Sunday, October 25, 2009

From the Glory of St. Peter's Basilica to His life by the Water

Happy Sunday to All!

This week, I wanted to share a bit about my experience in China this past summer. It truly was one of the best summers of my life. There is really no way to convey all that that trip meant to me. But I would like to share a couple thoughts/details and then one reflection I wrote at the end of the summer.

Traditionally at the North American College, guys are encouraged to spend their first summer abroad so as to more richly experience the world, the people in it, and the Holy Spirit moving amongst them. It is up to each seminarian to find some kind of program, apostolate, mission, immersion-program, language school etc. He just needs to get the approval of the College and his diocese. This past summer guys ministered everywhere from India to China to Russia to the Holy Land to all over Europe to Honduras to Ethiopia and more.

The summer before, Paul Vu (Orange, CA), a seminarian in the class ahead of me, had gone to China through Maryknoll, America's Missionary Society. Fr. Brian Barrons, a Maryknoller of Lansing, Michigan, was Paul's host. When I asked Paul to tell me about his experience he said, "Victor. Let me just say this upfront. That was pretty much the best experience of my life!" He also told me that our Vice-Rector Msgr. Meuggenborg was actually the first seminarian from our College to go and spend a summer with Fr. Brian. At that time, Fr. Brian was serving in Tanzania. So I went and asked Msgr. Meuggenborg about his experience with Maryknoll and Fr. Brian to which he quickly responded, "Victor. That was easily the best summer of my life!"

After conversations such as these, much thought, prayer, and planning, two other seminarians (Patrick Arensberg--Mobile, AL--& Colin Wen, Sacramento) and I decided to spend our summer abroad in China. Pat is half-Filipino and Colin is actually half-Chinese...and me...well...I'm pretty white. So the combination alone was an inculturation.

Pat and I at the height of the inculturation process

A bit about our host:

Fr. Brian spent the first 14 years of his priesthood in Tanzania. He now has been in China for about 10 years. Currently Fr. Barrons is stationed in Jilin City, a city of about 1 million people in NE China. There Fr. Brian is the dean of the English department at a Medical College. I know...not exactly your traditional "parish assignment." But this is the foothold that the Lord has given Fr. Brian in China. He is closely watched by the government, cannot safely wear clerics, or openly function as a priest. However, this does not stop Fr. Brian from making Christ known in Jilin City. Each semester Fr. Brian teaches over 200 students. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner of every day he invites students to his apartment to share a meal and practice that each student eats with him about once a month. His office, he has basically converted into a student lounge that has students streaming in and out of all day, every day. He is there to just BE with them. To listen to them. To love them. To offer his counsel and encouragement. And to give them a good laugh.

His ministry is largely one of "Presence." It is one of the most impressive and inspiring one's I have ever seen. In addition to his work at the College, Fr. Brian also keeps up a blog (read by literally THOUSANDS of people all over China every day), hosts a local radio show, has starred in a couple Chinese movies, is the Chaplain for a convent of Chinese Carmelite nuns, and works closely with the many priests, religious, and faithful of Jilin Diocese. Not to mention, this past Christmas, Fr. Brian baptized 78 of his students...welcoming them into a new life in Christ!!! These details cannot begin to do justice to his the power and love of Christ working in this priest...but hopefully it gives you a taste.

One more detail about Fr. Brian I would mention: This past year he received the "Friend of China Award"--the highest honor that China can give to a non-Chinese resident. He was given this as a result of the many great things he has done for the Chinese people over the past decade. Because of this, some friends encouraged Brian to apply for a Green Card...which normally is nearly impossible to secure. So he did...and a couple days after we arrived, Brian was approved! So he is a Chinese citizen for life long as he spends at least one day on Mainland China, each year for the rest of his life. I thought this was a fascinating achievement! Here we see a communist, atheist government honoring a Catholic priest?! What gives?! To me it is a testament to the innate beauty... the attractiveness that comes from a life in Christ---it spreads goodness, love, and real service ---something everyone can agree on.

Paul had gone and lived with Fr. Brian in Jilin last summer. There he taught an English class for the summer. That gave him the chance to get to know and love many young, mostly non-Christian students. So up until about a week before we left for China this summer, this was our plan as well. But then Swine Flu broke out! We got a call from Fr. Brian telling us that the College decided to not allow us to come to Jilin and teach at the College for fear we would bring the virus along with us. Basically that meant, after months of planning, our entire plan for the summer was canceled!!! However, he still was happy to have us come. He just wanted us and our bishops to know that he could not promise us anything.....and our trip would have unfold on a day-to-day basis.

So, with our bishops' approval, we talked it over and decided to go ahead and just see what happened. We decided it would be a good chance to place ourselves into God's hands...his loving Providence and see what happened.

There was not one day that summer that I was not amazed at God's Plan and his care for our trip.

Our summer went so well, that Fr. Brian is planning next summer's experience based on everything that we were able to do. He has talked to the Maryknoll HQ in NYC and approved 12 spots for seminarians to come minister with his this coming summer! Never before has Romans 8:28 made so much sense to me--"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."

Below I would like to share a reflection on one of the many graces of the summer. Every seminarian was asked to write a "Theological Reflection" at the end of the summer, concerning one experience of their summer ministry. As I wrote my Post for last week...this reflection came to mind. In a mysterious way, this experience in China is, I believe, intimately connected with my experience serving at St. Peter's two weeks ago.


DESCRIBE ONE EXPERIENCE which affected you significantly.

(e.g., a conversation with someone, a ministerial experience, a crisis, etc.)

I spent my summer with Maryknoll in China. For about a week, we were hosted by Fr. Peter Xu, a friend of Maryknoll and the Rector of Jilin Diocese’s Seminary in northeastern China. For four of these days, Fr. Peter took us on a tour of the villages of his diocese. The second town we visited was Soujou. It was a small town of about 800 people and was 99.9% Catholic. Only the party secretary of the town was not Catholic, but even he was a good friend of the pastor and supporter of the Church. It was truly a fascinating place. The pastor more or less ran the town. The mayor differed to him on any big decision affecting the whole town and the pastor settled all legal disputes in the town. The lines dividing “Church and State” in this Chinese village were blurred for both Communist and Western eyes alike.

The first afternoon, the pastor invited us to visit the famous river of the town. We got in the car and slowly bounced our way on various dirt roads through corn fields until reaching the waterfront. When we got there, we were met by a group of fishermen from the village. They took us on a boat ride around the river first. While we were out, the others decided to prepare a large meal to welcome us to their town. We pulled back onto shore just in time to see them taking the fish from their nets that we would be served. A couple ladies emerged from a little brick hut by the water to get the fish to begin cooking.

After some time swimming in the river and catching clams with some village children, the meal was prepared. Precisely twelve of us sat down on split logs to feast around a low wooden table outside of the brick hut. The pastor blessed our food, offered the first toast, and the party had begun. As I sat at this table, sharing a meal with two priests, two seminarians, and seven fishermen, in a small Chinese Catholic village, on the bank of a river, I felt like I was reliving a story I had heard somewhere before.

In Chinese culture, especially in the northeastern province where we were at this time, toasts are a very important aspect of any friendly gathering. This is especially true when meeting new people and establishing new friendships. I truly was overwhelmed by their hospitality and the particularity of the situation and felt moved to give a toast. With the help of one of the priests I toasted these men saying, “Some of the first disciples called by Jesus were fishermen. So today, it is a special honor to be dining with fishermen as we come to know a new place, new friends, and more of our Catholic family.”

This seemed to really resonate with the fishermen who showed their accord by clinking glasses and patting one another on the back. Then one of the fishermen toasted in response saying, “Even though you come from far away and we are just meeting for the first time, we are part of the same family because of our common belief in Jesus Christ. So today, we are happy to welcome members of our family to our village.”

WHAT INSIGHTS DID YOU GAIN about yourself, human nature, or the Church because of this experience? HOW HAVE YOU GROWN?

I think this was one of the most intensely Catholic experiences in my life. It was a moment when being “Catholic” clearly became something substantial. Here I was in the middle of nowhere China, with total strangers, not able to speak Chinese, with a practical life experience much different from the others at the table (minus Patrick and Colin). And yet, a deep and abiding connection was present amongst us--our faith in Jesus Christ and his Church. So much so that we could sincerely toast one another as members of the “same family.”

