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Father Muench Says...

‘Embrace God through love’

April 26, 2023

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, I would like to begin with my own tribute to my priest classmate, Monsignor Lawrence “Larry” Deno, who died on Easter Sunday. Father Deno and I entered Wadhams Hall on the same day, ages ago, beginning our studies leading to priesthood for the Catholic Church and for our diocese, the Diocese of Ogdensburg. We were ordained as priests on May 16, 1959, with five others of our class. Since then, we have served in various capacities for our diocese. Father Larry went on to further study. He received a doctorate at Notre Dame University. Father Larry served as a teacher, then as the superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Ogdensburg. Then he was a professor at Wadhams Hall, preparing seminarians for the priesthood. I know well that Father Larry was a dedicated priest, a deeply spiritual man and a very dedicated spiritual director. Father Larry was dedicated to the development of our Catholic Schools. Please keep Father Larry Deno in your prayers. For me, he was my good friend and a very dedicated priest. May God welcome you, my friend, into eternal life.

Now, at this time, I want to continue our consideration of the Church’s Easter Season. I continue to be absorbed with the various events and celebrations that come up after our celebration of the Lord Jesus’ Resurrection. I want to tell you about a morning Mass that I offered with the sixth graders from our school. The Gospel reading that day was the one that told us that the apostles were together at a lake, and they decided to go fishing. So, I spent some time talking with the students about fishing. That was not easy for me since I have little experience fishing.

I began with a question for them. I wondered, “what is the most important thing when going fishing?” I must admit that what I was looking for as an answer was “silence.” It seems to me that out on the lake fishermen want to keep things quiet as they prepare to start fishing. From there I wanted to share with the students that one of our best prayers is a time of silence. I know I have mentioned this to you before that I value silence as an important part of prayer.

I know that I develop a better relationship with the Lord Jesus when I take some time in silence before Him. I know that the Lord’s presence during my times of silence is a powerful time for me. I believe that the Lord comes to me, even speaks to me, when I stay silent and open hearted.

I know that there are times when I go to prayer and find little meaning, little understanding. The problem for me is too many words, too many ideas, yet my heart is empty. What was it that I really wanted? I suppose comfort, maybe reassurance, certainly love. Beautiful thoughts can nourish the mind. But they can’t nourish the heart. Only an experience of love can nourish the heart.

So, I have found that spending time in silence with the Lord, who loves me so much, will help me to experience well the love of the Lord who wants to be with me, to share with me the love that only our Savior can give.

Faith is very much concerned with the mind – having to do with dogmas and doctrines. But it is even more concerned with the heart. It consists in a relationship of love with the God who first loved me. Without this, faith is like a fireplace without a fire. It is to the heart that the call of our God comes to us.

I close today with a quote from the interesting book, “The Cloud of Unknowing” from a 14th Century mystical author: “When asked the question, ‘Who is God,’” he says the only response are the humble words, “I don’t know.” But then he adds, “That is not the right question because it means you are still in your head. Get out of your head and into your heart. We cannot grasp God through knowledge, but we can embrace God through love.

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