An Old Familiar Plot

It’s a familiar story, a boat or plane accident causes a group of people to be stranded on an island. There is little fresh water or food. The plot centers on the response of the victims as they strive to survive with limited resources. Search parties scour the island for food and water and others look for ways conserve what they have.

Imagine if one of the survivors suggested that the strong among them kill off the weak so the scant resources would last longer. How would they be viewed by those reading the story?

That person is scum would be the opinion of many.

That suggestion, kill off the weak so there are sufficient resources for the strong is exactly what the overpopulation crowd is preaching. They cite statistics to back up their claim that the Earth lacks sufficient resources to support the number of people alive today or predicted to be alive in the near future.

Through Birth Control, Abortion, and Euthanasia, they propose to re-balance the Earth so the strong (they are among them) can live in prosperity.

Their arguments are allowed to be discussed logically because of the global nature of their plans. But if we shrink their hypothesis to a desolate island and call their procedures what is, Murder, well, such talk is not Politically Correct.

It all comes down to who is allowed to live and who must die. Sounds brutal because it is.

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Trekking toward Independence

A father’s role is to be the guardian and provider for his children. Yes, the mother and father work as a team, but nature seems to have assigned the nurturing aspect more to the mother and the protecting job to the father.

In reality, this does not always occur, but for this discussion, I want to deal with the ideal.

As a father of eight, I have experienced the deep desire to shield and care for my newborn children at each one’s birth. Hopes for their future life filled with success were side by side with fears of the dangers of the world.

The fears ebb as the children grow and become more independent. Over the years, I have seen four of my children become strong, capable adults. Over the same period of time, Father Time has been less than kind to me, as he is to all. My strength and vigor have lessened to the point where I now welcome the help of my adult children in some matters.

This is the normal scheme of things, the Circle of Life as it is sometimes called. But life does not always proceed normally.

Four of my children are now able to care for themselves but four others are still acquiring the skills they need to deal with the world. They have intellectual disabilities that have slowed their progress. To be sure they are light years further along than the experts said they would ever be. Thank you, God! But their journey is far from over.

Because of this, the fear that has ebbed for my four older children persists for the four younger ones even though each is chronologically an adult. Each day is a race against time to try to help them gain one more skill and get one step closer to independence.

It is a hard trek up a steep mountain path that often has loose ground that can give way and cause us to slide backward.

The stark reality is a constant awareness. Plans have been made and they will hopefully succeed, but there is no guarantee.

In the darkest moments, I find myself praying for a request that is unnatural. Please, God, allow me to live to such an old age that I can bury my four youngest sons. In that way, I will always be around to watch over them.

The pain of losing a child is the most profound a person can experience. I came close with Joseph when the doctor said I should prepare myself because they expected him to die when he was one-year-old. They were wrong, but for three days I was neither alive or dead while I waited to see if he would recover.

I do not want to live that again, but neither do I want my children left behind to deal with all the evil that this world can do. So I pray a prayer that if answered promises exceptional pain.

My prayer is not unique. I know of other parents of special needs children who have admitted to the same prayer.

I am blessed that my four older children have said they will look after their younger brothers. Other parents don’t have that blessing. But my older children are struggling to make it on their own. So each day, as an opportunity presents itself, the life lessons continue.

My duty to protect and train my children will continue my entire life and maybe their entire life. It gives me one more reason to defend myself against Father Time.

And I hope, even dream, of a time, one hundred or more years in the future, when I, my wife, and all my children can be together in a place where I know they are all safe forever.

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Joseph – A Patron Saint for Worriers

If you live in what is called the First World, you probably worry about car repairs, money for college for you or your kids, being downsized at work, or other life-altering issues.

If you live in the Third World, you wonder when you will eat next, if you will get ill and die from a waterborne disease, an insect-transmitted killer or be a victim of one of the many ethnic wars.

Life altering versus life ending, that’s a difference. Yet, even so, we all yearn for the peace, the safety, and the security that we will experience once we are in heaven. One man who can relate to our concerns is Saint Joseph, so much so that perhaps he should be given the title The Patron Saint of Worriers.

Why Saint Joseph? Consider these events in his life. His betrothed is found pregnant. He loves her dearly and does not want to see her stoned to death yet the law requires it. Then he finds out the child she is carrying is the Messiah!

An order from the king requires him and Mary, now far on in the pregnancy, to travel along bandit-infested roads for the census. Upon arriving in Bethlehem, there is no room at the Inn.

Once the child is born, they take him to the Temple for His dedication. There a Prophet predicts a sword will pierce his wife’s heart.

Later, he is roused from sleep with a message to flee to Egypt as Herod wants to kill the child.

Again they journey through bandit-infested territory. They reach Egypt where they are strangers in a strange land. Joseph has to start from scratch as a carpenter to provide for his family.

After some years in Egypt, he is told it is safe to return, however, Herod’s nephew is now on the throne and he is a threat to Jesus.

They travel to the Temple when Jesus is twelve years old and He gets lost for three days during the return journey.

These are the problems we know about from the Bible. Are there more?

Since Joseph was a real human being doing his best to do God’s will, we can reasonably assume he met with other challenges not written about in Scripture.

And yet, through it all, Joseph remained attentive to God’s guidance for his life.

This attentiveness is often described as the interior life. It is where we hear God speak to us with our soul and not our ears. To be able to do that, we must find time for silence. Remember, Elijah heard God not in the Earthquake but in the faint breeze.

Of course, there are those of us who need a two by four across the skull to get our attention. But it is less painful to slow down and pay attention.

Joseph was alert to God as he slept when God spoke to him in his dreams. Is it possible he was alert as he worked in his shop? I think so. As Joseph shaped a piece of wood (maybe a two by four) for a project, his mind concentrating on his work, he remained open to God’s promptings. He did not need a smack on the head for God to get his attention.

Joseph worked for his family, finding blessed distraction in his labors when problems were present.  But more than the work, his certainty that God would care for them, kept him grounded.

Joseph faced ample opportunities to succumb to fear and doubt yet he stayed the course. He did so while not always understanding all that was happening or being certain of a specific outcome. He just knew that God was in charge and it was his job to do the next task at hand.

Worry was handled by obedience to the promptings of the Spirit. That is a method we can all use.

If we have trouble implementing it, we should ask Saint Joseph for his assistance. He has the experience to lend us a helping ear to hear what God is trying to tell us.

That message sounds something like, “Let not your heart be troubled.”

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WORDS MEAN THINGS. How we speak of other people or issues reveal our underlying, true opinion of them unless of course, we are lying through our teeth, because our actions speak louder than our words.

We take the greatest care of our new cell phone, our new car, or our new team jacket. We give our old cell phone to our young child to play with, drive our old car through the snow and salt of winter and put on our old clothes to work in the yard. The new is valuable, the old is junk.

Junk refers to all items that are of little or no worth. We abandon it without a thought and freely misuse it from its original purpose because of how little value we place on it.

In today’s modern lexicon, Junk has become the slang word for what was earlier referred to as our Private Parts. Previous generations knew it was not polite to talk about those areas of the body unless it was absolutely necessary. That has changed to where nearly all modern entertainment requires frequent mention and exposition of our private parts. Chastity until marriage and fidelity after marriage were the ideals held high by society, now the hookup society is lionized by magazines that sell millions of copies each month to readers who more than likely experienced the divorce of their parents or are living with the reality of multiple sexual partners.

Familiarity breeds contempt and so we have now reached the stage where our genitalia is so ill regarded that it has come to be known as JUNK. It is freely given to whoever presents a momentary opportunity for a transitory good feeling. Like a candy bar, the wrapper is removed, the product enjoyed, and then soon later, a new one is selected for an additional few moments of pleasure.

The problem though, like those poor souls known as hoarders who are buried alive in the accumulation of their stuff, their junk, those who freely give their bodies to many partners find themselves buried under the effects of their collection of encounters. Old encounters that have been left behind have a way of re-entering your life, often with negative impact.

