Faith’s List

List-Icon1I hate lists. They’re intended to guide you toward an end but rarely is the end ever met. You miss a step or something falls apart, and you need to start all over again. Human nature can never be reduced to a silly list that attempts to narrow our complicated and enjoyable life.

A diet’s list? Billions of dollars are made when failure is almost built in to repeat the list. A magazine’s cover offers a list of 5, 7 or even 12 ways to soften, enlighten, reinforce, modify or change a human habit, and you grab one because it was cleverly placed in the checkout line. (Never a list of “13” by the way.)

The only list I’ve loved is Paul Simon’s, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Now that’s a list! However, since I’m a priest, St. Peter offers another list. Somewhat more difficult to define and measure but surely worth the list’s results. What are the consequences? We jump to the conclusion of heaven, but that’s in the future; what about right here and right now – where we live and breath.

Virtue to Knowledge to Self-control to Endurance to Devotion to Mutual Affection and ending with Love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)

So, how about “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” or “Seven Ways to Live a Meaningful, Godly Life”?

St. Peter’s sequence doesn’t fit the way we behave. I’d have started with Knowledge but St. Peter begins with the end. Love is not the end, but it’s Virtue’s response. Or better yet, I’d make it eight steps and insert “Yearning” or “Longing” as life’s first hurdle.

Yearning leads to Searching (my new number two) which makes you seek our Knowledge (Peter’s number two, my number three). After researching enough of my number three, you realize that it’s only achieved through his number three (my number four), Self-control. Something of value has been uncovered and needs to be preserved and respected, hence his number three. Protecting his number three brings you to my number five, Devotion. We say to ourselves, “This feels right for me, and I hope God feels the same way.” That’s the result of living his number four.

But now what does one do with Pete’s number four? Is Devotion only directed to God or is it both performed for God but through someone or a group of people? That brings about Mutual Affection, Peter’s number five on the list. As difficult as it is in any context or time in our lives – Mutual Affection is the human response to my made-up numbers eight or nine, Virtue.

Number five can only lead to, and I mean only lead to, humanity’s highest calling – number seven, Love (or number eight if you accept my insertion of Yearning as number one.)

No magazine will publish this and St. Peter wouldn’t agree with me. But I like my list. It’s complete. It challenges me every day of my life. My list comes from my heart and not my faith. But it’s my faith that responds to my heart because I added a new number one, Yearning.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                “Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | 1 Comment

Home’s Morsels

MINISTER PRESENTS EUCHARIST DURING COMMUNIONIt’s the small piece you break off before eating the rest yourself. It’s that tiny piece dropped to the floor to satisfy an anxious dog beneath your kitchen table. It’s your only pathway that leads you back home.

It’s those small morsels of bread tossed behind you that mark the leaving of your beginnings and your home behind. But it’s a carefully traced trail that leads you back home whenever you need to return. A simple morsel of bread. Wheat. Sustenance. The morning smell that began your growing up days and now its memory-smell lives within you until the end of your days. (For us kids it was baked bread topped with cinnamon to compliment the wheat from Cream of Wheat before going to school.)

If you’re young, those morsels pave what you’re leaving toward – unknown, multiple steps. Or, if you’re me, it’s more as memory-morsels leading me back home if you’re older and soon-to-be unemployed.

Throughout life we can lose our way, our way may lose us, or those we love leave. But it’s those darn morsels that intrigue me. Those morsels are slung over her head as she smugly leaves home for the first time with her new Apple computer, or they are sadly remembered as a wonderful job leaves me. Those morsels are reminders of a place, a welcoming place, the beginning place; a place called home.

The Body and Blood of Christ are but a morsel and a sip to bring us back and remind us about of our eternal home, where we all began. You bow and hold out your hand to me wanting a piece of Christ to eat but it really ought to be tossed over your shoulder to show you the way back home. I bless the young ones unable to eat the morsels because they still take home for granted. But time quickly changes that. Home is where sincerity, trust and hope each has their own room, either in their absence or in practice – or both. The attic is where unexpected surprises reside and the basement is full of dusty regrets. Each location explains its usage.

I lost my job, and she’s off to college to find one. My tossed morsels are long spoiled (but when I turn around I can still see them). Hers are freshly pitched over her shoulder.
For a parent to “let go” of a college-age daughter is second only to sending her into a war zone – only this time it’s the battle of life. Is it her parent’s last wave at the college’s entrance or perhaps an invisible hug from her father (because, “Dad, everybody’s watching!”) Or, is it looking for meaningful work in my work’s twilight.

You can only look ahead by looking back. Your past does not define you and your future will not save you. Your past greatly influences you but your future is entirely yours. But one path is clearly mark by your simple pieces – morsels from the promises of God, the actions and admonitions of the God-Man, and the Holy Spirit in her willingness to see you through anything that you either throw at life or that life throws at you.

It’s those persistent but ever-present morsels that bring both her and me back again. Hers in her own time and mine in mine. Mine is the easier one. I know about the morsels and the way back home because I read that fairy tale and believe it. She’ll live that story without having probably read the old story. Those morsels tossed behind both of us cannot disappear – they only lead back to where those morning smells continue to live and is so often taken for granted – that place, that anchor we call home.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Eucharist, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Funeral Sermon for a Mother Who Loved Sunflowers

It points itself to the sun as though it’s the beginning and the end. It seeks the sun for energy and nourishment. It needs the sun in order to look like the sun. And, indeed, as it blossoms it does resemble the heavenly sun while deeply planted in earth’s ground.

Wow. Am I talking about a beautiful flower or am I talking about our beautiful faith? Or, am I talking about both?

Believe me, today it’s about both. Margaret’s adopted persona is the sunflower – a beautiful creation that represents so much of our lives if you let a little poetry describe it for you. Margaret didn’t adopt but embraced the beauty of our Catholic faith and reflected it through her marriage, children, friendships, volunteering and most especially in her prayer life.

You know what? You can’t see what I’m saying so you’re never sure if I’m talking about the sUn or the sOn.

Each of us has been firmly planted in this journey of life. Each of us reflects something greater than ourselves. Each of us resembles something or someone else.

You don’t believe me? Jesus resembles God. We are made in God’s image, so see if you see the resemblance in anyone you encounter.

William Blake wrote a short sunflower poem. It’s pack with meaning and for us this Saturday morning it’s packed with feeling.

“Ah! sunflower, weary of time,” he wrote. Because time is limited, one singer contains it in a “bottle.” “If I could make days last forever, if words could make wishes come true, I’d save every day like a treasure and then, Again, I would spend them with you.” Between how much sewing, socializing and golfing can we measure Margaret’s quality time … time spent with family and friends. And her gift for always making new friends no matter where she lived.

Blake continues, “Who counts the steps of the sun.” Limited time times our steps as though contained in a bottle or a box. “Seeking after that sweet golden clime,” Blake wrote. Prayer allows those upward steps to be taken. Prayer makes time, timeless – it takes away earth’s bottle or box and opens us up to the boundlessness that we call “God.” Blake says, “Where the traveller’s journey is done.” That’s why we gather in prayer today. What earth calls “timed out,” our faith assures us that that time now becomes timeless.

“Where the youth pined away with desire,” Blake wrote, brings about a loving marriage of 58 years along with children forced to sing Irish songs. (But that’s okay.) Here’s the line from Blake that I like the most because it speaks to Margaret and all of us, “And the pale virgin shrouded in snow.” Margaret’s beautiful “virgin” body, virgin meaning that which is created by God experiences fifty years of back pain until finally relieved in her third and final chapter of life. (I guess finding the right doctor is good advice!)

Funerals are not only about someone we’ve lost but it’s also about a renewal of our own timed-earthly journey toward heaven’s-timelessness. Who do we resemble to our family and friends? Who do we represent in our words and actions? How can the image of Margaret’s sunflower speak to us?

Blake concludes, “Arise from their graves and aspire, Where my sunflower wishes to go.” We pray this Saturday for Margaret’s new life redeemed through Christ. We pray that what she resembled for many, many years grounded on this earth, she now becomes forever in heaven.

But wait! I’m still not sure who we’re talking about. Is it about a sunflower or is it about Margaret? Is it about sUn or is it about sOn? Or is it all of it?

Ah sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellor’s journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!
William Blake

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                               Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Funeral, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Trinity Sunday, “The Traffic Light”

stoplight. vectorThroughout our early education, we’re told that the light remains green for us all to fulfill all of our dreams. Some teachers may have mentioned those yellow or red colors. We didn’t hear that because our focus was only “green” paving our future.

We were also taught we live between cause and effect. Do a job well, and a promotion surely awaits you. Avoid this problem, and a new avenue opens up your ride. When the effect doesn’t happen, we simply blame the cause. Different cause then a different effect. Simple.

Traffic’s yellow lights means pause and caution? For others folks, but not for us! (You’ve got to be kidding.) In Milwaukee, yellow now means to move faster. Who needs caution when you’re between green and red colors. In my town, yellow now means a mere suggestion, as though the yellow says to you, “Sir or ma’am, you may wish to consider in the next one half-second to stop and wait…or not!” The top color of our three colors is red. I guess it’s placed there to tell us something we don’t want to see or do. Red means stop. It means go no further allowing others to pass.

Hope in “tomorrow”

John Lennon sang, “He blew his mind out in his car, he didn’t notice that the light had changed.” That guy lost his surprising yet vague word, “tomorrow.” That’s a loss of hope, a virtue that is so easily misplaced, forgotten or completely lost. Hope in yourself is the primary task which leads to your enkindling and encouraging hope and promise in others. That’s how those bothersome traffic lights work. That’s why they were installed at intersections.

Alright. It’s “Trinity Sunday.” “Three persons in One God.” Three clearly glowing lights for all of life’s intersections. I guess you know where I’m going with this. Not limited to but for the sake of illustration – God is red, Jesus is green, and the Holy Spirit is yellow. Three colors along with three very important persons at each of our life’s intersections.

The red of God is the immobile and stable presence of the Almighty. In some religions, just saying His name was considered blasphemous. The green is obviously Jesus because he’s always telling us to “keep going.” Go make disciples, turn water into wine through your gifts and talents, keep that lamp proudly burning for all to see, be a mustard seed and keep growing, prune yourself of sin every chance you get and how many more examples from the Green Guy.

The Spirit will pest us like a housefly…

That leaves the best of our colors for last. The yellow of the Holy Spirit is always the decision time. The Spirit has a great job of freely moving all around us and inside us. Testing that, thinking about this – with a keen eye for surprising, overestimating and challenging us. That’s what pausing produces. I said last week on Pentecost that the Spirit is the most patient of all three lights. The Spirit will pest us like a housefly until we take a deep breath and pause from whatever has either stopped us or made us run around in circles. Red is the steadiness of life in our resolve and commitment, green is doing something with what the red created us to do which makes you and this world a better place to live. Yellow? It’s that daring inspiration, and peaceful fulfillment of life’s green and red.

Our personal integrity is made stronger through life’s reds and yellows.

Our lives are full of intersections. The road not taken, (“I should have turned left!”), that unmade choice (“Wrong turn and now I’m lost!”), those right decisions (“I see it. It’s straight ahead on the right!”). Carefully heed each color because each has continuous lessons to be learned and pass on to your children. Red alerts us that hope is fragile. Yellow shows us how to think and pray a little slower, with more feeling. Green’s a breeze because the traffic flows back and forth with fewer lessons to be learned; from one green light to the next. The definition of our lives is rarely found in green. Our personal integrity is made stronger through life’s reds and yellows.

So enjoy your life’s ride with attention. Be watchful and vigilant because the light can change at any moment, but it will always show us a helpful and listening person of our beautiful Trinity.

And if you’re colorblind, you might consider walking. The Trinity will walk with you.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Letters From My Cats,”

a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality, Trinity Sunday | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Pentecost, “The Third Person?”

left-quotation-marksDear Joe, (no respect)

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I don’t mind it myself. You ever hear the saying about “three on a date;” just try it for an eternity and see how it feels. Once, God and Jesus rented a tandem bicycle, I thought it was meant to taunt me, but I smiled. Ever see a restaurant with a table for three? Three soldiers and one match? Three strikes and you’re… So image a third on this eternal wheel.

You Folks Think Only in “Two’s”

God did His thing in seven days and is thought and talked about enough. Jesus did his bit in only three years and even has an acronym for himself, WWJD as though it helps somebody in a bind.  Me? Your life is full of twos but rarely is there a third. Right/Wrong, Left/Right, Sin/Grace, Heaven/Hell, Democrat/Or that other political party. And then there’s “number three,” Me. Maybe my name ought to be, “Rarely!”

I like to think of it as God and Jesus have their fixed roles cut out for them and get more credit for it. Me? I’m kinda out there, sometimes pictured as a dove when I’d prefer eagle but who listens to me?

“Offers You that Place of Peace and Contentment”

Me? Well, maybe you do hear me…sometimes. I’m that swirling wind around you when you finally decide to grab a jacket. I’m that gnawing sound that breaks your complacency when you thought everything was neatly, but wrongly settled. I’m that gentle tug on your shoulder right before you go to sleep reminding you about a task or two tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t just swirl, gnaw and nudge. I’m also the one who provides and offers you that place of peace and contentment, a place that is unknown to this world. It’s easy for me because after you’ve done your homework of family, work and friends, under my guidance, the place is right there – in front of you, inside of you. It is in this place where everything you thought was unimaginable becomes real.

I know, I sound like a fairy godmother, but I think she’s patterned after me. The same goes for Jiminy Cricket. I can’t be controlled or harnessed because I’m a separate but still equal part of those two on that tandem bicycle. You could say that the two before me laid the necessary foundation and I get to have all the fun running around all of your lives and offering you my seven gifts. When you get home tonight, quiz yourself and see how many of the seven you can name. No fare cheating, no Internet! I’m able to weave in between the handiwork of those other two.

“There ought to be eight gifts from Me”

“Inspire” ought to be my name and the eighth gift but the Church loves the number seven too much. You know, I think “inspire” is included in all my seven gifts. I’m nothing other than God alive and active in the world. If Jesus is how God burst forth into human history, then I’m how God continues to burn in the human heart.

“1962 Was My Idea”

I don’t mean to brag, but 1962 was my idea. That was the year when I coached the pope to “open the windows” of the Church, as he called it. I think they called it “Vatican II.” Just like I do to you folks individually, I’m able to do to an institution when it loses its way or swerves off course. The Son of God usually gets credit for my work, but that’s the way it should be.

Please don’t tell anyone but I’m really not the last person of the Trinity. I’ve been around as long as the other two, they just sometimes forget. In Genesis, who do you think hovered over the waters at the moment of creation (Genesis 1:2)? Moi. The Psalms sing of me “renewing the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:30) I’ve been an active part of Jesus’ life. His conception, I “will come upon you” the angel tells Mary (Luke 1:35). His first words as the teacher, I am “upon him” (Luke 4:18). His final promise, “Receive” me (John 20:22).

I don’t mean to brag, but 1962 was my idea. That was the year when I coached the pope to “open the windows” of the Church, as he called it. I think they called it “Vatican II.” Just like I do to you folks individually, I’m able to do to an institution when it loses its way or swerves off course. The Son of God usually gets credit for my work, but that’s the way it should be.

“Tongue as of Fire”

Please don’t try this at home but just try placing a small “tongue as of fire” above the heads of followers and missionaries showing them that they’re valuable and worthy to do the work of the three of us? It’s tricky, you got to get the distance between head and flame just right or else…

Instead of “Rarely,” my name ought to be “Anonymous” because you don’t know when I’ll come around to swirl or gnaw or nudge at you to either strengthen or correct your path. And believe me, I can pester and wait a long, long time. You could call me the most patient one of the Trinity. My only task is to help and guide you to be the person that God created and Jesus showed you to be.

If and when you find your peaceful place, you may mention my name but more than likely, you’ll talk to your family and friends about the other two. Really, I don’t mind.
Fluid is me, and I like it that way. You can’t hold me, but you can be held by me. You can’t touch me, but you can feel me – at any time. I can be experienced but never contained.
So, that’s a little something about me. What’s the upside of all this with the three of us? When the restaurant bill arrives, it’s the other two who need to leave the tip!
See you around.

Love, The Holy Spirit
Right-quotation-mark

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Letters From My Cats,”

a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Pentecost, Spirituality | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Aging: “I Can’t Do It!”

“I can’t do it.”

walker-clipart-l_050Have 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 did not 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 did not 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.”

At Mass one day, I said 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 could have 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?

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 to me that you are no longer able to do it, I admire that 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 and don’t tell me that you “can’t do it” now. You’re still doing it now but only in different ways.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Letters From My Cats,”

a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

 

Posted in Aging, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Easter’s “Six Degrees”

I’m at a T-Mobile store waiting for my order to be complete, and the manager approaches me and says, “I hope you don’t mind, but you look just like Fred MacMurray…when he was older.” He gets the internet, and I could see the resemblance. I was holding out for Brad Pitt, but instead I got Fred.

The Church uses all kinds of phrases to remind us of our unity – union with God, oneness in Christ, the community of faithful believers, one heart/one body, sheep following our Great Shepherd, the one vine and it branches, and how many other similar statements about being together.

Wikipedia, the Gospel of the internet, tells us that, “Six degrees of separation is the idea that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other so that a chain of ‘a friend of a friend’ statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.” Please note the word, “maximum.”

Ummmmm. Interesting. So that person you passed on the street, that person who cut you off in traffic, that person at Mayfair Mall that smiled at you, that obituary you read but didn’t recognize the name… We are all connected to all those people.

six-degreesIf you don’t believe me and enjoy watching movies just play the “Kevin Bacon Game” with a friend or two. You will find out for yourself how that separation of “six” is quickly erased and reduced to two.

Easter hope is about connections but we usually think about the connection in a personal way; between God and us. But when and where else do we met Jesus? In church, of course, but we get to know who Jesus is through each other.

I was new to Christ King Parish, and after Mass a couple approach me to say, “We heard you’re from Manitowoc, and we saw your last name. Your sister taught both of us at St. Andrew’s School.” My sister was a nun then, and it was true. So my meeting them and they know my sister adds up to how many in between connections of people I don’t really know but are now connected to. And, how many degrees of connections did I subtract during my years on the radio? And, now we have Facebook, for better or for worse.

Each of us, I’m sure, has connecting stories to tell about narrowing that “six degrees” to one or two or even zero. We keep saying how we know someone who knows someone else in Milwaukee and conclude that it’s a “big, little city.” I bet the very same connections are made in New York everyday.

You may not believe this, but we’ve all met Jesus. Every single one of you has met Jesus Christ. In that stranger who held the door for you, in the smile from that Mayfair Mall person, stopping at a crosswalk on North Avenue for the mom and her baby to cross (it’s actually the law but you wouldn’t know it), in the person at work who falsely gossips about you. Yes, even the last example is meeting Jesus as he met Judas.

We’re in this life truly together because of six simple people connecting our lives together in what we call in the Church, the “Body of Christ.”

You may not believe this, but I’ve met six presidents. Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. It’s true. When John Lindsay was running for president he spoke in downtown Milwaukee. Afterward, we went to the old Schroeder Hotel for a drink. Sitting at a table is Theodore White and Walter Cronkite. We introduced ourselves and thanked them both for their work as author and anchor. Another connection was made, narrowing my maximum of “six degrees” to a much lower number.

We’re in this life truly together. Politically, religiously, personally, and your bothersome neighbor’s dog. We’re in this life together.

Christians believe our unifier is Jesus Christ. Other religions have their own unifier. But we all have the same hope and the same dream of unity and oneness.

If you don’t believe me, don’t ask the T-Mobile guy, just ask my look-a-like, Brad Pitt.

 

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Letters From My Cats,”

a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Easter, Spirituality | 1 Comment

The Nap

dad_sleeping_on_a_couch_0515-1005-1302-0329_SMUWe were forced to do in the afternoon instead of playing outside in the beautiful sun with friends. How many years later we often plan for one or heavy eyelids forces one.

A nap. I call it a “gift from God” as my eyes close for one glorious hour. I wake up and the rest of the day awaits me. I think to myself, “I slept well last night, so why this burst of tiredness at two in the afternoon?” I don’t answer myself, but I think my body thanks me. Deciding to read a book instead of one is useless thinking. Talk about a sedative! By page two both the book and my head are down.

Sleep.org (yes, there is one) benefits a nap by, “boosting your mood, zapping stress, and recharging” ourselves. Three rewards anyone on Medicare need. It never happens in your bed, that’s reserved for all night sleep. An easy chair or couch are acceptable venues. My twitchy leg tells me when mine is complete. For others, it may be a quick sneeze, cough or a ringing phone.

Nap is an Old English word, “hnappian,” similar with Middle High German “napfen.” Cat prefaces the word, but I totally disagree. My cats don’t nap, they purely sleep away most of the day.

I had one earlier this afternoon which explains my clever writing ability and keen perspective on this Godly gift.

Tomorrow’s another busy day but don’t doubt that I’ll find time for a quick one, even if only a few minutes.

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

Posted in Spirituality | 1 Comment

Funeral for Suicide Victim

from the Gospel of St. John
“Jesus said to the crowds, ’I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.'”

Preachers who begin by saying, “Words cannot express…” continue to use words for the next thirty minutes. Mine is not that long because I have nothing new to tell you. You already know what I’m about to say. So I guess lengthy preachers are right, “Words cannot express.”

Our prayer tonight is genuinely and powerfully that. A prayer. Not a judgment which offers no resolution, not self-blaming which, like a gerbil in a cage which keeps going around and around in circles, and it’s not a repeating gossip which further destroys someone’s character. And most importantly, it’s not about playing God in our evaluations or appraisals of someone. Jim thought he was God and he was wrong.

The most challenging part of being a Christian isn’t the believing. We so often think that it’s all about the beliefs. We can say and believe whatever we wish, but the hardest part of being a Christian is, well, being a Christian. It is our actions that speak louder than words, as the saying goes.

Being a Christian is the Prayer of St. Francis – in words, of course, but full of and requiring our complete attention and action.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.”

Are you grounded? We often don’t think about it or answer that question but we should. What grounds your life? When “error, doubt, despair and darkness” surround your life, what holds you down in safety, what light continues to burn; even if it’s only a flicker? That’s the grounding that will help and support your handling today and knowing there is a tomorrow. Jim despaired and forgot about tomorrow.

“Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.”

Outside my kitchen window, while writing this on a cold, snowy Monday evening, I saw a bird fly overhead. Probably looking for some place warm to land. Wondering to herself, “What state am I in? It’s mid-April and here’s this crappy weather!” What happened here? It’s an unanswered question that we all ask tonight: “What happened here?” You may have some hints and vague clues, but you will never know the complete answer. That’s the mystery of life we live, and that’s the mystery of faith that grounds us, and we hold onto dearly, “for dear life.”

My admonition for you tonight and in the months and years ahead is not to define Jim by his tragic, self-death. He was still a complete person who lived, loved, breathed, touched the lives of many, contributed and took, and tried the best he could. In memories held in your heart and through your stories told about Jim, please consider the whole person. It’s beneficial in remembering him, and it’s healthy for you who continue your lives. Jim succeeded in some ways and failed in others. Christians call that sin and grace. And we believe and act more on the beauty of God’s grace than hopelessly dwelling on our own sins.

Jim either forgot or ignored. Let us never lose our grounding in our own potential and belief that there is a tomorrow and faithfully put into action – in our families, in our friendships, within ourselves – a merciful and hope-filled God.

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

Posted in Spirituality, Suicide | Leave a comment

Easter’s “langue des veaux”

5da2556c82c2fe8c9e8a4586290523e8I was sitting all by myself at the kitchen table after dinner. I was in third grade. Everyone had eaten and my mother was cleaning up. It was looking right at my mouth. My feet couldn’t touch the floor so running when her back was turned was not an option. It was a tongue taken from a calve. A cute, little calve became a mute so I can stare at it as it stared back at me.

“Calves Tongue,” considered a healthy delicacy and served in our humble, Manitowoc home. There was nothing delicate about living in Manitowoc so why push this delicacy into a young person’s mouth? I had my tongue, and I boldly told her, “No.” “No, I won’t eat this thing,” stuffed between two pieces of bread.

Not one to lose, my mother insisted hence the sole person at the table. If only she’d introduced it to me in French, “langue des veaux,” I would have gobbled it up and bragged about it the next day at school. Nope. A blunt English name. When she turned off the kitchen light, I suspect that was my cue to tough it out and eat the darn thing. A battle of wits between a forty-six-year-old and a ten-year-old.

I remember taking a small bite and running to the sink to spit it out. She made her point, and I made mine. I tried a piece. It was a win-win except for the calve who remained speechless.

All right. What does this have to with Easter and sin?

All right. What does this have to with Easter and sin? Admitting your sins is a private matter. It’s personal. Our Mother Mary or our God is carefully watching, always from the sidelines and patiently waiting. The delicacy of forgiveness is staring us right in the face. Psalm 23 cleverly tells us, “You set a table before me in the sight of my foes.” In our honesty and sincerity, we put our weaknesses right where we can see and control them. We already do this with our gifts and talents, so why not proudly but personally hold dear our sins? If only we didn’t call it sin, perhaps a minor lapse or, how about, a silly mistake or, better yet, a mindless error. Would that make the swallowing of our pride would be easier? Nope, because that’s not the word. It’s a sin.

Here’s the Easter part.

One author wrote, “The resurrection of Christ Jesus reimagines our lives on earth. Life from above brings hope and healing in our worldly need. Everyone learns about things of heaven when lives on earth are changed.” Everyone learns about things of heaven when lives on earth are changed. I like that.

It’s the result of taking a small bite out of our pride, spitting it out as a sign of release, turning off the light and enjoying a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow’s eyes are opened a little wider and the day after that. That’s Easter’s hope. It’s a hope that will never fail us. God even blesses us with a prayer of forgiveness, whether in the confessional or said from your heart.

Was this too corny? I don’t think so. Try it sometime. You may be able to live with your “langue des veaus” a little easier. I’m told it’s high in protein…or is it graces?

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

Posted in Easter, Salvation, Spirituality | Leave a comment