WISE AND OTHERWISE

By Father Jim

Dec. 17, 2017

Hope is a big word and a driving force during the days before Christmas.

Hope for a good Christmas, for peace among families and nations. Hope for postcard-perfect scenes of snow, but not blizzards to deal with.

Jesus is the Lord of Hope. The Lord wasn’t a pessimist or an optimist — optimists arrange reality saying things will get better while pessimists say things probably will get worse.

Jesus speaks about hope that is not based on chances things will maybe get better or worse. His hope is built upon the promise that, whatever happens, God will stay with us at all times, in all places.

Maybe that’s why God was born into a specific place at a definite moment and time. Our God is not removed from us, but with us. Emmanuel means just that — “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

So no matter if your Christmas this time around ends being mostly joyful or if it is a bit on the blue Christmas side, what matters is that God remains near us and among us.

Listen for that angel’s voice filling the winter sky saying, “do not fear,” with hope in your heart prepare for Christmas and greet others saying “Merry Christmas” and call each decorated tree by its real name — a Christmas tree. Leave the word “holiday” for a long weekend camping trip at the beach. 

And the otherwise …

Bulletin blooper: “Sarah remains in the hospital and needs donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of pastor’s sermons.”

Dec. 10, 2017

Advent is a time of longing for Christ our Savior, a time in which we wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus.

We look forward to the celebration of Christmas, the commemoration of Jesus’ birth, but we also look forward to the promise and hope of heaven, which we want God to teach us to love.

The longing for Christ causes us to want things to change for the better. We want God to find us blameless on the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ. With Isaiah’s words in mind: “Would that you might meet us doing right, we ask God to increase our strength of will for doing good.”

 Advent, then, is an expression of our faith in the possibility of a better world. We don’t have to be at each other’s throats. We can “do right” in the areas of race relations, family obligations and personal responsibilities.

We can “do good” to the poor, the elderly, the homeless, and to all our brothers and sisters at home and abroad. We can become blameless, beacons of social justice, examples of faith and love, peacemakers.

Maybe then God lets us do what we want to do, including wandering from him, until we at least want to want him. Maybe we will find him when we can cry with the Psalmist, “Lord, make me turn to you!”

Dec. 3, 2017

Besides the spiritual preparations that we do as Christian men and women, we also join many others in our culture’s preparations for Christmas.

We hang up lights inside and outside our homes, we wear red and green, we decorate with evergreens.

Take for instance our hanging of lights. Yes, they look nice, but why hang them now in the early winter? Could it be that during this darkest time of the year those of us who live in the northern hemisphere must find a replacement for the light that we are missing? Perhaps it is a sign that even in darkness our light will shine out.

Whatever the reason, we feel reassured and gladdened seeing the light shine. It is a sign of hope in the darkness. These are signs of hope for us.

Hope is something everyone needs to live. The hope for the coming spring makes the winter more bearable.

Nov. 26, 2017

Next Sunday, we begin the Season of Advent.

As Advent overwhelms us, there begins preparation for Christmas and all those things associated with the holidays. The facts and figures about these holidays are fascinating: shoppers will spend $450 billion, the postal service will print 3,746 billion stamps and handle 99.5 million packages. Nearly 1.2 million letters will be sent to Santa (mine included), 43 million Christmas trees will be purchased and so on.

But what about Advent itself — four weeks for God’s people to sort out and be clear about what we are waiting for, ultimately, and who are we waiting for.

Advent is kind of a confession, if we wait for Emmanuel, then we are not yet fully with God. If we are waiting for Jesus, it admits we still need a savior. If the mighty are too exalted, then it confesses the hungry and needy still stand unheard at the door.

In this beautiful and wondrous season of Advent, our admission is that we need to be made over anew through the good tidings of God’s word to us.

Nov. 12, 2017

How not to grow old

Youth is not entirely a time of life — it is a state of mind.

It is not wholly a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips and supple knees. It is a temper of the will, a quality of imagination. It means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of appetite for adventure over loss of ease.

Nobody grows old by living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair — these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the spirit back to dust. 

Whatever your years, there is in every being’s heart the love of wonder, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what is next, and the joy of the game of life.

You are as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair. In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber, so long as it receives messages of beauty, cheer and courage, so long are you young. 

When the wires are all down and your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then and only then have you grown old.

Nov. 12, 2017

How not to grow old

Youth is not entirely a time of life. It is a state of mind.

It is not wholly a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips and supple knees. It is a temper of the will, a quality of imagination. It means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of appetite for adventure over loss of ease.

Nobody grows old by living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years might wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul.

Worry, doubt, self distrust, fear and despair — these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the spirit back to dust.

Whatever your years, there is in every being’s heart the love of wonder, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what is next, and the joy of the game of life. You are as young as your self confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber, so long as it receives messages of beauty, cheer and courage, so long are you young.

When the wires are all down and your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then and only then have you grown old.

Nov. 5, 2017

Because November is the month of All Souls, it may be of some value to consider the current trends in dealing with the commending, honoring and praying for those beloved among us who pass away.

In some cases, certainly not all, the trend to delete the Catholic funeral Mass, calling hours at a funeral home and the increasing preference for cremation seem to foster the approach of “making it all easier for everybody.”

It especially makes things easier for members of the family of the late practicing Catholic, who are not into the practice of a faith.

While childbirth is messy and baptism is wet, there is an odd desire to disconnect with the body of the deceased at their passing. We seldom even use the words died or dead anymore — folks just “pass” and we celebrate their life.

Someone has said the way we carry out our responsibilities to the bodies of the dead is a clue as to how we treat the bodies of the living.

Although cremation is allowed and has been for several years in the Catholic church, many of the clergy will admit that cremation following the body present at the funeral Mass, is much preferred. We believe the corporal body, baptized and anointed, has been a temple, a dwelling place for God’s Spirit — a small box or porcelain jar at the actual funeral Mass could convey a weak symbol.

Having the evidence of death present for several hours at a funeral home visitation, placed before the altar in church for the service, finally the journey coming to the place of burial causes us to face death in the face — in order to proclaim again the power of God over death’s sentence.

Maybe our attempts to make things easier for everybody at the time of the “passing” of a loved one is a symptom of our culture’s intense wish to avoid even thinking about death for the faithful Christian, death is but the journey —the moment that brings us to life that is eternal.

What the Vatican says

The Vatican has issued a document on christian burial and cremations stating: “The reservation of the ashes of the departed in sacred places ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which in eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has, too, passed away. Also, it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. The ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.

Oct. 29, 2017

God of the seasons, there is a time for everything: there is a time for dying and a time for rising. We need courage to enter into the transformation process.

God of Autumn, the trees are saying goodbye to their green, letting go of what has been. We, too, have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurity and risk. Help us to let go when we need to do so.

God of fallen leaves lying in colored patterns on the ground, our lives have their own patterns. As we see the patterns of our growth, may we learn from them.

God of misty days and harvest moon nights, there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives. We always need to recognize your power-filled presence. May we gain strength from this.

God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain, may gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender. We must wait for the harvest in faith and hope. Grant us patience when we do not see the blessings.

God of geese going south for another season, your wisdom enables us to know what needs to be left behind and what needs to be carried into the future. We yearn for insight and vision.

God of flowers touched with frost and windows wearing white designs, may your love keep our hearts from growing cold in the empty seasons.

Oct. 22, 2017

“What’s Good for the Geese”……

It’s autumn. The air is cool, leaves are falling from trees and high overhead geese are honking.

Looking up, you’ll see that they’re flying south in the famous “V” formation.

But why do they fly in that pattern?

Scientists believe that they do it to help each other. When one bird flies at the tip of the “V,” it cuts air resistance to those flying behind it. It’s harder work for the leader to fly in this position but easier for its followers. Of course, it would be difficult for one goose to be the leader over a migration that might be many hundreds of miles long.

Geese take turns, however, so that no one is pushed too hard.

Every congregation has its leaders — hard-working men and women who organize activities such as church school or a Thanksgiving food drive. But because what they do is time consuming, it’s unfair to sit back while the same people work so hard year after year.

Why not take the lead yourself in some major church project this year? After all, what’s good for the geese (in this case) should be good for the Christians.

And the otherwise …

A well-known priest arrived in town ready to make a masterful speech at a church observing its anniversary. On Friday a young reporter interviewed him. The priest told the young man many of his finest and most humorous stories.

“But don’t print these” he admonished. “I plan to use them in my sermon Sunday.”

The reporter agreed and in the Saturday afternoon paper his write-up of the interview concluded: “The priest told a number of good stories which cannot be repeated.”

Oct. 15, 2017

October serves as a colorful and refreshing seasonal way-station between the extremes of summer past and winter to come.

