Monday, October 30, 2006

Gut Check...

Today was the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is hard to believe, but there are only four Sundays left in this liturgical year. The Gospel reading at Mass will begin to speak of the final things when the Lord will return to take his own to himself.

Another year has past...are we closer to the Lord? Are we loving more deeply, more sacrificially? Are we more like Jesus today than a year ago?

I think it is time for a radical re-thinking of our Christianity. Everyday the world becomes more hostile to the Church, the Bride of Christ. Everyday we have to make more and more deliberate decisions to believe. But I can't help but think that for most of us, including myself, the most important thing to us is convenience and ease. We long as it doesn't cost us anything. We have this misguided notion that to be a disciple is to live a middle-class American existence with few if any bumps in the road to our financial, career, and family goals - that somehow our lives are supposed to tend ever upward to nicer houses and cars, better behaved children, and more friends.

We have completely forgot that the Christian life is a downward spiral to death. The death of our ambitions...death of our disordered desires...death to ease and convenience...death to riches...death to position...death to our very selves so that we might live in, for and with Christ Jesus. Resurrection only comes after death!

What will we equivocate on to save face? What will we deny to keep our selfish pleasures? What will we ignore so that things are stable, easy, and comfortable?

In these last days, it is time to muster our courage through grace and lift our eyes to Christ on the crucifix and see our future in this that we can have his future in the next.

It just seems like there is not any need to get....crazy about this religious stuff. I mean you don't want to take it too far! People might think you are a freak!

We must remind ourselves of the Lord's words when we hear that voice of the Evil One in our head...
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and him with me...He who has an ear, let him hear that the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:17-22
In a presentation on October 19, 2005 Bishop Bruskewitz had these words that are worthy of much reflection (go here for the entire text):
What then should be the method by which we face the rises in the Church at this time? There must be, I think, a supreme effort to recapture our Catholic faith in all its orthodox splendor, and to take a stand for Christ as in the olden days. The Church has ever been counter-cultural. She has always and ever been that which stands against the age because she is the custodian of the Deposit of Faith, inherently and intrinsically conservative, as Pope Paul VI observed, because she to maintain the integrity of that faith without distortion or mutilation down through the centuries. It is important that we see the truths of our Catholic faith as liberating realities, and not as some kind of constraint, and that true freedom is linked with truth, and that truth trumps freedom and that unless one is in possession of the truth, one is not actually free. The words of Jesus are always appropriate to every age, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."...

In summary, a laity that will be the salt, the leaven and the light that will penetrate our world. Initially, there were only twelve apostles, largely shabby fishermen from Galilee, who were able, with the grace of God and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to bring the light of Christ to 2000 and more years of human history. Why should we think we are any less capable, provided that we are people of prayer, dedication and devotion, of doing something similar in our time and place. Let it be our prayer that God will give us here and now, the ability to dare to be different, and to stand for Christ whatever the cost, and to convince our world that our Catholic faith is so beautiful that all people would wish it to be true, and then to inform our world in the most certain terms that it is true. Thank you very much.
With that said, we have to remember why we were created. We were created for union with God so that we might share his very life! EVERYTHING that we ever hoped for, that is good, is found in Him: love, truth, beauty, goodness, life, joy, and security. Our hope is that we might, through the Resurrection of the dead, live with him for eternity. We have to keep our eye on the prize!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fall in Gaming..

Here are a few beautiful pictures of the Gaming area shot right outside of the house. The first is a picture when we got here. The next one is the same shot from today. Then next two are views moving left to right from the Kartause toward downtown Gaming. This is just not going to format right...apologies.

Monday, October 23, 2006


I don't know about you, but when I read the lives of the Saints and their strength and valor in becoming holy; I can be quite discouraged. I see their strength in comparison to my weakness. I see their great love next to my selfishness. I see their sanctity next to my sin. The Evil One can use this against us and make us think that since it is impossible for us to become a saint; why even try?

I ran across a few statements recently that lifted my spirits and gave me a great deal of hope. I hope and pray in sharing them with you that you will be encouraged to abandon yourself to God's great mercy!
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Romans 8:1, 32

We live in the age of inventions now...I must find an elevator to take me straight up to Jesus, because I am too little to climb the steep stairway of perfection...You, my Jesus, are the elevator which will take me up to heaven. There is no need for me to grow up; on the contrary, I must stay little and become more and more so. St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Story of a Soul, pp. 140-141

but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The mansion of my soul is too narrow to receive you; let it be enlarged by you. It is all in ruins; be pleased to repair it. It has within it such things as will offend your gaze, but who shall cleanse it? To whom besides you shall I cry out, "From my secret sins cleanse me, O Lord, and from those of the others spare your servant(Ps 19:13-14)"? St. Augustine, Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 5.

One thought strikes me. All the means of sanctification which the preacher proposes and develops require a strong soul...I will not profit from exercises designed for strong souls. O my God, show me the exercises designed for feeble souls...Yet even if the Saints did not think of these poor souls...You, Lord, my mercy, have not abandoned them. You yourself, Good Master, have burdened yourself with them. I know better than anyone. I am one of those poor souls, and I bless you for having revealed to the weak and the little ones what you do not always accord to the valiant and strong. Maurice Maignon in I Believe in Love by Father Jean C. J. d'Elbee

Be encouraged today in your walk with the Lord. He hasn't forgotten you or abandoned you. Quit relying on yourself and surrender yourself to his mercy, grace, and love!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr..

Today is the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr. He was martyred in a Roman persecution in the very early 2nd Century (about 107-111). On the way to Rome to die, he wrote letters (find here; scroll down) to the seven Churches in the world. He was the first known to use the Greek word katholikos (καθολικός) to refer to the Church. He was an amazing man. Below is the reading from the Office of the Readings from the Divine Office. Please read it. He really expresses the opposite of the sadness that we referred to in the post below. He lives totally for Christ with no reference or care for the world.

I write to all the Churches, and impress on them all, that I shall willingly die for God, unless ye hinder me. I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable goodwill towards me. Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God.

All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. "For what shall a man be profited, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?'' Him I seek, who died for us: Him I desire, who rose again for our sake. This is the gain which is laid up for me.

Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me from living, do not wish to keep me in a state of death; and while I desire to belong to God, do not ye give me over to the world. Suffer me to obtain pure light: when I have gone thither, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God. If any one has Him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let him have sympathy with me, as knowing how I am straitened. The prince of this world would fain carry me away, and corrupt my disposition towards God. Let none of you, therefore, who are [in Rome] help him; rather be ye on my side, that is, on the side of God.

Do not speak of Jesus Christ, and yet set your desires on the world. Let not envy find a dwelling-place among you; nor even should I, when present with you, exhort you to it, be ye persuaded to listen to me, but rather give credit to those things which I now write to you. For though I am alive while I write to you, yet I am eager to die. My love has been crucified, and there is no fire in me desiring to be fed; but there is within me a water that liveth and speaketh, saying to me inwardly, Come to the Father.

I have no delight in corruptible food, nor in the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life. I no longer wish to live after the manner of men, and my desire shall be fulfilled if ye consent. Be ye willing, then, that ye also may have your desires fulfilled. I entreat you in this brief letter; do ye give credit to me. Jesus Christ will reveal these things to you, [so that ye shall know] that I speak truly. He is the mouth altogether free from falsehood, by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray ye for me, that I may attain [the object of my desire]. I have not written to you according to the flesh, but according to the will of God. If I shall suffer, ye have wished [well] to me; but if I am rejected, ye have hated me. From the Letter to the Romans.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Happy Belated Feast Day!!

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor, more commonly known as St. Teresa of Avila. She was the founder of the Discalced Carmelites and the one whom God chose to teach us how to progress in the way of perfection. She was a Saint of great sanctity and an amazing prayer life. However, she was not always so. In her younger days, she was quite "worldly" (in the terms of her times, not ours). She eventually entered a Carmelite Monastery when she was 20. She then entered a long period of spiritual mediocrity that lasted 18 years, mainly because she had a strong desire to be appreciated by others. She finally let that go and began the mystical time of her life.

I would recommend reading anything that you can get your hands on from her. Don't read what others say about her. Her collected works can be found here. They can also be found on the internet here. (scroll down a bit). A couple exceptions - Fr. Thomas Dubay and Ralph Martin.

