Friday, April 16, 2021

Catholic Books

 

 

What will it take for us to trust in Jesus’ message? The cross of
Christ can fill people with dread. And yet, it is at the heart of the
good news that Jesus preached. It is diametrically opposed to the
way the fallen human race thinks; enamored with forbidden
fruit, from which it hopes to become “like God.” The world
shuns the tree that bears the only true Source of life and wisdom.



-The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel





Michael dubruiel

"Que soy era Immaculada Conceptiou"


 Originally Published by Michael Dubruiel in 2008


michael dubruiel

One hundred and fifty years ago, a young woman asked a lady who appeared to her, who the lady happened to be. She received the answer: ”Que soy era Immaculada Conceptiou,” spoken in the local dialect of the girl (neither French nor Spanish, but Provencales), that translates “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Yesterday I stood with hundreds of pilgrims at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels in Hanceville, under a beautiful replica of the grotto at Lourdes where Saint Bernadette first heard those words of Our Lady spoken to her, and where these words are engraved under the image of Our Lady at this newly dedicated Shrine.


There is something about these outdoor shrines that calls to mind a great reality, namely that when God wants to reach us, God sends His messengers, whether an angel or the Blessed Virgin Mary to wherever we are at the moment. We encounter God in Church, but we can encounter God outside of the Church as well—for “God is everywhere” as we all learned as youngsters from the Catechism. But there is more, and the shrine in Hanceville by imprinting the words “Que soy era Immaculada Conceptiou,” under the image of Our Lady in the Lourdes grotto, reminds us that when God has a message He wants delivered to us it is delivered in our own language.


Amidst the intermittent rain and sunshine, we pilgrims joined Bishop Robert Baker in prayer as he consecrated the altar at the Shrine. The many young people in attendance reminded me of the young St. Bernadette who was graced with the heavenly visitation of Our Lady. The many young religious present, even further brought home that point to me. The Liturgy of the Word called to mind the manifestation of God to Jacob, and the first instance of a shrine erected by Jacob to commemorated God’s visitation at that spot, the Gospel recalled the annunciation and Mary’s “how can this be?”


Indeed, how can this be? On this day, in forest,  on the banks of the Black Warrior River, I receive the Blessed Sacrament—the Lord Jesus Christ, at this newly dedicated shrine of Our Lady. God comes to us where we are at the present moment, God speaks to us in our language–no matter how simple we are, because God loves us.
I have been to the beautiful Lourdes grotto at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN many times. I believe it is the most beautiful spot on that lovely campus. There is a sense of quiet and prayer that pervades that spot, no matter what is going on a few feet away at the busy University. The heat of candles lit, warms you as you approach—making you mindful of the many prayers that have been left behind for God to answer.
Now, in rural Alabama that same sense of prayer and presence is here—where Our Lady points to her Son and tells us to “Do whatever he tells you.”
***********

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Michael Dubruiel

  


I've been thinking a lot about how the constant images of suffering and devastation challenge the common world view of most Americans...and unfortunately most Christians who have forgotten how the Gospel presents the Good News of Christ...aptly summarized in Archbishop Bruno Forte's statement "Life is either a pilgrimage or a foretaste of death."

I'm also struck by a letter that I received by a group of women in Hurricane stricken Florida last Fall after they had completed a group study of The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life. The leader of the group wrote to me, "We've missed out on this key element of the Gospel that helps us to understand where God is in the midst of horrific events."

Indeed.

The natural disaster that has stricken the Gulf Coast reminds us again that this life can bring many crosses which we either curse because we see nothing beyond or contemplate with Faith because of our belief in Christ.


Michael Dubruiel - 2005

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Gift of Faith by Father Tadeusz Dajczer

  



(Michael Dubruiel - 2007)


I have a M.A. in Christian Spirituality and have read a ton of books on the spiritual life, but I would have to say that The Gift of Faith by Father Tadeusz Dajczer is in a class all by itself.

I only came to know of this book a week ago, when I met the founders of In the Arms of Mary Foundation when I was attending the Catholic Marketing Network trade show in Birmingham, AL. Lisa Hendey has interviewed the organization for more about them.

Now, what I came to know about the organization is that they read The Gift of Faith by Father Tadeusz Dajczer and it changed their life. As a result they began translating his book and those by a disciple of Father Dajczer's S.C. Biela (See God Alone Suffices as an example).

What will you find in Father Dajczer's book a revolutionary way of looking at your spiritual life. If you feel stuck, or like you are just aimlessly moving about in your relationship with God, you need this book!

Interestingly it was a meeting with St. Padre Pio that changed Fr. Dajczer's life and outlook and one of the interesting anecdotes in the book is about a scientist who presented Padre Pio with his opus vitae, his life's work--two volumes that he wrote over his lifetime and wanted Padre Pio to bless. Padre Pio's reaction to this is worth the price of the book alone.

It was providential that this book fell into my hands at this time when Father Benedict Groeschel and I are working on a Q and A book on the spiritual life that will come out this Fall--and also while I'm working on a "pocket guide" to Confession. Fr. Dajczer points out there are two ways to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance--in an egocentric way or a theocentric way. The egocentric way of course focuses on oneself--we go to confession in order to feel better about ourselves, its all about us (of course the antithesis of the spiritual life, where we are to die to ourselves in order to live for Christ), the "theocentric" way is to be focused on Christ--what have our sins done to Christ? Are we sorry that we have betrayed him, broken our relationship with Him? Is that the goal to once again mend the broken relationship with Christ and His Body the Church?

I confess that I recognize that my own celebration of the sacrament has been more "egocentric" than God centered and of course that is a huge problem if one is seeking spiritual growth--to come closer to God.

Fr. Dajczer points out that the egocentric model in the Scriptures is Judas--who expresses sorrow for his betrayal of Christ, returns the thirty pieces of silver to the Priests, then "repents onto himself"--not to God or Christ--this is suicidal--we can not save ourselves! Peter who also betrays Christ, denying him three times--comes to Christ and expresses his love for Christ, "Lord, you know that I love you."

