Archive for the ‘Do Not Be Afraid’ Category



The Lord commands us not to worry. I struggle to obey that command. Worry is definitely one of my moral weaknesses. Yet with the fear of equivocating here, let me say this: I do indeed believe that the Lord has our every concern in his hands and that he will indeed bring good out of every situation. But when faced with a troublesome circumstance, my intellect assents to God’s providence while my emotions succumb to human frailty and fear. Hence I worry.

Without a doubt, some situations rightly weigh heavy upon our spirits. Will peace prevail over war? Will my loved one accept God’s mercy and come to conversion? Will our leaders choose justice over expediency? I’d like to think that there is a type of righteous worry. And when it comes to our youth and our youth evangelization efforts, my righteous worry is ubiquitous.

Succinctly said, I worry that the faith of our young people is being devastated by neglect: my neglect, your neglect, their neglect. Each of us, from our particular station in life, has a solemn responsibility to strive not only for our own salvation, but also for the salvation of others. The young people placed under our care need you and me to be serious about the business of evangelization and kingdom building. But I worry – hopefully from a sincere and humble heart – that we are failing.

Looking first at my own station in life and my own conscience: Are we priests standing as courageous watchmen for our youth to warn them of danger and guard them from evil? Are we too concerned about being liked and not concerned enough about being brutally honest in the face of sin and spiritual emptiness? Are we too selfish in regards to our personal time and too shamefully lazy to do the difficult work of bringing youth to Christ?

Parents: Aware that no one can give what he or she does not possess, are you working diligently to strengthen your own relationship with Christ? Are you more concerned with your son or daughter’s salvation than with their college choice or career path? Are you supportive of their desire to participate in the Church’s life – and possibly – to even follow a call to the priesthood or religious life?

Youth leaders and religious education leaders: Are you honest enough to admit that the old ways of transmitting the faith are simply no longer working? Are you praying – daily, dutifully, and devotedly – for the young people in your charge? Are you going the extra mile to seek out the lost and to save the spiritually dying?

Young people: Are you choosing pleasures and diversions over prayer, Mass, and the sacraments? Are you putting the same efforts into your faith that you eagerly put into sports, theater, and school? Are you willing to see the culture for what it truly is – falsely alluring and bent on your destruction?

Yes, I worry, but not without hope. We are all in God’s care and we are all sustained by his grace. He wants our salvation! He wants our efforts to be fruitful! He wants the love we give to heal, change, and enliven this world! Is there indeed such a thing as righteous worry? I pray there is… for my worry continues.

Be assured of my prayers,
Fr. Steve


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Into the lion’s den again . . .

Maybe you are a kid saying that to yourself as the school year begins. Your classes are daunting. You know that the drama will be beginning once more. You’re preparing to put on your mask, the one that prevents others from knowing who you really are. You’re schedule is going to be crazy with school and band and work. Your stress level is already on the rise. Here you go, into the lion’s den again.

Maybe you are a parent saying that to yourself as the school year begins. Balancing the activities of the kids and ferrying them to their multiple destinations seems to get harder as they grow older. Work is not letting up and the economic uncertainty has you on edge. Your mom is struggling more than ever with her memory loss and your dad’s heart is not getting any healthier. You feel so overwhelmed at times. Here you go, into the lion’s den again.

Maybe you are a youth leader saying that to yourself as the school year begins. You are trying desperately to preach Christ to your students, yet you can already picture the kids who do not want to be in class or who are forced to come to youth group. You worry about teaching the hard truths of the Church to a generation so malformed by the culture. Other adults, ones you are counting on for help, are letting you down. You feel that your work is pointless, unfruitful and without reward. Here you go, into the lion’s den again.

I recognize your fears and worries because I struggle with them myself. Living for Christ, teaching Christ, preaching Christ, even being Christ for others – why is it so darn hard?

Please, do not allow discouragement to overwhelm you. Christ has promised to be with us every step of the way, and unless he is a horrible liar, we can be certain of his presence and his grace and his love. We are called to be faithful and we are asked to persevere. The achieving of success, as much as we desire to taste its fruit, is not the measure of our discipleship.

What we deem success may in God’s eyes be failure, and what we see as failure may in God’s eyes be success. Our work is to follow Christ. Although he freely uses our talents, our ideas, and our prayers, Christ is the one who really wins souls, multiplies loaves, and heals hearts which are broken. And that should be a comfort to us. Christ doesn’t so much need our skills as he needs our readiness.

Daniel went into the lion’s den and tamed that ferocious beast. God was with him. The three young men went into the king’s blistering fire and walked out unharmed. God was with them. David went into battle against the undefeated warrior and emerged victorious. God was with him. Esther appeared unannounced in the king’s throne room, but she was not condemned. God was with her. And on the saddest day of all, Christ entered into the realm of evil and death, but rose in glory on the third day. God was with him.

And as this new school year begins, and despite our misgivings, uncertainties, and doubts, we too can enter the arena of battle and appear on the other end as better, more fruitful disciples of Christ. Why? Because God is with us.

Be assured of my prayers,
Fr. Steve

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One of the great stories of the Old Testament features one of the great heroines of the Old Testament: Esther. This Esther was a young, Jewish exile – an orphan, no less – being raised by her cousin, Mordecai. They lived in the foreign stronghold of Susa, a city that was ruled by a King named Ahasuerus, but menaced by a despicable character called Haman. Here’s the story.

Esther, through a series of providential events, and despite the fact that she is a Jew (the king doesn’t realize), becomes the Queen of Susa. But Mordecai, because he refuses to worship Haman as a God, soon becomes the object of Haman’s hatred. And in his hatred, Haman convinces the king to have each and every Jew obliterated from the face of the earth. This matter is made quite public.

In fact, a particular day is chosen for the eradication of the Jewish people. But Mordecai, dressed in sackcloth, and praying and fasting, calls on Queen Esther to save her people. Go to the king, Mordecai implores his adopted daughter, and beg for the life of your people.

Ah, but there’s a catch. Esther knows that even as queen she can only go to the king if summoned. Anyone – even her – who simply shows up in the throne room is subject to death. Only if the king lifts his scepter and allows her to enter will her life be spared. Esther hesitates to go. She is frightened. And she tells Mordecai as much.

Mordecai minces no words in his reply: “Do not suppose that, because you are in the king’s palace, you are going to be the one Jew to escape. No, if you persist in remaining silent at such a time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, but both you and your father’s whole family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to the throne for just such a time as this (Esther 4:14).”

Esther understands. She prays. She fasts. Despite her fear, she goes to the king. Ahasuerus raises his scepter and admits her. Esther saves the Jews. And Haman is executed upon the very gallows he had constructed for Mordecai.

So young ladies of today, could it be that you too have come to be where you are for just such a time as this? As a daughter or sister, as a friend or classmate, as a teammate or coworker, could it be that God has providentially placed you where you are for a particular reason and mission?

Yes! The answer is yes! Jesus needs you! He needs you to be a heroine for your families, schools, workplaces, and teams. Sure you’re afraid and sure you are uncertain whether they will admit both you and the Gospel into their lives. But just as in Esther’s day people were in danger of perishing, so too today, our families and friends are in danger of perishing.

So many – too many – simply do not know that salvation comes from Jesus alone. And they fail to understand that only in Jesus is happiness and human fulfillment found.

Therefore, do not be afraid! Pray and fast (in fact, check out Esther’s prayer in the biblical book of the same name, it’s awesome). Go to the kings of this world (who perhaps live in your own household or study in your own school). Ask to be let in. Seek to bring the name of Jesus to everyone you meet. Be a heroine, ladies, be a heroine like Esther. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to where you are now for such a time as this!

Be assured of my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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Wind! Water! Fire!

Sounds like a promo for your favorite weather disaster show, doesn’t it? But wind, water, and fire are all descriptions of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity – the Holy Spirit. And when the Church ranks her feasts in order of importance, Easter necessarily comes first, but Pentecost – the feast of the Holy Spirit – is second. So having just celebrated this wonderful solemnity of Pentecost, I hope you are excited. I say again, I HOPE YOU ARE EXCITED!! For receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is like receiving the gift of a whirlwind in your hands or an eternal fire in your heart. The Holy Spirit is awesome, powerful, amazing, and – to use the contemporary vernacular – incredibly cray-cray!

Jesus himself said to his grieving apostles that it was better that he leave them. Why? So he could bestow on them the Spirit. You know the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, awe, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, and reverence. You know the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness, and chastity. But remember too, the Holy Spirit wants to come with fire into your soul to burn away evil and purify for righteousness.

The Holy Spirit wants to blow into your life as a mighty wind to fill your sails and steer your course. The Holy Spirit wants, like a mighty waterfall, to flood your being with grace, light, and every virtue. And this is real. The Spirit truly does move hearts, change lives, and renew the face of the earth. If we sincerely, boldly, and persistently call upon the Spirit, absolutely incredible things can and will happen.

The movement of the Holy Spirit is subtle, mysterious, and uncontainable. Under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit, the weak become strong, the frightened become courageous, the faithless become zealous, and the selfish lay down their lives for a friend. What a blessing it is to be able to call on the Holy Spirit, without fear, no matter what the need.

When prayer is dry and you feel like quitting, call on the Spirit. When confusion reigns, and your path seems unclear, call on the Spirit. When temptation is strong, and your resistance is failing, call on the Holy Spirit. When the vocational call is difficult to discern, call on the Holy Spirit. When times are hard, call on the Holy Spirit. When all appears lost, call on the Holy Spirit. When all else has failed, please, call on the Holy Spirit.

To call on the Holy Spirit is to call upon love. God is love after all. So allow that love to envelope, fill, immerse, and consume your soul, your heart, and your very being. Veni Sancte Spiritus is the cry of the Church. Come Holy Spirit! May he come to you today and forever.

Be assured of my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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As told by those who were with him in the POW camp, the Congressional Medal of Honor which will be posthumously awarded to Emil Kapaun this week is long overdue. Kapaun was an army captain who came ashore in Korea in 1950 during the first days of the war there. Kapaun was a courageous officer, often exposing himself to enemy fire in order to reach a wounded or dying comrade. He was indefatigable, never seeming to sleep. He was selfless, sharing the lot and the sufferings of the average soldier. And when Kapaun’s unit was being overrun by enemy troops in a battle near Unsan, he chose to stay with his men, even though it meant capture.

It was in captivity that the full scope of Kapaun’s heroism became evident. Life in the prisoner of war camp was brutal. Kapaun and his comrades faced starvation, sub-zero temperatures, dysentery, lice, and grossly inadequate medical care. The communist guards were often cruel. Hope was in short supply. Death was a daily occurrence. In the midst of this hell, Kapaun himself became hope. He rose early each morning to prepare a sorghum coffee. He picked louse by the dozens off the bodies of his camp mates. He stole food and medicine, wryly seeking the heavenly intercession of Dismas, the good thief. He opposed the communist propaganda and challenged the guards. He fashioned bowls from pieces of scrap metal. He forced the hopeless to eat, often giving up his own meager rations. He washed the underwear and clothing of the sick. He buried the dead. He snuck into the huts of the enlisted men to encourage and embolden them. And at the end of their gatherings, Emil Kapaun would always ask, “Do you mind if we say a little prayer?” Yes, Captain Kapaun was also a Catholic priest.

When the guards had grown to fear the moral force of Fr. Kapaun’s presence in the camp, and when they no longer could accept his influence over the men, they sent him to the “death hut.” Men wept as he was taken away. But Kapaun, referring to heaven, reminded them that he was going where he had always longed to go. As he entered the “death hut” he forgave his guards, and then, incredibly, asked to be himself forgiven by them. His captors buried Fr. Kapaun in a hidden, unmarked grave. Even in death, they feared this selfless priest.

I doubt the world will give much thought to Fr. Kapaun this week, but I wish everyone would. He brought hope into a landscape that was dark with despair. He spoke of life in an environment that was haunted by death. And in a place where God seemed so very far away, Kapaun himself became a reminder that he is always and everywhere near. In our own culture of despair, death, and godlessness, Kapaun’s example is an important one. It challenges us to also be instruments of hope, life, and God. The cause of Fr. Kapaun’s canonization is moving forward. Two very compelling miracles, attributed to his intercession, are being investigated. His home diocese of Wichita, Kansas is praying that he be raised to the altars. For the aging veterans who will be present when he receives the Congressional Metal of Honor, they who were with Fr. Kapaun in that camp, no further convincing is necessary. They believe without a doubt that Fr. Emil Kapaun is a saint.

Be assured of my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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Undoubtedly, one of the great cultural treasures of western civilization is the original “Karate Kid” film. Okay, maybe I slightly overstate the case, but any work of art that gave us both the Bananarama hit, “Cruel Summer,” and Mr. Miyagi, must at least be rated in the upper half of noteworthy cinematic achievements.

So anyway, if you have inexcusably not seen the picture, it’s the story of a transplanted Jersey teen, who while experiencing uber amounts of teen angst in his new California high school, develops a friendship with a Japanese-American war-vet widower who teaches him life lessons through the medium of karate. The film reaches its exciting and tense conclusion as young Daniel, the teen hero, competes in the final match of the big karate tournament.

In that final match, Daniel is pitted against one of his antagonists, a young man who has honed his karate skills at a dojo run by a cruel and heartless sensei. Daniel is competing with a badly injured leg, and the sensei knows it. So in an attempt to vanquish Daniel and bring glory to his own dojo, the heartless sensei commands his charge to, “Sweep the leg!” Daniel’s opponent hesitates. “Sweep the leg!” angrily commands the sensei again. Will he obey?

In this season of Lent, I do wish to make a God point about what transpires in “The Karate Kid.” Notice that Daniel’s opponent is faced with a choice: does he obey the voice of his sensei, “sweep the leg,” or does he obey the voice of his conscience? Often, we know that something is wrong, we know that something is hurtful, and we know that to do it would be to offend God. But other voices are also calling us. The culture says do it, our friends say do it, and maybe even those we look up to are commanding us to disregard the laws of God. Who do we obey?

The story is not a new one. Although they had seen the miracle of the ten plagues and had been led by God out of pharaoh’s slavery, the people of Israel nonetheless disobeyed him. And they did it repeatedly. Jonah was commanded by God to preach repentance in Nineveh, and he instead ran away. Peter, despite having lived with Jesus Christ, despite having witnessed the Lord’s miracles, and despite having walked on the Sea of Galilee, took disobedience to a high level: “I do not know the man,” claimed Peter.

In Matthew’s gospel, Christ tells us that, “whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments … will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” How many of these “least” commandments have I broken? How many have you broken? It’s frightening to imagine. Yes, Jesus is full of mercy. Yes, Jesus stands always ready to forgive our sins. Yes, we have the incredible sacrament of reconciliation available for us. But to prove our love – and honestly – to make our lives less miserable, why don’t we just obey in the first place?

God’s commandments are gifts of love. This is true. He tells us not to lie, not to steal, not to miss Mass, and not to be unchaste – not because he wants to take away our fun and make life to be a drudgery – but because he knows full well (remember, he is God) that when we lie, steal and do all the rest, we get hurt. Others get hurt as well. To illustrate this, let’s consider how a good parent acts.

When you or me were three or four years old, maybe that bottle of Drano under the sink looked like a good thing to drink. But you know what, mom and dad loved us too much to let us drink it. Instead they did the unthinkable, they FORCED us to obey. Did they do so because they were mean? Of course not! They demanded obedience because they knew that obedience was a path to life. So even if we were thinking (with our toddler thoughts) that mom and dad were lousy, mean, bitter killjoys, in reality, they were saving our lives. They demanded obedience out of love. God, despite what the culture may be telling us, also demands obedience because of love.

Now that we are no longer toddlers, we must make grown up moral decisions. God demands that we obey him. So we don’t mess things up, he gives us the voice of the Church and her teachings as a sure guide. But the culture begs to differ. The Church is corrupt, it claims. The Church is out of touch with the modern world, it claims. The Church is run by a bunch of old men who want to control you, it claims. You decide, screams the culture. And in that the culture is correct. Do we obey the voice of God or the voice of the media? Do we obey the voice of God or the voice of our peers? Do we obey the voice of God or the voice of our government? Indeed, we must decide.

The Scriptures tell us that obedience to God’s command brings life and not death. Jesus himself reminded us that his burden is easy and his yoke is light. Obedience may require sacrifice, but experience shows that obedience frees us to be fully human and fully alive. Will we obey God? Like the heartless sensei in the “Karate Kid,” maybe today the culture or the devil or our own wounded heart is demanding that we figuratively “sweep the leg.” Whether or not we do it is indeed our choice. But before listening to opposing voices, please at least give God a chance. St. Frances of Rome said that God is “foolishly in love with souls.” If so, he offers obedience as a path of love.

Be assured of my prayers,

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Having grown up in the mountains, I am well accustomed to making my way through the forest. Even as young children, we would play in the woods, the streams, and the hills that surrounded our homes. Sometimes, making our way through the forest was a real slog. Obstacles and potential dangers were not uncommon. The terrain itself could be difficult or even treacherous. But off we went anyway . . .  with one important caveat . . . we only traversed the forest in the daylight. Trying to make our way through the woods at night would be both frightening and dangerous. We never went in darkness.

When it comes to making our way through life, though, almost all of our travel is done in the darkness. How seldom we are able to move confidently through the terrain of daily existence, knowing that each step is made on solid ground. Normally, our every move forward is shrouded in darkness. Frequently, especially as regards sin, the darkness is of our own making. But darkness also descends upon us in the form of sickness, anxiety, doubt or fear. When the darkness is compounded by difficult terrain, our every step becomes dangerous. Traversing the ravines of life – without the benefit of light – is a daunting task indeed.

But we are neither alone nor unaided.

Jesus Christ, our brother, Savior, and friend, is also our light and our guide. When our life travels our treacherous and uncertain, Christ leads us, directs us, and if need be, rescues us. Even in darkness, he knows the way. Even amid valleys and canyons, his steps our firm. We have only to take his hand in trust. From that moment, we are safe.

Mother Julia Verhaeghe, foundress of the Spiritual Family the Work, described it like this:

How great must be our trust! How much must we love Him, more than we can on our own! Only then will we be able to experience how He complements our inability with his goodness and mildness. While we continue on our way, He increases our strength. He does this especially when we have to cross the occasional ravine or face a trial. Sometimes it seems that He finds special joy in hurrying toward us on the other side of the ravine with his tender and compassionate heart, and in consoling us with the words, “It is I, do not be afraid!’ He wants to remove from our hearts the fear that paralyses us and makes us hesitate. When we are concentrated on ourselves, this fear arises and turns us against everything that concerns our faith in Him. He, however, wants to be our strength, our security, our peace and our joy.

We cannot always dispel the darkness of life, but we can pass through that darkness in the security of Christ’s presence. We cannot always avoid the ravines and the difficult terrain, but we can make our way across them with a firm trust in the Lord. We cannot always travel by day, but we can always choose to live in the Light. Thank you, Jesus, and lead us ever on!

Be assured of my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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