The Spider, The Beetle, and Me

 
I am sure that beetle thought itself clever. You know, the way it managed to crawl all the way from the earth below, and then run along the edge of the glass pane at my office window. That is, until it found out that Charlotte had been waiting there, ever so patiently. For how long, you ask? Who knows…but she is very patient.
 
Charlotte, my quasi-affectionate name for the rather large spider that has been relentless in her building of webs that sometimes are so large they engulf my entire view from my parish office window, has been hard at work this early September already. I thought that I had lost her, or that she had gone to perhaps spider-heaven, but no… she is back, and this time with a vengeance! Her web has not just poor Mr. Beetle, but also a few others that haplessly wandered into her path and now find themselves stuck, literally, in her grip of web-stuff. Yes, no matter how clever we think we are, there is always someone cleverer, and more ingenious, and always waiting for us…for good or for ill.  
 

A. Bartlett Giamatti, American professor of English Renaissance literature, in his “The Green Fields of the Mind, once said that “There comes a time when every summer will have something of autumn about it.”  As the days decrease, shadows now lengthen and autumn grows, I find myself observing the word in a different way. I like the rhythm that is happening to my world. There is a regularity that is fast returning, like Charlotte. The preschoolers and kindergarteners once again fill the halls of our schools, the folks who were away all summer are quickly returning to the pews, and soon the children of PREP/CCD will begin to learn about God again. The Season of Ordinary Time will soon yield its greenish hue to the blue of Advent and before you now it, a new year will dawn with the Blessed Virgin on New Year’s Day! Yes, there is comfort in the changing of the seasons and the winding down of life this time of year. A time when the summer winds calm enough to allow the ‘Charlottes’ of my world to build their webs.

For the past few years, it has become my custom in autumn to evaluate what needs to be relinquished in my life. Sometimes possessions weigh me down. At other times, I find that it is all of my character flaws that burden not only me, but everyone who lives with me, or works with me, as well. I look into all of the dark closets of my life that need cleaning out, including that one which contains my heart each autumn and I ask myself, “Is there anything I could surrender that would help me become a better person?” Then, I allow myself to be caught, like that beetle, but instead of by some predatory spider, it is by God Himself, who, too, has been waiting patiently for me all this time.

The older and perhaps a little wiser that I get, I have learned that no matter how cleaver we think we are, there is always someone, or something, all the more clever just around the proverbial corner. How about you?  Will you return to the parish now, engage more deeply, revaluate your commitment, and discover what is truly important, as you become closer to a God who saves? Or, will you remain empty and seeking that which you may already have had all along?
 
Many of us have been working hard all summer long. While you have been away on your summer respites, we have been working long days to keep us afloat – physically and financially – so you have a beautiful and welcoming parish home to return to this season. Is it time for you to take stock of the beauty and the gift that is Saint Miriam?
 
PS I asked Brendan to remove that spider web from my window’s view later today. You see, no matter how wise we think we are, no matter how clever we are, there is always something more clever coming…
 


We may hide behind our latest avatar, but God sees us as we are…

 

I’ve noticed lately that many of you are pretty mean people! Oh, I know what you are thinking, “Me?” Yes, you!

As I have watched social media, especially Facebook lately, I have witnessed the decay of civilized discourse and an increase in true unadulterated hate and impatience with one another. The temperament of posts has become angry and mean-spirited and there is little room for disagreement. In fact, I sometimes need to pause and look twice at the name of who is posting and I find myself reflecting, “Is this the Jane Doe who is a member of Saint Miriam?”

I realize that we all must not – and often do not – agree on everything. Some of us squabble about musical selections, film choice, or food and restaurant preferences. But let the conversation turn to politics, and light-hearted conversation often quickly turns ugly. Now a new study has found that this may be because talking about politics engages the same part of our brains as war! Ahh, that explains it!

In a recent article, David Pietraszewski, a former researcher at University of California, Santa Barbara, says that, “As far as our brains are concerned, political affiliation is viewed more like membership in a gang or clique than as a dispassionate philosophical stance.” He reminds us that humans come from an evolutionary history that included conflict among groups or factions. It was important for individuals to know, if a dispute were to break out, which individuals line up with ‘us’ and which with ‘them.’

