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!?

jesus-heals-deaf-man-2

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

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

Why I Believe in God

Some of my favorite authors are agnostics, men and women who face life honestly and courageously without faith in a personal God.  They’re stoics mostly, persons who have made peace with the fact that God may not exist and that perhaps death ends everything for us. I see this, for example, in the late James Hillman, a man whom I greatly admire and who has much to teach believers about what it means to listen to and honor the human soul.

But here’s something I don’t admire in these agnostic stoics: While they face with courage what it should mean for us if God doesn’t exist and death ends our personal existence, they don’t, with the same courage ask the question of what it should mean for us if God does exist and death does not end our personal existence. What if God does exist and what if the tenets of our faith are true? They need too to face that question.

I believe that God exists, not because I have never had doubts, or because I was raised in the faith by persons whose lives gave deep witness to its truth, or because perennially the vast majority of people on this planet believe in God. I believe that a personal God exists for more reasons than I can name: the goodness of saints; the hook in my own heart that has never let me go; the interface of faith with my own experience, the courage of religious martyrs throughout history; the stunning depth of Jesus’ teachings; the deep insights contained in other religions, the mystical experience of countless people; our sense of connection inside the communion of saints with loved ones who have died; the convergence of the anecdotal testimony of hundreds of individuals who have been clinically dead and resuscitated back to life; the things we sometimes intuitively know beyond all logical reason; the constant recurrence of resurrection in our lives; the essential triumph of truth and goodness throughout history; the fact that hope never dies, the unyielding imperative we feel inside of ourselves to be reconciled with others before we die; the infinite depth of the human heart; and, yes, even the very ability of atheists and agnostics to intuit that somehow it still all makes sense, points to the existence of a living, personal God.

I believe that God exists because faith works; at least to the extent we work it. The existence of God proves itself true to the extent that we take it seriously and live our lives in face of it.  Simply put, we’re happy and at peace to the exact extent that we risk, explicitly or implicitly, living lives of faith. The happiest people I know are also the most generous, selfless, gracious, and reverent persons I know. That’s no accident.

Leon Bloy once asserted that there’s only one true sadness in life, that of not being a saint. We see that in the story of the rich young man in Gospels who turns down Jesus’ invitation to live his faith more deeply. He goes away sad. Of course, being a saint and being sad are never all or nothing, both have degrees. But there’s a constant: We’re happy or sad in direct proportion to our fidelity or infidelity to what’s one, true, good, and beautiful. I know that existentially: I’m happy and at peace to the exact extent that I take my faith seriously and live it out in fidelity; the more faithful I am, the more at peace I am, and vice versa.

Inherent in all of this too is a certain “law of karma”, namely, the universe gives back to us morally exactly what we give to it. As Jesus worded it, the measure you measure out is the measure that will be measured back to you. What we breathe out is what we’re going to inhale.  If I breathe out selfishness, selfishness is what I will inhale; if I breathe out bitterness, that’s what I’ll meet at every turn; conversely, if I breathe out love, gracious, and forgiveness, these will be given back to me in the exact measure that I give them out. Our lives and our universe have a deep, innate, non-negotiable structure of love and justice written into them, one that can only be underwritten by a living, personal, divine mind and heart of love.

None of this, of course, proves God’s existence with the kind of proof we find in science or mathematics; but God isn’t found at the end of an empirical test, a mathematical equation, or a philosophical syllogism. God is found, explicitly or implicitly, in living a good, honest, gracious, selfless, moral life, and this can happen inside of religion or outside of it.

The Belgium Benedictine, Benoit Standaert, submits that wisdom is three things, and a fourth. Wisdom is a respect for knowledge; wisdom is a respect for honesty and aesthetics; and wisdom is a respect for mystery. But there’s a fourth – wisdom is a respect for Someone.

Rev.  Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

Soul-Food

“Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns; she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table. She has sent out her maidens; she calls from the heights out over the city: ‘Let whoever is simple turn in here; To the one who lacks understanding, she says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.’” Proverbs 9:1-6

5iRX6BB4T

It’s interesting that the explanation of wisdom, one of the highest virtue any of us can attain is defined by, not a high definition that no one understands nor by a profound quote from an erudite writer but, of all things, eating. Wisdom is described as, “She has spread her table.” (Please also note its feminine tinge.) It’s not revealed through the great authors or playwrights nor your next neighbor who seems to know everything about everything – it’s in the food.

You can only digest what you ingest

I’ve said before that you can only digest what you ingest; whether that be bread for the body, morsels for the mind or sustenance for the soul. Our faith’s job is the soul. When the soul is satisfied, then the body and mind are pleased as well. It’s funny because when we’re outside of the church, we think the opposite. Satisfy the body, and the mind and soul will follow, but that’s not what discipleship and sacrifice are all about. Faith begins and ends with the soul. When you’re hungry, your body may growl for steak and your mind waters for cheesecake, but your soul is also howling and watering. “Give me something substantial,” your soul tells you.

In the Catholic Church, we too often believe that redundancy is food for our souls. I guess it’s a personal preference. If you keep repeating something, then your soul is filled up so you can treat yourself to a bratwurst afterward. That takes care of both the soul and body. Or, does it?

My perfect body-food is meatloaf with ketchup, mashed potatoes with gravy and creamed corn. (My mouth watered as I typed those delicious words.) Yours may be a surf ’n turf combo.

My mind’s food is reading any legitimate news story that is as balanced as possible in this hugely over-media age. (You quickly learn if you’re reading a “prime rib” or a “hamburger” news story.) My soul-food is each and every one of you. You fill my soul with your stories of success and setbacks but always with a firm resolve to live life as best you can. In other words, I get my meatloaf, potatoes and cream corn by listening, hearing and responding to your moments of life – lived to the best of your abilities.

So perhaps my mind and soul’s food is filling enough with all of you surrounding and knowing me. Our diverse media opportunities for news is left for each of us to decide. But please choose carefully – for our mind is the weakest part of us. So, strengthen your bodies and your souls to help your mind figure out, “What’s what?” Follow Proverbs’ advice, dress up our meat and mix our wine to fill both body and soul. It very well may strengthen that weak mind of ours in the ways of our Christian faith.

You’ll be surprised with the results. I think it’s called “Church,” or “community.” But remember, you can only digest what you ingest.

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

 

Posted in Spirituality | 2 Comments

Wellness & Aging

Have you ever heard four more unAmerican words in your life? “I can’t do it.”

“Of course you can,” says your friendly neighbor who knows nothing about your condition except that American mandate. “Crawl if you have to,” your neighbor thinks to herself but thankfully doesn’t say out loud.

“I can’t do it.” Weak. Inept. Tired. Ailing. The dictionary is full of synonyms to describe your present condition. “You can do it if you really wanted to,” says your good neighbor but thankfully doesn’t say out loud.

“Your brother did it, so why can’t you?” says the person who measures everything in life that cannot be measured. Are you just lazy? Yeah, that’s it. Are you just giving in? No, that’s it. You should be exported to some third world country where everybody thinks and feels that way. “I just can’t do it.

I said once that Peggy Wood sang “Climb Every Mountain” in “The Sound of Music.” I was right but I was also wrong. I read that her voice was too weak to carry that grand, story-changing song during a dramatic moment in the film. It was dubbed. It was sung by Margery McKay. I’ve never heard of Margery but I’ve never forgotten Peggy Wood.

She starred in shows in London and New York and was now reduced; no, now diminished to standing during filming and mouthing words that she could no longer sing herself. (She mouthed words that once she once sung herself, effortlessly, but no more.) I read that she chose Margery because her voice closely matched her own.
Did Peggy just “give in” or did she “shop before she dropped,” as they say? Driving is the number regret by “giving in.”

Many older adults have told me over the years that you simply are no longer able to do what you both enjoyed and looked forward to doing. And you told me in those very same words, “I can’t do it anymore.”

It doesn’t matter that you are no longer able to do this or that, you all were admired at one time, for a moment, as Camelot sings, “for one shining moment” you were able to do it.

So take up your walker, motor up your scooter, power up your oxygen, find your earing aids and three-layered glasses, go ahead if it takes three tries to get up from the chair, go ahead and say, “What did you say?” but please don’t tell me that you “can’t do it” anymore.

You’re still doing it now but only in different ways.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. are aill 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

Posted in Aging, Spirituality | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Jesus Food & North Ave. Food

(the references are local to Wauwatosa, WI. You can think of your own in your neighborhood.)

I dare you to stroll the aisles of Metcalf or Pick ’N Save on State Street and imagine yourself a third-world person with meager means and be captured in pure awe by the abundance of its plentiful bounty. I’ve done it many times, and it is mind-boggling.

A choice of two of any selection would be sufficient to make a purchase. But we need to have rows upon rows of deodorants, spices, sauces, and meats that cap our attention or tease us…no, lure us. As you well know, the “top shelf” means that that the manufacturer paid more to reside there. I always shop lower shelves.

Food. Nourishment. Some of us live to eat, but I eat to live. It’s that simple for me. Is that simple when it comes to national and international news? How much do you need to ingest to properly digest? If you solely watch Fox News, I feel sorry for you, but I warn MSNBC watchers only to take snippets of theirs as well.

My eldest sister has a strong Hispanic background and told me to ignore BelAir restaurant. It was a pet shop for weird creatures. I often wonder how they got rid of the smell. She said, “It’s not authentic.”

Jesus tells us that he’s the only food that we need to fill our soulful tummies. His is the food from heaven. We know how its ingested but how it is digested throughout our lives? Just this tiny host I and others will hand you shortly. What about the food that’s served and eaten in our everyday lives – in our conversations, commitments, and relationships?

I ate for the first time at Sandra’s On the Park on Forest Home Ave. Wonderful food with an outdoor patio overlooking woods. My friend and I had an enjoyable conversation about everything and about nothing. Dionne Warwick sang, “That’s What Friends Are For.” Isn’t that Jesus food?

What do we invest in our diets to see us through a productive life, not only for ourselves but for those who cannot afford to stroll those grocery aisles on State Street?

Dairy Queen once was Burger King on North Avenue, Il Mito is doing well if you have the cash. I ate at Walter’s once thirty-eight years ago, and it’s still there, doing well without me.

Elijah was fed well. The angel says, “’Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!’ He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.” I don’t know what a “broom tree” is and I wonder if Bonzels sells hearth cakes. Elijah successfully completed his mission in the name of the Lord.

When I approached my religious order (the Salvatorians) about buying a house in this neighborhood, our finance guy said, “Isn’t that near Jakes?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Buy the house.” Jakes (great prime rib) closes, Juniper 61 opens (very nice restaurant) and now it’s closing to make way for the Eastside Pizza Man version, I’m told.

Fleeting food or food that lasts forever? Ventura lasted but not long enough, and it’s now some bowling-theme place that sells food as I drive past it. Across the street is a remote, cute restaurant next to a tax store. You’d miss it if you weren’t looking. I think they need a new marketing director.

Jesus warns us, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;…I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever…”

O’Gorman car repair sign says, “The Bible is our Owner’s Manual.” What that has to do with car repairs escapes me. Is that the food I want for my car? What, I need more Jesus in my brakes?

Mekong Delta replaced Larry & Ed’s Steak House on 60th and North. Larry & Ed’s was a true “supper club,” a concept that seems to be slipping away. With Mekong Delta and the Vietnamese restaurant, you’d never know we once hated each other.

“Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus is the bread of joy for those who sorrow, he is confidence for all our doubts (without erasing those doubts), Jesus is the surprise for that “surprise party,” and he surprises us along the way with that rascal friend of his, the Holy Spirit who will surprise you even more; more than all the twists and turns of a Bruce Willis action movie.

Try being that third-world person wearing third-world glasses as you roam aisle after aisle staring at food that you really don’t need along with nourishing food for a healthy life. “Twinkie or carrots, carrots or Twinkies?” Uncover what feeds you. What religious food groups may be missing from your diets? What spiritual food groups do you need? If you’re watching or reading the news to be entertained, then you’re a Twinkie. If you’re watching or reading news with the food from Jesus; now you’re in the produce department – carrots with keen, alert eyes along with healthy Christ-like attitudes.

If you don’t mind a short trip, there’s Copper Dock and sitting outside eating a juicy New York Steak and gazing as Frees Lake with a wonderful salad bar. There once was Fox & Hounds, another lost supper club concept but now it’s for motorcycles groupies.

With the Internet and the all noisy news, we hear and read … please remember that you can only be and share with others, what’s been witnessed and shared with you. You can only digest what you’ve ingested.

Should I give Walter’s one more try?

(the references are local to Wauwatosa, WI. You can think of your own in your neighborhood.)

All books are 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

 

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

Scary Prefaces

“Truth be told…”
Pilate asked that question and didn’t receive an answer from the Son of God, so why should I listen to your truth.

“To tell you the truth…”
Means that most of what you said before were all lies. Now, the truth comes out!?

picture-of-two-people-talking-24

“If I were you…”
Then you would be one lucky person but instead you remain, alas, you.

“When I was your age…”
If you begin with 1940, I’m outta here!

“Be that as it may…”
Five words that give you time to think of a response

“But, you see, the thing of it is…”
Eight words giving you even more time to think of a response

“Do you hear what I’m saying?”
I’m standing in front of you. I believe it’s a safe assumption that, “Yes…”

“If I were in your shoes…”
(see number three above)

“Back in my day…”
I know, you had to roll down your car windows and only had three TV channels. I got it. Move on.

“To be honest with you…”
From now on, please begin all your sentences with that preface so I know whether to listen or not.

“Long or short?”
I have a Masters Degree, try the long please.

“I read today…”
Please state the publication before you utter another word.

“So, what you’re saying is…”
I believe I just told you. Shall we try Charades?

 

                                                  “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

Well-Traveled Christians

ive-been-a-puppet-a-pauper-a-pirate-a-poet-a-pawn-and-a-king-ive-“Oh, I’m only a layperson,” we said about ourselves before Vatican II. That’s the priest’s job, “He’s smart. He has all the answers.”

Vatican II came along and invited…no, empowered all of you to recognize your gifts and talents and use them for the benefit of the Church, your family, your careers and in your personal lives. In other words, take me down a few notches and lift yourselves up several notches and we have what Vatican II called the “Mystical Body of Christ.”

Many of you may have taken more classes in Theology and Scripture study than I needed to do. Yet, I get that awesome title and you’ve received this rewarding and life-giving knowledge. Equal playing field? You bet.

I defer to that great philosopher of American musical standards, Frank Sinatra. He sang for us, “I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king.” (Too bad the lyricist couldn’t have thought of a sixth word beginning with the letter “p.” Frank would sing, “My, my.”

We have all lived those roles. Unfortunately, we may have stayed in one character a little longer than necessary.

I’m about to do all six in sixty seconds. This won’t take long, so don’t worry. If any of us have failed at any of the six then we just go back to Frank singing for us, “I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing, each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race…”

The puppet is mimicking our parents – the little girl wears mom’s big high heel shoes to see how they fit and he pretends to smoke a cigar like his dad. How does it feel until those parental strings are released? Doesn’t Jesus ask us to mimic him in sending us out into the world…every day?

The pauper role is when you’re stuck eating mac/cheese for weeks until your first job interview or promotion occurs. You trust the m/c will keep you alive as much as you hope your imagination holds firmly to your dreams. “In our weakness is strength,” says St. Paul again and again.

A pirate. Interesting. A pirate steals and claims it as his own as each of our gifts has been used and reused by others, but we slowly make it ours. Wasn’t salvation stolen for us by the crucifixion of Jesus? Scripture calls it “ransom,” but it amounts to the same thing.

All those characters became ours as we now become poets. Each of us with our own unique contributions, our personal twists on life’s twists, our revelations that someone else may not have considered. That’s a poet’s job.

But we don’t stop there, there’s still a “p” and a “k” ahead of us. The pawn should have been sung after puppet because being a pawn is a sacrifice. (Ask any parent or adult child who’s caring for a parent.) A sacrifice for a needy child when you wanted to play poker. The sacrifice of waiting up until 1:00 a.m. until you knew your daughter’s safely back home after missing her 10:00 p.m. curfew.

The last of Frank’s list is king, but it should’ve been “prince” to complete the six words beginning with the letter “p.” King is the satisfaction and governing over our well-lived lives. Bumps still bump, but now there’s a firm foundation helping us through life’s aging bumps because of those preceding and developed “p’s.”

Lay people? Priests, sisters or brothers? We’re all in the same boat called Jesus; with him at the helm and the Spirit at his back along with His Father smiling through the clouds.

We all did it. We’ve all completed all six in our six or more decades of life. Frank concludes the song as I end my little ditty, “My, my.”

                                                     “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

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
%d bloggers like this: