Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dec 31 – St. Sylvester, Pope

“Few people realize that on the last day of the year the Church commemorates the first pope after the terrible centuries of persecution by the Roman empire. Although he was not the very first bishop of Rome to die in bed, he surely grew up thinking he was going to be a martyr. As a boy he lived through the most ferocious persecution of all, that of Diocletian. Only a few years before he was elected pope in 314, the first decree of toleration of Christians was issued. One may suppose he made the same mistake we all make when times of terrible trial are over, that of thinking that things are finally going to work out and all will be peaceful with blue skies and roses.”

“Saint Sylvester’s feast falls on New Year’s Eve, when we happily bid the old year good-bye and wistfully hope that the next year will be better. For this reason each year the fourth-century pope always has a lesson for us: Keep going! Don’t look back! Look ahead and trust God, but don’t trust the next year will be wonderful. Rather be convinced that God will go with you. Christ will walk with anyone who invites him along. The Lord is my shepherd. Why should I be afraid? I don’t expect everything will be wonderful next year; in fact, one of these years will be my last one on earth. I don’t expect blue skies every day; that would mean a drought. But I do know that I will not be alone, because the lips of the man who was born in Bethlehem would say as he left this world thirty years later: “I will be with you always even to the end of the world” (Mt 28:20). “

Lord Jesus, as I end another year and prepare for the next one, make me ever more aware of Your presence. Help me to rest in Your presence even more than I have in the past. Help me spread the knowledge, the fragrance of Your presence wherever I go. Let more and more people know that You are with them, even in these anxious times. May this year, more than any previous one, be spent in Your presence. Amen.
Behold He Comes – Meditation on the Incarnation, by Benedict Groeschel, CFR

Not surprisingly, Fr. Benedict puts into words what is in my heart much better than I could. In many ways 2009 was a great blessing, in the midst of so many trials. I know, things could always have been worse. I look forward to 2010 with trepidation, and prayers. I am confident that if I do my best, and have trust in God, things will turn out well.

I will pray they turn out well for you, also.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Company Coming?

Orig: 04/28/08

I felt compelled to forward you this morning’s meditation. Actually it hit home to me as strongly as (in the words of the Car-Talk radio show guys) a dope slap upside of the head. And so …

Opening House and Heart

After (Lydia) and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us. Acts 16:15

I have a thing about houseguests … being one or having one. I grudgingly think the three-day rule applies. I get anxious before the arrival of a houseguest, thinking in classis “’Martha style” about all the things I have to do: clean sheets, grocery store, fresh flowers, bake something, plan a menu, figure out activities, etc. If I already have a lot on my plate at the time, I can feel put out before they ever arrive. But I always end up having fun and regretting my first impulse.

Lydia, on the other hand, not only asks, she persuades Timothy, Paul and Silas to stay at her house. There isn’t an ounce of resistance in her heart, and these men are virtual strangers to her. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message, and her welcoming actions exemplified that openness.

Whether it’s a matter of opening up my house or my heart, I can see that I am likewise called to respond, as a believer, with openness, hospitality and love.
Living Faith Daily Devotions April 28, 2008

Yesterday my nieces left to go back to Arizona after staying the weekend with me and celebrating mom’s 90th birthday on Friday. We had a great time. The above reading reminded me of that, and further chided me that “whether it’s a matter of opening up my house or my heart, I am called to respond with openness, hospitality and love.” That phrase is for all those days when I don’t want to hear someone else’s problems, don’t want to do some work I feel is meaningless, or don’t want to have a friend over because the house is a mess. I need to respond with openness, hospitality and love to those I meet. God is in real control of events, not me. So despite my feelings, I may look back on those “I don’t want to” times and “end up having fun and regretting my first impulse”.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Glorious Mysteries

1. The Resurrection
- The sorrows and humility of this life are over. Now glory!
- You knew you could do this. The guards knew it too.
- You are God, my God. I worship you; I want you.
- Why do I doubt You can do anything? Why do I still worry?
- The world is Yours, even moving mountains. Even loving me.
- The Father loved You that much. Help me to hear Him.
- Hail Mary, pray for us. That we might be raised.
- Help me to always trust in Your Word.
- Help me to glorify You in my life.

2. The Ascension
- Our Father, hallowed be Thy Name.
- On earth as it is in heaven. Everywhere.
- You go to make a place for me; I stay in Your place here.
- Going, but staying. With me always. With me in this Eucharist.
- I am never alone for you are one with me.
- A love I feel; I need not see to believe.
- I will see Him again. He waits. For me!
- Now and at the hour of our death; no more sorrows, no more pain.
- I hear the birds singing. I hear the waiting choirs.
- My Jesus, I trust in You.

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit
- I will be with you always, even to the end.
- Lord, I need you with me; by myself I am so weak.
- Whatsoever you ask … Lord, hear my prayer.
- Spirit of Wisdom, guide me.
- Love come to me, that I might be love to others
- When I call, but especially when I do not, Lord be with me.
- Lord, You know that I love You.
- Yea though I walk through the valley … I shall not fear for you are with me.
- Holy Spirit, I yearn for union with you, the Father, and the Son.
- My Jesus, Who so loved me, Who I so love, I trust in You.

4. The Assumption
- Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, and now you with Him.
- You are the first to be eternally raised by Him, but not the last.
- You prepared a place for me; she prays I might take it.
- No greater love than to give life, and eternal Justice for Life to return that love.
- Jesus to Mary; Mary to Jesus. God to me; me to God.
- Honor thy Father and thy mother, that you might have eternal life.
- My child, you know I love you; words from my mother. I will never forget.
- Lord, help me to love You more.
- Lord, let me love others as my children, as You would.
- My Jesus, I trust in You.

5. The Coronation of Mary
- It is right for a mother to always love her child. Always.
- Time forgets those buried, but a child never forgets his mother.
- Even in heaven, my mother will not forget me.
- Creator-created. No other love compares.
- “Be as little children”, always cry to mother for help.
- Mary knows a child’s needs; if I honor her, she won’t forget me in my needs.
- I sometimes wonder how God can forgive me, but I know my mother does.
- O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
- My Jesus, how glorious is Your love for us.
- I look forward to praising You forever.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Measuring Our Holiness

A priest friend helped me set up this blog. Before I followed his clear instructions, I prayed for wisdom on how to go about it, on how to decide what words to write and which to not write. I didn’t want it to be about me, and my many mistakes in life – unless that might somehow benefit others. I prayed my usual morning prayer, “to be an instrument of Thy peace.”

I noted that many other websites and blogs contained “visit” counters, and a God-child helped me set up one for this site. I went from watching it go up by ones, then by tens, then by thirties, then by fifties each day. It was one of the things I looked at, a measure of how interesting or valuable my site was. MY site; MY words. If I could figure it out, I would delete that counter. It truly matters not whether one or fifty or a million view the written words, if they ARE an instrument of His peace. Even if it were none, perhaps the writing of the words would benefit me, and that would be enough. It should be, if I truly have faith.

My morning readings these days includes a book published by Ignatius Press titled: Parochial and Plain Sermons of John Henry Newman. It has over 200 of his sermons, short 15-minute readings on a variety of topics. I find John Henry to be very clear in his sermons, sticking to the point to make sure you understand it, reminding me of JPII’s letters. This morning I read about intellectual vs spiritual knowledge.

“We gain spiritual light at the price of intellectual perplexity.” He notes that grace is given to us that we might know more of the spiritual truths, but many get led astray by trying to measure everything by reason. He notes that spiritual truths ARE mysteries, given to us to understand only to the measure of revealed to us. “At another time our Lord says, ‘I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent (those who trust reason rather than Scripture and conscience), and hast revealed them unto babes (those who humbly walk by faith).’”

Let no man deceive himself: If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness (1Cor 3:18-19). “What are those (opinions and feelings) of which he is likely to be proud? Those which he obtains, not by nature, but by his own industry, ability, and research; those which he possesses and others not. Every one is in danger of valuing himself for what he does; and hence truths (or fancied truths) which a man has obtained for himself after much thought and labour, such he is apt to make much of, and to rely upon; and this is the source of that vain wisdom of which the Apostle speaks in the text.”

“And all these inducements to live by sight and not by faith are greatly increased, when men are engaged in any pursuit which properly BELONGS to the intellect. Hence sciences conversant with experiments on the material creation, tend to make men forge the existence of spirit and the Lord of spirits.”

“They place a value upon all truths exactly in proportion to the possibility of proving them by means of that mere reason; Hence, moral and religious truths are thought little of by them, because they fall under the province of Conscience far more than of the intellect.” “Thinking much of intellectual advancement, they are much bent on improving the world by making all men intellectual; and they labour to convince themselves that as men grow in knowledge they will grow in virtue.”

“May we ever bear in mind, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; that obedience to our conscience, in all things, great and small, is the way to know the Truth; that pride hardens the heart, and sensuality debases it; and that all those who live in pride and sensual indulgence, can no more comprehend the way of the Holy Spirit, or know the voice of Christ, than the devils who believe with a dead faith and tremble!”

Yes, John Henry gives me much to think on. My incessant reading, wanting to know more, to reason out His truths that I may swallow them and gain nourishment, only to be driven for ever more knowledge to be closer to Him can be a good thing, or a bad. If I only seek knowledge of him in words and not the conscience or gift of the Holy Spirit, then I am a fool. If I seek to measure my progress in growing closer to him, counting as MY holiness how much others follow me, then I am an even greater fool.

We gain nothing if we only read words, and not mull them over in our hearts, letting the God within us and the God who comes to us meld them into our being. We cannot measure our holiness by our understanding of God and His ways, we can only live out what we have learned in our hearts, and let Him be the judge of our progress. If we grow in truth, we shall grow in Love, and we shall truly be “instruments of His peace”. Like good music, these fruits of these instruments are beyond our measure.

Friday, December 25, 2009

How Will I Know?

How will I know if my prayer is answered?

I’ve been praying these last few days for our country, for a man of courage. In my mind, I was thinking of some senator who would make some right vote, regardless of his career. I was thinking that God could reach out and touch the heart of someone who would make a difference. Thinking on it, I guess, in a way, I was praying for a savior. But that sounds blasphemous, especially today. So what was I praying for? And how would I know if my prayer were answered?

I have faith and trust in God. I know my wishes, my prayers, and my thoughts are not always His, but I know that His are better. My reasoning says I am right, but in faith I can pray for things beyond my reasoning. I trust in God.

The Magi followed a star based on ancient prophecies; I don’t think they were looking for a baby. The Jewish people prayed for a Savior warrior, expecting one to free them from the yoke of the Romans; He wasn’t, He didn’t. A young virgin said “Be it done unto me according to Thy word”; I’m not sure she knew all that entailed. There are people throughout all of history who have prayed to God, looked for His response, and been surprised at the form it took. Some never even recognized it.

So why should I be any different?

I’ve prayed for an end to abortion. In my mind, I was thinking of a supreme court justice reversing Roe v Wade. I was thinking of abortion clinics closing around the country. Recently I came across a very small group of people called the Guadalupe Partners, who have a unique way of counseling and reaching women walking into the abortion clinics – and have saved many lives. Many. In reflecting on their work, I realize they might be an answer to my prayer. Abortion is being ended, one child at a time. Just like Jesus didn’t raise an army and strike down an empire, He chose twelve and healed people one by one. Our ways are not always God’s ways, but in faith we know that His are better.

I was praying recently for one person of wisdom and courage to change America. Considering the smallness of my prayer, I’m not sure how God’s answer to my prayer, His plan, if it is to be on a small scale, can be more minute than that for which I prayed – one person. Like the Jewish people, perhaps my thoughts on the answer to my prayer are so different from God’s plans that I won’t recognize the answer when it comes.

I prayed for a man who would seek to know God’s will and then act on it, with courage. I prayed in my heart that this man would make a difference in America. I expected that he would through his courageous act have a vast influence, but perhaps God’s plans are otherwise. Maybe it will be answered in a man from another country, maybe even a woman. Maybe it will be answered in a man who has only a tiny impact on one person, and that impact will bloom from there, like His Church did. Maybe the man isn’t in Washington, maybe he’s in your town.

Maybe he’s you.

While I continue to pray for a man of courage for our country, I also pray for you this Christmas day, my friends. I pray that God give you wisdom and courage to live your life well, to seek and follow His example, the Father’s will. I pray that as a result of your courage, perhaps you might bring a change into someone’s life, just one, although you may not even know it. And I pray that that person may bloom as a result of your work, and yield a garden to be forever named in your honor by all the saints – and you – in heaven.

How will I know if my prayer is answered? I don’t need to know. I have faith; I trust.

Blessings to you, this Christmas.

The Mystery of Christmas

How does one cope with the mystery of Christmas? It can be the saddest of days for many people. Some are very alone; some feel deserted or neglected. Some are isolated but will go off among the poor who have much fun as they open the Christmas baskets given to them. Perhaps the loneliest person in the world is a man sitting in his own living room surrounded by his family and no one will really speak to him. And he knows it’s his own fault.

The answer on Christmas Day is to give and forgive. Spend the day for others in good works and prayer. Give yourself away, and if there is no one to give yourself to, pray for those you care about, even if they seem not to care about you. Christmas is a day for giving. We should think about it that way from the time we are young until we are very old. A smile and a prayer can be our gifts of the Magi to the Christ Child.

Lord Jesus Christ, let me live for You today and give myself to all I meet, especially those in need. Whatever they need – a smile, a helping hand, a meal, forgiveness – help me to get out of the prison of myself and to follow You, who came from beyond the stars to give Your love away. Amen.

Behold, He Comes – Meditations on the Incarnation, by Benedict Groeschel, CFR

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Morn

In a bit of a rush this morning, as I went to mass – a Christmas mass for me – and then went home to pack and head to mom’s. Her caregiver wanted to head home early for Christmas, to beat the coming storm.

On the FM station which plays all Christmas music, I heard a couple of very nice verses, which I wanted to make note of for myself, and decided to make available to you.

The first was a beautiful poem done by a Minnesota man named Tim Hegg, and was read by the station dj. The poem is called “A Cup of Christmas Tea”. It says much for us to think on this Christmas Eve. Following it was a song written by Bobby Darin that I had never heard before called “A Christmas Old Lang Sein”. If you have some time this Christmas Eve, drop over to these websites and read the words. and

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Morning

Orig: 12/25/08

It is a beautiful Christmas morning today. A soft snowfall fills the air, and the birds are rushing around the newly-filled feeder on my mom’s front window. And it is a beautiful quiet. Everything feels as it should be. I read the pope’s midnight mass message, as usual filled with prayers for the many problems of the world, pointing them out one by one, but ending on hope. It’s the most important message of Christmas. If God would send his Son into what we would call “this mess of a world”, surely it was done with a message of Hope. We must seek it, and never forget it.

This morning’s Psalm readings were most appropriate, so I’ll let them speak for themselves:

Psalm 2
Blessed are they who put their trust in God.

Psalm 3
O God, you are my God, for you I long;
For you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
Like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
To see your strength and your glory.

For your love is better than life,
My lips will speak your praise.
So I will bless you all my life,
In your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
My mouth shall praise you with joy.

On my bed I remember you.
On you I muse through the night
For you have been my help;
In the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
Your right hand holds me fast.

