Category: Featured Authors

‘Only One’ Shelter Offers Guests God’s Love

Renewal Ministries’ Missions Administrator Kathleen Kittle recently served on mission in Hungary. You can read the full report here. During her time in Hungary, Kathleen spent a day with Country Coordinator Deacon Zoli Kunszabo’s wife, Panni, shown above at the Only One homeless day shelter. Below, Panni shares more about the Only One shelter, the mission behind it, and the people it serves. You can read more about Only One at its website, here.

By Panni Kunszabo

A real home means loving relationships, something we only experience in fragments until we reach our true home with the heavenly Father. We were created for this heavenly home, and we long for it after we arrive on earth as miserable little people. That is to say, we desire the presence of God. When we understand with our hearts what great love and acceptance our Creator has for us, we want to share this with others, especially those who are true beggars in this earthly home—those for whom no one cares, worries, cries, or mourns.

I talk of nobody’s children, individuals who belong to no one, who have no family with caring wings to cover them. At Only One, we lead and offer these people to God’s care. This is our vocation.

The people we care for do not know how to love, as they have not yet experienced it. The world expects them to live healthy, normal lives, but it is impossible for them. Their hearts bleed from open wounds—the pain of which they try to dull with drugs, alcohol, and periodic unhealthy relationships. These wounds then produce sins and thus more wounds.

In our little daytime center, we beg for the love of the merciful God to fill our hardened hearts so that, with them, we may love our starving guests. As we provide them food and clothing, and try to find them accommodation and work, we try to love them—for we can do nothing else. This is, after all, the only thing that makes sense in the end.[1]

We are open every work day in order that those who beg, or who live in shelters, on the street, or in poor unheated flats, can visit and be at home, can tell us what happened to them, can cry. We opened our doors seven years ago and since then, many thousands have honoured us with their life stories, often talking for hours, finally finding someone who listens. There were days when four hundred people visited us, other times one hundred. Nonetheless, we try to treat everyone as an individual and speak to the one before us as the most important one at that moment. I will share some of their stories below:

  • Kati was abandoned to state care when she was only an infant. When she was twelve, she found herself with foster parents who prostituted her to feed their own smaller children. Today, she is in her twenties, has lost her teeth, and is a drug-addicted prostitute.
  • Jenő lost his job after his eyesight weakened from work, and thus he was let go after thirty years of being in middle-management. At fifty-something, alone, having lost his parents, and not having a family, this university-educated, intelligent man has tried everything in his desperation. He was unable to return to his former employer, even as a warehouse worker. Slowly, the lack of income began to show in his small apartment. As he waits to reach retirement age, he does the jobs in the public works program. He cleans up after dogs in parks, and his health declines. You can no longer see who he was once upon a time.
  • No one knows why Jancsi’s parents placed him into state care when he was two years old. The family he was placed with made him live with the animals in the barn. When Christian villagers saved him at the age of six, he was still unable to talk. His family is unable to care for him and have entrusted Jancsi to us. He is autistic and mentally challenged and now over sixty. For seven years now, he has his own place at a table where he repairs radios with a soldering iron. In the evening, he goes “home” to his usual shelter, where the “keep a bed for him.”
  • Marcsi’s mother abandoned her and her six siblings to state care when Marcsi was only a month and half old. This may have been the last time she was given a loving hug. Their mother never visited them, and all the siblings, including her twin, were placed in different institutions, as was the custom at that time. The caregivers were not allowed to hold the crying infants, lest they become attached to them. That infant is now a woman of over fifty; she is frightening to look at, and is ostracised even among the homeless. She became a very particular lone wolf.
  • Upon arriving home from school one day, the then eight-year-old Peter found his whole family in a pool of blood. For some unknown reason, his father killed his mother, his younger brother, and then himself. In shock, Peter hid for weeks in the forest near his home until he was found. He still cannot find himself and is without a home today at the age of forty.
  • Hear the story of how Only One transformed the life of Tomi Olaj (be sure to turn on captions unless you speak Hungarian.)

These are some of the guests we greet every day.

We believe that God knows the horrific depths of the suffering these people have been through. We believe they, too, have been redeemed and are loved, even when to  human eyes they seem unlovable because of their behaviour and appearance.

We believe that we, too, have been brought out of our sins, from our own depths and misery, and we are witnesses to God’s desire to deliver us all.

There are times when we see the success of our ministry, when before our eyes someone who was once frightening becomes meek and mild and even becomes a daily volunteer and helper; when a drug-addicted Gypsy man becomes an irreplaceable colleague who returns every weekend to his place of birth, to give witness to the endless love of God. We know a young orphan of twenty who arrived the day we opened. He had already been in prison three times for burglary and had no home to return to, but when he came to our day centre, he said “yes” to the invitation of God and changed his life. Tom has had work for five years now, rents an apartment, is not homeless because he found a family in us.

