12.30.2007

A Model Family


Today, the Catholic Church celebrated the wonderful feast of the Holy Family -- Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They are a model family. Coming together as a family unit was certainly not what the earthly parents of Jesus must have had in their thoughts. Mary and Joseph, while not unknown to one another, never dreamed of the important role that they would play in the lives of the Newborn Savior and the entire world.

May we come to realize the important roles that each of us plays in the relationships that we have each day. One person can make a difference and usually does. Holy Family, pray for us.

12.20.2007

Eucharist: A Sacrament That Demands RESPECT

Christmas is upon us and our Churches will once again be filled with the practicing and not-so practicing faithful. As a priest, the thought that so many of the not-so practicing attendees will come forward to receive the Real Presence of the Lord makes me shutter. Short of making them wear a red letter, I do not know what can be done to avoid the abuse.

So many people today who claim their faith as Catholic do not have the seriousness of mind to even consider that they are sinning when they fail to meet the obligations of faith (i.e. Sunday Mass) or are living in a state absent of grace (i.e. divorced and remarried outside of the Church) and then receive the Body of Christ. It is hard for the priest to connect with those who do not attend regularly and that is why the faithful in general need to confront the situation when they see the abuses.

I would like to address today the reception of this Most Sacred Sacrament. During these times when the Churches are crowded, the patience of the priest (including myself) is tried. When people attempt to grab the Host out of his hand, do not even have the decency to remove sweater sleeves, keys, purses and various other things that cover their palms so that their hands can’t actually receive the Lord, or have a child in the arms or walk with a cane and think that they can manage with one hand hurts the priest and what he devotes his life to each day. It just means that the people are not clued into what they are doing or Whom they are receiving. And sometimes they treat the Eucharistic Lord like a piece of popcorn that they toss in their mouth so disgracefully.

The faithful were poorly instructed about receiving Holy Communion in the hand when the practice arose in the seventies and in most cases were never instructed again let alone corrected in their sloppy habits. The changes, while true, hearken back to the early days in the Church and tried to connect the faithful with their roots have become a scandalous and sacrilegious action. It seems that either the Bishops of the United States need to impose more stringent guidelines or discontinue the reception in the hand altogether.

12.17.2007

Santa At Bethlehem



THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS! A BEAUTIFUL NIGHT!
THE AIR WAS SO CRISP AND THE STARS WERE SO BRIGHT!
AND DOWN BY THE LAKE YOU COULD STILL HEAR THE RINGING
OF LAUGHTER AND SLEIGH BELLS, AND YOUNG PEOPLE SINGING.

IN ONE LITTLE HOME ON THIS WONDERFUL EVE
THE CHILDREN WERE GUESSING WHAT SANTA WOULD LEAVE.
THEY HUNG UP THEIR STOCKINGS WITH LITTLE BIG EYES
THAT SHONE WITH DELIGHT AND THE HOPE OF SURPRISE.
AND THEN MOTHER DARKENED THE LIVING ROOM LIGHT,
FOR THIS WAS THE LOVELIEST PART OF THE NIGHT.

WHEN ALL OF THE CHILDREN WERE GATHERED TO SING
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU" TO THE NEW LITTLE KING.
BUT A SHADOW OF SADNESS ENVELOPED THEIR JOY,
THERE WERE TEARS IN THE EYES OF THE ONE LITTLE BOY,
HE TURNED TO HIS MOTHER AND LET OUT A CRY,
"THE ANGELS WERE THERE, THE SHEPHERDS CAME BY,
THE WAY WAS SO CLEAR, AND THE STAR WAS SO BRIGHT,
DIDN’T SANTA CLAUS STOP AT THE STABLE THAT NIGHT?"

THE MOTHER WAS STUNNED – THERE WASN’T A STIR –
THE FIVE LITTLE CHILDREN WERE LOOKING AT HER.
THEY WANTED TO KNOW WHAT THE ANSWER COULD BE –
WHAT COULD SHE TELL THEM – HOW COULD THEY SEE?

THEN SHE LOOKED AT THE STABLE – THE INFANT SO SWEET,
AND SHE LOOKED AT THE MOTHER WHO KNELT AT HIS FEET.
THE BABY WAS LOVE – THE JOY OF THE LIVING,
THE MOTHER – THE ESSENCE OF SHARING AND GIVING.

AND THERE WAS THE ANSWER TO COUNTER HER FEAR,
WHAT SEEMED INCONSISTENT BECAME VERY CLEAR
FOR WHEN BEFORE CHRIST WAS THERE EVER A CAUSE
FOR ANY POOR SOUL TO EXPECT SANTA CLAUS?

YES, THE INFANT WAS LOVE AND THE JOY OF THE LIVING;
AND MARY, HER BABY WAS SHARING AND GIVING.
AND SANTA WAS THERE, A GIFT FROM ABOVE,
INVISIBLE SYMBOL OF GIVING AND LOVE.

THERE WAS JOY IN HER HEART AS SHE TENDED TO TEAR,
AND HER WORDS OVERFLOWED WITH GENUINE CHEER,
FOR HOW SHE WAS SURE THAT HER ANSWER WAS RIGHT,
"OF COURSE, SANTA CAME TO THE STABLE THAT NIGHT!"

AND OH, WITH WHAT JOY DID THE CHILDREN RECEIVE
THE STORY SHE TOLD OF THE FIRST CHRISTMAS EVE;
"THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS! A LONG TIME AGO!
AWAY TO THE NORTH IN THE LAND OF THE SNOW!

AND THERE LIVED A TOY MAKER CHEERFUL AND GOOD
WHO MADE THE MOST WONDERFUL TOYS THAT HE COULD.
BUT THERE WAS A RUMOR THAT SEEMED TO BE WILD,
THAT SANTA HAD MADE ALL THE TOYS FOR ONE CHILD.
AND YET, NO ONE EVER HEARD OF ONE TOY
THAT SANTA HAD GIVEN TO GIRL OR TO BOY.

AND SOME PEOPLE SAID THAT WHEN SANTA SLEPT SOUND,
WITH NO ONE BUT SOME OF HIS HELPERS AROUND,
THE TOYS IN THE WORKSHOP CAME DOWN FROM THE SHELVES
AND HAD THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME FOR THEMSELVES.

AND AS THEY WERE FROLICKING ONE WINTER NIGHT,
THEY SUDDENLY NOTICED A BEAUTIFUL LIGHT,
AND THEN THEY RECALLED WITH EXCITEMENT AND JOY
WHAT SANTA HAD SAID AS HE FINISHED EACH TOY,
"I FASHIONED YOU INTO A WONDERFUL THING
FOR SOMEDAY, YOU WILL BE MY GIFT TO THE KING."

WHEN SANTA CLAUS SAW THE REMARKABLE LIGHT,
HE KNEW THAT TONIGHT WAS THE GLORIOUS NIGHT.
AT LAST, AFTER ALL OF THE YEARS HE HAD WAITED,
THE INFANT WAS BORN AS THEY HAD STATED.

SO QUICKLY HE CALLED EVERY HELPER AND AIDE
TO PACK ALL THE WONDERFUL TOYS HE HAD MADE --
HE PACKED THEM ALL CAREFULLY INSIDE OF HIS SLEIGH,
AND LED BY THE STAR, HE BEGAN ON HIS WAY.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS! A BEAUTIFUL NIGHT!
THE AIR WAS SO CRISP, AND THE STAR WAS SO BRIGHT.
QUIET AND CALM OVER ALL BETHLEHEM LAY.
SILENCE REPLACED THE ADO OF THE DAY.

HIGH ON HILLSIDE, THE ANGELS WERE SINGING
OF PEACE, OF LOVE THE CHRIST CHILD WOULD BE BRINGING.
THERE IN THE MANGER THE INFANT WAS SLEEPING.
AND MARY AND JOSEPH A VIGIL WERE KEEPING –
A VIGIL OF LOVE, ADORATION AND PRAYER
FOR JESUS, WHOM GOD HAD ORDAINED TO THEIR CARE,
AND LATE IN THE NIGHT BY THE LIGHT FROM ABOVE,
SANTA CLAUS CAME WITH A HEART FULL OF LOVE.

HE GAZED AT THE INFANT – THE DEAR LITTLE LORD.
AND KNEELING (BOWING), HE SILENTLY PRAYED AND ADORED.
THEN SANTA AROSE AND WITHOUT A NOISE,
HE BROUGHT TO THE MOTHER THE WONDERFUL TOYS.

HE TOLD HER OF HOW HE HAD MADE EVERY ONE.
SO HE MIGHT PRESENT THEM ALL TO HER LITTLE SON.
AND THEY SAY WHEN OUR LADY BEHELD THE SURPRISE
SHE WHISPERED TO SANTA WITH TEARS IN HER EYES,
"I THANK YOU FOR WHAT YOU HAVE GIVEN MY SON.
YOUR PRESENT IS TRULY A WONDERFUL ONE.

AND THIS ABOVE ALL IS THE WORTHIEST PART,
THE LOVE THAT IS FOSTERED FOR HIM IN YOUR HEART.
BUT YOU KNOW THAT MY SON WILL BE LIKE THE OTHER BOYS
AND HE COULDN’T POSSIBLY USE THAT MANY TOYS."

SO EACH CHRISTMAS EVE, AS IF BY THE STAR
I’D LIKE YOU TO TRAVEL BOTH NEAR AND AFAR,
TO VISIT THE CHILDREN AS JINGLE BELLS RING
IN HONOR OF JESUS, THE NEW LITTLE KING.

AND SPREAD ALL YOUR LOVE AND YOUR SPIRIT OF GIVING
SO OTHERS MAY SHARE IN THE JOY OF THE LIVING.
AND OF YOU, SANTA TO TAKE ALL THE WONDERFUL TOYS,
AND GIVE THEM WITH LOVE TO THE GIRLS AND THE BOYS

FOR THAT IS WHICH YOU DO UNTO SOME OTHER ONE,
IS COUNTED AS IF IT WERE DONE FOR MY SON!"
THEN SWEETLY SHE PATTED THE TOYS WITH HER HAND,
AND PICKED FOR HER BABY, A LITTLE WHITE LAMB.

12.15.2007

Losing A Beloved Parishioner

Within the past month I have lost two parishioners who I have truly come to admire and should I say love. Both men were strong in their faith, very conscious of their imperfections and extremely thankful to God for the blessings of their spouses and children. Seldom does a priest get to know such parishioners in such a limited amount of time and my life has been blessed by their presence in it, along with countless others I have met over the year.

What causes such a special relationship between priest and parishioner? Well, as with any relationship it must be built from both sides. The lay person has to be willing to give oneself, to become known by the priest and in turn the priest must be willing to be human, not mechanical. I strongly believe that today's priests are all too often wrapped up in their own world. I for one, try to be different.

When I describe myself as different, I do not mean it in the weird sense, but rather unique in the personal sense. I love being a priest because of the ministry which I am privledged to perform. This ministry is not just sacramental, but social. One of the pastors who I have been honored to serve with put it this way, "Ministry of presence is the key to a good minster." Yet, the way we live our lives sometimes contradicts that way of thinking.

But I digress...I try (and yes sometimes I miss the mark) to be present to all of God's people. And many times I feel like an outsider, because of those I would like to know better not including me into their lives -- and it can hurt. I can only imagine what Jesus felt like when He tried to get close to someone and they turned away. How it must of hurt to watch His disciples walk away when He needed them.

Ministry of presence really does mean something. While I might not always have something profound to say, just being their means a great deal. As followers of he Lord, we can all be more present to one another, removing ourselves from our own designs and building a better community.

Eternal rest grant to them our Lord and perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.