Saturday, November 28, 2009

Our Choices

My recent Letter to the Editor made it into print on Thanksgiving day. Another thing to be thankful for, I guess. It had a positive outlook, and maybe that helped with the publishing decision. I'm a bit torn, however, in feelings that I might have preferred the publishing of the ones below.

Orig: 11/16/08

I’d know we were on the right course if our politicians could sincerely say the following:

“We encourage all Americans to join with us in giving thanks for the many blessings of this country, and as we pray for God’s continued blessings on us all. And we, as your elected officials, promise Him, and you, that we will strive ever harder this year to work together as one. We promise to talk AND HUMBLY LISTEN to our families, our churches, and all Americans—of every party, church, race, income, and age -- confident that we are all blessed with some degree of Wisdom that would benefit us, your representatives, to hear AND TO UNDERSTAND.
We all want what is right and good for every member of this country, and we promise to once again earn your confidence that we can make that happen. So help us God.”

If I heard this said, I would have much to give thanks for.

Orig: 11/21/08
Our Choices

Some chose to stretch the trading rules to make lots of money; others lost money on their trades.

Some chose to give mortgages to people who could not afford them to “help the poor”; the ultimate givers of that money are now the poor, and can give no more.

Some chose an abortion to ease the stress in their life; with 40 million fewer citizens, America is now an aging country which cannot support its elderly.

Our moral decisions, our life, our bodies, our choices. Is it really true that our choices affected no one but ourselves?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Morn

Last night I thought that I should write some words this morning about all the many things I should be thankful for, but although there were hundreds of things I could mention, my mind was a blank. I needn’t have worried though; I’ve come to trust that the words I write here are not meant to be mine.

I awoke in the quiet pre-dawn hour intending to make a quick drive to my house, as mom slept quietly. I dressed, took my morning meds, and chewed a vitamin. And then I felt things come to a stop. A problem I’ve had before, started again – my throat closed up, and the little pieces of the vitamin and the saliva I swallowed would not go down. The minutes passed as I stood over the sink and continually retched up the saliva which would not pass. What usually might clear in minutes approached an hour. Talking to God seemed to be an empty prayer. And then I sat down, and spoke to him.

Things got very calm for me; all anxiety passed as I breathed slowly and calmly. I asked for his hand. And although I never felt things pass, I knew the problem had ended. And I gave sincere thanks, for the friend who was with me. Thanksgiving had started – not with words I planned to write, but with a touch of God on me. What better way to begin?

I drove to my house and looked up at the cloudy sky; despite that there were the rays of sun streaking through, God’s beauty shining forth. I picked up my mail from the night before and walked into the house for a moment. On the table was a card from the unemployed man I had hired to do odd jobs. He wrote a note of sincere thanks to me, and a blessing. “I want you to know you have a friend forever.”

And I wondered what I would write about this morning?? So often I pray that I might sincerely act out in my life the two great commandments: Love God, and Love My Neighbor. Here, in the first hour of this Thanksgiving day, I have seen proof that my God and my neighbor -- they both love me!

What more could I give thanks for.

On the way back to mom’s, I listened to a CD of nuns singing Christmas carols in their heavenly voices: Glory to God, and on earth peace to men.

Back at mom’s I read my morning prayers, and I read many words with great meaning for me:
There are many things that are true, honorable and just, many that are pure: think about them. These you must do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:9, 1Cor 16:13)
Be now our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home.
Give us life that we may call upon your name.
You called in distress and I saved you.
In the early hours of the morning, I think of you, O Lord. Always you are there to help me.

I hope you don’t start this day with any difficulties, as I did. I’m sure you have enough problems. Your sick children, your spouse who seems so remote at times, the in-laws you wish weren’t coming to dinner today. Some of you are alone this day, and some of you wish you were. And some of you are sick, maybe very sick. Perhaps you, like I did yesterday, find it difficult to find words to say what you are thankful for. But I am sure that you, as I, know that there are many blessings in our lives – even if we often forget them.

The knowledge that God is with you in all your distress. Your ability to bear the worst pains and suffering. The knowledge that you have done so many good things in this world – even if they were unappreciated. The morning sunrise. The beauty of music. The love of an innocent child. You are so very blessed in your life. Your blessings aren’t measured by the things you have, or don’t – everyone will lose them some day.

Your blessings are measured in the very life you have, every breath you take. If God searched his immeasurable wisdom and sought to find the greatest thing he could give to you, he could find nothing greater than to give you life. It is your greatest blessing. He thought so much of this great gift to you that he willingly gave his own life, that you might have yours for eternity – with him. Greater love no man has …

This Thanksgiving morning think not of the difficulties in your life, think of how immeasurably blessed you are, and give thanks.

In the early hours of the morning, I think of you, O Lord. Always you are there to help me.

I wish you much love and peace this day, my friends. I am thankful for you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We Are Blessed

Orig: 10/30/08

A Final Thought Before the Election ...

A lot of friends are confused, scared, and worried about this election and what is happening in our country. In almost every paper you read of someone who has THE answer to our financial/credit/cultural problem, and then you read in some other papers of other people who are re-defining what the financial/credit/cultural problems are! And you realize that the first guys are moving forward with fixes to what the second guys are saying isn’t the problem!

What a mess.

My friends (and it seems a lot of strangers) who want to talk about the situation seem to focus their opinions on what to do in 3 areas: Who’s to blame; What they need to do to get financially secure again; and what they can do to help their neighbors in difficulty. I’ve talked – and prayed – about those three areas myself. But when someone asks me what I am praying for today, I answer that I am praying a prayer of thanksgiving for all God has done for me.

The last 25 years or so have been a wonderful time in our country. There have been ups and downs for me personally, but overall God has been very good to me, even having enabled me to be somewhat prepared to handle the present financial crises. Very few people in the world in the past 25 years have been as blessed as the people of this country. The best prayer we can say is one of thanks. And as for the future? Looking at how blessed we have been, how blessed the world has been – so totally unexpectedly – the only prayer I can think of is: I Trust in You. God has taken care of us in the past; He will take care of us in the future. Trust.

Oh, and what about the election, the subject of this note? I wouldn’t tell you who to vote for, because I know God can make good out of anything – so who am I to say how He would do it. Vote for who you think is best. But I did attach a sermon my parish priest gave a few weeks ago. He spoke on the most important topic in this election, but one rarely mentioned. You can download to your computer or ipod the actual sermon from my parish website . His words-- and choked back tears-- are better heard than read, although the tape cuts off before the spontaneous standing ovation he received.

My Gifts; My Responsibilities

Orig: 11/20/07

Tuesday, Week 25 Maintenance and Preservation

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you. -- 1Tim4:14

With a gift comes responsibility, whether it be spiritual or physical. The more valuable something is, the more maintenance, protection, and preservation it needs. We are wrong to think that because of God's grace we bear no responsibility for spiritual gifts, that God will simply take care of everything with no effort required on our part. He certainly is there to assist us, but he will not do what we are able to do -- in this case, to devote ourselves to study, prayer, and worship.

