Saturday, February 27, 2010

Normal Anxieties -- Part II

The other day I wrote that it’s OK to be normal, and part of normal was sometimes being anxious. Picking up from Dr. Laura’s advice, I thought I had something worth sharing with you. What I wrote was incomplete. Dr. Laura’s five minutes of advice, which I summed up, were not worth five minutes of your reading. I saw that three events in my day were related, and then I reasoned, led by Dr. Laura’s reasoning, their relationship. I never gave it much deep thought; and never much asked God what He thought about my answer. He’s since shown me better.

I had a restless night that evening. For some reason, what I wrote came to mind. Although it all made sense, it seemed simple, too simple. It seemed as if I had just written down events of my day, and not something to meditate upon. I do not write this blog to tell you what happened in my day – I’m sure you think it boring enough without me getting into that. As I tossed and turned and the clock ticked on, I asked God “Why am I so restless tonight; did I miss something You said?” Then I recalled a line from Augustine: “You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You” (Confessions, Book I, Chapter 1). This famous line sums up Augustine’s whole teaching on man’s relationship to God. And I forgot it. I saw a relationship between the events in my day, and let a radio talk show host lead me to reason a solution to what I saw. I did. Alone. But I am not alone, and that is the REAL reason for not worrying about the events of my life, for not dwelling on anxieties. I don’t dwell on them because they are “normal”, but because I have faith in the words and promises of Jesus: He cares for the littlest things in this world; why wouldn’t He care for me? There’s no need to be anxious if we put our faith in Him. Our heart is restless until it rests in You.

I picked up Confessions and read some more of Augustine’s wonderful thoughts, including these:
Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you! Behold, you were within me, while I was outside; it was there that I sought you, and, a deformed creature, rushed headlong upon these things of beauty which you have made. You were with me, but I was not with you. They kept me far from you, these fair things which, if they were not in you, would not exist at all. You have called me, and have cried out, and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light, and have shone upon me, and you have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you. You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace. (Book 10, Chapter 27)

Certainly too late in my life I have found Jesus, and I also found Him too late in my considerations of what I wrote that day. After considering these things, I laid back down in bed and found peace, and was soon fast asleep. Delete from your mind, my readers, the words I previously wrote about what is normal; they didn’t go far enough. I didn’t read far enough; I didn’t think far enough; I didn’t ask God enough what He wanted me to say when I saw others’ anxieties before me.

The truth regarding anxiety is not simply as Dr Laura puts it, that anxiety is normal and Ok. Anxiety is normal and Ok BECAUSE, as Augustine reminds us, Jesus exists. It’s Ok to have normal anxieties and worries because Jesus said if we have just a little faith, in Him, all will be well. If we let our hearts rest in Him, we will not be restless anymore.

Lesson learned, Lord. I’ll try and be better. I’ll try and have faith – and act like I do.

I hope you too have a deep faith, my friends. And you are not like me (or Augustine), letting much of life pass by before I found my rest in the promises of Jesus. He waited a long time for me, to welcome His prodigal son home. I thought I knew what life and happiness were, but I had no idea until I put my trust in Him. I’ve written much in these posts about the way to Him, about the sadness of being alone without Him. He’s waiting, waiting for you too.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

That's Old News

Some days I wish I were closer to the Lord; I wish I had new words to say to Him, and He new insights to give me (and if they were good, I’d share them with you!). But some days are just … days.

I can read in the paper of horrible accidents, murders, and earthquakes. I can read a novel or even Scripture, and not remember what I read. I can see the pile of food for the poor at the church entranceway and think it’s just stuff in the way. Today, for me, that’s all old news. It’s just… so… boring.

Why is that? You experience it too; I know you do. The tasks at work may change, but sometimes they all seem the same. Different cars are on the road to work, but yours is on automatic as it drives you to the office – and perhaps you might, as I did, sometimes have a morning meeting in another building, but still your care drives automatically to your office. Then you lightly curse yourself (you should have laughed!) for your forgetfulness.

It’s snowing today. Again. Perhaps your kids were unruly this morning, or your spouse grumpy – again. Perhaps the frail relative you care for is especially trying; perhaps the baby is especially crying. On another day these things could really get you mad, but today all you can think is: That’s old news.

I guess much of life comes to us that way. Life gives us much of the same ol’, same ol’. We sometimes wish someone new would come along, or something interesting would happen to us. I guess that’s partly why when the pretty gal or guy walks by, we look up and smile, or we laugh at a surprise gift. Maybe we even scream when the boogeyman jumps up on the movie screen. And we like it; we like when that happens, it’s something new.

If you’ve been reading along these words and examples, perhaps you are starting to think: “Yeh, yeh, same ol’, same ol’, that’s old news.” Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! You are wrong!! Why?! Because contrary to what I just wrote you are NOT starting to think. And therein lies the problem.

Did you notice that everything I wrote, every example, pointed out things happening TO you, and your reactions? Did you think about that? The “old news” were things you’d seen, things that happened to you, things you observed, thinking about yourself. You’re waiting for “better” things to happen. Well, who do you think you are, some king or queen who sits back on the pillows waiting to be entertained? If the players aren’t new or funny, do you want to say: “Boring! Off with their heads! Next!” Is that how you feel some days?

Old news? I hate to make you think, my friends, but do you realize you are “news” also, and you can be very good news to others, if you choose to be. You can be the one who looks at his work assignment and says: “How can we make this better”, and proposes or even just mentions to a co-worker or boss a new slant – perhaps they will think “Well that’s news.” Perhaps you can let the person cut in front of you on the expressway (who was going to anyway), and they might think: “Thank you.” Perhaps you might give the troubled adult or baby near you a hug and say “I love you”, and they might smile.

All these reactions will be “new news” to you, and make your day better. But think! All these things started out with you, things you did, not things that happened to you. You are important, even if you are sometimes bored with yourself. You DO make a difference in the world, so that it can make a difference to you. You can choose to set back and watch, and be bored, or you can live life. Really living life is acting toward, loving toward your neighbors. And it starts with you.

Never let yourself fall into a routine so much that you find yourself saying “That’s old news.” You are not! You are something entirely new and unique in this world. Let us see you. Let us see the new news of you.

I know I, for one, find you to be very interesting. And you make my day! No matter your age, you are not “old news.” You can make a difference in the life of everyone you meet.

Blessings to you, my friends. I pray you have a joyful and interesting day --- and that you smile! (You don’t want to make me have to come over there!!) : - ))

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's OK to be Normal

Earlier today I read This Rock magazine. A letter to the editor said that most people who wrote to the magazine appeared to be committing the sin of scrupulosity, excessively worrying about details of their faith and faith practices. The editor responded that real scrupulosity is not a sin; it is a psychological disorder. In general, asking questions about the Church’s teachings, even the fine details of its rites, is seeking knowledge, which in itself is a good thing. It made me wonder, however, about my asking so many questions; do I worry over getting the answers too much?

Later this evening, a friend called, worried about a relationship in his life and where it was going; and what did certain details about he-said, she-said mean. And my friend was worried about where God was in these concerns; He didn’t seem to be helping matters. Speaking honestly, he wondered if he’d abandoned his friendship with God, and how could he now find Him again. Listening to the concerns, I was largely silent. No matter how much I stared at the crucifix in front of me on the wall and shrugged my shoulders at it – Well?? – no words came to me for a response to my friend. I guess God wasn’t talking to me on the matter either. I guess my trust in Him, like my friend’s, extends as far as our next worry – if He doesn’t answer promptly, either He or I aren’t paying attention, and we worry about which.

I listened to Dr. Laura’s radio show on the way to church in the late evening. The caller was in graduate school and seeking a very difficult degree; the subject itself was challenging, but even more so, she felt, was the competition. The caller was anxious about how well she would match up on tests. Dr. Laura rightly counseled her that being number one on tests was not of primary importance, some people are very good at rote memorization and may do better on tests than her. What is more important than test knowledge is application knowledge. Do you know the subject well enough to apply it well, so you can excel at the practical day-to-day results of your career and life, not just the test scores?

Then Dr. Laura went on to say that the caller’s anxiety was normal. Someone who has always done well at school and been at the top of her class chooses a graduate program which admits nothing but those at the top of their classes. For the first time in her life she feels real competition; she feels threatened. Dr. Laura noted that the vast majority of students, and adults for that matter, are just average; they’re used to competition and they’re used to being sometimes beaten by others. This is normal and it’s OK to be normal. Part of life is about competition, and failures, and anxieties about these things. But part of life is also about successes and happiness. Don’t be anxious that you have anxieties! It’s OK to be normal; don’t worry about it. And then Dr. Laura and the caller laughed together at their mutual understanding; it’s OK to be normal.

I titled this blog Do Not Be Anxious, from Matthew 6:25. Reading it again tonight I found a new understanding of it: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on.” Jesus is counseling us to not be anxious about being normal! Of course you have decisions to make in your life, things to do, places to go, and words to say. Do the best you can, and then trust in God. Don’t be scrupulous in your decisions, don’t seek God for every answer – He will find you! And learn to laugh some at the trials we face – trials are a normal thing.

Look out!! Here comes another one! :- ))

May the Lord answer in time of trial;
may the name of Jacob’s God protect you.
May he send you help from his shrine
and give you support from Zion.

May he remember all your offerings
and receive your sacrifice with favor.

May he give you your heart’s desire
and fulfill every one of your plans.
May we ring out with joy at your victory
and rejoice in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your prayers.

- Psalm 20

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lenten Thoughts II

“It is interesting to note that when people do works of charity, they require that the poor they help be destitute. Actually, in our country, very few people are destitute, but many live right on the margin of destitution, with little or no security and very few frills. Some will say, “Who needs frills?” We all need a few, and I mean need. I love to give presents to poor children and poor old people. They’re not starving but few have ever given them something just because they are themselves. Is it really a frill for a child whose mother is on welfare to get a Christmas present, which she could not possibly afford to buy?

Do you want to have a great Lent? Tip the gas station attendant who doesn’t speak English. Tell the newsboy to keep the change, with a smile. Buy a cup of coffee and a doughnut for the fellow collecting aluminum cans to trade in.

Or go first-class. Send a poor child to Catholic school. Help an old lady on Social Security get her medication every month. Tell her you can get it at a discount, and just take a dollar to make her feel that she’s paying for it. She’s getting it at a discount from you.

Lent may be a time of penance, but if you are generous with the frills for God, then you will know that you have brought a smile to the face of Jesus Christ. Happy Lent.”

The King Crucified and Risen – Daily readings from Ash Wednesday to Divine Mercy Sunday, by Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.

I like most all of Fr. Groeschel’s books; this is an excerpt from his daily reader for Lent, and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Evil Triumphs When Good Men Do Nothing

Orig: 2/23/09

I have known many of you, my friends, for many years, although some I may have not seen or spoken to in a long time. You are my friends though not through a mere handshake, but in heart. What I have seen in your heart is good, and I will never forget you.

The Church season of Lent is upon us. For those of you who do not understand this, it is a time set apart for us to remember that once a supremely good man walked this earth, and he gave his life that evil might not triumph. In our remembering during this season, we are challenged to imitate Him. You know how sad the world is right now, so as good men, men who I know do care – and as my friends – I challenge you to imitate Him in some small way, to make the world become a better place during the next 6 weeks.

A few years back, I wrote to one of the holiest men I know and challenged him to be better by doing something he was disinclined to do. (I know, how presumptuous of me!!) He did it, and wrote back to thank me for urging him to do something good that he judged unimportant. Even the least of us are important.

So, I challenge you: This Lent, do one good thing for someone else. More specifically, I challenge you to do one good thing for someone who, up to now, you would not consider doing anything for. Perhaps it is someone way above you, perhaps someone who would ignore you, perhaps someone who would laugh at you and your efforts, perhaps even someone who hates you. Perhaps it is someone you know; perhaps just someone you heard of. Do something that you know will be good for them this Lent -- an action, a donation, a prayer -- even if they don’t know you did it. Don’t do it out of love for them, or to show yourself better than them, or even to spite them. Do it because it is a good thing to do.

Remember this challenge, and watch for the opportunity. It will be there. Perhaps you will hear yourself say: “Who would ever want to help that fool.” Perhaps you will say: “Someone should do something about that”, or even: “Someone should speak up about that.” There! Look! There is the opportunity! You are the person!

Do it because you are my friend. Do it because you are a man of good heart, and for doing it you will have made this world a small bit better – for them, and for you. Who but God knows the ultimate fruit of your action.

Happy Lenten season, my friend. Let us pray the world may be a better place by Easter. I trust in you.

Peace and Blessings,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's a Tragedy

It’s a tragedy for a parent to outlive their child. My mom often mourns the loss of my brother and sister, her children. The deep sadness she feels has nothing to do with her dementia; all parents mourn the loss of a child who dies before them – for the rest of their lives.

As I began my rosary tonight, and prayed again for an end to abortion, I stopped and asked myself: Why? Why pray for this, versus all the other sins and tragedies in the world; why am I praying for this each night? I’m not sure I ever asked myself the question before, and so I thought it a trivial distraction and quickly raced through thoughts of sin, the sacredness of life, no excuses, etc, … and then I stopped. I looked up at the Blessed Sacrament on the altar in front of me and I suddenly knew the answer: I pray for an end to this, abortion, because it is a tragedy for a parent to outlive their child.

I was beginning the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary and I thought: Jesus knew this as he prayed in the garden – His father would know such tragedy, such deep hurt, because so many of his children, his dear loved creations, would die in their youth, killed before they really got a chance to know Him. How sad he must feel to outlive all of these, his children. The whole reason he had them, his plans for them, his expectations of their future, and his sacrifices for them – gone. I think Jesus probably prayed in the garden: Father, let me take some of your pain, let me bear some of your sadness, let me calm some of your anger at those who would take your children from you.

I’ve always been a little un-sympathetic to the angry parent who screamed at the policeman: You killed my child! I wondered about them, couldn’t they see that the policeman was justified, he had no other choice? How could a parent say such a thing to a policeman? Couldn’t they see the truth? No, no it was me who didn’t see the truth. Justice does not mitigate the tragedy of losing a child; there is no reason a parent can accept. Their child who was to live on beyond them, to carry their memory, their whole reason for existence – was dead. It was a deep tragedy. There is no excuse for killing a child that can be made to its parent, none. Yet, sadly, so often today it is the parent who kills her own child. How must she feel? Murderer, and yet victim who has lost her child.

So I prayed the rosary tonight with a new understanding. I was praying to console my adopted Father in heaven too over the loss of so many of his children. I was praying for the mothers too, over the deep loss they too felt. I prayed for Jesus to help end this great sin --- and admitting I don’t know how he could do this, even while trusting he could. But I know that even if he only prevented one abortion, he was preventing a deep stab in the heart of his Father. Each child saved is avoiding a tragedy.

Imagine how much love the Father must feel toward someone who would rescue his child from what seemed like imminent death. We sometimes worry about our sinful ways and wonder if we will get to heaven. I think if we could save even one child of His from abortion, He would forget any other evil we may have done, for he could never forget what a great thing we had done for him, the great tragedy avoided, the saving of his child.

I think this was a fitting reflection tonight, in the early hours of Ash Wednesday, thinking about our heavenly Father and his children killed through abortion. But Lent is a lead-in to Good Friday. Abortion kills the Father’s adopted children; but his only begotten Son was killed on Good Friday – and no one stopped it, and so many contributed to it happening, even us. Tragedy doesn’t even begin to describe this event. There is so much to think on in the coming days.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ups and Downs

I wrote on Sunday of my “dis-peace” that day from seeing a prominent display of a “swimsuit” magazine in the local 7-11. This morning as I stopped for my coffee, the display was still in your face as you walked in, but the manager was working today. Weeeeellllllll, I was set to give him a what-for, but started out slowly: “What a way to start my morning, a semi-porn display in my face. If you want to increase sales of these magazines, perhaps you should put free condoms next to them.” I like being subtle.

The manager wouldn’t look me in the eye, but said: “I agree, it’s sad what our country views as a priority. I’ll move the display.” Ah, um, ah, well, um, -- I was struck silent, even before I could voice my “real” feelings. I had assumed he was only in it for the profit, and nothing else mattered. I know; I know what “assume” stands for and does, it makes an ass of you and me – and me especially. How easily I jump to conclusions about another’s motives, without even asking them. I suppose that’s why gossip and slander are high up there on the sin list – but obviously no matter how high, if it’s a sin I can manage to reach it. Instead of standing and reaching, I’d be much better off kneeling and bowing. Thank you, Lord, for putting me in my place so clearly.

So this day started on an up and a down, the up being the store manager’s response, the down being, well …, me. When I got to church and read my morning prayers, things got further put into perspective. I’ll show you a few lines I had underlined in my book:

My son, forget not my teaching, keep in mind my commands;
For many days, and years of life, and peace, will they bring you.
Let not kindness and fidelity leave you;
Then will you win favor and good esteem before God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not;
Be not wise in your own eyes.
Honor the Lord with your wealth.
The discipline of the Lord, my son, disdain not; spurn not his reproof:
For whom the Lord loves he reproves.
Happy the man who finds wisdom, he is happy who holds her fast
Proverbs 3:1-20

There are three ways for wisdom or prudence to abound in you: if you confess your sins, if you give thanks and praise, and if your speech is edifying. In the beginning of his speech the just man is his own accuser, next he gives glory to God, and thirdly, if his wisdom extends that far, he edifies his neighbor.
From a sermon by Saint Bernard, abbot.

