Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Conversation with Michael Seagriff and Giveaway

Dear Michael, I received a copy of STIRRING SLUMBERING SOULS for my birthday last year. And here I am, more than a year later, and far richer. It’s the BEST companion for Adoration. I love it. So, thank you for writing this book and for taking the time to have this conversation.

Please share something of your background. Did you always have a love for our Eucharistic Lord from your childhood or is it something that grew as you grew older? Did you ever have doubts? 
I grew up in the public projects in Brooklyn, New York in an Irish Catholic Family. My parents had seven children; two of my brothers died shortly after my twin sister and I were born. My father, who did not have a high school diploma, worked multiple jobs to support the family and to send us to Catholic school.

My earliest recollection of my childhood all centered around Church. I was an altar boy as soon as I met the minimum age and mastered the Latin Mass responses. While I was too young to fully appreciate the magnificence of the Eucharist, I treasured it as a child and fondly remember many a Holy Hour spent on my knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I particularly recall the magnificence of the Holy Thursday liturgy.

YES!!! It never ceases to amaze me: the bells at the Gloria, the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood—they go hand in hand.

I entered a minor seminary and left two years later. After graduating from high school and spending half a year in college, I dropped out and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving a tour in Vietnam. Foolishly I walked away from my Eucharistic Lord and His Church. God in His infinite mercy spared my life.

Deo gratias! I know exactly how you feel—tremendous gratitude—I’m always thanking my guardian angel for keeping me alive; now I have the hope of heaven! 

I “returned” to the Church just long enough to get married, to have our first two children baptized and then again when it was time for First Communion preparation. But it was not until my Mom died that I gave God any meaningful thought. I remember being angry with Him over her suffering and death and recall a visit to the local Catholic Church. There, for the first time in my life, in front of the tabernacle, I actually spoke to God. I poured out my heart to Him. And in an instant, I saw very clearly how He had chosen to spare my life during those years when I had foolishly turned my back on Him. It was time to return permanently and take my Faith seriously.

Your mother must be smiling from heaven. Mine too!

God placed my family in the hands of a wonderful priest and fellow parishioners who  encouraged us to grow in our Faith. We progressed from Sunday Mass attendees to participants in RENEW, Cursillo, the Charismatic Renewal, and a Prison Ministry.
But it is was not until an elderly Italian matriarch and friend from our parish approached my wife and I before Mass one Sunday that an overwhelming sense of love for the Eucharist manifested itself in our lives. She simply said: “I have the perfect time for you.” 
“What do you mean?” we asked. 
“Adoration at 2 AM on Friday mornings.”

I love this! Her confidence that you will do this! 

For 10 years my wife and I shared a holy hour on the First Friday of every month. We came to treasure that time with God, and never during the 10 years of First Fridays were we ever tired or unable to complete our normal routines the following day.

My interest in and attraction toward the Eucharist only increased. After a year of persistent promptings, I got the courage to ask our Pastor if we could start Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. “We can’t even fill 12 hours on the First Friday of each month,” he said. “How do you expect to cover 168 hours a week?” 

“I have no idea Father, but am convinced God wants us to try.” It has been more than 17 years since our Chapel of Perpetual Adoration opened. We are struggling now to cover all the hours but know God will provide. If there was ever any doubt about our Lord wanting this Chapel in our little town of 8,500, it was removed when a total stranger approached us and offered us a monstrance blessed by Pope St. John Paul II on the Sunday before he died if we would place it in our Chapel.

That is beautiful! We are building a new church—St. Clare of Assisi on Daniel Island—and are so excited at the possibility of having Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration! See for details.

You are a lay Dominican. Please tell us how this came to be. 

I had never heard of the Lay Dominicans. I had lived in the Syracuse, New York area for more than 25 years and did not even know there was a Monastery of cloistered Dominican nuns there. That is not until I met a unique soul at a preparatory meeting for a Prison Retreat we were planning. At the time, this gentlemen was living out of his car. He told me that he had always wanted to visit and perhaps join the Lay Dominican community in Syracuse but lacked transportation. He asked me if I would take him to their next meeting. I did. He never joined the community but I stayed. Astonishing how God works. How thankful I am that God placed this man in my life. He was the vehicle through which it has been forever changed.

