Never Give Up

Sometimes our dreams are squashed by people telling us that we will never achieve them. They say things like: “You should wake up and realize your limitations.” “You are not smart enough.” “You are bothering people and you should stay in your social or economic class.” I share these thoughts with you as an introduction to a true story written by Evangelist Charles Swindoll.

“Ignace Jan Paderewski, the famous composer-pianist was scheduled to perform at a great concert hall in America.it was an evening to remember—black tuxedos and long evening dresses, a high-society extravaganza.

Present in the audience that evening was a mother with her fidgety nine-year-old son. Weary of waiting, he squirmed constantly in his seat. His mother was in hopes that her son would be encouraged to practice the piano if he could just hear the immortal Paderewski at the keyboard. So, even though he didn’t want to go, she made him.

As she turned to talk with friends, her son could stay seated no longer. He slipped away from her side, strangely drawn to the ebony concert grand Steinway and its leather tufted stool on the huge stage flooded with blinding lights. Without much notice from the sophisticated audience, the boy sat down at the stool, staring wide-eyed at the black and white keys. He placed his small, trembling fingers in the right location and began to play “Chopsticks.” The roar of the crowd was hushed as hundreds of frowning faces pointed in his direction. Irritated and embarrassed, they began to shout: “Get that boy away from there!” “Who’d bring a kid that young here?” “Where’s his mother?” “Somebody stop him!”

Backstage the master overheard the sounds out front and quickly put together in his mind what was happening. Hurriedly, he grabbed his coat and rushed toward the stage. Without one word of announcement he stooped over behind the boy, reached around both sides, and began to improvise a counter melody to harmonize with and enhance “Chopsticks.”

As the two of them played together, Paderewski kept whispering in the boy’s ear:

“Keep going. Don’t quit. Keep on playing….don’t stop….don’t quit.”

There is a message in that story for all of us. No matter how ridiculous our dreams may seem to other people, no matter how overwhelming they may seem at times, the Master (Jesus) keeps saying: “Don’t quit, don’t give up!”

We would be very wise to begin each day by saying: “With God on my side, I can handle whatever this day brings.”

Until next time, God bless you and remember: “TO LOVE ANOTHER PERSON IS TO SEE THE FACE OF GOD.”

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Gratitude

One day a priest was visiting a third grade class in his parish’s Catholic School. The priest asked a boy if he said his prayers every day. The boy said: “No, not every day, some days I don’t need anything.” This story made me smile. However, the point it makes is an important one. Petitions are not the only prayers we should say. In fact the most important prayer is one of gratitude. The famous German mystic, Meister Eckhart said: “If the only prayer you say your entire is Thank You, it would be enough.” He may be exaggerating to make a point, but he is not far from the truth.

When a priest begins the Preface at Mass which ends in the Holy, Holy, he says: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give You thanks Lord holy Father, eternal and mighty God.” It takes a long time to train ourselves to always and everywhere give God thanks. We have to develop a certain attitude in our lives, an attitude of gratitude. Our capacity to do this depends on how we face the problems that life brings. Everyone has problems and some people have terrible problems, as Vincentians can testify to by their home visits. While undergoing these problems, the last thing a person might want to do is give thanks. Yet put into perspective, a faith perspective, the problems may be opportunities for conversion, growth, as well as moments when God is asking a person to trust more. Here is a poem that I try to say each day. I do not know who the author is.

Count your blessings instead of your crosses.

Count you gains instead of your losses.

Count your joys instead of your woes.

Count your friends instead of your foes.

Count your smiles instead of your tears.

Count courage instead of your fears.

Count your full years instead of your lean.

Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.

Count your health instead of your wealth.

Count on God instead of yourself.

In chapter 11 of St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is about to raise His dear friend Lazarus from the dead. Before doing so, He says this to His Heavenly Father: “Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I know indeed that you always hear Me, but I speak for the sake of all who stand round me.” When we try to imitate a person, we try to do and say what that person does and says. In this passage from St. Luke’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus expressed heartfelt thanks to His Father. Should we not do the same?

If we study the life of St. Vincent DePaul or any other saint, we will find that they learned the valuable and important lesson of daily giving thanks to God. We, who have the privilege of daily receiving the Eucharist, which is an act of thanksgiving, must express our thanksgiving by thanks-living. Otherwise we risk being hypocrites, which means actors. We know that Christianity is an abnormal way of life. By that I mean that it is not the norm when it comes to forgiving or giving thanks. Children and even adults need to be reminded of the importance of giving thanks.

In the United States, Thanksgiving Day comes closest to being a secular holy day.

May Thanksgiving 2016 remind us never to take for granted those we love and cherish, especially God!

May the prayer of thanksgiving we say before our sumptuous meal resonate throughout our lives and last until Thanksgiving 2017.

VOTING AS A FOLLOWER OF JESUS

The election is upon us. Many people are agonizing over whether they should vote, or for whom they should vote.
I hope this reflection will be helpful.
Jesus wants us to vote.
Here are some of the reasons.
1.  Voting is not only a privilege, it is also a duty.
2.  One votes not only for the presidency but also for other political offices that are very important.
3.  When people do not vote, they allow a small group of people with their agenda to control the election process.
4.  When a person does not like either presidential candidate, the person should look at a party’s platform to see which platform is most in harmony with Christian values and then vote for the presidential candidate of that party.
5.  When people say that all the issues that Christians are concerned about are equally important, they are wrong. To say that affirmative action, immigration, capital punishment, war, women’s rights are as equally important as the right to life of an innocent unborn child does not take into consideration the fact that if a person isn’t alive, no other rights exist.
6.  When a Catholic candidate says that he or she is personally opposed to abortion but will respect the right of a woman to choose and then actually votes for pro-abortion legislation that candidate has offended God with his or her rationalization. I say that because opposing abortion is not some archaic teaching based on some weird philosophical or theological position that people might disagree with. One’s opposition to abortion is based on the fact that the child is alive, and though inside its mother’s body, it has its own unique make up which is different than the mother’s. If children are not aborted inside their mothers’ bodies they will leave the womb as tiny human beings. Recent technology has allowed us to see the developing child and the way it responds to stimuli. Some years ago, when a doctor was doing surgery inside the womb the baby reached through the incision and wrapped its hand around the doctor’s finger. Abortion on demand is based on a lie that has been debunked by science.
Some people will say: “What about the hardship cases?” That is when true Christians come to the aid of pregnant women who are having difficulties with their compassion, love and support. It is important to remember that the vast majority of abortions are performed because the pregnancy is an inconvenience to the woman.
Always remember: “TO LOVE ANOTHER PERSON IS TO SEE THE FACE OF GOD.” This definitely applies to a baby in the womb.
This election is probably the most divisive election since the Civil War. It is critical that true Christians vote for life no matter how much hostility they might face. These are times when great courage is needed. The fate of our country, in the short run, will depend on this election. In the Book of Revelation it says that cowards will not get into heaven. Choose life so that you may live for all eternity with your loving Father.
God bless you and God bless America,
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Only God is Perfect

This past Sunday the Catholic Church celebrated Disability Sunday.
The fact that it was celebrated during October which is Pro-life month in the
Church brings even more attention to the need to celebrate the
achievements that people with disabilities have reached, to pray for their
safety, and to recognize the great sacrifices their families have made to
love, protect, encourage and guide them as they grow up.
In recent years I have watched our society spend time, energy and a
great deal of money in the pursuit of perfection. Our people have been
given the impression that with the advancements in medicine and
technology there is the real possibility of having the perfect body, the
perfect skin, the perfect hair, and all the fame and recognition that goes
with them.
This pursuit of perfection has a painful downside. Many young people
now struggle with eating disorders because they have a distorted view of
their bodies and they think that they are too fat and therefore unattractive.
No matter how thin they become, it is never thin enough. In extreme cases
this leads to death.
Only God is perfect. Amish women acknowledge this by making one
of the squares of a quilt imperfect. If we believe that God does not make
junk, then we should always look beyond the outward appearances of a
person and recognize their inner beauty.
Are you familiar with the word: EUGENICS? “It is the study of or
belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a
human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction
by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable
undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by
persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics).”
Nazi Germany practiced Eugenics by exterminating anyone who did
not fit their definition of what it means to be human. In our country,
Margaret Sanger, the Founder of Planned Parenthood was a big proponent
of Eugenics.
Planned Parenthood is the biggest provider of abortions in the United
States. Their clinics are often close to minority communities. BEWARE OF
WOLVES COMING IN SHEEP CLOTHING.
Sometimes a family and a community are given the opportunity by
God to care for a child with a disability. They sometimes face many
challenges. However, there are many blessings given by God to the people
who take care of His special children. Plus the world benefits immensely by
the unconditional love which special needs children give without
demanding perfection from us.
A world that expects perfection can quickly become a very intolerant
world.
More than ever we must be alert to the threats that the unborn, the elderly,
the sick and people with disabilities face. Let us be the voice of those who
have no voice. Let us be the defenders of those who are most vulnerable.
Let us be the saints that God sends in our age to challenge the culture of
death.
Always remember: “TO LOVE ANOTHER PERSON IS TO SEE THE
FACE OF GOD.”
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Who Do I Say I Am

