Congratulations!

You did it!  You made it through another year.

I have no way of knowing if 2011 was a great year for you or a terrible year, but one thing I know for sure, as of midnight tonight it’s over.  2012 may be a turning point for you, or it may not.  Depending on where you stand today, I can’t say which choice you’d make.  But for good or bad, 2011 is in the books.  We can’t change it now.

Tomorrow many of us will make New Year’s resolutions.  Come February 1, we’ll either be well on the way to achieving our goals or we may be saying “What resolutions?”  Whatever we do, it’s pretty much up to us.  Since last spring I made it a point to ride my bicycle at least 25 miles two time each week.  Then November came and the weather didn’t cooperate.  Then I fell off a ladder and that put the kibosh on my riding.  Now it’s January.  I missed a potentially good bike riding year by just two months.

Here’s the thing.  As I write this I’m looking at a perfectly good stationary bike sitting in my office.  I can ride it on cold days or rainy days and until my ribs heal up, I can ride it for ten minutes several times a day.  So far, I’ve  not done that.  Will I change in 2012?  I hope so.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve in the new year, don’t forget to include God in your plans.  Jesus said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed we can move mountains.  So have faith!  Ask God to help you.  Author Matthew Kelly suggests this prayer:  “Lord, show me what I can do today to make me a better version of myself.”

Getting  back on the bike, stationary or otherwise, will definitely make me a better version of myself.  If I remind myself that God wants me to be in better shape, that should help me get off the couch.  Better health, lower blood sugar, longer life, these things should be motivation enough.  But personally, I need God’s help.  Chances are you do too.

Whatever it is that you want to do in 2012, include God in your plans and you’ll be surprised how well things will work out.  Remember that God created you as a unique individual.  There’s never been another person exactly like you and there never will be again.  He wants you to be the best you that you can be.

PS.  If you’d like a free copy of Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscovering Catholicism, check the link in the right hand column of this blog.

We Buried a Priest Yesterday

Monsignor Don was more than a priest to me.  Apparently he was more than a priest to a lot of people.  The church was packed.  No one speaks ill of the dead (at least not often) so it wasn’t surprising to hear so many accolades for a man whose life was too short.  But the large number of people, priests, deacons, and lay, spoke volumes about this quiet man’s life.

He made such a big difference in my life that I had to be there.  First, he was my wife’s cousin.  They had been friends for life.  When I decided I wanted to marry his cousin, my late mother-in-law to be insisted that there was no way her daughter was going to marry a non-Catholic.  She called on Monsignor Don, who was then an associate pastor, to “fix” me.  Time was short, but the young priest was up to the task.

In a single week I was baptized, made my first confession, my first communion, and was married.  Father joked that I had received five of the seven sacraments.  In those days, just after Vatican II, and before the restoration of the permanent diaconate, he said that it would be a long time before I received “last rites” and, of course, I’d never receive Holy Orders.

As the years passed, “last rites” became anointing of the sick, a sacrament I’ve received many times and when I received Holy Orders in 2002, Monsignor Don was there.

When my mother-in-law passed away in 2009, I had one of the greatest honors of my diaconate, I served mass with the Monsignor in the church where he married Jan and me.  I had no idea that I would never have the opportunity to serve him again.

I think every one of us who has been called to serve the Church would be proud to say that we try to be as good a minister as this man.  He was quiet.  He was humble.  He made everyone feel as if they were the most important person in his life.  Hence the huge crowd for his funeral.   Being a very organized person, he left specific instructions for his funeral.  First and foremost he wrote, “no eulogies!”  When dozens of priests show up for a funeral and hundreds of people fill the church, I suppose no eulogy is necessary.

But this a blog, so I don’t think he’ll mind if I say he was one of the greatest priests I’ve ever known.

In his last visit with his bishop, he asked the bishop to pray that he died before Christmas.  He said he had spent every Advent of his life preparing for Christ to come.  This year he was spending Advent preparing to go to Christ.  He died on December 22.

Rest in peace, Monsignor Don.

How about that?  It’s Christmas Eve.  Hopefully you’ve finished all your shopping and other preparations and are ready to settle down and enjoy the celebration of Jesus’ birthday.  Obviously I’m typing this so I’m not totally ready.  I’ve finished my Christmas homily (after three tries).  I still have to wrap gifts but at least the shopping’s done.

The church is all decorated and it’s beautiful.  I’m really looking forward to what’s to come and I hope you are too.  In our Christmas timeline Mary and Joseph are almost to Bethlehem and Mary is about to deliver her precious child.  Hallelujah!

I want to thank you for reading my humble blog during Advent and Christmas.  I hope you’ve found something of value.  As we’re just hours away from the big event, I want to wish you and yours all the peace, joy, and love you can stand both for Christmas and throughout the year.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

How about that?  It’s Christmas Eve.  Hopefully you’ve finished all your shopping and other preparations and are ready to settle down and enjoy the celebration of Jesus’ birthday.  Obviously I’m typing this so I’m not totally ready.  I’ve finished my Christmas homily (after three tries).  I still have to wrap gifts but at least the shopping’s done.

The church is all decorated and it’s beautiful.  I’m really looking forward to what’s to come and I hope you are too.  In our Christmas timeline Mary and Joseph are almost to Bethlehem and Mary is about to deliver her precious child.  Hallelujah!

I want to thank you for reading my humble blog during Advent and Christmas.  I hope you’ve found something of value.  As we’re just hours away from the big event, I want to wish you and yours all the peace, joy, and love you can stand both for Christmas and throughout the year.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Christmas Eve

How about that?  It’s Christmas Eve.  Hopefully you’ve finished all your shopping and other preparations and are ready to settle down and enjoy the celebration of Jesus’ birthday.  Obviously I’m typing this so I’m not totally ready.  I’ve finished my Christmas homily (after three tries).  I still have to wrap gifts but at least the shoppings done.

The church is all decorated and it’s beautiful.  I’m really looking forward to what’s to come and I hope you are too.  In our Christmas timeline Mary and Joseph are almost to Bethlehem and Mary is about to deliver her precious child.  Hallelujah!

I want to thank you for reading my humble blog during Advent and Christmas.  I hope you’ve found something of value.  As we’re just hours away from the big event, I want to wish you and yours all the peace, joy, and love you can stand both for Christmas and throughout the year.

Merry Christmas!

Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent

I don’t want to get all political here, especially on the day before Christmas Eve, but I’ve been wondering about something.  The last few days the news has been all about our elected employees in Washington and their failure to pass a bill extending a tax break.  The deadline for them to act is December 31.  The reason it’s a problem is that they’re all leaving town for Christmas.

Here’s the thing.  The federal government is all about the so-called “separation of church and state”, something that actually doesn’t appear in our Constitution.  They want to remove all references to God and to Jesus.  Even the National tree (Don’t call it a ‘christmas tree’.  That might offend somebody.) doesn’t appear to have any ornaments that reference Jesus or His birthday.  Yet, our religion-neutral senators and congressmen (and women) can’t wait to get out of Washington D.C. to get home for Christmas.

I guess the point of this mini-rant is that even our government employees want to be home for Christmas.  The fact that millions of their employers, that would be you and me, may have to pay more taxes starting January 1 isn’t that big a deal.  How can a person enjoy Christmas, actually celebrate the birth of our Savior, knowing that they’ve failed in their duty to represent us?  It seems like they’re kind of missing the point.

The Birth of John the Baptist

This post originally appeared on June 24, 2011.  It goes with today’s readings so here it is again.  Enjoy.

People in Biblical times looked at things a lot differently than we do today.  Our reading from Luke’s Gospel is a good example.

“When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a son.  Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.”

Remember, Elizabeth was no kid.  That was part of the miracle.  The angel told Mary, “behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age.”  Looking around this church this morning I’d say we’re a pretty mature crowd.  If one of us, or our wife, was to come up pregnant would we think the Lord had shown us “great mercy”?  We might think exactly the opposite.  Would our neighbors and relatives come to rejoice with us?

Luke tells us that  the people asked “What, then, will this child be?”  They had no idea what he would become.  In the continuation of this passage, after he gets his voice back, Zechariah will tell John what he is to become, but no one knows it yet.

I guess you’d say these people’s glass was always half full where, today, we tend to see it more as half empty.  When God called on them, they usually said yes, even when they didn’t know what they were saying “yes” to.

It’s the same thing with John’s name.  The angel had told Zechariah what to call the child.  “Call him John.”  The relatives and neighbors objected.  Babies were given family names.  It was unheard of to give a child, especially a son, a different name.  But Elizabeth insisted that he be called John and Zechariah confirmed it, writing on a tablet “John is his name.”  It’s a good thing he did because that’s when he got his voice back.

Family names aren’t so important today.  In fact a lot of parents seem to go out of their way to hang strange monikers on their poor, innocent children.  But how many couples would give their kid a name because an angel told them to?  Probably not many.

Here’s the thing.  People in Jesus’ time were open to the will of the Father.  They put God first and themselves second.  That’s not so common today.  Separated from them by 2,000 years and half a world away, I think it’s hard for us sometimes to understand just how obedient those people were and how much we come up short.

Some might say that God has never asked them to do anything.  They would be wrong.  God speaks to us in any number of ways including through the Scriptures and through signs.  The problem is that most of us don’t take the time to listen.  We need to be open to the Father’s word and to listen for it.

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent

According to the calendar, today is the first day of winter here in the United States.  Many of our neighbors have already experienced winter’s fury with heavy snow falls, especially to our west and southwest.  Here in Saint Louis we’ve yet to see a single snowflake.  It looks like any of our kids who are “dreaming of a white christmas” are going to be disappointed.  Actually, according to the TV weather folks, we have less than a 20% chance of snow on Christmas.  Last year was one of those 20%, so it’s not surprising that I’m still looking out my window at green grass.  It is surprising that we’ve had no snow at all so far.  But that could change at any time.

So why do we associate snow with Christmas, especially here in the Midwest?  I guess the whole Santa Clause coming in his sleigh thing must be part of it.  Bing Crosby singing about a white Christmas may be part of it too.  But for many Americans, snow on December 25 just doesn’t happen.  Of course we don’t know for sure what day of the year Jesus was born, but it was decided many centuries ago that December 25 would be the day for the celebration.  Whenever He was actually born, He was born in the Middle Eastern desert so chances are he lived his entire earthly life and never saw snow.

The Holy Family had a hard enough time traveling 80 miles on foot and donkey-back and not being able to find a room.  The last thing they needed was snow.  It gets cold enough at night in the desert.  Given the living conditions 20 centuries ago and the fact that people walked around in robes and sandals, it’s no surprise that God didn’t have His Son be born in the winter in North Dakota.

But the whole white Christmas thing should be a reminder to us that we’re not in charge here.  If you like snow, maybe you’ll get it and maybe you won’t.  But be careful what you wish for.  Snow that’s measured in feet rather than inches causes a lot of problems, especially at a time when so many people are traveling.

As Advent is winding down, let’s give thanks for all the good things in our lives.  In just two days, we’ll celebrate the birth of a Savior.  God’s gift of His son is the greatest gift of all no matter what the weather.

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

First of all, Happy Hanukah to our Jewish friends.  I don’t know if I have any Jewish readers, but just in case, I wish you a joyous and prayerful celebration.

I have four children so I have some experience with pregnancy, if only as a close and very interested observer.  With the birth of Christ just four days away, I can imagine what Mary and Joseph must have been going through.  With any birth there are expectations and worries.  After nearly nine months of pregnancy, the couple must have been very excited and apprehensive about the coming birth.

Added to the normal concerns of a couple so near to becoming parents, there was the additional concern about this particular child.  What would the future hold for Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus?  As if that weren’t enough, they had the additional burden of a trip to Bethlehem for the census.  It’s about 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  If he was in reasonably good condition, Joseph could probably lead a donkey about 20 miles per day.  Of course, anyone who’s ever travelled with a pregnant woman knows there were most likely frequent stops.  To be safe and conservative, we’re probably talking about a trip that lasted a week.

So, in our liturgical time line, Mary and Joseph are well on their way.  Since every citizen had to make the trip to their native city, it’s reasonable to assume that Mary and Joseph were probably traveling in a caravan.  Roman citizens rarely made long trips alone for fear of robbers or other problems along the way.  This would be especially true of a pregnant woman.

In your quiet time today, think about all that’s going through Mary and Joseph’s minds as they make this trip.  You and I know how the trip ended, but they didn’t.  Would Mary make it to Bethlehem or would she have to deliver her child along the side of the road?  What kind of birth would that be for a king?  Would God be angry with them for their poor planning?  There were no EMTs to help.  It would be just the two of them.  If they made it to Bethlehem would they be able to find a place to stay?  With so many people traveling it might be hard to find a place.  Again, we know how the story turns out, but they didn’t.

Do you think the couple had second thoughts?  Are they sorry for what they’ve gotten themselves into?  Think about it.

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

Saint John Nepomuk ChapelI was in church this morning putting away the Advent books and getting some other things ready for Christmas.  I thought what a privilege it is to be able to spend time alone in such a beautiful church.  But it’s not the beauty that’s overwhelming, it’s the presence of the Lord in this holy place.  I thought about the thousands of people who have worshipped there in the last 157 years.  You can almost feel their presence.

Hopefully, by now, you’ve gotten into the habit of spending a few minutes alone with the Lord each day.  In the midst of the chaos that’s going on in the world, we need peace and quiet more than ever.  Whether we’re praying our daily prayers, reading Sacred Scripture, or just sitting quietly listening for the Lord to speak to us, we must make some time for ourselves each day.

I believe that a lot of prescriptions for Valuim, Prozak, and other medications that people think they must have to get through the day could be done away with if everyone would just spend quiet time every day alone with God.

The good news is it’s not too late!  It’s never too late.  How about right now?  Walk away from your computer and find a quiet place.  If there’s a door, close it.  Sit in a comfy chair and close your eyes.  Then, just empty your mind of all the things that are bothering you.  Ask God to join you, then just relax.  Don’t try to force it.  Don’t start reciting a list of things that God should do for you.  Just listen…………………..