Sunday, April 28, 2013

Is Your Sunday Bulletin a Waste of Paper?

I can recall many examples of where I saw people pick up the Sunday bulletin at my parish, glance at a few pages for anything interesting, and quickly put it aside --- many examples.  I never really gave that a thought before this week.  The typical parish Sunday bulletin lists parish contacts, weekly masses and upcoming parish events.  These are all good things and, if you are looking for information in these areas, those seemed to be good things.  Our parish bulletin also lists inter-parish offerings of jobs, items for sale or rent, and advertising for services available from parish members.  All good things, I thought.
But more recently, I SHOULD have been questioning if this is the right format for this information.  With virtually everyone who can read now having an electronic device of some kind, why should we consider that the prime source of information on our parish is the bulletin?  When people want information today, most use a search engine to find results wherever and whenever they want.  They don’t have to (nor want to) search for some paper document to find information.  So why is that the primary use of most church bulletins?
This weekend I picked up a copy of the Our Lady of Good Counsel (Plymouth, Michigan) weekly bulletin.  (You can go to their website ( to check out their bulletin for April 28.)  The bulletin contains references to the catechism and its treatment of human sexuality.  It also has an excerpt from a book by a well known Catholic author (Fr. Cantalamessa).  And it has an article by a non-parish member, a wonderful witness of a non-Catholic family celebrating the conversion of their son to be Catholic --- it tells the story of a parish family, as it supports existing and new members.  All in all, it is a wonderful bulletin witnessing to how a single parish can participate in the New Evangelization.
In my business life I was a business analyst, and reasonably well respected.  When I discovered (or it was pointed out to me) that a competitor was doing something new, I took a three step approach.  1) I investigated whether we could do something similar, but better.  Sometimes this turned out not to be feasible, or it would cost too much money or take too much time to develop.  Then 2) I sought to develop partnerships with other companies, to share costs and reduce development time.  I negotiated many a partnership.  Or 3) If we couldn’t develop something better, than we copied our competitor’s offering.  Oh, I don’t mean we ignored patents or copyrights, but we developed something similar in content or looks.  This type of business analysis could be done regarding any parish bulletin.
Any parish could develop a bulletin format focused on the New Evangelization, seeking to teach parish members their faith in more depth.  Many parishes have excellent teachers of the faith and well-read parishioners who would love to share what they have learned.  And if that seemed to be beyond the means of a parish, perhaps they could join with local parishes to share teaching articles common to their bulletins --- or perhaps in a huge degree of cooperation and cost-efficiency, even print only one well-done bulletin, common to all the local parishes.  (This is just a smaller scale of Faith Magazine, the parish newsmagazine for the diocese of Lansing Michigan, which does an excellent job of integrating interesting articles and web-based details.)  Or your parish could just look at what some other parishes have done well (like OLGC), and copy the format.
I think the parish bulletin of today needs to be more than just a listing of information any search engine could find.  In this age of the New Evangelization, it should do more than just inform, it should teach.  We owe it to each other.   

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Speak Lord, Please?