Check this book out for a real life changing book!


michael dubruiel

Michael Dubruiel

 From 2007 by Michael Dubruiel


We began watching this last night (movie totals close to 3 hours)and it would be hard to describe it accurately, but I'll try. I think what this movie does, not with words (because there are hardly any) is to immerse you into the silence of the Carthusians. I think you will get more out of this beautiful movie if you first read the excellent book written about the English Carthusians at Parkminster,An Infinity of Little Hours: Five Young Men and Their Trial of Faith in the Western World's Most Austere Monastic Order. This book will make the movie very intelligible to those who do not understand even the basics about monasticism....on the other hand you might watch the movie and then read the book to answer the questions that will inevitably arise from the experience.
And watching this film is an experience. Joseph who watched the early part of the film with me (which takes place during the winter) said, "there isn't much color" and I replied, "not much talking either." He was intrigued as the monks prayed, "kept vigil--watch" in the middle of the night...waiting for the Lord who will return "like a thief in the night"when we least expect so "keep watch" and wondered "do they ever sleep?" This is truly a film unlike any I've ever seen. I joked with Amy that she was about to see the monk's interviews--the camera focuses on them for a few minutes individually, they say nothing and in saying nothing they speak volumes.


michael dubruiel





Saturday, April 10, 2021

Divine Mercy Sunday

  



St. Faustina's Story is in the Loyola Kids Book of Heroes by Amy Welborn

"amy welborn"


The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes

 More saints' lives, organized according to the virtues they expressed through their lives.

I. Faith
  1. Introduction: Jesus is Born
  2. John the Baptist: A Hero Prepares the Way
  3. Early Christian Martyrs: Heroes are Faithful Friends
  4. Medieval Mystery Plays: Heroes Make the Bible Come to Life
  5. St. Albert the Great: Heroes Study God’s Creation
  6. Sister Blandina Segale: Heroes Work in Faith
II. Hope
  1. Introduction: Jesus Teaches
  2. Pentecost: Heroes on Fire with Hope
  3. Paul: A Hero Changes and Finds Hope
  4. St. Patrick and St. Columba: Heroes Bring Hope into Darkness
  5. St. Jane de Chantal: Heroes Hope through Loss
  6. St. Mary Faustina Kowalska: A Hero Finds Hope in Mercy
Charity
  1. Introduction: Jesus Works Miracles
  2. Peter and John: Heroes are Known by their Love
  3. St. Genevieve: A City is Saved by a Hero’s Charity
  4. St. Meinrad and St. Edmund Campion: Heroes love their Enemies
  5. Venerable Pierre Toussaint: A Hero Lives a Life of Charity
  6. Rose Hawthorne Lathrop: A Hero Cares for Those Who Need it Most
  7. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: A Hero Lives Charity with the Dying
Temperance
  1. Introduction: Jesus Strikes a Balance
  2. Peter and Cornelius: Heroes Love Their Neighbors
  3. Charlemagne and Alcuin: Heroes Use their Talents for Good
  4. St. Francis: A Hero Appreciates Creation
  5. Venerable Matt Talbot: Heroes Can Let Go
  6. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Hero Enjoys the Gift of Life
Prudence
  1. Introduction: Jesus Gives Us Leaders to Help us Make Good Choices
  2. Paul and Barnabas at Lystra: Heroes See the Good in All Things
  3. St. Jean de Brebeuf: A Hero Respects Others
  4. Catherine Doherty and Jean Vanier: Heroes Bring New Ideas
  5. Venerable Solanus Casey: A Hero Accepts His Life
  6. Blessed John XXIII: A Hero Finds a New Way

Friday, April 9, 2021

Easter Season Books for Children

  From the Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories


Written by popular Catholic children’s author Amy Welborn, this beautifully illustrated collection of Bible stories for kids and their families is uniquely arranged according to where the stories fall in the liturgical year and when they are proclaimed at Mass. Divided into five sections—Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter Season, and Ordinary Time—each section is subdivided into Old and New Testament stories. From “the Fall” to St. Paul, from the Exodus of the Israelites to the Ascension of Jesus, Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories nurtures family and individual reading of the Bible at home, while familiarity with these stories will help children connect far more meaningfully with the liturgy.

. EPSON MFP image

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Divine Mercy Novena

  

Ninth Day

"Today bring to Me The Souls Who Have Become Lukewarm and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: 'Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.' For them the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy."

Go here for instructions.




Michael Dubruiel

Book on the Catholic Mass by Michael Dubruiel

  Eucharist means..."thanksgiving"


Michael Dubruiel 
wrote a book to help people deepen their experience of the Mass.  He titled it, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist.  You can read about it here. 



How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:
  • Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.
  • Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.
  • Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.
  • Respond" Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.
  • Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.
  • Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.
  • Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.
  • Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.


Filled with true examples, solid prayer-helps, and sound advice, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist shows you how to properly balance the Mass as a holy banquet with the Mass as a holy sacrifice. With its references to Scripture, quotations from the writings and prayers of the saints, and practical aids for overcoming distractions one can encounter at Mass, this book guides readers to embrace the Mass as if they were attending the Last Supper itself.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Divine Mercy Novena

  Eighth Day


"Today bring to Me The Souls Who Are Detained in Purgatory and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only know the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice.

Go here for instructions.


