Adult Faith
Posted on February 11th, 2016

Chickens are everywhere.  Roosters, hens, chicks.   They are unstoppable.   A hurricane on the island of Kauai in 1992 sent every chicken coop door flying, along with the chickens, leaving the roosters to have more fun that roosters should.   Some of these roosters, however, appear to be Christians.  I am at least certain the one that was crowing during the moment at Mass when we reflect on our sins is.   We named him Peter.

The other character I can’t stop thinking about is the boy with the loaves and the fish in John’s Gospel. Just exactly who was he?  Where were his parents?   Where did the fish and the bread come from?  I believe it is a good likelihood he caught the fish.  Maybe he and the chicken share a name.   But I don't know if he baked the bread.   Who knows for certain, though?
St. Ignatius of Loyola encourages us to place ourselves in the story of the Gospel.  To see ourselves as someone in the fray.   A player in the happening.   I see myself as that boy.  I would love to say it is because he graciously gave what he had to Andrew to help others, but really it’s because I think he was a salesman.  What else would he be doing with that much food in crowd like that?  Today he would be running a food truck.

Like the boy I imagine, I ran a small business from my locker in high school.   Back then you could buy a box of twelve Little Debbie Snack Cakes for a dollar.  At a quarter a piece this turned a nice profit, especially at the high volumes hungry high school classmates could provide.  Star Crunches and Swiss Rolls were best sellers.  My business was shuttered by a biology teacher who confiscated (and ate) my inventory one day.   I eloquently protested against this unlawful seizure but to no avail.   Eventually I was told it violated our government low-cost lunch program.    I think I became a strict constitutionalist that day.

It is interesting that the boy only appears in the Gospel of John.  In Matthew, Mark and Luke Christ sends the apostles forth to find food.  Only in John (6: 1-15) does the boy appear.   The John account seems more real to me.   In fairness, I probably would have been a Phillip, second guessing Jesus and doubtfully saying 200 days wages won’t feed this hungry mass.

But Jesus prevails.  As He always will.   He shows Phillip nothing is impossible through God.   As for the boy, he gives what he has to Christ and it is multiplied.  And so it is when we give ourselves in stewardship to Christ.   We give the talents we received from Him back to Him.  They are multiplied beyond our imagination.   In ways we can’t expect and may never know on this Earth.   But they key is to give.   Stewardship is as much a verb as it is a noun.  It is a lifestyle.
Discern.  That’s first.  Spend some time in prayer. What are your talents?   Yes, you have talents.  If you believe you don’t have any talent then join the Ministry for the Talentless.  We meet every other Thursday.

Step 2.  Deploy.  Just do it.  Jump in.   Then Develop.  The path your gift will take is known only to God at this point.  It will meander in ways you can’t predict or expect.

In the case you don't have to "be the man," but instead be the boy.  

Posted on July 20th, 2015

I am doing the only thing my children will remember from the entire year.   Vacation.   In honest, forthright and serious discourse, is there anything kids remember more than vacation?   I remember as a kid learning to swim in some motel pool in Augusta, Georgia.  Or the time the 9 of us plus Grandma shoved ourselves into a Winnebago and made our way to visit friends in Boston.  Not only did they speak some weird form of English, the neighbors were shocked when boy after boy just kept spilling out of that RV.

I was thinking about all this as I listened to the Good Shepherd Scripture this weekend.   It was hard to focus.   I love going to Mass on vacation.  The excitement of a new church in a new town with a homilist I have never heard pumps me up.  Yet the familiarity of sharing the miracle about to happen brings me both peace and a sense of community.  

When the Apostles returned from their sending forth Jesus knew they needed a break.   I am not sure exactly where the secluded place was they were headed, but I don’t think it was the Four Seasons.   Although I am sure they needed a physical respite, I think the Apostles needed the part of vacation that the soul requires.  When is the last time you really took four days, a weekend or even part of a one day for a retreat?  Maybe you are good about this.  If so, then did you take someone new with you?  Or maybe the last time was so long ago you aren’t quite sure.   The soul needs it spiritual muscles fed no different than the physical body needs to work out and chill out.  Put it on the calendar!

I continue to be moving all things in the realm of cancer recovery in the right direction.   No more scans until September, when we expect to see nothing but nothing where my tumors once called home.  Today I ate a burrito that was so culinary worthy I bought the restaurant’s t-shirt.   A tee only makes it to the elite collection if the gastronomic experience rates such praise.  Pillo’s Cantina in Makawao, Maui crossed the threshold without difficulty.