Do not fret because of the wicked; do not envy those who do evil.
If you trust in the Lord and do good, then you will live in the land and be secure.
Trust in him and he will act.
Calm your anger and forget your rage; do not fret, it only leads to evil.
The patient shall inherit the land.
Surrender to God, and he will do everything for you.
Learn to do God’s will; wait for the Lord to lead
Psalm 37

Life has many ups and downs, some last a day, some seem to go on forever, but each will end. I feel better about things, and am ready for this Lent to begin tomorrow. Lord, grant me wisdom and peace; help me to do your will. I will try to wait for you to lead.

P.S. While I’m on the topic of my minor ups and downs, I mentioned my Christmas tree still being up in my living room. I had justified my laziness by saying I had other priorities, it would be nice for Valentine’s Day, and even It’s not Lent yet. And well, here we are. Yesterday I went grocery shopping and noticed Easter baskets were on display, so I bought a big one for my Godchild, while they were still available. So, now there sits a large Easter basket under my Christmas tree. Hmmm. I don’t know what to say, except that I am busy today too. (And besides, I greatly enjoy the ornament a friend gave me: when you push the button it sings “I wanna hippopotamus for Christmas …”). :- ))

I hope that all your ups and downs are small ones, and you can enjoy the ride without becoming anxious.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Time of Blessing

I think we are in a time of great blessing, or at least of an opportunity for blessing.

In Matthew: 25, Jesus notes how he will judge those deserving heaven and those deserving hell in the final times. He says he will award the “kingdom prepared for them” to those who loved him through love of neighbor: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me … Truly I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these, my least brethren, you did it to me.” And to those who did not love him in the persons of his brethren he will say: “Depart from me, accursed ones.” Pretty blunt.

The sentence which decides our eternal fate will be based on the love we had for Jesus Christ shown in the persons of our brethren, our love of our neighbor. Given the number of our neighbors now hungry, now without a home, without food or clothing, sick and without care, and the record numbers in prison, who could deny that today there is a record number of “least brethren” in whom the body of Christ exists? Is this not a time of great opportunity, therefore, with so many available for us to help, that we might therefore more readily gain merit toward our hearing of the words: “Come, you who ministered to me in these least of my brethren, and enter my kingdom.”

Heaven is literally calling to us. Do you hear, or are you focused on other things? Are you worried that you might lose your job, that you might not have enough money for food, for clothes, for your own “needs”? Please consider carefully: that your “needs” are not just your wants. How much do you really need, and does that need include a requirement to be prepared for every eventuality? Are you waiting until you become like the temple-goer, who gave – (in public for all to see) – of his excess, what he felt he did not “need”. Our Lord explained that this is not giving to your neighbor, this is giving all the leftovers you could not eat to the dog. Don’t think yourself somehow justified for doing this; read again our Lord’s words on the Justice he promises for those who “Love their neighbor” in this manner. Now is an opportunity for us to give, like the poor woman in the temple, who gave of her few cents, and then trusted in the Lord for her own POSSIBLE “needs”.

I remember a mug I saw for sale in a sewing goods store. On it were the words: “She who dies with the most material, wins.” Wins what, after she is dead? Wins what? All her saving of material in case she might need it would put her in a position to “win”. From a spiritual perspective, win what?

What are you seeking to win, my friend, with all your material savings? Win what?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Peace?

Sundays are meant to be a day of rest, a day of peace, and mine usually are. A cup of coffee on the way to church, quiet morning prayers, mass, and me and God getting together. Then a quick breakfast and off to mom’s house. If she naps, I may read – or write as I am now – or just nap too. A day of rest, of quiet peace.

But not today.

As I opened the door to the 7-11 the St. Valentine’s Day cards were right in front of me – along with a huge display of “swimsuit” magazines. I guess that’s so you could buy something for your girlfriend – or boyfriend, if that’s the type of guy you are or have. I was told that if I bought the magazine or a pop, a large centerfold was included. Wonderful. A great thing for the 6-year olds buying pop to take home to their moms or grammas – “Is this what you look like, mom?” And a great thing to be thinking about as I started my Sunday. Grrrrrrrrrrr. The drive to church was just a series of replays of what I wanted to say to that store owner.

I thought I’d be able to restore my peace in church, but the choir decided to arrive early, and the few people there trying to pray were “treated” to practices of songs we’ve all sung a hundred times, with the loud speakers turned up high, I guess to make sure we heard them. I stuck my fingers in my ears as I tried to pray, but I couldn’t concentrate on the words or thoughts. The piano loudly played something akin to the William Tell Overture, and I was waiting for the cannons to go off. There were a few minutes of silence before mass, and I prayed that I might have peace of mind, but my mind wandered throughout much of the sacrifice. I prayed most sincerely when we came to the prayer, Agnus Dei, especially the part where we pray “Grant us Peace!”

When I am anxious, I often remember the WWJD prayer (What Would Jesus Do?), and think on it seriously, trying to get my mind back to a place of peace. Driving home I wondered: Would Jesus really heal the blind man today – so he could see the “Swimsuit Issue” or watch porn? Would Jesus really heal the deaf man so he could hear the constant din in our society, even in His house, or would he think the deaf more blessed in their silence? I know I sometimes think my mom’s hearing loss is a blessing for her – she no longer hears the nearby train horn blasts in the middle of the night, which woke her while she still had some sense of sound. Now she sleeps peacefully and long, like a Sunday blessing of peace – every day and every night!

As I thought some more, I wondered if my distress today is just MY problem. Am I being selfish? The 7-11 owner chose to make money hawking semi-porn, and I chose to be offended. His choice – my choice?? I chose to go to church early to pray, and someone else chose to organize their time by going early to church to practice singing and playing. Isn’t this our society’s “pro-choice” attitude, we both are equally right and wrong and perhaps may offend someone else by our choices, but it’s our choice?

Not really.