"Do not neglect your gift," the apostle said. The opposite of neglect is maintain. Thus, the instructions might be understood as "Maintain the gift that is in you." Paul was reminding Timothy that he was to be a steward of what had ben placed in him by God. Now it was his own responsibility to care for this spiritual heirloom.
Like Timothy, you have been entrusted with precious gifts. These gifts will not be used to their fullest unless you fulfill your responsibility to give them the proper maintenance and care. Listen to God; he will tell you what to do. After all, he's the manufacturer. He wrote the owner's manual.

Lord, you have given me valuable gifts to care for. Help me to be aware of my responsibilities. I am listening for your instructions.
Between Sundays - Shawn Craig

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How Do I Find God?

If you are truly someone looking, that is a tough question. I’ve written about how to find him in difficult situations in your life, but what if you don’t even know how to look? What if the idea of prayer, talking to an invisible being you’re not very sure even exists, is totally strange to you? Where do you start?

Might I suggest, from that very spot: “Are you there?” MY God said you need to have the faith of a child to get to heaven, so let’s start there. You think you want to look for God (in case he’s there), let’s start like a child. Let’s make believe he is there.

All faith is founded on trust. I trust in God because I believe his words that I have read or heard in my heart. You haven’t read or heard anything, well then start with trusting in yourself: in your mind’s eye, treat God as if he really is there, just as a child believes in his invisible friend. You may say that is totally silly – the child’s friend does not exist! Isn’t starting out that way just confirming that God doesn’t exist?

Not at all! I said faith is founded on trust. Why does the child invent the invisible friend? The child needs someone who is there, someone whom the child can talk to, someone who always understands the child’s feelings. Someone the child can trust. Isn’t that what lead you to this point? Isn’t that what you need?

So, start with the faith of the little child. Talk to God as if he were there. Tell him your concerns, as you would talk to a confidential, true friend. When you find some time, start to read some things about him – there are lots of books, Scripture, and even short pamphlets, but start. And you’ll not only find out some things about him, you’ll find more things to talk about. And you will begin to see and hear him in your life, and you will KNOW that He is no make-believe friend. He exists even as you and I do.

How do you find God? Make this start, this commitment, and He will find you.
Richard Dawkins, the atheist, says there is no god. As a scientist, he doesn’t understand many things, like how matter came to be created (perhaps aliens, he says) but he knows that eventually science will study, test, and prove that it can answer and understand ANYTHING. Mr Dawkins sincerely believes that if he lives long enough, he will understand the answer to things he doesn’t know now, and he will really know, for instance, how to create any thing, even matter. He will BE God! He believes this.

Come now, can you believe this “science”? What if you COULD create things, what would you create? Your thanksgiving dinner, with no work? Silly you! What would you have to give thanks for, and to whom? A new car? Why? You could teleport to places – or even bring them to you! Your enemies? Making ALL of them disappear might leave you alone in the world, but what about making them into purple, stupid elephants, or glowing red bugs, so you could stop on them from time to time?

You, God?? Come on, isn’t that funny to think of, much yet believe? You KNOW that can’t be the truth of things. You’re smarter than that! I guess that means I am saying, to some degree, that you are smarter than Mr Dawkins, despite all his knowledge (not wisdom, mind you) and all his degrees. Yes, I am saying that.

But ok, back to the beginning. You have some inkling about God, even as I suspect Mr Dawkins does. He believes, however, that he eventually might know all about God, and in fact expects that he would find God in the mirror. I don’t think you have that much confidence in science. But, you just don’t know. But you want to.

I think what you would really like is the convictions of the martyrs; they saw something, some ONE, so important and TRUE to life, that they would willingly give up their life for. Isn’t that what you want? An answer to all your “why’s”? Why the pains, why the suffering, why – even – all the silly joy? Why does it all happen? Why does it matter? Why do I matter? And if there is a God, does he care?

The answer, my friend, is at that turning point you are now at. Do you choose the atheist road of Mr Dawkins, and in answer to all your Why’s expect that at some point in the future, some person will eventually have all the answers, and they all come back to you. You exist only because of you. There is nothing else. There is no other meaning to your life that you can understand now, so until then, your life matters for nothing. There are no answers to your questions.

Or do you choose the road of believing in God? Either road starts with a commitment to go down that road. The road to God, however, has answers here and now to most of life’s questions. It is a road that can bring you peace in your life; it is a road which will give you the comfort that your life DOES have meaning; you ARE important. It promises to answer your why’s, some it is true only “dimly as though seen through a veil” for now, but it does promise YOU will see and know all clearly at a point in the future. YOU will know, not some distant human kin of yours.

Look at the history of mankind, as we know it. How many things were done in the name of human aggrandizement? How many things were done in the name of God? How many, with God in mind, were done with a purpose of helping our fellow man, done out of virtue, done out of love? Yes, you might point to evils done in the name of God, but for every evil you might point out – wars, murders, horrendous horrors – I can point out similar evils done out of supreme ego, the narcissism of the men who recognize no god but themselves. The evils of mankind measure nothing for they accomplish nothing, the goods do.

Look at the goods, how many good things were done in the name of God. There is a reason for that; because he IS good, he is truth, he is love. That is the definition of God.

Finding God starts with your curiosity, and your wanting to find him – if he is there. This is the first step to finding out the truth, any truth, WANTING to find it.

If you don’t believe in God; if you don’t trust in God; if you feel all alone: start this “search for truth”. If you sincerely look for God, I believe you will be surprised to find that He is looking for you. You won’t find him; he will find you. And he will have great Joy.

So will you.

I read from my bible this morning: Make every effort to undergird your virtue with faith, your discernment with virtue, and your self-control with discernment; this self-control, in turn, should lead to perseverance, and perseverance to piety, and piety to care for your brother, and care for your brother, to love. Qualities like these, made increasingly your own, bear fruit in true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Start with your virtue, your wanting to do good, then add faith and you will get discernment. Add a commitment, a self-control, and you will get perseverance, then piety, then a sincere caring for your brother, and then a sincere love. These qualities will then lead to a TRUE, confident knowledge of God, who IS love. This sounds like a good path to be on to me. It’s the one I chose.

Which road will you take?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why Read This?

I feel that some may be glancing at this blog from time to time to see what may be of interest. Others may believe that some of these words are mine only, a personal story to be read about me and my thoughts – which too often may appear “heavy or preachy.”

That is not why I write, nor why you should consider reading.

I really don’t believe anything I write is “interesting”. If that is what you seek, there are more fun-filled sites to entertain you. My words are personal sometimes, true, but only insofar as they pertain to answers I have perceived to calm my own anxieties, my worries, my stresses in this life, and I believe my experiences may help calm your fears also. Yes, that is sometimes heavy stuff. “Do Not Be Anxious” IS the title of this blog.

And there are some words I write (or re-present from others) that are not meant for me. I get no great insights from them, yet I believe them important. I feel compelled to write them even as I am sometimes compelled to sneeze. I can’t stop it, and I don’t know why. Perhaps there are some small “germs” in the words that you are meant to catch out of the air.

I spend time most mornings in meditation. Sometimes ten minutes, sometimes an hour. Usually I read some words of The Liturgy of the Hours, Scripture or saintly authors, and my mind ponders. Sometimes I write. It is in that spirit, words to be meditated upon, as I do, that I write this blog.

If you read these words in that serious spirit, asking of God: “Lord, what would you have me do?” and still come away with nothing of value from these words --- then laugh!! At least in that way they will make you feel better. And the laughter will relieve, even if for only a moment, your anxieties. And then the time I spent writing this will have been worth it. :-)

Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ. (Eph 4: 29-32)

And I Prayed

And I prayed:

“Lord, be with me now, and stay with me throughout this day. Give me your presence, so that I may bring you to all I meet.”

“Lord, show me how I should bring you to my mother. I know she needs you, yet in her dementia she no longer remembers, no longer understands. Bringing you to her in communion would almost seem a desecration. Lord, I leave her into your care.”

And then it seemed I understood:

Don’t you know that you bring me to her each day? With every kind word, with every loving gesture, she knows you care. She sees it is you, but her heart knows it is me. She no longer needs to pray rosaries or go to mass to receive my body. Through you, she receives my spirit. In her innocence, all she knows and understands is love. I am love. You bring me to her.

Until she comes to be with me forever, she is content, as am I. Be not anxious, my son, be not anxious.

I then prayed Padre Pio’s “Prayer after Holy Communion”, as I love to do. The words again seemed to speak to me, as I spoke them to Him:

“Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light and without You I am in darkness.
Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You.
Stay with me, Lord, for it is You alone I look for, Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more.
With a firm love, I will love You with all my heart while on earth, and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity.”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Letter to the Editor

I wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, in response to a previously printed letter. The original letter was from a doctor who was very concerned about people, people in need. In fact, she sounded anxious in her concerns. So my response seems appropriate to print here also, even if it never makes the paper.

Dear Editor:

A recent letter expressed a doctor’s concerns for her patients; she sees their problems first hand. “I talk to families every day who have suffered from the effect(s of) this economy.” “My representative seems to be working in direct opposition to the needs of the working families -- irresponsible.” “I do know we just can’t ignore these problems any longer.”

I understand her concern, most of us do, but I don’t see the same path to a solution. She states: “I talk; I know;” and transitions to a “we” must do something. Her deep concerns turn to a scream out the window: “Somebody must do something!” And that somebody is in Washington. I don’t agree.

Perhaps another example to clarify: If you see a man drowning, or a man starving, do you say: “Somebody” must do something, or do YOU do something? A wise man once gave us examples like this, and even a commandment on what to do. The commandment was not to “Love the public as yourself”, it was to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Love is a very personal act; it is one-to-one. This man worked miracles; he could have cured the ill in whole towns, whole countries. Why didn’t he?

Because he wanted to give us an example of love, an example for us to follow.

The Catholic Church has a great social teaching on “subsidiarity”. It says that if you have a problem, the first source of solution should be yourself. And if you see a neighbor with a problem, the first source of assistance should be you. And if together you can’t reach a solution, then seek your neighborhood, then your church, then your city, etc. The government is not without a role, but it is the LAST choice. Solutions should always start with you.

Ninety percent of people are employed, only 10 percent not. Over two hundred million have insurance, only 25 do not. You don’t know how to act on these big problems yourself, then get together with 8 others to help the one unemployed. It starts with helping one. Talk to your neighbors, your subdivision group, your church, your city. Rally your neighbors.

You have time. Volunteer to do what you do best – fill out tax returns, cook in a soup kitchen, offer day care, work in a clinic. You have a rainy day fund. Hire an unemployed person to do work around your house. And all of this, to what impact? Read Saturday’s WSJ article on the heart surgeon who decided to do something, and now routinely does $100,000 surgeries for $2,000. You CAN make a difference.

“Do something for your fellow man for which you get no pay” (Albert Sweitzer). You have a rainy day fund in case you may have needs? For many of your neighbors, it is raining. Hard. Now.

“Somebody must do something?” That someone is you.

And what of our politicians? I’ve spoken to my representative McCotter a number of times. He recognizes that the government is not the solution to most social problems. Large programs create bureaucracy, dispassion, and large centralized expenses – a breeding ground for greed and corruption, and inefficiency. Dispassion is the key problem with the government solution; there can be no love in dispassion, only attempts at cost efficiency – regardless who pays the cost. I support Mr. McCotter’s efforts. I’ve hired my unemployed neighbor to do work for me.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

We always have something to be thankful for, even if we must sometimes search for it. Tomorrow the 1-8 Detroit Lions team will play the 1-8 Cleveland team. Something to give thanks for?? Well, I happened to read my email to friends from last year. It's all relative.

Orig: 11/26/98

As I prepare to head over to mom's for the weekend, I took a last glance at my emails and saw this. I guess it probably summarizes best what I really have to be thankful for right now.

Of course, I am thankful for you guys also. Each one of you made a difference in my life, whether you realized it or not, whether you are reaching for the delete button right now or not. And I am thankful.

Hope you have a very happy holiday and get some rest this weekend.

And if you are having some trouble feeling thankful, remember my note that
said: "Never say: Things can't get any worse". I mean, for example, here in Detroit, the Lions (1-10) will be on tv playing an 11-0 team. I may turn
the game on for a while for mom -- she likes to watch cartoons. :-)

Blessings to you guys,

Daily E-Spirations from Franciscan University
One evening I was in the chapel praying-whining, actually. 'God, do you care? Are you there? Do you hear me?' I recall so clearly God breaking in and that moment telling me that he loved me. I was taken aback, since it had been some time since I had really been able to hear God. 'Well, it is nice to hear from you. But the issue is not your loving me. It is about pain, and death and darkness.' Once again, I heard God tell me that he loved me. I sat in that small chapel and wept. He was right (there, I said it). It was about his love for me. In the midst of everything, God had not abandoned me. He was there and he loved me."

Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR
Spiritual Freedom: God's Life Changing Gift, Servant Books

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Am In Control --- Not!

I was reminded last night of one final (I promise) analogy of us being in control of the vehicles of our lives, and Christ being our passenger, always along by our side.

I’ve written of me being in control, and Christ helping to guide me. I’ve written of unavoidable detours and rough roads not chosen, and Christ being there to give me strength for the tough journies I have to make. But I haven’t written about the end of the road, and that too is part of the journey. And some of us are there, or have been.

What about the passenger of a plane in a fatal tailspin? What of the car which hits black ice and goes over a cliff? What of the person in sudden terror which drives his blood pressure to heart attack heights? What of the spouse who hears his mate say “I give up; I want a divorce”. When we see the end coming upon us quickly and no steering of ours will change outcomes, what then of our need to be in control of our lives?

We’re not.