Dazzling foliage abounds, flies and mosquitoes all but disappear, and there’s a crisp bite in the air that cries out for sweaters and jackets.

Yes, the days grow shorter, yet we experience, in the words of writer Maxine Kumin the “briefest and most beautiful moment of status — every day is more precious than the preceding. Dusk comes earlier in sharper air. The horses’ coats thicken, blurring their summer sleek outlines. Everything proclaims: We are reluctant. We are ready.”

That seems the story of our lives: reluctant and ready. Let us count our blessings today, knowing full well that dusk comes early.

Oct. 8, 2017

The comedy writer Woody Allen once said, “I’m plagued by doubts, especially about God. If only God would give me some clear sign, like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.”

Even though many people have doubts and refuse to practice a faith, many still do remain faithful and have a sincere respect for church and the church’s priests.

One of the most helpful influences in persuading someone to return to the weekend Mass and our traditions is the encouragement of another person, relative, friend, schoolmate or a priest.

There is a renewal in America of those looking for some deeper meaning — the spiritual dimension of life. One person said, “I always loved the sense of peace I felt when I went into the church. I wish I had handed onto my children a more intense hunger for it all. To practice faith gives structure and ritual to our beliefs and a way to think about the great and really important issues of life.”

Another person comments, “Going to church did not solve life’s problems, but it gave me a sense of living in a larger context … being a part of something greater than what I could see through the tunnel vision of my little personal existence.”

A priest’s greatest joy is to help someone come home to the church.

Oct. 1, 2017

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them: work, family, health, friends and spirit, and you’re keeping all of these in the air.

You soon will understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it would bounce back, but the other irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They never will be the same.

You must understand that and strive for balance in your life. How?

• Don’t undermine your worth by comparing yourself to others. It is because we are different that each of us is special.

• Don’t set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you.

• Don’t take for granted things closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would life, for without them life is meaningless.

• Don’t let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live all the days of your life.

• Don’t give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying.

• Don’t be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us together.

• Don’t be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave.

• Don’t shut love out of your life by saying it is impossible to find. The quickest way to receive love is to give it; the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly, and the best way to keep love is to give it wings.

• Don’t run through life so fast that you forget not only where you’ve been, but also where you are going.

• Don’t forget that a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.

• Don’t be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.

• Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved. Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.

Sept. 24, 2017

After the baptism of his baby brother, little Jason was crying all the way home. His Dad asked him what was wrong.

The boy replied, “That preacher said he hoped all the children would be brought up in a Christian home, but I’m sad because I want to stay with you guys!”

A joke, yes, but some truth to it.

What makes a home a Christian place, a Catholic home?

Many things can foster and fashion young people during their formative years, in the ways of our faith and treasuring the heritage and customs and convictions we hold true. During the summertime, a time-honored and fun thing to do, as a family — or blending a couple of families — is to make a day trip and visit to one of the wonderful shrines in our state. Bring the lunch, connect to some other sight-seeing destination nearby, a camping experience.

Perhaps the fascinating shrine at Auriesville to the missionary martyrs; or in Fonda honoring the Lily of the Mohawks, St. Kateri the young Indian girl; or tied with Niagara Falls, the shrine to the Mother of God located nearby.

Being committed to Mass on the weekend, including prayer and saints and holy seasons in the pattern of home life, as well as a summer day to enjoy and learn at a delightful shrine, all help fashion a faith to be proud of. 

And the otherwise …

A little girl sitting in church with her father suddenly felt ill.

“Daddy,” she whispered, ‘I have to vomit!”

Her father told her to hurry to the restroom.

In less than two minutes the child was back.

“I didn’t have to go too far, “ she exclaimed. “There’s a little box by the door that says, ‘for the sick.’”

Sept. 17, 2017

With God, losers are winners

Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 and could not read until age 7.

His teacher called him “mentally slow and adrift in foolish dreams.”

Rodin’s father described his son as an “idiot.” His uncle called the sculptor uneducable and Rodin failed three times to gain admittance to art school.

Beethoven’s teacher called him “hopeless” as a composer.

Winston Churchill, who became prime minister of England at 62, failed sixth grade. After a lifetime of defeats and setbacks, he began to achieve some success only as a senior citizen.

Rudyard Kipling’s work was rejected by the San Francisco Examiner newspaper with the comment, “You just don’t know how to use the English language.”

When George Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess” was first performed, a reviewer called it “sure-fire rubbish.”

Dr. Seuss’ first children’s book was rejected by 27 publishers.

This list of so-called “losers” who surprised their detractors with their stunning successes could go on and on. Suffice it to say, no human being can be cast aside or overlooked as valueless.

God, who created each individual also has endowed each of us with unique purpose and grace.

Feb. 10, 2017

For most of us, things such as a the death of a loved one, the loss of our job or a significant relationship, accidents and serious illness constitute “bad things.”

But other things — such as a loved one’s constant struggle with addiction, a child’s flunking out of college or the failing health of an aging parent — can be equally worrisome, burdensome and challenging.

Bad things happen. To be in a mature and responsible relationship with ourselves, others, the world and God, we have to face this fact. And when they do happen and we begin to wonder if God really has any interest in us, we may fear we are losing our faith.

But our struggle to remain faithful at these times does not mean our faith is weak or that we are cowardly. Rather, the struggle itself shows we are drawing on faith to help us through these bad times.

Faith is a relationship, and when we feel strong enough to turn to God whatever the circumstances, we are acknowledging the important role that relationship plays in our lives. The fear and anguish we express to God is the voice of our soul naming God as present in the details of our lives.

And while we would not long for bad things to happen, we can find within them a profound opportunity perhaps not available in any other experience. When bad things happen, and we begin to feel vulnerable, we have the opportunity to let go, and to let God be and do what God is and does: Love!

And the otherwise …

A children’s Sunday school teacher encouraged her 5-year-olds to create an art masterpiece that related to the Bible. As she wandered around the room looking at the pictures, she came to little Alice.

“Alice what are you drawing?”

“I’m drawing God.”

“But no one knows what God looks like, Alice.”

Without missing a beat, Alice replied, “They will when I’m finished.”

Sept. 3, 2017

Prayer for Labor Day

O God, creator of the world, of sun and moon and stars,

You choose to fashion us, your own, your handiwork of love.

Indeed, we are your hands’ own work and yet into our hands

You give the care of every living thing.

In more ways than we can count, our work builds up

or tears apart what came as gift from you.

Keep us faithful in preserving all you’ve given, lest we harm the smallest part of all you’ve made.

Give us good and honest work to do and rest at each day’s end.

Let a fair and good day’s wage be paid for a good day’s work well done.

Give us work that nurtures and sustains the ones who serve and those they serve.

Let those who labor, work in peace, in freedom, without fear.

Give those in need, a job to do, and to the tired well earned rest.

Let all work and toil, O God, give glory to your name.

Amen

Aug. 27, 2017

Being a Christian means more than just being a “nice” person. Anyone can do this by simply smiling and saying “please” and “thank you.”

Being a Christian also means more than following the Ten Commandments. Jewish people follow the Ten Commandments and they aren’t Christians. So what is unique about being a Christian?

Fundamentally, it means believing in and following Jesus. But even this is too generic. I think the last couple of lines of The Beatitudes get to the heart of the matter. We hear that we are blessed if we are insulted and persecuted for the sake of righteousness. He goes on to say that we are blessed if we are insulted and persecuted because of Him.

This is uniquely Christian. Certainly, people have been persecuted because of their religion throughout history. Millions of Jews died during World War II simply for being Jewish. But Christians are persecuted because other people disagree with the message of Jesus. No one wants to be persecuted, but Jesus is warning us that it’s part of following Him.

Many Christians in our society today don’t want to offend anyone. How else can we explain a predominantly Christian society that allows abortion on demand?

What our nation needs now are Christians interested in more than just being nice. We need Christians who are not afraid to speak Christ’s message about the dignity of every human life, even if insults and persecution are the results.

Aug. 20, 2017

The following is taken from “A Simple Path” meditations by Mother Teresa

Take time to think, Take time to pray, Take time to laugh.

It is the source of power.

It is the greatest power on Earth.

It is the music of the soul.

Take time to play, take time to love and be loved, take time to give.

It is the secret of perpetual youth.

It is God’s given privilege.

It is too short a day to be selfish.

Take time to read, take time to be friendly, take time to work.

It is the fountain of wisdom.

It is the road to happiness.

It is the price of success.

Take time to do charity — it is the key to heaven.

Aug. 13, 2017

A bride of a few months listened to two members of her husband’s family deciding who were the happiest couple they knew.

The decision for first place went to a cousin and his wife. A little surprised at first, she studied the situation.

She found that the happiest couple in the world had the lowest income of any of the brothers and sisters in the family. She found that they lived in the smallest house, they knew the fewest big-name people and their professional work drew the least recognition.

But she also discovered that they had jobs were their choice of any in the world, they liked their community, they lived in the part of the United States they loved most, their home was the center of informal friendly groups, they had more interests than a dozen people could conquer in a lifetime and they instigated many community and church activities.

The young bride came to the decision that this couple was happy not because of the money they did not have, and not because of the money they did have, but because the interests around which their lives centered were interests that money had no power to make or break.

Their greatest happiness was found outside the realm of things.

And the otherwise …

Every gift, though small, is in reality great if given with affection.

Aug. 6, 2017

“No cover charge, no minimum and everybody is welcomed” is how Bruce Renfroe, an elevator operator in New York City describes the elevator that he has transformed into a mini jazz club.

He permanently injured his knee and was put on elevator duty where he sits just inside the doors. His love for jazz inspired him to share it with his elevator passengers each day. His 30-second ride is known as an oasis in a rushed and confusing world of commuters in the Big Apple.

Inside his elevator you are greeted with black and white photos of jazz artists, hanging plants and the smooth and soothing sound of good music. His gift of something he personally loves helps to mellow out so many busy people.  

How do you share with other something of yourself? Something you know will enrich another person’s life — at home, at work, in school.

St. Paul writing to his converts in the Greek port city of Corinth said: “God loves a cheerful giver.”

This doesn’t mean just money or material resources, it includes our own delights and what fascinates or captivates us, our hearts, our senses, our soul.

And the otherwise …

Some go to church to take a walk;

Some go there to laugh and talk;

Some go there to meet a friend;

Some go there their time to spend;

Some go there to meet a lover;

Some go there a fault to cover;

Some go there for speculation;

Some go there for observation;

Some go there to doze and nod;

The wise go there to worship God.

July 30, 2017

A comedian recently quipped that today’s information technologies have effectively rendered a number of things obsolete, most notably phone books and human courtesy.

That’s also true for human rest.

Today’s information technologies — the internet, email, Facebook, mobile phones, pocket computers, and the like — have made us the most informed, efficient and communicative people ever. We now have the capability all day, every day, of accessing world news, whole libraries of information and detailed accounts of what our families and friends are doing at any moment. That’s the positive side of the equation.

Less wonderful is what this is doing to our lives, how it is changing our expectations, and robbing us of the simple capacity to stop, shut off the machines, and rest.

As we get wrapped up in mobile phones, texting, email, Facebook and the internet, we are beginning to live with the expectation that we must be attentive all the time to everything that’s happening in the world and within the lives of our families and friends. The spoken and unspoken expectation is that we, and others, be available always.

We used to send notes and letters and expect a reply within days, weeks or months. Now the expectation for a reply is minutes or hours, and we feel impatient when this expectation is not met and guilty inside when we can’t meet it.

And so daily, we become more enslaved and compulsive in our use of this technology. For many of us it is not impossible to take off a day, let alone several weeks, and be on a genuine holiday or vacation. Rather, the pressure is on us to constantly check for texts, emails, phone messages and the like; and the expectation from our families, friends and colleagues is precisely that we are checking these regularly.

But the rhythm of time as God designed it is meant to give us, regularly, weekly, some time off the wheel, some “Sabbath-time” when ordinary life, ordinary pressures, ordinary work and ordinary expectations are bracketed and we give ourselves permission to stop, to shut things down and to rest.

Sabbath is time off the wheel, time to take our hand from the plough and let God and the Earth take care of things, while we drink, if only for a few moments, from the fountain of rest and delight.

July 23, 2017

Congratulations. We have once again completed a successful parish festival.

Thanks to the many hard workers and the many parishioners, friends and neighbors who attended over the three-day event.

We thank the volunteers who prepared the food and pizza fritta, set up the café and flea market, and those who worked on the church grounds setting up plumbing, electricity, clean-up and organizing the workers — those who baked cookies, those who donated non-perishable items and paper products, as well as flea-market items, those who sold raffle tickets — all are to be congratulated, for without them, our festival would not get off the ground.

There are numerous behind-the-scenes volunteers who begin with plans and paperwork in the spring and whose jobs are not complete until the fall. We also thank the ROTC students from Proctor High School and the inmates from the Midstate Correctional Facility, as well as the volunteers who were working any of the three days last weekend. How well we can work together for a common cause.

The liturgical celebration honoring Our lady of Mount Carmel was just beautiful and we are proud to continue, our Walk for Mary’s Children. We are also grateful to the numerous priests who were with us during the nine-week novena leading up to the feast day.

May God continue to shower His blessings on our parish family.

July 16, 2017

The story is told about a hunting dog that was very proud as a great runner.

One day a rabbit he was chasing got away. It brought on a lot of ridicule from the other dogs in the kennel because of all his previous boasting.

Still the hunting dog had an answer.

“Remember the rabbit was running for his life, while I was only running for my dinner,”  the dog said.

Which reminds us that motivation is so important as to why we do what we do. Some folks, good people, come to weekend Mass motivated by their upbringing and habit — also, the clear commandment to give God His hour once a week — the Sabbath.

Probably an even richer and more blessed motive to gather with others for the Mass would be to know that we really anoint one another by being together. You just don’t get to heaven on your own.

As Jesus accepted the anointing of His feet in the house of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, so we receive from each other the ointment of love and affection and the peace and securing of community. The presence of the Savior is given eyes and voice and hands and heart through the presence of those brought together for weekend Mass.

If you’re not there, you’re missed.

July 9, 2017

Not long ago, a sign was seen placed on the desk of a very successful store owner and popular figure in the city where the man lived.

The sign on his desk simply said: “Do all you can in the time you have and in the place where you are.”

What a recipe for success!

It’s a great motto to live by and motivate oneself for doing good things and accomplishing much. Whether it’s caring for and providing for a family, making a mark in your community or expressing your love for God by guarding and promoting the life of your church and faith. That word “stewardship” sums up the care and support and guardianship that our church and faith call for.

There was a merchant who had a whole fleet of ships. They crossed the seas and earned riches for the merchant. But one ship just never sailed at all, it only stayed in port and brought only disappointment to the owner.

Our life in the church is like having a fleet of ships. One is called fellowship — a closeness with the Lord through sacraments and prayer. The other is called, discipleship — as we learn to walk in the steps of the Savior and understand the scriptures and enjoy the blessings of the Mass.

Then there is friendship that is found when folks gather for the celebration of the sacraments. And the social ship in our fleet sometimes never leaves the dock in port — that is stewardship. Some just never embrace the caring for and support and guardianship for the church that should be part of that blessed fleet.

For those who do, the words on the man’s desk really must ring true: “Do all you can with what you have in the time you have and in the place you are.”

July 2, 2017

Lincoln on the Declaration of Independence

How much does the Declaration of Independence have to do with your life?

We may give it high marks in American history, but have its words really affected the generations since the American Revolution?

Abraham Lincoln said it spoke of its belief that “nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on and degraded. …”

“Now … if you have been taught doctrines which conflict with the great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence; if you have listened to suggestions which would take from its grandeur, and mutilate the symmetry of its proportions; if you have been inclined to believe that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights enumerated by our charter of liberty; let me entreat you to come back … to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence.”

In an age that is still not convinced that all people are created equal — the Great Emancipator —Lincoln’s words still matter. 

And the otherwise …

A priest waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long trip.

The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump.

“Reverend,” said the young man, “I’m sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.”

The priest chuckled. “I know what you mean. It’s the same in my business.”

June 25, 2017

One of the great spiritual leaders has said this about the subject of commitment:

There are three stages that make up the process of becoming truly committed to doing something or being someone significant. The first stage or step is the fun stage. That’s when we say, “I really love doing this, why didn’t I get involved sooner?”

Then there comes the second stage, which is the intolerant one, we say to our self, “Anyone who isn’t getting involved, like me, isn’t a very good or smart person.”

The third stage of commitment is when we suddenly realize that our involvement is going to make only a microscopic dent in the task of solving problems or making the world a better place, but we stick with it anyway. And this stage is the one at which saints are made.

This is so true in the life of the Catholic church, those beautiful people who do get involved, offer much of themselves, are generous of heart and time and energy.

Another famous person once said, “There are here kinds of people — those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who have no darn idea of what’s happening?

And the otherwise …

“Brace yourself, Mr. Collins,” the physician told the patient on whom he had performed a battery of costly tests. “You have approximately six months to live.”

 “But I don’t have insurance, doctor,” said Collins, “and I can’t skimp and save enough to pay you in that time!”

“All right, all right,” soothed the doctor. “Let’s say nine months, then.”

June 18, 2017

A Fathers’ Day Thought

By ERMA BOMBECK

When the good Lord was creating fathers, he started with a tall frame, and a female angel nearby said, “What kind of father is that? If you’re going to make children so close to the ground, why have you put fathers so high up? He won’t be able to shoot marbles without kneeling, tuck a child into bed without bending, or even kiss a child without a lot of stooping.”

And God smiled and said, “Yes, but if I make him child-size, who would children have to look up to?”

And when God made a father’s hands, they were large and sinewy. And the angel shook her head sadly and said, “Do you know what you’re doing? Large hands are clumsy. They can’t manage small buttons, rubber bands on ponytails or even remove splinters caused by baseball bats.”

And God smiled and said, “I know, but they’re large enough to hold everything a small boy empties from his pockets at the end of a day — yet small enough to cup a child’s face.”

And then God molded long, slim legs and broad shoulders. And the angel nearly had heart failure.

“Boy this is the end of the week, all right!” she said, “Do you realize you just made a father without a lap? How is he going to pull a child close to him without the kid falling between his knees?”

And God smiled and said, “A mother needs a lap. A father needs strong shoulders to pull a sled, balance a child on a bicycle or hold a sleepy head on the way home from the circus.”

God was in the middle of creating two of the largest feet anyone had ever seen when the angel could contain herself no longer.

“That’s not fair! Do you honestly think those large boats are going to dig out of bed early in the morning when the baby cries? Or walk through a child’s birthday party without crushing at least three of the guests?”

And God smiled and said, “They’ll work. You’ll see. They will be good for scaring off mice at the summer cabin, or for showing off shoes that will be a challenge to fill.”

God worked through the night, giving the father few words, but a firm, authoritative voice; eyes that saw everything, but remained calm and tolerant.

Finally, as if he could read the angel’s mind, God added tears. Then, he turned to the angel before she had a chance to interrupt once again and said, “Now, are you satisfied that he can love as much as a mother can?”

This time the angel nodded and smiled and said not a word. 

June 11, 2017

Sometimes, we need a true story or some incident to spark in our hearts and in our minds the conviction that we are all God’s children. So often we allow religious, racial or political fences to divide us.

A reporter was covering the current chaos in Iraq and came upon a little girl shot by a stray bullet. The reporter rushed to the man who was holding the severely hurt girl and offered his help, he put them both in his car and headed for the hospital.

The man holding the child cried out, “Please sir, hurry for my child is still alive.”

When they got to the hospital, after some minutes, the man and the reporter were told the little girl had died from the wound. As the men washed up in the restroom, the man told the reporter that now he would have the terrible task to inform the girl’s father about his loss.

The English reporter was just amazed. He said to the man, “But I thought she was your child.”

The man looked back and said simply, “No, but aren’t they all our children?”

It reminds us of the comment made a few years ago by one of our American astronauts on a joint mission with Russian cosmonauts. The American said, looking through the small porthole window at the blue globe of Earth floating out there, “If the whole world fits in the retina of my one eye, in my vision, how small must we be in God’s eyes.”

Why do we seek to separate ourselves from each other? The world is too small.

And the otherwise …

An old fellow who loved animals stopped in a pet shop to see if he could get a job helping take care of the animals. The owner told him he didn’t think he was strong enough to take the dogs for a walk or to carry the feed to the animals or to clean out their cages. Noticing some turtles in an artificial pond, the old fellow suggested: “Maybe I could take the turtles for a run.”

June 4, 2017

I remember a friend of mine who always was able to see in every problem not an occasion for trouble, but a golden opportunity.

Look about your life right now and ask yourself: What opportunities am I overlooking or missing?

God raised Christ with newness of life that says to us that God is not content to simply shrug his heavenly shoulders and say to us, “Well, what could I have expected of such people.” Rather he chose a unique, new beginning that unleashed all manner of power and creative actions into this world.

Once more not a defeat but an occasion for growth. This is the recurring theme of the New Testament. Just at the point when we think all is lost and nothing is going to improve, God surprises us with a new opportunity.

The key, of course, is our response. Shall we be like those who always are ready and willing to join the large ranks of scoffers and the “I-told-you-so” crowds? Or shall we say, “I see here a chance to grow with God”?

The tug of “what-might-have-been-if-only” idea is strong but must be overcome by a good dosage of “what new opportunities do I see in today’s world?”

 I am certain that God is working within the events of today and that God always is gracious and giving to us as we respond faithfully. Like the proverbial bus, don’t worry, if you missed the last one there will be another coming along.

See the excitement that God has built into your life and say a hearty “yes” to the opportunities for joy, life and goodness that God sets before you.

May 28, 2017

Officials gathered at a train station to welcome the arrival of a recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, a celebrity.

When he got off the train, he saw something off to the side of the important officials who were greeting him, and he asked to be excused for a moment

The Peace Prize winner walked over to an elderly woman struggling to carry large suitcases; he helped her to carry them.

Later on, one of the officials of the greeting committee told a friend of this incident and added, “It’s the first time I ever saw a sermon walking.”

The man who delivered that walking sermon was this missionary doctor who spent his life helping the poor in Africa — Dr. Albert Schweitzer. His experience and years of wisdom and faith was put simply, by him, into one statement— a motto for life: See the need, then do what Jesus would do. No ifs, buts or ands.

The wisdom of this approach to everyday life is simply that anyone can be a walking sermon. Do I see myself as unique, as important and gifted? In what way have I used my talents for others sake?

May 21, 2017

May is known throughout the Catholic world as Mary’s Month.

Often, there are May processions and special devotions to honor Mary as “Queen of the Angels” and “Queen of the May.”

We see everything in Mary that we see as good in human nature. Mary was a gentle, loving mother. She brought Jesus into the world, mothered him as all good mothers do their children. She nursed him at her breasts and shared with him joyful moments at home and later on, difficult moments as his life here on Earth drew to its close.

To place flowers in front of a favorite statue at home might seem foolish to some and yet bring a great deal of satisfaction to others. To make an effort to pray the rosary during the month of May only can become a source of great blessing.

Jesus gave Mary to all of us represented in the person of St. John as mother. There is no person better loved or better appreciated in the entire world than the good mother.

And Mary is the good mother to all of us and advocate as well before the throne of God. Mothers always intercede for their children and look out for their best interests. Mary in heaven is able and willing to intercede for us with her son and take our sides and watch out for our best interests.

Yes, May is Mary’s Month and we are privileged to honor her in special little ways that make this month special and particularly joy-filled.

And the otherwise …

A Christian was thrown into the Colosseum with a lion. Terrified, he fell on his knees and started praying. At the same time the lion dropped down on its knees and started praying, too.

The Christian, overjoyed, exclaimed. “Thanks God! Another Christian!”

The lion replied, “I don’t know about you, but I’m saying grace!”

May 14, 2017

Mary, the mother of God, is not a woman protected from the demands of faith in daily living. She is a woman with her feet planted firmly on Earth — Mary of Nazareth, the woman whose risk in faith first made Christ present among us.

It is precisely in this way that Mary is the best and first model for the contemporary woman, not as a mysterious icon of unattainable blessedness, but as an altogether human woman who was painfully misunderstood by the man she loved, Joseph; who was confused by her child’s behavior; who was not afraid to speak her mind or voice her questions; who stood by courageously while her son was executed; who was present at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the new church; and who indeed, had a role of leadership in that church.

When Mary’s place in the life of the church is really recognized and understood, the place of all women in the church is assurednot as onlookers or maidservants, but as important co-workers, as necessary for the incarnation of Christ in our world as Mary was to the first Incarnation.

And the otherwise …

A teacher asked her class a question in fractions. “If your mother baked a pie for seven people for you, five children and your parents, what fraction of the pie would you get?”

A sixth, said a young boy.

“But there are seven of you,” said the teacher. “Don’t you know anything about fractions?”

“Yes” came the reply. “I know about fractions, but I know about mothers, too. My mother would say she didn’t want any pie.”

May 7, 2017

Have you ever told something exciting to a young child and watched their reaction to it?

They can’t wait to tell somebody else, even a stranger happening to walk by.

The Eastertime Gospels send us a message to be like little kids and share the joy of the Lord’s risen life with others, to spread the word about faith and enjoying life within the sacramental church and God’s people.

It’s not that our faith is found wanting or lacking for anything, it’s just that so often the news has not yet leaked out. Too many, even in the Easter season, still walk among the dead, like the Magdalene, or wait and crouch in fear behind closed doors, like the disciples.

Remember, if the basis of Christianity were anything else than a God who came from a tomb, we’d have nothing to shout about.

Peace be with you.

And the otherwise …

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson.

“If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.”

One of them turned to the other and said,“You be Jesus!”