My Dominican vocation has nourished an insatiable hunger to know, live, share and defend the Truths of our Catholic Faith; to love and treasure the Eucharist;  to make it the source, center and  summit of our daily lives; to promote greater belief in and reverence for this magnificent Gift; and to have zeal for the salvation of souls, not only our own, but the souls of every one whom we encounter on this earthly journey. It provides a framework through which we can effectively live out our vocation as lay Catholics. I never would have had the courage to pursue Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration had it not been for the graces I have receved as a Lay Dominican. Your readers can find out more about the Lay Dominican vocation here.

How long did it take you to compile the 250 Reflections? How did you go about sorting and sifting through what I imagine an immense treasure trove?

It took me nearly a year to complete this book. I have been collecting quotes on the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration since at least since May of 2011 and have hundreds. I printed all the quotations I had saved and prayerfully reviewed them, deciding at one point to select 250 of them. I prayed and tried to assemble those quotes that would really challenge our hard hearts and which were hopefully words that were not overly familiar to the book’s readers. I truly believe, as did St. Vincent Ferrer, O.P., that we cannot be timid when addressing problems in our Church and the lukewarm manner in which many of us live out our faith. St. Vincent was direct and confronted people with the Truth since it is only the Truth that will set hearts and souls free. 

While the response to this book has been overwhelmingly positive, I have received two conflicting types of criticism:  there are not enough quotations or 250 quotations are a bit much. 

Ha! Everybody has an opinion! Please share a couple of your favorite quotations and the reason why.

Wow, every time I reread the book, I find another favorite. 
Grin! This is why SSS will remain in my Adoration bag at all times. 
Let me share four.

The following words reminded  me that it is only by and through God’s grace, not by our devices, that we will be able to do anything of value:

“All you have loved in me comes from the time I spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament. All that has disappointed you in me comes from the time I should have spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament.”  (From Could You Not Watch with Me One Hour?)

The next three quotations address the problem of man’s ingratitude for the Gift of God’s Presence. This is a Truth we have been afraid to share for fear of offending the listener. But these are exactly the words that we must share if we are to reawaken so many lost souls:

“Ah, how it hurts to see in what manner our Savior is treated! There He is in the tabernacle, the Prisoner of Love, waiting for souls to come and visit Him. But whoever gives Him even a thought, one only thought? …It would cause so very little trouble to go to Him...for just a sweet moment. It would be so very easy to cast a tender glance upon that tiny send a loving thought a-speeding towards that breathe a few whispered words of affection...but, alas! When it comes to doing something for Jesus that something, no matter how small, becomes at once irksome and grievous-so weak are we!”” (Eucharistic Whisperings - Father Winfrid Herbst, S.D.S.) 

“How many among the best Catholics never pay a visit of devotion to the most Blessed Sacrament to speak with Him from the heart, to tell Him their love? They do not love our Lord in the Eucharist because they do not know Him well enough. But in spite of knowing Him and His love and the sacrifices and desires of His heart, they still do not love Him.

 What an insult!   Yes, an insult.

 For it amounts to telling Jesus Christ that He is not beautiful enough, not good enough, not lovable enough to be preferred to what they love.
What ingratitude!" (St. Peter Julian Eymard) 
“Why art Thou left alone in this Most Holy Sacrament? Where are Thy adorers and Thy friends? Has Thy Church failed to announce Thy Gospel to the world, and to make Thy presence known? Why art Thou so ignored, forsaken, and left alone in Thy tabernacles, without honor and with no one to thank Thee for the gift of Thy Real Presence? Why is the world kept in the dark concerning Thee in this Most Holy Sacrament, when Thou art all that this world needs, and all that souls desire?” (Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, OSB the author of Vultus Christi)
Ouch! You are right! These are hard to read; they convict me. You will see from my favorites that I am still a newbie when it comes to loving our blessed Lord. 

The first by St. Peter Julian Eymard (p. 109-110): Go to our Lord just as you are. Make a simple meditation. Exhaust your own fund of piety and love before you make use of books…Remember that our good Master prefers the poverty of our heart to the most sublime thoughts and affections borrowed from others… This reminds me how much God loves me just as I am and He will bring me to perfection. 

