Thursday, September 27, 2012

Harry Connick Jr and Divine Greatness: Obligation to our gifts. By: C.C

Those who perceive in themselves the artistic vocation as poet, writer, sculptor, painter, musician, and actor feel at the same time an obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it to service of their neighbour and the humanity as a whole. (Pope John Paul II)
      It is sadly difficult to look around the music industry and find true talent. I was very blessed to be able to witness and experience Harry Connick Jr in concert this week in Niagara Falls, Canada. I was given the chance to attend both of his performances and they truly commanded respect and succeeded in capturing the essence of music in pure artistic form. It seems that our worldly understanding of artistic talent often falls short in grasping the beautiful gift that has been given by God. It is tragic when those with talent fail to understand and recognize the immensity of their gift and what it can offer the world through it's pure form. The sharing of an individual gift and talent with the world can attribute to making Divine greatness present and visible.
     Before attending his concert I had been rather unfamiliar with the immensity of his musical and performing abilities. As typical of our society, Harry too has often been portrayed and objectified as merely the "Cute guy on sitcoms and in movies", or "the handsome piano man". Regardless of the many fans that follow him as result of this, there is an element of Harry Connick Jr; the man and true gifted artist that might at times be overlooked. It is in fact through hearing his podcast interview on Busted Halo ( A Catholic online magazine) that I became more interested in Harry Connick Jr and truly gained more respect for him as a man of faith and family. Though he does not openly speak of the Lord on stage and in his music lyrics there is a loud voice speaking for the Lord through his music and through the way in which he carries himself on and off stage. Musically I have come to learn that Harry is among one of the greatest at what he does. After witnessing him in his element it is difficult for me to deny the Lord's hand upon his life and the reason for his worldly greatness and gift of song.       
      Blessed Pope John Paul II reminds us of this obligation to our gifts by encouraging us to "develop it in order to put it to service of our neighbour and the humanity as a whole." In this way we are truly sharing the greatness and glory of our Lord. Through surrendering our talents to Him, and by believing in ourselves , we can grow to embrace the "irrepeatable" gift that is given to us by God. It is by this surrender that we assist in making visible God's light and love for us to others. By nurturing our unique talents we offer something that no one else can duplicate.  To be able to do this we must first recognize that we are "enough" and that we can truly succeed. We must believe that our gift is not only one to be shared, but one that must first be embraced and respected by us. A surrender to His gifts will draw us nearer to our Lord and truly aid us in becoming who God has called us to be.  
     Many of you have potentially seen the "fruits" of this surrender in your own lives or have been blessed by witnessing this in the lives of others. The degree of the successes may vary, but the undeniable truth and testament of using our gifts to glorify the Lord is truly the peace and joy that is brought forth. When one responds to their natural and God given gifts with a sense of faith, ownership, and obligation it will surely be fruitful. Arguably, fruitful does not always mean worldly fame, but it will definitely carry one to reach their fullest potential and capacity. 
  After seeing Harry Connick Jr in concert it is clearer to me that Harry embraced his vocation and continues to develop it. He has succeeded in reaching the heart and soul of many people through what he does. The secular world may fail to acknowledge this aspect of Harry Connick Jr , and yet, they can not deny the presence of his greatness. We as Catholics witness his gift and recognize the greatness to be the working of the Holy Spirit and can applaud Harry for answering his call from the Lord and for striving to live out the fullness of his vocation as an artist. 
    I was also gifted with the chance to meet Harry backstage after his event last night,along with my boyfriend and his family. Meeting Harry and hearing him speak to us personally only solidified the reality of his unbelievable humility, professionalism, integrity, and also his compassion. He is truly a man of depth and great respect. It was a blessing to shake the hand of one in Hollywood who remains so rooted in reality. May God continue to bless him always. Amen (C.C.) - Busted Halo- with Harry Connick Jr.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Padre Pio. By: C.C.

"The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain" (Padre Pio)

  Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Padre Pio. I have always been drawn immensely to St. Padre Pio growing up due to the amounts of pictures of him that were hung up in my nonna's (grandmother's) home. I recall a specific image on her fridge of St. Padre Pio's bandaged hands. As a child this confused me greatly as I tried to understand what these wounds were and why this particular saint was so popular in nonna's house - and in much of the Italian culture also. Nonna's broken English and my poor Italian vernacular at that time made any dialogue rather confusing between us and I battled to understand who this man was and what these wounds meant....I was definitely seeking for answers and it would be years until I truly understood who he was and the impact that he left upon the Catholic Church. Quite frankly, years would pass before I even understood what it truly meant to be Catholic, and St. Padre Pio was quite instrumental in my willingness for full surrender to my Catholic faith.
   In 2008 I was in my final year of post-secondary studies and not a practicing Catholic. However, there was undoubtedly a deep yearning within me to feel peace, to feel home at Chruch, and the desire to live a Christ centred life. Given decisions I had made in my adolescent days and young adult life I cancelled myself out from being one who could live the way I witnessed others living. I admired those surrounding me who beamed with the light of Christ. Those who fully bore witness to what it meant to be Catholic and led rather devout lives. I dismissed myself from the reality that this could be attained by me. Suffering from the shame of sin and living for everything worldy. I felt that it was much too late for me to be anything more.
   I was raised with a respect for the Catholic Church, but this seemed to be a much more cultural affiliated respect than a truly owned and nurtured exposure to the Church. I was not taught the power of prayer or the reasons for this. I heard the messages in Mass (when I would attend) and growing up I would witness the intense nightly prayer routines of nonna before she closed her to sleep. I knew it was important- I did not know how to connect this importance within my own life. Everything began to change when I began to learn about this mysterious saint.
   As a student of literature I loved going into the local book store and walking up and down the isles for new finds to read. There is a section entitled "Italian interest" that I always gravitated to because in my final year I spent a lot of time studying Italian history. Within this search for historic books I stumbled upon a book entitled Prophet of the people- a biography of Padre Pio by Dorothy M. Gaudiose. There it was; that same familiar face from nonna's fridge. I bought this book and that is when "it all began".
   I read through this book in 3 days..often staying up throughout the night to read it because I could not put it down. I could not deny the power of our Lord as I read about the life of this humble and faithful servant. Not once did I doubt anything I read in this book but was captivated by the life of St. Padre Pio and began to understand and realize that I needed to change. I would weep, often sharing the pain and sadness that Padre Pio must have felt in his life. I cried over his love of sinners and his desire to help save so many souls and share the love of God through bearing the wounds of Christ and  heart so pierced with sorrow for the state of our world.
  My conversion was sparked then and the journey since that day has been one full of learning, growth and yes, pain. However, I can now say that there has been much "flowering of the soul" and I continue to strive to live the way God has intended me to live. I have held Padre Pio very dear to me and do not hesitate to share his story. Today I pray especially for his intercession in all of our lives, and in the lives of those who have yet to surrender themselves entirely into the hands of our Lord.

May God be with you (C.C.)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Persevere In Faith. By: C.C.

"When something happens and we cannot understand the reason for it, we are inclined to think that there is no reason behind the events of this world. However, it is a matter of faith that since God is the Creator and Master of everything, He guides everything carefully by His Providence; He directs and embraces all creation. Especially as regards ourselves, God often allows our lives to be turned upside down by many setbacks. He desires us to walk by faith and not by sight, so that we might seek peace in Him alone! (St. Francis De Sales)

     Even those living with faith in God battle with accepting certain realities in their lives. Our natural instinct is to hunger for reason, for answers, and for some sense of finality so that we can be at "peace". It is through faith and seeking God where one is met with the Divine mystery, the need for surrender, and the reality that one can not truly understand the Providence of our Lord- but rather, realize that the happenings in our lives can only become easier to embrace and accept by our complete surrender into the loving hands of our Lord. We must have faith.
     It is difficult to share these sentiments with someone who is suffering, who is going through a difficult time, a loss, an illness, desolation, and other various challenging circumstances. The concept of faith may seem like some unreachable ideology to them. A place that only the joyous can venture. However, in turning toward our faith and the lesson of the Cross, one can open themselves up to an immense healing.
     St. Francis De Sales writes " God often allows our lives to be turned upside down by many setbacks"..a potential question provoked by this statement might be "Why would our Lord allow these set backs to occur?" De Sales goes on to share the very answer to this question by explaining that God desires us to walk by faith and to "seek peace in Him alone".
The setbacks that our Lord may allow are overcome and made fruitful by seeking Him above all. By turning to our Lord fully, openly, and lovingly we can obtain a peace of heart and love that exceeds all understanding and expectation. Although it is difficult to keep this mentality and faith driven thinking during the circumstances that we may face..we must persevere in devotion to our Lord and help others to do the same.
     Lord, It is often hard to see the reason for what may be occurring in our lives. At times we do not know where it is You are leading us, or what You want us to learn through the process. Teach us Lord to surrender ourselves daily to Your plan. Help us remain faithful to You and give us the courage and trust to persevere. Thank you Lord for your unconditional love for us and for the chance each day to have the opportunity to love You more and to better serve Your will. Strengthen us in faith Lord and let us be Your instruments as we deal with those who live without faith. We pray Lord, for the intercession of all the Angels and Saints and for the love and compassion of our Holy Mother Mary. May we grow in faith each day and seek peace in You alone. Amen (C.C.)

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding"
(Proverbs 3:5)