Good Friday

[Originally posted March 29, 2013]

Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence in preparation for Jesus’ glorious resurrection. We’re all encouraged to attend services today, but it’s not a Holy Day of Obligation. You don’t have to come to church today. You can’t eat meat and you can’t eat between meals, but you don’t have to come to church. I think that’s a little bit odd. On the day that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice to save you and me from our sins, I think we should be here. Obviously, so do you.

On the other hand, the fact that this isn’t a day when we’re obliged to come to church, says something about those of us who do come, and those who don’t. One of my wife’s pet peeves is people who don’t send thank you notes. It seems like that simple, common courtesy has fallen by the way side. It’s just good manners to thank someone who’s done something for you. If it’s bad form not to thank someone who has given you a toaster, how much worse is it to not thank someone who’s died for your sins.

Our church will be full tomorrow night for the Easter Vigil. Doesn’t it make sense that it should be full today too? Even in this politically correct, what’s in it for me, don’t mix religion and politics, world, a lot of people get today off. Good luck trying to find a politician in Washington DC today. They’ve all gone home for the Easter break. You’d think that more people, not having to work or go to school today, might take an hour to drop by and say, “Hey, Jesus! Thank you for suffering terrible torture, being beaten and ridiculed, and for dying the painful death on the cross for me.”

I could have told you ahead of time who would be in church today. I can also tell you a lot of people who aren’t. But you and I are here. We love Jesus and we’re thankful that a loving God would send His only begotten Son to die so that we might live.

Today is a solemn celebration. We mourn Jesus’ death. We see Him lying in the tomb and we realize that if it wasn’t for our sins, He wouldn’t be there. We’re sad and we’re sorry for what we’ve done. We also have the advantage of history telling us what’s about to happen. Tomorrow the tomb will be empty because He’s risen from the dead. Where today’s service is solemn, tomorrow’s will be joyful. There will be candles and bells and incense and we’ll rejoice that He’s overcome death. We will celebrate His resurrection because it’s the precursor to our own resurrection!

In a few minutes, we’ll quietly leave church anxious to return tomorrow or Sunday for the great celebration.

Thank you, Jesus, for saving us from ourselves.

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National Essential Tremors Awaress Month

NETA-2018-Facebook-BannerChances are you’ve never heard of essential tremors.  Simply put, ET is shaky hands.  It looks like Parkinson’s Disease but the symptoms are different, except for the shaking.

I’ve suffered from ET for a long time as did my late mother.

This is a Catholic blog so this might not be a relevant topic except that it affects everyone, Catholic or not.

I just want to call it to your attention because it’s a serious illness that affects millions of people but it’s not well-known unless you or a loved one has it.  The disease is eight times more common than Parkinson’s.  So if you see someone whose hands are shaking or who has a shaky voice, there’s a good chance it’s ET.

There are some medications that may be used, but in my experience, they don’t do much good.  There’s also a surgical option but only as a last resort as it involves drilling into the brain.  Research is ongoing, but because Essential Tremors isn’t one of the BIG diseases that attract a lot of attention and lots of cash, it’s a slow process.  Imagine looking at a plate of food and knowing that there’s no way you can get it from the plate to your mouth.  Imagine spilling everything.  Imagine not being able to sign your name.  It’s not fun.

Please take a moment to visit the ET website and learn something about this disease.  Then say a prayer for those of us who suffer from it.  We’re easy to spot.  We’re the ones with soup on our shirts.

The ET foundation has a Youtube channel or you can check out their website.   Here’s a good video to watch if you’re interested in learning more.

Thy Will Be Done

Lord's prayerIf you’re like me, you say the Lord’s Prayer often, possibly many times per day.  After all, it’s the prayer that Jesus himself taught us.  The Apostles asked Him how they should pray and He gave him this prayer, so we call it the Lord’s Prayer.  But do we say it so often that we don’t consider what it means?  I’m afraid maybe we do.

For example, I’m going to have surgery tomorrow.  It’s called “insertion shunt ventricular peritoneal“.  Pretty scary, huh?  What it means is that they’re going to drill a hole in my head and insert a plastic tube in my brain.  The tube will then run down the side of my head, through my neck, and eventually end up in my abdomen.

inside outIt will relieve pressure that has been building up inside my brain and messing with the wiring.  Once all that extra liquid is gone, the things in my brain should have more room to move around and control my thinking, my balance, and who knows what else.  It’s a fairly common surgery.  They do it all the time.  But they’ve never done it to me!  To be honest, I’m a little scared.  No, that’s wrong.  I’m a lot scared!

Which brings me back to the Lord’s Prayer.  We begin by praising God, “hallowed be thy name.”  The very next line we say “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.”  We say it, but do we mean it?  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times about this surgery.  “It’s in God’s hands.  It’s all about God’s will.”  And I believe it.  I really do.  But I don’t know what God’s will is.  Maybe His will is for me to jump out of bed and be totally cured.  But maybe His will is for me to be the same, or worse.

The good news is that by this time tomorrow we should have some idea.  It may be good news.  It may be bad knows.  But either way it’s God’s will and I have to accept it.  I want to accept it because I have faith in Him and I know that everything always turns out for the best.

So, keep me in your prayers and I’ll let you know how everything turns out.

Let’s Talk About Heaven and Hell

We’re a week into Lent so why not?  Most people don’t want to hear about hell.  Satan has done a very good job convincing us that he doesn’t exist and that hell doesn’t exist.  But, trust me, they do.  In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus spells it out pretty well.  First He says, “I tell you unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”  (Where else will you go?)

Then He says, “whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.'”  (That’s where you’ll go.)  When we leave this earth we have two choices, heaven or hell.  Good or bad.  Saint or sinner.

Become a saint or go to hell!

Pretty simple, but there is another destination to consider.  It’s a place called “Purgatory”.  It comes from the same root as “purge”.  There is nothing unclean in heaven.  Before we can get in we have to get cleaned up.

My wife loves me, but if  I’ve been working on the car and I’m all muddy and greasy, she’s not going to let me into the house until I’ve cleaned up.  That’s purgatory.  It’s like heaven’s mud room.

We don’t talk about purgatory much anymore.  In fact, very seldom will you go to a funeral and hear the priest talking about grandma being cleaned up.  It’s hardly ever done, even though it should be.  It’s what we believe.  We have to spend a certain amount of time in purgatory.  Nobody knows how much time.  It may be seconds.  It may be centuries.  We just don’t know.  My biggest fear has always been that I’d get to purgatory and run into Saint Peter.

But that brings me to a little thing called an indulgence.  There are two types of indulgences:  plenary and partial.  A partial indulgence, as the name implies, relieves us of SOME  of our time in purgatory.  A plenary indulgence takes away all of our time in purgatory.

It came up today because we have the Stations of the Cross at my church on Fridays during Lent.  Participating in the Stations gets you a plenary indulgence.  There are three other things you have to do, just as you do with any plenary indulgence.  1.  Go to communion.  2.  Go to confession.  3.  Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.  That usually means saying an Our Father and reciting the Creed.

One wonders, if praying the Stations on Friday during Lent takes away all my time in purgatory, what motivates me to do it six times?  Well, you can give an indulgence away but not to anyone who’s still living.  So, you can pass one of your six indulgences along to your mother who’s passed away, or your father, or grandma, or any of your departed friends or relatives.  Pretty cool, huh?

So, why don’t we hear more about this?  Well, way back in the day (like the Middle Ages) people were selling indulgences.  That was never allowed, but people did it and it was one of the things that got Martin Luther’s undies in a knot and why there are thousands of Protestant churches in the world today.  Marty’s 95 Theses opened the floodgates of dissent against the Church.

Anyway, you can usually find the Stations of the Cross at a nearby church.  It takes about 15-20 minutes which is a pretty low price to pay for avoiding purgatory.  Go get some fish and go to the Stations of the Cross.  That’s what Lent is all about!

heaven or hell

RIP Billy Graham

billy-graham-pope-catholic-church-vatican-false-gospelAs You’ve probably heard by now, the Reverend Billy Graham has passed away at the age of 99.  While I don’t agree with all of his theology, there’s no doubt that he led thousands, maybe even millions, of people to Christ.  I wish I had his skill with words.  It seems like once every generation there’s a Christian preacher who can reach the masses.  I wonder who will take Graham’s place.

One thing that the Reverend said that I do absolutely agree with is that “I’ve read the last page of the Bible and everything turns out alright.”

Surprisingly, NBC aired a seven minute interview with Kathie Lee Gifford where she shares her relationship with Reverend Graham.  It’s worth your time to watch.

Lent and the Winter Olympics

We’re here at the end of the first week of Lent (The First Saturday of Lent) and in the middle of the Winter Olympics.  You may wonder what one has to do with the other.  Well, as Catholics we (hopefully) do some kind of penance or preparation for Jesus’ coming death and Resurrection.  You know, the old I’m giving up candy for Lent.

But look at what these athletes have given up for a few dollars worth of gold, silver, or bronze.   They get up early in the morning to practice.  They’ve been doing that since they were little kids.  They’ve developed knowledge and skills that you and I can’t ever hope to have.  They do all this hoping to win a gold medal (which is really gold-plated silver and is worth about $570.  The silver medal is worth about $313 and the bronze has little monetary value).  And, don’t forget their parents who have spent thousands of hours and dollars taking their future Olympians to practice and to competitions.

But these kids (and they are kids ranging in ages from their teen to a few Methuselahs in their thirties) do it for the love of the sport.  Let’s face it, hardly anyone gets rich as a professional skeleton rider.  So, if they’re lucky and very skilled, their years of hard work and sacrifice pay off with a $570 medal, a kiss, and a “thank you very much from a grateful nation.”

You and I have a potential reward that’s beyond our understanding.  We have the opportunity to live forever in paradise.  What do we have to do?  Jesus told us in the Book of John.  “You are my friends if you do what I tell you.  Love one another.”  That’s it!

We don’t have to get up at 4:00 in the morning.  We don’t have to move to a place where we can practice.  We don’t have to spend hours in the cold risking frostbite and broken bones to be the fastest one down the mountain.  We just have to love one another.  That’s it.  Love God.  Love our neighbor.  Love ourselves.

It doesn’t take hours of practice.  We just have to practice the golden rule.

But, I still love watching the Olympics.

Photos from Getty Images

Friday after Ash Wednesday

As I’m sitting here in my office pondering the mysteries of the universe and being just a little irreverent (who me?) I can’t help think about what the Church calls this day.  I wonder, is there an office at the Vatican where a Cardinal or two gives things names.  I’m reminded of the Monte Python skit about the Ministry of Silly Walks.

The Cardinal(s) in charge of naming things must have thought long and hard to come up with this one!  Friday after Ash Wednesday.  Oh well,  That’s what it is so Happy Friday after Ash Wednesday, everybody.  (Isn’t next Friday also Friday after Ash Wednesday.  Maybe today should be the First Friday after Ash Wednesday).  I guess that’s one reason why I’ll never be a Cardinal

Since this is the first Friday after Ash Wednesday, it’s time to scope out the local fish fries.  I write this assuming every city has Catholic fish fries during Lent.  Maybe not.  Maybe it’s a Saint Louis thing like toasted ravioli or gooey butter cake.  If you’re reading this somewhere else, let me know.  If you don’t have fish fries, you’re missing out.

If you’re in Saint Louis, why not let me know in the comments who you think has the best fish fry in town.  Maybe I’ll find one I haven’t tried.  Right now I’m leaning toward Saint Cecelia’s which has a Mexican fish fry.  There’s Mexican music and dancing and rice and beans among the side dishes.  The only problem is it’s always so crowded.  So, if you’re here in the Gateway City, try this one next Friday.  I’ll mention some of my other favorites as Lent progresses.

Another thing about Lent.  I LOVE tuna fish sandwiches and my wife only fixes them during Lent.  I don’t know why.  That’s just the way it is.

Finally, a family story about Lent.  My Aunt Fern wasn’t Catholic.  Frankly, I’m not sure what she was.  I never saw her go to church.  But if it was Lent and it was Friday, she would have rather have had a sharp stick driven into her eye than to ever eat meat.  No meat on Friday during Lent!  Period.  End of story.  Salmon patties and creamed peas was the special of the day at my aunt’s house for six Fridays in a row.  As they say in the South, bless her heart.  Even though she never went to church,  I imagine Aunt Fern is waiting to see me in heaven.  I hope I make it.