Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Warning Lights

 


 

 

 It’s one o’clock in the morning, I have just completed an onsite trauma response, and turn on the ignition of my car and two indicator icons light up that display an engine and parking light. The car moves and a big red icon appears that say: “PARK.”

 

I’m not parking, I’m exhausted from another long day that began at 5am and I am an hour from home and pray that it’s nothing but an electrical glitch. Yes, I am driving home on the 400, and praying that it’s nothing serious and hope that I am not making things worse by driving the car. I just want to get home.

 

How many times have you asked yourself, “Am I OK.” No, you have not  always attended Mass on Sunday. You can’t remember the last time you went to confession. You forgot what an Easter duty means. And yes, you most likely ate meat on a Friday during Lent. In your mind, even worse maybe in your soul, the indicator lights are flashing in your conscious saying “I’m not going to make it to heaven” because my engine, your soul is in deep trouble from neglecting your spiritual alternator.

 

So maybe it’s time for a spiritual tune-up. I took my car to Dennis, the manager of a repair shop that has maintained my car’s for over 30 years.

His analysis, “it’s most likely a computer glitch.” Sure enough, his young mechanic connects their computer to my car’s computer board that turned off the indicator lights.

 

Most interesting was the remark from our mechanic who had worked in a dealership repair shop. This would have costs me thousands to repair because mechanics are trained to replace parts when none are needed at the owner’s expense. I was not surprised by his comment. He was sick of their lack of integrity and now works in a repair shop that focused on performing quality work in an ethical way.

 

So, your spiritual indicator lights are flashing “PARK” or worse, your soul is in danger of eternal damnation, that sounds like serious engine damage.

Some dealerships, or church leaders would have you trembling in fear because you have failed to follow the maintenance manual that indicates  when you need an engine tune-up every 75,000 miles.

 

When my indicator lights go off, I think about Dennis who like our Lord says “Come to me all who worry about your car, something that creaks or rattles inside your car or inside our heads or inside our soul. “I will refresh” means my engine is not going to the junkyard and when we fail to follow the manual, our Good Shepherd reassures us that we are all going to be just fine.

 

“Are you OK?” Sometimes we are told by the dealership that we need lots of expensive repairs, or our spiritual leaders put doubts in our soul that we are not worthy.

 

I would remind you that you are the best of His creation and never forget that. Yes, we might have forgotten to get our car inspected on time, or forgot it was a meatless Friday in Lent, or that the last time we were in church was a funeral for a friend or family member.

 

But as I was driving in the wee hours of the morning with that red PARK light flashing in my eye, I had hope that I would be just fine. The Good Shepherd loves us and when we get out of line, or neglect our soul, the engine of eternal life, he comes to repair our hearts with His words of mercy and love.

 

So, the next time your spiritual indicator lights turn on, say a prayer of gratitude to Jesus that He will get you back on the road safely. We may have doubts about our worthiness or that we have not been the best Christian we can be, but in faith know that Jesus has your back and wants you to know that His plan is to bring us all home to heaven.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who travel with their warning lights flashing their souls are doomed forever. In faith and hope, say a prayer of gratitude to Jesus who comes to repair our souls and get us back on the road of life that leads to our eternal home.  

 

 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Father's Day Reflection at Holy Family BEFORE the Pandemic

 


Some things you never heard come out of your father’s mouth:

Number 3 “Well, how ’bout that! … I’m lost! … Looks like we’ll have to stop and ask for directions.”

Number 2 Here’s a credit card and the keys to my new car –… GO CRAZY!”
And the Number 1 thing you never heard your father say: “Would you mind turning that music up a bit!”

 

Father’s Day can bring up memories & feelings for all of us –some not so good, others bring a smile. My experience of what a father is – was very good. He was a member of the American Legion and liked to volunteer at the Veterans Hospital. He also was my Little League coach who realized that while I was a good first baseman I couldn’t hit a ball for beans.

 

Every year, I search for a gift to quench the thirst of the nurturing dads in my parish. This year my search took me to Tennessee where I thought I could purchase some old fashion “Dad’s Root Beer.” However, my order came too late, so I had to improvise and sure enough came up with Plan B. With the help of a local beverage distributor, we found another brand founded in 1889 called “Saranac Old Fashion Root Beer.” We invited all our nurturing men to stand in their sits as their loved ones placed their hands on them and I offered this Father’s Day Blessing Prayer based on Scripture.

