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EPISODE #288
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: BEING “ALL IN”

What does it mean to be “all in” as a follower of Jesus?

We’re going to explore that powerful question on today’s episode of Empowered by the Spirit, with your host, Deacon Steve Greco.

Listen in – and be sure to SHARE this podcast!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 10/24/21

EPISODE #280
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: SHARING YOUR FAITH

Join host Deacon Steve Greco as he teams up with his wife of nearly 50 years, Mary Anne. This dynamic couple have a lot to share when it comes to the topic of ‘sharing your faith.’ It’s a practice they have weaved into their lives on a daily basis; and, today they’ll share some simple and practical tips that we can use as well!

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 8/1/21

EPISODE #275
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: GUEST IS ANNABELLE MOSELEY

On this episode, Deacon Steve Greco welcomes poet/author/speaker/professor Annabelle Moseley. Based in New York, Annabelle shares about a new book she has written called “Our House of the Sacred Heart.”

This is a fascinating and faith-filled conversation. Listen in – it will be time well spent!

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 6/6/21

EPISODE#230
OC CATHOLIC RADIO: GUEST IS FR. ROBERT SPITZER

Join host Rick Howick and his guest, well- known author, professor and television personality, Fr. Robert Spitzer. Fr. Spitzer is president of the Magis Center and host on EWTN’s popular TV show, “Fr. Spitzer’s Universe.” 

On today’s enlightening broadcast, Rick asks Father questions about his life that are biographical in nature. This is a truly fascinating conversation! Be sure to SHARE this podcast with a friend or neighbor.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 6/12/21

EPISODE#229
OC CATHOLIC RADIO: CATHOLIC MAN OF THE YEAR FOR 2020

We have all heard stories that really affect us. You know the ones.. jaw-dropping testimonies that make you shake your head in awe. That is what you are about to experience on this edition of the OC Catholic Radio podcast.

Host Rick Howick has the honor, pleasure and privilege to welcome John Ballas to our studios today. John is a parishioner at St Martin De Porres parish in Yorba Linda, CA. He was recently awarded the honor of being named the “St. Joseph Radio Catholic Man of the Year” for 2020.

John has done some great work at the parish for a number of years. At the heart of it all is a story of heartbreak and tragedy in his family.

Be sure to share this podcast!

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 6/5/21

FACING DEATH WITH HOPE

Increasingly, I’ve been observing incidents of white-hot anger flaring out on quiet streets or on public transit. To name but one, a pedestrian accidentally crossed in front of a cyclist, the two immediately started swearing at each other and almost came to blows. These strangers were dry tinder, ready to burst into flames of rage. 

I don’t know if these particular events stem from the extraordinary pressures humanity has been facing this year. Still, they vividly illustrate the human capacity to absorb tension, fear and anger and store them inside somewhere, hidden but volatile. That’s partly why we humans need tending. 

Collectively, we’ve been up against death this year. Of course, humanity is always up against death, but often responds by ignoring or escaping it. Our society is adept at both. It tends to deal with the natural fear of death by anaesthetizing us, whether by offering an injection or luring us into an infinite number and variety of “amusements” and activities. Ultimately, our unacknowledged fear of death will surface in anxiety, rage and control. 

What is the price of ignoring the reality of death? 

Rather than presenting anesthetic ways to escape death or the illusion of being able to control and manipulate death, our faith liberates us by standing in the truth, a truth that death hides. 

The church has always asked its members to face death: not to wallow in it or fixate on it, but to face it, daily. And the church asks that we do so not just personally, as though death were an individual reality that I alone must deal with, but as a body, a community. 

How do we do this? Two long-standing church practices come quickly to our aid. 

Since the seventh century, the church has followed the early practice of setting aside a day to commemorate and pray for all who have died, known and unknown, named and unnamed. We stand together in the reality of death, not as isolated units (alone at our computers in a Zoom room) but accepting our common humanity, our nakedness and vulnerability. 

When able, we go physically to cemeteries and pray there together; perhaps we share a meal in honor of the dead; we celebrate the sacramental meal, the Eucharist that connects heaven to Earth, the transcendent to the material. This year if we were further apart physically at All Souls’ Day, we still needed to gather as we could for this memorial. 

“Never send to know for whom the bell tolls,” wrote John Donne in a time of plague, when the tolling bell signaled yet another death. Whose death? “It tolls for thee” because we are part of one another, in death as in life. This is cause for sorrow, the wrenching grief that must accompany death. And it is cause for joy, for the one who has conquered death meets us at its threshold. 

This is our faith. But it is not easy. 

We have a “sure and certain hope” that death, though real and inescapable, is also now the doorway into full life with God and one another. And yet we know its anguish, the pain of separation and loss, the fear that maybe, after all, it’s only wishful thinking, and all is dust. 