Father, creator of unfailing light, give that same light to those who call to you.
May our lips praise you; our lives proclaim your goodness;
our work give you honor, and our voices celebrate you for ever.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

All I Want For Christmas

I say a rosary each night, walking in front of the local abortion-promotion outlet. Last night as I walked in the quiet cold, my mind once again began to stray – or so I thought, at first.

I remembered John F. Kennedy’s book, Profiles in Courage. I wondered if I sent a copy to each senator in Washington, would they read it? Would it matter?

Last night under the stars, I said a sincere Christmas prayer: All I want for Christmas, Lord, is one man of courage, one shining star. Not one who thinks he IS a star, born to outshine all others, but one who seeks out and quietly does your will. One man of courage.

Be attentive, Lord, to the prayer of the helpless. Let this be written for ages to come, that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord (PS 102).

Monday, December 21, 2009

When to Trust

The whole secret of spiritual life is trust.

We trust when it is easy; we must trust when it is hard.

We must trust when there is a bright star overhead and when the darkness covers the earth at noon.

Lord Jesus, You have been my light for a long time, and I am forever grateful. But give me the grace to open the eyes of my soul ever more and to turn from the shadows so that my life may become simply a reflection of Your light. Amen.

Behold, He Comes, Meditations on the Incarnation by Benedict Groeschel CFR

Sunday, December 20, 2009

You Are Called

After the gospel and sermon, the priest called all the catechumens forward to the front of the church. He gave them a blessing and they walked out of the church, to study further the Word and prepare for their coming entry into the Catholic Church.

When they were called forward, I noticed for the first time that one of them held a white cane. Blind.

As they exited, the blind woman holding the arm of her sponsor, the choir sang this hymn: “You are called to walk in the Light of Christ.”

What is it that you want? Lord, that I might see.

Lord, I Want You

As I arrived at church early this morning, I looked up at the beautiful sunrise and instinctively said: “Praise you, Lord, for this beautiful day. I need you, Lord.” Then I paused some. My mind flashed to the upcoming mass and to Christmas, and then I thought aloud: “Lord, I want you.”

I think the second prayer is the better one.

As I think about the coming birthday of Jesus and the events surrounding it, I wonder what Mary was thinking when the angel first called her, and she responded: “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). What did that mean? Did she respond to the glory of the angel in awe and just instinctively reply: “yes, of course, whatever God wants”, or did she respond thoughtfully from her heart: “Yes, Lord, I want You”. Although she did not know in advance what God would ask of her, I believe she was prepared and spoke to the angel from her heart. She didn’t just accept what God was willing to give her, she wanted what He wanted – with all her heart.

Advent is a period of waiting, anticipation, and preparation. Let’s think about OUR usual responses to God. Do we respond to things like the sunrise, the church, or the liturgy somewhat automatically: “Well, Lord, I’m here”? Instinctively going to: “I need you” as I did, or do we speak thoughtfully, longingly from our heart: “Lord, I want you”?

Spend some time this Advent thinking about your response to your God. Think of his birth, his unequaled gift, and all he gave us with his life. Is you prayer: “I need you – as in: help me and give me even more”, or is it “I want you – as in: I love you. Show me what more I can give to YOU.”

What do Mary’s words mean for you?

Let it be done unto me, according to Thy word.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Remember ...

I enjoy sitting in the quiet time like this morning, and watching the snow fall. It helps me feel that everything is all right, and that the things bothered me even a few minutes ago are not that important. And they’re not! And especially at this time of year, it makes me remember.

I remember the snowball fights as a kid. Usually it was one group of 5 or 6 boys against a similar group from the neighborhood. Once, it was even boys against the girls! We slaughtered them. We built snow forts which sometimes took most of the morning; there was an understood competition there too, to see who could build the biggest and strongest, although in the end they were always smashed down. But that was ok, and there were never any hard feelings between the snowball fight winners and losers. Neither we nor our parents worried about injuries, physical or psychological; we were just being kids. It was great fun.

I remember Christmas lights. Most houses on our street had some lights. None had garish displays, and a few had none. It was somewhat indicative of the financial well-being, or age, of the inhabitants. We liked them all. At least one night before Christmas dad packed the family in the car and we rode up and down neighborhood streets admiring the displays, and we always traveled a bit to the one or two houses which were decorated like the North Pole; the owners were usually outside, handing out candy and hot cider. That was great. When I was older and working my way through college, I sometimes got off work in the early hours of the morning and drove to those neighborhood streets, still all lit up but empty of cars, and took my foot off the gas and just slowly drifted down the streets, looking at the lights, and remembering.

I remember my friends, the guys I went through elementary school and high school with. We weren’t twixting or emailing or Facebooking, we were meeting to get together to do things. We played ball, we bowled, we talked about growing up, but it seemed that we never talked about anything competitive. It didn’t matter who hit the ball farther, scored higher, or got better grades, it was about being with each other. Friends. I remember when I turned 21, and we bought a racecar together – for $50 (guaranteed to run until it got off the lot). I was working and never drove it, but the guys came to tell me details after every race, and how they were only three laps behind at the finish, but they waved to all the girls as they slowly crept around the track. We made a bet on who would get married last, and I gave the title to that car to my cousin, the winner, as a wedding present.

I remember Christmas at grandma’s, or Bousa (“boo-sha”) as the Polish people call their grandma’s. Bousa had all the sons and daughters and their kids over for Christmas Eve. And they didn’t come in from the airports or the bus stations, they came from the next block over; the entire family lived in a 5 block area. It was a huge gathering for which the women gathered early and cooked all day. And I can still taste the Polish dinners and deserts. As the families increased in size each of the parents picked names, and each cousin got one present that night. And we all finished up and left in time to attend midnight mass and sing Christmas carols together. And we all loved and looked forward to those times.

Right at this moment, I am looking at 7 birds crowded into a tiny feeder on mom’s front window. Others wait a turn, sitting on the fir bushes below, the snow gently falling on them. They seem to be more of a family than most people have today, than most kids have. Kids don’t live near their parents, and grandparents rarely – if ever – see their grandkids. Peggy Noonan had a great article in the Wall Street Journal this morning. She said Americans aren’t worried about jobs, about the health care bill, about global warming. What Americans are worried about is what our culture has become. I agree, and I think one of the worst things our culture has evolved to is our detachment from family and neighbor. We go from “I” and what “I” want and need, to what should be done for everyone – by the government. There is no family, no neighbor in between. There is no obligation, or desire, to be with family or neighbor.

I remember how it used to be. It used to create memories. I worry about America and our kids. I pray for them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are you There?

Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another? (Luke 7:19)

Perhaps most of us, in times of trial, have posed this question in our hearts. Our prayers seem to go unheard, and at times God’s providence appears to be working against us.

Facing this same situation, John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to pose this question to his kinsman, Jesus of Nazareth. He had called Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and now he found himself in the dungeon of a ridiculous but dangerous political buffoon. Could something so banal and so unjust happen to the one sent to prepare the way of the Messiah?

The incredible answer is yes. And worse was yet in store. Soon John would lose his life at the whim of a wicked woman, who has the singular distinction of being the only really wicked woman in the whole Gospel, which has a large contingent of wicked men.

The response of Jesus to John’s honest questions should be one of our Advent meditations: Blessed is he who finds no stumbling-block in Me, who is not scandalized by My apparent inability to help (see Lk 7:23). While clearly indicating that He is the Messiah, the one who is to come, Jesus also lets John know what we all need to know – that God’s providence does not conduct the world like a puppet show. Human beings have freedom, marred as it is by weakness and ignorance. We can do good or evil, and God will not stop us.

