Fr. FelixI belong to the Servant Brothers of the Home of the Mother since its foundation in 1990, and have been a priest for 25 years. I am licensed in Pharmacy from the University of Madrid and hold a doctorate in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Cross University in Rome. I am committed to the lay apostolate and give retreats for youth and adults.

Fr. Félix López is author and editor of the Blog "God’s Plan for the Family".

Benedict XVI, in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, has several points dedicated to pointing out the relationship between the two sacraments. Obviously, since the Eucharist is the sacramental memorial of the Paschal mystery of Christ, all the other sacraments are linked to it.

Fr Colm PowersFr. Colum Power, born in Cork, Ireland, in 1965, is a Servant Priest of the Home of the Mother. He obtained a Master's degree in literature in 1991 and a doctorate in the History of the Church in 2013. He is author of A Touch of the Gardener's Hand, Honey from the Lion's Carcass, and James Joyce's Catholic Categories. He devotes his time to apostolic activities for the youth organized by the Servant Brothers of the Home of the Mother. Fr. Colum Power is author and editor of the FFA blog "Random Reflections".

Have pity on me, Lord, I am a poor sinner. 

    Our Lord's example about the Pharisee and the poor tax collector at the back thumping his chest and saying, "Have pity on me, I'm a wretched sinner," reminds me of the time Paul Cronin, Brian Hadden, and I jumped the wall and broke through Mrs. Pollock's palm trees into her big garden full of flowers and shrubs and exotic trees and plants of all kinds and colors. 

    There was a big greenhouse in the middle of the garden. The door was open. A paradise of strawberries, big, plump, glistening, red strawberries. We stuffed ourselves and then took off our jumpers and filled them with more strawberries to eat later, in peace and quiet. 

    Suddenly a door of the house opened and slammed shut. We jumped with fright and ran off. We thought we'd escaped, but I got caught. I always got caught. The red hair. I should have put on a wig but I never thought of it. 

    She told my mother. My mother told me to go and apologize. Paul Cronin and Brian Hadden pretended they didn't even know me. I had to make the long trip from my house to Mrs. Pollock's house all on my own. Head down, heart pounding. What will I say, how will I say it, what will she do. Oh boy, you're in big trouble now. She's going to punish you, big-time. I rang the doorbell. 

    Mrs. Pollock came out. She told me to follow her into the kitchen. She put a plate of biscuits on the table and a glass of Fanta. She asked me how I  was getting on in school and what was my favorite sport. I finished the biscuits and the Fanta. She went over to the fridge and took out a huge bowl of fresh strawberries. She filled a small bag with strawberries and handed it to me with a little hug, saying: "Don't steal my strawberries, okay. If you want strawberries just ring the doorbell, and I'll give you strawberries, no problem. Bye, bye, now." 

    I stole her strawberries, and she gave me strawberries! 

    How many times over the years I've gone to Jesus and said, "I did it, Lord, it was me." With my head down and my heart pounding. Stuff much worse than stealing strawberries. And every single time, He sends me away with a little hug and a bag of strawberries. 

    Don't be a stupid Pharisee, just own up and face the music. The music of God's untiring forgiveness. In the confessional. 

 

GlennFFAGlenn Fong is from Cali, Colombia but is currently living in Florida. He has been married to Sandra since 2001 and counting...(yes, it is possible! Marriage is supposed to be forever!), and they have been blessed with two children. Glenn studied Systems Engineering at San Buenaventura University in Cali, Colombia and now works for a multinational company as an Analyst-Developer. He is not a writer, but his passion for Christ and His Church propel him to write about many different topics. Glenn is author and editor of the Blog "It´s for Real".

You can read Glenn's blog in spanish here: http://gfongm.wordpress.com

Have you ever wondered what would be in your life if your loved ones were missing?

Have you started analyzing your life if you were left alone in this life?

A few days ago, my wife went on a pilgrimage known as “In the footsteps of the Apostle Paul,” and I was in charge of the household and our children...

I don't know if you ever wanted to be alone for a while, a few hours, or a few days to be able to disconnect from the world, and to have a few hours to "regain strength."

The fact is that at the time my wife was away, I had time to meditate while working alone at home.

At first, I only saw that I had the responsibility of having the work and the house up to date; I only saw the responsibility of having the school uniforms of my children clean and ironed, of having them food, and of having the house in order and clean ... And I don't know if I achieved these goals, but as the days were going, I began to see different things ... I no longer only saw the responsibilities and obligations, but I wanted to do a personal exercise.

The exercise consisted of imagining that I was alone at home, and that my wife and children would no longer return ... I imagined what it would be like to be alone in life. I did not do it to martyrize myself, but to try to understand even more the love and warmth of my family.

And it all started one morning when the alarm beeped, and I woke up. I looked at the side of the bed, and the place where my wife should be was empty. Then, I sent my children to school and during the day I continued with the exercise.

