Where is God leading you at this moment in time?
Who would have known that driving a tractor-trailer truck for eight years would come in handy for being in church ministry? As we relocate once again, my skills at driving a truck have proven to beneficial.
Where is God leading you at this moment in time?
How do you make a farewell luncheon a little more memorable? Give the gift of socks.
Do you have a co-worker who knows how to add a spark of life to everything? If you have ever had the experience of working with someone like that, you know how good it can be. You also know it can be a bit perilous as well. It can keep a perpetual question sitting in the back of one's mind. What is going to happen next and how will it impact me?
A simple "Farewell Luncheon" recently reminded me of the surprises lurking in the smallest of places. One gift was sitting at my place at the restaurant. It was a small box beautifully adorned with a bow that was bigger than the box. A little bit of me wondered what was going to pop out of the box when I opened it.
As I carefully opened the box, and listened to see if I could hear ticking in the process, I was surprised to see some colorful fabric underneath the gift paper inside. As I pulled it out I realized that I had been given a pair of socks. Once I unrolled the socks and saw the image and the printing on them, I knew this luncheon would never be the same.
Of course, I try to never let a good opportunity pass by without capitalizing on the moment at hand. Thus, I took my new socks to the next table and showed them to a guy who I knew was a "never-Trumper." I thanked him profusely for his part in obtaining for me such a wonderful gift. I won't go into detail, but let's just say that the conversation never lulled from that moment onward.
This was all done in great fun. (No one had to go find a safe space in the process.) However, it did highlight how differently each of us can perceive things.
"A nation divided against itself cannot stand." Sacred Scripture provides this insight. Abraham Lincoln reiterated it in one of his speeches. There is profound wisdom in the statement, and it provides a roadmap of where we are headed as a country. I think most of us can agree that we are a country deeply divided. The question then becomes, "When will we fall as a nation?"
The soul of our country is in peril. This isn't about a pair of socks or even a MAGA hat. It should be clear by now that politicians will not solve our problems. (In many cases they are the problem.) We need people who are willing to walk humbly with God if we desire healing and peace for our land. Each one of us has a role to play. How can you help build the Kingdom of God in your own home, parish, and community?
This photo was taken on July 13, 2014 at a celebration of Sr. Rose's 60 years as a Precious Blood Sister in O'Fallon, Missouri. We heard many great stories that day from people who worked with her in a variety of settings through the years. I am sure some of those same stories will be shared once again as friends and family gather to celebrate her life and pray for her eternal rest.
We are in the process of moving today so I will be unable to attend the funeral. However, Sister Rose had asked me a long time ago to offer a few words at the conclusion of her funeral Mass. Although I will not be in attendance, I asked my brother, Deacon Mark, to offer the eulogy on my behalf. I have included the text below.
(Eulogy by Deacon Vernon--presented by Deacon Mark)
Dear Family, Friends, Clergy, and Sisters of the Most Precious Blood:
Sister Rose asked me more than a year ago if I would say a few words at her funeral. I assured her that I would if it was at all possible. I am deeply saddened that I am unable to be in attendance with all of you today, but unfortunately, at this very moment I am in the process of relocating from South Carolina to Iowa. However, I am grateful to share these thoughts with you from long distance.
Sister Rose was already in the convent when I came into this world. Thus, I did not get to really know her until my adult years. I especially came to know her on a professional level after my ordination to the diaconate. I just celebrated my 20th anniversary as a deacon last week, and the impact that Sister Rose has had on my ministry is immense.
I went to school for an additional year after ordination receiving my certifications to be a Coordinator of Religious Education at all age levels. I subsequently took my first full-time position in the Church immediately after completing that coursework. I became the Director of Religious Education at a small parish in Florence, Colorado in July of 2000.
While I had completed more than five years of coursework in theology and pastoral ministry, the realization hit me that I had no practical experience in the role I was about to assume. I shared my concern with Sister Rose and she quickly became my mentor. She handed me four binders with detailed processes of running a religious education program. It contained all of her parent letters, catechist letters, notes on preparing for sacraments, and many other details that I had not even considered. To put it mildly, she was well-organized and thorough. My fears were greatly relieved by having these valuable resources.
Through the years Sr. Rose shared more and more of her thoughts about ministry with me. I learned valuable insights about being a good administrator, but I also garnered much more. One of the things I remember most is when she said, “Administration of programs will consume a lot of your time. It simply is the reality. However, don’t forget to minister to people while you are involved in all of the administrative responsibilities.” That was solid advice.
As I remember Sister Rose today, I am grateful for many things. I have been a successful administrator in a variety of capacities over these last twenty years. There is no doubt in my mind that much credit is due to Sister Rose for getting me started on the right foot. I am moving today in preparation of becoming the Executive Director for St. Albert Catholic Schools in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Sister Rose will influence even more people through my leadership in this new environment.
While her brother Jack was still alive, we enjoyed some boisterous card games. We gave each other a hard time in the process of trying to come out winners. She even asked me once if I had received a double dose of original sin at birth. Can you feel the love?
In all seriousness, it is with great love that we say good-bye to a wonderful person today. We are grateful for the ministry of Sister Rose and the many lives she touched in a positive way through the years. I truly ask for God’s perpetual light to shine upon her.
In closing, dear sisters of the Most Precious Blood, please accept my deepest condolences. Thank you for everything you have done for Sister Rose through the years and thank you for your faithful witness to Jesus Christ.
Today is my last day as the Director of Religious Education at St. Francis by the Sea Catholic Church in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Although my time here has been short, it has been blessed. I am grateful to each of you for your kindness and support while I have been serving in this capacity. Many thanks to the clergy, administration and staff at both the parish and the school. It has been a joy working alongside all of you.
The beauty of the campus is astounding at St. Francis by the Sea, but it is nothing compared to the beauty of God's people striving to live a life in accord with God's commands. Keep up the good work. Keep praying. Keep studying God's Word. Grow in love with God and your neighbor. Be a saint. Articulate hope to a hurting world!
What are the odds of flying a paper airplane onto the ledge of the windows? Apparently, pretty favorable. (Do you see it up there in front of the second window from the left?)
What are the odds of the St. Louis Blues winning the Stanley Cup? Ask people who made wagers back in January when they were in last place. I am sure those people are all smiles today. The Blues could not do it in front of the hometown crowd on Pentecost Sunday, but they were able to pull it off last night in Boston.
I had to chuckle this morning as I opened my Liturgy of the Hours prayer book to the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua. For those of you not familiar with St. Anthony, he is known as being the saint who helps you find lost things. Could it be that St. Anthony helped the St. Louis Blues find the missing Stanley Cup? The team and the city have waited a long time for such a moment. Congratulations!
I think the reflection question today deserves asking. The Chicago Cubs won a World Series in baseball and now the Blues have won a Stanley Cup. Are we living in the end times?
Margaret and I were blessed yesterday evening by my brother deacons and their wives from St. Francis by the Sea with a dinner out and great company. It has been a true pleasure working with these dedicated and wonderful people. Only one deacon was unable to attend. (He was actually out doing ministry by preparing for another "Christ Renews His Parish Retreat.") We are glad his wife joined us even if he could not.
While Margaret and I have only been here for a year, the folks in this picture have become like family. There is a definite bond among the diaconate community wherever you go. I am grateful for the kindness and generosity they have extended to us during our time here. Our lives have been enriched because each of them have become part of it.
The people in this photo do a lot of work for the Church. Much of it goes unseen and unnoticed by the majority of parishioners, and yet, they continue to give of themselves without hesitation. To my brother deacons and your wives, may God richly bless you in your ministry for many more years to come!
The Easter season drew to a close yesterday on the great Solemnity of Pentecost. The Easter candle was snuffed out at the end of Mass to symbolize the shift in the liturgical year. It was somewhat sad to experience that visual sign and then hear the double alleluia at the dismissal reminding us that "the 50-day party is over." It is back to Ordinary Time today.
Do these liturgical seasons really impact the way we live our Christian lives? Are we any different today than we were back on Ash Wednesday, March 6? Did we grow in our relationship with the Lord during the journey of Lent and through the season of Easter? Did the fifty days of Easter pass us by without hardly a notice?
The culture has influenced society greatly through the years. Sometimes I think we are all paddling in the same direction just because it is easier than going against the flow. However, we as Christians, are called to be counter-cultural at times. Are we willing to stand strong when the current is against us?
My dear readers, even Ordinary Time in the Church is not ordinary. We continue to celebrate the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary which brought us redemption. What a tremendous blessing it is for us to gather each week to pray and worship as a community of believers!
It is no secret that Mass attendance declines during the summer months. While I hope you find great refreshment during these days of fun in the sun, please continue to participate fully in the life of the Church. Our relationship with God must remain a priority at all times.
Although Pentecost did not end the way St. Louis Blues fans had hoped, there is still a chance that Wednesday night will bring great rejoicing. For the flood ravaged state of Missouri, I hope you have a Stanley Cup to celebrate in the midst of so much devastation in the area.
Different cultures may utilize varying methods to depict sacred truths. I like the photo above from St. Stephen's Indian Mission in Wyoming because of the power that emanates from the image. It is my hope and prayer that we all experience a renewal in the power of the Holy Spirit today as we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.
I read an article a long time ago that said, "Some years ago a preacher caused a fuss when he said in one of our Australian Anglican Cathedrals: ‘If the Holy Spirit were removed from this place, 99% of what we do here would go on unhindered!'" Although I don't remember the source of the statement, it has stuck with me. We can get so bogged down in ministry running programs and taking care of business that we forget the mission handed onto us by God the Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. How much of our work would go on if the Holy Spirit were removed from our midst? I am scared at how closely we would fall in line with the preacher's remarks.
The Holy Spirit is simply God in action. God acts in our lives individually and in the life of the Church. I have tried to keep this in the forefront of my mind, especially in regard to my preaching. I want to preach and proclaim God's Word faithfully, and with deep conviction. I want my words to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. If the mission and purpose of preaching is life transformation, it has to be rooted in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Those of us entrusted with the privilege of preaching have a huge responsibility. If we are faithful in Preaching with the fire of Pentecost all year long, it will evoke a response. As the Scriptures say, it will “cut to the heart.” Are we seeing God's people make a response due to our preaching? If so, is it a positive response? We want to see people experiencing renewal and joy so they can live faith-filled lives dedicated to the Lord in a culture that will challenge their convictions at every turn. Are we equipping them for such a task?
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." (Acts 1:8) Do we really believe this? The danger of organized Christianity today is that it can become powerless! There is nothing more boring than empty theological words. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) Is that the type of life we are experiencing? If not, why not?
“Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”
How does the wind, fire, and tongues apply to us today?
Read John 14:12. (Yes, look it up. I am not giving you the verse.) Read it. Pray over it. Meditate upon it. Then ask yourself, "Am I seeing this kind of power in my life? If not, why not?"
The last day of school was Thursday. Before lunch on Friday each hallway in the school looked like this. Our maintenance personnel wasted no time in getting started with the summer duties of caring for the school facility.
Watching things like this happen in such a short span of time reminds me of the many cogs of a wheel that keep a place running effectively. We each have a role to play, and if one component is lacking the whole institution suffers. I remember how bright and clean the school looked at the beginng of the year last August. The journey has begun to once again bring back that shine.
I offer a word of gratitude to all who are involved in Catholic education--administrators, teachers, support staff, cafeteria personnel, maintenance and janitorial staff, groundskeepers, volunteers, board members, and all who support the work of the Church and the school with your stewardship of time, talent, and financial resources. All of you are vital pieces of the puzzle which allow us to educate and form our young people well. Thank you.
It is my prayer that all of you experience relaxation and refreshment during the summer so that you return next year renewed in mind and spirit. Blessings and peace!
You can read the various accounts on the internet in regard to how this Dutch teenager died. Some call it euthanasia; some call it suicide. Whatever you call it, I think most of us will agree that we can call it tragic. Our world is in desperate need of God's love and healing. Be the light of Christ to someone today.
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