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Meet Kenya’s inspiring ...

 Bl. Maria Carola Cecchin served the poor in Kenya, and her example remains an inspiration to many. On November 5, 2022, Bl. Maria Carola Cecchin was solemnly beatified in Meru, Kenya, in a ceremony presided over by Cardinal Antoine Kambanda, the Archbishop of Kigali, Rwanda. Cecchin was born in Italy in 1877 and joined the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph Benedetto Cottolengo in 1896. She requested to be sent to the missions in 1905 and was sent to Kenya shortly thereafter. Cecchin faithfully served the poor in Kenya until her death in 1925. According to Vatican News, Cardinal Kambanda related at the beatification ceremony that Cecchin had “absolute trust in God’s loving care and came to this land to be a witness of that, so that we too may acquire the same faith and trust that frees us from all fear and calls us to faithfulness to God.” He further mentioned that she loved “so much the Lord that she desired to become his hands, to reach out to the poor. She trusted him so much that she accepted all the hardships and trials life had in store for her.” According to Nation, Mother Elda Pezzuto explained, “She had lived her last five years in harsh conditions but she generously continued to serve the people … She remains a model of missionary life for she was respectful of the culture of the people of Kenya and was able to spread the gospel in this country.” Catholics in Kenya continue to be inspired by Bl. Maria Carola Cecchin’s life and frequently turn to her for intercession.  

Dcn. Gerard Almeida

Nov 26, 2022 • From the Deacon's Desk
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God is ALWAYS with us

God's presence with us is not limited to stone walls. God is alive in us in the person of the risen Jesus. The walls are down. Jesus is present in every place and in every time. If we look at our world with the eyes of faith, we will see God's presence. Then we can help others see the same as well.

Dcn. Gerard Almeida

Nov 17, 2022 • From the Deacon's Desk
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How to pray.

Prayer is about putting all else aside, even for a minute, and turning the spotlight away from ourselves and onto God. It's harder than it sounds. Jesus wanted his disciples to practice this kind of prayer. The Our Father is Jesus' response to his disciples' request to teach them how to pray. Prayer begins by acknowledging the presence of God. All else flows from that. When we are aware of God's presence in the daily moments of life, our life is in balance. How do I begin my prayer? Who is the focus of my attention? When I feel as if I don't know how to pray, how comfortable am I asking Jesus to teach me?  End by praying reflectively the words that Jesus taught us.  

Dcn. Gerard Almeida

Nov 8, 2022 • From the Deacon's Desk
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A CLOSER walk with God

It is good to take the time to SLOW down and think what your life would be like if you ALWAYS  walk with Jesus. Just a closer walk with Thee,Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,Daily walking close to Thee,Let it be, dear Lord, let it be. https://youtu.be/Y6Ks49apflE

Dcn. Gerard Almeida

Nov 3, 2022 • From the Deacon's Desk
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Advent Reflections

Waiting in anticipation of Baby Jesus born in Bethlehem. Advent is the start of a new beginning, when we place our hopes on a little child born in Bethlehem with the secret of God’s faith in us, His hopes for us and most of all His love. What is the best way to prepare for the season of Advent? We invite you to attend an evening of reflection on the season of Advent with Deacon Gerry, on Wednesday’s following the 7.00 p.m. mass on November 23rd; November 30th; December 7th and December 14th. .   All are welcome.          

Dcn. Gerard Almeida

Nov 3, 2022 • From the Deacon's Desk
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PRAY for our Priests

