“The Book Is Better”

film-reelHow many times the comment is made when the movie ends, “I liked it, but the book is better.”

The book. Full of page after page of descriptive information and most especially nuances that film can never capture. “They left out a whole part of her life,” says the moviegoer. Condensed into two hours what took hundreds of pages to develop, explore and explain.

How often can we treat family and friends as though we’re watching a movie? We’ve condensed them into characters or isolated situations and freeze frame them. Sometimes, forever. Where’s that fuller context, those subtle feelings and unspoken words that only a book can contain instead of a film that feebly attempts to capture emotions through a glance, a smile, a frown or just walking away.

Reading a book first can wreck your moving watching experience. How about making your relationships like reading a book instead of segmented scenes that we seem to freeze into our minds and hearts. The complexity expressed in the written word stirs the imagination and drives us deeper into the life of the heroine or her villain. Films are linear when the read page brings to life the depth of anger, happiness or separation.book_PNG2115

Dad waves goodbye to his estranged young son in the film’s closing scene with his practiced tear. Credits roll, and you’re left with what you think he’s feeling. The book contains the same parting scene, but you’re able to smell and breathe the sensations he was feeling. (Yes, you can smell a book’s words!)

Relationships ought to rightly and justly be about reading instead of viewing. Our lives are about smells, scents, complexities, and wonders. A movie teases us just as our judgments do about someone or even about ourselves. The book of each of our lives is fully human – never to be viewed from a comfortable seat and eating popcorn from afar but front row seats seated next to those we love and care for.

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Every Thing Works, Except Me

Every thing is working now, except me.

My kitchen faucet said “Farewell” two weeks ago, and it took two weeks for the plumber to charge me $400.00. I couldn’t use the garbage disposal, so I’m hoping it still works. Washing dinner dishes in the bathroom was kinda fun, like being on a camping trip. The toaster still works as long as you’re willing to watch paint dry. My coffee machine stopped providing inviting morning caffeine scents, so the Mr. was replaced with a new Mr. Those wonderful scents resumed.

The wall mounted grandfather clock that I’ve had for over twenty years needed a tuneup. Sadly, I was without his quarterly sounds for a quarter of a year. “My repair man has a day job,” said the owner which ended that relationship. The clock is working again as long as I tuneup it up myself each week.

Relationship. We all love that word. It means connection, investment and a working partnership that becomes a comfortable, predictable routine. “Do your job, and we’ll be happy,” says me in my quiet apartment. Owen, my cat, wasn’t doing his job. He was working at being a happy cat until peeing became a problem. (For me, a $1,400.00 problem.) He approaches me one night and yells out what humans would translate as, “Do something!” I did, and now he’s proficient at the art of relieving himself.

Pens that stop working, I don’t mind. I’ve got lots of them. Setting light timers to work when I want them to has always been a hassle with tiny buttons that either go up or down to turn on or off. Very frustrating twice a year until the beauty of Wifi allowed me to buy Alexia controlled lights. All the lights now obey hers and my commands. (My stupid timers are now available on eBay for those who still watch black and white television.) Speaking of Wifi, I tried Apple TV hoping it would work but I tired of waiting and watching its pizza sign spin and spin right as the criminal was about to be killed.

Cable companies love me since they’ve all worked for me. Even satellite worked for me for a short time. I suspect I have an AT&T record – nine technicians in one month working for me. One of them softly told me just to cancel the service, “It’s just not gonna work for you.” With Spectrum’s strong Wifi, I have a good working relationship with Netflix, HBO, and Showtime for my evening enjoyment.

My fifteen-year-old desktop computer valiantly worked for me until turning it on now sounds like my stomach in the morning. (How do you grieve an excellent, reliable relationship with a machine?!) It still tries but can’t seem to achieve working capability. (Make it now a coffee table so it can continue working?)

I’m not a pessimist, but I swear my water heater will no longer be working, but it is. I wait for the cold to continue but it doesn’t. But I’m still not working. My days stay cold, sometimes lukewarm, but the heat eludes me.

My two cats are sound asleep now, so I guess they’re working in their own way. They wonder why I’m home so much since they’re accustomed to eight hours of freedom. I assure them that it’s okay yet I’m still not working, but the things around me seem to be working quite well.

