Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Major Dome-O

This beautiful representation of God the Father is on the dome of St. Luke's Mission of Mercy, where my wife and I serve as missionaries.  It was painted by John De Rosen, best known for painting many of the murals in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and for creating one of the largest mosaics in the world in the Cathedral of St. Louis.   



The image is flanked on either side with a representation of the Annunciation, with Mary the Mother of God on the left, St. Gabriel the Archangel on the right.



On the left side of the nave is a chapel honoring the Sacred Heart, on the right Our Lady of Lourdes.  The images of angels above each of the chapels were created by De Rosen as well.



It is a wonderful place to worship.  Next time you are in Buffalo, stop in for a visit!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A little knowledge can be dangerous...


Early in my nursing education I diagnosed myself, quite adeptly (I thought) with pheochromocytoma.  For those not steeped in the intricacies of the human body beyond the necessity of nutrition and heeding nature's call, pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor on the adrenal gland.  We have two such glands, one located at the very top of each kidney (most know this as the gland that allows old ladies to pick up Volkswagens in a crisis).  From these glands come epinephrine and norepinephrine, two very powerful hormones usually released in small quantities to regulate heart rate and blood pressure.  As you might surmise, a tumor on one of these little hummers can cause a heap o' trouble. 

I was quite certain I had one.  I had the symptoms:  Abdominal pain, occasional chest pain, flushing, increased appetite, irritability, nervousness, palpitations, rapid heart rate, headaches, sweating, weight loss, sleeping difficulties, and hypertension (okay, the weight loss was not an issue, but I have already told you much more than HIPAA allows).  I made an appointment with my primary, and brought a print-out of the disease, just in case he wasn't up on it. 

My doctor was generous to an obvious fool.  It was clear from the moment I began that I was more likely to have a dermoid with my twin growing in my pelvis (I'm not completely convinced that I don't) than pheochromocytoma.  "Are you under any stress?" he asked.  Hmmmm...full time student, full time employee, father of four (now nine with some indirect help from epinephrine and norepinephrine), "no, not that I'm aware of...well, okay, yeah, I guess I am under a bit of stress".  I guess.  Who was I kidding.  With one question my diagnosis lay gasping and flopping on the floor like a fish in Bill Dance's cooler.  I was suffering from anxiety.  Jeesh.  How bourgeois.  I declined any "little helpers" and left the office with my tail between my legs.

I can tell you that I learned very little from that experience.  As my college career progressed, each new disease, syndrome, and illness I learned was a new possible self-diagnosis and looked at carefully in that light.  As a nurse in the Emergency department, I can vouch for the danger of a little bit of knowledge.  I would like to find, incarcerate, and water-board the founder of WebMD; for some of our patients there is little need for evaluation and diagnosis as they themselves have already done the bulk of the leg-work and require only our affirmation (damn that this country still requires physicians to write orders. We could save a lot of time if our regulars could do it on their own).  Those in this line of work know that more often than not, the primary diagnosis for many such as these is anxiety. 

Don't misinterpret my callous appraisal of medical information sites; I am grateful for the information they provide and strongly encourage better understanding of the working of our bodies.  But as in all things, there can be too much of a good thing.  For some, these sites are a drug.  They pour over them, looking for signs and symptoms to affirm their strongly held assertion that there is SOMETHING wrong with them.  These sites are just generic enough that any symptom you have, from constipation to burping, could be a symptom of the disease that is about to send you six feet underground. 

This is not unique to the medical field.  There are many well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) people in our society misusing information to affirm wrongly-held assertions or to diagnose societal ills unexplained by an obvious cause-and-effect.  The internet is chock-full of sites that assert without any shadow of a doubt that African Americans are going to violently take over the country, white people are feeding drugs to African Americans to keep them down, Jewish bankers control the world, weather changes have been caused by the CIA, aliens are living among us, computer chips were injected in our kids' arms the last time they were vaccinated, Pee Wee Herman is a bloodthirsty terrorist, and Bert and Ernie are gay.  I'm not sure about Pee Wee, but whatever. 

Our Church is not immune to these problems.  Whether Dan Brown or some other wacko wants to convince the world that Opus Dei and the Jesuits are initiating a  new world order of secrecy or Bob Jones wants to repeat his tired mantra about the whore of Babylon, there are many willing listeners.  From within, there are Catholics that are passionate that everything they see wrong with the Church can be traced to Vatican II, female altar servers, vernacular mass, and Cary Landry (okay, maybe the latter is true, but let's move on).   No matter the symptom, we are adept at adapting it to our personal conspiracy theory.  It is pervasive, historical, and probably with us until Jesus returns (ONE return; no rapture, sorry.).  Real problems?  Sure.  Worthy of discussion?  Absolutely.  Worthy of obsessive-compulsive hand-wringing?  Not so much.

Yes, there are legitimate problems in our Church.  No, it is not often possible nor feasible to pinpoint a cause-and-effect; therefore, we need to rely on the guidance of the Church.  When we spend so much time concentrating on researching and finding evidence to back up our personal theory we waste valuable time that could be spent in prayer, adoration, and service to one another.  We lose much of our ability to evangelize and to personify the love of Christ.  We squander grace. 

"For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry."      2 Timothy 4:3-5
I think that "time to come" prophesied by St. Paul arrived long ago, and will continue indefinitely.  To survive we need to seek the guidance of the Church.  We need to avoid the temptation to insatiable curiosity.  We must embrace thw scriptures, seek the guidance of the saints, and pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially wisdom and discernment.  With God's grace we can keep a level head, live His will for our lives, love much, and bring a whole bunch with us.  That is how we fulfill our ministry.

Now here's my theory about Spongebob Squarepants...just kidding.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Inevitable?

At the dawn of the twentieth century my grandparents left soon-to-be-restored Poland , traveling by steamship to the United States of America with hundreds of thousands of their countrymen.  They assimilated to the best of their ability, worked very hard, and created opportunities for their children and grandchildren by the sweat of their brow.  They brought with them their culture, music, food, and most importantly, their faith. 

In the neighborhoods of the east side of Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Lackawanna, where Polish immigrants built their lives, magnificent churches lifted their spires to God in thanksgiving for the grace and blessings they had received.  St. Stanislaus, St. Luke's, St. Adalbert's, Holy Trinity, and so many others came into being through the generosity of a people who didn't have much but knew where it needed to go; a magnificent testimony to the faith and culture of the Polish people.  The parishes were the center of life for their members, educating their children, offering social activities including clubs, bowling alleys and skating rinks, and encouraged devotions to the Blessed Mother, Polish saints, and Our Lord in the Eucharist.

The Polish are faithful, loving, and hard-working.  They are also pragmatists.  They knew then that the best opportunities for their children would come with assimilation into the new culture.  These were American children, and were raised to love their new country.  They fought in World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam.  They worked in the factories, the stores, and the businesses that were the life blood of the community.  They became public servants, politicians, and leaders in the community.  They pursued higher education and became doctors, teachers, engineers and professionals.  For all intents and purposes, the community became a model of success for those emigrating to the United States of America. 

As the second and third generation Polish community continued to succeed, significant changes began to develop in the way the community expressed its faith and solidarity as a people.  As economic conditions changed for the better many moved away from the original neighborhoods for suburban homes.  The cultural practices that bound them together slowly deteriorated; most of the third and fourth generation Polish community cannot speak or understand the Polish language.  The foods and celebrations have often been relegated to holidays only.  Few maintain the ties that offered strength and stability to the early immigrant communities, and the assimilation is nearly complete.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the abandoned, neglected churches and neighborhoods that were once called "Polonia".  Edifices of social and civic clubs have been made public community centers and even Buddhist temples.  Neighborhoods that once bustled with children are now abandoned to the poorest of the poor, some with fifty percent or more of the homes boarded up and abandoned.  Crime is rife on streets that once cradled successful businesses and stores.  Few of Polish descent remain; many who do are poor themselves and unable to relocate, or hold out hoping for better days that seem not to come.  In recent years church after church shuttered their doors as fewer and fewer of the faithful came to pray. 

I am nostalgic for the sights, sounds and smells of my youth...polkas on the radio in grandma's house, the smell of kielbasa on the stove, the taste of czarnina on a cold afternoon, the sounds of the crowd in the market, the excitement of an afternoon in Sattlers, the heavenly odor of candles and incense in dimly lit churches...but I know much of this is lost to time and neglect, much as the neighborhoods and churches of Polonia,  victims of an assimilation that was both necessary and detrimental.  Pragmatism led to indifference and apathy.  So much has been lost.  We have succeeded; we are leaders, we are academics, professionals, patriots.  But with each passing generation we become less and less Polish.  For me and many like me, that is a sad predicament.

My greatest fear is that we will lose the one thing left that binds us and keeps us whole: our faith.  We are the descendents of one of the most faithful cultures in Christendom.  The Catholic Church is our heritage; it belongs to us, to our family tree.  If we abandon this most important aspect of who we are we become nothing at all.  For this reason I am faithful.  For this reason I have taught my children to love their Church, their faith; and for this reason we must lift our voices to Heaven for the faith of all our brothers and sisters.

No, my children do not have a devotion to St. Stanislaus or Our Lady of Czestochowa.  No, there are no Polish hymns sung in our church, nor would my children, or I for that matter, recognize them if they were.  Despite that, our faith life is alive, vibrant and active.  Perhaps my grandparents would not recognize our devotions or be able to follow the vernacular mass, perhaps they would question why we don't celebrate certain feasts and saints, enjoy certain foods, or speak the native tongue.  But they most definitely would recognize our love for our Church, Our Blessed Mother, and Our Lord Jesus Christ.  THAT is what matters.  That is what we, as a Polish people, must hold on to with all our might.  For no matter where we are, what circumstances or situations we live in, our faith defines us, molds us, and makes us who we are.

Let's come to the table...



Victor reflected on stubborn argument and insistence on being right, digging in our heels, and looking like, well, a heel.  I concur, and offer this bear photo to emphasize the importance of coming to the table and putting aside differences...  ;-)




Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Snippets - A Catholic Carnival

Is it Sunday already?!?  Wow.  The Bills are playing the Saints.  I have a suspicion its not going to be pretty.  But I digress.


This week continued the novena to St. Pio of Pietrelcina, and in particular I concentrated on spiritual childhood on day eight, offering my reflection on where I fail and what Jesus calls us to.  Unrelated to the novena, I wrote a piece on immigration and a particular struggle I have reconciling the Gospel with conservative views on the subject.  This one inspired quite an exchange on Facebook...finally, just a little note about Little Joe and I attending the Sabres game Wednesday, and then I took a four day break from the blog.  Pulled out some dead annuals, worked, hosted a gaggle of giggling girls for the 13 year old's birthday slumber party...but that's fodder for a post tonight.

Have a great week!  Here is a  link to our Hostess.  Care to join us?  She has the instructions, and we warmly welcome you!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Raking the Leafs

The Buffalo Sabres continue their pre-season with another win on the heels of Ryan Miller's amazing performance in Detroit stopping 42 shots on goal and leading the Sabres to a 3-1 victory, as well as a 2-1 victory over the Caps in Washington.  The Sabres defeated the Leafs 3-2 (which should have been 3-1 if it weren't for a questionable call leading to a penalty shot for Toronto) on a "red carpet" evening in which the team met the fans in the plaza outside HSBC Arena.  Little Joe and I attended the game, and ate way too much food. 

Toronto fans turned out, as well.  For those who aren't aware of the geography, Toronto and Buffalo are about an hour-and-a-half drive apart, so sometimes it can be difficult determining who is the home team...but it is a cordial, if strained, relationship.  Except for that annoying jerk two rows down. 

Anyway, Ryan Miller looked great.  Go Sabres.

St. Padre Pio Novena - Day 9

Litany of St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the World, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, Virgin Immaculate, pray for us.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina, pray for us.
Beloved of God, pray for us.
Imitator of Jesus Christ, pray for us.
Good shepherd of the people, pray for us.
Model for priests, pray for us.
Light of the Church, pray for us.
Adorer of the Blessed Sacrament, pray for us.
Faithful son of St. Francis, pray for us.
Marked with the stigmata of Jesus, pray for us.
Patient in suffering, pray for us.
Helper of the dying, pray for us.
Director of souls, pray for us.
Heart of gold, pray for us.
Apostle of mercy, pray for us.
Worker of miracles, pray for us.
Consoler of the afflicted, pray for us.
Lover of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us.
Helper of souls in doubt and darkness, pray for us.
Comforter of the sick, pray for us.
Example of humility, pray for us.
Source of wisdom, pray for us.
Mirror of the divine life, pray for us.
Lover of Jesus Crucified,
Resigned to the will of God, pray for us.
Doing good upon earth, pray for us.
Filled with the spirit of self-sacrifice, pray for us.
Our help and hope in all our needs, pray for us.
Vessel of the Holy Spirit, pray for us.
Leading us to Christ, pray for us.
Our spiritual father and advocate, pray for us.
Crowned with glory in Heaven, pray for us.

God our Father, You helped St. Pio to reflect the image of Christ through a life of charity and self-sacrifice. May we follow your Son by walking in the footsteps of St. Pio of Pietrelcina and by imitating his selfless love.
Amen

© Copyright 2009: Padre Pio Devotions. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Illegal Immigration: perspectives from a struggling conservative

I struggle with illegal immigration. Let me explain.

Two of my sons attend a local Catholic high school for boys. We celebrated the freshmen liturgy last Sunday, and it was beautiful: the boys’ choir, I estimate 100 strong, were nothing short of amazing. The young men all looked fresh and hopeful in their shirts and ties. The main celebrant was upbeat and compelling. Then his homily punched me in the face.
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Mark 9:33-35

Father’s point concerned the quest for fame and recognition so many share in our society. Whether seeking recognition as a great artist, writer, actor, sports figure, political leader, or perhaps on a more parochial level, in our quest for advancement and recognition in our chosen careers or ministries, “fame” is important for so many. If we are being honest, for many, blogging is a manifestation of that desire, and this blog is no exception in some ways. Yet in the Gospel reading this Sunday Jesus immediately points out the futility of our desire to be first, greatest, famous: He calls us who desire it to be servants to all. Even illegal immigrants.


He brought up the President’s speech to the joint session of Congress and spoke of the “Liar” outburst from Senator Joe Wilson. He stated that in the bill Obama referenced there would, indeed, be no health coverage for illegal immigrants, and quoted factcheck.org as a source. Whether reliable or not, the point is immaterial to the claim Father then made: if we are to live as Jesus calls us, we should not only offer health coverage to illegals, we should offer them the BEST health coverage available. The homily equated the status of illegal immigrants in the U.S. today as similar to the powerlessness of children in the time of Jesus; he stated that if Jesus told us then that whoever received a child received Him, in our day the illegal immigrant could be inserted in that statement.

In my work as a missionary I am familiar with many illegal immigrants. Some I consider personal friends. That said I must make sure I am clear that these thoughts are about illegal immigration, not illegal immigrants. Nit picking? I think not. The former concerns society. The latter concerns individuals. I respect the fact that a society has the right to choose who may or may not enter its borders and build a life. I understand that resources are finite. I am a father of nine children; if a family of six suddenly moved in to my home looking for help getting on their feet, no matter how well-intentioned our efforts to assist might be, I just don’t have the resources or space to care for seventeen people. As a Christian nation, as we believe ourselves to be, we must take a realistic look at our resources, wealth, space, available jobs, and many other factors to determine our capacity to allow those seeking a chance at improving their lot in life entrance into society. I believe we have the resources. I believe our borders are too tight. This opinion is in opposition to the opinion of many political conservatives, of which I number myself, yet I continually consider what I would do if my family was limited in its potential to rise from poverty and escape violence and political persecution: I would do whatever necessary to enter the borders of this nation. Inevitably, my thoughts return to individuals. Is that what Jesus would expect of me, of us as a nation?

I wish I held that conviction with greater strength than I do; it makes me continually uneasy.  Perhaps conservatism and Christianity don't always walk hand-in-hand...?

St. Padre Pio Novena - Day 8


"I love my spiritual children as much as my own soul, and even more. I have restored them to Jesus with pain and with love. I can forget myself, but not my spiritual children, and I assure you that, when the Lord calls me, I will say to Him: ‘Lord, I shall remain at the gates of Paradise; I shall enter only when I have seen the last of my children enter’.”             - St. Pio of Pietrelcina


On this eighth day of our novena we consider what it means to be a spiritual child, and pray that we may be considered the spiritual children of Padre Pio.  He was like a father to many during his life, and even today supports those who ask for his intercession and guidance.  Padre Pio said, "I belong to everyone. Everyone can say, 'Padre Pio is mine'."But what does it mean to be a spiritual child?  There are subtleties worth examining and applying to our own lives. Most importantly, let us claim Padre Pio as our spiritual father, and seek the benefit of his intercession and protection.

I am very good at being childish. I suspect there are others like me.  A childish person believes the world revolves around him, that the purpose of others is to satisfy his personal needs.  Childish people tend to be  quick tempered, selfish, easily hurt, dramatic, and petty.  I can recall many circumstances in my life where I behaved childishly, even if only internally. Sometimes our childish thoughts remain internal, but sometimes they express themselves outwardly, to our eventual embarassment.


