Deacon Steve in Catholic Journal: Transformed by God's Mercy Jul 14, 2022

Deacon Steve Greco wrote "Transformed by God's Mercy", an article for Catholic Journal which appeared July 14.  Click here to see the article.

Deacon Steve Greco: the Holy Spirit and Mercy Jul 06, 2022

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, God is Love, but “because we are dead or at least wounded through sin, the first effect of the gift of love is the forgiveness of our sins.  The communion of the Holy Spirit in the Church restores to the baptized the divine likeness lost through sin.” (733-724)

So, in baptism, we receive the mercy of God through the Holy Spirit and our sins and the punishment due to them are taken away.  If we are baptized as an infant, that means the Original Sin we inherit from Adam is taken away, if we are older it means our personal or actual sins are taken away.  In place we are given the gift of Sanctifying Grace, which the serious Christian seeks to increase throughout his life so that as he approaches the end of his time on earth he may possess an abundance in the life of grace and go confidently to meet his Lord.

The Catechism goes on to speak about this abundant life:

“He, then, gives us the ‘pledge’ or ‘first fruits’ of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as ‘God [has] loved us.  This love (the ‘charity’ of 1 Cor. 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received ‘power’ from the Holy Spirit.”

“By this power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit.  He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear ‘the fruit of the Spirit: … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (735-736)

We “love by the Spirit” and we “walk by the Spirit.”

We see the mercy, love and power of the Holy Spirit working through the lives of the saints, transforming them in the love of Christ.  Among the best examples is the life of St. Peter, the head of the apostles and who Catholics believe is the first pope.

Peter was a fisherman who lived in Galilee.  He was married, although Scripture never tells us about his wife and he may have been widowed when he joined the company of Christ.  Peter, then called Simon, became totally devoted to Our Lord after witnessing the miraculous catch of fish.  Christ called him to His side with the words,

 

“Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

 

Peter had a great love for the Lord, but was impetuous and often embarrassed himself.  Such a time occurred when Christ came walking on water to the apostles.  Peter volunteered to walk on water, too, but in just a few steps his faith failed and he began to sink.  Jesus rescued him, leading the apostles to declare,

 

Matthew 14:33 “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

Peter also witnessed a miraculous scene at the Transfiguration, and rather than remaining in silent contemplation, he had to call out,

 

Luke 9:33 “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

 

Peter initially refused to let Christ wash his feet at the Last Supper, “You shall never wash my feet.” (John 13:8).  He pledged to die with Christ, (Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” Matthew 26:35) but, when the guard came, after a brief scene of wildly swinging a sword and cutting off the ear of a servant, he soon ran away with the others:

 

John 18:10 “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.”

 

Mark 14:40 “And they all forsook him, and fled.”

 

He followed Christ at a distance to the place of His passion, but famously denied Christ three times when the servants identified Him. (Matthew 26:69-74, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:55-62 and John 18:15-18)

But despite his lengthy list of failings, he had his beautiful moments in the Gospel, too.  In John 6, when Christ speaks explicitly of eating His body and blood in the Eucharist, many walked away because they could not accept this teaching.  Jesus looked to the apostles to see if they would leave as well, and Peter marvelously responded for himself and the others (Judas excepted),

 

John 6:68-69 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

 

Also in Matthew 16, when Jesus queries His apostles asking, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” it was Peter who was able to make his magnificent response,

 

Matthew 16:16 “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 

It is then that he receives Christ’s blessing and the keys of the papacy in the Church.

 

Matthew 16:17-19 “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 

 

Peter was called, along with St. Paul, to be one of the first great evangelists in the early Church.  Christ personally formed him for three years, and now that Christ has died, risen and ascended into heaven, it is time for the Holy Spirit.  At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles in the form of tongues of fire. 

 

Acts 2:3 “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them.”

 

And, these men who had previously been weak, fearful and inconstant, were now lions for the faith.  Peter preached his first two sermons, and 5,000 joined the Church.  Would that we had numbers of even a fraction of that today!

Peter still made mistakes, but it was the abundant life of the Spirit that guided Peter back to true and clear thinking and finally gave him the courage to witness to his faith with his martyrdom.

WE MUST WANT ABUNDANT LIFE

We’re not the apostles, so how do we get this abundant life that motivated Peter and the others to go out and convert the world? We must want it with all our hearts. We must ask for it as Jesus instructs us in Luke’s Gospel.

 

Luke 11:9-13 “And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

We must want the Holy Spirit. We must ask, seek and knock for the Holy Spirit to enter our lives in a powerful way. We will receive His mercy, His love and His power.  When we do, then we are “Baptized in the Holy Spirit.”

Fire, power, purpose, love, joy and peace are the essence of a Christian’s life. When you have that, you can expect and experience miracles.

MIGHTY WORKS OF GOD

The Catechism concludes,

 

“Because the Holy Spirit is the anointing of Christ, it is Christ who, as the head of the Body, pours out the Spirit among his members to nourish, heal, and organize them in their mutual functions, to give them life, send them to bear witness and associate them to his self-offering to the Father and to his intercession for the whole world … these ‘mighty works of God,’ offered to believers in the sacraments of the Church, bear their fruit in the new life in Christ according to the Spirit.” (739-740)

 

So, we are to bear fruit in the new life of Christ according to the Spirit.  We have the sacraments to help us, particularly the two we can receive frequently, Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.  In Reconciliation we experience the mercy of God, and in the Eucharist He gives us spiritual food for our journey through life.

So, let us be grateful to God for the gift of our baptism and the start of the life of the Spirit within us.  If we have lost this gift by serious sin, let us make a good confession and start anew.  Let us also be like Peter, letting the Holy Spirit gradually transform us in the love of Christ.  And finally, let us make regular use of the sacraments as a way to increase the Holy Spirit’s presence and influence in our lives.

Deacon Steve Greco in Catholic Stand: The Saints and Mercy Jul 03, 2022

Deacon Steve Greco wrote The Saints and Mercy for Catholic Stand.  Click here to view the article.

Jun 22, 2022

Deacon Steve Greco wrote "The Saints and the Spiritual Works of Mercy" for Catholic Journal.  Click here to read the article.

Deacon Steve: Use Contemplative Prayer and Meditation When We Fear Jun 21, 2022

My spiritual director encouraged me to say “Jesus, I Trust in You” on every bead of the rosary when I am in a state of despair. It is important to use contemplative prayer and meditation when we fear, rather than let the fear disable us. Look for your own “prayer closet” with the Lord—a special place in your home, garden, etc. that you choose for prayer—and spend time in contemplation or meditation. Through prayer, we are transformed and receive the peace and love God wants for us.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

How in the world can we receive this peace when we feel as if everything is crashing down on us? I believe achieving peace of heart and mind is impossible from a human standpoint. However, with God, all things are possible.

 

- excerpt from Deacon Steve Greco's 2018 book Overcoming Adversity Through Miracles.  Click here to purchase a copy.

The Saints and the Spiritual Works of Mercy Jun 14, 2022

As the corporal works of mercy help our neighbor in the needs of his body, the spiritual works of mercy aid our neighbor with the needs of the soul.  As life on this Earth is passing and eternity forever, you can guess which of the two the Church views as the most important!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently.” (2447)

The first spiritual work of mercy is “admonish the sinner.”  St. John Fisher (1469-1535) is an excellent example of this work of mercy.  John was born in England, ordained a priest at age 22, and was known for his great learning and humble life.  He was appointed bishop of the poor Diocese of Rochester, where he remained throughout his life.

The King of England, Henry VIII, had once been a great defender of the Church (and awarded the title “Defender of the Faith”), but broke with Rome when he publicly divorced his wife Catherine so that he could marry another.  All the nation’s bishops feared the king’s authority and went along, but not John.  John outraged the king when he declared he would die for the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Henry founded the Church of England and made himself its head.  He arrested John Fisher and had him thrown into the Tower of London.  He suffered martyrdom by being beheaded.  John was willing to give his life to correct the errors of Henry.

The second spiritual work of mercy is “instruct the ignorant.” This begins with us sharing our faith with others, explaining accurately what we believe and why.  We must educate ourselves in the faith to be ready for such a moment and ask Our Lord for opportunities to share our faith.

 

1 Peter 3:15-16 “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”

 

Many of the Church’s heroes, the saints, have devoted their lives to instructing the ignorant about the truths of the faith.  One example is St. Dominic (1170-1221), founder of the Dominican Order (Order of Preachers).  Dominic came from a wealthy family and was dedicated to prayer.  He became a Benedictine before starting his own order. 

He was called on the fight the Albigensian heresy in southern France, which taught that matter was evil and spirit was good.  Hence, some considered suicide a good act.  Taking the example of the first apostles, Dominic and his fellow Dominicans went out, two by two, begged their bread and based their preaching on sound doctrine.  Legend has it that in 1214 the Blessed Mother gave St. Dominic the rosary to help him convert the Albigensians.

Legend also has it that Ss. Peter and Paul appeared to him and gave him a staff for guiding others and a book to do so by the truth.  They told him, “Go and preach, for you are chosen by God to do that occupation and ministry.”

Future Dominicans included the great teachers Ss. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas.

Next comes “counsel the doubtful.”  We draw upon Scripture to give us guidance in speaking with people.

 

1 Corinthians 1:25 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

 

We don’t need to explain things with human logic, but rather, we draw our strength from the Holy Spirit. We let God speak through us.

Padre Pio (1887-1968) was an Italian friar popular with many Catholics today.  He received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ in his hands and side, and was given many special spiritual gifts: healing, bilocation, levitation, prophecy and reading hearts.

But he is perhaps best known for the many long hours he spent counseling the doubtful in the Sacrament of Penance.  Among those who came were the future Pope John Paul II, whom Padre Pio predicted would be elevated to the highest ranks of the Church.

The fourth spiritual work is “comfort the sorrowful,” which leads us back to the beatitudes in Matthew’s gospel.

 

Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

 

We must be listeners, actively present to others. When we act in this way, we become Jesus to them! We reassure them that they are not alone, that we—as Jesus does—love and care about them!

St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) was a Polish Franciscan martyr.  He did much to challenge the errors of his day, including Nazism.  He published a magazine, “The Knight of the Immaculata,” and preached on the radio.

The Nazis arrested him and sent him to the death camp Auschwitz.  In 1941, one man escaped, so the Nazi guards chose 10 men to die in his place.  Maximilian famously volunteered to take the place of a married man who had been among the 10.

In his last days dying in the group cell with the other nine, Maximilian did much to comfort the sorrowful.  He celebrated Mass for them, and led them in singing hymns.  He told them, “You’ll soon be with Mary in heaven.” 

Maximilian was the last to die; he was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II in 1982.  The man whose life he had saved was there in Rome to witness it.

The next work of mercy is “bear wrongs patiently.”  Each of us is hurt and will be hurt by others. Often these hurts can lead to depression and a great deal of anxiety. What do we do? First, we pray for those who injure us. Second, we picture them with the eyes of Jesus. Are they loved by Jesus? Forgiven by Jesus? When we see others as Jesus does, our attitude changes, often immediately.

St. Andrew Dung Lac (1795-1839) was born into a poor family in Vietnam.  He converted to Catholicism as a teen, and was ordained a priest in 1823.  He lived an exemplary Catholic life, praying, fasting, living a simple life and preaching the Gospel.

Unfortunately, the emperor in Vietnam at the time, Minh Mang, hated the Catholic faith.  He martyred Catholics, banned missionaries and tried to get Catholics to renounce their faith by stomping on a crucifix.  Andrew had to hide from the authorities.  He was eventually caught, tortured and beheaded.

The persecution continued.  Christians’ faces were marked with the words “ta dao” or false religion.  Families were broken up, and villages destroyed.  Andrew and his fellow Vietnamese Catholics had to bear wrongs patiently until the political situation in the country improved.

Andrew was one of 117 Vietnamese martyrs canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988.  Many Vietnamese people today still honor the image of Our Lady of La Vang, a 1798 apparition of Mary during which she gave encouragement to the people in the midst of their sufferings.

 “Forgive all injuries” is the next spiritual work of mercy.  St. Philip Benizi (1233-85) was a Servite priest was sent by the pope to the City of Fortli in the former Papal States.  While he was preaching, an angry 18-year-old man named Peregrine Laziosi struck him in the face, knocking him down.  Peregrine immediately repented, and Philip readily forgave him.  Peregrine was converted by the kindness and mercy of the saint, joined the Servite order and became a saint himself.  Philip’s readiness to forgive an injury converted a sinner and set him on the path towards becoming a saint.

The final spiritual work of mercy is “pray for the living and the dead.”  Returning to Padre Pio, this great saint has many stories about helping the souls in Purgatory.  One evening, for example, he was praying in church and heard noise.  He thought a candle had fallen, but looking up, saw a young brother cleaning.  “What are you doing?” Padre Pio asked.  “Cleaning,” the brother responded.  “In the dark?” the future saint asked.  “I was part of this community, now I spend my Purgatory cleaning here.”  Padre Pio took it as a prompting that he should pray for the man’s deliverance from Purgatory.

All of us can engage in the spiritual works of mercy.  Start with your family and friends and others with whom you are in close contact.  Then you can expand your efforts to assist a larger number of people, perhaps through a ministry in your parish. 

And remember, our prayers and efforts to help our neighbor are critical to his salvation.  In one of the most memorable of the apparitions of Mary to the three children of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, she showed them a terrifying vision of hell.  She then told the children, “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go.  To save them, God wishes to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart.  If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

Like the children of Fatima, let us pray for our neighbor, and look for other ways we can help him in his spiritual needs.

Deacon Steve Greco: Our Suffering Does have a Purpose Jun 10, 2022

"For me, one of the biggest trials in my life occurred when my daughter notified me she had lung cancer, a terminal disease in most cases. An even greater trial happened six weeks later when she called me from an East Coast-area hospital to tell me the cancer had entered her heart. She said that she might not last the night and was giving her final goodbye.

I remember crying out in anguish! “Why would you take my only daughter away from me? All I have done is try to follow you, devote my life to sharing your love, and this is how you reward me?”

A human response. Afterword, I felt the need to repent. To ask God for forgiveness for not trusting him. I then felt the Lord say to me deep in my soul, “I love your daughter, my daughter, more than you can ever imagine.”

Suffering and trials are difficult for most of us. We cry out to God to fix things: our family, job, health, marriage, relationships, finances, etc. But we think we know best how our lives should run. We don’t ask for God’s will; rather, we usually ask God to do our will."

So what is the purpose of adversity and suffering?

1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Our suffering does have a purpose! I often have felt achieving holiness is impossible without experiencing trials. We are well underway to achieving the crown of life when we undergo trials.

James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him.”

- excerpt from Deacon Steve Greco's 2018 book Overcoming Adversity through Miracles.  Click here to purchase a copy and to see what other books are available through Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry.

Deacon Steve Greco in Catholic Journal: The Saints and the Corporal Works of Mercy Jun 03, 2022

Deacon Steve Greco wrote “The Saints and the Corporal Works of Mercy” which appeared today in Catholic Journal.  To read the article, click here.

Deacon Steve’s Miracles Through Prayer Book Featured in Legatus Magazine Jun 01, 2022

An excerpt from Deacon Steve Greco’s 2020 book Miracles Through Prayer was featured in the June 2022 issue of the Catholic CEO publication Legatus Magazine.  Click here to read the article.

Deacon Steve Greco on Family Prayer May 31, 2022

In his 2020 book "Miracles Through Prayer", Deacon Steve Greco writes about family prayer.  He says, "There are many ways you can pray as a family.  Start with the basics, such as morning and evening prayers, and prayers before meals.  Go to Mass on Sundays as a family, and go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation together at least once a month.  Look for opportunities to pray devotions together at your local parish, such as at a Benediction or Holy Hours."

If you wish to read more, click here to purchase a copy of "Miracles Through Prayer" and to see what other materials are available through the ministry.

Deacon Steve Greco in Catholic Stand: Answering the Call      May 25, 2022

Deacon Steve Greco wrote “Answering the Call,” an article for Catholic Stand.  Click here to read the piece: https://catholicstand.com/answering-the-call/.

Deacon Steve Greco: Chosen to be Holy May 17, 2022

 My brothers and sisters, you are called to have a radical new life of wonder and joy. You are called to be holy.

We see this call to a joyful life in the Old Testament:

Leviticus 20:26 “Therefore, you shall be holy; for I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from other peoples to be my own.” 

Leviticus 11:44 “You shall make and keep ourselves holy because I am holy.”

In 1 Peter 1:16, we are reminded to be holy because the Lord is holy.

When I ask people if they are holy, almost 100% of them say they are not, and most will even say they don’t know anyone who is holy.

The reality? We are holy because we are called to be holy and because of what Jesus has done for us by His death on the Cross and His resurrection. He has wiped clean our sins and made us “whiter than snow.” We must just say “Yes” to being holy.

We have been chosen to be holy.

Ephesians 1:4 “As he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.”

How do you become holy? There is a seven-step process that leads us to holiness.

