Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Have you ever met an angel?

Today I met another angel. He came and he went, not so unnoticed, for he was very noticed, but he passed by our way in such a way as will be talked about for days and weeks to come. I say another angel for I met one several years ago that brought me comfort at a time when I thought all comfort was nowhere to be found.

Children often ask me if I believe in angels. We had this conversation yesterday, as a matter of fact, being it was the Feast of The Archangels. I tell them yes indeed I do and then point them in the direction of their guardian angels and St. Michael. They are fascinated by the stories of the angels, especially when told from a first hand perspective as evidenced in the book, All About the Angels. Makes me wish the show Touched by an Angel was still on the air, even though it was Hollywood, it had a wonderful message that kids can relate to.

Today a simple man wandered in to our Adoration Chapel and knelt down in prayer. Sounds ordinary, right! Wrong! This simple man was dressed too simply in long white linen robe (alb), no shoes, and was carrying a bible and blanket. He had long hair, drove no car, no bike, walked from we did not know where. It was reported upon entering the Chapel he showed such reverence before the Blessed Sacrament, the ladies in the Chapel were dumbstruck, ran out of the Chapel and went straight to the parish office to inquire if anyone knew of a play going on in the area. What ensued throughout the remainder of the day one can only imagine.

By the time I met this man, he was surrounded by any number of people, being interviewed by the local newspaper and explaining to a small group of children that Jesus loved them very much. I offered him some lunch provided by our school cafeteria, hey you never know. It wasn't going to be said we did not feed Him when He was hungry, if you know what I mean. He sat and visited with several of our office staff and explained his ministry.

He said he was a disciple of Jesus, following Jesus as the early disciples did. He left all he had behind him and went out to evangelize the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. He relied on the gifts of strangers for food and lodging and was on his way to Rome to appeal to the Pope for permission to start an order for his mission. He had been traveling in this way for fifteen years. He prayed with us and for us, as we did him in return. When he left us, he walked barefoot in the direction of a new destination. He touched us and our parish. For the rest of the afternoon, he was all we spoke about. For this moment in our lives we talked about God sending us this "angel", how he looked like Jesus, his spirituality and gentleness. I am still amazed by how this man transformed our parish with his simpleness. He did no miracles, nothing extraordinary, he was just there in our lives for a brief time.

This amazes me because people do these same things everyday. People are kind, they spend time in Adoration and pray everyday. What touched us? He dressed differently and some people wondered if he wasn't crazy. There were skeptics who thought we should send him on his way, but for the most part there was an excitement in the air. Questions were asked, "have you seen 'him'?" I mean who walks around barefoot, on concrete, for crying out loud. We found out later there is a website depicting his story in documentary form at, but at the time we had no idea who he was or where he came from. It was shared with us that a woman who encountered him in the Chapel was overwhelmed with his presence and she broke down and wept, not from fear but from joy. She had been praying to God for guidance and help in some way and in walks this man straight out of the Bible. You can't make this stuff up. This is how our day went, sharing stories of miracles in our lives and how this man resurrected some feelings that gave hope to some that had lost hope for various reasons.

I wonder why it took this special instance to awaken a joyfulness in us that has been lacking for awhile. We only have to look at the Blessed Sacrament this man was worshiping to feel a joy like no other. We only need to reverently receive Jesus, the Body of Christ into our bodies to experience the wonders of God's grace and all that this grace promises for a life everlasting. Our society has made us so cynical and skeptical we find it difficult to trust in the gifts God gives to us. Be it Jesus in the Sacraments or an angel coming to share God's peace, we need to believe in the love God has for us and to accept the graces given to us no matter the form. Go be an angel for someone today!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why does the priest add a drop of water to the wine at consecration?

This question was posed to me the other day, why does the priest add that small drop of water with the wine at consecration?

We then began discussing that some priests use the tiniest drop while others will just splash some water in the chalice of wine. The simple explanation is that this is believed to have been the custom of the Jewish people. They would temper the wine with water according to the custom of that country. This would have been what Jesus did at the traditional Passover meal.

If we reflect on the invisible reality presented by the visible sign of the cup, the Lord's Passion comes immediately to mind. We remember that both water and blood flowed from the side of Christ when His heart was pierced. And this signifies our Baptism in Christ, to die to self so we can become one in Christ. At the point of the Mass, when the priest pours the water into the chalice, he recites almost sillently, "By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity."

Our Church Fathers believed the water is understood as the people and the wine is understood to be the blood of Christ. When the water is mixed with the wine, the people are made one with Christ. We are now cojoined with Christ and nothing can separate the two. We become the Body of Christ, cojoined with Him. It could never be just the wine or just the water, there must be a comingling of the two. I read that the Council of Trent felt this was so vital that whoever denied this practice of mixing the water and the wine was to be excommunicated. Who knew something we see at every Mass could have such an effect on us as Church.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Do you remember that fateful day?

I will never know, nor have I thought about, why I didn't turn on my television that morning or even the radio for that matter. We usually put on the news to listen to either the traffic or the weather to help us plan our day. This day was problably rushed to get Em and myself off to school, I suppose. Ben and Phillip were already on their way into town. I remember getting to school that morning and hearing bits of chatter about a plane crashing into one of the twin towers, maybe the pilot had a heart attack or something. Little did we know at that time it would be the 'or something'. Our priest, at the time, Fr. Benny immediately went into action and handled the situation of calming fears the only way he ever handled situations, with prayer. He hustled everyone in school, all 500 of us, into Church to pray the rosary. I have to say, at the time I still didn't know what was happening. There was speculation about being under attack but no one knew for sure what was going on. With everything going on in our own heads we, the teachers, principle and other adults were trying to present an aura of calm for the children, and for one another if truth be told.
It is what came after that stays with me the most. We came together as a nation to pray to God for guidance and to help us make sense of this senseless situation. The inevitable question was asked, "why did this happen?, how could God let this happen?" As a religion teacher I was asked this question countless times in the days to come. I had answers, but not the politically correct answers anyone wanted to hear. How do you explain to someone who knows a loved one is lost to them forever that in God's merciful love Good will come out of this evil. Sadly innocent people can be the consequences of someone else's stupidity. We can not even begin to question why someone lived and why someone else died that day, or any other day for that matter. I don't even have the adequate vocabulary to put this into words. I can't begin to speak for God. I can only offer prayers to ask for the wisdom and strength to go on and to appreciate the life I have been given to help others to go on.
We all have a part to play in God's plan of salvation. As God's people we are called to help one another participate in this plan. Those people that fateful day were sacrificed for a greater good. That day was a wakeup call to our vulnerability as a nation and to the evils that abound in the world today. How many times have we noticed that it takes a tragedy to get something done or to grab someone's attention? This was one of those times. We turned to God because we knew this was bigger than we could handle on our own, we came together as a nation to support one another as a country. We waved our flags, we wore red, white, and blue, we sang the National Anthem and God Bless America every chance we got. God is not a controlling God, but a loving God. He loved us as a people so much He gave us free will to make free choices. The caveat to that is that the choice is to be a loving choice for the common good, not necessarily for own personal good. Sometimes the choice we make for the good of all may be quite a sacrifice for us personally. Those men who drove those planes were only thinking of themselves, or in their convoluted minds what they believed to be for their own good. It was a choice they made that affected many people. As a Nation for a while we overcame this evil for the common good.
I have to believe God was with those people who died, He was giving them time for prayer and for many He allowed them time to say goodbye to loved ones. God is with each and every one of us to help us through our worst moments and to lead us back to Him. We must find comfort in that so we can put one foot in front of the other and continue on this incredible journey He has planned for us. We can not begin to imagine what goes on in peoples minds to be so full of hate and anger, but we can find solace in the fact that God loves us and wants the very best for us. That best is to be with Him in Heaven. We are not meant for this world, this world will pass away, we are meant to find our ultimate end before the Beatific Vision, standing in God's Glorious Presence. May God Bless us as we remember the significance of this fateful day, let us never forget.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What was Jesus and Mary's last name?

The children ask me every year, did Jesus and Mary have a last name? Ironically Fr. touched on this in his homily this weekend, people were identified by their trade or by where they came from. Joseph was known as the carpenter, Jesus was often referred to as the Nazorean. A girl or woman of the household was associated with her father's or her husband's household. Slaves took the name of their master's house.

I ask the kids to identify what their parents do and then we identify them by their trade. We come up with labels of 'Bill the engineer' or 'Joe the computer technician'. It makes them laugh because they can see how the old trades evolved into some peoples last name, like Carpenter or Baker or Blacksmith. Today is Labor Day and I am reminded of all the labors people are called to in this day and age.

When God created Adam and Eve, He never meant for His people to be burdened with their labors. It was never meant to be a job. He gave Adam dominion to till the soil and care for His creation, but it was to be "a labor of love." The burden and toil of labor came as result of the Fall, a consequence to Adam and Eve's disobedience. We have been given the opportunity through Jesus Christ to offer those labors up for the glory of God and with those graces, the burden is lightened. Jesus says, "take up your yolk and follow me and I will give you rest."

How many of us find pleasure in the work that we do? How often do we look at our work as a job and have lost the joy it once brought to us. To know we are sharing a gift we were given by God to bring to someone else and take such a pride in the gift we cherished it and honed it so we could be the best God created us to be. And then....after sharing that gift with those around us, God gave us a Day in which to rest in His presence and give honor and glory to Him. A Day in which to thank Him and to receive Him into our bodies to nourish us for another week, all for the Glory of God.

I have found that if I brought a ho hum attitude to the work I have been given, that is all I've got...ho hum. You will only get out of something what you put into it. For some people that is a hard lesson to learn. But once we realize this gift in us was given by God, and we recognize that fact and then give God His due, an attitude change takes place. It may be subtle at first but our 'job' no longer seems like a job but truly becomes a "labor of love" just as God planned it to be.