of the great ways Jesus shows his light is through Catholic schools. This week we celebrate Catholic schools across our country and we are blessed to start our week with Sunday Mass.
I want to ask the kids, how do we see the light of Jesus at St. John’s? How do experience God’s love for us at school? [Student responds:] “We pray!” Yes, we do. And when do we pray? Do we pray to start the day? “Yes.” How about the end of the day? “Yes.” Before lunch? “Yes.” After lunch? “Yes.” That’s right, our days our filled with prayer every day.
Do you know how blessed you are to pray with your teachers at school? You are learning to offer your whole day to God by offering simple prayers throughout the day. And you wouldn’t get to pray with your teachers throughout the day in public school.
How else does Christ’s light shine in school? Well, from the choir loft we have a hand. Do you feel like God speaking to us from above? “Yep. We have religion class.” Good one. We have time set aside especially to learn about God. Again, this is not true in other schools!
What else? “The Bible.” That’s one of my favorites. And how do you use the Bible at school? “You give us candy!” You bet. There is no better motivation for elementary kids to memorizing something than Skittles. We also study the readings for Mass in religion class and pray them at a special time during our week.
What is this time? “Mass.” Got it. The most important time in our week is when we gather in church at Mass. This is where Christ most fully lets his light shine on us, and for those of us who are old enough we receive his very Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
One of my highlights this year has been seeing our students bring the darkness of their sin into the light of Confession. At the end of last year, we began having monthly Adoration and Confession after our school Mass. While we do this Kevin plays praise and worship music to which we can sing along. The first time this year Kevin announced that if anyone wanted to go to Confession they could. Fr. Rich was in the confessional and I was in the cry room so I could see what was going on in the church. It was awesome seeing half the kids stand up and get in line for confession. I thought, “This might take awhile!”
Many of our adults can look up to you because you go to Confession every month. Every Catholic should do this. And if it has been a while, get in there—it gets much easier after you get the big one done.
As Fr. Rich has often said, the greatest mission of our parish is St. John’s School. Think about it. What better way to promote the culture of life than to teach students about the dignity of life from conception to death? What better way to teach our society that marriage is between a man and a woman than to teach the kids? Is there a better way to teach our next generation to pray? To serve?
If your children are not enrolled in St. John’s School, please consider doing it. You won’t regret it and the more the merrier in our school family. And please think about the ways you can donate your time, talent and treasure to make the greatest mission in our parish thrive.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
We hear the beginnings of one of the most touching friendships in the Bible in 1 Samuel—David and Jonathan.
Saul begins his rash competition with David when he hears the women sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Rather than side with his jealous father, Jonathan stands by his friend David.
This is no small sacrifice. Not only did Jonathan have to face courageously his vengeful father, but also supported David’s God-given call to be king. This was quite a gift as Jonathan was the son of the king and headed for the throne himself. Yet he gave all that up for his friend.
We cannot underestimate the importance of having good Catholic friends. Jesus himself traveled with twelve of his closest friends and was especially close to his inner circle of three—Peter, John and James. When I observe our students, it is often the case that those surrounded by Christian friends strive for excellence in the Church, while those who do not drop off.
This morning we thank God for the friends who push us to excellence and intimacy with God. We pray that we, too, may be such friends for many others.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
“Not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”
This inspiring verse from 1st Samuel contains comfort and a challenge. First, society makes it seem like we need to look, act and dress in a certain way to fit in. This is especially true for women which are often objectified today. While society sees the surface, God sees the heart, and we must always remember God created us and loves us. We can combat worldly expectations by always remembering we are beloved sons and daughters of our Father and by living life for Him, not society.
The challenge can be in perceiving the world as God does. Often enough we fall to judgments and gossip about others in shallow ways. We must look beyond appearances to see what the Lord does—the heart—and recognize God’s love for the people that annoy or aggravate us.
We have an exemplary model before us today—St. Agnes. Agnes was a young woman and physically beautiful. She saw reality like God. She didn’t see the axe which was to behead her—she saw her faith and love of Jesus. While she was being humiliated (she was stripped naked for all to gaze on her), she trusted completely in God for protection. As legend has it, the crowds turned their back because her modesty and one man, who dared to lust after her, was struck blind and left half dead. He saw Agnes’ appearance like a man, not like God.
Through St. Agnes’ intercession we pray for purity and chastity in our lives and society. We ask for the grace to see ourselves and others as God does and not as the world.
St. Sebastian, my patron saint, was quite a dude. As a soldier of the Roman army, he evangelized his comrades while Christians were being persecuted under Diocletian. When the emperor found out, Sebastian was ordered to be executed by arrows.
He survived! The woman who came to prepare his body for burial found him still alive and nursed him back to health. Sebastian’s exemplary courage can be seen in that he did not flee Rome after his near-martyrdom. Rather, he faced the emperor himself and denounced him for his persecution of Christians. Sebastian was then beheaded for the faith. As a man of strength and courage, Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes and soldiers.
Through St. Sebastian’s intercession I have learned first-hand how powerful athletics and our faith can be. Indeed, God has given us bodies to glorify His name and competition can do this.
Sadly, though, many in our own society treat sports as a religion. Many of our students spend twenty hours a week at practices, games and travel while often having to choose between either these activities or religious education and Mass. Often lack of playing time can be the result.
I have often seen t-shirts that read, “Basketball [or insert another sport here] is life, the rest is just details.” I know because I used to have one! Yet this approach is backwards because sports will always end. The only subject that could be used here is God. And if so we can say, “God is life, the rest [even sports] is awesome.”
Before each of my workouts I seek St. Sebastian’s intercession. I offer it now, asking God to inspire our student athletes both to seek Him first and to excel in athletic endeavors:
Dear Commander at the Roman emperor’s court, you chose also to be a soldier for Christ and dared to spread faith in the king of kings, for which you were condemned to die. Your body, however, proved athletically strong and the executing arrows extremely weak, so another means to kill you was chosen and you gave your life to the Lord. May all athletes be as strong in their faith as their patron saint most clearly has been.
St. Sebastian, patron saint of athletes, pray for us.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Having arrived home safely after an amazing trip to Ghana, my heart is filled with gratitude. Thank you for the prayers and financial contributions you offered—they sure paid off.
I would like to share two main graces I received while in Ghana. First, I was reminded of the universality of the Mass. Today we gather for a relatively simple Liturgy—yet it is the same Liturgy being celebrated around the world. While in Ghana the Masses on Sundays and New Year’s eve/day were between two and a half to three and a half hours. And it was amazing! The jubilation, song, dance, clapping and reverence were truly awesome. We also had Mass in the Bishop’s chapel, in our hotel patio and even in an airport. The same Mass.
The greatest experience for me was the honor to preside at an outdoor Mass in the countryside. This was the first celebration of the Eucharist ever in this particular place. It felt very apostolic…claiming new land for Jesus. After this Mass we began to build a chapel that, please God, will have the Liturgy for years to come.
Second, while the people there are poor materially they are rich spiritually. We came to serve their human needs by bringing a bunch of suitcases of books, school, church and medical supplies, toys and balls. Through the generosity of our benefactors we sent over $15,000 to the priests and to fund the refurbishment of a Marian shrine, water purification project to provide clean drinking water for an entire community and the chapel I just mentioned. Most appreciated by the Ghanaians was that we brought ourselves.
Their hospitality was inspiring. They gave us welcomes everywhere we went—once with a brass band. We were received into homes and along the way random people gave us a goat, chicken, rooster and guinea hen (like a small turkey) to eat. They sacrificed meals for us to show us their hospitality.
Again, thanks for all you did to help make this trip possible. I pray that the graces from this trip will continue to bear fruit in Ghana, and back home as well.
[To begin my homily for the school children at St. John’s, I asked Peggy Frederickson (our principal), Kelly Weingart (3rd grade teacher), Kevin Pilon (youth minister) and Kali Frederickson (high school senior) to share their favorite part of our trip to Africa. Among others they highlighted the joy and smiles of the people we met, their hospitality and generosity despite having less than we do and the model our high schoolers (who previously attended St. John’s School) have become.]
