Chance Meeting Was No Accident!

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It has been way too long for me to not have posted. So since I just re-upped my website ownership I suppose that I should be motivated to start again! I am writing this after the 50th Annual Festival at Nativity of Our Savior Church. It was a huge success and as usual, I am flattened afterwards. This year I was fortunate to be able to head down to Florida to preside at a wedding for a young couple in Sarasota. Naturally, I was able to spend some time in DisneyWorld to visit my “Happy Place”! I also got to dine at my fav restaurant The Flying Fish on the Boardwalk. I had also hoped to have some of those yummy Chicken wings at the ESPN Sports Bar, but alas, they were undergoing renovation and their menu was limited to cold items. Nonetheless, I got to visit with my favorite bartender, Jim.

the wedding of John and Kimberly Lambert was over the top. I have never been to a more beautiful and elegant wedding in my entire life. That’s what happened when the reception is held at the Ritz-Carlton. I’m used to receiving a drink in a red solo cup but this swanky place served in glass glasses. Whoa!

But the highlight of my trip was meeting a woman and her daughter from London, England. She was in Sarasota with the hopes of getting new prosthetics for her daughter. Her daughter had meningitis when she was two years old and the disease caused her to lose her arms and legs. Now at the age of sixteen it was time for her to transition to a “newer” prosthesis. I found her daughter to be unaffected by the stares and whisperings that I saw people doing when she walked into the hotel lobby. I admit, the initial sight took me off guard. But instead of gawking at her I felt very moved at her unflaunted confidence. At a perchance conversation with her mother she shared with me about her amazing daughter. She told me how the doctors told her that her child would not survive this disease. But she firmly believed that as a woman of faith, her daughter would live. And she certainly has indeed. She gave up her career as an accountant to care for her daughter. She placed all her ownings of her accounting business into property around London and has lived very well.

She is now recognizing that her daughter is slowly transitioning away from her mothers loving care. I felt that she was telling me that she will mourn the loss of not being her main caregiver.  But it was because of her love for her daughter that she became a stronger person. I found this to be sad and celebratory. She is now looking at how she will now transition to a person who will have the time to do things for herself. Perhaps more reading, a new hobby or interest and perhaps a swank at going back to the career she left those 16 years ago.

When I departed from my hotel I was able to run into her one last time and I had to just thank her for sharing her story with me. In turn, she thanked me for listening and being able to express her feelings about her life. I found in her talks that she was a Roman Catholic. When I told her I was a priest, she seemed delighted that a member of the clergy listened to her.

In essence, what unfolded in my meeting with her was how we fed each other. I thought of the Eucharist and in the sharing of Jesus Christ, Body and Blood. Soul and divinity. We did not exchange addresses and/or emails, but, I feel the impact we had on each other will last a lifetime. Praised be to God!

So Long 2013!

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I will say it but to no avail! This was not the best year and this was a great year. Every year I have been alive there have always been ups and downs. I think that is a pretty general statement and I would say that it is accurate too. Not just for me but for many good folks out there in internet land. I made some painful decisions that affected lives. But I also made some good friends and connections that I’m hoping will  enliven my life and the lives of my parish family. But something weird happened this morning that brought me to my blog today. Not so much that it was the end of the year but to a realization that I’m still trying to piece together. My calendar reminder mentioned that my little dog Kerry of eleven years died three years ago early in the morning. He was not in the best health when I moved here to Nativity. He was diabetic, blind and severely underweight. But as troubled as he was with his health, he still gave me that unconditional love that so many of my fur kids have given me. Even to the day he died he was still the most loving dog I ever had. When he died in his sleep it was a sadness but also a relief. I had decided that I would have to put him down the next day but God gave me a break and sent Kerry on his journey over the elusive Rainbow Bridge. I have his ashes in my little house Chapel next to another beloved pet, Gus.

But I also called to mind all the people whom I buried this year. I said farewell to some really wonderful folks and for some I had the privilege of officiating at their funerals. So I now sheepishly join on the bandwagon of saying Good Riddance 2013 and look forward with new hope for a prosperous year. My wish is to see a ministerial growth in my parish community. I want to see people take ownership of their parish and watch it flourish. I want to meet new people who share my vision of rebuilding a church community into a great community. So I graciously and humbly ask God to bless me and my family. To give peace and hope to my congregation and for them to be willing to open their hearts and minds to a God who truly loves us. Pray for me my friends because I am praying for you!  Happy New Year!

The REAL Vacation

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Disney's Boardwalk

It never fails. Whenever I go on vacation there is always someone who’s ready to say, “He’s going away again?” My reply is: “THAT’S RIGHT! AND I DESERVE IT!” After 18 years of hearing this I still get a little perturbed BUT then I forget. Especially as I am relaxing in the comfort, luxury and splendor of being in the Happiest Place in the World.    I’m staying at Disney’s Boardwalk which is prime Disney property for the Disney Vacation Club members.

I’m leaving on January 16th and have rented a car for my 10 day vacation. Yes, I know I was gone for 12 days in Oct/November in Europe but that was a working vacation as I am the tour director. A small portion of my touree’s are Senior Citizens and need extra love and care.

At my Disney condo, i can really relax, go out to dinner, visit friends and family members who reside in Florida and just move around as I wish. That to me is a vacation!

I especially love to dine at the Flying Fish Cafe located right here at the Boardwalk. They have the best crab cakes I have ever had. What makes this place extra special is that they recognize my recurring face and I even have my own waiter whose name is Didi. Now, in reality, Disney did not hire Didi especially for me but every time I visit, there he is! He remembers my name, he knows my likes and dislikes and just makes me feel special. I also love going to the ESPN Sports Bar for a few frothy libations. That’s where my bartender, Aaron works. He too knows my favorite beverage and my name.

I learned a long time ago that the sweetest sound that a person could ever hear was the sound of their own name. Perhaps this is why I try so hard to learn people’s names. I want them to know I took the time to get to know them and that they are important.

It’s beginning to look a lot like……….

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Mexican Wedding Cake cookies....YUM!

I got bit by the Christmas spirit! Yep, all it took was this dusting of snow to tickle my inner child. Right now I’m dealing with some personal issues that have kind of held me back but the first snowfall is like that magic inner button that turns on the Christmas Spirit. My two Yorkies were in heaven as I watched them playfully bouncing in the snow. My experienced veteran, Gus the 2nd has always loved the snow and he was in heaven! Gus is all black and he loves to furrow his face in the snow. He comes out looking like a man with a grey beard. All four of the pups are high spirited this morning. I am heaving a sigh of relief with my foster dog. He is officially housebroken. Any “accidents” happen on the newspaper in an area of the house that is out of the way. It took Scruffy a while to “get it” but he does and I think he has learned the joy of doing his business outdoors without any guilt or fear of being admonished. I just give him the praise and it just makes the circle of trust tighter.

The Spirit of the season hit me as I turned on Donna Summer’s Greatest Hits. All heavy duty disco! I had it on loud while making my cookie dough for baking later on in the day. I’m making Mexican Wedding Cakes. As I was dancing and singing I looked down at my kids and they were all staring at me like a crazy man. Guess I need to show them more of this side of me. The bottom line is that it made me feel good. A simple pleasure. there’s a lesson here. When I untangle it and process it, I will post it for another day. Stay tuned!

Final Countdown!

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LEANING TOWER OF PIZZA!

I don’t think I’ve ever been so anxious to leave for vacation as I am today. Tomorrow is the day when my bus leaves for O’Hare. I look forward to the luxury of being on a cruise ship that will whisk me away to Europe. Of course, the only thing I dread is the travel time to Munich and then transferring planes to Barcelona.

I can’t even begin to express my excitement about going back to this mysterious world of antiquity. It is amazing to see these old cities like Florence, Pisa and Roma which have survived for all these centuries. The history that was studied in school comes alive in a surreal way. To actually be in some of these historic places is words beyond measure. It is a feast for the eyes to gaze on such wonders as the leaning tower of Pisa, Michaelangelo’s David, the Coliseum in Rome and St. Peter’s Basilica. anyone who has been there can relate.

I’m going with a great bunch of people whom I have traveled with before. Cruising on a luxury ship is the best vacation. I have not been disappointed yet with Celebrity Cruise Lines and I don’t want to ever experience something bad. For those of you who may be interested, next year we are doing a seven day cruise on the Western Coast to experience Wine Country. I’ll be putting that information up in a few weeks.

Until then, try following me on my blog. I’m hoping to be able to post from my iPad.

Ciao for now!

 

The Trouble with Angels!

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Remember the movie with that same title that’s in my header? it was about an all girls Catholic school. Rosalind Russell was the Mother Superior and Hayley Mills was the one of the students who got herself into all sorts of silly trouble. It also lightly touched that much of her problems dealt with the relationship with her uncle who was having difficulty with her and felt that the boarding school could straighten her out. She was orphaned and left in his care and her antics were more than he could handle.

In the end, after four years of “trouble”, she became one of the girls to stay at the school/convent because she was drawn to the vocation of possibly serving the Lord by joining the convent. It caused a rift with her cohort in crime. her best friend and her were little rebels and did all sorts of things against what the convent stood for. So she feels betrayed by her best friends decision. God’s call is certainly a mystery and trying to explain why anyone would want to become a priest, nun, deacon, religious or missionary has been unfathomable. But, it happens!

First of all the trouble with angels is that many people do not know the definition of an angel. If I am correct (and I may not be), angels are beings that are superior in the hierarchy of creation. Human beings are categorized in this lineage but it has been made pretty clear that human beings cannot become angels. We can display angelic behavior by being a helping hand, a confidante and a caregiver. But we cannot become angels!

So often at funerals we hear how the deceased is now an angel in heaven; playing their harp and singing with the heavenly hosts in God’s choir of angels. Sorry to rock your faith BUT, when we die we become saints. I know, I know…… we want to believe we have wings, play harps (without lessons) and walk around the earth pulling people out of the way from danger.   In the Eucharistic prayer at the Catholic mass, we call down God from heaven and the “communion of saints”  (That’s US!) to join God in his banquet table. As brothers and sisters in Christ we share in the breaking of the bread and wine that has been made into the Body and Blood of Christ.

It is believed that each and every person born has an angel to guard them. This is one of the first things we learn as children. Sadly, we so often forget that our angels grow with us and we do not always acknowledge them! So as we prepare to celebrate the Feast of the Guardian Angels, please remember to pray to them…..to help you, guide you and keep you safe!

Full Context Makes The Difference!

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I wanted to post my entire homily for Amanda Bach. I was under quoted in the newspapers so I felt that I needed to let everyone see what I said. There are some highlights and underlines that I kept in there to help prompt me when I spoke. You may not reprint without permission.

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Rev. Andrew J. Corona

Funeral Homily for Amanda Bach

Friday September 23, 2011

 

We all experience the occasions when the electricity suddenly and unexpectedly goes off. We know that when there is no power everything stops. In that moment we can almost hear silence. The natural hum around us is deadened. All of our creature comforts stop. The TV doesn’t work, the radio is silent, all of our electric appliances come to a *grinding halt. But the worst time for the power to go out is at night because now we are thrown into the darkness.

In this darkness we may become disoriented…we feel lost, helpless and maybe even frightened. Then we may become angry because now our lives have been interrupted and whatever we were doing or were hoping to do is at a standstill.

We want to know what’s going on. If it’s a passing thunderstorm we can easily understand but it doesn’t diminish our feelings. If it’s otherwise we just want to start blaming! Who caused this? What is going on? I paid the electric bill. Darn that NIPSCO! There is a whole range of emotions that may surge forward. Until the lights come back again, there is no peace.

Losing Amanda has also been like the power going out. One minute the sun is shining and the next thing we have is the experience of being thrown into the darkness. Without the slightest warning, or the slightest chance to prepare ourselves, we are plunged into an impenetrable darkness. In the space of a moment our whole world is turned upside down. Nothing could prepare us from the news we got this past weekend.

Naturally we ask why?** Why did this happen? We know there is a human factor but we don’t know why! Our anger becomes real when we learned of the cause. It is an anger that we can carry us to a place where we would rather not go. And, it is a place where we must not go!

You need to know that God’s passion for justice is fierce because he identifies so completely with those who are weak and powerless. God identifies with you who have suffered such a devastating loss.** Yes, God’s passion for justice is so fierce but his call for compassion, mercy and forgiveness is even more fierce! Bill, Sandra and Sarah, we cannot possibly know or understand what you are feeling, but there is someone who does. Jesus knows your pain. Jesus was himself a murder victim.”

I want to make it perfectly clear that God did not will this to happen. This was not the will of our God. It is through the human weakness of sin and selfishness that is at the core of this ending.

So, what do we do? Well, there is only one thing we can do. Just as when we experience a blackout we rush for a light, any light, even the light of a humble candle. But now the only rush to the one light that can penetrate this awful darkness. It is the light of Christ.

We are told in the Gospel that as Jesus Christ died on the cross and ‘darkness came over the whole land until mid- afternoon, while the sun’s light failed. This means that the family and friends of Jesus experienced what we are experiencing. They felt lost and disoriented. Their hopes and dreams were crumbled. They did not know that the darkness would not have the last word because the Light of Christ would shine again!

How wonderful it is when the lights come back on again. How wonderful then it must have been for the apostles when on that Easter day they walked once more in the light of our Lord. It was not quite the old light. It was brighter! It was the light of their risen Lord! He broke the chains of death and he triumphed over the grave.

Our risen Lord is with us now in this moment. His light shines on his children; you and I, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. We must open our hearts to Christ who now lovingly embraces Amanda and us into his arms. Her life should not be defined by how it ended but rather by the way we loved her and how she shared her love with us.

St. Paul tells us that nothing, neither suffering, nor tragedy, nor death that can separate us from the love of God which we have witnessed in Jesus Christ.

And so now we come to this day. A day that, we too, will long for.  A day when we come face to face with God, who will embrace us and welcome us home.  We come to this church today and we are reminded of our humanity and the suffering we will endure as we complete our journeys.  We are reminded through the celebration of this Eucharistic feast that God is extending his invitation to us at his table. To share and enjoy, to partake in his body and blood.

The tall white candle is the Paschal Candle. It stands besides the earthly remains at every funeral Mass. We call it the Paschal Candle because we light it at Easter.  There are five grains of incense inserted in it symbolizing the five wounds of Jesus, the two wounds in his hands, the two in his legs and the wound in his side. It is almost as if Jesus is standing beside this coffin looking up at his Father and pleading on behalf of Amanda, saying, “Look, I bore these wounds in my body for the salvation of Amanda. I suffered, I died, I rose again for her. Forgive her Father and take her to Paradise.” Also in the Paschal Candle there are two letters of the Greek alphabet, the Alpha and Omega. In other words, Jesus is the beginning and end of all that we do and say. If it were not for Jesus suffering those five wounds, dying and rising, life would not have meaning. But Jesus was the beginning and end of Amanda’s life and is the beginning and end of all our lives. It is the Lord who gives meaning to our lives, especially in times of suffering.

Remembering a Life.

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Amanda Bach

I can’t even begin to express the emotion that has been pouring forth. This week I will bury a young woman whose life was senselessly taken away. There are so many stories swirling around about “what happened?” I wish people could remember that there are two families that are devastated. One of the victim and the other the alleged suspect. Two young people. Children in my eyes. The story is still unraveling and so is the speculation. In the end, justice will triumph.

In God’s eyes, his passion for justice is fierce but his compassion and forgiveness are greater. Our young people who were friends of both persons have been steadfast in their devotion to them. Unfortunately, their coping skills can do more damage than good. Cool heads are difficult to prevail.

I have been fortunate enough to spend a little time with Amanda’s parents, Bill and Sandra. They are two very lovely people. Their courage has been incredible but I know that in the next few days the calm that I have witnessed will now turn to outward grief. But this whole family is amazing. They are fortunate to have a very close knit family who will give them the support they need in the days to come.

My suggestion is easy although it will be difficult for some to follow and it is simply this: PRAY! Pray for the repose of the soul of our beloved Amanda. Pray for the family of the accused. Pray for the young people who were their friends. Pray for understanding, forgiveness and kindness. Pray that we will move through this whole event with our faith intact and our trust in humanity be restored. Pray for yourself. Pray for your family. And most importantly, pray and give thanks to God for life!

Hello….it’s me!

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ROMA!

I’m beginning to see how quickly I can get behind in blogging! Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy doing it and I certainly do not suffer from a lack of topics. Right now I am trying to stay focused on work because I am anxiously awaiting my trip to Europe. I’ve taken some heat with a few things lately but at night I’ve had no trouble sleeping. My only concern is the long plane ride to the ship. That wasn’t so much fun. If I could sleep for 10 hours on a plane it wouldn’t be so bad. Jet lag returning will be a hoot. I think it took me a week to get back on schedule and I get motion sickness while on land. I’ve yet to get seasick which I understand isn’t so much fun.

Back at the rectory I’ve been dealing with critters. Not mine but the ones my critters bring in from the outside. Darn that dog door. The cats have left me gifts of two dead chipmunks and one dead mouse. On top of that I have solid proof that there is a raccoon coming in and eating the dry dog food. Tonight the trap comes out. Thankfully I have a fellow in the parish who disposes them in an approved setting near the Dunes State Park. Killing them is not an option for me!

Can we talk about the weather now? Loving it! My wardrobe is geared for cool and cold. The summer is great and fun but I love the cooler weather of autumn. I will be quick to point out that I did not mention snow. I, like many others, only want snow around Christmas to complete the scene and the mood. We are only six weeks away from LITE radio starting the Christmas music.

It’s time to get moving….have a great weekend y’all!

Let Those Who Have Ears……..

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Say what?

Now and then someone will tell me that when I was preaching  they felt I was talking directly to them. Often my response is: If it fits, it’s yours! Each week I am challenged with breaking down the word of God into everyday language. Often I like to tell personal stories or use historical tidbits to shore up my point. But my main focus is to be able to challenge people to ask “where do I fit into all of this?” Humanity is riddled with sin and selfishness. It is that lack of perfection that truly makes us “human”. We should never have to apologize for being human because we all have the capability to throw our words , actions and energies into a way that is pleasing to God and God’s people. Sadly, because we are tainted with sin and selfishness, we do not always attain the greater of our being.

But the Good News is that God sent us help in the form of flesh and blood. His son Jesus was born to help show us the way to the Father. What we do with this knowledge is up to us. The way to God requires us to listen and pay attention to what the message teaches us in today’s world. But more than that we are to respond to that call. It is when we respond that our God given gifts come to light and hopefully to life.

If we sit back without listening to the Gospel message, the lesson can become distorted and reinterpreted in a manner that is contrary to what God hopes for us. There are so many obstacles that can cloud our earthly journey and the veil of deceit can easily cover our eyes.

My job is to offer the hand of Jesus and the hope of eternal life. The message is not always easy to hear. If we do not have the ears of faith, hearing the message can be difficult!