24 Hours in Antigua – A time to encounter

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“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” – Paulo Coelho The Alchemist

Coelho’s The Alchemist  has long been a favorite book of mine, ever since my Highschool sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Rachel Gavin recommended it to me. The story covers a young man, (interestingly a former seminarian) on his discernment journey as he seeks to discover to where he is being called in the world. He has many adventures and the book recounts those travels he makes, those little “Parenthesis (  ) in eternity.”

I’ve been absent from my blog for a while now, as I was busy with school things again. Now that it is the summer I thought I’d use the time to post more, especially about my experiences here in La Antigua, Guatemala. Yes, dear Toto that’s right. I’m no longer in Kansas, Indiana, Illinois, or Kentucky anymore. In fact I’m quite a bit south in Central America spending my summer doing  a Spanish immersion course at the “Probigua” school here in Antigua. I’ll give more details about the school as time goes on. For now, I’d like to focus on what my first 24 hours has been like, share some photos with you all and then go to bed, because my first day of class starts in the morning.

I arrived at the airport in Guatemala City at 12:08 pm. Somehow (and I don’t remember doing this) I must have turned my watch an hour back at some point. Who knows? I was on the wrong time until 2:13 pm until I asked my House Mom what the time was. LOL

Anywho, it took me almost 13 hours to go from Bowling Green, KY to Antigua. After arriving at the airport, I was met by Reginaldo, my driver sent from the school who took me on a little over an hour drive to Antigua. Curvy roads, crazy traffic, and no uses of turn signals, just honks of the horn led us out of town into the beautiful, and I mean BEAUTIFUL mountains. Then we went down down down, left paved roads and for a brief moment it seemed, civilization behind as the van began to bump, jerk, and pitch on the cobblestone streets of beautiful La Antigua.

As we drove along, I thought to myself: “gee, this place is bigger than I thought.” Bright colors, clay tile roofs, crumbling plaster, statues of saints, churches, ruins of churches, people, smiling people, laughing people, kissing people (apparently the park near my house is where the young teenagers go scuba diving or something. It’s a wonder after the length of their kisses that they don’t need to come up for air sooner. HAHA just kidding.) working people, poor people, people driving Jeeps, people driving Audis, Volvo’s, Volkswagens, Toyotas… the list goes on and on and on.

Once we arrived at my house, we stood out side the gate, me looking up at it, waving hello to the two women making tortillas in the store across the road, and my driver climbing in the van and beginning to pull away. “Wait!,” I exclaimed as he stopped inching forward. “Is someone coming to the gate?” I asked. “Sí, he’s coming.” “Reginaldo replied and sure enough the gate began to open. But it wasn’t a man. It was my Madre de la casa, my House Mom, Sñra. Flores! “Corey, Bienvenido a Antigua y mi casa!” she said.

And then it got real.

Really real.

Reginaldo spoke english and didn’t practice spanish with me on the way down. Sñra. Flores only spoke to me in spanish. I only spoke to her in spanish. Did I just communicate for 15 minutes in spanish? I thought to myself as I sat my backpack down on my bed inside my room she had shown me to? Yes. Yes I had. Wow. Never in my life have I done that before.

Sñra. Flores made me a delicious lunch of rice, and chile de renos and pickled cucumbers. After getting a key from her, as well as the Wifi password, I texted my Mom, Vocation directors, priest friends, and others who were wondering about my safe travels to let them know that all was well and I was happy.

But was I really happy? The truth is, when Father Andy and Father Josh gave me a blessing before I got in the car with Preston to drive down to Nashville at 2 in the morning, my stomach was doing flips. Infact, until lunch, my stomach was doing flips. After lunch, they stopped but then they started again. Oh no. Not indigestion, not the cucumbers, what did I eat? Maybe she didn’t actually have purified water for me to drink? What if I get mugged? What if I die here?

Oh shut up Corey. You need Jesus.

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You haven’t gone to Mass yet today and you need to pray. So I asked Sñra for directions (in Spanish) and I headed out to find my parish for the summer: La Merced.

La Merced is an absolutely beautiful parish, built in a spanish baroque style. I walked around the church, found the Beautiful Blessed Sacrament Chapel, plopped down and prayed. I asked Our Lady and our Lord to really help me this summer. I asked them to help me be at home. To quench my home-sickness, to help me to grow in faith and love. And to fill that parenthesis, that Paulo Coelho talked of with a summer of abundant blessings. And after praying my rosary, I kept falling asleep so I headed back to my casa for a little siesta.

I was awakened to the sound of Sñra. Flores calling from downstairs: “Corey…. Corey….Corey….Corey….” And I in a half asleep state after recognizing that it wasn’t a dream answered: “I’m coming! Un momentito por favor!” There went my first english words. LOL. I had a lovely dinner (which I had forgotten about in my tired state) with Sñra Flores and her daughter Daniella. We had Guatemalan Tamales, different but just as tasty as the mexican tamales I have grown up with. I had a lovely time speaking in spanish to them, they spoke slowly so I could understand them and we found out more about one another. We canonized my Mom, for having trisos or triplets and I shared photos, laughed, had questions answered: “Que hora es la Misa a La Merced En la Mañana?” What time is the Mass at La Merced in the morning.

I then retired for the evening and fell quickly back asleep. Waking up around 4am to the sound of the local dogs barking, I went back to sleep for a couple hours and then got up and started my day. It was a beautiful morning. 70ish degrees, sun out, etc. I said good morning to the tortilla lady across the street, walked through the park (figured out part of it is where the dogs leave their business so I needed to cross the road) and went to La Merced for my first Mass in Antigua. It was the Feast of Pentecost! I prayed my office prior to Mass, was joined by a couple of kind couples in the pew and understood most of Fathers homily. He’s a very engaging preacher. And after 34 minutes, I’m glad he was so engaging. lol

After Mass, they had Presentations of around 12 babies. Father would pray, throw a bunch of holy water on them, they would cry, he would lift them up above the people (to my eye level lol) and then we would applaud. It was a bit different than in America, but this was the quick version from what I gathered. I prayed mid-morning prayer as it was now 10:24 or so and headed down the street in search of brunch. Father Gary had recommended me to try Luna de Miel. I am so glad I did. They make sweet and savory crepes as well as smoothies. A delicious, cheese, bean, and ham crepe with a watermelon/mint/OJ smoothie and aqua pura a bottle of water while sitting on a balcony overlooking part of the city was perfect. At 11am the bells of the church started to ring and the next Mass began. I loved listening to the bells all day long.

33159079_10216511719042380_8287542141010313216_n.jpgAfter Brunch, I went walking, exploring, getting my bearings on things. I had already found the school last night, so I wanted to venture out even more. I ended up first finding and taking the necessary picture in front of the Arch of Saint Catherine. Arco de Santa Catalina. Walked into some beautiful shops with kind shopkeepers who visited with me, inquired where I was from, where I went to school in town, how long I was visiting for, where I had been, and offered assistance in directing me to places I wanted to visit. They even promised prayers for me when they found out I was a seminarista. Like Paulo said: In each moment ” we have stopped to encounter each other, to love, and to share.” Part of the Spanish immersion involves sharing. And strangely my extroverted side was working overtime and I was making friends, meeting people, and speaking to them in spanish all within my first 24 hours. Wow!

I visited downtown in the Parque Central, found where I could go to the bank in the 32951021_10216511697881851_8684240189645651968_n.jpgmorning to obtain some more Guatemalan currency. (Thankfully both places I ate at accepted USD, but thanks to Robin Murphy, now an alumnus of Saint Meinrad, she had sent me with about $20 worth of Quetzales, so I used that for my meals today.

I visited a few more places, then headed back to the casa as it was starting to get rather warm. I purchased some bottled water for brushing my teeth on my way back, got back to my room and took a nice siesta. did some reading. Afterwards, it was time for dinner so I went in search of a new place. I had passed a few cool restaurants on my way earlier in the day, so I headed back to the parquet central to see what I could find. I ended up in a beautiful little Café Condessa or the Café Contessa, named after the beautiful old home 33139970_10216511715402289_1018768080857202688_n.jpgbelonging to a line of Counts and Countesses it was located in. I kept thinking back to one of my favorite films: “The Count of Monte Cristo” even though they speak french and I was speaking spanish. I was able to FaceTime my Mom there for a bit before the Wifi started to cut out more and then I switched to texting.

After a delicious meal, I headed to see the old Cathedral, pray EP, and work my way up some new streets back toward La Merced, so that I could pray my rosary and make a Holy Half Hour. I wanted to beat the rain. Luckily I did, made it home, and was able to type up this little blogpost about my time thus far.

Hopefully, as the summer goes on, I’ll be able to incorporate

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The Old Cathedral

more spanish into my posts (and translations) as well as photos and stories of my time here, the people I encounter, and the place which already I am coming to love very very much. This is truly a precious moment in my formation, in my life, and in my journey to become the man God has created me to be. Pray for me that my time might be fruitful, that I might be generous, and that I might be able to as I prayed this morning on the Feast of Pentecost, to speak in Spanish. The Apostles could be heard in many different languages, I for now, only ask to be heard and be able to use one.

Good night, Buen Noche desde Antigua! I’m praying for you. I hope you’ll say a prayer for me!

 

Top left: Shrine to Christ in the Sepulcher in the old Cathedral

Top Right: Mass times in the old cathedral: Quote: “There exists no sin, that God cannot forgive! None!” – Pope Francis

Lower left: Church ruins near my house

Lower right: the little inner courtyard going to my house and others.

 

Break your Heart this Ash Wednesday

“Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing” – Joel 2:12-18

Gracious, Merciful, Kind, and Forgiving are not normally adjectives we would use to describe  Ash Wednesday, let alone the Lenten Season. Yet that is exactly how God is described in the First Reading from Joel this morning and I daresay that we can use those same words to describe this Ash Wednesday and this Season of Lenten journey we are embarking on.

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Ash Wednesday, like Good Friday is a day of what Canon 1251 stipulates as being a day of fasting and abstinence. With Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day this year it can be upsetting for some to not be able to celebrate the day of “love” with the love of their life. Yet, this year we have an opportunity to celebrate this day of love with an ultimate act of love toward the one we should love above all else.

Fasting and abstinence help us to deny our carnal passions and desires and take control with our will over what our bodies seek. The hunger in our bellies, growling away all day helps us to realize that we hunger for something, for someone greater than what food can satisfy. Abstaining from meat gives us the opportunity to offer a small sacrifice, to give a small gift to the one we love as a testament of that love.

“Rend your hearts” Joel instructs us. When was the last time that you were heartbroken during Lent? When was the last time that your heart was rent, was broken for love of the one you truly love? How are we to “return to the Lord our God?” by realizing that thirst in our Heart, in our Souls for the living God.

This Lent, this Ash Wednesday, may we turn back to God. May we turn ourselves completely toward the Lord, allowing the growl of our bellies to speak of the thirst and hunger of our souls for Him who can satisfy every longing under Heaven. May our sacrifices, our weeping, our mourning be small gifts to the King of Kings; jewels to be added in our crowns at the day of resurrection.

Let’s make this Lent one of kindness to our neighbor, mercy on ourselves, slow to anger, rich in compassion, an one of forgiveness. For our God is a gracious God and he will surely leave us a blessing for the good we do this Lent.

Celebrate Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day with the one we truly love above all else this year. May our hearts be broken, rent with love of him, who had his own heart broken, pierced with a lance on a cross because of our sins.

Let’s learn to Love this Lent.

And let’s pray for one another as we continue to walk this beautiful Lenten Journey together!

 

Hymn post: Seeking the Lord: A prayer for bedtime

I saw this beautiful hymn tonight before I prayed Night Prayer. It’s a lovely text asking God to be with us as night comes, recognizing that we want to remain near him in sleep, in dreams, and our first thoughts when we awake so that all we do tomorrow might be for his glory.

The third verse is stunning. No one else but God can save us and fill our hearts. And if we seek him. We will never be alone.

May we always strive to seek him. To know him. To find him so that we might love him.

Now, God Be With Us

Now, God be with us, for the night is closing;

The light and darkness are of your disposing;

And ‘neath your shadow here to rest we yield us,

For you will shield us.

Let holy thoughts be ours when sleep o’ertakes us;

Our earliest thought be yours when morning wakes us;

All day serve you, in all that we are doing

Your praise pursuing.

We have no refuge, none on earth to aid us,

Save you, O Father, who in love has made us;

But your dear presence will not leave them lonely

Who seek you only.

Tune: Lobet den Herren 11.11.11.5
Music: Johann Crüger, 1598-1662
Text: Bohemian Brethren’s Kirchengesange,1566
Translation: Catherine Winkworth, 1827-1878

“Thank you for bringing me Jesus, I love you.” – Reflection on the death of my 93 year old friend, Ed Pickett

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The Raising of Lazarus – Jean Baptiste Jouvenet

Please join me in praying for the repose of the soul of dear 93 year old Ed Pickett of Owensboro. Certain people tend to truly touch our lives and I’d like to share the story of a couple of my encounters with Ed, a man of much faith with you…
 
I met Ed on a communion call last year while at St. Stephen Cathedral on Pastoral Year. Ed lived in a beautiful brick home and had a large American Flag flying outside of is front door.
 
During my first visit with Ed, I learned about the love of his life, Grace, his wife who had died around 5 years prior. Every visit there after, Ed would always mention Grace as we prayed and chatted. He was a man who was smitten with a love that lasted even past death. Since Ed was in the Military, Grace had raised their large family largely while he was serving. Ed, would speak to me with tears in his eyes of how beautiful she was and how grateful he was for her doing so well with their children.
 
Ed was a man also of faith. Often, when I would visit with him on one of his many trips to the hospital he would have the Hail Mary or Our Father on his lips, praying for a variety of things. He was a kind, old, grandfather figure who was incredibly sweet. From laughing with him as he shared stories of the nun who made him wear a dress because he had ripped his pants when he attended an all-girls Catholic school in New York (yes, you read that right) to tearing up as I watched this man of faith, this kind gentle man struggle with the pains of growing old, I treasure those visits I had with Ed.
 
Even when he was in braces with broken bones, dealing with sickness, etc. whenever I would ask Ed how he was, he would say something along the lines of: “Well, I have a lot of pain in my back and I really can’t walk around too well, but other than that, I’M DOING GREAT! How are you young man?”
 
As we would pray, Ed would usually hold my hand as I sat next to him and squeeze it whenever we would pray for Grace. Then, after receiving communion, making an act of thanksgiving, Ed would smile, grab my hand and kiss it and say: “Thank you for coming to see me and bringing me Jesus. I love you.”
 
I can truly say that even though I only knew Ed through my short visits with him, I loved him back. I was and am thankful for the small times I got to spend with and be inspired with this man of faith, this man of his country, this man of his family, this man of love. And while he was thankful for me bringing Jesus to me, I am thankful for him showing and being Jesus to me.
 
May choirs of angels come to greet you Ed as they lead you into paradise. May the martyrs receive you at your arrival and lead you to the holy city Jerusalem. May choirs of angels receive you and with Lazarus, once a poor man, may you truly have eternal rest.
Farewell my friend! Pray for me!

A Life Well Lived: The Radical Hospitality St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi has been my patron saint for as long as I can remember. I have always had a devotion to him, the simple, humble aristocrat-turned beggar of Assisi. His radical ways of living have always touched deeply at my heart, as they have at so many others across the ages. Francis, was ordained as a Deacon. Never a priest. And he LIVED his Diaconate in every sense of the work Diakonosservice. Francis lived a life of radical hospitality. He welcomed all, stranger, muslim, Christian, woman, child, etc as Christ. Ever since his encounter with the poor beggar man, wherein Francis gave him his cloak, Francis lived a life for others. He lived his life as an alter Christus (another Christ).

Francis had a great love for the Church, he had a great love for the people of God, a great love for the Liturgy in all its splendor, and he had a great love for beauty. Francis lived the radical hospitality, which the Gospel demands with such fervor that he saw God’s presence in the beauty of each part of Creation. Whether it be Sister Moon, Brother Wolf, Sister Breeze, Brother Leo, Sister Clare, or even Sister Death…from whom no mortal can escape. Francis saw the presence of God, the incarnation of Christ in every living being. He lived the mystery of the Incarnation, because he honored Christ’s presence, wherever and whenever he found it.

Francis was joyful. There’s no doubting that. Read any commentary you ever could on him, watch Bishop Robert Barron’s The Pivotal Players episode on him (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING SO) and you will see a man, faced with trials, with sin, with struggles, yet as he walked he sang. As he received he gave. As he lived, so he loved.

Francis abandoned the pleasures of the flesh, the pleasures of the world, because he had seen that only Christ, could provide what he needed. He had fallen deeply and madly in love with the Bridegroom of the Church, and sought to offer his own life with Christ to the glory of God the Father. Francis embraced his trials. He received the Stigmata. He founded religious communities. He created the first “living” Nativity Scene. He rebuilt physical church buildings. He prayed often. He went away to quiet places for retreats. He stirred up the ardor of faith in men of no faith. He loved without being loved in return. Why? Because he embraced the Radical Hospitality of the Gospel. He embraced a life of joy. He embraced Christ, present in all of humanity and creation, with all of its boils, warts, pimples, scars, etc. because he saw the beauty of the Creator within.

St. Francis of Assisi, lived a life of radical surrender to the workings of the Spirit. He lived a life of radical hospitality and love. He lived a life of joy as he embraced the cross.

May we have the strength and courage to do the same.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for me and for us, that we might be made worthy to share the light of Christ in Heaven with you. Amen.

 

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How will you LOVE, today?

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“Owe no debt to anyone, except the debt that binds us to love one another. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. Love never wrongs the neighbor, hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 13:8, 10

The above reading from Romans comes to us in the Liturgy of the Hours during Mid-day prayer this morning. It is a helpful reminder for us as we continue throughout our day to ask ourselves if we have loved the other as other. Love in its truest form always takes us outside of ourselves to see the other as no longer other, but as someone we have come to know and see Christ in.

A few days ago (Friday, I think.) we heard from the book of Ruth where Naomi has reminded Ruth that she is not bound to stay and care for her. Ruth in turn says to Naomi:

“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.…” – Ruth 1:16

Ruth shows us that even though she is not bound to Naomi’s family anymore that it is important to welcome the foreigner, the stranger. “You people shall be my people, and your God, my God…”

So, the question remains; How are you?; How am I?; loving today? Am I searching for Christ in those that I meet? In the stranger? In the new seminarian I meet walking down the hall? Am I welcoming? Do I extend some form of hospitality to them?

Now, this is all fine and dandy, but practically, how does it apply to my life? How do I recognize the presence of Christ in another?

“Were not our hears burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” – Luke 24:32

Luke reminds us in The Emmaus story, of Christ’s presence present in those small moments, but also in those chance encounters. Let us not look past another, because of what they wear, who we think they are, how they sound, but let us listen with the help of the Spirit to the voice deep inside of Christ, burning within our hearts and calling us to love those that we encounter just as much as we love ourselves!

“Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in You.” – St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine, who’s Feast we celebrate today recognizes that incredible power that comes about from listening and casting ourselves onto and into the Heart of the one who loves much. We were made to love like Christ. We were made to allow our hearts to rest in Him, in the one for whom they burn.

So, I ask us to consider again: How have I loved today? Do I need to start again? Do I need to seek forgiveness? How can I love more like Christ? Christ came to fulfill the law, and the way he did that was through his message of love and mercy. How can I love someone else as passionately, as personally, as whole-heartedly as Christ loves me, as he loves you?

St. John of the Cross reminds us that “at the end of our lives we shall all be judged by Charity.” We shall each be judged by how we loved. How will you love today?

Prayer Request: “Who touched me? Reaching out for Healing with Faith.”

Update: 7/28/17
I learned this morning that Ms. Sharon Speaks passed away around 2am this morning.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and all of the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, Rest In Peace. Amen.

May Mary, our Mother of Mercy wrap the Speaks family under her mantle of love during this time. Amen.

Read the original post below:

Prayer request: A few months ago I was blessed to be able to participate in the Gennessaret Retreat (for the chronically ill)at the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph after the invitation of Tom and Amy Payne. It was an incredible weekend experience and a beautiful chance for me to witness the powerful love of God and his healing touch and care for his people.

While on the weekend, I met Ms. Speaks there as well as her husband and was overjoyed at seeing the love and care they had for each other. Listening to her speak of how moved she was by the retreat and how she had never had the experience of love like she did on the retreat brought tears to my eyes.

Here in front of me was a woman who much like the woman with a hemorrhage in the Scriptures, had faith. She wanted to be healed. She longed to be healed. Yet, until the Retreat she hadn't trusted like she wanted to in Gods love and healing mercy for her. Through the graces of the discussion, prayer, and communal time on the retreat, she was able to reach out and touch the Lord's garment. Now, she wasn't healed bodily of her illness, but she was healed through her will. She shared with us, that through the retreat, she was able to give her "yes" to God in accepting where she was in life and uniting her suffering with his in the cross.

Ms. Speaks spoke volumes to me through her love and trust in the Lord who loves her so very much. Part of the weekend included a time of Anointing and Washing of the Feet of our "guests." I being the photographer I am, snapped this picture of her and her husband as her feet were being washed. It was an incredibly moving and vulnerable moment. And I feel so blessed to have been able to capture some aspect of "love in action."

I found out this evening that she is currently in the process of dying. As I reach out my hand in faith asking the Lord like the woman with a hemorrhage and like Ms. Speaks did, to heal me of my own infirmities, I invite you to join me in praying for her peace. Praying for her family. And praying for her soul, that she too might share in the abundant life of Heaven with Jesus Christ for ever.

May Mary, our Mother help her to continue to give her "Yes" to the Lord that his will might be done and that he the Master who asks: "Who touched me?" Will know and welcome her with great joy into his Heavenly Homeland forever. Amen.

Let me love you…

Adoration at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp & Retreat Center and the Diocese of Owensboro Office of Vocations, Young Men’s Made for More Vocation Camp


No, not the hit by Ne-Yo, but rather this beautiful quote by St. Anselm…

“Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me as I seek, because I can neither seek you if you do not teach me how, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in desiring you; let me desire you in seeking you; let me find you in loving you; let me love you in finding you.” – St. Anselm

Going into the Deep – trusting God, when life keeps giving me lemons.

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I experimented for the first time the other evening at Made for More Camp on taking photos with long exposures during our candlelit Adoration in the Pavillion. I have never really taken many photos at night before, so I was a little leery about “stepping out” into the unknown to see what I could do. I was having to think back to Professor Foley’s class and remember some of the techniques he taught us. Aren’t these shots fantastic?!? I was very pleased with how they all turned out.

“Duc in Altum.”  “Go into the deep!” we hear Christ Jesus say in Luke 5:4 as he instructs the fishermen to cast their nets deep into the other side so that they might haul in a catch. St. Peter, dumbfounded (as I would be too.) at the amount of fish they were hauling in exclaims: “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” But Christ, lovingly responded to him: “Do not be afraid. From now on, you will be Fishers of Men.” (Luke5:10)

How often am I like Simon Barjonah? How often do I doubt that the Lord can work wonderful, and miraculous things through my life? Often, too caught up inside myself to continue on, I exclaim like Peter: “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Yet, Christ always extends his hand and says softly: “Rise up, my beloved son! For I have called you by name and you are mine!”

At our Made for More Camp this past week, I always am and was again greatly inspired by the young men who were present. They, like Peter followed the invitation of our Lord to cast their nets into the deep. During the camp they were challenged and had the opportunity to grow in prayer, brotherhood, laughter, and receive practical information on how to better discern where the Lord was calling them.

On Wednesday, my car broke down when I was coming back into Bowling Green from a trip to Nashville with some other seminarians. Something to do with the passenger rear brake… I think. It’s just what I needed. Something to go wrong with my car. GREAT. I was not happy. I was not humble. I was afraid, mad, and said quite a few words I shouldn’t. Then I prayed. I said a Hail Mary, I asked our Lord to let me make it back to St. Joseph, where I knew I could at least figure things out.

Lo and behold, I became more calm. And I was able to make it back to the parish safely. Brother Victor helped me look at my car the next morning and drove behind me as I went excruciatingly slow, hearing the grinding and banging and bumping of my tire. I prayed the whole way. I had to stop focusing on myself and my strengths and what I can do and trust in the unknown. I like Peter and the young campers had to trust in the Lord that he would get me to where I needed to be, and do so safely.

I’m a perfectionist. I’m OCD. I like to be in control of things in my life. As I have sat here at St. Joseph, with time for prayer, reading, working on projects I needed to finish for the Cathedral, and responding to emails from the week, I have had to let go of what I want and rely completely on what the Lord wants, and what he wills. IT DRIVES ME UP THE WALL. Yet, it’s good practice for me. It’s time spent well, listening, praying, trusting, and relying on Him who is always there for me; whenever my car breaks down, whenever I have a rough day, whenever I’m joyful and singing with happiness. He is always there, asking me to trust, to rely, to have faith.

The Psalm at Mass today comes from Psalm 128: “See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.” Fear him, honor him, and trust in him I have indeed done and have to continue to do, as my car is still in the shop and I have absolutely no idea what is exactly wrong with it, nor whether I will have both arms and legs after I pay for it.

But bless me he has. I have had a roof over my head, food in my stomach, friends to laugh with, and a wonderful God to praise. I have and continue to put out into the deep. I continue to grow and go into the great unknown and trust that all will happen as He will it, because He wills it, when He wills it.

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On Thursday, I met Jesus…and his dog.

Last Thursday started off for me as a pretty normal day. I got up at 5:30 like normal. I watched the news, checked Instagram, then checked Facebook, prayed the Office of Readings, got showered, shaved, put my clothes on, tied my shoes, packed my backpack and was headed down the stairs, iPad in hand as I loaded the iBreviary app in preparation for Morning Prayer with the Fathers in the kitchen.

I ate some little chocolate piece I shouldn’t have, followed by some deliciously sweet cantaloupe, prayed Morning Prayer with the priests and was walking over to the Office to meet with Donna, my Pastoral Year Supervisor by 9.

It was still a normal day.

Donna and I chatted for a bit about ministry that week, what I was getting into after returning from a week on the Hill, what I needed to do with the First Communion and Confirmation retreat days coming up, etc. And before I knew it, my phone buzzed telling me that my 10am appointment had arrived and was waiting for me in the front office. As I walked to the front I looked down at my grey/orange sneakers I was wearing with my khakis, (Yes. I know, sneakers AND Khaki’s?? REALLY? Corey?!?) and thought to myself about how comfortable they were. (I knew I was going to be walking a lot that day, so I wanted comfort over style.) (ooh, Tyler Grant snapchatted me…)

It was still a normal day, and a pretty normal conversation to have with myself in my head.

I was happy to meet with a friend from my home parish of St. Ann in Morganfield and discuss some different things with her about starting a blog and catch up from when we had last met. It was a joyful visit and one that brought a big smile to my face. As I walked her to the door, I thought of what a nice surprise her visit had been and tried to remember what the readings were for Mass, which I needed to go and select music for.

I ran over and selected music relating to Psalm 32: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor,” an Easter hymn practiced and was good to go.

Still, it was a normal day. Still, I was doing what I normally did. Still, it was a normal Thursday.

After Mass, I played organ for a few moments, ran over to the house to eat some taco salad and return just in time for my 2pm meeting with a few of the staff about reaching out to parishioners who we hadn’t heard from in a while.

2 hours after that, I realized that I needed to figure out what I was going to be discussing with the Welcome-back Catholic group that evening, but as I could barely keep my eyes open, I decided instead to hand that off to the Holy Spirit temporarily, and go lay down for a quick 20 minute siesta. (And I had to check Snapchat…)

Still, a normal day.

After my siesta, I arose, read a little bit from a commentary on Holy Week and headed over to church to grab my binder and head to the Loft to accompany Vespers on the Wicks. I knew what direction I wanted to take the welcome back group in that evening. I finished the psalms, finished the recessional, changed my shoes and headed down to run over to the house for a book I left before going over for the Welcome Back group.

And then my day went from normal, to weird.

One of the parishioners came walking down the sidewalk when she saw me and I could tell that there was something she wanted to chat about. Oh no, I thought. She probably wants to say something about not knowing which Meinrad Psalm tone I was using for each psalm…again. I know I gave her a handout with them on it…

“Corey, there’s a man back there with his dog, he asking for a place to stay.” “I don’t know of anywhere in town that he can stay with a dog…hmmmm. If you tell him I have to grab something, I’ll be right out and speak with him, though I’m not sure there is anything I can do.”

Weird. I needed to move. I was now 6 minutes late to my meeting, and I don’t EVER like to be late. So, as I entered the house I ran into Fr. Jerry. “Oh, Hello!” he exclaimed. “Hello, I responded.” “What’s going on?” “Not too much, just have to run over for the Welcome back group. Hey, there’s a guy outside who asked _____ if we could put him up for the night. He has a dog. I don’t know anything about him, and I don’t think there are any places here that allow dogs in the motel. Anyway, I told her that I would go talk to him on my way over to the office.” “Well, I don’t know of a place either, but if you think he’s honest and really needs a place, let me know and I’ll cover the cost for the night for him.”

I ran upstairs, grabbed my book, ran back down, and thought, well this will be easy. I’ll tell the guy “there’s no place in town that allows dogs, sorry, I can’t help you, I’ll pray for you though. Bye.” Then as I rounded the corner of the Cathedral and was greeted by this large dog barking and sticking its’ tongue out toward me, a gentleman with a large unkempt beard, two huge canvas back packs and an interesting accent because he as missing some teeth it hit me.

“The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”

Gosh. What a ____ I was being. Here I was, running about doing the “Lord’s Work.” And I had no time to talk to and encounter this gentleman who was obviously uncomfortable and worn out. So, I said “Hi, I’m Corey, welcome to St. Stephen’s. How can I help you?”

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Pic from: http://www.peteearley.com/2012/11/19/what-i-learned-about-homelessness-walking-the-streets-of-georgetown/

Long story short, (because I’m already 1010 words in on this post) the gentleman was traveling from California to New York. (Yeah, big-red flags in my head.) And he needed a place to spend the night, with his big, lovable, terribly smelly but cute dog; Bear. I couldn’t help myself, this was not the normal me. I pulled out my phone, called a couple cheap motels we normally use and realized that I was right and that they did not permit dogs.

Crud. Here is this guy, who had come from Henderson that morning, took the whole day to walk over and I couldn’t do anything to help him. Then, I pulled out my phone, asked Google and sure enough there was a motel 3 miles down the road who’s manager told me they did accept dogs. The look on the man’s face as he scratched his dog’s head in the fading evening sunlight and said: “God’s blessed us again Bear, it’ll be okay” brought tears to my eyes. I told him that I had a two hour meeting, but that I would call down and reserve him a room, or I would meet him there when my meeting was done. I gave him directions like 4 times, because he was confused, said good bye, shook his hand, pat Bear on the head, and went to my meeting.

After a phone call to the motel and great welcome back group, breaking my normal routine I realized that I needed to go down to the motel and pay for this man’s room in person. So I turned up the radio, rolled the windows down and headed down Frederica. As I was nearing the motel, I saw this man with his dog walking on the opposite side of the 4-lane road. It had been an hour and fifty minutes and they still were not there. I figured at the rate they were going with the weight of his bags it’d be another 30 minutes before they got to the motel, so what did I do?

I, Corey Bruns, neat-freak, OCD, can’t handle nasty smells turned my car around and pulled over right beside them, got out said hello again, opened my trunk and said come on in, you can ride with me. WHAT THE HECK WAS I THINKING?!?!?! I don’t even let my Mom’s dog Rebel who goes to the “Spa” once a month in my car. Yet, here I was with a strange man on the side of the road, putting his bags in the trunk and letting him climb in my front seat with his smelly dog sitting on the floor-boards. This was definitely not a normal day.

So we went to the motel, the kind manager gave me a discount since the price had gone up since we talked on the phone, I signed forms, and of course the gentleman didn’t have any ID on him besides a rather wrinkled and torn piece of paper from a DMV in … California. “Dear God, I prayed. Don’t let him break things in the room, or steal things from them, and don’t let him be an escaped inmate that now knows where I live and what I drive.”

And then it came back to me:

“The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”

There I went, spouting off to God my prejudices and judgements, so instead of pulling out my company credit card so that Father could cover the cost, I pulled out some cash I received from a generous friend that day and paid for the room. As we walked out of the office, Bear, who had been barking up a storm wagged his tail and jumped up and licked the gentleman on the face, happy to see his friend again.

Then, breaking my normal-ness again, I asked: “Have you eaten? Let’s go put you and Bear in your room and then we can go get the two of you something to eat.

So, we went to Wendy’s. To a God-awful long line, where I had to step outside of myself, turn on my “normally” extra-extroverted side and make small talk for 17 minutes. (I have OCD, remember I count things.) After ordering food in the drive-up for my new friend and his dog (and discussing why bear couldn’t have the chocolate frosty) I thought, hmmm. Maybe he’ll kill me and steal my car when I drop him off. So for that, I upgraded his order to a large, to which he responded: “Lord, you always take care of us, thank-you for Corey.”

I could have smacked myself I was so angry that I had judged him…again. I slipped him my business card, and left my number on it, asking him to call me if he still has the card when he gets to New York, as I’d like to know that he made it safely. I told him that I would pray for him every day and I asked him if he would do the same for me. So I shook his hand, waved good-bye to him and Bear and drove off from the motel, wondering what the heck just happened.

It’s taken me about a week to process “what the heck happened.” I had no idea that this gentleman would come into my life on Thursday. I had no idea that my “normal-day” would be turned upside down from a large smelly hunk of fur who tried to climb up and sit in my trunk of my clean, pristine Volvo.

I had no idea that I would be so prejudiced and judgemental to a man who simply needed a helping hand on his journey to get a job that would provide for himself and his dog he had rescued along the way.

Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the Triduum. We celebrated the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, his walk on the long road to Calvary (New York), blistered feet, cuts, and scrapes, carrying his cross (2 huge canvas backpacks), and being assisted by Simon of Cyrene, who was pressed into service because others told him he was needed.

Thursday, of the Second Week of Easter was in no way a normal day for me. On Thursday, of the Second Week of Easter, I woke up and went through my day not connecting the Scriptures I had read and heard later at Mass with my life until this man entered it.

On Thursday I met a man created in the image of Jesus Christ, and his dog Bear. On Thursday, not just the Lord, but I was able to hear the cry of the poor. My Thursday was anything but normal. My Thursday caused me to grow and stretch myself beyond what I had ever done before. Why?

Because on Thursday, I met Jesus Christ and his dog.