A Love Story Starring Doug and Amy Kwiecinski

05/23/2015

Doug and Amy asked me to read at their wedding. Today’s the day. May 23, 2015, 5:00 pm, Central Daylight Time.

They also asked me to say a few words after the reading. This is what I will say to them in just a few minutes.

Doug and Amy engaged 1459337_10153535299400080_1130631129_n

When you asked me to read and gave me a selection of readings to choose from, and then asked if I would say few syllables after the reading, I read over each one, I jotted a few notes, and when I read this one, the letter to the Corinthians, I just started writing — and writing and writing and writing! — I just knew this was the right reading for today. For you. For both of you.

Doug and Amy 941299_10153453624890080_2006328927_n

Love is not easy. Love ain’t just flowers and chocolate and jewelry and other nice “things.”

Those are nice. They’re not bad. They help express love. They’re not love.

Love is not about me.

It’s not about you…

Take a look at the person next to you. At the people around you. It’s about them. Love is about them.

Doug, Amy… take a look at the person next to you. It’s about them.

Doug and Amy in the car 1425721_10153453625515080_1701486744_n

Love never fails.  –  First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 13:8 (beginning)

We fail. It’s easy to fail! And it’s easier to not admit to failure.

Pompous. Inflated. Rude. Quick-tempered. Brood over injury.

Yikes. [shudder]

Guilty!

Sorry, honey. Thanks for loving me.

Do not ever stop praying.

Do not ever stop learning.

Do not ever think you have it all figured out.

Love is work.

But love is the reason for all of this.

Love is the reason for everything.

Love is the reason for new life. Love is the reason for all life.

Love sustains us in death. And when we mourn the death of a loved one.

Love is the reason for everything in between.

Love is hard.

When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child…  –  First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 13:11a

Don’t think that just because you’re an adult… and you think you reason as an adult, it gets any easier.

You will disagree.

You might argue.

You will be tested.

And… you’re human! So sometimes you will fail!

Pick yourselves up. Dust yourselves off. Admit your mistakes. Ask God for help. Pray to Him for forgiveness.

Never forget His Divine Mercy. Never hesitate to ask for His Divine Mercy!

Love never fails.

Father Leo Clifford was a Franciscan Friar. He passed away in 2012. In the early 2000s, he recorded five seasons of Reflections, brief… 6, 7, 8 minute thoughts… homilies. He had a melodious Irish accent and an almost lyrical manner of speaking. He touches your heart. Grabs your emotions. In one of his Reflections, Philosophy of Life, Father Clifford says:

By definition, you cannot keep love. Love must be given away. You cannot buy love. You cannot barter it. You cannot sell it. You cannot store it. You can only give it away.

A song is not a song until it is sung. A bell is not a bell until it is rung. And love is not love until it is given away…

Isn’t that beautiful?

Sounded so poetic, I wondered if those were his words or a quote. So I did a little research.

My best guess is he borrowed it. Paraphrased the words of Oscar Hammerstein II.

Hammerstein wrote these words for the Broadway musical, The Sound of Music. Before the Reprise of Sixteen Going on Seventeen, Maria says (sings) the following to Liesl:

A bell is no bell till you ring it
A song is no song till you sing it
And love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay
Love isn’t love till you give it away…

God is Love. God gave us Love so that we can give it away.

Look around. See all this? It’s His. And it’s ours because He loves us!

Guess what?

We give it all back to God. We leave nothing behind. We give everything back to God.

Except Love.

Welcome to our family, Amy. We’re honored to have you.

Never stop honoring and loving your wife, Doug. Even through difficult times.

Congratulations, Doug and Amy. Lots of love to both of you.

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Here’s the reading:

A reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians

1 Cor 12:31-13:13

Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.

But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The Word of the Lord.

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Are You Ready to Get Smacked Around?

04/24/2015

Why is Christianity true?

Without any doubt?

Not debatable?

Why, that’s simple! The Acts of the Apostles!

Have you ever known a coward? Someone who is all blather and no substance? Someone who enjoys riding another person’s coattails, enjoys the limelight, the spotlight, the spoils, but does none of the dirty work? Just gets in the way of the celebration?

Kind of like a wedding crasher.

Also kind of like the twelve disciples.

They each had their reasons. Many of which, no doubt, were well intentioned.

Today’s Easter weekday reading from the Acts of the Apostles retells the conversion of St. Paul (Acts 9:1-20). What further proof do you need?

More you say? Okay. How about Pentecost? Those timid hangers-on, afraid of their own shadow especially after Jesus is crucified, suddenly emerge from their cave and won’t shut up! They suddenly have no fear of being persecuted, tortured, even killed.

And that’s life here on Earth.

We can “go for the gusto.” (Gosh. Remember the old Schlitz commercial?) Live this earthly life with abandon. Be the person who accumulates the most toys before getting planted. Live for the moment. Cross stuff off the bucket list, no matter how…

adventurous…

Or we can live for eternal life.

A heckuvalot more challenging than it sounds.

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Today is also the feast day of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a Franciscan Capuchin priest who was martyred for his unfailing Counter-Reformation preaching.

EWTN’s Mass included alternate readings for the day. The first reading was from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy. That reading concludes:

Anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus can expect to be persecuted. – 2 Timothy 3:12

So… that’s simple! Want to get to heaven? Live a godly life. Imitate Christ. But expect to be persecuted.

Did you know that St. Francis of Assisi preached to the Muslims? He attempted to convert them. “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you,” Francis said.

Are you ready? You may not just get smacked around. It could cost more.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, 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.


Would You Die For What You Believe In?

01/16/2015

Would you die for what you believed?

Could you?

I’ve told you before that I listen to at least a portion of the Mass on EWTN almost every day (TV when I can and radio when I’m on the road). Today, I listened on the radio as I drove to my next appointment.

Today is a feast day for the Franciscans, honoring five early followers of Saint Francis who martyred themselves instead of renouncing their faith.  Father Leonard Mary celebrated Mass today. He used his homily to give a brief history of the martyrs and how they were tempted by their captors before being killed. Father Leonard then mentioned something called White Martyrdom. White Martyrdom is not a physical death, he explained, but a dying to oneself.

The comparison was clear. How can we martyr ourselves in our everyday lives?

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Later this morning, sitting in Panera before my next personal training session, I overheard a gentleman telling his companion how Catholics had … oh… let’s call it, “a damaging way” of looking at sin, and how sharing that perspective with others is harmful to the way other people live their lives.

What?!?

I couldn’t get my headphones shoved into my ears fast enough. I needed music. Loud music. I didn’t want to listen to what this man was saying, kind and soft-spoken though he was. Despite his demeanor, his opinion — at least on this matter — didn’t strike me as kind and gentle, but rather reckless and damaging. I wasn’t angry, but I was upset at what I perceived as some egregious misconceptions.

I was trading text messages with my son, Stephen, at the time that I happened to overhear this conversation. I fired off a text message to him, expressing my exasperation over what I heard.

After I sent it, I decided that my words were so clever, I had to post them to Facebook.

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I’m a member of a small, Christian Facebook group whose purpose is to “uplift and encourage (others) through the Gospel of Christ” (that’s a paraphrase of the mission statement). Today, the founder of the group, Mariane, continued and concluded a series of reflections on moving “from darkness to light:”

“I wish that we were all full of light and love and good works always. But no, we’re still sinners, imperfect, we’re still influenced by our flesh, the world and the voice of Satan…

“… there is the aspect of free will. We need to say YES to Jesus and God’s will and say no to the devil and our flesh every day. We need to die in our flesh every day (1 Cor 15:31).”

I read Mariane’s words just after my “clever” text to Stephen. Before I almost posted my “clever” words to my Facebook page.

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I briefly thought about speaking up. But what would I have said? Would my “clever” words to the gentleman have been constructive? Or provocative? Would I have properly seized the moment, as Saint Paul preached, and attempted to “walk into the light?” Or would my response, in that awkward, uncomfortable moment, have demonstrated to the world that I have not — yet again — died to the flesh?

Shoving the earbuds against my skull proved to be the more prudent, if only merely accidental, course of action.

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Father Leonard is right. White Martyrdom is possible. Any day. Every day.

Consider how challenging it is to die to the flesh at any given moment.

Then contemplate the lives — and deaths — of those who make the ultimate Earthly sacrifice.


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