This is further exacerbated by the fact that most of us have a habit of only paying attention to the information that supports their perspective. We tend to only believe the claims of the candidate we endorse and to perceive the claims of the other as being patently dishonest. And the internet has made it all the easier to only pay attention to confirming evidence! If people believe a certain thing, they can usually find a website to validate their position, or a social media platform to enhance their voice. That has also enabled the spread of these exaggerated claims even easier because anyone can post just about anything they want to in these forums without any regard for truth or accuracy. This leads to a feeling of isolation and that feeling of isolation can spawn feelings of resentment and frustration, and yes, anger. So, we become mean.

I wonder if it is all worth it? Do we really think that everyone will simply forget that Meme we posted with one candidate in ‘black face’ or our racially charged overtones? When the election we are so enthralled with us over, where will we return for support and love and care? The folks back at Saint Miriam whom we called liars because of their open and loving stance or resistance to fall into a political scrabble? Will we be able to sit comfortably next to someone in a pew this Sunday when on Tuesday we posted something so hateful?

Many blame ‘the system’, or the economy, or personal financial situations, or racism, or the lack of jobs, or government, but survey and study after survey and study finds that most folks are pretty content. We may have simply fallen in the way of our own evolution! A good old fashioned pause to reflect may just be the answer to making us a kinder and gentler people worthy of inhabiting the pew this Sunday. The world sure could use a few of us…

When we log into a computer system or platform or social media page, we are often prompted with choosing our profile. For some, it is always the same, but for others it seems lately that we have many profiles and some are more hateful and angry. Perhaps it is time to reflect on ourselves and who we really are before we hit “post” on the social media platforms?
 
We may hide behind our latest avatar, but God sees us as we are…
 
 


Old Brooms into New Life?

 

Well it is almost time to fall back! I know, I know…but it must happen! As hard as it will be to admit, the summer is waning and the heat will soon give way to cooler temperatures and autumn breezes; leaves will begin to turn color and life will return to a regular pattern.

I may be the odd man out, but I find great comfort in the regularity that is fast approaching. Summer is always exciting with new people coming into the parish, some permanently and some just passing through on their own summer’s journey, breaks and family visits, and warm weather and beach time, too. But I do like to see the stability of the regular faces in the pews, especially the families and their children, as school returns and the season changes to one of a rhythm of normal expectations. Yes, there is comfort is being on a regular schedule and pattern in living.

As we all begin to get past this final weekend of picnics and time away and finally turn our thoughts to coming home to church again, I’d like us all to remember what makes Saint Miriam so special. You see, unlike an old broom, we don’t simply discard a person when they are broken or when they are not quite able to do a job. We also find a place for everyone within our community, no matter where they come from or what others think of their past. 

Unfortunately, not all folks operate under that context, but we do. Sometimes when someone is not meeting all the needs of the job or a community of faith, they are made to feel inferior. They can feel devalued when more emphasis is put on their weaknesses and mistakes, rather than on any strengths or success. People are more likely to remember the few mistakes and easily forgot all the times a task was done correctly, if there remains not a few of us to remind them that they are loved and whole and needed.

We hold fast to the basic Catholic tenet that each of us is made in the wonderful image and likeness of God, as our Creator. Therefore, we each hold unique skills and abilities and that is why we welcome everyone to our parish and our altar. In fact, if you asked me to get up and lead the assembly in song, I would fail miserably, unlike Charlie or Maria who amaze me every week! Likewise, I might prepare a pretty standard sandwich, but Lorraine would make me cower to one of her tasty meals! You see, it would not be due to my lack of effort or desire either, because I love to sing and cook! But since I wasn’t blessed with those particular talents, I’ve found other segments of church life to get involved with and where I excel.

The same concept applies to each of you! Each of us brings something new and different to the parish that makes us vital and strong! We can all work towards a similar goal, but we may get to the end result in a different way or time frame. That is why this fall, I ask you to pray and take a closer look at the many ways you might shine within our own walls!

Perhaps God is calling you to be refreshed and teach a child, read His holy word as a lector, serve at Mass as an acolyte, care for the linens and paraments we use as a sacristan, or become more involved with pastoral care, or one of our Small Groups? Perhaps God is also calling you back to a regular rhythm in Mass attendance, giving to support our work, or joining us for Thursday liturgy, rosary, or the newly announced Adoration time? After all, God has done so much for us…for you…for your family…is it not time to give something back?

Let’s all go back to our roles next week with a refreshed purpose – following the servant leadership model that Jesus set as an example. Know that no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes – including me. Strive to lovingly hold ourselves and others accountable for their commitments and work to overcome short-comings and obstacles together. But let us rejoice and show the world what makes Saint Miriam so special…all of us old brooms have now become renewed!

 


All My Goodbyes Hurt.

 
 

Pope Francis spoke recently on the ministry and life of priests and on priestly training, noting the priests’ role as coming from the community and being for the community. He added that the family, the domestic Church, is the center of pastoral work, stating that “the relationship between priests and other people … given that the vocation to the priesthood is a gift that God gives to some for the good of all.”

Yes, I believe this more and more. When I left hospital chaplaincy to enter parish work, my life changed. I was very happy as a Trauma Chaplain, but God wanted me here; to build a parish. So I went where I was called. It has not been easy, but it has been very rewarding despite the great hardships and sacrifices. But, in parish ministry I have learned the one great truth: I am always saying goodbye and every goodbye hurts just like the last.

Sometimes I have found that folks think we are like superhuman, devoid of feelings or needs. The Holy Father said this best when he stated that “Priests are not ‘mushrooms’ which sprout up suddenly in the cathedral on the day of their ordination.” Yes, we come from you, serve you, are you. We feel and we hurt, too, just like you.

These past few months, I have tended to and cared for a dear parishioner. She has become part of my life and inseparable from the very soul of this parish. She has been ill for quite some time, but despite her illness she has attended Mass faithfully, had me over for dinner several times, called me at least once weekly to check in on me, opened her heart and her home to my presence, and never once failed to give financially to help us grow. She prays for us, our parish and people, prays for me, and all the while was withering away from the effects of cancer that somehow would not cease.

I have prayed to God for relief and mercy. I have even asked God to allow me to become sick again with my brain tumor if it would relieve her of hers. I have begged God not to take this one; not this one who loves so deeply and lives so well. This week, she went to hospice care. Soon, she will go to be where we all long to be. I am not a mushroom. I hurt.

The hardest part of being a pastor is always saying goodbye. It seems that I am forever saying goodbye to someone. Former staff, disgruntled parishioners who feel their voice was more important than others, or to those with hidden agendas that do not mesh well with us here at Saint Miriam. We live by mutual respect and a deep love for God that is to trump our own needs. We live by the Saint Miriam Covenant.

Sadly, there are a few times when the parting is intentional. That is, after all, my job as a pastor. In the last eight years of our life together, I have only asked three parishioners to stake a step back from their attending here. The issues are always related to addiction, or some psychological needs, or harming others. I have not just sent them in their way, but offered support and advice and resources, as well as an open door to come back one day. Mostly they refuse and lash out at me in anger, but I have a parish to protect. All of you.  So I accept the abuse and then go back to my office and cry.

I have also had to ask a couple of staff members to go, too. Not because they were not good people deep down, but because they lied, or were deceitful, or refused to give and to serve. I cannot always tell you why I let them go, but you should know me well enough by now to know that I tried to work it out, gave them every opportunity to change or make amends, but in the end, it is always about you when that difficult decision is made. You see, you cannot be here at the parish if you are not willing to put others first and to honor the collar around your neck. You cannot serve here if you cannot live a life of honesty and integrity, including your faults and flaws.

So the truth is hard, but it is very true: We are not a psychiatrists, and this is not a counseling center, or a hospital, and when the needs or instability of the one begin to infringe, harm, or abuse the whole, I must step in and ask that they seek help and support from qualified persons or leave us, at least for a time. I do not stop caring or loving or praying, but my job is to care and to protect all of us from harm. This is a church.

Over the next few days, I will do what I always am called to do – what I have done so many countless times already in my life as a priest – and help someone cross from this life into the arms of a God who always is love. I will do so with the integrity of my office as a priest. I will do so as a caring pastor who has given everything that I have, and all that own, to build this parish. I will do so as a man who loves deeply and was given this chance to serve by folks like you who forgave my mistakes and my sinfulness and allowed me to serve you. But, I will surely grieve. I will hurt. I already am…

So I pray you will stay in the water and see what God wants of us next, even when you don’t quite get it.  And I leave you with the real lessons that I have learned in all my hellos and all my goodbyes. I’ve learned that goodbyes will always hurt, pictures never replace having been there, memories good or bad will bring tears and words can never replace feelings. And, oh ya, and one more…trusting is hard, but think of those 12 when Jesus left…
 
 


My Life as I Date St. Francis and Honor God.

 

My blog is late! I know. Sorry. I have been a little busy with the Synod. Have you ever been in a room with 25 clergy all day long?

Yesterday we ordained a new priest and we also renewed our own priestly vows and our vows of obedience to the bishop. It was moving and heartfelt. It was good to be among my family, my brothers in the presbyterate, parishioners, friends, and my sisters in faith as we gathered in one place and welcomed God into our lived anew. And, later today, we will welcome home two new Franciscan Friars and I will renew my own Solemn vows. I don’t need to, as I have made my Solemn Profession and live it every day, but I want to with my brothers as a way to remind me and those around me that I believe…

You see, the vows and the vow formula are always the same, those in Simple Profession have the same commitment as someone like myself who has made his Solemn Profession, but it is renewable every four to seven years, as a reminder of who we are. Did you catch that? I said who, not what. What we are is who we are as Franciscans. It permeates our very being, our actions, our thoughts, and the way we see the world around us. We live as Friars in a world that thinks us sometimes mad. We serve, and give, repulse and attract, and care for, and sometimes bleed all in the name of our Seraphic Father, St. Francis. It is who we are.

As I stood in our Sanctuary yesterday during the ordination, and later as we gathered for our Sacred Meal Dinner, I thought about how much I really love this way of life and the community that I have come to be a part of and embraced by over the last eight years. I also thought about how powerful and moving the profession formula is. I don’t think there is a prayer, especially within the Franciscan tradition, that I love more than the profession formula.

For me, it contains a richness and beauty that bespeaks the desire one has to follow in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi in living the Gospel, keeping always in mind and making a priority the communal dimension of our way of life in the world. It is a strong a reminder of what our way of life is about: prayer, ministry, all that we are about — in community.  It was, in many ways, the community that first drew me to religious life; to belong. And, in many ways, it is what continues to nourish and sustain my vocation now as a priest here at Saint Miriam.

Like Baptism, religious profession is always about relationship. We are joined together in a unique way: in Baptism, we are united to one another and to Christ in the Spirit; in religious profession, we are united in community to live the Holy Gospel. We are called now to share now with others, albeit and admittedly however imperfectly, striving ever more to live for the One who has called us in the first place to find in the Communion of Saints, the Body of Christ – the living and the dead – the strength to follow Christ and become who we are called to be one day, “With the help of my brothers”, as states the most moving line for me.

So here it is, a portion of the profession formula we will hear later today. 
 

Therefore with all my heart

I give myself to this brotherhood

That through the work of the Holy Spirit,

The intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary,

Our Father Francis and all the saints,

And with the help of my brothers

I may fulfill my consecration

To the service of God and of the Church.

This I promise.
 
 
Yes, this I do promise again, as I continue to be in love and date the God of all…
 
Thank you to all who have so kindly offered their love and prayers for me. Please pray for me, a sinner.
 
 
 


I Need You, Too.

 

When I was a child my friends and I used to find daisies in the large field near our homes and pull off their petals, one by one, to figure out if the boy or girl of our recent infatuation loved us or not! I am sure all of you did the same at one time or another! Well, I may have grown up now, and may not have a daisy in my hand, but I wonder if you love me enough to hear me this week?  We now begin to turn – ever so slowly – to fall! I know, I know, but we must! And it is a busy time for parish life! That is why I am asking for your help.

I’ve been at the helm of Saint Miriam now for almost nine years. I have never left you and I have been there – side by side – for many life events and wonderful moments, from weddings and baptisms to birthdays and births to those anniversaries and receiving that good news that you are now cancer free! I have also been there to see you through some of those worst times of sorrow, illness, divorce, and life transitions in so many forms. We have grown together from a 2-person church in rented space to a parish of well over 500 families and still climbing in a building and grounds that we actually own now! A miracle in and of itself, but also a testament to the will, devotion, sacrifice, and prayers of those who guide and support her! We have a beautiful updated parish, an historic cemetery, a beautiful campus, a wonderful school, new iron gates and statues to welcome people, and soon a new friary and outdoor wedding garden. We have added meditation areas, a pet memorial garden, and our new St. Francis of Assisi Green Memorial Section F is soon to be opened, too. We have much to be proud of, but it takes a lot of work, a lot of care, and a lot of my effort to pastor it all, and, to be direct:  I am tired.  That is where you come in! I need your help with three primary objectives. They are:

(1) This coming week we will host a gathering of our clergy and bishops. Some twenty-five of us will gather and pray and make decisions that will impact the greater church for years to come. I hope you will pray for us, but also attend the Ordination of Brother Jeffrey Wolfe on Wednesday the 17th of August at 10:30am, and also the consider joining us for a special Sacred Meal Dinner Group that same evening at 6:30pm! I know you will have to adjust your schedules and make room in your life, but I do so for all of you every day, and I hope you can do this for me to show the clergy our love and support of me, as your pastor, but more importantly, our parish.

When we drafted this year’s annual budget, we did not add a salary for me once again. Now, to be honest, it was at my direction and urging. But, as we have now experienced so much in the past eleven months, I have noted that I cannot endure all of this pastoring and continue to teach and officiate at as many weddings as I do and still remain healthy. (2) I am asking for you to consider increasing your weekly giving to allow me to receive a modest salary of $25,000 a year. It will take all of us together to make that work, as I do not wish to cut from an already streamlined budget. I also need you to attend fundraising events (like the Hawaiian Luau coming on Saturday, August 20th!) and to volunteer to help us around the parish and campus. More hands make less contractors that we need to hire and eases the burden on our overall budget.

(3) Finally, I need you to pray for vocations. You have all noted that I cover most of the masses at Saint Miriam. Father Joe’s health issues with colitis have prevented him from fulfilling his obligations and traveling the distance to our parish, and he has only been on campus one or two days every month and I need a priest who can be here more. Too, as many of you are aware, he has a small mission church that he would like to tend to close to home near New York. I have agreed and that parish will fall under a new bishop for missions. And, our own Father Bryan also travels quite a distance and does everything he can to support me and the work of our parish, but he has a few health issues that prevent him from increasing his workload. Father Ken is also on the team and will begin to fill in where needed, but also has a few health issues to tend to first. And, the fall season is coming quickly and soon we will have more folks attending mass, more children filling the halls of our school, and more visitors and newcomers and those who need us. For all of this to work, they – and you – will need a strong pastor. And that pastor, well, I need you, too!

Soon the autumn will bring back our InGathering Mass, Small Groups, and so much more! We have created a new brochure to help with these and also a brand new walking tour map for you to enjoy our meditation areas and historic figures buried within our cemetery, too! All of this and so much more, is always being worked on by your parish team. A team that loves to work for you, but needs and deserves your support.

Please think again about your commitment to us. Please pray for us and attend fundraisers and special events to let us know that they matter to you! And please consider increasing your giving and adding a pastor’s pledge today by Clicking Here.
 
Why? Well because I need you, too!
 


Something Greater than Pokemom.

 
 

The world is a horrible place. I know. A priest shouldn’t feel that way, but I do. Cops being ambushed and killed, mistrust, ISIS, terrorism, mass murder in night clubs, stolen valor, gutter politics, tropical storms that kill, missing jet liners, Gold Star families being dishonored, Black Lives not mattering (not really), beautiful hot air balloons not being so beautiful after all, and let us not forget Zika, bullies, people not attending church, human trafficking, road rage, hackers, the proliferation of assault weapons, cults, riots, prejudice and hatred, politicians who are no longer honorable, bridge collapses, texting and distracted drivers, North Korea, cancer, and how can we fail to remember we all have Facebook, too?

For those of you who worry about these things, and many more, I want you to know that you are not alone. I worry, too. I often feel exactly as you do, and perhaps that makes me qualified to answer why these things happen, or perhaps it makes me especially unqualified to answer that longing question we all hold within our hearts, ‘why?’ And, I know beyond any doubt, that whatever I say here today will be wholly insufficient and unsatisfyingly incomplete and perhaps even exhausting.

The first step in defeating fear, reducing anxiety, and trusting God is by using something we call prayer. I know, I know! You seem to feel that as a priest it sounds like the ‘easy out’ or trite answer, and to a certain extent, it is just that! It’s the Christian equivalent to the encouragement we so easily give to that teenager after she breaks up with her first boyfriend: “Oh, honey, there, there now…there are other fish in the sea.”  Both are offered almost as an innate, automatic reflex, and often not for sincerity, but for lack of us having anything better to say.

Yet, in the end, both are also very true. There are plenty of other boys in the world, and we all have gotten over heartbreak and somehow seem to meet that ‘someone’ else; AND prayer remains the best way to trust God and fight fear and become better people. Our battle plan as followers of Christ is more than futile if it does not include vigorous and frequent prayer.  I know this for sure because I live it every day.

Sometimes, I will admit that in my weaker moments, when I am exhausted or troubled most deeply, I’m tempted to look at all of these things that I listed at the beginning of this reflection and think that God has just given up. Somehow, God just tore up the human blueprint and ran the other way without looking back. God just sat back, looked at the world and said, “Well, it was a good try, but these creations of mine are weak, mean, stupid, uncaring, unlovable, and with the capacity to love and I can’t take it anymore!”

The truth is that God knew what challenges we would face before we even faced them. He knew where our society would be before we were born into it. He knew of the despair, violence, terror, sadness, and misery before we felt it. God knew that our time would call for warriors, and so He sent us. He gave us the radical document to follow; simple in its intent, but complex in its execution. It is called the Gospel of Our Lord.

This might be a very dumb question for a world who seems to have forgotten how to pray, but have you asked God for help in trusting Him? Have you asked Him to help you fight the fear and loneliness? Have you gone to Him – I mean really gone right to God and asked Him to help – not just you, but all of us in the world today?

Our journey, in the end, will be meaningless and futile without hope and trust in something greater than Pokemom. The world is a horrible place without hope and love, and you and I are in it for a reason.

 


God Rocks! (But We Need to Help, too!)

 

I know. I think the same things often, too. How can God be good when the world seems so bad? War, conflicts, terrorism, global warming, politicians who seem not to care about much other than advancing their agenda, shootings in night clubs, police being hunted and slain, gang wars in the inner-city, and now Daesh has slain a fellow priest, Father Jacques Hamel, while he was celebrating Mass, as he had done for over 50 years now, in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France. And while I abhor what happened, I will not fall into fear or allow terror to win. We – together – simply can’t allow it.  We all must recognize that their intent in going after such a provocative target as a Catholic priest is to trigger a backlash against Muslims in France, and around the world, and thereby to drive Muslims into the recruiting arms of the Islamic State. We can change that process by us being more involved right here at home. Yes, you and I can help change the world dynamic by being steadfast to our faith, supporting our church, and praying for the world while we openly love and embrace Muslims, and other religions of the loving God, we gather to worship every week as we have without fail for some nine years now. We can show others how to love, even in the moments of dark shadows, until the light beams brightly again for everyone.
 
So, yes, God still rocks! He truly does, but we need to help God make His way through us into the world. Now, perhaps more than ever, the church is needed, but a church can’t continue to thrive and carry out its mission without funding and support. We have been falling short this summer and it surprises me after all that we have built here and been blessed with by God. I thought for sure that this year, of all years, people would give more to build more, but it simply is not happening.
 
Like any organization we need resources to sustain us. The church is also unusual from most businesses in that it’s the only organization that exists for the benefit of those who are not yet members! Think of that!  If the church is to take God’s message to a hurting world and reach out to thousands who need Christ, the members – our family- have to help make it happen. That means you, and me, and all who attend Saint Miriam must be willing to give to support her, and no, the days of giving $5 a week simply doesn’t cut it (Just look at all the closed parishes around us). In order to sustain, we give the minimum, but in order to grow, we give from our abundance to build something greater. And, we do this by sharing what God provides to us in the first place as individuals, and showing that we care by giving generously – and first back to God – so that the money can be used for God’s work of building the Kingdom and shed light, and sprinkle salt wherever it is needed. Like in France. Like in Center City. Like in so many places who depend on places like us.
 
Would it surprise you to know that, as a pastor and priest, I don’t think people should be “talked into” giving money to God’s work? That is why we do not take up a collection at Mass, and we limit our verbal appeals. We should all want to give to show our joy and thanksgiving, and to ensure our parish is here next week, next month, next year. We have proven to be good and solid stewards of your donations. The Bible says we should give because we want to, and “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”, but I find that most need to be begged. This is a sin. Plain and simple. Even Jesus’ little band of disciples had a treasurer, and the Bible mentions several women who “were helping to support them out of their own means”.  In our own ministry, we have always tried to make people aware of the opportunities we have before us, and encourage them to support us as God leads them to do so. I can’t help but wonder, in a world so in need, and in a place like ours so vibrant and loving, why you would not want to help us remain secure?
 
Mark Estes said it best when he wrote, “We spend half our lives putting down cash or swiping our pieces of plastic for absolutely everything we consume. Yet, somehow we have this notion that church should be a place where we can get entertained, cared for, taught the Word of God, and served when we have trouble – but it should all come free.”   At Saint Miriam, we always point out that giving a part of what you have back to God is actually a good way to thank God for His care and provision of all that we have; giving should always begin with joy.  The world needs more joy; it really does.
 
My question for all of this week is this: What is the most important thing in your life? Is it Christ and God’s will—or is it something else, such as money? Yesterday, in France, the battle between dark and light, played out during the Holy Mass. The Church is now sadly and unbelievably joined to the pain and horror of this absurd violence. How will you help to ensure that we can all continue to be a beacon of hope and light?
 
 
 


Those who hear not the music think the dancer mad.

 

I CrossFit. I do so normally six days a week, and yes, often even when I am a bit sick. I even schedule my calendar and meetings around my workouts so to ensure that I rarely miss. When challenged about the intensity of the workouts, or that we should ‘take a break’, we often reply with the notorious response, “It’s a CrossFit thing, you wouldn’t understand!”
 
And, there is a lot of truth it that statement. Those who have not done so, or engaged in something like CrossFit that really fulfills them, changes them, provides a community and support system to fulfill dreams and goals, is deeply moving to them, and has changed their life in some deeply moving way, would not understand why anyone would do it. 
 
This is how I have come to see parish life. Those who stand at its periphery and never really get involved, or attend Mass regularly, or engage the wonderful Small Group opportunities that we provide, allow their children to learn in PREP/CCD, volunteer to help us grow, attend our numerous special functions to meet new friends and old, support fund raising events, contribute generously to ease her mission, and pray for one another, especially those who guide and shepherd us, often fail to understand why we do what we do. They simply fail and leave. They hear not the music…
 
I had a woman who recently left the parish. I never really understood why people felt the need to tell me they will be leaving, as if I am some toll collector upon their exit until I understood the music! You see, when you don’t hear the music, when you think the dancers mad, when you don’t yourself engage and are always on the outside looking in, you feel the need to run away, but as you do so – just like you’ve done so many times before – you want to feel that you are once again doing the right thing; you need to be affirmed in your choice that will again peel you away from a community of hope and support. So, you spew at the pastor and hope he will tell you it’s ok; you’re right!  Well, you’re not right. Sorry.
 
Being a member of a parish is like being part of a community, a family, a support system, a place where you go to find cool water on a hot day, refreshment when the world says it’s not available, a source of pride and nourishment that sustains and uplifts by the very food she offers you when needed the most. No, you will not always agree or identify with everyone, but is that not the way it is supposed to be? When will people learn it is far more important to stay in the water, than to run away and miss what’s coming? And it doesn’t come by mere osmosis, it comes only by being involved, and becoming part of that something wonderful. It also is a commitment to participate and engage even when you disagree with others, because sometimes – oftentimes – learning and growth come when our outer shell is broken enough to let the light in. Change and growth never happen sitting at home railing against the darkness while we are all alone and once again dreaming about what could have been with the shades drawn closed. 
 
CrossFit has changed my life. It has made me stronger to endure more and challenged me to do more than I could have done on my own. I am more fit, almost sixty pounds lighter, and for more willing to stretch and to believe in myself than ever before. I would never have done it on my own, it took others who believe in the community to bring me along, even when I was at my weakest. And, at the beginning, when I felt like quitting,  I never did.  That is why I am where I am today.
 
Come to think of it, that is the very same thing I can say about Saint Miriam.  I hear the music and it is grand!