SEPT. 15, 2019

What is retirement for you?

Maybe it’s a long way off, or a challenging time that is here now and can last many years.

Whatever it is, retirement means change.

People can live longer now, well beyond the magic “65” or “70.” Using that time to grow socially, spiritually, to contribute to life and community, to uncover new possibilities can bring such satisfaction and fulfillment.

The hope of good health, physically and mentally, is every family’s hope and prayer for loved ones.

Father Fahey, noted expert on gerontology and senior citizen issues, says that feelings of isolation and a lack of worth make newly retired persons concentrate on their losses. Instead. highlight the new chances and extra time afforded by retirement.

A sample help-wanted ad teaches many good points:

Man or woman with years of experience living and willing to share with others. Position requirements: time, interest, enthusiasm, generosity, flexibility and wisdom. Needed to: tutor a young person, get involved with political issues and campaigns, work on a neighborhood watch, teach your skill to another volunteer at local library or hospital or church. Friendly visits to homebound persons.

SEPT. 8, 2019

A web site produced by the Jesuit Community Centre in Ireland (www.jesuit.ie/prayer) encourages people to find a personal way of praying.

One of the biggest dead-ends in developing my spiritual life is to want to have someone else’s spiritual life, says one of the meditations found on the site.

I may find myself thinking, “I wish I could pray like them.” But if I am a school teacher, or an accountant, or looking after my children all day, then that rhythm of prayer might not be suited to me.

Pray as you can, not as you can’t is a maxim that is overlooked frequently, leading to a lot of unrealistic expectations. Look within, and you will find that you really can pray anywhere and everywhere.

“For years, I thought more spiritual life was something out there to be achieved by people with a bent holiness — not for someone ordinary like me, who juggles a zillion daily demands and hasn’t the time for more than church on Sunday and a quick prayer at night,” notes Barbara Bartocci in Episcopal Life. She offers these suggestions:

 “Alarm Clock Alleluia:” When your alarm goes off, pray the psalm, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.” Commit to a day of gratitude.

“Telephone Thanksgiving:” Say a brief prayer of thanks each time you answer the phone today.

“The Gas Pump Minute:” As you pump gas, visualize God’s spirit flowing into you and filling you with holy energy.

“Red Light Contrition:” when you’re stopped at a traffic light, ask yourself if you’ve been rude or otherwise failed to live up to your best. Pray a sincere “I’m sorry”.

SEPT. 1, 2019

English word origins come from a great variety of sources. Many languages add to its richness.

But some words actually derive from the names of individuals. Among these eponyms, one of the best known is sandwich. It is named for the fourth Earl of Sandwi, h who supposedly invented this handheld meal so he would not have to leave the gambling table.

If you think something is a doozy it is because of Frederick Duesenberg. The auto maker’s 1932 roadster had a powerful 320 horsepower engine and could go and impressive 130 mph.

Next time you read a book blurb think of Belinda Blurb. She modeled for the cover of a 1906 book of humor by Gelett Burgess. Somehow her name stuck to the words on the jacket.

Try to make your name synonymous with integrity and kindness. Then the good you do will last even longer than any name or fame.

Chicken Soup for the Grandparent’s Soul

The most rewarding thing about being a grandparent is watching your children become loving parents. It is our assurance that we did something right after all.

AUG. 25, 2018

Sometimes you will see a very old house built with window spaces bricked up in the wall. This is a relic of old days when there was a tax on windows — people could not afford to have much lighting.

When building the house, they would make the space in the hope that later on they would then be able to afford to replace the brickwork with glass, and achieve better light, more light streaming into their living space. This especially was common in Puritan America in New England. 

A thought to share with loved ones who do not receive the light and help that comes from being present at weekend worship — holy Mass — would be to say that for them, they are bricking up their window spaces of the soul, just as surely as those others in olden times prevented the light from getting through. 

And the otherwise …

One Sunday morning, a father gave his son a couple of quarters and a dollar.

“Put the dollar in the offering,” the father said, “then you have the 50 cents for ice cream.”

When the boy came home, he still had his dollar.

“Why didn’t you put the dollar in the offering?” his father asked.

“Well it was like this,” the boy explained. “The priest said that God loves a cheerful giver. I could give the 50 cents a whole lot more cheerfully than I could give the dollar.”

AUG. 18, 2019

Jim Smith went to church on Sunday morning. He heard the organist miss a note during the prelude, and he winced.

He saw a teenager talking when everybody was supposed to “bow in prayer.” He felt like the usher was watching to see what he put in the offering plate and it made him boil.

He caught the preacher making a slip of the tongue ­five times in the sermon by actual count. As he slipped out through the side door during the closing hymn, he muttered to himself, “never again! What a bunch of clods and hypocrites!” 

Ron Jones went to church on Sunday morning. He heard the organist play an arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress” and he thrilled to the majesty of it.

He heard a young girl take a moment in the service to speak her simple moving message of the difference her faith makes in her life. He was glad to see that his church was sharing in a special offering for the poor. He especially appreciated the sermon that Sunday — it answered a question that had bothered him for a long time.

He thought, as he walked out the doors of the church. “How can a person come here and not feel the presence of God?” 

Both men went to the same church on the same Sunday morning. Each found what he was looking for.

What will you be looking for this Sunday?

AUG. 11, 2019

By the Rev. Ronald Rolheiser

We’re called to live in the light, but we tend to have an overly romantic idea of what that should mean.

We tend to think that to live in the light means that there should be a kind of special sunshine inside of us, a divine glow in our conscience, a sunny joy inside us that makes us constantly want to praise God, an ambience of sacredness surrounding our attitude.

But that’s unreal.

What does it mean to live in the light?

To live in the light means to live in honesty, pure and simple, to be transparent, to not have part of us hidden as a dark secret.

Spiritual health lies in honesty and transparency, and so we live in the light when we are willing to lay every part of our lives open.

To live in the light is to be able always to tell our loved ones where we are and what we are doing. To live in the light is not to have to worry if someone traces what websites we have visited. To live in the light is to not be anxious if someone in the family finds our files unlocked.

To live in the light is to be able to let those we live with listen to what’s inside our cellphones, see what’s inside our emails and know who’s on our speed dial.

To live in the light is to have a confessor and to be able to tell that person what we struggle with, without having to hide anything.

To live in the light, is to live in such a way that, for those who know us, our lives are an open book.

AUG. 4, 2019

Our Parish Festival 2019 is just a memory — but what a memory. What a success!

The Novena leading up to the feast day was so well attended and the guest priests were well received — we thank them for being with us during the those nine weeks.

The liturgical celebration honoring Our Lady of Mount Carmel was just beautiful and we are proud that our Walk for Mary’s Children collected so many non-perishable items for the children of our area.

Our festival always reunites old friends and is a time for families to enjoy themselves and work together for the sake of our parish. We thank the volunteers who prepared the food and pizza fritta, set up the café and flea market, clams, soda, novelties, etc., and those who worked on the church grounds setting up everything, —  the numerous behind-the-scenes workers who began meeting back in the spring preparing, planning, submitting paperwork (and whose jobs are not finished until the fall).

We thank those who sold raffle tickets. We thank the people who worked during the festival in the 90-degree temperatures. We also thank the ROTC students from Proctor High School and the inmates from Midstate Correctional Facility. How well we can work together for a common cause.

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

JULY 28, 2019

Summertime days and early evenings lend themselves to genuine prayer — a walk in the park, to sit near the lake, to take in the sunset in summer.

Real prayer is to listen for God’s voice, to “be still before the Lord” as one saint put it.

The playwright George Bernard Shaw said most people only beg, not really pray, when they say they’re praying. How true.

In Shaw’s play “St. Joan,” one of the officers asks Joan of Arc, “How do you mean, you hear voices?”

The Maid of Orleans responds, “The voices come from God.”

The weakling French King Charles exclaims, “Why don’t I hear the voices from God, after all, I’m the king.”

St. Joan says, “O, they come to you, but you fail to hear them You have not sat in the field in the evening listening for them. When the bell for the angelus prayer rings, you cross yourself in a quick way, but if you prayed with your heart, and listened to the trilling of the bells in the air after they stop ringing, you would hear the voices as well as I do, sir.”

JULY 21, 2019

With many families proud of recent graduates, this story reminds us that integrity is one of the best qualifications to bring from high school into the graduates’ futures.

Two young men were supposed to take final exams after a college semester. They were confident about the exams, so they went to a party in a nearby town the day before the exam.

They both partied too much and overslept their exam day — with hangovers included.

They found the professor and told him their car had gotten a flat tire in a nearby town, and they had no way to repair it was their excuse. The experienced and wise professor prepared them for a make-up exam.

The two boys were put in separate rooms and each handed an examination. The first page a simple chemistry question, but turning the page they each found the next question rather perplexing: WHICH TIRE?

Integrity is an invaluable quality.

JULY 14, 2019

“Summer, Let Me Live Gracefully”

Thank you, Lord, for the season of sun and slow motion, of games and porch sitting, of picnics and light green fireflies on heavy purple evenings, and praise for slight breezes.

It’s good, God, as the first long days of your creation. Let this season be for me a time of gathering together the pieces into which my business has broken me. O God, enable me now to grow wise through reflection, peaceful through the song of the cricket, recreated through the laughter of play. 

Most of all Lord, let me live easily and gracefully for a spell so that I may see others’ souls deeply, share in a silence unhurried, listen to the sounds of sunlight and shadows, explore barefoot the land of forgotten dreams and shy hopes, and find the right words to tell another who I am.  

Varieties of disciples

Disciples come in three varieties of boats when it comes to following the Lord. First, the tugboats follow Jesus, not only in sunny weather but also when stormy. They follow even when the wind and waves oppose them. They love the Lord always, day in and day out.

Second are the disciples who come in sailboats. They follow on sunny days, they go in His direction when the wind and the waves serve them. If stormy weather comes, they only go in the direction they are blown.

Finally, there are the barge disciples They are not really willing followers of Jesus. They go in His direction only because others tug at them or even have to pull them there. They need the push, like any barge, to get them going. 

Does this make us think?

JULY 7, 2019

By the Rev. Bill Bausch

The two children huddled in the doorway, wearing ragged old coats and thin, worn sandals.

“Any old papers, lady?” they asked.

I was busy, but then I looked down at their cold feet, their sandals covered in sleet. I invited them in and made them some cocoa and toast and jam.

There was no conversation. They just sat by the fire, eating and drinking, their big eyes taking everything in.

“Lady, are you rich?” the boy asked in a dull flat voice.

“Rich? Mercy, no!”

I looked at my shabby slipcovers. The girl put her cup back on her saucer carefully.

“Your cups match your saucers,” she said.

Her voice was old, with a hunger that was not of the stomach. They gathered up their papers and left. They didn’t say thank you. The didn’t need to.

I looked around. Plain blue pottery cups and saucers. But they matched. Potatoes and brown gravy on the stove, a roof over our heads, my man with a good steady job. These things matched, too.

Their muddy sandal prints were still on my hearth. I have left them there, in case I ever forget how very rich I am.

JUNE 30, 2019

A number of years ago, Doug Alderson wrote a beautiful article. It described a 2,000-mile hike down the Appalachian Trail.

Doug had just graduated from high school and had lots of unanswered questions: Was there a God? What was the purpose of life? What was his purpose in life?

Doug wrote: “There had to be more to life than money, TV, parties and getting high. My hike was a search for inner peace, a journey to find myself.”

At times the trail became dangerously steep. The days often were rainy. Doug’s clothes got soaked, his feet got wet, his body shivered and ached at night, but Doug didn’t give up.

Five months later, Doug reached home. He was a different person. Even his dog eyed him strangely, as if to say, “Where have you been? What have you done? You look different.”

Doug was different. He had found what he was searching for. There was a God. Life had a purpose and he had a role to play in it.

What Doug did, each of you graduates also must do. Perhaps not in the way he did it, but you must do it. You must discover that there is a God, that life has purpose and that you have a role to play in it.

JUNE 23, 2019

There was a report on radio or maybe TV about a Lottery. Somebody won $46 million in some other state, not New York.

They won some months ago, and as the deadline drew near for the winner to come forward to claim their prize, nobody appeared. Weeks went by when finally just about the last minute, only two days before the deadline, it was discovered who the winner was.

The winning person didn’t stop in at the lottery office, there was no phone call —they had mailed in the winning ticket, regular mail, just threw it in an envelope, regular stamp.

You might say the winner wasn’t very careful about the winning ticket, waiting until the last minute and using ordinary mail. 

One important message about the gift of the sacrament of the altar, Corpus Christi, Holy Eucharist is the need to renew or refresh our being careful about it, not cautious or overly scrupulous about celebrating or receiving this wonderful sacrament, but being filled with care, careful to cultivate a genuine love for it, to cherish it, to treasure it as the center point of our Catholic faith.

