While I was studying at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary, I often attended prayer with the monks. On several occasions, I attended Mass and other celebrations at the Abbey Church.
I was always intrigued by how they walk in statio, two by two, bowing first to the altar, then to each other. After seeing this, I asked a classmate why they do that. He told me that they first acknowledge Christ’s presence at the table and then they turn toward each other and recognize Christ within.
That image has stuck with me. Though I don’t go around bowing to every person I meet, one thing I’ve been trying to do is to look people in the eyes when I meet them, even if it’s a brief encounter.
I once watched a television show where they videotaped customers visiting a convenience store. When the customer went outside the store, a camera person recorded their reaction as a reporter asked them to describe the clerk who they just encountered literally seconds ago. Most couldn’t do it. Some could recall the color of a shirt or hair color. Some couldn’t remember if the person had glasses or facial hair. Some couldn’t even recall if the person was male or female. Another image etched in my memory.
How often do we really “see” the people around us? Who are we not seeing?
I’ve been working on a series of articles on mental health. I was blessed to be invited to sit in on one of the meetings of a local mental health support group. I admit that on the way there, I was thinking about how comfortable or uncomfortable the members might be to have me, a stranger and a reporter, there listening to their very personal stories. I admit that I was worried how comfortable or uncomfortable I might be spending time there, too. Would I say the wrong thing? Would I ask the wrong question? Would I offend anyone just by my presence?
Silly me. The group was a truly welcoming, loving group of people. They made me feel like an honored guest rather than a nosy reporter. There was no “get to know you” waiting period; they willingly opened their hearts to me. They looked into my eyes and I looked into theirs. I like to think we recognized Christ at the table and Christ within.
Now to offer a brief reflection on the fifth and final promise concerning the Holy Spirit found in St. John’s Gospel (16:12-15).
I have much more to tell you,
but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.
This promise is distinctive among the five for its richness and the multiple directions the Holy Spirit moves within the disciples. The Spirit will ‘guide into all truth,’ will ‘speak what he hears,’ will ‘declare’ and ‘glorify’ the Son. Notably, the juridical tone that dominates the first four promises is gone from this promise (Ignace de la Potterie, La Vérité dans Saint Jean, Tome I, 422). In this promise, all is relationship. The relationship of the Spirit to the Son, which is the same as that between the Son and the Father, all shared in relationship with the disciple.
There is then, in this promise, an overarching melody that offers a glimpse into the eternal interrelationship of the Trinitarian God and the disciples share in that life. Just as the Son glorifies the Father by revealing his loving and saving plan for all people, so too does the Holy Spirit glorify the Son by filling the hearts of believers with affection and trust for the Son. As the Father withholds nothing from the Son, for all eternity, so too does the Son withhold nothing from the Spirit, who in turn graciously pours this everything into the hearts and minds of believers. We glimpse here eternal love and the promise of being drawn into this love is extended to us.
Essentially, this fifth promise makes precise the action of the Spirit in relationship to the words and life of Christ. “[T]he future action of the Paraclete consists in rendering living and effective, in the lives of believers, the word of Jesus. One can therefore say, in a certain sense, that it is Jesus himself who continues to ‘speak’ to the disciples; but from now on, in a new and interior manner, by the Spirit” (Ignace de la Potterie, La Vérité dans Saint Jean, Tome I, 444). The Spirit’s role is “to ensure in the Church the living permanence” of the words of Jesus (ibid).
The opening line of this promise, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now,” gives an added dimension to the particular role of the Spirit. The Spirit does not simply repeat what has already been said or, even, sustain what Jesus has previously taught. Rather, the Spirit must in some way serve “to interpret the mysterious revelation of Jesus so as to come to unfold its full sense” (Ignace de la Potterie, La Vérité dans Saint Jean, Tome I, 448). There is, importantly, no adding to the teaching of Jesus, but an unpacking of its richness and significance for the believer in the concrete circumstances that will confront them as they go forth bearing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Once again we see that the Spirit comes to make the teaching of Christ accessible to the believer precisely at the moment the believer is most ready to receive and appropriate that teaching.
