Saints and souls and celebration

Yesterday was Halloween. Some historians will tell you that Halloween’s origin is in ancient festivals honoring the moon or stars or the end (the death) of the growing season. Some Christians believe that All-Hallow’s Eve is a time that early Christians dressed in costume and bestowed gifts and blessings on those in need in an effort to honor the Saints. Nowadays children dress in costume (trick) and go door to door to collect candy (treats). Costumes often convey themes of death or the macabre but just as likely they might be pop stars or something cute and cuddly. Still, you won’t find any saints on parade bestowing gifts or blessings. As a kid, I can assure you that my “trick or treating” was a completely unholy experience. We ran like a pack of wild dogs and grabbed as much candy from as many houses as we could in three or so hours. Those who refused to play along and kept their houses dark risked smashed pumpkins or worse. My friends and I were tiny terrorists demanding candy! Nothing particularly saintly about that experience.

Today is All Saints’ Day, and tomorrow is Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, also known as All Souls’ Day.

All Saints’ Day is a big deal in the Catholic Church. It’s an official holy day. There are countless saints in heaven, but All Saints’ Day observances tend to focus on those recognized in the Canon of the Saints. So, the biggies like Peter and Paul and Mary (not to be confused with the folk trio from the ’60s) get most of the attention. Of course, sometimes the more obscure guys like Sixtus and Phileas get a shout out or perhaps the newbies like Artemide Zatti or Giovanni Battista Scalabrini but not your grandmother nor your uncle, regardless of how saintly they may have lived their lives.

The Catholic Church in the U.S. celebrates All Souls’ Day on November 2nd but few folks outside of the church really pay much attention to this day. It’s a day to remember those who have died and who are not (yet?) saints. I guess this is where your grandmother fits in. However, in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is a major feast day and a national holiday as well. The dead are honored with special meals, including their favorite foods and drink. Whole families gather in the celebration and the mood is light, with the emphasis on remembering and honoring the lives of the deceased.

So why all the fascination with death? I suppose that in order to fully live we must be able to accept death, too. Death is not what defines us. Eternal life, that which we so desperately seek, is never definite; never final. There is much hope for life beyond. For some it is the promise of life with God. And whether that means heaven or remaining in the spirit of those we leave behind, it’s comforting to know that we are more than just a mass of human cells. I believe with all my heart that we exist beyond our last breath. The love we give is multiplied by those we have loved and then divided amongst those we leave behind.

So, our lives matter.

And death, well we can dress it up and “trick or treat” or we can solemnly honor it on a high holy day. I just hope that someday my family will be at my graveside dining on some of my favorite foods and drinking some good wine and laughing and crying and allowing my spirit to live on. And then I will truly rest in peace.


In the time of their visitation, they shall shine and shall dart about as sparks through stubble. Wisdom 3:7

Autumnal Thoughts

Unlike many people (and it seems as if it’s everyone that I know) I don’t love autumn. I’m not a fan of cold weather. I don’t relish watching leaves fall (they will have to be raked up). I like my coffee without pumpkin spice. And picnics, baseball, swimming pools, and snow cones will have to wait until next year.

In addition, Autumn makes me realize that I am in the autumn of my life. And winter is coming – hard and fast!

As I often do, I try to look for the positive in each situation. Fall colors are beautiful. The “gravy season” brings comfort foods that fill my body and my soul. My favorite sweater wraps me in warmth and familiarity. I enjoy watching my grandson playing soccer. And I look forward to the upcoming holiday season with family and friends gathering to share love and laughter.

I strive to find role models to emulate. Some of my favorite humans are embracing their advanced years with a joy and an energy that belies their age. As I groan about my aches and pains, I remember my older friends (some 20-30 years my senior) who embrace each day with purpose and hopefulness. If they can “keep on keeping on” surely, I can do the same.

I also find Autumn a good time to reminisce. I carry a lot of things in my heart on this journey through life. This time of year, as things slow down and this time of life, as I slow down, it seems an appropriate time to pull out those memories and embrace them. I can use this time to let go of hurt. I can offer and accept forgiveness. I can bask in the joy of love’s presence in my life and honor the lives of those I have loved and lost.

