“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

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

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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

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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
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