Re-Remembering What is Truly Important.

It’s been a tough week. I had the honor and sad duty to bury someone I had the great joy of marrying just barely ten years ago. He died suddenly, leaving a wife and two children behind. The funeral this Thursday morning was a stark reminder to me how fleeting life is, how fragile we are, how those things we think are important, in the end, really aren’t that important at all.
 
After the funeral services were completed, I waited for the family and friends to depart. Then I silently walked from the chapel, feeling more deeply the winter’s cold found this particular January day, over to George’s open grave. I cried over the hole that would soon bear his coffin and what remained of his earthly life, I mustered enough strength to bless the earth as I remembered those words, I so often use almost without thinking, “We are but dust and unto dust we shall we return.” Bless this hallowed grave, a sign now made of hope, for it was Christ the first born of the dead that we shall follow. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” George is gone from this life. We live on.
 
I wonder if last Sunday when so many stayed away from Mass using the weather as this week’s excuse, remember what is really important? I wonder if those who will stay away this weekend will remember? I wonder if all those who fight so passionately on social media over politics will remember what is truly important in the end and one day might fight so for all we have here? I wonder how long until I forget, too?
 
I was all but ready to call it a day and give up on all that I thought others would find important. After all, life is so fickle. Then I received a note from one of our parents. She wanted me to know the impact this parish has on their family, and in particular her daughter who attends PREP. I needed this note this day more than anyone will ever know. (I have placed a copy below, with her permission to share.) My image is the actual poem entitled, “Acceptance“.
 
Sometimes God comes when you least expect Him. Sometimes God knows you need to hear that your life is important to others. Sometimes God comes to remind us that together we make wonderful things happen in the world. I needed this reminder after such a tough week for my own selfish reasons of feeling inadequate. I pray this helps you re-remember what is truly important and how imperative our work here is together.
 
See you Sunday.
 

Good morning Fr. Jim!  I wanted to share this with you – it’s a poem that Lilly wrote for her school’s Acceptance Day in honor of the MLK holiday.  She was chosen to read it to the entire middle school at an assembly today.  Your messages of inclusion don’t go unnoticed and I think this should be a reminder for you to keep it up, especially when you’re feeling discouraged.  Our kids (and the rest of us) are watching, listening and absorbing!

Have a great weekend!
Katie Hansen
 


It’s the Little Things that Mean So Much…

We have a vibrant and growing parish, BUT we also do real ministry! By ‘real’ I mean ministry that is more than just lip service. We actually worship God here with a beautiful Mass, and we honor our Blessed Mother with the Rosary, not once, but twice each week, AND we take our prayers to the streets in many ways! Here are a few:

Prayer Shawl Ministry: Each week, while many of us watch television, there are folks sitting and praying as they knit and crochet prayer shawls for those with illness or loss, new parents who will receive a baby blanket, and scarves to be placed in our Blessing Bags for the homeless.

Blessing Bags: Our “Blessing Food Bags” at Saint Miriam is an award-winning outreach to the homeless and food insecure in our area. Our program extends primarily to greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and suburbs, as well as Camden, New Jersey, Wilmington and Dover, Delaware areas. Our food blessing bags are supported by grant donations and volunteer contributions and are filled with nutritious food and goodies, as well as personal care items and feminine hygiene products for female clients. 

Sacred Space: Through this program our primary mission is to provide spiritual companionship to homeless men and women who seek a non-threatening way to be with others in relationship, in prayer and in community. We are un-housed and housed people called by God into Christian community and ministry for the purpose of transforming all our lives. Our weekly outdoor worship services are for anyone who wishes to attend. Singing, praying, reflection, and the Eucharist are offered. This is followed by opportunities for private conversation, prayer, blessing or counseling, and a light lunch. Sacred Space gathers every Sunday, rain or shine, at 3:00 p.m.

Scarves with a Purpose: We have teamed with Sacred Spaces to distribute newly created homemade scarfs from our wonderful Prayer Shawl Ministry Group for homeless persons in our area! Our warm, made with love, scarfs will be going to those who need warmth the most! Please support this new ministry by donating materials or making a generous donation or joining the group and helping make wonderful strength-giving knitted items for those in need of some pastoral care!

A Sanctuary Parish: Since May 2017, the Parish of Saint Miriam has been designated a “Sanctuary Parish.” The Board took this action upon recommendation from the mission and outreach committee, as well as from the desires of our pastor that we continue to ‘walk the talk’ and affirm our worldview of safe passage for all who come to us. This designation means that we’re committed to providing a variety of support, including, but not limited to, physical sanctuary at Saint Miriam to people who are threatened with deportation or unlawful incarceration or detainment solely based on their nation of origin or immigration status. In making this designation, our Board is saying that we’re going to be in alliance with people who are the most vulnerable.

Why is this all so important?  Because Saint Miriam is a church only when we are present and gathered in this assembly. However, when we leave, the church goes out into the world and makes it just a little bit better.

This coming month, you will learn about several new initiatives that will dovetail with the above programs and enhance the lives of the community, children and others. These new programs will include Buddy Benches, We are Homeless, and Safe Car! Support us and join us…

Just wait until you see who we become next during the upcoming year!
 


Flinging Wide The Doors To Our Hearts!

Last year, Pope Francis spotted a cluster of Italy’s “pitchfork” protestors, upset with unemployment and cuts in social services, holding a banner in St. Peter’s Square that read, “The Poor Can’t Wait!”  Francis, in his unique and unpredictable style, pointed to the sign and exclaimed, “That’s beautiful!”, launching into an extemporaneous sermon on homelessness and how it harms the fabric of human life!

At Christmas Mass this year, The Holy Father laid out the spiritual basis for the social gospel and asked for peace in a ‘uneasy world’. He brought two messages together: peace and action to the vulnerable. By doing so he stressed a special “vulnerability” implied in God’s choice to be born into a poor meager-means family. Yes, to be a Catholic means we follow the inherent dignity of every human person into our awareness, and by due diligence of the social gospel that makes us, well, what we truly are as a greater church!

During one year’s Urbi et Orbi  (“to the City [of Rome] and to the World”) address, a papal address and apostolic blessing given to the entire world by the pontiff on certain solemn occasions, such as Christmas.Francis returned to the same idea. “Let us allow our hearts to be touched,” he said. “Let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God. We need his caress.”

That is why I am pleased to announce a very special happening at our parish beginning this coming Lent! For the entire Season of Lent, we will be home to something so special, we cannot contain it just here, and so our doors will be flung open wide to allow the greater community to visit for all of the six weeks of Lent and into Easter! Stay tuned to learn more in the coming weeks and begin to soften your hearts as we boldly embrace the most vulnerable among us!

In the interim, I ask that we all pray on this reflective concern: How might we carry the same message – the deeper message of Christmas – now to those in need, and bring them the caress of a living God, like those first immigrants, the aliens,  we now call, ‘The Holy Family’?

PS. Our Annual Parish Board Retreat is January 19th– I urge you to send us your needs, desires, changes, and concerns as we move into a year that we will soon name as part of our addressing the needs of the most vulnerable!
 


A Blessed Mother, A Blessed Parish, A Blessed New Year!

In the Sanctuary of our beautiful parish, hangs an original oil painting, a gift to us by one of our dearest benefactors who died in 2012, Raymond Leight, Jr. The work of art is entitled, “Oy Vey!” (Luke 2:41) and features Mary standing outside the temple looking for Jesus. She was worried for days as she and Joseph searched for Him. In Ray’s depiction, she finds Him preaching in the temple courts and turns toward the crowd and raises her hand and explains, “Oy Vey!” (A Yiddish phrase expressing dismay or exasperation.) Yes, in a typical Jewish mother fashion!

This coming New Year’s Day, we will honor our Blessed Mother as we gather at 10:30am for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Then we will once again bestow the next annual award to someone who exemplifies the deep love of our parish, just like Ray Leight did for so many years. We are grateful that the Leight Family Estate has provided us with a means to not only support the parish, but to honor our history and our life together as we, too, remember the life and legacy of Raymond Leight. A friend, a benefactor, and someone who touches us even to this day! I feel his love and strength as I remember fondly his care for this place.

We have built a grand vision for a parish here. A vision that has allowed us to become something very special – a place of love that welcomes so many and now cares for the poorest among us and gives sanctuary to those seeking a better life. Our outreach programs provide shelter for those who seek support from addiction and the coldness of homelessness. Our hearts have provided a means for people to provide a quality, private education to their children, and an historic cemetery to bury their dead near St. Francis. Our Pet Memorial Garden allows for those suffering the loss of one of God’s gentlest creatures to give a place of peace of memorial; a reward for their love that once so freely warmed their homes. Our Blessing Bag Program, Scarves with a Purpose and Prayer Shawls warm others in crisis or need and allows them to feel the love we so often feel here, too.

This coming month, we will announce something very exciting for our parish and community that will open our doors in a brand-new way this coming Lent! We are very excited and look to open our hearts in an ever-deepening way to provide more resources to give to those without faces, a means to be seen and loved again.

We have much to be proud of, but we have learned that it takes a lot of sacrifice and a lot of work to do what we have chosen to do by honoring what God has asked of us. It takes a village full of people willing to do God’s work, despite the world thinking us mad. This Tuesday morning, we will enjoy together once again, for the 10th time in a row, the Nativity of our Lord, Christmastide, an Octave of Christmas, in a brand-new year. We will bestow the Raymond Leight, Jr. Sacrificial Giving Award and we will enter more fully into the winter season with warm hearts.

I pray you well as we move ahead into proving to the world that the music we hear is not from our madness, but from our deep love of a man named Jesus, who have us His all. I pray you will support us with your end of year gift right now and allow us to bring to the world the love of God more fully.  An exciting year is ahead! Just watch!

Blessed New Year!

Monsignor +Jim, Pastor

 



Coming Home, Again.

While studying in seminary in Washington, DC, I had the honor praying in the Howard Thurman Chapel at Howard University School of Divinity. Howard Thurman, an African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader, as well as someone whose legacy has impacted my worldview, once penned these moving words,

“There must be always remaining in every man’s life some place for the singing of angels — some place for that which in itself is breathlessly beautiful and by an inherent prerogative, throwing all the rest of life into a new and creative relatedness — something that gathers up in itself all the freshets of experience from drab and commonplace areas of living and glows in one bright light of penetrating beauty and meaning — then passes. The commonplace is shot through with new glory — old burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much of their old, old hurting. A crown is placed over our heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to grow tall enough to wear. Despite all the crassness of life, despite all the hardness of life, despite all of the harsh discords of life, life is saved by the singing of angels.”

This is my wish at this time of year for those of us who find it a trying time. Now, to be clear: not all the season is difficult, but when those moments overwhelm us, we need the signing of angels. That is why The Longest Night, our annual ‘Blue Christmas’ Service this Friday at 6:30pm, is so healing and so important for me. It allows me to actually cry at church – my home – and feel my grief and let go of some of my grief tomorrow yet to come. Because of what will happen here this Friday, I will heal a bit more and become a bit more whole again. No, I know that I will never be the same, but whatever is left, God will use for good. That I know and that I trust.

As  Thurman said, ‘old burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much of their old, old hurting’,  and that is so often how God comes to us. His care and embrace are made manifest by often simple, selfless gifts and by coming to us at the most opportune moments, we are made whole. Any earlier, these gifts would have been lost in the darkness of my grief; any later it could not have been undervalued or under appreciated. God’s timing is always impeccable.

