A Living Sacrifice Posts

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. Her apparitions there, and the miraculous spring that appeared during one of the apparitions when Our Lady instructed St. Bernadette to dig in the ground, are known as a source of countless physical healings. The sick go to Lourdes by the thousands each year to pray in the grotto where Our Lady appeared, to drink from the spring, and bathe in its healing waters.

In one of the apparitions, Our Lady said to St. Bernadette: “I do not promise you happiness in this world, but in the next.”  This is important for those who are sick to understand. The goal of our life is not happiness in this world, but rather in heaven. Surely there are happy moments in life and even when we are sick, but heaven will be far and away better!

St. Bernadette would later in life, amidst her own great suffering, say “Anyone who is not prepared to suffer all for the Beloved and to do his will in all things is not worthy of the sweet name of Friend, for here below, Love without suffering does not exist.” Truer words have not been uttered. We cannot call ourselves the friend of the Beloved unless we are willing to suffer for him. In this life love requires suffering. After all, do we really love if we are not willing to give our very lives for the sake of the ones we love? All we must do to see an example of this kind of love is to look at a crucifix. There we see a love that was lived by suffering. We too, if we want to truly love, must do the same.

As we are on the verge of Lent, we should resolve to make this Lent to be imbued with sacrificial love. I hope, for your own good, that this Lent you will suffer for the Beloved of your soul.

“Then Jacob rent his garments, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.” – Genesis 37:34

In one week’s time, we will begin the Holy season of Lent. We will all come forward, and in a gesture that is both solemn and biblical, we will have ashes sprinkled on our heads. The words spoken to us as the ashes are sprinkled are sobering: “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.” “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”

As we prepare for this moment we would do well to pray and meditate on a few things. First, that we are going to die. Some of us, sooner than later. All of us, the powerful and the lowly will all face that moment when our heart will stop beating, our breath cease, and our body fail to function. At that moment we will stand before the Just Judge. There will no longer be any excuses, no hiding, no evasion, for the Just Judge knows everything. He knows our inmost thoughts, our secret sins, he knows us through and through. In that moment we will stand, completely naked, before He who is the truth.

Our state in that moment will decide our eternal fate. It will be either heaven or hell. In that moment our fate is sealed forever. There is no going back. No repentance, only the stark reality of truth.

And then our bodies return to dust. The bodies we once pampered and treated kindly will decay, and turn to dust.

This reality should make us think.

Which leads to the second thing we should pray and meditate on. Given the reality that we must all die, and given that we do not know when, we ought to always be in readiness for that moment. Lent is the perfect time to prepare. We should ask ourselves what we would do if we were, like Jesus, to die on Good Friday. The answer to that question is what we should do for lent. Our Lenten program should be a forty-day preparation for death.

This should include, at the very least, the following ten things:

  1. A good, brutally honest confession. Remember, there is no hiding, excuses, or evasion at our judgment.
  2. Make reparation for our sins. This can take the form of prayer, fasting, or almsgiving.
  3. Get to know our Lord more deeply. If we only talk to Jesus occasionally, we run the risk of him saying to us, “I never knew you.” The best way to do this is daily prayer and reading of the gospels. For prayer, it would be ideal to spend at least a half hour a day, preferably in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. For scripture reading, ten minutes a day reading one of the gospels would be ideal.
  4. Forgive those who have offended us, and ask pardon from those we have offended.
  5. Say the things that we need to say before we die.
  6. Pray the Rosary every single day. After all, if you aren’t praying the Rosary every day, you’re not on our Lady’s team. We want to be on her team.
  7. Wear the Brown Scapular constantly.
  8. Pray daily to the patrons of a happy death, St. Joseph and St. Benedict.
  9. Meditate frequently on the passion and death of the Lord.
  10. Receive Holy Communion as frequently as possible.

Certainly, you may have more things to add to your Lenten program. In fact, you should. Things particular to you and what you need to do to prepare for death.

Since I have a terminal disease for which there is no cure, this is all very real to me. But, the reality, dear reader, is that you might die before me, so, memento mori, remember your death. Then prepare.

“And Jesus said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

Yesterday was a tough day. When you have ALS tough days are bound to come. It all started when I was preparing for a visit from a dear friend from my seminary days in St. Louis, MO. We had not seen each other for quite a while, so I was looking forward to a nice chat. The only way to carry on a conversation these days is by using my eye gaze computer. I type with my eyes, and it does the talking. It’s my only way to communicate. Without it my speech sounds like gibberish. So, when the computer started acting up, I became growingly frustrated. Here, a friend had traveled numerous hours to visit and I wouldn’t be able to talk to him. Nor could I properly explain to my sister how to adjust the computer so it might work better.

This frustration about not being able to communicate led to tears on my part and on the part of my sister. It’s hard for those around me to not be able to fix things for me, and to see me suffer and know there is nothing they can do to help. This all is very much their cross as well as mine.

One of the blessings of the day came next. My friend offered one of the most devout and beautiful Holy Masses I have been to in a while. The chanting, the bits and pieces of Latin, the feast day, the readings, and the sermon all conspired to make for a stunning expression of the love of God. It too was accompanied by tears.

After Holy Mass we got the computer working well enough to chat. It was good to catch up with an old friend and to talk about spiritual things.

Later on, we had similar difficulties with the computer, which led to further frustration and anger on my part. It is incredibly, incredibly frustrating for me to not be able to properly give instructions or to ask for what I need. When that happens, I tend to shut down. I want to go to bed, not eat, and just lie there. If I’m honest, part of that tendency lies in not wanting people to see me have a breakdown. So, pride once again rears its ugly head, and God applies the remedy by allowing me to breakdown, cry, and be vulnerable when I would rather appear strong. After assuring my sister that it isn’t her fault when I become so frustrated and angry, and after a good cry, I began to slowly feel better.

I know, because of the nature of this disease, that there will be many more bad days, and new challenges will arise. It’s then that I have to remember that this is what I signed up for on the day of my baptism and again on the day of my ordination to the priesthood. I signed up to take up my cross daily and follow him. This is what I intend to do, although I may not do it well in practice. Every bad day I try to remember that the Lord renews his mercies each morning. He, nor our Lady will abandon me, or you.

Every bad day is also an opportunity to offer up much in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the many sins of mankind. It allows me to offer up my frustrations for the conversion of sinners. It allows me to offer my tears for my brother priests. When I fail in being humble, that too I can offer to the mercy of God to be burned up in the flames of his love.

Jesus, burning furnace of charity, may the flames of thy love burn out of me whatever is not thee. May it burn out of me pride, fear, anger, and bitterness. Replace them with humility, trust, peace, and joy in suffering. Let me never forget thy own suffering, and how it won salvation for all who will accept it. Give me the grace to suffer with you for the salvation of mankind. Amen.