Our Votive Offerings

After Christmas break I returned back to the parish house where I live to relax a little before the semester was to start.  I sat down to watch some T.V. with a fellow housemate when we heard the doorbell ring.

Reluctantly, I walked down the long hallway to the front door.  Our “no soliciting” sign does not get read much, so I peeked through the blinds to see a young lady turned to the street calling to someone in a truck.  I opened the door expecting her to spill a story about needing some money.  Instead I was greeted with, “Is the Garden Chapel open?  I want to light a candle for my father.”  I looked past her to the Chapel door.  I regret my reply, “I’m sorry.  It isn’t open.” She quickly turned and walked away in tears.

A week later, four of us seminarians were driving back to the parish house from the Seminary. We had the windows down in the van taking in the beautiful weather that blessed us that winter day.  We pulled up to a red light and a man on a Harley Davidson motorcycle greeted us with a stare and a smile.  I think each of us, all in our clerics, separately looked over at him and nodded in respect.  What came next was his request, “Next time you go to church, light a candle for me.”  All of us turned in astonishment and happily replied, “Certainly!”
I recently thought about these two people when I visited home during the spring.  I noticed that not a lot of people light votive candles anymore.  Why not?  What is a candle to do anyway? The votive candle is a symbol of our light coming before God by an intercessor and offering our prayer to him.  The light stands vigil as a witness with the intercessor.  In a way, it is representative of us and our desire to stay before God in prayer and petition.  In our busy days we often do not have the time to spend hours before the Lord in prayer, so that becomes the candle’s significance.  I am not recommending that this become your alternative to other prayer, but sometimes it is tough to always remember certain people in intercessory prayer.  Light a candle for those you have promised to pray for but may have forgotten their intention.   In the recent mess that our nation is in, light a candle for the conversion of sinners.  This is your silent prayer being offered up to our God.

Both the woman and the man above had their petitions offered to the Lord. Unbeknownst to that woman I lit a candle for her and her father praying for their peace.  Remember that there is a constant flame in your heart desiring to be near to God.  You too are a living votive candle by the light of your baptism.  Be that witness of God’s love to everyone.

The Sacrifice Continues

By Seminarian Kyle Berens

We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh, for if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Rm, 9:12-13). 

We were not put upon this earth to seek out the highest physical pleasures; these are the way of death.  We were not sent here to earth to increase pleasure and decrease the pain of our bodies for we are fallen and in need of grace.  Christ our supreme exemplar has shown us the way to salvation; it is through the Cross! 

Even Christ Himself was made perfect through what He suffered (Heb 5:8-9).  Now is the time to discipline our bodies so that we may finish the race and win for ourselves not a perishable crown, but one imperishable (1 Cor 9:23-27).  We have been invited by Holy Mother Church to take upon ourselves fasting, abstinence and almsgiving so as to sacrifice and submit ourselves to God the Father.  Now that we have come to the end of the Holy season of Lent, do we cast off sacrifice and set it aside till next year?  Christ says "take up your cross daily and follow me," not just during lent. Let us reflect and see if we have run so as to win or if we have run so as to ‘get by’. 

Have we planned to continue any of our disciplines of Lent?  Have we sought God more each day through prayer, sacrifice and gift of self to others?  Have we ‘put off the deeds of the flesh and put on the deeds of the Spirit’?  The purpose of self-sacrifice is to prepare for what is to come; the scandal of the Cross and the glory of Christ’s Resurrection.  Are we ready?  May we work with full attention as we continue into the rest of the liturgical year to truly prepare ourselves!  Let us run so as to win the race; let us discipline our bodies and give up the constant distractions of cell phones, TVs, IPODs, and whatever else may keeping us from hearing God’s call!  Let us pummel our bodies so as to live in the Spirit. 

May God the Eternal Father in Heaven Who so loved us so as to give us His only Son bless and protect us; May He strengthen us in all our deeds so as to finish the race and win the imperishable crown of glory!  Let us take a long hard look at continuing our Lenten sacrifices and ask ourselves: have I truly been walking the way of the Cross with Christ, or have I thrown down my cross and left the Way for fear of what it may cost?

Call to Holiness

In this age of thousands of “self-help” books and people telling us how to be happy in so many different ways, I want to admonish us all, especially as Catholics, to turn to the ONE true Book which will help each of us become our True Self, as God intends.  I am inspired to write about this subject because of 3 certain passages from the Bible which have not only confirmed my vocation to the priesthood, but more importantly my vocation to holiness (to which we are all called!). 

The first verse is from Leviticus 11:44 where God tells Moses to tell the Israelites, “Be Holy, as I am Holy”.  The second verse comes from 1 John 4:8 “God is Love.”  The third verse is from Luke 1:44 “Let it be done to me according to your word.”  First, God calls (vocation) each of us to be Holy; He calls each of us to be Saints!  This can be found throughout the Bible, early Church fathers and in Lumen Gentium (Vatican II document Chapter V).  This call to holiness is intimately linked to our call or vocation in life.  This is why the Church, in Her infinite wisdom, puts so many resources into helping young people discern God’s call in their life.  One cannot be truly happy unless they are doing the Will of God.  His Will, as Leviticus tell us, is to be Holy! 

Secondly, God is love.  Pope Benedict recently wrote an encyclical speaking about this very mystery.  Yet, my focus is on the fact that it is because of God’s unconditional love that we can be assured of our call to be holy and our eventual sanctity.  God thirsts for our presence with Him in heaven.  He has prepared a place for us; not for us to get there after a long period of waiting but to die holy and completely in service to Him and immediately know Him and be with Him.  He loves us more than we can ever imagine. 

Finally, the key to becoming holy is nothing but, with Mary, saying our fiat (Latin, let it be done).  In the Gospel of Luke, Mary exclaims after God reveals His plan to her, “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.  Let it be done to me according to your word!”  We, along with Mary must constantly, at every moment of every day, say to God, “Let it be done to me according to Your will, O God!”  Say “yes” to His call in every moment and He will give you all that you require because He loves you, and he thirsts for your love in return.  So, be assured that God not only wants you to be Holy but expects it of you.  This should not be seen as a burden, so to speak, but a privilege and a great grace (which it is).  So, begin now…say your “fiat” with Mary and let God work His abundant graces in your heart at this very moment! 

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on us.  Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for us.  God Bless!

In Christ,
Kyle Berens

If God Should Call One of Your Sons or Daughters

God has blessed your marriage and given you children…. If the Divine Master comes and asks for “His part”—one of your children, whom He has called to be a priest, a religious or a nun—what will you do? What will become of the holy inspirations that have spoken to their hearts, and His voice whispering to them: “Do you love Me? Will you follow Me?” In God’s name I beg you not to stifle in their souls their openness to the Divine Call. How deep will your Christian spirit really be if you back away from the honor of cooperating and helping in the work of spreading the Faith and the Catholic Church not merely with material help but also with the very precious gift of your children that God is asking of you? Dear married couples, help the Church, the Spouse of Christ; help Christ, the Savior of men, with the fruit of your marriage. Give God the portion of your blessing He is asking for out of your home.

Pope Pius XII, March 25, 1942