I used to always feel in control of my life, even when the outcomes of my choices were disastrous. Only in my most recent years have I recognized that I am not alone in my journey, and now I readily invite God along, even if I sometimes treat him as just someone to talk to, to help pass the time on life’s tedious pathways. I was reminded again last night however (as has happened to me before), how comforting it is to know he is there by my side when the “ROAD ENDS” sign jumps up in front of my path.

Mom had an unusually bad night yesterday. The annoying ringing in her ears (“What’s that noise outside?”) became a focus of her dementia, and she couldn’t ignore it. “Who’s outside making all that noise?” “Look! The curtains are moving; they’re getting into the house!” “They’re banging on the front door; look! The door is shaking!” “BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM – you want to make noise, I’ll make more!!”

No words I wrote on the whiteboard would calm her (she can’t hear). “Mom, there is no noise, it’s just ringing in your ears”, was met with “I can’t help it if you’re deaf; they’re breaking into my house!!” “LA, LA, LA, LA, LA, I CAN MAKE MORE NOISE THAN YOU PEOPLE OUTSIDE!!”

And I felt the pressure rising in my head; a quick check showed my blood pressure had risen about 30 points in 15 minutes. I took some medication to relax me, but calming myself down while mom ranted and screamed seemed hopeless.

I was not in control, not at all.

But it was then that I was able to set back on the chair, ignore the events around me and remember my passenger, and say “Well God, I’ll let you be in control now.” And while my blood pressure didn’t drop, it stopped rising. And even mom, who through everything can always remember she loves me, asked: “Do you have a headache? OK, I’ll try to be quiet.” And she did quiet her agitation – somewhat.

It was over an hour later that mom asked to be taken to bed. As I tucked her in, she said her usual “You know I love you.” I checked my blood pressure as I was about to leave, and it was back near normal.

I don’t know if I could have been dying, but I certainly wasn’t in control last night, no more than a drug addict or an alcoholic is in control (no matter how much they want to be – or think they are) when the deliriums hit. But for me, as I know it is for them, I know the “ROAD ENDS” sign we may see before us doesn’t have to be a “dead” end. No matter how close to the brink we are, even if we are off the cliff, God can take control if we but ask him. You know stories of survivors in a plane crash, drunk drivers who walk away from demolished vehicles, and hopeless sinners who turn their lives around.

As long as we are alive, the road does not have to end. And even if we see the signs which tell us we are beyond hope, we’re not. Only He is in charge of the end of our journey, and if he wished he could litterly make us take off and fly above any tragedy in our path. With Him, we could soar.

All it takes is for us to trust him with a chance: “OK, I’m not in control any longer. Please Lord, take charge of my life.” Miracles can happen, if we let them.

I know.

No matter how much your life is out of control, my friend, never give up. Your life never has to be out of control, perhaps just out of YOUR control. Even if, and when, your final day does inevitably come, your life will not be out of control, it will just have a different driver. And he DEFINITELY knows the way. And if, before then, it appears totally out of your control, well, just move over and let him take a test drive. I mean, he’s not some teenager; he’s been driving a lot longer than we have. You can trust him.

My Jesus, in all things, in all ways, for always, I WILL trust in You.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Choose To Love

Yesterday we gave thought to the “road not chosen”, the one many of us are on. Life may be difficult, but we noted that we are not alone, and that gives us some comfort and peace. I fear that the statement I made, “we are not alone”, was an assumption on my part, and perhaps some of you read yesterday’s meditation and said to yourself: “well, you are not living my life. I AM alone (or it seems I am); there is no one to help me; it is a burden you can’t lift with your simple words.”

I assumed those who would read the words I wrote would take pause, and meditate on their meaning, as said, and unsaid. But I DO know what people say the word “assume” means: it makes an ASS of U and ME. So I can understand your quick rejection of what I wrote. By themselves, my words are meaningless and make no sense. It takes a context in your heart to give them meaning, at least the meaning I intended. Fortunately, today I read some more words, much better than mine, which helped frame my thoughts and perhaps will give my prior words more meaning to you. The words I read today are the words of my mentor, St. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians (1Cor 12:31-13:13).

Let me try to make clear, both Paul’s words and mine. Let me give you the context of both, as I feel it in my heart, then perhaps you might feel it also.

First, my words: The path we are on is one made by God; surely you can accept that as a given context, can you not? I mean, he created all things, even you, so certainly all the things you see and feel and live through were created by him also – so we are on the path he made for us.

And if we are on a path he created, isn’t it reasonable to assume that he maintains the path and the creatures he put on it? In part, he would do this because of the destination of the path: heaven. The path is destined to end with him. He has a personal interest in our travels because we are going to his house. And we know this because he said so; go find it written in so many places in Scripture. Then go read the ancient philosophers and even some modern scientists. They know he is there as creator, and accept a life eternal. The knowledge of who we are and where we’re going isn’t “rocket science”.

But maybe my words thus far still haven’t gotten to your heart. Perhaps you can accept what I’ve written and can agree that our life is laid out by him, and perhaps even that he DOES travel the road with us – the passenger in our vehicle of life as we go down the road, together. Even with acceptance of this you might say: Yeh, but so what if he IS with me? If he is silent and does not give me directions, I might as well be alone. Why does it make a difference to me if he is just “there”?

That is the crucial question, one which I assumed in my earlier words because I can feel the answer in my own heart -- but perhaps you don’t in yours. This is one place where the English language again fails me; I can’t say the right words to convey my meaning here; the words that “I FEEL something in my heart” do not state the truth fully. It is something beyond a “feeling” generated by the senses, it is also a truth generated in my soul, in my very being. When I describe Jesus as being a passenger along with me in my life, I KNOW he is there, whether he says a word or not. And I KNOW what he feels for me, whether he ever expresses it or not. I KNOW!

And this brings us to the words of Paul (I know, I am long-winded, and I apologize in abstentia to those who were bored and stopped reading by now.):

I know that God loves me, and he loves you. I know his love resulted in all his creation, and me. I know, in love, he travels the road with me. I know that the commitment which we made, to our elderly parent, to our ailing spouse, to our troubled child, or to the vocation which seems so difficult, I know that we continue in that commitment out of love, the love which starts with Him and flows through us. I love because He first loved me. St. Paul reminds us of this kind of love:

Love is patient, O Lord I can’t imagine your patience with me! Unfortunately, I so often see my own impatience with those you bring into in my life. Love is kind, but how often my actions arise out of what I feel at the moment, and I am anything but kind. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, how often I answer not Your call, but the call of the world: I’m Number One! So many things I do, so many things I worry about, are all about me. Your example, how unselfishly you love me, is the one I need to show to those in my life. It is not prone to anger – “prone” is the right word; how easily I let things disturb my peace. Woe is me if You were so easily prone to anger at me, as I am at others. It does not brood over injuries, because love forgets wrongs. You showed me the example, Lord, in so many of your parables, real love is like a Father’s love – it loves always. Always.

I want to make this kind of commitment, this love.

There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure. It’s the answer to the question: “Why does it make a difference if He is just there?” It makes a difference because I know that he loves me, with no limit, with trust, with hope, and despite all my wrongs, all my failures to love as he loves me – despite it all – he will endure in his love. I KNOW this. This is His love. This is what I must seek to learn in my life, to love my elderly parent, to love my ailing spouse, to love my troubled child, to love the commitments I made to God and his children: I will love. I will love as he loves me, as I KNOW he loves me.

Love never fails. Never is a long time. I’ll not complete a commitment like that in this life, but I can start. Even if I do fail, I can get up and start again. I can do these things, I can continue even this difficult journey, because He is with me. He shows me the way; he gives me the example. And I’ll learn to love better, if I WILL to go on, if I make the commitment, even if it is hard. If I can accept that I am not alone in this path of life: He designed it; he knows its pitfalls; then he will walk with me until the end.

My knowledge is imperfect now; THEN I shall know even as I am known. My commitment to love is imperfect in this life, but if I continue on, it shall be perfect, just as his is. I await eagerly: THEN.

My life is not easy, my friends. Even as I write the words in this blog to help you cope with the anxieties in your life, I have many of my own. The walk we take is difficult, and I believe the only way we can succeed in this life, to be who He made us to be, to go where He destined us to go, to find Joy, the only way to find all these things is to WILL to continue on that walk. It is our commitment which makes this life easier. And our commitment is easier if we have someone holding our hand.

I know someone is holding my hand. And I pray you reach out and grab on to that hand that awaits yours. We can bear this life, we can have Joy in this life, if we commitment to love, love with all its meanings. Real love. Real commitment. You and I, we can will it to be. We won’t be perfect, but we can commit to be. We can say:

I Choose to Love.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Road Not Chosen

We’ve previously read about and thought about the importance of prayer, and asking God to be with us in our journey through life. We need his constant guidance to help us stay the course, get past all the lures of this world, and avoid the deep traps of sin. The thoughts we’ve dwelled on thus far have always viewed us, through our free will, as being at the wheel, with God along as our invited passenger. We gain comfort from knowing that we are in control, but we are not alone.

But what of the times when we are not in control? What about when our life goes down a course we did not choose, but we can’t avoid? My own thoughts when this occurs are ones of panic: I hold the steering wheel tighter; I steer to avoid the worst potholes and oncoming traffic; and yes, I pray.

I want to get control of things again. I NEED to get control again.

You and I have been in that situation, perhaps even now: caring for the elderly parent, living with the fallen spouse, or caring for the autistic child. Maybe even, continuing in the vocation we chose for our life, but now have some regrets. Living a life not really of our choosing (or at least wondering if we would choose it today, if we could do it over), but despite our perceived burdens, honoring our pledge to God and those we love. Year after year -- after year -- our commitment goes on. This is a road you did not choose; this is a sin you did not commit, yet sometimes wonder why it seems you are being punished.

What now of the image of you, going down this bumpy road in your life, and Christ your passenger? Why does he seem to offer no advice, as if he’s sleeping while we wearily go on? We thought he’d help us keep to the straight and narrow way, but this seems like some kind of detour, a rough road we WILL commit to continue on, but secretly look forward to a smoother stretch. When will our life get easier?

Perhaps, never.

That’s a hard thing to contemplate, that this rough road IS our life. We look at others and wonder why, or if, we might not enjoy life as they live, even if only for a short while.

There is so much which can be said about no one having a smooth road of life, “everyone goes through bumps – that’s life”. There’s so much could be said about “you think this is bad, you should see what God is saving you from.” You’ve probably thought about those things, but especially on some of the very bad days, that doesn’t seem to help at all.

I understand.

Recently I spoke with a priest friend about the times when he, or I, am addressed by a friend with a very serious problem, for which no words of charity or empathy seem appropriate. I said that I look up at a nearby crucifix and silently ask: “What do you want me to say?” He remarked: “Sometimes the best friend in especially difficult situations is the one that can just listen.”

We need to remember that God IS our best friend. As we travel through the roughest roads, he IS there with us. We might wish some form of relief of our plight, of our anxieties, but for reasons that only he knows, we ARE on the right road, albeit a difficult one.

And he is with us. While we steer around all the even worse events, it is a comfort to know that we are not in this trial alone. Gain that comfort. Remember: He IS with us.

He is with us.

Lord Jesus, when times are difficult, be with me.
Hold my hand. Listen to my sorrows. Dry my tears.
And Jesus, be with me. Be with me.

Who from our mothers’ arms, has blessed us on our way,
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this gracious God, through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts, and blessed peace to cheer us;
Preserve us in his grace, and guide us in distress,
And free us from all sin, till heaven we possess.
Now Thank We All Our God (Hymn, source unknown)


Thank you, Lord, for the gift of yourself, in Communion, with me.
Thank you, Lord, for your presence.
Please stay with me always; I need you.

Thank you for all you have done for me, and those who you bring to me.
All that I have, all that you have given to me, I offer to you.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace …

Thank you, Lord, for this day. Help me to use it well.
As I go forth, may not mine but your presence come to those I meet,
That their day may be blessed.

You are such a wonderful gift; I am nothing but a wrapping.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Just A Closer Walk ...

I once wrote of the “Way to San Jose”, and how to best to get there. Perhaps it is because I am a man, that I don’t take directions very well – even my own. (I even have a sweatshirt given to me by someone who probably knows me very well. It reads: “The Code of Manhood: Don’t ask for directions; I know the way”.

But I get lost so often ….

“I don’t start out to sin, to lose my way ….” But that’s not true. In the very first word of that thought, I was already getting lost: the word “I”. So often “I” start out, alone. Yet I know, as in the Way to San Jose, the certain way to get to San Jose is to take Him along, the one who knows the way. Yes, take Him, with all the baggage I sometimes perceive Him to bring along: His commands, His rules, His constant reminders along the way: “You’re going the wrong way!”

Sometimes I think of a journey with Christ as similar to one with a nagging wife. And that’s not a bad analogy, because often in my heart I think: “Look what you’re saying to me! Look what you ask of me!” And even sometimes, “Look how you hurt me!” Those words come so easily.

The problem with that way of thinking is largely one of emphasis. I say or think the word “you” in my statements, as if with my admonition He (or my nagging wife) must change. And He (and probably she) won’t, and you and I both know why. And it frustrates me.

I say or think “you”, but in truth my real emphasis is on the word “me”. What you’re doing to “me”. I’m worrying about me. My focus is on me, what I want, what I want to feel, where I want to go. ME, I. And even my words, as voiced or sometimes only thought, so often focus on me. No wonder I so often get lost in sin, I start out on my journey alone. When temptation comes, as it does so often, I get in my car and start driving to a destination, and I forget to ask HIM along, the one that knows the way to a better destination; the one who won’t let me get lost. If only I can get past the need to travel alone; to not be afraid to ask for directions!