Long before this event, John as an unborn child leaped in his mother’s womb when the unborn Messiah came to visit his home. But now evil is here. An evil far greater and more powerful than the idiotic Herod. The powers of darkness are present. This clash of good and evil will cost John his mortal life, as it will soon bring Jesus of Nazareth to His terrible death. But blessed is he who does not stumble at the apparent weakness of God, because as Christ tells us through Saint Paul: “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor 12:9).

I have often, Lord, felt like John. I wondered where You were or if You cared to help me. It probably will happen again. Give me Your Holy Spirit that I may remain faithful like John. You have called him a blazing and shining light (see Jn 5:35). Help me, that my faith may give some little light to those around me. Amen
Behold, He Comes – Meditations on the Incarnation, by Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Your Gift to God

It used to be that the best of the flock was sacrificed to God. Later, the first-born son was pledged to him. But God said: “Enough! I don’t want your sacrifices; I have everything in the world if I want it.” So then, what DOES he ask for? He asks for our hearts, our love. The one thing we have that is uniquely ours, and it is not of this world – and he asks for it. Our love is the only thing that will be with us forever, when all the things of this world we leave behind, and he asks for it.

Can you sincerely give it to him?

How would you do that, if you wished to? How do you just give your love, perhaps to a God who is much like a stranger to you? And how would he know that this is your sincere gift, and not something you bought at the last minute on sale?

It’s hard to think in Godly terms, to have any idea of what HE might perceive as a gift – I mean talk about a gift for someone who has everything!! Literally!! I don’t believe we can really figure out what God would want, in spiritual terms, so we need to start out trying to understand an appropriate gift, a way to truly show and mean love, by thinking in earthly terms.

When you want to show someone on earth you love them, or even to a stranger that you care about them, what do you do? Well, you could write them a check, but would that be received as a gift of love? No, the receiver has to perceive that the gift is special – you don’t give this gift to just anyone. Then they’ll perceive themselves as special, someone you really care about. So what would be a special gift from us – candy, flowers, or a ring? But wait, the person you are giving to has EVERYTHING. His house is always full of flowers, candy dishes are on every end table, and he has jewelry boxes in every room – he even lets you borrow some, if you want. So what special thing do you get for him whom you don’t know what to get for?

One of the things which comes to my mind is a visit. I could go to his house and spend time with him. I could tell him how much I value him. I could tell him I think of him often. The he would have some idea how much I care for him, how much I love him. I could tell him he is in my prayers.

You could offer similar gifts as these to God. They are good, and I’m sure will be well received and appreciated. But if you are a bit more innovative, you can conceive of truly unique, truly special, truly gifts of your love – gifts that are not only received in love by him, but gifts that YOU know are truly GIVEN in love.

So what might such a gift be? I think you might look into your heart and honestly ask yourself what you love most – and give that to God for Christmas. For a very tiny portion of us, that might truly be money, but for most of us I think it is related to time. Time is precious to us, and we never seem to have enough.

So this Christmas, you might offer God some quiet time – time you don’t have to spare, but you’ll give to him anyway. Give him time that is precious to you, not just a casual planned visit. Maybe you’ll give him some time you might have spent with the person who means the most to you – and by that you’d be telling God that, at least for that little bit of time, HE means the most to you. A friend texted me in the middle of the night: “Pray for me.” The next morning at mass I received Jesus and said: “Don’t stay with me; please leave. Go to my friend who needs you; help her in ways you know best.”

You can offer to God your most precious time; he’ll understand your gift and its meaning.

But maybe time is not what you value most. If you are honest with yourself, you may admit that a certain vice or emotion is what you value most: alcohol, pornography, sex, drugs, anger, hatred, envy, gluttony. For some of us, what we love most is what we want to do most, the feelings we get the most satisfaction from.

I asked a woman to pray for the success of a good program started by President Bush; she responded: “Yeh, but he’s ….” I asked someone to write their congressman, but he replied: “Yeh, but they’re all … “ I asked a priest to pray for a certain religious, and he said: “Yeh, but they don’t act or dress very religious.” Many of us have much anger, which just jumps out of us at every opportunity.

For Christmas, even if just for a while, we could stop our addictions; we could vow to say nothing but good about ANYONE; we could turn our hearts away when they naturally turn to anger; or if we could willingly do an act of love for someone – any of these things could be done for the love of Him. In a few moments of prayer, we could offer these sacrifices to God.

He will understand how difficult it was for you to give this gift.

All these examples are gifts of love, gifts from our heart. It’s truly the gift God wants! Could you not wrap one, a gift from your heart, for him this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sing Out!!

I must admit I’ve grown into an Andrea Bocelli fan over the past year. I recently purchased his “My Christmas” album, and love to play it with a volume to rival the window-rattling bass of the teen-ager cars nearby, as I go about my Christmas shopping.

His “Angels We Have Heard on High” with its “Gloria, in Excelsis Deo!” brings tears to my eyes. But then his “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – sung with an Italian accent – makes me laugh, and the accompany young children’s choir is almost angelic. Sung in English, Italian, Latin, and German, the songs remind me of days long past, and midnight Christmas Eve mass preceded by Christmas carols. How happily we sung along; it was Jesus’ birthday.

There are still many opportunities to joyfully sing out with Christmas cheer. Radio station WJR here in Detroit had its annual Christmas sing-along downtown at Hart Plaza, and will be re-playing the cheerful time over the next few days. Station 100.3 FM plays continuous Christmas music.

Whether you want to listen to Bocelli, little children’s choirs, or even instrumental music, sing along! In your house, in your car, yes even in the malls. Sing along!

This is a season of preparation for God’s gift to us, and it is a joyous season. Whether it’s Silent Night, Adeste Fideles, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, or I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – one of my favorites – sing along!

Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

Merry Christmas, my friends. Peace and Love – and much Joy – to you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Where Can I Put Love?

from Living Faith December 14:

Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me only in light of your love. Psalm 25:7

I have prayed this psalm many times in my life, but today this line jumped out at me. We are asking God to forget the sins of our youth (and midlife and old age) and to remember us "only in light of your love." Wow! That's a big request! But Jesus has revealed to us that God does just that: God forgets our sin and remembers us in love. Jesus' beautiful parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates this incredible truth.

But next comes the difficult part. We are called to love others as God loves us. This means we must forget the sins of others -- that ungrtateful child, that cranky spouse, that inconsiderate neighbor. No revenge. No brooding. No silent treatment. Forget it! Then we must remember these individuals only in light of our love.

The saint we celebrate today, St. John of the Cross, said, "Where there is no love, put love and there you will find love." Where can I put some love today?

God of forgetting and remembering, teach me to love like you.
Sr. Melannie Svoboda, S.N.D.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent Plans

When I think of Advent, I usually think of it in terms of my life, what I have to do during this time. There are cards to be written, gifts to be bought, meals to be planned, and visits to be made. My time just seems to fly by, and it’s so hard to get everything done – but it’s not supposed to be about me and my plans, is it?

Something I rarely think about is what the original Advent was. The Church reminds us: early on in the season is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Mary being conceived without sin – a perfect body for the perfect man to born of; God’s plans thought of everything. From the time of her birth to His, was her Advent, a waiting, for the reason for which she was so uniquely born.

A friend once said that: “Women, especially women pregnant for the first time, often seem to glow, while men just smell.” Not very complimentary to men, but in truth men don’t really understand pregnancy very well, and its connection to something eternal. Women show love much better than men; they can live it in their very bodies, giving life. On the other hand men view pregnancy as a reminder that they are the head of the family, and begin to think more acutely of this responsibility. They often forget, however, that in one area they are NOT the head of the family: in love. In love, no one leads like the woman. And Mary was to give birth to the embodiment of and source of all love, Jesus.

The angel’s announcement that Mary was pregnant was a shock to her, but thereafter a mother’s love took charge in making plans for Jesus’ birth. Mary’s plans included spending time visiting relatives, but when visiting Elizabeth, she found that John’s conception had many mysteries surrounding it also. Despite the obvious fact that God was in charge, I’m sure Mary was making plans for the birth of her son, relatives to come over, neighbors to help, Joseph to be kept busy. But God had other ideas. I doubt that a birth far away from friends and relatives, in a manger – of all places!! – was in Mary’s plans. Yet despite her plans going awry she found that God’s plans had many wonderful, unexpected benefits, including the unknown “friends” who came to celebrate her son. Her long Advent ended with yet another miracle.

Shortly before Jesus’ birth Mary could have reflected on her plans and looked around the stable and thought: “Well, this sure stinks!” But she accepted God’s change of her plans, and soon thereafter she felt a joy beyond anything she could have planned or imagined: Love, God’s Love – her son, was laying there in the manger. Mary’s nine months of waiting was over. The Jewish people’s thousands of years of waiting was over. A Savior was born. Our Savior.

This Advent season is not about you or your plans. It’s about Love, waiting for it, sharing it, and most importantly, giving it. Christmas is not about our wrapped gifts, it’s about His gift: Eternal Love. It’s the gift we are supposed to give too.

As you rush through this time, pause to think about Mary’s Advent, and her preparations and the results. And don’t be discouraged if Christmas doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned; it might be so much better. Within days, everyone will forget the presents you bought them. The love you brought them, however, they can spread to their family and friends, and take with them into eternity.

The Magic of Christmas

“When you see this, your heart will rejoice”
(Isaiah 66:14)

If you ask most people what December is about, they are likely to say, “Getting ready for Christmas.” But go one step further and ask what this means. They will mention buying presents, preparing for guests, or visiting family for the holidays. If you say, “What about celebrating the mystery of the birth of the Son of God?” they will eye you suspiciously and with a tinge of embarrassment say, “Of course. That too.” It was not always this way.

Older people can remember when there was real excitement. As children, we fasted from candy and made little sacrifices for the Christ Child. We saved what little we had to buy presents but also to give something to the poor or to the Church. And we were excited. We all knew of course that Christ was born long ago, but somehow this remembrance made it seem that He was coming again to us.

I recall serving Midnight Mass at the Dominican Sisters’ mother-house and, looking up on Christmas Eve on the way to the chapel, there was a large bright star. I do not now know whether it was the planet Jupiter or Venus in the clear, cold sky. I literally jumped when I saw it. Jesus was coming to our town.

Some call this the magic of Christmas. It’s not magic, of course. Magic is a trick – the appearance of something that actually is not there. Christmas is a mystery: that which is intangible, unseen, is really there. Christ is with us every day whenever we decide to turn to him.

As we think of His coming, we must make a decision. Either we accept His mysterious being and fall on our knees in adoration or we decide that we are going to figure all this out. Either He leads us or we stand around being puzzled by Him. What do you think is your proper response and attitude? You need to decide this, because He comes.

Lord Jesus Christ, You promised to send us your Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Send Him in abundance that he may teach us to pray, as we ought to pray, in adoration. Help us whenever doubts come, doubts that arise from the foolish belief that our minds can measure eternity and the things of God. Give us Your Holy Spirit that he may be our interior teacher. And increase our faith. Amen.
Behold, He Comes – Meditations on the Incarnation, by Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Change -- Revisited

The note below was another Letter to the Editor; I guess writing those sometimes makes me feel better, even if no one reads them. I re-read this one, on "change", this morning. And it leaves me kind of sad.

I had some hopes, back then, that change would really come to America. That we, all together, would be able to talk and understand each other, "to see the true hearts of Americans". Thus far, I haven't seen it.

During my work career, I negotiated many agreements between companies which had vastly different goals, coming from vastly different countries and cultures. Yet we were able to sit down, talk, look at facts and try to understand each others' interpretations of those facts -- and yes, sometimes realize that we were wrong. We agreed on the many key points we had in common, and compromised -- with neither giving too much -- and points we "agreed to disagree" on. It seems Americans as a whole can't negotiate in the same manner. Sad.

America reminds me of the many Christian churches. The vast majority of what they believe, they believe in common. Yet they will choose to point out their differences, and talk about nothing else. Fighting amongst themselves, there are some members who would choose to fight to the death, as if by killing others they will come to believe the same. They history of religious martyrs, past and present, says that will not happen. Why can't they see these facts? Why can't Americans see the facts about what they believe, and look at and celebrate so much of what they have in common? I don't know. Perhaps like some the religious zealots, some need to die before they might try to understand.

But regardless of the fact that there appears to be no progress during this past year, I have hope. I don't accept the word "never". :-)

Orig. 12/11/08

I know this letter is too long for publication in your Letters To The Editor. I write it, however, with some hope that you may be able to include the spirit of these thoughts in words you might publish, because I believe they need to be heard.
I write these words because many think a difference, “Change”, is now coming to America, to their lives. I pray for them.

In the play My Fair Lady, two gentlemen attempt to turn Eliza Doolittle, a street person, into a lady. They find, however, that training her and making her physically appear as a lady did not make her one. She became a lady when she believed in her heart that she was a lady. In truth, she always was a lady, a person with inherent dignity and value, regardless of how she dressed or how people treated her. She just had to discover this, and accept it. Then she could happily live this way.

This “New” year, America has chosen to make a “Change”. I wonder how well it will be accomplished. Will it be a changing of appearances, like Eliza Doolittle’s first efforts, or will it truly be a changing or opening of hearts. I have always believed in the inherent greatness and goodness of America and its people. There are some, however, who thought my religion, my race, or my political party resulted in me not fully embracing this fact. They couldn’t see my heart. Perhaps, it is better said that they “wouldn’t”. They wouldn’t see past my exterior presentation, and when they saw my religion or my race or my political party they believed they knew me, and what I thought, and who I am. Even if I were truly changing my heart on some matter of great importance, they wouldn’t see it. They WOULDN’T. They would choose to see me as my exterior trappings, as if no person of my religion or race or party could be a “true” American.

“Change” has been elected in America, and it is coming. Will it merely be a change of race? Will it merely be a change of party? Will it merely be a change of “religion”? What will we do; what will we see; how will we act? Will we be able to see the true hearts of Americans, or only how we perceive they “look”? Is that really “Change”?

So how will we know if “Change” has really come to America? Well, looking at the obvious first, it will come when we are not surprised that a black man is elected president. Nor a Muslim man, nor a Mexican or Asian man – or woman. This is America! I was not surprised at this election’s outcome, but I was somewhat surprised that so many exclaimed “they thought this would never happen”. I didn’t understand the hearts of those who felt this way, and they didn’t understand mine. They didn’t believe in the inherent greatness and goodness of the American people. They thought race or religion or party made things possible, not what is right. How will we know when “Change” has really come to America: when Catholics don’t only vote for Catholics, when Republicans don’t only vote for Republicans, when blacks don’t only vote for blacks – but when all Americans vote for the best person for the job, the best person for America, and all its people.

And once elected, representatives will not act as if “I’m right, and you’re wrong” because you are a Republican, because you are a Muslim, because you are black. Real “Change” will come to America when representatives sit down and discuss issues, recognizing that all people have some unique abilities AND WISDOM which can contribute to the benefit of ALL the American people. When they recognize, together, that there are some inherent facts on which they can agree – a starting point for real communication. They really believe that “We hold these truths to be self-evident …”.

I don’t know that I believe that real “Change” is coming to America. Perhaps it is just a change of party, or race, or “religion”. Will it really be a change of heart of all Americans --- together? Or will it merely be a change of America’s “clothes”? I don’t know.

