St. Augustine Didn’t Get It

08/28/2015

Today is the Feast of St. Augustine. He didn’t get it for 33 years.

How old are you? Just askin’.

I still don’t get it most of the time…

He died in the year 430 as the barbarians laid seige to Hippo, where Augustine was Bishop.

Even the Roman Empire collapsed.

St. Francis de Sales reminds us that

“the worst thing that can befall persons who have good will is to want to be what they cannot be and not want to be what they necessarily must be.” (From his Spiritual diary.)

He goes on to suggest that we can’t always hit the home run when it comes to amassing spiritual riches, but we can make small deposits daily by our small interactions with others.

How’s that going for you?


 

Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating. And for still not posting a meditation daily.

This is where Kit Kat is buried. R.I.P. little buddy.

This is where Kit Kat is buried. R.I.P. little buddy.

 

 

 

 

 

 


What If You’re Divorced?

08/14/2015

I am divorced. And in the deep recesses of my being, I still allow that to define me.

Today’s Gospel is a difficult one for me.

a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife

Why did it happen?

The reasons are layered and complex. I was (and probably still am) blessed with a certain level of naivete. Socially, I’m clumsy. If I don’t come across that way, it’s not because I don’t feel that way.

Never, ever, in a thousand years… in a million years… did I ever even suspect that Sue and I would become a statistic.

and the two shall become one flesh

That’s not an excuse. I do not excuse myself.

Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.

Okay… so what made me think that it was permissible to separate what God joined together?

I never did. I don’t think it is permissible for any of us.

Just like I don’t think it’s permissible to live contrary to any of God’s laws.

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”

He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”  They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” – Matthew 9:3-12

No other gods. No idols. Keep the sabbath. Honor Mom and Dad. Don’t kill. No adultery. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t covet. Don’t covet (yes, apparently we need more than one reminder of that one).

So… how good are you at adhering to those?

I suck at it. Pardon the vernacular.

How do we resolve what Jesus told the Pharisees?

I don’t know.

I know what the Catholic Church teaches. Sort of. I know they permitted me and Kathy to both seek (and have granted) a formal annulment of our previous marriages, thus giving us permission to marry each other — in a second sacramental union (for me) — and still participate in the sacramental life… receiving Holy Communion, having our sins forgiven in Confession.

Have I resolved all this in my own mind?

No.

That is clearly because I am an imperfect, flawed human being.

My ways are not His ways.

Okay, this is supposed to be a quick meditation. Not a sermon. Not a book. So…..

Has anything helped me overcome my guilt?

A handful of years ago (was it five, six, more?), I discovered the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. If you are familiar with me and this blog, you know that.

Jesus was born into this hellhole to save us from ourselves.

We’re the ones who have taken His Father’s glorious creation and created a cesspool, made a mess of just about whatever we’ve laid our hands on.

We are imperfect human beings.

We will sin. We will be immoral. We will offend others and thus offend God.

We will.

Today.

Reflect on that before you nod off tonight. And ask forgiveness.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm:

His mercy endures forever. – Psalm 136 (all verses)

The Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared to human beings. The Lord, Jesus Christ, has made Himself known and spoken clearly to human beings.

Mary gave us the Holy Rosary.

Jesus gave us the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

He promised that even the most hardened sinner, if they will say the Chaplet even once, will be granted His Divine Mercy.

It’s stuff like that, folks, that engages my consciousness, that gives me hope, that permits me to forgive myself, that keeps me strong.

I don’t know if my words do that for you. But I want them to.

If you’re struggling with something, I don’t have all the answers. But I do have empathy. I’m capable of praying for you (or with you). And I believe with every ounce of life that my/our prayers are heard and answered.

Don’t forget to listen. Never forget to listen. The answers are there. We also suck at listening.

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Today is also the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

You did not choose me, but I chose you… John 15:16a

St. Maximilian had a lifelong devotion to Mary. He wanted to start a radio station. Instead, he was captured by Nazis and died in a concentration camp.

He chose one thing. The Lord chose another.

Decades later, Mother Angelica spearheaded EWTN. How much more powerful and meaningful is the legacy of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe because of his experience and suffering at the hands of enemies of God than if he got what he chose?

I pick up my pen and tap on my computer to get these words out. Yes, I choose to write. I choose to press “Publish.” I can’t help but feel in some way the only reason I’m doing this is because He chose me. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just supposed to get you to think.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating. And for still not posting a meditation daily.

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Are We On The Same Page?

08/12/2015

Can you agree on something with your spouse? Your best friend? Your parent? Your child?

Full agreement. Total capitulation.

“(A)men, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:19-20

All we have to do is pray for the same thing and God will grant that for which we pray.

That’s it!

How cool is that?

All we have to do is agree.

How many times have you told someone you would pray for them? What are you praying for exactly? Do you tell them? Or do you simply tell them “I’ll pray for you.”

Nice, but…

Is it enough?

I hadn’t truly thought of it until this morning, reading and then listening to this Gospel passage.

Jesus is clear — very clear — when He tells His disciples “hey, want something? Pray about it with somebody else or a couple other people. Agree on what you’re praying for. You’ll get it! I’ll pray with you, right there with you. My Father will give it to you!”

Pretty cool.

No. Really cool.

When you pray, be specific. Want something? Be specific. Make sure it’s an honorable intention. Ask someone else to pray with you for exactly the same thing. Better yet, ask two people.

Be specific.

Try it.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating. And for still not posting a meditation daily.

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When is a Fitness Room Not a Fitness Room — Or — “How to Make Chicken Salad Out of Chicken…” WAIT! I Mean: “…Out of a Complimentary Fitness Room Breakfast”

08/11/2015

Spontaneous vacations are a ton of fun for Kathy and me. We love to drive. We also love to drive to wherever the wind — or road — takes us.

On the first day of our trip to Kathy’s sister’s new place in North Carolina earlier this month, we enjoyed a beautiful drive along the unbeaten path of western and southern Indiana. Early evening, we stopped for a milk shake just north of Louisville (hey, it was vacation). We contemplated where to spend the night as we half-planned our itinerary for the following day.

As we left the parking lot, the skies began to cloud up, but we had no idea what was in store.

The beauty and serenity day came to a screeching halt the second (and I do mean the second) we crossed the Ohio River. Buckets of rain and ferocious wind rocked us as we crept along Interstate 65. It was one of the nastiest thunderstorms either of us ever remember driving through. We exited the highway twice to catch our breath. After the second attempt to make meaningful progress, we were ready to find a hotel… STAT!

We landed at a La Quinta, courtesy of the Hotel Tonight mobile app. Wouldn’t have been our first choice, but it became our oasis for the evening. The room was decent enough. It was reasonably quiet, but best of all, we weren’t traveling down the road surrounded by a wall of water and wind.

And they offered a complimentary breakfast.

I approach these complimentary breakfasts with a grain of salt (no pun intended). Hampton Inn has clearly set the standard for the average traveler with a complete breakfast buffet — none of this “continental breakfast” stuff — and the other chains do their best to imitate Hampton, but most don’t even come close.

The La Quinta was no exception.

In their defense, the hotel was under renovation. Their breakfast bar area was completely closed off.

Fitness Room Breakfast 4

Fitness Rule #7: Only one stale, tasteless sweet roll per workout.

 

So they moved the fitness equipment out of the fitness room. That’s where they set up the breakfast bar.

The juxtaposition was priceless.

My photos are awful. I didn’t want to get other guests into the shots and I took them hastily.

The photo to the left shows one of the containers of sweet cereal, the sweet rolls and muffins, sitting under the Fitness Center Rules sign.

Rule 6: Unsupervised use of this facility by children is prohibited.

That’s just way too funny.

 

But the point is that you can make chicken salad out of… well, I can’t say that in a family setting… so… you can make good choices, even at a bad complimentary continental breakfast buffet.

And the good choices are not always as obvious as conventional health and fitness wisdom would lead you to believe.

Temporary location or not, the breakfast fare at La Quinta was rather standard for a non-Hampton complimentary breakfast. So the excuse of not having their usual digs only goes so far.

A more complete view of the "dry cereal and starch bar."

A more complete view of the “dry cereal and starch bar.”

Three cereals. All sweet.

Really?

And if you really need to spike your blood sugar, not only do you get simple carbs with ultra-processed wheat flour, you also get a significant helping of sugar on your pastries.

At least one of the cereal choices was raisin bran (why the cereal makers find it necessary to add sugar to a cereal with raisins is beyond me). Adding milk gives you a nice dose of protein.

So there’s Relatively Nice Choice #1. If given the choice of three sweetened cereals, choose the raisin bran. Low-fat or no-fat milk gives you a decent balance of semi-decent-quality carbohydrate, some fiber, and lean protein.

If you can choose unsweetened Cheerios (or similar toasted oat cereal), either that or raisin bran. What you sacrifice with sugar in the raisin bran, you probably give up in a gram or two of fiber.

Don’t ever forget your fiber!

Fitness Room Breakfast 2

Water, milk, and juice, yogurt (in the container), fresh fruit.

Quick quiz. What’s the best choice here if you have to pick one — and only one — for breakfast?

Water?

Always important, but you need calories.

Juice?

