Prayer and inspirational thoughts!

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Deacon Mike

December 17 – Third Sunday of Advent

Rejoice – we do the work of the Lord as John did.  We are not Christ, but we witness to his goodness and mercy.  For he is both here in our midst and awaiting for us at the eternal banquet.  In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he invites us to live in joy, prayer, and thanksgiving, for this is what God wants of us.  God gives us holiness in our lives through thee Holy Spirit.  One of our primary responsibilities as Christians is to show the face of Christ in our individual existence by using the gifts he gives us to their fullest extent.

As Vincentians, this compels us to reach out in charity and love to help others who are hurting – to bring God’s love and hope to them through our very presence.  We are called to be truthful and authentic in our witness and work.  We are called to make the Lord present and active in our lives, in the lives of those around us, and in the lives of those we minister to.  Am I authentic in my witness to Christ?  Do I make His presence come alive for those whom he brings before me?  Do I allow my ministry to be led and inspired by the Spirit?

Father, give me the courage to be your face to others in my life.  Grant me the grace to witness effectively and to testify to your presence and goodness.  Allow me to not ‘quench the Spirit’, but rather to be inspired by the Spirit listening always to your will for me.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen

Deacon Mike

December 10 – Second Sunday of Advent

December   8 – Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

We celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary this Friday.  She is the Patroness of SVdP as well as for our country.  The Feast celebrates the fact that she was without sin (the only human other than Jesus who can make that claim).  She was without sin, but she was not without free will.  She could have refused God, but she chose to allow God to enact His plan.  We too have free will and the ability to allow God to enact his plan in and through our lives – or to reject it.  We who are related to God by the grace of our baptism are given opportunity after opportunity to allow his plan to reach its fulfillment within us.  Mary had ultimate trust in God’s love and plan for each of us.  She gave total and complete submission to His will.  We hear throughout the gospels that she “kept all these things in her heart”.  She accepts with gratitude all that God gives us and seeks His will in all things.  She is the model of silent suffering, merciful kindness, compassionate love, and graceful strength in the face of adversity. 

As Vincentians, Mary is our eternal Mother and the embodiment of all we should aspire to be.  She shows us the path to pure holiness.  Do I accept all that God brings before me with gratitude and without hesitation?  Do I seek and follow His guidance in all decisions.  Do I allow His plan to become reality through my life?  Am I the comfort to others that Mary is to me?

Father, thank you for the gift of Mary, our eternal and loving Mother.  Allow me to see in her all that you call me to be.  Allow me to embrace your will for my life and for the lives of those I minister to as she embraced your will. Grant me the humility, the gentleness, the selflessness, the patience and the passion to follow in the model of love and compassion our Blessed Mother has shown us.    I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen

Deacon Mike

We enter into the season of Advent once again this week. Advent marks the beginning of the new liturgical
year. This year is the shortest the Advent season can be. The Fourth Sunday of Advent falls on the same day
as Christmas Eve. This happens whenever Christmas falls on a Monday. It means the season is literally just
three weeks long and it compresses all the activities during this time. The Immaculate Conception – which is a
Holy Day of Obligation – occurs this Friday before the first week is even done. Breakfast with Santa and the
visit with caroling to the Jonesville Rest Home takes place next Sunday. On December 24 th , Advent will end
with the conclusion of the 10:30 mass and we will need to do a quick change of the church from Advent to
Christmas. Our Christmas liturgies begin that afternoon at 5:30PM leading up to midnight mass that evening.
Advent is a time for us of preparation and hope for the change that is to come to the world. The birth of Jesus
marks new opportunities opened up to each of us for eternal salvation. It begins the reversal of Adam and
Eve’s sin, and sets us on the course that concludes with His sacrifice on the cross during Holy Week leading
into Easter. It is a season for us to prepare our hearts for these changes. It is a time for us to look with
anticipation and hope to the future.
It represents an opportunity for each of us to reflect upon our lives and the changes we may want to make as
well. What is your relationship with God like right now? What would you like to change? Are there new ways
you would like to engage in your church – new ministries, coming to additional liturgies or just helping out
more? Perhaps there are relationships that need to be addressed, particularly within your family or circle of
friends. Perhaps its changes for you personally to your prayer life, personal habits or life choices. Whatever it
might be, don’t wait for January 1, but start now. Take it to prayer and to confession. Ask for the guidance of
the Holy Spirit that you might be led done right paths. And ‘be alert’ as our gospel says this weekend. For God
can pull back the darkness that resides in your life, shedding new light and new hope for all who ask.
The beginning of this new year also is marked by the Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations. I encourage you to
pray each day for Priestly vocations. For it is through good priests that we are led and fed as a church. Cut out
the prayer which is included in this bulletin that you might have it ready to pray each and every day.

December 3 – First Sunday of Advent

We begin a new liturgical year with anticipation of the birth of a newborn.  God is fully aware of our challenges, obstacles and missteps.  But He comes as a little baby, innocent and without judgement.  He comes to meet us, not so much so that he can get to know us, but so that we might come to know Him.  He came, not for his convenience, but for ours.  He spends his first 30 years learning about us, listening to us and walking among us.  The next three he uses to invite us to ‘come and see’, teach us, to guide us and to challenge us – but never to force us. He offers us mercy, compassion, friendship and hope.  In the end, he sacrifices and suffers for us, giving everything he has, not dependent on our response in the moment, but in anticipation of the hope which tomorrow offers.

As a Vincentian, it strikes me that this is perhaps the most impressive home visit of all time.  Home visits are at the core of being a Vincentian AND a Christian.  It is in the home visit that we become known to the client and that the doors of hope are swung wide.  We should not fear it, but embrace it and the client family as God embraces us – in love, mercy and compassion bringing the gift of new opportunities for today and hope for tomorrow. I know some conferences and individuals shy away from the home visits.  We wrap our hesitancy in excuses of it is not safe, it’s an intrusion of their space, their place is not clean and so much more.  How do I approach the home visit?  Do I come for the client or for me?  Do I come first to hear their story and to know them? Do I work to establish relationship or simply ‘gather the facts?’  Do I offer opportunity, friendship, compassion and hope – or only food and money? Am I willing to join in their suffering?

Father, give me the courage to embrace the home visit.  Let me be your presence that I might make a difference.  Let me come humbly before those in need, offering myself in friendship and as a companion on the journey.  Let me bring the truth of simplicity laced with gentleness, patience and selflessness.  Let me offer a passionate love for those we encounter that they may feel your embrace.   I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen

Deacon Mike

November 26 – Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

In our gospel this week, Jesus addresses that ultimate question – what separates those who go to heaven from those who don’t?  His message is clear and perhaps not quite what some would expect.  He says nothing about those things we typically think of as sins, the things that we do that are wrong.  Sins of commission.  Rather, he talks about the things we DID NOT do – the sins of omission.  And they are all about caring for one another – particularly those who are in need.  It is failure to care for those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, in prison and so on which will keep us from heaven.

As Vincentians, this is the motivation for caring for those who are in need.  Doing so brings us holiness by bringing us closer to God and allowing us to see the presence of Christ.  Doing so makes us imitators of Christ following what he taught us.  Do I reach out in charity only when it is convenient, or in every instance God places before me?  Am I aware of those who are hurting around me, offering to them the presence of Christ?

Father, grace me with the gift of awareness, that I may recognize when someone is in need.  Help me to never pass an opportunity to be your presence to another, even when it is inconvenient.  Let me serve in humility recognizing with thanksgiving that all I have comes from you that I might freely share my gifts with others.  Let me never hesitate to answer the knock on the door, that I may never miss seeing and serving you.   I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen

Deacon Mike

November 19 – Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time   Our reading this week continue the theme of preparation for the end time.  The first reading from the end of the book of Proverbs describes the ideal or ‘worthy’ wife.  She is industrious, charitable and prayerful.  But she goes beyond the basics of her family because she has a dedication to the Lord.  She extends herself to the poor and represents truly virtuous work.  That is the message of the gospel – work is a part of our service to the Lord.  But work that reaches for its full potential.  Our work is an important aspect of our response to God’s offer of grace and salvation to us.  When we respond with virtuous work, we find ourselves living in consistency with our faith life.  Paul tells us in his letter to the Thessalonians that living in light – living in faith – is how preparation for the end time impacts our life right now.  For we recognize that Christ is in our midst now, in the heart and soul of each believer – in the worth and dignity of each human being.  Every human encounter we experience is an opportunity to experience Christ.  We are graced by His presence, prepared by His presence, and live in His presence.   As Vincentians, we extend ourselves to the poor daily that we might have those intimate encounters with Christ.  It is virtuous work that we do when we do it with charity, prayerfully, extending ourselves to the fullness of our potential given to us by Christ’s presence.  Do I take the gifts God graces me with and share them fully, using them to encounter Him ever more deeply in the poor?  Am I willing to extend myself for others as Christ extended himself for me?   Father, give me the courage to love as you loved.  Allow me to use all the gifts you have given to me, humbly realizing that they are your gifts given freely that I might encounter you through their use.  Help me to engage fully with others, prayerfully considering how to extend fully in charity and love.  Let me see your face that I may know your love.   I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

November 12 – Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time   “Stay awake!  For you do not know the time or hour.”  Our readings this week provide us both a clear warning to be prepared for the end time to come.  We should not wait, for we do not know the time or hour.  These readings harken back to first gospel of the year which offered the same warning.   This is also an invitation as well.  An invitation to enter into a relationship with God, but we need to prepare and ’have our lamps properly trimmed.’  Between that first reading of the year and now, our readings have continued the narrative of how we enter fully into relationship with God.  It is important that we listen and respond that we might not be surprised by His coming.    This is what SVdP is about – staying engaged and staying awake.  Daily being aware of the presence of God, the suffering of others (and ourselves) and the grace of God’s mercy working in the midst of that suffering.  It is here – with the vulnerable and the poor – where Jesus took up residence.  It is here where we find holiness.  It is that holiness – on a daily basis – which we seek.  Am I fully invested in my ministry and vocation with SVdP?  Or do I only ‘do SVdP’ a day or two or three a week?   Do I fully embrace my ministry, making it a complete part of who I am or is it ‘an oil lamp’ not fully trimmed?   Father, Infuse my heart with a deep desire to always seek you and please you.  Help me to stay alert; help me to stay engaged; help me to make your constant love for the vulnerable and poor my love as well, that I might always gaze at your compassion and mercy.   Grace me with the virtues of zeal, selflessness and gentleness that I may continually give of myself with passion and kindness to those who are in need.   Connect my suffering to theirs and to yours that it may help me to stay continually awake to your eternal hope. I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

November 5 – Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time   “You have but one Father in heaven, and one master, the Christ.”  Our readings this weekend go to the very heart of all the virtues – the virtue of humility.  Our motivation for all that we do and say counts- and our motivation should always be to love and serve God above all else.  When we lose sight of that and our motivation becomes our own glory or anything less than the love of God, then we feed our pride and allow that deadliest of sin into our lives.  We are not called simply to act holy, but to be holy.   As Vincentians, humility is our greatest virtue.  Vincent calls us to seek growth in holiness through service to the poor.  The motivation for that service to the poor needs to always be born out of our love for God and desire to serve him.  We must continually remind ourselves that everything we do is a grace from God and is for His glory.  What is the motivation that we bring to our service?  Love of God or our own good feelings?  Do we forget sometimes that it is only through God’s grace that we are able to do anything?   Father, bathe me in humility that I may never lose sight of your love for me and my love for you.  Help me always to focus only on serving and loving you.  Each day Father, a little more of you and a little less of me.  Let my pride diminish and your presence increase.   I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

October 29 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time   “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it:  you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  I suspect we are all intimately familiar with this lesson from Christ.  After all, isn’t this really part of the core of who we are as Vincentians?  To love our neighbor?  Two things stand out in this that we should take note of though.  First, there are two parts to the commandment and they are instructive.  The first is to love God.  Love of God comes before all else and it is from that love that all else flows.  Second, we are to love first and foremost with and from our heart, then our soul, and lastly our mind.  Knowledge, thinking, knowing is not nearly as important as desire, compassion and mercy.   As Vincentians, do we place our growth in holiness, our love of God and our attention to our spiritual lives above our service to others?  Do we allow our love of God to inspire our ministry to the poor or do we try form our holiness out of ‘busyness’?  Said another way, is our ministerial work formed by our love of God, or do  we try to form our love of God out of our ministry?  We would be wise to pay attention to the Lord’s instruction – God first – all else second.   Father, never let me take my eyes off of you!  You are my all – everything that I am and everything that I will ever be!  Strip me of my pride that I may be ever focused on your will only.  Through you and for you let me minister to those you bring before me.  Help me to always remember to serve in humility with gentleness and kindness.  Let me always be a true reflection of your mercy and compassion made evident and available to others.   I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

October 22 – Twenty- ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time   “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s!”  How do we live in two realities?  It is not acceptable that we simply ignore or despise the society and world we live in.  We also cannot simply set God and the truth of our faith to the side.  God does not look for us to live outside the world but rather live within it and finding ways to make His presence real and tangible.  What belongs to God is truth, honesty, compassion, mercy – and each and every one of us.  Care and respect for one another is paramount and should rise above all other considerations.  That care and respect extends not only to those we agree with or condone, but also to those who we view as our enemies or as different.  As Christians we are called to an honesty and a love that seeks to embrace and respect all.  God’s love is universal and not based on our acceptance of Him.  Likewise our love for others should not be based on their acceptance of a particular set of beliefs.   As Vincentian’s, we may find ourselves on occasion dealing with situations we may at first find offensive.  It is easy to judge and walk away.  Much more challenging is to – through our love and care – show the presence and face of Christ, being loving, merciful and compassionate, seeking not to change but to embrace, humbly serving those we encounter.  In so doing, we are reminded that Christ continually extends his love and compassion to each of us, even when we are less than perfect.  Do we extend our care for others based on their need and not their worthiness?   Father, give me the grace to be compassionate in all circumstances.  Allow me to look past differences and see your presence in all whom we serve, regardless of circumstance.  Help me to accept the imperfections of others that I too may be accepted and loved in spite of my imperfections.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

October 15 – Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time October 13 – 100th Anniversary of Fatima Miracle and Appearance of the Blessed Mother   This parable of the wedding feast is the focus of this week’s readings.  The king has prepared a lavish feast for his guests, but those you would expect to attend refuse to come.  So he invites anyone and everyone.  Of course the feast we are truly talking about here is the heavenly banquet.  Those whom you would have thought would have the front seats (the religious leaders of Jesus’ time for example) turn their backs and don’t show.  The invitation is extended to all.  Some come but do nothing to prepare.  In order to properly attend the feast, some preparation is necessary.  Jesus comes to us to help us in our preparations, both paying for our admission and providing us with directions.  We must prepare through our prayers, our care for the poor, our development of virtuous lives and our conversion of attitude and heart.   As Vincentians, we are provided a pathway toward this preparation if we but chose to follow it.  Through our ministry to those in need, we are given the opportunity to follow the model of Jesus in mercy and compassion.  Through our ministry, we learn much about humility, patience, gentleness and selflessness – all part of the virtuous life we seek.  Do we take the opportunity to respond to the invitation that God places before us in our ministry?  Do we center ourselves in prayer?  Do we grow in virtue that we may become more like Christ every day?  Do we ‘dress’ ourselves properly that we might be welcome guests at the heavenly feast?                     Father, I thank you for the invitation to your great feast.  Help me to prepare that I might be a welcome and worthy guest.  Dress me in a virtuous life robed in humility, patience, gentleness and love of others.  Give me the courage and strength to remain ever faithful to you in prayer, constantly seeking your will for myself and others.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

October 8 – Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time   This week we hear another parable about vineyards – one which becomes violent as the tenants seize and kill the servants of the master and then the son.  The message of Jesus to the religious leaders is they have misused the fruits of God’s vineyard – they have been focused on themselves and their desires rather than the master’s.  God has a plan for each of us.  He knows what is best for us.  He provided the cornerstone of Jesus Christ to lead us to a vast and wonderful harvest.  He calls us to be faithful and responsive to his care for us that we might reap the fruits of the harvest.    As Vincentians, we too should have a singular focus in our ministry and our lives.  Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our faith and his care and concern for the poor and vulnerable of our Vincentian ministry.  We should seek the Lord’s answers to those situations he places before us.  In prayer and humility, we are called to care for those God places before us.  Do we keep our eyes squarely on God’s plan for ourselves and those we minister to when seeking answers to difficulties?  Do we trust in God’s plan and seek to fulfil his will always?  Is prayer a cornerstone of our lives?                     Father, allow me to be a faithful caretaker in your vineyard.  Allow me to nurture those in need, helping them to grow in there love and hope in you.  Help me to never lose sight of your will, trusting always in your ways.  Allow me to grow in prayer being ever focused on our Lord Jesus.  Help me to serve in humility, selflessly and with great passion.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

October 1 – Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time September 27 – St. Vincent DePaul Feast Day   We have heard a great deal over the past few weeks from Jesus about reconciliation, forgiveness and mercy.  This week Jesus tells us the story o the two sons – one who at first defies him but ultimately chooses to obey.  The second indicates he will obey but does not.  In many ways it parallels the story of the Prodigal Son.  It is also a story about each of us.  For we are all sinners.  But God rejoices in those who recognize their sinfulness and strive to transform their hearts wrapped in God’s mercy and the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.  Each of us must travel the journey of setting aside our pride, our self-centeredness, and other sins, replacing them with humility, gentleness and selflessness.  Some come quickly and others take a little longer.  But God waits patiently for each of us welcoming us home with great joy   As Vincentians, we seek these virtues of humility, gentleness, selflessness, simplicity and zeal that we might grow in our holiness and turn toward God in all we do.  This is the gift that those we minister to give to us.  They teach us these virtues by their living examples.  They are not perfect – they make mistakes.  Neither am I perfect.  What those who are suffering though have learned is humility and gentleness in ways I can only aspire too.  Watch those who are suffering and a common trait is care for others.  Do I pay attention?  Do I accept the gift they give me with gratitude?  Do I set my pride and self-importance to the side that I might see the presence of Christ in all situations?                     Father, I am a sinner who has offended you. Grant that my heart might be touched by your presence in the poor and the suffering.  Help me to see the gift they offer me.  Help me to let go of my pride, my self-importance, my lack of patience, my deceit of even myself that I might recognize you waiting in the distance for me to journey toward you.  Allow me to embrace those in need that I might feel your loving embrace of me.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike 

September 24 – Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time September 23 – St. Vincent DePaul ordained a priest in 1600   “These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.” It is easy to feel the injustice of favoritism shown to those who do not deserve it – haven’t earned it.  Why should the laborers who have yet to do any real work be rewarded with the full day’s wages?  By human standards – it simply is not fair.  But God is speaking to us about His standards – and particularly as they apply to His mercy and love.  Think of Mary as she stood at the foot of the cross.  She had done more, sacrificed more, suffered more and been obedient more to God’s will than any other person in history.  And here was Jesus on the cross in his dying moments granting to a thief who had done only one act of faith, heaven that very day.  God’s love is extended to all who desire it without condition for how much they have earned it.   As Vincentians, We encounter circumstances on a regular basis where people are asking for help who have done little to earn it.  We are called to extend help and his love and mercy as he has extended it to us.  We are called to set aside our prejudices and our judgments responding to those He brings before us in complete Christian charity.  When we do, we are graced by Christ’s presence flowing through us.  Am I able to set aside my judgements and freely offer assistance AND myself in love and compassion to everyone Christ brings before me?                       Father, I pray for the humility to see your presence in even the most ‘underserving’ clients.  Grant me the passion and desire to reach out in love and mercy as you reach out to me every day.  Make my generosity of love blind to circumstance and free of conditions.  Grant that I may respond to your will and trust in your Divine Providence as St. Vincent did.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

September 17 – Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time   Our readings this week continue the theme of reconciliation and healing wounds.  The responsorial psalm captures the essence of the twin concepts expressed throughout the readings.  “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.”  We must let go of our anger and forgive those who have wronged us.  This is where reconciliation begins.  Jesus’s response to Peter’s question in the gospel suggests that forgiveness does not end.  We continue to forgive with grace and mercy for as long as it takes.   As Vincentians, we face many times when those we help fail to meet our expectations of their response to the help we give.  Perhaps they make unwise decisions.  Maybe they misuse money we give them.  Perhaps they flat out lie to us.  It is easy and tempting to simply write them off and move on to the next person.  The hard thing to do is to forgive them, and to continue to try and find ways to help them and move them to a better place in their lives.  Forgiveness, mercy and compassion insist that we do exactly that though.  When have we been challenged to continue in ministry, to set aside our distrust, our hurt, and our self-righteousness so that we might continue to extend God’s love and compassion to others?                     Father, grace me with the virtue of gentleness and meekness that I may find patience when I feel wounded or hurt.  Allow me to replace my anger with mercy and compassion, that I may continually focus on the pains others are feeling even when I am wronged by them.  Give me the courage to never let go of extending your love and forgiveness to all without condition or reservation.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

September 10 – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time September 8 – Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary September 9 – Feast Day of Bl. Frederic Ozanam   A busy week of celebrations for us as Vincentians. Typically a feast day for a Saint (or Blessed) falls on the date of their death. Frederic actually died on September 8th but his feast day is moved to the 9th out of respect for the Feast of the Nativity. I don’t think he would mind giving room to the Blessed Mother. Also, his feast day now falls on the birthday of Blessed Sister Rosalie Rendu (September 9th ), his friend and mentor. Our readings this week addresses the issue of accountability and reconciliation with each other. Each of us – and our conferences – will face times of disagreement and even intense discussions bordering on disputes. Equally challenging, we will face tough conversations with clients from time to time. Given the nature of the work we are doing, this is to be expected. The question is how we deal with these issues. The readings give us the pathway forward. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he reminds us that we are to ‘love our neighbor as our self.’ It begins with love grounded in respect, kindness and gentleness recognizing both the strengths and weaknesses of each person and situation. Second, as Jesus reminds us in the gospel, we should and must take everything to prayer for where two or three are gathered, there He is in the midst of them. It is our Lord Jesus who can lead us to resolution and reconciliation of differences. Finally, this is because prayer – true, consistent and intentional prayer opens our minds and hearts to God’s voice. Our Psalm reminds us that “If today you hear is voice, harden not your hearts.” When we come to the Lord, we must listen with open hearts and respond to his Divine Providence and guidance with humility and generosity of spirit. Simply put, we need to be God led and God inspired in all that we are about. As Vincentians, do I always start in prayer for everything I am about to do? Do I ask God to help me to have an open and loving heart that I might be open to the help He wants me to offer to others? Do I always leave in friendship and love, even when we disagree? Father, give me the grace and humility to love others as myself, recognizing within each person your presence. Allow me to set my pride aside so that I might see the full value of another’s thoughts and ideas. Help me to be continually in prayer with you Father, and to intentionally enter into prayer with others that you might be in our midst. Open my ears, my heart and my mind that I may listen to hear your voice and will for all things that I do. Allow me to be guided by your Spirit and to act in friendship and charity in all that you ask of me. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen Deacon Mike

September 3 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time   Our readings this week are all about suffering.  Jesus suffers more than any of us and more than all of us combined.  And he suffers mostly for us.  We know that in our minds but it’s a little harder in our hearts.  His suffering doesn’t make ours feel any easier.  The words of Jeremiah “You duped me O Lord” – come from his fifth ‘confession’ and echo a similar sentiment from the opening of the book of Habakkuk “how long o Lord, I cry for help but you do not listen.”  These are actually two of my favorite quotes from the prophets – probably because I can so easily relate.  How many of us have felt the frustration of suffering and feeling powerless and helpless to the point of crying out to the Lord “Why? Where are you?  Why have you abandoned me?”  Suffering is a part of our human condition and I suspect we have all been there.  Jesus reminds us that we must pick up our crosses, that we must follow him in suffering, but that if we do, eternal happiness will be ours.   As Vincentian’s, we see people every day in tremendous pain, suffering and hopelessness.  Just as Jesus lifts us up in our time of need, so too we must lift others, helping them to understand and walking with them through their suffering. Do we remember to offer not only assistance in the moment but hope for the future?  Do we provide the light that helps others to see through the pain and suffering which blinds them and keeps them from moving forward?  Do we help to think as God does and not as human beings?   Father, give me the courage to see through suffering, to recognize the blessings that await me. Comfort me in my distress.   Help me to lift those whom you bring before me, allowing them to feel your presence and action in their lives.  Give me the compassion to embrace their suffering as my own.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

August 27 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time August 22 – Beautification of Frederic Ozanam (20th Ann) August 22 – Queenship of Blessed Virgin Mary   “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church!”   Our gospel this week is all about the foundation of our Church.  Jesus clearly lays the foundation as Peter and the papacy.  Foundations are important because they give us stability, they give us grounding and they give us focus.  They provide both parameters and modeling for us to understand how to live in relationship to God.  Jesus even tells us earlier in Matthew’s gospel to build your house on a solid foundation and not on shifting sands.  Peter through the inspiration and direction of Jesus, the papacy, and church teachings give us a solid foundation.  The traditional family structure provides that same solid foundation for our children.  The Trinity provides a model and foundation of how to form and feed a marriage.   In SVdP, we have solid foundations as well.  This Tuesday is the 20th anniversary of the Beautification of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, our founder.  It is also the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Frederic was inspired by St. Vincent DePaul in his approach to Christ through the poor and vulnerable.  Frederic provides the foundation for us as a vocation inspired and driven by the lessons of St. Vincent.  He provides us the Rule to guide us in our actions giving us guidance for our work.  It is only through humility and submission of our will that we are able to effectively become church and it is also through humility that we are transformed as Vincentians.  Do we serve in humility, accepting the guidance and wisdom of the Rule to form our work?  Do we go to the Lord in prayer, trust and submission as Frederic, the Blessed Mary and Frederic would instruct us to?  Do we accept Divine Providence in our lives?  Is our ministry set upon rock or shifting sands?   Father, grace me with the humility to submit to the Rule in my ministry.  Allow me to be a part of the fabric of the Society, inspired by Vincent, Blessed Mary and Frederic, trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Through prayer and humility, let me serve with and for my fellow Vincentians as we work to grow in holiness.  And bring me in humility and patience before our masters, the poor, offering gentleness and kindness that their wounds and mine might be healed.  Father, if it be your will, grant that Blessed Frederic be canonized for all his good works.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.   Deacon Mike

August 20 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time August 15 – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary   In this week’s gospel we hear the disciples tell Jesus “Send her away…”.  Of course, they are talking about a women who keeps pestering them and is not ‘one of them.’  This scene in which Jesus ultimately helps the woman because of her great faith raises a question that has faced the church over time. What is our mission as church?   Who do we minister to?  Only those who are in the church on a regular basis and maybe even others who come part time but are clearly of the faith?  Or do we minister to those who have no faith or different beliefs – in short, do we evangelize?  On the surface, the answers seems simple enough – of course we minister to all and try to evangelize the unbelievers.  But how often do we truly take our faith out and share it with others, defend it when necessary, and stand by it even when it gets uncomfortable (think martyrs)?   As Vincentians, we too are called to share our ministry with all.  We clearly know we minister to non-Catholics as well as Catholics.  But what is our mission and do we provide our ministry without bias?  Do we view those in jail differently than those not?  Do we offer help to those who seem to think differently than us as readily as those who seem compliant?  Are we only about providing immediate assistance or do we look for changes that are transformative and more complex?                     Father, help me to be inclusive of all who have needs of all types as you bring them before me.  Help me to not shy away from those who make me more uncomfortable.  Give me the courage to expand my mercy without bias or conditions, seeking to bring your presence and healing hands into all situations.  Give me the humility to recognize your presence in each individual and situation, and to respond with loving kindness.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

August 13 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time   Our readings this weekend remind us that truth – even truth delivered to us directly from God – can be overshadowed, overcome and lost in the face of fear and confusion.  In our gospel, Jesus commands Peter to walk to him on the water (at Peter’s request mind you) and Peter’s fear overcame the truth he knew – that Jesus would care for him.  Our second reading from Romans finds Paul reminding the Christians that he speaks the truth of Christ.  They are confused at how God’s divine plan could be frustrated by Israel’s unbelief and they fear it will impact them.  He discourages them from complacency and anxiety and encourages them to focus on the truth of Christ.  Elijah finds God in the whispering sound but must overcome heavy winds, earthquakes and fire to find His presence and truth.   As Vincentians, Simplicity is one of our five virtues we are called to by St. Vincent.  Simplicity is about truth for both our neighbors and ourselves.  Truth about the reality of the situations people find themselves in and what is needed to change direction.  Truth about the love Christ has for them through us, and the need for us to persist with Zeal and Charity.  But fear, complexity of issues and overwhelming pain can overcome truth for both those we minister to as well as ourselves if we lose sight of God’s hand in all we do.  Are we like Paul, providing a calming presence grounded in a sure knowledge of our testimony and actions given in concert with and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit?  Do we offer truth spoken with frankness and integrity and delivered with gentleness, kindness and understanding?                     Father, grant me the virtue of simplicity that I might always focus on truthfulness and integrity of actions at all times.  Give me the grace to be guided by the Holy Spirit, offering a calmness that allows your voice to be heard in the whispering sound.  Let us provide a presence that allows us to move past fear, confusion and uncertainty.  Allow us to always illuminate the truth of your words and your will in all situations.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

August 6 – Transfiguration of the Lord In Peter’s 2nd letter this weekend we hear his account of the Transfiguration moment.  In the gospel, as they come down from the mountain, Jesus instructs the apostles to say nothing about this until after the Resurrection.  Before the Resurrection, no one would have believed them.  But after, with the context of the occurrence of the Resurrection, the two work together to build the authority and credibility of what the apostles have to say.  Our faith is given to us by God and made real by the experiences of those who came before us.  The apostles shared their experiences and the events they witnessed to help others to come to believe.  It is the joy, the confidence of true knowledge, and the love shared through compassionate care which makes the authenticity of their words become evident. As Vincentians, we bring our experiences, our faith and all the things we have learned and seen with us as we minister to those in need.  Sometimes they are people of faith who simply need to be reminded of God’s goodness and love for us.  Other times, we may be the first ‘evidence’ of God’s goodness, through the ministry, compassion and care we provide.  How do we convey the authenticity of our actions and the presence and working of Christ in the lives of those we serve WITHOUT obvious evangelization?  Do we, in the words of St. Francis, “preach the gospel always, and use word only when necessary?” Father, I give thanks to you for the witness of others, especially St. Vincent and Jesus who showed us your presence in the poor.  I am grateful for all the experiences of my life – both good and bad – which have formed me.  I ask that you grace me with the wisdom and humility to use those gifts you have provided to me to help others come to know your love, compassion and mercy.  Allow me the grace of authenticity in doing your work.  Let me be a witness to your presence in the world.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

July 30 – Seventeenth Sunday Ordinary Time We are in the ‘season of parables’ – a time in the gospels when we here parable after parable instructing us in how to life.  Why? (A question even the apostles ask). Because Jesus goes to the people where they are at. He goes to them in a way they can understand, reaching out to draw them in. He tries to touch them and reach them in any way he can to draw them into the kingdom of heaven. Pope Francis is very much like this in his approach. It is about the person and a focus on the person. The church goes to meet them where they are at, to talk with them, to walk with them, to love them. It is not about the person needing to first conform to the church. For us as Vincentians, this concept is so important. Our Lord brings many people before us.  People in all different positions of need. People with all different levels of faith and understanding. And we are called to meet them where they are at, to talk with them, to walk with them and to love them. Do we accept people where they are at, or do we try to conform them to new thinking and new ways that they are not yet familiar with? Father, allow me to venture out, meeting those you bring to me where they are at. Allow me to accept them for who they are. Allow me to love them for who they are and to see your presence in them. Give me the grace to embrace them, serving in humility and love. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen Deacon Mike

