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Spiritual Director – December 2016

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As we prepare to bring to a close our liturgical year (Feast of Christ the King) and begin a new one (First Sunday of Advent), we find the readings pointing us to the end times. These remind us of the frailty of human life; we all will, at some time, transition to a new way of living in a kingdom that will last forever.

Jesus made it very clear that the only one to know when life will end is the Father and he did not even share that information with the Son. So, what do we do during this time of waiting?  That is the important question of the Advent Season, how do we wait? Recalling the anticipation of our Hebrew ancestors, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Church challenges us to use this Advent as a time to learn patience as we await the celebration of Christmas.

This is a tough call as we are already celebrating christmas (using small “c” as it has NOTHING to do with the birth of Christ). Advertisements are already using the theme of “Black Friday” the customary day after Thanksgiving when the christmas shopping season begins. Decorations, gift ideas and the like are already being pushed in stores and catalogs and it has begun this year BEFORE Thanksgiving! (As I write this I have in the last two weeks received about a dozen catalogs suggesting what I need to buy to give as christmas gifts.)

Why are we in such a hurry? A sad commentary is that even in Catholic realms, this rush to the season is a reality. The beauty of the Advent Season, is the call to be patient, to wait, to be a people of anticipation. We rush through our lives, often at break-neck speed, failing to pause and wait, to reflect and rejoice on the giftedness we have been given. What will we gain by being in such a hurry? Will the anticipated celebration be better because we got there so quickly? Or, will it have more meaning if a period of anticipation allows us to better understand the beauty of what we are preparing to celebrate? Please, take some time this Advent, to truly celebrate it, stepping back, slowing down and reflecting on the anticipated birth of our Savior and Redeemer.

One other thought…  We have just finished one of the most contentious election seasons I can recall in my voting life. Pray that the partisanship that so defined this election cycle can and will be replaced with an attitude that gives rise to conciliation and compromise.

I pray that your Thanksgiving was a time to reflect and give thanks for family, friends and the blessings you have received.

May this Advent teach you the beauty of anticipation and waiting, and may the coming of the Word made flesh that dwelt among us, bless you with happiness and peace in the coming New Year.

With prayers and love,

De Colores,

Fr. Gary

School of Leaders – September 2016

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Our Daily Manna

During our faith journey there are many times we find ourselves struggling with our faith because of how difficult it is to follow God’s word and be what he created us to be.  The Bible is full of ordinary people whom God has called.  Which of them, in their power, their resources, or their ways had what was required to do what God called them to do?… Not one!

As we are called, we should refuse to focus on what we are not, what we can’t do, or do not know.  We need to, “Rely on God’s power, his resources, and his ways” – Christine Cain.  We should center our thoughts on who Christ is in us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Matthew 7:7-11 tells us, “Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?  Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

The apostle James asks Jesus what’s going to happen tomorrow – James 4:14.   The length of our lives is like a fog, here for a little while and then vanishes.  God gives us each day, one at a time.  If we think about it…today is all we have because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.

We are reminded as we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” – Matthew 6:11.  Not tomorrow’s bread or next week’s bread.  God is a daily provider who provides for our needs today.

As with the manna, called the “bread of angels,” God provided for the children of Israel in the wilderness.  God’s instructions to Moses, was for the people to gather it every morning.  He further warned them not to attempt to hoard it or store it overnight in any way, because if they did, the stored manna would breed worms. They were only to gather as much as they would use on any given day.

Like some of us today, there were those that paid no attention to the restriction, and tried to gather more than what was needed for the day, so they could store the extra away for the next day or two.  After all, what if God didn’t show up with manna tomorrow?  I mean, when it comes to food and survival, you can never be too careful, but we can be short on faith.  As a result, when the disobedient Israelites looked at their stored manna the next day, it was as God had warned them, horrible, rotten, and full of worms.

So, what is the lesson here? God is a daily provider. He provides for Monday’s needs on Monday, and Tuesday’s needs on Tuesday. We are to trust Him one day at a time and not become anxious over what we may require tomorrow. He will be there tomorrow as well, with more than enough grace to help us in our time of need.

Final Thought: “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.”  C. S. Lewis

Lay Director – September 2016

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Dear Brother and Sister Cursillistas,

Your Secretariat has been hard at work for the well-being of Cursillo within our diocese.

At our last meeting, with input from the School of Leaders, we elected Laura Veach to be the Chairperson of the Precursillo Committee as of the close of our meeting in September.

We sincerely THANK Margie Reaka for her long dedicated service.

Assistant Rector and Rectoras were selected for the 2017 Weekends. Margie Reaka will be the assistant for the Women’s team; while Garry Range will be the same for the Men’s Weekend. Further, the 2017 teams have received all of the necessary materials to begin their preparation for two great weekends.

We received a great report on the Spring Encounter of Region IV in Louisville, KY from Linda Bagsby. Most interesting is that there will be a “Cursillo de Cursillo” conducted in a nearby location within a year. This three day weekend is for us older Cursillistas to reignite our flame of love for our Lord.

Another big task is the reorganization of Cursillo within our diocese. We need to have parish representatives willing to work with the Secretariat to advertise our presence, to purify and complete our records, and to reawaken many Cursillistas whom we have not seen in many years. If you are willing to help in this effort, please contact me at 213-6391 or nplang415@gmail.com.

May God richly bless you in works for His kingdom,

Nick Lang

Spiritual Director – September 2016

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We just celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption, honoring our Blessed Mother, believing that God raised her body and soul into the Kingdom thus avoiding the corruption of the grave. As I compose this missive, I have just finished celebrating the first school Mass of the year, welcoming and praying that God’s Holy Spirit might be with teachers and students in this new school year. So, in theory the hot and humid days of summer should be drawing to a close. But then we live in Southern Illinois and anything weather-wise is possible.

But one thing is now going to take place.  Now that school has started, parishes will again begin gearing up for the many activities that occur during these next months. Youth groups will ramp up many activities, religious education will go into full swing and most parishes will again be looking seriously at inviting folks to join us in the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The downtime of summer is being replaced with excitement of this “new year.”
So, what are you going to do at this time of year to increase your Piety, Study and Action? Is it maybe time to start grouping after having been away for a while? How about going to the School of Leaders to learn more about the Cursillo Movement? If my parish, or a neighboring one, offers some form of adult continuing education, will I work at fitting it into my schedule? Will I take a serious and prayerful look at making a retreat? Will I join others at Adoration or a Rosary or a Divine Mercy prayer group? Will I look to the Church or some other charitable organization at which I could volunteer some time to be of service? Piety, Study and Action were not just talks you heard on the Cursillo weekend. If you add generosity to that list you have the four pillars that Matthew Kelly says are necessary to be a dynamic Catholic.

And a big issue that faces us this fall will be the election of our next President. Are you prayerfully seeking God’s help and the insight of the Holy Spirit in making your decision?

So, this becomes a busy time of year following the lazy days of summer.  It is my hope and prayer that your summer gave you some time for relaxation – a time to recharge batteries. Now I pray that our good and gracious God of Mercy will bless you with the grace you need to live out your call to be a child of God – a disciple of Jesus Christ.

De Colores,

Fr. Gary

School of Leaders – June 2016

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Faith is Believing Without Seeing

John 20:24-29 addresses the call to believe without seeing, but Thomas wasn’t willing.  The importance of this event lies in the fact that it presents the relation between seeing and believing.  More specifically, it shows the significance of believing after, or because of, having seen the risen Christ, and believing without having seen him.

The example of doubting Thomas provides both instruction and encouragement.  After being told by the other disciples of Jesus’ resurrection and personal visit, Thomas “doubted” and wanted physical proof of the risen Lord in order to believe this good news.  The testimony Thomas received from the other 10 disciples about Jesus’ return should have been enough, but still he doubted – even after spending three years being intimately acquainted with Jesus, witnessing all His miracles and hearing His prophecies about His coming death and resurrection.

The event occurred eight days after the appearance of Jesus to the other disciples.  After greeting them with the traditional, “Peace be with you,” without any delay Jesus turns to Thomas and addresses him; knowing his human frailty resulted in weakened faith, He accommodated Thomas by inviting him to proceed with the demanded test.

The doubt Thomas experienced is not unlike our own when we face challenges in our life.  Although Thomas did in fact doubt the Lord’s resurrection appearance, once he saw the risen Christ, he proclaimed in faith, “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28).  Jesus commended him for his faith, although that faith was based on sight.   “Because you have seen me, you have believed.”

The encouraging part for all of us today is when Jesus also says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Jn. 20:29),” thus enabling us to believe that which we do not see with our eyes. This same thought is echoed by Peter, who said of Christ, “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Although we have the Spirit within us, we can still experience doubt.  True saving faith always perseveres to the end just as Thomas’s did, and just as Peter’s did after he had a monumental moment of weakness by denying the Lord he loved and believed in.

So how do we keep from doubting as Thomas did?  We must go to God in prayer when experiencing doubt.  Sanctification is the process of growing in Him, which includes times of doubt and times of great faith.  Like the man who brought his demon-possessed child to Jesus but was unsure whether Jesus could help him, we go to God because we believe in Him and ask Him for more and greater faith to overcome our doubts, saying, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:17-27).

Final Thoughts:  “Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.”  Martin Luther

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
Thomas Aquinas

Lay Director – June 2016

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Dear Cursillistas,

The news from your Secretariat from the recent past is that we are attempting to reorganize this management arm of Cursillo, looking toward the future and what our “younger’ members will need to keep them growing toward a closer walk with our Beloved Lord Jesus for years to come. The primary goal is to be of one mind and heart serving our foundational charism which is “The Lord our God is Lord alone and we shall love the Lord Our God with all our hearts and all our soul and that we shall love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”.

The Belleville Cursillo, for many reasons, has grown to have two central areas of concentration, the Metro East and the Western vicariates.  We need to reestablish Cursillo to be strong in all five of the vicariates of the diocese. To this end, we need parish representatives from all the parishes throughout the dioceses, someone or a group, willing to do the working of placing news articles in their parish bulletins and postings on the parish bulletin boards. If you are willing, please call me at 213-6391 or e-mail me at nplang415@gmail.com .

Our website is doing very well averaging 30,000 hits per month with 500+ detailed reviews. Also, our new Facebook Group (Belleville Cursillo) now has more than 90 individuals signed up.

I invite any of you to give me your ideas on how we can better advertise and more efficiently make ourselves known within the body of Christ in Southern Illinois.

De Colores,

Nick Lang