Sunday, February 26, 2012

Come Follow Me

" Testimony of Fr. Edward A. Sousa "

"Come follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men" (Mt. 4:19). When I was a teenager, I could remember hearing this saying of Jesus read at Mass, but never did its importance actually affect me in my life, until I turned the age of twenty-six. I would say that I began to experience a turning point to respond generously to this call.

When I was a child, up to my teenage years and into my early adulthood, I had no desire whatsoever to become a priest. In fact, I remember sitting in a Career Day lecture in high school with an image in my mind of an ideal planned life for myself. I would go to college, get a good education, earn a decent amount of money, get married, have a family of my own, eventually become a grandfather and,finally,enjoy retirement in my old age.

So, what happened to me between the years of my childhood into early adulthood?
 Well, my desire to follow my set plan in life grew stronger and I had a set goal of getting a good education in the field that interest me. I developed an interest in culinary arts and decided in my senior year that I wanted to become a professional chef. Therefore, upon graduating, I enrolled at Johnson & Wales University. Two years later I graduated with an Associate of Occupational Science degree in culinary arts and I was what you would call a "professional chef."

I made decent money and was happy. All during this time I was what you would call the "average" Catholic. I went to church every Sunday, although many times half-heartedly, and was doing the best I could to be faithful to my beliefs. I was always a person with much joy, and had a wonderful family. I also dated off and on, and I had many friends.
However, I felt that there was still something missing. I was searching and looking for a meaning to my life. I began to figure out that the things of the world could not provide me with this so called "purpose" and "meaning" in life. I realized that maybe it was only God that could truly provide me with what I was looking for.

I slowly developed a desire to pray the Rosary. I always had a devotion to the Blessed Mother. The more I prayed, I felt my love and relationship to Jesus growing. I started to understand what many great saints throughout the Catholic Church have said for centuries. The main purpose of our love for the Blessed Mother is, "to lead us closer to her Son Jesus, for the good of our salvation."

I found myself paying more attention to the Holy Mass, feeling a hunger for God's Word, and remembering the bible readings. I was going to confession more frequently. In my spare time, I went to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament rather than going out with my friends.

I began to get involved in church through the generosity of my current pastor, Father Reinaldo Cardoso, in all area of the parish life. My mother asked me, "Have you ever thought about priesthood?" The question caught me off guard. I tried to avoid the question with nervous laughs, but I began to realize things were changing in my life and it would only be a matter of time. I spent time asking myself, "Why would God be calling me?" I was not sure if God was truly calling me.
It was May of 1995, during a special holy hour at my parish, that I met a young visiting priest from East Timor. He asked me, "Have you ever thought about priesthood?"
 I felt a moment of grace and the question hit me like a "ton of bricks." This time I did not shrug it off. It was then that I met with Father Cardoso, and told him my thoughts.

My parents were not surprised and were extremely happy with my desire to follow Christ in the priesthood. In August of 1995, I left my paying job and in September I entered the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence. I enrolled in Providence College and began the first two-year program.
I can find no way to measure the tremendous experience I have had in the course of spiritual formation.
 In the summer of 1996, I traveled to a popular Marian shrine at Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. During my visit, I met a married couple, Patrick and Nancy Latta, who were originally from Canada and now living in Medjugorje.
I told Nancy that I found my seminarian life very difficult and at times, I felt like giving it all up. Without hesitation, she looked at me straight in the eyes and said to me, "Edward, always remember one thing. God does not want you to do great things, but to do simple things with great love." I felt at that moment, God's infinite mercy and grace. From that day forward, to this present day, I have never again looked back in God's calling to the priesthood."

Prayer for a Priest
 O Jesus, our great High Priest, Hear my humble prayers on behalf of your priest, Father Edward A. Sousa, Jr. Give him a deep faith, a bright and firm hope and a burning love which will ever increase in the course of his priestly life.
In his loneliness, comfort him In his sorrows, strengthen him In his frustrations, point out to him that it is through suffering that the soul is purified, and show him that he is needed by the Church, he is needed by souls, he is needed for the work of redemption.
O loving Mother Mary, Mother of Priests, take to your heart your son who is close to you because of his priestly ordination, and because of the power which he has received to carry on the work of Christ in a world which needs him so much.
Be his comfort, be his joy, be his strength, and especially help him to live and to defend the ideals of consecrated celibacy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Widow's Mite

For they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:44

Not a day goes by that I don’t see her at morning mass. Her soft gray hair, her heavy maroon coat and her sensible shoes are always accompanied by her angelic smile. Her smile lights up the church brighter than an entire wall lined with votive candles. It is just one of the many gifts she gives to others without the smallest effort.

When mass is over she stays behind. Prayer book and rosary beads in hand, she prays for her children, her grandchildren, her friends and the many homeless that she bakes cookies for. This is her widow’s mite, her small sacrifices of love that she joyfully shares with others. She is a witness of Christ here on earth; her name is Preska.

Then there is Joan. She leads a Thursday night rosary in the church for the sanctity of life. I have seen her on countless Sunday afternoons standing, either alone or with a few other folks, in front of the nearby Planned Parenthood. Apparently, this particular Planned Parenthood does abortions on this day. Joan holds her rosary beads in one hand, a few prayer cards in the other, and she prays during the hours that the abortions are being preformed. She has been subjected to many vile comments by both men and women seeking the seemingly "quick fix" they feel Planned Parenthood will provide them. You see, Joan's peaceful presence, her standing up for life, stirs something in them that they want to keep suppressed, something they don't want to feel.

She doesn't seem to mind though. This is what she joyfully does for Jesus. And the fruits of her labor have,  indeed, been a joy because Joan has also had young women that have come out of Planned Parenthood and walk up to her,  tearfully telling  her thank you. They tell her that her presence and her prayer jolted something in them, something that made them realize that they could not go through with the abortion.   

These good women, and many others like them,  live the message of Jesus in small but mighty ways every day. As St. Paul has said, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” Heb. 13:16

During Lent of 1986, Our Lady gave the following message:
“Dear children, today I invite you to live this Lent with your small sacrifices which you have already presented to me. Dear children, continue to live in this way and, with your love, help me to present your offerings to God, who will reward you.”   BVM, Medjugorje  03/13/1986.

Our sacrifice is the truest sign of love, for on the external level we gain nothing for ourselves, but direct our action outward for the benefit of another. And a sacrifice that we have made with love is redemptive in the hands of God, for it becomes joined to the greatest sacrifice of all, that of Christ on the cross.1

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

As We Approach Lent

With each passing year, I realize I look forward to the Season of Lent more and more.  Perhaps in my adult life, I realize that I need it more and more.  That I need a time, an entire season of growing closer to God through letting go and working towards becoming what he wants.  A time of going into the desert.  The idea of committing yourself for forty days to a special practice or either deeper payer, fasting, good works, perhaps picking up more mass attendances during the week or popping in more for adoration, actually gives me hope and a renewed focused on what needs to be the center of my life.  What is so ironic is that we as a Church are examining and remembering Christs death and crucifixion in this season, yet are hopeful for the Resurrection that we know only comes when we die to ourselves for greater love of God and his divine plan.  I think that is why I am always hopeful when Lent comes around, because I feel as though anything is possible, including real transformation, if I only let go, carry the cross and are willing to even go through some sort of death.  As I begun to prepare myself for this year's Lenten Season, I came across this beautiful reflection.  I think I will read each day during Lent, I hope it speaks to you as well.

Catch me in my anxious scurrying, Lord, and hold me in this Lenten Season:
hold my feet to the fire of your grace
and make me attentive to my mortailty
that I may begin to die now
to those tihngs that keep me from living with you
and with my neighbors on this earth;

to grudges and indifference,
to certainties that smother possibilities
to my fascination with false securities,
to my arrogant insistence on how it has to be;
to my corrosive fear of dying someday
which eats away the wonder of living this day,
and the adventure of losing my life in order to find it in you.

Catch me in my mindless scurrying, Lord, and hold me in this Lenten season;
hold my spirit to the beacon of your grace and grant me light enough to walk boldly,
to feel passionately,
to love aggressively;

grant me peace enough to want more,
to work for more
and to submit to nothing less,
and to fear only you...only you!

Bequeath me not becalmed seas,
slack sails and premature benedictions,
but breathe into me a torment,
storm enough to make within myself
and from myself, something...

something new,
something saving,
something true,
a gladness of heart,
a pitch for a song in the storm,
a word of praise lived,
a gratitude shared,
a cross dared,
a joy received.

Please leave any comments for this post on the authors site which is listed above.
God bless you all.

Adapted:  Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace:  Prayers for the Battle

Friday, February 10, 2012

All Creation Groans

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. Mark 7:32

How many times have I sat before you, O Lord,
begging you to hear my cries,
filling your ears with my many wants,
my many needs.

Groaning before you I come…But like the deaf man, I do not hear….

Then you groan…”Ephphatha! open”

Be open to the beauty that surrounds you,
to my presents in your life.
be open to the sound of the morning song bird.
She sings to you so sweetly this morning.
She has come to wake you,
to fill your heart with joy.

Be open to the sun that rises this day,
 as it peaks through the trees,
shinning into your bedroom window,
a hint of what this day has to offer if you will only see.

Be open to the one I put before you today,
the one who stands in need of your love,
your understanding,
your time…..yes... your time.

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Romans 8:22

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Open my ears, that I might hear your voice.
Open my heart, that I might be filled with your tender mercy.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Illuminate My Soul, Oh Lord, Source of All Grace

Message of February 02, 2012
"Dear children; I am with you for so much time and already for so long I have been pointing you to God's presence and His infinite love, which I desire for all of you to come to know. And you, my children? You continue to be deaf and blind as you look at the world around you and do not want to see where it is going without my Son. You are renouncing Him - and He is the source of all graces. You listen to me while I am speaking to you, but your hearts are closed and you are not hearing me. You are not praying to the Holy Spirit to illuminate you. My children, pride has come to rule. I am pointing out humility to you. My children, remember that only a humble soul shines with purity and beauty because it has come to know the love of God. Only a humble soul becomes heaven, because my Son is in it. Thank you. Again I implore you to pray for those whom my Son has chosen - those are your shepherds."~ BVM Medjugorje02/02/2012

...As the Philistine approached David, he looked down on him and said, “Am I a dog that you come against me with a staff?”

 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. ~ Proverbs 16:18

 With God, my friends, we can do anything. Without God we will easily get distracted, we loose our way.

Our Lady has given us five stones they are: 

The Rosary
Fasting on Wednesday and Friday
Daily Reading of the Bible
Monthly Confession
 Holy Communion

As I read Our Lady's message, the old classic Gospel lyrics come to mind:
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.
And He will lift you up, higher and higher.
And He will lift you up, up into heaven.
And He will lift you up.  ~ Bob Hudson
May we all choose to be lifted up.Go!the LORD will be with you.....