Wednesday, June 7, 2017

My Image of the Trinity...Music for Trinity Sunday

Hello St. Francis,

So...the Trinity, actually in the course that I teach, we discuss the image of God in the Trinity at great length.  So, trying not to bore you, here are my thoughts on the Trinity as the profound image of God.

Although the images of Father, Son and Spirit are rooted in Scripture, liturgy and tradition, they are not necessarily the only images of the trinity that can be expressed. The three keep circling round. Always there is reflected a vibrant life in God; a beyond, a with and a within to the world and its
history; a sense of God as from whom, by whom and in whom all things exist, thrive, struggle toward freedom and are gathered in.

The biblical doctrine of the Trinity, bound to the experience of salvation in Jesus and freed from literal interpretations, has the power to call forth loving relationship in our community and in the world. It does so positively, by inspiring efforts to create a community of sisters and brothers interwoven with the whole web of earth's life according to the ideal community that the Trinity models. 
It does so negatively, by prophetically challenging social and ecological injustices that distort such a
community. And it does so by the power of grace, the trinitarian mystery of God actually empowering relationships of mutuality, equality and inclusiveness among persons and between human beings and the earth.

The goal of all creation is to participate in the trinitarian mystery of love. The Church is called to be a sacrament making this love that binds Father, Son and Spirit visible and effective in the world. Wherever the human heart is healed, justice is done, peace holds sway, liberation breaks through, the earth flourishes—wherever there is great sin, that is where this love is embracing those in grace.           
It is in the mercy, love, forgiveness and peace that we share with our very best intentions throughout our human and earth community that we realize and reflect even if only in fragments, the image of God made clear in the Trinity.
  
Music for Trinity Sunday
Processional - Revive Us Again
Psalm - Daniel 3
Recessional - Yes! God Is Real

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The fire of Pentecost can get you "in the spirit"...Music for Pentecost

Hey St. Francis,

One of the best things that can happen at any church is when a person or a congregation is moved, inspired, challenged and strengthened.  Very often we hear Jesus speak to us through Scripture and our hearts burn.  Sometimes, we really are engaged in the prayers over the bread and wine and realize the great miracle of love that happens in front of our eyes.  Sometimes, our minds and our hearts are fed by the incredible words of a homily, one that seems to speak specifically to us and sometimes, a beautiful song of praise or prayerful musical meditation really touches us and brings us to a place we call "In The Spirit".  As a Music Minister, those are the times when I thank God for blessing me with with the opportunity He has. 

Let me suggest another way to get "In The Spirit".  We are all called to be ministers to our brothers and sisters.  That means, that every individual's role at the Liturgy is essential to the "Spirit" of the Liturgy.  There are so many ways to connect even more deeply to your parish family through ministering to them.  How?  Well, have you considered proclaiming scripture?  Have you thought about becoming a Eucharistic Minister or joining the choir or serving as a Minister of Hospitality.  Those are tangible ways to become the minister we are all called to be.  We hear about these things all of the time and they are all very important but, at the same time, they are not the only ways we can be a minister.  How about this...what if when you entered the church this week, you found a person or a family you don't know and sit next to them, shake their hand, introduce yourself and then...PRAY with them.  I don't know about you, but, that sounds like a ministry to me.

I want to share something with you.  I think I speak for all Music Ministers when I say that our ministry is our best prayer.  We have decided to sacrifice our time and share our talent to make music.  That music can be upbeat praise and worship music and it can be meditative and prayerful.  If you love your Music Ministers (and I hope you do) and you wish to show your gratitude for the inspiration they add to Liturgy, here is how you do it.

1.  SING!!! - Take a deep breath and let it fly.  When you sing with us, you connect to us, you pray with us.  That is our ministry!!!  We are a ministry focused on prayer and supporting the Liturgy.

2.  MEDITATE!!! - When the beautiful melody or inspiring words of a song moves you, that is God's gift to you through us.  It again is a part of our ministry to try to provide you with moments to reflect and find peace.

Now, at SFDS as you all know, we rock it out to Songs of Praise and Gospel tunes that encourage you to tap your feet and clap your hands.  When we are groovin', groove with us.  Sing, clap, be "In The Spirit".  We smile and we move because we are praising God!!!  What we are NOT doing is performing for you.  We are leaders of song not concert performers.  Don't get me wrong we want to be good...really good...but not to receive a standing ovation, but, to share our ministry.  We are so blest at SFDS to have a congregation who is incredibly appreciative and supportive of the music.  We can't thank you enough for that.  But, speaking for All Music Ministers, we will feel your love best when you praise God with us!!!  So, get "In The Spirit" and be a minister, thank those who have answered the call to ministry, invite others to our worship and then "Let The Spirit Move You".

Jim

Music for Pentecost
Processional - Let It Rise




Meditation - Holy Spirit

Recessional - I've Got A Feeling

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Is this elevator going up? Music for May 28th

Hello St. Francis.
This week the Music Ministry is armed with two themes as we celebrate the 7th Week of Easter and also the Ascension of Jesus.  As you know, the disciples were a group that was filled with a great deal of fear.  They were fearful when Jesus left them on Good Friday.  They did not know where to turn for the answers and felt alone.  They were also fearful after the Ascension.  Once again, they hid from the world and could not discern the next step in their lives and ministry.  Fortunately for us, we know that soon the Holy Spirit will descend upon them and start a fire that his illuminated our faith for 2,000 years.  After the Pentecost, they went out to all nations preaching Jesus' message of love, forgiveness and peace.

I can't imagine those days between when Jesus ascended and the Pentecost.  I guess we all know the feeling of looking at a task that we know will be tremendously long and difficult.  A task that requires our attention, our time and our talents.  I think we can all relate to the feeling of not knowing where to start or in some cases, having no idea where the task will lead.  I think that is how the Apostles must have felt.  Kind of lost and kind of overwhelmed.  So, if I may offer a suggestion, in our times of fear and when we feel like we may not be ready or good enough to complete the mission laid before us, it is then that we should lean on...you guessed it, FAITH.  Our faith can jolt us to a place of confidence.  A confidence that comes from God.  A knowledge that through our surrender to God's will, the path and the steps of that path will be laid in front of us by God, and, we know we will not walk alone.  This, my friends, is what JOY means.

This week, we praise the Lord with an energy and a spirit that can only be fueled by God's grace.  Although from time to time we may also be fearful of our call to evangelize the world, we know that with God nothing is impossible and we know that within our parish community, we will find the support and encouragement to complete the tasks laid before us .  Let us all sing of Jesus' wonderful name as we praise and exalt our Father and thank Him for the light and the fire he has created within us.
On this special weekend, I encourage you to SING WITH YOUR HEART as well as your VOICE. CLAP YOUR HANDS and come to full participation in the prayer we pray.
I can't wait to pray and praise with you this weekend.
Peace,
Jim

Here are the links to your recordings.  As usual, we will certainly add our own stamp to each of these songs.  

Processional - He Is Exalted 


Communion - In This Place

Communion Meditation - Go Light Your World

Recessional - Every Praise
Hello St. Francis,

This week our parish family will be celebrating a very big day in the lives of many of our young people as they receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.  I don't know about you but my 1st Communion memories have stood the test of time.  I remember with great fondness many moments of my own 1st Communion...(MANY years ago).  For me, I was blessed to have my entire family present and we celebrated this occasion as momentous day in my life.  Many things have changed in our church since I received my 1st Communion but, thankfully, many things have remained.  For example, I remember that we were asked to get dressed back up in our 1st Communion outfits for the next week's Mass so that the parish could see how handsome and beautiful we looked.  For some reason, I remember watching the congregation watch us receive Communion with big smiles on their faces.  I asked myself and to a certain extent continue to ask myself this question.  Why did they look at me with such reverence and joy when all of them were allowed to receive communion any time they wanted? 

I think that one of the aspects of 1st Communion that we all cherish is the innocence and awe of the children who receive it.  We see a faith in them that does not question, that does not fear and that is filled with life and expectation.  There is a reverence and a joy about these children that not only bring us joy, but also bring us back to a time when maybe we felt the same way about it.  Where did it go?  Have we from time to time allowed this beautiful and traditional ritual of our faith become simply a part of a routine?  You know what I mean...we sit, we stand, we say Amen, we sing, we receive Communion and then we are off to continue life as we know it.  I think this type of pattern is easy to fall into.  I would like to suggest something to all of us.