But it is a start. And like Eliza Doolittle, only we can change our hearts and realize that we already ARE true Americans, in greatness and goodness, and then we can truly act like it. Together.

I will pray for all of us. It is a start.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Help is on the Way

I attended a meeting last night of a support group for caregivers. I’m not sure what I expected to get out of it, but I did go intending to get something. I’d been counseled that my sometimes high blood pressure is a stress issue, perhaps associated with my responsibilities as caregiver. I, who negotiated multi-million dollar agreements for years, and enjoyed it, apparently am being stressed out by taking care of one, little, old lady. It didn’t make sense to me, but I couldn’t argue with how I felt. Feelings are beyond any logic.

The meeting turned out to be more than I expected. I not only felt comfortable seeing that I was not alone in my feelings, but also in being able to speak them aloud to others who understood my feelings. And I understood theirs. None of us were alone.

I think I will continue to go back to those monthly meetings, to talk, and to listen.

In these pages, we’ve considered our life’s journey in the past. The series of blogs: Do You Know the Way, Just a Closer Walk, The Road Not Chosen, and I am Not in Control all looked at our journey and how we often feel alone – but we’re not; certainly God always walks with us. This caregiver’s meeting reminded me of another person on my journey, my neighbor. You know, that guy I am supposed to love, and who is supposed to love me.

Remember that story about the guy whose house got flooded? As the flood waters rose higher and higher, he prayed to God to help him. And then he noticed that there was a door in the ceiling that led to the roof, so he went onto the roof of the house. He prayed more. Then a rowboat came and offered him a ride to safety, but he said no, he had confidence God would save him. Then a helicopter dropped him a line, and he said no, he had confidence God would save him. Then he saw a passing tree and thought it might take him to safety, so he hopped aboard and was washed downstream, and drowned. Meanwhile, the house stood and eventually the floodwaters receded. When the man got to heaven he asked God why he didn’t answer his prayers, but God said: “I opened the door to the roof, and then I sent a boat and then a helicopter. It was you who wouldn’t take my help, but instead tried to save yourself.”

I don’t know if it’s pride or just stupidity that sometimes we won’t take the help offered by others. We think we can handle things alone. God, through our neighbors, often offers to help us, but we say “No, thank you.” Meanwhile we pray for God to help us. You are reading the words of one of the stubborn-est of those fools. I want to, I think I can, I think I MUST do things myself. Alone. And when I fail, as I often do, I wonder why.

I think one of the worst things to happen to America is the breakdown of families, the breakdown of neighborhoods, and the breakdown of small towns – the people who knew each other and cared about each other. People who were aware of their neighbor, and when they got into trouble quickly jumped in to help, regardless of the cost. Maybe we find it hard to obey the commandment to Love Your Neighbor today because we don’t recognize anyone as our neighbor. No one, often not even our own family, commands our attention, much less our love. We are aware of no one’s plight but our own. And so when things get rough in our road of life, there is no one to help us -- save God; there is no one here on earth to love us. And if we should hear the cries of others for help, we say: “Someone should do something.” That’s why everyone turns to Washington for help, they’ve forgotten that THEY are “someone”. They’ve forgotten how to be a neighbor. But that’s not everyone, and it doesn’t have to be you.

It’s not too late to change. It’s only your pride, or stupidity, that’s holding you back. If you want help, or would like to give it, there are countless opportunities. I walked into a room of strangers yesterday, and found my neighbors. You could find a support group for whatever your concern, too. On the internet, you can find support groups for most anything. And if nothing there, you can find support in most any church. All you need do is see someone kneeling in prayer and tap them on the shoulder and ask “could I ask you to pray with me, for a little while?” There’s hardly a man on his knees who would not get up to help his neighbor who asks. And then the three of you could talk – where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there also.

And if it should be you really are content in your loneliness, you have neighbors who aren’t. They need you. Go out to your elderly, your nursing homes, your hospitals. There are people there who need you. There are people there who are your neighbors, crying in their need. Alone. They need you.

This holiday season, especially, do not be alone. Be a neighbor.

If you’ve sometimes prayed in your loneliness or sadness, know that help is on the way. God does not forget his children; not one. But instead of looking to the skies, look around you. Most often he is there, answering your prayers through your neighbor. Let him into your life. Let yourself into his. The journey you make does not have to be alone, your neighbor is here with you. If you let him in; if you’ll join with him.

May your Christmas be merry, indeed. In deed.

One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation.
- Caritas in Veritate, -- Charity in Truth

A Blessed Christmas

Orig: 12/12/08

I had thoughts of sending you a bright Christmas message, one of laughing, joyous, good cheer. Certainly we need some. But then, this last week, events of the world weighed on my mind, and thoughts about them need to be quieted first.

So my friends, I do wish you much Joy and Peace this Christmas holiday! But I think the best way for me – and perhaps, you – to make that happen is to spend some time in preparation, clearing these anxious thoughts from our minds, changing our hearts. The attached thoughts have floated in my mind this past week. They are helping me to bring a peace to my heart, to enable me to appreciate this Christmas, to appreciate what it means, and the blessing that was and is.

And so, I hope this does end up being a note of good cheer! It is certainly what I intend, and pray for you.

An Ongoing Commandment

Today is December 12, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We celebrate the fact that the mother of God appeared to a poor Mexican farmer, Juan Diego, there in 1531, only 39 years after Columbus arrived, and she told Juan that she would bless this land. Today, on December 12, 2008, it sure doesn’t feel like it. “Experts” write of the collapse of our financial system, millions of people unemployed, and a depression. Blessed?

People, including myself, are afraid.

A very wise friend’s reaction to recent events is anger – at the stupid decisions her company is making in reaction to the crisis. Another worries whether she will have money to survive. Respected financial journals rail against Congressional decisions. No one understands the problems, but everybody knows the answers. My own trust is sorely tested – and I want to get angry, too.

To my friends, the angry ones and the scared ones, I have previously spoken a message of trust: one of my everyday prayers – said very often lately – is: “My Jesus, I trust in You”. It is a good prayer, but this week I realized that it is not a prayer I can just recommend to others. Trust comes from the heart, and the prayer assumes that you REALLY DO trust. But what if, in your heart, you don’t? What is in your heart is anger and fear? Then your heartfelt prayer is just another pleading with God: Do this; do that; don’t let this happen; and perhaps even a “and let a lightning bolt hit that guy right over there!” And we end this prayer, having said aloud what’s in our hearts with a “And I trust in You”. Kind of like an Amen at the end of a prayer, often said without much thought and NO meaning.

So my message of trust, although a good one, is not something I can help you make happen. You have to do it yourself; you have to make a reality of Trusting in God settle into your heart, so it is as much a part of you as your love of your kids; as your fears; as your anger. When your adrenalin rises, fear and anger are your natural responses, but these have to be gradually replaced by natural responses of peace and calm: “I know everything will be all right. I will do my best to make things right, with the talents I have been given, and then, my Jesus, I WILL trust in You.” Natural responses.

So, where do you start to build this natural response of trust?

This Advent season and this feast day today reminded me of a commandment which I had forgotten. This commandment was given to a scared old man who would lead his people out of Egypt, it was given to a frightened young virgin in Nazareth, it was given to some terrified disciples huddled in an upstairs room, and it was given to a worried Juan Diego in Mexico. This ongoing commandment has been echoed to a scared mankind throughout our history, and it applies equally well today: Be Not Afraid.

If you believe in God, who He is, why He created us, then you have to know that He loves us. And this loving God, this loving Father, wants to take us and hold us in his arms when we are scared and don’t know what to do, and say to us: “My children, be not afraid.” We need to turn our thoughts there when we’re scared, scared of anything: His arms, his “Be not afraid”. If you can’t calm down in His love at that thought, then read the words again: “Be Not Afraid!!!!!!”

It’s a commandment, not a request. If we, in our “great worldly knowledge” find the words uncomforting, then read them again. As our Father, as our God, He is commanding us: Be Not Afraid!!!!!! There’s even an implied “Or Else!” somewhere in there. And even if still, in our stubbornness, we don’t want to accept this command, then --- He loves us. He loves us. He still loves us. He wants and will do what is best for us. Anything. He’s always said so. He’s always done so. Can’t you accept that?

If we want peace in our hearts, we need to trust in God. If we can’t let ourselves go to really do that, to trust, then let us at least start out with God’s commandment: Be Not Afraid. And accept THAT, even if somewhat begrudgingly, because “Dad said so”. And we know He loves us – even if sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. We know Dad loves us.

And so, this Christmas season, let us resolve, despite the markets crashing, despite our jobs being at risk, despite our homes being lost, despite crazy Aunt Martha not liking the scarf we looked everywhere for – despite being very scared – let us remember what Dad commanded us: “Be Not Afraid”. And then we will begin to say with confidence, to ourselves and others: “My Jesus, I trust in You”.

And then, despite all our fears, we will say with confidence to others (and ourselves): “May you have a very merry and blessed Christmas”. There is nothing to worry about.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Orig: 12/12/07

I finally got around to starting on Christmas cards today -- sorry, I don't think you guys are on the list. But in writing a note to convey how things went for me last year, I decided to also include something I read last night. I thought it might be worthwhile for some of my other graying email friends also. So from my Christmas card letter:

"I think I’ll print on the back of this a few words I recently read which gave me some peace in dealing with changes in life. Perhaps it will you, also."

Remember Jesus Christ
Responding to the Challenges of Faith in Our Time

- By Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

Chapter 6: Obedient unto Death

Why does God want to be obeyed by us so much? Certainly not because he likes to give orders and have subjects! It is important because in obeying we do the will of God; we want the same things that God wants, and thus we fulfill our original vocation to be “in his image and likeness.” Dante Alighieri summarized all this in the verse: “in His will is our peace.”

One difficult case of obedience to circumstances is the one that comes to all of us because of age, namely, retirement from activity, the termination of a position, the need to hand over matters to others, perhaps leaving some projects unfinished and some initiatives still in process. Someone has jokingly said that the office of a superior is a cross, but that sometimes the most difficult thing to accept is not being raised up onto that cross but coming down from it, being deposed from the cross!

I am certainly not making fun of others in such a sensitive situation, since no one knows how he or she will react until it happens. This is one kind of obedience that brings us closer to that of Christ in his passion. Jesus suspended his teaching, stopped all activity, and did not let himself think of what would happen to his apostles. He was not anxious about what would happen to his words that were entrusted only to the poor memory of some fishermen. He did not let himself think of his mother, whom he was leaving alone, either. There was no complaint, no attempt to change the Father’s decision: “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go hence” (John 14:31).

Family: Your Boat

Mark 4:37-39: “… waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was being swamped. But he (Jesus) was … asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘… do you not care that we are perishing?’”

When troubles whip at our family, God sometimes seems to sleep, and I want to give up, abandon ship.

Padre Pio’s assurance: “… stay in the boat in which our Lord has placed you, and let the storm come. You will not perish. It appears to you that Jesus is sleeping, but let it be so. Don’t you know that if he sleeps, his heart vigilantly watches over you? Let him sleep, but at the right time, he will awaken to restore your calm.”

“Scripture tells us that dearest Saint Peter (when walking on the water) was frightened. Trembling, he exclaimed, ‘Oh, Lord, save me!’ And our Lord, taking him by the hand, replied, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ … You are walking on the sea, and you find the wind and waves, but isn’t it enough to be with Jesus? … But if fear takes you by surprise, cry, ‘Oh Lord, save me!’ He will stretch out his hand to you. Hold onto it tightly, and joyfully walk on the stormy sea of life.”

I promise to stay in my “boat”, Lord, knowing that you will bouy me up. Thank you for my family. Always use me to love and help them. Amen.
Padre Pio’s Words of Hope – Meditation 41

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I had breakfast with a friend the other day. He spoke fondly of his children, living far away in another city, and of his recent visit. I commented that I had once visited that city; it was a pleasant place. He responded, softly almost under his breath, that “Yes, my wife would like us to move there. That’ll never happen.” I didn’t follow up on his comment. Perhaps I should have, but it seemed so full of meaning, meaning I didn’t and couldn’t understand.

Never is a long time. It’s also a word which says pretty loudly: “This discussion is ended; my mind is made up, permanently!” How sad that we can be so confident we know all there is to know, for now and in all the future. I believe when we use the word “never”, we are being very presumptuous of our supreme knowledge, and we are forgetting that the whole purpose of our life, our very being, is to grow in Wisdom and Truth. And we will; it cannot be totally avoided. Therefore, as long as we are alive we will continue to grow in wisdom, so how can we say at any point that we know all there is to know about a subject, and will never know more? How can we say “Never!”?

The person you are today is not the one you were 10 years ago. The one you will be in 10 years from now may be almost unrecognizable to your friends –and maybe even to you. Often we cannot conceive how events – natural and even supernatural – may change us and our wisdom. Looking back, 10 years from now, we may with sadness say how very stupid we were.

With age, grace, and wisdom, I’ve learned to try to keep my mind open, to almost never say “never”. Oh, it was a hard lesson to learn. I remember once saying I’d never get within a 10-foot pole of a certain young woman – but I got much closer than that. I said I’d never get divorced; later I said I’d never forgive you. I said I’d never make that mistake again, but I forgot that only God could commit to never sin. I said I’d never leave your side again, Lord, but then found myself alone.

I think we say, or think, the word “never” to close off our pains, as if by closing our mind to a subject it could not hurt us again. As if by closing our mind, we could forget the pain. How often have you used the word “never” to end thoughts about a painful subject: “I’ll never let anyone take advantage of me again. I’ll never let my son in this house again. I’ll never make that mistake again. I’ll never speak to him again. I’ll never trust God or his church again. I’ll never forgive him. I’ll never love anyone like that again. Never.”

Never is a long time, and we can’t hide from the pain that long. We should pause and reflect – and pray – whenever we feel ourselves reaching a “never” point. “Lord, give me the wisdom to know what to do, what to say, and what not to say. I need You.”

Remember, that in time you will change – and so will the person or situation or pain you are trying to shut out of your life. Even God himself seems to have grown in wisdom, or perhaps, waited until we did. When He tossed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, perhaps he wanted to say “never to return”. But he didn’t. Adam and Eve just felt it was never to return, until he stepped forward to change things.

Christmas is a time of healing. Jesus was a gift to man to heal a wound, to put an end to a “never”. I write these words on the date of Jesus’ real birth, as any good Catholic knows, the date we celebrate his conception. Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you. God opened his mind and heart to forgiveness. He opened his kingdom, his very self, to us. He made a start at uniting us; he closed his mind to “never”. He showed to man, in his forgiveness, that in closing off a “never” is an opening to “forever”.

This is my body, which will be given up for you. This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

What pain is there in your life that you have stopped up with a “never”? This Christmas we are reminded that Jesus was a gift, a gift of healing, healing a very deep pain between God and man. God himself came to end all thoughts and memories of “never”. Oh God didn’t unite us again with the birth of his son, but he took the first step: forgiveness. A response would have to come from us, but he opened the door – and heaven.

When Adam and Eve walked from the Garden of Eden, having deeply offended the one, great, almighty God, they rightly believed that they could never be forgiven. They were wrong. Could you not follow God’s example, and open your mind and your heart? Or do you think your sacrifice would be bigger than the one he made?