Michael Dubruiel

Monday, April 5, 2021

Easter Octave Meditation by Michael Dubruiel

 Coming to the tomb of Jesus that first Easter morning, the women discovered an angel there, the rock rolled away. It was a shocking and unexpected sight. The guards, who were there to This is the power of the cross for the follower of Christ, no matter what happens to us or can happen to us we are not defeated. make sure that the disciples did not steal the body of the Lord, were also witnesses to this. They were overcome with fear—to the point of being “like dead men.” One experience, two groups of people, two different reactions. One group looks at the empty tomb and rushes to tell what they have witnessed. The other group is paralyzed by the life event. This wasn’t just something that happened thousands of years ago; it happens every moment of every day. Those who see the cross as the end of their life, meet death there; those who believe and place their trust in God, find in the cross life and victory.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Season Reflection by Michael Dubruiel

  St. Peter Chrysologus (the “golden-worded”) was known for

his clear and simple style of preaching. About the angel’s appearance
at the tomb, he preached, “Pray that the angel would
descend now and roll away all the hardness of our hearts and
open up our closed senses and declare to our minds that Christ
has risen, for just as the heart in which Christ lives and reigns is
heaven, so also in the heart in which Christ remains dead and
buried is a grave.”
For those who do not believe, life unfolds as a series of accidents.
When a follower of Christ sees his life in exactly the same
way, Jesus calls that person foolish, slow to believe. Someone like
that needs to redirect his attention to the cross.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Easter Sunday

  

Taking Up Our Cross. . . Be Not Afraid 





There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us. 1 JOHN 4:18–19 

There was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” MATTHEW 28:2–6 

“There are no accidents,” insisted Father Benedict Groeschel as he began to recover from the injuries he suffered in Florida. This strong statement of faith is similar to what Jesus told the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25–26)

Not an accident. . . necessary!

Father Groeschel frequently quotes St. Augustine in this regard: “God does not cause evil, but that evil should not become the worst.” So, when a car struck him that January night, Father Benedict’s faith told him that there was a reason for this cross, a reason that ultimately God would reveal in time. This is the power of the cross for the follower of Christ: No matter what happens to us or can happen to us, we are not defeated.

Years ago I worked with someone who told me that her mother had labeled her and her brother as “accidents”—two unwanted, unpleasant surprises. Unwilling to think that a parent would say such a thing, I assumed my colleague’s recollection of her mother’s words was exaggerated. Some years later, I was introduced to her mother. In the course of conversation, the topic of abortion was raised. The woman pointed at her daughter and said, “If abortion had been legalized when I was young, I would never have had any children!” By that time she was an old woman; her daughter, who was divorced, lived with her and was a faithful companion. I pointed out that, had abortion been legalized, she would now be alone. “Wouldn’t that be great!” the mother replied. I left their home feeling very sad for both of them.

Without the gospel message, some people see only accidents in their lives—all of which have prevented them from reaching some dreamed of earthly paradise. They never seem to realize they cannot reach this paradise without help from above.

 Reactions 

Coming to the tomb of Jesus that first Easter morning, the women discovered an angel there, the rock rolled away. It was a shocking and unexpected sight. The guards, who were there to make sure that the disciples did not steal the body of the Lord, were also witnesses to this. They were overcome with fear—to the point of being “like dead men.” One experience, two groups of people, two different reactions. One group looks at the empty tomb and rushes to tell what they have witnessed. The other group is paralyzed by the life event. This wasn’t just something that happened thousands of years ago; it happens every moment of every day. Those who see the cross as the end of their life, meet death there; those who believe and place their trust in God, find in the cross life and victory.

St. Peter Chrysologus (the “golden-worded”) was known for his clear and simple style of preaching. About the angel’s appearance at the tomb, he preached, “Pray that the angel would descend now and roll away all the hardness of our hearts and open up our closed senses and declare to our minds that Christ has risen, for just as the heart in which Christ lives and reigns is heaven, so also in the heart in which Christ remains dead and buried is a grave.” For those who do not believe, life unfolds as a series of accidents. When a follower of Christ sees his life in exactly the same way, Jesus calls that person foolish, slow to believe. Someone like that needs to redirect his attention to the cross.

Gifts 

The procession of the cross that begins and ends each celebration of the Eucharist should help us to redefine our lives whenever we witness it. As the Mass begins we join all of our crosses to the cross of Christ, asking the Lord to have mercy upon us for our inability to see. We listen to the Scriptures to once again learn about all the necessary events of our lives, proclaim the Church’s belief as our own, and give thanks to God as we offer the sacrifice that he has provided for us. We then receive the Living God before the cross leads us back into the world! Having received the life of Christ in us, we are better able to extend that love to others.

 I was reminded of this again a few years ago, when I met another family who also had an unplanned child. In the presence of the child they said what a gift they had been given—like nothing they could have ever dreamed of asking for, an incredible blessing. Their joy mirrored that of God the Father, who could not contain himself in heaven when his Son walked the earth. He opened up the heavens to exclaim, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). That same Son would experience horrible suffering at the hands of cruel men. Assured of the love of the Father, he knew that ultimately the Father would not let him down. When you and I are finally convinced in the same way that God loves us, we will welcome whatever comes our way in this life and see it with a vision that others will marvel at. On that day we will say, “Alleluia. Praised be God!”

The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.
"michael Dubruiel"

Holy Saturday

  

Day 39 Taking Up Our Cross. . . Be Prepared 





Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 CORINTHIANS 11:27–30 

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover. MATTHEW 26:17–19

While I was preparing material for the National Catholic Educators Association convention in St. Louis a year ago, my son came into the room and turned on the stereo. Out boomed the voice of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. It was a tape that had remained in the stereo from the time I had been listening to some of the archbishop’s talks as I compiled a book of Eucharistic
meditations based on his writings. The book was later published as Praying in the Presence of Our Lord with Fulton J. Sheen. The archbishop read from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are feeble and sick, and a number have died” (1 Corinthians 11:30, NEB). The archbishop read it very dramatically, and commented that it was interesting no one ever took that verse into account. Then, without any further remark, he went on to talk about something else.

That night I found myself thinking about the passage, over and over. I knew from previous courses that the meaning of the passage confused many commentators. The next morning, I did a quick study and found that the Greek word that Paul used for “died,” koima?, literally means “fallen asleep.” Thought it often means “death,” it can also mean actual sleep. We know from the Acts of the Apostles that St. Paul once preached a very long sermon, which caused a boy, Eutychus, to fall into such a deep sleep that he toppled out a window. Most of the worshippers presumed he was dead. Paul momentarily interrupted his preaching to check on Eutychus and declare him alive. Paul then went on with the breaking of the bread, in what we would call today the rest of the Mass.

We who are called to the Lord’s Supper have a duty to prepare ourselves for our encounter with the Lord. We must examine ourselves so that we may worthily take up his cross, from the moment we sign ourselves with holy water from the baptismal font. In the Eucharist, our sacrifice is joined to the one sacrifice of Christ at the moment of kairos, God’s “opportune time.”


It dawned on me that Eutychus might have been the inspiration for what Paul was writing to the Corinthians when he referred to “some who have even fallen asleep”!

 Know What You Celebrate 

How often do we attend the Sacrifice of the Mass without really knowing why we are there, or without paying attention to what is going on? This is how we eat and drink without discerning: We grow sick of the Mass, and don’t get anything out of it. We grow feeble in our faith or—like poor Eutychus—we are bored to death! In “The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,” the fathers of the Second Vatican Council noted that pastors have a duty to ensure that the “faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite and enriched by its effects” (SC 11). Unfortunately, when it comes to the Sacrifice of the Mass, those who should know are often as muddled as those who look to them for the answers.

 On the day of the Last Supper, when he instituted the Eucharist, Our Lord sent his apostles ahead to make the preparations. They were to tell the “certain one” that his “time was at hand.” The fact that no name is given is interesting. Some commentators have noted that it could be that the Matthew did not want to reveal the name of the individual, to protect them from the authorities; of course, this makes sense only if the Gospel were written much earlier than is commonly believed. Another possibility is that the generic “certain one” is you and I; in much the same way as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” can be the reader or hearer of the word as well as the historical individual. In the Book of Revelation Our Lord says, “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 he with me”  We who are called to the Lord’s Supper have a duty to prepare ourselves for this encounter with the Lord. We must examine ourselves so that we may worthily take up the cross he gives us. In the Eucharist, our sacrifice is joined to the one sacrifice of Christ, it is our entrance into his kairos, “God’s time."

 Being Prepared

What will we say when the messengers of Our Lord come to us and tell us that the time is at hand, and the Lord wishes for us to prepare for his Passover? Will we open the door of our hearts and welcome him? Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori method of learning, wrote a book in the early twentieth century about the Mass for Children. She began by describing the inside of a church: candles lit, altar cloths set on the altar. Something very special must be about to take place here, she said. Just as the disciples prepared for the Passover, the Last Supper of the Lord, so we must prepare to welcome the Savior before we approach his banquet. Being prepared for Mass is essential to the disciple and follower of Jesus Christ who wishes to be enriched with his teaching and be fed with his Body and Blood. St. Paul’s admonition to examine ourselves is paramount if we are not to eat and drink judgment upon ourselves—but rather partake in the Way, the Truth, and the Life.



The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


"michael Dubruiel"

Friday, April 2, 2021

Good Friday Stations of the Cross

  You can get John Paul II's Biblical Way of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel and Amy Welborn here.  


In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced a new Bible-based interpretation of the Stations of the Cross. This devotional guide invites readers to prayerfully walk in solidarity with Jesus on his agonizing way of the cross—from his last torturous moments in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial.

Now with full-color station images from previously unpublished paintings by Michael O'Brien, this booklet creates an ideal resource for individual or group devotional use, particularly during the Lenten season.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Holy Thursday

  Taking Up Our Cross. . . To Follow the Lord



-Michael Dubruiel

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. 1 PETER 5:6–9

 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times.” JOHN 13:36–38 

Father Benedict Groeschel spent a month on life support after a car struck him at a busy intersection in Orlando, Florida. He has no memory of that month but his fellow religious have shared with him the outpouring of prayers and sacrifices on his behalf during that time of uncertainty. Father Benedict was in Florida that weekend because he was scheduled to speak to 125 priests at a workshop the following Monday; instead he was confined to a hospital bed. Monsignor Andrew Cusack, who was in charge of that workshop, stood at the podium in Father Benedict’s place and prayed for the friar’s recovery. A month later, Father Benedict emerged from the hospital. At almost the same time, Monsignor Cusack was laid to rest. He had died suddenly upon his return to New Jersey. None of us knows what the future holds.

“Where Are You Going?”

When St. Peter heard that Jesus was going somewhere, he wanted to follow the Lord. Jesus refused, and told the apostle that he would follow later. Peter protested: He was willing to lay down his life for Jesus (again something that he ultimately would do later). Then Jesus dropped a bombshell: That very night, Peter would deny him three times. The final battle to following Jesus is the battle of self. No matter how pure our motives may seem, until we trust in God more than we trust in ourselves, we are doomed to fail. To truly follow Jesus, we must unite ourselves with him and trust him totally. The story of Peter’s ultimate sacrifice in Rome has long been told. When Nero’s persecution of the Christians broke out in Rome, Peter fled. On his way out of the city, he met Jesus on the Appian Way. Shocked to see the Lord, Peter asked, “Domine, quo vadis?” (“Lord, where are you going?”)

Jesus looked at Peter and said, “I am going to Rome, to be crucified again.” Hearing the words of the Lord, Peter turned back to Rome to face his own death. He was crucified upside down, declaring himself unworthy to die the same way as the Lord he had denied. “You cannot follow me now, but you shall follow afterward,” Jesus had told Peter. And he did, when the time was right.

