Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Political Ad

It’s a Sunday afternoon, Sunday, the day of rest. I had many good thoughts last night and at church this morning. Many things to think further about, and perhaps write about. It’s what Sunday afternoons are for, but …..

All my phone has done this past week is ring and ring and ring with political ads. This morning we were reminded at church of the things to consider as we go to vote this week. Bumper stickers and lawn signs are everywhere. How can one NOT think political things this day? Yet, this blog is definitely not about political things.

What to do; what to do ….

Fortunately, on the way here this morning I found a solution to my dilemma. I read the following combined biblical and political bumper sticker on the car in front of me:

Do Not Steal. The government hates competition.

I wish you a peaceful day, my friends. (Trick or treat!! :-) )

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How Not to be Anxious

The page counter I have on this site offers a variety of looks at visitors, who they are, where they are, how they get to the site, if they arrived via a search engine, and if they did: what was the search topic. Often this site gets visitors who ask search engines: “How can I be less anxious?” This site is titled “Do Not Be Anxious”, a command, a command of Jesus as a matter of fact (Mt 6:25). But despite His command not to be anxious, what if you don’t know how? That’s what some people are asking, “how?”, so perhaps we should consider that question.

When I think of “anxious,” I think of fear. My stereo-typical example is the scary movie, when the music is going: dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum, and getting louder: DUM-DUM, DUM-DUM, and the guy with the axe is just about to jump out of the closet --- and off the screen, … at me!

I’m anxious!! How can you not be?!!

Well, … you really don’t have to be. For example, the movie may be scary and make you anxious, but what if you watched it every day for 500 days straight. Would you still be anxious when the music gets louder? I think not, but why not? Well, by then you would be very confident of the outcome of that scene --- the guy will NEVER jump off the screen at you. You are absolutely confident of that outcome, and so you are not scared and, you are not anxious. We need to get in our mind that confidence about the things which make us anxious; we need to be confident of the outcome, and that it is a good thing.

I’ve written here many times of things which lessened or eliminated my anxieties, in hopes that they may be of value to you in lessening yours. It’s what this site is about. But I’ve written a few general posts specifically about getting confident. The Way to San Jose, How to Live My Life, Just a Closer Walk, The Road Not Chosen, and I am in Control – Not! are all about I how became more confident in the face of life’s many anxieties, as we move on our journey through life toward heaven. In those posts I described the journey as me driving a car towards heaven; I am in control to get myself there. Unfortunately, as I note, there are many hazards along the way, and I am NOT in control of them. When they happen, or even when I think they may happen, I become anxious --- things are not going as I planned. If you re-read the articles, you will see that I believe (no, I KNOW) that the way to become confident in the face of these anxieties is to know that I am not alone in this car of my life. Jesus is with me; He said He would be, and I trust Him. He’s been to heaven, He knows the way; He’s traveled life’s journeys and faced all the hazards. With Him with me, I am much less anxious. He knows the way, no matter how scary the route in front of me. He IS THE WAY!

The way to become less anxious is to be confident that Jesus is with you, and you trust in His promise that all things will turn out well. To get to that level of trust, you have to know Him. I’ve read many things about Him in Scripture and in writings of saints and philosophers. And He has shown Himself to me in many miracles in my life. And it all started when I began to trust Him. You can start too; a good place to start might be at the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6, Verse 25, where He says: “Do not be anxious,” and then He proceeds to explain why.

It’s a place to start. There is no simple answer as to how to become less anxious, and in fact the answer may be constantly changing, because our life is constantly changing, as we journey on. Have confidence, my friend, that you are not alone in your difficulties, your anxieties. He is with you. Read Scripture, read the writings of the saints, and perhaps if you have time to waste, read some of the posts here. They are all designed to give you confidence, confidence that you are not alone, confidence that the outcome of anything scary will be a good thing, and confidence that you need not be anxious.

God makes good of all things, all things --- even things that go BUMP in the night.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Teaching in the Temple

I was reading early this morning about the life of St. Joseph. I came to the point where Joseph and Mary take Jesus to Jerusalem, to celebrate the feast of the Passover. He is only 12 years old, but he’s going to show his parents on this trip that he is now a man. When they leave to return home with a group of friends and family, Jesus chooses to stay behind.

It took Joseph and Mary a day to figure out that Jesus was missing. They were concerned, and went back to Jerusalem to find him. They looked for three days before they found him in the temple:

“Son, why have you done this to us? Behold your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” This is the first and only time that we see Mary asking Jesus a question --- asking Him why He acted as He did. Jesus’ reply remains a great mystery: “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s affairs?” But, adds Luke, “they did not understand the saying which He spoke to them.”

(Jesus) is not reproaching them. He is calling them to rise above their present state by placing a new demand before them, by asking a new poverty of them. Here is the first time Jesus looks upon His parents and speaks to them as a Priest, as the One sent by the Father. A new stage has begun in His life; His parents are to understand this, and this is why they should no longer look at Him as a child: He is now wholly given over to His Father’s affairs.

The Mystery of Joseph, by Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, OP

Joseph and Mary, used to knowing, understanding, and leading Jesus in their ways, are now told things have changed. He must be about His Father’s business. Don’t you understand, He asks. Luke notes: No, they didn’t.

How much is our relationship with Jesus today, like that of Joseph and Mary? He’s told us very clearly what His life is about, serving the Father’s will, but we don’t understand. We pray to Him: “Here’s what we want You to do.” What WE want.

Isn’t it time we grew up in our relationship with Jesus and the Father? Jesus did not come here, as a part of our lives, to do OUR will. We may think we are telling Him our needs when we pray, but He is the teacher. He went to the temple to “teach the teachers” (!!) We’re not telling Him anything through our prayers; He already knows our needs. We can’t teach Him anything; if we listen, He can teach us.

Jesus tells His anxious parents in the temple: “Look, I’ve grown up. I came here to teach, and now I must be about my Father’s business.” From here on, even Joseph and Mary were to learn from Him, not tell Him things anymore. But “they did not understand.”

It’s now 2000 years later, and we’re still trying to tell Him things --- and we’re still anxious. And we still don’t understand.

He told Joseph and Mary --- and us: “Do not be anxious. I came to do the Father’s will.” Later He said: “I will always be with you.” So He has told us: Do not be anxious. He, with us, and now WE are to do the Father’s will. In the temple, He started teaching --- He still does; He teaches us every day in the temple of our bodies.

If you can stop being anxious, you will hear Him. He is asking you to be about His Father’s will, too. We’ve got work to do with our lives. Not our silly worries and plans, but His. We need to get started.

Monday, October 25, 2010

God Loves You

This morning my prayers read: “For your name’s sake, lead me and guide me,” and “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” I prayed to Jesus sincerely that God would use my life, even as Jesus prayed in the Garden: “Thy will be done.” I thought of all the people God has brought into my life’s path. Some walk with me for many years --- we have much to discuss and learn from each other --- and some are only a fleeting glance along the way. I look at them, and they look at me. Do we even remember the moment? Yet for each of us, there was a purpose to that moment, something to make each of us a little better. I pray God uses me to shed His grace onto all who enter my life, that they not remember me, but only Him, and His love for them, in even the littlest things.

I glanced through St. Catherine’s book, Dialogue, again yesterday. It has so much to say, or rather, they have so much to say. Dialogue is a book recording communications Catherine had with God. Her words, her questions, echo so many of mine. God’s words, His answers speak to me also, with love.

Catherine, one of two women granted the title “Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church,” yearns for God’s love, and He so often tells her: “Here it is, now give it away.” I think perhaps some portion of Catherine’s yearnings for love come from her childhood. Did you know that Catherine was the 24th of 25 children? If you grew up in a home with siblings, you know how difficult it sometimes was to get mom or dad’s attention. Maybe you even thought they loved one of the other children more than you. You craved attention, and when you got it, you knew without a doubt how much your parents loved you, but when their attention was not on you … still, you doubted. Catherine never doubted her parents love, nor did she doubt God’s love, but still when His consolations were not directly seen …, still she craved His love, as if it weren’t there, even for a moment

We all crave love, but love is not something you can buy or earn. It is freely given, and love is limitless. When we feel unloved, we often turn to things of the world. Things, we can buy and own; we can put them on the shelf or in the closet, and they will never go away; they are ours. But things aren’t love, no matter how many of them we have. We substitute things for love, sometimes, and we can never get enough of them --- but love is limitless. Like Catherine, if we don’t see some physical result of God’s love, some earthly consolation, some answer to our prayers, sometimes we doubt. That is the greatest weakness we can have in our life, to doubt God’s love.

Catherine had 24 siblings who also wanted her parents’ attention. We have billions of siblings in this world, all loved by God our Father, all craving his attention. One of the ways Catherine’s parents showed their love for Catherine was in their trust, even when they weren’t around. Catherine’s unique duties in the family may have been to sweep the floors, or empty the trash, not exactly glamorous duties, but they were hers uniquely, and her parents needed them done --- and even her siblings did, even if they were not aware of it. Some of Catherine’s siblings may have had more important duties, perhaps some were assigned to be responsible for others in the family, dressing them, feeding them, or teaching them when their parents were not there. Perhaps Catherine was jealous of some of them, thinking they had more love because they had more responsibilities. Perhaps she was relieved not to have such responsibilities for others --- but she did! She did have responsibilities for others, even if she didn’t see or understand their importance. We all have responsibilities for others, because your life is not just about you, it is about your family. Her parents knew what it took to run the house the way they meant it to be, they way they created it to be, and they assigned each of their children unique responsibilities so that it was a family home. Catherine’s parents made their household in love, for each and every one of their children. God made His house and His children that way too.

In Dialogue, Catherine learned of the Father’s love which is always there, the Father who created us each uniquely, each with a purpose for Him, and for our family. We have free will, and we can choose to not do that purpose, ignoring the tasks put before us to do. We can whine: “Why don’t you make George do that, he’s bigger and stronger,” or “What about Mary; she’s not doing anything.” Or we can be like Samuel and say: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

We crave love, and yet we so often ignore signs of God’s love all around us. His creation, all the good things in our lives, are the attention he has focused on us, “things” to remind us of His love. The many people, who enter our lives or cross our paths, are the trust he places in us. They are there for a reason, whether we understand it or not; we have responsibilities to them, our family. The talents He gave us are like the broom and instructions her parents gave to Catherine, on how to do things needed by her family. It was a most important way her parents showed their love to Catherine, they trusted her to act with love, just as they did.

God, our Father, loves us. He trusts us. He has blessed you in ways you may never understand, but look around and see all the gifts in this world he has given you, all the people He brings into your life. All the opportunities to meet even more, to show them the love He trusts you to give.

You can’t earn God’s love; it is always there. You can show it.

No matter what He has trusted you to do, be it a big thing or a little thing, you can make Him proud.

This is why I have put you among your neighbors: so that you can do for them what you cannot do for me --- that is, love them without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself. And whatever you do for them I will consider done for me.
(Dialogue, Paulist Press, P121)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Little Irritations --- Another View

I think sometimes God speaks to each of us, a small still voice that we have to be looking for in order to hear. It’s an attitude of wanting to hear, and wanting to do God’s will that helps us be aware of these small calls. It’s been my experience that acting on those calls, even if I am not SURE it is His call, leads me to a more peaceful life. God made us for a reason, doing His will for us, finding the reason He made us, will bring us joy. This He also wills for us.

But sometimes the call is not so small. Sometimes God does not let us sleep at night, witness the call to Samuel. Sometimes God calls us to do something so outrageous that we can’t help but notice it --- although unfortunately we may often answer those loud calls with a: “What! Me? You CAN’T want ME to do that!” But He can, and he does. And if He gives us some huge task, He promises that He will also give us the means to accomplish it --- if we but trust Him. But the quiet call and the loud call are not things which I am thinking about this afternoon. This afternoon I am thinking (again) about irritations.

I’ve largely gotten over irritations with things. Things just are, and being irritated with them won’t change them. Being irritated over things is silly. But people, oh, people can irritate me sometimes. Usually people irritate me when they are not as aware of the truth as I am, are not as considerate as I am, are not as wise as I am. (“Yeh, stupid, I’m talking to you,” are words I may sometimes feel like saying --- but never do.) If my soul is at ease, I can overcome most of my irritations by recognizing that some people are similar to things: they are the way they are, and being irritated with them won’t change them. I’ve gotten better at not being irritated at things I once was irritated at. But sometimes not.

This morning I was again irritated at a small thing, and I let my irritation be shown. It was only afterwards as I reflected on what happened that I had a new insight: sometimes God calls to us in a small, still voice, and sometimes He calls to us in a large, loud voice, but sometimes He just calls, and calls, and calls, and calls, and calls --- and it irritates us to all heck! But He is trying to tell us something, and we’re just not paying attention --- we’re too busy getting mad and losing any peace or attention we had.

You have those irritating situations, too. You know them, and can rattle them off without even thinking --- because you think about them so often. Your spouse always interrupts you while you’re watching your favorite television show. He always tells you directions, when you know the way. She always asks you to remember something to buy at the store while you are driving and can’t write it down. The kids always scream at the dinner table. Mom always gives you detailed instructions, like you were a little baby. Dad always expects you to dress like HE’D dress, not like your friends. Your friends always call you at the wrong time. And you’d like to tell them all: “Will you just cut it out!”

Always, always, always --- and it just irritates you to think about it.

When you think the word “always” about a situation, it may be that God is calling, and calling, and calling. Would you tell Him: “Will you just cut it out!?” I think perhaps when we have something which is a constant irritation to us, it may be an opportunity to hear God’s call. Certainly God does not want us to live our life in irritation. Worrying and being angry about little things must be keeping our minds and hearts from being concerned about things of REAL importance. But if indeed our irritation is God calling and calling and calling, do you think HE deems it a matter of little importance?

Our relationship with other people, our family and our neighbors, is no small matter. He issued a commandment about our relationship with them. He said we must love them.

When we recognize that we are in a pattern of ALWAYS being irritated about something or someone, it is a time for prayer and reflection. Is God trying to tell me something here? What if He were in my shoes in these irritating situations? Would He be acting as I do? Would He just be getting irritated at the situation, and perhaps irritating others? Just WHAT would He do? What would He do? How would He react to the other person? How would he treat them? When someone constantly irritates us we want THEM to change, but if we can put God in our shoes perhaps we can see how He would react to the situation. I can’t imagine God losing control over the actions of any human being; I can’t imagine Him at a loss for WISE words. Perhaps if I can imagine Him in my shoes, I can be the one to change. I can imitate Him, and be who He would want me to be, who He made me to be.

My irritation this morning? The silly thing about having more food given me at the restaurant than I wanted or ordered, and so it was thrown away. I can afford the food, but it irritated me to order and pay for food, only to throw it away. I thought about that as I drank my coffee and glanced at the paper. Then I looked at things a different way. If I am going to pay for food, it is for food to be eaten --- but it doesn’t have to be me. In short order I realized that I was stopping at a restaurant on Sunday after mass largely to read the paper before going to mom’s. The breakfast order which was causing irritation was largely because everyone else did that at the restaurant, not out of hunger – an eleven o’clock breakfast could change into a noon lunch at mom’s. Further, my mind went to the food I DID want to buy: the request from the local Capuchin soup kitchen for Christmas meals for the poor. Money’s been a bit tight this month, and I was debating what to donate.

I’ll stop trying to buy Sunday breakfast in the future. I’ll order a coffee and read the paper, and leave a 300% trip. I’ll save around $10 each Sunday, so I’ll write a $500 check to the soup kitchen when I get home tonight. I trust that God will find the money somewhere. And the food I purchase for the soup kitchen WILL be eaten. I probably won’t lose any weight by skipping Sunday breakfast, but I will lose an occasional irritation, an irritation over a small thing. Okay, God, I finally listened, and I heard. You can stop calling now ----- about this thing.

You might take some time this Sunday afternoon to think about those things which always irritate you. Is God trying to tell you something? Or does He have to call, and call, and …

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hire Your Neighbor

I don’t understand.

For the past year plus, I have hired an unemployed neighbor to do work around my house. In truth, it is work I can and should be doing, but he needs the money. God is good to me; I am not rich, but I am not poor. I have extra money I can give to the church and/or charity, but my neighbor is neither a church nor wants charity. He wants a job. Because he cannot find one right now, I hire him for part-time work. This seems to be a good thing. Everyone I mention it to says it is a good thing. I think I am right with God and His thinking this is a good thing. All the people I speak to are good people; they would readily write a check for someone in need. So why does no one want to do this? I don’t understand. Are they really afraid of their neighbor?

I tried to get my township to set up a website for unemployed in our township, for neighbors to help neighbors. They worried about potential lawsuits; they said no. I tried to get a local non-profit to set up a website; they said no for the same reason. I wrote to and spoke with their lawyer, who agreed this was a good thing and would write a legal opinion supporting it; it’s been months. I wrote to the Knights of Columbus explaining the concept, offering to pay to set up a website run by them; they did not respond. I wrote to my subdivision association and asked: “Are we REALLY a “community homeowners association?” If so, could we do this on the association’s website --- I would pay for the programming costs; they do not respond.

Lord, what would you have me do? Have Your people forgotten who their neighbor is?

I don’t understand.


Augustine’s book, Confessions, was a beautiful book, and a remarkable one, too. He wrote it in his old age, yet the story he told reads like a diary, rather than a reflection. He remembered the feelings that he had in his youth; he remembered his questions, his doubts, and his questioning of himself. And he remembered his prayers, beautiful prayers --- they’re some of my favorite parts of the book. And upon his conversion, he remembered his joy and confidence that he and God were now walking together. He had some regrets about his reluctant walk, “Late have I love Thee,” but his joy overcame all his sadness.

As I said the rosary last night, I thought about a particular turning point in my life. As I began, I didn’t remember many of the facts from that time. Truly Augustine’s writings must have been like Scripture, written with Divine Inspiration, remembering and writing all that was important. My own memories were not nearly as clear, but as I let myself be led, reading the Sorrowful meditations, the pictures of my life --- the actions, the thoughts and words said --- all came back to me. I could look back in sorrow, and in joy, at that period of my life. And, most importantly, I know that I was not alone then.

How I wish I had last night’s knowledge and feelings then, in my time of sorrow. So many of my actions, then, were taken in trust. I gave thanks as I prayed last night, and asked if that trust --- if not that knowledge --- remain with me for my future sorrows, because I know they will come. And I don’t want to feel alone.

My journey and my meditations only took about a half hour last night, but I lived years. It was my own “mini-Confessions”. I often think that the past is the past, and that all we should focus on is what we can change, the future. But trips to the past, like I made last night, are good things for us to do, looking at how often our past life God was at our side, offering us comments, holding our hands. Reflections as these give us hope for our future journeys. They will help ease our future anxieties.

Mary, Jesus, the rosary, and me --- a good combination to mix on an October evening. Whether your past has many sorrows or few, I pray you find joy in recalling them, my friends, finding joy as I found in knowing you were not alone in your sorrows, and in truth, will never be alone again.

My Jesus, I trust in You. In all things, in all ways, and for all ways, my Jesus I trust in You.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Prayers For You

I couldn’t sleep tonight. I think I’m to pray for someone. I think I’m to pray for you.

My prayer book is old. Over the years I have underlined things which “speak to me”. As I prayed tonight some of those prayers, the underlined portions all spoke to me again. I offer those prayers today, for you.

Give me the wisdom and love necessary.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
The word of the Lord is a strong shield for all who put their trust in him.
Today, listen to the voice of the Lord: Do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did.

From St. Augustine: Power shines forth more perfectly in weakness. These words are written to prevent us from having too great an opinion of ourselves if our prayer is granted, when we are impatient in asking for something that it would be better not to receive; and to prevent us from being dejected, and distrustful of God’s mercy toward us, if our prayer is not granted, when we ask for something that would bring us greater affliction, or completely ruin us through the corrupting influence of prosperity. In these cases we do not know what it is right to ask for in prayer. Therefore, if something happens that we did not pray for, we must have no doubt at all that what God wants is more expedient than what we wanted ourselves.

This is the one whom I approve: the lowly and afflicted man who trembles at my word.
From the depths of my heart I cry to you; hear me, O Lord.
I will do what you desire; hear me, O Lord.
Accept our intentions and our work today.
Give us strength to be patient with those we meet today, and so imitate you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Little Education

I received the first edition of The Christian RENASCENCE from Ave Maria University in the mail. It presents the orientation address by Nicholas J. Healy, the President of AMU to the students. It’s titled: “A Time for Cultural Renewal.” I thought the topic was fitting, and the address well-done. Even more, I think that this little publication will be a tool for keeping myself educated on many matters. AMU intends to publish this little newsletter of speeches on a regular basis --- and it is free.

I’d like to think that this blog is a little education to any readers. Perhaps not always, but at least once in a while I hope it gives you something to think about, and perhaps educate you. And so I pause from my reflections to suggest that you may enjoy this little publication from Ave Maria University also. You can register to receive it for free at: And if you’re going to get that one, I’d also suggest you also register to receive a similar monthly (and free) publication called Imprimis, from Hillsdale College at

Both publications should afford you a simple way to keep up on thoughts and actions in the public square which affect matters of faith and morals in our country. Knowledge is a weapon, and with a good weapon you may be less anxious about the unknowns we will all face.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Community Prayer

Lord, our help and our guide,
make your love the foundation of our lives.
May our love for you express itself
in our eagerness to do good for others.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

I read that prayer at the closing of the Office of Readings this morning. The Office of Readings is one section of the daily prayers in the breviary, or Liturgy of the Hours, which is to be said daily by religious and is encouraged to be said by the laity of the Catholic Church. There are prayers there which are to be said throughout the day, the Office of Readings and Morning, Daytime, Midmorning, Midday, Mid-afternoon, Evening, and Night Prayers. The prayers to be said always include readings from the psalms; the prayers which Jesus prayed.

I find the daily prayers to be very comforting, and often am struck by a particular reading which speaks to a situation occurring then in my life. I often underline words which “speak to me.” I try to read and pray the prayers seriously, and with devotion, so I was somewhat chagrined this morning when I realized something about the prayers which I had never noticed before.

These lines in the above prayer were underlined, for they mean much to me: May our love for you express itself in our eagerness to do good for others. I sincerely mean those words when I pray them, and I sometimes stop and reflect on how well I am doing in that regard, but this morning I stopped for a different reason. I realized that I had just recently read and reflected on those very same words, and so I looked back in my prayer book at previous days. I found that that exact same prayer has been the closing prayer of the Office of Readings for every day of this week. Looking further, I found that for EVERY week, the same closing prayer is repeated for that week. The exact same prayer is prayed every day for seven days in a row --- and in the twenty or more years I have been READING those prayers I don’t ever recall noticing that before. So, just how much was I sincerely PRAYING those prayers and reflecting on them?? It gave me pause, and not a little frustration at myself and my efforts. If these were important words I was reading, and I believe them to be, why didn’t I remember them from day to day? I’m not stupid, but perhaps I am not as prayerful as I thought. As much as many of these prayers sincerely do impact me, perhaps much of the impact was just for the moment, and then quickly forgotten. If so, just how much am I really living out those prayers, and looking to do what I pray for?

