In the movie The Lion King, one of the more moving scenes finds Simba mourning the death of his father, Mufasa. In his grief, Simba has abandoned his homeland. Raifiki, the priest-figure, approaches the frightened Simba. Raifiki sings a song to him that Simba’s dad, Mufasa had sung to him in his childhood. The song, entitled, He Lives in You, speaks of the presence of all of Simba’s ancestors in him. It says, in effect, that we are the amalgamation of all of those who have gone before us, and that we have access to their strength and to their wisdom. In his heart-ache, Simba is strengthened by the reminder that not only do his ancient ancestors live in him, but so does his dad, Mufasa himself.
Today’s scriptures and Feast speak of that deep connection. It is the feast of the Trinity which invites us to see that the heart of God is relationship. God is a community of love. God is all about relationship. Aside from saying “God is Love”, it is perhaps the most deeply true thing we can say about God.
And you and I? We, who are made in the image of God – we are made for community. We ARE bonded one to another when we realize it and when we don’t. As is true of all relationship, this deep connection goes beyond the confines of time and space.
(Pick up chalice) Every time I celebrate mass here, I use this chalice. It was given to me by my uncle, Fr. Wally Boul. It is a physical reminder of a towering spiritual presence in my life. And when I am struggling in a decision about the parish, when I am not so sure of the way forward, when my priesthood is weighing heavily on my shoulders, my Uncle Wally is a part of me as well. I turn to him and ask him to pray for me.
St. Paul speaks of this power that lives in us: He says: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” God has been poured into our hearts; the very love of God living in you and me that connects us to one another and to God. But, like in The Lion King, this pouring out is not simply from some disembodied, ethereal divine presence, but rather, this pouring out does in fact happen through the Body of Christ. It is through the very real people of our lives: Those who have taught us, fed us, coached us, and cheered for us from the sidelines; those who have cleaned our skinned knees; laughed and sang and danced with us and wept with us at the graveside of a loved one. They live in us. If Trinity Sunday says anything, it proclaims that God works in relationship, in and through Father, Son and Spirit, and in and through us all.
And just like in The Lion King, this awareness of our connection one to another and with God is to embolden us, to remind us of our power and our courage, to recall the strength that we have been given and for which we are responsible. The love of God is poured out into us not simply to console us but to strengthen us for the building of God’s Kingdom. Simba’s awareness that his father “lives in him” gave him the courage to return and face his mortal enemy. God’s love has been poured into us so that we have the courage and strength to do what is right and what is needed.
Do you ever experience that love, that power, that presence in you? If not, then on this Trinity Sunday when we celebrate the divine relationship at the center of all things—and at the center of ourselves— pray for that experience – let it open your heart. Let it fill you. And then ask yourself: “Where might I need to remember that God’s love has been poured into me so that I have the courage and strength to do what is right? Where in my life right now is God asking me to harness this great spirit of Love, and put it to good use?
You see, my uncle Wally lives in me, as does my father, as do you, my parish family, and all the people I have been graced to meet on this journey of life. The Love of God has been poured into our hearts. What a gift that Trinitarian life is…
A thankful heart…
There are many reasons why I find my heart filled with gratitude these days. Last night was the Legacy Dinner for the nine Catholic Newman Center (CNC) students who made their pledge to ‘pay it forward’ to the next generation of Newman Students. They are the largest group to pledge $1,000 over the course of the next 5 years. As our way of kicking off their gift, we take them out for a nice dinner. Near the end of the evening, they were asked to summarize what their time at CNC meant to them. One student said it simply and best: “Newman taught me acceptance of my past, appreciation of my present, and courage for my future.” What an amazing tribute….
The second reason for a thankful heart is a bit more personal. I received a text message from one of my friends from my days assigned in Washington, Missouri. “Rumor has it that you are coming back here! We’re so excited!” I responded: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated, as well as the rumor of me returning to Wash, MO.” Barring any unforeseen last minute changes from the Archdiocese, I do not have to scramble to find boxes, nor figure out what to do with the accumulated possessions of the last 11 years as pastor and 13 in residence. So, in God’s providence, it looks like I will be here at least another year. (While I realize that may not be good news for everyone, it certainly is for me.) 😉
The third reason is that the sponsor’s Dinner Dance seems to once again have been a huge success. Kay Dieckmann and Cheri Smith and their crew of volunteers did an amazing job once again, in soliciting donations, organizing the caterers, arranging the band, decorating the hall and all those countless behind the scenes little decisions and acts of service that make the Dinner Dance such a wonderful celebration for our parish and school community.