 

MY CHILD . . .

You may not know me, but I know everything about you. Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up. Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways. Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head I’ve numbered. Matthew 10:29-31
For you were made in my own image. Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being. Acts 17:28

You are my child. Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived. Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation. Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book. Psalm 139:15-16
I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live. Acts 17:26

I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you. Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart. Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Revelation 21:3-4
And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth. Revelation 21:3-4
I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son Jesus. John 17:23

Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen. Luke 15:7
I have always been Father, and will always be Father. Ephesians 3:14-15
My question is…Will you be my child? John 1:12-13
I am waiting for you. Luke 15:11-32
Come home. Luke 15: 7

Signed: With Love Everlasting – Your Divine Dad, Amen

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends, and thank you for the gift of the father of our family. We honor all nurturing men who serve as coaches, teachers, mentors, advisors and thank You for the good things that are ours because of him. His love and concern for us has been a sign of Your divine affection and a sharing in your holy love. May we who have the honor of bearing his family name do so with great pride. May, we, the members of his family, assist him in his holy duties as a parent. With our respect, our obedience and our deep affection bless him, Lord with happiness and good health, with peace and with good fortune,

 

A Father's Day Reflection



 

Yesterday, many of us paused to celebrate Father’s Day. My father played a major role in my vocation as a priest. Sadly, he died of cancer nine months before my ordination, but I truly have felt his presence daily these past 45 years in my ministry. Growing up, my father was always there. He did not miss a milestone. From teaching me how to play baseball, to showing me how to care for service veterans. He encouraged me and supported me in everything. I am thankful.

 

Whether as a biological father or a spiritual father, we want to be present for our children as much as we possibly can. That includes making it to their athletic events, recitals and performances, but even more surprising them with a school pick-up every once in a while, playtime at home, vacations together and the father/daughter/son chats where they take us to topics we have never before contemplated.

 

As a Christian father, we have particular responsibilities. Yes, we are to be present, loving and caring, but the scriptures also direct us very clearly, to “bring [our children) up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). IWe need to take that seriously. That means (along with their mother) we are responsible for making sure they not only are in church but they are growing up to be the best Chrsitian they can be.  We are responsible for modeling that for them.

Kids need fathers, whether those fathers are biological, by law or by love. Children want and need to experience the love of fathers. They want and need to see what manhood looks like up close and personal. Reading and hearing about it is one thing. Experiencing it for themselves and seeing it modeled without filters is something different.

 

We do know, however, that many children do not have the opportunity to be loved and cared for by a Christian father—or any earthly father at all. Sometimes, this happens due to the death of a father. Other times, it happens because men have failed to step up to be the fathers God expects us to be. In such cases, there are so many mothers who do an incredible job of raising their children. Most if not all of us know, or have experienced, single mothers who have raised children to be remarkable men and women. We honor and respect the often-heroic efforts of single mothers who have done so much and sacrificed so much to raise their children. But that does not negate the truth that children want and need the love and care of fathers.

 

Fathers are not expendable. God’s plan and design is not that fathers would or should come and go—that they could be present or not. Too often, the presence of men acting as fathers to their children is seen as extraordinary rather than expected or common. The absence of so many men as fathers has had and continues to have enormously detrimental impact on families, communities, our nation and the church. Even while recognizing that the challenges of life result in families having different compositions, we must again in our communities normalize men being present and active in their children’s lives as fathers and, in the church, expect and normalize men who are active participants in “bringing their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

 

As “senior priest,” I want all our young men to be loved, nurtured and supported in a manner that leads to their living as Godly men, many of whom will become fathers. For those who do become fathers, my prayer is that they will model for their children, families, churches and communities what it looks like to love and serve the Lord while loving, nurturing, and praying with and for their children.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friend who are fathers. To the men who are blessed to have the title of father or to serve as father figures, a blessed Father’s Day. May the Lord bless you for your sacrifices and compassion that you have shown all your kids and grandkids.

 

 

 

 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

It's a Mystery



What to do if Roku says no signal. I am never fully prepared when technology fails me. Smacking the old TV box a few times doesn’t work anymore. So, I go onto a web site for some help and step one says, check the power. Check to see if the light goes on. I crawl under the media cabinet, find the electrical switch cord and turn the switch on and off and I see a light goes on. Crawl out of the cabinet, turn the remote back on and surprise. It’s works. It’s a mystery

 

Let me share another mystery with this cute story. A five-year boy was explaining to his dad what was in his nativity set. He pointed to baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the donkey. There were his angels and Jesus’ goats. His dad said you mean “sheep”, but his son replied “them are goats.” Remember the prayer we say daddy when we make the sign of the cross: “the Father, Son and Holy Goats.” This kid has a great mind trying to put together the Trinity because “the Trinity is a mystery.” It's complicated. Part of being a Catholic means we embrace mystery. Think about it, who can possibly explain God and His ways.

 

At every Mass, we come to celebrate the “sacred mysteries.” We say we understand a lot but we don’t understand everything. Who could possibly explain how the bread and the wine become the very Body and Blood of Jesus. That’s a mystery. Think about those saints who received a stigmata, the nail marks on Jesus’ hands. Or, how is it that some of the saints bodies never decomposed.  The stigmata is a mystery and the incorruptibles are a mystery. However, nothing is impossible with God and no one can comprehend His ways.

 

The greatest mystery is the Trinity. One God, three persons. Is God One, Yes He is, Does God have three natures, Yes, Is God three, Yes He is.

How can this be? It’s a mystery. Like St. Patrick said: “Is a shamrock one leaf or three.” Yes. God is a mystery. Love defines God. He is love. He can do no other. It’s HIs essence. The biggest mystery really what is the world ever caused your mom to fall in love with your dad. What’s holding your family together. Hope your answer is love. Three persons, one nature all God. Yes, bond together in love, with love, and for love, that’s God.

 

When we make the sign of the cross it means that we belong to a family, we belong to the family of God. We hear it when Jesus was baptized, the voice of God and dove descending on Jesus. God is love and God is good.

 

When I celebrate Mass, I taught parishioners the gesture in sign language that says “peace be with you.” Next time I celebrate Mass, I think I will begin with the phrase “God is Good” and ask the people to respond “all the time.” In Haiti, the leader begins Mass by saying: “God is sweet” and the people respond: “mmmmmmmmm…” God is sweet. Yes He is.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that next time you greet someone say: “God is sweet” and hopefully they will respond “and so are you!” May the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Goat be with you all.

 

Monday, May 30, 2022

She Knew

 


 

Last two weeks, I had the humble privilege of providing grief support to employees in Buffalo coping with the mass shootings. Family members whose love ones died are still numb and filled with hurt, frustration and anger. There are no words only tears and hugs from friends that help to ease the pain. This week 21 funerals will take place in Texas and again there are no words only emotions filled with sorrow, sadness and anger.

 

There is an ancient tradition that says over the gates of hell are inscribed the words, "Abandon hope, all you who enter here!” So let me share a story to bring back the hope.

 

There was a funeral for a little 9 years old girl by the name of Annie who had leukemia. She bravely fought this disease for nine months before she died. Her parents, relatives and friends came to listen to the word of God and receive His sacraments of life. During the funeral service, the grandfather shared Annie’s favorite bible story. She would read this story to her grandpa.

 

It was forty days after Jesus death on a cross, when He appeared to his friends, He promised them that he would send them the spirit who would guide and support them when he would leave. On that day, Jesus went up to heaven, and the clouds blocked their vision but angels came and stood beside the disciples and said. “Why are you looking-up in the sky He has returned to his Father but he will come back and take you with Him.”

 

After Annie read the story, she would look at grandpa with questioning eyes, then her eyes suddenly changed, She knew, she really knew. Her eyes said it all. Jesus prayed that we all would be with Him in heaven and Annie knew it was true. At that moment, the church went still, and you could sense that everyone in the pews were filled with hope and God was with people them.

 

You see in difficult times, mass shootings, deadly viruses, serious disease, we go numb with fear and lose hope. Then we fill ourselves with all kinds of emotions, grief, sadness, frustration, confusion and anger. Our noisy brains are filled with fear and negativity. The only way to get through this mess is faith. Annie knew. Annie knew and now we must know that every time we are confronted with a tragedy or feel the pain of lost, or struggle with the reality of war, discrimination or hate, we must have the hope that Jesus came to bring love into the world, and it is His love that Annie found peace.

 

Annie knew and every family in Buffalo and Texas, and Ukraine where pain is felt must know that only our faith and hope in God will bring us comfort and peace.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who struggle with their fears and pain due to the tragedies of life. In hell, there is no hope, however, in heaven you will find little Annie with a twinkle in her eye that says, hold my hand and come and follow me and I will take you to see my friend Jesus who wants us all to be with him in glory. A glory not found in strength and power but in the blood of the cross where Jesus’ love brings us the hope of eternal life

 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Secret Dream of Glory

 


 

We all nurse a secret dream of glory. 

 

We daydream that in some way we will stand out and be recognized. And so we fantasize about great achievements that will set us apart from others and make us famous. The daydreams vary but, inside them, always we are at the center—the most admired person in the room, the one scoring the winning goal, the actor picking up the Academy Award, the author writing the best-seller, the intellectual winning the Nobel Prize, or even the one nominated to be the next bishop.

 

What we are chasing in all this is notice, appreciation, uniqueness so that we can be duly recognized and loved. We want the light to be shining on us.

 

And this isn’t all bad or unhealthy. We are built to stand in the spotlight. Scientists today tell us that the universe has no single center but that everywhere and every person is its center. And so it is not a big secret that each of us feels ourselves at the center and wants to be recognized as being there. We nurse a secret dream of glory and, partly, this is healthy.

 

What’s less healthy in our daydreams is how we envision that glory. In our fantasies, glory almost always consists in being famous, in standing out, in achieving a success that makes others envious, in somehow being the best-looking or the brightest or the most talented person in the room. In our fantasy, glory means having the power to actuate ourselves in ways that set us above others, even if that is for a good motive. For instance, some of our fantasies are daydreams of goodness, of being powerful enough to squash evil. Indeed, that was the messianic fantasy. 

 

Before Jesus was born, good-hearted and religious people prayed for a Messiah to come and, in their fantasy, that Messiah was generally envisaged as a worldly superstar, a person with a superior heart and superior muscles, a Messiah who would reveal the superiority of God by out-muscling the bad.

But, as we see from the gospels, real glory doesn’t consist in out-muscling the bad, or anyone else. When Jesus was being crucified, he was offered precisely the challenge to prove that he was special by doing some spectacular gesture that would leave all of his detractors stunned and helpless: “If you are the Son of God, prove it, come down off the cross! Save yourself!”

 

But, with a subtlety that’s easy to miss, the Gospels teach a very different lesson: On the cross, Jesus proves that he is powerful beyond measure, not by doing some spectacular physical act that leaves everyone around him helpless to make any protest, but in a spectacular act of the heart wherein he forgives those who are mocking and killing him. Divine kingship is manifest in forgiveness, not in muscle.

That is real glory, and that is the one thing of which we really should be envious, namely, the compassion and forgiveness that Jesus manifested in the face of jealousy, hatred, and murder.

 

So where is our glory if we still are hanging onto past grudges. At this very moment, I am deployed to help families and coworkers in Buffalo whose loved ones were killed by the evil of racial discrimination. Yes, Jesus is saying that you will taste suffering, everyone will, and that suffering will make you deep. But it won’t necessarily make you deep in the right way. Suffering can make you deep in compassion and forgiveness, but it can also make you deep in bitterness and anger. However only compassion and forgiveness bring glory into your lives. We all nurse a secret dream of glory. 

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who have been hurt and suffer the lost of their loved ones because of the evil of hate, prejudice and discrimination. Lord, make our suffering deep in compassion and forgiveness.

 


Thursday, May 05, 2022

Anniversary


 

I am sitting in the conference room at Oishei Children’s Hospital across the table with two dedicated emergency transport nurse managers. I was deployed to provide support to their medical staff who experienced a terrible tragedy. The pilot of the Mercy Flight helicopter had died in a crash. While the staff was coping with the death of their co-worker they had to deal with their own fear of flying. This dedicated staff of respiratory nurses and pediatric doctors had gone on endless flights to transport newborn babies in distress or save the lives of countless children who had been in accidents and distress.

 

In our discussion, the nurse managers who had been working for over 25 years starting chatting about their retirement, They had devoted their lives to healing and bringing comfort. Now, perhaps with this incident it was time to pass on their compassion and expertise to the next generation.

 

While they were discussing when “enough was enough” I started to reflect on my journey as a priest. Today, May 6th is my 45th Anniversary of my ordination. My mission has been and continues to bring healing and comfort to suffering souls.

 

It is interesting that when I made the decision to hand off Holy Family to the next generation, I was not steping down from serving as a healer, but simply redefining how best I could serve God at this stage in my ministry.

 

In the past year, I have had the privilege of helping Bishop Mack recruit several men from Pakistan, Chicago and Hawaii to serve as pastors and deacons in churches around the country. I serve as their “shepherd” meaning when they have a question about their ministry or training and they need to reflect about their ministry “I am here to help.”

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In addition, my clinical work has also taken on a new phase in that I have been asked to serve as consultant to three outstanding programs. I am truly humbled that Mary Cariola, The School of Holy Childhood, and CDS Life Transitions have asked for my help to serve their dedicated teachers, therapists, nurses and administrators to cope with the stress of Covid and everyday challenges of life.

 

I am grateful to many people who have supported my ministry and yesterday met with one of my early mentors, a master floral designer who 30 years ago when I walked into his floral shoppe to buy flowers for the retired Mercy Sisters on Valentiune’s day offered to teach me how to design flowers. He continues to send me a card every year on my anniversary and his card says it all “Mazel Tov” Happy 45th Jubilee!

 

I am grateful to all the priests who shepherded my vocation: Fr. Alex, Fr. Siduara, Fr. Karp. Fr. Adamski, Bishop Peplowski, Msgr Leo, Fr. Bob. These men are all with God and I believe continue to guide and help me to bring Our Lord’s mercy, compassion and love to all his children.

I am also grateful to all my friends: Ted, Ken, Arnie, Gail, Tim, David, Jeff, Stan, Fr. Don, Fr. Corey, Bishop John, the list is endless and I am most appreciative of thier prayerful support.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sionshine Friends who have enjoyed my journey of faith in these reflections the past 22 years. Hopefully a smile, a few tears but mostly comfort that we are never alone. We trust in You alone as you continue to guide, protect and give us courage to face all the challenges of life. Praise God!

 

PS The image I used today are the signs created by the children at St. Boniface School that I posted outside my office door located on the children’s unit when I worked as chaplain at Strong Memorial Hospital.

 

Monday, May 02, 2022

Tilling the Soil


 

This past week, I started a new garden plan based on an article entitled: “How to Create an Easy-Care Garden.” To be honest, “there’s no such thing.” However, this will be a good new challenge since my goal is to keep it simple and nearly effortless to take care of. I want to be able to garden for a long time to come, and that means keeping everything as simple as possible as I age. The goal is to make this a no-till gardening space. It will use the best gardening techniques from raised beds, to bucket planter and straw bale planters.

 

But first I have to take out the 90 concrete blocks that I have used for the past 11 years as a walking path. Only problem with that idea was the weeds kept creeping into the path. After lugging these blocks out of the garden, I laid down a commercial landscape fabric to block out the weeds. To keep it low maintenance, all the welking spaces will be covered in thick wood chips to eliminate weeding.

 

Creating a new garden is like digging deeper into our relationship with Jesus.

When we till the soil, we break through the hard surface layer, break up the clumps of soil, and remove the rocks and old roots, or concrete blocks.

 

What has hardened my heart? What clumps block the way when I try to open my heart to Jesus? What stones am I coming across? What old roots am I getting tangled up in as I try to grow my relationship with Jesus? Are there any bad habits that have taken root within me? Are there places where I need forgiveness or healing? Am I holding fast to any untrue beliefs that I need to discard, such as God doesn’t care; I could never be forgiven for…; or I’m not deserving of forgiveness?

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that as they start to create their gardens in their yard or hearts, help them to soften the hardness and get rid of the stones and clumps that block the growth.

 

I just called my wood chip supplier so I will be picking up a load and spreading the chips and pray this keeps this garden low maintenance.

 

If you don’t feel like starting a new garden that OK. Ask Jesus if there’s anything he would like to reveal to you that you might be holding deep inside that is not serving you well. If you’re feeling distracted, don’t judge yourself; just talk about that. This prayer time is all about honesty in the dialogue. Now, listen. What do you hear in response?