This final promise offers us the beautiful assurance that because of the active presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus will never be far from us. As a matter of fact, precisely because Jesus has gone and given way to the Spirit, Jesus has become more interior to us than he ever could have been simply by remaining a physical presence within history. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ words and deeds, accomplished once for all in the distant past, are made alive, present and meaningful for us exactly where we live and act today.
Because the Holy Spirit is with us, we know with absolute confidence: Jesus Christ is alive!
Walking door-to-door handing out “missing person” flyers in the pouring rain was not how I expected to spend my Wednesday evening [May 17]. Ever since the 17-year-old Aaliyah [Kazimer] went missing last weekend, I had been following her story. Something this big, happening so close to home, really struck a chord with me.
I had never met Aaliyah; all I knew is that she was clearly a very gorgeous girl that had so much more of life to live. Yesterday I came across an article saying they needed more people to help with their search efforts. I didn’t think twice when I rounded up two of my cousins to go see how we could help.
When we got there tonight we were given a pile of fliers and told to go from house to house and ask if they had possibly seen this girl or knew anything that could help us find her. The people that answered their doors surprised me with their sympathy and their promise that if they see or hear anything they would call 911 immediately. It definitely showed me that there still is compassion in this world even though we maybe don’t see it as often as we should. After a couple hours in the rain we made it back to our car and headed back to the search headquarters.
When we walked into the shelter there was a different type of energy than when we had left. I immediately got a phone call from my dad that they had found her! Everyone in the shelter was so happy!! There was supposed to be a prayer service at 7pm and instead, it turned into a celebration that she had been found-ALIVE! We were talking to two girls from Aaliyah’s high school and they were saying how sad everyone was that she would potentially never see the day she got to graduate, but now there was a chance she would be able to graduate, this Friday.
Ever since I got home this evening Aaliyah has been on my mind. Just how rare this type of ending is. How lucky she is to be alive. And just how great of a guardian angel she has!! This opportunity has made me realize just how much I take my own life for granted. Every day is a gift, and we should not let a single day go by without telling our loved ones just how much we love them, and God how grateful we are for the day we have. I think it is also so important that we all continue to pray for Aaliyah as she processes and heals from most likely the scariest and most life-changing week she will ever encounter.
Guest blogger Travis Hartnell talks about his journey to full communion with the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter Vigil.
Many people have asked me the question, What brought you to the Catholic Church? I heard this question numerous times throughout my journey and every time it meant something different. I wasn’t sure how to respond at first since I hadn’t warmed up to sharing my story. I always felt it was obvious God brought me here, but I knew there was more I could offer people. I was blessed with many graces, and given the hardest conflicts of my entire life during this time. I went through the scariest rollercoaster ride of my life and wasn’t sure when I would get off. So today I want to give you the meat and potatoes of that journey.
The spark that ignited this journey happened at the turn of 2016. Now to start you there wouldn’t be just. I had influences throughout my life that helped me become a spiritual person. I was raised by a spiritual father who was born and baptized Catholic, but didn’t practice much of his life. My mother has been a caring, liberal woman who didn’t present us with specific spiritual offerings but the belief that God is real. Both of my parents didn’t attend church or tell us we were required to growing up. They took an approach that allowed life to be open to ourselves as we grew older. This let us have the freedom to explore what made us happy growing up without feeling judged or different for our choices.
My whole life I have believed in God, a higher power that put us here with a destiny. Countless times in my life I have been shown things happen for a reason. To believe in this means there is someone else [God], that puts us where we are in life against our own will. I say this because it is what truly brought me to Catholicism, and brought me to the happiest point of my life. I have learned people come and go in our lives. Some stay longer than we want, others leave too soon. Best of all, those we are really meant to be with, stay forever.
My coming-to-faith moment started at the end of 2015 with the turn of the New Year. I had been unhappy with my life for quite some time. This unhappiness came from a relationship I did not have a desire to be a part of, and a less than ideal living situation. I had been living with a girl I was dating at the time for a few years. I was comfortable where I was, but not happy. I knew I needed a change, and I wanted that more than anything. To initiate this change I needed to find a new place to live that I could afford on my own. I found an apartment right away to move to and was given hope. Little did I know, I would lose this apartment to someone that means the world to me to this day. This disappointment from the apartment loss left me feeling hopeless. I fell deeper into a depressed state than I already had been in. I felt I had nowhere to turn to. I remember being on my knees alone crying in my room. I was trying to find out what I was supposed to do. I found myself asking God, being mad at him. I really only turned to God in moments of need, not gratitude. I remember feeling as though he did not care about me and what happened. Friends, family and God had left me alone.
The difficult task life had thrown at me was moving into a new home. I needed to find a place within my budget, and in a reasonable location. About a month later I had an opportunity to move again, but for some reason I decided to pass. Another month went by, and again an opportunity came, but I passed. I made the choice to actively pass on these apartments because it felt like the right thing to do, and I could not have been happier with the choice I made. If I had taken the instant relief from them, I would have missed out on the biggest life-changing events that happened in my life.
It was shortly after these happenings that I approached Ryan, my sponsor, about church. I wanted to know more about God. I was starting to feel a deeper connection with him from the hopelessness I had been going through. I was unsure as to what this all meant to me. I asked to attend Mass one Sunday morning and was afraid. I was so afraid since I did not know what to expect. I remember wanting to back out that morning, but I gathered the courage and went. I attended morning Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. You could say I jumped in head first. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the church, the love of the community, as well as the passion of the priests and others serving the church. It was Father Scott Pogatchnik that first touched me with the words of the Gospel. I remember leaving church feeling refreshed. Like I just hit the restart button on the spiritual darkness I let cloud me. I loved the feelings that overcame me. I soon had asked Ryan to attend Mass a few more times. I knew I wanted to be a part of this community! I just did not know how I was going to get there.
Shortly after this first experience with church, I met someone that would provide a major impact on my life. I knew of this girl, but only as Ryan’s sister-in-law. She was the one that took my apartment in the beginning of this story. Little did I know, without her, I couldn’t credit where I am in my journey today. I met Nicole a year ago. She and I were invited to Ryan and Kaela’s house for a bonfire. Immediately I knew there was something special between me and this girl. They say when you meet the person in life meant for you, that you’ll know when you know. Let’s just say I knew! We became friends, she learned of my new journey in faith and has been a practicing Catholic herself since birth. Because of this she invited me to Mass every Sunday with her. I grew to love Mass, and her. This is where my life had changed me, I felt God’s love. I felt the love from this girl. I knew that if I had gotten that apartment she took, I would never have met her at that fire. She provided me the little bit of comfort I needed to commit to Catholicism. She has changed my world with the support and love she has provided me. I am happy to call her mine!
Summer was coming to an end and I had been attending Mass for months, always watching others take Eucharist and feeling left out. I made the decision that had been aching at my heart for so long. I needed to pursue the path to becoming Catholic. I went to Ryan and asked if he could look into what I needed to do to join the community. He got a hold of faith formation and put me on the path I needed to start. I was nervous and excited at the same time. Joining the RCIA program was amazing. They provided the tools I needed to learn and become a member of the church. I attended class weekly, as well as Mass every Sunday. I met priests, deacons, and even the bishop a few times. I was asked to be involved in some of the Masses at my comfort. I was called in front of the church many times as a catechumen. The unbelievable thing was, I was never nervous. Easter Vigil came, and I was presented in front of the entire church for baptism first communion, and confirmation! Again, with the welcome of the community, I was never nervous. I am sure you could say it was the grace of God, but maybe it was because, it was the one place, I was truly meant to be.
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.” 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.