We do not always see the fruits of our labour; our “only” task is to be together with our guests. We try to show them some of God’s merciful love until they arrive at their true home, the one prepared for all of us and where we all strive to arrive.

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:12-13).

[1] “On coming into the world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his bodily and spiritual life. He needs others. Differences appear tied to age, physical abilities, intellectual or moral aptitudes, the benefits derived from social commerce, and the distribution of wealth. The ‘talents’ are not distributed equally.  These differences belong to God’s plan, who wills that each receive what he needs from others, and that those endowed with particular ‘talents’ share the benefits with those who need them. These differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods; they foster the mutual enrichment of cultures.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed., 1936-1937.)

Prayer: Why & How

The following is a letter from Sr. Ann Shields to members of Friends of Food for the Journey that we felt was important to share more broadly. If you would like to learn more about Friends of Food for the Journey, click here.

Have you been giving God some substantial time every day? If this has been a struggle, simply try spending a half hour in the morning reading Scriptures and bringing your needs before the Lord. Then pray the Morning Offering:

“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins and for the intentions of all my relatives and friends and for the intentions of the Holy Father.”

Then, give God fifteen minutes in the evening, when you review the day. Repent where you need to, and then thank God for the blessings you received.

We receive blessings every day, but sometimes we are too deaf and blind to see and hear God’s action. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be more aware of the ways in which God answers prayer and accompanies you throughout the day. If you wish, keep a journal of the insights you receive, the passages in Scripture that really stand out to you, the decisions you make, the questions you have, the petitions you bring to the Lord, and whatever else is on your heart.

In addition to a daily examination, let’s take a moment right now to consider the past month: In what ways did you help yourself yield to God’s grace? How did you help yourself believe He accompanies you throughout the day, and that He knows your thoughts, desires, hopes, and fears? Did you talk to Him about them? Did you entrust your fears to Him, your worries, your hopes? I know that it can “feel” like you are talking into empty air, but you are not! Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten by God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Lk 12:6-7; emphasis mine).

If God, the almighty God, knows the number of each strand of hair on your head, then how much more does He surely know the joys and sorrows, the pain and fear that, at times, weigh you down? “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the KINGDOM” (Lk 12:32; emphasis mine).

Let that sink in a minute: God doesn’t just want you to get over the threshold of the kingdom; He wants to give us—you and me—the KINGDOM! You can trust Him. But to grow in trust, you have to spend time with Him: in personal prayer, in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and by going to Mass during the week, if possible.

Let me make one note here about making decisions to grow in your spiritual life. Make one, or at the most, two at a time. Then, make sure they have become a habit—and don’t get discouraged; this could take six months to a year—before you add any new decisions to your list. Finally, writing things down in a spiritual journal can help cement these decisions in your mind and your heart.

God loves you, and I pray that you may come to believe it—personally—for yourself and then for others. I want you to read slowly what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said a number of years ago in Germany on his radio program:

“God created each of us according to His will, and this will is our prime origin. It is not just a remote and general will, but a particular will for each one of us. However it may seem when viewed from the outside, no one exists solely by chance. Each one has been willed by God and has his own proper place in life.”

“There is, for each one, a meaning and a role in the universe, and our lives will be all the more replete and happy, the more we realize this meaning, the more we incorporate this will into our lives and are one with it.

“Hence there arises the next question: “What kind of will is this?” What concept does God see fulfilled in the human race? For one thing, we can say that He has his own design for each person; each one is something special, not merely one example of a product produced by the million. Each one is unique, never to be repeated and willed by God exactly as he is. That is why we say that God calls each of us by name—not just by a concept, but by a name that only this one individual knows and that belongs solely to him. For each one there is a special call. And only if we live attentively in conversation and dialogue with God can we know why He needs us in such an apparently insignificant position and why we are, precisely in that position, so immeasurably important. We need only recall that individuals who were apparently the most forgotten and insignificant in the world—a young woman in Nazareth, fishermen on the Lake of Genessaret—became immeasurably significant. It is not always so evident, yet God wants each of us, he needs each one of us, so that His world may become what He wants it to be”

[Co-Workers of the Truth (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1992), 222]

Look at what Jesus said to His disciples:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full. (Jn 15:9-11)

The glory which you have given me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. I in them and thou in me that they may be perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them even as you love me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them thy name and I will make it known that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them. (Jn 17:22-26)

If you are baptized, you are a child of God the Father and a disciple of Jesus Christ, and Jesus has promised many inexpressible blessings for those who clearly decide to follow Him. There DOES need to be a concrete decision on your part, in terms of accepting who you are—a son/daughter of the Father! God does not lie. He promises you the eternal kingdom, where every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more mourning, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death, for the old order will have passed away. “All will be made new” (see Rv 21:1-8)!

God desires to love us as the Son loves the Father, and as the Father loves the Son. We are drawn into that love. That is a key part of our inheritance: that we know, experience, and are drawn into the love between the Father and the Son. This is a key reason you want to repent of sin, so that you become a clear vessel to receive and give the love of God. It is incomprehensible to us in our limited human state, but if we follow Him now as closely as we can, cooperating with His grace, we will be changed more and more into His image and likeness. This is not just a holy idea! This is what God has in store for those who follow Him. Even as I write this, I know my words are totally inadequate to the reality of union with the SOURCE of all Love.

Hear, again, the words of Scripture—this is Jesus speaking to each one of us:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).

These words reflect a depth of love we cannot comprehend. But, it is nevertheless true. Jesus wants to dwell with us! To make His home with us—with you! He literally wants a close, personal relationship with you! Are we worthy? No, but He makes us “worthy” by His love, His mercy, and His forgiveness, day in and day out.

Think about a couple of ways in your own life that you could evangelize yourself. I know that sounds strange, but there are times when we need to tell ourselves the truth of who we are and where we are going. We can so easily lose our way, but God will help us as we cry out to Him. Use the Scripture passages I have given you; reflect on them; apply them to yourself. Speak the truth day in and day out, because the Enemy seeks to rob you of the truth.

Some resources you might want to examine are:

  1. My Other Self: Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith, by Clarence Ensler. This was published by Ave Maria Press in 2010.
  2. Thirsting for Prayer, by Fr. Jacques Philippe. This was published by Scepter Publishers in 2014.

Both of these books deal in different ways with our spiritual life. They are very solid and can be very helpful!

As we enter more into the truth of who we are and who God is, so much of life’s journey begins to make sense. The day will come when you will be able to “give away” to others what you’re grasping more deeply, not just with the head, but with your heart.  Then you will be able to bring His light and His truth into the growing darkness around us. And that light, that truth, no one will be able to destroy.

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The Fruit of Fasting

All of us are praying for people—for healing, for conversion, for a good job, for a good marriage, for financial provision, and many other intentions as well! In my own life, I’ve often noticed an acceleration in answered prayer for specific intentions when I’ve added fasting to my prayer. It is something that the early Christians practiced regularly and something that Mary in some of her apparitions has encouraged us to do. And now Lent becomes an opportunity for us all to join fasting to our prayer.

Not all of us can fast from food because of health conditions (although that is the primary meaning of fasting), but all of us can fast from something significant that really counts as a sacrifice. Is it media? Deserts? Eating between meals? Putting sugar in our coffee or tea? Going to movies?

We all should keep Mark 9:14-29 in mind this Lent (you can find it below.) Some oppressive holds on people and situations only yield to prayer and fasting. And that’s good news. There’s a certain pain to fasting and a fleshly reluctance to do so, but once we do, let’s do it with joy and experience the intensification of our prayer and the joy of being willing to suffer a little for those we love.

The Healing of a Boy with a Spirit

“And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them,

‘What are you discussing with them?’ 

And one of the crowd answered him,

‘Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.’ 

And he answered them,

‘O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.’ 

And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father,

‘How long has he had this?’

And he said,

‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ 

And Jesus said to him,

‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.’ 

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said,

‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ 

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it,

‘You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.’ 

And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said,

‘He is dead.’ 

But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately,

‘Why could we not cast it out?’ 

And he said to them,

‘This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.’”

(Mk 9:14-29)

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Live Lent Differently

Live Lent Different

Too often, we associate Lent with negative images that involve, in different ways, giving up something. Meanwhile, most of us have a hard time wanting to give up anything.

I encourage you to live this Lent in a manner that may be different than what you have done before:

  • Take the first two weeks of Lent (Feb. 14-28) to think about the love God has for you. Read carefully, slowly, the Gospel of John, Chapters 14-17. I urge you, if you can, to read those four chapters out loud in some quiet space. (Receiving the Word through two senses—sight and hearing—helps the truth penetrate our hearts.)
  • Take the second two-week period of Lent (March 1-14) to look at the Gospel of Matthew and read aloud Chapters 25 and 26.
  • Take roughly the last two weeks, from March 15-24, to read the Gospel of Mark, Chapters 14 and 15.
  • In the last week—Holy Week—pay attention to the selected readings for the Mass of the Day.

One major step that can help you receive the Word of God and know God’s presence more than ever before is this: Consider putting some restrictions on yourself regarding your use of cell phones and other media devices during Lent. If you want a genuine personal relationship with God, you need time to be still and listen to God as He speaks to you in the Scriptures. Remember, His Word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12). His Word convicts, counsels, and consoles. Give God room to move in your life and heart this Lent!

As you read each of these Scripture passages, pause and ask yourself how God is showing His Love for you! Remember, He did not die for crowds of people—He died for you. In His living Word, God wants to touch your heart with the realization that when He died on that cross, He already knew you. He wanted to obey the Father that you might be with Him forever. You were on His mind when He died on that cross, though you had not yet been created. (With God there are no time limits; God has no limits).

Ask God for the grace to receive and accept His love for you! Ask God to give you the grace to renew your promises to Him or to make your personal commitment to follow Him for the first time. Talk to Him about wanting to be more His son or daughter. Talk to Him about wanting to thank Him for all He has done for you. Tell Him you want to follow Him more closely. Ask Him to help you make a decision or two that will assist you in living out your relationship with God as both your Father and Savior.

Remember God hears every word of every prayer you pray—of every word you speak. Give Him your mind and your heart and ask Him to lead you in the ways He wants you to go.

If you live Lent this way, and if you make a good confession during Lent, you will come to see, by His grace, how dearly He loves you and wants to walk closely with you from now until eternity.

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Guide to Personal Prayer

Guide to Personal Prayer

Many spiritual writers, including the saints, offer suggestions concerning methods on prayer. Francis de Sales, very much influenced by his own experience of St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, offers some suggested structures and formats for the practice of meditation and prayer. He suggests six steps as a guide to moving through a time of prayer.

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God. Remember that God is near, not far away. He is in the very depth of your heart, your spirit. “Begin all your prayers whether mental or vocal in the presence of God. Keep to this rule without and exception and you will quickly see how helpful it will be.”
  2. Ask the Lord to help you pay attention to Him, to open yourself up to His Word and presence.
  3. Pick out a passage from Scripture, a scene from a Gospel, a mystery of the Faith, or a passage from some spiritual reading. If the subject matter you have chosen lends itself to it, picture yourself in the same place as the action or event that is happening. Use your imagination to place yourself in the midst of the scene near Jesus, with the disciples.
  4. Think about what you’ve chosen to meditate on in such a way as to increase your love for the Lord or for virtue. The purpose is not primarily to study or know more, but to increase your love for God and the life of discipleship.
  5. If good affections should rise up-gratitude for God’s mercy, awe at His majesty, sorrow for sin, desire to be more faithful, for example-yield to them.
  6. Come to some practical resolutions concerning changes you would like to make as a response to these affections. For example, resolve to be more faithful in prayer, or more ready to forgive, or more eager to share the faith with others, or more determined to resist sin, in as practical and concrete a way as you can determine.

“Most of all, after you rise from meditation you must remember the resolutions and decisions you have made and carefully put them into effect on that very day. This is the great fruit of meditation and without it meditation is often not only useless but even harmful. Virtues meditated on but not practiced sometimes inflate our minds and courage and we think that we are really such as we have thought and resolved to be.”

Francis recommends that we end the time of meditation-prayer with expressions of gratitude to God for the light and affections He has given us in our time of prayer; then, an offering of ourselves to the Lord in union with the offering of Jesus; and thirdly, a time of intercession for our self and others.At the same time, Francis doesn’t intend that the structure or method he proposes be followed mechanically if the Holy Spirit draws us to something different.

“It may sometimes happen that immediately after the preparation you will feel that your affections are drawn wholly towards God. In this case you must give them free rein and not follow the method I have shown you. Ordinarily, consideration must precede affections and resolutions. However, when the Holy Spirit gives you the affections before the consideration, you must not look for the consideration since it is used only to arouse the affections. In a word, whenever the affections present themselves you must accept them and make room for them whether they come before or after the considerations.”

 While Francis acknowledges the usefulness of praying the Rosary, various litanies, and fixed, written prayers, he advises us to always give the priority to mental prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

“However, if you have the gift of mental prayer, you should always give it first place. Afterwards if you cannot say your vocal prayers because of your many duties or for some other reason don’t be disturbed on that account. . . . During vocal prayer if you find your heart drawn and invited to interior or mental prayer, don’t refuse to take it up. Let your mind turn very gently in that direction and don’t be concerned at not finishing the vocal prayers you intended to say. The mental prayer you substitute for them is more pleasing to God and more profitable for your soul.”

Francis makes an exception in his general advice regarding flexibility in prayer, as does Catherine of Siena: those in Holy Orders or by virtue of a rule of religious life are obligated to pray the Divine Office must keep their commitment.

. . .

FADThe above excerpt was taken from Ralph Martin’s book The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints. For more great wisdom, pick up a copy today! Buy Now»