GOALS FOR THE NEW YEAR

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.

 

CHRISTMAS IS A TIME TO THINK OF OTHERS

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.

 

What is the meaning of the candles in the Advent Wreath?

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word meaning “coming.”

The Advent wreath–4 candles on a wreath of evergreen–is shaped in a perfect circle to symbolize the eternity of God. Three of the candles are purple in keeping with the color of the Advent season and, on the third Sunday of Advent (called Guadete Sunday–meaning “Rejoice“), a rose or pink candle is used to represent joy. There is also a white candle added on Christmas Eve which is the Christ candle.

The Advent wreath is part of the long-standing Catholic tradition that came to be used as part of spiritual preparation for Christmas around the Middle Ages. At that time, the candles had a two-fold purpose: to symbolize the coming of Christ as well as to bring light to the interior of the churches.

During each Sunday of the Advent season, we focus on one of the four virtues Jesus brings to us: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. As an alternative, the lighting of the candles can also symbolize: Expectation, Hope, Joy, and Purity.

The lighting of the Christ candle on Christmas Eve reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world. During the four weeks of Advent, the wreath continually reminds us of who we are called to be as followers of Jesus.

We wish you a Happy Advent Season!

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!)

 

 

Be a Good Steward of the Advent and Christmas Seasons

 

December is such a busy time of year, and a month that tempts us to lose sight of the profound spiritual importance of the Advent and Christmas seasons. The best way to stay focused on the coming of Jesus Christ is to be good stewards of his presence in our daily lives. Here are simple ways to exercise good stewardship of this sacred time of year.

GIVE GOD A VERY SPECIAL GIFT THIS YEAR:  Let this gift be something personal that no one else needs to know about, and let it be a sacrifice. Perhaps your gift will be to commit to spending more time with God daily. Perhaps there is a habit you know you should give up. Why wait for a New Year’s resolution? Start now.

CELEBRATE THE SEASON OF ADVENT:  Light the Advent wreath candles each night before dinner. If you have children, let them offer their own prayers to the Christ child for whom we are waiting.

SET ASIDE A SPECIAL TIME TO READ THE CHRISTMAS STORY in the Gospel of Saint Luke 1:5-56 through 2:1-20: Consider reading this account with your family and discussing it together.

PUT UP A CRECHE IN YOUR HOME AT THE BEGINNING OF ADVENT:   Consider having one set that is “kid-proof” which your children are allowed to handle. Kids love to make the Nativity story their own, and they especially love the angels!

PLAN A PROJECT TO HELP SOMEONE THIS CHRISTMAS: Identify someone with a genuine need, involve your whole family and see how happy you can make someone this Christmas. Participate in your parish Adopt-a-Family program or call Catholic Charities or another charity and find a family through their programs. Make sure your children take part in shopping for a family who needs extra help and make them aware of the needs in your community.

TAKE A GROUP CHRISTMAS CAROLING TO A NURSING HOME OR CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL: Get people together. Make it festive. Bring the gifts of your joyful smiles and voices to those who may need these gifts.

GIVE A SURPRISE GIFT OF SERVICE TO EACH MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY:  The idea of giving an unexpected gift of service to members of your family reveals your own love and concern for them.

You might consider giving your spouse a day away, running an errand for your brother, or cleaning out a closet for your mother. Make it personal and meaningful.

SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS AND THANK YOU NOTES THAT CONVEY A SPIRITUAL MESSAGE:  This is an easy way to share your faith during the Advent season. Don’t just sign your name! Include a personal message with each card. Set aside some time after Christmas Day to write thank you notes and help your children to write thank you notes for the gifts they receive. This is a wonderful habit for a lifetime.

WRITE A CHRISTMAS LETTER TO SOMEONE FAR AWAY SUCH AS SOMEONE IN THE SERVICE, or perhaps someone working or ministering in a foreign country: It has been said that receiving a letter when you are far away from home is like opening a priceless gift on Christmas morning, no matter what day of the year. Many people are unable to travel home for the holidays, so it can be a very lonely time for them.

ATTEND CHRISTMAS MASS TOGETHER WITH YOUR FAMILY:  If you are alone this Christmas or don’t have family living near you, invite a friend or a neighbor to join you.

Thank God for the Power of Prayer

I want to share a personal story.  Maybe even a little more personal than I usually do.  It involves my son.

First, I want to say that I have conversations with so many people who say that their adult children no longer practice their Catholic Faith.  And what a heartache that can be to a parent who did everything in their power to instill the love of God and Church in their children.

So, to start this story I want to say that we all know that everything happens in GOD’S TIME.   He is not encumbered with clocks and calendars like we are.  It is all eternal time.  So it may seem like a long time to have a prayer answered, but to God the time is just right!

Two months ago, I sat with my son all day as he prepared (waited) to be shipped off to the Naval Training Center on Lake Michigan.   In conversation, I asked him if a sailor wears a dog tag.  (My only frame of reference is the Marine Corps in which my daddy served.)  He said yes, they do…funny you should ask.  They had just asked him about his religious preference and he told them NONE.  My heart sank.  He’s a cradle Catholic, attended Catholic school, and has always seen religion being practiced around him.

He has always continued to identify as a Catholic but, as an adult, has not practiced his faith regularly. He said he didn’t want to be a hypocrite and say that he was a Catholic when he wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain.

I reminded him of the story of the Prodigal Son and assured him that there would be much rejoining when he came back.

I gave him a Soldier’s rosary (woven thread with no metal) and he said he would carry it in his pocket.

I got my first letter from him after a few weeks and he said that he had attended Mass and that “it felt really good”.  He shared that the homily had really made him think about some things in his life and he was quite moved by it.

And then, the pièce de résistance, is that the chaplain handed out bibles as they left the chapel.  As a recruit, he’s not allowed any reading material other than religious.  So, he’s reading the bible now.

I shared my opinion that the bible can be rather daunting if you just start at the first page and try to plow through it.  I encouraged him to let the Spirit direct him and feel free to just open to a random page.

(Of course, the beauty of it is that it may seem random to us, but we are certainly being directed to a passage that will be very meaningful at that given moment.)

I haven’t received another letter from him.  He’s tried to call several times, but I was on vacation and out of cell phone range.  I believe in my heart that he is continuing this path.    And really, even if today isn’t the day, this experience has made a positive impact on his journey.  Tomorrow I’ll fly to Chicago to watch him graduate from Boot Camp!  I couldn’t be more proud of him!

As a side note, I have often talked about the little things that can make a big impact on someone.  While I was on vacation, I sent my son at least one, and sometime up to five postcards every day for 14 days.  I started each one with the day number (DAY 1…).  I knew he would want to put them in chronological order.  I just shared the usual postcard drivel, told him I loved him and was praying for him.  The cost the minimal.    I knew it would make him happy and that he would feel very loved and not forgotten.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to do Random Acts of Kindness.  Try every day.  And thank God for answering your prayers.

 

FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP

Testimonial Continued…

 FEEL THE FEAR

And pull back a little. Do what takes you just up to that fear. Be gentle with yourself. Why would you deliberately want to put yourself into fear mode? Does that serve you? Will that serve the world? Giving 10% of my gross income, when I have received a decent pay check puts me into fear mode. Website reviews on money & credit repair, showed me how to manage debt, like prestige financial  — and assuage my fears and figure out ways to improve my credit.

So, right off the bat, I felt like I could not tithe 10% every single time. I seem to have a limit. While I am exploring this idea, I give what I can. If I have no fear of tithing 10%, when I receive $100 or $200, I give the 10%. When I feel fear, I tithe at 1%. Lately I’m at about 3%. I’m ‘stretching the spiritual muscles’ and I have confidence in myself that I will be capable of tithing the full 10% of ALL my gross income, in the future.

DO IT RIGHT AWAY

When you receive income, calculate how much money you ‘get’ to give back. Even when the amount seems huge to me, I delight in being able to easily give in the future. It builds your ‘generosity muscles’.

“I received $1,000 this week! I ‘get’ to give my spiritual center $100!” Try it on for awhile if you’re not there yet.

I’m certainly not, but I delight in the feelings of being there.

I imagine how great it feels to give that $100 in tithe. I imagine all the goodness that $100 provides for others. I practice this visualization until it becomes a reality. Everything begins with imagination.

PRACTICE CONSISTENCY

If all you can give without freaking out is 1%, give 1% regularly for awhile. Avoid the roller coaster of giving 1% one week, because that’s all you feel comfortable with, and 3% or 5% next week because THAT feels okay at the time. You want to aim for consistency. You want to be gentle with yourself. When you feel capable of giving 5% one week, but nothing the next week, how does that make you feel? You don’t need to create this kind of drama for yourself. It’s much better to spread your contributions out, at a consistent level.

You want to aim to be able to freely and joyfully give, without fear. Aim to freely and joyfully give 1% each week, for a month.  Then try (consistently) to freely and joyfully give 3% for the next month. Even if one week you feel you can give 10%, resist doing so. Consistency is important.

Another way to ensure consistency, is by taking stock of your finances to see if you can manage or minimize debts.Website information on how to do this can be found on credit repair or personal finance forums.

 JUST GIVE

Avoid thinking about – or tracking – what you get in return for tithing. Doing so is a mentality of lack and will not serve you. The aim is to freely and joyfully give, knowing that the Universe is abundant. Have faith and confidence that what you give is multiplied, and returned to you in abundance. Learn to graciously give and learn to graciously receive.  If you are still not sure about tithing, I encourage you to do some research into this practice. In meditation or prayer, ask the Spirit to provide you with resources to deepen your understanding. The practice of tithing has helped me shift my perspective on finances, significantly. And it still IS practice – I am not yet capable of freely and joyfully giving a full 10% of my income.

I do aim to be capable of doing this, because my spiritual center matters a great deal to me. It’s important that I not give up on this. To NOT give indicates that I believe there is limited resources from which to draw upon. I believe Spirit is everything, therefore, Spirit is my one and only source. I choose to give, knowing the Universe/Spirit provides abundantly and I am open to receive it.

 

 

FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP

When we tithe joyfully (with gratitude for all we have), we acknowledge that we will always have everything we need, then our tithe brings back a multiplied returns. The rule of thumb is a 10 fold return. It is important to not ‘expect’ a return – in other words don’t sit there and wonder where your return is. You simply tithe and know that sometime, somewhere…your tithe will be returned back to you.

Tithing from a place of ‘knowing’ that all your needs will be met, releases you from the place of ‘expecting’ or ‘needing’ a return. If you have unlimited resources, would you spend your time looking for a return? Probably not. If you can tithe from a place of feeling like you had unlimited resources, and are grateful that you can share – your tithe will be returned to you.

Here’s one’s testimonial on how they took steps towards easier tithing:

START SMALL

If tithing is new to you, it may take some time to get used to simply giving money back to where you are spiritually fed. This is not the case for everyone, but it has been a huge step for me. I was completely new (and initially suspicious) to the concept of tithing. Giving money away, when I could barely make ends meet, did not make sense to me.

At first. I needed to gently release money. I had to learn to let go. Yes, I had to learn to give. I started by giving whatever I ‘felt’ I could give, back to my spiritual center. I understood, at the time, that in order to keep the center going, we all needed to pitch in and help pay the bills. It cost money to rent the hall. Our spiritual director was giving of her time and energy.

She deserved to receive an income. These were reasons I gave myself for tithing, in the beginning.  It was hard to give when I believed I did not have enough. So called ‘logic’ and conditioning said I was insane to do such a thing. After awhile, instead of just giving whatever I ‘felt’, I chose to be more conscious of where I spend my money. To start small, I chose to consciously give 1% of my gross income, then 3%. Sometimes, depending upon the amount I receive that week, I am able to give 10%.

This will be concluded next week.

 

 

Hospital Ministry

Join Hospital Ministry!

Hospital Ministry is a wonderful ministry here at St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish! We bring Holy Communion, prayer, and church bulletins to the Catholics in Tri-City Hospital. I hope that you can be a part of this God-filled ministry! We serve the poor, the sick, and the needy right in our own neighborhood. Is God calling you to this ministry?

If you are interested in being involved with this ministry please contact Racquel at 760-331-4892!

hospitalministry