The break down is as follows:
$18,885 in cash sponsors* (*does not include Boeing matching funds which won’t hit our books until October)
$4978 in Raffle Tickets
$6,400 in the Tuition Raffle (1/2 going to the winner)
$27,651 in Auction Items
$15,375 in Teacher’s Wish List* (*includes $1,750 in Boeing Matching funds from LAST YEAR)
$11,044 in Reservations
$2,034 in Bar revenue (thank you St. Ann Men’s Club)
$3.41 from an anonymous member of the office staff, (whose initials are Eileen Engelmeyer) to bring the totals up to a nice, round number.
Less expenses of $18,370.41
(Drum roll, please)
Grand Total = $67,000.
Thanks for making this Pastor’s heart so full of gratitude for you and for this community I am so blessed to serve.
Growing up as the 4th of 6 kids, I don’t know if I always felt I had an identity on my own. I was Fred’s or Joe’s or Denny’s little brother. I wore their hand me downs. Growing up in a neighborhood crowded with kids, we even shared the same friends. I grew up in the comfortable world of being ‘one of the Kempf boys.” That was a good thing, don’t get me wrong. I loved that identity. But I could hide in that identity. I could disappear in that identity. He’s just a Kempf boy. No need to expect something different.
But there came a time when I realized that I was meant to be more than being just one of the Kempf boys. Like many college/grad students, it happened on a service trip – mine was in Northern Ireland.
On the eve of the feast of the Assumption, the Catholics have their summer bonfires in retaliation for the Protestant bonfires in July. Remaining neutral, the volunteers stay indoors and have our own little party. So we played guitar and sang songs and had conversations and quaffed a few pints. That final year, more than a few of the volunteers smoked, so I went outside to clear my head between guitar playing sessions. I became aware of a man named Jackie O’Neill, walking the grounds to make sure we were safe. So we chatted for a while, above the soccer pitch across from the low income Catholic housing projects that were just across the street from the field. And then he stopped, cocked his head and said something I won’t repeat. “It’s started. They’re shooting plastic bullets.” There. There. There again. With a growing horror in my stomach, I could pick out the noise amidst the din floating from the middle of those apartment-like buildings. And I realized there was the closest thing I’d experienced to a war going on less than a half mile from where I was standing. Just then the door opened from the school behind me, where the student volunteers were gathered, and they were singing. And the words of “Puff, the magic dragon” wafted across the night air. And I froze, literally between two completely different worlds. In front of me, one country, two different religions, and too much history seemingly to let go of, to find a path to peace. Behind me – 7 countries, about 4 religions plus a few agnostics and atheists, yet there we were, celebrating those differences instead of letting them drive a wedge between us. And then came, as if it were a voice, clear as day inside my head, a simple thought. “Both of these worlds were created by the choices that people make. And which world will you create with your life?”
Suddenly, I was no longer ‘just one of the Kempf boys.’ On that hillside, I knew that all the choices of my days and nights, all the conversations I have, all the interactions I am a part of – they make a difference in this world of ours. They either create the world of the kingdom, or they tear it down. That was my Pentecost moment – and that has been my Pentecost question ever since: “Which world am I creating with my life
How about you? What was/is your Pentecost moment? When did you realize that you mattered? When did you come to know that your contribution to the world was so important? So crucial?
• Perhaps it was when someone told you they were in love with you that it clicked.
• Maybe it was when you completed your Eagle Scout project.
• On a weekend when many of the Newman Center students “walked”, maybe it was your graduation from HS or College.
• Or when you walked down the aisle at your wedding or waited for your fiancé to walk down the aisle.
• Or the first time you held your son or daughter, niece or nephew…
There comes a time when we know in our guts that WE MATTER. And what we do matters. There comes a moment when we realize there is no such thing as a small gift in this world. Pentecost never allows us to say: “It’s not worth it – the giving of what I have in this sea of troubles.” If I don’t play my role, then our world is shortchanged, and the task that is mine to do does not get done and now someone else has not only to pick up the slack, but to undo the damage I have done in my negligence.
So, though you may never have stood on a hillside overlooking a soccer pitch in Northern Ireland, we each have stood before this altar and approached the throne of grace. And each time, it is a little Pentecost moment, a Pentecost reminder: “And you, what world are you creating with your life?”
