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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Be The Light!!!

Hello St. Francis.

What a week of contrasts.  The celebration of Dr. King's message followed by the inauguration of a president that so many people fear may in some way negatively effect the perceived harmony of our nation.  So, what do we take from all of this?  There is certainly an abundance of topics to reflect upon, but, I'd like to focus on something that I think can and will be very easy to slip into if we are not careful, hypocrisy.  As I look at those things that I have a more difficult time "going with the flow" with, I recognize that most of them are centered in hypocrisy.  Now that REALLY frustrates me.  I should clarify here.  People often say one thing and do another. Though it does aggravate me a little, over the course of my life, I have come to understand that all of us try to deceive ourselves about some things and that as we grow in wisdom (if that is our choice) that many of these things become apparent and we work towards fixing them.  What really gets me is the more systemic, social or societal hypocrisy that is so easily sold to us by so many with an agenda. YEAH!!! We all so often call out the hypocrisy in others, this reflection will hopefully lead to an opportunity to reflect on our own hypocrisy.  

So, here's the premise.  I know that sometimes I attempt to fight for what I think is right, which is good, except when I lower myself to the depths I perceive those who do not agree with me do.  It is a travesty to see all of the unrest that we all blame on everyone else.  The point...when we make our point the "How" is maybe even more important than the "What".  It is easy to try and advance my point, my belief, my agenda, by using the same tactics that we are so against in those who have an opposing point, belief or agenda


I must say that I purposely attempt in most cases in my life and in my writing on this blog to not make sweeping generalizations and of course, even if this sounds like one, I am well aware that this is not a 100% always type of thing.  Nonetheless, it still "gets my goat".

Jesus, in my opinion, became the enemy of the religious and political leaders of his time mostly because He never shied away from making a statement that made those who were filled with hypocrisy really uncomfortable. The amazing thing though is that all of those statements came from a place of love and reconciliation, it is for that reason that I, in my reflection, take Jesus so seriously.  He made his statements not to win an argument but to begin, in a small way, a conversion.  Those who opposed him had no reason not to at least listen. Whether or not they bought into his message was not influenced by tactics of anger.  It was an invitation, not to do and believe everything right away, but to at least listen.  Boy, do we want people to listen to us (especially since my point and my belief are right all of the time in every possible way...haha). Oh...I'm not always 100% right? I need to listen too?  Is that really a part of the deal?


YES!!!!!

 As a result of the hypocrisy being slammed into our society, and especially into our young people, they have come to believe that their way is the way it should be.   The fact of the matter is that even today, people are uncomfortable with the truth. People are equally as uncomfortable with an opposing view...All of us!!! People sometimes don't want to be told that there can be and is a different, a better way.  Why?  It messes with their rock solid belief that what they believe is the Gospel truth.  

Jesus never had an issue making the difficult statement, the one that rocked the foundation of any self indulged person or organization.  We too need to find the courage to make a statement.  You see, it is ok to say that you believe in, follow and live your life by faith, (whatever that faith may be).  It is ok to stand up and say that Jesus' message of love, mercy and compassion is a better way.  It is ok to say that living selfish lives that tear a person down and make them feel less beautiful or less worthy is not the way our culture should be.  It is ok to witness to the difficult teachings of Christ and live our lives centered in the joy of the good news. But, it is not ok if we proclaim these truths in a way that hurts others, that does not seek to find the other but instead violently tosses them into the abyss of the ignorant, the evil, the sinners.  Jesus never made his point that way.

