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.

Gird your loins

GIRD YOUR LOINS
That was one of the themes of a recent Gospel reading. Batten down the hatches, prepare ye the way, or as grampa used to say, “Katie, bar the door”. The political season is about to go into full swing. One of the hardest things about being a KC is the vow we take in our first degree, to leave all the partisan politics outside the door at our official KC functions. Social media and technology have made it possible to accelerate the various messages and venom spew. All the misinformation and disinformation is coming like a tsunami. The public has little chance of knowing the absolute truth. Grid your loins, protect yourself (from yourself) and know that volumes of smoke has been and will continue to be blown in your direction.

In my short 63 years on earth, I have usually been my own worst enemy, by being swayed by the wrong people and messages they deliver. Not just politics, but various tout about investments, gossip, news items, and school subjects. There are a lot of self-appointed experts who are willing and able to share their opinions in effort to sway yours. Reading the daily Gospel, contemplation and meditation have been great ways to protect myself from myself. Notre Dame has a free daily Gospel reading, via email, with a reflection from an alum, teacher or priest, pertaining to the reading, a short prayer and a dedication to the “patron Saint of the day”. Anyone can sign up for it free of charge.

The Unity and Fraternity degree’s give us a slight advantage over the less guided masses, in that we can choose to associate with spiritually active, like minded folks. Don’t shy away from attending the HNOJ Men’s breakfasts, the different HNOJ ministry opportunities to join or simply becoming more involved with the KC’s. It’s a great way to “gird your loins”.

A FEW INSIGHTS IN FAMILY HISTORY

I’ve recently agreed to collaborate with two of my cousins to try to compile stories of our parents, grandparents and what little we can find on great grandparents, who emigrated from Germany. They ended up homesteading some acreage in the Otsego, MN area between Elk River and Albertville. Our grandfather homesteaded immediately north of the original family farm, once he was old enough to move out and apply for the grant. The bond that held them all together, during tough times, was their Catholicism and their German traditions. What I found fascinating was several of the same last names as are members of Holy Name, a parish with Germanic roots. It took me back to some of the German stories Fr. Arnie used to share with our parishioners.

In discussing how our relatives homesteaded eighty acres in an era of pre-gasoline engines and pre-automated farm equipment, it pretty much meant hard work with horse teams, axes and shovels to remove trees to convert to tillable land. Depending on what species of tree, (oak, elm, poplar, pine), the wood served purpose for a wide variety of lumber uses for buildings and fences. Most residences were heated with wood and food was cooked on wood stoves. I recommend you all go out into your yards and contemplate what it would take to remove one tree from your yard with axes and shovels.

Their “Cub Foods” store was Gods abundant nature. Trapping, hunting and fishing, was the main way to acquire meat and growing root vegetables served much of their produce needs. Learning to store and preserve enough food to feed twelve hungry mouths in one family can become a little overwhelming during normal Minnesota weather. Now couple it with a three year “dust bowl era”, a stock market crash, an Armistice Day blizzard and really make it interesting.

Toil or suffering, struggling, and surviving back then was different than it is today, but handled similarly.  The community banded together to take on big projects and traded labor or skills. They prayed. The Rosary was the go-to prayer that cured all and kept hope alive. Families and neighbors rallied together to assist, entertain and spiritually motivate one another. I honestly don’t think they knew they were poor. It was the only way they knew it was for their entire church community. Grampa hooked up the hay wagon or sleigh to the team of horses, every Sunday, to ride into town to attend Mass at St. Albert’s. On the way to town, all the straggling walkers and neighbors jumped on board and joined in on the rosary or singing and storytelling. Simple beginnings, simple times, simple lives.

If you want to enter a different part of you logical mind, immerse yourself into your family history and chat with elders and credible historians. You may find answers and insights as to how you are the way you are. I often ask myself, how I came to be what I currently am. How’d I get here? It sneaks up on you and probably wasn’t what you thought it would be on graduation day. Gentlemen, as we celebrate the Lenten Season, make time to add the Rosary to your spiritual routine and simplify your lives. If you toil with sin, meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries and open your heart and mind to God’s special way of making you say hmmmmm.

FEEDING THE 5000

An early January gospel reading was “the feeding of the 5000” story. I recommend you all read or meditate on it, after you read this. Though it pales in comparison, it must have been part of the inspiration of Fr. Jonathan Licari when he teed up the idea that HNOJ feed the Wednesday night religious education attendees, only to hear the sound of crickets in the meeting. The Apostles suggested to Jesus that they break up the crowd so they all can forage for meals and Jesus spurned the idea with instructions to the Apostles to find a way to feed them. He had a captive audience of 5000 and couldn’t imagine breaking them up and then spending many hours trying to regather them for his sermon. “…but Lord, it would take several years wages just to buy that much bread…” Jesus asked, “what do we have?” “Five loaves and two fish”, they replied. Can you imagine the expressions on their faces when he instructed them to divide it into two baskets and start feeding everyone?

HNOJ had seen a major fall off of religious ed. attendance after Fr. Arnold Weber retired. There were lots of excuses the parishioners gave. It was more important to eat together as a family was the main one Fr. Jonathan heard. Sports, dance, choir, band/orchestra, prime-time TV shows, were among the many other reasons. The “light came on”, for Father Licari, that the parish could try to feed them. You should have heard the groans. There were over 800 mouths to feed. How do we feed that many? Committee members were at a loss as to how to tell Fr. Jonathan, in a nice way, that it was a horrible idea. Diane Pasquarelli (may she rest in peace) stood up and said it was a magnificent idea, as the committee stared like deer in the headlights and tried to send mental messages to sit down and be quiet.

Diane was the kindest, most sincere, loving, giving person in the whole parish and nobody dared to make her feel foolish or challenge her, but they did ask her, “what do we have to feed them with?”. Without batting an eye, she replied, “we’ll get the KC’s to do it. Tom Silver, Steve Zylla, Greg Heggie, Jim Siefert, Dave Stumpf, all know their way around the kitchen and would be perfect for the job. All we have to do is ask them. They can serve pizza, hot dogs or simple meals. It’s no big deal”. The committee half-heartedly knew it would never work, but felt they all needed to be there to help pick up Diane’s feelings in the aftermath of the catastrophic failure.

At the very next KC council meeting, in the new business portion of the meeting, the suggestion was made, approved and the rest is history. There was very little push-back, to everyone’s surprise. “Let’s try it for a while and if it fails we can do something else.” Our resourcefulness and networking skills with large corporations in various food related businesses, has led to some pretty fine dining at HNOJ. I can clearly state that, as a result of our involvement with the Wednesday Night Fine Dining, we have more than doubled our membership numbers at HNOJ Good Samaritan KC Council.

To all our men and their families who dedicate so much time to that project, we all owe you tremendous gratitude for your efforts. We are only the secondary benefactors. The Religious Ed. attendance numbers dramatically increased and have held strong. There are parishioners who attend just for the social aspect of meeting other parishioners. As KC’s, our highest priority has to continue to be whatever our parish priests need us to be. That’s what made the KC’s, internationally, succeed since inception.

Be it done to me according to your word

Merry Christmas, everyone! One of my favorite passages, this time of year, is The Magnificat of Mary. I’d like you all to take the time to read it and meditate on it with first of The Joyful Mysteries. “Tis the season” for that mystery set on the daily rosary journey. Many of the daily gospels, these past few weeks have been parables of Jesus healing lame, blind, inflicted/afflicted, unclean, etc. people that he encounters, telling them it’s their faith that has healed them. It’s a message that gets repeated throughout the New Testament. We don’t have to be extremely physically bad off to ask to be healed or to accept Gods healing. The Magnificat is the Lectures report, this month.

Somehow, being a tongue-in-cheek, smarmy overweight sixty three year old guy with a bad knee, whose eyesight is failing and recently diagnosed with asthma, along with an attitude towards current politics that, at the very least, is off-color and somewhat unclean, I identified with all those healing terms. It would be too easy for me to take this month’s Lecturers article in the wrong spiritual direction, but I couldn’t resist attempting to put a smile on your faces during this joyous time of year with some humorous self-flagellation. Instead, I’d like you all to rejoice in your own imperfections, knowing that His birth is what saves us all from ourselves as much as from our enemies. We’re all sinners that are supposed to strive to sin less, because it’s not possible to be sinless. It’s the guy looking back at you when you shave that has caused the majority of your set-backs, in life. The media is doing a great job of keeping enemies visible at all times, so continue to be vigilant, spiritually during this Christmas season. Jesus is the reason for the season.

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.

All Saint & All Souls Day Reflections

I was inspired by both, All Saints Day and All Souls Day readings and homilies, to gear the report towards appealing to all the various intercedents that we believe to be in Heaven, when we pray or meditate on a Rosary. Even the ones yet to be canonized. Many of my past friends, relatives and brother Knight’s came into full view for me. One of my favorite past articles, written and posted on our web site, is titled Gramma’s RosaryPlease take time to read and enjoy it.

As a child, I asked her why she prays alone in her living room. To which she assured me she never prays alone. She used to imagine herself in front of the alter of a giant cathedral, that she would fill up with intercessions, appeals and invites of everyone she believed to be in Heaven, until all the pews, alter presider plus side seats and choir lofts were full.

 Gentlemen, I recommend you never pray alone.


God Bless,

Spiritual Hunger

Brothers,
Thanks for such a marvelous response to the appeal to attend Fr. Michael O’Connell’s honorary dinner, coming up in 3 weeks. We have about 100 seats remaining before we fill it out to max capacity. This months report repeats some of the material covered in the appeal, but I wanted to point out a mild success that involved knocking me off my high Catholic horse. With all the anonymity that has to come with the AA crowd and privacy compliance issues, it’s hard to measure actual results.
SPIRITUAL HUNGER
I’m on the Board of Directors of Trinity Sober Homes, a Catholic, Twin Cities based, not-for-profit, post treatment sober home for men over forty years old, fresh out of a formal drug and alcohol program. Founded by Fr. Marty Fleming around, “the centrality of the Jesus event” and designed to meet a dramatic shortfall in post treatment housing. There are over eighty formal treatment centers in the area that turn out over a thousand people each month, as they complete their thirty day programs. This is truly “ground zero” for homelessness in the nine county metro area. When asked by key facilitators what their faith base is or was, more than half say Catholic. Sadly, many of them have fallen away from the church and feel they wouldn’t be welcomed back. Our Trinity Sober Homes mantra is: The Catholic Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints”. One day at a time, one guy at a time, one prayer at a time and for me, one Rosary at a time, can make all the difference in anyone’s life.
A third of our populace at the two, soon to be three, Trinity Sober Homes properties are practicing Catholics. The rest are works in progress. The main requirement is that they believe in a higher power and that it’s not themselves. There is a waitlist to get in, as we turn away three to eight men each month, due to post treatment housing shortages. After an extensive interview process and discussion, we extend an agreement to bring them in under strict rules and guidelines. They are not required or pressured to be Catholic. Spiritual coaches are provided for each man, if they choose to meet with them, and chat at whatever spiritual level they are currently at or they could opt out altogether. No firehoses! No guilt! Because the residents average fifty three years old (35-75), many have been through the standard treatment system numerous times. Also because they average such a high age, they are tired of swimming against the current and ready for the Trinity structured environment.
We believe all people have varying degrees of “spiritual hunger” so we try to create opportunities for our men to grow at their own speed. I want to illustrate it with one man’s journey. He came to us “ready”, but spiritually empty, ten months ago. He moved into the St. Gabriel House (we name the homes after Archangels). A highly educated and creative video writer, director, producer, he never had a religion, but believed, after numerous trips through formal treatment programs over the years, there was probably a God and didn’t really know much more than that. There was lots of “push-back” on the idea of a spiritual coach and he declined the offer. Reluctantly, he later agreed to attend a one-on-one session with a coach, but warned not to get any hopes up for his lost soul. I really don’t know what was said or where he is currently at in his faith journey, but my perspective has changed. It’s my understanding that he’s hardly missed a meeting, since that first one with his spiritual councilor.
 “Reluctant admission”, was how it was conveyed to me by the committee, on how well he fits in after his original interview. “Crossed fingers” and hope that we were doing the right thing by extending an invite to move in, was also brought to mind. Wouldn’t it be easy if we only took recovering Catholics hungry for re-discovering their religion? “Evangelize and, if necessary, use words.”- Mother Theresa

 

Media Perception

In the old version of the “Third Degree” ceremonial of the KC’s there was a teachable role-playing segment related to what gets said vs what gets perceived. It was engineered to point out how unfair the media, or individuals gossiping can be spun out of control to falsely feed an agenda or cause. The exercise was mostly used to point out the importance of standing behind all parish priests, religious clergy and Catholic doctrine for support and to think before you speak about issues concerning all.

This week, we all suffer from the non-stop coverage from mainstream media of a man who was led on what he felt was a guided hunt. There’s much more to the story, which I will shy away from, as I personally know the hunter, as do others in our KC council. He and his family have made multiple trips to Africa and many other countries. They have donated in excess of a million dollars in goods, services, medical, school supplies and good will to many hundreds, if not thousands of extremely poor people who benefited from the events surrounding numerous guided hunts over all the 30 years he has hunted there and in many different economically impoverished villages throughout the third world.

The extremely high license fees associated with hunting and fishing, world-wide, including Minnesota, pay for the proliferation and propagation of all species involved. No matter what our stance is related to hunting, many of the world’s endangered species have been revived by those conservation efforts and license sales that would otherwise go unfunded and vanish.

While everyone is worked into a frenzy over a popular, named, “man-eating” mascot/pet ambassador, hundreds of thousands of aborted babies, annually, (millions over time) are ignored. Back in the old days, many Catholic parents named, baptized and buried miscarried babies in Catholic cemeteries all over the world. Maybe if names were required for aborted babies, there would be less abortions. Hundreds of millions of our tax-payer dollars are granted to Planned Parenthood, an organization dismembering and illegally selling fetal body parts for profit. All of which is ignored by the mainstream media coverage. In excess of fifty percent of those hundreds of thousands of annual abortions are un-named black children. Why don’t those lives matter?

In one weeks’ time, we now know more about the life and background of an Eden Prairie dentist than we do about the entire field of presidential candidates. In one weeks’ time, three children were cooked inside their family cars by unwitting, irresponsible parents, yet uncovered by the media. Brothers, be vigilant about what you allow to creep into your life, living room and vocabulary. Pray for all of those written about today.