Right after we’d moved to Iowa from Florida, we took our annual Christmas photo. Patti had this great idea to have us pose outside in early December as Flordians who still had not come to terms with the reality of life in Iowa. It was 28 degrees out after 4″ of snow had fallen. Too fun.
Excuse the break in my posting silence, but for those of you who know my daughter Maria, today is her sweet 16. If you want to send a message just post a comment here! And kindly say a prayer for her.
Random: I recorded Maria and her friend Ashley the other night when they started singing Silent Night. Excuse the poor visual quality of my phone.
A blessed Christmas to all.
Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. — Bl. Teresa of Calcutta
One of my daughters loves to share with me “pay it forward” videos of people who are the beneficiaries of someone’s kindness and then go on to do someone else a good turn. She asked me if I remembered anyone in my past whose kindness inspired me to be kind. Of course, there are so many people I could name, but what immediately came to mind was a tutor I had in 7th grade — “Mr. Wallace.”
I had flunked out of 7th grade and had to repeat it at a different school. It was a dark time in my life, and I had really lost a sense of confidence in my ability to succeed. I hated school. I remember very well the first day I sat with him. He had curly brown hair and was wearing a kind smile on his face. He said, as I recall: “My job is to help you see how much you have to offer the world and show you that you’re much smarter than you think you are.” I remember this because I never expected it to come out of a teacher’s mouth and it seemed so outrageous. Offer the world? Smart? Week after week, month after month, year after year — for three years — we met and went over homework, reading skills, table manners, social skills, handling disappointment, and he often talked about my favorite subject at the time: weather. He was interested because I was. He planted a seed of confidence in me that grew, and I never forgot him. When I encountered Jesus Christ while I was in college, that seed exploded into a tree as my mind, for the first time, opened with a hunger for knowledge of everything.
Four years ago I decided to look him up. It took me weeks of detective work, but I found him. Married with kids and grandkids, living in Pennsylvania. I wrote him a letter to express my gratitude and share with him where I had gone in life. He wrote me back a simple response: “Tom, I am appreciative for your kindness in making the effort to tell me this. I vaguely remember you, but I’m old now. I am happy for your successes and am glad to know I played a small part. Those are the things make the hard times along the way meaningful.”
Who are your Mr. Wallaces?
Below are the videos my daughter, and a seminarian, shared with me that I found most inspiring.
I love St. Thérèse!
Let me share with you a quote from her autobiography, followed by an adorable video of Ella Mae and her Daddy that — for me — captures the spirit of Thérèse’s love for God the Father.
It is needful to remain little before God and to remain little is to recognize one’s nothingness, expect all things from the good God just as a little child expects all things from its father; it is not to be troubled by anything, not to try to make a fortune. Even among poor people, a child is given all it needs, as long as it is very little, but as soon as it has grown up, the father does not want to support it any longer and says: “Work, now you are able to take care of yourself”. Because I never want to hear these words I do not want to grow up, feeling that I can never earn my living, that is, eternal life in heaven. So I have stayed little, and have no other occupation than of gathering flowers of love and sacrifice and of offering them to the good God to please Him.
Okay, here’s Ella Mae:
Edited version of today’s re-post: https://nealobstat.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/cherubic-hymn-beauty/
A collage of wisdom for this Great Sabbath:
“Hosea above all shows us that this agape dimension of God’s love for man goes far beyond the aspect of gratuity. Israel has committed ‘adultery’ and has broken the covenant; God should judge and repudiate her. It is precisely at this point that God is revealed to be God and not man: ‘How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! … My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst’ (Hos 11:8-9). God’s passionate love for his people—for humanity—is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself [ut contra se ipsum vertat Deum], his love against his justice. Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God’s love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love.” — Pope Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est”
And Jesus uttered a loud cry [phōnēn megalēn], and breathed his last. – Mark 15:37
“We could say that the last word of the Word lacks intelligible meaning. This word is only a voice, a sound pronounced by the vocal organs of an animal. One produced at the moment when his lungs were emptied. This sound was produced by flesh, therefore, it was nothing but a spasm of the flesh in the death rattle … At this point of time, the Word and the flesh are but one. In the simplest, least theological meaning of John 1:14, the word becomes flesh. The last word of the Word is that of a powerless Word, reduced to silence … But here everything is turned upside down. What would be the defeat a speaker that one had silenced is no longer that if the speaker is identical with what he has to say, if he is the word of Another who speaks him. It is not the Word that speaks, but is the One who is spoken. If, therefore, a man is the Word, he ought to be silent … what would be most revealing is not what he says, but what he does. Who he is.
It is therefore unreasonable to regret the silence of the divine. This silence is the inevitable consequence of a word uttered without reserve. Christ on the Mount of Olives [in the Garden of Agony] has no response to expect. He himself is the response of God … C.S. Lewis says, ‘I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer: you are yourself the answer.’ The silence of God gives rise to complaints against him, even accusations. But this sort of accusation only desires to inflict on him a reproach and a vengeance he has already fully suffered … If God were that of pagans or philosophers, he could very well find refuge in the highest heavens. But you know that our God stepped forth and stood before us. You can show him the finger, spit on his face, whip him and, finally, nail him to a cross. Whatever. It’s already been done.” — Rémi Brague, “On the God of the Christians”
What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled. — From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday
“In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can only be a dread silence – a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this? In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here; yet our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again.” — Pope Benedict XVI at Auschwitz
There is so much deep contradiction in my soul. Such deep longing for God – so deep that it is painful – a suffering continual – and yet not wanted by God – repulsed – empty – no faith – no love – no zeal. The silence and emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. Heaven means nothing – to me it looks like an empty place – the thought of it means nothing to me and yet this torturing longing for God. Pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything. For I am only His – so He has every right over me. I am perfectly happy to be nobody, even to God. . . .
Your devoted child in J.C.
Mother Teresa ― Brian Kolodiejchuk, “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta”
“When the stone had been sealed by the Jews, and the soldiers where guarding Thine most-pure Body, Thou didst rise on the third day, O Savior, granting life unto the world. Glory to Thy dispensation, O only Lover of mankind.” — Troparion of the Resurrection
My children are now between 13 and 18 years old. Time is not on my side. After my marriage, my vocation to fatherhood defines who I am in ways I can’t even articulate. Though I’ve had many fatherly successes, I also have many regrets. At the top of the list is having squandered precious time. A very fatherly priest once told me, when our children were small: “Remember, Tom, children spell love t-i-m-e. So be extravagant in your investment. Spend time on what they’re interested in. Time spent talking with them, not just at them, is gold. Play with them. If they know you love them by your time-investment, your influence grows exponentially.”
Pope Francis made a similar point recently:
The first necessity is in fact this: that the father be present in the family. That he be close to his wife, to share everything – joys and sorrows, efforts and hopes. And that he be close to the children in their growth: when they play and when they are busy, when they are carefree and when they are anguished, when they express themselves and when they are silent, when they risk and when they are afraid, when they take a wrong step and when they find the way again. A father that is present, always! But to be present is not the same as controlling. Because fathers who are too controlling override the children, they do not let them grow.
In my experience, it’s very true that dads often claim work as a reason for their distance from home. It can be so subtle. How many times I’ve done this. A colleague of mine in Florida shared with me a comment his wife’s best friend made to her: “Boy your husband is away from home a lot doing his work!” His wife heartily agreed, and added: “Yes! And even when he’s home, he’s away.” He said to me:
I love my work and my family, but she was absolutely right. It stung me to the heart. My work’s much easier to get lost in and feel productive. I’ve used the “I’m supporting my family” line to justify my frequent absences. But I knew deep down I was running from the challenges of family life. The tedium, the conflicts, the cold prickly stuff. A few months ago, after having an argument with my wife, we prayed about it. I asked God to help me die to myself and live for my family first. After that time, when I came home, I was much more “home.” It’s not always easy, but graces come. The other night my daughter said, “I love your face, daddy.” I lost it. If I’d been away, I would’ve missed that.
O God, be their Father through me
Jackie Kennedy said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” How often I say to myself, “Why can’t I get another shot at this? — I’ve finally gained enough wisdom to do it better.” Each night I fall asleep with a Kyrie eleison, and each morning I awaken with fresh hope.
After my 4th child was born, a priest said to me in Confession: “Isn’t it wonderful God has entrusted His children to you for a such brief time?” I thought, “Wonderful? Stressful!” Then he offered some powerful advice:
Your mission is to help them know and love Him … God wants parenting to be a joint venture, which means you have to ask Him all the time what He wants for them. Ask why He created them. What gifts He’s given them. How best to remedy their sins and weaknesses. Teach them how to hear His voice. The best way to do that is to be a good son of the Father. Listen to His voice. Be close to Jesus who shows us the Father. You don’t possess your children. They’re not yours. They’re His. Your greatest act of love is to lead them back to their Father … The best news you could ever hear on Judgment Day is that, when you children finally see the face of God, they blurt out: “You remind me of my Dad!”
Be close to your children, dads. They need you.