The Promise Card

As I walked into the church on New Year’s Eve, I met Fr. Anthony carrying a couple of trays. The trays were filled with, what looked like business cards. I asked Fr. what they were, and he said they were, “Promise cards.” Each card had a scripture or a spiritual quote on it.

We were all directed to pick up a promise card when we left mass, and reflect on it. The card was the Lord’s promise to us. I thought it was a great idea!

Until I read my card…

“Divine grace is needed at the beginning, divine grace at every step of advance, and divine grace alone can complete the work. There is no place for us to rest in a careless attitude… We may have had a measure of the Spirit of God, but by prayer and faith we are continually to seek more of the Spirit” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 507, 508)

As soon as I read it, I thought, “Great… God wants me to grow more…” now this was not an enthusiastic thought, but rather, a “conscience-stricken” thought.

There have been plenty of times in my life when I thought I was growing spiritually, and I have even felt “proud” of “my growth in the Spirit”. (Not sure how I like writing about my “spiritual pride”). But I have come to know through the years that I might not always be growing when I think I’m growing. I’ve also come to believe that when we grow spiritually, many times we are accompanied by things like pain, sorrow, and suffering.

I just recorded day 301 that we have been enduring the pandemic in my journal . The world has experienced much pain, sorrow, and suffering in these past 300 days, and the Lord has given us “divine grace at every step of advance”.

The Lord has given us a promise. He will always be with us. He will never forsake us. He loves us.

May we all “seek more of the Spirit” that He has in store for us, and hold His promise close to the heart.

Sidewalk Art at Oklahoma Panhandle State University

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The Year of the Mask

It’s hot, and it makes it hard to breathe. My glasses fog up, and I can’t see. I’m really sick and tired of wearing “the mask.”

But we have been wearing masks since our childhood. Our mask is what we wear, so we can be accepted by others. My mask helps me cover up the poor self image that I have of myself. Some examples of masks that people wear are the Class Clown, Super Mom, The Calm, Cool Collected Person, Mr.or Mrs. Clean, Mother Hen, The Insecure Person, and the list could go on.

I have this need to be accepted. Don’t we all? I’ve worn my share of different masks in the past sixty years, and as I look at myself, I ask, “What am I doing to cover up what I think is bad about myself? What is the mask that I am wearing today?” Knowing yourself isn’t ever easy. I can lie to myself, and believe my own lies with ease.

Today I read from Saint Hippolytus,

“The saying ‘Know yourself’ means therefore that we should recognize and acknowledge in ourselves the God who made us in his own image, for if we do this, we in turn will be recognized and acknowledged by our Maker.”

God made me, and as the saying goes, “God does not make junk.” I know it’s kind of corny, but it gets the point across. You are made in the image of God. You are special. You are loved.

It is a huge blessing when I receive encouragement, acknowledgment, and confirmation of the love that God has for me. I am convinced that we are all receiving these blessings from the Lord. We just have to stop and listen.

It’s hot, and it makes it hard to breathe. My glasses fog up, and I can’t see. I’m really sick and tired of wearing “the mask.” It is my prayer that we won’t have to wear it much longer. In the meantime, maybe “the mask” can help me to “know myself” better, and come closer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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The Signature (Pt 2)

One of the Saints that I think about often is Saint Therese of Lisieux.  She has a special place in my heart for many reasons.   A few of these reasons I will describe below.

Three years ago in February, I began an adventure.  I started reading a book, got a spiritual director, and began discerning if I should go to seminary or not.  This book gave me lots of things to think about and consider but one thing that particularly sticks out from the book is St. Therese.  The “Little Flower” as she is known, was described as being a Saint that has made it her mission to constantly pray for priests.  Many priests, and seminarians, have asked St. Therese to send them a rose to signify she was praying for them.  I remember thinking how cool it would be to get a rose from St. Therese.  I thought about it and forgot about it because things like that just don’t happen all the time.  The next week as I walked in the office of my spiritual director and set down, I noticed a small box on his desk.  There, on the top of that box was carved a rose.  I saw it and later said a little prayer of thanks to God for St. Therese.  It was only a few months later that I left for seminary and I have kept this story of the rose close to my heart ever since.  

Last week the feast day of St. Therese fell on Thursday, October 1st.  It is a favorite here at the seminary and is celebrated with much cheer by staff and seminarians alike.  That day I went to the chapel to pray.  In my prayer time, I constantly pray for the many people in my life.  However, I always pray for my family and my friend Chris.  On this day I specifically remember offering special prayers for Reid, Leigh Anne, and Chris.  I also remember thinking about St. Therese, asking her to pray for me and thinking how cool it would be to get another rose.  I was once again surprised to hear about a rose that St. Therese had sent, not to me, but to my sister.  My heart was filled with joy when I heard, and later read, the story of how my sister got a rose.  St. Therese had sent me a rose, just not in the way I expected.  I said a prayer of thanks to God for St. Therese.  

I smile when I think about these stories and wonder who will be next to get a rose from St. Therese “The Little Flower.”

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The Signature

Today’s Guest blogger is our daughter Leigh Anne

My oldest brother Ryan and I were home with my parents during the first part of the pandemic for about five and a half months. During that time he pushed me to do something productive every day–along with gently pestering me to do more than one thing…which was good for me but I would never admit it at the time. He and my dad kept telling me to read a book…specifically “The Story of a Soul” about St. Therese of Lisieux. I said no multiple times–mind you I did start a book, just not that one. The day before I was leaving to come back to Denison, they were telling me how she would leave roses for people as her signature. Both of them said jokingly (but not so much) that I would see roses all the way back on my drive. You better believe I looked for them roses but didn’t see a damn one. I was SO disappointed. 

Last week, was her patron saint day and you better believe both my dad and brother told me about it–my dad twice (good thing too). My dad texted me early that morning and told me about it, my brother had told me the night before, and my dad told me again that afternoon when I was Facetiming him and my mom. I said blah blah blah when he told me again…then…he asked me if I had seen any roses. 

So my hair. My hair is kind of my thing. It has been since high school. It’s long; it’s pretty, and I love that it’s naturally straight–and no, I’m not trying to be vain; I just feel like Samsom but thank god I don’t have to cut it off. I decided for the first time in about…oh two years that it was time to get a haircut. I happen to have an old friend who has a hair salon in the area so I made an appointment with her and went to get my haircut on the patron saint day of St. Therese…MISTAKE, just kidding. It was really good to see my old friend and catch up with her. I was sitting there getting my hair cut and noticed a beautiful dozen roses she had sitting in her station. I told her they were pretty and she said her boyfriend had sent them for no reason–just because.

I told my dad no, I hadn’t seen any ros…OH SHIT WAIT! YES I DID SEE ROSES OH MY GOD. And her boyfriend sent them for no reason…YUP that’s about how my life goes. 

FYI I had started reading the book already (and hate it for the most part) but I guess I’ll finish it. 

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The Heart of the Matter

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time September 13, 2020
Sir 27:30-28:7; Ps 103; Rom 14:7-9; Mt 18:21-35

These times are so uncertain
There's a yearning undefined
And people filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age?
The trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness
They're the very things we kill, I guess
Pride and competition cannot fill these empty arms
And the work I put between us
You know it doesn't keep me warm

I'm learning to live without you now
But I miss you, baby
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again

[Chorus 2]
I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness, forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore

This is from a song called “The Heart of the Matter” by Don Henly of the Eagles
I think the lyrics are appropriate for today’s uncertain time and the age we are living

Forgiveness…
It seems to me that is the heart of today’s scripture readings
And Peter is the one to ask Jesus… the question
How many times? How many times do we forgive? 

And Jesus’ answer is hard
Our forgiveness should be unlimited.
And Jesus tells a story
I get so angry at this wicked servant 
He is forgiven of a great debt
But he will not forgive a small one.
And then I have to ask myself
Am I this servant? 
I confess
It is hard for me to forgive
“Wrath and anger are hateful things, 
yet the sinner hugs them tight.” (Sir 27:30)

How do we learn to forgive?
We will begin CCD, religious education soon
But religious education for our children should be year round
Because the first place for religious education is the home.

Listen to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
“Thus the home is the first school fo Christian life and ‘a school for human enrichment’. Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous-- even repeated-- forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and offering of one’s life.” (CCC 1657)

Fathers… it should begin with you.
You are to be the spiritual head of the household
Lead your family in prayer
Love your wife
Love your children
Forgive them when they sin against you
And ask for forgiveness, when you have wronged them

Forgiveness leads to reconciliation and healing
We cannot be healed of our hurt until we can forgive

But you might say, “I can’t. I hurt to bad”
Ask Jesus to help you 
Ask Him to help you forgive

Forgiveness, forgiveness
It’s the heart of the matter


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The Gift keeps on giving

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Today marks 37 years of marriage for Teague and me. What can I say? She has blessed me greatly.

 

 

 

God gave me a Gift many years ago.

The Gift I did not know,

Would always with me grow.

As I have traveled through life,

the Gift is by me day and night.

I have no fear when my Gift is near.

The Gift does not just sit idle,

but watches out for the family in this daily battle.

At times I have thrown this Gift aside,

And many times It has not gotten the care.

Those are the times that God has showered It from above

with things like Grace, Mercy, and Love.

When God gives His care the Gift blooms like flowers that She loves.

I thank God for this Gift, and hope to do as He does.

So that is what I shall strive to do.

Give to the Gift and watch Her grow.

Give to the Gift and see Her glow.

The Gift is my friend, confidante, and mate.

God has given me far more than I deserve to this date.

He gave me a Gift that loved me back.

Now tell me how cool is that!
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My Heart is Full

58589388_10218761259612410_2007192827653521408_oOur son Reid is the author of today’s Mary Mail. Reid lives in Fort Worth. He is the president of the Fort Worth branch of Legend Bank. Imagine my surprise when I opened my email last night, and I saw this reflection from Reid. 

This dad’s heart is full.

Life has been challenging of late.  A global pandemic brought the world to a stand still.  Untold challenges, hardships, sickness, and fear of the unknown has gripped us all.  Racism and riots once again rear their ugly head.  Yet through it all, my heart is full.  How is it my heart can be full through such trials and sadness?  My faith.  

I’ve been working on myself (or at least trying) through the Q, and have found that the time away has been good for the soul.  I have read more these last three months than the last 30 years of my life.  I have picked up old hobbies and worked on developing a few more.  Friendships have grown stronger, though not without their challenges.  Work has been more fulfilling, a funny thing for a damn banker to say in the midst of a global recession and pandemic.  However, there can be victories in the face of defeat.  Foolishly, I often claim these as personal victories.  However the Q has helped me understand true thanks is attributed to the Maker. 

Psalm 90: 

Lord, you have been our refuge through all generations.  Before the mountains were born, the earth and the world brought forth, from eternity to eternity you are God.  You turn humanity back into dust, saying “Return, you children of Adam!”.  A thousand years in your eyes are merely a day gone by.  Before a watch passes in the night, you wash them away; They sleep, and in the morning they sprout again like an herb, In the morning it blooms only to pass away; in the evening it is wilted and withered………………….Relent, O Lord!  How long? Have pity on your servants!  Fill us at daybreak with your mercy, that all our days we may sing for joy.  Make us glad as many days as you humbled us, for as many years as we have seen trouble……..May the favor of the Lord our God be ours.  Prosper the work of our hands!  Prosper the work of our hands!

Prosper the work of our hands. 

-Reid-

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Longing & Waiting

undefinedI have the great honor to be able to serve mass every week in our parish.  These masses have been both private and, most recently, public with the usual guidelines to follow.  After every mass I find myself saying, “wow that mass was weird/tough.”  Don’t get me wrong, the mass is a great joyful occasion because God is present and we get to receive Him and fill ourselves with His grace, mercy, and love.  I am thankful for this Holy Feast every time I serve.

The mass, however in these unusual days, has also been tough and weird because the people of God are missing.  Their spirits are there but their bodies are missing.  This weekend the people were present! What a time to rejoice!  But, I did not get to shake any hands nor see one single smile that expressed their joy of being present at the mass.  This felt weird.  

Today in mass, I also witnessed a young boy cry.  Why was he crying? He was crying because he is waiting.  He was crying because he longs for Jesus.  He was crying because he knows the date for his first communion has passed and he must wait again.  In that young boy I saw the tears of an entire faith community.  I saw the tears of Christians all over the world that long for Jesus and must wait.  I saw the tears of families because of missed celebrations and graduations.  I saw the tears of priests who long to share the mass with the communities they serve.  I saw the tears of children who do not understand why they cannot go to school and miss their friends.  

I remember waiting for my first communion.  Even though I was 27 at the time, waiting was extremely hard.  I remember longing for the body of Christ and counting down the days till I could say the word AMEN while putting out my hand to receive Him.  My day arrived in 2015.  This boy’s time will also arrive.  I pray to God that this day happens, I pray that this day comes soon, and what joy there will be when that young boy will finally be able to stick out his hands and say AMEN while receiving the body of Christ.  First communion cannot get here soon enough.  

Ryan

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Holy Spirit is our Advocate and Guide

93933287_10218916050150796_2479563531414929408_nThis Fr. Anthony’s homily from last Sunday, the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

Holy Spirit is our Advocate and Guide.

There is a saying, “We need Jesus Christ for our eternal life and the Holy Spirit for our internal life.”

The focus of today’s readings is on Apostolic preaching of salvation and the promise of the Holy Spirit by Jesus.  We shall reflect on the Holy Spirit and the continuation of the work of salvation in our daily lives.  In the first reading, we listen to how the Holy Spirit helped Philip, the Deacon, of his preaching for the conversion of the Samaritans, who received the anointing of the Holy Spirit through the imposition of hands by the apostles’ Peter and John.  In the second reading, St. Peter speaks of the opposition and persecution which was faced by those who believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel, Jesus says, “I shall ask the Father and He shall give you another Advocate.”  The context of these works is that the disciples were disappointed and troubled because Jesus was leaving them and thus comes the promise of sending His Holy Spirit.  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus indwells in our hearts every day, and every time.  We are experiencing the Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit through the reception of the Holy Eucharist and prayer life.  The word Paraclete refers to one who defends or pleads the cause of someone at trial.  Therefore, every time we face difficulties, sicknesses, problems, and trials, the Holy Spirit assists us and defends us from harm and guides us along the right way.  

Let us be open to the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete to indwell in us throughout our life to experience His power and presence of Holiness, and wholeness.  Many times we ignore the power and guidance that is available by the Holy Spirit.  We all commit sins that take away the presence of God.  “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one” (1 John 2:1).  It’s because we are all imperfect.  St. Paul expressed this predicament thus, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Rom 7:19).  Let us pray according to the Psalm 51:11, “cast me not away from your presence; take not you Holy Spirit from me.”  St Peter in his first sermon said, “Repent and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).  Let us also remember the Promise of Jesus in Luke 11:13, “if you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give to Holy Spirit to them that as Him?”  St. Paul tell us, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16).

God the Holy Spirit helps us to see the truth in ourselves and to discern the right way.  He gives us strength in difficult times and times of pain.  Let us be assured that we are not left as orphans.  His presence is in the Church, family, Scripture, Sacraments, and in the praying community.

May we pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit 

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and renew the face of the earth.”

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Spiritual Jazz

f0efa38d72b500fb4753d7714d5c7afcPapoo’s office was in the back of his and Noni’s house.  You could always find him back there doing something, whether it be surfing the web, forwarding some email, reading a book, or talking on the phone to one of his many friends.  My fondest memories of my time spent with my late grandfather, Papoo, were back in his office talking about anything and everything.  In these conversations, he challenged me to be a better man and Christian.  And back in his office, all those years ago, he introduced me to Jazz!

I have loved jazz from the very first moment I heard Hello Dolly by Louis Armstrong.  Jazz is a unique kind of music where any note or rhythm is possible.  Jazz seems random… but it is also not random.  Playing jazz takes great skill and I admire the musicians that can control the notes and rhythms to produce a grand song that not only gets people to dance but also, like most music, can be felt deep down in their soul.  

In today’s world of quarantine and social distancing, the churches’ are closed and we are asked by our Bishops, Priests, and Pastors to become more spiritual people.  We are asked to embrace a type of faith that is not typical.  We participate in Mass live on tv while using the prayer of Spiritual Communion.  We are in a unique time.  Any note or rhythm seems possible.  But during this time, I see the people of God growing significantly spiritually and I am thankful for the Grand Musician that knows how to play the melody and notes just right.  I cannot help but feel that this Spiritual Jazz we participate in now, will be felt deep down in our very souls.  I, for one, can’t wait to listen and hear the next note.

 

Ryan52156623_10107479387294868_3619661955893035008_n

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