We Americans aren’t patient people.  We hate to wait.  We don’t like to stand in lines and I think the thing that will keep the Internet from taking over retail is that we don’t want to wait for our stuff.  We want it now!

Instant gratification!  I want it now!  That’s us.

So, Advent’s good for us.  It teaches us patience.  Jesus is coming on December 25.  He’s in charge.  Not me.  No matter how much I want him to come sooner, it ain’t gonna happen.  So we wait.  We wait in joyful hope.  He will come.  But he’ll come on His own schedule.

Personally, I love this time of year, so I hope He takes His time.  I like the music.  I like the lights.  I actually like the anticipation.  At my age, the thrill of the loot under the tree isn’t enough to make me hope Advent passes quickly.  I’m normally not a patient person, but Advent is an exception.  But, that’s just me.

If you’re the impatient type, maybe you want to pray about it.  Just don’t say, “Lord, give me patience.  Do it now!”

Where’s the Joy?

“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”

  • Today’s responsorial Psalm says it all, doesn’t it.  Except for one thing.  I spend a fair amount of time in the house of the Lord and I don’t see nearly enough rejoicing.  For the next four weeks we will be preparing for the celebration of the birth of the Lord.  Never in history, recorded or otherwise, has there been a greater gift than God’s gift of His Son to you and me.  He sent His Son to die for us so that our sins could be forgiven!

Why do so many people come into Church looking like they’re headed for their own crucifixion?  Maybe it’s the terminology.  Maybe they shouldn’t have called it the “Sunday obligation.”  Obligation implies something you have to do, not something you want to do.

I almost said “I don’t get it”, but unfortunately I do get it.  I went several years without going to mass.  My excuse was that I didn’t like the priest.  But the truth is, I pass two other Catholic churches on the way to my church.  I could have gone there.  There are two more parishes in the other direction that are no further than “my church”.  I could have gone there too.  Heck, I could have gone to a different church every Sunday for a month.  No, I wasn’t fooling anyone.  I was selfish and I was lazy.

Ironically, my kids brought me back to the Church, but they’ve fallen away.  My wife and I pray daily that they’ll come back, but in the end I know it was my bad example that led them astray.

But, I digress.  Where is the joy?  Don’t get me wrong.  Some folks are joyful.  They radiate excitement at being in the house of the Lord.  They’re enthusiasm is contagious.  But I guess some folks have been vaccinated.  During this season of Advent, let’s pray for them.

1st Sunday of Advent

I hope you don’t mind but between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, I thought we’d try to squeeze in the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Liturgical Year.

In the secular world, we’re in the “Holiday Season”, a time for spending as much money as possible, even money we don’t have, to prove our love to family and friends.  Many of you may have gotten up at 2 AM yesterday (Friday) to secure the best bargains.  That’s OK, as long as we don’t forget what the season is really all about.

The word “Advent” comes from the Latin root advinere which means arrival.  We’re waiting for the arrival of the Savior.  But it’s not like waiting for a train, or waiting it to quit raining.  It’s much deeper than that.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, a local boy who’s made good has a book of Advent Reflections cleverly titled Advent Reflections.  He says “The older I get, the more I’m convinced that life is all about advent.”

He gives some examples:
“She awaits word from her physician on the results of the biopsy of the “growth” taken from her body, fearful “it” has come back…..That’s Advent.

“They sit helpless next to their two-year-old’s bed, wondering if and when the child will regain consciousness after his fall down the basement steps….They’re in Advent.

“He wonders if he can make it through the evening.  He wants a drink so bad.  It’s been three months since his last one, three moths of sobriety, one step at a time, and he can sense himself falling….He’s in Advent.”

Advent is about waiting, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

Our short four week Advent season reminds of of the waiting that the Jewish people did, for the arrival of the Messiah.  To really appreciate Advent you have to put yourself in the place of the Hebrews all those centuries ago.  The Scriptures, what we call today the Old Testament, had promised them a Messiah and they’d bee waiting for such a long time.  The world they lived in was a mess.  They didn’t just want a Messiah, they desperately needed one.

Countries were constantly at war.  There was hatred that extended back hundreds of years and there didn’t seem to any chance that it would ever end.  Some religious leaders justified constant war by claiming they were fighting in the name of God.  Warring tribes wouldn’t even talk to one another about peace.  Young men were going off to fight and die in foreign lands.

Crime was everywhere.  People were being killed in the streets of the towns and villages.  Even public transportation was dangerous.  Remember the story of the Good Samaritan.  Business travelers were being attacked, robbed, and left for dead.  You couldn’t travel from one town to another without taking your life in your hands.

Prostitution was common along with every type of deviant behavior.  The public officials generally looked the other way, often patronizing the prostitutes themselves.  Even when they were caught in the act, their colleagues looked the other way.

The government was corrupt.  Greedy politicians enriched themselves by taking money from those who could least afford it.  There was no concern for the people.  Their rights were being trampled on by all levels of government.

Disease was everywhere.  Incurable diseases like leprosy were rampant.  “Healthy” people shunned the sick, not wanting to risk their own health to help others.  New diseases seemed to pop up out of nowhere.

The economy was in a mess.  The poor were everywhere.  You couldn’t go to an entertainment of sporting event without running the gauntlet of the poor begging for a little money.  “Will work for food” some of the signs said.  Taxes were out of control.  The poor paid too much while the rich might not pay any taxes at all.  And so much of the money went to enrich those in power and their friends.  They spent money like there was no tomorrow, thinking that taxpayers would always be there to foot the bill.  The middle class was shrinking with no end in sight.

What passed for entertainment was often hard core.  Definitely not anything you’d want your kids to see.  Sports often left competitors seriously injured, even killed, to satifsy the blood-thirsty fans.  “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you may die.” isn’t just a modern phrase.  It’s a combination of two verses from the Old Testament, one from Eccliastes and one from the prophet Isiah.

There’s no question.  To really appreciate how badly those people needed a Messiah, you’d have to live in a world like that.

Hopefully you get my drift.  We DO live in a world like that.  As badly as the Jewish people needed a Messiah twenty centuries ago, we need Him even more today.  Jesus points out to the disciples in today’s Gospel that the people of Noah’s time were in the same boat (boat, get it?).  Right up to the time when the rains were falling and the waters were rising.  They ate and drank right up until the waters washed them away.

He warns us that things will be no different when He comes again.  We might keep the burglar out of the house if we know when he’s coming.  But if we don’t know when he’s coming, we can always wait and put in that alarm system later.  Not a good plan.
“So too, you must also be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

And so, we wait.  As Archbishop Dolan pointed out, Advent-type waiting takes many forms.  But there’s one common denominator.  The woman waiting for her test results, the parents waiting for news on their child, and the alcoholic all have one thing in common.  HOPE.  They don’t just wait.  They wait in hope.  That’s what Advent is all about.

Officially Advent is about waiting for Christmas.  But it’s a lot more than that.  “We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”  Of course we’re looking forward to the celebration of the nativity.  Otherwise Advent could be in August when there’s nothing else going on.  Or we could have Advent in February when it’s cold and dark and we can’t play outside.  But that’s too close to Lent.

No, Advent comes before Christmas so we can reflect on His first coming as a symbol of His second coming.  Sometimes in life we wait for things that never come.  But Advent always ends with the joyful celebration of Christmas.  It’s one time that we know our hopes will be fulfilled.  It gives us the courage to hope again; to hope for other things.

You know, basically the world never changes.  Wars go on.  Crime goes on.  Poverty goes on.  The Jews thought the coming of the Messiah would change things, but it really didn’t.  Jesus didn’t come to make this life better.  He came to make us better so that we could enjoy eternal life.  What changed is that you and I know we can rise above this.  We can live holy lives knowing that our short time on earth is just a warm-up for the wondrous things that God has waiting for us.  That’s our joy and that’s our hope.

Small Business Saturday

OK, this isn’t a business blog.  It’s a Catholic blog.  But what could be more Catholic than helping your neighbor?  That’s what Jesus called us to do.  Tomorrow is your opportunity to do just that.

It’s Small Business Saturday!

You’ve gotten up early today to stand in line to get the “Super Bargains” at the big box stores.  Hopefully you have a little money left to spend.  Why not spend some of it to support your neighbors who own small businesses right there in your town?

I was an early supporter of something called the 3/50 Project.  The idea is to spend $50 per month at three locally-owned businesses.  That’s not $50 each;  just $50 total among the three businesses that you would hate to have to do without.  Why is this important?  Because if you don’t support these businesses with your discretionary cash, they may not be there when you really need them.

Case in point is my local True Value Store.  Whenever I lose my mind and decide to do some kind of project around the house, or when something (usually a toilet) stops working, Handyman Hardware always comes to the rescue.  Unfortunately, they’re never going to survive on my toilet parts business.  So, when I need things that I could buy at the big box, I always give that business to Handyman.  This year I bought a snow blower, a patio set, and any number of other things from them.  I want them to be around for a good, long time.

That’s what Small Business Saturday is all about.  Take advantage of the convenience, the short lines, and the surprisingly low prices at your local merchant.

Also, don’t forget your neighborhood dining spots.  Frankie G’s Grill, just a block from my house, has the best burgers around, reasonable prices, and an excellent staff.  (Full disclosure-my daughter works there.)  A meal at Frankie’s is no more expensive than one at a fast food joint and the experience is much better.  Besides beautiful waitresses, they have more TV’s than you can shake a stick at.

So, on this day after Thanksgiving, think about showing your thanks to that guy who sits in the pew in front of you who owns a mom and pop widgetorium.  Give him some of your Christmas business.  It’s just one more way to show that love that Jesus asks from all of us.

Note:  This item is cross-posted at Mining the Store, the small business blog.

Thanksgiving Eve

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought today’s responsorial Psalm was very appropriate:

Great and wonderful are all your works, Lord, mighty God!

Thanksgiving is traditionally a day for families and togetherness.  I’m sad to see that many national retailers have decided to violate the sanctity of the day, making their employees work and enticing shoppers to leave home and hearth in hopes of scoring a deal on a flat-screen TV.

Hopefully, you won’t be tempted.  Speaking from experience I promise you whatever deals they offer tomorrow will be repeated between now and Christmas.  In fact, that flat-screen may be even cheaper as Christmas draws near and hundreds of them are still sitting on the shelves.

So, as you cook and clean in preparation for the big event, in between the parades and the big games, before you spread all the newspaper ads out on the family room floor to plan your “black Friday” assault with the precision of a General Patton, I hope you can find a few minutes to reflect on the words above.

Great and wonderful are all your works, Lord, mighty God!

Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

The Pope Said WHAT???

Funny you should ask.  Once again the secular media has jumped all over a comment made by Benedict XVI, twisted it, turned it upside down, and come to the totally wrong conclusion.

The source of all the controversy is a new book by Peter Seewald and Pope Benedict XVI called Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times.  The book is the result of a week-long series of interviews on a number of topics.  This is the third time the Holy Father has collaborated with Seewald in this interview format.

The book covers 256 pages, but all the media attention is focused on the Holy Father’s comments concerning the use of condoms in the prevention of the spread of aids.  Essentially what the Pope said was in certain rare circumstances there might be a good reason to use a condom.  He cites the following example:

A gay prostitute who knows he’s infected with the aids virus might use a condom to protect his partner from infection.  The prostitution is still a sin.  The homosexual sex act is still a sin.  The use of the condom is still a sin.  But, at least the man is showing concern for the fate of his partner which is a step in the right direction.

Here’s a sample of the headlines for some so-called “news” sources:

Conservative US Catholics question pope’s shift on condom use The Guardian

In case you missed it | Pope budges on rubbers Boulder Weekly.

God Relents: Condoms Cool for Sick Gay Prostitutes Dablog (Not mainstream media, but worth noting.)

Pope relaxes ban on condoms The Daily Telegraph

AIDS activists praise pope’s condom comments CNN

One reporter called the Pope’s statement a “seismic shift” in Vatican policy.  Noted theologian Jay Leno has chimed in as have any number of other “pundits.”

Granted, I haven’t read the book.  It was just released yesterday though someone leaked a copy to the press over the weekend.  But, it’s hard to imagine that in more than 250 pages the Holy Father didn’t have more to say than this one comment.  I know that he did say he would consider resigning if he ever felt he weren’t capable of performing his duties.  That elicited a few screaming headlines as well.

The sad fact is that most mainstream media (Notice I said most, not all. There must be an exception somewhere.) is diametrically opposed to everything the Church stands for and will grab any opportunity to paint the Church in a bad light.  Unfortunately, a highly educated man like Benedict often speaks at a level far beyond most reporters’ intellectual levels leading to gross misunderstandings and misstatements based on their built-in bias.

For the real scoop on the Holy Father’s remarks, here are a few links to legitimate coverage of this so-called “seismic shift.

Vatican spokesman: Pope not changing Church teaching on condom use

The Pope and Condoms

Cardinal Burke: What the Pope Really Meant

God Bless America

Thanks to Deacon Jim Martin for sharing this video.  It was 1976, during the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Jim passed along some things about this song that I didn’t know and maybe you don’t either.  Irving Berlin wrote it and Kate Smith made it famous.  Neither of them wanted to make any money off the song so all royalties, amounting to millions of dollars, go the Boy Scouts of America.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.  You may want to have a Kleenex handy.


For all you sports fans, Deacon Ed Pantaloni passed along this web page that details the history of Kate Smith and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Rest in Peace, Sandy

Just yesterday I told you about my granddaughter’s baptism this past Sunday.  It was a glorious day as we welcomed another new member to the Church.  Sadly, Morgan’s grandmother, my daughter-in-law’s mom, wasn’t able to be with us.  She was in the hospital fighting the good fight against leukemia and several other health issues.  She was greatly missed.

This afternoon I got the call to be with the family again.  Sandy had taken a turn for the worse and life support was going to be removed.  After waiting for family members to gather, the nurse removed all the tubes and wires that had been keeping her alive and she passed quietly into new life at 2:47.  Father Jim Grey, the hospital chaplain had anointed her just after 1:00 and offered very comforting words to all of us.  When I die, please call for an Irish priest.  They’re the best!

Sandy leaves behind two daughters, one son, and six grandchildren, three of whom we share.  They’re her legacy.  For those of us left behind there is sadness and emptiness.  We’ve lost someone special.  But, for Sandy, today marks the beginning of eternal life, eternal happiness, and eternal freedom from pain.

Farewell, Sandy.  Be sure to put in a good word for us when you meet God face to face.

Baptizing My Granddaughter–Holy Orders Meets Parenthood

On Sunday I had the privilege of baptizing my third grandchild.  (Number 4 will not be baptized but that’s a subject for another day.  Suffice it to say that it’s very disappointing to her grandparents and other family members.)  There are many honors that are reserved for priests and bishops, but baptizing your own grandchildren is all the more special because it’s something that only deacons can (normally) do.  Of course there are exceptions.  There are a handful of married priests who may have grandchildren, but in the normal course of things, deacons are the only Catholic clergy who get to perform this wonderful sacrament on their own flesh and blood.

As thrilling as Sunday was, there was a certain amount of fear and trepidation, too.  Jesus told us that a prophet isn’t without honor except in his own town.  I’m no prophet, that’s for sure.  But family members know a side of us that others don’t, which makes it kind of hard to preach to them.  I was “Dad” first, long before there was any thought of becoming a minister.  In fact, when my kids were growing up, I’m sure they wondered if their father was even a Catholic.  I wasn’t the best role model.

So what do you say to fulfill your obligations both as parent and grandparent, and as ordained minister?   After a lot of thought and a lot of prayer, I did what I normally do.  I decided to let the Holy Spirit take over.  I walked into church with no notes and a minimal outline of what I was going to say.  As usual, the Spirit came through for me, at least I think He did.

I took a break on Saturday afternoon and took a look at my facebook page.  I posted that I was having a hard time with the baptism homily.  My daughter-in-law commented back “We’re counting on you.”  That was the answer to my prayer.  They were counting on me.  They had chosen me to be the minister of their daughter’s first sacrament.  They weren’t looking for a softball.  They wanted me to give them my best stuff!  All of a sudden, I saw this situation in a whole new light.   

I love my kids and couldn’t be more proud of all of them.  And there’s nothing Iwant more for them thanto spend eternity in the presence of God.    Jan and Ipray for that daily.  As I said, at their age I wasn’t the best Catholic in the world.  So I hope and pray that they will get back to regular reception of the sacraments eventually, just like I did.

So, what did I tell them?  Essentially I told them that I’ve spent my life trying to make their lives as easy as possible.  I’ve always tried to give them the best that I could afford, sometimes even better than I could afford, like twelve years of Catholic education.  (Four kids x twelve years = forty eight years total.  Ouch!)  But there’s one thing I can’t make easy for them, and that’s their salvation.  It’s entirely up to them.  Like I said, Jan and I pray for them every day, but this is one time when they’re going to have to do it themselves.

My son and daughter-in-law, along with another son (the godfather) were promising to see that Morgan would be raised in the faith.  They weren’t promising me, they were promising God.  And that’s not something to be taken lightly.  My kids have made a lot of promises to me that somehow didn’t work out.  I’ve done the same to them.  But when you make a promise to God, the stakes are quite a bit higher.

I admitted that I’ve been lax in following up on their brother and sister’s baptism, but that I would be much more vigilant in the future.  And I intend to keep that promise.

Being given the privilege to baptize my own grandchildren, is too great a gift to squander.  I have to be more vigilant in my duty to see that the sacrament is kept alive in their, and their parents and godparents, hearts.

Thanks, Jennifer and Mike for counting on me.  I hope I never let you down.

PS, I gave a homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord that I use as a handout for baptismal preparation.  You can download a copy of it on the Resources page of the blog.

New Links

I want to point out that I’ve added some new links for your reading and listening pleasure.  These are blogs and podcasts that I follow and that I think you’ll enjoy.

Health and Holiness.  This is just one of Father Roderick’s podcasts originating from the Netherlands.  It used to be called “Healthy Catholic”, but he changed the name to make it more inclusive.  Father records this show on a portable audio recorder while he’s out jogging or walking.  He has an amazing command of the English language for someone from Holland.  I think you’ll enjoy it, even if you’re already healthy and holy.

The Break. Father Roderick again.  This studio-based podcast gets into TV, movies, and lots of other interesting stuff.  He even mixes in a little theology.  It’s a fun show.  Check it out.

Deacons Today:  Dalmatics and Beyond.  Doctor Bill Ditewig is a professor of theology and the former head man of the USCCB diaconate office.  There’s nothing about the diaconate that the good doctor doesn’t know.  Check out his blog for the straight scoop on all things deacon.

This isn’t a new link, but one I want to point out in case you’ve missed it.  SQPN, the Star Quest Production Network puts out an assortment of shows.  Check out their web page and I’m sure you’ll find something you like.

The Holy Father has called on all of us to use social media to spread the Good News of the Gospel.  These are some excellent examples of exactly what he’s talking about.  I hope you enjoy them.