A friend pointed out to me that I haven’t written anything here in a few days.  I hadn’t noticed.
With concerns about my mom’s health and care and my nieces’ upcoming visit, I guess my mind has been elsewhere.  Yesterday another hospice nurse countered the counsel of earlier nurses, and said that mom’s sores were NOT getting better, and then countered the other nurse’s recommended method of wound care --- again.  What to do?  Who to believe?  One of my nieces arriving today is a nurse in a senior citizen home; hopefully she will offer counsel --- and hopefully not a totally different one, again.
In the quiet of my prayer time this past week I felt no new inspirations to write here, no answers to my prayers for His mercy for my mom.  “Where is God in all this” is a question which others raise and I tell them: “Do not be anxious.”  But it is hard to watch a loved one’s suffering, knowing where it will end, just not when.
- - - - - - - - - -
I said I didn’t hear answers that I looked for from God this past week, but that doesn’t mean He was silent.  This past weekend excellent homilies were delivered by my favorite pastors, and they are available as online podcasts for you to hear also.  They will be well worth your time to listen.
The first was from Father Ed Fride, pastor at Christ The King parish in Ann Arbor, who spoke (on April 21) about the New Evangelization, and how we are all called to be who God created us to be, witnesses to His truth.  Fr. Ed pointed out that even Samuel, one of the greatest of Old Testament prophets, had to be called three times by God before he heard; it was a good reminder to me (again) to not be anxious.  You can hear his homily here (
Meanwhile, a few miles away Fr. John Riccardo at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish gave the first of a series of homilies to educate his parishioners on Catholic social doctrines related to human sexuality.  Talking about sex in church on a Sunday is not something some people want to hear --- and some of his parishioners told him so --- but Fr. John does not only speak about comfortable truths.  In our highly sexualized society we need to be armed with the truths of our faith, and few proclaim it as well as Fr. John.  You can hear his homily here (
Finally, I read an article in this month’s Fortune magazine by Nina Easton.  She pointed out how many women are discussing the fact that women still are a minority in corporate executive ranks and how, on average, they are still paid less than men.  But then Ms Easton moved on to a less-discussed topic: American men who are “increasingly” becoming “far less” better equipped than women to land promising jobs.
She referenced a recent study done by two MIT economists, titled “Wayward Sons.”  It appears the study authors were initially looking to track women’s progress in the workplace, and were somewhat surprised to find the glaring lack of progress of men.  And digging into the data further they found something that appeared undeniable:  young boys in this country are being seriously harmed when they are raised in a home without a father.
The data brought out in the study showed disastrous declines among men in our society, in education, in wages, in employment, and (in general, it seemed) in a desire to lead a good life.  (Male incarceration is way up.)  In every age grouping, in every racial grouping, in every ethnic grouping, while women were improving their lives, men were moving in the opposite direction --- and the gap is now wide and getting wider.  Women today are finding there are fewer and fewer men worth marrying, and so they’re not.  And as marriages go down and single motherhood increases, boys and men lose out.  And our society, where shouts of “freedom” seem to be calling for even more divorces, more “families” without a father, and single motherhood, boys lose – big time.  And so does our way of life.   
And as the Supreme Court considers homosexual marriage in this country (and France okayed homosexual marriage and adoption), many are saying that “loving parents” is all that is important.
They are saying that a home with a mother AND a father is not that important, much less as planned by God.  Really??? 
You MUST read this study and see the undeniable results, here (

Monday, April 15, 2013

There Are No Mirrors In Heaven

Review:  Contemplative Provocations
Yesterday’s Gospel had Jesus asking Peter:  “Do you love me?” and Peter responding, “Yes, Lord.  You know that I love you.”  Our pastor, in his homily, pointed out that Jesus and Peter used two different words for love (in the Gospel’s original Greek text), Jesus asking Peter if he loved Him with a self-sacrificing love, and Peter responding a word that meant he loved with a love of friendship. 
The teaching of this Gospel to all of us is that Jesus calls us to grow in a perfection of love, to try to achieve in ever-better ways the love which He had, a total self-sacrificing love.  We have a responsibility to give, in freedom, a love to others --- and to God --- that puts them first, a self-sacrificing love.

Even before this Gospel and homily yesterday, I have been thinking (and writing) a lot lately about freedom and responsibility.  Perhaps that’s why the title of this meditation struck me; it’s a quote from the book Contemplative Provocations, by Fr. Donald Haggerty. 
Heaven is perfection.  Saying “there are no mirrors in heaven” is saying that in heaven’s perfection we are not concerned about ourselves, but only about others.  We need no mirror in heaven, for we don’t look at ourselves.  That is what a self-giving love is.  Jesus was asking Peter --- and us --- if he/we could strive for that love here, on earth.  We begin to achieve heaven when we begin to live more “heavenly’ here on earth, loving with a self-giving love, loving without looking at ourselves first.
In his forward, Cardinal Dolan says that this book is “a rewarding work for anyone striving to deepen his spiritual life.”  Amen.  Fr. Haggerty assumes his readers want a life given more fully to God; they wish to make a commitment to prayer.  He then goes on, in short paragraphs, to explain feelings of God and of men, to show relationships, to describe longings, to consider the nature of God and men, and our longings to be together, to love.  These ARE provocations to contemplation.
I, the underliner of important points, underlined many sentences and paragraphs in this book.  It is made to be read and meditated upon before the Eucharistic Christ, so you can ask Him questions as you consider the topics, and hear His answers in the still of a chapel.  This book is a true classic.   I shall be reading it for many years to come.
When I did not seek him with a self-love, he came to me without being sought. (St. John of the Cross) To love, after all, is to give oneself, and to give oneself is to forget oneself.  (Augustin Guillerand)
Our internal poverty of soul hinges on our absolute dependency on God.  It is a recognition of our incapacity for God unless he draws us.  Our nothingness attracts God’s love in the way a poor child’s smile draws our own emotion. 
God’s concealed presence requires an alertness to these subtle promptings to sacrifice.  If we do not deny ourselves in smaller ways, we may soon prefer a God who blesses our own biases and propensities.  God is close to us when we make ourselves accessible to his requests.  This means to expect small testings in which our own preference has often to be denied.
While God is the ultimate truth to be sought, it is difficult to experience a need for him while keeping steady companionship with a computer.  This narrow search for practical benefit suffocates a deeper hunger of the human soul.  The struggle for religious insight and for God, unanswerable at the touch of a keyboard, can be neglected provided the electricity continues to flow. In a culture of technology the question of God can be simply ignored as lacking practical purpose, a wasteful glance at fanciful vapors.  Honest thought about God requires engagement with his divine presence.  This is fully possible only in prayer ….. less analytical.
There is no such thing as a successful foray into seeking God in silent prayer; no one returns home with a prize in hand.
I could quote many more very thoughtful words from the good Father Haggerty, but they are not words just meant to be read, but meditated upon.  There is so much meaning in them, meaning unique to each of us. 
For my friends, this book may well be in your Christmas stocking this year.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Loving Parents With Children Who Have Autism

I have written some here in the past about autism; I know families with children with autism.  For them it is difficult, but for us in relating to them --- and their children --- it is also difficult.  I've read lots of articles on how families or even strangers should deal with children with autism, but for the first time (that I can recall) I read an article on how we should deal with the parents of a child with autism.

It is an article you should read also.  Maria, who writes a wonderful blog which I follow titled: La Dolce Vita, had her sister guest-write on her blog.  Her sister has a child with autism.  The article tells us how WE should act with love (and understanding) to the parents of children with autism.

Please take the time to read her comments here.  Whether you realize it or not, you DO know someone who has a child with autism, and you SEE children with autism almost every day.  Know how to act.  Know how to love.  Read this article.  (

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What Has Lent Taught You?

Many of us started out Lent with some resolutions, things we wished to do during Lent.  I commented here that for some of us those resolutions were no more firm than New Year’s Eve resolutions --- quickly forgotten.  But Lent is different, in that New Year’s Day is one day, gone and quickly forgotten, while Lent goes on for six weeks --- and we hear reminders of it over and over again, even in the secular media.  And if we DID make any resolutions (or felt guilty that we should have), we many have been guilted into at least making some minor effort at keeping them.  Hence, the reason for the question in this title: Did you benefit from your resolutions?

I’m no different than any other man; I made resolutions intending to please God.  In the front of my mind, I wanted to grow in ways to please Him more (after all, he DID die for me), while in the back of my mind was the ever present: and I hope to gain something for myself.  I’m no different than any other man; I want to make myself happy.  I tried to do things for God, but I was trying to do things for myself also.  And so now that Lent is over, I think it is a fair question for me to ask myself: Just what did I get out of Lent?  Did Lent, and my resolutions (kept or not) make any difference in me, my thinking, my actions?  Am I happier?

I invite you to ask yourself the same questions.

The effects of our Lenten actions could have been short term or one time, such as I went to mass one morning (or even, good grief, confession!), or maybe I prayed once for a deceased love one.  These results would be good --- even a little step toward holiness is a step forward.  We can’t beat ourselves up over how fast we are approaching God; you can’t run until you take that first step.  And even just thinking about him is a good thing; some day when we really need to have his closeness, we may recall that thought we once had.  No effort at growing close to him is a wasted effort.  But perhaps Lent brought you some bigger impact in your life, perhaps some more longer-lasting impact.

Okay, me first.  I’ll tell you about what changed for me.

Well, I was reasonably honest in keeping my Lenten resolutions.  I kept the radio off in the car, and I didn’t read any novels for entertainment (except for that one Catholic novel), and I did find benefits from these actions.  I did think more in the car; perhaps some of the blog posts I wrote were a result of thoughts begun while I rode down dark roads.  And a totally unexpected result is my resolve to evangelize every day (in a small way):  the gold chain and crucifix which has hung around my neck for many years (a gift from a good friend), I now wear outside my shirt, visible to all I pass or all who might glance at me.  At least a few conversations have already started because of this small thing, and perhaps God is doing other things I am not aware of.  This was a good result of my Lenten resolutions.  But I think the greatest result was from some of the books I DID read during Lent. 

During Lent, I read and studied the Bible and read various books by Catholic authors, but a strange thing happened as I read:  All the book authors seemed to know each other.  I mean, it seemed to me, somewhat strangely, that what I read in one book was almost immediately re-enforced by something I read in another.  In one book I’d read about A and B, and then I’d pick up a second book and almost immediately I’d read words that said:  Do you realize that A plus B equals C?  I saw these relations between totally un-related books and authors who wrote their words decades apart.  But I saw that they all made sense.  And they all seemed to point to a key learning which was impressed in my heart:  We are important.

Now I know you are saying: “Big deal --- it took you long enough, stupid,” but I’d ask you to read my words again.  I didn’t say I just learned we are important, I said it was impressed in my heart.  There are many things my brain knows, but I still lack wisdom about them.  I suspect most men are that way, both the very learned and the very stupid.  Many may act out of human emotions, but not nearly as many act out of spiritual emotions.  We think about many things; we study scientific relations; we find out how material things work.  Not nearly as often do we discover why they work as they do, giving them real meaning. 

- - - - - - - - - -

A car is going down the road, when suddenly it veers to the right, goes off the road and hits a tree, killing the driver, and then it rolls over a couple of times down a hill and lands atop a school bus, killing 50 children.  A person gets out of bed one morning and half awake butters some bread and puts it in the toaster and heads to the shower, and a short time later the toast catches fire, causing the curtains to flame, which quickly causes the whole house to burn down, killing three old people in their sleep.  A woman to ensure the safety of her baby has some “routine tests” done during her pregnancy, and the doctor tells her that there is a 99% chance her baby will have Down’s Syndrome and encourages an abortion, which she has done.  All three of these events are tragedies, but most people look at them differently.

For the deaths from the car and the toaster, there will be investigations.  The tragic results will cause investigators to ask: Why?  For the car, maybe it was failed brakes; maybe it was faulty steering; maybe it was a combination of mechanical and human failures.  For the toaster, maybe it was a lack of instructions on how it should be used; maybe it was set too high; maybe the wiring shorted causing excessive heat; maybe it was a combination of mechanical and human failures.  In asking “why” these devices failed one thing will assuredly be in the conclusions:  this is not how these things were meant to operate.  They were not made to cause damage to others --- or to themselves.  And yet they did.  That is the result, and it was the result which triggered the investigation. 

As a result of the investigations, it is hoped that perhaps the devices can be treated better in the future so that they that they function as they were meant to function.  Perhaps new warnings need to be given on their operation.  Perhaps new training of the people who use them should begin.  And perhaps the investigative results will enable fewer accidents and deaths to happen in the future --- and enable fewer cars and toasters to have to be repaired or be replaced. 

The reasons the above investigations were because one thing, not operating as it was designed to do, caused damage to itself ---- and even more damage to others.  It was the extensive damage to others which caused to investigation to proceed with all seriousness, and the results to matter --- they were widely published and resulted in changes to reduce such damages in the future.  The example of the woman having an abortion has all the tragic results of the car or toaster accidents, but we don’t see it, and so we don’t investigate it, and so the people doing the damage --- and the resulting damage to many others --- are not investigated.  And so the damages continue to go on.  And our society is heavily damaged, and many are dying needless deaths and incurring needless suffering.

This Lent, that last example was impressed in my heart, from a knowledge about abortion, a knowledge about Christian morality, a knowledge about the sufferings of post-abortive women, a knowledge about how our society is in moral decline --- from all these things, I proceeded from a knowledge to a deep knowing in my being, about the value of being, about the value of man. 

I said I learned that we are important.  That may have not sounded like such an earth-shattering statement.  We all have knowledge of that, and when it comes to ourselves, we have a strong passion about that:  I AM IMPORTANT!!  That’s all well and good, my friends, for truly each of us is.  But what we know is only “knowledge” until we can answer the question: WHY?  I, you, we, can’t answer any questions about abortion or any other moral failing, about why “my truth about that matter is any more real than your truth” until we can arrive at a basis for discussion of any questions about man:  Just what is man, and, like the car or the toaster, how was he MADE to function?  How can we discuss what is going wrong with a man --- if indeed something is going wrong --- unless we know how he was designed to work.  For example, until we understand the design and the intent of the designer, we are only assuming that all cars are not meant to veer to the right and crash into trees, and that all toasters are not meant to catch fire.  It may be “my truth” that they are meant to do that ---- it happens too often would be my evidence --- and until we can agree on what they were designed to do, what is the essence of their being, we may not be able to agree if they are functioning properly.

That is what I was led to consider and take into my heart this Lent.  At the heart of all my readings, from the Bible to works of saints or would-be-saints, I saw the common thread which linked them in my heart.  Everything they were saying that man should do or say, was pointing --- and sometimes overtly saying --- to a “why” it should be so.  All men have a tendency to love themselves, but WHY love others is a key question.  What in man makes that so essential?  It almost doesn’t seem natural.  I can even construct Christian-sounding arguments about the importance of me getting ME to heaven --- it can sound like I should make ME number one in everything.  But --- why should I love you? Why should I think you are so important?  Why should I stifle those whispers urging me to think of myself first?  Why?

The thing which impressed in my heart this Lent was that I and you are equal in the eyes of God.  And, made in his image, we should be equal in the eyes of each other.  And we should love each other even as he loves each of us.  And that is so hard.  All my human inclinations and knowledge say some of you are not as intelligent as I am, not as caring about God and his ways as I am, not as important as I am.  And yet I also know that some of who I would judge this way can look at me and say:  he is not as wise in the ways of the world and loving his neighbor as I am, and he does not see God in the begger --- like me --- as I do, and he is only self-important because he has so much and doesn’t have to think about himself and his needs, as I do. 

It is so easy to look at ourselves first.  Everyone does.  It is easy to say this is a fault --- in others --- to point at some of our political leaders and so clearly see that their actions are only done for votes, only done to gain a “surrogate love,” only done as from a narcissistic personality which only cares about themselves, but we are not so far from the same.  This Lent, I saw so many actions, words, examples of the message: “I do this for love”.  I do this TO love.  I do this because that is the way I was made to be, the way I was meant to do. 

And finally I got it.

I know what I wrote here won’t make any difference to most people.  I know that what I “received” during Lent was a gift, and perhaps it is not given to many.  Certainly I know that it cannot be taught; it is not a message I can convey to you.  Perhaps even I will look back on these words some day, and my heart will have gone cold, will have forgotten the depth of the meaning I now feel.  Someone once wrote that if you are not progressing in holiness, you are regressing.  I’ve certainly seen that to be true in my life. 

But for now, I have a certain peace in my heart.  I don’t think I’ve described it here worth a darn, but that doesn’t mean it is not present.  How can you describe the essence of a being, what it was created to be?  That is only for God to know.

But I am at peace with him.  

This is what Lent has taught me.  What has it taught you?

Peace be to you.  Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts?  (Mt 24: 36:38)