Matthew 11:28-30 - Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Joshua 24:15 -
Choose this day whom you will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Real Heroes

We all need heroes to look up to, to encourage us to do greater things. Some find these role models in sports figures, famous musicians, government leaders or in any other number of vocational roles and callings. There is a category of hero often overlooked by young people of today. These people are humble people, spiritual giants, who place their talents and very lives at the service of others. I'm talking about priests, religious and normal Christians who devote their lives to following the Gospel and answering our Lord's calling.  In today's moral and spiritual climate, it is hard to find leaders and heroes worth emulating.  So many have shown themselves to not be worthy of our trust.

Over the last couple years, and especially recently our family has had the opportunity to meet many examples of the positive kind. Our very own Caleb the photo nut has been lucky enough to have his picture taken with many of these heroes.  I thought I'd share a few of those photos and their stories with you, in the hopes that someone reading may decide to adopt a new hero, and as a tribute to the work these people have done shining a light on our life's path when we needed one.

Starting locally, I'd have to begin by thanking our own pastor, Reverend Marc Oliver, pictured below with the Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan and some other men at a recent vocation dinner at our local seminary for young men considering the priesthood.  Father Oliver is special for a lot of reasons, not least of which are the ministries he leads that reach out to local university students, the hispanic community and his pursuit of excellence and faithfulness in celebration of the daily mass.  His work leading the restoration of St. Peter's church in Kingston is nothing short of incredible.

Next I'd like to give a bit of tribute to a man who needs no introduction, Father Benedict Groeschl, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.  Fr. Groeschl has spent his life restoring a sense of proper religious life, serving the poor in cities around the world, and writing and talking on the faith in a way that has encouraged a whole new evangelical zeal amongst the people he as touched.  The work of his friars at local summer camps and weekend retreats has impacted our family personally on many occasions.  Fr. Groeschel's impact on us actually began at the beginning of our marriage when we saw him speak as a newly married couple awaiting our first child.  Below are pictures of that child, kneeling to talk and be blessed by the old priest himself, at a recent men's conference in Newark, NJ.  Caleb had the chance to see Fr. Groeschl not once but twice in the span of a month, yielding the second set of pictures below.

While we are on Christian leaders in the greater New York area, let's cover a few more starting with a few more of Archbishop Dolan himself.  Having heard this man talk at least six times now in person all I can say is what a godly man he is.  His love for people, the church and his Lord is evident in everything he says and does.  Since coming to New York in 2009, he has been a great inspiration to our family and he gets out to see his flock, even in the far north on a regular basis.  He currently leads the US bishops conference, and in the past was chariman of Catholic Relief Services.

Two other great servants of our archdiocese are the rector of the Saint Joseph's seminary in Yonkers, Bishop Walsh (pictured below with the Archbishop) and the vocations director Father Luke Sweeney.  Bishop Walsh actually confirmed Caleb, and Fr. Sweeney runs the wonderful Cathedral Prep program for young men discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood.  We are very thankful for their blessings on our area and son.

To round out our collection of priestly heroes, we have had the opportunity a couple times to hear Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life talk.  What a wonderful priest he is on the front lines of the fight for recognition of rights of smallest and most powerless among us, children in the womb.

One more person I'd like to recognize via a picture is Steve Wood of the Family Life Center, International and St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers.

Like me, Steve is a father and convert to the Catholic faith.  When I was first married, his counsel on all topics related to marriage, fathering and faith was invaluable to me.  I've listened to countless radio, TV and podcast programs by Steve, but recently heard him talk in person for the first time.  As usual, he was truly inspring.  Thank you Steve!

Well there you have it.  Quite a few heroes worth emulating for young men (and young women) who wish to follow Jesus Christ.  There are so many more I could list, but these are just a few who have touched our lives directly and personally in the recent past.

Who are your heroes?  Are they the rich and famous only, or do they include people such as these of strong faith and character?  If you need a further set of examples to follow, you don't need to look any further then the lives of the saints (or Saint of the Day), recent and ancient for further guidance and wisdom.  May God Bless you in your walk with godly influences and true heroes.