Nothing Is Something More

empty-box“Take nothing with you,” says Jesus as his apostles exit for their road trips. “Nothing.” When we have so much, how can “nothing” have a religious definition for us?

There are more self-storage facilities all over the city holding things that people once needed and think they will need again in the sometime-future but just not today. I passed a large rummage sale on someone’s front lawn and wondered, “When they wanted and used all that stuff, where was it all kept?”

But Jesus says, “To take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals (stone roads, and all) but not a second tunic” (a tunic for the men, a housecoat for the women).

Jesus says, “Nothing.” Not a thing. Was he talking about stuff or is he referring to the stuff of our lives, usually stuffed with nothing more than ourselves. (I live alone but have three TV’s! Weird!)

When I listen to confessions, I deliberately empty my mind of anything except the absolution that I’m gifted to offer. When I anoint someone, it’s God’s grace that is prayed for; not what I wonderful priest I am.

I don’t know if you know this but if you do all the talking, you’re not learning anything? It’s true. Study after study has proven that statement. That’s not true because there needs to be no study. It’s called common sense. A major study conducted by the PEW foundation discovered that “You’re not as interesting as you think you are.” That’s not true either, but you get the point. When you’re full of yourself and all your wonderful words and stories, then there is barely enough room for someone else in your life. We even have an expression for it, “He’s ‘full of himself.’” Bloated. Don’t you want to take a pin and watch all the air escape that person?

When you experience “nothing,” then there’s room for all kinds of people, ideas, and opinions to fill yourself – mixed together with your own experiences. Isn’t that what communion is? Community? Before receiving the Body of Christ, we say, “Lord, I am nothing without your grace.” “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my self-storage of successes, regrets, doubts, and wonderings. Only say the word, and my soul will find nothing other than Your love.”

So the next time you’re with friends, “Shut up” and see what happens. No, hear what happens. The next time a good story is told to you, and you attempt to tell a better story, “Shut up.” Let your friend have the moment. It may have nothing to do with evangelization, but it’s a healthy healing for both of you; making you nothing and making your friend a valued person.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Soulful Muse,”

inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                  “Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

“In Weakness, Strength”

Archbishop Weakland wrote his biography about his vast, well-traveled life, (he circled the globe ten times as head of the Benedictine Order). A graduate of both Julliard Music in piano and Columbia University in music. Our Milwaukee Archbishop for over twenty years, he writes a comprehensive pastoral letter on behalf of the U.S. bishops on the economy and assisting in a pastoral letter on War and Peace. With all his accomplishments, accolades and honorary degrees, the book begins…the book begins with … his fall from grace.

He begins his memoir with what most people would have either entirely left out or briefly mention at the end. St. Paul says there’s a thorn in his flesh keeping him from being too elated. We Wisconsinites know that very well. A friend says, “It’s a beautiful day today.” Her friend responds, “Yeah, but it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.” A thorn tossed back when a rose was offered. Paul also says, “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”

We only have one body. Is there enough room in your body for both your and Christ? How much room does Christ take up in our bodies? Is he just in our feet when the weekend comes along to come to church or is Christ in our eyes, ears, nose, and throat every day and in every situation in our lives? (ENT for those older folks, they know those letters very well!)

Paul concludes, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, and constraints for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So where are we in my little afternoon sermon? Strength/Weakness, Power/Submission.

I recall a funeral years ago, and the funeral director handed out roses to everyone in the family. I thought it was a nice touch. But then I saw it! The roses had all the thorns removed. Smooth roses were given to those grieving relatives. Scared of a little prick? The rose is the perfect representation for this weekend because it beautifully contains the rose’s beauty and a stem full of prickly thorns. Isn’t that how your day begins each day? You say to yourself, “I’m all set for this bright new day.” (Rose) “That is, once I crack my back.” (Thorn) “I’m giving my son granola and fruit before going to school this morning.” (Rose) “I hate this stuff Mom, where’s the donuts?” (Thorn)

How much room does Christ really need in our bodies? How much space does he need while giving us enough space?

