Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jesus Birthday Party

Let me share a special moment in my ministry when the children of Holy Family were invited by their teacher to decorate Jesus’ birthday cake. During my homily about lullabies, the children put sprinkles on the cake. Then they put the finishing touches on their birthday cards they each made for the infant. Finally, they made a list of toys and games that they promised to give to Jesus for his birthday.

When we brought the birthday cake up to the altar, I gave each child a stuffed toy that depicted the animals that were in the barn on that first Christmas. These were no ordinary animals for on that first Christmas day, the animals had been given the gift of speech.

It was on a special night, in a simple stable, that ordinary animals became special animals because of the unique and most precious gifts each of them offered to Baby Jesus. It was a donkey, which carried the baby's mother safely on his back. And a sheep who gave the baby a special woolen blanket. Only a kitty could have purred the baby to sleep and it took a brave dog to keep watch over them all. Unique in this barn was a giraffe that watched for three special visitors who would come to pay homage to the infant king.

"Yes, everyone has a unique and most special gift to give at Christmas," said the cow. "That's why animals like us are given this special gift of speech each Christmas Eve at midnight. So we might tell our children about those very first Christmas gifts given by ordinary animals."

The animals gathered at the door to the stable. Suddenly they saw a bright star in the sky. "Yes," said the cow. "It is a special star that will always remind us of that special night when the most special baby was born."

Their teacher read the birthday cards the children wrote and the gifts they would bring the infant Jesus. A two-year boy drew a baby, some pie and a potato. Another young lady drew a blanket, a pillow and a coat. Someone drew a picture of a John Deere gator and a dirt bike. Another child drew a piece of chocolate candy. A six-year girl drew an ornament with the face of Jesus. Another drawing had a picture of a four-wheeler and a teddy bear.

The children took their cards and animals and placed them into the manager in the sanctuary. The candles on the birthday cake were lit and the children along with their moms and dads and grandparents and all the parishioners sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.

Notice in the photo above, how the children puckered their little mouths to blow out the candles. Noticed more the spirit of joy in their eyes and smile. It was truly a holy moment of peace and joy.

Perhaps it has been awhile since we felt this kind of joy and peace on Christmas Day. Let the expressions on these children’s faces be a source of comfort to you now that the Lord of Peace has come into your life and wants you to feel this same peace and joy.

Take another look into these precious eyes and see the wonder and the light of God’s peace for you. A Holy and Merry Christmas. Fr. Matt

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Need to be Alone

A good friend shared that when Christmas Day arrives he simply wants to be alone. Nothing personal he says, “you know what I mean.” During the months and days before Christmas, he works with people designing and responding to customer requests for his special holiday gift. A gifted designer, the pace is hectic and the rewards are few except when someone expresses their satisfaction with his extraordinary designs.

Despite the complements, he simply prefers time to be alone away from the noise of the holiday clatter. He appreciates his loyal fans that beg him to create another treat and the accolades by his fellow workers are sincere, but he needs the silence to get his heart and soul back in place with the season that promises peace on earth.

The final days leading up to Christmas are filled with tradition that leaves many of us physically and mentally drained. So I thought I take all my Sonshine Friends on a brief journey for a walk in the woods. Oh, it not very colorful this time of year, but the silence and mood as one moves across the rocks and stream can help to slow ourselves down. We need to be careful not to trip on a rock or fall into the water, for it can be slippy at times. But as you move gently along this path whose purpose is not to get to the any destination, but allow the silence to restore our aching spirits that has been drained by the demands of the season.

Review this image below and stop to look around. There’s no hurry, take your time and notice the little things in the stream, the mosses, the rocks, the lichens and the leaves. They are truly breath-taking if you know what I mean. God is here waiting for you. God is calling us to rest and calm ourselves down to experience the peace of Christmas night. You only need top surrender all the noise from the past months that keep plaguing us to buy happiness. You know there’s no such thing.

Our Savior knows how hard we have been working this year to make ends meet, The Prince of Peace understands the irritations that make us cringe. In this walk, let the silence calm your senses and bring you relief from the pressures of this holiday.

This won’t take long, a minute, whatever you can spare to get away from your desk, out of the barn and journey into a realm that offers a peace that no one can take away from you. When you had enough of holiday trivial and frivolous activities, come with me now into the forest and find your strength in the newborn Christ who welcomes us with opens arms to find peace of mind and a good heart.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who need a gift of quiet peace that will take away our darkness and exhaustion. When we gaze upon the manager at home or in our church, may we hear a voice that speaks a wonderful gift. The Prince of Peace who sees our weary souls and now He comes to refresh our souls with His quiet gift of peace.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Removing the Obstacles

The twelfth thing of Christmas that's such a pain to me:
Singing Christmas carols
Stale TV specials
"Batteries Not Included"
No parking!
Lots of whining!
More special collections!! (Note: the people laughed at this line each time)
Making Christmas dinner!
Five months of bills!
Sending Christmas cards
Drinking too much beer!
Rigging outside lights!
And finding a Christmas tree

Needless to say, I was wayyyyy off key, but all these complaints sum up the attitude of many people during this holiday. Instead of joy, people are worn out, whinny, and uncharitable. I thought this was a perfect introduction to a Penance Service in which the Lord invites us to remove the obstacles that prevent us from reflecting His light and love.

At this service, I invited all ht people to come down the aisle to share the gift that they needed most from God this Advent. Not so surprising, it was PATIENCE! We need patience to cope with those in-laws, bosses, co-workers, Christmas dinners, cards and lights that drive us up the wall with their whining and complaints,

It has become a tradition for me to offer God’s healing touch, so I simply place my hands on their cheeks and whisper these words: “May the gentle, loving Lord forgive you your sins and bring you peace.” The eyes say it all when they leave my hands for I can see the calm and relief as they walk away knowing humbly in their hearts that God loves them despite our lack of patience, charity and complaining.

My Sonshine Friends, for all the times I interrupted your work to ask another favor, for all the times I did not pay attention to your concerns, forgive this humble servant. Yes, I am grateful for your kind support in my new ministry to refresh a closed Catholic faith community that is now on fire with God’s love helping the poor and homeless.

This week I learned to make Christmas wreaths and learned a new trick from my floral designers. The young wreath designer showed me how to tuck in the last evergreens so that the other side overlaps and the wreath looks perfect! Now, if I can just master tying a bow for all those Christmas gifts.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who yearn for patience in coping with the turmoil of the holidays. In this moment of silence, take a breath and know that God is listening and wants you to know that He loves you all very much. Hope to see you all on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 02, 2012


This Advent let me invite you to share in a special communal Advent Penance Service. Try this image on for size. I think we are being asked to undergo some revision, some stretching in our approach to the spiritual life and in our approach to tragedy of sin. As each person comes to share what they need from God to be a better spiritual person-- I will lay my hands on their heads and pray: “In the name of a gentle, loving God, your sins are forgiven you." This can be a turning point in your life. This gentle sacrament of hope can help deepened our faith in God and one another. This is a moment to turn things around, leaving the darkness of sin and facing the light. This is what repentance is like. But you need to find the time and get off your couch to experience this grace-filled moment. I can’t come to your parish.

Jesus comes not just into our beautifully decorated homes with manager scenes, our dreams of lots of toys, our happiness and cheer, but also and importantly, into the craggy mountains and deep gorges of our lives.

You know a lot about these if you are a human being. What sadness are you hiding from? What mountain is currently too high to approach? What utter failure hides in the recesses of your heart? Only one possible solution exists for these troubles, whether they are giant or small: to let God’s depths be an intimate part of your own soul.

Christ is gestating right now in our hearts, just as you and I did in our mother’s womb. Like a mother, we have to stretch! His birth will not make the world pleasant and polite, but will connect it at its very roots with the mysterious profundity of God.

Will you let him be born in you this year, a little more than in the past? Are you willing to let your insides pull wider than ever before and so make room? This is the meaning of Advent. Streeetch!

