Worried? Stressed Out? Read this.

We are certainly in interesting times. As we come out of 2020, a year plagued by Covid, we are well into 2021…a year still plagued by Covid. A year and a half with such a dark cloud over our heads has produced an economy that is less than certain. The news is awash with experts telling us the forth quarter of the economy is going to be bad. And if you look at the internet there are many, many people telling us that the future is bleak.

What do we do? Of course each of us will have to make up our own mind on which pundit to believe and chart our courses the best we can. But I want to remind you that God has the answer.

God has from the beginning told us He would take care of all that believe in Him. I think we all, that believe, know this. Why do we worry then?

Will God take care of us as we would like to be taken care of? I like my house, I like my car. This list of “I like’s” could go on for awhile. I know that if times get tough I am going to have to make some tough decisions on those things “I like”. Will I have to sell my RV, or how about one of our cars? Heaven forbid I have to sell my house! This is where stress and worry come from.

But God will take care of us, we know this. But we still worry. This stems from trust. We read in scripture that God wishes us to live simple lives, this has to be the most ignored piece of scripture. Is God, through bad economic times, directing us back to simple lives? Are simple lives, being God’s wish, the better life?

Answer, (in question form) has God ever led you wrong?

Of course He has not. We should look at these times as God leading us to better lifestyles…maybe not financially, but spiritually. Can you come to grips with selling off some of your “I likes” and thereby enabling yourself to look forward to God’s peace?

I have to say, a little more peace in my life sounds very good!

Without a doubt, protect yourself from whatever is to come financially. But as you start to worry and fret, remember that God is with us, and is going to use these times to help us get closer to Him. So every hard decision you make, make it with an alleluia (as hard as that may be at the time) knowing that God is working even in the worst of times to bring you closer to Him.

Fr Scott

The Cross

Feast of the Holy Cross

Today we celebrate something that to an atheist would seem very odd, a form of execution. The cross in Jesus’ time was very simply a means to end lives of enemies to the state, whether they be criminals or the unfortunate folks that were frowned upon by the reigning authorities. Even to a Christian, to honor a form of execution might seem different, until you look at what that device did for all creation.

The cross itself was instantly turned into an object of veneration. After the death and resurrection of Christ, many believers would flock to Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion…of all crucifixions. So many came that the empire covered it in a mound of dirt and built a temple of Venus over the site. The mother of the emperor 200 years later ordered the site excavated and found the real cross that Jesus was crucified upon. They knew they had found it when two people in close proximity that were ill were healed instantly upon the crosses uncovering.

From the moment after the crucifixion, the cross has been venerated. It should remind us of the sacrifice that God made for us. It should remind us of God’s love. It should remind us that we should make a response.

Christ emptied Himself for us. We likewise should empty ourselves for Christ. Our hopes, our dreams, our desires should not be our own, they should be God’s. This is hard. We grow up dreaming of “our” future. We dream of what we will do and what we will see. We forget that we are created by God for His purpose, to do otherwise is to be outside of God’s plan and likely to be miserable. Look at the use of alcohol, drugs, prescription drugs today. We have an epidemic of sad and unhappy people that make themselves comfortable by partaking in things that hurt the body. Finding God’s call for our lives is the real answer.

Empty yourself, just as Christ did. See the cross as the constant reminder of God love for you and His call for your life. Put down your own thoughts as to your life, and follow God and the cross, it is there that you will find true happiness.

Why Mary?

As this post goes out, we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I have to admit, coming from protestant tradition, I have been surprised by how many Marian feast days there are. Protestants of course range in their reverence towards Mary, from “she was just a woman” to a nicely formed Mariology, you will find all form of Mariology in Protestantism.

We should look at why we revere Mary.

Mary was born without original sin, she was made specifically to give birth to the son of God. This alone should warrant celebration. That God would create such a woman, that He would bless the human race with someone worthy to carry God’s son. But we tend to be selfish; “why her?” “Why don’t I get that special treatment?”

My answer to this is we did all get special treatment. We all have ministries here in this life. We were all specially made for our ministry. The problem is, we all seem to want our neighbors ministry, not the one God gave us. We look at our life and we think it is not that special. If only I had my neighbor’s job, or if only I could have more prestige or money.

As the old saying goes, “the grass is always greener”.

But the truth is, life is always better when we all do our job. When we let those called to lead, lead, those called to manage manage, and those called to work, work; this is when we have our best results.

