WISE AND OTHERWISE

By Father Jim

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!”

April 30, 2017

The news that Jesus is raised is good news. It means that Jesus’ life and ministry are active in the world.

Death doesn’t end Jesus’ life or what his life means. He lived for others. Death doesn’t stop that.

In the resurrection, Jesus now lives for you. There might be days when we say we wished we lived back in Jesus’ time. In faith, however, we believe that because of the resurrection we do live in Jesus’ time. He is living among us now in our time instead of being locked up in the history of ancient Palestine, the resurrected Jesus now is present throughout the world and in all times and places. His risen life fills our lives. He is active among us.

The resurrection means that everything Jesus once was — a healer, a comforter, forgiver and life-giver — is what he still is today.

The body which is the church still is breathing and managing to forgive, to fight for peace and justice, still struggling to be generous, still knowing how to sing and break bread together. In spite of any wounds we carry, we still say what St. Augustine once said in the fourth century: “We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song.”

We have heard, we have seen with our own eyes, we have watched and touched with our hands something wonderful and wordless, something that is true, much more than just a rumor of eternal life.

Hope is stronger than memory. Salvation is stronger than sin. Forgiveness is stronger than bitterness. Light is stronger than darkness. Resurrection is stronger than crucifixion. Life is stronger than death. These contrasts capture the message of Easter — hope, salvation, forgiveness, light and life burst from the tomb as Christ is raised.

The resurrection is for us. The good news is that Christ is raised.

April 23, 2017

As we enjoy the spirit and melody of this Easter time and the sound of alleluia!

We also know it is not easy to follow in our daily lives the Risen Lord. Even though we journey in faith under the banner of the cross and the victory of Resurrection, it isn’t easy, is it?

A young man is unwilling to forgive his father for years of neglect and bitter feelings. A widowed woman cannot forgive herself for the torment she caused to her daughter. A middle-aged man really blames God for the loss of his business and breakup of his family, though he knows in his heart the true cause of it all.

In spite of setbacks and things that frustrate us in life, we still sign our bodies with the mark of salvation — the sign of the cross — over and over again. Even when we are walking in the pastures of anger or the meadows of jealousy, the sign of the cross is a sign of the hope that tells us we live within the embrace of the Blessed Trinity, with a hope for the Risen Life, and our bodies and lives are part of the larger body of Christ the church on Earth, the assembly of the baptized.

 Make the sign of the cross over your very body, your life.

April 16, 2017

An Eastertime thought

When the brilliant opera “Turnadot” opened in Milan, Italy, in 1926, the composer Puccini had died before he could finish writing the final notes for it.

So, when the conductor, Arturo Toscanini came to that last note composed by Puccini, he announce, “Here is where the composer ended, but this is where his friends began to take up the notes.”

Friends of the composer had finished writing the beautiful ending of the opera.

Easter’s message to those who believe in the Risen Lord is that it is left up to us to take up the song “Alleluia” of faith, the work and the living presence of Christ. To complete the Lord’s own ministry we are His voice, His hands and feet and loving heart. The purpose and mission of Easter is even more profound that the most lovely opera.

A sincere thank-you 

We are fortunate here at Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament to have talented, faithful parishioners and staff who are so willing to spend many hours planning and preparing our liturgical celebrations. Thank you to everyone who helped make our Holy Week so meaningful and our Easter so joyful. A special note of gratitude to Peter Elacqua and the Music Ministry and RoseMarie Chiffy for arranging everyone involved in our beautiful worship services for Holy Week and Easter.

April 9, 2017

Lately, signs of Spring have been close by. Slowly, patiently and surely there is felt the warmth of the sun and glimpses of the fact that Old Man Winter is exiting.

As Lent draws us nearer to Holy Week and the life-saving events of Christ’s suffering, passion, death and rising, they are a sure sign of this spiritual springtime.

Now we cross the threshold and enter into the life-giving days of Holy Week, we do this not separated as individuals but as a parish and faith community together.

Of the three great days the triduum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil on saturday evening — Holy Thursday has a special solemnity and evening peacefulness about it that makes it so spiritually rewarding.  The Mass of Thursday night recalls the origins of the Eucharist and inspires us to serve and care gently for others as Jesus did when he washed the feet of the Twelve.

Come walk with Jesus carrying the cross on Good Friday — the simple Stations of the Cross at 3 p.m. and the very moving and stark service honoring the cross at 7 p.m.

As the alleluias ring out Holy Saturday at our great Easter service at 8 p.m. when we welcome new Catholics, that Easter song echoes throughout our Masses on Easter Sunday.

Come let us walk together during these days of Holy Week.

April 2, 2017

As we take our Lenten journey toward Easter, now is the time to weave into our fabric of activities, making a good confession.

The gift of the Sacrament of Penance is useful, available and brings unique blessings of its own. Whether it’s a communal penance service in our community, or on a Saturday afternoon at any parish church, to encounter Christ in this healing way is an important step toward a true renewal of baptismal faith at Easter. The temptation is to put it off, to delay until another time, to consider other things more important.

Recall this story: There was a meeting of the board of directors going on in hell. Satan was concerned over the fact that business was not increasing. He wanted to reach as many people as possible and draw then into hell.

One demon jumped up and said, “I’ll go back to Earth and convince the people that there is no heaven.”

“That won’t do,” said Satan. “We’ve tried it before and it doesn’t work.”

“I’ll convince them that there is no hell.” offered a second demon.

“No, that doesn’t work either,” said Satan.

A wise old veteran in the back of the room said, “If you let me go back to Earth, I can fill this place. I’ll just convince them that there is no hurry.”

March 26, 2017

A shopkeeper, seeing a boy hanging around near an outdoor tempting display of fresh fruit, said “What are you trying to do, kid, steal my apples?”

“No, sir” the boy said. “Really, I’m trying not to!”

Doing the right thing always involves some effort and determination. What right thing will you be doing to make Lent this year truly rewarding, worthwhile and a blessing for you?

To settle for being marked with blessed ashes, fish sandwiches on Fridays and regular Mass on the weekends is the bare minimum. Are you determined to let Lent this time around become an important time for your own spiritually healthy life?

What effort will you make? To pray alone and with others, especially to celebrate the Mass; to give something of yourself for the sake of others, the church or the world; to foster a mellow and compassionate heart and to learn something new and gain deeper insights into the gift of faith. These should all be present, at least a bit, for a healthy and renewed life in God’s Spirit.

This is what Lent should be about. This is what will make Easter a joyous time.

And on the otherwise … 

I heard of a Christian speaker who declared rhetorically, expecting the answer “yes.”

“If you had two houses, you would give one to the poor, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, indeed I would,” said the man to whom the question was directed.

“And if you had two motor cars,” went on the orator, “you would keep one and give the other away?”

“Yes” of course” said the man. “And if you had two shirts, you would give one away?”

“Hey, wait a minute,” said the man. “I’ve got two shirts!”

March 19, 2017

St. Joseph

By BISHOP ROBERT CUNNINGHAM

I think of St. Joseph as a quiet man who nonetheless offers us profound insights and striking examples of Christian discipleship.

Joseph is a great example of one who listens to God and does His will. This man of dreams, as he slept, had two significant encounters with an angel. In both instances Joseph needed to discern whether he was simply having a dream or whether he was really the vehicle of God’s message. He recognized God’s presence, listened to the Angel and acted on the message.

The message conveyed to Joseph is overwhelming and demands an extraordinarily courageous act of faith. Only a man who is inwardly watchful for the divine, only someone with a real sensitivity for God and His ways, can receive God’s message as Joseph did.

Not much is known of Joseph. He was a husband, father, provider every day, and He had dreams. What more can be said? For Joseph it wasn’t a question of success — it was being faithful to the mix we call life.

St. Joseph, protect the church, safeguard family life, assist the dying, strengthen our faith and journey with us as we make our way to eternal life.

March 12, 2017

No more bargains. I’m giving up bargaining for Lent. Would you like to join me?

Not the shopping discounts or market bazaar kind of bargaining. I’m no good at that anyway.

No, I’m talking about the kind of creator-creature bargaining that’s second nature to most of us. It comes in a variety of styles: there’s the “Please, Lord, help me out of this dire strait, and I promise to be more dutiful, loving and kind.” Or the “Lord, I was dutiful, loving and kind; now it’s your job to get me out of this dire strait.” Followed by the “If this is your idea of a sign, forget it. I don’t want to do what you’re asking. Please give me another sign, more to my liking.”

The list goes on. And every item on it comes down to the same false premise that God is in the business of bargaining.

God doesn’t bargain. God loves unconditionally. That’s what I’m trying to have sink into my head and heart this Lent. No matter in what difficult situation we find ourselves, God loves us. No matter whether we’re trying to live up to our super-ego or we’re sinful or holy, God loves us. No matter if we’re successes or failures, God loves us.

