Friday, October 28, 2016

Let the Children come to me

On a bright summer’s day a few years ago, I arrived at my friend Elaine’s garage sale to help her out with the crowd who usually turn out to garage sales in her neighborhood. She said it would take several volunteers as she had accumulated a lot of items in the last thirty years of her husband Marcus’s running a Christian Book and Gift store. She was trying to raise some money to keep the business going and pay for an additional employee since her husband Marcus was very ill and unable to work. Marcus was the backbone of the store as Elaine had another job and wasn’t at the store except on Saturdays. We all gathered in a prayer circle in the living room and joined hands before we opened the garage for the sale. We asked God to bless the sale with enough money to keep the business going until Marcus could return to work and of course send his angels to watch over us all during the sale. We knew it was going to be hectic, but never could we dreamed just how hectic it would become.  


Even though she had warned me there was a lot to sell, I was shocked at the sight of her three car garage which was completely packed from front to back with tables loaded down with items. It was such a tight fit we could not walk between the tables and closing and opening the garage doors was almost impossible. To add to the problem, the safety mechanism on her garage door opener was broken, so the door was a bit dangerous and would not stop if an item came in contact with it. It had to completely close and you had to hit the button again to get it back open. This would prove to be a danger beyond our imagining. In order to make it possible for people to shop, we had to move several tables out on the driveway and the lawn. And of course move the tables back in at the end of the day.



One of the volunteers was a neighbor of Elaine’s, who brought her two year old little girl Marcie with her. Marcie was a rather shy child and would not come to anyone. She clung to her mommy all day long and was pretty fussy. I tried several times to get Marcie interested in some of the toys we had at the sale, but she was not at all interested. It became quite a problem for her mother, but she valiantly tried to help even though she had her hands full with Marcie’s constant demands.  


As I was showing a garden statue of Christ to a prospective buyer, Marcie came running over to us and hugged the statue and began babbling and giggling. It was the first time all day long that she had done anything but cry and fuss. The statue was pretty battered up from years of being in Marcus and Elaine’s storage room, but Marcie seem to love it and spent the rest of the afternoon talking to it as though it were her best friend. We all got quite a giggle out of Marcie and her new found plaster friend which we deemed the best cure we had ever witnessed for the “Terrible Twos” stage of childhood. It certainly made the rest of the sale much easier since she now was entertaining herself and became content to let her Mother work undisturbed by crying fits.


On the second and last day of the sale, Marcie still did not want anything to do with anyone but her mother and the statue of Christ. She definitely was one of those children who would not come to strangers no matter how much we tried to entertain her. Thank goodness no one bought the statue as it was the only thing that kept her busy and out of harm’s way throughout the two day sale. By closing time on Saturday we were all elated that the sale had made enough money to help keep the store running for another few months and they could afford to hire another employee until Marcus could get back to work. After the sale we moved all the tables back into the garage and decided to order a pizza to celebrate.


Before the pizza arrived, I walked back into the garage from the kitchen to retrieve the one thing I had purchased…the battered statue of Christ. I decided that perhaps with a little paint it wouldn’t look so bad and would fit nicely in my small patio garden. Obviously no one who came to the sale wanted it except Marcie and her Mom said she was sure Marcie would soon forget all about it.


As I reached down to pick it up, I noticed that we had forgotten to close the garage doors and it had started to rain.  I hit the button to close them and in that instant I caught a glimpse of little Marcie as she came running up to the garage from the outside. Ice cold chills ran through me as I screamed desperately: “No, Marcy Go back!”


Instead to my horror, Marcie froze directly under the closing door. She had not obeyed one request from me since I met her and she was not going to start now. She stubbornly shook her head “no.”


As the door slowly moved down towards Marcie’s little body, I was in complete shock. The tables blocked me from getting to her and there was no time to run through the house and out the back door to snatch her from beneath the closing door. In anguish I cried out: “Jesus, help me!” and my knees buckled as I shook from sheer terror and helplessness.


As my knees hit the concrete in an almost prayer like position, I saw the most amazing answer to my prayer. Marcie was running towards me. She was so tiny she sprinted underneath the tables in a flash just before the garage door would have crushed her to death. She ran towards me with her arms opened wide as though to run into my embrace. By this time I was crying and shaking so hard, I could only utter, “Jesus, Jesus, praise you Jesus!” And as I cried out my praise and wonder, little Marcie ran right past me to hug the battered statue of Christ. She ran into Jesus arms and He had saved her.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Election Prayer

Election Prayer
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Lord Jesus Christ, You told us to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. Enlighten the minds of our people [in] America. May we choose a President of the United States, and other government officials, according to Your Divine Will. Give our citizens the courage to choose leaders of our nation who respect the sanctity of unborn human life, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of marital relations, the sanctity of the family, and the sanctity of the aging. Grant us the wisdom to give You, what belongs to You, our God. If we do this, as a nation, we are confident You will give us an abundance of Your blessings through our elected leaders. Amen.
Composed by Father John Anthony Hardon, S.J.
Imprimatur: +Rene H. Gracida, Bishop of Corpus Christi, July 7, 1992

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Story of a man named Daniel

Hospital ministry can be such a blessing, but it can also cause a person to lose their focus on Christ if we allow it to. On one particular hectic Saturday a couple of years ago, I found myself seriously doubting the usefulness of such a ministry. The morning began with my running behind schedule, as I was really not feeling much up to doing it in the first place. To top it off, I was late getting to the hospital due to accidentally setting the alarm off at church when I unlocked the door. It was my turn as Team Leader to pick up the Eucharist from the church for our team members in the hospital ministry that week. In my hurried frustration, I could not remember the code.

After several tries, I began to worry about how I would ever get to the hospital on time. For the life of me I could not get the alarm to accept my code and the incessant ringing of the burglar alarm was really starting to make me break out in a sweat.
Struggling to find my code in my purse, I finally located it and discovered I had transposed the numbers. “Drat!” I wondered to myself. “Will I ever learn this new fangled contraption?” Arriving out of breath and full of apologies to the others members of the ministry team, we quickly set to work. After checking the patient logs the receptionist handed us, we split up the hosts and began our appointed rounds.

While riding the elevator to the first floor of patients, I thought to myself: “I can serve Jesus today and take Him to those who need Him so very much.” I was trying very hard to talk myself into being cheerful and enthusiastic. That thought started working as I came to the first floor, but by the 11th floor my spirit was beginning to lag once again. Feeling very dejected, I began to wonder why we even bothered giving up our time on Saturdays to do Hospital Ministry. That Saturday was much like the last few we had experienced. We volunteer our time to bring the Eucharist to the hospitalized and most of the patients are totally disinterested. The usual response was: “No, thanks! I don’t care to receive.”  Some of the patients would even tell you out right they were not happy to be bothered with a visit. That Saturday morning it began to look as if I would have to return most of the hosts to the church again.

As I checked in at the nursing station on the eleventh floor, I was beginning to get the definite feeling that I needed to step back from hospital ministry for a time. It had gotten to be very disheartening to have so many people not interested in receiving. They all seemed to be too busy wanting to see their doctor or involved in phone conversation that I began to feel like the unwanted guest at a wedding reception.

As the nurse handed me back the approved patients list, I found there are only three patients on this last floor to visit, and only two of them could receive the Eucharist. The third patient was marked for a prayer visit only. I had to brace myself mentally for more refusals as I walked toward the first room to meet with a patient named Martha. I was definitely not happy and not in a cheerful mood. I worked mightily to paste a smile on my face and appear cheerful even though I felt like just calling it a day and going home.

As I tapped on the door gently, I prepared to announce myself. But before I could utter a word, this very weak but beautiful voice said; “OH! Come in please! You have brought me my Jesus! I could see His light coming down the hall towards my room.” As I fully entered, I saw a lady who was eagerly anticipating her visit from the Divine Physician. This woman, I would learn later, had come to the hospital for the last time. Martha was in the final stages of her cancer battle, but Martha’s soul was at peace as she eagerly awaited Her Lord!

Standing in her presence, I felt humbled and quite sure that I was witnessing a little miracle. Martha needed no one to tell her Jesus was present. Her eye’s gazed at the Host with what I can only describe as sheer rapture. It was as if the veil of the Tabernacle opened and Christ stepped forth to hold His dying child in His arms himself. I myself, to say the least, was chagrined at my earlier grumpy thoughts of how useless our ministry was. I left Martha to make the next patient visit with a very contrite spirit and I was full of joy to have been able to bring Christ to one sweet soul that day.

In the moments before I approached the next room, I paused with tears coursing down my cheeks and contritely whispered to Jesus; “I am sorry for being so grumpy about giving my time to carry you to the sick. Martha has shown me Lord how much You care. I know that it is worth every minute of my time. I myself am a very poor instrument to bring you to the sick and suffering. Please forgive me Jesus!”

Checking with the next patient’s nurse, I found that this patient had a whole room full of visitors. Jim and his family members were very warm and welcoming, and they all wanted to receive Jesus! After leaving Jim and his family still deep in their prayers of thanksgiving for Christ in the Eucharist, I stopped outside the room of my last patient. Checking with his nurse I was a bit startled when she replied, “Daniel is probably not worth bothering with but go on in if you want to.” By this time I knew for certain that Christ wanted me to make the effort, even if it would be a waste of time. He had showed me how much He was appreciated by Martha and Jim’s family and I was determined not to disappoint Him again with my poor attitude.

I gently tapped on the door and announced myself to the motionless figure lying in the darkened hospital room. At the sound of my voice, Daniel turned over as best he could. In that instant, I found myself looking into the most beautiful blue eyes I believe I have ever seen. Eyes, which smiled with the brightness of all heaven, as if to say; “Welcome! How happy I am that you have come to visit me!” Eye’s, which mesmerized me with their beauty even though Daniel, poor creature, was covered with the most awful pustules, which had disfigured his face. I could hardly recognize his nose and his mouth was full of the most haphazard gapping teeth I believe I have ever seen. Daniel, it turned out was profoundly retarded as well as very physically misshapen. But in my heart of hearts, I knew that Daniel not only recognized Jesus... to me he became Jesus in this most distressing disguise.

As I prayed at Daniel’s bedside, I swear I could hear the angels singing; “Glory to God in the Highest and to all his creatures on earth!” Daniel, even though he was mute and physically and mentally challenged, renewed my spirit more than I can say. I came to bring Jesus to the sick and the suffering, but I found Jesus that day through the love for Christ in the Eucharist of a dying woman named  Martha. Jesus was there in midst of Jim’s family, and in the end, I found Jesus was Truly Present in the blue eyes of a man named Daniel.
  Copyright 1999

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Cat with Nine Lives

Pepper’s Funeral

Several years ago I decided to make a trip to the country to visit my friend Mary. Her kids and mine were going to have a play date while Mary and I spent the day visiting and enjoying each other’s company. Soon after we arrived, Mary went to check on her cat Pepper who had gone out earlier in the day and never returned. It was not at all like her cat to wander away for a half day without food or water breaks. We decided to get in the car and drive around the country side looking for Pepper.

Up one lane and down another we drove for over an hour when suddenly we spotted Pepper lying in the road. It was obvious the cat had died from the impact of being hit by a car. Luckily the cat wasn’t obviously bloody; it had just died from the accident we surmised.  The kids were beside themselves with grief.

 As we tried to comfort them I suggested we gather up the dead cat and have a proper burial for it. It was going to be one of those teachable moments when the children would learn to grieve and yet celebrate life. In this case the life of Pepper the cat and the joy she had brought to them throughout the years.

We got the kids involved in finding a proper casket…in this case a box that Mary had on hand. We gave them crayons and markers to make the box look pretty and found some old material to line it with. Then we had them make out invitations to deliver to the neighborhood children for the funeral and luncheon we would have the next day. It kept the kids busy and made them feel a little better about Pepper’s demise.

Mary’s husband Dave went into the back yard when he got home and dug a proper hole for the funeral and burial of Pepper. The rest of us dispersed to the neighbors to tell them Pepper had died and invite them to the funeral and luncheon with their children.

The next day I and my children again made the trip to Mary’s house for Peppers funeral. Several neighbors had come and so we all solemnly processed out to the backyard with the kids acting as pall bearers. Dave gave a wonderful eulogy about the life and times of Pepper and all she had meant to them as a family. Each of the children placed a flower on the grave and then we went into the house to have a nice funeral luncheon which the children had prepared. Ok. so it was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but we all ate and acted like it was a feast in honor of Pepper the cat.

By the time we had finished our luncheon I decided it was time for me and my brood to gather up our belongings and head home again. Offering my condolences for the final time I opened the door to leave and almost tripped over a cat that came racing into the house and jumped right into Peppers bed. Miracles of miracles Pepper was not dead. But we never did find out whose cat we had buried.

Copyright 2013

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Finding True Gold in a Bank Vault

My former pastor Father John Giacopelli, who retired in 1992,once told me about his first Ash Wednesday experience after his retirement, in New Jersey where he retired to. He was originally from NY, but had spent his active ministry years in our diocese. Today, contemplating this Ash Wednesday, and how it is the beginning of our time for cleaning our spiritual homes, I once again got a chuckle from the memory of Father John's story.

Father John was one of those priests who people were naturally drawn to. Even in retirement, he never left the house without wearing his clerical suit and his Roman collar. On this particular Ash Wednesday, he decided to stop by the bank on his way to visit the local nursing home after having attended Mass. Along with his clerical garb, this day he sported the Ash Wednesday ashes on his forehead.

As he approached the teller, she exclaimed: “Oh! My goodness today must be Ash Wednesday. I have not been to church in years! Father, could you hear my confession? “

Father John…never one to miss an opportunity to bring in the stray sheep, of course said; “Sure, is there a quiet place where we can go for your confession?” The woman thought for a minute, and said:”We can use the bank vault.”

So, off they both went to the bank vault for confession. Father John related as how that was not the end of the story though. When they had finished and exited the bank vault, there was a line of about twenty bank employees, including the President of the bank…waiting to have their confession heard.

The rich symbolism of Ash Wednesday still reverberates across the centuries to this present day. May you all have a beautiful cleansing Lent, and everyday experience the Love and Forgiveness of Our Heavenly Father. Chances are you will not find such riches in a Bank Vault, but who knows...with God anything is possible.