Lumen Event Calendar

Best Gift to Your Kids Isn’t What You Think – Fr. Michael Sliney, LC

December 4th, 2017 by

Must everything be wrapped up with a bow on top? One intangible but priceless possession is worth some reflection.



I am amazed to see the heroic sacrifices so many moms make for the good of their kids. It’s the same with the hard work and sleepless nights so many businessmen and women endure to provide for their families.

But how willing are they to sacrifice for their spouse? And do they realize that if they do, they’re giving a tremendous and lifelong gift to their children?

I recently asked a mother of four, “What percentage of your day do you spend thinking about your kids?”

She responded, “Ninety-nine percent — actually, probably 99.9 percent.”

So I asked next, “What about your husband?”

She said, “My husband is a big boy now. He can take care of himself.”

During dinner with a family in Washington, D.C., I asked the husband about his role within the family and how he perceived it. He replied, “That’s pretty clear. I’m here to provide for them. I work hard to pay the bills and keep this ship running. My wife focuses on the kids.”

Another gentleman once told me, “Father, if I died today, I would be good with God. I provided my wife and kids with this beautiful house, a safe neighborhood, and a top-class education. They have nothing to worry about.”

Many years ago, a successful business leader shared a very telling concern. His name had been in the papers for his business successes, he said, and “accolades were pouring in from all sides. But I am deeply hurt,” he told me, “because the one person who matters most to me is not recognizing my success. My wife even belittles me and tries to minimize it as much as possible. Her esteem is what I would most appreciate — this is so painful.

Revealing, isn’t it?

Another business leader I know once told me that if a colleague at work stops by to make a joke or to comment on a current event or a bit of sports news, he will always make time in his busy schedule for that kind of chitchat. But if his wife calls him during work, he immediately gets impatient and tells her, “Honey, I am overwhelmed at work right now. Sorry, I can’t discuss this now. It’ll have to wait.”

I could continue with more anecdotes, but the point is clear. The greatest gift parents can give their children is the love and respect they have for each other. Moms need to be wives and dads need to be husbands, first and foremost.

Looking back on my own childhood, I recall how I sensed when my parents were in a good spot with each other — and I loved how they would spend some time together with each other, sometimes with a glass of wine as they chatted. At other times, they’d pray together, play tennis, and go dancing. They also went on several European trips and cruises together.

I noticed so many little sacrifices and acts of kindness that they extended toward each other — it was easy to see they were each thinking of the other, all the time.

This gave me great peace and still does — and it showed what true love and commitment are all about. I encourage all parents to focus more on the needs of their spouses — and to give this tremendous and lifelong gift to the children.

Hope of Finding the Truth – Fr. Bruce Wren, LC

August 8th, 2017 by
If one were to ask an ordinary American Catholic today who his favorite authors were, I doubt very much that any of them would be among the so-called “Fathers of the Church”. These influential Christian scholars, living in general before 700 A.D., set the theological foundations of Christianity. Today, however, they seem distant at the best. This probably is not too surprising. Even among those committed Catholics who do read, most of them will dedicate their reading time to contemporary Christian writers who at least seem capable of responding to today’s challenges with today’s language. St. Athanasius’s “Apologia Contra Arianos” (Apology against the Arians) might be a Catholic classic, but for our contemporary reader, the problem of the Arians seems as antiquated as a grandfather’s style of dress, and why one would have to “apologize against” them seems an even greater, and non-relevant, mystery.

There is one exception. St. Augustine of Hippo. The Share Faith Magazine (a Protestant publication)[1] rated Augustine’s Confessions as the third most important Christian book of all time (before Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” and Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”), while Church Times, (self-proclaimed as “the world’s leading Anglican Newspaper”)[2] placed it number one in their list of “100 Best Christian Books”. Catholic surveys nearly always put it among the top five spiritual classics read even today.[3] Such examples as these could go on and on; there is little doubt that St. Augustine has remained one of the very few ancient Christian authors, if not the only, still read widely in the world today. Why is this?

I think the reason lies in St. Augustine’s passionate and constant concern for spiritual realities that today we need, and nevertheless neglect, more than ever. In 1986, Saint Pope John Paul II wrote to the entire Church an apostolic letter about St. Augustine (Augustinem Hipponsensem). At the end of this letter, the Pope addresses himself to St. Augustine, and asks the great Bishop what he has to say to modern man. St. John Paul describes in this way Augustine’s answer: “It seems to me that one must bring men back…to the hope of finding the truth. One must seek the truth with piety, chastity and diligence, in order to return into oneself, to the interior realm where truth dwells; and likewise to overcome the materialism and rationalism which prevent the mind from understanding the “mystery” of the human person.”[4] At the end of the letter, the Pope reminds the young people of the world that Augustine constantly recalls them to the great things in life without which they would not wish to live: love, freedom, and beauty.[5] More compelling still is that he recalls them not only with his teaching, which is indeed brilliant, but even more so by his example and sincerity. In his Confessions Augustine opens up his personal history and struggles with a style centuries before its time, and arguably more personal, poignant, and authentic than even that of our modern Robert Lowells and Sylvia Plaths.

When I first turned to St. Augustine (and his Confessions in particular) in my early 20’s, I suppose it was because I saw in Augustine’s life aspects of my own. I suppose this is also true for that great mass of struggling Catholics who, though they would like to be good and faithful, are a bit overwhelmed by their weaknesses, failures, and downright confusion. Constantly pummeled by an ever-more secular and aggressive society, contemporary Catholics struggle with those same themes with which Augustine struggled: sexual practice outside of marriage or the norms of the time, flirtation with peripheral religious and spiritual tendencies, exacerbated rationalism, love of fame, fortune, and well-being, etc., etc. If all these we recognize only too easily today, they were also the bread and butter of Augustine’s everyday life. The pre-conversion Augustine really was not so different from a Brad Pitt “Fight Club style” wild young man, confident and cocky on his self-destructive path, or from a Camus-like rebellious freethinker set on carving out his own way through the meaningless forests of the world. Add to this fascinating history a man fearlessly sincere and capable of brilliant writing, and it is little wonder that his writings still appeal to readers today.

Nevertheless, it is finally one thing above all these that probably makes Augustine not only a perennial, but also a contemporary favorite: his deep-seated love of truth.   For a world plagued by relativism, where everyone would have his own truth and feel morally obliged only by it, Augustine represents the man that the partial, the individual, or the relative will never satisfy.   The great fault of relativism is that it locks us into our individual cages; the hope of an ultimate truth and love that binds us all is lost, and with the loss of that hope, we lose our hope of happiness. Augustine, however, would never submit to that. In his passion for man and for the truth, Augustine strove to seek the source of that truth in a God he imagined as the great and inaccessible One. He found instead, in a blaze of faith-filled light, the Incarnate Christ. As Pope Benedict XVI once wrote: Christ made him (Augustine) understand that God, apparently so distant, in reality was not that at all. He in fact made himself near to us, becoming one of us… (and taught us that) a man who is distant from God is also distant from himself, alienated from himself, and can only find himself by encountering God.[6] Through his own experience, Augustine becomes the great teacher of the possibility of finding the Truth, and with the Truth, love, and with love, peace. Even for the most contemporary of men, even for those most sold out to the cynicism of relativism, these never lose their force of attraction: they are simply too tempting.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the first famous American poets, wrote a little-read poem entitled “The Ladder of Saint Augustine”. The poem speaks of how Augustine teaches us to use our weaknesses as rungs of a ladder that will eventually lead us to God if we are not afraid to climb them. Perhaps this is why Augustine remains so pertinent and popular even today: a strange and wonderful mix of realism and faith permit us not to lose “the hope of finding the truth”.

‘We have not wings, we cannot soar; But we have feet to scale and climb By slow degrees, by more and more, The cloudy summits of our time.

Standing on what too long we bore With shoulders bent and downcast eyes, We may discern — unseen before — A path to higher destinies,

Nor doom the irrevocable Past As wholly wasted, wholly vain, If, rising on its wrecks, at last To something nobler we attain.`[7]

Fr. Bruce Wren, August 2017
[1] Share Faith Magazine, May 6, 2015.
[2] Church Times, https://ct100books.hymnsam.co.uk/
[3] A simple Google search under “Top Ten Catholic Spiritual Books” will make this immediately evident.
[4] Augustinum Hipponsensem 4, August 28, 1986
[5] Ibid, 5.
[6] Cfr. Papal Audiences of Benedict 16th, January 2008, 3 and 5.

Transfiguration

August 7th, 2017 by

The Light that Comes from Prayer – Fr. Bruce Wren

January 23rd, 2017 by
In our Gospel today, we read about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus was in the southern part of Palestine, near the Jordan River when he heard that John been arrested. So he made a decision: he left the Province of Judea and his hometown of Nazareth and he moved to a city in Galilee called Capernaum. That city was to become his home, his base of operations for the next three years, and those three years that followed that decision were going to be the most influential years ever spent by a human being: they would change history dramatically forever. So how did that happen? How did Jesus go from being a young 30 year old man, barely known outside of his home town, who had never drawn particular attention to himself of done anything extraordinary, to this? I ask the question because if we think over the last three years of our lives, I would bet that we would say that we were quite busy, we did many things, but did they change history, even a little? Or perhaps more realistically, did they change the lives of at least some people for the better? If our answer is no, or at least not very much, what were we doing?

The first reading, the psalm, and the Gospel all speak about Jesus’ decision as the birth of a new light for the people: the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. I suppose we too would like to think our lives are, or have been, a light for people around us. But this decision of Jesus just didn’t happen: his decision to begin his public ministry, and the way he spent his next three years, wasn’t automatic. One all important thing preceded those three years, and was the cause of it. Do you know what that was? If you go back to the Gospels and read what Jesus did before this decision, you will see it. First, He had just finished forty days of prayer in the desert; second, He had been baptised by John, where he also was praying. And before that? Before that Jesus spent about 30 years of his life in the longest retreat ever recorded, with Mary and Joseph, learning how to pray, read the scriptures, and understand Himself and what He was supposed to do in the world.

We spend most of our lives as very busy people; perhaps some of us have even been quite successful, made a lot of money, or have a certain status. But if we ever want to really do something that will become a light for the world, I am convinced that will come about only if make our decisions after doing just what Jesus did: pray. It certainly worked for Jesus, and if even Jesus had to do so, how much more must this be for us? So I think that a very good resolution for this New Year would be to schedule in a retreat, and the longer the better. And don’t make excuses, don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert at prayer, or know how to pray like some saintly mystic: just give yourself some time to try. There is no better investment of our time if we want to do something important with our lives that really would help our loved ones and the world around us.

The 7 Lessons Of Gratitude – Father Mark Haydu

November 28th, 2016 by
Here is a summary of 7 lessons on gratitude. Of all the biblical numbers you should be grateful I didn’t choose 144,000.
1) Gratitude should never be silent. We all know what it feels like when they say thank you. And when they don’t! “Unexpressed gratitude is ingratitude.” No doubt the other 9 lepers were super grateful to Jesus. They just didn’t tell him! And didn’t get saved!
2) Gratitude comes from looking and realizing your blessings. The leper looked down. He was a leper and now he is not! Our problem may be that we don’t often realize our blessings. So many gifts of God we have always just had. Just look at all the problems you don’t have! 
3) Gratitude begins where my sense of entitlement ends. As a priest, I’ve had plenty of chances to enter into the challenges people face. With social media even more. There are many byproducts of serving and accompanying the poor, but a primary byproduct for me is to help me see how blessed I am. And see how happy other people can be with so little. 
4) Gratitude is an echo chamber…A good thing happens which is great but once you thank and share it, it is like an echo. The opposite of gratitude is bitterness and it is like sound deadening material. Bitterness allows pain to live longer. Gratitude allows the joys to live longer. 
5) Gratitude is like fertilizer – it makes all kind of other virtues grow. Gratitude generates generosity and attracts people that have a positive spirit. On the other side, ungrateful complainers have the ability (more like a liability) to find, grow, and create burdens. Not showing gratitude can kill are relationship. Spreading a lot of gratitude around will make them flourish!
6) Gratitude is a filter. It sifts out the good and leaves aside the bad. Like our ear picks up all the noises but we only listen to what interests us. A grateful soul focuses on the good, the uplifting, the graces. So filter out the bad, skim it off the top, throw it in the trash and enjoy the long lasting concentrate of goodness. 
7) Finally, gratitude always increases opportunity. When I have my gratitude goggles on I can see opportunities that I missed when I’m not in a feeling of gratitude.


So if you made it to the end of the article. THANK YOU! And pick one of these lessons to put into practice!

The Two Kinds Of Peace

August 11th, 2016 by
Dear friends in Christ,

  Jesus says “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”  We might rightly think: “But how can this be true? Doesn’t Jesus say in other parts of the Gospel “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”? What are we to think about this “peace”, when at one moment Jesus praises it, and in another he says that He has come to smash it to pieces?

  Jesus Himself gives us a hint about how to solve this in one of his sayings in the Gospel according to John. There Jesus says to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”   Jesus says that the peace that he is to bring to us is not what the world considers peace.

  Indeed, there are two different kinds of peace. One kind is the peace of ceasing to combat against the most profound of all our battles over the earth: our battle against sin. Jesus came to destroy sin and its consequences, and He fights against it with all his strength and love. Surely this is what He was talking about in our Gospel today. In our struggle against sin, we too must be willing to sacrifice even our most intimate ties to others if these become an opportunity for sin to enter our lives. An everyday example of this is how much parents have to struggle to educate their children to choose the good path in their lives, even when this causes tension that the children will not always immediately understand. Another example is how courageous Catholic politicians must be to uphold Christian morality today… How much easier it would be to just “make peace” with everyone, and slowly let our families and our nation literally fall apart. This is the peace “as the world gives it”, and we must never make a pact with it.

  But the other kind of peace is the peace which Jesus offers: it is the peace that comes to us when we never betray our consciences, when we at least try to be faithful to God and our neighbour in every instance of our lives. Though on the surface this effort might cause us much trouble and anxiety,      in the depths of our hearts we know that it is the only way for a good and honest person to be true to himself, to his loved ones, and to God. Shakespeare said this in one brief sentence: “If I lose my honor, I lose myself.”

  We as Christians should always strive to fight against the peace that pacts with everything that destroys what is good in us, no matter how much it is in vogue, and strive for that peace which Jesus gives when we try to live the Gospel with all our hearts.

God bless you and your families,

Fr. Bruce Wren, L.C.

Our Father: Examined

August 11th, 2016 by
Dear friends in Christ,

  Have you ever noticed that the “Our Father” is made up of seven petitions? The version of the “Our Father” in our Gospel this Sunday is from St. Luke, but the more complete form and the one we habitually use comes from the Gospel of St. Matthew. In that version, the first three petitions are about God and heaven (1. hallowed by thy name, 2. thy kingdom come, 3.thy will be done); the last three petitions are about us and our earth (1. forgive us our trespasses, 2. lead us not into temptation, 3. deliver us from evil).

  But what about the petition in the middle: “give us this day our daily bread”? The adjective before “bread” that we often translate as “daily” is in the original Greek ẻπιούσιος, which literally means: super-essential, or “more than essential”, and which can be translated as “the bread which is more than enough for today”, or “the bread for today and tomorrow”!  This petition “in the middle” is just in the right place: it bridges heaven and earth because Jesus tells us to ask at the same time for our “daily bread”, the essential for every day, but also for something more, “more than essential”. We ask for our earthly bread, but we also ask for our heavenly bread, the Eucharist, which is Jesus himself, the Bread of Life.

  Jesus knows that in our lives we humans are kind of walking a tight rope: we need earthly food, we all know that. But we also know that this is not enough: we aren’t like animals that just live the present moment. We also need another kind of food that gives us security, hope, happiness. Jesus gives us that in the gift of himself in the Eucharist.

  May our presence and our participation at Sunday Mass become more and more important for us as we say: “give us this day our daily bread”.

God bless you and your families, Fr. Bruce Wren, L.C.

Christians Must Be Forgiving, Yet Demanding

August 11th, 2016 by
Dear friends in Christ,

  Sometimes it might seem as though our Catholic faith is built upon contradictions. Here we are in the middle of Pope Francis’ “Year of Mercy” (December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016), in which we often hear the Pope asking us to forgive almost “no matter what”. He says: “Mercy, this is the name of God”. And that is very good. But what then are we to make of Jesus’ statement in our Gospel that for the irresponsible “servant” one unexpected day the servant’s master will arrive and he “will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful”?

  I think the answer is not very complicated. God is always merciful, and the person who asks God forgiveness in this life will never be refused. But God also knows that, like any good mother or father, true mercy doesn’t mean to let everything slide. The child who has not been taught discipline, educated, and encouraged might think his parents were merciful towards him, but he will soon find out that their negligence has dealt him a bad deal: he doesn’t have “what it takes” to succeed in life, and what he thought was a fun-loving adolescence turns out to be a useless one. Parents who are merciful like that are not merciful at all: perhaps through timidity, or laziness, or superficiality, they have failed in one of the most important task that the “Master” has given to them.

  True mercy towards others is always patient and understanding, but it is also demanding. It should demand the best of us, because that is what will make us most happy. Being demanding is usually not easy, but true mercy, like love, doesn’t consider if it is hard or easy; it always looks out for what is best for the other.

  When Jesus says that to whom much has been given much will be asked, but to those who have been given little, little will be asked. He is saying no more than each one of us must try to live up to the vocation and the circumstances God has given us. True mercy teaches us to be compassionate with each other’s failings, but also to spur on those with whom we live to be the best that they can be. In other words, to not be afraid to work for the true happiness of all.

God bless you and your families, Fr. Bruce Wren, L.C.

“Spiritual Spark”: Body of Christ

May 31st, 2016 by
Dear friends,
Greetings and happy Memorial Day weekend. I pray you are enjoying. You can see this little reflection on the “Body of Christ”.