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When you work at a bar you have plenty of downtime with nothing to do but talk to your co-workers. This was the case when I worked security at Red Square in Burlington Vt. Red Square was a big club/ bar on the main street of Burlington and because of the secular nature of the place the “fields were white for harvest.”

One of the first things that struck me was how many people working there identified themselves as “catholic”. They weren’t practicing the Faith but they weren’t ashamed to admit to me that they were baptized in the Church. The other unfortunate thing that struck me was how well read most of them were in the New Age trends that are so popular right now. Almost all of them had read the book “The Secret” and many of them were devoted readers of “A New Earth”

When I would ask why they turned to these books and teachings many of them answered that they were looking for fulfillment, peace, meaning, love, light and life. When pushed they struggled to actually define what these themes meant.  My natural question would be “Do you feel like you are really living now?” and they would all describe this process of “enlightenment” they are going through. They would say something like, “well I am getting there.”

The most disturbing part of all of this is that the themes that appealed to them (fulfillment, peace, meaning, love, light and life) are all Christian themes rich in meaning. It amazes me that so many of them probably heard about things like Light, Love and Light thousands of times in their Christian childhoods and yet they think these New Age movements are the real place to find them.

I started to realize that I had to use these themes while witnessing to them in order to appeal to that need and desire in their hearts. This was an easy thing to do because each of those themes find their source in Christ Jesus. While I usually try to stress the aspect of conversion and the change a relationship with Christ has made in my life, to those experimenting with the New Age movement I tell them of the inflow of light, life, love and true peace coming from our Lord.

Here are some things to think about when dealing with someone interested in the “New Age” spirituality (particularly the popular trends now publicized greatly by Oprah etc…)

Bring reality to the forefront. An outsider with a Christian worldview might look at some of these teachings and quickly realize at there core is a denial of actual real events happening in the world. They draw strongly on the idea that “pereception is reality”. Many of them talk about a sort of “gate” they think they control letting in only positive events. Remind them of reality and the idea that we are living in a real world and need real solutions to things like suffering, anger, hate, death, and stress. Christ present a real solution to this real broken world. Christ is not an escape but an answer and because of this they must admit, in the end, that He is more real than what they are escaping into.

Remember who’s behind this It is common knowledge that direct involvement in the occult can lead to extraordinary demonic attacks. But I have a feeling that deliverance ministries, and Exorcists in America will be bombarded in the years to come with cases originating with the involvement with these New Age teachings. Some of the “teachers” or gurus even admit to learning these teachings through “Channeling”. The Evil One is behind this and so while they may not be witches or Satanists they may still be under extraordinary influence of evil spirits. Pray for protection, liberation and healing.

Present Jesus the way He was meant to be presented. I am certainly no expert, by any means, at evangelizing. But one thing you could never say is that I present a boring version of the Gospel. Unfortunately many of these people who were raised Christian never heard the Gospel preached correctly. This is especially true for Catholics. CCD classes just didn’t usually cut it. Christ came to set fire… Think about that before ever telling someone about Him. He is dynamic, engaging, dangerous ( to our mediocrity) and full of life. He is not boring, dull, binding or sad. If they disagree then they need a second look. A real look this time.

In the end a joyful witness is the best medicine. Exhibiting joy and peace in your own life and identifying that it can only come through a passionate relationship with the One who is light, life and love is the only remedy. Eventually they will realize that none of those ideal they are striving for can be obtained through following the teachings they read. Hopefully (we pray) they will remember where we found them.

If they are Christians remind them that these new age teachings are not in line with scripture or the Church. Believe it or not but many of them are surprised to hear this. I was once invited to lunch at the home of one of the most influential pro-life, Christian, conservative philanthropists in America. She had pictures of herself with all the republican presidents for the last 40 years,  as well as pictures with Billy Graham and several Cardinals. When lunch began each of us sat down to a copy of the book “A new Earth” for us to take home. She had no clue the ideas in this book were hostile to Christianity.

