Friday, December 24, 2010

Their Christmas Eve

I pulled up in front of the Catholic Charities Mission. A family with two small children boarded my bus. A little boy, likely around 7 and a little girl about 3 years old with their mom and dad. Homeless. My heart went out of my chest and tears came down my face. Thankfully sunglasses were covering my eyes. This is how some spend Christmas. I have seen this kind of scene many times before. Some people, at times, take a wrong turn~ it can happen to anyone.

The little boy hopped up on his father's lap and began pointing out the window at all the Christmas decorations around the town. The little girl was dozing off in her mother's arms. They were dressed thin coats and were shivering but expressed gladness to be on the bus where it was warm. It hit me hard this time. I see homeless people all the time~ day in and day out. I get to hear their stories~ their troubles as well as their joys. I've seen this countless times but for some reason this time is different. It was the little boy's eyes~ they were filled with hope...pure hope~ real hope.

It was hard for me to not keep thinking about him. How long, I wondered, would it be before he began to look like so many others. In pain, jaded. I don't know. I felt compelled to pray for this family. I will likely be thinking about them as I'm singing tonight at Mass. As they stepped off the bus and out into the city I watched them go. Putting aside my own preconceived ideas for a moment...the things that have been placed into my mind about how "people like that" don't work so they shouldn't, "get a handout." I know some people have made mistakes but not all...some merely need help. As soon as this thought crossed my mind these people became my loved ones. I remembered that Jesus Christ came for such as these...the little, the poor, the forgotten of society. It is how he arrived in a manger~ in Bethlehem.

I just wanted to share this with you for you to consider that, if life had been different, you could be in the same situation...I could be in the same situation. Give thanks to God for it~ in all circumstances. Continue to say thank you with your life. Don't take if for granted. However you can, by whatever means you've been given, bless others and you will be truly blessed. I hope you have a Merry Christmas. We have been given everything~ accept it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Frozen Fields

To look for life in frozen fields
Is to see beyond the day
Under death the truth reveals
How through death~
Life makes her way

In the womb and frozen ground
Silence in the dark and night
Knits together every sound
Which sings of the Eternal Light

We must live in present now
Yet rely on future means
Never knowing when or how
We know it is not as it seems

As in the flame and in the light
Growing in the wintry dark
A blaze approaching through the night
Watching now for fiery spark

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Our Unexpected Visitor

Last night I went with my daughter Sophia to a Vigil Mass which begins the Advent Season. She was excited to be “going it alone” with “Daddy” and I was even more glad that she wanted to go. It did not go as I expected...

One might expect, given it is the beginning of Advent (which means “Coming”) that the readings would have something to do with the approaching celebration of the Birth (Nativity) of Jesus Christ right? After all Christmas is approaching (fast) and Advent is “all about Christmas.” You know, decking halls and ringing bells and Fa, la, la, la, la in a nice little Manger far away? As often is the case in my Christian life I did not get what I expected. Here is an excerpt of the Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent:

“As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (From the 24th Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel)

In this teaching Jesus Christ is talking about NOT His own Birth but His second coming. “Son of Man” is the way Jesus often refers to Himself. Of course we realize that if Jesus is saying these words He is not a baby anymore. In fact this teaching takes place, chronologically speaking, soon before His death on the Cross! So why in the world would the Church decide to place this reading at the very beginning of the new liturgical year? How does this fit with Christmas preparations? I considered this further.

When we celebrate Christmas we celebrate something that has already occurred. Yes? Unless you have lived on another planet (or a very remote area of this one) you realize that Jesus Christ has already been born, already died, and has already risen from the dead! So what sense does it make to celebrate something that happened over 2000 years ago? Consider your own birthday... (some of you have had MANY birthdays Ha!) what do you celebrate? Yes, of course, you celebrate the gift of life as a whole not simply the fact that you were once a baby...this would be weird. “Yeah! I was once very small! Hooray!” No. We want to celebrate the fact that we exist and others (for the most part) want to celebrate with us. (Because they also get cake) So why all this morbid talk about floods and death and the end of the world?

