Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Gangster Saint

April 27th is the Feast day of St. Peter Armengol. This fascinating saint, whose life story is the stuff Hollywood is made of, went from gangster and sinner to a man of deep, unwavering faith with a fierce devotion to the Blessed Mother.
Born into wealthy, Spanish nobility, he gave himself over to a life of vice. Does St. Augustine come to mind? As a gang leader he terrorized, robbed and killed travellers in the Pyrenees region, until the day he came face-to-face in combat with his own father. Filled with shame, the repentant youth retired to a monastery in Barcelona and gave his life to God.
His greatest desire was to go to Africa and become a captive for the ransom of Christians. After ransoming 119 captives without incident, he learned of 18 innocent children held captive by the Moors. Unable to allow such an atrocity, Friar Peter offered himself as hostage. After being starved and tortured, the Moors accused him of blaspheming Mohammed and being a spy sent by the Christian kings, thus raising their ire. He was condemned to be hanged. The unjust execution was carried out and St. Peter’s body was left hanging from the gallows for six days! His unselfish act of love for the children touched the heart of Our Blessed Mother and she interceded for him to her Son. Her request was granted, and Friar Peter was saved.
When he returned to Barcelona, the man of God told his superior, “The Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our own mother, asked her Most Holy Son to conserve my life; having obtained this favour, this same sovereign Queen sustained me with her most holy hands, so that the weight of my body would not hang upon the rope by which I was suspended.”
Recalling the miracle of his hanging, he frequently told the religious of the monastery of this marvel: “Believe me, my dear brothers, that I do not believe myself to have lived except for those few but most happy days when, hanging from the gallows, I was held to be dead.”
For the rest of his life, Friar Armengol had a twisted neck and a pale completion, authentic signs of what had taken place. He retired to the monastery of Our Lady de los Prados, where he practiced heroic virtue and spent his days in familiar conversation with the Queen of Angels, whom he loved dearly.
In our times of profound moral crisis, let us ask Saint Armengol to obtain for us before the throne of God, graces of unbending fidelity, unwavering hope and heroic confidence in the powerful intercession of Our Lady. (retold from the website below)
visit The American Society For The Defense Of Tradition, Family & Property for the complete story of this remarkable saint, Peter Armengol.
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

To Tempt Or Not To Tempt

We read and hear a lot about temptation. It takes on many forms. From the simple temptation of breaking that diet with a rocky road brownie to a soul-snatching adulterous affair. We are tempted to charge more than we can afford on credit cards. We are tempted to lie about our age and yes, I'm guilty....about my weight. The trouble begins when we start to skirt around temptations...playing just on the edge of sin.  Rest assure: Satan is always ready to push us over that edge.

Christ, God made man, was tempted by Satan in the desert, but did not succumb to the wily enticement of the Devil.  Though Satan was defeated, he continues to be a smooth talker who makes sin seem so right. Without realizing it....can we become that tempter?
Take a workplace scenario. I can't believe that a woman who dresses provocatively doesn't realize she's doing so. Add a flirtatious demeanor and being a tempter is not far behind.
When a coach suggests that an athlete takes performance enhancing drugs, he is leading the athlete to sin. He can sugar-coat the reason all he wants, but what he is suggesting is illegal and dangerous. In his heart...he knows he is doing wrong. He is a tempter.
An offer of drugs is not a "friendly" gesture. It could be the start of a lifetime of battling an addiction. Yes, we have the power to refuse, but peer pressure, depression, being in a "party" mood can weaken our resistance. Equally at fault is the person accepting the drug, but the shame lies with the tempter.

Over and over, we are told to lead by example. This is meant to be a positive statement. Yet, without being aware of it, our example can be riddled with negative temptations. This ties into my statement about skirting the rim of sin. Actions speak louder than words. How can we ask our children to be honest when we brag about the things we "got away with" or flaunt the supplies we take from work? How can we tell them to love thy neighbor when we spite the man next door?  We abhor bullies, yet scream and belittle our spouse. Many bemoan the "colorful" language we hear...could it be that it's what they hear at home? Do we tempt without even meaning to? If our favorite hang-outs are bars or casinos are we tempting others to drink or gamble? It may not be a problem for us, but ...?  Do the magazines we read, movies and TV shows we watch tempt us or others to dress, speak, think or behave in a way that offends God? The definition of 'to tempt' is: to entice or allure to do something often regarded as unwise, wrong, or immoral. Or, to tempt/seduce both mean to allure or entice to something unwise or wicked.  To seduce is literally to lead astray.
Remember the phrase, "The devil made me do it"? There's some truth in that. Satan and his demons relish enticing a believer. He/they are thieves, liars, and manipulators. As in the Prayer to St. Michael...'the evil one prowls the earth seeking the ruin of souls.' 
Temptation is not of God. He is much too much of a loving Father to dangle temptations in front of his beloved children. He would never, ever lead His own to sin. We all have a tendency to sin, so expect to be tempted and like tempt. Few want to sin alone.  Prayer, fasting and being in the Word is our armour against temptation. Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "You are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and He will show you how to escape from your temptation". God's grace is the victory to overcome it.

To avoid being a Tempter, we must call upon the Holy Spirit, asking Him to shine His light in all the dark corners of our life. We must try to be more aware of our habits and the example we are setting for children and adults alike. Be aware of innocence, esp. that of children. When we are conscious of purity, what is clean and good, we feel shame at soiling it. Look through the eyes of a must it look to a child to see us fighting with anyone?  If we fill our mouth with praising God there won't be room for angry words, foul language or gossip. Our children will then be tempted to speak kindly, to know and speak the many sacred names of Jesus. Others may want to emulate our ethics and values...which points the way to God.

There will come a day when we will stand before God and give an accounting.  When I think about this, I shiver. It's one thing to have to answer for my own will be awful to answer for the things I've tempted others to do.
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. "—Revelation 20:12

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Blue Rose: An Act Of Kindness

Having four visiting family members, my wife was very busy, so I offered to go to the store for her to get some needed items.

I scurried around the store, gathered up my goodies and headed for the checkout counter, only to be blocked in the narrow aisle by a young man who appeared to be about sixteen-years-old. I wasn't in a hurry, so I patiently waited for the boy to realize I was there. He waved his hands excitedly in the air and declared in a loud voice, "Mommy, I'm over here."

It was obvious now, he was mentally challenged.  Startled, he turned and saw me waiting to squeeze by. I smiled and said, "Hey Buddy, what's your name?"

"My name is Denny and I'm shopping with my mother."

"Wow," I said, "that's a cool name; I wish my name was Denny, but my name is Steve."

"Steve, like Stevarino?" he asked.  "Yes," I answered. "How old are you Denny?"

"How old am I now, Mommy?" he asked his mother as she slowly came over from the next aisle.

"You're fifteen-years-old Denny; now be a good boy and let the man pass by."

I acknowledged her and continued to talk to Denny for several more minutes about summer, bicycles and school. I watched his brown eyes dance with excitement, because he was the center of someone's attention. He then abruptly turned and headed toward the toy section.
Denny's mom had a puzzled look on her face and thanked me for taking the time to talk with her son. She told me that most people wouldn't even look at him, much less talk to him.

I told her that it was my pleasure and then I said something I have no idea where it came from, other than by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I told her that there are plenty of red, yellow, and pink roses in God's Garden; however, "Blue Roses" are very rare and should be appreciated for their beauty and distinctiveness. You see, Denny is a Blue Rose and if someone doesn't stop and smell that rose with their heart and touch that rose with their kindness, then they've missed a blessing from God. 

She was silent for a second, then with a tear in her eye she asked, "Who are you?"

Without thinking I said, "Oh, I'm probably just a dandelion, but I sure love living in God's garden."

She reached out, squeezed my hand and said, "God bless you!" and then I had tears in my eyes.

May I suggest, the next time you see a BLUE ROSE, don't turn your head and walk off. Take the time to smile and say Hello. Why? Because, by the grace of GOD, this mother or father could be you. This could be your child, grandchild, niece or nephew. What a difference a moment can mean to that person or their family.

From an old dandelion!  Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.
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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Christ's Great Sacrifice....Mary's Great Love

This beautiful video honors Jesus, the Christ (Anointed One). During this sacred season of Lent/Easter, let us remember His great sacrifice and love. He died for all His children whether you believe in Him or not.

His Blessed Mother "died" with Him that day as does any mother who loses a beloved child. In this song, Mary Did You Know? and as always, she points the way to her Son.

Listen and reflect on the many holy names of Christ... the Perfect Sacrifice, The Saviour, The Deliverer, The Miracle Worker giving sight to the blind, The Healer, The Ruler of Nations, Heaven's Perfect Lamb, The Great I am.  Jesus is God Made Man.  His Resurrection sets Him apart from any other holy man, prophet or deity of another religion.

Jesus would have given His life for you even if you were the only person on earth. He was not angry that the "crowd" chose that He be crucified rather than Barabbas. Do you think He would have wanted Barabbas to have died in His place? A resounding, No.

Jesus is Love & Forgiveness. To truly honor Him...we must do both, esp. to those who hurt and humiliate us. His greatest desire is that one day, we are with Him for eternity in Paradise.  He made the way; we must make the choice.

(remove ad banner on video scroll over it & click on x in right corner)

"Mary Did You Know?" lyrics by Mark Lowry
Music by Buddy Greene
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