The first step is to desire holiness.  We are called to be holy. We are called to be saints. Mother Teresa told us we must desire to be holy and expect that we will become holy. What is more important to you than becoming holy? Nothing!

The second step is to surrender our life to Jesus. We can’t get there if we have one foot in the world and one foot with Jesus. If we are lukewarm, Jesus will “spit” us out of His mouth as seen in Revelation 3. When we seek God with all our hearts, hunger and thirst for Him, we will receive the grace for holiness.

The third step is to repent of our weakness and sins on an ongoing basis. Have we forgiven ourselves for our sins? Have we forgiven others for the hurt they have caused us? Let’s get in the habit of examining our conscience at the end of each day and go to frequent Reconciliation.

The fourth step is to ask for faith, faith that moves mountains and leads us to deeper holiness. Through faith we experience miracles. Faith, through the love of Jesus, heals us.

We have learned in this book that to receive more faith, we must ask for it. We must expect to “move mountains.” Of what are you afraid? It’s okay that you don’t “feel” faithful; ask and you will receive in abundance!

The fifth step is to learn how to pray fervently. Most of us pray by asking God for things. It is critical we learn how to pray from our hearts, beginning with praising God for who He is. Prayer and praise lead us to be thankful for what God has done for us. It often involves praying in the Spirit.

To what extent do we go to Eucharistic adoration? It is amazing what a difference it can make in our lives. I am on the evangelization committee in my diocese, and at one meeting the connection between fervent attending of adoration and vocations was pointed out.

When we are one with God, “abide in me and I will abide in you”; we have the power, love and grace of our Father in heaven. We are connected with God through prayer, praise and the sacraments; we are doing His will. When we do the will of God, we live in holiness.

This also leads us to the Blessed Mother and the rosary. Praying through Mary is the best way to become a saint. She guides us to the will of her Son Jesus. 

The sixth step toward holiness is to love fervently. Ask God to teach you how to love. It is the most important act you can perform. It starts with God teaching you how to open your heart to receive the love He has for you.

To love in holiness and with the love of the Father, we must learn how to forgive—a huge stumbling block for many. We try to come up with excuse after excuse about why we can’t forgive.

My brothers and sisters, we have no choice if we want to be holy. Lack of forgiveness will prevent our “being set apart” or holy. Is holding on to anger, hurts and ill feelings worth it? The answer is no, especially considering what God has told us: we will be forgiven in the same measure we forgive others. When we judge, we place that same judgment on ourselves.

Learn to love unconditionally by asking for this grace, repenting when you are not loving, and asking for the grace to be able to love with the love of Jesus. Do not be prideful in your ability to love, since all love is of God and comes from God.

Finally, to be holy means you are living a sacramental life. It requires leading a life in which you hunger and thirst for the Mass and Eucharist. To what extent is your day based upon receiving the Eucharist or routinely going to Reconciliation?

When God has called us to be holy, He has called us to Himself. He wants to give us every spiritual gift and blessing in the heavens.

The purpose of this book is to teach us that God is close to us at all times and especially when we face adversity and trials. No matter what we are going through, God’s love, grace and forgiveness is greater. You were created to be an instrument of God’s love, joy and peace.

May God our Father bless each of you and your loved ones with His abundant love, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Name of Jesus. Amen!

All praise, glory and honor be His now and forever. Amen.            

 

This column is excerpted from Deacon Steve Greco’s 2018 book “Overcoming Adversity through Miracles.”  Click here to purchase a copy: Amazon.com : deacon steve greco.

Deacon Steve Greco: Lord, Help Me Always to Speak the Truth

Excerpt from Deacon Steve Greco's 2014 book 365 Days of Praise for April 19:

Proverbs 12:22 “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD,/but those who are truthful are his delight.”

Have you ever lied? How did you feel in your spirit and soul? I know, you thought you had a good reason. It was to protect the innocent or some other rationalization that sounded good at the time. However, deep down you knew the truth, but you didn’t have the courage to “speak” the truth. Was there a time when you did speak the truth, and you felt the peace of the Lord? You felt His presence and love?

Lord, help me always to speak the truth, no matter the cost. I praise You for being the God of truth, for You are the way, the truth and the life.

When do you feel weak and tell lies or half-truths to those in your life? In your personal life? At work?

365 Days of Praise is available through the ministry bookstore.

Click Here to Visit the Ministry Online Bookstore