7 Signs You Love Comfort More Than Jesus, Part II

Refer to last week’s bulletin for the first half of this article.

4.) You keep God on a leash.
“You stay right there, God. And don’t do anything crazy.” This is the implicit mantra of comfortable Christians. God is confined to a box. Answers rarely fall in the gray area. God rarely operates beyond human understanding. Miracles. Healing. Demons. None of these filter through the box well.
So, they are out.

Comfortable Christians often use phrases like “God doesn’t work that way” and “God can’t do that” because God isn’t all-powerful…he is “most of the time” powerful.
A God without a leash is a God who will act in ways man can’t understand. That’s uncomfortable. But if God is not all-powerful, he is not a God worth serving. So, we must make a decision. Let go of the leash or follow a false god.

5.) You begin to compromise your morals.
Yesterday I ran across the first few chapters of Judges. It was around Judges 2:12 God started doing work on my heart. This is what the Spirit awakened in me: when comfort sets in, morals are compromised. The Israelites entered the Promised Land, conquered the nations in their path, settled into their new home, and…started serving other gods? Anyone else find this baffling?
How could they desert God so easily? The answer…comfort. The Israelites needed God to conquer the nations. They couldn’t do it without him. Once the conquering was over, the need for God dissipated. And when the need for God subsides, morals follow closely behind.

Here is where God split open my heart…I am no different from the Israelites. Every day, I allow the god of comfort to shackle me. I take my eyes off him and justify actions God clearly condemns.
Think about your life. Are you lowering the moral bar? Do you value holiness? This is not about legalism. This is about your heart. A heart desperate for God is a heart dedicated to thinking and acting in ways that reveal your love for him.

6.) You view Christian living as a list of “don’ts.”
Comfort-driven Christians have a laundry list of “don’ts.” They believe in righteousness by subtraction. So, you won’t catch them drinking or cursing…at least not in public.  But righteousness by subtraction is one-sided righteousness. It’s half truth.  The whole truth is your heart should grieve as much when you fail to live out the “dos” as it does when you fail to refrain from the “don’ts.” But comfortable Christians don’t like the “dos.” It involves them getting out of their comfort zone. It involves them taking the message of the gospel to their neighbor. It involves them feeding the poor and correcting injustices.
Are you minimizing righteousness to a list of “don’ts”? Does your heart break for those who don’t know Jesus? Do you grieve when you pass over an opportunity to plead the cause of the poor and oppressed? Is your heart desensitized to the orphans and widows?   If not, maybe it’s time to ask whether you follow comfort or Jesus.

7.) Every person in your circle looks and acts like you.
A few weeks ago, God introduced me to a young man. It was obvious this guy had a tough life. But I was drawn to him immediately. I invited him to our college ministry events and introduced him to a few of our leaders. Then, we had a phone conversation. And in this conversation he informed me he was a homosexual who recently spent time in prison for arson and attempted murder. What I thought next is the same thing some of you are probably thinking. What if he hurts someone? What if he steals something? What was I doing?  See the problem?

The old demon comfort reared its ugly head. When he explained all the “bad” sins he committed, I immediately felt my comfort violated. I threw up walls. I labeled him.  And this is what comfort says. The gospel is not good news for everyone. It’s good news for those in your circle. Instead of a message for the world, the gospel is a message for “your people.”  When comfort is more important than Jesus, small groups become country clubs and churches become barricaded forts. The very ones we should be reaching for Jesus are the ones not allowed to enter.
I am excited about the future. God is working. I believe in the church because I believe in the king who reigns over her. This is not a call to self-pity. This is a call to revival. A call to action. We must tear down the wall of comfort so God can flood our heart and allow his transforming power to spill onto the darkness in this world.

Thank you, Mr. Powell. Well said!

Seven Signs You Love Comfort More Than Jesus

Every morning on my way to work, I listen to the Patrick Madrid Show on Immaculate Heart Radio (AM 1000). This morning, he was sharing an article written by Frank Powell in Christian Living. He begins…

This past weekend, while traveling home with my family, I narrowly avoided tragedy. I was changing lanes on a busy interstate. Nothing new there. I frequent busy interstates. But this time was different. As I eased over, I failed to see the car in my blind spot. Then came a loud horn followed by screeching brakes. Looking through the rear view mirror, I saw the inches that separated a safe return home from being a statistic. Talk about sobering.
And this terrifying moment reminded me of an important reality…failure to check a blind spot can be catastrophic.
Blind spots aren’t relegated to cars. Relationships. Jobs. Organizations. Blind spots are everywhere. Think about slavery. An enormous blind spot in American history. How could so many great leaders support such a despicable act? But it happened. And the fallout from the era of slavery is still felt today.

The church is not immune to blind spots either. And the greatest hole, the greatest blind spot, in American Christianity today is the widespread pursuit of comfort.  And if American Christians do not identify the blind spot, the results could be catastrophic. Comfort pulls us away from God. It clouds the truth of the gospel. It creates tension between the life God calls us to and the life we desire for ourselves. And ultimately, comfort prevents us from seeing the fullness of God in this life…and maybe the next.
Much of what follows is a personal confession from a comfortable Christian. I fight a battle everyday with comfort. So, I ask you to pray for me before you read any further…And as you move forward, I ask you to consider how my personal confession parallels your journey. Maybe there is an area you haven’t given to God. Maybe comfort is driving the train of your life.  How would you know? Here are 7 signs of a Christian that loves comfort more than Jesus.
1.) You are a referee not a player.    When comfort trumps Jesus, cynicism and judgmentalism are soon to follow. Comfortable Christians move from a player on the field to a referee on the sidelines. Think about it. Players are too busy to investigate holding or lining up illegally. But referees? This is their only purpose. Referees watch every player on every play. And when someone commits a penalty, a flag is thrown. “Foul! She did something in children’s ministry I don’t agree with.” “Foul! I didn’t like what the preacher said today.”  Active Christians don’t have time for this nonsense. They are serving and building the kingdom. The church should ignore referees. They don’t understand the game…they aren’t on the team.

2.) Your desire and passion for God are stagnant.  Christians should live with a healthy discomfort. Always. You should welcome preachers who push you and challenge you to explore deeper levels of God’s nature and character, grace, and immeasurable power.
You should constantly push to know and understand more of God. Every part of your life should awaken you to God’s unfailing love, infinite grace, and immeasurable power.
The process of God molding you into his image is a lifelong pursuit. You don’t “arrive.” God is infinite. And stretching towards an infinite God requires growing pains. Comfortable Christians don’t like pain.
But if the goal is to know God more intimately, you must live with a healthy discomfort.

3.) You talk like an atheist.  When God is over-shadowed by comfort, he rarely comes out of your mouth during conversation. How often does God cross your mind in a 24-hour period? At work, do you look for opportunities to inject God’s name into conversations? At school, does God shape your encounters with friends and teachers?

Whatever you are passionate about you will talk about. Write that down. When I met my wife, I called all my friends. I even called people I didn’t know. I wanted the world to know this beautiful, amazing woman actually liked me.  What about God? Are you passionate about him? Would any of your co-workers or classmates know you are a Christian? When comfort drives the train, God takes a back seat.

Next week, I will conclude with reasons 4-7 of Seven Signs You Love Comfort More than Jesus.

Stewardship Demands a Personal Relationship with God

The following article was taken from the July 2015 issue of our Diocesan newspaper, The Southern Cross and was written by Denis Grasska.

If you’re trying to promote stewardship [in your life] but don’t have a personal relationship with God, good luck!

That was the message that retired Bishop Robert H. Brom delivered June 10 at Sacred Heart Parish in Ocean Beach during the monthly meeting of parishes of San Diego Stewardship Network.

Composed of clergy, parish staff members and other lay Catholics, the Stewardship Network represents parishes throughout the diocese and exists to share best practices regarding stewardship.

“Stewardship is all about discipleship, it’s about encountering Jesus, it’s about conversion of mind and heart, and it’s about communion with Jesus in a loving relationship that might be called—and best called—friendship,” Bishop Brom said. “Stewardship will never work…without an intimate, personal knowledge of God, with an ever deeper discipleship.”

Because of Original Sin, the bishop explained, humanity was estranged from God and desperately needed the assistance of a higher power.

“What’s the good news?” Bishop Brom asked. “That, in the condition of sin, there is help available. And help has a name; His name is Jesus. He comes with the mission of drawing us into communion with God as intended from the beginning.”

“In the mystery of the Incarnation,” the bishop continued, “God…entered into the context of all flesh, in every living situation until the end of time. And that’s our gift.”

Stewardship is about how we respond to that gift: by giving in gratitude for what we first received, he explained. It is a loving response to God’s merciful love.

The first step is simply to recognize “the magnitude of the gift,” Bishop Brom said. Otherwise, “we’ll probably be very stingy” in our own giving.

“We should be fostering a deep awareness of our giftedness,” he said. “Every good gift comes to us from God, and the greatest of these gifts is God’s gift of Himself to us in Jesus?”

“Can you think of a greater gift?” he asked.

Bishop Brom stressed that stewardship will be unsuccessful unless those attempting to promote it actually know Jesus personally, rather than just having knowledge about him.

Stewards must know the real “Christ in the flesh”, not a “plastic Jesus” or the inanimate version found on a church crucifix or rosary, Bishop Brom said.

“Don’t sterilize the context of the gift and the price of the gift,” he said. “When people say, ‘How much should I give in return,” the answer is…everything you can in response to the God who gave everything of Himself to us.”

He concluded by reiterating that stewardship will be unsuccessful unless those attempting to promote it actually know Jesus personally, rather than just having knowledge about him.

Last September, we each made a personal Covenant with God, detailing the steps we would take on our Faith Journey to develop a deeper relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In the next week or so, you will receive the covenant that you filled out last year. Please review it and access your progress. No one needs to see it but you. If you made a promise that you didn’t keep, don’t beat yourself up over it. The time wasn’t right. Maybe you put your energy into something that wasn’t even marked originally, but the Holy Spirit put it in your heart!

Feeding Our People

With today’s two accounts of feeding miracles and the psalm response about the Lord’s hand feeding us, it is easy to gloss over the marvelous hymn in Ephesians. It is built around the most potent biblical numbers: one, three, and seven. The core of it is the word “one” expressed seven times. Three of these describe the church: one body, one Spirit, one hope; the next three are the foundations of the church: one Lord [Jesus], one faith, one baptism. All of these are bound up together in the one Father of all.

While we might feel daunted by the prospect of duplicating the wonders worked by Elisha and Jesus in the feeding of multitudes, Ephesians gives us a more realistic way to live and “feed” others as the church: by living in humility and gentleness, by acting with patience, bearing with each other in love, and always seeking and striving to preserve unity through peace.

Who among us cannot increase the way we “feed” the church and the world by living this way? We are always called upon to “feed” the world in the literal sense; but our mission as church tells us that others are also fed by the way we live and act each moment of each day.

So, are you doing what it takes to “feed” others around you? Are you taking time with someone when it’s easier to be impatient? Is there someone in your life (or with whom you have casual contact) that causes you to step back and take a moment before reacting? Do you know someone who is elderly, hard of hearing, slow on their feet who—literally—needs you to slow down and be patient with them?

Every year when my birthday nears (still a few months off), I start looking at myself. Am I a better person than I was a year ago? What can I do to improve who I am? I used to look at what I had accomplished and what I wanted to do/accomplish for the coming year. I finally had an epiphany and realized that if I was could become who I wanted myself to be, I would be able to accomplish great things. It’s been quite a work in progress, and there’s a lot of road ahead of me.

The point I am trying to make is that we can always improve ourselves and thinking about how we can “feed the church” will always lead to us to being a better version of ourselves.

But besides the figurative feeding of our church, I want to remind you that the church is in need of being fed literally as well. Through the efforts of some very good and faithful stewards, our parish has a new ministry that cares for those in need in our parish. It is called “FEED MY PEOPLE Pantry Ministry”. With so many generous parishioners participating in this ministry, we are able to provide daily sack lunches for over 20 of our neighbors who might not have a nice meal any other time of the day. We also provide a periodic (about every 3 weeks) grocery distribution to about two dozen families. And we work alongside our St. Vincent de Paul Society who makes home visits to families in need.

We find ourselves most in need of $25 gift cards to any grocery store, loaves of bread, tortillas, bags of apples or cuties, and reusable grocery bags.

You can find grocery bags in the vestibule with a printed list attached. Please be sure to refer to the list, as it changes periodically. There is a drop-off container in the vestibule, or you can bring donations to the office Monday through Friday from 10-5.

Volunteers are also needed. Depending on the task you are given, you may be asked to complete a Food Handlers Certification.

Without your participation, this ministry would not be able to continue its good works with God’s hungry people. Thank you for your generosity.

Christian Stewardship and the Need for Recreation

Is there such a thing as a stewardship of recreation? Some people might dismiss the thought. But they’d be wrong.

In his book, The Gift of the Jews, author Thomas Cahill observes that, in receiving the Ten Commandments, the ancient Hebrews did something no other ancient society had ever done: they established a day of rest. “The God who made the universe and rested bids us to do the same, calling us to a weekly restoration of prayer, study, and recreation (or re-creation).”

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere at least, probably no other month bids us to relax as the month of July does. Backyard barbecues, days at the pool or the beach, a recreational outing or simply the lazy idleness of a mid-year Sunday afternoon invite us to slow down. And this invitation should be heeded. Sometimes, our society induces in us a sense of guilt if we’re not “doing.”

But turning off the computer and the phone and spending quality time with those around us, or finding time for our own interior lives, is stewardship of our time which leads to the place where God dwells.

It’s a good example for our kids as well: the summer presents a wonderful time to “rest” from all the electronic screens and busyness that dominate their young lives.

July is the month when U.S. citizens celebrate the proclamation of their freedom. When the Hebrew people first received the Ten Commandments, they too had just received their freedom from the Egyptians after a sojourn in the wilderness. Cahill thinks it’s no coincidence that a people recently liberated were in need of a directive to rest and reflect. “Leisure,” he writes, “is the necessary ground of creativity, and a free people are free to imitate the creativity of God.”

So, the next time you feel guilty about a quiet, reflective time of doing “nothing” remember that recreation also means “re-creation” and that to be a truly creative person, a steward of our interior resources, we must honor our need to rest, relax, be with others, read and play.

STEWARDSHIP PRAYER
FOR SUMMER

Lord and Creator,
You are the source of wisdom and grace,
the author of human freedom and creativity.

We thank you for these gifts, and ask that you teach us
to be good stewards of our creative spirits.

Show us how to quiet ourselves, and to learn the art of re-creation,
reflection and relaxation so that we might recharge
and refill ourselves for the work you have planned for us.

Help us never to be too busy to pause and
realize your gracious presence all around us:
in nature, in other people, in ourselves.
Slow us down, Lord,
and teach us to be stewards of our time of recreation.
Amen.

Being Good Stewards of Our Common Home

Seldom has a papal encyclical been anticipated with so much noise and discussion and even premature criticism and fear as our Holy Father, Pope Francis’ Laudato si (“Praise Be to You”); with a beautiful subtitle “On Care for Our Common Home.” This is the pope’s encyclical on the environment—easily found on Google—but most of us will admit encyclicals aren’t as engrossing as our favorite summer reading. Nevertheless, it deserves our prayerful attention; not just the commentary that journalists, pundits, radio hosts and television analysts provide.

Each of us, as Christian stewards, will find something that inspires and challenges us from Pope Francis’ prescription for a healthy planet. For many readers, the challenge might come particularly in the pope’s warnings about “extreme and selective consumerism.” In our culture, we’re taught that more is better – more production, more growth, more profits, more spending. But can the earth sustain this kind of economic dogma? Pope Francis echoes the Catholic teaching tradition that we should “replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing.”

The letter urges us to examine our lifestyles and invites us to prayerfully consider a significant shift in our own practices and habits. For example, one question we should ask ourselves: Can we live with less?

A visit to our closets is a good place to start, and while commit¬ting to buy less, we might ruminate on the mistaken values of our consumer economy and culture. Our pontiff points out that one-third of food that is produced is discarded. Again, our own kitchens present evidence of our complicity in this wastefulness.

The poor suffer the most from changes in the earth’s complex ecosystem, and that is readily evidenced by their struggle simply to find clean water. The pope also reminds us as Christians called to exercise good stewardship of the planet to consider what in our own life comprises “need” and what is “greed.”

Pope Francis urgently calls us to a renewed commitment to the Eucharist as well – something many commentators fail to mention – and asks us to re¬discover our common bond within this “act of cosmic love.”

For the Christian steward, improving the environment must be a topic of prayer, a chance to call our politicians to action, and a time to renew our commitment to that wonderful Catholic principle of the common good.

If you would like to download a copy of the encyclical, you can go to our website “stmarystars.org”, “News”, and then “Vatican”. We are offering study groups on the encyclical on Sunday nights at 6 p.m. and Thursday afternoons at 1 p.m.

A PRAYER FOR OUR EARTH
By Pope Francis

All-powerful God,
you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
Amen

Nostalgia Brings Clarity

The Fourth of July always makes me feel nostalgic. My daddy was a career Marine and we moved to Oceanside in 1959 when he was transferred to Camp Pendleton. I remember sitting on the curb on Hill Street (now Coast Highway) waiting for the 4th of July Parade to start. There were horses, clowns throwing candy, floats, important people waving from fancy cars. And then the Color Guard! I would jump to my feet, put a hand over my heart, get tears in my eyes, and watch the passing of Old Glory. Somehow, even at a young age, I understood all that it represented.

Those were the days that we would walk from South Oceanside (before it became South O) to Geil Motors (corner of Hill & Wisconsin—now the U-Haul) to look at cars. The car daddy wanted but knew he could never afford was very expensive—$3,000!

Just behind Geil Motors was St. Mary’s School, where I was taught by the Adrian Dominican Sisters with up to 50 children in a classroom. No one dared act up! That is where I learned about my faith (in addition to my parents, of course). MANY years later I was able to send my own two children through the school (K-8) to receive a firm foundation.

Junior High and High School were spent at San Luis Rey Academy (now home to Mission Montessori School). My faith life was deepened under the tutelage of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. I remember that my parents spent $30/month for myself and my sister to attend to an all-girls Catholic high school. (THANK YOU, Mom and Dad!)

Shortly after graduation in 1971, Msgr. Clavin asked me to answer the phones in the church office in the afternoons. Later I was asked to sub for the secretary when she took ill. That was in the summer of 1972. I was asked to take on a full time position in June 1973, just a few months before I got married (at St. Mary’s, of course).

I never had aspirations to be “The Church Lady”. But now, as I enter my 44th year, I guess that’s what I am and I consider myself to be blessed beyond measure.

I have worked with seven different men who dedicated their lives to the service of God and were chosen to shepherd the flock at St. Mary Star of the Sea. Each brought his own personality and vision to the parish and I treasure the opportunity to work side by side with each of them.

It seems that, as we age, we enjoy looking back at our childhood memories, especially those that truly shaped us into the adults we became.

Most of my “faith” memories were created right here at St. Mary’s. I remember receiving my First Holy Communion at our altar rail (oops, it’s missing!) And sitting in the pews that you occupy this moment making my mom Shh! at me. (I wasn’t always perfect.) I remember exchanging my marriage vows at our altar and baptizing my babies at our baptismal font.

So this weekend, when you are having BBQs, watching fireworks, just hanging out with family and friends, think about that little girl sitting on the curb watching the Color Guard pass by.

I ask you to BELIEVE that we are lucky to live in a military town so the idea is never far from our minds; to BELIEVE that we are lucky to hear the “sounds of freedom” booming in the late hours as the military practices for combat readiness. I ask you to PRAY for each member of the armed forces (who are someone’s spouse, child, sibling) that put themselves in harms way to keep us safe.

God Bless America!

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!