Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

School Days

March 2, 2016

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I went to school today.

Today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss, and the kids at St. Mary’s school were celebrating by having celebrities read the good doctor’s books to them.  It was quite a bit of fun, and the celebrities included some politicians, clergy, military leaders, firefighters and police officers.  I was not a celebrity.

My job today was to take pictures.  You can only imagine the photo target rich environment of an elementary school with adorable children sitting on a floor having “Horton Hears a Hoo” read to them by the Mayor of Cheyenne.  It really was enjoyable to see it, and the readers were having a great time doing it.

St. Mary’s school is what brought us to Cheyenne 32 years ago.  I came here to teach at the school after numerous unsuccessful attempts at finding a teaching job somewhere in the Intermountain West.  It was, in retrospect, obviously the work of the Holy Spirit that brought us here, because at the time I applied I was not practicing my faith, and the thought of teaching at a Catholic school was not what I had in mind.  Nonetheless, Sherry encouraged me to apply, and so I did.

I got a phone from Sr. Rosemary Hollerich, the principal, a few weeks after sending in the application .  She told me on the phone that I could come for the interview if I wanted, at my expense, and no guarantee of a job.  We were living in Wisconsin at the time and so lonely for the West (we had lived in Montana for three years prior to moving back to Wisconsin) that we packed a few things, put our then 7-month old daughter into our truck and drove 1,000 miles for a job interview at a place I didn’t want to work.

Funny how things work out, because it was the perfect move.  We had 8 periods in a day, and I had 7 different classes to prepare.  In addition, I was an assistant football coach and sometimes drove the bus.  Catholic schools are known for not being able to pay their teachers as much as their public school counterparts, and so I worked for starvation wages for the whole time I taught at St. Mary’s.

In spite of all that, we made some lifelong friends of the students and their parents.  St. Mary’s was a big family, and we were embraced as family from the start.  While the money situation was difficult, there was an abundance of love and support for us.   I also came back to my faith, which has proven to be the single biggest benefit to having taught at the school.

This St. Mary’s school where the books were read is not the one where I taught.  My school was knocked down a few years ago and is now a State of Wyoming parking lot. Today’s school is several blocks away from the old one, and represents a $14 million commitment of the people of St. Mary’s Cathedral to educate their children in a Catholic environment.  Hence the “Faith” photo above, sitting in front of the Dr. Seuss inspired artwork – One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. You can’t put that sign in a public school.

The delightful painting is outside a classroom, brightening the hallway with those cheery-faced children playing in the grass.  It’s indicative of the atmosphere at the school, which is full of love and joy.

It was fun being back today.  St. Mary’s school has been a part of my life for the last 32 years, and I would expect it to be a part of my life for the rest of my life.

Risen

February 29, 2016
MX Peacekeeper Missile

MX Peacekeeper Missile

This is the MX Peacekeeper missile, an easily recognizable landmark at the entrance to FE Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne.  This particular model is no longer armed, having been deactivated through various treaties between the US and  Russia.  Thanks be to God that this weapon was never used in war, as it would have had a devastating effect on the world.  It carried ten warheads, each of them independently targeted, and could hit its intended targets within 100 yards even when fired from 10,000 miles away.  Fifty of these missiles were buried in bunkers around Cheyenne, making us a big, fat target for Russian missiles.

But I don’t want to write about the MX missile.

I saw the movie “Risen” the other day.  This film is about a Roman Tribune and his search for the corpse of the crucified Jesus.  The Tribune’s name is Clavius, and he is a Roman soldier through and through.  His boss is Pontius Pilate. Yes, that Pontius Pilate.  Pilate is deeply concerned that the Jews will steal the body of Jesus from his tomb, claim he has been resurrected, and cause all manner of trouble for Pilate as they rally the followers of Jesus in rebellion against the Romans.  By the way, the Emperor is on his way to Jerusalem from Rome, and Pilate doesn’t want any problems.  He tells Clavius, a seasoned warrior, to fix it.