My new book is “Chiseled Grace,” available at Amazon.com

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“Giving ‘Up’ or ‘In'”

“I give up,” I screamed to my older brother with my arm twisted around my back so my seven-year-old life could continue a little while longer. The other release word was “uncle” which I still don’t understand since “aunt” could have served the same purpose.

“Giving up.” Americans can be deported saying those two simple words. They are words conveying that something is happening and you really, truly want it to stop. “Giving up” on an important homework assignment means either laziness or not taking right notes in class.

“Giving up” can also be a hopeful abandonment from something out of your control or discontinuing what you’ve been doing. There’s a relieving exhale to “giving up” as though saying or thinking those two words make it magically disappear. Saying those two words in a gangster film spells your imminent death; without a funeral reception but lots of cement.

Two words that spell expectant release appears to release you from you. You feel that the consequences are no longer within your power so you, “Give up.” It’s over in its intention. The policeman quickly arrests you because you said those two words.

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Change “up” to “in” and see what changes. Two letters. Those two letters redefine your perception and participation. “Giving up” seemingly separates you from something no longer needed but once was. “In,” does not separate you but affords a yielding, a reluctant consent, a complying. A recurring regret? An unwritten apology letter? That look you ignored from her that may have led to marriage? That setback years ago that lingered back in your mind after the first drink.

The “up” word is foolishly used to free you by declaring that this chapter has ended and it’s now on to the next; with your involvement restored, of course. The “in” word moves and takes you from one place to another. Can we ever “give up” anything? Can we ever be no longer responsible for ourselves or our situations? Or, can we “give in” because a situation or predicament needs our attention and now it has it. Nothing is learned by “up”ing out. “In” makes your next life’s chapter worth reading.

Amid all the aches and pain that age heaps on us, the one absolute great loss is – you wouldn’t believe it – driving a car. “I give up,” says the ninety-year-old mom to her concerned children as she hands over the keys. Whether it’s the control over a machine (soon to be changing) or the motion or freedom of movement, I’ll never know, but the loss is severe. Aches and pains are accepted as the old get older, but the car? (There’s a motorized cart for those who need it in a retirement home, but that also includes a driver’s test! Those hallway turns can be dangerous.)

Alcoholics are to “give up” to a higher power as though it’s now “its” responsibility, however, defined, and you’re a mere responder. Those divorcing feel the same way, but there are still three kids sleeping upstairs. Reflect back on your own life and wonder if an “up” should have been an “in.” And, was it ever an “up.”

“I give in to alcohol abuse and want to partner with my higher power.”
“I loved you once, and still do in some ways, and we have three children to care for.”

That’s all “in” talk.

Even your last breath is an “in.” I “give in” to life, no matter my age, but I will never, ever “give up.” Just say “auntie.”

 

“Chiseled Grace,”
Fr. Joe’s newest book on Amazon.
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Breast Cancer, “Okay”

Breast Cancer Symbols Clip Art 28My friends told me after my doctor’s visit that it’ll be “Okay.” Interesting word with ambiguous meanings. “Okay,” as in it’s minor or “Okay,” handle it when you know the results? Tomorrow I’ll know the results.

Know? It’s been four days until the results are in and until then it’s been four days of my saying, “Okay” to myself while not believing one letter of that thrown-away word, or is it?

“So, okay,” I say to myself. Am I using that word as resignation or as my friend’s hopeful usage? “Okay,” I also say to myself since I’ve been there before and now may go through that vortex once again. This time, three new doctors since my previous three have retired from knowing my body and I have not. Three new perspectives, along with more tests and varying opinions about my prognosis. And is “prognosis” a result of hope or the reading of my last testament? And, what timeline is linked to that word? Is it that predictable “six months,” doctors always say, that can extend into long months for insurance purchases, or is it a reality that may be even less?

It’s funny (lightly used) because I feel “okay” right now but that test showed otherwise. It’s been twenty years since it occurred and was treated. It appears to be happening again, now. There are so many things I want to do with no limits about time yet this stupid visit tomorrow may reduce those years and days into only months. One appointment at a scheduled time. My friend’s all said, “It’ll be ‘okay’” because it’s either a nice thing to say or the only thing to say something when something shown on a test wasn’t seen again for many years.

For four days I’ve thought of things sixty years ago as well as not remembering what I ate last night. The former is so much clearer than the latter. Since my retirement, I’ve ventured into several fields, both spiritually and professionally. I’ve been enriched by each endeavor hopefully touching many lives along the way. My keen interest now is getting young people to vote. Shouldn’t be such a stretch in a democratic society where voting is the most basic of our beliefs, but it is. “Please sign up and make your vote count and everything will be ‘okay,’” says me. Voting is the next day, and I will be there, and my doctor’s vote is given to me tomorrow.

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It’s a day before my doctor’s visit, and I really do feel ‘okay.’ The vortex is no stranger to me, and, if necessary, I’ll submerge myself once again. It’s simply but powerfully that I am “okay.” I’ve always been “okay” and this is no different.

I say, “Go ahead and put that pebble in my sock.” I don’t mind because my friends said that, “I’ll be okay.”

I thanked them for their concern and sympathies, but I already know that “I am ‘okay.’”

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“Autumn Leaves”

Sitting on my porch in early October, I see them all falling around me. Slowly, others faster, sometimes alone and others in groups. The ground holds them as their numbers increase each day.

I considered glue and buying a very, very tall ladder but smiled at its futility. Scotch tape? Same response. It’s happening and has been happening all my life but this time in my life it seems to kinda hurt to see those guys and gals falling from their beautiful branches that made summer so green. Now their green turns to amber, and then finally becoming a rich golden that says to all, “Another season is ending with a new season beginning.”

Like creating an angle in the snow, I also thought of creating my name out of them before they disappear. It’s only three letters, shouldn’t take that long. But then I thought, “Why would I use my name when they are the ones passing from season to another?” I should piece their name together, one leaf at a time until it identified someone loved and missed, gone but not forgotten.

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Across from my family home was a vacant lot where my sixth-grade girlfriend and I would create a home out of the greens in the early fall. Flat, but 3-D in our minds, we created a kitchen where good food was served along with laughter and arguments about either religion or sports. Our living room was the smallest because every good conversation occurred in the kitchen, the largest room. Our leaf-created hallway led to each bedroom where our small green-leafed children slept and woke up to this beautiful fall day. We enjoyed our homemaking adventure until the next adventure began.

Spring is all about adventure as much as autumn is about reflection and preserving memories in minds that don’t hold things as well in its autumn years.

I don’t know enough people to link all the fallen leaves. I can think of names or stories read in newspapers over the past year – lives either tragically or peacefully becoming golden. The few loved names closest to me are the ones I’m saving for last. I hope to collect as many of them that I can and place them in my “real” kitchen and watch the richness of what their lives meant to me return to the dust from which they came.

There’s a sadness in autumn but also a rich gold feeling for the green and amber colors shared over many, many years.

Well, after typing, it’s back to my porch and watching how enriching life can be and it’s because of those we’ve loved. They have colored our lives golden with their lives and we now see their color turn to gold.

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Marriage Sermon from A Single Guy

You’re gonna love this. After two powerful scripture readings about the importance of marriage, the Church asks a single guy with two cats to unfold and unwrap the power and significance of the one of the Church’s sacred sacrament. (The Catholic Church is the only church that holds marriage to a sacramental level assuring that it can never be dissolved.) But that’s the sacramental position. Practically, it’s all about relationships, investments, forgiveness – both to yourself and another; complete with compromise, bipartisanship, always looking and seeking for a greater good beyond yourselves.

Am I now getting political or still talking about marriage? It’s both. The divide in our country these days is dangerous, and we pray for a resolution in finding a common ground. The same hope is held out for those two special people who manage a home with these little things running around it and constantly wanting attention and more food. If you think running a country is difficult, I can imagine what it’s like in a household where white lies abound and espionage is uncovered daily. “Did you finish your homework.” “Yeah, mom.” “Are you on the Internet again tonight.” “No, dad.” He said, she said!? Judge Kavanaugh vs.Dr. Ford anyone?

Well, the single guy with two cats turns to the tried and try given to us in simple principles that we learned – where? In kindergarten. The author is Robert Fulghum, written in early 1980. Try to hold on to two or three of them for the upcoming week of either personal living or in your marriage.

1. Share everything. 2. Play fair. 3. Don’t hit people. 4. Put things back where you found them. 5. Clean up your own mess. 6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. 7. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. 8. Wash your hands before you eat. 9. Flush. 10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. 11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some. 12. Take a nap every afternoon. 13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. (You may wish to re-read that one.) 14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup? The roots go down, and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. 15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we. 16. And then remember the “Dick and Jane” books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all: “LOOK.”

My number 17 is from a commencement address. “Every morning make your bed.” Even if you have a lousy day, you would still have done something right, and a nicely made bed to see you through the next morning.

There you have it. Your friends say to the newly married, couple “Good luck.” The Catholic Church says, “God bless you, we’re behind you all the way.” I agree with both their wishes. Caring for two cats is much easier than marriage, but so very less fulfilling.

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“Our Father Who Art…”

One type of up-man-ship is the obligatory game when growing up. The older teen would dare the younger to swim naked, put horseradish on his ice cream or put a snake in her sister’s sleeping bag during that camping trip.

To fail at these risky teasers would color you yellow and be remembered for as long as a teenager can remember anything. Dare became an acronym to refrain from drugs, but our opium crisis shows how useful creating clever sayings doesn’t promote healthy behavior. “Depletes the populace,” Scrooge might happily say.

Worse than the horseradish episode is the older one calling out the most daring of commission, “I double dare you!” If a single one didn’t do it then surely doubling down would dare any youngster to prove his mustard. (Another good dare, “Put some mustard on your cereal” or your belly will become that lowly color.)

It’s a challenge. Be brave enough. The word dare alerts us. Have courage, the nerve, even the temerity to be so bold. Add audacity to the list, and you’d dare any youngster into submission.

But is dare a submission or a giving over to something or someone greater than ourselves. We can dismiss religion and/or God as though life is a multiple choice game and you circle D, “none of the above.” How often is D chosen out of convenience or laziness instead of the daring that digs deep into our hearts and souls.

our-fatherBefore the “Our Father” is prayed in the Catholic Church, the priest gives us all the invitation. (Invitation suggests choice but I’m not sure about that part.) “At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say.”

There you have it. It struck me saying that sentence today at Mass. “Dare.” It is risky to pray and attempt to live that ancient prayer that we could all say even when with fading memories. “Our Father who art in heaven…” The message is packed with all we need to know for this life’s journey and then unpacked in our words and relationships.

It’s not a horseradish or mustard dare, the “Our Father” touches our hearts with hope, forgiveness, and fortitude. God doesn’t need to double dare anyone, but He does dare us to just trying living those words that can be so easily ignored.

     Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. all available 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

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“Joy Divine,” her real name

An Alexian Village resident died recently. I know that’s not earth-shaking, but her name sure is. It’s Joy Divine. What her parents were thinking when the names Helen, Martha, Ethel, Dorothy, Agnes, and Margaret were dismissed escapes me. What destiny was held out for her many years of life with that double-imposing-handle? (What fate is contained in the name “Joe,” except, perhaps, as a bartender?)

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Joy Divine. She was a staunch Republican and avid listener of Mark Belling’s conservative WISN radio show. We argued a lot and agreed about nothing except the day of the week and all done while sipping Alexian’s version of a malt – theirs’ is merely mushy ice cream.

Joy Divine. Two names that propel a person to become a person. Two names that kinda steer you toward something bigger than yourself – every, single time.

Taken separately, we get the Divine part, but it’s the Joy that so often eludes us; or does it? It’s not happiness which can quickly disappear after the Packers lose their lead in the fourth quarter. Happiness is when test results come back negative but flee away when your hefty copay is due in thirty days. Happiness is weeks before your 60th birthday, and you expect a big surprise party but dissipates on that day when your wife says she has a coupon for McDonald’s. “Do you wanna go?” That’s the temperament of happiness.

Joy isn’t fickled, it embeds itself within you. Joy is an investment in the goodness and quality of your life and the lives of those around you. Joy divests ourselves in order to invest in others. I think happiness is only about us, situationally, when joy lives within us but extends itself outward; to even people we may never meet. Joy embraces the qualities and quibbles of others as much as it lives with the same ones in our own lives. There’s a unity when experiencing joy. With joy, it naturally happens. There’s no thinking behind it because joy is what St. Paul calls, “The folly of the cross.” Unknown or misunderstood by others but genuinely believed by believers. Joy lives and breathes so deeply within you that it’s difficult to define. Friends tell you, “With all that’s going on in your life, you seem so peaceful. What’s up with that?” You smile back at them and say, “Well, it is what it is!”

NO. I hate that line. A joyful person would never, ever say that stupid, meaningless line with no meaning. A joyful person would smile back at them with eyes that convey, “You need to find out for yourself. I can’t tell you because it doesn’t belong to me.” Joy can be transmitted but not communicated. Joy is contagious without using words. Someone witnesses it in you and ponders about it later. “Why don’t  I get some of what he has?” A typical American response, by the way, as though “joy” is for purchase at the Kenosha Amazon plant and delivered by drone to your Washington Highlands home…by 3:00 pm. tomorrow! (Local reference, sorry.)

Joy is the parents of a two-year-old dying of a rare form of cancer. The little guy has two months left. Just try telling me that each and every single day of those two months or less is not full of joy – absorbing smiles that he, because of his age can’t absorb but his parents can? It makes no sense yet faithfully is makes all the sense in the world.

(As a side note, I know of how many people either as friends or newspaper stories that have “rare” form of cancer mentioned. I thought cancer isn’t so “rare!”)

Cynics dismiss this joyful portrayal as Pollyanna, Brigadoon, Shangri-la, Garden of Eden, Never Never Land, the Promised Land with no promise of it on earth, fairyland, Walden Pond, the land of milk and honey. That person’s in denial about the harsh realities of life and not becoming the same as the embittered person. Those poor folks forgot Joy’s last name. “Divine.”

Unlike happiness, joy is rooted and lived through a divine lens. A perfect lens that views the world and its occupants in a loving and merciful way. Presently, we’re living in ultra-cynical times but there have been others before and, I’m sure, more of them to come. When my priestly job was eliminated by a larger Catholic business, people asked me if it affected my faith. I was surprised by the question, but my response remained the same, “You’ve got to be kidding.” Not even an inch.

Joy’s lens was diminishing the last years of her life but enough to see shadows. She always complimented my outfits to which I replied, “I already know.” She also said that she hated my beard. Good eyesight. I lost the beard to my Republican friend. The eyesight of God is different than ours when we fail to hear and see the goodness in those we disagree with. Trying our best is called “Eucharist,” the “Body of Christ.”

Joy had a long life, but I only knew her in her old age. I don’t know if she lived up to her name, that’s between her “Joy” and His “Divine.” I told her repeatedly that I loved her name. Quietly, I’d say to myself, “I want that name, I want that disposition, I want that Godly attitude for myself for the rest of my life.”

God bless you, a friend of mine named Joy Divine.

             Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. all available 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

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Listening & Speaking

The gospel says a deaf man had a speech impediment. Who says there’s no comedy in the Bible. A deaf man had a speech impediment. How would deaf-guy know he has one!?

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I wear hearing aids and have stuttered since the third grade. Jesus cures both by a finger in the ear and a touch of spit on the tongue. Cured with the line, “Be Opened.” Because both were closed. And, it worked.

Isaiah tells frightened hearts to “be strong, fear not.” God comes with “vindication, divine recompense; He comes to save you.”

My friends show me those divine things through their patience when I get anxious and can’t say the w…w…w…w…word I want to say.

But wait! What if Jesus isn’t talking about a physical loss of hearing or a silly stuttering problem. What if those appendages on both sides of your head hear but doesn’t listen? And what if the mouth’s impediment is speaking menacing words, hurtful nicknames for people, divisive, self-serving words? Can Jesus cure that? (If you don’t know who I’m talking about, buy a newspaper.)

Catholic Eyes and Ears

What if those untouched powerful Catholic ears don’t listen? What if the great Catholic mouths, with no spit from Jesus, give us obfuscation…a word that seems to apply to multiple situations in our country presently. “To render unclear,” the dictionary says, to “bewilder someone, it is more likely to obfuscate people than enlighten them.”

The pope is correct, this is truly is a time for prayer. However, we as “pew people” are holding on as best we can with proper hearing and polite speech. Like fingernails dug into the edge of a rocky rowboat wondering where the oars are. Those oars are you and me because the boat does not belong to the Catholic leadership nor does it belong to us. The boat is leased to us by God…with a hefty return clause. The praying part is on our end, we get that. The pope’s and the Catholic leaders’ end is a touch of Jesus in their ears with a pinch of spit on their tongues. Sounds like a sound recipe for cooking the Catholic Church with the great meal that Christ served us. However, the recipe that we thought was handled, served and now behind us is before us, again, only stronger. First, the dioceses in Pennsylvania and now all the dioceses in New York state and in the state of New Jersey and in St. Louis city.

I read one opinion article that concluded by saying if the Church doesn’t handle the problem internally, then it will be handled…externally. We are witnessing this, this time around.

Obfuscate – my new word!

Obfuscate. You don’t need to look that word up. We hear it every day both in our institutions and in our personal relationships. My hometown had a bar called, “The Library.” Coming home at 2:00 a.m., the husband could comfortably say, “Honey, I was at the library!” Can our ears and mouths express God’s vindication and divine recompense?

After saying an angry word to my grandmother, she washed my mouth out with soap. My mother told me to clean my ears, or I’d be growing potatoes. (What potatoes and ear wax have in common is known only to my mother.) But both messages worked on me. Luckily, my grandmother used Ivory soap. I can still taste it.

My ears and mouth are physical stuff. The stuff of our honest listening and honest speaking for us all is through our daily integrity and within our daily appraisal about “Who owns this boat?” It’s not to the Church but to the Creator who gave us ears and mouths to live and breathe His praises – in this place we call church.

             Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. all available 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

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Matching the Reds & Blues in Our Lives

The quotes, except those by St. Paul, are from C. Vanessa White, Assistant Professor of Spirituality and Ministry at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and a member of the faculty at Xavier University’s Summer Institute for Black Catholic Studies.

“To help my students focus on God’s grace and on giving thanks, I like to ask them to look around the classroom and focus on one particular color that I choose. I may tell them, for example, to take note of everything that is red. After a few moments, I ask them to close their eyes and quietly recall all the red items they saw. And then comes the unexpected! While their eyes remain closed, I tell them to name all the blue things they had seen. Most often, because they were so focused on the red, they missed all the blue.

What we focus on is what we give power to!

I tell my students that this exercise is similar to what we focus on in daily life. We focus on the negative and tend to notice all that is going wrong in our world, and we miss God’s grace and presence before us. What we focus on is what we give power to! In focusing on the negative, we miss God’s grace. I encourage my students to take time each night to reflect on two ways they experienced God’s grace that day and to give thanks for it. In doing so, they will not only be persons of thanksgiving and praise, but it will transform their attitude and actions as well as give them a better night’s sleep.”

I am reminded of this activity and practice as I reflect on the opening of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

St. Paul’s work as missionary was shaped by his ability to continually make thanksgiving his number one priority. In all his journeys, Paul understood the power and the challenge of being open to God’s grace, even in darkest times…no, especially during dark, doubtful times. In computer language, we say, “garbage in, garbage out.” Mom told us that who we are is, “What we ate.” Last week one author told you that, “what you inhale is what you exhale, so be careful what you breathe in.”

Words or thoughts that demean, disarm or disassemble someone,
all in favor of our small thoughts and views.

We are living these days with caustic, corroding words. Words or thoughts that demean, disarm or disassemble someone, all in favor of our small thoughts and views. Politics and religion have converged these days, both using divisive words. From our president to now our pope…our engagements must be with filled with Christ-words. “Trust, humility, patience, and fortitude,” all anchored in deep prayer to our listening and attentive God.

Here’s a task for us during these coming weeks. For all the red you read and hear – depressing and alarming news, seek out some blue to read and hear -healthy perspectives and healing viewpoints. Balance, rooted in God’s grace will surely see us through this as it has for those before us. Remember, the colors red and blue only make sense when the color white is included. (A cheap plug for the US., sorry.)

“As we continue on the journey this day, with attentive and grateful hearts may we share the Good News of God’s amazing grace with those we encounter.”

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. are all available 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

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