The negative consequences are seen each day by teachers, social workers, law enforcement, mental health workers, medical staff, and other human service workers.

Junk, unless properly handled, pollutes the environment. Misusing our junk leaves a wake of struggle, sadness, and even anger in the children created by one-night stands. They are often treated poorly by the nonbiological partners currently in their parent’s life and learn to model behavior that will lead down the same destructive road as their parents.

Our sexuality is not a matter of little worth. By it, we can bring forth life. A man, a woman, and their children form a family which is the basic unit of all societies. They become one flesh, complimentary to each other, share themselves exclusively, with full thought given to the act, knowing the potential it has, and ready to face all that the future brings. Less than that is akin to texting while driving, it is not a question of what can go wrong but only when.

Each person is unique and precious. The entire person is of great worth. Nothing about them is junk. Let’s make sure our language reflects that. Words do have meaning and our actions tell others what we really truly mean and believe.

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Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne

Today in the Catholic Church is the Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, the Parents of the Virgin Mary.

Their names do not appear in the Bible but come from an outside source, the Gospel of James. An ancient tradition states, that Joachim and Anne were childless and devoutly prayed to God to allow them to have a child. If God granted their request, they promised to dedicate the child to God’s service.

God heard their prayer and the child born was Mary.

The tradition continues that when Mary was the tender age of three her parents requested that she be allowed to live in the Temple, there to be trained to serve God according to their pledge. The Temple Priests were so impressed with the young child’s abilities they agreed to their request.

One of the Priests serving in the Temple was Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth. During the time of Mary’s living in the Temple, when she was twelve years old, Joachim died. Zechariah took steps to ensure that Mary would have a guardian and arranged for young men to come to the Temple. Among the men present was Mary’s cousin, Joseph.

The staffs of the young men were collected. The next day, the staff of Joseph had sprouted a lily, a sign that God chose him to be the protector of Mary.

These stories are not dogma but they are pious traditions that have been spoken of by holy men and women, several who are now Saints and even Doctors of the Church. The stories fill in the blank spaces of what we actually know and do not contradict or detract from any revealed Truth.

To read more, go to

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Golden Silence

Catholic_tabernacleWhen you first meet a new friend, you spend much time talking to each other. You have a lot of questions. What’s your name? Where do you live? What do you like to do?

As time goes on you get to know the person well and the need for asking questions lessens. In fact, you can tell when your friend is troubled just by the expression on their face. You have reached a point in your relationship where the non-verbal speaks as loud as the verbal conversation.

Beyond this, you find friends and couples who have known each other for decades. They can finish each other’s sentences, know what the other is going to say before they say it and can spend hours next to each other in silence and the time is wonderful.

To reach this stage of a relationship requires that you have truly spent time before with the other person as the center of your attention. Just being together,  hanging out, may not be enough if each of you is in your own little world oblivious of the person next to you. Yet today, all too often, that is exactly what happens as everyone is wired to their smartphone, iPod, etc. Or there is a video, a song, or some other event that has our attention.

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Corpus Christi or the Body and Blood of Christ. In some places, processions will occur with the Priest holding a Monstrance that contains the Host. The focus will be on Jesus. At Mass, always, the focus should be on Jesus. But is it?

Are we focused on Jesus or on the next hymn we are supposed to sing? Are we focused on Jesus or where we have to be after Mass? Do we recite the prayers concentrating on their meaning or have they become automatic responses without thought?

Do we find moments of silence unbearable?

To sit in a Church, in silence, and to allow ourselves to dwell on the True Presence in the tabernacle, to still our thoughts of our needs, our wants, our fears, and to try to hear Him who is truly present, is akin to the relationship of the couples who have lived together and grown together for decades.

It is not easy and will never become easy unless you put in the time. Mass attendance is of course vital. For Catholics, it is the required minimum. How long would a friendship last if each only did the minimum? Other forms of worship, like Benediction, are wonderful but there we are involved in a directed form of prayer that gives little opportunity for quiet reflection, the deep, wonderful silence that two close friends can share and even cherish.

Modern life is practically devoid of times of silence and many people say they need background noise, that it calms them. They are not comfortable with their own thoughts. Yet it was in the silence that Jeremiah heard the voice of God, not in the storm or the avalanche.

There is a God-shaped hole in our lives. He is calling out to us but can we hear Him above the background din? Try to find time to spend some quiet moments with Jesus in the tabernacle.It is a challenge! Many churches are locked for security but not all. Finding free moments is a challenge as well. But if you truly wish to spend eternity with Jesus then now is the time to begin. Even five minutes to start is a great beginning. He is there in the tabernacle waiting for you.

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Now is the Time for Saint Joseph

You don’t need to be a news junkie or a sociologist to know that families worldwide are hurting. Marriages do not last until death do us part, indeed many fail within a short three years. Only about half of the children living today will live with both of their biological parents until they reach age 18.

Absentee fathers, one or both parents in prison, drugs, gangs, and poverty brought on by all these factors plus high employment creates a nearly unstoppable force that shears apart that very fabric of the family.

War, disease and evil governments have torn apart families since time began but today, even families that dwell in rich countries with stable governments that are at peace with their neighbors, and who have access to modern medicine and ample opportunities for personal growth still fall apart at alarmingly high rates.

Many young adults come from families that experienced divorce and they have grown-up with the idea that forming a life-long commitment with one person is a fairy tale. The parts of the marriage vows that speak of in sickness, for poorer, and for worse are easily forgotten in a society where divorce no longer carries a stigma and has almost become a right of passage for adults.

True self-sacrificial love is a foreign concept to many people and no wonder. Much of the modern media preaches the Gospel of Self-Fulfillment at best while other examples glorify the abuse of others.

Certainly, there are individuals who are willing to sacrifice their very lives for others. You can find them among the Police, the Military, the Religious as well as within families and among select true friends. But sadly, many people decide staying is too hard, helping comes at too high a cost and only a fool would get involved.

To counteract this destructive force we need a role model to look up to, a person who exhibited courage even when they were faced with incredible hardship and danger. A person who stood their ground and is now in a position to help us as we struggle daily in this world where hardship and disappointment are all too common.

That person is Saint Joseph. He was born the descendant of royalty but that very fact placed his life in constant danger. He lived in enemy occupied land with a murdering madman, Herod, on the throne as Rome’s puppet. He became a refugee, fleeing to Egypt to save the life of his bride, Mary and her child, Jesus. He existed as a stranger in a strange land for years supporting his family with hard physical labor.

He lived a quiet life living obscurely so as to protect Mary and Jesus. He quaked at the pronouncement of a prophet who saw a sword would pierce his wife’s heart.  He accepted the fact that he was the least worthy of their family but in obedience served as Master of their Home. He felt the anguish parents feel when their child is lost. He knew fear, fatigue, and bewilderment. But each day he rose, trusted God and then did what was required, all out of love for Mary and Jesus.

This pure self-sacrificial love is what is needed in our families today. Fidelity to our vows, humility to recognize our failings and courage to face each challenge while always being alert to the promptings of  God.

Now, as the family is under demonic assault, is the Time for Saint Joseph. Ask for his protection and help. He is powerful in his intercession.St_Joseph,_portrayed_as_a_young_man (1) - Hospital Universitario Austral, Pilar Partido. Author Gabriel Sozzi

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Productive Obscurity

No matter the occupation, most workers have one thing in common; they spend their workdays in obThe Youth of Our Lord John Herbertscurity.  The plumber, the trash hauler, the cable installer and the short-order cook, are rarely the subject of news headlines. To be sure when our sewer is backed up, when the internet and television stop working, when the trash piles up or we are ravenously hungry, then we are keenly aware of their contributions. But otherwise, their day to day efforts do not rate notice as opposed to the professional athlete, Hollywood celebrity or even a powerful politician whose every move is considered noteworthy.

Today, May 1st is the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. Joseph spent his days in his workshop quietly doing the work of a Tekton (often translated as a Carpenter). A Tekton worked in any hard material, wood, stone or metal. Tradition (small “t”) speaks of his skill as a craftsman, a skill he handed on to his (foster)son Jesus.

But beyond being a skilled craftsman, Joseph’s life was, for the most part, lived in obscurity. He was among the working poor, that class of people who live their lives unnoticed by the rich and powerful. But there was a reason for this obscurity, an important, vital purpose whose success had eternal ramifications for all of all us.

Joseph’s plainness provided the perfect camouflage for God’s Plan of Salvation. A virgin shall give birth to the Messiah!

Mary’s pregnancy would have drawn notice, and people have always liked to talk. Herod sought to kill the King of Kings and word would have eventually got back to him. But Joseph took her into his home, they were after all espoused, this concealed the Divine Incarnation from prying eyes. They fled to Egypt but even upon their return years later, Joseph’s simple work life concealed the God-Man from His enemies, both the mortal and the demonic.

The obscurity afforded by honest hard work kept Jesus hidden until it was time for Him to reveal Himself. It provided for the necessities of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and helped foster the Father’s Plan.

The quiet dignity of simple work proved to be the most powerful solution to the machinations of the mightiest powers of Earth and Hell. This truth we should keep in mind as we too go about our labors. If we offer our efforts up to God, we too may play a part in bringing about some small part of God’s Plan.

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Excerpt from The Diaries of Joseph and Mary

Life at Nazareth

The years have passed quickly. Jesus is a man in age and in body. His hands now look like The Youth of Our Lord John Herbertmine, brown, calloused from the work. His arms are strong and his fingers sure as they shape wood and stone.

I find I grow weary now early in the afternoon. My knees are often stiff making it difficult to kneel or climb as the job requires. Jesus knows. He works the difficult spots so I have the easier task.

He helps me and Mary. Alone in our home, we pray together and He says things about God that are most profound. He understands in an intimate way the Scriptures. How did I not see what He sees so plainly? As a child, I taught him but for years now He has taught us.

I ask questions. Mary for her part does not. Instead, she listens and ponders what He says. I often see her in contemplation as she works in the kitchen or with needle and thread. Her hands crafting dinner or a cloth yet her mind sees more resplendent images. Her face at these times is so serene. She can get so lost that she does not hear me when I first call her name.

I am content. I have a wonderful wife. My heart leaps for joy each time I am near her. As I fall asleep at night I thank God for the blessing that is Mary. My heart and soul are so full of love for her and from her. I think of Jesus and how I have watched Him grow into a man. In my mind, I remember times when we played and laughed together.

We have been blessed. We have been blessed with sufficient means to eat as we need and have other material goods as we needed yet not so much that they burdened us. Jesus and Mary with me in our home. I feel a joy such that my heart will burst forth from my chest. No man has ever been so richly blessed.


Life at Nazareth

My two men. They rise early and help me prepare our meal. Jesus brings wood and Joseph tends the fire. They leave for the shop or to run an errand for work.

Joseph is so protective of me he refuses to travel for work such that I am alone. He tells Jesus to stay with me if he must leave overnight.

Jesus is a perfect Son. Only once in his life has he caused me concern. The time he got lost from us and we found him in the Temple. Since then he has been loving, obedient, caring and supportive of me and Joseph.

His actions give me no cause for concern but His words give me much to pray about. He knows. He understands. The Scriptures to Him are alive and deep. Every passage has so many layers to dwell on and He guides us to understand them.

My two men. They take care of me and serve me. I for my part try to serve them. We all serve each other and grow more in love as a family by doing so. Life is so normal and beautiful in so many ways and yet it is blessed with a supernatural abundance of what work and money cannot provide. And we have been given it freely. Jesus my Son!


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Stories from the Early Church on the Birth of Mary

September 8th. is the day we celebrate the birth of Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ. The readings and the gospel for that day speak appropriately of the Messiah however they also speak of what preceded Jesus’ birth and how God is truly the Lord of History.

Mary by herself is only another human, as is her husband Joseph. But Mary and Joseph are forever joined to Jesus. To study Joseph you must study Mary, and to study Mary you must speak of Jesus. They are the Holy Family. It is because of their close relationship to Jesus that we speak of Joseph and Mary and Mary always says, “Do whatever He (Jesus) tells you to do.” Joseph, though silent of words, always stands ready to serve God the Father by giving his all to Jesus and Mary.

It is dogma that Joseph and Mary always lived a chaste life as husband and wife. Some believe that Joseph was previously married and that his first wife died. They point to the scripture passage where the brothers and sisters of Jesus are mentioned as proof. But other theologians of high regard from the Early Church adamantly insisted that Joseph only ever had one wife and that was Mary.

Jacob was the father of Joseph. Joachim and Anne were the parents of Mary. Joseph’s mother’s name is lost in time. We do know that Jacob was related to Anne, and thus Joseph and Mary are related, both of them descending from the House of David.

Tradition, with a small ‘”t”, relates how Joseph decided to take a vow of celibacy while he was young man so he could totally serve God in any capacity he was called to. This vow he kept a secret from all.

Joachim and Anne, Mary’s parents, lived twenty years together as husband and wife without the gift of a child. Tradition, again small “t”, tells how on a visit to the Temple they each vowed to God that if He favored them with a child, they would dedicate the child to God.

Being childless was considered a curse by the culture of the day. One story speaks how Jacob was chastised by a Temple Priest for even presenting himself in the Temple when he was so obviously a sinner and under God’s wrath. Despite the pronouncement of the Priest, God heard the fervent prayers of Joachim and Anne and she became pregnant with Mary.

Some believe that Joseph used his skills as a Tekton, often translated as Carpenter, in the expansion and adornment of the Temple that Herod ordered. Herod undertook this project as a political move to gain the approval of the Jews. If Joseph did indeed work on the Temple, he would have lived in Jerusalem. If that is so, then Joachim and Anne would certainly have visited him when they traveled to Jerusalem for the various feasts. Joseph would have been aware of the sadness the holy couple felt at the barrenness of their marriage. As such, he also would have joined in their delight when Anne finally conceived.

The first reading for September 8 says,

Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne…

While the second reading states,

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son …

It is estimated by some of the Early Church Fathers that Joseph was in his twenties to thirties when he married Mary, she being fourteen years old at the time. This is in conflict with many of the images depicting Joseph as a man of advanced years, but it makes sense when you consider how arduous the work was that Joseph did to support Jesus and Mary, not to mention their trek to Egypt to escape Herod’s plot to kill Jesus.

If this is correct, then we see God at work in calling Joseph to remain celibate and also the delay in the conception of Mary.

Joachim and Anne fulfilled their promise to God by sending Mary to live in the Temple at the age of three. Small “t” tradition states that while she lived in the Temple, Mary felt called to make a vow of celibacy herself, a decision contrary to her culture. By the time she was fourteen, her father had died and she was now in need of a guardian as was her mother. According to Jewish law, it fell to a relative to marry her. Enter Joseph, an unmarried male relative with the skills of a craftsman to earn a living.

To select an appropriate husband, the small “t” tradition says, Joseph was summoned to the Temple along with other eligible bachelors. They were instructed to leave their staffs with the Priest. The next day it was discovered that a lily had sprouted from Joseph’s staff indicating that he was God’s choice.

So we can now put the chain of events together. Mary’s birth is momentous. The Angels in heaven must have rejoiced as they knew this was part of the Plan of Salvation. But it is tied to Joseph’s earlier decision to remain celibate and also to the period of childlessness of Joachim and Anne. With his selection by the Sign of the Flowering Staff, Joseph’s can keep his vow as the chaste husband of Mary and Mary is also permitted to remain celibate with Joseph as her husband.

God’s timing and methods are always perfect although for us they may be difficult to understand.

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