Blessings Returned

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

LET GOD USE YOU TODAY!


By: Bobby Quitain

God can use the worst in us to bring out the best in every situation.

God used Moses, a murderer, to bring life to a dying race.

God used Jonah, a stubborn prophet, to bring a whole town to obedience.

God used Gideon, an insecure leader, to bring security to His people.

God used David, a man who succumbed to the desires of his flesh, to lead a nation to follow the desires of God's Spirit.

God used Peter, an impulsive and weak disciple, to establish a stable and strong church.

God used Paul, a judgmental Pharisee, to bring God's mercy to all the world.

When they turned to Him, He turned them around.

From curses to blessings. From garbage to gold. From nuisance to significance.

If God used them, what makes you think God can't use you?

Let God use you today!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

LIGHTING A CANDLE IN THE DARKNESS


By Fr. Shay Cullen
Candle-in-the-darkThe good news is that hundreds, if not thousands of children will be protected from abuse and molestation by some of the 660 British subjects arrested for accessing unlawful images of children on the internet by a coordinated police action throughout the United Kingdom a few weeks ago. Many more suspects have been identified as accessing these horrific images of children being abused and could be arrested soon. The depressing news is that many of the images are of very young Filipino children and some could have been made by a British subject or her male associates.
The discovery of 5 children between the ages of 5 and 7 years old and a 6 month old baby in the house of a British born woman in Subic, Philippines has shocked readers. Some of the children bear signs of having been sexually abused and tell horrifying experiences. A boy, 7 years old, tells of being sexually molested and being photographed naked by a male visitor to the house where he was confined. A six year old girl was found tied to a chair in a filthy room strewn with empty liquor bottles.
The suspect, now in the custody of the Philippine police, is a female British subject from Scotland, Lilian May Thomson Zimmer, 65, with a US passport. The images of these abused children are likely to be shared with paedophiles in the UK and elsewhere. Perhaps some of the 660 suspects arrested a few weeks ago around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have viewed them already.
Zimmer is charged with direct assault on persons in authority, serious illegal detention and child cruelty. More charges may follow. The children were rescued after a month-long campaign by the Preda Foundation to persuade the authorities to save the children. Finally, the children are now safe in a government child care home and recovering from their ordeal and talking about it.
There is a growing number of arrests in the Philippines of suspects making illegal images of children and using children for live cyber sex shows beamed over the internet whose customers are from the UK and other countries. They satisfy their depraved desires and earn huge sums of money. They get away with it because of lax law enforcement, bribery, and the non-compliance of the Internet Service Providers(ISPs) with the law.
The 2009 law, Republic Act No. 9775, states that filters and blocking software must be installed on the servers of the ISPs but it has not been done, that is five years of non-compliance and blazon flouting of the law.
The telecommunication corporations and the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) are in some kind of collaboration; that must be investigated by President Aquino. The NTC regulators have perhaps been embraced, captured, and who knows, even money may have changed hands. If so, it is a criminal conspiracy to subvert the law.
This law, if implemented by the specially created Senate and House Committee headed by the respective Chairs of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family relations and the House of Representatives Committee on Justice would give at least 85% protection and thousands of children could be saved. But the committee has failed to act, and has failed the Filipino children; a worse crime perhaps than the politicians who are accused and jailed for allegedly stealing billions of pesos from the people.
Republic Act 9775, under Section 9, says: “The duties of Internet Service Providers (ISP) are to monitor the content passing through their servers, notify the police of illegal content and provide the authorities the particulars of users who gained or attempted to gain access to an internet address which contains any form of child pornography. All ISPs shall install available technology, program or software to ensure access to or transmittal of any form of child pornography will be blocked or filtered”. (complete law on www.preda.org)
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is supposed to oversee the implementation of the law. The law says that the ISP failing to implement and comply with the law should pay a fine and have its license to operate revoked for non-compliance. But the law is clearly ignored, flouted and disobeyed. It is a grave injustice to the Filipino people and children worldwide.
It is a stark reminder just how the rich corporations can manipulate the government commission and officials so they can continue to earn huge profits from the transmission of these illegal images of children to be sexually assaulted, raped and abused. They claim they are innocent and not responsible for the images passing through their servers. But the law says they must prevent the transmission. What greater evil is there for such images to circulate among child abusers instigating them to commit abuse?
This evil trade and the complicity of government agencies and corporations in not stopping it is a gross violation of children’s rights and an insult to the Filipino people. Such neglect and dereliction of duty that allows the images of thousands of children being sexually abused broadcast around the world to pedophiles is a crime in itself.
Clearly, President Aquino, the anti-corruption President, does not know this is happening but for him to act now would be a great service to the children and will inspire the nation. We can all help by writing to the President at Malacañang Palace, Manila, Philippines. Lighting a candle in the darkness will enlighten the minds and hearts of those that live there. [shaycullen@preda.org ; www.preda.org]
(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Perils of Technology


by Father John McCloskey

A confession... I am writing this column on my MacBook Air computer with my iPhone at my side. And I regularly enlist the help of a cellphone App to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. And after all, I live in the heart of Silicon Valley and have lectured to 300 actual and would-be Techies and Masters of the Universe.
In addition, the Church has actually pronounced itself in favor of modern technology, inasmuch as it enables people to communicate directly throughout the world, in directly personal ways (e-mail, texting, Twitter, Skype, etc.) as well as in more formal or purely informational forms of group collaboration and instruction. Through this assortment of techniques for "distance learning" of all kinds, the hope is that technology can help different countries and races to understand one another better and thus contribute to world peace and prosperity.
And technology, properly utilized, helps the Church evangelize globally by using the means of communication to preach the Good News to all. Just think about St. John Paul II and his use of the media, and Mother Angelica and her founding of EWTN, with its worldwide audience and dozens of Catholic radio stations throughout the United States. Now we have the charismatic Pope Francis energizing the largest Twitter account in the Universe.
Nonetheless...
I just went on vacation with some very close friends and was troubled by their inability to go almost anywhere, inside or outside, without their smartphones. I believe this could be called an addiction, and as Catholics striving for holiness we should only be "addicted" to the one thing needful: God alone.
A few years, ago while I was resting from my pastoral duties, I picked up a paperback novel (not pulp fiction!) by the most popular and best-selling Catholic author in America. His name is Dean Koontz – you have probably head of him – but you are not likely to know that he is also a great defender of life.
Midway through the novel, I was stunned to come across this passage:
New technology – like the computer – freed men and women from all kinds of drudgery, saved them vast amounts of time... And yet the time saved did not seem to mean additional leisure or greater opportunities for meditation and reflection. Instead, with each new wave of technology, the pace of life increased; there was more to do, more choices to make, more things to experience, and people eagerly seized upon those experiences and filled the hours that had only moments ago become empty. Each year life seemed to be flitting past with far greater speed than the year before, as if God had cranked up the control knob on the flow of time. But that wasn't right, either, because to many people, even the concept of God seemed dated in an age in which the universe was being forced to let go of its mysteries on a daily basis. Science, technology, and change were the only gods now, the new Trinity; and while they were not consciously cruel and judgmental, as some of the old gods had been, they were too coldly indifferent to offer any comfort to the sick, the lonely, and the lost.
I might add to Koontz's masterly description of the dangers of technology the practices of euthanasia, abortion, and pornography – all spilling out from the so-called developed countries in a floodtide of sin and death.
Well then, how do we combat an addition to technology?
Some suggestions:
1. Time. On average, how much time you spend online and watching television? (I shudder at the thought that you might play video games.)
2. How much time daily do you spend with your family? Is it more or less than the time you spend online?
3. Do you spend more online or on entertainment on a given day than you do on Mass or spiritual reading, such as reading the life of Christ so you can imitate him better in your friendships, family, and work life?
4. How much time do you spend on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy? Or do you spend more time on YouTube?
5. What is better for you and your family? Each member of the family online or a joint excursion to a shrine of Our Lady with another family or two and an ice cream treat afterwards?
6. How about once in a while having an evening when the family stays at home and each family member reads a book for an hour or so?
7. Serious Catholics should make a retreat every year to grow in their relationship with the Lord. Well, why not make it a silent retreat? That's right, no talking and no cellphone or computer usage.
Try any of these simple suggestions, or other like them: then you will start to see how addicted you may be to technology.
First appeared on The Catholic Thing in July, 2014.

Friday, July 25, 2014

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization


"History is a set of lies agreed upon,"
said Napoleon.



More lies have been aimed at destroying the good
name and holy work of our Roman Catholic Church
than at any other institution in the world.





History books ignore the Church's
contribution to art, architecture,
music, philosophy, and science.





Students today never
learn that the Church fed the hungry,
served the sick, and educated boy and girl alike.

But it's really worse than that, isn't it?
The Church's role in history
isn't simply ignored —
it is maligned.

Now — finally — a book that tells
the truth about Western Civilization!






Many books have been written about
the history of the Catholic Church.

But few history books have been
written from a Catholic perspective.

Here veteran historian Diane Moczar takes
you on a fast-paced ride through the development
of Christian civilization from its emergence within the
Roman Empire to its medieval springtime.

Indeed, within 500 years of
Nero's persecutions, Christian civilization permeated
every aspect of European culture. Both kings and commoners
paid allegiance to the Catholic Church!

A master storyteller with an entertaining and evocative style,
Dr. Moczar introduces you to the celebrated intellectuals
and mystics, the magnificent artists and writers,
and the greatest heroes and villains
who forever changed the West.

You'll also explore the dreadful heresies and sinful
practices — both inside the Church and out —
that developed cracks that would become
great fissures, leading to the bitter autumn
that followed this most glorious age.

Most of all, these pages will increase your love of God
— who is the source of all truth —
through a deeper understanding
of Catholic history.

And this book will renew your confidence
that no matter how many Neros are sent her way
by Satan, the Church will not be defeated but will endure
until the end of time.




The Church Ascending:
How Saints and Sinners Brought About the Triumph of Christianity in the West

Dr. Diane Moczar
$18.95 - 192 pages



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Here’s an unabashedly Catholic history that documents scores of sustained and unprecedented assaults on our Catholic Faith these past five centuries and delineates our Church’s brave response to each one.

For five hundred years, from Luther to Marx, through Darwin, Hitler, and Rousseau, wave after wave of cynical anti-Catholic men and movements have wrought havoc even worse than that of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan, leaving our once noble Christendom a ruined city, devastated politically and spiritually, morally and intellectually.

They’ve ripped the heart from our culture’s chest: the Catholic Faith that once gave life and strength to her body. They’ve wounded even the Church herself.

Celebrated Catholic historian Diane Moczar counters here with an unflinching sketch of these five woeful centuries with sound reasons for hope. For, as she demonstrates, even after five hundred years of sustained persecution, our Church has not merely survived but continues in many places to flourish.

Almost two thousand years ago, Tertullian noted that the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” a truth borne out these past five hundred years.

Time after time, as Moczar shows, persecution has not snuffed out the Faith but has brought forth great saints whose holy deeds and brave examples frustrated their persecutors by communicating to the besieged Church a vigor greater than that of her persecutors.

These pages will renew your confidence that the Church is indeed Christ acting in the world and that no matter how strong or ruthless or vicious her opponents, she will not be vanquished but will endure to the end of time.
 



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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

We Are A Work in Progress


Fr. Ed Broom, OMV 


Workshops for teachers, spring training for Baseball players, ongoing courses for professionals, coaching, reviewing, updating, cutting away the dead branches and debris—life demands constant labor to improve, upgrade and perfect. Even more important must be the constant labor at ongoing formation for followers of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All of us are a work in progress (W.O.P.) an incomplete project, a task that can always be improved.

It is not uncommon for me to meet adults who received a poor catechetical formation at their First Communion, and ever since that day they have had no other spiritual formation until they decided to get married. Upon which they must comply to do a six hour formation class to prepare them for the Sacrament of Marriage, to prepare them to be faithful and loving spouses, to prepare them to be the best of parents. Obviously the church encourages a more complete formation program for its children.

Therefore, here are some practical and concrete steps that we can take to implement an ongoing program of “Permanent Formation”.

1. Spiritual Readings. Good books should be your best friends. They are always available, ready to be opened and read, and when put down they do not get angry, and if not visited for a long period of time they do not become resentful. With the consultation and advice of a good Spiritual Director, formulate a good spiritual reading list. Fr. Thomas Dubay stated that busy people only have time to read the best of books. St Teresa of Avila would not admit women into the Carmelite order who could not read; the reason being, the saint knew how much wonderful and inspiring and educational material could be acquired by good reading! Establish your own library of good catholic books!

2. Spiritual Direction. St. John of the Cross put it bluntly: “He who has himself as a directee has a dummy as a follower.” It is like the blind leading the blind. We all have blind spots that we cannot see, but to others they glare like the noonday sun. Spiritual direction serves to help us to encounter God in our lives, to arrive at self-knowledge, to detect our major spiritual roadblocks, and finally to seek out and find God’s will in our lives. St. Teresa of Avila would have never carried through with the reform of the Carmelites without spiritual direction. St. Faustina Kowalska would have failed miserably to make known the treasures of Divine Mercy without the able assistance of Blessed Michael Sopocko. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque never would have found acceptance of the famous apparitions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, had it not been for the timely appearance on the scene of the Jesuit, St. Claude de la Colombiere. Divine light often radiates through the human prism of the Spiritual Director!

3. Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. God raised up St. Ignatius to rescue a world in spiritual decline and spiritual battle. He wrote thousands of letters and anointed with gems of practical counsel and wisdom. The Holy Spirit inspired him to compose the Rules for Spiritual Discernment, the spiritual masterpiece that has proved to be a precious jewel in spirituality to help us to discern the motions or movements of the good spirit and open our hearts to receive and follow them. At the same time, the rules teach us to detect the “Bad vibes” of the enemy so as to reject them quickly, vigorously and constantly so as to arrive at victory and receive one day the crown of glory. Finally, God inspired St. Ignatius to compose the Spiritual Exercises. By doing the Spiritual Exercises and living out this divinely inspired program of spirituality one ascends from a mediocre, confused, apathetic spiritual life, to a vibrant, growing, dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ the King, a life-long pursuit of sanctity of life and an authentic witness to the world of holiness.

4. Sharing the Faith. Personal faith is not lost by sharing it with others. On the contrary, by sharing your faith with others it results in a mutual, double process of enrichment. The one who listens is enlightened and inspired by the spiritual treasure shared and you who give are enriched for giving. Pray for and look for opportunities to share your faith with others. Nobody can give what he does not have! The more spiritual treasures we have, then the more we can give to others.

5. Electronic Media. We live in a world with rapid progress, especially in the realm of the Mass media and the electronic media. The mass media, like any other tool can be used for evil or for good. As for us, we will use it as a means for our own sanctification! When using the internet, find good good Catholic websites—know them, save them and log in to them; this can be a great source of permanent formation! Youtube sermons and other videos—a short spiritual message, maybe only a minute or two—can enlighten us with an insight to console us and shed light on our path the whole day. Podcasts! These can be listened to at home, while cooking or cleaning, on the road on the way to work or in the quiet of one’s room before retiring for the night! Blogs! Tap in to short but “meaty” spiritual topics, which might be on prayer, some virtue you need to practice, some heresy that must be understood and resisted, or some Marian reflection to lift up your mind and heart to “The Mystical Rose” who always points to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Her last words recorded were “Do whatever He tells you!”

In conclusion, we are on a spiritual journey to heaven. Ongoing Spiritual formation must be taken seriously. Many distractions can detour us from the purpose of our life, which is to praise God, reverence God, serve God and to save our soul for all eternity!

Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was and He responded: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with your entire mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Lk. 10: 27). Final prayer to pursue ongoing formation:

Lord, help me to take seriously my permanent spiritual formation so that I may be a worthy instrument in your hands to save many souls for time and all eternity! Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for me!



By Fr. Ed Broom, OMV

Father Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom's Blog.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Maria Goretti's greatest witness is forgiveness, priest observes




Body of Saint Maria Goretti in the basilica of Nottuno, Italy. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Body of Saint Maria Goretti in the basilica of Nottuno, Italy. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
.- Following St. Maria Goretti’s feast day, the rector of the basilica where her body resides stated that her willingness to forgive is her most prominent testimony, and that her virtue is an example for family life.

Maria’s greatest witness is forgiveness, Fr. Giovanni Alberti told CNA July 7.

"Many people come saying I left to forgive, with the example of Maria Goretti. These people that are leaving, go with a great lesson from the child Saint,” Fr. Alberti said.

Fr. Alberti has been rector of the Basilica of the Mother of Grace and of Saint Maria Goretti in Nottuno, Italy for the past six years. He said the assignment is “a great responsibility and a call to live with great simplicity.”

The saint’s July 6 feast day included a large procession the night before beginning at the basilica and lasting six miles to the house where she lived for four years prior to her death. Some 4,000 people attended the procession to celebrate the life of the saint.

Born in the city of Corinaldo, Italy in 1890, St. Maria Goretti was the eldest of six children. She was killed at the age of 11 while resisting a rape, and is considered a martyr for chastity.

Coming from a poor family, Maria assisted her mother in housework and in caring for her five younger siblings following her father’s death.

In 1902 a neighboring farmhand, Alessandro Serenelli, who had made previous inappropriate comments and sexual advances toward her, attempted to rape Maria in her house. When she resisted, Alessandro stabbed her 14 times.

After being found bleeding to death, she was rushed to the hospital in Nettuno, where she forgave Alessandro, saying: “Yes, for the love of Jesus I forgive him…and I want him to be with me in paradise.”


While in prison several years later, Alessandro converted after having a dream in which Maria handed him 14 white flowers that burst into flame. The flowers represented the 14 wounds he had inflicted upon her; the flames symbolized forgiveness. After being released from prison he became a Capuchin tertiary and attended Maria’s beatification alongside her mother.

Speaking of Maria’s continuous example today, Fr. Alberti explained that those who come to the basilica in Nettuno receive a great lesson in forgiveness because “today we have many conflicts, also social.”

“We have situations of rupture in the family, in marriage. So this element of forgiveness, this teaching of Jesus is coming out, we say, decisively to change the rapport of the people, also of the family.”

“To know that there is a saint who forgave the one that killed her, is becoming an important resource in forgiveness, more than the other aspects,” he noted, describing how there “is not just one aspect” of her holiness, but many.

“There is also that of the dignity of women, the respect of women, of a sexuality that is healthy and balanced. Then there is faith in God, there is prayer, there is her devotion to Mary, her devotion to the Eucharist, and there is forgiveness, and her testimony of eternal life.

Fr. Alberti said Maria's desire to have her killer with her in paradise was remarkable for several reasons.


“It’s a testimony of a life after life. For a child of 11 this is enormous. These are very great things.”

During her life, Maria often could not go to church or school because her family lived far away from any parish. Still, Fr. Alberti said, “she had a school in her family,” because hers was “a family marked and full of virtue, full of, we say, resources.”

“She was truly the child of a family…The family is also fundamental and irreplaceable, in this aspect.”

Margherita, a 68-year-old volunteer who assists the community overseeing the basilica, told CNA July 7 that “Marietta” is “very dear” to her because she was born in Nettuno and has known the saint all her life.

“I knew Marietta since I was a little girl,” she said. “The name of Marietta was always present.”

Recalling an accident she had on a horse when she was three years old, Margherita recounted how when she went to the hospital to get stitches on her face, the doctor said that it was a miracle she wasn’t injured worse, because if the horse had been more aggressive she would have died.

“So in the family everyone used to say oh this is a miracle of Saint Maria Goretti, she was protecting Margherita,” she observed.


“I used to go around and tell everyone that I received a miracle from Saint Maria Goretti."

“So as you can see she is very dear to me, and I do whatever I do for her, in her name, with great joy.”

Margherita also revealed that the Nettuno diocese is planning to bring Maria Goretti’s body to the United States and Canada for a month-long tour in 2015.

“We are organizing with someone from the States,” she said. “Already Cardinal Dolan from New York knows about it,” and “he’s very enthusiastic.”

Margherita said the plan is for the tour to go to nine dioceses, including New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Toronto. The body will also go to New Jersey, where some relatives of Maria Goretti reside.

The dates of the tour are still being discussed, but tentative dates could be Jan. 25 – March 1, 2015, due to the low tourism traffic in Nettuno during that time.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The wheat and the weeds


16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, July 20, 2014
Wis 12:13, 16-19 / Ps 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16 /  Rom 8:26-27 / Matt 13:24-43
AFTER the parable of the sower this week we have a related parable – the wheat and the weeds. (Matthew 13:24-30). The young weed has a similar appearance to the wheat. One danger in pulling out the weed is that you might actually pull out the wheat instead. In this simple parable are many applications.
Don’t be too quick to judge
When presented with the proposal of another, don’t be too quick to condemn or think negatively of it. We should not judge so quickly. Sometimes we are quite harsh especially in judging ourselves. It is quite easy to judge yourself very fast without first listening to all the evidence from the defense. Instead we pronounce ourselves “Guilty!” without a proper trial. Often here in the Philippines the judicial process is infamous for being so long at times. So how come we are so quick to judge ourselves and thus others too? The value of respect is important especially self-respect. The root of this term means to relook at yourself again. When we see what appear to be weeds we need to go back and look again. We may discover that in fact it is a young wheat plant which if given care and attention can produce a rich harvest.
To be aware of our weak points
In modern psychology the terms consistency and inconsistency are used to describe the coherence and integrity of a person. Consistency is when all the parts are generally working together for the function of the whole and inconsistency will be when for example I have a goal (to pass an exam) but I do not put the means in place (I am lazy in my studies). In some ways we all have areas of inconsistency and we have to try to minimize their deleterious effects. If we say we will do something or pursue it, then by all means we should attempt to fulfill that good resolution. What things are still outstanding in your life? What resolution do you still need to put into practice? Seeing as we all struggle in these areas we can be grateful that God has provided us with a Helper, the Holy Spirit. St Paul reassures us that, “the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness” (Romans 8: 26-27). Yesterday I was talking to several young men who said they unsettled in their work and were not sure why. They felt more peace to know that it can also be a manifestation of the Spirit, who expresses in “inexpressible groaning” our desires to God.
If a weed is obvious get rid of it
While it is true that at times we have to take care to distinguish the wheat from the weeds it is also true that at times the weed is so obvious! One Easter I was in Australia visiting the family of some missionaries. They have a farm in the outback and were showing me around. In one moment, the dad, a farmer, slammed on the brakes of the pick-up truck, jumped out and in one flash took a swipe at a big weed bush in the middle of his crop. Before I had even got out of the truck, he had uprooted the offending herb, thrown it into the back of the truck and was climbing back in again. Wow, so agile! We need that same agility when we clearly recognize our sinfulness or wrongdoing.
All our tendencies to sin such as selfishness, greed, lying, lust, jealousy, anger, impatience and the like are the weeds that need to be dealt with in our own lives.
God is patient with us
God is the master of might but thankfully does not treat us as our transgressions deserve. As one commentator notes, “What are we going to do with the weeds in our lives? Some must be pulled up, which means a lot of death to self as we learn to say ‘no’ to the temptations in our lives. But some weaknesses cannot be pulled up even as we pray to have them taken away. We may pray to be patient, but situations arise and we find ourselves very impatient. God allows some weaknesses to remain. He knows what he is doing. If he removed all our weaknesses, we probably would not remember how much we need him” (Anawim Community reflections). God is patient with us and this reveals his mighty love for us. But it is also true that he is just and the time for harvesting will eventually come.
Let us pray and work hard! We need to maximize the yield of wheat in our lives. We need to minimize the weeds and do all we can to remove them. How lucky we are that we don’t need to wait until harvest to remove those irksome weeds—we can go to the sacrament of reconciliation even now. Amen.