Also, I felt I was given a special insight into the early apostolic community. Just spending the afternoon with them, it was obvious that these fishermen were deeply fraternal. They lived together, worked together, ate together, drank together, did just about everything together. Their common profession gave them a context to form incredible bonds of friendship. You really did sense that they would do anything for each other. Also, these fishermen were tough. There skin was darker and more leathery than anyone else we met in China; their personalities were stronger; their stomachs were bigger; their homes were more modest; and their socializing was more robust than most anyone else we met in China. As I noted all of this, I kept thinking about Peter, James, and John. It was making much more sense to me at this moment as to why Jesus would have called “fishermen” to be his first disciples. More so, it gave me new insight as to why Peter would have been chosen as the leader of these disciples.

Although I was in China, I believe this experience is relevant to the early apostolic community. These fishermen, like those you find in the Gospels, were rough around the edges. They were not the smartest, wealthiest, or most influential people of their village. However, they were very passionate, hardworking, and tough with a deep capacity to be fraternal and united. Jesus chose someone like that to be the “rock” of his Church--a leathery-skinned man with a fiery personality. A man like this, I realized, lied beneath all of the gold and marble of St. Peter’s basilica back in Rome. A man like this, Jesus had called from the shores of Galilee to come and follow him. A man like this, was called to be a saint.

WHERE WAS GOD AT WORK in this experience: in you, in other people, and in the Church?

God was amongst us as we gathered and celebrated in his name. As he moved amongst us, I feel the Lord allowed me to see the humble beginnings of the Church. He allowed me to see how “ordinary,” in a sense, they were. I feel he gave me a vivid and relevant scenery upon which to meditate each time I encounter James, Peter, and John in Scripture.

Living in Rome, I am blessed to be able to readily experience the splendor...or the glory of Peter and his Church. But this experience in China, allowed me to see the other side of the coin--the ordinary, rough, and humble man that was transformed by the grace of Christ. Both aspects I believe are important in their own right. Both are necessary to really understand what Aquinas meant when he said “Grace builds on nature.” Both are necessary for me to understand how I too am called to this paradox of ordinary and glory--namely, holiness.

HOW ARE YOU BEING CALLED to a greater conformity to Christ? How are you being called to live the Paschal Mystery and to imitate the Pastoral Charity of Christ?

The men in Soujou, as well as the Chinese people in general, particularly challenged me by their hospitality. They stopped everything to host, welcome, feed, and celebrate with us. They were excited by the faith that we shared. They were eager to meet more members of their Catholic family. I pray to be caught up in their excitement for their faith and their hospitality. Hospitality provides the occasion for people to encounter each other and to share with each other. Jesus is a person who desires to share his entire self with each of us. So I feel more inspired to be hospitable, so as to give our Lord this foothold...this opportunity in others lives to fulfill this, his deepest desire.

Us sitting and eating with the Fishermen and Priests

Pat, Colin, and I with kids from the village I talked about

(the internet is really slow here now...I will post some more pictures later)

This week's Links:

Colin Wen's Blog (guy from CA who went to China with me):

A link from Colin's Blog to some pics he posted from China:

Fr. Brian Barrons' Blog: A Chinese Sensation!-----THE GREAT WALL

Next Sunday's Gospel:

This is the Gospel Reading for Mass next Sunday. At seminary, they really encourage us to meditate on Scripture throughout the week... especially the daily readings from Mass and more especially those for the upcoming Sunday.... and most especially the Gospel reading for the upcoming Sunday. So, I thought it would be good to post the Gospel reading each Sunday for the next Sunday. For those who would like, you can read it, reflect on it, and pray with it throughout the week. It could be something small that not only we would be sharing together...but it would be a way to plug into the life of the whole seminary here....and really the life of the Church worldwide...many of whom will be hearing these words proclaimed a week from now.

Matthew 5:1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,

and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.

He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Have a great week! Let's pray for each other.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Follow Up Pics and Links

Just wanted to follow up with a couple things now that I have grown in BLOG wisdom and knowledge over the past 48 hours.

Here is a picture of us just outside St. Peter's before the Papal Mass:

Mike Pratt (Tulsa), Steven Vrazel (Mobile) Me, Matt Kuhn (St. Cloud), Sean Donnovan (Tulsa)

Me inside St. Peter's in an area blocked off for priests and servers to get vested

All of the servers lined up before Mass. I would carry one of these candles up and down the aisle.
LtoR: 2 Polish Seminarians, Ben Ross (Gary, IN), Me, Matt, Vraz, Francis Marotti (Kalamazoo), Nathan Sparks (Rapid City, SD), Sean, Quan Tran (Orange)

Chapel where the Pope vested--Crucifix, Altar, Candles, and All.

