Awaiting…Awaiting…Awaiting with open arms and open heart

What in God’s creation — what am I going to do? Here I am, down to my last dollar. I must be crazy, when I think about it.

A long while back, I told my father, “I am restless, don’t like working on the farm, I have ventures I want to explore.” He said, “Are you sure?”

I said, “Positively! However, can you bankroll me? I’ll need some money.” After much pleading, my dad goes to the bank and puts a mortgage on his home. Now, with the bucks in hand, I leave.

“Wow! Finally I am out of here.”

Now look at me. After all this time, I am down to my last dollar. All my money spent foolishly, be it wine, women or song. I blew it all and now? Nowhere to go. What am I to do?  I have been an irresponsible son. I took my dad’s hard-earned money and wasted it on my ventures. If I go home, I am afraid he will kick me out. But it is my only alternative. So, I go.

Expecting the worst, my mind is mulling through all the alternatives that await me. Is he going to tell me, “In the final analysis, you made your choice! Now depart and live with it!”

As I approach the farm, I see my father running toward me. He probably spotted me and is going to tell me, “Stop and get out of here! You made your choice, now live with it!”

I am full of sorrow for what I have put him through. He rushes up to me and pulls me in with open arms and open heart, and says, “Welcome prodigal.jpghome son.”

Does the story sound familiar? It sure is. It is the parable of the prodigal son. Look it up Luke 15: 11-32. The message is simple. The Father’s love was all powerful and the son’s past was forgiven.

Many of us today struggle with the same feelings. Should I go to church and ask God’s forgiveness, regardless of how bad my transgressions are? The answer is definitely, “Yes!”  He is awaiting…awaiting…with open arms and open heart!

A.M.D.G.
Francesco

 

 

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What’s It All About Alfie? … Fame? … Riches? … What?

Recently, I visited my grandson and his wife in Tennessee. As always, it is great to see your family. However, this visit took an unsuspecting turn. The matriarch of this particular clan had invited us to attend their family get-together the coming Saturday. Unbeknown to both my wife and I was the fact that the matriarch — who is called Betty — changed the date of the family gathering so my wife, my daughter and I could attend.

Let me take you through the day’s events. We were graciously greeted by Betty and her daughters. Soon the rest of the families started to arrive: brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and friends, etc. The count was just too many to enumerate. Now Betty had her house set up with tables in every room: the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, the den. Wherever she could place a table, she placed it.

Now picture this: the kitchen is bountiful with all kinds of food and sweets. With the help of her daughters, dinner is ready to be served. The place is buzzing with activity, conversations are going on throughout the premise at the various tables and the youngsters are all over the place doing what youngsters do. Yes, the activity is at a high pitch.  Then it stops!

Why?  One of the men of the family calls for silence. Then in his own words, words from his heart and soul, he asks the Lord to bless the food and bless all the people who are there. It is a very spiritual moment. All are quiet and with shuttered eyes, partake in communion with him in his prayer. It is a very touching and religious happening.

After his prayer, Betty the matriarch says, “Dinner is served!” The rooms again are alive with conversation and children playing. The lines form and everyone helps themselves to the absolute delectable southern dishes that are available. Then back to their tables the people go and spice up their dishes with more conversation.

The matriarch scans the tables to make sure everyone is pleased and to remind them that there are seconds to be had. She is a very happy woman. She knows… What it is All About Alfie!

It’s about LOVE!

AMORE!!!!!

A.M.D.G.

Francesco

 

We are our brother’s keeper

A few months ago, a horrendous tragedy took place: the slaughter of the innocents at the Jewish temple in Pittsburgh. Everyone of different faiths united, rightly so, in grief for the deaths of their Jewish brethren. The congregation was celebrating the birth of a Jewish child when the perpetrator opened fire and killed 11 Jewish brethren. Why? Was it because they were not of his faith? The temple worshippers were in the act of praising God as their faith demanded. Does God place a restriction on what faith you must belong to? If deep in your heart, you worship God and he knows that, are not your prayers accepted by God? Yes, they are!

Let me set a scene for you.

First, let us go to Mark 9:38-41. Jesus is walking with the Apostles and disciples, and John says to Jesus, ”Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”

Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who at the same time can speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.”

The message: We are all God’s children and therefore, we are our brother’s keeper!

May our 11 Jewish brethren receive their just reward.

Amen!! Shalom!!

Francesco
A.M.D.G.

The gates of hell shall not prevail against it

The Roman Catholic Church is in treacherous waters today. It is evident that we have many of our clerics at all levels not practicing what they preach. It is obvious that action has to be taken. With the advent of the internet, stories spread like wildfire, and many of the faithful are now questioning their faith, because of sins of some of our clergy. Most importantly, the cover up by those in position of authority is of concern. This could be the biggest event in the faith since the Reformation. Unless we act to correct this situation, we may be in throes of another reformation.

What should be the response? Should you say, “I have had it!” and just leave the faith, as many are doing? Or should we say, “Let’s act in a rapid and methodical fashion and address the problem.” It is up to us to make our thoughts known. Our clerics in positions of authority must act like Jesus did…

It was the season of Passover and the money changers were in the sacred grounds of the temple. Jesus was ANGRY! They were defiling the House of God! He overturned their tables, he chastised other vendors and made a whip out of his belt and lashed them till they left (Matthew21:13). That is what our clergy in power should do. Get angry and take action. Now is the time to act before the raging fire gets out of control via the internet.

As for myself, I will stick by my faith. Our faith was instituted by Christ and he promised us that he would be with us regardless of what happens. Matthew 16:18: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it (the church…that’s us!). So stick by your faith and realize that it is run by human beings along with their frailties. As a college professor said to me in the 1950s, when unions were rampant with corruption: “You do not throw the baby out with the dirty water.” Let’s clean up the mess but keep the faith.

And lastly, many of the clergy at the parish level are hurting internally. They are walking the via Delarosa, the path to Calvary. Help them carry their cross. Let them know that you feel their pain and they have your support. It is an act of compassion for you and more importantly, it gives them a boost in their morale and a validation of their vocation.

And remember…the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!

Alleluia!!!

A.M.D.G.
Francesco

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 5:7…We walk by faith, not by sight

A young Cherokee boy must go through a ritual in order to prove he is worthy to be called a young brave as well as a young man. Before he enters this ritual, he must vow not to tell any of the other children in the tribe what transpired in the ritual. Here is a boy between 12 and 14, made to realize that he is taking a most secret and sacred oath. Once he agrees, the ritual begins.

It is nighttime, and in total darkness, hand-in-hand with his father, he enters the deep woods. His father blindfolds him completely and sits him down on a log. He says to him, “Son, I am sitting you down on this log and again do you vow not to take this blindfold off until you see and sense daylight coming through the blindfold? Lastly, I will be leaving you here all alone. Do you understand what I just said?”

He ponders his father’s thoughts, and though hesitant, he answers, “Yes, Dad.”

The father leaves. And sitting on a log in the middle of the forest, with no weapons but only his faith, he spends the night listening to the rustle of the trees and the bushes and wondering what fate will befall him. He hears the night sounds of the animals and again, has no weapon to defend himself but his faith.

The night is long, it never seems to end. As morning approaches, the sounds of the deep forest begin to subside. And then it happens, he begins to sense sunlight coming through his blindfold. He then takes off his blindfold and is immediately awestruck. Sitting a few yards away from him is his father! His father never left him! He was there to protect him, if needed. The young boy has proven his manhood, and now can be recognized as a brave.

How many times have we sat seemingly alone with all our troubles, regardless of what they are, not wanting to share them with anyone? You try to work out these troubles by yourself. Like the young faithful Indian boy, unbeknownst to him, he has his father close.

And you have ABBA, our Father, who is there to help you through your troubles. We walk in faith, not in sight.”

Alleluia!!!  A.M.D.G

Francesco

Writer’s block—are you kidding me?

For the last two weeks or so, I have been mulling what I can write about. What can I say that I have not said before? Maybe I just should look back at some old blogs and re-post them.

Nah, that just will not work. I am in a dilemma. My brain is going around and around looking for subjects to write about. I am looking at the news, I am reading the newspaper. Nothing is really hitting me. I have writer’s block!

I say to myself, “Okay Francesco, get serious.” I sit down in my favorite chair and take a deep breath. In a moment of silence, I ask the Lord to help me out on this. Then it hit me! (Or did He hit me?) Just sit down and start to write and the words will flow. Forget about a subject and just write what comes into your mind. So here goes. It’s amazing what a few moments of silence and a call for help from God can do. Try it sometime.

I must tell you it has been on my mind, especially during Lent, to visit an old friend who is a shut-in. This week I did it. It was good to see him, but better yet, he was so happy to have someone visit him. We spent the better part of an hour together. I could see the gladness in his eyes and in seeing that, it made me sad and remorseful that I have waited so long to see him. I promised him that we will meet again. When I left, my soul was refreshed knowing that I gave a shut-in some moments away from his maladies. If you know a shut-in, I implore you, make a visit. If distance is a challenge, call. It is a blessing waiting to happen for both parties. And what better time than during Lent?

While we are at it, and the mention of Lent has come up, here is a thought for you: I know, I just know that many of you think maybe I just should make a visit not only to a shut-in, but maybe to a church of my choice. “The visit to a shut-in maybe,” you’re thinking, “but a visit to a church? Nah, I just do not have the time to do that too.”

Is that the real reason? Nope! You know as well as I do that is not the reason. Maybe it is because you have been away too long. Maybe a cleric did something you did not appreciate. Guess what? Enough of the excuses. Stop for a moment, dig down deep—and I mean really deep—and you will find that something is telling you to make a visit. Dwell on that for a moment. And then think of the words from the prayer, “The Our Father.” The following words will hit home: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Does that not open wide the doors of the church for you?

Now think about it. You can make a visit to spend a few minutes with God in silence. And just like a shut-in, God is soooo glad to see you! I guarantee you will be soooo refreshed, just as I felt after my visit with a shut-in. It is a blessing waitng to happen!

Writers block—are you kidding me? The story of life has so many daily meaningful nuggets that give us joy and serenity, just waiting to be written about!

A.M.D.G.   …   Francesco

 

It’s time…yes, it’s time!

It’s a hot day. It’s in the 90s, and you’ve been busting your butt. Why? Because the yard work has to be done. I just let it go too long, and the wife says our yard looks like a mess.

So out I go. Where do I begin? First on the agenda is clipping all the shrubbery. After ten minutes or so, the sweat starts pouring out of me. Nasty insects are buzzing all around me. This is not a pleasant situation. Thank God I am done with this chore.

Staring me in the face is the lawn that has not been cut on the last two Saturdays: I had more important things to do, like fishing. So, for the next two hours, I am pushing the mower, sweating like a greased pig and constantly wiping my brow. Finally, I am done. I cannot wait to get into the shower.

It’s time…yes, it’s time. I climb into the shower, and for minutes on end, I let the warmth of the shower cleanse my body. I am left with a feeling of accomplishment for a job well done, but more importantly, I am refreshed!

You may ask the question: Why is Francesco writing about yard work, sweating, mowing a lawn and finally taking a shower? Good question! I ask you to think of the season we are presently in. It’s Lent. It’s time…yes, it’s time! Just as our body needs a good scrubbing to get rid of all the filth on our body, doesn’t it make sense that our souls need a good scrubbing to clear our souls of the many transgressions we may have? And also, it is the time that we need to think of others by doing charitable works. Remember, we are all sinners and the season of Lent is open to all regardless of the seriousness of your past transgressions.

You may say, “Hey, I am too far gone to participate in the beauty of Lent.” No, you are not! Just remember this: When Christ was on the cross, he told the remorseful criminal next to him, also on a cross, that he would be the first one to enter Paradise with Christ. Look it up. Luke 23:39-44.

God forgives all sinners, regardless of their transgressions. So it’s time…yes it’s time! The season is upon us, and just like a hot shower that refreshes our body, participation in Lent will refresh our souls.

From a Jewish prayer book: The Lord, the Lord God is merciful and gracious, endlessly patient, loving and true, showing mercy to thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and si, and granting pardon. Need I say more?

So yes…it’s time. Yes, it’s time to partake in the beauty of Lent.

Alleluia!! Alleluia!!

A.M.D.G.

Francesco

 

 

A visit to our spiritual roots

This past December, during the season of Hanukkah, I decided to accept an open invitation to the public that welcomed them to visit the Temple Anshe Hesed on Liberty Street in Erie, Pa. Both my wife, Marie, and I were warmly greeted at the door and given a card which outlined the journey on which we were about to impart.

The greeting by the ladies was very sincere, and reminded me of the greeting we receive when entering our Christian worship Space. Also, it brought me back to when I visited a Mosque a few months ago; there, I also was given a warm and sincere greeting.

The first place we visited at the temple was the chapel, a very simple but holy place. It is where they keep the Torah when not in use. An explanation of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of the Lights, was given.

Briefly, it is the story of how the Temple was once restored by the Jews. However, they had only enough oil to light a single candle, when they needed to light eight candles. God interceded, and the oil lasted for all eight days.

It was a miracle, like when Jesus fed the multitude with only seven loaves of bread and fish—and then had some left over. Miracles never cease!

We then proceeded to the library. Here, prayer books were offered at no cost. I took one, browsed through it, and decided to take it home. It contains beautiful prayers in Hebrew, along with an English translation. Today, I periodically will read a prayer from it. The prayers are not only spiritual but melodic as well. More importantly, they are universal: that is, they have meaning for everyone regardless of faith and they give you comfort.

Our journey then continued to a second library, which at this moment was acting as nursery and offering a teaching experience for the children of the congregation. Sounds like what is done both in the Christian and Muslim faiths as well.

We then visited an area called the Hall of History. Here displayed was a beautiful piece of art which depicted the history of Judaism. It was sincerely and reverently explained by someone I expect was an elder of the temple. This is one place I wish where I could have spent more time. The art was a maze of paintings all on one canvas. It follows Jewish history and includes the Holocaust. A very moving piece of art.

Our journey then took us to the sanctuary, where the congregation gathers for weekly services, which are Fridays at 6:15 pm. All are welcome.

The space is very simple in its layout. In front is a dais, which we call the ambo in the Christian faith. It is the stand on which the Torah is placed and from which the reader presides. Again, not only similar to what we do in a Christian church, but also similar to what happens in a Mosque.

I was deeply impressed by a young man in his early teens. He was asked to do a reading. He opened the Torah. In his hand was a silver pointer with a miniature hand at the end. Then he pointed to the passage in the Torah, never touching the words with his hand. I believe it was a sign of deep respect for the Torah.

He then read line by line, reading left to right in the Hebrew language. I was left full of emotion and humbled at the same time. Why? Here is a teenager, proclaiming the word of God in a foreign language. And I, a lector in the Christian faith who is at least four times his age, proclaiming the Word in English only! The congregation must be very proud of this young man.

Without a doubt, it is very evident that this congregation is a spiritual and giving one. It is one that professes the love of God and is demonstrated by opening the temple to all and welcoming all, regardless of their faith, with cordiality and open arms.

Rabbi Emily Losben-Osrov thanked us all for coming, and welcomed us to the Friday services. Both Marie and I were glad we made the visit. It demonstrated to us why we must honor our Jewish roots. We have more things in common that unite us.

Sound familiar?

Ps. One of these Fridays I plan to join in a Jewish service.

A.M.D.G.

Shalom,

Francesco

It’s the night!

“It sure is a different night tonight, isn’t it? I can’t believe how quiet it is,” the shepherd says.

“Something is in the air. Even the sheep are quiet. Notice the wolves are not howling. It is so peaceful. What the heck is going on? I wonder if our friends on the next slope are experiencing the difference as well. Let’s go over and ask them.”

Well, after visiting with them, the second shepherd says, “Yes, they feel the same way as we do. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe the wolves are not on the prowl tonight, who knows?”

At that moment, they both look upward and see a great light over their town, Bethlehem. As dark as it is, the light is streaming very brilliantly, and they can see a number of people heading where the light will take them. Both shepherds are now very excited and in a quandary. They want to see what’s going on, but do not want to leave their flock.

The shepherd says, “Ask our friends on the other slope if they will watch our flock while we see what’s going on.”

Their friends agree. They take off for Bethlehem, and are startled by the soft but spiritual sounds emanating from the skies. They look at each other in awe and are dumbfounded as a spiritual mood encapsulates them. Their walk turns into a pilgrimage. Is this the night that… Isaiah 9:1 was talking about?

“The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

upon those who dwell in the land of gloom

a light has shone.”

Definitely, something is going on. They make haste and find Mary and Joseph and an infant lying in a manger. And then it hits them!

Luke 2:17

“When they saw this,

they made known the message

that had been told to them about this child.

the message… Isaiah 9:5

For a child is born to us, a son given to us;

Upon his shoulders dominion rests.

They name him Wonder-Counselor, God Hero,

Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.”

Both shepherds look at each other in a solemn way, nod, and say…
“It’s the Night!”

 

A.M.D.G.

A Blessed Christmas to All and a Happy New Year!!!

Francesco

The visitation to a mosque… Continuing with the things that unite us

In my last blog, you may recall, Marie and I were invited to Rawan’s home, where the family prepared a Muslim meal. Also at that time, Marie invited Rawan and her family to our home.

When they arrived at our home, they presented us with a beautiful teapot and a can of the tea. It was the same tea that they served us at their home. Marie prepared a typical dinner of chicken, baked with carrots and potatoes, and lasagna made with cheese only. The lasagna was made as such, to respect their belief. For dessert, we offered the Italian delicacy: cannoli (tubular shells with cheese or cream inside). They were very gracious in their compliments. Great food … great conversation … great things that unite us!

If you recall, previously upon the request of Rawan’s mother to see a Catholic church, we visited both St. Peter’s Cathedral and St. George’s. After the visitations, I requested to see a mosque. So, let me discuss that visit.

I was met by Rawan’s father, whose name is Jamal. We seemed to hit it off immediately. A sincere and kind word between two individuals always seems to break barriers.

We entered the mosque, and before we entered the prayer area, we took our shoes off. It struck me immediately of the message God gave Moses, “You are entering hallowed ground, remove your sandals.” After we removed our shoes, he showed me the washroom. There is a washing ritual of purification that every man must go through before entering the prayer area. He must wash three times the following parts of the body: face, hands, hair, feet and ankles. Also, a swish of water as a mouth rinse and a wash of the nostrils.

Water is very important in our faith, too. Do not we bless ourselves as we enter Mass? Another thing that unites us!

The prayer area is completely covered with a rug. The simplicity of the prayer area is what hit me. There are no pews, no statues. On the walls there are sayings in Islam and the weekly prayer schedules. You are there to pray every day if your schedule permits. The women are in a separate room. Jamal proceeded to kneel, and said, “We pray in a prostrate position and repeat a series of prayers three times.” Their prayers, in essence, are similar to ours: for praise to ALLAH (GOD) … for blessings … for forgiveness and for good works. Do not we incorporate all those practices in a Christian Mass?

Jamal said on Friday the Imam (like a pastor) will give a talk equivalent to a Christian sermon. Sound familiar? Do we not do the same, even though the rituals are different? Another thing that unites us.

Also, they have an alms box and a clothes rack for gifts to the poor. Again, sound familiar? They also have a room for children, where they are taught the faith. Sounds like religious instruction classes that we have. So many things unite us.

Jamal made a point to say that Islam is not a closed religion, all people are welcome to their prayer service. The visitation did something very powerful for me. It brought home the fact that ALL individuals are ingrained with the same principles and they are given by ALLAH (GOD), regardless of their faith. And, it starts with love.

After the visitation, as we were about to depart, both Jamal and I embraced, two people of different faiths, united in ALLAH (GOD).

In closing, I would like to post the Principle Articles of Faith that the Muslims believe in. They are a belief in the following:

  • One God. The prophets. The Angels. Judgment Day. Predestination.
  • God’s revelation through the Torah, the Koran and yes, the Gospels.

We have more things that unite us than keep us apart!
Praise GOD. Praise ALLAH. We are brothers and sisters, regardless of our differences.

A.M.D.G.
Francesco