Pilgrimage to Uniontown: A Reminder of Life’s Purpose

TIA group picFaith can be a challenging subject in our lives. It is something that is deeply personal yet challenges us into a relationship with one another. For no matter how hard we try to keep it within us, the joy that follows will always seek to be shared.

Growing up, the parish church ladies would board a bus and head off to a famous small town called “Uniontown, PA.” Upon their return they would sing songs, talk about experiences, and the best part; share their honey cake treats with the entire parish. While the parish no longer sent a bus to this sacred place, “the pilgrimage” to Our Lady of Perpetual Help as it was told to me, was one of those experiences that you just needed to participate in.

So, what did I do? With a leap of faith, I jumped in my car and headed off to the promised land called Uniontown.

They say the pilgrimage (the way getting there) is just as important as the destination. Well, they should have said that differently, because as soon as I got through half of Pennsylvania in a torrential downpour, I questioned to myself “Jerry, what are you doing?” That question sat with me as I reflected on the countless souls that traveled the same path over the years. Why was everyone heading to Uniontown? What could be so special about this place? Those questions soon revealed an answer as I laid my feet on the holy ground of Mt. Saint Macrina.

Opening my car door, the songs of praise and prayer seemed to flow through the wind and trees on top of the hill. There a small gathering of faithful prayed while I stood in silence. I was here, I had arrived at the blessed holy site of my ancestors.

But why? Why did I make this long drive to this small piece of property outside of Pittsburgh? What was I searching for? Could it be peace, after a rocky few weeks within the Catholic Church, or was I looking for the reminder of hope? Could it have been for something greater? What could have been the draw?

Holiness. That is what it had to be.

Holiness was the draw. Everywhere you went, you walked, you sat or stood, you found people around you seeking the same thing – holiness.

They came to seek deeper in their relationship with Christ, to build up their confidence in the faith, and be reminded of their true purpose as a Catholic and Christian. They came to be united in their call, and they came to be with their Blessed Mother. Could it possibly be that I came to seek the same thing? To be renewed in faith, to find a definite answer to my life’s journey?

Gazing on the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, we find the story within of how child Jesus, given visions of His passion and death, runs so fast in fear to Mary that He almost loses His shoe. However, in the embrace of his Blessed Mother, He is restored in his confidence.

I too have run to our Blessed Mother. I have run in hope of an answer, for the warm reminder that all would be well.

Life is a process. We are reminded over and over again in the life of Christ – of the challenge, the fear, the joy, and the hope in a daily surrender of our own wills and life forward. We look at Mary’s fiat (her yes) when the angel appeared and told her that she was to give birth to the son of God, yet was not married, and fearful of what people would say. How was she to explain all that was happening? How was she to trust in God’s plan?

We look even to the final moments of Christ in the night before his crucifixion “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” Matthew 26:42

Christ gives us a clear example of surrendering, sacrificing, and living for a greater purpose, not of his own, but of his heavenly fathers.

Something is always dying, and something is always giving life.
There is a beautiful story in the Gospel of St. John about Jesus’ call of the fisherman: “After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command, I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.” They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. -Luke 5:4-7

It is interesting to note how the disciples were ready to give up, yet God reached out one more time and asked them to try the other side. What do you do when it looks like there is no more hope? What do you do when you think it just is impossible to share in a relationship with one another, to be open, vulnerable, broken, hurt,…

 … forgiven, and loved.

Maybe you are sitting here thinking there is not much hope, that so much needs to be done, and that you are the only one to accomplish the task. Maybe you are sitting here thinking that you are unable to accomplish the task based on your skills, your worth, and your vision.

In those moments when you think it is impossible, those are the moments God is calling out to you saying “cast your net on the other side.”

Who are you in God’s Eyes…
Our lives and the life of the Church have many different struggles, bumps, and stops. Our natural tendency is to focus on the one problem, that blinds our focus on one thing without seeing our true image as son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father, and friend. Without realizing by the end, the focus of our image is nothing but dead a stem of a flower without any petals.

However, when we put our struggles, challenges, wants, desires into a new perspective of sacrificial love, we realize what God has seen from the very beginning. A beautiful flower. Life may show you the stem, but God shows you the fullness of your life.

You never know what God is doing in your life, so be brave in how you communicate with him. Allow hope and sacrifice to lead your journey.

This was the true message that reminded me that our Church is alive, and our true hope is in Christ through Mary. That could not have been made clearer as Bishop Milan Lach, SJ closed out his homily with the following words: ” So dear brothers and sisters, we are here. Don’t worry, Jesus Christ is with us. Don’t worry about our future of our Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States. Don’t worry. God is with us! Glory to Jesus Christ!”

Mary, A Model of Hope

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

In the Akathist, we address the Mother of God:

“O all-merciful Sovereign Lady Virgin Theotokos!”

There is much contained in these few words, much worthy of reflection, especially considering that her Dormition has just passed. This feast reminds us of her holiness, of the fact that, again as the Akathist has us sing, “[w]e behold the holy Virgin, a shining lamp appearing to those in darkness; for, kindling the Immaterial Light, She guides all to divine knowledge, She illumines minds with radiance.” Her life offers us light and consolation; her acceptance of God’s ineffable will is the mysterious gateway of our salvation. A kontakion for this feast makes this abundantly clear:

“Neither the grave nor death could contain the Theotokos, the unshakable hope, ever vigilant in intercession and protection. As Mother of life, He who dwelt in the ever-virginal womb transposed her to life.”

Mary gives us hope—both in her life and in the constant intercession that accompanies her death, her place in the Kingdom. She is all-merciful, because she loves her Son, understands that the Lord loves all people, and as last Sunday’s reading—the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen—reminds us: the Lord demands forgiveness as He forgives. She is sovereign because her “yes,” her acceptance of the Incarnate God within her own flesh, established the reign of God on the earth. In these short words from the Akathist, we embrace hope, hope in an all-loving deity who works through human beings.

Keeping up hope is central to our faith. It does not mean that we must be blandly positive. Sometimes, as with Mary’s confusion and fear upon hearing the angel’s cry, hope is difficult, confounding, even painful. Sometimes it can only be, as Marilynne Robinson writes in her novel Gilead, “hope deferred.”

To hope is to remind ourselves that God loves us, that, at bottom, His divine power will not leave us, that it guides us, even as we feel abandoned to darkness. In times of difficulty, Mary (and her Son) remain our “unshakeable hope,” allowing us to remain “ever vigilant,” even when beset by wickedness within ourselves, wickedness abounding in the world.

May we ask of the Immaculate Theotokos her “intercession and protection” to carry us through dark times; may we ask for the humility and courage to say “yes” to God’s ineffable will in a world that often seems to make it impossible to do so. May we, pray, as our ancient brothers and sisters did:

“We fly to Thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.”

May we hope.

By Chase J. Padusniak

 

“If you wish to be perfect, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…”

frassatiA man once wrote of being stopped by a stranger in the large city in which he lived.  The stranger handed the man a piece of paper and asked him how to get to the address written on it, so the man proceeded to tell the stranger to continue walking two blocks, turn right, and the address he was looking for was three buildings down from the corner.  Wanting to make sure that the stranger understood the instructions, the man asked him to repeat them to him, which he did. Satisfied that the stranger understood, the man went on his way, but he noticed that the stranger proceeded to walk in the opposite direction.  So he called out to the stranger, “Sir, you are going the wrong way, you want to go that way!” The stranger responded, “I know, I’m not ready yet.”

My brothers and sisters, might that not be what was going on in the mind of the rich, young man who went up to Jesus in today’s Gospel reading?  He had already begun his journey to God, his journey of theosis, by keeping the commandments. Yet, in his heart, he knew there was more to becoming a living icon of Christ than avoiding sin.  So he asked Jesus what he still lacked.

Jesus responded, “’If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.’ And when the [rich] young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.”

He simply wasn’t ready to move forward in his journey to God, and the Gospel gives us no indication that he ever got to the point of being willing to give up his possessions and become a perfect icon of Christ.  His attachment to his possessions simply got in the way; and he has gone through history a nameless man who is remembered for saying “no” to Jesus’s call. He was unwilling to enter into the divine life; he refused to cooperate with the grace of God.

In 1901 Pier Giorgio Frassati was born into a well-to-do family in Turin, Italy.  His father was the editor of the prominent Italian newspaper La Stampa which is published to this very day.  His father also went on to become a senator and, later on, was made ambassador to Germany. Pier Georgio’s father was agnostic.  His mother was an artist who was nominally Catholic. So he was not from a church-going family, but he heard God beckoning him nonetheless.  On his own, as a young boy, then as a teenager and young man, he spent hours in churches praying and attending liturgy. He listened to God. He studied mining engineering so that he might work among miners.  He was a mountain climber and hiker. He also had a great love for the poor and would spend his allowance to them. It’s been said that he would give his bus fare to the poor and walk instead. Pier Georgio was well known and much loved by Turin’s poor.  To them he was a saintly man.

When he was only 24, while ministering in the poor neighborhoods of Turin, Pier Giorgio contracted a form of polio that killed him in a matter of six days.  Throngs of people attended his funeral – most of them were the poor he had served so well.

Pier Georgio has been declared blessed by the Church – he is one step away from sainthood.  When his grave was opened in the early 1980s, his body was found intact and incorrupt.

The rich, young man in today’s Gospel reading and Pier Georgio are a study in contrasts.  Both were wealthy. Both were called by God to give to the poor. The similarities end there.  The rich, young man walked away sad because he was too attached to his possessions. Pier Georgio gave away his possessions with a spirit of detachment.  The rich, young man had hoped that it was enough not to physically kill his neighbor. Pier Georgio knew that, more than not killing his neighbor, the life in Christ demands that we build up the life of our neighbor.   With the coming of Christ, the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” became a call to “an attentive love which protects and promotes the life of one’s neighbor” (Veritatus Splendor).  Jesus draws out the full meaning of the commandments.  The commandments are the foundation of the life in Christ.  Keeping the commandments frees us to choose to fully embrace the life in Christ, living the supreme commandment to love God and neighbor as we love ourselves.  We are called to live a life of self-emptying love, just as the rich, young man and Pier Georgio were called. Jesus asks the same of us.

We need to fight our inclination to walk away from the fullness of the life in Christ.  We are all burdened with some degree of attachment to our wealth, whether our wealth is modest or great.   

Our beloved Saint Basil the Great was no exception.  His family had great material wealth. When he was about 23 years old, he realized that he had spent “much time” in “vanity, and had wasted nearly all of my youth…Then once upon a time, like a man roused from deep sleep, I turned my eyes to the light of the truth of the Gospel,  and I perceived the uselessness of ‘the wisdom of the princes of this world, who come to naught’…Then I read the Gospel, and I saw there that a great means of reaching perfection was the selling of one’s goods, sharing them with the poor, giving up all care for this life, and the refusal to allow the soul to be turned by any sympathy to things of earth.”

By the time he was 36, Saint Basil founded what became known as the Basiliad in response a famine that hit Casaerea.  Through his influence, many wealthy people opened their storehouses to share with the poor.

Saint Basil often preached about Jesus’s teaching to sell all you possess and give it to the poor.  He asked, “Do you say ‘teacher’ and not carry out the duties of a disciple…? You ask about eternal life, yet show yourself completely bound to the enjoyment of the present life”

Saint Basil was also very blunt: “Whoever has the ability to remedy the suffering of others, but chooses rather to withhold aid out of selfish motives, may properly be judged the equivalent of a murderer.”

My brothers and sisters, Jesus’s teaching in today’s Gospel should compel a positive response from each of us.  Sit and read this passage from Matthew 19 after the Divine Liturgy, either here or at home. Ask yourself if you are ready to take that next step, whether large or small, in detaching from one or more of your possessions in order to serve the poor.  Will your response be like that of the rich, young man? Or will it be like that of Blessed Pier Georgio or of Saint Basil? To be sure, it is difficult to detach ourselves from our materialistic culture and our material wealth, because, as Saint Basil said, we are “so completely bound to the enjoyment of this present life.’

We can all be like Saint Basil and Blessed Pier Georgio, but we must take the time to read Sacred Scripture, pray, and listen to how God is speaking to our hearts.  From which earthly possessions is he asking you to detach yourself? Pray to Saint Basil and Blessed Pier Georgio for their intercession and assistance. Look to their example for inspiration.   When you struggle to let go of something, do not be discouraged. Rather, be patient with yourself, knowing that God is merciful and loves you.

By Fr. Deacon Thomas P. Shubeck

 

Welcome!

Welcome to the official website of Theosis in Action: The Young Adult Ministry of the Eparchy of Passaic.  

Mission

Our mission is to serve Byzantine Catholic young adults from the Eparchy of Passaic and beyond as well as inquirers of goodwill by providing them with resources to grow in their faith and opportunities for fellowship as they navigate through adulthood.  Saint John Paul the Great said, “Dear young people, let yourselves be taken over by the light of Christ, and spread that light wherever you are.” Through social media and in-person events, Theosis In Action will help young adults spread the light of Christ in this secular world, inspiring this generation to learn about, defend and proclaim their faith.

Vision

 Through Theosis in Action, we hope to:

  • Reach the “Domestic Diaspora,” young people who would like to be connected in their shared faith.
  • Use modern methods of communication to reach them with interesting and inspiring content.
  • Combine virtual collaboration and interaction with periodic face to face Eparchial events.

Ask with tears, seek with obedience, knock with patience. For thus he who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.       ~St. John Climacus