July 16 – Fifteenth Sunday Ordinary Time  “The sufferings of the present time are nothing compared to the glory to come.”  Suffering – and the picking up of the cross – are part and parcel of our human experience.  Jesus tells us repeatedly we must pick up our cross and follow him.  Pal reminds us in our second reading this week that we will suffer greatly, but our eternal reward will be infinitely greater.  Our society today encourages us to try to mask or avoid the suffering.  Indeed many of the ‘new age’ preachers talk about the gospel of prosperity and focus on the notion that if you are ‘good’ and praise God, he will reward you with a good life.  But God does not promise us this at all.  In fact, quite the opposite, we are encouraged to embrace our crosses here in this life that our eternal happiness may be assured.  As Vincentians, the truth of the embracing of suffering goes even further.  Much as the fireman runs into the fire, so too we run to the suffering – the sufferings of others that we might embrace both them and their pain.  It is in that suffering that we can both see and reflect the presence of Christ.  It is there that he meets us to walk with us.  Do I work to deny or hide from suffering, or do I embrace it?  Mine and that of others?             Father, let me willingly embrace my sufferings, connecting myself to the cross of Christ.  Allow me to accept suffering with the grace of Mary, the Mother of Jesus who knew suffering more intimately than anyone.  Help me to reach out to others, helping them to both embrace their suffering and connecting myself to their pain that they may feel the presence of Christ in the midst of their pain.    I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

July 9 – Fourteenth Sunday Ordinary Time   “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…”  Our gospel this week speaks of those who labor and are burdened, but it is a particular burden he is speaking to – the burden of the laws and expectations – particularly from the scribes, the Pharisees and the religious – placed on others.  Hostility toward Jesus and his disciples is building even as the disciples prepare to go out to share his message.  It is a message of love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness that is at odds with the ‘norms’ of society.  Take my yoke upon you he tells them.  His yoke is that yoke of mercy and forgiveness fueled by unconditional love.  He promises that if we do, we will have a safe landing (eternal life in heaven), but he does not promise smooth sailing for the trip.  He has taken our sins upon himself that our load under his yoke is lightened and rest comes to us.   As Vincentians, we are called to lighten the burdens of those whom we minister to.  Sometimes they are burdened by unjust laws and economic systems.  Sometimes they are burdened by judgements of their decisions and discrimination in all forms.  Sometimes they are burdened by their own mistakes, lack of confidence and self-esteem, and lack of a support system.  How do we lighten their load?  Do we offer to them a yoke of mercy, compassion and forgiveness to overcome the rigidity of expectations?  Do we offer them a better way that they might learn from us while we walk with them and give them rest?              We give praise to you Father, lord of heaven and earth.  Just as your son took upon himself the burden of our sins and transgressions, without question or hesitation, allow us to lighten the load of those whom you bring to us.  Let us always offer them first your son Jesus that they may come to know the source of all love and mercy.  As he has offered his yoke to us – a yoke of love compassion, mercy and forgiveness – let us find the courage to offer the same to others.  Let us find ways to bring them hope by walking with them as we seek relief for them both from unjust systems as well as burdensome circumstances.    I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

July 2 – Thirteenth Sunday Ordinary Time   Our readings this week speak to the requirements and challenges of discipleship.  But they also highlight an important aspect of discipleship – hospitality.  Hospitality is all about encountering the presence of God in others, seeing that presence and accepting it for what it is.  Often, this encounter comes when we least expect it. Hospitality was one of the great virtues of the Bible.  The ancients believed that each person should be welcomed as though one were welcoming God himself.  Jesus moves this virtue into Christian times in today’s Gospel when he says, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.   The virtue of hospitality is the virtue of recognizing the presence of God in others and nourishing this presence.  When we practice this virtue, then the stranger among us is no longer a stranger, but a member of the family, welcome, like Elisha, to enjoy a room in our house.  Often we miss the presence of God in others because we decide what this presence should be like.  We are challenged in discipleship to let God be God and let God express himself in others, even if this expression is new or even foreign to us.   As Vincentians, those we minister to open their homes to us welcoming us on the home visits.  Inherent in this on their part is a trust that we are people of God and people who truly care.  Do we go to them in a spirit of hospitality opening our hearts and minds to the fears, the challenges and the presence of God within them? Do we have fixed in our minds what the presence of God should be like, or do we allow His presence to touch, shape and mold our hearts?              God, open my mind and my heart to your presence in all those I meet.  Help me to set aside my anxieties and my preconceived notions of who and where you are that I might see you clearly in those before me.  Grant that I may grow in the virtue of hospitality receiving all whom I encounter in true love and warmth.    I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen Deacon Mike

June 25 – Twelfth Sunday Ordinary Time   “Fear Not!”  God is on my side is the common thought.  With God on my side, I have nothing to fear.  This is actually not what Jesus is telling us though when he says “Fear not!”  He is actually telling us (and the apostles) not to be afraid to be on God’s side.  He knows that persecution will come to those who defend Christianity and he wants them to know that by standing with and for God, eternal salvation will be theirs.  Likewise, failure to stand up for Christ will result in Christ denying us.  In other words, as Catholics and Christians, we have a responsibility to stand up for and defend the faith and teachings of the church in the face of adversity and persecution.  We cannot sit by quietly.  Do so at your own peril.   As Vincentians, we need to be ardent defenders of the faith.  We need to embrace in a particular way the teachings of the church on social justice and poverty.  We also need to defend those in poverty against prejudice, judgments, and inequitable social structures.  That means we also need to first understand and recognize both the teachings and the issues around poverty.  Do we know the church teachings?  Do we step forward when we hear others make judgements or show prejudice about a class of people and / or individuals?  Have we been able to set our own prejudices to the side?   God, give me the persistence and desire to ever more deeply understand and know your will for our lives and your teachings on social justice.  Help me especially to walk in the pathway of Jesus as I deal with the issues of poverty.  Give me the courage to remain faithful to your will in the face of adversity and prejudice. Allow me to advocate with zeal for those who are in need.    I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

June 18 – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ Sunday   Do you believe in miracles?  This week we celebrate the greatest miracle of all time – when Jesus makes himself present to us through the transformation of bread and wine into his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, to be with us in the most intimate way.  This miracle happens every time we go to mass, and so often we look right past it.  Jesus uses miracles to reveal his divine power to us and to show his infinite mercy.  While this miracle tops them all, there certainly are other miracles which happen in our lives and the lives of others.  Some are big – perhaps a healing of amazing proportions – and some are small.  The question is, ‘Are we open to seeing the miraculous graces God bestows in our lives or the lives of others?’   As Vincentians, we should continually pray for God’s mercy and intervention into the lives of those we minister to, those we serve with, and those who are in need (including ourselves).  We bring hope to those we serve precisely because of God’s mercy.  We should be bastions of that hope understanding that through persistence in prayer, submission of will and faithfulness to our Lord, all things are possible.  We need to keep our eyes open to see the moments when God’s mercy graces a situation with miraculous intervention, whether large or small.  We should rejoice in those moments and give praise and glory to God.  Do we take the time to see and appreciate the grace of God in all situations?   God, your Son revealed to us your glory and mercy through the use of miracles that we might see and believe. He comes to us through the miracle of the Eucharist.  We pray that your mercy may be revealed to us and graced upon those who are in despair.  Intercede that healing may come to those who are suffering and that your glory may be made known to them.  Help me to be aware of your miraculous presence in the work we do.   I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

June 11 – Most Holy Trinity Sunday   This week we celebrate the Most Holy Trinity – God’s perfection!  It is the perfect team, the perfect family, the perfect union.  Three working as one, each complementing the other in perfect harmony.  The Trinity is love perfected!  While we will never achieve perfection, it does not mean that we shouldn’t aspire to it.  The Trinity provides us the model of perfection that provides us with guidance and inspiration that we may continually seek to move in the direction of love perfected.    As Vincentians, we should note that the three persons of the Trinity work in unison with one another, always supporting one another.  They do not work independent from each other.  As a consequence the love which radiates from the Trinity is always complete and perfect.  As we minister to those in need, we should do so each bringing our unique gifts to complement one another.  When we support and love one another as Vincentians in all that we do, that love and caring translates into more holistic and complete care for our clients.  And we provide a model of loving support for them to witness just as the Trinity does for us.  Do we spend time and effort focusing on love for one another as Vincentians that we may support one another in our ministry?   God our Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; we bask in the glory and radiance of your love shared with us.  Give me the wisdom and courage to cooperate with my fellow Vincentians in a loving and harmonious fashion that we might extend compassionate love to all those we minister to.  Allow us to join in true friendship driven by a spirit of humility, simplicity, gentleness and selflessness that our actions might effectively reflect the love you share with us.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

June 4 – Pentecost Sunday   At Pentecost we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit from God – our guide, companion, and the very presence of God who is with us always.  God’s presence in our lives is manifested in a particular way through the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Love which he graces us with infusing them onto our souls.  “They are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues.  They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.” CCC 1813 Faith, hope, and love work together. Love and compassion bring hope and hope delivers faith.  Hope and faith go hand in hand – one feeds the other.  As Vincentians, it is often said that the greatest gift we bring to those in need is not money or physical support, but rather is the hope that we awaken in them through the love we share. We are often times the vehicle God uses to awaken in them that which He has already given them – hope inspired by love that gives them faith.  We help them to become aware of the presence of God working in their lives.  Do we properly prepare ourselves every time we go out to be God’s minister and presence?  Do we pray faithfully and fruitfully before the visit, during the visit and after the visit?  For it is only by God’s grace that we can truly be effective. God our Father, thank you for the gift of your presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit who walks with us and the Eucharist – the very Body and Blood of your Son – which nourishes us for the journey each day.  Allow me to open myself up that you might use me fully and completely as I minister to other – helping them to see your Love and compassion through me, that they may recognize the Hope present in their lives and find Faith once again.  Let me always recognize your presence in my life that I might share that very presence out with others.  I pray all of this in your Son’s name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

