WISE AND OTHERWISE

OCT. 18, 2020

A speaker held up a $20 bill and asked the audience, “Who would like this $20 bill.”

Hands went up immediately.

He said, “I’ll give this bill to one of you, but first let me do this.”

He crumpled up the bill and then held it up again. He asked again, “Who still wants this bill?”

Then hands went back up in the air.

“Well,” he replied “What if I do this?”

Then he dropped it on the floor and began to grind it with his shoe so not only was it crumpled, but very dirty as well.

“Now, who still wants it?”

The hands went back in the air.

He paused and said, “My friends, you have learned a valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives we are dropped, crumpled and ground into the dirt by circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or will happen, you will never lose your value in the eyes of those who love you. You are special, and never forget it.

And the otherwise …

A young couple invited their elderly pastor for Sunday dinner. While they were in ‘the kitchen preparing the meal, their young son was in the living room entertaining the pastor.

“What are we having for dinner?” the pastor asked.

“Goat” replied the boy.

“Goat?” asked the startled pastor. “Are you sure about that?”

“Yep,” said the youngster. “I heard Dad tell Mom, “Might as well have the old goat for dinner today as any other day.”

OCT. 11, 2020

The following was written by Joyce Rupp:

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.

God of life you believe in us, you enrich us, you entrust us with the freedom to choose life. For all of this we are grateful. Amen.

OCT. 4, 2020

A sign was seen on the desk of a very successful store owner and popular figure in the city where the man lived.

The sign read: “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.

The word “stewardship” sums up the care, support and guardianship of our church and faith.

There was a merchant who had a fleet of ships that 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. Another 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.”

SEPT. 27, 2020

How is Jesus present in the Eucharist?

Most of us, at one time or another, find ourselves either asking that question or trying to explain the mystery for someone else.

Catholics believe that the body and blood of Jesus are present in consecrated bread and wine. We do not say the Eucharist is like the body and blood of Jesus, but that it IS the body and blood of Jesus.

Jesus, in the Eucharist, wants to be and is deeply present to us in love and in compassion. Only when we begin to understand the Eucharist as a time when Jesus is not distant, but close; not aloof, but very intimate; not above us, but profoundly near us; not judging us, but compassionate toward us, will we truly be able to relate this teaching of the church to our faith and devotion.

There is no doubt that a body-and-blood relationship exists between a mother and her child. But they don’t think of each other as body and blood. They think about the human relationship between them, whether or not it is mutually loving.

It’s the same way in the Eucharistic celebration. We have a body-and-blood relationship with God in Christ. In this encounter, we no longer get stuck on the elements of bread and wine, body and blood. This is because we experience persons instead of things, relationships instead of magic.

Real reverence has to be for the person of Christ and for all people for whom he died — the two are inseparable. That is why people are called the Body of Christ.

SEPT. 20, 2020

If one lives to be 70 years of age and is the average person, he or she spends:

  • 20 years sleeping.
  • 20 years working.
  • 6 years eating.
  • 7 years playing.
  • 5 years dressing.
  • 1 year on the telephone.
  • 2.5 years smoking
  • 2.5 years in bed.
  • 3 years waiting for somebody.
  • 5 months tying shoes.
  • 2.5 years for other things.
  • Do “other things” in your life include time for participation in serving on a church program?

While our daily lives may have a certain sameness, Christians affirm that every moment is creative by how we experience and respond to this new moment.

Within every moment of this day, God is about His creative activity and is presenting us with occasions for discipleship.

Time is one of the most important gifts given us by God. He has given it equally to all. It is our responsibility to use it wisely and well. And we can do so by dedicating some part of it to some apostolic activity, organized within the framework of our own church.

What should be made clear is that stewardship is an attitude. It’s not so much what we do, as it is why we are doing something.

Stewardship is a continuous revelation that God has given us special talents. By these gifts of talents, we can reveal God to the world.

SEPT. 13, 2020

Jesus came to revolutionize the world. While other leaders revolutionize by violence — love and service was Jesus’ way.

While other kingdoms rose and fell, Jesus’ Kingdom prevails throughout all time and throughout the whole world.

Therefore, if we want to put meaning into our lives we need to adhere unconditionally with the one who endures all over the world and throughout all times.

Jesus went about announcing the Good News. He was not interested in human power. His cause was more radical than that. In each person, He was a great potential for sanctity. He never used people like other rulers. He came to serve and not be served. He is the most meek and humble, and yet He conquered the world as nobody ever did or ever will.

The power of Jesus’ love is born in His willingness not to retaliate or seek revenge. His power is best seen and observed while He was crucified. He forgave His enemies, and even welcomed into His kingdom that same day one of the thieves crucified with Him.

SEPT. 6, 2020

We’ve been around for more than 2,000 years. And we’ve been misunderstood for just about that long as well.

Today, Catholics often are the butt of jokes by comedians, and often scorned by others. Find out about some of these misconceptions — and learn the truth about the Catholic faith:

The Catholic Church is not biblical: The Catholic Church is deeply biblical. Jesus’ followers gathered the sacred writings and established the fundamental books of the Bible in the first centuries of the Church. All Catholic worship is based on a careful reading and presentation of the Bible.

The Catholic Church is authoritarian: Catholic life is not run by the pope; rather, Catholic life unfolds in local parish congregations. The pope and bishops give guidance on certain fundamental issues of faith and good living, but all pastors do that. The church believes fundamentally in the freedom of the human conscience.

Catholics are superstitious and worship idols: Catholics worship only God. We pray to saints as our older brothers and sisters in faith who are united with us in Christ. Sacred images inspire us and focus our thoughts and prayer.

