Archive for January, 2011

The Saint Who Inspired Chocolate Milk

January 31, 2011

I really have no idea whether or not St. John Bosco inspired the Bosco Chocolate Syrup company.

What I meant by the title of today’s blog is that every time I heard the name, St. John Bosco, I could not help but think of chocolate milk myself.

Today happens to be the feast day of St. John Bosco.

He was famous in Italy for educating children in the Christian faith.

A noble purpose.

The nuns in my school, St. Mark’s, in Pittsfield, Mass, during the 1960’s, spent a great deal of time teaching us about the lives of the saints.

They used their stories to inspire us to be better Christians.

Many of my non-Catholic Christian friends criticize our tradition, saying, the Bible does not encourage us to imitate the saints, it only asks us to imitate Christ.

That is simply not true.

In today’s reading from Hebrews 11, the writer of the Epistle does just what the nuns did when they taught us about St. John Bosco:

Brothers and sisters:
What more shall I say?
I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah,
of David and Samuel and the prophets,
who by faith conquered kingdoms,
did what was righteous, obtained the promises;
they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires,
escaped the devouring sword;

One unique thing about Sainthood in our faith, is that it is not pronounced until many years after the person is dead.

One of the biggest downsides about the wireless connected society in which we live is that too much information is passed along about too many people.

A celebrity our children may be admiring and following on Twitter at 9am could be arrested for drunk driving at 11pm.

It would be great if someone out there created a web site that emitted the Tweets of the Saints gone by.

That way our kids could follow along individuals who we know succeeded as good citizens and followers of Christ.

Even though it would be made up, at least it could be based on the facts of their lives.

I think I would like to sign up for John the Baptist’s tweets.

Here is how it might go.

…leapt in mom’s womb today….felt the light of the world nearby.

…tried locust for the first time….not bad…needed honey though.

…found large river, big enough to baptize people.

…baptized Lamb of God today….saw Dove descend on Him and heard clouds talk.

…told off adulterous couple today.

…in prison…not afraid…I know who my Redeemer is.

…just lost my head.

…standing before throne of God.

…no words can describe this.

Lord, thank you for those that have inspired us.

Help us live a life that is exemplary, and help us also point to others, like St. John Bosco, who can add flavor to a bland world, thirsty for truth.

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Jersey Boys Review–Swearin’ To God

January 30, 2011

Last week, while on a business trip in Vegas, I saw the musical Jersey Boys for the first time.

I will definitely go again.

Show tickets were a gift from the boss.

I took the responsibility of selecting the venue.

We could’ve gone to any play, but the allure of the music of Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons was too great to pass up.

When we first arrived I noticed videos playing over and over on flat screens in the lobby…scenes from the show.

I never saw actors that looked exactly like Frankie, but I was hopeful they would sound like him.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The artist who played Frankie Valli in the version we saw was Travis Cloer.

His cover of the Valli voice was so good it was almost difficult to believe he wasn’t lip-syncing originals.

I can assure you, he and the group weren’t faking…canned music can’t electrify a crowd like Travis and his mates did.

Speaking of mates, the other character who impressed me was Australian Peter Saide, who played Bob Gaudio, the tall/talented song writer of the group.

Peter Is also half-Lebanese and looked like my son Luke.

From the moment he stepped into the spotlight, his persona, just like in real life with Gaudio’s skills, sent the Jersey Boys into orbit.

I had a hard time keeping my feet from moving and eyes from welling up with memories of my childhood.

The first time I heard Sherry Baby I was around four years old and had just slept over cousins Georgie and Ricky’s.

Ricky played the 45 on a tiny record player.

All I could think about was my other little cousin Sherry, a baby at the time…I felt they wrote it for me to sing to her.

Each song tugged on a heart string from my past and I didn’t want the show to end.

It’s a bit ironic the hit song Swearin’ to God was not in the play.

The only controversy surrounding Jersey Boys is the foul language.

I read comments online from people who attended the show in New York and elsewhere…at least half who commented were upset with the repeated use of the “F” word.

I can understand their concern, especially if they had children with them.

First of all, when going to a Broadway show, it’s our responsibility to determine the age appropriate nature; there are no movie ratings.

I saw no children at this Friday night showing, which to me meant they’d lost themselves a few sales.

Yes, even in Vegas, parents won’t pay to have their kids hear the “F” word.

The house wasn’t full…we even bought balcony seats and were moved downstairs as a courtesy.

Here’s what was interesting about the barbs going back and forth in the Yahoo commentary I read.

Each person, pro and con, had the right to endorse or criticize the show.

The argument from those who didn’t mind the language was that “real” North Jersey boys talked that way and those offended were being prudish and unrealistic.

The argument from those who disliked the language was that they saw no benefit to the production and only wanted to share the great show with their kids, but couldn’t.

The losers here are actually the investors in the show, not to mention the kids who can’t go.

They’re the ones losing sales by excluding an important demographic, i.e. young families with children old enough to sit through a two-hour venue…there are quite a few.

Our language is a personal choice, and like most Christians I do my best to keep it clean.

When I fail though, it’s my bottom line that suffers, no one else’s, unless I do it in front of a child, who then might mimic my behavior.

Then the curse becomes a double curse.

The gripe that parents have about foul language is never because they themselves haven’t heard it, it’s because they want their kids to enjoy something too.

If they bring their kids…then what?

Should Jersey Boys change the show and rewrite a G-rated version, at least for matinees perhaps?

That’s a decision for the writers and investors.

Will they sell more tickets?

Since the show’s in Vegas, you can put money on it.

Under the Weather

January 29, 2011

I am trying to think of  a way to praise God with this horrible head cold and dreary body of mine.

Any suggestions?

If you are feeling well today, thank God.

If you are feeling ill today, thank God too.

The alternative is a computer screen without you looking at it.

The Perils of Pants

January 28, 2011

They say you never forget the way people make you feel.

There was a nun, let’s call her Sister Nancy, who I had at St. Mark’s School that I never could warm up to

I had her for my primary teacher more than just once or twice.

I thought she was mean and hard to deal with.

Each year I learned that she would be my teacher I remember dying inside just a little.

I don’t know why, but one friend and classmate who rode my bus, Joe Tierney, loved her. 

I can remember the first day of school one year, Joe gleefully telling me, as we rolled into the parking lot, that we would have her again.

I think I just slammed my head into the cushioned bus seat ahead of me when I heard the news.

There was a fairly large hill behind St. Mark’s School, and we were allowed to slide on it during recess in winter time.

At the end of one of my sled-less slides down the hill, the thread let loose on the backside of my pants and I had a rip the length of a wooden ruler.

In those days I was not the most suave or carefree student.

This mishap was like a life ending disease.

I had no idea what to do and feared peer ridicule like the plague.

I remember discreetly walking back to Sister Nancy and whispering to her what had happened.

Within seconds she had escorted me into a the boy’s room, then into a stall and with needle and thread, and my pants still on, she knelt down and deftly repaired the whole in my pride.

It took only a few minutes and no one, not even my mother, could tell that those pants were almost two pairs of pants.

She said nothing to the other children.

My attitude about Sister Nancy changed that day.

In today’s reading from Hebrews Chapter 10 we see how the Christians suffered ridicule because of their association with Christ.

They embraced it, and helped others afflicted too.

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened,
you endured a great contest of suffering.
At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction;
at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison
and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.
You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.

Thank you Lord for the ways in which You and Your people care about the smallest details in our lives.

Help us, like Sister Nancy, to always be prepared to mend the souls of those hurt by public affliction.

Our kindness might be the thread that reconnects a heart that has been torn away from a loving God.

What Will Be Our Biggest Surprise

January 27, 2011

In the summer of 1992 the Berkshire Eagle, while it was still under the management of the Miller family, ran a competition asking for essays for the best idea to jump-start the economy in the Berkshires.

The competition was called “Operation Jump Start.”

First prize was $1,000 and the anonymous committee that selected the winning entries was a “who’s who” of local intellectuals, including (I learned later) a dear friend of my dad; educator Norman Najimy.

The Newspaper also removed the names of the authors, so that the committee members could have no bias for or against any author.

There were some great ideas submitted, but the best idea, the winner, was for a Classical Music Hall of Fame in the Berkshires, similar to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

I remember very well what the winner said when he was interviewed.

He quoted Jesus and today’s reading from the Gospel of Mark includes the excerpt:

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket
or under a bed,
and not to be placed on a lampstand?
For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible;
nothing is secret except to come to light.
Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”
He also told them, “Take care what you hear.
The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,
and still more will be given to you.
To the one who has, more will be given;
from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

When we do something good, like Jesus did with His ministry, it is important that aspects of that goodness are put on a lampstand.

I don’t mean the part where one brags about his accomplishments, I mean the part where one touts the benefits to mankind for the victory.

What Jesus is talking about, the hidden and secret things, is our redemption.

I know for a fact that the winner of that competition was in a very low place emotionally when he won.

It was a hidden surprise or secret that brought an incredible amount of joy.

When the winner first heard about the competition he ran to his desk to write his submission, (in long hand) and then proceeded to tell his wife that he was confident his idea would win.

Sometimes when God first touches us we see more of His truth than years later after our first love has been tarnished a bit.

There are two things you need to do today.

1. Compliment yourself for choosing to read the blog of an award-winning writer–yes that was me who won that competition.

2. Wish him a happy birthday.

The surprise of the life waiting for us after death, as a result of that glorious gift we cherish on our birthdays, will far exceed the thrill of $1,000 and the recognition of local intellectuals.

Norman wrote me a beautiful letter of congratulations after the competition was over.

It meant so much knowing that he voted for the idea, but had no idea I was the author.

God will judge us not for our connection to others here on earth, but only for our connection to Him.

Did we hear His voice when He called?

Did we respond in obedience, or let the message go unanswered?

Thank you Lord for that great prize You have waiting for us on the other side.

It will be the best birthday present of all.

Set Your Children Ablaze

January 26, 2011

The calling of a Christian is not just about individual salvation.

True, we are responsable for working out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

It is also true that we are embers that burn far brighter if there are others around us to ignite.

Today in the Church we celebrate the feast day of St. Timothy and St. Titus.

They were younger students and confidants of the Apostle Paul, who shared as much knowledge of Christ with them as he could.

When we read the letters below it is easy to see how intricately involved Paul was with their ministries.

These are the readings from today’s liturgy, honoring their lives.

2 Tm 1:1-8

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
for the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to God,
whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did,
as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day.
I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears,
so that I may be filled with joy,
as I recall your sincere faith
that first lived in your grandmother Lois
and in your mother Eunice
and that I am confident lives also in you.

For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

Or

Ti 1:1-5

Paul, a slave of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ
for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones
and the recognition of religious truth,
in the hope of eternal life
that God, who does not lie, promised before time began,
who indeed at the proper time revealed his word
in the proclamation with which I was entrusted
by the command of God our savior,
to Titus, my true child in our common faith:
grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior.

For this reason I left you in Crete
so that you might set right what remains to be done
and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you.

Help us Lord to always remember in our prayers, as Paul did, those to whom we have imparted our knowledge of Christ.

Our legacy, like Paul’s, will live on for centuries, if it is based on a faith that is an eternal flame.

The world cannot extinguish what God has set ablaze.

Franchise Player Taken Late In The Draft

January 25, 2011

Some of the greatest heroes in sports were not taken in the first round.

Players like Tom Brady, taken in the sixth round come to mind right away.

Another player that I really liked was Troy Brown.  He was taken in the eighth round. 

That round no longer exists.

If God has chosen you to do something important for His Kingdom, it matters very little when you are selected.

A perfect example is Saul of Tarsus.

He was chosen to serve the Lord long after the 12 Apostles were selected in the first round

He was chosen well after the second round of believers at Pentecost.

Then he was still not chosen when the third round of believers were taken in the outlying regions like Damascus.

His behavior was counter-productive, arresting believers and having them thrown into jail.

The Way, or the Christians, were members of God’s new team.

Jesus was like their head coach.

When He chose Saul, on the road to Damascus, believers complained to the head coach that this guy had serious baggage.

The Lord did not care, and Saul became the Apostle Paul, who lead thousands to victorious faith in Christ and wrote most of the New Testament letters.

Please savor this reading from Acts 9.

No matter what your age or status or past history, or even past sins, it is never too late to join Christ’s team.

He knows your true worth.

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias.”
He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied,
“Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name.”
But the Lord said to him,
“Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.
All who heard him were astounded and said,
“Is not this the man who in Jerusalem
ravaged those who call upon this name,
and came here expressly to take them back in chains
to the chief priests?”
But Saul grew all the stronger
and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus,
proving that this is the Christ.

Hell’s Bells; The Knock Out Punch

January 24, 2011

I was an altar boy.

There were three different positions that defined us.

The taller guys were the Cross-Bearers. 

It’s meaning is obvious.

The pyro-maniacs were called Seriphers, which meant they handled the incense, gleefully ignited before every Mass.

Then there were the Acolytes, who carried the candles and rang the bells.

Each job was different, but we all ministered in a unique way on the Altar of God.

As Cross-Bearer I envied the Acolytes who got to ring the bells at the consecration of the Bread and Wine.

A curse word–“Hell’s Bells”–started circulating 100 years ago, but it has no real foundation in Scripture.

The bells that we altar boys ring do.

Exodus 28:35;

35 Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the LORD and when he comes out, so that he will not die.

In today’s readings (January 24, 2011) from Hebrews 9, Psalm 28 and Mark 3, we learn that there’s a connection between Christ– His sacrifice– and the music God wants us to make.

It teaches us that Satan fails if he’s divided.

That may explain how well-coordinated certain ideologies are with certain Caucuses.

The Altar boys we see at church do not seem powerful enough to stop Satan in his tracks, but they are.

I never bought into the line by the character Zuzu in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, where she says, “every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”

I do believe, every time bells ring at Mass, at the hand of a child, a fallen angel takes it on the chin.

Satan’s attacks are well focused at the Church, just read any AP article about how “hateful” we are.

If you’ve not been to Mass for a while, go; at least to hear the bells.

It’ll remind you of the victory we’re promised and the bell that’s rung when a fighter (in this case the Devil) is “knocked out.”

The Dog In First Class

January 23, 2011

This week I had to fly back to Albany Airport from the west coast after a five-day business trip.

Before boarding the plane I noticed a young lady holding a tiny white dog–part poodle–on her lap.

I saw she had a little yellow carrying case with mesh walls and a zippered top.

The little dog seemed so very content to be on her lap.

Since I was flying Southwest Airlines, you never know for sure who the passenger next to you will be.

It was the young lady with the dog…of course.

Like on most chance meetings on airplanes, within minutes, we knew each other’s life stories.

She was a graduate student in architecture at RPI in Troy, NY, only 22 years old, with her family and even a husband, living back in California.

Her dog was incredibly well-behaved, tucked under the seat in front of her.

It made no sound or mess.

Every now and then she leaned over and poked her finger, its name was Pippin, whispering “I love you…good boy.”

The young lady, let’s call her Heidi, was a St. Pauli girl look-alike, with blonde pig tails and nice big round cheeks.

It was hard not to notice her.

Heidi told me that she had to leave her larger dog out west, a lab mix, with her mom, because it was too large to fly under the seat.

It would need to fly as cargo.

As I sat and pondered the facts of her story, I thought, there must be a lesson here…(I grab whatever I can at times.)

It was obvious to me that a dog, with its keen sense of smell, could sense that his master was near, even though he could not see her very well.

That was really all he needed to be content.

That dog was small in stature and able to travel first class, as far as dogs are concerned, not stuck with the cargo, but with his master.

Too often, our attitude about our troubles grows larger than our faith in God to bring us through those difficulties.

We gripe and moan and fall into despair, by letting the obstacle become our obsession; flying alone.

If we stay small in our frustration, and allow God to wrap His love around our woes, we are able, through that faith act, to sense His presence throughout, trusting Him to unzip the top off our setbacks.

At baggage claim in Albany there was Pippin, wagging his tail beaming and staring at Heidi.

He never gave up hope and his master never let him down.

Too simplistic you say?

I know.

  

 

No Game of Chance

January 22, 2011

Not long ago I was on a business trip with co-workers.

The hotel we were in required we walk through their casino to go anywhere.

One co-worker, who happened to be celebrating his birthday, wanted me to play roulette.

As I reached into my wallet a queasy feeling came over me.

Sorry friend, I just can’t do this, but I will sit with you as you play.

I advised him to try red or black, not the numbers, that way his chances of winning would be almost 50-50–don’t forget those annoying green 0’s and 00’s.

We soon saw that 50-50/red or black, was OK, but did not guarantee success.

My friend asked me to take over his shrinking pile of chips, while he ran to the men’s room.

The first thing that crossed my mind was that I would not play at all and just wait to hand back his original remaining stack.

Then, the memory of the man with the 10 talents kicked in, as he was compared to the man with 1 talent, who hid it under a rock.

Warning; you are about to enter the gray zone.

How could I, as a Christian, especially entrusted with someone else’s money, be unwilling to help a friend expand his talents?

I looked more closely at the table and saw that there was a better way to increase the chances.

One could bet number sequences; 1-12, or 13-24, or 25-36 and the payoff would be 2 to 1 instead of 1 to 1 with a 50-50 bet, like red or black or odd or even.

My puny mind ran the numbers in my head and I came to the conclusion that if I bet two out of the three sequences, then my chances of winning (while still losing one) would be almost 66%.

Even though one sequence had to lose, one of the two had to win, putting us up just a bit, on every good roulette roll.

I am not endorsing gambling, but I am proud to say, with patience and my restraint steering the ship, my friend walked away with a small purse and put a piece of  it in my hand, for managing his talents.

Please do not try this at home or at Foxwoods–many deaths–this is nothing more than an amateur anecdote to make a point.

As I read today’s reading from Hebrews 9, I could not help but  notice that the author was persuading the reader to bet on Christ.

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be,
passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands,
that is, not belonging to this creation,
he entered once for all into the sanctuary,
not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own Blood,
thus obtaining eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes
can sanctify those who are defiled
so that their flesh is cleansed,
how much more will the Blood of Christ,
who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

The author is correct to teach that if a weak offering can sanctify a soul, then chances are, the Blood of Christ will cleanse our consciences from dead works–or bad bets we have made with our lives.

Adam took a chance in the Garden of Eden, when he bet on Eve and the Devil over the Lord.

He lost big.

The challenge Adam faced was tougher than people may give credit for.

Sure, it is easy to believe that Adam just obeyed a little snake over a just God, but remember, that snake stood erect, possibly in the form of a dragon… (how else could God have cursed him saying–“you shall crawl on your belly from here on”…?)

I even have a theory that Adam, had he rejected Eve and Satan, would have been killed by the Dragon.

Purity in the face of evil, will always be attacked.

That may help explain his rapid demise and it may also help explain non-stop liberal attacks on Christians and Catholics.

My other theory is that God would have raised Adam from the dead, had he chosen God, since he too, like Christ, would have died without sin.

Don’t forget, the Bible says that Jesus was the Second Adam–is it not possible then, that Adam was a First Jesus?

Lord, thank You for entering the sanctuary with Your very own blood and cleansing us.

I am placing my bet on You, in faith, knowing there is no risk of loss.