Tag Archives: Jesus

Father Larry Richards – Adoration & Healing

Day three of  Father Larry Richards’ mission centered around adoration, healing, and thanksgiving (You can look up older versions of this talk on YouTube.)  Our opening prayer centered on thanking Jesus for all that He has done in our lives.

We started by reading Revelation chapter 4, which was written by John.  It’s all about the Mass, which cannot be understood without understanding Revelation.  When we attend Mass, we are experiencing Heaven.  He read through John’s description of Heaven in chapter 4 and how everyone there is constantly singing praises to God.

Most of us Catholics always want something from God.  We want forgiveness, happiness, you name it.  We’re constantly saying, “gimmee, gimmee.”  But our main focus should be thanksgiving to God for His incredible mercy.  Jesus gave His life for us and that should be our focus.  We go to Mass to worship Him, glorify Him, praise Him, and thank Him, not to get something from Him.  After all, He gave us the most precious gift we can ever receive in His death on the cross.

Father Larry then spoke about Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after exposing the Eucharist.  The bishop of his diocese was not keen on adoration, but Father Larry wanted an adoration chapel in his church.  Despite the bishop’s refusal, he was able to eventually start holding perpetual adoration.

There were many naysayers, but he didn’t care.  He had faith that the adoration chapel would come to fruition and after that, he had faith that through the prayers of his parish in that chapel, the local abortion clinic would close.  After only a few months of perpetual adoration, the abortion clinic closed.  Then, when it opened again two years later, it was only open for two weeks before closing again.  There is now no abortion clinic in the entire diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania.  

It’s so easy to lose hope in evils like abortion as a Catholic living in the year 2017.  It seems to be so common today that some people give up in their fight to end abortion.  But part of the problem is that we lack the faith to truly believe that abortion can be ended as a result of our prayer.  God can do anything and we need to start believing that.  We don’t see miracles because we don’t believe in His power.

As a pastor, Father Larry challenges his parishioners.  He makes the men of his church attend the nightly hours of perpetual adoration since it is located in an urban area.  Anyone who is an extraordinary minister of the holy Eucharist must have a holy hour.  He says that if they do not have an extraordinary devotion to Jesus Christ, then they should not be distributing His flesh at Mass.  

His job is to get every parishioner to be a saint.  So is he demanding? Absolutely.  But when someone dies, will they really be upset that they had to spend on extra hour per week with Jesus?  A good pastor gets you to Heaven; he doesn’t just take your money and build things.

My mom’s parish in Connecticut has had a perpetual adoration chapel since Ash Wednesday of 2003 and she goes to her holy hour from 2 to 3 am on Tuesday mornings.  Through her witness, I have seen the tremendous blessings that have occurred as a result of her weekly holy hour.  It is not easy for her to wake up in the middle of the night to pray, but it has changed her life.  

Father Larry said the same thing, adding that churches with perpetual adoration have many more people who have discovered their vocation to the religious life.  He prays for an hour in adoration every day and he encouraged us to pray in adoration once a week.  He also says that he can tell a priest with a good pastor when he sees that pastor sitting in adoration.  Priests must pray for their parishes and if that is not the case, they are not doing their job.

When on the road, he likes to stop into churches that he passes to say a prayer.  Sometimes he finds locked churches.  This happened once in Illinois and six months later, the pastor contacted him to ask if Father Larry would hold his mission at their church.  He refused since they do not keep their church open to the public.  He explained that although his church is in an inner city, he still keeps the door open. Sure, he has security cameras, but it is important to have an open church so that people can go there to pray any time of the day.

He also told us how he was kicked out of seminary.  His preaching was “overly optimistic” and the Franciscans did not believe that he had a good grip on reality.  His first talk in the seminary was about how everyone was called to be a saint, but they wanted him to instead tell messages of God’s love for us.  His second talk was about our need for a daily prayer life and again, they asked him if that was actually realistic.  How would a person with a high-paying job have time for that?  He couldn’t believe that they were upset with him for that message.  How can we not have a daily prayer life and call ourselves Catholics?

So he was thrown out due to “an apparent lack of self knowledge” and a “Pollyanna attitude toward life.”  He didn’t like that term, Polyanna, so he had them change it.  The newer version said “excessively optimistic” attitude.

During seminary, he had a daily holy hour, and people thought that was too extreme.  They looked at him like he was crazy, but he knew how crucial daily prayer life was.  

On another occasion, a parishioner told him that he should leave the priesthood because of his personality.  He was living in Pittsburgh, so he drove 45 minutes to Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, to pray at the Portiuncula Chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  He was in tears praying to Jesus, telling Him that he would leave the priesthood if that was what God wanted.  He then felt hands on his shoulders and a student said, “Father, thank you for being a priest.  We need you.”  God clearly met his needs, which happens for each of us when we pray to Him and share our needs with Him.

He then spoke to us about healing and healing services.  There have been people who were physically healed of their illnesses, but that is not God’s will for everyone.

Father Larry himself even had a mass on his lungs that doubled in size over the course of a month.  The day he had an MRI, he spent some time on his knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament, prayed 10 Memorares (a mini-novena) and then soon received a phone call that the mass was completely gone.

Too many of us believe that sometimes healing works and other times it doesn’t.  But that is not the case.  Healing ALWAYS takes place, but it isn’t always in the way that we expect or desire.  We need to believe that and then we will more easily see God’s miracles in our lives.  

We also have to realize that the greatest healing is death.  Our end goal in life is to end up in Heaven.  This world isn’t our home; we’re just passing through on our journey to Heaven.  We become satisfied by worldly goods.  If we live in a nice home, we feel content, not realizing that the fleeting joys of this life are nothing compared to the ecstasy that is Heaven.

People sometimes say that they don’t understand how God can allow children to die, but an innocent child or baby who dies at only one year old is more blessed than the person who dies at 100 years old because they can skip most of life’s suffering and have a quicker path to Heaven.  That teaching is difficult to accept since we cannot fathom the joys of Heaven, but that is what Jesus has promised.  

Father Larry proposed an interesting analogy.  For nine months, we lived in our mother’s womb.  Everything came from her even though we couldn’t see her until we were born.  We’re in God’s womb, with everything coming from Him, but we can’t see Him until we are born into eternal life.  That is why the saints’ feast days are the days on which they died because that is the day that they entered Heaven.

Life doesn’t truly begin until Heaven and once we accept that teaching, we will stop being afraid of death.  It is what we do now that will determine where we will spend eternal life.  When we die, God will give us whatever it is we loved the most, but if that isn’t Jesus, then Heaven may not be our end.  If we hold onto too many worldly objects, people, and desires, we show God that He isn’t what we love the most.  That is why we need to show our commitment to Him every single day.  We must prove that He is the one we want and love the most.

That is a quite challenging concept.  We want success, love, acceptance, and other worldly pleasures, but none of that will gain us eternal life.  

After discussing adoration and healing, he took Jesus around the church in the Blessed Sacrament.  Having attended Franciscan University, this is something that I was familiar with, but some people may have never understood the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament until that evening.  

He told us that while he was going around with Jesus, he wanted us to make an act of faith.  He wanted us to cry out, “My Lord and my God” in our hearts.  To receive healing, faith is necessary, so of course we cannot be healed if we don’t believe it.  For any sacrament to work, we need faith.  We can go to Mass every Sunday and receive communion, but if we don’t believe in Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist, nothing will ever change in our lives.  The same is true during adoration.  Do we really believe that Jesus is there with us?

He told us not to consider the healing that we wanted for ourselves, but to say, “God, whatever You want, I want” in order to let Him give us the healing that we need.

I saw many people wiping the tears off of their cheeks as Jesus passed them by.  Although I try to attend a weekly holy hour, and I have been to adoration many times, I, too, was moved with awe for Jesus’ love and mercy and I had tears falling down my own cheeks.  

After that, we blessed ourselves with the oil from St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Canada.  After blessing ourselves, we said, “Saint Joseph, heal me.” And in the event that we receive a physical healing, we need to remember that we were not healed in order to enjoy the rest of our lives; we are healed in order to give greater glory to God.  We are healed so that we may serve others.

One of his last promises for us was that we would die.  We will all become dust, and we can be in that form forever, or we can live forever; it’s our own choice.  We can live our lives for Jesus Christ and spend eternity with Him, or we can avoid Jesus.

He then invited those of us who wanted to surrender our lives to Jesus to kneel down and repeat this prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, I acknowledge that I am a sinner and I am sorry for my sins.  Please forgive me.  Come into my heart, take control of my life, be my Lord and God and Savior. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and make me Your disciple.  I love You, Lord Jesus Christ, and I give You my life forever.  Amen.”

Again, he reminded us about the two promises that he made to us at the beginning of the mission.  First, we would not be bored and second, our lives would be changed forever.  Upon surrendering or re-surrendering our lives to Christ, our lives were changed forever.

Father Larry says that he is set on fire by the same Holy Spirit that wants to set us on fire.  God wants us to end our mediocre lives and begin to change the world.  We can do it if we surrender to Him, maintain faith in Him, and heed His will for us.  God wants to use us in mighty ways, but we have to let Him.

In order to allow God to transform us into His disciples, we must do three things:

  1. Sit at the feet of the Master (daily prayer)
  2. Develop the attitude of the Master (be a servant)
  3. Be transformed into the Master (be another Christ…we are called to show the world Jesus)

And he told one last story about an American who was captured in a prisoner of war camp.  He was near a Japanese man who was being tortured for being a traitor.  The American man was a Christian who eventually knew that the Japanese man would die after a day of brutal torture.  He tried telling the Japanese man about Jesus and the Japanese man said that if Jesus was anything like the American man, he couldn’t wait to meet Him.

That’s what it means to be another Christ.  Can the people we encounter say that same thing?  Our husbands, wives, friends, parents, children, employers, employees, neighbors, strangers?  “If Jesus is anything like you, I can’t wait to meet Him.”

We must show Jesus to the world so that they can feel that desire to meet Him.

And ultimately, we must always remember to pray and to love.  That is the best summary of his mission.  Pray and love.  If we do that for the rest of our lives, we will be saints.  We are all called to be saints, which will happen as a result of prayer and love.
Father Larry also asked us to pray for him.  Since he goes around preaching God’s word, the devil goes after him.  He needs our prayers to help him to continue preaching the Truth, staying faithful, not doing anything contrary to the teachings of Christ, and not ever doing anything that brings scandal to the Church.

I wish I had been able to attend the first two days because Wednesday and Thursday were both amazing talks.  I highly suggest looking up some of Father Larry’s videos on YouTube, or his homilies on iTunes.

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My Bible study group (Young Adults in Faith) with Father Larry Richards
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Advent

I was watching an Ascension Presents video today from Father Mike Schmitz, entitled “Advent: More than a Chocolate Calendar.”  If you’re interested, you can view the video below:

 

Father Schmitz talks about how Advent is a time of joyful preparation for Christ’s coming.  Then he discusses the difference between joy and happiness:

“Joy is the abiding sense of well-being that comes from the fact that I know that God loves me.”

“Joy is not dependent on circumstances.”

“Joy is a choice.”

“I know the Father knows and loves me, despite my circumstances.”

These messages about joy really speak to me because I have felt this way quite a bit lately.  I feel truly joyful. But that doesn’t mean that life is perfect.

Life on earth can never be perfect because true perfection can only be found with God, which we will only encounter if and when we reach our ultimate goal of our union with Him in Heaven.

If joy depended upon our earthly circumstances, then nobody would be truly joyful.  There will always be suffering, whether it is our own suffering or seeing the pain of others, especially loved ones.

There will always be issues at work, within our families, in our relationships, with our friends, within our country, politics, and natural disasters.

If we wait for perfection in order to feel happy, then we will wait until death.

But joy is different.  I can say that I am joyful right now because I am so grateful for the ways that God has blessed me and the ways that my relationship with Him has grown.  Sure, there are still obstacles, but I know that He is with me, guiding me through life’s trials.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” -Psalm 23:4

Father Schmitz says that Advent has three main goals:

  1. To worship Jesus
  2. To celebrate His coming
  3. To prepare for His second coming

He then poses an interesting question: “If Jesus came today, would there be any time for him?”

Our world, especially the United States, is so busy.  This time of year is particularly stressful and overwhelming for many people.

Unfortunately, Christ often gets left out of Christmas.  People instead focus on buying presents, putting up Christmas trees/lights/decorations, baking Christmas cookies, attending ugly sweater parties, sending Christmas cards, making gingerbread houses, drinking egg nog, cooking, and traveling to be with family.

None of those things is bad to do.  But sometimes we get too wrapped up in the material aspects of Christmas instead of remembering the whole point — Jesus Christ.

Even traveling to visit family can sometimes hinder us.  Some people end up missing church services because they are driving to visit family.  But the holiday wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Jesus.  He needs to remain the priority, or else what are we really celebrating?

If Jesus came to your house knocking on your door right now, would you have time for him?  Would you be able to fit him in somewhere in the middle of that to-do list and that schedule of events?  Or would you be so busy that you wouldn’t even notice the knock at the door?  Would you ignore Him and continue moving forward with the hustle and bustle of the holiday?

It’s great that people focus more on family during the Christmas season, but we must remember to also focus on Jesus.

He is, in fact, the reason for the season, after all.

 

“Joy is the Infallible Sign of God”

Yesterday, my friend messaged me about a young adult holy hour that was being held tonight.  Initially, I didn’t really want to go since it would be a 40 minute drive to get there.

Today I was feeling tired and my back was hurting.  But I knew that she was driving 2 hours to get there from her family vacation in Wildwood.  And this is the first time since college that I finally have a Catholic friend who has invited me to do something.

I posted yesterday about the loneliness that is often present in following the Lord, so I would have been a hypocrite to complain about that and then turn down an invitation to actually get out of my apartment.

Needless to say, I went to the holy hour.  It was really nice.  There were two priests offering confession.  There was a girl singing praise and worship music while playing the guitar.  There were probably around 15 young adults there.  It was a good experience.

Then I was driving home, listening to the Catholic radio station, and they were reporting back from Poland from World Youth Day.  One of the priests said, “joy is the infallible sign of the Christian.”

I have a terrible memory, so I drove the rest of the way home just repeating that line over and over so I wouldn’t forget.  I typed it into Google and found that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest from French, once said that “joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”

That sentence really resonates with me.  When someone is truly on fire for God, it can be seen in their entire demeanor.  The light of Christ shines through them.

I noticed that often during my years at Franciscan University and I think that is one of the reasons why I loved campus so much.  When people are in love with the Lord, their joy pours forth constantly.

This is something that seems to be so lacking in our world today.  Everyone is in a hurry, stressed out, and so easily angered when things go slightly differently than they had planned.  People are especially on edge due to all of the recent violence in the world.  But even in dark times, I can see the joy that comes from those who are in love with the Lord.

Many people think that they have found joy from their material goods, their electronics, their fancy cars. But that happiness is fleeting; it doesn’t last.  The new shoes will become scuffed, that iPhone will be replaced by the newer version, the car will eventually start breaking down.

People sometimes wonder whether or not I fear traveling overseas to volunteer, and I can always honestly answer that no, I do not experience fear.  I am confident knowing that God is there to protect me and that He has a plan for me.  And I am always hopeful that, in the event that I do end up dying on one of these mission trips, my faith will have been strong enough so that I get to spend all of eternity in Heaven.  I have joy that comes from my gratitude for God’s love and protection.

At adoration tonight, there were a bunch of young adults who I had never met, but I could tell that they seemed happy.  When I volunteer with various Christian organizations, people are so welcoming and kind.  Sometimes people ask me how I can be so positive during various obstacles in my life.  Or sometimes my students think it’s strange that I’m always smiling.  I think (and I hope) that it’s because of my relationship with God.

I want to be so joyful in the Lord that I, too, have that joy that seeps out of me into all of those I encounter.  I want people to learn about Jesus just by seeing my expressions and actions.  As St. Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, “preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”  

I work in a public school, but I hope that by witnessing my joy, some of my students will find the love of God.  I am confident that that can happen without me ever vocally saying anything about my faith.

The timing of that quote on the radio also couldn’t have been more perfect, since I had been feeling so lonely these past few days.  I know that the joy of living in Christ is stronger than any momentary happiness that I might acquire from the secular world.  I know that living a Christ-centered life is absolutely worth it in the long run.

As a human, I get frustrated, tired, and beaten down, and that’s normal.  It’s sometimes inevitable, but I must always remember that Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice in laying down His life for me and for all of us sinners.  It is that thought that gives us Christians the joy that shines out of us.  Our earthly problems and struggles pale in the comparison of the pain that Jesus endured for us.  He was rejected, scorned, persecuted.  He was nailed to a cross.  As it was stated in the Gospel of John, “there is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.” It is the joy that comes from knowing that is exactly what Jesus did for us that leads to the joy that is present in Christianity.

So yes, joy is, indeed, the infallible sign of the presence of God.

 

Good Friday is my Favorite

Today is Good Friday.  It’s a very somber day, and I know that some people find the name “Good” Friday ironic.  But it is a good day.

What happened to Jesus on this day was absolutely horrific, but there is so much beauty in His act of love towards us.

Last night’s Holy Thursday Mass was especially moving for me.  Maybe because I knew, for the first time, that I would have to miss today’s Good Friday service since I will be in an airport.

Or maybe it’s because last weekend I had been to a dramatization of Jesus’ Last Supper, in which each of the 12 Apostles expressed their thoughts about Jesus and about wondering which one of them would betray Him.

While listening to the readings, all I could think about was how hard it must have been for Jesus to share that meal with his friends, knowing that not only would he soon be put to death, but that he would be betrayed by one of his faithful followers.

I love the part of the Holy Thursday Mass with the washing of the feet.  One year my priest at the time asked if I would have my feet washed.  It is such an incredibly humbling act, to allow someone to wash your feet.  The leaders of my Ecuador mission trip did this for us the night before we flew to Ecuador.  I can’t imagine what it felt like to be the disciples, allowing their Savior to wash their feet.

At the end of Mass last night, we exited in silence, and once Good Friday’s service begins at 3pm today, all will enter in silence.

The priests will prostrate themselves on the ground.  This is always incredibly touching to me, to see grown men, sometimes even ones who are quite old, laying face down in the middle of the church.  I know that people don’t like some of the “flashy” aspects of the Catholic Church, but it is things like this, at least for me, that help to express how insignificant we really are when looking up to Jesus.  Yet He still died for each and every one of us.

This is one of my favorite Bible verses, from Isaiah 53:

He grew up like a sapling before him,

like a shoot from the parched earth;

He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye,

no beauty to draw us to him.

He was spurned and avoided by men,

a man of suffering, knowing pain,

Like one from whom you turn your face,

spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our pain that he bore,

our sufferings he endured.

We thought of him as stricken,

struck down by God and afflicted,

But he was pierced for our sins,

crushed for our iniquity.

He bore the punishment that makes us whole,

by his wounds we were healed...

Though harshly treated, he submitted

and did not open his mouth;

Like a lamb led to slaughter

or a sheep silent before shearers,

he did not open his mouth.

Seized and condemned, he was taken away.

Who would have thought any more of his destiny?

For he was cut off from the land of the living,

struck for the sins of his people.

He was given a grave among the wicked,

a burial place with evildoers,

Though he had done no wrong,

nor was deceit found in his mouth.

1But it was the LORD’s will to crush him with pain.

By making his life as a reparation offering,

he shall see his offspring, shall lengthen his days,

and the LORD’s will shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his anguish he shall see the light;

because of his knowledge he shall be content;

My servant, the just one, shall justify the many,

their iniquity he shall bear.

Therefore I will give him his portion among the many,

and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,

Because he surrendered himself to death,

was counted among the transgressors,

Bore the sins of many,

and interceded for the transgressors.

And as is written in John, 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for His friends.”

As Catholics and Christians, we always know what Jesus did for us, but I never feel it as deeply as on Good Friday.

It’s so easy to complain about life’s struggles, but Jesus bore it all.  He was hated, betrayed arrested, beaten within an inch of his life, nailed to a cross, and died.  He could have saved Himself, as the people kept telling Him sarcastically.  But He knew what must be done in order to save all of us.  He was willing to give up His life in one of the most brutal ways in order to save me.  It’s really incredible to consider

So of course Good Friday is a sad day, since the brutality imposed against Jesus can never be viewed as a joyous occasion.  But His sacrifice is what makes it joyful.  It is in fact a “good” day because it is the day that we were all saved, by our most loving and perfect Savior.