Catholics are hung up on sex: Catholics do take sex very seriously because they see it as a beautiful and important gift from God. Catholics encourage personal discipline in the exercise of sexual activity.

AUG. 30, 2020

Young people often are a source of delight and surprising thoughts.

A teacher asked her Religion class to write a little note to God:

  • “Dear God, I didn’t think the colors purple and orange went good together until I saw the sunset you made last night … real cool!”
  • “Dear God, Who draws the lines around the countries?”
  • “Dear God, maybe Cain and Abel wouldn’t have killed each other if they had their own rooms; that’s what my mom did for me and my brother.”
  • “Dear God, it must be tough on you to love everybody; there’s only four in my family and I’m having a tough time.”

There also are more mature and deeply moving insights given by some of our young people. A recent high school graduate, Megan Zerrahn who faced a serious illness, shared an inspiring thought with us. She said: “I didn’t want anybody’s sympathy; feeling bad for me wasn’t going to get me anywhere. My friends, the girls at the studio and my family all obeyed this rule. We acted just as we would if I wasn’t sick. They helped me to be positive and to keep a smile on my face.”

Keeping a positive attitude in a very competitive and fast-moving celebrity-driven culture can be rough on high school and early college-age people. Even with the best of health it helps to have faith, courage and high standards for which to strive.

AUG. 23, 2020

Faith can be good medicine.

Studies say practicing your faith can play a part in how long a person lives or fights disease.

Dr. Harold Koenig talked about faith, healing and long life at the Spiritual Care Center at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse. He said the link between faith and physical and mental well-being has been found in more than 1,200 scientific studies.

“We don’t have this much evidence on aspirin and headaches,” Koenig said.

Study after study shows those who lead a life of faith that is practiced regularly tend to live longer; when they do get sick, they get well faster and have shorter hospital stays.

This doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen to religious people — they are not immune to what life puts on their plate; however, the proven fact that they can live seven to 14 years longer than non-religious persons is important.

“The way we think and feel and believe affects our physical health dramatically,” Koenig said. “Faith can help us to cope and deal with so much and to be peaceful … to forgive and not hold a grudge.”

All this reminds us of the close union of body, mind and soul.

AUG. 16, 2020

Sometimes, we underestimate the gift and treasure that parish community is.

The next time you shy from saying hello or enjoy the presence of fellow parishioners, think of this: Coval Russ spent a year and two months in the Butte County Jail for assaulting his landlord, his first and only run-in with the law in all his 92 years.

In jail he was called “Pops” and given first dibs on the TV and first in the food line. At an advanced age and stooped over, blind in one eye and with prostate cancer, he finally found some community after years of loneliness. He had found community among prisoners.

Before being jailed, Corval had lived in a town called Paradise about 100 miles from Reno, Nevada, but he told everyone his paradise was the fellowship of the Butte County jail life.

He was released after serving his time, although he begged the judge to keep him in the lockup. A few days later his body was found in the Feather River, beneath a bridge where a taxi cab had dropped him off, near the motel where he had stayed after his release from the jail that had become his home — his community.

AUG. 9, 2020

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 Jesus speaking about being blessed if we are 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. 2, 2020

What medical science says: According to an article in the Harvard Mental Health Letter, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.

What the Bible says: The Bible encourages us to cultivate a spirit of gratitude. “Show yourselves thankful,” wrote the apostle Paul, who set a fine example himself. For instance, he “thanked God unceasingly” for the positive response of others toward the message he shared with them. Lasting happiness comes not from merely saying thank you occasionally, but from having a grateful disposition. That, in turn, protects us from feelings of entitlement, envy and resentment, which would alienate people from us and rob us of joy in life.

When we express sincere gratitude — whether for a gift, a kind word or practical help — we make the giver feel valued and appreciated. Even strangers respond warmly to people who sincerely thank them for doing a kind deed, such as holding a door open.

What the Bible says: “Practice giving,” said Jesus Christ, “and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing.” (Luke 6:38)

JULY 26, 2020

Holiness is not something that comes from doing good; we do good because we are holy.

Holiness is not something we acquire by avoiding evil; we avoid evil because we are holy.

Holiness is not something that follows from prayer; we pray because we are holy.

Holiness is not the result of kindness; we are kind because we are holy.

Holiness is not something that blossoms when we are courageous; we are courageous because we are holy.

Holiness is not the result of character building; we build character because we are holy.

Holiness is not a gift we obtain after a lifetime of service; we give service because we are holy.

Our holiness is God with us, Emmanuel. And while it is true that holiness carries with it the cross and resurrection, it is more a gift than a reward.

The Secret of Happiness 

If you want to be happy for an hour, take a nap.

If you want to be happy for a day, go fishing.

If you want to be happy for a week, take a trip.

If you want to be happy for a year, inherit money.

If you want to be happy for a lifetime, serve others.

JULY 19, 2020

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 Sandwich, 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.

JULY 12, 2020

The result of a computerized study indicates the perfect priest preaches exactly 15 minutes. He condemns sin but never upsets anyone. He works from 8 a.m. until midnight and also is a janitor.

He makes $70 per week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car and gives $70 a week to the poor.

He is 28 years old and has been preaching for 30 years. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all his time with senior citizens.

The perfect priest smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls daily on parish families, shut-ins and the hospitalized; visits the school every day; spends all his time evangelizing the unchurched; and always is in his office when needed.

If your priest does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other parishes that are tired of their priest, too. Then bundle up your priest and send him to the church at the top of your list. In one week you will receive 1,643 priests, and one of them should be perfect.

Have faith in this matter — one church broke the chain and got its old priest back in less than three months.

And the otherwise …

The pastor of a Catholic Church was ill one Sunday morning, so a preacher was called in to speak. In his opening remarks the preacher said, “You know, a substitute preacher is like a broken window. He fills the space, but after all, he’s not the real glass.”

After the service, a lady approached the preacher trying to pay him a compliment.

“You weren’t a replacement after all. You were a real pane.”

JULY 5, 2020

Usually we think of homecoming having to do with a special weekend at college when parents visit and the school has a homecoming game and events.

Or maybe a member of the family who has been deployed in some faraway place with the military finally comes home into the welcoming arms of loved ones.

In our case, that of our beautiful St. Mary of Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament Parish, our “homecoming” to the splendid church and regular Mass schedule is this weekend.

We have been very cautious and deliberate in making sure things are safe and sanitized and ready to follow the rules and regulations of our Diocese of Syracuse and New York state. Of course, our bishop reminds us that the obligation of attending Mass still is “lifted,” so that if those who are vulnerable, maybe ill or elderly, do not have to feel compelled to come to Mass. There are several Catholic Masses are on television.

Many, however, are looking forward to again being in their own spiritual home and beautiful church that honors the Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. There are so many memories and life experiences here.

The entire parish family is so grateful for those who have, with some sacrifice, continued to send in their envelopes and financial support of the church. We hope to do live-streaming of the weekend Mass soon for those who stay at home. We’ll let you know when that happens on our parish website (www.mountcarmelblessedsacrament.com) and via email to those who have signed up. (See this page on how to sign up for emails.)

We know that when gathered together in God’s House, even every other pew and spaced apart, we truly are a wonderful sight, the “living stones that make up the Body of Christ, the edifice, which is the church,” from St. Peters epistle.

Welcome home!

JUNE 28, 2020

By the Rev. Donald 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 examination by those who need to trust us.

To live in the light is to be able always to tell our loves ones where we are and what we are doing.

To live in the light is not 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 cell-phones, 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.

JUNE 21, 2020

Our Bible contains 810,697 words. This is about four times as many as are found in a book of average length.

Although so long a book and dealing with the greatest theme that can engage the mind of man, its vocabulary is singularly limited. Only 6,000 different words are used, which is very small compared to the 20,000 employed by Shakespeare in writing his plays.

Not only is the vocabulary limited, but, the average word in the Bible contains but five letters. Many of these short words are, however, full of the deepest meaning and are worthy of earnest study — such as these short five-letter words grace, peace, faith, saved, serve, glory and Jesus.

Your Own Version
You are writing a Gospel,
a chapter each day
by deeds that you do,
by words that you say.
Men read what you write,
whether faithless or true;
say, what is the Gospel
According to YOU?

JUNE 14, 2020

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.

JUNE 7, 2020

Can you list the U.S. presidents who have served in your lifetime?

How about the five wealthiest people in the world?

Any chance you know the last five Heisman Trophy winners or Nobel Prize winners?

All of these famous worldly winners are soon forgotten.

Fame is fleeting — but love is forever.

None of us will ever forget those who personally touched our lives — our parents, teachers, mentors and special friends. Jesus was not about worldly fame. He was about love and was like a parent, teacher, mentor and special friend to all of his disciples. Jesus personally touched all of their lives.

This personal touch of the Lord in our lives reaches us in many and various ways — the word of scripture, embraces and closeness of friends and family. Sometimes even in the most surprising ways, unexpected.

Yes, fame is fleeting, but the influence of good friends and their ability to be channels of the Lord’s presence in our personal lives is amazing.

It was said that Henry Ford was asked for good advice by a young newspaper reporter. Ford responded, “Choose your best friends carefully, because a best friend is the one who should bring out the BEST in you!”

Let the Savior be that best friend for you.

MAY 31, 2020

Let’s face it — just getting through an ordinary day with ordinary irritations can put us in a “bad humor.”

Other circumstances — such as serious illness, the loss of someone dear, distressing change or bitter disappointment — cut much more deeply into our capacity for feeling joy.

Laughter is a refuge against life’s hurts and indignities. Granted, we cannot just laugh away all life’s problems. Laughter is not a way to avoid our problems or deny their seriousness. It can be a way to release our anxiety, however, and to balance our distress with healthful, positive feelings.

When a person loses his or her sense of humor, Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote in “Lift Up Your Heart,” he or she “ceases to see the point of the universe, which is that all things are revelations, symbols, reminders of God who made them. To take things seriously as ends in themselves is to overrate them, to treat them with a solemnity that is not warranted.”

When we feel as though we drowning in misery, our God throws us rope — our sense of humor. With our sense of humor in hand, we can get a better grip on life.

MAY 24, 2020

Symptoms of inner peace

Be on the lookout for symptoms of inner peace, the hearts of a great many have already been exposed to inner peace and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions.

This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world. Some signs to look for:

  • A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences
  • An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
  • A loss of interest in judging other people.
  • A loss of interest interpreting the actions of others.
  • A loss of ability to worry. (This is a serious symptom.)
  • Frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
  • Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
  • Frequent attacks of smiling.
  • An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
  • An increased susceptibility to the love offered by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

And the otherwise …

Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.

It is easier to preach 10 sermons than it is to live one.

The good Lord didn’t create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close.

MAY 17, 2020

One Christian minister and pastor shocked the people gathered in the church when he pointed out that some who claim to be followers of Christ and called as Christians, really aren’t.

