The Law of the Garbage Truck

Dear Friends:

One of the biggest challenges of living in our fast pace modern world is dealing with the frustration caused by inconsiderate people in a way that neither harms you or them. I hope the following story, which is true, will help you deal with this frustration in a peaceful way.

“One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane, when, suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches. The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy, and I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, “Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital.”

This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, “The Law of the Garbage Truck.” He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they’ll dump it on you. Don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.”

He ended by saying: “Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don’t. Life is ten percent what you make it, and ninety percent how you take it!”

So, dear friends, I hope you have a garbage free day!

Always remember: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

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A Reflection on Prayer

When people desire to deepen their prayer life, they sometimes worry about whether they are praying enough, how to handle distractions, how to deal with dryness and what is the best way to pray. Hopefully the following will help you to develop a good prayer life.

My favorite definition of prayer is: “A heart to heart conversation with God.” In the past, spiritual writers divided prayer into four categories: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and petition. Meditation and contemplation fall within adoration and thanksgiving. Prayer is never an end in itself; it is a means to an end. The end is love. St. Paul says that in the end there are three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. Therefore, you can know if you have a good prayer life if it is helping you to become a more loving person.

How you pray has a lot to do with your personality, who taught you to pray, what language you first prayed in and what were the favorite prayers of your youth. In my talks on prayer I tell people

to pray the way you can, not the way you can’t.

I believe this is very important advice because we should never compare our prayer life to someone else’s. If we do, we can become very critical of our prayer life because the person may look very holy when they pray. Yet we do not know their internal disposition, whereas we know ours. They may appear not to have any struggles in their lives while we know our struggles.

The only time we all have to pray the same way is when we are at public prayer. When it comes to our personal prayer lives, God wants us to pray in a way that is most comfortable for us as long as it is helping us to become a more loving person.

Sometimes people tell me that they wish they could be a monk, a nun, or a hermit because they would be able to pray without distractions. I can assure you that monks, nuns and even hermits have distractions. It is a part of the human condition. This is especially true in the modern world where our hearts and minds are bombarded with noise and when people expect us to be always available when they want to communicate with us. So we should expect distractions and when they arrive, do not panic, just dismiss them. Sometimes a person’s prayer is filled with distractions, especially when they are facing a personal or family challenge. They become afraid that their distracted time at prayer was displeasing to God. There is nothing further from the truth. God is pleased that a person continues to pray, even with many distractions, rather than quit praying.  God knows the challenges that we face and wants us to persevere in prayer. In St. Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells us: “Pray always and never lose heart.” One becomes holy by persevering in prayer and not giving up.

There are two reasons why a person may have dryness in prayer. The first is because the person is still committing serious sin. Remember how long the Israelites spent in the desert? God expects us to overcome our serious sin. If we refuse He will allow us to experience dryness so that we overcome our sinfulness. The other reason why people may experience dryness is because they have persevered in prayer and God is preparing them for the prayer of silence. God slowly removes emotional consolations, so that a person learns how to be available to God when God wants to dialogue with our hearts without using any words.  Most of the great saints went through periods of dryness. In her autobiography, St. Theresa of Avila wrote that she suffered dryness for 18 years. Truth be told, feelings often get in the way of a good prayer life because feelings can keep us on a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Dryness will keep us consistent in our heart to heart conversation with God as long as we persevere. If you don’t quit praying God will work powerfully in your life.

Prayer is the foundation of all we do and say. It has to be a key part of our meetings. It has to be the driving force that energizes us to help those who are in need.

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

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Sacramental Marriage

I recently attended the 65th Wedding Anniversary of my cousin and his wife. To have been married that long and still be in love is a sermon in itself. All their children and most of their grandchildren were there. There was both laughter and tears as we celebrated their years together.

Each of their four children spoke briefly and showed their parents something that their parents had given them a long time ago that they will always treasure. The objects were simple, nothing special about them except the memories that came with them.

When it came for the parents to speak, the wife began by saying that she wanted us to remember four things.

  1. That their faith had gotten them through the good times and the bad and she urged us all to keep the faith.
  2. She challenged the married couples present to stick together and never quit.
  3. She said that her husband was a good husband and father and that his wisdom had guided the family.
  4. Finally she said that she loved her husband very much and then she kissed him.

When she was done her husband stood up. He thanked everyone for coming and then shared his reflections.

  1. He said that as successful as he had been as a president of a company, none of that mattered now. What matter now were the people in the room.
  2. He said that his wife was the real reason why his children turned out so well because his job had him traveling all over the world. She definitely was the heart of the family and the guiding light.
  3. He acknowledged that he was not the easiest person to live with and thanked his wife for putting up with him all those years.
  4. Finally, he said that his wife was his best friend and then he kissed her.

Right out of high school he enlisted in the Navy. He served during the last years of World War II. He came home and soon stole the heart of a beautiful young woman who agreed to marry him. They had no money at first since he was going to school to be an engineer. Though the early years were tough, they consider them some of their happiest years.

The love in the room that night was palatable and I thank God I had a chance to witness it. More than being cousins they have become some of my best friends. I know they want me to preach at their funerals which will be an awesome task. Everyone calls her Saint Shirley and Bob sometimes seems bigger than life. If I do get to preach, I pray that God will give me the words to capture their faith, their generosity, and their incredible love for their family.

Remember, TO LOVE ANOTHER PERSON IS TO SEE THE FACE OF GOD.  I always close with this line  but it is especially appropriate to this reflection.

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Fatherhood

From my homily on Fathers Day:
I begin with the story of man in the summer of 2013 who went to get help for his family when their sailboat overturned in rough waters off the coast of Eastern Maryland.
He swam for three long hours, a distance of three miles before he reached land and got help for them.
This story illustrates the need for fathers to be willing to lay down their lives for their families.
Here is a list of 10 things children need from their fathers:
Children need fathers who….
1. Will pray for and with his children.
I emphasize with because in having their fathers pray with them, they come to realize the importance of prayer in their lives.
2. Speaks comfortably about his relationship with Jesus and the difference his faith makes in his life.
This is a critical point, so that the children don’t think religion is just classroom work.
3. Loves and respects their mother.
The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.
4. Who keeps promises.
They will learn that it is important to keep promises by their father’s example.
5. Who is willing to admit when he is wrong and asks for their forgiveness.
This is important because as they become teenagers, they need to know that it is not the end of the world if they make mistakes.
6. Who forgives them unconditionally.
This gives them a sense of security.
7. Who disciplines with a lesson he wants to teach.
Discipline and Disciple come from the same word.  There always must be a lesson to be taught in disciplining.
8. Inspires his children by his honesty and integrity.
If a man has integrity nothing else matters. And if he doesn’t have integrity, nothing else matters.
9. Involves his children in a ministry to help the needy.
The happiest families I know are about something bigger than themselves. Having a ministry is very important.
10. Never loses his sense of humor.
A son asked for a car when he graduated from high school. The father said he would buy him one if he got good grades in the 12 grade and cut his hair. At graduation the son asked his dad if he was going to buy him a car. The father said no. The son said, but dad I got good grades. The dad said that was right but he didn’t cut his hair. The son said but dad, Jesus had long hair. The dad said, that’s right and Jesus walked everywhere he went.
God Bless Fathers, and remember TO LOVE ANOTHER PERSON IS TO SEE THE FACE OF GOD.
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a painful story

Dear Friends:

 Many years ago, a son of a family who were close friends, asked to meet with me. At the time he was in his thirties. When we met he revealed to me that he had been sexually molested by a priest during his high school years. I was the first person he was telling and he asked me for advice how to proceed.

 First of all, I expressed my deepest sorrow at the abuse he had experienced and I told him that I would support him anyway I could. I encouraged him to go to the diocese and tell them what had happened. I told him that he needed to tell his parents. I suggested that he might want to get counseling which the diocese would pay for.

 During our meeting I said it was up to him whether he wanted to sue the diocese but that lawsuits were bankrupting dioceses, so I hoped that he wouldn’t. We scheduled another time to talk but he later cancelled the appointment. Shortly after that his family no longer had any contact with me. It seemed that my comment about not suing the diocese was the reason for ending the friendship. When everything became public I heard that his parents were telling people that I had not supported him or his family. This saddened me because it was not true nor did they give me a chance to apologize if I had said something that offended him.

