These Aging Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

A Loving Joke from Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Prodigal Son, Spirituality | Leave a comment

The “Baptism of Jesus”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life-giving water that we readily dismiss each day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

 

Posted in Baptism, Spirituality | Leave a comment

“One Stop Shopping”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

A Funeral Sermon for a Dad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Funeral, Spirituality | Leave a comment

“Letters From My Cats”

FullSizeRender

Great gift idea for cat lovers
and those who need conversion

available at Amazon.com
Please write a review following your purchase.
Thanks.

Posted in cats, Spirituality | Leave a comment

The Influences of “Epiphany”

epiphanyausElvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Michael Jackson and most notably, Paul McCartney.

Besides all being huge rock stars, what do they all have in common? None of them can or could read or write music. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote 237 songs for a musical group you may not have heard of, they were called, “The Beatles.”

What does this little trivia have to do with the Feast of the Epiphany? Lucky for you, I have an answer.

I have satellite radio and often listen to “The Beatles” channel. They’ll introduce a song by another artist saying, “This is what ‘The Beatles’ were listening to before they became ’The Beatles.’” They were enlightened and influenced by what they listened to growing up. Conscious or unconscious, something caught their attention, and it planted a seed that slowly became their seed – a seed to blossom and bloom.

Isn’t that cool? The same thing happens to all of us. We remember a phrase from an attentive teacher, an admonition from a caring parent, that first hug that we’ve since returned to others, a passing compliment from a good friend that becomes your lifelong career. We treasure bits and pieces from others and make them our own. We mingle those personal tributes given to us and those beloved warnings. We make them a part of our lives so history can repeat itself in good ways and not repeat itself in hurtful ways. It’s no surprise to us that the habits of parents become the habits of their children. Just think of the Harry Chapin song, “He’d grown up just like me, my boy was just like me!” (And Harry could read music.)

When I celebrate Mass, I have priests in mind who’ve enlightened me and spark me to imitate or to learn from them. I also have priests in mind who I don’t wish to imitate. That can be enlightening also. It works both ways. There was a priest from my Order who always put his hands in his pockets during the “Our Father.” Why I don’t know, but you’ll notice that I don’t do that. “Thanks, Father.”

Metaphorically, the “Three Kings” brings the world to the child Jesus. They show Jesus, the oyster that the world was for him and is for us. We love creating divisions between people because it makes life easier for us to understand but there are no Protestants and Catholic, and there is no North Korea and the United States – there is only us.

We say that children are always watching us, adults. I can tell in my later years now, that I’m watching even more closely than I did as a child. I’m still being enlightened by the strength of someone with cancer, or a single, working mother with children, that wise comment from an older adult, or the dad with two jobs, or my favorite of all is visiting someone who’s dying, and they tell me a joke. Are they laughing at their silly joke or are they laughing at death? (I think it’s the latter.) “I think you’re drinking too much,” “You look skinny,” “You seemed lost this past week,” “I think blue’s your color,” “You look tired, are you all right?” “That project you did was perfect, they all loved it.”

Even within any of our tiny communities, comments are given to you that enlighten – comments that provide for you that star to see you through another day if in difficult times or a guiding star that shows you, your passion. My preaching professor in graduate school took me aside and said that I couldn’t preach and should quit the seminary. You be the judge. Stars come in all kinds of light. Perhaps his star to me was telling me that what he heard from me was dim but what could be, could be brighter.

They say that we go it alone during life. That may be so in some cases but every, single one of us has been influenced and enlightened – either good or bad – through the actions and behavior of someone else.

How else could Paul and John ever have written 237 timeless songs?

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
Available in paperback and Kindle
at Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”

inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons
of Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality | Leave a comment

The “Yes” of Mary

imagesAs the Lutherans always ask us Catholics, “Why do you worship Mary?” We answer by saying that we don’t “worship Mary” but we can understand their confusion.

We are dumbfounded by this carrier of hope into our world. We are awestruck by this vessel which did not doubt but continued moving, as best she could, through this journey we call life. We are terrified that if we emulate her that we will get lost; never to find our way back to ourselves, that we will lose our identity forever.

What we forget is that this vessel of love we call Mary vividly illustrates for us who we are as Church. A Church that possesses the wisdom and humility of all that life is. The uniqueness of this life is that it is the fullness of life: human and divine. All the barriers that kept the divine from us are erased. All the curtains and divisions that separated us from God have been lifted. No longer a line between God and us, Mary shows us how it’s done.

We have a tendency, no matter what age we may be, to never lose a magical dimension to our religion. (Burying poor St. Joseph to sell your home, a constantly-said prayer to cure cancer?) We have a difficult time letting go of supernatural thinking and enchanting intrusions into our world by the divine.

“Harry Potter” and religion can, unfortunately, have a lot in common. The magic of Harry Potter marvels us as enemies are quickly destroyed, problems solved through magic potions and voodoo charms make people do what they would normally not do.

The magic of Mary begins and ends in simplicity. The magic of untying our knotted lives and uniting our lives with God’s is the naturalness of it all. We never considered it because it was too available to us. We don’t take it seriously because it’s too much a part of our ordinary lives. It can’t happen without thunderous sounds and ominous clouds, complete with rattling houses and dogs barking loudly at the strangeness of it all. Mary’s response is far too sparse.

There is nothing of magic in uncovering what lives within us, our whole lives. The only wonder we can comprehend is why it’s taken us so long to believe it and why it’s taken us so long to imitate the simplicity of Mary’s path. Scripture tells us that she “treasured many things in her heart,” as our memories can testify and also told us about a “sword that will pierce her heart” as any setback pierces ours.

Catholics don’t worship Mary but we do honor all of life’s events. All the events that are presented to us every day, in every situation, in each new and old face that we encounter. It is the plainness and straightforward, the humbling and uniting word that Mary hesitantly but willingly whispers back to the angel’s invitation about the birth of Jesus. Mary says, “Yes.” Holding her dead son, she may have thought, “No” but once again said, “Yes.”

We say “Yes.” We say “Yes” to the divine that lives within us.

books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS, available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon:
“Soulful Muse”
“Living Faith’s Mysteries”
“Letters From My Cats”
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”
Posted in Mother, Spirituality | Leave a comment

“The Holy Family” & Ours

holy-familyA terrible blow to families and psychology happened in the 1980’s when the word “dysfunctional” became vogue when applied to families. Lots of books sold and lots of talks, especially in our family on how we became this word. Every other family presumably was normal except the five of us kids with our two parents. I regret to this day when I smugly told my mother about all this dysfunctional language. She looked bewildered.

Television again doesn’t imitate art, but rather influences and often distorts us. We fall for it. As adults, the five of us kids realized that there was nothing dysfunctional about our family. Our lives, assembled by mom and dad, formed what our family turned out to be. Nothing wrong or good about it, it was our family with all its quirks and qualms, some unique and others not, that any family can admit. In my family, my parents were not Ward and June Cleaver. Our mom didn’t own a pair of pearls, and if she did, she wouldn’t have vacuumed wearing them.

We honor the “Holy Family” each year and even kneel before them in their holiness. Those historical characters that comprise the great backdrop in our salvation history story created a family circle for our savior. Quirky and qualms?  Just listen on…

Test Your “Holy Family” Assortment of Family & Friends

A crazy cousin who dresses weird and eats even weirder
A pregnant, unwed young girl who looks great in blue
A silent-type husband-to-be who wants to get rid of the pregnant young girl and move on
An old married lady who discovers she’s with child and, if that’s not enough, the kid keeps “leaping” in her womb; presumably with “joy”
Angels who are flying around making grand announcements that no one understands but always prefaces them with “Do not be afraid,” as though that helps
A mute uncle who has lots to say but is unable to say them
A government official who wants you dead before you’ve even bor
An old lady who prays all day and hopes she doesn’t die before seeing you
Shepherds are heard yelling at midnight in the fields something that sounds like “G-l-o-r-i-a,” before it became a 1960’s hit 45-record

Just in case you think you’re family is beyond the norm of normal, here is the divine intervention playbill.  They are John, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Multitudes of angels, Zechariah, Herod, Anna, among the shepherds is Sam Shepherd, Cybil Shepherd, and Alan Shepherd.

Now picture all these people around a Christmas dinner table, carrying on and trying to share opinions, thoughts or words (except in the case of the mute uncle.) Driving back to Milwaukee from our Kenosha family Christmas, my sister and I rehashed the evening’s conversations. The nine of us ended the evening with a heated discussion about the distinctions between atheism and agnostics, and which one is with whom; since I’m the only practicing Catholic. In the car, are two superior people analyzing relatives with whom we shared a wonderful meal and will repeat it again at the next family gathering.

Our grandmother always told us Manitowoc kids, “Why aren’t you Jagodensky kids more like the Schroeder’s,” our cousins who lived in Green Bay, formerly Preble. She rarely saw our cousins, so naturally, they must be more normal than the dysfunctional us.

The family is a part of the wonder of the Christmas season. We feel sorry for those alone. The awe of this season is what each Biblical character contributes to the story of our salvation history – what each character in your family provides to make it a family. To leave out any of these characters, whether in the Bible or your family, is to miss important elements of the dramatic story of God breaking into history. And, it is all accomplished through these un-dysfunctional but normal people; and it all leads to welcoming the newest member of the family, Jesus Christ.

books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS, available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon:
“Soulful Muse”
“Living Faith’s Mysteries”
“Letters From My Cats”
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”
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A Blessing of the Nativity Manger

mangerHere they all are again in front of us. And here we are again. They are presented to us for our adoration and our emulation. We call them the “Holy Family.”

Over here is “Silent Joseph” whose words are never spoken but whose dreams all come true. Thank you Joseph for listening to something more powerful than words. Can we do the same?

Next to Joseph is the “Enriching Cow” wondering whose milk he can nourish. Could it be that child? Whose body can he provide for needed meat. Thank you Mr. Cow for the gift of your life given for others. Can we do the same?

Over there is Mr. Donkey whose durable body carries a pregnant woman soon to be called “mom.” Thank you, Mr. Donkey for carrying our Mother and the Savior of the world to safety. Can we carry someone and do the same?

On top of us roams “Hovering Angels” smiling at our unsolvable problems that always contains a solution, smiling at what we call “worth” down here when our worth is contained in up there with you. Thank you Hovering Angels and please keep watch over us. We need all of you.

I didn’t forget her. In front of us is Mary, a simple name that gains stature because of what she represents and presents to us. Simplicity made grandeur, humility that finds peace, perseverance leading toward life’s next inch when those previous inches failed. Thank you Mary for embracing all of life’s contradictions and treasuring them within your heart. For they are all lived through you and all solved because of this one mangy manger.

And the newborn? We already know about him. He’s living within us whenever we speak, think or do.

Here they all are again for our adoration and emulation.

The Marriott was full. They didn’t have enough points for the Bethlehem Sheraton and Tom Bodett forgot to “leave the light on.”

So this mangy, meager manger full of unlikely people, beasts and celestial beasts gives us – never a wink, it’s not a promise, certainly not a “good luck with that” remark but gives us the foundation and context and true hope for a transforming and “holy family” world.

Can we do the same within our own families?

books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS, available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon:
“Soulful Muse”
“Living Faith’s Mysteries”
“Letters From My Cats”
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”

book_cover

A Great Gift Idea

A new book by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
Available at Amazon.com
Paperback or Kindle is $14.95.  Enjoyable reading.

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality | Tagged , | Leave a comment