Yesterday I posted in I Love Because of You that I came up with the lyrics to the song of the same name while I was driving west across Iowa through 300 miles of non-visually stimulating cornfields on my way to the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. What I didn’t say was that the same cornfields offered no improvement on the return trip.
The Jerry Jeff Walker CD, It’s About Time, which provided the inspiration for I Love Because of You, was still in the player so I hit play, cranked it up and started singing along. The first song on the album is titled That’s Why I Play, which is an upbeat lively tune about the fun of playing music. As I belted out the words with operatic fervor I mistakenly said, “that’s why I pray”, and realized I had just come up with the basis for another new song. Creating the verses and the chorus and dictating them into my phone kept me busy for the next couple hundred miles. After tweaking them a little bit, I thought I would share this song with you, too. I hope you like it. (Hint: listen to the original tune and then incorporate the new verses into the tune). Thanks again to Jerry Jeff for the tune and to God for the inspiration.
That’s Why I Pray – Lyrics by Jerry Robinson
I woke up this morning and thought what will I do with my day I could stare at my screen and just let my day waste away. Or I could stay off of Facebook And open the Good Book And let the Lord lead the way Yeah, that’s why I pray.
I could pour me some coffee and go out and watch the sunrise, And marvel at the beauty He makes and the clouds in the sky, The birds and the bees, The flowers and trees, And give Him thanks for this day That’s why I pray
Chorus I like the feeling I get from the One up above I like the feeling I get lost in His love When we make time to talk every day That’s why I pray
I have some friends who need a little help every day And a few others who’ve let the world lead them astray Now, I’m trusting in You To pull them all through I know they’ll all be okay, That’s why I pray
I like the feeling I get from the One up above I like the feeling I get lost in His love When we make time to talk every day That’s why I pray
I know there’s a better life waiting for me down the road When I pass from this world, that’s where I want to go But since a Saint’s life for me Is no guarantee I need to live like Christ every day That’s why I pray
I like the feeling I get from the One up above I like the feeling I get lost in His love When we make time to talk every day That’s why I pray
Yeah, that’s why I pray That’s why I pray.
(That’s Why I Pray was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
Last week I went for a little drive. From Cincinnati to Rapid City, South Dakota and back. Just 1,225 miles each way. I visited family and took the opportunity to do a little fly fishing in the Black Hills. I caught a few trout including this 16 inch Rainbow on a #22 Midge on what was going to be my last cast of the day.
The Black Hills are always stunningly beautiful, and with the fall foliage contrasting with the deep blue of the sky, they are even more so this time of year.
But, to get to the Black Hills of South Dakota, I had to traverse from east to west the entire state of Iowa. It is difficult to describe the corn fields of Iowa with quite the same picturesque enthusiasm. I’m not saying corn isn’t beautiful in its own way, but 300 miles of it got a little boring.
Somewhere just west of Davenport, I slid in Jerry Jeff Walker’s CD, It’s About Time, a good sing along album, to break the monotony. Track 3 is titled Because of You, a love song to his wife about how their loving relationship changed his life. I thought about that a bit and transferred the idea to how our lives change when we turn to and have a loving relationship with Christ. And, by the time I made it to Sioux City, I had four verses and a chorus written to that tune (there are only three verses in the original song). I’m sharing them with you here. Thank you, Jerry Jeff, for the tune, and thank You, Lord, for the love You give and for the inspiration to write this.
I Love Because of You – Lyrics by Jerry Robinson
I never knew Your love, Lord, all those years ago, I turned my back on You, and I chose to go alone. But when I hit the bottom Some friends brought me to You, And everything I love now, I love because of You.
You knew I needed love, Lord, so You gave to me my wife, A partner for the good and hard times in my life. You gave us beautiful daughters, Sons, and grandkids, too, And everyone I love now, I love because of You
Chorus Jesus, You have loved me for all my life, Your grace and mercy are a love that’s true, So, I want to thank You And give my loving heart to You ‘Cause everything I love in life I love because of You.
There’re a lot of people, Lord, who struggle every day, There’re hungry and there’re homeless, and those who’ve lost their way. You say to love our neighbor ‘Cause that’s what good folks do. So, everyone I love now, I love because of You.
Jesus, You have loved me for all my life, Your grace and mercy are a love that’s true, So, I want to thank You And give my loving heart to You ‘Cause everything I love in life I love because of You.
