Candy Land

I took a stroll through a megamall.  I walked into a store of all candy that reminded me of a 55-year-old memory:  the time I played a racing board game called Candy Land.   This little board game is still for sale in 2017, but in the early/mid 1960’s it was a family favorite in the Barry household.  The play takes you through imaginary places like Gumdrop Mountains and Lollipop Woods on your way to Candy Castle.

In the mall store it was like Candy Land for a moment, as one could shop candy sections for all types and ages of sweet tooths.  It felt a bit like walking on a new Candy Land game board.   Here are some photos I took of my walk through this unique mall stop.  IMAG1279IMAG1277IMAG1287IMAG1286IMAG1285IMAG1283IMAG1282IMAG1281

If Candy Land would have new places on the board, then it would be Pizza Raindrops Plaza, Sour Smog Ball City Center, Jolly Rancher Ranch, Hershey Kiss Boulevard, Starburst Mall, Sour Worms Field, Pop Rocks Pavilion, Krispie Treats Terrace, Nerds Highway, and Sweet Emojeez Meadows!

 

The store is so loaded with candy that the employees must need anti-sugar shots to keep on the job.   The place screamed sugar!IMAG1278

CWA and Cameroon Catholic support ministry

Several years ago, a group of Cameroon women in the parish or county region came together to begin an ecclesial group.   We started a chapter of the CWA (Catholic Women’s Association) here at St. Edwards.   It involved our joining into an existing ministry branching out from Cameroon and Nigeria, which is making efforts to form parish groups on USA’s east coast, to where more Cameroons have moved.   The first one in the region came in 2006-07 in Burtonsville.  Ours followed afterward.

 

The Burtonsville Maryland start at Resurrection Parish was honored last Sunday, with a bishops visit there.   It was Bishop George Nkuo from Kumbo diocese.IMAG1323

My own closer involvement with Cameroons in St. Edwards began with a wedding of a couple in the parish, one that brought many Cameroons into our church.  That bride and many other Catholic women soon were gathering, upon my invitation, twice-a-month, after the 1130 St. Edward Sunday Mass for rosary, doctrine and Bible study, lunch, charity planning, and socializing. I have joined and led them for several years now.

This past Sunday was a Mass and social time for hundreds of CWA CMA chapters and of other Cameroon men and women Catholic organizations in the DC/Baltimore area gathered in Burtonsville.  The bishop from Cameroon was the celebrant of an almost 3- hour Mass, filled with all sorts of ethnic traditions, songs, testimonies, and prayer in the Eucharistic Lord.   It was long for me, of course, but it was a rich experience.   It was another act of support I could give for a group of vigorous Catholic African immigrants, whom I value as an asset to the local Church.   I was one of only two white persons of color in the celebration, but that was fine with me, as I act in solidarity with these new members to the Catholic USA community. IMAG0461  I am getting used to being with them now.  Above is a picture from an African style wedding celebration from a few months back.  The program from Sunday also shows above.  In it you see one of about 20 songs we sang in worship. IMAG1324_1n

I did not take photos within last Sunday’s celebration.

Baseball Parks

I have been to every major league baseball team park in America.  I snuck down for a Nationals away game to Atlanta as the completion of my quest.  The Braves there have the newest ballpark: SunTrust Park.IMAG1208_1IMAG1206

IMAG1219_1Batter up!

There have been 7 new MLB ballparks put up in the past decade.  I’ll give you a quick run-down on the last few ones.               SunTrust Park is pretty neat inside, with lots of close-in cozy seating, fan tvs, and great sightlines, modern scoreboards and a nice sound system for the fans, and those effective toothbrush lights (like Cleveland has). They have well-planned roof overlays for summer shading to fans below, a feature imitating Wrigley Field. They have a cool, free museum-monuments area– devoted to Braves ‘ greats.  Hank Aaron gets his due of first honors.   A big plus in the seating plan is that they don’t have many saved- for-the-rich-people areas all taken behind home, like the dumb Nationals and Yankees do in their places.  SunTrust Park has big bobblehead figures in the breezeways of the park.  (See photo as I bobble my head, too.) The ballpark location was put out in a growth-area neighborhood of the city supportive to the team, but the parking situation is a foul situation. They hit a homer inside the park, but outside it is lacking, just a pop fly foul. Without pre-paid arranged parking– you’re left near helpless, like being picked-off first base. No public transpo available–far from the subway.  Taxis aren’t allowed near either.

The Braves retain their beating drum in the outfield stands along with those silly foam tomahawks to wave with the warpath song (but at least they are not politically-correct on that, just like the resilient Redskins NFL team, the Braves remain the Braves).

Marlins Park, Miami—2012.   The park is the second most modern. It’s in Miami’s Little Cuba part of the city, rather than off hiway 95, so they really now are the Miami Marlins. Their indoor stadium was a good idea, in respect to their weather, though it has an odd centerfield main entrance. Pluses– Lots of great food all over park, and cool outfield arcade scoreboard and big windows.  It’s quite the bilingual park, seeking the serve more fans.  Fun music. Nice box seats.  Friendly staff all around park.  While the Marlins team usually misses the playoffs,  their park is a winner!

Target Field, Minneapolis–2011.  The ballpark is exactly downtown, with train station behind the outfield bleachers, and situated near hotels and city sights and the downtown hi-inner walkway system.  The most polite and the friendliest fans and ballpark staff are here, maybe because they consume more milk and ice cream than beer (direct opposite to the Mets) or pina coladas (Marlins)!  It’s an outdoor ballpark so avoid the April and September games, unless you layer up.

Yankee Stadium , 2009 and Citi Field, 2009

Both the Yanks and Mets just had to update their ballpark experiences, but did so very well and on the same properties in NYC.  Both projects succeeded in making a new grand version of the old stadium.  I dislike both teams, since they rival the Os and Nats, but eating a Nathans dog at a NYC ballpark is big time fun.   And when the hometeam loses and the big ego fans are quieted: priceless.

Nationals Park, Wash. D.C., 2008.   My first moment there was standing and sitting in left field praying a Mass with Pope Benedict.  Then came baseball and about 90 total games there so far since its debut as DC’s home park.   I just saw the 23-5 win over the Mets last Sunday: fabulous. Since they were lucky to build this park, and without coordination from local or fed governments, I’ll excuse a few annoyances on the park and ballpark area outside.  The place is fine and it’s home. All the levels behind Home Plate make for good views, but for the high cost lowest section directly behind home. IT goes for $375 each, with parking, and with a gourmet all-you-can-eat AND drink dinner in an exclusive lounge area. Even the Clintons can’t afford that!  (Well, they’ve never been seen there.).

The other newest ballparks:   Busch, St. Louis 2006.  Petco, San Diego, 2004.  Citizens Bank, Philly, 2004.  Great American, Cincinnati, 2003.

IMAG0581_1.take me out to the ballgame, take me out with crowd… it’s root root root for the team!

4th Sunday of Lent Homily “Redemptive Suffering”

Live Homily was trimmed short.  Here’s the fuller, blog version…

The Help of Redemptive Suffering

A man goes into the doctor complaining of aches all over, and points and touches his kneecap and says to the doc: “I have pain here.”  Then he points and touches his elbow and says:  “I have pain here.”   Then he points and touches the back of his neck, and says:  “I have pain here, too.”   Then, he’s ready to point to something else, but the doctor interrupts him and says: “ Sir, I think I already know what’s wrong with you.”  The patient is elated—saying: “’You do, Doc?  That’s great, because I need help.  What is it– arthritis, bone degeneration, injuries?”   The doc says:  “Just let me look at your pointer finger—I think you must have injured it.  Ah yes—you’ve cut your pointer finger!   Nothing else is wrong!  (Everything you touch therefore just feels like it’s hurting…)”  🙂   Oh, if suffering only had easy solutions like that one, in the joke!

But when we are in some serious pain, it’s no laughing matter.

We also can struggle in the spiritual life when we suffer.   Like the false assumption made in today’s gospel about the blind person, some people can think that suffering happens just to bad people, or to people who have it coming to them from God, or suffering happens to dumb people.  So when suffering comes to them, they are looking for how the sufferer might be at fault, for being bad, deserving of hurt, or just dumb.  Wrong assumption.  Jesus says that suffering was not the fault of the man born blind, nor the fault of his parents.  But then Jesus adds something important, that the man’s suffering will be involved with God’s compassionate help.  Jesus says the man’s blindness was there that the works of God might be made visible through him.

What? People must have wondered.  Did Jesus just say God is with suffering?

God is with sufferers, though He’s not the cause of suffering.  Yet God can work with any suffering person to have the experience be redemptive and saving.   Yes, we are already broken people to start with—but God is a healer.  God is a Redeemer, too.

Redemptive Suffering might be hard to believe of Jesus, but for the fact that He practiced it in a grand way in saving sinners by His crucifixion on a Cross, and then in His rising up afterwards in a victory to share with us—and it won our salvation and our right to have Him live inside our souls– so we take heed of Him to listen and learn.

Suffering, first, causes the person acting in soul and conscience to reflect on life.   You or I ask: Where is God in my suffering? Did I do something wrong? What will be the quality of my life from here on out?  Simply, we want to make sense out of that which doesn’t seem to make sense.

Understanding a share of the meaning of suffering has come via some experiences in my own life.  While my pains have been small compared to others, one big accident I had suffered in life pointed me to a higher meaning for my life (since I survived it—and looked to know why), another incident showed that I need to exercise some caution over my need for success and acceptance of others, and another suffering situation showed me that I cannot always be in control of things, even my own life, but that it’s ok.    These are some life lessons in redemptive suffering.   I came out better due to the suffering.   I used the suffering for good.   I accepted it as part of God’s plan to shape me, or to shape another via me.   It’s not an easy thing, but it is reassuring that, as Jesus said, “the works of God might be made visible” through me in some episodes of life.

Jesus has redemptive power.    It is part of His whole being of Grace.   He answers our questions of suffering in some simple lessons— like that of the pearl fisherman seeking a treasure embedded in the dark heart of the oyster, so we have shining pearls of grace hidden in the darkness of our suffering.  God will bring forth His grace and pearls in our own oyster’s to open.   (So let’s start shucking, rather than ducking, our pain.)

When we survey human history, it becomes evident that suffering is an inextricable part of the human condition. It’s not a matter of whether we will suffer during our lives, but when. And more specifically, how will we suffer: poorly or well?

When we fail to find meaning in our suffering, we can easily fall into despair. But once we find meaning in our suffering, it is astounding what we can endure, both mentally and physically. The key is not the suffering itself, but the meaning found within it.   Here is where our Lent and our standing at the foot of Jesus’ Cross might truly help us.  Jesus calls us to join Him, to even become His body, or an embodiment of believers under Him, the Head of the Church.   He permits us to give our suffering with His perfect suffering, again in trust of the Father Almighty. Christ asks for us to offer our suffering as part of our becoming fully one with Him.  Jesus did this redemptive work as one of us, suffering many things, all with a goal in mind—to present it to the Father as a perfect, saving act of service and love.   When Jesus perfectly offered it all at the Cross, as His final act, the Father received it as “redeeming.”  Jesus is Risen.   Our path in His paschal mystery now can lead us to gains from our pains, victory over any misery.   Trust in God.

Let us understand that we are called to co-suffer with Him.   You see—some people want a convenient and easy theology or faith approach that claims that Jesus suffered so that we wouldn’t have to?  But that’s wrong teaching.   Jesus suffered the Cross, because we couldn’t save ourselves, so that we gladly have had Him stand in for us.   But Jesus didn’t eliminate suffering here on earth.   His believers were expected to go through some of it, even as the Beatitudes say of our life in Him.  We are blessed, but we suffer some for it, too.   Also, not everybody was healed by Jesus from states of suffering.  For one, He did not overthrow the Roman Empire in His 33 year visit to Israel, so there would be much persecution and suffering ahead to the Church because of that.   Yet Jesus does say a whole healing is coming to His people, and an eternal life.   That is a very good thing He promised, so to make all the ordeals worth it.   We won’t suffer damnation nor separation from God any longer, provided we cling to the Lord and His salvation.   We need to suffer through what He allows to happen to us.

Pope John Paul wrote an apostolic letter on suffering, and in it he says that the work of Christ doesn’t guarantee an escape from suffering.  No-instead, Jesus has changed the meaning of suffering. We are now joined through baptism with Christ in His death and resurrection, and we have become intimately united to Him, so much so that we are His Body. Because of our union with Christ, even our suffering is changed; it becomes redemptive. Because Christ loves us so much, He invites us to participate in His redeeming work by allowing us to offer up our sufferings in union with His.  Pope John Paul II said, “in the cross of Christ not only is the redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed” (Salvifici Doloris, 19). In other words, our suffering is changed and is worth something if it is in union with Christ. Every time we suffer, we have an opportunity to either run from Christ, or embrace the suffering as an opportunity to love and walk as He walked.

St. Paul experienced much weakness and suffering, but when he prayed about it, Christ answered: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” As a result, the apostle could proclaim, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Paul understood that our life is a cooperation with the work of Christ when he wrote: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24). Think about that: Paul said that something is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. What could possibly be lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Answer: Our part!  While that is miniscule compared to Christ, “we still have little part to play in the world’s Redemption.” (SD27–Pope JPII)  It’s a grace of “redemptive suffering.”

We can participate with Christ in redeeming the world.  So offer up your pain.

The Meaning of Saving Grace; the Living out of it out

Let us study what is the meaning of “Saving Grace.”  A good starting point is the consideration of it as the undeserved favor we have been given of God–for means for our salvation.   As God puts it:  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  It is the sobering message of Romans 3:23  Each human person needs salvation–so says The Lord God Whom made us, and saw us fall from grace.   Yet there is Good News all through Romans (and the whole New Testament) as we are told of Jesus Christ as His Gift and Favor to us.  Grace has appeared in Him.

Grace.   Saving Grace.   Think about it.  It is so generous of God of even wanting to save us in the first place.   We were all lost in our fallenness, our sin, and our end in death—but then God did something amazing for us.  It was an Amazing Grace displayed.  He came as Savior.  God came as man and salvation and sacrifice for us.  Just out of love.

I think Romans 5, verses 6 to 8 expresses clearly of what saving grace is all about.  “Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly.  Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.  But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

Let’s comment on that…  You see, grace is the helping power of God poured out so lavishly and so kindly for us, because we are the helpless.  Left to our own ability of self, we can’t help but to keep sinning in our actions or in failing in our sins of omissions.  Even if one would think of himself to be a decent sort of chap, the further reality is that he just can’t save himself into perfection for heaven or everlasting life, for sure, lest even become the person who could help save things on this planet, helping to bring all peoples and creatures and nature together in this world.   We just all do fall short in so many ways, not reaching anything near our potential as people on the earth.   Because of sin.  Because of living outside of The Lord and the full power of His grace.   The fullness of human life and spirit is helpless to us, and out of our grasp–without the direct aid of God.  We call this His Saving Grace.  That He has dramatically reached out to us.

Today in the readings you heard the phrase of “the poor in spirit” or “the remnant people of faith”– these phrases identify those who know to rely on the help of God, and not on their own selves.  These are people who know their souls are meant to be inhabited and led by God, and in all humility, not in our own selves dictating things to God.  Because we are the helpless without Him.

That is the truth of it, if all could just admit it– but far too many just will not admit it.

In fact, some people see themselves as just fine as they are, not as helpless, but fit enough to even go blame others for anything or all things wrong on earth, as if it that’s all somebody’s else fault or problem.  They look for distractions that become as idols to not pay attention to life’s biggest reality–that people need saving.   They deny there is any real problem.   I call it “the deft dodge of the daft denier.”   “The deft dodge of the daft denier.”

The Cross of Christ is the sign of truth.  It stands in the way of man’s pride.  The Cross testifies that we needed life-saving.  God’s Son Jesus would not have gone so far if we hadn’t really needed saving, as that humanity could save itself.   Yet we were not all OK as we were.  But many ascribe to secular humanism of today, and claim independence from God in a self-righteous arrogance and aloofness to any need from a Higher Power.  These people today may be the most pitiable on earth, and they certainly need our prayers the most, because they are people drowning to death that don’t even acknowledge it, nor would care to grab the life saver.   It seems that they have a blind spot, too, to death itself, and not only for just their own selves and their own helplessness to it, but also to the tragedy of death around them in their world, in famine, sickness, abortion, and etcetera.  We are sorry for these people, not in a superior way, but that Grace has not broken through their defenses, as it did with ourselves.

We Christians look straight on at the reality of death.  We look for salvation from it. Humankind is helpless without God and a Savior and a salvation plan.

In the NIV translation of Romans 5:6-8, we return again to the text of the amazing grace story that Our Lord God has taken care upon us to be our Savior, even to we people of a world who were even turned against Him.  “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

If you fundamentally know what grace is, then you know yourself as the helpless sinner that needed God-Saving (and still needs it).   The Cross of Jesus was meant for you—you know that—you needed saving and you needed a Savior–and that’s the present reality–you need a Savior piloting your life.   If one doesn’t “get” those points, then such a person may not know “grace’ yet or the meaning behind Jesus’ coming.

But we know Saving Grace.    It leads us on to the Beatitude life that Jesus was teaching in our gospel today.  We keep cooperating with God’s saving of our lives.  Grace leads to our letting the reign of God inside of us, so that we shall be humbly becoming fit for the eternal Kingdom in the end.

Some of the old Christian hymns have some of the best words about Saving Grace:

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin!                  
                                          (by Julia H. Johnston, 1910– the rest of her song’s words are at the end of this blog)

God wants to reach all his needy people so much.   Even to save or bring back in salvation just one among a hundred.  We read a Gospel verse in the children’s First Reconciliation service on Friday night, how Jesus said there is “so much joy in heaven over one sinner who repents but just quiet sadness over those 99 righteous persons in no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:6, 7)  The boys and girls basically knew what joy Jesus was speaking for, as they made their first confession of their sins, to have His healing help.   They know of a Saving God to turn to.  They saw themselves as like little lambs coming home to the Shepherd of Grace.  They decorated our altar front as such.

Application.  You know, in the aftermath of the March of Life this past Friday (and its vigil), I reflect on how so many demonstrators were confessing Jesus and Grace as why they were reaching out to help save the unborn of America.

The outreach to the most helpless in the Right to Life or Respect Life movement is often born in humility and faith.   As the CDC reports that at least 6 1/2 million children are in a woman’s womb right now in America–this outreach is to hopefully save the 600,000 of them destined to be aborted, as by our tragic, historic, annual recent numbers.  Why won’t all of the children have a chance to see the light of day on earth,  like we all did?  Among the people less than 44-yrs.-old in the March and rallies, they realize they were born in helpless percentages like that , because a few hundred thousand to a million abortions over that lifetime were dicey numbers against their welcome to the world.   That’s why many of them now work for justice to better prospects for life for incoming babies!

Relating it to faith and salvation– if once we were helpless without God’s grace in Christ, then why can’t we help the helpless, to do unto others lovingly what God has done for us lovingly?   ‘Right?!

The signs being carried saying “I regret my abortion” in the March for Life and its Masses and rallies each witnessed to a person who had met Christ and His Grace.   His saving grace helped them, and now they in turn are reaching out to save another.   In a spin on Romans 5:6 I pondered “While they were yet helpless children, who reached out to them in that same Master’s Love?”

In our Zephaniah reading of today’s Fourth Ordinary Time Sunday, it sounds like a Respect Life movement campaign slogan: “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth, who have observed His law; seek justice, seek humility; “

With the rally cry of Life lovers in Washington’s streets, I compare it to the Psalm verse today:  “The LORD gives sight to the blind; the LORD raises up people.”  The marchers were people no longer blind to America’s greatest plight (the sin of abortion), and the Lord is raising up people in the Gospel of Life.  The Psalm continues with:  “The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts.”  Apply the verse to the newly marching young men and young women in the March for Life, those boys without fathers, because the man responsible for the pregnancy left their mothers alone to a crisis pregnancy, and how they were born and raised by moms and a supportive community without the dads.  Fill in Big Brothers/Big Sisters or step-parents or compassionate grandparents and parishes and churches have come forth to care for those once-unwelcome children– the almost aborted or the ones born in crisis pregnancies. “The fatherless are sustained” by the remnant faith community, says the Psalm.

I can apply it to a good single friend I know who is committed, life-long caregiver to a fatherless boy.  His big Respect Life Catholic action in life was to be of one fill-in father role life in sustaining a young child into now becoming a young man.  It’s been a 15 year commitment so far.   Hail, to you, Chuck!    He was a lapsed Catholic who came back to the Church, and just in time to help be the difference maker in a fatherless child’s life.   And the Gospel today of the Beatitudes reflects your heart, brother, once a fellow parish member in Laurel, for blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. For your missing years of faith, due to your mourning a loss and hurting in some put distance from God, blessed are you now who are comforted.  God has given you a good way to live out love, which you would have had for your spouse who died, which is outpoured now to a needy boy—as you have loved the Lord, and found your present vocation, you were raised up to help a child survivor to thrive.  That is Grace led living.

###  End of homily                                 Next is the full text of the Grace Song

IMAG0502_1

  1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
    Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.                                                Refrain:
    Grace, grace, God’s grace,
    Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
    Grace, grace, God’s grace, greater than all our sin!

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold, Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide; What can we do to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide, Brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face, Will you this moment His grace receive?

 

“Inferno” Film Review/Comments

Author Dan Brown has written a few novels depicting the Church in the backdrop of some wild tales. Usually in them, he does a rather pitiful number on us Catholics in his stories (DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons). In this one, Inferno, he broke from being so disrespectful to us, though this third film in the Dr. Langdon franchise is more violent, with gunfire depicted all about in it, and done in some solemn places, with people dying there (breaking with that famous 5th commandment), BUT there were no corrupt Cardinals running around helping the bio-terrorist in this film! So, thus, the tale was more bearable!

In the story on film here, via director Ron “Opie” Howard, the world is in peril by some rich crazed man who has invented a plague of which he will soon unleash on the world. The villian part of Bertrand Zobrist is played by Ben Foster (best known role as a hit man in “The Mechanic”) and the hero part as Dr. Robert Langdon is Tom Hanks, working with a female partner Dr. Sienna Brooks, played by Felicity Jones (who will shine in the next Star Wars film).

Since Tom Hanks plays the part of the save-the-world guy, we know the film’s outcome already. Even in the Toy Story movies as Woody, Tom’s characters all save the day and survive. He is the good guy you can bank on in a film. (As even in the movie “Mr. Banks,” right? Like as he plays Walt Disney— or in “Miracle on the Hudson,” as he plays the hero pilot?)

In “Inferno,” the lunatic is a rich man with access to plague creating, via a virus. Zobrist (the lunatic) thinks the world is getting far too overcrowded, so he has planned some massive thinning-out of the world, working with some ideas from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno and with clues he leaves to follow on Inferno themed paintings and art artifacts in Europe. Dr. Langdon and Dr. Brooks will try to foil Zobrist by stringing clue pieces they smartly follow, while racing against the clock before Doomsday. They also have all the authorities chasing after them, and an underworld figure trying to instead help them (played well by Actor Irrfan Khan). Brown’s 3rd installment film leaves out the heirarchy and priests, yet there are abundant scenes on the big screen that look Catholic with churches, cathedrals, holy paintings, and loads of ties in tbe story to Dante, the famous Catholic author. Thusly, references to heaven and hell and purgatory run throughout the movie, with lots of imagery, which pair interestingly right now for the end of our Church Year readings and Advent liturgies in Holy Mother Church, although all quite so accidentally timed. 🙂 For example, last Sunday’s Gospel fits in, too, with Dante’s Paradiso, as Luke gives us the Calvary Jesus Who tells a repentant, dying Dismas: “This day thou shall be with Me in paradise.”

