Friday, October 31, 2014

Day of the Dead

NORTH JAVA —Today means all things Halloween throughout the nation.
But this weekend has rather different meaning for people with Mexican ancestry. And it’s why area farm laborers and their families are invited to “Day of the Dead” celebration Sunday at Holy Family Church.
Or as the church terms it in Spanish, “una misa para todos en Celebracion de Diea de los Santos.”
“I invited parishioners to find photos of their loved ones to set up an altar and bring a personal item that identifies this person,” said Rev. Matt Kawiak. “I will offer a children’s liturgy that will teach this beautiful tradition to our area children and welcome all parents to join our faith community for the celebration.
“Our hope is that the Mexican community will also respond by joining our parish and share their personal stories on how they celebrate this special celebration of life.”
Day of the Dead is an important part of Mexican culture, as families there mark All Souls’ Day, said Sylvia Davis, a migrant outreach worker.
Families put up altars to remember loved ones who have passed away — sometimes simple, and sometimes more elaborate.
Marigolds, incense and a special “bread of the dead” are also part of the altars, along with offerings the loved ones would have appreciated, such as favorite foods or other treats, Davis said.
They also celebrate a Mass, and offer well-loved items at relative’s grave site. And it carries important personal and familial meaning.
It’s believed the deceased loved ones follow the aroma to the altar and visit.
“If you think about it, everybody wants to remember their loved ones,” Davis said. “Everybody has somebody. I lost my brother who’s a year older than me, and I miss him every day. And to have the chance every year to think about what this person meant to you and remember that, it’s very special. It’s very nice, I think.”
The Day of the Dead Mass at Holy Family will be modified slightly, Kawiak said. It won’t feature some of the stronger skull motifs, with more of a focus on loved ones.
A side altar has been set up inside the church, featuring photos and loved ones’ belongings — in Kawiak’s case, a Raggedy Ann doll which belonged to his mother. Instead of being scary like Halloween, it’s a celebration of a loved ones, along with togetherness and community.
The Mass starts 10 a.m. at Holy Family Polish National Catholic Church on 4316 Route 98.

The Lord prays for us as we reflect on Psalm 23:8: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long."

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and all our Mexican friends who celebrate this feast day of All Souls with grace and reverence. May we join them this weekend in remembering the best of those who have gone before us into heaven.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sick of this Disease

I have a friend who feels drained everyday from her chronic disease. In her own words, she is “sick of her disease.” Despite her complaining, she has the best doctors in town. Compassionate and caring and in her words ”super smart.” But she wishes that she did not have to be the one “to cope” with this miserable disease that she has carried for almost three decades.

She would love to host a party in her home for her friends. But cleaning her house, setting the perfect table and cooking gourmet meals are impossible with legs that feel like “leg irons.”

So to be honest, the Martha Stewart home with all the nice trimmings would be impossible to pull off. If she tried to vacuum, she would fall on her face or feel overwhelmed by all the planning. I like to offer that there are other ways to invite people into friendship, others ways to find support.

Sometimes it is a phone call. A quick five minutes of checking in. It could be an invitation to take someone to your favorite restaurant. A prayer. A chance to invite someone to your home for a cup of tea. Showing love might be as simple as sending a card of thanks for taking the time to stop by for a visit.

What about all the books weighing down your shelves? Maybe there is one you know that would be perfect to pass along to a friend. Better yet, you could call your friends and tell them that Barry Manilow is performing on QVC. What’s that idea all about? It’s knowing that Barry is her favorite recording artist despite his poor facelift that she believe he should have left alone. “He would look better with all his wrinkles.”

Maybe what someone needs who cannot get around much anymore is a note that she can hang on her refrigerator. Why not try to download this photo of the autumn leaves that are changing and send it to her over email, or better yet, make a card and give her a compliment.

Whatever you are good at, that special talent that God has blessed you with, it might be useful to give to a person who needs a lift because any disease can make us resentful and bitter.

A spiritual writer in giving wisdom to those who carry heavy loads teaches that we must learn to surrender the suffering, that which we bring from the past that holds our hearts in prison. We cannot escape the pains of the past, but we do have a choice to let go and let God.

The Lord prays for us as we reflect: “ A gift opens doors; it gives access to the great.” (Proverbs 18:16).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who endure the misery of chronic illness, help them to surrender their suffering and seek the comfort of those who bears gifts of friendship and love.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What Does God Look Like?


Years back, as a young priest of theology had a dream, to write a book on the question of faith. His hope was to shed some light on why God is hidden to us. Why don’t we see God physically? Why doesn’t God simply show himself to us in such a way that it would remove all doubt?

One day, he called his mentor, now a professor emeritus, what he thought on the issue: “Why does God hide himself?” He asked, “Why doesn’t God just appear, physically, beyond doubt, and then we wouldn’t have to have faith, we would know God with certainty?”

His friend’s took the priest by surprise: “Your question is an interesting one,” he said, It’s the one that Philip asked Jesus. The answer, therefore, that I will give you is the same one that Jesus gave him: ‘You can look at all you have seen and heard and still ask that question? To see certain things is to have seen the Father!’

To ask a question like this is like looking at the most beautiful day in October, seeing all the trees turning colors, and the harvest of the corn in full blossom and asking a friend, ‘Where is autumn?’ To see certain things is to see autumn. To see certain things is to see God.”

With those thoughts in mind, I would like to offer a set of questions about the veil of faith:
• Have you ever kept silent, despite the urge to defend yourself, when you were unfairly treated?
• Have you ever forgiven another although you gained nothing by it and your forgiveness was accepted as quite natural?
• Have you ever been good to someone without expecting a trace of gratitude and without the comfortable feeling of having been “unselfish”?
If you have had such experiences, then you have had experienced God, perhaps without realizing it.

The people of Holy Family are working hard this week to prepare for their annual fund raising project. The Spaghetti Dinner features over a hundred homemade gift baskets, woodcrafts and even Fr. Matt’s autumn photography. The parish families cordially invite all the Sonshine friends to join their families, co-workers, neighbors and friends in the celebration to support the ministries of this faith community. If you asked me where is God in all this, simply look at all their hard work in preparation for this event and you will know what God look like.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that they experience God daily without realizing it. See you next Sunday at the Spaghetti Dinner and Raffle.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Lunar Eclipse


Filling the bird feeders at five in the morning, I noticed the stars and that the moon was beginning an eclipse. I set up my tripod, set the timer and clicked
away in the hope of getting an awesome shot.

Early morning, God’s creation in the sky seems to be in perfect balance. The sun, moon and stars light years away have the power to bring peace to your soul.

One person I saw yesterday was out of sync. She felt so much pain she was close to committing suicide. Her family was in chaos, so she got in her car and took a ride to a local park. Crying her pain, she called her only girlfriend thinking that she would only get her voicemail. She admits that she hates technology. To her surprise, her girlfriend answered the phone and she remarked: “You don’t sound too good.” For the next hour and a half, she poured out her pain about the chaos in her life. The same old patterns of drug abuse, child neglect, denial and rejection were causing destruction. 
Then her girlfriend after listening through the tears shared that she heard on a Catholic radio program another women was facing a serious family crisis and she felt helpless. So she took out her rosary and prayed the “Hail Mary.” She believed that if she gave her troubles over to the Blessed Mother, she would take them to her son, Jesus, who would handle this crisis with divine wisdom and compassion.

Several months later, this mother reported that her daughter’s life turned around thanks to the intervention of Mary. The mother of God felt the pain of a dying son and her girlfriends were present to bring her comfort.

The suicidal thoughts were now gone and our desperate soul asked her girlfriend to say the “Hail Mar” over the phone. In her panic, she had forgotten how to say the words and she would mix up the Our Father and Hail Mary. She wrote down Mary’s prayer in her notebook. Driving home from the park, she kept praying the “Hail Mary” until he got back into her driveway. To her surprise, she no longer felt empty or alone. She was in balance and free and grateful for her friendship that had saved her life.

Mary prays for us as we reflect: “My soul magnifies the Lord And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid; For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; Because He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”(Luke1:46-50).

Lord, I pray the Hail Mary every morning on my way to work for all my Sonshine Friends. In case you forgot the words, repeat as needed…

Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Welcome to Heaven


The recent parables proclaimed in church have been about the kingdom, the two sons, the tenants in the vineyard and this coming Sunday the wedding banquet.  Each deals with the kingdom for insiders and outsiders.  The insiders have become too complacent.  Worship is not about God but about them.  Sometimes we have the same problem in our congregations. What is the real problem? Is it the church? The people? The culture? 

In this Sunday’s parable, the king invites the good and the bad.  The kingdom is filled with good and bad.  Whether the story is about the mustard seed, the net with fish, yeast and bread, time after time Matthew insists that the kingdom stories are filled with good and bad.  We can think of people who make excuses for not coming to church, too busy, too tired and too bored. Then there are the critics that the church is too liberal, too conservative, and just plain too much.

Weekly, I see people who suffer lots of heartaches. Pain from grief over the death of family members, or the pain of rejection the result of their partner’s infidelity, or the pain of divorce and feeling unworthy to receive communion, or worse, the spouse whose husband is passive aggressive and thinks he is entitled to be a pain (bully) to his spouse. Perhaps the cause of all this pain is too much booze, to many drugs, or the need for power (selfishness). The only ones left out are those who think they are too good to be in the same room with the ones they consider bad. 

Welcome to heaven. Yes, the God we pray to in desperate times, during moments of illness or unemployment, for the safety of our soldiers, for simple peace of mind loves us all. God loves all creatures, great and small, mean and nasty, humble and meek. May we find our strength in our God who loves us despite all our fears and foibles?

God prays for us as we reflect: "The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.”
(Psalm 14:2).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who understand that we all are imperfect and God loves us all the same. Welcome to Heaven!