Several years ago I was promoted to a supervisory position in the hospital.  This was a big deal for me - I had not been a nurse for very long, and the promotion was a boost to my ego.  I tend to be fairly extroverted, and enjoyed many friendly relationships in my workplace...until the promotion.  Then I was no longer funny Dave, charming Dave, helpful Dave, etc.  Now I was BOSS Dave, and that was a whole new ball game. Friends became distant, and I recognized that the complaint "sessions" I participated in about managment suddenly were conducted in my absence, and were now about ME.  How did I respond?  Childishly, of course.  I became distrustful, hurt, gruff, and condescending.  I distanced myself, "licked my wounds", and behaved unfairly and uncharitably more than once.

Childish behavior is like yawning on a subway car: once someone starts, it spreads quickly to everyone else.  This was no exception.  The worse the situation got, the more I dug my heels in the ground, and the situation grew toxic.  Someone had to give in, and each of us waited, with the self-righteous expectation that the other had to make the first move.  Sound familiar?  How many experience family dynamics that mimic my story?  What about the atmosphere at church, among those serving in various ministries?  Work?  School?  The dynamics of my situation are played out daily in every corner of society.  Being childish is certainly NOT what Jesus meant when He said, "amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3.


Jesus goes on to say, "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven."    Humility is the key to understanding spiritual childhood.  How are children humble?  They cannot provide for themselves, and rely totally on those who care for them.  They trust implicitly that they are loved. They understand instinctively that they cannot survive alone.  They surrender their well being to others, and do so readily and without hesitation. They love sincerely and overtly.  Can you imagine if we lived that way in our relationship with God?  To rely totally on his provision?  To trust Him implicitly?  To instinctively know that without Him we cannot survive?  To surrender our will readily to His will, His direction, His desire for us?  To express our love for Him openly and joyfully?  To do so is to humble ourselves like children, and Jesus has promised that those who do will enter the kingdom of heaven. 

My amazing, beautiful wife has a wonderful outlook on relationships.  When there is an impasse, a difference of opinion, and tension, she almost always gives in first.  She realized many years ago that the only recourse she has when someone needs to make the first move is to make that move herself.  She is humble, and in that humility she is strong. Ultimately, she changes hearts with her humility far more powerfully than digging in and refusing to budge ever could.  She taught me well, and I applied her direction to my work situation, and the tension broke almost immediately.  True humility calls us to consider others, to rely totally on God for our well being, and to love with no conditions or criteria. 

Padre Pio calls each of us to be his spiritual children, seeking his guidance, intercession and direction.  He calls us to trust God, love Him with all our heart, mind, and soul, and to submit ourselves to His will.  In this call Padre Pio guides us in our relationships with our families, co-worker, friends and relatives, calling us not to be childish, but humble spiritual children.  St. Pio promises to lift us in prayer, and to wait joyfully for us to join him in heaven.  What an invitation!  Take him up on his offer!

Monday, September 21, 2009

St. Padre Pio Novena - Day 7

It was one of those days again.  Running, running, running.  I finally got to pray the novena at 11:00PM.  Not much time for a reflection...not that it matters to my friends in the Philippines (shout out!) or other such fabulous locales (compared to Buffalo, a virtual Utopia).  Nonetheless, this little fella is too pooped to Polka...

It's one of those days where surrender is in order...today we pray for sinners, most especially ourselves.  If you would like to join me, I plan on praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  I need all the mercy I can get, and then some, and I think there are others like me. 

St. Pio of Pietrelcina, pray for me, a sinner!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

St. Padre Pio Novena - Day 6


“Tell your doctor he can get the injections himself”.
     - Padre Pio, after the miraculous healing of a man with a debilitating knee ailment


On this sixth day of our novena we are called to consider the great concern St. Pio of Pietrelcina had for the sick.  Many anecdotes of personal healings describe the great love our Lord had for him in allowing St. Pio to be the avenue of the healing touch of God.  Padre Pio recognized this gift and did not squander it, rather offering this grace over and over to those who would ask, seeking God's will and living it.  His confident, familiar recognition of the power of God in all things is a call for each of us to acknowledge the sacred and mysterious in our lives.

Miracles of healing are documented throughout history.  Lourdes, St. Ann de Beaupre, and so many other examples illustrate the power of God and call us to deeper devotion.  Padre Pio is no exception, and each example of  miraculous healing reminds us that God is, indeed, with and among us.  But it is not enough for us to simply marvel at these miracles.  We must seek their ultimate meaning, the very same message God has conveyed through miracles, signs and wonders from the time of our first parents, Adam and Eve, to this very day: God loves us, and in that love calls us to Himself. 


Just as our intercession alleviates the suffering of the souls in Purgatory, so too are we called to alleviate the suffering of the sick with our prayers and attention.  Debilitation from illness can be lonely and frightening.  Our loving prayers and physical presence is a balm to those enveloped in pain, weakness, and suffering.  In a previous post I offered suggestions on how we can make a loving difference to those who are ill.  Ultimately, our time and attention, whether in the form of cards and letters, phone calls or email, or by physically attending to the needs of the sick, all provide well-documented relief (in medical, psychological and religious journals).  The Corporal Work of Mercy calling us to visit the sick reminds us to follow the example of Jesus the healer by extending our hand to those who are ill. 

