FATHER JIM’S WISE & OTHERWISE

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Editor

MAY 26, 2024: Tell someone it’s not hard to return to church

Every living thing needs nourishment — including our hearts and spirits.

Going to Mass brings about direct contact with the Body of Christ in Holy Communion and in the community of faith. Going to Mass draws us from the self-absorption of our lives and directs us to the grace and power of God.

Nothing substitutes for being at the Eucharist.

We are not giving God the love and focus that God should have in our lives.

We are not growing in the Word of God that we read and celebrate on Sunday. We need God’s Word.

We are not receiving one of the greatest gifts that Jesus left us — his Body and his Blood.

We are not contributing to building up the community of Christ by our presence, witness and service.

We are depriving our children of the intimate knowledge of God that they deserve.

We deprive ourselves of a profound sense of peace and love.

We are weakening the Christian faith.

It’s not hard to come back to church. Every parish church is waiting for you. Begin with a visit to feel the peace and sense the fellowship. Stay for Mass and come back for a few Sundays.

Then talk to a priest — he’d love to chat with you about returning and getting more out of the Mass.

Then stick with your new plan to put God first in your life and receive the gifts only God can give you.

MAY 19, 2024: Pentecost can instill many languages within us

Scripture tells us that God’s Spirit can enable people to even speak other languages — at Pentecost for instance. This is usually what comes to mind when we think of “speaking tongues.”

The phenomenon of a kind of “holy babbling or praise also is part of the Spirit’s working for many persons of faith. But think of this, too: A person who is filled with the Spirit can speak several languages that are ways of witnessing to Christ. To “speak” the language of humility, poverty, obedience to God’s Word, the language of patience with others, of care and sensitivity to others needs. Can we not consider these the languages of the faithful person, prompted by the Spirit of God?

Language comes alive when it is translated into action and deeds. So often we become bloated with words. Do not forget the fig tree that was cursed by the Lord Himself when he found that it bore no fruit, only leaves.

A Pentecost prayer

Come Holy Spirit, send out from heaven the rays of your light.

Come Father of the poor.

Come giver of the gifts. Come light of hearts.

Encourage our best. Be our spirit’s guest.

When things become heated, be our sweet coolness.

When we are working, be our rest.

When we are in sorrow be our inner peace.

Light most bright, enlighten the hearts of your faithful.

Without your power we can do nothing, and nothing is right.

Wash what is sordid, water what is arid,

cure what is sick, bend what is rigid,

warm what is chilling, correct what is devious.

Give to the faithful to those who trust in you, your seven holy gifts.

 Give them virtue’s reward, give them salvation at their end.

 Give them never ending joy. Amen

MAY 12, 2024: Don’t horse around; reconciliation heals you

A man who owned a wonderful horse, rode into town and hitched the horse to a post at the store.

Two thieves saw the splendid steed and decided to steal it. They had a clever plan: one rode the horse out of town while the other thief stayed and tied himself to the hitch post.

The owner came out of the store and very angrily asked, “Where is my horse?”

The thief said, “Sir, I am your horse. Years ago, I sinned and God turned me into a horse; this was my last day of penance and sentence for the sin. Now that I’m a man again, will you unhitch me and set me free?”

The owner was touched by the story and set him free.

Weeks later the owner saw his horse at the county fair. Dumbfounded at first, he finally whispered in the horse’s ear, “So, up to your old tricks; you’ve sinned and got caught again, huh!”

Sin is the greatest of all detectives. Your sin will always find you out. If you want to avoid the fruits of sin, you need to stay out of sin’s orchard. Those sins of ours that are more significant and truly harm our relationship with the Lord, or one another. They only are pardoned and absolved, that is forgiven, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The confessor priest is the agent of Christ’s desire to forgive. The confessor, knowing his own sins, becomes a wounded healer in sacramental confession.

What a marvelous gift is the Catholic experience of going to confession. It is one way the Lord takes us up into a big and warm embrace.

MAY 5, 2024: Eastertime gospels urge us to shout with joy

Have you ever told something exciting to a young child and watched his or her reaction to it? They can’t wait to tell somebody else, even a stranger happening to walk by.

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

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

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

Peace be with you.

APRIL 28, 2024: Being able to forgive can do wonders for you

What’s your attitude toward forgiveness?

One deeply spiritual person has said, “The only thing we can play on the one string we have is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.”

Hate and revenge preoccupied a man named Harold Smith when a one-time friend spread rumors about him and damaged his reputation, Harold said, “I begged God to do something to the one who had ruined me, to make the person as miserable as I had become.”

At first, he dismissed another friend’s suggestion that he pray for the other person who hurt his good name. But since he believed in the love of God and the power of forgiveness, he decided to give prayer a try without expecting much in return. Within a few weeks Harold found he could let go of his grudge.

“I wish I could say my act of forgiveness went over well with that person, but it didn’t,” he said. “But forgiveness did some amazing things to me!”

Here’s what he gained: more time and energy now that he no longer wasted time on revenge; a new way of seeing the person he hated, someone really in need of prayers; and the ability to change his anger and hatred into compassion.

APRIL 21, 2024: It’s up to all of us to continue Christ’s ministry

This could serve as an Eastertime thought: When the brilliant opera “Turandot” opened in Milan, Italy, in 1926, the composer, Puccini, died before he could finish writing the final notes.

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

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

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

The purpose and mission of Easter is even more profound than the loveliest opera.

And the otherwise …

Did you know …

  • A bicycle can’t stand alone. It is two tired.
  • A will is a dead giveaway.
  • When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.
  • If you’ve seen one shopping center, you’ve seen a mall.

APRIL 14, 2024: When things get dark, dawn always returns

Years ago, an old municipal lamplighter, engaged in putting out his lights one by one, was met by a reporter who asked him if he never 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 reporter.

“Then comes the dawn,” replied 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 then dawn came.

In Eastertime, or anytime, 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 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 7, 2024: Live life like you believe we are saved

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

During the Easter season, we celebrate our redemption from sin. We are constantly 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 salvation. As one of my theology professors used to say, “Salvation is ours to lose!”

Our job now is to live 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 altar. Thank you for all your good, holy and dedicated work. They have truly made us a beautiful and prayerful environment.

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

MARCH 31, 2024: Always mark yourselves with Sign of Cross

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 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.

Despite 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.

On this Easter and through the year, make the Sign of the Cross over your very body, your life.

May this Easter season bring you renewed hope, faith and many blessings.

MARCH 24, 2024: Use your precious gift of time to the fullest

Many of us only experience the elation of a triumphal entry twice in our lifetimes.

The first might be your graduation from school, wearing cap and gown, marching solemnly to the strains of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.”

The second, particularly for many women, is the triumphal entry at their wedding, dressed in gorgeousness and accompanied by the pulse-quickening cadences of Mozart, Handel or Pachelbel.

Jesus only experienced one triumphal entry, coming into the city as a king, astride a donkey, passing over a bed of palm branches amid the cries of “Hosanna.” But like all earthy accolades, his triumphal entry was short-lived, as was Jesus himself. He only had a few days left to live.

No one of us knows how many days or seasons we will see, but it will be all too short, as with the Lord Himself. Here’s how to make the most of that precious gift of time.

  • We must be optimistic when others want to give up.
  • We must be patient when others are out of control.
  • We must heal when others hurt.
  • We must smile when others only frown.
  • We must possess integrity when others compromise theirs.
  • We must be the prism through which others see something of God, even when most seem to just stand in his way.

Let this be a message mission that comes from Palm Sunday.

MARCH 17, 2024: We all are sharers in Christ’s life and mission

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 to understand this if we recall that human life essentially is 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 (Matthew 5:10-13).

MARCH 10, 2023: Some ‘possessions’ may be holding you back

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, plus 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 through.”

“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 such as these might 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 people 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? 7

MARCH 3, 2024: So, you think your cross is too heavy

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 and thought it was just right for him to carry, it was fit for him — or 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 for Lent.”

FEB. 25, 2024: Lenten fasting not limited to food

In the rhythm of family life, there is periodic need for the renewal of Lent.

We can get so caught up in “business-as-usual” that we fail to notice how we may have grown away from one another, away from the Christian community and consequently away from God. Lent is a time to reverse that separation.

Lent is a time of retreat in the real sense of that term: a time of turning back, of turning away from that which is dangerous to our spiritual growth, a time of returning 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 of 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 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 music 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 the time for meditation.)
  • Take some time from something you usually do for yourself, such as reading a good novel, to write to a 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 treat us to the Christian values of love and joy.

FEB. 18, 2024: Fast and feast on these ideas

Lent should be more than a time of fasting. It should be a joyous season of feasting.

Lent is a time to fast from certain things and to feast on others. It is a season to turn to God:

  • FAST from judging others. FEAST on Christ dwelling within them.
  • FAST from emphasis on differences. FEAST on the unity of all life.
  • FAST from thoughts of illness. FEAST on the healing power of God.
  • FAST from anger. FEAST on patience.
  • FAST from complaining. FEAST on appreciation.
  • FAST from unrelenting pressures. FEAST on unceasing prayer.
  • FAST from self-concern. FEAST on the compassion of others.
  • FAST from facts that depress. FEAST on truth that uplifts
  • FAST from thoughts that weaken. FEAST on promises that inspire.
  • FAST from worry. FEAST on divine order.
  • FAST from bitterness. FEAST on forgiveness.
  • FAST from idle gossip. FEAST on purposeful silence
  • FAST from lethargy. FEAST on enthusiasm.

FEB. 11, 2024: Lent a time of fasting, prayer and giving of yourself

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday evening.

It begins with the grim but honest ashes, the solemn reminder of all our limits and the church’s call to conversion. Its 40 days are for remembering and becoming what baptism made us. It is thoroughly personal, this Lenten time, but only because we are persons of the church, and it is the church that embraces and is embraced by Lent.

From its earliest days, the Church has urged the baptized and catechumens to observe the threefold discipline of fasting, almsgiving and prayer to prepare for Easter. Failure to observe individual days of penance is not considered serious, but failure to observe any penitential days 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.

To give alms is part of Lent.

What are “alms” today?

Let the imagination go to work on what we must share. It isn’t limited to money, though money can be important. For many, time is the alms that is hardest to give whether it is a parent giving that alms to a child generously and regularly, or a person tutoring in a literacy program, or a citizen writing elected officials on behalf of the needs of justice.

Time and money are then, two sorts of alms, but there are many others. Almsgiving is a year-round habit, but being who we are, we need a Lent to put ourselves into such a habit.

Lenten regulations

Abstinence: All Catholics who have reached their 14th birthday are bound to abstain totally from meat on the following days: Ash Wednesday, all Fridays of Lent and Good Friday.

Fasting: All Catholics between their 18th and 59th birthdays also 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.

FEB. 4, 2024: Time is a gift from God; give some to your church

The pastor surprised his congregation by announcing that he was moving to another parish assignment.

One upset lady came up to the pastor afterward with tears, saying, “Oh, we are going to miss you; can’t you stay?”

The pastor said, “Now, now. Cheer up. The one who comes after me might even be better than I’ve been.”

The nice lady replied, “Oh, but that’s what they said the last time — oops!”

One mission for a pastor is to encourage everyone to contribute energy, time and goodwill for the strength of the parish community. Think about this: If one lives to be 70 years old, 20 years is spent sleeping, 20 years working, six years eating, seven years playing, five years dressing, one year on the phone, five months trying on shoes, three years waiting for people — and then time spent on “other things.”

Time is a gift from God; it is our duty to use it well and wisely. To dedicate some for the purposes of your church and in the framework of your faith is a way to return the gift of time to God.

Pastors ask many for a little gift of time; many say they don’t have time.

JAN. 28, 2024: Don’t leave it to others; do your part in our parish

After more than 28 years in the Michigan State Prison, one man decided to stay there, despite the offer of freedom by the parole board.

Reports from the outside world, the man said, convinced him that he was far better off just staying in jail. In jail he had nothing to worry about, three meals a day, and safe and sound. He had watched the television news and seen the papers about how worse living had got “out there.”

There is a temptation for us to not want any part of “out there.” Daily living, duties and responsibilities can be overwhelming at times. More than just a few people would want to withdraw to someplace, maybe even a jail, at taxpayers’ expense, where they would have little or nothing to worry about.

All that is needed for the collapse of a culture or nation is to have enough people leaving it to others to carry the ball. This always is an open invitation to disaster. The task of directing a household and family, the life and spirit of a parish community, a city’s excellence and the nation’s common good all depend on every person doing their part as best as they can.

JAN. 21, 2024: When God says ‘no,’ He guides us to be better

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 Him.

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 some day 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.”

And the otherwise …

A couple desperate to conceive a child went to their priest and asked him to pray for them.

“I’m going on a sabbatical to Rome,” he replied, “and while I’m there, I’ll light a candle for you.”

When the priest returned three years later, he went to the couple’s house and found the wife pregnant, busily attending to two sets of twins. Elated, the priest asked her where her husband was so that he could congratulate him.

“He’s gone to Rome, to blow out that candle!” came the harried reply.

JAN. 14, 2024: Is your glass half full or half empty?

A young man stood before the judge to be sentenced — the police had caught him with the stolen goods.

The young gang member’s mother went to talk with the judge. She said in her pleading voice, “He was always a good boy. Of everything he stole, he gave half to me, his mother!”

Which reminds us you can find something good in any situation. This is a great message to remember as this new year gets under way.

A teacher shared a table with a young student in the school cafeteria. The girl told her teacher that she was suffering from a terrible and big disappointment that had ruined her life — her boyfriend had broken up with her.

The teacher held up before the girl’s eyes a glass of water half full.

“Is this half full or half empty,” she asked.

The young girl said correctly, “It’s both.”

The teacher pointed out that no one’s life is ever full or ever totally empty. A mixture of joy and sadness, of triumphs and letdowns is part of everyday life. Some only choose to see what’s wrong instead of counting blessings from God.

Another thought for a still very new year.

JAN. 7, 2024: Guidelines for sane living in the new year

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

DEC. 31, 2023: Try to emulate Mary in the new year

Mary is not a woman protected from the demands of faith in daily living.

There is nothing vapid or sentimental about her. She is a woman with her feet planted firmly on the Earth — Mary of Nazareth, the new Eve, the new Mother of all living, the woman whose risk in faith first made Christ present among us.

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

When Mary’s place in the life and continued ministry of the Church is recognized and understood, the place of all women in the Church is assured — not as onlookers or maidservants, but as integral co-workers, as necessary for the incarnation of Christ in our world as Mary was to the first Incarnation.

That’s why we celebrate her as the new year begins.

DEC. 24, 2023: Follow these Christmas season commandments

The Ten Commandments for the Christmas season:

  1. Thou shalt remember to keep Christ in Christmas.
  2. Thou shalt pause in thy business to consider the magnitude of God’s gift of Christ to mankind.
  3. Remembering that Mary and Joseph found no room in the inn, thou shalt give Christ the chief room in thy heart.
  4. Thou shalt participate in the Christmas activities sponsored by thy church.
  5. Thou shalt be generous in thy gifts to foreign missions.
  6. Thou shalt take time to plan for the happiness of those outside thine own circle of family and friends.
  7. Thou shalt enjoy, in unhurried calm, the priceless heritage of Christmas music that exalts the Lord Jesus Christ.
  8. Thou shalt give of thyself in all gifts — giving not for duty, for reciprocity or personal satisfaction — but for the simple joy of sharing.
  9. Thou shalt remember, with great patience and understanding, all those who serve thee; the salesclerk, the postman, delivery man and all the others who bear the physical burden of the holiday season.
  10. Thou shalt teach thy children the true meaning of Christmas, of the Prince of Peace, who came giving mankind a way to righteousness and true lasting happiness.

DEC. 17, 2023: Message of Christmas: We are not alone

Christmas plans are being made — or have been made — among friends and families.

At parties, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day tables, people will gather who haven’t seen each other for a while — for some perhaps just a holiday season cup of coffee shared.

The names of family members and friends carry with them all the good points as well as the faults and weaknesses each person carries with them. The names from the family tree of Jesus — from Abraham through all the generations up to St. Joseph, the guardian of the Holy Family — are names like our own family and friends. These names carry with them the graces and evils, the victories and defeats, the gains and the struggles that are mingled in every life.

It is these men and women, the family tree of Jesus, that form the story in which God wanted to become a part. God put God into our tiresome and often exhausting journey of life. God became a fellow traveler.

In this season we realize that God came to join us on the road, listen to our story and help us remember we are not walking in circles but rather moving toward the house of peace and joy.

The message of Christmas coming brings us strength and comfort knowing we are not alone on this journey. So, cherish those friends and family, even aware of their petty faults, odd habits or past sins. Like you they are invited to be embraced in the household of God, even the glory of Christmas!

DEC. 10, 2023: Offer this prayer when decorating your tree

The world around us makes it all too easy to forget the blessings of spiritual waiting, preparing and longing for something or someone — Jesus.

We have fast forward, instant coffee, fast food, instant replay, Minute Rice and more. The Advent message of be on watch, stay awake and be on your guard means being patient and waiting.

Waiting and hoping can be the beginning of a deeper faith. For the person who waits knows that he or she was made for something more. The person who waits for everything understands they were made for everything.

It is not wrong that we wait or expect something. It is only wrong when we have our own timetable for the fulfillment of everything. Waiting and time can be a gift, a privilege, even a genuine pleasure. There can be beauty and meaning in our hoping and waiting if only we can sort out in our minds and hearts what we are hoping for — who we are waiting for.

We wait to meet old friends, we wait for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. What is most significant is always hoped for and waited for. In prayer and shared hope, we now wait for the coming of Christmas and the day of God’s glory.

When you put up your Christmas tree this year, you might like to use the following blessing to make it a special occasion for the family:

“Bless with your abundant grace this our Christmas tree as a symbol of joy. May its evergreen branches be a sign of your never-fading promises. May its colorful lights and ornaments call us to decorate with love our home and our world. May these gifts that surround this tree be symbols of the gifts that we have received from the tree of Christ’s love. Holy Christmas tree within our home, may joy and peace come and nest in your branches and in our hearts. Amen.

DEC. 3, 2023: Advent the time to prepare for the birth of Christ

It’s extremely hard to prepare for Christmas in this day and age as a Christian.

The “season” has been thoroughly captured for commercial purposes. The selling imperative is so strong that one could escape it only by going on an old-fashioned retreat. We’re made to feel guilty if something isn’t purchased every day after Thanksgiving.

That is not a preparation for the feast of Emmanuel — God with us. Christmas for us means the Earth-shaking message that God shares life in the flesh with us; knows us in the body, feels as we feel; shares our joys, our sorrows and our hope. God even shares the weakness and neediness of a baby.

This certainly is cause for extravagant celebrating and feasting. But without time spent reflecting on where we are and what we’re waiting for, it may be indulgence more than godly celebrating that we do.

It is possible to decorate, do the shopping and everything else associated with Christmas in America while still paying attention to Advent. But it requires sustained attention. A short period of prayer and reflection each day could do. Use of the Advent wreath and a prayer with it could do it. The practice of extra patience with those we live with and work with could do it. Attending one of the special Advent services offered by area churches could do it. Each of us can think of our own best ways.

If we want Christmas itself to be a day of love and true peace, preparation is needed. The Church sets aside the weeks of Advent for that. Take advantage of the time left. Take it seriously for yourself, for your family and friends, for your world. The resulting gift is more valuable, more lasting, than any of the symbols of love that can be wrapped and placed beneath a tree.

NOV. 26, 2023: Is it time you took the lead in our parish?

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

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

But why do they fly in that pattern?

Scientists believe that they do it to help each other. When one bird flies at the tip of the “V,” it cuts air resistance to those flying behind it. It’s harder work for the leader to fly in this position, but easier for its followers. Of course, it would be difficult for one goose to be the leader over a migration that might be many hundreds of miles long. Geese, however, take turns so that no one is pushed too hard.

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

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

NOV. 19, 2023: Prayer releases the divine power of God

We need the reminder that prayer releases power. That concept is not strange to our modern world.

All of your lifetime and mine, science has been in the business of releasing power. This has become so much a part of our lives that we hardly even notice it. Flip a switch, and the light comes on. That is the harnessed energy of electricity. Turn a key and the automobile engine starts. That is the harnessed energy of petroleum and now electricity. Science does not create these powers. It simply fulfills the conditions necessary for their release.

What science does in the physical realm, prayer does in the spiritual realm. It fulfills the conditions necessary for the release of divine power.

We read part of a prayer that Jesus prayed on the night before he died. The Synoptic Gospels tell of another prayer he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Those prayers opened the way to Calvary. They enabled Jesus to face the cross with a calm and a courage that we cannot even imagine. Leave out those prayers, and there would have been no Calvary.

When you and I pray, we are not trying to get God to do what we want. We are putting ourselves in the hands of God, so that He can do through us what He wants done. We are releasing the power of the divine purpose and will.

Without prayer, there are some things that God cannot say to us, for prayer is the listening ear. Without prayer, there are some things that God cannot give to us, for prayer is the receptive heart. Without prayer, there are some things that God cannot do through us, for prayer is the cooperative will.

NOV. 12, 2023: Pray for the poor souls in Purgatory

“I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man shall take from you.”

There are no more comforting words in scripture than this assurance of Christ. It was just prior to His Passion when He predicted to His disciples that though He was to be separated from them by death, they would be reunited once more.

In autumn we think of death, and by it our separation from our loved ones. We are always aware that such separation is inevitable. Friend must say to friend, husband to wife, parent to child: “A little while and you shall not see me.”

But there is consolation for the bereaved heart. As Christ said of His own Resurrection, “Again, a little while and you shall see me.” We who are left shall die and with death be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before.

Throughout this month, we are reminded to pray for the poor souls in Purgatory. We call them poor because they are beyond their own power to merit. Though they are assured of salvation, they depend upon our prayers and sacrifices to hasten their entrance into their eternal home where their “joy no one shall take from them.”

NOV. 5, 2023: November reflection: All things pass away

In our Catholic tradition and devotion, November is 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 springtime 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 and 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 someday, someone will do the same for us.

OCT. 29, 2023: Make the most of today

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 tomorrow. You must live in the present on today’s deposits.

Invest it 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 — ask 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.

OCT. 22, 2023: A parents prayer (this is for their children, too)

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.

OCT. 15, 2023: How we live our faith key to being Christian

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 for what you are thankful. 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. 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.

OCT. 8, 2023: When life appears gloomy, ponder this

A much-loved preacher of God’s Word for more than 50 years was asked once what inspired him to the key insights into the ways of God.

The preacher responded that two precious images always are in his mind and heart as he tried to help others with his preaching and teaching over the years. These images would help anyone who had lost hope or thought all was lost — or anyone who thought that God was not aware of their personal situation or life.

First, if all you see is gloom and dark clouds, an impossible situation or despair, think of this. Often when taking off on an airliner you see clouds, rain and gloom — then once in the air and elevated high above in the blue sky and crystal air you realize the sun was shining up there all the while.

God reminds us the sun is there; we just need to be lifted a bit to see it.

The second image is to see the whole world through the eye of an astronaut. If the entire Earth can be held within the eye, even just one eye, of the astronaut, then certainly each of our little lives can be held within the eye and mind and heart of the God who loves us.

And the otherwise …

International signs from around the world, in countries where English is not the national language:

In a city restaurant: “Open seven days a week and weekends.”

In a maternity ward: “No children allowed.”

In a cemetery: “Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.”

Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop: “Ladies may have a fit upstairs.”

OCT. 1, 2023: Urge friend, family member to return to church

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

Even though many people have doubts and refuse to practice a Faith, still many do remain faithful and have a sincere respect for church and its priests. One of the most helpful influences in persuading someone to return to weekend Mass and our traditions is the encouragement of another person, relative, friend, schoolmate or a priest.

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

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

A priest’s greatest joy is to help someone COME HOME TO THE CHURCH!

SEPT. 24, 2023: Relating to Jesus means concern for others

I tried to catch your attention today. Remember when you came back to your seat and put your head reverently down and talked to me. I wanted you to listen and open your eyes and look at my broken body all around you.

I tried for your attention when your toddler stood and spoke to you, but you gave me a dirty look and humiliated me and didn’t hear me. I was the unmarried mother in your pew, the old man in front of you, the family of seven across the aisle from you — and I almost thought you disapproved of me. I was the woman whose husband left her this week and whose heart was being eaten out right through Mass, and a friendly smile or word would have helped me.

I am your spouse who cooked and coped with the children and the house while you read the Sunday newspaper and then went out. I am your family, and you huffed and gave your cold silent treatment for three long hours after Mass that deadened the whole atmosphere of our home.

I am your parents you ignored and criticized and tortured as only a teen knows how. I am your teen who you’ve lost belief in, and your nagging is driving me crazy. I am your neighbor whom you gossip about and criticize. I am your fellow parishioner whom you met on the street and ignored me.

And it sickens me — all the coldness, squabbling and division that scourge me and crown me with thorns. And then you pierce my side at Holy Communion with your empty words of love. If you love me, feed my sheep, my starving sheep! And start in your own home.

Please don’t keep me at bay any longer. Don’t talk to me. Listen. I don’t want you to go on loving my spirit and ignoring my body. I don’t want you to open your mouth to receive my body and close your eyes and ears to shut it out. You cannot have communion with me if you don’t have communion with your own family and your parish!

Stop thinking of me only as a spiritual being in the skies. I am one with these people and you cannot have me without them on the last day, I won’t ask how many times you attended Mass; that is not your holiness. I will ask you how your own family and neighbors fared, how they grew in love and faith. How did they live their Mass? How did you spread love across your neighborhood? And how did you celebrate that love and communion at church on Sundays.

SEPT. 17, 2023: Slow down, take a break, enjoy time off

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

That’s also true for human rest.

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

Less wonderful is what this is doing to our lives, how it is changing our expectations and robbing us of the simple capacity to stop, shut off the machines and rest. As we get wrapped up in mobile phones, texting, email, Facebook and the Internet, we are beginning to live with the expectation that we must be attentive all the time to everything that’s happening in the world and within the lives of our families and friends.

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

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

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

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

SEPT. 10, 2023: It’s important to share something of yourself

“No cover charge, no minimum and everybody is welcomed.”

That’s how Bruce Renfroe, an elevator operator in New York City, described the elevator that he transformed into a mini jazz club a number of years ago. He permanently injured his knee and was put on elevator duty where he sat just inside the doors — his love for jazz inspired him to share it with his elevator passengers each day.

His 30-second ride was known as an oasis in a rushed and confusing world of commuters in the Big Apple. Inside his elevator you were greeted with black and white photos of jazz artists, hanging plants, and the smooth and soothing sound of good music. His gift of something he personally loves helped to mellow out so many busy people.

How do you share with other something of yourself?

Something you know will enrich another person’s life — at home, at work, in school.

St. Paul writing to his converts in the Greek port city of Corinth said, “God loves a cheerful giver.” This doesn’t mean just money or material resources, it includes our own delights and what fascinates or captivates us, our hearts, our senses, our soul.

And the otherwise …

  • Some go to church to take a walk;

some go there to laugh and talk.

  • Some go there to meet a friend;

some go there, their time to spend.

  • Some go there to meet a lover;

some go there a fault to cover.

  • Some go there for speculation,

some go there for observation.

  • Some go there to doze and nod.

The wise go there to worship God.

SEPT. 3, 2023: When some asks, ‘How are you?’ …

The following is a perspective from the late Cardinal Cushing:

There’s nothing whatever the matter with me.

I’m just as healthy as I can be. I have arthritis in both my knees and when I talk, I talk with a wheeze.

My pulse is weak and my blood is thin, but I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in. I think my liver is out of whack and a terrible pain is in my back.

My hearing is poor, my sight is dim.

Most everything seems to be out of trim, but I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.

I have arch supports for both my feet, or I wouldn’t be able to go on the street. Sleeplessness I have night after night, and in the morning I’m just a sight.

My memory is failing, my head’s in a spin, I’m peacefully living on aspirin. But I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.

The moral is, as this tale we unfold, that for you and me who are growing old, it’s better to say, “I’m fine” with a grin than to let them know the shape we’re in.

AUG. 27, 2023: The ABC’s of Christian behavior

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 are called Christians, really aren’t.

The pastor said many are “four-wheel” Christians, which means they visit church in a baby stroller to be christened, in a limousine 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 arguing.
  • Build instead of brag.
  • Climb instead of criticizing.
  • Dig instead of depreciating.
  • Encourage instead of envy.
  • Fight instead of faint.
  • Give instead of grumble.
  • Help instead of hinder.
  • Improve instead of ignoring.
  • 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 quitting.
  • Rescue instead of ridicule.
  • Shout instead of shrinking.
  • Try instead of tremble.
  • Undergird instead of Undermine.
  • Vindicate instead of Vilify.
  • Witness instead of wilt.
  • Xterminate instead of eXcuse.
  • Yield to works of love instead of works of flesh.
  • Zip instead of Zigzag.

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.’”

AUG. 20, 2023: Time to meet the perfect priest

The result of a computerized study indicates the perfect priest preaches exactly eight 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; 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,” she said. “You were a real pane.”

AUG. 13, 2023: Church offers everything from peace to eternal life

What can the Church offer me?

Peace: With all the running around we do, we hardly get a moment for ourselves. That’s one thing that going to church affords us a chance for quiet, a time to reflect on the deeper things of life, and a chance for us to find peace through forgiveness.

Community: Where in today’s world do we meet with people just for the sake of hanging out? Just to make friends? Just to help? Just to connect? Most of the time we get together for work, or at the Mass, or something such as a movie or a game. At Church, it’s more than just being part of a crowd. At Church it’s about community.

Wisdom: We get advice from everywhere today, whether it’s TV telling us how to cook rice or the internet promising to make us rich. Church gives us a different source of wisdom — the Word of God-deep enough to touch us, powerful enough to change us.

Eternal life: We know there’s something more to life but often we cannot quite put our finger on it. It must be more than chores and tasks that make up everyday existence. Church can offer us a deeper perspective about life, not only for now, but forever.

Nourishment: How can we cram ourselves with so much food and still feel empty? Are we eating the wrong kind of food, skipping the food that God wants to give us? Where else in the world can you have the assurance of union with God as you can with Holy Communion?

AUG. 6, 2023: Turn off those screens and enjoy summertime

A summer psalm:

O God of all seasons, it’s summer — the season dreamed about throughout winter’s long, dreary days.

Now is the time to be out of doors and walls. But so often I feel like an over civilized child of this generation of convenience and comfort.

Six months ago, it was ice and snow that screened us in from Earth’s delights. Now it’s a television screen or cellphone that too often massages my mind, screens me in from summer’s healing touch.

And even if you flick off those dead screens and go outside, you still are screened in or protected carefully lest bugs and flies disturb the comfort by bringing nature far too close. Grand the freedom of childhood to run with some abandon, without thought of comfort, bugs or flies in summer’s great vacationland.

Thoughts to bring along on a summer day:

  • The most destructive habit: worry.
  • The greatest loss: self-respect.
  • The ugliest personality trait: selfishness.
  • The greatest “shot in the arm:” encouragement.
  • The most effective sleeping pill: peace of mind.
  • The most powerful force in life: love.
  • The most worthless emotion: self-pity.
  • The greatest joy: giving.
  • The most satisfying work: helping others.
  • Our greatest natural resource: our youth.
  • The greatest problem to overcome: fear.
  • The most crippling failure disease: excuses.
  • The world’s most incredible computer: the brain.
  • The greatest asset:  faith.
  • The most powerful channel of communication: prayer.

JULY 30, 2023: Because you’re holy, good things happen

By THE REV. JOHN CATOIR

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 the Resurrection, it is more a gift than a reward.

JULY 23, 2023: What it takes to be committed to our parish

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

There are three stages that make up the process of becoming truly committed to doing something or being someone significant.

The first stage or step is the fun stage. That’s when we say, “I really love doing this. Why didn’t I get involved sooner?”

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

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

And that third stage is the one at which saints are made. This is so true in the life of the Catholic Church — those beautiful people who do get involved, offer much of themselves, are generous of heart and time and energy.

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

And the otherwise …

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

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

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

JULY 16, 2023: Do all you can with the time you have been given

Not long ago, 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 simply said: “Do all you can in the time you have and in the place where you are.”

What a recipe for success!

It’s a great motto to live by and motivate oneself for doing good things and accomplishing much — whether it’s caring and providing for a family, making a mark in your community or expressing your love for God by guarding and promoting the life of your church and faith.

That word “stewardship” sums up the care and support and guardianship for which our church and faith call.

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

Our life in the church is like having a fleet of ships. One is called fellowship — a closeness with the Lord through Sacraments and prayer. The other is called discipleship — as we learn to walk in the steps of the Savior and understand the Scriptures and enjoy the blessings of the Mass. Then there is friendship that is found when folks gather for the celebration of the sacrament.

And the social ship in our fleet sometimes never leaves the dock in port, that is stewardship. Some just never embrace the caring for and support and guardianship for the church that should be part of that blessed fleet.

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

JULY 9, 2023: Enjoy God’s gift of summer

Thank you, Lord, for this 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 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, re-created through the laughter of play.

Most of all Lord, let me live easily and “grace-fully” for a spell, so that I may see other’ 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.

And the otherwise …

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 sail boats. 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 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 2, 2023: Father Jim optimistic as he leads 2 parishes

As many beautiful Catholic parishes move forward into the coming months and years dealing with the priest shortage, we are optimistic and standing strong.

In accepting the bishop’s invitation to be pastor for Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament and St. Anthony & St. Agnes, I expect to continue using time and energy in both parishes the way I have been — reaching out for new faithful to practice, encouraging those “fallen away” to renew a sacramental life, and offering homilies and celebrating Mass in an uplifting manner.

The same holds true for funeral services, weddings, baptisms and our wonderful holy days and grace-filled liturgical highlights — Advent and Christmas, Holy Week and Easter.

With the part-time help and involvement of two or three other good priests, I am confident that both of our parishes will enjoy being served during the week and especially on weekends. Everyone is grateful for Father Mark’s work at St. Anthony, which is in a fiscal and physical condition that is worthy of praise.

Something that is always on my mind is knowing that the priest shortage is happening at the same time as the “people shortage.” And that’s sad. We all need to encourage the practice of our Catholic way, especially with good people from the age of late teens through the 20s and 30s — add the 40s, too!

We pray for each other and these two great parishes.

JUNE 25, 2023: Parents to graduates: I loved you enough to …

With graduation season in full swing and many cherished young people taking another important and significant step on the road of life, good parents can feel some satisfaction in watching the progress of their children.

No diploma or certification is handed over to these good parents, whether they be a couple or single parent. Their reward so often is to treasure the goodness, talent and success of their sons or daughters in their heart.

The wisdom and challenge involved in being a good parent is expressed well in the following:

Some day when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a parent, I will tell them: I loved you enough to ask you about where you were going, with whom and what time you would be home.

I loved you enough to insist that you buy a bike with your own money that we could have afforded to give to you.

I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover that your handpicked friend was a creep.

I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your room, a job that would have taken me 15 minutes to do myself.

I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, disgust and tears in my eyes. I loved you enough to admit I was wrong and ask for your forgiveness.

I loved you enough to let you stumble, fall and hurt.

I loved you enough to let you assume responsibility for your actions at 6, 10 and 16.

But most of all, I loved you enough to say NO when you hated me for it. That was the hardest part of all.

JUNE 18, 2023: Good father loving, respectful, patient

Just what makes a good father?

Once, it automatically meant that most men were the main breadwinners, providing for their families. Now, it means being involved with every aspect of their wives’ and children’s lives.

Author Bruce Linton wrote “Finding Time for Fatherhood: Men’s Concerns as Parents.”

“What I think is happening is not that men value work less,” he writes, “but that fatherhood is becoming equally important. While work was once the only source of meaning for a man, fatherhood and parenting have become as important to his self-esteem as his work.”

A good father must show loyalty, love, respect, patience and passion, says Margaret O’Connell, a Manhattan based writer.

“He must be man enough to express his nurturing, gentle, caring, creative, intelligent and peace-filled nature freely with his daughters and sons,” she writes.

There’s no denying it: fatherhood today is a tall order.

How to bring down your children

  • Provide them with plenty of free spending money.
  • Permit them to choose his or her own companions without restraint or direction.
  • Give them a key to allow them to return home at any hour of the night.
  • Make no inquiry as to where and with whom they spend leisure hours.
  • Let them understand that manners make a good substitute for morals.
  • Let them expect pay for every act of helpfulness.
  • Let them spend church-time on the street or playing sports instead of in church.
  • Be careful never to let them hear you pray.

JUNE 11, 2023: One person can change things for good or evil

Especially these days, everyone is fascinated with how much good or evil just one person is capable of accomplishing.

There are examples of this in the news so often. For instance, one man, extremely wealthy through his own work and energy, will donate to worthy causes millions, even billions of dollars to accomplish many wonderful things for many people.

At the same time, almost on the same day, a news article will report tremendous loss of life and hurt and mindless violence, accomplished by just one person in some terrorist act or horrific crime. Last month was the one-year anniversary of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two adults. In March, a school shooting in Nashville killed three children and three adults. In April, a man in Cleveland, Texas, killed five of his neighbors after they asked him to stop firing his weapon in his yard.

This list goes on and on, and …

The possibility of the world benefiting from one person’s good intentions or suffering from one person’s evil is mind shattering.

Jesus sends the Twelve out on their mission of evangelization. Each of us is invited to go out on our own unique mission to be Christ’s presence in our world today.

The Rev. Greg Schaffer once walked more than 3,000 miles, all the way to Guatemala, to preach the Gospel.

“I must have been crazy,” he said describing the walk he made in 1972 to raise money for the poor Mayan Indians of the village of San Lucas Toliman in the mountains of Guatemala.

Father Greg set out on foot from his home in St. Paul, Minn., and three months later he reached the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. In the four decades of his work, the center he began has grown to include a million-dollar coffee and forestry cooperative that hosts more than 200 volunteers each year. 

JUNE 4, 2023: Symptoms of inner peace can be contagious

Be on the lookout for symptoms of inner peace.