May 28 – Ascension Sunday     It is the season of new beginnings.  Whether in nature or life, we see things coming to full bloom.  Graduations from high school and college and the preponderance of weddings speak to lives changing as new responsibilities are undertaken. In the church as well, we close out the Easter season as we celebrate the Ascension and then Pentecost.  Jesus has finished his work here on earth and now the new church is in the hands of the apostles and ultimately each of us.  We are each called to respond to the call of Jesus to make His church come alive.  Paul tells us later in the letter to the Ephesians to “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace.”  We are called to use our gifts – given us by Christ – to build up the body of Christ.  As Vincentians, this call connects us intimately to the poor and less fortunate – those to whom Jesus most closely aligned himself with.  Do we continually bring the opportunity for newness of life to those we minister to?  Do we minister with humility, gentleness and patience making Christ ever present?  As we perfect the nature of our ministry, we also perfect ourselves in holiness. Lord Jesus, allow me to minister always in humility, with gentleness and patience that I might respond worthily to your call. Grant that I might be able to effectively convey your hope, your presence, and your love to all I minister to. Allow me to be your instrument of healing helping to usher in new beginnings for those who are hurting.  I pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

May 21 – Sixth Sunday of Easter     “Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.”  Our second reading from 1 Peter continues with instruction to the new Christians about how to take their faith out into the world.  He is telling them to let the witness of your love and actions carry the day.  They are going to meet many who are indifferent to their faith at best and outright hostile at worst.   Peter’s advice – lead with your love and the faith will follow.  Operate in an environment that is cordial and friendly, driven by quiet witness and genuine love. As Vincentian’s this speaks to the heart of our home visits and interactions with those we serve.  We carry hope and love to all whom we minister to with no conditions and no judgement.  Through our witness of love, the Spirit touches the hearts of others.  What is our motivation when we go on a home visit?  Do we go in a spirit of ministering to those in need that they may witness God’s love with no expectations, judgments or conditions?  When our heart is pure we open the doors of possibilities for ourselves to be transformed as well as those we minister to. Lord Jesus, guide me in my ministry that I may come in true and total charity to those whom you bring before me.  Allow me to avoid judgement and offer only hope and charitable love.  Allow your Spirit to guide our actions and words allowing them to touch ourselves and others with the transformations you seek..  I pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

May 14 – Fifth Sunday of Easter May 14 – Mother’s Day     This Sunday we celebrate Mother’s Day.  It falls on the same weekend as the 100th anniversary of our Blessed Mother’s first appearance over six months to three children at a small Portuguese town of Fatima.  She brought a message of prayer, repentance and conversion of heart.  We are reminded of a mother’s love for her children and that she will pull out all stops and use all means to care for, protect and guide her children.  Mother’s sacrifice, they suffer even pain and celebrate every joy of their children, and they lead with their hearts.  A mother’s instinct will lead her to never stop in her protection and care for her children utilizing every possible avenue to achieve her goal with persistence and determination. As Vincentians, this week let us reflect upon the will and love of a mother.  Let us resolve to bring a mother’s love to all those to whom we minister being relentless in our love and our desire to provide for their needs.  We say that no act of charity is foreign to the society.  Do we seek to provide the true support each of our client’s needs, or do we only provide surface support and then move on?  Do we always remember that the most important help we bring usually comes from our heart and not our ‘wallet’? Lord Jesus, thank you for the grace of mothers and the merciful and compassionate love they teach us.  Help me always to turn to Mary, our Blessed Mother, seeking intercession for those who are most in need.  Give me the persistence and determination of a mother to continually seek what is truly needed for your children.  Give me the wisdom to provide guidance to those whom you bring before me, that I may help them to address their needs completely.  I pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike .

May 7 – Fourth Sunday of Easter

  “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”   We say this with ease, but do we believe it and trust in it?  Do we continually look in good times and in bad for guidance from our lord – listening for His voice?  A true shepherd leads from behind, giving the sheep freedom to choose their course but calling them back when they begin to stray too far.  But the sheep must listen for his voice.  This past week we heard the story of the road to Emmaus, in which the shepherd (Jesus) comes up to join the downcast disciples and offers them guidance in the form of the scriptures that renews their trust and direction.  His voice offers truth and their hearts burn when they hear it.  In much the same way, the sheep recognize the truth and goodness of the voice of the shepherd. As Vincentians, do we listen intently for the voice of the Lord?  Only in prayer, discernment and openness of heart can we hear the truth of His voice above the thoughts and sounds of our own desires and misdirection’s.  Do we truly look for His guidance in the decisions we make daily for ourselves and our clients?  Someone asked me once, do we help many with a little or a few with a lot?  My answer was both.  For each situation is unique and our path can’t be determined by a formula, our judgements, or even ‘worthiness’ of the client.  We must be guided by one thing and one thing only – the wisdom and heart of our Lord.  And we only can hear that when we listen intently, wait patiently and walk humbly. Lord Jesus, open my ears that I may hear your will for me in all decisions I make.  Give me the courage to hear and share the truth of your words.  Allow me to submit humbly to all you call me to and all you ask of me.  Allow me to take the time to seek your wisdom, listening constantly that I may not go astray.  Make my heart burn with the desire to do your will always.  I pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

April 30 – Third Sunday of Easter

April 24 –  St. Vincent DePaul birthday

With great knowledge comes great responsibility.  Our second reading this week comes from the First Letter of Peter.  It comes in a section where Peter is talking about the gift and the call that come to us from God in our Baptism.  Our baptism is a blessing that calls us to obedience and reverence which lead to mutual love born out of a pure heart.  We are called not simply to obedience of some laws or principles, but to act in the image and likeness of God.  We are to follow the model of Jesus, behaving as he did toward others – particularly those in need.  This calls us beyond simply offering help and challenges us to take on the burdens others carry without judgement or reservation.  By the grace of our baptism we are called into a life of unity with both Jesus and those in need through Jesus’ affection for them. As Vincentian’s this call is at the very core of who we are.  It conjures up our five Vincentian virtues as they are reflective of response to this call.  A response that is based in humility (recognition that God gives us all that we are and all that we need), embodies simplicity (honesty), gentleness (kindness and compassion), selflessness (self-sacrifice and deference to the needs of others even above our own), and zeal (passion).  It is in the living out of these virtues that our heart (motivations) becomes pure.  Do we reflect on these virtues daily and in all decisions that we make? Lord Jesus, give me the grace to understand your will not only for me but for those whom you bring before me.  Help me to continually look through prayer to discern your will for every situation.  Allow me to set aside my judgements and concerns to focus on your heart and will.  Give me the freedom of mind to act with purity of heart and constancy of love.  I pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

April 22 – Divine Mercy Sunday   We are in the Octave of Easter – the eight days that are a continual celebration of the ResurrectionSunday.  Today, with our historical perspective and revelation over time – we have come to understand the great joy of this singular event that ushered in the complete hope we have for the future.  For the disciples at that time though, it was a time of fear, dismay and failure – for their Messiah was dead.  They went into hiding and became indecisive and paralyzed with fear. Knowing this would happen, Jesus appeared to them on five different occasions on Easter Sunday alone.  There are eleven recorded appearances before Pentecost, and as St. John’s gospel tells us, there may be many other events which took place that are not recorded.  What Jesus provided them was a calm, an assuredness, and a confidence through His presence that enabled them to move forward with conviction, passion and hope to build the church here on earth. As Vincentians, every day we minister to people who find themselves in situations which have rendered them indecisive and paralyzed with fear.  They find themselves filled with dismay, hopeless and feeling as though they are failures.  Do we, through our presence, our patience and our persistence help them to see their path forward?  Do we give them a sense of hope?  Do we engender in them a confidence to act with decisiveness and move forward in life with renewed confidence?  Are we the Jesus of the Resurrection to those who are most in need? Lord Jesus, Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  My hope is in the Lord, for He is risen and salvation belongs to me!  Lord grace me with the patience, the confidence and the words to be your presence to those who are afraid and hurting.  Help my belief and trust in you to be so evident that they recognize in you their salvation and hope as well.  Allow them to see their path forward through the words and actions you give to me.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

April 16 – Easter Sunday

  This week we celebrate the passion, the death and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the Triduum (Holy Thursday – the institution of the Eucharist – through to Evening Prayer on Sunday) we are made present at these events.  When we read the Passion – first on Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday – we hear and say those horrible words, “Crucify him, crucify him!”  I find these words so challenging to say.  It is easy to think of the horrible act of the Jewish leaders having done this to Jesus.  But as I contemplate on the events, I realize that I drove the nail into his hands and feet, I put him on that cross, I was a part of the chorus shouting crucify him just as surely as his executioners were.  For my sins are a part of the blood he shed.  I was complicit.  But on Easter Sunday, his grace, his compassion, his mercy and his forgiveness wash over me and through me offering me redemption and salvation if only I will accept him, embrace him and love him.  It is the greatest gift ever given and never ‘earned.’  As a Vincentian, this week reminds me of both the suffering our Lord endured for us as well as the unconditional love and mercy he has for each of us.  It is a gift that I can in a very small way share with those who I encounter who are in need.  Our Lord offers this gift to us as our path forward back to the wholeness of salvation.  He loves, nurtures and feeds us along the way, showing us the light.  Do we do the same with the gifts we offer to others?  Do we offer assistance with loving care in a fashion that allows those we help to find wholeness again?  Do we in kind and gentle ways illuminate the path forward?  Do we equip them, walk with them and show them the hope that is possible? Lord Jesus, I thank you for the grace of your sacrifice for me.  I love you Lord and am sorry for ever having offended you.  I ask you to take my hand and lead me home.  Give me the grace Lord to reach out as well, offering my hand in help to others.  Allow me to accept their suffering as my suffering that I may walk with them and lead them with kindness, gentleness and mercy to greater hope for their lives.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

April 2 – Fifth Sunday in Lent

  We are coming closer to the end of Lent.  Our gospel this weekend is the story of Jesus bringing back to life Lazarus from Bethany.  Of particular note is the end of the passage when Jesus cries out in a loud voice “Lazarus, come out.”  And when Lazarus came out, he instructed them to “untie him and let him go.” There was no need for Jesus to call to Lazarus to come out, nor to have other unbind him.  These actions were not for Jesus’s benefit, but rather for ours.   While he calls each of us from the death and darkness of sin (particularly through our baptism), we each also have a responsibility to help one another overcome the sins and challenges that bind us up each day.  We are to free others from their difficulties in life.  In so doing, we come to believe because we see the power of God manifested through those actions.  As Vincentians, our call to holiness comes through the unbinding of the poor and less fortunate.  As we unbind them from their challenges in life, they unbind us from our prejudices, from our pride, and from our self-centeredness.  We grow in our humility and patience and the Spirit of God comes to dwell fully in us and we come to know the Lord that we may believe.  We become as the woman at the well, the man blind from birth and, Mary from the gospel this week, saying, “Yes Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Lord Jesus, unbind me from my sins and give me the courage to do likewise for others.  Let me be your instrument that others may come to know you through my ministry to them.  Reveal to me your spirit of faith and hope through those whom you bring to me.  Allow me to join the woman at the well, the blind man and Mary of Bethany proclaiming your goodness and testifying to your Word though my words and actions.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