There’s a ridiculous dichotomy that we make in our society. It’s so often “either/or.” Either you’re a Catholic, or you’re not. Either you’re pro-life or pro-abortion. I think there’s an in-between space. It’s that space where I think Christ lives. St. Paul also says, that Christ’s “grace is sufficient…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” We are all strengthened when Christ is in the middle; in the middle of any disagreement whether in marriage or busyily buzzing around privately in our minds.

“He’s ‘full of himself,’” we say of a self-bloated person. There’s no room for Christ when you’re bloated.

Weakland was bloated when he agreed to give money to a man; money that Weakland didn’t have. It was embarrassing for the Milwaukee Catholic Church and for him. Months later, he preempts the 6:00 news. What individual in Milwaukee has ever preempted the 6:00 news? (Rose) Through Evening Vespers, he apologizes and humbly asks for a prayer of forgiveness. (Thorn) He wrote of the televised event in his book, “I was about to face the faithful of the Catholic Church of Milwaukee to make a necessary public apology, impelled by my concept of church as community of loving, sustaining, forgiving believers. I went over and over in my mind every word of what I planned to say, wanting to take full responsibility for my actions and not blaming others. This penitential ceremony would give me an opportunity to apologize and to seek not so much God’s forgiveness, having done so long before, but that of the community.”

“Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church” is the name of his book. A pilgrim. I love that word because it means movement, a constant movement always looking for a place, a space within our lives for Christ to reside, guide and inform us. Weakland found Christ’s space in his own life by beginning to tell us about his enriching, wonderful, full life (Rose) with his weakest and the most vulnerable episode of his life (Thorn).

Can we do any less with the Christ who wants a place to live within us?

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Soulful Muse,”

inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                  “Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | 2 Comments

172,800 Seconds

He thinks he stopped breathing when he heard he had forty-eight hours of them left. He felt fine except for some discomfort prompting his doctor visit. Tests are taken, results returned and he hears that only two of them are left for him. In seconds, it’s 172,800, in his mind they have already passed.

gty_clock_midnight_seconds_rf_jc_150519_16x9_992He’s in his early fifties, recently retired, married, luckily no children to grieve him in seventy-two hours. Funeral plans? Leave that to the misses. A Will? Didn’t consider it until life’s window now has no opportunity.

It’s like the high school retreat before receiving Confirmation when the question of “forty-eight” is raised, and each candidate gets to share their remainings before the so-mores are treated at the camp fire. Knowing full well that death at 16 is a rare event, the answers vary from ridiculous to sincere. He says, “Hiking Mount Everest,” which is laughed over until she shares that she’d write a letter to her grandmother who passed away just a year ago.

Does he not return the books to the library? (Bad joke.) Does he visit his favorite restaurant and enjoy a 20 oz. steak and leave a big tip? Does he buy his first Bible looking for a soothing verse? Her mind is silently racing because the “forty-eight” is entirely his now. Call a few friends or let them read about it in the newspaper in seventy-two?

The doctor was entirely correct for a change. It was “forty-eight,” give or take a minute. He was notified. He heard the diagnosis even it took away many, remaining seconds of his 172,800. With 172, 730 remaining, his life is weighed and summarized by whatever thoughts and actions he chose. It wasn’t a quick car accident or a lengthy hospice stay. It wasn’t in his 80’s sitting in a rocker reading his favorite book a third time, and his head falls or slumberingly meeting God.

It was merely and only two days. It’s two days when we tell friends we’d be happy to meet them for a drink and meal. It’s two days until the term paper is due, “Plenty of time!” It’s two days from the next golf game which he loved and probably had scheduled. “Scheduled.” What a peculiar word to use when two days is bluntly told to you by your trusted physician.

She has her own feelings during those two-waiting days. “These are his remaining days,” she keeps telling herself while considering the day after that.

I met him through a mutual friend several times at parties. He was fun to talk to, engaging and seemed at ease with himself. I don’t know how he spent his 172,800, but I will always remember him for having only two of them left when I think that mine of them are endless.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                  “Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

The Blessed Mother’s “Itch”

itching1The Blessed Mother and the 8th grade class of 2018 have something in common. Both have said, “Yes” to an unknown. And that is a wonderful experience. Saying “Yes,” in faith as Mary did and your “Yes” to living your faith, soon to be tested in high school and throughout your lives.

Your “Yes” is telling God that you recognize your talents and abilities. The Church calls them a “gift.” But I’m not sure about that.

I think a better word for uncovering, discovering and using our talents and abilities is an..is an…it’s an itch. My leg itches, my mouth has an itch, my head suddenly needs to be scratched. Look! My hand now has an itch!

In the Western movies, the outlaw stands in the street facing the sheriff and says, “I’m itching for a fight.” There’s an old rock song called, “Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart.” (“The Supremes”)

Abilities and talents – God given and God blessed every step of the way when they are authentic and benefit humanity.

My itching leg? Could I become an athlete? A Phy Ed coach?
My itching head? Could I become a philosopher? A writer? Someone itching to do Math?
My itching hand? I could become a wielder or an engineer or a doctor/nurse – a pianist?
My itching mouth? Could I become a public speaker – even with a sometimes stuttering problem? Could I teach as good as the teachers have taught you, some of you for a full eight years.

What do you do with an itch? Why, you scratch it and see what happens. If it doesn’t itch anymore than you know you answer. If it continues to itch – you knows there’s a “Yes” from God wanting for a response, a commitment, a promise, a dedication. To the eighth graders and to all of you who will one day be in eighth grade – just like the Blessed Mother – we say “Yes” when God comes itching into your hearts and souls.

I guess the Church was right after all. Our talents and abilities are gifts – given to us by God, to be used in God’s name. But I’m also right. Those gifts live within with an itching to be unwrapped, to the glory and honor of God.

May God bless you soon-to-be graduates of Christ King parish. Itch away.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                  “Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Blessed Virgin Mary, Spirituality | Leave a comment

One Funeral for A Married Couple

(Unusual as it is, Jean was in hospice but Bob got sick and died. Jean passed away shortly after. One sermon for two people.)

2332952_l“Since he was the only man in Beauty Salon school he decided to date each student alphabetically. He stopped at “D.” That’s a union made in heaven for over sixty years.

Our thoughts and prayers today truly lead us to this unusual occasion. Is it a picture of true devotional love or just a weird coincidence? Or is it both. If you saw a movie end this way you’d say to yourself, “Ya, right” and wash the popcorn bowl.

I had a funeral for gentleman at 106 years old. It was the talk of the week from vigil through the lunch. In my sermon I said don’t let his age define him. He was a whole person and that needs to be honored. I thought of saying that to you today.

But then I decided I was wrong. Their side by side deaths is a story to be retold at cocktail parties, family gatherings and remembered by us all because it was their end.

Endings. We hate them after watching a great movie and love them when the boring meeting is over. I have a friend who reads the final chapter of a book first. A mystery novel? Who does that? He says it helps him appreciate the rest of the book knowing how it’s going to end. Go figure.

Go figure? Isn’t that the story of our faith? Isn’t that how Bible stories are remembered in order to be lived? We start with the end and work our way back through all that precedes it. The proof is today’s gospel. (And I wrote this before I knew what the gospel was going to be! Great minds?)

We start with the resurrection and slowly begin to understand what Christmas means. We start with Christ’s death to know what a meaningful life leading up to it means and looks like for us. At Baptism, the end is mentioned a lot. Death to sin and rising to new life. A white garment to be faithfully carried throughout your life until … yes, death. At today’s ending, we recall those baptismal promises with a white garment draped over death and sprinkled with living water. The candle their godparents held many years ago is now exchanged with the pascal candle, the risen Christ.

We start with the end and work our way back. Isn’t that what those doubtful apostles did? After the resurrection, they finally begin to say to each other, “Oh, that’s what he meant when he said this or that or told us that parable or healed that guy or gal in all those towns. Now it all makes sense.”

Those who knew Bob and Jean can now work your way back in remembering and appreciating their relationship, their commitment, their family and friends, what they thought was important to preserve and what they discarded because it had no value for them. I’m not talking about physical stuff but I’m talking about the stuff of life. Attitudes, values, beliefs – any sayings, slogans or stories they may have tossed around hoping it would land in a young child’s lap and heart. Any good deed or sacrifice they made knowing they had a context, an anchor in their in which to do it: their mutual love for each other.

At a funeral last Saturday the son said in his eulogy, “We’re are now parentless.” I thought to myself, “They ain’t dead, they’re just not here anymore. Their loving commitment can create chapters and chapters for each of our lives to recount and remember as we continue to live faithful lives.

So, go ahead and remember this ending day for Jean and Bob. For all of our personal commitments and promises – may we be faithful to the end. The end. Or, is it?”

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                  “Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

The Gospel According to Apple

A reading from the Holy Gospel that Saints Mark, Matthew, Luke or John should have written.

Logo Apple Generasi Kedua

Thousands of people and their friends began a journey through their respective cities but did not wish anyone to know about it for fear of being last or worse, left out.

They were talking to each other with a growing excitement and anticipation of something great that was about to occur. How could they not contain themselves? It was too much for them, but they faithfully continued their pilgrimage toward their destinations.

Locally, they traveled down North Avenue driving much too fast on our small Wauwatosa street while never stopping at the crosswalks to allow pedestrians to cross safely. (And if anyone were to stop at the crosswalk they’d get reared ended.) Arriving at Swan Blvd. it was suggested that they stop for coffee, sit outside and visit on this crisp fall day. It was decided that there was no time for such foolishness. The mission was too critical to leave to whimsical conversation gossiping about each other.

Still, other journeyers traveled the Silver Spring Drive route toward their “one bite” divine destination. Several travelers needed shoes (we always seem to need new shoes), but again the group decided that it was too risky and too much delaying would put them at the end of the line. An unAmerican position if there ever was one.

Several in the groups began to boldly state that any delays would allow others to possess first what they themselves wanted but presently did not have. Few understood what that last statement meant, but they were afraid to question the speakers because they wanted to be included, accepted and not thought of as “different,” or “outsiders.” God forbid to be left out, ignored or not the first in all things. (Please recall the previous unAmerican wish.) The mission must continue.

They arrived at the Promised Land (aka Mayfair Mall or Bayshore Mall). Along the way, they had been discussing what features were most important to them. Their knowledge of the silliest of things was astounding to those listening. Concepts like “4G,” “LTE,” “Siri” “A6 Chip,” and “iOS6.” If those known details of insignificant apps and add-ons were applied to other areas of creative learning and formidable attitudes, it certainly could change this world for a better one. Instead, all thoughts are focused on this little shiny black or white item that was available for the first time in all parts of the world on this Friday. (And that’s another problem. The world. Other parts of the world receive their shiny object before Americans did. Damn time zones!)

One speaker in the Mayfair Mall line sat down and called a few of the misguided toward himself and began to say to them, “Do you have presently possess a totally working, efficient and manageable telephone? Is there any possible, imaginable, humanly plausible reason for you to replace this perfectly working and efficient telephone with a new one? Is the $200.00 or $400.00 or $600.00 you are about to spend the wisest move in your creepy little lives? When you go home and open your hard-to-open little white box and hold it for the first time, what will your thoughts be? I now have to get rid of the perfectly working and efficient telephone that I’ve now replaced with this semi-improved and similar in most respects telephone? And in thirty days I will have a bill to pay with money I thought I didn’t have or was happy to have and saved and is now spent on a comparable object that replaces a perfectly working and efficient telephone?”

The 4-6 hours that you wait and wait and wait in line, your presently perfectly working and efficient telephone rings, so you make and receive several calls. You also check the weekend weather, your emails and surf the latest news from around the world. All the while you cannot wait long enough to replace this perfectly working and efficient telephone with this quasi-new one. This equivalent to the old new marks you as the first (or one millionth first!) and you now have this approximate, semi-improved shiny object for what length of time? That’s right, until a higher number or letter replaces it. Boy, doesn’t this purchase make you the greatest (illusion) and smartest (questionable), brilliant (only if you own Apple stock), gullible (now you’re talking) person in the world or what?

The Gospel of the Lord.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                “Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

Your Personal Beanstalk

jack-and-beanstalkThe Bible today tells us about a cedar tree, I couldn’t point one out to you if it were standing in front of me. Sorry, prophet Ezekiel. And, my apologies to Jesus. I’ve never planted a seed in my life much less a mustard seed. But Jesus spoke to his audience uses images they’d recognize, so I’ll speak to you the same today. (But, Lord, they’re still good scripture readings!)

We would all agree that life is complicated; sometimes self-imposed, other times from other people or forces beyond ourselves. Much of life’s complication is our lack of preserving the three most important elements in our lives. We need to be reminded of them, to clutch onto and value them. Our scripture readings today all talk about transformation, growth, and deepening what’s important in your life.

Spirituality is completely and always about those things. So, am I talking about spiritual elements just because I’m a priest? These three are indeed spiritual. They are the beans, the golden egg, and the harp. That’s right. “Jack and the Beanstalk” is a biblical story not found in the Bible. This age-old fable becomes the fiber and muscle of our endeavors and of our lives.

It is believing in the power of transformation that takes on a new shape and a sturdy form in our lives. And then, by believing and accepting that, we find that these three wishes do come true.

The Magic Bean:  We can only trade in life what we have to trade; in other words, you need to have something before you can give or trade it away. If you have nothing to trade then you must rob or take from others. The magic beans are given to Jack to build his life. From those magic beans comes a beanstalk that is as high as the sky  (“The sky’s the limit!”).

It’s tempting to rely solely on the Catholic Church’s “beanstalk” to become own personal beanstalk. It doesn’t work that way. An institution cannot replace an individual’s personal homework.

It is only authentic if you find and claim it for yourself. You cannot climb someone else’s beanstalk. (Bishop/Church, Priest/Church, husband/wife, son-daughter/parent). You can only create and climb your own beanstalk. To rely on another’s beanstalk is to not take responsibility for our lives. We always have someone or something else to blame. It’s too easy, it doesn’t work, and it slowly erodes your own personhood. The personhood God created you to form and transform your entire lives.

The magic beans create a stalk for us. But beware. Bear in mind that throughout our lives there will always be those people who want to cut down our stalk, or reshape it into an image similar to their own, or just simply ignore it, as though our personal stalk doesn’t matter. But it is our stalk created from our magic beans that created it, and it is ours to value, cherish and possess for a lifetime. From this stalk and because of this stalk, we’re able to grasp and achieve the other two wishes.

The Harp: It represents the creative and energetic powers within us. If anyone dwindles them, then a slow death or depression occurs. We simply cannot live without that energy that propels us out of bed in the morning and throughout our day and into our relationships. It is the harp that is full of its music that harmonizes us to each other. It is our personal gifts that represent our uniqueness and personhood in this world.

The Golden Egg: It represents the context from which our life is lived; marriage, priesthood, city employee, teacher, whatever place we allow ourselves to be placed.
It’s interesting to note that the harp and egg are both stolen in our biblical fable. They are not freely distributed, they are not handed to you on a platter or inside a cereal box, (and no government can give you what you don’t already possess), they are not provided in life’s scheme, they are not a given.

By being stolen, we are choosing them for ourselves and then making them our own. We are claiming that they rightfully belong to us and we transform them to be an integral part of our lives. (Wasn’t “salvation” stolen for us by the sacrifice of Jesus?)

From these gifts, we carve out our position and hold that position in life, our whole lives.  Interestingly, do you remember how the magic beans are obtained?  From the cow that was sold. The cow that gives milk (mother! anyone?). We need to sell our mothers (in other words, become independent) in order to become persons with our own magic powers. We slowly become persons who can contribute and transform ourselves and this world with our magic beans, harps, and eggs.

To all those newly graduated from whatever level of education, please read this non-biblical Biblical story. It’ll see you through what happens in your life. It will see me through my unemployment until I steal life’s next golden egg.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                  “Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Jack and the Beanstalk, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Faith’s List

List-Icon1I hate lists. They’re intended to guide you toward an end but rarely is the end ever met. You miss a step or something falls apart, and you need to start all over again. Human nature can never be reduced to a silly list that attempts to narrow our complicated and enjoyable life.

A diet’s list? Billions of dollars are made when failure is almost built in to repeat the list. A magazine’s cover offers a list of 5, 7 or even 12 ways to soften, enlighten, reinforce, modify or change a human habit, and you grab one because it was cleverly placed in the checkout line. (Never a list of “13” by the way.)

The only list I’ve loved is Paul Simon’s, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Now that’s a list! However, since I’m a priest, St. Peter offers another list. Somewhat more difficult to define and measure but surely worth the list’s results. What are the consequences? We jump to the conclusion of heaven, but that’s in the future; what about right here and right now – where we live and breath.

Virtue to Knowledge to Self-control to Endurance to Devotion to Mutual Affection and ending with Love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)

So, how about “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” or “Seven Ways to Live a Meaningful, Godly Life”?

St. Peter’s sequence doesn’t fit the way we behave. I’d have started with Knowledge but St. Peter begins with the end. Love is not the end, but it’s Virtue’s response. Or better yet, I’d make it eight steps and insert “Yearning” or “Longing” as life’s first hurdle.

Yearning leads to Searching (my new number two) which makes you seek our Knowledge (Peter’s number two, my number three). After researching enough of my number three, you realize that it’s only achieved through his number three (my number four), Self-control. Something of value has been uncovered and needs to be preserved and respected, hence his number three. Protecting his number three brings you to my number five, Devotion. We say to ourselves, “This feels right for me, and I hope God feels the same way.” That’s the result of living his number four.

But now what does one do with Pete’s number four? Is Devotion only directed to God or is it both performed for God but through someone or a group of people? That brings about Mutual Affection, Peter’s number five on the list. As difficult as it is in any context or time in our lives – Mutual Affection is the human response to my made-up numbers eight or nine, Virtue.

Number five can only lead to, and I mean only lead to, humanity’s highest calling – number seven, Love (or number eight if you accept my insertion of Yearning as number one.)

No magazine will publish this and St. Peter wouldn’t agree with me. But I like my list. It’s complete. It challenges me every day of my life. My list comes from my heart and not my faith. But it’s my faith that responds to my heart because I added a new number one, Yearning.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                “Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | 1 Comment

Home’s Morsels

MINISTER PRESENTS EUCHARIST DURING COMMUNIONIt’s the small piece you break off before eating the rest yourself. It’s that tiny piece dropped to the floor to satisfy an anxious dog beneath your kitchen table. It’s your only pathway that leads you back home.

It’s those small morsels of bread tossed behind you that mark the leaving of your beginnings and your home behind. But it’s a carefully traced trail that leads you back home whenever you need to return. A simple morsel of bread. Wheat. Sustenance. The morning smell that began your growing up days and now its memory-smell lives within you until the end of your days. (For us kids it was baked bread topped with cinnamon to compliment the wheat from Cream of Wheat before going to school.)

If you’re young, those morsels pave what you’re leaving toward – unknown, multiple steps. Or, if you’re me, it’s more as memory-morsels leading me back home if you’re older and soon-to-be unemployed.

Throughout life we can lose our way, our way may lose us, or those we love leave. But it’s those darn morsels that intrigue me. Those morsels are slung over her head as she smugly leaves home for the first time with her new Apple computer, or they are sadly remembered as a wonderful job leaves me. Those morsels are reminders of a place, a welcoming place, the beginning place; a place called home.

The Body and Blood of Christ are but a morsel and a sip to bring us back and remind us about of our eternal home, where we all began. You bow and hold out your hand to me wanting a piece of Christ to eat but it really ought to be tossed over your shoulder to show you the way back home. I bless the young ones unable to eat the morsels because they still take home for granted. But time quickly changes that. Home is where sincerity, trust and hope each has their own room, either in their absence or in practice – or both. The attic is where unexpected surprises reside and the basement is full of dusty regrets. Each location explains its usage.

I lost my job, and she’s off to college to find one. My tossed morsels are long spoiled (but when I turn around I can still see them). Hers are freshly pitched over her shoulder.
For a parent to “let go” of a college-age daughter is second only to sending her into a war zone – only this time it’s the battle of life. Is it her parent’s last wave at the college’s entrance or perhaps an invisible hug from her father (because, “Dad, everybody’s watching!”) Or, is it looking for meaningful work in my work’s twilight.

You can only look ahead by looking back. Your past does not define you and your future will not save you. Your past greatly influences you but your future is entirely yours. But one path is clearly mark by your simple pieces – morsels from the promises of God, the actions and admonitions of the God-Man, and the Holy Spirit in her willingness to see you through anything that you either throw at life or that life throws at you.

It’s those persistent but ever-present morsels that bring both her and me back again. Hers in her own time and mine in mine. Mine is the easier one. I know about the morsels and the way back home because I read that fairy tale and believe it. She’ll live that story without having probably read the old story. Those morsels tossed behind both of us cannot disappear – they only lead back to where those morning smells continue to live and is so often taken for granted – that place, that anchor we call home.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Eucharist, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Funeral Sermon for a Mother Who Loved Sunflowers

It points itself to the sun as though it’s the beginning and the end. It seeks the sun for energy and nourishment. It needs the sun in order to look like the sun. And, indeed, as it blossoms it does resemble the heavenly sun while deeply planted in earth’s ground.

Wow. Am I talking about a beautiful flower or am I talking about our beautiful faith? Or, am I talking about both?

Believe me, today it’s about both. Margaret’s adopted persona is the sunflower – a beautiful creation that represents so much of our lives if you let a little poetry describe it for you. Margaret didn’t adopt but embraced the beauty of our Catholic faith and reflected it through her marriage, children, friendships, volunteering and most especially in her prayer life.

You know what? You can’t see what I’m saying so you’re never sure if I’m talking about the sUn or the sOn.

Each of us has been firmly planted in this journey of life. Each of us reflects something greater than ourselves. Each of us resembles something or someone else.

You don’t believe me? Jesus resembles God. We are made in God’s image, so see if you see the resemblance in anyone you encounter.

William Blake wrote a short sunflower poem. It’s pack with meaning and for us this Saturday morning it’s packed with feeling.

“Ah! sunflower, weary of time,” he wrote. Because time is limited, one singer contains it in a “bottle.” “If I could make days last forever, if words could make wishes come true, I’d save every day like a treasure and then, Again, I would spend them with you.” Between how much sewing, socializing and golfing can we measure Margaret’s quality time … time spent with family and friends. And her gift for always making new friends no matter where she lived.

Blake continues, “Who counts the steps of the sun.” Limited time times our steps as though contained in a bottle or a box. “Seeking after that sweet golden clime,” Blake wrote. Prayer allows those upward steps to be taken. Prayer makes time, timeless – it takes away earth’s bottle or box and opens us up to the boundlessness that we call “God.” Blake says, “Where the traveller’s journey is done.” That’s why we gather in prayer today. What earth calls “timed out,” our faith assures us that that time now becomes timeless.

“Where the youth pined away with desire,” Blake wrote, brings about a loving marriage of 58 years along with children forced to sing Irish songs. (But that’s okay.) Here’s the line from Blake that I like the most because it speaks to Margaret and all of us, “And the pale virgin shrouded in snow.” Margaret’s beautiful “virgin” body, virgin meaning that which is created by God experiences fifty years of back pain until finally relieved in her third and final chapter of life. (I guess finding the right doctor is good advice!)

Funerals are not only about someone we’ve lost but it’s also about a renewal of our own timed-earthly journey toward heaven’s-timelessness. Who do we resemble to our family and friends? Who do we represent in our words and actions? How can the image of Margaret’s sunflower speak to us?

Blake concludes, “Arise from their graves and aspire, Where my sunflower wishes to go.” We pray this Saturday for Margaret’s new life redeemed through Christ. We pray that what she resembled for many, many years grounded on this earth, she now becomes forever in heaven.

But wait! I’m still not sure who we’re talking about. Is it about a sunflower or is it about Margaret? Is it about sUn or is it about sOn? Or is it all of it?

Ah sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellor’s journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!
William Blake

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                               Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Funeral, Spirituality | Leave a comment