The Liturgy of the Hours is a gift to the members of the Catholic Church. It is meant to be a book of Community Prayers, which can be said by individuals but are really meant to be said by a group of people. In religious communities they are meant to be prayed as a community, and in most they are. But for the laity, they are also intended as community prayers. They are meant to be prayed by husbands and wives together; they are meant to be prayed by families, together; they are meant to be prayed by parishes, together. They were designed to lead us in prayer, prayer as Jesus prayed. They were designed to be the prayers said where two or more are gathered.

I usually pray the Office of Readings, the Morning and Evening Prayers alone, for I live alone. I wish there were an opportunity to say them with others; I think they would have more meaning and increase my reflection on them if I could say and then discuss them with others. It would probably increase my loyalty to them also. I suspect most people who pray these prayers are like me, saying them alone. That isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that it could be better. I suspect that we don’t take seriously enough the advice that where two or more are gathered, I am there also. I think if we did more things, not just prayer, but more things in our daily lives, as a community, we would accomplish more things, and do them better.

We live in a time and a place where most of us don’t even know our neighbors names, much less regularly interact with them, much less still pray with them. If they had a serious illness, or family problem, or spiritual problem, we probably wouldn’t even know, much less be able to help. Or, I wonder, help even if we did know? I think this loss of community has greatly hurt us, and it is especially noticeable in times of suffering, when without our neighbors, we suffer alone. When we most need help, we are alone. And not only that, when we most need help, we are not doing everything we can to have God help us. I know that He hears our prayers when we are in need, but where two or more are gathered, I AM THERE.

Having lost our sense of community, few of us are really acting as the neighbors called for in the commandments; we’re not really LOVING our neighbors. If you recall, real love is about giving of self. Is that what we doing to our neighbors in need right now? I think if your sister were in danger of losing her home, you would offer to help her, or at least say: “Come stay with me in my empty bedroom if you have nowhere else to go.” Would you extend that same offer to your neighbor? I could try to make up other examples, but I know you see the point. When we lose community, we have lost a lot, and we all suffer because of it.

Like many of the problems facing our country and our Church, the solutions are not simple. In fact I sometimes find myself becoming irate when a discussion about our serious problems is interrupted by someone who starts out saying: “Well, here’s all you’ve got to do ….” ALL??!! There are no simple solutions to be described in 10 words or less! I find myself wanting to tell anyone who thinks they have such a solution, what an idiot I think he is. I struggle to stifle myself, because I know that anger is no solution either.

While today’s problems may be complex, and the solutions not simple, I believe there is something that we can do to make a difference, a real difference. We can do something in community, to and for our neighbor. We can DO something, something real, something physical, or something which takes our precious time. Perhaps we need to get to know our neighbor first, then that is the place to start. And once you get to know them, I think it is a rare neighborhood in which today there is not someone who is in need, serious need. You and your neighbors can be there for them, perhaps to offer them some work, perhaps to spend some time helping them, perhaps to offer them a place to stay in your home, perhaps to pray with them. They’re your neighbors. It means you will really have to give of yourself, but that’s what love means. If you are really trying to live the commandment to love your neighbor, you will have to give of yourself.

And then He will be there with you. The answer isn’t in Washington or in the state capital, it is in the mirror. We need to pray together:

Lord, our help and our guide,
make your love the foundation of our lives.
May our love for you express itself
in our eagerness to do good for others.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Suffering Servant

In a recent post (Thanksgiving For Blessings) I wrote: “In our happiness and in our sorrows, God blesses us always.” In my life that certainly seems to have been true, almost without exception: I can look back at sorrows in my life and now see that many good things came out of those sorrows. I can see I am a better person because of those sufferings. The words I wrote, however, imply that it is always true that God blesses US, but recent readings and further reflection made me realize that sometimes that’s not true. Sometimes we may undergo some great suffering, pain or a loss, and we will never understand any reason for that sorrow, much less that it blessed us. Yet still we are called to accept and even give thanks for that suffering, even if we will never know why. It seems a difficult thing to expect of anyone.

I’m reminded of a story I use to explain how sometimes two people can look at the exact same facts and yet see something different. I begin my story by describing something that I saw, and then I say: “It’s as obvious as the nine fingers on your two hands.” That statement invariably gets a puzzled look from the person I’m speaking to, and so I repeat it again. Then often he will respond: “No, there are ten fingers on your two hands.” “What!” I say. “How can we ever agree on anything if we can’t agree on obvious facts? We have nine fingers on our two hands! Look, I’ll count them right in front of you, so you can see.” I then proceed to point with one hand to the fingers on the other hand, moving from one finger to the next, counting aloud (but not hitting the fifth finger twice). “See, I say, I just pointed at the fingers as I counted my hand twice, and there are nine fingers on two hands.” The other person smiles and says: “No.” I then tell him the moral of the story: “You will never get me to believe that there are ten fingers on two hands. I just pointed to the fingers as I counted, and that’s the way I learned to count, and you’ll never convince me otherwise because I know I’m right. That’s the way it is with some facts in life, two people can look at them, and one sees nine and one sees ten --- and they both have perfect eyesight, yet the two will never agree on what they are seeing. If you are a wise man, you will recognize that situation when it occurs and politely agree to disagree on that particular topic. Neither person will change their view of the truth in a short conversation.” Most people can understand my story, and generally agree. Then I go on to state: “But if you are a VERY wise man, you may not only recognize that one of you is counting nine and the other ten, but you will also recognize that perhaps you are the one counting to nine.”

I think that sometimes the moral of that simple story applies when we are searching for the good which may come from some evil. For instance, look at the cases of priest child abuse in the Catholic Church. I can look at that evil and say it triggered a cleansing needed in the church, a good thing. Someone else can look at that and say that the children were hurt, the priests were hurt, the bishops were hurt, and the whole Church was hurt, and none of them will ever see any good as a result of this; never. I earlier said that I can look back at my sufferings and say that I am a better person for having had them, but probably most of the people involved in this horror will never be able to look back and say those words. If, however, they are true believers that God makes good in all circumstances, then perhaps they may accept that they will never know God’s intended good, and indeed that good may never happen in their lifetime, but perhaps tens or even hundreds of years from now, people may be able to look back and see what a good thing this horror was. Or perhaps not; perhaps only God will be able to do that, because He makes good in all circumstances, and perhaps only He will ever know what that good is. For us to now believe and accept facts as these, is for us to act as Suffering Servants.

Loyal servants accept and do their master’s will, even if they don’t understand why he asks them to do a particular task. They trust that their master knows more than them. We’ve seen throughout the bible that sometimes God asks his people to suffer. Many saints, particularly martyrs, didn’t accomplish that much in their life, but through their sufferings and even death they brought about wonderful things, which they never understood in this life. Yet they suffered willingly, trusting that God makes good in all circumstances. It is most difficult to have that level of belief, of trust, and to be a suffering servant. Like counting of the fingers to nine or ten, it is a wise man who recognizes that he and God may not be seeing the same way about some facts, but a truly wise --- and faithful --- man trusts that it may be himself who is counting to nine.

I thought about this in relation to even Jesus’ sufferings and death.

I recognize that Jesus chose His death; He chose to do the will of the Father. It was a great sacrifice to willingly suffer on His part. I’ve also come to recognize that the Father also chose this. Like Abram, the Father was offering His son in sacrifice, His only Son. And both of them, Father and Son, were making this huge sacrifice for me! That is awesome and humbling knowledge. I think I understand somewhat of what God did for me, but only recently have I come to think about my part in this drama.

I’ve always thought of Jesus as like my older brother. Even though I was adopted into His family, He watched over me, gave me example, and just generally was there when I needed Him. I loved Him, and I knew He loved me so much, that I was confident that He would choose to die for me, if He had to. That’s what a loving older brother would do. I thought I understood our relationship --- but I didn’t. The truth of the matter was that it never happened that He HAD TO die for me!

One day He and our Father looked at me and realized that I was very sick; my heart was weak and it would never heal on its own, and I was going to die. And it made them very sad, because they loved me. And so they made a decision, Jesus agreed that He would die, die and give his heart to me so that I might live. Our Father reluctantly agreed to offer up His only son’s life to save mine --- and yet I was only His adopted child! If I had realized the whole situation I probably would have been screaming: “Wait! You can’t do this! I love Jesus; YOU love Jesus, but I’m just Your adopted son. This makes no sense!” But Jesus was a Suffering Servant. It didn’t have to make sense. Even though He could see value in His life on earth, a life more valuable than any human life that had ever existed before, yet still he accepted that if this was His Father’s will, this MUST be a good thing, even if He would never see the final good results --- not in His earthly life. He trusted in His Father, and accepted the suffering and death, and even gave thanks to His Father for it.

(And I sometimes worry about a cut finger.)

Jesus’ death was a reversal of the Garden of Eden events. Sometimes in our English translation of the bible, it’s hard to see that. I learned from reading Scott Hahn that in the Hebrew language things were often emphasized by repeating words. So if someone was obese, in Hebrew they might say he was fat fat. That might be translated to English as saying he was very fat. Sometimes, though, the word “very” doesn’t make sense in English, and so it is left off, and we lose meaning. In the Garden of Eden God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of a tree or else they would die die --- the repeated word “die” meant an eternal death. Later the serpent came along and said: “No, you will not die.” The serpent referred to an earthly death. The English translation uses the word die only once in both cases, because saying someone would very die makes no sense. But clearly in the Hebrew text, what God said and what the serpent said were two different things. The serpent lied.

When Jesus and our Father looked at me and saw that my heart was weak and that I was going to die, that death was the die die that God promised Adam and Eve. They ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree, and so they were destined as He said to die die, and as one of their children, I was to die die also. But Jesus came along and said: “No! I will die instead.” He chose the earthly death, for me. Jesus died so that I might not die, but they were different kinds of dying. To die die was much worse than to die, and Jesus saved me from that fate. He did what the serpent told Eve she would not, He died. He reversed what Eve did, so that our heavenly Father would reverse what He did. No longer were we destined to die die.

What Jesus did for me is still beyond my comprehension. I still want to scream: “Wait! You can’t do this!” I can’t be worthy of that kind of sacrifice, not by my brother that I love. I like the movie Saving Private Ryan; I always make sure to watch it during Lent. Near the end of that movie, the captain played by Tom Hanks lies dying, and he whispers to Private Ryan whose life he saved: “Earn it.” Years later you see a very old Private Ryan, with his wife, children and grandchildren at the grave of the captain who died for him. He asks aloud: “Was I a good man? Did I lead a good life? Did I earn your sacrifice?” The words and actions remind me of Jesus’ sacrifice, and my response to it. Oh, I know I could never earn His sacrifice, or earn heaven. But what Jesus did was to change my destiny: no longer was I destined to die die. Like Private Ryan, however, I do have free will, and I can choose to not go to heaven. But if I choose not to, it will have wasted Jesus’ sacrifice, his dying for me. I will have wasted my life.

In the terrible choice that Jesus made, for me, I still cannot understand everything. In my lifetime here on earth, I probably never will. But that won’t be the end of the story, for I can now choose to not die die.

In the end, I trust that God will make good in all circumstances, in Jesus’ sufferings, and in my sufferings, and it will all make sense to me then. I hope that I can choose to be a Suffering Servant now, if need be, and that I don’t have to question everything that happens to me, especially the bad. I’ll try to remember that I’m no longer destined to die die, and that my story hasn’t ended yet.

When bad things happen to me, I shall try to remember these things. He died because He loved me; I need to live like I love Him too.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lord, Satisfy My Desires

We possess many things, but they are not enough; we need more. The (9th and 10th) commandments hurt; they tell us that in the eyes of God, our hunger is wrong, that our desire to possess everything is somehow inappropriate. Perhaps God doesn’t understand … we’re only trying to fill the emptiness, after all.

But neither things nor other people that we reduced to the status of things can ever fill the emptiness that exists at the center of each soul. We are not made to own things; we are made to own eternity. We hunger for the Eternal One who made us. We are tormented and empty without Him, so we try to find a substitute.

One alone can fill our emptiness. To Him we must say with all our heart, “In Your will is my peace.”

Father, I want too much. I want things to own and people to love me. I want security and abundance, happiness and youth and health, and a thousand other things. I can’t stop wanting. Give me the gift of satisfaction, Father. Let me be content with what I have, which is Your endless love. Quiet the yearnings of my heart and permit me to contemplate the truth of the matter: that I am already rich beyond all description. Amen

Life in Christ, by Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel (Meditation thirty five)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thanksgiving For Blessings

We had a visiting priest at mass this morning. He spoke with a heavy accent, and I suspected that many in the church wondered, as I did, how the sermon might go. Would we be able to understand all the words, and would we get the message? We needn’t have worried. The sermon preached was one of the shortest I’ve heard, and one of the most impressive.

The gospel reading today was from Luke, the story where Jesus does not immediately heal the ten lepers, but tells them to go show themselves to the priest, at which point they are healed. Only one comes back to give Jesus thanks and praise, and then Jesus asks: “Where are the other nine?” The visiting priest at our church reminded us of the gospel as he began his sermon, about the importance of giving thanks to God. He then said he wanted to tell us another story, which went something like this:

A young boy fell into the ocean amidst some rocks, with large waves and treacherous currents, and he quickly began to drown. His mother called for help, and a crowd gathered and watched, but then one man leapt into the waters, reached her son, and pulled him to the shore safely. The woman hugged her son and cried, and slowly walked him home, never letting go of his hand. The next day the woman appeared at the shore again and asked the people: “Does anyone know the man who so bravely saved my son’s life yesterday?” Someone in the crowd pointed and said: “There he is.” The man shyly stayed back, but the woman went up to him and looked into his eyes and said: “Where’s his hat?”

“That is how we often show thanks,” the priest said.

I think most people in the church laughed; many probably went home and told the “joke” to their friends. But it wasn’t a joke; it was a lesson with very deep meaning, perhaps even updating Jesus’ words into some we could better understand, if we could stop laughing and start thinking.

The God of EVERYTHING at one point came down to our tiny planet. Because He loved us, He chose to die so that we might live. With our life, we give life to our precious children, and they are healthy. We live at a time of the most prosperity in history of the world. We live at a time of the greatest scientific advances. We live in a country where no one need die of starvation. We live in a country where no one has their pains untreated. We live in the most generous country in the world. And we live in a country where the poor only have one car and cable television with only a 32-inch screen.

And so, IF we go to church we pray: Lord, heal this cut on my finger. Please end the soreness in my back. If you could make my kids stop fighting, I’d be ever grateful. If it is your will, please help me find a job, or else I may lose my house and have to find a more modest living area (my pride would be hurt, you know). Lord, please don’t let my mom cook spinach again tomorrow.

These so often are our prayers. We forget all we have, all we have been GIVEN, and only seek more. Take a look at yourself in the mirror. Do you see your skin falling off your face; are there huge boils? Do you have leprosy? No? Then why are you one of the nine who didn’t come back?

In Luke’s gospel Jesus reminds us that thanksgiving for our blessings is a duty, one we often forget. But there is a bigger lesson here also, when this parable is put in the context of all the Gospels. Thanksgiving for our blessings is certainly an important thing, but did you realize that this is the only place in the gospels where Jesus mentions thanksgiving as a duty? Isn’t that strange? Even in the Our Father, the prayer Jesus gave us as the most important prayer, giving thanks is not mentioned.

I did a brief look for a commentary on that curious fact, but found none. In meditating on it, I think that perhaps thanksgiving for our blessings is not further stressed by Jesus because that is only part of the message. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will. (1Thes 5:18) Give thanks for our blessings? No, we are to give thanks for everything. So the blessing examples I gave above should be prayed about in thanksgiving, BUT the examples of woes I gave above should also be prayed about in thanksgiving. In our happiness and in our sorrows, God blesses us always. He makes all things good, and we should give thanks in ALL circumstances.

You know, one of my more common prayers is the words of the Our Father: “Thy will be done.” I even pray that “Lord, make me an instrument of thy Peace.” In these prayers I pray that I can do His will and that His will be done unto me. So as often as I pray those prayers, I guess it is a little bit strange that sometimes when my prayers are answered, I find it hard to give thanks. The answer is not always what I wanted --- but I guess that’s why I’m praying for HIS will, huh?

What is it that some people say? “Be careful what you pray for, you might get it?” No matter, in all things, give thanks.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Man vs God

It sounds pretty simple, but I find it rather confusing to consider the duties of man vs those of God. God made man in His image, with many of the possibilities, and even duties, to act as God would act here on earth, but where do the limits of man’s duties lie? When God created him, what did God expect of man; what did He want of him? What are the things of man’s, and what are the things of God’s on this earth?

On a purely physical plane, the separation of duties seems obvious. I haven’t cured anyone of any illness lately, and I consider that a thing of God’s action, but even here, there is some level of grey-ness around the limits of the human body. There were some men in the past who were able to use their bodies in ways which we might perceive as miraculous, Edgar Casey comes to mind (read There Is A River). He, not a particularly religious man, said his soul reached out to touch the souls of other people, and through the soul he could perceive the physical condition of another body – even one thousands of miles away. There are thousands of pages of recorded “cures”, where Casey directed doctors to perform surgeries and people were healed of many illnesses, people whose regular doctor could not diagnose their problems. Casey didn’t perform cures, per se, but he was able to use his mind to a higher level than most people --- so where does the human ability end and God’s begin? Perhaps what we lost in the Garden of Eden was more than we’ll ever understand. But I began talking about man’s duties, not abilities.

Man’s freedom, I think, clouds the understanding of his duties. Certainly some duties of man were made clearer to him by God Himself; man was given commandments. The commandments defined actions a man should or should not take (including, as in the 9th and 10th commandments, actions he should or should not think), but some men interpret their duties associated with these commandments differently, especially when it comes to actions to be taken on behalf of their neighbor. The Second Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor,” is interpreted by some as a simple well-wishing for your neighbor, have good thoughts of and prayers for him, but don’t interfere with His freedom. Others interpret that commandment as defining their actions: don’t kill or steal from your neighbor, or take or covet his things. They interpret it kind of like: “Here’s our yard and there is theirs; don’t go into their yard.” But some people interpret that second command to love as a command to ensure the well-being of their neighbor, to the degree that they have ability to do so. In their mind they perceive their duty is to provide for the earthly well-being of everyone they can, even to the point of making sure they get to heaven. They take this caring for neighbor upon themselves as a duty and commandment from God. But is it?

How much is a man in control of his and his brother’s destiny? Should he, is it really part of his responsibility, to ensure his brother’s entering heaven? Should man build upon God’s rules for his fellow man’s good? “I want you to go to heaven; I think this is part of God’s plan; therefore I should force you to go there if I can?” Just what does God expect of man relative to his fellow man?

Many philosophers have taken a positive attitude of man’s duties to his fellow man. They believe man evolved to this point of wisdom; God helped him understand his duties (the commandments) up to the present time, but now man must move forward, controlling his further evolution, guaranteeing the accomplishment of man’s destiny for the ultimate good of all men, as they see it. (For some, this controlling of evolution includes the betterment of the species, a furthering of the survival of the fittest --- - but they’ll define who is fit, and ominously, who is not.) Personally, I think that’s where Satan steps in and says: “Well, my boy, let me explain to you how to love your fellow man to the utmost. You know, I understand the mind of God.”

He did not deem equality with God as something to be grasped at. Even Jesus recognized limits of our human nature. While God expects us to seek to know His will, He does not expect us to be perfect as we seek to obey it. We’re not expected to convert or cure the world; even Jesus didn’t do that. He recognizes our freedom, and our weakness. God expects us to try to do His will, using all the talents he gave us, but that is the extent of our responsibility. Like a good Father, he wishes his children to be as he is, but in wishing this he does not want nor expect his children to BE him; only He is God. We cannot make another man go to heaven, nor can we create a heaven here on earth for him. Perhaps we can MAKE a man do good actions, but we cannot make him do them willingly. Just ask any teenager. And it is the state of a man’s heart, his will, which will ultimately determine his entry to heaven, not just his actions. We can’t say to another: “Follow me; I will save you.” Only one man could say those words.

Where do our duties to our fellow man end, and those of God begin? I’ve heard it said that I am not responsible for another man’s happiness, earthly or eternal. Recently I heard from the pulpit: “It is our responsibility to witness, not bring about a change in someone’s life.” It guess that is saying that by our actions and witness, we can help change another man’s actions, but we cannot change his soul. Only God can do that. There, I believe, lies the defining line of man’s and God’s duties.

I think some of these thoughts, and confusions, are a part of our country’s present debate between liberalism and conservatism. What are man’s duties to his fellow man? Where do God’s duties begin? I fear that some believe, like the philosophers, that, at present, God has no duties toward man, only man toward his fellow-man.

I know many good and intelligent men of a liberal mindset. Sometimes our conversations are limited because we see many things differently, especially in our duties toward others. They would not describe their beliefs as excluding God, but I fear they cannot define where He or His Church fits into man’s duty to man. They view it as THEIR duty to act, or as they would say, to love without limit. Relative to their relationship to the Catholic Church, they would say firmly: We are Church. A long discussion is really needed between liberals and conservatives, but it’s hard to frame because the basic “fact” underlying our thoughts is the same: The commandment is to Love your neighbor. It’s a discussion which sounds like a philosophical one, but it is not so because despite talking about love, it’s really a discussion on matters of life and death. I think, among others, it is a discussion which is needed in America today.

I think, and pray, on it much. Do not be anxious? I’m not sure I know how to overcome this anxiety.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Hate My Father

My initial thought, as I sit here in front of this keyboard, is to go to my blog right now and search the site for the word “hate.” How often have I used that word? Why? I’m sure I never thought too much about typing that word to describe some thought I had in the past, but reading it now in the title of this post gives me a much darker feeling than I ever could have felt when I said it before. If I have ever said I hated something before, I never meant it, not with such feelings as I feel coming off the words above. I have never really hated any thing, nor any one, not like that. Never. Not like that. But those words were the first ones I read in the note that was sent to me.

A few weeks back I wrote some thoughts here about my dad, good memories. I was feeling good; the memories felt good; some of you sent, said, or posted some nice comments about the words I wrote. All was good with the world for me that day. But a couple of days later I received the note which started out as above. Later, a friend spoke to me of his memories of his father; he said he had buried most of the hate, but he noted that he had no fond memories of his father – not one. Well, at least my friend said that he was glad for me, that I had such good memories, but I felt sad for him. I didn’t know; he had never spoken of his dad before. I honestly don’t remember exactly what I said to my friend, or how I responded to that note, and I suspect that neither response was particularly memorable to them either. But I’ve been thinking, and praying, about them ever since, and I knew I must write something here, just in case they, just in case anyone, likes those words above. No, that’s wrong, no one, not even someone who felt with a strong passion those words, no one could really like them. There is nothing to like in those words.

Fathers were always meant to have a special place in humanity. When a God, Jesus, became man, he still looked up to his heavenly Father as one whom he loved, as one whom he sought to imitate, as one whom he wanted to make proud of him. He wanted to do His Father’s will, because it was good. Fathers were good things. Jesus was an example of the perfect Son, and His Father the example of the perfect father. Unfortunately, as I was so strongly reminded, not everything on earth is as perfect as that, and some things are not even close.

If your father died while you were young, if he went away, or even if he stayed, but never loved you, you missed out on the earthly father that God wished for all of us. You were created, your very being was designed with a hole to be filled by the love of a father; your trust in your fellow human beings was to start with him. He was to teach you about a God of love, and of his and your heavenly Father. And having taught you, he would should you how to pass that love on. But he didn’t. Maybe he even taught you about hate, instead. I think it’s a fact that if you have it, it will be very difficult for you to un-learn hate; like having learned one plus one is three, and no one will convince you otherwise. If you want to un-learn hate, you will have to be very committed to your re-education, and it will take a long time, if you can persist. But that hole which was to be filled by the love of a father, that hole still persists in you, and it can be filled still. Your mother and your siblings may have done a most wonderful job of filling that hole; perhaps you don’t even realize that there is any other type of filling possible. All seems well for you. If so, I’m glad for you. But if you still resent the dad who was not there, or if you hate the dad who was, you may still have that hole in you, and if you choose, it can be filled.

God meant for us to have a father, a mother, a family, imaged off of the Trinity of His being. This was to be our core of living and loving, but he gave us even more. Even as the Trinity created all of humanity, to love and be loved by, It gave all of humanity something to love and be loved by, and It even gave humanity a commandment to do so: Love your neighbor. Even if you are fatherless here on earth --- or wish you were --- there is still the family relationship you are to have with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the family relationship you are to have with your neighbor. Even if you earthly father was to fill an important part of your life, there is all of the Godhead and all of humanity to make up for the gap a missing father leaves. It would be better if you had a good loving father in your earthly family, but if not, you can CHOOSE to focus on the rest of your family in God and your neighbor. You can choose.

I know that missing your earthly father, and the image he was to have been for you, it may be hard to love others. He may have taught you to very easily hate others, and to feel that they wish you nothing but bad feelings even as your father did. I said learning how not to hate would be hard, but to assume others wish you bad feelings as your father did is just plain false. Can you honestly say that ALL the rest of the world hates you or is not there for you or doesn’t care at all for you? ALL the world? No one EVER smiled at you, ever? Not just a little smirk?? Come on, be honest with yourself. The vast, vast majority of the rest of the world doesn’t wish you bad feelings. They did receive love from God, from their father and family, and they are trying to pass it on to their neighbor --- that’s you. If you open yourself even a little to the love of your neighbor, to expect to see the good he REALLY wishes for you and not expect the bad your father taught you, you will be amazed how much love can come pouring in.

God didn’t just give the commandment to “Love Your Neighbor” to you; He gave it to your neighbor, too. So if you earthly father wasn’t what God intended him to be and your earthly family not perfect, you still have the family of God in the Trinity, which is part of your total family, and you still have your neighbor, part of your family of mankind, your neighbors in the total Body of Christ. We’re here; we do love you. All isn’t perfect, but all is not so bad that it must be hated. God created you to be loved. He does, and we, your neighbors do too. Even if there was great evil in your life, there is still love waiting here for you. Not everyone hates you, not even a little. You can choose to remember hates of the past, and make them the focus of your future, or you can CHOOSE to focus on the future that is here now, not in the past.

I mean, even when I listened in my sister’s phone calls with her boyfriend, or laughed when she danced with the pole in the basement, she didn’t hate me then, or remember it when we got older --- I don’t think. But did I ever tell you about the time my little brother punched me, where it REALLY hurt, and ….

But let’s not go back to any memories of pain. Love is here now. Take a moment and read again the words of Matthew 6:25 and beyond, and then look out the window at the birds and the trees and the beauty of creation. Take a drive to the mall and sit down and watch, the smiling people walking by, the busy people rushing by, and the children playing and laughing. This is the world; this is your family. You are not hated; you are loved as one of us.

Do not be anxious, my friend, do not be anxious.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Books I'd Pay to Publish

In recent years I’ve been encouraged to publish some of the things I’ve written, but I don’t rate my own writings that highly. Through my readings and meditations I HAVE found a few books which I believe deserve publishing, unfortunately they haven’t been written yet. For a number of months I tried to encourage some established writers to publish the first book on my un-published list. I received many a sympathetic ear and some interest, but in the end all pleaded to other projects or priorities.

I am trying to make the 3rd book on my list happen, and it may, but perhaps not in the way I imagined. When I began my look at publishing, I quickly realized that effective marketing makes a book get published and makes it popular, and nothing breeds success like success. A book published by a successful author is much more likely to also be successful, than a book published by a nobody. I am a nobody. I tried for nearly a year to get a known author to agree to put his name on a book which I would pull together (no work on his/her part), again with no success. I’ve been advised to begin the publishing effort, under my own name if necessary: If God wants this done, he will make it a success. I’m continuing under that assumption.

Meanwhile, I thought I put to paper here the books which I would like to see written and published, and I’d even contribute toward their publishing. Beyond merely my interest, I think they need to be written; the stories need to be told and heard. And I think them important.

1. Who is Church? There are many Catholics in the world, and especially in America, who believe things are seriously wrong with the Catholic Church, and they know the way to correct it. I hear they will hold a convention, formalizing their efforts next year. From abortion to celibacy to marriage, they think the Church needs to change. Kerry Kennedy wrote a book about some of the more well-known of these people; I don’t have to tell you who are included. In general, they describe themselves as: “We Are Church.” They’d like to see the Church hierarchy turned upside down, with they or small groups of people “inspired by the Holy Spirit” telling the Church what to do and what to teach.

I read an interesting meditation relating to this topic by Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, given to the papal household. Here are a few excerpts: The common temptation today is to look for experience rather than the simple self-surrender of faith. There is an even more subtle temptation, to expect the VISIBLE form of the Church in her sacraments and institutions to be “convincing to men.” This temptation can grow into an obsession: public recognition, media recognition, becomes the yardstick. But if it is true that … the Church’s institutions make possible the hidden divine life, then we really should not expect the institutions to have a particularly attractive and apologetical effect. Men do not turn toward the Church because of her institutions, (but) the saving power of God, which is at work in a hidden way in them.
Anyone who looks for the Church’s success in her institutions is easily disappointed, indeed, embittered. He is hoping for fruit from peel, confusing the tough peel with the fruit it protects and contains.

2. What Sex Scandal? I think I’ve noted before that I am still looking for a book which accurately states the facts of the “Sex Scandal of the Catholic Church.” I read the book “Sacrilege”, by Leon J. Podles, which made an attempt at telling the story. From my reading, however, Mr. Podles got caught up in his feelings, and couldn’t create an unbiased report. “The laity have also bought into the poisonous clericalism that infects the Church.” (P423). I like passionate books, but not passionate history books. I’d like to see a true, unbiased, factual, history of what happened, who was involved (including in the legal field and parents who stood by and did nothing, and those who did what they thought best based on data available at that time ---- not as we see things now, looking back with present knowledge), and IF anyone is contingently liable, who are they, and are they all being pursued equally by the law and the press. I’d also like to have data on just how much this is ONLY a Catholic Church problem. The Church leadership may be morally to blame for many irresponsible actions, but as we know, in America most morally irresponsible actions end up on You-Tube or some xxx-rated websites which have tens of millions of paying visitors. What facts make the Church particularly evil?

And, (horrors!) I think I’d like to read an unbiased look at the impact on the people involved. Did all the priests lack a moral bone in their body? Were all the victims impacted as if they had a limb cut off, or wish they’d been aborted rather than have that abuse happened? Was every bishop totally knowing and totally unfeeling? And is the fact that a priest did this evil worse than if a parent, teacher, friend, or imam did it?

I think a book needs to be written to tell the unbiased history. “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

3. God isn’t Dead; He’s in Us. The “God is Dead” crowd of a few years back (and those “re-born” as some vocal atheists today), claim that God doesn’t act in the world; we’re on our own.