The roar of our materialistic, secular world echoes a doubt that whispers in our own hearts. We don’t need to chase away the doubt, but we do need to wrestle with it. To help us, we have the great “cloud of witnesses” who lived free from the fear of death (see Heb 11:32-12:1). 

The church asks us to face death, not individually but communally and sacramentally, so we can be freed from fear and begin to live. 

Commemorating and living the feast of All Souls’ is one of the church’s ways into this reality. A second church practice is facing the “daily deaths” we encounter in our ordinary lives. Up against a small but real obstacle, will we try to seize control out of fear, or will we let go our control out of self-emptying love (see Phil 2:6-8)? 

Society’s response to death is to control it. This response shows we fear loss of control more than we fear death itself. The cure is not more control, but surrender to love. Any attempt in our life to do that — to live in surrender to the love of God — is a way to prepare for death, the ultimate surrender to love. 

Hard to understand the daily death? You and I will have an opportunity today to practice it. Exercising these muscles daily is the path for the spiritual athlete (see 2 Tm 4:7) — the kind of athlete who is acutely needed in our paralyzed world.   

BITTERSWEET CHOICES

My mother and father enjoyed a long, happy marriage until Dad passed away five years ago. Their successful union might surprise some people since they didn’t share the Catholic faith. 

Mom was raised Protestant and in her youth was a member of the Job’s Daughters. Despite their love, she to this day has refused to become Catholic – but she promised to raise their children Catholic. 

So, when it came time for me to enroll as a first grader at Holy Family School, she was dismayed to find there were no seats available. My mother called the rectory and burst into tears as she explained to the priest that, as a Protestant herself but a dutiful wife, she needed all the help she could get to properly rear me in the Church. 

Miraculously, a space became available. I spent eight years at Holy Family, then four amazing years at Marywood High. I’m still a devoted Catholic, thanks to Mom’s efforts and Dad’s faith. 

After Dad died and my mother decided to move to a senior living complex, we went through her things to determine what she would take to her new life. 

Downsizing was such a painful process that at the end of the day we collapsed in the garage and cried together. 

Recently Mom celebrated her 89th birthday and added her name to the waiting list for an apartment in the assisted-living wing of her complex. I was impressed that she took this step on her own.  

Before we could set the wheels in motion for the move, Mom was hospitalized with complications from congestive heart failure. She’s recovering in the skilled-nursing wing of her complex.  

That leaves me – her only child – to pack up her things.  

I’ve been going through her things, downsizing, and packing boxes for three weeks. When the new studio apartment is available, a crew will move her furniture. Yet many of her things will need to be divided among family members, donated to charity, or trashed.  

Making decisions about what to leave behind is a lonely job. But in the process, I’m learning more about my dear mother. 

Mom grew up in the Great Depression, so she keeps everything from plastic grocery store bags to promotional totes carefully stored away. Her drawers, cabinets, and closets are meticulously organized. Clothing hangs neatly in the closet, organized by purpose and color. Paperwork is clearly marked and filed in a tall cabinet. She keeps anything that might be repurposed: Waste not, want not. 

She makes my housekeeping look positively pathetic. 

I love my mother and admire her strength, good humor, and positive attitude – especially as she acknowledges that age is limiting her abilities. I know how blessed I am to have my sweet Mom still with me as I near retirement age myself.  

These days, I pray for patience and strength and resilience as I go through this process. Still, I’m comforted by the obvious joy my parents had in each other and their international travels, friends, and especially their three grandchildren, who are now young adults. 

Facing the inevitable loss of a dear one always is painful. I treasure each day I have with Mom. I pray I will face my mortality with just a little of her grace. 

FAITH REQUIRES RISKS, HELPING OTHERS, POPE SAYS AT MASS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Being faithful to God means taking the risk of setting aside one’s own needs and plans in order to serve others, Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass for the World Day of the Poor. 

“Today, in these times of uncertainty, in these times of instability, let us not waste our lives thinking only of ourselves, indifferent to others or deluding ourselves into thinking, ‘peace and security!’” the pope said in his homily Nov. 15. 

Everyone is invited to “look reality in the face and to avoid the infection of indifference,” he said. 

The Mass was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica in the presence of about 100 people, who were representing those around the world who face poverty as well as volunteers and benefactors who assist them. Because of ongoing restrictions meant to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the Mass was not open to the public and was livestreamed on Vatican news channels. 

Instead of the large mobile health clinic, which is usually set up in St. Peter’s Square for the week, a smaller clinic under the colonnade surrounding the square was offering expanded services, including free COVID-19 swab tests for people who need them in order to stay at a homeless shelter or to return home abroad. 

In his homily, the pope reflected on Jesus’ parable of the talents, which describes a rich man who entrusts his property to three of his servants. The first two doubled the amount entrusted to them while the third servant hides his sum in a hole to avoid any risks and keep it safe from thieves. However, it bears no fruit and his master rebukes him, calling him useless, “wicked and lazy,” and throws him out of the house. 

The pope said the parable describes how everyone has received from God a precious “patrimony,” present in one’s abilities, talents and gifts. Christians are called to use these gifts to do good and serve God by serving others, he said. 

The pope warned against forgetting or neglecting the talents one possesses, especially by constantly complaining about the things one lacks or needs. 

In the Gospel, good servants are those who take risks, he said. “They are not fearful and overcautious, they do not cling to what they possess, but put it to good use.” 

“There is no faithfulness without risk,” he said, because being faithful means putting one’s life in God’s hands and “letting our carefully laid plans be disrupted by our need to serve.” 

“Those who take care of themselves to avoid risk begin in their lives a process of mummification of their souls,” he said. 

Faith is not just about following rules, the pope said. The third servant did nothing wrong, “but he did nothing good either. He preferred to sin by omission rather than to risk making a mistake. He was not faithful to God, who spends freely, and he made his offence even worse by returning the gift he had received.” 

A life is empty when it is only focused on one’s own needs and is “blind to the needs of others,” the pope said. 

The poor “help us become rich in love,” he said. “For the worst kind of poverty needing to be combatted is our poverty of love.” 

With the season of Christmas approaching, Pope Francis urged people to reevaluate the way they live the holiday season. 

“How often do we hear people ask, ‘What can I buy? What more can I have? I must go shopping.’ Let us use different words, ‘What can I give to others?’ in order to be like Jesus, who gave of himself and was born in the manger.” 

Later, before praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said it is not hard to find people in need. 

“There is so much hunger even in the middle of our cities and so often we fall into that logic of indifference,” which thinks the poor are too far away to help. 

There are also Christians who wish their priests and bishops didn’t spend so much time talking about the poor, preferring they talk instead about eternal life, he said. But the poor are at the heart of the Gospel and Jesus came for the poor, so “do not be selfish, hold out your hand to the poor.” 

“You have received many things and you would let your brother, your sister starve to death?” he asked. 

GIFTS OF THE SEASON

Like the one-of-a-kind handcrafted items within the store, the Christ Cathedral Shop offers a unique Christmas shopping experience. 

The shop is located on the first floor of the Cultural Center building on the grounds of Christ Cathedral campus in Garden Grove. It is operated by Steve Peters of Catholic Books and Gifts. The Peters family have owned their main store in Fountain Valley for 26 years and expanded last year to open the Christ Cathedral Shop.  

“A lot of people who love our regular store make the trip out even if they’re far away because there aren’t a ton of Catholic stores around, but now they are able to come to the Cathedral store because it’s closer for them,” said Steve Peters, manager and owner. 

The shop re-opened its doors recently with safety protocols in place and offers a welcoming, clean and safe shopping experience for customers. Currently, the store is open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.  

“The cleaning crew has been doing a great job,” said Peters. “After every Mass, the chairs are cleaned and sanitized. The crew also sanitizes the store more than once daily. We also have hand sanitizers for customers and everyone wears masks.”  

The shop showcases a good selection of Christmas and Advent season prayer books, nativity sets, Advent wreaths and candles, as well as other non-seasonal items. Shop for Catholic statues, icons, rosaries, jewelry, religious medals, home and kitchen décor and one-of-a-kind handmade items by local artists. The following is a preview of only a few of the shop’s many faith-inspired items:  

 

OUR LADY OF LA VANG STATUE 

The radiant statue of Our Lady of La Vang stands 24 inches tall and is available in white and blue. It is made of marble composite and designed in Italy by Vittoria, a family-owned company that specializes in religious marble statuary. The proceeds will go toward a fund that will help with costs associated with the future Our Lady of La Vang Shrine on the Cathedral campus.  

Price: $175 

 

NATIVITY STATUE  

Nativity sets are popular items during the Advent season. Standing at 10 inches tall, the singular statue features the Holy Family and the three kings.  

Price: $46.95 

 

ROSARIES BY GOD’S GIFTS 

Christine Smith of God’s Gifts is a local artist based in Orange County. She makes custom handmade rosaries using Swarovski crystals and several precious gemstones. Most rosaries will commonly have sterling silver on only some pieces of the rosary, however, Smith’s rosaries have sterling silver on every piece and every link. 

Price: Starts at $100 

 

CROSS PENDANTS & NECKLACES BY LISA MARINO  

Lisa Marino’s crosses are popular items at the Cathedral Shop. Marino is an artisan and certified gemologist based in Orange County. All of her items are made entirely by her, without a crew. Her jewelry has a distinctive antique look. The crosses are made of gold vermeil and a variety of gemstones on the necklace.  

Price: Starts at $79 

 

HAND-CARVED MOTHER OF PEARL PENDANT BY EMILIO AND MARIKA SOTELO 

Emilio and Marika are a married couple based in San Francisco. Emilio is a silversmith and designer who carved every piece of the pendant and Mary’s face by hand. The piece is solid sterling and also oxidized to add an antique look.  

Price: $895 

 

ICON OF ST. MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL BY DANIEL CERVANTES 

Cervantes is a Diocese of Orange parishioner and iconographer based in Orange County. Recently, St. Michael the Archangel items have become popular at the shop. Many churches have added the prayer of St. Michael at the end of Mass and people want to display St. Michael in their homes. The image of St. Michael is featured on a piece of 8 inch by 12-inch solid wood and is about two inches thick. Iconography is a very symbolic art form where every material and detail used in creating the icon has a specific meaning to Christ.  

Price: $119 

  

OLIVE WOOD TABLETOP CROSSES  

Standing at ten inches tall, the crosses are made of clippings from olive wood trees from the Holy Land. The region preserves the olive wood trees and people have created beautiful crosses from only the clipped branches of this distinctive tree that is mentioned regularly throughout the Bible.   

Price: Starts at $38.95 

 

After marking off your Christmas gift shopping list at the store, guests are welcome to enjoy the other areas of the campus. Although the cathedral is temporarily closed as a result of state COVID-19 orders, the campus, as well as the chapel at the bottom of the bell tower and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel remain open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. On the weekends, Masses are celebrated under the outdoor tent in front of the Cultural Center.  

“We have individual prayer at this time and all of our kneelers and seats in the chapel are already social distanced,” said Kymmberly Binnquist, senior property manager for the cathedral. “In both prayer chapels we also have candles available for visitors to light as well. The Bishop loves seeing the lighted candles in the chapel.” 

FAITH IN ISOLATION

As Catholic families continue to cope with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, isolation threatens us with depression, anxiety, and loneliness. 

Still, more than 300 times throughout scripture, the Lord tells us to not be afraid. He promises to be with us always, abiding by our sides until the end. 

“Faith is what helps us to know and understand God,” observes Father Angelos Sebastian, pastor of St. Kilian Church in Mission Viejo. “When we are isolated, we can always feel the presence of God. And when God is with us, we are never alone.” 

Indeed, our Catholic faith – with its universality, worldwide community, and enduring history – reassures us of God’s always-uplifting presence, Father Sebastian says. “It helps us to know even when we are in the most difficult and challenging times, He is with us.” 

Psalm 23 reassures us that even in the darkest valleys, our Good Shepherd is with us. “Our Catholic faith helps us in isolation because we know we are always connected to our spiritual family. At every Mass we are being prayed for, which is a great source of strength during this time of isolation,” says Father Sebastian. 

Even in the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are only as lonely as we want to be, says Father Scott Borgman, Diocese of Orange judicial vicar, who often posts livestream Masses and inspirational meditations on social media. 

“There are always so many options for reaching out to people, and I know that many parishes are calling the Faithful regularly, especially those who are sick or elderly, in order to check on them, to make sure they are getting the proper care and nutrition, etc.,” Father Borgman says. “This is a great community life especially in the absence of family members close to those who are isolated.” 

As Catholics, he adds, we believe that suffering is not meaningless. “St. Paul writes ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21),” he explains. “So many people are way too anxious by the drama produced through a diet of too much news. They have lost their peace and need to learn to pray, to search for that peace of God which ‘surpasses all understanding’ (Philippians 4:7).” 

Community is one of the main reasons that people are turning to their Catholic faith during this pandemic, Father Borgman says, but even more important is the connection we make directly with God.  

“The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ and remains completely faithful today to all the precepts of God’s desire to transmit grace through all the sacraments,” he notes. “There is a significant difference between the scripture-based entertainment offered by so many Christian churches and, on the other hand, the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.  

“People turning to God so often want to be in touch with sacramental graces.” 

Catholic families in need of inspiration and comfort can visit the websites of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at usccb.org and the California Catholic Conference of Bishops at cacatholic.org. 

The Tablet, the award-winning newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, at thetablet.org, also offers inspirational content. Dynamic Catholic has free resources at dynamiccatholic.com. And a British site, faithinisolation.com, sponsored by Peter’s Table, also has resources for prayer and contemplation.