It’s Not Too Early to Think About Making Your Lent More Meaningful


The Season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 1st.  That sounds like a long way off, but really, it’s only 10 days.   Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing well.  Make this year’s Lent a valuable time.  Actually make plans about how to spend the time most meaningfully.  When you receive your copy of Resisting Happiness next weekend, it will include a bookmark with all the events that are taking place in our parish this Lenten Season.

The season of Lent offers us forty days to review our lives and focus on conversion and spiritual transformation. It is basically a spiritual “spring training;” a time when we go back to the basics of our faith formation through prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other penitential practices in order to improve and enhance our spiritual lives and prepare ourselves to more fully participate in the paschal mystery of Holy Week with a generous heart and renewed commitment to Christ. Consider some of the following ideas for making your Lenten season even more meaningful this year. save. (See #5)

  1. Identify some penitential practice you can realistically commit to every day. It’s easy to become distracted and suddenly discover that Lent is half over. A daily commitment will keep you focused. Mark it in your calendar today and be faithful to your commitment.
  1. Make time in your daily schedule for private prayer, even if it is only ten minutes. Remember, improving our spiritual lives starts with prayer, and the silence of an empty room where we begin to listen to God is invaluable. Prayer requires reserving time for God.
  1. Reduce your daily or weekly soft drink or alcohol intake as a spiritual discipline. Drink water and pray for those who lack access to a safe, reliable source of drinking water.
  1. It’s become a cliché that people are addicted to communication technologies. “Give up” some of your “screen time” each day, whether it’s watching television, constantly checking your phone, or surfing the Web. Put the extra time to use: read a passage from Scripture, call or visit a lonely friend or relative, pray the Rosary.
  1. Don’t shop for clothes during Lent. Stay out of every store except the supermarket and pharmacy, and don’t loiter at these places either. Reflect on what it is like for millions in the world who have little or no discretionary income.
  1. Make an extra donation to the poor with the money you save (see #5).
  1. Find a way to reduce your daily home energy consumption. With just five percent of the world’s population, people living in the U.S. consume 24% of its available energy. Make it a spiritual exercise.
  1. Give up negative thinking. Work on a patient, positive attitude toward others. Catch yourself when you mentally berate someone and turn it into a prayer for that person.
  1. Take Luke 3:11 seriously. Do you have extra clothes languishing in a closet? Take an afternoon to clean a closet, give a “tunic” or two to a good cause, and prayerfully reflect on how well you are using the world’s resources.
  1. Pray with the Church. Attend an extra Mass during the week or participate in a devotion that inspires you.




Many times I have spoken of the power and blessings of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy—for those who receive them and also for those who bestow them.    They bear repeating, because they are such an important part of who we are as Christians.

The Corporal Works of Mercy:

Feed the Hungry

Give Drink to the Thirsty

Shelter the Homeless

Clothe the Naked

Visit the Sick

Visit the Imprisoned

Bury the Dead


The Spiritual Works of Mercy:

Correct the Sinner

Instruct the Ignorant

Counsel the Doubting

Comfort the Sorrowful

Be Patient With Those In Error

Forgive Offenses

Pray for the Living & the Dead


We are most certainly not able to do all of those things all the time.  I don’t think we’re being asked to.   But I do believe we are asked to consciously reach out beyond ourselves to those in need.

What seems like a little effort or a little thing to us can mean the world to someone who is in need.

It doesn’t take much time or effort to come once a week to make fresh sandwiches for the homeless.  Or to bring some canned goods to church with you on Sunday.  It doesn’t take much effort to donate blankets or jackets to Brother Benno’s in the cold months.  Even if you yourself are homebound, you can pray for others.

A close friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a [benign] brain tumor and underwent 12 hours of surgery.  His stay in the hospital was extended with a few complications and then rehab.  So many from our parish have visited and prayed for him.  He has been very moved by the warmth of our faith community.

He asked me to share with you a short message that he wrote in gratitude for all that you’ve done for him as he’s endured pain, uncertainty, and finally—healing!

 Hi, my name is Mike King.  You may not know me, but I’m quite sure you’ve seen my work.  I have been doing repair and remodel projects at St. Mary’s Church and School since the mid-nineties. 

 I’ve worked in the church, rectory, offices and meeting rooms, quite literally from below the floor to the top of the bell tower and most areas in between.  I built the Memorial Wall and the grotto for Saint Juan Diego.   

 Recently, and with very little warning,  I needed to have a serious brain operation.  I was amazed and humbled by the generosity and outpouring of visits, prayers, Masses and kind thoughts of the people from St. Mary’s;  from people I know well, only met once, and ones I’ll never see.   My message to you is that it really works.  Your prayers lifted me out of the pain and ugly thoughts, braced me when things got bad, and helped me feel peace.  As a small token of my appreciation I want to share the lesson I learned from all this:  Find everyone is your life that you love and tell them that you do.  Look around at your life’s blessings and appreciate them; even the small ones.  Because everyone and every thing can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

 With sincerest thanks, Mike King

Good Stewards Live the Beatitudes

Three weekends in our February liturgical calendar will turn our attention to Jesus’ teachings in the Gospel of Matthew explaining what is to be expected of those who choose to follow him.

This is the familiar Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1 – 7:29), the most quoted part of the Bible. Jesus’ sermon begins with messages of comfort, the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12).

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

The word “Beatitude” refers to a state of deep happiness or joy. But these sayings are paradoxes. They turn our normal expectations upside down. Jesus is bringing us a new law, new expectations on how to live. He is bringing forth the Kingdom of God.

As the United States bishops wrote in their 1992 stewardship pastoral, “Jesus does not waste time proposing lofty but unrealistic ideals; he tells his followers how they are expected to live.    The Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount prescribe the lifestyle of a Christian disciple.”

Each of these “blesseds” is a statement about an important aspect of how we exercise stewardship of our lives. Each of them offers us an ideal of how to live and how we find God living within us.

Learn the Beatitudes, memorize them, make them part of your daily prayer life, and ask the Lord for the wisdom and strength to follow this stewardship way of life, a path that follows in the footsteps of Jesus.

You are blessed!


Personal note:  I was wanting to write this week about the Beatitudes, but was uninspired about what to say.  I kept procrastinating and the deadline was breathing down my neck.   I decided to look at the ICSC e-newsletter.  I had already used the January articles and February shouldn’t have arrived until the 1st of the month.  But it had arrived early and the article on this page was waiting for me!  The Holy Spirit, once again,  came through for me.  Pray for guidance, recognize the help, and be grateful. 




I was listening to my favorite radio station recently.  It’s IMMACULATE HEART RADIO, AM 1000.  (Also available on an app or on your computer.)  The podcast of this discussion can be found at; Patrick Madrid Show; January 17, Hour 3.

I drive to work every morning with Patrick Madrid, my favorite host.  He was talking about being prepared for death.  The caller had just found out that his 39 year old daughter had been hit and killed by a train.   I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and devastation of losing a child.

Patrick’s advice to the listeners was to be prepared.  There is so much that is out of our control.  Whether it is a direct result of the actions of others, a natural disaster, or a freak accident.  The result is the same.

Have your affairs in order.  If you are an adult, you should have a Trust.  Protect yourself, any assets you may have, and those you love.  Make provisions for the care and custody of your minor children if something should happen to you.  You don’t have to tell others what is specified in your trust, but they should know it exists and how to get access to it if needed.

Even if you don’t have a trust and think you don’t need one, leave some instructions for the people you love.

When I was growing up, my parents told us about “the steel box in the closet”.  It was a fireproof box that contained instructions in the event of their death or incapacitation.  It also contained the key to their safe deposit box.  (Make sure someone you trust is a signer on your box.)   When Daddy died, we went straight for “the box” and had all the instructions about notifying the government of his death, insurance policies, etc.   When Mom died, we had all the final instructions about the estate.  It was a very difficult and emotional time for the family, but there was so much that we didn’t have to worry about.

So, besides taking care of temporal business, there is the spiritual.  Keep your relationship with God in good order.  Do you keep an open line of communication open?  Do you pray daily?

Have you been to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) recently?  Our parish priests hear confessions on Saturdays beginning at 8 a.m.  If you are uncomfortable going to a priest who might recognize your voice, go to another parish.  JUST GO.  You deserve the graces that come with unburdening your soul and conscience and asking for forgiveness.  Do you lead a life that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church?

And don’t forget about the relationships you have with family, friends, and even acquaintances.  Keep those in order as well.  If you love someone in your life, tell them and show them with your actions. You may not have time to make amends when God is ready to call you home.

I pray that you have a long and fulfilling life, but imagine how much better it will be if you live every day as if it’s your last?

Helping Our Parish Enhance Its Life of Stewardship in the New Year


This reflection was written by Leisa Anslinger, a nationally recognized speaker and resource on Stewardship.  While Leisa wrote this article aimed mostly at ministry and team leaders of the parish, I thought it was valuable on a personal level as well. 

 I would also hope that, as you read through these thoughts, you can reflect on what is being offered to you as a parishioner of St. Mary, Star of the Sea.   (Annual Covenant with God to help you on your faith journey, weekly Congregational Stewardship Prayer, weekly reflections on living Stewardship in your everyday life in the bulletin’s Barbie’s Corner, seasonal resource books.)

Our parish has an active Stewardship Team made up of members of our English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities and we are always cognizant of the cultural differences when creating a new tool.  If you feel that you have something to offer, you are most welcome to visit a Team Meeting.

Turning the page to a new year offers us the opportunity to review time that has passed and to look forward to newness of life and ministry in the year to come.

As individuals, we recognize our many blessings, give thanks for God’s merciful love, and re-commit ourselves to living as disciples and stewards, with resolutions to solidify our commitment to Christ and one another.

In our parish, we can do the same: look back on the year that has just passed while looking toward the one to come. While the reflection itself may lead to enhanced pastoral life, a more focused examination of past and current practice will be great fruit.

I suggest we do so by using the phrase Curt Liesveld coined in directing people’s reflection of and building upon their God-given talents: name it, claim it, aim it!

Name it: In what ways has your parish helped people to understand the meaning and spiritual underpinnings of stewardship as a way of life?  What annual rhythm of stewardship education, lay witnesses, homily connections, and invitation to commitment has been established? How do you help people recognize stewardship as a disciple’s response, by pointing their attention to Christ’s way of self-giving love?

Claim it: List the practices you already have in place. Where is there room for growth? Are there aspects of your stewardship formation that have become stale or have never quite taken hold? What might you learn from effective practices, yours or someone else’s, in order to address these areas of potential growth?

Aim it: Gather your parish advisory group (committee, commission, task group) to reflect and discuss. Invite members to tell their stories of stewardship insights and challenges in living as a disciple and steward.

Together, give thanks to God for what has been, and ask for guidance, insight, blessing and strength as you discern future possibilities; celebrate the year that has been; acknowledge the gaps or areas in need of attention; plan new or enhanced strategies for calling people to grow as good stewards in the year that is just beginning. Our parish will grow in response to God’s grace and blessing and you and all with whom you minister will grow as servant leaders, stewards of the mysteries of God.







Stewardship in the New Year: Making Commitments to the Lord


Stewardship is a commitment of mind and heart to the Lord; a way of life that needs constant renewal and transformation.

This time of year has always been one of looking forward to a new year, reflecting on the changes we need to make in our lives and resolving to follow through on those changes. Perhaps those who seek to make resolutions to be better stewards might find inspiration in one or more of the following examples:


Resolve to set aside more time to stay connected with your family. Eat dinner together, schedule regular dates with your spouse, plan family outings, and go to Mass together. Practice patience and forgiveness.


Resolve to strengthen your relationship with the Lord through prayer. Notice how often you pray and what hinders you from praying. If you are a beginner, commit to short, daily prayer times.


Resolve to render sacred your annual budget. Reprioritize your financial goals to ensure that the Lord comes first in your spending. Take positive steps to improve your financial health.


Resolve to be a person of hospitality and mercy. Make time and space for others who enter your life. Be more aware of those times when a neighbor, co-worker, fellow parishioner or stranger, needs a moment of kindness, a little attention or an affirming gesture on your part.


Resolve to be faithful to your daily, work-related tasks and offer them up to the Lord. Cultivate your skills. Deepen your knowledge. Be mindful of how you are building the Kingdom of God.


Resolve to keep your mind active. Commit to being more informed on the issues of the day. Read your Bible. In this presidential election year in the United States, become even more familiar with Catholic social teaching.


Resolve to possess a little more “lightly” this year. Consider ways you can reduce the amount of all that stuff you own. Distinguish between those items that are necessary and those that are considered luxurious and unnecessary.


Resolve to serve your faith community in some way this year such as at liturgy, in the parish’s outreach or education and formation efforts. Is it time to enhance your generosity to the parish?


Resolve to live with more compassion and in solidarity with those less fortunate. Remember the poor in prayer, and commit to helping relieve in some way the plight of those who are impoverished or marginalized.


Resolve to get those medical and dental checkups. Adopt healthier eating habits. Add exercise and other physical activity to your daily routine.




Making resolutions for a new year is not, in itself, a bad thing.  What can be bad is not making meaningful resolutions.

Recently, my daughter-in-law (the wife of my sailor son, Jens)  and I co-hosted a Cookie Decorating Party and Brunch.

As we shared the meal, I was saying that I am trying to improve myself.  I am trying to learn that not everything must be done my way or even a specific way.  There are many people with great ideas and it really is okay if something is not exactly the same every year.  Trust me, this is a hard one for me but I know it will take a lot of stress out of my life if I learn to truly let go of things.

My brunch companion was surprised that I would talk about changing myself.  The way I see it, I am nowhere near perfect.   And it’s probably safe to say that you’re not either.  No disrespect intended.  I want to be as near perfect as I can be when God calls me home.  I at least want it known that I was making my best effort at it.  I have a long way to go, but as they say, every journey begins with a single step.

One of the things that I have always enjoyed is researching wise thoughts of those that have come before me.

The following thoughts were recorded by a Shawnee Native American named Techumseh (pronounced te-KUM-see), when he was near-death in 1813.  His native name means “Shooting Star” and by his words, I would say that he lived according to his name.

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. 

Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.

 Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

 Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.

 When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.

 Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.


Ralph Waldo Emerson lived during most of the 19th century (1803-82).   He wrote many great works of literature that have endured the test of time.  I just recently “ran across” this quote that I found to be quite profound:

The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. 

I couldn’t agree with him more.  I take his words as a great inspiration to me.  I remember about thirty years ago, I had a revelation that I wanted my life to really count for something.  I had just started a family and wanted to put every bit of effort into raising good people who could contribute to society when they got older.  But I also set out to find one place I could make a difference.  Because I had that conscious goal in mind, I have managed to leave some good behind.  But the effort must never stop; it should intensify.  With each  accomplishment, you need to be further encouraged to continue and leave an even bigger footprint.  The same should be true of your faith life.  Try to deepen your faith  and come closer to perfection every day.



Thank you for coming to St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish today for Mass to celebrate the Birth of Christ Jesus with your faith community.  We know that you could choose 1) to not go to Mass because Christmas is such a busy time or 2) to go to any other parish.  We are grateful and blessed that you are here.

I have been hearing  a lot of stories (from friends, co-workers, Catholic radio,  talk-show celebrities) about the abundance in our world, about children that get everything they need and most of what they want all year long.   Many have said that they are giving just one small gift to each child and taking the rest of the money they would have spent to sponsor a family who is less fortunate.

Members of our parish adopted twenty families this year.  When the families were interviewed, they were extremely humbled by being asked.  They were asked to suggest something they needed and something they wanted.

Most said they needed a blanket, or shoes, or a coat.  They usually ask for a blanket because they can’t afford to run the heater.  I know that we don’t live in COLD country, but 40 degrees in plenty cold!

Maybe you didn’t have the opportunity to sponsor a family this year at Christmas.  The BIG SECRET is that these families are in need all year long.

We currently have fifty families that come here each month for groceries.  We give them staple items for their pantries and a grocery store gift card ($20-25) to purchase fresh produce or dairy products.   It’s not that much.  To us.  It must help them quite a bit because they are so genuinely grateful.

We have 30-40 people who come every weekday for a nutritious sack lunch.  They receive a sandwich that was made fresh that same day by dedicated volunteers, a piece of fruit, something sweet, and a bottle of water.  This may be the only good food that this person gets all day.  Or they may be scamming and get food all over town, or they may be a beach bum.  But it’s not our place to judge.  We cheerfully give each person a lunch and tell them God Bless You!

The ministry that orchestrates these food-related projects is FEED MY PEOPLE.  There is always room for more people to help and if you cannot physically help out, a monetary donation would always be appreciated.

The flip side of looking beyond ourselves comes from a sense of GRATITUDE.    It comes when we look at our own lives, the opportunities we have had (and hopefully been wise enough to take), the graces we have been bestowed, the blessing of good people around us, and the strength to know when we need to ask for help.

We also recognize that we have been given a unique combination of gifts and talents to help us better love and serve the Lord and each other.

These are not gifts that come wrapped in a bow, but they are PRICELESS.  Unique to only you.  They are gifts that are meant to be used in all that we do and shared freely.  During Lent, we will have a Parish Mission that focuses on how to recognize our gifts.  Stay tuned.        Merry Christmas!




Christmas: A Stewardship Reflection on Abundance and Poverty


There’s no season quite so full of wild abundance as the Christmas season. Admit it, do you ever eat fudge or drink eggnog any other time of the year? Or expect a full grown tree to appear in your living room?

It’s a joyful, exuberant time, full of music, family, parties, good food, and friends. But every Christian steward knows that there’s a shadow side to abundance, particularly material abundance, which brings with it challenges. Amid the joy of Christmas, a good steward ponders these challenges.

Speaking at a conference in Mexico City in November, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia spoke of poverty and abundance. He was not speaking about the holiday season, but his words might help us to keep a clear perspective on the values of this time of year.

He cited the growing problem of poverty in the United States.  One in six Americans now lives below the poverty line, and the archbishop noted how many other problems accompany poverty:  “hunger, homelessness, street crime, domestic violence, unemployment, human trafficking.”

Often the poor among us become invisible, and poverty becomes a scourge of civil society.“  Poverty is an acid that destroys human kinship,” the archbishop said.

At the same time, Archbishop Chaput also spoke to the flip side of this issue – the poverty that comes with abundance. “I mean the moral poverty that comes from an advanced culture relentlessly focused on consuming more of everything; a culture built on satisfying the self; a culture that runs on ignoring the needs of other people.

That kind of poverty, as Saint Mother Teresa saw so well, is very much alive in my country,” the archbishop said.

These are important words, not words that are meant to cast a “bah humbug” spell delightfulness of the Christmas  season, but words that help bring us back to the true meaning of Christmas in its joy and abundance. Despite the great spiritual significance of this feast, we can sometimes let the season become a time of material excess. Christian stewards know that the true joy of Christmas is not tied in to the wealth of goods under the tree, but to the abundance of love and generosity that fill our hearts and spill out to others, especially those most in need of our generous spirit.

The Christian steward knows how important it is to take time during Advent, and throughout this holiday season, for silence and stillness, to make room in our hearts for the child born into poverty who came to give us life and share it with all those whom we encounter.


God is Good

Thank you all for your prayers and support as I traveled to Chicago on Thanksgiving week to see my son graduate from Navy Boot Camp.  I traveled with my daughter-in-law, Karen, and we arrived in Chicago a few days before graduation.  It was—literally—freezing cold.  We had a really nice time anyway and were told by a local waitress that it was “sweater weather”.  LOL!

The day before I left, I was at church all day handing out Advent Devotional books.  So I had Advent on my mind.  I was thinking about it being a season of giving, but not really about presents.  Giving thanks for all we have and all we are, giving praise to God for all His majesty, giving back to our families, our church, our community.

As we wandered the streets of Chicago, we were approached by a man who had seen better days.  He showed me a picture of his 10-year old daughter.  He said he just got out of rehab (for alcohol addiction) and had a half-way house lined up but it wouldn’t be available for 2 days.  It was already about 6 p.m. and getting even colder by the minute.  He went on to say that he had found a “flea bag hotel” that would take him, but he didn’t have the money for the night.  I hear these stories all the time in the Parish Office.  In Oceanside, a flea bag hotel costs about $60 for one night!  I gave the man a twenty.  I felt bad that I couldn’t give more, but at least it would help him reach his goal.   He wiped his eyes before the tears began falling and said that the hotel was $18.  He would have enough to get a cup of hot coffee!

The next morning, we were going to take a tour of the town that started at the Corner Bakery.  Just outside the front door was a man who had REALLY seen better days.  He had a donation cup in his hands.  I was walking past him and he said, “coffee with cream and 2 sugars?”   I returned a few minutes later with his coffee.  I think—in the short term—he was happier with the coffee so he could warm up.

That afternoon I was approached by a woman who had a suitcase and said she needed money for the train to get home to her family.  I gave her $10.

After these encounters, I thought about a story that we do not hear in Advent.  We hear it as we prepare for Easter.  It’s the story of Peter denying Jesus three times.  I gratefully thanked God that I was presented with the opportunity to affirm him (three times, of course).

My mother always said “there but for the grace of God go I”.  I think about that almost every day as I encounter so many people who are less fortunate  than I.  When I talk with them, I find that most have not chosen the path they are on.  Some have fallen victim to uncontrolled mental illness, others have become destitute from astronomical medical bills, others from a divorce.   Most are estranged from their families.   During this Season of Giving, please remember these people who are suffering daily from loneliness, hunger, the cold.   And thank God that you have been so richly blessed!

OK—you’ve been patient—the update on my son.  The graduation ceremony was full of pageantry, pomp and circumstance, patriotic pride, and proud families for their sons and daughters.

The moment I saw Jens, I could tell that my boy was now a man!  What a moment!  I’m sure everyone else was feeling the same thing.  It makes sense if you’ve sent off your recent high school graduate, but it was just as true for my 30 year old son.

Karen’s parents joined us for the day, and we all ate and talked and shared stories.  We wanted to know all the details, but of course, many are never to be shared.

After awhile, Jens and I were able to sit alone together.  He whispered that he would be getting  new dog tags when he reached Pensacola for his training.  They would indicate that he is a Catholic!    He, of course, shared this with his wife as well.  On the plane ride home, Karen told me that she was now open to having their marriage con-validated (civil marriage blessed by the Church).   TY God!

God is good.  He bestows so many blessings on us—some in our time and some in His time. Be patient and give thanks freely. (God is good!)