The importance of praying for struggling priests Many saints would repeatedly encourage others to pray for priests, that they would remain faithful to their vocation. Being a Catholic priest in the 21st century is not an easy task. Priests in the English-speaking world are generally not viewed favorably by the secular culture and are constantly under suspicion. Furthermore, parish priests in particular are often alone, living in an old rectory. This type of isolation can often lead to an increase in spiritual attacks, where a priest starts to doubt his vocation and turn inward to seek consolation from his own vices. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that many saints would dedicate their entire lives in praying for priests, encouraging other to do the same. St. John Paul II gave a speech to priests in the United States in 1979, in which he made an appeal to the local Catholic population to pray for priests. At times we hear the words, “Pray for priests.” And today I address these words as an appeal, as a plea, to all the faithful of the Church in the World. Pray for priests, so that each and every one of them will repeatedly say yes to the call he has received, remain constant in preaching the Gospel message, and be faithful forever as the companion of our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Thérèse of Lisieux was another saint who was passionate about praying for priests, as can be seen in her many letters. Praying for sinners fascinated me, but praying for the souls of priests, whom I thought were purer than crystal, seemed strange to me! The only purpose of our prayers and our sacrifices is to be an apostle of the apostles, to pray for them whilst they evangelize souls by words and above all by example. St. John Vianney composed his own prayer for priests, praying that “they be worthy representatives of Christ the Good Shepherd.” Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard wrote in his book The Soul of the Apostolate a helpful illustration that shows why we need to pray, not only for priests, but good and holy priests. If the priest is a saint, the people will be fervent; if the priest is fervent, the people will be pious; if the priest is pious, the people will at least be decent; if the priest is only decent, the people will be godless. The spiritual generation is always one-degree less intense in its life than the one who begets it in Christ. As priests continue to struggle to stay faithful to their vocation in the modern world, be sure to pray for them on a daily basis. As spiritual leaders, priests are often attacked by various temptations of the devil. It should come as no surprise that Satan actively seeks the ruin of all priests, making their vocation a perilous one. Yet, these priests can be aided by our prayers and support, crying out to God that they be protected from such assaults. Here is a prayer from St. Peter Julian Eymard, asking God to surround the priest with his love and keep him from temptation. “O Jesus, Eternal High Priest, keep your servants within the shelter of your sacred Heart where none may harm them. Keep unstained their consecrated hands which daily touch your sacred body. Keep unsullied their lips purpled with your precious blood. Keep pure and holy their hearts sealed with the sublime character of your priesthood. Let your holy love surround them and shield them from the world’s contagion. Bless their labors with abundant and lasting fruit. May they to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here on earth and their beautiful crown and everlasting glory in heaven.”      

Dcn. Gerard Almeida

Oct 24, 2022 • From the Deacon's Desk
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The Catholic origins of ...

Around October 31, European Catholics had a tradition of children visiting houses, begging for treats. While the modern tradition of trick-or-treating is focused on giving children candy for no apparent reason, it is in fact based on an earlier tradition from European Catholics. November 2 is known in the Catholic Church as “All Souls Day,” and is dedicated to praying for the souls in purgatory. On this day Catholics pray for their deceased relatives and friends, often visiting cemeteries to remember those who are no longer on this earth. It is with this celebration that many local traditions were created and became mingled with the festivities of All Hallows’ Eve when immigrants started establishing themselves in the United States. Souling. In various cultures in Europe there developed a tradition of “Souling” and baking “soul cakes” in honor of the faithful departed. These cakes were baked on All Hallows’ Eve (October 31) and children would go out on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, begging door-to-door for these cakes in exchange for praying for deceased relatives and friends. Eventually this tradition was morphed in America with other customs, and after candy manufacturers caught wind of it, the holiday was monetized and developed into what it is today. As in so many other cases, the religious origins have turned into something quite different, and trick-or-treating is now entirely removed from praying for the deceased.  

Dcn. Gerard Almeida

Oct 19, 2022 • From the Deacon's Desk
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Why Sr. Lucia did not see the Mirac...

Sr. Lucia, as well as Sts. Jacinta and Francisco were the only ones who did not witness the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. While a large group of people witnessed the Sun “dance” on October 13, 1917, near Fatima, Portugal, the three shepherd children did not see the miracle. Sr. Lucia explains in her memoirs that the visionaries saw a different apparition. After our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus seemed to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When, a little later, this apparition disappeared, I saw Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me to that it was Our Lady of Sorrows (Dolors). Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done. This apparition also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel. This vision was only seen by the children, while the crowd was witnessing the sun “dance.” It is believed that the “dancing sun” was meant to inspire belief in the unbelieving crowd, while Our Lady had a different message for the visionaries. For example, Sr. Lucia saw Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to prepare the way for her entrance into a Carmelite monastery when she was older.  