The second by Rev. Mateo Crawley-Boevey (p. 125-126) shed so much light on our Lord’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. See, I always thought my sins made Him weep. But there’s even a greater reason.  For centuries, I have carried in My Heart a sorrowful cross. How many souls are there redeemed by My Blood, yet, definitely lost! …My Heart was breaking in the Garden of Gethsemane, for they were all My children! It makes me pray more fervently for conversions knowing how close I was to choosing hell in my youth. I can’t thank you enough for writing this book. Not only has my prayer life deepened, but you’ve introduced me to new saint-friends and I look forward to getting to know them better. 

Your choices are excellent. Your words of support are most humbling.

I think my next book will be In Sinu Jesu—I finally realized (because of SSS) that the beautiful blog Vultus Christi is maintained by the same priest. What a treasure! How did you get to know him? Have you made a retreat with him?

Vijaya, you must read In Sinu Jesu. Every priest and every Catholic must read that book. It is an absolute treasure trove of Truth. I would love to make a retreat at the Silverstream Priory in County Meath Ireland but don’t see that becoming a reality. In lieu of meeting Dom Mark Daniel Kirby. O.S.B and his community personally, I will reread his book and visit his blog, Vultus Christi, regularly. I highly recommend Father’s blog to your readers. It was there that I first discovered excerpts from In Sinu Jesu before it became a published book.  
Over the years I have contacted Father via e-mail seeking his permission to use some of his work. He has always been most generous in giving me permission to do so. I cannot more highly recommend a priest or a religious community than Father Kirby and the Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. It has also been my privilege to share a portion of the proceeds realized from the sale of I Thirst For Your Love with them.

I've just begun! Is there anything else you would like to share, Michael?

Please let us love God as we ought and as He deserves. Let us come to Church to worship and adore Him and to reverently, with great humility and gratitude, receive His most precious Body and Blood. Let us do everything within our power individually and as a Church to reinstate reverence, sacredness and silence in our Churches. Let us visit and spend time before and with our loving Lord in the Blessed Sacrament every week. And let us quench His thirst to be loved and adored.

There are so many devotionals to bring to Adoration but SSS will remain my favorite. 

Vijaya, you have been so kind and helpful in promoting Stirring Slumbering Souls. I pray that you will also find I Thirst For Your Love, a fitting addition to your devotional collection. If either of these books have any value, it is because of the wise souls whose words and entreaties I have shared. To God forever be the Glory!

AMEN! I sing Non nobis Domine!!!
God bless you and your readers!

Thank you, Michael, for sharing your life and work so generously. God bless you for all you do! My friends, you will find a wealth of devotional aids on Michael Seagriff’s blog:  To have a chance at winning your own copy of STIRRING SLUMBERING SOULS, leave a comment before the end of this month. I also urge you to make a Holy Hour Maundy Thursday. Many Catholic churches will have an Altar of Repose until midnight.

My dear readers, I conducted this interview before the terrible fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and couldn't have known how timely it would be. Just like the Jewish people were chastised, so are we, for turning away from God. "Yet even now," declares the LORD, Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning;" ~ Joel 2:12 
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Janeen Z said...

That was a great interview, Vijaya. Stirring Slumbering Souls is one of my all-time favorite books, too. Of course, In Sinu Jesu has also recently been added to that list! I'm so grateful to Michael for compiling all those inspiring quotes. I've given out at least five copies of SSS to friends and 2 copies of In Sinu Jesu to priests.

Vijaya said...

Thanks Janeen, and I'll do as you did and give a new copy to a lucky commentator (or is it commenter?)

Faith E. Hough said...

Beautiful interview, and perfect to read just before Holy Thursday! Thank you, Vijaya and Michael!

Suman Khisty said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful interview. Michael's story is very inspiring and you've whetted my appetite to invest more time in prayer. Truly, I know I am one of those ungrateful souls who should love Jesus as he ought to be loved for He has done so much for me. Thank you for sharing this interview and changing hearts. God bless you always and God bless Michael.

Theresa Linden said...

Great interview! Very inspiring. I love remaining with Jesus after Holy Thursday Mass too. I love all of Holy Week!

Vijaya said...

Thank you Faith, Suman, and Theresa. I am always so encouraged to read these stories! And Baby, we're all taking baby steps toward our dear Lord. We might be slow, but we're steady :) God bless you all.