This is the time we live in. We live in what is referred to as “The fullness of time,” which means, very simply, that the stage is set and the great “End of the Word” drama is set to begin at ANY moment...really...really, really. So while you’re dashing around attempting to get the “newest” thinga-ma-bob at the store for so and so who will likely need yet an ever NEWER thinga-ma-bob by this time next year because the latest thinga-ma-bob is obsolete as soon as the wrapping comes should remember: Jesus Christ is coming AGAIN. Are you ready? You might not be. If you’re not will you do something to get ready? Or, will you like so many others (including those who died in the flood) go about your life, “Business (or busyness) as usual?” Or, will this be the year that you begin to take your eternal life seriously? Stop playing “Eternal Roulette” and get yourself together. How much more plainly can it be said? Your eternal destiny depends on what you’re doing now. If you’re not seeking to know Jesus Christ in reality...perhaps you think you’re too busy or you’ll “get to it later.” You might be sorry forever...or joyful forever. Jesus Christ is real and is no longer, simply, “Away in a Manger.” He’s coming and we don’t know ready...get ready. Let your life be an eternal “Thank you” to God. I pray I'm ready.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Within You Are Full

"So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." Gospel of St. Matthew 23:28

I love this section of St. Matthew's gospel because (though Jesus here is addressing the Pharisees specifically) it sends many flaming arrows that can potentially pierce and purify the heart and intentions. Scripture is truly meant for US who live now; it is ever timeless as there is always a way we enter and are truly included in this living history.

It is often that I see within myself a desire to appear better than I KNOW I actually am. I am a hopeless, hapless sinner on so many levels. Do I not daily deny Jesus Christ in some way? Do I not gladly adhere myself to the "false-positive" view that others often, so mistakenly yet so graciously offer me? Am I not deceptive to so often consider my outward actions and yet too frequently neglect to rely on God's mercy in my heart? How often I forget that God examines the heart! It is only when I remember and admit my weaknesses that I have any hope of being deeply changed.

All of this, of course, is not opening the door to excuse myself and say, therefore, "Hey, I'm a's human nature..." and leave well enough alone. This mindset surely leads to spiritual death. On the contrary I must yield myself always to the fiery gaze of the divine physician, that I may truly be healed, strengthened and prepared to assist in the salvation of others. This way of seeing leads to freedom~ it brings peace. To see oneself as you truly ARE before God~ a sinner too yes~ but more importantly entirely loved, cherished and even revered by your Heavenly Father. This is genuine freedom.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Change of Heart

Recently I was listening to an elderly man speak about his life. It was clear to me in the words that he spoke that there was a great deal of pain and regret. Like a battle scarred veteran who had been through it all and seen it all and had the wounds to show for it. He walked with a cane and to walk was difficult, yet, he was still able to stand and move ahead. Like many people he had been carrying a heavy load; a load of pain, anger, resentment and unforgivness in his heart. Even with his enemy seemingly long gone and forgotten by many, his real enemy had become more real and powerful with each passing year. I was able to witness, in this man, what can only be described as a change of heart; a healing of heart~ Nothing short of a miracle.

What brought about this change? Without venturing into all the details, basically, this man had been listening, with us, to a series of presentations that had taken place over several weeks. He had heard, for perhaps the first time, that God is not merely a far-off, unreachable entity of frightening and exacting perfection but a loving caring Father who simply wants “The Best” for His children. The thing that moved him the most was understanding that an encounter, a meeting with God was and is possible NOW in this present moment. And most importantly that this is something God has clearly demonstrated that He desires too. This man truly had an encounter with God and shared that, though he doesn’t fully understand it, God had changed his heart. This man said he has been more joyful, lighthearted and friendly even in his old age. "Happier than ever," are his exact words.

On the surface one could reason that there was nothing spectacular about this happening to “some old man.” But there is truly something to the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Had this man not learned how to live in eighty plus years? Had he not had enough experience to teach him? On many levels, yes, he had learned a great deal but perhaps had not yet learned the most valuable lesson and that is: God wants each one of us and wants to change our hearts. God wants to share in your life and lead you into greater joy and peace than you ever thought possible. Sound too “pie in the sky?” Sound too good to be true? Sure, anyone can be cynical but who is willing to reconsider the possibility that God, Our Father, has a plan for everyone and wants everyone to know Him intimately? It is true and can happen to you. Want to be happy? Want to be fulfilled? Want to learn to love and truly forgive? If you’re reading this it isn’t too late. Your real life can begin today.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Amish Grace

This is a short documentary on a book that inspired a Lifetime movie called, "Amish Grace." I encourage everyone to watch this movie "Amish Grace" ASAP and let me know what you think. It offers an experience of the real sorrow and pain of loss and the power of genuine forgiveness. I can say that it has changed my own view. Watch it. (I know it's available through won't be sorry)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Third Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Jesus (The Nativity)

In the quiet of a humble place reserved for animals. Displaced and despised among the poorest of the poor comes the savior of the world, for you, Jesus Christ: through Mary the peasant-girl from Nazareth. God in the flesh, wrapped in cloths, laid in a feed-box for animals. Indeed, do we not love God all the more for coming to us in such a way? Forgotten and cast aside from His birth. Yet will we take the time to accept Him today? What do you need to know your God? He comes as a child, given to you. God has come for you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Second Joyful Mystery: Mary Visits Her Cousin Elizabeth (The Visitation)

Mary Visits Her Cousin Elizabeth (The Visitation)
No fanfare. No shouts. In anonymity the Mother of God travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth who is found to be with child in her old age. At two very different stages of life, one a young virgin the other an elderly wife. Yet both gather together to celebrate and proclaim the grace, mercy and goodness that God Himself has shown to them. It is good here to meditate on this evidence that God, Our Father, is concerned, moved, and fully aware and present in what seems to be, most certainly to the onlookers, a rather unspectacular event. We, however, can know the power of God Who chose to knit Salvation and Truth in the wombs of two women. In this quiet way God arrives among His people.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First Joyful Mystery: The Announcement of the Savior (The Annunciation)

Perhaps found in prayer, or about her daily household work, a poor peasant girl named Mary is visited by an Angel named Gabriel. The divine messenger announces to her the intentions of God to bring salvation, through her, to all mankind. Her response, in this unassuming place, has changed the course of human history for all eternity. In her womb the body of Jesus Christ was formed. O Great Humility of God! To be born through the consent of a once unknown peasant-girl. Does this graceful initiative of God still not confound the world?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bearing the Exile

You seek the friendship of those who, with their conversation and affection, with their company, help you to bear more easily the exile of this world-although sometimes those friends fail you. I don't see anything wrong with that.
But how is it that you do not seek everyday, more eagerly, the company, the conversation of that great friend who will never fail you?
St. Josemaria Escriva

This short quote is from one of my favorite books, "The Way" by St. Josemaria. It is a book with numbered sayings-a great help for time of prayer. I typically read them until one strikes me and let it "rest on me" for a little while. In this way it stays with me throughout the day.

This particular quote struck me as I was thinking about how truly valueable it is for people who love the Lord to make themselves available to others. Of course not merely because we "should" or merely because we "ought" but because the love of God inspires us to do so. Not merely for the sake of "converting" other people to a life in the Lord (though this would always be our desire for everyone to share in the penetrating love of God) but for ourselves to experience the greater intimacy that comes with walking with Jesus Christ. All of this being now said, I realize that I have a strong tendency to enter more easily into conversation with creatures...with fellow humans than I do with God. I often find myself thinking of the "optimum time" to pray as opposed to simply praying. The above quote helps me to remember that God is available at all times and is always willing and able (even joyfully) to pour out endless graces upon us. People fail us...God never fails.
Thanks be to God!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Denver

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception serves as the Mother Church of the Catholic faithful in Northern Colorado.

