Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ordinary.

My wife worries that I might leave her for another woman.   

I suppose I've given her reason…I have been aloof, working many hours overtime, moody and unapproachable.  I work primarily with women, and the reality of work means that there are times when I'm with them far more than with my own family; that concerns her.  Fortunately for my soul and our marriage, there is little chance of that. 

I try to convince her that it couldn't happen with snarky remarks; "Oh, yes, they take a good long look at me and say, 'ooooh, nine kids…what a catch'"; reality is I am not very attractive at this point in my life.  To be sure, there seems to be no shortage of infidelity, and the homely are no exception (spend one hour with Jerry Springer)…but my lack of allure is deeper.  I have not been a happy person. 

I adore my wife, and the mere thought of our separation by any means produces waves of anxiety and grief; she has remained loving when in many ways I am rather unlovable.  She has had grief of her own when our spiritual lives diverged some two years ago -- she remained a missionary…but me?  I'm not quite sure even now.  She loves when I am unlovable, is patient when I am unreasonable and gruff, shows compassion even when I am unmerciful to those who mean most.  To leave her would be my undoing. 

Perhaps I am in a mid-life crisis of sorts.  I feel separated from my youth more than ever.  I am beginning to realize that time is limited; ambition loses relevance in such consideration.  The things that I considered peripheral have begun to weigh heavily on my heart: my relationship with my children, my wife, friends, how and for what I would be remembered.   

Up to this point I had definite ideas of what success is and how it is measured; now I am not as sure.  I have always believed that each of us is called to great things and that I had the potential to be a force of change; isn't that what we teach our children?  Now I consider that more likely most of us are called to be ordinary and small in the estimation of the world.  Mother Teresa said we are not called to be successful, just faithful.  That always seemed quaint to me, pithy enough to print on a card or wall-hanging; now it hovers in my thoughts, almost accusingly. 

I don't pretend to be a failure; I have succeeded in some things, done well in my career and still have some potential…but much of my life is rather ordinary, and at this moment in my life I feel comforted by that.  I have left it behind for greater pursuits, but now feel called to re-learn what ordinary life is all about.  And the most important part of ordinary life I need to re-discover is my faith. 

I have read the stories of wonder and miracles and have heard of the grandeur of God through the words of those who have seen it first-hand…but most of us won't see the Red Sea part or follow a column of fire through a desert; we won't see the dead raised and the blind restored to sight.  For you and me, God comes to us in the ordinary -- the cry of a baby, the love of a woman, the bonds of friendship, the grass under our feet, the sun on our backs.  The grandeur of God's love appears ordinary precisely because it surrounds and envelopes us day-in and day-out.  It is quite nearly routine…and in that routine I have become indifferent, even bored -- because I didn't see it. 

I have always struggled to believe that God loves me.  I feel a need to earn it, prove my worth before deserving it, which is so contrary to what I have been taught.  I expected His love to be shown in some magnanimous, extraordinary way.  Now I am beginning to see that in its constant, abiding presence God's love for me is just…ordinary.  Perhaps that is the most extraordinary thing of all.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pretending.

If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.   John 15:19 
I am a bi-annual visitor to New York City and fashion myself as somewhat of an expert on all things Gotham.  I am more than eager to share my experiences and recommendations to anyone, asked or not; yet if I were placed among a room-full of life-long New Yorkers I'm sure I would draw a few eye rolls or perchance a Bronx cheer.  They have a condescending tolerance of the tourist...we do grease the wheel a bit, but how annoying.  I admire and emulate them, their little over-priced apartments, yellow cabs and frenetic pace -- but after a few days I am fastening my seatbelt as the plane points home.  

I am not a New Yorker, and make no claim; but I point with pride that in a very small way I have succeeded in disguising my tourist status with one of the more ubiquitous residents of the City: the hand-bill hawkers.   

They are on every corner; "Want to see a comedy show?"  "Would you like to try a tour bus?"  "Are you going up the Empire State Building?"  They try their best to lure us to venues well-suited to remove tourist dollars from their owners, and most of us are fairly easy to spot with our glazed eyes pointed skyward and cameras clutched firmly in hand...but not I.  I have carefully observed the natives walk by unscathed, and have adopted their mannerisms and style.  Eyes straight forward, a look of disinterest with a touch of malaise, and nary a map or camera in sight...nine times out of ten, I walk by unmolested.  While I am not a native, for fleeting moments I feel that way every time I fail to draw their attention. 

It is a ruse, a well-executed act by a yokel from the streets of Buffalo trying to be something he admires but is not.  I love New York, but it is not my home, and when there I am but a tourist.  I work with a lovely lady who lived much of her life in New York and recently moved to the area, and when I pontificate on the lure of the City she says in no uncertain terms, "Nice place to visit.  To live there?  Not so much."   

Mel Torme sang, "There's a Broken Heart for Every Light on Broadway", and I am sure he was probably right.  Many come to New York with dreams in hand and find success, but many more do not.  It is a hard place, I am told, one that does not show mercy.  Art Garfunkel pined "New York, you've got money on your mind...and my words won't make a dime worth's of difference..."  As Manhattan continues to gentrify one thing is abundantly clear: money means welcome.  Those who have not are welcome...to leave.   

I have done a yeoman's job of convincing myself that I would fit right in and find success. I am in no position to live in New York, and am quite sure such an attempt would end in disaster; yet I consider and plan.  There isn't any truth to it, and down deep I know that.  My wife is firmly grounded in reality, but I have an uncanny ability to fabricate reality when it suits my fancy.   

As Advent begins I have been gifted with a realization that fabricated reality for me is not limited to New York City.  I have been playing a part, and the ruse is falling apart. 

When the plane lifts off the ground in Buffalo on route to the Big Apple I become something different, but something apart from reality.  Almost two years ago I left my faith for the world, for many varied reasons.  I have tried to fit in, fit the bill...but I have failed.  I am paralyzed by anxiety and angst.  I suffer bouts of sleeplessness and anger.  I have lost compassion, patience and mercy.  I drink too much, weigh too much, and am away from home too much.  I tried to become something...but it was not reality; it has beaten me.  I have discovered that living to survive means nothing; living to succeed is self-perpetuating defeat and empty of meaning.  I cannot dedicate my days to obtaining the comforts of existence.  I need to hope in the reality of eternal life. 

I have not divorced myself from the Church completely.  When in New York I attend daily Mass at St. Patrick's, an hour in 24 of play and adventure; in my life I have kept my Sunday observance, kept appearances...but it has been a grain of sand, really.  For so long my faith defined me; now it is window-dressing, nothing more.  A hard reality to swallow. 

