Sunday, September 29, 2013

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference."

Elie Wiesel NYC 3.9.07 075
We often say today that "The opposite of love is hate."  The Truth is "the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference."

Think of wife that is upset with her husband... one of the most painful things she can do is give him the "silent treatment."  She can cause him more pain by simply ignoring him, acting though he doesn't even exist, or looking right through him...  then she would cause by acknowledging him and hating him.

A priest friend shared with me a story from his seminary days.  He had made friends with another seminarian who came from a big institution.  The friend shared with him how he was labeled at this larger institution.  He was given the nickname, as others were, of "PNC".  It turned out "PNC" stood for "Persons of No Consequence."  He was treated as if he had no consequence, no importance, no effect, no status, no value, and no need to be paid any attention too.  People were indifferent to him. 

It turns out that this is one of the "suicidal ideations."  For a person to begin thinking about taking their own life there are a series of ideas that they hold to be true.  One of the common steps for someone considering committing suicide is.... "No one cares."  They often feel that not only are they misunderstood by people but that no one even cares to understand them.  The most painful thing they experience is when they "cry for help" and are met with indifference.

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference."

This quote was coined by holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. (Pronounced El-ee Vee-zel)

The secure world of Wiesel's childhood ended abruptly with the arrival of the Nazis in Sighet [Transylvania] in 1944. The Jewish inhabitants of the village were deported en masse to concentration camps in Poland. The 15-year-old boy was separated from his mother and sister immediately on arrival in Auschwitz. He never saw them again. He managed to remain with his father for the next year as they were worked almost to death, starved, beaten, and shuttled from camp to camp on foot, or in open cattle cars, in driving snow, without food, proper shoes, or clothing. In the last months of the war, Wiesel's father succumbed to dysentery, starvation, exhaustion and exposure.


For ten years, [after being freed] he observed a self-imposed vow of silence and wrote nothing about his wartime experience. In 1955, at the urging of the Catholic writer Francois Mauriac, he set down his memories in Yiddish, in a 900-page work entitled Un die welt hot geshvign(And the world kept silent). The book was first published in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Wiesel compressed the work into a 127-page French adaptation... 
(Academy of Achievement

The result was his internationally acclaimed memoir, Night (La Nuit), which has since been translated into more than thirty languages.
elie wiesel night
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed Elie Wiesel as Chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980, he became the Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He is President of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, an organization he and his wife created to fight indifference, intolerance and injustice. Elie Wiesel has received more than 100 honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning.  (Elie Wiesel Foundation)

The following is an excerpt from Elie Wiesel's Acceptance Speech, on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1986

I remember: it happened yesterday or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the kingdom of night. I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed.

I remember: he asked his father: "Can this be true?" This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?

And now the boy is turning to me: "Tell me," he asks. "What have you done with my future? What have you done with your life?"

And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.

And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

There is so much injustice and suffering crying out for our attention: victims of hunger, of racism, and political persecution, writers and poets, prisoners in so many lands governed by the Left and by the Right. Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. And then, too, there are the Palestinians to whose plight I am sensitive but whose methods I deplore. Violence and terrorism are not the answer. Something must be done about their suffering, and soon. I trust Israel, for I have faith in the Jewish people. Let Israel be given a chance, let hatred and danger be removed from her horizons, and there will be peace in and around the Holy Land.

Yes, I have faith. Faith in God and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all. Isn't this the meaning of Alfred Nobel's legacy? Wasn't his fear of war a shield against war?

There is much to be done, there is much that can be done. One person – a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, one person of integrity, can make a difference, a difference of life and death. As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our lives will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.

This is what I say to the young Jewish boy wondering what I have done with his years. It is in his name that I speak to you and that I express to you my deepest gratitude. No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night. We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them. Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.

Thank you, ... for declaring on this singular occasion that our survival has meaning for mankind.  (From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1986, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1987)

The following day he gave this lecture: Hope, Despair and Memory. Elie Wiesel shows how we must be shaken out of indifference and into action.

For us, forgetting was never an option.

Each one of us felt compelled to record every story, every encounter. Each one of us felt compelled to bear witness, Such were the wishes of the dying, the testament of the dead. Since the so-called civilized world had no use for their lives, then let it be inhabited by their deaths.

After the war we reassured ourselves that it would be enough to relate a single night in Treblinka, to tell of the cruelty, the senselessness of murder, and the outrage born of indifference: it would be enough to find the right word and the propitious moment to say it, 
to shake humanity out of its indifference and keep the torturer from torturing ever again. We thought it would be enough to read the world a poem written by a child in the Theresienstadt ghetto to ensure that no child anywhere would ever again have to endure hunger or fear. It would be enough to describe a death-camp "Selection", to prevent the human right to dignity from ever being violated again.

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. The Talmud tells us that by saving a single human being, man can save the world. We may be powerless to open all the jails and free all the prisoners, but by declaring our solidarity with one prisoner, we indict all jailers.... Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures, it is our gift to each other.  
(Excerpts from the Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1986)

So the question is... when you see someone poor... when you see someone suffering... when you see someone in need.  Are you indifferent?  Or do you act?

The indifference that allowed the world to stand by while the holocaust happened is the same indifference we hear about in the readings today.

The Prophet Amos exclaims: Woe to the complacent in Zion!  

"Woe to us if we are complacent... Woe to us if we are indifferent to those who suffer and are poor."  

We see this same indifference in the Gospel story of the Rich Man and the Poor Man.  The great crime of the Rich man, the sin that would cause him to be forever "tormented" in the eternal flames, was not hate, but indifference.

It was indifference that allowed him to dress in fine linen and purple garments dining sumptuously each day while the poor man named Lazarus laid right there at his doorstep starving and covered with sores.  He didn’t hate the poor man, he didn’t even acknowledge him, he was indifferent. 

We can all probably relate to this parable.  We have all at times in our lives probably stepped over the poor or have been overlooked by someone that could help us.  We may even become indifferent when we become overwhelmed by the World News of Chemical Weapons in Syria, the violence in Egypt, Nigeria needing 2.9 Trillion to bridge infrastructure deficit, and global poverty.

Maybe you've had an experience like the Rich Man and the Poor Man.  Say you are coming out of a nice restaurant in Downtown Cleveland and a beggar approaches you.  Or you see someone on a highway exit with a sign asking for money.  Or you see someone in need but don’t know how to help.

Chances are when you see this person you feel very uncomfortable, maybe not sure what to do, what to say or whether or not to give them anything.  If the poor make you feel uncomfortable that is a good thing.  That means that you are not indifferent to their poverty... that means deep down that you care.  Those feelings that you have that cause you discomfort are of God. 

The real sadness would be if you were like the rich man who didn't even notice the poor man lying at his door.  The real sadness would be "not to feel guilt"... to be "indifferent".

"The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference."

What if we do experience indifference? What if we do have this sense of being paralyzed before poverty? What if we feel overwhelmed by the injustice of the world?

Elie Wiesel reminds us that "Action is the only remedy to indifference." Action... ultimately this action is Love.  This love is the opposite of someone who does nothing because of indifference.

And how do we act? Who do we love? Who should we help when we have an entire world in need?

Focus on "One Person", focus on one cause, change one life.  As Elie Wiesel reminds us of the Talmud: "By saving a single human being, man can save the world."

So maybe you by yourself can't rid the world of poverty. Maybe you cannot even end poverty in Cleveland or your home town, but you can help one person. You can help one cause.  You can be the one to act when others are indifferent.

It was the sin of indifference that allowed the holocaust to happen.

It was the sin of indifference that allowed the poor man to lie starving at the door of the rich man.

It is the sin of indifference that keeps us from noticing and loving that one person who needs our help.

Remember, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference."

"Action is the only remedy to indifference."

"By saving one human being, man can save the world."

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Death of Their Son and Their Devoted Faith: You cannot serve both God and mammon.


"You cannot serve both God and mammon."

Jesus gives us this very clear, strong, and intense reality of the Spiritual Life. We cannot serve two masters. We will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other.

How do we know if we are living our lives serving God or Mammon?