Probably not. All the fiber is processed out of the finished product. You’re left with sugar. And once you drink it, a spike in your blood sugar. Prepare for a quick energy crash. (With the water, you don’t have to worry about an energy crash. You don’t provide your body with any energy to begin with!)

Fresh fruit?

A better choice, but probably not the best choice pictured. Bad: lots of sugar. Good: fiber, which will moderate the blood sugar crash. But no protein.

Yogurt?

Here’s the good: protein. Here’s the bad: added sugar. Fiber: likely minimal or nonexistent.

Leaving us with the best choice on the table…

Milk!

No fiber, but the sugar content is natural, not processed added sugar. You get healthy, lean protein. And if it’s low-fat, you get a little fat, which is also essential in the digestive process.

And then you get your fiber later.

(But… don’t forget your fiber!)

Fitness Room Breakfast 1

The delectable hot food selection, condiments, and some hard boiled eggs!

What do you do with this? Biscuits and gravy, baked or fried potatoes (not sure… probably microwaved), and hard boiled eggs.

Best choice by far: the hard boiled eggs. And yes, the whole egg, yolk and all. The fat and cholesterol content of the yolk is unfairly maligned and actually contains essential nutrients that comprise a healthy diet.

Here’s what I did with this table and the rest of the breakfast.

I started with raisin bran and milk and three hard boiled eggs.

The hard boiled eggs were hard as rocks. Likely overcooked and they tasted like they’d been in the refrigerator for … oh… a month or so (editorial note: just kidding!).

That was a turn-off, but I don’t throw away food unless it tastes like poison (or Brussels sprouts; or chickpeas). So I sauntered back to the hot food and ladled some gravy on top of the eggs, which I had cut into bite-sized pieces.

I was pleasantly surprised at how light the creamy gravy was. I’m sure it was packaged. But it was tasty. It improved the taste of the eggs and filled me up.

None of these items were my first choices. But it fulfilled my objective of getting:

  • lean protein (milk and eggs… oh yeah, and the gravy)
  • starchy carbohydrate (the bran flakes, raisins, milk, and gravy)
  • fibrous carbohydrate (the bran flakes)

I’ll say it again. Do not be fooled by the fat in an egg. It’s good for you.

Not pictured: the coffee bar, which also included some packets of instant oatmeal, loaded with sugar. If instant, plain oatmeal is an option, that is also an alternative to raisin bran and Cheerios. It’s processed, but will generally provide a couple grams of fiber.

All right… Kathy and I are back home again. We survived the Smoky Mountains and more heavy rain on our way there, but nothing close to that first night.

On our trip, we stayed at several Hampton Inns. They do breakfast right, providing a larger variety of food, including cooked old fashioned oatmeal, and some healthy options along with the usual fare. Could be the subject of a separate piece some day…

The big view of a Hampton breakfast buffet.

The big view of a Hampton breakfast buffet.

(Still, I couldn’t wait to fix my own steel-cut oatmeal this morning. I really missed it!)

 


Elijah’s Journey is Our Journey

08/10/2015

Reflections on the Readings for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

  • 1 Kings 19:4-8
  • Ephesians 4:30-5:2
  • John 6:41-51

Elijah was pissed. Or maybe depressed. Maybe a little of both.

He does what the Lord tells him to do. At God’s command, he proclaims a drought to put an end to the worship of Baal, the god of rain. He slaughters 450 prophets of Baal at the Lord’s command.

And Queen Jezebel promises to kill him for his actions.

So Elijah pleads for God to end his life.

How does God answer Elijah? He tells him “you need to make a 40-day journey.”

Nice.

God gave him the strength he needed. Whether Elijah wanted it or not!

Jesus provides nourishment for our journey, too.

God provided Elijah a meal for a journey of 40 days. All it was was a hearth cake and water.

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death saying: “This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

How much more do we get! We receive the body and blood of the Lord, Jesus Christ Himself!

And all God asks of us is that His eternal meal nourish us for seven short days.

And if we want and are able and so choose, we can go back tomorrow. To be nourished again.

What a privilege to be chosen — and to choose — to be a Catholic.

“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Have faith. Please! Is it too formal to say “I urge you?” Okay, I’m begging you. Have faith!

Have faith that this is true. That what Jesus Christ taught is true. That He is the Bread of Life. That we can receive Him every day in the Holy Eucharist.

And that His presence within you will strengthen you for your journey.

What questions do you have? What don’t you believe? What prevents you from accepting that the bread we eat is truly the Body of Christ, His real body? How can I help you?

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating. And for still not posting a meditation daily.

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Excerpts from the Holy Bible taken from the Lectionary for Mass and the New Saint Joseph Sunday Missal, published by Catholic Book Publishing Company. I also refer to the notes at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, usccb.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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