We are often told that we are called to a "radical" faith.  I am convinced that we need to live this radical faith in a couple of ways.  First, a radical faith never discriminates or closes doors on anyone, regardless of their beliefs. Second, we are called to be the light, the reconciler.  That means that we must be the example by living with open minds and hearts, with compassion for those who have strayed from the truth of the Gospel, but, also a willingness to meet them where they are and journey with them back to the light.  Finally, we are called to make a statement.  Our statement should be based on conviction of faith and the joyful love of the Gospel.  We need to dismiss the notion that evangelization is not politically correct because it forces people to challenge themselves to be more than our society calls or wants them to be.  When we live as Jesus would have us live, our statement does rock the foundation of our hypocritical society and offers an opportunity for all to see life as a gift as opposed to life being about the gifts you receive.  So, be radical in your faith, proclaim it and live it out fully, unabashedly, knowing that your statement may be the one that opens the eyes of a person who seeks truth. 

Hey SFDS, BE THE LIGHT!!!

Jim

Music for the weekend of January 22nd

Processional - The Lord Is My Light

Psalm 27

Offertory - Lord, You Have Come

Communion - I Receive The Living God 

Communion Meditation - Draw Me Close

Recessional - O Magnify The Lord

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Dream and the Challenge is the bridge

Hello St. Francis,

So, our country is preparing to celebrate the life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.  I must selfishly admit that I love this holiday because it means a long weekend. (and I need a long weekend) But, for some reason, this year I have found myself really thinking about what Dr. King lived and died to proclaim to the people in our country.  Our world is certainly in a place where we are hypersensitive to say the least about people of different races, faiths, lifestyles, etc.  Over the next few days we will again get to listen to Dr. King's words and hopefully be inspired by his belief in his dream.  What an amazing dream it is too.  A dream that envisions all people regardless of their differences walking hand in hand unified in their humanity.

At the same time, in church this week we heard about a new shepherd who is now the leader of the Archdiocese of Newark.  His message was a simple one.  We should let go of the semantics of hot button issues and focus our energy on living in the "real world" what we are called to practice in our faith.  We here this message time and time again at St. Francis.  Pope Francis calls us to be a church on the margins, a community centered in the most basic ideals that Jesus calls us to, namely, to love.


If I may, one of the qualities that I truly admire in Jesus is the fact that even though his contemporaries and even the biblical authors would consistently define others by their race (Israelite and Samaritan) or by their occupation (poor fisherman, tax collector, Chief Priest, Prostitute) or because of the particular culture of that time when women were seen as less than their male counterparts, I don't ever remember Jesus judging a person by any of those characteristics, but rather, by their hearts, their love, their kindness and dare I say their potential.  I often think we miss the mark in understanding the labels placed on those in Jesus' time.  You see, it is great that Jesus would have dinner with the tax collector and save the prostitute from stoning but the question I pose is this.  Did he have dinner with the man only because he was a tax collector or would he have entered the house of anyone seeking the truth?  It is great that Jesus saved the prostitute but did he only save her because she was a prostitute?

I think Jesus' and Dr. King's message is about a deeper and more profound level of unity. In the real world, we announce with pride at the top of our voices who should and shouldn't be counted among the faithful.  We often place parameters around our "margins".  Instead of looking at our neighbor's heart and showing them ours, we sometimes demand to categorize people and to be categorized ourself.  In all honesty, let me tell you that I don't want to know you as a member of a certain "category" that is based on your race, culture, skin color, sexual orientation, age or anything else.  Who I really want to know when I meet you is the person.  Our dignity does not come from our differences, our uniqueness, our political beliefs or anything else.  It comes from God.  The God who created us in God's image, who lives and moves within us, each in our own unique way.

I think the message of Dr. King, the new Archbishop of Newark and Jesus is that when I look at you, I don't see our differences, I don't need to treat you differently because you are of a certain culture, religion or lifestyle.  Instead, we should look at each others as what we are, brothers and sisters.  You see, when I hold your hand and walk in solidarity with you, it's not about a cause, it's not about two people saying, "Look how different we are but we can still walk together", The dream, I believe is when our "differences" are meaningless.  When we hear Jesus' words that he spoke over and over again that He came to live in the hearts of all, I think he meant it.

So, this week, as we continue to try to live the dream, instead of accepting or even celebrating our differences and therefore categorizing others, maybe we should just walk together in solidarity as human beings, created by the same God (no matter what name you happen to give Him or Her) We are not different, we are unique.  We are not a statistic in a category, we are part of the human race, all created in God's image and all doing the best we can to "Live The Dream".

Jim

Music for the weekend of January 14 and 15
This week we will be singing a few of Dr. King's favorite songs.  What beautiful messages they proclaim.

Processional - This Is Amazing Grace 

Psalm - Here Am I Lord

Offertory - Jesus Is A Rock

Communion - We Shall Overcome

Meditation - If I Can Help Somebody  

Recessional - Bless That Wonderful Name

Thursday, January 5, 2017

My 2017 Epiphany

Hello St. Francis.
I hope this message finds you winding down from an amazing Christmas celebration and for many of our parishioners,getting excited as we prepare for the Feast of the Three Kings celebrations this week.  It does go fast, huh? Prepare the house, the gifts, Advent, wait, wait, wait and then BOOM!!! it has come and gone.  Even as I sit here writing this blog, I feel as though the passion with which I prepared for Christmas as well as the prayerfulness with which I made a concerted effort to kick up a notch has already been attacked by the NEXT BIG THING.  So, here I am, a little chunkier (Italian Food), a little poorer (two kids) and ready to start 2017 with a bang or a thud...can't make up my mind.


Now, I know that the whole New Year's Resolution thing is written about over and over again so I am not going to give you the full proof way to keep that promise to lose 20 lbs. or exercise more or call your parents or your brother once a week.  We've all been there and done that.  I really would be barking up a dead tree if I concentrated on the whole "Keep the Christmas Spirit alive the whole year round" thing because I think that would just make me want to smack myself with the leftover Lasagna noodles from Christmas.  So, what wisdom can I impart on you this week?  Not much.
What I can say is that as I go through my social media and posts, I have been seeing a lot of things. It seems like only a moment ago our facebook and instagram pages were filled with Christmas and New Year wishes.  They were inspirational and drew us closer to our hopes and dreams for a future filled with a little more peace and joy.  However, it seems like as soon as the ball dropped in Times Square, many were right back to their political, social and societal tangents that were spewing hate and intolerance.  It really is kind of sad.  

Now, don't get me wrong, I certainly have at least a couple of things I could be standing on my soapbox and advocating for in the pursuit of convincing the world that my ideology is the one and only correct one.  But, really, what am I saying if that is the way I advocate?  This year, I am turning over a new leaf...I am (by the grace of God) going to attempt to truly listen to people.  I am going to trust in people.  I am going to believe that even those with whom I disagree are coming from a good place.  As passionately as I attempt to live my life and as dedicated as I try to be to the values that I profess, I must also see others regardless of their political, socioeconomic and religious viewpoints as trying to live the same way.  If we truly seek diversity in our communities, in our parishes and in our country, we must accept and cherish the gift of diversity that we have been given.  This year, I am expanding my definition of diversity to include not only people who do not look like me or come from the same origins and faith practice that I do, but also those whose views are different than mine.  I don't know about you but for me the people that I see as being most different from me are those who disagree with me.  Maybe, by opening my ears, my mind and my heart to these people, I can begin to truly live out the peace and unity that I pray for.


So as we celebrate the New Year and The Three Kings and we hug and kiss those in our life who we love, maybe we can share a gift like the Magi did.  Maybe we can start a trend to change hearts,  and make a New Year's Resolution to be a little kinder to those we don't agree with.  So, Happy New Year to my extended Church Community.  I wish you happiness and health for you and your family this year. 

Peace,
Jim

Music for the Epiphany...Big Day...Let's Sing Away!!!

Processional - We Three Kings - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJxBlJFjOU4


Offertory - Behold the Star - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrVK9HODphE

Communion - What Child Is This - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ePja2yZhQw

Recessional - Joy To The World - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBMPBoFcOZ4