Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hospice Needs Your Contributions

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Arcade Elementary Featuring 'Vignettes from Nutcracker'
by Jessica Dillon, Batavia Daily News December 5, 2017
ARCADE — A whirlwind of candy canes, a flurry of snowflakes and a few sparkling fairies will sprinkle their Christmas magic across the stage of Arcade Elementary later this month, when the New York State Ballet presents “Vignettes from The Nutcracker.”
Each grand battement, jete and chasse will raise funds for Charlotte House, a new comfort care home expected to open in Wyoming County next summer.
The home is named after Charlotte Smallwood, a former Wyoming County resident, believed to be New York’s first woman district attorney, who was heartbroken to have to spend her last days in a county she’d never called home. Tim Kibler, president of the Charlotte House board, hopes to help her legacy live on in the former rectory of Holy Family Parish in North Java.
“We’ve been in the mode of raising awareness and raising money,” Kibler said. “We’re always looking for something new and different that people are going to want to go and do, something that’s not been done in Wyoming County before.”
And because Kibler happens to be acquainted with one of the New York State Ballet dancers, inviting the non-profit, formed in 2014, to perform in an area near and dear to him just made sense, he said.
“It was just a matter of having all the pieces fall into place,” Kibler said. “They were very excited to come out to Wyoming County and we felt Pioneer would be the perfect venue for us to go to.”
This will be the ballet’s first Wyoming County appearance, but the willingness of the dancers to venture out in support of a good cause is nothing new, said Ballet Master Rob Royce.
Just last week, the ballet performed for a nursing home, and the week before that, visited Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester.
“The Children’s Hospital is one of the favorite shows I’ve ever done,” Royce said. “The kids were just so excited.”
Clara, the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy twirled through the halls there. On Dec. 17, they’ll be flanked by at least a dozen more dancers, each in full costume and makeup, to perform a large portion of the ballet’s second act on the 315 Main St. stage.
To bring out the full crew and set pieces just wouldn’t be cost-effective, Royce explained, but added that to get just a taste of the full performance might not be such a bad thing. They’re bringing out some child performers, too.
“It’s actually kind of really exciting because the audience will be getting all the excitement of the ballet,” Royce said. “It’s really nice when we can go out and kind of show our wares in straight ballet form, with the big lifts and all of that added stuff.
Whether performing in a formal theater or on an elementary school stage, the ballet aims to offer “true classical ballet performances of the highest caliber.” That’s something Royce happily corroborates.
“It takes decades to prepare for a show like this,” Royce joked. “No, but it feels that way sometimes.”
In actuality, the dancers spend six to eight weeks preparing, but the days are long, Royce said.
“These dancers, we work every day,” Royce said. “We’re in the studio from 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. Being able to bring a professional-level production to an event like this is really a pleasure for us. So often we end up just going to the theater and doing our shows ... being able to bring the company out and have them interact with another community is really special for us.
And it’s something that’s special for local organizations, too. Java Farm Supply, King’s Agriseed, Creekside Fabrics, Quilts and Yarns, Empire Distributing, Martin Brothers Chevrolet, Soul 2 Sole, Grace Worship Arts, Inc. and Five Star Bank all rallied to help sponsor the event.
“One of the nice parts about all of this is that it has been a great outpouring of support by local businesses and the community,” Kibler said. “It’s something new and different that we really want to make sure is successful. The businesses have faith in us and we have faith in them.
The show begins Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children under 12 and free for children under 5.
“It’s a holiday tradition for us, and maybe we can help make it a holiday tradition for others, too,” Royce said. “Anyone coming out will immediately get into the holiday spirit, and I hope that we can help spread that.”

 


Sunday, December 10, 2017

St. Nicholas Arrives



I just plowed eight inches of snow from the driveway this afternoon. However, God was kind because this morning, before the storm, St. Nicholas arrived to receive some 300 toys from 17 children. And this is the story he shared with our kids:

“I noticed a little girl was looking through the Barbie dolls with a roll of money clamped tightly in her little hand. When she came upon a Barbie she liked, she would turn and ask her father if she had enough money to buy it. He usually said "yes," but she would keep looking and keep asking her daddy: "Do I have enough?"

As she was looking, a little boy wandered in across the aisle and started sorting through the Pokémon toys. He was dressed neatly, but in clothes that were rather worn. He had money in his hand, but it looked to be no more than five dollars at the most. He was with his father as well, however, each time he picked a toy and looked at his father, his father shook his head "no".

The little girl had chosen her Barbie, that would have been the envy of every little girl on the block. However, she had stopped and was watching what was happening between the little boy and his father. Rather dejectedly, the boy had given up on the video games and had chosen what looked like a book of stickers instead.
The little girl put her Barbie back on the shelf, and ran over to the Pokémon games. She picked up one and raced toward the checkout, after speaking with her father. After the Pokemon game was paid for and bagged, the little girl handed it back to the cashier and whispered something in her ear. The cashier smiled and put the package under the counter.

When the little boy came up to the cashier. The cashier rang up his purchases and then said, "Congratulations, you are my hundredth customer today, and you win a prize!" With that, she handed the little boy the Pokémon game, and he could only stare in disbelief. It was, he said, exactly what he had wanted!

The little girl and her father had been standing at the doorway during all of this, and she had the biggest grin on her face. Her father asks his daughter why she had done that. And this is what she said to him. "Daddy, didn't grandma and grandpa want me to buy something that would make me happy?" He said, "Of course they did, Honey." To which the little girl replied, "Well, I just did." With that, she giggled and started skipping toward their car. Apparently, she had decided on the answer to her own question of, "Do I have enough?".
So, this is the answer to what is the spirit of Christmas. The spirit of Christmas is not about how much we are going to get or whose feelings would be hurt if we don’t give them something of value. She was only concerned about giving this boy, who was a total stranger to her, something special.
I see that you have brought some gifts that you want me to give to some children who will “not have enough” money to get what they want for Christmas. How beautiful and special you all are in the eyes of Jesus who is smiling this morning and will bless you and your parents for your generosity and love.”
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that as we prepare to meet the Christ Child on Christmas day, we will imitate the example of these children and come to Mass on Christmas to thank God for His gift of comfort and love.


Thursday, December 07, 2017

BEHIND THE LEGEND:JAVA CHURCH PLANS A VISIT FROM THE 'REAL' St NICK


By JESSICA DILLON
JDILLON@BATAVIANEWS.COM
PUBLISHED: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2017 AT 5:15 AM
NORTH JAVA — St. Nicholas will not bring gifts to the children this Sunday. Instead, the children will bring gifts to him. At Holy Family National Polish Catholic Church in North Java, it’s nothing more, and nothing less, than a holiday tradition.
The parish was reborn out of the former St. Nicholas Catholic Church, closed by the Diocese of Buffalo 10 years ago. There, the feast of St. Nicholas had always been a cause for celebration. The initial closure, and then reopening, and reopening of the church five years later, hasn’t changed that.
“Once again, the children will come with their toys, and once again, St. Nicholas will share his story,” said Rev. Matt Kawiak.
Though the real St. Nick passed away in the fourth century, his legacy lives on — most popularly in the stories of a magical, gift-giving Santa Claus who comes down chimneys to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.
In the Catholic tradition, though, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children and numerous other causes — he is known colloquially as “everyone’s saint.”
The legend of Santa Claus grew out of the stories told about him he supposedly threw bags of gold through windows to help pay the dowries of a poor man’s daughters and used his entire inheritance to spread goodness throughout the world. So at Holy Family, the gifts that the children bring — some are gently used, some are brand new — are gathered and then distributed by Angel Action to children in need.
“I believe this annual celebration of St. Nicholas inviting children to bring gifts is God’s way of reminding these children of what Christmas is all about,” Kawiak said. “The spirit of Christmas is not about how much they are going to get or whose feelings would be hurt if they don’t give something of value.
“Here, these children are learning that what’s special about Christmas is not their concerns about what they are going to get for Christmas,” he continued. “Rather, their only concern is about giving something special to another child who would have no presents to open on Christmas.”
That’s something Ben Kibler, a local parishioner, gets to experience firsthand. He serves each year as the man, the myth, the legend, donning white robes and a curly-haired wig and beard, sharing with children the story of St. Nicholas and his historical good deeds.
“I have to admit I’m pretty excited this year more than others,” Kibler said, referencing the fact that his first child, Patrick, was born just over a month ago.
“It just opens my eyes, I guess, to see how he’s going to react and what it means to him. I went to the same church as a little kid and I know what it always meant to me...
And so, while he eagerly anticipates how his own child will embrace the stories of God and His love, especially during the Christmas season, he gets to witness other young children celebrate the true meaning of the holiday.
“It’s awesome,” Kibler said. “It’s a little different now because — I mean, five years ago, the kids who started doing this are now young adults ... To see their little brothers and sisters come up, that’s what I like best, just seeing the new faces.
He’s not alone.
“I think that having the St. Nicholas celebration is really special,” said Molly Haungs, a four-year religious education teacher at the parish. “I think it’s a unique concept to bring a gift to St. Nick instead of St. Nick bringing a gift to them.
Haungs, the mother of a 3-year-old and a 3-week-old, hopes that this celebration, and all that it symbolizes, will one day help to instill good Christian values in her own children as well.
“I think the idea that we’re teaching these little kids that Christmas is not just about getting, it’s about giving, is great,” Haungs said. “My kids, they’re still young, but I hope that’s something they learn at a young age.”
Just last week, she devoted an entire class to teaching parish children to be thankful for all that they receive and experience during the holiday season.
“Our lesson focused on teaching the children that whenever we receive presents or any of the other amazing, magical things during Christmas time, we just take a second and thank God for giving us his son, which is the reason for the season.
She said that the celebration is one that helps her, too, to step back from the chaos and “bah humbugs” to truly embrace the meaning of the holiday.
“Looking at the kids who understand the season and understand that they’re so blessed to have what they have is amazing,” Haungs said. “It’s so easy with how busy we all are to get stressed and bogged down, but when you see Christmas through the eyes of the kids who understand the reason for the season, it’s so much more profound and meaningful and special.”
The celebration will take place Sunday at Holy Family Parish, 4316 Route 98, North Java, at 10 a.m. All are encouraged, but not required, to bring a gift. The service is open to everyone.
“Let me extend a special invitation to all parents to bring their children and grandchildren to meet St. Nicholas and truly celebrate the spirit and joy of the season,” Kawiak said. “I am very humbled by the generosity and compassion of this faith community. Our children inspire of all us to share of gifts not only at Christmas but every day throughout the year.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Hang In There




If you were in church this weekend, you might notice that things were different. The sanctuary was bare except the Advent wreath was present and one candle was lit. This signals the beginning of a new church year and our faith community started with an old fashioned Advent Penance Service.

Now this isn’t a moment to get upset how you go about confession, or worse, worry that the last time you made your last penance was decades ago. Rather, let me point out a heathy way to embrace this sacrament of peace.

There’s an article that points out the need to “keep on keeping on.” We fret about confessing our sins because it’s always the same old things that keep us from being the best person we can be, or what we use to say  “in the state of grace.”

Are you in a situation where it appears to be the "same old, same old"?
"Did you ever notice," said an old lady, smiling into the troubled face before her, "that when the Lord told the discouraged fishermen to cast their nets again it was right in that same old place where they had been working all night, and had caught nothing?"

If we could only go off to some new place every time we get discouraged, trying again would be an easier thing. If we could be somebody else, or go somewhere else, or do something else, it might not be hard to have fresh faith and courage; but it is the same old net in the same old pond for most of us.

The old faults to be conquered, the old trials and discouragements before us.
If we are going to change “where we are” then we have humbly put ourselves in the hands of the Lord despite our past failures and “try again.”

God is present to us in joyful times and in times of despair and frustrations: as we reflect and pray: "As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered." James 5:11.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that as we start another new church year and Advent Season you bless this one to "hang in there" and to know that you are with them. We are where we are at this moment. May this one make the best of it without complaining in the name of Jesus.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Our Passport to Heaven

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We need to give away some of our own possessions in order to be healthy. Wealth that is hoarded always corrupts those who possess it. Any gift that is not shared turns sour. If we are not generous with our gifts we will be bitterly envied and will eventually turn bitter and envious ourselves.

These are all axioms with the same warning, we can only be healthy if we are giving away some of our riches to others. Among other things, this should remind us that we need to give to the poor, not simply because they need it, though they do, but because unless we give to the poor we cannot be healthy ourselves. When we give to the poor both charity and justice are served, but some healthy self-interest is served as well, namely, we cannot be healthy or happy unless we share our riches, of every kind, with the poor. That truth is written inside human experience and inside every authentic ethical and faith tradition.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus warns us that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, nevertheless praises the rich who are generous, condemning only the rich who are stingy. For Luke, generosity is the key to health and heaven.

In the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus reveals what will be great test for the final judgment, his single set of criteria have entirely to do with how we gave to the poor: Did you feed the hungry? Give drink to the thirsty? Cloth the naked? Finally, even more strongly, in the story of the widow who gives her last two pennies away, Jesus challenges us to not only give of our surplus to the poor, but to also give away some of what we need to live on.  The Gospels, and the rest of the Christian scriptures, strongly challenge us to give to the poor.

On Black Friday, while people were online buying gifts for their loved one. I received a letter from a daughter whose dad had died this Fall. To show her appreciation, her family donated FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($5,000) to the Charlotte Comfort Home ministry, the future hospice for Wyoming County that will be located in Holy Family’s former rectory.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends, that we continue to give some of our possessions away in order to be healthy. The poor do need us, but we also need them. They are, as Jesus puts it so clearly when he tells us we will be judged by how we gave to the poor, our passports to heaven. And they are also our passports to health. Our health depends upon sharing our riches.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Don't Let Go



There is a Norwegian proverb that reads: Heroism consists of hanging on one minute longer.

The story is about a young boy who had fallen through the ice while skating and was left clinging, cold and alone, to the edge of the ice with no help in sight. As he hung on in this seemingly hopeless situation he was tempted many times to simply let go since no one was going to come along to rescue him. But he held on, despite all odds. Finally, when everything seemed beyond hope, he clung on one minute longer and after that extra minute help arrived.

The story was simple and its moral was simple: This young boy lived because he had the courage and strength to hang on one minute longer. Rescue comes just after you have given up on it, so extend your courage and wait one minute longer.

St. Paul preached: You must never grow weary of doing what is right (2 Thes 3:13). And in his letter to the Galatians, Paul virtually repeats the Norwegian proverb: “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal 6:9).

This sounds so simple and yet it cuts to the heart of many of our moral struggles. We give up too soon.

All of us experience tension in our lives: tension in our families, tension in our friendships, tension in our places of work, tension in our churches, tension in our communities, and tension within our conversations with other people, politics, and current events. Good-hearted people carry that tension with patience, respect, graciousness, and tolerance—for a while! Then, at a certain point when we feel stretched to our limit, we grow weary of doing what is right, feel something snap inside, and hear some inner-voice say: Enough! I’ve put up with this too long! I won’t tolerate this anymore! And we let go, unlike the little boy clinging to the ice and waiting for rescue. We let go of patience, respect, graciousness, and tolerance, either by venting our frustrations, giving a piece of our mind or simply flee the situation with an attitude of good riddance. We refuse to carry the tension any longer.

Of course, carrying tension is never easy. But, if you persevere and never grown weary of doing what is right, at your funeral, those who knew you will be blessed and grateful that you continued to believe in them even when for a time they had stopped believing in themselves.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we have to courage to hang on when tension stretches us to our limits and persevere with patience, respect, graciousness, and tolerance.


Sunday, November 05, 2017

Saint=Horse



There’s a Jewish folk-tale which runs something like this: There once was a young man who aspired to great holiness. After some time at working to achieve it, he went to see his Rabbi.
I think I have achieved sanctity. I’ve been practicing virtue and discipline for some time now and I have grown quite proficient at them. From the time, the sun rises until it sets, I take no food or water. All day long, I do all l do all kinds of hard work for others and I never expect to be thanked. If I have temptations of the flesh, I roll in the snow or in thorn bushes until they go away, and then at night, before bed, I practice the ancient monastic discipline and administer lashes to my bare back. I have disciplined myself so as to become holy.
The Rabbi was silent for a time. Then he took the young man by the arm and led him to a window and pointed to an old horse which was just being led away by its master.
I have been observing that horse for some time and I’ve noticed that it doesn’t get fed or watered from morning to night. All day long it has to do work for people and it never gets thanked. I often see it rolling around in snow or in bushes, as horses are prone to do, and frequently I see it get whipped. I ask you: Is that a saint or a horse?
This is a good parable because it shows how simplistic it is to simply identity sanctity and virtue with self-renunciation and the capacity to do what’s difficult. In popular thought, there’s a common spiritual equation: saint=horse. What’s more difficult is always better. But that can be wrong.

To be a saint is to be motivated by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less. Scripture, everywhere and always, makes this point.
For example, our bishop needed surgery that he knew he had only a 11% chance of survival. When I visited him in the hospital last Sunday, he joked that when the doctors look into his brain they won’t find anything. This bishop has a wonderful sense of humor and he appreciates all the love of his family and friends. Every time a nurse came into his room for a procedure, he thanked her.
Today, he is recovering from the surgery and once again he winked at me and said I was right, “they looked inside and couldn’t find a thing.” His sister as at his bedside said that he had been naughty trying to pull out all the tubes. Now he wears mittens to keep his hands and the tubes safe.
This humble bishop needs your prayers since the doctors found cancer and they are waiting the biopsy results to see what treatment will help this humble saint get better.
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends in thanksgiving for sharing their gifts of time and talent to make your love, compassion and mercy presence. Bless them all with your grace of healing, strength and gratitude.