Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Obligation or Opportunity

Another gem from my parish’s Deacon Ken

Obligation or Opportunity

A father in northern Wisconsin, the day after a major snowstorm once quipped, “Aw, nuts!” He grumbled to no one in particular as he looked out the picture window upon 14 inches of new fallen snow. “Fourteen inches of obligation!” His kids looked out the same window. “Yippee!” they shouted, and rushed to put on their snow clothes. For them it was 14 inches of opportunity! Same snow - two completely different perspectives. I wish we could think more like kids. I wish our first response to winter would be snow angels rather than shovels. When severe adulthood squeezes out childish play, the snow becomes an unpleasant burden. He muttered something about “bleak midwinter” to his wife. She rebuked him gently. “It's not so bleak, honey. In fact, it's like a beautiful post card out there! Just look, the snow sparkles like diamonds!” I suppose beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

Bishop Desmond Tutu observed that each day is a gift, and that is why it is called the present. Whatever the day brings is part of the gift, and that includes snow. As winter approaches, it would do us well to focus on the opportunity, rather than the obligation. Otherwise, it will be a long winter of discontent. Whether you look for the positive or the negative - either way - you'll find it. Joy comes with gratitude. Misery accompanies grumbling and complaint. “In everything”, the Bible says, “give thanks.” That includes the bleak midwinter! Christmas is just around the corner. I think I'll make a snow angel!

My First Christmas in Heaven

From my parish bulletin - my pastor publishes this poem each year as he is aware, for many, Christmas can be a depressing time, especially for those who have lost a loved one in the past year. So if you are feeling a loss, perhaps this will help.

My First Christmas in Heaven

I see the countless Christmas trees,
around the world below
with tiny lights, like heaven's stars,
reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular,
please wipe away that tear
for I am spending Christmas with
Jesus Christ this year.
I hear the many Christmas songs
that people hold so clear
but the sounds of music can't compare
with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you
the joy their voices bring,
for it is beyond description
to hear the angels sing.
I know how much you miss me,
I see the pain inside your heart,
but I am not so far away,
we really aren't apart.
So be happy for me, my dear ones,
you know I hold you dear,
and be glad I'm spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.
I sent you each a special gift
from my heavenly home above.
I sent you each a memory
of my undying love.
After all, love is a gift more precious
than pure gold.
It was always more important in the stories
Jesus told.
Please love and keep each other
as my Father said to do.
For I can't count the blessings
or love he has for each of you .
So have a Merry Christmas
and wipe away that tear.
Remember I am spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sacred Heart of Jesus



A friend recently posted about anxiety. I do not treat this issue lightly. Anxiety raises its head for all of us from time to time, for some it is almost all consuming. I thought the article below would be of some help. It ends with St. Francis’ Peace Prayer; reading it slowly and consciously, for me, brings immediate relief.

As a young man I also enjoyed “Desiderata” which at one time I had memorized.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
 As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
 Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
 Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
 If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
 for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
 Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
 Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
 But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
 and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
 Especially, do not feign affection.
 Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
 Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
 Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
 you have a right to be here.
 And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
 and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
 With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
© Max Ehrmann 1927

But, I find, that the greatest aid in addressing anxiety is turning to your faith and putting yourself in God’s hands. I’m not saying don’t do anything addressing those issues you are concerned with, after all, God helps those who help themselves.

There is also the great Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is not as popular today as it was, but it is always there for us.

A Prayer to the Sacred Heart (In Difficulties)

Almighty arms of Jesus before you I come with all my faith
Begging you for comfort in my difficult situation.
Do not forsake me, Good Jesus.
Open your doors in my way
That your almighty arms will open and close as you design,
To give me that tranquility that I so desire.
      (Make your petitions)
Oh my God, receiving that supplication from a wounded heart
that is always fighting for life, With your divine power,
Never let me scramble for want of help
Almighty Jesus, assist me to find shelter in thy
Celestial Country ever.

Finally, here is an article I found that may be of help.

How to overcome anxiety
Learn the spiritual path to peace

Have you ever been in a storm? This summer there were many terrible thunderstorms. My brother and nephew got trapped in one while they were running. On his return, I asked my brother if he was worried. He said, “Well, I sure wanted to settle all of my debts.” My nephew said, “It was the run of my life – or better said, I was running for my life. It was like playing a video game and having no more lives.” Well, to say the least, they were dealing with anxiety.

Anxiety has many causes. Some anxiety is rooted in our fears. These fears can be deep in the soul and may be hard to get a handle on. Trauma in our lives from abuse, or situations that reinforce inner fears, can become deeply rooted and can stay with us all our lives.

Some anxiety is related to a person’s chemistry. Sometimes a person is born with this kind of psychological cross. I have known many persons who have bravely carried this cross in their lives and in spite of the anxiety they may feel, continue to make good choices and do the things that they believe God calls them to in life.

Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling. There is a sense that something is wrong – as if there is a sword dangling from a thread directly over our heads. Anxiety is agitation of the soul. It may be temporary like my brother and nephew in the storm. It may be a daily or long-term struggle. Like a still pool that is disturbed by a rock that plunges through its surface, our soul’s peace can be disturbed through fearful, distressing thoughts or experiences. Sometimes when we are anxious, we can think that a good Christian will never feel this way. That can compound the problem, because now we are feeling anxious for being anxious! Who can save us from this spiral fall? Our Lord Jesus!

First of all, it is a mistake to think a Christian will not feel anxious. Jesus’ final days were marked with distressing situations and His soul was full of sorrow and distress. Jesus sweated blood in the garden of Gethsemani, a name which means the place of the olive press. The olive branch and the olive are symbols of peace. It was an olive branch held by a dove that was given to Noah after the terrible storm that flooded the world. The storm was over. Peace would now rest on Noah and his family. In the same way, Jesus went through a terrible storm of anxiety and distress in the garden as He foresaw His imminent suffering and felt the weight of this world’s sin press down on Him. His drops of sweat became like blood. Doctors tell us that this can happen when someone is undergoing very deep emotional distress. The blood can burst through the capillaries and mingle with the sweat because of high emotional tension and pressure. But our Lord went through it all so that we might experience a peace that comes from God.

How does this peace come to us? How could a person possibly experience peace in the middle of great anxiety? Our Lord knew anxiety beyond what most of us ever will know. He showed us what to do when we are having anxious moments, whether they be small or great. We are to pray. We are to surrender to God and the cross. Jesus prayed a number of times in the garden, “Father, let this cup pass me by, but not as I will, but as you will.” The Father sent an angel to help Him. Jesus, after He prayed, accepted His Father’s will. God’s peace flowed from within Him. When Peter cut off the ear of the High Priest’s slave, who came to arrest Jesus, Jesus said, “Put your sword back into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” (Jn 18:10) He healed the man. He accepted the cup of suffering in peace.

God’s peace can come to us even as we go through distressing situations. As we grow in our union with God, the anxiety and distress of the inner soul gives way to a deep and profound peace that no one can take away. Our risen Lord’s first words to the Apostles in John’s Gospel were “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19) Peace is our risen Lord’s gift to us when we go through trials of faith and trust. He is there to calm the storm, to instill faith and free us from fear.

---Fr. Bill Ashbaugh

The first step to peace: surrender yourself to God.

For our Spiritual Fitness this month, we will practice surrendering ourselves to God. The fruit of this exercise will be the gift of peace from Jesus that overcomes our anxiety.

1. Reflect on the question: “Who is really in charge of my life?” Let God be in charge. Pray “I surrender to you my Lord and my God.” A good celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation will restore the soul’s peace.

2. Read and pray: about what Jesus said to Martha who was anxious. (Luke 10:41-42) “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things. Only one thing is required.” I know many people who get upset when they hear this Gospel passage. They say, “Jesus, we need people who work and are active, too.” But the Lord was trying to help Martha overcome her anxiety and driving need to “do.” He wanted her to experience the peace that comes from “being” with Him.

3. Be aware of anxious feelings: Write down when they occurred and consider why you were feeling anxious. Read and pray over Matthew 6:25-34, or Matthew 8:23-27.

4. Go for a walk and look about you: “Be still and know that I am God!” (Ps 46:10)

5. Do not allow your fears or anxieties to stop you from doing what is right and good. If you are seriously tempted to avoid doing a good thing out of anxiety or fear, pray for the courage to do it, and then do it! God’s peace will rest on you.

6. Prayerfully read: Psalms 34, and 131

7. Don’t worry about doing all of the above: Just pick one and do it well!

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow your love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith in you. O Divine Master, grant that I may not seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we rise to everlasting life.
– Prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi

Finally, John 14:27

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Monday, December 8, 2014

Here is a painting of the Immaculate Conception Franciscans should like. By Albert Küchler (Brother Peter of Copenhagen) - Immaculate Conception with St. Bonaventure, Francis, Anthony and Blessed John Duns Scotus - Rome - Pontifical University Antonianum.

Immaculate Conception

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Many people think it is a relatively new thing, but it is not. It goes way back in Christian history. Actually, the concept goes back to the 5th century. But it was only defined as dogma in 1854. Many also confuse it with Jesus' birth - it deals with the concept that Mary was born without original sin.

"We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful."
—Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854

Why is the Immaculate Conception important?
"The dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the belief that God interrupted the flow of human history by a special act and preserved Mary from the stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception. This action of God reminds us of two important truths – truths which have been obliterated in the rationalist, secular-humanist modern world.

"The first is that God is alive and at work in the world. He has not abandoned the human race, but he cares enough to be involved. Through a special act he preserved the Virgin Mary from the stain of original sin, and through this unique action he reminds us that he is still engaged with the human race in our eternal struggle. This world is not empty of God and empty of grace, but it is still charged with the grandeur and humility of God. Rationalism is not the final answer. The miraculous is still alive in the world.

"Secondly, the Immaculate Conception reminds us that human life is sacred from the first moment of conception. We are taught by divine revelation and by divine interaction with the world that the first moment of human life is the moment of conception. In a world threatened by genocide, suicide, war, murder, abortion, and euthanasia, the Blessed Virgin – under her titles of Aparecida and Guadalupe – speak to the world of the sacredness of human life and of God’s care and love for the human race.

"Finally, it is no mistake that the Immaculate Conception is the primary image of the Americas. The Americas are the ultimate battleground in the war between secular, godless humanism and the divine mercy of God in the world. The blessed Virgin, Immaculately and miraculously conceived, offers her son for the Redemption of the world and the conversion of the Americas."

- Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain forever a child.” 
    —   Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 bc), Roman orator

Food for Thought

“So it is with sorrow, each thinks his own present grief the most severe. For of this he judges by his own experience.

He that is childless considers nothing so sad as to be without children; he that is poor, and has many children, complains of the extreme evils of a large family. He who has but one, looks upon this as the greatest misery, because that one, being set too much store by, and never corrected, becomes willful, and brings grief upon his father.

He who has a beautiful wife, thinks nothing so bad as having a beautiful wife, because it is the occasion of jealousy and intrigue. He who has an ugly one, thinks nothing worse than having a plain wife, because it is constantly disagreeable.

The private man thinks nothing more mean, more useless, than his mode of life. The soldier declares that nothing is more toilsome, more perilous, than warfare; that it would he better to live on bread and water than endure such hardships.

He that is in power thinks there can be no greater burden than to attend to the necessities of others. He that is subject to that power, thinks nothing more servile than living at the beck of others. The married man considers nothing worse than a wife, and the cares of marriage. The unmarried declares there is nothing so wretched as being unmarried, and wanting the repose of a home.

The merchant thinks the husbandman happy in his security. The husbandman thinks the merchant so in his wealth. In short, all mankind are somehow hard to please, and discontented and impatient.”

—   Saint John Chrysostom