Bishop Hying

Remaining spiritual awake means living lives that help further the reign of God

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on August 14, 2016     


      World Youth Day in Poland was an extraordinary experience!  Our pilgrimage group of 82 first went to Italy, celebrating Mass at the tomb of St. Francis in  Assisi and as well as St. John Paul’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

      We saw the crucifix that spoke to Francis and walked through the four Holy Doors of the major basilicas, honoring this Jubilee Year of Mercy. In Poland, we visited Wadowice, the hometown of John Paul, Auschwitz, the terrifying place of death and hatred, and we drank in the sights, sounds and smells of Krakow, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.

      The whole event culminated in a field outside the city, as a million plus pilgrims gathered on Saturday night to keep vigil with the Holy Father.  A memory that will always live in my heart is the adoration of the Eucharist as this massive crowd knelt in the field, holding candles in the setting sun, honoring the Eucharistic Christ.

       In every direction, all the way to the horizon, all you could see were thousands and thousands of candles!  People from every country, language, culture and place were all united in the love of Christ and the Church!  The power of love triumphs in a place where the evil systems of both the Nazis and the Soviets tried to stamp out religious practice and destroy human dignity.

      On that unforgettable Saturday night, the pope spoke powerfully to the world’s youth; he was on the top of his game!  Here is an excerpt: “Dear young people, we didn’t come into this world to vegetate, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on.  No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark.  But when we opt for ease and convenience, for confusing happiness with consumption, then we end up paying a high price indeed: we lose our freedom.”

      The Holy Father called us to spiritually wake up, to be protagonists of history, to follow the disciples out of the Upper Room on Pentecost and give our lives to the flourishing of the reign of God and the proclamation of the Gospel.

      So many forces in our culture want us to fall asleep, to stay numb and drugged, to disengage from life, to passively sit on the sidelines, playing our video games and staying in front of the computer for hours on end.      “That is probably the most harmful and insidious form of paralysis, since little by little, without even realizing it, we start to nod off, to grow drowsy and dull while others - perhaps more alert than we are but not necessarily better - decide our future for us,” the pope said.  “For many people in fact, it is much easier and better to have drowsy and dull kids who confuse happiness with a sofa. For many people, that is more convenient than having young people who are alert and searching, trying to respond to God’s dream and to all the restlessness in the human heart.”

      So how do we stay spiritually awake and vigilant, ready to open the door when the Bridegroom knocks in the third watch of the night, as last Sunday’s Gospel puts it? 

      Several things I try to practice to stay alert include Scripture, sacrifice and confession. You may have other methods or ways of staying on the spiritual beam but these work for me.

      In reading the Scriptures for Mass and in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, I encounter the Word regularly.  Each day, I look for a word, a phrase, an image or a thought from the Bible that I can carry with me.  It could be “mercy” or “The Lord is my shepherd” or the woman at the well or Moses at the burning bush. I try to ponder that image or word throughout the day and to see everyone and everything I experience through that Scriptural prism. This practice helps me stay focused.  Imagine if we used Scripture the way we use our smart- phones.

      I try to do something sacrificially kind for someone every day, whether I think they deserve it or not, whether I feel like doing it or not. It could take the form of a phone call, a text, a visit, a gift, a word of encouragement or praise or helping with a simple task. These little things, which are sometimes so miniscule they go unnoticed, put together with millions of other small acts of kindness and charity can change the world!  At least they change me, expanding my heart and my capacity to give. We are here to learn how to love, to really love, generously, joyfully, sacrificially!

      I try to go to confession regularly. This sacrament helps me to feel the mercy of God, the power of forgiveness and my need for conversion. Confessing helps me take stock of my life, admit my failure, acknowledge my need for salvation and love and go out renewed in the mission of Christ. Find a good confessor to whom you can open your heart.  The Lord works so powerfully when we open up our weaknesses and need. Love and mercy heal us, enabling us to become living icons of the merciful Father in the parable of the prodigal son.

      We ask the Lord to keep waking, challenging, consoling, bothering and prodding us, so that we resist the urge to settle for complacency, stay in a comfortable fog and fall asleep on the couch.  So much work of the Kingdom lies before us.  As Robert Frost put it, “I have miles to go before I sleep."


+ Donald J. Hying


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