March 26 – Fourth Sunday in Lent

  This weekend we celebrate Laetare Sunday as we move closer to the end of our Lenten journey.  Our vestment colors lighten as the white of hope and purity mixes with the purple of penance.  We rejoice (the meaning of Laetare) because we begin to see and understand what is before us.  Our gospel stories from last week and this week carry a common theme that points to the reason for rejoicing – the hope and redemption He offers to each of us. Jesus meets and visits with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in this past Sunday’s Gospel.  Next Sunday he heals the blind man.  It is who they are, and the conversations he has with both that are the important elements to focus on.  Both are people others might easily look down upon as sinners or ‘lesser’ individuals.  A woman married several times and now living with a man.  A woman of a lower class.  And a blind man – probably blind because of his sin or the sins of his parents.  PLEASE!! Keep them at a distance!  And yet Jesus not only associates with them but initiates the interactions and engages with both with no judgement or distain.  Through their conversations and interactions both the woman and the blind man begin to have their respective blindness removed and they see Jesus first as a prophet, then as a man from God, and finally as Jesus himself.  It is through prayer (conversation), relationship (response to their needs) and finally faith that both come to believe and know Jesus. As Vincentians, every day God graces us with opportunities to engage with those others might deem less than worthy.  He calls us to provide them with conversation, a response to their needs, and an abiding presence of and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ that they too may find hope in the future.  Do we willingly enter into each of these relationships removing our blinders as to who each of these people are in the eyes of God, that we might be His light to the world? Lord Jesus, remove my blindness that I might truly see your presence in those whom you bring before me.  Allow me to seek out others who are in need.  Help me to move without hesitation as your Son did to accept the burdens of others as my own.  Allow me to feel the cleansing waters of my baptism wash away my weaknesses, my prejudices, and my blindness that I might see the world through your eyes and your heart.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

March 19 – Third Sunday in Lent

  The Responsorial Psalm this week happens to be one of my favorite scripture passages from the bible.  Perhaps because I recognize it as a big weakness I still have to overcome in my life – listening for the voice of the Lord AND then heeding what He says.  “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”  It is easy for us to shut out the voice of God, simply not listening at all.  But I suspect many of us hear what He is saying to us, but are ‘guilty’ of allowing our hearts to harden.  I know that I for one certainly am.  As Vincentians, we are confronted every time we go on a home visit with hearing the voice of God.  It may not be in the words spoken or requests made, but rather in the unspoken, the needs that are evident if only we open our eyes wide.  It isn’t just the visits either – it is in the everyday living.  Do we sidestep that person who seems needy or disagreeable?  Do we proactively identify the hidden needs or only react to those who ask?  Do we offer kindness and compassion at every opportunity?  I am reminded of Matthew’s gospel which we will hear on Christ the King at the end of this year in which we are reminded that Christ comes to us in every stranger – and friend – we meet.  Do we recognize Him?  Do we hear His voice?  Do we open our hearts? Lord Jesus, give me humility, patience, compassion, kindness and gentleness that I may see your face in the stranger before me.  Open my ears that I may hear your voice.  Open my heart that I may respond to your call.  Allow me to overcome my prejudices, my fears, and my hesitations that I may embrace those opportunities you grace me with to be your face to others.  Let me open the door of friendship, help, compassion and mercy to all who pass by me.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

                       

March 12 – Second Sunday in Lent

 

This week we find ourselves between extreme opposites.  We go from the depths of the dessert where we are confronted with temptation, despair, hunger, weakness and darkness as we come face to face with the devil and all his cunning; to the transfiguration moment, when we come face to face with God in all His glory and majesty.  In the later, we are reminded of the promise and hope that is offered to us when we are confronted with the dark moments in our lives.  Each of us I suspect has had transfiguration moments in our lives to a greater or lesser degree.  Some are simply aha moments when the presence and reality of heaven are apparent.  Others are truly transformation moments which are life altering for us.  All are moments of grace bestowed upon us by God to provide us the hope, encouragement and strength to continue in our journey toward heaven.

As Vincentians, we are blessed with the opportunity to on occasion be the tool that God uses to provide transformative moments to those whom we encounter in our ministry.  It may be clients or other Vincentians – or simply someone observing that which we do.  The moments may be small glimmers of hope brought about by the food we offer or the words we speak.  On occasion we may be blessed to see lives truly change before our eyes.  In all instances, we are challenged to be open to the movement of God in our lives and through us into the lives of others.  When we open ourselves to be His vessel, we allow Christ Himself to shine through for all to see – including ourselves.

Lord Jesus, use me as your vessel.  Allow me to empty myself of my concerns, my prejudices, and my self-centeredness that I may make room for you to be truly present.  If it be your will, use me to be a vehicle of transfiguration moments for others that they may come to know you and love you and serve you. We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike

March 3 – First Sunday in Lent

 

As we enter the Lenten Season, it is a time for us to pray, meditate and contemplate our relationship with God, with the poor and with one another.  Rather than  my weekly thought I offer you the following reflection to start your Lent off.  This comes to me via a good friend and originally from the FamVin site.  Take 10 minutes to sit with this beautiful reflection and prayer.

 

https://vimeo.com/103665244   Deacon Mike

February 26 – Eighth Sunday Ordinary Time   “Do not worry about your life.”  We are finishing the Sermon on the Mount as we prepare to enter Lent.  The lessons have been getting progressively harder.  But now comes perhaps our biggest challenge.  Up until now every lesson has been about ‘rules’ and guidelines for us to follow.  Everything has been about choices we have to make, but choices we have total control over.  But today crosses the line, for today tells us to give up control.  Trust in the Lord your God.  “Rest in God alone my soul,” we hear in our Psalm.  Placing all our trust in God is more challenging than it sounds.  If you are like me, you can say the words with great ease, but it goes against every instinct in our body to actually give total control and trust to God.  We are taught to plan for our future, for our success.  And when we have success, we are quick to claim credit.  But, what is more important – good planning or putting trust in God?  Be honest with yourself when you answer that question!  I know what I want to answer.  I also know how I ‘hedge’ my bet. As Vincentians, we can learn from many of the poor on this.  The poor put their trust in God because they have no other choice.  The same can be said for the terminally ill, for refuges and so many others who have been struck by tremendous tragedy.  When all else falls apart and fails, we are left with only one choice.  Total despair or trust in God.  When confronted with the choice, what do we do?  This is the great gift the poor and the less fortunate give to us – the gift of how to trust totally in God when all else fails.  Do we listen and learn?  Do we set aside our worries and obsession with planning, giving ourselves over totally to God – trusting in His plan for us? Lord Jesus, Give me the courage to trust in you.  Allow me to see in the poor, the sick, the indigent, the incarcerated and the homeless your presence in their lives and their trust in you.  Allow me to witness through saints like Francis of Assisi and Anthony the Abbott the path of total commitment to you through the divesting of human possessions in exchange for a life of prayer and service.  Let my soul rest in you alone. We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

February 19 – Seventh Sunday Ordinary Time

  Our first reading this week kind of sets the table for us.  It comes from Leviticus which is a very important book from the Old Testament but a seldom read book in our lectionary cycle.  You could think of it as a book of rules for conduct by God’s people.  But it is truly more than that.  It is a handbook on holiness – a guide for living a life in accordance with God’s will for his people.  The quoted section really summarizes the message of all of Leviticus.  God calls us to holiness.  Not holy behavior or practices, but holiness as in being like God himself.  “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God am holy.”  We are called to nothing less than likeness to God. In our second reading Paul asks us the question – and reminds us, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells within you?”  We are a temple of God, a temple into which we place God every time we come to the altar and receive the Eucharist.  God gave us the Eucharist that we might take him in and become more like him.  We are called to bring his light and his hope to the world.  Our gospel concludes our readings saying “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Nothing like a high bar to shoot for!!  But as Vincentians, this is exactly what we seek.  To grow in holiness and to become perfect like our heavenly Father.  How do we achieve that?  By letting His light and His image shine through every word and action that we undertake.  The question we should ask ourselves every day and after every visit – did I love as Jesus would have?  Did I embrace “Father forgive them fro they know not what they do?”  Did I love as Jesus loved? Lord Jesus, allow your light to shine through me.  Help me to embrace all that you are.  Help me to let go of my prejudices, my fears, and my imperfections that I might strive to be perfect.  Grace me with patience, humility, zeal, gentleness and mercy that my every action and word may be infused with your Eucharistic love.    We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

February 12 – Sixth Sunday Ordinary Time February 7 – Feast of Blessed Rosalie Rendu   This week Jesus continues to teach in the Sermon on the Mount.  He tells us,  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”  What are we to make of this?  Jesus is telling us it is about more than laws or rules.  We follow those out of obligation, fear or both.  He is teaching us that our actions must be driven by more than that – they must be driven by love and desire – desire to please God, to glorify God and to love God.  The laws and teachings that God gives us are to teach us how to accomplish this.  As we embrace God’s laws, we may begin out of obligation but as develop habits that incline us to do good (definition of virtue), those virtues lead us to desire and love of God.  This is the fulfillment of what God calls us to. As Vincentians, we have the Rule, the Manual, and the Home Visit at the very core of who we are.  Vincentian virtues and the Vincentian Pathway guide us as we develop those habits which lead us to holiness.  In ministry to the poor and those in need, we sometimes find discomfort as we learn to love as God loves.  Our goal is to grow in holiness as we move from ministry done because we ‘know it is the right thing to do’ to ministry born out of unconditional love and mercy that has at its core a desire to serve Christ in the poor.  What challenges do we face as we travel this journey? Lord Jesus, soften my heart that I might see Christ in those we serve.  Help me to grow in my desire to serve.  Give me the courage to confront my prejudices that I might overcome them.  Give me the will to serve humbly in service to you.    We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

February 5 – Fifth Sunday Ordinary Time   In our first reading from Isaiah we hear these words from the Lord “share your bread with the hungry,shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.”  These are all about living out the Beatitudes we heard in last week’s gospel.  This week’s gospel has Jesus providing his ‘follow up’ to those Beatitudes.  It is his call to action that we must be light for the world.  We are to take the blessing he has given us and carry it out – caring for others.  As Vincentians, we are graced everyday with the opportunity to live out these Beatitudes through our ministry to others.  We do so with humility, realizing that only through prayer and the nourishment of the Eucharist are we able to embrace that which God gives us.  We proclaim His goodness and love, showing His light to the world, not through our words but through our prayers and actions.  Our ministry will only be as good as our devotion to the source of the light, Jesus Christ.  Let us come often in prayer, praise and worship, seeking strength through the Eucharist that we may share it fully. Lord Jesus, you are the source of all goodness and light.  Draw me into your Eucharist that I may be infused with the strength of your love, driven by the depth of your mercy and compassion, and fueled by your immeasurable hope.  Give me the strength to live the Beatitudes that your light might shine through me.  Never let me lose sight of my love for you, my need for you, and your will for me.  Let me be your humble servant.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

January 29 – Forth Sunday Ordinary Time

January 25 – Conversion of St. Paul, the Apostle

 

Be humble and you will grow in virtue.  This is the message we hear from the Prophet Zephaniah in our first reading. Zephaniah warned against the sinfulness and destructiveness of pride.  The prophet Micah proclaimed to us that what is expected of us by God is “to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.”   In the Sermon on the Mount, and the Beatitudes in particular, Jesus offers us a prescription for the way we are to live.    They offer hope to those who are afflicted or may be disenfranchised, and they offer promise to those who seek the Lord by walking humbly in service to others.  They explain the way our hearts and minds should be if we truly wish to have a proper relationship with God.  They call us to a different place then the world does. 