Clavius, faithful soldier and good politician that he is, sets about to protect the corpse of Jesus by sealing the tomb and placing Roman guards at the entrance.  We know how this part of the story ends, and, while the guards don’t let anybody inside the tomb, nobody said anything about keeping Jesus from going outside.  In the morning on the third day, the body of Jesus is gone, the guards are in deep trouble, and Clavius now has to find the body of Jesus.

Clavius needs some help.  Earlier, in a conversation with Pilate, like two workers chatting at the water cooler, Pilate states that he prays to Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom.  He then asks Clavius to which God he prays, and Clavius responds with the obvious answer, Mars, the god of war.

Mars was who Clavius sought for help in his search. After several ghastly but failed attempts at finding the surely-decaying corpse of the Nazarene, Clavius goes off towards an indentation in a wall where there is a lit candle and a small sculpture of Mars, where he prays to the war god.  This was one of the most personally compelling scenes in the entire movie.  The camera shot of Mars was from directly above the face of the statue as it was pointed up, holding a sword and a shield.  It didn’t look all that different from any Roman soldier,  actually.  But Mars looked small, pitiful and entirely helpless.  Clavius was praying to a piece of stone, an impotent figure that would do him no good.

Which brings us to the MX missile.  This is our modern Mars.  We pray to the threat of unimaginable violence and destruction in the hopes that we can prevent unimaginable violence and destruction.  Clavius paid tribute to Mars by leaving coins in front of the statue’s feet.  We pay tribute in the billions of dollars thrown at the feet of our weapons.  Clavius prayed to an empty figure, one that could do nothing to help him in his search for Jesus.  We pray to our weapons, glorifying them and their use, painting heroic pictures of muscle-bound men wielding them in an attempt to destroy the enemy.  It doesn’t appear that we are much different today than Clavius was 2,000 years ago.

Clavius’ appeals to Mars got him no closer to Jesus.  Our appeals to our weapons don’t get us closer to Jesus, either.  And if we aren’t getting closer to him, it seems to me  that we are really moving farther and farther away from him.

I am no idealist, thinking we can just throw all these things away and all will be peaceful and quiet.  There are those in other places in the world that don’t like those of us in the US, and they are itching to do us great harm.  It seems to me that we – the human race “we” – have really blown it with the instructions Jesus gave us.  At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus, just before ascending to the Father, tells the Apostles “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  

That’s a pretty clear message of what we are supposed to do.  It doesn’t say anything about using our scarce resources to build weapons that can kill hundreds of millions of people, unleash forces so destructive that nothing can survive, or pay enormous tribute to our modern Mars.  Yet that’s what we do.  Our world sees far too much anger, violence and death due to our worship of Mars, in spite of the fact that we were clearly shown the way to peace.

I highly recommend “Risen.”  It is well written and superbly acted.  I was emotionally overcome in one scene in particular, which I won’t tell you about for fear of spoiling it for you.  There were not any surprises regarding the whereabouts of the corpse of Jesus, because there was no corpse.  In order to have a corpse, there must be a death – without a Resurrection.

I am thankful that the MX missile is now standing harmless at the entrance to the Base.  Would that the rest of the weapons that threaten our world become museum pieces as well.

 

 

February 16, 2016
Empty

Empty

Ever looked at a playground at night?

I never really paid attention to one until tonight. Every Tuesday we have a meeting of a club I have belonged to for 7 years.  This is a club that is 114 years old and has existed in its current format since the beginning.

We hold our meetings in a building in a park, and next to the buildings is a playground.  As a child, my idea of a playground wasn’t much more than monkey bars on asphalt. Today that just wouldn’t do, despite the sort of romantic notions we hold over the things of the past.  Some kid falling from the top of the bars and hitting the deck below would be in serious trouble. Today’s playgrounds are much, much safer, and, frankly, appear to be a lot more fun than those monkeybars.

Tonight as I walked across the parking lot and into the meeting, I saw the silhouette of the playground. Here was this place of immense joy and laughter, and it was empty and dark.  That about sums up how I felt tonight going into, and coming out of, this meeting.

The emptiness and darkness were not for me.  Rather, they are for a some members of the club who are going through unspeakable hardship right now.  Rather than detail things, suffice it to say their conditions are not what anyone in his right mind would choose.

Yet here they are at the meeting, men of whom I have grown very fond over the years.  Knowing of their fear, anxiety and profound sadness, I can’t help but believe they come to the meetings for the friendship and support they know that is theirs.  My intention is to breathe in their troubles and breathe out purified air, cleansed by the goodness of God, so that they can breathe again themselves.  The Buddhists have a word for this practice – tonglen.  These guys need all of it they can get.

I left the meeting with a heavy heart, knowing that in spite of the enjoyment of the meeting, these two were facing trials that should have precluded their enjoyment of the meeting, but did not.

So this melancholy is not from them, but only because I feel the pain that encompasses them now.  May God bless them both.

A dark playground is a lonely place.  Darkness in our lives can be lonely as well.  We can pray that God shows us his everlasting love.

Ash Wednesday

February 9, 2016
Warning

Warning

As I write this, its about 10:45 pm.  This is much later for me to be awake than is normal, but I’ve got a couple things on my mind.  This barricade is the first one.

My office at the chancery is right across the alley from the Cathedral of St. Mary in Cheyenne.  We have a parking lot behind the office that belongs to the Diocese of Cheyenne, but we lease it out to the state of Wyoming for parking for employees.  A couple times a year, most notably Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we tell the state employees to find other parking accommodations because we need the parking for Mass during the day.  (Good Friday isn’t a Mass, but you get the idea.)

That’s when these barricades go up the night before.  I don’t believe I have ever seen them stuck in snowbanks before, but it is effective in making sure they are seen.  Tomorrow the lot will be filled several times, as Ash Wednesday Mass will be celebrated 5 times before the day is over, and it is likely that each Mass will be full.

That’s not the case for most Sundays.  Sundays have 5 Masses as well, but, while they are well-attended, they don’t get full like they do on Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday is, for many parishes, the most well-attended Masses of the year, beating out Christmas and Easter.

Here is the speculation as to why that is.  From a cynical point of view, and Church workers can often be cynical, people come because they get something – a smudged cross on their foreheads.  I think there may be some validity to that, but not a lot.  I do not believe people would be that shallow.  They can get smudged in a lot of places, so they don’t have to go sit in a crowded church for an hour with a bunch of people they don’t know.

My own hypothesis on why Ash Wednesday is so well attended is because people WANT something, something that they can’t get in their everyday not-Church world.

They see the shallowness of their existence without God.  They see that people who are regular church-goers are happier, more fulfilled, and living longer lives.  They see that churchy-types have more substance, more gravitas, than those who always sleep in on Sundays.

The people who show up on Ash Wednesday, who may not have been to Mass in a long, long time, are hungry.  They are hungry for God, they are hungry for the substance that Faith puts in their lives.  They want what the churchies have, and getting Ashes on their foreheads, on a day of fasting and prayer, is one way to get started down that road.

On the other hand, I won’t be going to Mass tomorrow.  No ashes for me for the first time in many, many years.  I can’t remember the last time I missed Ash Wednesday Mass.  Instead, I’ll be in a surgical center in Colorado getting my shoulder fixed.  As far as surgeries go, it’s not a big deal.  15 minutes of instruments repairing some tears, then a few days of recovery.  For me, however, I am more worried than I ought to be.  In an irrational mindset, I am imagining everything going wrong that can, which is why I am awake tapping out these words on my computer.  I asked our bishop to anoint me tonight, which he did, then prayed over me for successful surgery and healing, and guidance for the medical team working on me tomorrow.

