Sunday, May 29, 2011

I will not leave you orphans: "Annie" and "Despicable Me"

I will not leave you orphans

So there are two orphan movies that come to mind: One is for the older crowd… think red hair, the sun will come out TOMORROW… Annie. The other is the recent movie Despicable Me. There’s a great similarity between these two movies. Both have a crotchety old man that’s not thrilled with the idea of children and by the end they each become loveable teddy bears. But more importantly both have children that never give up hope that they will be adopted into a loving family.

Now, Jesus came to reveal to us that God the Father is not the crotchety, temperamental, character. He is in truth an unconditionally loving, all embracing, supporting, personal Father.

In despicable me, when a criminal mastermind uses a trio of orphan girls as pawns for a grand scheme, he finds their love is profoundly changing him for the better. It is Gru at the end of the story, reading a personally written story to the children, that is much more like God the Father.

And similarly in Annie, which is the Broadway musical based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip. A young orphan girls adventures in finding a family that will take her. God the Father is much like “Daddy Warbucks” at the end of the movie – delighting in us, treasuring us, and promising us that He will never let us go.

This is a timeless story because until we find ourselves in the safety and securely in the arms of the Father we will constantly seek and search for that unconditional love in ways that we will never find it.

At some point in our lives we face this dilemma that our parents will not always be with us... and we experience being an orphan. I was surprised when I first heard a good priest mentor of mine say sadly and sincerely after his parents died... “I'm now an orphan.” And while it’s true, Jesus doesn’t ever want us to forget that we really aren’t orphans…

And so He gives us these reassuring words:

But you know him, because he remains with you,

and will be in you.

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

Jesus reveals to us that we have a Father, He with us, when we receive the Eucharist He is in us, and we are in him, and it's more than we ever could imagine.

There's a funny scene in Annie when she first comes to Daddy Warbuck's home: The head maid says to Annie, so what would you like to do first. Annie responds... as she looks around the mansion and grabs a bucket and rags... "The windows, then the floors. That way if I drip..." She doesn't get it. As an adopted one she is no longer a slave. Annie is now going to be introduced to a life better than she could ever have imagined.

And Gru changes from Grumpy to jolly in Despicable Me:

The first time he reads to the children:

Gru: [reading book] "Three little kittens love to play. They had fun in the sun all day. Then their mother came out and said, 'Time for kittens to go to bed'."
[looks up]
Gru: Wow, this is garbage. You actually like this?

And at the end he reads them the book that he himself wrote:

Gru: One big unicorn, strong and free, thought he was happy as he could be. Then three little kittens came around and turned his whole life upside down. They made him laugh, they made him cry. He never should have said goodbye. And now he knows he can never part from those three little kittens that changed his heart.

The same is true for us once we realize that we are not orphans, that we have a Father who loves us and provides for us. We will stop seeking our security in others; we will stop trying to provide for ourselves, we will stop being slaves and become His children.

At the end of Annie, after a “Daddy Warbucks” finally is able to adopt Annie, he and Annie are together and they break out into the touching song: "Together Forever."


Together at last!

Together for ever!

We're tying a knot,

They never can sever!


I don't need sunshine now,

To turn my skies at blue --


I don't need anything but you!

God the Father is fighting so hard to adopt you. We find ourselves so often entangled in possessive, manipulative, needy relationships that are not life-giving. But what it means to be truly loved, when we know this acceptance and freedom we too will desire to be "together forever with God" and then Eternal Life begins.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rev. Denk saying farewell to parish

by Jeff Saunders | Reporter

Northfield Center -- The life of a parochial or assistant pastor is one of hellos and good-byes, as the Rev. Michael Denk is experiencing as he prepares to leave St. Barnabas Parish.

"I came here when I was newly ordained as a priest in 2007, June of 2007," said Denk, 32. "We're on four-year terms and we rotate until we become a pastor."

Denk's next assignment is St. Joseph Parish in Amherst. He will end his time at St. Barnabas June 5 with a farewell Mass at noon, followed by a 4:30 p.m. reception in the Parish Center. There will then be a dinner at the Holiday Inn in Independence, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. and dinner served at 7 p.m. Tickets, which can be purchased at the parish rectory, are $25 or $16 for children 12 and under.

Denk said working with parish members has been a joy.

"These people are so involved," he said. "They are very creative people who can do anything."

Denk said there are a number of things that he has had the pleasure of being involved with, such as reviving Christ Renews His Parish, a program from the 1970s in which members of the parish meet weekly in teams, culminating in a retreat in the fall.

"It's really a time for people to renew their faith," he said. "People on the team will share their faith, talking about how God has worked in their lives."

Denk was also involved in last year's Year of the Priest celebration, during which past parish priests came together in a reunion, and the Year of the Marriage celebration in February, during which the parish honored married couples.

Denk has also worked with LifeTeen, a parish youth ministry that meets for scripture study and activities, such as open gym. LifeTeen had a Cardboard Campout in April, during which about 30 teens spent the night in cardboard boxes on parish grounds to get a feel for what it is like to be homeless and collected donations to benefit organizations that help those in need.

Denk said he has also enjoyed working with married couples in the parish and taking part with a parish missionary group that went to El Salvador in 2009.

Denk said his time at St. Barnabas has been a "great experience."

"It's been a blast. A joyful wonderful time," he said. "I'm grateful to God for giving me this opportunity."


Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3169

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Seperation Anxiety

Have you ever experienced separation anxiety? Separation anxiety comes when we no longer see or experience the one that we depend on for love and fear they will never return.

Think of a child going on their first sleepover. Who only an hour after being dropped off calls the father crying to pick her up because she is afraid to stay overnight away from her parents. Maybe, it was the first day of pre-school or kindergarten... remember how difficult it was to be alone for the day. Imagine baby boy crying when mommy just leaves the room. The child must learn that mommy or daddy will return. Although, separation anxiety normally refers to a child between the age of one and two, I think it is something that we all experience from time to time. Maybe you have experienced this yourself when your child went off to school, to college, or moved out on their own. What about the times your husband goes on a business trip? Or you have to leave your spouse or your child alone overnight in the hospital? It’s tough. I think it can also come in the older years. Think of a widow in a nursing home who yearns for her spouse but experiences loneliness. Maybe you even have separation anxiety about your own death and concern for the people you will leave behind.

I have to admit that I'm beginning to experience a little separation anxiety myself. In just a few weeks, I'll be moving from St. Barnabas to my new assignment at St. Joseph in Amherst. And there will be separation from the people of St. Barnabas. Many of you have become close friends and big supports. I see a number of you more than I see my own family. You have become a support to me in many ways and I know that I have for a number of you as well. So when I leave here I suspect I'll feel some separation anxiety. I'm already realizing how much I will miss all of your support, help, and presence. And maybe you are feeling this too with my leaving.

Jesus can calm all of this anxiety… “Do not let your hearts be troubled”

Jesus, before his disciples are even aware of what is going to happen, assures his disciples that they do not need to experience this separation anxiety with him. He calmly assures them… as he does us: "Do not let your hearts be troubled.” And then with great assuredness says: “I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be."

I will take you to myself... Wow, we can take great security in his arms. There is no need to worry about separation because he will take you to himself. Imagine him squeezing you in his arms holding you close... so that where He is you also may be. He wants to take you everywhere with him. There is nothing in this world that you have to do alone because He is with you.

Imagine him picking you up like a child, taking you to himself, pressing you to His chest, and never letting you go.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” There is no need for separation anxiety, because there is no separation. Jesus takes you to himself and he is with you always.

Remember the next time you experience this separation anxiety... He takes you to himself, He is with you, and he will never let you go.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Assignment

In case you have not heard. I have been assigned to St. Joseph in Amherst.

I had a nice conversation with Fr. Larry Martello who told me "This is a country parish, and things move just a little bit slower out here." Might be a great thing for me. I move on June 7th.

I will be celebrating a farewell mass at St. Barnabas on Sunday June 5th at noon. I'd love to have you there and if your free that evening some parishioners are having a reception call the rectory to RSVP if you would like to join us you would be very welcome.