The Stop Drop and Pray Network
Mike lost touch with the faith during college and only reverted back about a dozen years ago. For most of that time he attended daily Mass, but was not active in any other formal church activities.
All that changed 2-years ago beginning with a long weekend in Stockbridge, MA. A set of "very odd coincidences" conspired to prepare Mike for Marybeth's unexpected invitation to be "all in" immediately upon his return.
The Divine Implications of Christ's Agony
This morning, during prayers, I had a frightening understanding I had missed in the past.
Christ walked on this earth fully man and fully divine. I have always related to the history of Jesus Christ the man, but had missed the implications of the true sacrifice the divine Jesus Christ made as He shared His physical life with us on earth.
As the time for Christ's passion neared his sacrifice as a man would be to suffer and die for us. I saw that. But what I missed was as His passion approached Christ knew His divinity obligated Him to experience His Passion not just as mortal physical being but also as a divine being outside human limitations of time and space.
As physical beings our suffering ends at death. But Christ knew His Passion would continue into His divinity. The passion of Christ isn't ancient history, it continues today. The Roman soldiers that repeated scourged the body of Christ 2,000 years ago have been replaced by me scourging the body of Christ with my sins, especially my sins of omission. Christ's sacrifice for us was AND IS far greater than I had ever imagined. Now I'm just beginning to understand the gift of his continuing sacrifice.
Christ allows us the option to focus on His divine suffering rather than our far less significant earthly sufferings. By focusing on His suffering He allows us to participate in His redemption rather than having to figure out our own redemption.
Christ's forgiveness isn't just some type of intellectual exercise. Like the Romans who tore him apart 2,000 years ago he continuously asks the Father to forgive us for the pain we are causing him today. He doesn't require us to stop inflicting all pain. He knows our limitations. But He does ask us to recognize how we hurt Him with our ungodly actions and omissions. He asks us to seek His forgiveness to allow Him the comfort he receives from the Father for forgiving our sins.
The love of the Father for the Son is sustained by Christ's continued acceptance of the pain of our sins. The love of the Father for the Son's continuous sacrifice is evidenced as the light of the Holy Spirit that spills over to us.
Only Christ's continuous Passion holds the divine portal open for sinners. Christ doesn't forgive our sins in the abstract. Christ forgives us for the pain we are inflicting on Him today.
This is so very personal.
Jesus I trust in you.
It's Not School
Don’t treat the Faith Circles and the Bible Study like school. Yes, there are books, reading and a few video lectures, but the goal isn’t the acquisition of information. The goal is enhancing your personal relationship with truth and the Source of truth.
As you read do not attempt to acquire knowledge. Rather, look for resonance with what you know is right. Resonance is the gentle teaching of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is your guide to life both here and life here after.
We are all on a journey from who we are to who God created us to be. Nothing hastens that journey more than maintaining a thirst for truth. Whether you are studying the Bible or participating in a Faith Circle
always look for the Holy Spirit to be your real teacher and your real guide.
The list on the left highlights attributes that helped you learn in school. The list on the right highlights inspired attributes that will help you see by the light of the Holy Spirit:
Feeling Good Being Good
I am I AM
Be Strong Be Strengthened
Outside in Inside Out
The world today is filled with darkness and light. Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth that’s hidden in the darkness as well as in the light.
Rejoice when times are hard and when times are easy. With the inspired mentoring of the Holy Spirit the truth of every experience, whether joyful or sorrowful, can move you closer to the person God created you to be. Nothing else matters in this life.
Don’t complicate salvation. Simply remain in awe of the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Allow that love to pass through you and on to others.
Adventures with Mary and the Graces of the Divine Mercy
Recently different parts of my life converged around Mary and the Divine Mercy. I’ve told this story several times at different St. Raphael meetings. One group leader asked me to write it down so others could hear about it. This is my attempt to describe what I regard as a series of graces derived from the Divine Mercy.
Back to the Catholic Faith
About a dozen years ago I was a lapsed Catholic just starting to go back to Sunday Mass and spending time watching ETWN - Catholic television. At 3:00pm every day ETWN aired the Divine Mercy Chaplet from the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. I had lived in Massachusetts and knew about Stockbridge, but not about the shrine. One year I was spending part of my Massachusetts vacation with Jim, a Protestant minister friend. We were driving near Stockbridge and decided to visit the shrine. We both enjoyed it. We returned again and again making it an annual pilgrimage. We learned we could stay in a guest house, attend daily Mass with the chaplet at 3:00pm. We would visit Our Lady of Mercy Oratory in the evening. We lit candles in the Grotto.
As a Catholic I was naturally drawn to the Shrine. But I was amazed how much the shrine meant to my minister friend who didn’t have any experience with the Catholic faith. On one occasion Jim even made a weekend trip to the shrine with his son.
My Mom’s Cancer
My mom lived in Massachusetts. Every day I called her from Florida. One day she called me in the morning to tell me she thought she was in a lot of trouble. She said her physician called her into his office unexpectedly. He told her a recent test revealed my mom had ovarian cancer. The cancer had spread throughout her abdomen. Surgery was scheduled, but when the surgeon saw the extent of the cancer he decided to end the operation.
Despite being inoperable my mom did well and maintained an active life-style. She was very outgoing and admired by friends for the interest and compassion she showed to others. Most of our daily phone conversations were about her caregivers, but also the families of her caregivers. She listened and appreciated every detail of the people who crossed her path. She repeated those details to me.
Well into the second year of her diagnosis I was attending daily Mass at St. Paul’s. I had scheduled a trip to see my mom, but there were early indications she was not doing well. I spoke to a St. Raphael’s friend about my mom and her condition after each daily Mass. She urged me to reschedule my trip and go up to see my mom as soon as possible.
I know I was ignoring her advice not just because my trip was only just over a week away, but I didn’t want to acknowledge this was probably the final stage of my mom’s disease. Finally my friend was not going to let my denial go on any longer. After the Monday morning Mass we prayed the Miraculous Medal Novena and I met my friend in front of St. Paul’s church. Immediately she started to say she thought I MUST see my mother but something caused me to crouch down toward a crack in the cement.
As I was crouching I thought I was being disrespectful to my friend, but as I got closer to the crack in the pavement I saw a tiny object that I reached to pick-up. As I stood-up I saw the object was a very small Miraculous Medal. It was about the size of my small fingernail. Both my friend and I were in awe. There was no way I could have seen the object while standing over it. My friend told me she could see my hands glowing as I stood up with the medal in my hand. I went home and booked an immediate flight to see my mom.
I had four great days with my mom. We spoke about how she met my dad and how he was the only person she knew who had $20 bills. I told her about the medal and she asked me to pin it to her blouse. She wore that medal the rest of her life.
I returned to Florida with my original trip back to Massachusetts scheduled in just a few days. But my mom declined rapidly. My sisters took her to the hospital and from there she was directed to hospice. The day before my flight my sister called to tell me mom was not doing well. The nurses thought she would not make it more than a day or two. My friend from morning Mass suggested I have the Divine Mercy Chaplet said for my mother. I called my two sisters and they downloaded the prayer and went into my mom’s room to say it with her.
The Divine Mercy Chaplet
At this point my mother was having trouble with fluids and the hospice nurse needed to stay with her, but out of respect for the prayer the nurse stood just outside the closed door to my Mom’s room. The exact instant my sisters completed the prayer the nurse’s cell phone started to play a hymn she had downloaded two weeks before but had never listened to.
The nurse was embarrassed almost to the point of tears. Her cell phone was locked. There was no reason for that phone to have made a sound. She tried to silence the phone as she walked into my mom’s room, but nothing she did interrupted the hymn. The hymn that was playing on the nurse’s phone was, “Be Not Afraid”.
The nurse walked into the room apologizing, but soon everyone, including my mother, recognized what was happening. Despite the seriousness of my mom’s condition there was much rejoicing.
My Mom’s Death
Hours later my mom died - just a few hours before the flight I had scheduled long ago to visit her. If I hadn’t found that medal I’m sure I would have ignored the advice of my friend. I would have lost quality time with my mom.
After arriving back in Massachusetts my first stop was to see my mom in the funeral home. I removed the medal pinned to her blouse and kept it in my pocket until I found a chain in my mom’s apartment. I then began wearing the medal around my neck.
Before the funeral each of the family members found other Marian medals throughout my mom’s apartment. All family members wore a medal to her funeral.
So many people turned out to see her funeral. She was an amazing person who just thrived to the end on her interest and openness to others.
My Fr. Michael Gaitley Adventure
Last summer my minister friend Jim invited me to Concord, New Hampshire to attend his retirement party. After 44 years he was retiring from the ministry. I had planned to fly up before Halloween and attend the retirement and return a few days later. We both thought about stopping by the Shrine in Stockbridge, but we weren’t sure we could fit it into the tight schedule.
One evening I was getting ready for a St. Raphael’s men’s group meeting. Just as I was about to get into the shower Jim called me to ask if I could make an appointment to see Fr. Michael Gaitley if we made the trip to Stockbridge. I knew Fr. Gaitley because I had completed the “33 Days to Morning Glory” retreat at St. Paul’s more than a year before. But he was just a name I recognized. I hadn’t heard his name in more than a year. But I did know he was a very popular author and really busy.
Jim said he wanted some spiritual direction after his retirement. I told Jim it’s nearly impossible to schedule time for spiritual direction with a Catholic priest. I asked him if he thought I had some kind of special “in” with Fr. Gaitley because I was Catholic. But since I was late for the men’s meeting I told Jim I would call him back.
I didn’t know how he knew Fr. Gaitley or exactly why he wanted to see him. But in the back of my mind I was wondering if Jim had an interest in converting to the Catholic faith and wanted to talk to a priest about it. It would be more convenient for him to do so after retiring as a Protestant minister.
As the men’s group meeting opened Tom Andry held up his cell phone and announced he was going to open the meeting with a blessing from a priest. The speaker on his cell phone announced, “This is Fr. Michael Gaitley”. I was stunned.
Julie, a parishioner, was also in Stockbridge so after the men’s group meeting I called Jim and said I would send Julie an email to ask if she could pass his request on to Fr. Gaitley - just in case he had time to meet with Jim.
I didn’t hear from Julie for a couple of days then I received an email that said, “I’ll check.” As a week or so went by I was increasing embarrassed for taking advantage of Julie. I didn’t know when I made the request that she was heading a national effort with Fr. Gaitley and was probably just as busy as he was. One day I saw Julie at morning Mass. I apologized for sending the request, but she told me she did pass it on to Fr. Gaitley’s assistant. That was such good news I texted Jim and told him to book a place for us at the Shrine. He did so immediately.
About three days before I left to visit Jim in New Hampshire Fr. Gaitley’s assistant emailed Jim to tell him Fr. Gaitley would meet with him and had allocated 90-minutes for a one-on-one meeting. I was shocked. But glad we had scheduled a room at the shrine.
Jim’s retirement party was on Sunday November 1st. The next day we traveled to Stockbridge and arrived about two hours before our scheduled meeting with Fr. Gaitley. We visited the church and walked the bronze statues recently erected for an outside Stations of the Cross.
I told Jim I would spend time outside in the Shrine so he could meet privately with Fr. Gaitley. But Jim insisted I go to the meeting with him. We arrived early and while we were waiting I asked Jim why he wanted to schedule this meeting. His answer was unnerving.
Jim told me one of his Catholic friends who he met at Dunkin Donuts said if you are going to the shine you should look up Fr. Michael Gaitley. That’s it? Fr. Michael Gaitley was walking toward us for a 90-minute appointment and this all came about because of someone Jim met at Dunkin Donuts! Now I’m really embarrassed and really nervous.
Fr. Gaitley met us and walked us though the printing press area and up to his office on the second floor. We all sat down and Fr. Gaitley looked at Jim and said, “OK, why are you here.”
To my amazement Jim immediately said he was a Protestant minister who was retiring and he wanted to bring the message of the Divine Mercy to Protestants. What!
Apparently that was just what Fr. Gaitley wanted to hear and what transpired over the next 90-minutes was nothing should of amazing. Fr. Gaitley did most of the talking. He spoke about his plans for bringing Protestants into a firm relationship with Mary, but his words were speaking to us spiritually. During those 90-minutes he answered every spiritual question I had without specifically talking about any of them.
As Fr. Gaitley was speaking he would stop a second to look up and then returning to speaking with each word having a huge spiritual impact. It was as if he was downloading graces and distributing them to us. It was truly amazing!
The time went by in an instant. Fr. Gaitley invited us to go to the Marian Missionaries house and said he would hitch a ride with us. As we were descending the fire escape outside his office I remarked it was going to take months to process what had gone on in his office.
Fr. Gaitley gave us a tour of the missionary house and showed us the statue of Mary that had just been delivered. After the tour he invited us to a private Mass that he said in a back room. During the Mass I noticed Jim making the sign of the cross.
When the Mass was complete Fr. Gaitley invited Jim and I out to dinner. He suggested Jim drive us to Lee where we could eat at Joe’s Diner. If you are familiar with the Norman Rockwell painting called “Runaway” it was the same diner where the Massachusetts State Trooper eyes a child runaway sitting on the stool next to him.
Joined by My Mom
Jim’s retirement was Sunday November 1st, All Saints Day. Our dinner with Fr. Gaitley was the next day, All Souls Day. As we waited for dinner to be served I told Fr. Gaitley about the Miraculous Medal story involving my mom. I also told him about the grace of the “Be Not Afraid” hymn immediately after the Divine Mercy prayer – just hours before my mom died.
I asked Fr. Gaitley if he would bless the medal and he said he would be honored to and would do the blessing when we returned to the missionary house.
Once in the house I handed him the medal and he looked at it closely. It’s a very small medal and the image was hard to see because of all the time it spent outside, but Fr. Gaitley turned a bit white and looked at me and said, “This isn’t a Miraculous Medal. This is Our Lady of Guadeloupe.” At first I was embarrassed about failing to see recognize the image, but later on, I heard about Fr. Gaitley’s encounters with Our Lady of Guadeloupe and everything made sense.
It seems Fr. Gaitley was having a dry spell and he asked his young audience to pray for him. They seemed very restless so Fr. Gaitley became more adamant and at that exact moment a picture of Our Lady of Guadeloupe dropped from the wall crashing to the floor. The point was made to everyone in the room.
After the blessing Jim and I accepted Fr. Gaitley’s invitation to attend the first session of “33 Days to Morning Glory” that was taking place in the missionary house. We both did separate small groups and Jim grew hungry for more information about Mary.
Traveling Back Home
We left the shrine the next morning after the 11:00am Mass for employees. We were exhausted. On the drive home I asked Jim why he told Fr. Gaitley he wanted to spread the message about the Divine Mercy among Protestants. Jim told me he had no memory of saying any such thing. He didn’t remember what he had said. His mind was blank.
We made it back to New Hampshire where I showered and got a few hours of sleep before my 6:10am flight back to Tampa.
As we drove to the airport I recognized I forgot the medal. I had taken it off to shower and neglected to put it back on. I was kicking myself for being so careless, but soon realized the medal may be exactly where it was meant to be.
I told Jim to keep the medal and find a good place for it. He decided to drape the medal over his favorite cross he displayed in his living room.
Marybeth's Personal Invitation
When I returned to St. Rephael’s the miracles kept coming. The next miracle happened the very day I returned to my daily Mass routine.
I had never formally met Marybeth. But as I was praying before Mass Marybeth felt compelled to interrupted my prayer (something she never does) to introduce herself. She asked me if I was interested in attending a “33 Days to Morning Glory” Faith Circle. I told her I had just returned from the Shrine in Stockbridge where I had met with Fr. Gaitley and had attended the first session with him. She didn’t know what to make of it – either did I.
Although I lectored and attended morning Mass I didn’t know St. Raphael’s had Faith Circles. I eagerly joined and told my story there and at several other meetings I was invited to attend. I have since lead several groups.
My friend Jim completed his Consecration to Mary with St. Raphael’s materials and podcasts. In fact Jim, while still a retired Protestant minister, has completed each of the Hearts Afire programs and has applied to be a Marian Missionary of Divine Mercy.
Jim still has the medal, blessed by Fr. Michael Gaitley, hanging on his cross. He draws great inspiration from it. He’s not sure where this journey will take him, but the graces continue to flow in his life as well.
And for me, I guess I thought that medal was mine, a keepsake for the memory of my mother. But now I realize the medal has its own mission. Its graces were not meant to be held, but rather to be passed on. That was a big lesson and my motivation for writing this down for you
But I will always treasure the quality time with my mom, the grace of the “Be Not Afraid” hymn and Fr. Michael Gaitley’s blessing of my mom’s medal on All Souls Day.
God bless you,
“Be not afraid.
I go before you always.
Come follow me.
I will give you rest.”