Through its beauty and service to the people of God and its fidelity to the Gospel and shepherds of the Church, it illuminates the local community and greater Denver area with Christian faith, hope, and love.

Amy and I went through our "Rite of Election" last night at this Cathedral in Denver. Such a beautiful place. It was great to meet Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM cap. A truly wonderful night.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Death of a Friend

The Death of a Friend

You are once again sitting and talking and laughing about something you can no longer remember. Who was sitting in which chair? You think back…it’s difficult. Wanting to go deeper into memory here, to feel it’s movement and heaviness. To hear the vibration of voice and tone of color but you turned your head too soon. The reflection only lasts for light seconds on the surface of things. Your hands and heart can’t hold them there. Quickly dancing off. You went to the refrigerator, so mundane, grabbed two beers and returned to find the darkest of rooms and the emptiest of chairs. You turn and leave.

It has been said that death is nothing to fear. It has been said that death is, “just a natural part of life.” Try convincing the dead of these, “truths.” It is much easier for a man to describe things of history with a certain careless air. Having nothing to do with the actual time or season…being neither warm or cold on our skin but held so safely behind museum cases. Delighted in from the, easy-chair-distance of life. Reflecting precious little on where our souls are headed from here, and with that, how tremendously soon we leave our bodies behind.

Many reason that since we have little say in the matter, or the manner of our own deaths that it makes little sense to give it further thought. So says the one that agrees with the, “death is a natural part of life,” mentality. Many have already stopped reading and have gone on about their lives, uncertain. Preferring to continue dash headlong into the darkness…saving for a temporal retirement and possibly wasting an eternity.

You, who are wise, return to the darkest of rooms and the emptiest of chairs. Turning on the small light in the corner of the room. Take your seat in the chair where your friend was sitting the last time. The last time, yes, realize this could be your last time. It is hard at first to get past the chill you feel in your flesh in the sickening stillness. You marvel how time seems neither long or short. It seems like yesterday, yet so long ago. Time disappears as you consider that a day has just gone by. Do you blame yourself for missing it? You should avoid being too hard on yourself. You’ve made it this far, though imperfectly, it is a worthwhile thought and you should be congratulated for reflecting more deeply than the majority of souls. A strange thought now occurs to you. You wish that you could have warned your friend to be more thoughtful, and careful. A desire so strong to raise a warning comes far too late. Yet you remain in this room pressing against your desire to leave. After all, you left so soon after it happened~ you know now is as good a time as any to remain.

There is nothing you can do for your friend now, except if you are so inclined, to pray for their soul. Advice coming from you is no longer of any value. If he could, it should be your friend, you realize, who should be warning you. But the impassable veil has been pulled between you and will only be re-opened at the hour of YOUR death. It is hard to get past the fact that even memories are difficult to recall in their entirety…just bits and pieces…fragments and flashes. O dear friend! Irreplaceable friend. I can’t get close to you.

From where you sit you rise, turn out the light and go the refrigerator. The bottles from the beer you wanted to share are gone…just orange-juice left. In fact even the picture on the wall of the two of you is fading.

Will you reflect more on your life? Will you honor your friend by making more of your life? Or will you, like the mindless hoards, fail to consider your own soul? Will you neglect your own eternity? Will you simply replace this forgotten treasure with more wasted hours and days? Today might be your last.

Another thought, since it is impossible to know the hour and time we will die it is also reasonable to assume that we are not the ones who can pick and choose the way we should live. If you have forgotten God, Whom you know in your soul is waiting for your whole-hearted return. His desire to embrace you fills and consumes the universe. You are of eternal value~ Become a true daughter or son of God. This life is but a breath. Care enough for yourself to seek the Truth you’ve been neglecting. Let your friend be a constant reminder to you~ You are called to be a child of heaven...a child of God. Anything less than His fullness is meaningless. You have my sincere prayers. Thanks for reading.

"The unexamined life is not worth living."
Socrates, in Plato, Dialogues, Apology
Greek philosopher in Athens (469 BC - 399 BC)