Archive for October, 2010

October 30, 2010 – All Over the Place

October 30, 2010

Normally the challenge for me when it comes time to make a blog entry is to come up with something to write about.  But this week there are a lot of things I have to touch on, so I think it’s time for one of my “miscellaneous” blogs, and we’ll see how it goes.

This weekend among other things we recognize Priesthood Sunday, a day set aside to honor and thank those men who have devoted their lives to serving God and to delivering Jesus’ message to their fellow Christians.  Last week Fr. Gene heaped praise upon me for my work with the website, so this weekend I’m turning the tables.  There are many qualities that I admire about Fr. Gene – his vast knowledge of church history, his thoughtful yet easy to understand homilies, his devotion to Catholic education, and of course his love of the St. Louis Cardinals and his wide selection of jokes.  But the quality I think I admire the most is his ability to interact with people.  Whether they be old or young, male or female, married or single, or a self-professed large computer geekoid, Fr. Gene is comfortable in any situation and can relate to what people are going through.  We are truly fortunate to have Fr. Gene as our pastor.  He has certainly fallen in line with the lieage of devoted priests that have served our parish over the years.  Please pray for Fr. Gene and for all priests that the Lord will continue to watch over them and strengthen them in their ministries.

As we approach the month of November we have reached the time in the Catholic church when we remember in a special way those dear to us who have passed away and pray that God grant them eternal life with Him in heaven.  Like many things, as I have gotten older my perspective on life and death has changed over the years.  When I was younger my view of death was that it was this very morbid and depressing event that I didn’t even want to think about, and I could really not see any positive aspects to it, especially in the more tragic situations such as with the Notre Dame football employee who was killed when the tower he was filming practice from was toppled over by the wind.  How in the world can anything positive be gleaned from something like this?  But as I have gotten older I have realized that 1) life, in whatever form and in whatever time frame, is something to be celebrated, and 2) we don’t just recognize the person’s life here on earth, but we also celebrate the actions of Jesus in the life of the person, and we celebrate the hope that the person will have eternal life in the kingdom of heaven.  We are certainly free to mourn the loss of those whom we love, but God gives us a great gift of hope and light and life with Him.  Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May they rest in peace.

We also have another important November event this Tuesday with election day.  I don’t know if it is just me but my observations of the campaign/election season have been the following: 1) I have never received more landfill filler in my mailbox than I have this year, 2) I have never seen commercials that have been so tasteless, immature, and well, just plain stupid, and 3) I have never talked to so many people who are plain fed up with the direction of government and what its priorities are.  Election day should be something citizens should look forward to, our chance to have an equal say in who will represent us and make and uphold our laws.  However, I honestly have to admit that when I walk into the booth on Tuesday, I will walk in with many more questions than answers.  I will still exercise my right to vote as I feel it is our duty as citizens, but I do it with little confidence in my final decisions.  I pray that I will vote for those who will represent us well and that our government officials will work for the common good instead of their own interests.

The final thing I wanted to talk about is a subject that I wasn’t sure I wanted to broach or not, but I feel that I need to.  A lot of our discussion at our Parish Council meeting the other night was about the current state of the finances in our parish.  Many weeks we are not receiving the needed funds to pay our bills, forcing us to put off needed projects, repairs, etc. and to dip into our investments and other accounts to pay the bills.  This is hard to talk about because the economy, despite what we are being told by our President and our government, is still stagnant, and also I recognize that many of our parishioners are extremely generous in sharing their treasure.  However, due to our older population dying off and also more and more people not attending church on a regular basis, our number of donors continues to decrease.  We are discussing many alternatives and ways to boost contributions, including the possibility of beginning a means to donate in more convenient ways (debit or credit card, etc.).  To improve the situation, we need the help of everyone, so if you can find it in your heart to give a little more of your treasure to keep our parish operational without having to make some critical decisions, it would be so appreciated.  And also, please keep encouraging those who have drifted away from their faith to come back and experience the forgiveness and welcoming touch of God.

Well other than that, not much else going on.  I again am grateful for the continued compliments I receive about our website and how valuable it can be as an evangelization tool.  It is a labor of love, and something I hope to continue to expand and improve upon.  And again as always, your comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.  God Bless!  Peace.

October 22, 2010 – Who Said Church Isn’t Interesting?

October 23, 2010

There is a long standing tradition with the blog that I proudly continue today – well, maybe I shouldn’t say proudly, but I continue it nonetheless.  I take someone else’s good idea and make it my own.  Hey, you’re not paying to read this – cut me some slack (ha, ha).  I received a very funny e-mail the other day.  It was a video that showed some in-church bloopers including a holy water shower, knoching over the baptismal font, and a host that was dropped and wound up in a ladies’ ummm, front upper torso area.  Watching this video reminded me of many of the embarassing situations that I have found myself in over the years in our fair church.

Being a server presents certain on the job hazards that one has to deal with.  There are the eventual moments when a candle will not light, when a glob of wax will wind up on the carpet, when you grab the cassock that is too long and you trip on it , when you breathe in a little too much incense, when you mix up the water and wine and make the priest’s hands smell like a distillery when you pour it, and the list goes on.  And you thought being a server was easy?

And of course other roles present their own set of challenges, such as being an extraordinary minister when a small child grabs for the host as if it were a cookie.  Or being a lector when the microphone doesn’t work, or when you can’t find the right page in the lectionary, or when you come across a word that you swear you never saw before.  I can only imagine the stories priests could tell about their experiences over the years.

I am not the most coordinated person in the world, so I have created my own set of bloopers over the years.  You may remember years ago that the cross we used in procession was a tall brass cross.  I swear this cross had a vex on me.  For example, the first time I came out of the sacristy with it, no one mentioned that the cross was too tall to hold straight up and get through the doorway.  So of course the top of the cross clanged off of the top of the doorway.  Talk about starting Mass off with a bang.

I also had an incident with the cross during a visit by Bishop Wurm.  We were waiting in the back of church for Mass to start.  Thinking that the cross was securely standing against the balcony stairway, I was not paying any attention to it.  Suddenly the cross tips over, striking the holy water basin along the way, making the floor “holy ground”.  Fortunately Bishop Wurm was a very easy going guy and nothing was said about it, although Fr. Kribs gave me a glare that could have bored a hole through a concrete wall.

As I think everyone would agree, things go wrong at the most inappropriate moments.  During my Confirmation ceremony, one of the main fuses blew leaving the church without many of the lights and without the organ.  However what turned out to be a “candlelight” ceremony actually turned out to be very nice.  So anyone who ever says church isn’t entertaining either isn’t going to church enough or just isn’t paying attention.  And there is no doubt in my mind that God has one whale of a sense of humor, and must really get a kick out of watching us humans try to maneuver through this thing we call life.

No matter how much we desire that things be perfect, no matter how much we want things to go smoothly, eventually the human element takes effect and something will not go as planned.  In a lot of interviews with coaches and athletes they will talk about not getting too high after a win or after something good happens, and not getting too low after a loss or after something bad happens.  They will also talk about having “short memories”, or in other words having the ability to put things behind them quickly when things don’t go  their way.

I think one of the real challenges God puts before us is dealing with adversity.  When I was dealing with my recent illness, people would ask me how I could be so patient as I tried different medications and treatments and lifestyle changes in search of relief.  I think it’s just part of my nature that I have always been a pretty even-keeled person, and my health problems certainly forced me to use that gift to the fullest.  And I think I have done a pretty good job – now 41 years old I still have most of my hair and most of it is still brown.  As with anything else, I still have room for much improvement.  When the Cardinals announced the other day that they were bringing back Tony LaRussa as manager for another season, well let’s just say that this kid wasn’t well pleased.  But I’ll keep rolling with the punches and relying on God to guide me through life’s challenges.

The blog has been a great outlet for me to express some opinions, share some random thoughts and to act just plain silly.  It still amazes me that folks visit on a regular basis to read my babble.  Last Saturday for example there were 11 visitors.  Thanks again for reading and for your continued support of our website.

How long can this fantastic weather continue?  Enjoy it while it lasts.  God Bless.  Peace.

October 16, 2010 – Voices In My Head

October 16, 2010

Those of you who have been faithfully following the blog (all 2 or 3 of you) know that I am a lover of country music.  I not only like the tune of the music, but there are many songs that tell great stories and provide subtle yet valuable messages.  There is a new song out now called “Voices” by Chris Young.  It talks about the advice that he has been given throughout his life and how he still hears the “voices” in his head when he encounters certain situations.  Hear is a sample of one of the verses:

“I hear voices like my dad sayin’ work that job, but don’t work your life away.  Mama tellin’ me to drop some cash in the offering plate on Sunday.  And granddad sayin’ you can have a few, but don’t ever cross that line.  Yeah I hear voices all the time.”  Click the link below to view the video for this song:

After hearing this song a few times, it got me to thinking about some of the voices in my head that still influence me and the way I try to live my life, and I wanted to share a few of them with you.

I still hear the voice of Sr. Mary Edna, my 1st grade teacher.  We all wanted to please Sister because not only did we want to do our best for her, but if we were good we would get a “pill” (which was actually candy).  However, if we misbehaved, then her yardstick Sammy would introduce himself to our backsides.  I still remember one particular instance when Sister had to leave the room for a few minutes, and during the time she was gone someone got out of their chair to look out the window.  So I thought I would earn a few “suck-up” points and tell her about this when she returned.  When I told her what had happened, instead of praising me I got a lecture on tattling on other people, the class sang the “tattle-tale” song, and I was introduced to Sammy.  From that time on, when I felt the need to spread the word around about the actions of others, I heard the “tattle-tale” song and my head and I thought twice about it.

I don’t know the name of this man whose voice I still hear.  One Sunday morning years back I was thumbing through the channels and of course many of the TV evangelists were doing their thing and asking for donations.  But one I saw was particularly energetic and so I started watching a little bit, and he said something that has stuck with me ever since.  He said “We are always so worried about tomorrow because we seem to have forgotten about what happened yesterday.”  He went on to explain that we needn’t worry about getting through the tough times of the future because God has guided us through the past, and if we have faith then we know that He will continue to guide us.  I try to remember this message when I know I will be facing a challenge.

Another voice in my head is actually a lack of a voice.  It was about 4 years ago at this time that my Dad passed away.  I was in the hospital room with him at the time of his passing.  His breathing had been labored for a couple of days and then all of a sudden there was silence.  It was an eerie silence, yet at the same time it was a peaceful silence, knowing that his suffering had come to an end.  Being the first time that I had actually witnessed someone passing from this life, I certainly have an image burned in my mind that life is very fragile and that we are not in control of when our time to pass is coming.  But I also keep in mind that sound of peaceful silence, and when I think about when my time on earth may come to an end, I do not need to fear it because a time of peace and joy can be ours if we live our life according to Jesus’ message.

The voice I try to place most prominently in my mind is that of God’s.  However, this in many ways is the most difficult voice to distinguish.  We are told that when we pray part of our prayer should be listening to what God is telling us.  However, when we don’t hear an actual voice in our ear it is tough to discern what God is really trying to tell us.  So I try to imagine what God is telling me.  I can imagine Him saying “did youy really have to eat the whole thing!”, or “can’t you stay off of the computer for 5 minutes!”, or “the Rams stink, give it up already!”.  When I think of what God may be telling me, I tend to think of all of the things He would tell me that I’m doing wrong.  I have to remind myself that God does not expect us to be perfect (even though that shouldn’t keep us from striving to be), and that He appreciates our efforts on his behalf.  In a couple of weeks my PSR class will be learning about the 8 beatitudes.  We know from these lessons that we will be comforted, our hunger will be satisfied, and we will inherit the kingdom of God if we accept Jesus into our life.  That is the voice that I need to listen to more closely.

We all have voices in our head, and I’m sure a lot of these voices are those of our teachers.  The voice of Mrs. Linda Anderson has been heard in our school for the past 25 years, and has influenced many students.  This weekend we mark this milestone and thank her for her service and dedication to our children and our parish.  We appreciate her and all of our school teachers for their sacrifices and their committment to providing a quality Catholic education to our children.  Best wishes to Mrs. Anderson for good health and happiness and many more years of sharing her gifts of knowledge and life-skills to future students.

Wait a minute.  I hear a voice.  What was that?  Get off the computer and do something worthwhile?!?!  OK, time to go do some website work – oh, wait a minute, that’s on the computer as well.  OOOOOH, this voice is ringimg my ears!  I guess it is time to wrap this up.  Peace.

October 8, 2010 – Words on Words

October 9, 2010

Well for sports fans such as myself, the month of October brings us the “high holy days.”  Baseball is into the postseason, football is in full swing, hockey season is beginning and basketball season is right around the corner.  And with the great fall weather we’ve been having, well, it just doesn’t get much better.  Now all I need is half-a-dozen pumpkin donuts from Krispy Kreme (hey I can dream, can’t I?).

One of the reasons I continue to write the blog is that it keeps me in practice with writing.  I enjoyed writing when I was in school and I still enjoy doing occassional writing.  I was not a test-taker in school; I would have rather written a 20 page paper than have to take an exam.  I have had a crazy dream for a while that I would like to write a book, not necessarily to become some famous author or to sit in a bookstore signing copies, but just to be able to say that I wrote a book.  Maybe someday when I’m retired – if the retirement age isn’t raised to like 74 by the time I get to that point.

Having a love of writing I naturally have a fascination with words.  Words can be powerful, entertaining, influential and frustrating all at the same time.  When we look back at history, we think about the famous speeches and quotations and the memories that they stir: “Four score and seven years ago,” ” The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” “I’m not a crook.”  And we could go on and on.

When I think about Jesus I normally think about the actions, but He truly was quite a wordsmith, providing powerful statements with few words.  For example, when the authorities brought the adultress to Jesus to test His reaction, He said “Let the one who is without sin be the first to cast their stone.”  Talk about giving us a self-test.  And of course when He was crucified, He told one of the thieves that “Today, you will be with me in paradise,” providing hope to all people in the midst of a terrible situation.  The Bible is obviously the guide we as Christians need to follow in order to learn how to live as followers of God, but I think we can gain a new appreciation and dimension when we look at it from the perspective of just how purely well written it is.

Words are obviously an important part of our lives.  But as powerful as they are, we find ourselves at times when mere words just don’t seem to suffice.  When I see so many people in our parish doing such great work in keeping our church and school running and vital, it is hard to come up with words that would truly express how grateful I am.  When we know someone who has lost a loved one, how often do we struggle to find the right words to express our sympathy.  There are so many other situations when we search for just the right thing to say, and we just can’t seem to find the right words.

When I look back at the role of words in my life, I think one of the hardest things I have ever had to do was to deliver the eulogies for my brother and my dad.  I wasn’t worried about becoming emotional or about whether I could deliver the speeches.  My struggle was with the words – writing a reflection that would be worthy of the remarkable lives that my loved ones led.

Words of course can also be hurtful.  Kids in school can be victims of teasing and be made to feel worthless, even though it may seem harmless at the time.  We can say words about someone behind their back and without realizing it the words get around to that person.  We have seen on the news where people have actually committed suicide because of words posted on the internet.  Horrid examples where the power of words can work in a horribly negative way.

So where am I leading with all of this.  Well, besides using a lot of words, my point is that words like all things around us are gifts from God, and when used in the proper way can be a source of entertainment, comfort, inspiration, and can even change the course of history.  However, when used improperly, they can be a source of pain, hurt and demise.  I am truly grateful for words, and I hope all of these words didn’t bore you too much!

Just a quick observation before I end: I guess in the spirit of Halloween, I saw in a parking lot a mini van which had what appeared to be half of a leg caught in the back hatch door.  I didn’t know whether to admire their creativity or to be disgusted at their warped sense of humor.  Evidently, some people still have some free time on their hands, especially people who write these annoying blogs all the time (ha, ha).

Keep enjoying the incredile autumn.  Peace.

October 2, 2010 – Love of Faith

October 2, 2010

Well I was going to begin by bragging on the stretch of beautiful fall weather that we have been having, and just as I begin it starts to sprinkle.  Oh well, in life a little rain must fall.  It certainly was a beautiful week, and next week appears to be more of the same.  Good stuff.

This past Wednesday we had parish council meeting.  As always it was a very good meeting with discussion of various topics.  But as you know our evening does not end when we get up from the meeting table, as we take time to enjoy a few refreshments and some informal conversation.  After we had spent an hour or so deep in church conversation, you would think that the conversation afterward would switch to something else, but we wound up sharing stories and memories of the dearly departed Fr. Joe Sense and the old “trail” church, including the dog patroling the aisleway and the 20 minute Masses.

I talk a lot about the meetings I attend and workshops I participate in such as the funeral rites workshop a few weeks back.  I will be the first to admit that I am not the most devout Catholic there is and I am certainly not an expert on religion.  However, I can say that over the years I have developed a deep love for my faith, and it inspires me when I get to spend time with people who share that same deep love.

At the same time it frustrates me when I observe people who do not share that same deep love of the faith.  People who do not attend Mass on a regular basis.  People who do not value religious education for their kids.  People who turn away from God during the tough times.  People who blame God when bad things happen.  People who do not believe that there is still life even after our time on earth is completed.  My initial frustration tells me “What is it that people are not getting?”, “What is keeping them from grasping the importance of having faith in their life?”.    Then my frustration turns to the church and I think to myself “What is the hierarchy doing wrong?  Should we re-think the church’s stances on issues such as clerical celebacy, clerical marriage, and the prevention of allowing women to be priests?  Should we re-examine our stance on social life issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty?”

My frustration then turns to all of the outside influences such as the media.  Pedophilia is unfortunately a major problem in all corners of society and religion, but why does it seem that the Catholic Church receives the most scrutiny?  Why does the media do stories proclaiming women as “priests” even though they have not been ordained and have not been recognized as such by the church?  And why is it so easy to attain access to inappropriate materials such as pornography?

I can go on and on, but the bottom line is that there are many forces at work that can put barriers up between people and their faith life.  So how can we tear these barriers down?  Let me count the ways.  But there are several obvious things that any of us can do and that we can offer to people:

Knowledge – I will always maintain that the more people know about their faith, the greater appreciation that they will gain for it.  People don’t just want to know what is being done or said, but why things are done or said.  With the internet and what seems to be thousands of channels of news and investigative programming, there is a lot of misinformation out there.  We need to steer people in the direction of accuracy, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and websites such as the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Invitations – We have talked about this before, but there may be folks out there who do not feel welcome to the faith because they have not been invited to it.  A personal invitation can go a long way.

Sharing With Our Kids – One of the reasons I love my faith is the long tradition of passing on the faith to the future generations.  It is now our task to step forward and do what our forefathers did for us and be witnesses for the future generations of Catholics.  The number of people who claim themselves as Catholics has risen in recent years due to the continued growth of our population, but I’m not sure you can tell that by peering in the church door or seeing the number of clergy that are currently serving.

These are just a few ways that we can knock these barriers down, and I’m sure there are many others.  When I write my blogs, I try not to make them sound too “preachy” and I try to keep them light-hearted.  I hope the tone of this blog came through the way I intended.  I dearly love my religion, so much so that I want others to be able to share the experiences I have had, and the sense of purpose I have gained in being a follower of God.

Some people may think that they need to witness a miracle in order to find their religion, and those who saw the Rams actually win a game last week certainly saw one.  Can we make it 2 in a row?  I HAVE FAITH!  GO SAM!

Have another great autumn week.  Peace.