Be Not Afraid; To Become a Saint: A Reflection

Be Not Afraid; To Become a Saint: A Reflection

I find myself getting old, far too old I think to become a saint. I don’t have enough time. Age has come upon me faster than I ever thought possible. Is that realization some measure of wisdom that comes with age or is it merely a recognition that what I want to accomplish in my life has increasingly fewer days left? A pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a major item on my bucket list, suddenly seemed a bit more urgent.
 

So here I am, walking down the steps to touch the cave wall that was the home of Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. An unbelievable emotion comes over me. I feel tears streaming down my face and a sense that there are steps in my journey of faith that may not yet be over. I have this overwhelming sense of awe in the love for God that our Blessed Mother Mary had. She was little more than a child, but she had the faith and courage of a lion. Her simple question to the Angel Gabriel was “How can this be, since I have no husband?” Though young, she would have known that if found with child she could have been stoned. Yet her faith and trust in our God was such that she was prepared to give her life. Her answer was simple and complete; “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.” She didn’t see ahead to the raising of a Son, the boy that was to become the new Adam, the saviour of the world. She didn’t see to the horror and pain of watching that Son be crucified in a most horrible death. She didn’t see that she would be assumed into heaven and become the Blessed Mother of all of us. She didn’t see she would continue to appear to her children in locations throughout the world; Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, Medjugorje and so many others. She didn’t see her future pain and her future glory, and that makes her yes to God so remarkable.
 
And what of Saint Paul? Approaching Damascus, he was struck by a brilliant light that blinded him. He was as helpless as a child and had to be led by the hand into the city. His original plan was to round up all the Christians and bound in chains they would be led back to be slain. God had other plans and Saint Paul spent the rest of his life discovering and living God’s answer to the one question he asked, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
 
God calls each of us for his purpose and we are instruments for his greater glory. Not often does it come with the appearance of an angel or a brilliant blinding light. Most often it comes in the quiet voice that calls us or the gentle nudge we often feel to act or respond to defend and evangelize our faith.
 
I have felt God nudge me a number of times in my life. Sometimes I answered yes, but more often I think I answered no, often by not acting. That response was usually due to my own insecurities or fear that I might not be liked or accepted if I took a position that was contrary to the current world view. Then there are all the times when I am so busy with my own life that I am not even paying attention. It seems I have a number of great excuses to turn a deaf ear to God’s nudge.
 
The first excuse I liked to use was; “I need clarity. How do I know this is really God’s will?” At one point I was so afraid of what I felt God calling me too that I asked for a specific sign. Instead of the specific sign, he showed me I was afraid to trust him to provide the graces I needed to follow his request of me. What was missing was the courage I needed to take the next step. Often, we feel we need to have it all figured out and if we cannot see the end we should not start. It is important to realize that the only thing we need to do is to take that first step. When I look back at the times I said no to God, the clarity I sought was there. I just needed to trust that he would also give me the graces I needed to follow the path he had set out.
 
The other great excuse is the fear of asking God the same question St. Paul asked; “Lord, what do you want me to do?” Even I know, that if I ask, I will probably get an answer. That is scary! What if He wants me to do something I don’t want to do? In my selfish ways I inadvertently convince myself that it is better to close myself off to God’s call than be pushed to do something that might cause anguish in my life and disturb the comfort zone I long to be in.
 
Touching these cave walls makes me realize that we are never too old to become a saint. Every soul belongs to God and all things are possible with God. All we have to do is to trust and have the courage to take that first step, only the first step. Each and every morning we must pray and ask; “Lord, what do you want me to do?” The path to sainthood is to pray for the graces and the courage to say yes to the answer.
 
Blessings to you all,
John Paul

What is a Saint?

What is a Saint?

