The Human Spirit

Who doesn’t like the Olympics?  Most of us just finished watching the 2016 Summer Games from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  This year, 10,500 athletes represented 207 countries, many as small as the state of Ohio.

But for me, it wasn’t about the fastest time across the finish line or the most agile gymnist.  It was about the back-stories. It was about the Human Spirit.

In a qualifying race for the Women’s 5,000 meter, a runner from the U.S. (Abbey D’Agostino) clipped the heel of New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin.  Both runners fell to the ground.  Instead of being disappointed that they were now out of the race, they helped each other up and crossed the final line dead last.

D’Agostino, who is a Christian, said that she felt God had prepared her for this moment.  “Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way.” “This whole time here, he’s made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance – and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it.  I know there’s often criticism of athletes praying before a competition, or thanking God for their victory. I like to think this is why we should pray before a sporting event.  Not that God will favor us with victory, but that we will be aware of His presence and have the Grace do what He would have us do,” she said.

In the Women’s 400 meter race, U.S. athlete Allyson Felix was favored to win.  She was almost across the finish line when a Bahamian sprinter dove (literally) forward and officially crossed the line first.  Felix came in second by 0.07 seconds.  When asked what she thought of the event, she said that she ran her best race and “let her light shine through”.  Did she ever!  She was speaking not only of her abilities, but of “taking the high road” and not speaking negatively about a situation that could easily have been ugly.

So many people were crazy about watching the Women’s Beach Volleyball and were glued to the matches that included Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Rose from the U.S.   After winning each competition so far, Kerri and April lost a semi-final round to the Brazilian team.  Kerri noted that “tonight they rose to the occasion.  I certainly did not.”  When interviewed the next morning on the Today show, she said “I am a blessed woman.  What happened makes me no less blessed. It makes me more determined.”  Walsh Jennings and Ross went on to win the Bronze medal for the United States.

Simone Biles, the darling of the Gymnastics Competition, was raised by her grandparents when her mother was not able to parent.  Rather than being discouraged with her personal situation, she followed her dreams and eventually won four gold medals and one bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.  Even though her routines were practically flawless, she lost her footing on the balance beam.  Even then, she won a Bronze medal because she didn’t give up when things went wrong.

We can learn so much about a positive Human Spirit from these athletes.   May God continue to bless them.

 

 

The Time is Nearer Than You Think

As you read this, I will be out of town with my sister, Sally.  Her husband of 42 years died last spring after a long illness that left him house/bed bound.  Sally hadn’t been able to leave town for over two years and desperately needed to get away.  So, a few months later, we met in Las Vegas for a couple of days.  At the end of the visit, she asked if we could make it an annual trip.  So, now you know my whereabouts.

Sally is three years older than I am and we were always very close growing up.  We even stood up for each other at our respective weddings (only four months apart!).    We had a third sister, Joellen, who was the oldest and she seemed to always be “the odd man out”.

After our daddy celebrated his 80th birthday, we realized that we would one day be just the three of us.  We vowed to work on forging a closer relationship while our parents were still with us.

We met a few times for a Sisters’ Weekend and were well on our way to a renewed and revitalized relationship.   Then, two days after his 85th birthday, Daddy passed into eternal life.  So, our master plan was proceeding “according to plan”.

Then the unforeseen happened.  Joellen developed A.L.L. which is a fatal form of leukemia from earlier  treatment for breast cancer.  She spent seven months in the hospital before she eventually succumbed.  Now our plan went haywire!  It was just the two of us and Mom.  Thirteen months later, we lost Mom as well.  And then there were two.

So, what does this have to do with you?  Have you ever read (or heard of) John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men?   The title of the 1937 book came from a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1786 called To A Mouse.  It tells of how he, while plowing a field, upturned a mouse’s nest.  The resulting poem is an apology to the mouse:

    But Mousie, you aren’t alone

    In proving foresight may be vain:

    The best laid schemes of mice and men

    Often go awry,

    And leave us naught but grief and pain,

    For promised joy.

So, while it is critical to be proactive about your life, especially your spiritual life, you can “have it all figured out”, but in the end we don’t know what God has planned for us.

My advice to you (and to myself, of course) is to keep your affairs—temporal and spiritual—in order.  Nurture the relationships in your life.  Maybe someone in your life is now estranged.  Try to build a new bridge.  Even if it’s not the right time for reconciliation, you will be more at peace for having tried.

We all know the parable of the Prodigal Son who was estranged from his father for a long time.   And yet, when he returned home, he was welcomed with open arms.  We believe that this is a true account of what we can expect from Our Father, but wouldn’t you rather come to him as his BFF (best friend forever)?

I encourage you to put as much effort as possible into your Faith Journey.  It is not about just coming to church on Sunday.  It is about the journey to closeness with God—coming to know Him in a way that is only attained through effort.  Be ready for that final encounter;  we do not know the hour or the day.

Stewardship of Our Parishes: Helping Us Grow in Faith

This article was written for the monthly newsletter of the International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC) by Leisa Anslinger, author and co-founder of Catholic Strengths and Engagement Community (CSEC). Leisa has visited our parish on several occasions and is a trusted professional in Stewardship.

I have had the privilege this spring of guest-presenting during a pasto­ral leadership class at our diocesan seminary. The first three classes of the semester set the foundation for the remaining topics: the priest as pastor and leader; collaboration with the la­ity; the vision of the parish as the locus or center in which people are formed as disciples, stewards, and evangeliz­ers. I am deeply appreciative of the commitment and genuine desire to lead well that the men, some of whom will be ordained very soon, have dem­onstrated. While I have not been with them for every class, I have witnessed their growing appreciation of the ways in which all the varied elements of parish life fit together.

Being with the seminarians has re­minded me of the complex nature of parish life and how stewarding these elements has direct impact on the way people may or may not grow in faith. When we make adjustments in one aspect of the parish, it will affect other aspects. Hopefully, over time, the adjustments we make will result in deeper conformity to Christ, to holi­ness lived in daily life.

This calls for us to stay focused on the vision and good stewardship of the parish as the place where disciples are grown, where people are drawn to Christ, to live their faith in the dai­ly lives, and to share their faith with others.

Good stewardship of a par­ish requires on-going attention to the spirituality of stewardship, not only at specific points of the year; it requires us to consider parish practices in light of the call to live and grow as stew­ards, to help our people make primary connections between Mass and their daily lives, to understand how stew­ardship is an authentic way to live as disciples of Jesus Christ, and to do all of this in the context of the community of faith.

In what ways is your parish the place where disciples who live as good stewards are grown?

 

During the last three years, we have made many efforts to provide our parishioners with tools to grow as good stewards and disciples. 

 These include praying the Stewardship Prayer as a Faith Community at every Sunday Mass, posing thoughts for Everyday Stewardship in the weekly bulletin (Barbie’s Corner) and offering the annual Covenant with God (which will be offered again on the weekend of September 10-11).

 

 

 

 

Thank You, Good Stewards

Stewardship takes on many forms.  Every week in Barbie’s Corner, I talk about how to live Stewardship in your Everyday Life.

This week, I am showing you an example of what a good steward can accomplish.   On Saturday, a dedicated group of people gathered to spend their time and use their talents in revitalizing the Star of the Sea Center.

This building was constructed in the early 1960s as a bank.  (That’s why we affectionately call it “The Old Bank Building”.)  We took ownership of it in the late 1990s when Father John Dolan was the Pastor.

This building is used EVERY DAY by our English-speaking and Spanish-speaking Religious Education classes, Confirmation classes, our Altar Society, the Knights of Columbus, and many ministries and prayer groups in the Spanish-speaking community.

We are trying to upgrade our facilities to make a better place to worship and gather as a community.  Let’s always keep in mind that we must respect and share all that we have here at the parish.

The following men and women gave up their Saturday to make our SSC a nicer place to gather:

Eric DiSessa, Jim Dahl, Jesse Fernandez, Mike Dunford, Michael Martinez, Zach Canlas, Julie & Johnny Mendez

I deeply apologize if a name is misspelled or missing.  You are no less appreciated.