Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The kids are back!

My children have been out of town for two weeks and I FINALLY got to pick them up (along with my husband, who had flown down to retrieve them) from the airport yesterday!

I have been enjoying all the updates from their grandparents and auntie and family members who have been able to spend time with them. A couple of highlights:

My two boys received real and actual bear hats from Russia that my Grandpa brought back from his travels many years ago. My parents have little use for them in sunny California, but up here in Alaska, they will fit right in. They are most excellently rugged.

Four of the five monkeys
My five year old daughter got a manicure and pedicure. You cannot talk the nine year old daughter into something like this for anything, but my five year old was convinced that her big sister really would love it due to the candy involved.

My husband and kids got to attend the Divine Liturgy at our home parish with Fr. Alexei :-)

When the kids got in the car, my daughter said, "I'm so glad Mr. Ed won't sit on me for awhile!" Mr. Ed is the big giant dog at my in-laws’ house. The kids used to sleep on top of HIM. Apparently, he has flipped that around now and uses THEM for his pillow. Plus, he ate a whole giant bag of chips when they were there and they found that very funny.

The kids played in the waves of the Pacific Ocean for hours; they all have dark tans and I'm thrilled they were able to get comfortable jumping over the breaking waves and getting chased by them. I still pinch myself that I get to live in Alaska, because my husband grew up surfing and has always loved it, and he hasn’t done it at all since moving north. My mother-in-law said that he was in the water the longest of anyone.

When my 11 year old son got home, he triumphantly showed me a package. "Look! You will NEVER guess what this is!" My mother-in-law is a Realtor and receives a great many client giveaways, and so she had given him a special coffee mug from Chicago Title. The coffee mug has a small saucer that can serve as either a plate or a lid, and the handle has two holes, into which fit a small spoon. As he unwrapped it, he admired the many layers of packaging, lovingly proffered by my father-in-law. "I'm glad he used the comic section from the newspaper!" Then, he was able to show me the cup. "Guess what, Mom. I drank a cup of decaf coffee every day!"

So sweet, so excited by something small. I delighted in his joy.

There was, unfortunately, a small tragedy this week. I accidentally killed the hamster. I had to treat the carpet with Nature's Miracle in the room over a somewhat large area, and I didn't think to ventilate the room afterward. When I went in yesterday, the chemical smell in the room nearly knocked me out, and the poor little hamster was dead.

We have had two hamsters thus far; the first was Wedgie Matilda, who lived to a ripe old age of two and was a very sweet male. The second, dearly departed, was Matilda Wedgie, who only lasted about 4 or 5 months before I caused her demise. When I told the children, they were briefly sad, but my daughter perked up and determined to obtain another hamster, this time, a male, who will be named...wait for it...Wedgie Matilda II.

Blogger Leticia Adams commiserated with me over the hamster. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

We have a married priest now.

I have always been appreciative of the celibate Roman Catholic clergy. There is clear Scriptural support for the way that this vocation stands in between this world and the next as a sign of the world to come, in which we shall not be marrying but shall be “like the angels.” It is not my opinion that it should be changed in the west, or that changing it would somehow fix all our problems.

Furthermore, I have been blessed with so many excellent priests, all of whom seem to “do celibacy well.” As a woman, I feel I can speak for most when I say that certain people exude more of a sexual energy than others. It is a blessing to have the spiritual fatherhood of a man who does not emanate that. I am sure it is not automatic but stems from discipline and the grace given to them by God to fulfill their chosen vocation. As I write this, I realize this is important for all priests, married or not; but, like most, I am conditioned to think that this must be harder for a man who is committed to a life without marriage and sexual intimacy. Do we not all have to wage this battle, married or not? Chastity is for all.

Since our former priest left, we have the still somewhat unique situation here in America of a married Byzantine Catholic priest, with a wife and two daughters. He is not the first married Catholic priest in our area. There is a former Methodist pastor who was ordained a Roman Catholic priest and received the permission of Bl. John Paul II to be ordained. As an Eastern Catholic, having a married priest shouldn’t be a novelty, so to speak, since it is a long-standing reality that married men get ordained in the East, but for a long time, the presence of married Eastern Catholic priests in America has been suppressed by Roman Catholic Bishops. The ones who were here were brought in from other countries, rather than ordained in America.

Our new priest is from Ukraine. The courage of him and his family to be here without knowing a lot of English and to live in Alaska of all places moves me to the core. Before I knew we were getting a new priest, I had the blessing to meet his wife down at a women’s retreat in Arizona a few months ago, so it was wonderful to learn that she and the rest of the family would be joining our community. I also had the chance to get to know their two lovely daughters, who are incredibly sweet and, of course, the best of friends with every other young girl in the parish by now.

To see the two daughters bounce into Liturgy during the week and take their spots in the front row, knowing that their dad is the priest and is celebrating the Liturgy and will soon feed them Holy Communion, really touches my soul. I am not finding it weird at all that he has a family that God has created through their union. It makes me sad that some people in the Roman Church think that a married priest somehow brings less grace than a celibate one. I remember having a certain attitude, as in, “A married priest can’t give his ALL to a parish.” Well, cope with it. He is a human being. And if he has a family, why on earth shouldn’t we appreciate the beauty of that and give him the space and time that he needs to do it well?

I probably manage to turn everything into some sort of issue with cosmic significance, but to witness the power and beauty of both mysteries of holy matrimony and holy orders in one human being is very profound.

As usual, I do not think this needs to be an "either/or" thing; to have both traditions alive and well is not only possible, but a reality.

"I have no one to put me into the pool!" Dying of thirst near the river of life

Pools of Bethesda

When I was in college, I spent most of the time in a fog of insecurity. My time at the small Catholic college I attended for a year was not entirely bereft of wonder. I look back, on one hand, with a sense of appreciation for the awe and reverence that the environment inspired.

Unfortunately, the beauty of the Church and the Presence therein was lost on me in a conscious way. I can't believe I did not spend more time seeking the catholicity, so to speak, of the campus. I know that it was a motivating factor in my choice to attend, but only in an unconscious way. I had no interest in attending a large, competitive college but intentionally sought a small school that wooed me with its quietude and beauty.

I wish I had gone to Mass and adoration. The closest I got to the Church was to study one on one with one of the brothers there. We studied Latin and Greek to attempt to get me caught up to the rest of the class when I switched majors to study the Great Books.

I also studied Latin with the most delightful professor in a classroom setting who wore Birkenstocks and recited T.S. Eliot poetry from memory, such as from "Ash Wednesday."

Beyond that, the enchantment of the times rests in certain memories such as the Hale-Bopp comet perched in the sky; the “Bold as Love” album by Jimi Hendrix; the young man I befriended who claimed to channel aliens and who looked like an alien; the delicious food in the Bay Area (especially Mediterranean) and the freedom of traveling on the BART and buses; poetry readings, hair wraps, writing from my well of need. (I don't know that the poetry will ever be the same now that the Lord has saved my soul, but life is much, much better that way.)

There I was, seeking beauty and wisdom, yet experiencing no peace. The selfish, self-indulgent lifestyle in which I engaged held very little meaning, even though I sought meaning, or made it up.

Pleasure was not my end pursuit, even though I sinned constantly in my body. Rather, I longed to be taken over by something larger than myself. I had no direction or morals that really mattered to me, and I loved studying in college but did not know what I wanted to do or be.

Writing a poem and being taken over by it was one of the most exultant moments of my life, and my sorrow and need made for some great poetry.

I stole a poster off the BART train that had some stanzas from a Robert Hass poem. In my mind, the poster with its corner sticking out of the case had been placed there just for me.

Also, I can remember vividly the hike in which I trampled through the woods near the school and stumbled upon a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Holy! Holy! Holy! I wanted to fall on my face, not out of worship but in awe of her beauty. I visited frequently, I did things like leave candles. I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew that she was beautiful.

People want to give themselves to something, to Someone, bigger than themselves. We are created to seek God and His beauty and truth. But sometimes, we truly don’t know how to do this. I know I didn’t. My whole life was oriented toward myself.

I sincerely believe that, if I had been invited inside the Church and shown how to kneel, prostrate myself, pray, worship, and understand, in my feeble and self-centered way, the mysteries of the Church, I would have found the nourishment my soul was seeking.

Instead, a priest brought me downstairs to a secret room and initiated me into Reiki. I entered the Church exactly once for a talent show, and I have no idea if Mass was happening. Of course it was, but when? Who knows.

I am home now. I am Catholic. I belong to Jesus. I love His Church more than anything. I do not hold bitterness for the shortcomings of the priests there at the school or the failings of the people around me to evangelize.

But never underestimate the desire and need that those around you have for the nourishment that only Christ and His Church can give. Sometimes I think, “There’s no way the people around me have not heard of Jesus.” Yet, just the other day, I realized my own brother has no idea about who He is. His wife does not know. They need Him.

