THE FIVE HOLY SPIRIT PROMISES IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL: Part Four

We continue our reflection on the promises Jesus makes to his disciples concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit as found in the Gospel of St. John. We find the fourth promise in John 16:7b-11.

For if I do not go, the Paraclete will not come to you.

But if I go, I will send him to you.

And when he comes he will convict the world

in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation,

sin, because they do not believe in me;

righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me;

condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

The verb ‘to convict’ is the central action of the Holy Spirit in this promise. “The Greek verb used here (elenchein) evokes the notion of establishing or revealing a fault, often in an unmistakably forensic context. Of the several possible nuances available, only one seems adequate to describe the Spirit’s action here: he will afford convincing proof that the world is wrong and in sin” (Francis Martin, “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me,” 59-82, in The New Evangelization, ed. Steven Boguslawski, OP and Ralph Martin, 72).

The ‘other Paraclete’ will prove that the great sin is refusal to accept the revelation of God the Father offered in the person of Jesus Christ; that Jesus, not the religious leaders who condemned him, is truly righteous because he now exists in the presence of the Father; and, that Jesus’ death on the cross was not his condemnation, but in fact the condemnation of the devil who is the prince of death.

The difficulty in this passage comes in understanding where the action of ‘convicting’ takes place. Will the Spirit convince the world of its error or does the Spirit act within the disciples to establish them in the truth of Jesus? “Basically, it must be the second. If the world were able to acknowledge its sin, it would no longer be the ‘world,’ that is, a place which, despite the fact that there is still room for freedom and choice, is nevertheless at its depths a ‘demonic universe of refusal and rejection’” (Ibid.). So, the Spirit acts in the hearts and minds of believers in order to convince them of the truth of the gospel, especially in the face of their own weakness and the seduction of the world. “The Paraclete addresses itself only to believers: it is an interior illumination that happens in the hearts of believers” (Ignace de la Potterie, La Vérité dans Saint Jean, Tome I, 410).

Like the third promise, this fourth promise is directed at believers in the struggle they will face to hold to and grow deeper in their faith. Whether it is profound personal suffering, the allure of all that the world promises, intellectual challenges to faith, encountering ridicule for following the upside-down ethic of Christ, or the countless other ways faith is tested in this world, the Paraclete comes to the aid of the believer. The Spirit firmly inclines the heart and mind of the person of faith to see clearly that the only ultimate sin—and therefore separation from true life—is not believing and trusting in Christ. The Spirit shows to the eyes of faith that Jesus is gloriously victorious over the world and that the world’s promises are ultimately illusory.

In brief, this promise assures us of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the faithful, revealing “that ultimately love and sacrifice are more powerful than violence and death,” that following Jesus’ way of sacrificial giving of our lives to God the Father for the sake of others is the way to authentic liberty and life (Francis Martin, “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me,” 59-82, in The New Evangelization, ed. Steven Boguslawski, OP and Ralph Martin, 74)!

Keep your chin up

“Keep your chin up.” Mom used to tell me this. I didn’t like the saying much. First, I thought it sounded corny.  Second, it’s an order and I’m not real fond of being told what to do. Know what?  I haven’t heard Mom say that in a long time. I almost wish I would.

The tables have turned. Not that I employ that exact saying, but it’s my turn to be the encourager with Mom. It’s my turn to boost her up; to keep telling her to think positive.

This is Mom’s first Mother’s Day since suffering a series of mini strokes last November. It’s her first Mother’s Day in an assisted living apartment. It’s the first Mother’s Day that all of us kids won’t gather out at the farm to celebrate.

This is our new normal. This is how we do life now. Five of us siblings will gather in the “cow lounge” (what I call it because of the decorating motif) at Park View Center in Melrose. One sister came last weekend; another will come next weekend. Mom likes when we spread things out so she has someone’s company to look forward to each weekend.

I asked Mom what sounded good for our potluck plans. The only thing she could think of was Hawaiian Chicken Salad. That too is a switch. Not that our get-togethers revolved around the meal, but they kinda did. The food was definitely a highlight for all, especially Mom. And why not? She had paid her dues in her younger years; as she got older, us kids did more and more of the cooking. Our way of showing love was to prepare all of Mom’s favorites. It gets a little tricky now when she doesn’t have anywhere near the appetite nor the interest in food like she used to.

But, in honor of Mom, I’m making the rhubarb cake that she used to make. Actually, she made a lot of things rhubarb at this time of year, especially strawberry rhubarb sauce. This is an easy one, but really good, especially when you serve it still warm with a little Cool Whip on top.

RHUBARB CAKE

4 cups diced rhubarb
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
3 TBSP red jello
1 yellow cake mix (mixed according to package directions with eggs, oil and water)
1 pint half & half

Mix together rhubarb, sugar and jello and set aside.  Mix a yellow cake mix as directed on the box.  Pour cake mix into greased 9 x 13” pan.  Sprinkle the rhubarb mixture on top. Pour half & half over all and bake at 350 degrees 40 min. or until done. Serve with Cool Whip.

Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children age 17 and under. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove.

 

 

 

Guest Blogger: Fatima at 100

Guest blogger, Jeff Johnson, reflections on the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.

Across this past spring, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I’ve had the opportunity to offer presentations around the St. Cloud Diocese on Fatima. I speak at each parish not as a theologian or mystic, but as a story teller, one who somehow makes a living with imaginative literature. As I begin to tap this out, I realize the act of writing about the messages, promises, prophecies, and warnings of Our Lady of Fatima stirs the same thing one can experience when speaking of Her, which is to feel inadequate and overwhelmed. We would all agree: the story of the Mother of God entering into human history with promises, prophecies, requests, and warnings for everyone on earth is infinite, like a medieval tapestry whose edges enclose the universe. On this cool spring evening, three days before the 100th anniversary of the first apparition which astonished Lucia, Jacenta, and Francisco May 13th, 1917, I am thinking of the faces I have seen since this year began, and those of my beloved fellow parishioners in St. Anna, Holdingford, and Bowlus, faces that are waiting, faces with hopes and fears and questions about what might or might not happen across this crucial and prophetic year. What happened in 1917 in the presence of tens of thousands of people was the most astonishing supernatural event since the Resurrection, and it is reasonable for the Catholic mind to run towards great expectations.

A statue of Mary is carried through the crowd in 2013 at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal. (CNS photo/Paulo Cunha, EPA) See FATIMA-APPARITIONS April 18, 2017.

And yet, as long as I have waited for this year, and dreamed alternately of wonderful and horrible imaginings, I am surprised to be dialing back my guesses. God exists outside of space and time, and hardly needs a calendar, but He loves us, and surely appreciates our need to observe dates and anniversaries of weddings and birthdays and other things worthy of commemoration. I am an English major made nervous by numbers, and I haven’t the faintest idea what it could possibly mean that this October marks the centenary anniversary of Fatima, the 300th anniversary of modern Freemasonry and their grand lodge in England, and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation stirred by Martin Luther. We also have the stark truth that our planet of misfortune is growing darker and more horrific by the day, and the many forms of evil from abortion to war seem to have a momentum that is getting well ahead of us. To offer words of fair encouragement against it all, however deep the darkness around us seems, we must remember Our Lady of Fatima promised in the end that her Immaculate Heart would triumph, and She keeps Her promises!

After years of obsessively studying thousands of messages from all over the world—Church approved and otherwise—I have concluded everything Catholics need to know radiates from Fatima. Our Lady came not to bring us trouble, but to defend us from it, and she gave us precisely what we need to be safely led to Her Son. Remember: at the end of last apparition on October 13th, when little Lucia said, And is that all you have to ask, Our Lady of Fatima said, There is nothing more. It was at this point that the children were shown a quick succession of visions including Joseph, Jesus, and a manifestation of Mary as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, which likely prefigured Lucia joining the Carmelites as a nun, and 70-100,000 people beheld the Miracle of the Sun.

Our Lady of Fatima might also have been saying: You have everything you need now for salvation. After all, in the preceding months She stressed the importance of Mass, praying the Rosary for peace, the Five Saturday Devotion, and consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is the surest, safest path to the Sacred Heart of Her Son, Jesus. We can, like Lucia did mid-summer, ask for a miracle so that people believe, but we should also be grateful for the messages of Fatima we got, which are dead simple, and the very things all Catholics should assent to cheerfully.

Jacinta and Francisco Marto are pictured with their cousin Lucia dos Santos (right) in a file photo taken around the time of the 1917 apparitions of Mary at Fatima, Portugal. Pope Francis has approved the recognition of a miracle attributed to the intercession of two of the shepherd children, thus paving the way for their canonization. (CNS file photo) See POPE-FATIMA-MIRACLE March 23, 2017.

If I could editorialize, I would like to offer an idea, however speculative, which is that while all Catholics on earth are sharing, and inhabiting 2017 together as brothers and sisters, it is not impossible individual experiences might be around the corner. The three children for instance, had different experiences of Our Lady of Fatima, and the Miracle of the Sun was hardly consistent for those there, or within 30 miles of the Cova: some saw nothing; some saw the sun as a burning wheel of fire; others saw it dash about, pulse, and veer terrifyingly towards earth. I have read too, that some got upset men were not taking off their hats in the presence of the miracle, and there was some yelling and hollering as a result!

