Funeral Sermon for a Mother: “Gift”

Rotes GeschenkIt’s beautifully wrapped. Wrapped in red paper. Why red, I don’t know but it seems to be a color that stands out, so why not enfold this specially boxed gift in the color of red.

Like any gift that’s received, it’s meant to be opened. But no one’s given you the nod to open it. There’s no special occasion – only this unopened gift placed in front of you. If you’re like my grandmother, you’d yell from across the room, “Save the paper!” Why save the paper! Do you iron the paper and use it again or just let the wrinkles remain from the first opening and prepare it for the re-wrapping? (Margaret would have chosen the former.) I suspect when my grandmother’s house was cleaned after her passing, a lot of wrapping paper was found neatly ironed and folded and stored in her closet.

“Save the Paper”

If the gift had eyes, it’d be staring right up at you patiently waiting to be discovered. The suspense of the unwrapping, the surprise of what’s inside all defines this small box in front of you. My grandmother, again, would say, “Let’s not open it until after dessert” as impatient children’s eyes would then meet hers. “Wait! Wait for what?” those eager eyes would be telling grandma.

Gift Box, Wrapping Paper, Bow

Jesus gave us the “nod” with all kinds of images to convey the opening of the gift of all gifts. He tells us about yeast that rises to feed a hungry family, a small mustard seed that soon will soften the afternoon sun, finding a lost coin and inviting friends over for a drink to celebrate, rediscovering what you felt you’ve lost like the prodigal son, a lamp that brightens a good book instead of hiding it under a bushel basket, how a couple of fish and pieces of bread can feed multitudes – with leftovers!

Simple gifts illustrating growth, successes, fulfillments along with renewal and “starting again from scratch” during troubling times. Simple but powerful. He’s given us enough gifts to last a lifetime, or at least over 90 years of them. And if Jesus’ images don’t do it for you then how the gift of his own life and death – in service, commitment and dedication to something bigger and larger than just one person.

Any gift that is opened involves a degree of risk – will I like it, it is more useful than the Veg-O-Matic I never use, can I make it my own and not simply copy someone else, how will others accept it when I show it to them? Any opened gift involves growth – read the instructions and follow them. When a failure occurs, “dust yourself off,” as the song sings and then re-read the instructions. Any opened gift involves dependence – we like to think we are self-made people but just remember how many people it took to create this gift for you and to never forget who the giver is. Risk, growth, dependence; I can go on but I hope you get the gist of what I’m saying.

Oh wait! I forgot the best experience of any opened gift: it is hope. Scripture assures us that “hope does not disappoint” (unless you’re a Brewer fan but that’s a different kind of hope.) The gift of this hope is the undergirding and context of anyone’s life. It is the hope that opening this gift was worth it, or better yet that you were worthy of receiving this gift. It is the hope that looks beyond human foibles and failings (our own and others) and dedicates itself each day to living and modeling a divine hope. That’s the kind of hope that led the woman to find a silly, lost coin that was important to her or the silly, loving father who kills a fatted calf for his unrepentant, wayward son.

Amen.

Oh wait once more! Did I forget to tell you what’s inside that beautifully red-wrapped gift box? And did I forget to tell you what happens to that bow? I’m sure my grandmother would have saved the bow as well. Inside the gift box is Margaret. It’s similar to the gift box given to each of us at birth and to be gradually unwrapped throughout our lives. Margaret’s proud, life context and undergirding was not only the Catholic Church but the Catholic Church lived and breathed within these walls. Today we honor Margaret’s life by asking how she was able to unwrap the gift of her long life. How was she able to be gift to her family and friends? And the one I like the best is, how was Margaret able to help others unwrap their life’s gift?

For us who remain – that gift box is still being unwrapped by each of us every day with each new encounter, each new situation – whether joyous or troubling. And unwrapping this gift knows no age because we are all still breathing life – from our life into the lives of others.

Explain the box? That’s easy. The box is this gift of life. The red wrapping is all the significant people who enlighten us. Contained inside the box is all of our experiences – good, bad or indifferent – the contents inside the box defines who we are. The bow? The bow is eternal life. You need to undo the bow in order to open the gift. We need to begin life in order to have it end. You thought I forgot about the wrapping paper? The wrapping paper is all the memories that are neatly ironed and folded and carried within all of us for the rest of our lives.

So go ahead and keep opening your gift. It’s worth it. God gave us the gift box to be opened and to be used. And..to be used up. Margaret used her’s up. Today it is time for us to give back to the Gift Giver the gift that was given to us.

So, my grandmother was right when she said, “Save the paper!”

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

Valentine’s Day Tragedy, 2018

“How many deaths will it take till he knows too many people have died.”
They got out of bed…
dressed for school…
and perhaps ate a small breakfast…
They went to school…
as they’ve done every day.

3e111c7f8c13d62c5896b6b69bc4c145

March 14, 2018
(CNN) – Women’s March organizers are encouraging students, teachers and their allies
to walk out of schools on March 14 to protest gun violence.
“Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from
the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school,” reads the group’s statement. “Parents have the right to send their kids to school
in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day.”
It’s scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in every time zone and last for
17 minutes — one for each victim who lost their life in the massacre.

April 20, 2018
David Berliner, a regents’ professor emeritus at Arizona State University, and a past president of the American Educational Research Association and the division of educational psychology of the American Psychological Association {said,}
“After it posted we got so many responses, including from the American Federation
of Teachers and the National Education Association. {We} decided April 20 would be the day for teachers to close schools down, or take an hour to walk around campus, or take
a day off to go to their legislatures with model legislation.”

“How many roads must a man walk down, before they call him a man

How many seas must a white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand

How many times must the cannonballs fly, before they are forever banned

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind
How many years can a mountain exist, before it is washed to the sea

how many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free

how many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind

How many times must a man look up,
 before he can see the sky

How many years must one man have,
before he can hear people cry
How many deaths will it take till he knows
too many people have died
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind”
Bob Dylan, 1963

 

 

 

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

Lent: The Magic of Forty

lent-prayer-fasting-giving-works-of-loveAnother Lent. Another glorious opportunity to examine our lives, not only in the negatives but including affirming the positives. If you keep beating yourself up, then the Catholic Church is not for you. The Catholic Church is always about hope, promise, joy and yes forgiveness and mercy. It’s the whole ball of wax.

Oh, wait! Did I just say, “Whole?” Yes, I did. You don’t leave home with only your right arm but your left as well. Like your body, your mind needs to remain whole. Otherwise, you’d walk like your mind with a leaning toward one side while missing out on the whole of you. Jesus spends 40 days in the desert as our Lenten experience begins. 40. Umph. I wonder why the number 40? Couldn’t Jesus have completed it in 25, counting weekends? Nope. It had to be 40. Why? Well, that easy. This is where the internet comes in handy. Ready?

—Forty days after the birth, Jesus was presented to the Temple of Jerusalem for his legal purification, according to the established law.
—The 40 days of fast of Jesus in the desert. 
Forty days separate the Ascension of Jesus of his Resurrection.
—
The Flood of Noah lasted 40 days.
—Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights before to reach the Horeb mount. He fasted for 40 days before to begin his public ministry and he remained 40 days on Mount Carmel.
—The priest Eli had been a judge of Israel for 40 years.
—Moses was 40 years old when he was called by God and that he killed an Egyptian, and escaped in the desert of Midian. He kept the herd of Jethro for 40 years. He resided finally 40 days and 40 nights to the summit of the Mount Sinai before receiving the Tables of the Law.
—During 40 day Goliath defied David.
—The Hebrews wandered 40 years in the desert.
—I became a chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital when I was 40 years old.
—The people of Nineveh had to repent during 40 days.
—Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah.
—The embalming of Jacob was prolonged for 40 days.
—The reign of David on Israel lasted 40 years, the reign of Solomon in Jerusalem lasted for 40 years.
—
Adam resented for 40 years after his corrupt practice.
—The number of chapters of the book of Exodus is forty.

According to Saint Augustine, forty expresses perfection “because the Law was given in ten commandments, then it is through the whole world that the Law has been preached, and the whole world is composed of four parts, Orient and Occident, South and North; therefore, by multiplying ten by four? Or, it is by how many Gospels books that the Law is accomplished?”

Paul Simon sings there’s “50 Ways To Love A Lover.” I guess he never read the Bible, there’s only 40. It’s wholeness folks.

Wholeness is not only a good psychological tool, but it’s an obligatory religious one as well. When you admit a failing or sin, it means that you know better. That’s healthy. Lent is not about dwelling on our sinfulness but reflecting deeply about our personal wholeness and our relationship with God and each other. To live out of a single chapter or one verse of our lives is to deny the wholeness of our lives. And, after these 40 days, on Easter Sunday, we proudly offer God our total worth – as the movie’s called – the good, bad and the ugly.

Just remember, if you have 40 sins then that means you also have 40 qualities. Just ask St. Augustine.

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 Lent, Spirituality | 1 Comment

The Walgreens Guy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

Teachers: planting seeds

(a grade school sermon at a Catholic school)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

2/2, “Candlemas Day”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                   _____Key_____

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

                                                              ___________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weather Proverbs

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

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

Farmer’s Proverbs

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

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

German Proverb

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

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

                                                         _____________________

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

Posted in Candle, Spirituality | Tagged , | 1 Comment

“Head or Heart?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

Blessing of Hospice Rooms & Nurses Station

Holding Hands with Elderly Patient

Hospice Rooms Blessing

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

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

Nurses Station Blessing

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

May God bless this work area. Amen.

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

Posted in Spirituality | 1 Comment

These Aging Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

A Loving Joke from Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Prodigal Son, Spirituality | Leave a comment