Saturday, January 30, 2010

St. Hyacintha

We have to just love the humanity of St. Hyacintha. Angry because a man chose his younger sister to marry instead of her, she flees to the convent with the promise from her father that she would have the finest of everything for her living quarters. She wore the finest habit and had her own special food and came and went as she pleased. After ten years she became seriously ill and her confessor was sent to her. Suggesting strongly that she give up all her worldly goods, Hyacintha begged forgiveness in front of the congregation, stripped herself of all her pleasure, wore the oldest habit, went barefoot and changed her life completely. She had great devotion to Mary, the Infant Jesus, the Eucharist and especially the sufferings of Jesus. She cared for the sick, begged for the poor, cared for prisoners and visited the elderly. She performed miracles and changed the lives of many in her city.
Today, we remember the life of a young girl who was set for life with all the riches of the world and in one day, one simple confession, turned her entire life around for God.
Every day we are tempted with the pleasures of this world. Every day we strive to live an easier life. Who wouldn't want to be set up in a plush life without a care in the world, with all the finest around us, coming and going as we please and yet living a still somewhat spiritual life?
This girl's life speaks so clearly of our lives today. Not that our lives are completely carefree and plush but take a look around. At least for me, honestly, it ain't bad. Stuff, stuff and more stuff and I'm constantly thinking of other stuff. There is something more out there for all of us and it isn't more stuff. Hyacinth almost died before she found out that there was so much more in not having than in having. One simple confession saved her life and the lives of many she touched. Lots to contemplate. Lots to consider. Plenty to give away.
And Jesus says, why are we terrified? Do we not have faith?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mustard Seed

As snow pours down here in Nashville, I'm reminded of the wonderful days in the hood of sledding with huge groups of other kids. We tried to get out there early enough to "claim our lanes" and since most of the other kids were somewhat afraid of us, we usually got our way. Waxing the rails of our wooden sleds so we could go faster, we spent every snowy moment sledding and freezing and then going home to home-made hot chocolate filled with marshmellows.
Mustard seeds. Once planted, growing wildly, out of control. The tiniest of seeds producing the "largest plants" with the "largest branches".
In the craziest sort of way, the mustard seed parable reminds me of growing up in the hood with the O'Rourkes. Maureen was my age and we sort of got the reputation as being tough. We don't really know how it happened, it just did. We were, at the time, the youngest in our families, the tiniest of the seeds and yet we tended to produce large attention. Working in our neighbors' yards, visiting old people, welcoming new families to the hood - all parts of our jobs. We grew wildly and pretty much out of control. We were grounded a lot and by no means do I think we grew to be the largest or the greatest or anything that anyone would want to hang in our branches for. But, these tiny seeds were planted by our parents and they did manage to make a difference to some of the people in our hood. If nothing else, we entertained.
With the snow pouring in and old memories coming forth, I remember all the good things taught by not only our parents but all those we came in contact with in our days. Maureen and I may have been some of the smallest seeds, but I know we made the largest impressions. And, dad, they weren't all bad.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

God Given Talents

Talk about extinguishing a flame. This morning I wrote this blog and just before I posted, poof! It was gone. It auto saved so I wasn't too worried but when I went to retrieve it, not there. I'm not sure who up there didn't like what I said but let me try again in a new tone.
I couldn't help but think this morning after reading the "mini" bio of Thomas Aquinas how fortunate we are to have his writings. His mother had his brother take him from the Dominicans and bring him home but he found a way to get back; to persevere; to keep his light from being hidden; to use his God given talents.
Today we are called to use our God given talents to the fullest. We may be great moms and dads and spouses, co-workers, writers, artists but God says to us today that if we do more, if we use our gifts to the utmost, there will be so much more. I know most of us would like to say that our plate is already full, but don't let life fool you. Our work is not given to be hidden at home or at our jobs. Share your talents. Search your day and your way. There is so much more to be given us.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Parable of the Sower

With the parable of the sower today, I had the priviledge to sit in Mass where three of my children attend school. The priest came down during the homily and said that the best words he could think of for today were, "good dirt." He explained that we are called to be "good dirt" so that as God sows seed within us, we will grow and we will in turn be able to help do the work we are called to do. The image that stays with me is that Father walked to each group of students in the pews and acted as he was throwing seed. The students began reaching up acting like they were catching the seed and stuffing it in their mouths and their ears. Fertilized, turned, rich. "Good dirt."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

St. Timothy

"For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control."
Well I'm obviously no Bible scholar and I don't pretend to interpret but I love certain passages that come along with a line that jumps off the page for the day. St. Timothy is said to have been rather young and shy compared to some of Paul's other co-workers and friends. In Paul's words to him today he tells him that there is no room for cowardice in their job of bringing others to Christ. He reminds him to "stir into flame the gift of God." Stir into flame. Don't allow the coals to just sit there red hot. Stoke the fire. Set the world ablaze. I love that image. It reminds me how I feel every time I come from a conference or a retreat or even confession. Wouldn't it be great to be on fire like that all the time? Not timid. Not worried about what others think. Always working to bring others closer to Christ. Paul reminds us all today to stir it up a little out there. Don't hold back. Move the coals around and "stir into flame the gift of God."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Conversion

Today's readings are point blank. Paul asks Jesus, "What shall I do, sir?" Jesus says in the Gospel, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature." Paul never says what can I do to regain my sight or what can I do to save myself. And, in Jesus' call to us all for conversion he makes a command. He does not say for us to proclaim the Gospel in the morning or after work or on Sundays or to those who will listen or who will help! Jesus calls and like Paul, He expects us to answer, "Yes, what can we do?" And today, we can proclaim the Gospel to everyone we encounter in word and in action, in mind and in heart. Today is a day of conversion and we are all called not just to say yes but to go out to all and proclaim. It's not easy. Just think. Paul had to be led by the hand. And, Jesus leads us too. By the hand, He leads us to conversion so that we can go and lead others. Today, be His example. Be His hands and His feet. And like St. Francis, "if necessary, use words."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blessed Mother Marianne of Molokai

Generally, I would have skipped todays reading of the saint of the day but since the making of our new St. Damien, the word Molokai caught my eye. Why is it that I cling to the familiar more than venture toward the unknown? Obviously, it's more comfortable to expand on what we already know but today this woman, who's parents came from Germany to New York, ventured toward the unknown. She not only ventured but brought notice, as the story of her life has, to what love, cleanliness, attitude, care and even brightly colored clothes can bring to those who suffer. Sometimes what God asked of us is to venture where no one else dares. In our back yard or across the continent, He nudges us. In Blessed Mother Marianne's case, she was not asked first but she was the first to respond. Today may we respond to His still, small voice and even venture toward the unknown.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

David and Goliath

I had to laugh yesterday during the responsorial Psalm that read, "Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!" I don't know I just found it funny after David hurled the rock that killed Goliath. But, it did remind me of the many, many Goliaths that we have to face day in and day out and how much we need for the Lord to be our rock. He is the One we go too when our problems are overwhelming. He is that stronghold that we grasp in time of need. He is the one I choose to knock all the bad "stuff" right between the eyes and have it fall dead at my feet. Who else? Today we see a wince of jealously toward David for his courage against the Philistine but that too falls dead at his feet. Once again the youngest and the smallest was chosen and once again his complete trust in God to overcome evil prevailed. Today, let us be the youngest in the crowd and trust that God will work through us to take care of the Goliaths in our day. Lord, be our rock. Right smack in the brow!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Europe by Eurail

Yesterday Fr. Thoni came into St. Mary's Bookstore and climbed his 86 year old body up 4 flights of stairs to visit with me. I had stayed with him in 1984 on an army base in Heilbronn, Germany along with my traveling companion. Ahhh. The good ole days. We talked about my cruise down the Rhine, our over 100 mph trek down the autobahn as cars flew past us, our journey to small towns, our visit in a field with a shepherd, the sharing of meals with families we'd never met, Eagle's Nest, walled cities, the Passion Play in Oberammegau, Switzerland, Lourdes, and on and on and on. It was quite a trip then and it was quite a return trip yesterday. It honestly reminded me of how deeply spiritual that trip was for me. Although I had never stopped practicing my faith, attending Mass, receiving Communion, this short visit reminded me of my true conversion experience. I think we all undergo some sort of turning point in our lives where God truly calls us to something more. Something more challenging. Something deeper. Something we have to commit ourselves to. I often have this walk by myself, but yesterday, walking with this man who always seems tireless of the task, brought back home that something more.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Giving

As I have said before, I love to find a tie in with the readings for the day and what's going on in my life. Well, today is my brother Robert's Birthday and he would roll laughing if I compared him with the Saint of the day, and the words between Saul and Samuel gave me nothing, nor the New Testament reading about old wineskins and new wineskins. But, the story inside the story about St. Charles of Sezze brought to mind a nice tribute to my younger brother on this special day.
Charles worked various jobs in the friary and as porter was most generous to all who came to the door for alms. As rules were changed, Charles was asked to give only to those Franciscans who came to the door asking for help. As the giving decreased, so did the receiving. The friars began receiving less and less alms themselves and Charles told them that there was obviously a correlation between what was going out and coming back. Charles was again allowed to give to everyone in need who came to the door and once again the friary received larger amounts of alms themselves.
It came to me as I read this story that I have watched year after year as Robert has given to the Churches and the local Convent monetarily, his family members when they are in need, as well as the school his girls attend. As I think more and more about his generosity, I realize it's not just the money because he can, but it's also the time he spends with people and the efforts he makes with those who cross his path. I can't sit with him and watch a basketball game without half the stands walking past and shaking his hand or acknowledging his presence. If we go out to eat, someone in the place knows him. And it seems, the more he reaches out, the bigger his world becomes. It's amazing to watch. So, I hope my brother has a great day today because he definitely deserves it. Happy Birthday Robert!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wedding Feast

This morning after 7:30 Mass, I took three of my children to get bagels for breakfast and to buy enough to take home for the others. While in line, a friend of my parents' came in and said hello and commented on my children. I was thankful they were somewhat behaving. After eating, he called me over to his table and confirmed that he had attended my Wedding Reception at the Hermitage Hotel downtown. That was 1985. We both remarked "How time flies!" We also agreed that it was truly a great celebration. A huge party. A great deal of fun. My brother's band played and there were endless amounts of food and drink. My father would remark that it was not just a "Wedding Feast" but also a "miracle" that such a nice guy would marry the daughter of his with the longest mean streak he'd ever seen. We would all laugh and agree. I love to find a relation between the Gospel reading and something that happens in my day and today it was simply a reminder from an old friend of a wonderful wedding feast of my own, 25 years ago in August. Just as Mary relied on her Son so too I rely on Him every day not just to keep the good times flowing, so to speak, but also to make our days together the best. I was also reminded that we video taped and asked guests their "secrets to a long marriage". I do remember that the most frequent answer was a good sense of humor and I can honestly say, that was great advice.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What we Ask for

Today we see the people pestering Samuel for a king. Although Samuel gives them a list of reasons why they don't really want a king (the demands he will put on them) they persist. They want a king and nothing Samuel says or repeats from God is convincing them otherwise. They want what their neighbors have. I see this all the time. We ask and ask because we want something more than what we have and then when we finally get it, it's nothing like we expected. So, we want something else. We ask and ask and someday finally realize that there's nothing in this world that will truly bring happiness. Not complete happiness. That comes from above. Samuel is one smart dude and he tries to warn the people that the next best thing is not the next best thing. I guess today good ole Samuel is reminding me to be careful what I ask for, to stick with God, to listen. Temporary satisfaction or everlasting happiness. Be careful what we ask for.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

St. Benedict

During one of the Christmas homilies, our priest explained that in the life of St. Benedict, many of the men in his community came to him and complained about one of the brothers who was constantly causing problems. St. Benedict told them that they should be grateful to have such a person among them because he was the one who gives them all the chance for graces. And, he told them if there is not someone in their community who is a problem, to pray that one will come along who can make them all better men. I love this image. I have used this at home when the kids are complaining about one or another being a pain to them all and I have used it at work when co-workers have thrown the store into turmoil. These people are our chances at holiness and I am oftentimes one of "these people". It's how we handle the situations that make us stronger Christians. Today, build character by handling the pains around you differently.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

“Speak, for your servant is listening.”

I love the story of Samuel. The Lord calls to him and calls to him and finally, following Eli's command, Samuel answers, "Speak, for your servant is listening." And...Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect. Now, can we just imagine that we could go through life and each and every word that we spoke had an effect. We wouldn't have to continually repeat the same instructions over and over at home or at work. Every word would be effective. Wow! I'll have to be more attentive to God's call and much more willing to respond,
"Speak, for your servant is listening."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Captivating

I finally finished the book by John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating, and have to say that it is an awesome read, just as the subtitle promotes, Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul. It begins with the explanation of Eve's role as "ezer" or "help in such a way that life would be lost without it." An irreplacable role. And, the book proceeds with all God has in store for his creation of woman as "inviting, vulnerable, tender, fierce and fiercely devoted." "God who yearns for a relationship with us, who pursues us and longs to be loved by us. He wants to be our priority."
I just made a few notes, many of them obvious, that I wanted to keep in the deeper parts of my heart but I do think it's a great read. I also listened to the talk tape of John's, Wild At Heart, and had my college daughter listen to it also as she drove back to school. She agrees that it too is an awesome read. Well, okay, "listen". Many, many bible references throughout and much to say about the importance of strong women and strong men in our society who understand their calling.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Perseverance

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Yesterday, on a calm, freezing cold Sunday afternoon, with coffee in hand, I began again the book by Julia Cameron, Finding Water, the art of perseverance. I didn't have to get very far before the highlighter and pen came out to mark the hundreds of things I wanted to remember and come back to again. She begins by speaking about the importance of listening to God, "the still, small voice" and trusting that what we hear is what we should follow. That falls right in line, as usual, with the call from Jesus today to follow Him and to go out and bring others to Him. No matter what we find our calling, to lead, to preach, to teach, to write, to sing, to play, to draw, to paint, to listen, to talk, etc. etc., that we be a "conduit, a channel for ideas to move through." "Show me what it is You want me to do." And, with that, we must persevere. Day after day, hour after hour, we must continue to do the "thing" that God wants us to do. The "thing" that He calls us to do. Listen to the "still, small voice" and trust. As fishermen who sit for hours for that one big catch, day after day. Persevere. Be the channel God works through.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Baptism of Jesus

"Step on down here in the Jordan with me and get your feet wet." The Deacon at our Cathedral suggests. All I could think as I stepped in was how freezing cold the water is in these 16 degree temperatures we've been having in Nashville. Brrrr. But what a powerful image we get when we actually step into the Gospel reading as we are invited to do here. Seeing John and hearing him say that he is not worthy. Watching Jesus as well as all the others react to the saving power of the waters of Baptism. Not that Jesus actually needed it but it once again shows His share in our humanity. And of course, we all know how much better we learn by example. And, knowing now that every time we are asked to renew our Baptismal promises, we can have that same feeling over and over. Get your feet wet. Feel the power of the Holy Spirit. Become a child of God. Cleanse yourself and begin again. And the same reaction will come from above, "with you I am well pleased.”

Saturday, January 9, 2010

All Can Be Well

"He must increase; I must decrease."
Today, John the Baptist gives us his simple words of wisdom. His words, his actions, his examples were not about him. He came to show the way to Jesus. He preached to lead the way to Jesus. He tells us today that in our lives, even in this crazy world that teaches us that more is better and the spotlight is best, we must be more about the awesomeness of Jesus and less about ourselves. Who people must see when we act and hear when we speak and follow when we lead is Jesus. Now, no doubt easier said than done. Seems simple when John said it and did it, but... I think about this past year and what our nation may have learned and is learning in this time of economic crisis about increase and decrease. There's actually a cool commercial that talks about the lessons forced upon many this year and the man says that he hopes we learn to own houses that actually fit our needs and the size of our family, we learn to eat what we need for nourishment and not what causes obesity, we learn to drive cars that are reasonable on fuel and we learn to take care of the earth. A message that actually calls for a responsible decrease so that others can have just enough. A place for everything and everything in its place. And in our hearts and in our lives, if we can decrease so He can increase, all can be well. All can show love. All can be equal. All can share.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

He Dwells Within Us

Today I sat in the church and listened as a young man got up from the crowd and read, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." He ended the reading by saying, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." I had to really think about what the young man was saying to us. He was definitely given a huge task and I was waiting for word that a sign-up sheet would be at the exits for those of us who wanted to help but none was mentioned. The more I thought about the words, the more I realized that because He dwells within us, we are automatically on the sign-up sheet. We are called to be His voice that brings glad tidings and proclaims liberty, His hands to lead the blind and free the oppressed. We are called to take time and to help make this New Year acceptable to the Lord. It will take all of us but beginning today, may this passage be fulfilled.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Brush Strokes

“It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures,” said Blessed AndrĂ© Bessette.
The above quote from our Saint of the day made me go back in the little book I'm reading "Always We Begin Again" and reread "It is the small daily brush strokes that create the painting, no matter how large the canvas." I feel I'm sent the message that the project I'm working on right now needs to be treated with precision, one small step at a time. I typically am overwhelmed by large projects because I'm always looking at the big picture.
Today I begin again with the smallest brush, one brush stroke at a time - daily.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Five Loaves and Two Fish

We sell a small book at St. Mary's called "Five Loaves and Two Fish" by Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, a Vietnamese Bishop imprisoned for thirteen years by the Communist government. His story alone is amazing but this small book, these small bites relate his daily struggles to our daily lives in this world. His biographer says, "Indeed, the Cardinal's personal Magnificat reflects a great humility, a great joy, and the theological virtue of hope. It calls each of us to give to God the little we have with great confidence that he will turn our small gifts into great wonders." Eighty-four pages packed with instructions for a virtuous life. Ways to live. Ways to feed. A great read for the New Year.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

We Three Kings

After the reading of the Three Kings this morning at Mass, our deacon stayed to deliver the homily. Sometimes that means a longer homily, I must admit, but this morning the words were to the point and a few comments stuck with me that I'd like to share. I often think that others have already thought about these things that are just now sinking into me as I enter my 50th year but what the heck. I'll share anyway. He was relating the idea that we are the Kings...in constant search. Followed by the fact that the Kings did not, could not, return the same way came. In the story, we know that Herod was waiting for them to tell him where to find the Newborn King. However, in the homily, it was shared that we too, after our personal encounter with Jesus, would not, could not, return to our old ways. In the start of this New Year, as we encounter the love of Jesus, as we become daily aware of the Face of Christ in our lives, may we too continue the search and as the Kings in our return, may we never be the same.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

St. Basil said: “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”
Each new year brings about the need for my family to organize and to let go of the toys we no longer play with and the clothes we can no longer wear. As we put our new clothes from Christmas into our closets, we try to give away something that we haven't worn in a year. As we put the new toys away in the playroom, we try to pull toys that we haven't played with in a while. But, this quote from St. Basil today makes me realize that there is so much more to do in this household than just substitute the new for the unused. We have so much more than we could ever need and there are so many more out there who can use it. If I could just get this house down to the bare essentials, it could stay organized and maybe someone out there could benefit from all our excess. We are grateful and we are thankful but we have way more than we could ever use in a year. Lord, help us to let go of the pantry, the closets and our hearts so that others may simply live.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year Resolutions

Well into the first day of the year 2010 and I've almost managed to forget that I plan to get to this blog more often. Promises. Promises. Promises. Actually I have settled with the theme, "a place for everything and everything in its place" as well as "a time for everything and everything in its right time". So, I have plans to get my physical, spiritual and psychological self organized. This includes a little exercise, a little more reading, a lot more writing and a push toward the discipline of morning, noon and night prayer. I have rarely had difficulty with morning prayer because I rise early and do my daily reading before the kids get up. I rarely skip noon or afternoon prayer because the business I'm in allows for work as prayer and journaling about my day helps me to keep that in order. But night time prayer has always been a struggle. Not dinner prayer, we're all over that. Not preparing for the sacraments with my kids and studying scripture and the catechism with them in their school work. I mean end of the day, grateful for the day, thankfulness prayer. I picked up a little book called "Always We Begin Again" that has gotten me started and as the New Year progresses, I hope that I can progress in my theme for the year. A place for everything and everything in its place. A time for everything and everything in its right time. God Bless and good luck with all the promises for a great new year.