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    • 10 Things to do in 2019 to Bring a Loved One Back to the Church [PART 1]

      We all have family members, loved ones and friends who have left the Church. The ache of the broken heart is all too real for so many of us when we think of their absence. But what can we do?
       
      Here are my top 10 things we can (and must) do to help bring them back to the Church:
       
      Discern – ask for the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit to know what we can and should do. It may be that we need to speak up…or the Spirit may need us to be silent. To be honest, both of those options can be difficult depending upon the situation or person (so also ask for Fortitude from the Spirit as well). Moses wanted to end the oppression of God’s people, but his first attempt at it did not go very well (cf. Ex 2:11-15). Peter knew one of his duties was to protect Christ and the Church, but his first “swing” at it was not the right move (cf. Jn 18:10). While we know the Lord desires our loved ones to make it to Heaven, we need to be sure we are correctly working with and in His plans.
       
      Invite – have we actually invited them back, told them that we want them back? Or what are we trying to invite them back to? Some might not be ready for Mass or Confession…but would they join you for prayer in a Blessed Sacrament chapel? Even that could be too much for some…maybe invite them to read a book, listen to a podcast, or watch a video…maybe it is just inviting them to a parish fish fry. Keep in mind that discernment is a major component of invitation, because if the Lord wants you to be silent then you may need to wait on the inviting.

      Saints – get the Saints involved. Are they named after a saint? Or do you know their Confirmation Saint? Maybe there is a saint whose story is like their life or is patron of their profession. Pray and maybe a saint will come to your mind…just pick one! Begin to develop a relationship with this Saint asking them to partner with you to bring you loved one back into the Church.
    • 10 Things to do in 2019 to Bring a Loved One Back to the Church [PART 2]

      We all have family members, loved ones and friends who have left the Church. The ache of the broken heart is all too real for so many of us when we think of their absence. But what can we do?
       
      Here are the 2nd 5 of my top 10 things we can (and must) do to help bring them back to the Church:
       
      Give – offer up your time, talent and treasure for your loved ones, in other words live as a steward for them. As the Archangel Raphael declared, “Almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin” (Tob 12:9) or using the analogy of water putting out fire so does giving do for sins (cf. Sir 3:30). Let me be clear before I say anything here, no one can buy their way into heaven; the Church has clearly spoken on that issue. We fall into these extremes because we do not understand that almsgiving is not simply a “donation” or “tax write-off” but instead it is a prayer. Almsgiving is an act of worship, “an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High” (Tob 4:11). Next time you are writing your tithe check put someone’s name in the memo or envelope, offer them up with your “prayer”, your “worship”, your “sacrificial gift.”
       
      Pray – obviously you have been doing this, but this year I want you to pray with a new energy characterized by confidence. When God’s Chosen People betrayed Him by worshiping a cow made of a precious medal Moses prayed to the Lord. The Lord listened to Moses’ prayer of intercession, His anger was abated and mercy was granted (cf. Deut 9:18-20). Have confidence that what you desire (salvation for the lost) is exactly what our Heavenly Father desires (cf. 1 Tim 2:4). Since that is true “this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him” (1 Jn 5:14,15).

      Mass – offer up every Holy Mass that you can for your loved ones. Mass is the greatest prayer we have because it a re-presentation of the very act that granted every grace and mercy to humanity. When you are at Mass imagine placing your loved ones on the altar with the bread and wine. Just as the Holy Spirit turns bread and wine into something completely new, ask the Spirit to transform your loved ones. In our Catholic Faith we have a tradition of having priests offer Masses for the deceased. This is a highly encouraged devotion, but we can also have Masses said for the living. In fact, the saints have told us that Masses said for us while we are alive are worth even more.
    • Are You a Pilgrim?

      This week we leave for Israel to lead our annual Casting Nets Ministries Pilgrimage to the Holy Land!

      Please pray for the 47 PILGRIMS, our travels, and that the Holy Spirit will work powerfully in the Holy Land. You can be assured or our prayers for you.

      Preparing and packing got me thinking, “What does it mean to be a pilgrim?” 

      St. Peter speaks of Christians as being in “exile” which means they are not in their homeland (cf. 1 Pet 1:1, 17). St. Paul tells us that our citizenship is in heaven (cf. Phil 3:20). And in the Book of Hebrews, Christians are described as “having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland” (11:13,14).

      Are you a Pilgrim?
       
    • Bad Weather Friend - PART 1

      On Tuesday, as we were having lunch with Bishop Robert Gruss of the Diocese of Rapid City, I felt my phone vibrate with a notification and at the same time I heard Tony’s phone give off a notification sound as well.

      I had a bad feeling it was not good news…sure enough…our flights for the next day were canceled because Winter Storm Ulmer was knocking on the door. The prediction…PAIN…8 to 18 inches of snow with gust up to 60mph!!!!

      On Wednesday our flights were again canceled leaving us with the hope of heading home on Friday. Praying to the Lord that we could get home to see our family during this extremely busy time of Lent for Casting Nets.

      This prayer reminded me of being a Bad Weather Friend…

    • Bad Weather Friend - PART 2

      Last week I shared with you about how Tony and I were stuck in Rapid Cityfor two extra days because of a blizzard that bore down on the upper Midwest.

      During times of trouble in our lives we many times find it easy to turn to the Lord for His providence and help, however when the sun is out and weather is clear we too often forget about relying on the God of the Universe, hence we are many times just a Bad Weather Friend.

      But…storms in our lives also bring opportunity for forming new Bad Weather Friends in our life…

    • Be a Rolling Stone

      I don’t care about your musical tastes, nor am I concerned about your level of ‘satisfaction,’ but I do want you to be a ROLLING STONE.

      What is the very first sign, the first evidence that Jesus was risen from the dead? All four Gospels are consistent with this subtle point…it was that the stone had been rolled back.

      Mt 28:2 – “An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.”

      Mk 16:4 – “They saw that the stone was rolled back.”

      Lk 24:2 – “Found the stone rolled away from the tomb.”

      Jn 20:1 – “Saw the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”

    • Be a Rolling Stone

      I don’t care about your musical tastes, nor am I concerned about your level of ‘satisfaction,’ but I do want you to be a ROLLING STONE.

      What is the very first sign, the first evidence that Jesus was risen from the dead? All four Gospels are consistent with this subtle point…it was that the stone had been rolled back.

      Mt 28:2 – “An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.”

      Mk 16:4 – “They saw that the stone was rolled back.”

      Lk 24:2 – “Found the stone rolled away from the tomb.”

      Jn 20:1 – “Saw the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”

    • Coming Out of the Tomb of Lazarus

      Today on our annual Casting Nets Pilgrimage to the Holy Land we visited Bethany.

      Bethany could be considered a suburb of Jerusalem. The Gospels share with us that Jesus stayed here often with some friends. So we visited the house of Mary & Martha, as well as the Tomb of Lazarus.

      Can you imagine the witness that Lazarus was for Jesus being the promised Messiah, the Son of God?

      He was a walking, talking, BREATHING testimony to who Jesus was.

      In fact, Lazarus was such a powerful sign for Jesus that the Gospel of John shares this, "So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus" (Jn 12:10,11).

      That means that Lazarus was one effective missionary disciple...
    • Create a Home Like in Nazareth

      Earlier this week we celebrated the feast day of the Solemnity of the Annunciation, which to be honest probably does not get the attention it deserves considering this is the moment of the Incarnation, "the Word became Flesh" (Jn 1:14).

      However, for me the feast day called to mind our trips to the Holy Land in which we are privileged to visit the town of Nazareth.

      Today, Nazareth is a sprawling city with over 60,000 residents. It boast of the largest Arab population, made up of about 70% Muslims and 30% Christians...

    • Evangelizing with Avengers

      The movie “Avengers: End Game” just shattered box office records for opening weekend earning around $1.2 billion which proves I am not the only Marvel movie fan in the world.

      I have loved these movies not simply for their entertainment value but also for the deeper spiritual meaning that lie at the heart of superhero movies. I believe this is one of the reasons why these movies are so popular…even if most people it is on a subconscious level. (And just for your information, my kids hate it when I talk about this stuff to ruin all the movies.)

      These movies can serve as modern parables…stories that can use the familiar to teach the unfamiliar about a moral or spiritual truth.This is what Jesus did, whether it was farming, traveling or the weather, He took things that everyone was familiar with to use as a tool of communicating truth.

      Here are just a few examples:

    • Evangelizing with Avengers

      The movie “Avengers: End Game” just shattered box office records for opening weekend earning around $1.2 billion which proves I am not the only Marvel movie fan in the world.

      I have loved these movies not simply for their entertainment value but also for the deeper spiritual meaning that lie at the heart of superhero movies. I believe this is one of the reasons why these movies are so popular…even if most people it is on a subconscious level. (And just for your information, my kids hate it when I talk about this stuff to ruin all the movies.)

      These movies can serve as modern parables…stories that can use the familiar to teach the unfamiliar about a moral or spiritual truth.This is what Jesus did, whether it was farming, traveling or the weather, He took things that everyone was familiar with to use as a tool of communicating truth.

      Here are just a few examples:

    • God's Grace is so Easy

      Last week I had to go early to daily Mass because one of my sons were serving. When I walked into the church I noticed there was no one in line for the Confessional. [There is always a line for Confessions at my parish…apparently the word on the street is…it is full of sinners. :) ]

      So I decided to take advantage of this rare occurrence, prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and did a quick examination of conscience and went over to the Confessional.

      The Confessional door was open, I went in, knelt down, unloaded (or offloaded) my sins, received absolution and done.

      As I was walking back to the pew, I had the thought, “That was easy!”

    • How Can I Evangelize as a 9-Year-Old?

      This was a real question that I recently received!!!

      I will first answer this question with a question…Has anyone heard a more heartwarming question than that? How happy would St. Pope John Paul II be to hear that question? What a great example of 'the new evangelization.' Let me first give some stories of young people evangelizing and then some practical examples.

      Most traditions put the age of St. Tarcisius around 12 years old. At St. Tarcisius' young age he has given the Church an amazing testimony and example of faith in the true Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He died while protecting the Blessed Sacrament while on route to taking it to prisoners.

      For the last hundred years, Catholics around the world have been inspired by the story of St. Maria Goretti who died at the age of 11 to keep her purity. Her example even inspired the man that killed her to convert and accept Christ's forgiveness. That is some evangelization!

    • Not Impressed

      The story of the infamous 10 Plagues is told in Exodus 7 – 12. As I was reading this last week, what caught my attention was Pharaoh’s reaction to the 1st Plague and the miracle that preceded it.

      The first time Moses and Aaron visit Pharaoh, they demand to let the Israelites go free to worship the true God. (I cannot help but laugh at the thought of Pharaoh’s facial response as these two old men, Moses 80 and Aaron 83, laid down their demands.)

      To prove that they were serious and that they spoke for the Lord God they worked a miracle. Aaron threw down his staff and it turned into a snake (Ex 7:10). But Pharaoh called over his magicians and they all threw down their staffs which also turned to snakes (never mind that Aaron’s staff-snake ate their staff-snakes) (Ex 7:11,12).

      NOT IMPRESSED (cf. Ex 7:13)!

    • The Most Powerful Ministry Experience of My Life

      Five and a half years ago, June 13th, 2014, Tony Brandt and I got into his truck and I said, “That was the most powerful experience of youth ministry in my life.”

      With exhaustion Tony said, “I agree.”

      What was that experience???

    • They are Watching

      In the Gospel of Luke Jesus teaches the Our Father to the disciples in response to a very beautiful question, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1). But I want to call attention to the beginning of this verse.

      “He (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1).

      Did you catch that?

      What was it that spurred the disciples to ask this question???

    • They are Watching

      In the Gospel of Luke Jesus teaches the Our Father to the disciples in response to a very beautiful question, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1). But I want to call attention to the beginning of this verse.

      “He (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1).

      Did you catch that?

      What was it that spurred the disciples to ask this question???

    • Thirsty

      All of us know someone who has left the Catholic Faith that they were raised in. Most of us know a loved one, child, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, sibling or maybe a spouse who are no longer practicing the Faith. Or maybe they have never meet Christ or even believe in God.

      When we think of them outside the life of Grace and the eternal consequences that can bring it causes great fear within. Our stomach turns upside down, our heart aches, perhaps tears come to our eyes. 

      I have heard some people give the counsel, “don’t worry about that…God is merciful and He will work it all out.”

      I will never give that advice!

    • Thirsty

      All of us know someone who has left the Catholic Faith that they were raised in. Most of us know a loved one, child, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, sibling or maybe a spouse who are no longer practicing the Faith. Or maybe they have never meet Christ or even believe in God.

      When we think of them outside the life of Grace and the eternal consequences that can bring it causes great fear within. Our stomach turns upside down, our heart aches, perhaps tears come to our eyes. 

      I have heard some people give the counsel, “don’t worry about that…God is merciful and He will work it all out.”

      I will never give that advice!

    • We Still Need More Proof

      This morning during my Scripture prayer time I was reading the Book of Exodus. The Israelites, “put the Lord to the test by saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not’” (Ex 17:7)?

      IS THE LORD AMONG US OR NOT???

      I need to put this in perspective…the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are questioning God’s concern for them after the following things have happened:

      - Right before they ask this question they were given quail and miraculous Manna in the desert (Ex 16).

      - Before that, they witnessed bitter undrinkable water being turned into sweet water (Ex 15:22-27).

      - Before that, they miraculously crossed the Red Sea on dry ground as they Egyptian army was destroyed (Ex 14).

      - Before that, they saw God’s presence in the form of a Pillar of Cloud and a Pillar of Fire (Ex 13:17-22).

      - And of course let’s not forget that before that, they lived through the Ten Plagues coming upon Egypt which led to the Israelites freedom from slavery (Ex 7-12).

      And despite all of that, the Israelites asked “Is the Lord among us or not”??? THEY STILL WANTED PROOF.

      But…are we all that different from the Israelites?