When I had to move inside the house, I could only see the emptiness. I just listened to silence. The laughs were not there. The scolding did not exist. The jokes and pranks had vanished… 

We know very well what the habits of our loved ones are. We know where they sit, what they smell like, what they play, their voices, their hobbies, their gestures… But I realized that none of that thinks were in the house anymore.

I went to the kitchen, and it was empty. I walked into the living room, there was no one. I entered my children's rooms, nobody was occupying them. I entered my room, and only saw an empty bed, and a full closet… The house was lifeless.

I began to think: "What if all my days were the same?" "What if my family no longer existed?"

Imagine yourselves waking up in the morning and not seeing anyone, not talking to anyone, not having anyone to help, not having anyone to care for you, not having anyone who with their own presences fill you with love, not having no one with whom to argue, or with whom to reconcile.

And it was then, in the middle of this exercise, I could feel “physically” the reality of many people abandoned by their families, of some who live alone because not even they can bear themselves; I could see the reality of people who live alone and because their selfishness do not allow anyone to be part of their existence… And I could feel the pain of the absence of my wife and my children because the mornings no longer had colors, nor did the afternoon coffee taste good. The days have been eternal, and all the moments were the same… absolute loneliness.

Yes, I know it was only an exercise, but doing this kind of ... let us call it "mini retreat", I could feel (literally, feel) the absence of my loved ones.

This exercise became more real because during that time nobody knocked on the door, I did not receive a call from anyone, nobody worried about me in case we needed something, not a greeting, the office meeting was cancelled, not even a missed call, or a scam call or of some seller… How sad for those people who live alone and helpless, and never even receive someone's visit!

This exercise has helped me a lot to be able to appreciate and value much more having a wife who loves me and takes care of me, and knowing that my children, thank God, will return after school…

Yes, I well know perfectly that I am not perfect, on the contrary, I am full of defects, but this exercise made me see a reality that I had never considered… (hmmm… It must be that I am getting old) … It allowed me to draw as a conclusion that time is a treasure, time is like gold, and should not be wasted losing it in banalities, rather, the exhortation is to make the most of time to love our wives / husbands and children, and all our family and friends.

Time is going very fast, and we do not know when the Lord will call us to leave this world, but by the time the time comes, we better would like to be perfectly prepared.

Although we know and believe our time on this earth is limited, we do not do everything well, we still make mistakes, and this, even if it is without intention, hurts our loved ones very much, and can generate very painful wounds which can take a long time to heal.

Let us reconcile with those whom we have hurt, or who have hurt us; let us ask for forgiveness, let us visit those who have been forgotten either for lack of love or for excess of resentment. God, our God, is a God of Love and Mercy, and he expects that from us to be instruments of His love and mercy everywhere, on time and out of time.

Now that we are in the midst of Advent and Christmas is approaching, these important dates are coming, such as the season of Advent and Christmas, have we thought about the loneliness in which many of our brothers and sisters are living around the world? And let's not just talk about those who have been abandoned for x or y reason. Let us also think about the loneliness of people who have had to leave their land, their homes, their families, their friends ... due to political situations, or because of a better job opportunity, or for whatever other reason…

Have we ever thought about the loneliness of the one who is totally alone in the world? Have we started to think what is would be like for us that we could be in that situation?

And it is on these very special dates when the heart wrinkles more, and it is the time when more people need to feel the warmth of family and friends… Let us not wait to be alone in this world, to be able to feel the helplessness of our brothers and sisters; let's work from today to make humanity happier.

I dare you to do this exercise. Do you dare?

May God, Saint Joseph and Blessed Mary bless us and protect us.

¡Laudetur Iesus Christus!

iFong

 

DaneBairdDane Baird has been a witness member of the Home of the Mother for over 3 years. He has two daughters, Jean and Susannah. The newest addition to the family is Halo, wonder-dog! His profession is teaching autistic children and he enjoys acting in several parish and diocesan ministries, as well as supporting the Home of the Mother.

His blog is called "Fathers Floreat!" Floreat is a word he heard on retreat, it is latin for to flourish, to bloom. Men should be blossoming according to God's plan.

Maybe it has been the recent Lenten season, but, for some reason, I don’t know why I’ve been contemplating the good thief. I believe his name was Dismas, St. Dismas. He’s a saint, I believe because he knows our Lord. He recognizes who He is and repents, even under the most difficult of circumstances. If I imagine myself in his place, taking his place upon his cross and making it mine, I am awestruck. What would my likely response be to Dismas’ very real cross? What if his cross was mine? 

The Catholic church does a good job of inviting us into a time and space I don’t like traveling into, i.e. Lent. It’s like looking into a mirror after a long night of sleeplessness or maybe evening carousing. I look pretty bad. That’s my ‘sin’ face in the mirror. But even though I don’t like this reality, I realize the wisdom of reflecting on my fallen nature. It’s a true and present reality that I cannot run away from. I believe our church calls it concupiscence, a disorder caused by our propensity to sin. 

