Sunday, January 31, 2010


It is late at night; the air is cold outside, not a night to venture out on some casual errand. It is a night to stay home near the fireplace, to pull the blankets up next to your chin, to find a spot to stay toasty warm.

The full moon shines brightly in the crystal clear sky, a reminder to some of the great ones who see in it the reflected love of Christ. It also is a light, to some, which illumines a path they wish to follow. While dim to others, for them it is a bright reminder of the God of heaven, and earth. They want to be with Him.

And so I am sometimes surprised at the unexpected visitor, late on a cold night, who opens the door to the Adoration Chapel to join me, and Him, for a few quiet moments. The visitor kneels in silent prayer, and perhaps even lays spread out, face down, in humble adoration. A visitor who comes to say “good night” to his Lord and God? Or perhaps one who comes to ask forgiveness for the errors of his day? I do not know. I admire, however, each and every one. They come alone, late at night, no one to see them except me, a stranger – and of course, the One they visit.

The Walton’s John-boy yelled “Good night, Erin”; the husband leaned over and said softly “Good night, honey” to his spouse. The visitor however says “Good night” in silence to his God. How loved God must feel by those who venture out for a special visit on such a cold night, for such a little thing, just to say good night.

Sometimes a young couple visits, usually one more solemn in prayer than the other. Still, they come together, to end their evening with Him. Do they tell Him about their night? Do they ask His blessing on their time together? Do they ask His blessing on their future? I do not know; they pray in silence for a time, then bow and leave. Of all the late night visitors, I admire them the most. They put aside something very important to them, each other, to tell God they think Him even more important. I wish all my priorities were as this example they set before me.

Visitors come late in the night to adore their God; a brief distraction for me, yet an inspiration. From the Magi to now, I thank God for all His visitors. Even me.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Orig: 01/06/09

I was thinking about my sins and confession on All Souls Day – when I heard the message about the reality of Purgatory. If you don’t know what Purgatory is, go read up on it. Suffice to say for now that it is an unexpected stop on the way to heaven, and considering how I have led my life, I would be happy to know that my final destination is heaven – period. I’ll accept any temporary stops along the way, gladly.

Considering the reality of Purgatory, I suddenly realized that by my sins I was delaying the one thing I desire most – the eternal union with the Trinity in heaven. I understand the Church’s teachings, the reflections of the saints, the visions of the mystics, that heaven is a unity with Christ. All worries, all doubts, all confusion will be gone, because all Truth, all Peace, all Love will be known to me. All my earthly searchings and yearnings will be fulfilled. Yet knowing this, eagerly looking forward to this, my time and everlasting joy, the aim and purpose of my life, I choose so often to sin. I choose to delay (or, Christ please forbid) even lose this purpose of my whole being. I choose a short-term happiness and delay my real long-term happiness. I choose sin because of my earthly focus on me and material happiness, and deny my focus on me and eternal happiness. How stupid I am.

How sweet must the poison be before I choose it?

I often wonder if I will, by my sins, choose hell. I fear my earthly weakness. Who is guaranteed being saved? Who is blessed by God? How can you tell? Even the most saintly looking people I know sometimes appear, in my tarnished judgment, to sometimes fail; they too sin.

Is there ANYONE on earth who I could say, with some conviction, is blessed by God? Then I saw a pregnant woman walk down the church aisle. Is there any other physical proof that I could see that someone is blessed? Yet, they can equally visibly choose to reject that blessing, to kill their child – visibly given witness to the world (even if only they know it) that they choose not to accept God’s blessing. I think, despite the visible reality of their rejection, that they would not know that their child was their blessing. They could think that their blessing is really a curse. How sad for them.

And what of us? How many of God’s blessings have we complained about, have we prayed to be taken from us, because in our puny thoughts of this short life, we thought our blessings were curses. How many of us think we know the will of God – we know when he blesses us; we know when he curses us. We know the will of God; we know the eternal Truth. How arrogant of us. I envy the pregnant woman. At least she has something visible to see, tangible to feel, to more easily know that she has received a blessing from God. How often am I sad and in distress because God allows so much pain in my life – or is He putting so much blessing in my life? I do not know.

My Jesus I Trust in You, who knows how to bless me always, who loves me always, who leads me to an eternal home with him – even if I am too blind to see the way, unsure if I am walking with Him, or alone.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Stand-In

Jesus died on the cross for our sins; He died for us.

These are true words, but they don’t tell the true story. These words are too easy to read, and too easy to say. A king leads his troops into battle, and dies for them. Our country’s soldiers go overseas and die for us. These things are true, but they don’t speak the penetrating truth of Jesus’ death. Jesus didn’t just die for us, as these did.

The king dies, and his soldiers go home from battle, perhaps as victors. In a few short days and months they will re-tell the tales over and over of THEIR battles. The king’s sacrifice will be quickly forgotten. Our soldiers who die overseas for us are often not remembered at all, not even for a day. Few people pray for them, few honor their sacrifice, or their memories. Jesus’ death is not like theirs, but I think we often treat the death of Jesus in a similar manner.

Jesus died for us. These words don’t state the matter with a truth the impacts our hearts, because it is not the whole truth. The whole truth is hard to hear, hard to contemplate. It would scare us in a way we could never forget. We would have nightmares about it. We would dwell on it and never understand; we would NEVER forget. It’s why it’s important we know in our hearts the real truth of Jesus.

Jesus didn’t just die for us, He died IN PLACE OF us.

WE were the soldier in battle, watching our wounds bleeding out our death. WE were the king seeing the arrow headed for our heart. WE were the condemned man walking up the scaffold seeing the rope above us, feeling the noose tighten around our throat. We were lost and alone, and then the giant beast raised up in front of us and growled, his sharp teeth showing blood from his last victim. WE were the next victim. WE were about to die, and no one, nothing could save us. We may have been praying our last prayers, but we expected no help. We expected quick, but painful death. Our end was here; we perspired heavily, and our heart beat rapidly, what we knew were its final beats.

But then it all stopped. It was like a dream, or a movie put on hold. It was like we awoke from a nightmare, still sweating, but with relief. But then, we saw the truth. It was no dream. The wounds were still bleeding, the arrow was still piercing the heart, the noose tightened and the trapdoor opened, the beast closed its jaws on the neck and ripped it open. It was still happening – but it wasn’t us. He was there. It was happening to Him. He was dying in our place. We watched with both horror and fascination – and wonder. How? How did this happen?

We might forget details, but later in our lives we probably will reflect on what led us up to the point of our expected death. In some way, undoubtedly, we deserved it. Some actions put us up to the final moment. Probably we’d sometimes think on that, but perhaps not. But what we would never forget is the horror of what happened, the look on His face – at us. He looked at us as He died. HE KNEW! He knew that He was dying in our place! He knew we belonged there, but He chose, willingly, to take our place. How could He do that? Why did He do that?

He didn’t just die FOR US. He died IN PLACE OF US. How could we ever forget?

Lord, I will never forget what You did for me. You came here and took my place, so that I could go there. I want you always with me, as I journey through my life to your kingdom.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Let Go of Distress

O Lord, what are human beings that you regard them, or mortals that you think of them? They are like breath; their days are like a passing shadow. (Ps 144:3-4)

Sometimes we make so much of things. Someone affronts us and we blow the situation way out of proportion to what actually occurred. We may spend days feeling upset and offended. Friends and family members stop speaking to each other, each one waiting for the other to apologize. Love and forgiveness are hovering around the fringes, and we leave them unacknowledged. How sad for everyone involved, whose days are “a passing shadow.” May we not waste our days by clinging to distress.

My life is so short, my God, Please help me to not let it waste away in hard feelings. I am the one who needs to choose to be a loving person. No one else can make me be loving, or make me act in an unloving way, no matter what that person says or does. When I’ve been wronged or feel distressed, let me take a breath and make a decision to respond in love.
Surrendering Our Stress (Prayers to Calm the Soul and Strengthen the Spirit), by Joan Guntzelman

I was having a bad day recently when I walked into the bookstore and found the above book staring at me in the front display. The above is one of the short meditations from it. If you are looking for a book of short morning meditations, this one was worth the buy.

Monday, January 25, 2010


The Gospel began: “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us” (Lk 1:1), then Luke proceeded to indicate that he was joining that crowd. Now we have heard and pondered his words 2000 years later. Hearing those words gave me pause to consider: What words might be written about the things now being accomplished among us in this country? How would they be pondered 2000 years from now?

God’s Son came only once to this earth, and certainly no other event can be compared in importance, but if we think of his coming as a “unique” event, certainly there are other major, unique events in the world, perhaps occurring even now. Their importance, however, is often only discovered in the future.

I believe the formation of the United States was a unique event in history. The way the nation started, and its stated purposes are unique among nations. And certainly the United States has been blessed like no other nation, blessed in so many ways. Why? Certainly some believe that we have largely come to our present status because of our Christian heritage: In God We Trust is our motto. As we matured as a nation, we acted as no nation in history, being one of the most generous and caring countries ever known – even dying for the liberty and sanctity of the lives of others. What we are now doing in Haiti is just a small example of the people we have become. But there are those who view negatively some aspects of who we have become. They think a “unique” time has now arrived, and they would seek to “change” the focus of our nation.

To my understanding, I believe some in this country are saying we have mis-applied the commandment to Love Your Neighbor. They seem to say: “Don’t try to free some peoples overseas whose culture you do not understand, first free the people right here who are bound in chains by our society.” They seem to say: “Don’t focus on feeding the hungry overseas before you focus on feeding the hungry right here.” They seem to say: “Don’t try to cure the ills of people around the world before you try to cure the sick people without adequate medical care here.” In short, they seem to say: Love your Neighbor who know and can see first, before you try to be the savior of the world. And even if you want to help those far away neighbors, don’t assume YOU know how to help them; seek the help of all neighbors around the world, so we can act together to Love our Neighbor.

That sounds good. Looking at it another way though, it also seems they are saying: “Let us take all our blessings of the Lord and apply them to ourselves first.” Looking at it that way, it doesn’t sound so good. I think before we “change” anything, from the very good, blessed nation we are, we need to ask some serious questions, and I think the present situation in Haiti gives us a good basis to evaluate things.

“Free the people right here who are bound in chains by our society.” Who has limits “chained” by our society? Who in the United States cannot work and grow in wealth and influence? Who cannot alleviate any unreasonable grievance against him through our court systems? Who, if he is unloved cannot find love from some of the many people who care about the least of us? Need I state all of the obvious examples of how there are ALWAYS people here willing to help? And what of the people in Haiti?? Look at their history and their likely future. Where were they able to turn to in the past; where will they be able to turn to in the future? In all likelihood the answer is the same: they are very much alone. Do we really need to help the people in this country before we would help those in Haiti? REALLY? Do you seriously compare the two levels of need?? If you do, you really need to go there, even for a week.

“Focus on feeding the hungry right here.” Hungry? Here? In the United States people with incomes of $20,000, $30,000, or $40,000 are defined as being in poverty. Poverty? Wake up America!! These are not “poor” people, they are “poor-er” people. Everyone in the United States is a “poorer” person than that one person who makes the most. People in this country may be poorer compared to others here, but they are not poor. You want to see poor, go to Haiti. You want to see hungry, go there and get a meal given to you, and not know where your next will come from – and even the one you have may be stolen from you. I have a friend who sometimes speaks about the “starving in America”. I have a standing offer to give $10,000 -- I’d have to borrow it -- if he can show me one person who could not get food and starved in this country. I have yet to pay.

“Cure the sick and people without adequate medical care here.” My response here is similar to the “starving Americans” comment. Who in America cannot get any medical care? Who in America is dying in the streets covered in flies, like the dying in Calcutta? Who in America is being buried in mass graves, unmarked and unremembered, like those in Haiti? Adequate medical care?? Some people in America may get “less” adequate medical care than others – what is your definition of adequate? If it’s about quality of care, in every medical specialty there is only one “best” doctor, and regardless what I pay for my doctor, it may not be him. Would you have everyone go only to the “best” – my, he would be very busy. Or would you punish all, and send them to the worst? In America, among PEOPLE (not robots), there will always be better and some more, some less – and money won’t always buy the difference in quality. In Haiti, however, there is no question about “adequate” care, there is the fact about NO care. Yes, there are many doctors rushing in now, but soon they will be largely gone. And for some Haitians, there will be NO medical care.

Many in America want to change our culture, to focus on ourselves, to make the poorer of us more like the rich, the weaker more like the strong, the sicker more like the healthy. But in the process of changing all these physical attributes of people, they are also proposing to change the spiritual. Instead of being the nation others look to for help, they would have us be the nation that turns our back. Instead of being a caring nation, they would have us be a selfish one. They would focus on us being physically well, but spiritually dead. Instead of taking our lead from God, they would have us take our lead from them.

God HAS blessed this country. If we act to the world like the rich man toward Lazarus, I suspect we will yield similar results. Instead of being the nation of continued great harvests, we will be nation looking for a drop of water to cool our tongue (Lk 16:19-31). America doesn’t need to make change in the future, it needs to look back at the changes it made in the past. We were great in no small part because we used the fruits of our blessings well. As individuals, as companies, and as a country, we need to make sure we apply our resources well, and liberally share our harvests with others – as we have done in the past. We do not need to be focused on getting more, we need to be focused on giving more. We do not need to be focused on being equal in each other’s eyes, we need to focus on being equal in God’s eyes.

It’s what made America great. It’s how we love our neighbor in this world. It’s what our future generations may look back proudly upon, as they read about what we have done, and have continued to do – without change.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bearing Fruit

Lord Jesus, Word of God, surrendering the brightness of your glory you became man so that we may be raised from the dust to share your very being. May there be innumerable children of the Church to offer homage to your name from the rising of the sun to its setting.
(Psalm Prayer, Week III)

As I prayed the Evening Prayer this night, I saw there a continuation of our thoughts on the purpose of our life: to use well our gifts and return them with interest when we are united with our Lord in heaven. Put another way, it is important that we make a difference to someone in this world; that our life was not just for ourself. As the prayer above notes, “you became man so that we may … share your very being (in heaven). May there be innumerable children of the Church ….” I think part of our duty in life is to contribute to the numbers of those “innumerable children,” but how are we to do this?

May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant, Jesus our Lord, furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will. Through Jesus Christ may he carry out in you all that is pleasing to him. To Christ be glory forever! Amen.
(Heb 13:20-21)

Certainly, Jesus is to help us spread the faith and lead worthwhile lives, as the Letter to the Hebrews notes. But we, even with his help, well, what are we to do? Earlier I wrote that parents can return their gifts with interest to the Lord through Baptism and the proper raising of their children – that can be their difference in the world to someone; it is their contributing to the innumerable children of the Church (“Look down, O Lord, on your Church and multiply in her your new generations.” – (From the prayers said on Holy Saturday to bless the baptismal waters) ). But what about single people, what about children in school, what about elderly alone, how can they contribute?

When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.
I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.
Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.

(The Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales)

St Francis (his feast day is today) explained it well. God doesn’t expect us to all be preachers, all to be monks, or all to go out of their way to try to be his presence or example in this world. If all did this, it would be chaos. God gives each of us talents which fit well with our vocation in life. So some are meant to be single, some married, some priests, some working people, and some meant to go to school – and someone meant to have one vocation should not be seeking to imitate another for which he is not suited. Then, as St. Francis notes, “in whatever situation we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.”

In summary, to make your life worthwhile, to live a life of perfection, seek a vocation which fits your talents, being who you were created to be (see 1Cor 12:12-30). Then be content to live in that vocation well, living a life of Christian example and leadership by your diligence, consistency, and sincerity in Christian belief as shown through your actions. Then you will be “living plants of his Church, … and bring forth fruits.”

Still, you may be thinking “But wait, how can I, by living a good Christian life, bring “children to the Church?” The point is that YOU can’t. But every word you say will be heard, every action seen, and then it will be God and his Holy Spirit which grows his Church. You will just be his instrument. Be a good one. Through Jesus Christ may he carry out in you all that is pleasing to him.

Lord we recognize that all the favors we have received today come through your generosity, do not let them return to you empty but let them bear fruit.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haiti; A Parable

As I read my morning prayers today, some words focused and re-focused my mind on what is happening in Haiti.

Mary bore only one Son. In heaven, he is the only-begotten of the Father; on earth, likewise, he is the only-begotten of his mother. She is the only virgin mother and glories in having borne the only-begotten of the Father, embracing the same only-begotten of hers in all his members. Therefore, she is not confused when she is called the mother of all in whom she recognizes her Christ brought to full stature, or in whom she knows he is continually growing.

We are called the Body of Christ, meant to grow in him and to be one with him, together. What I know of Haiti I have read, not learned first-hand. It is poor, its institutions and governments are corrupt and disorganized. It seems ripe for a dictator-led takeover. It has a large Catholic population. And now U.S.-coordinated groups are there to help provide relief and clear the chaos and death after the earthquake. And then?

Your deeds, O Lord, have made me glad; for the work of your hands I shout with joy. O Lord, how great are your works! How deep are your designs! I suspect after the feeding of people becomes organized, the burials done, and the clearing of the rubble begun, there will be many proposals on what to do next. Everyone will propose THE solution to all problems, and the next steps forward. I suspect all these plans will come to nothing. Much money has been spent in the past, probably much will be spent now. And nothing will change.

Oh, undoubtedly new infrastructure, utilities, office buildings, stores, will be built – and are needed – but the use of these will quickly fall into corrupt methods. Haiti of last year will be the Haiti of this year – with newer buildings and new monies for the few in power. I’m sure some people will be given new homes built out of relief efforts, but I recall the effects of our own Congress’ dictate that everyone in America will own a home, too. It won’t work or make a difference in the long run; it will be a focus on the wrong things. So what IS the right thing? The Lord is just; in him, my rock, there is no wrong.

May all who have been chosen by your Son always abound in works of faith, hope and love in your service. Can one man make a difference? I can give you examples of individuals who ARE making a large difference, right now, today. Oh, they are not saving countries or even cities, but they are saving lots of individuals, one by one. They opened their minds and hearts to the will of the Father, and are following his call, and they ARE making a difference. The reason for their success is that they changed their hearts from doing things for themselves to doing things in your service. I recall that there was one man a long time ago, ONE MAN, who decided to do the same thing. He was born in Bethlehem. He didn’t lead countries, he didn’t change cities, but he dedicated his life to following his Father’s will, in him, my rock, there is no wrong.

Almighty Lord, make us worthy to give you service, to put away ambitious thoughts and associate with those who are lowly. I think that great changes for the better can come to Haiti. If they do come, however, I suspect they will not come at the great designs of countries, men, or dictators. Great changes will come at the hands of a few individuals who will accept the call the Father has for them, and will seek to know and do his will. There are many people in Haiti who would follow a good, righteous leader, not a governmental one, but a humble one. And he could make great changes for the better. In God all things are possible, if we offer ourselves to him in service.

Our very existence is a gift from you; to you we offer all that we have and are.

My prayers this morning focused my mind on Haiti. Let us all pray for the people of Haiti, and God’s will for them, his entire will, and not the will of a few men who know THE solution to Haiti’s problems. Only God knows. I trust in Him.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Examination of Conscience

Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5) and then encourages us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:20).
Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate) (78) by Pope Benedict XVI

An Examination of Conscience Based on the Beatitudes
The best way to take the Gospel beatitudes seriously is to use them as a mirror for an examination of conscience that is truly “evangelical”. All of Scripture, says Saint James, is like a mirror into which the believer should gaze calmly and without haste in order to know what he or she is truly like (see James 1:23-5), but the beatitudes provide a unique mirror.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Am I poor in spirit, poor within, having abandoned everything to God? Am I free and detached from earthly goods? What does money mean to me? Do I seek to lead a sober and simple lifestyle that is fitting for someone who wants to bear witness to the gospel? Do I take to heart the problem of the terrible poverty that is not chosen but imosed on so many millions of my brothers and sisters?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Do I consider affliction a misfortune and a punishment, as some people in the world do, or as an opportunity to be like Christ? What are the reasons when I am sad: the same as God’s or the same as the world’s? Do I seek to console others or only to be consoled myself? Do I know how to keep an adversity a secret between God and me, not talking about it every chance I get?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Am I meek? There is a violence of action but also a violence of speech and thought. Do I control anger outside of and within me? Am I kind and friendly to those around me?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Do I hunger and thirst for holiness? Do I strive for holiness, or am I at times satisfied with mediocrity and lukewarmness? Does the physical hunger of millions of people lead me to question my continual search for comfort, my middle-class lifestyle? Do I realize how much I and the world in which I live resemble the rich man who feasted daily?

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Am I merciful? When a brother, a sister or a coworker demonstrates a fault, do I react with judgment or with mercy? Jesus felt compassion for the crowds; do I? Have I at times been the servant who was forgiven but does not forgive others? How many times have I casually asked for and received the mercy of God for my sins without taking into account the price that Christ paid for me to receive it?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Am I pure of heart? Are my intentions pure? Do I say yes and no as Jesus did? There is a purity of heart, a purity of lips, a purity of eyes, a purity of body: Do I seek to cultivate all these kinds of purity that are so necessary – especially to consecrated souls? The clearest opposite of purity of heart is hypocrisy. Whom do I seek to please by my actions: God or other people?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Am I a peacemaker? Do I bring peace to different sides? How do I behave when there are conflicts of opinion or conflicts of interest? Do I strive always to report only good things, positive words, and strive to let evil things, gossip and whatever might sow dissention, fall on deaf ears? Is the peace of God in my heart, and if not, why not?

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Am I ready to suffer in silence for the gospel? How do I react when facing a wrong or an injury I have received? Do I participate intimately in the suffering of brothers and sisters who truly suffer for their faith or for social justice and freedom?
Beatitudes (Eight Steps to Happiness) by Raniero Cantalamessa

With Interest

I wrote recently a meditation on how we should lead our life, and focused on the parable of the talents, noting that the gifts given to us must be returned, with interest, if we are to be using our lives as God intended, and to be joining him in eternity. But this morning my thoughts turned to a more earthly definition of “interest”.

I have a meeting with my financial advisor this morning. As far my retirement investments go, things are well, and my retirement investments have more than recovered from the downturn in the stock markets. And that’s where my problem – or this meditation – is focused this morning.

With no pride I state that minimizing the impact of the downturn and quickly recovering in my investments were in no small part due to my research. The losses in traditional mutual funds recommended by my advisor have been more than offset by my work – with much help from God, of course. Is my “interest” in the accounts also an “interest” (return) on my talents? What is my use of these monies, should they continue to grow? What should they be used for? In a few years all my obligations will be paid off: pledges to church and car and home loans. Unless my pension folds, it seems I have funds enough to do most things I want – and certainly those I need – without my retirement savings. So what should I do with these monies – and when?

Should I continue to monitor and have some focus on investments – it is a talent I have, and some fun for me. Is it a use of my talents to return financial gifts for a Godly use, or is it a gift of God to give me pleasure in life? Or both?? I could always will the funds to good charities upon my death, but should I be seeking to give away now? Should I turn over the fund to a Christian management firm, or continue to “play” in the accounts? Is there a better use of my time?

I have a financial advisor. I wish I had a spiritual advisor to talk over the many thoughts I have on my life. Meanwhile, I know that God and his Holy Spirit is a wonderful, continuing advisor to me – in many things. He speaks to me in the quiet of my prayers, and in the knowledge he gives me through the great books he bids me to read. This morning I concluded two wonderful books, Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate) by Benedict XVI, and Beatitudes by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. Both contain wonderful words to meditate on, especially Cantalamessa’s “An Examination of Conscience based on the Beatitudes”. They give me much to meditate on.

And so I give their words to you, in my next (separate) posting. Their wonderful words do not deserve to be cluttered with my usual ramblings and comments. Read them; enjoy; and meditate on them as you take a look at your life. And if you should not like the life you see there, well, there is always confession. I shall search that out myself this morning.

Peace and blessings to you this day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Christmas Hasn't Changed

Orig: 01/08/09

It was during the Christmas season that I noticed the little crèche set up beneath the altar at our church.

There, on the first altar of hay lay an image of the Christ child, and around him the small band of shepherds and kings who came to adore him. Above, on the larger altar lay Christ today, and within our church the small band of worshippers who came to adore him today. The few who came to visit him during that first Christmas season heard God and his angels sing of the wonderful event, and left their busy tasks to come and celebrate his birth. Today, I believe God and his angels still sing of the wonders of that day, and call people to come and celebrate, to come and adore. The kings and shepherds left their kingdoms and flocks to see what was announced to them; they had been waiting anxiously for the event. Today, many hear the continuing announcement, but hear the call of their “kingdoms and flocks” – their world -- as more important. Or perhaps, really, they view themselves as more important, in their world. Instead of answering the call to humble themselves to adore God, they answer their ego that says their world needs them more. Rather than bowing before their God, they prefer to feel as gods. For many, the world has replaced God in importance, and they believe this is a good and proper thing.

Even at the first Christmas, this attitude existed. Herod said he wanted to come and adore the Christ, but he really didn’t. He just wanted to destroy him and his importance, so that Herod’s power in the world might be more secure, and there’d be no distractions, for him or others. Herod wished all to be focused on him, his wishes and his desires. He wished to be as god.

Things aren’t much different today. Many in power say they want to come and adore Christ, but they really don’t. They want to destroy his importance so that their power might be more secure, with no distractions of religion or morality, for them or others. Many in power wish all to be focused on them, their wishes, their desires, and their pronouncements. They wish to be as gods. They seem to say: “Let there be a strong separation of church and state, so that there is no confusion of who comes first. Keep your Christ in your homes, in your churches, in your minds, but don’t let him be heard or seen in any public forum or public pronouncement. We come first. You may have freedom of religion – but believe in us first.”

Despite Herod’s actions, the small number came to adore at the first Christmas. Despite many efforts at minimizing the importance of Christmas, a small number still comes today.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Gift of Life

Today is my birthday. I celebrate the receipt of the greatest gift ever given to me, the gift of life. As I sit before the Blessed Sacrament of Life, I am reminded of the parable of the talents. To each he gave talents, that they might not JUST be returned to him, but used wisely and returned with interest. Lord, help me to lead my life wisely, that I might be who you created me to be, and that one day I may return your wonderful gift with interest, and remain with you forever.

At Sunday mass a woman and her children sat in the pew in front of me. I couldn’t help but notice that the eldest child, perhaps 10 or 12, did not pray. Oh, he and the others were quiet and stood or knelt as appropriate, but at the Lord’s Prayer he was silent. When a prayer for priests was said at the end of the mass, he opened the book to the proper place and glance around as he held the words before him – upside down. I wanted to say to him “I’m sorry you have difficulty reading, I am willing to help tutor you,” or “Did you never learn the Our Father? I could teach it to you.” But this would have embarrassed the mother, and so I was politically correct and silent – but I wonder if I should have been.

Life is a great gift, ours and the ones given to our care. Being a parent is a vocation, a life’s work. Augustine wrote some great sermons for pastors, reminding them of their vocation, its great blessing AND its great challenge. Being given a responsibility for so many souls is a “heavy” burden, which cannot be treated “lightly.” God expects much of his pastors – and I think he expects much of his parents. Whether given 100 souls or one, pastors and parents have also received a great gift from God, one which is expected to be returned to him some day – with interest.

While I suspect that children today are not taught how to be good mommies and daddies as much as they once were, still once they grow up and are given the gift of a new life it is required that they learn how to treat it. If not knowing how to drive and given the gift of a car, would they just put it in the garage? Of course not! They’d learn to drive! And if they didn’t want to use the car properly, they’d be better off giving it away – so it is with the gift of a child. They need to raise it properly.

Despite perhaps not knowing how to raise a child, it can be learned, just like the Rules of the Road can. I think the primary way in which some parents fail in their vocation of properly teaching a child however, is in never giving any tests along the way. If someone crashes a car and damages it and himself, would you explain: “I don’t understand why it happened. I told him how to drive.” No, of course not, he needs to be told, shown, AND TESTED along the way before you let him drive solo. So why do some parent act surprised when their children are arrested, are abused (or abuse others), or never go to church. “But I taught them right”, they wail. But, I wonder, did they ever test them along the way?

The children I saw in front of me Sunday failed the test of even knowing how to pray, and much less the test of wanting to pray. They may have known that God was somehow present in the Church (they were told so), but they didn’t seem understand why that should matter to them. I, for one, would not be surprised if they fail the final exam of adulthood responsibility – and perhaps pass their failures on to their own children. As it relates to the parable of the talents, our life and our blessings are talents given to us; our Godly-raised children are the interest we return on those talents. Perhaps the mother’s words and her good example in church will be enough for the children to someday find God on their own – many do. But I think Augustine would have found fault with the mother for failing in her task, to return the gifts – with interest. No, from what I saw at the moment, those children had no interest.

In the home, in serious study and prayer, all children need to be taught the WHAT’S and WHY’S about God, and that their life is a great gift and living it well is serious business. And they need to be tested on what they are learning alone the way – by the parents. Being a parent is a vocation, a life’s work. It cannot be delegated to another, it is your responsibility – the use of your talents which you will someday have to return, and show to have earned interest.

Use them well, my friends. Use them well.

In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit. (Jn 15:8)

P.S. As I logged in to post these words, why did my internet provider note that “The word of the day is Methuselah – a very old man??"

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Teen Focus

The pastor of my parish speaks much better on a regular basis than I could ever even hope to speak once. I believe his sermons aimed at the parish teen-agers, in the Sunday night 7PM mass are particularly effective. (Our small parish of 800 families has over 30 young men and women in various stages of religious vocation formation.)

You might enjoy listening to some of his sermons. I might suggest the one for January 3, 2010, which you can download here:

What's The Point?

I had a couple of comments to my blog this week which made me aware that my point in writing is sometimes (perhaps always?) not clear. The comments focused on a few words I said and ignored the bigger point I wanted to convey. Perhaps that’s just human nature – focus on what strikes you as interesting (or agreeing with your viewpoint) and ignore the rest. I read a prayer tonight: “Let your Word, Father, be a lamp for our feet and a light to our path, so that WE MAY UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU WISH TO TEACH US.” How easy it is to focus on what we want to hear, not what is being said.

I often write, as now, sitting in a church or chapel. In the quiet with God, “ideas or emotions” sometimes come to me, and if they stay a while, my mind connects them to experiences I have had or emotions I have felt in the past. The “ideas or emotions” turn into an organized story in my mind, and I write it down. The Google blog-posting system I am using very conveniently allows me to post my story as a blog, and my “ideas or emotions” – the key points of my story – as “Labels”, which you can see at the bottom of each post. I’ve included a search engine on this blog (in the upper left side) so you can look at articles on a particular theme (keyword), to see it from different angles, to develop the thought more fully.

The overall theme of this blog is its title: Do Not Be Anxious, from Matthew 6:25. If you read that section of the Gospel you will see that the overall reason to “not be anxious” is that God is in control, and he loves you. My posts are illustrations of anxieties I (and you) face, and how I see God as in control – or as he should be allowed to be in control. Each morning I pray: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” In a way, this blog is an answer to that prayer.

My life has a unique aspect to it in that I am the primary caregiver of a parent who now has special needs. Providing them and focusing on them and my responsibilities can create stress or anxiety. Other caregivers of parents, spouses, children, or even heavy-responsibility jobs, can feel similar stresses. This blog is to help them see and gain comfort, as I do, in knowing that God is in control, and therefore things will turn out all right.

Don’t let this blog’s focus on stress or anxiety lead you to generalize about my life, or my mom’s who I care for. I have much Joy in my life, and am usually very happy. My mom has similar feelings. I have days when my blood pressure rises, and mom has had days of agitation also. The times of my stress are minor compared to the times of my happiness. The times of my mom’s illness being worse are far fewer than the days she enjoys her life.

This blog has a focus; it is not a telling of my general life events (or even my mom’s) as some blogs may be. You’ll not see any posts focused on saying “Well, today we played cards (mom won again) and laughed at cartoons,” even though that did happen today. I hope this blog will not be read as indicating a totally stressed-out or unhappy life of my mom or me, although some comments recently seem to have that impression.

But I won’t let those misimpressions stress me out!! : - )

I hope you are having a good day today. God is good. Your life, his creation, is good. Smile!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Someone Should Do Something!

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds which they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, hearken to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No! but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations.”

(1Sam8 4:19)

When I heard these words read in church this week, I was reminded of the situation in our country. So many people are saying “Things are bad; somebody should do something,” and the “somebody” they think of is the government. The “apparent” starving (“apparent” because no one starves in this country), those without “written” medical guarantees (“written” because everyone IS guaranteed medical treatment in this country), and those who don’t have homes (since Congress dictated home ownership SHALL be a certain portion of the populace) – all these people who are having “bad” things happen to them: “Somebody Should Do Something!” And now we are even extending our thoughts to Haiti, and primarily looking to our government to do something there, too.

This week I spoke with a woman who said: “I don’t understand why the government can’t just give free medical care to the people. In Switzerland they have no taxes and medical care is free to everyone. If it can be free in little Switzerland, I don’t understand why it can’t be free here.” There is much this woman doesn’t understand.

Earlier in the week, another person said they “didn’t understand why we can’t get drugs as cheaply as they do in Canada.” There was also much this person didn’t understand.