There’s no greater love, Lord, than what You did for me, You sacrificed Your own life on a cross on Calvary. Yet, You still sustain me With Your blood and body, too, And everything I love now I love because of You.
Jesus, You have loved me for all my life, Your grace and mercy are a love that’s true, So, I want to thank You And give my loving heart to You ‘Cause everything I love in life I love because of You.
(I Love Because of You was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
In our pastor’s weekly Friday email to his parishioners last week, he mentioned that many people are on edge because of the challenges and upheaval that seem to be occurring in our country this summer. He recognized how good it would be for us to find some peace – “peace in our hearts…homes…communities…nation and world. We know that the Lord Jesus gives us a peace that the world cannot give, but we also know that we need to do our part to bring about peace.” He suggested two ways we can bring about our own peace: to not be troubled by trouble, and to spend time outdoors. This road trip has fulfilled both of those requirements for me, bringing me much peace.
Being troubled by trouble means, to me, letting events and situations that I don’t like, did not choose, cannot change, and even things that are beyond rational understanding, control my emotions. It includes worrying about the future. Here in the mountains of Montana, it is so very easy to forget about the outside world and all that is going on. We have no television, and we have limited cellular access so it is difficult to stay up on current events. After two weeks of this life it makes me want to never listen to or read a news report again. In place of those distractions, I have spent more time in prayer, time with family, and time in nature. All have brought me peace.
Rising early in the morning to spend time in mental prayer is something I do on a daily basis, even at home. But, sitting outside on a brisk morning in July/August, next to the little creek that runs just a few yards in front of the cabin, takes peaceful meditation to a whole new level. I not only read and hear the word of God, but it’s easy to feel His presence around me as I pray.
We spent most of our first week here with our children and grandchildren. After they left on Wednesday, Melinda and I had the cabin to ourselves for a couple days. On Friday, Melinda’s sister and her husband arrived from Marble Falls, Texas to stay at the cabin for a couple weeks after we leave. Another sister and her husband came in from Rapid City, South Dakota on Friday and stayed through Sunday. Together, we took advantage of the mild weather and spent peaceful time outside in nature as we hiked, fished, and sawed and cleaned up fallen timber around the cabin.
Talking about fishing, I fished Rock Creek on Thursday and got shut out, but caught a nice Rainbow and a small Brown trout on Saturday.
Melinda and I hiked the Corral Creek Trail, or rather, we hiked the first mile of the trail which included an 800 foot elevation gain, before we reached a questionable log bridge we would have had to cross. We decided it was a good place to turn around and head back down.
We saw many beautiful wildflowers lining the trail and took time to examine them and take photos. The trail itself was only a couple feet wide so we were thankful we saw no bears with whom we would have had to share that narrow path.
Talking about bears, Melinda and I were driving down the dirt road that runs along Rock Creek on Thursday evening and, as we rounded a bend, a large black bear crossed our path just a few yards in front of us. It stopped, looked at us and then headed up the hill towards our cabin. Fortunately, we didn’t see him again.
But, on Friday evening, we were looking out a window of the cabin and a cow moose and her calf came trotting up along side. Seeing Melinda’s sister walking up the path towards the cabin, the moose stopped in the middle of our outdoor sitting area. Moose are huge! And, a mama moose can get belligerent if she thinks her calf is in danger. Fortunately, she must not have felt threatened and they turned and sauntered back down the hill.
On Sunday evening, we drove up Rock Creek Canyon to the end of the road hoping to see more wildlife. They must have heard us coming because all we saw was a doe deer, a chipmunk and a squirrel. But, as a consolation prize, God granted us an almost unbelievably beautiful view of the creek and the mountain from which the creek flows. The sun shining on the mountain top was truly magnificent!
We packed and loaded up on Monday morning and began our return trip home. Our destination for the night was Rapid City, South Dakota to spend a couple days with Melinda’s sister and her family. But, first we stopped in Billings to visit an old friend, Mikey, with whom I used to work many years ago. The very first time I ever met Mikey in 1986 I asked him where he was from, and he replied, “God’s Country!” Not knowing where that was I asked him to be more specific to which he replied, “Montana”. Ever since then he has invited me to stop and see him the next time I came to “God’s Country”. This time I finally obliged his invitation. Mikey, it was great to see you and Annette again after so many years. Thanks for lunch!
