Will I Need a Name Tag in Heaven? From the Heart of the Minister May 2022

Will I need a name tag in Heaven?

Well if I have done this life correctly, I guess I won’t.  But suppose I have withheld myself from God, hid behind the tree when I thought He was looking for me, averted my eyes when walking down the street?

How about when He said, “Excuse me, would you like to spend some time together on Sunday morning”?  Am I only answering His mail that is addressed to Current Resident?

Why is it so hard to accept that He knows me so well, that His “Kate radar” functions 24/7?  Because I’m afraid? Because I don’t want anyone to know me that well? Because if you know me that well, how could you love me?

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; ”   Jeremiah 1 1.

That’s a hard one. Before I formed you in the womb….  before!  So even knowing every single thing about me You still went ahead and formed me. My next words are:  in spite of who I am…. Yours are:  because of who you are.

Before becoming a Secular Franciscan, I thought God was ‘aware’ of me. On the mountain in the crowd of the 5000, being hungry after spending the day listening to Jesus preach, He knew I was there but maybe not exactly where.  Now I feel like Jesus would say, “Wait; Kate didn’t get any fish and bread. No, please, take it…..I saved it just for you.”

In my very human mind, I thought God wouldn’t be interested in knowing me.  He had so, so many others to look after.  People who suffer more; people who need Him more; people who love Him more;  people who deserve Him more.

I need my name tag on here on Earth because I have a hard time believing God can love me as I am…warts and all.  “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Again from Jeremiah 31 1.  Maybe Jeremiah had trouble with his name tag, too.

I am coming late to maturity in faith, but thankfully, I’m getting there.  I know….can feel…that God knows right where I am on that mountain.  I don’t need my name tag any more to know who I am and the best part is that I know God knows me without needing that name tag.  He always has!

copyrighted kate kleinert, ofs

From the Heart of the Minister – Kate Kleinert, OFS, April 2022 I Will be Your Simon

I will be your Simon.

What a difficult task to take on.  I don’t remember reading in Scripture that Simon of Cyrene jumped to the aid of Jesus.  The Roman soldiers “volunteered” him.  Simon didn’t know this Man who was so badly beaten and not able to carry His cross.  He was only in town to do some errands and that was it;  so much for getting out of town without becoming involved in some political strife.

Have you ever been asked to be a Simon to someone?  God asks you every day.  I imagine Simon to be a tall, muscular man and that’s why the Roman soldiers picked him out of the crowd to help Jesus.  God looks at our muscles, too, before asking us to help carry someone’s cross.  Has my muscle of kindness been exercised lately?  How about that compassionate muscle that may be out of practice?  Is God asking us to help not only for the ease of the person carrying the cross, but to get us to use our long dormant muscles of humanity?  I will be your Simon.

Patiently holding a door open while an older person struggles with their walker,  taking a few minutes to talk to the person you were trying to dodge in the parking lot, putting the trash out for the neighbor who is suffering from a devastating illness and their spouse is struggling to keep up with the kids, a job, and the overwhelming knowledge that the illness isn’t going to resolve itself.  I will be your Simon.

Simon was a young healthy man who had a job that kept his muscles in great shape.  It wasn’t hard for him to get under that beam of the cross and carry it.  He was ready and he was able.  We can’t be of much use if our muscles haven’t been used and used regularly. It is what we are called to. I will be your Simon.

The times we are living in now offer us many opportunities to be the Simon for someone in need. Are you keeping your head down so you don’t have to make eye contact?  These last weeks of Lent are the hardest to get through.  Keep your head up and search for the beaten man carrying the cross and lend your strength to him.  On Easter Sunday morning, He will come find you and say “Now, I will be your Simon”!

February 2022 by Kate Kleinert, OFS, Regional Minister

Valentine’s Day!  The day celebrating love and giving a gift to your sweetie.

It’s also a good day to reflect on the gifts God has given you.  He gave them to you with love and He gave them to each and every one of us.