This week, remember your own 1st Communion.  Remember the anticipation and the excitement.  Remember the joy and the reverence.  Remember the celebration and the family.  And then, when you process with your parish family to receive Jesus, think of these children who will receive Jesus in the way we are all called to.  It is true that taking the routine we have gotten into and transforming it back into the ritual it is will take some effort.  It will in some ways force us to be more engaged, more prayerful and more filled with wonder and awe.  But, when you think about it, isn't that what it should be?  Isn't that what will increase our capacity to truly appreciate the gift we have in Eucharist, in the Mass and in the community we call home? 

So, this week, let the wisdom and faith of these small children inspire you to see this precious gift with the eyes of a child and with the faith to know that when we do receive Eucharist, we grow even closer to Jesus, and by being closer to Jesus, he will bless us with the grace to see all things with the optimism and innocence of a child.

God Bless...Please Pray for our young children who will receive Jesus for the first time this weekend.

Jim

Music for April 17th


Psalm 118

Monday, May 15, 2017

What A Gift!!! Music for May 21st

Hello St. Francis,

This week our parish family will be celebrating a very big day in the lives of many of our young people as they receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.  I don't know about you but my 1st Communion memories have stood the test of time.  I remember with great fondness many moments of my own 1st Communion...(MANY years ago).  For me, I was blessed to have my entire family present and we celebrated this occasion as momentous day in my life.  Many things have changed in our church since I received my 1st Communion but, thankfully, many things have remained.  For example, I remember that we were asked to get dressed back up in our 1st Communion outfits for the next week's Mass so that the parish could see how handsome and beautiful we looked.  For some reason, I remember watching the congregation watch us receive Communion with big smiles on their faces.  I asked myself and to a certain extent continue to ask myself this question.  Why did they look at me with such reverence and joy when all of them were allowed to receive communion any time they wanted? 

I think that one of the aspects of 1st Communion that we all cherish is the innocence and awe of the children who receive it.  We see a faith in them that does not question, that does not fear and that is filled with life and expectation.  There is a reverence and a joy about these children that not only bring us joy, but also bring us back to a time when maybe we felt the same way about it.  Where did it go?  Have we from time to time allowed this beautiful and traditional ritual of our faith become simply a part of a routine?  You know what I mean...we sit, we stand, we say Amen, we sing, we receive Communion and then we are off to continue life as we know it.  I think this type of pattern is easy to fall into.  I would like to suggest something to all of us.

This week, remember your own 1st Communion.  Remember the anticipation and the excitement.  Remember the joy and the reverence.  Remember the celebration and the family.  And then, when you process with your parish family to receive Jesus, think of these children who will receive Jesus in the way we are all called to.  It is true that taking the routine we have gotten into and transforming it back into the ritual it is will take some effort.  It will in some ways force us to be more engaged, more prayerful and more filled with wonder and awe.  But, when you think about it, isn't that what it should be?  Isn't that what will increase our capacity to truly appreciate the gift we have in Eucharist, in the Mass and in the community we call home? 

So, this week, let the wisdom and faith of these small children inspire you to see this precious gift with the eyes of a child and with the faith to know that when we do receive Eucharist, we grow even closer to Jesus, and by being closer to Jesus, he will bless us with the grace to see all things with the optimism and innocence of a child.

God Bless...Please Pray for our young children who will receive Jesus for the first time this weekend.

Jim

Music for 1st Communion Mass at 9am



Music for 11am and 5pm Sunday

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My Prayer...Music for the 5th Sunday of Easter

Hello St. Francis,

I was talking with a friend recently about how reluctant she is to ask God for things. Me, I’m a terrible nuisance, and nothing is too trivial for me to pray about, from the common cold to parking spots. But I often forget to ask for things that really matter, from big things like the growth of God’s kingdom to little things like daily help with my anxieties and ungodliness.
So why don’t we ask God for things? Sometimes we may think that our requests seem too trivial to bother him with.  Sometimes we may be protecting ourselves from disappointment and doubt. Sometimes maybe we can even feel like we’re being discontented, selfish or greedy.  Often, I think that we may assume that our prayers can’t affect any outcome or we think we can handle it ourselves. And finally, we assume God is unwilling or unable to help.