She is simply amazing and very real. She struggled with so many things and was so honest about it. I think all of us can identify with her struggles. She did, however, have a great determination to be close to God and would let nothing get in her way. Let us have that attitude!

St. Teresa, only you know what you mean to me. You have helped me, guided me, and walked beside me long before my conversion and ever since. It is becoming so clear. I am so honored to call you mother and sister and Saint. I owe to you my life with Christ, my life of prayer...Please always walk beside this wayward son teaching him to pray, to persevere, to love. Please help me imitate you and to walk in your ways!

St. Teresa of Jesus, ora pro nobis!!


And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. Mark 10:17-22
I have always loved this particular Scripture because it really strikes at the heart of our possessiveness. Here the young man was a "good person". He did all the basics, and Jesus even looked upon him with love. Then came the thunderous words that rocked the young man's world! "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."


The question that Jesus asks so subtly but so clearly is: "Am I enough? Will you give up all things for me and find all your fulfillment in me? Who is more important to or yourself? Me or your things? Me or your comfort?

The young man went away sad because he considered his possessions, his security, himself more important, more fundamental to his life than Jesus. He didn't go looking elsewhere. He knew that Jesus was the One to give the answers. That is why he went away sad because he knew he was walking away from Life...

Today let us take the opportunity to look deeply into our own hearts. Where are we refusing the Lord for our own self-centeredness? We all are, you know. It is important to recognize those places so we can bring them before the Lord for healing. True love demands a total gift of self with no reservations or anything kept for one's self. Do we love the Lord like that? What are we holding back? If we have given much to him, are we sad for doing so? Is there a part of us that is sad because we have given and wished it weren't so?

It is time for all of us to realize that there is no life in the things of the world. There is no life in money, possessions, or stability. There is only life in Christ Jesus. He is the one, and the only one, that can unequivocally state: "I am the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11:25)

Therefore, let us rouse up our courage and faith and risk that he is all that he says he is. Let us reach out in faith and love to the One who died and rose for us. If not, our going away sad may lead us to losing eternal life. We know that there is no other. We either ignore the question or, in sadness, turn to the temporary things of this world in an attempt to feel better all the while lying to ourselves that we are a "good person". is the day...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Faith and Reason...

I have been thinking for some time now about trying to post something other than pictures and descriptions. I am by no means a theologian. I hope and pray that that is what I become by being here.

Anyway, I thought I might ramble on a bit (and you KNOW how I can do, I just realized I haven't had the opportunity to ramble on for like 2 MONTHS!!! I am surprised I have lasted this long 8^>).

What has been on my mind for the longest time is the relationship between faith and reason. Moreover, our obligation as Catholics not just to blindly believe and obey but to understand with our intellects. We are supposed to think, apprehend, and comprehend our faith. Faith isn't just believing for believing sake. It is the assent of our mind and will to God's truth.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church:
150 Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. As personal adherence to God and assent to his truth, Christian faith differs from our faith in any human person. It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely what he says. It would be futile and false to place such faith in a creature.

156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe "because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived". So "that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit." Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church's growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability "are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all"; they are "motives of credibility" (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is "by no means a blind impulse of the mind".

157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but "the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives." "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt."

158 "Faith seeks understanding": it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love. The grace of faith opens "the eyes of your hearts" to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation: that is, of the totality of God's plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery. "The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by his gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood." In the words of St. Augustine, "I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe." (emphasis mine)
Pope Benedict made this point very clearly at his Regensburg address. He said, "...not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature." God is infinitely reasonable. We have been led to believe that God can do anything he pleases even to the point of contradicting himself or his nature. This is nonsense. The arbitrary God, which so many believe in, that is a caricature of the true God, is diametrically opposed to the True God who eternally begets the Logos. Pope Benedict stated:
At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the λόγος". Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist.
So Christ is not only the eternal Word (λόγος), but it is correct to say that Christ is the eternal Reason (λόγος), in the sense that Christ is eternally proceeds from the intellect of the Father. This doesn't mean that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity is just a thought in the mind of God. When God imagines himself it becomes the full Image of himself. In other words, this is the eternally begotten Son.

Back to my point...our faith and reason must join. It is no longer acceptable to "just believe". We must begin to come to a deep knowledge of God. Sure, it takes effort, but isn't he worth it? We humans were created for truth. We need it. As we feed our intellect with God's truth it disposes us to love him more. We, as Catholics, must move from a certain fideism (faith without reason). We claim to believe and say that we don't need any reasons...we just do. But is that enough? How do we engage a worldview that is so anti-Christian? How do we explain our beliefs to others? How do we overcome a crisis of faith when challenged with reason? I think there are many Catholics that don't believe God is reasonable; that Christianity is just a blind belief. This is to completely misunderstand faith and the role of our reason in our relationship with God. (See Catechism references above.)

We, as Catholics, have 2000 years of intellectual theological tradition to rely on. We need to dig in and find the beauty of our beliefs and feed our intellects the truth. So how to begin? First, get a Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium, a good Bible, and a couple beginning books on theology. I recommend The Catholic Vision and Theology for Beginners. Of course, to deepen our understanding of God we must commune with God. Thus, prayer is indispensable to theology as it is to our lives.

So....what are you waiting for??.....DIG IN!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

An Excerpt from the Letter to Diognetus.

I came across this text in a Church History class I am enrolled in. It was written by an unknown author during the earliest centuries of the Church before Constantine. This is just an excerpt from the entire letter that can be found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. It is written as an explanation/defense against many of the accusations against early Christianity in the Roman Empire. This particular section is beautiful and worthy of our reflection today...

For Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life.

This doctrine of theirs has not been discovered by the ingenuity or deep thought of inquisitive men, nor do they put forward a merely human teaching, as some people do. Yet, although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man's lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land.

They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring. They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed. It is true that they are "in the flesh," but they do not live "according to the flesh. They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require. They love all men, and by all men are persecuted. They are unknown, and still they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they are brought to life. They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance. They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated. They still pay due respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment, they rejoice because they are brought to life. They are treated by the Jews as foreigners and enemies, and are hunted down by the Greeks; and all the time those who hate them find it impossible to justify their enmity.

To put it simply: What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but does not belong to the body, and Christians dwell in the world, but do not belong to the world. The soul, which is invisible, is kept under guard in the visible body; in the same way, Christians are recognised when they are in the world, but their religion remains unseen. The flesh hates the soul and treats it as an enemy, even though it has suffered no wrong, because it is prevented from enjoying its pleasures; so too the world hates Christians, even though it suffers no wrong at their hands, because they range themselves against its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and its members; in the same way, Christians love those who hate them. The soul is shut up in the body, and yet itself holds the body together; while Christians are restrained in the world as in a prison, and yet themselves hold the world together. The soul, which is immortal, is housed in a mortal dwelling; while Christians are settled among corruptible things, to wait for the incorruptibility that will be theirs in heaven. The soul, when faring badly as to food and drink, grows better; so too Christians, when punished, day by day increase more and more. It is to no less a post than this that God has ordered them, and they must not try to evade it.
Texts such as this really lay down a challenge for us modern Catholics. It demonstrates so clearly how we are to be "in the world" but "not of the world". Although the author carefully points out the similarities between Christians and the Greeks of their time, he is very quick to speak of the differences. These differences, in this section of the letter, speak to moral issues. Early Christians were not some esoteric, weird cult, as the Greeks believed, however NEITHER did they do the immoral things the Greeks did...because of this the Christians were hated as a soul to the body.

The question is this: How much do I reflect the culture in which I live? Do I not only share the language but do I share the same immoral actions and attitudes? Do I reject the Church's moral stance on my "own authority" when, in fact, I am simply parroting immoral cultural values?

We must not forget the many Christians who lost their lives for refusing to offer incense to the emperor (especially Decius (249-251 A.D.). Would we??

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I had to show you a picture of this ------------->

This is an Austrian Student Visa. Remember, when we left the USA the expectation was that Debbie and the kids would have to leave after 90 days because there was no way to get a visa...none.

God in his goodness and sovereignty called us anyway because he knew that he had it all taken care of. We all have visas and will all be able to stay. Praise God!!

The only bad thing about the visas is that they cost 110 Euro each!! Ouch! It was almost $900 today just to have the privilege to stay.

This leads to a prayer request. Austria offers health insurance to its citizens. Unfortunately, at this time, the government will not enroll us in the insurance. If we got it, the cost would only be about 100 Euro a month for the whole family!! However, since there are very few private health insurance plans over here, they are VERY expensive. We would ask that you please pray that God would open a door for us to have the student health insurance. It will help us with the birth of the baby and protect us from any catastrophes. As for now, we are uninsured. Thus, please pray for God's protection until such time when we can get the student insurance. Thanks!!!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Deb's Pilgrimage to Poland continued (4)

So we have come to the final chapter in the pilgrimage to Poland. Without the trip to the Divine Mercy I don't think I could have gone onto this chapter. We set out very early in the morning for Auschwitz and Birkenau, the Nazi Death Camps. We entered the camp in full sun and upon entering a coldness seemed to engulf us and a rain and drizzle came upon us. What a awful place filled with such pain and gruesomeness. The terrible things we do to each other. You could hardly look into the eyes of the pictures of the prisoners or see rooms filled with their hair and clothing that was taken from them. As this 3 hours was spent in the Death Camps you realized how these peoples dignity was taken completely away from them. It was unbelievable to stand where such evilness existed and how many millions of people had been murdered there. Your heart just breaks. Although I was able to see the death cell of Maximilian Kolbe and could fully understand his true act of mercy, it was hard to stand in the place of martyrdom. But even in the gruesomeness of it all, there on a cell wall a prisoner had carved out a picture of the Sacred Heart of Christ. Hope was still alive! It was amazing.
After the death camps we went to a church of Maximilian Kolbe's order the Missionaries of the Immaculata where we attended mass. It was at this church that they had the original painting of Mary that Maximilian had a vision of Mary at the age 10. This is when she offered him a white crown of purity or a red crown of martyrdom. He took both. As I sat in the church I again felt the tears come. For I realized that as a child in my attic bedroom there had been a cardboard cutout picture of Mary that hung over my bed. I had never known where it had come from, but that it was just always there. What I realized that it was the same exact picture that Maximilian Kolbe had made his commitment before. Even as a child I realized both Mary and Saint Kolbe had their hands upon my life.
As soon as we left the church we were taken to a basement or labyrinth. A 17 year old boy who had survived Auschwitz all 6 years, was now a 80 year old man. He had a stroke at 70 and remembered that he had made a promise to tell the world what really happened to them in the death camp. So a very incredible artist, he has set out to share his experience. This basement was filled with his art and his life in Auschwitz. It was incredible. This 17 year old/80 year old man had a better touch on theology than most theologians. His black/white drawings showed the sheer evil of the camps and his life there, and yet they had the presence of God and his love and mercy always present. He at one point shows the crucifixion and he is attached to Christ, because he realizes we are one with the Lord. We were allowed to take pictures, but his work is copyrighted and I don't feel like I can put them on the blog. But his name is Marianna Kolodzieja and he has a book out of his work. It is gruesome, yet so holy. When we return to the states I would like to share his work and insights with anyone interested, but in the mean time I want to share some insights in faith that I learned from a 17 year boy/80 year old man. We all need Christ deep within us.
One of the 1st pictures you see is of the 1st train load that arrived at the death camp. These were the intellectuals of Poland, the people who had groomed society. So when 4 men were to share a loaf of bread they made a scale to break the bread evenly. But in not so long of time another train load of people came in, and people started to steal food to survive. The scale would no longer work. It is here that the boy realized he would need to keep the scale within him as should we. For daily he was faced with good/evil choices and he had to choose which side of the scale he would be on. Do we keep a scale within us, and use it in every instance we are faced with. How do we treat each other, especially the ones we love? Again I want to share more about his work in time as I process it, because it has touched me ever so deeply. So I will continue to blog on his work for those who are interested.
So for now I will tell you from here we headed home on a 14 hour bus ride to reach Gaming at 4 AM. The trip was filled with lots of questions of who do I want to be and what kind of difference do I want to make in this world of our Lord's of Mercy. I love you all and am so thankful for what you have shared with our family and your continued love and support. May the Mercy of our Lord be upon you always. Love you in Christ, Deb.
Jesus, I trust in You!!

Deb's Pilgrimage to Poland continued (3)

Early the next morning we headed out to our next destination, Krakow. Here we would tour "Wawel, the royal castle, several churches, the Archbishop's Palace, and the University where John Paul II was trained and finally onto shopping in the Main Square of Krakow. A busy morning with the highlight for Felicity being McDonalds. (We might miss Americana just a little.) It did not feel much like a pilgrimage, but more of a tourist trip at this point. The streets of Krakow are beautiful yet with all the poverty you would see in any large city in America.

We then headed onto one of the most moving sights upon our trip and probably the main reason God had gotten me to Poland. The "Divine Mercy Sanctuary" with the original painting of the Divine Mercy and the tomb of Sr. Faustina. What an amazing experience this was for me. By this time the girls (Felicity and her friend Elizabet) were on overload and they needed a break. So they climbed the tower of the newly erected basilica and sat in the shade on the lawn. While I attend a talk by a little nun in Sr. Faustina's order. Someone had commented on the bus that these were the most beautiful woman they had ever seen and they couldn't even see there ears with their habits. They were right, this tremendous woman of God touched my heart deeply. As I sat and listen to this woman and wept I realized the Lord was speaking directly to me about our Lord's Mercy and how it is so very intimate. We are like a child within His womb and that His broken body and blood are poured out for you and I on the altar daily. And this sense of "MORE" always more. He always is giving us more and more of Himself. At the base of the Divine Mercy painting it says, "Jezu ofam tobie" (Jesus I trust in you.) Do we really believe this. As this little tiny nun looked deep into my eyes I knew she was asking me this question, "Do you entrust your life in Him?" Do we really know and believe He loves us so much with such mercy and love. That He will take care of us, and is always wanting to give us more. She said think of the most merciful thing God has done for you, He wants to do more!!! More Mercy! I left this talk in utter assurance that God has everything in His hands and that our lives our His and our purpose will be fulfilled in Him. I left and walked alone up to the chapel to see the original picture of the Divine Mercy, not realizing it was 10 to 3. I was the last to enter the chapel and was able to kneel on the cobblestone floor to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet in Polish for my life and the lives of all other mothers and my family. It was beautiful. I then not knowing where I was going exactly got to go up and kiss the bones of Sr. Faustina and see the original painting of the Divine Mercy. At that moment I knew just how deep His love and mercy extends for each and everyone of us. An experience you just cannot put into words exactly. Christ loves us so very much, His love is immeasurable.

Deb's Pilgrimage to Poland continued (2)

After we left "Our Lady of Czestochowa" we headed out for Wadowice the birthplace of John Paul II. As we winded through the polish countryside I was struck at how similar the countryside is to Idaho and how we are so very close as a people. It is a strange phenomena when you realize you are clear across the world in a foreign place and yet people are just people, trying to do the best they can. We all get up and put our pantlegs on the same way. Along side the road you could watch people selling fresh picked berries and mushrooms they had foraged from the forest.

We arrived in the afternoon to Wadowice and strolled into the lazy little town. We arrived to a quaint little villa that was the birth place of our late Pope John Paul II. What a beautiful little town to grow up in. He lived right across from the church where he would go and serve at mass daily. Our guide told us a quaint little story of when the Pope had returned home a few years ago and he had what are now referred to "Pope Cakes". He had eaten these cakes as a child with his friends and upon remembering this he sat and blushed and laughed at the memory, covering his face in remembrance of his childhood. We to got to try this delicate pastry in remembrance of John Paul II. What a humble beginning for such a great man who has changed the face of our church with his love for the youth and his tremendous gift of teaching. Never have we as a people been so blessed to have a man of this living in our times.
We then headed onto our destination for the evening, to the "Sanctuary of Our Lady in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska" where we would stay at a pilgrimage house. At this point the journey felt very long, and my thoughts led me to how our Blessed Mother and Joseph traveled before the birth of our Lord in utter faithfulness and perserverance. I can imagine how they just wanted to stop and rest so very often.

Deb's Pilgrimage to Poland

When we left the United States there were places that each member of the family wanted to get to visit while living in Europe. For Mike it would be Avila, Spain and for Cody it would be the church where Padre Pio got the stigmata. For me it would be Poland, for several reasons. The 1st reason, during this past lent I was struck by the true faithfulness and deep devotion that the Polish people have. It touched my heart so deeply, in almost a way I could not understand. Then as we were discerning if we were called to move overseas, I had been praying for a saint and Maximilian Kolbe seemed to take hold of me in a very special way. When Father Ritchey had said we would have a offering Sunday at Holy Apostles to help support our call to study abroad, I struggled very much with this. I had always been taught to make my own way. Self reliance a blessed virtue, yet one that can hinder your surrender to God's will in a huge way. So you could have asked no more difficult task then for me to go up on that altar and ask for money. To the point it made me almost ill. Yet, in Christ's most merciful compassion that Sunday each homily at the different masses was done by a different deacon and Fr. Ritchey. It was amazing how the Lord strengthened me, because Saturdays evening mass homily was done by Deacon Pera and he preached solely on the faithfulness and willingness that Saint Maximilian Kolbe had to follow Christ anywhere. It was what gave me the strength to continue on in moving my family so far from our families and our family at Holy Apostles. As we continued on it was Saint Kolbe again that helped me choose a homeschool program to teach our children, since I was going into homeschooling with much fear and trepidation, "The Kolbe Program" out of California. So when Mike came home saying there was going to be a pilgrimage to Poland the tears flooded down my face, for I knew my heart was to go and take this journey to honor our Lord for his ever faithfulness. Yet, it turned out that Mike could not leave due to a class on Friday. So in my mind I decided it was not the year. There was no way I was traveling to another foreign country with the kids alone, Austria was hard enough as a family. So the time went by and the day the trip was to depart Felicity and her new best friend, Elizabeth conned me to go a hour before the trip was to depart. I was horrified, one hour to get together money, passports, luggage etc. In full tears and much trepidation I said yes thinking some road block would get me out of this trip. I at one point told the Lord if we are not to do this, stop us from going!!! For I would hardly get to say good-bye to Mike and I would not get to tell Cody, Zach, and Eli good-bye since they were at mass. We joined the group and got on the bus to find out that they had over-booked the trip and they promptly kicked us off the trip. I was at peace, I knew we were not to go. So we started to walk home with all our stuff, to have the trip coordinator chase us down and say its a mistake, you have seats. So off we were to Poland. Our trip started with a all night bus ride and two border crossings. Yes, sleeping on a bus 4 1/2 months pregnant is a feat all on its own, may the Lord bless Mary our mother for riding on a donkey. The trip itself was packed with a huge amount of sights to see, since the trip was organized for 19 to 20 year old students from Franciscan University. I am old, out of shape, and very pregnant! :) Our 1st stop was to our Lady of Czestochowa (the black Madonna)! What an amazing experience to watch the faithfulness of the Polish people walking on their knees to honor our Lord and his mother. We then had mass in front of our blessed lady's picture and to kneel on the stone floors and offer thanks and sacrifice during the mass was amazing.

Happy Feast Day!! Cont...

What a joyous day!!! Today is the 10th Anniversary of the founding of the ITI by Pope John Paul II in 1996. As I said in an earlier post, St. Therese of Liseux is a patroness of the ITI. The institute was founded on her Feast day.

We had a huge celebration today. A beautiful Mass at the parish church in Gaming. It was done in English, Latin, and French ( in honor of St. Therese). It was a full blown solemn Mass with all the smells and bells. In this parish, there is a painting of Our Lady of Mount Carmel giving the Brown Scapular to St. Simon Stock. The painting must be 15 ft. tall. Totally appropriate, I think. I am still trying to remember to get pictures of the church downtown.

Afterward, we all went to a local restaurant and feasted as a community. It was very special. Now it is back to hit the books to prepare for the week.

There was one bad thing...I had to pull a tick out of Zach's head today. Man, that was gross. I hope he is OK. We are calling the doctor tomorrow - that poor kid. He seems to always be the one who gets these kinds of things happening to him.