Dcn. Gerard Almeida

Oct 16, 2022 • From the Deacon's Desk
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Your FINAL OBEDIENCE to God

Years ago, I read somewhere that, during the Victorian era, people talked often about death, and sex was the taboo subject. By now in the year 2022, we have flipped it. We talk freely about sex, and death is the taboo subject. To me, what is odd is this: even Christians shy away from talking about death. For crying out loud, we’re going to heaven! Why should we fear anything? Our Lord died and rose again — for us. Yes, the blunt truth can seem intimidating. Here it is: We do not need to go looking for it. Sooner or later, something bad will come find us and take us out. But why not accept that, and prepare for it, and rejoice our way through it? Thanks to the risen Jesus, death is no longer a crisis. It is now our release. So, Death, you sorry loser, we will outlive you by an eternity. We will even dance on your grave, when “death shall be no more” (Revelation 21:4). But for now, among the many ways to prepare for death — like buying life insurance, making a proper will, and so forth — here are two truths that can help you prevail when your moment comes. Both insights come from an obscure passage near the end of Deuteronomy. Your Final Obedience First, your death will be your final act of obedience in this world below. Near the end of his earthly life, Moses received a surprising command from God: Go up this mountain . . . and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. And die on the mountain which you go up . . . (Deuteronomy 32:49-50). Moses obeyed the command, by God’s grace. His death, therefore, was not his pathetic, crushing defeat; it was his final, climactic act of obedience. As you can see in the verse, it was even what we call a mountaintop experience. “Your death will be your final act of obedience in this world below.” Sadly, our deaths are usually painful and humiliating. But that is obvious. Down beneath the surface appearances, the profound reality is this: your death too will be an act of obedience, for you too are God’s servant, like Moses. The Bible says about us all, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). He will not throw you away like a crumpled-up piece of trash. He will receive you as his treasured friend. Your death might be messy here on earth, but it will not be disgusting to God above. It will be, to him, “precious” — that is, valued and honored. It will be you obeying the One who said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). You followed him with a first step, and you will follow him with a last step. And when you are thinking about it, do not worry about failing him at that final moment. He who commands you will also carry you. Given the grandeur of a Christian’s death, I have to admit that I have never seen a Christian funeral do justice to the magnitude of the moment. We try, but our services fall short. Only by faith, looking beyond our poor efforts at doing honor, can we truly savor the wonder of a Christian’s crowning glory. Even still, let us make every Christian funeral as meaningful as it can be by believing and declaring the truth. A blood-bought sinner has just stepped on Satan’s neck and leapt up into eternal happiness, by God’s grace and for his glory. The day of your funeral, this uncomprehending world will stumble along in its oblivious way. But your believing family and friends will understand what is really going on. And they will rejoice. This being so, why not look forward to dying? Paul was so eager for his day of release; he honestly could not decide whether he would rather keep serving Jesus here or die and go be with Jesus there: “What shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two” (Philippians 1:22-23). When our work here is finally complete, why stay one moment longer? Of course, just as God decides our birthday (which we do know), so God also decides our death day (which we do not know). Let us bow to his schedule. But right now, by faith, let us also start sitting on the edge of our seats in eager anticipation. And when he does give the command, “Die,” we then can say, “Yes, Lord! At long last!” And we will die. He will help us obey him even then — especially then. Your Happy Meeting Second, your death will be your happy meeting with the saints in that world above. Not only did God command Moses to die, but he also deepened and enriched Moses’s expectations of his death: Die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people.(Deuteronomy 32:50). To be with our Lord in heaven above is the ultimate human experience. But he himself includes in that sacred privilege “the communion of saints,” to quote the Apostles’ Creed. When you die, like Moses, you will be gathered to your people — all the believers in Jesus who have gone before you into the presence of God. Heaven will not be solitary you with Jesus alone. It will be you with countless others, surrounding his throne of grace, all of you glorifying and enjoying him together with explosive enthusiasm (Revelation 7:9-10). Right now, in this world, we are “the church militant,” to use the traditional wording. But even now, we are one with “the church triumphant” above. And when we die, we finally enter into the full experience of the blood-bought communion of saints. Think about it. No church splits, no broken relationships, not even chilly aloofness. We all will be united before Christ in a celebration of his salvation too joyous for any petty smallness to sneak into our hearts. You will like everyone there, and everyone there will like you too. You will be included. You will be understood. You will be safe. No one will kick you out, no one will bully you, no one will slander you — not in the presence of the King. And you will never again, even once, even a little, disappoint anyone else or hurt their feelings or let them down. You will be magnificent, like everyone around you, for Jesus will put his glory upon us all.  Facing Death with Calm Confidence Even now, by God’s grace, we have come to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant. (Hebrews 12:22 -24). “Why should we, citizens of the heavenly city, ever fear anything about earthly death?” They all are there, right at this very moment, in the invisible realm. It is only an inch away. And the instant after your last breath in this dark world, you will awaken to that bright world above, where you will be welcomed in and rejoiced over. Saint Augustine might smile and nod with deep dignity. And maybe for the first time ever, you will discover how good it feels to really belong. Here is my point. Why should we, citizens of the heavenly city, ever fear anything about earthly death? By faith in God’s promises in the gospel, let us get ready NOW so that we face it THEN with calm confidence — and even with BOLD defiance.  

