Archive for December, 2010

December 30, 2010 – Bring On 2011

December 30, 2010

I hope you had a great Christmas.  We had to deal with the snow and cold but otherwise I think things went pretty smoothly on my end.  Santa treated me well as usual (I’m always a good boy, ha ha) and I had a lot of good food (temporary break from the diet, back to the healthy stuff after the holidays).  It is hard to believe that we have come to the end of another year.  The adage that time goes faster as we get older I think is certainly true.  I was just getting used to writing 2010 on my checks, and now we turn the page again.

I have never been one to go out and celebrate New Year’s.  I have always considered it a good night to find something on TV, relax and take a little time of reflection and think about the past year and look forward to the coming year.  Last year at this time I was full of doubt about the coming year – I was in the midst of a long battle with health problems and I was still searching for answers, and I didn’t know if things would keep getting worse or if at some point I would find an answer.  Now a year later I’m reporting mixed results – I still really haven’t found a definitive answer but medications and I think also taking better care of myself have me feeling quite a bit better than last year at this time, and I’m looking forward to the new year ahead instead of being filled with apprehension like I was last year.  Call it coincidence or what you want, but it seemed that I started to rebound right around the time of Confirmation this past May.  The Holy Spirit at work?  I’m certainly not going to dispute it.

So what will the next year bring?  There is a country song by Brad Paisley called “Letter To Me”.  In the song he pretends that he has the ability to write a letter to himself when he was a teenager, and he tells himself all sorts of things such as to be nice to certain teachers, and that he will meet the girl of his dreams, and that he shouldn’t worry about things so much.  If you’d like to see the video for it, here is the link to it:

http://www.cmt.com/videos/brad-paisley/187138/letter-to-me.jhtml

I have often wondered how I would react if I had the ability to know what the future would bring.  If I had a sheet of paper that said this is what is going to happen this year, would I do things differently?  Would life be better or worse?  If I knew something bad was going to happen to someone, would I warn them or would I let things happen assuming that it was how it was supposed to be?  The more I think about it, I’m glad that I don’t know what the next day or the next year is going to bring.  Not that I’m big on surprises, but I think life is best lived relying on our faith and taking each day as it comes.  I’ve certainly adopted that attitude after the past year.

I have also typically never made a lot of New Year’s resolutions.  I’ve made some in the past only to see them fizzle in a short period of time.  But there are some things that I’m going to try to work on in the next year (note that I said try, I’m not making any promises).  I’m going to try to get back on my health kick and lose some more weight.  The holidays and the food surrounding them have put me a step back, so I need to re-dedicate myself to that.  I’m also going to try not to be as judgemental of people.  I think we all have a tendency to judge some people on our first impressions without really getting to know that person, so I’m going to try to improve on that.  And of course, I’m going to continue to try to spread God’s message, particularly via our website and through this little blog.  Oh, and through all of the trials and tribulations I will continue to root for my Cardinals, Blues and Rams.  Who would have thought that we would be beginining the new year with the Rams one win away from a playoff birth.  An omen for things to come?  Let’s hope.

Finally, I end this year by thanking you for your continued support of our parish and our website, and for continuing to read my random drivel each week.  I am so appreciative of your compliments and for spreading the word about our website so more and more people can discover it and use it.  I hope you have a great 2011 that is filled with good health, happiness, and all of the best.  God willing, I will talk to you again next year.  And pray for a year that brings an improved economy, a renewed interest in working for justice, and of course, Peace.

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December 22, 2010 – Christmas and Other Stuff

December 23, 2010

I went with a little different plan this go around with the blog.  With all of the activities surrounding the Bishop’s visit to our parish last weekend, and of course with the celebration of Christmas this coming weekend, I decided to squeeze a blog entry in between the two.  So to my ever loyal readership (all 3 or 4 of you), I expect things to get back to normal after the Christmas season.  But I’m here now, so let’s talk ….

Before getting into my Christmas thoughts, let me first say a few words about the Pastoral Visitation of Bishop Braxton to our parish this past weekend.  All in all I thought it was a successful visit.  I believe he was pleased with his experience here, and I think it gave us a chance to experience the Bishop in a little bit more of an informal setting.  The give and take was very good – there were thoughtful questions asked and thorough answers given.  I learned several things about the scripture, etc. from the Bishop’s responses.  We certainly can question his leadership qualities and management style, but we cannot question his knowledge of theology and his love for our faith.

We were of course concerned about the timing of the visit given that it was the weekend before Christmas and there was decorating to do and other things that had to be re-arranged, but I think the experience was a positive one for our parish and for the Bishop, and I think it was a fitting way to end our Advent preparation and enter into the joyous time of Christmas.  It was another sign of proof that our parish is made up of good folk, and we’re doing many things right.  THANK YOU!

I’m enjoying a rare week off of work this week, so I have been catching up on errands and cleaning things that haven’t been cleaned in, well, in a long time.  Yesterday I went to Sparta and made the mandatory stop at the Super Wal-Mart.  Little did I know what I would encounter while fighting the pre-Christmas crowds.  (A quick observation: Why is it that in every aisle I really need to get into there is an impromptu family reunion going on; “Oh I haven’t seen you in years!  Where are your kids now?”  Just wondering.).  First I went into the soda aisle and saw an older lady, trying her best to be a monkey, climbing up the shelves to retrieve a bottle of Pepsi.  I got there just in the nick of time to get the bottle for her.  Then an older gentleman dropped a bunch of his coupons and walked off without realizing it, and I was able to pick them up and give them back to him.  Then I experienced a first in the bakery section when one of the employees approached me and asked if I could button the cuff on her shirt sleeve because she had to keep her hands sanitary.  My first thought was “gee, we just met”, but I stepped in and handled the situation.  I began thinking that before I get to the checkout somebody is bound to need CPR!  But I had an uneventful trip through the rest of the store.

Now doing a few little kind acts doesn’t make me a hero in any way,  and in fact doesn’t make me any different than most folks.  But I still felt a little sense of pride walking out of the store, and I also thought back to the situation I was in at this time last year, when my health problems would not have allowed me to perform even a simple act of kindness.  No matter what I receive for Christmas, I will get no better gift than that of improved health and the ability to give of myself again.  THANKS BE TO GOD!

OK, there’s this little Christmas thing coming in a couple of days, so I will continue the age old tradition (that I began last year).  If I ruled the world and had the power to do anything I wanted (Donald Trump and Bill Gates, take a back seat), I would grant the following Christmas wishes:

To Kathy Albrecht – I would invent something like the “roomba”, the robotic vacuum cleaner, except this robot would roam the KC Hall and automatically dispense iced tea into the empty glasses.

To Stan Musial – to be healthy and strong enough to attend and enjoy the ceremony when he receives the Medal of Freedom.

To Father Gene – a year filled with baptisms and devoid of funerals.

To our parish – that one lucky parishioner hits the big lottery and decides that they really don’t need the money, so they instead will donate it to the church.

To our President and Congressional leaders – a new found attitude of compromise and a real effort to work for the common good.

To Tony LaRussa –  a one-way ticket to his California home.

To the St. Louis Rams – 2 more wins and a stunning first round upset in the playoffs.

To my Mom – again, anything she wants.

To me – continued improved health and a lightning strike that takes out the old TV’s in my house so I finally have an excuse to get a flat-screen.

To our world – that there be a renewed sense of the Christmas spirit and that world leaders work for peace and justice.

My final wish: that you have a blessed Christmas and that you are able to spend the holidays with your loved ones near.  Pray for a little snow but not so much as to keep people from traveling where they need to go.  Thank you for all of your encouragement and support this past year.  And of course remember that “Jesus is the reason for the season”.

I am leaving you with a link to a YouTube video of some pre-school kids answering questions about their knowledge of Christmas.  It is really cute!  Here is the link:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ki8EcnVbd-Q

My thoughts next week will be on the year that is past and the year ahead.  Ain’t I filled with originality?  Enjoy your Christmas celebration!  Peace.

December 12, 2010 – The Need to Prepare

December 11, 2010

Well this was sort of an up and down week for me.  I started out last Saturday evening by getting a touch of the flu, so I stayed in Sunday and took it easy, which allowed me to watch oodles and oodles of football.  Then on Monday I attended my uncle’s funeral Mass in Red Bud.  I was sad to bid farewell to my uncle, but I also got to see some family members I hadn’t seen in a long time, and I also got to see Fr. Dennis.  We had some very cold weather in the earlier part of the week, but that made yesterday’s beautiful weather that much more satisfying.  And today we have an ugly early winter day, but it gives me the opportunity to stay in and catch up on things such as blogging duties.

On Seinfeld, which I’ve mentioned in the past is one of my all-time favorite TV shows, there is an episode that starts out with Elaine having a lot of good things happening for her, and George being down on his luck, but as the show goes on George’s luck changes while Elaine has more and more bad things happen to her.  Meanwhile, Jerry always manages to stay on an even keel.  He broke even in his poker game.  Elaine threw one of his $20 bills out the window, then he found a $20 in his coat pocket.  At the end of the show, he pointed out that at first Elaine was up and George was down, then George was up and Elaine was down, further proof that everything evens out for him in the end.

Whenever I see that episode, in a way I relate it to my faith in God – having the belief  that somehow, someway, things will work out in the end with His guidance.  Some of the most faithful people I know are people who have been through some of the most challenges, whether it be the death of a child, or dealing with a disease or handicap, or some other sort of hardship in their life.  It’s not that they wanted the challenges in their life, but that they accepted them and made the best of them.

In the early 1990’s, singer Reba McEntire’s band was on a plane seperate from her, and their plane ended up crashing into the side of a mountain, killing the entire band.  Some time later, Reba was asked how she would handle it if another tragedy such as that happened in her life.  She said that when she prayed, she didn’t ask God for a tragedy not to happen, but that if it did happen, that she would be prepared to handle it.  It is easy to lose faith when something bad happens, and it is easy to put the blame on God for that bad event, which is why true faith is such a challenge.  But if we keep our eye on the prize, eternal life with God, our faith can sustain us through anything. 

On this third Sunday of Advent we light the rose candle which symbolizes joy.  It marks a shift from the first 2 weeks of Advent which focus more on preparation and hope, to a focus on anticipation and expectancy of the coming Messiah.  Those people who kept the faith for so long that a Savior was coming would indeed be rewarded.  We normally think of times of preparation as times that we would rather not have to deal with;  ee want to get straight to what we are anticipating.  The season of Advent reminds us that we can’t reach the prize without the proper preparation, no matter what it is that we are trying to accomplish.

My uncle John who I spoke of earlier realized the challenges people face, and endured them admirably.  He fought a form of bone cancer for 8 years after originally being given 2 years to live.  I knew before he died that his faith in God helped to sustain him, but it was at his funeral that I learned of a prayer that he had written a few years ago that gave me an even deeper insight into his focus on what his future held, and I’d like to leave you with that prayer:

“Lord Jesus Christ, hold my hand as I walk down the path of life.  Help guide me through life’s years.  Help me to endure the pains in life and not to worry.  When I reach the end of my road may I be at the gatesof heaven.  Forgive me of my sins; turn the key and invite me in.  May you always be at my side.  Help me to rely on you to be my guide.”

Enjoy the rest of this time of preparation.  Peace.

December 4, 2010 – Starting Blank

December 4, 2010

I will be the first to admit that I am no expert on artwork.  I can look at a piece of art that is greatly admired by many and not have an idea of what the allure is.  But I do admire artists for being able to start with a blank canvas or a ball of clay and turn it into something creative and expressive.  In no way am I comparing myself to these talented people, but in a sort of way I can understand what they go through when trying to think about what to create on that canvas or potter’s wheel.  I begin with a blank computer screen and I think about how I can express myself today.  And as I think about it I realize something – it’s a good thing that I don’t depend on this to make a living, or I would be a starving blogger.  So anyway, it feels like that time again to just throw out some random thoughts and see what happens.

The season of Advent brings a natural culture clash.  The secular world holds its celebrations of Christmas before Christmas.  We have our parties, we put up our decorations for all to see, we listen to Christmas music, etc.  I see a lot of slogans such as “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas” that tell us the birth of Jesus should be remembered and celebrated.  Perhaps we should revise the slogans a little bit to say something like “Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas and beyond.”  The secular world seems to insist that at 12:01AM on December 26 Christmas is over – time to tear down the lights and decorations and kill the Christmas music.  The church, however, provides a very different message.  The event of Jesus’ birth is one that should be celebrated even after Christmas Day, which makes sense because the promise of a Savior was something that people waited on for many, many years, so why wouldn’t we celebrate after the event has occurred?  So as Catholic christians our challenge is to indeed keep “CHRIST” in CHRISTmas, and also to give Jesus’ birth the proper celebration it deserves, and to keep the lights and decorations up a little longer.

Of course the holiday season brings about mass quantities of food, which for someone who is trying to watch his weight means that the willpower meter has to be cranked up a little higher.  I’ve done pretty good so far, though I need to remember that even if the box says “reduced fat”, it’s still not an excuse to eat the whole thing.  So if I turn down your Christmas cookies or candy, it’s not because it wouldn’t be a lucious, satisfying treat (druel).  By the way, does carrot cake count as a health food?  Just asking.

We had a good Parish Council meeting the other night.  One of the things I am thankful for this holiday season is for all the folks who continue to give of themselves and their spare time to support our parish, including those who have to sit through those evening meetings, those who give of their time to maintain our buildings and grounds, those who work with our kids in PSR, athletics and other extra-curricular activities, and the list goes on and on.  In this day and age time seems to be a more precious commodity, and those of us on the Parish Council get to hear about those who give so much of their time to our parish.  Thank you all!

This weekend our 2nd graders will be celebrating their First Reconciliation.  I have to admit that my memories of my First Confession are pretty vague.  I do remember afterwards that we were comparing what our individual penances were, as if it were some type of a badge of honor if you had the highest Our Father and Hail Mary count.  I also remember throughout school that confession day was a day that most people dreaded – “What do I tell Father?”, “What is Father going to tell me?”, “Is he going to tell my parents what I said?”.  Perhaps it is this attitude that we carry into our adulthood that keeps more and more people out of the confessional.  I tell my kids in PSR that reconciliation is not a sacrament of punishment, but rather it is a sacrament of healing.  It is our chance to admit to the barriers that we have placed between ourselves and God, and to tear down those barriers.  I know that I always feel better after I have received the sacrament.  It feels like I am getting a fresh start, a building block to improve my one-on-one relationship with God.  Our Advent penance service is Friday, December 17 at 7:00PM.  I plan to attend, and hope to see you there.

Finally, as you know I’m always perusing the internet for ideas.  Believe it or not, this is not the only Catholic blog that is out there.  As a matter of fact it is estimated that there are over 2000 active Catholic blogs.  In my research I encountered a website that listed the top 200 most popular Catholic blogs.  Unfortunately, the webmaster’s blog didn’t quite make the cut.  Maybe next year.  Anyway, here is the link to this list:

www.ericsammons.com/topcatholicblogs.html

If you see a blog on this list or another blog that you particularly enjoy, let me know about it so I can steal their ideas (ha, ha).  Seriously, if you find something interesting, I would love to share it with everyone.

Stay warm this coming week.  It already looks a lot like Christmas, and its also starting to feel like Christmas.  Take care.  Peace.