Our society’s “pro-choice” attitude assumes that what I do with my time, my body, my “choices” are impacting me alone, but we’ve written much and pondered much in the past on this site about how our choices, ALL of our choices impact someone, in some way – although not perhaps the way they impact us. The 7-11 owner’s choice for profit may ruin some peoples souls. While my praying in church might result in prayers answered or an example for others, this morning putting my fingers in my ears probably only distracted others. Recently I wrote how even being with someone, the smallest presence, can have a major impact on someone’s life – even if we are not aware of it. It’s really John Donne’s No Man Is An Island example. All our choices impact others, which is why it is so important we consider carefully our choices and the impacts beyond us that they have. Love your Neighbor, Do unto others …, Lord, make me an instrument …, are the real choices we should be making, or trying to make with our actions.

All these thoughts are important in considering choices, my choices and yours. But back to the subject of this note, my Sunday peace: what should I be doing about my disquiet, or WWJD? Well, as a man of action I found that the most effective action is often a financial one: I spend about $1000 a year at that 7-11, and donate about $10,000 a year to the church. Going elsewhere and encouraging others to do so is one possibility, which would give me a measure of satisfaction – revenge is sweet, but I don’t think it properly answers the WWJD question. Darn!

So where DO I find peace this day, and close off irritating thoughts, especially on a Sunday? I guess wherever God gives it to me, wherever he gives it to me. So I think I’ll stop this useless worrying and writing, and join mom in watching Dennis The Menace. When things get us down, I find that God always finds a way to make us smile. We just have to look around. Uh-oh, looks like Mr. Wilson is in trouble again – even worse than mine!!! Smile! Relax! Have peace! It’s Sunday! And wow --- I see someone sent me an e-Valentine’s Day Card! Cool! :- ))

Thursday, February 11, 2010


It snowed hard through the night, and the chapel where I do midnight adoration was closed. The next morning found me keeping to the narrow tracks in the snow as I slowly drove to church. Would mass be cancelled? As I approached a steep hill, would I make it up, or would that salt truck parked at the bottom call help for me? When I arrived, the church parking lot was just being plowed, and spaces were few, but I could see the chapel lights on and someone inside. Only a few made it to the mass Father Charles offered that morning. I’m glad that he – and they – made it a priority.

Later on that afternoon, the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist were featured were featured on, of all things, the Oprah show! I think Oprah was flummoxed at their replies to her questions. Some became nuns right out of high school, but others cut short highly-paid executive careers (“with a closet full of Gucci purses”), and some had degrees from exclusive, expensive colleges, and some were even engaged to be married when they admitted to themselves that they were hearing God’s call to them. And they re-set their priorities.

I used to be an interviewer for potential new hires at Ford, assessing how they would fit with Ford, and Ford with them. One of the questions them I often asked them went something like this: “Are you a sports fan? What if your favorite team was coming to play at the University of Michigan with its 100,000-plus seat stadium, and you had tickets on the 50-yard line, a lot of tickets. So you invited family and friends from out of town to come for a big weekend party. But then, the Friday before, I came up to you at work and said I had a problem, and could you give me a solution? After analyzing it, you said it would take a couple of days to fix – but then I responded that it must be fixed by Monday morning. What would you do?”

After a bit of thought, some said “Of course, work would come first; my family would have to understand.” Some said “My family comes first, I will do what I can in the time available and give you my best response on Monday morning.” Only one, surprisingly, said “I’d ask my co-workers to help.”

After answering and explaining, the interviewees looked at me – was this question critical to their being hired?? I responded to their questioning stares: “There is no correct answer to my question, but it is one you will face many times here, and I wanted to get you thinking about it. All I can say in regard to ‘the correct answer’ for you are my thoughts, based on much experience. No matter how many hours you work, how far you advance – even to company president – a few days after you leave, most here will not think of you again. No one will remember your accomplishments, no matter how great. Ford will go on as if you were never there, it is a company and it has no feelings. But if you spend some of your life, some of your days, some of your hours – and indeed, even some of your minutes, perhaps with even just a smile or a or a kind word to a passing stranger, this time you spent for God, for your family, for your children, or even for strangers who needed you, may impact them forever. You might change their life; they may remember you always, talking to their children and their children’s children about the time their lives were changed, the time you gave them. What should you do with your time when there are conflicting priorities? All I suggest is that you consider your response carefully, and decide what is really important to do with your time, your life, what will really make a difference in this world.”

Years later, I had some people we hired tell me they remembered that question I posed to them, and thank me. Huh! And I thought perhaps that was time wasted by me! Only God knows and makes good the intentions of your heart, and our intentions are good if we are seeking to do His intentions.

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The gospel included Mary’s words at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.” Great words, but I guess it assumes that we are paying attention to what He is telling us, looking for the alternatives for this day, for this hour, and deciding on our priorities. Will we participate, like the servants at Cana, in the working of a miracle?

And as for me this day? Well, my very ill friend is back home from the hospital – for now, and sitting alone in her small apartment. I think I will buy her one of those super-large Valentine’s Day cards I saw in the 7-11 this morning – she doesn’t see very well. Perhaps seeing those cards was God’s hint to me about His priority. Then I’ll find a nice bouquet of roses or some nice smelling flowers, and pay her a visit, to wish her a happy Valentine’s Day. I know it will make her happy, and she will laugh. Even if she does so for only a few minutes, I think this will have been a great use for my time. That will be a key priority for my day. And perhaps this day will be something she remembers, even into eternity, the few minutes, the few dollars, the little time I gave her. Of all the things I could be doing today – including taking down my Christmas tree – I think this is best. Everything else, in the proper priority of things, can wait.

February 11: Our Lady of Lourdes.
In 1858 the Virgin Mary Immaculate appeared to Bernadette Soubirous near Lourdes in France within the cave of Massabielle. Through this humble girl, Mary called sinners to conversion and enkindled within the Church a great zeal for prayer and charity, especially service to the sick and poor.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Being With Someone

I’ve written recently that I am alone, especially alone in my failings, my sins, my poor choices. I made them. I did. But I’ve also written of the importance the commandment to “Love Your Neighbor”, and explained some of my thoughts on how to do that.

