By: Rick Hernandez
Once during my travels, I sat at the bar at a local restaurant. A man was sitting there alone at the end of the large counter with a big smile on his face. I remember being intrigued by this man and I engaged him in conversation. He was very personable, had a quiet dignity about him and you could tell life had taught him a thing or two. He told me his name was Justin, and we proceeded to talk about life, faith, politics and everything else we could think of. Eventually, we started talking about our youth, where we came from, and Justin opened up about his past and about the drug addiction and escapism that ruled his teenage years. “Here is a life lesson for you” he said, and told me his story.
Once, Justin was a teenager, with a good caring family, a girlfriend he loved, and a bright future ahead of him. He considered himself a good person; always wanted to be of help, mindful of the needs of others. He was a good student, well-liked at school, where everyone thought he was to continue the family tradition of public office. But Justin suffered from a crippling private anxiety. From a young age he suffered from “carrying everybody’s dreams about his future”. He wanted to fulfill his family’s expectations, but that anxiety kept eating at him in secret. At a party, Justin was introduced to cocaine, the street drug of choice at the time, and he was hooked. The drug became his refuge from anxiety, his effort to escape from his reality; little by little he stopped caring about others. On a fateful day, Justin attempted to rob a store. The attempt went badly and the store clerk was hurt. The police arrived quickly and Justin was arrested. Eventually he was tried as an adult, and thrown into prison.
While in prison, Justin thought “This is all wrong. This is not me; I am supposed to be a good person”, but he had made many mistakes and had to acknowledge them and make amends. He took his prison sentence as an opportunity to learn, to know himself, to combat his anxiety, to understand where he went wrong. Justin found solace in the Bible, specifically “Though the just fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble from only one mishap” (Proverbs 24:16). Justin thought, “If I am a just man, I shall rise again. I have to learn what it is to be a just man…” And that started a lifetime of trying to understand the virtue of justice and how it relates to his life and the ones around him.
Justin said to me, “You see, I have a good life now. I am a just man, and this I have learned. When we make mistakes, we have to repent and own up to them, fix them the best we can. The world will still try to kick you down for your mistakes, sometimes savagely. It will attempt to make you relive your worst mistakes, tell you that you are still that man that did not know better and that you have not changed. It will tell you that you have no worth, even to yourself. That is a lie. That is misguided justice. Yes, the world will kick you down, but a just man RISES regardless. Live your life rightly. Give to the people what is theirs, to you what is yours, to God what is His. Live justly, love freely.”
I remember Justin’s advice often. For someone who is not a Catholic, I believe he did understand Catholic justice better than most. The Catholic definition of justice is “the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbor.” We have to understand that we are also included here; we are called to be just with everyone, including ourselves. Even when we sin, when we are at our worst, we still have infinite value. Even at our lowest point, we still have the power to change with God’s help. We repent, confess, and make retribution. That is justice. Once restored, we have to continue to act justly because our actions have to honor our dignity, which is given to us by God. Practicing the virtue of justice will help keep us in relationship with God and others. Justice allows us to love. Live justly, love freely.
Let us pray, Our Lord of Heaven, please grant us wisdom, that we may learn how to live a just life and apply discernment to our actions, that we may always act in a pleasing manner to You. Amen.
By: Laura Worhacz
Dear Eucharistic Family,
On Sunday we may meditate on Heaven and keep holy the Sabbath. With all our senses we need to remind one another to keep Sunday a special day of remembrance, a little Easter. Avoid unnecessary work. A good way to discern this may be to examine the heart. A perfect Sunday for me, as for many of you I am sure, begins with going to Mass. We are then sent to love and serve our Lord. My perfect Sunday continues with preparation for Sunday dinner. It may seem like work to prepare food, cook, clean, set the table, and clean up again. However, whether it is my husband and me, our girls, or a full table, my heart rejoices in sitting around the table for Sunday dinner. The food is secondary to the faces I am privileged to see gathered around the table. The joy of feeding others has always been a way for me to express love. The Eucharistic Sacrifice enables us to learn how to serve. When we give a gift of ourselves, our Sunday becomes holy.
September 19th is the anniversary of an apparition of Our Lady that is unknown to many, Our Lady of La Salette. Saint Peter Julian would go to the magnificent mountain where Our Lady appeared to pray even before the apparitions were approved by our Catholic Church. He knew in his heart Our Lady visited this holy mountain to bring us a message through her tears. In part of Our Lady’s message of La Salette we learn that she is sitting with her head down, fallen in her lap, crying. Mary’s tears poured forth for the lack of respect Heaven sees for the Sabbath.