Each flutter of breeze brings another cascade of gold and red and orange leaves flying just outside my window. It’s as if they are waving goodbye. And I suppose they are. Next spring they will be replaced with green buds and leaves will sprout again. Until then I must endure another winter. Another dying. Waiting for the warmth to return.

This can be an opportunity to learn patience and embrace hopefulness. I’m praying for wisdom and the grace to accept it.



God causes the changes of the times and seasons. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who understand. Daniel 2:21

“Whad’Ya Know”

My Dad used to say, “whad’ya know” a lot. Sometimes it was an exultation: “Whad’ya know!” after some discovery or realization or surprise. Often it was a question: “Hey Den, whad ‘ya know…?” about some random thing that I had little or no interest in. I’m afraid that I was often dismissive. “Dad, I have no idea…” was my standard response, all the while thinking, “what the hell…?”. Those were missed opportunities. I wish now I would have told him what I knew or more likely what I didn’t know. And listened (really listened) to what he knew. We lost Dad last year and those questions will never be asked again (nor answered, nor dismissed).

Grief is a funny thing. Sometimes it knocks you on your ass. You’re cruising along and everything is fine and suddenly a smell or song or leaf falling or a door closing will trigger a memory and you are immobilized. You feel frozen in time or thought and that undeniable ache crushes your entire spirit. More often though, grief gently taps you on the shoulder or hugs you around the neck and says, “slow down, whad’ya know, you’re going to be okay”. Grief can give you back those precious memories and allow your mind and spirit to simmer in those sweet moments, knowing they will never truly be lost.

What I do know is this: I’m a lot like my Dad. I probably say “what’ya know” more often than I realize. I know I’m always asking my kids and grandkids “what’ya know?” about random stuff and important stuff, too. They’re more tolerant than I am (or I’m oblivious to their dismissiveness). Either way, I’m fine.

I just want them to know what I do know: that I care about what they’re doing and that I love them. I’m often amazed at how brilliant they are: “What’d ya know, my oldest granddaughter is learning welding! What’d ya know, another granddaughter is learning French and has all A’s in her high school classes!”

I have a fun plaque in my home office that reads: “Ask Dad – he knows everything!” Well, I don’t, but I appreciate the sentiment. I don’t even know where I got the plaque. Or if it was a gift or something that I claimed from my Dad’s belongings. I doesn’t matter. I just hope my kids and grandkids occasionally ask me what I know (I might even have an answer worthy of their time) and I pray that they will continue to allow me to ask them what they know. Their wealth of knowledge is a treasure.

And as I continue to marvel at what I don’t know and exclaim, “What’d ya know!” at my discoveries I will rejoice in my newfound knowledge. I will thank God for new memories as I tuck them away for safe keeping with the old ones.



Hear, my son, your father’s instruction. Proverbs 1:8

Entertaining Angels

Today the divisions in our country and in our churches and in our families are daunting. No time in my life have I experienced such anger and resentment; such righteousness and chauvinism. It seems that we are so busy drawing lines in the sand that we have forsaken our fellow humans. Gatherings are tenuous. Conversations are avoided. Neighbors are ignored. Friends and family are neglected.

As I often do, when confronted with things beyond my ken, I search for the wisdom of others. My friend Sherry always finds the good in others. She is an example of God’s never-ending love for us. She forgives completely. And I have been the humble recipient of her forgiveness. My grandchildren, aged 6 to 17, look at our world with such hopefulness. It is impossible not to share their joy and their dreams of a better world. I want to join them on that journey. I have close friends with which I share no political opinions nor affiliations (and we likely routinely cancel one another’s votes) yet we remain respectful, devoted and loving.

This summer I had the opportunity to serve at a food pantry alongside my teenage granddaughter and my pre-teen grandson. I was proud of them and their willingness to give to others. But what truly astounded me was their ease and comfort on that day. They truly gave of themselves – respectful and loving to all they encountered. Their enthusiasm and joy was contagious. On the drive home they recounted their day with thoughtfulness and wondered aloud why life was unfair for so many people. Never once did they judge any of the clientele. Never once did they gloat nor mention how fortunate they were to not be one in need. Instead they were thankful for having been given an opportunity to serve.

Those two saw the good in each person. And once again, they taught me a valuable lesson. I need to stop looking for the differences in others. I need to let go of my need to be on “the right side”. I need to look in the mirror and find that speck of goodness that my loved ones have found. And ask God to forgive me when I fail to share that goodness and miss another opportunity to entertain an angel.



Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. Hebrews 13:2

Quiet Moments

I talk a lot. Too much (some would say). I love lively conversations and big laughs. I like action and music in the background. I’d always rather be a participant than a spectator. I like to be moving and shaking and getting things accomplished.

And I find quiet, well disquieting. Moments of silence seem like an eternity to me. Silent retreats are torturous. And when someone says, “Let’s take a few minutes and quietly reflect”, I can feel my heart start racing and my mind cannot focus on the task at hand. All I can think about is the deafening silence and wonder if I am the only one who is this uncomfortable in THE QUIET. And then I am often amused by a joke that I recall:

There was a monk who took a vow of silence. Every ten years he was allowed to speak only two words. After the first ten years the Abbot summoned the monk and requested his two words, which were: “FOOD COLD“. He was thanked for his honesty. Another ten years passed and the Abbot again summoned the monk and requested his two words, this time it was: “BED HARD“. Again his honesty was appreciated and he left in silence. After thirty years in the Abbey, the monk was summoned once again. His two words: “I QUIT“. The Abbot shrugged and said in reply, “Well, I’m not surprised, you’ve been complaining since you got here.”

Yesterday, once again, I was reminded that quiet moments needn’t be painful, they can in fact be quite beautiful. It’s not easy for me but, when I can shut up long enough to listen with my heart I am blessed beyond measure. Embracing those quiet moments can be a little glimpse of heaven on earth. (Not that I want heaven to be quiet).

Last night my grandson and I were in the backyard talking about baseball and some of our favorite players. The conversation drifted to his upcoming school year. Suddenly our conversation stopped when a bunny hopped up to the patio and stared at us. Once it had our attention it ran off. It proceeded to do this about five or six times. It seemed to be playing with us. So there we were grandson and grandfather immersed in the splendor and joy of this simple act. We were stilled and thrilled and washed in this golden moment. As long as I have memories, this will be one of them.

At bedtime, I remembered another quiet moment that will live in my heart forever. Just a few weeks before my Mom passed away I stopped for a visit. Her pulmonary fibrosis had gotten the better of her that day. She and I just sat and held hands in silence. There she was, near her life’s end, still comforting me. Her soft small hand was holding mine and protecting me as she always did. I believe that she felt the strength in my hand that day and she felt comforted too. No words were needed. Love was conveyed.

So as much as I sometimes curse the silence, I am humbled and blessed by those quiet moments in my life. I pray that the next time I am asked to, “Take a few minutes and quietly reflect” I will remember those quiet treasures I carry in my heart.



Perfectly Mismatched

My beautiful wife Debbie is 4′-11″ tall. I’m 6′-1″. Height differences have been challenging at times to say the least. Disagreements about where things should be placed (top shelf or bottom shelf; overhead or underneath) have been a source of conflict through the years. Also purchasing furniture, cabinets, and automobiles that fit both of us can be quite challenging. Our daily lives have been consumed with readjusting mirrors, car seats, step stools, computer monitors, and anything else that will allow height accommodations. We are simply physically mismatched.

Of course, our physical differences are just part of the challenge. I’m all – hurry, hurry; come on let’s go! She’s all – take it easy; slow down; calm down. I need a well-thought-out plan. She runs on feelings and often laughs at my plans. I’m an early bird that loves to rise and shine. She’s a night owl who requires silence and coffee in the morning. I’m very linear. She usually colors outside the lines.

Through the years we have learned that differences are not detrimental to a successful relationship. In fact, just the opposite. My wife and I complement one another. We fill in each other’s voids. We carry one another when necessary. And don’t be fooled by her size. Deb is larger than life. Her circle of influence is boundless. She dreams big. She has more class in her little finger than most folks have in their entire body. And she has more friends today than I have had in my entire life.

If you are in need, she’s the friend/sister/mother/grandmother to call on. If you need a laugh, she will always deliver. If you need someone to hold or if you need to be held, her arms are always open wide. If you need to cry, she will cry, too. Debbie has this incredible gift of making you know that when she’s with you, no one else is more important or more needed at that moment than you. You have her complete undivided attention. She gives her entire self. She is the heart of our family; friendships are lifelong; her word is her bond; her love for others is boundless.

