Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas is still going on, folks!

Some of my friends (on and offline) are already taking down, or preparing to take down, their Christmas decorations. "Thank God it's over!", one of them wrote.

Christmas is just beginning! Christmas is not only a day, it is a SEASON to be celebrated!

The online ministries of the Jesuits at Creighton University bear this out beautifully. Through Scripture, we can enter into the Christmas Mystery. From allowing ourselves to be present at the manger of the Christ Child with the shepherds and eventualy the Magi at the Epiphany, to fleeing to Egypt alongside the Holy Family to escape Herod's massacre of the innocents, to witnessing the cousins Jesus and John together again in the Jordan, one prophet baptizing the Greatest Prophet.

It is a journey we all too often miss!

http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Advent/Christmas-as-Season.html

A Blessed Christmas SEASON to All!
Thomas

The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas
Daily Mass Readings
1 John 2:12-17
Psalm 96:7-10
Luke 2:36-40

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My 2009 - This happened, BUT SO DID THIS!

Often I berate myself for not getting the things done I planned to or ought to be getting done. That was my initial reaction when I looked over my New Years Resolutions from last year. However, I've come to the realization that progress was made and things happened I didn't envision at the beginning of the year. There were at the very least silver linings for be grateful for.

So here's my Top Ten "This, BUT ALSO THAT" list for the waning year of 2009:

1. My beloved cat Archie passed away...BUT we welcomed Wall-E and Eva to our family!

2. I didn't reach my fitness goals...BUT my gym membership is still good for almost 2 more years!

3. I didn't take up a another musical instrument as I planned...BUT I 'donated' my bass guitar to my nephew, giving an old dusty instrument new life!

4. I didn't begin discernment to become a deacon...BUT I was accepted into the Secular Franciscan Order as a novitiate, became a 3rd Degree Knight of Columbus, and am the Recording Secretary for my Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians!

5. The book I was planning to put together has not yet come to fruition...BUT I made time to create and regularly 'self-publish' my own blog!

6. I don't have all the answers yet...BUT I think I'm starting to ask the right questions!

7. Myspace has pretty much gone the way of the dinosaur...BUT I have kept much closer contact with friends and family via Facebook instead!

8. My job has gotten harder this year...BUT I have been doing it better!

9. I am losing more and more hair from the top of my head...BUT I have a nice beard coming in to make up for it!

10. I am not the man I am supposed to be yet...BUT I won't be until the day I die anyway!

Christmas Blessings,
Thomas

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas
Daily Mass Readings
1 John 2:3-11
Psalm 96:1-3,5b-6
Luke 2:22-35

Monday, December 21, 2009

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Advent is dying away and we can see the first glimpse of Christmas on the horizon.

Down and blue the last few days (Hell, the last few weeks!) I'd thought much of this Advent was a failure of sorts for me. I hadn't done much in preparation for Christmas; missed Mass here and there, gave up a half-hearted search for the Advent Wreath weeks ago, let myself get overwhelmed by big changes at work, and have generally been unhelpful (a kind word) around the house.

Something happened tonight that finally made me ready for Christmas. It was a blackout.

A good portion of Levittown and the surrounding areas lost power for a few hours tonight. To stave off boredom (and cold since the heat wasn't working either) we all snuggled in the den, talking about our days, playing word games, and we made up a ridiculous, silly, and hilarious version of the 12 days of Christmas, all by candlelight. We basked in the warmth of Family in place of the TV, the computer, and the dreaded Wii. We shared something we had forgotten about in our plenty..the joy of each other's company, and seeing the Love of God in each other.

Sure, we were happy to get power back. All the same, I hope I remember the Blackout of December 21st, 2009 for a long, long time. Regardless of what the calendar says, today is the day Christmas...the coming of God's Love...began. Or at least when I realized it was with me all along.

Peace and Advent Blessings,
Thomas

Feast of St. Peter Canisius, SJ
Daily Mass Readings
Song of Songs 2:8-14 orZephaniah 3:14-18a
Psalm 33:2-3,11-12,20-21
Luke 1:39-45

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thomas Merton on Atheists

"Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God: for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice and mediocrity and materialism and selfishness that have chilled his faith." —Thomas Merton


Back to the 2 sons, it seems...are we living our faith or merely proclaiming it and acting in contradiction to it?

Pax,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 45:6b-8,18,21b-25
Psalm 85:9-14
Luke 7:18b-23

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Which of the two?

Today's Gospel speaks volumes to me and hits (once again!) what has been a constant sore spot in my walk with the Christ: proclaiming to do the will of God vs. actually DOING it.

In this, the Parable of the Two Sons, Jesus asks his disciples who did what their father asked: the son who said he would work in the vineyard but didn't, or the son who said he wouldn't work in the vineyard, but did? The answer is obvious when Christ makes it so in this parable, but what does it say to me today? Am I working in the vineyard, or am I not, whilst pretending to be? Do my actions contradict my words when it comes to what God asks of me?

In many instances, more than I care to admit in a blog, yes they do.

Now I'm not going to get into a breast-beating mea culpa here, enumerating my faults and specifically how I'm screwing up the vineyard work schedule (I'll save that for the confessional!) but here we are in Advent, preparing for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. As I mention in more than a few previous posts, I am unprepared. Christ will knock as he always does, but am I ready to let Him in?

Lord, help me prepare and make straight your paths.

Pax,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Zepharia 3:1-2,9-13
Psalm 34:2-3,6-7,17-19,23
Matthew 21:28-32

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Grandmother, Irene - HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of my Grandmother’s passing, when I was 8 years old. She died suddenly in the parking lot of Roosevelt Field mall on a bright cold Christmas shopping-type morning, with my mom at her side. It was the first time I became acquainted with “Sister Death”. I thankfully still carry glimpses of her in my heart – her soft Bohemian-tinged accent, the dark blue cardigan she wore in the winters, the housecoats she wore in the summers, her smell, the warmth of her embrace, the priceless stories she weaved out of thin air for us. She shared with me, my sister and my cousins that fierce and primal love I think is only reserved for grandmothers and their grandchildren.

Gramma, I thank God every day for having been your grandson; I know my fellow grandchildren say and pray the same. You helped make my first years on this earth beautiful, magical, full of wonder and love. I feel your presence and I know you watch over all of us. You are just about my favorite person ever, and I am happy to be your grandson…still.

Pax,
Thomas

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 35:1-10
Psalm 98:1-4
Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12
Luke 1:26-38

Friday, December 4, 2009

First Saturday Devotions and Mary - Some thoughts

I've admittedly not given much thought to "First Saturdays" devotions. I see them on my Church Calendar and mentally "pooh-pooh" them as archaic rituals meant to give older women in altar veils something to do with their weekends. However as time goes on, I'm learning that following the example of older women in altar veils isn't the worst thing in the world!

The Devotion originated as a recommendation from Our Lady to Sr. Lucia Santos, one of the Fatima visionaries, as follows:

Look, my daughter, at my Heart encircled by these thorns with which men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, strive to console me, and so I announce: I promise to assist at the hour of death with the grace necessary for salvation all those who, with the intention of making reparation to me, will, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the beads, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.
- Our Lady of Fatima to Sr. Lucia


Sometimes it is difficult for me to envision my prayers as an actual consolation to Mary's Sorrows. However, Brother Ed (our Fraternity's spiritual assistant) emphasizes that we must embrace our "pilgrim" soul, and seek out God with new eyes and new ways. Paradoxically this has led to to "old" ways; traditional Catholic devotions I may have dismissed or been unaware of in the past, like the Rosary, Novenas, Scapular, and First Fridays and Saturdays.

So, I begin my own First Saturdays devotion tomorrow. Though the prayer may be difficult, I can imagine the suffering of Mary between the Crucifixion and Resurrection - the First Holy Saturday. How her faith must have been tested! How anguished she must have been! She was no wispy, ethereal entity as she is sometimes portrayed in art. She was a middle-aged mother who had just witnessed her only Son arrested, ridiculed, abused, beaten, and executed in one of the most horrid ways ever devised. I can imagine her pain. The focus of my prayer will be to remember how I personally can hurt others - mentally and spiritually - with my actions and inaction, and to make prayerful reparation to them with the help of Our Mother through her Son.

God Love You!
Thomas

Feast of St. John of Damascus
First Friday

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 29:17-34
Psalm 27:1,4,13-14
Matthew 9:27-31

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

BARRED from Heaven???

http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&id=91852264-3048-741E-9870142928939885

(Forgive the lack of a hyperlink...tech problems)

This is one of those things that make me ashamed for my Church. In the face of all evidence that sexual orientation is NOT chosen (and given the general treatment of homosexuals in our society, who would choose such a thing?), this Cardinal Barragan states unequivocally that "gays will never enter into the reign of God."

No one...not my parish priest, not Cardinal Barragan, not the Holy Father himself, can judge the state of another's soul. To do so is arrogant, prideful, and the height of uncharitable, un-Christian thought. To do so against an entire chunk of the population is far worse and smacks of blatant discrimination and ignorance. How do we build up our Church when our leadership is so concerned with keeping people out that they forget to let people in???

A blogger who commented on this story quotes Hillaire Belloc's description of the Church
"...an institution run with such knavish imbecility that were it not the work of God it would not last a fortnight."

Amen, Hillaire. Amen, indeed.

Pax,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 25:6-10a
Psalm 23:1-6
Matthew 15:29-37

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What is it about "reality TV"?

I had the displeasure of pausing on a cable channel with a show called "Bridezillas". The show's purpose is to highlight how absolutely horrid, shallow, and cruel some women can be during the ramp up to their wedding day. I guess it might be something different if the majority of these women even FEIGNED embarrassment at some of their actions. Some of them are proud of it...WALLOW in it even. Then it gets to the point of witnessing a train wreck...you just can't turn away and wind up gawking.

It's hard being this beautiful...I wouldn't be your friend if you were poor...I wouldn't be your friend if you were ugly

And perhaps that is the key to these kind of shows' success - our collective desire to feel better, superior to other people. Speaking for myself, I am almost gleeful watching these shows sometimes, thinking "Hey, it's not like I'm like HER!" Basically I use the people on these shows as a tool for my own self esteem...there's always someone I can feel I'm better than as long as shows like BRIDEZILLA are on the air.

Perhaps if my (and I guess millions of other people's) emotional well-being didn't need a boost from the perceived miserable lives of others, these kind of shows wouldn't have this kind of traction. But there's the old chestnut...are we affecting the content of these shows, or is the content of these shows affecting us?

This was sort of a wake-up call for me at this beginning of Advent; part of preparing for the coming of the Christ Child is to stop watching shows like this. Enjoying the ugly behavior of other people in order to minimize my own shortcomings is not living in the vein of being faithfully watchful, as we are called to be in this season of waiting and vigilance.

Pax,
Thomas

First Sunday of Advent
Daily Mass Readings
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:4-5,8-10,14
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28,34-36

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gossip

I had the opportunity to again view the excellent movie DOUBT starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour-Hoffman last night. What struck me this time was a sermon that Hoffman's Father Flynn gives during Mass around the middle of the film:

A woman was gossiping with a friend about a man she hardly knew - I know none of you have ever done this - that night she had a dream. A great hand appeared over her and pointed down at her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession. She got the old parish priest, Father O’Rourke, and she told him the whole thing.

‘Is gossiping a sin?’ she asked the old man. ‘Was that the hand of God Almighty pointing a finger at me? Should I be asking your absolution? Father, tell me, have I done something wrong?’

(Irish Brogue)
‘Yes!’ Father O’Rourke answered her. ‘Yes, you ignorant, badly brought-up female! You have borne false witness against your neighbor, you have played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed!’

So the woman said she was sorry and asked for forgiveness.

‘Not so fast!’ says O’Rourke. ‘I want you to go home, take a pillow up on your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me!’

So the woman went home, took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to the roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed.

‘Did you gut the pillow with the knife?’ he says.

‘Yes, Father.’

‘And what was the result?’

‘Feathers,’ she said.

‘Feathers?’ he repeated.

‘Feathers everywhere, Father!’

‘Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out on the wind!’

‘Well,’ she said, ‘it can’t be done. I don’t know where they went. The wind took them all over.’

‘And that,’ said Father O’Rourke, ‘is GOSSIP!’


This made me think hard about the power of words and the damage they can do to someone's feelings and/or reputation. In the context of the film, it also highlights the inability to take back certain words after they leave your mouth...as the sermon indicates, they are feathers on the wind. You don't know where or to whom they will be carried next, the countless directions they can fly. Once out, there simply is no way to contain them.

I need to remember about this when I "tell my tales of blarney" as Irishmen are wont to do. Would I want the person I'm telling tales about to be right behind me in the telling? Would I want anyone telling tales of ME, true or untrue, and let MY feathers take to the wind and fall where and with whom they may?

I've let loose many a collection of feathers in my day. I wonder how many collections of my own feathers still fly...

Peace,
Thomas

Memorial of Blessed Miguel Augustin Pro
Daily Mass Readings
Daniel 1:1-6,8-20
Daniel 3:52-56
Luke 21:1-4

Saturday, November 21, 2009

One Solitary LIfe

Father Jerry read this poem during his homily this evening, on the Solemnity of Christ the King. Never was there such a King as this:

One Solitary Life
He was born in an obscure village,
The child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in still another village,
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty.

Then for three years
He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a house.
He didn't go to college.
He never visited a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles
From the place where he was born.
He did none of the things
One usually associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three
When the tide of public opinion turned against him.
His friends ran away.
He was turned over to his enemies.
And went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross
Between two thieves.
While he was dying,
His executioners gambled for his clothing,
The only property he had on Earth.
When he was dead,
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone,
And today he is the central figure
Of the human race,
And the leader of mankind's progress.

All the armies that ever marched,
All the navies that ever sailed,
All the parliament that ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned,
Put together have not affected
The life of Man on Earth
As much as that

One Solitary Life.

~~Dr James Allen Francis, © 1926~~


And in the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

Peace and All Good,
Thomas

The Solemnity of Christ the King
Daily Mass Readings
Daniel 7:13-14
Psalm 93:1-2,5
Revelations 1:5-8
John 18:33b-37

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The day or the hour

"But of that day or hour, no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

- Mark 13:32


As we approach the end of the liturgical year, the Daily Readings turn toward not only the Nativity of the Christ, but the Second Coming of Christ. That we are to be awake and live our lives ready for the coming of our Brother Jesus. Today's Gospel is especially apt for me. I've recently allowed an unwanted complacency take over my family life, going hand in hand with my prayer life, explained in the previous blog. Hmmm...could they POSSIBLY be related?

For various reasons, I have not been awake. I have not been ready. I have been living my life in tomorrow, as in, "Ahhhh, it'll keep. I'll play soccer or chess with the kids tomorrow. I'll take my wife out tomorrow. I'll help around the house tomorrow. I'll get to the gym tomorrow" Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow.

Living in tomorrow (as well as in yesterday, which augments this problem) leaves no time for today. Today, which is the only time we have actually have; yesterday is gone forever, tomorrow never comes. My boys, 9 and 12, are going to get to the point where they're not going to WANT to hang out with me anymore. I have a brief window between my children being fully dependent on me, and thinking they don't need me at all. THIS is my time with them and I am letting it get away from me. By the same token, I am letting my time with Lori, and my responsibilties at home get away from me as well.

And, perhaps herein lies the "water" for the dryness in my spiritual life; to follow the wisdom on the Scriptures and remember that none of us know the day or the hour. I forget sometimes (more often than not recently) of the sacredness of the everyday, the beauty and vocation of being a husband and father. I can't change a thing about yesterday, and I haven't a clue what tomorrow will bring. Part of the awe of the early Christian community was that they believed Christ's Second Coming was imminent; they fully understood not knowing the day or the hour.

Today's Gospel tells me I need to delight more in the bounty of blessings have right in front of me rather than be preoccupied with days/years/decades past or what I will be tomorrow or whatever time left I've been allotted.

Thank you Father Chris for your eye-opening homily this evening.

Peace,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Daniel 12: 1-3
Psalm 16:5,8-11
Hebrews 10:11-14,18
Mark 13:24-32

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dry Spell

I hate dry periods.

It just feels like I’m going through the motions. Go to Mass, follow the liturgy, receive Eucharist. Confession once a month, maybe a Rosary here and there, Lauds and Vespers…sometimes I guess I just don’t want to talk to God. Or maybe it’s that I think sometimes God doesn’t want to hear from me. Perhaps it is a little of both at the same time.

I have trouble, have always had trouble, with the idea of accepting the will of God. Back in my AA days, we said the Serenity Prayer after every meeting and I still say it regularly:
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

A lot of times I ignore the difference of which the prayer speaks. What is this “acceptance” crap, anyway? I don’t like when someone else, even God, seems to impose their will on me or impacts my life in a way I don’t feel it should be impacted. Truth is, acceptance has always been an issue for me. I have trouble accepting the twists and turns in my life that I don’t foresee, can’t change, and affect me in a way I'm not comfortable with. Yet, this is Life. The less I accept the things I cannot change, the more irritable and unhappy my life is likely to be. HOWEVER, I am often equally unable or afraid to change the things in my life that needs changing. It’s almost like I am willing to accept the things I cannot change…as long as they are the things I ought to have the courage to change myself. It is as if I’m waiting for other people and/or God, to make the changes for me. In other words, I have the brilliant dreams about my life, but let everyone else do the work.

Which brings me back to the root of my problem...not wanting to talk to God. Why? Because I know I am not doing all of what I ought to be doing, and doing some things I shouldn’t. I don’t like bringing that truth before God. During the dry spells, I close myself off during the prayers I say. Talking to God in rote while trying to avoid actually communicating with God is nothing but a waste of time. God knows my mind, my heart, my intentions. However, if I don’t allow God in, invite God into my mind, heart, and intentions, how am I to better know God? How can I more fully experience God’s love and what He wants from me if I am unwilling to share myself with Him?

I need to be praying the Serenity Prayer a bit more often, methinks.

