Thursday, September 20, 2018

Taste Our Goodies

The Polish National Catholic Church has designated 2018 as the Year of the Family. In September, the church will focus on encouraging people to identify their unique talents and skills to enrich their family and the church community.

Holy Family will celebrate this theme by dedicating the new Ed Bartz Pavilion the handiwork of its carpenters and masons who built this structure over the summer. Here the community will celebrate family reunions, anniversaries, weddings, baptisms, birthdays, showers and any occasion where families bring their favorite recipes to the delight of their friends and neighbors.

The children of the parish have written prayers and memories that will placed in a time capsule that will be buried and opened in 2025. Included will be stories about the history of the parish that celebrates over 150 years of faith and love to God and neighbor. In addition, a new teeter totter will be blessed the result of the generosity of many local donor families.

Finally, a Memorial Walkway that leads to the Clayton Playground will be blessed and dedicated and serve as a prayerful journey to remember individuals living and deceased whose gifts of faith and unique talents have helped this parish continue to serve the spiritual needs of this county.

Holy Family’s mission is to welcome all people where the hopeless find hope. Where the lost find direction. Where the hurting find healing. People experience church in a refreshing new way. Where real people talk about real issues. It’s a community where people love God, love others and love our rural lifestyle.

As shepherd of this generous and talented faith community, we invite all parents and grandparents to come with their children and grandchildren and experience the best of who we are. Come and taste our goodies, play on our swings and meet old fashioned country folk who have open minds and open hearts. The celebration will being with our “Mass in the Grass” at 10am, followed by a bring a dish luncheon and old fashioned games for the kids.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

There's a Hole in the Heart That Will Never Heal

A mother whose son died twelve years ago shared that there is a hole in her heart that will never heal.
Jesus taught: “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny one self, take up thier cross daily, and follow me.” What does Jesus mean by this?
First, it means accepting that suffering is a part of our lives. Accepting our cross means we have to make peace with the fact that frustration, disappointment, pain, misfortune, illness, unfairness, sadness, and death are a part of our lives and they must be accepted without bitterness. As long as we nurse the notion that pain in our lives is something we need not accept, we will habitually find ourselves bitter—bitter for not having accepted the cross.
Second, taking up our cross means that we may not, in our suffering, pass on any bitterness to those around us. There’s a difference between healthily groaning under the weight of our pain and unhealthily whining in self-pity and bitterness under that weight. The cross gives us permission to do the former, but not the latter. Jesus groaned under the weight of his cross, but no self-pity, whining, or bitterness issued forth from his lips or his beaten body.
Third, carrying our cross daily means accepting that God’s gift to us is often not what we expect. God always answers our prayers but, often times, by giving us what we really need rather than what we think we need. The Resurrection does not come when we expect it and rarely fits our notion of how a resurrection should happen. To carry your cross is to be open to surprise.
And finally, taking up your cross means living in a faith that believes that nothing is impossible for God. This means accepting that God is greater than the human imagination. Indeed, whenever we succumb to the notion that God cannot offer us a way out of our pain into some kind of newness, it’s precisely because we have reduced God down to the size of our own limited imagination. It’s only possible to accept our cross, to live in trust, and to not grow bitter inside pain if we believe in possibilities beyond what we can imagine, namely, if we believe in the Resurrection.
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that you give them the patience to wait and give up their bitterness so that they we will take up their cross and believe in the Resurrection.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

I Love You

These words, addressed to you by God, are the most important words you will ever hear because, before you hear them, nothing is ever completely right with you, but, after you hear them, something will be right in your life at a very deep level.
These are simple words, but they capture what we ultimately try to do when we “lift mind and heart to God” in prayer.
We need to open ourselves to God in such a way that we are capable of hearing God say to us, individually, “I love you!”
This might sound pious and sentimental. It’s anything but that.

In the Gospel of John, we meet Jesus as an adult right on the first page and the first words out of Jesus’ mouth are a question: “What are you looking for?” That question remains throughout the rest of the gospel suggesting that beneath everything else a certain search is going on. A lot of things are happening on the surface, but underneath, there remains always the nagging, restless question: “What are you looking for?”

Jesus answers that question on the morning of the resurrection. Mary Magdalene goes looking for him, carrying spices with which to embalm his dead body. Jesus meets her, alive and in no need of embalming, but she doesn’t recognize him. Bewildered, but sincere, she asks Jesus where she might find Jesus. Jesus asks her: “What are you looking for?” Then he answers it. With deep affection, he pronounces her name: “Mary.”

In doing that, he tells her what she and everyone else are forever looking for, God’s voice, one-to-one, speaking unconditional love, gently saying your name. In the end, that’s what we are all looking for and most need. We need to hear God, affectionately, one-to-one, pronounce our names: “Carolyn!” “Julia!” “Steve!”  Nothing will heal us more of restlessness, bitterness, and insecurity than to hear God say: “I love you!”