The theme for this years conference is “Be Not Afraid..To Be A Saint! What is a Saint and why do we want to become one? According to the Oxford dictionary 1. A person acknowledged as holy or virtuous and regarded in Christian faith as being in heaven after death. 1.1 A person of exalted virtue who is canonized by the Church after death and who may be the object of veneration and prayers for intercession. The Church has declared over 10,000 to be saints worthy of veneration and models of exalted virtue. That said, I am not sure that the virtue of humility allows us to strive to be a recognized saint within the church. The goal with which we want to challenge the men is getting themselves and those around them to heaven.

 

This week I have had reason to ponder this challenge to its depths. It started with our daughter asking us to pray for the lady she was looking after as she was not doing well. We were able to pray rosaries and the chaplet of Divine Mercy for this lady before she passed on Monday at the age of 63. Then on Tuesday I found out that a young man was murdered who is the brother of my son’s best man and my other two sons are friends with the youngest brother.  This came as a punch in the gut for my boys as they grieved with their friends. Details are still coming but it appears from the family he was coming to the aid of someone else and was shot. Then on Wednesday late in the day I learned that Sam Stambene had died of a heart attack on his way home from school. Sam had coached all 3 of my sons in football and we had worked together as both a volunteer coach and in working with youth at risk over the years. This one seemed to hit like a sledgehammer, as Sam is a few years younger than me and I had known Sam the most out of the 3 people that had passed away within the same week.

 

With society talking about toxic masculinity I would set Sam as an icon of what we promote at our conferences.  He loved his family greatly and he gave of himself for the good of the community. Sam coached over a 1000 young men during his life.  What I respected about him was that he promoted authentic manhood. He pushed the young men to work together and sacrifice for a common goal. He taught self control and discipline with the vision of football being the ultimate team game (I would argue with him that it was rugby). I remember working the sticks on the sideline one game and the game was quite heated. The other team was yelling and swearing when one of the Browns players started to swear back from the sideline to the other team.  Sam and his cousin Joe confronted the player and had him doing push-ups to remind him that Browns don’t play like that. Another time I was working with a youth at risk who missed the try-outs and after some discussion Sam gave him a second chance and worked with him. That young man had missed 60% of grade nine but because the work Sam did with him, he only missed one day of his first semester of high school due to illness before his family moved away. I was so impressed with the years of his coaching I had witnessed that I nominated him a few years back for the NFL youth coach of the year. I could tell many more stories from the football field but I want to focus on Sam’s smile. He always had one every time you saw him. He always brought joy into a person’s day and he will be truly missed.

 

Back to being a saint: There are many ways to get there. Ultimately we count on God’s mercy whether it be the suffering which my daughter’s lady endured prior to her death,  or the sacrifice of Jordan Moore trying to help another citizen which ended his life (Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends). Then there is Sam, who gave 1000’s of hours for the young men of Calgary.  I remember talking to him about God Squad having a BBQ recognizing coaches for what they do.  He stated that there was nothing in place for that, and all he had received was a $6 cafeteria chit. It was obvious that he was not doing this for worldly riches or recognition.  So I pray that he hears these words ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’  Then we will have a patron saint of football!

 

Register at for this years conference https://godsquad.ca/

Financial assistance is available!

 

Sean Lynn

God Squad President

“For such a time as this”

“For such a time as this”

It is interesting times that we find ourselves in, with a Canadian government that won’t allow money to be given to any Catholic charity that want to hire a summer student but won’t/can’t check the box to say they support abortion. We have a provincial government that attacked the Catholic School Board for even investigating the right to teach human sexuality from a Catholic perspective, accusing us of teaching that rape is okay.  We have a new masculinities studies program at the U of C that seem to blame hetro-sexuality for the #MeToo problem. We have a Prime Minister that has a problem with the word “mankind”! These are are all very troubling problems that we must face and work to resolve. That being said it troubles me a great deal to see what’s going on inside our church. How many Sunday masses are there, where it is only women serving on the altar to assist the priest, to do the readings and girls the altar servers. Recently I have witnessed baptisms where there are no Godfathers present.  The question I find myself asking is why? Is there no man in the lives of these families that stands out as a godly man, that they would like to ask to be the Godfather to their child.  Are there no boys serving on the altar because they do not see any men serving within the church?  Is there a shortage of priests because we have not encouraged our young men to discern and follow that path.

 

I remember a young women asking a question many years ago at our parish retreat.”Where are the Catholic Heros?”  That was an excellent question which I took to heart.  We know watching our kids grow up that they mimic what they see. Do our young men witness men being an active part of the church.  How many are ready to step up and step out to be seen?  There are places in the world where the men have died to practice their faith. Here where we have had the freedom to practice our faith openly for over a century. With this freedom we continue to take it for granted to the point where many have come to believe that it’s Mom’s job to deal with all matters pertaining to faith. We confused liberty, which is a painful and amazing ascent, with the liberties of unconstrained where we rush down without any hope.1

 

We need to begin teaching our young men virtues over values. Having good values is a fine thing, but the battle of morality is not so much about knowing what is right as it is doing what is right.  The difference between wanting to do the good and actually doing it is tremendous.2

Fr. Jerome will be talking about this subject at this years conference; “WANTED: Men of Virtue Warring Against a Culture of ‘Values’” . Fr Raymond d’Souza will help us recognize where we stand today with his talk; Living Time So That We Know When It Is Such As This”. Fr. Cristino will challenge our young men at the conference with his talk “What Were the ’90’s’?: Speaking Truth to a New Generation”.

 

You can start by assessing where God is calling you to serve in your home and your parish. I want to challenge you to consider getting screened to fulfill the requirements of the Diocese to work with the youth.  I know its a pain to do but rarely is it easy to accomplish great things. It is going to take courage to step out and be seen.  We will have an example this year of courage and strength as Fr Jonathan will share his conversion from the Anglican faith with his talk; “Entering the Barque of Peter for such a time as this” Men come and be challenged and nourished at this years conference to be the man God is calling you to be! Have the courage to invite someone that needs to hear the message!

 

To register go to https://godsquad.ca/

Financial assistance is available!

 

Sean Lynn

God Squad President

 

  1. Saint Joseph Shadow of the Father – Andrew Doze, Alba House 1992 page 105.
  2. Boys to Men – Tim Gray and Curtis Martin, Emmaus Road publishing 2001, page 11

The Man Behind the Arm

The Man Behind the Arm

I had the honour and privilege to volunteer at the Relic Pilgrim of the incorrupt arm of St Francis Xavier at Saint Albert the Great Parish in Calgary, Alberta on January 21, 2018.  Now you might think that by the title of this article that I am going to talk to you about the man of Saint Francis Xavier, or maybe the man behind coordinating ushers (or uber ushers as I like to call them) for the relic, God Squad’s very own Sean Lynn.  No, I’m going to talk to you about the man who was literally standing behind the relic itself:  Me, or more precisely, I’d like to share with you this powerful experience.

 

I have seen some relics in my life.  Altars have relics.   I’ve seen skulls, bones, and even the head of St John the Baptist in the Church of St Sylvester in Rome.  As a cradle Catholic, I have come to see relics as a normal part of the culture and have come to take them somewhat for granted.  This is not something that I am proud of.  It emanates the stench of skepticism and apathy.  The Council of Trent (Sess. XXV) teaches us that “the holy bodies of holy martyrs and of others now living with Christ [—whose bodies were the living members of Christ and ‘the temple of the Holy Spirit’ (I Cor 6:19) and who are by Him to be raised to eternal life and to be glorified] are to be venerated by the faithful, for through these [bodies] many benefits are bestowed by God on men.”[1]  The Church has long since had popular piety towards sacramentals such as the veneration of relics, pilgrimages, scapulars, rosaries and medals.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that sacramentals such as these are sacred signs that “prepare men (read mankind) to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life… Among the sacramentals, blessings occupy an important place.  They include both praise of God for his works and gifts, and the Church’s intercession for men that they may be able to use God’s gifts according to the spirit of the Gospel.” (CCC 1677-1678)[2]

 

After my experience standing behind the arm I found my soul singing:  “Blessed are you, O Lord, merciful God, and blessed is your holy and honorable name. Blessed are you in all your works for ever!”  For the great work of St Francis Xavier continues today, not only through the inspiration he gives the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), but through blessings and intercessory prayers he offers to those who come to him in prayer and in person such as in a time like this.

