Tag Archives: Divine Mercy

Join Me in Rome in June!

 

Rome Pilgrimage 2014

Rome Pilgrimage 2014

If you could not attend the canonizations, there is still an opportunity to go to Rome and visit the Shrines of our newest Saints: John XXIII and John Paul II–as well as being with POPE FRANCIS and the Catholic Conference at Olympic Stadium. Join me to Rome, Assisi and San Giovanni Rotundo from May 30 to June 11. Book NOW! www.selectinternationaltours.com or call 800-842-4842 DON’T MISS THIS!!!

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New Look for Vocation Boom!

Check out the new look for the Vocation Boom! website, voted the number one vocation website by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops! If you or someone you know or love is thinking about the priesthood, this is the place to go!

Vocation Boom!

Vocation Boom! was founded by my good friend Jerry Usher. Maintaining a deep love of the priesthood and a desire to promote vocations, Jerry created and launched Vocation Boom in 2009. I am truly honored to serve on the Vocation Boom! Board of Advisors.

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Imagine Sisters Announces One Rose Project

Please support our young, vibrant, faithful Catholic sisters!

Psalm 115:1,

Deacon Harold

—————————————————————–

For Immediate Release

Imagine Sisters Announces One Rose Project

CHICAGO, Ill.–September 15, 2012 – Imagine Sisters, a new online organization founded to be the nexus for media and information about discerning a vocation as a Catholic Religious Sister, will launch its first viral vocation initiative, The One Rose Project, on October 1, 2012.

The One Rose Project invites Catholics around the globe to reach out to young women they know, personally inviting them to consider that God may be calling them to be a Religious Sister.

The campaign promotes a personal encounter on October 1, 2012–the feast of St. Therese of Liseux. Participants will invite the young woman they know to consider a call to consecrated Religious Life by giving her a single rose in the spiritual legacy of St. Therese.
Imagine Sisters has received substantial testimony that a personal invitation is incredibly powerful for young women who are open to a religious vocation. Imagine Sisters asks for prayers that this invitation will be used by God to plant the seeds of religious vocations among young women, blessing the Church with many new religious sisters.

The One Rose Project can be easily shared through social media networks, personal blogs and speaking engagements. Imagine Sisters has created a short video explaining the project, and encourages supporters to share this video as the primary means of transmitting the message virally.

In the spirit of The New Evangelization, Imagine Sisters embraces social and visual media to passionately propose the possibility of becoming a religious sister in the world today. Through the grace of God, the Imagine Sister website and Facebook interact with over 100,000 individuals each week, effectively working through the new media to reach young women around the world.

The short video may be found at the following address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPxYW4HiHsc

The Imagine Sisters website can be found at http://imaginesisters.org

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Discovering God’s Mercy and Will

Earlier this week, I received an email from a woman who recently broke-up with her fiancé.  She wrote, “I was accepting it as God’s will.  However, a friend told me that God doesn’t micromanage the world … He just wants me to be happy with whatever that may be.  That confused me so much … it’s almost easier for me to think that my breakup was God’s will.  Can you give me any insight to what it means to do God’s will? What is God’s will?”

I replied, “Ultimately, God’s will is not about a single person or a moment in time but our entire life.  God seeks intimate, personal, loving and life-giving communion with us, and the fulfillment of His will comes when we unreservedly seek the same kind of relationship with Him.  This is not about emotion or feelings but the mysterious encounter with the Living God in everyday life, even in the midst of pain and suffering.  When you pray, ask God that His holy will be done in your life always and at all times, and let His will unfold.  Don’t try to find God’s will under every rock.  If you are patient, His Will will become clear.”

Sometimes it’s not easy to know and to do God’s will.  We know that we need to pray but so often struggle to maintain an active and fruitful prayer life amidst the busyness and chaos of the world around us.  We know that God calls us to live according to His law and His truth, yet we struggle every day to say “yes” to God: to end bad habits and vices, to break the cycle of physical and emotional abuse, to control addiction and sinful desires.  Sometimes our weakness overwhelms us and the Cross feels so heavy that we buckle under its weight.  Yet, it is when we are down that the Lord lifts us up, it is when we’re not looking that the Lord seeks and finds us, it is when we are weak that Christ is strong!