Driving across the plains of northeastern Wyoming, we saw many pronghorn antelope beneath dark gray storm clouds that, thankfully, we were able to outrun. As we neared South Dakota, the Black Hills provided the perfect visual backdrop for praying our daily Rosary with our friend from Louisiana, with whom we joined our prayers with those of our Blessed Mother for the many people we know who are suffering. It was a perfect and peaceful way to end the day.
“Oh, Glorious God, thank You again for the beauty of Your creation, both the natural beauty and that which resides in the hearts of friends and family. Thank You for the peace You bring when we immerse ourselves in Your loving gifts instead of the fleeting pleasures the world has to offer. Amen.”
(Road Trip Reflections: Finding Peace in “God’s Country” was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
Hello, friends. I left you hanging over a week ago in Fargo, North Dakota. We have since reached our destination, our little cabin in the mountains outside of Red Lodge, Montana, where we have no internet. I’ve also spent the last several days with our children and grandchildren which is more important than running to the coffee shop in town to access their WI-FI.
On Wednesday, the 22nd, we left Fargo for Billings, Montana under a deep blue, cloudless sky, and temps in the low 60’s. This was my first trip to the “Peace Garden State”. You might ask why I went so far north rather than take the shorter route across I-80 or I-90. Well, North Dakota was one of only two states (Hawaii is the other) that I had not driven through. Now I can check this one off my list.
We stopped in Bismarck, the state capital, to visit with a friend, Bernice, whom we met a year ago on our pilgrimage to Italy. We spent two hours catching up with each other and reliving moments from our pilgrimage. At one point our conversation turned to our faith and shortly a young mother with three children sat down at our table under the pavilion we were occupying in the park. She wore a t-shirt that said, “Be a ….Saint”, with the letters of the word “Saint” spelled out using the names of real saints. I caught her attention and said, “I like your shirt!” to which she responded, “I heard you talking about praying the Rosary!” It turned out she is a school teacher at the local Catholic school. Coincidence that we were there together? I don’t think so. (Bernice, thank you for the goodie bag! Everything was delicious!)
As we drove westward across the state on I-94, the topography changed from being flat in the east with corn as far as the eye could see, to undulating fields of corn and soybeans in the central part of the state, and then rolling hills of grassland and cattle in the west. Not far from the Montana state line we stopped at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit and drove through the Badlands of North Dakota.
We arrived at our hotel in Billings, Montana after dark with 670 miles for the day.
On Thursday morning we hit the road one more time for the final hour and a half to our cabin just south of Red Lodge. We arrived early enough to unload and get situated before our daughters and their families began arriving from Seattle, Washington, Olathe, Kansas; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Memphis, Tennessee.
For the next four days, the 16 of us (two grandparents, four daughters, three sons-in-law, and seven grandchildren age 5 and under) had fun being together. We played, explored, hiked, fished, cooked, ate, shopped, and reconnected. The cousins, who seldom see each other, had fun and got a little rambunctious at times, driving their parents a little crazy. But, that’s what little ones do. We know, their mothers did the same to us. Regardless of the noise and shenanigans, It was wonderful spending time with them.
Two daughters and their families left on Tuesday, and the others left early Wednesday morning to catch their flights home out of Billings. For the first time in a week Melinda and I were by ourselves in a quiet cabin. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate the peace and quiet, but it didn’t take long to miss the whining, the pitter-patter of little feet, and lightning-fast hands getting into things they shouldn’t get into. We’re already looking forward to the next time we can all get together, whenever that will be.
What do you do to get past the shock of missing your family after such an enjoyable time? You go fishing of course! There’s no better way to distract yourself than to be standing in a clear mountain stream waving a fly rod in the air. I found a nice spot on Rock Creek just down from the cabin and caught two Rainbows on a size 14 beaded nymph.
In my opinion, fly fishing is only a step or two away from heaven. Even though following the drift of my fly takes intense concentration, my mind and heart still found a way to recognize the beauty and majesty of our God, and all that He has created. Between casts, I gave thanks to Him for this week, for my dear wife, children and grandchildren, for the love we have between us, and for the love that He has shown me through them.
I gave thanks for all the natural beauty we’ve seen this week: from the corn fields of Illinois, the pastures and dairy farms of Wisconsin, the woodlands of Minnesota, the prairie of North Dakota, and the grasslands, mountains and streams of Montana. All different but beautiful, all unique in their own way, but all precious and valuable to the people who live there. We go to great lengths to experience the wonder of God’s creation in all its forms, and we go out of our way to take care of it.