The hearts of a great many already have 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 the never-ending condition of conflict in the world.

Some signs for which to look:

  • 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 28, 2023: Learn to speak Holy Spirit’s many languages

Come Holy Spirit, send out from heaven the rays of your light.
Come Father of the poor. Come giver of the gifts. Come light of hearts.

Encourage our best. Be our spirit’s guest. When things become heated,
be our sweet coolness. When we are working, be our rest.
When we are in sorrow be our inner peace.

Light most bright, enlighten the hearts of your faithful.
Without your power we can do nothing, and nothing is right.
Wash what is sordid, water what is arid, cure what is sick, bend what is rigid, warm what is chilling, correct what is devious.

Give to the faithful to those who trust in you, your seven holy gifts.
Give them virtue’s reward, give them salvation at their end. Give them never ending joy.

Amen.

Scripture tells us that God’s Spirit can enable people to even speak other languages — at Pentecost for instance. This is usually what comes to mind when we think of “speaking tongues.”

The phenomenon of a kind of “holy babbling” or praise also is part of the Spirit’s working for many persons of faith. But think of this, too: A person who is filled with the Spirit can speak several languages that are ways of witnessing to Christ. To “speak” the language of humility, poverty, obedience to God’s Word, the language of patience with others, of care and sensitivity to others needs. Can we not consider these the languages of the faithful person, prompted by the Spirit of God?

Language comes alive when it is translated into action and deeds. So often we become bloated with words. Do not forget the fig tree that was cursed by the Lord Himself when he found that it bore no fruit, only leaves.

And speaking of words …

  •  “Man doesn’t live by bread alone. He needs buttering up once in a while.” — Robert Henry
  • “There is a great distance between said and done.” — Puerto Rican Proverb
  • “The great dividing line between success and “someday is not a day of the week.”
  • “Failure can be stated in five words. I did not have time.”
  • “The mind is a bit like a garden. If it isn’t fed and cultivated, weeds will take it over.”
  • “No matter how great the man, the size of his funeral usually depends on the weather.”

MAY 21, 2023: Our sense of humor is a lifeline from God

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 and to balance our distress with healthy, 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 are 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.

And the otherwise …

A young man fell into a state of a coma but recovered before his friends had buried him. One of them asked what it felt like to be dead.

 “Dead!” he exclaimed. “I wasn’t dead. And I knew I wasn’t, because my feet were cold and I was hungry.”

“But how did that make you sure?”

“Well, I knew that if I were in heaven, I shouldn’t be hungry, and if I was in the other place, my feet wouldn’t be cold.”

MAY 14, 2022: Mary ‘one of the greatest assets’ for Catholics

The late Rev. Andrew Greeley in his book “A Piece of My Mind” had 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.”

Bishop officially appoints Father Jim

Here is an excerpt from Bishop Douglas Lucia’s letter to Father Jim:

With this letter I am pleased to appoint you as Pastor of St. Anthony / St. Agnes Church … in addition to your current assignment as pastor of St. Mary of Mount Carmel/Blessed Sacrament. … This appointment is effective July 1, 2023.

Please know of my gratitude for your willingness to take on this additional role. Your goodness, sense of humor, youthful exuberance and pastoral sensitivity will be a great asset to you as you care for these parishes. It is my hope that we can provide you with additional priest help as I am aware of the need to cover Masses and funerals.

MAY 7, 2023: We should be shouting about the Good News

Have you ever told something exciting to a young child and watched his or her reaction to it? They can’t wait to tell somebody else, even a stranger happening to walk by.

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

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

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

Peace be with you.

And the otherwise …

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

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

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

APRIL 30, 2023: All that Jesus was is what he still is today

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

Death doesn’t end Jesus’ life or what his life means. He lived for others. Death doesn’t stop that. In the Resurrection, Jesus now lives for you.

There might be days when we say we wished we lived back in Jesus’ time. In faith, however, we believe that because of the Resurrection we do live in Jesus’ time. He is living among us now in our time Instead of being locked up in the history of ancient Palestine, the resurrected Jesus is present throughout the world and in all times and places. His risen life fills our lives. He is active among us. The resurrection means that everything Jesus once was — a healer, a comforter, forgiver and life giver — is what He still is today.

The body, which is the church, is still breathing and managing to forgive, to fight for peace and justice, still struggling to be generous, still knowing how to sing and break bread together. Despite any wounds we carry, we still say what St. Augustine once said in the fourth century: “We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song. We have heard, we have seen with our own eyes, we have watched and touched with our hands … something wonderful and wordless … something that is true, much more than just a rumor of eternal life.”

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

APRIL 23, 2023: There are reasons to smile this time of year

A grandmother said, “My grandson was visiting one day when he asked me, ‘Grammy, do you know how you and God are alike?’”

“I mentally polished my halo while I asked, ‘No, how are we alike?’”

“Well, you’re both old” the boy said.

The mood in the Catholic Church this Easter is reason for smiles. In addition to our popular Pope Francis, the life of the people of God goes on in faith, hope and charity. Many — most priests, deacons, religious men and women, and volunteers — carry on with integrity and cheerfulness their ordinary tasks including Masses and homilies, religious education, formation activities, retreats and novenas and prayer services, prison and hospital visits, and preparing children for First Communion as well as meeting with couples for sacramental 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!

And the otherwise …

Three guys are fishing when an angel appears. The first guy says, “I’ve suffered from back pain for years. Can you help me?”

The angel touches the man’s back, and he feels instant relief.

The second guy points to his thick glasses and begs for a cure for his poor eyesight. When the angel tosses the lenses into the lake, the man gains 20/20 vision.

As the angel turns to the third fellow, he instantly recoils and screams, “Don’t touch me! I’m on disability!”

APRIL 16, 2023: Sign of the cross beacon of hope in our lives

As we enjoy the spirit and melody of this Eastertime and the sound of alleluia, we also know it is not easy to follow in our daily lives the Risen Lord. Even though we journey in faith under the banner of the cross and the victory of Resurrection, it isn’t easy, is it?

A young man is unwilling to forgive his father for years of neglect and bitter feelings. A 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 breakup of his family, though he knows in his heart the true cause of it all.

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

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

APRIL 9, 2023: Live your saved lives reflecting Easter values

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

During the Easter season, we celebrate our redemption from sin. We are constantly 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 salvation. As one of my theology professors used to say, “Salvation is ours to lose!”

Our job now is to live 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, those who prepared and cleaned the church and altar. Thank you for all your good, holy and dedicated work. They have truly made us a beautiful and prayerful environment.

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

Happy Easter, alleluia, alleluia!

APRIL 2, 2023: See out the warm embrace of confession

A man owned a wonderful horse. He rode into town and hitched the horse at a post at the store.

Two thieves saw the splendid steed and decided to steal it. They had a clever plan — one rode the horse out of town while the other thief stayed and tied himself to the hitch post.

The owner came out of the store and very angrily asked, “Where is my horse?”

The thief said, “Sir, I am your horse. Years ago, I sinned and God turned me into a horse. This was my last day of penance and sentence for the sin. Now that I’m a man again will you unhitch me and set me free?”

The owner was touched by the story. Weeks later the owner saw his splendid horse at the county fair. Dumbfounded at first, he finally whispered in the horse’s ear, “So, up to your old tricks. You’ve sinned and got caught again, huh?”

Sin is the greatest of all detectives — your sin will always find you.

Lent reminds us that if you want to avoid the fruits of sin, you need to stay out of sin’s orchard. Those sins of ours that are more significant and truly harm our relationship with the Lord or one another, are only pardoned and absolved, that is forgiven, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The confessor priest is the agent of Christ’s desire to forgive. The confessor, knowing his own sins, becomes a wounded healer in sacramental confession.

What a marvelous gift is the Catholic experience of going to confession. It is one way the Lord takes us up into a big and warm embrace.

MARCH 26, 2023: Do you avoid carrying your crosses?

When we listen to The Passion of Our Lord, we easily insert ourselves into the drama.

We would be Veronica. We would push through the crowd and minister to Jesus. We would be Simon, ready to help carry the cross.

Safely removed from the actual events, in our imaginations we are great believers. Unfortunately, reality does not always match our imagination.

Almost every day we have the opportunity to ease Jesus’ suffering or carry his cross. We live comfortable lives; we carefully dole out our charity. We drop the cross because it is too heavy. We talk about living our faith but put if off until tomorrow. We fail to shoulder the cross because it is inconvenient.

The lonely old and rebellious young are avoided. The cross of concern seems too heavy. A friend could use a visit, an elderly parent would love a phone call, the parish needs someone to teach religion, the local Cub Scout pack needs a leader, Little League is looking for coaches, Meals on Wheels needs drivers, the soup kitchen needs helpers, and so on.

If only we were not so busy with our own needs, we would help — but certainly, God will understand.

MARCH 12, 2023: Some unique ways to fast during Lent

In the rhythm of family life, there is periodic need for the renewal of Lent.

We can get so caught up in “business-as-usual” that we fail to notice how we may have grown away from one another, away from the Christian community and consequently away from God.

Lent is a time to reverse that separation. Lent is a time of retreat in the real sense of that term: a time of turning back, of turning away from that which is dangerous to our spiritual growth, a time of returning 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 of God and in one another, to the new life that can be ours.

Fasting is more than doing without food. Our Lenten fast can mean 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 music 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 the time for meditation.
  • Take some time from something you usually do for yourself, such as reading a good novel, to writing a 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 treat us to the Christian values of love and joy.

And the otherwise …

God was talking to one of his angels. He said, “Boy, I just figured out how to rotate Earth so it creates this really incredible 24-hour period of light and darkness.” The angel said. “What are you going to do now? God said, “Call it a day.”

MARCH 5, 2023: Lent a reminder we are all in this together

Lent is a journey toward Easter that calls for the refreshing of our understanding of the power and beauty of baptism.

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

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

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

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

And the otherwise …

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

“I’m sorry, I ate up all of your peanuts,” he stammered.

“Oh, that’s all right,”Aunt Sally said. “I’d already gummed all of the chocolate off of them anyhow.”

FEB. 26, 2023: Giving alms more than dollars and cents

Lent began on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday evening.

It began last week with the grim but honest ashes, the solemn reminder of all our limits and the Church’s call to conversion. Its 40 days are for remembering and becoming what baptism made us. It is thoroughly personal, this Lenten time, but only because we are persons of the church, and it is the church that embraces and is embraced by Lent.

From its earliest days, the Church has urged the baptized and catechumens to observe the threefold discipline of fasting, almsgiving and prayer to prepare for Easter. Failure to observe individual days of penance is not considered serious, but failure to observe any penitential days 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.

To give alms is part of Lent.

What are “alms” today?

Let the imagination go to work on what we have to share. It isn’t limited to money, though money can be important. For many, time is the alms that is hardest to give whether it is a parent giving that alms to a child generously and regularly, or a person tutoring in a literacy program, or a citizen writing elected officials on behalf of the needs of justice.

Time and money are then, two sorts of alms, but there are many others. Almsgiving is a year-round habit, but being who we are, we need a Lent to put ourselves into such a habit.

FEB. 19, 2023: Relating to Jesus means concern for others

I tried to catch your attention today. Remember when you came back to your seat and put your head reverently down and talked to me. I wanted you to listen and open your eyes and look at my broken body all around you.

I tried for your attention when your toddler stood and spoke to you, but you gave me a dirty look and humiliated me and didn’t hear me. I was the unmarried mother in your pew, the old man in front of you, the family of seven across the aisle from you — and I almost thought you disapproved of me. I was the woman whose husband left her this week and whose heart was being eaten out right through Mass, and a friendly smile or word would have helped me.

I am your spouse who cooked and coped with the children and the house while you read the Sunday newspaper and then went out. I am your family, and you huffed and gave your cold silent treatment for three long hours after Mass that deadened the whole atmosphere of our home.

I am your parents, you ignored and criticized and tortured as only a teen knows how. I am your teen who you’ve lost belief in and your nagging is driving me crazy. I am your neighbor whom you gossip about and criticize. I am your fellow parishioner whom you met on the street and ignored me.

And it sickens me — all the coldness, squabbling and division that scourge me and crown me with thorns. And then you pierce my side at Holy Communion with your empty words of love. If you love me, feed my sheep, my starving sheep! And start in your own home.

Please don’t keep me at bay any longer. Don’t talk to me. Listen. I don’t want you to go on loving my spirit and ignoring my body. I don’t want you to open your mouth to receive my body and close your eyes and ears to shut it out. You cannot have communion with me if you don’t have communion with your own family and your parish!

Stop thinking of me only as a spiritual being in the skies. I am one with these people and you cannot have me without them on the last day, I won’t ask how many times you attended Mass; that is not your holiness. I will ask you how your own family and neighbors fared, how they grew in love and faith. How did they live their Mass? How did you spread love across your neighborhood? And how did you celebrate that love and communion at church on Sunday?

