Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pruning that Fig Tree

Our monthly meeting of our Catholic Gay Straight Alliance group met last night and as is our custom we began our meeting with prayer time reflecting on the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday.

This weekend the Gospel is one of what I refer to as the fig tree stories. There are a few of them in the gospel accounts and sometimes I get them confused. But first I must remind you that I'm Italian and we as a people love our fig trees!  We wrap them in burlap and protect them from the winter snows. We care for them tenderly and rejoice with the harvest of plump juicy figs. Everyone that is except my grandparents. They have, or more correctly, they have left to us, the third generation now caring for these trees, three of the biggest fig trees I have ever seen in my life. I have a photo of me when I was little standing by a little fig bush. A number of years ago I took a photo of me as an adult by that same little tree that now towers way over my head. Because my grandparents did absolutely nothing that I know of to make these monsters grow, I chuckle a bit when I hear of all the fuss others go through to care for their fig trees. Whenever I hear the mention of a fig tree in the gospel, I smile and remember my family trees.

Edward Hayes wrote a another version of a fig tree parable told from the fig tree's perspective. The fig tree wanted to be something extraordinary, not just a plain humble fig tree. The fig tree was very clear about not liking the smell of the natural fertilizer and was resistant to the idea of pruning.

I am very much like that fig tree.

I do not like the idea of all the pruning...the cutting off of healthy branches, that needs to happen in my life in order for new life to burst forth. I am comfortable with my old self. I don't know what that new stuff will be and that makes me nervous. Do I trust God enough to believe that the pruning will bring forth goodness and new life in me?

And what's the deal with the natural fertilizer...(you know what I'm talking about right? Cow poop?)
The smell is terrible. How could that ever be a good thing? I'm supposed to believe that all the 'poop' that can overwhelm my life, that when it it spread around my roots generously, it helps me to grow? In what world does that make sense?

But I know in my heart it's true...because I've seen how fig trees and plants grow. Pruning and fertilizing absolutely bring forth amazing, beautiful, strong new life. If that's what I want in my spiritual journey then I have to be willing to trust the Divine Gardener in how he chooses to nurture and care for me.

And I know in my heart I really do trust Him, I just need a reminder, like this fig tree story.

Happy Third Week of Lent!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Look up at the Sky

Second Sunday of Lent are YOU doing with your Lenten practices? If you feel you can do better, take a deep breath and start again...just like a diet, every week, every day of Lent offers us new opportunities to pray, to care for others, to sacrifice. I am trying to take Francis' words to heart, his invitation to fast from indifference and feast on love. At least once a day, so far, I try to remember kindness in some interaction. I may not get it right all the time, but if I'm trying for one act of kindness daily, that's something.

So, I know we will all reflect this weekend on the Gospel of the transfiguration. A powerful story for sure. But when I took the time to look at the readings today, I was captivated by the first line of the Genesis reading:  "Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can. Just so, shall your descendants be."  The Lord, promising Abram that he will always keep his word.

Look up at the heavens and count the stars.
On a clear night that can take your breath away.
If the stars are our reminders of how much God loves, are we ever blessed. It's incredible to think about. As huge as the universe is, God cares for me. For you. As for our part of the covenant, we are simply to love God back and keep his commands. That's not to say that any of it is easy, but it is pretty straight forward. I love that Lent is my opportunity to tithe my time back to God. Fr. Tony said this past weekend that Lent is 1/10th of the surely I can tithe one tenth of the year back to God in prayer and good works, in a covenant of love.

The Transfiguration must have been amazing. That they didn't have heart attacks up on the mountain after what they witnessed! How hard it was for them to come back down the mountain, yet here in the valleys and plains, in the city streets, this is where ordinary time, ordinary life, ordinary people live. This is where most of us find God, if we remember to look. We spend most of our time here. If we waiting for those mountaintop moments...well, they're few and far between, how would we sustain our faith?

My prayer for us is that we can take those tiny stars in the heavens and let them be our daily signs every evening of the faithfulness of our loving God. He will never fail us.

Happy Lent!

Thursday, February 11, 2016


There's a lot that goes on as we move into this first week of Lent, and in the midst of it all we buried a dear friend today. It's hard to imagine he is gone. He was a wonderful mentor for me and for many. He will be missed a great deal.

So, my heart is quiet and my mind is a bit numb. As I think about what to write this week, I breathe deeply and think about all the catechumens who will gather at cathedrals around the Catholic world to celebrate the Rite of Election this weekend. They have no idea what they are walking into. It will be overwhelming to them. They will be stunned.

We are blessed by the example of their witness. Every year I am overwhelmed along with them as I look around the cathedral and witness thousands of people, young and old, who are standing up and proclaiming they want to be Catholic. Wow! This part of me that I take so for granted, others are yearning for. I am humbled by their journey of faith.

This Sunday, they will hear the truth that God has chosen  them. God has elected them to be part of this crazy community we call the Catholic church. As I sit here today and think about this I realize the truth that God has chosen each of us. From moments before we were born we were called, graced and blessed by God. We are part of God's elect.

I'm know that there is a responsibility that goes along with this, but for this first week of Lent, I just want to sit with the reality that God chooses me. God chooses YOU. I can't help but feel deeply loved because of that truth.

Peace be to all of you. Happy First Sunday of Lent.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Almost Lent

I keep hearing myself say, I just need to survive until Wednesday...then I can breath again. Of course, next Wednesday is Ash of our busiest days in church work...and one needs to really be ready to hit the ground running that day.

But we have so much going on here between now and 5 days from now...we have First Reconciliation on Saturday morning, we have Sunday...and every Sunday is busy, we have RCIA events and meetings on Monday and a first time Comedy night for Mardi Gras Tuesday evening...and after all that, I should be ready for the Lenten quiet...I'm looking forward to it in fact. I need to figure out how to carve some quiet into my busy church work days.

Because with Lent comes more RCIA stuff to get ready, a retreat day for Communion Families, and just more good stuff for the folks of the parish. What is one person to do??

So here's my plan. We're purchased for the parish the "Little Black Books" from the Saginaw diocese. 6 minutes of prayer each the car waiting for a parking spot or on the subway. That's the first thing.

The second thing is an event that occurs next Friday, but I will try and make my Lenten practice: PS I l Love You day...(you can google psiloveyouday and check out the youtube link for the whole story) Simply put, why not take the time to tell people what they mean to you? Why not, in keeping with what Pope Francis keeps telling us, be merciful and joyful?

So, I will try to be a bit more forgiving of others, and of myself.
I will try to be more joyful and less stressed, and share that with others.
I will try to remember to let people know I care for them, because it's important that people know they are loved by others.

These aren't really big things, they're pretty small ... but I think it's important to start little. I don't need to do big things, I just need to do small kindnesses with some consistency.

So, just in case I don't see you soon, please know  you're important to me and to those around you.

PS, I love you.