My thoughts onf being alone and being with neighbor are related, very related, yet conflicting. Alone, yet with someone? Can I consider these to be simultaneous events, events which can somehow be used to relieve my anxieties and bring me closer to God? The first obvious thing uniting these two is the fact that they both start with me, what I choose to do. But the equally obvious thing is that when I choose to be alone, one of the biggest regrets I have is not being with someone. Can I do something alone, yet be with someone? Can I better choose how to use this body of mine?

Jesus, God, gave us a critical example of the value of being with someone. While God, he chose to be with, and even become, man – one of us. We can never fully comprehend this gift, the love in that choice. In His Godhead, he is alone, unique. We celebrate Christmas as a great feast day, even more, I believe, than Easter. I think that is fitting, although many might debate otherwise. But the events of Easter could never have happened without that first gift, a gift of life. God choosing to become one with us is like all of the universe, all life and being, choosing to become a simple rock. Relatively speaking, our value, our significance, our ability to love and matter to anyone, to any thing, when compared to his Godhead is as valueless as a rock. Compared to all he is and can do, he chose to become as a rock, very little in importance, able to do virtually nothing. Yet he chose to come to us. Like any rock, we can’t begin to understand the significance of his coming, but he came anyway because HE knew the significance of his coming.

While he came for us for reasons only he could fully appreciate, I think we are aware even in our relative ignorance that in some important way we are different because of his coming. Rocks that we are, he moved us. And we’ll never be the same.

When I spoke of being alone versus with my neighbor, I was talking about my choice. One of the things I should never forget is that my choices are forever influenced by that choice of Jesus. He chose to be with us. That’s a critically important thing, a very basic thing of great value, being with someone. It’s a choice we must all give priority to, because he made that critical choice that we might imitate it, that we might appreciate the subtle, basic importance of being with each other.

I wrote of the importance of loving your neighbor, a point of basic importance even more than love of self, because our actions to love our neighbor is part of a continuity, enabling him to love God, love himself, and eventually love HIS neighbor, continuing a chain of love that started with Jesus’ coming. He first loved us. And the first love, the most basic thing he did, was come. He came to be with us.

You wonder about your aloneness, about your importance, about how you are leading your life. You wonder if you are loved, if you’re even worth being loved. Stop your wondering, and start learning the truth of the matter. Look at what God did for us, the example of supreme humility he gave us, the most important thing in modern history, perhaps all of history: he came to us. A God chose to be among the rocks, the relative nothings of creation. Look at that simple yet supremely important example, and if you can do nothing else, understand nothing else, follow this example he gave us: As he came humbly to us, may you go forth humbly to others, just to be with them. And they WILL understand, even if it is unsaid, what that means.

So how do you do this, this active example of loving your neighbor? Think basics, think simple. The priority in loving your neighbor is Christ’s example: first and foremost, try to be there with him. Be there with your spouse, your children, your parents -- be there, even just to sit with them. Even my mother, in her dementia, knows that by my presence I am showing I love her, and that matters so much – and she tells me so nightly. You could be working, you could be reading, you could be listening to music, but your first priority should be to be with others, not alone. And if you have to work, you have to shop, you have to be away with life’s tasks, then think to call them, email them, or just pray for them. Be with them, as close as you can get.

In all things you do, choose humbly to first do for others, even if only the most basic thing of just being with them. Then you will be imitating Christ’s most basic and greatest act of love. He came to be with us, that we might be with him.

Be with your spouse; be with your child; be with your sick neighbor; be with those in the prisons. Each matters. You don’t have to be a great apostle, you don’t have to say a word, your presence will say more than any words convey, and they will understand that you made this choice to be with them because you love them; you truly love your neighbor as yourself – and God will be smiling. You, you dumb rock, you really did understand his example.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Bumper Sticker

may everything we do
begin with your inspiration
and continue with your saving help.
Let our work always find its origin in you
and through you reach completion.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

-- from today’s Morning Prayer

In our pastor’s usual well-done homily yesterday he mentioned a bumper sticker that he liked. It read: “Jesus said: You catch ‘em, and I’ll clean ‘em.” I like those words, too.

In recent days I’ve been reflecting on the relationship of body and soul. To my way of thinking, the soul is our spiritual side, and our link to the spirit of God. To it come all the graces the Lord provides us; it is a channel of his love. It provides nourishment for our body, to help the body grow in holiness together with the soul, for they will be together in eternity – one won’t go without the other. Our Lord said so, and he demonstrated it himself, when he arose with his body to heaven. But this soul-to-body link isn’t one way. The body also in some way impacts the soul. This must be true or else how could anyone end up in hell? Would God allow a wonderful, soul which he filled with grace to go to hell just because its body chose to relish evil? That wouldn’t make sense; it would be like God allowing his very spirit to go to hell. No, that can’t be true. What is true is that the body can influence the soul, it can tarnish it with sin; it can darken it by taking some inclinations the body may have towards evil and turning them into desires for evil. And as the body seeks even more evil, the soul rejects the graces for good or ignores the ones it has – it can’t give the body these things anymore, it doesn’t want them! Thus as many saints have told us: God does not condemn anyone to hell, they freely choose, body and soul, to go to hell. It’s like the fire hose of God’s grace pouring on a raging fire: there are some fires that get such a head start, where they burn the building so completely, in all its nooks and crannies, that the hose cannot overcome it, and it burns the building down completely. There are other fires where help comes soon enough, and the fire is quickly extinguished, and the building can continue to be used for the reasons it was built.

The fireman and his grace are always there. Always vigilant, always waiting and wanting to help, never running out of the waters of grace. What I’ve been dwelling on in recent days is the question: What makes the fireman and his grace put out the fire? What prevents the fire from growing too strong and negating any chance for the waters of grace to work? What makes the waters of grace take effect soon enough, so the fire can be put out? Can the building, which represents our body, really “choose” to pour the grace upon itself? Surprisingly, in a way the answer is: “Yes”.