I’m the luckiest man on earth. Somehow God decided that I was the one who got to share this life with her. Through the good and bad; through the joys and sorrows; I’ve had this beautiful hand to hold. And I’ll never let go.

Happy Birthday Deb.

I love you,



When my kids were small, I was a maniac about trying to keep the house clean and orderly. I’m sure that they’re all emotionally scarred (but seriously, was it too much trouble to wipe their feet and pick up their book bags?). At times I wish I could turn back the clock and let go of my need for control. Too much time was spent keeping things on schedule; in order; squeaky clean. To much effort was put into finishing dinner; getting somewhere on time; making lists; completing tasks. It must have been exhausting.

Today when one of my grandkids leaves a fingerprint on a mirror or window, I’m hesitant to clean it. I want to save all those precious prints. I’ve mellowed with age.

I realize now that those babies who were entrusted into my care left fingerprints on my heart. No one can ever wipe those away. I became a father at twenty-three. To say that I was clueless would be the understatement of the century. When we left the hospital with our newborn son, whom the nurse placed on my wife’s lap in the front seat of our 1977 Ford Pinto, we drove away not knowing what adventures, heartache, joys, and love lie ahead.

There have been proud moments, important milestones, and great honors bestowed upon my progeny. They are three amazing humans. But the things that I carry in my heart on this wonderous ride called Fatherhood are those tiny “finger prints”. They are with me wherever I go. And will be forever.

Tyson’s baby belly-laughs still ring in my memory’s ears and remind me that laughter is truly the best medicine. Bess’s bedtime ritual, complete with “Dad, I’m glad you’re my Dad” still warms this old heart of mine: “Peeper, I’m glad you’re my Peeper”. Remembering Blake standing on our front porch waving goodbye until my car was out of sight, on one of my too many business trips, still makes me yearn for one more hug and one more kiss.

Back in the day, while I was busy cleaning and wiping away those fingerprints, little did I know that they were being imprinted on my heart. What a gift! What a life! What a love!

Happy Father’s Day!


Invisible Man

I’m an usher at my church. Official title: Minister of Hospitality. Honoring that commitment, I attempt to be hospitable. I try to greet each person with a smile and a “hello” or “good morning”. As an usher our duties are pretty simple, which is why I qualify for the job:

  • Greet people.
  • Assist in finding seating.
  • Keep an eye out for those with special needs.
  • Be friendly and welcoming.
  • Try not to judge others (this is my own personally assigned duty and my biggest struggle).

Let me explain.

I believe most folks come to Mass with a open heart and an open mind. Of course, I realize that many also arrive with a heavy heart. Some people can barely put one foot in front of the other due to overwhelming grief or illness. Others also likely come due to some sense of obligation and perhaps with little thought of why we gather as community. Some enter our church angry with God, the Church, or our clergy. Others are carrying in the hearts any number of social, spiritual, emotional or economic ills. I too, sometimes fall into any and all of those categories.

I remind myself each Sunday of the words of the hymn “All Are Welcome”. And I try…

I try to greet each worshipper. I try to extend a hand of friendship and fellowship. I try to make people feel welcomed and loved. I often fail. Recently I was slightly bemused by the number of people who walk past me as if I don’t exist. They don’t acknowledge my greeting. Some barely glance in my direction. Some appear to go out of their way to avoid making eye contact. I have felt at those times like the “Invisible Man”. On Sundays when I am feeling particularly feisty, I try harder. I push myself in front of the disobliging and force them to look at me or at least nod some recognition of my existence. I realize now that that is a bigger failure.

Perhaps some poor souls are finding comfort in their anonymity. Perhaps their pain or anger is so great that they want to feel invisible. That way no one can touch them, hurt them or rebuke them in any way. In my blindness and self-importance, I was failing to offer them the space that they might so desperately need; the sanctuary, if you will. If they find comfort in entering this sacred space and becoming invisible, then who am I to invade that privacy. I can smile and I can nod and I can leave them alone to find their God.

I’m a slow learner but I have finally realized after many failures that “all are welcome in this place” means ALL, not just the ones who smile back at me.



“Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem”

Those are not my words. Those are the words of Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas. He continued, “I’m sick of hearing it.” So am I Bishop, so am I.

I cannot comprehend a hate so virulent in one individual that he would commit the most despicable crime against the most innocent of victims. And yet, in just two weeks time our country has endured two mass shootings perpetrated by eighteen-year-olds. Why in God’s name could someone so young be so filled with hate?

Amerie Garza, 10, celebrated being on the honor roll just hours before she was killed in yesterday’s school shooting.

As a parent and grandparent I am shaken and I am heartbroken. I want to hold on to my precious grandchildren and reassure them that this could NEVER HAPPEN to them. As a citizen I am outraged and fearful because I know that I cannot make that promise. This is the world in which we live. My emotions have bounced back and forth between sadness and anger since learning of this latest massacre.

Our United States Senators have the power to stem the horrific violence of guns in our nation but they remain silent; they remain beholden to the gun lobbyists and the NRA. They will ask for prayers for the victims and families and they will offer “moments of silence” and request that flags be flown at half-mast but they will do nothing to stop this madness.

Of course, I have friends and family who are gun owners. They are peaceful hunters and sportsmen and sportswomen. Some own weapons as a safeguard against possible intruders or persons intent on doing them harm. My friends and family are not the problem. But we are also not the solution. We sit quietly and respectfully (?) amidst the violence in our country. We do not challenge our elected representatives to put in place reasonable gun safety regulations. The proliferation of guns in our nation is deplorable. Within my own community there are frequent “guns shows” which allow the relatively easy purchase of weapons with little or no background check. You can carry concealed guns in my neighborhood legally. We need to stop the slaughter of innocent victims by enacting responsible gun control legislation.

Won’t you join me? Let’s pray for the victims and their families. Let’s pray for the grace to mend broken relationships. Let’s pray for the relief of the suffering and pain of others. But then, let’s get off our knees and ask our members of Congress to actively work on real gun control. Let’s vote for Senators and Representatives who will truly be PRO-LIFE and stop kowtowing to the gun lobbyists and the money they offer.

And please don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem.



Just Keep Swinging

I am often discouraged by the divisions in our church, in our local community, in our country, and in our world. At times it seems the chasms cannot be traversed. We stand at odds. There can be no compromises. No one wins.

Last weekend two of our granddaughters received sacraments of our Church, Eucharist and Confirmation respectively. Special days with special graces granted to these two beautiful children of God. Promises of a life with Christ; a life with a community of believers; a life everlasting. And yet, a shadow of division hangs over our heads. During this most sacred time we are reminded by some in our Church that women and girls are not equal to the task of preaching and ministering to others. What are we asking of our daughters and granddaughters? Blind obedience to a patriarchy that seems woefully out of touch?

This week (again) the political circus in our nation is on display. The right and left seem hell-bent on destroying one another and possibly democracy in the process. Abortion rights and the possible reversal of Roe vs. Wade is dominating our airwaves and social media. The ongoing January 6th Investigation paints many of our elected officials as little more that pawns in some power play for political dominance. Where are our statesmen and stateswomen? What example are we setting for our daughters and sons; our granddaughters and grandsons? Blind obedience to political affiliation at all costs?

Last week I was watching my grandson’s little league team playing baseball on a rainy, cool evening. The boys were struggling with the weather and it was certainly not their best performance to-date. But they were undaunted. They kept swinging. They left the game as losers but their spirits were not diminished. And they remained good sports and respectful rivals. Once again, I was reminded of what Jesus said: “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

So there remains hope. I have a dear friend who is working to help immigrants that have recently arrived in our community. He doesn’t ask how they got here. He doesn’t judge their worthiness. He is not expecting them to share his political views. He is simply being the eyes, the hands, and the feet of Christ.

And I have another friend who is arranging for housing for a young woman who is homeless with a baby. She doesn’t ask how she found herself in this situation. She doesn’t judge her decisions. Instead she offers love, kindness and generosity. She too, is being the eyes, the hands and the feet of Christ.

My friends have overcome the weariness many of us (me) possess with our dysfunctional political processes and lack of understanding by those “in charge”. They are like my grandson and his team mates. Facing what might seem like insurmountable odds, they just keep swinging. In the process they are helping heal the divisions in our church, in our local community, in our country, and in our world.

And once again my soul is renewed.