Thursday, June 27, 2013

Prodigal sons looking for a dad. Are you available?



Last week I wrote about the way forgiveness can heal a family that  reconciles with the poor ostracized black sheep.


And who  among us is not touched by the story of the Prodigal Son?


I think if we are honest  we all would have to admit that we may have limits to our own ability to set aside the transgressions of those that hurt us deeply.


But the act of forgiveness provides an indescribable sense of freedom and peace.


Not for the sinner but for the injured party doing the forgiving.


Jim Klein, a great priest and pastoral associate over at St. Borromeo Church, used to describe the joyful act of forgiveness like this.


When he is unable to forgive, he feels like he is carrying around the body of the one he hates on his back all the time.


Dead weight.


It's oppressive.


Father Klein talks about the wonderful lightness that makes him almost giddy when he releases the burden of a grudge against the offender.


Which leads me to the real story behind this column.


In the spring of 2006, a five-year-old had come to the last in a series of chemotherapy treatments needed because of a cancerous tumor in her abdomen.


Emily Jerry was her name.


Emily maintained her optimistic smile throughout the difficult therapy.



Family and friends had been on their knees in thanksgiving because the tumor had finally disappeared.


She was an inspiration.


And now it seemed that a happy ending was finally hers.


The final chemotherapy dose was prepared by a pharmaceutical technician by the name of Eric Cropp at Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital.



Mr. Cropp inadvertently increased the sodium level almost 26 times beyond the correct dosage.


The results were catastrophic.




The girl who had been destined to walk out of that hospital in full remission experienced a fatal brain hemorrhage within minutes of receiving the nurse's injection made lethal because of the technician's mistake.


Eric Cropp was prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter and spent six months in the Cuyahoga County Jail.


Here's where the forgiveness comes in.


Christopher Jerry, Emily's grieving father, had a face-to-face meeting with this technician who brought about his  daughter's death.


He immediately gave him a hug, telling him that he forgave him and that he knew the error was completely unintentional.


The website contains a video of this poignant moment.


How much forgiveness is in you?


Could you let go of resentment against one responsible for your child's demise?


What this story tells me is that there is no limit to  man's ability to forgive.


Just tap into some part of God that is deep inside you.


Look at the cross.


Look at your life.


And offer forgiveness.


To absolutely everyone, regardless of the crime.




From one prodigal to another, let's play the role of the dad in that story.


I am going to try, readers.


Join me.


And we can greet one another up in the clouds.


I feel lighter already.



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Grandpa has a lot to learn. Is it too late for you?

The black sheep.


There she was.


Here's what happened.


It's one of those weekday church services downtown at about 5:10 PM.


Sparsely populated congregation this afternoon at the Cathedral.


I've got a whole pew all to myself.


But just before mass begins, a huge family enters.


Brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and a bunch of toddlers and tots.


Just as they get settled in taking up the three rows immediately behind me, this group of about 30 extended family has one late entry.


It's grandpa.


Shuffling a little, he  is just about to take his seat with the fam.


Then he sees her.


He points to the opposite end of the pew he's entered.


At the far side sits a pretty girl, about 26, in a plain black dress with  long straight dark brown hair.


Grandpa points with even greater emphasis.


"What's she doing here?"


His words echo through the church, breaking the pre-service silence.


"Quiet, grandpa!"


"What's she doing here?"


Grandpa clearly has identified this family's black sheep.


As the other family members calm the family patriarch, the girl in the black dress stares straight ahead.


What made her the black sheep?


Baby out of wedlock?


Married a non-Christian?


Gay lifestyle?


Whatever the offense, grandpa has a hard time containing his disapproval.


Even in church.


I, for one, was happy she showed.


I've seen this black sheep syndrome ruin too many families.


It usually begins with a choice made by the excluded one.


A choice that family members just won't abide.


The unfortunate system works like this.


The controlling dominant family members tell the rest (the followers) they will boycott family events if the black sheep is part of the deal.


Soon the black sheep becomes the uninvited.


They only hear about family functions as a rumor.


The followers try to console the black sheep but advise non-attendance.


Parties, holidays, and weddings roll-on sadly.


The black sheep grows lonely and full of resentment at  being left out.


The followers feel guilty but lack the courage to challenge the hateful estrangement enforced by the dominant ones.


It's horrible.


The family is on a terrible treadmill of anger and desperation.


Forgiveness and reconciliation lurk just around the corner.


Waiting for pride to give way to love.


It's tragic that the pathetic cycle frequently just continues on.


You might have a black sheep in your family.


If you're the one insisting on exclusion, shame on you.


Life is too short.


In an instant, you'll be trying to explain your evil endeavors to St. Peter.


Should you be forgiven when you've never let the black sheep off the hook?


If you're the follower, you're not much better.


You're a  co-conspirator in creating  undeserved misery.


If you are the black sheep, well, keep trying.


Ask God to intervene.


To change hearts.


No matter your mistakes or choices, family love should be unconditional.


One more thing.


It's okay to crash the party occasionally.


It's your family too.


No matter what grandpa says.







Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gentle Jesuit ignores the teleprompter and speaks from the heart

Pope Francis continues to confound his handlers in the papal press office.


His latest divergence from prepared text was perhaps his greatest contribution to the world so far.


About ten days ago, the former Cardinal Bergoglio told an audience at St. Peter's that "the Lord has redeemed all of us with the blood of Christ, even the atheists."


Catholic theologians watching in the wings were stunned.


Stunned because traditionalists have held that non-Christians were stuck with a "Do not pass go" card in the Monopoly game of eternity.


The next line from the same Pope Francis homily must have caused a heart attack.


"We must meet one another, doing good. 'But I don't believe, Father, I am an atheist.'… But do good. We will meet one another there."


Man, I love this Pope.


John Paul II had charisma.


But this Pope has something else very special.


He is filled with love for all people.


Even atheists.


And he believes atheists can enter Christ's kingdom, even if they don't believe in Christ.




By being Christ-like.


This explains why the vice-presidents at Catholicism Incorporated are so disturbed by the new pontiff's willingness to speak his mind.


And his heart.


Rev. Thomas Rosica issued a statement from the Vatican public relations office shortly after Francis's compassionate sermon.


Rosica told CNN that the Pope didn't mean exactly what his words indicated.


Rosica explained that Francis meant  atheists can always embrace the church later in life and then gain admittance into the pearly gates.




The Pope knew what he said and he meant it.


Remember, this is the man who left the Pope-mobile to hug a handicapped child.


The Pope who recently welcomed thousands of bikers to Rome blessing 1500 Harleys (they gave him a leather jacket and a big honkin' Hog).


The Vicar who washed the feet of teenage inmates at a youth prison.


The symbol of holiness who admitted recently that he falls asleep while praying.


Sound familiar?


The Pope's management team worries that his remarks counter their marketing plan.


After all, if you admit nonbelievers can go to heaven, you might end up with more nonbelievers.


But they're missing what's really going on here.


I believe the Pope's stance attracts believers.


The Pope is so transparently filled with love and compassion for mankind that he is a Catholic magnet.


A one-man billboard for a church that is loving and caring like Jesus.


The strong moral positions of the church are more easily digested by those enveloped in the love projected by Francis.


He is brilliant.


And filled with Christian love.


They say the  Holy spirit watches over the conclave and guides the cardinals without them even realizing it.


I believe it.


Just a few months into his pontificate  the Italian Jesuit from South America is causing disillusioned sophisticates to give the church a second look.


So, take a chill pill, theologians.


And let Francis be the Good Shepherd who goes looking for the lost sheep.


Who knows?


You might be one.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Whose Line is it anyway? Ronald Mcdonald's.



I hate 'em.


Despite our Internet ordering opportunities, we still get stuck in those stupid lines.


Let's begin with the post office.


I hate this one.


Especially because there is usually only one window open.


I'm sixth in line, waiting with my fellow impatient patrons while a senior citizen has a long winded discussion with the clerk.


First class for that package or parcel post?




How quickly do you want delivery to be made?


Way too many decisions for grandma to ponder.


She goes into rain delay mode, chirping about all the variables attached to the clerk's questions.


I'm in a hurry.


I'm losing it.


I think "going postal" actually refers to the justifiable homicide I'm about to commit.


Please, lady, figure it all out before you arrive at the United States Postal Service.


The location next under consideration is the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.


Many outposts of this state agency are efficient.


But those lines!


Here's the kicker.


I've made it to the front of the line.


That karmic moment when my tortuous wait culminates in… my turn!


"Sir, your documents are insufficient. Please come back with your birth certificate."


Followed by the true walk of shame.


All eyes are on me.


What kind of moron waits at the BMV unprepared to do battle with those cunning clerks?


Next, the confessional line at our local parish.


Two priests on duty, with  a separate line for each priest.


Bad idea.


My line has only three people waiting to make peace with the creator.


Line B has 13 folks waiting to unburden themselves.


Three versus 13?


The souls in line B are green with line envy.



But alas, our little trio is destined to grow old together.


The poor fellow reconciling before the priest we await is apparently a guest in his own Dr. Phil show.


The line of 13 dissipates quickly as Father Fast sees an additional seven penitents.


The three of us in line A have learned the virtue of patience.


Pastors: let's make one line the way they do at the bank.


If a teller window opens, the first in line deposits his sins there.


Which takes me to the final topic.


The McDonald's monstrosity.


McDonald's restaurants have redesigned their drive-through with two parallel lines, both feeding into a single lane so you can pay and receive your order.


This creates several close calls and near misses.


You see, no one knows which car has the right-of-way when consolidating the two lanes into one line.


The girl in the lane across from me is on the phone, paying no attention.


Does McDonald's needs this double lane disaster?


Ronald, I love the flaming red hair and white face paint.


But I don't do well with lines.


And two lines at once is more than I can bear.


At the least, get out there with your big floppy clown shoes and direct traffic.


This is just Mcfrustrating.


Well folks, that's your trip with me through waiting-in-line hell.


Have a nice day.