Faith Trilogy – Good News for October 3

3 10 2010

Habakkuk 1

How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord. Then the Lord answered me and said: Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14

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.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

Luke 17:5-6

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

The Daily Path: Today’s readings present a perfect storm of guidelines for maintaining and growing our faith. Friends, regardless of where you find yourself in the spiritual journey, or even if you have unintentionally come upon this posting, keep these passages close. In them I have found the call to greater patience, courage, and understanding of the mystery of God.

Last night, I had the pleasure to witness the grace of God at work. It was a lifetime in the making, but culminated by a group of friends after months of planning. This band of “conspirators” wanted to recognize two individuals in their community (familia) who have embodied all of the calls to faith that were described in today’s trilogy of readings. What I saw last night was a cyclical act of genuine love flowing back to two people who have strived throughout their lives to be sources of God’s great love for us all.

Many months ago I received an e-mail from the conspirators advising me that they planned to take action, and asking for my assistance. Their plan was to pursue formal recognition – in the form of the Diocesan Medal of Honor – for my parents, Herb and Claire, who have gone about the work of Christ in their faith community for some 50 years. The conspirators put together a compelling case for the honor by carefully identifying a body of work that could have filled volumes with incremental acts of selfless giving.

When the case put forth to the Diocese had been reviewed and approved, their pastor informed them of the honor that was to be bestowed on them. Mom and Dad’s immediate response was “We’re not worthy of such an honor. We did so little.” In this I beg to differ, as do the band of conspirators who represent all in the “familia” that is your faith community.

Few have weathered the storms of life with the patience told of by Habakkuk. Few have so courageously answered St. Paul’s call to embody Christ’s teachings and in turn become true teachers of His love. Few have relentlessly asked God for the grace that is faith.

My parents never had the means to write the big checks that build cathedrals or parish centers. But they used their “wealth of willingness and ability” as few have, by bringing friends together to act in love, including the stranger so that they always felt welcome, helping the troubled find forgiveness, and leading people – young, old and indifferent – to Christ. It is an impressive body of work, but to my mom and dad it was just allowing their hearts to remain open to God’s calling for them in this life.

No, Herb and Claire, we all stand behind this conspiracy. You have earned this honor… ten-fold!

Knowing my parents, it was not the gold medal or the accompanying certificate bearing the bishop’s signature that they will cherish most, instead I think it was the mere idea that anyone would want to pursue this honor for them, AND the rousing crescendo of genuine affection that rose up last night from a church full of their fellow parishioners, many of whom have been the recipients of God’s love through His servants, Herb and Claire.

We are all blessed to have them in our lives and thank them for a lifetime of love.

Climbing Back – Good News for Holy Saturday

11 04 2009

A Letter to the Romans (Paul) 6:3-11:

Brothers and sisters,

Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

The Daily Path: Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of my commitment to return to Jesus’ table as a practicing Catholic. I won’t share the complete chronicle of events in the days leading up to Easter 2008, but my commitment was cemented on that “Holy Weekend”.

Work obligations forced me to miss the traditional three hour Good Friday devotion, but for some reason I really wanted time to reflect on Our Lord’s suffering and sacrifice. I was inspired to go to the campus of St. Mary’s college where for some months I had been praying in the chapel. As I drove onto campus I saw the large white cross that sits on the green hilltop above. I decided to climb that hill and try to experience at least a tiny bit of what Jesus felt on the way to Golgatha and his crucifixion. I parked my car and headed straight up the face of the hill discovering it wasn’t as easy as it looked from down in the parking lot. It must have been a comical sight for any student watching outside their dorm to see this “old guy” in slacks and tie slipping all the way up the steep face.

As I slowly made my way up the hill, growing ever muddier and increasingly winded with each step, my silent prayers became more audible through my huffing and puffing. When I finally reached the top I was rewarded with a magnificent view of the surrounding valleys and hills that I had never seen before. (This was just the first of many new vistas that I would come to see in the next year) I recall kneeling down in the mix of damp, rocky soil at the base of the cross and praying harder than I had ever prayed in my life up to that point. I can’t tell you how or exactly when, but it was in those moments that I returned to the threshold of Our Lord.

Eventually, I made my way back down… this time following the easy fire trail that runs up behind the hill. That path was there all along but, like many things in my life back then, I didn’t see it. I’m still glad I took the hard way to climb the hill. It’s probably a reflection of my life in taking the longer road back to God. 

On Easter Sunday we went to Mass as a family at the church where I was baptized, St. Joseph’s Basilica in Alameda. As I listened to the sermon of Fr. Paul Minnehan, I knew in my heart that it was time to fully return to the Church. The next Sunday found me at St. Monica’s Church in Moraga, where once again the Holy Spirit touched me through the words of our pastor Fr. Wayne Campbell. That was when I knew this most prodigal of sons was back at the table with Christ.

As the late Paul Harvey would say, that’s “the rest of the story.”

Room to Chat: Lord, every day in his young life, Michael has climbed the hard road to Golgatha. Please help him to find an easier road to You. (See Room to Chat: Come Out – Good News for March 29)

Nana – Good News for March 8

8 03 2009

Happy Birthday Nana. 

Mark 9:2-10

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

The Daily Path: Today is the birthday of my late grandmother, Florence Irene Kindlen, or as she was known to me and the rest of her grandchildren… Nana. Every March 8, Nana and I have a little birthday chat, just as we did when she was alive, because my birthday is the following day. I do the talking, but I know she hears me. Occasionally I will “feel” her response. I want to share a little bit about Nana because not only was she the best grandmother who ever set foot on this earth, she was also an example of living a Godly life.

When Nana married her beloved Irishman, Jim (James Aloysius) Kindlen, she did not share the Catholic faith of her husband. Nor was she compelled to run out and enlist. However, she raised her children as Catholics. Years later, Nana did convert to Catholicism and held a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Each Sunday, and often during the week, she would attend Mass at St. Joseph’s Basilica, sitting directly in front of a statue of the Sacred Heart while faithfully praying for her family. I can assure you that there was much to pray for!

Nana always wore two things that became her trademark… a hat and a smile. That smile could melt the hardest heart. She tirelessly raised money for the parish schools and was genuinely loved by everyone who crossed her path. When her little gold donation box came out, wallets opened. Her unpretentious charm disarmed friends and strangers alike. No one could resist her.

After Grandpa died in 1957, my grandmother began to travel around the U.S. with her siblings. She loved to take trips. As a boy I would spend hours watching travel logs with her on the black & white TV. She always sent me postcards, even when her trip was just across the bay to San Francisco. I still treasure those cards to this day. Nana didn’t drive but she got about quite nicely riding the AC Transit bus system. The drivers all knew her by name. She’d take me to Oakland back in the day when it rivaled San Francisco with its major department stores and bustling downtown. Our excursions would always include a stop at the toy department and lunch room at Capwell’s Department Store. We’d sit amidst the fashionable “ladies who did lunch.” Nana would have a cup of tea and I’d have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with chocolate milk.

As the times grew more dangerous, she became a target for thieves who preyed on senior citizens. She was mugged by purse snatchers on three occasions as she waited for the bus. Although injured by these violent acts, I never saw her hardened by them. I can only assume that it was her great love and unwavering faith in Jesus that enabled her to forgive. If there was ever an example of living forgiveness, Nana was it. She just wouldn’t allow herself to harbor hatred. I think that was part of her charm. The genuine twinkle in her eyes showed love. Her smile offered shelter.

Eventually Nana stopped riding the bus, although she remained active. Her young friends (in their 60’s) would still drive “The Sunshine Chairman” about. She continued to take shorter trips with the local senior citizen groups. Florence Kindlen was 96 when she passed away after a short illness in November 1991. There is no doubt in my mind that the gates of Heaven were immediately opened as she left this earth on the Express Bus. And I know that Jesus was waiting to welcome her at the threshold because in life she listened to Him and lived what He taught. 

Happy Birthday Nana. I love you.