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.
 


Trash by the Side of the Road. Waste and People, too.

As many of you know, Katelyn and I reside less than a quarter mile from the parish doors directly on Bethlehem Pike. This morning I awoke to find discarded trash littering the front of our home. As I picked it up, I could only imagine that someone took the curve of the road while throwing trash from their car last evening, as they made the curve and continued on southward with nary a notice of what they did, and certainly without a care of whose property they littered. Sadly, without a doubt, we live in an instant gratification, all-for-me, throwaway society. We could care less about God’s planet, climate change, litter, recycling, and yes, even people. All, in today’s modern me-centered-world, are expendable.

This is why our annual concert and silent auction this coming Friday, November 16th, is so important. It is not just our single largest fundraising event, but it sustains us, our mission, and exemplifies our radical welcome to everyone and simultaneously show the world that we are in it together! No matter what may come, no matter what the need, no matter who is unable or able, we sustain a parish like no other: Saint Miriam.

By our willingness to spend a few hours on a Friday evening, as we begin to turn toward Thanksgiving and all that we are grateful for,  once year together, we enjoy a wonderful musical concert and see donated items that rival many larger corporations! We bid on items, as we sip wine and enjoy cheese trays and desserts, all the while knowing that every penny earned goes to support a mission we can believe in. We know, beyond any doubt, that we believe all life is valuable. From the affluent to the struggling. From the model citizen to the ex-offender. From the addicted to the recovering. From the straight to the gay. From the wedded to the divorced. From the White to the Brown, and everyone in between.  This is who we welcome at our doors and to our altar. God asked us to welcome the foreigner among us. It is more than a request, it is a Gospel mandate.

And that is why we are who we are. This is why we believe what we believe. This is how we welcome the citizen, the patriot, the migrant and the immigrant. God said so, we believe it. It is that simple.

Join us this Friday and show the world that no human is trash. Together, by our attendance and participation, we will raise funds to continue the work of the holy church, where people and planet are cared for, prayed for, and cherished.

See you Friday!
 


We Are Better Than This…YOU are Better Than This!

 

Another Mass shooting, No, not that one where Jews were killed in Pittsburgh, but this time where college students, and a police officer about to retire, were slaughtered at a nightclub in California. Too, a caravan of dangerous and exotic aliens is about to invade the country, so the President sends armed troops to ‘do something’. Now, to be sure, exactly what they will do we are unsure of since the military cannot operate within the country’s borders, but none-the-less they are there; some almost 6,000 of them so far! The problem is this highly publicized scary caravan is mostly made of women and children trying to escape poverty and gang activity the likes you and I will never know. The rhetoric says they are thugs, gang members and even terrorists. Farthest from the truth, if the truth matter at all anymore, but the world is whipped into a frenzy and brother has turned against brother over it. We even had a parishioner leave the church over my stance to love and welcome first. I was there for her when she needed me, you were, too! We grieved with her and her family, loved them beyond measure, and opened our hearts to them and made them a home. The politicians were not, but none of that matters anymore because the aliens are coming! These humble, desperate, and poor people, traveling thousands of miles on foot while we won’t walk to the corner store are mere migrants, foreignersto be sure, but those we are mandated as Christians to love and welcome, not shoot if they pick up a stone!

And, how can we forget the latest political turmoil! An Attorney General fired, a campaign that caused people to hate one another and call one another names the likes we have never witnessed on the political landscape, or any other for that matter! A senior member of the White House press corps that upholds the best of the Constitution yanked of his press credentials because he dares stand up to the President, and the video to prove his culpability factory-made! Then at that very same a Press Conference, our President in no way represented the highest office, or the highest ideals of the land that he and others are elected by the people to do. Instead, we witnessed a gathering where African Americans and women were belittled and ridiculed by the one sworn to uphold and protect them. And let us not forget the letter bombs sent to those 14 ‘soft targets’ and a protest at a Fox News host’s home that went way too far. The reason: politics and hate and self-preservation.

No, this is not the greatest generation. This is not the greatest country on the face of the earth. This is not the mightiest or the best or anything wonderful when the least, and the loneliest, the most frightened, and the ones most in need of our love and protection are thrown into the sea of the political and hate-filled landscape like chum to sharks in a feeding frenzy. We are better than this,or at least we used to be.

And before you send me a nasty message about me weighing into politics, (Here is my email link if you wish to get ahead start!) I will once again remind you: my job as a Priest is to protect the issues that are affront to the Gospel that I follow, and the One who gave it to me. And my job as a Pastor is to admonish when I, or you, or the country, or anyone else, or the world is so wrong. I take my duties as sacrosanct. You better, too!

Yes, as a Catholic and a Christian, you should, too! You should be exhausted by the surge of division and the rhetoric that sows seeds of violence from those who know better. (No, not who should know better, but those who actually do!) You should be afraid of the tide of hatred, violence, suspicion and the lack of caring and outright hostility aimed at those of a different political party, or Jews, Muslims, Immigrants and Refugees, Blacks, Gays and Lesbians, and those seeking health care! And if you don’t see the error of where we are as a nation, then no matter what I post here will make any difference. But if you do, if you see the way we should be,and if you would stop being right long enough to be vulnerable and humble again, than you better get to work before it’s too late, and more lives are lost, and we, as a nation, are irretrievably lost.

 Look, we at saint Miriam, and I, as human being and even as a priest, don’t treat other people with dignity and respect and equality because of what we do. We don’t treat other people with dignity and respect and equality even because they deserve it or even because they have somehow earned it! We treat other people with dignity and respect and equality because we believe that allpeople deserve dignity and respect and equality. Period! No matter who they are, no matter what they believe, no matter the color of their skin, or the creed they observe, and most importantly, no matter how they even treat us. We treat them so because those are our Christian values. Those are the values of the One I – and you – should adore and worship and serve; me, as a priest, and you as someone who claims to be a Catholic.

We are better than this. I know, too, that YOU are better than this!  Well, at least we used to be, or maybe we just thought we were. Either way, today we must ask ourselves two vital and determinative questions: (1) Is this the nation we are, and (2) And is this – all the this that has come to be – compatible with the Christ we claim to follow. Think of that this Sunday as you nestle Him into the nave of your hand and pray for His peace. 

The Pentagon is calling the troops to the border, “Operation Faithful Patriot”.  We better begin to operate as faithful Christians, or what we lose will be far greater than any country and its people.
 


Unexpected Instruments of Hate: Guns, People, and Even the Bible.

This past Sunday was the anniversary of my becoming a Deacon. I was ordained on October 29that St. Mary Magdalene Parish and it was there my formation continued until I left to become a full-time Trauma Chaplain. It was also there that I continued my emphasis on ensuring that I always stayed a deacon. As I often say, a good priest is always a deacon first! We must be willing to serve and to serve well, even dying to self, daily, if we are ever to maintain our priestly vows; this all begins with the diaconate.

Every time I hit one of these jubilee dates, even though few if anyone remembers them but me, I am reminded to sit in silence and reflect. I ask God to help me self-evaluate my effectiveness as a pastor, as a priest, as a man. Am I worthy to remain at my current post? Am I to go elsewhere? Am I too tired and need God’s inspiration? Have I fallen and need a respite? I evaluate where I am on these special days in order to ensure I am not ‘outlasting’ my call in any one place, even here at Saint Miriam, a place – and a people – I love beyond measure.

In light of the past weeks’ tragedies and horrific crimes in our nation, especially against the Jews murdered by a mad man as they worshiped God in their place of worship, on their holy sabbath, inspired to hate even deeper by the rhetoric of our ‘anti-everything’ climate, I paused to remember the words of the Talmud (the book of Jewish law), and prayed over these words, a paraphrase of the Prophet Micah:

“Do not be daunted, by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

These words reminded me of my obligation to sometime be even hated by others, as I commit the hard tasks required of the Gospel. I thought of how I have only spoken out against the current political climate on three occasion in the past, as pastor: Once, over the attempt to repeal health care benefits to the nation’s most vulnerable. Next, when immigrants were turned away for no other reason than their nationality. And, Finally, over the ending of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the separating of alien and immigrant children from their parents and the use of what amounts to prison camps for their detention. For me, to walk humbly is to care for others, even those we may not agree with, and especially in the world’s most vulnerable.

This past week I clearly supported the poverty, and immense needs of the people walking in the caravan from Honduras – some of the world’s poorest of the poor – by my openly posting a message that anyone ‘who can walk 3 grueling months with a child to escape violence and poverty’ for a better life can live next to me anytime. What a negative reaction I received from some very unexpected people! Vitriol, hatred, and false facts all to serve as a means to justify what amounts to nothing but hatred of the alien; something so contrary to the Gospel that I cannot – must not – remain quiet. In fact, none of us who claim to be followers of Jesus can remain quiet in the face of such hate. If we do, Jews die, Black men and women die, police officers, die, the world’s poor die and we – you and I – we share the blood of them all for our lack of resolve.

The issues around politics, immigration reform, border security, child abuse, the rights of humans as human beings, freedom of the press, and the governance by compassion for all peopleare tough issues. None will be solved by social media fighting, but, too, none will be solved by us remaining silent as thousands suffer, and even die. Arming people with weapons, whether a gun or a bible used as an instrument of hate wills serve no good end.

Elie Wiesel once penned, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Words that every priest – and every follower of Christ Himself – should wear upon their breast as well. Why? Because ‘we are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are we free to abandon it.’

 



The Ugly America(n)

 

I would imagine of all the misunderstood titles; a special place belongs to William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick’s novel “The Ugly American.” Today, the phrase is often used as shorthand for our compatriots who wear tube tops on their visit to The Vatican, or those who shout out for Big Macs in Beijing. Thismulti-million-copy bestselling novel coined the phrase for the tragic and devastating indictment of American policy abroad,which depicted the struggle against insurgent Communism in the fictional nation of Sarkhan.Perhaps the book’s most enduring legacy is its argument that ‘we spend billions on the wrong aid projects while overlooking the almost costless and far more helpful ones’. Today, it is not the tube top wearing, Big Mac shouting Americans we need to worry about; it is us.

Today, as I sat down to write an entirely different Blog, someone tried to assassinate with an explosive device and perhaps even a biological agent, two United States Presidents, a Secretary of State, CIA Director, an Attorney General, the Governor of the State of New York, a US Congressperson, and the former head of the Democratic National Committee, not to mention a private United States citizen and a news agency. And, to be clear, it wasn’t just these ‘targets’ that could have been harmed or even killed, it was every person that handled the packages and deliveries: from unsuspecting postal workers, to couriers and helpers, to an unlucky good Samaritan who decided to place the package on a doorstep of a neighbor.Yes, this was an attack on every one us.  As I wrote in a Facebook post, “Let that sink in for a minute before your next post. This has gone far beyond our political differences and now threatens to tear the very fabric of what makes us us..”

I ask myself today, what have we become? What has become of the ideal that politicians were elected to make us safer and our country more productive and caring? Where have all the cowboys in white hats gone, and why do we feel as if we are surrounded by so many black-hat-wearing ‘Black Barts’?

I once romanticized about my remembering when the 200th anniversary of our country occurred. It was a very big deal! And, growing up in Erie, PA, we only had one newspaper: the Erie Daily Times. Now, to be sure, they wanted you to believe they had competition! That is why on Sunday the newspaper that was delivered to your doorstep at the hands of a young newspaper carrier was called, “The Sunday Times News”, but you guessed it, same paper, same publisher, different name!

So, what was the significance of the paper and the year 1976? Color ink was introduced to mainstream news publishing and this edition – the one that celebrated our country and it is 200th bicentennial birthday was in glowing colors of Red, White, and Blue stripes all the way down Page One! And yes, above and below the fold! (Like I said, it was a very big deal!)

At any rate, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! So, when it was delivered, I ogled at every tint of color and at every word and then I found a box, wrapped it lovingly and carefully in tin foil from my mother’s kitchen cabinet, and placed it gently under my bed for safe keeping! I was proud to be an American that day, even as youngster. Today, I am still proud, but I am sorely disappointed. This is not the country I remember.

It is time. It is time for us to be better again. While the facts remain unsure and still developing, and the investigation still ongoing from the terrorism that happened across our nation today, it is time to put away our divisive chants, rejection of all the ‘others’ we think not endowed with the same human rights as us, let go of our hate-filled rhetoric and mean-spirited natures and appeal to something that wants to be let out again: The spirit of a good American, a global citizen, no matter your political, fraternal, social, or religious affiliation.

It is time to love again and remove the ugliness from our culture and from the world we impact. If not, what we will lose will be far greater than an election.

 


Be Fearless!

 

Sometimes I wonder why everyone doesn’t have a bit of courage. I don’t mean courage to fight fires or crime, like our brave firefighters and police officers, but just enough daily courage to ensure that dreams come true for someone else.

Sometimes, as a priest, I have to tell stories of others to impart the ideal that all dreams can actually come true. I am living testimony to that fact, and while that doesn’t mean they will always come true, more often than not, dreams do come true, or a new and more wonderful and unexpected versions of that original dream arises into reality! But we must first step out in generosity and faith.

Our stories are so often intertwined. Your story becomes part of my story, which then becomes part of their story. It is a small miracle in and of itself if you think on it deeply enough. All of us have hopes, desires, dreams, but many think that dreams coming true is fictional, or that they only come true for others; the brave, the fearless, the worthy, the good, those deserving enough of it to actually happen; you know, all the others.

The thing is, we all can make our dreams come true, it just takes courage, conviction, a plan, and dedication. We must simply make our dreams part of the fabric of our reality by imagining our wildest dreams as true today. For most people, that scares them intensely and it may not happen overnight. But, if you do it over time, little bits and bites now and then, here and there, but with consistency, soon, the dream arises with a familiarity as your next breath!

Look around you for a moment and marvel. All that you see here at Saint Miriam was a dream of mine just a mere 10 short years ago. And while I am not particularly courageous, I am fearless! There is a difference! I am fearless because I just kept going when others – so many others – said it could never be done. Oh, I have stumbled and made many mistakes along the way, and I could have given up and taken many of yourdreams with me in the process, but instead, I stayed in the water, even when it was so frigid that it almost broke my very bones, and I held on to my dream, and soon I was slaying dragons across the great castle mote! But none of this was for me, it was for you, your family, your children, and their children yet to come. It was all for someone else.

Yes, all that we have built here: the parish, the walls, the liturgy, the library, the bell tower, the school, the cemetery, the inclusion, the music, the gardens, the Café, the people…all of it took a dream and a little bit of courage. It is what demands creativity, deliberateness, consciousness, and connectivity to others. Courage is staying put when others so quickly run away from the hardship that is ultimately part of the process of dreaming and building.

Courage is what built this dream  – our dream – thus far…what’s next? Not sure, but I remain fearless and I pray you will, too!