Dear CDA Sisters,
Someone said there are basically two kinds of people in the world: those who divide people into two kinds of people and those who do not. The prophet Jeremiah does indeed say that there are two kinds of people (see Jeremiah 17:5-10). One kind he calls cursed and the other he calls blessed.
The life of the cursed he compares to a low bush in the desert, inhabiting a parched and desolate wilderness. The life of the blessed, on the other hand, he compares to a tree planted by the waters that spreads its roots out by the river. Its leaves are green; its fruit is bountiful. Two kinds of people. For one life is meaningless, empty, without hope or promise. For the other life is purposeful, rich, and full of promise, hope and good cheer. Two kinds of people. To which group would you like to belong?
If you would like to belong to the first group here’s what you need to do—absolutely nothing. If you want your life to be meaningless all you have to do is just sit there. It’s easy to live in a desert. All you have to do is withdraw into yourself. What can be easier than that? Make up your mind that you are the only person in this world that matters—your wishes, your pleasures, your way. Spend your life looking out for number 1. Turn your back on any relationship or reality that requires sacrifice, patience, generosity or love—or a cross. It’s easy to be a low bush in the desert.
On the other hand, if you want to join that other group—the group that is like a tree planted by the water with its roots spreading out to the river, with its green leaves and bounteous fruits, there are a couple steps we must take.
In the first place, we need to learn to trust God. It is not enough to worship God, or honor God, or fear God, or simply believe in God. Our lives will be barren deserts until we learn to trust God. We are strange people. We put on our coins that marvelous inscription “In God we trust.” But it seems to have little ring of truth to it. As a nation, we would be more honest if we inscribed on our money: “In our military might do we trust;” “In our economic superiority do we trust;” “In our technological expertise do we trust.” It is difficult to find some semblance of trust in God in the way we conduct our life as a nation. That is also true in the way we live our lives as individuals. As Jeremiah said: “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him” (Jeremiah 17:7)
Secondly, we need to see the possibilities God offers us. God has some rich possibilities for your life. For one thing, you can learn to genuinely care about people: people you live with, people you work with, people you run into on the job, at church or in an organization like the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. You can learn to get involved and make a contribution. God can make a new person out of you. As someone has put it: “He can turn your scars into stars.” He can put a smile back on your lips. He can make your life a blessing to others. He can give you something to live for and work for and hope for—when you try to be a blessing for others.
The choice is ours on how we live our life. Two kinds of people. So which are you—a thriving tree or a withering bush?
In 1962 Clare Boothe Luce, the first American woman appointed to a major ambassadorial post abroad and a devout Catholic, offered some advice to President John F. Kennedy. “A great man,” she told to him, “is a sentence.” Abraham Lincoln’s sentence was: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.” Franklin Roosevelt’s sentence was: “He lifted us out of the Great Depression and helped us win a world war.” Luce feared that Kennedy’s attention was so splintered among different priorities that his “sentence” risked becoming a “muddled paragraph.”
As you contemplate your purpose for being, your plan for life, begin with the big question:
What is your sentence?
A former pro football player named Bubba Smith came face to face with his sentence many years ago. After a very successful career in professional football, he was recruited to appear in a series of commercials for Miller Lite beer. But Smith walked away from the job because he didn’t like the effect drinking had on people and he realize that he was contributing to a significant social problem. In a magazine article about his life, he said that neither beer nor any other alcoholic beverage had ever been part of his life. He advertised Miller Lite beer because it was an easy job and it paid a good salary. Until one day he went back to his college alma mater as the Grand Marshal of their Homecoming parade. As he was riding in a limousine, he heard throngs of people on both sides of the parade route shouting “Tastes great” and “Less filling” which were slogans Miller Lite used to promote their products. Smith suddenly realized that he and the beer commercials had a tremendous impact on the students at Michigan State.
Later during Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale, he saw drunken college kids up and down the beach shouting “Tastes great! Less Filling.” So when it came time for his contract to be renewed, he refused to sign because he did not want his life to be identified with beer. He did not want his sentence to be: “Tastes Great! Less filling!” So he walked away from a multi-million dollar contract.
What sentence will one day summarize your life? “She was a great mother.” “She kept a spotless home.” “She wore the cutest outfits.”
How about if that sentence was: “She was a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ.”
What would you do? You make the choice. Don't look for a punch line to the following story, there isn't one. Read the story and ask yourself this question: would you have made the same choice?
At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: 'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?' The audience became still at his question.
The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled, comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.' Then he went on to tell them of the following incident: Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.
So I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'
Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and they let him play in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.
At this point, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!'
Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!' Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home. All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'
Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay, run to third!' As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!' Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team. 'That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world'.
Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy and coming home and seeing his mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!
A wise person once said every society is judged by how it treats it's least fortunate amongst them.
From Our Chaplain:
As you may know our Holy Father Pope Francis will be visiting the United States in September. Part of his itinerary is to meet at the White House as well as speak to the United Nations in New York. However, the primary purpose of his visit is to address the World Meeting of Families which is to take place in Philadelphia.
“Held every three years and sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the World Meeting of Families is the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families. Each World Meeting of Families has a theme that energizes and enlivens the event while adding great depth of meaning to our understanding of families. The theme of the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 is Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive, emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on our society. Since its inception by Saint John Paul II in 1994, the World Meeting of Families has strengthened the sacred bonds of families across the globe.”
Here at Saint Louis, we have a wonderful new ministry that supports our Holy Father’s intent--a ministry that I’d like you to think about joining called: Pilgrimage to the Holy Family. It’s a beautiful way to help strengthen the families of our parish through prayer. This is the way it works: each week participants pray for a particular family in our parish by name. Participants receive an email with a photo of that family and their particular prayer requests. That’s it!—no meetings, no travel, no dues—just praying for a particular family. If you would like you could also request to be the prayer family that week and we will pray for you and your family intentions. The prayer family receives an image of the Holy Family and prays a beautiful chaplet each day. At the beginning of the next week the image of the Holy Family is passed on to the next prayer family.
One of the wonderful side-effects is that by way of the email photo, you will get to know names and faces of parishioners. More importantly you will be entering into the purpose for which Pope Francis is coming to Philadelphia: to strengthen families!
Archbishop Lori and I have been participants of this ministry since it was brought to my attention by a family of our parish: Francis and Kathleen Rybinski. If you would like to join or for more information feel free to contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org –they would love to hear from you!