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Evangelization, Free-Time, and Cultural and Spiritual Sloth

August 24, 2016

I’m reading Evangelii Gaudium as a home work assignment. Today’s reading included a lot of pope@2xhead nodding in agreement with the Pope. In Chapter II, Amid the Crisis of Communal Commitment, Pope Francis writes about “Temptations faced by pastoral workers”; lay, consecrated, and ordained.  He tells us to say “Yes to the challenge of a missionary spirituality” and “No to selfishness and spiritual sloth.”

As children of this age, though, all of us are in some way affected by the present globalized culture which, while offering us values and new possibilities, can also limit, condition and ultimately harm us….

Today we are seeing in many pastoral workers, including consecrated men and women, an inordinate concern for their personal freedom and relaxation, which leads them to see their work as a mere appendage to their life, as if it were not part of their very identity. …

At times our media culture and some intellectual circles convey a marked scepticism with regard to the Church’s message, along with a certain cynicism. As a consequence, many pastoral workers, although they pray, develop a sort of inferiority complex which leads them to relativize or conceal their Christian identity and convictions. This produces a vicious circle. They end up being unhappy with who they are and what they do; they do not identify with their mission of evangelization and this weakens their commitment. …

This practical relativism consists in acting as if God did not exist, making decisions as if the poor did not exist, setting goals as if others did not exist, working as if people who have not received the Gospel did not exist. It is striking that even some who clearly have solid doctrinal and spiritual convictions frequently fall into a lifestyle which leads to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all cost, rather than giving their lives to others in mission. …

For example, it has become very difficult today to find trained parish catechists willing to persevere in this work for some years. Something similar is also happening with priests who are obsessed with protecting their free time. This is frequently due to the fact that people feel an overbearing need to guard their personal freedom, as though the task of evangelization was a dangerous poison rather than a joyful response to God’s love which summons us to mission and makes us fulfilled and productive. Some resist giving themselves over completely to mission and thus end up in a state of paralysis and acedia.

Reading assignment over, I got on with the rest of my day. This and that, and the perpetual checking of my email on my phone. (Yes, I know…) But then, one email had a sound of deja vu….

If you want to know the destiny of a business, or an institution, or a society, you only need to look at one thing… The values held by the leaders of those organizations.

Freedom, liberty, honor, and the rule of law… These were the kinds of values that America was founded upon 300 hundred years ago.

And yet in the past 20 years, I’ve watched those values disappear with my very own eyes. When I think of America today, and look at the leadership found in Washington, words like deception, corruption, greed, treason, and secrecy come to mind.

Today our leaders do not do the right things for the right reasons, they do what’s right for them, and when those are the types of values demonstrated by a societies leaders, that society is doomed.

And so we have a choice… We can sellout and follow their lead and drive America into a leaderless, valueless, nation of corruption where it’s every man and woman for themselves, or we can turn back toward the principles that directed this country to greatness.

This email was from Mike Dillard, a self-made entrepreneur, who was advertising his new podcast with Mike Rowe. Neither Mike is Catholic to my knowledge. But the flavor of Mike D’s message is all about the selfishness of our modern culture, beginning with the leadership. The Pope clearly states that this same selfishness is even in our pastoral efforts within the Catholic Church.

So selfishness. The “ME” generation. It’s more than a generational problem these days. It infiltrates every aspect and generation of our culture and our world. How did it get this way?

Certainly there are the Mike Rowe’s of this world who are doing their best to highlight the hard workers in the trenches. But just as the Pope said, even our beloved priests are obsessed with guarding their free time. Some to the point of rarely being present at their parishes!

Then to make my day a little more connected to this line of thought, a friend is trying to convince me to fill a 7th grade catechist opening… Ugh. What about my free time?!

So what are we doing in our free time? What are we selfishly guarding? Do we just need to veg, or are we really being productive with some selfish-culture-breaking break-through?

The ancient Greeks, the “citizens” not the working-class, used a lot of their free time to create their philosophies of life. Plato anyone? The Greeks citizens relished their leisure time, and the philosophers deemed it was the time to be philosophical. Great thought came out of that time. What kind of great thought is coming out of our modern free time?

What is the answer? How do we turn this boat around? I’m sure G.K. Chesterton has an essay on just this topic, but I don’t know which one it is…

Trash to Treasure – Vintage Windows and Screens

June 3, 2016

I’m an old window junkie. I have been collecting them for years.

What to do with themIMG_2089, besides save them from the landfill? A while back someone bought some of my windows to make a little green house. Then last summer I sold several of the classier ones at an antique booth that I had.

Upcycling is all the rage these days, and I am trying to put on my creative hat and make use of my windows. One window became a simple mosaic. Just glass tiles arranged in a linear pattern. The window I’m working on now has three long panes.

IMG_3705[1]

I painted the frame sage and the middle pane has chalk board paint. I’m still trying to decide if I want to embellish it further with some painted flowers or leaves or the like. I also have some nice knobs from Hobby Lobby that I’ll probably add to it as well. So many possibilities!

Windows show up when you’re not looking for them, and sometimes when you are looking for them. Some are pretty beat up and others are in perfect shape for being vintage. My neighbor just got some new windows, and the installers were packing up the old windows. “Do you have any plans for those windows?” “Nope.” Score! The point is, if you’re a window junkie, you take what you find when you find it. Once they get to the garbage truck they are pulp.

Then, a little while later I came across some nice old screens. Hmm, screens? Yep, people are upcycling screens too. Pinterest is just flooded with upcycle ideas! But, in searching for screens, I came across a bit of history, the Painted Screen Society of Baltimore. Screen painting had a very functional and simple artistic purpose in the city of Baltimore, Maryland at the beginning of and for most of the 20th century, until the advent of the window air conditioner. The artwork was a screen for the screen, allowing the air to flow through the house and provide privacy at the same time. Here’s a nice video on the subject:

http://www.cbsnews.com/common/video/cbsnews_video.swf

Conversion of Mind, Body and Soul

May 8, 2016

God is always calling us to conversion. He wants us in heaven with Him, therefore, we need to adjust our ways. What do we mean by ways? A senior priest that says Mass at our parish often regularly uses the phrase: “is there some attitude of ours that needs changing” just before he begins the Confiteor.

We have to adjust our mindset, on everything. How do we view church and salvation? How do we view our relationships with other people? How do we view our relationship with ourselves? How do we view health and wellness? And so on.

Jesus told His followers, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt 22:37) In the Gospel of Luke (10:27) we read a similar command from Jesus: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Heart, soul and mind. Heart, being, strength, and mind. We need to employ all of our faculties to love the Lord, our God. ALL of them. But, our mind and the attitudes and ideas that it holds dictates how the rest of our faculties fare.

So what controls our mind? The culture is always trying to change our mindset. The culture includes everything worldly: government, media, Hollywood, advertisers, manufactures, special interest groups, and the list goes on and on. In this day and age, we consume a toxic slurry of processed foods that also affects our mind. (There is a scientifically proven connection between the gut and the brain!)

Back in the days of Samuel the people of Israel wanted a king to rule them, because they couldn’t rule themselves, and they wanted to be like the other nations. In the eighth chapter of First Samuel we see this story play out, and in verse seven the Lord says: “They are rejecting me as their king.” The Israelites rejected God thousands of years ago. They didn’t have processed food or Hollywood or a government. So why did they reject God?

The Lord, our God, wrote His word in our hearts, but our minds don’t want to listen to our hearts, part of that little problem called original sin. On the bright side, our wonderful God is still calling us to conversion. We CAN change our ways, with His help!

In order to change though, we have to be willing to let go of certain troublesome aspects in our mindset. Even in the world of business, the world of health, they have mastermind groups that help us to focus on a better way of thinking about a subject. We need to let Jesus be the Master of our mastermind group!

How often do we hear today – that can’t be true or I have trouble believing that. We have been caught up in somebody else’s mind control game. It may have been started centuries ago or it may be a recent mindset game. Regardless, it has control of our minds. Wconversione have bought “it”, hook, line and sinker. So now what? How do we change?

Prayer, effort, humility. Yes, humility; that one is a biggy. I have a morning prayer in which the second of three petitions goes like this: Dear Jesus, I love you, please help me to have the mind of Christ. Who do you want me to die for today?

For a long time, I said this phrase and I sort of got it, but I didn’t really. Now, thanks to a recent, fruitful confession, I believe I really get it. In our dying to others, we put them first. We humble ourselves to them, even if they are wrong! Even if we are right, it isn’t right to try to destroy the other.

So we have to let go. Let go of pride. Let go of useless stuff, like Hollywood gossip (really, why does anyone even care?) Let go of envy. Let go of greed. Let go of fast and easy, be it driving, food, living. Let go of selfishness. Let go of excessive pleasure mongering. Let go of fear (our culture of death loves to instill fear in our lives). Sure, none of this is easy, but just naming the “let go’s” helps us to see how often we cling to them.

Fill up on Jesus and all the wonderful gifts and graces He gives us. Acknowledging His gifts and graces on a daily basis helps us to see how truly blessed we are, even in the midst of all our struggles. Thank Him for our struggles too. A rainy day helps us to better appreciate the sun shine. Our struggles help us to better appreciate the God’s great gifts.