Sometimes as I travel this life, I think I AM speaking to God; I can even look Him in the eye, briefly, and think we see each other clearly. I’m fooling myself. Most often, as I drive down the road, when I speak to Him and look Him in the eye, He is as the driver in oncoming traffic. I see where He is going; He is near my path, I can briefly even look Him in the eye, but then His car passes by and is quickly behind me, and I don’t really know where he is going – and it’s certainly not with me. And I fool myself into thinking we had some kind of “encounter” – when the truth of the matter is that if I REALLY had an encounter with Him at that point, it would have been in the form of a head on collision! That would have woken me out of my daydreaming!

If we really want to speak with God in our travels through life, He must be a passenger in our car; we must be going in the same direction. And if I am speaking to and REALLY LISTENING to Him, it won’t be as hearing a nagging wife, because my focus will not be on ME as we converse. We will have a real and true conversation because my focus will be on Him. And I’ll know that any directions He speaks, even if they sound like nagging at the moment, are out of a sincere, deep, and never-ending love. That’s how you feel about someone to whom you made a commitment to be faithful to forever.

He made a commitment to me to go with me to a wonderful destination, to get there with me – no matter how many times “I” lead us astray. He loves and admonishes me even as the Father does. Only my stupidity and stubbornness sometimes sees it as nagging, and forgets the underlying love I know is there.

I can drive through my life as if I alone am in charge, and I alone know the way. The key words there, of course, are “alone”.

I don’t want to be alone.

If you want to follow Me, you must renounce yourself.

I Thought You Were My Friend ...

Et tu, Brute? There are many hurts in life, but perhaps none worse than betrayal by a friend.

It hurts, but it should not hurt because they no longer give you what you want, but because they seem to no longer be the one who you chose to love. And you ask yourself: “Are they still worth my love; did I err in my commitment?” And you seem alone in your grief.

Psalm 55
O God, listen to my prayer, do not hide from my pleading,
attend to me and reply; with my cares, I cannot rest.

If this had been done by an enemy I could bear his taunts,
if a rival had risen against me, I could hide from him.

But it is you, my own companion, my intimate friend!
How close was the friendship between us. We walked together in harmony in the house of God.

The traitor has turned against his friends.

Entrust your cares to the Lord and he will support you.
He will never allow the just man to stumble.

O Lord, I will trust in you.

Lord Jesus, you were rejected by your people, betrayed by the kiss of a friend, and deserted by your disciples. Give us the confidence that you had in the Father, and our salvation will be assured.
Liturgy of The Hours Book IV, Friday, Week IV


“… pray without ceasing.” (1Thes 5:17)

But every time I try to pray, something distracts and interrupts me. I worry that God will give up on me.

Padre Pio’s assurance: “Do not be surprised at your distractions and spiritual aridity. This derives partly from the senses and partly from your heart which is not entirely under your control. But, your courage which God granted you is irremovable and constantly determined. Therefore, live tranquilly. You must not be anxious, however long this evil lasts.”

“Live humbly; be docile and in love with your heavenly spouse. Do not be upset by any infirmities and weaknesses into which you could fall. … Because just as one often falls without realizing it, in the same way, without realizing it, we will arise.”

“Don’t upset yourself over this, but humbly and frankly confess before God what you noticed, and place it at the sweet mercy of him who sustains those who fall without malice, so that they do not suffer any harm. He picks them up so sweetly, that they do not realize they have fallen because the hand of God sustained them in their fall ….”

Lord, teach me to be patient with myself, so that, during prayer, I do not allow those inevitable distractions to discourage me. Amen.
Padre Pio’s Words of Hope (P48)

Election Thoughts -- Revisited

A year has passed. So much seems to have happened; so little seems to have changed. It seems that people are concerned more nowadays about what is happening in Washington than ever before. (For the first time in my life, I have blood pressure problems.) Perhaps because it directly affects them more than ever before, affects them on crucial matters of life – and death. So I think it’s a good time to reflect on some thoughts from a year ago, when, despite my best efforts, anxieties began to increase:

Orig: 11/13/08

I’m sure you’re eagerly awaiting my thoughts on the election results. Some I expect VERY eagerly – that’s ok, I can handle any “gotcha” replies you might want to send. And should you not give a whit about my thoughts, well, that’s why your page, like mine, has a delete button.

You may not agree with my thoughts, but I do think you’ll be surprised.

I hope you have a happy and blessed day.

A Meditation: Are Martyrs a Bad Thing?
Last week a black man won the U.S. presidency. My initial feelings were that some innocent human beings, who would continue to die – and perhaps in growing numbers, via abortion -- lost. And I had secondary concerns with the outcome’s impact on the U.S. economy (being in Finance, of course I know THE solution to ALL the country’s problems – and darn, nobody’s asked me that yet).

Upon some reflection and prayer, however, I could see that perhaps my initial concerns were misplaced.

I didn’t care about the color of the skin of the presidential contenders, and to some degree I resented those who appeared to place great emphasis on it. I would have been chastised (and rightly so) if I said I were voting on the basis of color, yet huge numbers of minorities obviously voted that way. I did not call those people stupid, but I did feel they were ignorant (there’s a fine point there – think on it) on the importance of some other issues, including the value of human life.

Upon further reflection, perhaps I was the one who was ignorant.

I’ve known for a long time that there is a cultural issue associated with some minorities which I cannot logically understand. I saw it concretely during the O.J. trial, when black friends and co-workers looked at the same evidence I saw and yet reached radically different conclusions. And I couldn’t call those people stupid or ignorant – I knew some of them were definitely smarter than I was, and so we had to just “agree to disagree”. The same facts could be interpreted differently by each of us, and I could never quite understand why. Aren’t facts the facts? Isn’t truth the truth?

What caused me to change my initial feelings about the outcome of this recent election was the reaction of various black people and other minorities in subsequent days. I was told Oprah came out the next day holding flags, crying, and singing God Bless America. Other prominent blacks and Hispanics said: “I thought I’d never live to see this”, and “I kept my kids up all night to watch the tremendous, wonderful event”.

Huh? That was my initial reaction when I heard of these cries of happiness of these people. “Never thought I’d see this”??? What?? Well…. I did. A black president didn’t surprise me, nor would a Hispanic one, nor a Muslim one. This is America. Once again, I got that eerie feeling that I didn’t understand something here. I lived in this country; I saw the issues of the election race; I listened to the candidates; and I was not surprised by the outcome. So why were these people? Why were these people so surprised, why did they see this as a life-changing event, and why did they vote in such a block and seem oblivious to what I thought were extremely critical issues?

I may have found the answers to my questions in my prayers – both past and present.

During the election I did pray for some concrete things, like an end to abortion, but I always ended my prayers with a recognition of my ignorance of God’s will and power: “I know You can do these things because You said if I have faith, You could move mountains. I have faith, and so I trust that you can do the things I pray for --- although I do not pretend to know how”. So, I prayed for God’s will to be done in this election, and I trust it has. So what of the results which troubled me and the wild enthusiasm by minorities which confused me? Perhaps, just perhaps, they are God’s answer to my prayer.

If – for reasons I can’t understand – blacks and other minorities believed they couldn’t be equal in America, that their children couldn’t get equal jobs, that a majority of white-skinned people had a latent fear or hatred of them, that there was little real hope for their lot to improve in any way – wouldn’t that terribly depressing view of self overwhelm any other logical, reasonable views they may have – perhaps even views of their God? I saw in the Old Testament where many times Jews lamented and despaired of God ever coming to help them, despite all the evidences and promises they had to the contrary. What if U.S. minorities had a similar, lingering, generations-old despair? What would this election mean to them? Might it not mean exactly what I saw in voting patterns and exuberance over the results – neither of which I could quite understand?

Perhaps these results might be, as many minorities exclaimed, an answer to their prayers. Perhaps, truly, it was an answer to mine as well. Perhaps minorities will now come to know that they are exactly like me – and really believe it in their hearts. Perhaps in future elections, they will look beyond the color of a man’s skin (knowing that any man can be elected) and focus on more important issues. Perhaps they will instill in their children a new hope and confident outlook. Perhaps their Christian churches will join with all Christian churches in this country and fight for what is right, fight for the real Truth. Perhaps. There are many things I don’t understand about God, and how He works. But I trust.

And what of the key issue I was concerned with: abortion? I often worry that no one speaks for these little lives and so I must stand up and be counted. Perhaps I forget that God also speaks for them. Perhaps He sees the unity of His churches and people, and the giving of them hope, resulting from this election as a more important, necessary, first step to healing this country, and He accepts the little martyrs as necessary, for now, to advance the real truth, His Truth.

And so is continuing abortion in this country and more little martyrs absolutely such a bad thing? I can’t know that as an absolute truth. And I trust in Him who knows all Truth.

Perhaps everyone should be celebrating the election of Mr. Obama, and God’s answering of all of our prayers. Perhaps.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Words to Think On

Sometimes in my morning readings, I find many words to think on:

If I am not at peace with myself, I make others pay for my unhappiness.

Those who close themselves off from love of others, close themselves off from what is best about themselves.

I’m convinced that people several centuries ago didn’t find it as hard to love themselves as we do now. The rejection of God over the last three centuries was accompanied by the illusion that guilt would be eliminated in this way and human beings would finally be free and happy. But those who thought like that forgot something: without God, humankind must carry on its own the weight of distress, misery, and failings of all kinds. Self-esteem must be based on the certitude that, whatever happens, I am loved and I can love. And only God can guarantee that.

One of the most authentic expressions of the desire for truth is humility: the ability to recognize one’s errors, to allow oneself to be educated by others and by life, to escape the trap of always having to be right and getting to have the last word, which does so much harm to relationships and often gets in the way of truth.

Another indispensable attitude is that of consent to the situation in which we find ourselves, especially consent to suffering.

Another attitude necessary for discerning God’s calls is willingness to be accompanied. No one is self-sufficient. As St. John of the Cross remarks, God wills that we need one another: “God is extremely pleased that people are governed and directed by other people similar to themselves.” How good it is to know that one can turn to someone else and speak candidly about what one is experiencing, in the confidence that this is a way of receiving God’s light!
Called to Life (pp 70-81), by Jacques Philippe

Are You a Zombie?

Is your life sometimes on “automatic”?

I attended a talk by a well-known author last night. I had high expectations for the value of his talk, and invited a number of friends to attend with me. Fortunately, most begged off attending, and the talk was a disappointment.

While the talk was billed as being about actions to consider in America today, author spoke mostly about information provided in a book written by someone else 50 years ago, which could be applicable today – and I had read that book. I learned nothing new.

To me, his speech seemed to be “on automatic”. It seemed just “another” talk to him, one he had probably given many times before. Granted, I was only one of hundreds to hear him, and most people I spoke with afterward were happy with the talk; some even talked of new insights they had received. I’m happy for them. It was, however, another opportunity for the speaker to speak with passion, and reach people who needed to hear some of the great words he has to say – that God has given him to say. I know he has been giving words in the past; I have read his books, and given copies of his speeches to others. But to me, last night, he was on automatic.

Like the author, we’ve all been blessed with some special words we could say. We all have some people who enter our life who need to hear those words. But sometimes, I think, we are all “on automatic”. We live our life impersonally – just punching the clock. We go through our day and our minds wander from the task at hand -- it just seems so boring. We don’t need to think to do it. And if we are working on some assembly line job, I guess that is ok. Where it is not ok, however, is when we deal with people, especially people who need our personal attention in what we do, and in what we say. And, I think to some degree, they all do.

Our inattention is especially sad when people have come to us in need and expectation: they have come needing our attention. And we just “punch the clock”, saying “yes dear” to our spouse, responding to our son’s concerns with a “that’s interesting”, or waiting for that part of the mass where we can wake up and say “Amen”. And all the while the people who came were looking to us, waiting for us to say: “I love you”, “You are so important to me”, or “I understand”. And from our words and our actions, they were just waiting for a hug. They wanted, they NEEDED, to know we cared. And we didn’t even know it.

Don’t put the blessings you have received in some back corner of your mind; you are meant to share them. You are a special person, and others need a share of your “special-ness”. Don’t disappoint them. Live your life personally, giving of some part of yourself to each person you meet. They may be on automatic and not even hear you, but for some, they may NEED to hear the concern in your voice; they may need to hear the love in your heart; they may need the hug. To your co-workers, your friends, your family, be someone who is always there for them, not a zombie. They need you. By giving of yourself, you show that you love God, you love them, and you love and respect yourself.

I do.

None of us lives for one’s self (Rom 14:7)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Lost My Job -- Let's Party!

The Lord disciplines those He loves. (Heb 12:6)

Well, perhaps “Let’s Party” may be a bit over the top of a reaction to this example of the Lord’s discipline, even if it does show that he loves us. But we do need to keep things in perspective. If you have lost a job, you have lost ONLY a job – not your life, not everything, not forever. Your job does provide a critical measure of your self-worth and your financial well-being, I agree, but then perhaps you value your worth too highly.

If you are now inclined to argue aloud with these words as you are reading them – because these things are not a laughing matter, then I invite you to go read the Book of Job again. He and his friends were also inclined to rail against bad news, against their sufferings. They eventually found humility, however, and they found (perhaps to their surprise) that even the worst does pass. Bad things are just a trial in this life. No one lives who does not have bad things happen to them at some point.

Even God.

(Perhaps you need to read the Gospel of John again, also. Some pretty bad things happened to Jesus there; yep, pretty bad.)

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you. (1Thes 5:18)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hey! I'm Dying Here ...

Sometimes it’s good to read Bible commentaries where the author goes back to the oldest language translations. Literal word-by-word translations into English often don’t really tell the intent of the original writer, and you need a much broader commentary in English to understand what was REALLY being said. Sometimes the English language just doesn’t have words with subtle enough meanings. So I was interested when I read, this morning, about a word which DOES have a nice subtlety in English.

