trump…and the pope

What do these men have in common? Not much it would seem.

Trump is about Trump. Pope Francis is about others.

Trump lives like a king, isolated in his own tower. Pope Francis lives in apartment #201 at the Vatican Hotel…so he can be closer to the people.

Trump seeks the presidency so he can, as he tells it…single-handedly return America to its glory days. Pope Francis agreed to forgo retirement so that he could shepherd world citizens to do what we can for the less fortunate among us.

Perhaps the Pope’s message of inclusion will resonate with those seeking the presidency. We can only pray that those who call themselves Christians, are, in fact, Christ-like.

The Pope’s words spoken during the homily at the Mass canonizing Junipero Sera to sainthood…

Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again, rejoice! These are striking words, words which impact our lives. Paul tells us to rejoice; he practically orders us to rejoice. This command resonates with the desire we all have for a fulfilling life, a meaningful life, a joyful life. It is as if Paul could hear what each one of us is thinking in his or her heart and to voice what we are feeling, what we are experiencing. Something deep within us invites us to rejoice and tells us not to settle for placebos which simply keep us comfortable.

At the same time, though, we all know the struggles of everyday life. So much seems to stand in the way of this invitation to rejoice. Our daily routine can often lead us to a kind of glum apathy which gradually becomes a habit, with a fatal consequence: our hearts grow numb.

We don’t want apathy to guide our lives… or do we? We don’t want the force of habit to rule our life… or do we? So we ought to ask ourselves: What can we do to keep our heart from growing numb, becoming anesthetized? How do we make the joy of the Gospel increase and take deeper root in our lives?

Jesus gives the answer. He said to his disciples then and he says it to us now: Go forth! Proclaim! The joy of the Gospel is something to be experienced, something to be known and lived only through giving it away, through giving ourselves away.

The spirit of the world tells us to be like everyone else, to settle for what comes easy. Faced with this human way of thinking, “we must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world” (Laudato Si’, 229). It is the responsibility to proclaim the message of Jesus. For the source of our joy is “an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of our own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy” (Evangelii Gaudium, 24). Go out to all, proclaim by anointing and anoint by proclaiming. This is what the Lord tells us today. He tells us:

A Christian experiences joy in following a command: Go forth and proclaim the good news! A Christian finds ever new joy in answering a call: Go forth and anoint!

Jesus sends his disciples out to all nations. To every people. We too were part of all those people of two thousand years ago. Jesus did not provide a short list of who is, or is not, worthy of receiving his message, his presence. Instead, he always embraced life as he saw it. In faces of pain, hunger, sickness and sin. In faces of wounds, of thirst, of weariness, doubt and pity. Far from expecting a pretty life, smartly-dressed and neatly groomed, he embraced life as he found it. It made no difference whether it was dirty, unkempt, broken. Jesus said: Go out and tell the good news to everyone. Go out and in my name embrace life as it is, and not as you think it should be. Go out to the highways and byways, go out to tell the good news fearlessly, without prejudice, without superiority, without condescension, to all those who have lost the joy of living. Go out to proclaim the merciful embrace of the Father. Go out to those who are burdened by pain and failure, who feel that their lives are empty, and proclaim the folly of a loving Father who wants to anoint them with the oil of hope, the oil of salvation. Go out to proclaim the good news that error, deceitful illusions and falsehoods do not have the last word in a person’s life. Go out with the ointment which soothes wounds and heals hearts.

Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual. Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing.

The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into élites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy.

So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). The People of God can embrace everyone because we are the disciples of the One who knelt before his own to wash their feet (ibid., 24).

The reason we are here today is that many other people wanted to respond to that call. They believed that “life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort” (Aparecida Document, 360). We are heirs to the bold missionary spirit of so many men and women who preferred not to be “shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security… within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving” (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). We are indebted to a tradition, a chain of witnesses who have made it possible for the good news of the Gospel to be, in every generation, both “good” and “news”.

Today we remember one of those witnesses who testified to the joy of the Gospel in these lands, Father Junípero Serra. He was the embodiment of “a Church which goes forth”, a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters. Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.

Father Serra had a motto which inspired his life and work, a saying he lived his life by: siempre adelante! Keep moving forward! For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anesthetized. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!

…words inspiring us to act with mercy and compassion.

………hugmamma.

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a man…a saint

As I drifted off to sleep last night, I prayed for Pope Francis. Image result for pope francis gallery

Not someone I normally think of when I pray.

I had real concerns for the Pope’s safety…still do…as he rides amidst thousands gathered to see him. There’s no way of knowing whether or not there’s a gunman among them. 

Even the Pope needs our prayers. Like us, he’s made of flesh and blood. At 78, Pope Francis has limited stamina and energy. His crusade to alter the plight of the world’s poor is a task not even Bill Gates and Warren Buffet can fully accomplish with all their billions. And yet the Holy Father is like the fountain of youth, offering life to all in need…physically and spiritually.

I can’t recall another world leader, past or present, so aligned with the downtrodden. A humble man where his needs are concerned, Pope Francis is nonetheless outspoken when promoting the causes of the less fortunate. Using his powerful platform as the head of the Catholic church, the pontiff runs the risk of incurring the wrath of those who disagree with his beliefs. It matters not to him. He is about God’s work.

Just as Jesus Christ was about His Father’s work…for which the Son was crucified…and subsequently rose again in glory, to sit beside His Father.

I believe one day, Pope Francis will be canonized a saint. Yet I’m sure many agree that he walks among us today…

…already a saint.

………hugmamma

Image result for pope francis gallery

“a doubting thomas”

Ever since I can remember I’ve been a “doubting Thomas.” In fact  my husband, a former seminarian, has raised an eyebrow or two when I’ve taken to interpreting Catholicism differently from that of the Church.

I’m no pushover as a follower. Perhaps that’s the black sheep in me. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve always been a rebellious, youngest child. Tell me I can’t do something, and you’ve got me wondering…”Why not?”

Give me something I can understand and own for myself, and I will follow you to the moon and back. But never try to pull the wool over my eyes, for you will probably lose me.  Perhaps forever.

At the moment I’m once again a “doubting Thomas.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase, “doubting Thomas,” it refers to one of Christ’s followers who, when confronted by the risen Christ is unable to accept that He is, in fact, risen from the dead. So that Thomas can believe, Christ instructs His disciple to place his finger into the holes in both hands where the nails were, and into the hole where a soldier’s lance pierced His side.

Only with physical proof could Thomas accept that his Lord and Master had indeed risen from the dead

Maybe that’s what I need. A face to face meeting with God.

You’re probably wondering what set me off this time. Well I’ll tell you.

Eastside Catholic School, an institution of some repute within our community, is in the midst of an uprising of sorts.

The school’s president and CEO, Sister Mary Tracy, fired Mark Zmuda, the vice-principal after learning that he married his gay partner last summer. She did so because, historically, the Catholic Church preaches against the evils of homosexuality. And according to her, she was acting on behalf of the very conservative Archbishop J. Peter Sartain formerly of Tennessee, who now heads the Church here in Seattle.

The outpouring of support for Zmuda from students, parents, the alumni, and the community-at-large has grown exponentially within the last several months. The protest has been brought to the attention of CNN’s Anderson Cooper and will probably make it onto Stephen Colbert’s show.

At this juncture it seems Sister Mary Tracy acted on her own.

The website of the archdiocese clearly states that it has no jurisdiction over Eastside Catholic School.  “…this school is a Catholic institution that is separately incorporated and is not part of the Corporation of the Catholic Archbishop of Seattle. It is not sponsored, directed, administered or managed by the Archbishop of Seattle or his delegates.”

It’s almost a certainty that she won’t be turning to Pope Francis for help since he has publicly stated that he is fine with gays.

