Listen for me!

Robert Joseph Calore
(1949-2006)

“Listen for me on Academy Street” my father would say as he was leaving for a late bus run. For a time he worked as a bus driver with Martz Trailways, out of Wilkes-Barre. Already tucked in our beds, we kids listened to the summer night sounds and waited to hear my father’s bus coming from the Martz Garage.

As my father drew in close proximity to our house we were thrilled to hear him hit the air brakes of the bus. It was a sweet little signal of love from our Dad. He was our hero. I remember asking God to keep him safe on the highways that night.

Dad would later decide to give up that job he loved as a driver, because it meant too many days and nights away from his family.

He generously resumed a more physically demanding job weatherizing homes and fixing furnaces for the needy at a social service agency, Commission on Economic Opportunity, a mission he fulfilled until his death to ALS on June 21, 2006 at age 56.

His final two years of devastating debilitation were filled with love, prayer, resignation to God’s will, and — with the heroic support of my mother, the beautiful oblation he made of that dread disease.

When he went to God, I did not worry — he was surely on a highway to the Home of the Father!

Still, whenever I’m home in Wilkes-Barre visiting my siblings and it’s a quiet summer night, I long to hear the sound of a bus pause and hit its air brakes, letting me know he’s nearby.

I love you, Dad.

Working until the end, this was two years before his passing to Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Post Script

When my father began to experience the effects of ALS, I assured him I would pray for a miracle. He responded, “How do you tell God no when he asks something from you?” He had taken on the mission to love God and to unite his sufferings with Christ on the cross. He would tell me later that a tree he saw in the distance had branches that looked like a man on a cross. This would console him greatly, since he was on the cross with Christ.

My father was a prayer warrior with rosary in hand. He had a list of intentions, and for the two years of his suffering to ALS he watched EWTN and prayed daily, especially outside, even hooking an umbrella to a tree so he could continue praying outside in the rain when he could no longer hold the umbrella.

After his death, it bothered me very much one day to see the ruts in the grass that he had walked in the yard saying the rosary, because I felt he had experienced such suffering and isolation. As I was thinking such dark thoughts, I was consumed by an insight that could not have come from me, and which I have never forgotten to this day, “The Mother of God stands at the foot of every man’s cross.” It would give me courage two years later when our dear mother followed him into eternity.

Those words always leave me comforted and full of peace. God was there. Mary was there. Our dear ones who went ahead of us are in God’s hands and they were never alone. God sustained them to the very end. Because of His tenderness, His love, His mercy, His absolute goodness. Thanks be to God!

Precious in the eyes of Lord, is the death of His holy ones.

Psalm 116:15

A Place Called Home

A state of belonging love.

As a college commuting student, I often took public transit across town in the evening. It was a quiet ride, filled with exhausted workers going home after a long day.

I can remember, as evening was falling on an autumn day, walking down my street and looking to the kitchen of my parents’ house, drawn to the glowing light pouring from the windows. I was being recalled, in a very real sense, to where I was known and loved, where my people were expecting me with warmth, rest, and a hot meal. Home awaited.

The years passed. I entered the convent and my parents passed away. I sometimes found myself wishing to return to such an evening, approaching my parents home again.

We all long for home.

We all long for a place where we are completely loved, accepted, and treasured – where people wait for us. Where we belong.

For many years, I was homesick for such a home, without even realizing it. It would steal over me at pensive moments, usually as dusk was falling.

I needed to find my way home.

I remembered something consoling our Lord had said,

Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

John 14:23

God, in His goodness, has prepared for us a home.

As a Sacred Heart Sister, I grew to love the invocation in the Litany to this Divine Heart which says

Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love.

Sacred Heart Litany

A traveler along the cold, dark and dangerous roads of this world, I know that I have such a home. There is, in fact, an abode where I belong, where I am welcome to live in justice and love. Where is this home? In the Heart of God.

For home is not so much a place as it is a state.

God, in your goodness,
you have made a home for us.

How often we say, “I felt at home there.” Home is the place that lays claim above all to our hearts.

What better home is there for us than to dwell in God!

He is the familiar, welcoming place where we are always welcome and where we can find love. Home is where God’s Heart is!

It is the place prepared and reserved particularly for us.

What are we waiting for? Isn’t it time to finally live where we truly belong, in that state of home?

Look, and see, the light of God’s love shines brightly. Our heavenly Father calls to us, “Live in Me! Come home!”

There Will Be A Day 
by Jeremy Camp
https://youtu.be/CPKyTY71iRM

Someone at the door

A guest in the parlor, I had no idea that it was actually God waiting for me.

I was hurrying home later that evening from the parish, having completed several bulletins at once. I was spent, but happy with a sense of accomplishment.

I was leaving for Krakow, Poland the next morning for the beatification of our Co-foundress. I would have to pray and pack.

My thoughts were interrupted as I entered the convent. The Sisters told me there was a young woman waiting in the parlor to see me. For one brief moment I remember thinking of my laundry, but I quickly recollected myself with the phrase that a wise Polish Mother Superior used to say to us, “A guest in the house, is God in the house.” I hurried to the parlor.

It would be an encounter I would never forget.

I did not know the woman personally, but I had once met her with another visitor at the parish office where I worked. She had apparently recalled our meeting then, and so had come to find me. A few sentences into the conversation and I realized she was a girl in serious trouble, facing an unexpected pregnancy.

Her plight filled her with anxiety, self-loathing and shame. She told me the whole sordid tale, harshly drawing down upon herself layers of bitter self-reproach and remorse, even past guilt of other mistakes. She kept saying, “I’m disgusting, I’m disgusting.”

I looked at this precious, sweet, child of God before me — crushed, broken, and desperate, and all I could feel was love, compassion, and sympathy. “Stop saying that,” I said gently. “You are certainly not disgusting, you are precious. God loves you. And the child within you, created by God, is also very precious. Thank you, thank you, for not taking this child’s life. I am proud of you for your willingness to give life to this baby. It will not be easy, dear, but you will get through this, I promise you. It will be OK. Trust me.”

She went on to tell me some dynamics of her relationship with the baby’s father, and I could see that the girl would be pretty much on her own raising this child. But I had perfect peace and certitude that God would not abandon her.

She was telling me she had even deliberately looked for a priest whom she thought would be the meanest in the diocese to go to confession about her sinfulness, expecting a scathing reproach. But to her relief and surprise, the priest had been most compassionate and fatherly. He had even reassured her that Jesus loved her. She felt comforted by that absolution and by his words. She admitted that yes, she could believe that Jesus loved her.

“Yes,” I thought, “God loves her so much and He loves this child. Our Lord will see them through, He will be with them, as would her family and the friends she mentioned.”

Things began to look brighter as she rose to leave. It might be darker outside, but the sunshine had come out in her expression. The young women left smiling, wiping her tears, apologizing for taking my time. She hugged me and thanked me profusely. “Who cares about time,” I thought, “the most important thing is the well-being of this woman and the life she carries within her.” I was so grateful to God that she had thought to come to our convent. I went to the chapel as she drove away and prayed for her, entrusting her to the Sacred Heart.

Fast forward a number of months and suddenly there we were, talking about her delivery, her beautiful baby, her happiness as a mother, her family’s joy, and the child’s approaching baptism.

I was delighted to attend, and I rushed over to her pew to catch for the first time a glimpse of this little white-clad bundle of love. The young mother looked at me with so much peace and happiness. She smiled and said, “Sister, you sit here beside me, because if it wasn’t for you, he wouldn’t be here.”

I was taken aback by that, and deeply moved. Word cannot express how grateful I was that that I could have been of help to this soul when she most needed me. It certainly wasn’t me, I realized. God puts us in the right place at the right time, according to His designs of love.

A few years passed. Once again, I found myself in church, but it was hardly a festive occasion this time for me. I was lost in my own problems and self-preoccupation. Still reeling from a rather sudden transfer from a beloved assignment, an injury and other losses at that time, I was consumed by dark thoughts, and the sense of uncertainty accompanying this turn of events. I remember that day feeling like such a failure, and I was consumed by thoughts of self-reproach that had I only responded better in some situations, maybe I would not have lost everything.

I was abruptly shaken out of my dark reverie, by movement, by running actually, and this, by a small child who had suddenly escaped and bolted from the pew behind me! I saw he was taking off up the aisle, laughing and quite mortifying his surprised mother. I sprang into action. Scooping him up from behind, I slowly turned to hand him back to his mother.

Suddenly, I stopped in my tracks. It was her, the young woman from a few years back! And here was her precious child! No longer an infant, he was now about two years old.

Considering the thoughts I had just been entertaining, the meaning of this chance encounter was not lost on me.

My dark mood lifted and I was filled with a heart full of joy and overwhelming consolation.

“Look at this,” I reasoned, “I guess I wasn’t a complete failure at this parish!” Right here, right now in front of me, with the face of a cherub, was this living, breathing, and, yes, squirming little boy, actual proof that all was not in vain. God had indeed used me for some good.

Smiling, I returned the precious child to his mother’s eager arms, and as I did so, I realized something else: Not long ago, I may have been the one who counseled this young woman in a very dark moment, but today, unbeknownst to her, she and her toddler had just offered me counsel, witness, and a whole lot of the hope I most needed. If God could use me then, He would surely use me somewhere in the future. I marveled that love had seemed to have come full circle.

During the Mass that followed, it occurred to me that the love that God gives us through people and circumstances, through His word and sacraments, is His very love we need to see us through every agony; it is the divine love that never abandons.

Such Infinite Love had come that day as a guest to my house, and even to me today, the God of Love who comes to all of us, coming that we might have life, and have it to the full (cf. Jn 10:10).

When Your Only Offering Is Myrrh

I wanted Christmas to be perfect, but God had other plans.

I really wanted to feel some Christmas cheer, truly I did. But try as I might, I simply could not get into the Christmas spirit.

I frantically finished tasks, met deadlines and watched the calendar move further and further into December.

“I’m just tired,” I thought. “Maybe a Christmas movie will help,” as I settled into “It’s A Wonderful Life.”  Sadly, even that classic couldn’t lift it. 

I attributed my weariness to busy travels, a recent death in the family, and the many preparations for my religious community’s Jubilee celebration a few weeks before. 

On Christmas Eve, as I returned from work, I felt exhausted and felt a headcold coming on.

“Snap out of it!” I told myself, “You live on Ebenezer Road, and your name is Mary Joseph, for heaven’s sake!” What was wrong with me?  “I just need a break,” I thought.

But I could not dispel the sense of emptiness.

My superiors were kind and allowed me after Christmas a few days of rest with my family. I went to my sister’s house and hoped for joy and a festive spirit.

It was not to be! A toothache settled in, my cold got worse, and my whole body ached!

I didn’t want to infect the family so I holed up in the guest room, binge watching “Downton Abbey.” “At least I can check Downton off my bucket list.”

An emergency dental visit confirmed an abscessed tooth and the promise of a root canal. Wow, this was going from bad to worse!

I watched the extravagance and ease of the nobility on “Downton” and I thought of Jesus Christ. Here He was the King of Kings and yet he chose to be born into poverty. He didn’t have butlers or footmen; rather He came Himself to serve, not to be served.

I was able to get to daily Mass those days, albeit armed with cold meds, bottled water and hand sanitizer!

And I found Bethlehem there. At daily Mass.

Nothing extraordinary happened to be sure. Everything was quite ordinary, even mundane.

They were simple people who filled the pews, not unlike the shepherds of old, who came to find a King.

My whole Christmas was so commonplace. Not exotic like those bejeweled Magi! Those kings were amazing! And they had wonderful gifts to lay at the Child’s feet!

“I have nothing to give you, dear Lord, nothing but this headache, this head cold, these worrisome thoughts.”

“Give Me your myrrh.”

“What?” I said interiorly.

“Give Me your myrrh.”

Myrrh. For mortality, for death? What a gift! For Christmas? A season of ‘Joy to the World’, merriment and mirth, presents and parties? Myrrh?

“Yes, myrrh.”

I sighed. Ok. He wants my myrrh. I would give Him my myrrh – to this Divine Child who came to die for me.

I would lay before Him all my misery, my sickness, my worries, my failures. Recent deaths and the grief of dear ones.

I would give Him my emptiness, the darkness that had robbed me of so much wonder at Christmas, my lonesomeness for the people and joys that I seemed to have lost.

Such were my offerings. With tears springing to my eyes, as if ashamedly, I laid such burdens down before the precious Babe. For Christmas was supposed to be perfect, wasn’t it?

“Mine wasn’t,” He said.

It startled me. But of course! The Lord Jesus had come ‘unto His own, and His own did not accept Him.’ He knew cold. Hunger. A flight into a foreign land from murderous enemies. It was true, His own first Christmas was far from perfect!

I realized that I had been mourning the loss of my childhood, because it seemed I could not return to its wonder and security.

But the restorer of my peace, security and hope lay here in the manger, and, sacramentally, on the altar before me.

Yes, Christ my hope had come, shining like a brilliant star to light my way, his Heart burning like a torch to melt in me the frozen and warm the chill. He came to me bearing love, a new day, a new life!

I left my myrrh and went home by another route.

And so as the churches this week divest their Christmas adornments, the Christmas figures are packed carefully away, and life resumes its drab routine, for me, I am just beginning to celebrate my Christmas. I’m expecting the celebration to last all year long.

Christ is born for us! O come, let us adore Him.

The final gift

It was my mother’s funeral.

The weeks prior were a daze of disbelief. We could hardly grasp the sudden rapid decline of our mother’s cancer – another parent dying in her fifties, only two years after our dad!

I looked up wearily during the funeral Mass at her priest brother burying his little sister. I glanced at my siblings. The six of us were orphaned.

I was sick from the disappointment of losing my parents so young. Although a religious, the doubt of grief was at the door of my heart, and I was lost and hurt that God did not give us the miracles we had begged of Him. I wondered how to go on without the love of my mother and father on this earth. God seemed very far from me in that dread moment.

Then something happened. It was one of those sudden happenings that could pass unnoticed, were the air not charged with the sense of profound feelings during that funeral Mass. It was something I shall never forget, a ray from heaven that pierced the darkness of my heart that day, and the memory has radiated all these years since.

Truth be told, it was a mistake of the funeral director. Who could fault him though, since it was a mistake God had planned from all eternity for my consolation.

Before the funeral began, as we had come from the funeral home and were entering the church, my sister realized to her dismay that someone had mistakenly taken a small bouquet of shamrocks from the car that were meant for the cemetery. I saw her hurriedly place the flowers on a small table in the rear of the church.

I became lost in my own thoughts during the Mass after the homily, until I became aware of movement in the aisle and saw the grandchildren were bearing the offertory gifts. I smiled. They were so beautiful, these children, the sign of new life continuing in the next generation.

Suddenly I watched in amazement as my funeral director cousin was carrying my nephew up the aisle bearing those very shamrocks. “How nice, ” I thought, “My Irish mother would so love this. Her grandson with shamrocks.”

Then, something unexpected took place. The young man bearing the little boy suddenly stopped, turned, and the grandson placed the shamrocks on my mother’s casket!

God was receiving the elements that would be transformed into Himself on the altar, but He allowed another offering to take place, the gift of a bouquet of garden shamrocks from the baby fingers of a grandson, a final offering of love to his grandmother. Sure but it made the angels smile for joy!

It was as if the reality of heaven’s goodness and love was suddenly opened to me. The significance of that moment was not lost on me. I knew that God is love. He is not cruel, heartless, unfeeling to our grief and loss.

It became clear that no relationship is taken away when God calls our dear ones home to Himself. The bonds that are forged in the trials and joys of this earth are not severed in death. God does not ask that of us. Those he calls to himself are in communion with God and with us still. Death does not destroy love, for love is eternal.

The Mass my mother loved so well paused, and a grandmother received a final bouquet of shamrocks because God is full of sweetness and love; because the Lord is thoughtful and tender; because God is love.

I knew I would not be alone. Love was with me. Eternal, infinite Love. The Triune God reflected in the shamrock.

The Destiny of A Perfect Love

Every one of us desires to be loved. Each one longs to be cherished. We were made for love. Nothing will satisfy us until we are loved. It is a capacity written in the very depths of our hearts.

Many people spend their whole life longing for someone to love them, searching for love. People reminisce on memories of past love or dwell on hopes for it in the future.

Simply put, the human heart cannot endure the agony of not being loved. It is a vacuum our nature vehemently detests. Its emptiness will compel one to try to fill this void with all manner of distraction, vain pursuits, even dissipation.

The hopelessness of feeling unloved is a suffering no one is meant to bear. Why? Because we were created to give and to receive love. We were made in the image of God for a communion of love. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves.

CCC, 1702

In seeking to love selflessly, we leave our state of alienation and misery, and we open our hearts to our destiny. In our gift of self, we discover a fulfillment until now undreamed of.

The Second Vatican Council document, Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope), drafted in part by St. John Paul II, makes love the sine qua non of self-realization:

Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.

Gaudium et Spes, 24

This call to self-gift originates in the community of Persons which is the Triune God. All love finds its origin and its fulfillment in the very Heart of God. God’s very essence is love itself,

God is love.

1 John 4:8

and all true love is a participation in Him. When we seek to love, we finally encounter Him, the font of love.

Such was God’s ardent desire all along – to fill us with the fullness of His very life and love. He inspired the prophet Jeremiah to pen the Divine avowal of love,

With age-old love, I have loved you, therefore I have kept my mercy toward you.

Jeremiah 31:3

God longs for our love. What lover does not desire the response of love from the Beloved? Our Creator has loved us from all eternity with all the ardor of God! He has plans for our happiness and contentment. He has a future full of hope for us, a life of the fullness of love.

Using the Divine logic that love begets love, how then can we acquire love? The Song of Songs says this:

Deep waters cannot quench love, nor rivers sweep it away. Were one to offer all the wealth of his house for love, he would be utterly despised.

Song of Songs 8:7

Love is invincible, eternal. It is a participation in God’s own essence, and is a pure gift from God.

Love is not a commodity. It must be freely given and received. We can do no better than to seek love from its very Source, from God Himself!

This involves returning like the prodigal son to our spiritual senses, and making a conscious effort to turn our eyes away from our misery and loneliness, our alienation, and to see beyond ourselves. Now is the time to leave the reveries and daydreams of our former life, and to live intentionally in love.

Making a conscious decision to love God from our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves will prove to be the threshold of contentment for us.

Letting go of selfishness and seeking God will liberate us from bondage to ourselves and our self-centeredness. The transformation will begin and continue, until we can make our own an act of pure, disinterested love such as that of St. Francis Xavier:

O God, I love you! … You, you, my Jesus, have all-embraced me on the Cross. You have borne the nails, the lance, much ignominy, numberless griefs, sweatings and anguish, and death – and these on account of me, and for me, a sinner. Why, therefore, should I not love you, O most loving Jesus?—not that in heaven you shall save me, nor lest for eternity you shall condemn me –not with the hope of any reward. But as you have loved me, so also will I love you—only because you are my King, and because you are my God!

St. Francis Xavier

Opening our spiritual eyes to the loneliness and misery of those around us, we will begin to give love, to show kindness, to do deeds of mercy. Opportunities will not be lacking. Life will become filled with occasions of interaction that bring us happiness and fulfillment.

Union follows – with God and His people. The sadness of the past will hardly be remembered. Closeness to God will lead to unity with people.

Prayer will become second nature, charity will flow from it. Love is transformative, changing us into the very persons we always wanted to be, and uncovering to us the depths of love we always longed for.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld is an example of someone who could not be satisfied by anything until his conversion to God. He surrendered himself to love and wrote this profound prayer of abandonment:

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld

The fact is, we were intended for the closest intimacy. Our heart’s longing is but an echo of the Lord’s longing for us. Listen to what God speaks personally to us through the Prophet Hosea.

I will betroth you to me forever: I will betroth you to me with justice and with judgment, with loyalty and with compassion; I will betroth you to me with fidelity,and you shall know the Lord.

Hosea 2:21-22

What will be our response? Will we open ourselves to love? Our destiny of love is calling.

Image: Sacred Heart of Jesus, by Joseph Finelli, http://www.sacredheartofjesus.net

Your Name is Beloved

The Divine Mercy image
By Terezia Sedlakova

It is His essence, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). Love is who He is.

With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you.

Jeremiah 31:3

This is why we long to be loved, because we actually are longing for God. We are dissatisfied without His love. As St. Augustine has put it, “You have made us for yourself O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

What we fail to realize is that our longing is but the faintest echo of God’s longing for us.

Out of the fullness of his heart during the Last Supper, our blessed Savior said,”As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love” (John 15:9).

Think about that. As the Father loves the Son, the Son loves us.

We must never doubt that we are loved completely by God. We have only to look to what God has done out of pure love for us.

Our Founder, St. Joseph Sebastian Pelczar has written this profound insight:

St. Joseph Sebastian Pelczar

“If you want to know the greatness of this love, mediate on God’s great acts performed for men, namely the three eternal monuments of love: the manger, the cross and the altar. Stand especially beneath the cross, and look towards the love Crucified. Stand before the Most Blessed Sacrament and mediate on the immolation of the hidden God, the immense sacrifice of self, the entire giving to men with love without limits. Then penetrate
into the Heart of Jesus and look at His love. Indeed, no one can understand what a great flame consumes that most lively Heart.”

Office of Readings of St. Joseph Sebastian Pelczar, January 19.
My God and My All!

“We adore you, O God, here and in all Your churches throughout the whole world, and we bless You, because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the whole world.”

St. Francis of Assisi