I don’t imagine I will post anything tomorrow, but you never know.  It might be funny as I write while under the influence of pain killers.  Still, in that addled state of mind, I might make more sense than I usually do.

Now that I’ve written all this, it occurred to me that the answer to sleep isn’t typing, it’s remembering that I can hand my worries over to God.  He can take care of me, and I can go to sleep.

I won’t have to worry about the crowds in the morning, and some parishioner taking my parking spot, because I won’t be there.  I will, however, be overjoyed that someone tomorrow will come back to the Lord because he/she got  a smeared cross on their forehead.

February 7, 2016
Look up

Look up

It’s easy to look straight ahead, and to look down as well.  How many times do we look up?

Today Sherry and I went to Mass at St. Joseph’s church in Cheyenne.  I usually don’t take my camera to Mass, but today I wanted some pictures of the pastor, Fr. Carl Gallinger, as he greeted parishioners as they arrived to celebrate the Eucharist.

It was quite cold, and Fr. Carl was braving the wind and meeting his people.  I got the pictures I was looking for, and then I looked up and saw the bell tower and the cross on the very top of the church.

Setting aside the dramatic setting of the cross against the azure sky, this is a fitting illustration of today’s Gospel.  Luke’s last sentence tells us of Simon, James and John “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.”

Looking up at a bell tower equating to fisherman leaving their nets may seem a bit of a stretch, but here is my thinking.  The Apostles weren’t expecting Jesus, especially not the full nets they had after the Lord told them to put them in the water.  The cross against the sky was not expected either.  The Apostles dropped everything to follow Jesus.

Well, I guess there really isn’t any clear connection.

I love the cross and the sky, and I really love the last sentence of today’s Gospel.  Maybe it’s just the joy I feel when I see that cross and realize the gift that Jesus gave us.  Maybe it’s the knowledge that the Apostles were willing to give up everything to follow Jesus, and eternal life is mine if I do the same thing.

Lot’s to think about while standing in the cold taking pictures.

Lamb of God

February 5, 2016
Behold the Lamb of God

Behold the Lamb of God

I’ve shown other stained glass windows on these pages, and each time I shoot them I am awestruck by their beauty.  Here’s the really weird thing – This image, and most of the others I have put here, are from my parish church, yet I would be hard pressed to say that I have seen them before.

Today I didn’t even intend to shoot a window.  Rather, I had an idea about a rack of pamphlets and brochures that I thought would be interesting.  When I took that shot, it wasn’t anything I would show to anyone else.  Then as I looked around and saw the light coming through this window, and I knew what I had to do.

Which is ironic.  Or perhaps Providential.  So often when we are looking for something, we just can’t see it, even if it is right in front of us.  Our lives are like that on a regular basis, always looking for something better, a different way.  We are often driven like this because of anger, or despair, or frustration, or hurt.

We scan horizons, we look in books, we search Youtube for answers to all our questions, yet they all leave lingering doubts as to their validity.

Today I was looking for one thing, but found THE thing.  The Lamb of God, Jesus our Lord and Savior, was right in front of me.  This was the brightest window.  Whatever we are looking for, Jesus is the answer.

Keep your eyes peeled, and your heart open.  Jesus is everywhere, and sometimes he is right THERE.

What’s on your desk?

January 26, 2016
My view

My view

We all have hard jobs, and none of us can do them alone.

I have constant reminders on my desk that not only can I not do my job alone, there is no reason for me to think I should do it alone.  These images of the Blessed Mother with the infant Jesus, the Holy Family, and St. Michael the Archangel vanquishing the evil one remind me that I am not alone, and that my prayers are carried to the Lord whenever I ask for that assistance.

Some of my Protestant brothers and sisters hold the mistaken notion that when we have images of Mary, Joseph, the Angels and Saints, that we are committing idolatry because (they believe) we are praying to the images.  That is simply not the case, however, as these images are just reminders of the fact that they are able to help us in our prayers as they intercede with God on our behalf.

Another wonderful aspect of having these images in my office is the sheer artistic beauty of the pieces themselves.  I was given each of these as a gift, and I remember distinctly opening up the package that contained this framed image of Mary and Jesus and weeping. It was such a beautiful, wondrous work of art, making me think of how much Mary loved her son, and how much Jesus and Mary both love me.

I have many images of Mary and Jesus in my office, as well as Angels and Saints, giving me comfort and joy whenever I see them.  Knowing that they see me as I work, working for the glory of God in all I do, makes me content in my labors.

Hard jobs don’t have to be lonely jobs.  We may have been given great responsibilities, but we were never given them with the warning that we were on our own.

Holy Hour – Right to Life Weekend

January 22, 2016

Adoration

Down in Adoration falling,This great Sacrament we hail;
Over ancient forms of worshipNewer rites of grace prevail;
Faith will tell us Christ is present,When our human senses fail.To the everlasting Father,And the Son who made us free,
And the Spirit, God proceedingFrom them Each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,Might and endless majesty. Amen.

Blessed be God.
Blessed be his holy name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the name of Jesus.
Blessed be his most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be his most Precious Blood.
Blessed be Jesus in the most holy sacrament of the altar.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, virgin and Mother.
Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
Blessed be God in his angels and in his saints.
Amen.

 

 

January 19, 2016
Another day at the office

Another day at the office

I find it utterly amazing that I get to do what I do.

I’m in Casper for a meeting of our clergy.  We have these meetings, or Institutes, twice a year. The one we have in January is just for the clergy, and while I am definitely not clergy, I always attend.  It’s a working trip, as I schedule meetings and hold workshops.

After the meetings we go to Mass.  Our Bishop is the celebrant, and we have 40 priests concelebrating. We also have 25 deacons in attendance as well, making this an extraordinary event.

Our priests and deacons are wonderful men.  So very dedicated and filled with the Spirit.  I have great love and respect for every one of them.

All this getting-together is for a couple reasons:  The exchange of information, education, and sharing the sacraments.  But the real reason is …

Jesus.

Plain and simple, without Jesus there is no Church, no priests, no Institute.  The Church is the Church of Jesus Christ, who is still its head.

Yup, it’s great.  And amazing.

The Future

December 30, 2015
Into the distance

Into the distance

In a little corner of Cheyenne that isn’t traveled much, there is a stack of preformed railroad tracks stacked up next to a main line.  They remind me of the preformed fence sections showcased at Home Depot. Dropping a 40 foot section of track in the right place would be considerably more difficult. an require a whole different set of equipment, than putting up an 8 foot section of cedar fence.

Railroad tracks as a symbol of the future are really cliche.  I hesitated to shoot these for that very reason, yet the more I look at them, the more it makes me ask myself some of those “future” questions.

Even the questions are cliche, and can seem an exercise in navel-gazing, especially when I place them in a public forum such as this.  Where am I going? What will I do? How will things turn out?  It’s a lot like gazing into the Magic 8 Ball and expecting an answer that really means something.

All those questions are about the unknown, and the only reason we ask them are because we want to know!  We have this insatiable thirst to know what will be. This makes no sense at all, as we cannot possibly know what will happen.  We can make educated guesses that are based on what has already happened, but even those are subject to a providential U-turn that defies explanation and rationality.

This has been the way of humanity forever.  There have always been people who want to know what will happen in the future, and also those who proclaim to have that knowledge.

Jesus, however,  tells us that that’s a pointless exercise.  In Matthew’s Gospel, he tells us all we need to know about this subject.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?o Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?   Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. (Mt 6:24-27; 36)

That’s pretty good advice, to stop worrying about tomorrow.

The next time you look at a section of railroad tracks heading off into the distance, just ask what it took to put them there, and not what it means for your life.


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