Dcn. Gerard Almeida

Oct 15, 2022 • From the Deacon's Desk
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When you are criticized, remember, ...

It is no secret that God has designed this world, and he has designed us, such that we can improve as we listen to the criticism of others. Just look at the theme of rebuke in Proverbs, for example. Rebuke is essential to our lives. But receiving critique from others means overcoming the fear of criticism. It means overcoming the condemnation of criticism. It means discerning the truthfulness of criticism. Knowing how to benefit from criticism requires a high degree of skill. These are skills that every Christian needs to develop. Categories of Criticism There are four kinds of criticism that we receive at any given time. 1.     There is criticism that is deserved and is given in kindness and goodwill. 2.     There is criticism that is deserved and is given in harsh and demeaning ways. 3.     There’s criticism that is not deserved and is given in kindness and goodwill. It is a real mistake; it is just an honest mistake. 4.     There is criticism that is undeserved and is given in harsh and demeaning ways and may have real ill will behind it. Now, we could break it down further. Those are not the only categories. I mean, it makes a difference whether the person who speaks in a harsh and demeaning way does that because he or she really wants to hurt you. That is really abusive. Or there may be extenuating circumstances like a bad day at home or personality issues, and the harsh person does not really mean to hurt you at all. But let us keep it simple for now. We will just stay with these four categories of criticism. So, my first suggestion is simply that we think about these categories and not just about our own hurt feelings. And I am not suggesting that, if the criticism we receive is deserved or delivered with kindness, it does not hurt. I mean, all four of these categories can hurt because we do not like to be criticized. I do not like to be told that the job I just did is not as good as it should have been. “You should have done better. That was not a good way to do it.” That is never a pleasant thing to hear. So hurt is sometimes huge, sometimes little, but any of those four categories can make us uncomfortable or angry or hurt. Emotional Self-Control I am saying it would make a significant difference if we do not go first and foremost to our hurt feelings, but rather if we go first to the issue of truth. This is what I am suggesting in this first idea, that it helps to not first feel the hurt and linger there but switch around the focus of our mind to what is true. What kind of criticism is it? Was it deserved or not? Was it partially true or not? Is it true that the way the criticism was given was kind? Was it harsh? The very asking of these questions is a partial deliverance from self, and that is a victory — that is a partial victory. Concerning yourself with truth outside of you and your feelings is a wonderful habit to form, a habit of freedom from bondage to hurt feelings — feelings that we all have. We do. We all have them. We should ask how to be less controlled by them. And I am suggesting that a focus on truth and analyzing the situation to get at the truth would be a partial deliverance right off the bat. “Forming the habit of measuring your feelings by the truth will have a very maturing effect on your soul.” What happens with this focus on truth or reality outside of you is that you realize that different feelings are appropriate in each of these four situations. And that helps you differentiate your own soul, so you are not controlled completely by this overwhelming sense of hurt, but rather you are getting at the truth of your own feelings by differentiating them. All of them may involve hurt or discomfort, but the intensity and the nature of the feelings are going to be different when they are informed by the truth about whether the criticism, harsh or not, is deserved. Forming the habit of measuring your feelings by the truth will have a very maturing effect on your soul. And you will be wiser and freer, having a greater measure of self-control, which the Bible says is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit when we are acting in faith (Galatians 5:22-23). Test Cases Now, say the criticism is deserved. If you could have and should have done better, then you preach to yourself like this: “I know I should do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). I know that he has promised me grace to do that (2 Corinthians 9:8) [in other words, you put things through a Bible grid], and that means at least using God’s gifts to me to do the best job I can. And so, I will let these criticisms spur me on to do my job better. And I will thank God (and maybe even my critic) for this criticism, as painful or hurtful as it is. And I will do all I can to grow by this legitimate criticism.” Now, if the criticism is not deserved, and you think the critic misunderstood or was misinformed, then in a professional setting it is right and good with humility to go to the person and give them whatever evidence you have that there was a mistake. “There was a miscommunication; something went haywire here, because what you just said isn’t true about what I did or what I said.” It is possible that peace and appreciation and admiration could be restored because it was just an honest mistake. Or if there is real ill-will involved, and you’ve been intentionally maligned, then you may for a season overlook the fault as you seek to win the goodwill of the person by returning good for evil, like the Bible says. But in a professional setting, where much larger issues are at stake than your own feelings, you may need to confront the critic with the hope of reconciliation — and if not through personal confrontation, then through proper grievance procedures seek the good of the whole corporate culture by exposing the dishonesty or the dysfunction. Showing Christ’s Sufficiency The deeper question in all of this is, how to keep our hurt feelings (which all of us have from time to time) from dominating us, controlling us, causing us to either become melancholy or depressed. Or how to keep them from making us bitter or angry so that we are miserable to be around. Neither of those responses to criticism shows the sufficiency of Jesus. So, Jesus and Paul, just to take a couple of examples, team up to give us two ways to combat the negative effects of hurt feelings. Jesus does this by directing our gaze forward to a great reward. And Paul does it, by directing our gaze backward to the work of Christ. Look to the Reward So, here is what I mean. Jesus’s counsel when we are criticized, even unjustly, goes like this: “Blessed are you when others revile you [now that’s serious criticism] and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you [there’s more serious criticism] falsely on my account.” So, he is dealing with a real situation of criticism. And he says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). So, what do we do? We preach this to ourselves. We preach it from as many texts as we can think of. We keep a journal. If we are prone to this kind of hurt, we keep a journal of texts like this as we read the Bible. How inexpressibly great is your future, Jesus says. Dwell on it. Think on it. If we could really see how long and glorious and happy heaven will be, and how short the criticisms of this life really are, it would lighten our load. Jesus says it will take enough sting out of the reviling and the criticism that you can actually rejoice. Maybe it is a sorrowful rejoicing, but it is a real rejoicing. It enables you to keep on doing your job and keep on returning good for evil. Look to the Cross Then Paul directs our attention backward to the work of Christ. He says, “[Bear] with one another . . .” Now, that means somebody has done something to you that is hard to deal with. I am meant to endure you because you have just said something that really hurts me or angers me or makes me want to get back at you. “. . . and, if anyone has a complaint against another [like being criticized], [forgive] each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13). So, there is the pointing backward: “as the Lord has forgiven you.” “Concern yourself with truth, let it measure and shape your feelings.” So, we should not be overwhelmed by the criticism. We should be overwhelmed, not only with the greatness of our reward, but with the love of Christ, who died for us in spite of all of our ill-advised words toward others, toward him. So, when you are criticized, remember, you are not alone. Jesus knew, Paul knew, we all know, this is a battle we will fight until the end of our days on earth. Concern yourself with truth, let it measure and shape your feelings. And then, when you are criticized, look to the greatness of Christ’s forgiveness and the greatness of your future with him.  

Dcn. Gerard Almeida

Oct 15, 2022 • From the Deacon's Desk
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​​​​​​​​"Deacons play a vital role in evangelizing both to the gathered and the scattered in our community. Their ministry is of great importance to our archdiocese answering the call of Jesus to love and serve." As a deacon, he comes third.

God is first, my neighbor second.

As your deacon, it is my profound hope that you will be nourished more deeply spiritually with my reflections and other postings.

 

I welcome all your suggestions, which can be sent to: -

 

deaconsdes[email protected]

 

Deacon Gerard Almeida