Here is a real life experience of how God works mysteriously in our lives. It is offered to encourage anyone who may be having doubts that God always hears us, loves us, and provides what is best for us. This author, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a cradle Catholic born before Vatican II who has been wonderfully blessed by God with many talents, a loving family, a fifty-plus year marriage, and a successful business career before retiring. He writes under the pen-name initials of JCM – the meaning of which is another story. JCM has written numerous articles for national and international technical journals and industrial publications, he reviews proposed articles for these journals, and has taught technical courses in academia and industry. He and his wife wrote a weekly “Did You Know” column for their church’s parish bulletin for over three years.
You May Need God’ Help to Find the Way When the GPS Directional Street Signs Are Missing!
Saturday morning dawned clear and bright for our grand-daughters confirmation. Her family attends a mission parish, St. Clair of Assisi in Altoona, GA, which only has the gym at a local public high school to use for celebrating mass each weekend. For this occasion, her class was joining with a class from nearby St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Cartersville where Bishop Sarema would confirm the candidates and say mass.
Two days before the trip, I printed the GPS directions on how to get from our house to the church. They looked pretty simple. Go north on I-75, get off at exit 283, go west to Emerson GA, and then follow the directions for a few turns for the last couple of miles to arrive at the church.
I was feeling pretty smug as I breezed along with the rest of the traffic making good time as we all made sure not to go slower than the posted interstate speed (I-75). We peeled off onto the exit ramp and when we reached the end of it, the realization struck that we were no longer in the fast moving modern world. We were now in the country. There was no traffic light at the end of the ramp. This did not seem like it would be a problem because we would just continue the rest of the five mile trip at a very leisurely pace as my wife lovingly cautioned me that the posted speed limit was now 35 mph. We also should not have a problem in getting to the church well before the 11 am start time since we had flown the first eighty percent of the trip.
Per the GPS directions, we drove the prescribed 0.8 miles and quickly passed through the posted portion of the town of Emerson, which has no traffic light and only a couple of small dilapidated stores with a few old pickup trucks out front. We continued per the directions looking for a sign for “Old Alabama Road”, where we would turn left. We quickly passed a narrow “Michigan Road”, that was headed south instead of north if it were really going to Michigan, followed by an access road to return to I-75, and then several unlabeled dirt roads at approximately mile intervals. Now I was starting to feel somewhat concerned about being lost and not making it to the confirmation in time as the farm acreage and timberland passed by with nary a person or building in sight for asking directions.
At about that moment the Holy Spirit intervened in my thoughts. He reminded me that I have not been too proud in the past to ask for directions and that now would be a good time to go back to Emerson to ask for help so that we would not miss the start of His confirming visit into my grand-daughters life. My dear wife, who had been scanning the roadsides for signs without comment and usually knows what I am thinking, must have overheard the Holy Spirit because when He finished His silent advice she piped up with an observation that there is a road going off to the left up ahead where we can turn around. So, in view of those two strong nudges, I turned around and headed back to Emerson.
We knew from our prior pass through that there was no gas station here so I decided to just stop at the first store we came to. Easing into the dirt and graveled pothole lot next to the first store we came to in Emerson, I spied a newly arrived local group of leather-clothed and booted Bikers with scruffy beards, except for one woman who was riding with them. They were just dismounting from their shiny chrome Harleys at the local watering hole as they took a break from their traditional Saturday morning ride. I headed for them for help. This was not the first time in my life that I have “Rushed in Where Angels Fear to Tread” but that is because I know that where there are angels God is nearby and they will be praising him and not walking, and He will protect me.
Being the ever gallant cowardly type, I drove up so that they were on my wife’s side of the car, because she is the sweet type that everyone wants to help. The shocked look on the Bikers faces was priceless as the wife of this couple in their seventies in a red sport car rolled down her window and asked in her soft southern drawl: “Hi folks, can yo’all help us get to St. Francis Catholic Church in Cartersville?” The closest biker, whose only physical resemblance to Jesus was that he was about the same height and had a beard, quickly responded very kindly. When Jesus was on earth He would have been in continuous communications with His Father about such a problem. This biker used a modern-day communication method. He borrowed the lady biker’s GPS-equipped smart phone to get us on our way. We thanked them profusely after we learned how to take the ramp back to I-75 and then veer off to reach “Old Alabama Road”. We arrived thankfully and safely at the church more than 15 minutes early.
If this were a fairy tale, it would have ended with the bikers escorting us to the church and then joining us for the ceremony. But, the real life ending was perhaps even better. We thanked them profusely for their help and they smiled as they waved good bye to us as we left with the look of being so pleased that they who some may consider to be outcasts were accepted and helpful.
Today, we so often fixate on trying to recognize Christ in the least of our brothers and sisters before we try to help them, that we miss a lot of opportunities. Similarly, we often spend so much time in making judgments that we fail to recognize Christ’s presence in others who want to help us. Fortunately on this trip, the Holy Spirit knew that we needed help and opened our eyes and hearts to the available help so that we would not be late for His Confirmation of our granddaughter. What a wonderful experience that two diverse groups could recognize Christ’s presence in each other and respond joyfully.
The following essay is a real life experience from an anonymous author, an example of how God works mysteriously in our lives. It is offered to encourage anyone who may be having doubts that God always hears us, loves us, and provides what is best for us. This author is a cradle Catholic born before Vatican II who has been wonderfully blessed by God with many talents, a loving family, and a successful business career before retiring. He writes under the pen-name initials of JCM – the meaning of which is another story.
Each morning at about dawn I begin my day by recalling the events in the human life of Jesus and His mother, Mary, per the format of the rosary, and then continue to pray, using the rosary format, for relatives and friends as well as major concerns of the day. Being a type “A” person, I double task by concurrently praying and exercising while walking in the house, or weather permitting, outside in the neighborhood. My rosary has a lot sentimental value because it was made and given to me by a deacon at our church many years ago, and has been prayed to get me successfully through many problems in life.
Just before dawn on a recent Sunday morning I pulled my rosary out of its small leather case as I stepped outside and grasped in the partial darkness for the crucifix to begin. SHOCK! The crucifix was missing! A mild panic set in! What happened to it? Since I am the only one who uses this rosary, I quickly started mentally retracing my prior use of it. I remembered the crucifix being there the previous morning when I started the rosary but did not knowingly touch it when putting it back in its case. Being a logical engineer, I conclude that I must have lost it while walking outside the previous day. So I set out to retrace my usual path down my driveway and on about a half mile of roads through the neighborhood.
As I walked, my prayerful intention in saying the rosary, as my fingers held each part except the missing cross, was to find the missing crucifix. My gut feeling was that this task would be like finding the proverbial “needle in a haystack” because the cross was less than two inches high and its dark gray color was about the same as the asphalt on the road, assuming that the cross was on the road and had not bounced into the vegetation adjacent to the road. With these nagging doubts, I reached the road at the bottom of my driveway and had started on the second joyful mystery of the trip Mary took on her visitation when a voice inside me said, “John, I am giving you a break from the troubles you have been having by taking away your cross!”
Suddenly, the panic I felt when I realized that the cross was missing was like a drop of water in the ocean compared to the panic that I now felt. “Oh, God,” I thought, “What are you telling me? Is my earthly life about to end? I am not ready! It’s not time yet! Remember that we have this one-sided prayer of mine, that you have not agreed to, that I should live longer than my wife so that I can care for this beautiful daughter of yours that you have entrusted to me to return to you. Thank you that she is doing well but it would be cowardly for me to leave her to fend for herself!”
As I continued to walk along the road and hold back the tears of grief, I prayed repeatedly while also continuing with the mysteries of the rosary, “Jesus, please give me a cross to carry with you. I want to carry a little bit of what you have carried for us. Please let me do my share and not be a free-loader. Please give me back my cross.”
I was really down as I completed the half-mile path on the road that brought me back to my driveway without finding the cross. But still having hope, I decided that I should walk the path again because now that the sun was up a little more, maybe I could see better and find the cross. As I reached my driveway, I was in the middle of the fourth sorrowful mystery, The Carrying of the Cross, while still praying that I might find my cross. Miraculously, what a glorious sight in the early morning light – the crucifix I was seeking was on the driveway next to the morning newspaper. It had been run over. The cross itself was slightly curved. The corpus Jesus was next to the cross and an arm was broken. But at least I had found my cross. And so I rejoiced because I knew that Jesus had given me back my cross!
While the jeweler was not able to repair the broken crucifix, we found another one to install on the rosary. But even more important, Jesus assured me that I had jumped to erroneous conclusions with the message that I thought I had heard when starting my search. We will continue to have crosses in life to carry with Him. Alleluia! They are just likely to change as did the crucifix on my rosary.
The following essay, by Joey Martineck, was first published on February 22, 2016 online at Beautiful Things.
It’s a struggle for me. It’s a struggle for every man. We like to put our strengths on display and conceal our weaknesses. Sadly, it’s possible for us to know a man for years – to see him every day at the office or every weekend at church – without ever having a meaningful conversation with him. We stay at the surface because it feels safe. But from my own experience, I can testify that we were made for more than only pragmatic, surface level conversations.
Time for some Honesty:
When I worked in sales, my life appeared successful on the outside. Inside though, I felt dead. My accomplishments were my way of coping with a deep insecurity I had carried within me since I was a kid. Eventually during my career, I reached a place of vulnerability where I experienced brothers in Christ loving me in my weakness. That moment changed my life dramatically. But it only happened because I was willing to look honestly at my problems.
Are you in touch with your weakness? Or are you numb like I was for so long? In his book Wild at Heart, John Eldredge says that “a wound unfelt is a wound [that remains] unhealed.” The crisis of male vulnerability today is not an accident. It stems from the insecurities we have as men. It comes from the way we have tried to cope with deep hurts in our life. In my hurts, I relied on myself and other’s opinions of me rather than the Father who loves me as I am. But we end up deceiving ourselves when we ignore our pain. The Lord encourages us to “not be afraid” to make the first step toward vulnerability: looking honestly at our brokenness (Isah 41:10).
Exposing the Wounds:
I was at a men’s retreat in Tiger, GA a few years back. On the retreat were some of the top Catholic ministry leaders across the country. After brief introductions, the MC opened the retreat with this comment.
“My name is Jack*, and I am a failure of a husband, father, and Catholic.”
I was absolutely shocked. Never before had I experienced grown men being so genuinely open about their weaknesses. They echoed the words of St. Paul where he says, “I willingly boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ might be perfected in me” (2 Cor 12:9). The men on that retreat and St. Paul were unafraid to openly talk about their weaknesses because they had something in common: they had exposed their wounds to Jesus Christ.
Doubting God’s goodness, we often try to hide our pain from him. Adam’s first reaction after eating the apple was to hide, but the Father still sought him out in love (Gen 3:9). Prayer stops becoming lifeless repetition for us when we actually start exposing our wounds to Jesus. Because in Jesus Christ, we find a man who is not afraid to expose his wounds to us. After the resurrection, Jesus came to Thomas and said, “Put your hand in my side and believe” (John 20:27). In Jesus, we do not find an impersonal God who doesn’t care about our pain, but a man who “is able to sympathize with our weakness” (Heb 4:15). When we experience Jesus loving us at our worst, we no longer need to hide our insecurities and receive the freedom to be vulnerable.
The fruit of vulnerability – guided by prudence – is true brotherhood. Think of the friendship of Frodo and Sam from The Lord of the Rings. These two men (hobbits actually) spent a lot of time together in the safe home of their Shire. But vulnerability really begins for Frodo and Sam once they step out of their hobbit holes on a journey to save the world. They talk along the way about their hopes and dreams, about their disappointments and failures. They bear each other’s burdens. We see clearly how just as “iron sharpens iron, man sharpens man” (Prov 27:17). As the story plays out, it is not strength and power that saves the world, but true brotherhood.
What an utter travesty it is that we have reduced our concept of intimacy to mere sexual expression. No wonder we as men often feel so empty and alone. The Book of James guides us toward true brotherhood by saying, “Confess your sins to one another that you may find healing” (Jam 5:16). Of course, this applies to the great gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for us Catholics. But I believe this is also an encouragement for us to be vulnerable. St. Augustine courageously shows us the way to do this in his book The Confessions. There, he reveals the good, bad, and ugly of his life and where God was working the whole time.
Under St. Augustine’s patronage, I have been involved in several small groups where men intentionally share their lives with each other. In these meetings, I have seen conversion take place, healing occur, vocations develop, and lasting friendships form. The enemy tries to make us believe that we are alone. By sharing our struggles, we fulfill the scripture in Revelation that says, “For the accuser of our brothers has been cast out, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Rev 12:10-11).
The Courageous Step toward Vulnerability
If you are not currently in a men’s group, have you sought one out in your community? Any form of a men’s group is good: a bible study, Knights of Columbus, etc. However, I particularly encourage support groups like Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP), Cursillo, That Man is You (TMIY), or some other small group model with intentional sharing. If this is not available in your church/community, I challenge you to start one. Seriously! It only takes one man to step out and say “I struggle” to give other men the freedom to be vulnerable too.
You were not made for isolation; you were made for communion. May you have the courage to make a concrete step toward vulnerability in whatever way that looks like in your life right now. Do not be afraid to expose your wounds to Jesus who knows our pain and always seeks to find us.
*Name substituted for privacy.
John Eldredge. Wild at Heart. (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, Tennesee). 2010.
Lord of the Rings Graphic: http://www.morethaneitheralone.net/frodo-sam-recs.html
Joey Martineck graduated from Georgia Tech in 2012 with a degree in computer engineering. He loves to write, act, improv, dance and sing and is the published author of the one act play Wise Men. Currently, Joey is studying philosophy at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans where he is in formation to become a Roman Catholic priest. You can read more from Joey by visiting his blog Beautiful Things, a place where art and the Church come together.
Enjoy this annual Valentines Day post from one of our favorite blogs, Just Another Ordinary Day.
Enjoy… and Happy Valentines Day.
To My Sons,
Today is Valentine’s Day so it seems a good day to remind you there’s something to be said for good, old-fashioned, romantic rituals. Even though you probably think Valentine’s Day is mostly a money gauging Hallmark-led conspiracy, rest assured girls still like it. And by the way, did you know Valentine’s Day was first linked to romantic love in the mid-14th century before Hallmark even existed? It was a time when courtly love flourished and a gentleman was expected to be noble and chivalrous in expressing his love and admiration for a lady. Sadly, good, old-fashioned romance has fallen out of style these days.
Maybe guys your age think it’s archaic, hokey and unmanly to be romantic, but it’s my guess you’re simply confused by radical liberal feminist propaganda. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. While modern women (myself included) expect equal pay for equal work, are independent and make it clear we are fully capable of taking care of ourselves, deep down (even if we don’t admit it) we LOVE to be courted. Yes I said courted, as in swept-off-our-feet-weak-in-the-knees-hearts-all-a-flutter courted. We are suckers for the guy who brings us flowers, sings us love songs, takes us on real dates, opens doors, offers his coat, kills the spiders, turns off the phone and we are REAL suckers for VALENTINE’S DAY.
Christian and Jared, my hope for you is this. Someday when you find the girl who captures your heart, you will take the time to acknowledge your love with good, old-fashioned romantic rituals. My hope is you will do it on Valentine’s Day… and every day.
Now. In the meantime, since neither one of you has a sweetheart (or is willing to admit to having one) I’d like to remind you it’s been more than a decade since I received one of those red-construction-paper-cut-out-hearts. The way I see it, until you find that special someone, there is absolutely nothing creepy about your making Valentine’s Day all about me. It’s a little late and all the good cards are probably gone so a poem is fine. Text or email is fine.
Copyright © 2013 Just Another Ordinary Day All Rights Reserved
Valentines Day is not a holiday invented by Hallmark to sell cards and make the unattached miserable. While the Catholic Church no longer honors St. Valentine with an official feast day, the holiday has both Roman and Catholic Roots.