And it’s that papal statement upon which the protesters have decided to hang their cause. If the Pope is up for change, then why isn’t Sister Tracy?

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that the school’s theatre director, also gay, intends to marry her partner this summer. To make matters worse, her contract was renewed along with an increase in salary.

Alumni member Mary Helen Nuxoll Kopczynski, class of 1996 and the school’s first female student body president, now residing in NYC, also questions how two long-time Jewish teachers at EC can follow Catholic doctrine since the school fired Mark Zmuda for “not following Catholic doctrine.” Kopczynski goes on to say that 17 teachers were fired in 2010 for wanting a grievance policy; they were each paid $7,000 for their silence. Kopczynski remarked

We are the crusaders, we are the product of this school and we don’t agree. I’m having a tough time understanding these weird unilateral, dark decisions. 

In addition, Kopczynski said the alumni want to see the school’s board include two parents, two teachers and two alumni, not just ‘rich people.’

She said the school’s attorney, Michael Patterson, donated $90,000 to the school and he is also the attorney for the archdiocese, which would seem to be a conflict of interest.

An adult protester made note that “If Jesus were here today, he wouldn’t be in Sartain’s office, he’d be out here with us.” You’d think that was a no-brainer, right?

Unfortunately the Church bureaucrats get so caught up in their rules and regulations that they forget to live like Christ. They keep Him high up on a pedestal away from His followers.IMG_2301

And so, here I go again…

…i’m a doubting thomas…and glad of it…

…hugmamma.

an easter gift to ourselves, feeding the hungry

Spent a couple of hours Saturday evening volunteering once again at the community hall serving dinner to those who wandered in from the street. My husband and I decided to fill in wherever needed, rather than commit to a regular schedule. As with most who offer their time, it’ll probably work out to be once-a-month that I prepare a dish that we bring along for the meal.

While 2 or 3 of the women are there more often because they coordinate the effort, others like us are there now and then. As for the needy, most seem to be regulars who are familiar with the routine. They’re very respectful as they enter the hall. Early by about 15-20 minutes, the men and women mill about, settling into chairs while they wait. If dessert is set out some might help themselves to a little, probably too hungry to wait, while others wander about aimlessly, perhaps too antsy, and hungry, to sit still.

Meatloaf

Image by su-lin via Flickr

The woman-in-charge was delayed, so we waited until she arrived to serve up dinner. We didn’t know where the second pan of meat loaf and a side dish of cauliflower were, or if they’d even been delivered. The coordinator arrived, the food was found warming in the oven, and the meal was ready. Meanwhile, the diners had lined up along one side of the hall, patiently waiting to be invited to step up and be served.

Salad with vinaigrette dressing

Image via Wikipedia

I served the meatloaf, another woman served the risotto dish she’d made, a middle-school boy helped with the tomato/mozzarella salad with balsamic vinaigrette I’d assembled, while his mom served up an ambrosia fruit salad. The diners helped themselves to garlic bread and the dessert of homemade strawberry shortcake.

There were a couple of newcomers that made me reflect. One was a young boy about 15 years old, I think. He looked as though he’d not bathed in a while, his hair disheveled, his face streaked with dirt, his ti-shirt and pants wrinkled and perhaps a little smelly. He arrived late, quietly approached the table, and mumbled that he was starving. My mother’s heart quickly sprang into action, offering him a couple of helpings of meatloaf, huge servings of mashed potatoes and risotto, and several slices of the tomato/mozzarella salad. He also got a spoonful of the cauliflower dish from another volunteer.The boy accepted everything gratefully, as they all do. Of course they may not like everything, but they’re not forced to eat it all. Later I did see the young man very discreetly throw out what remained on his plate, including the tomatoes and cheese. I felt for him as he stood at the  trash bin, seeming unsure as to whether or not he should discard the food given him. I think he did, finally. I’m glad. Just because he’s destitute, doesn’t mean he’s not free to still choose. My husband said he’d encountered the boy as he neared the hall. Standing outside until he could be useful, my husband informed the boy who asked what time it was, that, in fact, a meal was being served for any who desired to partake. My husband was also touched to see such a young person obviously in need of something to eat.