Michelangelo's famous Pieta
(Without the bullet-proof glass between you)

The two principal servers for the Mass: Both born in Hawaii, both from our College.
Pat learned to pose like that in China...trying to start the trend in the Vatican I guess...good luck.
Rheo Ofalsa (Omaha) held "The Book" & Pat Arensberg (Mobile) held "The Mic" for the Pope

Pat was with me in China this summer...and is my DB (Diocesan Brother). Here is a link to an article that was published in Maui after the Mass talking about Pat and his family's history.


The facade of St. Peter's--traditionally the portraits of the new Saints to be canonized are printed and hung on banners on the front of the Basilica.
Here are some links about St. Damien if you want to know more about this Hawaiian/Belgian saint:

Outside St. Peter's overlooking the square packed full with Pilgrims. Just as the Pope began his weekly Angelus address.

Pope Benedict XVI with Pat to his right

There are two main Photography Businesses in Rome that cover Papal events. Below I have the links to their sites. There you can see all the pictures each of them took at the Mass, and if you find one you like... you can buy and download it. Then you could take the JPEG file to WalMart or something and have them printed.

(Pages 72-57 cover the event)

(This site has them separated by event. Should should see 22 pages of fotos)


BONUS MATERIAL: Close-Up of my New, Freshly-Grown Mustache.

My buddy Alex Roche (Scranton, PA) found this article and sent it my way. Perhaps one of the most important socio-historical observations of our time...

by Wesley Morris

Now I realize the the "Tom Selleck" or "Burt Reynolds" mustache is way out of my league. But hopefully I am not in the "Matt Damon" category. But that is for you to decide.
Let me know what you think....Be honest :{)

OK. Until Sunday. Peace.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Getting Called to the Big Leagues

Hello Blog World

Welcome to my second attempt at blogging. To anyone who read my one post last go around, “Wecome Back!” And to everyone else, like I just said, Bienvenidos...Benvenuto.....Salve....Welcome.

Last year I attempted to start one through my Archdiocese but was only able to churn out one post all year. Pretty impressive I know. I just wasn’t ready to take on all that the “Blog-world” entails. But after a year of blog reading, apprenticeship, and thinking about about blogging, I am ready to give it another go.

My goal is to post once a week---preferably on Sunday. We will see how that goes. Really, I was inspired to try “Blogging” again after an experience I had a week ago today. It was a big...unexpected I wanted to be able to share with my family and friends. This experience was I didn’t deserve, but one I will never forget. It really reminded me of how Good, God is. Blessing us always with things we don’t deserve or even ask for at times. I too reminded me of what an honor, privilege, and, above all, a GIFT it is to be studying in Rome to be a Priest. Studying for the priesthood is something that scared me for a long time....something I tried to run away from...but the Lord kept knocking. I now I find myself happier, more at peace, and purposeful than I ever thought was possible. My very fear...God has taken and transformed into the happiest days of my life. May his name be praised now and forever!

Before I share this experience, I want to throw out some basic info just in case I have some “New Readers” or people who happen to stumble upon this. My name is Victor Ingalls. My Dad’s name is Donald. My Mom’s name is Anna Lee (aka Shaq aka Wally...explanation for a later post). I have two beautiful sisters--Courtney (27) who is pregnant with her first child (Connor Griffin)...and the first of the next generation of my Mom’s side. She is married to Jeremy Lewis of Ocala, FL. I am proud to say, they met on “”! Hahahaha. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But seriously, it couldn’t have worked out any better. My little sister is named Charlotte (aka Chuck) and is a senior at the University of The #2 in the Nation Ranked Alabama Crimson Tide! Studying History and Spanish. Roll Tide!

I grew up in Montgomery, AL. Went to Saint James School from 1st -12th grade. Spent four years at Furman University where I studied “Religion,” “Pre-Medical Studies,” and Spanish. It was there I began to respond to a “Call” to become a Catholic Priest. I had felt this call, in some way, since I was 15. During my senior year, I applied and was accepted by the Archdiocese of Mobile (covering the southern half of Alabama) to begin priestly formation under their care. The fall after graduating from Furman, Archbishop Lipscomb sent me to begin my studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. I spent two years there and in April of 2008 was asked by Archbishop Lipscomb to move to Rome, be formed at the Pontifical North American College, and take classed at the Pontifical Gregorian University. I arrive in Rome in late July of 2008 and have been abroad ever since (except for 3 days last November for my sister Courtney’s wedding). This summer I spent six weeks in China with Maryknoll (America’s Catholic Missionary Society) in a missionary/pastoral immersion program. And now I have just finished my first week of classes of my second Academic Year at the Gregorian. Needless to say, I have had to pinch myself most mornings this past see if any of this is real! What incredible things the Lord has planned for us if only we say “Yes.”

And that brings me to 10:15AM of this past Saturday. Saturday being our one free day of the week, at this time I was just waking up. Suddenly, the ringing of my dorm phone penetrated my morning stupor. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hello.

Matt Kuhn: Victor, this is Matt Kuhn.

Me: OK....

MK: {with intensity} Look I am down at St. Peter’s Basicila. We are having practice for the Canonization Mass tomorrow. Six servers didn’t show up! We can’t start practice until we have enough people!

Me: ......


Me: Uhhh....Yeah...I mean...YES!

MK: OK. I don’t have time to explain it all. I need you to get at least five other guys and get down here.

[At this point, my brain finally caught up to reality and I, in an instant, shifted into Game Mode]

Me: OK. Question. What should we wear?!

MK: Clerics.

Me: Where should we me you?!

MK: The top of St. Peter’s steps.

Me: How much time to I have?!

MK: As little as possible.

Me: ....OK....Hold on...I’m on my way!

What ensued can only be described as “Madness!” Without showering, shaving, or really even thinking I threw on some clerics and started running up and down my hall, banging on doors, and yelling at every seminarian in my path.

Before long I had drawn six other guys into this frenzy and we found ourselves speed-walking/jogging to St. Peter’s Square. Normally a walk that would require about ten minutes was accomplished in about five.

Sweating and out of breath, we ran into our first obstacle in our path--the Swiss Guards. Since Matt had just spontaneously called us on his cell phone, the Guards had no idea that we were coming. They told us we would have to enter through the normal line and go through security. One look at St. Peter’s Square and we knew this was not a viable option. Literally thousands of pilgrims were in town for the Canonization of five saints the next day. So we did the only thing reasonably left to do: gathered in a mob and started flailing our arms towards our buddies up on top of St. Peter’s Steps.

Long story short, a Benedictine priest finally came and got the Swiss Guards (who were only doing their job) and let us into St. Peter’s. After about a twenty minute practice, we were given special tickets to come back the next morning at 8AM to get vested for Mass. Walking back from the Square, the reality of what had just happened to us finally started to sink in. One minute we had been minding our own business, waking up to a lazy Saturday morning, and the next we were at St. Peter’s Basilica preparing to serve alongside the Holy Father himself.

We each spent the larger part of the rest of that day calling our families and friends and relating how we each had gotten “the call.” The Mass was going to be televised by ETWN starting at 3AM Central Time back in the United States. So our families back home, from Montgomery, AL to Orange, CA got their VCRs, DVRs, and popcorn ready.

The actual experience of the Mass the following day was incredible. It is really hard to put it all in words. I will reflect on a couple aspects, but I over the next couple links if you want to check it out. The whole ETWN broadcast is at this website in two parts, which you can download and watch.

Part 1

Part 2

The Mass originally was planned to take place outside in St. Peter’s Square to accommodate the masses of pilgrims that came to see saints canonized from their homeland--France, Spain, Poland, and Belgium. There were also several thousand American pilgrims who came largely in support of to be St. Jean Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and St. Damien of Molokai--a Belgian, missionary priest who spent most of his life serving the lepers exiled to the Hawaiian island of Molokai. After becoming a leper himself, he refused to leave the people he loved and lived out the rest of his days serving the lepers of Molokai.

However, at the last minute, the Vatican officials decided to move the Mass inside of St. Peter’s Basilica because there was about an 80% chance of rain on the forecast. That meant that we would be serving INSIDE St. Peter’s Basilica, processing right over the ground covering St. Peter’s bones....just before Peter’s successor, Benedict XVI, followed us down the aisle.

As we waited for the Mass to begin, the Papal MC ushered us into the chapel containing Michelangelo’s famous Pieta. Behind the glass that protects this masterpiece, the drama of Mary holding her Son was clearer than ever before. We all stood speechless for a couple minutes, just soaking it all in. Then the MC had us form a line in front of the altar and gave each of us a vestment we were to present to the Holy Father to wear for Mass! A shock swept over us, as we realized we might be meeting the Holy Father in a matter of minutes.

Just to the right of the Pieta Chapel is a smaller chapel where the Pope vests before Mass. I was the last one in line, holding the Holy Father’s Pallium which would be the last thing he would put on before processing into the Basilica.

As I stood to wait my turn, I feel like I received a special grace. In that moment, I felt a special unity with all of my family and friends. I had a deep sense that it was because of their love and faith that had brought this great grace into my life...along with so many others. Too I felt really struck by how mysterious and generous God’s love is for us. I had not done anything to be standing in line, about to hand the Pope his pallium. Less than twenty-four hours earlier I had just been sleeping, without any plans for the day, without any effort at all. And then, just like that, I was called up from Single A to pinch hit in the Big Leagues. Such is His love for us. Even as we sleep, the Father delights in us and pours upon us his richest blessings. We must only open our eyes in faith to see the wonders occurring in our midst. In that moment, I felt I was being given a special grace to see in a clear way what is always happening in my life--being showered by God’s love. Truly when, with the eyes of faith, we really SEEK the Lord, we find out what it really means to LIVE (see Amos 5:4).

Having this clarity, I asked the Lord to share my blessings...especially those of that Mass... with all of my loved ones. I asked that they may in some way share in the richness of the moment at hand. Then came my turn...

I took a couple of steps forward into the Pope’s chapel. I came within about five feet of the Holy Father and was met by two of the Master of Ceremonies who were helping to vest the 80 year old Bishop of Rome. Here is what I saw.

The entire time Pope Benedict XVI was facing an altar lit by two candles, with his gaze fixed on a crucifix hanging just above the altar. As the MCs helped him vest each garment, Benedict prayed the ancient “Vesting Prayers” in preparation to celebrate the Mass. There is a special prayer assigned to each garment a priest is to wear, which helps the Priest to meditate on the Mystery at hand and to begin offering his entire Self in union with Christ.

As I watched the Holy Father pray in this way, a part of me--namely my ego--really wanted him to turn, look at me, shake my hand, and say something inspirational. But not once did Benedict’s gaze betray the crucifix before him. I will never forget that image. It spoke volumes to me...about what really mattered...about what that day was all about--not me...not my ego....something else...something so much greater...something deserving of all our attention, all of our praise, all of our love. I found myself praying something like this, deep in my heart, “May the Cross of Christ never leave my gaze, so that I May never forget how greatly I am loved and by what measure the King of Kings gazes back upon me.”

I will share one more reflection, then I should probably go to bed. The Gospel Passage for Mass that day was the following:

Mark 10:17-30

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
"Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother."
He replied and said to him,
"Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth."
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
"You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
At that statement his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
"How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the kingdom of God!"
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
"Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
"Then who can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said,
"For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God."
Peter began to say to him,
"We have given up everything and followed you."
Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come."

These final words of the Gospel pierced my heart that day like a “double-edge sword.” Again, I was overwhelmed by God’s Providence and Goodness. I always had feared giving my “Yes” to the Lord...leaving behind MY plans and MY goals to study for the Priesthood. But by his grace, I was able to say “Yes” and at least allow the Lord to get the ball rolling. And there I stood, feeling that I had, indeed, received “a hundred times more now in this present age” than I ever could have imagined for myself on my own.

So, Thank God for this blessing and all his many blessings. I hope you may share in this blessing and others that I hope to share on this BLOG.

Let me know if there is anything you would be interested to hear about, or if there is anything in particular I can be praying about for you.

I hope that in reading this, you may share in some of the graces I received that day, in St. Peter’s, serving for the Pope, receiving the Eucharist, and witnessing five new Saints given to the world as shining exams of Gospel Living.

Until next week.

Keep it Real.

Play for Keeps.