Rather than raise my voice in closing, I offer some advice for anyone reading this little piece on the blog of the St. Cloud Visitor, which is to at least consider making a brief list of ways one might honor Our Lady of Fatima this year, and then following through on it. I can only speak of my plans, as they are already enacted: I intend to speak about Fatima to anyone who will listen; I will continue to consecrate and re-consecrate myself to Mary while using the wonderful book 33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Michael Gaitley; I will read everything I can by St. Maximillian Kolbe on the Immaculate Conception, which is the devotion of my church in St. Anna.

And last but not least, I have started in on making a series of stone walls around my grandma Anne’s statue of Mary, which overlooks our little lake in western Collegeville. It was given to her the year I was born in 1959 by my uncle Don, and I have clear memories of driving Tonka trucks around it when I was a little boy. I hope I am forgiven that, along with many other things, and may God Bless you St. Cloud Diocese.

Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson teaches English at Central Lakes College, and directs Verse Like Water, the visiting poet program of Central Lakes College. He lives in Collegeville with his wife Jessie and university age sons, and is a member of the Two Rivers Catholic Community of Bowlus, Holdingford, and St. Anna.

 

 

Comparison Thieves

Sometimes I get restless. When I am in that place of restlessness I become anxious and my judgment on the real or perceived becomes clouded. That quickly comes to the place of comparison, self doubt and discontentment. The real joy that my life is filled with in abundance quickly gets overshadowed. If I’m being honest, I’ll also say that if that brooding is left long enough it’s also when God and I wrestle.

As a woman of faith it can be embarrassing to admit this human side of me.

I remember well my time as a young mom with my two oldest children and feeling well within the muck of busy mom life while questioning most every mothering decision I made. During that season I saw supermom ladies at every turn who juggled so many things along with more children than myself. They did everything better than me whether it was working full time, volunteering and doing things for others, mastering their time, being more creative, more loving, but mostly and surely, more desirable to others and God because they exuded perfection.

Now that I’m on the other side with more children, more mothering years under my belt and approaching mid-life, I realize that none of that was necessarily true. I was comparing myself to others who were not at the same season of life as I was back then. I may be just a bit more quick to realize now that God puts these people in my surroundings not as comparisons, but as witnesses and role models to urge me on to my own greatness in Him. I am called to be the mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend to the people who surround me in my circle. I was not meant to be these things to a different set of people and I cannot compare to how well someone else does it. Is my fulfillment of God’s plan for me being fully lived out? How am I serving Him in serving others? This is my call. When I take my human blinders off and lose sight of God, joy is stolen away and resentment creeps in my heart.

Let’s be kind to one another. Let’s be gentle with ourselves. Challenge one another and ourselves, absolutely! Compare and guilt ourselves with real or imagined standards that lead to discontentment, banish them at the door. God called you to be you with the life He has called only you to live. Your vocation, your job, your unique gifts and abilities are there because of choices and paths you followed to hopefully pursue God’s call on your heart. Let’s amaze Him with the gift of ourselves and being who he means for us to be. Perfectly imperfect, vulnerable and daily seeking the grace he lavishes upon us.

You are enough. So am I.

Remind someone of that message today. Thank someone you know and love for the witness of Christ that they are to you and others. You never know if they may be having the same doubts and struggles comparing themselves to others and feeling inferior or less than superior.

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” – St. Teresa of Calcutta

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

The rosary – a powerful weapon

Since May is the month of Mary, I have a special blog post in her honor! My family and I made St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration to Jesus through Mary when I was pretty young, so I have always felt a special connection with our Blessed Mother.

Now normally I am hesitant to put personal experiences in a blog for just anyone to read, but I feel like if people were more open to sharing their experiences in life this world would for sure be a different place. So here I go!

Back in high school… many years ago…(Yes, I’m that old!), my mom signed my sister and I up for a Steubenville retreat. This group was going to travel to St. Louis, Missouri, for the conference and had a couple fun stops on the way. I wouldn’t say I necessarily really wanted to go, but my mom signed me up so I went!

Growing up I struggled with anxiety and an overall uneasiness. I would worry myself sick. I had ulcers way more than any kid should. If I thought I offended someone I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I worked it out with them. My grandma had surgery and I remember being beside myself, so worried something would happen to her. I also had a lot of dental work done as a kid and I would worry about that appointment months before it came, dreading the day with such a fierce passion.

