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The Shoes of Others

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I was walking to church. It was a Saturday morning. I was to be an altar server at a wedding. I was in fifth grade. I came past our school and turned toward the church. Seeing me, one of my school mates came racing down the grassy hill in front of school where he had been playing. He came right up to me and punched me in the mouth. He said he hated me because I was a “goody two shoes”. I had no idea what he meant.

I went home after the wedding and told my mother. She said I should pray for him. I did not find that easy, but decided on praying that he would die peacefully of some fatal illness…and do it before Monday.

What does Jesus want from us when he tells us to pray for those who mistreat us? As I grew up, I knew my prayer for my enemy from fifth grade was not right, but often I traded this prayer for wishes that my offenders would change. I prayed that those who mistreated me would think more like I did. In reality, this “mature” prayer for my enemies was no improvement from fifth grade. So what are we to do?

 Jesus tells us: stop judging, stop condemning, stop closing the door to those who hurt you. Jesus calls us to radical empathy, putting ourselves in the shoes of others in every encounter we have, joyful or painful.

This is the formula for holiness and believe it or not, peace. Instead of wishing evil upon that boy who punched me in fifth grade, if I had just understood that he was having a real bad day, the incident would not have bothered me so much that I still remember it decades later.

Stop your unwillingness to love, and be healed.

Touched by God

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It dawned on me recently that we rarely ponder St. Joseph. If you think about it, this poor guy's life was flipped upside down. How troubling it must have been to learn that your betrothed was pregnant and not by you. The predicament they found themselves in was mutually disgraceful. His reputation and hers was being called into question. Mary said yes, but Joseph certainly didn't. That was, until he was touched by God.

If you recall the story, Joseph was planning to divorce Mary quietly so as not to bring attention to her or the situation. But, rather than respond in haste, even though he had a plan, he turned to prayer. As a response to his prayer, Joseph had a dream that told him not to be afraid, but to marry his betrothed. Joseph trusted in God. He married Mary quietly and followed the requirement to report to Bethlehem for the census. You know the rest of the story.

I often wonder if this whole experience helped Joseph love Mary more. Did it help him love God more? Did he understand who his son really was? Did he "get it"? I wish the gospel writers would have given us just a little bit more about this guy named Joseph, don't you?

I do know this, there is no better person I want to have intercede on my behalf when I need to gain trust in the Lord and His plan in order to be at peace.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

St. Joseph knew, when Mary became pregnant, that this child was not his child. He saw that she was pregnant but didn't know how. If he had gone to the high priest, she would have been stoned to death. Do you see the charity and thoughtfulness of St. Joseph? - St. Teresa of Calcutta

On the Side of Angels

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When I attended my first March for Life in Washington D.C. recently, I was surprised at the number of youth attending the march, including some from St. Dominic, local high schools, and universities. They marched selflessly; with faith, hope, and love, trying to protect the God-given right to life of the unborn.

Sadly, it was just a few days later when media showed the ghoulish behavior of the New York governor and legislators celebrating a law that permits the killing of babies just days or even hours before they were to be born. In Virginia, a bill was narrowly defeated that would have allowed “delivered babies” to be made comfortable while the mother and doctor(s) decided whether to take the life of the newborn child.

To be clear, the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a “grave immoral action” and that we are all entrusted by God to the noble mission of safeguarding life. The Catechism clearly explains “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.”

With the death-toll now surpassing 60 million surgical abortions, we can no longer sit on the sidelines and hope for this culture of death to go away. Do not be afraid. Pray and get active. Join a march or a life-chain, peacefully protest at an abortion center or participate in 40 days-for-life. Vote pro-life and tell your legislators to do the same. Teach your children about the sanctity of life from the womb to the tomb.

As Archbishop Listecki said at the Respect Life Mass, whenever we are serving on behalf of the voiceless and vulnerable, we will always be “on the side of the angels.”

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