In our rapidly changing culture, the topic of this blog is an important one.
There is a strong movement in both our federal government and some institutions of higher education to do away with all language that makes a difference between men and women. As Christianity is being driven more and more from our national identity, people are told that they can describe their gender in whatever way feels most comfortable for them.
Words like male and female, father and mother, boys and girls are no longer used and in some circles are considered antiquated if not downright offensive. During orientation, first year students in some of our universities are being instructed to use gender free language or face disciplinary action. Therefore, many first year students begin their university studies in fear of being labeled bigoted. “Big Brother” is watching.
Of course, there are people who make a strong case for these policies by invoking the freedom that each person should have to determine their gender, their sexual practices as well as their right to expect other people to be completely comfortable with their decisions.
However, “Big Brother” fails to realize that a casualty of this so called new freedom is the person, himself or herself. In choosing to determine self-identity, people will now find themselves in a world that is bordered on the north, south, east and west only by themselves. They have no anchor point. They now live in a world where words don’t have any permanent meaning.

I believe the damage to our young people by this so-called new freedom will only be seen down the road and will affect every aspect of their lives as well as their relationships. In choosing to be “Masters” of their destinies, they will find themselves lost at sea with no anchor.

Take God out of the equation and sooner or later the storms of life will take a heavy toll. The Bible tells us that God created them male and female. It encourages people to enter into lasting relationships. To have no more fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters takes away much of the beauty of living. It takes away relationships that will always be there no matter what a person is going through. Right now there is a TV show called “I Robot”. I can’t help but wonder what will be left to our world when all relationships have been neutered.
Will this so-called New Freedom wind up making robots out of generations to come?
The Bible tells us in the story of creation that God looked at what He had made and called it good. The new social engineers might look at what they have made and call it good, but I for one find it dangerous and very sad.
Until next time, remember: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
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A TRUE STORY OF FORGIVENESS

Many years ago in the town of Grass Valley, California, a raging storm that lasted three days made it virtually impossible to travel. There was no electricity, so Fr. O’Malley was writing his sermon by candlelight. His phone rang and a voice said: “I’m calling from the hospital in Auburn.” We have a terminally ill patient who is asking us to get someone to give him his last rites. Can you come quickly?”

Father O’Malley told the nurse that he would try his best but the storm had made driving nearly impossible. He told her that he would try to be there in two hours. The trip was only 30 miles but it was hard going. It was way past midnight before he saw the lights of the small hospital. They guided him for the last 500 yards. He hoped he had arrived in time.

He was met by the night nurse. She said: “The man I called you about is slipping fast, but he is still coherent. He’s been an alcoholic for years and his liver has finally given out. He’s been here for a couple of weeks this time and hasn’t had one visitor. He lives up in the woods, and no one around here knows much about him. We’ve been treating him for a couple of years, but this time it’s as though he’s reached some personal decision and has given up the fight.”
Fr. O’Malley asked: “What’s the patient’s name?”
“The hospital staff has just been calling him, Tom.” She replied.
Fr. O’Malley entered Tom’s room and introduced himself. Tom said: “If you’re here to give me the Last Rights, let’s get on with it.”
Fr. O’Malley said: “Be patient, Tom” and began the prayers. After Tom said, “Amen”, he seemed to calm down.
“Would you like to go to confession?” Fr. O’Malley asked.
“Absolutely not,” Tom answered. “But I would like to just talk with you a bit before I go.”

They talked for over an hour or so before daylight. Occasionally, Fr. O’Malley would ask Tom again if he would like to go to confession. Tom always declined. After a few more hours and being asked the fourth time, Tom said: “Father, when I was young, I did something that was so bad that I’ve never told anyone about it. It was so bad that I haven’t spent a single day since without thinking about it and reliving the horror.”
“Don’t you think it would be good for you to tell me about it?” Fr. O’Malley asked.
“Even now, I still can’t talk about what I did,” Tom said. “Even to you.”

After being quiet for a while, Tom sadly said, “Okay. It’s too late for anyone to do anything to me now, so I guess I might as well tell you. I worked as a switchman on the railroad all my life, until I retired a few years ago and moved up here to the woods. Thirty-two years, two months and 11 days ago, I was working in Bakersfield on a night kind of like tonight.” Tom’s face became intense as the words began to tumble out. “It happened during a bad winter storm with a lot of rain, 50-mile-an-hour winds and almost no visibility. It was two nights before Christmas and to push away the gloom, the whole yard crew drank all through the swing shift. I was drunker than the rest of them, so I volunteered to go out in the rain and wind and push the switch for the northbound 8:30 freight. I guess I was more drunk than I thought I was because I pushed that switch in the wrong direction. At 45 miles an hour that freight train slammed into a passenger car at the next crossing and killed a young man, his wife and their two daughters. I have had to live with my being the cause of their deaths every day since then.”
After what seemed like an eternity, Fr. O’Malley gently put his hand on Tom’s shoulder and said very quietly, “If I can forgive you, God can forgive you, because in that car were my mother, my father and my two older sisters.”

During this Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church, I offer this true story to prove that no one is beyond the mercy of God.
Never hesitate to accept God’s mercy and remember: “TO LOVE ANOTHER PERSON IS TO SEE THE FACE OF GOD.”

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Tough Choices

TOUGH CHOICES

There are times in our lives when we have to make an important decision and none of the options seem attractive. The following story may help us to see that all is not hopeless and that the power of human ingenuity is a tremendous gift from God.

Many years ago, when a person who owed money could be thrown into jail, a merchant in Venice had the misfortune to owe a huge sum to a mean moneylender. The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the merchant’s beautiful young daughter. He proposed a bargain. He said he would cancel the merchant’s debt if he could have the girl instead.

Both the merchant and his daughter were horrified at the suggestion. So the cunning moneylender schemed that they let Providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty bag, and the girl would have to pick out one of the pebbles. If she chose the black pebble, she would become his wife, and her father’s debt would be canceled. But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail, and she would starve with no one to look after her.

Reluctantly, the merchant agreed. They were standing on a pebble-strewn path in the merchant’s garden as they talked, and the moneylender stooped down to pick up the two pebbles. As he did, the girl sharp-eyed with fright noticed that he picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. The moneylender asked the girl to pick out the pebble that was to decide her fate and that of her father.

What would you have done if you had been that girl? If you had to advise her, what would you have advised her to do?

  1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble?
  2. The girl should show that there are two black pebbles in the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat?
  3. The girl should take a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from prison?

The girl in the story put her hand into the bag and drew out a pebble. But, without looking at it, she fumbled it and let the pebble fall to the path where it was immediately mixed in among all the others. “Oh, how clumsy of me,” she said. “Never mind, however. If you look into the bag, you’ll be able to tell which pebble I dropped by the color of the one that is remaining.

Since the remaining pebble was, of course black, it had to be assumed that she picked the white pebble. Of course the moneylender dare not admit his own dishonesty.

Whenever I reflect on Jesus’ admonition that we should be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves, I think of this story. More than ever, we need to pray for wisdom. In our fast pace, highly technological world, we are sometimes faced with choices that may seem overwhelming. However, we can rely on Jesus’ promise that he would be with us until the end of the world. It should bring us comfort to know that nothing is  impossible with God.

Have a great week and remember: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

IT DOESN’T PAY TO WORRY

Recently I ate at a Chinese Restaurant. When I read my fortune cookie, I had to laugh. It said: Don’t worry about tomorrow; because it’s already tomorrow in Australia.

My fortune is both funny and true. Worrying is epidemic in our country. Yet it doesn’t pay to worry. Consider another 10 commandments (author unknown):

  1. Thou shall not worry, for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities.

  2. Thou shall not be fearful, for most of the things we fear never come to pass.

  3. Thou shall not cross bridges before you come to them, for no one yet has succeeded in accomplishing this.

  4. Thou shall face each problem as it comes. You can only handle one at a time anyway.

  5. Thou shall not take problems to bed with you, for they make very poor bedfellows.

  6. Thou shall not borrow other people’s problems. They can better care for them than you can.

  7. Thou shall not try to relive yesterday for good or ill, it is forever gone. Concentrate on what is happening in your life and be happy now!

  8. Thou shall be a good listener, for only when you listen do you hear different ideas from your own. It is hard to learn something new when you are talking, and some people do know more that you do and may have helpful suggestions for you.

  9. Thou shall not become “bogged down” by frustration, for 90% of it is rooted in self-pity and will only interfere with positive action.

  10. Thou shall count your blessings, never overlooking the small ones, for a lot of small blessings add up to a big one.

Someone once said that worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but you don’t get anywhere.

So dear friends, promise yourselves that you will worry less and laugh more because there are only two things that can happen to you. You get sick or you stay healthy. If you stay healthy there is nothing to worry about. If you get sick, there are only two things that can happen to you. You get better or you get worse. If you get better there is nothing to worry about. If you get worse, there are only two things that can happen to you. You live or you die. If you live there is nothing to worry about. If you die, there are only two things that can happen to you. You go to heaven or you go to hell. If you go to heaven, there is nothing to worry about. If you go to hell, you will be so busy saying hi to your friends that you won’t have time to worry.

Have a great week and remember: “TO LOVE ANOTHER PERSON IS TO SEE THE FACE OF GOD.”

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The Runner

Some of the best TV commercials involve children. I really like the one where a toddler in a diaper, who now can walk, is running down the hall laughing while his mother is running after him. I call him “The Runner”. I would imagine many parents who have or had young children can relate to the image of “The Runner.”

There have been times when we all have witnessed a “runner” in Church. Somehow the child gets away from a parent and starts running up the aisle or down the aisle with a parent in hot pursuit.  We try to suppress a laugh, not always successfully, as we watch the drama unfold.

This image comes to mind when I read the two short parables in St. Luke’s Gospel, the shepherd going after the lost sheep, and the woman frantically looking for the lost coin in her home. God is the shepherd and the woman in the two parables. He pursues those who are lost and will not give up.

There is a time in all of our lives when we are “runners”. Francis Thompson, an English Poet, wrote a long poem about this very point. It is called the Hound of Heaven. The imagery is of a soul running away from God and God like a large dog pursues the soul. Here are the opening lines.

I fled Him down the nights and down the days.

I fled Him down the arches of the years.

I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways.

Of my own mind and in the mist of tears, I hid from Him.

The hound keeps gaining until there is no escape. Expecting to be harmed, the soul hears instead: “Nothing satisfies you that does not satisfy Me.”

I believe there are three primary reasons why a person would run away from God: Anger, fear and despair.

Francis Thompson, although trained as a doctor, never practiced medicine. Rather he went to London to try his hand at writing. He soon became addicted to opium and wound up living on the streets for years, sleeping under a bridge. He attempted suicide but never completed it. He still wrote poetry and sent one to a magazine which won some acclaim. The owners of the magazine befriended him, and took him in. His addiction was so bad that they sent him to a home to get help. Having seriously damaged his health, he was soon an invalid and died of tuberculosis at the age of 47 in 1907. Like many great writers and musicians, he became famous after his death.

Whether we are a “runner” or someone close to us is, eventually God will catch up to everyone because He never gives up on us. He wants us to stop running and just fall into the loving arms of Jesus.

God bless you! Remember: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

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