Moreover, prayer is meant to be a mutual thing, it’s important too that we respond in kind: Part of prayer is also that we with affection, occasionally at least, say the same thing to God: “I love you!” In all our relationships, we have to occasionally prompt each other to hear expressions of affection and reassurance. It’s not good enough to tell a marriage partner or a friend just once “I love you!” It needs to be said regularly. The relationship of prayer is no different.

Prayer is not meant to change God but us. And nothing changes us as much for the good as to hear someone say that he or she loves us—especially if that someone is God.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and let them know that “I love them.”

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Skip the Insults

So, you have not been attending Mass to protest the failure of the church to report the hideous crimes of its priests or you were just too busy on the golf course or taking your grandkids to the beach. To bring you up to date, Jesus has people walking away and scolding him for not following the rules of his synagogue.
However, Jesus is looking for people with a “teachable spirit.” While some may criticize us for our lack of presence, Jesus is focused on a faith that takes a neighbor shopping, bids on a steer to donate the hamburger to hungry families, calls a brother to express forgiveness and surrender our past resentment.

Revenge, anger, and dwelling on how someone hurt you will eat away at you. It is a huge barrier to finding healing and peace. God promises that if we seek his face instead of retribution, he will bring healing.

God prays for us as we reflect: “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:31–32 .
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that they will have a “teachable spirit” where the love of Jesus will help us be more compassionate and forgiving.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Waffle House Shuffle


Rob, the cook, whips up the eggs in the frying pan, he makes a remark to the other cook that his preacher asked him when he was going to see him on Sunday. At that very moment, one of the waitresses plopped a quarter in the 1950’s jukebox and played the song: “You’re My Darling Angel.”

Why this is a church, the guests are greeted at the door as they walk into the restaurant. The server gives them the bulletin containing all the information they need to make their order. They are served with a smile and even a song as another server starts singing along with the tune on the jukebox.

At the end of our breakfast, Linda came back to asked if we wanted more coffee, but it was her spirit that made this place amazing. You were sent on your travels with a full tummy and filled with joy that you received the very best service from people who take pride in their work.

The spirit was definitely present inside this house of pancakes. Maybe no one recognized that the love of God was oozing with maple syrup and apple butter, but his sweetness was the dominant theme and the servers and cooks were all ministering together to make sure their congregation (all those weary travelers and locals) had their stomach and souls filled for another’s day’s work or play.

I shared this vacation story with my parishioners at Holy Family and told them we need to treat one another like those servers at the Waffle House. We are invited to bring our bread to those who are hungry, comfort to the weary ora smile with a cup of coffee.

God prays for us as we reflect: “He commanded the clouds above and opened the doors of heaven. He rained down food in the form of manna upon them to eat and gave them food from heaven. People ate the bread of angels.” (Psalm 78: 23-25)
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and all in customer service, for the Linda’s at Waffle House who give their best service may we give thanks for being treated like special guests with a big tip. May we do the same for one another.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Spirituality of Non-Hurrying

“Nothing can be more useful to a man than a determination not to be hurried.” Thoreau wrote that and it's not meant as something trivial.
We hurry too much, pure and simple. As Henri Nouwen describes it:
One of the most obvious characteristics of our daily lives is that we are busy. We experience our days as filled with things to do, people to meet, projects to finish, letters to write, calls to make, and appointments to keep. Our lives often seem like over-packed suitcases bursting at the seams. It fact, we are almost always aware of being behind schedule. There is a nagging sense that there are unfinished tasks, unfulfilled promises, unrealized proposals. There is always something else that we should have remembered, done, or said. There are always people we did not speak to, write to, or visit. Thus, although we are very busy, we also have a lingering feeling of never really fulfilling our obligation.
We are always hurrying.
What's wrong with hurrying? Any doctor, police officer, spiritual director, or over-worked mother, can answer that: Hurrying causes tension, high blood-pressure, accidents, and robs us of the simple capacity to be in the moment.
But spiritual writers take this further. They see hurry as an obstacle to spiritual growth. Donald Nicholl, for example, says “hurry is a form of violence exercised upon time” an attempt, as it were, to make time God's time our own, our private property. What he and others suggest is that, in hurrying, we exercise a form of greed and gluttony? How so
The gospels tell us that even Jesus was so busy at times that he didn't have time to eat.
Too often we have a rather simplistic notion of greed and gluttony. We imagine greed, for example, as hoarding money and possessions, as being selfish, hard-hearted, like Scrooge in the Dickens' Christmas tale. For most of us, greed takes a different, more subtle form. More than money, we hoard experience. We try to drink in the world, all of it. We would like to travel to every place, see everything, feel every sensation, not miss out on anything. We constantly hurry what we're doing so as to be available to do more. We try to juggle too many things at the same time precisely because we want too many things. The possessions we really want are experience, knowledge, sensation, achievement, status. We're greedy in a way Scrooge never was. Gluttony works essentially the same. For most of us, the urge to consume is not so much about food or drink, but about experience. We are always in a hurry because we are forever restless to taste more of life.
But there are other kinds of hurry that come from simple circumstance and duty. Almost everyone of us, at least during our working years, have too many things to do: Daily, we struggle to juggle the demands of relationships, family, work, school, church, child-care, shopping, attention to health, concern for appearance, house-work, preparing meals, rent and mortgage payments, car payments, commuting to and from work, bus schedules, unwanted accidents, unforeseen interruptions, illnesses, and countless other things that eat up more time than is seemingly available.
The gospels tell us that even Jesus was so busy at times that he didn't have time to eat. God didn't make a mistake in creating time, God made enough of it, and when we can't find enough time and, as the Psalmist says, find ourselves getting up ever earlier and going to bed ever later because we have too much to do, we need to see this as a sign that sooner or later we had better make some changes. When we hurry too much and for too long we end up doing violence to ourselves, and to our blood pressure.
Lord, I pray for Sonshine Friends that they learn to stop and smell the flowers. Help us Lord, to walk more slowly, eat more slowly, talk more slowly so that we can enjoy and savor the beauty of Your gift of time.

Monday, July 09, 2018

We Are More Than People Think

My best friend who I had the privilege of serving as his best man 20 years ago invited Sue and I to stay as his guests in Nashua. His beloved spouse made gourmet meals every day and we spent our time watching World Cup Soccer, some PBS detective shows and enjoyed the Boston Pops at Tanglewood. He recently retired after 40 plus years service as a geriatric physician.

His vocation was to get his elderly patients off their pills and make them as independent as possible so they could enjoy their golden years. His other talent was to teach the next generation of young docs how to care for seniors with respect and dignity.

My best friend is now 75, and he was showing off the features of his new 2018 Subaru with all its bells and whistles. His family comes from Detroit and he has an extensive appreciation for all makes of cars. Yes, his toy has google maps, back up screens and bells that sound when you cross the lines. This is a good thing because when seated as a passenger he made me crazy. We are on the highway and you need to change lanes to make a turn but he’s still going straight until someone points out “not here go there.” “I’m sorry” he says. Now we are on cruise control and he shares when you come up too close to the car in front of you, the car’s brakes back you away. Good thing because I didn’t want to be part of that guy’s bumper.

Bless his dear wife and Susan who are in the back of the car and his wife says to “quit it” you’re making us dizzy. I’m sorry, he says again. Mind you, he’s more then it seems. He’s not trying to be malicious or rattle us, just a tad careless at times.

I wonder, when you retire does something happen to your brain that says you can get a little flaky and people around you will look the other way. Maybe, he just wants our attention. You may think that he’s just another doctor who has enjoyed the power and prestige of his position and expects people to bow to all his whims. You would be dead wrong with my friend for he is not what it seems with this true story.

Our spouses called to make reservations for dinner after the concert, but every restaurant was booked except one known as the Church Grille that took no reservations. After my friend parked the car, we are walking to the restaurant and he says let’s go here. I’m thinking that’s silly since the ladies had called the Church Grille. However, when we got to the door, the place was dark inside and a sign on the door read the place was closed that night due to a plumbing problem.

I turned and there’s my friend running back to the other restaurant. We walked only halfway not sure what he was up to. Then he’s frantically waving his arms to come back. He’s more than people think because we learned that this restaurant had no reservations available, but there were 5 free seats at the bar where we could eat. No problem, we appreciated my friend’s quick response and to our surprise enjoyed a wonderful gourmet meal. When I wanted to pick up the bill, he said to me “please let me take care of this.” So, I got off my bar stool, walked over to the end of the bar and took him by the shoulder and said “Thanks.” You see we are always more than people think.

People are always more than we think. You may never know that my best friend worked with veterans who struggled with their PTSD and drug addictions. You may never know that he has an auto-immune disease that requires a powerful medication that lays him up for a day or two before he feels better. You may never know that his generosity extends to all his adult kids and grandkids whom he visits often around the country. His grand-kids love their grand-dad.  He gives quietly to all his family and I can say: “We never knew he had it in him.”

The point is that we are indeed more than people think and sometimes you know, it breaks out. Sometimes our crazy side drives other insane, then again our generous and heroic deeds pop out to challenge others’ assessment and in surprise they say: “We never knew you had it in you.”

This happened often to Jesus and his disciples as they began their ministry to the folks in surrounding villages. The truth is people are always more than we think and therefore we must never lock them in the box, nor should they lock us in.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who have been misunderstood by family and friends. You know our silly side and our heroic deeds. Help us to see the good that you see in all of us and be a grateful people.