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Monday, May 30, 2011

On this Memorial Day, I think about my father who was a veteran of WWII. I think about the many soldiers who have lost their lives in the conflicts of the Middle East and, in the past, Asia. I think about the many soldiers who are Christians, men and women of conviction. This conviction is evident in the execution of their military duties, and in the act of upholding the teachings of Jesus Christ. Because there can be conflicts that high ideals and convictions such as these can engender, I think of the suffering of the soldiers who return home with a lack of the peace of mind that I and many in my safe, secure world take for granted.

Father in heaven, I pray that your children who have taken the dangerous responsibility of defending the earthly safety and security of their homeland, the soldiers who also bring peace to foreign lands of danger and despair, might heal the hurt and injury of the villages in which they toil. I pray that the Holy Spirit will bring peace to them, and to their families who must exist under conditions of uncertainty and danger as well. Bring these brave men and women home and make their transition back to their family and community as victorious as the battles they fought for all of us back home. Amen.

Photograph attributed to This website.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


When I tried to find an image for this blog entry, I came up with innumerable pictures of the sky and clouds, with rays of light beaming down. Now how can I float in the sky? how will I breathe? Where will I sleep, take walks, and have meetings with friends and with God himself?

John's gospel quotes Jesus describing heaven as "my Father's house [where there] are many rooms." In the beginning God created heaven and the earth. Therefore, heaven is similar and analagous to our home on earth, most likely a place that will have familiar aspects, and be very appealing. The most significant thing about Christ's description, is that he was responding to his desciples, who wanted to follow him to heaven. They wanted to be with Jesus; they had the ultimate friendship with him. He had taught them, led them, respected and tested them. He assigned to them the job of carrying on after he was gone.

When I think about staying in someone's house, my liking of this thought depends on my relationship with this person and not just the comfort and beauty of the house. If they are a close friend, I will have the utmost enjoyment in this place. If it is a relative or friend with whom I do not have a close relationship then my visit could be awkward. Also I could be unknowingly an annoyance to them.

I believe in the existence of heaven not so much because I am seeking an eternal reward for my holiness, piety and faith. I believe in it because Jesus has promised it. I hope that my relationship with Jesus will develop so that I have the conviction and desire to reach his Father's house. Some day this will be foremost in my mind.

Dear Father in heaven, your dwelling place has many rooms. Jesus went to prepare a place for his desciples. I pray that I might find favor with your Son and that I will know Him, through the Gospel, the Sacraments, and through His many faithful servants whom I meet throughout my sphere of daily life. Amen.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Via, Veritas, Vita

In today's reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you. " Also He responded, to Thomas' question of how do we get there, we do not know the way, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Hence the Latin quote noted above, which according to Wikipedia, is the slogan of many Catholic Universities.

There were 2 sacraments celebrated at Mass today. One was baptism; 4 babies received their first sacrament and absolution from original sin. This is a happy joyous time. Father Jack had the young children of the parish come to the baptismal font in the back of church and stand by as the babies experienced their first step toward fulfillment of their Catholic affiliation. We all sat and turned toward the back, where the font is positioned. The advantage of this placement is that we see this reminder of baptism whenever we enter the church, as one of the first things we see.

The second sacrament is one that we gladly may receive each Sunday. Even more I could elect to attend daily mass and receive it each day. I am not yet of the habit of doing that. The accompanying song was "I received the living God, and my heart if full of joy." I just downloaded this from, and found out with minimal searching that this is a song with an unknown composer. It is based on John 14, 15. I encourage you to download this and listen to it a few times when you want some inspiration and to experience some of the wonder, joy and mystery of the Church.

Dear Father in Heaven, may the 4 infants baptized today grow to the fullness of membership in your church, and receive the support and encouragement of their families and parish in their development. May I know the way that I can participate in this mission and may the sacraments become a more central part of my Catholic faith and community. Amen.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Afghanistan war: study in hope

In early October this year, the war in Afghanistan will have surpassed the 10 year mark. Also expensive in terms of cost of American lives, over 1000 soldiers from our country have given their lives in the conflict. The financial cost is indeed very high by anyone's measure.

