The Gospel this time of year recounts the most amazing leap of faith in history. Mary says “yes” to God. Last Thursday’s Gospel reading recounted when Mary went to see her cousin Elizabeth after the angel Gabriel told Mary about God’s plan for her. After hearing or reading this many since I was little it finally dawned on me this week that Elizabeth knew the truth. Before hearing more than a greeting, she understood who came through the door that day – carried in her cousin’s womb. How could she know?
Halloween didn’t start out as the candy grabbing, fright festival it has become in the U.S. As often happens with religious celebrations, Halloween is the result of knocking a holy day off its foundation and changing its meaning, in this case, the Feast of All Saints, which is on November 1st. The feast of All Hallows Day has a vigil the evening before, which is where the name Hallows Eve – Halloween, is derived.
Now, I enjoy watching the kids get dressed up as pirates and leprechauns, princesses and magicians as much as any dad. As far as Trick or Treat time goes, it’s fun to go around with the kids to the neighbors and collect enough sweets to compromise all the teeth in a great white shark. The kids are cute in their costumes and the neighbors all have fun with it. But the way Halloween is celebrated today in society is just a shadow of what the All Saints Day commemoration is really supposed to be about. The way the church sees it is more fulfilling than a Snickers bar and might just explain your life’s biggest blessing.
Everyone has a favorite scene in their beloved movies or a catchy line in their favorite song. But what about your weekend faith pilgrimage – doesn’t that deserve a top 5 list of its own? I think so as well, so let’s see if the Gloria or the creed or the homily break into the top 5 best moments in Mass. And what comes out as the pinnacle? Is it the donuts and social time afterward? My boy would vote for that.
So, here we go – my personal favorites for the five best moments in the Mass.
Number 5 – The Sign of Peace.
I’ll call myself out on this one. I like seeing my friends and acquaintances at Mass. It’s a double bonus if they are sitting close enough to shake hands with during the sign of peace. It is also a nice chance to show my kids some extra affection.
The parables Jesus has been teaching with the last few weeks in the Gospel have been some of my favorite stories. He takes a complex situation and represents it in a way people today can understand. He teaches us about the world, what is important in life and what to avoid. What if we had a new parable that addressed what we and our children face today, in our high-tech, secular society?
Striving for the kingdom of heaven can be likened modern life. There was a man living a good life, full of blessings of all kinds: a trustworthy wife, loving children, nice career, good property and friends he could count on. As he grew older he still loved these blessings but he also became enamored with a work tool his boss gave him, a smart phone. At first, he used the phone only for calling co-workers and customers during work hours. He still focused on his family and the right priorities. But soon he began to use it for evening calls and an occasional important dinner-time email to a customer. He wasn’t talking to his kids as much during dinner. But the biggest surprise came next.
When my oldest child was just five, she would say cute things. The kind of things your kid says that makes you both laugh and hug them. She still says cute things now and again, but with grown up ideas. They all grow up at some point, but they still remember when they were looking for a hero.
Back in 2003, right after turning 5 years old, my daughter unintentionally got me started on a new hobby. Writing down her cute sayings.
According to the dates in my log, this was the first: “I’m going to be the Hero of the day!” she exclaimed. Then, quietly added, “Lift me up so I can be the hero.”
About 8 years ago I witnessed the graduation of a young woman from a program that changed her life, brought joy to her family, and put her in a position to successfully raise her daughter – something she once considered impossible. Ellie was not expecting to get pregnant, but after learning she was she took positive steps and joined Advice & Aid Pregnancy Centers’ program for parenting education known as Bridges.
Advice & Aid is the only pregnancy center in Johnson County and the advocates there helped Ellie (not her real name) learn about and sort through her options when she was scared and had nobody else on her side. She learned accurate information about abortion, adoption, and parenting at that first visit. As one of the volunteers that works with the young women and men in the Bridges program, I got a chance to know many wonderful people who courageously chose life for their baby. Ellie and her daughter Avery were two of the regulars at Bridges. Ellie was so trusting, she asked me (the only guy in the room) to hold two-month-old Avery while she shopped in Patti’s Closet for diapers and clothes donated by our friends in the community. That quickly became the routine for her and before long, Avery was my pal. She was a sweetheart with the cutest smile. Continue reading “God Provides Wisdom to Many People Through Advice & Aid Parenting Program”