Daily Life Archive

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A Message From Fr. Lou – Freedom!!

“Speak more to God about your children than to your children about God… The soul of the teenager is in a state of an explosion of freedom. For this reason he has a hard time accepting various counsels. So, rather than counselling him continuously and reproaching him again and again, leave the situation to Christ, to the Panayia and to the saints, asking them to bring him to reason.” Elder Epiphanios of Greece
The above quotation is one of my favorites. I offer it now as we prepare to again celebrate Independence Day. Thank God we live in a free country. We have so much for which to be thankful. The connection of the quotation that got my attention was the reference to freedom and in particular the teenage “state of explosion of freedom.” Of course we all long for freedom. God has created us to be free. Whereas anyone who has lived through those teenager years and had children who have lived or are living those years understands the challenges. It occurs to me however, that this is not just a teenage phenomenon. Whether we are children, teenagers or adults – of all ages, all too often our longing for freedom manifests itself in an immature and destructive attitude of self-centeredness and self-indulgence. St. Paul says it in this manner: “For you brethren have been called to freedom; only do not use freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself…I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust for flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; and there are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:13-18).
Immature freedom tends to desire first things of this material realm which are temporary and fleeting. Mature freedom focuses on those things which are not limited, such as “… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22) They are the fruits of the Spirit.
If we care about or love anyone, not just our children – it behooves us to “speak more to God about ‘them’ than to speak to ‘them’ about God.” Mature freedom then involves our love and care in prayer for others. To be free is to be and become a lover of God by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Freedom! As we celebrate yet another 4th of July Independence Day, let’s be thankful for the freedoms that we enjoy. Consider in our own lives if the freedom that we live out is mature or immature. By God’s Grace and our humble acceptance of His Grace may we be mature in our choices – giving and living in love for God and others.
Our Lord’s blessings,
Fr. Lou

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A Message From Fr. Lou – All You Need Is Love

If one stops for a moment to consider all of the songs written throughout the ages, without a doubt, a significant percentage would deal with love. One of my favorite Beatle’s song was “All You Need is Love”. In fact, the music and lyrics are going through my head at this very moment. And then there was the song from the musical “Carnival” that I participated in as a high school senior entitled “Love Makes the World go ‘Round”. Each of these songs conjure up romantic feelings of finding that special “someone” to share love and even life with.
If one considers the Gospels of our Lord another love verse or two immediately comes to mind. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have life everlasting.” (John 3:16). “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40). Now the “love” in the songs above is romantic or erotic love, while the love in the biblical references is “agape” or unconditional love. All that you or I do need is this love and it is this love that does indeed “make the world go ‘round”. Agape love begins with God and comes to us, then from us to Him and then to one another.
On Sunday, June 15, we celebrate Father’s Day. Why don’t we use it as an opportunity to accept our Father in Heaven’s love for us, love Him and one another with all our heart. Let’s also thank our natural fathers for their great love for us and endeavor to love them and one another with the Divine Agape love. Allow me to share the following parable entitled “The Perfect Heart” with you.
“One day a young man was standing in the middle of the town proclaiming that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd gathered and they all admired his heart for it was perfect. There was not a mark or a flaw in it. Yes, they all agreed it truly was the most beautiful heart they had ever seen. The young man was very proud and boasted more loudly about his beautiful heart.
Suddenly, an old man appeared at the front of the crowd and said “Why your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine.” The crowd and the young man looked at the old man’s heart. It was beating strongly, but full of scars, it had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in, but they didn’t fit quite right and there were several jagged edges. In fact, in some places there were deep gouges where whole pieces were missing.
The people stared – how can he say his heart is more beautiful, they thought? The young man looked at the old man’s heart and saw its state and laughed. “You must be joking,” he said. “Compare your heart with mine, mine is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears.”
“Yes,” said the old man, “Yours is perfect looking but I would never trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love – I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them, and often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart, but because the pieces aren’t exact, I have some rough edges, which I cherish, because they remind me of the love we shared. Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away, and the other person hasn’t returned a piece of his heart to me. These are the empty gouges — giving love is taking a chance.
Although these gouges are painful, they stay open, reminding me of the love I have for these people too, and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting. So now do you see what true beauty is?” The young man stood silently with tears running down his cheeks. He walked up to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart, and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man with trembling hands. The old man took his offering, placed it in his heart and then took a piece from his old scarred heart and placed it in the wound in the young man’s heart. It fit, but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges. The young man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever, since love from the old man’s heart flowed into his. They embraced and walked away side by side. How sad it must be to go through life with a whole untouched heart. “
Fathers, thank you for passing on the Divine Agape Love– albeit imperfectly to us
Let us too, pass on “love” by offering a piece of our heart.
With our Lord’s blessings,
Fr. Lou

