God Really Loves You.
By Father John Catoir-9/6/17
“God is love, and He wants to abide in you,”-1 John 4:16.
The storms of life are passing, but God’s love is unchanging. Stone Age people
thought that the weather was God’s way of expressing his various moods.
He was either resting or raging.
The Hebrew Prophets rejected this idea. They knew from revelation that God is
Love. Zephaniah, back in 650 B.C., denounced the false gods of his day: the sun,
the moon, and other inanimate objects.
These pagan gods inspired fear, but the Prophet Zephaniah adored
the one, true God, as a God of Love: “God will exult over you with joy... on the
day of festival, he will renew you by his love; He will dance for you with shouts
of joy,”- Zephaniah, 3:17.
The Christian writers had an even better sense of God’s personality. St. John the Apostle wrote, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that those who believe in Him will have eternal life,”-John 3:16. That means the Lord wants you to leave behind everything that is counterproductive to your union with Him.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote, in his encyclical God Is Love, “I want my first encyclical to speak of the love that God lavishes upon each one of you…God wants to be as close to you as possible. He actually woos you.”
Apply these words to what you already know about the love Jesus has already demonstrated. He gave up His life for you. He suffered the fate of a common criminal. He allowed himself to be crucified so that your sins may be forgiven. And He said, “I’ve told you all these things that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete, ”-John 15:11. Jesus gives each one of us hope and joyful expectation.
Given this outpouring of love, is it any wonder that Blessed Julian of Norwich, a woman who gave up her life to become a contemplative nun, had this splendid response? “The greatest honor anyone can give to Almighty God is to live joyfully because of the knowledge His love.”
Unlike most others, she not only recognized the debt we owe the Lord; she taught us how to repay it. She writes, “It’s not enough merely to give Him thanks, we must also demonstrate our unending gratitude by living our lives joyfully.”
Dorothy Day called it, “The duty of delight.” Never let anyone take your joy from you. Decide to stand ready to meet all challenges. Joy is in the will. The will says, “yes or no”.
One puts on the will to overcome sadness, self-pity and self-centeredness. One tries to maintain a joyful spirit in all circumstances. Brush off all those petty annoyances, bodily aches and irksome situations. Be the ‘new creation of joy’ that God wants you to be.
St. Catherine of Siena said, “All the way to heaven is heaven.” Decide to bring your joy to the world, by not giving in to moods of gloom and doom. Make a mantra of that beautiful Christmas hymn; keep saying, “Joy to the World”. And in the process, count on the help of Jesus.
May the Lord be your strength and your joy.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
"When we began The Christopher Leadership Course, the idea behind it was to get more people to become Christ-bearers. As Father Keller said - you don't have to be a foreign missionary to bring Christ to others; you can be a carrier of Christ right where you live and work. It's one thing to be an idealist, but quite another to be effective in leading people to move beyond their comfort zones. Helping to make this a better world takes blood, sweat & tears.
Teaching leadership skills is a work of mercy; it is our way of helping people to make a difference.
I was once very timid, and not at all inclined to tell anyone what to do. For me, urging others to do more than they felt like doing was a no-no. But a grace hit me: Jesus did exactly that: "What you do for the least of My brethren you do for Me."
These words were a call to action. Once I saw Christ in my weakest neighbor, it made a huge difference in how I responded to him or her.
The corporal works of mercy are holy acts: "feed the hungry, clothe the naked.” So are the spiritual works of mercy: "admonish the sinner, counsel the doubtful," etc. Pope Francis recently said that even acts which aim at protecting and defending the public from terrorist attacks are truly works of mercy. You can begin along those lines by supporting all law enforcement officers.
Be brave, and be joyful - for you are called to be holy.
I wish you God's choicest blessings in the days ahead. May the Lord be your strength and your joy as you help change the world for the better.
Sincerely in Christ,
Father John Catoir
How Grace Changed My World
By Father John Catoir
Our planet needs hope and joy. It needs what you have to give. Each of us must try to find a way to help others find encouragement and inspiration in this darkened world. When these insights hit me; and I concluded that one person can make a difference, it changed everything.
In 1977, I received word that a Catholic multi-media organization, The Christophers, was searching for a new director. My heart leapt. I had admired their recently deceased founder, Father James Keller, ever since my father gave me his book, “You Can Change the World” on my 18th birthday.
The Christophers, a non-profit corporation, had two components: a radio & television production company, and a publishing house, which produced spiritual books and pamphlets. Communications was at the heart of their mission. Getting a job like that would be a dream come true. In college, I joined the Radio Station at Fordham, WFUV, hoping to prepare myself for a career in the media, but after I decided to be a priest all that changed. I put away those dreams and considered them to be a youthful fantasy.
I was working as a pastor, and running the Marriage Tribunal of the Diocese of Paterson, and had no experience running a media organization. Why even bother to apply? I also felt unworthy to be Father Keller’s successor. Doubts like that killed my enthusiasm.
Three weeks later a burst of energy hit me. I suddenly thought, “What have you got to lose?” I decided to write a letter to the Christopher Board of Directors applying for the position. This surprising shot of courage took over before I had a chance to question it. Looking back, I now see that God’s grace led me to act.
St. Thomas Aquinas defined actual grace as “a light to the mind or an impulse to the will.” Without taking our freedom away, God influences us to see something more clearly, or to take some action we had once been afraid of taking. When I realized that the only thing holding me back from applying for the job was my fear of being rejected, I moved quickly. God’s grace spurred me on to follow this new surge of purpose and direction.
It is extremely important for everyone to see the connection between the graces we receive in life, and the hidden hand of God. Fear and insecurity can never be allowed to prevail over the noble desires of the human heart.
It took one year from the time I applied for the job, until the board actually chose me to be their new Director. I was both flabbergasted and jubilant. During my time as director, which lasted nearly 18 years, I devoted myself to recording radio spots, which were syndicated nationally, doing television interviews, writing books and articles, and running an office with 50 employees.
Bringing the Christopher message to millions was a profound joy. To this inspiration, I added the theme that Jesus proclaimed in John 15:11, “I have told you all these things that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.” St. Francis de Sales embellished it in this way, “A sad saint is a sorry saint.” Pope John Paul II confirmed it beautifully, “Christ came to bring joy; joy to children, joy to parents, joy to friends and families; indeed ‘joy’ is the key- note message of the Gospel. Go therefore and become messengers of joy.”
The Death of Prince
by Father John Catoir JCD
The death of legendary Rock Star, Prince Rogers Nelson, April 21, 2016, led me to reflect on the impact that fame and fortune had on his life. Prince was once a wild youth; he grew up to be a person who could say with conviction: “I felt called by God to come into complete oneness with the Spirit of God and the knowledge of his truth.”
Beatle John Lennon wrote these words: “Fame and fortune won’t ruin you, you do that to yourself.” Prince heeded that wisdom, and turned his life around. He concentrated on producing a body of work that many considered the gold standard of creative excellence. James Brown and Miles Davis, both amazing musicians, said that Prince was exceptional.
Over the past forty years, Prince created music and films that touched the lives of hundreds of millions of fans all over the world. As an aging priest, I must admit I barely noticed him, but the outpouring of love that followed his passing opened my eyes to the phenomenal influence he had on the world.
My niece, Dionne Benjamin Smith, who lives in Nassau, is the Founding Editor and Publisher of the weekly E-Magazine, Bahamian Art & Culture, (Cf. firstname.lastname@example.org). She has published it, free of charge, for the last 18 years. Here is the substance of the tribute she paid to Prince:
“The first time I heard his music my mind was blown, it was so distinctive and captivating. Purple Rain was my favorite album. It helped me get through a turbulent time in my life. His music had a sadness to it, and as a misunderstood teenager, I identified with him and his music….I also admired how he stood courageously behind his work, as evidenced by the protracted legal battle he had with Warner Bros. over his copyright and his name. It was a battle he eventually won.”
Prince was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist, and later became a devout Jehovah’s Witness. After he entered recovery, he spent hours talking to people about his faith in God and Jesus; confessing that he made many mistakes when he was young. He hoped to help others avoid his mistakes so they could become the new creation God wants all of us to be.