You do not have to be capable of such a feat all by yourself. As Paul says in the “let the one who began the good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

 Lord I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we rely on the tender care of God and of his carefully tending mother. Allow them to help you dis-close yourself, to tease open a few doors that have been shut for too long. Fear has ruled you but Advent care can help you.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shower for Mary

Just before Thanksgiving, an expectant mom was rubbing her tummy enjoying the feeling of her unborn little girl’s butt pushing against her front. This joyful mom-to-be with a twinkle in her eye asked this counselor, “What if the Christmas wise men were women?”

I pleaded ignorance and she was quick to tell me, “They would have asked directions.  They would have arrived on time, helped with the birth  — and would have brought practical gifts.”

I chuckled and suggested that the practical gifts might be a carton of pampers, a baby rattle and a casserole.  Much better, I thought, than frankincense, myrrh and gold, --or a check for that poor couple would be practical.

Another gift this expectant mom shared that would be nice would be a sleeper and some onesies. I was stumped. What’s are onesies? Expectant mothers know about onesies, but wise men are clueless. A onesie is a one piece outfit for a baby that snaps at the crotch.

Let me share that what this mother wanted most during her delivery was her husband at her side rubbing her arm. His touch of reassurance during the delivery was the most important gift that he could provide for his spouse. She wanted to be awake for the delivery and her female doctor was the kind of compassionate physician whom she had great faith and made her feel calm and comfortable.

The Christmas story has deeply rich meanings. It contains a profound theological message. It is this. Jesus was fully human. Some Christians blanch at the thought of Jesus in diapers, or Mary nursing her baby at her breast, or giving birth through her vagina.  They would like to think that Jesus just popped out of the womb miraculously and never pooped in his swaddling clothes.  That’s heresy, of course, Jesus was completely human — and so was his mother,

I like to focus on Mary’s story who has much to teach us. After all she was an unmarried pregnant teenager. There are many families who could relate to that. Then thirty-three years later the state executed her son as a criminal.  Too many poor and minority women have experienced that inconsolable pain.  Finally, tradition tells us she was a widow — another model for many.

This mother’s insights about the wise women also points to something extremely significant: more than two thousand years after Jesus’ birth many Christian churches still have not allowed women their rightful place at the altar. Just think of the tumult today in many churches about ordaining women or allowing them in pulpits. It’s a shame because women could help a pastor to be more efficient, compassionate and practical faith community.

It’s not only women, however, who can learn from Mary.  We all can.  She said,  “yes” to uncertainty, to the unknown, knowing full well what her family and neighbors would think of a young girl pregnant and unmarried. And what would Joseph’s reaction be? The Jewish law at the time could have had her stoned to death.

At times we all wonder what others think of us and how they judge us.  Most of us waste too much time and energy on that.  What others think of us is none of our business. Too often it keeps us from saying, “yes” to what life and God is calling us to do – and nothing is impossible with God.

God watches over us as we pray: “May your mother and father rejoice, may she who gave you birth be joyful.” (Proverbs 23:25).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are expecting a child soon. May this new mother-to-be join Mary in rejoicing over her newborn child and keep all our children healthy and safe from harm.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Make a Difference

As you sit at your table with your family and friends, getting ready to consume 5,000 calories it might be a good opportunity to share what you are truly grateful for.

Most news everyday features the topics: scandals, storms (economic or weather) and war. However, at the end of the broadcast is a special feature entitled: “Making a Difference.” Tuesday night featured a story about a group of young volunteers who months ago were protesting the greed of Wall Street. Now, they were working to relieve the suffering of families without power in NYC. It showed the young people unloading trucks filled with food, water and blankets handling them side-by-side into a church in New Your City. The young people had names tags with only there first name and the story said that there were no leaders in the group just folks who had come to offer their services. It featured a call center that was taking emergency calls for help. It showed a grateful women walking out with plates of food and blankets. Finally, they interviewed a young man who was in a band ad he told the reporter that after the band’s concert, he drove the van to NYC to help. The reporter asked why was he doing this? He simply said: “I am a New Yorker helping other New Yorkers.” This is call of Christ.