Invite someone to Mass or the Divine Liturgy this week!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What the Byzantine Liturgy teaches about the Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John

Today is a significant solemnity for both East and West as we celebrate the Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John (called "The Passion of St. John the Baptist" in the Roman Church). After denouncing Herod for marrying his brother's wife unlawfully, Herod had St. John arrested. Herod, pleased by his stepdaughter's dancing at his birthday party, foolishly agreed to give her anything she wanted. She consulted with her mother and then asked for John's head on a platter, and the order to behead John the Baptist was issued--reluctantly, as Herod liked to listen to him, even though he found him "puzzling."

As a result, the tradition as we have been taught is to never use plates on today's feast day. It is also a strict fast day.

I often ponder the fact that, for most of Church history, Christian believers did not have the benefit of the printing press and were mostly illiterate. It is a remarkable thing to imagine this, since our current Christian culture, especially outside of the liturgical churches, relies so heavily on reading the Bible or reading commentary about the Bible.

Yet for most of Church history, the way that Christians received their understanding of doctrine and Scripture was through the sacred liturgy and the holy icons. Everything physical in the Church was also catechetical--teaching and conveying the faith. It should still be so today, yet so many churches, particularly in the West, have become incredibly dull and bereft of all the symbolism and meaning which marked them for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Just as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass contains sections that change depending on which feast is being celebrated, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, celebrated in the Eastern Catholic Churches, also has parts such as Troparions and Kontakions that change everyday.

Today, just as in the past, Christian believers receive not only the benefit of the Word of God being proclaimed during the Liturgy; we also hear these changing parts, the Troparions and Kontakions, which have so much to teach about the feasts and why an event or saint is significant.

These parts are catechetical--they teach us about the faith and the holy saints, and give us tangible clues to understanding. 

Today's Kontakion for the Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John is as follows:

The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was part of God's saving plan that the coming of the Savior might be announced even to those in Hades. Let Herodias mourn for she sought a lawless murder because she loved neither the Law of God nor eternal life, but only this false and fleeting life.

There are, of course, many possible interpretations of the story of today's feast, but reading the mind of the Church on this subject, so succinctly expressed in the Kontakion of the Divine Liturgy, brings us into an awareness of the original meaning of this feast.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"My hope and advice for married couples: Become great monks."

A recently ordained Carmelite Monk of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Wyoming (commonly known as the Mystic Monks) offers Communion to his parents after his ordination. What a beautiful picture! Now, please go support them with a coffee purchase. :-)

Fr. Thomas Loya writes in the August 2013 issue of "Theosis,"

My hope and advice for married couples and for those preparing for marriage is that they will ultimately become great monks...Monasticism is a mindfulness that we belong ultimately to God and we cannot love humanely unless we love God first and above all. This is the secret to a happy marriage--to live first as "virginal spouses" and then as spouses married to each other. This profound reality is simply and beautifully summed up in the Song of Songs 4:8, 12, "You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride." Even married couples are first and always brother and sister in the Lord, even before they are spouse.

It's hard to improve upon this quote. I can only say that my spouse is very, very different from me in so many ways but I consider our marriage, by the grace of God, to be very strong. As I study this quote and the remainder of the article, which is very good and which I wish I could quote in its entirety, it occurs to me that attempting to live the evangelical counsels in our family~~chastity, poverty, and obedience~~has given our marriage the strongest chance to flourish.

Having spent the first 5 years of our marriage without Christ, my husband and I brought very different backgrounds to our marriage. We had the blessing of some shared ideals, which bordered on "obnoxious" and "irritating." For instance, we both embraced veganism for various reasons, giving my Catholic mother-in-law occasional tracts with titles such as, "Would Jesus Eat Meat?"; we both smoked all-natural cigarettes. Those type of things. Sand, really--not evils in and of themselves, but not the most rigorous foundation. I have a child from a prior relationship and we struggled to find our way with that situation. We never had money, and to this day, I consider ourselves a poor fit for capitalism, in spite of our best efforts.

As we now travel through our 13th year of marriage, our differences have only become more pronounced. Our children have been out of town for a week and a half and, within a couple days, my husband was pining for them to be back in the home; he loves having a busy, noisy house filled with the bustle of activity and lots to do. He also has a servant's heart and loves serving their needs and encouraging them in all the ways they need to grow.

I, on the other hand, only started missing them in earnest sometime around yesterday. My family has been posting some pictures on Facebook periodically and my heart more and more yearns to wrap my arms around the little sweethearts and squeeze them tight. But it took awhile! It's not, of course, that I don't love them and want them to be here. It's just that I LOVE the quiet...ahhh, all this peace! Freedom! That kind of thing. (Another big motivating factor for me is this stupid Miley Cyrus story going around. All I could think after a glance at my newsfeed this morning was: "Please, God. Do not let my children inadvertently see any of this garbage as a news snippet," etc. It's not that I don't trust my family to guard their eyes from such things; it's that I'm a control freak and want to lock them away in my house without cable TV where I KNOW it won't happen.)

So, you can see we are different in certain fundamental ways, but Jesus is our love. In fact, I know my husband loves Jesus more than he loves me, and I am so glad. I know he prays that I will love Jesus more than I love him! It says in the Bible that "a married man is concerned about the affairs of the world--how he can please his wife--and his interests are divided...A married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world--how she can please her husband." (1 Cor. 7:33,34 NIV) Obviously, part of this is inevitable, but I am so thankful that my husband encourages me to pray and go to Mass or the Divine Liturgy and to do so even when there are other "practical" things to be doing. We really, as husbands and wives, need to step back and make sure we are not being jealous for the time of our spouses when there are worthier activities happening.

So to return to this motif of monasticism, the evangelical counsels, in case you don't know, are the vows taken by monks, nuns, and consecrated religious to lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Some orders add a fourth vow, such as "obedience to the Pope" or "stability," etc. As I ponder this quote by Fr. Loya, I consider that these three commitments, when avidly practiced by both parties of a marriage, will inevitably guide spouses in the right direction: that of eternal life, the ultimate goal of sacramental matrimony. Notice, I say "both parties." Frankly, there are some marriages in which one spouse is not doing his or her part, or engaging in evil, and I do not intend to make divorced or separated spouses feel stepped on or claim that every marriage is salvageable.

The Counsel of Poverty

Jesus enjoins his disciples to prefer him to everything and everyone, and bids them 'renounce all that [they have]' for his sake and that of the Gospel. Shortly before his passion he gave them the example of the poor widow of Jerusalem who, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on. The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) paragraph 2544, emphasis mine

If we are to love one another well and love Jesus above all, detachment from riches and material pleasures matters a great deal. If we are using all our time and attention to collect material goods, or placing materials in front of our eyes such as cell phones and TV screens when we could be engaged in more worthwhile pursuits, our marriage and faith will suffer. Our souls will suffer. Isn't the homily about the rich young man always something along the lines of, "It's not BAD to be rich, it's what you do with it"? Am I the only one who wonders whether that's just letting us all off the hook too easy?

The Counsel of Chastity

The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him...Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy. "Man's dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end."
CCC 2338-2339, emphasis mine

The Catholic Church, in case you haven't noticed, teaches that how we have sex as married people matters. Are we objectifying the other and using them solely for pleasure? Are we preventing the transmission of human life? Are we lusting and using? Are we engaging in pornography and characterizing our marital bed with films or acts that are depraved and objectify the human person? Are we mast*rb*ting (sorry, trying not to attract TOO many search engine hits) in our spare time and using our spouse (or someone who isn't our spouse) as an object of mental and physical stimulus? etc. Frankly, chastity isn't solely about sex; it is about everything that we desire. Eating may become a serious pastime for married people; it is an enjoyable, engaging way to spend time together. But chastity teaches that we must not be slaves to our passions, and I would include food in that equation. Fasting and abstaining as a married couple and family for periods of time is important if we wish to grow in that self-restraint. Food, sex, all of it. Take breaks. Pray more.

The Counsel of Obedience

The evangelical counsel of obedience, undertaken in a spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ who was obedient even unto death requires a submission of the will to legitimate superiors, who stand in the place of God when they command according to the proper constitutions. 
Code of Canon Law, Canon 601, emphasis mine

In the case of marriage, this Counsel works somewhat differently than in religious community, where its members have a superior to whom they give obedience as though to God Himself. They trust that God will work through and speak through their superior. In a marriage, a husband and wife are not in community with a superior other than our Lord and His Bride the Church Herself, and St. Paul's exhortation, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord...Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." (Ephesians 5:21-25, NIV)

The point is, how often are we seeking to have our own way rather than submitting our own will and humbly permitting our spouse to have that portion? Frankly, it's not usually about big things. Sometimes, it's the smallest things that can be so hard for us to submit to. As a good example in my own life, I used to take it very personally whenever I'd load the dishwasher and my husband would come in behind me and "fix" everything. I'd get very angry every time and take it very personally, like he was making a big statement about how I do things. Eventually, I realized that this was something important to him; he cares about how it gets done. I really don't, as long as the dishes manage to get mostly clean. Nor do I possess his excellent spatial awareness. The guy can fit it all. This was a small thing that God was asking me to submit to, so I try now to ask for his involvement because of his meticulous concern for such things, and to try to do it more like how he likes it. I know this sounds goofy but this sort of thing can ruin your marriage if you let it.

Thanks for reading all these thoughts on the subject. I certainly can't claim to be an expert or particularly holier than the next person, but when things seem to be suffering in my marriage, I'm going to take a look at these evangelical counsels and make sure I'm living my marriage like a good monk.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Fast is Not the Desert

Russian icon of the calendar of the saints.In the very center is the Resurrection of Christ surrounded by scenes from Holy Week and the feasts of the Paschal cycle. Around them are twelve groupings of saints: one for each month of the calendar year. In the border are icons of the Theotokos (Mother of God), each of which has a feast day during the liturgical year.

The Byzantine Churches prepare for the feast of the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos with a two-week fast and time of increased prayer. What I have been taught is to pray the Paraclisis everyday during that time, a long prayer of supplication to the Mother of God for "consolation of the living." The fast is timed well; we are between Great Lent and Nativity Fast; for those of us using the Gregorian Calendar, we had a formidably long Apostles Fast this year too. The Dormition Fast we take seriously in our family as the two-week opportunity that it is to increase our prayer and fasting, supplicate for our needs and those of our loved ones, and orient our lives anew in the direction of God and how He is glorified in His saints. Blessed in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful, as we sing during the Divine Liturgy.

Now that we are outside a more intense fasting period, I find myself somewhat antsy because of the intensity of the prayer that occurred during the Dormition Fast. I have to keep reminding myself that it is done; it is normal for that time period to be more intense spiritually; and now we must get back to the daily rule, the more "ordinary" prayer life, in western speak, that happens when we are not in the midst of one of the four fasts. These can be the much more challenging times than the more intense fasting periods, since they require more endurance and have less built-in "momentum," so to speak. I liken it to my current dismay that, as much as I view it as a necessary step to nix Candy Crush Saga from my life, I had been reading a chapter of the Gospel prior to every game and made rapid progress through the Sacred Scriptures; now, the game is gone, and so is my reading habit. I'm trying to convince myself that it will be just as effective if I read before having time on Facebook, but I'm a little less motivated now. Every part of me seems to resist building these good habits; I have to trick myself by incorporating the good habit into the bad. But eventually I must grow up and just choose to do it, simply because it's good. It's important. It cultivates my relationship with the Lord. There is no reason not to, other than my own fallen flesh and its sloth. Ahh, help, Lord.

Do you have a prayer rule? It is a structure and commitment to a schedule of prayer everyday. I almost always pray the Rosary when I am driving into work (otherwise, it is at home in front of the holy icons). At one time, I disliked praying while driving; it is not the most reverent environment, and obviously one is necessarily preoccupied with driving on some level (hopefully). Yet, compared to letting my thoughts wander all over the road, it is an excellent use of time. Many times I am grateful for the habit that has been formed at this point to simply get out my Rosary while on the street leading from my house to the main road. I made this solid commitment once after spending the entire drive to work yelling and fuming about a stress that had ensued in my family. My anger consumed me, and I expressed it physically--I'm sure if anyone were to see me, the impression would have alternated between scary and comical. My tantrum came replete with hitting the steering wheel and yelling lots of profanity.

Then, wouldn't you know--because God is awesome this way--a coworker DID see me. I practically died of embarrassment to learn that a coworker had, at one point, been driving side by side with me. He mentioned that I looked like I was in a pretty bad mood. I praise God for this because it reminds me of the Holy Mystery of Penance, or the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (depending on your terminology). Confession. To be convinced of one's sins is fairly easy much of the time when done in private. But to have them out in the open, owning them out loud, with another human being, brings the healing grace of God and the conquers Satan. In this case, I felt very convicted that my behavior was inexcusable. It had only been okay when I thought I was getting away with it "alone" (although God is always watching). When I learned I had been observed, I felt ashamed, not because I didn't have some justifiable anger, but because I had sinned in my expression of it, and I had not in any way witnessed to Christ as I always pray to do with my coworkers. How much damage gets done to the Christian cause when we are busy acting like jerks and maniacs?

At this point, I determined that never again would I spend a car ride like that. I pull out my Rosary even when I don't want to, because I have learned that, after a few moments of beginning the prayers, my desire shifts into what is truly good for me, and I no longer want to get out of it. Who knows when I'm going to turn into a wild maniac again? Frankly, I'd rather not.

On another note, I used to have reticence about praying the Rosary with my family. The kids were often next to impossible to wrangle into one section of the house, let alone pray with through all the mysteries--at least, with any semblance of contemplation. I went to this one woman I knew, a powerful example to me of faith and prayer, and asked her if we might be justified in shortening our Rosary to one decade when things were really challenging with the kids.

I wholly expected her to say "yes." I wanted her to say yes. But she looked at me in a matter-of-fact way and said, "No. Pray the whole thing. Even when it's hard." I wonder if she knows how much that one simple response, which may have been tough to say (we all want to say the more comfortable thing), managed to change my whole perspective and alter our family's prayer life so dramatically and permanently? I think about what she said all the time.

Grace happens when we ramp up the effort and raise the bar higher, because that normalizes the behavior we wish to have. Maybe that's part of the genius behind Great Lent and the other fasts. Let us pray for God to bless our efforts. God, fasten us to You! Increase our hunger and desire for You. Teach us to pray.

Paraclisis during the Dormition Fast

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fr. Shields teaches about holiness: Part I

Fr. Michael Shields, Alaskan-born priest who has pastored the Church of the Nativity in Magadan, Russia for the past 19 years, came to Anchorage last month to preach and share about the good work that is happening over there. He delivered a talk on holiness to an audience with Catholics United for the Faith. As I slowly make my way through the transcribing process, I thought I'd share a few excerpts with you. Unfortunately, my recording is terrible; I had hoped to put it on the blog in its entirety, with Father's permission.

Fr. Shields speaks at Catholics United for Faith event at Holy Rosary Academy in Anchorage, AK August 1, 2013 Photo by Catholic Anchor, used with permission

"Holiness is so attractive. It’s one of the most attractive realities. Holiness and humility are the most powerful and attractive attributes. So many of the saints were so attractive because they were holy.

"I have met four very holy people in my life. I’ll share with you those encounters and then go into a small lecture of sharing. Blessed John Paul II was in Anchorage in 1981. I pushed my way to the end of the pew, leaving all the diocesan priests behind, because I knew Pope John Paul was coming down the aisle. Now, if you are ever in the presence of someone who is holy, you know that energy is the Holy Spirit, and you can feel it. You could feel it as he came down the aisle. And I thought to myself, what can I say? Well, let’s see. 'Welcome Holy Father, to the missionary diocese of AK,' and then I’d have about ten minutes of loving introduction. So the Holy Father came down the aisle shaking hands. Then he passed me, turned around, and came back and put out his hand. And I said, with the deepest sense of profound spirituality, 


"And so, he obviously used that in his reflections. Back in Alaska there was this one priest, so deep and spiritually reflective that he said, 'Wow.'

"'Wow' is probably what we would say--an expression of how the encounter with holiness overwhelms us..."

~Fr. Shields

A coworker and I were discussing this subject yesterday. I shared with him about Fr. Shields' presentation and how he had listed Bl. Theresa of Calcutta as the second holy person he had met. My coworker told me that one of his regrets in life is that he never once had the chance to see Mother Theresa in person. He looked visibly moved as he recalled the simple sister among the poor who had become so renowned yet remained so humble.

Personally, this subject immediately brings to mind a priest who served in our archdiocese for several years and now serves as a missionary priest in Mexicali, Fr. Dominic DeMaio, OP. A fluent Spanish speaker, he gave himself utterly and selflessly to the Hispanic community, ministering to their needs. I was always profoundly impacted by how much he visibly loved them and they loved him. I also remember the way he would sit with street people on the steps of the Cathedral and listen to them and pray with them. I remember the way he only seemed to speak when doing so intentionally, and then, only the words that needed to be said.

But what really brings him to mind is what Fr. Shields mentioned about how "you can feel it." You can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit...I remember several times praying at the Cathedral with my head bowed down, and feeling a wave of energy moving past. Not like the wind as someone displaces the air, but a heavy, beautiful, holy energy. Inevitably, upon looking up, it would be Fr. Dominic.

Who comes to mind for you?