Find the Right Path

For the last month or so, I have been feeling overwhelmed and very unsettled. It could be that my daughter is getting married in two weeks or that it’s the end of the fiscal year with demands of year-end reports and budgets. It could be lots of things. Quite honestly, the cause usually doesn’t matter as much as how one chooses to handle it.

I don’t know whether or not you can relate, but I’m pretty sure you can on some level.

So, the first sign that I’m overwhelmed and anxious is that I start cleaning and straightening. (Everyone at work laughs at me because I’m so predictable!)

So I was already deep in the cleaning syndrome and, when I went to bed one night I had an amazing dream.

It started out in a muddy field. Through the center of the muddy area was a pathway. It was made up of squares of grass with concrete borders, much like a picture frame. I was trying to get across to the other side. Every time I took a step, I would sink up to my ankles in muck. I tried using the path way, but the grass was just as soupy and I kept getting stuck there as well.

I have found that I have a much better line of communication with God these days, so I challenged: if you want me to cross this area, you need to show me the way. I can’t figure it out for myself.

From within, I heard that I needed to take the path. I AM! IT’S NOT GETTING ME ANYWHERE! I was getting irritated and frustrated. Again from within I heard “Not just any path. Find the right path.”

And I did. Suddenly it was a clear as day to me. I stepped over the grass and onto the cement framework. Next thing I knew, I was on the other side!

This simple statement struck me as so profound that I vowed I would remember it when I woke up in the morning. And I did.

In the days since, I have kept this as my guiding mantra. “Find the Right Path.”

I am a person who wants to be busy and have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. This mantra has helps me to think about my current path. Am I really going in the direction that will lead me to my goal, or am I just plugging along trying to make progress in any direction.

I wanted to share this story with you because I believe it is about all aspects of our lives, but most specifically our faith lives.

Are you on the right path? It’s possible to be going in the right direction, but not be on the right path. Think about that for a minute.

If you are attending Mass, treating your friends and neighbors with love and dignity, leading an active prayer life, you are headed in the right direction.

Maybe your journey could benefit from a little course adjustment. Find just the exact right path. Perhaps for you it means receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) and asking for guidance.

Perhaps it means getting involved in a ministry and giving back to your parish community or the church at large.

Perhaps it’s not criticizing. Every time we “mess up”, it takes us on a little detour. Be conscious about your thoughts, intentions, and actions. Live deliberately.

Don’t be satisfied with moving in the right direction, be cognizant that you are ON THE RIGHT PATH.

A Daddy is a Special Man

Every Daddy is a father, but not every father is a “Daddy”. It takes a special man to be a Daddy.

He loves his children without measure or condition and would sacrifice anything for their welfare.

He spends countless hours with his children, often when it is inconvenient to his own needs.

He’s not afraid to get on the floor and play with his children or get dirty throwing a football in the park. He’s always there with an “Atta Boy!”

He listens to his children in the middle of the night if that’s when they need to share their deepest darkest secret or fear.

He supports his family in whatever way is necessary. He’s not afraid to be involved in family life, helping with homework, cooking a meal, driving carpools.

He mentors his children in the ways of the world, teaching them life lessons. (Of course, most children want to try it on their own, but he makes a concerted effort.) He passes on his special skills.

He shares his faith with his children. He leads by example, showing his children what it means to be a committed Christian. He takes them to Mass with him. He provides the opportunity for formal religious training (Catholic School or Religious Education Classes.)

My own daddy was all these things. And more. At Christmastime, Mom would spend countless hours at the sewing machine making gifts for us. Daddy would keep us busy making (from scratch) decorated Christmas cookies. He even fashioned the cookie cutters himself! We have all passed along the recipe and the tradition to the next generation.

Every morning of my life at home, Daddy made a hot breakfast for the family before going off to work. And at night, when my mom had cooked the meal, he would do the dishes and clean up the kitchen. We each took turns drying the dishes as Daddy washed them. One of my favorite childhood memories was having that alone-time with Daddy every third night. No subject was off-limits. (No one else would come near in case they would get enlisted into helping!)

And a Daddy makes an awesome grandfather! He takes all the attributes of being a daddy and then has the luxury of being more relaxed and patient with the next generation.

My children called my daddy “Papa”. Papa used to pick up my son from half-day kindergarten on Wednesdays. That was their special “Jens” time. (My son was named after my daddy.) They would work in the garage or the gardens, run errands, or just hang out. During their time together, Papa instilled in him life lessons that can only really be taught by example. He taught him what it meant to be a faith-filled man who loved and respected his family.

I grew up in the 50s and 60s, before Vatican II. At that time I believed that God was very stern, strict and unforgiving. I remember when Fr. Steve McCall came to St. Mary’s in 1991. When he celebrated Mass, he always said “ours is a loving and forgiving God”. It was such a revelation to me and, obviously, changed the way I think of God the Father.

When we pray the Our Father, we refer to God our “father” who art in heaven. I believe that yes, he is our father, the father of all creation, but that he is also a daddy to us.

He loves us unconditionally. Just the way we are. After all, we were created in his image and likeness. He forgives our faults and failings.

He is always waiting for us with open arms and a big lap in which we can curl up and have a private conversation. He is always present to listen to us cry out in the night when we are troubled.

He loves us so much that he made the ultimate sacrifice, giving up his only Son to secure our everlasting salvation.

He fortifies us with strength and encouragement. He gave us His beautiful world in which to thrive.

He blesses us with fathers who proxy for him in our daily lives here on earth. These fathers, the gift of Our Father, enrich our lives and lead us back to God by their example.

Stewardship and Our Flag

People across the United States celebrate Flag Day on June 14 each year to honor the United States flag and to commemorate the flag’s adoption. On the same day, the United States Army Flag Day falls within National Flag Week, a time when Americans reflect on the foundations of the nation’s freedom. The flag of the United States represents freedom and has been an enduring symbol of the country’s ideals since its early days. During both events, Americans also remember their loyalty to the nation, reaffirm their belief in liberty and justice, and observe the nation’s unity.
Many people in the United States honor this day by displaying the American flag at homes and public buildings. Other popular ways of observing this holiday include: flag-raising ceremonies; Flag Day services; school quizzes and essay competitions about the American flag; musical salutes; street parades; and awards for special recognition.
Organizations such as The National Flag Day Foundation are actively involved in coordinating activities centered on the event and keeping the flag’s traditions alive.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress replaced the British symbols of the Grand Union flag with a new design featuring 13 white stars in a circle on a field of blue and 13 red and white stripes – one for each state. Although it is not certain, this flag may have been made by the Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross, who was an official flag maker for the Pennsylvania Navy. The number of stars increased as the new states entered the Union, but the number of stripes stopped at 15 and was later returned to 13.
In June 1886 Bernard Cigrand made his first public proposal for the annual observance of the birth of the flag when he wrote an article titled “The Fourteenth of June” in the old Chicago Argus newspaper. Cigrand’s effort to ensure national observance of Flag Day finally came when President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of the event on June 14, 1916. However, Flag Day did not become official until August 1949, when President Harry Truman signed the legislation and proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day. In 1966, Congress also requested that the President issue annually a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as National Flag Week.
So, you ask, what does all this have to do with Stewardship? We are called to be stewards of God’s creation. This includes each other and our physical world.

God comes down to us through creation. Stewardship begins at creation when God gave humanity dominion over all that he had made. God entrusted all of creation to our care—living creatures, plants, land, water and all that is. God has called us to care, nurture, and preserve creation for future generations.

We must remember that in caring for God’s creations, we look after all peoples of all nations. Even if you cannot go fight in a war or become a missionary in a faraway land, you can pray for the lives and souls of those in these foreign lands.

Please also think about those in our own path that we see each day. They are God’s creation. Tending to them may be as simple as a smile when you pass on the street or a mention in your daily prayer.

As you think of Flag Day, be thankful for what our flag represents. We are free to be all that God created us to be!

Stewards of Our Neighbors and Neighborhood

I was talking to someone last week who is new to the area. She said she was wondering why it wasn’t sunny in Southern California. I explained that we were experiencing “May Gray”. Oh, she said, so next week it’ll be sunny? No, I said, then we’ll be in “June Gloom”! Such is the reality of coastal living. But, to quote Jackie Gleason on the Honeymooners (for all you old-timers—me included) “How Sweet It is!”

We all know that summer doesn’t start officially for another few weeks, but with the kids getting out of school, it sure feels like it all the same.

Summer brings with it a sea of change in our neighborhoods. Suddenly, the streets are alive with joggers and baby strollers, the smells of backyard barbe¬cue, and the drone of lawn mowers.

As a Christian steward, have you given thought to your responsibility to your neighborhood? We take seriously the scriptural query, “Who is my neigh¬bor?” but do we ever ask, “But what of my neighborhood?” In our grandpar¬ents’ era, when many people lived in small towns and escaped the summer heat by sitting on porches in the muggy evenings, neighborliness came with the territory.

Everybody knew who was having a baby, which family was suffering through illness, who had just experienced a death or a wedding. Problems in the neighborhood were shared concerns. Today, in the era of two-parent wage-earners and automatic garage door openers, it’s easy to come home after a long day, hit a button and watch the neighborhood disappear as we enter the cocoon of our home.

June offers us the opportunity to change that. Do you have a “back fence neighbor”? Maybe now, when he’s out in the yard, is the time to get to know him better. Host a barbecue, or a neighborhood potluck. Invite someone over for an evening iced tea on the patio. If there’s a community picnic, be sure to go and introduce yourself around.

Invite your pastor over for burgers. Go for a long stroll in the early evening and look at your neighborhood with fresh eyes. Stop to visit with people working on their lawns or in their flower beds.

There’s a famous quote: “All politics is local.” Do you know who represents your neighborhood on the city council and on the school board? Are you ac¬quainted with your parish council members? The quote could very well have added that most religion is local as well, alive in our parish. The church, and the community, lives and breathes in the neighborhood. Is there a pressing lo¬cal issue, a speed bump needed or a stop sign missing? Is there a neighborhood clean-up day? Get involved. For the Christian steward, opening our eyes to the people next door or to the folks sitting next to us in the pew can be a great proj¬ect for a sunny summer.

I was meeting with a new parishioner recently and he was talking about neighborhoods not being friendly like “when we were kids”. I boasted that I live on a cul-de-sac and we have a very close-knit neighborhood. Later in the conversation he told me that St. Mary’s feels like a “cul-de-sac church”, friendly and welcoming. I hope you feel that way too.