Holy Family

Holy-FamilyIs your family holy? What makes a family holy?

Most often when we think of families, we think of what makes them healthy – and that too is a good question, a good goal, and something worth time and energy to ensure. A family should want to be a place where its members feel welcomed, warm, embraced, safe, supported, loved and so much more. But do all those things – as good as they are – make a family holy?

Is your family religious? Of course one answer is – “why sure…we here at church.” And if you are here to give praise and worship to God, then St. Thomas Aquinas would hold that your family is religious in that you possess the virtue to give God that which is fitting worship and praise. Continue reading

Resolutions and Commitments

CalvinI first wrote this column two years ago. Some folks asked about where they could get a copy and suggested that I repeat the column; so we did. Last January I had many folks comment, in person and via email, that it was just what they needed to hear. So perhaps this will be a “tradition” here at the parish while I am pastor. But it also occurs to me that this is also a great time to pause and for each of us to reflect upon the promises we made on Commitment Sunday in early November. I pray that your promises are being fulfilled, and you are experiencing abundant spiritual fruit in your life.

Unless you happen to be like my muse, Calvin, in the comic strip, I suspect you are about to make some New Year’s resolutions. How did you do on last year’s resolutions? About the same as the rest of us? One ad hominem wisdom saying defines “insanity” this way: to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. Perhaps 2016 is a time to consider changing the way resolutions are considered, made, and hopefully, kept.

During the Advent season, many people took the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a spiritual preparation for Christmas and the New Year. When someone lists out their sins and the areas of their lives that are in need of God’s forgiveness, I often respond with, “If you could only work on one thing from your list, what would be the priority? What would be the one thing you would take into prayer and ask God’s help?” Most people intuitively know their lives and have an answer. I encourage them to do just that: focus on the one thing with God’s help.

It is good to know that my intuitive encouragement has some scientific foundation. According to Roy Baumeister and John Tierney in their book “Willpower,” it’s incredibly difficult to make a change in more than one area of your life at a time. Why? Because each of us has only a limited supply of willpower, and we deplete our supply when we try to ward off some temptation or persevere in some new virtue. Did you spend all day resisting the sweets at the office? You will find it incredibly difficult to not have “just a little dessert” after dinner. Choose one habit you want to quit first and conserve your willpower for that priority. Only after the resolution is no longer daunting, should you then move to a new resolution.

What if the habit or behavior that you would like to change involves sin? Now temptation, free will, and choice are mixed in the blender of humanity, the siren’s call of “modern” life, and a whole host of other items. I would suggest that Baumeister and Tierney’s advice – focus on one sin/sinful habit – is still good advice. But I would also add that there is another dimension in play. While the Sacrament of Reconciliation

offers God’s forgiveness, it also provides grace to seek God’s wisdom in addressing the underlying element of one’s life that needs healing. Is human willpower involved? Absolutely, but it is fortified by God’s grace, the Holy Spirit, and Wisdom of God in discovering what requires healing in one’s life. But there is more.

The Letter of James 5:16 is a verse many folks are not familiar with: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” But I would add, be careful whom you tell. As Derek Sivers shares in his succinct TED Talk, it’s often better to keep your goals to yourself. Counter to our intuition, sharing our aspirations with others doesn’t encourage us to persevere or keep us accountable. Sivers goes on to explain that if you really need to tell someone, enlist that person to help keep you accountable by, for instance, checking in weekly on how you’re doing. And in the context of our faith, that means share your success, your failures, and prayer with your fellow Christian.

It is in the power of prayer that the grace of God fortifies free will, resolution, and commitment. It is in the power of your prayer/accountability partner that perseverance is reinforced.

It is insanity to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Maybe this year try something new regarding your resolutions for a better, more holy life: include prayer, partnership, and the power of God when choosing the one thing.


All very simple

christmas_morningThere is an idea in Christian thought about the “thin veil,” that the presence of God is there before us, behind us, all around us – veiled by only the thinness of our attention. It has been that way since the Spirit of God hovered over the primordial waters and brought forth life. It continues unto our days and nights. There are times when the veil melts away and we sense God in our lives, in our dreams, and in the world around us. Certainly, St. Francis of Assisi understood the all-abiding presence of God in nature, in his brothers and sisters, and in so many ways. Continue reading


Joseph_and_Mary_arrive_at_BethlehemI think it’s fair to say that there is no other day that brings as much anticipation as Christmas Eve. As a child, it’s hard to sleep. You just want it to be Christmas morning — preferably while it’s still dark so the tree looks magical as the lights cast a glow on the presents that weren’t there when you went to bed. You can’t wait to open them, but you don’t want to spoil the beauty and the surprise yet either. It is a time full of mystery and excitement.

As a parent, you’re running full-tilt getting everything ready. You’re not only wrapping gifts until the wee hours of the morning, you’re making sure you’ve got everything you need from the store. You’re thinking of the guests who will be arriving for dinner (or the trip you’ll be making to the in-laws) the cleanliness of your home, and the hope of getting enough sleep that you won’t be in too much of a zombie stupor to assemble the toys you got your little ones. Continue reading


VisitationWe live in a world of email, text messaging, tweets, instagrams, and all manner of connectivity in social and electronic media. It has become all very ordinary. Yet, each day, I am more than a little curious about what comes “old school” via USPS into my mailbox. There is correspondence from the Diocese, advertisements for one thing or another guaranteed to improve and renew the parish, bills and invoices, catalogs, and “ta-da!”… Christmas cards. Continue reading

Embracing Hospitality

welcometochurch1The days of Christmas are quickly approaching, your shopping isn’t finished (….maybe not started!), the end-of-year activities at work are reaching deadlines, the tree is not up, the kids have a school Christmas play tomorrow night (… “Mom, is my costume ready?”…what costume?), and…and… oh my gosh, the in-laws are coming to stay with us this Christmas. Even amidst the momentary panic of “how will all this get done,” there is an ever-present awareness that we want to be hospitable, warm, and welcoming – not only to the in-laws but to all who come to our door during the holidays. Continue reading

Lazrus: dialogues

Lazarus-Rich-ManAct 3 – The Dialogues

To a first century hearer of the parable, the fates of the two would have been surprising for it went against the grain of the common wisdom: blessings in this life were a sign of God’s favor while illness, poverty, and hardship were a sign of God’s curses. Yet the one well “blessed” in his lifetime is now tormented in the netherworld (see the Note on 16:23 below) where he can see Lazarus and Abraham across the great chasm that divides them (v.26). Continue reading

Lazarus: the reversal

Lazarus-Rich-ManCulpepper well describes this parable as a drama in three acts (Luke, 316):

  • Act 1 – a tableau during which the characters are introduced and their way of life is described, but nothing happens
  • Act 2 – the rich become poor and the poor become rich as each character has died and received their eternal reward
  • Act 3 – narration give way to dialogue, but between the rich man and Abraham, in three exchanges:
    • about the finality of judgment
    • about the witness of Moses and the prophets
    • about the blindness that prevents even the Resurrection from leading to conversion

Continue reading