Peace,
Thomas

Memorial of St. Frances Cabrini
Daily Mass Readings
Wisdom 13:1-9
Psalm 19:2-5
Luke 17:26-37

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New Ministry at my parish

I've signed up for the "Welcome Committee" at St. Bernard's this past month and our first to-do is in a couple of weeks.

The Welcome Committee is designed to help new parishioners feel more a part of the faith community at St. Bernard. We get new parishioners signing up all the time - mostly younger families wanting to have their kids baptized, receive First Holy Communion , or get confirmed - have to become a member of the parish as a first step. The majority of the time, these families have not been part of a faith community for years, if at all. It is important to minister in a special way to these newest members of our community.

We're doing follow-up calls with every person/family who signs up as a parishioner for whatever reason; see what they like to do, what ministries they might be interested in. This year we are having a special Mass said on the Solemnity of Christ the King (November 22)for these new parishioners who are interested in attending, followed by a dinner.

This ministry is planned to be extended in the future to reach out to disaffected, non-practicing Catholics, who may have one or more legitimate gripes against the Church. I find THIS particularly appealing, because I was one of the disaffected for a very long time. I am close to people who fit into this category as well. It will give me a chance to help someone the way I was helped - that old AA promise of passing on what was given to you, I guess.

I think this is an important initiative, especially with the Church's current PR problems; we need to demonstrate that we as Church are not primarily after the envelopes thrown in the basket every week. We as Church need to demonstrate that new members are needed, wanted, important voices in the flock; that they are Church, as much as the Bishops on up to the Pope. They by virtue of their baptism and the grace of the Holy Spirit are now the hands, feet, mind and heart of Christ on earth, as much as the rest of the hierarchy and the rest of the congregation they see at Mass every week, or however often they go.

Please say a prayer for our new parishioners as they begin to walk a new path in their faith life. Also, spare a prayer for those of us who will be accompanying them along the way.

Peace,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
1 Kings 17:10-16
Psalm 146:7-10
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

Monday, November 2, 2009

Remembering those who have gone before

As a child, I always wondered at the difference between All Saints Day, when the Church focuses on celebrating and remembering the souls who dwell in Heaven, with All Soul’s Day, when the Church shifts her focus to the souls in the state of purgation, or Purgatory. The first thing I remember is having to go to Mass on one (All Saints, a Holy Day of Obligation) and not having to for the other.

I remember thinking that the folks we remember on All Saints Day must be much more important. After all, they have their own “HDO”! Angels and Archangels, The Blessed Mother, her husband Joseph, Francis of Assisi, Thomas the Apostle, Padre Pio, with scores and scores of others, are all included in this holy “cloud of witnesses”. We recognize their place in Heaven as holy and worthy of veneration, and direct our prayers to God through them.

But what of “All Souls”? Sometimes I thought it sounded to me almost like an afterthought; YES, ALL SAINTS, PRAISE GOD…and oh yeah, you guys, too. Although I did not go to Catholic school, my mom was a nurse in one, and she always had off the day after Halloween, something of which my sister and I were quite envious (then again, Mom never got off for the Jewish holidays in September…we all had the opportunity to ‘rub it in’ throughout the year) We sometimes attended Mass on All Souls, but it was by no means regular. So why is this day celebrated at all?

What makes All Souls more than the watered down version of All Saints? Well, All Souls are the folks I know; All Souls is me. I don’t know too many Saints personally (although I suspect I do know a couple) All Souls are people precisely like me. All Souls include my Grandfather who drank too much and died in a decade of confusion and depression after my Grandmother passed. All Souls include my friend Ray, a brash teenage addict and alcoholic who brought me around to meetings during my first go-around in AA; he committed suicide in his garage at the age of 18. All Souls include my friend Keith, a high school kindred who endured ridicule and beatings at the hands of the closed-minded for the way he looked and the music he loved; he refused medical attention for an asthma attack and died as a result before he was 20. All Souls includes my Great Grandmother with the chin hairs that scared me. All Souls includes my beloved Archie, who helped me survive my early sobriety with the purr and lick of true companionship.

All Souls are all of those I love and cherish; my family, my friends, my ancestors, even my strangers and enemies, who have gone before: Any and all who may need my prayers and are kept alive and well through fond memories of days gone by. We ask the Saints in Heaven to pray for us on their Feast Day. Strengthened by these prayers of the Church Triumphant, we, the Church Militant, in turn pray for the Souls who may not have attained Heaven yet, The Church Suffering, that they may find the face of God and be comforted.

Remember and cherish those who have left this life…regardless of your faith tradition…this All Souls Day.

Pax et Bonum,
Thomas

The Commemoration of All Souls
Daily Mass Readings
Wisdom 3:1-9
Psalm 23: 1-6
Romans 5:5-11
John 6:37-40

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A quick update

A busy cycle at work has thankfully come to a close, and things are going well.

A week ago last Friday, I took my 3rd and final degree to become a full Knight of Columbus, like my Grandfather before me. It was an awesome and meaningful ceremony, though the details are secret. I didn't understand the secretive nature of the degrees before I became a Knight. When I completed my 3rd degree, I understood; the degree process would not have meant nearly as much to me had I known all that was going to happen beforehand.

This weekend, I got a letter from Holy Poverty, my Franciscan Fraternity. They formally requested I continue my formation to the Order by advancing to the Candidacy phase. I joyfully accepted, and look forward to seeing my brothers and sisters at our next meeting to celebrate!

More tomorrow for All Soul's Day!

Pax et Bonum
Thomas


Solemnity of All Saints
Daily Mass Readings
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
Psalm 24:1-6
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why HE sucks...a critique of a Dennis Leary book

I guess he warned me. But I am angry anyway.

Yesterday I went to a Barnes and Noble to find some light reading – something funny, something relatively short, etc.; I’ve been doing a lot of “heavy reading” this year, and I’m a bit burnt. Near the checkout line I saw a book entitled Why We Suck, by Dennis Leary. I’ve enjoyed Mr. Leary’s standup routines over the years, and the few episodes of his show Rescue Me I’ve seen have impressed me. So I thought I’d pick his book up, sure it would be good for a few laughs, and took it home. Should have flipped through the intro and Table of Contents first. I'd have saved myself some time.

In the intro of Why We Suck, Dennis Leary warns that I (or any potential reader) will get ticked off or offended sometime during the reading of this gem. He insists that it is because I have no sense of humor and because I cannot laugh at myself or some situation I find myself in. Now I know most people believe they have a sense of humor, and that a good number of those people are wrong; if you talk to anyone that knows me, they will back me up in that I DO possess a healthy ability to laugh at myself. I can do so because oftentimes I find me and my various situations quite ridiculous. And being a lifelong George Carlin fan, I figured I was immune to such things as being offended by a comedian.

However, I draw the line at ridiculing children’s ailments for the sake of comedy. Looking in the Table of Contents when I got home, I noticed a Chapter called Autism Shmautism. Here, Mr. Leary takes aim at children with autism or various autism spectrum disorders, like ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. He says something along the lines of that only people like Rain Man ought to be considered autistic, that there’s nothing wrong with these kids except their inattentive, unloving parents, and everyone ought to just get over it (my apologies for not having an exact quote).

My older son has been diagnosed in the autism spectrum; Pervasive Developmental Disorder. My wife and I knew there was something not right with him as early as when he was 6-months old and just wouldn’t be held, wouldn’t hug back, in fact struggled against it. His other symptoms manifested as he grew older – lack of interest in playing with other children, his abrupt halt of language, his coordination trouble, his inability to function at an age-appropriate level, his echolalia. You never want to admit there is something wrong with or atypical about your own child. We knew. My mom (a school nurse for 30 years) knew. My sister (a hospital nurse) knew. It was an excruciating, agonizing decision to take him to a neurologist, and horrible to have your fears confirmed that your child does in fact have a disorder, and will have issues above and beyond what other children have to deal with. With the help of therapy, medication, and the love of an understanding circle of family and friends, my son has shouldered this burden and has dealt with it beautifully. I love him and am in awe of his courage.

The idea that his struggle should have been be treated with stricter parenting, perhaps with a few good swats on the ass; that whacking him a few times would scare him into "proper behavior" ticks me off. The idea that someone would write about my son’s and our family’s struggle in the vein of “THIS is one of the reasons other countries hate us, ho-ho-ho” as comedic fodder makes me downright angry.

Yet we live in a free country and right at the beginning I WAS warned as stated above. Mr. Leary can write about anything he wishes, and there are certainly enough people in this country more than happy to shell out money for this stuff. I am against censorship in the media or marketplace and I don’t think this book ought to be banned or censored or railed against or any such nonsense; this only brings more attention to such claptrap. So in the spirit of the free market, I will fight this in the only way that matters; I will return Why We Suck and stop my money from becoming Mr. Leary’s money.

Thanks for the early warning though, Dennis – saved me from reading the rest of the book.

Pax,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Memorial of St. John de Br├ębeuf and St. Isaac Jogues
Romans 4:20-25
Luke 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75
Luke 12:13-21

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Anam Cara + My Brother = Gratitude

It's been an incredible weekend.

To start off, for the first time in several years I met with my "anam cara", Father Jim. Anam Cara is the Celtic term for "soul friend". In the Celtic tradition, an anam cara relationship is sacred, allowing you to awaken your own nature and relish all of your other relationships, including your relationship with God. Your anam cara loves you, cherishes you, accepts you for who you are, and acts as a confessor and confidante. Father Jim had been my spiritual director when I was discerning entering formation to the diaconate back in 2005. We'd developed a sort of anam ccara relationship as he helped guide me through my journey, to better understand my role as husband to my wife and father to my boys, and to help me see the face of God with new eyes.

I'd been stumbling a bit on an old root in the middle of my spiritual path the last couple of weeks (the details of which I will keep to myself for the time being), and my wife nudged me in the direction of re-connecting with Father Jim. We made the the trek out to Setauket to Father's new parish and joined together for about and hour and a half meeting. Jim gave his usual sage advice, listened with a kind, charitable and loving ear, and made me very happy to renew our friendship. I am not out of the woods in reference to my issue- but it feels wonderfully liberating to be headed in a positive direction with a practiced guide.

Then it was time to celebrate - my best friend from childhood had his 40th birthday party at a dare-I-say funky establishment called reBar, located between Jay Street and Pearl Street under the Brooklyn Bridge. Dylan and I have been friends since he moved around the block from me back in 1978. We'd seen each other through the swamp of puberty and high school together, and stood by each other through all manner of personal tragedies and victories over the years. Dylan stood up from me as my Best Man the day my wife and I got married, and our oldest son bears "Dylan" as his middle name. I have always considered Dylan my brother, no matter how our lives have forked away from each other in recent years.

Dylan's wife Wendy set up a beautiful party with all the people Dylan loves - I hadn't seen Dylan's sister Moira since James (now 12) was an infant! We were all reminiscing, laughing, and enjoying our lifelong friendships until the wee hours of the morning. Full of birthday cake, laughter, with our ears ringing from good, loud music, Lori and I made our way home.

To those of you who don't know New York, going from our home in Levittown out on the island to Setauket, out to Brooklyn and back again to Levittown is in the neighborhood of 120 miles. This weekend, it was a trek worthy of any pilgrimage and I thank God for the people in my life today.

God Love You!
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Wisdom 7:7-11
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-13
Mark 10:17-30

Sunday, October 4, 2009

St. Francis of Assisi and ALL our Brothers and Sisters

Today is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of among other things, animals. Francis considered all manner of creatures - humans, animals, plants, water, fire, even death - our brothers and sisters. As such, many parishes including my own, hold a celebration on his Feast Day to honor and bless the animals that are part of our families and lives.

We gathered outside of church, two-legged, four-legged, and finned animals alike. We sang the Prayer of St. Francis, amidst squawks, meows, barks, howls, and even a couple of whinnies from the 2 horses that were present. Then Father Jerry and Deacon John blessed each of us and our friends individually. We didn't have the cats with us because we came straight from my son's soccer game. Luckily we remembered their collars and St. Francis medallions that John was happy to bless. Father Jerry even took a ride on Billy, one of the horses, at the end.

Brother Francis, thank you for your blessings and your patronage over ALL of God's creatures.

"The Canticle of the Sun"
by Francis of Assisi

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility."

Amen!

Daily Mass Readings
Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 128:1-6
Hebrews 2:9-11
Mark 10:2-16

Friday, October 2, 2009

Catholic Priesthood and Celibacy

http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=11896&comments=1#readcomments

I was reading the above-linked article in America magazine this morning regarding Catholic priests who leave the Church for another denomination, primarily because of the celibacy issue.

This got me thinking of my own vocation as a husband and father and "all-around Church guy" I guess you'd call the rest. In the past 5 or so years I have gotten involved in the Cub Scouts with my boys, the Secular Franciscan Order, Knights of Columbus, Ancient Order of Hibernians, and various ministries at my parish. In the back of my mind lurks the possibility of becoming an ordained deacon in the future. None of it feels like "enough", however. Please don't misunderstand; all of these activities and ministries have been thus far very rewarding. I love and am honored to work with fantastic, faith-filled, and in some cases mystical people.

I remember as a boy waiting anxiously to go to Mass. I admired the priest and what was going on up on the altar. I didn't fully understand the Mystery (and I still don't, really...I do get brief awesome flashes, almost like a deja vu. But I digress) but I knew I wanted to do what the priest was doing. It made my parents uncomfortable for some reason which I didn't get. Other kids wanted to be cops, firemen, doctors, nurses, etc. I remember when I was in 2nd grade, we were asked to draw a picture of who we wanted to be when we grew up. I drew a picture of me as a priest, holding up the Cup and the Host for consecration. I was the only kid I knew of who looked forward to CCD classes and actually was ostracized for it (beat up once for it as well) I didn't care...I loved my faith and wanted to grow up to be a priest. Then adolescence came along. Although I had been told much earlier in life that I wouldn't be able to be a priest and a father (how's THAT for irony?), I didn't understand or care about that until I was immersed in the swamp of puberty, awash in hormones and fantasies. I reluctantly gave up the idea of becoming a priest.

However, the fascination and...longing(?) has never fully died in me. Over the years, even the years I was not actively attending Mass, I still "saw myself as a priest" (I can't explain it any further than that). You can imagine how it mushroomed when I began practicing as a Catholic in earnest again. In the midst of my happy marriage with 2 great kids, my ministries with my parish, the Franciscans, Knights and Hibernians, there is still a hole, a longing, a yearning to serve as a priest. Yet, by virtue of my marriage, Church discipline states I can't become a priest.

I am forced to ask this question...why won't God stop talking to me about it, then??? Perhaps it's my ego, my pride, perhaps I'm not hearing it right, I don't know. I'm not considering leaving the Catholic Church - I just realized referncing the above article may have given that impression; I AM home in the Roman Catholic Church.

Today, however this particular instance of Church teaching is something I am struggling with. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...y'all know the rest.

Pax,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
First Friday
Feast of the Guardian Angels

Baruch 1:15-22
Psalm 79:1-5,8-9
Matthew 18:1-5,10

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Life List

“Some of the stuff I’d really like to do before I kick.”

-Travel the country. See Boston, Philly, DC, New Orleans, Vegas, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, “The Four Corners”, Redwood Forest, San Fran, Los Angeles, Seattle, Alaska, Hawaii…etc., etc.

-Travel the world – See Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Greece, Moscow, Tokyo, Great Wall of China, Australian Outback…etc, etc.

-Learn to ride a horse passably well.

-Go skydiving.

-Go white-water rafting.

-Take up the acoustic guitar or another instrument.

-Write and perform a comedy routine.

-Consolidate and edit all my journals/blogs and publish them as my memoirs.

-Sing in the choir.

-Become a professed Secular Franciscan.

-Get a muscular and fit body.

-Move to Smallwood, NY.

-Attend a Papal Mass.

-Hear the Dalai Lama speak.

-Buy a NEW car.

-Get tattooed.

-Get ordained a Catholic Deacon.

With the majority of these things, right now…what is stopping me??? Money can explain away the car, the ‘audiences’ with the Pope and Dalai Lama, and the travel (but it doesn’t take a whole helluva lot to drive to Philly, DC, or Boston for a long weekend, does it?). The Smallwood move is by necessity in the future – it is Lori’s inheritance. The Franciscans, fitness goals, horseback riding (received lessons for my birthday…thanks Lori!!!) and even the diaconate are processes which I have more or less begun – the trick is sticking to them.

Well, what of the rest? What is stopping me from going skydiving, publishing my memoirs, performing comedy, learning the guitar, singing in the choir, or getting a tattoo? Is it that I think I have plenty of time? Is it that I am afraid I might fall short of some/all of these goals? Am I waiting from someone to download these experiences into my brain?

It is time for me to stop waiting for things I wish to experience to stumble into my lap. To a greater or lesser degree, I want all these things. And most importantly, to a greater or lesser degree, they are all attainable! I do not want to lie on my deathbed with regret. Give me strength, Lord, to push aside fear of failure or apprehension and to go for it!

Pax,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Feast of the Archangels
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 or Revelation 12:7-12
Psalm 138:1-5
John 1:47-51

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Son of Man - a man.


The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.


I love when I am able to identify with Jesus! When I am able to grasp the notion that Jesus was not only True God but every bit a True Man as well, I feel a kinship with Him, somehow closer to Him.

Jesus was seen by a number of His contemporaries as a glutton and a drunkard. I love my food mightily and I loved my drink even more back in the day. John the Baptist is a great saint, the very herald of the Son of God. He also fasted, never drank and wore rough clothes as a penance for his sins and those of his generation. And yet Jesus - the man of whom John said he was not fit to unfasten His sandals - feasts and makes merry with His friends (and even in the homes of Pharisees from time to time) in a manner John would never dream of.

Does this mean Jesus was weak? Certainly not! It does mean that He, at one point in time, was a Man. He ate drank, slept, made merry, got angry, got aroused, wondered(and likely sometimes worried) where His next meal was coming from. He was a man. As such, He knows the daily joys and anguishes people suffer. I often grow frustrated with some flaw in myself, or in my inability to deal with or accept a situation as it is. In those cases, it helps me to think of Jesus the Man struggling in the dirt with me, as opposed to Jesus GOD ALMIGHTY, SECOND PERSON OF THE HOLY TRINITY, throwing me down a blessing from on high.

Peace,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
1 Timothy 3:14-16
Psalm 111:1-6
Luke 7:31-35

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My 9/11 - One of many stories

I realize the blogosphere is going to be teeming with tributes, memorials, editorials, opinion pieces about the attacks of September 11, 2001. And you know what? It should be. If you don't agree, oh well...surf away from this page for now. Here's how I saw the day:

*************************************************************************

"What do you mean, the Towers are GONE???"

My co-worker Scott said that when he was finally able to get through to his girlfriend on his cell. We'd just been evacuated to the far corner of the building on the 4th floor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The foundations of our building had just been shaken for the second time in an hour, our windows blown out. A wickedly fast-moving thick gray-brown cloud made us feel we were enveloped in a huge dirty cotton ball - we couldn't see anything. We had no idea what was happening. We knew the towers were hit by planes. Now we thought our building was next.

I had been on the phone with Lori when the second wave hit us. That horrid rumble, that ear-shattering constant explosion of breaking glass began as I was trying to get the story that was unfolding all around me from my wife, watching on TV. As the wave of destruction washed over us again, the phone fell silent. It would be hours before I would speak to her again. I wanted to crawl under my desk in the fetal position and stick my thumb in my mouth. The fire warden for our floor rushed us into the hall where we would remain for 2 hours. I helped fetch water and plug holes in windows with wet towels. I did it in order to not go screaming insane. It kept my hands and feet moving. It kept me from thinking of my wife and my children. It kept me from thinking about dying.

Hours earlier, looking up at the first plane-sized gash in the Towers from the steps of the bank, I was wondering in an off-hand way how in the hell they were going to get Fire, Police and EMT's up that high? I was likely in a bit of shock...I, and most of the people I was talking to that morning, couldn't yet conceive of the idea of, well, THAT...being deliberate. Half-jokingly, we postulated it was some drunken fool in a Cessna. The size of the hole in the building told a different story, and as paper from the doomed tower started to rain down on us as we re-entered the bank, I think we all started down the path to fear.

When I returned to my desk I decided to call my father, to see if he'd been watching the news or listening to the radio. He answered the phone confused...I'd woken him up and my Mom was already at work. I began to relay the events as I knew them, when

{{{{{{{{BOOOOOOOM}}}}}}}}

Author's note: There is no word in the English language that could adequately describe that sound/feeling. Comic book writers earn their bread and butter making up words to go with crazy sound phenomena (THOOM! KEEERRRACKKKK! Any lover of comics form the 70's knows what I mean) I could use one of those words right now...but the only word that I can come up with is BOOM


The air...quivered. I was inside a fortified Federal building, and I felt that BOOM in my toes. My first thought was "My God, the Tower fell over!", remembering the deep gash. Only being 2 blocks away on the 4th floor, we couldn't see much of anything that was going on at the Trade Center, and Security wasn't letting us leave the bank, now.

A minute later, Vadim, a coworker and friend of mine came running down the aisle, top-speed. "WE'RE BEING ATTACKED!!!! WE'RE BEING ATTACKED!!!!", he screamed. I grabbed him by the shoulders and told him to knock it off, he was scaring folks (I didn't know about 'folks', but he was sure as shit scaring ME.). He continued screaming, "NONO! The OTHER tower's been hit by a plane too!!!" He ran off screaming his message like a demented town crier.

The next 7-8 hours zip by in my memory as a blur, like fast-moving photos barely glimpsed at. Running out into the hall. Trying to run down the stairs and being forced back up...the 1st collapse...breaking windows...coughing...panic...tears. Plugging up the windows, getting water to people who needed it. The 2nd collapse...more breaking windows...more coughing...more panic. Rumors of a truck bomb at the State Department...rumors of planes dropping out of the sky like dead gnats...The Pentagon is breached...talking to my wife for that brief moment - she was watching the tower come down on TV as our call got cut off. All the while being enveloped by that brown cloud that swirled like a solid soup outside the windows.

Leaving the bank in the late afternoon in what looked like nuclear winter. Walking through 2-3 inch thick pulverized powder in the street...I don't even want to think of what that powder was comprised of (I kept my dusty shoes for 5 years without ever wearing them again). Walking to South Street Seaport to escape by Ferry. Somehow, some way, not drinking that day after less than 2 weeks of sobriety.

Home. My son, hugging me and asking why I was covered in dust. My wife, shell-shocked as I was, looking at me with blood-shot and tired eyes. The baby sleeping in his car seat, not a care in the world. I look up to God and begin to cry.

I am a lucky, lucky man.

*************************************************************************

I've no solutions. I've no opinions I'd like to share about the events of that day. I only ask you to hold your loved ones closer, tell those you love that you love them. The crazed panic that goes through your mind when you think you're about to die "Jesus, did I kiss the kids today? Did I tell her I loved her today? Please let the last things I said to them be kind words!"

Cherish. Cherish. Cherish.

Daily Mass Readings
1 Timothy:1-2, 12-14
Psalm 15:1-2, 5,7-8,11
Luke 6:39-42

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Wooden Bowl

I am usually not given to forwarding email chain letters, but this one grabbed me. I offer it to you here, with the promise that nothing horrible will happen to you if you do not pass it on.

It simply made me think of my Dad's recent medical difficulties and how I've centered on the outward annoyances of it...and how my reactions might be absorbed by my kids.

The Wooden Bowl

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and
failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor.
When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.

'We must do something about father,' said the son. 'I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.'

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.

There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner.
Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.
When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, 'What are you making?' Just as sweetly, the boy responded, 'Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.' The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

Author unknown

Daily Mass Readings
Memorial of St. Peter Claver
Colossians 3:1-11
Psalm 145:2-3,10-13
Luke 6:20-26

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Working hard...for nothing

“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”


Today's Gospel speaks about perseverance and faith. Peter's a professional fisherman. He and his crew have been out all night, applying their trade fruitlessly (fish-lessly?). Peter's tired, he's had it. He's calling it a night. How many times have I been there? Working as hard as we can, to seemingly no avail, where we want to call it a night like Peter wanted to. I can even imagine a tinge of exasperation in Peter's reply "Who is this flaky Nazarene...a CARPENTER, no less...to tell me where, when and how to fish??? I've been working these waters for years! Who does this guy think he is???"

But Peter does it anyway. For whatever reason, at Jesus' command, he lowers his nets, eventually swamping 2 boats to nearly the sinking point with fish.

I personally don't feel like lowering my nets right now. I got some news today that someone I look up to and have been inspired by is in trouble...the kind of trouble that will hurt her reputation and possibly detonate her life's work. She has meant so much to me (and many, many others) in my spiritual journey over the years. It is very difficult for me to see into the deep waters where Jesus is now asking me to cast my nets. My cynicism and knowledge of how the world is makes it extremely hard to trust.

May God grant Sister Lauren love, tenderness and a strong back to bear this cross. May she be encouraged and supported by all of her students that love her, admire her and have been inspired by her to serve our brothers and sisters in and out of the Church.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

Peace,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Colossians 1:9-14
Psalm 98:2-6
Luke 5:1-11

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to work...in more ways than one

It's been a restful vacation - perhaps a bit too restful. I let myself sleep or stay in bed until at least 10am most mornings during my time off. I made a commitment when my vacation was through to get back into shape (I am woefully overweight and have chronic back problems)

Getting up early this morning to hit the gym, I saw a most beautiful sunrise...pinks reds and oranges reflecting off the few clouds there were in the eastern horizon, the first blues of the day creeping into the still-black sky. It got me thinking - what else am I missing during this time of day? Now don't get me wrong. I love sleep as much as the next guy, maybe a bit more than the next guy. But this is as young as I'll ever be, and there's an early morning world that I am simply missing.

Back to work indeed!

Pax et Bonum,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Psalm 96:1,3-5,11-13
Luke 4:16-30

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Insomnia and Hypocrisy

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence." - Matthew 23:23-26


I always seem to get a clearer reading of Scripture when I have one of my bouts with insomnia, so I figured I'd give it a whirl this early morning.

Jesus calls out the scribes and Pharisees, rather harshly, in today's Gospel. This morning it feels as though Jesus is calling ME out. The pains I go through to appear Christian to BE a Christian sometimes feel canned and hypocritical, like the plates and cups Jesus mentions. Oh I've got my Franciscan meetings, my Hibernian meetings, my Knights meetings, the prayer group I facilitate, showing up at Mass every week, sometimes a few times a week.

But it's all for nothing if I am not walking the path. If I am telling or laughing at racist/offensive jokes, if I am not doing my share around the house, if I am relishing and feeding my anger instead of trying to get a handle on it, what good is it to say I am walking the path of a Catholic Christian? Oh, I know no one's perfect and like I've said before, Jesus does not expect perfection from me. However, He again reminds me today that being a proponent of the law is the BEGINNING of the path. Jesus reminds me where I am personally hypocritical.

So the walk continues...

Pax et Bonum,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Psalm 139:1-6
Matthew 23:23-26

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Poverty

At our monthly Franciscan meeting last night, we were discussing yesterday's Gospel about the rich man who asked Jesus what he must do to enter Heaven. Jesus answers with some basic commandments; to not murder, to respect his parents, to be faithful in marriage. Pretty obvious stuff to anyone who is looking to be a decent person...or to keep him/herself out of prison at the very least.

The rich man seems to say, "yeah, yeah, got all that covered". He wants to know what else he can do. So Jesus tells him what he must do to be perfect; sell all he owns, give it to the poor, and become His disciple. Dejected, the man walks away, knowing he will never reach a standard like that.

It's hard to NOT identify with the rich man, which is why this passage always bugs me when I read it. Being a good person is not enough for Jesus. No, now I've got to be perfect, sell my house, and leave my family destitute. Is that what Jesus is asking me to do?

Thank God, no.

I spoke about my discomfort at the meeting about this very thing...how could Jesus be asking this of me, or any person with a family and any responsibilities? Doesn't this make anyone who is not in a cloistered, contemplative religious community as a monk or nun a hypocrite? Our formation director listened patiently as I rambled on, the picture of quiet undedrstanding. When I was through, he asked me a question ; "Do you really believe Jesus is commanding you to be perfect? Would Jesus as you know Him ask this of you or anyone, knowing how impossible it is?"

I thought for a bit; No, Jesus couldn't be asking that of me. He knows me, and He knows my humanity all too well. Jesus wouldn't ask me to be perfect. He would however, ask me to go beyond the basics. He would, however ask me to do more than refraining from homicide or cheating on my wife. He would ask me to stretch myself, to set the ultimate goal for myself by imitating Him, to attempt to "be perfect as Our Father in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:47). Jesus is not asking me to sell everything I own to follow Him; Jesus is imploring me to be thankful for what I have and not be owned by my possessions instead of the other way around. I am happy to have a house...but I shouldn't put myself in hock to make sure I have the same size dormer as everyone else seems to be getting. I am happy to have a car - but I shouldn't be down on the fact that I currently don't own THIS year's model, like everyone else seems to have. I am happy and grateful to have a job - but not to the point where I work 80 hours a week to get ahead when I have a family at home that needs me and loves me (Thank GOD).

In short, this- the poverty Jesus asks of me, the poverty I need to become familiar with as a Franciscan-is not physical destitution; it is treating the world and everything in it as GIFT, to be grateful for the material and immaterial blessings I possess (which are quite numerous) and should be generous with them wherever and whenever possible.

Thank you God for the gift of my fraternity for showing me the path under my feet once again.

Pax et Bonum,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Judges 6:11-24a
Psalm 85:9, 11-14
Matthew 19:23-30

Monday, August 17, 2009

Vacation begins!

Had some really blessed moments this weekend at my inlaws' summer house up in Monticello NY. It was my father-in-law's birthday and we had a great time with family and friends - some of whom I've not seen in awhile (but wish I had)

It's late and I am extremely tired, but I'm grateful for the people in my life tonight/this morning. Nothing more or less earthshaking than that.

God Love You!
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Judges 2:11-19
Psalm 106:34-40,43,44
Matthew 19:16-22

Monday, August 10, 2009

3 sets of 10 Things...

Thanks go to Jake Morrisey & Greg Bestick for these contributions to A MAN'S JOURNEY TO SIMPLE ABUNDANCE by Sarah Ban Breathnacht.

A good deal of these truths are self-evident. Some not so much. But I would do well to refer to these nuggets every now and again...

10 THINGS EVERY MAN SHOULD KEEP IN MIND AT ALL TIMES

1. Right-y, tight-y; left-y, loose-y
2. A career is not a substitute for a life plan
3. Shouting doesn't help.
4. Laughter does.
5. It is inevitable that the people you love will occasionally let you down.
6. It is inevitable you will occasionally let down the people you love.
7. Health is the first wealth.
8. It takes too much energy to hold a grudge.
9. Amortize, ameliorate, or purge all regrets every 5 years.
10. Flowers always help. So does "I'm sorry" and "Thanks".


10 THINGS I HOPE MY KIDS LEARN BEFORE I DID

1. The amazing amount of "anything" and "everything" that's out of your hands
2. The pleasures of pausing somewhere you shouldn't at two in the afternoon.
3. How money works.
4. It's the small moments that make it worthwhile.
5. How to dance.
6. Success in life is how well you deal with "Plan C".
7. Admitting you don't have all the answers produces remarkable results.
8. Don't tell someone who knows how to do his job how to do his job.
9. Figure out who the important people are; make sure they know you know.
10. Where the clitoris is.


10 THINGS I WANT MY WIFE TO KNOW

1. Emotionally, we have to take turns "being on top".
2. I can't form words around my feelings as fast as you can.
3. I love you.
4. Don't confuse preoccupation with indifference.
5. Even though I'm paranoid, I really do know you're not out to get me.
6. There are really times when silence is better than talking about it,
7. I know I can go farther with you than without you.
8. I think you are beautiful, no matter what you look like on any given day.
9. Of course, on any given day, you look great.
10. When we get lost in each other, I find myself.


Daily Mass Readings
Feast of St. Lawrence
2 Corinthians 9:6-10
Psalm 112:1-2,5-9
John 12:24-26

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

It has been a good long while since I posted something 'round these parts. Work has been busy but thankfully another quarterly reporting cycle is coming to a close with the building still standing.

Although it is a few weeks away, I feel a profound sense of gratitude for my upcoming sobriety "birthday" on August 31st; I will have been sober for 8 years. I happened to be surfing through the channels before bed...for the most part, there really IS very little worth watching. I came upon a show called INTERVENTION - which documents the lives of various struggling addicts and their families who attempt to save them from themselves, with the guidance of a counselor. I could have been the subject of each and every episode, but for the grace of God expressing His love for me through the people in my life. I watched intently, empathizing with every slurred word, every vomitting session, every familial disappointment, every failure. I'd been there, and I don't ever have to be there again.

So, like an awards show, here is my "8th Annual Thank You" to the people who have made and continue to make my sobriety possible:

- My wife, Lori, who by all logic should have disappeared years ago due to my alcoholic rants and misadventures and yet remained at my side(she's already done her time in Purgatory, folks). She is the epitome of loving patience, and I thank God every day for her.
- My children, who remind me each and every day of the precious gifts of their growing up I'd be missing if I hadn't put the bottle down. From watching James go off the diving board, to teaching Patrick how to play chess, these daily miracles are things I wouldn't have wanted or cared about.
- My parents and sister, who had to endure my active disease from the beginning and never wrote me off or shut me out.
- My TRUE friends, who never pressured me to "just have one" after I got sober. Instead, they offered much appreciated support and admiration that I cherish every day.
- My beloved cat Archie, who kept me from falling so many times early on, when the insanity to drink was nearly unbearable...with a constant purr and complete understanding.
- Last and certainly not least, my friends in the Church Triumphant, especially Saint Francis of Assisi who has taught me humility, the importance of letting our Brother Jesus guide us through our lives and of the Sacrament that is my family.

Oh sure I could be jumping the gun here; I could go out on some bender between now and 8/31. It's not like I CAN'T drink. I CAN. I am an alcoholic. Therefore, I'm GOOD at drinking. The difference today is that I simply don't HAVE to anymore. And I thank God from the depths of my soul that I have that choice today.

Pax et Bonum,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Memorial of St. John Vianney
Numbers 12:1-13
Psalm 51:3-7, 12-13
Matthew 14:22-36

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Callings and sore feet

"God doesn't call the qualified...He qualifies the called"
- Fr. Vin Ritchie SJ at this evening's Mass.

Did I need to hear that today! My family has been away for the weekend and only having 1 car at the time, I had to walk to Mass this evening (hence the sore feet...it's about 2-3 miles). Father Vin was preaching on today's Gospel, the commissioning of the Apostles to go out into the world and do the work of Jesus. I imagined, being the men they were, that they were taken quite aback at this request. Some fishermen, a tax collector, a notorious doubter...they must have been thinking "He's kidding, right? No money, no change of clothes, no food, no nothing? Master...did we HEAR you right? What if we get beaten up on the road? What if we can't find a place to stay? What if we get accused of blasphemy? Surely this is one of those parable-thingies?"

I always get questioning myself in what I've been called to to; "What qualified YOU to be a Dad? Who the heck are YOU to even be attending fraternity meeting to the Secular Franciscan Order (forget about becoming professed!!!)? How dare you even THINK you may have a calling to be ordained a deacon someday??" And yet, here it all is. I'm a husband and a father of 2 loving children. The fraternity I'm in formation with welcomed my discernment with open arms and encourages me that I'm right where I am supposed to be. And the diaconate? Who knows? God has been calling me to SOME greater service within the Church, and in my prayers the idea of serving as a deacon keeps coming up. There's a reason for that; I don't rightly know what it IS at present, but God rarely makes His reasoning known to me all at once.

Why me? Why NOT me? I am not qualified for any of these things, and will never be, of myself alone. If God wants me, God will qualify me. Period. Thank you for the pep talk, Fr. Vin!

