Yesterday I drove one hundred forty miles east of my home to receive the first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine. I was so anxious that the night prior to that I slept very little. Last night I slept like a log. I’m hopeful and grateful today for the team of scientists who created this remedy to the Corona virus. I’m grateful for President Biden whose team has expedited these vaccines. I got my shot at a CVS. The folks at the store were very professional and put us at ease. I felt like I was surrounded by angels and indeed they were. I’ve had a lot of vaccines in my life but none so anticipated. My arm is not sore. It’s just a little tender around the injection site.
My wife got her vaccine the day before. She said that this was a Valentine to remember and indeed it was. We enjoyed our trip together to central New York State. We passed through the Finger Lakes region and enjoyed its beauty and bounty. Along the way we passed a motel that looked like the one in Schitts Creek. That gave us a chuckle. Later we passed a store front that reminded of Roland Schitt whose one of the characters in the series we’ve been enjoying lately.
Today I’m returning to my daily walk which I missed yesterday due to our travel. I’m grateful to be alive and grateful for the professionals at CVS and the leadership of the man who carries the Rosary and gives me hope. Peace.
This has been an apocalyptic day in an apocalyptic time. We have had nearly a week of looting and rioting following the murder of an innocent black man by police in Minneapolis. The country and world are enduring a pandemic and now we are beset by civil strife the likes of which we have not seen in over fifty years. We are descending into chaos and perhaps worse. Tonight our president threatened to send the military into states that did not meet his ultimatum to end the uprising. It’s all bound to fail as only love can conquer hate but our president is not a man who loves anyone. I pray for him everyday. He’s out of his depth. Worse yet we need real leadership at this time in our history and in the world as we grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic.
People are hurting and sending in the troops is not going to allay their fears nor will it end the strife. It will likely cause the pandemic to worsen. Recently I read that Michael Joncas had released a new hymn in the midst of this chaos. It’s called ‘Shelter Me.’ It’s going to be a classic and maybe it will bring peace to our strife torn country and world. The enemies of peace and freedom seem to be winning tonight.
There’s been a lot of pushback on social distancing and mask wearing. Many consider theses measures as umbrage. It isn’t always a pleasant experience. It is an annoyance to have to wear a face covering. When I was a little boy my Mom would say, “offer it up.” In other words doing thing that were not pleasant were in fact a call to holiness. I have begun to look at mask wearing differently since remembering my Mother’s missive.
Many times in life we’re called to endure situations that are irksome, worrisome and annoying. This is just one more of those instances. When we think of holiness it’s sometimes confused with piety and perhaps going to church on your day of worship. However, there are myriad opportunities to be holy or called to holiness. For some it may be a stoplight, for others it might be waiting in that line in the grocery store. In this pandemic standing six feet apart, wearing a mask and washing our hands frequently can be calls to holiness too.
The more I try to avoid suffering the more I suffer. I need to learn to embrace the suffering and embrace the mask that I am called to wear. The mask is my penance, my cross and my redemption.
I have been praying the Franciscan Crown Rosary almost everyday since the quarantine began. I have not missed a day in the month of May trying my best to follow the example of Pope Francis. I use a five decade rosary which is the one most folks are familiar with and then after the fifth decade I go back and pray the last two decades again. This brings me to a total of seven decades. There have been days and times when I have questioned the effectiveness of my prayers and whether there were any results.
Today I received some good news about our family and I knew immediately that my prayers are being answered. I gave thanks for the good news and tomorrow when I’m walking I’ll be praying the Franciscan Crown again. Hail Mary is a metaphor for a desperate pass to win a game. I don’t know how that came to be but I do believe that Mary does intercede for us.
One of the reasons I like the Franciscan Crown is that it’s easier for me to remember the mysteries that I’m supposed to meditate on. Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Visit of the Magi, finding Jesus in the Temple, the appearance to Mary after the Resurrection and the Assumption.
I can’t remember the Pope’s prayers each day so I substitute my own. Each day my prayer focus changes and I continue pray for leadership in this pandemic and for the people and patients on the front lines.
We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, here, and in all your churches throughout the world, and we bless you, for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
St. Francis of Assisi
Two years ago I was in Assisi with a group of United States Veterans as part of a Franciscan pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi. That morning the friar leading our pilgrimage celebrated Mass at the Portiuncola. It was a peak experience for me and other members of our group. Now, two years later as we are reeling from the effects of this global pandemic those days come into sharper focus. Pope Francis has designated the entire month of May as a time of prayer for relief from Covid-19. Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM who is the provincial of Holy Name of Jesus Province of the Order of Friars Minor has designated today as a special day of prayer.
Therefore I’m joining Franciscans and others in a special day of prayer. The crucifix below is a San Damiano Cross I received on the pilgrimage.
Be part of a once in a lifetime chance to run across New York State. Many races have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic so this might be your one chance to compete this year with thousands of other runners from across New York State. I have joined my son and other members of a team called “Fredonia.” We’re diverse by age and geographic location but we’re of one mind to enjoy running and walking across New York State for the good of others. We’re part of the “One NY Virtual Challenge – Race Across New York.” Each participant receives some swag too and in my case be part of a team too. You can elect to register by yourself, join a team or create your own.
According to the website, “OneNY is donating 100% of all donations and a portion of the proceeds from the 500k & 1000k challenges to COVID-19 Relief.” Join us!
I was listening to a Super Soul podcast with Oprah Winfrey interviewing Eckhert Tolle and as they were talking about the present moment I had a helpful insight. In the midst of all this stress and daily projection and worry I haven’t been living in the present moment. Sometimes words are just words until they come to have meaning in my life. Today was one of those days when the present moment became more than two words. A chap once said to me, “if you were to ask God what time it is what do you think he would say.” I said, “I don’t know.” My friend said, “he’d say it was now.” Many years later the thought of the conversation returned and I came to appreciate the power of now.
The past and future are imaginary. The only thing that matters is now. All we have is now. Right now I’m okay. Earlier today I had a chance to visit one of my favorite quiet spots in nearby Ellicottville. I visited Nannen Arboretum. It’s a very contemplative setting. It was a beautiful day.
I have a statue of St. Jude that’s been mine since I was a young boy. I had lost track of it for years until five years ago when we were moving my Mom to assisted living. Since then the statue has returned to my life and and currently lives most of the time next to my laser printer.
I was drawn to the statue as a young boy because I mistook St. Jude for St. Patrick. You notice that Jude is wearing green and so naturally as an Irish-American I assumed that if you wore green you were usually Irish. My Mom and Dad purchased the statue while we were visiting the Catholic Union Store in Buffalo. It was after I got the statue home that I learned it’s true identity. Then I began to learn that Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. From that time until now I’ve given thoughts and prayers to St. Jude when there was an impossible cause in my path. The Coronavirus, Covid-19 and our federal government’s inept response to it are all impossible causes that I’ve given to St. Jude. The statue has survived about sixty years and that’s remarkable because it’s made of plaster. You’ll notice that the flame that once adorned Jude’s head has not survived the test of time. I continue to hope and pray that St. Jude, the Holy Spirit and other positive forces can change the course of the pandemic or at least our response to it.
Psalm 63 is one of my favorites. It is a psalm of David when he was in the Desert of Judah. I often turn to it when I am troubled and read the verses over and over. It is a tonic for me. While reading it the other day I came to meditate on its final verse, “the mouths of the liars will be silenced.” Thousands are dying each day of Covid-19 and yet some politicians, pundits and citizens are spreading misinformation designed to create doubt of its deadliness. Some of these people are driven by greed. Others believe they are immune. Some see quarantine, lock down and social distancing as anathema. Other see these new regulations as infringement on their civil liberties. Whatever their beef they are spreading lies and falsehoods which put the lives of everyone in danger.
Many years ago I read this quote from Hebrews.
The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
If Hebrews is correct then perhaps there is power in Psalm 63 too and the mouths of the liars will be silenced. In the meantime, wear a mask, keep your distance, pray for each other.
A year ago when I snapped this picture I felt the presence of a loving force for good in my life. One year later after almost two months of quarantine and thousands of deaths I’ve begun to question that presence and the effectiveness of prayer. Daily the death toll increases and our ability to shield ourselves from its destructiveness is very limited. Some of our leaders like Governor Cuomo seem very qualified and caring but our national leadership is grossly incompetent and riddled with cronyism.
Where is God? I told a friend yesterday that I had increasing doubts of the existence of God. Where was God at Auschwitz? Twelve million people were slaughtered by the Nazis and God didn’t stop that. I do believe in good. Doing good helps me to move forward. Doing good helps others too. Is God in the good we do for each other? Maybe. Governor Cuomo is doing good. The frontline first responders are doing good. The essential workers are doing good. What motivates some to do good and others to do nothing or work against the good.