Peace and love to all of you.  You are in my prayers.

by Dan Vonder Haar on July 10th, 2015

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the best verse of a song is buried deep in the 4th or 5th stanza?  Such is the case with America The Beautiful.   My favorite is verse three.   "O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life!  America!  America!  May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness and every gain divine."  Our sovereign God was involved in the founding of our nation and remains involved, if let Him.  Men and women who loved their country more than life "gave their lives that that nation might live" as Abe Lincoln proclaimed at Gettysburg.  This construct is never more evident than in the Independence Day Celebration in New Harmony, Indiana.
The Lutheran Harmonist who founded New Harmony over 200 years ago initially arrived in Philadelphia on July 4, 1804.  Thomas Jefferson was President.  Was there a more patriotic place to be than Philadelphia?  And so these Christians became highly patriotic and since then the town they founded has been as well.  Where else can you hear the town choir open a ceremony with patriotic songs, then sing the song for each branch of Service while the town acknowledges each veteran? Then the Declaration of Independence is read aloud.   To hear these words read so well by the town cabinet maker stirs the soul.  A golf cart parade through town is next.  (There are awards for the best decorated golf cart.  You are looking at the victor 7 years running!).   The town gathers for a barbeque where root beer and watermelon is free and for $1.50 you can get more homemade cobbler with ice cream than you can finish.  This is America the Beautiful.
There is no better way to end a weekend of celebration than with Mass.   If you wonder sometimes if our society will make it. If the future looks bleak and you aren't sure tomorrow can be better than today, then you should sit next to my niece Lydia at church.  
Lydia is going into 5th grade.  She is named after my mother's second mother, Lydia Dunker.   "Mrs. Dunker" as we all called her, showed my Mom the ropes when she came to St. Louis as a young adult to work in the rectory at St. Anthony's in South City.  She became an integral part of our world, mending our clothes, hosting our family and watching over us.   Her namesake seems to have the same spirit and diligence.  I found myself looking over Lydia's shoulder to find what page I should be on in the missalette.  She sings each verse with the enthusiasm of someone redeemed. Her palms and arms form the most perfect triangle when she prays.  And there is confidence and intention in her voice.  It is inspirational.   The world needs more Lydias. 
The second Scripture reading was from Paul's second letter to Corinth, Chapter 12.  "My grace is sufficient for you...for when I am weak I am strong."  Sometimes there may seem to be nothing weaker than a child, yet there is much we can learn from their strength.
The closing hymn was America The Beautiful.  She sure is.
Peace and Grace!

by Chris Foeldi on July 10th, 2015

​Most people would agree that human beings, generally speaking, are good.  If we define what it means to be human we must consider special attributes such as the intellect and reason; the heart and love; sovereignty and free will.  It can be argued that the crown of humanity is the capacity to love.  All of these attributes are both gifts and traits that point to the person of God who is the creator of human beings.  When a person exercises their God given attributes in the way God has designed them to be exercised, they become an image of God in the world.  It must be noted that God designed these gifts never to be used for selfish gain.  They are to be used for the greater good for humanity so that the image of God is perpetually present in the world for all to see.  When a person exercises these attributes in a selfish way, these actions become an image for the fallen nature of humanity.  It becomes the image of man without God, thus, “image of man.”  If one discerns today’s politics, today’s culture, today’s ideology, one will see that the world is really seeking to reconfigure the image of man to be the image of God.  When this happens, man throws the image of God out the window and the blessings of God follow suit.

This tragedy can be clearly seen when God given attributes are being abused.  Intellect and reason are used for rationalizing and self-deception.  They redefine truth to be something that serves a person’s selfish desires rather than the desires God originally designed for that person.   Another abuse is when reason marries relativism so that one can commit suicide with one’s conscience.  The doors of corruption are opened for the heart to love selfish pleasures.  The heart becomes addicted to false love where becomes eternally frustrated in a downward spiral of personal desires, disabling the heart to reach out to God.  This heart amidst its false love blots out what God desires it, and what happens in this truly sublime spiritual warfare, the heart dies if it remains on its path of destruction.   The last abuse to be mentioned is that of the sovereign will.  When a person’s will seeks to freely choose those means that don’t lead to God, the intellect and reason divorce from God so that one can live with their self in this lie.  When the above abuses happen, all the attributes that God has given humanity to reflect Him now only reflects the will of man without God.  The crowning of man now becomes the ability to embrace a false love and it is rationalized to be true love.  The imagination has the power to redefine God to be a god who is only exists in one’s mind, heart and will.  When one becomes attached to this false reality, the person’s ego and pride becomes that person’s god.
Today we must ask at what point will God allow man to think he is God?  How high will God allow man to again attempt his tower of Babel declaring man has authority over God?  God’s sign for Noah should be considered when these questions are discerned.  God used the rainbow to promise Noah that he would never flood the world again.  The rainbow was a covenant of mercy and promise to humanity (Gen. 9:11).  Humanity must realize that there will a time a judgement comes from God as in the days of Noah (Luke 17:26), but this time with fire (2 Peter 3:4-10).  God has given all the mercy possible in Christ, but when man uses images of God to misrepresent God’s will (such as the rainbow that advocates the destruction of traditional marriage), will those acceptances of man herald what St. Peter foretold?   This becomes a real possibility when human beings cease to be the true image of God they were created to reflect.

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