Of pump houses and other things…
Things change at times, and sometimes they change quickly. As I joined Dave Marstall, Matt Dooley and Jim O’ Donnell on Saturday morning, cleaning up the broken bricks and discarded ceiling materials from the first stage of the deconstruction of the damage structure, it looked like the pump house was going to become history. The plan was to level the area with some dirt and fill to create a level surface so we could move the recycling dumpsters over, and thus regain a few of the parking spaces for that side of the lot. The lawnmower equipment would be stored in the white bus garage for the bulk of the summer, and then moved over to the parish garages during Sprenke.
However, the pump house walls were much more solid than we thought. By the time the ceiling was gone, and the damage bricks removed, we had 3 ½ solid, structurally sound walls. So with a little talking with some construction people, a new plan took shape including a simpler roof than the one originally on the building, a set of double doors and a finely packed rock base for flooring. Throw in a vent or two and we’ll have a very usable storage space for the Kubota AND the push mowers used for the cemetery. That’s the good news.
The bad news is – if you were looking for a chance to swing a sledge hammer or work through your ‘mother issues’ or your ‘children issues’ – you will have to find another outlet to do so. Thanks to all who helped strip the pump house to its current, re-purpose-able structure. And to those who returned the bricks that they had already taken home for garden projects. If we need volunteers for the construction part of this project, we’ll let you know.
Thanks to your generous donations to the dinner dance and auction, we plan to continue the ongoing renovations to the school and parish plant over the summer. Of the many projects we’ll undertake, one involves making our parish center up to date for audio/visual presentations with a dedicated projector and wi-fi connectivity. In addition, we also hope to replace the antiquated stage lighting and dimmer controls with something that is less a fire hazard and able to be controlled for stage productions from the hall itself, instead of from behind the curtain. (FYI – Msgr. Telthorst built the black box that still controls a lot of the forward stage lighting. I’ll give him a good deal on it if he wants it back…) I’ll keep you abreast of other changes as the summer progresses…
A forwarded blog from a Newman Center student written by a relative named Anna …from the blogsite: An Unfinished world… (Though I did not write this, I wish I had…)
It was just a fleeting thought that came in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep, when did being a “bleeding heart” become something bad? It’s often said with disdain or apology, “bleeding heart liberal”.
Have you ever seen the flower? It’s lovely. It is my favorite flower in the midst of spring in my mother’s shade garden. It blooms pink, sometimes pale, sometimes bright, sometimes pure white. It’s a fountain of heart blooms that sway in warm breezes. The blooms are fragile yet the plant is hardy and comes back year after year, no matter how harsh or bitter the winter. For me it is a testament to the balance of strength and vulnerability, endurance and bright witness.
A few years ago I had the privilege of organizing an event with two scholars who co-wrote a book entitled, Differing Worldviews. They worked in a process they called “cooperative argumentation”. Their goal wasn’t to “win” or prove their stance but to seek understanding from one another, to clarify where the disagreement lay and then to see where agreement and potential collaboration might be possible. Because if our goal is to make things better and not just be “right” then we have to know how to disagree with one another and yet remain in relationship with each other.
There’s no doubt about it, this is hard. It can be painful and the ego can suffer. People tell you that you are naive, wishy-washy, or worse a hypocrite. Compromise – today – is seen as surrender.
I still recall something a grad student who worked with me a few years ago said. He said he truly believes that compromise is often the most radical act. It’s true in the society we live in, to compromise, to find another way, takes strength and courage. To say, “You might have something there…” isn’t easy when everyone around you is pushing you to draw a line in the sand.
I don’t identify as a liberal or a conservative; I’m not so easily categorized. But I think I am a bleeding heart. I’m in it for the long haul and my heart bleeds for those who are poor and marginalized. My heart bleeds for those locked in fear; my heart bleeds for those who feel they cannot compromise. And my heart bleeds for those who think there is only one Way. And I believe that it’s not naive or wish-washy to seek balance, the balance of strength with the vulnerability of compromise, the balance of rugged endurance through harsh and painful times, to be a beautiful public witness, to feel the pain deeply, to rejoice when we are honored. I think that’s what I want to strive for; I want to be a bleeding heart – unapologetically.
For whom does your heart bleed?
[Take out and show a plastic kite.] One of the sayings that we heard a lot growing up was, “It’s easy as flying a kite.” I don’t know where that came from or who said it first but they didn’t live in my neighborhood! There would be days when I’d see the wind blowing in the tree tops, but nothing down on the street level. And no matter how fast you ran, that kite wouldn’t get airborne. On other days, when the wind was strong, it was tough to keep the kite in the air – it seems to have a kind of death wish that would spiral it into the ground or to the nearest tree. And even once the kite is high in the air soaring, farther and farther away, you risk the string breaking and the kite going free.