Mary was called to carry Jesus, she accepted this honor from her own free will. As we look at Mary and ask “why her”, we should also look at what she gave up to complete this task. She kept herself pure. This certainly should be seen as a gain instead of a loss, but we should know that keeping pure requires giving up many of the things we find enjoyable in this life. The venial sins that lead to mortal, the idleness that leads to sin, it is a sacrifice to get back to productive work and not take that extra break. It is work keeping pure in this world, and she performed that work without fail. It has been told and told again, but Mary’s betrothal and pregnancy was dangerous. She could have been stoned, or at least shunned. We all know that through the message of an angel to Joseph she would be saved, but she did not know that when she said “yes”. The trip to Egypt while pregnant, the birth in a stable, what hardships she endured! Raising her son only to see Him executed as an innocent.

The grass is not always greener. We should celebrate the birth of this great woman, we should marvel at what she accomplished in her life. We should rejoice that she still comes to us through apparitions. We should make every attempt to model our life after hers.

God made us all for a reason, we should always ask ourselves; “are we living up to God’s call”? Pick up your cross, just as Mary did, and further the kingdom of God here in the Church militant.

Fr Scott

How Mary helped me to the Catholic Church

I was newly ordained as an Episcopalian minister, and I had been assigned to All Saints Episcopal church as their youth director. (among other jobs). A summer mission trip had already been planned by the rector (pastor) of the church, so of course he was all too happy to let me take the lead on the trip, though he would also go. (Just as an aside for my SJV readers, this is where I would meet Fr Stephen Jones, as he was just entering the process for discernment to ministry, and he had volunteered to go on the trip as one of the chaperones.). The trip was to Cuernavaca Mexico, flying into Mexico City and taking a bus to Cuernavaca.

My youth group was huge to my experience, as my previous group in Wisconsin was around 20 strong, this trip alone would have over 50 teens. I had never had to use the “number system”, but this group required it. Every so often I would yell “count”, and they would all count in order from one to fifty-each had their own number. This made certain that all were present even when I could not see them all, like when in crowds. We boarded the plane and headed to Mexico.

When we landed, we boarded another bus and headed for Cuernavaca, but with one stop, the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As I mentioned in the last article, I had no problems with Mary, and to be honest I knew very little Mariology. But I was excited as a former architect to see the churches associated with the shrine. As we unloaded and counted at the shrine, I could see this was a youth ministers nightmare. People everywhere! My first thought was to tie them all in a line like kinder-gardeners do, but for many reasons, including lack of a rope, I decided against it. So off we went, I told everyone to meet at the bus at a set time; it was going to be impossible to keep track of them through the shrine.

The first thing that hit me about the shrine were those people crawling on their knees across the plaza to the shrine. Episcopalians were known, for right or wrong, as the “frozen chosen”. We were formal in liturgy, music, and life. We might believe strongly, but to give an outward display like crawling across a public plaza was out of the question. There were many, many people selling rosaries, and their business was quite brisk. I had never bought a rosary, I had no idea how to pray one.

To my disappointment, the oldest of the shrine churches was under construction and closed. Disappointed as I was, I then bolstered my spirit with the knowledge that at least I would have nothing keeping me from shepherding my young flock. (like studying an older church that not many would be interested in) So I turned to the main, modern church and decided to wander in.

I should take a moment here to say, at this moment in time, summer 1999, I had heard of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but I had no idea of the story, or even that this “lady” was the Blessed Virgin; I was what most would call completely ignorant.

I walked in, and wandered, and to be honest I could not tell you where I went first. Eventually though, I found myself on the escalator that moves everyone beneath the Tilma. Many of my group were going up, so why not, follow as many as I could! As I ascended, I saw the Tilma, and I was absolutely entranced. I stumbled off the escalator and found a place to stand and look from a distance, and time stopped for me.

God gives us signs in many ways, it is up to us to stop and listen. To say I was busy at the moment was an understatement, I had 50 teens wondering around a busy shrine in the middle of Mexico City! I had no reason to stop. I had no knowledge of what I was looking at.

I have no idea how long I stayed there, but it was until I was bumped by a chaperone. The chaperone was weary of the crowds and wanted to start collecting the kids. I came back to reality and agreed. I knew two new things though. I needed a rosary, and I needed to learn about this Tilma. So on the way out I bought a rosary, and if it were the modern age, I would have gotten on the web and found out what this Our Lady of Guadalupe was about…but it was the dark ages, that would have to wait till I was back in the states.

What then did this have to do with my conversion to the Catholic Church 18 years later? The rosary. I have no idea where that rosary I bought in Mexico ended up, but my knowledge of the peace it brought never left me after that day. That encounter with our Blessed Mother would cause me to not only begin devotion to her, but started my learning of Mary. Questions like “why ever blessed?” “Why ever virgin”? “Why the rosary”? “Why the devotion”? Over the years, as I learned the answers to those questions, I became more and more Catholic. But what is more, I became closer with Christ. Mary brought me to her Son, and this might raise a question, I was already a pastor, was I not already close to Christ? All through life we come closer and move further in proximity to Christ. At times we can be right at His feet and not be listening to what He is trying to tell us. We can and should from time to time concentrate on coming close to Jesus, times such as retreats or times rich in prayer for us can help us in this. The interesting thing about Mary is that in devotion to her, she takes us by the hand and takes us close to her son, and this almost always brings us to the Catholic Church.

Regardless of your background or knowledge base, if you open your heart and allow the answers to your questions you might have about Mary enter in; she will bring you to her Son, and to His Church. How amazed I was when I heard other converts say that Mary brought them to Catholicism; I was far from the only one she lead home.

Fr Scott

Mariology in brief.

Mary bring souls to the Catholic Church

I was told once that when you start to pray the rosary regularly that it is only a matter of time until you come home to the Catholic Church. I would have to agree. Mary is both a great stumbling block for the protestant, but also she is a great docent, leading us to her Son.

I never had an issue with Mary, I believe this to be a huge help in my conversion. Mary held a special place in my belief system, she gave birth to Jesus, my savior. As a child, having no knowledge of any Mariology, I knew that Mary was revered. Our chapel at St Johns Episcopal was named after her, as many Episcopalian chapels.

If you are protestant and having a problem getting past Mary, let me offer the following.

The original problem was original sin. We were separated from God because we sinned. Lets not give this fact only a cursory thought. God cannot have anything to do with sin. Atonement had to be made. While mankind remained in sin, nobody could be in heaven. Obviously, not going to heaven is a big deal for we mortals, but lets not forget how big of a deal it is for God. God made us to love, and He very much wants our love. If we cannot be with Him, He still loves us but we cannot love Him. We are eternally separated. This messes up all of God’s plans! Can you imagine being sovereign of all the universe but still having your plans foiled by freewill? But there it was, we were separated. God wanted love which can only be given freely, so He could not simply “wave” the freewill thing.

So He came up with a plan. He would give His own Son for reparation. Jesus would die in reparation for our sins. But there is still a problem. How does Jesus, God the Son, get to be a human? Being born of a human of course. But wait, all have sinned. God cannot be apart of sin, as we just discussed. Problem. Solution? God could make a woman without sin to be His tabernacle for the gestation period so that Jesus could be born, fully God, fully man. Here we have the Immaculate Conception. It really could not have happened any other way.

Next, Why the whole virginity thing? Mary was to be the tabernacle of God. Here we should think of our church. There are things you do in front of the tabernacle and things you don’t. I’ll leave that at that. If you come from a protestant background that meets in an auditorium, this might be a harder thing to comprehend. Imagine coming before God. Would you walk up and give Him a high five? I know some that would. So lets go back to scripture. Why did Moses have to take off his shoes when approaching the burning bush? Why did people die when they touched the ark of the covenant? Why could only the high priest open the ark? Why do people get healed by simply touching Jesus? The answer to these questions is those things were holy, or set apart for God. If we want to be respected, we meet important people not by a high five, but by a respectful handshake. If we want to live, we should approach God with reverence and respect. Mary was full of grace, in other words, she was holy, set apart. To be radically set apart, which I think holding God in her womb qualifies, she cannot have been with any other man, whether married or not. Holy and set apart does not go away. She was consecrated to God. After the birth of Jesus she remained a virgin and sinless, as she was full of grace. This explains “born of a virgin” and “ever virgin”. The ark cannot be found, it was of God. Jesus was raised, He was God. Mary was also assumed, as she was just as the first ark, she was holy.

Why do we revere Mary? Because she said yes. She gave her life to be holy. Even though born without sin, she still could have chosen another route away from God. She lived a holy life in preparation for a ministry she had no idea of. Had she been told as a small girl that she would give birth to the Christ, maybe, but she remained holy without knowing why she was doing so. Then as a young teen, God came to her by the message of an angel. She was to be made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, but she was not married. This is a stoning offense. She risked death in order to follow God. Finally, after Christ was born, she walked Him to the cross, a trial I hope I will never have to perform with my own children. How hard must that have been. So many of us might be angry at God, but she glorified Him. She is venerable. But whats more, she is in heaven with Jesus and God. Since she is in close proximity, why not ask her to intercede for us to God? Why not ask her to pray for us?

If we open our hearts to Mary, she will take us to her Son.

Fr Scott