TIS THE SEASON OF TRUE HOPE

I’m always mystified by the three beads at the beginning of the Rosary; what I was taught and have referred to in past writings as the Faith, Horosary01pe and Charity beads. This week’s Gospel message was one focused on HOPE, so I reflected and meditated on it to make it the topic of this article. Tis the season of HOPE. In fulfillment of scripture, God gave us the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the HOPE of His second coming for our salvation. When baby Jesus was presented in the temple to the Holy Simeon and High Priestess, Anna, all their HOPE came to be true. There are parallels that I will stretch to prove a point or two, but I want to emphasize that Jesus didn’t need HOPE, He was and is HOPE for all of time and all of mankind.

In general terms, HOPE is a very broad topic and takes on many forms. HOPE can fade. It can be tampered with and falsified. HOPE fluctuates like the stock market, for some. HOPE is emotional capital that we humans invest in certain beliefs, causes or perceived positive changes. It’s healthy to have HOPE, but can be unhealthy to have too much in some cases. Sports fans have abundant HOPE. This past election season demonstrated the biggest swing of HOPE I’ve ever witnessed. Strictly in my opinion, most people place too much HOPE in politicians. As KC’s we must always leave partisan politics at the door, which I intend to do here in sighting an example of two very different kinds of HOPE.

For the most part, elections are always split in two with one side barely winning regardless of party. This year, the DFL had massive amounts of HOPE and momentum that would suggest their HOPE was going even higher with the surety of electing their next vision of HOPE. It was “money in the bank”, as they say. The GOP didn’t have much HOPE as the mainstream media and their own common sense directed them to “not get their HOPE’s up”. It seemed pretty obvious to all who would win the election.

Both candidates were the least liked and least trusted ever to have run for public office, but the DFL had many more times the HOPE of the GOP. When the election results came in, the party of HOPE had a stock market crash, free-fall of emotional capital where all HOPE was dashed in the flash of time. The GOP had an unexpected, simultaneous nuclear explosion of HOPE, sky-rocket up past the falling DFL’s HOPE. Both sides were in complete disbelief and udder shock, some jumping for joy and others balled up in the fetal position, completely devastated. Never before has there ever been such a huge emotional swing of HOPE. The OMG’s were at a record level on all forms of social media. America was speechless as the two HOPE’s switched positions in a wild swing.

Regardless of party, should we allow ourselves to be swayed to invest that much emotional capital into media driven representations that lead to elations or convulsions over electing mere humans? As we know so well, Catholics don’t always get a fair shake in the media, but that’s a whole different can of worms to open. Why are we so eager to give HOPE to well-intended, fallible humans, but have to work so hard to give TRUE HOPE to Jesus? No matter what side you had HOPE in, you might now realize that you are capable of having massive amounts of HOPE. At your own election, you choose to invest your HOPE in whatever you want. Why not the one TRUE HOPE, this glorious Christmas season?

Get out the Vote 2016

This upcoming election will be one of the most difficult ones in a long time. There is much confusion (by design) and many wonder what our obligation is as Catholics. Here is a u-tube link worth watching (19 min. long) to a full Sunday Homily given by a well known priest in Arizona. Many, if not all, of his homilies are on u-tube. He’s a no-nonsense, by the book homilist, not some far fetched whack-job. In our First Degree ceremony, we are to keep all partisan politics from our meetings. Should you watch this link, you’ll note that no specific party or candidate are mentioned by name. Our November meeting is actually on the 8th, or election night, so vote early, if you plan on attending.

Pope Francis Releases a Pop Rock Album

Rome Italy – November 27th, 2015 – The Holy See announced today the international release of Pope Francis new album “Wake Up!”. A 11-track pop-rock-infused album. This album is a compilation of  “…Pope Francis delivering hymns and excerpts from his speeches in Italian, English, Spanish and Portuguese, paired with different types of music,” Rolling Stone reported.

The album is also available for order on iTunes for $10.99 and you can purchase a cd for your car, stereo, or wherever else you wish to listen to our Pontifex. We have included below the iTunes page should you wish to preview the music.

THE SOCCER BALL STORY FROM THE ROCHESTER FIREMAN

I want to share an uplifting story about CHARITY. Sometimes throwing large sums of money and huge resources at a problem isn’t always the best way to provide CHARITY. I heard this story from a colleague, John Deedrick, as he lamented about the loss of his best friend, Chuck Herman. Chuck died in a freak accident as he was cutting a tree down and having it catch, twist, and fall in a different direction than intended and land on him, killing him. His friend was a Fire Chief in the Rochester, MN fire district.

Several years earlier, both Chuck and John read a book written by Bruce Wilkinson, titled, “You were born for this”. The two had recently formed a non-profit entity called, GREAT-DEEDS (www.greatdeeds.org), with the idea of performing random acts of kindness, as often as the opportunity arises, with as little as ten and twenty dollar bills, on a whim; i.e. lunches or groceries for hungry strangers, books, socks, shirts, etc., “see it, do it” during your daily routine. Many friends and prominent business people from Rochester were recruited to participate and to “fire at will” whenever the occasion arose to thank or help someone in a small way for any reason.

A little while after they formed GREAT-DEED’S, Chuck rode his motor cycle to Sturgis South Dakota for an annual weeklong event. Early Sunday a.m., he stopped at Wall Drug to stretch his legs. He stood in line to buy a twenty dollar “T” shirt when it dawned on him that he already had too many “T” shirts and that he should probably attend a local church and put it in the collection plate, instead. As he got back on his bike, he noticed inclement weather approaching and thought heading north, would avoid it. Several miles out of town, he noticed a little white church with cars in the lot and people walking in, so he rolled his motor cycle in, parked and took a seat. After hearing a wonderful message, he shook the pastor’s hand and handed him the twenty dollar bill, suggesting to him, to take his lovely wife out to brunch. The pastor handed it back and said he had three more sermons to give at three more neighboring parishes, but directed him to Lily, a parishioner who was about to head to Africa for a two week mission trip.

Chuck introduced himself to Lily and chatted for a spell. Lily was about to use her valuable two week vacation time to go volunteer at an orphanage in the center of a city in Zimbabwe with clothing, donations and bibles. He handed her the twenty and instructed Lily to buy soccer balls for the orphanage kids to play with instead of putting it towards less than fun activities. He then reluctantly shook her hand and left. Lily reluctantly agreed and left with the money, shaking her head, as if it were too weird to figure out, but promised she would buy the soccer balls. The donor doubted the money would end up where he requested, but finished his vacation and returned to Rochester. The woman doubted a soccer ball was good idea when other needs were so great, but stashed the cash and headed for Africa with a promise to keep.

Once Lily arrived at the orphanage, the director greeted and showed her the latest improvements, including a new, large group classroom. Lily advised that she promised a donor that she would buy soccer balls for the kids. The director balked at the idea of balls being kicked around inside the new orphanage hall. Lily queried about the adjoining, but unimproved lot owned by the orphanage, to which the director chided, “too dangerous”. There were sharp objects, needles, broken glass and things that could cause harm to the kids as well as the potential for nefarious activity and uncontrollable strangers in the poorest part of town. Lily fought back with the argument that Chuck gave her, in the need for kids to play and have fun. Lily volunteered to walk the grounds and clean it up and others joined in.

The landscape was very uneven and weedy, but they cleaned it up as best as possible. She and the director drove to town for supplies and to find the nearest sporting goods store. On the way, they passed some idle earthmoving equipment, parked nearby. Lily asked the director to pull over and she asked the owner/operator if he would smooth out the area, next to the orphanage and create a soccer field, to which he crassly said, “No, I don’t do charity work”. They turned and moved on. The door of the sporting goods store was locked and a sign said CLOSED, but Lily began to knock, incessantly, until someone came and unlocked it. In an unfriendly voice, he pointed out the CLOSED sign and told them to leave, adding that he was about to go out of business. She pled for him to look for soccer balls which she would gladly pay twenty dollars for. He said there was a barrel in the back with equipment in it and told her to help herself. She dug to the bottom and found three un-inflated soccer balls, went back to the owner and asked for him to pump them up for her. He said no, but sold her a pump and air needle and took her twenty dollars. On the way back, she asked the director to stop at the earth moving equipment one more time and one more time she was run off by the operator.

She repeated this for two more days and finally the curmudgeon operator said, “Lady, if I don’t have any work booked by Friday, I’ll clear the lot for you.” Not only did he clear it, he seeded it with grass left over from another job. Some local craftsmen, living in the area, fashioned simple soccer goals and the kids were excited to begin playing soccer on a real soccer field, once the grass filled in.

Lily returned to South Dakota and began to plan for fund raising efforts for her next trip to Zimbabwe. Nearly two years passed by. As she neared the departure date, she communicated with the director, who was very excited to surprise her with the events that unfolded as a result of her persistency and her twenty dollar purchase from her previous visit. In her absence, word had travelled to neighboring companies, organizations, villages and other soccer enthusiasts wanting to use real balls on a real soccer field and people started to show up. Money offers, to rent the facility for sponsored events, started to flow into the orphanage and the word spread to even farther reaching areas. The director informed Lily that, by renting the facility out, they make enough money to buy all the food, clothing, text books, cleaning supplies, etc. that it takes to run their orphanage, with money left over, thanks to her twenty dollar soccer ball purchase.

Since then, teams have formed by numerous villages and games and tournaments were scheduled. Entire villages of spectators began to show up, stimulating a micro economy of trade, concession sales and other positive activities. The nearby sporting goods store even reopened. Local church attendance increased. An even larger economy began to develop. Money, hundreds of donations and volunteer labor to make improvements to the field and school flooded in and, over time, it evolved into a nice soccer facility with bleachers, benches, and grass field, lined with chalk. With the cleaned up safe neighborhood, the church, the orphanage and school benefited, the city benefited, local companies benefited, the kids and families benefited and it all began from a twenty dollar bill.

Unaware of all that happened in Zimbabwe two years earlier, Chuck was back in Minnesota, in a heated discussion with the Rochester Mayor about some politically polarizing views and public events surrounding diversity and religious freedom. They ended the rhetoric with an agreement to disagree. It got uncomfortable in their verbal stand-off, so the Mayor switched subjects and asked about Chuck’s next motorcycle trip. That, in turn, jogged his memory about an email he got from the Minneapolis Mayor, so he retrieved it, turned the computer screen and asked Chuck, “Is this you?”

When Lily returned home in Wall, SD after the second trip to Zimbabwe, she knew she had to find the motorcycling fireman and thank him. She couldn’t remember his name, but thought he might be from Minneapolis or St. Paul, so she emailed the mayors of both cities and told them of her successful soccer ball story and asked them to help her find her fireman. They forwarded the email to all of the area fire stations, but they reported back to her, no positive results. She asked them to check other nearby cities, so one of the mayors forwarded the email to other Minnesota mayors. Then he wished her well and washed his hands of it.

Shocked by what he was reading, Chuck immediately responded to her email and got “the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey used to say. It’s this story that I’m sharing now. He used this example to motivate many others who continue to further his dream of GREAT-DEED’S and John Deedrick shared it with me to keep it going, too. Twenty dollars can turn into millions or go up in flames. Truly “blind charity” occurred as no one expected these results from a twenty dollar donation turning into a million dollar windfall and soccer facility in a poor part of town in Zimbabwe.

ROSARY REFLECTIONS

If you think of some of your most favorite works of landscape art, quite often, the artist will choose to paint a beautiful setting in the wilderness, across a body of calm water, where both the landscape and its mirror image reflection on the water, are portrayed. Bev Doolittle is a prime example of that technique in many of her best works. Ansel Adams, the famous wilderness photographer, also used reflected images in many of his award winning shots. Many of the great architects like to design reflecting pools into their complex structures, the most famous of which is between the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capital building in Washington DC.

The campus of Notre Dame has one at the base of a fourteen story mosaic on the side of the library, facing the football stadium. Millions of tiles create a backdrop of angels, saints, apostles and religious figures floating behind a twelve story image of Jesus with outstretched arms. Everyone calls it “Touchdown Jesus”. It is said that that the Notre Dame kicker can look through the goal posts and out through the tunnel entrance to the stadium and see Jesus signifying that the kick is good, with his raised, outstretched arms. At the start of every game, the football team captains always take the coin toss position on the field where they are finishing the fourth quarter towards the image of Touchdown Jesus, under the belief that it will give their kicker inspiration. 

Many of the great Prophets, Prognosticators, Philosophers, Professors, Poets, etc., all liked to head off to somewhere in nature and reflect on a wide variety of contemplations to further their understanding of the subject at hand. Christ turned to many different wilderness settings, like the desert, Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, the Sea of Galilee, and others pristine places, to pray. A quote from Hosea, “the wilderness will lead you back to me where I will speak to you”, comes to mind. Where is your wilderness? Your Gethsemane?  Your desert? In the Book of Kings, there is mention of great noises in the rush of wind, the roar of fire, the rumble of earth quake, yet none is as loud as the “Whisper of God”.

 

I was walking my dog around an inner-city wildlife area on a designated tar walking/bike path. We came to a small wooden bridge, spanning a widening in a drainage creek and, for some unknown reason; I stopped and glanced over the rail. Out ahead, my eye caught movement and focused on the reflection of two geese flying by, overhead, but I followed the movement on the water reflection rather than looking up. My eyes trained on the reflections of the clouds moving and floating past the tree tops, then down to where the marsh grass and their reflection met, as the creek turned and disappeared into the landscape. I glanced down at my own reflection, but then detected movement below the surface. My visual focus intensified on the wavering, below surface motion of underwater grass, bowing with the gentle current. I saw a crayfish crawl over some rocks and gravel, magnified by the glass-like water surface. Upon further intensity, a water bug oared around some tiny bits of debris, highlighted by the suns rays. No longer aware of the surface reflections, I gazed as deep as my eyes would allow, searching for the complete picture of all that was happening four feet into the pool. 

Reflection is an interesting word in the context of a prayer form. It reminded me of contemplating the Mysteries of the Rosary. The initial visual of any given Mystery, as it is written or depicted by the Rosary guide books, is like the surface reflection on the pool. When you narrow the focus on any particular Rosary Mystery, you begin to contemplate or reflect on its significances to you off the surface. Below the mirrored surface, you ask how is it significant to the Catholic Faith, to mankind, to theology, or ultimately, how does it pertain to me, what does it mean, why is it a Mystery? Not all of them are obvious.

RUN A PRAYER ERRAND

Being in the grocery business now, Davonne Yang gave me this idea, as he shared a snapshot of how busy we can all get. Too busy, as he put it. His devotion to the Rosary is so strong, while at the same time his schedule is jam packed that he sometimes has to pare it back to just one decade. We both laughed as we said in unison, “it still counts”. What a Catholic thing to say.

Don’t have time for a big shopping trip to check off the whole list of prayer requests? Don’t have time for a full blown rosary? How ‘bout just a decade? There are five decades and five business days in the week. One decade takes less than four minutes. Let’s just call it a prayer errand. It takes a week to pray a Rosary, but….IT STILL COUNTS!

For those who haven’t yet read Davonne’s rosary miracle story, it can be found here. He left Laos with nothing but a Rosary in his pocket, a small bow and arrows and smuggled his family, by boat, past several enemy machine gun nests, while praying the Rosary on his knuckles. Begging God to make you, your friends and family members invisible, is not something many of us can identify with, but they all made it out safely. If you ever want to be spiritually uplifted, take some time and ask Davonne about his journey to the USA.

It was in December and they laid over in Germany long enough to get warm clothes and jump a transport to New York City. He and Pafuoa were surprised to meet an uncle at one of the demarcation depots and uncle gave him a ten dollar bill. Davone made change and sent five dollars back home to Laos to his mother. How could anyone possibly identify with that? We, here at Good Samaritan KC Council, are so blessed to have him as a member.

Now it’s time for everyone to run the prayer errand. Pafuoa has had at least five surgeries since Thanksgiving for serious blood flow issues related to her daily kidney dialysis. She’s been on the kidney donor list for a very long time, with no response. What if all 132 of our council members just gave them four minutes and one decade?

DELIVER US FROM ALL ANXIETY…..

During the Mass, there are a couple of good “one liners” that the presiding priest interjects between the main body of the Lord’s Prayer (Catholic version) and the last sentence, “for Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory…. (Lutheran version, right before we release the hand of our neighboring parishioner). The Presider, sort of, free-lances with a few lines and connects the two versions with a variety of Vatican acceptable rhetoric. This one stands out for me, “deliver us from all anxiety …”.

Anxiety is like a tasteless, odorless chemical substance that we never really notice. Everyone breathes oxygen, right? But there’s also nitrogen mixed into our atmosphere and no one ever mentions it, even though it’s always present. Because we don’t recognize anxiety as evil, we unknowingly let it seep in and make us miserable. I suppose most folks are numb to the fact that anxiety is evil. It’s not obvious and sneaks up on us, but it is very evil in how it cripples our thinking and our peace of mind. It moves in and takes up residency like an undetected stow-away or like a wood tick hitch hiking a free ride, meals included, while sucking life one sip at a time, totally un-noticed.

Everyone has varying degrees of anxiety, all of them are bad. So what do we do? This may seem too simple, but let’s start with praying the Lord’s Prayer and insert the “anxiety one liner” consciously, to meet the evil head on. Better yet, meditating on a Rosary would also block out anxiety.

A Civilization of Love – Book Review

Dear Friend,

I just finished reading a book. I read a lot of books, but this is one of those books I will refer back to for years, and I want you to read it too.

I find a lot of books are pretty good, but few are great, and so I don’t recommend very many. This book is an exception, because it is an exceptional book.

Carl Anderson’s A Civilization of Love is a book that I believe can change your life – and our society. If you want to contribute something to building a better future for our children, this book is a must read. Check out this website http://www.acivilizationoflove.com/ to find out more about this book.

What I loved most about this book was that it started with a really common sense principle: living out our faith is the best road map to a society that we can be proud of. After all, this is what made this country great in the first place.

In the movie Bella, my character Jose helps a child and her mother. His simple action saves a life, and shows a woman and child in need the power of real love. This book is the guide for anyone who wants to contribute to changing our culture for the better – like Jose did. This book explains how you can live your life like Jose did

If like me, you love this country, but want to make it even better, to contribute rather than complain, then this book may be the most important book you will read this year.

God bless you,

Eduardo Verastegui

P.S. If you want to get the book, you can buy it here for a lot less than in bookstores,  And by the way, Carl Anderson is donating all of his proceeds from this book to charity. Read more about it also on Supreme’s Website

A Story of CASHEWS

A young priest, recently assigned to a large suburban Catholic Parish, was preparing for his first Christmas prior to leaving the seminary. He was on, what his Monsignor boss called, “an accelerated learning experience” in understanding what it takes to run a Parish. The closer Christmas approached, the more “glad tidings” showed up at the Parish office for the two priests to share. One day, a beautiful “tin” of premium roasted & salted mixed nuts arrived. It had winter wonderland scenic mural embossed around the outside of the decorative can. The Monsignor took it back to the Rectory and placed it on the coffee table in the living room that the two priests shared. The temptation was too great to ignore so, as often as they could, the two priests thought of every conceivable reason to walk by the “tin” to complete what ever menial task at hand. Of course they had to dip into the can each time they passed it. “Waste not, want not”. Occasionally, when no one was watching, the young Associate Pastor would stop and hand-sort out a few extra cashews and wolf them down, savoring their “premium” flavor.

After a few days went by, he noticed the remaining half of mixed nuts were dramatically lacking adequate numbers of cashews necessary to create a balance in the mix. Guilt filled his soul, as he thought of his sinful, greedy nature. He began to worry the Monsignor would notice and lecture him on the evils of self indulgence. His mind raced and finally he decided he would right his wrong the very next day so he drove the Parish van to the local grocery store. Zigzagging up and down every aisle, he finally came to rest in the baking section, eye to eye with the “holy grail” of the nut family. Gently, he lifted a large bag of premium roasted, salted cashews. As he read the price tag, he raised his eyebrows and swallowed hard. The check-out seemed like it was a mile away, as he quickened his pace through the store to the 10 items or less lane. 

Two old ladies were ahead of him with their generic items and accompanying coupons. They zeroed in on the young priests purchase, bugged their eyes out and raised their eyebrows. One leaned into the other and, out of the side of her mouth said, “seems awfully young and suspicious to be making such a frivolous purchase…..I mean….REALLY! CASHEWS?….I thought they had to take a vow of poverty or something…..I wonder if the Monsignor knows how badly he’s wasting the parishioners money.” They set off in a huff. The college aged check-out clerk grabbed the bag from the young priest and flipped it over to find the bar code. “Whew! Father? Big day in the confessional? What’s the occasion?  It’s not every day we get to run a bag of these beauties through the register. Party on, Dude!”

By this time the young priest had red blotches of embarrassment allover the side of his neck and cheeks. He made his hands as large and flat as possible to cover the purchase as he picked up the premium bag of cashews and dove into a brown bag with his forearms protecting the view from any other suspicious on lookers. With the grace and speed of an Olympic steeple chaser, he ran for the van. “Father, forgive me”, he muttered as he slumped over the steering wheel, fumbling for the ignition with the keys. “When will this night mare end?”

The van pulled into the Rectory driveway just as the side door of the church opened. The old Monsignor ambled across in front of the van. “Busted!” he thought to himself, as the drivers side door opened, valet style, by the older priest who was now eyeing the grocery bag. “Well, what have you got there, Laddy?” The red blotches began to reappear on the young Associate, as the bag was swiftly snatched from his grasp and the nose of the Monsignor hovered over the bag opening. “Oh! Bless your heart, son. I’ve been eating all the cashews out of the “tin” all week and feeling guilty about it. Thank you for thinking of me. I would have never had the guts to be seen in public buying a bag of these. I’m so glad you did. Let’s go in and sample the loot.”

They made a dash for the kitchen door and laid the bag of premium roasted & salted whole cashews in the center of the simple table, an equal distance between themselves. “Well, go ahead and open them”, the fidgety old Monsignor ordered. He bit down on the end of the bag and tore off a corner, then gently dumped a small pile of cashews in the center of the table. The two stared the pile like pirates gazing at gold doubloons. Using their index fingers, they culled several cashews out of the heap and coddled them in their palms. With increased heart rates they both thrust one into their mouths. Their tongues pushed the morsel on to their first molar and, in one pop, they were gone. Smiling nervously and pretending to enjoy, they thought to themselves, “that was not all that special”. They repeated the procedure. “Pop, Pop” Adjusting their weight in their chairs over the second disappointment, thinking, there really isn’t much to these cashews. A little forced laughter and the rest of the palm contents went bottoms up.

The old Monsignor held up his index finger and said, “I’ve got an idea. Stay here, I’ll be right back.” He reappeared with the “tin” of mixed nuts and fished out a Brazil nut, a walnut, an almond, a little hazel nut and 4 Spanish peanuts and mixed in a new cashew. He closed his hand around them and gently shook them like casino dice and flung the whole works down the hatch. He crunched up the mouthful, jostling his head around and swallowed three times before it was all gone. Clasping his palms together, he announced, with a joyful sound, “It’s the mixture of all the different nuts together that makes it all taste so good!”

A Knights of Columbus Council can be a lot like a can of premium roasted & salted mixed nuts. We’re a blend of colorful personalities and backgrounds that enhance one another’s existence. Old mixed with young, professionals mixed with craftsmen, Priests mixed with lay, entrepreneurs mixed with laborers, all in our decorative “Catholic container”. Some members put in more time, volunteering for KC sponsored breakfasts and events than others do, while still others use their time and skill sets planning those events. Ultimately, it’s the members who don’t work the event, but bring their entire family to eat, that make the fund raiser a true success. While the “peanuts” buss the tables and sweep the floors and “cashews” present the big check at a ceremony, it’s the combination of the entire KC Council supporting the event that makes “it taste so good” to the Parish. Let’s take pride in how we’re all a little “nuts” over the KC’s.