Are You a True Christian, or Do You Just Play One in Church?


A friend of mine has three sons aged 20, 10, and 7.  The two older boys are involved in school and church plays and musicals, and really enjoy acting, singing, and performing in general.  Although the older son has been in over 30 such productions and is very experienced, he had not been participating lately due to studies and other issues.  The younger one, on the other hand, had actually begun acting, singing, and performing as a result of the example set by the older brother. That younger boy has performed with a local parish theater company for about 6 months, and knew most of the people in the company, young and old, through that work.  The older one, on the other hand, did not really know anyone in the company.

Recently the older son joined his younger brother in a production of the parish theater company, which was composed of prominent members of the parish, including entire families devoted to performing.  His experience is a vivid and powerful example of the unfortunate reality that many  Christians sing and pray in church every Sunday while listening to inspiring sermons about charity, kindness, sharing, and being open and friendly to strangers, only to completely ignore the lessons and examples given them at church.

Despite the fact that any idiot could realize that this older boy did not know a soul in this theater company beyond his brother, nobody in that company, not one soul, ever bothered to warmly greet him, welcome him to the production, and make him feel in any way at home.  In fact, they either ignored him altogether or seemed to go out of their way to avoid him.  It did not matter to them one bit that this older boy would sometimes sit alone in a corner, bored  or feeling isolated and lonely.  They did not bother to even slightly make him feel appreciated or welcomed.

The sheer irony and hypocrisy of this situation is that most of the kids aged around the older boy’s age, 20, did not bother to make him feel warmly welcomed.  Many of these young people were merely modeling their parents, who did the same thing to my friend and his wife, who felt ignored or isolated.

It is one thing to sing glorious hymns in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.  It is another thing to actually take what one hears and feels in church and vividly and consistently apply that knowledge and those lessons to  everyday life and other people.  It is unfathomable that these people and their kids, who purport to be so faith- and parish-oriented, could so coldly, callously, and informally isolate and ignore a fellow performer simply because they did not know that new performer.

Following Christ is not about parading around dressed in church or religious garb, singing powerful hymns in praise of the Lord, or being in every committee known to man and becoming a Peter or Paula Parish.  In the final analysis, it is about following Christ’s example of reaching out, stretching warm arms ready to embrace and comfort, and making everyone feel at home.  All of these theater Catholics were hypocrites, playing a role as members of  local church theater group only to act anything but Christian as soon as they left the theater.  False Catholics are poor actors, and their uncaring, uncharitable, and cold indifference to a fellow human being in need or isolation looks like a very poor acting job revealing a very vivid human person.

A Tale of Two Holy Doctors


                                                               

If I told you that long ago there lived a doctor who was a fiercely devout Catholic, lived to serve the poor and infirm,  and sacrificed all to live a life a humble and loving service to precisely those most needy and suffering, you would agree that one had the makings of a very special saint.   If I added that said doctor was also a brilliant and respected scientist attributed with many contributions to the study of medicine in his age, you would happily agree that said individual was the epitome and personification of the argument that faith and science do, indeed, have a place together in the service of God. If I further told you that this individual was deeply beloved and admired by his town of birth, a source of great pride and veneration, and that said veneration for this remarkable person had spread far and wide not only throughout his country, but to many other nations as well,  you would not be surprised.  Neither would you be shocked to discover that this great healer of body and soul was known as “the doctor of the poor” by his people, given his dedication to the most unfortunate and abandoned among us. Well, believe it or not, this description fits two very holy men of medicine who dedicated their lives, really their being, to loving service of others as healers.  In fact, if you look above,  you might even think that we are talking about a very holy pair of medical siblings, given their similar appearance!

Giuseppe Moscati was born in 1880 in Benevento, Italy, to pious, aristocratic Italian parents. He was the seventh of nine children.  His father, Francesco, was a well-known lawyer and his mother, Rosa De Luca dei Marchesi di Roseto, came from nobility.  In 1884 Francesco moved the family to Naples, the city where Giuseppe spent most of the rest of his life.   Giuseppe could have studied law, given his father’s status in that profession, but life events led him to the study of medicine instead. St. Giuseppe Moscati was very dedicated to his studies and proved himself to be not only a brilliant diagnostician, but a caring and charitable doctor. He is perhaps most known and loved for his Christlike bedside manner, and began a revolution in medicine that changed and improved the way doctors treated their patients. He was a medical pioneer, and among the first to stimulate the heart through what is now known as CPR. He was one of the first doctors in Naples to experiment with insulin to treat diabetes. Giuseppe was respected and admired for his extraordinary courage and compassion, but was also accused of witch doctoring because of his methods, which were at the time unconventional and cutting-edge.  Giuseppe was a forensic surgeon and director of the Pathological Anatomy Institute as well, and known as a master of conducting autopsies. Additionally, he wrote 27 scientific publications from the time he earned his degree in 1903 to the year 1916.  He cared for the sick and poor out of his own home, selling most of his possessions to pay for their care and help them financially. His was a life of deep piety and heroic charity, cut short by exhaustion in the pursuit of selfless service to the poor and sick he loved in such a Christ-like manner.

Sixteen years before the birth of Giuseppe Moscati, in a small Venezuelan town, Jose Gregorio Hernandez was born to successful parents as well.  He wanted to study law but, at the urging of his father, chose medicine instead.   His ability to combine a deeply pious life with a dedicated professional life of selfless charity carried Hernandez to a legendary status among his people which has only grown since his tragic death in 1919, being struck by one of the few cars in  Caracas at the time.  Hernandez  became a leading medical pioneer in his nation, introducing the use of microscopes and other innovative instruments, and preparing at least 13 studies in various medical fields.  He was a respected educator fluent in seven languages known for his knowledge of philosophy, theology, and music.  Like Moscati, Hernandez devoted himself completely to the needs of the poor and sick, often paying for their medicine and other needs as he could.  Like Moscati, he died serving the very sick and poor he loved in such a Christ-like manner.

While Moscati was beatified in 1975 and canonized a saint in 1987,  the formal recognition of Jose Gregorio’s spiritual merit began in 1949, resulting in his being declared “venerable” in 1986.  Many cite the slow process of the Hernandez process as being due to a number of factors, including missteps in the formal documentation and procedure for the presentation of his case by followers and devotees less experienced in this process as well as some association and promotion by non-traditional, non-Catholic spiritual cults and followers.  It is probably not inaccurate to say that, as an Italian whose holy work was performed under the nose of the Vatican and promoted by those experienced in Church red tape, Moscati had a considerable advantage in networking connections over Hernandez.  Despite this seemingly unfair double standard regarding two nearly identical holy men of science, many firmly believe that Jose Gregorio Hernandez will someday be counted as a saint as well.

These two outstanding servants of God who used their scientific talent to care for the suffering and marginalized exemplify the mission to which we are all called. Namely, to use our talents and God-given abilities to serve the poor, defenseless,  suffering, marginalized, and voiceless in our society.  We are each called and will be judged by how well and how deeply we put our talents and skills in the loving, Christ-like service of the less fortunate, sacrificing our own comfort to bring comfort where discomfort exists, our own advantages where disadvantages abound, and a loving touch and smile where these simple gestures are so meaningful.  Numerous miracles and intercessions have been attributed to both of these men of God, and it has become clear that they remain on duty to heal upon request and God’s Will.

Two holy men who, by their similar appearance, could have been separated at birth have, in the epitome and culmination of their loving, selfless service of the poor and suffering,  now become inseparable in eternity.  It is most ironic that, in paradise, where we are told there is no pain or suffering, we have two such outstanding healers nevertheless ready, willing, and able to provide the loving, gentle, caring touch that Christ calls all of us to provide on this earth.

Copyright, 2013,  Gabriel Garnica   All rights reserved.

Would You Leave a Gift Unopened?


We often associate gifts with Christmas or a birthday, but the greatest gifts of all are right under our noses everyday.  Each day is a gift of life from The Almighty, which we may open by taking advantage of that gift to serve God and others, honor and praise God, and live as He wants us to live.  Each day we fail to do just that is a wasted gift, an unopened gift which has been thrown away.  A 50-year old has been given over 18,000 such gifts.  One wonders how many of such gifts he/she has used to draw him or herself and others closer to God.  If we use a day merely for our own selfish motives, or take that day for granted, we have lost an opportunity.  I know that I have wasted far more days than I would care to calculate, and I can only hope that, in the final analysis, my percentage of GOD ( God Oriented Days) days is decent.  I cannot, however, tell you what a “decent” percentage would be, but I think I am presently far below that and need to step it up.

Each day is not the only gift we have been given.   Each of us has been given special talents that we must use to serve, glorify, and give praise to God, as well as further His Will.  We can use those talents selfishly or waste them as well.  We will each ultimately be judged on how well we used our days, our talents, and all of our gifts for this sacred purpose.

So the next time you receive an ugly tie or a fruit cake, think about the fact that God’s gifts are the most beautiful, special, and useful of all, as well as the most critical for our eternal happiness.   Embrace and accept your daily gifts from God, and make sure that you are not leaving them unopened.

Copyright, 2013   Gabriel Garnica    All rights reserved.

Let God Be Your North


 

 

Just as a compass always points North, so too we should always point to  God in our thoughts, words, actions, and intentions.  It is not always easy, and sometimes we just lose our way and are not sure which way to go to fulfill this mission but, if we maintain our faith in God and God’s Will, we will ultimately find the way again.   In order to do this, we must maintain constant interaction with God through prayer and meditation, reading the writings of mystics and other sound thinkers, and regularly reviewing our process through this life we have been given to see how and when and why we may have strayed from time to time.

Keeping our eyes on the prize is what this is all about. That prize, of course, is our ultimate salvation and that of those we love, as well as that of as many people as we can influence and assist.  There are many forces in the world today pulling us away from that prize, from the goal of salvation and serving God, but we must devotedly and with the highest dedication continually strive to fight against these forces and maintain our efforts, and focus, toward serving God.

If we are to effectively and purposefully serve God, then, we must also strive for clarity as to the Will and teaching of the God we are focusing in the first place. Thus, it is critical to constantly nourish our minds and souls with the true teaching of the Church, and be free of any false or so-called “progressive” Catholicism or Christianity which is only a fraud, counterfeit front for liberal and secular causes and groups.

In brief, avoid the opposite pull of the devil and the ambivalent pull of a world which relishes apathy, confusion, selfishness, and self-obsession.  Let God be your North, and your soul will never go south.

Copyright, 2013   Gabriel Garnica.  All rights reserved.

The Ten Ironies of Holiness…..Part Three of Three


After too long a break, we complete our discussion of the Ten Ironies of Holiness with the final three ironies.

8.   The More We focus on God and unite as children of God, the more we will have to divide ourselves away from those toxic to our mission.    

Many people argue and fervently believe that God is all about, only about, unity.  They fashion the road to God as some merry hug-fest whereby everyone holds hands and marches into paradise.  These people see the solution to our problems as unity.  If we could only be more united, we would have less problems.  Unfortunately, life, and our road to holiness, is not like the American Civil War where one side promoted a wrong and the other side opposed it and there was a war to grind these two opposing forces together through bloodshed.  Contrary to the unity buffs, all problems are not solved by merely “uniting” everyone or promoting that opposing sides must find a compromise, a common ground, or “find the light”.

Yes, there are problems and situations out there where unity is the answer, where people are called to work together to work things out.  Many marriages that end in divorce might have been saved if the two sides just worked at working together, at saving their injured relationship.  Often that effort is warranted or motivated by a common cause, such as sparing the children untold suffering.  Whatever the motivation or rationale, there are times when working together to make things work is not only a good idea but practically a responsibility.

However, there are other times when working together to come together is actually a bad thing.  Suppose a woman married to a violent abuser has a chance to break free from her abuse but, opts, in the name of unity, to stay with this abuser.  What if one has a business partner who is unethical and robs the business, or is incompetent and is bringing the business down.   What if a widow with three daughters meets a new man and discovers that he is trying to sexually abuse one of  her daughters.  Should she stay with this fiend in the interest of unity?  Lastly, suppose that one’s child has a friend who is drawing one’s child away from wholesome and positive activities toward unwholesome and negative conduct.  Should one’s child stay with that bad example, out of some misguided notion that maintaining unity is some saintly thing to do?

Obviously, in all of the above situations, unity is unity with a toxic situation or person that will only draw us away from God, away from our mission to serve God, and away from our salvation.  Remember that God Almighty will divide on Judgment Day.  Whether we accept it or not, we  have a choice between being the wheat and the chaff, and then we have a choice about whether or not we want to embrace the wheat, or the chaff.  The ultimate secret to serving Christ, then, may well be the ability to be compassionate, serving, generous, forgiving, and open to those who stray without letting ourselves accept, embrace, condone, much less support their positions which may be inconsistent with who we are and what we should be about.

9.      The more we fail, struggle, and fall, the less we will fail, struggle, and fall.

This world is obsessed with avoiding suffering, pain, and failure.  We cringe at the sight or thought of anyone suffering.  Is this cringe out of compassion, or is it out of pity?    Better still, are our tears and fears the fruits of our broken dreams, hopes, aspiration, perceptions, and/or delusions?  Do we cry for how struggles and obstacles impact us, or for how these things impact others?  A simple glance at the lives of most, if not all, saints, reveals that they each struggled mightily over many different issues.   In fact, one may rightly conclude, when looking at the saints, that being close to God is being close to suffering, and that would be true.  We have each been given crosses to bear, and how we bear them will often show how close we are to the One Who has borne the most.  The more we suffer and fail here, the less we will suffer there, because we will have maximized our potential and while using our struggles as fodder for graces.

10.    Holiness is about embracing discomfort and rejecting comfort.

A lack of suffering anda measure of  comfort  are the front lines of the battle against the devil.  It is there where evil finds the most ready, willing, and able souls poised to throw their lot with the most fearful  creature they have ever experienced.  Saints like Francis, Clare, Don Bosco, and Philip Neri faced extreme obstacles head-on, with their heads held high, believing in the power of God to transform their struggles into graces.  When we are too comfortable, we tend to forget God because, whether we admit it or not, we start fashioning ourselves the answer to all questions.  On  the other hand, struggles build character, and make us recall our roots.

Copyright, 2013  Gabriel Garnica