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Fast Food and Jesus

On my way home from visiting a family member, I decided to go through the drive through for a sandwich and a cup of coffee! It’s Lent, the forty days before Easter when Catholics are expected to fast, pray and give alms. We also don’t eat meat on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday and are encouraged to abstain from meat on all Fridays of Lent. I’ve never considered this practice weird or strange because I grew up in a Catholic home and attended a Catholic school for eight years. Now, when I was a kid we didn’t eat meat on Fridays, period. At Friday night slumber parties we had cheese pizza. At home, we would have salmon patties, or scrambled eggs and toast. We really didn’t eat fish in my family. We tried one time in the fifties when a new drive-in opened in my hometown on a Friday. They sold root beer in frosty mugs and had French Fries. My sister and I were excited to be going out to eat with our parents. We rarely ever did that. The car hop comes over to take our order. Dad orders 4 fish sandwiches with fries and root beer. Oh, wait a minute! The car hop said they didn’t have fish sandwiches and asked mid we would like a hamburger. I saw the look that passed between my parents and knew we were sunk! Dad said, “No, thanks, we’re Catholic.” No root beer, no fries, no sandwich. We went home to have supper.

Here I am in the drive through ordering my fish sandwich, fries and a cup of coffee. Then, I decided to order the baked apple pie. When I get to the window to pay, the woman said she couldn’t sell me an apple pie unless I didn’t mind waiting 15 minutes. They were all out of pies. She then added that they seemed to be getting a lot of fish orders with an apple pie. She said, “I don’t know what the deal is!” I told her it’s Lent and it’s Friday and Catholics don’t eat meat on Friday during Lent. I ordered a pie because it sounded good.” She smiled and I went on to tell her that it’s not really the idea of Lent to give up meat on Friday but reward yourself with pie at the same time. I asked her if she knew what Lent is; she said she did not. I explained it is the 40 days before Easter, and represent the struggle and suffering of Jesus. She said, her church does something similar: Self-sacrifice, prayer & helping the poor which matches up with fasting, praying and Almsgiving! I wished her a Joyful Easter and said, “We are more alike than we are different!”

7 Things you need to know about the Catholic Church:

1. The Catholic Church recognizes Baptisms performed with water, poured at least over the head of the individual, and saying the words: I Baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. A person who wants to be a Catholic does not have to be rebaptized. (Matt 3:13-17)

2. Separated or divorced people are always welcome to Mass and to participate in the parish. As long as the Catholic is not dating, or has not RE-married, the Catholic spouse is encouraged to participate in the sacraments. (Eph 5:25j. (CCC1665)

3. Catholics do read the Bible. Somewhere in the world there is a Catholic Mass as the Church is global. Most parishes offer a Mass several times a week. The first part of Mass is the Liturgy of the Word which is reading scripture. During the week day Masses, the readings will include an Old Testament selection, a Psalm and a Gospel. The Bible is read over a period of 2 years at week day Masses. Sunday Masses include an Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament letters and a Gospel covering the Bible in three years. ( catholic-resources.org)

4. The second part of Mass is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Catholics in a state of grace are encouraged to receive Holy Communion at each Mass they attend. The Eucharist is the body and blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ which he established at the Last Supper with his Apostles. Everyone is welcome to come to the table for a blessing or to receive Jesus. Generally, non-Catholics do not receive Holy Communion with us because of our unique beliefs. (Usccb.org) “The Structure of the Mass”

5. Catholics have a wide range of people which we serve. The support of orphans, the sick, the dying, the imprisoned, the immigrant, the homeless is considered our mission. (Matt 25). We have schools, hospitals, nursing homes and shelters specifically for people in a time of need. Volunteers go into the prisons to offer hope; they run second hand shops, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, educate the young, bury the dead and much more.

6. We believe in the Communion of Saints. Saints in heaven and on earth, those who have died and those who are living, we can join our voices in prayers of praise, petition and adoration. We ask the saints to pray with us and for us just as we ask a friend to pray for us. The Saints are examples of living your life for Christ. We all need examples to learn. Jesus is our Lord and Savior and we choose to follow him. Saints can help us with that when we learn about their lives, of how they overcame obstacles, and how they loved the Lord and their fellow humans. (CCC 957)

7. A friend of mine once said to me that she thought Catholics focused too much on sin. It seemed to her that would make us more sinful. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. We recognize that we, all people really, are sinners. Jesus came to save us because of the sin in the world. Catholics are to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, but more often is encouraged. It is our responsibility to have an informed conscience so we can make better decisions about what we do and what we don’t do. The Sacraments give us grace which helps us in daily life. (John 20:23)

There you have 7 things you might not have known about the Catholic Church. If you have any questions, please email me, or use the comments to ask. I would appreciate your help in sharing my blog with your friends. Thank you!

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TALK TO ME

As humans we need someone to talk to us and listen to what we say. if parents don’t talk to their babies, those little ones are slower to say words and identify objects. Eventually, not talking to children affects their social and emotional development and can be considered emotional abuse! Seems far-fetched, doesn’t, unless you have experienced, or seen, it. Poor communication can end the relationship. One party, or both, begins to feel that no one listens; disagreements come up frequently; defensive attitudes and behaviors creep in. Good communication makes it easier to deal with all the ups and downs of life in general. In good relationships, there is trust and honesty. This allows the parties to be open to each other and builds respect between them.

Communication with God is also very important and prayer is how we communicate with Him. It is through prayer that we build our relationship with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God has spoken to people throughout all time as we know it. We can share our concerns and the desires of our hearts but, just like in any relationship, we share those things after we have become more familiar with the other person and have trust and honesty in the relationship.

Building the trust and honesty in ourselves to talk to God, we must get to know him better. He is waiting for you to begin the conversation. You can start slowly and build up! Or, as in the scripture reading today, we have Esther’s prayer going in the deep end right away. Est 12:14-16, 23-25. “She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaiden, from morning until evening, and said: ‘God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. Help me, I am alone and have no help but you, . . .Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord, my God. . . .’” Esther received what she asked of the Lord.

Jesus loves us and will listen to us. Call on him, for “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. . . If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” (Matt 7:7-12). What confidence this instills in me! My Lord and my God will answer my prayers and petitions. Reach out to Him every day.

Six Ways To Pray

1. Adoration: demonstrating your love and respect for God by words and actions. Kneeling down to pray, or bowing your head as you pray is a sign of God’s sovereign authority in your life. We acknowledge Him as Creator, Lord, Redeemer, Father, Son and Spirit upon whom we depend for life itself. We adore Him, we love Him and we obey Hm.

2. Thanksgiving: demonstrating our gratitude to God for all He has done for you. We can thank Him for each person in our lives, for the His many blessings, for the gift of life and breath, and Salvation. Keeping a gratitude journal can help our mental outlook in times of distress. Write down 3-5 things for which you are grateful.

3. Petition or supplication: asking God to do something for you or someone else. You May pray for yourself, family friends, enemies, leaders, etc. Jesus taught the Apostles to pray saying what is frequently called, The Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, now and forever, Amen.”

4. Forgiveness or Confession: admitting the sins you have committed and asking God to forgive you while you also promise not to sin again to the best of your ability.

5. Communication: spontaneous or structured “conversation with God. a. Reading scripture and journaling about it; b. Speaking to God about your concerns spontaneously with no prayer memorization or reading of a prayer; c. Contemplation allows you to relax, focus on God, and only Him, while you perhaps close your eyes.

6. Worship: similar to Adoration, but generally done in a group, such as attending Mass in a Catholic Church; also, listening to uplifting music of praise songs when alone or with others.

P.S. The Lord’s Prayer actually fits all 6 ways to pray!

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BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Mark 1:12-15 “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

That sounds pretty easy, but most people find repenting to be a difficult task even when they know the consequences. It’s definitely a change in life style if you have not chosen to live by a moral compass; or, if God has been something of a far away concept that had no impact on your life. Realizing there is a God who loves YOU unconditionally is life changing. Many people have not experienced unconditional love.

Beginning any new relationship, or renewing a relationship, requires time spent getting to know each other. God knows you inside out, so he’s already ahead of you several steps. Spend some time talking to Jesus as you would anyone you want to know better. Tell Him what you plan to do each day, ask him what you want to know about Him, share your concerns, your hopes and fears, then listen to what he might say to you in one way or another. If you have Christian friends, you might want to discuss your life change with one of them with whom you feel comfortable. It is difficult to be a Christian all by yourself. Joining a Christian community is definitely beneficial.

The Catholic Church parishes have an inquirers group usually combined with newcomers, and practicing Catholics. In the United States, this is called RCIA. If you call a parish and ask when their RCIA meets, they will know what you are talking about. Visit the parish near where you live, or one that your Catholic friends attend. You are welcome to attend any Catholic Church. If you aren’t familiar with a Catholic worship service, just have a seat and relax. You do not have to stand or kneel until you are comfortable doing it. Some people will sit and stand, but not kneel at first until they realize through RCIA the significance of kneeling. And, there are always a few Catholics who don’t kneel because their knees, or legs or feet can’t handle it.

RCIA will cover many topics and the participants will answer your questions. The beliefs and teachings are discussed as they relate to the Gospels. However, the most important thing discussed is how we come to Jesus, how he loves us and what he asks of us. He asks us to repent of our sins, to believe in Him as God the Son, Jesus Christ. He asks us to follow Him, to live as he did. His two greatest commandments are 1)to love God with your whole heart, mind & soul; 2)Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:35-40)

There are many Catholic websites, podcasts, books etc. if you want to see what a Mass is like, check one out on the internet. EWTN, Bishop Robert Barron, Word on Fire, and many Catholic parishes have their Mass on YouTube or on their own website. Podcasts of various topics are available as well as are other YouTube programs on Catholic topics. Investigate, visit and ask questions.

RCIA has no definite timeline. Coming to RCIA does not mean you are joining the Catholic Church. It only means you want to know something about the Catholic Church. You can quit at any time; and you are always welcome to come back. Some choose to attend for 2 or 3 years before formally joining the Catholic Church. Some may be ready for the commitment to God sooner. It just depends on the individual; it is you who drives your own timeline.

Coming into the Christian Catholic community is formalized by Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist usually near Easter. Remember, everyone is welcome in the Catholic Church. If you don’t know any Catholics, reach out to the parish. Two very dear friends of mine did just that when I was leading the RCIA in my parish. They were given my name and phone number and our priest gave me theirs. I called them to invite them to Mass and to RCIA. We are still friends and would have remained friends even if they had chosen not to become Catholic.

I am Catholic because God works in my life in many ways and I believe this is where he wants me, since I was a young adult, I chose to attend Mass and to bring my children up in this Church. I continued to study the teachings, read the Bible, receive the sacraments and be an active member of my parish. My faith has deepened as I have moved through life and all the good and wonderful things I have enjoyed; Jesus has been there. He has especially been there for me during the difficult times when family members have died, when betrayal occurred and despair was near. God was there all along walking with me, beside me, before me and sometimes carrying me. He loves me more than I can imagine and is ever faithful. The Lord is the always present.

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The Last 14 Steps

The last things we do in life may be memorable to our loved ones as they mourn and remember what we did and how we died. I remember my father had been in the VA Hospital in Fort Wayne. He had an infection in his leg and they couldn’t get it stopped. Dad wanted to come home as the family was gathering for my brother’s wedding. He did come home and saw all his children and grandchildren the week before the wedding. We enjoyed being together, playing games, laughing and talking. We were (still are) a rather loud group! As the week wore on, Dad was feeling worse and decided he could not go to the wedding. My younger brother and his family, my family and I were all leaving following the wedding it was 2 hours in the direction we needed to go.

A few days later, my Mother let me know that Dad was now in the Indianapolis VA Hospital and they were doing more tests. After a few days, we came to realize that this infection was far worse than we had imagined. Unless Dad had a very extensive surgery, he was not going to have a chance of recovery. He had endured so many surgeries over the years that he felt he would die anyway. He decided not to have the surgery. I left for home again as soon as I packed and called my brother on his honeymoon to let him know. We gathered at the hospital to be with Dad. He asked me to pray the Rosary with him and my youngest daughter and I prayed. Dad asked about my two brothers who arrived the next day.

Dad liked seeing his children all together. We were there with him and each had an opportunity to talk to our Father alone. Dad had been a good father, and provider. He met Mom when he came home from WWII and they married in November of 1946. Together they had taken good care of us and given us values, faith, and love. What more could we ask!

Jesus gave himself to us at the Last Supper when he blessed and broke the bread saying “This is my Body.” And, he took the cup of wine, blessed it and said, “This is my Blood.” (Matt 26;26-29). Although the Apostles were not sure what this meant at the time, they would come to understand. Following the meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and told them to do this, too. (John 13:1-16) Then, they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane . The Apostles did not understand that Jesus was going to die. When the soldiers came for Him, Peter responded with a sword, but then they seemed to disappear into the crowds of Jerusalem as Jesus began his steps to Calvary. (Mark 14:43-50)

The story of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ was told over and over. Christians of the time, living in Jerusalem, walked from one place to another praying and remembering the Way of the Cross. When Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal throughout the empire in the year 312, the people marked the “stations” where the steps of Jesus took him to Calvary. People were making pilgrimages to Jerusalem to walk the path that Jesus walked known as the “Via Dolorosa” or sorrowful way. By the fifth century there was interest in reproducing the Way of the Cross so that the many people who could not go to Jerusalem could still pray and remember the steps of Jesus in their hearts. Chapels in monasteries were the first to have Stations of the Cross. This eventually spread to the Churches in the communities. In 1342, the Franciscan priests became the guardians of the shrines in the Holy Land. In 1462 the form of the stations became the way we pray them today. Pope Clement XII encouraged all churches to have a representation of the Way of the Cross and established 14 as the required number of crosses. There are many printed booklets of meditation on the 14 stations. This is a popular devotion meaning it came about because of the grass roots effort and actions of people wanting to give honor to the Way of the Cross. In 1975 a biblical version of the Stations was approved by Pope Paul VI and, during Pope John Paul II time as Pope, he wrote his own version.

The one I have included here is a traditional one that I have composed and not all the stations can be found in scripture. I have given references for those stations which are scriptural. It’s customary to start with the Sign of the Cross and to genuflect before the station. I’ve included a prayer that I say before or after each station. Meditate upon each station; contemplate what it might have been like to be there. This is a prayer that moved me as a little child when I first learned to pray the fourteen steps or Stations of the Cross. It has always been with me since!

In the NAME of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT, AMEN

PRAYER BEFORE EACH STATION “I love Thee, my beloved Jesus; I love Thee more than myself; (genuflect) I repent with my whole heart of having offended Thee. Never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.”

+First Station: Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, when Judas betrays Him; He is arrested and taken before Pilate who condemns Him to death. ( Mark 15:1-15) My Jesus, I never want to abandon you. I know you are always there fo me. Lord Jesus, give me fortitude to stay with someone who is in need of a companion during a trial.

PRAYER AFTER EACH STATION: You may choose to pray: The Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary or Glory Be

+Second Station: Jesus has a crown of thorns pressed into His head and is beaten with a whip which surely tore His holy flesh to shreds. The soldiers give Him The Cross to carry. (Matt 17:24-31) My Bleeding Jesus, I wish to wash away the dirt and grime from your wounds. Your precious blood is shed for Me. Jesus, give me wisdom to know what to say to someone who is suffering.

+Third Station: Jesus is weak from his beating and has lost much blood. He falls the first time. (John 19:17) My Jesus, falling down with the weight of the cross, have mercy on me. I adore you with all that I am. I pray, Lord, that Through your grace, I will be able to counsel someone who has fallen and needs a friend.

+Fourth Station: Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is able to get close to Him and they can see each other. (John 19:25) How difficult it must have been to see your Mother’s sorrow as she looked at you. She had cared for you and loved you with all her heart. Lord, many people do not have the experience of a Mother or Father that they needed growing up. Give me “awe of the Lord” to speak of Mary and God the Father’s love and compassion.

+Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene is pulled from the crowd to help Jesus carry His Cross. (Mark 15:21) We don’t know at what point in the ordeal that Simon was called upon to help. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt 5:4) My Jesus, give me the meekness to reach out to those who are suffering and humbly offer assistance during a difficult time.

+Sixth Station: A woman called Veronica comes out of the crowd to wipe the face of Jesus of the sweat and blood. Jesus left the imprint of his face on the towel. (Identified as 1st Century St. Veronica, seen as an act of Charity). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matt 5:6) My Jesus, when I see injustice, give me your grace to understand what I need to do to stop it.

+Seventh Station: Jesus falls the second time. How he must hurt and suffer just carrying the Cross! ( it is “tradition” that Jesus fell.) He would have been very weak. Jesus is losing blood, on this hot and dusty walk while the noise of the crowd and the whips of the soldiers crackle around Him. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt 5:8). My Jesus. My Jesus, you are giving your all to complete this walk. Help me to follow your example of giving my all to God.

+Eighth Station: Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem who are weeping for Him, when he said to them, “Weep not for me but for your children.” (Luke 23:27-31) Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matt 5:4) My Jesus, weeping for those I love, my consolation is I think of them with You. The hope we have of resurrection from the dead inspires deep piety in my heart. I offer you everything I have, My Lord.

+Ninth Station: Jesus falls the third time. (Again, tradition) The walk would have been about a mile and the last part was uphill. Jesus has been awake all night, probably without any nourishment since the Last Supper with His Apostles. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:9). Your love for us, Jesus, is beyond our comprehension. I want to pick you up dear Jesus and hold you in my arms. How much God must love us! My Jesus, forgive me of all my sins.

+Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments. (Mark 15:24) Even though we see Jesus with a loin covering, the Romans crucified people without any covering. It was a form of humiliation. My Jesus, you are strength, love and righteousness. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3). My Jesus, cover me with your love. It is all I need.

+Eleventh Station: Jesus Is nailed to the Cross. (Luke 23:32-38) “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matt 5:7) My Jesus, the pain and agony of nails going through your skin, muscles and bones and still you do not cry out. My heart is breaking for you, Oh my God! Instill in me a deep and abiding gratitude for all that you have done.

+Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the Cross. (John 19:25-37). Jesus I see you in agony upon the Cross while John and your Mother stand nearby. You speak to them asking them to care for each other as Mother and son. And, after a loud cry, My Jesus, your agony comes to an end. I see your limp body and see Love personified, but still I grieve. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:10) (kneel silently for a moment)

+Thirteenth Station: Jesus’ body is removed from the Cross. (Luke 23: 48-56) Nicodemus had permission to remove Jesus’ body from the cross. Climbing up to take Him down with utmost care, handing him down to John and another to lay him on the linen burial cloth, the women did not have time to prepare Jesus for burial. They planned to come back after the Sabbath to anoint him with oils of frankincense and Myrrh. They wrapped his body and carried him to the tomb. Losing a family member or a friend, reminds me that we are not made for this world. My Jesus, give me knowledge to help others prepare for the burial of their loved ones.

+Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb. Luke 23:50-56. The men carry Jesus’ body to the tomb and lay him gently on the ground. The face cloth was tenderly laid in place. As they finished, the guards arrived and rolled a large stone in front of the entrance to the tomb. The small group walked away somber and weeping with each other. My Jesus, it is so hard to walk away from the cemetery leaving a loved one there in the cold ground. My Jesus, you have given us your time, your Love, instruction and everything we have. Help me to share my time and love with everyone I meet. My Jesus, help them see you in me for your sake.

+15th Station: The Resurrection. (Matt 28:1-29). The women went back to the grave to anoint the Body of Jesus. Upon arrival, they found the rock rolled away and the linen cloth folded neatly. An Angel told them that Jesus was not there; He is risen. I gaze upon the Altar where the Blessed Sacrament rests in the Tabernacle. My Jesus, I adore thee in the Most Holy Sacrament. Come into my heart, body and blood, soul and divinity, and reign as my God and my King every minute of every day for the rest of my life. Amen

CLOSING PRAYER: AN ACT OF CHARITY, oh my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, Because you are all good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.

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The Best Kept Secret

Few people seem to know what the Catholic Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church is, even though Pope Francis, on his visit to the U.S., spoke to Congress and spoke about the themes of the Doctrine. Many people have complained of our views on abortion and will actually say, we should take care of the babies and children who are already here. It’s obvious they don’t know the Secret and it’s time we talk about it and share it with everyone.

Joseph and Mary with Jesus

The Seven Themes of Catholic Social Doctrine

The first theme is The Life and Dignity Of The Human Person.
All human life is seen as sacred and the dignity of the human person must be recognized. This is the foundation of our moral vision for society. Human life is to be protected as every person is precious and created in God’s image. That alone makes people more important than things.

The second theme is The Call to Family, Community and Organization.
The person is not only sacred but also social. How society is organized impacts human dignity and affects how individuals grow in community. People have a right and a duty to participate in society. This allows groups to work for the common good of all. This especially impacts the poor and vulnerable. Cm,unity begins with two people in a marriage and family. Society is called on to to support families.

Third, the theme of Rights and Responsibilities in the Catholic tradition, protects human dignity and human rights to achieve a healthy community. Every person has a fundamental right to life, as well as, right to have those things required for human decency. When we have rights we also have responsibilities. These responsibilities and duties are to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

Fourth, is the Option for the Poor and Vulnerable who are usually the most in need in a community and should have their needs met first as seen in Mathew 25:31-46, The Last Judgment.

The fifth theme of Catholic Social Doctrine is The Dignity of Work and The Rights of Workers. People are not made to serve the economy. The economy must serve the people! Work is dignified and allows people to participate in The Creation God has given us. Basic rights of the worker must be respected: a fair wage, productive work, organizing and joining unions, to own private property, to use economic initiative.

Solidarity is the sixth theme of the Social Doctrine. People of all nations, races, ethnicities, economies a ideologies are members of the one human family. Loving our neighbor as Jesus taught takes one a larger dimension even as the world shrinks! We must pursue justice and peace.

Last, but not least, is The Care of Creation. God gave us the earth and everything in it to take care of and subdue. Stewardship of natural resources demonstrates respect for the creator. We are to protect people, and our planet.

USCCB.ORG/social doctrine

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National Marriage Week Feb 7-14, 2021

I’ve seen many good marriages that lasted “until death do we part.” when you talk to these people about being married, they tell you it wasn’t easy. One time, at what we call RCIA, for people interested in becoming Catholic, we had an engaged couple. He was Catholic; she wasn’t, but wanted to be. The night we discussed the Sacraments was amazing! I couldn’t have planned it to work out the way it did. And, I always wish I had recorded it. The Holy Spirit was moving that night and it was powerful!

There was one older couple who had been married for over 50 years. Four married individuals were also in attendance that night ranging in 20 – 40 years of marriage. I casually asked if anyone had any advice for our young couple and there was silence for what seemed like 5 minutes, but it was more like 30 seconds. One by one, they began discussing what marriage is with the Bride and Groom of 20 and 22 years of age. They did not repeat each other, but painted them a portrait of how, as a group, they lived their marriages. It was real, honest, and heartfelt. The sweetness of hearing the three men speak about their marriages brought tears of joy to my eyes. The young couple, who by their body language of her crossed arms and his scooting a bit back from the table and crossing his legs, seemed at first to close the,selves off to what they thought they might hear. They, too, became engrossed in the stories of love, hardships, sacrifices, and the commitment to each other and to God.

Celebrating marriage is usually referred to as a wedding and reception. That is not the marriage. Marriage is a gift to each other, our Church, Country and our families. Marriage in the Catholic Church is one of the seven sacraments, Matrimony, a Sacrament of Service. The US Catheolic Catechism for Adults explains the covenant relationship between the couple as “the relationship between the husband and wife, a permanent union of persons capable of knowing and loving each other and God.” The celebration of a marriage is a liturgical act, held in public, at church. The couple is encouraged to celebrate Eucharist together during their marriage liturgy (Mass).

Praying for married couples, all married couples, should be a given in our daily prayers. Some marriage preparation retreats, or classes, engaged couples are mentored by a long time married couple. In the retrovaille retreat for marriages experiencing difficulty, couples who have experienced difficulties and worked things out to a better relationship are the presenters. Alcoholics Anonymous has Al-anon for spouses to help them. Catholic Charities has marriage counselors available to work with couples.

A friend of mine who had been through a divorce and later remarried, recommended a book that both she and her husband highly recommended for couples in good marriages through to those who are struggling. They said the book was “life-changing”! The Catholic author is Greg Popcak. I gave one to each of my married children and grandchildren, and have continued to gift it to my younger grandchildren when they become engaged. The book is “The Exceptional Seven Percent, The Nine Secrets of the World’s Happiest Couples.”

The US Council of Catholic Bishops website, usccb.org, has an abundance of material on the Sacrament of Matrimony. It covers dating, engagement, marriage preparation, and on-going supports for any couple. Eight points about this sacrament to consider and dwell upon are given:

1. “The love between spouses in marriage reflects the love of Christ for the Church.

2. Marriage reflects the communion and union of the Trinity.

3. Marriage frees us for sacrifice and self-gift.

4. Marriage strengthens us for service in the world.

5. Marriage provides the foundation for family and the formation of new citizens of society.

6. The family gives testimony to faith, love, unity, peace, and justice.

7. Marriage and the family inspire solidarity with the human family.

8. The rights of families and married couples should be prioritized in public policy.”

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Chickens Rule

Welcome! Watering the chickens this morning and every morning, no matter how hot or cold, is a peaceful time as they wait patiently and greet my appearance with prancing and chirps. Some of them have decided that snow falling is a signal to start laying! Others stay on their perches to keep their feet warm wondering how those eggs are going to hatch in this cold. The Ameracaunas are a sight to behold as they prance about in the snow and fly into each other just for fun. Then, they decide to play follow the leader. I can’t help but laugh at their antics.

I’ve come to notice the similarities between some people and chickens. There is one thing that really stands out. When a chicken begins to lose her feathers, she looks pretty scraggly. She’s growing new feathers for winter and she may still have chicks on the nest; and, those babies still need their mama for warmth and protection. It’s a never ending job for most mothers of any specie. I’m new at this chicken raising business and luckily I have a partner who has years of experience. I came across a hen who had lost all of her feathers on each side of her breast! A strip of chicken skin on each side about an inch wide was completely featherless! Touching the soft skin, I found it was so warm and I could feel her heart beating. Come to find out, this is God’s design to keep those chicks warm and protected!

What is a pinion? It is a noun of the feminine form in Hebrew as per Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance meaning feather or wing. Like little chicks, God will gather us under his wings to protect us. The hard part is we have to choose God! Our free will gets in our way, but it is a gift to make our own choices. When we choose God, we choose His way and many have trouble surrendering to God! That is the paradox. Surrender to God is freedom! It is Peace, Joy, Love, and everlasting life. Oh, Yes, there may be some suffering along the way. Jesus suffered for us and he warned us that we would suffer for his namesake. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” (Matthew 5:11). Happiness is situational while Joy is everlasting. Joy comes from God and any suffering we have in His name, He is with us and we still have Joy.

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Snow Day

Remember those days when the kids had a snow day? Since I was teaching, I had a snow day, too. It was always a day filled with sleeping in, hot chocolate, cartoons, movies and games. If the temperature went into the upper teens, we’d bundle up to romp in the snow which included shoveling the walks, a visit to my parents (more shoveling), and possibly some sledding. I remember those days with joy!

With learning and “blended days” in our schools, I don’t think the kids get many carefree snow days—and neither do their parents. We see on social media and the news programs how our families are struggling with the pandemic and trying to add “teacher” to their lists. Recently, I heard a news report that a principal had called a “snow day!” There wasn’t any snow, but the concept is very well understood. I’m beginning to think there should be mandatory snow days in everyone’s life.

The forecast had called for 6-10 inches of snow over the weekend. Late Saturday evening a robo call came in from my parish that Sunday morning classes had been cancelled. However, rarely is Mass ever cancelled. I left a little early for 9:00 am Mass on Sunday morning arriving as the last of the snow in the parking lot was moved to one end. There was one other car in the parking lot. Walking into church, I was greeted by our priest who was quite jolly that people were arriving. He’s new to us having come from a large parish in the capital of our state. He seemed surprised that more people came in shortly after I did. We definitely didn’t have a full church or even what we call a full church during this pandemic! We did have a nice gathering of singles, families, and couples to celebrate the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Ordinary Time is not ordinary. I don’t think there was much of anything ordinary after Jesus started his public ministry what with casting out demons, curing the sick, raising the dead, and instituting His Church. He took a group of working men and turned them into evangelists through his instruction, example and the Holy Spirit. They were slow to understand, but at one point, with Peter’s response, Jesus was reassured. In John 6, when Jesus talks to the crowd about the Bread of Life (John 6:35-69), and many cannot accept His teaching. Jesus asks the Apostles if they are going to leave him, too. Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy one of God.” (John 6:68-69)

That’s why I go Mass. Jesus, the Bread of Life, who has the words of eternal life, gives us His body and blood. I know and believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God, the Only begotten Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, who was crucified, died for my sins and your sins, and was buried, arose from the dead on the third day, and ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father Almighty; He will come again o judge the living and the dead. (The Apostles Creed, Sunday Missal, Living with Christ, pg. 15, copyright 2020). What a great way to celebrate a snow day!

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Marriage, Divorce, and the Catholic Church

First, I’m not a Catholic theologian or a priest! I don’t make any decision that affects the outcome when a divorced Catholic tells me their situation. Second, I am a lay person who has studied the Catholic Faith all my life. I have met some really helpful priests who will assist people with this type of issue.

Many people have been told incorrect information about how a divorce affects their desire to be Catholic. I’ve met people who had a grandmother tell them they could not be Catholic if they divorced, or they could not receive Holy Communion. The problem we have is an information problem. If you are in this situation or know someone who is, I hope you will keep reading.

A. Let’s first look at what a Marriage is in the eyes of the Church. The Catholic Church has Seven Sacraments and one of them is Matrimony. Matrimony is the union of a baptized man and woman who vow their love for each other exclusively, permanently and sexually in a covenant to each other and to God. Marriage is supposed to be like God’s love for his people. Each person enters into the covenant freely, gives consent to a lifetime union of love, is capable of a sexual union and open to having children: All of this at the time of the marriage. This is what makes a valid marriage. (CCC 1625-1631;1662)

1. Baptism is necessary for a Catholic to be married by a priest. Being of the same faith tradition is a benefit to the couple since they will have similar understanding of what the other believes. If a non-catholic has been baptized, the couple has the advantage of both being Christian, but will need to make some decisions that may be difficult about which Church they will attend and how they will raise their children. The Catholic is asked to promise to raise the children Catholic. If the non-Catholic is not baptized, a special dispensation must be received for the marriage to go forward. The Catholic promises to continue to live their faith, have their children baptized and raised in the Catholic faith. The non-catholic partner is aware of this, but is not asked to make any promises. Definitely, this would be something the couple must discuss and agree on.

2. The couple should be planning to love each other unconditionally for the rest of their lives, be faithful sexually and open to having children. Anything that would violate these conditions would make fulfilling the marriage vow very difficult. Some people will commit to what they say at the wedding, but really think that if it doesn’t work out, they can get divorced. They may think that the “Church” cannot tell them they must have children, so one may say they never wanted to have children.

3. Giving consent to marriage requires that you understand the responsibilities and commitment is the vow you make to each other and to God. A vow is not something to take lightly. A person’s age, maturity level and free will must be considered. If one party feels pressure to marry, that needs to be resolved before going forward. The priest can help work through the many issues that may come up. Being physically, mentally and emotionally able to have a sexual union is also a requirement and being open to having children is required.

B. We all know many people who have divorced. It is a very unpleasant and stressful process. Counseling is available through Catholic Charities in the dioceses. Meeting with your priest can be very helpful, too. There are programs available to help couples in troubled marriages; one is Retrouvaille, which is presented by three couples and a priest. The couples who come to the weekend retreat are not required to share their story, but the process helps them to communicate with each other in a better way. Check out this awesome program for couples who are struggling in their marriages: help our marriage.org 800-470-2330. Seeking out a marriage counselor would be helpful to both parties.

1. Unfortunately, couples divorce. Then they meet someone else and decide to be married again. If one or both are divorced and now wish to be married in the Catholic Church, the first step is to talk to the parish priest and he will be able to guide you through what needs to be done. You can always see another priest to discuss the situation for a second opinion.

2. What is an Annulment? This is not a legal action through the civil courts. This is a religious evaluation of the marriage to determine if it was a valid Sacrament of Marriage. The particulars of your case must be submitted to the Diocesan Tribunal for evaluation. There are many questions to be answered, but don’t be discouraged. Do your best to answer each question to the best of your ability. Some dioceses have liaisons to help you whom you can call and discuss your concerns. It can take several months for this process to play out, so the sooner you start the better. The effect of an annulment is you would be free to marry in the Catholic Church. It does not change the status of your children. Everyone who requests an annulment doesn’t get one. The Tribunal is making a determination of whether or not your marriage actually was a sacrament based on the criteria discussed in paragraphs A 1, A 2, and A 3 above.

Source: Catechism of the Catholic Church

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Three of a Kind

Do you remember the Parable of the Landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower? (Matt 21:33-43) it is similar to Isaiah’s in that, both Isaiah and Jesus are talking about God’s plan for Israel. However, Jesus has switched the focus from the amount of fruit produced to the tenants who had responsibility for harvesting.

Another parable you may remember is the king who gave a wedding feast for his son and the invited refused to come! (Matt 22:1-14) He issues another invitation which results in a worse response. The third invitation went to people in the streets. The king’s servants gathered them all and the hall was filled, but one guest did not wear the wedding garment that was provided. He ends up thrown out of the banquet into the dark bound, wailing and gnashing his teeth!

Iris leaning into the Son

The third parable is when the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by first flattering him, then asking his opinion. “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not.” (Matt 22:15-21) Jesus knows their deceitful behavior and words and asks why they are testing him, calling them hypocrites.

At first glance these three parables may seem unrelated, but they are all telling us about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is telling the religious leaders they are in danger of losing the Kingdom because they are rejecting Him. God has entrusted his people, the Hebrews to the leaders, but they don’t see that their prophesied Savior is standing before them. They have implemented more rules and regulations for everyone making it harder to follow the Lord who brought them out of Egypt. Jesus, who they reject, “has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done and it is wonderful in our eyes!” ( Matt 22-23). Now, the Baptized, we are responsible for tending God’s people: to repay to God what belongs to God. (Matt 22:20-21). Jesus is in charge in each encounter he has. He continues to invite the leaders to listen and learn. They continue to be sneaky and look for ways to trap him. Eventually, they find Judas.

There are always layers of meaning in scripture. We recognize the meaning we are supposed to hear at the time, perhaps. Reading daily scripture enhances our understanding, clarifies concepts and opens our eyes to the Lord. He continues to invite us! Let yourself say, yes, Lord, yes! “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:19)

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Now What?

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.” Luke 1:46-55

Mary had her encounter with the Angel and was able to listen and believe what the Angel told her. Mary, in her humility, gave her Yes when she said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Luke 1:38. The next line says that the Angel left, Now What? What was Mary thinking?

Apparently, she was thinking of her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant in her old age! Mary hurried to her cousin’s home which was in another town. When she arrived, Elizabeth knew that Mary was pregnant with the Child, and now the Mother of the Lord! Miracles abound! Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and I’m sure they talked and talked about the babies that were coming soon, as women do with their relatives and friends. Perhaps they were making baby clothes, cleaning, cooking and taking care of Zachariah. And, soon, it was time for Mary to go back home. She really needed to talk to Joseph and her parents. She had had the time to think about what she would say.

We know that Joseph was shocked, but through a dream he came to understand that this was the Lord’s work and plan. He followed through with his marriage to Mary and was an earthly father to her Son. Joseph was a protector, a provider, and a teacher to his son Jesus, but we don’t hear about him after the trip to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12.

If all babies could be welcomed into homes of love between the parents and a love for God! Children need to be loved and cared for and they do much better with two parents. Not all children are planned . . .but it doesn’t mean they aren’t wanted. Some are not wanted and it is heartbreaking. If we all had a cousin Elizabeth to visit and discuss the future of our children, we would probably feel better. Having a mother or a sister to share our concerns with would be so reassuring. A man such as Joseph would give us comfort and reassurance.

Today is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. Let us pray for all children, born and unborn.

That all children will know the love of a family. . .

That children will have food to satisfy their nutritional needs and not be worried about when they can eat again . . .

That children will be treated with kindness and respect; May they not suffer from fear of harm to their bodies, emotions, or mental health . . .May children live in safe communities . . .

That good people will come forward to care for children when parents cannot . . .

That our laws will protect our children. . .end child-trafficking and sexual abuse of children,

In The Name of Jesus, Amen

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COMING SOON, February 17, 2021

In 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea, called by the Catholic Church, determined to celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox. Using this calendar, we can determine that Lent begins on the Wednesday prior to the 6th Sunday before Easter. We are required to fast if we are between the ages of 18 and 59 and abstain from meat if we are 14 years of age or older. Since the 4th Century there has been a Catholic Church law about abstaining from meat. “The Beginning of the Fast” was first mentioned in 1099 by Pope Urban II and fasting has numerous mentions in scripture. One we are probably most familiar with is Jesus fasting in the dessert for 40 days; others include Isaiah 58:5; Jeremiah 6:26; Jonah 3:6 among others. Sunday’s are not considered part of Lent as Sunday is always a day of celebration! It is the day of Resurrection! If we count 6 weeks of Monday through Saturday = 36 days plus Ash Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday = 40 days.

“Thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” That’s the point. We come from “dust,” we will decay, and we will be dust again. That’s pretty clear. John1 2:12 tells us “Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.” We must get past the head knowledge of the first paragraph herein. Again, we MUST get PAST the HEAD knowledge of the first paragraph! WE MUST REPENT! WE. MUST. REPENT. “”Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” 2Cor 6:2. During Lent, especially we are called to prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. Am I on the right path?

We are on the right path if we are following Jesus. Following Jesus means I am responding to His call to repent my sins and to believe in Him and His Gospel. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Not only does God love the world; He loves me and He wants to give me grace to help me live with and follow Christ! With help from Fos, I should be able to to do that.

God requires very little of us. He asks that we love him with everything we are and to love others as we love ourselves. We must understand and obey the teachings of Jesus Christ; and follow the examples He has given us. One example is the Sermon on the Mount, 5:5-12. To paraphrase: be poor in spirit, mournful for those we have lost as Christ was for Lazarus; be meek; hunger and thirst for righteousness; be merciful; be clean of heart and peacemakers; as well as being persecuted for the sake of righteousness and blessed when you are insulted or persecuted because of Christ; and, another is John 13:14-15: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Then, we come to faith and obedience!

Faith in our society is not very strong. People can look up all kinds of information online to find “truth” and a majority of them do that every day. Finding someone who has strong faith in something that he/she is willing to defend is difficult. The Bible defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for,” a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the knowledge that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. The certainty of the belief allows me to depend on Him and to Trust in Him. My belief, trust and love of Jesus Christ lead me to love Him with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind. I want to obey Him. Help me to obey!

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ONLY SAY THE WORD

RE: Mark 6:53-56

Driving to the nearest Catholic Church while on vacation.

My grandparents were alerted by their barking dog in the middle of the afternoon one spring day. The dog wanted out and wanted out NOW! Rene & Adelina could not understand why their dog was so agitated and as she ran full speed down the street, they stepped out to the yard to see what she saw, however, the only thing they saw was the dog disappeared over the slight hill. They waited, hoping the old girl would turn around as the street T’d at the highway. Then, they saw someone was walking over the hill with the dog. They gasped, and began running toward the man and dog. It was their youngest son coming home from WWII after 3 years.

I imagine that’s how the people of Gennesararet were reacting to their neighbors and friends running through the town after they had seen Jesus arrive by boat with the Apostles. Those who saw Jesus recognized him immediately and ran to bring the sick to him. He was well-known for curing the sick, so much so, that they lay their family members in the dirt streets and begged Jesus to pass by so they could touch his cloak. Everyone who touched his cloak was healed. What faith and trust they had in Jesus!

Do I have such faith and trust in Jesus? Do I recognize his presence in my home and family, in my neighbors, friends and strangers that I meet? Spending time with Our Lord on a daily basis will help us keep our eyes fixed on him. We will recognize his presence more easily in others that we meet. Reaching out to others could be like touching Jesus’ cloak. A conversation, or just a smile and “hello,” can make someone’s day.

As we enter Our Catholic Churches, do we recognize him in the Tabernacle where he waits for us to visit him in the Most Holy Sacrament which demonstrates our faith and trust in him that he is truly present in body and blood, soul and divinity. Before we walk down the aisle to receive Holy Communion, we pray, “only say the word, and my soul will be healed.” Some are healed by Jesus in the Sacrament physically and/or spiritually. So many people need healing, I sometimes wonder why we don’t see more people healed. Is it because we let our minds wander at Mass, or we rush to Church perhaps out of obligation without rejoicing in our obedience to the Father & the Son? Our culture has become so lax and nonchalant about personal values, morals and ethics. This laxness does not set us free, on the contrary, it makes us prideful. It is our obedience to God that sets us free and allows us to recognize him that we might be healed.

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LOVE LETTERS

I remember when the letter arrived. It made me gasp when I saw the handwriting. I quickly opened it and sat down to savor the words of my beloved. It was such a sweet letter of love, and longing. I received a letter every day for months and I saved everyone of them. I would read them over and over. Sometimes things struck me differently than they had before.

I imagine that’s how the friends and followers of Paul felt when his letters came. The Christian followers loved Paul and many were being converted to following Jesus. Not everyone could be a missionary like Paul, but everyone could share their own story of Jesus. They gathered together to share their stories and the letters that Paul sent. This gave them hope and joy as well as deepening their faith as they discussed the things that Paul said.

I find that reading scripture is like reading letters from your beloved written over several years! After we have received those love letters, we can pick up any one of them to read again. They do not need to be read in order. The same is true of all the books of the Bible. As we grow and change, we find that certain parts of scripture stand out to us in a new way. We continue to learn from scripture no matter how many times we read the same passage.

If you are a beginner in using a Bible, you may prefer to read online from your phone. There are many good apps you can find because you most likely use many apps. Laudate is the number one Catholic app and the most comprehensive. I use it every day. The daily scripture readings are those that are used in Catholic Churches all around the world for Mass on that particular day. I feel that I am joining my prayers with millions of other Catholics who are either attending Mass somewhere, praying from home or reading from the Bible. Laudate also offers a reflection of the days readings, prayers, the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross. You can also choose to listen to the readings, prayers etc. There are other very good sources you can use. Find one that appeals to you.

If you decide to use a hard copy of a Bible, consider how often or how much you have read of the Bible. I suggest you buy a Catholic Bible that feels good in your hands. Choose one that is easy to read, meaning font size that suits you. You may be interested in maps and pictures; then get one that has those things. If you want an explanation of some words or phrases, consider one with a commentary. They come in all sizes, in paperback, simulated leather and real leather, you might pay as little as $5.00 or as much as a $100. Choose what works for you!

There are many Catholic organizations offering direct to your email messages every day which include the scripture of the day and a reflection. You just sign up for it. The Franciscans, Carmelites, Dynamic Catholic, Word on Fire and many others offer the email drop. You can watch podcasts and YouTube Mass, praying the Rosary and more topics everyday. Watch as much as you want.

Praying daily should not be my last paragraph because it is very important in getting to Know Jesus and developing a relationship with him. He will listen to you and he will respond to you. You must focus on him and listen. More about that another day!

We All Fall Down

Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down! The children’s rhyme goes round and round in our heads from long ago memories! There are several interpretations of Ring Around the Roses, but there doesn’t seem to be one definitive one. Is it related to the plague in Europe or something about the King of England? As a child, I don’t think we really cared, it was a sweet song with a little dance to go with it. Children love it!

For many years, Catholics have marked the start of Lent with ashes on the forehead. It’s supposed to be a cross, but most often looks like a black smudge. Many people, leave the ashes on their forehead throughout the day, not because it’s required but to remind themselves of the reason we “celebrate” Lent. Lent is 4o days to contemplate what Jesus did for us. Mankind fell into sin, not accidentally or by making a mistake, but by a deliberate choice not to obey God. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 RSV). It is about the Love of God for his people. It is through Him that we have eternal life. He conquered death and sin; yes, our bodies die and decay, but we will have eternal life with God. We are striving for perfection, but we all fall down.

This year, due to the COVID19 pandemic, ashes will be sprinkled on our heads. Yes, on our heads, in our hair! this is to avoid the priest touching each person who wants to receive the ashes. In Biblical times, people who repented of their sins, sprinkled ashes over their bodies and walked the street to declare their repentance. During Lent, we are encouraged to fast and pray, to give alms and to sacrifice. As Christians we live in the world, but we are not part of the world. The ashes of Ash Wednesday are visual, mental and physical reminders that He gave his life for us; and, we give our lives to Him. We choose life in Christ! Sometimes, we fail in this, but we get back up and try again.

Isaiah 61:1-3 declares A Year of the Lord’s Favor:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Husband, Father, Miner, Martyr, Saint

Blessed Nikolaus Gross

Nikolaus Gross, born in 1898 in Germany, was a member of the Christian miner’s labor union at 19 and joined the Zentrum Christian Party at 20. Nikolaus worked on West German Worker’s Newspaper, known as the newspaper of the Catholic Workers’ Movement at 22 and was named its director at age 24.

He nonviolently opposed the Nazi regime from the beginning along with other Catholic intellectuals. Through his newspaper he was able to expose the lies of the propaganda and encouraged a “revolt of consciences” which made him an enemy of the state. They shut down his newspaper. But he fought back by going underground to publish. Nikolaus worked hard for his education and was not really a good speaker. However, it is reported that he had a power of persuasion and a warm heart with a passion for the faith that allowed him to speak convincingly. He tried to organize a Catholic resistance for the planned assassination of Hitler. It was his Catholic faith conviction which led him to join the resistance. For him, the most important thing was “that one must obey God more than man.” He was charged with treason even though he was not implicated. Arrested in August, 1944, he was sentenced to death in January and executed on the 23 January 1945. Nikolaus was cremated and his ashes scattered in a sewage field.

Nikolaus had become engaged to Elisabeth Koch and they were married on 24 May 1923. They were married 21 years when he was killed and Elizabeth died 26 years later. The couple had seven children, 4 boys and 3 girls. His oldest child was about 20 and the youngest about 6 when their father was murdered? Pope John Paul said in his homily at the beatification Mass, “He loved his family above everything and was an exemplary father in his responsibility for their education and upbringing in the faith.” Nikolaus wrote in his Profession of Faith, “The majority of great achievements come into being through the daily performance of one’s duties on the little things of everyday routine. Our special love here is always for the poor and the sick.”

Pray for us, Blessed Nikolaus Gross.

THE NEIGHBORS!

In my previous post today, I said to tell a lie is wrong. The Eighth Commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

The word “neighbor” carries us directly to the New Testament, The Good Samaritan. “And, who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25:29)

There were very strict guidelines on how people ranked in the Hebrew world. The people were used to the Hebrew being the hero of any storytelling. If you weren’t Hebrew, your ability to live lawfully was highly discounted. The worst of these were the people of Samaria. They were enemies who wouldn’t even travel to Jerusalem to go to the Temple.

Jesus tells the story of the injured man on the roadside who is half-dead. A priest passes by and does not over assistance; then a Levite did the same. The average Hebrew was not too concerned with the actions of the priests and Levites; most were probably anticipating that the next character would be a strong, Hebrew man. Jesus continues his story with a Samaritan who was passing by and stops to help the man! He washed his wounds and poured oil on them to help the healing. Next, the Samaritan lifted the man to his donkey to carry him on the trail the way he was going. When he reached an inn, he secured a room for the injured man. He also paid the innkeeper to care for the man. Then, the Samaritan says he will come back to cover the cost. (Luke 10:30-35)

Jesus does answer the expert in the law when he asks who is my neighbor. Or, rather Jesus asks him who he thinks is the neighbor to the injured man. “The law expert responds, the one who had mercy on him.” (Luke 10:36-37)

How does The Good Samaritan relate to the Eighth Commandment? Neighbor, who is our neighbor? The one we are to love as we love ourselves; the one we show mercy to in situations of distress. As much as I hate being lied to, I have to give mercy to the one who lied. Lying is a secret sin that eats away at the soul. Denying a lie continues the lie. When a person tells a lie, our brains respond to the lie by activating three sections of our brains: 1) frontal lobe where we make decisions, 2) the limbic system which recognizes deception, 3) the temporal lobe which pulls up memories and mental images. This results in a depletion of learning, fear of punishment, lower self-worth. If a society accepts lying it can harm our ability to trust in the system. Loving our neighbor, showing mercy and encouraging people to be truthful from an early age should help this. Regularly receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or as we used to say, Confession is always helpful with habitual sins. Most parishes have Reconciliation each week. It’s always a little nerve wracking to admit your sins, but God loves us and He forgives us. Fear not! He is Mercy!

THAT’S THE TRUTH!

In the last couple of months, I’ve heard people say that 99% or 80%, of people agree or don’t agree with some news item, social media post or a comment overheard in the grocery check-out line. now, that sounds like a true statement is being made. But, is it true?

As a teacher, I frequently taught lessons on distinguishing the difference between fact and opinion. Some opinions do provide accurate information and some do not. It is a fact that some opinions give accurate information; while most opinions are biased is also true. We see this in advertisements, politics, and every day conversations. Objective observers are hard to find. People tend to interpret what they have seen, heard or participated in based on perceptions of racial characteristics, masculine or feminine ideas, time, place and circumstances. People do not always hear accurately what another person said. It doesn’t necessarily mean there was a lie as it could be misunderstanding or a mistake. Lying to people is almost always wrong. It can result in mistrust, anger and fear which harm relationships with family, friends and acquaintances.

What is Truth? We think of Truth as something that is fact and reality, although, some people have an altered sense of reality. Facts and reality can be jarring in their failure to support the other. Scientific and mathematical facts and concepts are questioned and tested to the point that great minds declare them to be true. Philosophy, art, theology, also fall into this group. In our reality, if something isn’t true then, it must be false.

My concern is sharing the truth of Jesus Christ. In John 14, Jesus is telling his Apostles that He is the way to the Father. By this time, He had spent three years with them and they were still having difficulty understanding what he said. He told them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” (V. 1) They were still troubled. Understanding would come shortly, but they just didn’t get it yet. Jesus tells them, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (V. 6-7). Jesus speaks the truth.

Jesus requires us to make a choice. Either he is who he says he is or he is not. If he is not, then he must be lying or mentally ill. There is the middle position of being an ordinary man, who was kind, generous and wise beyond his years. Neither Buddha or Confucius said anything close to what Jesus said. Buddha could tell his followers that he had found a néw way; Confucius could say he found a néw form of life; and, Mohammed said the divine truth was communicated through him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (V. 6).

WHERE IS GOD WHEN WE NEED HIM?

I’ve heard people ask this question when bad things happen or they are made aware that not everyone has the same opportunities! God has not left us; He is still here with us, but are we paying attention?

Have you every received a call for help from a friend you haven’t seen, spoken to or heard from in a very long time? We are glad to hear from them, until we learn the reason for the contact. Perhaps, the husband has lost his job, a parent has cancer, or their college student is addicted to a drug. What they need is money, a place to live, or help with car repairs. These things do happen. Many of us may have no experience with such scenarios, but these are real issues for the other half of humanity in our country and can be much worse in other countries.

In contrast, when we stay in touch with people, we develop a relationship; we get to know more about them. We learn about their character, what they are like in good times and in bad times. Talking, socializing and caring take us a long way toward friendship and love.

When the crowds of people looked for Jesus, they would find him with the people most avoided! He was often with the sick, the lonely, the sinners talking to them, even eating with them. He spent many hours with his disciples teaching them his way. The disciples followed him wherever he went. it took the disciples and the Apostles, quite sometime to understand what Jesus was doing. They even abandoned Him on the night he was arrested (exception of John, Mary) and hid as he carried his cross to His death. Perhaps they weren’t hiding, but there is no mention of them during this time.

If you are looking for Jesus, let me make a few suggestions.

1. Pick up a Bible and start reading. You can start anywhere, but I suggest you start with Matthew. Read a little or a lot. When you pause for a moment, speak to Jesus asking him to help you understand.

2. Talk to Jesus every day! Several time’s a day would be good. Tell him what you don’t understand. He is listening. Tell him what it is you don’t believe about him. He will help you.

3. Talk to others who seem to know Jesus. Maybe it’s someone you live with or someone at work or a friend. Ask a few questions about their faith. Perhaps they know someone else who they feel could answer your questions better. Take them up on an introduction.

4. Volunteer! Sounds strange to you perhaps, but it could be a wonderful opportunity to meet Jesus: food banks, nursing homes or tutoring are just three ideas. Some churches are serving public meals once or twice a week for anyone. Attend the meal or volunteer to help with the meal.

Look for God in the poor, the disadvantaged, the lonely, the sick and the imprisoned. Look for God in your neighbor, your family and your co-workers. Look for God in the multiple churches which are found in the small towns and the large cities. Ask questions.

May you find the peace and joy that comes from the Lord. Jesus loves you unconditionally and forgives your sins. He loves you so much that he died for you and rose again. All you have to do is turn to him and invite him into your life. Ask him for forgiveness; repent and be Baptized.

When I Get To Heaven

I will be overjoyed to see Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit! I can’t get past that as far as what happens next. Saint Therese of Lisieux knew when she reached heaven, her work on earth would begin; maybe that’s how it is for everyone and she just knew ahead of time. I think I’m going to talk to Jesus about that while I’m still here on Earth. I don’t know what the job descriptions are in heaven.

St. Therese knew, however, that she would be busy in heaven helping people on earth. We know she did because she wrote about it. She saw herself as the tiny flower growing in the field; not the beautiful red roses people grow in their gardens. And, yet, she is often pictured with a bouquet of long stemmed red roses. She was humble and said she was sure that God loved the small flower in the field as much as he loved the rose.

It wasn’t long after she died that people heard about her and started coming to the convent cemetery to pray and ask her intercession. Healings were reported and positive outcomes of difficult situations occurred. As her cause for Sainthood progressed, this continued. St. Therese began leaving a flower for the person asking her for help as a sign that the request was granted. Many people find this a little unbelievable! Oh, ye of little faith! Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!

I have experienced the gift of intercession by St. Therese and have witnessed the gift of a rose to a friend who had prayed to God and asked St. Therese to pray for her. It is amazing, miraculous and humbling. One time, although I did not live in Austin, I volunteered for the 40 days of prayer outside of an abortion clinic about 15-20 years ago. Each week I walked up and down in the ditch (it wasn’t deep) in front of the abortion clinic at a very busy intersection where traffic came from 3 directions. Some people would blow their horns and shout encouragement and some would not be as kind. Most of the time I was by myself as I walked back and forth, pacing, praying and wishing someone else would come to relieve me. I prayed my own Litany of the Saints on my rosary naming every saint I could possibly remember to please intercede to stop abortion!

One day was a scorcher, the water and umbrella was not enough to cool me. I decided to cross over the driveway to the other ditch where there was a bit of shade. As I stepped down a few inches into the ditch, I saw a rose! Thanking the Lord for hearing “our” prayer. Over several years progress was made. Abortion has not ended in the USA, but one day, it will.

So I ask you, when you have a problem, pray to our Lord and ask his help; as you ask your friends to pray for your intentions, don’t forget to ask the Saints to pray with you.

The Lord’s Vineyard

Pondering the parable of the Landowner and the Workmen—again. (Matt 20:1-15) the Lord’s rules are not our rules, but should be. Understanding how His Kingdom works would be helpful. And, at times, seems something that I can understand, then, I come across a single sentence that makes me just stop. Let’s go back and read it again. How many times have we heard it, or really listened to it?

“The teaching of this parable is extremely important for those on the spiritual journey,” says Thomas Keating in Meditations on the Parables of Jesus, pg. 76. Complacency creeps in, especially if we have equated good deeds with rewards of eternal life. We cannot earn eternal life. We depend on Gods mercy and grace alone. So, how do we get eternal life? We must say yes to God which implies an invitation.

Where are you in this parable? I am an early riser, and the Lord comes by and says, come, to my Kingdom. yes, Lord! We are eager to work in the Kingdom. The parable goes on with the land owner going out every few hours to gather more workers; more come each time. Day is done and it’s time for receiving what the landowner chooses to give. And, it is His choice! Nothing I do, or you do, earns us eternal life. Nothing.

Those who accepted the Land Owner’s invitation to work in the vineyard, were given the grace! At the end of the day, they all received the same reward. Don’t start thinking how good you’ve been ALL your life. There is no need to worry, either, that you just started this journey. God meets our needs as different as they are; HE knows our needs as individuals.

The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the Earth is full of his unfailing love. Ps 33:5

As a child tries to “behave,” because he has learned that his parents want it, so we follow Jesus, but fail miserably. Jesus loves us anyway as good parents do their child. We always have another chance to learn. We try because He loves us first and loves us unconditionally, so we love HIM.

Lord, hear my prayer.

The election is over, but we still need this prayer.

O Lord, my God, Help us to live in peace. Open our hearts and our ears to your ways with a burning desire to serve you. Let your love shine through us to others who do not know your ways. inspire us to care for one another with disregard to the things that can separate us. Open our ears to the concerns of others. Give us the words to speak the truth and the hearts to hear each other. We are all your creation and depend on you alone. Give us courage to speak, to reach out, to serve, and to worship in the situations of distrust, hatred, disregard for law and anything else that can cause people to harm others. In Jesus name, Amen.

While standing for truth, we must be peacemakers.

We must comfort those who mourn the losses that seem so unfair.

We must stand on truth and fairness to be righteous.

We must be meek and humble when dealing with anger.

We must show mercy when determining what is just.

Climbing the Mountain

Many people knew of Therese Martin’s desire to be a nun at the convent of the Carmelites in Lisieux. Most thought she wanted to be with her sister, Pauline. She may have started out that way, but her desire for Jesus was her sole purpose as she grew. At nine years of age she visited with the Mother Superior of the Carmelite convent and expressed her desire to become one of them. The Mother listened to her and did not discourage her, except to tell Therese that they could not take children. She would have to wait until she was 16 years old.

Therese suffered physically from headaches and had nervous trembling and hallucinations in late 1882. This is when she saw the Blessed Mother Mary smile at her. She suffered spiritually and emotionally during this time. Therese never lost the desire to be a saint, a bride of Christ or to enter the convent. Over the course of several years, she spoke to her parish priest, the bishop and finally to the Pope! Her desire was even stronger after she received her First Holy Communion on the same day that Pauline took her vows as a Carmelite and receives her habit; Pauline is now known as Sister Agnes of Jesus.

Therese was finally granted permission to enter the convent of the Carmelites in Lisieux where two of her sisters were. Therese was so happy to be there! She received many menial assignments, but in great humility she performed each one. She had time for prayer, Mass and Holy Communion. She continued to record her thoughts and spiritual habits. She discovered new material to inspire her: the Suffering Servant from Isaiah and the writing of St. John of the Cross. Therese wrote poetry, plays and many letters. It was getting close to her time to profess her vows and to receive her veil when the profession was delayed. Finally, September 24, 1890, Therese received her veil as a novice. Sadly, due to illness, her father was unable to be there.

There were now 4 Martin sisters at the same convent and Sister Agnes (Pauline) was designated Mother Superior. She ordered Therese to write her childhood memories which eventually became her Story of a Soul. It must have been obvious that Therese was different in some ways than others. Therese was assigned as a spiritual sister to seminarians planning to be missionaries. She cares for the elderly nuns in the convent and was assigned as second portress and is associated with spiritual training of the other novices. Additionally, she writes several manuscripts .

Sister Therese had physical ailments during these years in the convent. She didn’t mention them to others and proceeded with her assigned duties. She spontaneously wrote a poem about love, Vivre d’Amour. While Therese was at Mass with Celine, she was inspired to give herself to “Merciful Love.” She and Celine make this offering together. In 1996, she suffered her first instance of coughing up blood. It happened in her cell between Holy Thursday and Good Friday; then, again in the evening of Good Friday. Sometime around Easter, she experienced a “Night of Faith” which was a trial which lasted until she died. It wasn’t until after Lent in 1897 that she was seriously ill.

In June, 1897, she is ordered to continue her autobiography, “Manuscript C.” She is brought to the infirmary and is experiencing coughing up blood. She is anointed and receives Holy Communion for the last time, September 30; she died after suffering , “agony” two days later and was buried in the Convent cemetery on October 4.

The Carmelites received permission from the Bishop of the diocese to print 2000 copies of sister Therese’s “Histoire d’ume.” Pilgrims begin to come to her grave to pray and the first cures are seen. The Carmel introduces the Cause of Sister Therese at Rome. Pope Pius X calls her “the greatest Saint of modern times. She was beatified in 1923 and Canonized at St Peter’s in Rome on May 17, 1925. On Dec. 14, Pope Pius XI proclaimed St Therese of the Child Jesus Principal Patroness, equal to St. Francis Xavier, of all missionaries, men and women, and of the missions in the whole world. She was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

Pray for us, Saint Therese.

For more information: littleflower.org

Quotes from St. Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower.

Therese Martin

Take each quote as a small flower, or lovely rose, to make a bouquet of meditations in the coming year. The quotes are from “Story of a Soul, the autobiography of st. Therese of Lisieux, translated from the original manuscripts by John Clark, O.C.D. ICS Publications.

1. Perfection consists in doing God’s will, in being what he wills us to be. Pg. 14

2. Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them. Pg. 14

3. As I had an excessive self-love and also a love for good, as soon as I began to think seriously, it was enough for one to say a thing wasn’t good and I had no desire to repeat it twice. Pg. 25

4. I loved God very much and offered my heart to Him very often. pg. 38

5. My dear mother helped me understand that I. Heaven God will grant His Elect as much glory as they can take, the last having nothing to envy in the first. Pg. 45

6. She knows that nothing in herself was capable of attracting the divine glances, and His mercy alone brought about everything that is good for her. Pg. 15

7. I have noticed that Jesus doesn’t want to try His children on the day of their espousals, for this day must be without any clouds, a foretaste of heaven’s joys. Pg. 61

8. The Blessed Virgin had appeared very beautiful, and I had seen her smile at me. Pg. 67

9. Oh! How happy I would be if they called me Therese of the Child Jesus! Pg. 71

10. And, I see that all is vanity and vexation of spirit under the sun, that the only good is to love God with all one’s heart and to be poor in spirit here on earth. Pg 73

To be continued. . .

8.

A SPOILED CHILD

I was surprised when a friend of mine said that Therese Martin was spoiled and just too sweet! I had not read her book, “A Story of a Soul,” but I soon did read it and a few other biographical books about her. St. Therese was a very loved child, but suffered much early in life. I believe her family overcompensated for this and, yes, she was a bit spoiled, but it didn’t spoil her spirit. She is a favorite saint of mine.

When Therese was born, the last of 9 children, she was the 5th living child of the Martins. This sweet baby would not nurse with her mother. The family found a wet nurse and Therese stayed with her during her first year , often visiting her parents when the nurse needed to be in town. Eventually, little Therese was back in her birth home where she was very cherished! It turned out that her mother had breast cancer and she died when Therese was about 4 years old.

Her father was so saddened by his wife’s death and he called Therese, his Little Queen. The oldest sister took on the role of mother for her youngest sister. The parents had been drawn to each other many years before because of their faith and love for God. They maintained a very Christian home, so much so, that all their daughters became nuns. They were able to foster the faith with their children and demonstrated virtues to them. Even with their Mother passing on, the girls continued to grow in their relationship with Jesus including little Therese.

Therese was only 4 when her mother died and she missed her terribly. Therese would often play alone in the garden where she, at times, would pretend to be at Mass. She learned to say the Rosary with her family and attended Mass with them. Her oldest sister was soon old enough to enter the cloistered convent of the Carmelites. This broke Therese’s little heart! She had lost her mother, the wet nurse and now her sister. Granted she still had 3 sisters at home and again the older one took on the role of Mother. Therese fell ill, possibly from the distress put on her at such a young age. She was confined to bed and people were coming to pray for her as they thought she was dying. Therese notice how her sisters and father were praying and how they looked lovingly at the statue of Mary. She began to gaze upon it, also, and saw Mary smile upon her. Therese recovered from her illness. She had developed, at this young age, the ability to do mental prayer. She would sometimes crouch down between her bed and the wall to pray, or stand behind a curtain to do the same.

Soon, two more sisters had entered the convent. Therese wanted so much to do the same, but she wasn’t old enough at 13. When the last older sister entered the convent, Therese was ok’d enough to be at home with her father without a caretaker. He decided they would travel to Rome and would see the Pope. Therese was very excited by the prospect! She was sure the Pope would give her permission to enter the convent at a younger age. She had been growing in her faith and prayer life. She was practicing self-control, but did have difficulties with that, but she continued to try. Therese was allowed to receive her First Holy Communion at an earlier age for the time. She loved and cared for her Father as best that she could, but she knew that Jesus was calling her to the convent; to spend her life in prayer.

The trip to Rome was exciting! Seeing the Pope was not as difficult then as it is now, but they did have rules. People approached the Pope in their small group, knelt down for a blessing, and dismissed by an attendant. There was no talking! Therese could not contain herself, and quickly asked the Pope to give her permission to enter the convent at an earlier age. He did ask her how old she was and he replied that she needed to speak with the Nun who was in charge at the convent. Her father practically had to pull her away! She talked to her parish priest for help, wrote a letter to the Mother Superior and prayed for assistance.

Therese was able to enter the convent early at the age of 15. She had to ask permission to do just about everything. She worked in the kitchen scrubbing and cleaning; rose in the middle of the night for chapel, ate whatever was put in front of her without complaining, and prayed constantly. She kept a journal where she recorded her prayers, frustrations, poems and everything else. The other nuns sometimes found her annoying, even though 3 of them were her biological sisters. the nuns came to realize that Therese would do the most menial jobs and never complain; if told she had made an error, especially something she had not done, Therese would beg forgiveness. Since she would eat whatever was put in front of her, she would sometimes get the least favored leftovers. And all the time, in her journals, she was writing down her “Little Way” of faith, hope and love in and for Jesus.

There is much more to say about this great Saint Therese, The Little Flower, who became a Doctor of the Church. She promised that her work on earth would begin when she was in heaven. If you haven’t read her autobiography, A Story of a Soul, I highly recommend it. There are other books about her life and her writing. Ask for her intercession.

Pray for us, St Therese.

Three Questions For You

Once, as a teenager, I applied for a job at grocery store in 1966. The opening had been announced at my high school; our counselor sent three of us to apply that day after school. The three of us were friends and eagerly hoped that we would all be hired. After introducing ourselves to the manager, he gave us a two sided sheet of paper and a pencil so we could take the Math test! Now, Math wasn’t my strong point; at least not Algebra II!

Quietly, we began the test. It was Math and it was timed. I don’t remember how much time we had, but I do remember working quickly. The manager took our papers and checked them in front of us. The other two girls had scores of 100; I had made two mistakes! The manager said he needed someone who could start that weekend. One girl said her family was going out of town and the other girl said she would have to check with her mother. He looked at me and I said, “yes” I can start this weekend. Much to my surprise, he hired me! When I arrived home, I told my parents that I had a job and was starting on Saturday at 9 a.m. it wasn’t my first job as I had been babysitting for fifty cents an hour since I was 12. I also held a job at a local drug store soda fountain and was saving my money for college. My parents congratulated me and asked what my hourly wage would be, but I didn’t know as I hadn’t asked that question. Mom and Dad just laughed and assured me it would be more than what I had been earning. I worked at the grocery store for two years!

This episode taught me the lesson that having the highest score doesn’t always get you a job. It also showed me that being willing to work and being assertive could pay off. I worked very hard to be sure that any math I had to do was correct! Later on in college, I found out that my practical experience on the job helped me in my chosen field of teaching high school students in a cooperative education program.

You are probably wondering why I am telling you all this—if you are still reading! We’ve all had jobs where some people make more than others, and most significantly, we may make less. Often times we find ourselves wanting more. . . More money per hour, more hours, more time off etc, our focus becomes the money.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.” Matthew 20:1-16

The landowner actually went out to hire laborers at dawn, nine a.m., noon, three p.m. and at five p.m. Each time, he hired more laborers. When evening came, he told his foreman to pay them starting with the last ones hired. They were surprised when they were handed the daily wage. Each group in turn received the day’s wages! In our society, we would find the first group irritated, angry, when they also received the daily wage! They had worked a long, hot day and had received only the day’s wage while those hired last may have only worked for an hour. How was this fair, they asked. They must have felt cheated!

Jesus explains how things work in His kingdom.

Did the men agree to work for the daily wage? Yes, they did at Baptism. The landowner asked them, “Am I allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” What Jesus is giving us cannot be attained by our own doing. Jesus is the one who decides on the gifts and graces he bestows to each of us. He loves us so much he is willing to die for us! And, last, he asks, “Are you envious because I am generous? (They) we realize we are! Lord, have mercy! Whatever Jesus gives us, it is enough. It is generosity and love. What more do we need? (Matthew 20:1-16)

Lord, my God, I ask forgiveness for thinking that I deserve more than someone else; your love for me is enough. I do not deserve that. My human brain is trying to comprehend your generosity and kindness to me. I love you, Lord! Have mercy on me, a sinner.

From US Council of Catholic Bishops:

REFLECT ON TRADITION:
Read these passages aloud.
“The obligation to earn one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow also presumes the right to do so. A society in which this right is systematically denied, in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace.”
—St. John Paul II, The Hundredth Year (Centesimus Annus), no. 43


“In many cases, poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited (through unemployment or underemployment), or ‘because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family.’”
—Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate), no. 63, quoting St. John Paul II, On Human Work (Laborem Exercens), no. 8


DISCUSS:
■ Where are the dignity of work or the rights of workers violated or protected— both in your own community and around the world?
■ How can our purchasing choices impact whether others’ rights are violated or protected?

https://www.usccb.org/committees/catholic-campaign-human-development/poverty-awareness-month

Our US Bishops web page is a wonderful resource of information! If you haven’t visited this site, please do! It will keep you very informed of what is going on in the Catholic world and in what ways the Church is living out her mission. This is vital information for all Catholics and non-Catholics who have questions about the Church.

Matthew 5:1-11; 25:31-46

WE REMEMBER!

Let’s celebrate! It’s finally December 31, 2020! How does that feel to you? We are all looking forward to an end of the pandemic, self-quarantining, and having a few larger group gatherings. Hopefully, the vaccine will be distributed quickly and we will begin to be social beings again. Many people have lost loved ones during the year due to different health issues with the COVID 19 leading the way.

This néw year of 2021 will certainly be a tough year for the families. Remembering and praying for the dead and their loved ones is one way to to help them. Reaching out to the spouses and/or the children is another way to let them know they are not forgotten. Sending a card gives the recipient something to save, to hold onto, & read again. It lets them know they have a friend who is thinking of them. Reach out in faith, hope and charity to share these virtues with others.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Faith shows the reality of what we hope for, it is the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Black-eyed Susan follows the Son across the sky.

John Michael Talbot, We Remember

What kind of a Mother?The moment you realize your child is not there, it feels like a heart attack. It’s hard to breathe and you begin to feel sweat on your forehead, under your arms, your chest hurts and she’s still not there!I had looked away for a second when the clerk handed me my change. Kendrah had a habit of putting her hand in my back pocket rather than holding my hand when we were shopping or at a ball game. Where is she! I asked other people in the shoe store if they had seen her. They were disinterested, bored even, when I asked for help. Swiftly, I exited the store into the wide hallway of the mall. She was not in sight. I ran down the hallway labeled, “mall offices”. They were closed. Thoughts we don’t ever want to have are screaming in my head. The main mall was full of people this Friday evening; there was a hobby and craft show going on: it was so crowded! Again, I asked people if they had seen my little 4 year old with blond hair and two braids wearing a pink shirt and jean shorts with pink tennis shoes. “What” They said, “No, No.” Help was not offered as they brushed me off. I decided I needed to find my husband and Kendrah’s father. I knew which store he had gone to and took off running/walking as fast as I could. He was in the check-out; he saw me and waved. I yelled to him that “I can’t find Kendrah!” He came to me looking around for her, when I told him I’d lost her farther back at the shoe store: he suddenly grinned, laughed out loud and said, “There she is!” It was Kendrah carrying a red balloon. She skipped over to us and hugged her Dad and then me. She had no idea that she was lost! All that time I was looking for her was probably 15 or 20 minutes. It seemed like hours to me! What kind of a Mother was I that I could lose track of my child?I have often wondered how Mary and Joseph reacted to discovering 12 yr old Jesus was missing from there caravan returning to Nazareth after Passover that year. Luke tells us in chapter 2:43-51, that they discovered he was missing and each of them thought he had been with the other one. They searched among their family and acquaintances but couldn’t find him, so they returned to Jerusalem. I imagine their conversation on the way back would be interesting to us. “My goodness, this is God’s son who has been entrusted to us,” Mary might have said. And, Joseph, “I don’t recall having a dream about this, Mary, so I think he is safe.” Did they berate themselves, too? Did Mary wonder what kind of a Mother she was? Joseph and Mary were obedient and trusted God as they have shown us in previous passages. They listened to Angels who appeared to them asking them to do the most amazing things that were counter cultural to them and yet they did as they were asked or told to do. What else did they talk about? Did they go to the Temple right away? Or, did they search with any family they had in Jerusalem? Perhaps Lazarus, Mary and Martha had been at the Passover with their family. It is a mystery and not really important to what happens when they find Jesus.Jesus was found by his earthly parents in the Temple talking with the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions. Joseph and Mary did not understand Jesus’ explanation to them but he returned home with them where we are told, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (V 51-52 ). Jesus calls God his father in this scripture, therefore, his obedience to his Father took precedence over his family ties.Where do we stand on our obedience to God? He is our Father. Does His Will take precedence over our own will, or over the will of others who want us, urge us, beg us to do their will? Do we trust in God?

The Parables of Jesus Christ

The Parable of the Sower: Matt 13: 1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15

The Parable of the Mustard Seed: Matt 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-34

The Parable of the Leaven: Matt 13:33;

The Parable-of the Lost Sheep: Matt 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7

The Parable of the Lamp: Matt 5:14-16; Mark 4:21-25

The Parable of The Speck and The Log: Matt 7:1-5

The Parable of the New Cloth on Old Garment: Matt 9:16-17: Mark: 2:21-22

The Parable of the Divided Kingdom: Matt 12:24-30; Mark 3:23-27

The Parable of The Weeds And the Wheat: Matt 13:24-30

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure: Matt 13:44

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price: Matt 13:45-46

The Parable of The Net: Matt 13:47-50

The Parable of The Heart of Man: Matt 15:10-20; Mark 7:14-23

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: 18:23-35

The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard: Matt 20:1-16

The Parable of the Man with Two Sons: Matt 21:28-32

The Parable of the Prodigal Son: Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of The Tenant Farmers: Matt 21:33-45; Mark 12:1-12

The Parable of the Marriage Feast: Matt: 1-14

The Parable of The Invited Guests: Luke 14:7-14

The Parable of The Budding Fig Tree: Matt 24:32-25; Mark 13:28-33

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree: Luke 13:6-9

The Parable of The Ten Virgins: Matt 24: 1-13

The Parable of The Ten Talents: Matt 25:14-30

The Parable of The Growing Seed: Mark 4:26-29

The Parable of the Faithful Servant vs. The Wicked Servant: Matt 24:45-51; Mark 13:34-37

The Parable of The Good Samaritan: Luke 10:29-37

The parable of The Friend at Midnight: Luke 11:5-13

The Parable of The Rich Fool: Luke 12:13-21

The Parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus: Luke 16: 19-31

The Parable of the Lost Coin: Luke 15:8-10

The Parable of The Persistent Widow: Luke 18:1-8

The Parable of The Pharisee and The Tax Collector: Luke 18:9-14

Holy Orders: New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve never liked to write New Year’s resolutions! They don’t usually last very long for me. This year, however, I’m thinking of a different type of resolution. My main goal is to grow in holiness each day. Jesus left us many instructions we can find in the Bible, and we can see examples of holiness in the lives of the saints, as well as, in the lives of people we observe around us. Let us consider what we might do to grow in holiness this year, day by day. Here are some ways to help ourselves grow in holiness during the next year, 2021.

Reading Scripture daily is one way to be sure you are focusing on God each day. Start with a 10 minute time frame, if this is a new activity for you. If you have been doing this regularly, increase your time frame as you move through the year. Start anywhere! Are you interested in the parables? Start reading a parable a day from the New Testament. Reflect on the story each day. What stands out to you in the story? Do you understand all the words that are used? If not, take a moment to look them up on your cell phone or iPad. RE-read the parable, or even just a few lines that really stand out. Why are you drawn to these lines? Pray silently for understanding of what Jesus wants you to know. you may choose to read the scripture of the day as used in Mass. in this way with daily Mass and Sunday Mass, you will cover the entire Bible in 2-3 years.

Reminding ourselves as we move through our day, that we are trying to grow closer to God and to be holy. Look around at your world and the people you love. Are you grateful for the people, the places, and the things in your life. Make a list of 5 things you are grateful for today. Do this every day! You can use sticky notes and place them in your bathroom or the inside of your closet door so you will see them every day. The list will grow x 30 days a month for 150 things you are grateful for! Try it! Don’t repeat any of the list! End your day with a prayer. A “goodnight, Lord,” may grow into a long discussion. Give it a try. Praying the Rosary is another way to end the day.

A weekly activity would also be a good addition to your routine. There are opportunities for daily Mass in most parishes which also gives you the opportunity to receive Holy Communion. Check your parish bulletin for days and times of weekday Masses. They are often available in the early morning, lunch time and around 5 pm. If once a week is too often, begin with every other week or once a month. Many parishes also have a day set aside for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This, too, could be a weekly, or monthly, practice.

There are other things you can do to grow in holiness that are not limited by someone’s schedule: Consider fasting once a week from something, such as a special program you like, or dessert, Pray with your spouse and your children before meals, in the car, or before bedtime. Be courteous, kind, loving and forgiving when you really don’t feel like it.

Examples of Christian living are all around us. It is possible that we can all be saints. Saints are ordinary people who live extraordinary lives loving God and their fellow human beings. If you have been confirmed in the Catholic Church, research the saint whose name you chose for confirmation. Or, if that saint doesn’t seem quite right for where you are in life now, choose another one. Read about that person. What exactly did he/she do that was saintly. There are many saints who were born in more recent times such as the 18th-20th Centuries. Find out something about several of them. What virtue does the person seem to have? Ask the saint to pray for you.

Whatever we choose to do, we may find ourselves not following through. This is disappointing and discouraging, but don’t give up. Think about how Jesus must have felt as he chose his ordinary 12 men to follow him and how they didn’t always follow through. He kept them close to him and instructed them again. And, he loved them. Love is the key. “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt 22:36-40

What are Catholics to do?

Day after day, people are on social media expressing that voting one way or another in this presidential election year is a sin. Often they call it a mortal sin! This is very troubling.

Mortal sin is sin that turns us away from God. It is something that a person knowingly does realizing it is a very serious offense against God. And chooses to do it anyway; and, then, follows through to actually do the offense. This is basic catechism! If you don’t know it is a mortal sin, it isn’t a mortal sin. We have a responsibility during our whole life to continue to learn, be faithful and to avoid sin. Reading spiritual books, the lives of the saints and attending Mass regularly are a few ways to do this.

Listening to homilies at Mass is an important part of learning more about avoiding sin. This type of “learning” is part of “forming our conscience.” It also includes prayer for discernment of what is the right thing to do in a given situation. Discussing the homilies with family and friends helps us to think through the message the priest was giving. Do not hesitate to ask your priest about a homily. First, they’ll be happy that you heard it & remembered it! Then, the priest will want to help you have a clearer understanding of what he said. This helps all of us because our priests will have a better understanding of how their homilies are being received.

Reading spiritual books, especially the lives of the saints, help us to see how others lived their lives and their thought processes on many things in daily life. I’ve never found these books or short stories to be boring! The stories share the struggles of the saints and many of the saints wrote about their lives as instructed to do so by a priest or religious. They don’t leave things out because they fear what people will say. There are many books to read or listen to that can improve our understanding of our calling to be a Christian. The United State Council of Catholic Bishops publishes the US Catholic Catechism for Adults. It explains clearly what the Catholic Church is teaching and includes a short summary of a life of a saint at the beginning of each chapter. The end of each chapter summarizes the chapter, provides discussion or thought questions and key points are listed. The Bishops’ website has a plethora of information, usccb.org. This is a very important site that many people are missing.

Daily Bible reading will improve our comprehension of scripture. This isn’t necessarily a Bible Study per se that we normally think of. It is actually prayer and discernment about what God wants to speak to you. Ten minutes a day is a good place to start. Start anywhere! Take a couple of minutes to pray asking God to help you. Then, read a a few lines or even one line. close your eyes and think about what you have read. What comes to mind? Nothing? Just rest in the quiet moment and then thank God for the day. Some days you may think of a 100 hundred things. Persevere in this practice to know God.

Actively participating in Mass increases our love for God and the Eucharist. Many people feel self-conscience at Mass when they respond to the prayers, sing the songs or kneel in prayer during the Eucharistic prayer. One thing that can help is to sit closer to the front. Move forward a pew or two every month until you feel you are not worried about others who are having their own struggle. Pray for them and give your attention to God. Use the liturgy guide or missalette to read the prayers and sing the songs. Listen to the priest, the readings and the prayers as much as you are able to at each Mass. Invite God unto your heart. I know as a mother of 4 that this may sound crazy to you if you are taking children of any age to Mass. Do the best you can. That’s all God asks of us. Hold and comfort your babies; try to keep the toddlers and preschoolers satisfied; encourage the school kids to use their missalettes, a personal prayer book would be good; and, the teens, the struggle is real. Talk to them through the week about the scripture readings and ask them what they think. Take them to Mass and offer the missalette and pray for them.

Through these activities, you can form your own conscience by your faith, your reason, and your intelligence. Faith does not conflict with reason. Use the gifts God gave us in the Holy Mass, Scripture, the Saints and our priests and Bishops teachings. Use the resources available to improve your understanding, growth in faith and trust in God! Let us pray for each other.