FEB. 12, 2023: Grandparents are very special people

Someone has said, “Older folks like to give good advice as solace for no longer being able to provide bad example.”

That might be true for some; however, most grandparents give wisdom and good advice to their younger loved ones because they love them.

Grandparents enjoy a unique relationship with grandchildren — they can give them gifts for no special reason, feed them treats normally forbidden by parents and spoil the kids by letting them stay up a little later.

One grandparent said, “I really enjoy the grand part of grandparenting.”

There can be found amid the younger ones and their grandparents a kind of openness, freedom and sincerity that doesn’t even exist between parents and the same young people.

Grandparents can be such good and fortunate guides in terms of Catholic and Christian spiritual growth, values and traditions — the spiritual stuff that gives meaning to our lives. Faith does run in the family, like eye color or good cooking, especially when faithful grandparents share the treasures of their wisdom.

A Grandparent’s Prayer to St. Joachim

St. Joachim, you and St. Anne were the grandparents of Jesus Christ, who is the Redeemer of the world and the joy of our hearts. Help me to be an example to my grandchildren that they will look to Jesus as the Savior of the world, rather than to power, riches or material pleasures. Let them see in me an inner joy and peace found only in your Grandson. Help me to make prudent and wise decisions in dealing with my grandchildren, so they may not be spoiled, but know that I have a love for them founded on the truth of their dignity as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father with your Grandson Jesus in union with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

FEB. 5, 2023: Being Catholic more than receiving a few sacraments

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.

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?

JAN. 29, 2023: There’s a difference between compassion and sympathy

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 when 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. 22, 2023: God’s answers to questions might surprise you

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 Him.

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 some day 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.”

And the otherwise …

A couple desperate to conceive a child went to their priest and asked him to pray for them.

“I’m going on a sabbatical to Rome,” he replied, “and while I’m there, I’ll light a candle for you.”

When the priest returned three years later, he went to the couple’s house and found the wife pregnant, busily attending to two sets of twins. Elated, the priest asked her where her husband was so that he could congratulate him.

“He’s gone to Rome, to blow out that candle!” came the harried reply.

JAN. 15, 2023: Value of one parishioner can’t be understated

Ten little parishioners standing in a line; one disliked the pastor, then there were nine.

Nine ambitious parishioners offered to work late; one forgot her promise and then there were eight.

Eight creative parishioners had ideas good as heaven; one lost her enthusiasm, then there were seven.

Seven loyal parishioners got into a fix; they quarreled over projects, then there were six.

Six parishioners remained with spirit and drive; one moved away, then there were five.

Five steadfast parishioners wished there were more; one became indifferent, then there were four.

Four cheerful parishioners who never disagree, ’til one complained of meetings, then there were three.

Three eager parishioners! What did they do? One got discouraged, then there were two.

Two lonely parishioners, our rhyme is nearly done. One joined a sports team, then there was one.

One faithful parishioner was feeling rather blue, met with a neighbor, and then there were two!

Someone has said that we are God’s gift to us, and that what we become is our gift to God.

It is true that God gives you and me the lumber of our lives and offers to help us build from it a chapel of love and praise.

And the otherwise …

A pastor asked a little boy if he said his prayers every night.

“Yes, sir,” the boy replied. “And do you always say them in the morning, too?” the pastor asked.

“No sir,” the boy replied. “I ain’t scared in the daytime.”

JAN. 8, 2023: Guidelines for sane living in the New Year:

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

JAN. 1, 2023: What to thank God for in the new year

Just this once, O God, I’d like to come to you with no problems, but to simply say “thank you:”

  • For forgiveness when I fail.
  • For the sheer joy of sleep when I’m terribly tired.
  • For the justice of Your laws when men are cruel.
  • For the growing remedies to good health when I am ill.
  • For the nurture of new knowledge when I make a mistake.
  • For the simplicity of orderliness when I face confusion.
  • For the joy of helping others when I see people in need.
  • For the assurance that You have made a place for each of us when I feel inadequate among my peers.
  • For the fun that refreshes when everything gets too serious.
  • For the renewal moments of silence when I am dizzy being busy in a going world.
  • For the confidence of friends when loved ones do not understand.
  • For the healing love of family when my friends hurt me.
  • For Your presence when I am very lonely.
  • And above all God, I thank You for the worthwhileness and fullness You have given to this world of yours.

New Year’s cheer

  • “By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he’s too old to go anywhere.”
  • “I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap.
  • “We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress.”

DEC. 25: 2022: Live up to the challenge of Christmas messages

It’s traditional to share a message at Christmastime and for the New Year.

What message is better than to express thanks to God for so many faithful people here at Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament Parish as we together pray and work at bringing others home to weekend Mass and the sacraments, and the steady practice and enjoyment of their Catholic faith.

What message is there at the Christmas crib for you and me?

We are adults, but we enjoy feeling like a kid again experiencing the wonder and the coziness of the Nativity scene. But some messages of Christmas are not so cozy if we look closer at the Nativity. These messages will challenge us in the New Year coming.

“No room in the inn:” Is there more room in my life for Jesus. Are there some people for whom there is no room in my heart, my home, my parish?

“The shepherds kept watch:” Jesus invited the company of the outcasts, the poor, shepherds, hungry children, sinners and the like. In what kind of people do I look to find God?

The uncomfortable straw of the manger and the many visitors coming to gaze upon the newborn child remind us that really practiced faith will involve being “uncomfortable” with the world. Visitors remind us faith never is a private affair.

Although these messages are challenging, the warmth and good faith generated by so many in our parish tell me that all things are possible with God. Thank you for your cards, greetings and gifts this Christmas season. May the gentle peace of God be with you and your loved ones.

DEC. 18, 2022: Life, like Advent, full of waiting, longing, hoping

Even though the season of Advent comes but once a year, in our “churchy” way of doing things I think maybe life is all about Advent.

A woman waits for word from the doctor about results of a biopsy fearful “it” may have come back. A young man watches daily for his e-mail or the mail carrier looking for word from the college where he applied, waiting and wondering.

A young newlywed wife watches and waits in front of the TV looking at the news about the latest big move involving our troops and her new husband — she’s scared.

Waiting, longing, hoping, watching, yearning and expecting are so much a part of ordinary living, as well as key words to appreciate the powerful beauty of Advent.

We wait for Christmas to come, but more significantly, we wait for that Day of the Lord to come — called to the side of Christ and worthy of the reward of that Kingdom.

The shopping days before Christmas would just have us think of Happy Holidays, but really there is a tension between living this life and waiting for God’s Kingdom.

The waters we Christian fish are swimming in are soaked with consumerism — shopping and buying and then exchanging and returning.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day comes in Advent on Dec. 12, is a genuine Advent image because a pregnant woman is a kind of “walking” Advent, mixing radiance and a beaming hope with the burden of cramps and fatigue and anxiety.

It’s like our life, mixing struggling each day to live and be worthy of God and the same time hoping, waiting for that Day of the Lord.

And the otherwise …

I once asked a little boy, “And what do you want for Christmas?” His answer was, “Two teddy bears.” My next question, “Why two?” His answer: “So I can share.”

DEC. 11, 2022: Amid hectic season, take time to respect Advent

It’s extremely hard to prepare for Christmas in this day and age as a Christian.

The “season” has been thoroughly captured for commercial purposes. The selling imperative is so strong that one could escape it only by going on an old-fashioned retreat. We’re made to feel guilty if something isn’t purchased every day during December.

That is not a preparation for the feast of Emmanuel, God-with-us. Christmas for us means the Earth-shaking message that God shares life in the flesh with us, knows us in the body, feels as we feel, shares our joys, sorrows and hopes. Shares even the weakness and neediness of a baby. This is, certainly cause for extravagant celebrating and feasting. But without time spent reflecting on where we are and what we’re waiting for, it may be indulgence more than godly celebrating that we do.

It is possible to put up the decorations, do the shopping and everything else associated with Christmas in America while still giving attention to Advent. But it requires sustained attention. A short period of prayer and reflection each day could do. Use of the Advent wreath and a prayer with it could do it. The practice of extra patience with those we live with and work with could do it. Attending one of the special Advent services offered by area churches could do it. Each of us can think of our own best ways.

If we want Christmas itself to be a day of love and true peace, preparation is needed. The Church sets aside the weeks of Advent for that. Take advantage of the time left. Take it seriously for yourself, for your family and friends, for your world. The resulting gift is more valuable, more lasting than any of the symbols of love that can be wrapped and placed beneath a tree.

DEC. 4, 2022: Advent reminds us that time is short

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 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.”

NOV. 27, 2022: This season, remember the blessing who is St. Joseph

In many ways, a man forgotten during Advent is St. Joseph.

On our way toward Christmas, Joseph illustrates in his blessed and humble life several wondrous gifts to us.

One is the treasure of silence, especially in a culture filled with too many sounds and so much noise. St. Joseph recorded no words in Scripture, not one. But he was so close to Jesus, Padre Pio was asked, “What language does God speak?”

Pio replied, “God speaks the language of silence.”

We need some of it in our own personal lives. Silence is the bed that prayer sleeps in.

Also, St. Joseph offers at Christmas the gift of actions that speak louder than words. He did so much to protect and provide for the Holy Family of Nazareth. So often we say we’ll do something but fail to do it.

St. Joseph also illustrates the gift of grace lived under pressure. Although he found himself dealing with some emergency situations — pregnancy unlike any other, no place for the birth of the child, enemies out to destroy Jesus, some of the Savior’s very mysterious ways growing up — lots of pressure.

But Joseph seemed to be convinced of what so many faithful people know — that God never lets us face anything that He hasn’t provided the grace to handle.

May our parish patron, St. Joseph, help us to unwrap and discover more fully those gifts — the treasure of silence that actions speak louder than words, and grace under pressure.

NOV. 20, 2022: Sometimes, coincidences aren’t coincidences

Sometimes, there is no way to explain some things that happen.

Could it be coincidence — or does God surprise us in delightful ways?

As practical Americans and skeptical people, we really want an explanation for everything, which shuts out the magic and grace of some of life’s wonderful experiences. This true episode took place in the wooded parts of the Finger Lakes.

A construction crew was building a new road through a wooded rural area, knocking down many trees as they progressed. A crew boss noticed one tree had a large nest of birds in it, who hadn’t learned to fly yet. The boss marked the tree, not to be cut down yet.

A few weeks later the crew returned and seeing the nest abandoned they cut down the large tree with a crash. Now, with the tree lying on the ground, they saw all the material the nest was made of — twigs, leaves and some scraps of paper from a nearby farm community.

One scrap of paper had on it a fragment from the Gospel: “Do not be anxious. Does the Father in heaven not care for even the birds of the air?”

And the otherwise …

When a woman decided to send the old family Bible to her brother in another state, the postal worker asked her if there was anything breakable in the package.

“Only the Ten Commandments,” she replied.

NOV. 13, 2022: Small habits that will transform your faith and 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 for what you are thankful. 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. 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.

NOV. 6, 2022: Getting family back to church requires patience

The following was published in a Catholic newspaper.

Dear Padre,

My son and his wife attend the Christian Unity Church. They like the minister there and the “upbeat” service. My son was raised Catholic and still claims that he is Catholic, even though he doesn’t go to a Catholic church. I feel frustrated by the whole affair!

Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

Your frustration is certainly shared by many parents and grandparents today. They raised their children Catholic, even sent them to Catholic schools, but the children have grown up and chosen to be more eclectic about the practice of their faith.

A survey on religion showed that nine out of 10 people say they believe in God, and seven out of 10 consider spirituality important in their lives. But this doesn’t mean that they are committed to a single religion or house of worship. About half of the people questioned attend religious services less than once a month, or never. Many of them are interested in exploring different teachings and attending different churches. The loyalty to one religious sect that was evident in our own lives, or in our parents’ and grandparents’ lives, is lacking in today’s younger than-55 crowd.

What can one do about this situation?

The traditional method is to pray for your children and to continue to give a good example through your own loyalty to the Catholic Church and attendance at Sunday Mass. It would even be good to invite your son and his wife to attend with you when they are visiting.

As we age, we often become more religious and traditional. We may become more interested in our family’s histories, photo albums and death notices. The religion of our childhood begins to appear very attractive again. Try to be patient and continue to pray that your children will return to the church of their roots.

OCT. 30, 2022: Heavenly promise — you’ll see departed loved ones again

“I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man shall take from you.”

There are no more comforting words in scripture than this assurance of Christ. It was just prior to His passion when He predicted to His disciples that though He was to be separated from them by death, they would be reunited once more.

In autumn we think of death and by it our separation from our loved ones. We always are aware that such separation is inevitable. Friend must say to friend, husband to wife, parent to child: “A little while and you shall not see me.”

But there is consolation for the bereaved heart. As Christ said of His own Resurrection, “Again a little while and you shall see me,” we who are left shall die and with death be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before.

Throughout the coming month of November, we are reminded to pray for the poor souls in Purgatory. We call them “poor” because they are beyond their own power to merit. Though they are assured of salvation, they depend upon our prayers and sacrifices to hasten their entrance into their eternal home where their “joy no one shall take from them.”

OCT. 23, 2022: Bright reflections on how to live in the light

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.

OCT. 16, 2022: Every life is worth living

As Catholics, we believe and put our hope in a merciful and loving God. We are conscious of our own brokenness and need for redemption. Our Lord calls us to imitate him more perfectly by witnessing to the inherent dignity of every person.

Whether it lasts for a brief moment or for a hundred years, each of our lives is a good and perfect gift. At every stage and in every circumstance, we are held in existence by God’s love.

Our relationships on Earth are meant to help us and others grow in perfect love. We are meant to depend on one another, serve each other in humility, and walk together in times of suffering.

An elderly man whose health is quickly deteriorating; and unborn baby girl whose diagnosis indicates she may not live very long; a little boy with Down syndrome; a mother facing terminal cancer — each may have great difficulties and need assistance, but each of their lives is a good and perfect gift.

Experiencing suffering or watching another suffer is one of the hardest human experiences. But we are not alone. Christ experienced suffering more deeply than we can comprehend, and our own suffering can be meaningful when we unite it with his.

Jesus is with us every step of the way, giving us the grace we need. God invites us to embrace the lives we have been given, for as long as they are given. Every life is worth living.

OCT. 9, 2022: Small habits that will transform your faith and 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 in your parish. 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.

OCT. 2, 2022: Have you heard about ‘No Excuse Sunday?’

This weekend, we offer these thoughts from an unknown author:

  • To make it possible for everyone to attend church next Sunday, we are going to have a special “No Excuse Sunday.”
  • Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, “Sunday is my only day to sleep in.”
  • There will be a special section with lounge chairs for those who feel our pews are too hard.
  • Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes from watching TV late on Saturday nights.
  • We will have steel helmets for those who say, “The roof would cave in if I ever came to church.”
  • Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold and fans for those who say it is too hot.
  • Scorecards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present.
  • Relatives and friends will be in attendance for those who can’t go to church and cook dinner, too.
  • We will distribute “Stamp Out Stewardship” buttons for those who feel that the church always is asking for money.
  • One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to see God in nature.
  • Doctors and nurses will be in attendance for those who plan to be sick on Sunday.
  • The sanctuary will be decorated with Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who never have seen the church without them.
  • We will provide hearing aids for those who can’t hear the preacher and cotton for those who say he is too loud.

SEPT. 25, 2022: Finding real love affirms groom’s faith

A groom included these words in his hopes and expectations read during the homily at his nuptial Mass:

“I must admit I have been looking forward to this day for a long time now. Growing up as I did with wonderful, loving parents, I realized early on that I was going to need someone with me to make my life special. In looking at my parents, I foresaw how a happy, healthy marriage could make the world a better place for the two people involved, and how happiness and love could extend from a couple out to their family, friends and surrounding community.

“I knew that I wanted this type of life and relationship; I just wasn’t sure how to go about building it. It took me a while to figure out that the catalyst to what I wanted was going to be finding the right type of girl. What is astonishing to me is that I finally found you.

“I thought that finding a girl who could put up with my antics and issues was going to be a lifelong, unfulfilled quest. Moreover, finding a girl who was as beautiful as you with such a kind and gentle heart seemed impossible. To be honest, I often questioned my faith in God because I did not think he would ever put someone like you in my path.

“The fact that he did reaffirms my faith in Him, and it makes me extremely happy that you share this faith with me. I look forward to building a life together in the way that God meant us to.”

SEPT. 18, 2022: Follow Mother Teresa’s ‘A Simple Path’

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

  • Take time to think.
  • Take time to pray.
  • Take time to laugh.
  • It is the source of power.

It is the greatest power on Earth. It is the music of the soul.

  • Take time to play
  • Take time to love and be loved.
  • Take time to give.

It is the secret of perpetual youth. It is God’s given privilege. It is too short a day to be selfish.

  • Take time to read.
  • Take time to be friendly.
  • Take time to work.

It is the fountain of wisdom. It is the road to happiness. It is the price of success.

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

SEPT. 11, 2022: Prayer of the Faithful is fruit of the vine

In this time of the year, we look forward to the making of wine, especially as the next few weeks bring us to golden autumn in October.

In their sun-ripened bunches, the grapes differ from each other in their colors and scents and taste. A Concord grape isn’t a Muscadine. But they are all “fruit of the vine, and the wine is the work of human hands.”

Sound familiar?

The prayer over the gifts at the altar table reminds us that even the Holy Mass and the prayers we offer at liturgy are “fruit of the vine, and work of human hands and hearts” — especially the part of the Mass we call the Prayer of the Faithful, those petitions and prayers seeking the Lord’s help. These are really from among the people, from the Earth, these prayers are fruit of the vine.

The Prayer of the Faithful should include current needs that speak of things on our minds and in our hearts right now. The fruit of our faith is our genuine concern for all those Christ loves and cherishes, so our petition prayers should reflect that in one way or another.

The Prayer of the Faithful at weekend Mass is something that pertains to all of us, our church, our community and the world.

You can join in the Prayer of the Faithful at Mass, by reading them in our bulletin weekly on Page 5 and online on the parish website at www.mountcarmelblessedsacrament.com.

SEPT. 4, 2022: ‘Substitute sacraments’ are enticing us

We know that a sacrament is any visible sign of God’s invisible presence made manifest in the “sign” of the sacrament.

A sign is something through which we celebrate faith and we find the communication of God’s saving grace.

For us, there are seven official sacraments, but the things and situations that bear God’s presence and are instruments of divine action can be myriad and countless — a sunset in summer, a newborn baby, and so on.

Isn’t it amazing, those who are absent from the church and sacraments find the need for “substitute” sacraments. Gaze everyone, you see them — balloons released to unnamed gods against a blue sky, the graffiti that the faithless use to rename and “baptize” parts of their culture and setting, psychic readings and cross-over entertainers making large profits for talking with the dead, missing-man flight formations, and elaborate crop circles and designs in large fields.

For some, the new temples for “substitute sacraments” take the form of professional wrestling arenas, casinos or the fields for sports.

In the Catholic way of loving life, bread and wine, blessed oil, vows consecrated, holy fire and the fragrance of incense become worthy instruments of Gods awesome presence.

Top 10 excuses for missing church

Sorry, I missed church but …

  • I can find God in nature.
  • I prefer watching televangelists. (There’s just something about a remote control that makes me feel like I’m in control of my spiritual life.)
  • It would make me miss my soccer practice.
  • There are too many hypocrites in church, and besides, it interfered with golf.
  • There is too much hugging and real warmth.
  • There isn’t enough hugging and real warmth.
  • I went once, but I didn’t recognize the place without the lilies and poinsettias.
  • I’m an atheist — I swear to God!
  • Even Jesus wouldn’t have gone if he had to sit through the sermon.
  • The dog ate my offering.

AUG. 28, 2022: Remember those who have inspired you

On only two days a year, a certain successful doctor wears an old and worn, out-of-style patched coat in his medical clinic.

He does this because one blustery, cold winter night when he was just beginning his career, he made a call on a little boy in a dirty, freezing, very poor tenement apartment house. The boy’s mother and father hovered over his bed, and despite the good doctor’s best efforts, the boy died there that night.

Because the doctor was shivering from the cold, the dead boy’s father took off his own coat and put it over the doctor’s shoulders saying, “You may keep this. Thank you for trying to save him.”

So, to this day, the doctor wears that old coat on the anniversary of his graduation from medical school and on the anniversary of the boy’s death.

When asked why, the doctor said, “It reminds him of what it’s all about, what the reasons were for his entering medicine and becoming a doctor.”

Let’s never forget our first dreams and aspirations and those who have helped and inspired us along life’s way.

And the otherwise …

“I hope you didn’t take it personally, father,” an embarrassed woman said after Mass, “when my husband walked out during your sermon.”

“I did find it rather disconcerting,” the pastor replied.

“It’s not a reflection on you, sir,” insisted the churchgoer. “Ralph has been walking in his sleep ever since he was a child.”

AUG. 21, 2022: Faithful families build extraordinary lives

A book written in the 1990s ago tells the stories of 34 priests working in the U.S., Canada and New Zealand.

In “Extraordinary Lives,” they speak of very similar influences that led them to priesthood, especially the witness of families practicing faith weekly and the cheerful example of good priests growing up.

These 34 priests have similar concerns about priesthood today about the ability of priests to inspire, lead and motivate people of all kinds in parishes, and about the need for good and helpful preaching, teaching and presiding in worship.

They all express satisfaction with their vocation, though they tell of struggles worked through. Most of these priests acknowledge an understanding of priests who have left the priesthood to marry, and they suggest with some reservations an openness to the notion of a married priesthood, for those who would choose.

Maybe their lives are extraordinary because they are so ordinary in terms of enjoying people, hobbies and activities such as fishing, gardening and sports. These men delight in and draw strength from friendships and time spent at kitchen tables over a cup of coffee with parishioners and others.

What is so clear is the influence of good parents, or a parent who attended Mass with regular devotion during the formative years in their children’s lives. It is unfortunate that so many young married couples, their marriage consecrated in the Church, fail to practice their faith each weekend regularly. It only makes the hope of vocations to the priesthood even less possible.

And the otherwise …

The pastor had been disturbed by a person who read too fast during responsive readings at Mass.

“We shall now read the 23rd psalm in unison,” he said.

He paused.

“Will the lady who is always “by still waters” while the rest of us are “in green pastures,” please wait a minute until we catch up?”

AUG. 14, 2022: Amid all life’s storms, always trust in God

As summertime continues with earnest with hot weather and refreshing breezes, boating with motor or sail is seen on New York state waterways.

Summer storms on lakes come up and are to be considered with care and caution. It reminds us of something related to a famous artist and his painting.

Rembrandt composed a painting that portrays the Biblical story of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Perhaps of you have seen the little ship occupied by Jesus and the Apostles being hit by a huge wave. You can feel the shudder running through the boat. The storm is all around. The rigging is loose and blowing in the wind. And the disciples are panic-stricken.

It is marvelous to realize that amid all this storm, panic, fear and danger, the disciples had to awaken Jesus to tell Him about it. It wasn’t because He didn’t care or because He was indifferent, it was because He had such trust in God. He had sunk Himself down so deep into the being of God for that period of refreshment that He was sleeping right through the storm.

You can look at the painting and say to yourself, “I’ve got to learn that from Him — to have complete trust in God.”

And the otherwise …

So far today, God, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been selfish, grumpy, nasty, or overindulgent. I’m really glad about that. But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on I’m probably going to need a lot more help.

AUG. 7, 2022: Many thanks for the return of the festival

It took a while, but we have once again completed a successful parish festival.

It was wonderful to gather again after two years of pandemic cancellations.

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

The volunteers who prepared the food and pizza fritta, set up the café and those who worked on the church grounds setting up plumbing, electricity, cleanup and organizing the workers; those who baked cookies and cakes; those who donated nonperishable items and paper products are to be congratulated, for without them our festival would not get off the ground. How well we can work together for common cause.

The liturgical celebration honoring Our Lady of Mount Carmel was just beautiful. We are all grateful to the priests who were with us during the Nine-Week Novena leading up to the festival.

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

JULY 31, 2022: Live this summer ‘grace-fully’

Thank you, Lord, for this 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 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 grace-fully for a spell, so that I may see other’ 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.

And the otherwise …

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 sail boats. 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 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 24, 2022: These free gifts will make you richer

With home shopping networks, internet purchases, so many wholesale stores and better-informed consumers, we have become very conscious about the cost of what we want.

Americans have become better at finding good deals and keeping costs down — especially now when inflation is so high.

Let’s be reminded, however, of some important and meaningful “items” in life that do not cost a cent.

  • The gift of listening: No interrupting, no plotting your response, just listening to the other person.
  • The gift of laughter: Clip and share cartoons, funny stories, respond with joy even though you’ve heard it all before.
  • The gift of a written note: A brief, handwritten note can be saved and remembered for years to come. It can move someone to change their life.
  • The gift of solitude: There are times when someone needs and appreciates simply being left alone. Be sensitive to those times.
  • The gift of compliment: Keep it simple and sincere. “You did a super job” can make someone’s day.
  • The gift of affection: Be generous with the hug or pat on the back. These small gestures speak volumes about the way you appreciate the other person.

And the otherwise …

Bobby and his grandmother were looking at vacation pictures.

“It looks just like an artist painted this scenery,” grandma said. “Did you know God painted it all for you, Bobby?

“Yes,” Bobby said. “God did it with His left hand.”

This confused his grandmother a bit.

“What makes you say God did this with His left hand?”

“Well,” said Bobby. “We learned at church last week that Jesus sits on God’s right hand.”

JULY 17, 2022: Advice from the pople on how to find happiness

Pope Francis spoke with Argentinian weekly “Viva” awhile back, and in the interview, he offered several tips for finding one of life’s most elusive and desired treasures: happiness.

Here are a few of the tips for finding happiness that involve personal and community development. His tips might not reflect a simple recipe for personal growth, but they offer insight into some of the pope’s own values.

  • Let everyone be themselves: “The Romans have a saying, which can be taken as a point of reference,” Pope Francis said. “They say, ‘Campa e lascia campa (live and let live)’. That’s the first step to peace and happiness.”
  • Give yourself tirelessly to others: “If one gets tired, one runs the risk of being egotistic, and stagnant water is the first to be corrupted.”
  • Walk softly: “In ‘Don Segundo Sombra,’ there is a very beautiful thing about a man who looks back on his life. He says that in youth he was a rocky stream that carried everything ahead. As an adult, he was a running river, and that in old age, he felt movement, but it was ‘remansado’ (dammed; slowed). I would use this image of the poet and novelist Ricardo Guiraldes, the last adjective ‘remansado.’ The ability to move with kindness and humility, calmness of life.”
  • Be available to your kids and family: “Consumerism has led to the anxiety of losing,” the Pope said, which has pushed people to spend less time at home and more time pursuing wealth. But Pope Francis said people should invest more time in healthy leisure. “It is hard,” he said. “The parents go to work and come back when the children are asleep — but it must be done.”
  • Spend Sundays (or a day of rest) with family: This connects back to the fourth point — make the intention to set time aside for loved ones, despite the pressures of work.

JULY 10, 2022: Holy Spirit has been with us since baptism

I know a deacon who liked to conduct the interviews of parents whose children were about to be baptized.

During the interviews, he asked the parents to describe what would happen to the child through Baptism. He would receive various answers.

Some parents spoke about cleansing from original sin. Others spoke about their child being welcomed into the Church. These were all correct answers, but deacon was really hoping to have one of the parents say that their child would receive the Holy Spirit.

The gospel passage for the Baptism of the Lord speaks of heaven opening and the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove. We often associate the coming of the Holy Spirit with Pentecost and the Sacrament of Confirmation, but the Holy Spirit first descended upon us on the day of our Baptism.

The Spirit of God came upon Jesus to empower Him to begin His public ministry. The Holy Spirit was given to us on the day of our Baptism, so that we could go forth to be Christian witnesses in the world. It is correct to say that our Baptism cleansed us of original sin and made us members of the Church.

We are called to go forth from our parishes and bring the Good News of Jesus into the world. The Spirit will empower us because the spirit has descended upon us.

And the otherwise …

“I hope you didn’t take it personally, father, when my husband walked out during your sermon,” an embarrassed woman said after Mass.”

“I did find it rather disconcerting,” the pastor replied.

“It isn’t a reflection on you, sir,” insisted the churchgoer, “Ralph has been walking in his sleep ever since he was a child.”

JULY 3, 2022: You’re richer than you think you are

The following was written 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. They 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.

Happy Fourth of July

Celebrate your independence, be thankful to those who keep us free and praise God for our bountiful nation.

JUNE 26, 2022: There’s no perfect family; deal with differences

The following comes from a speech by Pope Francis at a World Communications Day event:

“More than anywhere else, the family is where we daily experience our own limits and those of others, the problems great and small entailed in living peacefully with others.

“A perfect family does not exist. We should not be fearful of imperfections, weakness or even conflict, but rather learn how to deal with them constructively. The family, where we keep loving one another despite our limits and sins, thus becomes a school of forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is itself a process of communication. When contrition is expressed and accepted, it becomes possible to restore and rebuild the communication which broke down. A child who has learned in the family to listen to others, to speak respectfully, and to express his or her view without negating that of others, will be a force for dialogue and reconciliation in society.”

And the otherwise …

A Sunday School teacher decided to have her young class memorize one of the most quoted passages in the Bible — Psalm 23. She gave the youngsters a month to learn the chapter.

Little Rick was excited about the task, but he just couldn’t remember the psalm. After much practice, he could barely get past the first line.

On the day that the kids were scheduled to recite Psalm 23 in front of the congregation, Ricky was so nervous. When it was his turn, he stepped up to the microphone and said proudly, “The Lord is my Shepherd, and that’s all I need to know.”

JUNE 19, 2022: Teach a child a prayer this summer

Summertime holds many chances and moments for kids to enjoy many things — a backyard pool, camping or fishing trip, some time at a playground setting.

There exists some free time for a parent, grandparent, maybe a godparent of the child, to pass on a prayer or two from our Catholic treasure of prayers. It’s unfortunate how many kids are not able to say aloud even one prayer by heart.

Whenever I fly and the plane climbs to thousands of feet above, I’m glad I know the Act of Contrition! A prayer taught to a youngster need not be long: “Strength in prayer is better than length in prayer!”

This summer, take time to teach a prayer and convey our belief that life’s best outlook is a prayerful outlook.

Here’s one that’s handy for many situations in a troubled world:

“Holy Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, drive into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl through the world, seeing the ruin of souls. Amen.”

JUNE 12, 2022: Being at weekend worship a bright light for the soul

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.”

JUNE 5, 2022: Parents to graduates: I loved you enought to …

With graduation season in full swing and many cherished young people taking another important and significant step on the road of life, good parents can feel some satisfaction in watching the progress of their children.

No diploma or certification is handed over to these good parents, whether they be a couple or single parent. Their reward so often is to treasure the goodness, talent and success of their sons or daughters in their heart.

The wisdom and challenge involved in being a good parent is expressed well in the following:

  • Some day when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a parent, I will tell them: I loved you enough to ask you about where you were going, with whom and what time you would be home.
  • I loved you enough to insist that you buy a bike with your own money that we could have afforded to give to you.
  • I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover that your handpicked friend was a creep.
  • I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your room, a job that would have taken me 15 minutes to do myself.
  • I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, disgust and tears in my eyes. I loved you enough to admit I was wrong and ask for your forgiveness.
  • I loved you enough to let you stumble, fall and hurt.
  • I loved you enough to let you assume responsibility for your actions at 6, 10 and 16.
  • But most of all, I loved you enough to say NO when you hated me for it. That was the hardest part of all.

MAY 29, 2022: Think of your problems as opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAY 22, 2022: Lift up someone or something during this Easter season

I’ve read many things over the years about the famous author Franz Kafka, but I never have read that much by him. His stories are filled with such gloom and distress they didn’t appeal to me.

But there must have been something very special about that man who could do what he did during the final months of his life when he was dying of tuberculosis.

It seems that Kafka met a child in the street, crying because she had lost her doll. He told her that even though the doll was gone, he had met the doll and the doll promised to write the little girl once a week.

In the following weeks, the final days of the great author’s life, he wrote letters to the girl in which the doll told of travels and everyday life. This brought sweet magic into that child’s life. (Not to mention the value of those letters years later!)

 If the Easter season of our faith is all about lifting up life and the Lord, wouldn’t it be wondrous to think of something like Franz Kafka did to lift someone or something to the glory of God. Think about it. Use your imagination.

And the otherwise …

A new priest gives his first homily at Mass. Later, the old pastor asks a good parishioner how it went.

“It was bad — no story, no substance.”

Just then the young priest walks in. The pastor confronts him and says, “I hear your homily wasn’t good!”

The new guy says, “I got too busy the last few days, so I just read one of your old ones.”

MAY 15, 2022: Let God handle all your fears and worries

Babe Ruth is one of the most famous names in American sports.

A memorable time in Ruth’s personal life was a cold December night in 1946. He explained why in an article in “Guideposts” magazine. He wrote:

“(Even though) I drifted away from the church, I did have my own altar — a big window in my New York apartment overlooking the city lights. Often, I would kneel before that window and say my prayers. I would feel quite humble then. I’d ask God to help me … and pray that I’d measure up to what he expected of me.”

On this cold December night, however, Ruth was in a New York hospital, seriously ill. His closest friend, Paul Carey, was at his side. After a while Carey turned to him and said, “Babe, they’re going to operate in the morning. Don’t you think you should see a priest?”

Ruth saw the concern in Paul’s eyes, and for the first time in his life he realized that death could strike him out. So, he said to Carey, “Yes, Paul, I’d appreciate you calling a priest.”

That night Babe Ruth spent a long time talking to Jesus with the priest’s help. When he finished, he made a full and humble confession.

After the priest left, the Babe said, “As I lay in bed that evening, I thought to myself what a comfortable feeling to be free from fear and worries. I could simply turn them over to God.”

MAY 8, 2022: Mary is a major asset for Catholics

This weekend, when we honor our Blessed Mother with the traditional May crowning, it’s appropriate to reflect on the words of the late Rev. Andrew Greeley in his book “A Piece of My Mind.” Here’s what he had 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 1, 2022: Don’t duck and hide from your baptismal calling

Sometimes when people in church are sprinkled with the holy water when the priest walks down the aisle, reactions can be various.

Some look forward and arch toward the blessed water; others look puzzled — some react by trying to duck and avoid it.

Baptism, and each time we are blessed with baptismal water, call us to follow the Lord’s ways in holiness of living and some degree of discipleship. Some embrace this, some aren’t too sure and still others seem to duck and hide.

Baptism is the sacrament of belonging. We begin to be named as Christian, belonging to Christ, and of course belonging to each other in the household and community of the Catholic Church.

In so many ways, belief does not lead to belonging, rather the other way around. Many will say that when they avoid being there, with the worshipping community, then even the commitment the believing can begin to erode and even be erased as time goes by.

The importance of baptism in the life of the individual and the community of the faithful cannot be overlooked. It is about a second birth, taking the plunge with Jesus, a cleansing or redirection away from the original sin and natural selfishness we’re all born with.

But just as important is understanding and cherishing baptism as the way that we come to belong to the Good Lord and to one another in the adventure of our faith. We are each unique and singularly graced, and none of us is exempt from the demands of baptism, even we might try to duck.

And the otherwise …

A police officer went up to a street musician and asked, “Excuse me, sir, do you have a license to play that violin in the street?”

The violinist answered, “Well, actually, no.

 “In that case, I’m going to have to ask you to accompany me,”  the officer said.

“Of course, officer,” the musician responded, “what would you like to sing?”

APRIL 24, 2022: Look for signs that point in the right direction

A young single mother of three children commented on her jogging for exercise on a beautiful spring Sunday morning.

The young mom spoke movingly of how, while she jogged in the neighborhood and her teenage kids sat home watching television, she witnessed many cars parking and families heading into Mass.

She stopped dead in her tracks (and sneakers) and thought about things. The very cars pulling into the church were a sign to her of what should be important for her and the children she was spiritually responsible for, as their Catholic mother.

Within a few weeks she had prompted the family to go to Mass — if not every Sunday, at least a few times a month. She now goes jogging early each Sunday evening.

What other signs are powerful to see on Church property?

Here are some:

  • “Our Sundays are better than Baskin-Robbins.”
  • “Searching for that new look? Have your faith lifted here.”
  • “How will you spend your eternity — smoking or non-smoking?
  • “This is a ch_ch. What’s missing? UR

Chicken soup for the grandparents’ soul

The closest friends I have made all through life have been people who also grew up close to a loved and loving grandmother or grandfather. (Margaret Mead)

APRIL 17, 2022: Spread the good news of the Risen Christ

Have you ever told something exciting to a young child and watched his or her reaction to it? They can’t wait to tell somebody else, even a stranger happening to walk by.

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

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

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

Peace be with you.

And the otherwise …

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

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

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

APRIL 10, 2022: Make the most of the time you have

Many of us only experience the elation of a triumphal entry twice in our lifetimes.

The first might be your graduation from school, wearing cap and gown, marching solemnly to the strains of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.”

The second, particularly for many women, is the triumphal entry at their wedding, dressed in gorgeousness and accompanied by the pulse-quickening cadences of Mozart, Handel or Pachelbel.

Jesus only experienced one triumphal entry, coming into the city as a king, astride an ass, passing over a bed of palm branches amid the cries of “Hosanna.” But like all earthy accolades, his triumphal entry was short-lived, as was Jesus himself. He only had a few days left to live.

No one of us knows how many days or seasons we will see, but it will be all too short, as with the Lord Himself. Here’s how to make the most of that precious gift of time.

We must be optimistic when others want to give up.

We must be patient when others are out of control.

We must heal when others hurt.

We must smile when others only frown.

We must possess integrity when others compromise theirs.

We must be the prism through which others see something of God, even when most seem to just stand in his way.

Let this be a message mission that comes from Palm Sunday.

APRIL 3, 2022: Count your blessings, not your crosses

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 — perfect for his soul, his body, his mind.

God asked, “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 wentered.

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 27, 2022: Look deep within yourself during Lent

A good Lent begins within yourself first.

A troubled mother one day came to Gandhi along with her daughter and explained to him that her daughter was in the habit of eating far more sweet food than was good for her.

Please, she asked, would Gandhi speak to the girl and persuade her to give up this harmful habit?

Gandhi sat for a while in silence and then said, “Bring your daughter back in three weeks’ time and I will speak to her.”

The mother went away as she was told and then came back after three weeks. This time, Gandhi quietly took the daughter aside and in a few simple words pointed out to her the harmful effects of indulging in sweet food. He urged her to abandon the habit.

Thanking Gandhi for giving her daughter such good advice, the mother then asked him in a puzzled voice, “Why did you not just say these words to my daughter three weeks ago”?

“Three weeks ago,” Gandhi replied, “I myself was still addicted to eating sweet foods.”

And the otherwise …

An elderly lady was known for her faith and for her boldness and talking about it.

She would stand on her front porch and shout, “Praise the Lord!”

Next door to her lived an atheist who would get so angry at her proclamations he would shout, “There ain’t no Lord!”

Hard times set in on the elderly lady and she prayed for God to send her some assistance. She stood on her porch and shouted, “Praise the Lord! God, I need food. I am having a hard time. Please, Lord, send me some groceries!”

The next morning, the lady went out on her porch and saw a large bag of groceries and shouted, “Praise the Lord!”

The neighbor jumped from behind a bush and said, “Ah ha! I told you there was no Lord. I bought those groceries. God didn’t.”

The lady started jumping up and down and clapping her hands and saying, “Praise the Lord! He not only sent me groceries, but He made the devil pay for them!”

MARCH 20, 2022: Telling the truth about ourselves can be painful

Lent is a time of hunger — hunger for truth-telling and a genuine repentance that flows from such truth-telling.

It’s also hunger for forgiveness from One who knows the truth about us but, who nevertheless, comes to us with the offer of amazing grace.

In earlier generations of the church, fasting often was practiced as a sign of these Lenten hungers. To feel the growl in one’s stomach was a way to acknowledge the emptiness in one’s heart. To grow weaker during the day was a reminder of the weakness of one’s flesh and a sign, like the ashes of Ash Wednesday, of one’s mortality.

Lenten fasting thus became a physical embodiment of Lenten hungers.

But, of course, very few of us now fast during Lent. All we have to do is to look around us in most U.S. churches to know how unfashionable fasting has become. Truth-telling is painful, embarrassing and dangerous.

Perhaps there is a relationship between our expanding girths in a culture of consumption and our reluctance to tell the truth about ourselves. If so, Lent is good news for it helps us look in the mirror and see ourselves as we really are.

The gospel invites us to discover that telling the truth about ourselves is a path toward a new freedom and that our Lenten hungers have been awakened by the anticipation of Easter and by the One who is the Bread of Life.

MARCH 13, 2022: Lent strengthens our relationship with Christ

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 to understand this if we recall that human life essentially is 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.”

MARCH 6, 2022: It takes extra effort to make Lent rewarding

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

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

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

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

What effort will you make?

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

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

Lenten regulations

Abstinence from meat is observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent by all Catholics age 14 and older.

Fasting is observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by all Catholics 18 years old but not yet 59. Those bound by this rule may take only one full meal. Two smaller meals are permitted to maintain strength. Eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.

From its earliest days, the church has urged the baptized and catechumens to observe the threefold discipline of fasting, almsgiving and prayer to prepare for Easter. Failure to observe individual days of penance is not considered serious, but failure to observe any penitential days 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.

FEB. 27, 2022: Baptism, season of Lent go hand in hand

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

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

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

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

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

And the otherwise …

The new young priest was calling on the elderly who no longer could go to church. His first call was to Aunt Sally, who was quite old and in a nursing home.

He was somewhat nervous, and he kept eating peanuts from a bowl beside her bed. When he got up to leave, he noticed that he had eaten all of the peanuts.

“I’m sorry, I ate all of your peanuts,” he stammered.

“Oh, that’s alright,” Aunt Sally said. “I’d already gummed all of the chocolate off of them anyhow.”

FEB. 20, 2022: We all must care for Earth, our common home

If the productive land and sea of Earth were divided equally among the nearly 8 billion of us currently living on the planet, each person would be entitled to about 2.7 acres.

That’s down from 4.2 acres in 2015 because the population has grown by nearly a billion.

From that 2.7 acres we would have to find everything needed to support our life: the food we eat, the material for our home, energy to heat and cool it, water for our lawn and toilets, a place to dispose of our garbage, wood for our furniture, plastic for our kitchen utensils and children’s toys, fibers for our clothes, metals to manufacture our appliances and cars, fuel for our transportation, as well as everything else we use and purchase.

The 2.7 acres would be each person’s fair share of Earth, our common home.

Through a measuring tool called Global footprint, we can determine how much acreage is used by an individual, an industry, or a country. According to a 2015 report, the amount of area it takes to support the average personal lifestyle varies greatly from country to country.

In the U.S., the average person’s lifestyle requires 17.2 acres — not only for personal consumption, but also because of the available infrastructure, food choices, travel options, medical advantages and daily conveniences. A typical Canadian uses 16.2 acres.

If a fair share currently is 2.7 acres, it means others must do with less so that we in affluent nations can maintain our style of living. This disparity gives new meaning to the biblical admonition: “Thou shalt not steal.”

If everyone consumed at the current U.S. and Canadian levels, it would require several more planets. But there is only one.

In “Laudato Si,” his encyclical on caring for creation, Pope Francis calls for an “integral ecology,” which includes people and the planet. A spirit of solidarity with Earth and concern for the entire human family motivates us, he says, “to care for our common home.”

FEB. 13, 2022: Heartache vs. holy when it comes to marriage.

With more than 50 percent of couples living together unmarried now, the uncertainty of commitment — the open-ended nature of vows and rings never exchanged, children born out of wedlock — all add to more heartache instead of the resolution and holiness that can come from blessed marriage.

The reason to pretend being married without vows expressed is to allow a “trying-out” period — making sure he, or she, is the right one.

Does it work?

It seems not.

First marriages ending within five years is 20 percent, but unmarried cohabitations ending within five years is 49 percent and within 10 years is 62 percent. Living together has replaced marriage as the norm in the U.S., but divorce, separation and children living apart from their fathers is higher than ever.

Has the experiment of pretending marriage failed?

It seems so, and the results are a disaster.

Participants at the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship conference on the Future of Marriage heard that children born out of wedlock were more likely to see their parents split than children born into marriages. Also, all clergy in the U.S were informed that couples who “played house” for more than one year, then were married, experienced a separation and divorce rate three times higher than couples who wait until marriage to move in together.

Heartache versus holy.

FEB. 6, 2022: Do you believe all religions are the same?

Some people like to say, or think, that “all religions are the same.”

Although respect certainly is in order, our regard for other faiths need not place them as “just as good or equal to ours” (Christian/Catholic).

We cannot teach that the colors red and blue are alike, however good it may make you feel. Besides, the first followers of Jesus called their “religion” the “new way” — not just another way.

For example, Hinduism claims reincarnation is a truth, while we believe we have only one life to live, not multiple.

Mormons believe that there is not one God, no Father, Son or Spirit, but rather that a good Mormon man will become god in his own right. We know that God said otherwise. We are not, nor ever will be, gods; we tried that once (Genesis:3) and we’re still paying the price.

The noble Muslim faith still allows, in some strict branches of it, for the stoning death of women who are accused of having relations with someone other than their husband. You recall what our Lord did about a situation like that: “Let the one with no sin be the first to cast a stone.”

To really believe that all religions are the same probably is wishful thinking at best and surely an oversimplification.

JAN. 30, 2022: Listen to what’s going on before talking to Jesus

I tried to catch your attention today.

Remember when you came back to your seat and put your head reverently down and talked to me. I wanted you to listen and open your eyes and look at my broken body all around you.

I tried for your attention when your toddler stood and spoke to you, but you gave me a dirty look and humiliated me and didn’t hear me. I was the unmarried mother in your pew, the old man in front of you, the family of seven across the aisle from you and I almost thought you disapproved of me.

I was the woman whose husband left her this week and whose heart was being eaten out right through Mass and a friendly smile or word would have helped me.

I am your spouse who cooked and coped with the children and the house while you read the Sunday newspaper and then went out. I am your family, and you huffed and gave your cold silent treatment for three long hours after Mass that deadened the whole atmosphere of our home.

I am your parents you ignored and criticized and tortured as only a teen knows how. I am your teen who you’ve lost belief in and your nagging is driving me crazy. I am your neighbor whom you gossip about and criticize. I am your fellow parishioner whom you meet in the street and ignore me.

And it sickens me — all the coldness, squabbling and division that scourge me and crown me with thorns. And then you pierce my side at Holy Communion with your empty words of love. If you love me, feed my sheep, my starving sheep! And start in your own home.

Please don’t keep me at bay any longer. Don’t talk to me. Listen!

I don’t want you to go on loving my spirit and ignoring my body. I don’t want you to open your mouth to receive my body and close your eyes and ears to shut it out. You cannot have Communion with me if you don’t have Communion with your own family and your parish.

Stop thinking of me only as a spiritual being in the skies. I am one with these people, and you cannot have me without them on the last day. I won’t ask how many times you attended Mass; that is not your holiness. I will ask you how your own family and neighbors fared, how they grew in love and faith. How did they live their Mass? How did you spread love across your neighborhood? And how did you celebrate that love and communion at church on Sunday?

JAN. 23, 2022: What are you looking for at Sunday Mass?

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 the same Mass 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?

And the otherwise …

There were three men standing at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter came out to meet them and asked, “What would each of you like to hear your relatives or friends say at your funeral?”

The first man answered, “I am a renowned doctor, and I would love to hear someone say how I had been instrumental in saving people’s lives and giving them a second chance.”

The second man replied, “I am a family man and a schoolteacher. I would like to hear some say what a great husband and father I was and that I had made a diference in some young person’s life.

The third man replied, “Wow, guys, those are really great things, but I guess if I had my choice, I would rather hear someone say, “Look! He’s moving!”

JAN. 16, 2022: When God says ‘no,’ rethink your questions

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 Him.

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 some day 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.”

And the otherwise …

A couple desperate to conceive a child went to their priest and asked him to pray for them.

“I’m going on a sabbatical to Rome,” he replied, “and while I’m there, I’ll light a candle for you.”

When the priest returned three years later, he went to the couple’s house and found the wife pregnant, busily attending to two sets of twins. Elated, the priest asked her where her husband was so that he could congratulate him.

“He’s gone to Rome, to blow out that candle!” came the harried reply.

JAN. 9, 2022: Make better use of opportunities we’re given

The first month of a new year always brings thoughts, hopes and even resolutions about how to be a better person, to enjoy a better year.

One suggestion might be to strive to make better use of the opportunities, gifts and days God gives us. Our choices can make a big difference not only for ourselves, but for the world around us.

Back in 2004, two people won large lottery prizes — but each used their opportunity in different ways.

A man won $315 million on a Powerball lottery, spending much of it on luxury items for himself. Eventually, he was ordered into substance-abuse treatment in West Virginia after his second drunken-driving arrest within a few months.

Debi Faris-Cifelli of California won that state’s Super Lotto Jackpot of $27 million. She provides funerals for abandoned babies and she has helped to inspire a law to save unwanted newborns. Her deep religious faith prompts her to spend a large amount of her winnings in giving simple but prayerful funerals for the little ones and she continues to finance ongoing projects to change laws and enact new ones to save those abandoned.

I saw a bumper sticker awhile back that read, “Do not follow me — I am lost.” This thought made me think, “Am I one of those people going in circles without any set destination in mind? Am I living a life of quiet desperation because I have lost my goal of living? I may have given up on being good, religious, hardworking, and now I am running bored and blind and baffled. Did I lose my way?”

Christianity is not a system of human philosophy, nor a religious ritual, nor a code of ethics; but it is a life imparted to us through Christ.

Jesus Christ is the way, the life and the truth. It is only in Christ, we can know the way of our going, the joy of our life, and the understanding of our living.

And the otherwise …

Right in the middle of his sermon, Father Brown saw that Tony got up and left. He returned to church before the closing hymn. Afterward, Father Brown asked, “Where did you go, Tony?”

“I went to get a haircut” was his reply.

“Buy why didn’t you do that before the Mass?” asked Father Brown.

“Because I didn’t need one then.”

JAN. 2, 2022: Guidelines for sane living in the new year

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

Thank you very much

Thank you to those who helped make our Christmas celebration a wonderful and meaningful experience. Many thanks to the music and liturgy ministries, lectors, ministers, altar servers, ushers and those who decorated the church. I also would like to thank the many people who gave me birthday and Christmas gifts. Your generosity is overwhelming.