It is for these reasons that I celebrate his life. Prince used his talents well. He understood this truth: God doesn’t raise us up to great heights for our own glory; he lifts us higher so that we can lift others up as well.
I am aware of the fact that he was addicted to pain-killers, but he needed them, like so many millions who take such medication. I’ll leave that issue for God to judge.
The sin of pride is the inordinate love of self. Prince loved himself, but in the way that God urges all of us to love ourselves; by perfecting our talents, and using them to serve the common good. To do this Prince became a man of prayer.
Each of us fulfills our need for God in our own unique way. For Catholics, Pope John Paul II put it best.
“The human desire to be with God is not just a wish, but a need that can be as physical as the need for food and water…One way this hunger can be satisfied is by receiving his body in the Eucharist.”
May the soul of Prince, and all the faithful departed, rest in peace.
Death and Grief
by Father John Catoir JCD
“I have come that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete”- Matt. 15:11. These words of Jesus are an answer to the prayers of those who are suffering from a great loss.
As a priest, I have a vocation within a vocation. I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life writing about supernatural joy. The message is simple: faith, together with the discipline of controlling your thoughts can help you to overcome the emotional pain of losing someone very dear to you.
The pain of life is real, and seemingly unending, but in spite of tragic circumstances there is one word you need to focus on; namely, survival. You can go on grieving for a year, for ten years, or fifty years, but sooner or later you will have to decide whether or not you’re going to be a survivor.
There is still a job for you to do in this world, a job that nobody else can do, and if you don’t do it, it will remain undone. Millions have come to the realization that they must be ready to carry one with courage.
A woman wrote me the following letter; which helped me understand a great deal about the pain of grief.
“On a beautiful sunny July morning, my 26 year old son was killed in a car accident. He was on his way to work when a new young driver pulled out of a side street and killed my wonderful boy.” Lynn Bain continued, “I never knew such desperation, such isolation and unending agony before. The depth of the pain, the flow of tears, and the deadening silence were overwhelming; I never knew one could still exist when everything inside had died.
This broken-hearted woman managed to survive with the help of God. She wrote this follow-up later, “With time, and the help of God, and the writings of Father John Catoir, I found my bearings. He taught me how to find joy in the midst of the most excruciating pain. I wish I could give you the magic formula, but there is none. Just know that if you have suffered a terrible loss, you will laugh again and live again. Knowing that God is by your side, helping you every step of the way, you will come to learn the important lesson that joy really does prevail over sorrow.”
Lynn gave me some of the credit, but the truth is all I ever did for her was to repeat the words of Jesus: “I’ve told you all these things that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete…Come to me all you who are burdened and I will give you rest.”
One more story: a grief-stricken man was tempted to commit suicide. One day while riding on a bus he spotted a pamphlet on the floor and picked it up out of curiosity. It contained this message: “Today you may feel hopeless, but tomorrow or the next day you will remember that you have a purpose, a true mission in life. It will transform you, and give you the courage to carry on.
He cancelled his suicide plans, and never thought of it again. He wrote to me several months later to explain how the idea of a God-given mission changed his life forever. Amen.
“In this world your will have many troubles, but take heart, cheer up, for I have overcome the world, (John: 16:33).
Father John Catoir
"My Favorite Quote."
Communion with God should be a natural part of your life, like your very own heartbeat. Being aware of the presence of God is automatic, even if you only advert to God a few times a day. The Lord is present, whether you're praying or not.
With this in mind here is a favorite quote of mine: "The secret of sanctity and holiness rests in your fidelity to the will of God as it is manifested in the duty of the present moment" – Jean Pierre de Caussade, S.J.
You might think that this refers to duties like performing the corporal of works of mercy, but it also refers to doing the dishes and taking responsibility for your own health.
The abuse of illicit drugs has reached the epidemic stage. Children need to be taught that the essence of growth and development is found in one’s willingness to change for the better by shouldering one’s responsibilities with courage. Depending always on God's grace is, of course, a given.
Granted, many teenagers may be deaf to this level of spirituality, but remember, young people are idealistic, and most of them only need to be reminded of the holy desires of their childhood.
Living in the present moment means that you will not let the past drag you down, or any fear of the future cloud your life with doubt. It takes will power, decision making, and the desire to be your best self, that will enable you to reach this state of peace. With patience, you will learn to trust your good intentions. In other words you can become "fully alive".
"Gods great glory is the human person fully alive"- St.Irenaeus.
As a Saint-in-training, you have what it takes to produce rich and abundant good fruit. The Lord himself has told you this. Trust the words of Jesus more than your own fears.
50 years ago I was an MP at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio Texas. The Post Chaplain asked me to be his assistant and my high school dreams of becoming a priest began to stir in me again. The rest is history. The decisions we make today have consequences tomorrow.
Deciding to be holy doesn't mean that you have a vocation, but it does mean that you are willing to follow the Lord's direction. For this He will give you supernatural hope, and you will enjoy a meaningful life.
Grant me O Lord, the joy of loving you and trusting your promises, for you always supply guidance to those who live on the foundation of your love, day by day.
What you are right now is plain to see, but what you can be in the future, with the help of God's grace, is hidden from your eyes. Jesus said, "be not afraid".
Permit me to insert an historical fact that may help you to see the reality of indecision and self-centeredness.
81,170 US military men and women died in the Korean and Vietnam wars over a 23 year stretch. But in one year alone, the year 2013, 550,000 Americans died from nicotine poisoning, alcohol abuse, and illicit drugs. An additional 20,000 died from the abuse of prescription drugs-that's 570,000 human beings who died in one year because they drifted into a life that lacked purpose and direction.
How are you using the present moment? Are you being your own best friend, or your own worst enemy?
Put on the will to choose an up-right life. Expect a good outcome and "your joy will be full".
The Divinity of Christ
By Father John Catoir, JCD 7/8/16
"Jesus Christ is true God and true man"- (The Nicene Creed). This profound truth is a theological mystery. Christ gave it to us that our joy may be full.
Faith enables us to believe the supernatural mysteries taught to us by divine revelation. The historical Jesus was God incarnate.
The Age of Faith may be fading, but millions of believers cling to their Catholic faith with courage. We are living in a world which exalts individualism and denial of the supernatural.
Never be afraid to uphold the truths of revelation. Jesus Christ said, "The Father and I are One"-(John 10:30). This truth defines the Doctrine of The Incarnation. It may boggle the mind but we accept it as true.
There are three Persons in One God: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is God incarnate. God is love.
When you also reflect on the fact that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, you enter into the mystery of Divine love on a deeper level. Catholics treasure their faith as a precious gift.
Christ's divinity has been under attack for centuries. The Pagans have ridiculed this belief from the beginning, and attempted to turn the meaning of Scripture upside down.
Biblical Criticism has caused a much of the confusion because it begins by denying the divinity of Christ. It attempts to answer the question: who was the historical Jesus? In itself this is a legitimate query for theologians to explore, but not if you reject the divinity of Jesus from the outset.
Keep in mind that theology is the science that attempts to explain the unexplainable. The full authority of the Church has affirmed Christ's incarnation both from Sacred Scripture, and from our living Tradition going back to the Apostles.
Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity. He assumed a human nature from his mother, Mary. The Holy Spirit came upon her, and she gave birth to Jesus nine months later.
Faith enables us to accept this mystery, and to rejoice in the wonder of it. "God sent His only Begotten Son that the world may be saved," (John 3:16).
Skeptics deny the divinity of Christ, and claim that he is irrelevant to the modern world. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our faith is knowledge that comes to us from Divine Revelation. Believers trust the words of Jesus, and are richly blessed for it. Saints and scholars have always maintained that the New Testament carries the Deposit of Faith through the centuries.
Holding fast to the Faith of our Fathers requires a certain amount of determination and courage. In a world full of agnostics, atheists, and neo-pagans, all of whom reject the supernatural, we are constantly challenged to stand up for Jesus Christ. There is no middle ground. Jesus said, "Either you are with me or you are against me."
The work demythologizing the Gospels got its start from a German scholar named Rudolf Bultmann, who denied the divinity of Jesus from the start. We pray for him and his followers.
The Church offers wise guidance in reading the scriptures. Fortunately, Jesus gave Peter the authority to protect his teachings from error. His words were being twisted even while Jesus was still alive, so He gave authority to Peter and all the popes after him to clarify his teachings down through the ages. Jesus said to Peter in the presence of all of the Apostles, "He who hears you hears me" (Luke 10:16).
In 1965, the Second Vatican Council stated, "Since Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted by the same Spirit by whom it was written, one must take into account, in order to draw out the correct sense of the sacred texts, the Tradition of the whole Church..." This implies that from century to century we have kept the valid tradition of Christianity alive. The Church has preserved the true Deposit of Faith.
The most important example of this is found in the Eucharist. We know with certainty that the literal interpretation of the following scriptural passage is essential: "Jesus offered the bread to the Apostles and said, "This is my body" (Luke 22:1).
Jesus is truly present in the consecrated host. Those who deny the Doctrine of the Real Presence are in heresy.
May the Lord be your strength and your joy!
Catholics and Our Blessed Mother
By Father John Catoir, JCD 9/13/16
Of all the prerogatives of Mary, the divine motherhood is the one that takes hold of the consciousness of the average Catholic. We can easily imagine the indescribable intimacy that exists between a mother and son. For this reason there are a variety of ways in which Catholics apply this awareness to their own lives.
Here’s one example. During the years I was hosting The Christophers TV Show, I interviewed Joe Garagiola, the baseball star who turned to broadcasting. In the middle of the conversation he said, “Father let’s not talk about baseball anymore, let’s talk about Jesus, Mary and Joseph. ’’ I was caught off guard, this had never happened before. “OK Joe, what do you say to non-Catholics who say that Catholics make too much of Mary?”
I’ll never forget his reply, “I feel sorry for them. Look Father, I’m Italian, and we know that if you want to get to the Man, you get to the mother.” We both laughed. It was funny, but it also had a wring of truth to it.
Catholics see Mary as the one who gives them easy access to her Son. They think of her as their spiritual mother in heaven. She offers love, consolation and mercy. Her many titles reflect this very level of faith: Our Lady of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Consolation, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Our Blessed Mother is known for her visitations to various shrines around the world like Lourdes and Fatima, where she has performed many miracles. For well over 150 years the sick have travelled by the millions to these holy places leaving their crutches behind as a sign of Mary’s healing presence.
Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist put it best when she said, “Of all women, Mary you are the most blessed; and blessed is the fruit of your womb,” (Luke 1:42-45).
Mary was chosen for the most privileged position in human history: to be the mother of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Catholics continually ask Mary to pray for them. To understand why, let’s turn to the Hebrew Bible to help us imagine how Jesus might relate to Mary in heaven.
We read that King Solomon had his mother sitting to the right of his thrown. She often interceded on behalf of his subjects saying, “I have a favor to ask of you….do not refuse me.” Solomon would answer, “My mother, make your request for I will not refuse you,” (1 Kings 2:21).
When Catholics recite the Hail Mary: “Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death,” they do not think of Mary as a goddess with independent power. They know that all the power comes from her divine son. They simply ask her to intercede for them, knowing well that Jesus will honor her request.
St. Elizabeth is recorded in scripture as saying, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Mary believed and then surrendered herself to the Lord in perfect submission, “Be it done unto me according to thy word,” (Luke 1:38), and the miracle of the Incarnation took place in her womb. Jesus became flesh of her flesh, and bone of her bone.
The divine command to honor one’s mother is found in Exodus 20:12. Jesus honors his mother, just as any good son would. His love for her flows through His children, as we honor the Holy Mother of God, in Him and with Him.
Father John Catoir – the former Director of The Christophers discusses the roots of his passion for the Christopher message, the reasons he emphasizes the supernatural power of joy in his ministry, and his insights on overcoming fear and doubt in your life.