Some building can have automatic sprinkler systems. Other buildings can have automatic smoke and fire sensors, which call the fire department at the first signs of fire. Other buildings exist in an area which has a neighborhood watch, which seeks to protect the buildings from all harm and call the fireman at the first signs of fire. So you see, in a way, the building can pour the hose of grace upon itself and put out the fires of evil. Kind of; in a way; maybe.

Ok, ok, ok. I can hear some of you talking to your computer screen: That’s not a good analogy. The building didn’t build those sprinkler systems or smoke detectors, nor start that neighborhood watch. Someone else did. Ok, I concede your point. At the point of the start of a fire, a building “could” call for help, and in a way protect itself, but all buildings don’t start out that way. Someone else built in them a measure of self-protection. So who did that? Hmmmmmm? I think we’re back to that bumper sticker quote we started with: You catch ‘em; I’ll clean ‘em. Do you have some idea now who that “You” is?

The original source of that quote was Jesus, and he was assumed speaking to his apostles, the fishermen who he turned into fishers of men. But Jesus’ example and words were meant for us also. While we are meant to make sure that we get ourselves to heaven, we are also meant to make sure we get others, also. I always thought it interesting that the second great commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” starts out with saying to love your neighbor. As many have said, “Yes, but you have to love yourself first before you can love your neighbor as yourself.” True, but why did Jesus arrange the words in the reverse, saying to love your neighbor first? I think it’s because it’s the most important. It’s up to us neighbors to ensure that others are protected, or can protect themselves from evil – just as someone did that for us. We enlighten the minds of others to the existence of their souls, to the ready availability of grace, to God’s eternal love. Jesus told us to do that. We do that for every baby we have, for every child we become godparents to, to every member of our family, to every person we meet, or who even sees or hears of us. We DO love ourselves when we show others how much we love God, but we are showing them also. By our words, our examples, our admonitions, our prayers, we are giving their bodies knowledge which they can use to arm themselves against the fires of evil.

No one can conquer evil by themselves, but they can be prepared for the fight. Jesus, Mary, the apostles, the scripture writers, the saints, our parents, our fellow church-goers, and our pastors have helped prepare us to win the battle, with God’s grace, against the fires of evil. They taught us how. We need to be the ones to prepare others; we need to love our neighbor, and always be trying to think of him first. Truly, we will be the ones “catching ‘em” so that He can pour out His graces and “clean ‘em”.

I pray that none of us may ever let the temptations, the fires of the world, lead us to choose hell. I pray that there will always be a neighbor who loves us enough to help us prevent that. May you be that neighbor for others, as I shall try to be for you.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Alone -- By Choice

Orig: 1/19/09

Dear Lord;

So much of what you have given me, I have abused. I thought it was mine, not a gift, and I could do with it whatever I wanted. Its purpose was mine to define. I was wrong.

And so I return it to you willingly. I did not uses the circumstances of my life – my opportunities, my abilities, my home, my friends, the choices I could have made – as you intended, so I give them back to you. I want no one; I want nothing – but You.

I ask only one thing: though I may have abandoned my friends by not being your presence to them – as you guided me to be – yet let not my failings be borne by them. If I could not, with your help, open them to your Love, then I beg You Lord to send your saints, your angels, your Holy Spirit to be with those you have brought into my life. Let not my failings fail them, but you, in your Mercy, show them your Love; guide them home.

As for me, all I want is you. Be with me and I need nothing else, no one else. Praise You forever, my Jesus; I Trust in You.

In years gone by, you brought so many people into my life – opportunities to receive you and your guidance through them, opportunities to bring you to them, through me. But all I brought them was me. Truly, I acted as if I were god, a gift for them. And instead of your Peace and Love, I brought them the sadness of this world. It was all I had. So I brought them only love of sin, of the things I could give them. And in truth, I wanted them for things they could give me. A mutual “want”, -- taking – and caring so little so infrequently of “giving”. And so, I took from them and they from me what we wanted. But it brought us no heavenly peace or love, because it was totally of this earth – seeking to please our bodies. Now.

But we did not ask for You, Now. You were a thing of the future; we trusted in your Mercy but never sought your Love. We thought we could choose – and take – things to make us happy, to get peace and love. But an eternal peace and love comes from you, and we do not just choose them, or earn them. They are a gift; a gift to be accepted. But we, in all our “wants” never wanted You. We wanted Now. We wanted not gifts offered by You, unsure or not understanding how they would make us happy, but gifts we “KNOW” would make us happy.

We “know”. How wise we often thought we were. But even Wisdom is a gift, true Wisdom.

Peace, Love, Wisdom – gifts for eternal life. But we “want” for Now.

Lord, help me to remember why you came and died for us: To give us an eternity, an eternity of Peace, Love, and Wisdom in You. Give me a little bit of Your Wisdom, even if I don’t ask for it. Help me to know how short my “Now” is, and how long and wonderful that eternity can be. Lord, help me to “want” that. Help me to act like I want that. Even if you give me no friends, no money, no happiness “Now”, give me what You died for, for me, in the future.

My Jesus, I trust in You.

The City of God -- Augustine

Orig: 2/13/09

Do not think more highly of yourselves than you should, but judge yourselves with moderation according to the measure of faith God has given to each of you.” This is the sacrifice of Christians, the many who are one Body in Christ. – Augustine

As members of the Body of Christ, we must sacrifice to God all that is not most useful to the Body, so that the Body is most efficient. That means, if we are made by Him to be a toe, we must sacrifice our abilities to be a foot or hand – even if we think those abilities to be very great. We all want to be Number One. We are called as members of the Body to do our part, however small or humble – AND to accept others’ parts, however small or humble, OR -- even greater than us.

"The greatest thing we can achieve with our life is to be who we were made to be” -- Soren Kierkegaard

We turn to you, O God of every nation,
Giver of life and origin of good;
Your love is at the heart of all creation,
Your hurt is people’s broken brotherhood.

We turn to you that we may be forgiven
For crucifying Christ on earth again.
We know that we have never wholly striven,
Forgetting self, to love the other man.

Free every heart from pride and self-reliance,
Our ways of thought inspire with simple grace;
Break down among us barriers of defiance,
Speak to the soul of all the human race.

Teach us, good Lord, to serve the need of others,
Help us to give and not to count the cost.
Unite us all for we are born as brothers;
Defeat our Babel with your Pentecost.

- The Liturgy of the Hours, Book IV, Morning Prayer Hymn, Friday Week IV

Thursday, February 4, 2010

To See The Light

I’m at mom’s today, and through Monday; her live-in caregiver has gone home for a long weekend to take care of her mother. So I’ll be on the couch again for a few nights. Mom seems a bit tired lately, more easily nodding off – she’s napping right now, or getting confused about where she is. I see on the television that the stock markets down again today, and no one seems to really have confidence in the economy, or where this country is headed. And just before I came here to mom’s my friend called to tell me she got the results of tests taken yesterday – and they were not good. She is being transported to the hospital’s cardiac ICU where they will try to drain the excess fluids which are putting a stress on her weak heart. I’m sad that I can’t be there for her.

Things aren’t looking good today. Period.

It’s easy to feel depressed on days like these. And the depressed feelings can so easily roll into anxiety, which plays tricks on our mind and generally makes us someone not nice to be around. It’s easy to get angry, it’s easy to be upset at minor inconveniences, and it’s easy to just want to have a stiff drink and go to sleep. To try to forget; to make believe things aren’t so. But they are. And while we might want to hide from them, we most often can’t. Life goes on. Someone needs us, like my mom needs me.

But then I got a call from another friend. Things haven’t been going well for her either for a while. Today, however, she sounded upbeat. Her small business seemed to be doing a little better, and she felt some optimism. Her adult kids have been acting like young bratty teen-agers, and her young teen-ager has too. But she said that she decided to not react negatively to their negative feelings and comments, and to not fight back or sass back. She decided to accept any negative comments to her, smile, and just pray for them. She decided that she raised them as best she could, and she was not going to argue them to be better people, but she would pray for them to be. She was putting more faith in God. And she reported that her relations with her kids seemed to be a little better, or, she laughed, “maybe they just don’t want to fight when I don’t fight back.” She laughed. That sounded nice on a day like today.

Maybe that’s a way to make days like this a little brighter. We just have to open the blinds to see the light and stop staring at the darkness. Things aren’t really as dark as they sometimes seem. We just need to see the light that is hidden somewhere. It is there. We just need to have faith and trust in God, like my friend. As we’ve discussed before, he DOES make all things right. ALL things. And when it seems the darkest, He IS the Light. We just need to look for it and see it. It is there. He is there. Always.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Only For a Time

I read the headlines about Tiger Woods, and those now seeking a cure for their sexual addictions … I saw the poster about the local church starting a 24 hour Adoration Chapel … I heard the Gospel about the evil spirits, Legion, being cast out of the man and into the swine … I heard the prayers for the people of Haiti … I thought of my friend who has a serious illness, death may be near …

Each of us can recall a better time in our life. We can recall days of our youth when we played with good friends; we fondly remember a caring grandparent; we can still feel the strength we had running the race, hitting the ball, or carrying the load. We can recall when life was good. Although we may not often say it, we are thankful for those times. We should be; they were blessings in our lives. They were times and events we didn’t make happen; they were gifts to us. We should be thankful.

But those times do not last, in this life. They are with us only for a time, but there will also be times of hardship. For some of us, the times of hardship are now.

Tiger Woods has lost much of his fame, his money, his respect – and perhaps, his family’s love. A man has Satan’s hordes take up home within him, and he wanders about screaming in the night. An earthquake strikes an island nation, and homes, jobs, families, and churches lay crushed – death is everywhere. And for one person, living alone, death is slowly creeping up, and she knows it.

But even these bad times will not last in this life. When things are worst, truly it seems that they only can get better, but worst can last a long time. And I’m reminded of a Bill Cosby joke: “Never challenge worse. Never say, things can’t get worse.” I’m sure some people in Haiti, in their poverty, said that.

But, again remember, all life is only for a time. Good times, bad times, they WILL pass. Much of the world is undergoing bad times now, and even those who are not have fears they might. Many are thinking, if not reading, the thoughts of Psalm 73: Why is it that the good have many troubles? Unfortunately, few can humbly accept in their hearts the end of that psalm: “I was stupid and did not understand. Yet I was always in Your presence; You were holding me by my right hand. You will guide me by Your counsel.”

And so the bad times will only be for a time, and God will make good use of your sufferings, if you let him. Tiger Woods diminishes, but his hard times provide a light for others to see their addictions. The new Adoration Chapel may open a door of hope for lost souls, a place to come home to. Legion was cast out of the sinner, and while he wanted to stay and just praise Jesus, he was told no, go home to your family – enjoy and share the beginning of a good time for you. And in Haiti, the worst -- and worst-er – is getting better, if only for a time, if only for a time. And my dying friend may soon be released from her sufferings.

All good things in this life end, all bad too. But an eternity of happiness awaits us, where the bad times will never re-occur. And we can start on that eternity of good times, and can ensure its coming, even now.

We can end that sex addiction and do better things with our lives. We can spend time with God, and ask: “What would you have me do, to gain eternal life?” We can go home to our families, love them, and thank God for blessing us. We can enjoy the good times we have, even amidst the bad of today, and be truly thankful. We can help our neighbors in their bad times, and be an inspiration for them to help others – even in THEIR bad times.

God will make good out of all that is bad. We can join him, as brothers, in his efforts. If only for a time; if only for a time.

St. Michael the archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and may thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Have mercy on me, God in your kindness…
Make me hear rejoicing and gladness …
Give me again the joy of your help. (Psalm 51)

Lamb of God, You who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.