I’ve heard some first person stories by people who would strongly dispute that assertion. They were moving along in their lives, when the proverbial ‘bolt of lightning’ struck them. Later they found out it was God, and He was far from “not acting,” but was virtually demanding them to act on His behalf. And they did, and accomplished marvelous results. It may have happened to us too, our conversion stories, but the stories I’d like to see put in print are stories about people who KNEW they couldn’t do what it seemed God was asking, but they could, and they did --- much to their surprise. And many of God’s children benefited from their answering His call.

I’d like to see some of their stories in print today because we need to see some encouragement, encouragement that the government isn’t the answer to everything: problems and solutions. We are. I think we need to see that God can and does work miracles, through us, if we let Him. I think we need to see that the principle of subsidiarity is alive in the Church and in us; Love of Neighbor starts with us not someone else, and it will help get us all to heaven.

4. What is a “Just” Government? What did Moses say? What did Jesus say? Philosophers? CCC? Does a just government favor the poor? Doe it punish other people? Other nations? What is a fair limit of government, and how does it laws and leadership relate to religious principles? What of America’s government; how does the Constitution fit in? What are defined responsibilities and limits of government, and how does that compare to religions, religious thinkers, and philosophers of old? What are duties of the governed? Where does subsidiarity fit in? Do our Constitution and the Catholic Church disagree?

What about those who seek office? How do men of faith fit in? What did people in 200-400AD think about Rome, and what it was doing, and should it fall? What were men of faith doing then?

Where does freedom fit in? What are the blessings of freedom, and the blessings of responsibility? Is freedom ONLY the freedom to be happy? Is the freedom to choose an action first and foremost about actions benefitting us, or benefitting others? From a Catholic viewpoint, what is freedom? How do our choices relate to God’s choices?

I’d like to understand these things better, to see books written about these things. Writers anyone?

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Eighth Commandment

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor

“The Eighth Commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others.” (CCC 2464)

I’ve been writing and thinking a lot lately about truth and love. They fit together nicely in my mind, each so important to the other, so this morning when I read a short meditation on the Eighth Commandment, it fit right in with where my mind was --- and of course, it said things in a way I had not considered, and with much better words:

“We are seekers after truth, but our lives are encumbered by lies. In our dealings with others we deceive and are deceived; we hold secrets too shameful to share and present ourselves to others as people we are not. We meet others partway and, in this partial meeting, are made painfully aware of how far we remain from the ones we care about. Our untruths cause discord and division, and we are pushed farther and farther from what we know to be good. We try to speak the truth as lies tumble from our lips.

We are seekers after ultimate truth, for we sense that all the little truths we discover will end in falsity without it. Science tells us that we are nothing but a haphazard coming together of bits and pieces of matter, no different really from rocks or trees or bacteria. All our history, our great works of art and literature and music, all our acts of compassion, all the love we unaccountably feel for others, all our yearnings tell us that this is nonsense. They send us searching for the truth beyond our many little truths, to the truth that lies hidden in all things but is different from all things. But all our science and all our thinking fail us in the search for the truth behind truths. This search is doomed, as our efforts to be truthful are doomed, until we abandon our pride and our science and our philosophy, until we stop trying to wrest truth from the physical world and finally admit that truth is not something to be discovered but Someone to be met.”

Life in Christ, by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Was Jesus A Fool?

The nights are getting longer, colder. The leaves are changing colors, and whirling, twirling, slowly falling to the ground. (Most of them land on my car.) Fall is in the air, beautiful in its own way, as is the way of all creation, but still … I’ll miss the warmth of summer.

(The birds and fall colors outside mom’s front window. See Mary across the street?)

One year, many years ago, the man Jesus knew a fall, one much like this, was going to be the end of his last summer. Good Friday would come before the warmth returned again. Oh, he had confidence in his Father; he knew he would rise again, but it wouldn’t be the same anymore. Was the man Jesus wistful about this last summer? Did he look fondly on the summer’s warmth, the greenness of life, the life of God as seen and felt in all His creation? Did Jesus shed a tear about leaving this life? I think so. Why then was he so willing to die so young, and not just die, but die in the worst way possible, the way designed for the most humiliation, the way that said he was one of the least among humans --- not the greatest as he was? Why would he make this choice, that seems so much like a dark, cold winter? Why?

Love changes everything; the words of that song seem to simplify the complex answer to the question of why. Simple words to describe what no words can really describe, one of God’s greatest gifts to man: love. And now God would SHOW us what cannot be described. Love makes fools of everyone; Love so often defies common sense. True love is a giving without counting the cost; why would anyone do that in a “me-first” world? In particular, why would a God, who could sit on a throne forever (even one here on earth), be worshiped totally forever, and who truly deserved EVERYTHING, choose this? Love will never let you be the same. Even Jesus felt the pull of this great gift of his Father, the ultimate of how we are created in His image.

Jesus may have greatly enjoyed the pleasures of God’s creation, this world and all it had to offer. Scripture shows he truly had a love of life; the warm summer sun must have felt good on his shoulders. He was as human as we are in that regard. But he was so much more; he knew what Life really was, and was always meant to be: one with Him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

He lived this life, and saw how good it was; he lived among men, and he loved them, loved each and every one. But he could see the eternal Life prepared for them, and he knew that only he stood between that Life and the men here that he so loved. He could stay and leave things as they were, or choose a terrible death and by it deliver Life for all men, for all time. Stay the same, or change? But Love changes everything; it will never let you be the same. How could He not choose death? Love makes fools of everyone. Surely, in His love, Jesus must be considered the biggest fool of all time.

I think that’s one of the greatest of lessons, the greatest blessing, Jesus gave us in this life. He showed us HOW to love: love doesn’t selfishly seek what’s best only for ourselves. He showed us WHY to love: love seeks what’s best for others, God and neighbor, and then trusts that they will seek what’s best for us. True love is confusing to those who only love this world and themselves; it’s been that way ever since He set the example.

“Why do you Christians follow that man, Jesus, follow him to death?” We don’t follow him to death; we follow him to Life. “Monica, your son Augustine is now a man and he can do as he wishes; let him enjoy life." I wish him to enjoy Life, so I will pray for him as long as I live. “Young lady, if you give birth to that baby, your life will change forever.” If I give birth to MY baby, yes, my Life will change forever. “Ma’am, your husband treats you badly; and your children only cause you pain. Why do you stay?" I remember that His friends abandoned Him, yet He still chose to carry His cross, to die. When it was so hard, He still chose to Love. I will follow where He leads. “Your parents are old and frail; they need so many things; they will be better off in a nursing home; you have enough work to do.” Perhaps, but I remember: Honor thy father and thy mother, that you might have eternal life.

These are choices made in Love. We can will to choose love.

Love is not always easy. Love often seems foolish to others. But in our “foolishness,” we are loving, even those others. They may mock us to the laughter of their friends, but they’ll remember our example and will think on it. They will come to see that we are not fools, even though we seem to do this foolish thing. And then they’ll ask: Why? Perhaps, with the grace of God, they’ll see why, and begin to love, even as Augustine did.

Look at all the fools about us: Guadalupe Partners, The Lingap Children’s Foundation, Maggie’s Place, Matre Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations, Thomas More Law Center, A Simple House, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, and so many, many others. They give of their lives, and not count the cost. Look at all the hundreds and thousands they help, one by one, just as Jesus did. Would you call them fools? If you are confused in this confusing world of ours, and sincerely are asking: “How can I love today, as He did?” There are many examples of the fools among us, those who are showing us how to love our neighbor, as He did, and how to love our God.

As I sit and adore what looks like a host of bread on the altar in front of me, I can imagine so many would say of me: “What a fool.” But, love makes fools of everyone.

October is the month of the rosary. May you pray and meditate upon it often, with sincerity, these beads which link Jesus to his mother, and to you. And as you meditate on their love, and what they did, may you be given the grace to do likewise, the grace to love, to be a fool, for Him.