Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Word

Today is the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas: January 28.  Also a Saturday.  So, every Saturday morning, the British Jesuits offer an Ignatian Examen on their prayer app “Pray-as-you-go.”  This morning they tailored the examen around the issue of theology in honor of the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the most renowned theologian in Christendom.  They asked in the meditation to recall a time this past week when a matter of theology or teaching stirred us.   

So as I sat reflecting in this past week, I do remember a moment when I wanted a word to move me from sitting to action.  I wanted a way to transition from prayer into the work that I have before me.  The word that came to the mind was “serve.”  This helped me to get up and get going, regardless of how I feel, regardless of what I think, regardless of what physical ailment now bothers me.  Serve!

Why did I choose that word? I went back to Ignatius' First Principle and Foundation and recalled that "man was created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord.I also thought back on the old Baltimore catechism question:  “Why did God create me?”  God created me to know, love, and serve him and to spend eternity with Him. 

So, I was taken by that one word serveThat's a good mantra or koan to get me up and move ahead.  Every morning I try to reverence God, I try to praise Him, and then I need to get out of the chair, pick up my coffee cup, and put my prayer inspiration into real action.  To serve!

This word can be used to fight procrastination and these haunting feelings of lassitude or inertia.  And so, on this feast of Saint Thomas, it is not a bad idea to take the theology and make it work.  Serve! 

PS: This little posting would not have happened unless I actually stopped the prayer and moved to the computer.  Hope these words do in fact “serve” someone.  Peace.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Getting Better

Did your family ever have one of those Advent calendars?

During the month of December, my family kept the Advent calendar in the dining room, right on top of the buffet side board where we served dinner.  I had a very large family.  During Advent, each kid would take a turn opening one of the little calendar doors to see what was inside for that day.  Then, as each person moved down the line to serve dinner, we would be able to look inside and see what the gift was behind the door.  It was usually some kind of Christmas object or symbol of the coming feast: a candy cane, a wreath, a star, etc. 


The more we opened, the better we saw.  We closer we got to Christmas. To Christ.

Advent really is a season for opening doors.  Each day we get a little better all the time.  And we can learn from St. Joseph how to get better at it.  To change the closed into the open. 

Today’s Gospel shows the husband of Mary, confused and fearful about the fact that his wife is pregnant before they had even slept together.  At first, Joseph considers his options and starts closing doors shut.  Joseph was afraid.  He wants to keep the problem quiet so no one else hears about it.  He decides to divorce his wife. 

Joseph opts to close the door on this relationship with Mary.  Then he had a dream with a very powerful message.  The dream said to welcome Mary into your house.  Open the door for her.  Because there’s a gift inside that you can’t see yet.  It’s a gift from the Holy Spirit and he will save people from closed hearts.

And God has the same dream for us that Joseph had:  Do not be afraid to take the difficult into your home.

God’s dream is that we approach our fears with trust, open our closed doors a little, and know that there is a gift inside the poor that we can’t see yet. The gift is Jesus.  The one who saves us from our sins.  Advent is a season for opening doors to discover hidden gifts.

The little advent calendar with opening doors says the time is right to open doors to the challenging.  In your own personal way, bring the lowly into your house and into your heart trusting that they carry a gift not just for you but for the world.  That gift is ultimately the Christ child.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Little Child

I think this is the earliest photo of me ever taken (click to enlarge).  Looks like Christmas 1954.  The picture shows all my older siblings under the tree. The twin girls in the middle are not siblings: Molly and Theresa Glynn were neighbors. 
Upper left is Polly (likely age 6 1/2).  On the right is Marty at age 8. Seated are Jon, Bill (obviously after holding up a candy store with Jon), Dan, and Phyllis.  I seem to be the little child in Dan's lap, beckoning to Phyllis for help.  At age five months, all I wanted for Christmas was a couple teeth.  Actually ten months later, Santa brought me the best gift ever ... a little brother ... way better than a non-fungible token.  
Life is good and the rest is history.

Sunday, December 11, 2022


"It's been a long time" are the opening lyrics to the song "Wait" ... which is likely what most of you have been doing since my last post.  But now, after almost two years of no posting, and since it's the 3rd Sunday of Advent, I decided to OPEN up shop again.

If you’re like me, your door is CLOSED right about now. Cold weather.  Keep out wind.  Windows are lined with plastic.  Garage door is closed. Soon schools are closed.  Snow is too high, business and stores close.  You also close up our bodies: sweaters, coats, and head coverings.  If wind is high, we close our eyes. So, winter is a time when things CLOSE. Even our emotions and our spiritual life.

That can leave us rather dark, depressed and hopeless.  But good news:
Advent is a time to remain OPEN to the light that shines in our darkness.

Open your Christmas cards.
see who it’s from, then think of the person
write down the change of address
answer right back
don’t just you toss it away
hang them on your door
be sure to find the message of hope.
OPEN IT.  Be open to the good news inside that card.
Just to READ the message, much less think about it, just to READ it!

I have a card with one word: “Rejoice” and that is the name of this Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday … which is Latin >“Rejoice”

On the Advent wreath, one of the candles is pink, suggesting that during this time of penance and waiting, we have reason to be hopeful, open to possibility, and joyful at the coming of Jesus.

Advent is a time to remain OPEN to the light that shines in our darkness.

Tell that to John the Baptist.  In today's Gospel, we see him waiting in prison, he was closed.  Not because of the snow, but because he had challenged King Herod about his wife.  He’s a rebel and a strange man in Judea, and so he was closed up into prison.  He found himself in exile, darkness, trapped in the dark and alone.  Maybe you identify with his suffering.

So in a period of doubt, and skepticism (kinda like me in mid-December) John the Baptist opens the window of his prison cell and sends a message to Jesus by way of his disciples. “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

Guess what Jesus does?  He sends messages back that gives John hope.  It’s like he has his disciples deliver several Christmas cards back to John in prison:

- the blind regain their sight,
- the lame walk,
- lepers are cleansed,
- the deaf hear,
- the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.

In these chilly days when people are closed off from God’s love, perhaps you could be someone like Jesus who brings

     -  healing to a relationship|
cleansing to a bad habit
sight to an area in your life where you are blinded
a listening ear where you are usually deaf
a second chance for life to someone hard to forgive
and a gift from the heart to someone who is poor

More powerful than Advent wreath or Christmas cards, these are the real ways to remain open to Christmas and to bring that light from the pink candle to light up your community this season.  It's been a long time.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Tell Me What You See


Sometimes it’s just a good idea to explain a photograph. 
Try it; it's often prayer-like.

On the far left of this shot, you’ll see the calendar for 2020.  The photo was taken on the very last day of the year: December 31, about 11:30 that morning.  The location is a small meeting room inside the monastery of the Missionaries of Charity on Allport St. in Chicago.  These are Mother Teresa’s sisters who live about a mile south of my house.  They have an army of priests they invite over each day to say daily Mass for them, and Thursday was my turn.  After the priest says Mass, they offer him a free brunch.  I snapped this photo as I waited for the “kitchen sister” to bring in my toast and eggs.  They insisted.

My coffee was brewing in the cup and the butter pats were thawing.  I hadn’t noticed it when I first arrived, but the sisters had created a little chalkboard greeting for me:  something to look at while I ate.  I think they must have been grade school art teachers at one time.  Two or three sisters normally sit at the table with me and watch as I eat (which is very disturbing) but not today.  Through the window you can see another door down the hall.  They are doing a special end-of-year song, which sounds beautiful.  Kinda of like eating in a monastery … oh wait … I AM eating in a monastery.

I figured since the Sacred Heart of Jesus Himself was extending sacred arms over my meal, there was no need for me to recite a grace.  Believe it or not, His power is what’s keeping those Christmas lights on.  Obviously, the string is not plugged in to that wall socket.  The sister brought in two eggs sunny side up and two pieces of toast.  It was marvelous. 

Finally, after I was finished with the brunch, the sisters must have heard me burp because the Mother Superior came out of the chapel to see me out for the afternoon.  They invited me back for morning Mass (and breakfast) on January 12th, so maybe I will snap another picture.  It isn’t very likely, but just in case the sisters are reading this blog, I want to thank you and wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy 2021.

Open up your eyes now; tell me what you see.