Lead article from the December 2017 bulletin, online now.
We have Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's all within the final five weeks of the year. It is a wonderful opportunity to bring our families together and experience the blessings of the season.
First there is Thanksgiving, a day to get together, bond and give thanks for all we have. It is relatively stress-free, and you can eat great food and watch football all day. It sets the table, if you will, for Christmas inasmuch as it refocuses us on the most profound and influential things in our lives: our faith and our families.
Try as it may, the secular world, filled with its hyper-consumerism, glam and outright indifference to Christ, can never diminish our Savior from the season. We spend many stressful hours shopping, preparing, running, planning and worrying. When Christmas finally comes we find ourselves giving it up to Christ at Mass. Millions of Americans in countless communities fill our churches. God refocuses us and sets our year's end on His terms.
Even unbelievers in the secular world are compelled to take stock in their disbelief. Does Christ not cross the minds of doubters as they lay awake just having watched their children at their most happy? They know what the day is about. Does the plastic nativity scene made in China that a stressed-out father struggling in his faith plugs in the day after Thanksgiving not give him pause? What about those factory workers in China seeing them roll by the assembly line? How many of them have explored Jesus as a result of this?
These are not just rhetorical questions. I truly have not a clue, but surely God has countless ways to plant Himself in our conscience.
Every year we watch A Christmas Carol in its many incarnations. A miraculous allegory written by Charles Dickens, a self proclaimed Christian who never mentions Christ in the novelette, but for his final entry when Tiny Tim proclaims, "May God bless us, everyone." The story itself glistens with biblical references and values. Many must have been moved by this story and many others during the holiday season. I wish all Knights and their families a very merry and blessed Christmas.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Lead article from the November 2017 bulletin, online now. Reminder: The November council meeting is moved to Thursday, Nov. 9!
OK, so in 1990 I ventured out of my indifference to embrace my higher power that was and is God almighty. I left behind my irreligious, if not atheist, upbringing that stood at odds with that which was all around me. I was no longer an agnostic; I was officially a believer. What then to do? It was much easier just to believe in God than to sort through all the organized manifestations of worship.
Because the beauty of my natural surroundings brought me to where I was, pantheism seemed the place where I stood. I saw God everywhere! Nature was God, and it left me underwhelmed. It gave me little passion. I could never bring myself to hug a tree. Nature was awesome! But God created nature. I was much more likely to cut it down and have a fire. My kids then came, and I remembered a commitment. My wife Gina was Catholic, and Father Joe at St. Gerard's would only marry us if we agreed to raise our kids in the Catholic faith.
We started going to Mass and enrolled them in the parish school. I found passion as I observed the way fathers and husbands led their families to Mass and conducted themselves. I then realized and embraced the truth of Jesus Christ. I went thru RCIA and was led into the water by Fr. Gregory Abbott at the Easter Vigil 2009, the same baptismal font my daughter Anna was baptized in five years earlier. I then went through CRHP and joined the KCs. I became hyperactive with all things Catholic. And then one day I was told it was my job to get my family to heaven. What?! Great, I was pretty sure I would not be allowed safe passage considering some things I left out of the introduction I just wrote. Now I was faced with a heavy task, like three tons laid on my shoulders. Just do good works, go to Mass and enroll them in the parish school? That was all I needed do, right?
All of a sudden it all seemed insufficient. I worked 60 hours a week and only saw my wife and kids on weekends, which were also filled with doing "good works" and such. Was I doing too much? Was it getting in the way of my task? It looked as if the train was going to derail. Flash forward eight years or so, and I am now retired with two teenage girls and a wife who still needed me to help get them to heaven.
I now have more time. I also have much more to do. I thought I could get it all in if I did not work. What was I thinking? I found myself losing ground to contemporary culture (they wanted to go to a movie about a homicidal clown bent on murdering kids) rather than a Christian one: smart phones, social media apps, pop song lyrics and teenage drama to beat the band! The train is still clearly in danger of coming off the rails. I sometimes search and long for signs of progress. Some evidence that my duty is not left undone. They are only going to be with us for five or six more years. I spend much time worrying about it, praying on it, thinking about it and trying to unwrap its mysteries.
Recently, following some significant turbulence there was a time of peace and enjoyment on a family three-day outing in Rochester, where these signs came in at a pace I was not prepared for. My daughters both made me aware upon arrival that we would need to plan for Mass. We toured the city on foot, ate at expensive restaurants, laughed and had the most fun we have had in a long time. Marina asked me if she could go with her friend to a Catholic youth retreat called Steubenville next summer. Anna wanted to listen to Christian pop music the whole time there. We walked our dogs in the park in between showing them in competition, and the girls worked together at the dog show. It seemed too good to be true, but it was true. An answer to my prayers?
We arrived home and my wife was at work and the kids were in school while I was chasing dust balls and dog hair bunnies with my "Shark" vacuum. When going by my little Anna's room I sent skidding across the room a piece of art that had been taped to her door and fallen. It had been there since the third grade. The artwork read, "Gods Not Dead He Surely A Live," and it was a drawing of Anna, God, God's people, the sun and a roaring male lion, maybe representing fathers trying to get their kids to heaven.
Was it a sign that the weekend had not been a fluke, that indeed the train to heaven was not derailed? Had God himself caused the bonds to be loosed? It was progress in my task to help get them where we all long to be. God can do anything. He can surely borrow a third-grader's illustration to bring his point home to a struggling servant on Earth.
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Lead article from the October bulletin, online now.
After beginning a new friendship one realizes that there are levels and degrees of friendship. You can spend time with this friend on a leisurely basis only, like sports, but may want to deepen this friendship by working with this person, or sharing family time, ministry time, or deeper still, becoming intimately involved with each other’s hopes, successes, and yes, even failures and sufferings. It is a mutual giving, receiving and supporting with varying degrees of gratitude, humility, and corresponding happiness.
Our friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ began when we were consecrated to him in the Sacrament of Baptism. Consecration means to be “set aside” “made sacred” for God’s pleasure, and we were made pleasing to God at baptism because Jesus infused his very divine life – sanctifying grace – into our soul, simultaneously with the divine virtues of faith, hope and love. These divine virtues are real, but they are like seeds that need to be cultivated, deepened and thus produce fruit that will last forever.
To help us with this, God has consecrated Sundays, the Lord’s Day, as a time for us to assemble to hear the Word of God and celebrate the preeminent sacrament – Holy Communion – Jesus Christ who is the source and summit of our faith, hope and love!
Although the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are given to the soul only once, the preeminent sacrament of Holy Communion can be received weekly, even daily, if one is free from mortal sin by following the Catholic faith. This worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist deepens our friendship with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as well as with Mary, the holy angels, saints and all the members of the Church.
While in the state of grace, we can also grow closer to God by helping the poor, evangelizing, praying, making acts of faith, hope and love, and writing our public officials to follow the natural law by putting an end to: abortion, so called same-sex marriage and unjust wages – sins that cry out to God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1867).
Many of us have made or are making an act of faith, hope and love by consecrating ourselves completely to Mary by reading and applying the 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC. Since Mary is that perfect disciple of God who always conforms her free will to God’ divine will, we can be assured that when we give her all our prayers, sacrifices and sufferings she will apply their merits according to God’s divine will.
In this consecration to Mary, we are asked to deepen our friendship with her and God by giving her everything for her intention, but we still can tell Mary our intention because we trust that from her heavenly perspective she knows how to best bring about God’s will, which of course, is better than our desire.
For example, I can offer up a Rosary for my friend to pass med school, but if that fails I should not be concerned that God is not listening to my prayers, rather, I trust that Mary has better plans for my friend which could not be fulfilled if she went to med school.
Another example is when painfully misunderstood we might ask God to remove it, but when we offer it up to Mary, and it remains, we trust that she is using the merits for something far more important and perfect. By this means we can see how God is asking us to detach from the world and our desires and trust more deeply in him and his Mother, Mary. God will never test us beyond our strength, but if we want to become strong, we must be tested. By consecrating ourselves to Mary we can more easily learn how to pass the tests with the graces Jesus won for us and thereby attain perfect salvation!
God bless you!
Fr. Thomas McCabe