I am grateful that our trip was so successful and thank you for your help. Each of you wrote a letter and sent a gift to your pen pals. We were able to hand deliver these and the students their were filled with joy. Last year you did a drive to collect school supplies to these same children.
Our trip was made possible by many people saying yes to God in their contributions and prayers. Like Samuel and the Psalmist many people said, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”
May we continue to do the Lord’s work in small ways so that He may continue to bless us abundantly.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Having come back to Duluth after our ten days in Ghana, my heart is filled with gratitude. This trip was nothing short of life changing for the twenty-five of us who went and would not have been possible without your prayers and support.
Think about the good we were able to do! We brought seventeen suitcases of school, church and medical supplies, toys, balls and other special requests for my four friends. We hand delivered the letters and Christmas gifts from our school children for their pen pals. Thanks to three major donors we were able to fund a Marian shrine refurbishment, chapel in the countryside and a water purification project that will provide clean drinking water to an entire community.
Perhaps the greatest gift we brought was ourselves. Throughout our fundraising process we heard a common question—why not send money directly to Africa instead of paying for our plane tickets, room and board? (Again, thanks to some generous folks we did send $15,000 directly to the priests and projects!) Having chipped in $500 a piece, we raised $47,000 to cover our expenses through a variety of fundraisers. We heard over and over again the gratitude of the people of Ghana not only for the financial contributions, but also for our presence and for making the 6,000 mile trip. The relationships and connections formed during our time in the Navrongo-Bolgatanga diocese was most the most appreciated by the people and that gift is thanks to your generosity.
If you haven’t already, check out our facebook page—St. John’s Duluth Youth Group. Here we posted daily updates, pictures, video and are currently putting up particular God-moments. Also, my homilies during the trip can be found on my blog—frbensbible.blogspot.com.
Finally, we would like to invite you all to a slideshow presentation to share more. This will take place after the 10:30 Mass on February 2nd at St. John’s and after the 9:00 Mass on February ? at St. Joseph’s.
Thanks again for your generosity and may God bless you for all you did to make our time in Ghana successful, safe and productive. As we represented you in Ghana, carrying you in our hearts and prayers, we pray that this trip will continue to bear fruit in our parishes, inspiring us to serve those in need.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Over Christmas break I had the chance to go to Ghana, Africa with our group of twenty-five people from my parish. I wish to share two highlights from the trip.
First, I was reminded of the universality of the Mass. The same Mass we celebrate this evening is being prayed all around the world. In the diocese of Navrongo-Bolgatanga, the Sunday liturgies were not passively attended or watched—they were an event. The desire of the Second Vatican Council was fulfilled in having full, active, conscious participation, in their prayer, song, dance and clapping.
We were blessed to have Mass everyday. From a three and a half hour Mass, to a jubilant New Year’s eve celebration, to an outdoor countryside service, to a hotel patio and even in an airport. The Mass was the same everywhere we went!
My greatest God moment came when I was asked to preside at Mass in countryside outside of Garu. Parts of the Mass were translated into two different languages (and I got two sets of applause!). The Mass began our day of beginning construction on a small chapel that would mark the thirty-fifth outstation for one parish (covered by three priests). This Mass was the first ever in this location and I pray the first of many.
Second, our group was amazed at how a people with nothing materially had everything spiritually. We came bringing gifts. We brought seventeen suitcases full of toys, balls, school, church and medical supplies. Through our fundraising efforts we raised $15,000 to go directly to the priests there and to fund three projects—a Marian Shrine, chapel and water purification process that would provide clean drinking water to an entire community.
Yet what we received was far greater than what we gave. Everywhere we went we were greeted with smiles, laughter and a time or two with song and dance. While traveling we were given a goat, chicken and hen to eat. We were given hope that true joy, generosity, happiness and family values are possible in our world if we turn off the noise and live for what matters most.
We lived out a wonderful balance of work and prayer while in Ghana. In so doing we were immersed in a joyful culture and saw what life could be like if we live for God, our Church and family daily.
We pray this evening for the men and women around the world who celebrate the same Mass in very different places.
Monday, January 13, 2014
Philippians is one of my favorite books in the Bible. Writing from prison, Paul joyfully encourages the people of Philippi to strive, even struggle for an ever deeper relationship with Christ. His trust enables him to proclaim, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). Some thoughts on this great letter of St. Paul can be found here.
Our first reading speaks about the curse of infertility as viewed in the Old Testament. In it, two women are in conflict—Peninnah, who had been blessed with children and Hannah, who was barren. While we know now that infertility has biological and not spiritual causes (in other words, God does not punish women with infertility), the basic fact of the sacredness of life remains.
This view of the Old Testament is at odds with our culture of abortion. In only a few days we will have the anniversary of the woeful Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade, which allows abortion to be legally sanctioned in our government. Not only this, but we face publicly funded abortion in the latest health care reforms in our country.
These decisions cannot be farther from the truth of the dignity of each life from conception until natural death.
I am pleased with the work of many of our parishioners in the pro-life movement. We are currently joining in the baby bottle campaign—pick up a bottle, fill it with change and bring it back—to support the Women’s Care Center in Duluth. This money will help us support women (and men) who have a baby under difficult situations. We also took a day a week in last fall’s edition of Forty Days for Life.
Our faith, from both Scripture and Tradition, emphasizes the sanctity of life. As Christians we are called to uphold this dignity to the weakest of our members—poor, old and unborn. We continue to pray for an end to abortion in our country and in the world, that the Gospel of Life may be proclaimed.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
On the last day of the Christmas season we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. Here Jesus is not purified by the waters of baptism, but purifies the water itself. We are baptized in these same sacramental waters, and this first and great sacrament is the reason why we can be one family in the faith.
This theme—our unity around the globe—has been in my heart since returning from Ghana. But first, I want to share a quick fact with you regarding baptisms. We have fifteen to twenty baptisms a year at St. John’s and St. Joe’s. The four priests in Ghana baptized between 200-400 at the Easter Vigil last year alone.
My first thought about unity comes with the Mass. We celebrate the same Mass today as we did in Ghana. These frequently featured liturgies of two and half to three hours (I never want to hear a complaint about a Mass over an hour here!) with homilies between thirty-forty-five minutes (again, no whining about a ten minute homily!) We had Mass in a jubilant crowd on New Year’s Eve. We had Mass on a hotel patio when our bus drivers didn’t get us in time to get to a parish. We celebrated the Liturgy in the airport in Amsterdam. We had the first Mass ever in a remote village before beginning a chapel building project. The Mass unites us with brothers and sisters around the world with Christ our head.
We visited the Diocese of Navrongo-Bolgatanga bearing gifts, much like the Magi. We brought seventeen suitcases with school, church and medical supplies. Generous donors allowed us to give $15,000 which supported a refurbished Marian shrine, water purification to help a whole village receive pure drinking water and a chapel in the countryside.
Yet despite being a family, we have so much more earthly blessings here in the U.S. than those we met in Ghana. Clean drinking water is plentiful and easy to access—we don’t have to walk half a mile to a well to fetch contaminated water to drink. We eat three square meals and snack in between, usually eating meat. We have cars, phones, computers, grocery stores, jobs and revenue.
Many of our group members, though, did not feel sorry for the Ghanaians. Nor should they. When asked the poorest country in which she had served Mother Theresa said it was the United States. What they lack in material possessions or opportunities they more than make up for in their generosity, hospitality, joy, faith and family. These were the happiest people I have met. Where marriage and family is in crisis here, it is thriving there. Our twenty-five travelers received much more than we gave.
To illustrate this point, we witnessed a touching gesture by one of the children we met. One of our seniors gave out Starburst candy to the kids. After giving her last one away she watched a young boy open the Starburst and break it in half to share with his friend.
In many ways, these people have nothing. But what they do have they are willing to give away. Parishioners we met supplied us with a goat, chicken, rooster and guinea fowl (like a small turkey) for us to eat. This may not seem like a big deal, but these families sacrificed meals so they could eat. In the important stuff, these people have everything.
I am left with many questions in my heart having come back home from Ghana. I share these with you, neither having all the answers nor trying to guilt you, but for personal reflection. For instance, I make about $2,000 a month with room, board and health care provided. My priest friends make $40 a month. How am I to respond to this? Again, many of our children here have cell phones, iPads and expensive video game systems. Children of the same age and dignity there (and in Duluth too) often don’t know where there next meal is coming from. What do we do with this? How do we, in the richest country of the world, support and share with the poor both at home and abroad?
These questions move beyond the earthly to the spiritual. Mass there is not simply an obligation to attend passively. It is an event. Everyone sings, claps, prays and participates fully, actively and consciously as the Second Vatican Council desired. And they do so joyfully! How can you participate more fully in the Mass? Can we too have everyone singing, praying and focusing throughout the Liturgy?
We celebrate the first and great sacrament of Baptism today. Through Christ’s own baptism we have each been brought into the faith through the sacramental waters and this makes us one big family across the globe. I am so thankful for all of your prayers and support in making our trip to visit our family across the globe. I pray that the graces God gave us on this trip will pour over into our parish and continue to do good in Ghana.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Note--This Saturday morning Mass came about from a request from a few of our high school students who went to Ghana. I was inspired that, shortly after coming home, they wanted to gather around the Eucharist to celebrate a successful trip.
I was hoping you would bring your drums to Mass for our music, but apparently you missed the memo.
Throughout our trip, and especially now that we are home, I have been thinking about all the answered prayers we experienced. We were given $76,000. We had smooth travels. We were all relatively healthy—certainly no one got a life-threatening illness. We made friends and in short had nothing less than a ten day God moment.
We must remember that God wants to answer all of our prayers. Sometimes we approach prayer like we need to persuade God or reason with Him. We don’t. Neither do we need to be perfect for God’s fidelity with our requests. St. John wrote in his first letter, “Beloved: We have this confidence in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours.” Our Psalm adds, “The Lord takes delight in his people.” The Lord delights in us and wants to give us every good gift.
We received many good gifts from God in Ghana—one answered prayer after another. Remember this. And John the Baptist gives us the proper response to such gifts, “Christ must increase, I must decrease.”
Thursday, January 9, 2014
I could say a lot about our trip to Ghana which went better than I ever imagined. Our first reading from St. John will help me focus on some of the powerful experiences the twenty-five of us had.
First, we are reminded that “God is love” and that, “Beloved, we love God because he first loved us.” If I had to pick one word to summarize our time in Ghana it would indeed be love. We perceived love first by you in your generous financial support and prayers. This trip would not have been possible without you!
We brought our love to the people we met. We each made sacrifices to prepare for an international trip of service. While in Ghana we worked on two different projects—a Marian shrine and a chapel in the middle of nowhere. To show our love we brought seventeen suitcases of school, church and medical supplies.
The greatest part of this trip was the love shown to us. I wish I could bottle of up the smiles, laughter, joy, hospitality and generosity the men, women and children showed us. They presented me with a chasuble on stole as a gift to our parish to say thanks to all of us. Throughout our trip we were given a goat, rooster, chicken and guinea fowl to eat. This may not be much for us but was a huge sacrifice for these people.
All of this love was possible because we are first loved by God.
Second, John writes, “…whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” The coolest God-moment of this trip was when we helped build a small chapel in a rural. This marked the thirty-fifth outstation for three priests to visit. (Imagine St. John’s with thirty-five churches like St. Joseph’s in Gnesen!) The pastor asked if I would preside Mass at this location before our work began. I was honored and celebrated the first Mass ever in this place. I felt like an apostle in unchartered territory! Praying Mass here was like putting a flag in the ground for Jesus, claiming this territory for him. We were carving out more land for God.
I am extremely grateful for the love God showed us on our immersion. This love was most tangible in the Mass, and it is through Mass (whether in an exuberant three hour Mass in Ghana, airport or here at St. John’s) we can conquer the world. We pray for the grace to bring God’s love we receive at Mass into the world to claim it for Him.