 

 

Many people came to see and pay homage to the relic.  Close to 5,300 came on January 21st.  I personally saw close to 3,000 of them.  I had the perfect vantage point.  I saw them all so clearly.  They were literally at arm’s length.  I was standing behind the relic.  My mission was to count the pilgrims and ensure no kissing bandit would knock the relic over.

They all came, great and small, young and old, able bodied and infirmed.  Most had filled in prayer cards; many had rosaries, handkerchiefs, medallions, crucifixes or some other religious artifact they wanted blessed by the saint.  They’d approach, some with timidity, others with great piety.  Others would stare like out of curiosity; especially the children.  These were a joy.  They displayed such wonder and awe.  One such girl, about 10 years old, didn’t seem to get it.  She was clearly incredulous.  Her parents (I assume) told her to touch the glass that it would bless her.  “How is this going to bless me?” she snorted with that pre-teen attitude and in all honesty as she left down the centre aisle.   After a half a dozen steps, she stopped, turned around and took a picture with her cell phone.  The look on her face made me think that she didn’t get it but that something was happening and that this arm was too weird not to take a picture of.
People want to touch the relic.  “If only I can touch…” is the hope that lies in every Christian heart. (Mt 9:21) (Acts 19:11-12)  Clearly people were moved by the Saint or by the Holy Spirit or both.  Many had tears in their eyes, some were out right crying.
 

 

An old man was wheeled up in a wheelchair.  The lines parted like the Red Sea.  All had their eyes on him.  He had only one good arm.  He had brown eyes, full of hope and tears.  The attendant awkwardly manoeuvered him so that he could get his good arm and his rosary close to the relic.  He fought back tears and sobs but you could tell he received great joy in this once in a life time opportunity.

 

One lady I’ll never forget.  She was about my age, give or take a couple of years.  She had a number of articles she wanted to touch the relic with.  But that’s not what was so extraordinary about this experience.  She was crying and saying:  “I will complete my mission, I will complete my mission.”  The force and fervour of her prayer moved me and I sense the Holy Spirit move within His Church and act through this woman.  This was a great consolation for me.  I too, even in my older years, can still be moved by the Spirit to do His work:   For no mission of the Holy Spirit is too big or too small, at any age; even if it’s simply to be an uber usher.

 

I want to thank the God Squad and in particular Sean Lynn for the opportunity to serve in the Kingdom of God in this way.  It was a wonderful experience.  I experienced a conversion of the soul; I saw missionaries rise up through this pilgrimage and I saw souls being touched in ways that I believe led to healing; including mine.
Yes, my soul is still singing out:

“Blessed are you, O Lord, merciful God,
and blessed is your holy and honorable name.
Blessed are you in all your works for ever!”
[1] University of Dayton, International Marian Research Institute, “All About Mary” https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/r/relics.php
[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church PART TWO: THE CELEBRATION OF THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY; SECTION TWO: THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH; CHAPTER FOUR: OTHER LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS; ARTICLE 1: SACRAMENTALS http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c4a1.htm

Merry Christmas and Praying for the New Year

Merry Christmas and Praying for the New Year

The God Squad would like to take the time to thank all of you for your prayers and support in 2017. It has been a busy year for us. It started off with the retirement of Bishop Henry which was a shock and a surprise. The Bishop has supported The God Squad from our very humble beginnings by opening our first conference.

 

We celebrated our 20th annual men’s conference in March where we were blessed to have Bishop McGrattan (our new Bishop) open the conference. It was an honour to have Steve Wood join us again as he did for the first conference, Steve stated ours was one of the “best men’s conferences in North America” as he was impressed by all the young men present. The reason they are there is because you bring them year in and year out!

 

It was another busy BBQ year for the God Squad outreach ministry. We did church anniversaries, high school retreats, youth jail stampede breakfast and several other similar events. The biggest of all was feeding 700+ for July 1st when Bishop McGrattan consecrated the Diocese to Our Lady.

 

We also sponsored another ride with Jeff Cavins; spreading the Good News to Montana, Idaho, BC, and Alberta. It was incredible talking to people wherever we stopped along the way. We are hoping to build on these stops by encouraging men to attend our annual conference and hosting mini conferences which we will live stream.

 

2018 is shaping up to be another busy year with our conference being confirmed for Mar 16 & 17th at St Peter’s parish. Our speakers will be Msgr Owen Keenan, Fr. Raymond DeSouza, Fr. Jerome Lavigne. Fr. Cristino Bouvette, the vocations director for the diocese, will speak to the youth, and Fr. Jonathan Gibson, an ordained parochial vicar, will share his conversion story. Registration is open now!

 

God Squad has also been asked to take the lead on being ushers for a historical event. The relic of St Francis Xavier will be visiting Calgary Jan 21 & 22nd, 2018 and we need some of you to assist with covering the shifts. Please sign up if you are able to assist https://www.volunteersignup.org/343EJ

 

Once again we would like to thank you and ask you to keep praying for us as we try to reach men and challenge them to be faithful husbands and fathers. This includes working with past speakers to develop a resource for young men to help them have the tools to transition to manhood.

 

Your Passport Please . . .

Your Passport Please . . .

Where are you going?  What is the purpose of your visit?

Good questions to ask along the road of life.  These were also the questions asked of the God Squad, on the border between the United States and Canada, as we each gave our passport to the border officer.  All together in 8 days we covered 4,000 miles on our cycles. That’s a lot of time in the saddle, but a great opportunity to enter into the silence and more deeply into the questions . . . Where are you going? What is the purpose of your visit?

Most every evening we met up with the faithful in parishes to share a teaching and enjoy the company of other Catholic believers.  Along the way we also met people across America and Canada who were still searching for answers to those very important questions in life.  We met these new friends in gas stations, coffee shops, Harley Davidson dealerships, on a mountain, in the plains or on one afternoon in a juvenile prison.

Why would 25 or so incarcerated teens be interested in meeting with the God Squad?  Good question. One word:  BBQ.  The God Squad seeks not only to feed the soul, but also to practically address the hunger of men and of each person we meet along the way.  So the kids that came that day came with both their hunger and their innate curiosity.  Surrounded by fence and barbed wire, we all ate BBQ together at the picnic tables set up for us.  In our conversation, we became acquainted and even more to know each other.  Listening, sadly I learned that most of the kids came from broken families.  Some did not know who their parents were, many did not have fathers, and still others were seeking sobriety.

The BBQ opened up the conversation for us, but in listening more deeply, I wondered looking ahead and in this moment of meeting, how would we address the brokenness of the boys?  How would we provide healing and begin to satisfy the deep hungers and thirst that we witnessed deep within them?  As Jeff Cavins did in each of the towns and villages we visited, he offered a little drink of understanding to the youth . . . as we each did, sharing the message of Jesus.

One of the boys who expressed his despair in his struggle with sobriety said, “For me . . . I feel it’s too late.”  Yet, knowing as I did that he had begun to walk and work a program of sobriety I had to say, “It’s never too late.  It’s good to see that you have begun. Keep going with the others.”  It’s true the young man did not know his father or his family.  But in that moment, we were there as men and as fathers for him.  And we were encouraging him, “It’s never too late. You have begun. Keep going.”

As on the border between two countries, it was good to be there in the prison with those youth.  To be there at the border that led into young lives we had just met.  Our only Passport in was Jesus . . . and a little (a lot) of BBQ.  While I can not imagine the road ahead for each of them, I could picture the plains, the mountains and the challenges ahead.  Despite the seeming impossibility, I was surprised by the feeling of hope I felt being with them.  Perhaps it was the words of the Gospel that came to mind, “When I was in prison, you visited me.”

I know as does the God Squad, Jesus is true to His Promises.  Jesus will be with them through the good and bad times, the sickness and health, the wealth of experience and poverty for we know Jesus and we know from our own experience that He is true to His Word.

 

Where are you going?  What is the purpose of your visit?

Fr. Jim Perkl
Pastor—Mary, Mother of the Church
Burnsville, Minnesota

Creating a Culture of Positivity

Creating a Culture of Positivity

Many of you have heard that I work with youth who are at risk of falling into gangs.

 

The approach we take is called a strength-based approach where we focus on their strengths and build on them so young people can celebrate successes.

 

The old way was to work on weaknesses –  “Hey Sean, you’re fat and you need to lose weight to be all you can be.”  This method unfortunately doesn’t work as effectively and tends to have people quit in despair.

 

The reason I bring this topic up is because I watch good Catholics and Christians post stuff on social media that doesn’t help move the needle when it comes to helping our faith.

 

I will use one example from a website often shared – Lifesite News. Here is a recent headline. “Christians must not allow this man to lead Alberta’s new conservative party.” The article goes on to say Brian Jean won’t allow those who believe in traditional marriage in his party and don’t belong in any party.

 

The writer then challenges people to watch the TV interview (about gay pride) to prove his point. I watched the video and nowhere does Brian Jean say that. He says those who spread hate don’t belong in his party. What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say about treating homosexuals? “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”(2358)  I highly recommend watching a video done by Jason Evert which is what I see as a better approach. https://youtu.be/bLrRfwpvERU    

 

It’s always easier to tear something down than it is to build it up. It takes me a couple of hours to tear out an old deck and days to build a new one.

 

What were some of Jesus’s last words on earth? “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.”  

 

We have a beautiful faith to share with the world! We need to meet people where they are at and walk with them sharing our love for Christ by reflecting that love toward those around us. There is plenty of media out there that distorts what the church teaches but we can change that perception by sharing the strength and beauty of the church.

 

So if you are wondering why God Squad is not sharing a lot of the negative stories about how bad this government is, or that group is, I would rather share posts about this saint did this with their life or encourage prayer and feast days of the church.

 

Please help God Squad Canada build up men and families with faith and encouragement!

 

Sean Lynn

Children; Winning with Faith

Children; Winning with Faith

Children need faith training beginning at a young age

 

I am coaching rugby at a high school in Calgary, and for the last two years we have not had a junior program at the school due to the lack of a teacher sponsor.  

 

The problem of not running a junior program is that I don’t have enough boys coming up with the knowledge and experience of playing the game. This year more than half of my starters at the beginning of the season had never played before. Unfortunately that shows on the field even when they are trying their best.

 

They don’t know all the rules and fine points of the game and to try and teach them this in a matter of weeks is very difficult.

 

The future is bright, though, because we do have a junior team with a large number of boys who played at high levels prior to entering high school. It is showing on the scoreboard as well. Later this week they will be competing in the city championships.

 

I’m sure by now you are saying that's very nice, but don’t you normally write about faith? Yes, I do and I wanted to use this as an analogy of raising our children in the faith. You have heard parents say I will wait until they are old enough to choose for themselves. The problem with that is they will not be ready when it is game time. They will not have the understanding of the faith when pressed or challenged. In those critical moments when they need God the most, they won’t feel they know how to reach out to Him. Faith equals resiliency, which is in short supply among our youth today.

 

It is never too late to work with your child on learning and making the faith their own. I know in Canada millions of kids get sent to hockey and soccer camps to help them have a better shot of making the best team. Make sure you invest in authentic Catholic camps where your children will be challenged to make the faith their own.

 

My children have all loved Our Lady of Victory Camp on Gull Lake and Youth for Truth. I have heard great things about Arcatheos Boys' Camp and Captivenia Girls' Camp south of Calgary. If you are travelling for vacation explore the church and history of where you are going.

 

Where do you start? I started by teaching my rugby team a prayer that most did not know, the St Michael prayer, that we said before every game.

 

Sean Lynn