Monday, November 30, 2009

Just back from a vacation with the family and it brought some issues to the surface. Anytime you spend 5-6 days with adult children in close quarters, I think there will be times when tempers will flare. Many times it is because people are tired. Anyway, I encountered a scenario that I want to share with the other fathers (parents). One of my daughters, who has been designated the family’s complainer, had a trying set of days. Our schedule for the trip was very heavy and she was looking for some time to relax. Unfortunately there were few breaks and the pace took its toll on her. Eventually, as it always does, it bubbled to the top and her temper let loose. She said something that was extremely hurtful to me. It was a flippant statement and in hindsight, she did not intend for it to be so hurtful but it was. My reacion was not what I wanted it to be as I was also tired. The entire scenario changes when parent and child become two adults. As a parent, you always have expectations. When they are not met you are disappointed. But at the end of the day, it is still your child. How exactly do you prepare for this situation? Most of the Bible scenarios depict the Holy Family when Jesus was a child. The Wedding at Cana gives us a concrete example of Jesus and Mary as adults but I am relatively sure that Mary was aware of Jesus’ divinity at that point so that changes the paradigm. Jesus had a divine mission and Mary was definitely part of the plan. Was she disappointed with Jesus’ response? John 2:4 says, “ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.’ What would we do if our child addressed us as Jesus did to his Mother in this passage. Of course we are missing the tone here but it appears to be abrupt. We know of course from the Bible that Jesus was tender, loving and gentle. Of course he would have held his Mother close to his heart. He knew that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Savior of the world. Still the rebuke seems harsh. Her response is not. John 2:5 says, “His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Her response does not express anger at all. Is this how God expects us to react to hurtful comments from our children? I think we must review each situation as it comes. What sort of comment is our adult child making? Is it a personal attack? Are they delivering a message from our Father that will benefit our spiritual growth? I always return to my early philosophy of child rearing. I have set certain expectation for my children, who are on loan from God. I expect for them to be good Christians who love God. I expect them to live by the Ten Commandments and the fourth addresses this point. Respect for you parents involves controlling your tongue. I have done it many times with my parents and I expect my children to do the same. But I must also respect them as a gift from God and I must learn to curb my tongue as well, no matter if I am tired or worn out. I guess it was a teaching and learning moment in this journey as a parent.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Becoming the person you want to be is not an easy job. Being of the world rather than in the world leads us to make many choices that do not assist our spiritual journey. The message is very fuzzy at best when you are operating in the humanistic realm. Should we collect worldly goods? Is my car and house good enough? Why is that person making more money than me? God's message is clear on the other hand. We are to love and honor God. We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Jesus even gave us beatitudes to give us something to do while on earth. So as we choose our path to become who we want to be, these choices are the very things that turn us into the person we become. That is why it is so important to make our decisions carefully. I suggest you make them in consultation with God. He is here to help us on our journey. I know it is very easy to ignore the Godly path. We are offered so much in our world, especially in the U.S. but not here alone. How often have you found yourself stuck down a path that you did not even know you were choosing? We learn how to make choices but very often leave out the most important step: prayer. By praying we are asking God for help but we are also stopping the process long enough to notice that there may be consequences for our decisions. Did we anticipate that twist? Does this path really accomplish what we thought? God wants to be in conversation with us. But it is not the human conversation we hold with one another. It is between our Creator and us. That is a conversation that takes place on many difference levels. It may come from your conscience. It may be a guardian angel that is sent to help you. It could be a book that you are compelled to read. It could be an interruption to your day that stops something else. Allowing God into your life allows you to be more thoughtful in your decision making process. It makes you think for a higher purpose. It makes you make decisions for eternity rather than for the next day, week or month. Ask God to be in conversation with you. Then the choices you make will start to become the ones that will help you become the person you want to be rather that what you have merely become.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The pelicans are back in Baton Rouge. Passing the City Park Lake this morning was a stunning experience. The gleaming white of the pelicans contrasted against the greenish water of the lake and made for a beautiful start to the day that the Lord has blessed us with. I had to stop and thank our Father God for creating such incredible creatures. Their long golden beaks pecking in the water for nourishment created ripples that made the entire lake come alive. It reminded me that the Church uses the pelican as a symbol and I have seen it used in many churches around the U.S. The pelican is a iconic symbol of the atonement and the Redeemer. Many years ago, people began to realize that the pelican would wound itself in order to feed its young with its blood and to bring to life those who were dead. "Pelican in her piety" in iconic and symbolical art, is a representation of a pelican in the act of wounding her breast in order to nourish her young with her blood, a practice fabulously attributed to the bird. The pelican cutting open its own breast represents Christ’s death on the cross, and the shedding of His blood to revive us and therefore adopted as a symbol of the Redeemer and of charity. An explanation of this is that the pelican’s bill has a crimson red tip and the contrast of this red tip against the white breast probably gave rise to the tradition that the bird tore her own breast to feed her young with her blood. Because early Catholic explorers found indigenous brown pelicans along the U.S. Gulf coast, and because of the pelican’s special place in Christianity, the pelican was chosen to represent the Catholic Church in Louisiana. From these traditions, the pelican became the official emblem of the State of Louisiana, and the brown pelican, the state bird. The pelican was adopted for the State Seal in 1902, and the State Flag featuring a pelican was adopted in 1912. Just another example of the Catholic Church establishing traditions and creating lasting symbols that have become part of the fabric of America, once and forever a Christian nation. The sacrifice of the mother pelican for her young is a perfect symbol to remind us of Christ's ultimate sacrifice on the cross. Being washed by the blood of Jesus allows us to live in the security that we only need Him in order to be saved and that we do not have anything to prove because He is there to save us.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Washington D.C. City Council inched closer to allowing same sex "marriages" in the District of Columbia last Tuesday when they voted the legislation out of the Committee on Public Safety and Judiciary. The panel refused to include protections for religious organizations, putting at risk the numerous churches in the region that provide goods and services to the needy. It places a horrifying burden on the religious organizations who would have to decide between their faith or compliance with the district’s demands. One of the largest area provider of relief services, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, took a stand last Wednesday, just as their counterparts in Massachusetts' had done in that state, and refused to back down to the D.C. Council's bullying tactics. The Catholic Church provides a wide range of direct services for those in need in our nation's capitol, including physical and mental health care, legal care, immigration, employment services, counseling, shelter, education, adoption, foster care and services for the developmentally disabled. During the committee proceedings many of the council members were openly mocking religious concerns and one councilman, David Catania, told those gathered that if people of faith refuse to comply with his demands, the city will find someone else to take over everything they do. That will be very difficult for the city to do for they will quickly find, without faith there is little good works. It speaks volumes about the folks on the City Council and what their service to the public is really about. Separation of church and state works both ways. It appears when they need Christians to do the heavy lifting, we are welcomed in. But when we stand up for our faith and try to remain true to the path of God, we are shown the door. I am reminded of the beautiful mural of the wedding of Joseph and Mary that is painted on the walls of St. Joseph Abbey in Covington, Louisiana. It is the only time I have seen this depiction but it is full of life and love. Joseph stares tenderly at his bride. Mary looks content and holy. It is, of course, an idealized image of marriage but it truly represents my feelings on my wedding day. The actions of the City Council remind me of the legal system disputes discussed in the Bible. When Jesus discusses the casuistic law system and how it differs from the laws of the Torah, he is illustrating the differences in man-made laws and the commandments of God our father. The debate continues unabated but we must stand firm as Jesus and his disciples did more than 2,000 years ago. The disappointing fact in the modern day disagreement is that the poor and helpless may be the victims. But I am reassured by my God that good people will not let this happen and there will be a new group of Jesus radicals who will answer the call of the poor.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Father Bill Osborn is pastor of St. Bernard’s Parish in Redfield, South Dakota. He graciously took the time to answer the seven questions and I am thrilled to post his responses below. If you would like to answer the brief survey, simply cut and paste the questions followed by your responses and email them to I promise to post them. Now get ready for some straight to the point wisdom from Father Bill.

1. What is the biggest challenge to your faith that you have faced so far? People leaving the church.

2. What scripture do you find yourself turning to most often? John 6:53 (“Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”)

3. How do you think God is revealing his presence to us in the world today? In so many ways through others.

4. Do you have a book that you would recommend to people trying to develop their spirituality? The Bible

5. Why do you think bad things happen to good people? As a test to strengthen their faith.

6. What have you found is the most effective way to introduce the word of God to a nonbeliever? Show God’s love to them in action.

7. Do you have a favorite saint and if so, why? St. Jude hears prayers. St. Anthony of Padua finds lost things.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Have you ever felt like a doormat? Jesus tells us that we are supposed to forgive but does that mean we lose ourselves in the process? Are we okay with not being right all the time? Sometimes we think we are just as right as the other person but we are probably just as wrong. I find that taking some time away from the situation helps tremendously. We try so hard to convince the other person that our point of view is right that we forget about God in the process. Sometimes stepping back and letting God work is the best solution. Sometimes God works on us as well. Understanding that what is driving us often is mind garbage. The devil spends a lot of time placing this mind garbage in our brains. The best time to do this is when we are creating the list of bad habits, traits, and quirks of the person that is disagreeing with us. We focus very often so intently on the negative things that we fail to see the positive things. Mind garbage can infiltrate our lives and make us become very negative people. It can also train us to always focus on the negative aspects of our relationships, our lives, and even ourselves. How do we prevent this garbage from being dumped on us? By focusing on the positive. The next time you are confronted by a friend, family member or spouse that is disagreeing with you, take a step back and list the positive things about this person. Thinking about all of the good things that this person brings to the relationship allows God time to remedy the situation. It also crowds out the negative and pretty soon, you are not even able to remember the things that you consider to be nuisances. Isn't that the way you want to be treated? Why not try it out today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The reading for today was Mark 7:7-9, "In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition." He went on to say, "How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition!" Doesn't this look like it was written today? Doesn't this apply to the humanists of today who put aside all things Godly and want to focus on the world? You have to put aside the commandment of the Lord to allow the murder of innocent babies and have the audacity to call it abortion. You have to put aside the Lord's commandment when you describe the United States as a non-Christian nation. You have to put aside the commandments of the Lord when you force additional financial burdens on a people who are already hurting so badly that they are losing hope. As we move towards the Advent season, it is a good time to reflect on where we are in our spiritual journey. Are we worshiping God with our tongue but placing human precepts above all us? Have we become money chasers? Do we measure our worth by the size of our car, house and bank account? When we think of the commandments of the Lord, do we consider them optional? Do we think we can pick the ones we want to do and forget the rest? The mission of a Christian life is to get better each day. We should be striving to be like our brother Jesus while he was on earth. As a man walking the middle east, Jesus worked to make a difference in the world. He ignored the precepts of man in favor of his Holy Father's commandments. He created new traditions for us. He chose men to work with him that were unorthodox for the times (maybe even for now). I find it is often easier to look at the lives of the apostles for the inspiration to improve my life. After all, Jesus was and is perfect. How can we ever achieve this? We can't, but we can look to the apostles, who made mistakes yet Jesus still loved them. We can be doubters and Jesus will still love us. We can deny knowing him, ask for forgiveness and Jesus will welcome us back with loving arms. We can learn to praise Him with our tongue and our actions. We can learn to keep the Lord's commandments while we put aside the precepts of man. Now that is something we can focus on as we approach the holy Christmas season.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

If you have ever been to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. you may have seen the Hall of American Saints. They recently installed a new statue, that of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Everyone knows the story of the saint from Albania who spent her life working with the poor and ill in India. She received a Nobel Peace Prize and many other awards which meant nothing to her. If you read her books, you will know that she was focused on being the hands and feet of God on earth. She was also very hard on herself and never felt as if she was worthy of the praise and adulation she received. Mother Teresa was clearly focused on receiving her reward in Heaven where she joined our Lord upon her death. I have noticed that there are already a number of Catholic schools and churches named for this diminutive nun who cast such a large shadow. She visited Baton Rouge and established a local chapter of her order at St. Agnes Parish in the downtown area. She also formed a beautiful friendship with Bishop Stanley Joseph Ott, who passed away from cancer a number of years ago. Seeing these two holy and reverent people together was inspirational. They both revealed the face of Christ to me in different ways. I have not doubt that Teresa will shortly be named a saint and I must admit that I assumed it had already happened. I am not sure if Stanley Joseph Ott even has a group working towards his cause for sainthood but there should be. In many ways he exhibited the same humility and reserve that Mother Teresa exhibited. He was quiet and shy but his smile could light a room. And when he needed to speak out, his voice was strong and clear. He was clearly a man of God and I know that he is still intervening on behalf of the lambs in his former diocese. When his name comes up in conversations, the tenor changes. People are more reverent and contemplative. He effects the way we think and feel and he helps you to focus on what is really important. That is why he and Teresa had this holy alliance. They were cut from the same cloth. They were children of God who were always trying to make a difference during their short time on earth. I do not know if there will ever be a statue of Stanley Joseph Ott in the Hall of American Saints but there should be. He would fit right in.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Do you know someone that has allowed the past to capture them in a jail cell? I am not talking about a literal cell but the kind that creates isolation and depression in their lives. It might even be you. Learning to lead a life that is filled with forgiveness is a very freeing experience. Living for the present rather than in the past allows us to fully experience our Father God's love, grace, and providence. Allowing strife to keep you captured by the events of the past brings delight to the devil. But when you focus on becoming someone who is quick to forgive, the grace of God is allowed to flourish in your life. I have just begun to become acquainted with the writings of Henri de Lubac. He is considered to be one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. During the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII appointed de Lubac as theological expert to the Council. He later was appointed a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II. de Lubac co-wrote a series known as the Christian Sources, a collection of bilingual, critical editions of early Christian texts and of the Fathers of the Church that reinvigorated both the study of Patristics and the doctrine of Sacred Tradition. de Lubac was also responsible for the emergence of covenantal theology, a distinctive approach to Catholic biblical theology that emphasizes the doctrine of the "four senses," encompassing the literal sense and the three spiritual senses (allegorical, moral, and anagogical). I know that this is not going to be light reading but I feel it is important for my spiritual development. I will share with you my thoughts as this project moves forward and I ask that you pray for my success in this endeavor.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One of my favorite things to do is attend a wedding. This past Friday, I was able to witness the joining of two young people in holy matrimony. Both of these young adults have been through a dark journey lately. The difference is that the journeys turned out very differently for each of them. The bride recently lost her mother to cancer. To lose your mother at any time is devastating but to lose her to an aggressive and destructive disease when you are planning for one of the happiest days of your life is particularly trying. The good news is that the pair was able to spend the last days of the mother's life planning every aspect of the wedding. It allowed the mother and daughter to focus on the future rather than the present. The influence of the mother was evident in every aspect of the sacramental wedding. I fully expected the bride to be excessively weepy because of her recent loss but she was radiant and beautiful. I think that she was infused by her mother's spirit. The groom had recently been through a very similar experience. His father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about nine months ago. As we all faced the likelihood that our friend and his father would not be with us for the wedding, we also began to pray mightily for his healing. The son stepped forward and created a website about his father so that everyone could keep track of the situation. The son updated the website faithfully and shared his personal thoughts with us. The website became a beacon of light in the darkness of the journey the father was making. In the end, as I reported earlier on this blog, the father has been healed by a miracle from God our Father. The son was beaming at the wedding ceremony as his father and mother walked down the aisle together. I couldn't help but think that the father and his new daughter-in-law are closer becasue of this shared experience. The wedding itself was beautiful and the presiding priest did a wonderful job of describing marriage as a joining of the bride, groom, and God. He urged the bride and groom to focus on prayer to sustain themselves and warned that the years will bring different trials but the solution is not to separate or divorce but recommit and ask God for help. The priest turned to the stories in Tobit as an example of how God can be depended on in times of trouble and sadness. The wedding of Tobiah and Sarah was used as a parallel for what the couple had endured recently. In Tobit 11:17 we read, "When Tobit reached Sarah, the wife of his son Tobiah, he greeted her: "Welcome, my daughter! Blessed be your God for bringing you to us, daughter! Blessed are your father and your mother. Blessed is my son Tobiah, and blessed are you, daughter! Welcome to your home with blessing and joy. Come in, daughter!" Would that we all be so welcomed when we are married. Tobit chose to solidify his family and to honor Sarah by calling her daughter. As my wife and I renewed our vows at the wedding, we felt energized and rekindled. All in all, a very good night.