Let us pray for the intercession of St. Pio for those who are ill, that God's love would be maniftested to them, bringing consolation and joy in the midst of suffering.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sunday Snippets - A Catholic Carnival


I began the week with high hopes; the Bills were on Monday Night Football, and for all but the last two minutes they were the better team...then the fumble, Tom Brady showed us why he is considered one of the best, and Buffalo went to bed on a Monday night with visions of what could have been, like so many times before...but I digress.  The rest of the week has been mainly occupied with the Novena to St. Pio of Pietrelcina, our beloved Padre Pio.  It is never too late to jump in, so what are you waiting for?  I continued a bit of a sports theme with a celebration of the start of the hockey season.  Finally, I gave my opinion on the health care debate.  As an emergency nurse I come with a bit of a different perspective, though this piece is just a small part of my thoughts and concerns.

Have a wonderful week, and be sure to visit our hostess.

St. Padre Pio Novena - Day 5

'More souls of the dead than the living climb this mountain to attend my Masses and seek my prayers.'
                -St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary atop Mt. Gargano had a steady stream of visitors seeking Padre Pio's prayers and assistance.  From St. Pio's own admission, the greatest number of these were souls from Purgatory!  On many occasions souls would come to him seeking his prayers to release them from the torments of purgatory. 


One particular occasion stood out for me: Padre Pio was visited by a priest who had died and was in Purgatory, and this priest begged St. Pio to offer Mass for his benefit, that he may be released and join the saints in Heaven.  Padre Pio, feeling quite generous, told his visitor that he would be released from Purgatory in the morning after he celebrated Mass for the priest's intentions.  The priest was not so impressed, and said, simply, "Cruel."  Padre Pio was taken aback by this response, and then realized that this visitor from Purgatory hoped for him to help immediately, and he was not enthusiastic about having to spend even one more night separated from Heaven. 

Our prayers and intercession on behalf of the souls in Purgatory have a powerful effect.  How often do we remember these souls?  There are those who have made it their ministry to pray for them, but these men and women are small in number.  We can all make a difference through our prayer and sacrifice.  Let us take a moment now, at this moment, and remember in the coming days of our novena to lift those in Purgatory to God as we celebrate Mass and pray our daily prayers.
St. Gertrude's Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most precious blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home, and within my family. Amen. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus "

Friday, September 18, 2009

St. Padre Pio Novena - Day 4


Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God's love commits me here,
ever this night be at my side
to light and guard, to rule and guide.
Amen.

I love to hear my children speak that prayer.  It fills me with joy to know that God so loves my children that he has given them an angel to light and guard, to rule and guide.  St. Pio had a keen understanding of the workings of the guardian angels, and was often aware of the needs of others through communication with the angels charged with their care. 

As I ran from place to place today I prayed to my guardian angel, that he might lift my needs to God.  I pray that St. Pio might intercede that even in my busy-ness I may recognize the gentle guidance of my guardian, and appreciate the great love God has shown us in this gift.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

FINALLY...the roar of the Zamboni!

Pre-season Hockey!  The Buffalo Sabres met Ovechkin and his merry bunch of bruisers at HSBC Arena tonight, and Honorable Son number three and I were there to witness it.  Lindy played the kids, and there were definitely a lot of mistakes, but a few players caught my eye.  The Sabres lost to the Caps in overtime, 4-3, but hey, its pre-season.

I also participated this afternoon in a small part of the planning for the 40th anniversary of the Sabres, which will be next season (the club joined the league in 1970).  I am sworn to secrecy (I have to be careful - they're checking this blog!) but needless to say, it will be a year of celebration.  Unreal - forty years.

Go Sabres!

St. Padre Pio Novena - Day 3

"Love our Lady, make others love her. Always say your Rosary and say it well. Satan always tries to destroy this prayer, but he will never succeed. It is the prayer of her who triumphs over everything and everyone."                                        -St. Pio of Pietrelcina
On this third day of our novena we recognize and celebrate Padre Pio's great love for our Blessed Mother, and his great desire for all God's faithful to love her.  On this day let us invoke the fair name of Our Lady of Good Counsel, and pray for her intercession that we, like St. Pio, may have a great devotion to her and merit her love and protection.

Litany of Our Lady of Good Counsel

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.
Beloved Daughter of the Eternal Father, pray for us.
August Mother of God the Son, pray for us.
Blessed Spouse of God the Holy Ghost, pray for us.
Living temple of the Holy Trinity, pray for us.
Queen of Heaven and earth, pray for us.
Seat of Divine wisdom, pray for us.
Depositary of the secrets of the Most High, pray for us.
Virgin most prudent, pray for us.
In our doubts and difficulties, pray for us.
In our tribulations and anguish, pray for us.
In our discouragements, pray for us.
In perils and temptations, pray for us.
In all our undertakings, pray for us.
In all our needs, pray for us.
At the hour of death, pray for us.
By thine Immaculate Conception, pray for us.
By thy happy nativity, pray for us.
By thine admirable presentation, pray for us.
By thy glorious Annunciation, pray for us.
By thy charitable Visitation, pray for us.
By thy Divine Maternity, pray for us.
By thy holy Purification, pray for us.
By the sorrows and anguish of thy maternal heart, pray for us.
By thy precious death, pray for us.
By thy triumphant Assumption, pray for us.

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, And obtain for us the gift of good counsel.

Let Us Pray
Lord Jesus, Author and Dispenser of all good, Who in becoming incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin has communicated to her lights above those of all the heavenly intelligences, grant that in honoring her under the title of Our Lady of Good Counsel, we may merit always to receive from her goodness, counsels of wisdom and salvation, which will conduct us to the port of a blessed eternity.
Amen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

St. Padre Pio Novena - Day 2

"My Father, how difficult it is to believe."
                        -Pade Pio

A strange thing occurred several years ago that I won’t soon forget. Let me set the scene: I was in my car, parked near the garage of St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, awaiting the arrival of my daughter from Confirmation class, which was in session in the school building nearby. It was a cool, crisp night, and very quiet. I was praying the rosary while I waited, paying little attention to the world around me. The world seemed quite content to go unnoticed; no one was walking about, the streets were empty, and everything seemed to be at peace.

