Welcome !

Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and me!
 Luke Knofczynski

Since it is still Christmas we still have our decorations up and Christmas music is playing throughout our house. There are abundant platters of Christmas goodies placed out and the kids are enjoying their annual feasting on the chocolate ornaments that have replaced the little Nativity storybook ornaments that were read and hung on the tabletop Advent tree. And, we are all still pondering the story of Emmanuel.

If your Advent was like ours it was busy, hectic and messy!  All of the Advent devotions done with the kids seemed chaotic and disorderly. It was very often the antithesis of quiet reflection!  Still, the Christ child came quietly and silently into the chaos of the entertaining, decorating, traveling, cooking, et cetera.  And because he comes so quietly into the celebrations, we are invited to step back, if only in the depth of our heart, and like Mary reflect.

The readings for the Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God include the story found in the Gospel of Luke 2:16-21:

 "The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.  When they say this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.  And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the had seen, just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by an angel before he was conceived in the womb."

And we are to ponder not in befuddled arrogance, demythologizing the story into oblivion, but in pure hearted wonder and awe, like Mary.  Looking at the frail babe in her arms, pondering his miraculous conception and all the gracious signs that the Lord had given her so that she could continue forward in her great Fiat!  What great wonder must have stirred in her heart.

  I know there are many who study scripture who have taken the prophesies of -and the Gospel story itself - of the virginal conception and birth of the messiah apart; only to put it back together entirely devoid of wonder and awe, and entirely barren of the life it is intended to give.  When I hear these theories I immediately think of the Parable of the Sower.  The birth of the Savior has been stripped of it's fertile soil, and it cannot be planted deeply, and repeatedly pondered. Whatever grace it bestows will be taken away as soon as the dryness of ordinary life returns.

There is still hope!  The miracle of the Incarnation and the miracle of conceiving life everlasting where there should be none or where the soil is dry and hostile, is always being cultivated in the hearts of those who ponder, like Mary.  Purity of heart can begin to be restored in one who ponders the story of the Nativity of Christ!  Life can be regenerated in hearts like mine, hearts that have a tendency become slaves to fear and cynical in our weaknesses or in reaction to the hurtful actions of others. They are regenerated when we receive and reflect on the message of the angel and trust it to be so.

Allow yourself embrace the miraculous conception of the Lord so that you can be a child of Mary, who bore the Savior in humble trust! Imitate her reflective heart and receive the Spirit of his Son so that we all may cry out Abba, Father, and be freed from the tyranny of cynicism and the slavish spirit of this world!

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 26, 2011

We All Experienced His Spiritual Presence

Greetings and Merry Christmas to all who read Journey To Wisdom!  Sharon Nelsen is sharing with us some of the materiel that she has been privileged to see as the cause of Father Flanagan is poised to begin the next phase:  

"after more than ten years of working with Father Flanagan's boys and hearing so many stories of transformation, we are moving from the groundswell into the next phase of sainthood process. Our postulator, Dr. Andres Ambrosi, will be taking the cause to our Archbishop Lucas in mid-January of our New Year. If the Archbishop accepts the cause, the Diocesan Phase begins and Father Flanagan receives the title of Servant of God as the investigation of his life story proceeds. The following article is a one page piece written by our good friend and Boys Town boy, Stan Struble. Stan's perspective inspires us as church to think about considering miracles of the heart and mind as possible criteria in the sainthood process. Please feel free to share these sites and attached material with your families and friends."  Sharon Nelsen

We All Experienced His Spiritual Presence
            —Stan Struble, Class of 1968

Stan Struble, Director of the Alumni, wrote this letter to teachers in the recently published teaching resource unit about Father Flanagan, “A Saint of Our Own.”
I am writing to share information that is essential in understanding why the Home’s alumni believe that Father Flanagan should be canonized.  As a graduate and long-time employee of Boys Town, I have come to know many, many former students and employees from all generations, including those who knew Father Flanagan and those who did not.  Strong tangible lines link us because of commonalities and shared experiences.  The Home has weathered World Wars, depressions and recessions, changes in curriculum and staff, as well as the tumultuous transformation of America’s families and cultural values.  Yet Father Flanagan’s spirit and work has endured, strong and undiminished, under the inspired leadership of the Home’s Executive Directors. 

Father Flanagan’s genius and spirituality are as viable and relevant today as they were in 1917.  The miracle of Boys Town is that our Founder created a place that provided exactly what children require in order to become good citizens.  You see, no matter how hard the staff works, no matter how well they counsel or role model, it’s still up to the individual child to make the transformation.   There’s no magic pill or bullet.  Only the child can make the decision to heal from their abuse and neglect.  No one can do the hard work for them.   Herein lies the miracle and genius of Father Flanagan.  All Boys Town alumni know that Father Flanagan built this place just for them.  We all experienced his spiritual presence and healing in some way, whether in church, school or on the gridiron.  His spirituality and mission continues to resonate individually within each new generation. 

For many hundreds of years ‘miracles’ have been viewed solely within the context of inexplicable medical cures.  As our knowledge of science has grown, we now know that many ‘miracles’ are now quite easily explained; not all, obviously, but many.  And some miracles can best be explained as unnatural events that occur naturally.  Whether through ignorance or fear, the mind, that entity most important in governing our being, has never been viewed as a bodily organ in need of healing except within a biological context.  In retrospect, sitting here in the 21st  Century, one can only speculate on why such a narrow definition of ‘miracle’ has been used to demonstrate holiness. 

Miracles occur every day at Boys Town—some small, others huge—but ‘miracles’ nonetheless.  Unless you’ve been the victim of spiritual neglect, or chronic physical and emotional abuse as a child, you can’t truly appreciate the difficulties and barriers in becoming emotionally healed.  It’s a process that requires a very special place, committed staff, and a spiritual font to nourish and heal the mind.  Through Father Flanagan, all three have became an integral part of Boys Town.  It’s the type of miracle that goes unrecognized and unappreciated except by those of us who know what the alternative would have been; frightening to realize how badly our lives might have turned out, and awe-inspiring to know that only a miracle could have saved us...Father Flanagan’s life was divinely inspired; he was selected by God for a very special mission: to bring help, healing and hope to children and families; ‘miracles’ of the heart and soul are as rare and real and relevant as ‘medical miracles’.

NOTE; This article was in our Winter 2004 issue of our Father Flanagan newsletter.   Stan works in the aftercare program at Boys Town. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas at Father Flanagan's House

A Merry Christmas from Sharon Nelsen:

Greeting you with Father Flanagan's words, "Hello Dear," and some words from the writings of Jim Takahashi about Father Flanagan (I'll say a bit about my connection with Jim later:)

"When I arrived at Boys Town, Father Flanagan came up and greeted me, he hugged me, he was very, very loving. All the people in Nebraska were wonderful, we had friends who were Italians, Germans, all nationalities, and they didn't care what nationality we were. I was the supervisor of the grounds. I contacted many of the people I knew from the detention camp in Los Angeles and told them to come to Boys Town. With all their families, about 20 people came... My wife Margaret, was very popular with the boys, because most of these boys had no idea what a true mother was like, either. She would hug them, and boys need that. Many of the boys acted so tough, like they didn't care at all, but they all cared. They all wanted to be near Father Flanagan. Father Flanagan called everyone "dear," and he was a real father to each boy. He had candy in his pocket at all times, and he would hand this out to the kids. I never heard anyone call men "dear" like Father. Father Flanagan made you feel like you were his favorite, everyone was his favorite. He was radiant, you would look at him and just love him... When I returned to Los Angeles in 1947, I started landscaping and cutting trees in the San Fernando Valley. I have been a landscaper and gardener ever since. I specialized in building Japanese gardens for people.."
I began working on the Father Flanagan cause for sainthood in 2001. Going through documents in the Hall of History was part of my work. When I came across this story of the Takahashi family, I realized this was Leona Takahashi's Dad. Leona and I had been classmates at Los Angeles Catholic Girls High School for four years. I did not know then that she had lived at Boys Town during the war years. The Takahashi family had to leave their home in Los Angeles and were detainees at Santa Anita Race Track stables when they heard about Fr. Flanagan's invitation to come and work at Boys Town. Leona's mother took the girls and new baby brother on the train to Omaha. Jim drove a truck carrying their possessions, and drove straight through from Los Angeles to Omaha as he feared for his life at any stops on the route. I think of the Takahashi's and their struggle whenever I walk beneath the sturdy, mature oaks Jim planted around the main historical area at Boys Town.

I send you this story at Christmastime, because, after more than ten years of working with Father Flanagan's boys and hearing so many stories of transformation, we are moving from the groundswell into the next phase of sainthood process. Our postulator, Dr. Andres Ambrosi, will be taking the cause to our Archbishop Lucas in mid-January of our New Year. If the Archbishop accepts the cause, the Diocesan Phase begins and Father Flanagan receives the title of Servant of God as the investigation of his life story proceeds.

Father Flanagan transformed lives and systems. In the early 1900's, he accepted boys of all races and creeds. This fact alone raised a clamor of opposition, so much so that he was motivated to move "way out" to Overlook Farm, which is now the National Headquarters of Boys Town. But the greatest transformation is the personal transformation each child who becomes part of the Boys Town family experiences, and how all of us are transformed in hope renewed by one person's efforts to do something about an unjust system.

If you'd like to know more about our work, you can check out our website, www.fatherflanagan.org where much of the material is available for downloading. Also, Father Flanagan's residence at Boys Town is decorated as an Irish Christmas and you might enjoy viewing that on the you-tube site http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWhBhBcvkaI.

At this blessed time of New Life, John and I remember with gratitude the gift each of you are to us. Our prayer is that your hope, too, is renewed by the example of one person's conviction to do what he could to help transform the lives before him.

Christmas blessings of Hope to each of you and to all of your "dear" ones,

John and Sharon

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Canticle of Hannah

The readings for yesterday's Mass were about Hannah offering her little Samuel to Eli. This is one of those stories that haunt me all day.  I keep thinking about it and a question keeps rising from my soul:  "what are you asking of me Lord?"  I realize that I have no heart to receive the deep profound grace of God if I cannot entrust to the Lord all that I hold most dear.
1 Sm 1:24-28

In those days,
Hannah brought Samuel with her,
along with a three-year-old bull, and ephah of flour, and a skin of wine,
and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.
After the boy's father had sacrificed the young bull, 
Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said:
"Pardon, my lord!
As you live, my lord,
I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD."
She left Samuel there.

What are you asking of me Lord?
That last line is a difficult one for me to read.  I can't imagine taking my three year old daughter and placing her in the care of someone else and leaving! Can you see why this haunts me with the question "what are you asking of me?" I am not capable of that level of sacrifice, and why would the Lord ever need such a heart wrenching act? It seems cruel to separate a young child from his mother, (and if you have read the whole story you know that Eli did not do such a great job with his own sons)! Who is this God whose holiness is so awesome that such a sacrifice is warranted, and how can He ever heal the devastating heartache of a mother who no longer has her child to hold?  My soul cries out for an answer.   I know that I can never fully understand the ways of God here in this Valley of Tears,  but these readings keep whispering to me.  Though my heart breaks for Hannah and her little Samuel, I am seeing that God can be trusted for He is forging the path back to Himself, and He is the refuge for the brokenhearted.  Hannah has put all of her trust in Him, she holds nothing back.  

Open your heart to His majesty!
 This child, Samuel, factors big in salvation history and is close to the Lord in a mysterious way! He listens and hears the Lord, maybe it is because he has learned from his mother that the unfathomable God is to be entrusted with everything we have, and our hearts should always be listening for His gentle calling.  In the end it is my fear of pain as well as a superficial understanding of things that are holy and sacred that prevents me from hearing this passage, and what it has to ask of me.  And I am being asked in this reading to open my heart and trust in the mysterious majesty of God!  For as the readings continue we see that God's power works from generation to generation, and that He never forgets or overlooks the little ones, who have no where to go and no one they can completely trust.

Withhold nothing from God!
The Responsorial Psalm is taken from Hannah's canticle to God after she has left Samuel at the temple, and Hannah's canticle foreshadows Mary's, who will also suffer the loss of her son.   Neither woman lets the anxiety, or the pain of this world harden their hearts and so dampen their joy at being blessed with a child.  They do not protect themselves from loss by loving less, or holding back anything from God.  Their lives are an offering to God and their hearts are always in trusting prayer.  They understand that all that they have is God's and that nothing can be withheld from God.  They trust in The Lord who fulfills His promises to even the lowly barren woman, or a poor maiden of Nazareth.

 Luke 1: 46-56:
Mary Said:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his lowly servant,
from this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him 
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy.
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever."

Rejoice in His redeeming mercy!
The sorrows and sacrifices of this world should always whisper to us "in the beginning it was not so".  They can reveal to us that we are indeed souls in exile; we are separated from the  Heavenly Bridegroom.  They should focus our hearts on the journey to God, if only we can trust that when the Lord casts down the pride in our hearts, He will not forget us!  If only we can allow his redeeming mercy to scatter the attachments to materiel things or even to the idea that we have more that just superficial control over the events of the world.  If we do not have these things sent away from our hearts we may not realize that our hopes for things eternal are withering, and our fears of the unknown future will consume us!  We will settle for so much less than what God has in mind for each one of us.  We have to learn to allow God to let us hunger for what is truly lasting!  And trust in His faithfulness in filling the empty.   If only we can endure and help others to endure as well, so that someday we will see with pure eyes that the longing we so often ache with will have its true and lasting fulfillment. It is in that longing that we should rejoice in his redeeming mercy, as a mother longs for her child or a bride for her bridegroom, because the longing is an sign of a place where it will be fulfilled.

God is faithful in all that He promises!
 Hannah understands, the sorrow of leaving her son should reveal how profoundly sorrowful our lives are without God's fruitful grace in our soul!  Her trust in the Lord makes straight the way for God's salvation for generations to come!  God is the one who will sooth all of these sorrows.   Mary understands. She does not reject what she does not fully comprehend.   She does not hide away from the pain and sacrifice she will watch her son go through, she loves deeply and her heart is pierced deeply.  There is nothing superficial or lukewarm about these women.  Their sorrow is deep, but their everlasting joy is deeper still!  And what is brought forth from these women of faith are beautiful songs that reveal God's fidelity down to the last generation!

What is God asking of me?
He is asking for me to trust in Him in sorrow and in joy.  To extend my hope from just the here and now into the future.  To cast down the envy and pride that keep my hopes from the heights of heaven.  To seek the Heavenly Bridegroom in whom all my longing will be fulfilled!

Grace and Peace to all!



Friday, December 16, 2011

Our Advent Journey

Advent is the liturgical season that precedes and prepares for Christmas. It is a season of hope and of longing, of joyful expectation and of peaceful preparation. As we continue on our Advent journey, we prepare for the coming of our Lord. Part of the preparation is reconciliation. The following is taken from a Communal Reconciliation Service. I hope you find the meditations helpful to your personal journey.

Liturgy of Asking Forgiveness

We come now to ask the Lord of justice for His forgiveness. We ask in the name of Christ who is the light ofthe world. Let us listen to our hearts.

"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

God promised through Isaiah to be out everlasting light. How have I been a light, or a ray of hope to my family, my friends, those I work with? How have I protected my darkness so that no one can get in?

Jesus, fill us with your light.
"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

God promises to make us radiant in the Light of Christ. Do I allow my values and desires to be formed by the Gospel? Have I used my light to work for justice and act with compassion? Have I been hope for those around me?

Jesus, fill us with your light.
"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

Jesus tells us to care for the needs of the poor and one another. How do I share God's goodness with others? How do I fail to care for the poor and those in need?

Jesus, fill us with your light.
"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

We have been seeking to be Christ for one another and for the people with whom we journey on the path of life. How have I made ready the way for Christ to come to birth in this day and in this place? Have I neglected to go beyond myself to point the way to Christ?

Jesus, fill us with your light.
"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

God calls us to build up Christ's body, the church. Is Christ resent in my life, in my relationships with others? What in my life cries out for redemption? For new life? For what am I most grateful?

Jesus, fill us with your light.
"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

Let us pause for a quiet moment .......... .let us think of what we most want to bring to our God.

An Act of Contrition
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help, To do penance, to sin no more,
And to avoid whatever lead me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ sufferedand died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy. AMEN

Isaiah 63: 17 "Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your way, and harden our hearts so that we fear you know? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage."
64:7 "Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands."

Peace and blessings to you through all this Advent journey

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whose Lordship are you under?

For the most interesting talk on Advent click on the link to the Aggie Catholic blog and watch Father Robert Barron give a brilliant talk on Advent!  You will have to ask yourself after: Whose Lordship am I under?

Aggie Catholics: Fr. Barron - "Advent is a Preparation For a Revolution"

Peace and Grace

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gaudete Sunday!

Wayne State College Madrigal Choir singing Gaudete

1st Thessalonians 5:16-24

Brothers and sisters;
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks.
For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise the prophetic utterances.
Test everything, retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfectly holy,
and may you entirely, spirit, soul and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will also accomplish it. 

May all of you who read this blog continue to joyfully prepare for the coming of Christ!

Peace and Grace,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Nick speaks to the Children of St. Patrick's!

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas, and the children at St. Patrick's school received a very special treat, but it was not in their shoes left out by the fireplace!  St. Nick himself visited them at their school to tell them all about who he is, and why we honor him!  Here is that  special presentation, written by Sharon Nelsen:

St. Nicholas (Fourth Century) (Feast Day December 6)
Saints for School Masses, Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Written by Sharon Nelsen

St. Nicholas

In the Fourth Century, I was appointed Bishop of Myra, the capital city in Lycia, which is a province of Asia Minor.  I loved my people and they loved me which might be why so many legends have arisen about me.  This does not mean that the stories about me are untrue, just that they became more exaggerated as they were told and retold through the centuries.

What is important to me and to you is that we share with others from what God has bestowed upon us.  When my parents died, they left me a fortune.  I was determined to share that fortune with others and very soon an opportunity arose, which has become the story about me that has inspired gift-giving at Christmastime throughout the world.  The story is about how I helped a poor man in our city of Patara:

This man had lost all of his money and he had three daughters of marriageable age.  In our times it was up to the father to find a husband for his daughter, and to give not only his daughter to that husband, but to give a “dowry” of money with her.  This may sound odd to you, but in my day, when one more person was added to the household (and the daughter always went to live with her new husband’s family) someone had to pay for her food and clothing—which is why the father provided a dowry.

If the father of the bride had no money or goods to give, no dowry, his daughter had little chance of marriage and most probably would end up on the streets when her father died.

Little did I realize that when I threw the first bag of gold through the window of that poor father’s house, I was beginning a tradition!  I had managed to leave the first two bags of gold secretly, but when I crept by one night and left that third bag of gold, the poor man saw me and overwhelmed me with gratitude.

The word spread and probably because my Feast Day is so close to Christmas Day, giving gifts became associated with the Birth of Jesus.  Today in many countries, gifts are given on St. Nicholas Day, or in January on the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the gifts the Magi brought to the newly born Savior of the world.

Gifts can be things, but they can also be the giving of our time to be with someone, to help someone or simply to make someone’s life better because we let them know we care about them. 

One of the gifts I gave the church was my presence at the Council of Nicaea in the year 325. I helped the council declare what we believe about God and His Church, so now, as you recite the Nicene Creed together at Sunday Mass, you are proclaiming the truth.  And truth is the best gift of all.

Today, my prayer for each of you is that you will share always from the truth of your time, your talent, and your treasure with those the Lord sends to you throughout your life.

  St. Nicholas, pray for us;        

  St. Patrick, our parish patron, pray for us;                                  

 All holy men and women, pray for us.

Copyright 2011, Sharon Nelsen

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Joseph's Annunciation

My favorite St Joseph picture from the Holy Land!
St Joseph's Annunciation event as depicted from St Joseph's Church in Nazareth.