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

Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd…Immerse yourself

The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want … one of the beautiful and calming passages in the Bible. It encompasses the love, the joy and the security that the Lord gives us. I urge you to read it regardless of what faith you are. Read it slowly and let each line enlighten you to its meaning. It is a real powerful prayer. When I read this psalm, I immerse myself in it on certain passages. Such as the following:

“In verdant pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me; He refreshes my soul.” I picture myself while reading this passage in the following scene. With Marie, my wife, we have walked through a grassy meadow to a serene place wherein we lay out a blanket next to a murmuring brook. It is quiet, the only sounds are the lilting wind, the birds and the murmuring brook. I have cast a line in the water and then lay my head on Marie’s lap. I am at peace with God and the world.

And then there is the following:
“Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.” Everyone at one time or another has been in a situation that seems dire. Next time it happens, keep this passage in mind.

Let me paint the scene that I have experienced many times. I am driving through a blinding snowstorm coming off of Lake Erie. During these times, needless to say, you try to keep your concentration on the road. However, you feel the tension that it brings on. You know you are in the shadow of death—and then it happens! You say a few prayers and ask God to be your co-pilot. It gives me comfort and courage that I will survive the situation.

The power of prayer is real, regardless of the prayer you recite. And to make it more powerful and meaningful, immerse yourself in it. He is there to help, you only need to ask.

Alleluia!!

A.M.D.G
Francesco

Time…Absence…Distance: What’s love got to do with it?

I will answer the question later. First, let me give you a personal story. Actually, it’s one that I am almost embarrassed to write about. Nevertheless here goes.

About a month or two ago, my wife Marie gets a message on Facebook from my nephew, Anthony, and his wife, Nancy, who live in Colorado. They want to come up and spend a few days with us in Pennsylvania.

“Well, of course you can,” Marie responds. So he writes me an e mail requesting that we arrange hotel accommodations for them close to our home. I write back and tell him that I have set up a room at the Village of Walnut Creek. It is our home! He writes back and says he and his wife do not want to inconvenience us.

I could sense the uneasiness and hesitancy in the e mail. Why? It has been 30 years since we have seen him. I tell him, “You are family, and we will not take no for answer!” He accepts the offer.

The day arrives, and Marie and I answer the door. Again I see the uneasiness in both Anthony and Nancy’s eyes. I immediately throw my arms around him, hug him, caress him, kiss him and shed a few tears. Marie does likewise with Nancy. The ice has been broken.

In the ensuing days, I walk with him and tell him that he is family and that we love him. Again we hug and embrace each other. Needless to say, we all spend two days telling old family stories that led to the bonds that were set early in our lives. When Anthony and Nancy depart, we all embrace and there are no dry eyes. I have made a commitment to call him and his brother, Doug—who also lives in Colorado—at least every month or so. Why haven’t I done it before? Time flies—is that excuse? No! But it is not too late to start.

Now to answer the question: Time … Absence … Distance—What’s love got to do with it? Simply this: Love is spiritual, it has no boundaries. Love is the greatest gift that God has given us. He gives it freely to all. He only asks that we do likewise.

As a last note, I did call Doug and committed to being in touch on a continual basis. La Famiglia!!

AMORE!!!      A.M.D.G.

Francesco

A spiritual call to arms: Restlessness, part 2. Still thinking about it aren’t you?

Isn’t interesting that once you open your heart and mind to God’s calling, it is hard to let go? But that is good. It means you are giving it serious thought. And that is what God wants you to do.

He gave you his best shot and you opened your heart and mind to him. He knows it is not an easy decision. It is definitely an epiphany moment. It will be the most important commitment in your lifetime if you answer the call.

Think about it like the birth of a child. You are in your mother’s womb, comfy and cozy. Then things start to change. You are bounced around, you wonder what is happening, you are being bruised and are frightfully scared. You have no idea what is happening. You then are pushed out into a new environment. “What is going on?” you wonder. Then, all at once, you feel the caress and warmth of your mother’s arms. You feel the love and at that moment, you are at peace and begin the new venture into the world.

Like the baby in the womb, you are seemingly content. But then God enters the picture and starts calling you. He is disturbing your comfort zone. You are struggling, wondering what is happening, yet you continue to listen to his call. And then it happens. You answer, “Yes, I will serve.” You reach an epiphany! At that moment you feel the love of God and you are at peace. No restlessness!

You have answered the summons. In a song called The Summons, there is a line that is apropos. The first line of the song says the following:

Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known?
Will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?

God has summoned. You have responded.
Alleluia!!!

A.M.D.G.
Francesco

A spiritual call to arms: RESTLESSNESS

Have the following thoughts been going through your mind?

“Life’s been great these last few years. I have been out of high school or college and things have all fallen in place. I have a great job. I am making more than a decent wage and having a great time. I have done the bar scene without a care in the world and met a lot of the opposite sex. I could not ask for anything more. Weekends are great, not enough hours to do what I want to do. Mass? That’s the last thing on my mind. Not for me. I’m having just too much fun.

But lately I do not know what is happening. It probably started a few months ago. I am feeling RESTLESS. The things I normally do are not as exciting as they used to be. In fact, I am beginning to wonder what is happening to me. I am just in a quandary and I am RESTLESS. Something is gnawing at me inside and I have no idea what it is. My work does not hold the excitement for me like it used to. The drive and money is not as important as it once was. The bar scene just does not do it for me anymore. I am in a quandary and I am RESTLESS. I think I need some quiet time to think things out to see what’s happening; again I am just too darn RESTLESS.”

Maybe, just maybe you are having a spiritual call to arms.

“What did you say? Who would want a sinner like me? After what I have done, you name it, my transgressions are far too many to name. I would be the last person that God would call.”

Now just hold those thoughts, back up a second. Think about who God is. He is love and his forgiveness is boundless.

“Yeah, but not with a person like me.”

You think you’re the only person who has sinned? Whom God has called even though you have a lurid past? Let me give you an example you can relate to. And he is not from the Bible.

I would assume you have heard of the Jesuits. As you know, Pope Francis is a Jesuit. The founding father of the Jesuits was St Ignatius de Loyola. Let me tell you about him. He came from nobility, and as a young man, he was a soldier and a ladies’ man. He experienced all! Need I say any more?

He lived a sensuous life. Interestingly enough, he was wounded in battle and while he was recuperating, he read books on the life of Christ and the saints. He was drawn to them and thus his conversion to a soldier for Christ!

Listen to you inner voice. Pray and listen. Listen. Seek guidance from a religious. Maybe you are called to serve. It is spiritual call to arms! The answer to resolve the RESTLESSNESS is to listen to your inner voice in solitude. Maybe, just maybe, God is calling you. ALLELUIA!!!

A.M.D.G.
Francesco

Carry the faith with you

The Shekinah

On Holy Thursday evening during Lent, when the service was over, the Eucharist was not brought back to the tabernacle. We processed to a different location where the Eucharist was placed in a very decorative mini tent. This action really piqued my curiosity. Why? What did it denote?

After some research, the Book of Exodus began to unravel my curiosity. In the Old Testament, the Jewish Nation worshipped God at the Temple in Jerusalem. However, when they traveled during the Exodus, God traveled with them. In Exodus 13:21, it is written “In the daytime, the Lord preceded them by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and by night by means of a column of fire to give them light.” And when they rested, a dwelling tent for God was placed in their encampment. God was always with them, regardless of where they were. This holy dwelling was known as the Shekinah, which is a symbol of God’s abiding presence with the Chosen People.

Let’s now go back to Holy Thursday. Remember, Jesus was going to be crucified the next day. Did God leave us on Holy Thursday? I think not! In our exodus to a different location, we placed the Eucharist in the mini Shekinah. It was a reminder of the abiding presence of God as we journey through life, just as it was with the Jewish nation during the exodus.

Carry the faith with you. We are symbolic Shekinahs, in which God is dwelling— within us—wherever we are.

Alleluia!!!

A.M.D.G.
Francesco

In the midst of another Holy Week

“Frank,” you may ask, “what are you talking about? We just finished the Easter Holy Week?”

The Holy Week I am talking about is the Jewish Remembrance of the Passover. Families are asked to sit down to a very symbolic meal which includes unleavened bread and bitter herbs and recall the Jewish flight from the Egyptians. They also recall the night when Jewish families were asked to kill a lamb and mark their doors so the angel of death would PASSOVER their homes and not kill their newborn. Then they were finally able to travel to the Holy Land.

Can you see the similarity to the Christian Holy Week? Think a moment. During the Christian celebration of Holy Week, we remembered the Last Supper. There, Christ sat down with the Apostles, took unleavened bread, and said, “This IS my body that is for you, eat, do this in memory of me. He then took the cup and said, “Drink, this IS my blood, the blood of the New Covenant, do this in memory of me.”

Christ offered himself for all humanity. He was the sacrificial lamb. He died for everyone’s sins so they could be saved. Can you not see the similarities and symbolism with the Passover?

We are spiritually united with our Jewish brethren. The Old Testament is the bedrock of the faith, just as it is with our Jewish brothers and sisters. The New Testament is the affirmation of the Old Testament prophecies which foretold the coming of Jesus. Christians believe that he is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

Honor your Jewish brethren; they are believers in the same God as ours. And pray that they may be faithful to their Covenant with God as we are to ours.

Shalom!!!
A,M.D.G.

Francesco