Rather insidiously I became aware of a growing discontent in my heart. The peaceful air of the evening was suddenly thick with anxiety. As I prayed I became increasingly restless, and even a bit fearful. Something was up, that I was sure. Just what remained to be seen.

As I prayed I noted two black dogs, rather large, of a breed I cannot identify, slowly sniffing their way across an empty lot in the direction of the Mission. As I observed my heart began to beat quickly. I have not been gifted with visions or locutions, nor do I claim to be a mystic, yet on that night I instantly knew that those dogs represented evil. There movements were slow, methodical, and sinister. Nearly half-way to the Mission, they took notice of me in the car, and quickened their pace.

I paused in my prayer, fearful, not sure what to do. I was safe in the car, but I knew those dogs represented a danger that could reach beyond the safety of my situation. I froze. What if the confirmation class came out of the building at that moment? What if someone from the men’s shelter stepped out for a smoke? These dogs were dangerous, I knew. They wanted to frighten, to hurt, to injure.

I came out of my cloud of fear moments later, and resumed my prayer, asking for Mary’s protection, begging for angels to guard the Mission, and imploring St. Michael to keep us from harm. The dogs continued their approach, but suddenly stopped in the street at the driveway apron leading to the Mission parking lot; they paused, sniffed the air, and quickly turned away. I watched as they retreated, and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving. As they disappeared from sight, the air lightened, and peace returned.

Evil exists. Satan is real. Demons are among us. These are not fanciful literary devices to manipulate behaviors. We are at war. The enemy manifests itself in many ways, but its hallmark is sin.

Padre Pio suffered greatly at the hands of demons. He was spiritually and physically abused. He suffered bruising, assaults and physical harm. He also suffered temptations of disbelief, luring him from his vocation. In his letters he revealed these struggles, and the pain he endured. He was often physically ill, exhausted, and in spiritual turmoil.

Satan tries desperately to convince us that God has no care for us, that His will is of no matter, and that we are perfectly capable of existing without Him. One need not look far to see that Satan has enjoyed much success. Spiritual apathy, families broken and abandoned, drug and alcohol abuse, empty churches, abortion, licentiousness, discord and war all reflect and highlight the work of evil among us. Equally insidious is the reality that in this process Satan has convinced much of society that he does not exist at all. Our battle is real, our enemy is relentless, and the stakes are high.

Our weapons in battle are prayer and sacrifice, and our victory lies in adhering to the sacraments and clinging to our hope of eternal salvation. Mary, Mother of God, St. Pio, and all the saints and angels offer their prayers and protection. In the midst of the battle, as we are tempted to sin, as we are ridiculed in our vocations and mocked in our faith, we must turn to Jesus in our weakness. He is victorious.

On this second day of our novena let us ask for the intercession and guidance of Padre Pio as we join in the spiritual battle around us, that we may persevere and claim victory with Jesus, Mary, and all the saints. Keep us strong in the face of temptation. Never let us waver from our vocation. Draw us to reconciliation and the Eucharist. Most of all, remind us constantly that when we fail, when we fall, when we succumb to despair, God’s unfathomable mercy calls us home, welcoming us with love and forgiveness.  And with that, Satan can do nothing but stop, sniff the air, and retreat.

Health Care Debate: Ultimately Flawed

Someone once asked, “Should I pray for good health, for prevention of cancer and heart disease, or should I pray that my habits be healthy, and that I might have the will power to exercise and eat well?” I replied that both were admirable prayers, and worth speaking to the heart of God, but one very important prayer should be added: “Pray for good veins. No matter how healthy you are, eventually you are going to need blood drawn or an IV inserted. If your veins are lousy you are going to be in for a heap of misery”.

The inevitability of illness requires careful consideration as we go about our lives. My advice to pray for good veins was a form of “supernatural insurance”, preparing for what each and every one of us has or will face in our lifetime. As the health care debate rages on it is important for us to examine our priorities and understand that sickness, decline and death are unavoidable for all but the statistically few who die suddenly or unexpectedly. Most of us will experience poor health. This requires prudent decision making prior to the event.

Prudence is not a gift in our culture. We are a culture that values spontaneity, encourages living in the “here and now”, grabbing “life by the horns”. Many have made imprudent decisions regarding health care. Many who have access to care have decided the cost of medical insurance was not a priority for understandable reasons, others ignoble. Perhaps the money deducted for health insurance was thought better funneled to rent, food, or some other necessity. Perhaps it was determined better used for travel, leisure, or entertainment. Whatever the reasoning, when one is sick, it suddenly becomes a priority, and often at that time it is unavailable. For those who must choose necessities over insurance for the survival of their families, I support providing assistance. For those choosing leisure over prudence, I do not.

As a child I listened attentively to the story of the grasshopper and the ant as they prepared for winter. The ant was industrious, the grasshopper concerned with entertainment and “grabbing life by the horns”. When the harsh winter set in, the ant was prepared, the grasshopper was not. Our nation is full of grasshoppers. There are millions upon millions of able-bodied men and women who choose to rely on the government for their daily needs, and ultimately, on the taxes of those who work prudently to provide for themselves and their families. For those who are disabled, diseased, mentally ill, or otherwise unable to care for themselves, I support providing assistance. For those unexpectedly in need of temporary help because of job loss or injury, I support assistance. For those imprudently choosing sloth over industriousness, I do not.

Ultimately, I believe the health care debate is flawed. I believe the debate should really be about what responsibility the men and women our society have for their own well-being. I believe the underlying reality that we are a nation that has enabled those who would choose imprudence by supporting them in their poor decisions with broad, unsustainable public assistance programs should be the true discussion regarding universal health care. There is little regard for personal responsibility among vast populations in our nation, a reality that has kept many in political power. Personal responsibility for one’s well-being must be considered carefully…or we will continue to reward sloth and poor health choices on the backs of hard working men and women of this nation.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

St. Padre Pio Novena - Day 1


Our novena intentions today draw us to contemplate the meaning of suffering in our lives. We begin, most appropriately, on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. As we consider the Seven Dolors of Mary we are introduced anew to her extreme faith that did not simply allow suffering but transformed it into a continual “fiat” to God. In the life of our Blessed Mother, as well as in the example of St. Pio, the mystery of redemptive suffering is revealed. Through their intercession we can offer our suffering as a gift of love for our own salvation, the salvation of our families, and that of the whole world.

Our Blessed Mother was, as we are aware, no stranger to suffering, nor was she timid in the face of it. Her first Dolor, the prophecy of Simeon, in which he revealed, “…and a sword shall pierce your heart”, reminds me much of the suffering of mothers everywhere: Mothers who watch their children suffer hunger and thirst. Mothers who see their children ensnared in drugs, alcohol and violence. Mothers who suffer the pain of abandonment and neglect from their own children. Mothers who endure the pain of seeing their children abandon the faith and refuse the love of God. Such mothers, and fathers, too, share the pain of Mary, to whom the inevitability of suffering was revealed at a time of joy, at the presentation of her beloved son, Our Lord, in the temple. She understands the pain of parents. She calls us to faithfulness and prayer, to perseverance and peace.

So too does she understand the suffering of the homeless, those in great financial distress who suffer inadequate housing, and those who must hold the family close in the face of uncertainty and chaos. As she fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod she and Joseph suffered greatly. Despite this her sole purpose was to protect and nurture Our Lord. She is not blind to the suffering of mothers and fathers as they struggle to provide for their families. She is not distant to those who are separated from the ones they love by distance or misunderstanding. She calls us to hold one another up in prayer, and to strengthen ourselves in the enormity of God’s merciful love.

Mary knows the suffering of mothers who must work outside the home and leave their children in others’ care. She understands the pain of parents losing children to gangs, to drugs, to pornography. She sees the pain of he who cannot understand why their spouse, child or loved one is distant, cold, and unwilling to share in the life of the family. She knows the anguish of those who feel abandoned, forgotten, and ignored. As she suffered while searching for Jesus for three days, finally finding Him in the temple, she had to abandon her fears to God. She calls us to do the same, and to embrace the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Mary met Jesus on the road to Calvary, so, too, does she meet us and comfort us as we watch the suffering of our parents, grandparents, spouses, children and friends. As she watched Jesus suffer, knowing that this was meant to be, she did not intervene, thus continuing her submission to God’s will. She knows how hard it is to watch those we love endure illness, pain, and mental anguish. Yet she calls us to strengthen ourselves and those we care for by constantly reaffirming God’s abiding love. St. Padre Pio said, “Love is the first ingredient in the relief of suffering.” Seek that relief, and extend it to those around you.

Even as her son was crucified, died, was taken from the cross, and laid in a tomb, in her unfathomable grief she submitted to God, knowing that nothing said or done was in vain. For we who have suffered the loss of someone dear God’s promise of eternal life is the power that gives meaning to our life, our suffering, and our death; without this certainty despair is inevitable, crippling, and overwhelming. Mary calls us to faith, a faith that joyfully reunites us with one another in our true home, free from illness, grief, pain, addiction, brokenness, and division.

St. Pio suffered greatly in his own life: physical illness, the pain of the stigmata, and spiritual anguish in the midst of great personal battles with evil and temptation. As we ask for the intercession and strength of our Blessed Mother let us also seek the companionship and guidance of St. Pio. Let us offer our struggle as a gift to God. Our suffering need not be empty of value. Our pain can be offered as a prayer for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the world. Suffering endured with love is power beyond understanding.

St. Pio teaches us, "The longer the trial to which God subjects you, the greater the goodness in comforting you during the time of the trial". Remain in prayer. Seek the consolation of the Holy Spirit. Turn to the Blessed mother for intercession and comfort. Implore St. Pio to help us bring meaning to our suffering. Most importantly, remain in God’s love in perseverance. Then will we deserve, as St. Pio taught, “the exaltation after the combat.”

Novena Prayers

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why.

I let it happen again.  I got excited.  I was led on, teased, and crushed.  I have the urge to write dark poetry and where dark clothing. 

Once again they did what they do best: the Buffalo Bills snatched defeat from the hands of victory.  Once again we all sit back and wonder why.  Maybe Dick Jauron will have something meaningful to say.

Probably not.  It's his nap time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sunday Snippets - A Catholic Carnival

Greetings to all you carnies, and may God's grace rain upon you and fill you to overflowing!

It was an award winning week, thanks Christopher, and I gladly jumped into the rules of the game...and followed later in the week with a tome on the rat race I seem to be running (and falling behind in).  I finished with a tongue-in-cheek essay on the inevitable march of time and how a dad sometimes is not quite ready to grow up.  Ahhhh, teenagers...

Please indulge me in your prayers for a special intention as I prepare to go on retreat to discern the direction of my vocation.  I will, as I do always, pray for my blogging friends!

Please visit our hostess, and join us in our Sunday Carnival!

Let your Mother know you love her.

September 12th, Feast of the Holy Name of Mary.

The slippery slope...

I have a lovely daughter named Mary.  She is graceful, considerate, gentle, and QUIET.  Not to mention quite beautiful; but most importantly, when she torments her brothers she does it so very quietly and unobtrusively that it does not come to my attention and thereby does not aggravate me.  When the boys finally have had enough and begin to protest loudly I punish them for disturbing the peace, she gets away scot free, and quiet returns to the house.  I know its unfair, but I am not in the "fair" business.  I just want quiet.  She is my only child who understands this fact, a fact I have oft repeated in their presence.  That must go rewarded.

Mary is about to celebrate her thirteenth birthday, and feels very strongly that pierced ears would be an appropriate demarcation of her prestigious entrance into "teenagerhood".  I am not so sure I agree.  Nonetheless, I have been considering granting or denying permission for about six months now.  I know that my deliberations far exceed the acceptable time period for other lesser decision makers, such as the U.S. Supreme Court.  Nonetheless, this is a decision not to be frivolously made without careful consideration of the pros and cons.

Mary's birthday is September 24th, the feast of Sts. Paphnutius, Chuniald, Gislar and Rusticus.  Really.  I have consulted each of them for their point of view, but they have apparently needed time as well...and so it goes.  Why my caution, my desire for careful prudence?  Let me explain.  At the tender age of twelve my lovely daughter Elizabeth made the pilgrimage to the "Piercing Pagoda" in the local mall with her fifteen-year-old sister and mother, and the younger ladies had their ears pierced.  Emily, the eldest, faired well, and her post-piercing period was unscarred by gore.  Elizabeth, on the other hand, did not enjoy the success of her sibling.  She pulled the earing out a week after the deed accidentally, and in a state of ignorance thought the most prudent action would be to rinse it off in the sink, wipe it with a towel hanging nearby, and stick the brutal thing back in her eviscerated ear lobe, post haste.  Two days later the ear lobe, swollen from infection, expanded over the entire piece of jewellery, which then required an emergency room visit and scalpel to extract it from inside her skin.  Unpleasant.  She is currently seventeen years old.  She does not have pierced ears. 

Michelle thinks I am a fuddy-duddy.  I am well aware that parents allow their newborn babies to be pierced.  While that may be someone's cup of tea, it is not mine.  Thirteen is still closer to infancy than my age.  I vowed not to let societal or peer pressure influence my decision.  This was a great annoyance to my spouse.  She then announced that Mary would have her ears pierced the Saturday after her birthday, to our daughter's squeals of delight.  Case closed.  Evidently the Supreme Court was  trumped by an order from the Executive Branch.  So be it.  Today its the ears.  Tomorrow the belly button.  Whatever.  I will make sure the medical insurance documents are available when needed. 

And I am the type to say "I told you so".

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Slow me down...

The noise of the world is getting me caught up
Chasing the clock and I wish I could stop it
Just need to breathe, somebody please slow me down
      Emmy Rossum, "Slow Me Down"
I don't remember most of this day.  I hate when that happens; unfortunately, it seems to be happening more often.  Off to work.  Running.  Keeping appointments.  Listening attentively while thinking of the next task.  Saying "yes" way too often.  Putting out emotional fires.  Keeping the peace.  Exhausted.

It was back-to-school day for the kids, first day teaching pre-K and Kindergarten for the spouse, first soccer game for Jacob (a tie), my first day back at night school as I further my degree, a quick meal, prayer with the kids, and a short breather.  Mom is at her monthly meeting with our community's superior...mine will be some time tonight.  It isn't over yet.

As I run from place to place my neck and the back of my head is literally throbbing with pain.  Stress headache.  I get them every once in a while.  I just took the crucifix from around my neck, relieved the pressure a bit (I had to commit to poverty, chastity, obedience, mercy and charity to the community with the heaviest cross).  I'm sitting here thinking about how I failed.  I didn't get back to a friend who wanted to talk about his failing marriage yet.  I still haven't got a load of groceries for the lady fired a few weeks back.  Couldn't get out to a wake for the brother of a dear friend and co-worker.  Spent all of five minutes with my wife today.  Hi kids.  Bye kids.  Too tired to do anything about the mess the cat made in the mud room right now.  Definitely don't want to see what the president is dishing out tonight. Dreading leaving the house again. 

I gave none of it to Jesus.

Maybe that cross was so heavy to remind me to give it all to Him.  Maybe I'm just moving too fast to take notice.  I have got to slow down.  God, slow me down. 

Okay, but don't do anything drastic...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TAGGED: I'm "it".

I've been tagged by Christopher, and far be it from me to appear aloof in the face of such generosity of spirit. And so, honoring the rules of the game, I thank thee, Sanctus Christopher, and list 10 Honest Facts about myself...
  1. I'm an old song-and-dance man: Will Parker (Oklahoma!), Nathan Detroit (Guys and Dolls), Emile de Becque(South Pacific).  Retired immediately upon graduation from high school (Good enough for little 'ol Depew, NY.  The world, not so much).  I love musical theatre.
  2. I was always the youngest in my college-days "crowd", but always perceived as the oldest.  First child syndrome.
  3. I have an irritating drive to do things perfectly.  Fail a lot.
  4. My idea of a great meal is a plate of thinly sliced prosciutto, kalamata olives, asiago cheese, ciabatta, and lest you think I'm cultured, black cherry soda.
  5. My favorite beer is Yuengling Black and Tan.  Drinks like a meal.
  6. I despise the song "Companions on the Journey" by Carey Landry.  If I hear it I get intestinal cramps, sometimes explosive.  The choir at St. Barnabas Church knows that.  They play it whenever I'm there.
  7. I am a compassionate nurse who will do whatever is necessary to alleviate suffering.  Unless it involves your feet.  Then you're on your own.
  8. Several years ago I hosted a weekly open-mic at a local coffee house. One night I listened to a punk kid with too much talent and no brain sing this song, and it has never left my mind.  He squandered his talent on drugs but I will always be grateful for this gift.
  9. I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours since I was eighteen.  In my world of nine kids, ER craziness, and missionary life, it is the ONLY structured thing I've got.  I need it.
  10. If money were no object and I could pick up the family and move, it would be New York City.  I'm in a New York state of mind...
There you have it.  Now its your turn Lee, Nod, Michelle, and Heather.  Don't forget the rules: thank me profusely (prosciutto can be mailed), submit ten honest facts about yourself, and pass it on...