Wednesday, September 10, 2014

APOSTLES OF FAITH AND HOPE IN LIBERIA



“I am a doctor visiting. John looks great. See pictures below.” “He is wonderfully well and full of joy you should be very proud” “I'll let you tell the other parents that everyone in the community seems well.”         Dr. Timothy P. Flanigan



I opened my email and those wonderful words greeted me!   A surprise message sent all the way from Liberia by an American doctor who traveled there on a medical mission.

God is so big…and technology has made the world so small…and the hearts of good people are exploding with love and I am so grateful to be a recipient of that river of grace pouring forth all the way from Liberia to New Orleans!

Sunday I spoke with my oldest son Johnny and he told me about an American doctor who met with him and the other members of Comunita Cenacolo who are caring for orphan children in Liberia.  When I hung up the phone with my son I immediately searched the internet for information about the good Dr. and I found his blog…And then lo and behold he emails me the next day.  What a gift! 

Via email I thanked Dr. Flanigan and his family for their sacrifice and their service.  His response to me says it all.  “Thanks. We have five kids too. I've copied my wife Luba who is holding down the fort and doing all the hard work with none of the credit.”

Dr. Timothy Flanigan is an Infectious Disease Specialist in Providence Rhode Island, a Catholic Deacon, and married father of five children who is on a medical mission to Liberia….Please go to his blog at http://www.timothypflaniganmd.com/?p=371 and follow how the holy spirit is guiding this gifted man in the midst of great suffering and in the face of a tremendous health risk-Ebola. 

I think about that a lot.  How some people are destined to lead others to a higher level of discipleship through their sacrificial work.  Dr. Flanigan, Johnny and all the members of the community in Liberia are modern day apostles, serving the poorest among us in response to a direct call from God.  There is no other source or reason for them to be in Liberia.  God called them-and they said yes.  In my mind, it is as simple and as powerful as that. 

I’d like to close with a portion of Dr. Flanigan’s homily about fear and faith, at this past Sunday’s Mass in Liberia.  You can read the entire homily which was posted on his blog on Sept. 8th

“What to do? What to do? What does NOT work is to deny the presence of fear. It does NOT work to try and overcome it by becoming even more and more disciplined, by working at it harder and harder, and being more and more careful. (Though there’s nothing wrong with discipline, hard work, or being careful.) But … try as we might, we cannot force away our fear, or our doubt, or our sin. It is part of our very humanness. We all have eaten the apple, and are all fallen.


“What can we do? We can literally throw ourselves into the arms of Mary and Jesus who know us better than we know ourselves. Jesus has known us since we were in our mother’s womb. We literally have to abandon ourselves into Mary and Jesus’ loving and tender arms … and we know that Mary’s arms always cradle us close to the Heart of her Son.”          Dr. Timothy P. Flanigan

Thursday, September 4, 2014

ADDICTION; HEROIN AND CRYSTAL METH OVERDOSE


One of my son’s lost an old friend to a very long battle with drug addiction. Three days before his 25th birthday he overdosed on heroin and crystal meth, two of the most lethal drug combinations and a growing threat in communities all around the country.

When I heard the news, I thought back a few years to my conversation with this young man in my living room. He had just exited another rehab facility and he was facing legal charges from crimes he committed in order to support his illegal drug habit. We were all hoping and praying that he would make it.

“I’m going to try to stay clean,” he told me. “I really want to.” “I know you do,” I replied. I encouraged him to seek additional support in a long term program like “Comunita Cenacolo” where my oldest son flourished. “I feel you need the safety, security and the spiritual support to break the chains of drug oppression that have enslaved your mind. It’s too hard to do it on your own.” He admitted he was worried because of the pull of heroin-and his history of relapse. I gave him a hug, told him I would be praying for him and then I never saw him again.

Drug addiction is a dance with the devil. It is an ugly, life sucking, soul depleting insidious dance with a force that slowly, methodically and craftily steals and destroys every human life that falls into its sinister snare.

This predator preys on our human weaknesses, pillaging our minds, destroying our destiny and pummeling the power of the almighty God who never intended for us to suffer this cunning, baffling and powerful brain disease.

You’ll be disgusted to know that Meth is made in clandestine laboratories, often in our neighborhoods, and the combination of chemicals used includes battery acid, drain cleaner, lantern fuel and anti-freeze.

Heroin (like opium and morphine) is made from the resin of poppy plants. Milky, sap-like opium is first removed from the pod of the poppy flower. The opium is refined to make morphine, then further refined into different forms of heroin.

Snorted, smoked, injected…all these illicit chemicals hi-jack the brain, and progressive, long term use leads to a physical and emotional addiction that eventually suffocates the soul. There is absolutely no redeeming quality to a fleeting drug rush that claims the life of at least one hundred people every single day. Overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, surpassing traffic fatalities, gun homicides and suicides.

We must stay vigilant and galvanize our prevention efforts because addiction is a PREVENTABLE brain disease that does not discriminate! We must educate our children, their parents and every member of our community about the growing threat from within so that we can use the arsenal of weapons available to beat this devastating plague.

And finally, we need to pray for a miracle of grace to transform and illuminate our consciousness so that we will refocus our lives and rediscover the perfect plan that awaits us…from a God of peace who loves each and every one of us unconditionally!

If you are suffering ask for help, if you love someone who is suffering seek help, if you care about a healthier, safer community please join Action Against Addiction for our 3rd annual walk4recovery in New Orleans, Saturday September 20, 2014 at the City Park Festival Grounds. www.walk4recovery.org

REWIRED, RESTORED, REAL LIFE! RECOVERY REALLY WORKS! ADDICTION IS A PREVENTABLE BRAIN DISEASE!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

HOWARD PIERRE: FAITHFUL SERVANT OF GOD!


Howard Pierre and I never met, we never even spoke to one another…and yet, he left an indelible imprint on my heart!

Through his daughter, my friend Monica Pierre, I could literally feel his faith, his charity and the soulful resiliency that carried him through the challenges of feeding, clothing and caring for his wife and five children on the earnings of a sharecropper. It must have been a daunting task every single day. But honestly, that’s not the message I heard nor is it the feeling Monica passed on.

Humble, unconditional love-that was Howard Pierre’s charism. He lived love, shared love and his legacy of love keeps on flowing even though his heart has physically stopped beating.

I became fascinated with Monica’s dad and the rest of her family after reading her book, “Found My Soul In A Sweet Potato Patch.” (monicapierrepresents.com) Mr. Pierre was a leader who successfully compelled his young children to wake up extra early every morning so they could pick sweet potatoes before going to school. He was a visionary as he encouraged each one of his children to receive a college diploma even though he dropped out of school after the second grade. And the list goes on!

To pay my respects to this amazing man and my friend, I drove two and a half hours to Church Point Louisiana, a rural community in Acadia Parish. Church Point is the shortened version of La Chapelle de la pointe de Plaquemine Brule, the name of a church the Jesuits established in 1848.

Just a few miles from my destination I stopped to ask for directions from a group of teenagers standing in front of a small grocery store. “Is this the way to Church Point?” I asked hopefully. “Yeah,” they replied reassuringly. “Bust a left and you’ll be there.” So that’s what I did. I busted a left (giggling to myself), continued driving down the winding country road and within a matter of minutes I arrived at the funeral parlor.

Monica didn’t know I was coming. “This morning I thought, I wouldn’t be surprised if I turn around and Mary Lou McCall is standing there,” she laughed as we hugged one another. I was glad I could give her something to smile about. And then I smiled.

When I walked over to the casket the sweet face of Howard Pierre smiled back at me! I kid you not. He was smiling! In death as in life he clearly radiated the peaceful integrity of his soulful personality! It was a beautiful vision!

We prayed a rosary before the funeral Mass and afterwards more than two hundred people joined the “repass” for a feast of home cooked jambalaya, smoked chicken, potato salad and several varieties of delicious cake…all prepared by members of the close knit community…And I love this-the men were in charge of the food service!

Together, we celebrated a life well lived and we gave thanks for the miracle of grace that carried Howard Pierre into our world-to inspire the hearts and souls of countless individuals whose lives have been eternally blessed for having known this faithful, trusting servant of God!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ST. MONICA, A WOMAN OF GREAT FAITH!


"St. Monica was a woman of great faith," the priest declared as he began his homily at morning Mass at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church here in New Orleans.

That’s all it took.

I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and a sudden rush of emotion as his prophetic words penetrated me to the core. “A woman of great faith,” I thought to myself as I sighed deeply. “She certainly was.” I admired her and I understood her.

St. Monica knew God intimately, and she relied on him completely. She was a woman who believed in the power of steadfast, unbridled prayer. She was a wife who kept a hopeful heart during intense and prolonged suffering at the hands of her abusive husband. And she was a mother who allowed God’s grace to carry her through the torment and pain triggered by her prodigal son.

St. Monica put her faith in God every single day…and she never took it back. She remained faithful to God, and he remained faithful to her. During 17 years of suffering, St. Monica grew her faith and as a result, God grew his grace around her. And in time, he manifested the miracle St. Monica had been praying for; the conversion of her addicted son, St. Augustine, who is now revered as one of the most influential doctors of the Catholic Church.

Yesterday I completed a novena to St. Monica which I dedicated to my five sons. I prayed for God’s intercession in their daily lives because it is my hope that each one of them will come to know the Lord intimately, powerfully and joyfully so that nothing and no one will ever get in the way of that relationship.

Like St. Monica, I am relentless in my prayer life, remaining loyal to a daily disciplined rhythm of prayer that invites grace and feeds my faith. I know no other way to make it through the rigors and rainy days of life in a world that is beautiful, yet challenging, gifted yet exhausting.

Personally I have so much to be thankful for having experienced the power of prayer through the return of the prodigal son. I have watched the resurrection of the dead and I have felt God’s amazing grace flow through me as I've navigated some pretty horrendous situations.

Through it all I have come to understand that God is completely faithful. And as St. Monica so clearly represented, when we remain faithful to him, the inevitable burdens will eventually be transformed into precious jewels of grace that will strengthen and sanctify us.

I’d like to close with these words from “Confessions” by St. Augustine….

“Too late have I loved you, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late I loved you! And behold, you were within, and I abroad, and there I searched for you; I was deformed, plunging amid those fair forms, which you had made. You were with me, but I was not with you. Things held me far from you—things which, if they were not in you, were not at all. You called, and shouted, and burst my deafness. You flashed and shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors and I drew in breath—and I pant for you. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for your peace

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

EMAIL FROM LIBERIA: EBOLA VIRUS


In 5 1/2 years I have never received an email from my son Johnny who is a member of "Comunita Cenacolo." Computers and emails are just not part of community life.

So you can imagine my surprise when I opened my email today and found a letter from Johnny-from Liberia no less! Johnny lives in a remote section of the country that is without electricity...so this email transmission is really amazing!

I am gratefully sharing his thoughts with each and every one of you in thanksgiving for your love and prayers!
GOD IS FAITHFUL!


"I want to express my gratitude to all who have interested themselves in my own safety and well being here in Liberia. Thank you for your concern. I think it’s only right to respond in some capacity and inform you of my current situation. I’ve been in Liberia as a Catholic missionary for over eight months. Here at our mission we have twenty children, some of whom are orphans and some of whom come from very difficult situations that have caused the parents to ask us for help in taking care of their children.

So when the Ebola situation became very serious, we were asked if we wanted to leave by our superiors. As of right now, all fourteen of us have elected to stay. I myself have not yet felt personally endangered. That is not to say that Ebola isn’t a serious issue, but we are taking no risks here at our community. We are taking all the precautions necessary to protect the children and ourselves.

I also had to weigh the presence of the children in my decision. I made a choice to come and serve the Liberian people, and I can’t in good conscience leave for my own safety. Without trying to sound fanatical, I’m just trying to put my faith in God right now; and I feel at peace. We are, however, also exploring every possibility for each possible scenario that may eventually present itself. For example, we are exploring the possibilities of acquiring passports for all the children in the event that we might have to flee the country. All I can say about this process is that it is very, very difficult.

Hopefully the whole Ebola situation will be under control soon. I’ve come to understand that the involvement of the international community in battling this problem is key, and I’m very proud of America and its response to this global emergency. Once again, thank you all. God bless New Orleans!"
-John F. Young III