Maybe it’s because these people were younger, and the fault lies in our educational system. I don’t know. But I was reminded of my experiences with a non-profit organization called Paint The Town, which painted and repaired homes for free for the elderly and low-income people of the Detroit metropolitan area. One of the biggest problems for Paint The Town volunteers was getting the elderly to sign up for the program, even if they desperately needed it. “Paint and fix my house for free?! Get outta here; no one gives you something for nothing.” These elderly people had this truth fixed in their minds (correctly), and were rigid in their thinking to avoid the many scams tossed their way. I wish some younger people were as wise.

Even if the young were never taught in school that “you never get something for nothing”, perhaps a few heard and heeded the words and clear meaning of Scripture above. The people wanted a king “like all the other nations” with all the perceived benefits. God finally gave in to their pleadings, but not before He warned them: “Watch out what you ask for; you may get it.” What they perceived as the benefits were far outweighed by detriments they were not considering.

So many people are asking for things of the government today, and will be surprised at the results – the detriments -- if they get it. We need to go back to our elderly grandparents to get educated on what happens: “No one gives you something for nothing.” If really and truly “Someone Should Do Something”, we need to recognize that that “someone” is likely not the government, it is us.

I really and truly believe all people in this country, liberals and conservatives, want the same thing: to love their neighbor. Only some view that as being done by GIVING everything to their neighbor, and others believe it is done by helping the neighbor to get all they need. I believe that God promises he will GIVE us everything in heaven; here on earth we are to work. The government cannot promise heaven here.


Tonight as I prayed my rosary for an end to abortion, I thought about some recent studies about autism, and I saw they link between my prayers and thoughts. Abortion ends a life forever; autism takes some significant portion of a life, forever. Abortion is perceived by some as necessary, a “greater good”, a necessary protection of self. It’s why it is considered a medical “cure” for a “problem”. And so what of the “problem” of autism?

Recent studies show autism now affects 1-in-100 children. Many scientists believe certain children have a “pre-disposition” to autism, and it occurs when a certain trigger occurs. Find the triggers and stop them, and you stop autism. But what if the triggers are “onerous”, or “politically incorrect?” Some triggers are thought to be childhood shots, others excessive watching of television, and others electronic waves themselves. If proven, would we stop shots? Outlaw television? Reduce electronic devices in the home? I suspect no one even wants to find those causes, much less act on them. Perhaps that’s why there are so few studies being done on autism. Perhaps our society would rather find the “predisposition” gene, so we can do yet another pregnancy test to give a new mother yet another reason to opt for abortion – rather than take a 1-in-100 chance of an autistic child.

It kind of reminds me of sin. We proceed with something we just “have to do” to give us a short-term pleasure or avoid some of the normal pains of life. And sometimes in the process another life is ruined – or taken. What we fail to realize is that with sin or abortion, the real life being taken is ours. Our recognition of the love deserved by each and every life, young or old, is being destroyed. Sin, particularly abortion, reduces our ability to love – taking away OUR reason for being.

I think for the time being I’ll begin saying my rosaries for an end to abortion AND an end to autism. As usual, I leave it up to God to decide the best way to answer my prayers. In Him I trust.

Words of Love

I love you, Lord, my strength, my rock, my fortress, my Savior.
Lord, kindle a light for my guidance.
He who serves me will never fail.
Father of love, hear our prayers. Help us to know your will and to do it with courage and faith.

Those are words I read and prayed this morning. They spoke deeply to and from my heart. I yearn to share the comfort they bring me with others. I wish there were someone, there in the quiet, that I could speak these words aloud to, to discuss my Joy at hearing them, the love I feel, received and given, in saying them.

I feel God’s presence, and know He understands. I believe He feels similar thoughts, in part because I believe I have heard him speak them to me – in the words I read and felt this morning – which were no coincidence – and the words I have read and heard Him say in the past. Having once heard and felt those words, I will never forget them. Never. You will never forget real and true love given to you. Never.

I recall the conversation I had with my father a couple of months before his death. He was not ill; he showed no signs of weakness. It was just one quiet afternoon, mom napping, he and I quietly reading. Looking up at him I felt a deep spirit of love come over me. After contemplating this a while, I put down my book and said: “Dad, I want to tell you something.” He sensed my seriousness and put down his book. “Dad, I want to say that I love you. I am proud that you are my father. You have raised me well – although I make myself far from perfect – and you have raised my sister and brother well, also. I know at many times it was not easy. And I can see how much you still love and care for mom, after 65 years. Dad, you are an example I know I can never live up to, but I wanted to say something which I should have said so many times, but maybe just thought you knew, how much I love and admire you. I don’t know how many years I have left to live, but I want you to know that I will always be thinking of you, and trying to be the man you tried to raise me to be.”

I’m sure dad said some similar words to me. I don’t recall the “what” of things said, but I felt the love I gave come back in return. It was good we said those things. Those feelings, unsaid in the past, now became set in concrete in our hearts. That real and true love will never be forgotten. Never.

I think I’ve written some words like these in the past. The words I read this morning, triggering those memories of love I share with Jesus also triggered those memories of my family. On, and I guess recently writing and thinking about my brother and sister contributed to my feelings. And also seeing and thinking of my mom.

Every night as I tuck her in, she never fails to say: “You know I love you.” She is so confused on many days, much of what she says comes from out of the blue, and makes no sense. Sometimes I don’t understand the message she wants to convey, or even WHO she wants to convey it to. But each night, I know her words come from deep in her heart, from an area that will never be confused. She loves me, and knows I love her. That real and true love will never be forgotten. Never.

Sometimes the words I read or hear remind me of the loves I have felt, from my parents, from my family, from my God. But it is the words which were said that set that feeling, that knowledge of the true love, deep in my heart.

It is so easy to assume that someone we love or admire “understands” our feelings. Even if they do, it is not good enough. Some day – soon – in a quiet time, in a time where seriousness can be conveyed, tell the ones closest to you, sincerely, how much you deeply love and admire them. They will never forget. Never.

And in their darkest hours, when they are alone and perhaps suffering, they will remember in their hearts that they are loved. And it will matter SO MUCH to them, so very much.

Sometimes I wonder why I am alive, what is my purpose. One thing I know for sure, a divine purpose of my existence, is to show love sincerely to others. To let them know they are important. It’s one of the most important things I can do with my life. It will make an eternal difference.

Start making a difference with your life, and it will never be forgotten. Never.

P.S. A young woman came up to me at church on Sunday and mentioned that she and her husband pray the Liturgy of the Hours (as I do) together each day, and then I reflected back to the above meditation. I think praying these prayers that Jesus himself prayed cements a relationship of love between a man and woman, and God. If you should wonder how to quietly show love to those near to you, certainly praying together is a great place to begin. Reading prayers like the ones quoted above enables you to feel God’s love for you, and for you to talk about it with your loved one. Prayers like this are not just between you and God, they are prayers of love in the Spirit of Love, uniting all of the Body of Christ, all who are dear to you. May your prayers bring you great peace and Joy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I remember my brother and sister as being people who had much joy, were good to others, and yet were noticeably humble. Although they irritated me at times, I never felt them to be selfish. Sis, early in her marriage was very interested in new technology. She quickly became the IT guru in her office, and was asked to train further, with a promise of quick advancement – for money and prestige, while doing something she very much enjoyed. And for a newly married still teen-ager, she and her spouse were very happy. And then she found herself pregnant.

Sis loved her husband and family more than work, money and prestige. She wanted to grow in their eyes, not her boss’. Oh, she continued working while her children were daily cared for by nearby gramma, but when her husband’s illness dictated a change of climate, she readily quit her job and focused on her family. Her children never forgot gramma though, and fly to visit her each year, even if she sometimes struggles to remember them. But they remember her.

I lived with my brother and sister for twenty years before I moved away, and despite the many things they did which irritated me, but I will always remember the good things. I remember and try to live up to the good examples they gave me. I will always love, and pray to them.

It was a bad weekend for me. Pain from a tooth raised my blood pressure again, and nothing touched the pain or pressure. My head ached very much. Double doses of every drug I had and a good dentist helped to get me stable enough for him to do a root canal on Monday. The antibiotics and pain meds have now calmed my body. With me through all the pain was my Lord, my friend and my adopted brother.

In truth, I’ve known my adopted brother about as long as I lived with my earthly siblings. In the past 20 years, I have talked to Jesus, I have read many things about his life, and I can remember some of the events of his life just like those of my brother Eddie. Some of the events of Jesus’ life seem almost sinful to me – in that I certainly wouldn’t dare to do them. Some of the events of his life were just so innately good however, that I wonder if I could have done those actions either.

Even as Eddie was “a little slow” to those around him, Jesus was probably considered “a little fast” to those around him. Forget the miracles – that was just God – but his other actions were so basically, unusually, good that they sometimes required explanations, which he gave by illustrations, examples, and parables, and of course, loving patience. He intended good, even if those around him didn’t understand it – just like Eddie.

I learned about Eddie and about Jesus by living very close to them for a long time. How else can you really know someone? I now sometimes feel a bit sad when someone says something is wrong about what Jesus said or his church teaches, or if someone looks down on a mentally challenged person. Their logic usually gets down to a “this is what I feel” explanation, but how can you really “feel” you know something about someone, the meaning of what he said or did, unless you have lived with him a long while? Anything that you “feel” you know is really just a small snapshot, a picture at a moment, taken out of context, taken out of a life.

Eddie and Jesus were so much different. They were also so much alike. Forgetting about all the incidents, the “snapshots” of their life, I’ve come to know them both to be very loving, humble people. I know they always did things with a mind which wanted “to make mom and dad happy”. To me, they both gave me that example, to respect and care for my parents here on earth, and my Father in heaven.

I think that someday the “snapshots” of my life will be in an album, and perhaps I’ll review it together with all my parents, my brother and sister – and my adopted brother and Father also. We’ll laugh at some things, tsk-tsk at others, and finally remember the love we all see there. Then we’ll close that album and hug. And then get on with our new day together.

I pray that you may be spending some time getting to know your adopted brother, Jesus and his Father. There is so much to see and learn about them. Maybe you’ll be building snapshots for an album that you’ll smile at with them some day. Meanwhile, as you get closer to this brother, Jesus, you will find that you can call on him in your pains, as I did this weekend. “My dearest brother, please help me”. His hand in yours makes all the pains a little easier to bear. When you feel alone in your pains, you will know that he’s there for you, and he loves you. Speaking to him, knowing he is always close by, makes the worst of times more bearable, until the sun shines again in your life.

Even if your earthly family memories aren’t as nice as mine, never hate the idea of family. You have a wonderful family there in heaven. You are part of that family now; you will be even more a part of it in eternity. Please spend time getting to know them. The more you really know them, the more you will love them. They are as good as good can be. Really!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Blessed Are...

I don't know what struck me to post the note this morning about my brother. It was one I had forgotten about, until I chanced to see it among old notes. But perhaps it wasn't chance at all.

I heard the shoveling this afternoon, the shovel on the walk, clearing the snow from last night. I admit I am not too diligent about clearing mom's walks. It is a rental house, and I am only here in evenings. And on weekends like now, it seems I am more interested in sitting with mom than disturbing her by going out. But I heard the shoveling outside our door.

It was the man from down the street. I've heard his name before, but I have forgotten it. Every week he comes by on Friday mornings, after the garbage truck has passed, and moves the garbage cans from the street into the back yard. He does this for my mom -- and for everyone else on the block. He isn't like everyone else. I think my brother would have said he "is just a little slow", but he always has a smile on his face, like my brother did.

He shoveled the drive, the front porch steps, and the walks. Then he proceeded to the next neighbor. He looked happy.

I don't know what would please him. I suspect money doesn't matter that much to him, although the neighbors did come around at Christmas and ask for a donation for enclosing in a card for him.

I think I'll ask some neighbors about where he lives, his parents, and perhaps, what they might think he'd like. I'd like to buy him something, just because he is such a nice man. And I'll find out his name, again, and I won't forget it.

Sin and Disappointment

Orig: 01/10/09

I remember my brother Eddie’s many sins. But Eddie had an excuse: he was born with a mental defect. Truly it can be said that he just didn’t know. But I know how he tried to be good, even good beyond his understanding. Even with his retardation, he knew being good was a good thing. And so he tried, as hard as he could.

The one incident I remember most often about Eddie was when he was about 7 years old. His retardation was obvious, but my mom and dad didn’t want to accept it. “He’s just slow; he’ll catch up.” Eddie went to elementary school with his best (and perhaps only) friend, Nancy, the little girl next door. They had played together in the yard from when they could walk. School brought many trials for Eddie and his mom, and, in truth, the nice nuns passed Eddie from first grade to the second out of kindness or pity. Mom worked endless hours with him on his schoolwork. But one day reality was forced upon everyone. My brother Eddie did a “number two” in his pants that morning in school, a real smelly mess. With all the young kids laughing and pointing, the young nun had to do something. She took Eddie to the principal’s office, who called my mother at home.

Mom came to the school, and immediately was aware, as everyone else was, of the problem. She promised the principal that she would take Eddie home, clean him up, and have him back for his afternoon classes. The dear, kind nun looked my mom in the eye: “No, Mrs. S., I’m afraid Eddie cannot come back. Eddie is a good boy; he obeys in class; it’s not that he is not trying. But it’s obvious that he cannot keep up with the other children, and that he is a disruption in class – as was readily seen this morning. Another place must be found for him. I’m afraid I must insist that he cannot be brought back to this school.”

To say that my mother was devastated would be an understatement. She cleaned Eddie up, put him to bed, and cried much of that afternoon.

Looking back on the incident, I understand my mom and dad’s actions. It’s hard to admit that your children aren’t what you expected them to be. You put so much effort into creating them be good, important, and happy people that when they fail, you feel you failed too. It’s hard to admit, sometimes, that in fact they WILL fail, and they WILL disappoint you – no person is created perfect and no person acts perfect. And even if they were created perfect, they can choose not to be in the future. And they can disappoint you. I sometimes wonder what God feels about us. I know he created us just as he wanted us to be – but then we go out and, well, become much less than perfect. We become much less than what he gave us the talents and abilities to be.

I wonder if we disappoint him.

My dad came home from work that afternoon, and my mother told him what had happened. Dad called Eddie down from his room, and raged at him: “Why couldn’t you behave? Now you can’t go back to that school anymore! What are we going to do?!” And dad took off his belt and began spanking Eddie. My sister and I were in our rooms, but throughout the house we could hear my brother’s cries: “Please! Please! I’ll be good; I promise! I want to go to school with Nancy; I’ll be good. I promise! Please!”

“Don’t make me stay home; I want to go to school. Please!”


I’m sure both my mom and dad were crying as dad spanked Eddie. I know my sister and I were. When we remembered that day many years later, we still did. I still do now.

Mom and dad eventually found a “special” school for Eddie, and later in his life he worked in various “special” jobs, provided for by the state. Eddie came to realize that he was “special”, and that relative to his understanding of some things, well, “I’m just slow”. He led a relatively happy life with mom and dad until he died one night about 40 years later.

Eddie never forgot the night when he found out he wasn’t like the other kids, and he couldn’t go to school with Nancy anymore. And, in his own words, he “disappointed mom and dad”. Later, from “borrowing” some cookies from Uncle Joe’s store, to taking a pie cooling on a neighbor’s window sill, to feeding the neighbor’s cows some candy, he often told me tales of disappointing mom and dad. But he always said he was sorry. And he really and truly was.

I think Eddie, despite his “slowness” understood the concept of sin better than most of us. He knew there were temptations he should not give in to; he knew giving in felt good at the time, he knew there were consequences; and perhaps most importantly, he knew that it disappointed mom and dad. Sometimes when he talked to me about his failures and he told me how much mom and dad were disappointed, he cried. The greatest problem with his sin was that he disappointed mom and dad.

I was told that Eddie never progressed beyond the mental age of a nine-year old. Sometimes, when I pray to God for Wisdom, I pray to be as wise as my brother Eddie was. And I pray, with that Wisdom, I might not disappoint my heavenly Father.

Eddie taught me that prayer. I pray to him often.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Grace Makes Sense of Things

A lot of my personal readings have been coming together in recent days, and seemingly overlap in explaining and enforcing ideas from different angles. I guess it started with the Blessed Columba book, which continues to be a great and intriguing read.

This morning I read the Office of Readings from the Common of Pastors, in recognition of today’s feast day of Saint Raymond, a priest from Spain around the 13th century. I read: If anyone wishes to be first, he must become the last and servant of all. These words tied to something else I recently read in Sower Magazine, which wrote about the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. It said: The Jews always regarded God’s choice of them as an immense privilege. The danger was that this privilege came to be seen as something earned. The challenge goes out to ourselves as well. Do we regard living the Christian life as earning our way into heaven? Is it not rather our joyful response to the privilege of being called to belong to God’s kingdom? If our hearts focus on the grace of the call, we shall not be tempted to resent those who receive the same grace at the last hour. This reminded me of Columba’s description of grace.

