Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Some Philosophies Never Go Out Of Style

Hello St. Francis,
I was perusing my social media this week and happened upon an article written about Mr. Rodgers, you know from Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood.  It brought me back to my youth but also reaffirmed something that I have always believed.  Mr. Rodgers was a brilliant man who really understood what it meant to live your Christian vocation.  If you have not read any of his books, do yourself a favor and get one...any one.  They are filled with such incredible wisdom.  So, this week, I leave my reflection in the good hands of Mr. Rodgers.

Have a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Music for the 4th Sunday of Lent
Processional - Shine On Me
Psalm 23
Offertory - Leaning On The Everlasting Arm
Communion - In This Place
Recessional - I Know The Lord Laid His Hands On Me

What We Can Still Learn From Mister Rogers as Adults
6 gems from the late, great PBS star to celebrate his birthday
By Shayla Stern
Editorial Director, Next Avenue
Hi Neighbor.
You cannot say those words, even many years since Fred Rogers last created new TV shows, without knowing that they’re from Fred Rogers. That gentle voice with the slight drawl soothed even the most restless spirits.
I remember coming home from preschool and having my babysitter turn on Channel 12 – my local PBS channel – to calm me before “rest time.” But it doesn’t matter if you were a child in the decades that Mister Rogers was on TV. Rogers, who died in 2003, created nearly 900 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — and in the process, cultivated life lessons to last the rest of our lives. And so much of his wisdom applies to us in our many stages of adulthood.
To celebrate Mister Rogers’ birthday (he would have been 89 on March 20), here are six of those gems:

1. Routine and responsibility are the bedrock of your day. Every day, Mister Rogers entered the home on his show and did the same things — sang a peppy song, put on his cardigan and changed out of his dress shoes, fed the fish and had a warm conversation with us. Routines are comforting to children, but maintaining a daily routine and something that brings you care and comfort can get you through hard times no matter your age. A sense of responsibility for ourselves and others — another side of many of our daily routines — can do the same. Feed your pets, call or text lonely friends, offer a ride to a neighbor, hug your families. As Rogers sang, “It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive.”
2. It feels good to make something, even if you aren’t very good at it. In one episode, Rogers used crayons to make a quick picture and illustrate a point, saying a little off-handedly, “I’m not very good at it, but it doesn’t matter. It feels good to have made something.” That’s true — from coloring to roasting a turkey to rewiring a lamp to knitting a scarf to putting together an IKEA dresser (OK, the last one might be a stretch, since your blood pressure may have risen from all the anger and frustration).

3. Put on your sneakers. It always helps to change into your comfortable play clothes at the end of the day. My kids crack up when I come home from the office and tell them I need to change from my work clothes to my play clothes. Even if I wore jeans to work that day, I make a point of changing. It really does add a sense of separation between work and home.

4. The Land of Make-Believe is still there for you. We know a lot about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, even if — to paraphrase Mister Rogers – you aren’t very good at it. But what about quietly using your imagination to drift and think about how you might make the world better and more magical? Create your own Land of Make Believe. Whether you create characters and a story or just close your eyes and imagine the world in a different light, playing make believe can be good for the soul. Or maybe you’ll brew up an idea that goes from Make Believe to Reality. You don’t even have to take a trolley.
5. Look for the helpers. In recent years, the Fred Rogers Company has published a nice body of parent resources, including an interview with Rogers in which he talked about how to help children get through tragic events. Here’s one quote from it: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” When something terrible happens in your life, do the same. So many people around you are willing to help if they know that you need help. And better yet, now that you’re grown up, you can be one of the helpers for others in times of need.

6. Finally, just be a good neighbor. From Lady Elaine to Henrietta Pussycat to King Friday, Mister Rogers’ friends from the Land of Make Believe often enacted lessons about how to treat each other through times of misunderstanding and hurt feelings. We now live in a time where misunderstanding and hurt feelings abound in real life. Remember, everybody’s going through something they probably aren’t telling you about. Maybe they cannot even articulate it themselves. Rogers demonstrated on his show and in real life that empathy and grace are the most important foundations to being a good neighbor. His birthday seems like a great time to remind ourselves of this particular life lesson and to take a moment and figure out how to go out and be a good neighbor to someone who needs one.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Themes on Hope

Hello St. Francis,
So, this week there is a lot to take in, but I want to focus this reflection on the themes of HOPE.

What is Hope?
In everyday speech we say: ‘I hope it doesn’t rain today’ or ‘I hope my bus comes soon’.
Christian hope is more than wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is often an avoidance of reality.
 It is passive in nature. It expresses a belief – or doubt – in the hand of fickle fate. It tends to have a fixed understanding of what the desired outcome is and how it will be achieved.

Christian hope begins with what ‘is’, facing this reality. Hope sees not just what is, but what can be; it is not blind to obstacles; it takes them seriously and is practical in addressing them.
Hope is active, flowing from the activity of the Spirit within us.  Hope is an expression of God who
is enduringly creative and resourceful within what is. Hope flows from belief in God who is ever incarnate in what ‘is’. In Christ God continually enters our broken, suffering and disunited world and by his living, dying and rising makes all things new. Hope is a work of the Spirit within, drawing all that is dead into being, and leading all that is divided into unity. Hope is not only about what we
believe but what we live. Hope is the overflow of the Spirit engaging us in bringing about a new creation in Christ.  Hope moves us into God’s vision for ourselves, our church and our community.

Hope is a cooperation with the Spirit.  Hope expresses the willingness to work in partnership with God. In our lives and in our work we seek to understand what the Spirit is doing and to co-operate with this work.  Hope involves waiting, we wait actively...working, and searching, for life is in our hands. It is the one who seeks who finds, and the one who asks who receives, and the one who knocks who will find the door opened. And yet we also wait passively – for the right time to come, for growth to take its course, and to receive by gift what cannot be ours by effort alone.

Hope leads us to act purposefully in the present as we anticipate the work of Love in the future through drawing on the memory of love received in the past.

As we continue with our Lenten prayer, may I suggest this reflection as a way to further recognize what hope is and how it is an indispensable part of our Christian lives.

Living in Hope:  Prayer and Reflection Exercises

1. Witnesses to hope
Read through some bible passages about hope in a prayerfully reflective way – in God’s company. You might want to take one each day and reflect on it. As you begin, ask God to deepen your ability to see and act in hope.  Consider what they say and how this speaks to you – share with God
thoughts and questions that emerge. Then read the passage again and let it lead you into a time of simply resting in God’s presence.

2. The hope we carry
Look back with God on your life and faith journey. As you reflect on your experience of life and the goodness of God what is the message of hope you have to share with others?

3. Waiting and working
Hope involves waiting and working. Gardening symbolically expresses this partnership in hope. We sow seeds and nurture them as they grow, but the growth itself is a work of wonder.
Identify a hope that you sense God has planted within you. It might be to do with your own life and growth or about others whom you labor and care for. Sow seed in a seed tray or small pot, following any instructions supplied with them. When the seeds are big enough plant them out in your garden or in a larger container.

4. The light of hope
Bring an area of your work before God in prayer. Imagine hope to be a light. Where are the darkest corners in need of this light? Move the light of hope so it shines into these dark places – into every deep recess where light has been absent. What hope do you begin to see revealed?

5. Acting in hope
Hope is an action more than a feeling. We remember the works of God in the past and so anticipate the work of God in the future, leading us to act purposefully in the present. We recognize that we are invited to cooperate with what God desires to bring into being. Read one or more of the biblical stories about acting in hope – for example Jeremiah buying a field in a besieged city. Ask God to
show you an action you can take as an expression of hope, whether this in relation to your own circumstances, or someone you care for or the community or the church you are part of.

I hope these exercises can lead you to place of renewed and strengthened hope in God and in others. May your today be filled with hope-filled expectation of all of the amazing things God has in store for you.


Music for the 3rd Sunday of Lent

Processional: Somebody's Knockin' at My Door

Psalm 95

Offertory - Let The Church Say Amen

Communion - We Come To Your Feast

Meditation - Hiding Place

Recessional - Oh How He Loves You and Me

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Our Special Transformation

Hello St. Francis,

I don't know about you, but, every once in a while I fin myself wishing and praying for something to change in my life.  It could be as simple as praying the pain goes away when I stub my toe or it could e a big moment like when you find out a loved one is ill or the company is going to be laying you off.  What I hope for along with the erasing of the difficulty is a moment of profound meaning like the apostles got when they saw Jesus transfigured.  I sometimes get discouraged that these moments don't occur so often and that from time to time I feel as though "Jesus is NOT my copilot".  Like most, I guess, discouragement can happen most intensely when I feel like I am alone.  It's not that Jesus leaves my side or that He is not listening to my prayers, it's just that when moments of profound faith, grace and love envelop me, I sometimes wonder why that feeling couldn't have happened when I "REALLY NEEDED IT"  I mean, it is so much easier to live in the way I know I have been called to I seem to be catching every break.  When I think about it, I don't really question my faith or my intentions, I just felt like I need something to embrace me and help me, even if just for a few minutes to relieve me of something (and to be honest, I don't even know what it was that I needed relieved). 

For a time, I felt almost guilty of having this unrealistic expectation that God was just going to infuse me with some sort of special grace.  Maybe I was asking God for too much in needing the profound moment, maybe God was busy carrying the cross of someone whose burden is much greater than mine.  Who was I to want something more, something special?  And then I heard the word...HOPE. In that moment I did not receive a special grace, what I did realize in that moment is that just like we ask for profound moments from God, God also gives us the opportunity to be profound in our faith.  He allows us to tap into our hope and when we do this, I'd like to think that we give God a profound moment.  We show him that whether we are the center of attention, deeply faith filled, or questioning everything, we still follow. 

Peter was right.  If I were him I'd want to build a tent and live in that profound moment forever.  Why?  Because faith and even life is easy when we are surrounded by the profound grace and wisdom of God.  Something interesting happened then. The words I needed were given to someone else.  These were the words. "If our hope is centered in God's Love and if our hope is centered in the Resurrection than our hope must also be centered on the cross." 

So my friends, I have come to this conclusion.  Our hope, our life, our love and our faith can only be made profound if we truly embrace those times we feel alone, just like Jesus must have when He carried His cross.  When we seek a moment of grace and don't feel like we have it within us, it is then that we truly surrender ourselves to God and it is in that surrender that we find that profound moment. I was empty.  I felt alone.  And then at the cross I found Him.  But you know what, I think He was there all along.  That's pretty profound.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Do I really have to turn the other cheek?...Music for February 19th

Hello St. Francis,
If you were hoping for a week without a significant challenge to the depth and scope of our faith, unfortunately you will not find it this week.  We are told by Paul that it is when we think that we have the answers that God will remind us that we in fact do not.  Jesus then tells us that we need to turn the other cheek and love our enemy.  Wow!!! I don't know about you but every time I check my social media accounts to make sure I didn't miss anyone's birthday or to check out those amazing "TASTY" recipe videos I find myself overcome by posts and tweets that exude social and political statements that are filled with words that would lead me to believe that someone knows something that I don't and is often laced with sentiment that could be perceived with anger or even hatred towards those who might oppose that obvious wisdom.  Maybe you can relate.  This discourse has spilled into the daily workings of everyday life as we travel roads attempting to avoid or sometimes, maybe even looking for someone to disagree with.

Are we being given two separate but yet obligatory commands from Jesus?  On one hand he is telling us to fight for justice, equality and peace, but yet, on the other hand he is asking us to understand that we are not the authors of all things wise and he tells us to turn the other cheek and love our enemies. Alright, now I really need some wisdom... how do we do that?

I heard a story once about the whole "Turn the other cheek" philosophy that I found to be incredibly profound.  I was told that it was somewhat routine for Roman soldiers to slap the oppressed Israelites using the back of their hand.  That was how you would hit someone who you saw as a slave, or someone who was less human than you were.  When you hit someone with the palm of your hand, it was almost as if you were hitting an equal, someone who had the same status as you.  So, when you turn the other cheek, it makes it impossible to hit someone with the back of your hand and therefore, if they struck you with their palm, they would be seen as striking their equal.  Now, I have no idea how true or valid that story is, but I think it brings up an interesting point.  Was Jesus making a political statement by telling his followers to turn the other cheek?  Was he daring the Romans to view them as equals?

Sometimes I feel like I know the answer.  Sometimes I feel like if people just did what I told them to do, everyone would be the better for it.  And, as I reflect on those times, I realize that it is very easy for me to view myself as the better person, the smarter person, the wiser person, which in turns causes me to see the other as...you guessed it the lesser person.  At the time, I do see myself as being arrogant, but, maybe I am.  I'm not a big fan of arrogance and as a matter of fact it becomes very difficult to accept even the wisest advice from a person who comes across that way.

I guess that maybe the idea that Jesus and Paul is trying to get across is that our belief in our own wisdom and our unwillingness to accept that it may take a sacrifice or leap of faith to allow others to see us as equals, or us to see others as equals, makes it really difficult to accomplish anything.  So, maybe those of us who seek justice, equality and peace need to recognize that our stance, our wisdom and most importantly, our message that needs to be heard will never be heard by those who need to hear it unless we intentionally and honestly look at the other as our equal.  Maybe, instead of spewing anger and frustration at people when they figuratively hit us with the back of their hand, we should turn the other cheek and offer them the opportunity to view us as their equal, or, better yet, their brother or sister, created by the same God who places within us God's wisdom.

I'm still going to check my social media sites in the hope of finding the next fabulous Nacho recipe, but maybe when I do, I will find a little less "human wisdom" and a little more "God Wisdom".  As a wise man once said, it is when we try a different way that we will usually find a different result.  And I don't know about you, but in the world we live in today, a different result doesn't sound that bad.

Thanks for listening,


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I Wanna Be A "YES" Man

Hello St. Francis,

This week I want to disclose to you a profound secret!!!  One of my favorite words in the English language is "YES".  Whenever I ask for something from God, from my family, colleagues or friends and they respond with YES, I am a pretty happy guy.  Obviously, their yes requires me to be grateful, and I try to be, but, nonetheless, I with in joyful expectation for that person to come through with whatever their YES is.  Sometimes, I simply ask a question hoping to hear my favorite word.  I may ask if we are having Ravioli's for dinner, or ask my kids if they finished their homework, or my friend if they are still planning on coming over.  When the answer to those questions is YES!!!  Bang!!! I'm a happy guy.

The only problem with YES is that it sometimes comes with an unwritten disclaimer.  Sometimes, a YES actually is based on a successive set of circumstances that must go in a particular way.  Sometimes, a YES means that someone will do only what is expected by the letter of the law and not necessarily the spirit.  And, unfortunately, sometimes a YES is the easiest word to change your mind about and officially becomes a NO.  I'm not a big fan of NO...most of the time anyway.

As I often preach to whoever says YES to listening to me, there is much wisdom in Jesus.  In fact, there is not much that Jesus said or did that if you integrate it into your life is not a good thing.  this week Jesus takes the word right out of our mouths.  He says, 'Let your Yes be your Yes and your No be your No".  Amen Brother!!!  Now, to be clear, as He often does, I think there are many layers to that statement.  It can be interpreted in so many ways...just like the word YES!!!  So, what is He trying to say?

Sometimes I think we can all get caught up in the logistics of our YES.  The letter of the law of our YES, the semantics of our YES.  Maybe, we place conditions on our YES and maybe, we can sometimes just say YES to get people to stop asking.  Yet, Jesus calls us to "mean what we say"?  And, not just mean it but understand that our YES may require more than we originally anticipated.  And if it does, our YES is not null and void.  I think He is trying to say that if we are strong and remain faithful to even the smallest of the commitments we pledge to uphold, than, we can be stronger in our commitment to the larger YES.  As a result we may even be more wise in what it is we say YES to.

As I said, I love the word YES and the meaning behind it.  My hope is that in maintaining the integrity of the word, the commitment necessary to fulfill the word and the wisdom to know when to use the word, we will all be fulfilling Jesus' mandate to be men and women of our word.  I think we can say YES to that.


Music for the Weekend of February 12th

Monday, January 30, 2017

Salt, Light, Community and Mission...Music for February 5th

Hello St. Francis,

So we are coming off a fabulous weekend at our church as we celebrated the feast of St. Francis De Sales.  as I was looking around the Fellowship Hall, I noticed something.  To me, at least, it seemed like a group of people from all walks of life, all nations, all political and social ideologies, from many diverse and beautiful cultures all sharing themselves with each other.  It did not seem forced, it just seemed right.  It is amazing what can happen when any group of people gather to celebrate their faith, their charism and their joy in the community they call home.

As our universal church evolves to be an open door welcoming community that we at St. Francis have already accomplished, and continue to accomplish,  I think sometimes we get caught up in the fluffy "kumbaya" type stuff and sometimes forget that living the Christian life requires sacrifice and consistent leaps of faith.  Isn't that one of the reasons we come to church?  To be strengthened in our conviction and made courageous to live as we are called to.  Also, isn't our time in church one that we are instructed and inspired in what that call is? 

The Christian ideal is a vocation that calls us into mission.  Put quite simply, a vocation is WHO YOU ARE not what you do.  Our vocation has been given to us as a gift.  For some, their vocation is a life devoted to God as a priest or religious.  To others, its being a spouse and a parent.  For some it is a career and for all it is a life centered in God's love.  When we cherish and nurture our vocation, it inevitably leads us to fulfill the mission of that vocation.  For all of us that is a little different, but for all of us it leads us back to our community, our church family, just like it did this past weekend; to worship and be strengthened in our mission.

Being a Christian is a radical, challenging and sometimes frustrating thing. So often we think that we are doing the right thing and the door is closed.  So often, our prayers seem to go unanswered and so often, people who want the hearts full of joy and life full of love and laughter fall away when the reality of our world sets in.  I know that to leave everything behind and follow Jesus is a "metaphor" but, isn't it true when we focus more intently on Jesus and less intently on the pleasures of this world that we receive more pleasure?  It's almost like a surprise gift, you know the one you really need but would never get for yourself.  The more radically I live my faith, my mission, the more willing I am to leave everything behind and follow Jesus, the clearer my life becomes.  When my vision is clear, it is easier to see the person who is struggling who needs someone to help.  When my vision is clear, it is easier to take the jumbled up things in my life and organize them into priorities. When my vision is clear, that is when I recognize the radical call and the road that I must travel.  Because my vision becomes God's vision and that road only leads to good things.

So, be challenged, be frustrated, try and sometimes fail.  It is all part of radical vocation we are called to.  May we, live our mission courageously, knowing that there is a place for us to be strengthened and encouraged.  Every time you walk into St. Francis, we journey with you, your mission becomes our mission and your joys, your struggles, your failures and your triumphs all are taken up by a group of people that love you.  And then, when Jesus calls us to be salt and light, we will be ready to say "YES LORD" encouraged by a family that will always have your back.


Music for the weekend of February 5th

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Reflection on the CHARISM of our Patron and Music for Our Celebration

Hello St. Francis,
This week we celebrate the feast of our Patron, St. Francis De Sales.  He is probably one of the more famous saints and is the founder of the Salesian Order.  His charism (set of beliefs of how we should live) is beautiful.  I don't know how much we all know about Francis De Sales so indulge me as I lend this weeks reflection to find a better understanding of who our Parish community is named for. Some may call it a coincidence, but I feel our Patron working in our hearts, in our community, helping to create the parish we all love.

Enjoy this reflection on St. Francis De Sales and his charism.  Thank you to DeSales University and The Oblates of St. Francis De Sales for providing this beautiful message.

The wisdom of St. Francis de Sales has been given to us in the charism we live.  It is a wisdom guided always and everywhere by love, imbued with an imperturbable optimism, lived with characteristic humility and gentleness, expressed in words of inspired common sense, and proffered for all in a universal call to holiness.

The motto "Live Jesus!" captures the approach to life Francis De Sales lived, wherein our aim should be to live every moment of our lives with the same humility, gentleness, and charity as Jesus did. In this way, others will see the Savior walking on earth once again!  As a young student, Francis de Sales would write the initials  “LJ” at the top of his notebook pages as a reminder that this is how he should live.  Later, he concludes his masterful Treatise on the Love of God with these words: "But that we may live in your eternal love, O Savior of our souls, we eternally sing, 'Live, Jesus!  Jesus, I love!  Live, Jesus whom I love!  Jesus, I love, Jesus who lives and reigns forever and ever.  Amen."

The legacy of St. Francis De Sales offers a vision of the world founded on a deep appreciation of the love that God has showered upon us through the gifts of creation and human life, particularly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. St. Francis de Sales believed that beauty and goodness are the hallmarks of our world, as gifts born from God's deep and abiding love for each one of us. Enabled and ennobled by this love, human beings are capable of much more than might well be imagined. They are capable of living a true life of devotion in the midst of worldly pursuits. They are capable of giving birth, through faith, to a new culture of life and of love.

St. Francis De Sales leaves us with this charism.  Let these words form your prayer. 

  • All people are called to holiness, not just a select few. It is a “heresy” to banish the devout life from any career or lifestyle.
  • Since all people are called to holiness, then the means to achieve that holiness must be readily available. One lives the “devout life” by passionately and joyfully meeting the demands of one’s state in life for the love of God. It is not what you do in your life but how and for whom you do it. We are called to do the ordinary “passionately well.”
  • The devout life is relational. It is in the living out of our relationships in love that one lives the devout life.
  • All in life is to be done through LOVE and nothing through force. Love in this case is an act of the will, not a sentiment of the heart. It is seeing good in another and choosing and acting to make that goodness grow. We should accentuate the positive rather than condemn the negative. We should assume a positive stance towards everyone. “The measure of our love is to love without measure.”
  • HUMILITY – living in self-truthfulness about who we are, both positive and negative, and about who God is towards us – is an essential virtue. “Come and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.” Our charism is unpretentious, natural and approachable.
  • Humility leads us to GENTLENESS towards our neighbor. Because one is so aware of his or her own needs and weakness, one extends to another person similar understanding and compassion. Gentleness is not weaknesses, but rather controlled, directed and loving strength. It might also be described as knowing how to react to life appropriately and proportionately. To quote de Sales: “There is no nothing so strong as gentleness and nothing so gentle as real strength.”
  •  CIVILITY and RESPECT must mark the behavior of a truly “gentle” devout Christian.
  • The PRESENT MOMENT is where a Christian lives life. The past is over. The future is yet to be. “NOW is the time of salvation.”
  • Because we have a Savior, we are always OPTIMISTIC. We already know how things are going to end. Sin, death, and the things which deny life will not triumph.
  • A truly devout life enhances, does not detract from, one’s life. Real devotion never inconveniences others.
  • The devout life is a process. It only happens with grace, perseverance and patience over a lifetime. One is always striving to be devout.
  • Our charism is primarily a matter of the conversion of the heart. It is therefore something interior. We are called to be patient with everyone, especially ourselves.
  • We are called to a “liberty of spirit” – something which includes obedience but excludes “constraint, scruples and anxiety.”
  • Our charism flows from the premise that, made in the Divine Image, everyone is called to holiness and that God, who cannot be outdone in generosity, wills that all be saved.

Let us be what we are and be that well, in order to bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork we are.”  – St. Francis de Sales

Music for Jan. 28-29