In “Inferno,” the film audience wonders: Will the world be saved in time? After two hours of popcorn, soda and milk duds, you get your answer. Afterwards, if the movie has worried you about how fragile our world really is, then your Marantha prayers in Advent (Come, Lord) might be boosted, from that movie-going escape you took!

My over-all movie assessment? The beautiful scenes of Florence and all the neat references to the works of Dante are not enough to make this movie a big winner. It is just a two-hour film of some interest to pass away some time. The Inferno film is a “C+” or a three-out-of-five stars*** one at best. Tom Hanks as the main character makes it all watchable.
Also, I suppose tourism will be up in Florence after Inferno, if the world does keep going on. Good for them, it’s a pretty city.
And the reading of Dante will take an upturn, I guess.

Comments: What the film did for me is to get me reading Dante again. I last read of his works (partly) in seminary three decades ago. I picked up “The Divine Comedy,” both in a classic translation and a modern one. I think the material will fit in rather well and timely for this November end of the Church Year and into Advent. It’s a bit dramatic, sure! But why not? Hell, Purgatory and Paradise (and Christ’ Return to bring people there) is in season.

As for the filmmaker and the book-turned-story, I think it strangely seemed to sell the idea that the world’s population numbers ARE a problem and that solutions are needed to curb against more human life, with PEOPLE’S EXISTENCE as being the problem. You were encouraged to buy the villain’s main theory–that human reproduction needs to be controlled by the wise know-it-alls. Then, you are led to root against the worst case solution of the villain managing to do it by his manufactured new Black Death plague. We have Tom Hanks character Langdon to save us.
But who is to save us from the secular culture’s ideas today that abortion and lots of contraception (even as a birth control method) and controlling populations is a good idea. We have no Professor Langdon to help us on that one.

Perhaps people should listen to the wisdom coming forth from The Catholic Church on these matters. Huh?!

Of the population issue and ecology-attached arguments raised in the film, those who adhere to the liberal, permissive, God-dispelling notions may have seen this “Inferno” film and its Zobrist character as a hero, who would go to great lengths to demand upon others’ rights, especially their human right to life, to be cast aside in favor of another agenda of their own. I felt like perhaps that the story might be a manipulative one in that regard. Assaulting the world all at once might be quite bad, but how about other measures? We live in a time when many measures as such have been take that deny the dignity of each human person.
As for an overpopulation ‘problem’, I can also note that too many people’s views today are indeed to drop the planet’s number, as if other people are a “threat.” There is a basic and serious sin in this contra people position versus having more life coming from God and childbirth. This kind of world mindset and development has now forced even most families into an economical necessity to limit their offspring to one or two or no-children ( d.i.n.k. couples). It is a forced choice on most people in the world these days, and the devil of Dante’s Hell delights in it, for he hates all life from God, and the possibility of more praise to God from creatures in Paradise.
The Dante spin that Brown misused in his story (and was repeated in the film) was that in painting massive suffering in the world, as if it comes ahead by population escalations, as only by the problem of sheer numbers on earth. It’s as if we kept numbers down, that suffering would be alleviated. Yet with Dante, the real issue to grapple with is human sin itself. That was Dante’s message–and people will be held responsible for their actions, necessitating a Purgatory. And if we take lives as a means to an end, then we show ourselves as asking to be in poor light before God. Who wants that?! Not me! Not Dante.

In closing, from what I remember of previous study, Dante was writing of how there is a spiritual realm all around us, which will have eternal regard to each human day we have spent here and how we spent it. He foresaw the end of many people’s lives as an affront to God, and His kingdom offered among us, and that there will be a final judgment for it ahead. (Thus the dramatic writing and all the artwork of that drama.) In direct opposition, the secular humanist world and its agenda laughs at the beliefs of those who say there is a God and absolutes and consequences of how we live under the Almighty. We shall all see, won’t we?

Here is an Inferno quotable:
imag0785_1
imag0784_1

Marriage, Part Two

In the last blog (the homily one) we were on the topic of marriage, and let’s stay with it here. I was in a Catholic Wedding/Nuptial Mass yesterday for a couple, so let’s talk a bit more about marriage.

Marriage is important and there are pillars for success for living this vocation out. I will write down here of some pillars that I have heard about (and seen lived upon in good marriages). I will share what works against those pillars holding up a marriage. I will also share some general guidelines for what persons preparing to wed in the Church ought to know.
This is a Long and Deep Teaching Blog.

First, a person needs to have more than a clue of WHAT is the definition of Marriage in the Church. Marriage (Holy Matrimony) is a great God-designed and God-given institution and attraction. It is a Sacrament (meant to be sacred). It is a calling of a man and a woman to become one in love, with it sealed and promised in love (to one another) as also a vow to God. You ask God’s help (or grace) to live it out.

If a couple can mutually start there, then they it is very possible that they WILL have a clue of what they are doing. From that definition and understanding, they are to form a covenant of love, begun officially on a wedding day. The covenant is God-authored but freely found and received by the man and the woman. This forming of a marital union is important because, if following God’s way for it, it helps the “two become one flesh.” This mystery and gift of love is the anointing and inner blessing meant by God for His married partners. His Church on earth is to help promote this way of sacred marriage, and a union with two people seeking a common spirituality of live in their becoming joined.

So, living in God’s design for marriage is a pillar for success. It’s a starting point.

Ways of NOT living this out is done by choosing to committing actions of fornication and adultery. This means that the partners do not yet see the profound meaning of their exchange of intimacy with someone as being a deep act which inherently means a commitment of love and responsibility in their going all the way (or nearly so far).

Often when a couple of partners take this selfish path of sin, it results in their living together. Living together is most frequently practiced today, yet it still is a sin, while it brings many problems with the lifestyle that go against what God has shown us to do. People want the intimacy as pleasure without the responsibility or mutual commitment, and when that is the case, the trailer is in front of the vehicle, and shouldn’t be driven so.

I think people in this choice just don’t realize how they could be pulling a pillar away from a successful married life together. Why do they do it? Some say it a matter of financial struggle, or a thing of an impatience of wanting to test things out or get going. Others just plainly admit it is more about lust. Still others note it is a choice in some spirit of fear or neediness or selfishness, but like so many other couples deal with today.

Such matters (as above) need counsel and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

For some people, the difficulty of living the God-arranged marriage in church is over a prior bond or something of being with another person. There are matters to get worked out there. Pope Francis has been urging people to be square and honest in their situations, and see if they can settle things, and eventually get wed in The Church.

In speaking of another pillar in a successful marriage, a good marriage seeks the highest goods of their chidren, because they both see their offspring as the fruit of their intimate love. Love is procreative. In life affirming homes, it can be of great blessing to the children in said home.

Marriage IS important for the healthy and full raising of children in a home. We need that stability and reliability. Many of you here have lived in a home of a divorce situation along the way, and you particularly know how it can be painful and harmful to children’s well-being. I know that some of you are in or were in divorced situations, and have actually done and are doing a valiant and faith-filled job in caring for your children, even while the divorce has done its damage. It’s because you connect life and love properly. I know some of you have been left by a partner, and you have the very heavy lifting in this responsibility. Keep trying to live in Christ in these situations. You are not alone. And there is healing to come.

Another pillar of marriage is that couples the Church “get” the purpose of marriage. I see this as the “WHY” of marriage. (We covered the “what” earlier above.)

If you are a believer in the Lord and trust the Bible, then you’ll start in Genesis for God’s teaching, where and when marriage is set up and defined. It is here we get God’s plan.

It says is Genesis 1:28 – “God blessed (the man and the woman) and said to them “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” This states that the ideal relationship is the marriage of a man and woman life long with the goal of having children, that is, if they can.

In Matthew 19: 4-6, Jesus repeats that “at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.” Jesus then added “Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Interestingly, in the next section in Matthew, Jesus focuses on children and says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19: 14. As one can see, we don’t want children hindered from coming to God, but rather want them greatly helped. Marriage and family life is set up to help.

The church has a Biblical responsibility to do better and to uphold the marriage standard by 1) training couples interested in being engaged and married (note: it is best to do this before formal engagement), 2) to offer marriage enrichment once married, 3) do some marriage mentoring when marriages are in struggling in a parish and need help , and lastly, 4) mentoring families that have experienced divorce. We have broken situations and people that probably have much to share and help one another out.

Another pillar in marriage is that a couple learn the interplay of Mercy in theirvrelationship.

People need to realize that when they marry it is to an imperfect person that will need a lot of mercy from themselves and from God. The marriage spouse is a channel for mercy. That spouse will also need to realize themselves as an equally imperfect person, and in need of an understanding partner. This will eventually lead to the challenge of whether you each will really talk and communicate and share things with one another, or to hold back.

It really helps if each marriage partner is in touch with God to inspire this honesty and intimacy and soul-to-soul pilgrim moving to Love. Shared prayer can foster this openness before one another, even as you are open to God. Couples need to learn to pray in a marriage. So often the couples do not do this. No wonder some distance comes up between them.

As a marriage leads to a family with children, the home needs to grow as a place of prayer. The married couple need to learn how to regularly pray with another. When they have children, they need to pray with them, too. Children need to pray with their parents. Parents need to connect that prayerful home with the family going to Mass on Sundays and special times. Mercy starts this movement, with the help of its sister virtue of humility. A family that prays together, likely stays together.

In the Mercy communication in marriage and the family, one must keep in mind our key Christian practices. We are to forgive and to be forgiving, just as the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to do.

What more does the Bible say on this? It’s says again to “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievance you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3.13-14 Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things that we do. And yet, without forgiveness, there can be no reconciliation when we do something wrong and hurt our spouse (or family member). Forgiveness starts with true repentance and admitting to the other person that we have made a mistake and ask for forgiveness. Granting forgiveness can be equally hard, but is the only way.

Forgiveness is a unique feature of Christianity. It does not show up in other faiths. We must always remember to forgive. In the context of marriage, Mercy leads to humility and into mutual submission. It’s been the message of Ephesians 5 on marriage. The union is all about love and respect, as a verse from Eph. 5 says: “Each of you also must love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband.” (v33) Submission is a sign of God’s presence in your souls. Submission asks regularly to the partner: “What can I do for you? Submission does have its limits. In terms of intimacy, one only submits to one’s spouse. Respect must be in the act, too.

Another pillar is good communication towards one another.
We’ve got to listen. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1.19.
God gave us two ears and one mouth. But one would hardly know it. We are so anxious to talk that we are frequently get our next thoughts together even as we listen not so carefully to what is being said to us. We jump in with what we have to say and fail to listen. For women in particular, having someone to speak to is important. When the husband comes home to you or he calls, she wants to typically talks a lot about her day and ideas and experiences. Men don’t have the same verbal capacity or leanings in that direction. It is an interesting difference of the sexes. Yet, it is the process of listening, which can begin very simply by asking a question – how was your day? – that is an important part of the relationship. As long as the answer doesn’t go on for an hour!

When a couple fails to hear each other or talk to each other, they will tend to grow apart. Thus, it is critical every day to engage in conversation. It is one sign of love of one for another. Yet, listening to the spouse is a habit supported by one’s listening to God. How much does a married person do that? Some private prayer and review of life is necessary. Listen to God – Jesus said “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they know me.” John 10.27

Similarly, it is all too easy to rush into church and tell God what we need. God knows what we need even before we ask and God can provide it. But, have we really listened to God? It is important to note that when Jesus gave the disciples what we know as the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father, there are three petitions that start the prayer: First, “Hallowed be thy name”. Second, “Thy kingdom come” and Third, “Thy will be done.” Notice that these are prayers for God. It is only after we pray these prayers that Jesus bids us to ask for prayers for our self -our daily need of bread, forgiveness of our sins and guidance in on our way which covers the essentials of our present, past and future.

God can guide us. Someone once said: “When I pray coincidences happen. When I stop praying, coincidences stop happening.” If we listen to God and discern God’s will and we pray for the three petitions for God in the Lord’s prayer, then when we ask God for what concerns us, we can ask it in a much better way, one that is more consistent with God’s purpose in our life.

As any father, God does not grant everything that we ask for. Sometimes, God grants very little or even nothing at times. But it is amazing, if we only discern, what God does do for us if we are only observant.

God does know us. What we have to do is listen to God.

If this pillar is lived by the marriage team of husband and wife, then hopefully it is being learned by the children. As the Jews knew centuries ago: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Dt. 6.

This pillar hardly needs much explanation. However, it is hardly ever done. In years past, fathers and mothers would pray with their children and often at the dinner table would discuss some aspect of the Christian faith. They would teach some of the catechism or morals or of the Bible. In 2016, that seems a thing of the past. But it shouldn’t be.

IN SUM: WHY IS MARRIAGE IMPORTANT?

Marriage is important because throughout the Bible the marriage relationship between a husband and a wife is a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and the Church throughout the Bible. In Jeremiah 31:32, God says “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand and to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant though I was a husband to them.” Notice that God made a covenant with his people and then states that He was their husband linking the covenant between God and His people to the marriage covenant between a man and a woman. In Revelation 19, the wedding of the Lamb, which is Jesus, has come and his bride, the church, has made herself ready.

In Ephesians 5:28-32, marriage is discussed this way: “In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church -for we are members of the body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”

As I witnessed a couple looking seriously into these things as they wed into the Sacrament of Matrimony, I was hoping they could find success ahead. Can they still be wed in 2076 after 50 years? Of course they can. With God all things are possible. Mark 10:27.

Marriage to God. A Homily 11-6

It is posed in the gospel today that something happens when we get in Heaven that makes for a change in our relationships, at least in a change from the way we hold to marriage on this earth. The change is that people are then married to God, as in the Way Jesus Christ made possible for us to all become the bride to Himself, the Bridegroom. They are not married any longer to the spouse or spouses they had on earth. This the bigger picture behind the answer Jesus gives to His questioners, in that account we hear today. Important to know, too, is that all people who died do not get this privilege, but just those who believe in God, and those God deems to elect to that honor. Plus, Jesus is NOT saying here that our life in the eternal will dismiss the great, shared married loves of history, nor do they simply end at death. Marriage can make an immense, lasting impact on our life in the

Let us study this somewhat odd gospel. It is odd because the Sadducee Jews have purposely presented an odd case to our Lord, and they come arguing against the existence of Heaven, as if they don’t want it to exist. Now that IS peculiar and odd! What good religious person argues versus an afterlife and heavenly reward?! Yet this thing they did.

Did Jews believe in the afterlife, back then in the time when Jesus lived his 33 years on earth? Yes they did, which is the purpose for the 1st Reading from Maccabees in this set of readings today. Well, we can say some of the Jews did, and others did not.

The gospel story is centered on some men who think Heaven is not, with several men arguing for death as finality, with their case of a woman of many marriages, seven, which all ended badly in the childless death of her spouse each time, and the pitiable next brother in line in the dead husband’s family, taking on the care of the widow by marrying her. They say she’ll have no place in a so-called Heaven. They say that marriage couldn’t go on for the lady in Heaven, due to confusion of who she’d belong to. The whole thing is a weird case. It is certainly all made up, just to be thrown at Jesus to solve.

Jesus calmly talks about marriage and of Heaven to them. He says the two are related. He says that one is a short term institution on earth given from God to help us to love and do so in the image of God and to get us ready for Heaven, and then the other, Heaven, is that eternal joy when God will be our primary lover, thus changing what marriage is for the afterlife. It amazes me what reasonable and courteous and clear answer that Jesus will give to such a cockeyed question. (I guess like they say in religious matters, that there are no dumb questions.)

Jesus teaches the testy arguers that people, as it turns out, aren’t married in Heaven, in that, it is mainly an institution
God set up for this earth. He did give us marriage because, as Genesis 1-2 teaches, God did not want for man to be alone. So, God has a plan to espouse us all in Heaven, so that we would NOT be left alone. After life on earth, He will love us as Bridegroom (in Christ). So Jesus comes to win our hearts and to propose His eternal love for us. And, while we live on earth, God does want to get through to us some glimpses of eternity and great love, which marriage, for example, can afford from time to time.

Jesus explains that God has shown that He invented and designed this unique marriage relationship, in which people now live in, by two mutual and exclusive partners, and it is for an earthly love, to lead to a blessing for what is to come. What Jesus teaches here, in tandem with other teachings on the topic, is that marriages’ goal IS to lead those partners to God and into Heaven. It is to bring happiness along the way, in a special person in life for the married, and likely a family of children to give living joy.

In today’s gospel in Luke, the Sadducee Jews dp present a wild, far-fetched case to Jesus. Their case of a woman going to the supposed after-life after seven marriages, presents their idea of something they think is too complex and confusing, even by Mosaic law, for any “Heaven” to exist. She isn’t going anywhere but out-of-existence, they say.

Jesus explains how some people will be called into Heaven to Glory, and will not have to fit into some limited idea as like these Sadducees propose, yet instead we will be subject to something all marvelous and new, as from God.

Jesus preaches of a Heaven to come. He will explain how He, Jesus, will be the Bridegroom, and we will be the bride (with all other believers) in the final scene of things. That miserable story of the well-traveled multi-wife in the account could actually be the description of what we must seem to be in God’s views, as we stumble along in our difficulties and human complexibilities, so messed up by sin and by proud independence from God. We have all had our own journey of trials and tests under God’s watch, yet He still loves us and will do all to help us, even to live one days in His Heavenly Presence. Wow.

We won’t need to know how to sort out all our difficulties, such as in whom we are wedded to in the afterlife, because we will all belong to God through Jesus. That succinct answer was to appease the Sadducees question. Who will the woman be “married to” in the afterlife? To The Lord, of course!! (Not husband 1, 2, 3, or etcetera)

Jesus welcomed questions about marriage. Jesus knew that married life and love could save persons along into God’s Kingdom. Of good love in marriage, elsewhere in the Word of God, He says that love doesn’t end, but it is changed ahead. Love never fails, it endures, Love saves.
God gives us prophetic words of tenderness about His care for us: “I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you, and you are mine…” is a nice verse of God’s Heart.

Jesus shows that marriage in His Name can make a real difference. Marriage is valuable, as Jesus teaches in this time, for it has a great connection to how one DOES get there to Heaven. Marriage can act like a rocket booster that lifts us up to the Heavens. Marriage on earth can help generate the love and life needed to lift our hearts to the beauty and grace that is wedded life to the Lord Himself. Wedded love on earth prepares for the Wedding to the Lamb, with the end of the Bible so wonderfully tells about.

One can say that the love one has lived and shared on earth, such as in marriage, is transfigured when we move on for Heaven. It reveals the unlimited potential in us for love with God and all who is in His Kingdom and all what is in His Kingdom. Think of Jesus’ own transfiguration, which gave Peter and James and John more than a peak into the Glory of Jesus, and then go apply the idea to marriage. Marriage can unveil the kingdom of God taking place right within us or among us.

Marriage isn’t the only means to get to Heaven, but it is one the Lord instituted from the start, because He did not want Adam to be alone. Think of Eve not only as the partner for Adam, but of God’s saying that Adam would have a way out of any loneliness, as God would give him a horizontal experience of human love(Eve) to provide for Him help to a vertical experience of being loved (by God).

It is good that we would not be alone, so God gave us love and relationships with others, so that it would lead us to Him forever.

Back to talking on marriage investments to eternal rewards, if both partners have indeed helped one another into heaven, the joy of their shared lives will reach a high that must be unbelievable. If people have learned love and trust, and more, in marriage, than it all gets applied to being loving and trusting with God forever. Could it be your spouse on earth got you to the point of readiness for eternal bliss and ecstacy with God? That it the ideal of the Wedded Sacrament of Love.

Marriage can be a garden where we cultivate love, which starts here on earth, but comes forth like the fruits of the earth, to be ours for an everlasting love with God and perfect love to all others in His creation.

This same God of love will help us all gather into His love. Jesus described it as that we are the bride to heaven, marrying Him. A wedding supper of the Lamb awaits in the New Jerusalem! We also will love one another fully in the eternal life. That’s the picture, albeit a fuzzy one, that Jesus paints for us about what is to come.

That explanation by Him seemed to quiet the Sadducees who had come to pick an argument with the Man from Galilee. He taught and settled the matter, just saying how there were no issues in Heaven about the woman who had the 7 husbands on earth, and the wonder of whose wife would she be in Heaven… Yet Jesus was concerned with this religious group, for they did not want to consider Heaven and eternal life as a possibility at all. How sad! (Well, they were called Sad-ducees!) Jesus says that when we love, it can be the kind to last forever. We must believe that. We are made to love, both on earth and in the afterlife to come.

Since we are on the topic of marriage in the Homily Blog, and because I happened to be a clergy-witness at a Catholic Wedding/Nuptial Mass yesterday for a couple, let’s talk a bit more about marriage and weddings. It will be on the follow-up blog to this one.

Wedding Thoughts (Saturday homily)

1019131805de

Here are some nice sayings from a wedded person to another, speaking of complimentarity….

Wedding Thoughts

You are the mac to my cheese
You are the horizon to my sky
You are the bacon to my eggs
You are the laces to my sneakers
You are the jelly to my peanut butter
You are the smile to my face
You are the gravy to my mashed potatoes
You are the bubble to my bath
You are the ink to my pen
You are the lead to my pencil
You are the ketchup to my french fries
You are the water to my ocean
You are the icing to my cake
You are the colors to my rainbow
You are the syrup to my pancakes
You just make life so in agreement with mine, and make it so much better!

Here now are some sayings on married love and newlywed love and advice…

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person.
– Mignon McLaughlin

Love is a surprise that God gives, like the gallons and gallons of wine for the Cana couple, for days and days of celebration, and where they had lack, and knew not of it, God knew, and gave, and the need was supplied gracefully, by Jesus, as His wedding gift, as given through Mary’s participation.
–John 2 meditation

Love is so big… this gift that God offers, so let it be a moving sea between the shores of your souls, as you love one another by it.
– Based on Gibran, The Prophet

I have found the one whom my soul loves.
– Song of Solomon 3:4

Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible—it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.
– Barbara de Angelis

As it was in the beginning, God created them, male and female… and a man shall leave his parents, and a woman leave her home, and the two shall cleave to each other and become as one, anew! Be fruitful and multiply.
–Genesis 2

The moment I heard my first love story I began seeking you, not realizing how the search was to be reached. I needed to learn a lesson, so to find you, that, lovers don’t just meet somewhere along the way. They’re in one another’s souls from the beginning.
– Rumi

There is no remedy to love but to love more.
– Henry David Thoreau

Love is when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own.
– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Love is patient and kind… not envious nor boastful… and it need not insist… for love believes, love bears, love conquers all, and while it’s important to have faith and hope, the greatest of virtues is love. Love never fails, it is ever and always.
–1 Cor. 13

Two souls with but a single thought, Two hearts that beat as one.
– John Keats

Love isn’t blind; it just only sees what matters.
– William Curry

Our love in sum? What mattered most? We were together. I forget the rest.
– Walt Whitman

When I first saw you I fell in love and smiled because you knew.
– William Shakespeare

Mike and Amanda, may God bless you in marriage, as His newest love story in the world.
mac