When I am Called to Duty God

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This post will be a little different than my usual discourse. Yesterday, two Boston firefighters died in the line of duty while fighting a fire in a building on Beacon Street.

The firefighters killed were identified as Lt. Edward J. Walsh, 43, of West Roxbury — a father of three — and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, 33, of Hyde Park, a U.S. Marine veteran who was single. – Boston Herald

I was a firefighter for over twenty years, although not on a full time basis like these two. I know what it is like to be in a burning building, the heat, the smoke, the confusion. These two heroes (and hero is not a word I use very often) like every other firefighter, whether full-time, part-time or volunteer, did what we all do. They ran into a burning building to save lives. The same building others were running out of.

This is a heck of a way to die, and anyone in the business knows it could happen, and it would be very painful. Yet, it wouldn’t stop us, and even now it won’t stop any firefighter from doing the same thing. I ask everyone to pray for these firefighters, their families and firefighters everywhere. Most of the time no one gives a thought to them, they only see them hanging around the firehouse, not doing anything. But remember, they are the first ones to respond, at any time of the day or night.

Here is what is known as the “Firefighter’s Prayer

When I am called to duty, God,
wherever flames may rage,
give me strength to save a life,
whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child
before it is too late,
or save an older person from
the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert,
and hear the weakest shout,
quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling,
to give the best in me,
to guard my friend and neighbor,
and protect his property.
And if according to Your will
I must answer death’s call,
bless with your protecting hand,
my family one and all.

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It’s All About Our Choices

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In my last post I talked about free will, and how God has given us free will allowing us to make our own choices, whether good or bad. He will stand by and watch what happens, leaving it up to us about what we will do. Satan on the other hand, will do whatever he can to get us to sin, this is called temptation.  But even when he tempts us, we still have free will and we can choose to not sin, we can choose good over evil. It isn’t always easy, but we can do it.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you – James 4:7

Often when something bad happens to us, we  say “God is testing me” but does He? Does God test us to see how we will react, to see if we choose good over evil? The answer lies in scripture:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one;  but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death. – James 13 – 15

I suppose we could say God tests us indirectly. By giving us free will, and not interfering, He will see what we will do in any situation, but he doesn’t do the tempting. The other thing we need to remember is what I have written at the top of this blog:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

While God won’t interfere, He will always give us a way out. It is up to us to make the right decisions, to choose good over evil. Unfortunately today there are too many people who don’t know the difference between good and evil. The lines have become blurred, what used to be black and white is now grey, the lines are blurred.

A perfect example of this is abortion. We can argue when life begins, personally I believe life begins at conception. But through the years many have blurred that line convincing people that life begins at “birth”, when that little slippery thing comes out of a woman and suddenly turns into a human being. Before that it wasn’t alive, it wasn’t human, or at least that is what the pro-choice people would like us to believe. It is a grey area. How can we kill something that isn’t alive?

The majority of people now believe it is okay to kill someone who isn’t wanted. They only think of themselves with nary a thought of the life they are ending, truly the most innocent of all of us. Yes, I know, it’s freedom of choice, but what about the baby’s choice, don’t they get a choice? And the next thing which is happening is euthanasia, you are old, you are sick, you have some kind of issue and someone decides you are no longer contributing, well, let’s put you out of your misery. We have become a throw away society, even when it comes to human life.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Annunciation. This is when it is believed the angel came down from heaven and told Mary she would bear a son, and she would call him Jesus. What if Mary had decided she didn’t want to have a baby? What if she decided it would be too much trouble, or couldn’t afford a baby just yet and had an abortion? We should all be thankful she wasn’t pro-choice.

Have you ever wondered who we have killed through abortion? Could one of those millions of babies been the one who could have cured cancer? I guess we’ll never know.

Well, there I go on my soapbox again. The point is, when you make everything grey, when there are no more lines, we no longer distinguish between good and evil. Satan wins, temptation wins because we have no way to determine what is a sin or not. Those of us of a certain age can remember one of our many mottoes from the ’70’s, “If it feels good, do it.” For how many of us was that when our own lines blurred? If it felt good it couldn’t be wrong. How wrong we were, and look where it has gotten us today.

The Sin of Sloth

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Ok, time to get back to writing in the blog. Yes, I admit it, I am lazy sometimes, and that is unacceptable. After all, God gave me the talent to write, maybe not very good, but He did give me some, and I need to use it. After all the sin of sloth is one of the seven deadly sins.

A quick definition of sloth would be “being lazy”. A more complete definition from the Catholic Encyclopedia is:

One of the seven capital sins. In general it means disinclination to labour or exertion. As a capital or deadly vice St. Thomas (II-II:35) calls it sadness in the face of some spiritual good which one has to achieve (Tristitia de bono spirituali). Father Rickaby aptly translates its Latin equivalent acedia (Gr. akedia) by saying that it means the don’t-care feeling.

Now I know this definition is more directed to “spiritual laziness” but it can also be directed to any other laziness as well. Everything we have is given to us by God. Whether it is talent, money, family, material goods, it doesn’t matter. Oh, we might think we are the ones who have received these things because of our hard work, ant to some extent this is true. But it all starts with what we are given by God. He is the one who created us. (At this time I won’t get into the argument of creation versus evolution, but I believe our soul comes from God, and it is the soul which drives us.)

God gets us started and it is up to us to develop whatever God endows us with. We all have been given something, and it is up to us to figure out exactly what it is and then to make it work. When we don’t do this, figure out what talent or talents God has given us, this is sloth. It is a sin to not use our God given talents.

It is true some people use these talents for evil things, but then we must remember God has also given us free will. Free will and whether or not we really have it has been debated by philosophers for as long as there have been philosophers. Each philosophical theory (now there are some big words) has its own definition of free will, but I tend to go with Thomas Aquinas’ which is written in the “Summa Theologica“:

I answer that, Man has free-will: otherwise counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards, and punishments would be in vain. In order to make this evident, we must observe that some things act without judgment; as a stone moves downwards; and in like manner all things which lack knowledge. And some act from judgment, but not a free judgment; as brute animals. For the sheep, seeing the wolf, judges it a thing to be shunned, from a natural and not a free judgment, because it judges, not from reason, but from natural instinct. And the same thing is to be said of any judgment of brute animals. But man acts from judgment, because by his apprehensive power he judges that something should be avoided or sought. But because this judgment, in the case of some particular act, is not from a natural instinct, but from some act of comparison in the reason, therefore he acts from free judgment and retains the power of being inclined to various things. For reason in contingent matters may follow opposite courses, as we see in dialectic syllogisms and rhetorical arguments. Now particular operations are contingent, and therefore in such matters the judgment of reason may follow opposite courses, and is not determinate to one. And forasmuch as man is rational is it necessary that man have a free-will.

How we use our judgement is what makes us what we are. I know I haven’t always used good judgement in the past, and I honestly believe, after much soul searching, meditation and contemplation (there I go again using some more multi-syllable words) most of these bad decisions all stem from one bad decision. that was my decision to not listen to God, to not follow His teachings or the teachings of the church. I believed I knew better than Jesus and that was that.

Can I in any way prove this? Can I prove that had I followed the teachings of God and had I now left the church that my life wouldn’t have been different? No, but I believe it would have been. I can already see the differences in my life over the past few years when I started my journey back. I can see a difference in my attitude, my thinking and my outlook on life. And I know had I had this attitude 40 years ago, yes, my life would have been different.

Now back to the sloth thing.

If we do not use our talents, those that God has given us, it is a sin. And if, like me, we are called to use them for specific reasons, and don’t, this is a bigger sin. And finally, if we go to Confession (one of those uniquely Catholic things) and confess that we aren’t using our talents even after we believe God has called us to, and the priest gives us as our penance that we must write something every day, and we don’t, well that is really, really bad.

So, yes, I am doing my penance for being slothful, but that’s okay, I really don’t mind.

Ghosts in the Attic

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wayward catholic

Every once in awhile something will happen here at the house which makes me wonder if there might not be a ghost cohabitating with me. I have never seen one but strange things seem to happen sometimes, like dishes moving in the strainer, things falling off the counter or other unexplainable things.

Now I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts but I don’t disbelieve in them either. I look at it like this, they might be real but I don’t want to find out. It’s like UFO’s and Bigfoot, they might be real but I don’t want find out by getting up close and personal with one. I also think this is how I once felt about God with one difference. In the case of God, I believed in Him, but didn’t want to find out if he was real or not because, like with ghosts and Bigfoot, if I got the proof, first-hand, then bad things could happen. Not that God is evil, but bad things would happen if I met Him because of my sins. You see, when I was young, we weren’t really taught much about God, or maybe I just didn’t listen, I can’t really say. All I remember is bad things would happen if you sinned, especially if you created a mortal sin. At last count I have committed more than I like to recall.

