Saturday, May 31, 2008

Walking the walk of faith

Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 1, 2008:

Chapter 19 of the Acts of the Apostles reports a curious incident that happened when St. Paul was preaching in Ephesus. Paul was performing so many miracles there that the other religious leaders in the city became envious of him. They were losing their members to Paul. So some of them decided to observe and copy what he was doing. Paul was doing mighty works and casting out demons by invoking the name of Jesus. They thought they had discovered his secret formula, and they took off to go and implement it in their own ministry. Seven sons of a Jewish high priest called Sceva, who were professional exorcists tried to use the name of Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I command you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims." But the evil spirit said to them in reply, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" They were not successful in their efforts. The moral of the story: Who you are comes before what you do or say.

"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?' Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you.'" Our Scriptures remind us today that when it comes to faith, we need to walk the walk. Sometimes we take the wrong approach treating faith as some kind of spiritual force by which we ourselves achieve salvation. That's the self-help, New Age, Star Wars point of view, which says that faith is our way of tapping into unseen powers - the Force - and using them to achieve our personal goals.

That's not Christian faith, as St. Paul explains today. He writes, "all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God." In other words, sin has cut all of us off from God. We cannot save ourselves, make ourselves truly happy or give lasting meaning to our lives by our own efforts. We are not gods. Instead, St. Paul continues, we are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus." Jesus has redeemed us. Only through friendship with Him can we experience a grace-filled life now and forever.

It is also wrong to think that Christian faith consists only in acknowledging a list of abstract doctrines. There is no faith test - faith in Jesus isn't pass/fail. The doctrines that we believe, that God has revealed to us, have practical consequences for our lives. As Moses says in the First Reading, we need to "take these words... into our heart and our soul."

As Jesus says in the Gospel, to be wise we must not only listen to Christian truth, but we must "act" on it, we must build our lives on it. Our faith, when it is real, should inspire us to live exactly as friends of Christ ought to live. Christian faith is neither an impersonal force nor just abstract dogma: it is a living relationship with God in Christ; it is a way of life.

Imagine that you discovered an ancient treasure map. The first thing you would do would be to learn how to decipher the symbols, shapes, and letters on the map. You would consult experts, find ancient books in secret libraries, and learn to understand what the map says. What would you do then? Would you use your new knowledge to give lectures on ancient treasure maps? Would you put the map in a frame and hang it on your living room wall? Of course not! You would go and find that treasure!

Our faith is kind of like that. There is an acronym for the BIBLE that I love which says that "BIBLE" stands for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. The Bible is not a group of nice stories to remember, it is an instruction book on how to live. What God has revealed to us through the Bible and Tradition is a map leading to the greatest treasure of all: a truly fulfilling, meaningful life, for ourselves and for those we love, for now and for all eternity. How foolish we would be not to learn all about it and follow where it leads! The adventure lies in understanding our faith and then, with the help of God's grace, living out its consequences.

St. Polycarp, the aged bishop of Smyrna, expressed this beautifully when they put him on trial in the second century. His persecutors told him that unless he abandoned his Christian faith and worshipped the false Roman gods, he would be tortured and killed. He answered: "You threaten me with a fire which burns for a short time, and then goes out; but are yourself ignorant of the judgment to come, and of the fire of everlasting torments which is prepared for the wicked... I have served Christ these 86 years, and he never did me any harm, but much good; so why should I deny my King and my Savior?"

Christian faith is a way of life, but it is not an easy way of life. Jesus showed us that when he died on the cross. In our sinful world, doing what is right and following God's commandments often requires personal sacrifice. Because of that, sometimes we fail. Sometimes, we give in to temptation. Sometimes we sin. This is why we begin every Mass with the act of contrition, publicly calling to mind our sins and asking for God's forgiveness.

But even in the midst of life's temptations, even in the aftermath of our sins, Jesus is close to us. If we go to him, he will help us rebuild what has collapsed. If we go to him, he will protect us from the storms. Today's Psalm beautifully reminds us of this: "In you, Lord, I take refuge." This too shows us the real nature of our Christian faith: a friendship in which Jesus is the perfect friend, the friend who is always faithful.

Maybe the most amazing expression of his faithfulness is the sacrament of confession. We are the only religion that has it. Only Christians can kneel down before God's representative and speak personally, intimately, heart-to-heart about their sins, and then hear the unmistakable words of comfort, compassion and forgiveness spoken directly to them.

Even if we have been building on sand, it is not too late to put in a new foundation. If our house has already collapsed, it is not too late to build another one - with God's help. In fact, nothing would please Jesus more."Remember these commands and cherish them. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder…Today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse." I give you a choice between life and death. Choose life.

May God give you peace.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The nun who won't take no for an answer


My Aunt Maureen is a Sister of Mercy and I grew up around her community and have great love for them. I've always said that when I was pursuing a vocation if there were a male Mercy group, I would likely have joined it. This is a wonderful story that was on NBC a while back about Sister of Mercy Mary Scullion who is working to fight homelessness in Philly. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

You will be changed into me

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, May 25, 2008:

In the 13th Century, an Augustinian nun, Sr. Juliana of Li├Ęge in Belgium had a vision in which a glistening full moon appeared to her. The moon was perfect except for a dark spot which a voice told her represented the absence of a feast dedicated to the Eucharist. Juliana had tremendous devotion to the Eucharist and so she worked tirelessly for the Church to establish a feast. This led to today's feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for the Body of Christ) first introduced into the church calendar in 1264.

This was a time in history when devotion to the Eucharist and respect for the Body of Christ was very low. All of the rules that we know today about reserving the Eucharist in tabernacles, genuflecting when entering and leaving a church, and treating the Eucharist with respect come from this era. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 had passed several rules on respect for the dignity of the Eucharist. So bad was the situation, St. Francis of Assisi, who also lived at this time, instructed all his friars to go about the world carrying ciboria so that when the found the Eucharist not properly reserved, they could give it a place of reservation and honor.

This continues to be an important feast in our own day because we too live in an era where there is a growing loss of respect for the dignity of the Eucharist among Catholics. We see it every week in simple ways as many people no longer seem to genuflect when they enter the church, the all-too-casual way people come forward to receive the Body and Blood; and perhaps most profoundly in the way that too many Catholics today don't seem to think there's any special reason to go to Mass each week, as though God has somehow eliminated the Commandment to "Keep Holy the Sabbath."

A study that was published just before Pope Benedict's visit last month showed that only 31% of American Catholics attend Mass each week; and only 31% of American Catholics attend Mass each week; and43% of U.S. Catholics think that the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is only a symbol.

We seem to have a lack of understanding regarding the Eucharist today and a feast like this affords us the opportunity to give God collective thanks for Christ's abiding presence with us which is made visible in the Eucharist. It is also an opportunity for us to seek a better understanding of the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, since the Eucharist is a sacrament of life. It is crucial to understand the Eucharist properly. As St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "All who eat and drink in an unworthy manner, without discerning the Lord's body eat and drink judgment against themselves."

If we want to understand the Eucharist we need to ask why Jesus gave us this sacrament in the first place. Scripture gives us some answers. Scripture tells us that there are two main reasons Jesus gave us this sacrament. First, Jesus promised to be with us until the end of time. In the Eucharist He provides a visible, tangible means of Him being present to us in a real physical way and of us being present to Him. In the Eucharist, we can literally reach out and touch our God. As Jesus said, "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them." Secondly, Jesus said that he came that we may have life and have it to the full. In the Eucharist He provides a visible means of communicating this life to us so that we can be fully alive both in this world and in the next. As Jesus said, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day."

The Jews that Jesus addressed gathered to ask Him for more ordinary bread. Jesus promised to give them the sacramental bread and wine instead. But in their worldly frame of mind they could not understand or appreciate the sacrament. They disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus reaffirmed that "My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink." They ended up distancing themselves from the Eucharist because they could not comprehend Jesus' live-giving language in their world of materialism.

The same problem that these early would-be followers of Jesus had is still with us today. If we approach the Eucharist with a materialistic mentality, if we approach the Eucharist scientifically, trying to see flesh or blood under a microscope, we fail to understand and so lose the benefits of such a wonderful gift of God's love. The Eucharist is true food and drink but at the same time it is very different from every other food and drink. The great difference lies in these words of Christ which St. Augustine heard in prayer, "You will not change me into yourself as you would food of your flesh; but you will be changed into me."

When we regularly eat, that food becomes energy for our bodies, but when we eat this bread and drink this cup, the food of the Eucharist transforms us into the body of Christ. We become what we receive. We receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist so that we may become the Body of Christ in the world. "You will not change me into yourself…you will be changed into me!"

Why then do so many people who receive the Eucharist never experience this radical transformation? Well, there is a story of a team of Russians and Americans who were on an expedition. One of their staple foods was Russian black bread. It was tasty but hard on the teeth. During one meal an American bit into a piece and chipped a tooth. He threw the bread overboard and growled: "Lousy Communist bread." The Russian countered: "Is not lousy communist bread. Is rotten capitalist tooth." My friends, if we do not experience the transforming power of the Eucharist it is probably not on account of a faulty Eucharist but perhaps on account of a closed faith, a closed heart, a perspective that blocks God from changing us.

God does not force transformation on us, He invites us into it. You are today, and at every Eucharist, invited into the transformation. Open the eyes of your heart, open your soul, to let Jesus, really, truly, physically present today in this Eucharist, change you, shape you, mold you to more closely resemble the same Lord we receive. As the words to one of my favorite songs say, "Take my heart and form it, Take my mind transform it, Take my will conform it to Yours."Let us today approach the Eucharist with a convicted faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and we shall experience God's saving power and transforming love.

Jesus invites us today, "If you will allow it, you will be changed into me."

May God give you peace!

It's not easy being green

FRIARS CORNER, May 25, 2008:

As I drove by the Sunoco station on Wednesday this week, I was shocked to see the price of a gallon of gasoline reach $4.02. It has probably gone up higher since Wednesday as you are reading this today. I’m sure there’s not a single one of us who are not being affected by the ever increasing rise of fuel and food prices.

But, you may have noticed that I said I noticed the price as I drove by the gas station and not as I drove up to the gas station. This is because a few weeks ago, I got rid of the Dodge Durango that I inherited when I came to St. Francis and now bought a new Honda Civic Hybrid. That’s right, I’ve gone green! [For those who are always curious about such things, the parish does not pay for our cars. Our Franciscan Province pays for our automobiles and all related expenses.]

So, it has been a real joy driving my new eco-friendly car out-and-about. The Durango got about 12 miles per gallon on a good day and the last time I filled up the 20 gallon tank before the new car, it cost $78! It was time to trade-in the Durango and as I began to look for a new car back in January my goal was to find something that got a minimum of 30 MPG. My final decision, after months of looking, was on the Honda Civic Hybrid.

Back at the beginning of Lent I came across a story about how the bishops in England were encouraging their faithful to use Lent to engage in a 40 day carbon fast to bring greater focus on their carbon footprint, on the many ways that we all contribute to the problem of global warming. That story really impacted me, and since then I’ve really been trying to do whatever I can to lessen my own carbon footprint.

I have to say that it just plain feels good to drive nearly 450 miles on just 12 gallons of gas! But, there has been an unexpected reaction to my new car that I’m not sure what to do with. There seems to be a certain type of person who for lack of a better term feel judged in the presence of my new car. What do I mean by this? Well, in one conversation, a person while sitting in their big, gas guzzler asked, “So what does that get, like, 50 MPG?” I said, “Actually, it has been averaging around 43-44.” They responded, “Huh, that’s all?” That’s all?!

And then there are the people who want to explain that because the Hybrid uses a nickel battery, which is difficult to dispose of, driving a Hummer is actually more eco-friendly. A Hummer? Really?

All kidding aside, it is a great car and even better as it passes the gas station. But, please don’t hate me because I’m green.

Love,
Fr. Tom

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cardinal, doctor, rockstar

Lots of good thoughts from Notre Dame today. Cardinal McCarrick also addressed the graduates this morning. He is one of my favorite princes of the Church and today is no exception. Please watch this video:

This truth is mighty

I love Martin Sheen!
Click below to view his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame this morning:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

No-hitter

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / May 20, 2008


Let's throw in a no-hitter for good measure.

There are times these days when one wonders what New England sports fans did to deserve this glut of riches.

On Sunday, Paul Pierce and LeBron James engaged in one of the great Game 7 duels in NBA history and tonight the Celtics play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Our thrice-crowned local football team is coming off an 18-1 Super Bowl season, and the Red Sox are defending world champions.

And last night Jon Lester threw a no-hitter, blanking the Kansas City Royals, 7-0, at Fenway Park - just to remind us that we are in the middle of baseball season.

Jon Lester is 24 years old. He's a cancer survivor. He's the winner of the clinching game of the 2007 World Series. Now he's the first Sox lefty to throw a no-hitter since Mel Parnell turned the trick against the Chicago White Sox in 1956. It was the first complete game of Lester's major league career.

"He's a wonderful kid, not just because he threw the no-hitter," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "To watch him do that tonight was beyond words. What a story. You feel like a proud parent."

Lester's parents are from Puyallup, Wash., but when he was stricken with lymphoma at the end of the 2006 season, Francona became a father figure to the young lefty. When Lester fanned Alberto Callaspo to finish the no-hitter, Francona bolted out of the Sox dugout to embrace the stoic southpaw.

"It's something I'll remember for a long time," said Lester. "He has been like a second dad to me. He cares a lot about his players. It's not just about what you can do on the field."

Lester's gem came on a chilly Fenway weeknight and was saved by a sensational fourth-inning catch by rookie center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Super-skilled Royals outfielder Jose Guillen looped a two-out shot into shallow center that looked like a base hit until the fleet Ellsbury raced forward, dived, and got his glove down to make the catch.

"I was just thinking, 'Go get it,' " said Ellsbury. "J.D. [Drew, the right fielder] was backing me up so in that situation I'm just thinking, 'Go get it.' I'm really happy I made that catch."

Lester dominated the Royals from the start. He threw first strikes to 20 of 29 hitters. He fanned eight batters overall, including seven over the last five innings. He walked only two. He threw a career-high 130 pitches.

"Right now it feels like I pitched and we won the game," said the young lefty. "It's kind of like the World Series. I guess it's one of those things you get to enjoy later. It's something I'll remember forever.

"I had a lot of excitement going into the ninth inning. The fans were great, on their feet and screaming. It's one of the loudest times I've heard at Fenway."

In the dramatic ninth, Lester walked Esteban German on five pitches, then got Tony Pena on a grounder to third. David DeJesus grounded to first on a 2-2 pitch, then punched out Callaspo on a 1-2 pitch to finish the job.

"You don't feel tired in that situation," said Lester. "You've got so much adrenaline going. I think the adrenaline helps, especially later in the game."

No-hitters are rare and random. Roger Clemens did not pitch a no-hitter in a career that spanned 1984-2007. The New York Mets have been existence since 1962, but no Met pitcher has tossed a no-hitter.

Lester's no-hitter was the 18th in Sox history, coming on the heels of a gem thrown by rookie Clay Buchholz last Sept. 1 (Buchholz's second big league start). Lester's masterpiece was the fourth no-hitter caught by Sox backstop Jason Varitek, setting a major league record.

"You see somebody that's becoming a strong man," said Varitek. "You see how he's grown in strength from having to fight that illness. It's a testament for people out there who have to go through something like that. It's his time, his moment, I'm just fortunate to be a part of it, but it's his moment."

Lester was not in the Red Sox rotation at this time last year. He was still recovering from his cancer treatments and the Sox were careful not to bring him back to the big leagues too soon. Lester was typically impatient while he worked his way back, but it appears he has returned to full strength. And then some.

"It was a long road back," said Lester. "When I did get back, I wanted to be on a certain level. I'm just glad I'm here right now."

He was asked which was bigger - winning the final game of the World Series or pitching a no-hitter.

"I can't tell you which one means more to me," he answered. "They're both up there. They both mean a heck of a lot to me. It's something I'll cherish for a long time."

All of New England will cherish the moment. It's storybook stuff. Seven months after winning the final game of the World Series, the 24-year-old kid who survived cancer pitches a no-hitter at Fenway Park.

In New England sports in 2008, the hits just keep on coming. Even where there are no hits.

© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A community of love

SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, May 18, 2008:

“God in three persons, Blessed Trinity!” We hear those words of the great Trinitarian hymn Holy, Holy, Holy and they name the mystery of today’s feast. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – this great reality of faith that both draws us into the wonder of God and confuses us a bit when we try and understand it with the mind. I was never very good at math; this was one of the things that attracted me to the priesthood. It’s only in the Church that with the Trinity 1 + 1 + 1 can still equal 1. Three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet still one God.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” The doctrine of the Trinity tells us about the inner relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They relate in such a way that each of them is fully and equally God, yet there are not three Gods but one. This cannot be fully comprehended by the human mind. It is a mystery. And yet, we still try, don’t we? Perhaps most famously, St. Patrick. The shamrock is his symbol because he used it to try and explain this relationship of the Trinity – three leafs, but still just one shamrock.

If we expected today’s readings to give us a clear and elaborate presentation of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, we have found out that they simply do not. The doctrine of three persons in one God, equal in divinity yet distinct in personality, is not explicitly spelled out in the Bible. In fact the very word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. Early Christians arrived at the doctrine when they applied their God-given reason to the revelation which they had received in faith. Jesus spoke about the Father who sent Him (the Son) and about the Holy Spirit whom He was going to send. He said that the Father had given Him (the Son) all that He has and that He in turn has given to the Holy Spirit all that He has received from the Father. In this we see the unity of purpose among the three persons of the Trinity.

Perhaps trying to understand the nature of the Trinity in its fullness is the wrong way for us to go. Instead of worrying about what we cannot understand, perhaps we should look at what we can understand. What do we know about the Trinity?

The importance of this doctrine lies in this: we are made in the image of God, therefore, the more we understand God the more we understand ourselves. The question for us to ask today is: What does the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity tell us about the kind of God we worship and what does this say about the kind of people we should be?

First and foremost, it tells us that God is not a loner. God does not exist in solitary individualism but in a community of love and sharing – in His very nature He is a Father, loving a Son, loving the Holy Spirit. Want to know what Scripture means when it says that God is love? This is it – in God’s most inner reality, He is a relationship of love. So a Christian in search of Godliness must shun every tendency to isolationism and individualism. The ideal Christian spirituality is not that of flight from the world; it is an ideal of loving the world, loving in the world, bringing that God-centered love to the world.

Secondly, the nature of the Trinity tells us that true love requires three participants. You’ve heard the saying “Two is company, three is a crowd.” The Trinity shows us that three is not a crowd, three is a community, three is love at its best. Just look at married love. When a man is in love with a woman they marry, but that love only reaches its fullest expression when a child is born. Father, mother and child – love, when perfected, becomes a trinity; a community of love.
We know that we are made in God’s image and likeness. Just as God is God only in a Trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only in a relationship of three participants – ourselves in relationship with God and loving our neighbor.

We can only best understand our Christianity when we live in a relationship of love with God and other people – reaching out and perfecting that love in community. While our minds may strain to understand the fullness of three-in-one, our prayer today is that we strive to be each day more like the community that is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In that way our life becomes Trinitarian – like that of God.

Let us pray today and always that the grace of the Most Holy Trinity help us to banish all traces of self-centeredness in our lives and to live in love of God and of one another.

May God in Three Persons give you peace.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

One part gift, one part choice

FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2008:

"See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." (James 2.26)

This question that James poses in today's reading is at the heart of Christian-Protestant divisions for 500 years. The question is how are we saved? Is it through faith, or can we earn some part of our salvation through the good works that we do? Martin Luther famously proposed sola fide, that we are saved through faith alone. The Catholic tradition has long held the importance of our good works.

It took us 500 years to recognize that we are really saying the same thing but looking at two sides of the same coin. The reality is that our salvation is a total and complete gift from God. We could never be worthy of it; we could never do anything to earn it.

But, if we have received that gift of faith; if we have embraced the graced gift of salvation that God offers us, it will by necessity show itself forth in good works. And hence, James says, "I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works."

One way of thinking of this is in this way: our salvation is one part gift and one part choice. God gives us the gift of faith and hence the possibility of salvation and holiness, but we can reject that gift. Our good works are our way of making the choice to embrace the gift we've been given, to make a difference in the world, to move forward on the road to holiness.

This is shown forth in the life of the saint we celebrate today, St. Margaret of Cortona. Margaret was born in Tuscany in 1247 and when she was just seven years old her mother died. Her father remarried, but her stepmother rejected her. Margaret eventually left home with a lover and headed for Montepulciano where she had a son out of wedlock. A few years later, tragedy struck her again as her lover was murdered.

Margaret returned to her father's house to live the life of a penitent, but was again rejected. She now turned to the friars in Cortona who welcomed her and her son. At the Holy Mass one day, she renounced her sinful past, put behind her the works of her former way and embraced the gift of faith that had been within her all along. She made a choice to act on the possibility of holiness that God had invited her into and today we celebrate her as a saint.

Sometimes I think it is important for us to remember that holiness and sainthood is never further away from us than our choice. Those we recognize as saints did not receive something extra that we didn't get. Saint Padre Pio, Saint Francis, Saint Margaret all received the same gift in the same measure that we have. But, they made a choice to act on it.

The same choice is available to each of us.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

"When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim."

- Acts of the Apostles 2.1-4

Friday, May 9, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

A baby asked God, 'They tell me you are sending me to earth tomorrow, but how am I going to live there being so small and helpless?' God said, 'Your angel will be waiting for you and will take care of you.'

The child further inquired, 'But tell me, here in heaven I don't have to do anything but sing and smile to be happy.' God said, 'Your angel will sing for you and will also smile for you. And you will feel your angel's love and be very happy.'

Again the child asked, 'And how am I going to be able to understand when people talk to me if I don't know the language?' God said, 'Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet words you will ever hear, and with much patience and care, your angel will teach you how to speak.'

'And what am I going to do when I want to talk to you?' God said, 'Your angel will place your hands together and will teach you how to pray.'

'Who will protect me?' God said, 'Your angel will defend you even if it means risking its life.'

'But I will always be sad because I will not see you anymore.' God said, 'Your angel will always talk to you about Me and will teach you the way to come back to Me, even though I will always be next to you.'

At that moment there was much peace in Heaven, but voices from Earth could be heard and the child hurriedly asked, 'God, if I am to leave now, please tell me my angel's name.'

God said, 'You will simply call her, 'Mom.'

Come Holy Spirit

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday funnies

How To Give A Cat A Pill:

1. Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat's mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.

2. Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process.

3. Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.

4. Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm, holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of ten.

5. Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from garden.

6. Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted! Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth Drop pill down ruler and rub cat's throat vigorously.

7. Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.

8. Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.

9. Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink 1 beer to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse's forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.

10. Retrieve cat from neighbor's shed. Get another pill. Open another beer. Place cat in cupboard, and close door on to neck, to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.

11. Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Drink beer. Fetch bottle of scotch. Pour shot, drink. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Apply whiskey compress to cheek to disinfect. Toss back another shot. Throw Tee shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.

12. Call fire department to retrieve the cat from across the road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.

13. Tie the little bugger's front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table, find heavy-duty pruning gloves from shed. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of filet steak. Be a rough about it. Hold head vertically and pour 2 pints of water down throat to wash pill down.

14. Consume remainder of scotch. Get spouse to drive you to the emergency room, sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home to order new table.

How To Give A Dog A Pill:

1. Wrap it in bacon.

2. Toss it in the air.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Let us work for Heaven; all the rest is nothing.

Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 4, 2008:

This past January, my Aunt Pat, my Dad's oldest sister, passed away. I went up to Maine where she had lived for the funeral. The night before the Mass, gathered at my cousin's house, I was given a prayer card that had been in my Aunt's Bible. It contained a well-known poem often read at funeral's called "Safely Home." But, in the margins my Aunt had handwritten two notes. One said simply, "Please read this at my funeral." But on the other side she had written, "My last prayer is that you all get right with God, so I'll see you all again." My Aunt, especially as she was nearing her own death, had a mind and a heart that was fixed firmly on Heaven - and she wanted the same for all of the people she loved.

While I'm sure we all want to get to Heaven, it doesn't seem to be something most of us think about on a daily basis. This is for two reasons. First, the practical demands of life on earth tend to monopolize our attention. But this is a dangerous mistake. Jesus came to earth in order to be able to lead us to Heaven, or as we hear in the Preface of our Eucharistic Prayer today, "Where Christ has gone, we hope to follow." He died on the cross so that we could look forward to eternal life in Heaven. Heaven is the goal, the destination of our lives on earth. How foolish a traveler would be to struggle forward without ever thinking about where he is going!

But there is another reason why we don't give too much thought to Heaven: it's simply because picturing eternal life is hard for us. This is where Jesus' revelation in today's Gospel is so helpful. He tells us exactly what eternal life is: "Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one you sent, Jesus Christ."

We all know that the greatest joy of human existence, even here on earth, consists in relationships of love. What would all of the most beautiful things in the world be - the wonders of nature, the joy of children and family, beautiful works of art, even nice homes and cool cars - what would these be without others to share them with? Loving relationships make life's most ordinary activities enjoyable and meaningful.

Today Jesus is telling us that Heaven is nothing more or less than a perfect relationship of love, an everlasting getting-to-know-God, Christ, and all the saints. These relationships will never get boring or tedious, because God is infinite, and getting to know him is an adventure that will never end. If the best human friendships never lose their luster, how much more indescribable will be our eternal friendship with God, from whom all good things come!

I am a big fan of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia series. A strong Christian, Lewis, in this series, has a beautiful way of explaining the reality of that Heavenly relationship with God. Narnia tells the story of English school children who find their way into another world where they have many adventures and go on special quests to defeat the forces of evil. All the children love Narnia, and they love their adventures there. They are always sorry to have to go back to England at the end of each adventure. At the end of the last book, however, it turns out that they don't have to go back. They are permitted to stay in "Aslan's Country," which in the books is the equivalent of Heaven, forever.

Lewis tries to describe what their lives were like from that moment on. He uses the analogy of a book, a story. Lewis writes, "But for [the children], [the end of the books] was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the title and the cover page. Now at last, they were beginning Chapter One of the great story, which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before."

Lewis explains that compared to life in Heaven, absolutely everything that had come before, all the amazing adventures and thrilling experiences, both in this world and in Narnia, were nothing more than a hint, just barely a faint idea of how wonderful the rest of the chapters were. And life in Aslan's Country was always getting better and better, like a book with an endless amount of chapters, each one better than the last.

My friends, the eternal life that Jesus promises us is like that. An everlasting adventure that keeps getting better and better. God is the source of all the goodness and beauty we see in the universe, and so He Himself is pure, inexhaustible goodness and beauty - we never become tired of getting to know and enjoy Him.

One of the most dangerous things we can do in the spiritual life is to not think about Heaven often. After all, the less focused we are on our destination, the more likely we'll be to make a wrong turn along the way. Imagine a baseball player who never thought about the game! Imagine an actor who never thought about the performance! Imagine a businessman who never thought about the bottom line! Well, a Christian who never thinks about Heaven is equally absurd. So what can we do to keep Heaven in mind?

In his last encyclical, "Saved in Hope," Pope Benedict gave one very simple suggestion. He suggested reviving what used to be a common practice among Christians. It's the tradition of "offering up" the small trials of each day, those little sufferings, pains, and inconveniences, that we all go through all the time. We all experience them. No one escapes them. From traffic jams to money worries, the trials of daily life effect us all. "Offering them up" simply means turning them into a prayer. Instead of uselessly complaining, we turn our minds to Christ on the cross, and we unite our small sufferings with Christ's redeeming sacrifice, plugging them into God's plan of redemption.

By doing this, we defend ourselves against the lie that earth should be Heaven, and we keep our hearts set on the Lord. And if we do that, with the help of God's grace, eternal life will surely be ours.

As St. Bernadette Soubirous, the peasant girl to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared at Lourdes, put it: "Let us work for Heaven: all the rest is nothing."

My friends, St. Bernadette and my Aunt Pat had it right: let us get ourselves right with God so that in the glory and complete and perfect joy that is Heaven, we will see each other again. Let us work for Heaven: all the rest is nothing.

May God give you peace.

Friday, May 2, 2008

In the news

So, earlier this week I got a call from The Derry News, the newspaper from Derry, NH where I was formerly stationed. They wanted to reprint one of my blog entries as a story on the Pope's recent visit. This appeared in today's paper. You can read it at: http://www.derrynews.com/local/local_story_122161715.html

Hello to all my Derry friends!!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Red socks in Yankee Stadium


I am a big fan of Cardinal Sean O'Malley's blog (http://www.cardinalseansblog.org/) and saw the coolest pictures there today. Apparently, during the Papal Mass at Yankee Stadium, the Cardinals used the Yankee locker room to vest before Mass. What an image!

But, God love Cardinal O'Malley - a good Boston boy to the last - he made sure to wear his Red Socks all the while!
Here's a closeup!!