Celebrity deaths offer an opportunity for reflection

Mortality has had a breakout month. With the passing of four bigger-than-life personalities  –– ­ Ed McMahon, Billy Mays, Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson  –– we all feel a bit less bulletproof.

Maybe Americans also feel a bit more religious. After all, from our secular society quickly came statements such as “ Ed and Johnny are back together,” “Michael has finally found peace,” and “Farah is singing with the angels.”

The monumental nature of these four deaths no doubt has been cause for reflection. Death will not stay off to the side.  It can and will intrude, sometimes in noteworthy ways.

Recently, when I was in Florida for our annual vacation, one of the families we were with had the need for a doctor and visited the local “doc in a box”. She confided that even back home she went to these impersonal clinics. “I am looking for a quick fix, not a relationship,” she said. 

I thought this was a symptom of what ails society. It seems we try to put everything in its “box.”

Parents, partner with Christ this August

Moms and dads of school-aged children, beware! It’s August, when the days are hot and sultry.  The kids are lounging their days away, saturated with summer and rapidly tiring of too much time off. “I’m bored,” “There’s nothing to do in this house,” “Why can’t we go out of town like my friend’s family?”

August is the month to sharpen your sense of humor. School days are ever so slowly approaching, but in the meantime, how do you manage?

Now is not the time to sweat the small stuff. Your children text message you at work. It’s the 12th phone call, e-mail or text in less than two hours. Keep that sense of humor. If the kids stop contacting you, you have cause to sweat.

I was often so tired at the end of a hot August day that it was an effort for me just to turn the corners of my mouth into a smile for one of my little ones.

Travel light; store up treasures in heaven

“Wife have too many shoes?”   

The billboard on Interstate 94 caught my eye. The solution it advertised, off the next exit, was not a Goodwill or a therapist, but a storage unit. Why get rid of the stilettos when you can pay $50 a month to stash them somewhere else?

Millions of Americans have purchased storage, locking up the Hummel dolls, tax returns and soccer trophies they don’t need but can’t quite part with. At the end of 2008, self-storage facilities occupied 2.35 billion square feet, making it physically possible for every American to stand under the total canopy of self-storage roofing.   

My canopy of choice has been the ping-pong table in my parents’ basement, beneath which you’ll find Mead spiral-bound notebooks detailing my introduction to the Pythagorean theorem and the periodic table. Those royal blue and Kelly green pads signal such youthful diligence that they have not yet made their way to the recycling bin they warrant.

Priesthood means giving self completely to Christ

The saving sacrifice of Jesus, our Priest, upon the altar of the cross is made present in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The mystery of the cross is the mystery of living fully every vocation. Jesus calls us to be faithful to our calling by denying ourselves and to take up our cross. In the celebration of the Rite of Ordination to the priesthood, the bishop challenges the newly ordained to “model your life after the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”

Surrender to God’s will to receive grace, true happiness

For the last 50 years or so, there has been greater assertion of individual freedom and rights. The women’s movement was initiated, gained much support and made a profound change in attitudes and lives.

While individuals in virtually all walks of life are claiming their rights and fighting for them, women and minorities have experienced very deep alterations in patterns of living. Racial discrimination has been greatly diminished; occupations other than nursing, teaching and secretarial work are successfully filled by women; and personal abuse is tolerated less.

Attitudinal and legal changes have evoked many benefits for countless persons. However, there is one “flip side” which is an underlying belief that proclaims: “Nobody is going to tell me what to do.”  It can be difficult to surrender our will to the Lord.

Joyful priesthood one of family, brotherhood

My call to priesthood came in October 1962. I was in the eighth grade, serving Mass for a novena of prayer in my parish, St. Louise de Marillac in Jennings, in preparation for the Second Vatican Council.

When I told Father Jack Burke I was planning to apply to St. Louis University High School, he suggested that I consider the seminary high school. I did and was accepted. I graduated in 1967, then attended Cardinal Glennon College. I was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1975. Clearly my parish priest was instrumental in my priestly vocation.

My call developed in various phases: When I was in high school I wanted to be a priest because I saw my parish priest as a model; when I was in college I was attracted to the Church’s role in bringing about improvements in society in terms of service to the poor, race relations and promoting justice; when I was in the School of Theology I saw my priestly vocation as who I was called to be according to the plan of God.

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