In spending time before the Blessed Sacrament, we can be assured that Jesus will lead our hearts to celebrate Sunday in the perfect way for each of us. For me, gathering around the table for Sunday dinner has created many memories, many laughs, many serious and sometimes confrontational conversations. All of these create a bond of unity that keeps the Eucharist we have received in a secure bond of love united to the Heart of Jesus. There are so many Catholics unable to attend Sunday Liturgy and so many that are not aware of the awesome gift of going to church on Sunday. Our enthusiasm, charity, and remembrance of keeping Sunday holy may be the witness that will bring others to church. God’s love is expressed to us in His life-giving gift found in the Living Bread that comes down from HEAVEN.
By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
“Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). When we look at the ten commandments, we see that the first three order our relationship with God, and the last seven order our relationship with our neighbor. This lets us know two things. First, the order of the commandments let us know that our relationship with God must come first. Second, the number of commandments relating to our relationship with our neighbor lets us know that we will struggle more often in that area. This makes sense when we think of how many hours in the day we are directly talking with God vs. how many hours we are interacting with others. Those we live with often challenge us the most.
When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. (Advice from Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis)
How often do we feel annoyed by the behavior of those around us? In my younger years I used to jokingly say, “I would be a saint, if it wasn’t for the people around me.” This thought, though meant as a joke, hides a deep truth beneath. It is true, that it is in community, in relationship, that our faults and weaknesses are brought to the surface. The “other” acts as a mirror to the state of our soul. But what we do when these faults come to the surface is the difference between vice and virtue, between sin and love. Those closest to us, by the mere number of interactions, bring up things that just can’t be ignored. Conversation, charity, change, compromise…either from one or likely from both, will be required if the goal is to live in peace.
“Now I wish to tell you further, that a man proves his patience on his neighbor, when he receives injuries from him. Similarly, he proves his humility on a proud man, his faith on an infidel, his true hope on one who despairs, his justice on the unjust, his kindness on the cruel, his gentleness and benignity on the irascible.” - (From The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Sienna)
When my faults rise up in response to an offense, and I become aware of them, it is like a double-edged sword, cutting “between soul and spirit, joints and marrow” (Heb 4:12). “My sin is before me always” (Psalm 51). This revelation is a great gift from God. It is only when I become aware of my own sinfulness that I can bring it to the foot of the Cross. If it remains hidden it festers and slowly kills my soul. It is in the reflection of the other that the soul sees its true state and can surrender to the loving hand of God. Thus, through relationship with other sinners, God works on my soul. This process can happen simultaneously in a relationship, if both are striving to grow in love. “Love is the cross, and the cross is Love” (St. Therese of Lisieux). When we feel annoyed at something or someone we have a choice. We can either choose to focus on what is annoying us, or we can recognize the opportunity in front of us, an opportunity to practice virtue, to grow in patience, to grow in love.
By: Rick Hernandez
Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. "The Lord is my strength and my song." "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (CCC 1808).
The virtue of fortitude works hand-in-hand with the virtue of perseverance. Father Eymard tells us that to live a virtuous life, we must strive towards the virtues without fear, and that we must persevere in this struggle. When I think about perseverance, the first word that pops into my head is “abide”. The definition for “abide” is “to remain”. To remain, but remain where?
"Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me" (John 15:4).
Jesus is asking us to remain in Him and that means to persist in Him. Christ’s love is our anchor, it is what helps us to persist. Just as His Cross was rooted in His love, so are we to be rooted. This is what the virtue of fortitude is. “Fortitude is love bearing all things readily for the sake of the beloved" (St. Augustine). We are called to patiently bear, to abide, to remain, to persist. “Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; … encourage through all patience and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:2).
Now, life is always asking us, to move, to change, to act. It is good to change. We must evolve into the best version of ourselves and that means that that we must work towards that better state, but how do we do that? How do we evolve, yet remain? We can do that by working to align ourselves with the virtues. Out in the world we are to live in His love, share from His hope and grow from His faith. Yes, we grow and we change but through fortitude and perseverance, we remain in our given state as beloved children of God.
On September 5th, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Mother Teresa was deeply rooted in Jesus’ Cross, the place where Jesus abides. That was the place where her heart lived, yet she went out into the world, where she could meet Jesus’ heart in the lives of all the poor and the needy. It was difficult work there in the streets of Calcutta. Among the sick and the dying Mother Teresa grew in the virtues, grew closer to the perfection that we are called to pursue. With her guidance and example, she helped countless others to grow in virtue, helped them to care for one another. Through a virtuous life of love, hope, faith, humility and selflessness she persevered; there she was courageous. There she taught us, through her humble life, how to abide in Jesus’s love… Can we persevere like that? Where do we abide?
Let us pray: “O eternal God, grant me the virtue of perseverance; without it, no one can please You nor be acceptable to You. This virtue brings to the soul an abundance of charity and the fruit of every effort. Oh! how happy I should be, Lord, if You would give me this virtue, because even here on earth it will make me enjoy a pledge of eternal life. But Your light reveals to me that I cannot attain it unless I suffer much, because this life cannot be lived without suffering. He who would escape suffering would deprive himself of holy perseverance” (St. Catherine of Siena). Amen.
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We are Ivonne Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.