Archive for September, 2010

September 25, 2010 – See Where This Goes

September 26, 2010

So what is your typical Saturday night like?  Go out to eat?  Go dancing?  Go to a party?  Well for a socially challenged Catholic computer geek the typical Saturday night includes updating one’s church website and typing the blog that said geek did not get around to earlier in the day.  If you haven’t figured out the geek I’m referring to, well then you need to go back and read said geek’s 103 previous blogs.  Anyway, said geek does not really have anything specific to talk about, so I am just setting my netbook on my lap in my favorite recliner and we’ll see where it goes.

Said computer geek does need to make an admission.  Something has been festering in my life for months that has caused me to be in denial until now, something that has me caught in clutches that I have never experienced before.  An addiction so powerful that I know I will never be cured – I can only hope to control it.  Family, friends, cohorts, strangers – I admit it – I am addicted to Facebook.  In particular, the game Farmville on Facebook.  I   wake up in the morning and I thank God for another day, then I think “I need to harvest my crops on Farmville!”  Is there a Facebook anonymous in the area?  A 12-step program? 

In all seriousness, it is funny how we humans can allow ourselves to get distracted from the priorities of real life.  But at the same time I think we need to be distracted from the stress and wear-and-tear of our busy lives.  That is one reason why I enjoy watching sports – it is a great respite from the drill of everyday life.  God also allows us this opportunity when we spend time in church, in quiet prayer, etc.  Even in the gospels, there are moments when Jesus would go off by himself to pray. 

I have had people tell me that they try to pray and that they start thinking about other things and get distracted.  I admit it happens to me also.  I tell them to pray for the things that are causing the distraction that God will relieve them of that burden.  Now if you’ll excuse me I need to fertilize my crops (kidding, kidding!).

Especially considering the tough economic times that we are currently in, I continue to be amazed at the generosity of folks.  Yesterday I put in my one-hour shift collecting money for the Knights of Columbus Tootsie Roll drive.  I figured that some folks will throw in their dollar or spare change from the ashtray, but many will probably pass on by.  Not only did many people stop, many folks gave several dollars and a few even gave five dollars.  It seems like a small thing, but it says to me that many folks still have a big heart and are willing to do what they can to lend a helping hand.  That, or people really dig those Tootsie Rolls!

It has been a while since I singled out a group of people in our parish to thank for their efforts, so this week I want to thank the folks who are responsible for the upkeep of our cemeteries.  The continued improvements at our main cemetery make it a place to be respected and adored.  Our cemetery committee and volunteers do a wonderful job in the care-taking of this holy ground.  And I have to mention Steve and Derek Niermann who continue to volunteer their time doing the mowing and other upkeep in our original cemetery, an important piece of our parish history.  People are just dying to see our cemeteries (the last joke from the funeral workshop, I promise).

Finally, its hard to believe that a year ago we were getting  set to begin our parish mission.  Well, actually I shouldn’t say we, because I was dealing with health problems and was unable to help and participate in the mission.  That being said, I am grateful for the people who stepped up in my place in preparing for the mission, and I am grateful that so many people were able to enjoy the experience.  I am especially thankful that while still not in perfect health, I have progressed enough that I have gotten back to many of my activities, and I am able to utilize my talents to serve my God.  And I certainly have a new respect for the gift of life and good health that I did not have a year ago.  Thank you God for the lessons you have given me.

Thanks again for reading my random thoughts.  Time to enjoy the rest of my Saturday night.  Peace.

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September 19, 2010 – Surviving a Funeral Workshop

September 20, 2010

Well even though we still had a feel of summer over the weekend, I am looking forward to the official beginning of fall this week.  Fall is my favorite time of year with the changing colors of the leaves, warm days and cool nights, and of course football!  I used to also enjoy the various pumpkin creations, but my diet will keep me from that.  Just when you thought it was safe to go to Wal-Mart, they have not put the display of various baked goods smack in the middle of the main aisle, complete with pumpkin pie (druel).

Anyway, it was another church weekend for yours truly.  This past Friday and Saturday I attended a workshop with the main focus being on the order of funeral rites.  This was a continuation of the first lay leader of prayer workshop I participated in a few years ago.  The focus of the first one was leading a Sunday celebration in the absence of a priest.  The focus of this one was leading the rites of a funeral, including the Vigil service for the deceased, the rite of committal at the cemetery, and even a funeral liturgy outside of a Mass.

I learned many things over these two days, but one of the things that really took me by surprise was that there are indeed lay people who are actually doing funeral liturgies (without a Mass of course) in emergent cases when a priest or deacon is unavailable.  And sure enough, as you read the rites book there is a provision for this.  This is a real life example of the changing face of the Catholic church and how lay people are being asked to take a more pro-active role in performing some of these rites.  Whether its for the better or worse is a discussion for another time, but the reality is that our current situation with a lack of clergy makes it a necessity.

One of the really valuable things I learned is how the process of a Christian funeral is set up.  As with the Triduum from Holy Thursday night through Easter Sunday, the Christian funeral is set up as a Triduum, with the Vigil service being the first part, the funeral liturgy being the second part, and the rite of committal being the third part.  Have you ever noticed that when a funeral liturgy begins, we do not make the sign of the cross?  This is because the funeral liturgy is a continuation of the “Triduum”, similar to Good Friday.  And as with the Easter Triduum, we hope that the end result will be a resurrection and eternal life with God.

I also gained a real appreciation of the words that are prayed during the funeral rites.  I think we as Catholics are guilty of sitting in our pews and reciting our lines time after time without stopping to really think about what the words mean we are saying – they just become a bunch of jumbled words.  The funeral rites contain some beautiful wording.  For example, the concluding blessing of the Vigil for the deceased begins: “Blessed are those who have died in the Lord; let them rest from their labors for their good deeds go with them.”  What a beautiful way to begin the process of placing our loved ones into the Lord’s hands. 

It was truly a “hands-on” workshop, complete with a casket.  Larry Gross and I somehow were put in charge on moving the coffin from inside the parish hall at Freeburg to our makeshift “cemetery” outside of the hall.  I don’t think I could ever be a funeral director, but if if anyone ever needs a casket driven, I’m your man.

One other thing that struck me about the workshop: even though the topic seemed “morbid”, there was still plenty of laughter to be had, especially when the people were describing their various funeral experiences, such as what the wind can do to things at the cemetery (holy water being blown away, etc.), choices of songs that people wished to have sung at their funeral (O Danny Boy seemed to be a popular choice).  What Fr. Gene said in his homily this past weekend was so true, that believers in God certainly express grief in our loss, but can also find the joy in knowing that our loved one is cradled in God’s arms.

Weekends such as this remind me why I love my God and my faith.  In the midst of our world that seems to go faster and faster, I had the opportunity to spend 2 days in thought, prayer and learning, then this morning I was honored to join my fellow teachers and catechists in being commissioned to pass our faith on to our children for another year.  Finally, I got to meet my new PSR class for this year, which is always an exciting time.  Times such as this give me a renewed hope and a renewed spirit to face upcoming days.  Thanks be to God!

Among the stories shared at our workshop was this one: a young Baptist minister was assigned to the backwoods of Kentucky.  When the time came for his first funeral, he could not find the cemetery.  He drove on all of the backroads he could find when he finally saw a backhoe and a couple of workers placing a lid on what appeared to be a concrete box and moving dirt.  The minister thought “Oh my gosh, I missed the service!  I should go and say some prayers anyway.”  So he asked the workers if they could pause for a few minutes while he prayed, and they agreed.  The workers really seemed interested in what he was saying, so he continued to preach until he finished the full sermon he had planned to give and then some.  When the minister finished, he thanked the workers for being so attentive to what he was saying.  One of the workers said, “That’s OK, Preacher.  In my 30 years on the job, I’ve never seen anyone be so passionate about a new septic tank.”

Peace.

September 12, 2010 – A Late Effort

September 12, 2010

Well I’m a little late getting a blog out this week.  Yesterday Popeye Picnic activities plus tuning in to the SIU – Illinois foofball game got in the way (my Salukis got thumped, ouch!).  So I had planned to write something this morning and I got a surprise visit from my nephew and his family, so its now about 5:15PM and I’m trying to write and pay attention to the Rams game at the same time, so this will probably not be my finest literary work (as if my first 100 were anything worth sending to the Smithsonian).

I want to first and foremost thank all of you who worked so hard in preparing and manning the different stands and other events surrounding the Popeye Picnic.  I continually am amazed at how generous people are with their time and talent.  One of my relatives mentioned recently that some of the people in their parish were getting disgruntled because they have to work at so many fundraisers.  So again thank you for all of your tireless efforts.  If you didn’t get to sample the fish and bbq at the KC’s, you missed a great treat.

OK, anyone who has followed my first 100 blogs knows about my deep love of sports.  It’s hard for me to participate in conversations about movies, TV dramas, etc. because if you pop into my house chances are that the TV will be tuned to either a sporting event or something related to sports.  To me sports encompasses everything I need to be entertained.  If my team is performing badly (which for us St. Louis Louis fans has been an all too common occurance lately) then I can let out my frustrations.  If my team performs well then I can feel the sense of elation.  And unlike a movie or TV show, no one knows for sure what the outcome is going to be.

Unfortunately, sports continues to receive black eyes from the actions of its athletes and coaches.  From steroid use, to illegal drug use, to sexual misconduct, etc., etc., sometimes the sports report sounds more like an arrest report.  But there are many positive influences to be found in sports as well.  A few weeks back I listed out some of the athletes who have been positive role models.  I’m addressing the subject again because there are also coaches who provide valuable life lessons as well.

I heard an interview this past week with Bill Curry.  Bill Curry is a former NFL player and currently is head coach of Georgia State University.  He is known for being a disciplinarian and for demanding that his players follow team rules to the letter.  When asked why he demanded that his players follow such a strict code of conduct, his reply was “which do you think is greater – the pain of discipline or the pain of regret?”  In other words, so many people go to great lengths to avoid punishment for their wrongdoings, but is it worth it to have to endure the burden of guilt of  knowing that they have gotten away with something?

In today’s gospel Jesus is being chastised for socializing with tax collectors and sinners, ending His parable by saying that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”  One of the great gifts God gives is His forgiveness, a means to lift that pain of regret.  There is always pain in discipline, even if it just admitting to ourselves that we are not perfect and that we always have room for improvement, but as Jesus showed us at Easter, there is light after the darkness, there is healing after the pain.  And the pain of discipline is only temporary, whereas the pain of regret can last forever unless we take the necessary steps to alleviate it.

Next week’s blog will likely be a little late as well, as I am scheduled to attend a workshop on Friday and Saturday on funeral rites.  This is a follow-up to the workshop I attended a few years ago on lay leaders of prayer.  In an emergency, if a priest or a deacon is unavailable, a trained lay leader of prayer can lead a wake service and can also lead the prayers of interrnment at the cemetery.  A lay person cannot have the actual funeral service, but this is a means of being prepared in an emergent situation.  This workshop will be on Friday and Saturday, and I’m sure it will be a learning experience.

Well my Rams are playing hard, but right now are still coming up short.  But, oh, a fumble by Arizona!  Oh, the drama of sports!  I love it.  Enjoy the week ahead.  Peace.

September 4, 2010 – The Century Mark

September 4, 2010

I flipped on the early morning news this morning and the anchorman said “Breaking News!”.  I thought my gosh, what happened overnight?  His next line was “Fall is here!”.  I don’t think it is quite fall yet, but it certainly is getting close enough to taste it – a nice cool morning, and more importantly, FOOTBALL IS BACK!  Good stuff for sure.

OK, last week I left you with a little bit of a cliffhanger, nothing like “Who shot J.R.?”, but hey, I do what I can.  I said that I have hit a little bit of a milestone.  Milestones are important to us humans.  We go to great lengths to celebrate things such as birthdays, anniversarys, graduations, etc.  For single guys like me, milestones are a bit more modest.  For example, it has been one year since I had a piece of pie with real sugar.  It’s been about 11 years since I was screaming “who in the (bleep) is Kurt Warner?”  Now I’ve come to another little personal milestone.

One neat thing about the internet is that it does a good job of keeping track of statistics, or I never would have realized that this blog entry marks the 100th blog I have written.  Milestones give us a chance to pause and look back on the path to how we got to those milestones, so I looked back at a few of my previous blogs just to see if I could find any interesting tidbits.  After a long and extensive search to find something interesting, I said forget that, I’ll just pick out a couple of things and roll with it.

1/26/08 – “When I started this blog, my fear was that I would run out of things to talk about, and as I sit here at my computer, I am king of starting to realize that fear.”  Well, over 2 1/2 years later, that fear has not subsided.  I still think at the beginning of each week “what in the world am I going to write about now?”.  But somehow, some way, something pops into my mind.  That, or I am one whale of a B.S.’er.

3/29/08 – “It is no secret to anyone that our economy is going through tough times, and consequently all of us, especially families, are going through tough times.”  Well 2 1/2 years later, we are still mired in economic difficulty, and many families are still struggling.  Pray on this Labor Day weekend that things can begin to turn around, and that those who are out of work can find suitable employment.

9/20/08 – “Well us Cardinal fans can stick out our chests for at least one day – a 12 to 6 rout of the Cubbies yesterday!  With the way things have gone for us lately, we’ll take anything we can get!”  Amazing how history repeats itself.  After a 3-2 victory over the Reds last night, we Cardinal fans can be proud for at least one day, as the last couple of weeks have been a disaster.

12/13/08 – “Initial plans are in the works for a parish mission this coming year.”  Happily the mission came together with the help of a lot of folks, and was an enjoyable and spiritual experience for the parish.

4/24/09 – “I am a self-admitted computer geek, but one thing I have not taken part in on the internet is these social-networking websites.  First there was “My Space”, then there was “Facebook”, and now there is “Twitter” … I thought about setting up a Twitter account, but what do I realy have to post about?”  Well, over a year later, our parish now has a Twittter account and a Facebook group, and I have to confess that I am a Facebook junkie.  You never know what’s going to happen when you try new things.

9/19/09 – “Those of you familiar with my situation know that I have not been feeling 100% the last few weeks … after 3 visits to 2 different doctors, I still haven’t made much progress.”  Little did I know what this was going to turn into – CT’s, MRI’s, more medication than a lab mouse, few firm answers, missed committments, etc., etc.  In fact, it was Labor Day weekend last year that I made my first trip to the hospital and the saga of my health condition began.  Fortunately, I’m happy to say now that I continue to make positive progress, and hopefully this time next year I’ll be a lean, mean health machine.

7/17/10 -“I am convinced that you don’t love me for me, you only love me for my blogs.”  Of course I was only joking when I said this, but I actually had a couple of people tell me to please not think this way, that I am loved for other things.  I knew this before, but it’s still nice to hear on occasion.

I can remember in school that history wasn’t one of my favorite classes, but now I wish I would have appreciated it more.  I now find it fascinating to look back on previous events and see how they shaped our world today.  Or I think about if something would have happened a little differently than it did, how would things be different today.  I continue to be amazed that people continue to read and enjoy the blog, but it has also been satisfying to me.  The blog has kind of served as my own personal journal, my way of jarring my memory and seeing what was going on deuring a certain time and comparing it to what is going on today.  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I had the ability to see my future blogs today – how would I live life differently?  Could I plan things better?  Could I warn people of bad things that may happen?  But I guess part of the challenge and spontaneity of life is to tackle challenges as they come.

So … the first 100 is officially in the books, or in this day and age, on the hard drive.  Again, my sincere thanks to you for reading and for supporting our website the last few years, and for the many compliments I have received from you.  Here’s to the next 100!  Cheers! (with a glass of sugarless punch, of course).  Peace.