Archive for July, 2011

July 30, 2011 – Qualities of a Leader

July 30, 2011

Well I hope you survived another week of our heat wave.  It sounds like next week is more of the same.  Let us continue to pray for a break in the heat and for favorable weather for our farmers.

A few nights ago we had our parish council meeting.  It was a good, productive meeting.  We now have 3 new members on our council – Richard Allison, Norman Grau and Jeannie Grau.  We also had election of officers for the coming year, and I was once again elected President.  I honestly have lost track of how many years now that I have been President, but to give you an idea, my “regime” began under our previous pastor, Msgr. Dennis.  I guess to this point I had not really reflected on the reason why I continue to be selected for this position, other than simply thinking that “well, nobody else wants to do it, so I guess I’m stuck with it again.”  But I suppose that I must be doing something right or surely someone would pull a coup against me.

So anyway, I got to thinking about all of this because I never really thought of myself as a leader.  As I’ve said before, I’m not the most vocal person in the world.  I’m certainly not the most organized person in the world.  I’m certainly not the most intelligent person in the world (please keep any comments to yourself, lol).  So am I missing something about what it takes to be a good leader?  What is the secret?  Well, to seek an answer to this question I do something that I know I’m good at – I go to the internet and I see what other people have to say about leadership.  I found some pretty good quotes – some serious, some on the lighter side.These are a few that I found particularly good and thoughtful:

“Do you wish to rise?  Begin by descending.  You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds?  Lay first the foundation of humility.” – St. Augustine

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him.  But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim is fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.” – Lao-Tzu

Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with the results.” – George S. Patton

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he want to do it.” – Dwight Eisenhower

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

And finally, my personal favorite: “Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men – the other 999 follow women.” – Groucho Marx

Certainly some good insights there but as in seemingly all cases, there is one role model who we can always turn to for a good example – Jesus Christ.  Here was a seemingly simple man, the son of a carpenter, who in a relatively short three-year span was able to draw thousands of followers from all backgrounds to His side.  I looking at His time here on earth and the observations of others, I think a good leader has to have at least some if not all of these characteristics:

A good leader has to have a passion for what they are doing.  Obviously Jesus had a passion for public ministry – knowing what to say at the right time, and having a desire to lead by example.  Good coaches obviously have a passion for the particular sport they are coaching.  I think this is one trait that I do have – I have a passion for my religion, for trying to do my part to serve God and to learn as much as I can about my faith.

A good leader has to have the courage to stand up for what they believe in.  What better example is there of this than Jesus giving His life for us.  And of course there are many other martyrs in the church who gave their lives for what they believed in.  Do we still see this today?  I think so, particularly those in the military who make so many sacrifices, including in some cases their life, for the cause of freedom.

A good leader has to be persuasive.  As we have mentioned before, imagine being one of the 12 chosen apostles and having Jesus tell you that wherever you go, do not take any money, do not take a bag, and stay in the homes of strangers.  And on top of this, leave your families behind.  How persuasive did Jesus have to be to accomplish this?

Finally, I think a good leader has to be patient.  Obviously things are not always going to go as we plan.  We may also have to deal with some resentment from those we are trying to lead.  But again, Jesus shows us the way.  On the night He is taken away and charged with crimes He did not commit, most of his closest followers do not have His back, and in fact deny even knowing them.  Yet Jesus still entrusts them to carry on His mission when He leaves our earthly presence.

I do not claim to possess all of these qualities, and I certainly have a lot to work on, but I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to lead our parish council and to continue to serve our parish in this role.  Thank you for your trust in me, and pry for our council as we embark on another year of discussions and decision making.

Well the roller coaster ride continues for us Cardinal fans.  Just as we think we are getting on a little bit of a roll, we lose 2 in a row to the worst team in the league.  But we always have the consolation of being ahead of the Cubs some things are just a given in life).

Next Saturday I have a meeting scheduled with our Diocesan Pastoral Council, so I plan to talk about that next week.  Have a great week.  Peace.

July 22, 2011 – What Would Jesus Think?

July 23, 2011

I have been looking forward to writing this blog because no matter what I write, no matter how bad my writing is or how delusional my thoughts are, I have an excuse to fall back on – the heat is getting to me!  I hope that you have been staying as cool as possible and let us pray for an end to this vicious heat wave.

It doesn’t seem that long ago, although I guess by now it has been 10 or more years ago, that one of the hot trends floating around was items that had the “WWJD” logo, which of course stood for “What Would Jesus Do?”.  As I was thinking about what to write this week I started going along the lines of “WWJT”, or “What Would Jesus Think?”.  Two of the more prominent stories this week are actually stories that have been ongoing for a while.  One is the negotiations going on in Washington, D.C. as to how to handle our huge national debt.  The other is the negotiations between the players and the owners of the National Football League.  These two stories have a couple things in common: 1) In both negotiations talks have been going on for months without reaching a final agreement, and 2) In both cases there are huge amounts of money at stake – which I guess would be a big reason for #1.

In the government negotiations, we know that our deficit continues to grow at an astronomical rate and that it cannot keep going at this pace, yet neither side appears willing to concede anything – I think partially in fear of offending some of their constituents and losing some of their “perks”.  In the NFL negotiations the sticking point has been making sure that each side gets what they feel is their rightful share of $9 BILLION in annual revenues – revenues that are projected to go up to $15-$18 BILLION in 10 years.  I don’t know what the final outcome will be, but it is obvious that a lot of people have already gotten rich and a lot of people will be getting even richer over the next 10 years or so, yet neither side seems willing to give in and to get on with business.

What appears to get lost in all of this is how the people that are on the outside looking in have been affected.  Even though no regular season games have been lost yet, employees of teams have had their salaries cut, and towns who host training camps may not get the economic impact that they were expecting.  And even though to this point it has been just threats, there is the possibility that our government could default on their loans and people who rely on government benefits or work for government contractors could see loss of income. 

As I have watched all of the bickering, all of the finger-pointing, all of the blame game, I couldn’t help but wonder what Jesus is thinking about all of this.  I know He would be disappointed that these parties seem to continue to put their own interests ahead of others.  One of my favorite and most powerful moments in the Bible was when Jesus chose His 12 apostles, and when He gave them their instructions He told them to take no money, no bag, and to stay in the homes of strangers.  This is just one of many examples in scripture when Jesus put the emphasis on ministry and helping those less fortunate, not on His own personal wealth.

Jesus of course did not turn away those who were rich, nor did He ever say that it was wrong for the rich to have the treasure that they had earned, but what He did say was that the rich should consider their posessions gifts from God, and that they should be generous to those who are less fortunate.  The rich, as well as anyone for that matter, should not think that what they have they earned all on their own, but that they were aided by God’s grace, and that they should not consider themselves independent, but dependent on God’s guidance.

Do I consider myself rich?  Well, in many ways, yes.  I do not drive the fanciest car, but I have one better than many others.  I do not have the most money, but I have more than many others.  I have enough electronic gadgets to supply a city block.  I am proud that I have earned what I have,  but I hope that I have done enough to not forget that there are many who are much more needy than I am, and I hope that what I have given back meets God’s satisfaction.  And I sincerely hope that those who represent us in government, and those who are responsible for employing many people in our country will stand up not only for their own interests, but for the interests of all people, and for the interests of what God asks of us.

In what has seemed to become a little bit of a tradition here, I share with you an article or a video that peaked my attention.  I ran across this blog this past week about the benefits of confession that gives a slightly different slant on things.  Here is the link to the article:

As I’ve been typing I’ve been watching the Cardinal game.  It has gone from the euphoria of a 4-0 lead to a closer 4-2 game, and now back to a 5-2 lead.  Such as it has gone for us Cardinal fans this year – up and down, up and down.  Oh well, at least it’s cool in front of my TV here.  Hopefully things will be a little more tolerable this coming week.  Have a great one.  Peace.

July 15, 2011 – Catholics Can Laugh Too

July 16, 2011

I think I have mentioned this before, but hey, after almost 150 blogs, I think I’m due to use an occassional repeat reference.  One of the most inspirational people I have ever seen is Jim Valvano.  He was a college basketball coach who was known for the inspirational speeches he gave to his team and for winning games even though he probably had the team with less talent.  He died of cancer in 1993 at the age of 47.  About 2 months before he died he received an award for courage and gave one of the greatest speeches I ever heard.  If you would like to see the speech, here is the video link:

My favorite part of the speech is when he talks about the three things that people should remember to do everyday.  First, you should take time to laugh every day.  Second, you should spend some time in thought every day.  Finally, you should allow your emotions to be moved to tears everyday, whether they be tears of joy or sadness.  If you do these three things, you’ve had a fulfilling day.

I was reminded of this speech after reading an article this past week, particularly the part about remembering to laugh every day.  Some people may have the impression that religious people are not the happiest people in the world, that they have an aura of seriousness.  This article, written by a Jesuit priest, talks about the importance of humor in our lives, and the fact that there are moments of humor even in the Bible.  Here is the link to read the article:

Sometimes it can be a challenge for us to remember to laugh some days, especially when times are tough.  But there comes a point when it’s time to let our humor come out.  When I was going through my illness a couple of years ago, I got comments from several people that they knew I was starting to get better because they saw me smiling again.  When we have experienced a loss, such as the death of a loved one, there is of course a period of mourning, but eventually there is a time to laugh and remember the good times we experienced with that person. 

I try to make laughter a part of my ministry.  In my 7/8 grade religion classes, I realize that kids that age can get, how can I put this delicately, bored out of their skulls after an hour or so of class, so I try to lighten up the mood at least a little bit with a joke or a light-hearted comment.  During our Parish Council meetings, I realize that people make a sacrifice of time away from their families, etc. to be present, so I think it helps to keep the mood light and to try to inject some humor into the proceedings.  There is of course time for serious discussion, but there are also appropriate times to share a laugh.

So I think it begs the question of whether there is a place for humor during the Mass.  I think the vast majority of us at St. Mary’s would say a resounding yes (depending on the quality of the joke for that week – lol).  Humor can be a good way to introduce the lesson that is being taught, and it is a good way to get people’s attention.  I think there can be humor as a part of the Mass without taking away from those parts of the Mass when reverence is appropriate.  After all, when we come to Mass, we are attending a celebration. 

I of course cannot complete a blog about humor without a joke.  A gentleman attended confession and he told the priest that he had had affairs with seven different women.  The priest told him that he should go buy seven lemons, get a glass of water, squeeze the juice of the lemons into the water and drink it.  The gentleman asked whether this was for his penance.  The priest replied “no, this is so you wipe that big grin off of your face!”.

You may have noticed the last couple of weeks that attached to the bulletin have been handouts that begin to explain the revisions in the order of the Mass that take effect on the First Sunday of Advent (November 27).  This coming week I hope to put some more links on the website about these changes, including links to the handouts from the bulletin in case you may have missed any.  Remember that when this is first beginning, and half of the congregation is saying one thing and half is saying another, that it is another opportunity to show that we Catholics do indeed have a sense of humor and that we can laugh at ourselves.  After all, Cubs fans have been laughing at themselves for the last 103 years!

Well it sounds like next week is going to be brutal due to the heat.  Take care of yourself, don’t get overheated and pray that all of our air conditioners stay humming.  Have a good week.  Peace.

July 8, 2011 – Touching On a Few Things

July 8, 2011

This was a pretty quiet week in my little corner of the world – nothing earth shattering going on, so I thought I would just comment on a few things that I saw on the web and that people shared with me recently.  First is an article that Fr. Gene brought to my attention last week.  An Episcopal church in Maryland has decided to become the first in the United States to convert to Roman Catholicism.  The Episcopal church is basically the American version of the Anglican church of England.  To realize the significance of this requires a quick history lesson (history is not my strong point, so bear with me).  The Anglican church came to be about 500 years ago when King Henry VIII broke away from Rome in a dispute over his desire to divorce his wife and marry his young mistress.  So after ordering those Bishops and Cardinals who remained loyal to Rome to be beheaded, the Church of England, or the Anglican Church came to be, with the ruling Monarch as its leader, a structure still in place today.  Many of our founding fathers were members of this faith.

In the present day, however, there are some congregations at odds with its leadership over issues such as ordaining homosexuals and women and blessing same-sex unions.  So in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI allowed Anglican congregations a path to reconcile with the Roman Catholic church and to convert to Catholicism.  I find this a major event, especially in a time when many people are intent on finding more reasons to flee the Catholic church.  Here is a link to an article that explains this historic event much better than I can:

There was one thing in this article that particularly struck me.  It was the fact that the main thing that drew them to the Catholic faith was the “apostolic authority, the oneness of the faith of the people.”  When we think about different Christian denominations how many can we think of off the top of our heads?  10? 15?  Well there are actually thousands of different ones, which indicates to me that there are many people who feel that if they are disatisfied with the leadership or the rules of their church, it is no problem to “pack up” and go somewhere else.  There is no value in joining with others of the same faith worldwide to worship the one true God in a similar way.  This is part of the reason that the Catholic church will start using a revised version of the Roman Missal beginning in November, so that all churches will be saying Mass based off of the same translation.  Let us pray that this is the beginning of a trend, that more people will see the community of the Catholic church as a stabilizing force in their lives, and that more people will seek to learn more about the Catholic faith.

OK, being the computer nerd that I am, it always excites me when something new and cool appears on the web, especially when it is Catholic related.  The Vatican has created a new website which basically combines all of its news sources into one website.  Here is the simple link to it:

As you’ll see there are a lot of neat features on this website, including Vatican news and events, a link to Vatican Radio, videos, world news, papal appointments and much more.  Just today there are great articles on the Pope leaving for his summer home and what he will be doing and the history of the summer Papal retreat.  There is also a video that touched my heart – it is the Pope officially launching the website with his I-pad (with a little assistance).  Here is the video of that moment:

Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?  Ummm, well, moving on:

There were a couple of news stories that captured the attention of the nation this past week.  First was the verdict that was handed down in the Casey Anthony trial.  I have to admit that I did not follow the story or the trial very closely.  I just know that many people were very upset at the not guilty verdict that was handed down.  I think there are a couple of things to keep in perspective here.  One is that no matter what the verdict was, it would not bring back the little girl Kaylee who tragically died, aand if her mother was directly involved in her death, she will have to live with that the rest of her life.  And secondly, no matter what judgement we receive here in our time on earth, we will have to face the ultimate judgement at the end of our natural lives, and that judgement will be fair and accurate.

Finally, there was a tragic event last night that touched me both as a human being and also as a baseball fan.  Texas Rangers player Josh Hamilton, who is one of the better players in the majors, tossed a foul ball into the stands toward a man who was there with his 6 year old son.  Tragically, when the man reached over the railing to catch the ball to give to his son, he lost his balance and went over the rail, falling about 20 feet.  He died on the way to the hospital from head trauma.  As a sports fan, I enjoy watching games as an escape from “real life” and to be entertained.  However, sports does mirror real life and its consequences, and unfortunately at times in a tragic manner.  Much of the talk on the radio today centered on what could be done to prevent such tragedies in the future.  Should there be higher rails?  Should there be netting or plexi-glass to keep people safe?  Should players stop throwing balls into the stands?  These are all legitimate questions, but it does not take away the fact that there is a little boy in need of our prayers, and the fact that unfortunately, no matter what precautions we take or how careful we are, tragic events still will occur, and our challenge as Christians is to keep hold of our faith even in the face of such tragedies.

Well if things stay quiet over the next couple of weeks I hope to do a little re-designing and adding to our website (note that I said hope – no guarantees).  I can’t believe how fast the summer is going.  Have a great week.  Peace.

July 1, 2011 – In God We Trust

July 2, 2011

Today was a rather anxious day for me because I had a doctor’s appointment.  It was nothing out of the ordinary, just the regular check-up, but for some reason I still get a little on edge when these days roll around.  I think I can trace this “phobia” of doctor visits back to my early childhood.  Longtime Chester residents probably remember a dentist by the name of Dr. Gualdoni.  I’m sure he was a nice man, but the experience of having to see this dentist for a 5 year old was simply frightful.  When you walked into the waiting room the first thing you saw wasn’t a stack of magazines or a game to play with – it was a skull that had turned yellow with age.  This was just a primer for what was to come.  When it was time to go into the chair, here came the dentist with his little glasses that set on the tip of his nose, holding his dental instrument in his hand that shook just enough to make you leary, and in his growly voice proclaimed “OPEN WIDE”!  Now as a little kid you weren’t really sure what was going to happen next, but you knew that it would involve pain and blood.

My medical doctor when I was a child was Dr. Newmark, again someone that longtime Chesterites probably know.  I’m sure he was a nice man, but again he was, how do I put it nicely, past his prime years, and as a toddler hearing him trying to keep the doses straight, you weren’t sure exactly what was coming, but you knew it would involve needles and pain.  Now I am not a psychiatrist, but I think I can trace my apprehension of doctor’s visits to these experiences of yesteryear.  Call me a wimp, a pansy, whatever you like – I wear these badges proudly.  BTW – my doctor’s visit went well, so you’ll be stuck with me a while longer.

Anyway, when these days come around I try to tell myself to just leave things in God’s hands and everything will be fine.  And as a Christian, this is the core of my faith.  As I talked about a little while back, the Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Joplin, as the tornado approached his rectory, simply prayed “thy will be done” as he climbed into his bathtub for safety, and he came out unharmed.  If you are a Rams fan, you may also recall that a few years back star wide receiver Issac Bruce was driving back to St. Louis from Columbia, MO when he lost control of his car.  As the car was about to overturn, he said that he shouted “Jesus” and even though his car was totaled, he came out of the wreck unscathed.

Is it always this simple?  No, of course not.  And that is why at times it is frustrating and confusing to be a Christian.  We try to live by God’s word, we attend church regularly, we give of our time, talent, and treasure, yet there are times when we call on the Lord and we don’t hear an answer to our call.  Even though we know in the back of our minds that God has our best interests in mind, we still are disappointed when we don’t get the outcome that we want in different situations.

One of my favorite movies is Bruce Almighty.  In the movie Bruce, who is a news reporter from Buffalo, becomes angry at God because things just aren’t going his way.  He loses out on a job promotion, his car breaks down, he can’t get his dog house-trained, etc., and so he becomes very angry at God and blames Him for all that is going wrong in his life.  So God appears to him and basically gives him all of His powers for a while.  Bruce quickly uses the powers to his advantage by destroying the career of the person who was promoted ahead of him, getting himself a sleek sports car, etc.  He then starts hearing these voices in his head.  God informs him that these are prayers and that he needs to answer them.  The prayers keep piling up more and more, so he simply says “yes” to all of them.  This works for a while – record numbers of people win the lottery, everyone’s stocks go through the roof, people lose weight on the Krispy Kreme diet, etc.   However, circumstances change and the world becomes chaiotic, and in the process Bruce loses his girlfriend.  Bruce realizes in the end that God truly does know what is best for all of us.

This weekend we celebrate the day when we declared ourselves an independent nation.  Like most holidays, we seem to have lost the true meaning of the observance.  In fact, most people do not even refer to it as Independence Day, but simply the 4th of July.  We forget about the courage that our ancestors showed in declaring themselves free from the seemingly iron hand of British rule and defeating the British in the war that followed.  We also forget the fact that these men put their trust in God when they decided upon their course of action.  In fact there are several references to God in the Declaration of Independence.  It may be a good idea for us sometime between the fireworks and food to read the Declaration to get a sense of the atmosphere at the time and to see the great undertaking that these heroic men were setting themselves up for.  Here is a link to read the Declaration:

We of course still use the motto “In God We Trust” on our currency.  Sadly, to many people I think this has become just a motto with little or no meaning.  In fact, if some groups had their way, the motto would be eliminated all together.  My suggestion to them would be to brush up on some of their history and read some of these documents written during the time of the Revolution, and see that the colonists had the courage not only to fight the British, but to place their trust in God in the process.  It serves as a reminder for us Christians as well to keep our faith in God even during those times when we don’t feel He is answering all of our prayers – to know that God is telling all of us to “trust me.”

Have a safe, enjoyable weekend.  My Cardinals have looked better the last few games, so there may be some worthwhile baseball to watch this weekend after all.  Peace.