It is, in a very real sense how Katelyn came into my life. Any earlier, we would have passed in the night; any later, I most likely would never have made it another year. This beautiful gift is cherished far beyond my mere words here can ever express, for I am a mere mortal and broken man, and yet so loved. But, suffice-it-to-say, God gave me this gift at a time where I was ready to let go of my deepest pain found mired in the tragic loss of my dad – I had to let it go – in order to try and find home again, but this time it was  within me all along.

So, you see, the lesson of Christmas is that home is never a place, it is rather a feeling or a destination that dwells deep within you all the time, even when you fail to know it is there! The Christ has never left me, even when I felt abandoned in my loss and depression, God was still there; Jesus was still holding me waiting for me to have the strength to look beyond the edges of my grief. But it took the passage of time, the softening of my deep grief, and the gift of an angel named Katelyn to remind me that Christmas, too, is not a day. No, Christmas lives all year long.

Merry Christmas, dad. I miss you more with every breath. Merry Christmas, to Katelyn, and all of God’s angels who have watched over me, and worried about me, and loved me at my worst so that God had time to bring me to my best. Thank you for being my true gifts this year and sharing my broken life and making me feel wonderfully whole!

And a Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

 



Unwrapping the Greatest Gift of Advent.

It is always amazing to me how Facebook can bring me to tears. Several times a month the social media giant sends me a private view of something that I posted from my past. Sometimes it is only a few months ago, but oftentimes, the depiction from several years ago of an image oftentimes forgotten. For me, this week, it was a small Christmas Tree I put up the month before my dad died. I have used it as my image today. It was in the living room of a condominium that Sean and I owned together in Philadelphia. My dad, that tree, our relationship in that form, and the condo are all gone now. Each died to this world as a result of either illness or sacrifice and our mutual willingness to be part of the greater creation of what we now have here at Saint Miriam. For me, this time of year is dreadfully difficult as I grapple with the human aspect of my ministry and life. Advent is my most favorite time of year, and yet it is also one that so often brings me the most pain.

In our recent Advent Series, we have been exploring The Mass. It has renewed my commitment as a priest and my love of Jesus, especially His Presence in the elements transformed for us. Jesus IS the Incarnate Presence. The transformation of bread and wine is not purely symbolic for us as Catholics, it is not merely descriptive, He is the Real Presence and by His willingness to do so, we become participants in the Mass with Jesus. But, in doing so, we also willingly participate in His wounds and sacrifice. Yes, by our longing to sit with the Lord, to dine with Him, we – as His created – also must be willing to sacrifice.

In everything good that has ever been birthed, we learn early on that there can never be true community without painful sacrifice. Sacrifice comes to every life for something greater than that individual life. It has many times for me, and in my learning to see this, I have become less jaded and happier to give up in order to create and to leave for someone else a healthier world; a better place. That is what Facebook reminded me this week. What I gave up willingly, not what I lost, for something greater is the better focus. It is as they say, life-giving. This parish, God’s Church, my future in Heaven, none would be ‘better’ if not for my willingness to let go of that which has been most precious to me. This is my Advent reflection.

And, while I know that our senses are inadequate to inform us of the deepest reality of His coming every week to us, through our deep reverence and belief, we fall into the words of St. Thomas Aquinas when asked what he wanted, and his reply was Domine, non nisi Te,  that is “Lord, nothing except you.”  I pray that every day I have left on this earth, I will fall deeper and deeper in love with the One who loved me first, and still loved me at my worst.

So, for me, and for many others, this fast approaching time of Christmas may be a time of celebration and joy, but this is a difficult time of year for many of us, too. We reflect more deeply and long for much, some of which we know is lost forever. Many of us carry significant weights: grief, loss, depression, anxiety, financial stress, unemployment, uncertainty, aging parents, sick children, recent diagnoses, unknown illnesses, and losses suffered. The public tone of the season somehow does not resonate with many of our private experiences. We seem out of sync and alone.

This is why we created The Longest Night on December 21stat 6:30pm this year. The shape of our worship offered here that evening begins by us gathering in honesty about grief, and loss, and pain undiminished and our willingness in hearing the consolation found in God’s presence and love; with friend and stranger gathered with us alike. Then, we depart back into the coldness of the night, but this time with the joy that comes from memory and a sense of shared peace.

In our gathering together, on the day with the least amount of sunlight, somehow our reflections are eased. The Facebook images became less harsh, the memories less sharp, and the pain of our existence and inner turmoil shared and unloaded to the greater community where the sacrifice of the One who comes to us renewed allows us to move forward to where we might be called.

I pray you join me that evening. If not for you, then for us. Perhaps that will be your sacrifice: a little time in a sacred space where God might be found…that is how we will unwrap the greatest gift of Advent.
 


I’ll Sort Them Out Later…

Yesterday, the church and school went on ‘safe mode’ or lock down. An active shooter was reported less than a block away, two bodies were found, and a SWAT Team was called in. The area looked like it was under siege! While we still do not have all of the details, we do know that several police and news helicopters hovered overhead, roadways were blocked, and area police were dispatched to the scene. My house was in the midst of it and I was unable to return there until much later in the evening, and even then, I needed permission and an escort.

Father John Francis suffered a heart attack late Monday evening at his residence. He was rushed to St. Francis Medical Center in Delaware. He arrived in time, received now two stents to help with blood flow and reduce clotting. Luckily, at least as of this writing, he is on the mend and without the need for a Coronary Bypass. He is resting comfortably with his family, and our prayers, by his side.

The President, dignitaries and world leaders, close friends, and family all gathered as one people – setting aside petty differences and political rivalries – in our nation’s capital today at the Washington National Cathedral to honor and bid farewell to someone who served in public life for over 70 years. Today we, as a grateful nation, said thank you and goodbye to the 41st President of the United States. His life was not perfect, his policies not all we agreed with, but overall the world is better off having him been a part of it, then not. Today, God called home George H. W. Bush.

Contrast all of this, last evening, when one of our parishioners posted an image of the Holy Family detained behind a fence. It was actually a photograph taken at an Indianapolis based church. A political point? Perhaps. A Gospel statement? Absolutely. The Scripture mandates to us, as Christians are clear: the foreigner, the alien, the marginalized, the in need, the forgotten, the widow, and the orphaned. All of these ‘others’ are to be welcomed and included and given safe passage and sanctuary, as needed, IF we are truly following Christ. There are no exceptions. No ‘buts’ and no ‘what abouts or ifs’. The image, while provocative, is no more provocative than the one I used today for my own blog. Why? Because we need to repent, to change, and to become a people of love. We cannot do any of this without dying to self, letting of preconceived notions, listening to the voice of others (especially those we may not agree with), checking our prejudices; allowing for change from within.

After our parishioner posted this image, he ‘tagged’ me in it and soon someone on his ‘friends’ list was not very friendly at all! He lashed out at everyone, including me, without knowing a single thing about me, my work, my life, or my mandate to live differently. He lashed out at anyone who dare do the unthinkable and welcome the immigrant. There was no seeing, hearing, or feeling compassion for anyone other than to make his point the only one that mattered. Lives ending, lives in turmoil, moms and dads carrying their children thousands of miles to seek safety, none of that mattered. The only thing that mattered was hate. His first post was simple and direct, “Well don’t come here Illegally and maybe you won’t be ripped apart. I mean it’s VERY close to common fucking sense.” His next ones included the following lines:

 

  • People like you are the problem with this country. Everyone is free everything for free, and then you bitch about your tax rates. Poor illegal immigrants coming to the country let them stay let them stay, but won’t give them a home. We can’t just pop up fucking tent cities for every fuckin person that what’s to get in this country.

 

  • Here’s an idea, we’re gonna take 20% of your check and your whole family’s check for the rest of your natural born life – to support the number of illegal people that come into this country. How fast will you lift your pen and sign on the dotted line.

 

  • So why don’t you all crawl out of the your little perfect entitled must do right to humanity bubble and apply to REAL LIFE AND THE WAY THINGS ACTUALLY WORK.

 

  • Keep crying and crying and crying saying what’s right and what’s wrong and do this.

 

  • It’s f$#%^&g embarrassing. As are all of you!

 

It was unbelievable to me. Unbelievable that we, as a nation, have become so bitter. So hateful. So unwelcoming. It is unbelievable that we cannot hear any other viewpoints or even make room for the suggestion that we might actually find a way through this if only we work together.

I know that not every one of you will agree with the manner in which I see the world through my ‘Gospel lenses’, but I will always listen to you and your views. I will never dismiss you. I will certainly never disparage you in hate or abandon you. I also know that couple who lost their lives in that horrific scene down the street, no matter how they died, and the family of President Bush, and the first responders who ran to and not away, along with our teachers and staff and all who were impacted by the brevity of life for just a few moments yesterday; all of us, we would tell you something different today. At least that is my naïve prayer.

Oh, that church, Christ Church Cathedral, in Indianapolis, Indiana and part of the Episcopal Diocese, that posted the original image that caused all the above stir? The Rector put it best when he stated:

“Our job as faithful people is to welcome people with mercy. Our religious images are supposed to remind us where God’s heart is. God’s heart is compassion. With people who are in need, and our heart should be there, too.”

Perhaps this is a good season to step back and follow the old adage someone so poignantly attributed to God, “Just love everyone; I’ll sort them out later.”
 


We Are Called to BE Light!

This past week we prepared almost every day to be ready for Advent. For those of you who don’t know, I LOVE Advent! It is for me the most wonderful of all liturgical seasons as it combines a little of Lent with a whole lot of hope! That is also why I love this parish! We bring to the world, a means of being penitent for all the ways we fail, but a lot of hope because we welcome everyone, even in their brokenness. Here, no one is ever rejected, and all find a home, and the voices of others engage the fabric of who we are and make us even better.

As we ushered in the fresh evergreens and I saw the Christ Candle mounted into place upon the beautiful Advent Wreath, I began to pray to God, “Father I Heaven, in my brokenness and weakness, what can I do to make Advent wonderous for someone else?”  The answer came almost immediately when the Unidos Voices Project under the guidance and love of Father Rick Romero, asked me to speak on the value of the project.

The Unidos Voices Project allows our voices to be one of moderation, of reason, and of hope to the immigrant, the asylum seeker, and marginalized. We see today that the larger voices are those of building bigger walls, rather than extending our table to accommodate those in need. We are so set on our ways and vitriol that we fail to allow the voices of others to even have a place in our heated discussions. I was proud to lend my support – my voice – just as we, as a Sanctuary Parish, will always be welcoming to those who seek our protection.

This past week, we have witnessed the unthinkable again as children and mothers were gassed at our borders and asylum seekers of all ages were pelted with rubber bullets. We saw our government side with a nation who willingly murdered a reporter and dismembered his body to hide the crime, all for an unrealized as of yet $450 billion dollars, apparently the value of a human life now. We saw yet another mass shooting and the denial of what is apparent to so many, our climate is changing.  We witnessed hatred shared on Social Media and nooses hung in Mississippi.  Yes, we are a needed voice. The world needs more voices like ours and a parish like we created.

St. Francis once said, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” That is what we did together by gathering to create this humble parish. We became a candle that the darkness of winter and even hatred could not extinguish, and that the chaos of the world will never defeat. We are light. We are the new shepherds gathering on a cold winter’s night looking up at a star and saying, “He is here.”
 
We are called to be light!
 
Blessed Advent.
 


This Year, I am Grateful!

At Thanksgiving, we pause, even in a cursory way to consider what we’re thankful for. Usually, however, we’re more interested in the roasted turkey with all the trimmings, football games, holiday parades, and shopping than in the practice of deep gratitude. Isn’t it odd how on the one day set aside to give thanks for all we have, so many of us simply use it for a mad shopping rampage for even more stuff? After all, there is a big difference between being thankful and being grateful. So, this year I urge you to stop and give gratitude a try. 

Take a few moments tomorrow before your day begins to reflect on what you’re most deeply grateful for.  Most people’s lists are kind of short. Mine would most likely include Katelyn, my family, Sean, my friends, my ministry team, our parish board, my health, and a few material comforts like a warm bed at night, my CrossFit family, our nation (yes, even as it sits in such turmoil), the children and educators of our school, the historic cemetery we care for, (and Tucker and Friar, too, of course), and our beautiful parish! That about covers it, at least the start of my list for this year!

But I would like us all to try and go deeper this year. If you’re being thankful for something, say, our parish of Saint Miriam, be thankful for the whole thing, not just your favorite parts. I know that I am grateful for Saint Miriam and God’s providence that led us to create her from the ground up! She is a miracle in only ten years! I am grateful for all the varied people – all the kinds of people – all the races, all the ages and shapes and lifestyles and perspectives, all the colors and sexualities, and the varied versions of family that we embrace, the heroes, the lost, the lonely, and the ones who struggle. Everybody

If you are grateful for your family, why not pause and give thanks for the whole dang crazy lot of them, too! That whole wacky bunch that make up your family tree stretching back as far as it goes! Give thanks for Uncle John who ruins every holiday by getting drunk, and Aunt Bea who likes to pick on everyone’s spouse! Embrace the cheats and the losers and all those misfits that make your family, well…your family! Pause to thank God each and every one of them, for if it were not for them, you wouldn’t be here! 

If you are grateful for your health, thank God for your body! This amazing creation called a body may be older and weaker than you wish, but it keeps you alive. If you have a few health struggles, like I do, thank the Lord we are still around to fight them! Be grateful that this created, magnificent machine of a human body knows how to move, bend, lift, heal, and feel! Show your gratitude that your organs know how to digest food, fight germs, and heal itself! Even pain is a necessary gift, so take a pause and thank God for all the pain because it has made your body – and you– stronger and who you are today!

Yes, I wonder if we can all just be grateful for this one day? Is there a more deeply needed lesson for us on this Thanksgiving Day than to learn to simply be grateful? You cannot wait until the problems are over to start walking in faith. You cannot put conditions on holy God. You cannot say, “Lord, as soon as there’s enough money, I follow your instructions.”You cannot pray,“Lord, if you’ll just solve this issue in my family, I’ll start to go back to church again.”You cannot put conditions on God! Instead, God places a demand for faith on us, before anything at all has changed and we must begin in gratitude for all that we have been blessed with.

This past week, we honored those who are transgender because they have one tough road in a world filled with people ready to hate them. Not at Saint Miriam. I remembered Diamond Williams, who thanks to people like us, and a wonderful parishioner named, Richard Freed, she has had more Masses said for her since her death than any pope! But we must remember that people life us, and parishes like ours are sorely needed because just this year alone more than 369 Transgender people were murdered because of nothing more than hate. I hope you will support us, and our mission of true acceptance, by Clicking Here and joining me to make this world a bit kinder and whole lot gentler.

I was once asked why I sacrificed so much to build and maintain Saint Miriam? Why did I endure all the hardships, the public scrutiny? Why did I allow myself to be scourged in the press, beat up by other church leaders? Why did I persevere when ‘they’said it could not be done? Why did I allow myself to be the object of ridicule and scorn? Why did I contribute all my life savings and my retirement funds and still tithe at a rate that takes away half my income to keep us going? Why? Because I want to understand more and more about our wonderful Savior and that is a cost I am willing to endure because, in the end, I am grateful.