Tuesday, December 25, 2012

She Believes

I wrote this song and thanks to the staff of St. Joseph I was able to record it with the microphone that they got me for Christmas!

Merry Christmas Mom,
Love, Michael

Merry Christmas

May God bless you all this Christmas with the Peace that only Jesus can bring.  

Merry Christmas,
Fr. Michael

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Last days of Advent.... St. Joseph pray for us.

I was going to walk out of the Blessed Sacrament chapel and this is what I saw outside the window. A snow covered pine tree, St. Joseph, night time.... I wonder what he must have been thinking days before our savior was born...

Monday, December 17, 2012

5 Tips for seeing a shooting star this Advent (Where is God in the Connecticut Shooting?)

Have you ever seen a shooting star?  Every year in December the Germid Meteor Shower streams through the winter Sky with a fantastic show.  I was at a parishioner’s house for dinner and after dinner our guests took us out to see the stars.  Unfortunately, it was a cloudy night and we were in Downtown Lorain, so there was a lot of light pollution.  The only visible “star” was the planet “Jupiter.”  While we were looking for stars these questions were asked... ‘Where are they?  How can we see them?  Where do we look?”  So I Googled it and here’s what I got!  These 5 tips for seeing a shooting star are very appropriate for Advent as well as we search and seek for Christ.  

5 Tips for Seeing a Shooting Star.  

1) Dark skies away from the glare of city lights are important, even on a moonlit night.  For optimum viewing, find a place to observe in the country.


The Truth is if we want to see a shooting star, we have to go into darkness.  The same is true for us in the Spiritual Life.  If we want to see a shooting star we have to go into darkness.  Have you spent some time in darkness this lent?  Have you gotten away from all the distractions, lights, noise, and craziness and spent some time in darkness and silence?  We can and should take ourselves away during Advent and spend some time in darkness.  

Sometimes we don’t go willingly into darkness, but we are plunged into it.  I believe that the Events on Friday morning in Connecticut have plunged our country once more into darkness.  The horrific shooting that happened early Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut became such a bloody scene that survivors were escorted out of the building being commanded to keep their eyes closed.  Just 10 days before Christmas 10 children, 12 girls and eight boys, all of them 6 or 7 years old — were shot as many as 11 times, H. Wayne Carver, the state medical examiner, said Saturday. It appeared that Lanza had enough weapons and ammunition with him to have killed many, many more.  In a matter of minutes a young man killed 26 people and his own life as well... in those moments, hearts would be forever torn and families would be shocked into the worst news a parent could ever hear.  

Once parishioner mentioned to me that the parents had probably already bought and wrapped the gifts for their children and these gifts would go unopened on Christmas morning.  

Many wonder and ask “Where is God in this?”  “How could God let this happen?”  “Is there a God, if things like this happen?”  The truth is... just as with shooting stars, God can actually be seen more clearly in the darkness.  

The father of Emilee Parker a six year old child killed in the shooting was interviewed just days after the shooting.  This man, who experienced what no father ever should, is able to see God very clearly in the darkness.  
“First of all I’d really like to offer our deepest condolences to all of the families who were directly affected by this shooting.  It is a horrific tragedy and we want everyone to know that our hearts and our prayers goes out to them, this includes the family of the shooter.  "I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you, and I want you to know that our family and our love and our support goes out to you as well,"  

My daughter Emilee would be one of the first ones to be standing and giving her love and support to all those victims, because that is the type of the person that she is.  Not because of any parenting that my wife and I could have done, but because those were the gifts that were given to her by her heavenly father.  As the deep pain begins to settle into our hearts we find comfort reflecting on the incredible person that Emilee was, and how many lives that she was able to touch in her short time here on earth.  Emilee was bright creative and very loving.  Emilee was always willing to try new things, other than food...

Emilee was a mentor to her to little sisters... her laughter was infectious... this world was a better place because she was in it.  As we move on from what happened here....what happened to so many people let it not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate, and more humble people.  let us please keep the sentiments of love that we feel for our families and the compassion that we feel for others, even complete strangers, and keep them with us at all times, and not just in times of sorrow or tragedy and may we do this so that we can better all of our communities and all of our cities and all of our states so that we can make everyone everywhere in this country feel safe.  

The last time I was with Emilee, I was leaving to work and she actually woke up before I left.  I’ve been teaching her Portuguese.  She asked how I was doing and I said that I was doing well and she said that she loved me and I gave her a kiss and I was out the door.  

The person that chose to act this way acted with a God given right of free agency.  I know that that is something that he was given and that was what he chose to do with it.  I’m not mad because I have my agency to use this event to do what I can and whatever I can to make sure that my family my wife and my daughters are taken care of and if there is anything that I can do to help anyone anytime anywhere (I’m there for you).”  

If we want to see a shooting star, darkness doesn’t prevent us; rather darkness actually helps us to see the bright and shining star.  Darkness is essential to seeing the light.  Spend some time in Darkness if you want to find Christ this Advent.  

2) The 2012 Geminid meteor shower will be better if you let your eyes adapt to the dark. Sometimes that takes as long as twenty minutes. So give yourself at least an hour of viewing time. The most Geminids usually fall in the wee hours after midnight centered around 2 a.m. local time. That time hold true no matter your time zone.


The second tip helps us to see that it does take time for our eyes to adjust to the dark... sometimes it takes as long as “Twenty Minutes!”  If this is true for our natural eyes, it is truer for our spiritual eyes.  It takes considerable time for our “eyes” our “heart” and our “soul” to adjust to the darkness.  

Often time’s people will come to me and say: “Father, I pray, I talk to God, but I’m just not hearing anything, I just don’t feel His presence.”  I’ll ask them... “Tell me about your prayer?”  And often they will respond by saying, well I talk to God while I’m driving, or before I go to bed I say my prayers maybe an “Our Father” and a “Hail Mary.”  And I help them to realize that the likelihood of us hearing God in a matter of minutes when we are doing the talking is highly unlikely.  We need to spend a considerable time in Darkness and in Silence before our spiritual “eyes” and “ears” even begin to adjust to the dark and silence.  

When you pray daily how much time do you spend?  Do you allow for at least 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark?  The Saints and Mystics have traditionally called for a Holy Hour every day.  The wisdom to the Holy Hour is that it allows for this time of “adjusting” to the Dark.  Maybe during these last days of Advent you could consider making a Holy Hour and allowing yourself considerable time to let your “eyes” adjust to the dark.  You may be surprised that you see a “shooting star” and God does appear to you.

3) The best way to watch meteors is to bring along a buddy. Both of you watch different parts of the sky. If one of you sees one, shout out “meteor!” If you don’t know which way to look, don’t worry. Just let your eyes rove casually in all parts of the sky.


The third point helps us realize the importance of community and friendship.  Do you have a spiritual friend that you pray with and share with?  The truth is that we were never supposed to do this alone.  God promises that “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Many people will ask me:  “Why do I have to go to mass on Sunday?”  Well the truth is that it is easier for us to see a shooting star if we are together and it is easier for us to see God in the darkness if we are together.  That is the importance in coming together as a father community.  When we gather together we actually help each other to see God.  

One of the darkness’s that is very hard for us to enter into is our sin.  The same thing is often said to me about confession.  “Father, why do I need to go to confession?  Can’t I just talk to God in my head?”  “Well, yes, you can, but God doesn’t want you to have to face and carry that sin alone... God wants to be there with you so that you can see Him in His priests, so that you can hear his voice say “I absolve you from your sins” and feel His Hands lay on your head.  You do not need to bare your sin alone and no matter how hard you try, you can never make your sin disappear or hear God absolve you... you were never meant to do it alone.  That is why we have been given this wonderful Sacrament of Confession.  Have you been to confession this Advent Season?  If it has been more than a year you are due.  The 2nd Precept of the Church is “You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”  If you need a refresher you can review it here on my blog:  http://fathermichaeldenk.blogspot.com/p/confession.html and if it has been many years, and you are very nervous, just say to the priest:  “Father it’s been years since my last confession, I don’t know what I’m doing, can you help me out?”  Trust me, not only will God be delighted to have you back, but the priest will as well.  “When he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy6and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” (Luke 15:6)

If you have a friend in the spiritual life it is much easier to see a shooting star and to see the Face of God.

4) Special equipment? Not necessary. You only need a dark sky, a reclining lawn chair and the warmth of a sleeping bag. A hot drink is also good. Just remember. Watching a meteor shower is not like turning on the television. You can’t expect to just look out the window, or simply step outside to see meteors. Your eyes take some 20 minutes to dark-adapt. If you’re serious about it, give yourself at least an hour of viewing time. Even the best meteor showers have lulls and spurts.


The fourth tip helps us to see that special equipment is not necessary for the spiritual life; as a matter of fact having extra equipment actually gets in our way from seeing God.  In today’s Gospel the disciples of John the Baptist are seeking Christ and they ask John:
"What should we do?"
He said to them in reply,
"Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise."

So very practically, do you have two coats in your closet?  If so, give one away.  John says very clearly that if we want to see God we cannot have excess.  St. Basil in His Sermon to the Rich says: “You with a second coat in your closet, it does not belong to you. You have stolen it from the poor man who is shivering in the cold.”  Think about the clothes in your closet.  Do you have more than you need?  Often times Christmas time becomes a time of us wanting more and more, but the key to Christmas and the key to Seeing God is to give it away.  There are many ways to do this in your own community.  If your parish has a giving tree, or a winter coat or blanket collection consider giving your extras away.  You could also consider tithing at the end of the year, give 10% of everything that you made to charitable organizations, or maybe even give away any extra that you do have. 
We do not need special equipment to see Christ, in reality if we have any excess it will be harder to see him.  Do you have excess?

5) As a wise man once said, meteor watching is a lot like fishing. You go outside. You enjoy nature all around you. You hope you catch some!
This is the greatest part of Advent, just like fishing or trying to see a shooting star, enjoy the nature all around you.   On the day that you were baptized you were immersed in the Holy Spirit.  That means God is in you and all around you.  You live in this life of grace.  Part of the joy is in the searching.  Enjoy this life that God has given to you, enjoy the people around you, and trust that if “you seek, you will find.”  (Matthew 7:7)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Prayer for the children and families of Newtown, Connecticut.

Nothing like a day of chainsawing for the masculine spirituality!

Nothing like a day of chainsawing for the masculine spirituality!

Nothing like a day of chainsawing for the masculine spirituality!

Nothing like a day of chainsawing for the masculine spirituality!

Nothing like a day of chainsawing for the masculine spirituality!

Nothing like a day of chainsawing for the masculine spirituality!

First time to west side market... Loved it!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

3 Ways to Enter into the Desert of Advent

How is your Advent?  

Have you experienced some of the silene, quiet, and mystery of the Season?  

Are you at peace?  

If not this homily will help...

There are really 3 Advents.  The first Advent was 2,000 years ago when Jesus came into the world as a tiny child.  Prophets and faithful had longed for thousands of years for the coming of Christ.  The Second Advent is happening right now... This is the longing and waiting for Christ to be born into your heart.  The third Advent is the Second Coming.  We long and wait for Christ to come again and bring us all with him to the Joys of everlasting life.

It is this Second Advent that I would like to focus on today.  How can we prepare to receive Christ into our hearts here and now?  

We heard in the Gospel of Luke today that Christ did not come to the important Tetrarchs and powerful Kings like Herod the Great... He came to a man named John whom no one had ever heard of.  He came to John in a certain place.  It was in the Desert that the Word of God "Advented" in John.  

The same is true for us.  We don't have to be important, powerful, or influential.  In fact the Word will come to us, as it did to John, in a very secret, quiet, and hidden way.  It will come to us in the Desert.  Advent is ultimately a time to go to the Desert and wait patiently for the Word to be born in us.  

So how do we "Go to the desert?"  

I would like to suggest three practical ways to enter into the desert and therefore enter more deeply into the Season of Advent.  

1) Take a "Desert Day."  What's a "Desert Day?" you may ask.  Well, traditionally the Desert Mystics spent months in the Desert, but since we don't all have that opportunity the saints, monks and mystics have developed a way to do this in the midst of a busy life.  It literally means taking an entire day "off" and spending it in some type of desert.  What this means is getting away.  Going somewhere where you can be alone with God, unplugged, out of reach, in nature, in silence and with God.  Try to think of a place that you can escape to.  Trust me it's worth it.  Your family will thank you for it, your children will thank you for the patient mother or father that you come back as, your spouse will thank you for the peace and gentleness that will return to you, and above all you will be glad that you did because it will really put you in the "Spirit" of Advent and therefore much more prepared to receive Christ this Christmas.  

A desert place can be any place that you can escape to, preferably somewhere in nature.  Maybe you have a cabin, or know someone with a cottage, or even a barn, some property in nature that you can escape to.  Maybe it's a favorite place that you have in the Metroparks, or it's a relative's farm.  If you don't have a place that comes to mind I highly suggest making a desert day at one of our Diocesan Retreat Houses.  In my hometown, only a half away is the Jesuit Retreat House in Parma.  Call ahead and just tell them your priest suggested you come and make a Desert Day.  They will be delighted to have you (I suggest making some donation to them just to give them support).  There is also Loyola of the Lakes in Akron which is run by the Benedictines.  You could spend the day there and walk their beautiful paths.  Abbot Clement is retired there and would surely see you if you would like.  Or maybe make a pilgrimage to one of the Shrines that we have in Ohio.  You can find all of these under the "Retreat House" Section on my Blog.  

2)  The Second way of entering into the Desert is through Music.  We hear in today's responsorial Psalm: "God has done great things for us, filled us with laughter and music."  I find that music can be a wonderful way to foster silence.  I'm talking good uninterrupted music.  I don't suggest turning on the radio for this because naturally at this time you will hear "Christmas Music" as well as tons of Advertising.  As Christians Advent really is a time of "Waiting" for Christmas.  So try and hold off on that until Christmas.  Although Christmas music may even help you prepare to receive Christ.  I went to a Christmas Concert on Friday.  My oldest niece had convinced her two grandmothers to be in the choir with her.  It was a wonderful experience just to sit and listen to music, singing, and praise for two hours.  I have to say I left there with a lifted heart, a joyful spirit and a profound sense of peace.

I know there isn't a lot of "Advent" Music, but I can tell you that there is a beautiful CD I came across that has made this a very sacred Advent for me.  It is called "Advent at Ephesus" and is a CD of beautiful music, chant, and singing from the Nuns at Ephesus.  I HIGHLY recommend ordering this CD.  You can download it directly through my site fathermichaeldenk.blogspot.com, from Amazon, or go to their website and order the CD directly from the Nuns.  

3)  The third way, and the simplest way is to "Light a Candle."  Advent really is a Season of allowing ourselves to be in the Darkness and look for the light.  I can think of nothing more profound, sacred, or enchanting than simply lighting a candle at night time and spending time in the darkness gazing at the light.  You could even build a fire in your fireplace and just spend 10 minutes gazing at the light in the darkness and this simple practice will profoundly enhance your Advent Season.  There is something very powerful about being in the darkness and gazing at the light.  I used to love decorating the Christmas Tree late at night in the Dark and wrapping the lights around it.  I'd set the manger up and place some white lights in there and then just sit and gaze at the wonder and beauty of light in the darkness.  You can do this too.  Light a Candle or better yet light two on an Advent Wreath and enjoy some “Desert Time” gazing at the Light coming into your life.  

It was in the Desert that the Word of God came to John and it is in the Desert that the word will come to us.  Go ahead take a "Desert Day", listen to some good Advent Music, and gaze at a Candle in the Darkness... If you do, Christ will come to you in the Darkness during this wonderful Season of Advent.  


Advent is also a time for "Major Renovation".  John the Baptist uses the images of Construction!

"Prepare the way of the Lord,   make straight his paths.   Every valley shall be filled   and every mountain and hill shall be made low.   The winding roads shall be made straight,   and the rough ways made smooth,

Do you need to do any major construction in your life? Is there any road that has gotten off course and needs to be made straight?  

You may notice all of the Construction Barrels are coming down for the winter... after months and months of Construction projects are coming towards their completion.  God hasn't given up "Constructing" you... He works with us throughout our entire lives.  

One of the Traditions of the Church in Advent is Confession.  As a matter of fact one of the Precepts of the Church is "To confess your sins at least once a year."  So, if it's been over a year, you're due!  

Trust me, this above all, will be a major way to prepare your heart for Christmas.  John cries out in the Desert... "REPENT".  There's no better way than to do this in confession.  It really is a wonderful Sacrament.  

Maybe you are not comfortable with it, or maybe you feel anxious or unsure.  I encourage you to read the steps in my blog along with my witness on confession and just maybe you will come to see it not as a burden, but a beautiful sacrament and a wonderful way to encounter Jesus this Advent Season.  You can also download the “Confession App”

If it has been more than a year, two years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years... go... go... go... trust me you will love it.  Even if you don't know what you are doing or how to do it.  Just go into the confessional and say "Father, it's been 20 years, I have no idea what I'm doing can you help me out here?"  Trust me you will make that priest's day and even more so God will be absolutely delighted.  

"I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance." LUKE 15:7

Many parishes are doing communal penance over these next weeks, extending their regular confession times and if need be you can even make an appointment with your favorite priest: call them, email them, or "Friend" them on facebook.  

To find a church near you go to masstimes.org, type in your city/zip code and see their confession times.  

Blessed Advent,
Fr. Michael

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas decorations up at the lake house

Saturday is a Holy Day of Obligation

Friday, December 7 (Evening Vigil Mass) or Saturday, December 8 (Morning Mass)

There is often misunderstanding concerning this Holy Day and the meaning of "Immaculate Conception."

From the Modern Catholic Encyclopedia:
The Immaculate Conception is the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was graced by God in such a way that she was preserved from sin from the first moment of her existence. "Immaculate" refers to the absence of sin or stain and "Conception" refers to Mary's very beginning.

This belief has nothing to do with the sexual manner of Mary's conception, nor with the way in which she later conceived her own child through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit...it points to God's graciousness to this woman as she came into the world sinless or "full of grace."

In 1854, after consultation with the world's bishops. Pope Pius IX declared this belief to be a dogma of the Catholic Church

In the United States this is a holy day of obligation, partly because this country is dedicated to Mary under the title of The Immaculate Conception.

Need to find a parish near you?  Use our Parish Locator by clicking here (in the Diocese of Cleveland). or go to masstimes.org anywhere else in the world!  

If you want to read about WHY it is an obligation and WHAT are details for mass because it falls on Saturday (meaning two masses possibly in one day) read here. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Salt and Light - Christmas Homily Frequented

December 25, 2012
St. Joseph
4pm (church), 10:30pm Christmas Eve and 9am Christmas Day

This Christmas is one of my best ever.  I think the reason is because I won’t have to go shopping after mass and before I see my family.  I got it all done online weeks ahead of time!  What motivated me was believe it or not, my Discover Card.  There this whole point system they have that during the month of December every purchase you make online you get 5% back.  So not only did I get all of my Christmas shopping done, online and early, but I got a kickback!  http://bit.ly/Zw7dub

There is some value to joining a rewards, point, or frequent flier system for things that you do a lot.  It makes sense to join a program and all the perks that come with it.  

Well, what does this mean for Christmas?  

you shall be called "Frequented,"

Does anyone have any rewards cards on them?  Points cards?  Frequent flier cards?  What are the perks?  How often do you use it?

to associate with, be in, or resort to often or habitually

  1. Constant, habitual, or regular

  1. To visit often; go to often, to frequent happening or occurring at short intervals: to make frequent trips to Tokyo

  1. To be in be often in:  located at short distances apart: frequent towns along the shore.
verb (used with object)

common, repeated
inconstant, infrequent, irregular, occasional, rare, sporadic, uncommon, unrepeated, unusual

Constants:  What are the constants in your life, the things that you do habitually, the people that you see regularly?  

  1. Constant, habitual, or regular

-family, work, friend, AA group,
-Who are the contants in your life?  
-Is Jesus constant in your life?  

  1. To visit often; go to often, to frequent happening or occurring at short intervals: to make frequent trips to Tokyo
-Where do you “Frequent” regularly?
-Do you visit with Jesus often?  Is He the first one you think of when you wake up and before you go to sleep?  
  1. To be in be often in:  located at short distances apart: frequent towns along the shore.
verb (used with object)
-Who or what is it that you want to have in you?  Who or what do you want to have with you all the time?  
-Jesus wants to be in us.  

 -newborn baby: you want to see them as often as you can because they grow so fast.

Who is the best friend that you have?  Who is the friend that you see most frequently? 
“He was a frequent visitor to our house”
“He frequents the bar often”
“He’s a close friend, I see him frequently.”  
“A bar frequented by sports fans.”  
“I’m a frequent flier”

Think of all the places that you frequent.  Where do you frequently go during the week?  
Work, the gym, school, the store, the gas station, your parents home, the nursing home,

Who are the people that you see most frequently?  
your family, husband, wife, children, coworkers, friends,  

Giant Eagle Rewards program

Frequent Flier Programs

Who are the people that you desire to see frequently? 

Who are the people that you actually see frequently? 

Sacraments give us Frequent access to God.
In the Sacraments God takes on Flesh.
Frequent Reception of Communion and Frequent Confession

Rediscover Catholicism Books
Monday Night Sessions beginning in January – New Years Resolution

Frequent Visits to the Blessed Sacrament

So how can we be with God Frequently?  

  1. Frequent reception of communion – come every Sunday
  2. Frequent confession: come at least once a year, twice a year, quarterly, once a month
  3. Frequent Visits to the Blessed Sacrament (Frequent prayer during the day)

If you have been away, if God hasn’t been a frequent part of your life and you desire more, Please take a copy of rediscover Catholicism and come to the sessions we will be offering on Monday nights.  

The Prophet Isaiah proclaims that you shall no longer be called desolate, the Lord this day comes to you and desires to visit you often, You shall be called frequented.  

Let God be a constant in your life, come to him often, and may it be so frequently that God is in you.  

You shall be called Frequented.