So, let’s quit bargaining. There’s no better deal to be had. This is as good as it gets, and it is more than enough. In fact, it’s perfect. We just need to see it all from a higher perspective that would be from God’s point of view — and that takes faith.

And the otherwise …

Eve, in the Garden of Eden, said, “God, I have a problem. It’s a beautiful garden, but I’m lonely and I’m sick of eating apples.”

“OK,” God said. “I’ll create a man for you.”

Eve asked, “What’s a man?”

“He’s a creature with aggressive tendencies and an enormous ego who doesn’t listen and gets lost a lot, but he’s big and strong, he can open jars and hunt animals.

“Sounds great!” said Eve.

“There’s just one other thing,” God said. “He’s going to want to believe I made him first.”

March 5, 2017

Lent is a time of weeks toward Easter that calls for the refreshing of our understanding of the power and beauty of Baptism.

Baptism assures us that we don’t make the Christian journey alone — that would be foolhardy. We make it in and with the whole church, those living and those gone before us, keeping stride and holding hands.

When we falter, the church picks us up. It’s the church that asks, “What name do you give to your child?” It is the church that calls the child by name and welcomes with great joy. It is the church that claims the baptized for Christ and offers a sign to make belonging to Christ and the church.

A cloud of witnesses and sponsors pledge to walk with the newly baptized and share the hearing of the story of our faith, one that is heartbreaking and glorious. The baptized is anointed and bathed in blessed water, anointed as a king to meet his people or an athlete for the race. Clothed in white and given a lighted candle and given promises to keep the flame of faith alive.

May the Lent we share and walk through together in this year of the Lord be the best of all, for some the first, for others the final one, for everyone another chance to renew and hold close to our heart the precious treasure that baptism and faith is.

 And the otherwise …

The new young priest was calling on the elderly who no longer could go to church. His first call was to Aunt Sally, who was quite old and in a nursing home. He was somewhat nervous, and he kept eating peanuts from a bowl beside her bed. When he got up to leave, he noticed that he had eaten all of the peanuts.

“I’m sorry, I ate up all of your peanuts,” he stammered. “Oh that’s all right”, Aunt Sally said. “I’d already gummed all of the chocolate off of them anyhow.”

Feb. 19, 2017

If the shoe fits …

With his thumb, a hitch-hiker says: “You furnish the gas, car, repairs, upkeep and insurance, and I’ll ride with you. But if you have an accident, I’ll sue you for damages.”

Sounds pretty one sided, but one wonders how many hitch-hikers there are in churches and

organizations. Many seem to say, “You go to the meetings, serve on boards and committees,

and take care of things that need doing and I’ll go along for the ride. If things don’t happen

to suit my fancy, I will complain, criticize and probably get out and hitch hike with another

group.

Hitch-hiker or driver, which kind of member are you?

And the otherwise …

A soul awakened in a beautiful place, everything was provided — food, entertainment, drinks and beautiful clothes.

The soul got bored, day after day just watching TV and eating and drinking and wearing different outfits. Finally the soul asked the winged spirit, “I’m bored doing nothing, is this really all there is? If so, I’d rather go to hell.”

The spirit replied, “That’s exactly where you are!”

Feb. 12, 2017

A Portuguese story tells of a young man who traveled, made a fortune, and upon returning to his homeland did not reveal to his relatives or friends his great success while away. He told them he had lost everything and was destitute.  

They all dismissed him with excuses. Then he revealed the fortune and they all said, “If only we had known, how differently we would have acted toward you.”

So often the Lord Himself comes to us under the disguise of someone in need or looking for help. Catholics may sharpen their alertness to the Lord’s real presence in our sacraments by sharpening alertness to Christ in the unborn, immigrants, poorly paid workers, the imprisoned and others such as these.

Maybe our lack of awareness of the sacramental real presence is connected to our refusal to see the presence of God in others.

And the otherwise …

Adam and Eve had the perfect marriage. He didn’t have to listen to her talk about men she knew before him, and she didn’t have to put up with his mother.

Feb. 5, 2017

I assumed the worst one day at a drugstore when I saw a cluster of boys in droopy pants whispering and giggling in a huddle.

My first thought? Shoplifters.

My husband, who looks for the best in everyone, struck up a conversation. He learned where they went to school and how their grades were.

