It was a beautiful Sunday morning. People were filling the church to its full capacity! As they entered, each were given a bulletin filled with announcements, topic of today’s sermon, what songs they would sing and who to pray for. At the end of the line stood an older man. His clothes were filthy and you could tell that he had not bathed in days. His face was covered with whiskers, for he had not shaved for a very long time. When he reached the usher, he removed his tattered old brown hat in respect. His hair was long, dirty, and a tangled mess. He had no shoes on his feet, and wore only soiled black socks to cover the sores upon his feet. The usher looked at him turning up his nose at the old man and said, “Uh, I’m sorry sir, but I’m afraid we can’t let you in. You will distract the congregation and we don’t allow anyone to disrupt our Mass. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave.” The old man looked down at himself and with a puzzled look on his face, he placed his old brown hat back upon his head and turned to leave. He was sad as he loved to hear the choir sing praises to the Lord. He loved to watch the little children get up in front of the church to sing their little songs. He carried in his pocket a small worn out prayer book and loved to see if the priest preached a passage from the Bible that he enjoyed. But he was respectful, and didn’t want to cause any commotion, so he hung down his head and walked back down the steps of the big brick church. He sat down on the brick wall near the edge of the church yard and strained to listen through closed doors and windows to the singing going on in the church. Oh how he wished he could be inside with all the others. A few minutes had passed by when all of a sudden a younger man came up behind him and sat down near him. He asked the old man what he was doing? He answered, “I was going to go to church today, but they thought I was to filthy, my clothes to old and worn, and they were afraid I would disrupt their Mass. Sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. My name is George.” The two men shook hands, and George couldn’t help but notice that this man had long hair like his. He wore a piece of cloth draped over his body tied with a royal purple sash. He had sandals on his feet, now covered with dust and dirt. The stranger touched George’s shoulder, and said: “George, don’t feel bad because they won’t let you in. My name is Jesus, and I’ve been trying to get into this same church for years — they won’t let me in either.”
“Where’s Angela?” I asked. The rest of our family was slumped on the living room couch. Everyone shrugged. Curious, I went in search of my sister. I checked each room of the house. When I finally found her, she was intensely focused on something. She looked up, revealing the object of her attention—her prayer book. I started to notice that Angela “disappeared” about the same time each day. I wondered how she found time to pray: Between college, friends and a part-time job. Angela’s one of the busiest people I know. So I asked her. “Well, every day I have to make the choice to spend time with God,” she said. “It’s not easy, but it’s worth it—prayer helps me to get to know God on my own, to have a real, personal friendship with him.” Angela had some great tips on how she formed her good habit. Here are eight of them. 1. Plan a prayer “appointment.” Write a specific time and location on your calendar, or in your planner. You might want to choose a time that corresponds with another daily activity: after you get up in the morning, right after school, or immediately after dinner. Try to avoid putting prayer off until the end of the day. “If I wait until bedtime, I usually end up skipping it because I fall asleep,” Angela says. 2. Choose your “tools”. Some basics include: i. A copy of the Bible or the New Testament; ii. A good prayer book; and iii. the Catechism – you can get a pocket-sized copy in any Catholic Book Shop. 3. Start with prayer.Ask God to keep you focused and to help you understand what you’re about to read. “Sometimes, my mind just starts to drift. I tell God I’ve set aside this time especially for him, and that I choose to focus on him,” Angela says. 4. Use your Bible and your Catechism. Even if you use a prayer book with verses printed in it, read the passages in your Bible or Catechism anyway. “Prove it to yourself that it’s really there,” Angela suggests. “It helps you to think of that verse as part of God’s Word, and not as just an excerpt from some random book.” Plus, you might spot another meaningful message from the Catechism that wasn’t included in the prayer book. 5. Read it until you get it. First, read verse by verse—read each verse several times until you understand what it is saying, then move on to the next one. Then, go back and read the entire passage, putting its meaning all together in your mind. Even if you’re familiar with a passage, try to read it like you’ve never seen it before—don’t skim over things. God might give you an understanding of something you’ve never noticed before. 6. Don’t just read about our faith—do what it says (James 1:22). Make a list of personal traits (patience, kindness) or spiritual goals (witnessing, prayer) you’d like to work on.Try to find ways to put your faith into action. 7. Make a commitment. On a piece of paper, write these words: “I commit to spend time with the Lord every day for the next month.” Sign your name and tape the paper somewhere in your bedroom where you can see it. 8. And finally number eight: Don’t give up. Let’s face it: There will be days when you skip prayers. Just try to keep it a high priority and do it whenever you can. “God is not going to abandon you if you don’t do a prayer one day—he knows what our days and commitments are like, and he knows our hearts,” Angela says. “Any time that you spend with God, he can use it to teach you and to grow your faith.”
Brother Hammer served as the chairman. The other members of the tool belt informed him that he must leave, because he was too noisy. But brother Hammer said, “If I have to leave this carpenter’s shop, then brother Gimlet must go too. He’s insignificant and makes a very small impression.” (A gimlet is a small tool with a screw point, grooved shank, and a cross handle for boring holes). Little brother Gimlet arose and said, “All right, but brother Screwdriver must go also. You have to turn him around and around to get anywhere with him.” Brother Screwdriver turned to the other tools in the belt and said, “If you wish, I will go, but brother Plane must leave too. All of his work is on the surface; there’s no depth to what he does.” To this brother Plane leveled his terse reply, “Well, then, brother Saw will have to depart too. The changes he proposes always cut too deep.” Brother Saw complained, saying, “Brother Ruler will have to withdraw if I leave, for he’s always measuring other folks as though he were the only one who is right.” Brother Ruler then surveyed the group and said, “Brother Sandpaper doesn’t belong here either. He’s rougher than he ought to be, and is always rubbing people the wrong way.” In the midst of the discussion, the Carpenter of Nazareth walked in. He had come to perform his day’s work. He put on His tool belt and went to the workbench to make a table for a family. He employed the ruler, the saw, the plane, the hammer, the gimlet, the screwdriver, the sandpaper, and all the other tools. When the day’s work was over, the wonderful table was finished, and the carpenter went home. All the accusations against each of these tools were absolutely true, yet the carpenter used every one of them. No matter which tool He use, no other tool could have done the work better.
Sarah-Leah Pimentel. “The fruitfulness of a seed depends, as we know from experience, on its natural ability to germinate, the quality of the soil and from outward factors – the sun, rain and wind. …What applies to the seed in nature can be applied to the seeds of our spirituality and a universal apostolate. The good earth they need is the natural and supernatural readiness to be generous, but above all, to be chaste and to love. Normally only those who are generous are capable [of living our spirituality]…Chastity is necessary according to the words of our Lord, Jesus Christ, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” The outward conditions for growth [which our spirituality needs] are all sorts and degrees of difficulties, continual inner and outward battles.” (Joseph Kentenich, 1954/55, Kentenich Reader Vol. II, p. 25) In Part 1, we reflected on how our spirituality is like a seed that has a natural ability to germinate when we are living according to God’s plan for our lives, following the natural rhythms of our unique personalities, character traits, the way we commune with God and relate to others. Continue reading “Lent: The Journey Of The Seed – Part 2”
Sarah-Leah Pimentel. Schoenstatt enters its first Lent of the new century. Lent is a time of new beginnings, of spiritual rebirth. Perhaps we can say the same for Schoenstatt. In 100 years, Schoenstatt has matured, relationships in the Covenant of Love have deepened, and it has travelled to many new shores – both physical and spiritual. However, as the Schoenstatt Family of the new millennium we shouldn’t be content only with our past achievements. In Schoenstatt’s second century, our Blessed Mother is asking us to go even further, calling us to even greater unity among ourselves and to bear abundant fruit for the Church and the world. So in many ways, we are like the new seed produced from the fruit of the parent plant. There would be no seed without the fruit. So too, Schoenstatt is a living force in our society today because of the sacrifices of many who yielded abundant fruit in the past. Over the next six weeks, I’d like to use Fr. Kentenich’s analogy of the spiritual life as a seed, reflecting both on our own spiritual lives, as well as the life of our Family: “The fruitfulness of a seed depends, as we know from experience, on its natural ability to germinate, the quality of the soil and from outward factors – the sun, rain and wind. …What applies to the seed in nature can be applied to the seeds of our spirituality and a universal apostolate. The good earth they need is the natural and supernatural readiness to be generous, but above all, to be chaste and to love. Normally only those who are generous are capable [of living our spirituality]…Chastity is necessary according to the words of our Lord, Jesus Christ, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” The outward conditions for growth [which our spirituality needs] are all sorts and degrees of difficulties, continual inner and outward battles.” (Joseph Kentenich, 1954/55, Kentenich Reader Vol. II, p. 25) Continue reading “Lent: The Journey Of The Seed – Part 1”
Rap artist Legin exploded onto the music scene in 2009, winning the best male rap artist at the Youth Gospel Entertainment awards. His distinctive rhymes interweave past pains with his restored faith in God. To his friends and family, he is simply known as Nigel Anderson. Growing up, Nigel was always in church, but his home life was far from peaceful. “My father was an alcoholic, he ended up getting addicted to drugs and some hard stuff, and my mother would shelter me from that stuff. I was never really exposed to those things, but he would come home drunk, high, and she was getting emotional abused because of that. She was trying to work her hardest to save her marriage. She stuck by him, but he just made a decision to stay with those things.” Despite her efforts to help, his mother decided to leave. Over the next 15 years, Nigel rarely saw his father. Anger and bitterness against began to build. “Most people that know me would say I was a good guy, good reputation, kind of chill, but on the inside, I was dying man. I was hurting. I was so hurt by dad not caring enough to be a man, I was like, ‘Whatever, I’m just going to do what I want to do.’ I had some sort of control over my life when I was doing what I wanted to do all the time.” One day, he received a surprise letter from his father inviting him to lunch. “I don’t know what I was going to do, but I know I wanted to cause him some pain. I wanted him to feel what I had been feeling for 15 years. I wanted him to suffer some. I remember walking up behind him to go meet this man who had caused me so much pain. At first it was like tears in my eyes and then it turned to anger. This was payback time. When I walk up to this man, I’m just going to punch him in the face. I touched him and he turned around. I saw a man in his 50s that looked like he was 80. He just said he was sorry. All that anger just turned to pity immediately. I said, ‘Dad, I forgive you.’ The beautiful thing about that moment was that was for the first time that I think I’d ever felt somebody else experience freedom.” A few months later his father passed away. Nigel began to ponder what happens after death. He began to seek God for answers. “I decided to know who this God guy was. I just cried out to Him and I told Him, ‘I need You. If You’re really there, I need You to talk to me.’ The funny thing is He began to talk back to me in my heart and prove who He was.” Nigel surrendering his life to God. Opportunities for music began to open up. “Doors opened. The Lord connected me with people. I met great people. I get to see God do for someone else what He did for me.” Nigel married and is expecting his first child. He says, “Without having a natural father, I know I am going to be a good father to my child because God’s been a good father to me.”
A woman came out of her house and saw three old men with long white beards sitting in her front yard. She did not recognize them. She said “I don’t think I know you, but you must be hungry. Please come in and have something to eat.” “Is the man of the house home?”, they asked. “No”, she said. “He’s out.” “Then we cannot come in”, they replied. In the evening when her husband came home, she told him what had happened. “Go tell them I am home and invite them in!” The woman went out and invited the men in. “We do not go into a House together,” they replied. “Why is that?” she wanted to know. One of the old men explained: “His name is Wealth,” he said pointing to one of his friends, and said pointing to another one, “He is Success, and I am Love.” Then he added, “Now go in and discuss with your husband which one of us you want in your home.” The woman went in and told her husband what was said. Her husband was overjoyed. “How nice!!”, he said. “Since that is the case, let us invite Wealth. Let him come and fill our home with wealth!” His wife disagreed. “My dear, why don’t we invite Success?” Their daughter-in-law was listening from the other corner of the house. She jumped in with her own suggestion: “Would it not be better to invite Love? Our home will then be filled with love!” “Let us heed our daughter-in-law’s advice,” said the husband to his wife. “Go out and invite Love to be our guest.” The woman went out and asked the three old men, “Which one of you is Love? Please come in and be our guest.” Love got up and started walking toward the house. The other two also got up and followed him. Surprised, the lady asked Wealth and Success: “I only invited Love, Why are you coming in?” The old men replied together: “If you had invited Wealth or Success, the other two of us would’ve stayed out, but since you invited Love, wherever He goes, we go with him. Wherever there is Love, there is also Wealth and Success!”