Father John J. Lombardi
Last week while visiting
our young, Grotto Latin Children's Schola, I
asked if they had any questions. Little Sharon
asked: "What do you think of Sadaam Hussein?"
(This was immediately after his capture). I
stuttered and decided to use Jesus' tactic and
answer with a counter-question: "What do you
think a Catholic should feel about him, or do?"
She said immediately: "Pray for his soul." Amen.
Thank you- "children make themselves known by
their acts" (Pr 20:11).
Why did Jesus Christ
come in the first Christmas--and in each Mass?:
to save and sanctify souls ("to proclaim liberty
to captives"- Lk. 4:18), to unite ourselves to
Him ("I will abide in you and you in Me" -Jn.
6:56) , and help even the harshest, most
despised sinners and souls. Remember, one of the
greatest sinners--Saint Augustine-- became a
greatest saint. Famous preacher Charles Spurgeon
once said: "Sin is sovereign till sovereign
grace dethrones it." Jesus does that thru
Christmas event, in each moment of Grace, in
A few nights after
Sharon's enlightened answer, some friends and I
were talking about "what to do with Sadaam
Hussein"-- as Catholics. Fr. George Restrepo (a
Jesuit) responded, immediately: "How would Jesus
respond?" We talked about the former- dictator's
harshness, some people's plea for the death
penalty, and the Church's position on all this.
Love, mercy and justice were key words in the
While driving back that
night to Mary's Mountain I listened to a
cassette tape, entitled "Spiritual Warfare." It
was one of the most incredible, Christian,
beautiful stories I've ever heard. Honestly.
Read on and find out why, and yet one more
reason why Jesus came to Earth! My paraphrase of
the tape follows…
In 1981the FBI was on
the lookout for one of the Top Ten Most Wanted
Men-Stephen Marin, a murderer and rapist,
prowling San Antonio, TX. That year he abducted
yet another woman, named Margie Mayfield, who
narrates, in humble, crystalline fashion her
'spiritual adventure" that day. (Listening to
the talk you have no trouble believing not only
in God but His acting in our world thru people;
also, in a supernatural life of good and evil
sprits; the captivity of souls thru darkness,
and the need of Christian witnesses in everyday
Stephen Marin was on the
run, evading the civil law and ignoring Divine
Law while looking for one more victim. He came
upon Mrs. Mayfield (wife, homemaker and mother
of two) and abducted her in her van. Trouble
was: she was a born again Christian, and had
just had put a Bible into the truck before she
went shopping. To protect himself he told her to
sit on her hands, not do anything, or else he
would kill her. She, though, was a unique
individual and felt "Perfect love casts out
fear"- I Jn.4:18, and, inspired, said: "Do You
know Jesus Christ?" Except for one moment, she
was calm throughout the whole ordeal (or, we
should call it "witnessing"!-"Have no anxiety
about anything…" -Phil 4:6). Jesus was telling
her what to do. She was willing to be an
instrument of Him, for him. ("Lord, make me a
channel of Your peace"- St Francis of Assisi).
The once-Divine Fugitive helped the human
fugitive and this woman testify to Him (" 'You
are my witnesses,' " says the Lord"- Is 43:10).
She realized this clearly.
She said to "Stephen"
(as she constantly refers to him in the talk, as
almost a son and friend): Christ came for you,
to save you from sins and eternal death…This
must have been Good and yet surprising News to
Him: No one spoke to him like that before. To
"Stephen," women were always to be abused by, or
abusive to, him; he probably rarely thought of
God, but often acted out of godlessness. We may
think of this man and Sadaam Hussein and other
persons who do evil: "the godless are like
thorns that are thrown away" - 2 Sam 23:6-and
yet: "Where sin increased grace abounded all the
more-Rm5:20). He was brought up in a broken
family and learned to hate women and was hurt by
them; he built and maintained the resentment in
his childhood which later turned to violence. He
was now on the run and avoiding prison. Mrs.
Mayfield said: You already are living in a
prison ("everyone who commits sin is a slave to
sin"- Jn. 8:34) and that if you do not repent
you will be living in a kind of Hell twenty
times worse than the present. He said, dazed and
amazed: You seem so calm, why aren't you
nervous? She responded that Jesus was her Lord
and was telling her what to do. (Observation:
like the Blessed Virgin Mary, perhaps only a
woman, in God's providential plan, can do
certain things. Her softness and
approachability, her femininity helped this
hardened man trust and love again).
They drove around some
more, talked, and after Mrs. Mayfield realized
all the filth and pollution he had been thru,
and accumulated, said: The Devil is all around
you-has been for years, but you can get rid of
him… "Our battle is not against flesh but
against principalities and powers of present
darkness" (Eph 6:12)…No matter what you've done,
Stephen-anything--the power of Christ's Blood is
more powerful than all that. "For God so loved
the world He gave His only-begotten Son that
whosesoever believes in Him may not perish but
have eternal life".(Jn. 3:16).
She said he must be
"born again". She explained how he had been born
by his earthly father, by earthly seed; now he
must be born of spiritual seed, of the Heavenly
Father. (Christ's Birth gives us birth "not of
perishable, but of imperishable seed" -I Pt.
Later, even though the
FBI couldn't capture this serial killer,
amazingly, he emptied his gun bullets into this
Christian woman's purse! He surrendered-(like
the Good Thief, perhaps Stephen heard and said,
"Jesus, remember me in Your Kingdom" - Lk.
23:42). And, eventually, after more discussion
about Jesus, conversion and Christian life, he
spontaneously raised his arms toward the sky,
saying: Lord, I'm sorry for all I've done;
please forgive me. He was a changed man. He was
They then drove toward
their next stop for Stephen to catch a bus. They
spoke final words and this once-crazed-killer
cried-like a baby--on her shoulder ("Blessed are
they who mourn for they shall be comforted" -Mt.
5:4)--and they departed. For the first time all
day, she noticed, he smiled. He was a different
The FBI later called her
at home and Mrs. Mayfield, somewhat reluctantly
for fear of a shootout- killing, and betrayal)
told them where he was: in a bus station,
reading a Bible. They didn't believe it: a Ten
Top Most Wanted man, sitting in a bus station,
reading a Bible? C'mon on! Sure enough: when
they went there, there he was, sitting
peacefully, reading the Bible: "Your word is a
lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path" (Ps.
119: 105). "Stephen" said: I met this lady. She
changed me. If I didn't I would have…
Why did Jesus come?: He
came to Earth for the largest, longest "search
and rescue operation". Not only did He come for
"mild sinners" like you and me, but also for
"hardened sinners' like Stephen, Sadaam and
those ensnared by Satan. Remember: "For whoever
is begotten by God conquers the world" (I Jn.
5:4) Like Sharon: Pray for souls. There's hope…
without enough "evidence" of God, and those who
suffer in life--if you have not "met" Jesus,
what will you do to believe like Stephen? ("Come
to Me all you are weary, and I will give you
rest" (Mt. 11:28). For those who struggle with
pride, if He had not come, and "emptied Himself"
(Phil 2:5), where would we be? For "fallen-away
Catholics," if you have not met Him in the
Sacraments on Sundays ("I am the Bread of life
come down from Heaven"- Jn 6), come back often.
For those who do not look for Him in today's
world, find Him in others "I was thirsty and you
visited Me" (Mt. 25). "Christmas is not only a
date, it is a state of mind."
From this amazing story
we may observe and conclude:
Witness: Do you want to
tell- in words, actions, or silence,-- how good,
loving and merciful, Jesus Christ is?
Instrument: Be a vessel of God's communication.
This didn't just happen overnight for Margie
Mayfield, she prayed often and read the Bible.
She said: "God has no body but yours." This is a
paraphrase of St Teresa of Avila. God wants to
use each one of us: Like Mary will you say,
"Yes/Fiat-Be it done…" (Lk. 1:38). Obviously
Mrs. Mayfield knew her Scripture and how to
witness, only by her love, training and practice
over the years. How about you? "You are either a
missionary or a missionfield: one of the two." -Olaf
Spirit living within: we
can't just "go through the motions"-we have to
put our hearts into actions and disciplines and
rituals-make them united, and have the Lord
dwell inside: "Are you not aware you are a
temple of the Holy Spirit?" (I Cor). Let the
Lord take control of all your feelings, mind and
passions-Lord of all within. "Christmas is a
gift of God that you cannot keep until you give
it to someone else." (Dorothy Smith)
Being born again? Sure,
as Catholics, we believe in this--constantly:
"Unless you be born anew/born from above, you
cannot see the Kingdom" (Jn. 3:3). All are
called to become holy, even saints. How will you
be born from above, anew, especially this
ChristMass? "This is the Will of God--your
holiness" (I Th 4:3), and "till Christ be formed
in you" (Gal 4:19). Whenever we pray, seeking
communion with the Divine Trinity, we are born
from above ( "Go away by yourselves to a
deserted place and rest a while" (Mk. 6:31).
Whenever we seek His
pardon we are born from above: "Confess your
sins to one another" (Jas. 5:18), and: "There
will be more joy in Heaven when one sinner
repents…" (Lk. 15: 17).
The next day I still
felt joyful from the story, but also thought:
How can Stephen-and I carry on after such a
"spiritual high"? The age-old Catholic answer is
Mass, Communion, Confession, Constant
Jesus said: " I came
that you might have life, and life abundantly" (Jn.
Blessed and Merry
Christmas to you!
Padre Pio's Favorite
Holyday? It's Christmas: he said, "Everyone
loves a Baby!"… A man and I recently talked at
the Grotto. His wife was recently diagnosed with
ALS---Lou Gherigs' disease, which is a depletion
of muscle skeletal tissue; I later found out
some people basically die somewhat like Jesus:
they suffocate to death. This couple was
devastated when diagnosed. But: sometime later
they went to Padre Pio's shrine in PA, and have
met many people whom "God has sent to us and we
have felt his presence in them. He has given us
messages of peace, love and hope, even though
all this is still very hard." Padre Pio, famous
stigmatist, loved Jesus especially thru the
Mass, Confessions and counseling people. This
couple felt that he was helping them from Heaven
to go thru difficulties for God. How about you?
Loss and Gain: A
Catholic woman was just laid off from work. I
responded, "How sad just before Christmas". She
replied: "It's blessing in disguise…" She also
said she took some pictures at the Grotto and
said: "It's probably now a holy camera." It's
your attitude that counts.
Reflections-Pray about them:
"God became man that man
might become God." -Sts. Augustine, Aquinas,
Athansaisus, et al.
"All things are now
reversed: The castle is the cave,/ The crib
becomes the throne, the night brings forth the
day,/ The Virgin's bears a Child; Reflect, O
Man, and say/ That heart and mind must be
reversed in every way." --Angelus Silesius
Holy Poverty: St Francis
of Assisi found in the Lord's Majesty a freeing
Poverty. How about you?
Thinking about Christmas
during Christmas Season (until Jan. 11): the
beauty of this Season reminds us of the
Beautiful One, the creations of the Creator.
When you see Christmas Lights think of Jesus Who
is "the Light of the world". When you see
Christmas trees think of the Christ Who became
"the tree of life"-(Rev 2:7). When you give and
receive Christmas presents, think of Jesus Who
gave us Himself (When you eat My Body and drink
my blood, abide in Me and I in you" (Jn. 6:56).
Let everything be a God-Manifestation.
The origin of the Twelve
days of Christmas: Here's an actual Way to
Celebrate the Season of Christmas from/copywrite:
"You're familiar with
the Christmas song, "The Twelve days of
Christmas" I think. To most it's a delightful
nonsense rhyme set to music. But it has a quite
serious purpose when it was written.
Catholics in England
during the period 1558 to 1829, when Parliament
finally emancipated Catholics in England, were
prohibited from any practice of their faith by
law - private OR public. It was a crime to BE a
"The twelve days of
Christmas" was written in England as one of the
"catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn
the tenets of their faith - a memory aid, when
to be caught with anything in writing indicating
adherence to the Catholic faith could not only
get you imprisoned, it could get you hanged.
The song gifts are
hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith.
The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't
refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God
Himself. The "me" who receives the presents
refers to every baptized person. The partridge
in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
In the song, Christ is symbolically mother
partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators
from her helpless nestlings. The other symbols
mean the following:
2 Turtle Doves - The
3 French Hens - Faith, Hope and Charity (the
4 Calling Birds - The Four Gospels and/or the
5 Golden Rings - The First Five Books of the
Old Testament, the "Pentateuch" which gives
the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese a laying - The Six Days of Creation
7 Swans a swimming - The Seven Gifts of the
8 Maids a milking - The Eight Beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing - The Nine Fruits of the Holy
10 Lords a leaping - The Ten Commandments
11 Pipers Piping - The Eleven Faithful
12 Drummers Drumming - The Twelve points of
Doctrine in the Apostle's Creed. Don't take
your Faith-or Christmas-for granted!
other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi