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.

Ten Tips on How to Confess Well

St. Mary, Star of the Sea parish offers the opportunity to confess your sins and pray for God’s Graces every Saturday morning beginning at 8 a.m. I am offering the following tips to help you make a good confession (taken from an article on Mercy and Confession by Fr. Ed Broom, OMV.)

IMPROVEMENT/UPGRADING THE RECEPTION: As Catholics, two of the most important actions we can accomplish are to go to Confession and to receive Holy Communion. In these Sacraments, we have a direct contact with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This being the case, we should make a concerted effort to improve our encounters with Jesus in these Sacraments. In other words, we should never take these Sacraments for granted. Also, be keenly aware of the concept of dispositive grace. The abundance of graces are received in direct proportion to the disposition of the recipient. On the walls in the sacristies of the Missionaries of Charity is written: “Say this Mass as if it were your first Mass, last Mass and only Mass.” We can apply the same principle: “Confess as if it were your first, last and only time.”

PRAYERS BEFORE: All is grace! A source of abundant grace is the Communion of saints. Why not pray to the holy Confessors to help you to make a good confession. Pray to them to help you to confess well—that each confession you make is better than your prior confession.

PREPARE THE NIGHT BEFORE: Have a good examination of conscience booklet. Find a quiet and contemplative place to examine your conscience. Utilize the crucifix and Divine Mercy image to elicit sorrow and trust. Write down the sins so that you will not forget them once in the confessional. Also, pray for your confessor—to his guardian angel—before you enter the confessional!

SELF-KNOWLEDGE: One of the classical steps to make a good confessional is contrition but also firm purpose of amendment. This entails rewinding the film of your life and seeing the various falls into sin. But also to capture what were the preceeding causes that led to the sin. You will notice often a pattern that is to know oneself and even supply for the necessary knowledge to avoid the near occasion of sin.

BIBLICAL PASSAGES TO PREPARE: The Church highly recommends the use of Sacred Scripture as a means to prepare us for a better reception of the Sacraments. Two excellent passages that are recommended: Lk. 15 and Psalm 51. Luke 15 presents the Parables of God’s Mercy, and the greatest is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. By praying Psalm 51, you have one of the best “Acts of Contrition” ever composed, by none other than King David after having committed adultery with Bathsheba and killing an innocent man. Praying the Word of God adds extra power to one’s prayer!

FREQUENT CONFESSION: The saints highly recommend frequent confession as a most efficient means of growing in sanctifying grace. Confession either restores sanctifying grace or augments it. Of course, this presupposes a thorough preparation!

SACRAMENTAL GRACE: Each sacrament communicates grace. However, every sacrament communicates a specific grace pertinent to that sacrament. For example, the grace communicated in the Eucharist is that of Nourishment. The Sacramental grace in Confession is HEALING! Jesus came to feed us with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Time and time again in the Gospels we see Jesus healing.

QUALITIES OF A GOOD CONFESSION: In the Diary of St. Faustina, the most important qualities of a good confession are complete sincerity and openness, humility, and obedience. Adhering to the qualities, one cannot go wrong!

AVOID DISCOURAGEMENT: Even though one might fall frequently, never give in to discouragement. Some badhabits have possibly clung to use for decades. Change is often tedious, laborious, and painful. The key is to keep praying, working, fighting as a true soldier of Christ to be liberated from the shackles of sin.

MARY AND MERCY: Never forget to invite Mary to be present in your remote preparation for Confession, your immediate preparation for Confession. Even ask Mary to enter with you into the Confessional so that you can make the best confession in your life. Among the many beautiful titles of Mary are the following: Mother of Mercy, Mother of Good Counsel, Health of the Sick. Behind many powerful conversations is of course the grace of God but also the maternal intercession of Mary!

Pentecost: A Stewardship Feast to Celebrate

A challenge for the Christian steward is accepting, and even rejoicing in, the fact that our commitment to faith is often a counter-cultural one. Perhaps this is nowhere more striking than in the quick cultural “end” of the Easter season, and our own belief that Easter is leading us through May to the great feast of Pentecost on May 24.

We see this discordance in many Christian celebrations adapted by the popular, commercial culture. While we are still enjoying the season of Christmas and looking forward to Epiphany, most American homes have taken the Christ¬mas tree to the recycling center and moved on to thoughts of Valentine’s Day. During the sacrificial early days of Lent, there’s something jarring – yes, just wrong – about all those pastel Easter eggs and bunnies appearing in stores. And all that chocolate!

So, as Christian stewards, we feel no surprise that as we break our Easter fast and begin our meditation on the Resurrection, we find that the stores have tucked those chocolate bunnies away on discount shelves, and we’re off to the next commercially competitive venture. And as the great feast of Pentecost beckons us, we realize that the society around us gives

this occasion hardly a passing nod. Apparently, there’s no money to be made from Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came among the apostles and imbued in them the courage to be true followers of Christ. Cour¬age, strength, faith, the Spirit – these are hard to market in the public square, aren’t they? The willingness to live and ultimately to die as martyrs for Christ, as the apostles did, these are things that are hard to package in bright pa¬per. They don’t fit well in the greeting card aisle.

Perhaps during these days of May when we as Catholic stewards continue to celebrate the season of Easter and look forward to Pentecost, we might examine our own willingness to step outside the culture in our celebration of great Christian feast days. Keep the reminders of the Resurrection around you. Let your family prayer reflect the marvels of the season. Help your children to be aware of the liturgical cal¬endar. Explain to them the meaning of the changing colors of the priests’ vestments. Dress up in red for Pentecost Sunday. But most importantly, educate yourself and your family on how powerful it is to understand and celebrate the great markers and mysteries of our shared faith experience.

Feed My People

The Church calls on us to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Church has named these acts of charity the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. Part of being a good Christian Steward is sharing our abundance with others, which some call “paying it forward”.

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 and the Dead

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

I was approached very recently by Kim Mikulka and Marlyn Delo, parishioners who are part of our Stewardship Team and also involved in other groups and ministries. They asked if they could revitalize our Parish Food Program. Of course, I answered immediately with a resounding “YES!”

The call to Feed the Hungry takes on many forms. It can be writing a check to feed orphans in Nepal. (I remember raising money as a child for the “pagan babies” in India.)

Or it can be more hands-on and pastoral. We hope you want to be involved in our own parish’s efforts to fulfill the call of Christ to care for those less fortunate.

The program is being reorganized to act as the parish’s food coordinators, assisting any ministry that currently feeds the hungry. This includes but is not limited to St. Vincent de Paul Society, our funeral and bereavement ministry, Faith Formation programs, daily sack lunches for the homeless.

To be as efficient as possible, the team would like to start by accepting specific items only. As time progresses, more items will likely be added.

For now, you will find grocery bags in the vestibule with a shopping list attached. Cash and grocery store gift cards are also gratefully accepted.

• Reusable flat-bottom grocery bags with handles
• Dry pinto beans
• Rice
• Peanut Butter
• Canned tomato sauce, vegetables, chili, fruit, pasta, tuna, soups
• Tortillas

• Brown paper lunch sacks
• Peanut Butter
• Jelly
• Bread
• Water
• Fruit
• Baked Goodies
• Wet Ones
• Cheese Slices
• Cracker packs

If you would like to help in this ministry, you can send your information to me at Barbie-stmarys@hotmail.com and I will see that Kim and Marlyn get your contact information.

(FYI: The monies that you have been donating monthly to “Feed the Hungry” are being used in this program as well.)

Mothers

From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a wife and a mother. I always thought I wanted six children, but reality set in when the time finally came!

I was blessed with two children. My son, Jens (named after my Daddy) is 29 and my daughter, Rachel is 30. They are the joy of my life. We have a very close relationship which was a result of very hard work and a lot of prayer. I thank God every day for “my babies”.

I remember once when my parents invited me to go with them to Laughlin for a few days. Of course I went. They took me to dinner at their favorite steak house inside Harrah’s. (Maybe you’ve eaten there?) The waiter (who had come to know my parents) came over and Daddy beamed with pride as he introduced his daughter. He and Mom started telling him about all that I had accomplished. I didn’t understand why they were so excited about introducing me. Now I know. I’m the same way with my children.

As a child, I never gave any real thought to how it would feel to be a parent, to love another human being unconditionally. Without question. Without reservation.

I saw a story on the news not long ago about a man who was being executed. A mother’s love is so deep and so unconditional, that she loves her child even under those circumstances. She will never stop loving him even if she believes he is guilty as charged.

How many mothers have a child who has made a few bad choices in their lives? (You can put your hands down now. Too many to count.) I can remember when my daughter was making some poor life choices. All I could do was hold her closer, pray harder, and love her even more unconditionally (if there is such a thing). She asked me years later if it had been hard to love her through those difficult years. Without hesitation I said “No. It was never difficult. I never stopped loving you. But…it was a huge challenge to like you.”

I’ve mentioned on several occasions that I was Daddy’s Little Girl. Through and through. I obviously loved my mom, but didn’t have the same kind of close relationship with her. My Daddy died just before my 50th birthday. I promised Daddy that I would take care of Mom in his absence. She suffered a stress-induced heart attack the night he died, and there was a lot of care that followed. For seven years. I thank God that

I was given the opportunity to get to know my mom so much more personally before she died. I got to know her as a beautiful human being, not just my mom.

God doesn’t make mistakes. He knew it would be a gift to me in the end. Mom died five years ago, and I still find myself picking up the phone to call her.

I really find it interesting how life meanders along and how the scenery along the way changes when you’re not really paying attention.

One day you’re a little girl, playing with dolls, daydreaming about being a Mommy. The next you are that Mommy, raising the children about whom you’ve dreamed. And later, you are the daughter, caring for your own mother in her twilight years.

I want to remind you that time passes so very quickly. We blink and our children are grown. Cherish every day, every moment you have with them. They are a miraculous gift from God. We blink and our parents are gone. Cherish every day. Visit or call them often while you have the chance. Thank God every day for your family and friends. You are truly blessed to have them.

Celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life

The following is a story written by Mary Ann Otto, Stewardship Director for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

A Model Stewardship Teacher: Sister Esther Joy

I remember her vividly. As I look through the eyes of a Christian steward, I could see why my teacher, Sister Esther Joy perfectly inspired the young students in her care. Second grade was her specialty and there were about fifty of us.

Sister Esther was able to use her God-given talents as a teacher. Her joy and faith were passed on to us. It seemed like we each had a place and school was an experience of Jesus as well as a place for learning.

I believe that Sister Esther was an expert at time management because we accomplished so much that year. We honed our skills in the three “R’s” (Reading, writing and arithmetic), were perfectly prepared for First Penance and First Communion and played games to remember the answers to the questions in the Catechism. We also prayed the rosary in Latin every day and filled our rice bowls during Lent.

She was with us at Mass each day and encouraged Saturday participation where she would have her classroom open and we could work on crafts after Mass.

Sister Esther was also a woman who loved music and literature. She would encourage us to finish our projects and had us all singing as she played the violin. At the end of the day she would read aloud a chapter from a book. I remember “Heidi” as being one of my favorites.

This lovely woman was fifty-three years old when I encountered her as a second grade student.

It was the sparkle in her eye, her love and her many gifts that touched me so deeply. She died on February 22, 1989. She was 79 years old, taught for 40 years and had just celebrated her 60th anniversary as a Racine Dominican. Amazing!

I would invite everyone to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life by going to the website of your favorite religious community. Find out how you could tell one of your own stories and thank them for how they have impacted your life. No doubt, they deserve our gratitude and we deserve the joy of remembering.

The Prayer Process

In The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, Matthew Kelly addresses how a dynamic Catholic is identified. The dominant qualities are:
• PRAYER
• STUDY
• GENEROSITY
• EVANGELIZATION

The most dominant quality among Dynamic Catholics is a daily routine of prayer. He notes that when we are spiritually healthy, nothing bother us.

A daily routine refers to a specific time and a place to prayer. Dynamic Catholics have a routine within their routine. When they sit down to pray each day, they don’t just see what happens. They tend to begin their time in very specific ways: by reading the Bible, praying the morning prayers of the Church, reading from a favorite spiritual book, etc. Dynamic Catholics universally begin their day with some type of prayer, even if the main time they set aside for prayer is later in the day.

God speaks to us in the silence. Spending time in the classroom of silence is indispensable in our quest for spiritual growth. Most Catholics have never been taught how to develop a daily routine of prayer.

A Dynamic Catholic sees a connection between the joy and fulfillment in their lives and their efforts to walk with God and grow spiritually. At some point, Dynamic Catholics have become convinced that a life with prayer is better than a life without prayer.

If you want to start a regular prayer routine, you are encouraged to start with The Prayer Process:

GRATITUDE: Begin by thanking God in a personal dialogue for whatever you are most grateful today.

AWARENESS: Revisit the times in the past twenty-four hours when you were and were not the best-version-of-yourself. Talk to God about these situations and what you learned from them.

SIGNIFICANT MOMENTS: Identify something you experienced today and explore what God might be trying to say to you through that event (or person).

PEACE: Ask God to forgive you for any wrong you have committed (against yourself, another person, or him) and to fill you with a deep and abiding peace.

FREEDOM: Speak with God about how he is inviting you to change your life, so that you can experience the freedom to be the-best-version-of-yourself.

OTHERS: Lift up to God anyone you feel called to pray for today, asking God to bless and guide them.

FINISH by praying the Our Father.