It is only by the grace of God, as St. Paul certainly alludes to in the second reading, that we find our way to this relationship.  Like Paul did on the road to Damascus, many of us have been confronted with a transformative moment or time in our lives.  God knocks us off our horse, shows us the blindness in our lives, and provides us a new vision full of hope.  Often that hope came in the form of a merciful, compassionate, caring servant of Christ.

As Vincentians, every day we are presented with people who are also facing potentially transformative moments in their lives.  We should recognize that we are not brought into their lives by accident but rather by the grace of God.  We may be the catalyst for their transformation if we allow God to work through us.   Perhaps, they may be providing a transformative moment for us as the face of Christ.  We should open ourselves in each encounter, in humility and love, to the presence of Christ – and the changes that He calls us all to.

Lord Jesus, help me to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly.  Strip away my prejudices and the hardness in my heart.  Transform my thoughts and actions aligning them fully and completely with your will.  Provide me with the wisdom to make the choices you seek and the courage to pursue your will.   We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike

January 22 – Third Sunday Ordinary Time

In our second reading Paul tells the Corinthians – and us – “that there be no divisions among us and that we be united in the same mind and purpose.”  We are reminded in this reading our ‘calling’ does not belong to us, but to Jesus Christ.  Each of us is called to a unity of purpose – a purpose of loving Christ and reflecting his light out to others!  It is easy to become passionate about those cases, causes, issues or cases with which we work most closely.  We become aligned with this leader or that.  This is human nature and it is what was taking place in Corinth as well.

As Christians, Catholics and Vincentians, Paul reminds us that we must set aside our individual preferences and seek God’s will.  This only happens when we discern our decisions in prayer and collaboration with the broader group.  It comes through coming together in charity, humility, simplicity, gentleness and selflessness.  We should have a zeal to seek God’s will above our own.  This is why conference meetings where cases are discussed and discerned in prayerful consideration are essential for our spiritual growth.   

Lord Jesus, help me to seek out your will above my own, that I may be united in spirit and thought to the broader Vincentian family.  Allow me to set aside divisiveness, to enter into prayer and reflection, that I may allow your Spirit to enter deeply into my very essence guiding my thoughts, my words and my actions.   We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

Deacon Mike

January 15 – Second Sunday Ordinary Time

January 9 – Baptism of the Lord

 

“Behold the Lamb of God!”  Such simple and yet powerful words.  We typically think of a lamb as a meek and innocent animal.  It is the animal that throughout history has been the most popular ‘sacrifice.’  John’s clarion call in this gospel of the true nature of Jesus for us –as our servant and the sacrifice of God for our sinfulness: a sacrifice made that we might benefit – is a stark reminder to each of us about how we should approach others as well.  Jesus did not come from a place of power or judgement – although he clearly could have.  Rather he comes from a place of humility, a place of mercy and compassion, a place of forgiveness and acceptance and a place of encouragement and hope.  In this gospel, Jesus has just finished his forty days in the desert, tempted by Satan.  He overcomes Satan not through displays of power but through continual deference to the will of the Father, through humility, prayer and sacrifice.  He conveys his strength through patience, kindness, call, love and truth.  Jesus is the Lamb!  We hear that twenty nine times on the Book of Revelations alone.  It is intertwined within the liturgy of our Mass – the great sacrifice of the Lamb at the altar!  His sole motivation was complete agape love!  Through His sacrifice, he draws each of us in refreshing our souls and renewing our hope simply with the power of truth presented through humility, service and sacrifice!  Love – unabated and unblemished!

As Vincentians, when we minister in service to others in need, do we come as a lamb?  Is there an innocence to what we are about or do we have our own agenda?  Do we stand ready to sacrifice and suffer for others that they might benefit?  Do we serve without judgement or high expectation?  Do we offer ourselves fully and completely without condition or restraint?  ‘Behold the Lamb!! Come follow me!

Lord Jesus, I thank you for your sacrifice for me!  I humble myself before you, asking that you help me embrace sacrifice for others, that through my suffering I may become ever more connected to your cross and they may come to see your presence.  Help me to overcome my judgements and expectations.  Instill in me a spirit of charity and mercy.  Give me the grace to act with kindness and gentleness.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike

January 8 – Epiphany of the Lord

January 4 – Elizabeth Ann Seton, Sister of Charity

 

It is the divinity of Christ which opens the doors to heaven for us once again.  The darkness of the sin of Adam and Eve is dispelled – overshadowed – by the intensity of the light of Christ.  It Is this same divinity which reaches into our hearts and souls to draw us in the direction of salvation.  It is the humanity of Christ which connects to us and shows us the way to walk as we journey forward.  Christ in His divinity created the road for us to travel in our return.  Christ in his humanity provided us the map.  The event of Christmas changed the trajectory of the world with the birth of a child.  The Epiphany – the coming of the magi – shed light on the event to make it known to the world.  It made evident the authenticity of the moment.  It made evident the author of the event as God.  And it claimed this historic moment for all peoples – Gentiles and Jews alike.  At Epiphany the Light bursts forth to all nations and the prophecy is fulfilled.

We all share in the promise that has been revealed to us in the Epiphany.  We are called to change our hearts opening ourselves to salvation by following in the footsteps of that tiny child.  We are called to travel a different road – as the magi did when they left the baby Jesus – letting the light of Christ lead us forward.  As Vincentians, we become that light of Christ to those we serve when we come in humility and GRATITUDE for the opportunity to not only share Christ’s light with others, but to see that light shining forth from their souls.

Lord Jesus, allow us to have the courage to follow in your light, listening to your words and being guided by your heart.  Allow us to be the gift of love bringing light and hope into the lives of others.  Give us the capacity to offer ourselves, listening with compassion, serving with affection, and praying with sincerity that your glory may be evident as it shines brighter than any suffering we encounter.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike

January 1 – Holy Mary, Mother of God

 

“And Mary kept all of these things, reflecting on them in her heart!”  We hear this repeatedly throughout Luke’s gospel.  Her willingness to “hold all these things in her heart” – should be an example and an inspiration to all of us.  She was the consummate mother, taking to heart all that came to her and embracing the will of God completely and totally.  She reflected upon the events of her life.  She prayed for guidance.  She meditated on God’s will and always offered herself up as the handmaid of the Lord.  Her focus was always on the care of others.  Throughout the ages she has been a guiding light and beacon of hope.

As Vincentians, we are called to offer ourselves to others, embracing their challenges as our own.  We are called to embrace the challenges God brings before us, not questioning why but asking how?  We seek guidance in prayer and meditation, looking to our Mother Mary as our example of selfless love.  AS she offers hope to us, we offer hope to others.

Lord Jesus, allow us to embrace that which you bring before us, taking it into our hearts that we might embrace the challenges and pain of others as our own.  Let us come to you in humility through prayer and meditation seeking not only answers but understanding.  Give us the courage to  trust in you as Mary trusted in you.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike

December 25 – Christmas Day

 

In the quiet of a manger, in a far off land, far from the center of the universe is born a little baby boy.  He comes quietly under the cover of night to lift the darkness and reveal the light.   His birth would change our lives forever.  He did not do grand things – certainly not at first.  He simply was present to us, living with us, walking with us, playing with us and talking with us.  Thirty years in he began to preach and teach and heal and forgive.  He invited us to come along saying “come and follow me.”  But he never seemed to force things or try to fix things.  He was always – first and foremost – present.  As Vincentians, we can learn from this.

Sometimes the most important ministry we can engage in is the ministry of presence – simply being present and available to someone to let them know you care.  How often when we hear someone’s story is our first reaction to ‘fix them?’  But do we take the time to listen to hear their real needs?  And do we take the time to simply be present as Christ was present for us?

Lord Jesus, give us the patience to stop, listen and hear.  Give us the compassion to love and comfort.  Give us the courage to simply sit and be present.  May we too, through our presence to those we meet, give birth to new hope in their lives as you did in ours.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike

December 18 – Fourth Sunday in Advent

December 12 – Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

I am not sure we always fully appreciate the role of Joseph in salvation history.  Sometimes, he feels like the forgotten man to me.  Our gospel this week tells us he was a righteous man.  He had a good sense of right and wrong, he had moral principles, and he lived by them.  Imagine his surprise – and probably anger and hurt – when he found Mary to be pregnant.  Every fiber in his being told him what he needed to do as a righteous man.  He needed to divorce her quietly and move on.  But this was not God’s plan.  Keep in mind – Joseph had free will.  He could have said no.  He had to set aside his moral convictions – what everything he knew told him was the righteous course.  He had to accept God’s plan and God’s mercy even though it went against what his mind and heart likely told him to do.  Like Mary’s ‘yes’ before him; and the ‘yes’ from Jesus yet to come, his ‘yes’ opened the pathway for our salvation.  Mary and Jesus both submitted to God’s will in their ‘yes.’  Joseph also submitted, but had the added dimension of allowing God’s will for him to ‘override what he knew to be right’ and to create in himself a ‘new understanding’ of what was right guided by God’s mercy and love. 

As Vincentians, we are confronted on a regular basis with decisions in ministry that impact the lives of others.  It is easy to find ourselves conflicted when asked to give help when someone hasn’t made wise choices, doesn’t live as we might think they should, and we wonder if it really makes a difference.  How often I have found my sense of right and wrong seeping into my thoughts when extending assistance.  Like Joseph, we are asked to sometimes set aside our righteousness in favor of God’s mercy.  For it is not our mercy or compassion that we extend in our ministry.  We are but the vessel of God extending His mercy which is rooted not in righteousness but in acceptance, forgiveness, and unconditional love extended to each of His children based not on merit, but on grace.

Joseph – a righteous and good man – found the courage to set aside himself that God’s grace might pour over others whom he did not know.  In doing so, he changed our lives making God’s presence evident to each of us.  Having received God’s mercy and love in my life, how can I do any less?

Lord Jesus, thank you for your presence in my life.  Give me the courage to accept those whom you bring before me in my Vincentian ministry, setting aside my righteousness, making present to each person a reflection of your mercy and love. Allow me, like Joseph, to submit in total humility to your plans.  Allow me to be a vehicle for your grace and not an obstacle to it.  As we prepare for the coming of our Savior, let my heart be made into a welcoming home and a living tabernacle for your presence before others.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike

December 11 – Third Sunday in Advent December   8 – Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary   From Repent to Rejoice!  Guadete Sunday marks the turn in Advent from darkness to light.  From a focus on our challenges and the obstacles to an anticipation for the joy that is to come.  We hear in our readings, “be patient, make your hearts firm…do not complain about one another.”  We are to adopt an attitude of gratitude as our salvation becomes evident in the life of a baby boy soon to be born.  The gospel says “go and tell John what you hear and see…and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”  It is in the revelation of God through the life, actions and words of Jesus Christ that we and others are brought to believe.  That action and revelation did not stop with the death of Jesus but is carried on even today through the ministry he calls us to in SVdP.  You and I continue that revelation when we go out with patience and firmness of heart, not complaining, but proclaiming to all what we have seen and come to know about our Lord.  When we share and reflect His love and compassion, we make Him evident to all those we minister to.  This Advent, let us be reminded of God’s overwhelming love of each and every one of us, and most especially those who are in need.  Let us tell the world what we have come to know – showing the hope of Christ through how we live as Vincentians. Lord Jesus, we rejoice in the presence of your love.  Give us patience as our anticipation and excitement grows.  Set in our hearts a spirit of kindness and compassion. Allow us to proclaim to all your hope and salvation through the ministry we do.  Let the light that shines through in our service to others be the light of your love and the hope of your passion.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

December 4 – Second Sunday in Advent

 

Our second reading this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Specifically, it comes from the end of this letter in a section which speaks to the duties of Christians.  The line in this section actually comes just before the reading we hear for the day.  It says “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let each of us please our neighbor for the good, for building up.”  Jesus did not come and take on human form for his pleasure, but rather for the building up of the Kingdom of God.   Likewise, we who are blest (the strong) are called not just to help the weak but to put up with or tolerate their failings.  Just as Jesus did and does tolerate our failings again and again, we must do the same for others.

As Vincentians, we all understand the importance of ministering to those in need as our calling.  The challenge is to move beyond simply helping, but to do so in the face of failures returning again and again with patience, tolerance and mercy.  This is the pill that is hard to swallow but which allows us to put on Christ reflecting His love as He showed it to us.  In Advent, we focus on our journey to God and that journey requires that we move beyond our human emotions and reactions.  This is where sympathy moves to compassion, moves to mercy moves to holiness.  Let us prepare to be holy that God may shower us with His mercy and grace!

Lord Jesus, grant me patience, tolerance, forgiveness and mercy that I might reflect your love out to those we minister to.  Allow their presence, their humanness and frailties, their vulnerabilities and their failures to help me to see in them the very same in myself.  Allow them to see in me your face, your love, your sacrifice and your hope for the future.  Allow this Advent season to be transformational for me as a Vincentian and for those whom you bring before me as children of God.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike

November 27 – First Sunday in Advent November 24 – Thanksgiving Day   We begin again!  It is the cycle of the church.  Every year we get a fresh start.  In Advent, we look forward with great hope and anticipation for what is to come – the promises of the future.  No matter what we have done – how well or how bad – we have an opportunity to start again – fresh – and through no merit of our own.  This thought dwells in my mind and my heart every year as we enter Advent and the new liturgical calendar.  This year in particular as we come off the Year of Mercy – it strikes me that this is perhaps one of the most merciful acts of our Lord Jesus – that he willingly and lovingly lets us start again with no questions asked – no lingering strikes against us – every Advent, every time we go to confession, every time we say as the thief on the cross – “Jesus, remember me!” I must admit, that as a Vincentian, when I think of this, I cannot help but think of all the times I have questioned if this client or that one was really trying, if we should continue to help them, if it was really doing any good.  I wish I could say that I never look with judgement and that I always want to extend another chance – no questions asked.  My humanity hasn’t allowed me to get there yet though.  I keep trying each day – some days with more success than others. What I am forever grateful for this Thanksgiving, is that our Lord’s grace and mercy toward me is infinitely greater than mine is toward others at times, and that His mercy even makes up for the shortcomings of my own.  I pray each day that He may instill in me a greater sense of that mercy through our Vincentian work.   Lord Jesus, thank you for the grace of new opportunities.   ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom.’  Shower your mercy upon me that I might grow in humility, recognizing your presence and goodness in every person you bring into my life.  Give me the strength to extend forgiveness, mercy and love to all others.  Allow me the grace to extend to others love and mercy in the fashion you shower it upon me.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

November 20 – Our Lord Jesus Christ, King Of the Universe

We come to the end of the year – the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the end of the liturgical year.  It ends with finality as Jesus hangs on the cross between two others.  From there, hope springs forth from the greatest act of mercy ever – the loving sacrifice of the Father.  Not lost amidst this universal act of mercy is the singular act of mercy shown by Jesus to those crucified with him.  What is the difference between the two crucified with him?  One sees the hope of Jesus and the other does not.  Jesus is present to both.  He judges neither of them but offers his mercy and hope for all.  No matter what we have done before, in each moment Christ makes himself present to us in merciful love with hope for the future.  Through the crosses we bear in our lives he finds ways to make His hope apparent.  To those who see that hope and accept his mercy belongs the glory of heaven. As we end this Year of Mercy, we are grateful for those moments, when burdened by the crosses in our lives, Christ makes himself known and present to us that we may see the hope for the future.  As Vincentians, we may also be graced on occasion to be the face of that hope to those whom we serve.  We are honored and humbled for the opportunity to be the face of Christ to others.  Lord Jesus, your mercy washes over all for the salvation of the world.  Allow me the grace to recognize that mercy and hope when you come before me in my life.  Allow me to bear my crosses seeing in them the suffering you endured for me.  Give me humility to accept your invitation into eternal salvation.  Use me as your instrument in making your presence known to others.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

 

November 13 – Thirty Third Sunday Ordinary Time

  We officially end the Jubilee Year of Mercy on November 13th with the ‘closing’ of the Holy Doors at Cathedrals around the world, followed the following Sunday on November 20th by the closing of the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s in Rome.  It is a year in which we have been reminded that the core of the gospel message is two-fold – love and mercy.  They are intertwined and bring to us a merciful love given to us by the Lord freely and without condition.  Likewise, we are called to offer that which we receive.  Pope Francis, from the very beginning of his papacy, has called us to reach out in mercy particularly to those on the fringes of society.  He calls us to ‘encounter’ them.  For him, an encounter is about much more than simple assistance, but it is full on engagement that embraces those we encounter and leaves on us ‘the smell of the sheep.’  As Vincentian’s, this is the very challenge of our ministry.  If we wish to know the love of Christ, we must embrace it as Christ embraced us – fully, completely and mercifully.   It is in the encounter that we move beyond sympathy and compassion to a place of merciful love.  In that place, we find the holiness that we seek. As we close the Year of Mercy, perhaps we might use this closing as a springboard to a lifetime of Mercy, consciously searching out ways to not only minister to those on the fringes, but to encounter them and embrace them in merciful love.  Let the Corporal Works of Mercy inform and shape our daily lives.   Lord Jesus, allow me to encounter the poor in humility offering them merciful love.  Give me the courage to embrace the Corporal Works of Mercy on a daily basis.  Let this Year or Mercy instill in me a passion for seeking out those who are on the fringes of society that I might see the face if Christ.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen   Deacon Mike

Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts

 

November 6 – Thirty Second Sunday Ordinary Time

November 1–  All Saints Day

 

Jesus offers us hope in the resurrection.  Our hope is based on a deep faith and trust in a loving God as the Source and Goal of all living.  It is a confidence of one day experiencing something which is at present beyond our grasp.  Paul tells us throughout his letters the importance of preparing for this time.  He says in the second reading: “We are confident that what we instruct you, you are doing and will continue to do.”  What we are instructed to do is to follow Jesus in faith and total trust, accepting what he gives us and calls us to.

Our gospel this week offers us the opportunity to reflect upon the difficult teachings of Jesus and how well we embrace them and live them out in our lives.  For if we truly believe that the resurrection – which God gave to us as the ultimate reflection of his love for us – is our hope for eternity, then his other teachings – which we receive through the Liturgy of the Word – provide the doorway through which we realize that hope.  And the very being of Jesus – which we receive every time we celebrate the Eucharist – connects us completely to that hope driving us to a response which prepares us for the reality to come.

We realize the hope of the resurrection through the choices we make in this life.  How faithful are we to God? Are we more like the brothers in our first reading – willing to suffer and die, realizing the true hope of the resurrection? – Or are we more like the Sadducees, wanting to pick and choose our beliefs?

As Vincentians, as we confront difficult challenges in our own lives and the lives of others, we continually face the question – do you believe??

Do you believe in the need to care for others who are disenfranchised? 

Do you believe that you must love your enemies? 

Do you believe that whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted? 

Do you believe that we must forgive – truly forgive those who we do not want to forgive? 

Do you believe that everything we are and everything we have are gifts from God – and that we should return those gifts in gratitude?

Do you believe that the crosses we bear on earth will lead to rewards in heaven?

Do you believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist? 

Do you believe in our need to respond to that presence?

 

How do you honor these beliefs and live them out in daily life? Do you serve the poor without prejudice or judgement?  Do you find yourself able to look past the injustices of this world to the mercy of heaven?  Do you find yourself embracing those you serve in love and holding them at arm’s length?   The answer to these questions may be your best indicator of how fully you believe in the hope of the resurrection.

Lord Jesus, help my unbelief that I may come to believe, that I may come to trust, and that I may come to submit fully to your will for my life.  Allow me to share your love with all those I meet without judgement or prejudice.  Let mercy be my guide that it may also be my salvation.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike