What will you remember?

In years to come, what will you remember about the 2016 Olympics? Will it be that the USA captured a barrel full of medals? Will it be the outstanding performances of Simone Biles, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt? Without a doubt they were superlative achievements.

Or will you remember the American image being tainted by the rude behavior of Ryan Lochte and his buddies at the gas station? And to top it off, they lied about it. Our image of the ugly American was given another coat of polish.

The Olympic stories that will be with me for a long time are the stories of the human spirit. That is what the Olympics are really all about.

In one of the 5000-meter heats, a dramatic event unfolded. It had nothing to do with winning and everything to do with compassion and the human spirit. American Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealander Nikki Hamblin collided on the track, knocking each other over. D’Agostino helped Hamblin to her feet, but soon collapsed. Hamblin returned the favor, telling D’Agostino, “We have got to finish.” When D’Agostino finally made it to the finish line, Hamblin was there to greet her with a big hug. No medals, no placement, but something better: a foundation for a lasting friendship between two competitors who did not know each other before the race. Who were the winners of the heat? Who knows? But I will remember this incident that emanates love and compassion as a testament to the human spirit.

How much is a silver medal worth? Here is another great story out of the Olympics.

A Polish discus thrower, Piotr Malachowski, surely trained many years to reach his goal of winning a medal at the Olympics. His work paid off: He won the silver medal. Imagine the jubilation he must have enjoyed accepting that medal; the joy that his goal had been finally achieved. It was a great honor for not only himself but also Poland. But a greater honor was yet to come.

Malachowski decided to put the medal up for sale on the Internet. What? That is not what you do with such a coveted award, one that represents the best of an individual’s achievement in a worldwide competition! What a slap in the face to the Olympics! What happened?

It turns out, the medal was put up for bid to obtain money for a 3-year-old boy who was suffering from eye cancer! The human spirit of Piotr was infused with compassion and nobility. It was a great act of mercy in the Year of Mercy declared by the church.

Now I ask you, what will you remember in years to come about the 2016 Olympics?

Allelluia!!  Amore!!

Francesco

A.M.D.G.

 

 

 

A conversation with a stranger?

It was just one of those days. It seems nothing was going right. I get out of bed and just feel downright blah. What a way to start a beautiful day.

I said to myself, “Frank, why are you acting so miserable? It’s not like you!”
Oh well, maybe I’ll get over it.

As usual, I sit down with Marie. She begins a pleasant conversation and I completely ignore her. I have my head buried in the sports page.

She, in her own kind way, asks, “Are you listening to me?” I do not even look up.

She then says, “Frank, ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?!”
“Yea,” I answer and say no more. About then, I realize that she has ended the conversation. I get the silent treatment FOR GOOD REASON.

“Well,” I say to myself, “time to go down to the Trout Run before I get into more trouble.” Trout Run is my Shangri-La. It is on the shoreline of Lake Erie in Fairview, Pa. When I want peace and tranquility, I like to sit on the bench that overlooks the lake. It relaxes me and puts me at ease. It is also my home of silent prayer. With your eyes closed, there is nothing like hearing the waves gently splashing and the warmth of the sun on your face. It is indeed a spiritual abode.

Well off I go, and there is my bench. I sit, close my eyes and begin to contemplate what is going on with my attitude. Suddenly, I feel someone next to me. I open my eyes and here is this stranger. Never saw him before.

He asks, “Do you mind if I sit next to you?” I say, “No.” After all, it is not my bench, even though I think it’s mine because of the time I spend here. This fellow is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, has a short scrubby beard and seems harmless. So for a few seconds, neither of us says anything. Then I open the conversation by telling him people call me by my nickname, Shiky.

“What do they call you?” I ask. He says, “I go by the nickname JC. You seem to be bothered by something, what is it?” I begin to tell him the happenings of the morning.  He kind of smiles and says, “Anything serious?” I reply, “Not really, just my miserable attitude that popped up.” Again, he kind of smiles and says, “Well, I think you know how to resolve that.”
“How?” I say.

He says, “Sometimes, our human emotions do get the best of us and you’ve got to step back and take a deep breath and get into your spiritual mode. Isn’t that what you were doing before I sat next to you?”

“Yea, I guess you are right. I had my eyes shut, contemplating what happened this morning, and when I opened my eyes, you were there.”

“You see,” he says, “silent prayer is not only good for the soul, but it is an elixir that invigorates our humanity.”

He is so right. Where did this guy in jeans and a t-shirt come from? He is not just an ordinary Joe. He sure put me at ease. I am no longer miserable. In fact, I feel a peace come over me and I close my eyes again and say, “Thank you, Lord.”

I am awakened by a sudden rush of fluttering wings of a white dove. And JC, who was sitting on the bench, is gone. I look up the road and there he is. He turns around and waves.

I holler out, “JC, what’s your name? My name is Frank.”
“My name?” he answers.
“You’ll figure it out.”

ALLELUIA!!!!!!  Francesco

 

 

A clear, concise understanding of the Christian Faith: “The Apostles’ Creed”

I am writing this blog to provide a better understanding of the Christian faith. I urge you: before you read this blog, read the Apostles’ Creed. Then read this blog. After reading this blog, hopefully you will have a more meaningful appreciation for the Creed. This will be the longest blog that I have ever penned. Be patient is all I ask. As I write this blog I will write one line of the Creed in bold, and immediately following it, my own thoughts. So here goes!

 

Why and when was the Creed developed, and under whose authority?

 

Why: In the early days of the church, many deviations and heresies from the basic doctrine of Christianity were being promoted.

 

When: These deviations and heresies were developed between the 3rd and 9th centuries after the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, early leaders of the faith gathered together to correct these fallacies in formal sessions called synods.

Under whose authority: Jesus himself passed his authority on to the Apostles. Proof of this is in Matthew 28:16-20. In short, Jesus tells them before he departs to the Father that he gives them complete power and will be with them until the end of time. Pretty powerful stuff to hand over to the Apostles! Equally important is the fact that this power is passed on to the successors of the Apostles, since he says “I will be with you until the end of time.” Read it to believe it.
Let’s review the Apostles Creed.

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth”
            God is the First Cause. Simply stated: how can you create something out of nothing? From God everything begins. Also, in all civilizations there is an innate sense that there is something that is greater than us. You can call him what you want. For example, Native Americans called him the Great White Spirit. What about creation? Even some scientists will tell you that there is a balance in creation. Someone had to bring it about. There are those who subscribe to the Big Bang Theory, but someone had to start it. Again, you cannot create something from nothing.


“And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord”

In Matthew16:13-17, Jesus asks the Apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” After some of the Apostles give Jesus their answers, Peter says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus says in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my heavenly Father.”


“Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary”

In Luke 1:26-38, the Angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will conceive in her womb a Son and he will be called Jesus the Son of the Most High. Mary replies, “How can I conceive? I have no relations with a man.” Gabriel in turn tells her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

 

“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried”
Luke 23:1-56 covers the sentencing of Jesus, his suffering, his crucifixion and then his death.


“He descended into hell”

To some people this is very confusing. Psalm 89:48 states the following: “What mortal can live and not see death? Who can escape the power of Sheol?” Sheol is the Hebrew word for the abode of the dead. What was Jesus doing in hell? We normally think of hell as the place where those who are not saved reside. In this case, it is the home of the dead who are awaiting news of the salvation of man. Jesus brought that news, since he died for everyone’s sins. The gates of heaven were now open. Alleluia!


“On the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty”
            Luke 24:1-52 tells the beautiful story of Jesus’s resurrection, not only to the brethren on the road to Emmaus, but later to the disciples in Jerusalem and to a group of disciples at his ascension into heaven. Since Jesus is one with the Father, he took human form to resolve all sin but then returned to sit with the Father.


“From there he will come to judge the living and the dead”

Matthew 25:31-32 says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all nations will be assembled before him and he will separate them.”

“I believe in the Holy Spirit”
In John 14:1-25, Jesus confirms that no one comes to the Father except through him. Equally importantly, Jesus assures that “The Advocate” the Father will send in his name will teach and remind others of everything Jesus taught. In the Old Testament, Isaiah 11:1-2 says, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, and the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”
“The holy catholic Church”
The key word in this phrase is catholic. Have you noticed something unusual about this word? We normally associate the word catholic with the Catholic faith. But small c denotes the word ‘universal.’ So here, it means the holy catholic church embraces everyone.
Where was this proclaimed and by whose authority? In Matthew 28:16-20, before Christ ascended to heaven, he commissioned the Apostles with these words, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” You can’t get a higher authority than Jesus.
When I read the above passage, however, a dilemma seems to surface. What about the people who died without being baptized, before and after Jesus’s statement? Many were non-Christians; they were Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or had no formal religion whatsoever. Can they be saved without being baptized? Great question. The holy catholic church sincerely believes that God in his eternal wisdom recognizes that as long as there is a sincere heart for the search for truth, they will be saved. To bring this point home, I would like to quote a line from the movie Dances with Wolves. Kevin Costner, as an army officer, is in deep conversation with Kicking Bird, who is a respected elder of the tribe. They are discussing life in general and Kicking Bird says, “In life we can select many trails, but the best one to select is the human trail.” In other words, lead a good life by following a sincere heart.

 

“The communion of saints”
What does the word ‘communion’ mean in this phrase? It means a spiritual union we share in the Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments. As an assembly, we share these things with those who are living, those who have passed on and are in heaven, and those who are dead and are waiting to be called to heaven.

 

“The forgiveness of sins”
Why should there be forgiveness of sin? In John 20:22-23, Jesus says to the Apostles, “Whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven and whose sins you shall retain are retained.” You can have a choice. Forgiveness is given, but only with a sincere heart. In our daily lives, there is another benefit of forgiveness. Two people may be at odds for some good reason. It may be that one has been slandered, for instance. But the hurt stays with both people involved. Sometimes family and/or friendships are severely damaged. It gnaws at both parties. Once the incident is forgiven, both parties will feel relieved and a sense of sincerity will be restored, regardless of who takes the first step. And lastly, remember that God in his compassionate mercy and love wants us all to be with him, regardless of our transgressions. And a contrite heart will be our passport.

 

“The resurrection of the body”
Now this one seems to be a tough one to follow. Just keep in mind that the key word here is ‘body.’ From our previous comments, recall that when Christ was alive on earth, his body was of human form. After he died it took on a different form, as will ours. That is evident in the many times he interacted with the Apostles and all his disciples. He promised this to us. 1 Corinthians 15:13 says, “If there is no resurrection of Jesus, then there is no resurrection of the dead.” If that is so, then our faith is a big scam.


“And life everlasting. Amen”

What better way is there to end this blog than with 1 Corinthians 2:9: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, is what God has prepared for those who love him.”

My wish is that this blog gives you some insight into what it means to be a member of the faith. And next time you recite the Apostles’ Creed, it will be more meaningful to you.

Alleluia!!!

Francesco

… I am befuddled …

Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s what’s going on in the world, maybe it is our clinging to our electronic devices that are subconsciously leading us astray. Perhaps it is the lack of civil content in the TV we watch or some of the trash we hear and see in most of today’s music and dance.  Maybe it is because of a number of these reasons that we seem to be losing our Christian faith, especially among our youth.

I am at a loss.

Why? I converse with our young adults many times. They are bright; they are articulate and seem to know what they want in life. Yet many of them, as well as some of their parents, have little time for faith.

Read the statistics. Churches are closing along with some of their schools. Deep down, I believe they have a place in their hearts for faith, but see no reason to express it outwardly. All they say is, “I can converse with God one-on-one.”

Yet look at the seasons of Easter and Christmas. The churches in most cases are filled to capacity. They are believers!

Let me pause for a second and give you something to chew on. To those who say, “I converse with God in a personal way, I see no reason to go to church,” consider this: Your mom or dad calls and says, “Hey, we have not seen you in months, what is the story, don’t you love us anymore?” Your response is, “Of course I do! I think of both of you every day but I have been very busy.”

They say, “You mean to tell us, you can’t spend time to come and see us? We want to see you and hold you! Is that asking too much? The family misses you.”

That is the way with God. He knows you love him deeeeep down, but he would love to see you at his home, along with your spiritual family. Remember, we are not an island unto ourselves. We are flesh and blood! We feel, we see, we converse and we touch. Isn’t that what the sign of peace is all about?

So I implore you: Visit God, along with your fellow parishioners—your spiritual family—and experience another level of love with God.

How do we get Christians back worshiping in community? That is the dilemma. The clergy can preach, attempting to get us back. But most of the time, they are preaching to the choir. It has to come from within each one of us.

Listen to that deep voice inside of you. That is God calling. He wants to see you at his home.

As I complete this blog entry, isn’t it better to light one candle to dispel the darkness? And in doing so, you may set an example to some of your friends, turning that candle into a raging fire, one candle at a time. My hope is God’s hope. Let us fill our churches again. We have so much to gain personally as well as socially for so little effort. Help me get rid of this befuddlement.

Alleluia!!!   A.M.D.G.

Francesco

 

 

March Madness! Competition…Compassion

During March, one of the biggest events in college sports is March Madness, wherein 64 college basketball teams compete to see who wins the tournament. The season records go out the window, and the 64 teams who are chosen for the tournament go full throttle. Their competitive spirit is raised to a different level. Why? It’s one and done, that is, you lose just one game and you are out of the tournament. So everyone plays to their maximum capacity…NO SECOND CHANCES!! The competition is on overdrive.

This was so evident in the game between the University of Virginia and Syracuse. Both teams battled. The first half belonged to Virginia, based on the three-point shooting of London Perrantes. As basketball aficionados would say, “He was in the zone.” At half-time, Syracuse was behind by double digits. But then, Syracuse picked up the pace and their competitive spirit. The second half, along with the victory, belonged to Syracuse after a hard-fought, competitive game by both teams.

Needless to say, following the last play, the Syracuse players erupted with jubilation!

Except for one … Michael Gbinije. The picture that was posted on Face Book shows Michael at the Virginia bench. He is leaning over London Perrantes, who is distraught, and giving him words of solace.

March Madness does bring out the best of a person, even in a highly competitive sport. It is an image that will stay with me for years to come: A fellow human being giving compassion to a fallen, fellow warrior, rather than basking in the joy of the victory. What an example of the moral virtue. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Thank you, Michael, for bringing out the best of March Madness.

Alleluia!

A.M.D.G.

Francesco

 

 

 

 

Silence prepares the Way

Silence … Silence … Silence … Silence … Sil…………….

During Lent, I always try to do something positive over and above going to Sunday Mass. Let me tell you of an experience I had last week.

I decided to go to the Stations of the Cross. As I entered the church, there were signs asking for silence as well as directing people to the worship space. Once in the worship space, all the attendees were in complete silence for a short period of time. During this period of silence, we are not only preparing ourselves for the service to come, but also preparing the way for God to enter our being.

The service begins. At each station, the presider relates the events to that particular station. Before moving on, both the presider and the attendees say a prayer. When this part of the service is complete, we all proceed in silence to supper.

Supper consists of just a bowl of soup with bread. No one talks, no cell phones are visible. We all are in the moment. The only sound is spiritual music in the background, playing very low. It adds to the spirituality of the moment. The attendees, I believe, are still in a spiritual mode. After the meal we disperse in silence. The service is over.

This is something I believe every person should attempt, regardless of their faith. It is a very spiritual and calming moment. If you cannot make it at your place of worship, what about a room at home or my favorite place: at the lakeside. Many times, I will go to the lake, sit down, close my eyes. I listen to the silence of the surf. My music is the birds that soar overhead.

And then I am in silence, and silence prepares the way for God to enter my being.

Alleluia!

Peace … Shalom … Silence … Silence … Sil………..

A.M.D.G.

Francesco

Have you had an epiphany moment?

First, maybe I’d better explain what an epiphany moment is.

It can be a rare occurrence followed by a process of significance thought. It’s triggered by new information that gives you a deeper understanding of the occurrence. It also can be a sudden realization about something that comes about after a traumatic experience. In simple terms, an epiphany moment can be a game changer that hits you all at once.

It does not have to be a religious moment, though here, I will elaborate on a religious moment that happened to me back in the early 1950s when I was in my late teens. I was no different than the average teenager.

I enjoyed the pleasures of life and that was just fine. Then one evening, I attended a Broadway musical put on by a Syracuse N.Y. local church group called the Pompeian Players. Directing the musical was the parish priest. His name was Father Charles Borgononi, better know has Father Charles. After seeing the musical, I said to myself, “Hey this something I would like to do.” So I joined.

Father Charles had only two stipulations: You had to attend Sunday Mass and you had to belong to the Discussion Club, wherein he would teach about the faith. Well, even with those two stipulations, I started to get involved in the musicals. Unbeknownst to me, my spirituality started to creep to the front. There was method in Father Charles madness! Somehow it started to change my worldly ways.

It should be said that for these musicals, we practiced for a period of approximately five months. It was an event that encompassed many talents in the parish. The musicals were put on initially at a school auditorium, but as the musicals became more professional, we were ready for the big time. That is, we were going to put on the musicals in a downtown theater. This needed the talents of many disciplines: sushers, makeup artists, ticket sellers were needed, people running the curtains, stagehands for the change of scenes—and the list went on. The clarion call went out to the parish and people responded. The Holy Spirit was at work.

Now my epiphany moment.

Please visualize the following: It is opening night. The musical is in a plush Strand or a Warner theater; I can’t recall which one. The marquee lights are ablaze advertizing the musical. Posters are displayed in glass outside the theater. It definitely is the big time. Tonight we are going to play to a sold-out audience of over 2500 people. The cast, made up of primarily high school students, is as excited and nervous as teenagers can be.

It’s show time and the lights begin to dim. The overture begins. Father Charles is behind the main curtain and he calls for everyone to gather on stage. This includes the cast and the many workers who are not in the musical per se, but are essential to its success. These are mostly the adults that I have mentioned above; the makeup ladies, the stagehands, etc. There are also people present who have volunteered who are not of the Catholic faith. With the overture seeping through the main curtain, Father Charles calls for quiet. The only thing you can hear is the silence of the overture. He asks everyone to bow their heads and he prays for the success of the musical.

You could hear a pin drop. I swear the Holy Spirit was on stage at that moment. It was an epiphany moment for me. It changed my life and strengthened my faith. And as St. Paul said, “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child, when I became a man I put aside the childish things.”

Yes, opening night was a great success!!!

Alleluia!!!

A.M.D.G.
Francesco

A New Year’s resolution: It’s never too late for peace of mind

Let me wish all of you a happy and blessed New Year. Hopefully this blog will bring some of you peace of mind. But first, let me tell you a true story.

As you may or may not know, fishing happens to be my favorite pastime. Over the years, you develop some lasting and genuine friendships as you meet up with the same people in the same fishing spots that you go to. One winter day, I ventured out to one of those fishing spots: the mouth of Trout Run, a tributary of Lake Erie. The lake was just starting to freeze up, so fishing on the ice was out of the question. However, at the mouth of the creek, there was a small opening that went into the lake, allowing some of us to fish in very close quarters.

With currents flowing, there were times when lines would cross, making for some nasty conversation. Jim was fishing next to me, and after our lines crossed a few times, we both erupted into a heated conversation. The situation led to both of us not speaking to each other on ensuing trips to fish.

It was uncomfortable for both of us, and it was also obvious to the people we fished with. You see, Jim and I always had been on good speaking terms. Whose fault was it, I really do not know.

Well, one day while I was parking my car at the fishing hole, who pulled up but Jim? He parked his car, I looked at him, he looked at me and I said, “Let’s bury the hatchet!” We figuratively threw the hatchet to the ground and stomped on it.

What happened next was very spiritual. All the anger and anxiety was drained from my person and I surely believe it was the same for Jim. I believe at that moment we had peace of mind.

So what does this story have to do with New Year’s resolutions? Simply this: In your life, there may be someone that you may have offended or who may have offended you. Reach out to that person and renew the friendship. Believe me, it will give both of you peace of mind and will be the best New Year’s resolution you make.

Happy New Year!!! Peace!! Shalom!!

A.M.D.G.

 

Francesco

What is the Jewish Festival of the Lights?

Before I get started on this blog, let me tell you why I have not written a blog in a couple of months.

In earlier blogs, I had written—if you recall—I was out of the box from October 2014 until January 2015 because of an injury to my leg I received while pursuing my favorite sport, steelhead fishing. So when October came around this year, I committed to making up for last year’s trips. It has been great to get back to the ole fishing holes and now back to writing a blog.

Our Jewish brethren are now in the midst in Hanukkah, better known as the Festival of the Lights. The story of the Festival of the Lights is a great story from the Old Testament. God not only performed miracles in the New Testament, but also in the Old Testament. Let me share this beautiful story with you.

The Syrian King sent his forces into Jerusalem, ravaged the people and turned the Jewish temple into a Syrian gentile place of worship. Eventually, the Jews took back the temple and rededicated it after a spiritual cleansing. Part of this procedure involved the menorah, which held nine candles.

Important: the candles had to burn for eight days. The problem? There was only enough oil to last only one day. With prayerful thought, the Jewish priests decided to proceed with only one day’s supply of oil. Guess what! The Lord kept the candles lit for the full eight days! That is why it is called the Festival of the Lights.

So when you see your Jewish brethren, a Happy Hanukkah is in order. They are the roots of our Christian faith.

Shalom!

Francesco
A.M.D.G

 

Yom Kippur: the connection with Christianity

Last month, our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrated the holiest of all Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur is the time in Judaism when the Jews dedicate their minds, their bodies and souls to reconciliation. It is a time of not only giving forgiveness, but also and importantly, asking for forgiveness for the transgressions they themselves have committed over the last past year.

Yom Kippur lasts for a period of ten days. Sound familiar? We, as Christians, believe in forgiveness. A line from the Lord’s Prayer, ”Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us. And like our Jewish brethren, during Lent we are asked to dedicate our minds, our bodies and souls to reconciliation with God and the people we have transgressed. Asking for and granting forgiveness has a great effect on us. In doing so, you erase within yourself the anger, the stress and anxiety that has been suppressed. If we give and accept forgiveness, a sense of clarity and serenity enters our being.

In the early days of Judaism, on the day of Yom Kippur the high priest would enter the Holiest of Holies, the abode of God, and pray for forgiveness for the sins of the Jewish nation. He would then make a blood sacrifice to God as an offering. See a connection here? You bet! Think about the crucifixion. Christ shed his blood and died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins for all of humanity.

We are tightly bound to our Jewish brothers and sisters; the Christian faith has its roots deep in the beliefs of Judaism. We are their spiritual descendants. So when Yom Kippur is celebrated, always remember its meaning and the connection it has with the crucifixion. Both were blood sacrifices for the atonement of sin. Alleluia!

Peace…Shalom

A.M.D.G.
Francesco