When speaking about death, in English we can say that we are killing someone, or someone is killing us. But the word dying is a much more personal word. We can say we are dying, but we can’t say someone is dying us (unless they’re changing our color!). Interesting. Dying is something only we can do; it’s a very personal thing, and the word really conveys it well.

And the word can be used not only to apply to our physical life.

We can die to our physical life, or we can die to our way of life. And in both cases, we’re the ones effecting the change. We can die to a former way of living, and no one can do it for us. Even our language recognizes this. When we seem stuck in a rut, only WE can die to that condition, if we care to.

Most people think of Jesus as having stated two great commandments: Love God, and Love Neighbor. They’re wrong. Jesus stated THREE great commandments: Love God, Love Neighbor, and Love Self. The last one was so obvious that Jesus mentioned it only in passing, but it is no less important. “We” are what our life is all about. The three love commandments are like a 3-legged stool; for us to not fall over, all three need to be there, and all three support each other. We need to grow in holiness throughout our life, and an increase in all three of the loves are a measure of our progress. It’s kind of the stool we stand on to reach up to heaven.

We often forget to love ourselves, and life becomes all that much harder to live. We often do struggle to love God and neighbor, but don’t struggle to treat ourselves very well. And we are ALL worth loving. Yes, even you.

You need to die to some of those ways in which you are not loving yourself. You need to start to do caring things for yourself: your health, your education, your leisure, and your mental well-being -- and you will be in a better position to hold up your leg of the stool, AND to love your God and your neighbor.

Life is not lost by dying; life is lost, day by passing day, in every small, uncaring way.
- Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy All Saints Day

November first is the feast day of All Saints in the Catholic Church. Saints are those recognized by the Church as souls likely to be in heaven; men and women whose lives can be held up as models of how to lead a life which leads to heaven.

At the time of the apostles, the title “saint” was routinely applied to all followers of Jesus; Paul addressed his letters to them (see 2Cor 1). Later, saints were identified by an acclamation of the people, who recognized the especially holy within their midst. Deceased Saints were routinely prayed to in the early Church; you can visit the burial vaults under St Peter’s in Rome and read the scratching on the walls: Peter, Pray for us; Paul, Pray for us.

With the coming of many heresies in the first 500 years of the church, it became more debatable just who WAS a follower of Jesus, and at some point the Church of Rome began a more formal procedure for the identification of Saints, with a capital “S”. The procedure now involves requirements of two “certified” miracles supporting a formal petition for sainthood, and a hearing involving a Devil’s Advocate, who expresses points of skepticism of the holiness of the person.

One of the things I especially like about the Catholic Church is that it challenges its members to grow in holiness; it challenges every member to become a saint, to enter heaven. “Growing in holiness” recognizes that we won’t be perfect in this life, but we can get better. We can “practice” for heaven. And when we fail and fall back from our growth? Then the Church provides for confession and absolution of sins to get us going in the right direction again.

I like the idea of me being challenged to become a Saint. I suspect, however, there is little likelihood of me being formally proclaimed one by the Church. I could just imagine a formal hearing for my sainthood. The Devil’s Advocate and his friends would be holding a tailgate party outside, celebrating his victory beforehand. At the hearing, my promoter would walk in with a sheet of paper and a couple of lines about the few good things I had done. Then the Devil’s Advocate would drop a huge stack of papers on his desk as big as Nancy Pelosi’s health care bill, and say: “Let me begin …”.

Only by the great mercy of God would I ever win that debate!

Fortunately, even the Church admits that its process is by no means infallible. It identifies holy men and women, even those said to have performed miracles, as only likely to be in heaven, and it makes no comment about the likelihood of others being there. God is the final judge. There are some who expect that virtually everyone will get to heaven – Jesus is merciful; there are some who expect very few – the path is narrow.

I have read of “the glorious army of the saints in heaven”. As I gazed at the cross above the altar this morning though, I could see Jesus coming down and leading me, leading US. No, it’s not the army of the saints in heaven that I could see him leading, but the army of the saints here on earth. Us, he leads us into battle. He leads us to holiness. He leads us on the path to heaven, so that we can join together with all his Saints. All of his Church, together.

Come, Lord Jesus, and lead me. I will follow”.

A Daily Meditation

Orig: 11/09/07

A glance at the WSJ headlines today, a check of the markets, and a call from mom's. "The sky is falling", or so it seems. These things happened before I took the time to glance at today's meditations. How great God is to "calm the troubled waters".

The Opposing One

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore. -- 1Peter 5:5

God opposes the proud. What a heavy thought! We certainly need to have God working with us, not against us, so we must yield our need to be in control. We must invite him to become the Leader, Guide, and Shepherd while we become the followers, the students, the lambs.

Humility comes from a sense of total dependence on God, a complete trust in his faithfulness and care. In contrast, when we feel anxious, we are taking control. We're being bossy. Proud. We are saying, in effect, "God, hurry!! It's going to be too late! Please hurry!" We are wishing a situation would change from its present state to what it could be -- from God's timing to our timing.

On the other hand, if we are humble, we recognize that God is in control and that he is greater than we are. Then ours is a faith that ackowledges a bigger picture, a higher realm, than the one we may presently see.

So we boldly cast our anxiety and worry onto the greater one. We declare our dependence on him and fling away our independence. What a joy it is to do so, to place ourselves "under God's mighty hand" and to fix our eyes on Jesus, as he lifts us up -- in his time, not ours.

Lord Jesus, right now I throw my anxiety, my worry, and my pointless concern onto you. I humble myself under your mighty hand.

Between Sundays -- Shawn Craig Friday, Week 23.

November 9

"Blessed are those who mourn" (Mt 5:4). To emphasize the paradox, this beatitude might well be translated "Blessed are those who are not crowned with happiness." Semantically, then, the word "blessed" in the beatitudes has nothing to do with such words as "'happy"" or "well"". One who mourns certainly does not feel "well". In order to preserve the full vigor of the paradox, if that were the case, the beatitude would have to be translated "Happy are those who are not happy." But in that case what a strange "happiness"" is intended by the the word "blessed"?
It seems to me that the word has two temporal dimensions: it includes both the present and the future, although admittedly in a quite different sense. The present is represented by the nearness of God and his Kingdom that is promised to the one who mourns. That would mean, then, that precisely in the realm of suffering and mourning God and his Kingdom are especially close. When a person suffers and cries out, the heart of God is touched and moved in a special way. The crying out calls on him to "come down" (cf Ex 3:7).
This "present" of the divine descent that is implicit in the word "blessed" includes a future: God's still hidden presence will one day be revealed. This, then, is the true meaning of the beatitude: Do not be troubled by your afflictions; God is near to you and will be your abundant consolation. A remarkable summary of this whole paradox of Christian existence as refashioned by the suffering one has experienced and endured is to be found in 2 Corinthians 4:16: "'Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day."
The linear movement of our life toward death is answered by the circle of divine love, which becomes a new line for us -- a continuous and always advancing renewal of the life that is in us the more that life becomes simply a relationship between me and the Incarnate Truth: Jesus.

Co-Workers of the Truth, Meditations for Every Day -- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger