A rare find. An elusive look. A unique character.
Stands out in a crowd. Turns heads. Captures one's attention. Stimulates conversation. Debunks normality.
Regular maintenance. Mercifully creative. Outside of the box. Philosophically different. Unexpected. Unnatural. Unworldly.
Is this the description of a zebra poodle ... or that of a practicing Catholic?
Think about it.
"Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind ..." - Romans 12:2
At first, I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but really didn't know Him.
But later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride. But it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in the back helping me pedal. I don't know just when it was that He suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since. When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable…it was the shortest distance between two points.
But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds. It was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, "Pedal!" I worried and was anxious and asked, "Where are you taking me?" He laughed and didn't answer, and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I'd say, "I'm scared," He'd lean back and touch my hand.
He took me to people with gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me gifts to take on my journey, my Lord's and mine. And we were off again. He said, "Give the gifts away; they're extra baggage, too much weight." So I did, to the people we met, and found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light.
I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He'd wreck it; but He knows bike secrets. Knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places. And I'm beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ.
And when I'm sure I just can't do anymore, He just smiles and says…"Pedal."
--"The Road of Life", author unknown
"Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." - James 1:2-3
Our life's road is full of many obstacles. Some we can avoid; some we have to detour around; and some just hit us right in the face.
With God as our guide, our faith is made stronger as our crooked road is made straight and each obstruction is cleared from our path.
What obstacles have you stumbled upon?
Dear God, thank you for being my navigator as I steer through my life's journey with You. Amen.
"... the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' " - 1 Corinthians 11:23-24
The priest held the Host in his hands. He bent over the paten to get closer to his Beloved. He lovingly gazed at Him, caressed Him with his fingers, and slowly and gently uttered the words of consecration. "This IS my body ..."
Then the priest took the Chalice in his hands. He peered into the depths of the cup. He fixed his eyes on His blood, which had been shed for him and for us. He intently spoke the words of consecration as he swirled His blood within the cup. "This IS the Chalice of my blood ..."
Witnessing this priest during the Eucharistic Prayer was a powerful, life-changing experience. He was no longer "present" to the congregation, but was supernaturally elevated between Heaven and earth. He was One with Jesus, and Jesus was One with him.
And we were all beneficiaries of the encounter.
Lord Jesus, sanctify Your priests. Amen.
'Twas a month before Christmas and all through the town,
People wore masks that covered their frown.
The frown had begun way back in the Spring,
When a global pandemic changed everything.
They called it corona but unlike the beer,
It didn't bring good times; it didn't bring cheer.
Airplanes were grounded, travel was banned.
Borders were closed, across air, sea and land.
As the world entered lockdown to flatten the curve,
The economy halted and folks lost their nerve.
From March to July, we rode the first wave,
People stayed home, they tried to behave.
When summer emerged, the lockdown was lifted.
But away from caution many folks drifted.
Now it's November and cases are spiking,
Wave two has arrived much to our disliking.
It's true that this year has had sadness a plenty,
We'll never forget the year 2020.
And just 'round the corner - the holiday season,
But why be merry? Is there even one reason?
To decorate the house and put up a tree,
Who will see it? No one but me.
But outside my window the snow gently falls,
And I think to myself, let's deck the halls!
So, I gather the ribbon, the garland and bows,
As I play those old carols, my happiness grows.
Christmas is not canceled, and neither is hope.
If we lean on each other I know we can cope.
So let me just add to this clever tale,
Christmas is certain, it will come without fail.
For the reasons we celebrate and remember this day,
Is because of our Savior born in a manger of hay.
He came to save us from evil and sin,
Let's join the celebration and thank Him again.
For this is the season of Love, Joy and Peace,
What more do we need to get through this disease.
So pray for your family, your friends and all others,
Merry Christmas to all my sisters and brothers!
Pope Francis explains the symbolism of each figure in the Nativity scene.
Starry Night: "We can think of all those times in our lives when we have experienced the darkness of night. Yet even then, God does not abandon us ... His closeness brings light where there is darkness and shows the way to those dwelling in the shadow of suffering."
Ancient Ruins: "The ruins are the visible sign of fallen humanity, of everything that inevitably falls into ruin, decays and disappoints. This scenic setting tells us that Jesus is newness in the midst of an aging world, that he has come to heal and rebuild."
Animals: "With what emotion should we arrange the mountains, streams, sheep and shepherds in the Nativity scene! As we do so, we are reminded that, as the prophets had foretold, all creation rejoices in the coming of the Messiah."
Angels and Guiding Star: "The angels and the guiding star are a sign that we too are called to set out for the cave and to worship the Lord."
Shepherds: "Unlike so many other people, busy about many things, the shepherds become the first to see the most essential thing of all: the gift of salvation. It is the humble and the poor who greet the event of the Incarnation."
Beggars and Poor People: "There are the beggars and the others who know only the wealth of the heart. They too have every right to draw near to the Infant Jesus; no one can evict them or send them away from a crib so makeshift that the poor seem entirely at home."
Ordinary People: "From the shepherd to the blacksmith, from the baker to the musicians, from the women carrying jugs of water to the children at play: all this speaks of the everyday holiness, the joy of doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way."
Mary: "In her, we see the Mother of God who does not keep her Son only to herself, but invites everyone to obey his word and to put it into practice."
Joseph: "Joseph treasured in his heart the great mystery surrounding Jesus and Mary his spouse; as a just man, he entrusted himself always to God’s will, and put it into practice."
Baby Jesus: "When, at Christmas, we place the statue of the Infant Jesus in the manger, the Nativity scene suddenly comes alive. God appears as a child, for us to take into our arms. Beneath weakness and frailty, he conceals his power that creates and transforms all things."
The Magi: "The Magi teach us that people can come to Christ by a very long route. Men of wealth, sages from afar, athirst for the infinite, they set out on the long and perilous journey that would lead them to Bethlehem ... They are not scandalized by the poor surroundings, but immediately fall to their knees to worship him."
The following meditation, in the form of a poem, was written by Fr. Javier Leoz, a priest in the Spanish town of Pamplona. Pope Francis personally phoned the priest to convey his appreciation of the message.
Will there be Christmas?
More silent and with more depth.
More like unto the first one, when Jesus was born in solitude.
Without many lights on earth
but with the star of Bethlehem
shining on paths of life in its immensity.
Without colossal royal processions
but with the humility of feeling as if we are
shepherds, young and old, seeking the Truth.
Without big tables and with bitter absences
but with the presence of a God who will fill everything.
Will there be Christmas?
Without streets overflowing with people
with our hearts burning
for the One who is about to arrive.
Without noise or festivals,
complaints or stampedes …
but living the Mystery without fear
of the “COVID-Herod” that tries to
rob us even of the dream of waiting.
There will be Christmas because GOD is on our side
and He shares, as Christ did in a manger,
our poverty, trials, tears, anguish and orphanhood.
There will be Christmas because we need
a divine light in the midst of such darkness.
COVID-19 will never be able to reach the heart or soul
of those who put their hope and their high ideal in heaven.
THERE WILL BE CHRISTMAS!
WE WILL SING CHRISTMAS CAROLS!
GOD WILL BE BORN AND WILL BRING US FREEDOM!
Do you feel as though we're in some pretty turbulent times right now? It's like the country, and the world, are spinning in a downward spiral. A walk in the park helped to put a lot of what's going on into perspective.
The sign pointed to a "steep grade ahead", and yet it feels as though we're already sliding down a big hill. Between the pandemic, the election, losing a job, educating the kids, and visiting family, could the grade really get steeper? As it says in Mark 5:13, "... and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned." Are we going to drown in this misery?
But yet, we've been here before. The sign said "prehistoric earthwork", and it was hard not to chuckle. While it seems like these are bad times, other generations have suffered through many, if not worse, pandemics, elections, social changes, and even wars. We can look back at history and know that we are here today because others survived it before. We can also look at our faith and see "... we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us." (2 Corinthians 4:7). We are God's "earthwork"; we've been around since prehistoric times, and God has always prevailed.
Further along, the sign questioned whether this was a "fort or sacred site?". Are we singularly building up a defense or a plan of attack so we can plow through these tough times? "Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?" - Luke 14:31. Perhaps instead of erecting a fort on our own so we can conquer these enemies, we should instead choose to be a "sacred site", relying on our good God to make all things right, for it says: "The one who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'” - Revelation 21:5.
Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
"When I came to you, brothers, proclaiming the mystery of God ..." - 1 Corinthians 2:1
The GPS led us to a used car lot. It was not the building, nor the business, we were looking for. Yet the address of the used car lot, and the surrounding buildings, were in line with where we wanted to be. We drove around the area and around the area again. The business we wanted was nowhere to be found.
One more time around the area. "There it is! We found it!" A nice little building in this dingy little town with a brilliant neon sign welcoming us in. It wasn't there before, but now it was there. Once inside, the workers were so helpful and friendly. They seemed like a band of angels.
We've been to that area a number of times since then. We've driven up and down that road on various occasions. We can't find that building or that business again. It was there before, but now it isn't there. What happened to that nice little building in this dingy little town?
It's a mystery. It's unexplainable. It was a miracle. It was a band of angels.
"Lord, You are in control of my life, my sufferings, and my death. May I never forget that." - reflection from the Padre Pio Prayer Group of Cleveland prayer calendar, 10/1/2020
Wow. What a game-changer. Obvious, but way too often forgotten.
How many times (a day!) do I want to be in control of myself, of situations, of others? I know it's too many to count.
When times get tough, when challenges pile up, when pandemic fatigue sets in, when I am too ill to lift my head, when I am not able to do what I want to do when I want to do it, when my plans and dreams cannot be fulfilled, when my neighbors irritate me ... I will remember these words and repeat them often: "Lord, You are in control of my life, my sufferings, and my death."
And may I never forget that. Amen.
"Looking at little life moments with a spiritual eye."