I am not a native of the Earthly city; that has become increasingly clear.  It has rejected me as it has rejected the hopes and dreams of many before me and many to come.  I am not at home with continuous self-promotion.  I am not at ease with hardness of heart.  The world knows that, and in some ways mocks me because of it; unlike the ruse I have prefected for the hand-bill hawkers of the streets of New York, at every turn I am recognized for who I am...I can no longer pretend.  I see that now. 

I throw myself upon the mercy of my God and ask your prayers.  I need to come home. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Waiting...

I like to think that I am not an impulse buyer, that I have control over my desires and am able to hover over the absurdities that draw countless into purchasing useless items…but alas, I am a rube. I cannot tell you how many nail clippers and eyeglass repair kits I have purchased over the years, dangling before my eyes while waiting to pay for my loaf of bread, carton of milk and stick of butter; they beckon, saying, "Be prudent! We are cheap and oh so useful!" And that lovely salesgirl from the craft brewery giving samples by the cheese aisle…she needs the commission, for goodness sake. A twelve-pack is the least I could do. Oh what the heck, my brother could use one, too.

My wife refuses to send me to the store for anything. She knows me too well. "Get a gallon of milk"; I return with prosciutto and asiago cheese. "Get a loaf of bread for sandwiches"; my bags are stuffed with mussels, limes and Corona. "Get two bottles of wine for our guests tonight"; six Cabernets, a white burgundy or two, a pair of Chardonnays, a Merlot and Riesling later and I'm loading the trunk like a sommelier on speed. Not to mention a Dewar's White Label for good measure.

At my place of employment the fund-raising arm of the hospital (the "foundation") holds fairly frequent "sales" whereby loyal employees such as yours truly may purchase items and have the cost deducted over two or three pay periods directly from one's paycheck. In other words, YOU CAN PICK OUT ALL KINDS OF COOL STUFF, LEAVE THAT DAY WITH A HUGE BAG OF GOODS, AND NOT PAY A CENT UP FRONT. This is, to the impulse buyer, like shooting the winning goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while Aerosmith sings a song about how awesome you are.

At the most recent sale I bought a four-CD set of Elvis Presley's greatest hits, a rain gage for the garden, a book on how to build stuff from lumber, and a hummingbird feeder. I have thus far listened to two CD's, the rain gage has about an inch of water sitting in it, and the book has been read and now sits in the reference library (the cabinet across from the toilet). The hummingbird feeder is another story.

It’s a gaudy affair…with a stained-glass hummingbird hovering over a fluted red reservoir of sugar water with crystals hanging to the left and the right. It isn't something I would normally buy, but I went to that blasted annual "Garden Walk" in Buffalo and have been buying garden kitsch ever since. It hangs over the front porch, and I have not seen a hummingbird within miles. Quite frankly, I have never actually seen a hummingbird; I take everyone's word that they actually exist though I can't positively confirm it…sort of like the lunar landing. So it hangs, gently swaying in the breeze, attracting nothing.

I bought a bird feeder about two weeks ago and hung it on a bracket on the garage. The children and missus stood vigil for hours, waiting for a bird to land on it. Nothing came. Just when it seemed a flop, the very next morning every bird within ten square miles was crapping on the lawn furniture while throwing the seed all over the driveway. Success. No so much with the hummingbirds. It has been nearly a month. The instructions said to change the sugar water weekly; I did so once and felt like an ass, so I haven't in three weeks.

That ridiculous hummingbird feeder irritates me.  I want results.  I want a hummingbird...but to quote Yukon Cornelius, "nuthin". 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival

Oh dear.  I resolved to two posts a week this year, and the preceding week was, in a word, harrowing.  Does a Sunday Snippets count?  It will have to.  Though my only OTHER post this week does not overtly consider doctrine or scripture the question of the extent of Love Thy Neighbor (or at least, love thy neighbor's dog) is woven throughout, so I submit it and ask your gentle accomodation.

Thank you to RAnn, our faithful host, and God bless us all this coming week!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kibbles and Nips.

In the crush of political upheaval throughout the world there are many questions that remain to be answered: will Egypt develop a true democracy? Will Libya succeed in overthrowing their repressive regime? Will the royal family of Bahrain acquiesce to the throngs? Will the interests of the US be affected negatively? How will this affect the supply and cost of crude oil?

While I dare not endeavor to diminish the import of these questions or those like them, in the Marciniak household the burning question of the week was far greater and immediate:

How many Marciniaks does it take to walk a dog?

Allow a few moments that I might recount the harrowing tale.

Our dear neighbors two doors down are both teachers; she a talented and lovely music instructor, he a dedicated and steadfast instructor of troubled youth. As it was "winter break" the two were home twiddling their educated thumbs pondering, "what to do…what to do…", when the thought for a two day jaunt to a local indoor water park struck them both as a fine idea (indoor water parks are all the rage up here in the tundra). They packed their children and clothing (separately, of course) in the car and prepared to motor the short distance. There was one final bit of business: arrange care for the dog.

Mr. and Mrs. Teacher and their lovely girls are beloved by the Marciniaks. Mrs. Teacher is an upbeat, friendly sort and has become a favorite. Mr. Teacher is a man of great generosity; he has cleared my driveway of snow with his high-powered Toro machine several times for payment far less than deserved (occasional fresh bagels on a Sunday morning). We felt more than obliged to accept care for their little fluffy dog, "Sparkles". Indeed.

Instructions were simple enough: take the dog out of its crate and walk it outside. Feed it. Let it play for a short time each day. Piece of cake.

NOT.

The first evening: Jacob, honorable son number two, volunteered to be the first victim of fluffy little Sparkle's wrath. He left at 8pm that evening, promising a quick return. Within ten minutes the phone rang, "Send someone to help". The dog is about 8 inches tall and weighs approximately 10 pounds when wet, yet Jacob was vanquished and needed reinforcements. John Paul joined him. Less than fifteen minutes later the phone rang again. Send more help. Tyler and Elizabeth immediately suited up and joined the battle. Nearly four hundred pounds of third-generation hearty Polish stock was now amassed against a ten pound lint ball.

It was no contest.

It was my turn to enlist. I entered the home and found a standoff: the dog, after biting each of my soldiers several times, had managed to escape and was holed up under Mr. and Mrs. Teacher's bed, an enormous affair with massive head and foot boards, and my eldest was trying to coax Sparkles out with a broom. "Give me that", I exclaimed, and vowed to show them "how to handle a dog". I swept the broom in the general direction of the dog, who growled menacingly, with no effect; little did I know that the small dear had already relieved himself of processed kibbles and my broom was doing nothing but spreading the extract on the hardwood floors like peanut butter on toast. Within moments the only capable soldier arrived: Mrs. Marciniak. She did what never occurred to the rest of us: moved the bed and chased the dog back to its cage. We shuffled out feeling a bit sheepish while she cleaned the kibble extract assiduously.

Final analysis of day one: Six Marciniaks: Zero. Sparkles: One.

