New Year’s Resolutions are NOT a Joke!

By , December 31, 2010 4:43 am

We all know the lines.  I am going to take off 20 pounds, I am going to save 5% of my paycheck, I am going to stop complaining about my brother-in-law, etc., etc., etc.  We talk about them and them we laugh and we go on about our business without any real serious effort or change. This is a misuse of a valuable tool for self-improvement.

As a new year begins and we look into the future, asking ourselves will 2011 be just another rerun of 2010 and 2009, it doesn’t have to be.  We all know people who solve their problems, who overcome their weaknesses and who make life easier for those around them.  We should all attempt to move ourselves in that direction.  I think that one of the richest areas for self-improvement is to do some soul searching and honestly identify the weaknesses that we have that make life difficult for the people around us.  Those changes are not easy but they can be measured with some degree of accuracy.

The Church has a long and rich tradition of the importance of self-examination and of spiritual goal setting.  Let’s take advantage of this important symbolic date and look into the future with honesty and resolve.

Onward through the fog.

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End of the Year Thoughts

By , December 30, 2010 3:25 am

With Christmas behind us and the New Year not yet arrivcd, this could be a good week to meditate on ourselves and how we are doing with the world around us. Try these few today:

Be brave and realistic.

Everything can change in the blink of an eye but don’t worry, GOD NEVER BLINKS.

Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

Your children get only one childhood.

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On the Road Again…

By , December 29, 2010 3:20 am

The week between Christmas and New Years is not all that productive for most of us. For that reason, I am going to take off for a few days. However, my editor refuses to release me of the responsibility of saying something on the blog, so I am going to take a shortcut and borrow someone else’s work…

I was given a beautiful series of pictures from Norway with simple sentences on the bottom of each one. They are described as lessons in our life and I think that most of them, although obvious, are very meaningful. Here are a few more snippets while I continue on the road.

Life isn’t fair but it is still good.

Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

Make peace with your past so it wont mess up the present.

It is okay to let your children see you cry; it is better to let them see you PRAY.

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Friends of the Poor…May God Bless Them Always

By , December 28, 2010 4:36 am

As we move into January, designated by the National Catholic Campaign for Human Development as National Poverty Awareness Month, we have been touching on people who are making a difference in the lives of the poor and the vulnerable. A person and a ministry that I want to mention today is maybe one of the smallest but most symbolic and meaningful.  I am referring to Austin’s Mary House Catholic Worker.  This is just a private residence owned by an extraordinary minister to the homeless.  Her name is Lynn Goodman-Strauss, a convert from Judaism and a dedicated apostle of Dorothy Day where the poor, the sick, and the homeless are always welcomed.   The “guests” come in unexpectedly, arriving from the street and unable to deal with a multitude of chronic illnesses, emotional problems and hunger.  No one is turned away.

Do you want to see the Church working at its best?  Go by the Catholic Worker House of Hospitability and see if you can help.  The address is 711-B King Edward Place in South Central Austin, (512) 447-0963, http://maryhouseaustin.wordpress.com/2010/08/

The Catholic Worker House will be celebrating its 20th anniversary with Mass at
St. Ignatius Martyr Church at 1:00 p.m. on January 15
th.  I’ll be there.  I hope that you can too!

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I’m Not Just that Guy on the Corner!

By , December 27, 2010 3:27 am

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which does an extraordinarily good job of trying to sensitize the 80% of us who are comfortably settled to an awareness of the reality and suffering that accompanies the agonizing poverty that has always been part of our society but is worse today than it has been in decades.  CCHD has designated January as a Poverty Awareness Month.  Awareness?  Awareness?  Why do we need to be made more aware of the reality of poverty?

The reality is that the vast majority of us are moderately comfortable and the way that our society is structured separates us from people who are really in dire straits as far as housing, food and clothing are concerned.  Oh yes, as we drive around town, we see people standing at red light intersections with a poorly made sign telling us that they are really in trouble and that anything will help.   I feel confident that if you got out and did a check, you would see that the vast majority of us do not look these people directly in the eye, don’t reach into our handful of quarters or dollar bills that are stashed in their ashtrays for parking meters.  After all, that guy is probably a real phony and is making more by begging than I am by working!

The Campaign for Human Development tries to make us more aware of why people are poor and the economic forces that produce expansion and then contraction of the amount of money that is available to the general population.  Tens of thousands of workers are idle in Detroit.  Do any of us really think that it is their fault?

The latest statistics indicate that there are more than 40 million people in poverty in our country.  That is the highest number since the late 1950’s and the greatest increase is among children and the elderly.

If you want to learn more about the poverties around us that we do not see, visit one or the other of these websites.

www.ccctx.org/poverty_stats_deaneries.php

www.ccctx.org/advocacy_deaneries.php

www.austindiocese.org/dept/social_concerns/cchd.php

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The Nativity of Our Lord, December 25th: A Child is Born to Us

By , December 24, 2010 1:57 am

Happy holidays!  Happy holidays? Happy holidays, indeed!

Several years ago, a number of department stores started directing their employees to stop wishing people a Merry Christmas and indeed to merely say happy holidays.  It is a free country and there is nothing wrong with that but it doesn’t do to people what a joyful expression from the heart that says Merry Christmas or, in other words, I wish you joy as we celebrate Christ’s Mass!

For the past 2,000 years, there has been so much pain, so much crime, so much disappointment that it is hard to see how people maintain some type of basic optimism and hope.  I think one of the things we do maintain is Christmas Day.  We celebrate and we remember that God’s love for the human family, so infinitely strong and beyond the ability of any one of us to comprehend it, is so wonderful, so complete that he himself stepped into our story, dealt with us in a nature identical with our own, except in all things of sin, lived with us, walked with us, taught us and ultimately offered his life in an agonizing act of obedience to his Heavenly Father.

Christ’s Mass has no meaning apart from Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  Jesus has come to us, Jesus will redeem us so it would not be improper to say Merry Christmas and Happy Easter, Merry Christmas and Happy Easter.   They go together, so yes, Happy Holidays!

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Angela House…the Nun, the Cop, the Savior

By , December 23, 2010 4:59 am

Back in 2001, a wonderful Dominican sister named Maureen O’Connell (doesn’t it sound grand?) was all too clearly aware of problems that beset women as they transitioned from incarceration into the community.  Maureen had been in the criminal justice system before entering the convent.  In other words, she had been a cop!  She knew all too well that most women who enter the prison system have already been crushed by burdens that they faced and tragically the system does very little to rehabilitate them.  Sister Maureen decided that she would step in and make a difference, and what a difference she has made over those nine years.

Over 170 women have been re-established as they transition from incarceration to the dangerous world of freedom.  That is 170 human beings who have been given a new lease on life, battered human beings.  Angela House, with the loving eye of Sister Maureen O’Connell, has experienced incredible success.  Three graduates of Angela House are now employed as house managers, another is a contributing member of the board and countless women have returned to volunteer to share their own personal successes and encourage one another, and at times because life is real, share their sorrows.

I am extraordinarily proud of Sister Maureen O’Connell.  It is another magnificent example of what can be done when one person decides to generously and effectively deal with life’s issues.

God bless you, Sister.  God bless Angela House.

Anyone wishing to help can reach Sister through her office at 425 Shane, #18, Houston, Texas 77037, (281) 445-9696, www.angelahouse.org.

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Posada Esperanza is wonderful too!

By , December 22, 2010 4:53 am

Yesterday, I mentioned Casa Marianella, a wonderful emergency shelter for male immigrants who need assistance in getting settled in a new country, especially in view of the fact that for most of these men they have not yet achieved any working knowledge of English.

Casa Marianella has a sister house called Posada Esperanza, which does for women and children what Casa Marianella does for male immigrants.  Posada Esperanza has better facilities, is clean and orderly, and since I have dined there a few times, I know that the food is excellent.  Jennifer Long directs Casa Marianella and her counterpart over at Posada Esperanza is Patti McCabe.  I am happy to say that these two entities work very well together and the Casa/Posada staff of volunteers is extraordinarily generous and effective.  May God bless them all.

A wonderful thing about these two extraordinary places is that both are able to deliver their services 24 hours a day, seven days a week without any type of backing from any type of large organization or sponsors.  The sponsors are the generous people who make it happen.  May their number increase.

You may not be able to assist a frightened immigrant yourself.  Give some thought to helping one or the other of these two wonderful islands of love and generosity.

Again, their contact information:

Jennifer Long, Casa Marianella, 821 Gunter Street, Austin, Texas 78702, (512) 385-5571, Patti McCabe, Posada Esperanza, (512) 928-8862 http://www.casamarianella.org/posada-facility.asp

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Casa Marianella – an Island of Help

By , December 21, 2010 1:48 am

Have you ever been traveling overseas in a country where you did not speak the language and had your wallet lost or stolen?  For most of us, it would be a very unpleasant situation.  You don’t have money and you can’t communicate.  It is really quite frightening.

For most Americans, however, the situation can be corrected within a day or two.  We have friends, we have access to funds, renewed credit cards, etc., etc.  What about a person coming to the United States with no knowledge of English, no money and no connections?  That is the situation in which many immigrants find themselves.  Who is going to help them?

Well, thankfully, the United States of America is filled with generous people who remember that their grandparents or great-grandparents were once in that position.  They had to struggle and fight and save and pull themselves into stable situations where they could fall in love, marry, have children and pass on the wonderful gift of being able to live in the United States of America.

Happily, I am able to report in virtually every sizable city in the United States informal, nongovernmental facilities have been developed by generous, hard working people who understand the plight of the immigrant.  One such facility is located here and operates under the title of Casa Marianella.

Casa Marianella is a haven and a safe place for male immigrants in which to help these new Americans settle in, learn English, get jobs, become citizens and be productive.  Casa Marianella’s facilities are stark to say the least.  It is crowded, somewhat disorderly due to that crowding but it provides an atmosphere of peace and comradeship to its guests, all of whom are urged to get out on their own as quickly as possible.  The Casa has a wonderful staff of volunteers but the driving force in the delivery of its services is accomplished under the leadership of Jennifer Long.  She has been at the Casa for about as long as I have been in Austin.  She does a magnificent job and she and the Casa can always use help.

Jennifer and her co-workers can be reached at Casa Marianella, 821 Gunter Street, Austin, Texas 78702, (512) 385-5571, http://www.casamarianella.org/

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Individual Witness Generates Substantial Change and New Directions

By , December 20, 2010 1:39 am

I have been a priest for 54 years and more than half of that time was spent as a bishop.  People are always asking me how I liked the work and were always curious about “what do you do?”  My favorite answer to that was always that being a bishop was much like either being an orchestra leader or a fireman.  As an orchestra leader, I tied all the various programs of the diocese together, never made a sound and, like the man with the baton, got credit for everything.  As a fireman, I found myself constantly putting out fires generated by hypersensitive people who took everything too seriously.

I have given a great deal of thought to the pleasure and pain of those 54 years and there is one thing that I would like to mention to the readers today, and that is one particular aspect of the office of bishop that I enjoyed tremendously.  That was the fact that I was in a position, time after time- dozens and possibly hundreds of times- to see extraordinarily wonderful things, good and generous things, important things, generated by an individual person who saw a problem and had the courage to undertake at least a partial solution.  I salute those people and thank God for what they have done for others, and I was certainly one of their beneficiaries.

I think I am going to take these programs up one by one and fill you in on so much extraordinary generosity that is accomplished so very quietly with little fanfare or publicity.  I will start tomorrow with Casa Marianella over in East Austin.

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