Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Rush of a Mighty Wind

"And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting." (Acts 2:2) The coming of the Holy Spirit into the world after Jesus ascended into heaven is described as a sudden blast of wind. This description is rich in symbolism. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter of whom Christ speaks near the end of his earthly ministry, brings into the world the completion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is through the Holy Spirit that the Apostles begin to understand fully the teachings of Jesus. The Spirit emboldens them to begin to proclaim the Good News of the gospel that Jesus Christ came from the Father so that we might come to know the Father more intimately and to die and rise from the dead in reparation for our sins. The Spirit ushers in a new age of understanding, infusing believers with the zeal of the Good News.

Prior to this scene in the New Testament, the Apostles had huddled day after day in the very upper room where Jesus had celebrated with His followers the Last Supper. They were frightened. leaderless, and at a complete loss as to what to do next. These hours were not, however, idle hours. They were spent in intense prayer accompanied by the mother of Jesus, Mary. They looked to the Risen Lord for answers to their questions as to how to go about preaching the gospel to all nations. For nine days they prayed. For nine days nothing happened. Then on the tenth day while in prayer, this sudden rush of wind shook the room and, at the same time, the entire world. The Spirit, the Comforter, had arrived.

Immediately, the Apostles were transformed. Their fear, while not disappearing, faded into the background while the spirit of courage arose in them allowing them to speak to the crowds who had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. They spoke with conviction and authority. They spoke to the people who had come for the festival from all points of the known world in their own languages. Scripture tells us that all were amazed when they heard these men speak. While most believed, there were those detractors as usual who said, "They are filled with fine new wine." (Acts 2:13) In other words there were those who thought the Apostles were drunk.
This rush of wind transformed the world. The world would no longer be the same. Men's hearts would be opened. Love took on new meanings. And a God once far removed from man now became an intimate acquaintance. Courage to proclaim the truth contained in the gospels overrode fear.

We are today in desperate need of a sudden rush of wind, a wind propelled by a renewal of the Holy Spirit. We need the courage imparted by the Spirit to proclaim not only the good news of the gospel but the truth of the gospel as well. We need to open our hearts to the Spirit who, by the way, has never left the world, so that we may find the courage and understanding that the Apostles found on that Pentecost nearly 2,000 years ago.

We need to courage to challenge governments to do the right thing in places such as Darfuhr, Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other troubled lands. We need the courage to stand up for those who have been marginalized by society, who have no voice in American life because of their situations. We need the courage to point out the wrongs of society and offer constructive criticism and suggestions as to how to change things. We need the courage to reach out in love to all those with whom we may differ. We cannot allow our differences to drag us down into the mud of name calling and demonizing. We must make a concerted effort to find Christ in every man even thought it may be very, very difficult to do in some cases.

Like a cool summer's breeze, the rush of wind that is the Holy Spirit will cleanse our minds and our bodies, refreshing us and preparing us for the tasks ahead. It is the Spirit who inspires. It is the Spirit who guides. It is the Spirit who emboldens. It is the Spirit that teaches us what the real love of God is. We need this sudden rush of wind to circulate throughout the world, to infuse mankind with the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the message of His Gospel. On this eve of Pentecost, we pray for this sudden rush of wind. We pray that we will some day be able to live our lives in the Spirit, fearless and humbly bold in the name of Christ. As a prayer to the Holy Spirit says, "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Come To Me

There are times in life when things really seem dreary. There seems to be no end to the drudgery of every day life. You go to work, come home, get some sleep only to repeat the pattern the very next day. The sameness that often times brings a sense of security to life can also tend to bring a sense of depression. Nothing seems to matter much. Time passes inexorably by. It makes you wonder where God is in all of this thing we call life. Where is the joy that we Christians are told that we have a right to feel by virtue of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

It is interesting to me at how quickly we can lose our proper perspective on life. Most of us have been blessed with so much that to worry about our day-to-day needs is an exercise that we are very unfamiliar with. We have an abundance of food to eat. Every day we return to that roof over our heads into the warm shelter of home. We do not fear for our lives when going to the market for some bread or milk or any other commodity our modern day markets have to offer. We even stave off Mother Nature with our central air conditioning and heat. Then why is it that so many people are so empty inside? Why is it that they walk around with invisible burdens on their shoulders that weigh them down, often into the depths of despair?

