Friday, January 22, 2021



To be a Catholic child in the '50s was a cultural experience, something that permeated our being right to the core.  As a Catholic, you belonged to something unique.  We felt part of the other Catholics we knew and, for that matter, all the Catholics we saw at other parish churches when traveling.  We felt part of all the Catholics on the face of the earth. As children, we could recount the names of dozens of saints, and we knew their stories —  as if they were family.  We believed they were with God in heaven but still close enough to talk to because they were always watching over us like grandparents looking down from high front porches.  What happened? 
 
My wife and I are good Catholics, but we haven’t been able to raise our children to feel that way about being Catholic. And for my grandchildren, it seems even more removed. They have not been grounded in their Catholic faith like I was. We have failed to reinvent the communal Catholic experience that nurtured us so well. 

Maybe it is time we go back and revive some of our lost traditions, those things that made us feel unique and special.  

Meatless Fridays were a Catholic thing.  Abstinence from meat made each Friday a day our faith was right before our eyes. Jesus died on a Friday, fasting on Fridays became a way to honor his sacrifice. Why did we stop?

There was a time when you could begin grace before meals in a Catholic gathering, and everyone knew the words.  Do our grandchildren know that prayer?  “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts …” 

Votive candles flickered in all Catholic parishes, giving off a warm red glow from the glass holders. You remember those stands with the sixty or so small candles to light for a special intention. My mom always encouraged me to light a candle for someone in my life who was facing a challenge. There must be a safe way to have votive candles in our churches again. 
 
One of my fondest memories is of my father's rosary beads hanging from his fingers.  I love the stories of President Joe Biden wrapping his son’s rosary around his wrist. Oh, how I wish the Church would lead us back to a devotion to the rosary.
 
Despite what you might think, Americans are not losing their faith in God. Eighty-seven percent - 87% - of the public expressed belief in God last year in Gallup’s figures, which is roughly the level pollsters have found for many decades. The spark of faith is alive, and well, we need to fan the fire a bit.  

Perhaps what has happened over the years is Americans have lost their connection to our Churches.  We need to make being Catholic a unique and binding experience again.  We can do it! 






Friday, January 8, 2021

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” — Jesus Christ.

When I was young, politicians of different parties stood side by side leading this country together.


Republican Ronald Reagan and Democratic leader Tip O'Neill

I ask you all to pray with me that we return to that spirit of cooperation. If we continue to have leaders who will only stand with their own party, America might not make it.

In the Hebrew Bible it says: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

In the Christian Bible it says: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

It's time to end the constant discord and come together as one. Union is strength, discord can only lead to defeat.

Pray with me:

In this century and in any century,
Our deepest hope, our most tender prayer,
Is that we learn to listen.
May we listen to one another in openness and mercy
May we listen to plants and animals in wonder and respect
May We listen to our own hearts in love and forgiveness
May we listen to God in quietness and awe.
And in this listening,
Which is boundless in its beauty,
May we find the wisdom to cooperate
With a healing spirit, a divine spirit
Who beckons us into peace and community and creativity.
We do not ask for a perfect world.
But we do ask for a better world.
We ask for deep listening.

- Jay McDaniel, Professor of Religion, Hendrix College, Arkansas




Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Saint Augustine once said in a prayer to God:

"You have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” 

As a young man, Augustine would have fit in well in our current culture.  Like so many today, he fell into the illusion that something other than God could satisfy, could give his life purpose and meaning. It is easy to be completely distracted by the world and ignore the one who can fill us with purpose, joy and peace: Jesus Christ.

Our restlessness is not an obstacle to experiencing God's love, just the opposite. Our restlessness is the best avenue we have for the grace of God to touch and transform us. If you seek peace and purpose in your life, that is God tugging at your heartstrings, saying, look here.  

 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

The Catholic Church has a "hall of fame." We give those we honor the title "Saint."  These are people who lived lives worthy of imitation.  Nearly everyday the Church recalls the story of one of these great witnesses to Christian life. In this way these "Saints" continue to light our way on our journey of faith.

Today we honor a 4th Century Christian - St. Basil.  His impact was so profound he has been given the title Basil the Great. The iconic domed church in  Red Square in Moscow dedicated to him is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. 

Catholics each day have the opportunity to read something our Saints have said.  What St. Basil said 1600 years ago has motivated me to clean out my closet today and head to the local homeless shelter.  

He said:  "The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”

― St. Basil the Great




Thursday, December 31, 2020

There is a message for us in the simplicity and humility of Christ's birth.  God arrived, not as a conqueror, but as a child in a stable. He wasn't rich nor did he lead some powerful organization. He was a teacher on a hillside. Yet, he makes every powerful leader in history look trifling in comparison. 

The point of his birth was to show us that a life of courage and generosity and importance can begin from whatever desolate place we find ourselves. No matter how ordinary or hopelessly broken we feel, we are vessels of divine purpose. 

May the humility of Jesus empower us and change our lives forever that we might hear the call to help him to bring salvation to the world. No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, God needs you to follow humbly in Christ's footsteps.  

“The world needs Christians who let themselves be moved, who never tire of walking the streets of life, to bring everyone the consoling word of Jesus.”  

Pope Francis 




Tuesday, December 29, 2020

 

The first recorded words of Jesus are in the Gospel of Mark: "Repent and believe in the gospel."

The Greek word Jesus used was metanoia.  And the literal meaning of metanoia is "a change of mind."  A variation of the same Greek word describes the change a caterpillar goes through to become a beautiful butterfly.  Being a Christian is not about following a set of rules; it is about being transformed by God's love and then sharing the beauty of it. 

Søren Kierkegaard expressed the energy of "metanoia" this way:

"Don’t just be a Christian. No, take all of your life to become a Christian: Choose, again and again with each new day, to be a real self, an authentic person in relation to God. Abandon your calculated safety for a reckless, wholehearted life of faith in Christ. Continue to become. Grow. Risk. Take that radical leap of faith right now."





Saturday, December 19, 2020

In 1975 Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was arrested by the Communist government of Vietnam and imprisoned for 13 years, nine of them in solitary confinement.  He said this is what he learned from that experience.

"Only one moment exists for you in all its beauty and that is the present moment. Live it completely in the love of God.  If your life is built up like a large crystal from millions of such moments, it will be a wonderfully beautiful life.  Can't you see how easy it could be?"

When asked how one can reach this intensity of love in the present moment Cardinal Van Thuan said, " I simply recall that I must live each day, each moment as if it were the last one of my life. I leave aside everything accidental and concentrate only on the essential; then each word, each gesture, each telephone call, and each decision I make is the most beautiful of my life.  I give my love to everyone, my smile to everyone; I am afraid of wasting even one second by living without meaning. I will not wait. I will live in the present moment, filling it to the brim with love.”

Jesus told us,  “Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.” Matthew 6:34