The pastor said many simply are “four-wheel” Christians, which means they visit church in a baby buggy to be christened, in a limo car to be married, and finally in a hearse to be buried.

May we suggest the ABC’s of genuine and tested Christian behavior. They are:

  • Act instead of argue.
  • Build instead of brag.
  • Climb instead of criticize.
  • Dig instead of depreciate.
  • Encourage instead of envy.
  • Fight instead of faint.
  • Give instead of grumble.
  • Help instead of hinder.
  • Improve instead of ignore.
  • Join instead of jeer.
  • Kneel instead of kick.
  • Love instead of lampoon.
  • Move instead of mold.
  • Nurture instead of neglect.
  • Obey instead of object.
  • Pray instead of pout.
  • Qualify instead of quit.
  • Rescue instead of ridicule.
  • Shout instead of shrink.
  • Try instead of tremble.

And the otherwise …

A father was approached by his small son who told him proudly, “I know what the Bible means!”

His father smiled and replied, “What do you mean, you ‘know’ what the Bible means?

The son replied, “I do know!”

“OK,” said his father. “What does the Bible mean?”

“That’s easy, Daddy,” the young boy replied excitedly. “It stands for Basic Information Before Leaving Earth.”

MAY 17, 2020

The Rev. Andrew Greeley, in his book “A Piece of My Mind,” had this to say about the Blessed Virgin Mary:

“A couple of years ago I went with a crowd of friends to see John R. Power’s play ‘Patent Leather Shoes,’ based on his novel about Catholicism of the 1950s. In one scene, the second-graders of “St. Christina’s School in Chicago are doing the annual May crowning. They begin to sing the traditional May crowing hymn, ‘Bring Flowers of the Rarest.’

“At the chorus, the whole audience joined in ‘O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.’

“Some Jewish people sitting near me were humming (ethnic group loyalty in favor of a Jewish mother?) On the way out I cornered the gifted young playwright.

“‘Do they do it every night, John?’”

“‘Since the first night,’ he replied. “‘If they every stop doing it, we’ll be worried.’”

“The experience was one more confirmation of something I’ve suspected for a long time: Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the greatest assets Catholic Christianity has. Henry Adams was right when he said that, as the most important symbol in fifteen hundred years of Christianity, Mary held together Western culture.

“I cannot escape the melancholy conclusion, however, that as in so many other matters, Catholic leaders and thinkers are too dumb to know what a resource they have in the image of a Jewish mother whom humans have honored for more than fifteen hundred years.” The Rev. Andrew Greeley, in his book “A Piece of My Mind,” had this to say about the Blessed Virgin Mary:

“A couple of years ago I went with a crowd of friends to see John R. Power’s play ‘Patent Leather Shoes,’ based on his novel about Catholicism of the 1950s. In one scene, the second-graders of “St. Christina’s School in Chicago are doing the annual May crowning. They begin to sing the traditional May crowing hymn, ‘Bring Flowers of the Rarest.’

“At the chorus, the whole audience joined in ‘O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.’

“Some Jewish people sitting near me were humming (ethnic group loyalty in favor of a Jewish mother?) On the way out I cornered the gifted young playwright.

“‘Do they do it every night, John?’”

“‘Since the first night,’ he replied. “‘If they every stop doing it, we’ll be worried.’”

“The experience was one more confirmation of something I’ve suspected for a long time: Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the greatest assets Catholic Christianity has. Henry Adams was right when he said that, as the most important symbol in fifteen hundred years of Christianity, Mary held together Western culture.

“I cannot escape the melancholy conclusion, however, that as in so many other matters, Catholic leaders and thinkers are too dumb to know what a resource they have in the image of a Jewish mother whom humans have honored for more than fifteen hundred years.”

MAY 10, 2020

The Rev. Andrew Greeley, in his book “A Piece of My Mind,” had this to say about the Blessed Virgin Mary:

“A couple of years ago I went with a crowd of friends to see John R. Power’s play ‘Patent Leather Shoes,’ based on his novel about Catholicism of the 1950s. In one scene, the second-graders of St. Christina’s School in Chicago are doing the annual May crowning. They begin to sing the traditional May crowing hymn, ‘Bring Flowers of the Rarest.’

“At the chorus, the whole audience joined in ‘O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.’

“Some Jewish people sitting near me were humming (ethnic group loyalty in favor of a Jewish mother?) On the way out I cornered the gifted young playwright.

“‘Do they do it every night, John?’”

“‘Since the first night,’ he replied. “‘If they ever stop doing it, we’ll be worried.’”

“The experience was one more confirmation of something I’ve suspected for a long time: Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the greatest assets Catholic Christianity has. Henry Adams was right when he said that, as the most important symbol in fifteen hundred years of Christianity, Mary held together Western culture.

“I cannot escape the melancholy conclusion, however, that as in so many other matters, Catholic leaders and thinkers are too dumb to know what a resource they have in the image of a Jewish mother whom humans have honored for more than fifteen hundred years.”

MAY 3, 2020

During a time of crisis or uncertainty, we may find ourselves struggling with fear and anxiety. This is a natural reaction.

But St. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Philippians to “have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Then, he assures us, “the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

With steadfast prayer and thanksgiving, then, we do our best to put our trust in the Lord. Let our actions reflect the trust and peace that can only be found in him. Stay close to Jesus and the Blessed Mother in prayer, asking that those who are suffering from the disease or from any related anxiety may find healing and peace.

Prayer During An Epidemic

Lord Jesus, hear our pleas, our Good Shepherd and Divine Physician. We implore your mercy in the wake of an outbreak of serious illness and disease.

Guide our efforts to prevent contagion and make preparations to care for those most vulnerable. Assist all professionals and volunteers who work to eradicate the epidemic now spreading. May our actions be marked by your steadfast love and selfless service and never by panic or fear.

Bestow your comfort and healing to the sick, sustain and strengthen them by your grace. May they know your closeness as they carry the cross of illness.

And may all who have been called from this life come to worship you eternally with all the saints as you grant consolation and peace to their mourners. Amen.

Holy Mary, Health of the Sick, pray for us. St. Joseph, Hope of the Sick, pray for us. St. Rocco, protector against epidemics, pray for us.

MARCH 15, 2020

Once, a man who hated his daily cross cried to God, “Why is my cross so heavy, why ignore my prayers?”

God said: “Come to the place where crosses are made, and look for another.”

The man entered the very dark and cluttered room. Some crosses looked too large or heavy, others like toys — some unbearable to even think about.

Finally the man picked up one cross; he thought it was just right for him to carry. It was fit for him, so he thought, perfect for his soul, his body, his mind.

God said, “Are you sure of it? Never ask me again to find another one for you.”

The man walked out into the light and realized it was the very same cross he had laid at the door when he had entered.

And the otherwise …

Father Smith decided to walk. He bundled up, pulling his overcoat up around his neck. As he rounded the corner, a figure stepped out from a building, gun in hand.

“Give me your money and hurry up.”

Father opened his overcoat to reach for his billfold in an inside pocket. With that, the robber exclaimed as he caught sight of the Roman collar.

“Oh excuse me, Father, I didn’t know you were a Catholic priest.”

Relieved and grateful, the priest replied: “Here, have a cigar.”

Waving his hand, the robber blurted: “No thanks, Father, I gave up smoking during Lent.”

MARCH 8, 2020

Norman Cousins reacted the way any of us would have on hearing he had an incurable, crippling illness —shock, denial and anger.

But then, he broke from the rest of us. He decided he could not be a passive observer of his own health.

Cousins began to laugh. “Why not?” he thought. He was feeling pretty low and wanted to feel better. He knew laughter always made him feel physically, emotionally and psychologically better, so why not laugh now?

Couldn’t positive emotions, then cause positive chemical changes? Why not laugh and see if this was possible?

Of course, most of us could think of a lot of reasons why not, but Norman, a journalist, editor and world peace activist, looked at his situation differently. In his 1979 book “Anatomy of an Illness,” he describes how after his diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, a degenerative disease of the spine, he rented a movie projector, Marx Brothers movies and old episodes of “Candid Camera.”

He recognized almost immediately, after just 10 minutes of laughing, that his pain was better. He continued to laugh. He laughed, and laughed, and laughed himself into remission for nearly 30 years, finally succumbing to heart disease.

His physicians had one explanation for his remission. Could laughing have been possible?

MARCH 1, 2020

Each year on Ash Wednesday, Christians receive an outward sign on their foreheads to show that they wish to turn away from sin.

The gospel names some of the traditional Lenten practices undertaken by Christians in order to help them achieve their goal: almsgiving, prayer and fasting.

Most of us pick something to “do” or to “give up” during Lent, probably because this is how we were raised. Maybe in the past we haven’t made a conscious connection between our Lenten practices and how they help us to relate better to God and our neighbor.

Why not try something this year to make the connection clearer, such as fasting from a particular activity or food, and then making use of that time or money to promote something worthwhile. For example, watching less television in order to spend more time in prayer and talking to family members. Or taking the money that would have normally been spent on desserts and giving it to the poor or another cause.

Whatever we do, we should keep in mind Psalm 51, which tells us that a contrite heart is the best sacrifice we can make to God. This should be our ultimate goal, because unless our hearts change (or we are at least trying to change with God’s help), then our Lenten observances won’t mean much.

Do we really think the Lord is impressed that we can go without candy for 40 days if our hearts remain closed to Him and to others?

FEB. 16, 2020

Thoughts from Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will forget tomorrow; do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God, it never was between you and them anyway.

FEB. 9, 2020

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, contribute to life and commu­nity or uncover new possibilities, it 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 priest 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 due to retirement.

Instead, highlight the new chanc­es and extra time afforded by retirement. A simple “Help Wanted” ad teaches many good points.:

“Help Wanted: 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, or friendly visits to homebound persons.”

FEB. 2, 2020

Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening it deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day.

What would you do?

Draw out every cent, of course!

Each of us has such a bank. Its name is time.

Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft.

Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the tomorrow. You must live in the present on today’s deposits.

Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success. The clock is running, so make the most of today.

To realize the value of one year, ask a student who failed a grade. To realize the value of one month, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby. To realize the value of one week, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.

To realize the value of one hour, ask lovers who are waiting to meet. To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who missed the train.

To realize the value of one second, ask a person who just avoided an accident. To realize the value of one millisecond, as the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.

Treasure every moment that you have! Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift — that’s why we call it the present.

JAN. 26, 2020

A Parent’s Prayer

I have a vision. It is of all of us standing before the Lord on judgment day. And the Lord will say: “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink, naked and you clothed me, homeless and you sheltered me, imprisoned and you visited me.”

Puzzled, we will respond: “When, Lord, when did I see you hungry?”

And the Lord will say: “How could you ask? You of the three-and-a-half million peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, how could you even ask?”

But thirsty, Lord?

“It was in the Kool-Aid that came in with the summer heat and the flies and left mud on your floor and fingerprints on your walls and you gave me a drink.”

“Naked, Lord; homeless?”

“I was born to you naked and homeless and you sheltered me, first in wombs and then in arms, and clothed me with your love. And you spent the next 20 years keeping me in jeans.”

“But imprisoned, Lord? I know I didn’t visit you in prison.”

“I was never in prison. Oh, yes, for I was imprisoned in my littleness, behind the bars of a crib and I cried out in the night and you came. I was imprisoned inside an 11-year-old body that was bursting with so many new emotions I didn’t know who I was and you loved me into being myself. And I was imprisoned behind my teenage rebellion, my anger and my stereo, and you waited outside my locked door for me to let you in.

“Now my beloved, enter into the joy which has been prepared for you from all eternity.”

Amen

JAN. 19, 2020

Compassion, or having a little sympathy for the other person, is another virtue and Jesus quality that is getting rare to find.

Like the story of the big snowstorm in a small town, the teacher warned her students saying, “Now be careful. I had a darling brother who went into a snowstorm with his new sled and caught pneumonia and shortly after, died.”

The school room was silent, then a boy raised his hand and asked the teacher, “Where’s his sled?”

The boy wasn’t very compassionate. There is a difference between compassion and sympathy. The first means really feeling for the other persons’ troubles, being “with them” and trying to walk with them in their shoes, so to speak.

But sympathy means understanding the others’ troubles or problems because you have “been there” before — you are similar and know all about it because you’re on the “same page” as they say.

Struggling to be like the good Lord Jesus is our task each day. Unfortunately, some say, “I have no sympathy for so and so,” only because they haven’t had a similar situation, and that may be acceptable. That does not excuse any one of us from offering some degree of compassion for the other person.

To try to be a bit more compassionate is not an optional item or accessory for the Christian person, like remote control mirrors on a new car.

Compassion is a Jesus quality.

JAN. 12, 2020

  • Maturity is the ability to control anger and settle differences without violence or destruction.
  • Maturity is patience, the willingness to pass up immediate pleasure in favor of long term gain.
  • Maturity is perseverance, the ability to sweat out a project or a situation in spite of opposition or discouraging setbacks.
  • Maturity is unselfishness responding to the needs of others, often at the expense of one’s own desires and wishes.
  • Maturity is the capacity to face unpleasantness and frustration, discomfort and defeat without complaint or collapse.
  • Maturity is humility. It is being big enough to say I was wrong. And when right, the mature person need not say I told you so.
  • Maturity is the ability to make a decision and stand by it. The immature spend their lives exploring endless possibilities, then do nothing.
  • Maturity means dependability, keeping one’s word, coming through in the crisis. The immature are masters of the alibi, confused and disorganized. Their lives are a maze of broken promises, former friends, unfinished business and good intentions which never materialize. Maturity—is the art of living in peace with that which we cannot change.

JAN. 5, 2020

“I Asked God”

I asked God to take away my pride and God said NO. He said it was not for him to take away, but for me to give up.

I asked God to grant me patience and God said NO. He said that patience is a by-product of tribulations; it isn’t granted, it’s earned.

I asked God to give me happiness and God said NO. He said he gives blessings; happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain and God said NO. He said suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to Me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow and God said NO. He said I must grow on my own; but he will prune me to make me fruitful.

I asked God if He loves me and God said YES. He gave His only Son who died for me and I will be in heaven someday because I believe.

I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me and God said, “Ah finally you have understood.”

DEC. 15, 2019

Some people were interviewed and asked to remember back to last Christmas. This is what they said:

A woman said: “I remember feeling rushed and hurried especially the last few days, I was really tired out for days”

A young man, college age, told reporters: “I wasn’t going to give in so much to the overpowering commercialization of it all, but in the end I did just that. I didn’t even make it to church, any church, for Christmas.”

A wonderful loving grandmother responded: “I was plain disappointed. I thought the kids would stay a little longer, enjoy it more.”

Parents of three young children remembered it and said: “All we know is on Dec. 26, we thought to ourselves, ‘Thank God!’”

How will your Christmas be this year?

Listen to this best capsule, short statement of what’s happening that I’ve found this season. Let it provoke your reflection and challenge your preparation for Christmas.

For many, Christmas no longer is the day to celebrate the mystery of the birth of God among us, the God hidden in the joys and wounds of humanity. It no longer is the day of the child, awaited with prayer and repentance, remembered with worshipful solemnity, joyful song and peaceful family meals.

Instead, Christmas has become a time when companies send gifts to clients, when post offices work overtime to process an overload of catalogues and cards, when immense amounts of money are spent on food and drink and many complain about gaining weight.

There are trees decorated, streets, sweet tunes in the supermarkets and children saying, “I want this and I want that,” and grownups saying, “I need to shop for only four more people.”

That shallow happiness of busy people, good people, often fills the places meant to experience the deep lasting joy of Emmanuel — God with us.

DEC. 8, 2019

Although Advent at first seems to be several weeks to patiently wait for the joy of Christmas, real­ly on a deeper level and by ancient tradition and teaching of the church, Advent is more than that.

Advent is a season of faith that invites us to ask are we always prepared, worthy and ready of being called to the side of Christ. In other words, there is an urgency to the message, there should be no delay or postponing of our being worthy of the company of the Good Shepherd and the gift of heaven.

Advent really challenges us to know that time is always shorter than we think and today is the day to draw closer to the light of faith and our friendship with Jesus.

There’s an old story that helps make this point.

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.”

DEC. 1, 2019

For God’s people, November is when we think about death, we pray for our cherished dead and we face the fact that one day God will call us home.

These sober thoughts should also prompt us to live and appreciate each day as a gift from the Creator and give thanks for all that we have.

We so often are caught up on our goals or chores or destination, we forget to appreciate the jour­ney itself. You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly? When you ask, “How are you?” do you even hear their reply? When the day is done, do you lie in bed with the next list of chores running through your head?

You’d better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

Ever told your child, “We’ll do it tomorrow,” and in your haste not see his sorrow? Have you ever lost touch and let a good friendship die because you didn’t have time to call and say “hi?”

In November with creation dying around us remember when you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of get­ting there. When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift, thrown away.

As November ends and Advent begins, we start the season of hearty expectation. It offers a marvelous reflection on Christian life and faith. Be touched by these days. Be strength­ened. Be inspired!

NOV. 24, 2019

Eduardo Sierra, a Spanish businessman and devout Catholic, stopped to pray in a church during a trip to Stockholm, Sweden.

He came upon the casket of a man whose body was being waked in the church for a few hours. Eduardo prayed for the soul of the stranger, and signed a condolence book nearby — he was the only person that day who prayed for the man and signed the book.

Weeks later, he got a note from Stockholm informing him that the 73-year-old real estate tycoon (with no relatives) had stipulated that anyone who prayed for his soul would get something of his fortune. The devout Catholic, Eduardo, got the whole fortune and all belongings.

Nice story, but even better is the tradition among us to pray for the dead in early November (All Souls) and during the whole month and at just about every Mass we celebrate as Catholics.

Think of those who have passed on, perhaps in transit to God’s Kingdom through the experience of Purgatory, like hitchhikers on the highway. We “pick them up,” we assist them with our good prayers along the way. When they enter into the fullness of God’s grace and presence, Heaven, then they will pray for us.

The Catechism says, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The church gives the name Purgatory to this final punishment of the damned.”

That is why we pray for the dead. This is why the celebration of a funeral Mass is so important for each of our beloved. We also have the ancient tradition of having Mass celebrated for our beloved on the anniversary of their death.

NOV. 17, 2019

Anointing of the Sick

This sacrament is administered to a baptized Catholic “who has reached the age of reason” and is in a weakened condition as the result of a serious illness, accident, old age, or administered in anticipation of surgery.

A common misconception regarding this sacrament is the belief that it can only be administered to those “near death, which is incorrect. The sacrament can be administered whenever there is a serious concern regarding the health of a baptized Catholic, and can be administered more than once in a person’s lifetime, if circumstances dictate a need.

The sacrament is to bring healing, both spiritual and physical, and to bring God into the process of healing by forgiving a person’s venial sins.”

Friends and family members in attendance are asked to pray for the sick as the priest anoints the forehead and hands of the sick person with the oil of the sick, which is olive oil that has been specially blessed by a bishop during Holy Thursday services.

The anointing of the sick bestows a special grace on the recipient that brings comfort, strengthens the soul and eases anxiety, fear and doubt. The anointing of the sick also brings to the recipient a sense of peace.

NOV. 10, 2019

Autumn Lore

By Kathleen Jenks

As autumn returns to earth’s northern hemisphere, And day and night are briefly, but perfectly Balanced at the equinox, May we remember anew How fragile life is — human life, surely, but also the lives of all other creatures — trees and plants, waters and winds.

May we make wise choices in how and what we harvest. May earth’s weather turn kinder. May there be enough food for all creatures. May the diminishing light in our daytime skies be met by an increasing compassion and tolerance to our hearts.

NOV. 3, 2019

November is, in our Catholic tradition and devotion, a month to pray for and remember our beloved dead.

All Souls Day on Nov. 2 sets the tone for this autumn month when creation dies around us,trees become bare of their colorful clusters of leaves.

We know that our lives too, will come to an end. November renews our hope for eternal life and the spring time of God’s kingdom.

Our tradition within our families, among our friends and in the community of the church is to offer Masses and pray for our beloved deceased, to help them in their pilgrimage toward salvation and heaven. It is important to share this tradition with our young people to teach them how to arrange a Mass and Remembrance for someone who has passed on.

Especially during the month of All Souls, November, but all through the year, one of the important works of charity for Catholic people is to sponsor and pray for our beloved dead and hope that some day, someone will do the same for us.

OCT. 27, 2019

A Sunday school teacher asked her class why they should be quiet while in church.

One bright girl said, “Because there’s people sleeping in there!”

Of course, a few more things happen in church — worship, prayer, praise in word and song, the blessing and sharing of sacraments and the giving of gifts.

God gives us gifts beyond our imagining — life, the created world around us, the opportunity for love within family and friends.

Good stewardship, in the household of the church, recognizes the benefits and gifts we enjoy from God and the faith we share. It also recognizes our need to be givers for the sake of the church’s life and the help of others.

We know that the word “tithe” means to give one-tenth back to God’s purposes. A very moving story goes like this: A missionary in Africa had taught people about tithing. He explained the difference between giving from what is left over, and giving right off the top.

Early one morning a native man came to the door with one fine fish — this was his “tithe” for the parish family. The missionary said, “You must have done well if you already caught 10 fish so early today.”

“No” said the man, “This is the only one so far; now I go back and try to catch the other nine.”

Impressive!

OCT. 20, 2019

There are three kinds of Christian discipleship, each is appropriate to a different period in our life.

The first is “essential discipleship.” That’s wrestling with the devil. It’s the struggle to tame and discipline, to creatively come to grips with the potent forces of sexuality, ambition and desires for success. These are powerful energies that come from God.

Our earliest struggle in life is to successfully leave home. After successfully leaving home and establishing ourselves in the world, we reach the next level, “generative discipleship.”

We give life now rather than receive it, becoming parents, teachers and ministers. The bulk of life is spent here, generously nurturing others. Kids make you unselfish overnight. Children take your life whether you want them to or not.

In this stage, we have come to that home we have built for ourselves, that comfortable place out of which we can give our lives for others in generative discipleship.

That generative stage is a good place to be, but it’s not a good place to end. There is another stage beyond that.

The last stage is that of “radical discipleship.” We face three choices: to become a pathetic old fool, a bitter old fool or a holy old fool.

We will be fools and old no matter what. The choice is what kind of old fool we want to be.

The Greek word “pathos” literally means “painful to look at,” and indeed it is hard to watch the old person who desperately strives to remain young, to keep looking and acting half their age. The bitter old fool is mad at the world. Nothing is right and nobody appreciates them.

The third and best option is the holy old fool. This person has gotten beyond anger, is able to forgive, to let go. In this stage of life, we actually are preparing to leave home once again.

OCT. 13, 2019

Why do you go to Mass?

Perhaps it’s because you grew up going to Mass and you can’t imagine not going. Perhaps you go to set a good example for your children. Perhaps you’re looking for God’s help, peace or healing. Or maybe you aren’t sure why — you just keep going and wondering.

Can you imagine that a problem could be changed into something positive?

God promises to do just that when we offer him our pain. When we come to Mass, we have the chance to offer God our suffering and our problems.

As the bread and wine are lifted up to God by the priest, you can also offer your pain to God. Pray, “Jesus, I offer you my …” It could be a difficult job situation, a troubled relationship or difficulty with forgiving someone.

Nothing is too small or trivial to be offered during Mass, and God can transform it into something good.

OCT. 6, 2019

A profound gap exists in our lives and in our world.

No matter what our religion, race or location on the planet, and whether we are rich, poor or something in between, we all know this tension from experience: There’s a gap between what the world is and what we wish, hope or believe it could be. And if we’re honest, we likely feel the same tension deep within ourselves.

On the one hand, I believe I am good and I have some things to offer this world. And yet I wish, or hope, or believe I could somehow become better, happier, healthier, more peaceful, more loving, more effective. More or less: Less selfish, angry, anxious, busy, fearful, doubtful.

The gap between what we desire and what we experience is real. In our efforts to confront the gap, we squelch our desire for a better world or a better life. We lower our expectations, numb our pain, distract ourselves or simply look the other way.

One thing is certain: we all contribute, in some way, not only to what is good in this world, but also to what is broken, what is sinful. For “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

We may eat too much, drink too much, watch too much TV, binge on social media, escape into erotic or emotional fantasies, gossip about the wrongdoings of others, or strive desperately to prove our worth by attaining success or riches.

It is the most unimaginable, shocking claim: the Creator of all, the perfect, loving and good God, became a man, lived in our broken world, and experienced the weight of our sin, while never sinning. He felt the gap of this world in his hunger, loneliness, weariness, disappointment and pain.

Grace is not a mere “thing” or “substance.” It is not magic. Nor is it quantifiable. Grace is not so much an “it” or “what” as a “who.” Grace is God’s gift of his very self to his creation.

Grace is the gift of God’s love poured out for us in big and small ways: from the ultimate gift of salvation to God the Father’s quiet ready response to our daily needs. Grace is God himself walking with us through it all.

SEPT. 29, 2019

Small habits that will transform your faith and your life

The scenery doesn’t change. The view never shifts. You feel the wheels spinning and hear the engine revving, but you just aren’t going anywhere.

Congratulations: You’re stuck in a rut. It can happen in life, in love, in work, and, believe it or not, in faith.

We find ourselves going through the motions — making the right gestures, saying the right words — but we end up feeling spiritually paralyzed. Too often, what begins as a habit ends up being a chore.

The life of grace and holiness we were striving to achieve becomes more like drudgery. Go to work. Make dinner. Walk the dog. Go to church. Repeat.

What can a Christian do?

The real question, I think, is: What can a Christian be?

Turning faith into merely something you do misses the beautiful reality that faith — what we believe and how we live it — is the sum and substance of who we are.

So, first of all, be thankful. Second, be generous. Be prayerful.

Make gratitude the foundation of your prayer life. Develop a habit of writing down what you are thankful for. As you read your list, give God thanks and praise for your blessings.

Find something you can do to be generous with God. Visit someone who is lonely or sick, or volunteer at your parish as an usher, bulletin stuffer or small group leader. Or think about what you can do without, and share more of what you have been given. Gain a renewed sense of purpose and mission by praying before meals, at the start of any project, or the end of a long day.

SEPT. 22, 2019

A pastor was calling on parishioners who were kind of lax in practicing their faith, especially weekend Mass.

One fellow gave this nasty answer to the invitation to come back to church:

“Father, when I was a baby you poured water all over me, when I grew up you tied me to a woman I’ve had to support all these years. I’m miserable.”

The Pastor said, “Oh, yes, and the next time you have anything to do with the church, I’ll probably be throwing a bit of dirt on you.”

The man’s involvement with church was limited to baptism, marriage and burial.

Our communion with church is characterized by prayer, hearing the same word of God proclaimed at Mass, sharing in the Bread of Life and partaking of the Cup of Blessing — also our service of others and the world and finding Jesus in the disguise of the needy (quote Mother Teresa).

Our Catholic love for the gift of life and our pledge to defend life from conception to dying, devotion for the saints and sacramental view of seasons and creation is paramount. All this keeps us in lively communion with what being church is all about.

Sounds like much more than only baptism, marriage and burial, doesn’t it?

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.