Other words come into play — respect and reverence, to honor, to know that we are invited to give our whole heart over to celebrating Christ among us, his body and blood, the Risen Lord, especially the moment we receive. And to allow a space and place in our lives to adore the blessed Lord who we find here in this place, always present, we say really present in the reserved sacrament, the tabernacle of every Catholic church in the world, whether it be a chapel or basilica, a great cathedral or a humble mission hut with an altar within it. 

The first point as we celebrate the Mass of Corpus Christi, be careful, we are the guardians and stewards of the best gift ever given to the world — the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

JUNE 16, 2019

Portrait of a healthy family

Summer is the time for families to spend some time together.

Dorothy Curran, educator and author, sent out 500 questionnaires nationwide to professionals who work with families. From the response, she gleaned the top 14 characteristics of healthy families. Check them against your own family.

The healthy family …

  • Communicates and listens.
  • Affirms and supports one another.
  • Teaches respect for others.
  • Develops a sense of trust.
  • Has a sense of play and humor.
  • Exhibits a sense of shared responsibility.
  • Teaches a sense of right and wrong.
  • Has a strong sense of family in which rituals and traditions abound.
  • Has a shared religious core.
  • Respects the privacy of one another.
  • Values service to one another.
  • Fosters family table time and conversation.
  • Shares leisure.
  • Admits to and seeks help with problems.

JUNE 9, 2019

When we gather around the Eucharist, it really is Christ who gathers us.  

The assembly that gathers is not some random crowd, such as those who drift together to hear an outside music group perform.  

On the surface, there are different motives that summon us — maybe a desire for spiritual food, duty, habit, love and devotion, or some leftover fear of God from catechism days.

Our God is not proud. God will accept and use any motivation, as long as we do gather week after week at the table of His word and the Eucharist.  

What motive was it that moved the prodigal son to finally return to the father’s house? It was the boy’s empty stomach. So, far from being a hodgepodge of persons who happen to occupy the same pews.

God’s people gathered are unique and connected by their real awareness of Christ present in themselves and the Word they hear and the Holy Eucharist that is blessed, broken, poured out and received — no matter what the motives are for being there.  

Enter into my soul Jesus. Unfold the delights of your presence; calm the restlessness that I feel. Hold my hand whenever I am frightened and always chase those fears away. Revitalize my trust and faith in you. Ignite the spark to light any darkness in my heart. Strengthen me through the spirit today, tomorrow and for the rest of my days.

JUNE 2, 2019

So often we hear in our prayers of the wisdom of God — God’s way of seeing things can be so different from our own.

A person dreamed they had an interview with God, who said, “Come in, so you would like to interview me?”

The person asked God, “What surprises you most about these people who you have created and given the gift of life to?

God answered, “That they get bored of being children, are in a rush to grow up so quickly … then later they long to be like children again. Also, that they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore their health.

“Besides this, I’m surprised that people spend so much time anxiously worrying about the future; they forget the present, its blessings and simple joys,” God continued. “And that people live as if they will never die …. and they die or fight against dying as if they had never been given an opportunity to live.”

The interview with God ran a bit overtime, but with God what’s a thousand years one way of the other.

And the otherwise …

Every human being knows at least two things that are certain: one is that they are going to die, and the other is that they are not dead yet. And the space between these two — the NOW of being alive and the THEN of not being alive — is filled with infinite importance.

Now is our interval of time, and every one of us must be deciding what to do with it.

We all have 24 hours a day of time. The differences come in our stewardship — what we do with this vital dimension of our being.

The question for all of us never really is “do I have time?” but “what do I have time for?”

A common view of time is the idea that “my time is my own.” Time is the most personal of all possessions, and who but me, could be in charge of it? It’s nobody’s business but my own what I do with my time.

But this attitude denies the Christian insight that time is life, and life is God’s fundamental gift to his children — a gift that deserves not only the response of gratitude, but of a responsible use of what we’ve been given.

What kind of stewards will we be of this precious time left this year —or next?

MAY 26, 2019

As we enjoy the spirit and melody of this Eastertime and the sound of Alleluia, we also know it is not easy to follow the Risen Lord in our daily lives.

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 widow 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 the 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.

Chicken Soup for the Grandparent’s Soul

The measure of love is not how much that child loves me, but rather how much I dare to love that child.

MAY 19, 2019

One of the hallmarks of a Christian disciple is a profound sense of gratitude. It is through the eyes of discipleship that we see everything in our lives as a blessing and gift from God.

In recognition of this for the 2019 annual HOPE Appeal we have chosen the theme, “Gratitude.” Please take some time to consider prayerfully a generous gift to our diocesan church through the HOPE Appeal as an expression of your gratitude to God for all the blessings in your life.

Your generous gift helps fund education for future priests and deacons, family and youth ministry, marriage preparation, Catholic Charities, support for our Catholic schools and parishes, and many other areas of ministries and services of the Diocese of Syracuse.

Because there are so many people in need of our services, please know that 100 percent of your contributions goes toward the stated case of support as outlined at syrdio.org. Whatever gift you are able to make is greatly appreciated.

Our parish has fulfilled our part in supporting the HOPE Appeal the last several years.

MAY 12, 2019

In the Easter Season, the Gospels call the announcements made from person to person about the first Easter “Good News.”

The news spread among the friends and company of Jesus is known as “Good News: He is Risen!”

Mary Magdalene first made the announcement to the Apostles and the word spread like wild fire. Even today, the Gospels are called the “good news.”

Unfortunately, we are given mostly bad news day in and day out. On television, in the papers, on the internet or when people talk on the phone, most people seem to love to share and spread “bad news.”

In these weeks of Easter and springtime, perhaps we who belong to Christ could make the effort to downplay the bad and focus on the good news that is happening. This certainly would be better for Eastertime than just looking at Easter flowers in our churches. The flowers are short-lived anyway.

If our heart is in the right place, God will help us to open books of “Good News” to all those we meet. This is a great purpose God sets before us bigger than any one of us alone. The most important thing in life is to live for something than just your own life.

May the peace and power of our Risen Savior be with you and reach out through your own Good News to others.

MAY 5, 2019

I remember a friend of mine who always was able to see in every problem as 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, which 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 and 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 the “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 always will be another one 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 God sets before you.

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.

APRIL 28, 2019

Easter is the most important day Christians celebrate because it is truly the day of our salvation.

During the Easter season, we celebrate our redemption from sin. We constantly are reminded that by his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ freed us from sin and saved us.

We do not have to do anything to gain our salvation.  As one of my theology professors used to say, “Salvation is ours to lose.”

Our job now is to live our lives like we really believe that we are saved. Our saved lives must be lives of forgiveness and compassion. Our saved lives must be lives of peace and justice. Our saved lives must be lives of welcoming and unity.

Keeping our eyes on those goals and living lives that reflect those values will truly mark us as Christians.

The Lenten and Holy Week celebrations were all wonderful. I want to thank everyone who was involved in the planning and execution of these prayerful liturgies. Many people worked very hard to make our Holy Week celebrations prayerful and beautiful.

I am especially grateful to everyone in our Music Ministry, our decorators, readers, lectors, dancers, ushers, greeters and those who prepared and cleaned the church and altars. Thank you all for all your good, holy and dedicated work. You have truly made us a beautiful and prayerful environment.

Also, thanks to all that donated generously to the Easter flowers.

Happy Easter. Alleluia, Alleluia!

APRIL 21, 2019

Years ago, an old municipal lamplighter, who engaged in putting out his lights one by one, was met by a reporter who asked him if he ever grew tired of his work in the cold, dark night of labor.

“Never am I cheerless,” said the old man, “For there is always a light ahead of me to lead me on.”

“But what do you have to cheer you when you have put out the last light?” asked the news writer.

“Then comes the dawn,” said the lamplighter.

A man of the world might have asked Jesus the same question. One light after another did He put out — the lamp of popular acclaim, the lamp of patriotic approval, the lamp of ecclesiastical conformity — all for the sake of God’s love, which burned in His heart and showed Him a better way.

At last, even the light of His life was to flicker out on the hill called Calvary.

What then?

We hear His voice, “Into thy hands, I commend my spirit,” and the dawn came.

And the otherwise …

In Eastertime, or any time, kids say the best things. One little boy named Danny said, “Atheists are people who don’t believe in God. I don’t think there are any in my town, at least there aren’t any who come to our church.”

Another boy remarked, “You should always go to church on Sunday because it makes God happy, and if there’s anybody you want to make happy, it’s God!”

“If you don’t believe in God, besides being an atheist, you’ll be lonely because your parents can’t go everywhere with you — like summer camp, but God can.”

Finally, a very little girl spoke true wisdom: “God makes people, but only babies because they’re easier to make than the full grown grownups. That way God can spend his valuable time doing other things. He doesn’t have to teach babies to talk or walk, or how to live, He just leaves that to mothers and fathers.”

APRIL 14, 2019

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 of 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 disciples. Many — the majority of priests, deacons, religious men and women, pastoral ministers and parish volunteers — carry on with integrity and cheerfulness, their ordinary tasks of Masses and homilies, religious education, formation activities, retreats and novenas and prayer services, prison and hospital visits and preparing children for their First Communion, as well as preparing couples for sacrament marriages coming this spring and summer.

Since the celebration of Easter and new life takes place in a very real and broken world, it is right that we see signs of hope all the time. It’s all right to smile.

APRIL 7, 2019

During the season of Lent, a time of spiritual renewal and growth for God’s people, we know that the whole church and community of those who believe are called to renewal.

Turning our hearts and minds to God, ridding ourselves of sin and selfishness and doing what is right and good, is the whole part of Lent. This is not just a rare thing to do, it is a regular invitation, a call that comes often to God’s people. It is not just to be taken as individuals either, it is corporate. It involves all of us together, a community and household of faith.

How does a parish, a church family, look at its own life together, its witness in the wider community?

If we think that Lent is just about each person, we will have lost a great opportunity to regain a strong sense of what it means to be the Catholic Church, the people of God in our time and place.

The former Prime Minister of England Tony Blair converted to the Catholic faith because he found very attractive, the church’s vast international reach, its commitment to the poor, its capacity for mobilization against injustice and its courage to stand firm on unpopular but important issues such as the value and sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

All of this reminds us that keeping Lent and receiving the gift of faith is a lot more than simply giving up “something” for the few weeks of Lent.

And the otherwise …

A man asked his friend, “What did you give up for Lent?”

His friend responded, “About fifty bucks so my wife could buy a new Easter hat!”

MARCH 31, 2019

One of the essential lessons and messages of Lent is the value of being a person of compassion, as Jesus is.

His compassion for the woman he encountered at Jacob’s Well included listening and opening his heart for her troubles, as well as naming her problem pointing out the sin and inviting her to a change of style and moral life.

“The cops called again tonight,” a wife told her friend. “They picked him up and wanted me to put up bail again. But I’m tired of it.”

She realized her husband’s problem was a sickness that needed naming and dealing with in a professional way. Her compassion moved from covering up, bailing out and forgiving, to the more difficult — demanding of him more responsible behavior.

It is compassion that needs fostering in each of us during Lent. But compassion can mean different things and assume different ways and shapes or whatever helps the one receiving the compassion the most.

Compassion doesn’t mean tolerating some abuse or injustice without protest, or assisting others to evade responsibility for their actions. We start with our own need for healing.

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!

MARCH 24, 2019

Excess baggage and how to unload it

A tourist from America paid a visit to a renowned Polish rabbi. He was astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books, a table and a bench.

“Rabbi,” asked the tourist, “where is your furniture?”

“Where’s yours?” replied the rabbi. “Mine?” asked the puzzled American. “But I’m only a visitor here. I’m only passing though.”

“So am I,” said the rabbi.

Experienced travelers learn how much baggage is just enough. They take what they need and leave behind the nonessentials that would only be a burden. To move freely, they travel light.

Visitor, traveler, pilgrim —whatever word we use — each one of us is only “passing through.” How we go through life depends a lot on what each of us decides is essential in the things we own, the attachments we form, the ideas that shape our lives.

More and more people say they’d like to make changes in the way they live. On a personal level, questions like these may be helpful to anyone who is serious about finding out what to hold on to and what to let go.

What possessions do I have that cause more trouble and worry than they’re worth? Do I waste valuable time and energy on things that don’t really matter? Does the desire for “bigger, better, more” crowd out the values of intimacy, communication and the giving of affection? Do I feel good about my work, the persons in my life, myself?

If I had only three months to live, what would I let go of and what would I hold on to?

MARCH 17, 2019

Lent is a time of retreat in the real sense of that term: me of turning back, of turning away from that which is dangerous to our spiritual growth, a time of turning to the Lord.

Lent is a time for the entire family to make a wholehearted effort to be more attentive to one another and to the Lord. It is a time to treat ourselves to the good in God and in one another, to the new life that can be ours.

But fasting is more than doing without food. Our Lenten fast can mean more doing without other things as well. For example:

Do without a little sleep; use the time to read or pray.

Do without anger, impatience, or whatever really hinders you from living the gospel message of love.

Do without the radio or cellphone for a time each day; treat yourself and those around you to the joy of a little silence.

Limit TV to one hour a day.

Take fewer drugs (from aspirin to alcohol).

If you are a night owl, let go of the day’s activities and go to bed an hour earlier each night. (If you can’t sleep, use that me for meditation.

Take some time for something you usually do for yourself, such as reading a good novel, to write to neglected family member or friend.

Many of these actions mean fasting from selfishness and the status-seeking of our own egos, and allowing ourselves to be a bit more vulnerable. They might be more difficult than eating less food, but they are forms of fasting nonetheless and can retreat us to the Christian values of love and joy.

MARCH 10, 2019

From its earliest days, the church has urged the baptized and the catechumens to observe the threefold discipline of fasting, almsgiving and prayer as a preparation for the celebration of Easter.

Failure to observe individual days of penance is not considered serious, but failure to observe any penitential days of all or a substantial number of such days must be considered serious.

During Lent, the church encourages attendance at daily Mass; self-imposed times of fasting; and generosity to local, national and worldwide programs of sharing.

Lent began almost two millennia ago as a preparation for Easter. Christians believed that they shared in Christ’s resurrection through baptism; and so they chose the Vigil of Easter to baptize their new converts.

They prepared the neophytes over many months, but the preparation became intense in the weeks before Easter. Thus, Lent became a community retreat. Converts prepared for baptism; baptized Christians recalled their own baptismal experience.

Through baptism, we share Christ’s divine life. It may help us to understand this if we recall that human life is essentially relational. We are who we are because of our relationship to our grandparents and parents, our siblings, children and grandchildren.

We know that God’s life, too, essentially is relational — the intimate relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Baptism introduces us into the divine community by giving us a new, incredibly intimate relationship to the Son of God.

How close?

Listen to the words of Christ: “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.”

As Christ’s brothers and sisters, we share his divine life. We also share his divine mission.

St. John tells us that Christ is the light of the world. Jesus said the same of us. (Matt 5:10-13).

So, go ahead. Set the pattern for our coming Lenten “retreat.” We have 40 days to brighten up our small corner of the world.

Lenten regulations

ABSTINENCE: All Catholics who have reached their 14th birthday are bound to abstain from meat onAsh Wednesday, all Fridays of Lent and Good Friday.

FASTING: All Catholics between their 18th and 59th birthday are bound to observe the Laws of Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Those bound by this rule may take only one full meal. Two smaller meals are permitted as necessary to maintain strength, but eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.

MARCH 3, 2019

Ash Wednesday marks the first of the 40 days of Lent, a six-week period (excluding Sundays) dedicated to prayer, fasting and reflection in preparation for the great celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery in the Easter Triduum.

The late Henri Nouwen described Lent as a time to refocus and to re-enter a place of truth. It is here where we find our true identity. Ash Wednesday is the best way to begin a season that calls us into self-examination as well as self-denial into deeper contemplation about the mystery and grace of God’s mercy, and toward more radical giving towards those most in need of comfort, sustenance and hope.

The purpose of ashes

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” — Genesis 3:19.

The line from Genesis reminds us our lives on this Earth won’t last forever. We are a finite people who hold hope in something infinite and beyond ourselves.

Bearing a mark throughout the day that is visible to others puts an explanation point on the Genesis passage. We become walking witnesses of that place of truth.

Heaping ashes upon the head, rending the garment and donning sackcloth were all outward signs of penitence in biblical times. Such a display was one of abject humility and repentance, but also could turn into an occasion for infighting and ego inflation.

The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are obtained from the burning of the palms of a previous Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ return to Jerusalem, when people waved palm branches to celebrate his arrival. The ashes are blessed by the priest during the Ash Wednesday Mass after the homily. Then the ashes are applied to each person’s forehead in the shape of a cross.