Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Encourage - (v) give support, confidence, or hope to (someone)

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Barnabas, Apostle. Interestingly, his name was actually Jospeh. Due to his positive demeanor, though, the apostles called him "Barnabas" which means "son of encouragement". 

He advocated for Saul - St. Paul, before anyone else believed in his conversion. This act alone seems enough to qualify him for this nickname. Barnabas defended Saul, perhaps one of the greatest persecutors of Christians ever, before he became known as an apostle of Christ. Standing up for St. Paul must have brought St. Barnabas much conflict and ridicule.

An encourager, though, supports, offers confidence in, or hope to someone. 

Encouragers play essential roles in our lives. If you think on your own life, consider those people who have encouraged you and your relationship with them. Likely, these relationships are, or at least were, incredibly strong. You probably wanted to be close to this person, growing in excitement during moments together and/or leaving his/her presence having felt stronger, lighter, joyful, hopeful, determined. 

Contrarily, consider people who discouraged you. If possible, you distanced yourself from this discourager. You dreaded your time with him/her. You left encounters with this person feeling dejected, deflated, defeated. 

As a parent, husband, Catholic educator, leader - as a person - I hope to be an encourager. I hope to bring hope to others. I hope to see others as God sees them, encouraging them that becoming the person they were created to be is more than possible. It is necessary. 

I assume that everyone would answer similarly. We want to encourage and be encouraged. 

Given the daily grind of life, and without others to encourage us, encouraging others may be beyond our capacity. Just fighting through our own battles and struggles can leave us feeling drained, with little to nothing to offer others by way of encouragement. 

Enter the Holy Spirit. 

Gerard Manley Hopkins described the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, in the following way: 
For God the Holy Ghost is the Paraclete, but what is a Paraclete?  Often it is translated comforter, but a Paraclete does more than comfort.  The word is Greek; there is no one English word for it and no one Latin word, comforter, is not enough.  A Paraclete is one who comforts, who cheers, who encourages, who persuades, who exhorts, who stirs up, who urges forward, who calls on; what the spur and word of command is to a horse, what clapping of hands is to a speaker, what a trumpet is to the soldier, that a Paraclete is to the soul: one who calls us on, that is what it means, a Paraclete is one who calls us on to good. One sight is before my mind, it is homely but it comes home: you have seen at cricket how when one of the (batters) at the wicket has made a hit and wants to score a run, the other doubts, hangs back, or is ready to run in again, how eagerly the first will cry/Come on, come on! – a Paraclete is just that, something that cheers the spirit of (people), with signals and with cries, all zealous that (we) should do something and full of assurance that if (we) will (we) can, calling (us) on, springing to meet (us) half way, crying to (our) ears or to (our) heart: This way to do God’s will, this way to save your soul, come on, come on! 
No matter our circumstance, the Paraclete is with us, encouraging us, calling us on to do good, to be the people God created us to be, to strengthen us with fortitude, to fill us with wisdom, enlighten us with understanding, guide us with counsel, direct us with knowledge, humble us with piety, and enliven us with fear of the Lord.

Come, Holy Spirit, encourage us! St. Barnabas, son of encouragement, pray for us!

Be encouraged and be an encourager!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Unleash the Power to Conquer

This post is one year late.

ICS Class of 2018, these are my parting words to you. I'm sorry that they are just now getting to you. You've already experienced and most likely finished your first year of high school.

Better late than never.

Transitions are really hard. You know this now a few times over. Your 8th grade year endured changes that neither you nor I intended. We arrived at a theme, and a really good one at that. You designed a t-shirt, and a really good one at that! You volunteered to help lead various initiatives. You showed how you were poised and ready to "Unleash the Power to Conquer".  

But, from what I know, none of this came to fruition.

I hope and pray that you still managed to unleash the gifts, talents, and energies given to you by God to become the people He created you to be. I hope and pray that your stamp last year on Incarnation Catholic School may have been more lasting than mine. The thing about our work is that we are meant to toil for the sake of the Kingdom, not for our own glory, fame or lasting name.

ICS is still making God known, loved and served. The Kingdom is still being advanced. Amen.

The thing about unleashing this power to conquer, though, is that the conquering does not entail an easy fight. I'm sure you've had your share of battles over the past two years. I hope that you've picked up your armor - the cross and the Bible - and that you have fought courageously, if not victoriously. I pray that despite the absence of a t-shirt, the phrase being spoken, or the opportunities to lead as we had collectively envisioned, that you still managed to unleash the power to conquer.

The Spirit - your spirit - cannot be boxed into a pep rally. It wasn't made to fit nicely into a letterhead or on a wall.

It is meant to run wild, live free, and love strong, all for the sake of our King and His Kingdom.

Unleash the power to conquer - your fears, life's battles, transitions, sin, evil, even death itself.

I've been reading my daughters the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. We're on the final book, The Last Battle, but there is a scene from the previous book, The Silver Chair, that I want to share with you.

Prince Rilian has been taken prisoner by the Lady of the Green Kirtle, the Queen of the Underland. Prince Rilian, though, does not realize that he's been taken prisoner, as the Queen has put him under an enchantment, enslaving him as her servant, promising him kingdoms of the Overlands and her hand in marriage if he just continues to serve her.

The enchantment, however, wears off for an hour each day. It is during this time that the Queen has Rilian tied to a silver chair so that he cannot escape. He is told that the opposite is true. The Queen lies to Rilian telling him that the enchantment happens during this hour and that he must be tied up because he becomes such a horrible monster that he would cause destruction unimaginable if loosed.

So, night after night, Prince Rilian suffers through an hour of knowing his true nature, his authentic self, screaming for help, straining to break the bonds holding him captive, only to fall back into his enslaved trance. Caged. Bound. Trapped. Leashed. Conquered.
"Ah," (Prince Rilian) groaned. "Enchantments, enchantments...the heavy, tangled, cold, clammy web of evil magic. Buried alive. Dragged down under the earth, down into the sooty blackness...how many years is it?...Have I lived ten years, or a thousand years, in the pit?"
He had been speaking in a low voice; now he looked up, fixed his eyes upon them, and said loud and clear: "Quick! I am sane now. Every night I am sane. If only I could get out of this enchanted chair, it would last. I should be a man again. But every night they bind me, and so every night my chance is gone. But you are not enemies. I am not your prisoner. Quick! Cut these cords."
"Once and for all," said the prisoner, "I adjure you to set me free. By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you-" 
The story's protagonists, Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum, debate for a while about whether or not to believe him and set him free. He is the first person on their long and arduous journey to say Aslan's name, a sign given to them by Aslan himself that this person would be the long-lost Rilian. Despite their own fears holding them back, they take up swords and release him.
"In the name of Aslan," they said, and began methodically cutting the cords. The instant the prisoner was free, he crossed the room in a single bound, seized his own sword (which had been taken from him and laid on the table), and drew it.
"You first" he cried and fell upon the silver chair. That must have been a good sword. The silver gave way before its edge like string, and in a moment a few twisted fragments, shining on the floor, were all that was left.  
"Had I forgotten (Narnia) when I was under the spell?" asked the Knight. "Well, that and all other bedevilments are now over. You may well believe that I know Narnia, for I am Rilian, Prince of Narnia, and Caspian the great King is my father."
ICS Class of 2018, in your life you will have many silver chairs. There will be countless things that will hold sway over you, challenges that will overpower you, events that will bind and trap you and attempt to turn you into someone you are not.

Unleash the power to conquer and cut each of those silver chairs to pieces. Leave but only a few twisted fragments behind, if anything.

The world, at times, will try to convince you that you are someone you are not. The world will tell you that you are not good enough, smart enough, creative enough, strong enough, pretty enough, tough enough - that you are not enough. In those moments, cut your silver chair and claim your royal birthright.

This won't be easy; it will be hard. Incredibly hard. It will end up being the hardest thing that you've ever done. But, you can do hard things.

You are a child of God.

His royal blood courses through your veins. You were made for greatness, built for holiness and destined for sainthood. Unleash the power to become who you were created, built and destined to be.

ICS Class of 2018, no matter what life will continue to hurl at you. No matter the battle you find yourself fighting, no matter the chair that seemingly holds you captive.

No. Matter. What.

Unleash the power to conquer.  It's not too late...it's better late than never.

Congratulations on your 8th grade graduation and completing your first year of high school, ICS Class of 2018. Goodbye, good luck, God bless and GO IRISH!

-Lewis, C. (1953). The Silver Chair. Scholastic Inc: New York.