The Catholic Defender: Intercessory Prayer, A Lenten Sacrifice Of Love
I remember when I was twelve years old, I was Confirmed in the Catholic Faith at St. John La Lande in Blue Springs Missouri on September 23, 1968 by Bishop Sullivan. At the time I did not know fully what this meant, but as I grew older, I became thankful to my Mother who gave me the opportunity to learn and grow in my Catholic faith.
That's how the Holy Spirit works in our lives, we are expected to grow in our faith till we pass on to the next life. We are on a journey in this life, a pilgrimage that will help us navigate through a strange land. I chose as my Confirmation name, Francis after St. Francis. He probably meant the most to me because of his love of animal that I grew to appreciate.
Like my Confirmational name sake, I recall the story of St. Francis receiving a vision of Jesus calling him to rebuild His Church. St. Francis at first misunderstood our Lord thinking he meant an actual ruin (the Chapel of San Damiano) where he began rebuilding the church. Our Lord actually intended for St. Francis to go to Rome and meet Pope Innocent III to rebuild the Church, to establish the Franciscan Movement.
After returning home to the Catholic faith in October, 1978 I began finding myself the center of attention as my roommates, friends I knew on our college campus, challenged my new found faith. I'd be in the Student Union where we would meet to eat something or just chill out a while. I could be at the dining hall eating when a group would gather around me there to talk about their faiths and renouncing mine? I would be on the baseball diamond practicing when others would wait for the practice to end so they could meet with me. This was a daily grind.
I remember receiving some powerful dreams that were so real as a result of all this debating, I didn't know what to think of it all, especially having three nights in a roll dreaming of the Lord's return. I would wake up totally shaken because how real this was and how profound.
“One particular dream had the greatest impact on me. After a major debate in the room where I took on a number of those attacking the Catholic Church, I went to bed troubled. I slept hard, but I dreamed that God’s Church, the Catholic Church, was dead. I felt such despair, and sadness I began to cry. I found myself in a Church in ruins. I walked through the ruin moving up towards the sanctuary where I came upon a crucifix. As I gazed upon the image of Jesus on the cross, I noticed that Christ was shedding tears, real tear moving down His cheek. This vision touched me profoundly as I began to cry for the despair I felt seeing Christ crying for His Body, the Church.
I never felt such anguish, I cried so much that I woke up out of my sleep totally wet from crying. My pillow, the bed, and the blankets were all wet. I sat up as it took me a couple of minutes to realize it was a dream. I recalled my Confirmation that took place in Blue Springs Mo on September 23, 1968 by Bishop Sullivan. I renewed my vows and told the Lord that I will be a soldier for Him. I will not betray Him and leave the Church even when people around me do. I will do my best to remain loyal and stand for Him. A promise that I have tried to keep since 1978.
As I ponder again on this I certainly look for anything I can glean from it. Like most today, I have love ones who have abandoned their Catholic faith. This is the hardest thing I've had to endure knowing that loved ones have abandoned their faith. It seems that the Lord took my vow seriously as I have shed many tears on behalf of those loved ones who do not know how much they have hurt the heart of Christ and His Mother?
Luke 15:3 Jesus tells us that the Good Shepherd would leave the 99 to go after the one that has gone astray and the joy in Heaven when finding them and bringing them home. James 5:19-20 tells us that when a person has fallen away from the truth, and another person brings them back, the Lord will give them back their life and forgive them of their sin. That is the importance of Confession!
The Season of Lent is a great opportunity for a good Christian to deepen their faith, but it is also a great opportunity for someone that might have lost their faith to find it once again. Like St. Francis would start a movement that would lead many back to faith, hopefully we can do the same in our day and time. There are a lot of voices telling us where to go and what to do, but at the same time not knowing what they are saying. 1 Timothy 1:5-7 states:
"The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions."
Verse 7 is a kicker to me, people who want to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions? I was listening to a Protestant Minister on the radio as I was driving looking for something and as I listened to him it occurred to me how true 1 Timothy 1:7 really is. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with what he said, but he had no idea what the text meant coming from St. Paul? The bible is a Catholic book, to look at text outside the Catholic faith is literally taking things out of context, least case scenario they never reach the fullness of truth.
The danger of this at large is when people listening to this can not see the difference and can be captivated by such sermons and grow into these false representations which takes you away from the Mass, the Sacraments, the truths of the Catholic Faith. To think that all religions are equal because they may have similar goals is very dangerous. Just as Jesus sent St. Francis to go rebuild the Church, we are all called to do the same. Lent is a great call to mind the importance for us to seek the Lord in a deeper relationship, but to also being mindful to represent His fullness of truth.
I once vowed to remain faithful to the Lord even when some around me do not, that has not been easy! Yet, that is only half of His call, the other half is for us to reach out in His Name to work towards bringing them back. Remember that Jesus loves them much and wants us to bring them back.