The Walgreens Guy

walgreens-logo1I’m third in line waiting to checkout with my two items wondering why showing my discount card never lives up to its name. I’m listening to the checkout guy as he engages each checking-out person. A silly aside or wish said by the cashier dismisses the two before me leaving with their needed drugs for whatever ails the body or mind.

It’s my turn to hear banter from a guy who looks late 50’s and is either wealthy and enjoys wearing an embarassingly red vest with his name posted that no one sees or he lives with his aging mother with a promised inheritance. Unanswered questions from me with my two life/death items. I hold up my never-discounted card, but he’s scanning my items. “Do you have your card?” he asks as a robot would. “Oh, right in front of my face, I see, how could I miss it?” he realizes. A big smile appears on his face as his bids me a farewell he did not give the other two. “I hope your life is wonderful,” he says as he begins to check out the next person.

Employees must be instructed during orientation not to judge a shopper’s items. “Oh, bowel movement problems today?” does not encourage a second visit. Is personal attention encouraged? If not, this guy is a natural.

Ministry? Job? Standup comic? He engaged me as he engaged the two before me. I smiled as I left wondering, “Who is that guy?” I recall that some time ago they said, “Be Well” as a customer left but that was the company talking, not the employee. It didn’t last long. I liked that line, but I guess it grew as tired as “Have a nice day” has and still does. (My dad always wanted to respond, “Now, I have to change my plans!”)

“God bless you” is full of meaning when properly used but can easily become the flippant property of a checkout priest. “Thanks for shopping” after Mass? I like that one. “You’re business is important to us” after Mass? I somewhat like that one. “What will it take for you to make a substantial contribution today,” says the car salesmen priest. I don’t like that one.

The Walgreens Guy was personalable in a safe but engaging way. The customer didn’t need to respond, but if it happened then, the Walgreens Guy would continue. I think that’s called ministry. It’s not a conversion or evangelization, but it’s an encounter when each encounter is unique.

“God bless you” has powerful meaning within a context. A “hope for a wonderful life” took me by surprise from a profession that repeats itself. Do we repeat ourselves with tired responses just to keep the conversation going?  His was sincere, and I just may take him up on that promise.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“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
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

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Teachers: planting seeds

(a grade school sermon at a Catholic school)

thThe Gospel story of seeds – some temporary, some impulsive, others victims of the latest fad and finally the seed that blossoms and continues to grow. It all began in a Catholic school for me and is celebrated yearly at the end of January during Catholic Schools Week.

My 6th-grade nun was Sr. Mary Discipline. She taught me patience. It doesn’t always work, but her name comes to mind when I get lazy.

2nd grade was Sr. Mary Joy. I don’t believe I learned much from her, but she showed me true joy, even when life gets tough.

Sr. Mary Books taught my 4th-grade class. She talked about books for the whole year. I still remember some titles. She loved to show us, kids, how to enjoy and cherish reading.

7th grade was Sr. Mary Music. We sang and sang song after song – always religious – she also introduced us to classical music. It didn’t work for me for many years until adulthood. Now I choose classical music whenever the radio is on.

Actually, I lied. Those were not my grade school teachers in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. My grade school teachers were first, Sr. Manet; second, Sr. Cheryl; third, Sr. Theresa; fourth, Mrs. Danielson; fifth, Mrs. Schroeder; sixth, Sr. Thomas; seventh, Sr. Louis and eighth was Sr. Patricia Ann. (Mrs. Swetligt figures in there somewhere but I forgot where.)

Seeds were planted, some were planned and others were unexpected. But, if in fifty years, you can name your grade school teachers, then good soil was given to you to grow and care for the rest of your lives.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“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
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

2/2, “Candlemas Day”

(No, don’t cue Bill Murray although the movie is great. Today, you are permitted to take down and remove your Christmas tree. Please have a vacuum handy while doing this.)

800px_COLOURBOX2536791There it is, now lit. It took longer to light this time because the wick is lower and I just can’t seem to reach deep enough inside to relight it.  But I did.

The house is still heated, I can’t rely on that little flame to flame forth a comfortable, warm winter home. Heck, if I quickly stood up right now I think it’d go out.  Oh, wait. Forget that. I just tried it, and it didn’t go out; this little, small flame on my kitchen table with a supposed spruce scent that “fills the room” as the box falsely claimed. I didn’t buy the candle for the scent although a nice scent would be nice.

It flickers, ever so slowly as it tries to keep itself alive.  The heating wax surrounding it allows the tiny flame to stay lit. Is it enough to turn off the kitchen light? I’m not even trying because it’s a silly question. If it can’t heat, it certainly can’t illuminate.
I like the teeny flame because it seems to show everything when it barely shows anything. If folks walked into my kitchen now, they would not say, “Oh, what a beautiful flame you have going here.” It wouldn’t be noticed. It would remain an unsaid piece in the room.  None would smell the scent as the box promised, and our conversation would move to topics that interest them.

But no one else is here. It is just me and a single, miniature version of those real flames that surround a veterans memorial or a park’s statue.  My tiny flame doesn’t mark great and grand events but only the passing thoughts that pass my mind as quickly as they enter.  Random, varied; none solved or resolved. Perhaps a few reenactments of a personal play that cannot be re-acted run through my mind but it seems productive to try even if the reproduction turns out the same way. It’s my single flame. I can have an opening and closing night in one hour if I want to.

I considered a larger candle, hence a larger flame but thought, “Why?” as I stare at my small version.

Wax builds up as the flame continues which can pose problems for the tiny thing that neither brightens or scents as the box described.  The surrounding wax can keep the tiny flame vibrant and alive, but the same wax can also drown it. Without careful observation on my part, the wax may extinguish my undersized flame. Interesting how the needed wax can also become the drowning wax. I need to keep the minute flame lit every minute I observe it.

One flame. No scent in spite of the box description. No one around to comment, criticize, weigh or measure my kitchen flame or my momentary thoughts.  Watching the heat-filled wax build up now, so it doesn’t triumph.

It’s my night. It is my single flame. I don’t mind that I miss the scent which the box assured. It’s my flame. And I enjoy it every single night.

                                                                   _____Key_____

single flame:  the pilot light of our lives that keeps burning through all times of life.
scent:  the promises of life are not always realized, real or imagined.
wax: those who support and encourage you keep the flame alive and those who intrude to overwhelm the single flame.
re-enactments: upon reflection, we try to reshape made decisions, unmade decisions, missed opportunities and opportunities that went sour as though reenacting them again will change the outcome.
single flame:  what gets us out of bed in the morning and lights the day ahead, allows a good night sleep to prepare us for the next day.

                                                              ___________________

(the following is from http://projectbritain.com/year/candlemas.html)

This ancient festival marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.

Candlemas is a traditional Christian festival that commemorates the ritual purification of Mary forty days after the birth of her son Jesus. On this day, Christians remember the presentation of Jesus Christ in the Temple. Forty days after the birth of a Jewish boy, it was the custom to take him to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to God by his thankful parents.

In pre-Christian times, this day was known as the ‘Feast of Lights’ and celebrated the increase strength of the life-giving sun as winter gave way to spring.

How did the 2nd February come to be called Candlemas?

It was the day of the year when all the candles, that were used in the church during the coming year, were brought into church and a blessing was said over them – so it was the Festival Day (or ‘mass’) of the Candles.

Candles were important in those days not only because there was no electric lights. Some people thought they gave protection against plague and illness and famine. For Christians, they were (and still are) a reminder of something even more important. Before Jesus came to earth, it was as if everyone was ‘in the dark’. People often felt lost and lonely. Afraid. As if they were on their own, with no one to help them. Then came Jesus with his message that he is with his followers always ready to help and comfort them. As if he is a guiding light to them in the darkness. Christians often talk of Jesus as ‘the light of the World’ – and candles are lit during church services to remind Christians of this.

Weather Proverbs

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,
The half o the winter’s to come and mair;
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
The half o the winter’s gane at Yule.

Farmer’s Proverbs

‘A farmer should, on Candlemas Day, Have half his corn and half his hay.’

‘On Candlemas Day if the thorns hang adrop,
You can be sure of a good pea crop.’

German Proverb

The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day, and, if he finds snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining he draws back into his hole.

In America, the same story is told about the groundhog or woodchuck.

                                                         _____________________

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“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
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Candle, Spirituality | Tagged , | 1 Comment

“Head or Heart?”

358It starts with mother. (Actually it begins and ends with the mother, but that’s a different sermon.) Our faith begins with the faith of a mother. Sorry dads, I know your faith is important to you also, but, I think you’d agree, there’s a special mystery about our faith’s transmission from mother to child. Whether it’s mom strong faith or faultering faith, the impact is strongly carried within us.

When mother sternly says, “Did you say your prayers?” sounding like she also said, “Did you clean the bathroom?” Her intentions and hope are the same.

Just as we’ve emerged from her, mother cooks for us faith’s first tastes. Who else laments during those college years when we conveniently forget to attend Sunday Mass? Faith (belief in God) or anything beyond ourselves is contagious. In our early years, in church, we mimic the actions of others hoping to please God.

Jesus expresses authority in his teachings, in directing us toward life’s the purpose and meaning. They say, “He talks to us like no other.” “How did the kid from Nazareth get all that!” I think a better word than “authority” is Jesus speaks to us with sincerity. He means what he says. Moses, in the first reading, says God will tell us what to say. Jesus didn’t need to be told what to say. His truth lived and came to us – from his heart to ours.

The opposite of all this are those darn demons in the gospel. One writer says, “Demons believe in a savior” but a true believer says “our Savior.” How can a single letter like the letter “a” cause such a division? The conflict, according to the writer, is between the head and the heart. The head speaks a company’s policy without thinking, but the heart constantly beats for genuineness after careful reflection and prayer.

Being a priest has its occupational hazards as in my following example but what other reference can I use? I’m not a parent and my two cats don’t care what I believe! Over all my years, people tell me that they can detect a sincere priest. They can hear the difference between heart and head. Priests can speak from their heads as well as anybody. We are all susceptible to that, but it’s a mother’s faith that either brings us back or forces us back to the heart’s honesty.

Faith? Can we be candid in sharing our faith with each other? Can our “heart” question or doubt without receiving a “head’s” response from a good friend? Can we be honest with each other in our mutual search attempting to unravel mysteries? (And if you’re among those who’ve solved a mystery in your certitude than it’s no longer a mystery – that’s that demonic “head” talking its head off instead of a pondering, listening heart.)

Kids say today, “Keep it real!” and Jesus says to us every day, “You believe me because you trust me because I’m honest with you.” Believing him and believing in him gathers us here yearning for that honest and truthful heart.

The old TV show was called, “Father Knows Best.” That’s very true in many matters of life, but when it comes to faith, we know mom’s TV show title would be something like, “Mother Shows Us Best.” It’s only when we thank mother for her faith and make this gift of faith, as Jesus did, truly our own that we can say, “Keep it real.”

First Reading: Moses said, And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.”

Gospel: “and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“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
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

Blessing of Hospice Rooms & Nurses Station

Holding Hands with Elderly Patient

Hospice Rooms Blessing

Lord of mercy, This is a person’s last room. A place where life eternal meets a life lived. A place of peace and contentment – not only within these walls but within the hearts of all who enter. May tears flow freely and may laughter break apart awkward silences. May loving stories be shared to be remembered. May silence also have a space for quiet prayer. Fulfilled lives will occupy this room, regardless of human age but of the endless age to come.

May the Lord bless this place with serenity, tranquility, and repose. Amen.

Nurses Station Blessing

It looks like a place full of computers and papers containing medical, insurance and other business stuff but it is a place where precious lives are afforded a peaceful release from life. May the resident’s face always live in your minds and hearts as numbers and facts are recorded. May all who work in this space wake up with an eager hope and return home satisfied. When stress occurs, don’t drink coffee but take a short walk and breath back into yourself the passion that called you to the ministry of hospice care.

May God bless this work area. Amen.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“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
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | 1 Comment

These Aging Hands

At a meeting today, I wanted to turn to the person next to me and show her my hands asking, “Whose hands are these?”

I knew the answer because I was just looking down on them. But these wrinkles don’t appear to be mine. If not mine then, whose? Rubbing them together, I remembered the owner.

The skin is so loose along with multiple liver spots. How can my liver produce spotty blotches all over my hands? I pinch the skin and it doesn’t move. Whatever happened to bouncing back to smooth? The veins on my hands are clearly visible but who looks at their veins except us vain people?

It’s my dad’s fault, I conclude. Bad genes. I now possess my father’s hands complete with his completeness although he was 93 and I’m not near that. If I were to make a fist more often, would that help? Even if I did it every hour? Would that tighten what time’s loosened?

My handshake is still firm, and gestures continue as usual, but it’s the resting in place when I peer down at them that causes me deep concern. I see thick veins and wonder if one will pop open. Will I have time to seek help or will time time out in a quick blood release from my heart and liver? And what’s with that traveling from my liver to my hands?

I’m sure my doctor has an explanation for my aging hands, but I don’t need a $280.00 answer that costs the government and me. The signs are there, I’m holding them when I don’t type.

Signs of what, I wonder; that I’m my father’s son? I already know that. Does this mean I’ll soon be smoking cheap cigars and driving a car far too long for his safety and that of others? Is reruns of situation comedies at 11:00 p.m. my destiny as it was my father’s?

Crossing my arms during a meeting isn’t recommended, it conveys self-protection and arrogance which my father was never about. I already know about WWJD but WWWD: “What Would Walter Do?”

I suspect, no; I know that he would smile at what time has brought him – a good life, an honest life, a loving family, an incredible career and spots that seem to originate in one’s liver. Oh, wait! Am I talking about Walter or about me?

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“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
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

A Loving Joke from Jesus

Luke 15:11-32 New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Lost Son

prodigal_son11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. (What! No Mom, Divorced, Deceased?) 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’  (There is no share for the youngest since all the property goes to the eldest.) So he divided his property between them. (Dad’s first loving mistake, or is it?)

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country (two miles away, just to be safe) and there squandered his wealth in wild living. (Never defined, but we guess he had a good time of it.) 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, (a Republican was elected) and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. (Pigs!) He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. (Pigs! Jewish! Together? Pause for laughter or aghastment. And, he’s still waiting to be waited on.)

17 “When he came to his senses, (Hunger has a way of doing that) he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! (It’s only been one day…but still.) 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20  (Practice your speech again and again. Now try it in front of a mirror and see how convincing you are.) So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Dad doesn’t wait for his contrived speech.)

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (Well, okay, he got part of it out, but still…)

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf (“And not the pig!”) and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Dad ignores hearing about his “wild living” and its sordid details and does what only a Loving God and insightful dad would do.)

25 “Meanwhile, (Here’s the cool part of the story that I love,) the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. (A  Donna Summer mix with a bit of Mariah Cariah) 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. (These two kids only move when necessary.) So his father went out and pleaded with him. (Dad, again initiates the contact). 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes (Stop reading! “Prostitutes!” Who said anything about the ‘ladies of the night’ in this story? Where’s his mind?) comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ (Dad’s thinking, “Yada, yada, yada…get it out and move on.”)

31 “‘My son,’ (You dumb turkey) the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. (Minus half.) 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

And so ends one of the greatest stories of God’s limitless wisdom, forgiveness and hope coupled with our foolish and wimical errors. God’s undying love, like a father’s devotion, far outweighs our thoughtless and dopey sins.

Jesus tells us a joke about a a serious matter. Are we able to laugh all the way to God’s forgiveness and reunion?

(Thanks to Rev. Michael Himes for the inspiration.)

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“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
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Prodigal Son, Spirituality | Leave a comment

The “Baptism of Jesus”

yikAXbRiEThis is a good news and bad news sermon, and I’m not asking you which you’d like to hear first. I’ll give you the bad news first. Many, many years ago, the Sacrament of Baptism was all about the past…Original Sin as though there’s something original about it which we’ve been inflicted with it since dawn’s time.

“Get the kid baptized,” was the only anthem heard. If there were a delay between the hospital stay and the Church, then the Catholic nurse would secretly drop a few droplets on the infant’s head, thinking to herself, ”Just in case.” They must have been genuinely scared people back then. Scared of an early death or even scarier about the infant’s salvation. And it all focused (please note) on the past. The kid did nothing wrong, except she was born! It’s the Adam and Eve syndrome that brought the past to the present. From the hospital to the parish rectory or as soon as possible into the church. (Too bad they didn’t have Uber back then.)

Born into sin? Yes and no. The “yes” is that our religious history continues but the “no” is the good news that I offer to you today. Baptism is now all about the child’s future.

“I claim you for Christ,” I say as I make the sign of the cross on her wrinkled free forehead. Many, many years later, in the hospital or nursing home another priest (since I’ll be dead) will anoint her with the same sign of the cross saying the words, “May God in His love and mercy help you.”

Today, Baptism is seen as the future. I say, “Are you ready as Christian parents to help this child reach the dignity that is our Christian faith? If ‘Yes,’ then please say it.” The same admonition is given to the godparents, hopefully, chosen out of their faith instead of, “it’s their turn in the family.”

The future. She’s been baptized into an unknown future. This is the authentic way. John baptized Jesus into the future, not the past. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the only anointing or commissioning that Jesus is given to begin his ministry. The lessor baptizes the greater. Why would John baptize Jesus when he’s without sin (the past) except for the fact that baptism is all about the future?

The lessor (me) baptizes a greater child who will replace me and how many others in her adventure, explorations and uncovering the wonders of this beautiful life. That’s the baptism of today.

I say at the baptism, “May you bring your dignity as a Christian unstained into eternal life.” Talk about a tall order to fill! Yet that’s the order given each of us in spite of our failings, weaknesses and silly disagreements.

We all know that sin is ever before us. We get it. What we do with it is the benefit of baptism and its signs:

Life-giving water that we readily dismiss each day

A white garment that gets stained but can be washed clean because of the sacrifice of Christ

Light – even when we think it’s been extinguished in our lives, how wrong we are because it can never, ever be blown out by anything or anyone

Oil that allows us to be the “priests, prophets and kings” of our beautiful faith

What am I forgetting? I think I got it all. Oh wait!

I forget the parents of this small, growing child. I also say, “May you the first of teachers in the practice of our faith and may you also be the best of teachers.” Another tall order for us ordinary people.

But please remember that baptism is all about the future. All of our futures. Whether you’re eight-years-old or eighty-some-years-old, our baptisms point to the future. The future? Well, first it’s today, and then it’s tomorrow.

That’s where the good news and the bad news meet.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“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
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

 

Posted in Baptism, Spirituality | Leave a comment

“One Stop Shopping”

The only thing I remember my eighth grade nun in Manitowoc, WI. saying was, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

What did that mean to an 8th grader? Barely anything. What does it say to someone 65? It means the world.

After our service today and we leave this beautiful church the world tells you “to take control of your life,” if you want to get ahead. “Get a grip.” “Succeed or fail,” says our culture but never our God. We then return to this beautiful church and are told to “empty yourself,” “lose yourself to find yourself” and let God fill you up.

Now what? Is it “both/and” or “either/or?” In this journey of life can we “have our cake and eat it too?”

Samuel can’t get a good night’s sleep, and Jesus has two guys following him. Samuel misses God’s messages, and Jesus readily shares Good News with his two creepy followers who soon become his “followers.”

Besides my 8th-grade nun’s comment, Jesus gives us the best challenge of all, “What are you looking for?” You’re able to follow and believe when you’re ready to answer that question. If not completely answer, at least have clues and signals that lead you to follow a faith that is bigger than yourself.

That’s why this beautiful church is not just a weekly Sunday exercise that has a beginning and end. This is the “place” – the place for everything – for all of life’s meanings and purposes. If it’s only an exercise for you, then you’d be like us young kids who would return home when Mass finished at 11:00. Our mom would ask us, “Did you get to church?” “Oh, yes,” we’d all say and hold up the Sunday bulletin that we grabbed before heading to the playground for an hour of fun. (Would the kids here please forget what I just said?)

Being a priest, I realize it’s an occupational hazard, but everything filters through this beautiful church – the newspapers I read, the Internet news I browse, the people I meet, the friends I keep, the music I listen to, the thoughts that I harbor. But, maybe it’s not a hazard, after all. Can it rather be a context, that harbor, that light post, that wayside, that hope for us all?

“A place for everything?” Like the demons in the Bible, if you can’t find a place for something in your mind and heart than they just grow and roam looking for a place to land, to call home. They usually land in our silly minds that merely repeats and repeats itself instead of finding a home in our faithful souls which empowers, transforms and converts.

“Everything in its place” means that it begins and ends in this beautiful church. Oh yeah, work hard out there in your job; work toward promotions and higher pay but accomplish it in the spirit of this place with your dignity, integrity, and character intact. Know where life begins and ends. It is all contextualized right here. Like Samuel, keep searching for the words to reach God. And like those creepy guys following Jesus, don’t stalk Jesus – follow him with open arms – for his guidance, encouragement, and support is found right here in this Body of Christ.

We are all gathered now in the place where every part of our lives is offered openly to our Creator for affirmation, forgiveness, and correction.

(whispers) But don’t forget the Sunday bulletin.

“Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was. The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.” Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.” “I did not call you, ” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.” So he went back to sleep. Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. “Here I am, ” he said. “You called me.” But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”
“Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,”where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“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
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

A Funeral Sermon for a Dad

Interesting scripture readings. So many places to choose from. A mountain, web, a tent, a building, heaven. home, a body, and judgment seat. Jesus just says, “place” or other versions call it a mansion. Jesus also calls the place a “room.” Jesus finally even gives us directions on how to get to that “place.” It’s all done through him- for he is the “way, truth and life.”

It’s a recipe for all our lives and tonight it’s a recipe about Bob’s life. It’s the place that his parents craved out for his growing up years. It’s the modeling they showed to him growing up. Life lessons that he may have used in his own life, his marriage, in carving out his own home for his family – watching them grow up and watching himself grow older.

The most significant place, however, is the place within ourselves. The peace and contentment that we’re able to enjoy because of our beautiful faith, our honored commitments, possessing a fiery passion for integrity and personhood. It’s the recipe we all cook for ourselves – baking, simmering until we get it, like the chef would say, “Well done.” A life well done, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” God asks no less of us then he asked of His son. That’s how Jesus became the “way, truth and life” and becomes the best meal we’ll ever eat.

There are six characters we play out in life. To miss one is to miss a part of life’s full recipe. I know this because I learned it from that great philosopher and theologian, Frank Sinatra. They are a “puppet, pauper, pirate, poet, a pawn and a king.”

A puppet. Growing up, we go along with the group until we find our own way, our own path. To do otherwise would be to stay with a like-minded group. (I think that’s called a ghetto.) We imitate until our identity unfolds. We steal our dad’s shoes and try them on for size. Why too big shoes for tiny feet but they feel comfortable, just the same.

A puppet is but a stepping stone to climbing life’s next stone, a pauper. You’re pockets are empty but your head is full of dreams, ready to be tested and tested again for the rest of your life. As we age, we forget about puppet but amazingly, I found working in a retirement home for many years that people never, ever forget their pauper years. Alway crisp in their memories which explains all the many, many sugar packets found in their closet after their death.

Pauper creates the anchor to become a pirate. A pirate takes risks, samples the water before jumping in, steals ideas from co-workers and even steals magic beans to create a personal beanstalk that can never be cut down. Magic beans that grow into a loving marriage, children, passionate about work and the culture in which we live. Magic beans that magically become all of our adult years. The magical years of pirating ought to be envied by us all, especially if we missed them. (Or, if a bean or two were thrown away and is now regretted.)

Next comes poetry – the written music of life, very personal and can often be misunderstood by others but the words, spoken and unspoken captures a moment’s feeling – whether good or depressing. If the soul is represented by any of Frank’s qualities, then it has to be poetry. Poetry shows our souls and then offers it back to God, from whom it can, as beautifully as a soft snowfall.

A pawn? It’s the most expendable of all the Chess pieces, yet it is also necessary for working toward a victory. A father or dad is an instrumental pawn – needed for work, stability, periodic advice. Like St. Joseph, a dad is necessary, a quiet figure that moves a family forward. Mother is the enveloping family presence of nurturing and caring. In Chess, a pawn is sacrificed for a greater goal. In life, we make sacrifices for another to blossom and bloom, toward a greater good. That’s parenting. That the job of the family’s pawn.

And the king? It’s not Frank’s “King of the hill,” song and being full of himself because a king can do nothing more than to serve. From the tiniest of good deeds done to all offered up for the sake of someone else – that defines the character of kingship. Kingship knows no gender. Kingship is the offering from a loving wife and family watching a loved one slowly die to realize that your sacrifice takes him away from all of you but relieves him of further suffering or pain.

I hope that Bob was able to fully experience all six characters during his journey through life. Those six characters now lead him to a place of light, happiness, and peace. I believe we Christians call that place, “Heaven.”

Scripture Readings:
Gospel of St. John 14:1-6, Prophet Isaiah 25:6a,7-9, and Paul’s 2 Corinthians 5:1,6-10.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“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
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“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