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A Message From Fr. Lou A New Year – A New Beginning

A NEW YEAR – A New Beginning

“As sins consist mostly of malice and pride, it is necessary to treat everyone who suffers from the malady of sin with kindness and love. This is an important truth, which we often forget. Very often we act in the opposite manner; we add malice by our anger, we oppose pride to pride. Thus, evil grows within us, and does not decrease; it is not cured – rather it spreads.” (St. John of Kronstadt.)
“If we have true love with sympathy and patient labor, we shall not go about scrutinizing our neighbor’s shortcomings. As it is said, ‘Love shall cover the multitude of sins,’ (I Peter 4:8)…True love screens anything of this kind, as did the saints when they saw the shortcomings of men. Were they blind? Not at all! But they simply would not let their eyes dwell on sins.” (St. Dorotheos of Gaza).
With our entry into another New Year, we prepare for the celebration yet again of the Feast of Theophany or Epiphany, literally, “the manifestation of God,” or simply, “the manifestation.” On January 6th, our focus is upon the baptism of Jesus and the manifestation of God in Trinity, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, ”…when He had been baptized… behold the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him and suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.’ ” (3:16-17). Historically, immediately following His baptism, our Lord went into the wilderness, fasted for forty days and was tempted there by the devil. Conquering these temptations He returned to Galilee and began His three year public ministry with the words, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt.4:17)
As we begin this New Year in preparation for God’s Manifestation (Theophany) it is in the context of these words from our Lord, that I share with you the quotations from above. We understand “repentance” as a change in mind, a return if you will, to God. The outcome of that re-focus on God, is a different perspective towards our fellow humans. It involves a perspective of humility, compassion and love – emanating from God’s Grace. Humility allows us, when we see another’s sins to recognize that we too, are sinners. We have that malady as well with a constant need for soul healing from our Lord. The temptation to scrutinize another’s shortcomings will, through humility turn back to our own need for forgiveness from God. This leads to compassion. Because of our own sin – by propensity and choice – we are one with other sinners – co-sufferers if you will – “sympathoi” – in need of God. This takes us to a call from the depths of our being upon Him for help, for forgiveness, for love. And then our Lord delivers. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have life everlasting.” (Jn 3:16).
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’” (Mt.1:23)
It is the Love of God towards us that allows us to abide in the security of it’s comforting embrace – even in the midst of our shortcomings. Then we desire to love God from the depth of our being. As this love goes out from us towards God: it naturally embraces those around us; it naturally casts out the evil one who hates love; it naturally is patient; is kind; is not jealous or boastful; is not envious or rude; it naturally believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things. Love never ends. (I Corinthians 13).
A new beginning. As we begin this year of 2014, may it be a year of our Lord. In His Grace and Love may we in humility and with compassion, love Him and our neighbor as our self.
Have a most blessed and Godly New Year,
Fr. Lou

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An Attitude of Gratitude

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU

An Attitude of Gratitude

“If the only prayer you said was “thank you” that would be enough.” Meister Eckhart