When I got to the cash register, I was short 25 cents, I yelled to my husband for it. He didn’t hear me, but one of the boys did. The boy came over, dug in his pocket, and handed me a quarter. “Here, Miss,” he said.

My heart melted. Why do I sometimes assume the worst from strangers? I question their

behavior, but I should question mine. I close off my heart and think it makes me safer

somehow.

And the otherwise …

A priest was asked to inform a man with a heart condition that he had just inherited a million dollars. Everyone was afraid the shock would cause a heart attack and the man would die. The priest went to the man’s house and said, “Joe, what would you do if you inherited a million dollars? Joe responded. “Well, Father, I think I would give half of it to the church. And Father fell over dead!

Jan. 29, 2017

A note regarding wakes/receiving lines in church

We hope to continue to provide beautiful and comforting funeral Masses here at Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament as we receive many expressions of gratitude for our funeral ministry.

When a family requests a bereavement luncheon in the Salerno Room, our volunteers are pleased to assist with that. The reasons, however, for avoiding wakes/receiving lines in the church or the Salerno Room are several. (There might be an occasion that warrants an exception)

1. With one priest, no assistant priest or deacon, and averaging 125 funerals per year, it is difficult to provide the time that is taken for wakes/receiving lines either before or after a funeral Mass. Too many times the church has been left open the rest of the day and through the night. With so many funerals during the year, so often there are two funerals on the same day, and allowing time for a wake/receiving line after one or both causes a “collision.”

2. When there are Saturday weddings and a late morning funeral, there is no time for a wake/receiving line following the funeral due to preparation for the wedding.

3. With only one priest, often enough, father is waiting a long time at the cemetery to do the cemetery services as he waits for the receiving line/wake to conclude back at the church.

An additional fee for a wake or receiving line is not the point. The point is the time with the number of funerals in this parish and the fact of one priest with no assistant priest or deacon to cover the tasks involved.

If the family chooses not to have calling hours/wake/receiving line at the funeral home, it is their choice.

Again, we hope to continue to provide comforting and helpful funeral Masses in our parish.

Jan. 22, 2017

Sometimes we wonder: “What did I do to deserve this? “Why did God have to do this to me?”

Here is a wonderful explanation.

A daughter is telling her mother how everything is going wrong, she’s failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away.

Meanwhile, her mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack, and the daughter says, “Absolutely, Mom, I love your cake.”

“Here, I have some cooking oil,” her mother offers.

“Yuck!” says her daughter.

“How about a couple of eggs?”

“Gross, Mom!”

“Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?”

“Mom, those are all yucky!”

To which the mother replies: “Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake.”

God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and eventually they will all make something wonderful.

God is crazy about you. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He’ll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart.

I hope your day is a “piece of cake!”

And the otherwise …

A pastor called at the home of a member when he learned he was seriously ill in the hospital.

“Oh, he’s improving,” said the wife, “but he’s still in the ‘expensive-care ward.”

Jan. 15, 2017

Guidelines for sane living in the new year

  • Strike a balance between work and play — between seriousness and laughter. Go to church regularly and also to the ball game.
  • Stick with the truth, even if it makes you look or feel bad. Falsehoods are like wandering ghosts.
  • Forgive your enemies as part of the price you pay for the privilege of being forgiven. Realize you are sometimes a pain in the neck yourself.
  • Walk. Get lots of air and sunshine, and occasionally get some rain or snow in your face, some dirt on your hands.
  • Talk through your troubles and mistakes with someone you trust — and your dreams, too.
  • Don’t underestimate the ability of God to straighten out a situation even when you can’t, and give God a little time.
  • Discriminate among your fears. Learn to tell which ones are useful and which ones are destructive.
  • Remember that the ultimate death rate is still 100 percent. You would be getting short-changed if everyone got to die and you didn’t.
  • When you can’t sleep, say, “Aha! Here is a chance for a little privacy and creative thinking. All day I’ve been too busy to pray, and now I can get around to thanking God.”
  • Fall in love with life, with children, older people, middle-agers, sports cars, the theater, music, books, cities, hills, the sea, the Bible — with everything except money.
     

And the otherwise …

An artist asked the gallery owner if there had been any interest in his paintings that were on display.

“I have good news and bad news,” the owner replied. “The good news is that a gentleman inquired about your work and wondered if it would appreciate in value after your death. When I told him it would, he bought all 15 of your paintings.”

That’s wonderful, the artist exclaimed. “What’s the bad news?”

“The gentleman was your doctor”