Love is shown through real concrete actions. One of the most popular leaders in the New Age movement, one that has made his way into the lives of countless Christians has this strange teaching about sending certain feelings to others. For example he will say that when he encounters a difficult person he will start sending them feelings of love and positive energy. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is the perfect answer for this nonsense. No one will doubt the incredible love of this woman. You can ask them to imagine if all she did was stay clean and tidy and “send feelings of love to people” instead of getting down embracing people, cleaning them and feeding them. Would they even know who she was today if that were the case?

Psychology, Success literature and Self help are not New Age. Many people take up these books thinking they are “self help” books. This is not the case. The teachings in these books are about much more than discipline, habits, relationships, goals etc. They are presenting a new world view and are therefore hostile to the Christian Faith. Do not let them tell you it’s just a self help book.    

Read the Churches Statement on the New Age movement. The Vatican Council for Interreligious dialogue released a document called, “Jesus Christ, Bearer of the Water of Life.” It is an excellent start to understanding the differences between the two beliefs. It can be found here: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_20030203_new-age_en.html

All the gods of the nations are idols but the Lord God brings new life…

God calls every christian to a silent prayer life but that doesn’t mean we leave all wrote prayer behind. Sometimes these prayers sum up the feeling of our heart perfectly. This prayer is from the Raccolta and it is absolutely a favorite.

Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist, I adore Thee.

Sweet Companion of our exile, I adore Thee.

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, I adore Thee.

Heart solitary, Heart humiliated, I adore Thee.

Heart abandoned, Heart forgotten, I adore Thee.

Heart despised, Heart outraged, I adore Thee.

Heart ignored by men, I adore Thee.

Heart, Lover of our hearts, I adore Thee.

Heart pleading for love, I adore Thee.

Heart patient in waiting for us, I adore Thee.

Heart eager to hear our prayers, I adore Thee.

Heart desiring that we should pray to Thee, I adore Thee.

Heart, Source of fresh graces, I adore Thee.

Heart silent, desiring to speak to souls, I adore Thee.

Heart, sweet Refuge of the hidden life, I adore Thee.

Heart, Teacher of the secrets of union with God, I adore Thee.

Heart of Him Who sleeps, yet ever watches, I adore Thee.

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Jesus Victim, I wish to comfort Thee; I unite myself to Thee; I offer myself in union with Thee. I count myself as nothing before Thee;I desire to forget myself in order to think of Thee, to be forgotten and despised for love of Thee, not to be understood, not to be loved, except by Thee. I will hold my peace that I may listen to Thee; I will forsake myself that I may lose myself in Thee.

Grant that I may quench Thy thirst for my salvation, Thy burning thirst for my sanctification, and that, being purified, I may bestow on Thee a pure and true love. I would no longer weary Thine expectations; take me, I give myself to Thee. I entrust to Thee all my actions—my mind that Thou mayest enlighten it, my heart that Thou mayest direct it, my will that Thou mayest establish it, my misery that Thou mayest relieve it, my soul and my body that Thou mayest feed them.

Eucharistic Heart of my Jesus, Whose Blood is the life of my soul, may it be no longer I who live, but Thou alone Who livest in me. Amen.

If you are serious about the Christian life then no doubt you have identified those defects that most prevent you from joining God. It usually takes a long battle to rid yourself of these sins so in the mean time you should have a plan for those times when you fall.

  • First thank God for His mercy: The greatest part about personal sin is that God came for the sick. How sad it would be if we didn’t need a God to pursue us and romance us and Father us as children. After sinning throw yourself into God’s mercy and be thankful you have a reason for a savior.
  • Do not focus on yourself: Acknowledge that you and you alone are to blame for this but to beat yourself up about it is a form of pride. Seems strange but it is pride.
  • Look at the situation: What led you to this fall. No doubt there was a progression of temptations given into before you finally fell. Look exactly at the “near occasion of this sin” Learn from the fall and bring good out of evil.
  • Don’t let the Devil use it: Once you have fallen the Devil will throw it in your face and use it to make you feel helpless, shameful and unworthy. Rebuke him and rest in the knowledge of God’s love for His imperfect servants.
  • Prayer of Contrition: Choose a prayer ahead of time. Memorize it and be ready to beg God for His mercy. I use psalm 51. You can use any act of contrition you want but it’s a time to acknowledge our fall and our betrayal of Jesus and beg Him to use this to draw us closer to Him.

Go and sin no more… John 8:11

Last night the parish I work for was blessed to host Ivan Dragicevic who for 27 years has been receiving messages from the Blessed Mother. The apparition happened around 6:40pm and after that he spoke for over an hour about Our Lady of Medjugorje and Her important mission here on earth.

I was blown away by the simplicity of the messages. He highlighted, conversion, prayer of the heart, reading scripture, the eucharist, confession, adoration, rosary, fasting, prayer in the family and a few other things I can’t remember but they too were just simple ways to live the radical catholic life and grow closer to the heart of Jesus. These messages are nothing but the heart of the Gospel presented in a simple and compelling way.

One particular part of Her message is that she wishes for Catholics to pray for 3 hours a day. The 3 hours would include all the prayer and meditation you do throughout the day but it is certainly a radical challenge.

I believe that if even a few Catholics from every parish would live the Medjugorje message the world would change greatly. She has come as the Queen of Peace and Her desire is to bring peace to the hearts of all. I was convicted to enter more deeply into the spiritual life and after the apparition I felt the strength try and live Her message. I pray that Her mission and message will continue to spread throughout the earth.

Our Lady of Medjugorje…Pray for us.

Queen of Peace…Bring peace to our hearts.

Our adversary will use anything and everything to disrupt God’s plan for our life. God wants to be Lord of every part of our life but so does the Evil One. He may be attacking us in places or details that we would have never suspected. A thorough examination of our life can be helpful to thwart his plans.

The following are five places the Devil may be attacking you:

  • Your Schedule: There are many worthy activities that each of us partake of that can get out of hand and take our attention away from whats important. Sports, finances, television, hobbies, work and friends are all good things that have their place in our life but the Devil can use them to take our eyes away from the prize. We need to make sure that all of these are subjected to our goal: heaven.
  • Your Work: Christian’s live one life. When we die we will be judged by our life here on earth and all things will be brought to light. God must be the Lord of our work life as well. The Devil will always try to convince us that what we do at work doesn’t count in the race to heaven. If we are living an unchristian life at work we are living an unchristian life.
  • Relationships: This may seem obvious. I have met so many Christians who are being held back by unforgiveness. It is common for me to speak with people who bring up past hurts and I can still sense they haven’t fully forgiven. Its one of the only times I ask people if I can pray with them. Its because I know what havoc unforgiveness can cause in someones spiritual life. We sometimes mistakenly think that if we were truly hurt by someone that it entitles us to hold on to that anger. The area of unforgiveness is one of the main ways the Devil is attacking even the most committed Christians.
  • Your Apostolate: Each day I give my apostolate back to the Lord. I want it to be his and not mine. I want His plan for it to be played out and I know the Devil can use even this apostolate to drag me from my Lord. We sometimes get the feeling like if we are doing something good or religious than that means we are doing God’s will. The Devil wants you to believe this because he can use your apostolate against you. If you are not continually, truly and humbly discerning God’s will for your apostolate then the Devil will creep in and use it against you.

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour… 1 Peter 5:8

During this time of year we start to think about making resolutions for the new year. Dieting, schedules, relationships, habits and vices will come to the front of our mind so that we may hopefully put them behind us for the next year. This is a wonderful practice that has helped many people become better humans.

There may be many things about yourself that you would like to change but this year I challenge you to change the things that God wants you to. How do we do this? Here are a few steps that may help:

  1. Listen, Listen, Listen. Take the new year to the Lord, present it to Him, ask Him for resolutions and then shut your mouth. God is ready to whisper to you.
  2. Look at serious sin first. What are the things you have to confess over and over again. You can bet that God has those on His list for you as well.
  3. Next look at what is keeping you from prayer? If you spend an hour a day watching tv but you don’t have an hour for prayer your resolution couldn’t be more clear.
  4. Take a look at relationships. Love is the primary way we bring Christ to the world. Resolve to Love until its hurts. You don’t have to find people to love. God put us in this situation with our family and acquaintances. Love them intensely.
  5. Talk to a spiritual director or trustworthy guide about resolutions. Unfortunately, we often can’t see ourselves the way we really are and we need another perspective.