strawberry shortcake

Image by QuintanaRoo via Flickr

Late into the meal, a mother pushing a stroller arrived, accompanied by a younger relative carrying the baby. We had to scrape together what remained of the food, except for the salad of which there was lots left since I’d brought 3 platters. The latecomers seemed happy to be getting whatever they could. They, and the others, are a reminder that there are those who will eat anything, rather than have nothing whatsoever to eat.

As he did the last time we volunteered, my husband got to work scrubbing what serving dishes were emptied of food. Most had been cooked in disposable aluminum foil pans which were tossed, so there was less to clean up than before. As a result we left earlier than others who remained behind chatting. In taking our leave, we agreed that it was another evening well spent at the community hall. It felt especially good since we were celebrating Easter the following day. Feeding the hungry meant we were doing what Christ had done.

What Good Are These For So Many?

Image by andycoan via Flickr

giving to others…what we take for granted…hugmamma.  

family, “warts and all”

At last Sunday’s Mass, Father Bryan began his homily sharing some family drama between his younger brother and mom, nothing catastrophic, more like what we all experience with certain family members through the course of our lives. Probably the key ingredient to the prickly relationship is that Father’s family members are very much alike in personality. That, for sure, is something many of us have in common. It’s probably like having 2 pieces to a jigsaw puzzle that fit together in every way, save one. That difference will forever keep them at odds. But unlike a board game, familial relations can be sorted through, and the rough edges made smoother, if not perfect.

As Father pointed out, not even the Holy Family was perfect. An angel appeared to St. Joseph three times, dictating what he and his family should do. First, he was going to marry the Virgin Mary who would conceive a child of God. Second, he and Mary must leave their homes, families, and all that was familiar, to move to Egypt. And then finally, they were to return home to Nazareth where they would settle into daily living. Surely as human beings, father, mother, and son must have had their moments of frustration, which spilled over onto one another. How they weathered stormy times together, while maintaining love and respect for one another, is what’s important, and a valuable lesson for all of us.

After Mass, my daughter and I approached Father Bryan to express appreciation for his homily. In reply, he looked at me exclaiming that our family probably didn’t experience any of the normal angst he mentioned about most families, including his. Before I could respond, someone offered him words of thanksgiving. If we’d not been interrupted, I would’ve told Father that no family is exempt from “baggage.” But like the Holy Family, we forgive, and move forward with compassion for one another, as well as ourselves.

The holidays seem to bring added pressures to families, insisting everyone “get along,” whether that means squelching decades old animosities, jealousies and rivalries, or feigning affection for those we barely know. Because I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and my feelings lie near the surface, I don’t squelch or feign very well. I can overlook and be fine. My mother use to want me to be other than who I was. Growing up I had no choice, but as an adult I can only be honest.

I don’t think we have to lie to get along, I believe we can be who we are and hope that others accept us for that, and not what they would like us to be. I don’t like to layer my expectations upon someonelse, nor do I want anyones’ expectations to rest upon me. Among the many things I took away from Dr. Amen’s book, “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” is that I want to live my best life. In order to do so I must dwell on the positive, not the negative. Of course it’s an ongoing effort not to get caught up in the daily grind of living, as witnessed on the news reports: wars, foreclosures, unemployment, natural disasters, a bad economy. While it may be impossible to control the macrocosm, I can manage the microcosm. And so I try to make my environment as positive and hopeful as I can.

Family are who they are. While liking them may be difficult at times, accepting them is not open for deliberation, in my opinion. Being with them, however, is another matter, again my opinion. No matter family or friends, people should respect one another in their dealings. “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you,” is still a great way to live. One’s perspective may differ from another person’s, but respect for all viewpoints should be a given. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Rather than “beating ourselves up,” tying to force relationships to fit like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, it might behoove some, like me, to do what I can do, and be contented with that much. Progress can be made bit by bit, it need not occur in one fell swoop. It can, but it needn’t.

I’ll take small moments of happiness as often as they occur, rather than pine and stress at never attaining the perfect family portrait. All those in our families are striving to live their best lives, given their particular circumstances. I love them all, and will always wish them life’s best, whether I’m physically in their lives or not. And I’m certain they wish the same for me and mine.

for all families who are nearly perfect…or far from perfect, huge hugs…hugmamma.

“mary did you know”

Written by Buddy Greene, Mark Lowlry. Copyrighted 1991, 1993 Word Music LLC. “Mary Did You Know” is one of my very favorite Christmas songs. We sang it in church today, during the “Preparation of the Table.” Telling of the miracles her son Jesus will perform, and that when she kisses him, she’ll “kiss the face of God,” evokes the tender love all mothers feel for their own, special children. For I truly believe that when we look upon the face of an innocent child, God looks back at us, as if to say “This is my child in whom I am well pleased. Love him. Love her. And you will love Me.”

MARY DID YOU KNOW

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would one day walk on water.

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would save our sons and daughters.

Did you know, that your baby boy, Will come to make you new.

This Child that you are carrying, Will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would give sight to the blind man.

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would calm a storm with His hand.

Did you know, that your baby boy, has walked where angels trod.

And when you kiss your little baby, You’ll kiss the face of God?

Oh Mary did you know.

Oh the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again. The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, The praises of the Lamb!

Oh Mary did you know, that your baby boy, is Lord of all creation.

Mary did you know, That your baby boy, Will one day rule the nations.

Did you know, that your baby boy, Is heaven’s perfect lamb. The sleeping Child you’ll hold,

IS THE GREAT I AM.

 

hug your child, hug God…hugmamma.

standing ovation, unexpected

The last Sunday before Christmas, Liturgically there are no surprises. Advent, the season in which we Catholics prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming, has been celebrated in the same way ever since I was a child. Actually, there might have been a change after the Ecumenical Council.If there was, I couldn’t tell you specifically what. I do remember that as a result of the Council, Mass was no longer spoken in Latin, but rather in English, and the priest faced the congregation, instead of having his back toward them. Both changes were memorable when they first occurred, and for some time afterwards.

But today’s Mass unfolded as usual, until Father Bryan introduced us to a group known as REX, or Religious Experience. It had been organized by a handful of female parishioners to benefit disabled Catholics. They numbered between 10 and 12 individuals, with their ages ranging from the mid-teens to the mid-fifties. There were more men than women. Several had Down Syndrome, with other disabilities not being as readily identifiable. But it was obvious they were all handicapped.

Father Bryan explained that for the past couple of years, the REX had entertained him with their version of the Nativity in the basement of the church. This year they agreed to Father’s request to perform for the congregation, which they did during our Mass.

One of the founding ladies narrated the story, while members of the group enacted the roles, the angel who acts as guide, Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper, the shepherds and the 3 wise men. The infant Jesus was a very realistic-looking, baby doll. The story was simple, and while the actors were not overly expressive, they were still engaging. What garnered them a standing ovation was their genuine commitment to do a good job, which they did, in spades! The looks on their faces were priceless. They seemed not to expect such affirmation of their work. In that moment, they were the least accomplished of God’s children, uplifted to the highest.

The REX bestowed a great gift upon us who have so much more, and oft-times forget that we do. Their joy is simple. Their pleasure is in the small things they achieve, and receive, like our standing ovation which lasted for several minutes. I went to church expecting nothing life altering, and came away changed, if only in a small way. But big enough to instill in me a new appreciation of Christmas, and the liturgy.

father bryan is always full of surprises, ones that make us better christians…hugmamma.