The daily doxology whether read or chanted in our Orthodox Christian tradition begins, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and goodwill to all people.” This glory is an offering of thanksgiving to our God for His abundant blessings, for His Love, for His creation, for us. This doxology begins our day and sets the tone not only for each day, but for our life. The beautiful quotation above by Meister Eckhart serves to invite us to have an attitude of gratitude.
The Greek word for gratitude or Thanksgiving is “eucharistia”, or translated literally into English, “Eucharist.” The Eucharist or Holy Communion then denotes a special relationship based upon God’s agape love for us and our love offered back to God in deep appreciation. There is then a continuous and unbroken circle of love between God and us which serves to provide for us the foundation for our life. Living then in gratitude with thanks given to God and others – we live. We inhale of God’s blessings and exhale in grati- tude… and thus we live. This Eucharistic living is not only between God and us but then becomes Eucharistic living from one to another and then we are one in God.
An Attitude of Gratitude…
“Give thanks unto the Lord for He is Good and His Mercy endures forever.”
(Psalm 135/136).
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer, and let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” (Maya Angelou)
“The man who knows the delight of the love of God – when the soul, warmed by grace, loves both God and her brother – knows in part, that the Kingdom of God is within us.” (Staretz Silouan)
“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” (Thich nhat Hanh)
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” (Marcus Tullius Cicero)
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.
Have you used one to say thank you? ” (William Arthur Ward)
February 2, forty days after the celebration of our Lord’s Nativity – Christmas, we annually celebrate Jesus’ En- trance into the Temple. Historically, the Righteous Simeon took our Lord into his hands and entered into the Holy of Ho- lies within the Temple, signifying that Jesus was and is the New High Priest. The New Covenant has dawned and our Lord has entered into our presence.
May we praise Him. May we glorify Him. May we thank Him for His Divine Love and life giving presence. May we live eucharistically with a daily attitude of gratitude. Have a beautiful, blessed and Grace filled year in thanksgiving to our Lord.
With our Lord’s blessings, Fr. Lou

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Happy Ecclesiastical New Year!

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER DINO

Happy New Year!

Yes, New Year! The Ecclesiastical New Year begins
September 1, 2010.
What does that mean for you?
We have come full circle. In Church speak that means we remembered the falling asleep of the Virgin Mary in August, and on September 8th we will remember her nativity.
As we begin the New Ecclesiastical Year, the only resolution each of us must make is to make more time for Jesus. Making more time for Him means having a deeper understanding and relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the end of next year.
Therefore our theme will be a continuation of last year’s, which was “Gather my people to my home: Come and See.” This year we still invite everyone to gather to Jesus Christ’s home: His Church, but with the added resolution that each of us come and BE!
It even rhymes making it easier to remember. This year you are invited to be at St. Catherine’s. Be an active member in a ministry of your choice. Let you children be involved in the youth group of their age. Be willing to make time for the most important part of your life: Jesus Christ.

If each us of can just be the body of Christ- His Church-our Lord’s Parish of St. Catherine- it will be a blessing!

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Health Reform

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU

We have not seen a more controversial issue than health reform in our country for some time. It is the main topic of debate on many radio talk shows, Fox News and CNN. Those on either side of the debate, I believe would agree that the providing of quality and affordable health care to all within our country is one of her main responsibilities.

Allow me to focus on a different type of health reform – Spiritual Health Reform. How many times have we heard or perhaps even said ourselves, “…if you have your health you have everything.”? Our Lord and His Church throughout the centuries would of course confirm this through His compassion and countless healings of sickness, disease and ailments in His ministry and through His people. However, above these physical healings He places, of course, our spiritual health and well being. This is of no surprise for us in theory. In other words, even the most basic of Christians understand that our spiritual health, the health of our soul is of primary importance. Health of mind, body and soul are intricately woven together, but our primary focus is health of soul. In our Lord’s own words, “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is life not more than food and the body more than clothing…? But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all this shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:25, 33). Or remember Jesus’ healing of the paralytic man that was lowered down through the roof to Jesus by his friends? Upon seeing their faith Jesus said to the Paralytic, “son, your sins are forgiven.” The scribes and others with them upon hearing Jesus, complained that only God can forgive sins to which Jesus responded by healing the man to show that his sins were forgiven also and first showing the primacy of this dimension of health. (Mark 2:1-12)