Another article in that same magazine spoke of the spiritual fatherhood of bishops and priests. Bishop Aquila of North Dakota writes how he felt called to “see everything through the eyes of the Father.” Putting this call into practice, he referred to his priests as “my dearest sons” during a retreat. He was overwhelmed at the response, the priests who wept over being treated as someone that important, that much loved. Do you see the relationship to my earlier quoting of Columba, on the Father’s Divine Plan, how close the Father wants us to be to him, and how we should love our families and those we meet in the same way?

I read further in the Office: When the prince of pastors comes again, you will receive from him an unfading crown of glory. And: You must have at heart every member of the flock, for the Holy Spirit has made you their shepherds (Acts 20:28). Again, the references to grace.

I read further: You will hear the word from my mouth. You will tell others what I have said. Then I read a segment from Fr Cantalamessa’s book on the Beatitude: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Cantalamessa notes that “what determines purity or impurity of an action is the intention, that is, whether it is done to be seen by others or to please God. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men (Matt 6:2). “Hypocrisy is the sin that God denounces most forcefully throughout the Bible, and the reason is clear. Through hypocrisy people dethrone God and put him in second place while placing creatures – public opinion – in first place. The judgment of Christ on hypocrisy is final: They have already received their reward! Jesus even said of himself: I do not seek my own glory (Jn 8:50).


Lots of insights in my recent readings, which I share with you, but even as I share them I have to look within me and ask why I am doing this. Where does the line get drawn between sharing/evangelizing the good word as I have perceived it given to me, versus speaking out with the big old capital “I”, as in “look what I found” – as if it had not been given to me? The fact of the insights I have felt and the warning I read in Catalamessa gives me pause.

I say to myself that I am not writing to seek any converts to my thinking, or laud for the insights given me. I KNOW in my heart, that anything I receive/perceive is a great blessing for me, a grace I was able to accept. And I hope to pass on to others, as in the parable about the talents – I must take what I am given and make it grow. Yet in my heart I know the warning about hypocrisy is given to me as a blessing even as much as the rest – temptations come so easily.

Relative to temptations, I want to leave you with one final insight I was given recently. A man called into a radio show and commented on giving up smoking. He claimed to have been an expert, having given up smoking himself dozens of times. But then he noted what made him finally quit. He said that in the past when he fell off the wagon, he hated himself for having such weak willpower, and it took quite a while for him to again make the commitment to quit. But then he had an insight: he should be treating his smoking as if it were a sin – which for him he felt it was. Once he approached it this way, when he gave up smoking and inevitably found himself “having to have one”, he treated it like a sin. He confessed and resolved to not sin again, and continued his pledge to quit. One failure did not mean he was a full-fledged smoker again; it meant he failed and would try harder. He said he only fell into smoking 4 times before his continued resolve made him stop completely. What a wonderful story. Don’t give up.

I resolve, my friends, to write here what God has done for me, and I will try to refrain from writing as if I had done some great thing. Please, if I fail, don’t look on me as a braggart, a hypocrite. And in the same vein, don’t look at what I am able to perceive through the blessing of having the time to read and study much as being some great wisdom, some great words of a holy man or such. I may be blessed occasionally, I may be TRYING to grow in holiness, but I am far from holy, nor an example of it.

PLEASE don’t ask those who have known me all my life. It may lead you to ask me to write some of my failures as examples, not my successes. And my failures would require at least ten times as many words, and you would probably quit reading after the first page.

Accept this for what it is, my attempt, no—OUR attempt at trying to understand what God has in store for us, and what he wants us to do, as we travel this painful journey through life, looking forward to the fulfillment of his Divine Plan.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Supreme Purpose

I suspect that some who read my thoughts on heaven yesterday were either confused, or put off. It is not an easy concept I put forth. But I said I’d never try to convince you of anything (look at the header of this blog), but that I would present to you my reflections and my understandings on life, and the anxieties of life, in the hopes that both of us may go forward the better for it. But for some, perhaps not.

I look at the concept of growing in holiness throughout our life as similar to growing in any other knowledge – different people are at different levels. A college freshman knows more than a 3rd grader about calculus, and despite his best efforts, the college guy probably can’t explain calculus to the 3rd grader – he just isn’t advanced enough in mathematical principles to understand. God is the master teacher, head of the department, and everyone else is trying to learn what he knows – but they’ll never know it all. Some will be close enough in knowledge to discuss things and perhaps together learn more than each would separately. Some my trudge through all the text books on the subject alone. There is no right way, but there is an organized way – and it’s within the Church. I proceed along the organized way, but am open to listening/reading others outside the norm, in hopes of picking some kernel of wisdom that might help me jump ahead a grade. If I can show it to you, and you perceive it in the same light, you might come along. (I’ll let you copy from my paper).

Yesterday, as I was sitting thinking about some of the insights on heaven and God’s Divine plan, I happened to pick up a book of daily meditations which I was given a while back. Over a year’s time, I had read through the entire book, which was put together by a Protestant minister, and then it sat on the front room table, untouched for another year or more. But for some reason I picked it up yesterday, opened to a bookmark which was, I guess, randomly stuck in the middle, and began to read:

The Supreme Purpose

I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus (Phil 3:8)

Maybe you have heard a comment that “someone is not serving the Lord anymore. It seems God called him to preach, but he’s running from the call of God.”

It may be true that someone called this person to preach, but it probably wasn’t God. The enemy uses all sorts of trickery to pull us out of a right relationship with our heavenly Father – even calling someone to the ministry. But anything that’s detrimental to your supreme purpose, anything that keeps you from being a child in a proper relationship with the Father , is not a purpose from God. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons in Jesus Christ.” (Eph 1:4-5). It was God’s pleasure and his will (his purpose) from the beginning that we could stand before him “holy and blameless.” And he gave us a destiny – that we would be his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. This is the supreme purpose of mankind.

There will be times in our lives when God asks us to do something we find uncomfortable. But never will he demand something of us that will destroy our relationship with him.

Father, I confess that my supreme purpose is to know you, to realize that I am your child. This is my destiny, and I receive it now.
Between Sundays, by Shawn Craig (Week 26, Monday)

I reiterate: I am not trying to convince you of anything. But having picked up this book and read that page, after more than a year’s absence, well … well, ain’t God grand? That’s all I’ll say.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Despite all my early Catholic schooling, it was only after I committed my life to God, and in particular to his son Jesus Christ, that I really came to an appreciation of heaven. Perhaps because we are called to grow in holiness throughout our life, it is fitting that I did not appreciate heaven until I committed to that growth. How I wish, however, I had deeply understood in my youth what I now perceive. My life might have been so different.

I had always believed that heaven was, well, heaven. God, angels and saints, all lie in a place of happiness beyond understanding – so I never really tried to understand it, and my education either gave me no framework, or it all went over my head (a distinct possibility).

I didn’t understand heaven, and my perceptions were much like everyone else’s, and I was equally perplexed. Angels, saints, etc. glorifying God for eternity? Huh? I would never have agreed with anyone who said it sounded boring, but well, in truth, I just didn’t want to think about it too much. I didn’t understand.

Meanwhile, when I eventually made that commitment to live my life with a goal of being who God created me to be, I began reading (and praying) in earnest to try to understand what that might mean. Along the way, I began reading some descriptions of heaven – the goal and reason for making my life a good one – which described my participation in heaven as being “deified”, becoming as God. As I read more and more, I found that description of heaven appearing more and more, and being described in more depth. And suddenly heaven made great sense to me, and – good grief!! – how much I now want to get there. I found that heaven is not just a place I want to get to when I die from this life, but a place I want to get to right now, while I live. And as many saints and the Catechism of the Catholic Church explain, I really can!

I’ve started reading a book called “Christ, The Life of the Soul”, by Blessed Columba Marmion. Blessed Columba lived from 1858-1923. Pope Benedict XV in describing this book said: “Read this – it is the pure doctrine of the Church.” The first chapter describes the Divine Plan of God. It goes into wonderful, clear, biblically-based depth that I won’t describe, but I think some limited quotes will convey the key message:

“The holiness to which God calls us is a participation in the Divine life brought by Jesus Christ. This Divine life God decrees creatures shall be called to share by elevating them above their nature; this is the grace of super-natural adoption.”

“To exist, God has need only of Himself and His perfections; He has no need of any creature, (but) God has decreed that we enter into a sharing of the inner life that belongs to Him alone; this constitutes our holiness. He has predestined us ‘to be His adopted children (Eph 1:5),’ to participate in this way in His own Divine nature: ‘partakers of the Divine nature (2Pet 1:4).’ God adopts us as His children. Participation in this Divine life is effected through grace, in virtue of which our soul becomes capable of knowing God as God knows Himself; of loving God as God loves Himself; of joying in God as God is filled with his own beatitude, and thus of living the life of God Himself.”