The consequence of committing a mortal sin? Banishment to Hell. And who would be the judge? God. So why would I want to meet God when He is only going to send me to hell? Therefore, even though I believed God was real, I didn’t want to find out the truth. But again, like most Catholics my age, we grew up in a time when things were changing in the church and catechesis was left behind.

As a brief aside, I believe this is one of the reasons we have the problems we do today. I think it is hard to argue with the fact our moral compass has been turned around and we no longer have distinct lines drawn between what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil, instead it is all “grey area.” I blame my generation for this, at least partly. We didn’t want to learn, or didn’t learn, and because of this, we didn’t pass Christian values along. We let the lines become more and more blurred.

I knew enough to know God wasn’t going to like what I was doing and I didn’t pursue it any further. And that was fine with Satan, in fact this is exactly what he wants. Satan wants us to ignore God, to not learn about Him, to not learn about Jesus, because that leaves our souls to him.

I no longer feel the same way, when the time comes to meet God I will embrace it and hope for the best. I have asked for forgiveness for my sins, have performed the sacrament of reconciliation regularly over the past few years and know God has forgiven me. I also know I still might not go to Heaven, but I also accept that fact. It is God’s decision and I trust in Him to make the right one.

What changed my mind about all of this was when I took the time to actually learn about God and His teachings. I have learned since then that God is a merciful and loving God and we don’t need to be afraid of him. Instead we should welcome Him into our lives.

Has my life changed since I have done that? Yes, it has. It is still hard, finances are still tight but the difference now is at least I have hope. The hope that comes with knowing there is something else there, that there is a reason, that there is something to look forward to at the end of this life.

There are those out there who think I must be crazy, that I am foolish for believing as I do, but that’s okay, I know what I believe and that is all that matters, and I will do my best to live my life accordingly.

Father Knows Best

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psalm 121 1 2

Once again I find myself having to admit to myself that God actually does answer our prayers. Throughout this blog I have mentioned several things which have happened to me during the course of my life which can only be explained by the fact that God truly does exist and that He listens to us and answers us.

If only one thing happened, or even two, I could chalk it up to coincidence, heck, even three things, but the incidents keep piling up. Too many for them to be mere coincidences or luck or anything other than the intervening of God. I know there are those who will read this who don’t believe in God, and that is their prerogative, I won’t argue, I won’t even try to persuade them, I only know what happens to me and what I believe.

I am not one who just accepts things as fact. When something happens, I look into it, research it, try to find explanations. When you exhaust all methods and find no explanation you have to accept it is God who is reaching into your life.

The latest example of God answering my prayers has to do with a family matter involving my daughter, her son and her ex-husband and a custody battle. I won’t bore you with the details, other than to say it was my grandson who was in the middle and who was the one being hurt the most. I prayed that God would help the situation and somehow open my ex-son-in-law’s heart and make him stop this nonsense so all could go on with their lives. I told God I would accept whatever His will was, and that I would trust in Him to make the right decision. This week He made a decision. Again, without going into the history, let’s say I truly believed that my grandson would be better with my daughter.

A few weeks ago the father dropped the case, stopped fighting it and it was all done. This week my daughter told me my grandson was going to live with his father for the next few months. My initial reaction was this would not be good but then I remembered my prayer. I believe this is God’s plan, that He thinks it is the best solution. For the record my daughter remarried and nw has a house with five kids, two with the new husband, one with the first husband and two belonging to the new husband and the situation there is less than perfect.

When one truly trusts in God, you have to believe He acts in the best interest of all. I have to trust that God answered my prayers, He entered into both my daughter and her ex-husbands hearts and made this happen. My daughter told me that the reason her ex dropped the case was because he realized this wasn’t the best for their son. Isn’t that what I prayed for?

Do I trust my ex-son-in-law? Not really, there is quite a history of deceit there, but I do trust in God. He hasn’t been wrong before and I don’t think He is wrong now. What will happen in a few months? I can’t say, only God really knows for sure, but I will continue to pray and continue to believe.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore. – Psalm 121