So why ask God for things—even trivial things, even things we’re uncertain he wants us to have?
As I talked with my friend, I realized that asking is a step towards relationship, not a step away from it. It’s better to ask and deal with our disappointment and doubt if God says “no” than never to ask anything at all, at least we’re dealing with God, not ignoring him! Asking is an expression of dependence: when we ask, we rely on God rather than ourselves.

It is tempting to manipulate a situation so that what we desire comes to pass. However, taking a situation into our own hands usually leads to conflict, frustration, and discouragement. In order to truly seek God’s will and not our own, we should consider the benefits of receiving our request and the benefits of not receiving our request.

In this way, our expectations balance out and we can pray with a heart surrendered to God, trusting that He will do what is best for us and most glorifying to Him. When we have just as many reasons to thank God for not granting something to us as we have for receiving something, then we can take true delight in seeing God perform His perfect will, whatever it may be.

As we grow, our prayers will grow bigger too; but God wants us to come as we are, trusting he will hear us, like children to their father and mother, bringing both our big and small concerns to him.
So, I think there is something we can all pray for together.  Moms!!!  Whoever these people are or were in our lives, this week, we remember them in a special way.  

So, my friends, let us pray:

Good and Gentle God, we pray in gratitude for our mothers and for all the women of theory who have joined with you in the wonder of bringing forth new life. You who became human through a woman, grant to all mothers the courage they need to face the uncertain future that life with children always brings.


Give them the strength to live and to be loved in return, not perfectly, but humanly. Give them the faithful support of husband, family and friends as they care for the physical and spiritual growth of their children. Give them joy and delight in their children to sustain them through the trials of motherhood. Most of all, give them the wisdom to turn to you for help when they need it most. Amen.

MUSIC FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER

PROCESSIONAL: PLENTY GOOD ROOM





Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Counting Sheep...Music for May 7th

Hello St. Francis,
I remember in many of my old classrooms there was that picture of Jesus with a lamb on his shoulders on the back wall. After a while I didn't really see it anymore. It was just a pleasant portrait on the back wall of our room. It was and is such a comforting image.  Jesus, leaving behind the 99 to find the lost sheep, maybe that sheep was me.
Unfortunately, that placement and purpose is the exact opposite of the way this image functions in the Gospel of John that we will hear this weekend. It was meant to be at the forefront of readers' minds and it was not just intended to comfort. A really smart person told me one time to not confuse familiarity with understanding. That warning came to mind this time when I read and reflected on the passage about Jesus as Good Shepherd. It turns out that the Good Shepherd is not an image intended to comfort children. It is an image intended to inspire the faith of adults in difficult times.  It is an image meant to counter forces that would isolate them from each other and undermine their faith in Christ. 
Now, I don't want to be a fire and brimstone type person, but, let's think about it.  The sheep faced many dangers in their existence.  The one constant that connects all of those dangers is that the sheep were away from their shepherd.  We are taught that the sheep know their shepherd's voice, but, do I?  I think that if we all really think about it we will admit that we like the comfortable, heart warming Shepherd that is pictured so often.  I think that we are challenged by the Shepherd who vows to separate the sheep from the goats.  I think it is east to believe that the Good Shepherd will care for his flock, especially all of the different kinds of "lost" sheep that we see everyday in our lives.  It isn't quite as easy to believe that we are called to be the coworkers with the Shepherd.  
In the end, it is often worth an evaluation of our own faith and conscience to make sure we are not anchored in a comfortable and unrealistic familiarity, but, rather continue to challenge ourselves to dig deep for a true understanding.  Easy?  Not at all.  But, either is being a shepherd.
Jim
Music for May 7th

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Reward of Patience...Music for the 3rd Sunday of Easter

Hello St. Francis,

So, over the past few years I have spent a bunch of time reflecting on the Gospel of the Road to Emmaus that we will hear this weekend.  I was pretty sure I covered it from every conceivable angle. But, as Scripture tends to do, a new thought entered my mind.  In case you did not know, I am the proud father of two incredible children.  I remember people telling me before they were born how difficult being a parent is.  I thought I understood until I actually became a parent.  Don't get me wrong, being a parent is the most amazing and rewarding thing in my life, but that doesn't mean it is simple.  I think I have boiled down what makes it difficult to a few things, one of which I want to talk to you about this week.

I know that it is true for me and I assume that most parents feel the same way, if we could, we would try to take away all of the things in our children's lives that would cause pain.  As a parent, the concept of trial and error and "let them figure it out for themselves" with your kids is so difficult.  I mean, who wants to see their children struggle.  If it were up to me, I would download all of the stupid mistakes I made and all of the experience I have gained over the course of my life directly into my kids.  I want them to have the answers and, maybe selfishly, I don't want them to struggle with the questions.

So this brings me to Emmaus.  Here is the point.  Why didn't Jesus just tell them who he was?  Why did he go through the entire dissertation?  Why not just download the faith they needed to see into their minds and hearts?  Why the struggle?

It occurs to me that the really solid foundations in my life were developed over time when I eventually came to my own revelation, in my own time.  Jesus knew that the impact of this moment could only be realized on their time...not his.  He recognized that just telling them who he was, just giving them the answer would not profoundly change their lives the way that it did when they came to the understanding on their own.  He was patient, he let them reflect, contemplate, just be.  In the end, their eyes were opened as much by their own epiphany as by the breaking of the bread.

And so it is with us.  I think sometimes we seek the answers so quickly, we may forget the profound nature of the question.  When I wish for my children not to have to grind over the questions that I had to, I do not offer them the same power in the decision that they make.  Of course we want life to be simple, and 1+1 will always still equal 2, but, in our struggle, with patience and perseverance, we too can recognize Jesus, we too can be transformed by the miracle of the epiphanies in our life that can only come with time.

Jim

Processional - Standin On The Promises
Psalm - 16 Keep Me Safe
Offertory - Bless That Wonderful Name
Communion - In The Breaking of the Bread
Meditation - Worthy Is The Lamb
Recessional - Rejoice

Monday, April 10, 2017

We are all a part of the power of our prayer?

Hello St. Francis,

So, we have made it.  It's almost time for the Easter Bunny to come and relieve you for your Chocolate deprivation...or whatever else you gave up for Lent.  I hope that these few weeks have been ones filled with digging deeper into your faith and finding God more clearly in all things.  Lent is a time of preparation that allows us the time to discern what Jesus' gift of the Eucharist, his passion and death, and resurrection mean to us and how seriously we take our call to discipleship and to carry our crosses with grace and dignity.  We know how the story ends, triumphantly!!!  But, the only thing that makes a happy ending better is when we understand the struggle that had to be overcome to reach that ending.

We have been so blest in many ways at St. Francis.  As I think about what we enter into this week, my thoughts turn to the example we have been given in the person of Fr. Neil.  At St. Francis, we had the opportunity to grow in our faith by participating in Fr. Neil's witness, but, we also got the great privilege of walking with him on his road to Calvary.  It was our mission to comfort and strengthen him as he carried his cross of sickness.  The only thing is though, even though we all knew he was sick, weak and struggling, you would never know it when you engaged him in conversation or celebrated liturgy with him.  That voice filled with such power and that faith that just spilled over and enveloped each person he celebrated with. This week we will hear about  the suffering Jesus had to endure on his road to the cross.  For many years, I thought of this story in a pretty dark and dim way.   There was guilt, sadness and a real sense of disconnection from God.  Now, having thought about this and having experienced the powerful witness of faith given to us by Fr. Neil, I see the cross, I see Fr. Neil's cross and I see my cross as a wonderful privilege.  One that will lead me and hopefully others by my example to the revelation of God's unending love for all of us.


So, this week, make a real effort to come to your parish home as we remember this story.  The story of Jesus' cross, the reality of our own crosses and the faith of Fr. Neil which lead him, and us to resurrection.  Let the words, the scriptures, the music and the community itself open our minds, and our hearts to know how much God really loves me and you.  Really know it!!!  Because, it is when we realize how much God loves us, that we will truly realize the purpose, the vocation and the ministry of Fr. Neil.  A vocation fixed on love.  A mission that brings to reality the ultimate truth.  God Is Love.

Blessings!!!  Pray for someone this week!!!
Jim

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.
Jim

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.

Jim

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.

Jim

MUSIC FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY OF LENT






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,
Jim

MUSIC FOR FEBRUARY 19TH





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.

Jim

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.

Jim


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