And one final word (with my health coach hat on), we have to offer it all up to God, we have to trust in God, we have to honor God’s will. But God doesn’t want blind faith either. He doesn’t want us to be stupid, make bad choices and then He will fix our mess (health problems) with a miracle! We need to make healthy choices. We need to forego some “comfort” foods to help our bodies heal. Just as we need to avoid the near occasion of sin, know that we can sin against the temple of our soul by being a couch potato, by eating too much fast food, by not eating our vegetables, by eating too much sugar! And in turn, healing our body can help heal our mind(set), hopefully.

A Student’s Prayer – by St. Thomas Aquinas

April 20, 2016

aquinasI first heard this prayer in a class that I took at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. At the beginning of the semester Fr. Chaz gave us this prayer on yellow card stock paper and we said it together at the beginning of each class. Shortly there after, I shared it with my Bible Study group.

It is a fantastic prayer. And since we are all students of life each and everyday, I think it is a good daily prayer for everyone. Make a copy for yourself and say it regularly. Pray for us St. Thomas Aquinas!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory, and
the ability to grasp things
correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent
of being exact in my explanations
and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Why did Jesus leave us the Shroud of Turin?

April 12, 2016

The-Facade-By-NightI had the blessing and privilege to tour the Shroud of Turin exhibit at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center several years ago. The focus of this exhibit is “Who is the man of the Shroud?” The science on display proving that the Shroud is in fact Jesus’ Shroud is fascinating! It shares with us the examination of the Shroud itself that dates it to the time and place of Christ’s Crucifixion. It also shares with us the truly horrid sufferings that He endured during His Passion. The Bible’s account of His Passion does not give us all of the gory details. The Gospel writers knew its horror and knew the people of their day knew the horror, and they simply said Jesus was scourged, Jesus was crucified.

Fast forward 2000 years and we only see the smooth skinned Jesus on the cross in our churches and in our homes. My post on Fr. Val shows an image of him standing next to a statue of Jesus scourged. I cannot stomach the picture. Because of my weak stomach I have never seen Mel Gibson’s Passion either. I have the Shroud and the details its experts share with us. I understand the extent that Jesus suffered for us.

With all this in mind, I attended another presentation on the Holy Shroud this past weekend. Presented by Donald H. Nohs, the General Director of the Confraternity of the Passion International, this talk had many props from the Crucifixion of Christ, including a life-sized image of the Holy Shroud, both the positive and the negative. Mr. Nohs shared with us even more details of the sufferings and tortures that Our Lord was subjected to, but he also shared with us the reason behind the existence of the Shroud. Why did Jesus leave us His Holy Shroud?props

Mr. Nohs showed us the connection between the Holy Shroud and the corporal and pall that are used during the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the Latin/Roman Rite. The first Masses said by the Apostles and early Christians used the Holy Shroud as their altar cloth! Amazing! And instead of elevating the bread and wine, as we do today, for the consecration; the Apostles folded the Shroud over the bread and wine and said the prayers of consecration. He shared with us many more moving and inspirational points on the Shroud and the Passion of Our Lord. Invite him to your parish! And please support this ministry!

Here is a video of Mr. Nohs presentation. Please help spread this information and dedication to Our Lord’s Passion:

More videos are here.

Treasures of the Church – A Walk with the Saints

March 28, 2016

Last week I had the privilege of walking with the saints, well, about 150 of them!

Treasures of the Church is a ministry of evangelization of the Catholic Church.  Run by Fr. Carlos Martins of the Companions of the Cross, its purpose is to give people an experience of the living God through an encounter with the relics of his saints in the form of an exposition.  Each exposition begins with a multi-media presentation on the Church’s use of relics that is scriptural, catechetical, and devotional, leading to a renewal of the Catholic faith for many people.  After the teaching those in attendance have an opportunity to venerate the relics of some of their favorite saints.

Every church, school, prison, entity should host this traveling exhibit of relics!

Fr. Carlos spoke in the church first. I think the talk was about an hour. He gave his back ground first, then he spoke about relics, what is a first, second and third class relic. He also spoke at length about St. Maria Goretti.

He ended his talk by explaining the layout of the relic exposition. There are about 16 tables with blue table cloths and two with gold. The gold tables are special because they are for the relics of our Lord and His Blessed Mother (Fragments of the True Cross, the Crown of Thorns, the Lance and the Veil of the Mother of God)! The blue tables hold 6-8 reliquaries and information cards about each of the saints. In his explanation he tells us that our connection with the saints is very powerful. Many people have experienced miracles as a result of venerating the relics (and he wants to hear about the miracles). Father also said, as we walk over to the gym, where the relics were displayed, pray that we will find our companion saint. Different people discover theirs in varied ways, you just know when it happens.

slide-1-officialSo I walked over, praying that I would discover my companion saint. I took off my necklace that I always wear with a Crucifix, a Miraculous Medal and a medal of St. Michael, and I held it in my hand as I walked with the saints, touching it to each and every reliquary there. I saw several of my favorite saints, Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Siena, Maximilian Kolbe, and many others. Nothing. I was getting close to visiting all of the tables. Was my companion saint not among those present? Then I came to St. Faustina and the tears just started to roll down my face. It was her!

