Sunday, August 21, 2011

Year 2 Week 1 in NJ and a Nugget from St. Alphonsus L.

What a crazy week! Last Monday I left Wisconsin at 7am to return to New Jersey for another school year at Seton Hall serving the student athletes. It was a long drive, but an enjoyable one. The 16 hours and 42 minutes really did fly by as the excitement to return to Seton Hall outweighed the thought of the long drive. I arrived in South Orange, NJ around 12:30am, unloaded the truck, and was in bed by about 2am.

We spent Tuesday getting to know the new team. There are 6 FOCUS missionaries at Seton Hall, Melissa and myself work with the athletes and the other 4 Anthony, Katie, Mary, and Eric work with the general population of students. Anthony, Katie, Melissa and I are returning to Seton Hall while Mary is joining us after serving 2 years at the University of Nebraska Omaha, and Eric is joining us as a graduate from St. Mary's in Winona, MN. With one week down we have already grown close together and seem to really have gelled as a team. I'm excited to continue to grow with them as we share Jesus Christ with the students at Seton Hall.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning the six of us spent time together planning how we are going to welcome new and returning students to campus this next week and also some long term planning of events we hope to hold throughout the school year. Melissa and also spent some time around the athletic department visiting with coaches and other athletic department staff. Friday afternoon we relaxed along the Jersey Shore took in some rays and rode some waves. A great first week for FOCUS team Seton Hall, we are all very excited to welcome the FOCUS student leaders tomorrow and to welcome the freshmen to campus next week Thursday. Please pray for Seton Hall this next week as the new students will be faced with many choices that they never have been before.

As I mentioned in a recent post I've been reading a book by St. Alphonsus Liguori about visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Every day it seems I am given something new to think about.

Today I want to share with you an excerpt that I've been reading every day. That is how the book is designed, there is an excerpt for each day, meaning there is something new each day (the days are numbered). But it also has you read parts each day, meaning you read 3 sections every day that are the same. I really enjoy doing this. The excerpt is from the section titled "Prayer to Our Lady after each visit" here it is:

"And since you have such power with God, deliver me from all temptations, OR RATHER, OBTAIN FOR ME THE STRENGTH TO TRIUMPH OVER THEM UNTIL DEATH." (I added the caps lock for emphasis).

I really like this excerpt because it shows how that we as Catholics, as Christians must rely on Jesus, but also His mother. I also like the humility of this prayer from St. Alphonsus. He asks her to deliver us from temptations and then it seems he realizes the need to ask for more and asks her to not JUST be delivered from the temptations but to be allowed, to be granted the strength to triumph over the temptations until DEATH! What a beautiful prayer! I think of when we use the word triumph in modern times. I think of sports and I think the word may be used out of context, what does it mean to truly triumph something? When I first read this and many times since I often think why are we so eager to "triumph" in day to day tasks where we clearly achieve something, or "triumph" over something athletically, but why do we become so content and settle to not truly triumph over our temptations and struggles that keep us from holiness? Please, most lovable Lady do not only deliver us from temptations, but obtain for us the strength to TRIUMPH over them until death!! Our Lady of Good Help, Pray for us!

I've been curious, a number of you mentioned how you were hoping to "jumpstart" your adoration time, how has that gone for everyone? You're in my prayers.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Story of the Summer

As my summer at home comes to an end and I get ready to return to New Jersey for another year of ministry I've been reflecting on the summer. One thing that continues to come up in my reflections is this story.

All summer long I have met with friends and family and as I tell them about my year at Seton Hall with the student athletes I always tell them about the baseball team. I tell them about how open the baseball team was to growing in their faith, that 12 men out of 35 on a team were deeply committed to a weekly Bible study. We read scripture, learned about the life of Jesus, the Eucharist and, we talked about the lives of the saints. One saint in particular that has really chose me this last year is Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Pier Girogio who lived from 1901-1925:

“To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living, but existing.”

"You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be, so long as my trust in God gives me strength. We must always be cheerful. Sadness should be banished from all Christian souls. For suffering is a far different thing from sadness, which is the worst disease of all. It is almost always caused by lack of Faith. But the purpose for which we have been created shows us the path along which we should go, perhaps strewn with many thorns, but not a sad path. Even in the midst of intense suffering it is one of joy."

Pier Giorgio lived such a faithful and devout life, an incredible servant to the poor, and an athlete, all for God's kingdom. He has an incredible story and is so encouraging for young men to look up to as few people that have been on earth have immitated Jesus better. Especially interesting about Pier Giorgio is the fact that he lived this way mostly while he was a teenager and in his early twenties. Pier Giorgio climbed mountains as a hobby. On one of his last climbs before his premature death, he signed a picture of him climbing with the phrase "Verso l'alto" (To the top). He died after he contracted a disease from the poor he was serving.

The phrase verso l'alto is a great phrase for anyone in life, as a metaphor, to strive to the top as you pursue Jesus Christ. It was a phrase that we as a Bible study last year adopted as our theme. We talked about what type of person Pier Giorgio was and how we could immitate him as he immitated Christ so well. At Christmas we all got bracelets that were green, red, white, and black with the phrase "Verso l'alto" on it.

This last May when the Seton Hall baseball won the Big East Tournament after being predicted to finish 10th in the conference, they finished 5th and then beat the #1 seed UCONN twice in the tournament and then beat the defending tournament champs St. Johns to win the 2011 tournament I was so proud of the guys. A few days later as I checked the Seton Hall athletics website I saw this picture.

I got goosebumps when I saw the picture, if you look closely you can see one of the hands reaching up to the trophy with the Verso l'alto bracelet on (the red one). I was so proud of those guys in that moment, not only for what they accomplished on the field that day and season but for what they accomplished in their hearts the past year in allowing Jesus in.

I am so excited to be returning to Seton Hall to continue to help and to continue to grow with those men in Jesus Christ.

And please read my blog at the top right under the tab "popular posts" the blog is titled "The Pirate I haven't met yet" about a young man who would have been a Big East Champion this May, but he passed away 2 years ago this week.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Visits to the Blessed Sacrament with St. Alphonsus Liguori

The feast day of St. Alphonsus Liguori was celebrated this last week on Monday. To be honest I don't know much about him. I have read a few books and devotions that he has written such as the Complete Consecration to Mary and have dabbled in a few others. The day after his feast day I went to mass and then stayed for Eucharistic Adoration. On my way into the adoration chapel I grabbed a devotional at the door. As I started to page through it in the chapel in the presence of Jesus I loved what I was reading, it was so honest and so challenging to me. The small devotional were some writings by St. Alphonsus. As I left the chapel I struggled to decide if I should take the devotional with me or leave it there for someone else to experience his great wisdom and challenges. Since there was only 1 of the books left on the table I decided to leave it. I left and wished that I would have kept it to use again during adoration.

I went home, moved some stuff around in my bedroom and came across a few books that I had purchased earlier this summer. One was by Pope Benedict XVI and the other was by St. Alphonsus Liguori titled "Visits to the Blessed Sacrament", the full version of the book I was just reading, thank you Jesus. The book has 31 reflections on visits to the Blessed Sacrament, meant to be used for an entire month as one visits the Blessed Sacrament. Each day there is also a spiritual communion professed as well as a reflection called "visit to our Lady."

Today is my 5th visit using the book and it has helped me to be more spiritually and mentally present during my visits to the Blessed Sacrament. For the next month I want to share some of my favorite excerpts from the book here on my blog.

I want to start with the "instructional" of the book. Before the 1st visit there is a section on how to use the book. Directly before the 1st visit there are 3 writings that one will recite each day, they are titled; "Prayer before each visit", "Spiritual Communion", and "Prayer to Our Lady after each visit." Today I want to share the Spiritual Communion prayer. I have prayed the prayer before, but without any knowledge of what it meant, who started it, or why even do it. For the last 5 days I have prayed it slowly and lovingly. Here is the prayer: "My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already come, and I unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You." There are many graces that come from a spiritual communion as revealed by our Lord to Blessed Jane of the Cross when He told her that each time she communicated spiritually she received a grace of the same kind as the one that she received when she really received communion. Blessed Agatha of the Cross would visit Jesus 200 times a day. Father Peter Faber (the 1st companion of St. Ignatius) said that it (making spiritual communion) was of the highest usefulness to make Spiritual Communions in order to receive sacramental Communion well.

As I've read more I've realized how too often we as Catholics take this incredible gift for granted. This book is helping me to realize that gift, express thanks, and be more faithful to making a spiritual Communion daily. I'm going to stop here to head to church to make a Spiritual Communion before I receive Sacramental Communion. I look forward to sharing excerpts and nuggets of wisdom from St. Alphonsus Liguori this next month. God bless you.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us!