Yesterday, I celebrated a Thanksgiving liturgy for the people of Holy Family. I called the service “Making a Difference” Sunday, because I wanted to express my gratitude for all the wonderful gifts they share with one another and their neighbors.

Instead of living in panic or fear, this faith community has chosen to be resilient. They rolled up their sleeves to clean and paint, wash and scrub the pews to make their church ready for prayer and service. They did the same thing with the rectory and the community provides shelter to homeless families.

I thanked each parishioner for their service and included our homebound and those in nursing homes who are a “powerhouse of prayer.” These people promised to pray for our future success in their daily prayers.

My surprise was a Thanksgiving gift that I crafted and provided to each parishioner. They were Thanksgiving napkins for their table, representing their service to God and neighbor. Inside the napkins I wrote this Thanksgiving meal prayer that you are encouraged to offer at your table this Thursday:

Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation!
Through your goodness we have so much
to be thankful for.

Make us grateful for all you have given us;
let our needs and desires not blind us to all we have.

Make us grateful for those who love us;
let no grudge or anger keep us from family and friends.

Make us grateful for those who are with us;
let no grief isolate us from their loving embrace.

Make us grateful for the good work we have done:
let our failures not weigh us down or blind us to your mercy.

Make us grateful for the freedom we enjoy; let our service men and women be safe and let us never take our freedom for granted.

Make us grateful for the peace we find in you;
let no resentment or past hurts take its place.

Make us grateful for our faith in you;
let no doubt or rejection keep us from your love.

Make us grateful for the meal we are about to share
and make us mindful of those who have so much less.

May we be strengthened to change
what keeps so many hungry while others have too much.
Give us grateful hearts, O God,
to praise and thank you
Blessed Thanksgiving, Fr. Matt

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lost Kitty

It is pitch dark outside and our worse fears are taking over us as I am screaming “Greee…Greee….” My shouts can be heard all over Genesee County. I walked toward my neighbor’s home where Mrs. McDonald keeps lots of kitties inside her home. Searching with my flashlight, I discover a kitty with a tan coat that looks somewhat like Greian, but Mrs. McDonald identifies this kitty as Mittens. My heart sinks to the ground thinking I had found our girl only to realize that she has a twin stepbrother.

The search continues for two hours and I am praying to all the saints to help us find this lost kitty who is in danger of being swooped up by a hawk or taken away by a fox or an assortment of predators. Please God help us find our Gecian. She might have enjoyed the thrill of leaving her home for the first time in ten years exploring a new world. But at this late hour, she would be hungry and crying to find her way back home for dinner.

I am now searching along the woods and shouting Greee…Grees. and suddenly spot two eyes glistening in the darkness. I have no idea if it is our Greian, but I move closer and see the color is correct. The cat moves slowly away from the light and disappears. You got to be kidding. I had her in my sights and she disappears into the darkness. Please God, help us find this lost kitten. Greee…Greee.. and after a few minutes the eyes appear again. I lower the light from her eyes and keep track of her location. We move in slowly and she walks slowly into a bramble of bushes. On our hands and knees we crawl up closer to this cat and slowly reach out to cuddle her back into safety. But who is this cat? Is it Greian or Mittens? We check to see if this tan kitty has black spots on its nose. We can hardly see in the dark but with a closer look the spots are there. It is our Grecian!

When have you had a moment where your heart sank to the bottom of your feet because the love of your life walks away. At these moments we pray up a storm asking God to help us through the tears and fear that we will never see our loved ones again. For some, it could be there spouse being deployed to a combat zone, for another, there child gets involved in drugs, or worse, a spouse walks away from the marriage. What is your darkness?

For some people, Grecian is only a cat that found a way to steal a few a moments of freedom because someone was careless and left the door open. Our take is that she is an innocent animal that needed our protection and diligence to help find its way home.

That’s what God is like. Our light in times of storms, our protection when we find ourselves walking in the darkness, our shepherd who comes to our rescue when we are in danger and feel all alone.