2012 is the Lord’s. The only worthwhile resolution is one that brings us closer to Him. Resolve this year to embrace the Lord more fully.

To proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor… Isaiah 61:2

I had a brief discussion with my 8th grade CCD class on whether God could forgive people who have committed heinous sins. They brought up the usual questions. They mentioned Hitler and the Nazi’s, an abortionist and a murderer. To all the circumstances I replied as I always have, “God’s mercy is bigger than any sin, no matter how heinous and if a person truly repents they will receive that mercy.”

It’s the same message I gave to the Abortionists I met as a sidewalk counselor. It’s the same message I have given to countless people at retreats or talks and when I say it there is great conviction in my heart that it is true. 

Many of you probably have the same conviction about the deep mercy of God. But many of you may also struggle, like I do, in understanding how God’s mercy can apply to us personally. For some reason it is much easier for me to understand how God can be merciful to a heinous sinner than to understand that God could have mercy for me.

You see I know my soul all too well. I know how many times I have turned away from the one who I love.  I know how many promises and vows I have made to my Lord only to break them within hours. I know that it must hurt my Lord for me to be constantly unfaithful to Him. Just when I think He could never forgive me and take me back I am reminded of His promises and remember that He will always take me back.

His mercy for the repentant heinous sinner is great and blows me away…but His constant mercy to me, His constant willingness to take me back, His constant searching for me when I run away, His deep mercy in my life is all but unfathomable.

But it is real; therefore let us throw ourselves continually into the mercy of God until we sink so deep into that wonderful ocean we cannot leave.

Lord, we thank you for your great, unfathomable, mercy.

Most Gently, the finger of your Justice, in love and compassion, touches the wounds of him who is to be healed.

St. Ephrem the Syrian

My wife, Amber, has recently been reading a great book called Divine Intimacy. It is filled with incredible wisdom about living the spiritual life. I wanted to share thoughts from one particular entry for those of us actively involved in our own apostolate. (Father Gabriels words are bolded, the rest are mine)

Father Gabriel, the author, says “In order not to be unfaithful to the grace of the Apostolate, three cautions are particularly necessary.”

  1. Take “jealous care for humility” We need to remember that Lucifer fell through the sin of Pride if an Angel with superior intellect and power fell through Pride then we could as well. Apostolates are failing constantly because of the sin of pride. Work hard to guard humility especially if you are a leader. So many organizations become extensions of one person. Take care not to become a “Character”.
  2. “Keep constant vigilance to maintain intimate contact with God”. Remember the first duty of any mature Christian is to have an intimate relationship with God. Your apostolate is not your relationship with God. It flows from your relationship.
  3. “Persevere in perfect detachment from one’s own will and judgment” If you are called to authentic apostolate then it is not your own. It is God’s and we must strive for God’s will and judgment and not your own. It is common for us to assume that if we are doing something good that we are in God’s will. This is a terrible assumption and will result in an unfruitful apostolate if we are looking at it honestly. Each day give the apostolate and all decisions to be made for it to God ask for His will each and every day. To help with this I have learned a special prayer from my friends at Lift Ministries in Boston. It’s just a simple phrase, “Wreck our plans Lord.” This is a simple way of saying if our judgments and plans are not of you then tear them down and replace with yours. There is power in that prayer and it has become a great blessing in my life.

If you believe God has called you into apostolate then you are blessed, but now you must protect it. It can be a wonderful tool to bring you closer to the Lord or the opposite can happen.

Don’t forget to order your copies of The Lion Roars Catholic Prayer Book for Christmas gifts this year. The Lion Roars is quickly becoming a staple prayer book for Catholics across the country. Containing prayers for nearly all aspects of the life of a faithful Catholic, it’s sure to become a treasured part of your holy hours and prayer times.

I have collected and prayed these prayers since I first gave my life to Christ. They have taught me to pray and still assist me with the words to say when my mind falls short. I hope that this short collection of prayers will mean as much to you as they have to me.

The Lion Roars is available from our friends at Spiritdaily.com

http://www.spiritdaily.com/books2.htm