Archive for December, 2008

December 27, 2008 – Happy New Year!

December 27, 2008

Two days after Christmas and it is 66 degrees outside!  As they say about the weather in the Midwest – if you don’t like it, wait a few minutes and it will change.  Hopefully the weather doesn’t get too rough today.

I hope you and yours had a great Christmas.  I ate a lot of good food; well actually, I’m still eating a lot of good food as my counter is still full of candy, cookies, and the biggest vat of cashews I have ever seen.  If there is something to eating a handful of nuts every day to stay healthy, I’m going to be another Jack LaLane (OK, let’s not go overboard here).  I am also using my new wireless keyboard and mouse that I received – a computer geek’s dream.  But of course, the most important part of the holiday was getting to see family and friends and to celebrate the birthday of our Savior.

I had thought about not doing a blog entry today being in the midst of the holiday season, but I decided to go ahead  because it was about this time last year that I decided to begin this blog.  I had no idea how long I would do it, what I would include in it, or if anyone would read it.  But here we are a year later and I’m still going, and it appears that a few folks are still reading my random drivel.  This past week there were 26 hits on the blog, so I would conclude that people are either extremely bored or are in need of a good laugh!  In seriousness, though, I have enjoyed doing it and I am so grateful that you continue to support not only the blog, but our website as a whole.  As always, I am open to any ideas or suggestions you have to improve our website and I encourage you to continue to spread the word about it.  Also, if you have any photos from holiday events, etc., I would love to post them.

One of the things I vowed to try to do with the blog was to keep it in a positive tone.  It is so easy to pick out negative things to talk about, and if you go around and read different blogs, that is exactly what many of them do.  In this year of 2008 there was plenty of negative things to talk about – the economy, world unrest, weather-related tragedies, the Cardinals finishing in 4th place, the Rams, etc., etc.  It certainly doesn’t give a lot of hope for 2009.  But then I turn one more time to my spiritual calendar and go to the passage for New Year’s Eve, and it says that “Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible!”  Hope will spring eternal if we keep our faith that God has our best interests at heart.  One thing I always tell my religion class at the beginning of the year is that Christians have a very tough job – they are asked to have faith in a God that has never actually talked to us on the phone, or sent us an e-mail, or sent us a self-portrait.  But if they keep their faith through prayer, going to church, and doing good deeds, that the reward at the end is amazing.

Well since it is time for the New Year to come in it is also time for New Year’s resolutions.  I am like most people in that I get to about February and realize that my resolutions have already been blown out of the water.  So I am trying this year to come up with some more realistic resolutions this year.  There are two that I have in my mind.  Number one I have kind of already touched on – to keep God at the forefront of my life and to accept what He thinks is best for me, and number two is that since I will be reaching the big 40 mark later this year, to start to think more about not just the current moment, but to think about the future as well, whether it be healthwise, financially, etc.  To just start to plan a little more for the road ahead (after all of the candy and cookies are cleaned off of my counter of course).

As we turn the page on another year, I wish you and your family a Happy and Healthy New year in 2009.  Have fun but be safe in your celebrations.  I look forward to what our parish can accomplish in the coming year, including our mission that hopefully will occur in September.  And as always, we pray especially for….

Peace.

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December 20, 2008 – It’s Already Here

December 20, 2008

Well can you believe that Christmas is just a few days away?  It seems like we just had Thanksgiving and here we are.  I am proud to say that I think I pretty much have all of my shopping done – now I need to get everything wrapped and ready to go.  One of the signs of Christmas for me is that it seems to be the time that I come down with a cold, and this year has proven no different, but we’ll muddle through.

I enjoy the Christmas season for many reasons, and one of them is that there just seems to be a different feel to this time of year than any other.  People seem to be a little more upbeat and generous, and it is a time to kind of push aside whatever problems we are facing and enjoy the moment.  It has a way of bringing out the best in people.

One of the biggest surprises I ever got occurred on Christmas.  To most people it wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but to me it is still one of my most cherished memories.  In 1998 I had purchased my first “real” computer system (you knew that if it was one of my stories that it would involve a computer), complete with monitor, printer and the works.  In my room at the time I had just a small study desk that I crammed this system on.  My Mom and I were at Wal-Mart one day and I saw a computer desk that would work perfectly for my system, and I remarked to her that when Christmas was over, I was going to take some of my Christmas gift cards or money and buy that desk.  I thought nothing of this remark at the time.  Now let me preface this story and say that I love my Mom and Dad to death, but let’s just say that they were not the most “spontaneous” people.  What you saw was what you got.  Surprises were not their thing.

So anyway, a few days before Christmas I went and did some last-minute shopping, thinking the whole time that Mom and Dad were at home doing their normal daily routine.  Then Christmas Day arrives – I got out of bed and got dressed and Mom and Dad were nowhere to be found.  The only thing that pops into my mind is that they are out doing some kind of farmwork – it is just Christmas after all.  But then I see Dad coming up to the house with his yard tractor and this big box in the bucket and I’m thinking “What in the @#$% is this?”  I go out to see that it is the computer desk that I had pointed out to Mom a few weeks earlier.  Now as I said, to most people this story doesn’t carry a lot of weight, but for me, this was equal to our Governor admitting he’s guilty, this was like the Cubs winning a World Series, this was like the church letting priests marry.  This was a monumental event that I knew I would not see the likes of again.  So as I type my blog this morning, I am on a different computer now but am still at that same computer desk, and my Christmas spirit comes alive with that one seemingly simple gesture.

I’m sure you have your own memories of a special Christmas, or a Christmas tradition that you always look forward to.  But of course our main focus should be on the resason we celebrate in the first place.  One of my favorite singers, Faith Hill, has a new song out called “A Baby Changes Everything.”  It outlines the amazing story of Christ’s birth.  Who could dream up something like this – a teenage girl asked by an angel to be the Mother of God’s Son; a simple carpenter facing the ridicule of having a fiancee’ who was pregnant, having to go to a strange place only to find that there was no room to stay.  Giving birth in a stable, then being visited by shepherds and astrologers bearing gifts.  Wow, no wonder the Christmas season is so different than any other!

As you gather with your family this Christmas, I wish you a joyous holiday season.  May the newborn Jesus bestow His abundant blessings upon you.  May you be safe in your travels, and let us not forget the real meaning of the season.  Thank you again for reading my blog each week and supporting our parish in so many ways.  Celebrate well, and let us of course keep in our prayers our women and men in uniform who will be away from their families this Christmas.  Peace.

December 13, 2008 – Reflections

December 13, 2008

Just before I starting typing my blog I checked on the weather forecast – WINTER STORM WATCH.  Let’s pray that we don’t get the ice that they are predicting and that the events of the coming week can go on as planned, especially the school’s Christmas program that the students and teachers have been working so hard to prepare for.

I’m sure you have already gotten your share of Christmas cards.  Some of your Christmas cards also may have had a letter telling what that person or family has been doing over the past year.  I had thought about doing that for mine, but then I realized that I had about a year’s worth of blogs that folks could look back on and see what was happening.  Glad I saved all of those!  On occasion I’ll go back and read through the old blogs just to kind of refresh my memory of what was happening during a certain time period.  During different points in my life I had vowed to myself that I would try to keep some type of journal.  Even if it wasn’t a daily journal, maybe something I would jot in once or twice a week just to have something I could look back on and remember different points in my life.  Unfortunately, I didn’t come through on this promise to myself, and at times I wish I had.  So at the risk of sounding selfish, I think my blog has been a way to keep that promise I had made to myself all of the years, and at the same time has been enjoyed by a few folks in the process.  A great deal for me!

Looking at the Christmas letters and past blogs got me to do some reflection about the past year.  It has certainly been a trying year for our country with the struggling economy and still in the midst of two wars.  And of course our state was put into even more turmoil this past week with the revelations about our governor.  I guess I shouldn’t really say “our” governor, because it is clearer than ever now that he is working for his own interests and not ours.  I could ramble on and on about what I think of this situation, but I’m sure your feelings are similar to mine, and I said when I began my blog that I would try to keep it in a positive tone, so as Forrest Gump would say, “that’s all I have to say about that.”

Personally, though, I must say that 2008 has a good year to this point.  No tornadoes or other tragedies to report.  My God continues to bless me abundantly, even though I probably do not deserve it.  I have said it before but I think it bears repeating – I wonder how people who do not accept God as part of their life find hope and strength?  What do they hang their hat on, so to speak?  Where do they find inspiration to live a productive life?  How tragic is it to go through life thinking that this is it – that there is nothing beyond our life here on earth?  When you see an event such as a child being born, or when you look at the bright full moon that we had last night, how can someone say that this is all just some random thing?  Anyway, I know that whatever happens the rest of this year, next year and beyond, that there will always be the one constant – the grace I am given from God.

As we begin to look forward to the new year, there are a couple of exciting events to make you aware of in our church.  As you may have seen on the homepage of the website, and as you will see in the bulletin this weekend, Fr. Gene will celebrate the 35th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on January 5, and we as a parish will be marking this occasion with a potluck dinner in his honor on Sunday, January 11 at 12:00PM.  This is just a small token of our appreciation for all that Fr. Gene does for our parish, and for the gift of his service to our diocese through the years.  I hope you can come, and I hope the weather cooperates for us!

Also, initial plans are in the works for a parish mission this coming year.  It appears right now that tentatively this will occur during the last week of September.  A priest from the Redemptorist community has been contacted about conducting the mission, and we will be doing more planning as we get into the new year.  It has been some time since we had a mission, and I hope you make it a part of your spiritual plan for the coming year.

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to the football team at Chester High School.  They have been selling raffle tickets in order to be able to go purchase toys for needy children in our community.  Their goal was to raise $1000, and they wound up raising $2500 dollars.  They are having their shopping spree at Wal-Mart today, and the toys they purchase will be wrapped by the cheerleaders and then will make a lot of kids’ Christmases a little brighter.  The football team includes several members of our parish.  Great Job Everyone!

Christmas thoughts next week.  Peace.

December 6, 2008 – ‘Tis the Season

December 5, 2008

Hi again.  I’m back from my one-week “blogging hiatus”.  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving celebration with your family.  As usual, I ate way more than my share of food, but this year I can use the excuse that it is one way that I can help the economy.

With Thanksgiving now past preparations are in high gear for Christmas.  I had mentioned a few weeks back that it seems for me anyway that Christmas doesn’t quite seem to have the feel and the spirit that it did when I was younger.  I think part of the reason is because there are so many tasks that come with getting ready for the holiday – doing the shopping, making the cards out, getting the decorations up, etc., etc.  And all of the sudden Christmas is upon us and we wonder where the time went.  I think God has a way for us to combat the hustle and bustle of the season – Advent.  There are a lot of good Advent resources and reflections to be found online and elsewhere that allow us to pause for a few minutes and ponder the true meaning of the season.  In fact, if you go to www.maryhoc.org and click on the featured link it will provide you with a lot of advent readings and activities.  I also encourage you to attend the Advent Penance Service on December 15 as another means to keep our focus where it should be and to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Savior.

Well the cold weather is certainly doing its part to get everyone into the holiday mood.  When we seperate the seasons we usually associate them with the weather – the warmth of summer and the chill of winter for example.  But I march to the beat of my own drummer and seperate the seasons by sport – the optimism of spring training in baseball, the thrill of fall when football arrives.  Right now we are in one of my most favorite seasons – a heavy dose of football and also college basketball in full gear.  I’m not a big fan of pro basketball, but I love to watch high school and college games.  I like college games in particular not just because of the players, but also the coaches provide entertainment and inspiration.  I’m not a big admirer of Bobby Knight for example, but he was certainly entertaining to watch and there are some legendary stories about him.  For example, back in the 80’s one of his best players, Steve Alford, missed a free throw that would have sent a game into overtime.  The next day he asked him why he thought he missed that shot.  Alford, being very religious, said that it must have been God’s will.  Knight got in his face and said” Look, God is not going to parachute down here and put the ball in the basket for you.  You have to do it, Steve!”.  I share this story with all of my religion classes because I think it is a good reminder that God gives us many gifts, but it is up to us to use them in a positive way.

Also, if you have watched ESPN this week, they have focused on Jim Valvano who died some years back of cancer.  He was known for his inspirational speeches and for getting the most out of his players.  A few months before he died, he received an award and gave one of the best speeches I have ever heard.  In the speech he said to be sure to do three things each day: 1) Be sure to take time to laugh, 2) Be sure to take time to think, and 3) Take a moment to get so emotional that you shed tears, whether they be tears of joy or tears of sorrow.

Some may think that watching sports is a waste of time, or that there are more important things we can do, but I enjoy them because there are so many inspirational stories to be had, and it is a great release from the rigors of the “real world”.  We hear a lot of the negative about athletes, but if you dig a little deeper I think the good far outweighs the bad (even when trying to watch a Rams game!).

Enjoy your holiday preparations, and stay warm.  Peace.