The most amazing of His creations, however, are us, His people. It occurred to me how different life would be if we marveled at people the same way as we do nature, and similarly valued life. What if we approached other people with an interest to learn more about them, trying to find out what makes him or her unique and what makes them beautiful? Just as we might study a geologic formation or the flora and fauna of a region, imagine how much we could learn from the experiences of other people if we took the time to get to know them.
With social media replacing real human interaction, society is becoming more and more isolated. Just as there is something special about road trips where you can see the country up close instead of simply looking at photographs, we ought to set the electronics aside and take more “personal road trips” to explore our neighbors, our friends, and our own families on a close and personal level.
God created us to be social beings, to accompany each other through life. Jesus asked us to love our neighbors as ourselves, but it’s hard for people to feel loved if we don’t know them. He asked us to grow His Kingdom by leading others to an encounter with Him, but it’s difficult to lead people who don’t know us and who feel as though we don’t care about them. We need to take time to share a meal, sit around a campfire, take a hike, play a game, (or better yet, go fly fishing together!) and for other activities which offer the opportunity to get to know each other. When we do these things, we need to be interested in the other person, and intentionally seek to know and understand them. Then, perhaps, when the time is right, they may be open to a discussion about faith. Then, we can do His will by leading others to Him.
There are a plethora of bad things going on in the world today. The media, both television and social, focus on the things that take away our peace, and instill in us fear and worry about the future. This is just what the Evil One wants. But, it’s only in the present moment that we are able to do God’s will. Thus, if we want to change the world, we have to first look within ourselves and take advantage of every opportunity to see Jesus in others and let them see Him in us.
“Heavenly Father, thank You for the time we’ve had together as family this week. Thank You for Your beautiful creations, both the natural beauty of our country and for the people You place in our lives. Lord, give me the grace to do Your will and lead others to You. Amen.”
(Road Trip Reflections: Family, Fun, and Fly Fishing was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
I slept well Monday night and awoke early and made time for my daily prayer and meditation before getting back on the road. The Gospel for the day was from Mt 12:46-50 in which Jesus tells us, “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” He’s telling us that if we would just live God’s commandments, we will be adopted into His family for all eternity. That doesn’t sound too difficult. Just keep it between the ditches and we’ll be fine. I wish it was that easy.
I forgot to mention that last week we purchased a new car, a new Subaru Outback, and we’re driving it on this trip. The technology on these vehicles is getting more advanced every year. One feature that I kind of like is the lane departure warning. When you approach either the center line or the right edge of the lane, the car gives an audible warble and a visible yellow flashing light at the base of the windshield above the steering wheel indicating that you veered too close to the edge of the lane. It also tells you that you have made a “lane departure” if you cross the center line without first turning on your turn signal indicator.
At first, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of the car telling me how to drive. But, then, it dawned on me that all it wants me to do is keep it between the ditches, so to speak, to follow the commandments of good driving. I thought how nice it would be if life came with such technology that could keep us from sinning. But, then I realized that we already have that technology within us. It’s called our conscience. It’s OEM equipment which God installed in us at the factory. It lets us know when we are getting close to doing something wrong, and when we’ve crossed over the line either intentionally or unintentionally. The best part is that when we wreck the car because we have failed to heed the warnings, and we bring it back to the manufacturer, sorrowful and with intentions to steer straight and true from then on, He forgives us and strengthens within us the virtue of prudence to drive properly and safely.
Leaving Madison, we headed for Minneapolis-St. Paul to meet up with Melinda’s two nieces and one of them’s husband and son. We enjoyed two hours of catching up, good conversation, a delicious lunch of homemade soup and sandwiches, and entertaining the little one.
After saying our goodbyes, we got on I-94 and headed northeast toward Fargo, North Dakota, our stopping point for the night. An hour or so into the drive we passed an exit for St. John’s University near Collegeville, Minnesota. What’s special about St. John’s, you ask? It is the Alma Mater of my friend and co-founder of this blog, Rich Brewers. St. John’s University and St. John’s Abbey sits on the shore of Lake Sagatagan, as does the Stella Maris Chapel, the brick chapel you have seen in the header photo of this page over the years. I’ve always loved the image of that chapel sitting there in silence and solitude as if it, itself, were praying to God, with it’s reflection in the lake urging us to do the same.
Our new car also came with a three-month free trial of satellite radio. I found a station that plays old-time country music from folks like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Ernest Tubb. An old song came on, Bobby Bare’s version of Loretta Lynn’s and Conway Twitty’s 1976 release of God Bless America, Again. As I listened to the lyrics I thought, “Yes, Lord, please bless America, again!”
“God bless America, again. You see all the troubles that she’s in. Wash her pretty face, dry her eyes and then, God bless America again.
“God, I sure do wish you’d bless America again. You know, like you did way back when it all began. You blessed her then, but we just sorta kind took it for granted, and never did ask again. So, just hold her hand God, that’s all. And, if she should stumble please don’t let her fall. God bless America, again.
“You know I don’t understand everything I’m readin’ here about what’s wrong with America….”
That last line grabbed me. If things were out of whack in 1976, how much more so are they today? I don’t understand, either. But, I’m here living it now, doing my best. I didn’t choose the way things are, I don’t necessarily like the way things are, and there’s not too much I can do to change the way things are other than to vote, pray and be the best person and disciple that God intended for me to be so that I can be an example to others.
After a second day of 504 miles, we made it safely to our hotel in time for a short walk before it was Rosary time.
(Note: Folks, I know I’m a couple days behind. Bear with me, I’ll post as I can. Thank you.)
“Good and Gracious God, thank You for another day of seeing this beautiful land, for family to visit, and for the inspirations You provide that come from the ordinary things in our lives. Give me the grace to follow Your commandments so that I will never exclude myself from Your family. And, give me the grace, I pray, to be the kind of disciple, husband, father, son, brother and friend that You created me to be. Amen.”
(Road Trip Reflections: New Cars and Old Songs was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
Road trips. I love ’em! I love to get behind the wheel and go, just my wife, me, and the highway for eight to ten hours a day. It’s been way too long since our last one! The social isolation of COVID-19 has, for the most part, kept us home. Melinda and I did venture out last week, along with 12 others from our parish, to participate in a mission trip to Appalachia Kentucky to repair houses for those who can no longer afford to maintain their homes (perhaps a future post?). Other than that, we’ve stayed at home since mid-March.
Yesterday afternoon, full of anticipation, we hit the road heading northwest for an almost three week excursion that will include a long over due family reunion with all our children and grandchildren. Leaving Cincinnati on I-74, we pointed the car towards Indianapolis, Indiana, and then Bloomington, Illinois. At Bloomington, we turned north on I-39 and motored towards Madison, Wisconsin, for our first night out.
We made the turn at Bloomington about 7:30 p.m., and we broke out our Rosaries. Melinda and I have faithfully prayed the Rosary together every day since the first of April. When Pope Francis wrote his letter on 25 April encouraging everyone to pray the Rosary daily during the month of May, we invited a friend to join us. Our friend, who lives in Louisiana, was struggling with the social isolation and welcomed the opportunity to spend time together. Since May 1st, every evening at 7:30 p.m. we have FaceTimed and prayed the Rosary together, asking Our Blessed Mother to intercede for the health and well being of a long list of people. Being on the road was not going to keep us from joining together in prayer and meditation.
We prayed our Rosary, laughed and chatted for a bit, and then, about half way to Rockford, Illinois, said our goodbyes just as the sun was setting. Overhead were heavy gray clouds, but away on the horizon the sun found a chink through which it set the sky on fire with a fierce beauty the likes of which I haven’t seen in thirty years! Since I was driving and couldn’t do more than chance a quick glance at that marvelous sight, I asked Melinda to snap a photo so I could relive that beautiful moment when we stopped for the night.
I recalled that morning’s Gospel passage from Mt 12:38-42 in which the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus to give them a sign to help them believe. I found comfort knowing that I don’t need to see a sign to believe, rather I see the signs because I believe. This sunset seemed to be God’s way of thanking me for my belief. Thank you, Lord!
We arrived safely at our hotel in Madison, Wisconsin after 504 miles and eight and a half hours of driving. It was a great day! Road trips, I love ‘em! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring. Check back to find out.
“Heavenly Father, thank You for the opportunity to travel in this great land, Your creation, with all its magnificence and beauty. Thank You for the finishing touches that only You, the Artist of artists, can paint. Thank You for friends with whom we can love and be loved and grow closer to You, together. And, thank You, Lord, for protecting us in our travels. Please watch over my family as we travel to be with each other. Amen.”
(Road Trip Reflections: Rosaries, Sunsets and Signs was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
In yesterday’s post, A Joyful Hour, I said my wife and I are on another road trip from our home in Ohio to Kansas City and then on to Rapid City, South Dakota. We made it to our daughter’s house safely Saturday evening, enjoyed a nice home cooked dinner and some special time with our two grandsons before they had to go to bed. Our grandson Jack is 20 months old, and Eddie is two months old. I slept well that night and I looked forward to the next morning and a full day of fun with the little guys.
When my first grandchild was on her way almost two years ago, my daughters asked what I wanted to be called as a grandfather. I had thought long about this and one thing kept coming to mind. A friend from Lake Charles, Louisiana, who is a big duck hunter and retriever trainer, told me you should always name a dog with a one syllable name. That way they can remember it easier. Well, in my way of thinking this seemed like a good idea when it came to young children, too. If I went by a one syllable name it would be easier for the little ones to remember it and say it. So, I chose Pops.
When I awoke in the morning I said a quick prayer knowing that it was going to be a good day. I made it to the breakfast table, poured myself some coffee and waited for Jack to announce he was ready to get out of his crib. Before long, my son-in-law, Joe, brought him down the stairs, stood him on the floor and the best thing ever happened. Jack turned around, saw me, hollered, “Pops!”, and came running to me and gave me a hug. What a fabulous way to start my day!
We ate breakfast and then dressed to go to Mass. While at our daughter’s we usually go to the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Olathe. But, Prince of Peace has been busting at the seams because of the growth in the south Kansas City area and the diocese has decided to build a mission church which will actually be closer to her house than Prince of Peace. The name of the new parish has not been decided yet but we were thinking on the way there that it ought to be called Mother of Mercy parish. Mother of Mercy, aka “MoM”, as opposed to “PoP” for Prince of Peace – get it?
This was the second Sunday for the mission church to celebrate mass in their temporary location -the gymnasium of the Madison Place Elementary School. The altar was set up on the stage with row after row of folding chairs on the gym floor. Melinda, my daughter, Lisa, Jack, and I got there just in time to get seats. The engineer in me quickly counted the number of seats in each row, multiplied by the number of rows and estimated the number of people standing in the back and I came up with roughly 550 in attendance. Not bad at all for the second week of a mission parish!
Until the parish officially gets its name it will be called the New Johnson County Catholic Church. But, I like MoM better so that’s what I’m going to call it for now.
The priest at MoM was a jovial and, I suspect, a very likeable young man. I thought he will probably be a good priest to draw the young families in the area into his flock. I was particularly impressed with his homily about the Gospel reading for the day, Luke 15:1-32, which includes the parable of the Prodigal Son. Although I’ve read this passage many times and heard several homilies about the Prodigal Son, today was the first time I ever fully understood why the brother was so upset about the attention the father was lavishing on the returned son.
I knew that the Prodigal Son, upon demanding his inheritance from his father, was basically wishing his father dead. The father, out of his love, gave his son what he desired. But, it never occurred to me that the robe, ring, sandals and fatted calf which the father gave to the returning son came from what was left after he had been given his half, in other words, the half that was designated for the other son. Seeing the situation from that perspective I thought how I might be a little upset, too, if I was the brother. The priest explained that the father in the parable, when asking his son to celebrate and rejoice the return of his brother with him was actually asking him to forgive and be merciful. I always thought the brother was just a selfish jerk.
Then, having broached the subject of mercy, the priest reminded us that it is the Jubilee Year of Mercy and what is expected of us during this time. But, what it did instead was play to my guilty conscience and reminded me that I wrote a blog post way back in March of this year about The Jubilee Year of Mercy and I promised that I would write more and elaborate on mercy, how we can be merciful and how God is merciful to us. Here it is the middle of September and I still haven’t followed through on that promise. I still have time I thought, and late is better than never.
The rest of the day was spent playing with Jack and holding and getting burped on by Eddie. We went to the Deanna Rose Farmstead in Overland Park where Jack got to see pigs, cows, horses, ducks and, his favorite, chickens. Back at home, Lisa prepared a superb dinner; we Face-timed with our daughter Mary and her two month old son, Patrick, and our daughter, Sara, and her daughter, Elsa; and we wrapped up the day with a board game which I lost. All in all, it turned out just as I thought it would when I rolled out of bed in the morning – perfect.
On Monday we plan to drive for about 12 hours to Rapid City, South Dakota to spend a week with more family. I’m looking forward to the drive, the time spent with Melinda, and the opportunity to contemplate how I can improve my relationship with Jesus. Pops is not looking forward to leaving Jack and Eddie behind but I know I will see them on the return trip in two weeks when we come back for Eddie’s baptism. All in all, I know it will be another good day.
“Dear God, I give you thanks for all your many blessings: for family, and especially for children and grandchildren; and for the opportunity to see more of this magnificent country we call ours, a country in which we can still worship you freely like I did this morning. Lord Jesus, I pray that tomorrow as I meet people on this road trip I will see You in them and that they may see You in me. Holy Spirit, I pray that You will guide me and steer me away from any temptations that might come my way. Amen.”
(Pops, MoM and Mercy was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
Yesterday morning as I was leaving home for a road trip from Ohio to Kansas City, and then on to Rapid City, South Dakota, I was, like always, looking forward to the drive, to spending some valuable one on one time with my wife, and to seeing family at each destination. But, there was a small part of me wishing I was somewhere else.
At the same time I finished putting the kitchen sink in the car and driving down our driveway, several friends were at our church greeting the ten men who, for the next 30 hours, would be opening themselves up to be transformed by the Holy Spirit at a Christ Renews His Parish retreat weekend. My friends would be leading and facilitating the weekend, a labor of love for which they had been preparing for the last six months, a divine and fraternal bonding I have experienced three times myself.
Even though I wasn’t part of the Giving Team this time around I still wanted to participate in some way. Since I was going to be out of town, I opted to take an hour over the weekend to pray for the men on both the Receiving and Giving teams. My hour of the 30 hour prayer chain was at 3:00 p.m., an hour that found me between Vandalia, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri.
As I drove across Indiana I wondered how I could best pray for the men on the weekend and still drive. As I fingered the cross around my neck, the same cross I received four and a half years ago when I went on my first Christ Renews weekend, I decided the easiest thing to do would be to pray a rosary as part of my prayer hour. My wife, Melinda, agreed to join me.
When three o’clock arrived we took out our rosaries and I inserted my special rosary CD as recited by Fr. Rob. It was Saturday so we would be praying the Joyful Mysteries.
With the first mystery, The Annunciation of the Angel to Mary, I gave thanks that Mary said “Yes” to God. Then, I thought, “Lord, please let the men on this weekend say ‘Yes’ to the Holy Spirit, let them accept God’s plan. Let them find their humility in the safety of this retreat such that they can hear His voice and be obedient to His will for them. Amen.”
At the pause before the next mystery, I stopped long enough to realize that I had not just prayed the rosary in rote memorization; I had actually let the spirit of the mystery work itself into my prayer for the men. I thought, “Let’s see what happens with the next one.”
As I prayed the second mystery, The Visitation of Mary to Saint Elizabeth, I thought about how, out of love, Mary carried God to her cousin. This was exactly what the men on the Giving Team were doing so I prayed, “Lord, please fill the men on the Giving Team with the Holy Spirit so that they, too, may carry Your Love to the men whom they are serving this weekend. Lord, please let the Receivers accept their gift of charity with gratitude. Amen.”
I liked the way this was going. I gave a brief prayer of thanksgiving for allowing me to think and express what was in my heart.
The third Joyful Mystery is The Nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem. As I recalled how Joseph, Mary and the shepherds adored Jesus, I prayed that the men on the weekend would see Christ in each other and, in so doing, increase their love for Him and one another.
With the fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, I thought about how it was revealed to Simeon through the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was the Messiah. I prayed, “Lord, let the men on this weekend also have it revealed to them through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is truly the Messiah. Amen.”
As I recited the fifth Joyful Mystery, The Finding of Jesus in the Temple”, I thought about the anxiety that Mary and Joseph must have felt losing their son and the joy they must have felt when they found Him again in the temple. I prayed, “Lord, let the men on this weekend, who may have been away from Jesus, also experience the joy of finding Him again. Let them find comfort and safety in His presence. Amen.”
I finished out my hour of prayer by simply recalling my experience when I was in their shoes; how the witnesses given by the men of the Giving Team broke down the walls I had constructed to keep Jesus out of my life, and how, through the Holy Spirit, I was transformed. I prayed that through that same transformation process, the ten men there this weekend would be renewed in their faith.
“Mother Mary, please take these prayers and, through your intercession with Jesus, ask Him to open the minds of these men to His word, and to renew their hearts, through the Holy Spirit, by kindling in them the fire of His love. Amen.”
(A Joyful Hour was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)