Archive for March, 2014

Wave After Wave

Posted: March 31, 2014 in World On The Edge

file5451238436403I spent my childhood summers on Panama City Beach, Florida at a cottage my grandfather built for my grandmother , a surprise for their twenty-fifth anniversary.¬† The beach was something very familiar, the Easter Basket colors of its water–lime green, purple, cobalt blue. Its sand white as sugar, its dunes barely able to be climbed by a young child, and challenging to the point of necessity for a pre-teen. But the most impressive characteristic of the beach were the waves.

A wave can startle. A wave can hit you in the face.¬† And unless you’re careful, a wave can bring you down.

Isn’t life like that, too?

Don’t we often have wave after wave of surprises, disappointments, and even devastations in life?

But when we make the right judgments, the same waves that bring these things also bring delight, laughter, and that refreshing past-time–fun.

There are scientific principals that effect the waves on a beach, make them less or more.

There are principled and unprincipled  people who effect the waves in our life as well, making it more or less.

Who are those people in our lives ?

On a beach, there are some wonderful waves we’d play in, and some violent waves we wouldn’t go near for fear of danger.

In life there are some wonderful people who care deeply for us, and there are some whose¬†¬†lies we fall for time after time.¬† Shouldn’t¬† we discriminate between the two?¬† Shouldn’t we consider the dangers, or¬† benefits of each?

All this concerns what we’re actually after, what we’re really looking for in our lives. We can pretend we’re seeking Truth, but unless we really try to discover and accept what Truth actually is, we’re hypocrites.

The Truth is that there are some people who can help us along, who will walk with us if we let them–people who mirror the image of God in which we are made.¬† And there are people who pretend to be our best friend, but who actually who mirror the Father of Lies.

Which of these should we turn to?   Which of these should we walk with? Which of these should we trust during our journey toward eternal life?

Second Chances?

Posted: March 28, 2014 in World On The Edge

file1191278213082Everyone likes to have a second chance. And most of the time a second chance is there to be had. Except in the case of death. If we have things we know we should say to someone, yet we haven’t said them—because of pride, because we’re just so busy, or because there’s friction in the relationship—we need to wake up. We need to act. No one knows the day of death.

¬†But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,] but My Father only.¬†–Matthew 24:36

We may never get a second chance to tell someone we’re sorry, or that we love them and always have. We may never get a second chance to say thank you to someone who changed our lives.

We have only today. The past is over, and tomorrow may never come. Let’s not waste time with unimportant things. Let’s run to those we love. And let’s do it today.

When Great Trees Fall

by Maya Angelou

When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder, lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants lumber after safety.

When great trees fall in forests, small things recoil into silence, their senses eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile. We breathe, briefly. Our eyes, briefly, see with a hurtful clarity. Our memory, suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid, promised walks never taken.

Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us. Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened. Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away. We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of dark, cold caves.

And when great souls die,

after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly.  Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed.  They existed. We can be.  Be and be better.  For they existed.

Wisdom and Adversity

Posted: March 27, 2014 in World On The Edge

file0001052648856

Aren’t you amazed at the brilliance of people around us–smart people who push advances along in science, technology, medicine, physics, and a multitude of so much more. But are these people necessarily wise?

Intelligence is not the same as wisdom. Think of someone you consider wise. A parent, or grandparent? A counselor or teacher? A spiritual leader? Do you think they became wise because of their brilliant minds? or is there something else that makes a person truly wise?

Isn’t it his or her conscious choice to “do the right thing?” A person may not want to choose such a thing–yet he does it. And he does it courageously, because he sees a higher purpose.

A person may be born with genes of high intelligence, but I don’t believe a person is born wise. We discover wisdom for ourselves, usually after a journey through something dire, a path which must be our own–no one can take it for us. We have the capability of becoming wise after a journey through adversity. And each of us sometime in our lives, take such a journey.

Is there a better teacher of compassion than one’s own experience of suffering? Is there a better way to learn humility than to make a mistake? And when we face a adverse situation, such as illness or the death of a loved one, we often think about what LIFE actually means.

Of course, not ALL people grow wise from adversity–some grow mean, bitter, and revengeful. So what is the difference?

I believe it is a spiritual grounding, a belief in God who showed us the ‘right’ way, and continues to grace us with the strength to make courageous choices in difficult circumstances.

 

 

 

Meanness

Posted: March 26, 2014 in World On The Edge

file0001464950673

At some time or another, each of us will¬†lose our focus and be¬†¬†mean to another person.¬† And often it’s intentional. Why do we do this?

Are we mean to people because our own needs have not been met and so we lash out, “getting back at the world” for having treated us badly?

This is silly, because the world gives back to us the same as  we put out. Meanness will always rebound on us.

I think one of the reasons we are sometimes mean¬† is¬† because we see something in the other person¬†that reminds us¬† of¬† what we don’t like in ourselves. If we find ourselves bullying someone else, or insulting them, or plotting against them, we need to take a good look inside our own hearts.¬† What is bothering us? And then, try to be honest enough with ourselves to change it.

Another reason for meanness is jealously of another person.  We may feel the world has treated them better than us, given them more friends, or provided them with a better lifestyle.

To get over it,  we should first think about exactly what it is that they have that we want. Secondly,  will that thing make us happy? if we believe that it will, then we can actually learn from the person we are jealous of.  We can compliment them to their face on an accomplishment, rather than spitefully tearing them down behind their backs. And then in the nicest way we can,  simply ask them how they developed in themselves the thing that we want.

Meanness can also come from fear–maybe even the fear¬†of abandonment by someone we love. To guard against it we put that person down as often as we can.¬† We denigrate them¬†in an attempt to devalue ¬†them in¬† the off-balanced thinking that this will keep them dependent on us…i.e. “Who else would have you anyway?”

When meanness gets this¬†out of hand, we need spiritual help, because we’re destroying our selves as well as the one we pretend to love.

We should remember that meanness cannot make us happy, only more unhappy.

Malice drinks one half of its own poison.
—-Seneca

 

Sunday Morning Christian

Posted: March 25, 2014 in World On The Edge

file0001404788877The Sabbath¬† is the Lord’s Day. We go to Mass, or ¬†Church, taking our families with us. We listen to the Word of God, we may receive communion, we smile and greet the priest or preacher with god-fearing words.

But the love of God and neighbor is more than a one day a week¬†event. What about the other six days of the week? Shouldn’t they also belong to the Lord? Why don’t many of us carry Sunday ideas into the rest of the week?

If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor. — St. Charles Borromeo

And that’s it exactly. The PRESENCE OF GOD. Sunday or Monday, it makes no difference. We are always in the presence of God whether we realize it or not. If we cheat our neighbor, lie, or steal. If we abuse ourselves or others. If we ignore the rights of others no matter how small–God sees. God knows.

We show our love of God–or don’t show it–every day of every week. And He shows His love for us. It is a life long covenant, after all.

If only I could live in the Will of God‚ÄĒin His Spirit‚ÄĒin His Love. If I could only see His Providence, His Spirit at work in the present moment. He works, arranges, permits every facet of my life, every moment of my existence. His Presence is in the midst of my every day situations. The only Reality is within the reality of whatever is happening. If only I could embrace the present moment as if He were in front of me. The present moment is like a chisel in the hands of God. He uses it to round off jagged corners, smooth over rough surfaces, reshape and remold my soul. It is precious, for it brings God to me in a personal way. It calls forth the very best of the One who lives within me. My God, let me embrace the present moment with love. — Mother Angelica

Temptation

Posted: March 24, 2014 in World On The Edge

Yikes!Let’s talk about Temptation. Lent is a good time for that.

What is temptation? The common definition is the desire to perform an action that one may enjoy immediately or in the short term but will probably later regret for various reasons: legal, social, psychological (including feeling guilt), health-related, economic, etc.

In the context of religion,  temptation is the inclination to sin. We are all uniquely tempted depending on our personalities, genes, upbringing, environment.

Temptation also describes the coaxing or inducing by a person, other than ourselves, into committing¬† an act that we know is not good for us– the real danger is that this person makes it appear ‘good.’¬† Smart huh? After all, we wouldn’t choose it if we didn’t think it was good. But of course, this is how we’re misguided.

The best way to avoid temptation is to accept that we will be tempted. Then we have to know weaknesses and honestly admit them.¬† Next, we¬† put on the brakes whenever we’re in a situation that might cause us to fall into the wrong things—— or better yet we¬†really, really try¬† NOT to be in such a situation. If that means excusing ourselves from an event, or an enticing entanglement, then we must ¬†DO it.

Remember that what looks good to us after we’ve already made dubious decisions, or when we’re under some influence and not our true selves, may be exactly the wrong thing under normal circumstance.¬† For example, to a lonely man, don’t the girls all look prettier at closing time?

Temptation is controllable, if we’re honest with ourselves about our weaknesses, and then courageous enough to stay away from people, places, and situations that are sure to take advantage of our flaws.

Miracles

Posted: March 21, 2014 in World On The Edge

file1891283659092Young children have no problem believing in miracles. They are new,  innocent, and without the constraints living in this world can produce. But despite our age, many of us are still open to miracles.

A miracle is a happening that no natural power can bring to pass in any manner or form whatsoever. Have you experienced one?

Of course you have:

If you have seen a baby growing in the body of a woman.

If you have held in your hand the seed of a flower, planted it,  and watched it take root and bloom.

If you have seen the light and felt the burn of a sun you could never touch.

If you have  forgiven an enemy when you never thought you would.

If you have risked your life for another’s. Or another has risked his for yours.

If you have lived another day in suffering, yet also lived that day with hope.

If you have heard the voice of God through another person, or media outlet, or in the frustrations of a difficult personal situation.

If you have experienced any of these things, you have experienced the miracle of Grace in the world–right here where you are. And there are many more opportunities than these.

But caution. Though it is always being offered, Grace must be noticed affirmatively to be taken advantage of.

If we don’t take the time to notice and affirm them, the miracles of Grace will not affect us–not even if they are all around us.

God’s Grace is as much a part of our earthly lives as our own breathing.¬†But just as with our own breath, we must take it in and make it part of us.

For a Catholic, the greatest of miracles is the grace of the Eucharist.  The Bread of Life. For a greater explanation of this, the greatest of miracles, go to: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/christ-in-the-eucharist

Let’s be alert, so we can be open to the miracles that the grace of God shows to the world.

Maryhill_Museum_Romanian_crown_7-11

We don’t often think of our¬† leaders, or others who hold power,¬†¬†as being humble—because, frankly, most of them are not.¬† Instead, we set them apart from us, even above us.

But when offered a ride in limo after becoming Pope, Associated Press reports that Pope Francis replied, “I’ll just go with the guys on the bus.”

That’s Humility. A big, big word–not easy to accomplish.

When we talk about being humble, many people picture sort of a slumped and wimpy individual with eyes and head down. But that isn’t humility.

Humility is a virtue, in contrast to narcissism, hubris and other forms of pride. And it is often the most disregarded teachings–indeed, commandments– of Jesus, because it’s so hard to let go of our love of self.

I remember a song from many years ago–a fun song my girl friends and I loved to parody. It began: “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way!”

Of course, we knew we weren’t perfect, but maybe that’s why we tried to act a if we were. Because of an immature pride, we wanted everyone to perceive us as more, as better, as greater than we were. We did not realize that real greatness is always found in the service of others.

C.S. Lewis writes, in Mere Christianity, that pride is the “anti-god” state, the position in which the ego and the self is directly opposed to God: “Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

In contrast, Lewis states that, in Christian moral teaching, the opposite of pride is humility and, in his famous phrase, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

How much more could we become in our short lives on Earth if we thought less of ourselves—less about how we look, about what others think of us, about how we can best a situation to our own advantage?¬† Just think of the serious stress that we could remove from our everyday worry about Me. Me. Me. And the serious joy we could receive through a genuine concern about You. You. You.

I think our own image when we look in the mirror would be greatly enhanced.

After all, we may look great in our skin-tight jeans, with our¬†perfect hair, and money in our pocket—but I¬†don’t think that’s the ticket to eternal life.¬† Do you?

A Just Man

Posted: March 19, 2014 in World On The Edge

stjosephToday is the Feast of Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus, husband of Mary.Everything we know about him comes from Scripture and that has seemed too little for those who made up legends about him.

The Bible calls Joseph, “a just man.” This meant more than being faithful in paying a debt. It meant that Joseph shared in God’s holiness. He did what God wanted him to do. He went where God led him.

Here’s what we know from Catholic Online.

Jospeh was a carpenter, a working man, for the skeptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55). He wasn’t rich for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24).

Despite his humble work and means, Joseph came from a royal lineage. Luke and Matthew disagree some about the details of Joseph’s genealogy but they both mark his descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Indeed the angel who first tells Joseph about Jesus greets him as “son of David,” a royal title used also for Jesus.

We know Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been betrothed, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary according to the law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. He knew that women accused to adultery could be stoned to death, so he decided to divorce her quietly and not expose her to shame or cruelty (Matthew 1:19-25).

We know Joseph was man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome. When the angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately and without question or concern for gossip, took Mary as his wife. When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt without question until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23).

We know Joseph loved Jesus. His one concern was for the safety of this child entrusted to him. Not only did he leave his home to protect Jesus, but upon his return settled in the obscure town of Nazareth out of fear for his life. When Jesus stayed in the Temple we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48). We also know that Joseph treated Jesus as his own son for over and over the people of Nazareth say of Jesus, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:22)

We know Joseph respected God. He followed God’s commands in handling the situation with Mary and going to Jerusalem to have Jesus circumcised and Mary purified after Jesus’ birth. We are told that he took his family to Jerusalem every year for Passover, something that could not have been easy for a working man.

Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus’ public life, at his death, or resurrection, many historians believe Joseph probably had died before Jesus entered public ministry.

Joseph is the patron of the dying because, assuming he died before Jesus’ public life, he died with Jesus and Mary close to him, the way we all would like to leave this earth.

Joseph is also patron of the universal Church, fathers, carpenters, and social justice.

We celebrate two feast days for Joseph: March 19 for Joseph the Husband of Mary and May 1 for Joseph the Worker.

Today is also my youngest son’s birthday, a young man who has many of St. Joseph’s virtues. Happy Birthday, Patrick!

file2321234734336Everyone wants to be Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. But did you know Saint Patrick was a slave? Here’s the story from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britian in charge of the colonies.

As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him.

During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote

“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.”¬† “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”

Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britian, where he reunited with his family.

He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.”

He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years.

Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.

Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick’s message.

Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonized as well).

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.

He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.

Why a shamrock on Saint Patrick’s day?

Patrick used the three leaves of the  shamrock to explain the Trinity, and has been associated with him and the Irish since that time.

Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God can be a shining example to each of us. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission.