Archive for the ‘Life's experiences’ category

“And Moses trembled…” — Acts 7:32b

December 25, 2010

This is my 54th Christmas.  Surely I have no conscious memory of the first few.  Each of the rest have been different in their own way, but they all have had many of the same things in common:  decorations, a Christmas tree, Christmas carols, presents, Mass in a church with a Nativity crèche, family gatherings.  Over the years, the joy of giving has surpassed the happiness of receiving.  But for the most part, it’s the same routine every year, almost ‘same’ enough to yield a complacency of sorts.

This past Thursday, as I began to read Pope Benedict’s weekly General Audience address which he had given the previous day, I stopped after just the first sentence to consider one of the words used in that sentence:  tremulous[Note:  Our Holy Father did not give his address in English, so this is the word used by the Zenit translator, which I assume is accurate]

With this last audience before the Christmas celebrations, tremulous and full of astonishment, we approach the “place” where everything began for us and for our salvation, where everything found its fulfillment, where the hopes of the world and of the human heart met and interlaced with the presence of God.

“Tremulous” is not a word that I encounter very often in my reading.  So I paused to verify its exact meaning:

1 — characterized by or affected with trembling or tremors
2 — affected with timidity:  timorous
3 — such as is or might be caused by nervousness or shakiness
4 — exceedingly sensitive: easily shaken or disordered

While the routine and complacency of my Christmas celebrations have certainly not overshadowed the real meaning of Christmas – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ – as I approached the crèche each year, as I heard the Gospel reading describing Jesus’ birth read at Mass, my countenance could not be described as “tremulous.”  Until this year, that is, when the Pope’s exhortation to be “tremulous and full of astonishment” brought it to my attention.

As I prayed over the past couple days for the grace to have a heart that would be more tremulous and full of astonishment before our Lord in the manger, I was also led to reflect on what may be one of the keys to attaining this disposition:  the gift of the Holy Spirit known as the “fear of the Lord.”  One of my resources described this gift as follows:

The Gift of Fear of the Lord enables the person “to avoid sin and attachment to created things out of reverence and love of God.” Primarily, this gift entails a profound respect for the majesty of God who is the Supreme Being. Here, a person realizes his “creatureliness” and dependency upon God, and never would want to be separated from this loving God. This gift of fear arouses in the soul a vibrant sense of adoration and reverence for the majesty of God and a sense of horror and sorrow for sin.

I pray for this gift to work in my heart to give me a much deeper appreciation for what it means for God to become man in Jesus.  Then I’ll be better prepared to respond to the challenge issued by our Holy Father near the end of that General Audience talk:

In the night of the world, we must let ourselves be amazed and illumined by this act of God, which is totally unexpected: God becomes a Child. We must let ourselves be amazed, illumined by the Star that inundated the universe with joy. May the Child Jesus, in coming to us, not find us unprepared, busy only in making the exterior reality more beautiful and attractive. May the care we give to making our streets and homes more resplendent impel us even more to predispose our soul to encounter him who will come to visit us. Let us purify our conscience and our life of what is contrary to this coming: thoughts, words, attitudes and deeds — impelling us to do good and to contribute to bring about in our world peace and justice for every man and thus walk toward our encounter with the Lord.

First Holy Communion

May 2, 2010

45-years-ago today (May 2, 1965) I received my first Holy Communion from the hands of Rev. Roman A. Wieziolowski at Holy Trinity Church in Nanticoke.  Unlike some very holy people, I have no conscious memory of that day.  I was only nine years old.  But I am truly grateful for it.  Thank you, Lord, that I was born into a Catholic family.  Thank you for all of my ancestors who passed on their Catholic faith.  Thank you for all that my parents sacrificed to send me to a Catholic school. Thank you for Fr Wieziolowski and his service to you and us as a priest.  Thank you for Sister Flavia, the Bernadine Sister who taught my Third Grade class and prepared us for Penance and Holy Communion.  Thank you for my parents who bought me that nice suit and had my picture taken by a professional photographer!  I ask you, Lord, to bless all of my classmates who also received Jesus for the first time that day.  Wherever they are, reveal yourself and your intense love to them in a special way this day.

Having the proper perspective

April 24, 2010

After discussing world events with an atheist friend of mine recently, he referred to me as a “chicken little.”

“There is a difference,” I wrote him, “between the Catholic who openly declares that the sky is falling and the atheist who silently does the same.  The Catholic notices it and announces it as a matter of fact which no more disturbs his day than it disturbs his eternity.  After all, the sky is only the sky and he knows this. Let it fall.”

“The atheist, on the other hand, proclaims much more even while giving the impression that all is well.  An atheist is confined to the restrictions of his denials.  He too knows that the sky will someday fall, and homo sapiens will one day be eliminated.  But the atheist has no other recourse than to see the impending doom, whether that doom be a comet, a cancer, or a car crash, and submit to its complete and utter domination over his whole being.  For the atheist, the sky is everything.”

In the latest issue of the Catholic Light, Monsignor Grimalia quotes Pope Paul VI, who in his Apostolic Exhortation on Christian Joy, says something similar, but much better:

Let the agitated members of various groups therefore reject the excesses of systematic and destructive criticism! Without departing from a realistic viewpoint, let Christian communities become centers of optimism where all the members resolutely endeavor to perceive the positive aspect of people and events.   “Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth.  There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.”  The attainment of such an outlook is not just a matter of psychology. It is also a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Donald Trump led me to Guardian of the Redeemer

February 28, 2010

A funny thing happened on my way to watch some TV with my wife.   A few years ago, there was a contestant on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” named Tarek Saab.   Although he didn’t win the contest, Roman Catholic Tarek went on to launch a clothing line named “Lionheart Apparel.”  If you haven’t heard of it, it is a “clothing company dedicated to outfitting Christian men in quality apparel that is subtle, symbolic, and stylish.”  I ordered a hat and a tee shirt. 

Apparently, there had been a relationship between Lionheart and The King’s Men, a men’s fellowship group based out of the Philly area. 

Well, the simple act of buying that tee shirt and that hat apparently had something to do with me being put on the King’s Men email list.  They were good emails that had some substance to them so I never relegated them to “spam” status.  Anyway, one of the emails was an invite to an “Into the Wild” retreat down at French Creek State Park.  I went, saw the value of men’s Catholic fellowship, was hoping to find something within my own diocese, and here I am.

So, thanks to Donald Trump and his “Apprentice” show, the chain of events was initiated and eventually fell into place. 

How’s that for a stretch?

“…who unites his death to that of Jesus…”

November 3, 2009

Yesterday was “All Souls Day” and a time to remember our true nature as human beings.  We are composed of body and soul.  We are made with immortal souls.  In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1012) we read:

The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church.

In the Roman Missal, Preface of Christian Death, we hear:

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.  When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.

The Catechism, again: (n. 1020)

The Christian who unites his death to that of Jesus views it as a step toward him and an entrance into everlasting life.  When the Church for the last time speaks Christ’s words of pardon and absolution over the dying Christian, seals him for the last time with a strengthening anointing, and gives him Christ in viaticum as nourishment for the journey, she speaks with gentle assurance:

Go forth Christian soul, from this world
In the name of God the almighty Father,
Who created you,
In the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God,
Who suffered for you,
In the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you.
Go forth, faithful Christian!

May you live in peace this day,
May your home be with God in Zion,
May Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
With St. Joseph, and all the angels and saints.

May you return to [your Creator]
Who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints
Come to meet you as you go forth from this life.
May you see your Redeemer face to face.

Not afraid to ‘get involved’

August 16, 2009

I just heard this great news story about the mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, who came to a woman’s aid.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was hospitalized with head and hand injuries on Sunday after he attempted to assist a woman crying for help, and was attacked by a man with a metal pipe near the Wisconsin State Fair, police said.

The mayor had gone to the Wisconsin State Fair on Saturday with his children and niece. As Barrett walked to his car, he heard a woman screaming for someone to call 911, police said.

“My brother Tom encountered a domestic violence situation,” the mayor’s brother John Barrett said. “Tom stepped up and did the right thing. He called 911 and tried to calm the situation, protect the grandmother and her grandchild. As a result of his actions, Tom was attacked and struck repeatedly with a metal object. Tom’s efforts protected the woman and the child. His efforts also protected members of our family, as well.”

The suspect allegedly hit him in the head and torso with a metal pipe. It appeared Mayor Barrett fought back, fracturing his hand when he punched the suspect.

“Tom is in stable condition,” John Barrett said. “He’s still got his sense of humor. He’s a good brother and he’s in good shape, he’ll be fine.”

Even in the face of violence he acted with courage and selflessness.  The example of the protector is one that is deeply needed in our culture.

How much does humility cost? Today it’s $12.33

August 10, 2009

Recently, I’ve had some conversatiopns with a few friends about how the health choices we make affects us down the road.  We may be happier eating chocolate chip cookies, fried foods, soda, etc.  but those choices have consequences which catch up with us sooner or later.  I decided to once again try a somewhat healthier diet and lifestyle.  I’m only trying to cut out processed foods – and while I’m at it, exercise a bit more.  I’m taking up jogging — got the iPhone app for it, just another way in which this remarkable device can help improve, educate, and support your life.  

Anyhow my wife and child were out of town Sunday, and I thought I’d catch up on a few chores.  After Mass I was wondering about what I’d eat for lunch, and I decided to stop at the Grocery store and pick up a baguette, tomato, and fresh mozzarella.  Mix it up with a little basil from the garden and olive oil, and I will have a natural — if not wholly healthy, lunch.  “Besides,” I thought.  My wife will be eating out today, and so I can treat myself, I deserve it.

Checked out of the gorcery store for $12.33.  My very first thought walking out was, “Wow, I could probably eat for that amount of money all day if I planned it.”  Then I thought about how much food that would buy if I was on my ‘graduate school diet.’  I could probably eat for three or four days on that kind of money.  Lastly I thought of the men at the Vision Homeless shelter, and all those others amongst us who could probably make the $12.33 last all week.

But I deserve it.

Yeah, just another manifestation of pride, and the only remedy is humility.