I believe it is because we have become addicted to excitement. We love the extreme. Look at the shows on television that pull in the big ratings. They are all reality shows. They call them reality shows but one has to wonder just what reality are they representing? The extremes represented in these shows are just a way to stimulate an over-stimulated audience. They are based upon nothing that even resembles real. They are all fantasy and unattainable fantasies at that.

We all have our burdens in life. That cannot be avoided. But we do have recourse. We do have someone to whom we can turn in these dark moments of life to lift us up and help us regain the proper perspective. Jesus once said, "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." What an invitation! How many of us do not welcome this comforting message into our daily lives? Jesus will give us rest! What exactly does this mean?

In this passage, we come face-to-face with the compassionate Jesus. In Jesus, regardless of what life brings us, regardless of what we bring upon ourselves, we can always find the love that the human heart craves. As long as we repent of our sinfulness His love is always ours for the asking. Have you ever felt friendless and forlorn? Have you ever felt the sting of rejection? Have you ever felt the scorn of others? So has the Savior of the world! He understands our nature, our feelings, and the complicated emotions that come with being human. Our problems will not disappear magically. Our insecurities will continue to matter and influence us no matter what we do. Our lives of day-to-day drudgery will move on but we must remember that we do have recourse to a sanctuary that will never fail--the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

Talk with Him daily. Pray always and seek Him out in the eyes of one another. He has promised us that He will be with us until the end of days. (c.f. Mt 28:20) He is our eternal comfort. He is our perpetual guide. He is the recourse of our lives.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What I Have Done on My Vacation

I thought I'd take a break in writing about all the serious issues that I tend to address in this space to keep those of you who care up to date with what I am doing on my vacation. Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

First, a vacation tip. Never set Hermann, Missouri, as your vacation destination! There's nothing there despite the chamber of commerce's claim to the contrary. We arrived after having traveled through what can only be described as a prolonged car wash of a thunderstorm. It rained on the way so hard that we could barely go over 30 mph for a good part of the trip. It was interesting to say the least.

Upon arrival in Hermann, we checked in at our quaint lodgings, the Vinchester Hotel. It looked marvelously antique from the outside. However, our room could only be described as Spartan. We did have two beds and a TV. There was a bathroom probably only because it is dictated by law that there has to be! There were no curtains on the windows and the air conditioner seemed to have only one speed and temperature: cold and fast. Now that doesn't bother me, however, Joan is another story. I believe she felt as though she had landed squarely in the middle of the Antarctic!

After our arduous journey we found we were hungry so, after settling in our luxurious digs, we headed out for a nice warm meal to satisfy. We found a little place on main street. It was pleasant enough. . .for a bar! But they did have food and, being new to town, it was the only place that seemed to offer such a thing. We sat down and ordered our fare. Joan had some sort of fish and I had the special of the day an open face roast beef sandwich. Joan said her meal was fine. Mine was OK if you enjoy the enticing flavor of cold instant mashed potatoes! Of course, there was the perfunctory bowl of warmed over canned corn! We quickly chowed down and headed out the door into another downpour to do some sight seeing. And what sights we saw!

We saw a Save a Lot grocery store, a couple of Casey's gas stations, two BP gas stations and a few bars. The hills surrounding the town are beautiful I suppose but you couldn't prove it by me! They were fully shrouded in low clouds and mist.

The evening passed quietly enough (Hermann does have only a few thousand residents). the next morning I arose to a hunger that would arouse a Grizzly Bear from his sleep! Once again we set out in search of sustenance. Finally, after several tours around the city, we found a nice looking place called Lyndee's.

Upon entering Lyndee's we were greeted with the aroma of breakfast being prepared for a number of patrons. Eagerly anticipating a fluffy stack of buttermilk pancakes, I ordered a large orange juice. As time passed, my hunger grew along with the volume of the rumbling that was now emanating from my empty stomach. Finally, the pleasant waitress who resembled every one's aunt, arrived with the anticipated delights. She sat our plates in front of us. Glancing down, expecting to see round golden orbs of pancakes, to my dismay, I saw paper thin, black circles of burned buttermilk batter. The top flapjack was bad enough. The one beneath it looked like somebody had tarred it! I wolfed it down angrily because I didn't think I could make it out of the restaurant due to weakness from lack of anything that resembled decent food. It was in these moments that we decided to cut our little adventure short and head for home.

I am sure that there are plenty of people who enjoy the ambiance that we discovered in Hermann, but count me out. The countryside is beautiful (if you can see it). The people seemed to be friendly but I have to wonder if the chef of the breakfast to which we were treated wasn't hiding around the corner somewhere to see if the "strangers" in town would actually consume such appetizing fare!

Today turned out to be much better. We decided to take a trip into the city. We had not been to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis in a long time. It is a magnificent house of worship that is home to the largest collection of mosaics in the world.

Inside, there is a sense of reverence that is reflected by the numerous whispers between tourists all walking with their heads turned skyward taking in all the artwork. The building is immense. As with all basilicas, the shape of the structure is that of a cross, commemorating architecturally the sacrifice of Christ. Everywhere there are statures and altars. One of my favorite places in the church is the altar at which Pope John Paul II prayed when he visited in 1999. There is a photo of him kneeling before the altar lost in deep prayer. You can still feel his presence there even though it has been a decade since he was there.

I did manage to get some photos that I now share with you.
The picture at the very top of this entry is of a sculpture that is a copy of Michelangelo's famous Pieta. This statue is tucked away in a corner of the Cathedral close to the main altar. There is a certain richness about this statue that the camera has a difficult time picking up. But it is a magnificent piece of artwork and quite inspirational.
The next shot is of a mosaic of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The colors in this portrait are striking. The reds are just as bright as can be. There are bursts of light coming from the Savior's heart representing the love he holds in his heart for all of us. The portrait is actually quite large although it is difficult to tell from this picture because there is nothing around it to offer a true perspective.

The next picture is of a side altar in the Cathedral. It is reserved for private prayer where people can go and pray in silence and privacy. As you can see the altar is decorated with thousand of pieces of colored glass that makes everything shimmer.
I took several more pictures but I thought I'd save all who happen upon this blog the painful boredom that comes with looking at someone else's pictures! Suffice it to say that the Cathedral Basilica is a work of art in and of itself and well worth an hour or so of your time if you're ever in St. Louis and looking for something unusual to do.
My vacation continues on. I have through next Monday and who knows where the next adventure may lay! I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


On this Memorial Day weekend, I sincerely hope that all who may read this will take some quiet time to contemplate the enormous sacrifice that so many throughout the ages have made so that we may enjoy the freedoms we now have. So many times we have gone to war either to defend ourselves or our allies in the cause of the advancement of freedom for all mankind. All too often, however, we have marched off to war, flags unfurled, patriotic music quickening our step, and nothing but the thought of glory in our future. But the price of war is severe. Lives lost. Bodies shattered. Families torn apart by the impact of the violence that is the nature of war. Sadly, there are times when war is necessary, but we should never pursue that course of action until all measures have been taken to avoid such conflict.

Eight hundred years ago a small Italian man lived his life in the heart of Italy. He was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant who dreamed of glory won on the battlefield. When war broke out between his home town and a neighboring, much more powerful city, he instantly became a knight. His father spared no expense in outfitting him as a proud and noble knight. In the battle that ensued, he witnessed the brutal and violent death of many of his friends and townsmen. He was captured and thrown into a dark dungeon that wreaked of disease and death. For the next year he would ponder what had happened to him and what was to become of him. Finally, after long negotiations and many bribes, his wealthy father secured his release.

Sick and emaciated, the young knight, who still harbored visions of glory through battle, reached his home and the arms of his mother. For several months, he lay sickly, weakened by his horrible ordeal in prison. As time passed he regained his strength and found himself. . .and God. From that point onward, his was a life lived in the peace and joy of Jesus Christ. He had come to understand the depth of love that God has for us all and swore to never raise the sword against anyone.

Centuries after his death, a prayer was written expressing his philosophy and ideals, his way of life. The prayer, while penned by a Catholic, has been quoted by members of all faiths. It was even read by the late Senator Hubert Humphrey from the United States Senate floor. The young knights name? Francesco Bernadone more commonly known as St. Francis of Assisi. The prayer, composed by an anonymous author, honors the memory of the great saint and gives us a guideline by which to live.

In honor of all those who have served and have given their last full measure of devotion, I wish to share with you that simple prayer that not only sums up the life of Saint Francis, but also should be used as a blueprint for daily living.

Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; when there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

May nations seek this way of settling all differences. large and small, that exist between them. Our future depends on it!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Common Ground

And so President Obama's commencement address at Notre Dame University has come and gone and the world spins on! The president was, as usual, up to the task delivering his speech in ways that few public figures alive today can.

Many of his sentiments I can certainly agree with. I agree that we need to stop demonizing the opposing side. We must come to see those who hold different viewpoints from our own as human beings like ourselves, filled with passion for their "cause." We do need to work together on society's ills even though we may politically and philosophically disagree. But one thing we cannot to in regards to the abortion issue is find common ground.

There is no common ground when it comes to abortion. Are we supposed to some how find it acceptable to simply work to reduce the number of abortions and stop at that? Is it acceptable to allow 500,000 abortions per year instead of 1,000,000 because we have thus reduced the number of the horrific procedure? What do we say to the 500,000 who were not as fortunate as their brothers and sisters who were aborted? Are THEY supposed to feel better because there weren't nearly as many as them this year as last? I think I know their answer!

Another question I would like to pose those who favor abortion is not an evil then why try to reduce the numbers at all? Why would you seek to reduce a good thing in society? Using this logic we can ask, why is so much money spent on trying to reduce the numbers of murder in the inner cities of this country? And we all agree that murder is a bad thing. If we accept the premise that reducing abortion-but not eradicating it-is a good thing, then should we not also accept that at just reducing murder is enough? How would you feel if you lived in one of the blighted neighborhoods that are found in any major United States city that are plagued by murder if the police department declared that they would no longer patrol the area because the murder rate had dropped from twenty to ten and that was a good thing? What about the ten who did die?

Near the end of his speech, the president said this: "each of us, endowed with the dignity possessed by all children of God, has the grace to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we all seek the same love of family, the same life of a life well lived." Beautiful words, Mr. President. Did you also mean to include those citizens of the United States who are developing and awaiting birth within their mother's wombs? Or did you exclude them from the pursuit of happiness?

Friday, May 15, 2009

51% - 42%!

A Gallup poll that was conducted between May 7-10 has revealed rather interesting result that must have many in Hollywood, the White House, and Capitol Hill scratching their heads.
For years we have been told that a vast majority of the American people called themselves "Pro-Choice." Now, in the spring of 2009, it seems as though that trend has been reversed. Gallup found that 51% of Americans described themselves as "Pro-Life." This is a complete turn around from last year's poll that revealed 50% of the populace described themselves as Pro-Choice and 44% considered themselves Pro-Life. Equally interesting is the fact that when an examination inside these numbers is made, a similar trend has developed. In short, more and more people are beginning to see abortion for what it is, the taking of an innocent life created by God.
While these numbers represent an impressive change of attitude, we all know that the American people can be fickle at times. There is still much to do in educating the public regarding the truth of abortion. Those of us who have believed in the sanctity of life for years must continue praying, contacting legislators, educating the public through our passion always laced with mercy and love for those who do not believe in the sanctity of the unborn. Look to the story of Kayleigh, the little girl I wrote about earlier this week, who died after fighting for life nearly a year while suffering immeasurably. While the odds were stacked against this little fighter, her parents fought as hard, learning lessons from Kayleigh that neither would have learned had she been aborted. She blessed the lives of her parents but that blessing extended to all who encountered her story.
I thank God that, at this point in time at least, it seems that the American people are beginning to understand the value of God's most precious gift to us. But we cannot let down in our efforts to overturn the legality of abortion and convert this culture of death into a culture of life!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Lesson of Kayleigh

Quite some time ago I recommended to all who read this blog to visit a website called Kayleigh's Story. It chronicled the story of a little girl born nearly a year ago with a neurological disorder that threatened her life from the very start. The website is a reflection of her family's brave story of coping with the unknown and watching their little daughter undergo countless medical procedures and surgeries in an attempt to save her life. Sadly, that struggle to survive came to an end quietly on May 11.

Kayleigh's short life was one spent in pain and suffering. Yet, somehow, this little gift from God managed to bring joy into her parent's lives by her mere presence. Skeptics, those who refuse to see things beyond the tip of their nose, may say that the adults in Kayleigh's life should have recognized the pain and suffering she experienced and done something to end the agony. However, that would have missed the point.

It is often said that God works in mysterious ways. This refers to the fact that there often are many things in life that happen without a clear reason or explanation. We do not know clearly the ways of God. Kayleigh's story is a typical example of this. The odds of Kayleigh surviving from day one were not good. She had numerous serious health problems that rendered her nearly lifeless in life. Yet, God gave her the brief life that she had for some reason that is beyond our understanding. This is where faith comes in.

Kayleigh's parents suffered mightily during the course of her life. Their hopes rose and fell with each procedure. Their emotions ebbed and flowed sometimes by the minute. They agonized over their little girl's future. Because their faith in God grew deeper during the months of Kayleigh's life, they learned to trust in Him more and more with each passing day. That is not to say that they did not struggle. Very few of us will ever be in the position to experience what they experienced during this time. Kayleigh's parents have stood through all of this as towers of strength turning to each other and God to see them through this nightmare.

Perhaps that is why Kayleigh was born with the difficulties that she was given. Through her life, her parent's faith in God was obviously strengthened while struggling with the ups and downs of this delicate little girl's life. Countless strangers who never met Kayleigh's parents have learned something from this amazing story. God's love for his children has been quite evident through the life of a little girl who had, realistically, very little chance of survival. In order for our faith to grow and be strengthened we must be tried from time to time. We must look inward to find that kernel of faith that will see us through the tragedies of life. We must learn to look beyond what apparently is happening to what is really happening. This takes the sight that only faith provides. And we cannot do this on our own. We must have the grace given to us by the Holy Spirit to see such things. Kayleigh was that grace.

The pain of her departure is felt by even the most casual observer. None of us can imagine the pain of losing a child unless we have endured such a loss. None of us knows how we would handle such a thing. What we can do, however, is look to Kayleigh's parents as shinning examples of how to keep faith in God while strengthening that faith at the same time. God is a marvelous god and we will never be able to fully understand His actions. Yet, we must have faith that what He does, He does with an eye to drawing us closer and closer to us. While this process may involve painful moments, we must learn to trust Him fully.

Our prayers are, of course, with Kayleigh's family and we are assured that she is now complete and whole with God the loving Father, no longer suffering as she did during her tragically shortened life.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tamp Down the Anger??

"I believe that women should have the right to choose, but I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on." (President Barack Obama, Wednesday, April 29, 2009 Press Conference)

So, the President wants to tamp down the anger surrounding the issue of the Right to Life? I think he would have been closer to his opinion if he would have stated something like, "I think these Neanderthals who oppose abortion should just shut up and go away and let us have at abortions at will!" If President Obama does not understand where the anger in this issue comes from, he has more trouble on his hands than a large group of his fellow countrymen who are passionate about protecting the unborn.

Let's be clear about this issue and the president. President Obama is in full favor of making abortion available to any woman who wants one including minors. He cannot camouflage his beliefs with comments designed to lead us to believe that he is simply seeing a way to reduce the number of abortions.

If the president were interested in reducing abortions, he would not be quietly pressing congress to pass FOCA. He would not have appointed a Secretary of State who has not even attempted to hide the fact that she is pressing for abortion worldwide under the guise of improving women's health care issues. He would not have blocked legislation in the Illinois Senate to protect those babies who survive the abortion process. In short, Mr. Obama is most definitely not in favor of just reducing the number of abortions. In fact, the president is doing everything to convince the nation that he wishes to unchain what little restrictions are currently on abortions.

Why does the president do this dance when nearly every one who thinks more about American Idol on any given day understands exactly what his position is on this vital topic. And he has a lot of company on the Hill. Speaker of the House (and that well-known Catholic theologian and historian!) Nancy Pelosi is a willing compatriot of the president's to bring abortion to its full extent. Harry Reed is along for the ride as well.

Why is it that otherwise mild mannered individuals become angered, even enraged, when the subject of abortion comes up? Because we not only believe, but we know, that God created life and that life is sacred no matter what the polls say and what the media reports as the American people's opinions. The unborn have every right that those of us who have been born do. They not only need our protection from the likes of the president, but they deserve our protection as fellow children of God.

We must, as Christ advised, pray always both regarding this issue and all issues that threaten the dignity, integrity, and every fundamental right with which every human being has been endowed. Prayer is a potent weapon in this fight and I urge all who may read this to pray daily and frequently that our leaders open their hearts to the Holy Spirit for guidance and truth!