When we were at the Steubenville Conference, we were faced with a lot of encounters with the devil. Now I have been to many Steubenville conferences and I have never experienced another one like my first year. The devil definitely knew we were at a crucial point in our lives because he was trying everything to make us doubt God and leave the conference.

During Adoration, I kept seeing snakes in the curtains, slithering around, but I refused to take my gaze off the monstrance. When I would glance to the side, I would feel anxious and nervous, but when I kept my gaze on Jesus I felt such peace. Later that night, Nikki and I were supposed to go to bed but we were both uneasy and sort of scared. We both laid on the bottom bunk hugging as we tried to sleep. When we said goodnight and closed our eyes, less than a minute later we both shot up and both instantly started bawling. We both saw the same image: a beautiful picture of Christ that turned into the ugliest face of the devil. Terrified, we ran out of our room to our mom’s room. As she consoled us we told her that we saw the exact same image. I will never forget my mom’s calmness as she hugged us, smiled and said, “Girls, I know exactly what we need to do. Where is your rosary?”.

As we prayed the rosary, the terrified, anxious, uneasy feelings I was filled with slowly drained out. With each Hail Mary I felt lighter and happier. When we finished the rosary, we went back to our rooms with smiles on and slept like a baby. From that day on the devil has not scared me. I think I finally realized that what we have is so much stronger than the devil. We have Mary, the saints, and Jesus Himself. And what better way to ward off the devil and the evil that this world possesses than with one of the most powerful weapons we have- the rosary.

–Tricia

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

 

THE FIVE HOLY SPIRIT PROMISES IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL: Part Three

We can now look at the third promise concerning the Holy Spirit found in John 15:26-27.

When the Paraclete comes whom I will send you from the Father,

the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,

he will testify to me.

And you also testify,

because you have been with me from the beginning.

The word ‘testify’ stands at the fore of this promise. The Greek use of this word is the context of a legal defense. “[T]his term evokes a climate of protest, a hostile environment, a true trial between Jesus and the world” (Ignace de la Potterie, La Vérité dans Saint Jean, Tome I, 379). Before we can appreciate the nature of this promise, we must first recognize the warning of struggle the promise foretells. Jesus is here warning his disciples that they will live their lives of faith in the midst of a world that hates them. Because of their insistence on the truth of the gospel, the world will persecute them.

Here it seems important to clarify what meaning John gives to the word ‘world.’ This provides something of the context for this promise. Just prior to the verses of this promise, Jesus says to his disciples, “If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (15:19). The New Testament scholar, Fr. Francis Martin, describes John’s understanding of ‘world’ within the context of this promise. “John, the mystic, discerns behind the human forces that reject the message of salvation a ‘demonic universe of refusal and rejection’ that put Christ on trial and killed him…This vision explains the constant use of the verb to witness in the Johannine literature and the forensic overtones that it carries. As chapter 9 of the Gospel teaches us, the Christian is a healed blind beggar on trial…The Christian is a witness, driven by his or her own experience of the saving act of God and the conviction that this act is meant to give life to the whole world” (“The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me,” 59-82, in The New Evangelization, ed. Steven Boguslawski, OP and Ralph Martin, 67-68.) The world, in the sense John often uses it, is this intellectual, economic, technological, emotional system demonically orchestrated to resist the truth about God’s saving love in Jesus Christ.

The promise of the Holy Spirit is an assurance to the disciples of Jesus’ abiding presence as they face the hostility of this ‘universe of refusal and rejection’ of the gospel. “In this situation, when the disciples are ‘on trial’ before the tribune of the world and are enduring persecution, either mental or physical or both, the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, will witness to them concerning Jesus and will preserve them from falling away, even while they are bearing their own witness.   What sustains the disciples of any age, including our own, is the living experience of the reality and majesty of Jesus Christ, who is with the Father” (Ibid., 69).

In the verse that follows the promise we are looking at, Jesus says, “I have told you this so that you may not fall away” (16:1). Living faith in the midst of a hostile world, we are often tempted to doubt the truth and present reality of Christ. In a world seemingly trapped by war and terror, by famine and disease, by greed and resentment, the disciples’ minds and hearts are assaulted by the thought that perhaps there is no God, perhaps God is not all-powerful and all-loving, maybe Jesus has not overcome the world. In another direction, how often it seems that the cunning and deceitful, the aggressive and violent, the rich and powerful are the ones who experience true success and life, while the humble, the honest, the generous and just suffer nothing but defeat. It is precisely into this ‘trial’ that the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus comes to the aid of the disciples. It is in this context that “the testimony of the Spirit must here be considered as an interior reality that is meant directly for the disciples” (Ignace de la Potterie, La Vérité dans Saint Jean, Tome I, 393).

Within this third promise, Jesus warns us, his disciples, that we will struggle to know and live the truth of the gospel. Jesus will send the Holy Spirit from the Father in order to bring to increasing clarity that truth in the depths of our being. The Spirit will act within us to make present the reality of God’s saving, life-giving love accomplished in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will know within us, in the face of the temptations and trials inflicted on us by this “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), that God is faithful and can be trusted to draw those who love him into abundant life.

The Coordinator

When the church celebrates the First Communion of their children, there are many people who are involved. The children, in their best with lace dresses and little ties, are the highlight for the parish. The parents, proud and nervous for their child, pray that nothing goes wrong. The people spend their time grinning at the behaviors of both and are so glad to be present. In the end, everyone remembers their First Eucharist and wants to join in blessing the next class of good Catholics.

What most people don’t notice is the coordinator. Usually a volunteer or modestly paid, the coordinator has done all the heavy work over the year. They have collected forms, set up experiences, taught the classes, worked with the families, build relationships with the students, met with the priest repeatedly, and a hundred other tasks with purpose and meaning. Seldom are they thanked. Often, they are ignored until people want something. These servants with giant hearts pull this all together. From the first parent meeting to the reception after Mass, coordinators do it all.

Father Joe Korf, pastor of the parishes in Sacred Heart in Staples and St. Michael in Motley, poses for a picture with the First Communicants.

In a year’s time, our coordinators have invested their very breath into the lives of children and their families. They have sacrificed time and often funds to make this one experience a once in a life-time moment. The profound love which I have witnessed over and over again humbles me. The thing that amazes me is that they almost always, at some point, sit in the back at the First Communion Mass and I see tears. These tears show me the real meaning of a Sacramental life. Tears that express love and exhaustion at the same instance are holy. And I see them every time. These are the tears that God sheds when we commit to the Church and practice our faith publicly. How proud God must be of those who make such an effort for the little ones.

Father Joe Korf, pastor of the parishes in Sacred Heart in Staples and St. Michael in Motley, poses for a picture with the First Communicants.

So, this year, when you are thanking people who loved your children through a Sacrament, take that moment and give them a hug and thanks. And be aware, that they are already planning for the next year of First Communion children and ready to love them unconditionally. Maybe that will make that embrace just a little bit longer.

By Monica J. Simmons

– Member of St. Michael Church, Motley.
– Crookston Native, Twins Fan, Nap Taker
– Has been in Youth Ministry for so long she forgets
– College & High School Grad, Perfect Attendance in 1st Grade
– Bible Camper, Retreat Admirer, Funniest Person in her home
– Single because Drums demand attention
– Wants a large dog really badly

Living with Christ inside

Lately I’ve been meditating on our Blessed Mother, and especially on the Incarnation and her Fiat.

Mary was living the divine life, the life of love. When the Angel said to her “Hail, full of grace” it’s a comment on her holy life, which can be measured by the proportion of grace that is given.
Her response to the Angel, who announced that she would give birth to a child who is God, indicates complete humility: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.”
And then she says, “may it be done to me according to your word.”  These are words of a willingness to receive, a willingness to be submissive to the love of God.
When we are at Mass, after the priest consecrates the Precious Body and Blood of our Savior, we also say words of submission and a willingness to receive His love.  We say “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.  But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  After this we participate in the Divine Sacrament and eat Christ’s Precious Flesh and Blood.
I wonder whether Mary, our Blessed Mother, was the very first “receiver” of the Eucharist.  In her Fiat she submits and then receives Christ: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  And not only that, but his Humanity as well.
Mary lived with Christ inside of her for nine months.  Every heartbeat of hers, every breath, every morsel of food she ate, nourished the Divine Child within her.
When we partake of the Eucharist, the consecrated species (body/blood) lasts about an hour or two, until it is dissimilated by our body’s natural functions.  The Sacrament that we receive through Communion abides with us until we commit a mortal sin.
I think about what it would be like to be Mary, to have the real Presence inside of me for nine months.  Then I realize that every time I go to Mass, I have the incredible privilege to be like Mary, to have Christ inside of me.
For a little while.
Stephen Miller
-Member of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish, Long Prairie.
-Not a native Minnesotan.
-Not a cradle Catholic.
-Former Librarian.
-Likes kids, somewhat baffled by adults.
-Married to the smartest and most beautiful woman in the world with whom we have six astonishing children.