This joyous season of Easter, when we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death and the outpouring of the Heavenly Father’s limitless mercy, is a time to seek forgiveness, a time for strengthening our relationship with Christ, a time to be open to the Holy Spirit, a time to reflect on the meaning and purpose of our lives.  Prayer—particularly the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy—as well as fasting opens our eyes and urges us to peer into the darkness of our spiritual poverty and pain—to come face-to-face with those desires within us that seek to separate us from Christ and His Church.  This is the time when we build up the courage to kick Satan to the curb and turn toward the voice of the Lord who calls us to life!

In order to hear the Lord calling us, we must do what the devil does not want us to do: acknowledge that we have turned away from God, then turn ourselves toward Him once more—to experience a deep conversion and a profound transformation of our hearts.  The Lord God—speaking His Word through the prophet Joel—shows us exactly how to do this: “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.  For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Joel 2:13).

The psalms give us the example of David who sought God’s mercy and forgiveness through his own conversion after his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, “My offenses, truly I know them.  My sin is always before me.  Against you, you alone have I sinned.  What is evil in your sight I have done” (Psalm 51:5-6).  Armed with the weapons of prayer and the sacraments, we “rend our hearts” turning back to our gracious and merciful God.  Yet we do not repent in order to be rewarded by God but to show our love and dedication to His Son; to show the world that our faith is a gift to be given and shared.

sign posts

Our Lord told Saint Faustina of the mercy He wants to give to the world, if only we will believe in His love.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that we are often lukewarm at best.  Sunday after Sunday we hear the Word of God and receive our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist and yet we walk away, for the most part, unchanged knowing full well that Christ is calling us to change our lives, to become one with Him, which means we must reject popular opinion and the ways of the world.  We allow ourselves just enough faith to be comfortable until that faith calls us to stand-up for the truth that makes us uncomfortable.  Then, like the Apostles, we lock the doors of our minds and hearts, cowering in the fear of being rejected and unpopular.

This is the depth of the love and mercy that God the Father has for us: His Son endured the cross, carrying the weight of our sins on his shoulders.  In His tremendous suffering, He was allowed to experience alienation from God and endured death, the ultimate consequence of sin.  But by His resurrection, Christ has conquered sin; He has triumphed over death and has shattered the gates of Hell.  To be one with Him, we must be willing to enter into and share in the sufferings of Christ, to become living witnesses of the Eucharistic Lord; to truly become what we receive.

Here is the bottom line: God’s love is so immense, its power so limitless, and its embrace so tender and intimate, that Love Himself brings forth life.  God has created us in His image and likeness, has written His law of love and life into our very being, and has allowed us to share in His very life.  God invites us through His Only Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to draw deeply from the wellspring of salvation.  He invites us in the sacraments, most especially in Reconciliation and the Eucharist, to unite ourselves to Him in the deepest and greatest possible way.  He calls us to works of mercy to show that we love Him as much as He loves us.

Living in the heart of God’s divine mercy and will unites us with the Cross of Christ where we offer everything we have and everything we are in loving sacrifice to our heavenly Father in fulfillment of His Will.  As we carry our Cross along the way—as our shoulders bear the burdens of this life—let us cry out to God without fear and say, “Save me, O God, for the waters have risen to my neck.  I have entered the waters of the deep and the waves overwhelm me” (Psalm 69:1-2).  Yet we know that God, in His great love, will turn toward us with compassion—that He will open His heart and redeem us.  And when the day of rejoicing comes, let us praise God with the angels and saints, and sing with joy: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; for His love endures forever” (Psalm 118:29).

©2012 Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers

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Wisdom, Be Attentive!

On a flight from Minneapolis to Portland earlier this year, I sat next to an airline pilot who was making his way home to Alaska.  We struck-up a conversation and, after the usual pleasantries and small talk, began talking about our families.  We spent a lot of time discussing the joys and tribulations of marriage and family life.  Since my wife Colleen and I are entering the teenage years with our oldest daughter, I was particularly interested in hearing about any challenges he and his wife faced with their daughter when she was in high school.

My new friend smiled and related the following story.  “Thankfully, we only had one incident during her freshman year in high school.  She called us after school one Friday and asked permission to stay at a friend’s house for the night.  We trusted our daughter and we knew the girl she would be staying with and her parents, so my wife and I consented to her request.

“Later that evening, we realized that we never made arrangements to pick her up, so I called the parents of the friend she was staying with.  The dad on the other line sounded surprised and said that my daughter wasn’t there and, in fact, that his daughter asked permission to stay at our house for the night!  I was very disappointed and knew exactly what was going on: there was a party somewhere and both girls were at it.

“Taking advantage of social networking, it didn’t take me long to find the party house.  I drove there and waited on the sidewalk near the walkway leading to the front door.  I stopped someone going into the party and asked them to tell my daughter to come outside.  Less than a minute later, she poked her head out the door and saw me standing there.  With a look of shock, surprise and fear on her face, she slowly came over to me.  I said to her, ‘You have two minutes to say goodbye to your friends, get your coat, and come back outside.  If you are not here in two minutes, I’m coming in after you.’

“Two minutes later, my daughter was out of the house and in the car.  I didn’t say a word to her the entire drive home.  When we arrived at the house, I told her to go to her room and that I would be there in a minute.  After debriefing my wife, I went to speak with my daughter.  I spoke to her in a calm and measured tone, not in anger, but with all seriousness.  I told her how much I loved her and what upset me more than anything was not my worrying about her doing drugs or having sex or drinking alcohol (which I knew she wouldn’t do), but that she violated my trust in her by lying to me and her mother.  It felt like she stabbed me in the heart.  When I told her that, she cried and hugged me, said she was sorry and told me that she would never do anything to destroy my trust in her again.  And you know what … she kept her promise!”

This man’s daughter was at an age where teenagers think they know more than their parents, and some teens may even think that their parents are stupid.  Needless to say, these years can be a very anxious and stressful time in the family.  But this father was not stupid at all!  He showed true wisdom in dealing with his daughter’s situation—a spiritual wisdom that came from a lifetime of love, experience and maturity rooted within an ever-deepening relationship with the living God in union with the Father’s will for his life.

He showed wisdom by not going directly into the party house and embarrassing his daughter in front of her friends.  He showed wisdom by not speaking to his daughter on the ride home so she could have time to process the seriousness of the situation.  He showed wisdom by not yelling and screaming at his daughter in anger but reinforcing his love for her and emphasizing the hurt that she caused to their relationship.

When the Lord God appeared to Solomon—the teenage son of the great King David—in a dream by night, God said, “Ask what I shall give you” (1 Kings 3:5).  By baptism we are adopted sons and daughters of Our Heavenly Father and, therefore, brothers and sisters of Jesus, the Son of David.  Now imagine if the Lord visited you and said that He would grant your heart’s desire … what would you ask for?  My guess is that many of us—if we are honest—would respond like the airline pilot’s daughter; our thoughts would turn inward toward the self, towards the gratification of some passing desire or material possession that we think will bring us happiness.  We convince ourselves that the possessions we are asking for from the Lord are the result of an intelligent decision and not concupiscence, which is the sinful inclination toward sin and evil that fulfill the desires of the flesh over the spirit.

We should learn from the example of Solomon, who was mature enough to admit that he didn’t know all the answers (cf. 1 Kings 3:7) and humble enough to ask the Lord to help him distinguish right from wrong (“Give thy servant therefore an understanding heart to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil …” 1 Kings 3:9).  In this context, the “heart” is not to be understood as the organ in your chest but the center of the human person where the conscience, intellect and emotions are found.  It is the seat of the will: the “heart” is the place where the desire for God resides.  Solomon knew that he should ask for wisdom because of the example of his father, David, who prayed to God, saying, “Teach me discernment and knowledge, for I trust in your commands […] The law from your mouth means more to me than silver and gold […] I take delight in your promise like one who finds a treasure.  The lovers of your law have great peace; they never stumble” (cf. Psalm 119:66, 72, 162, 165).

In Matthew’s gospel (see Matthew 13:44-52), our Lord Jesus, a descendent of Solomon and David, shows the people of Israel that genuine wisdom and knowledge, true happiness, and lasting peace comes when we seek God first above all else!  David taught Solomon the same lesson that the pilot tried to teach his daughter and that Christ is trying to teach us every day of our lives: (1) that eternal life forever in heaven is the fruit of faithfulness to God and not to the world, (2) that wisdom is a gift of God and He bestows it on those who pray for it, (3) that the Lord God of Israel protects those who are faithful to Him, and (4) that the Lord alone is God and that we must “go and sell all that we have” and “throw away what is bad”—we must rid ourselves of everything that is not of and for God so that, at the end of our life, we may be counted among the righteous who possess the treasure, the pearl of great price and not among the wicked who worship of idols of this world, where we children of God act like recalcitrant teenagers who think our Father in heaven is foolish and stupid. When we act in this way, we violate God’s trust in us and stab Him in the heart with our sins.  If we persist in our sinful arrogance, without discerning the Spirit of Wisdom, we will end up exactly where we deserve: in the “fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (cf. Matthew 13:42).

My brothers and sisters in Christ, because Solomon sought Wisdom above all else, God not only granted his desire but also bestowed riches and honor upon him (cf. 1 Kings 3:11-13).  God will always give us more than what we ask for if we live in communion with His life and holy will.  Satan will try to destroy our relationship with God and we must use Wisdom to discern the devil’s tactics, to recognize his presence and to ignore his temptations to be hateful, unforgiving, jealous, greedy, ambitious for worldly things, hard-hearted, and proud.  It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects love, and promotes the practice of virtue to the highest degree.  We must stay very close to the Holy Spirit, in order to have both light and strength to discern good from evil, right from wrong, the human spirit from the Holy Spirit.  We need to be detached from our old way of thinking in order to be open to the quiet inspirations of the Holy Spirit.  Only then will we, like Solomon, be able to recognize what God is saying to us and what He desires of us so that we can keep our promises to Him.  “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:43).

©2011 Aurem Cordis and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers

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No Turning Back

A review of the book, No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC.

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you (1 Peter 5:6).

“That guy’s a priest?”

This is what my awe-struck father whispered to me as we listened to Father Donald Calloway, MIC share his conversion story at a men’s conference in Portland, Oregon.

“Yes, Pop, he is,” I answered.

“He’s worse than me!” my father retorted.

I laughed … hard!

Let me explain.

My father would not have won any “Father of the Year” awards while my siblings and I were growing-up.  My dad was not a religious man but a pagan who never went to church.  He had three loves in his life: alcohol, cigarettes, and women.  You can imagine what life was like in our house.

I remember the day my relationship with my father went from bad to non-existent.  When I informed him of my decision to join the Benedictines, he was not only disappointed—he was angry.  What he said went something like this: “You’re going to do what!?”  He then reminded me:  “You are the first person in the family to go to college.  I spent all that money sending you to one of the best universities in the country.  You studied economics and business, and instead of making something of yourself, you are going to waste your life in that monastery living with a bunch of men?  What’s wrong with you?  What I am supposed to tell my friends?”  I won’t repeat what I said to him, but on that day he became like Lazarus in the tomb: he was dead to me.

Eighteen years later, Jesus reminded me that he raised Lazarus from the dead.

After not having a meaningful relationship for most of my life with the man who destroyed our family, I met with my father after he claimed to “find Jesus.”  During our time together, I did not hear words of sorrow and repentance for his many sins and transgressions, words I so longed to hear from him.  Instead, this talented and gifted musician who was lost and now found, who only now—after seventy-four years—came to faith in Jesus, showed me the meaning of fatherhood by his example when he sang this song:

“O Lord, sweet Jesus, have mercy on me.  My eyes were wide open, yet I failed to see.  Dear Lord, I beg you have mercy; please, have mercy on me.  I am so sorry.  Lord, forgive me.  Please show me the way.  I can’t go on living this life without you.  Sweet Jesus, please tell me what to do.  Lord, I’m depending on you.  I want to live a life that’s honest and true.  I will let nothing stand in my way.  Sweet Jesus, please hear my prayer.  O Lord, teach me how to pray, I beg you, because at times I know not what to say but when I think of Calvary I know my Jesus loves me.  Dear Lord, I beg you have mercy.”

As my eyes filled with tears, I asked my father, “What happened to you?  How is this possible?”  What he said next left me in stunned silence and awe: “The Blessed Mother and Divine Mercy.”

You’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with No Turning Back?”  In a word: everything!  The true story that I related about my father pales in comparison to the absolutely incredible—almost unbelievable—conversion story of Father Donald Calloway, a boy on the road to an early grave who has become, in my opinion, one of the greatest priests of our time.

The first ten chapters of No Turning Back are a jaw-dropping, heart-pounding thrill ride filled with tales of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.  The second half of the book is a beautiful, Spirit-inspired testimony to both the awesome power of God’s grace and mercy, and to the efficacious mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Its an amazing dichotomy but that’s what makes No Turning Back so compelling: we all know someone who we think is a “lost cause,” someone who has no faith, no morals, no conscience; who could care less about their life or anyone else’s; who has zero sense of dignity and self-worth and who, quite frankly, would be better off in jail … or worse.  We have given-up on them because they have given-up on themselves.  This was the young Donald Calloway.  He writes:

“[…] I was living exactly the life I wanted to lead.  I believed that the hallucinogens were enriching my life, allowing me to experience a whole different dimension of thinking […] There were times that I did so much LSD that everyone looked like and moved like a turtle.  In those days, I was so stoned out of my mind that I don’t even know how I sustained life” (page 117).

And after discovering the richness, beauty, and truth of the Catholic faith through the Blessed Mother and Divine Mercy, he writes,

“Mixed with my prayers was a sense of gratitude and humility.  I know where I was when Mary found me and brought me to the feet of her Son, Jesus.  I even said to Our Lady on one occasion: ‘Mother, you have called me to this [the Catholic faith] and I know that it is because of you that I know the real Jesus.  And I am totally willing to lay down my life and be a victim with him because I should be dead.  I don’t deserve to live, yet I know the fullness of truth has been revealed to me’” (page 186).

This book is an absolute must read for every teen who is enticed by the lure of the culture, especially teens in crisis: for teens who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, and sex; for teens who are gang involved or incarcerated, and for all those who love them and dedicate their lives to making a difference.

This book should be required reading for everyone who believes there is no God or that the Catholic faith is a bunch of superstitious nonsense, or who think there is an absolute disconnect between faith in God and the lived experience.  No Turning Back reminds us that God is real and that, if we have the courage to seek the Truth with an open mind and heart (cf. John 14:6), we will be swept away by a tidal wave of divine love and into the ocean of the Father’s inexhaustible mercy where we will the ride the wave of life in safety and without fear, for “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

I fully endorse and highly recommend Father Calloway’s book, No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy!  I am indebted to Father Calloway for his humility in sharing his story of God’s incredible power, love and mercy—a story that has significantly affected my own father’s life and the life of our family.

But the story doesn’t end with his ordination to the priesthood.  The last chapter of the book is entitled, “Ongoing Conversion.”  Father Calloway, a holy priest who has written a stellar and moving autobiography, and who travels the world speaking about the Catholic faith, is not arrogant enough to think that he has “made it.”  On the contrary, he asks his readers to pray for him (“I want to be holy, but it’s a spiritual battle,” page 262).  Father Calloway knows all too well that he (and all of us) must

“Be sober, be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you” (1 Peter 5:8-10).

There is a powerful lesson here.  The virtue of hope flows from a dynamic relationship with the Living God in humble obedience to the voice of the Holy Spirit, for “the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:27-28).  “Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present … even if it is arduous” (Spe Salvi, 1).

This reality transformed Father Calloway’s life and can transform our lives as well, for nothing is impossible with God.

©2011 Aurem Cordis and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers

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It Doesn’t End Here

A review of the book, It Doesn’t End Here: An Amazing Journey of Faith and Forgiveness by Dawn Marie Roeder

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (Saint Thérèse of Lisieux).

“When we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or ‘out of the depths’ of a humble and contrite heart?  He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer, only when we humbly acknowledge that ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought,’ are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2559).

It Doesn’t End Here is an amazing story of faith, mercy, perseverance and prayer in the midst of an incredibly heartbreaking tragedy.  From the depths of a heart torn open by grief, and from a soul-searching for the purpose and meaning of God’s will in the midst of intense suffering, Dawn Marie Roeder shares her remarkable faith journey following the death of her son, Nathaniel.  In fact, It Doesn’t End Here is as much a tribute to the life and memory of Nathaniel as it is about seeking justice from those indirectly responsible for his death.

The narrative itself is gripping and compelling, and in many instances you actually feel the emotions (I felt anger, sadness, and joy) welling-up inside of you as Dawn tells her story.  What had the biggest impact on me, however, was how Dawn Marie responds in faith to all that is happening to her.  Drawing strength and inspiration from Almighty God, the saints (particularly the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux), and from an incredibly supportive network of friends, Dawn Marie responds courageously to Christ’s call to true discipleship by picking-up her Cross and following Him (cf. Matthew 16:24).  In sharing her gift of vulnerability in imitation of Jesus (“I have been crucified with Christ”, Galatians 2:20) and the Mother of God (“And a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed”, Luke 2:35), Dawn Marie’s ability to forgive flows from a life that personifies the power of prayer and trust in God’s divine providence and holy will.