While flying a kite has never really been easy, it is thrilling, isn’t it? When you are holding that kite up in the air, it’s almost like you are there with it, soaring, flying. You imagination kicks into high gear, and the stresses of the world just seem to vanish. There is a particular joy -for people of all ages- to fly a kite on a windy and sunny spring day. It’s a great feeling, whenever we get to help something soar.
That’s the image I love most from about the feast of the Ascension we celebrate today. Jesus soars ahead of us, so that we too might soar. This feast of Jesus being raised up to heaven is less about what will happen to us after death than it is about how we are empowered to rise in our lives here on earth. Jesus and the Spirit of God which he gives us – inspires us, breathes through us, and connects us to that first wind that swept over the formless wasteland of earth, so that we can be re-created in our own lives, reach our potential, use and offer our gifts – to soar in and for the world as high as our efforts and our gifts and God’s spirit will take us. Isn’t that what we mean when we speak of a God who raises us up? Isn’t that the obvious image of the ascension of Jesus when he tells us that we must follow him? To fulfill our task, we are to use all of the gifts and energy at our disposal to lift ourselves and our world along with us. “You are witnesses of these things.” Jesus tells us. We are meant to soar, and we are meant to help others to soar as well.
That’s why I think flying a kite is such a great image, not just for the Ascension, but for Mother’s Day. After all, while we acknowledge that we are called to go where Jesus went, it is often our moms, or the mother figures in our lives who prepare us for that journey.
Mothers spend a lifetime trying to get their children off the ground. They run breathless with us trying to get us to launch; they watch with sadness as we sometimes spiral and crash. They pick us out of the tree and patch and comfort, adjust and teach, all the while assuring us that someday we will fly. Hopefully and finally, they see us lifted by the wind and soaring in love of God and service of our neighbor. And though it is a bittersweet moment, whether on graduation day or a wedding day or the first child or whenever – that experience of seeing your children soar is the reward of your vocation.
That is why Jesus can be so serene, as we hear in Luke’s account, when he leads them as ‘far as Bethany and is taken up to heaven.’ He knows the joy of seeing the potential for his disciples to soar. So the letting go is okay. The surrender is necessary. The disciples are meant to soar.
So, too, our seniors and those transitioning on from this community – the same image applies – you too, are meant to soar, to take the love you have known and experienced in this community to all the places you will go. To know that you have been commissioned as disciples, and to go from this place with the intent of helping all of our brothers and sisters soar with God’s love.
[Pick up kite again] Here is what I know. Being made out of plastic and wood, this kite would last a long time if I just left it here in front of the altar. But that is not what kites are meant to do. They are meant to soar. So, too, you and I – we are meant to soar…to be witnesses of the love we know at this altar and this cross. In your prayer this week, take a lesson from a kite – and be ready to soar. [Pause] Better than that, take one from our ascended Lord.
From the USCCB…
The Obama Administration’s contraceptive / abortifacient / sterilization mandate will begin to be enforced against non-profit religious schools, charities and health care providers on August 1. In the days to come, Congress must decide whether to address this problem through must-pass legislation before that deadline.
Members of the House should be urged to include the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940) in the next bill needed to keep the federal government operating. Materials on the need for better conscience protection are available at www.usccb.org/conscience. Please act today to protect conscience rights and religious liberty!
Send an e-mail to your Representative through the USCCB’s Action Center.
Call your Representative. Contact the U.S. Capitol switch-board at 202-224-3121, or call your Representative’s local office. Additional info may be found on Representatives’ web sites at www.house.gov.
Suggested Message: “Please include the Health Care Con-science Rights Act (H.R. 940) in upcoming ‘must-pass’ legislation. Government must not force Americans to violate their religious and moral beliefs on respect for life when they provide health care or purchase health coverage.”
Here is a bit more background of the current status of the HHS Mandate:
Under the new health care law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires most health plans to cover “preventive services for women,” including services that many citizens find objectionable for moral and religious reasons. These objectionable services include sterilization, FDA-approved birth control (such as the IUD, Depo-Provera, ‘morning-after’ pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella), and “education and counseling” to promote these to all “women of reproductive capacity,” including minor girls. The HHS mandate allows only a very narrow exemption for a “religious employer.” On February 1, HHS released a new “proposed rule” that goes into greater detail on the “accommodation” but continues to allow only a very narrow exemption, chiefly aimed at what it calls “houses of worship.” Other religious organizations offering education, health care and charitable services to all in need do not qualify for the exemption. There is no exemption or delay for individuals, or for businesses owned and operated by individuals with moral or religious objections.