I've been trying to think about this for some time and examine my own heart as well because the truth is we can all fall prey to the idolatry of money.
Here's a simple way that I cam up with.

Say you get a Christmas bonus this year, and it's sizeable. Maybe it's $2,000 or $5,000 or $10,000... what's the first thing you think of? What does your heart want to do with it?

Do you think immediately of what you can buy with it? What you can reward yourself with? What you can get that you haven't been able to get? Do you think of saving it for a bigger savings account or investing it?

... seems like Mammon to me....

Or do you think of somehow or someway that you can use it in service to God? Do you think of a greater good? Do you consider it as a gift to be passed on and given to others? Do you see it as an opportunity to do some further good or bless someone else because you have been blessed?

...your heart is devoted to God and to others.

Maybe you're still a kid or a young adult and you get a card from your Grandparents with a $50 in it?

Your first thought may be running up to Best Buy or getting something from iTunes. Maybe you're upset because they didn't give you more?


Or you open it and think... "Wow, I'm so grateful they thought of me. God, what can I do with this?" Maybe your heart thinks right away of a cause at school or a friend that is down or of giving in some way to others. If your heart and mind immediately are grateful and turn to being generous with that gift... are aligned with God. 

Recently EWTN did an episode on some good friends of mine and is very well worth watching.  It was so good to watch their story again because I've come to know them more over the years and just continue to see how dedicated they are to God. 

Here's an excerpt from their story which you can find in full no their website

We remember New Year’s Eve, 1999 like it was yesterday. As the ball dropped on Times Square, we entered into a new Millennium. We talked about life and about our three wonderful children, Taylor, Bobby, and Francesca. We talked about our work, our marriage, and how blessed we were that everything was going so well in our lives. We thanked God for all that He had given us: healthy kids, a good job, a new home, and a future that looked bright. We talked about wanting to give back to others, though we weren't sure how. Before we knew it, winter was over and spring had arrived. It was May of 2000 and our lives were about to change forever. On Mother’s Day evening, May 14, 2000, we rushed our only son, Bobby, to the emergency room with a high fever. Though we knew something was wrong, we both expected to be home in a few hours to tuck Bobby into his bed and wake up the next morning to keep living our normal, blessed life. But we didn't come home until the next evening, and we did so without our son. Bobby died from an infection caused by bacterial meningitis at just three years old. Soon after Bobby’s death, we searched for comfort and direction. We desperately needed help. Although our world seemed to have stopped, the world that we lived in had continued to orbit at a much faster pace. Mark was expected to get back to work soon after Bobby’s death; Christi was supposed to care for our other children in the very home that Bobby used to run around and play in – his room now empty, his laundry not dirty, his toys lying in the same spot.

Before this happened Mark will admit that he wasn't exactly strong in his faith. He was focused on all the things guys are focused with. His wife would drag him by the arm to church and other religious events. Everything changed when Bobby died. 

There is one moment in particular that I find so moving. After he died the family members were each grieving in their own way. Mark because he was so caught up in his own grief didn't realize how much his wife Christie and their children were hurting. He remembers walking into their bedroom and seeing the closet door closed. As he walked up to the door he could hear his wife sobbing in the dark. He opened the door and let himself in to find her completely overwhelmed... he held her in his arms and she just said: "Mark, I can't do this anymore." 

It was then that he realized he needed God's help. He told her that God put them on this earth for a reason and it wasn't just to be happy, it was to serve a purpose. He knew that if they wanted to love and honor Bobby then they needed to love and honor each other because no one loved their son more than they did. 

Mark who had really not been a leader in the faith now was taking his family to adoration, to church, to monthly confession, and they began praying the rosary together as a family. 

You can see the difference. At this point now he was completely serving God and not mammon. 

The most striking line that he says is: "Father, I wish it wouldn't have happened this way." "I wish it didn't take the death of my son to bring me to faith." 

As Mark and Christi will tell you nothing is more difficult than losing their child. But they also have come to know that it doesn't have to be without meaning and purpose. Their entire family has been blessed because of Bobby's life and death. Their marriage is better than it's ever been, their children are really being raised with the eyes of faith, they are involved in their church, devoted to God, and now give their whole lives to helping others who are grieving the loss of a loved one. 

The truth is we all have to make a choice at some point of our lives. We need to choose whether to serve God or Mammon. We cannot serve both. And at some point the chips will fall, our lives will be rocked, and our perception of self-preservation, independence, and power will come crumbling down. 

So who do you serve: God or Mammon?

Often times we find ourselves more attached to mammon: wealth, power, success than we realize. 

If you are not totally devoted to God here are three practical ways:

1) Pray: Ask God to open your eyes and see. Go up to your church and make a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Ask your loved ones: "Am I too possessed by money?" 

2) Give: In some way give some of your money to the poor. If you found yourself thinking of yourself first to what you would do if you received a bonus, or cash, or won the lottery... consider giving some of what you have to the poor. The church has traditionally taught tithing. This is the practice of giving 10% of everything that we get to the poor. So if you get a $5,000 bonus, give 10% of that, give $500 to the poor. Consider giving to your church, to an organization, or even to someone directly that you know could use the help. 

3) Know: Get to know the poor. Take the opportunity of getting to know someone who is poorer than you. Maybe it's a neighbor or a coworker. Maybe it is signing up to help at a soup kitchen or shelter. Maybe it is going on a Mission Trip with your parish or church. Once you get to know the poor you will want to help them, you will want to give, and you will realize how blessed you are by God and desire to bless others with your wealth. 

The truth is we all have to make a choice. 

Which will you serve: God or Mammon?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Syria: A Father Reunited with His Son whom He Thought was Dead.

father kiss

 The Prodigal Son is said to be the Greatest Parable ever told.  Some would say that everything that we need to know about God is found in this parable.

Scripture scholar Joachim Jeremias states in The Parables of Jesus (New York, 1963), it “might more correctly be called the parable of the Father’s Love…”, for it is a powerful and unforgettable depiction of God’s love and mercy.

Much has been written about it and much could be said about it, but for this reflection I would like to focus on three simple actions of the Father.

While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.

The Father running to his son, The Father embracing his son, and The Father kissing his son.

For Each of these I'm going going to use a small modern story to help bring it to life.

"He ran to his son" 

(I was able to find the actual story online... here is an abridged version).

I was two years shy of becoming a mother when I learned my greatest lesson about parenting. This information was not gleaned from a New York Times bestseller, a renowned pediatrician, or an experienced parent. It came from a 10-year-old boy born to a drug-addicted mother, with an Individualized Education Plan thicker than an encyclopedia—a boy with permanent scars along the side of his left arm from a beating with an extension cord when he was three.

Kyle taught me the one and only thing I really needed to know about loving a child through the challenges of life.

This is my story …

It had been a difficult move. I left my family and friends and the beloved mid-western state where I’d lived most of my life. My new home was thousands of miles away from anything I knew. It was hot—all the time. There were no seasons and teaching jobs were hard to come by. Having seven years experience as a behavior specialist, I was up for a challenge. I would accept any job if it meant I could do what I was born to do—teach.

I accepted a teaching position in a classroom for children with an array of educational diagnoses. They were students with severe learning and behavioral difficulties who’d been shuffled from school to school. So far, no program in the district was able to meet their challenging needs.

The first few months of school were difficult. It was not unusual for me to cry as I made my 45-minute commute to the inner city. It required a deep breath to even open the classroom door, but I came back every day praying this would be the day—a breakthrough to one broken soul.

On this particular morning, I was excited. The other lead teacher and I had spent weeks teaching the children appropriate behavior for public outings. We would be going putt-putting and out to lunch. Miraculously, most of the children in class earned this privilege—only a few had not. Alternative arrangements were made for those students while we took the field trip.

Kyle was one of the students who had not earned the field trip, and he was determined to make that disappointment be known.

In the corridor between classrooms, he began screaming, cursing, spitting, and swinging at anything within striking distance. Once his outburst subsided, he did what he’d done at all his other schools, at home, even once at a juvenile detention center when he was angry—he ran.

The crowd of onlookers that congregated during the spectacle watched in disbelief as Kyle ran straight into the heavy morning traffic in front of the school.

I heard someone shout, “Call the police.”

Based on the information in Kyle’s file, I knew the officers would locate him and place him on a 5150 hold for a psychiatric evaluation.

But I could not just stand there. So I ran after him.

Kyle was at least a foot taller than me. And he was fast. His older brothers were track stars at the nearby high school. But I had worn running shoes for the field trip, and I could run long distances without tiring. I would at least be able to keep in him my sight and know he was alive.

With the agility of a professional athlete, Kyle dodged the moving vehicles in his path. After several blocks of running directly into on-coming traffic, he slowed his pace. Although it was still morning, the tropical sun was bearing down on the black tarmac baking anyone crazy enough to be running full speed on it.

Kyle took a sharp left and began walking through a dilapidated strip mall. Standing next to a trash compactor, he bent over with his hands on his knees. He was heaving to catch his breath. That is when he saw me. I must have looked ridiculous—the front of my lightweight blouse soaked with sweat, my once-styled hair now plastered to the side of my beet-red face. He stood up abruptly like a frightened animal that thought it was alone suddenly discovering he’d been spotted.

But it was not a look of fear.

I saw his body relax. He did not attempt to run again. Kyle stood and watched me approach. My exhaustion caused me to slow to a walk.

Kyle remained still.

I had no idea what I was going to say or what I was going to do, but I kept walking closer.

We locked eyes, and I willed every ounce of compassion and understanding in my heart toward his own.

He opened his mouth to speak when a police car pulled up, abruptly filling the space between Kyle and me. The principal of the school and an officer got out. They spoke calmly to Kyle who went willingly into the back of the vehicle. I did not come close enough to hear their words, but I didn’t take my eyes off Kyle’s face. His eyes never left mine … even as they drove away.

It was days before Kyle would be allowed to return to school. I shared my disappointment regarding the turn of events with Kyle’s speech therapist who was familiar with Kyle’s past history and family situation.

She placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “No one ever ran after him before, Rachel. No one. They just let him go.”

Kyle eventually came back to school. I quickly noticed that when he had a choice of which teacher to work with or which teacher to accompany him to special classes, he chose me. As weeks passed, he was glued to my side, complying with instructions, attempting to do his work, and once in awhile even smiling. For a child with severe attachment issues, it was quite amazing that he was developing a bond with me.

One day on the way to art class, Kyle unexpectedly grasped my hand. It was unusual for a boy his age and size to hold his teacher’s hand, but I knew I must act like it was the most normal thing in the world.

And then he leaned in and quietly said something I will never forget.

“I love you, Miss Stafford,” he whispered. And then, “I never told anyone that before.”

Part of me wanted to ask, “Why me?”

But instead I simply relished the moment—an unimaginable breakthrough from the child whose file bore the words: “Unable to express love or maintain a loving relationship with another human being.”

Besides, I knew the turning point. Things changed the day he ran, and I ran after him.

This is an image of the Father's love.  You have a God who will run after you.  God will not wait for you to get back to Him, but from the moment you turn to Him, the moment you call for Him, the moment you desire to move towards Him, God runs to you!  

Hopefully you have someone in your life that you know would run after you if you ran away.  God puts people into our lives to help us to see that we are worth running after.  Who are the people in your life that you know would run to you?

Embraced Him

The Father embraces His Son.  There's something about a warm embrace that can make you feel loved, accepted, and calm.  

There's kind of a protocol between guys, a certain way that a hug is acceptable.  I all it the "Guy Hug".  It begins with some kind greeting like "Hey Man What's Up?"  There's a handshake with the right hand and then you have to figure out if the guy is a close friend or not.  If so you put your left hand up  and if he freaks out you just pat his shoulder.  If he reciprocates you kind of do a shoulder bump and reach your left arm around without really touching him and pat him on the back two or three times.  You want to make sure that you do this in a way that it makes some kind of patting, thudding or thumping noise.  Then you quickly back away and transition into some kind of "Hey good to see you" line.  Pay attention because if you don't follow this protocol exactly it can become real awkward real quick.  Follow this link for more directions!  

I remember when I first came to St. Joseph I knew of the pastor but we didn't really know each other as good priest friends.  As I walked into the lobby area I saw his portrait on the wall and as with most portraits he looked very serious.  When Fr. Martello came out to greet me I offered him a handshake but instead of shaking mine he put up his arms and gave me a big bear hug and said: "Welcome."  I remember feeling very welcome, at home, and had a sense of "this is going to be a good assignment." 

I've witnessed this in others too.  Bishop Roger, when he celebrates Confirmation at the parishes, takes a moment with everyone that comes up to him lays hands on their head, anoints them, and hugs them.  Now I have to say it's so great to watch because these are usually high school teenagers.  Often times they are trying to look cool in front of everyone, they may have an attitude, some of them aren't even sure they want to be there or may not want to be confirmed in the first place.  They often come up with very tough looks and an attitude of hardness but it is amazing because he will just grab them by the shoulders, pull them close, and give them this big bear hug.  But something happens in that moment because everyone of those teens walks away beaming with a big smile on their face.  What's behind that smile?  I think it is because they had an experience of being hugged, loved, accepted and blessed by their Bishop.  They had a glimpse of God the Father hugging them.  And the response is joy, peace, goodness, and love.  (Notice that these are the "Fruits of the Holy Spirit."

When was the last time someone really gave you a hug.  When was the last time you embraced someone in a way that brought a feeling of joy, peace, goodness and love?  Hopefully we have all experienced this sense of being welcomed by someone because it is a glimpse of how the Father desires to embrace and hold us.

You are loved by the Father in this way and He longs to hold you in His Embrace.

Kissed Him

If you haven't seen the video of the Father reunited with his son you can watch it here.

Here is the story from the Washington Post.

The videos out of Syria over the past two years of war have been so horrific, and so numerous, that Secretary of State John Kerry mentioned them multiple times in making his implicit case for likely U.S.-led military strikes against Syria. They've been an important tool for documenting the conflict as well as communicating, through individual stories and moments, the human toll of the war.

So it’s a relief and a delight to see this video, apparently from the southwestern Syrian town of Zamalka, that was posted online Monday by Syrian activists. The footage purports to show a father reuniting with his young son, who he thought had been killed, as thousands of Syrian children have been, in a recent attack by regime forces.

The man who first appears when the video opens isn't the father – he’s someone else, perhaps another relative. It’s not until a minute in that the boy’s father appears, his face twisted in joy, running out of the house to see his son.

Even if you don’t speak a word of Arabic, the family’s body language says everything. There is a lot of crying and hugging and grateful recitations of the Takbir (“Allahu akbar!” or “God is great!”). If you can hold it together through all seven minutes, you’re stronger than I am. But this video provides a welcome, if all too rare, moment of solace and joy in a war that has had precious little of either.

The most powerful part is when the Father just keeps holding his sons head, pets his hair, and kisses him over and over again.  The family and friends keep kissing the boy and the father and each other.  There is such uncontrolled joy at this father having his son back... His son who he thought was dead is now alive.

This really is a modern day vision of the Prodigal Son.  This is the way that God runs to us, embraces us and kisses us when we turn to Him.

Hopefully you experience God the Father as this warm, affectionate, and loving personal presence in your life.  If you don't consider spending some time in prayer today.  Make a Holy Hour and ask Jesus to allow you to have this felt experience with His Father.  Pray with Luke Chapter 15 and try to imagine God, The Father, Running to you, Embracing you, and Kissing you.

Once we have experienced God in this way we will always want to stay in that embrace.  We will always know that we are beloved sons and daughters.  We will come to this realization that God loves us, delights in us, takes great joy in us and expresses it to us.

Once we have experienced this we will become the Father's love in our world.  You will run to those who have run away.  You will embrace those who feel so broken and alone.  You will kiss those have have been lost and help them see their dignity.  You will bring people to the love of the Father and see the fruit of joy, peace, happiness and love radiate from them.

This truly is the greatest parable ever told because it reveals to us that God runs to us, embraces us, and kisses us.  The result is a life of joy, peace, happiness and love.   

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Icon Prayer

icon Christ the High Priest

"When You Sit with Me"

When you sit with me
I am an icon,
mirror into the soul,
reflecting your phenomenal human nature.

Tell me what you see.
Your smiles and tears
etched momentarily into my heart
create an outline of soul.

Your memories
invoking ancient pigments of thought
are placed briefly on the white board of my mind.
Your words
puddle and push both intense opaque color
and forgiving transparent washes into emerging layers,
until awareness
is drawn to the perfect whole.

Your story,
the somber shadows nestled against the halo's golden glow,
in every saint's image.

When you sit with me
I am an icon,
window to heaven,
allowing the luminous divine nature in you
to be seen.

That is how I listen.

-Regina Roman

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Children of Africa - Mission Appeal

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“I would never be able to see myself the same, the world the same, or my obligation to care and provide for those who are most poor and vulnerable.”

When I entered the seminary in 2001 I had no idea that I would embark on a journey that would take me across the world. I went to the seminary with the notion that I was giving my life to God and so all adventure would come to an end. What I discovered is that when we draw close to God and offer him our lives he takes us places beyond our wildest dreams.

It is now nearly a decade later and the children of Africa have always held a piece of my heart. I still tell the stories, I still relish in the memories, but most importantly I have been formed as a priest and as a person with a heart for the poorest of the poor. I had been repeatedly warned that taking a mission trip such as this would be a life-altering event still I could never have imagined how much my life would be impacted by this initial trip.”

There are two scripture passages that have not left my mind since our memorable trip to Africa. The first is Jesus inviting Peter to touch him – “put your hand into my side” (John 20:27) so that you may believe. I have been given the opportunity to place my hands into the side of Jesus, to touch the wounded and broken, to experience more the mystery of suffering and vulnerability.

The second passage is “the harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few.”(Matt. 9:37) Father Joseph Valente, a Comboni missionary from Italy ministering among the street youth in Kampala, gave a homily to us on our last Sunday morning in Africa.That very night he had a fatal heart attack. We were struck with the realization that we were eye-witnesses to his final reflections on the words of Jesus. He centered all his thoughts on this very passage. He imaged the harvest Jesus spoke of as the children that were in abundance in the streets. He saw how they were wasting away because there was no one there to gather and care for them. I’ve realized since this trip that around the world the harvest is abundant; there is an abundance of vulnerable children throughout the world just waiting to be helped and held by us. These gifts are so pure and wonderful. These children are sent from God, created by God, given to us by God, and they are being wasted. They are perishing in the streets because they are not loved; they are not seen as a gift but a burden. I have been given this opportunity to see their goodness, I have been able to see the wonderful gifts that they are, I have been able to touch the side of Jesus when I touch them, and I thank God for them.

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"We Pray for Children" Prayer

We pray for children who sneak popsicles before supper,who erase holes in math workbooks,who can never find their shoes.

And we pray, for thosewho stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,who never "counted potatoes,"who are born in places where we wouldn't be caught dead,who never go to the circus,who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for childrenwho bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,Who sleep with the cat and bury goldfish,Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,Who slurp their soup.

And we pray for thosewho never get dessert,who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,who watch their parents watch them die,who can't find any bread to steal,who don't have any rooms to clean up,whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser,whose monsters are real.

We pray for children who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,who like ghost stories,who shove dirty clothes under the bed,and never rinse out the tub,who get visits from the tooth fairy,who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool,who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for thosewhose nightmares come in the daytime,who will eat anything,who have never seen a dentist,who aren't spoiled by anybody,who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for childrenwho want to be carriedand for those who must,for those we never give up onand for those who don't get a second chance.For those we smother…and for those who will grab the hand of anybodykind enough to offer it.

We pray for children. Amen

from We Pray for Children, 1995, William Morrow publishers

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mother Teresa’s Humility List

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“Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal."

1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.

2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.

3. Avoid curiosity.

4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.

5. Accept small irritations with good humor.

6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.

7. Accept censures even if unmerited.

8. Give in to the will of others.

9. Accept insults and injuries.

10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.

11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.

12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.

13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.

14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.

15. Choose always the more difficult task.