During Lent, albeit at times uncomfortably, I reflect and find solace vis a vis my sin when contrasted to our Lord in the desert. To defeat my devilish thoughts and actions, I simply need to look to our Lord and how He does battle. Jesus is our teacher and role model. He fasts and prays to the Father while preparing for battle. All I need to do is ‘copy and paste’ His actions, albeit imperfectly.

Ironically, winning the battle against sin has nothing to do with my physical strength. Where the world values physical strength, Jesus’ actions are a statement, the truth on how to win, to master ourselves and thwart the devil. 

I must become dismantled, become weak. I choose to become physically weaker through mortification, maybe some fasting, so that God, the Father, can make me stronger. If I look at our Lord during His desert sojourn, including His fasting, His prayer, if I simply choose to replicate these actions, I win. As my body descends physically, my spirit ascends. When I become physically weaker, I experience a surrendering of self to the true power, which is God’s fortress for me, his agape love.  

In spirit, it is God who does the fighting. This is always a good thing, as God is God and all-powerful. For me, the weak sinner, this is a welcome, hopeful mystery for me to embrace. I want to win this battle and now I know how.

So, back to the good thief…

This thief hung on a very real, physical cross for his sins. He violated the civil law in such a way that he earned a death sentence, a horrible, cruel crucifixion. And on this cross, he somehow notices and recognizes our Lord, on His cross. It’s amazing for Dismas to look outside of himself because his insides are experiencing intense pains. He’s been physically tortured, nails driven through his limbs. He’s suffocating to death, as the cross does the terrible job of slowly asphyxiating him. Dismas is very aware, for a long time, that his life is coming to an end.

But, the thief, somehow, while suffering excruciating pain, finds the power to cry out to our Lord, asking for forgiveness. Even in this thief’s great despair, that his life, filled with mistakes, is going to end on a cross, he still asks for divine mercy. 

Of course, when he asks, with a contrite and humble heart, for forgiveness, the great harbinger of hope, Jesus, delivers. In Dismas’ case, his faith in the Son earns him an upfront seat in paradise, where he can ponder the great beauty of love, of Jesus, Heaven itself, for eternity. 

I find this Gospel passage fascinating. 

If I close my eyes and imagine taking the good thief’s place, would I recognize our Lord for who He is? At this point in my spiritual journey, I'd have to say, "Likely not." For me, I do have crosses. But, when asked to bear them, my response is so very weak and flawed.  

So, if I were to take St. Dismas’ place, I would likely be focused on me and me alone. I don’t like suffering. I sometimes get angry that I have to suffer and quickly despair. 

Unlike Dismas, at the moment of suffering, I have great difficulty in embracing it and saying to myself, "OK, so I’m suffering but I trust the Lord will make something good from it." No, my faith is quite weak. When I suffer, all I can really think about is the end of it. I beg, "Lord, take this from me, please!"

So, I am more like the bad thief. He’s on Jesus' other side, opposite of Dismas. He hangs from a similar cross, but his response to our Lord is the opposite of St. Dismas’. Like Dismas, he’s in great pain. But unlike his counterpart, he chooses anger, a lack of accountability for his actions and accosts our Lord with disparaging remarks. He belittles the Lord. He cannot get outside of His pain to realize that all he needs to do is ask our Lord for some help, for forgiveness. So, he is doomed, doomed to hang from his cross all alone, to die a terrible death, both physically and spiritually. Don’t I often relate more often with this man, the unrepentant thief? 

At first, the gift of a cross seems strange and unworldly. That’s because the devil has created a fallen world with valueless values. At some level, with the world as my classroom, I have been taught that what I should value is my very own self, to be selfish. I have been taught to trust big government and bad ideas, like feminism or socialism. Instead of praying, while I am "of and in" the world, I might spend most of my time accumulating goods for temporary comforts or seeking fame. This means I am rarely or never investing time praising God’s holy name. 

In this mindset and state of being, the only name I really praise is my own. Instead of courageously lifting my cross, the devil wants me to be delusional, comfortable and, as it turns out, lacking in Christian virtue. He wants me to run and hide from my crosses. The devil knows that if I choose to run, I become one of the lost sheep. Running means I, most likely, lack fortitude and temperance. This is never a good place for me to be because, outside of the church and the confessional, I, the lonely sheep, am more likely to be devoured by the big bad wolves of sin.  

But let’s say I absorb Jesus and learn from His desert journey. I learn and decide to fast, learn ‘how to’ and decide to pray. I learn about and decide to value the Mass as well, and I go more than once per week. With this learning and action, am I more likely to have a Dismas response to my cross, or will I remain the unrepentant thief? 

St. Dismas, pray for us.