The life lessons learned from this book are invaluable!  As I read and reflected on It Doesn’t End Here, three Bible verses came to mind that speak to the contemporary experience of and the intimate relationship between suffering and forgiveness. These verses serve as threads that are intricately woven throughout the fabric of this marvelous book:

(1) The awesome challenge of Jesus’ words in the Gospel, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15);

(2) The famous line from the Book of Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord … Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 1:21; 2:10); and

(3) The reflections of King David in Psalm 37, particularly verses 3-11:

If you trust in the Lord and do good,
then you will live in the land and be secure.
If you find your delight in the Lord,
he will grant your heart’s desire.

Commit your life to the Lord,
trust in him and he will act,
so that your justice breaks forth like the light,
your cause like the noon-day sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait in patience;
do not fret at the man who prospers;
a man who makes evil plots
to bring down the needy and the poor.

Calm your anger and forget your rage;
do not fret, it only leads to evil.
For those who do evil shall perish;
the patient shall inherit the land.

A little longer–and the wicked shall have gone.
Look at his place, he is not there.
But the humble shall own the land
and enjoy the fullness of peace.

Dawn Marie shows us that prayer is both a gift of grace and a response that takes effort on our part.  In order for us to walk humbly before our God in the obedience of faith, we must appreciate the fact that we cannot do this all on our own.  We need God’s help every step of the way, especially during those times in our lives when we feel that God is not hearing or answering our prayers.

As I read Dawn Marie’s story, I kept asking myself, “How is she going to get past this?  How do you give praise and thanks to God—how do you even trust God—at a time like this?”  My thoughts then shifted to questions asked by so many others who have suffered:  How do you pray for the person who raped you?  How do you pray for the person who got you hooked on drugs and alcohol?  How do you pray for the person who molested you as a child?  How do you pray for the person who drove drunk and killed your spouse?

Yet it is precisely during these dry, dark periods when we are forced to pray from a position of disillusion and anxiety that leads us into the very heart of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.  The real cross of prayer is to believe that Jesus is Lord of every single situation in our lives.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God, and His activity in our lives reflects our own deliberate and sustained use of that trust.  If we want prayer to become a part of who we are, we must wait on God and have complete confidence in His mercy and love.

The anger and hatred we feel when suffering injustice burns like a fire in our hearts, and we want–more than anything–for the person who hurt us and our family to suffer greatly, even to the point of death.  Yet, in the midst of unimaginable anguish and pain, our Lord calls us to do the seemingly impossible: he tells us that we must forgive.  Our Lord gives us no other options and makes no exceptions!

Forgiveness was so essential to the purpose and mission of Christ, that when the Apostles asked Jesus how to pray, he gave them the Our Father, in which we ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Christ wanted to make a very a strong and direct link between God’s forgiving us and our forgiving others.  Jesus knows the human heart, and when our hearts are angry and bitter, when we harbor deep resentment—even though it may be justified—there is a part of us that is imprisoned by hate; a hate that can diminish or even block being open to forgiveness from others and receiving forgiveness from God.

The truth is that God always listens to and answers our prayers.  God knows what we need, and grants those prayers that will help us be with Him forever in heaven.  That’s why the best prayer we can pray is, “Thy will be done.”

I highly recommend It Doesn’t End Here! This book is for everyone who is grieving the loss of a child or loved one, for anyone who wants to better understand the meaning of suffering and forgiveness, and for anyone who wants to experience a deeper and richer relationship with Jesus Christ.

My final thoughts on It Doesn’t End Here are summarized beautifully by the great Catholic theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar:

“When life is hard and apparently hopeless, we can be confident that this darkness of ours can be taken up into the great darkness of redemption through which the light of Easter dawns.  And when what is required of us seems too burdensome, when the pains become unbearable and the fate we are asked to accept seems simply meaningless—then we have come very close to the man nailed on the Cross at the Place of the Skull, for he has already undergone this on our behalf and, moreover, in unimaginable intensity.  When surrounded by apparent meaninglessness, therefore, we cannot ask to be given a calming sense of meaning; all we can do is wait and endure, quite still, like the Crucified, not seeing anything, facing the dark abyss of death.  Beyond this abyss there waits for us something that, at present, we cannot see, namely, a further abyss of light in which all the world’s pain is treasured and cherished in the ever-open heart of God.  Then we shall be allowed, like the Apostle Thomas, to put our hand into this gaping wound; feeling it, we shall realize in a very bodily way that God’s love transcends all human senses, and with the disciple we shall pray: ‘My Lord and my God’.”

©2011 Aurem Cordis and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers

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