In the midst of the great health reform debate that we find ourselves, why not take this opportunity to focus on your own spiritual health reform? Allow me to offer a few concrete suggestions:
1. Dedicate your life more fully to Christ. Accept His love for you (John 3:16), and love Him and your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:37-39). Daily think of concrete ways of loving God by loving others – a kind word here, a prayer there, a monetary offering to help over there, are a few suggestions.
2. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mt. 6:33). Put God and His kingdom first in your daily life. Begin and end each day with a thanksgiving prayer. Read His word, the Bible, daily. It is like daily food or vitamins.
3. Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. (Mt. 4:17). To be a “holy one” (a-yi-os in Greek) means to be in the world but not of the world. Repentance is about walking in a different direction than worldly directions such as desiring fame, fortune, and being self-centered. Be God-centered and humble as you relate to others!
4. Forgive! If you forgive man their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not… either will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6:14-15). We tend to justify ourselves when we have a conflict with another. That’s our pride—not humility talking. That’s the world’s way.
5. Be humble! Remember the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. “…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
6. Take advantage of the Religious Education classes for the adult, the “School of the Seventy”, and the personal journaling questions offered weekly.
7. Participate in the Church – the sacramental presence of our Lord with His people.

I respectfully offer these suggestions with a sincere hope and prayer that they can help in reforming our spiritual health and wellbeing.

With our Lord’s blessing, Fr. Lou

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“Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God!” Matthew 6:33

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU

This September 1, 2009, marks the 25th time that our St. Catherine Parish has begun a new Ecclesiastical Year. With the overall theme of “Every Generation”, marking our Silver Anniversary as a Parish, we have chosen our Religious Education theme for the year: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:33)

Please join Father Paul, Father Dino, Our Ministry Leader and me in beginning each day in prayer, thanking our Good Lord for His love, grace and Divine presence in our lives. Let us place one another in God’s care and protection. In a world that seems less and less focused on our Lord, let us endeavor to focus more and more upon Him.

• Begin and end each day in Thanksgiving for God’s love and grace
• Love God, love others, love yourself
• Be humble
• Forgive and ask for forgiveness
• Be compassionate, “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn!” Romans 12:15
• Be kind
• Be patient with others and yourself
• Be peacemakers

Allow me to conclude with the following thought :
“God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. Yes, I do love GOD. He is my source of existence and my Savior. He keeps me functioning each and every day. Without Him, I am nothing, but with Him I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)”
Have a blessed and grace filled Ecclesiastical Year, Seeking first the Kingdom of God.

With our Lord’s Blessings,

Fr. Lou

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“SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD”

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU

The greatest sermon of all time, “The Sermon on the Mount” is recorded in Matthew, Chapters 5-7 and delivered by our Lord to His disciples and a great crowd of onlookers. In Chapter 6, verse 33 of this sermon, our Lord Jesus reminds us that the proper focus of life is on the Kingdom of God. When we focus on our Lord, everything else will fall into place.

At our Clergy/Laity and Philoptochos Congress in the Summer of 2008, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios chose the theme, “Gather My People to My Home.” He then challenged all Parishes to endeavor to reach out and include all Orthodox and those interested in our Orthodox Faith. We therefore have made some changes outlined below in order to assist each of you in your faith commitment .

We look to begin our New Ecclesiastical year, September 1, with a renewed commitment of our lives to our Lord. “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God”, is the theme of our Orthodox walk in general and this year in particular, our focus for Religious Education. For two years we have used an interactive teaching model for our early childhood and primary children that was taught on either Wednesday evenings or Sunday mornings. We have decided this year to once again have ALL of our Religious Education classes for children on Sunday mornings. We will continue our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Curriculum for the Preschool and Kindergarten age group and augment our curriculum for older children.
There are several changes in the Sunday Schedule which are listed below:

8:15am – Orthros
9:20am – Doxology
9:30am – Divine Liturgy
10:35 -11:35am – Church School For Children (Leave after Holy Communion)
11:10 – Coffee Hour

Please note that the biggest change is not only going back to Sundays, but having Church School AFTER rather then before Divine Liturgy, and that Liturgy will begin at 9:30am all year round, rather than only in the summer months.
Please do your very best to get to Divine Liturgy at 9:30am with your children. We plan to have a short sermonette for them after the Gospel. The children with their teachers will be the first to receive Holy Communion and proceed directly to their classes at 10:35am. The adult sermon and extra services will happen at the end of the Liturgy after which adults will proceed to Coffee Hour and shortly thereafter classes will be dismissed.

Wednesday Fellowship Nights will not have religious education for children. We will, however, continue to have classes for adults (the schedule will be posted in August) and babysitting will be available. We are exploring other activities for children on Wednesday nights and GOYA will have Basketball practices in the fall.

We also look forward to beginning a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-per-week Internet Radio Program in conjunction with OCN (Orthodox Christian Network). We intend to weekly highlight a Gospel reading and the life of a saint for the spiritual growth of our parishioners.

The Church School registration form is on page 5 (also available on our website); please send it back to the Church Office (Attn: Alina Buzdugan) by August 15. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, Fr. Dino or Suzanne Magerko.
Let us begin this Ecclesiastical year “Seeking first the Kingdom of God.”

With our Lord’s Blessings,

Fr. Lou

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Humility and Childlikeness

What does it mean to be a devout and committed Christian?  What is at the very core of our approach to and relationship with God?  Allow me to answer these questions with a quotation from our Lord.  “ At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, ‘Who then is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’  Then Jesus called a child to Him, set him in the midst of them and said, ‘Assuredly I say to you unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Mt.18:1-5).

Who do we honor in this life?  Typically we honor entertainers, athletes, the wealthy, politicians, CEO’s of corporations, successful, accomplished men and women.  They are often motivated, hard working, self-sufficient, and articulate.

Who do we honor in our Orthodox faith?  We hold up as examples and honor after our Lord, the saints.  Without a doubt, many of the saints were gifted with similar qualities as those possessed by the “idols” of our times.  However, the saints accomplished something that few have.  They were “converted” and became as little children.  Now, that does not mean that they were childish, with the immaturities of childhood.  What it does mean is that they were childlike, with a purity of faith, trust and love for God.  It means that they were humble and always ready to learn, never looking at themselves as better than another, seeing that anything good that they did was as a result of God’s Grace and not their own.  This childlikeness was something that they, through humility had to re-learn.  They were “converted” to this attitude of life.  Since after the Fall of humankind our tendency is to rely on our self and not God.  Most of the “great ones” honored in our world, with our fallen tendencies focus on their accomplishments and possessions.  A “converted one” learns to direct any good away from self and towards God.  The truth is that in my experience, even within the Church this is not easily accomplished.  More times than not our attitudes are not “converted”.  This is the main reason why petty differences and power struggles occur everywhere.  Our own egos keep us from this childlikeness and humility.  In our circles, this applies to clergy and laity a like.

Our Lord tells us, “…it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  (Mt. 19:24).  This reference specifically is towards wealthy people.  However in principle “wealth” can refer to anyone who thinks of him or herself as great or at least greater than another, when essentially we are nothing without God.  Tito Colliander in his book, Way of the Ascetics, says, “The holy Fathers say with one voice: the first thing to keep in mind is never in any respect to rely on yourself…This decision not to rely on self is for most people a severe obstacle at the very outset…For how can a human being receive advice, instruction and help if he believes that he knows and can do anything and needs no directions?” (pg. 4).

How then can we “convert” to this childlikeness?  Step I is to, in humility recognize in our heart’s depths God’s incredible love for us.  “ God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (Jn 3:16).  He loved and loves us even though we are not perfect.  Step II is to strive to love God as first and foremost in our lives—above self, parents, spouse, children—everyone.  We have a challenge in our maturation process to learn to depend on God attitudinally as a child depends upon a parent.  I emphasize maturation because this assumes adult responsibility to do things that we ourselves can do and to not wait on our parent (God) to do them for us.  When we do them, however we do them for His Glory and not for our own satisfaction and glory.  Step III is to love others and learn to not focus on their limitations but rather to focus on God’s grace within them.  After all, if God loves us in our imperfection, it stands to reason He loves others as well.   Step IV is to be ever vigilant and not let one’s guard down.  Our fallen tendency is always there until our final breath with temptation lurking in the shadows wanting us to rely on self, thus judging others and even God as inadequate to direct or guide us.

In Humility and like a little child, let us submit to our Lord and God and Savior Jesus our whole life so that through God’s Grace and Strength we may live in His Presence and enter into the kingdom of heaven.

In Christ,

Fr. Lou