“Adam received for him and for his race, the grace that made him a child of God. But by his fault, he lost that Diving gift – for himself, and for his race too. It is through the Word Incarnate that God will restore everything. The Divine Sonship which is in Christ by nature, God’s own and only Son, that Sonship is meant to extend all the way to us through grace, in such a way that Christ, in the Divine thought, is but the firstborn of a multitude of brethren who are, through grace as He is by nature, sons of God. He has predestined us to ‘become conformed to the image of His Son, that he should be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom 8:29).’ We are here at the central point of the Divine plan: the Divine adoption. It is from Jesus Christ, it is through Jesus Christ, that we receive it. ‘God sent his son, born of a woman … to enable us to be adopted as sons (Gal 4:4-5).’”

“Our holiness is nothing other than that. The more we participate in the Divine life through the communication Jesus Christ makes to us of the grace which He ever possesses the plentitude, the higher is the degree of our holiness. All holiness that God has destined for souls has been deposited in the humanity of Christ, and this is the source at which we must draw.”

“Let us adapt ourselves to this Divine thought that wishes us to find our holiness in our conformity with Christ Jesus. There is (to say it again) no other way. We shall be pleasing to the eternal Father – and is not the very basis of holiness ‘to be pleasing to God’? – only if he recognizes in us the features of His Son. Through grace and our virtues, we ought to be so identified with Christ, that the Father, gazing on our souls, may recognize us as His true children, may take pleasure in that, as He did in contemplating Jesus Christ on earth.”

Now the book I quoted from gives much more detail, but the point shown in the first chapter is that heaven consists of our being deified, participating in God through His Son, Jesus Christ. All of God’s wisdom, His love, His peace will be ours. All my straining, with His grace now to know Him more, to love Him more, to have wisdom to know His will, all this earthly striving will be perfected in the end -- I shall be one with Him.

All I’ve been striving for here on earth, and want to the degree I can get it, will be perfected in heaven. Do I look forward to heaven? You bet I do!

And if my definition of all love and happiness is to be complete there for me, then of course I want you there also, my friends. I sincerely want you there to help complete my happiness.

I pray this has given you Hope, hope for the journey. Our hope is based on a truth we believe, and that spiritual truth, beyond our human understanding is revealed to us by Jesus. And Blessed Columba explains Christ’s revelation of God and His message to us so very well. I pray you hear His word in your hearts, and see His light in your souls.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Are You The One?

On the feast of the Epiphany, the magi sought to give homage to the king foretold by the ancient prophecies.

So often I think and act as if I am the important one, as if what I think or what I do has some great import, but other times I realize that thinking has no meaning – for it means I prioritize being alone, above others. I don’t want to be alone, so my actions CAN’T focus on making me that way. It makes no sense, so why do I so often act that way?

It is the word “I”, I think, that so confuses me. I put so many things in terms of “I” – I, the one of importance. Our society loudly reinforces this way of thinking, keeping me confused. It says with every commercial, with every product, even in every classroom for first-graders: you are important. Look out for number one, yourself. In America, we are taught very early in our life, we are important.

But I know I really am not THE “number one”, if anything I am really a zero, for I know I am nothing without Christ. Without him, my life would have ended with my death. Without him, the “second Adam”, I could not become as close to God as the first Adam was. Without his example, I could not know how to live my life with any purpose – other than for “number one”, myself. Without him, I would truly be alone. He came into the world that we might be one with him. He is the light of the world, and he came that we might have light.

So often I feel alone, in the midst of all the things I have. I don’t seem to understand so many things, and so many things seem against me and those I love. I want, I pray for things to be better, but it often seems there is no answer; I am alone, in the dark. But if I am in darkness it is only because I have shut my eyes to the truth. Jesus is the light of the world and came into it that we might share in his light. In my darkest times I must shout to myself:

Open your eyes! It is only dark if you won’t open your eyes!

The Church gives us seven sacraments, all focused on opening our eyes to the light, opening to God’s graces through his Son’s example and Being. Forgiving sins, anointing us in commitment to be as God wills us to be, training us in how to love – as he loves, bringing us as close to him as we can be in this earthly life, even to the point of touching his heavenly life in the Eucharist. He came that we might have life, eternal life. He came that we might be eternally in him, and with him as adopted sons of the Father.

I am not one of any importance, except as I am one in him. Growing in holiness, growing ever closer to him now, ‘til I am one, one with him in eternity. Now I am really nothing, but I am not alone. He promised that I can be one in him, as a son of the Father. I am nothing now, but in truth I shall become one with the most important one in all eternity.

The magi came to see; Lord, help me to see.

As I prayed Pio’s prayer after communion this morning the words took on an even deeper meaning:
Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light and without You I am in darkness.
Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much and always be in Your company.
Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death, I want to remain united to You, if not by communion, at least by grace and love.
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.

Friday, January 1, 2010

January 1: Mary, Mother of God

The Church in recent decades uses this day to call our attention to the Mother of Christ
(Behold, He Comes)

My initial reaction at church this morning was, however, that the feast being celebrated was a continuation of the New Year’s Eve Party.

After the Gloria was sung for the entrance hymn, I did a quick check: No, it WAS the feast of Mary, Mother of God, not God, whose mother was Mary. Then began the party. Happy New Year to all of you! Now let’s wish our neighbors around us a very happy new year! After the short readings, the party and well-wishing continued into the homily. What a great feast it appeared we were celebrating about ourselves!

But then the priest began to speak some words of discord into the well-wishing. And I suddenly began to see myself in his words – and I didn’t like what I saw.

I know I get upset too easily. When someone does something stupid, why can’t I just think: tsk-tsk? Why can’t I just say a prayer for those who irritate me? Why?

I am not above getting angry over spiritual slights either, and I noticed that even the celebrant at this morning’s mass criticized the church service the night before. He brought it up a number of times in the midst of his sermon on Mary, the Mother of God – he felt compelled to mention how the service the prior night was “just a bunch of noise”. His comments became distracting to me; it was obvious he could not contain (and not voice) his anger. And I saw myself saying (and now writing) similar words today.

Somehow, getting an example that I was not alone in my quick anger is not comforting to me. It just means I know of at least 2 people who get angry too easily, and disrupt the peace of others. This is not a good thing. Perhaps a basis for a New Year’s resolution? I think not, but I will try use it as a basis for prayer, and for asking forgiveness. Forgive me, my friends, if my words are now causing disruption to your peace.

As I walked up the aisle to receive Communion, the choir began the beautiful hymn “Ave Maria”. I almost said aloud: “About Time!” but I didn’t. But then as I listened, and looked at the host raised before my eyes, I realized it really was about time, the correct time for me at least, the singing of praise to Mary, and the receiving of her Son. They go together so well, as truly beautiful music – for me. For me.

Mass ended with the great old Marian hymn “Go Tell it on the Mountain”, (written in 1935). Then the party resumed in earnest, with great noise and laughter for almost 30 minutes in the Church. (No one went over to the statue of Mary, or the mosaic on the wall.) As the last of the party drifted out the door and I tried to resume my morning prayers, the usher yelled across the church to the organist one final: “Happy New Year!”, as he ignored the Creator of the new year on the altar in front of him.

A lot of things bothered me the morning on this first day of the new year. But the important truth of the matter is that it bothered ME. The factors involved included the casualness of the mass, the ignoring of the key point of the feast day, and the disrespect for the presence of God on the altar. But these were just factors. The real problem is in me. “Make me an instrument of thy peace” is not a prayer I am sincerely praying each morning, if the peace does not start with me.

I can’t give to others what I do not have myself. There will always be casual Christians; there will always be things done in a way other than I would have done; and there will always be things which CAN disrupt my peace – if I let them. And the way I see myself letting that happen is by choosing to judge others. Instead of praying for others who seem to be astray, I am judging them, and getting angry in my judgment. There is nothing wrong with practicing one of the cardinal virtues: Admonish the sinner, but this is supposed to be done in a loving way, a virtuous way, not one of anger. In my heart, my admonishing the sinner would consist not of prayers, not even of words, I’d be sending lightning bolts!

Not at all like the one, whose feast day we should be celebrating today, would have done. She had a disruption to her peace like none any of us has ever felt, yet she handled it exceedingly well.

Please, my friends, put aside my words. Look at the title of this blog; don’t let my anger cause you any anger. Put aside my words and remember hers, her words of peace and acceptance of even the hardest of things.

May her words be our meditation every day: “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.”