A recent television program was a grim reminder that all is not well in this desert country of tribes. The Taliban, once declared driven from the country, is still revered by the populace and present in the wings to quickly resume control if the allies withdraw within the forseeable future. The show, Frontline, aired on public television, took a decidedly unbiased position, and was given access to Taliban militia as well as top officials. Their responses, through the sobering words of interpreters, stated their continued resolve for their cause, their religion, and their attitude about life itself: "We want to die anyway, and we are glad to fight for our cause fearlessly."

From my perspective, it is difficult to understand this point of view or to have any hope whatsoever for this conflict and the safety of soldiers assigned to go to this war zone. That is, without the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit. In my opinion, the impoverished, zealous, seemingly evil Afghani's and Taliban fighters (decidedly evil) worship the same God that I do. Most likely, they are in the habit of praying several times a day, which is more often in comparison to my usual practice. My vision of hope for this situation is that the Holy Spirit will enlighten these men (predominantly, as the women do not appear to be politically or militarily active) and foster in them a cooperative spirit. They are killing my brothers and sisters who are fighting this war on terror. This killing is not expressly allowed or blessed in their Muslim religion and yes, prayer can remedy this situation.

I think we can really hope for a prayer answer first because prayer is powerful. People who pray regularly know this and see the results, as well as feel the effects from prayers of others (at least, speaking for myself). Secondly, as already stated above, Muslim teaching and discipline requires periodic times for prayer of their adherents. I believe that God will touch the hearts of the Afghani people through their prayer. And not only them, but may the hearts of so many throughout the world who are without faith in God see his presence and radiance. The soldiers of prayer have a great challenge if they wish to foster the work of God on earth. I have to get working now.

Dear Father in heaven, I pray that the villagers, elders and religious officials (Imams) will listen and receive your command to love all their brothers and sisters, whether they are their own people or those who are assigned to fight the war on terrorism (and hence foreigners). May I be blessed with a greater sensitivity to the needs and beliefs of my Muslim brethren. May the peaceful and loving message of Jesus Christ reach receptive ears in this ancient country, Afghanistan, and I pray the the work of Christian Missionaries be allowed there without bloodshed. In Christ's name I pray. Amen.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Hope. I would like to define and expound upon this word. Hope is something that I feel I excel at. I would define it as, first, a gift of the Holy Spirit, a wish and a belief that something will be better in the future. In so believing, one experiences a peaceful feeling. In my case I think that the hope is part of a tendency I have to counter reality with something better that is, for now, imaginary but not without some possibility.

I think the Holy Spirit does bestow the gift of hope to anyone who seeks it. They may also see this gift for what it is and where it comes from, if they open their eyes. I don't think that it is enough to experience hope. Most people would agree that hope can and should be coupled with a yearning to take action in some respect. Try to spread the hope. Try to provide the dream to those who cannot achieve the beauty or bounty for themselves. Share. Pray. Listen. And most of all, love.

Dear Holy Spirit, you provide to your children on earth many great gifts, for which there is no charge. The value cannot be calculated, and it cannot be bought or sold. Grant that my hope may give me vision for many possibilities of a better future, one that will be more pleasing to you and that will foster the good in the world to replace the occasional dark, painful or hurtful experiences that we must face. Give me the tools to spread this gift to the people that I encounter in this world, and especially my close family members, coworkers and friends. Amen.

photograph from

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Large Catholic Families

On Mother's Day, like many other sons and daughters in the U.S. I visited my Mom. She's always a wonderful host, very sympathetic and a good listener. Earlier in the day it occurred to me: I'm the 6th of 7 children in our family. Although I had 3 of my own, there was never a 4th or 5th much less a 6th. I'm not only glad the folks had a large family, I owe my existence to this fact, it would seem.

My parents sacrificed quite a bit when we were growing up. They also instilled in me a very good work ethic, a desire to excel, a belief in my own potential, worth and abilities, and served as an outstanding role model.

A Mom is a great thing and of course all children to some extent take theirs for granted. I'm glad there is the annual day to celebrate this central figure in my life. I think that the custom of having a large brood was a great thing. My parents did not have to pay extra (at first) to have the kids. They were very fortunate and all were healthy and hearty.

I think both my Mom and my Dad (who passed away 6 years ago) lived an exemplary Catholic life (not to mention, Dad was a deacon). They didn't mention religious specifics that often, but it was rather through their example of what it is to have faith, to live a simple life, to give back, to attend worship, and to have community. I have not yet surpassed these attributes, not by any stretch. This is why they remain such an inspiration to my current endeavors and will for a long time to come.

Oh, and thanks for not stopping at 5! (or I should say 4, since #4 and 5 are twins!). And thank you God for giving me all the years together with Mom. One of her greatest teachings was the independence that a son needs (per Genesis 2:24):

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Father in Heaven, I thank you for my Catholic Family, and most of all for my mother, who remains your faithful servant on earth. May you bless her with continued good health, wisdom, and fortitude. I cherish the time in history which you chose for my birth, and for my existence, which your followers allowed by answering your command to go forth and be fruitful. I thank you for my siblings who are God's people and reflect your love each in their own way. Amen.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Why humble? Jesus did mention this, as recorded in Matthew 6:3

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."

This gives me a moment of reflection, as to the purpose of Spirit Garden. Let me assume for the time being that I am not announcing it with trumpets, and that my writings do not inspire the honor of men. I would not mind that, I do admit. However, the Lord has told me that my pleasure from this is my reward in full.

I think that humility can be defined as knowing the place of man before God. When we give thanks we are showing humility. We are given so many gifts, freely, only with the price that we believe in God, that we accept the sacrifice of his Son to pay the price for our sins.

But I must know that I have a great purpose in accepting God's love. That is to reflect, like a polished sterling plate, and shine forth the witness to His love and many blessings. How do I do this? That is my question, and I don't have the answer. Many have gone before me and have been examples for me to study. Listening. The humble act of listening to the thoughts and concerns of others. This will touch their heart. This will inspire them to question why I care about them. This will enable God to bless them again, it seems to me.

I think I will ponder the importance of humility, and the paradox of shining like a star to witness the love of God to my fellow man. It is one of the great mysteries that I cannot solve. I pray the Holy Spirit grants me peace to accept the many mysteries of the ways of God. In a great way they keep me humble.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What it's like to have an answered prayer

. Photograph from

I am blessed, and I can see that every day. My prayer requests often center around changes I would like to have in my personal life. These are peacefulness, productivity, and better interpersonal relations for example. I am praying for my own happiness it would seem, like many of us probably do. Some of the wishes I have seem simple on the surface but the complexity comes from observing the process of change within my own life.

For example, when my prayers for transformation of spirit are answered, new challenges emerge. I may be able to communicate more clearly, but then I have a new agenda of things to say, meaningful things that don't hopefully center on me or my own comfort and fulfillment. I have an improved vision to see the needs of others and my need to help them get their needs met.

I may be blessed with more stamina and endurance. Then I have the new capabilities to serve in a greater way. Another blessing is that this is often my fulfillment, I have humbly observed. I pray that God opens my eyes, my heart, and my spirit to acceptance of his teachings and revelation and that I may be an instrument of his peace.

Now "Go forth into all the world, and preach the gospel to all creation." Mark 16:15

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gathered in His Name

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:20

Really. This passage is powerful, exciting. Why should Jesus come among us in our gathering to read God's word, to share time together in His name? I don't think there is any answer and it may be wrong to even ask. The Bible is ample evidence for God's love that is given to us freely. But the question comes up because Jesus' promise is evident in activities I've recently participated in. One was a series of home meetings with fellow parishoners with a planned sequence of discussion topics. Over the course of about 6 weeks, I made new friends and we'll likely get together in the future for a cookout or something like that.

Another was a free clinic that was held on Saturday. I really didn't go in, as volunteer, with a great attitude as I already had things I was doing and other things that I wanted to do. But this setup was indeed impressive. The number of volunteers that get together for this activity in the spirit of service is amazing. The charity expressed was sincere and contagious. My day was transformed by my participation and by the people I met, both fellow clinicians, and especially the clinic attendees.

I wish I could express my gratitude to the people at Sojourn Louisville for getting me involved in the service project. I can vouch for the palpable presence of God in such gatherings. The blessing can be pushed forward by my own acts of sacrifice and sharing in the spirit of faith sharing and I pray that I be reminded of this holy obligation on a daily basis.

Dear heavenly Father, we seek your fellowship and praise your providence and blessings. May I be blessed with insight for making more opportunities to spread your message for my brothers and sisters, unselfishly and in your name. Amen.