There was just something so special about that interaction. I just hope and pray that I and a good friend and companion in return and share my life with her and regularly ask for her intercession. The next day I went out and got a bunch of St. Faustina prayer cards so that I can scatter them around my existence so that I have constant reminders of her relationship with me.

So, talk to your pastor, your principal, about Treasures of the Church and then get on Fr. Carlos’ schedule and have him bring his Treasures of the Church to your location. You and many others will be so glad you did!

Blessing of the Baskets for Easter – A Polish Tradition

March 20, 2016

All of my ancestors are Polish to the best of my knowledge, and one of my grandparents was born in Poland. So my family is solidly Polish-American. One of our Polish traditions is the blessing of the Easter foods basket on Holy Saturday. I don’t remember the blessing of the baskets from when I was a really young child in Detroit, but my mom probably did it, or my grandma did. st-hyacinthShe belonged to one of the lovely churches of Poletown, St. Hyacinth.

We moved away from the city long ago to a small town. It was a predominately German town. At some point in our living here, one of the priests began to offer the Blessing of the Baskets, and we have been blessed to have that blessing ever since.

Each year we put basically the same types of foods in our baskets. We walked with them to the church and sat at the center aisle, setting our basket on the floor. We enjoyed all of the Easter flowers being set up on the altar for the Vigil Mass and watched to see how many people would participate in the blessing this year, and checked out their baskets. Each year the number of baskets would be different. Father would come out at the designated time with the Holy Water and we would pull back the basket covering and open the foods. The church smelled lovely with all of the sausages opened up! The blessings completed, and maybe a small food offering would be given to Father. We cover everything back up, head home and kept the blessed foods separated in the refrigerator for the morning meal. Then on Easter morning after Mass, we would sit down to a largely cold breakfast of our blessed foods. It’s a lovely tradition.

The foods we typically include are ham, eggs, bread, sausage, butter, candies, sometimes horseradish, and pierogis. It’s our tradition.

It wasn’t until this year that I learned that “our” tradition is very close to “the” tradition. Go figure!

blessingA fellow parishioner gave me a copy of Swieconka – Blessing of the Baskets published in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish Bulletin in Lapeer, Michigan in 2014:

Swieconka (sh-vee-en-soon-kah) is one of the most enduring and beloved Polish traditions. Baskets containing a sampling of Easter foods are brought to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday. The basket is traditionally lined with a white linen or lace napkin and decorated with sprigs of boxwood (bukszpan), the typical Easter evergreen. Poles take special pride in preparing a decorative and tasteful basket with crisp linens, occasionally embroidered for the occasion, and just enough boxwood and ribbon woven through the handle. Observing the beautiful foods and creations of other parishioners is one of the special joys of the event.

Basket Contents and Symbolism:

Maslo/Butter: This dairy product is often shaped into a lamb (Baranek Wielkanocny), reminding us of the goodness of Christ that we should have toward all things.

Chleb/Easter Bread: A round rye loaf topped with a cross, symbolic of Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Chrzan/Horseradish: Symbolic of the Passion of Christ still in our minds, but sweetened with some sugar because of the Resurrection. (May be white or pink [w/ grated red beets].)

Jajka/Eggs and Pisanki: Indicate new life and Christ’s pisankiResurrection from the Tomb.

Kielbasa/Sausage: A spicy sausage of pork products, indicative of God’s favor and generosity.

Szynka/Ham: Symbolic of great joy and abundance. (In addition to the large ham cooked for the Easter Meal, often a special small ham, called the Szynka Wielkanocny is purchased specially for the Swieconka basket.)

Slonina/Smoke Bacon: A symbol of the over abundance of God’s mercy and generosity.

Sol/Salt: So necessary an element in our physical life, that Jesus used its symbolism: “You are the salt of the earth.”

Ser/Cheese: Shaped into a ball, it is the symbol of the moderation Christians should have.

Holy Water: Holy water is used to bless the home, animals, fields and used in religious rituals throughout the year.

A candle, often marked like the Paschal Candle lit during the Easter Vigil, is inserted into the basket to represent Christ, Light of the World.

A colorful ribbon and sometimes sprigs of greenery are attached.

The linen cover is drawn over the top and is ready for the trek to the blessing.

Whether or not you can claim some Polish blood in your veins, this is a lovely Easter tradition. I hope you consider creating your own basket and get it blessed. Many Easter blessings to you!

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