Friday, November 4, 2011

Weathering the Storm in Catholic Peekskill

Monsignor Ansbro bundles up in the frigid Assumption Rectory during power outage
“The world will give you trouble,” our Lord assured us, “but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
As in most places surrounding Catholic Peekskill, the October snowstorm hit us pretty hard—power out for
days meant no heat, no phone lines and all the creature comforts that come from having electricity. We all know how uncomfortable and inconvenient this is, disrupting our daily routines, denying us of the pleasures that often “sweeten” our day.

Being “knocked” down by the storms of life, not merely the temporary and inconvenient ones , but those bigger “storms” like illness, loss of a loved one, a job or a home, can cause some to question God’s very existence or at the very least cause one to ponder the age-old question—“Why does God permit suffering?”

One need only look at Jesus’ life and agonizing death on the cross to know that despite the intense pain that comes with human suffering, it can, in the end, have redemptive value. One man’s death on a cross ultimately meant new life for us all!

And, while we can ponder, as theologians and philosophers have done for centuries, the nature of human suffering—its connection to original sin, a fallen world and, the gift of free will—it still remains a mystery—why won’t a God who loves us swoop down and save a child from a raging illness, stop the tragic car accident, calm the storms?

As Catholic Christians because of our deep connection to Christ’s passion and death, we are called to look at suffering differently. “Offer it up” was what the nuns in our Catholic schools used to tell us when we suffered some little indignity. And, it remains a good and healing practice—to take all our earthy suffering, little and big, to the God that loves us and, to become even more aware of His presence in the midst of our pain. In fact, some have found that in their darkest times, when they had literally been brought to their knees, far from feeling abandoned by God, they felt intimately aware of Him. They were able to lay down all of their pain at the foot of the cross taking every step toward their own personal Calvary with Him.

So, the question really becomes, not “Why do we suffer?” but, “How do we suffer?” How do we come to feel the consolation of Christ amidst the terrible storms of life? How do we work toward total and unwavering trust in God?”

One way is through prayer—true conversation with God. Perhaps even by asking God, when in the midst of a trial, “God, why is this happening? And, how can I go grow closer to you because of it?” Also, we can simply ask for God’s help to give us the strength to weather the storm. Making conversation with God a daily practice connects us to Him in ways we may have never thought possible. We begin to recognize His work at every turn, in the people that come to our aid, in the strength we are able to muster.

Of course, too, staying close to the Sacraments during challenging times is also crucial. The Sacraments have a unique way of connecting us to Christ and reminding us, even when we feel alone, of His abundant love.

We might also do well to remember the words of Sacred Scripture: We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) That means that God, can take every last ounce of our pain and use it for good. We know this to be true.

How many times has it happened that when we have come through some trial, we’ve been able to look back on it and say, “If I had not have gone through that pain, I may never have known this joy.” I have even known parents who have suffered the worst possible tragedy, the loss of their child, who over time have been able to say, “I wouldn’t have traded the years I had with my child, even if I knew I would have to suffer the pain of losing him.”

Suffering is tough. But, we can work to redefine it by making it meaningful and drawing us closer to Him who makes all things new!

Come weather life’s storms and share in its joys with all of us here in Catholic Peekskill!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Walking to Saint Patrick's Cathedral -- Will you sponsor me?

I want to share a letter with you that I'm sending out in an email blast (two email blasts in fact . . . because I don't want to be labeled a spammer!).   Maybe you can help me reach my goal of $10.5K.  Already -- in just a few hours -- family and friends have pledged over $2K!

Dear Family and Friends,
    Everyone who knows me knows that Assumption School in Peekskill is the joy of my heart!  That’s why, I’m taking my joy to the street and walking to St. Patrick’s Cathedral from Peekskill. Not just because Assumption School really, really, needs the financial help, but also in celebration and thanksgiving for the gift of Assumption School!
     On the morning of November 10th, I’ll leave Church of the Assumption for St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers where I will spend the night and, set out for St. Patrick’s on November 11th.  My goal is to offer a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral at 6:30 pm on November 11th.
     My pilgrimage is part of a larger fundraising effort being undertaken by the Assumption School’s Advisory Board-- $105,000 for 105 Years of Assumption School (“105 for 105”). 
I would be most grateful if you would sponsor me as I make this prayerful and celebratory journey.
I ask you, if you can, to sponsor me by making a pledge. I will add your contact information to my sponsor sheet with the amount pledged and Assumption School will send you the invoice. Every little bit can help.
     Your donation will go a long way to helping families hit hard by the economic downturn continue to send their children to Assumption School.
     These are challenging yet grace-filled times and, I know, God can never be outdone in generosity!
Rest assured of my prayers for you every step of my way!

God bless you!
In Christ,
Father John Higgins
PS The walk is 58 miles.
PPS If you’re in the city, maybe you might join me for the Mass in The Lady Chapel?
PPPS Maybe more vigorous types might want to join me for the Friday leg of the walk.
PPPPS As I walk you can follow me on Twitter:   @CatholicPeek