He chose to put his Godhead into the person of his enemy, man, his offender, so no one could ever say “You just don’t understand what I felt.” He knew, he felt, and he understood. And he gave everything he humanly could, his life, to repair the lost love, the lost eternal love between us. Can’t you make an effort to begin to forgive this Christmas, to end a “never” you once spoke or carry in your heart?

God’s gift to us, his forgiveness, was in the form of an innocent child, so easy to love and accept. I pray your gift of forgiveness this Christmas may be received in the same light. (Matt 5:23, 18:15)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Prayer for Those Who Live Alone

I think Advent and Christmas are sometimes lonely seasons, even for those who live within loving families, and among friends. No one can see into our hearts, except our God. And sometimes we are very alone in our thoughts and feelings.

Well, please know that I am thinking about you, and I do care and pray for you, especially in this season. And to perhaps help in some small way, I offer you this prayer I often pray.

A Prayer for Those Who Live Alone
I live alone, dear Lord, stay by my side,
In all my daily needs, be Thou my guide.

Grant me good health, for that indeed I pray,
To carry on my work, from day to day.

Keep pure my mind, my thoughts, my every deed,
Let me be kind, unselfish, in my neighbor’s need.

Spare me from fire, from flood, malicious tongues,
From thieves, from fear, and evil ones.

If sickness or an accident befall,
Then humbly, Lord, I pray, hear Thou my call.

And when I’m feeling low, or in despair,
Lift up my heart, and help me in my prayer.

I live alone, dear Lord, yet have no fear,
Because I feel Your Presence, ever near. Amen

- - Author Unknown

Desire For God

Advent thoughts of Saint Anselm, bishop:

Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts. Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labors. Make a little time for God and rest a while in him.

Lord most high, what shall this exile do, so far from you? What shall your servant do, tormented by love of you and cast so far from your face?

Lord, you are my God and you are my Lord, and I have never seen you. You have made me and remade me, and you have given me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. I was made in order to see you, and I have not yet done that for which I was made.

Lord, how long will it be? Look upon us, Lord, hear us and enlighten us, show us your very self. Restore yourself to us that it may go well with us whose life is so evil without you.

Teach me to seek you, and when I seek you show yourself to me.

Help all mankind, Lord, in your loving mercy, to be near to those who seek you without knowing it.

On the Value of Patience

Advent thoughts by Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr:

Patience is a precept for salvation given us by our Lord, our teacher: Whoever endures to the end will be saved. If you persevere in my word, you will truly be my disciples.

Faith and hope are the very meaning of our being Christians, but if faith and hope are to bear their fruit, patience is necessary. Now hope which is seen is not hope; how can a man hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it in patience. Patient waiting is necessary if we are to be perfected in what we have begun to be, and if we are to receive from God what we hope for and believe.

Let us not grow weary in doing good, for we shall reap our reward in due season. Paul warns us not to grow weary in good works through impatience .. and allow our past good deeds to count for nothing because what was begun falls short of completion.

Charity, he says, is always patient and kind; is not boastful, is not given to anger, loves all things, endures all things. He shows that charity can be steadfast and persevering because it has learned how to endure all things.

Bear with one another lovingly, striving to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The End Is Coming!! No, It’s Not.

“Men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world” (Luke 21:25). “This looks like the end of the world” (The movie: 2012). “The sky is falling” (Chicken Little).

I must admit, I understand the feelings of Chicken Little a bit better than the others. He constantly looked for and misunderstood signs, and like the boy who cried “Wolf!” once too often, no one believed him. Chicken Little did have a point though. If the sky WERE falling, people should be in panic, like he was, right? But you can’t be in a constant panic, self-protection mode all your life. That was why everyone ignored Chicken Little. How many studies can you worry about which say: “You shouldn’t eat that: chemicals”; “You shouldn’t drink that: pesticides”; or “You shouldn’t breathe: pollution.” At some point you say in frustration: “I CAN’T protect myself from dying. I can't”

Ahhh, that’s the rub.

That statement is a very real fact, but one we are sooooo reluctant to say out loud. We are going to die. Despite protecting our bodies from chemicals, pesticides and pollution, we are going to die. That’s why Chicken Little got ignored after a while. It’s why dozens of end-time movies may interest us for the special effects, but are boring in plot. It’s why Scripture’s words can get boring too: “Yeh, I know; I’m going to die. I get it already.” It seems a sad prediction to ponder -- so, let’s look at a happy one!

I think the reason the words of Luke in the New Testament grow boring for us is the same reason the Jews grew bored with the words of the Old Testament. The Messiah is coming! And just like some of us read signs and proclaim the end times are coming, many Jews read the signs and said the Messiah was coming. It was a happy prediction, but after a while, no one bothered to listen to that either – but why not? I mean for the Jews, the Messiah coming was a great thing, not the tragedy of the end of the world. The Messiah was to be the beginning of a new Jewish world, a Jewish kingdom, the end of the Roman power. How could they grow bored thinking about or looking for that?

The real problem with the good news the Jews were looking for and the bad news we are looking for is really the same thing: “I’m going to die. I get it already.” Both the good news and the bad news had two discouraging points about them. One: They are in the future, and I am likely to die before then. So why care? Two: Even if the events occurred while I am alive, I am going to die – whether in a few years or a few hours. It’s not like I’m going to partake of them my whole life.

“The long-awaited event”, will be over for me (maybe) in a few minutes. Wait thousands of years for some Messiah-generated happiness, and pffft, it’s over for me in a few minutes? The end times: pain, suffering, the end of all our buildings and homes – why do I even want to think about that? Promised good times or promised bad, they’ll be over in a short time; why worry about it?

Is God making a big deal over nothing? What’s wrong with this picture???

What’s wrong with the picture is who you see in the center of it: you. It’s not about you.

That’s the error the Jews -- and us -- fell into: thinking everything is about us. Thinking every THING is what is important, but knowing the truth all the while, that these things will pass away. So we get confused in our beliefs and our focus. And we just don’t want to think about it.

But the Messiah-coming prophecies and the Second Coming/End-Time prophecies are NOT about us. They are about WHO is coming and what HE brings. And what He brings is an end to our fears, and an end to our confusion. The Jews thought he would bring earthly happiness, and maybe for them for only the few minutes they lived, but he brought the possibility of an eternal happiness and eternal life. He opened the gates of heaven and said I go to prepare a place for you there. Our worries about the end of the world and loss of all our things, and our life, are eased. We won’t lose our life then, it will just be beginning. And what of our things? We’ll be trading in our old, rusty, failing cars/bodies for new, non-polluting eternal warranty models. So the old clunker will be gone; don’t worry about that. Everything in this world rusts out, grows old, and dies.

Everything except, as we now know: us. The end is coming! No, it’s not. The beginning is coming. It’s not a horror story, and it’s not about the sky falling. It’s about us ascending into the sky. As He did.

If we look at things as the Jews did, or even as many people today do: so very concerned with their possessions, power, and life – or even as Chicken Little did – certainly the Messiah coming meant nothing and the end-times are scary. But He DID mean something; He showed us something; He PROVED to us something: We will not die!

In this Advent period, we will hear some Scripture readings of the end times. If you think about, if you read about, if you BELIEVE what Jesus said, those will be glorious times, for HE will be coming. We look forward to celebrating Christmas, when Jesus was born and explained to us and showed us how all these things will be. We have nothing to fear. And until he comes again – even if we are not alive in our bodies then – he promised he will be with us even now, if we but invite him.

Paul knew it: For “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). I hope you know it too, my friends. You are never alone. You never have anything to fear. In this season, think on the Child to be born; think on his laughter, his smile. Hold him in your heart.

And he will hold you.