My brother in law Tony helping the poor

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Saints and Veterans - What do they have in common?

Happy Veteran's Day!!  I especially want to wish my brother John a great day.  John served in the Vietnam War in the late 60's, early 70's.  I was merely 5 years old when he returned (thank God) to us, and a good thing he did!  He has been such an asset to this country, not just in his service, but as a citizen as well.  John is my oldest brother, someone I have always looked up to and has never let me down.  Thank you God for my brother John!  In honor of my brother I thought I would share this story with you.  It is a story of courage AND faith.

Last Thanksgiving my nephew had come home for a holiday visit and was all excited to tell us about his new girlfriend (by the way, they are now engaged).  As we were sitting around the rather large dining room table surrounded by cozy decor and music, my nephew mentioned to me that even though he still considers himself Catholic he doesn't really "believe in all the Catholic stuff."  "Like what," I asked?  Across the table my oldest brother shot his wife a look like "ah ha...we got us another one!"  You see, my brother and his wife belong to Parkside Church, a ginormous non-denominational church on the east side.   My brother was born and raised Catholic like all of us but I think after his divorce he figured it was just easier to switch faiths rather than going through a long drawn out annulment process.  But that's just my opinion. 

Anyhow, my nephew proceeds to tell me that he doesn't understand why we have to believe in or pray to saints.  Of course there is nothing that says we as Catholics have to pray to the saints but we do recognize them.  In fact, there is a saint for every day of the week on our Catholic Calendars, and of course we recognize our patron saints for particular vocations, and whatnot, but there is no "worshiping" of saints. 

Yet I understood my nephew's question and wanted help him understand it better, so I looked to my brother, the ex-Vietnam veteran for inspiration.  My response to my nephew's question was simply this;  My brother (his uncle) is truly a great man and a great inspiration to me.  He is a man who selflessly fought in the Vietnam War and was highly recognized for his bravery and courage.  I thought, how wonderful it is that we have such a terrific monument erected in our nations capital to recognize the bravery of all these great men and women especially those who gave their lives so that we can continue to enjoy the freedom we have today!  It is because of this example that we remember our saints and honor them as well.  If it were not for their bravery and courage we would not be able to enjoy the religious freedom we have come to take for granted. 

How can we dismiss the people who have given their lives for our freedom, religious or constitutional?  When you deny or ignore the saints you are also ignoring history.  I would no more want people to forget the men and women who serve to protect our political freedoms than those men and women who have served to protect our religious freedoms.  How sad it is that we give more honor to veterans of political wars than we do to veterans of religious wars?  We don't pray to our political veterans or worship them either but we do remember them.  Like our saints, we even have a special day marked on our calendar in "honor" of them. 

There are many things that people of other faiths,even Catholics for that matter, find strange, but in all of our persuit for a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" I think we forget that we are not him.  Allister Beggs, the very articulate and entertaining pastor at Parkside Church bellowed during his latest Christmas concert, "it's all about your personal relationship with Jesus."  Well, my question to him is, if all that matters is my relationship with Jesus Christ, what do I need him for?  

One time I said to him as I walked into his HUGE mega church, "where is your crucifix and alter?"  He replied, "we don't worship icons here."  "Then what do you call those big screen televisions?" I replied.  

You may think our methods are archaic and silly but I'd rather be silly and found than contemporary and lost!  

Peace to you in the New Year. 

The Church at Lourdes

Saturday, December 19, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Advent is a time of hopeful anticipation.  Christmas is a time for Celebration!  I would like to write to you today about the Nativity of our Lord Jesus and the role Joseph played in this life-changing event.  There are very few times that Joseph is mentioned in the bible.  In fact, almost the only times he is mentioned is in the story of the birth of our Lord.  

Let's take a look at Joseph.  He was a man who was literally blind-sided by his fiance.  In his mind he chose Mary because she possessed those qualities and virtues that he thought he wanted in a wife, then she hit him with the big news!  Now I'm sure today nobody would even bat an eye at the situation, but in those days, people were very proud of their faith and virtue.  Finally, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him not to worry, that Mary's story is true.  From that moment on Joseph dedicates himself to his new wife and child.  They become inseparable.  Mary chooses to travel with her husband to Bethlehem for the census, knowing full well how difficult this trip will be on her, not to mention Joseph, who has to walk about 1000 miles on rocky terrain!  Imagine travelling along and hearing your wife scream out in pain as she is sitting on a donkey ready to give birth.  He runs frantically looking for a place for his family and all he comes up with was a stupid barn! Now, I'm going to interject a comment here.  If my husband made me travel for 1000 miles on the back of donkey 9 months pregnant and then at the moment of excruciating pain helps me off the donkey and sticks me in a smelly (I dont want even imagine what it must of smelled like!) barn to give birth to the son of God, I don't even want to tell you what comments would be spewing from my mouth at that moment.  But...Mary is Mary, and I'm sure at that point she could have cared less.  

Back to my story.  So, he not only found her a place to have the baby but he probably delivered the baby himself!  Wow!  The other amazing thing is, when Harod decided to kill all the newborn male babies, again the angel appeared to Joseph and told him to flee and to take his family into Egypt.  Again, if I were Mary, I would have said, "I don't care you go, but I'm going home to my Mother!"  Nope, she trusted Joseph like Joseph had to trust Mary...and the rest they say is history.  

So why the title "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished?"  Because Joseph did everything he was told and when it really mattered, he had to count on God to provide for him, his wife, and for the child, and what did God provide?  A stinky barn and manger?  What kind of providing is that?  We would have never given our children a stinky barn to have our grandchild in.  Soooo, no good deed goes unpunished.  Even after he did everything he was told it would seem as though God punished them.  Ahhhhh, but did He?  In that barn there was delivered a powerful and mighty king, though nobody would have believed it.  Soon, shepards and Magi were there to give "witness" to this king and to see the greatest of all in the most humble of places.  

Isn't that the real message of Christmas?  In order to be great, one must first be humbled.  Humility is not the opposite of greatness it is the necessary ingredient for greatness and our good deeds are not punished (even though it may seem as though they are), they are masqueraded in humility.  

Once we are born we are all on our way to the cross, so that when we are called we can stand in the glory!  

Glory to God in the Highest, and peace on earth!  Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

New Opportunities Requires Change

One thing that I have grown very familiar with, is change.  Change is the one thing a person can absolutely count on when they are committed to serving Christ and doing His will.  If you read my last blog you will remember that I had decided to commit myself to giving more...even if it seemed impossible.  Well Jesus, who has an incredible sense of humor by the way, has decided to put me through the ultimate test this holiday. 

On December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, my pastor came into my office to give me an early birthday present.  He explained that in light of our parishes difficult financial situation the Finance Council recommended that he tell me that I was a "luxury they just can not afford right now."  Luxury?  I was stunned!  I have always felt my work was a necessity not a luxury!  But, our Finance Council saw it differently.  Mostly because they have never sat in my office or walked in my shoes.  They literally have absolutely NO idea what I even do.  But that being said, I can't say that I was completely shocked.  I probably have the highest salary of any staff member or teacher and therefore I was the biggest target. 

After the initial "what are you kidding me?" response, ALL I thought about was this parish.  The people, the disappointment, the back to old ways, the money that won't be coming in, the festival that literally consumed me for months, all these things flashing in my mind...who was going to handle all these things?  The response?  "Volunteers."  I could have busted out laughing, but instead I just said, "well, I'll check back with in 6 months, let me know how that's working out for you."  I felt bad, for my pastor, for the parishioners, for the Finance Council, but I never really thought about how I was feeling.  I never cried, or freaked out, or panicked.  That night after telling my husband and getting his wonderful as always support, he just said, "well, where is God calling you next?" 

Where in deed?  I hadn't thought about it yet so I wondered.  The next morning I returned to work as usual but this time I spent the first hour or so of my day thinking about what God wanted of me.  I made a few phone calls to leaders in the Catholic church community and by the end of the day I had 2 interviews scheduled for the following week.  Let me stop right there for a minute.  I want you to understand the impact this has had on my life.  I was absolutely stunned by the outpouring of Church leaders who sent me supportive letters and/or who invited me to come and talk with them.  Although I did not feel sorry for myself or cry over the loss of a job I loved, I did get very choked up by the support I received.  Both of the jobs I am interviewing for next week are WONDERFUL positions and I would be lucky to be offered either of them.  One is with the Diocese and the other is with another fantastic Catholic organization.  I am blessed that they wanted to speak to me, and if that is as far as it goes, I would be fine with that.  If it leads to a job, that would be even better!  Afterall it is all up the Jesus.

It's 2 days before my 44th birthday and 2 weeks before Christmas.  I have bills piled up from the holidays and I have no idea where I will be going or what I will be doing in 2010, but for the first time in a very long time, I am sooo happy!  Advent is the season of expectant hope, and Jesus is making that all the more personal for me this year.  What a blessing.  So today I wait with anticipation and hope for the next little chapter of my life in Christ.  If this was my birthday present, I can't wait to see what He has in mind for Christmas! :)