Day two was similar, with some subtle nuances. Each who approached the cage was nipped; they tried in vain to attach the leash but the lint ball would have nothing of it. Finally, Tyler, resourceful and intelligent (as of late) honorable son number one, discovered a puzzling truth: Sparkles would not nip at feet. Thus began a slow and purposeful ruse: he calmed the dog by petting it through the cage with his sock-covered foot for about fifteen minutes…and when Sparkles was lulled to inattention he changed up and used his hand…no nips. For another fifteen minutes he sat quietly, and when the dog was truly oblivious he quietly snapped on the leash. Success!

Tyler, never one to display patience, rose above himself and saved us all from further defeat and humiliation. He allowed the dog to play, leave extract in appropriate places, and suffered nary a nip.

In the final analysis, there were two casualties: The broom (there was no possible way to clean it) and a pair of NY Mets slippers owned by Mr. Teacher that were the recipient of a canine colon cleansing. Both were left outside against the house as a testimony of the harrowing battle, a sign-post, if you will, as if to say, "Lest We Forget…"

Mr. and Mrs. Teacher have returned, the neighborhood has returned to normal, and the dust has settled. As time passes we will remind one another perennially as we gaze on our two demure and submissive cats to never, never, NEVER underestimate the power of a ten pound lint ball. And if any of them ask for a dog they will be grounded indefinitely.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival

A week of weather contrasts:  56 degrees and rain Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 20 degrees and heavy snow today...just when my statuary in the garden thought they might lose their frozen blankets.  This week I mused on my reaction to a debate, with a backdrop of personal suffering.  My Seven Quick Takes included a request for a good Lenten devotional, and I am still open to suggestion! 

God bless the carnies, and God bless our hostess, RAnn.  Have a blessed week!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Seven Quick Takes...February 18th, 2011


I purchased the audio recording of Thomas à Kempis’s “Imitation of Christ” and have been falling asleep to it daily…I am holding some credence to the whole idea of playing classical music to a baby in utero and hoping that likewise there is some benefit to sleeping with the words of that classic tome ringing in my subconscious. I have read the book more than once and find great instruction in it, and thought the audio recording would be a nice way to still partake of its wisdom while resting my weary eyes…little did I know the narrator’s voice would lull me to slumber each and every time.


Pray for me to the Lord our God: my wife is leaving for retreat at the Abbey of the Genesee today, not to return ‘til Sunday morning. She has endeavored to wash every bit of clothing we own to make sure no one goes sockless, and has stocked the fridge well. Despite all that the male members of the family will most likely wear the same clothes throughout, and pizza will be a staple, quite surely. I’ll make sure I light some Glade candles come Sunday…

My eldest son has struggled for years at school. His grades have ranged from atrocious to catastrophic. His primary learning disability is medically termed, “Valde Quod Possideo Socors” (Great and Abiding Sloth). Nonetheless, there has been a miraculous transformation…call it maturity, call it ambition, call it abduction by aliens, call it what you will – he has suddenly turned a corner and is amassing A’s and B’s with abandon. I am loath to think that it is fleeting…but I will withhold judgment. In the meantime, I am the guy dancing the “Electric Slide” sans music.

The flu season has struck the ED like a goose on Fabio’s snout, and waiting rooms across the fruited plain are full of men, women and children hacking and sneezing. Luckily, it is fairly mild…at least from our point of view. The victim may feel otherwise. My yearly advice: wash your hands, drink lots of fluid, and avoid kissing anyone covered in mucus. Granted, the whole mucus thing is fairly universal and timeless. Just say no.



One of the best songs I have heard in a while is a little jazz piece by Emilie Claire Barlow entitled, "Haven't We Met" from her CD by the same name. This little French-Canadian has really captured the essence of the Great American Song Book…and added her name to a pantheon of great female "crooners": Billie, Ella, Nancy, Sarah, Rosemary, and so many others. Check her stuff out - and encourage her to venture south of the US/Canadian border as soon as possible!



I am unprepared for Lent and looking for suggestions. I would love a daily devotional of some kind; any ideas?  Something with some writings of saints, perhaps, or daily scriptural references and reflections...if you have any ideas, I would love to hear them.

We've got a new boss in Sabreland: Terry Pegula was approved by the NHL's Board of Governors as the new owner of the Buffalo Sabres. The long-time season ticket holder has pledged the following: "We're going to win the Stanley Cup. Then we'll win it again." In this city of second place, we are getting excited again…the annual Sabres Parties in the Plaza before games have been targeted by many for a name change: LalaPegula. Hopefully this won't follow a typical pattern here in the City of Good Neighbors: Celebrate first, cry later. Go Sabres.


Thanks to Conversion Diary for Hosting!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm just a big dummy.

Yesterday I attended a debate; the topic concerned the possibility of limiting the availability of liver transplants to known alcoholics. The debate centered on a perceived injustice -- that those who were simply victims of circumstance should be given preference over those whose behaviors precipitated disease. Arguments were lively, as you might have guessed, both pro and con. Data was most supportive of no restrictions when long-term viability of the transplant was assessed; alcoholics fared as well as and often even better than the overall transplant sample. Nonetheless, anecdotal testimony of those who died while waiting for transplants created an atmosphere in which data sometimes took a back seat to emotions.

One young female member of the debate panel spoke with particular conviction and acrimony in support of denying liver transplants to alcoholics. She cited the editorial comments of a physician and others in which poor choices and behaviors justified denial of suitability for transplant. She had no hard data, but her certainty of position was compelling, even if morally reprehensible.

A classmate of mine leaned over and whispered, "She obviously doesn’t know anyone suffering alcoholism." How could she? She looked like a child, no more than nineteen. Of course, I have no idea how old she is, or if anyone in her life has been touched by alcoholism…but I considered that her convictions revealed a certain immaturity.

I remember a time when I knew everything…

When I was a younger man I was, quite frankly, brilliant. I had in my possession the means to live a model life: my children would be perfect, my career would be one stellar success after another, my relationship with my spouse would mimic the holiness of Francis and Claire, and my faith was a rock of certainty and strength. As I cast a critical eye at my elders I could easily point out the errors that led to their present suffering and difficulties… the health decisions that precipitated obesity, hypertension, cancers and heart ailments; the laxity in their parenting skills that opened the door to alcoholism, drugs, pregnancy and conflict; the self-centered behaviors that bred marital strife and divorce; the lack of perseverance and faith that left room for despair and godless behaviors.

I held a quiet complacency that my life would be so very different, so much better, devoid of the suffering around me.

Sigh.