Daily Mass Readings
Amos 7:12-15
Psalm 85:9-14
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:7-13

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Chapter -n- Verse

I was having a conversation with a dear friend who, while respecting my views as a Catholic Christian, thinks that the text of the Bible is so hopelessly removed from the original languages and truncated by a patriarchal society that it hard for her to see how truth could be derived from it (Sheri, if this is not your general thinking on this, the fault is mine)

My friend makes some good points.

From Greek to Hebrew and Aramaic to Latin to the vernacular, all filtered down to the interpretation of each translator (all men with few/no exceptions, as far as we know), the Bible has the potential for being a stew of nonsensical ramblings, putting forth a thousand and one different agendas.

I wrote back to her the following:

1- The Bible isn't one book - it's a library. Likely, many of the authors would be horrified at the content of some of their co-authors! Whoever penned Leviticus certainly wasn't of the same thinking as the author of Song of Songs (STEAMY stuff!)
2- The Bible isn't a science book, though it contains elements of science.
3- The Bible isn't a history book, though it contains many historical facts.
4- The Bible isn't a mythology book, although many myths can be found within its pages,
5- The Bible isn't "divine dictation". The authors of the books were regular people, writing in the context of the society in which they lived, warts and all. I as a Catholic Christian believe the INSPIRATION was Divine, not the words that were written.
6- Verses in the Bible, taken of themselves and out of their surrounding context (and usually put into a new context) can be bent to state just about anything. In other words, someone "chapter and versing" you specifically to prove a point in opposition to yours likely has other agendas.

7- What the Bible is...a 3,000+ year old record of a people's GROWING understanding and relationship with their God. No more and certainly no less.

Scriptures (for Jews and Christians) are guidelines to be taken in context with our own prayers and pleadings with God, and in the context of how they speak to us in their own lives. My challenge as a Catholic Christian is to try to discern the INSPIRATION I spoke of before that the writer experienced. Try to read past the necessarily crippled language of the author and get after what the author was trying to convey.

I don't know what she'll think of that response. It does work for me - someone who had many of the same issues with biblical texts at one point.

Peace & All Good,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Ezekial 2:2-5
Psalm 123:1-4
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Mark 6:1-6

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Latin Mass

Today I attended a Traditional Latin Mass for the first time. It is held in a parish a few towns over on a weekly basis. In order to help me understand what was going on (and because he had not been to one for decades), my Dad - a former altar server and seminarian schooled in the Tridentine Mass - came along as well.

Until today, I questioned the reasoning of why we as Church need an Extraordinary Rite for the Mass anymore. Mass in the Ordinary form, the vernacular, is more than sufficient. The people are able to participate, you can see and hear the priest, it's a community celebration, the music is modern. The Tridentine Mass is in a dead language that no one speaks, the priest has his back to the faithful, and the faithful don't really participate at all. However, this is my Church and my legacy. I figured it would to me good to experience the Latin Mass once and then I could scoff at this antiquated mode of worship from a position of having experienced it firsthand.

God must be laughing at me right now, boy.

The two words that keep coming to mind are Reverence and Mystery. The careful, meticulous set-up by the sacristan, the well-practiced altar servers, the cadence and beauty of the Latin language (did I say it was a 'dead language'???). I was reminded today that the focus and purpose of the Mass is not on the priest, his homily, keeping the congregation entertained with fine music. As I mentioned in my previous entry on Reconciliation, IT'S THE SACRAMENT, STUPID! The priest has his back to us because he is focused on the same thing the congregation is supposed be focused on...The Real Presence, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist. The Word made Flesh in our very midst.

I didn't understand the Latin or course, even though I tried to follow along in the Missal. This didn't bother me, however. Surprisingly enough, it added to the sense of Mystery I was experiencing as Mass went on, that there was something awesome and supernatural going on. My Dad however, was intent on the priest, always knew where to respond, even was mouthing the words along with him. "I guess it's like riding a bike...you never really forget!" he had said to me afterwards.

And receiving Communion - kneeling before the priest with the server holding a paten under my chin ('lest He strike His foot against a stone' - Luke 4:11). Indescribable.

Here are some thoughts from a Catholic tutorial on the web, describing Latin Mass as a source of Unity for the Church. Thanks go out to the folks at SanctaMissa,org:

"Latin is well adapted for the services of the Catholic Church, because it is both venerable and mysterious. It is venerable on account of its origin and its antiquity; it is the language in which the praises of God resounded from the lips of Christians during the first centuries. It is a sublime and solemn thought that the holy sacrifice is now offered in the same language, nay, with the very same words as it was offered in times long past in the obscurity of the Catacombs. There is also an element of mystery about the Latin tongue; it is a dead language, not understood by the people. The use of an unknown tongue conveys to the mind of the vulgar that something is going on upon the altar, which is past their comprehension, that a mystery is being enacted. In the first centuries of Christianity a curtain used to be drawn during the time from the Sanctus to the communion, to conceal the altar from the sight of the worshippers. This is now no longer done, but the use of an unknown tongue has something of the same effect, by inspiring the awe into the minds of the common people. It is a striking fact that Israelites and pagans made use, in the worship of the Deity, of a language with which the multitude were not conversant. The Israelites made use of the ancient Hebrew, the language of the patriarchs; we do not find Our Lord or the apostles censuring this practice. The Greek Church, both orthodox and schismatic, employs the old form of the Greek language for divine service, not that spoken at present. The same language is in use in the Russian (so-called orthodox) Church, not the vernacular, which is a Slavonic dialect."

http://www.sanctamissa.org/en/faq/latin-as-a-source-of-unity.html#R1

I will definitely make it a point to make it to a Tridentine Mass on a fairly regualr basis. Learning a bit of Latin wouldn't hurt, either!

Pax,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23,24
Psalm 30:2-6, 11-13
2 Corinthians, 8:7, 9, 13-15
Mark 5:21-43

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reconciliation

Sometimes "on the fly" is the best way to do it.

Me and the boys got to Mass 20 minutes earlier than expected...since we're all going to my sister's to celebrate Father's Day tomorrow, plus we are picking up 2 new kittens (long story for another post) Saturday evening Mass was the best bet. As I sat the boys down, I immediately walked to the back of the church in order to grab a bulletin...and found myself in the confessional instead. Monsignor is NOT my favorite priest, nor is he my normal confessor. Yet, there I was, not 100% understanding why I closed to door to his confessional.

Then I remembered - it's the SACRAMENT, stupid!

It doesn't matter if I'm all that comfortable, or if I personally am fond of the priest (at the proper moment, he's in persona Christi, anyway). What matters is the grace that is always available through this Sacrament, regardless of the church in which it takes place, or the priest who celebrates it with us.

Monsignor was also the celebrant at Mass, so I made him (and Mass) a couple of minutes late. On the upside however, I made a good Confession and was glad I followed the nudgings of the Spirit this afternoon!

Peace,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings (Sunday)
Job 38:1, 8-11
Psalm 107:23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31
2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Mark 4:35-41

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Archie...September 4, 1996-June 17, 2009

It's hard to welcome Sister Death into your home, especially when you're not expecting a visit.

Today, Archie, our 13-year old cat, seemed to be having difficulty breathing. He'd been...off the last week or so. Breathing a little fast, hiding out under the bed, but always coming down for meals, purring and sitting on laps and shoulders when invited. Today was different.

Lori called me this morning at work and said Archie's breathing was labored and his stomach looked distended. She made an appointment with the vet and kept an eye on him for the rest of the day. Around 4 she called back and said she was taking him early - he was getting worse. The vet said Archie wasn't "critical" - he was mauling the veterinary techs like he usually did - so I figured I'd take a cab to the vet, wait with Lori and bring the gang home after they sedated Archie (like they always had to). We'd give him medicine and that would be that.

After waiting awhile with Lori, the vet came in with Archie's X-Rays. She said, "Alright, I don't have good news, so brace yourselves..." and I knew the nature of what was coming next. I heard "congestive heart failure". I heard "grave and critical" and I heard "nothing we can do for him." There was a lot of crying and why'ing. The vet left us to hold him and love him and say goodbye. I can't bring myself to write about the next part, so...

Fast forward to now.

My companion Archie is gone. Archie, who had seen me through some of the best and worst times of my life, who accepted kitty milk from a bottle in sitting in my hand at 4 weeks old, who was there when we brought both James and Patrick home from the hospital, who sat on my shoulder purring when I was in alcoholic withdrawal and going out of my skin, who stayed with me when I felt like giving up, who slept cradled in my arms or on top of my head. Archie has died. I have lost a dear, dear friend. When I finally go to my own reward, God willing, it will be Archie's mug I see stepping over that Rainbow Bridge into Heaven.

In short, I'm going to miss my friend very, very much.

Rest easy, Archibald.

Daily Mass Readings
2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Psalm 112:1-4,9
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Loving our enemies...Isn't there an easier way?

"Jesus said to his disciples:
You have heard that it was said,
'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

-Matthew 5:43-48

Anyone else have problems adhering to this?

I try to be a good man, a good husband and a good father. I try to make that daily decision to love my neighbor. But what Jesus asks here seems like lunacy to me sometimes. Love my enemy??? Jesus, are you kidding me? I have a hard enough time trying to do right by my wife, kids and cats. I have to include the guy who lives behind me with seven dogs and the broken fence? The lady who almost rams into me with her car because she's too busy putting her face on to steer the wheel? That guy in high school who beat me up to make me look bad into front of a girl? Him, too??

Him, too, Jesus says.

All about the journey I suppose. I know Jesus didn't mean be all fluffy-huggy-lovey-dovey with my enemies ('cause I AIN'T doing that, at least no today!). No, Jesus exhorts me to pray for them, to hope for their welfare and for their good. Jesus challenges me with this idea today, as I don't know that I can pray for people I consider "enemies". I have worse examples than my backyards neighbor and the other 2. I'm just not ready to bring that up in a blog today, however.

Perhaps, Jesus, I will pray for the openness, the willingness to love and pray for these enemies. That's as far as I can go right now, and I know You don't ask me to go further than I can. I need Your help, because it certainly doesn't feel like I have the capacity for such Love.

At least not today.

Peace & All Good,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
2 Corinthians 8:1-9
Psalm 146:2, 5-6ab, 6c- 7, 8-9a
Matthew 5:43-48

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A prayer for direction and discerment...

"MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Amen!"

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"

Daily Mass Readings
Acts 11:21b-26, 13:1-3
Psalm 98:1-6
Matthew 5:20-26

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Worshipping with Firearms????

I honestly was shocked when I read this article:

http://news.aol.com/article/church-welcomes-guns-at-july-4-bash/514621


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (June 5) - A Kentucky pastor is inviting his flock to bring guns to church to celebrate the Fourth of July and the Second Amendment.
New Bethel Church is welcoming "responsible handgun owners" to wear their firearms inside the church June 27, a Saturday. An ad says there will be a handgun raffle, patriotic music and information on gun safety.

The New Bethel Church in Louisville, Ky., has invited gun owners to bring their handguns to church the Saturday before July 4th. Here, Pastor Ken Pagano sits in the church sanctuary and discusses the event

"We're just going to celebrate the upcoming theme of the birth of our nation," said pastor Ken Pagano. "And we're not ashamed to say that there was a strong belief in God and firearms — without that this country wouldn't be here."
The guns must be unloaded and private security will check visitors at the door, Pagano said.
He said recent church shootings, including the killing Sunday of a late-term abortion provider in Kansas, which he condemned, highlight the need to promote safe gun ownership. The New Bethel Church event was planned months before Dr. George Tiller was shot to death in a Wichita church.
Kentucky allows residents to openly carry guns in public with some restrictions. Gun owners carrying concealed weapons must have state-issued permits and can't take them to schools, jails or bars, among other exceptions.
Pagano's Protestant church, which attracts up to 150 people to Sunday services, is a member of the Assemblies of God. The former Marine and handgun instructor said he expected some backlash, but has heard only a "little bit" of criticism of the gun event.
John Phillips, an Arkansas pastor who was shot twice while leading a service at his former church in 1986, said a house of worship is no place for firearms.
"A church is designated as a safe haven, it's a place of worship," said Phillips, who was shot by a church member's relative for an unknown reason and still has a bullet lodged in his spine. "It is unconscionable to me to think that a church would be a place that you would even want to bring a weapon."
Phillips spoke out against a bill before the Arkansas General Assembly that would have permitted the carrying of guns in that state's churches. The bill failed in February.
Pagano, 50, said some members of his church were concerned that President Obama's administration could restrict gun ownership, and they supported the plan for the event when Pagano asked their opinion.
Marian McClure Taylor, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, an umbrella organization for 11 Christian denominations in Kentucky, said Christian churches are promoters of peace, but "most allow for arms to be taken up under certain conditions."
Taylor said Pagano assured her the event would focus on promoting responsible gun ownership and any proceeds would go to charity.
"Those two commitments are consistent with the high value the Assemblies of God churches place on human life," she said in an e-mail message.
Pagano is encouraging church members to bring a canned good and a friend to the event. He said guns must be unloaded for insurance purposes and safety reasons.
He said the point was not to mix worship with guns, though he may reference some passages from the Bible.

"Firearms can be evil and they can be useful," he said. "We're just trying to promote responsible gun ownership and gun safety."

END STORY

Now don't get me wrong...I'm a 2nd amendment advocate, although I don't own guns myself. However, to specifically celebrate the 2nd amendment by outwardly bringing handguns into a house of worship; I don't know, does this seem off to anyone else???

On the lighter side of the news, Lori and I got the gazebo up in the backyard and I stole James' bicycle to get supplies at the drug store instead of driving. Man, did I have fun - haven't ridden a bike since about 11th grade, I guess. I may have to get my own bike and get myself back into shape with it.

Pax et Bonum,
Thomas
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Daily Mass Readings
Tobit 12:1, 5-15, 20
Tobit 13:2, 6-8
Mark 12:38-44

Monday, June 1, 2009

"Pro-life"???

How ironic that, under the banner of “preserving life”, a man gets murdered in his own house of worship.

Dr. George Tiller, a high-profile provider of late-term abortions, was gunned down in his Wichita church, Reformation Lutheran, where he was serving as usher. The early speculation is that the suspect, Scott Roeder of Kansas City, Kansas was a “pro-life” activist.

How does one promote respect for the dignity of human life at the barrel of a gun??? Where does the cycle of violence end? Will it end when Scott Roeder is convicted and executed? Will it end with the next late term abortion? Will it end with the next clinic bombing? Will it end when Tiller’s replacement arrives at the clinic? Killing is wrong, whether it be by late-term abortion, gunshot wound, or lethal injection. If you want to characterize yourself as “pro-life”, you can’t simply pick and choose the lives you believe deserve protection. Every human being, from womb to tomb, from embryo to George Tiller, possesses an inherent right to life. It is not for us to judge whether someone is worthy of that right.


Some thoughts from people a lot smarter than me:

  • “’Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord” – Romans 12:19
  • "The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will acclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation...” – Pope John Paul II
  • “Did Jesus come only to the innocent, or is there a way that we can stand in the dignity of all human life, even those among us who have done terrible crimes?” – Sister Helen Prejean
  • “If one contends, as we do, that the right of every fetus to be born should be protected by civil law and supported by civil consensus, then our moral, political and economic responsibilities do not stop at the moment of birth.” - Joseph Cardinal Bernadin
  • “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” – Mohandas K. Gandhi
  • “Those who seek a pro-life culture must accept that we will never persuade all 300 million American to agree with us. A pro-life culture can only be built from the ground up, person by person.” – Congressman Ron Paul.

Pax et Bonum,
Thomas

Daily Bible Readings
Tobit 1:3, 2:1a-8
Psalm 112:1-6
Mark 12:1-12


Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Winds of Pentecost

We can't always see how the Spirit works in our lives. He nudges, breathes on us, urges us forward, waits for us to take our action. Wind - we cannot see it, per se, but we can witness its effects; the gentle movement of our hair in a light breeze, a palm tree bent over from the hurricane's gale, the flicker of a candle next to an open window.

The Spirit moves in these secret circles, stirring up the fires of our faith, breezing us into action, keeping us strong when we think our strength is gone. My faith had been lackadaisical for awhile (look at the inconsistency of my blogging!) In the last week, without planning much of it, I went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, got enrolled in Brown Scapular, applied for the local Ancient Order of Hibernians division, brought my dad to Mass, and had a wonderful brunch with an old friend today.

I'm also excited because my dad and I enjoyed our outing so much that we are going attend a Latin Mass next week - something I have never experienced. Really looking forward to it!

The Spirit has breathed on the embers of my seemingly dormant faith and - for the time being - a cozy little fire is crackling on the hearth!

Come Holy Spirit!

Pax et Bonum,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Acts 2:1-11
Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7
John 20:19-23

Monday, May 4, 2009

I felt you touch me, Lord

Just grateful to be alive, grateful for my family - my wife, my children. Grateful for you, my Risen Christ and the gift of vocation you have given me, even if I am unsure what that wholly entails!

I look past my primary vocation of husband and father so many times that I forget it is a vocation at all. It is sacramental and holy, and I have to try not to take it for granted. It is the the day-to-day that I can become most intimate with you, my Brother Jesus. I must do better to hear the whispers, instead of trying to tune in to thunderclaps that may not come.

Francis and Clare help to to hear!

Pax,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Memorial of Saint Athanasius
Acts 9:31-42
Psalm 116:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
John 6:60-69

Friday, March 6, 2009

Another step...

Last night on the spur of the moment, I decided to "give up" my beard for at least the remainder of Lent.

It wasn't easy shaving, let me tell you. I had been growing it out for almost 2 months. I loved to groom it, to shape it, to play around with it absentmindedly. I looked at it in the mirror every chance I got. I was very proud of it. And all that is why it had to go.

I spent more time fiddling around with that thing than taking care of the house, playing with my kids, spending quality time with my wife (who hated it, by the by). It became a source of ridiculous obsession, of self-absorption, which is exactly what someone like me ought to be avoiding, especially during Lent.

The time I spent grooming my lovely beard will be better spent.

Daily Mass Readings
Ezekial 18:21-28
Psalm 130:1-8
Matthew 5:20-26