God watches over us as we pray: “We trust in the Lord, as the Lord rescues us. The Lord deliver us, since he delights in each one of us.” (Psalm 22:8).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who feel that they are walking in darkness at this moment. Let my dear friends hear the voice of God calling their name not to be afraid for God comes to rescue us from all our fears and pain. Grecian is now safety back home enjoying her dinner and resting on my lap fast asleep.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Help of the Helpless

There are moments in our lives that fell “gut wretching.” Like a loved one leaving overseas to defend our country, or worse a loved one being abandoned by their partner after many faithful years of married life. How does anyone get through these moments woithout fear. The answer to our human fear is faith.

 "The Lord helps those to help themselves" is simply false and misunderstood. his is not what the Bible says. In fact, the Bible says that the "Lord helps those who admit their helplessness." The words in Scripture go like this:” God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but  our eyes are on You.” (2 Chroniciles 20:12).

What is recorded sounds more realistic like…"We don't know what to do. So we look to you for help." The song writer put it "Help of the helpless, O abide with me." Do you know who wrote “Abide with Me” and how it came about?

It was composed one Sunday evening in 1847 by the Rev. Henry F. Lyte. It seemed that a deep sadness had settled upon him. He, according to the story, had just returned from his last communion service at his pastorate of 24 years at Brixham, England.

A fatal illness had attacked him and he was preparing to leave England and go to a warmer climate. Toward evening he walked down his garden path to the seaside and there thought out the words of his famous hymn. Later he worked together the words from his sense of helplessness that he felt (that anyone of us would) and his trustful dependence upon Jesus. He is the "help of the helpless".

He returned to his home, wrote out the hymn and later perfected the words and gave to the Christian world a great, tender prayer-hymn. After that he left for the south of France. He arrived at his niece's home and soon after died with his whispering words, "Peace! Joy!" as he pointed his finger toward upward.

Some of the words are, "Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee; In life, in death, O Lord abide with me.”

My point is that phrase - "help of the helpless, O abide with me" must be our paryer in moments when we panic and are overcome with fear. How will I get on in life without my partner at my side.  Remember, the Lord does NOT help those who help themselves. He helps those who admit their helplessness. His power is available. In fact, He puts it this way, "He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength."

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Frineds who are feeling helpless at this moment. As we cry out, we pray, "Abba at our side.” Thank you that there is power to those who have enough guts to admit that they are helpless.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Good Tiredness

As the East Coast prepares for the perfect storm, my Jersey friends have buttoned down the hatches and left town. I am reminded about a story when a large van pulled up in the church parking lot. A bunch of teenagers got out. They were part of the youth group. They got out with bedrolls and paraphernalia and, they looked awful. They looked like refugees. They were dirty and smelly. clothes messed up. They all looked like that they just came from bad brawl. It was the most awful bunch of kids you have ever seen, and kids from the church. I said, “What’s this?” I knew they just returned from Hurricane Katerina. There for one week, along with other groups, they helped the people clean up and repair homes, and clear out tons of debris. Now they were back home sittings on their bags, waiting for their parents to pick them upon, I said to one of the boys, “Are you tired?” He said, “Man, I’m dead, I’m more than tired!” But then he added gospel words without realizing it: “But this is the best tired I have ever felt.”

Why the best? Because he had loved his neighbor as himself and in the loving he had found God. I guess the old Persian proverb has it right after all:
“I sought my God, my God I could not see. I sought my soul, my soul eluded me. I sought my neighbor and I found all three.”

The Lord watches over us as we pray: “In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of the thundercloud, and I tested you at the waters of Meribah.” (Psalm 81:7).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are in harms way. Keep them safe and bless all the emergency rescue teams who you call upon to save their neighbors.,

Monday, October 22, 2012

Resilient Community

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. We must do something about father, said the son. 'I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor. So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.  When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, What are you making? Just as sweetly, the boy responded, Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up. The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so shock the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

Two young men, James and John asked Jesus a favor. They simply wanted a special place next to their teacher. This was their best friend’s response.

It is one thing to love when you feel love around you, when others understand you and are grateful for your person and gifts; it is quite another when everything around you speaks of misunderstanding, jealousy, coldness, and hatred.

It is one thing to maintain your ideals when they are shared by others, when the Gospel works for you, when principle works out in practice; it is quite another when it seems you are alone in some ideal and when the Gospel appears to be delivering more death than life.

It is one thing to be gracious when those around you are respectful, warm, and fair; it is quite another when everyone seems bitter, disrespectful, jealous, and cold.

It is one thing to bless others when they want to receive that blessing, when they hang on to your every word, when they want to be in your company; it is quite another when their very glance speaks of loathing and when they avoid you when you come into a room.

It is one thing to forgive others when that forgiveness seems fair, when it isn't impossible to swallow the hurt, when the wound dealt you is not mortal; it is quite another to forgive someone when it isn't fair, when the wound dealt you is mortal, when the life being murdered is your own.

It is one thing to give your life over to family, church, community, and God when you feel loved and supported by them, when they seem worth the sacrifice, when you get a good feeling by doing it; it is quite another thing when you do not feel support, when it doesn't seem worthwhile, and when you feel no other reason for doing it except truth and principle.

This teacher reminded his students that the special placed they requested would come with what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. It requires a passion of the heart, not an endurance test for his body.

I am counseling a young mom who has struggled with PTSD and depression the result of being abused many years ago. She found her way back to church. She said she met the minister’s wife and something inside her made her feel very comfortable with this person. The minister’s wife invited her to join the church’s woman’s group on a Tuesday morning. She sat in the parking lot of the church a long time before she decided to get out of her car and go inside to join the ladies. The women were simply asked to share what was their highs and lows for the week. Our mom shared that she was preparing for surgery in a week and afraid of the results. Three women out of he blue offered to bring dinner for her and her child. She was shocked by this outpouring of compassion to a stranger. Then another woman shared that she was taking care of her Alzheimer’s husband but lost her in-home care services due to lack of money. At that moment, this mother shared that she had experienced working in a group home for adults and offered to come a couple of hours to sit with her husband so that the lady could do some errands. At that moment, she felt more like her old self. Within each of us is the seed of divine love that God has placed in our hearts and we simply have to be present to respond to his call to service. This is the essence of the Gospel message to his young disciples,that we are at our best when we serve rather than being served.

In a few moments, you will experience Holy Family at their best serving you a dinner with lots of meatballs and sauce to thank you for your generous support of this reborn Catholic community. (Note: over 200 visitors came to enjoy a delicious dinner). Please remember that we are truly grateful for your presence, prayers and compassion. We welcome you back, especially all who use to call this your “home parish” of St Nicholas. Our mission statement says, “open doors, open minds and open hearts.” We are a Catholic community that respects the pope and our Catholic roots, celebrates the same seven sacraments for over 122 years and live in this spirit everyday in our homes, on our farms and in this beautiful church.

The people of Holy Family are no strangers to rejection or the bitterness of jealousy or coldness of those who walk away from us. But we a resilient community and choose to follow the Jesus on the cross and giving ourselves to Jesus without bitterness, without self-pity, holding our Catholic ideals intact, gracious, respectful, forgiving, without losing our balance, Jesus meaning, or living His message. This is our test and we face it daily here at Holy Family and I am proud to serve as their Shepherd and thank you sincerely from my heart for your ongoing support.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Wooden Bowl

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. We must do something about father, said the son. I have had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor. So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.  When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, What are you making? Just as sweetly, the boy responded, Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up. The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so shock the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

I have learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle four things: a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.  I have learned that, regardless of your relationship with your parents, you will miss them when they are gone from your life. I have learned that making a 'living is not the same thing as making a life. I have learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I have learned that you should not go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back sometimes. I have learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you but, if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.

Finally, I have learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.  I have learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.

People love that human touch -- holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.
God is walking with us this morning when we pray: “You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy.” (Exodus 30:29).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that they welcome into their homes anyone who feels empty and alone. Make our hearts generous with your spirit of love and understanding.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Autumn Prayer


God of the seasons, there is a time for everything; there is a time for dying and a time for rising. We need courage to enter into the transformation process.

God of autumn, the trees are saying goodbye to their green, letting go of what has been. We, too, have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurity and risk. Help us to let go when we need to do so.

God of fallen leaves lying in colored patterns on the ground, our lives have their own patterns. As we see the patterns of our own growth, may we learn from them.

God of misty days and harvest moon nights, there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives. We always need to recognize your power-filled presence. May we gain strength from this.

God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain, many gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender. We must wait for harvest in faith and hope. Grant us patience when we do not see the blessings.

God of geese going south for another season, your wisdom enables us to know what needs to be left behind and what needs to be carried into the future. We yearn for insight and vision.

God of flowers touched with frost and windows wearing white designs, may your love keep our hearts from growing cold in the empty seasons.

God of life, you believe in us, you enrich us, you entrust us with the freedom to choose life. For all this, we are grateful.

God is walking with us this morning when we pray: “Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees in the woods will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord.” (Psalm 96: 12-13).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that they welcome this beautiful season of Autumn that we develop a greater understanding of how much we need to befriend inner darkness.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Celebrate Change?


I have a precious eighty-something senior asked me some very good questions about her “new” Catholic Church she was attending. She wanted to know the difference between being Catholic in this “refreshed” version of being Catholic. She realized very quickly that the difference was the “organization” and not the faith. She admitted that she loved the warm feeling in her new church. People smiled and asked her how her week went. She liked the fact that the prayers in the Mass were very similar in both traditions. However, she admitted that she still was uncomfortable embracing a stranger at the “kiss of peace.” Or even more frightening, whenever I invited people to join me around the altar to pray for family and friends she felt very awkward. This invitation to come up to the altar has actually driven people away from this church. After all, we were not taught to respect the clergy and the sanctuary was their turf “out of bounds” for the rest of us common folk.

She listens to the same the Gospel stories that are read at both churches every Sunday. What she sadly shared was that her friends in the “old” church had some unkind remarks on her moving away to this “refreshed” tradition. Their criticism hurt her very much. Worse, bulletin warnings in her old church implied she would no longer be welcomed back to pray with her neighbors. She celebrated the sacraments for over eighty years in that church and this news was shocking and sadly very disheartening.

She wanted to feel comfortable in this “refreshed” tradition. The faces on the statues looked warm and friendly. She enjoyed singing the old familiar hymns. But she struggled with the “voices.” The voices of fear implanted by the organization that she was doing something terribly wrong by “crossing the line.” 

She humbly summed up her experience with this profound candid observation. I have been coming for four months to this “refreshed” church and I am happy to see my kids—(now all grown up) coming to church again and learning about God’s love. Still, “At my age, change is hard.”

I am sure that she never imagined that her faith journey for over eighty-years would lead her down this road. Change was hard for the early church where it had its share of family division over the new teachings. Jesus critics hunted him down all the way to a cross. From His cross, Jesus humbly said: “Forgive them Father.”

This woman of faith is learning that despite the changes it is God who cares for all of us no matter where we worship on Sunday. She has discovered that change means an “open mind with an open heart.” This “refreshed” Catholic community welcomes anyone to the table of the Lord who has felt the sting of rejection. Jess called many in his lifetime who you were on the fringes of society to enter his kingdom.

I am aware that many people are fearful of change and it takes courage and trust to move beyond our comfort zone. This is not a stale faith community where people out of curiosity are coming into its doors. This “refreshed” version of Catholic is very human and it has its share of imperfections. The people who worship here believe God has the power to touch the heart of every a person and break through to a child in a way that the old church, often cannot.

It is true your neighbors can refuse to listen to you, turn their backs on you, reject your values, and walk away from everything you stand for; but there is always still another teacher, God, from whom they cannot walk away. God can reach into places, including hell itself, into which we cannot reach. God is always there, with a love more patient and solicitousness more fierce than is our own. From that we can draw courage and consolation. This community believes that they are surrounded always by a love, a concern, an anxiety, and an invitation to awaken to love that far exceed anything we can offer. God is the real teacher and has powers we don't have.

God is walking with us this morning when we pray: “The Lord will rescue his servants, no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.” (Psalm 34:22).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that they seek your call to be servants of one another, loving each other in the name of the one who first loved us.