 I share this painful story with you because Pennsylvania, like many states, is considering raising the statute of limitations from 30 years to 50 years to allow people who have been abused by private organizations to file a lawsuit. This would primarily affect the Catholic Church. It is not clear whether government organizations like public schools could be sued. I know this is a very painful topic for many people.  However. I think God would like us to pray and reflect on the following questions.

1.      What is the best way to deal with the pain of sexual abuse?

2.      If there is a lawsuit after 30 or 50 years, how is accurate information gathered?

3.      If a court finds in favor of the abused person and gives a financial settlement, how does it determine a just amount? How much of the settlement goes to lawyers?

4.      If the perpetrator is dead, how does he get to defend himself?

5.      If there was a cover up by a diocese or a religious order and those who did the cover up are dead, after thirty or fifty years, what is the value of punishing the present officials of the diocese or religious order if they had nothing to do with the cover up and have in place protocol to deal with abusers and strictly abide by the protocol?

6.      If the courts award a large settlement in favor of the abused person, is that not punishing the people who now belong to the religious order or  the diocese, who did nothing wrong?

7.      If a diocese is bankrupted because of the settlement, charitable undertakings of the diocese may cease for lack of funds, is that fair?

8.      Does revenge take the pain away?

In discussing topics that are painful, we must always remember: TO LOVE ANOTHER PERSON IS TO SEE THE FACE OF GOD.

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Leadership

Dear Friends:

Last week I told you that my community would be gathering for five days to elect new leaders and to make important decisions about our future. I told you that I would give you the results of our meeting.
As far as electing our leader, I could not have been more happy. Here is why. The leader of our community is called the Provincial Minister. Provincial refers to the territory where the friars live and work. Minister refers to the relationship the leader has with the friars. He is to serve us. First by his prayers, then by his example, his wisdom, his life experience and his ability to work with his counciliors. We elected four good men as his counciliors.
I taught the Provincial Minister that we elected in high school. He was a very bright and creative student. I watched him grow into a very gifted friar, who got a law degree along the way. He is a very articulate and gifted preacher with a great sense of humor. He is able to laugh at himself. There was great laughter and teasing the days after his election. I think God was pleased with his election because after the election we found out that he was elected on the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of his ordination. He was elected on the first ballot. He has spent all 25 years of his priesthood in Philadelphia where he worked for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as director of their immigration services. He has also been the pastor of the Catholic Chinese Church there. For ten years, he did recruitment for our province and he was very successful. We have almost 30 men studying to be Capuchins. Some are also studying to be priests, since we have both lay friars in our community as well as ordained friars.
Here are some of the qualities that a leader needs:
1. The ability to encourage.
2. The ability to deal with different personalities.
3. The ability to be a part of a team.
4. The ability to articulate a vision.
5. The ability to show that fear, itself, can be the problem.
6. The ability to think creatively.
7. The ability to inspire young and old alike.
8. The ability to be transparent with financial resource.
9. The ability to keep your sense of humor.
10. “Reproducibility.”
Our new Provincial Minister is Fr. Tom Betz. As I look at those ten qualities, I believe that he has them all. Some more evident than others. He was elected for three years. May those years be a blessing in his life as well as in the life of my community.
During our discussions the word love was mentioned without any embarrassment because to Love Another Person is to see the Face of God.
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Chapter

Dear Friends:
Starting Memorial Day evening, my community will gather together in what is called a “Chapter.” We meet every three years to vote for new leaders as well as make important decisions. The meeting will last five days. Since we are in three states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Papua New Guinea, the chapter gives us a chance to spend time together not only to consider important business but also to enjoy fraternity.
We Capuchin-Franciscan friars have a long history of democracy when it comes to electing our leaders who are only in office for three years or six at the most. As you might imagine, elected leaders with term limitations will lead from example and not from power, because they will be just a regular friar when they leave office.
A very important aspect of our Franciscan way of life is minority. The letters OFM stand for order of friars minor. Minority was what St. Francis was all about. He called himself, “Your little brother Francis.” He wanted his friars to live simply  and humbly. Minority demands that our leaders lead by example and practice what they preach. Capuchins do not staff universities because we are to avoid positions of prestige.  St. Francis wanted us to work with the poor and those who have no voice. My commitment to minority was one of the main reasons I got involved in Oaxaca, Mexico. I saw the needs of the poor when it came to healthcare. God blessed me with the ability to share my dream with family, friends, and acquaintances and The Anna Seethaler Hospital became a reality.
Please pray for my community as we gather for chapter. May the Holy Spirit inspire us to elect the right leaders and make the right decisions about our future.
I will let you know how things turn out.
In the meantime, remember: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
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A Tale of Two Races

TALE OF TWO RACES

TODAY is the Pittsburgh Marathon. It is a rainy, dreary day, yet thousands upon thousands will run either the half marathon or the full marathon. They race to win a prize or prove something to themselves. They have prepared for the marathon for weeks if not months. They have watched their weight and made sure that they were well hydrated for the race. They realize that at the halfway mark they might be tempted to quit. They will be pleased with themselves when they finish and their families and friends congratulate them. If they have run past marathons they will be eager to see if they set a new record for themselves.
YESTERDAY was the eighth annual Ole5K race/walk in a park north of Pittsburgh. 400 people came out to help raise funds for The Anna Seethaler Hospital in Oaxaca,Mexico. The weather really cooperated. Each year, there is a lot of pressure on me to make sure the weather cooperates. Yesterday, there was no rain, no wind, and the sun came out. I would take credit for the good weather, but I don’t want to be struck by lightning.
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The Ole5K is more than a race. It is a celebration of life and solidarity. Serious runners do show up, but the majority of people are not there to set records. They jog, they walk, some bring children in strollers and others bring their dogs. They look forward to the post race Mexican buffet of rice, beans, ground beef and taco chips. Through the kindness of Sheetz there is free coffee, hot chocolate, and cold drinks.
Prizes are given, baskets and 50/50 chances are raffled, and friendships are renewed.
It truly is a celebration.
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This year, the participants wore red shirts that really looked good.  I wore my red shirt over my brown robe.
I had my white cord with the three knots that represent my three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience on the outside of my shirt.
Each year, I wear my sombrero to keep with the theme: “Ole5K.”
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At the beginning of the race, I thanked the people for coming and I gave them an update on what is happening at The Anna Seethaler Hospital. We see 2,000 patients a month. Some of them travel more than four hours to come to the hospital to receive quality care with compassion. Our staff, counting specialists who volunteer when needed, is about 90 people. Our budget is now more than one million dollars a year.
The most important thing I said to the people was that of all the races that occur to help people, our race is for people that they will never meet. It says something about the generosity of people. It also says something about the trust that they put in me and the board of directors here in the states to exercise great accountability over the donations.
I hope all the people who support my ministry with their financial help will always remember that God can not be outdone in generosity.
To Love Another Person Is To See The Face Of God.
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Humor

If you know me or have heard me preach, you know that I like to tell jokes. There is an art to telling jokes. You need to be able to have three gifts.  The first is a good memory. Nothing is worse that getting to an end of a joke and forgetting the punch line. The second is to have good timing. Timing is important to keep people in suspense and hanging in there, especially if it is a long joke. Thirdly, having good body language. It brings the joke alive.

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter.  At the two Masses I celebrated, I declared that today was Holy Humor Sunday.  I told the congregations that I was going to tell four jokes with the hope of keeping them excited about the Easter Season since we still had 29 days to celebrate Easter.  Now I must confess that when I tell a joke during Mass, I am a little concerned that someone might think that I am being disrespectful. Fortunately, I have had few complaints during my 46 years of telling jokes during my preaching.
Here’s one of the jokes I told today, and the connection I made to the Easter Season.
A pastor comes over to the rectory after having a wedding.
The assistant pastor asks him how the wedding went.
The pastor said everything went well until it came time for the couple to say their vows.
He had told them at the rehearsal that they only had to say “I do” after each question he asked them.
When he asked the bride: “Do you promise to obey your husband?” The bride said: “Do you think I’m crazy?” And the groom said: “I do.”
And it went downhill from there.
There was a lot of laughter. When it subsided, I told the people that on Easter they had said “I do” when they renewed their Baptismal Promises. I told them that it was important to know what they were promising and to be willing to keep their vows the rest of their lives… more laughter.
The meaning of Easter is that WE have the last laugh.
I hope you never lose your sense of humor.
Keeping celebrating Easter and remember: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
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