I have discovered that no one, not even the smartest man in the world, can avoid suffering. It is here, omnipresent, indifferent to intelligence, sincerity or faithfulness. Now the focus changes; I no longer hope to avoid suffering. I now must learn to use it to grow in grace. My character is defined by my response. Easily said; tough in application.  I write this in a moment of test and ask your prayers.
Do not reprove me in your anger, LORD, nor punish me in your wrath.
Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are trembling.

In utter terror is my soul-- and you, LORD, how long...?

Turn, LORD, save my life; in your mercy rescue me.
For who among the dead remembers you? Who praises you in Sheol?
I am wearied with sighing; all night long tears drench my bed; my couch is soaked with weeping.
My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because of all my foes.

Away from me, all who do evil! The LORD has heard my weeping.
The LORD has heard my prayer; the LORD takes up my plea.
My foes will be terrified and disgraced; all will fall back in sudden shame.
Psalm 6

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Suffering in Silence

A slight moderation of temperature (thirty instead of ten degrees) allowed opportunity to survey the ranch and gauge the effect of winter's grasp. I am not a fan of winter, let me be clear; you will not find me schussing with the Schussmeisters down the ski hills of Western New York, nor skating with the die-hards in Fountain Plaza downtown.  I would much rather spend a Saturday evening sipping a bit of Scotch before a roaring fire while reading a good book...or a blog or two.

Nonetheless, the religious statuary scattered across the vast acreage comprising Marciniak Estates do not share the warmth of hearth and home...they silently suffer the winter months as sentinels of strength and witnesses to perseverence.  Join me in a pictorial essay illustrating their endurance.


St. Francis of Assisi
Patron of my shade garden
St. Francis is up to his mid-section...and in his misery
looks strangely like Jack Klugman.  Not sure who the sculpter was, but
I've always imagined Francis to look a bit happier. 


The Blessed Mother
Our Lady of the Back Yard
This statue came in donation to the Mission and found a
home in the flowers along the garage...she arrived sans hands,
but doesn't seem to mind. 


The Sacred Heart of Jesus
To whom our family is consecrated...
Dressing in layers helps.


The Blessed Mother
Our Lady of the Front Garden
I feel compelled to dig her out.
From a different perspective:


The cold grip of winter has enveloped us in a blanket of white...and no more evident than among our garden statuary.  They suffer, but in silence.  And I am quite certain they would frown on any mention of a groundhog.




Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival

The snow continues to fly here in Buffalo, and I am dreaming of sunny gardens and walks in the evening...but until that time comes I'll continue to shovel the infernal flakes.  Between storms, homework, the job, breathing and other such drivel I managed to post a personal theory on the health of children.  Additionally, I indulged in a bit of personal horn-tooting in a post linking to a story about my family and I.

A blessed St. Valentine's day to all, most especially our lovely hostess.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Your Nose is Running. Don't Freak Out.

It sounds like a TB ward around here.

The inevitable march of viral marauders has begun in earnest here at the Marciniak home. Jacob was the first victim, a hacking mess of mucus destined to infect us all despite repeated commands to cover his sputum-laced respiratory explosions and wash his contaminated mitts. We lulled ourselves into a sense of false security, thinking the fifteen year-old would comply, we would be spared…to no avail.

The next victim sealed our doom: the five year-old. There is no force on this planet that can hold back the mucus of a five year-old. Steel-plated tissues laced with anti-bacterial sprinklers are useless. Triple-paned glass enclosures will not halt the advance. It was at this point this medical professional lost all hope.

This morning the seven year-old is hacking like an emphysematic cigar smoker in a Swinomish Smoke House.

Despite the dramatic explanation of the latest affliction on Sterling Avenue, this is not a frequent occurrence in the Marciniak household; there is an occasional cough here and there, a sniffle, perhaps a bit of stomach rumbling (most likely from something Frito-Lay made rather than a passing virus, in my opinion). For the most part we are a healthy bunch, and not necessarily because we wash our hands meticulously and spray Lysol liberally, because we don't do either with any success or regularity. The children spend a fair amount of time outside doing what kids do, primarily playing in dirt and/or snow, seasonally. They are exposed to viruses and bacteria at every turn. And yet, despite all that, illness is an infrequent guest.

There are colleagues and friends, on the other hand, who seem to lament sick children on a regular basis…colds, diarrhea, coughs, fevers, infections and vomiting. I am amazed at the frequency of ER visits among other parents and their broods at our local children's hospital. For me, if your limb is not bent in an ungodly position and you are able to breath, nod and wave, you're good. I have nursing colleagues who visit the ER with healthy kids on nearly a monthly basis. Why? Am I simply blessed? Is there something I am doing differently? After some thought, I believe there is.

That "something"? Nothing. Let me explain.

Modern parents are terrified of germs and illness. Every cleaning solution, hand and body soap and household spray is antibacterial. Schools wipe down desks, post hand-sanitizing dispensers every three feet, and mop with germicidal solutions. Every illness, cough and sniffle is treated with varying regimens of antibiotics and over-the-counter medicines. Children are kept indoors year-round, and heaven forbid they get into dirt. The gathering of friends from house to house, on baseball fields and parks, in sand boxes, on mounds of dirt, in frog ponds and streams are, sadly, a thing of the past among so many. We have limited the exposure to pathogens so effectively that we have, in my opinion, completely exposed our children by stifling their immune system. And worse yet, we are creating super-bugs.

The immune system works primarily by creating antibodies against invaders AFTER exposure to them. If we are never exposed, this important function of protection never occurs. Conversely, when we bombard every cough, sneeze and sniffle with antibiotics, we encourage our little microbes to develop mutations resistant to pharmaceutical intervention. In essence, we treat ourselves out of treatment.

In ER's, clinics and medical offices all over the nation children are presenting with illnesses previously rare and unseen. Multiple lesions and boils of the skin, pertussis, pneumonia, allergies and asthma, cellulitis; all these and more, even with the proliferation of antibiotics and antibacterial products, are skyrocketing in frequency.

My advice is simple. Let kids be kids. Let them get dirty playing Barbie's and Hot Wheels in the garden soil. Let them play football in the mud at the field down the street. Let them hang with friends and run in the sun. Let them explore the world one rock, one frog, one worm, one playground at a time. In each and every one of these encounters they're exposed to pathogens in small, mostly benign ways -- giving their bodies time to build up a card catalog of antibodies. Let their bodies do what God intended when he designed them. It has worked for multiple millennia.

Here on Sterling we'll suffer through this latest round of coughs and sniffles, and we'll have a new set of antibodies to protect us when we're through. God willing, nary an ER visit will occur, and the doctor's phone will not ring from a call here. The snow is still flying, and I'll wager a few of the healthy ones will be playing hockey in the driveway later this afternoon. Through it all, I praise the God who made us with the words of Psalm 139:

O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.
My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all.
Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is beyond me, far too lofty for me to reach.


Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too.
If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light" --
Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.


You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb.
I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew;
my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.
How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them!
Were I to count, they would outnumber the sands; to finish, I would need eternity.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fathers For Good

Here's a link to Fathers For Good, a wonderful resource for dads; check out the heading, "Newsworthy Dads"...you might know that guy.  Thanks to Brian Caufield and the staff for making a silk purse out of this old sow's ear.  The black scrubs are definitely slimming. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival

The new semester has started in earnest, and the time I have devoted to the blog suffered this week...even bringing to naught my resolution for two posts a week; oh bother.

Nonetheless, I did squeak out a post musing my inevitable march to the finish line...a bit morbid, I suppose, but you know the whole death and taxes thing. 

I have a little time before the game today to spend reading the posts of my fellow carnies and look forward to the prospect.  God bless the hostess, RAnn, and GO PACKERS!

Zumba?

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. 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. For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.
2 Timothy 4:1-8
I have been thinking of my death.

No, I have no immediate plans, and hope to delay the inevitable for at least a bit more, but the idea of it looms larger with each passing year. With that comes some understandable "rearranging"…well, understandable to me, I suppose; but not nearly enough.

The world has advice for those aging: lose weight, change the diet, increase activity, color the grays, moisturize the wrinkles, and for heaven's sake, get into a Zumba class. If a part fails you, replace it with titanium, and for the love of Pete, take your pills. In the same breath we are reminded to plan our funerals lest our loved ones be burdened with the task of interning us six feet under. We are encouraged to make all the arrangements, and for all practical purposes, stand next to the hole for the final years so when we do keel over we fall right in. Perhaps we should change the Corporal Works of Mercy by removing "bury the dead" and adding "bury yourself so the living don't have to be bothered".

Enough cynicism. Sorry.

As I consider 2nd Timothy Chapter 4 I am convinced that many among us are gripped with insatiable curiosity, even among the faithful. The occult, the continued splintering of Protestantism into "The Church of What's Happenin' Now", itinerant preachers and self-help gurus with the latest answers, and seemingly intelligent people waiting for the "Mother Ship" --all these and more go without saying. But what of those among the Catholic faithful who claim to have new revelation, new words delivered directly from Christ, or the Blessed Mother, or the saints? What of images in tree bark and on grilled cheese sandwiches? What of those who predict "World Domination" and micro-chip injections and World Bank conspiracies? Many assertions and fascinations among the faithful are better suited to the cover of the National Enquirer rather than among believers.  We have grown fat on the curiosities of the world. 

St. Paul tells Timothy (and us), in the face of such inconsistencies, "be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry." He did not speak thus as an observer but an active participant in the struggle to remain faithful and to fulfill his ministry. He was well aware that his time was short, and spoke of the race he had run with a nostalgic flair, comparing it to a race with a finish line in view. My meditation this morning is on his certainty, his absolute trust in the promise of Christ. He anticipated the "crown of righteousness" with conviction. Despite all the silliness of the world, the lack of consistency in belief among the faithful, the twisting of his own teaching and that of Jesus, he was firm in his belief that he had done what he could and his reward awaited him.

Many years ago in my twenties I attended a retreat in which I was considerably younger that most attendees. The focus, as the retreat developed, was primarily on the changes in the faith lives of those aging and getting closer to completing the race. At the time, I felt the entire event was a bit tiresome. After all, I was young -- I had my whole life ahead of me! I recall the elderly priest saying, "I am at a point when I am asking what to do in my faith life when all the things I hung my hat on no longer fill me with contentment and peace." I felt sorry for the old fellow, and for the men listening who slowly nodded in agreement. Yet even now I consider the words he spoke: "As I near the finish line I still can't see it clearly, and it worries me." Indeed.

He was a good and faithful priest. He served well and discharged his duties with vigor. He loved the Church and gave his life to building the Body of Christ; yet on that retreat he revealed his weakness: trust…or lack thereof.

I find myself in a similar position as I grow in age and wisdom (well, definitely the former; the latter is arguable) before man and God. I want desperately to share the trust in Christ's promise so certain in the heart and mind of St. Paul. I want so desperately to run a good race, be self-possessed, put up with hardship, perform the work of an evangelist and fulfill my ministry (apostolate, more appropriately in my case); but in the words of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof", "Would it spoil some vast eternal plan"…just to get a glimpse, ever so brief, of the finish line?

I suppose so. Otherwise what is the value of trust?

St. Paul, pray for me. Intercede that grace may lead me to trust, to faithfulness and conviction that the promise you have seen come to fruition may fill my heart with longing for the crown of righteousness. I, too, have grown fat on the enticements and temptations of the world and long for a simple faith.  St. Paul, pray that I run a good race, despite my weakness. 

Weakness indeed…maybe Zumba's not such a bad idea.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Snippets - A Catholic Carnival

A happy and holy Sunday to all the carnies!  Thanks to our hostess for throwing this party week after week.

I have two posts to submit this week:  first, I ended the novena to St. Francis de Sales on his feast day, January 24th, which happened to be the same day as the March for Life in Washington D.C.  In the reflection I considered the words of our president and contrasted them to the words of our beloved saint.  As you may guess, there was a bit of a difference. 
Second, I submit a post that reflected the extremes of experiences and emotions of the week and my wary eye that dictated my response...as inadequate as that may have been.

May God  bless you this week - I look forward to surfing the carnival later this afternoon!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Seven Quick Takes: January 28th, 2011


“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do,” Jesus gasped during his agonizing Passion. Martyrs throughout history have repeated those words with courage and conviction. I recently read a blogger’s post about the killing of a young boy in a Catholic Church in Iraq…and I was filled with anger. As stories of martyrdom, torture and abuse of Christians pour out of the Middle East I am troubled by my desire for a retaliatory response. How did the martyrs remain true to the words of Christ? I am afraid my faith is too weak. Does the Holy Spirit provide in the moment of need, or is there more to it? I suspect forgiveness is natural to the recollected soul. Miles to go before I sleep…



Among the most difficult words for a parent to utter to a child: “I’m sorry”, especially when we are young and full of ourselves. I am aware of many circumstances in my own life where it was not only appropriate but even imperative, yet I wavered. The older I get, though, it seems to get easier…maybe with the passing of the years I see the effect of my behaviors and words more acutely. It has taken years to begin to see that asking my child for forgiveness did not diminish my authority but rather provides invaluable example. Now if I could just control myself BEFORE I need to apologize, there’s the rub.


My blog has been featured on a nursing web site for those exploring specialization in emergency nursing…and I am at once flattered and puzzled. So little of my blog features emergency nursing posts; did they really read it, or did they just run with the subtitle? Whatever the reason, I have changed a few things to accommodate those looking for posts from a nursing perspective. Located in the side-bar are posts that I considered might be of interest to nurses, and I promise to add to that every few weeks or so. And to those thinking about becoming an emergency nurse: GO FOR IT! It’s amazing work.



As an adult learner, I look awfully funny in the college library among all the youngsters…and I’m ornery, too. Nothing worse than trying to get a paper done while a bunch of late teens are giggling and carrying on over stupidity, the doggone whippersnappers. I told ‘em no good would come from that crazy rock and roll.
Just tryin’ to live the part, kids. Go with it.





Am I the only one looking at the floods in Australia, the craziness in Egypt and Tunisia, the mudslides, the cold snaps, the snow in the deep south, Korean sabre-rattling and the deteriorating world economy and thinking that I really need to get to confession just in case?



I love wine; I blame Chef Peter of Pranzo who years ago had each of his wide-eyed young waiters (I was an eighteen year old pup) sample and learn about the subtleties of good wine. My wife gave me a wine refrigerator for Christmas, and the OCD in me wants to keep it full to look good and justify the extra electricity. And for drinking, of course. For those who like a good Cabernet Sauvignon, I highly recommend Park Lane, 2007. Amazing bottle for a steal at around fourteen bucks. You will NOT find a red that good for that price anywhere else. Give it a try.


I absolutely LOVE historical fiction.  Hence my love for Louis deWohl.  I am re-reading Citadel of God about St. Benedict.  I think de Wohl is one of the finest at the art...and the fact that his books feature some of our most beloved saints, all the better.  I am intrigued at his characterizations; it is as if he had been there, at that time, carefully observing.  While he has a bit of a cynical view of society, his portrayals are powerful, and the saint's life is the focus of what is actually right with the world.  The fact that other figures familiar to us weave in and out is icing on the cake.  I am also a huge fan of Michener...same ilk, different venue; perhaps another post one day.  On the internet, there are none better than Christopher on Three Hundred Words.  Bite-sized with BIG flavor.  Check it out.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Extremes

Monday morning I went outside and my innards froze with the first breath I took; it was eight degrees below zero. By six in the evening it was thirty-eight degrees warmer; the very next morning I dodged rain.

Tuesday evening I basked in the glow of my eldest daughter's success: she received a standing ovation in a packed hall for her documentary on civil rights in the Deep South. On Wednesday morning I contemplated my son's three failing class grades.

Early in the week a committee of nurses praised my commitment to making 2011 a great year. A few days later I was accused of trying to assassinate someone's good reputation and ruin their career.

It's no wonder my sinuses are acting up. It has been a week of extremes.

I am often stoic in times of great celebration. I am definitely NOT the one dancing on the table, or wearing a lamp shade. I suspect it is related to my unwavering belief that life tends to balance out; times of great joy are usually, in my experience, tempered with sorrow and loss. So when everyone is throwing their proverbial hats in the air, I am considering where the shoe will drop.

This isn't something I am necessarily proud of, nor recommend. I would much rather celebrate when celebration is due….yet when I look at the joy in the faces around me, my heart worries about sorrow like a parent for a child. I don't want their joy to end, but I know it will, eventually. Sorrow and suffering will come, as inevitably as snow in Buffalo. My heart longs to avoid it, alleviate its effect.

Sorrow and suffering are inevitable; I have intellectualized the opportunity they present for sanctification, but that cognitive understanding seems to waver in its journey to my heart. I envy those who embrace joy and pain with equanimity and poise, taking each for what they are worth.

My aunt once adopted a monstrously large dog who was as gentle as a lamb…unless you stepped on his paws. He was abused for much of his early life; his original owner beat his paws with a broom handle. He remembered that pain, and everyone had to respect that by walking gingerly. I suppose many of us are like that dog, nursing memories and holding on to fears.

I think it's time to loosen up a bit.

Jesus is about joy: a joy born of love, promise, and hope. Despite the pain and suffering so prevalent Jesus came to fill us with a joy so great that it elevates our sinful, distrustful natures to a greater plane, one marked by confidence in the promise and hope our faith guarantees. One that allows for rejoicing and celebration, no matter how extreme life can be.

As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. John 15:9-12
Now, to get that down to my heart…

Monday, January 24, 2011

Novena to St. Francis de Sales, Day Nine: to LIFE!

Let us consider the words of our current President, spoken in regards to the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion:

Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women's health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.  I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.  And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

I have heard pundits refer to the president, this and prior office holders, as "the most powerful man on earth." That power includes the ability to encourage or discourage life. This one has made his choice.

The call to recommit ourselves to insure our daughters are given the same rights, freedoms and opportunities as our sons causes me to pause and consider his meaning. What rights do our sons have that our daughters do not -- the right to behave with abandon without the burden of life? What freedoms do our sons have that our daughters lack -- the liberty to engage in licentious behavior without consequence? What opportunities are we protecting by destroying the unborn children of our daughters that abstinence and chaste choices cannot insure? Are these the rights, freedoms and opportunities we want for our daughters? Surely not.

We have the liberty to do good or evil, but to choose evil is not to use but to abuse liberty. Let us renounce such misguided liberty and subject our free will forever to the rule of heavenly love. (St. Francis de Sales: Treatise on the Love of God, Book 1, Chapter 17)
We who revere the sanctity of life and honor it as gift must persist in refuting the temptations of a freedom that does not respect the will of God or the good of our neighbor. We must be example to a world that honors license, not freedom. We must promote life with charity and love, by example.

Once charity is ours, free will wears the wedding garment. We can keep it on by doing good, or take it off by sinning, just as we please. (St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, Book 4, Chapter 1)

It would be wonderful if the "most powerful man on earth" revered life. He does not; but that is not cause for despair. We don't really belong here, anyway...and so we reject the folly of the world and embrace the truths of God. As we complete our novena today to our beloved Saint Francis de Sales, let us ask his intercession that we might reject the temptations and folly of the world and embrace the will of our Heavenly Father, who is all perfect and all love. God has "cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly" -- rejoice!

If the world despises us, let us rejoice, because there is reason for it; let us realize that we deserve it. If it esteems us, let us despise its judgments. Its esteem for us is blind, without foundation of knowledge or truth. Do not worry about what the world thinks. Despise its esteem. Let is say whatever it likes, whether good or bad. What is desirable is that we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, going about our work no matter what the world thinks. Truly the world is a great charlatan and always talks too much, both about what is good and what is bad. (St. Francis de Sales, Letters 331; O. XIII, pp. 150-151)

St. Francis de Sales, PRAY FOR US!



Novena Prayers

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Novena to St. Francis de Sales, Day Eight: Slow and Steady

It seems to some that perfection is an art which can be learned quickly. They think that it is easy once you have found its secret. They fool themselves completely. In fact, the only way to perfection is to work hard and struggle faithfully in the exercise of the love of God. One must unite oneself solely with Him. (Spiritual Treatises IX; O. VI, p. 152)
"Slow and steady wins the race."

The story of the tortoise and the hare is a study in irony: the speedy hare, haughty and self-confident, loses to the slow and steady tortoise…with a lesson that sober persistence is the key to success. The concept is so foreign to our present thought.

Even within the confines of our Church, there are clear signs that slow and steady wins the race. Following the Second Vatican Council new movements and organizations sprouted and flowered based on divergent interpretations of the documents. Many religious congregations threw off conventionality and tradition and embraced the age. The Church, they stated, had thrown open the doors to reform, and the faithful in droves embraced the new and novel. Those heady days of reform have proven short-lived as their aging proponents slowly succumb to time and the demands of succeeding generations for Tradition, devotion, and orthodoxy. Congregations that embraced modernity are dying; only those embracing the truths as divested by the Magisterium thrive.

As balance returns, we who cling to the Rock must be vigilant in our resolve to draw our strength from the Church. Even at this time, there are distractions and divergent paths. Modern-day "prophets" claim apparitions and messages; some have turned popular devotions into near-idolatry. Others insist that a return to the Latin Mass or turning the priest away from the congregation is the answer to the woes of the Church; a fair portion believe the Second Vatican Council was illegitimate and every pope since. We have a penchant for extremes. We must defer to Mother Church.

St. Francis de Sales encourages us to sober persistence: slow and steady wins the race. The Church has faithfully guided us, as promised, and will continue to do so. Our faithful obedience and humility will win the "race". Why is it so hard? Why do we rush from this to that, with itching ears? There are no spiritual "Cliffs Notes"…we have to read the book, pray the prayers, and turn our hearts to God day after day. We have to face the challenges of life with sober persistence. There are no Gnostic "secrets", no shortcuts; no easy answers or solutions.

As we near the feast day of our beloved saint let us ask for his intercession that we may humbly and obediently embrace the Magisterial teachings of Mother Church, recognizing that in the Body of Christ lies our strength and hope. May we be protected from the waves of dissent and divergent opinion, seeking the gifts of wisdom and discernment and the guidance of the Church.


Novena Prayers

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival

My resolution to post at the very least twice a week has been easily achieved, though I must temper myself with the reminder that the new semester begins in about a week…I am taking nine credit hours this semester, and am fully aware that my resolution will be put to the test.

This has been a week of prayer: novena prayers and reflections on the words of St. Francis de Sales as we continue to his feast day tomorrow, January 24th. This great saint is a hero of evangelization among the wayward and deceived, an evangelization of epic proportions conducted with gentility, intelligence, and devotion. What better example for us? There are two reflections I would submit today for your review; Day Three: Shame and Contrition, and Day Four: Keeping away from "Namby Pamby Land".  You are cordially invited to join the novena at any time.

Just for fun, I did submit Seven Quick Takes on Friday afternoon, the first in a while...a needed moment of levity in a week of prayer and sacrifice. 

Thanks and admiration to our hostess; my prayers to all for a good week.  I ask you all to keep those descending upon Washington D.C. for the March for Life in your prayers...including my daughter Mary and son, John Paul, that their journeys are safe and fruitful.  May the Holy Spirit use us to turn hearts to life.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

On That Road

My wonderful daughter Emily, a senior at Canisius College, along with Sarah Zamer (a recent graduate) had traveled the south last summer with a group of students to walk in the places marking the fight for civil rights in the U.S.  Sarah and Emily filmed, edited and produced an incredible documentary to be premiered at the Montante Center at Canisius College this coming Tuesday at 7:30pm.  Following the screening there will be a panel discussion.  Here is a trailer for the film:




Novena to St. Francis de Sales, Day Seven: Without Counting the Cost

We should never tire of making good resolutions, even when we know that we will not keep them. Even if we should feel absolutely certain that it will be impossible to put them into practice, we should not immediately give up. We should hold on until we have sufficient courage to say to the Lord: It is true, Lord, I haven't the strength to do it or suffer this, but I rejoice in this fact, that Your strength will work in me. With this support I will go ahead to face the battle, and I will win. (Spiritual Treatises IX; O. VI, p. 155)
Every Monday morning I make my way before work to the hospital chapel to pray the morning office and offer my week of work to God. I have been doing this with varying degrees of success for somewhere near six months. I use that time to prioritize my work, and to ask the Holy Spirit to help me to be a better nurse and manager. I don't reveal that to "toot" my own spiritual horn; on the contrary, like the peaks and valleys of my journey with Christ, a certain level of "dryness" has crept into my Monday morning sessions with Jesus. Nonetheless, each Monday I leave with something to meditate on that week, whether a scripture passage, the writings of a particular saint, etc. This past Monday was no exception.  As I read the intercessory prayers from the morning office the following struck me profoundly:


"May we seek those things which are beneficial to our brothers, without counting the cost, to help them on their way to salvation."
I stopped in my tracks and spoke out loud: "I count the cost all the time".

It was a moment of revelation that most certainly could come from no other source than the Holy Spirit; I was acutely aware that in much of my day I am counting the cost: the value of time taken away, the infringement on my prerogatives and desires, the interruptions in my "peace"…I realized that in many ways I am like a spiritual accountant, trying to balance my "budget" by offsetting sacrifice with consolation. I keep a register of transactions, and in that moment realized I am a miserly scrooge more often than not.

I have meditated on the words "Without counting the cost" since that day. I printed them and attached them to my computer monitor to remind me to be resolute in my desire to give freely without recognizing the sacrifices I must make -- and have proceeded to forget the words in some sense each and every day. Despite that, I read them anew each day and resolve to seek those things which are beneficial to my brothers, without counting the cost. When I fail I have resolved to try again. For in my weakness, I think only of myself, my needs, my comforts, my desires; but with the strength of the Holy Spirit I can rise above all of that and become what God expects and what my brother needs: a vessel of His love and Mercy.

As we continue our Novena let us ask St. Francis de Sales to intercede that our resolve, though weak and limited by our humanity, may be strengthened by the Holy Spirit.  Let us pray for courage, perseverance, and humility, ready to seek forgiveness for our failings and to try, try again. 


Novena Prayers

Friday, January 21, 2011

Novena to St. Francis de Sales, Day Six: Creating our own "Disasters"

When Our Lord corrected Saint Martha, He said, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things..." [Lk 10:41] Note that she would not have been troubled if she had been merely diligent, but she was overly concerned and uneasy; she was hurrying about and all stirred up. Rivers that flow gently through the plains carry along large boats and rich merchandise. Rains that fall gently on open fields make them fruitful in grass and grain, while violent storms devastate fields and pastures. A job done too eagerly and hurriedly is never done well. "He who is in a hurry should go slowly,: says the proverb. We perform actions quickly enough when we do them well. Drones make more noise and work more eagerly than worker bees, but they make only wax and not honey. So also, people who hurry about with tormented anxiety and solicitude never accomplish much, nor do they do anything well.
- Introduction to the Devout Life
One of the very first duties I was given when serving as a missionary at St. Luke's was to coordinate transportation to and from Sunday Mass. A large proportion of our congregation has no access to transportation except the bus, and the schedule on Sunday is rather limited…enter me. Each morning I would go through my list: "Are you going to Mass this morning? Okay, I will be there at…" After an hour of calls, my schedule was set. If I made it by the gathering song with the last van load I considered myself blessed.

Though it was rather time consuming and took me away from my family, there were perks; I did get to know the congregation quickly, and forged many relationships I still enjoy today, many years later. It allowed for some interesting and compelling conversations, and thrust me into the fabric of the Mission rather quickly.  It even afforded opportunities to evangelize and comfort those searching and suffering...a privilege I enjoyed.

Despite that, there were days I just wasn't in the mood. Perhaps I was under the weather, or stopped at too many addresses where no one came to the door. Perhaps I was desiring my warm home and time to relax. Maybe I was just cranky. No matter the reason, I did a fair share of complaining. One particular afternoon looms large in my memory…

Mass was finished at 2:30PM (1pm Mass) and my rides were voluminous; my assistants were unable to help with drop-offs, so the work was left to me. The minutes turned to hours. "Can you drop me off at my sister's?" "Can you take my granddaughter to my son's house?" "Can you drop me off at WalMart?" The requests were irritating me, and I drove like a maniac. I was angry that no one was helping ME, no one was concerned about MY time, no one was worried about MY hunger and MY schedule…I grew more and more anxious and angry with each passing moment.

I finally dropped off the last person at 6:30pm, FOUR HOURS after beginning the process. I was angry, anxious, and exhausted. I was on the phone with my superior expressing my displeasure when another vehicle pulled out and hit me broadside.

I wasn’t hurt, nor was the other driver, but she was hopping mad. "It's your fault! You are supposed to see me backing out of my driveway! I had the right of way!" The day couldn't get worse. I was completely and utterly defeated. I sat in my car while the woman yelled at me through the window, soon to be joined by various family members…when the policeman arrived, he took pity on me, filled out my report, and told me he would deal with my new-found friends. I thanked him and limped home.

That day was a disaster. There were no edifying conversations, no discussions of Jesus, no opportunities for empathy and friendship...not because of the lack of drivers, or the volume of rides. Not because of the hours driving or even the accident. It was a disaster because I made it that way. I did not do my job well at all because it was all about me. A big dent on the passenger side would remind me of that for years to come.

As we continue our novena let us examine the anxieties of our day, the irritations and moments of "disaster"…what part do we play? Let us ask St. Francis de Sales to intercede that we may be present at every moment, attentive to the needs of the day but peaceful in their execution. May humility and peace be the hallmarks of our work, play and rest, and may God grant success to the work of our hands.


Novena Prayers

Seven Quick Takes


The Marciniak family is fanning the globe as of late…my eldest spent a week in NYC volunteering, daughter #2 was in NYC and Baltimore for an acting competition and seminar, and daughter #3 will be accompanying son #3 in Washington DC this weekend for the March for Life (aka: the Massive March that is Curiously Only Seen by Cameras Purchased by EWTN). I love love love love to travel, and am envious of all of them. The trip to NYC in December feels like a lifetime ago, and I am itching to roam…

We have been challenged by our host to consider the top eight people we would like to invite for dinner…my list (not including any individuals both fully human and fully divine; such a person is a given):
     1. The Blessed Mother (just gotta have Mom there)
     2. David (sans Goliath) (this guy likes a good party!)
     3. St. Francis of Assisi (every word is compelling to me)
     4. St. Ignatius of Loyola (INTENSE)
     5. Mother Teresa of Calcutta (I want to hug her)
     6. Pope John Paul II (MY HERO)
     7. St. Damian of Molokai (my MODEL and intercessor)
     8. St. Francis de Sales (SO smart!)

There has been some skepticism from a certain blogger from a group of islands near Southeast Asia (who will remain nameless) whether I was truly a guest in the house of one Sanctus Christopher (aka Three Hundred Words Christopher) this past September after an incriminating photo of yours truly in said host's family room was posted. There was a challenge some months back that apparently a proof of such a visit could be verified by an image of this die-hard Sabres fan wearing a Washington Capitals sweater as given to me by one Christopher Yurkanin of Austin, Texas (no, the whole Caps thing makes no sense at first glance…or second).  I cannot do that.  It would cost me dearly here in Buffalo, frankly.  It appears necessary I will be required to arrange a re-visit. Christopher, please let Aisha know I would like more quail. Thank you.

I am a HUGE fan of Jazz FM91 out of Toronto. I even sent a small donation now that the local NPR station stopped its jazz format and switched to talk (as if we really want to hear more NPR talk. Yeesh.) I have discovered a few new artists not played on U.S. stations that are worth a listen: Emilie-Claire Barlow (who I will be going to see in Toronto next May, God willing, with my brother Tim and Sister-in-law Renee), and Nikki Yanofsky, who will be broadcast live on the station Wednesday, January 27th at 8pm from the Blue Note in Manhattan. Ho boy, I wish I was live at the Blue Note in Manhattan that day…anyhoo, if you love jazz, tune in online.





Cruzan tastes SO much better with Coca-Cola than Bacardi. I’m just sayin’.






As unaccustomed to public speaking as I am (insert wife’s voice: “yeah, right”)…I have been invited to speak at a parish mission by an old acquaintance, which I am happy to do, but the topic to discuss is: “Who Am I?” Oh dear; that’s a loaded question. In the outline of requested content there is a mention of discussing the psychology behind what we do and why we do it…a topic better suited to Fr. Benedict Groeschel, to be sure. Nonetheless, as an old ER nurse, I have a few human-interest stories up my sleeve…THROW AWAY YOUR WATCHES, BABY, THE MICROPHONE’S MINE!!
Just kidding.
Mostly.

I love Ceili Rain, and if you haven’t heard of them, shame. They are an AWESOME Celtic-rock Catholic band headed up by Bob Halligan, Jr., song-writer extraordinaire, writing tunes for the likes of KISS, Cher, Michael Bolton, Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult, Joan Jett, KIX, The Guess Who, Rik Emmett of Triumph, Helix, Kathy Mattea, and Bob Carlisle, to name a few...Now he’s writing songs about faith, family, and God’s love that really speak to many hearts. My fav album is “Erasers on Pencils”…it’s on itunes, so give it a whirl. If you are going to buy any song, make it “Life is a Polka” (yes, a Polka rock song by a Celtic rock Christian band. Go figger). Highly recommended for obvious reasons. Na Zdrowie.


I don't know that man.