I did not take the tour to the bottom of the canyon. My sense of adventure only goes so far.
Binoculars came in handy to examine the landscape a little more closely.
Each direction contained something just a little bit different.
The colors and formations in the Grand Canyon are simply breathtaking.
The beauty is almost beyond description.
How have you encountered God's presence recently?
I had been to the Grand Canyon in 1983 and I really did not have much of a desire to go back. However, my wife and I had asked our son where he wanted to go on vacation and this was his choice. Since he had never seen it I was happy to give him the opportunity. The trip was amazing.
We arrived early in the morning and I am grateful that we did. Enjoying the view with a few hundred people as opposed to a few thousand was a blessing. A young boy started to run around and make noise and his sister (about 10 years old) said to him, "Shhhh." It was then that I realized we were enjoying a sacred moment. Even a young child was able to grasp that there was something special in this experience. Adults were talking to one another in hushed tones. We were not in church, but we were encountering the sacred in this view of majestic splendor.
Enjoy the pictures over the next few days. I am unable to convey the feeling of being there, but I nonetheless want to give you a glimpse of the handiwork of Almighty God.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico (Outdoor Stations of the Cross)
"Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments."
~Charles Caroll (Signer of the Declaration of Independence)
I saw the above quote this morning in The American Patriot's Bible. As our nation celebrates Memorial Day and honors those who have given their lives in defense of our country, I cannot help but wonder how long our country will survive. We have been blessed beyond measure with the gift of freedom, and it has come at quite a cost. That is what we commemorate on this day. We recognize the sacrifices of those who have gone before us to give us the opportunity to live in freedom. Are we in the process of throwing it all away?
I do not fear the external threats to our country although these are very real. I am concerned that we will simply implode due to turning away from God and creating our own idols. We have taken the gift of freedom and turned it into license. Our society is in for some dark days as we turn a blind eye to the moral decadence surrounding us. Sadly, many in our society aren't content with just corrupting the moral values of our own country. There is an organized and well-funded effort to export our immorality throughout the world. The convictions of our founders were clear. We could use some of that clear thinking among our governmental leaders today.
There is a statement attributed to Patrick Henry (Governor of Virginia) which says, "It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded , not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Can you imagine what would happen today if a governor made a statement like that in public regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Daniel Webster (Statesman, Lawyer, and Orator) said, "If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity."
To all who have served our nation in one capacity or another I simply say, "Thank you!" For all who lost their lives in service to our country we pray for their eternal rest. For all who suffered physical, mental, or emotional injuries we pray for your healing and peace. For all family members who have suffered because of injuries or death to their loved ones serving our country, we hold you up in prayer as well. For all those who have endured lengthy separations due to deployments we thank you for your sacrifices.
Today is a day to pray for our nation. For all who made the ultimate sacrifice we pray, "Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace."
I apologize for the absence this last week, but I have been on a pilgrimage and vacation. My wife planned out a very beautiful pilgrimage (in honor of our son's graduation) to southern Colorado and northern New Mexico where we visited numerous churches and shrines. We then headed to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon (at our son's request) for the vacation portion of our week. I was pleasantly surprised that this also became part of the pilgrimage as the majestic beauty was simply captivating. The trip culminated with a visit to my brother's house. We had not seen each other since my mom's funeral last fall and this gave us a brief opportunity to catch up on the latest happenings in our families.
I will share more details and plenty of pictures in the days ahead. However, I did not want The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ to pass by without sharing some thoughts of this beautiful sacrament. As I have mentioned to you on numerous occasions, please take the time to read the Bread of Life Discourse in John's Gospel. It is in chapter 6 and is well worth spending time in prayer and reflection on this magnificent passage.
The Eucharist is the "source and summit" of our faith. If we fail to grasp this aspect of our faith it is difficult to grow in holiness. Since a high percentage of Catholics wander from the faith it is obvious that there is a need for greater catechesis. Do we believe that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ? Can we exclaim as did Thomas the Apostle, "My Lord and My God!"? What do we need in our lives to grow deeper in our understanding and belief in this precious sacrament?
The stained glass window (pictured above) is in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In all of the color note the symbols of the Eucharist. Allow God's grace and love to touch your heart this week. Seek the gift of faith in the Eucharist. "This is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb."
My high school graduation took place in the gym and my college graduation took place on the football field. Apparently I needed to go to school in South Dakota to get a more memorable venue for my graduation. Congratulations to the graduates in Hill City, South Dakota.
Does anyone else know of some magnificent places in which graduation ceremonies have been held? Please list them in the comment section.
In each (arch)diocese the cathedral plays an important role in bringing the life of the Church together in unity. It gives a glimpse into the wider Church beyond our own parochial boundaries. Having been assigned as a deacon to the Cathedral of St. Mary for these last six and a half years I have seen many diocesan celebrations up close. It has been a tremendous blessing.
Liturgies with the bishop as the main celebrant are a little more complex than the usual liturgical celebrations when a priest is the main celebrant. Knowing when the bishop wears his mitre or holds his crosier during the liturgy is important. As long as the Master of Ceremony is on top of directing the servers to move at the proper time it all flows smoothly. This creates an environment conducive to prayer.
Rehearsal is part of making things flow easily. This is especially true for larger celebrations that only occur once a year. Holy Week, the Paschal Triduum, the Chrism Mass, and even smaller celebrations like the Rite of Election can test one's memory from year to year. A Mass of Ordination is another example when rehearsal is key.
Last Friday I joined the Director of Worship, Fr. Rob Spaulding, in preparing for the ordination of Deacon Andrew Kinstetter to the priesthood. We rehearsed in the morning and the ordination ceremony took place in the afternoon. Thus, it was all fresh in our minds.
There are different parts of the liturgy at these types of celebrations that strike me. In my own ordination as a deacon I was especially struck by the part when the archbishop handed me the Book of the Gospels. He said, "Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you now are. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach." That has stuck with me for 17 years.
In the ordination Friday of Deacon Andrew Kinstetter to the priesthood I was struck by the immensity of grace poured upon the new priest as he receives the paten and chalice from the bishop. I accepted these gifts from Andrew's parents and family and brought them to the bishop. He them presented them to Andrew as part of the ritual. The signs and symbols in our liturgical celebrations are powerful indeed.
Fr. Andrew Kinstetter--may God bless you abundantly in your ministry as a priest.
Describe a moment when you knew a prayer had been answered. What were the emotions that you experienced? I had the experience today of a prayer being answered in a very profound way. It was over twenty-five years in the making, or more accurately, it was a prayer answered daily for all those years.
In less than two months it will be thirty years since my first diagnosis with testicular cancer. The surgery and chemotherapy treatments were extremely harsh and the side effects were immense. The doctors gave me a fairly good prognosis that I would survive but very little hope for being able to father a child after the treatments. God apparently had other ideas.
Margaret and I have been blessed with two wonderful children and the youngest graduated from high school today. That was the prayer I have had ever since our first child was born. "Please God let me live to see them graduate high school." That prayer came to complete fruition today as I watched our son receive his diploma and enjoy the honor of being the Salutatorian of his class.
I hope I have many years to live yet. It would be good to see him graduate from college as well. It would also be good to know that he was eventually gainfully employed after completing his degree. However, I can also utter the words of Simeon, "Now Master, you can let your servant go in peace."
My kids were four and ten years old when I was diagnosed with cancer the second time. They were six and twelve when I had to undergo open heart surgery. This past year has seen my heart repeatedly go into atrial fibrillation. More than once I wondered whether I would live to see this day.
Years ago when I was participating in a support group for families coping with a life-threatening illness someone gave all of us a button to wear. That button simply said, "Expect a Miracle." We walk in faith. We don't know what is in store for us each day, and yet, we trust. Sometimes the miracles come in ways we don't imagine. Other times we can't even see that our prayers have been answered.
Congratulations Joseph on your graduation and the many achievements along the way. Continue to walk in faith and God's grace!
The end of the academic year brings a mixed bag of emotions. A few moments of perusing social media sites displays many of the memories that have been made this year. Some have detailed their years of memories culminating in this moment we call graduation. Students, teachers, parents, grandparents, and school administrators will each view this moment differently, but there is no doubt that memories have been created.
My personal memories and emotions from this past year are widespread. My son graduates from high school tomorrow, and he just received notice yesterday that he is the Salutatorian of his class. My heart is filled with joy at his accomplishments. There is also a great sense of relief. I am grateful that this stage of his education is over, and we are ready to move on to the next phase.
As Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Cheyenne I receive quite a number of phone calls from parents during the course of a year. There is usually a concern being expressed about one facet or another of their child's education. Most parents are seeking the best for their child and that is laudable. I also believe most teachers are striving to fulfill their mission well, but meeting the expectations of the students, the parents, and the principal all at once can be a daunting task.
I saw the issue from both sides of the fence this year. The workload of my son during his senior year was overbearing. I understand the desire of the school district to push students to success, but at what price is this goal achieved? My wife and I hope that our son continues to pursue his academic objectives in college with vigor and with great success. My concern is that the joy of learning has been squelched due to his experience of this past year. How do we strike a balance between academic rigor, standardized assessments, and plain old common sense?
As an administrator I am repeatedly confronted with differing viewpoints on nearly every aspect of education. It is not simply about setting goals and utilizing standards and benchmarks to evaluate if these goals are being met. The formation and education of a child encompasses so much more. This is especially pertinent in a Catholic school where the proclamation of the Gospel has to be first and foremost in our minds. Educating for eternity is the primary mission of the Catholic school. If parents have simply selected a Catholic school because it is a private school, the potential for conflict rises dramatically. As a private school we hope that academic rigor is in place and the child will be well-educated. However, we can never lose sight of the essential mission to evangelize and catechize.
The emotions attached to memories became abundantly clear to me in recent weeks when it was announced that one of our Catholic schools will be closing at the end of this academic year. More than once I heard about the history of the school and how it impacted a family. One person called and said, "I went to school there. My kids went to school there. Now my grandkids are going to school there." The heartbreak is real. Memories are powerful. As an administrator I recognize the objective difficulty of trying to maintain a school (K through 6) with less than two dozen students. The subjective part of me understands clearly the pain and sadness of those closely attached to the school and its mission.
It has been a challenging year for me personally and professionally in a multitude of ways. Through it all I continue to learn and grow. I saw an old meme recently pop up again which states, "As long as there are tests there will be prayer in schools." I am here to tell you that it isn't just the students who offer prayers for assistance once in a while. God's grace is frequently sought by teachers and administrators in the process as well. That has been a lesson I have been taught on a repeated basis since entering the field of education.
Congratulations to all of the graduates! Regardless of what stage of education you are completing, I offer you my prayers for a wonderful transition to whatever is in store for you at the next phase of life. To all of you that experienced significant struggles and challenges in this previous year or throughout most of your educational experience, I simply say hang in there. Even if you did not achieve "good grades," God's grace is still there. Thankfully, we never graduate from experiencing God's love!
Watching the evening news in any major metropolitan city can be quite depressing. There are stories of violence and crime night after night. How do we cope with grief, sadness, and tragedy when it comes to us in such a steady flow? Do we grow numb to it all? What happens when the tragedy hits close to home? How does that change the perspective?
Over thirty years ago I graduated from college and became a police officer with the St. Louis County Police Department. This small town farm boy was introduced to some realities of life that I had not previously known. It was especially true when I worked the evening or midnight shift. There were nights when one call after another was for a "domestic disturbance." People who had thought enough of one another at some point to date, live together, or even get married were now fighting intensely with one another.
The things I witnessed were shocking. Once in a while there was a little humor to be found in the mess, but most of the time it was just frightening. Once as I approached a house for a domestic disturbance call I could see through the picture window that a woman was heaving potted plants at her husband. No weapons were in sight. As I entered the scene both parties calmed down. As they each looked at the potting soil covering the floor from about ten potted plants being heaved at the man, they just sort of sighed. A little chuckle even came forth as they thought about the mess that needed to be cleaned up following their spat.
Unfortunately, the majority of the domestic disturbance calls were much more serious. Guns and knives were frequently part of the equation. Others were even more creative. One individual boiled a pot of water, added bleach to it, and then threw it on the sleeping companion. The ways we choose to hurt one another can be extreme.
It was seven years ago yesterday that Ashlin (pictured above) experienced the ultimate domestic violence. In my 17 years of ministry as a deacon I have presided at, or assisted with, numerous funeral rituals. Ashlin's has been the only memorial service that I have done for a victim of homicide. It was the most heart-breaking service that I have ever led. Ashlin wasn't just a newscast for me. Domestic violence had struck right into the heart of my family.
Two young toddlers lost both their parents on that day. The grief extended throughout the family at the time and still impacts us seven years later. Each milestone that passes with the kids leaves an aching thought. What would Ashlin think about this?
The world turned upside down on that day for many people. However, the resilience by Ashlin's mom and so many others around her demonstrates the power of love. I have no words for that kind of love except to say, "Thanks." Hate, anger, and violence have been overcome by your love. You have been a witness for all of us in regard to courage and fortitude. Keep up the good work.
Finally, I close by reminding all of my readers to seek help if you, or someone you love, are living in a volatile situation. Don't wait until it is too late. There are resources available to assist you regardless of the circumstances in which you find yourself. Domestic violence is real and it can shatter lives in a heartbeat. Don't become part of an evening newscast. Seek help before the situation gets to that point.
This is my personal blog. The opinions expressed are those of Deacon Vernon and the blog's readers. This site operates independently and is not affiliated with the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The information I provide is on an as-is-basis. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, or suitability of any information on this blog. I will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information. Furthermore, I will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.