Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mt 9:14-15 Grow through Loss

Mt 9:14-15 Grow through Loss

(Click here for readings)

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

The days will come…

If you ever wondered why the prophet Isaiah was put to death by his own people, now you know why: He wasn’t afraid to say it like it was.

Thus says the Lord God: Tell my people their wickedness…They seek me day after day, like a nation that has done what is just…They ask me to declare what is due them…They say to me, “Why do we fast, and you do not see it?” Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers…Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance? (Is 58:1-9a)

Isaiah is lamenting that God’s chosen people are sacrificing selfishly, for their own needs and not for God and others. Sound familiar? Ask around; find out for yourself what most people give up for Lent. The answers will sound very discouraging: “Well, I need to shed a few pounds.” “I gave up sweets.” “I gave up beer and women.” “I gave up going to the movies.”

Oh boy, do we all need help!

After celebrating my fourth Ash Wednesday Mass, I went back to the sacristy and was greeted by a gentleman. He told me that he had arrived late for Mass and had just missed the ashes. I told him not to worry, there was going to be another Mass in five minutes. He asked me if he could get them now. I looked up at him and not-so-gently reminded him that he had not just missed the ashes, but that he had missed the opening prayer, the first reading, the psalm, the second reading, the Gospel, my homily (which was his worst offense!) and the distribution of the blessed Ashes. I told him, “The problem isn’t that you arrived late. The problem is that you arrived now!” He wasn’t pleased with my answer. He told me, “Okay…I know I am good with God…I don’t need your ashes!” That was all I needed to hear. I told him, “Of course your good with your god…you just finished creating him!”

If Ash Wednesday was all about ashes, then we would have by now created a drive-thru for all those who wanted to receive them! After all, I hear it all the time; that is, how pressed we are for time! But it is truly amazing how people are pressed for time, especially when it is God’s time!

I don’t receive ashes for the sake of ashes. I receive them for the sake of my soul!

We all have a very hard time giving up what we hold on to for dear life! So, what we are unwilling to lose or sacrifice for Lent, the Lord will strip it for us.

Some people don’t have to think about what they will give up for Lent this year; the Lord has already taken care of it for them. They no longer have to imagine living their life without their mother or father or child. They don’t even have to think twice about living their marriage without their dearly beloved spouse. While some are working on shedding a few pounds during Lent, the Lord is working on creating saints.

Two days before a good friend of mine unexpectedly passed away, I received this text message from them: “Yesterday was a day for me to live Christian love beyond reason and in a radical way…Honestly, in the end it may not make a difference but at least I tried. I will have to tell you all about it the next time I see you.”

I am sure one day I will find out what this person wanted to tell me; when we meet again in Heaven.

Today, I sent her a message: “I miss you.” Why? Because we need to shed some real tears during Lent. We need to experience a real Lent, where the wedding guests mourn because the bridegroom is no longer with us. Getting rid of some extra pounds from Christmas and New Year’s is not Lent. I need to experience real weight and real weight loss, the weight that comes from sin and the loss that comes from grace. Because one day, the honeymoon will be over; the wedding feast will come to an end.

Lent is an ideal time of year to grow through loss.


  1. Father Alfonse,

    I read your beautiful words this morning and reflected on them all day. For such a short Gospel reading, it certainly had a profound effect! I was quite shocked to read somebody would pull you aside and ask for ashes outside of the normal Mass, especially with one scheduled in five minutes. Seems terribly selfish and not at all in line with ashes as "for the sake of my soul." A friend recently told me of a parish in Chicago that required people to remove the ashes from their foreheads prior to leaving the church!! This was in an effort to keep people from appearing overly pious, wearing the ashes "only for show."

    For Lent this year I'm striving to pray more: Daily recitation of the Divine Office (morning, afternoon, night prayers) and the Holy Rosary. Also, I'm trying to be friendlier on the roadways. I learned a hard lesson this morning honking at a not-so-courteous driver in a pick-up truck: A flying object thrown at my car left two quarter-sized dings on the passenger rear side!!! I totally failed in my efforts at Miss Calm Driver but will try better tomorrow morning. :)



  2. Father,
    I heard your homily this morning (Friday) and thought you may be right about the person who missed mass and was not willing to stay for the next one…

    But what happened to your gentleness, compassion, love……? Yes he was wrong and needed a reminder of what he missed besides the ashes, but when you blast someone, especially when they are not expecting it, you can do damage, not just to their ego, but to their soul. Blasting someone so harshly is bad enough but when it comes from a priest, it is a thousand times worse. Trust me, I know. It can be spiritual abuse on top of verbal abuse. And if their faith is not strong, you could send them packing, where they could end up down the street at Fellowship where they will not have a chance to repent, get forgiveness for their offense or receive the Eucharist in the future. Their soul could be put in danger, yes out of their own free will, but with a push or a shove from you.

    Isaiah was put to death because he wasn’t afraid to speak the truth, but he wasn’t speaking to one specific individual who probably did need to be reminded of his wrong doing, but not in a spew of anger.

    What kind of response should you expect when you’ve just given someone that kind of tongue lashing? I wouldn’t expect them to gently say, you are right Father, please forgive me. That would be a nice humble response but I would expect one that matched the tone of what they received. They were unexpectedly torn down by a priest that is adored and put on a pedestal every day by all his fans. They may have even been one of them, until then.

    I would expect someone to either lash back or run away crying in shock and disbelief that you could be so mean, especially right after and before you received the Eucharist.

    And what purpose would accusing them of idolatry serve their soul?

    Do you realize how much power you have to help heal or to inflict deep wounds on souls?

    Yes you are human, but being proud of tearing someone down, even if they deserve it doesn’t seem like a way to imitate Jesus. If we all got what we deserve, we’d all end up in hell.

    Even when Jesus was angry with the money changers he did not attack anyone in particular.

    It is pitiful how many people choose self serving ‘penances’. And yes they should be reminded of the purpose of the penance. You know the Church has not catechized it’s ‘sheep’ for decades, so many are just dumb sheep and some only show up once a year. But it is your job to protect them and bring them back to the flock, not send them running in anger and shame……continued

  3. ………continuation
    I think taming a temper and sincerely asking forgiveness from all those I’ve hurt with my anger, regardless of my intention, would be an appropriate penance for lent this year. How many souls could one help heal and possibly bring back to the Church/God with that kind of sacrifice and humility?

    I was blasted by a priest that I trusted and cared for deeply once and it took me years to get over it, even with much work and a sincere desire to heal and forgive. Yes many of his words were true, but the words didn’t come out in love and concern but frustration, anger and maybe a misguided sense of what he thought would be good for me and make me change. If it had been a few years earlier I quite possibly would have left the Church. But at that time in my life, I loved the Church and God and thought, not unlike Peter, “Where else would I go?” I would be shooting myself in the foot if I allowed one angry man to run me away from our Lord in the flesh and from his love and forgiveness.

    You are an amazing priest and a good man but imperfect like all of us. I pray that you will take this as it is intended with a sincere heart and strive to become even better.

    I do love you. You have taught me more than any other priest I have ever come across.

    I have only sent this after prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    I don’t expect you to post this. I rewrote this and edited it several times honestly trying to try and make sure it didn’t contain anything offensive or hurtful without diminishing the sincere message. My intent is not to hurt you, attack you , publicly shame you or humble you but to help you see the other side of how your honest, “tough love” can do more damage than good to a soul that needs guidance and yes, correction.

  4. wow, I just got time to catch up on reading the last few days of blogs that I've missed.

    At first I was angry at this 'commentor', but as I read I realized how much responsibility a priest has and how you can have a bad day get angry or say something that hurts someone and they leave the church. I actually have a relative that did that. It is stupid but she may never come back because of some stupid thing a priest said to her 30 years ago. I think it is stupid to hold a grudge like that but at the same time she was young and he should have known better. Now her children and her grandchildren are basically pagans or atheists. It makes me sad because I love her and she just thinks that priests have some special power or something and that they should be perfect at least when it comes to faith. I told her there are lots of stupid priests and she should come back and see how its changed. I love her so much and I fear for her salvation. I will pray for you Father and all priests. It must be hard to control your humanness when people put so much trust in you and expect so much.And I will pray for this person because it sounds like they took a leap of faith being so honest.

    1. Dear Anonymous writers, I wanted to wait a little to see how the discussion would progress, but now I think I can say that I have heard it all. In my forty-five years of life I have yet to meet a "stupid priest". I have met priests that thought differently, but I can't say they were stupid - and I wouldn't ever want to.
      At the same time, I have met people that have used the so-called WORDS of a priest as an excuse for not going to Confession or Church or leaving the faith. And that is unfortunate, but what is also unfortunate is never getting the chance to hear the priest's side of the story. put some things to rest:
      What I said to this gentleman was heard by about 10 people that were in the sacristy at the time. In fact, thank God it was also heard from the Pastor, who was standing behind the gentleman. Unknown to me, it turns out that this man had also asked the Pastor for ashes prior to asking me. When the Pastor told him to wait, he then proceeded to ask me. I did not know this clever man's tactic. But this is where the Holy Spirit comes in. This is where you have to give some benefit of the doubt to the priest.
      So, what can I say except sometimes we carry over baggage from previous experiences that weigh us down.
      Should the Lord be exempt for being harsh, especially harsh when he called some "Hypocrites!" and "Clean on the outside and filthy on the inside!" How in the world could we forget that? Of course it is easy to explain it away...The Lord was having a bad day...He's not perfect!, etc...But maybe, just maybe, the Lord was also right in what he said and the way he said it.
      Is the Lord harsh to us? Absolutely. Has the Lord been harsh with our health, our experiences, in our life journey? Absolutely! Has the Lord driven people (by the weight of their cross) to the point of leaving Him? Absolutely! And yet, the Holy Spirit is always present, waiting for a chance to be heard.
      OF course things could be said better with hindsight and with reflection. But maybe when you ask someone something, you should not set your own expectations or expect your own will to be done.
      Regardless of what the anonymous writers say, I personally think their comments are extremely harsh (especially the comment regarding "stupid priests") no matter how many times it was re-written to make it more digestable. So is the writer or reader to blame?
      Fraternal correction, regardless of how gentle it is, always has a sting to it.

    2. Dear Fr. Alfonse-

      I can remember the one occasion when we had a dispute over a penance and you had some harsh words for me. The next morning when I came into the chapel, you were lying in wait for me and announced, "I am praying for you."

      I was like, "Thank you. That's very nice of you." I was going to do what I had to in order to perform the penance you had assigned me and then, have nothing more to do with you.

      In the next 24 hours, I changed.It was apparent to me that you had engaged in sacrificial prayer on my behalf. I trotted into the sacristy to confess once more. I could not believe what was coming out of my mouth.

      In the months to follow, we shoveled (Yes, I choose my words carefully.A large shovel like the ones they use to clean out the stable.) We shoveled through forty years worth of unconfessed sins along with keeping short accounts on current sins. I got a new life in Christ.

      I don't think any of that would have happened had you felt the need to soften your words. I was in a bad state and needed strong medicine.

      Those who seek pap and swill will find them in abundance. We do not need any more of them.

      Thank you for speaking the truth with passion. Keep on rescuing sinners from the Pit.

      With affection and respect,
      Jan Nathan

  5. Or, what if the man who missed the ashes went to his car and sat in shock with the harshness that truth sometimes takes on. What if his anger drives him to think, consider, or reflect. It could be a new beginning for him, we don't know. But equal to the possibility that this encounter drove him away from the church, is the possibility that it drove him closer to God.

  6. Good for you for defending and clarifying your words, Father. I knew there was more behind this story than the anonymous writers understanding. I was chomping at the bit to defend you, but bit my tongue. I didn't want to make the flames ignite worse. I'm absolutely dumbfounded that anyone would refer to priests as stupid. I'm sorry these people had bad relationships with their clergy. But, maybe they should examine their conscience and see what they need to change within themselves to diffuse such inner turmoil. Ranting on and on in ridiculous harshness is not good for the writer or the reader. We are all in need of constructive criticism and tough love in order to grow in our faith.

    God Bless You, Father. We are all praying for you. The devil is always on the attack, especially during this Lenten Season.


  7. Better late than never:

    Sometimes when I think the vocation of marriage is too difficult to endure, I read these posts and realize the vocation of the priesthood could very well be much more intense, difficult and sometimes seem impossible to endure, especially when your motives are being attacked. We never know the whole story when posts of personal experiences are shared with us and so too often we can be way too quick to judge. I have been on the receiving end of BAD experiences with priests, (in Confession), but I always think to myself that priests are so convicted in their faith and love of our Father that what I thought was very minor really wasn't - plain and simple, sin is sin. Did I grow from those experiences? YES! Sure, compassion is what we hope to receive, but we don't always deserve compassion, as seems the case of this John Doe. Aren't we ALL this John Doe mentioned in this post from time to time?

    This meditation sent me from giggles to tears of sadness and compassion for the loss of your friend. I will continue to lift you and all priests and religious up in my daily prayers.

    I wish peace and love to you Father Alfonse!
    Suzie W.

  8. Father Alfonse,
    The point was not what was said so much as the way you said it in your retelling of the event in your homily and in your blog. It was obvious that this person was not right in their request. The objection was the way you reacted to the person.

    You said yourself with hindsight and reflection it could have been stated better.

    That alone was the point. Everyone knows there are some very hard things that need to be said and heard. But when it comes out in anger, especially from an authority figure it is quite possible the whole message is overshadowed and lost by the feelings that fly around when someone reacts in anger.

    I'm sorry your feelings got hurt. That was not the intent. It was one of those 'harsh' things that I felt you needed to know from the other side, form someone who has been there, who received an accurate 'message' in a way that was way more harsh than the words or message, which caused deep wounds that took years to overcome. And it probably took so long because it was someone I trusted and respected so much.

    My ultimate purpose was to spare someone else what I experienced.

    I really am sorry my words burned so badly. I guess I'm not very good at saying difficult things in a way that comes across in a way that does not sting.

    I did not expect you to post it. If I end up in your confessional I hope that you will grant me absolution and personally forgive me.

    1. Harshness is a very subjective point of view. No one can ever be sure if what they say is "too harsh" or "not harsh enough". That was the point I was trying to make as well. :-)

  9. I just got off work, came home before retiring and decided to read your blog. Interesting things are said while I'm away.

    I was not calling you stupid.
    This priest told my relative that
    her child would NEVER SEE THE
    FACE OF GOD if it was not baptized.
    She was only 21 years old
    and had just delivered her 25 week
    baby who weighed 2 pounds.
    Seems like a stupid thing to say to me
    no matter what. I’m sure she was not
    thinking straight at the time but the remark
    made an impression that stayed with her.
    Doesn’t it say in Matthew 18 that we will
    be accountable if we cause someone who
    believes in Christ to sin?
    Maybe stupid was the wrong word to use.
    I was trying to get her to come back to the
    Church, telling her that not all priests are like
    that one that they are like everyone else.
    I guess it came out wrong.
    I’m sorry you took it personally.
    Ps. I’ve been trying to get her to confession
    with you because I heard you were gentle
    and compassionate.
    BTW: the baby was baptized about three
    times by nuns in the hospital who did not
    know he had already been baptized and he
    did die after a painful heart surgery
    with no anesthesia.

    1. I didn't say you were calling me that. Please read my comment :-)

  10. OH my goodness padre. I must admit I hadn't read your blog for sometime. Been so busy that I have tried to cut back on computer time. I have extra time today so decided to check your blog as I periodically do. Wow, you decided to bring back the open comments. I missed that, although I understand why you had the need to discontinue it.

    You know, I happen to like your frankness and your "harshness". I understand it as you being real, honest, to the point, truthful, and that is how I am and that is the language I understand. I hope your spirit doesn't one day get crushed by these people. I hope you keep being you and continue to be 'REAL'. miss you at St. Joseph's. Father Hines (hope that's how you spell it) is doing awesome!


Updated: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. Comments must be concise and to the point.Comments are no longer accepted for posts older than 7 days.