Friday, October 13, 2017

My Fatima Experience

One hundred years ago today, something miraculous happened in Fatima, Portugal. I was blessed as a 14 year old boy in 1994, to be part of a youth pilgrimage to Fatima with Fr Robert Fox. This experience had a significant impact on my life.

The pilgrimage really deepened my faith and revealed to me how universal our Catholic Faith is. It was so powerful to be part of the massive gatherings of hundreds of thousands of people at the place that our Mother Mary appeared. Catholics from all parts of the world, all ages and walks of life, joined together in singing ‘Ave Maria’ and created a sea of candlelight. That is something that I will never forget—the faith displayed and unity—it was beautiful. As wonderful as these large gatherings were to be a part of, I think the more profound moments of the trip were in the quieter times where our group of young men prayed together. Even the way we joined each morning in a little chapel for morning prayers and song really touched me and I found myself making my parents faith my own.

Recently I found a short paper I wrote not long after my trip (no doubt as part of a school assignment) in which I gave a reporters style perspective of one of my roommates on the trip. Following is what I wrote.

On August 2, 1994 fifteen year old Michael Englert from Bartlett, Illinois, began a trip that would change his life forever. He traveled to a town in Portugal called Fatima.  It was here that in 1917 three shepherd children Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco, were visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She performed a miracle in which a large crowd that had gathered saw the sun dance then fall toward the earth before it returned to its regular place in the sky.  Father Robert Fox led Englert and a group of other young men on a pilgrimage to this sacred spot. The message he gave to the boys when they got there, "Don't pass through Fatima, let Fatima pass through you," echoed in Englert's mind as he glanced at the hilly, rocky landscape and noticed the houses with red tile roofing.

Englert's days began at 7:00am with his counselor knocking on the door of his hotel room and saying, "Praise be Jesus Christ!" Englert would reply, "Now and Forever!"  He had forty-five minutes to get washed up and off to Morning Prayers. Each day of his nine day pilgrimage had different outings planned, yet each day had routine meals, prayers, speakers, and free time.

A place Englert really liked was the Loca do Cabeco  where an angel appeared to three shepherd children. While touring the houses where children had lived he got to shake hands with Jacinta and Francisco's brother, John, who still lives in the Fatima area.

On the 12th of August Englert helped lead the procession at the Cova. There was a tremendous sea of light as thousands of people carrying candles prayed and sang to honor our Lady. "In Portugal, I consecrate myself to our Lady and  feel I can now help spread this message of Peace," said Englert, who whether or not he is called into the priesthood, believes that this pilgrimage has given him direction for his life.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Follow me"... today I'll try

"I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but the sinners." (From today gospel account of the calling of Matthew in MT 9:9-13)

I once heard a priest say that a good sermon, "Comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable." That is exactly what Jesus seems to be doing in todays gospel on the feast day of St Matthew who I was named after.

I always feel that I can relate to Matthew as I am sinner in need of great healing just as he was. His story gives me hope. The great physician wants to heal me and continues time and again to say, "Follow Me." Do I have the courage like my namesake to get up from the mess I am existing in and follow? Some days I feel that I want to but when I am honest, I still hold onto so many things that weigh me down. Conversion needs to be a daily decision to follow and live life for the Lord. We'll never make it on our own but Jesus longs to heal us and give us the peace our hearts desires. So let's take courage in the fact that we have a Savior who came for us, the sick. He dines with us, invites us to walk with him and heals our wounds.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Understanding the Beatitudes

The Beatitudes are a central part of Jesus' message but have have always been a bit mysterious to me. For some reason, I just can't visualize what they mean as well as I'd like. A while back I did some reading on and meditating on them during a holy hour and attempted to define what each one was asking of me. These questions are likely lacking and incomplete but putting them down helped me ponder and better understand Jesus' words...

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12):
3 " Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Am I detached from things of this world. Do I recognize my need for his mercy?

4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Do I morn for my sins and for injustices?

5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Do I restrain my anger and discouragement when things don't go well?

6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
Do I make the Lord's will my will and seek his kingdom and righteousness in my actions?

7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
Am I patient and understanding in bearing other's faults and charitable and generous as much as I can be?

8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Do I possess integrity at my core or do I have evil or lustful thoughts?

9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
Do I sow peace in the world ultimately by sharing the gospel so others can be reconciled with God and experience his peace?

10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Does my commitment to the gospel of Christ make me a target of the world?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Pride Smells Bad

Pride showed itself to me in the adoration chapel this morning. As I knelt their I smelt a repulsive smell coming from an older gentlemen that smelt like musty urine. "How awful," I thought, "That he comes here like that. Does he even know he smells bad," I wondered. 

Then it hit me that my soul stinks like that or even much worse. Jesus still wants me there and loves me. He still embraces me. Before I go thinking ill of people because of how they smell I need to look at myself in the mirror and realize God loves us in our imperfections. He won't wait till we are worthy to draw us to himself. The perfection He seeks is a completely humble heart. Perhaps today can be a step for me. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Who is Jesus to you?

Who is Jesus Christ to you (to me)? Who do I say He is with my life? I look at the monstrance and due to the reflection of light, am unable to see the host. Jesus is hidden to me. Other times I can see Him but do I know... do I see the true reality of who He is? Lord, give me eyes of Faith. Help me see who You really are and who You desire me to be today. Walk with me and lift me up to a higher more perfect existence in your love.