 The Greeks had two words for time, chronos for chronological time (clock and calendar time) and kairos for the “right” or “opportune” time. Jesus often made the distinction to his disciples, who thought more in terms of chronological time than of God’s time. When Peter first declared his intent to the Lord, it was not yet time; the kairos moment—God’s time—did not come until Peter had witnessed to the truth of the gospel in Rome. When the Jews celebrate Passover, the celebration begins with a question: “Why is this night different?” In this way they enter into God’s time—when God intervened, did something to change the very course of history.

On the night before he died, Jesus took bread and wine and declared it his body and blood. “Do this in memory of me.” Once again it was kairos time, God’s time, just as it is every time we interrupt the daily grind of chronological time to enter God’s time in the Mass. Everything happens when God wants it to happen. Following Christ is a matter of surrendering to God’s time, of leaving behind our own plans in order to be led by Christ. Our goals and plans are always secondary to what God intends for us. In a letter, Peter told the followers of Christ to be humble, and God would exalt them. No doubt he was thinking of all the times he had been humbled by Jesus’ superior knowledge of him. In time, Peter grew wiser, and came to understand that the only stance of the follower of Christ is “Lord, depart from me for  am a sinful man.” For it is only then that he will hear the Lord say, “Follow me.” “Be watchful,” Peter also tells us. The path is difficult, and our opponent seeks to overtake and devour us like a roaring lion. This is not a journey for the timid or the proud, but a journey for the humble. There is much to fear ahead, but we know of someone who can be trusted to lead us “through the valley of evil.” “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares for you,” Peter admonishes us. Like Peter, may we learn to listen when the Lord tells us to “let go and to cast your net on the other side.” No matter what perils face us, the Lord will always tell us the way to go.


The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Confession during Holy Week

  For a brief, pointed and helpful guide,



Beneath the changes in discipline and celebration that this sacrament has undergone over the centuries, the same fundamental structure is to be discerned. It comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God's action through the intervention of the Church. The Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ and determines the manner of satisfaction, also prays for the sinner and does penance with him. Thus the sinner is healed and re-established in ecclesial communion.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Tuesday of Holy Week Meditation

 

Taking Up Our Cross. . . In Reverence




Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. HEBREWS 12:28–29 

Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” JOHN 12: 7–8



 Reverence and Worship In Earthen Vessels

 Benedictine Father Gabriel Bunge explains that the early church fathers recommended prostration—kneeling with the forehead to the ground—to overcome dryness in prayer. When the body expresses the humility and submission of true worship, the mind is better able to be in tune with God. I witnessed this again last year, while visiting a community of priests, brothers, and nuns called the Community of St. John. This community is attempting to revive this ancient practice. Attending Mass at their monastery in rural Illinois, members of  the community all prostrate themselves during the consecration of the Eucharist and again after receiving communion. It was without a doubt one of the most moving liturgies I have ever attended: Simple but reverent, in the presence of other people who were caught up in the consuming fire of God. We live in a strange time. Differences are elevated on one hand and tolerance of these differences is seen as virtuous. Yet this toleration does not often extend to those who wish to worship God, especially in the liturgy. I thought of this again while I was dining as a guest of another monastic community. During the meal, several monks knelt out for some community infractions. There was nothing in their non-unified act that made the dinner less communal. If anything, it made it more real—symbolic of the various roles we all play in community at one time. If we cannot let the smallest infraction or deviation pass—the casual attire of the younger crowd, the Cheerios and sippy cups of the toddlers, or those who come in late or leave early—we cannot worship God very well. Reverence for Jesus should be our instinctive response to his presence, whether in the Eucharist or in another human being. Those who claim to follow Christ, yet lose sight of both his message and his person, fall prey to worshipping an ideology rather than a Divine Person. If we are consumed with self, the consuming fire of God cannot touch us

 The Real Prayer of St. Francis 


St. Francis of Assisi taught his followers to reverence Christ and his cross wherever they might find themselves. The prayer attributed to St. Francis that begins, “Lord, make me a channel of your peace,” was in fact not composed by St. Francis; it was misapplied to him in a prayer book. The true prayer of St. Francis was one he taught his friars to pray whenever they would pass a Church or the sign of the cross made by two branches in a tree. They were to prostrate themselves toward the church or the cross and pray, “We adore you Christ and we praise you present here and in all the Churches throughout the world, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.” The cross reminds us of the true Christ, the one in the Gospels who was constantly misjudged by the religious figures of his day. If we are not careful, he will be misjudged by us as well. We need to worship him alone.


The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.



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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Monday of Holy Week

  

Taking Up Our Cross. . . In Reverence 





Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. HEBREWS 12:28–29

 Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” JOHN 12: 7–8 


My three-year-old son has a tendency to be unruly at Mass. He seems to enjoy the power he can exercise over us in a crowded church. On one of his recent outbursts I took him to the back of the enormous cathedral, where, moments later, I felt for the first time that the Holy Spirit might have prompted his behavior. Had he not been acting up and had I not brought him to the back of the church, I would not have encountered two powerful images.

 First I noticed the bishop, clad in red vestments, his hands extended in the orans position. It was the image of Christ on the cross. Now, I have been attending Mass all of my life and I know that the priest represents Christ, but I had never seen this as clearly as I saw it at that moment. There was something about the vestments and the outstretched arms that said to me, “This is Christ!”

 A little farther back, I noticed something else: a young woman prostrate in the aisle of the church, her forehead touching the floor in adoration. To be honest, my first reaction was one of protest. I’ve been educated in Church circles, and know all about “correct” posture and behavior during Mass. I am also well acquainted with the “Judas game” some well-educated Catholics play at Mass, in which individual acts of worship are criticized for form rather than praised for intent. Instead of worshipping Jesus like Mary of Bethany, who reverently poured out expensive nard upon the Lord’s feet and dried them with her hair; they resemble Judas, who chastised Mary for not selling the ointment and giving the proceeds to the poor.

As I continued to watch the young woman’s prayerful prostration in the cathedral that day, it struck me that what the young woman was doing—whatever her motivation—was beautiful. In a certain sense, it was even prophetic, for it drew me back to what I was doing. In my heart I thanked her for her witness. Both the bishop and the woman in prayer made it possible for me to participate as fully as possible in the Mass that day, holding my son and offering myself with Christ to the Father in my own poor way.




The Power of the Cross   by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Saturday, March 27, 2021

Palm Sunday

  

The Cross of Christ Restores. . . Obedience 


-Michael Dubruiel

And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says, “I know him,” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 JOHN 2:3–6 

Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death. JOHN 8:51 

Some years ago I attended a religion class at a Catholic college that included several “spiritual talks.” On one particular night the talk was on obedience. I must have heard this particular talk more than once; I remember it too well to have sat through it only once. It was as though everyone had received the same set of lecture notes on how to deliver this new teaching on obedience. First the presenter would go up to the board and write “obedience.” Then he would break the word apart: ob meaning “toward” and oedire meaning “to listen to.” The presenter, who would always seem to have found in this exercise some moment of personal liberation, would then smile and say, “So you see, to  obey is not some slavish exercise, but rather an exercise in listening to someone.” If one were to take a survey of all those educated in Catholic schools over the past forty years, I’ll bet there would be any number of experiences similar to mine. Suddenly a vow of obedience to a religious superior meant only the obligation to listen to him or her before deciding whether to carry out a particular instruction. Lay people adopted similar attitudes toward the teaching of Christ and his Church.

Through such disobedience, the sin of Adam and Eve is committed all over again. I suppose it is no coincidence that I have had to attend more than a few seminars on improving one’s listening skills. Here again, I know I’m not alone. A whole generation of us learned to parrot back phrases to show how well we listened, with unfortunate results. When you repeat the gist of the conversation back to the speaker, the vast majority reacts as though you are being condescending. Those in a slightly more charitable frame of mind assume that the subject of discussion is so boring that the only way you can stay awake is to repeat everything that is being said.

“Not See Death”?

 When Jesus says, “If any one keeps my word,” he is talking about obedience. When Jesus says about the Father, “I do know him and I keep his word” (John 8:55), we understand him to mean that he is doing what the Father sent him to do. Similarly, John equates obeying the commandments with keeping his word (see 1 John 2:5). It is pretty clear that the more traditional understanding of “listening” implies doing exactly what God tells us.  It is this kind of obedience that is Jesus’ condition to not “seeing” death. Disobedience was at the heart of the original sin. Have you ever watched a toddler assert his independence by resisting with every fiber of his little being the grown-up who wants him to do something he really, really doesn’t want to do?

 Some have suggested that we are born princes but turn to frogs. It seems far more likely that we are born princes who would rather be frogs than members of a royal family. So, our fallen nature works overtime to redefine what it does not want to do in the first place.

“Keep His Word” 

Jesus teaches us that we have to keep his word. Of course, this is the cross for many of us. We’d rather go our own way than follow the way of Jesus, if it didn’t mean having to face the horror of death without hope. When Jesus says that those who keep his word will never “see death,” what does he mean? I studied this passage for several hours. I found that this passage was translated differently in the Vulgate to include the word “forever,” so that the intended meaning would be that the person would still die but not forever. Many commentators simply ignore it. Death is referred to in only one other place in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Luke, where Simeon had been told that he would not “see death” until he had seen the “Lord’s Christ,” or God’s Messiah. Holding the infant Jesus in his arms, Simeon prayed, “Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace, according to they word; for mine eyes have seen salvation, which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29–32).

 In the Scriptures, death was portrayed as an angel—and not necessarily a good angel. Remember, death entered the world because of sin, and resulted in separation from God. The angel of death passed over the Israelites to take the Egyptian firstborn when Pharaoh rejected God. So, what was Jesus saying? The most satisfying commentaries interpret the words of Jesus to mean that those who are obedient to the will of God, as revealed through Jesus’ teaching, will never see this angel of death; rather, when their earthly life ends, they will be greeted by the Lord and brought into eternal life. Obedience leads to acceptance into the kingdom; disobedience leads to expulsion from paradise. The secret to obedience is given to us in John’s Gospel, when Jesus teaches that he is the vine and we are the branches. Our life depends upon remaining part of him—which we do by being obedient to his commands and partaking in his Body and Blood offered in the Eucharist. John in his letter says that we can tell if we are “abiding” in Christ by our actions: Are they Christ-like? The power to be like Christ, of course, comes from dying to ourselves and allowing Christ to live within us. This requires more than simply listening to or parroting the words of Christ; this requires a complete abandonment to him. Every day the official prayer of the Church begins the same way, by praying Psalm 95: “Come, let us worship the Lord,” echoes the refrain, inviting us to see our Savior, our Creator, the God to whom we belong. With the invitation comes a warning: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”


The Power of the Cross    by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Friday, March 26, 2021

Daily Lent Reflection

  

The Cross of Christ Illumines. . . The Way to True Unity 



-Michael Dubruiel

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. EPHESIANS 5:1–2 

So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. JOHN 7:43–44 

 That They Be One

 Father Solanus Casey was a pious priest who lived in the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council, yet one of the remarkable aspects of his life was how he welcomed people of all faiths to his doorstep. He did not change his belief for anyone; he didn’t need to because his faith gave him a command to love everyone and he strove with all his might and God’s help to do so. The gifts that God gave to him freely, he shared freely with all of God’s creation. St. Paul understood well the unraveling of original sin that Our Lord’s death brought about, God’s Spirit reuniting what had been torn apart by sin. He took the good news beyond the Jewish nation and religion that were his own, to the very ends of the earth. Sadly today the Church is wracked with division, in much the same way as the people were when Christ walked among them: They wanted to arrest him rather than be saved by him. Do we not suffer from the same ailment? Do we want to control Our Lord or be controlled by him? St. Paul tells us to “walk in love,” to offer ourselves up as a sacrifice to God. This means dying to all of those things that we like to focus on that keep us apart and focusing rather on the fact that God is the Father of all of us; we all belong to the same family. It means looking at the division that exists and thanking God ahead of time for bringing about the unity of the kingdom, even when we do not see it. Jesus’ journey to the cross was a walk of love, of giving thanks to God and bringing healing to those  who reached out to him. This should be our daily path also.


The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Thursday, March 25, 2021

Friday Stations of the Cross

  You can get John Paul II's Biblical Way of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel and Amy Welborn here.  


In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced a new Bible-based interpretation of the Stations of the Cross. This devotional guide invites readers to prayerfully walk in solidarity with Jesus on his agonizing way of the cross—from his last torturous moments in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial.

Now with full-color station images from previously unpublished paintings by Michael O'Brien, this booklet creates an ideal resource for individual or group devotional use, particularly during the Lenten season.


-Michael Dubruiel

 


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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Feast of the Annunciation - March 25

  Michael Dubruiel conceived and put together the small hardbound book, Praying the Rosary.  Click on the cover for more information.


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The Gospels show that the gaze of Mary varied depending upon the circumstances of life. So it will be with us. Each time we pick up the holy beads to recite the Rosary, our gaze at the mystery of Christ will differ depending on where we find ourselves at that moment.

Thereafter Mary’s gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. At times it would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple: “Son, why have you treated us so?” (Lk 2:48); it would always be a penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana (cf. Jn 2:5). At other times it would be a look of sorrow, especially beneath the Cross, where her vision would still be that of mother giving birth, for Mary not only shared the passion and death of her Son, she also received the new son given to her in the beloved disciple (cf. Jn 19:26-27). On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection, and finally, on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14) [Rosarium Virginis Mariae, no. 10].


As we pray the Rosary, then, we join with Mary in contemplating Christ. With her, we remember Christ, we proclaim Him, we learn from Him, and, most importantly, as we raise our voices in prayer and our hearts in contemplation of the holy mysteries, this “compendium of the Gospel” itself, we are conformed to Him.


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Daily Lent Reflection

  

The Cross of Christ Illumines. . . The Way to True Unity 



Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. EPHESIANS 5:1–2 

So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. JOHN 7:43–44 

One of the most remarkable American Catholics of the last century was a humble Capuchin friar whose name in religion was Father Solanus Casey. Solanus served as a friar in Detroit, in New York, and in his final years in the town of Huntington, Indiana. Born of Irish parents, Solanus did not fare well in the seminary, where he was taught by German-speaking priests in Latin, so while he was ordained a priest, he was never allowed to preach a doctrinal homily or to hear confessions. Yet God gave Solanus the gift of healing, and people sought him out from all over. When he died in 1957, those who knew him regarded him as a saint. He now is recognized as a Venerable, the last step before being beatified by the Church.

Solanus was the community’s porter, the doorkeeper. Today we would call him a receptionist, someone who would greet visitors who came to the friary seeking prayers or material comfort.  Solanus did his job so well that people lined up to have a few moments of his counsel. People of all faiths would come to him requesting prayers and healings. What Solanus would ask of these seekers was rather unique. He told them to “thank God ahead of time”—in other words, to step out in faith, before any miracle had happened; to act before God as though it already had happened. The way that he normally asked people to express this thanks to God was for them to sign up to have Masses said by the Capuchin mission society, whether they were Catholic or not. Mass is the perfect “thanksgiving,” so it made sense to Solanus that if one were to thank God ahead of time, having Mass said was the perfect way to do this. People continue to seek Solanus’s intercession to this day, and they continue to “thank God ahead of time,” with remarkable results.

Unity 

What Solanus taught is what Jesus practiced. In John’s Gospel, before Jesus is arrested and crucified he thanks God, ahead of time. He trusts the Father entirely and he teaches his disciples to do the same. While the people are divided over Jesus and seek to arrest him, no one is able to lay a hand upon him until he gives himself over to them. He freely gives himself to the Father as the Father gives the Son to the world and as the Spirit will be given by the Father and the Son to those who believe and put their trust in God. The Spirit will unite what sin has divided. John’s Gospel tells us that “they wanted to arrest him,” but instead they were captivated by him. They were as divided in their purpose as we are when we sin—part of us wants to believe, part of us doesn’t. Division is one of the results of the original sin of Adam and Eve—and the cross of Christ is the ultimate sign of division, but ironically in that very cross, Christ will make us one.

Do we see this unity anywhere on earth today? In some ways we are more one now than we were fifty years ago, but in many other ways we are more divided. It is to be expected that the world is this way, because the world will remain fallen until Christ comes again, but it is a great scandal that division exists within the body of Christ—the Church. We cannot here worry about what someone else can do to undo this damage to the body of Christ, this further tearing apart of his flesh—we can only examine what we are doing to repair the damage ourselves.




The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Monday, March 22, 2021

Daily Lenten Meditation by Michael Dubruiel

  

The Cross of Christ Transforms. . . Our Priorities




 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 JOHN 4:10–12 

And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” MARK 12:32–34 

A young girl dying of cancer befriended a famous archbishop. The bishop had a soft spot in his heart for children like her; his own niece had been diagnosed and he knew firsthand the agony both the patient and her parents faced. The archbishop had extended a standing invitation to the Protestant chaplain of the children’s hospital: If any Catholic child in the cancer ward wanted to see a priest, he should be summoned. So it happened that the archbishop was called to accompany this young cancer patient, Lorraine, in her last months of life. In time Lorraine came to trust the archbishop, and she shared with him her greatest trial. Her parents were angry with God because of her illness. She had been diagnosed when she was five years old, and had not yet made her First Communion. Would it be possible, she asked her friend, to receive the Eucharist before she died? After consulting with the parents, the archbishop prepared her personally for her first reconciliation, then celebrated Mass in her hospital room, confirming her and giving her First Communion. She lived only a short while longer. The archbishop said she had great faith but her constant worry was her parents. No doubt she was now interceding for them, that they might come to know the love that she had experienced in her suffering, that same suffering that had become an obstacle of faith to them.

This is the obstacle of the cross—when Our Lord died on the cross, some left believing that he was the Son of God, others left in utter disbelief. Yet the Scriptures tell us that Jesus’ death on the cross was a sign of God’s love.



The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Lent Podcast

 Lent Podcast

 



You can listen to an interview program with Michael Dubruiel about his book, The Power of the Cross. The interview is with Kris McGregor of KVSS radio. This is the sixth episode






Episode 6 – The Cross of Christ restores…
 – Michael discusses:
 Day 22 – Life
 Day 29 – Forgiveness
Day 30 – The Image of God
Day 31 – Our Freedom
 Day 32 – Obedience
Day 33 – The Dignity of Work
Day 34 – Justice



Saturday, March 20, 2021

Fifth Sunday of Lent

  


The Cross of Christ Illumines. . . Death

-Michael Dubruiel


But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 1 THESSALONIANS 4:13–14 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man.” JOHN 5:25–27 


As I was writing this book, my friend’s son returned unscathed from his tour of duty in the Iraqi War. Many people had prayed for him daily while he served overseas, and rejoiced when he arrived home safely. A few months later came horrible and shocking news: My friend’s son had been killed in an automobile accident a few miles from his home. His mother wrote to tell me that it was the most difficult thing she had ever faced. I could not imagine her grief. She ended her brief note with “What to say. . .” I understood what she meant: faced with such a tragedy, there was little one could say.

 St. Paul instructs the Thessalonians about death so “that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Some have misinterpreted this passage, claiming that Christians are not to grieve. Unfortunately, modern funerals often resemble canonizations, minimizing or denying altogether the painful reality of separation that death entails. Instead mourners are forced to put on a “party face,” to celebrate death even when the survivors are numb with the shock and pain of their loss.

Grief 

The death of a loved one is more like Good Friday than Easter Sunday. The darkness that covered the earth on that first Good Friday points, I believe, to the grief of God at the death of his Son. Though Jesus would rise on the third day, the first day was one of horror, pain, and utter grief for all of creation. Our Lord is recorded in Scripture as crying three times. In the Garden of Gethsemane (Hebrews 5:7), he prayed with tears; he wept over Jerusalem and prophesied its destruction (Luke 19:41); and Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). The third instance is especially puzzling. Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. So why did he cry? Were his tears for other senseless deaths that take place at every moment of the day? Or was it because the death and sin Our Lord had come to save us from had not yet been utterly vanquished? There is no doubt that it is human to grieve. However, St. Paul tells us that our grief should not be like the grief of those who have no hope of seeing their loved ones again. Our grief should move us toward assisting our loved ones along their journey toward God—daily remembering them in prayer, asking God to remove any obstacles that might keep them from hearing his voice when he calls their names.

Not of This World

I heard a famous theologian say that the greatest problem within the church today is the subtle secularizing of it. A modern funeral is likely not to mention purgatory, or to offer prayers and Masses for the dead; instead, we observe, “Funerals aren’t for the dead but for the living.” My, how many have lost the faith in what we are doing! When we participate in the liturgy where the entire body of Christ is present, the poor souls and triumphant saints join us in worshipping the one true God. Together, we offer our sacrifice with Christ to the Father through the Spirit. Funerals aren’t for the dead? To be charitable, one could imagine that such a statement reflects the belief that those who believe in Christ do not die but fall asleep. I have attended some services where such statements have been uttered, but they ring hollow. The loss is all too real. Our society tends to shield itself from the physical reality of death, something that Archbishop Fulton Sheen called the new taboo. This secular problem has crept into the Church.

Whenever we are told not to be sad but to rejoice, that we are an “Easter people” who believe in life, not death—one wonders if these people have ever lost a loved one. Some professional liturgists were angered when the Order for Christian Burial, the official rite of the Catholic Church for funerals, permitted the wearing of black or purple vestments as well as white for Funeral Masses. “It’s a step backward,” they said. In actuality, it is a step of truth, a step toward Christ. One of the most powerful images in the movie The Passion of the Christ is the sorrowful mother. I think we all can relate to her pain, because it is the pain that we all feel when confronted with the horror of death. How ridiculous would it have been if Mel Gibson had portrayed Mary as happy, telling everyone, “He’ll rise on the third day, rejoice now, don’t be sad.” That would have been sad indeed.

 Hope 

The modern world fears death. Because we exist in a post-Christian world, the resurrection of the dead is still accepted as fact, yet apart from faith in Christ the resurrection of the dead lacks any scientific basis. No one ever points this out, but it should be before it is too late for those who do not know Christ. In the Gospel of John, Jesus states clearly that he can give life to the dead. This is the hope of every believer in Christ. At the moment of his crucifixion, Jesus gave life to one of the criminals nailed with him. No such promise is given to the unrepentant thief. Jesus and Paul both make it clear that, while Our Lord is a life giver, he also is a judge. For some, eternal life will lead to eternal hellfire. My friend’s statement, “What to say. . .” is a poignant reminder that the death of any human being causes us to face the ultimate fall of our first parents. It startles us into the reality of the fragile hold we have on our own lives and the lives of those we love. Every present moment is a gift; so is every future hope. We exercise that hope by continuing to pray for our loved ones. If God has welcomed them into his kingdom, our prayers will come back to us. There is great comfort in knowing that this communication goes on—those without faith sense this too and often act upon it. The Gospel of John tells us that those who “hear his voice” will rise to life (John 5:28). Focusing on the cross of Our Lord  helps us to hear his voice. The horrible effect of sin is death; the saving effect of the cross is life in Christ. What death takes away from us, the saving death of Jesus can restore. May we never forget that truth, neither when a loved one dies nor at the hour of our death.

The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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