Some people jump in right away and say I don’t have any gifts.  I’m not good at anything.  I’m not talented.  Well, that just isn’t so.  God gave each of us many gifts and it’s an insult to Him if we aren’t using them.  You know how you feel when you have spent a great deal of time deciding on a gift, finding just the right one, wrapping it carefully and then wait joyfully for the time to give it.  If the receiver doesn’t ever use the gift, you feel cheated and a little hurt.  You put a lot of effort into it and the other person doesn’t appreciate it.  I wonder if God feels the same way?

God gave us specific gifts for a reason.  Sometimes that reason isn’t so easy to figure out and sometimes our gifts aren’t so easy to see, either.  But they are there, and it’s our job to cultivate them and offer the fruits back to God.

That is the message in Matthew, Chapter 25.  I never quite understood this story.  It’s the one about the Master given the talents to the three servants.  The first servant invested the talents and made many more.  The second servant did likewise.  But the third servant, afraid of losing the talent that belonged to the Master, buried it.

When the Master asked for it back, the servant dug it up and returned it.  Now here is where I always got confused.  The Master was angry.  But I could not figure out why.  After all, the servant didn’t spend it.  He didn’t gamble it away; he didn’t forget where he buried it.  But the reason the Master was angry is because the servant didn’t put the talent to good use.  It wasn’t helping anyone by being buried.

If you still cannot figure out what your gifts are, stop and think about what it is that you are good at.  Are you a good listener?  Clever with your hands?  Able to trouble shoot computers? A good cook?  What do people tell you, you are good at?  These things were given to you for you to use to glorify your Lord.

I’m sure there is someone sitting here thinking the only thing I am good at is eating!  Then go out to eat with someone who is alone.  Good cook?  Make a meal for the neighbor with a new baby or a family member in hospice.  Clever with your hands?  Crochet a baby blanket and drop it off at the Mother’s Home in Darby.

There is no reason to take pride in our gifts or talents.  They came from God and really are no reflection on us.  They are part of the package.  Something that was tucked in for good measure as you made your way to Earth.  But we can take care of them, nurture them and use them.

I would love to draw.  I even took a class.  But it’s just not in there.  I don’t have that gift.  Taking classes or wanting it badly doesn’t make it happen.  I do like to write and have used that to write to a number of prisoners.  Besides writing to my friend Christy for the last 35 years, I have several other prisoners on my pen pal list.  I’m not saying that with any pride because I get much more out it than I put in.

I have been told most of my life that I have a nice singing voice.  But I could not or would not get up in front of people and use that gift.  I always felt like who did I think I was,  supposing I was good enough to do that???

It took me a long, long time before I was able to see that using that gift was not a source of pride. But not using it was the same as the servant burying the talent he was given.  I have no control over being able to sing.  But God put it in my package for a reason.  He must want me to use it.

If you are still having trouble, ask for the gift of using your gift.  After all what parent doesn’t beam when a child asks them how to use what you’ve given them.  God is waiting for you to use your gifts.  And isn’t He the last one you want to disappoint.

One of our own sisters, Donna Adams, OFS, St. John Neumann Fraternity has this quote as her email tag line.  It is from writer Erma Bombeck who many of us will remember as someone who wrote with great humor about her family.  And the quote is:  When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.Erma Bombeck

Everyone has something to offer.  Put a smile on God’s face by using what you were gifted.

 

 

 

July 2021 From the Heart of the Regional Minister

May the Lord give us the peace we need and crave!  July 2021…..who could ever imagine the year and a half we have been through? We have all had tremendous losses.  Many of our loved ones have passed and we could not say goodbye in a way that is familiar to us.   There have been family weddings, graduations, First Communions, milestone birthdays, Baptisms, holidays….either cancelled, postponed or celebrated in a downsized way.  Not our choice, not what we wanted. Now here we are with all that resentment and all that sadness bottled up and repressed.    It has been one, very long night in the Garden of Gethsemane.

So, what now?  The world is taking baby steps to open up again. Life is starting to return to …… what?  Will things ever return to what we think of as normal?  Don’t think so!  So what do we do now?  What we have always done.  Follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  He spent a lousy night in the Garden and now it is time to move on.  Was He relieved to get the whole terrible end of His life in motion?  Was He thinking, “Let’s just get on with it.”?  Maybe.  We won’t know that until we can ask Him in person. But this we do know….. even under all this stress, He remained kind.  He healed the ear of the soldier while still in the Garden.  Even in His own agony, He was concerned for His mother’s welfare.  He stopped to console the women of Jerusalem.  All while carrying His cross.

It’s not easy to follow in His footsteps. But it is what we are called to do.  Everyone is carrying a cross.  These days, the crosses have gotten heavier and harder to carry. So try being kind.

Like everyone else, I’ve had my cross to carry lately.  After a particularly hard time, my friend/mentor/spiritual helper said “I want you to buy yourself some flowers.”  I said I would.  But the day got away from me and suddenly it was 8:30 and dark.  Did I really want to get in the car and go buy flowers?  I got in the car anyway!  I went to the local ShopRite and the flowers are right inside the door.  There was a bunch of beautiful apricot carnations that were calling my name for $4.49.  Next to them was a bin of baby’s breath.  Also $4.49.  I put the two bunches in the baby seat and went on to pick up a few things while I was there.

There was a very attractive young African American couple going up and down the aisles at the same pace that I was.  I imagined they were on a date because of the beautiful way they were looking at each other.  They were joyful just to be in each other’s company.  After we had traveled several aisles together, the young man remarked that my flowers were very pretty and asked who I bought them for.  I told him I had been through a rough couple days and that I bought them for myself.  He then asked how much they cost.  By now I was talking to his lovely date and when I didn’t answer him right away, he reached over and turned the bunches around so he could see the price.  He said, “I want to buy those flowers for you”.  I laughed and said “Oh, go on!” and he said again, only more seriously, “I want to buy those flowers for you”.  I didn’t know this guy from Adam.  I protested, but he took a ten dollar bill out of his pocket and put it in my hand.  He closed my hand around it and said “I really want to do this for you.”  The events of the last few days and the kindness of this young man brought me to tears.  He and his young lady headed down the aisle while I stood there shaking my head in wonder. When they got to the end of the aisle, they turned and both of them said, “Have a good night”. And they were gone.

I wanted to go get on the PA system and tell the whole store about what had just happened. (No, I didn’t!)  But I spent the rest of the night in awe of the hug I had received from God through this kind young couple.

I’m not suggesting that you go buy flowers for someone. But, holding the door, saying good morning, helping someone get their groceries into the car are all acts of kindness that are a soothing balm that each of us needs right now.  The world is weary and hurting.  It is our calling to be kindness itself.  If Jesus could be kind on His way to Calvary, we can certainly do no less in our every day dealings with each other.

May God bless you abundantly so that you may bless others,

kate

Poverty of Attitude - March, 2021 Kate Kleinert, OFS, Regional Minister

Poverty of Attitude

A few weeks ago, a friend called to tell me that a mutual friend had passed away.  Although we knew Dottie was very sick, we were not were aware that she was so close to the end of her time and had been in hospice for a while.  My friend and I felt guilty that we had not tried harder to reach Dottie or her sons.

I called the sons to offer my condolences.  The call rolled over to the answering machine.  I was not prepared to hear Dottie’s voice and even more shocking was how wonderful she sounded.  I hadn’t heard her sound like that in more than a year.

I was so startled, that I‘m not sure what I even said on the message. But I began an entire conversation in my head that I’m sure I planned to have with everyone and anyone I ran into…..oh how awful, this poor woman died and I called and here she is sounding alive and well.  Wasn’t that a cruel trick to have to listen to that….

But as I hung up the phone, it dawned on me that Dottie was right at that moment feeling as good as she was sounding on that machine. She was already in heaven, sitting at the feet of Jesus and cured of every pain and illness.

But I almost fell into the trap of poverty of attitude.  It made a good story, why shouldn’t I tell it?  I’m sure you know people who can keep the drama going on and on and on.  And before you know it, your whole attitude has sunk to that level – to say nothing of the poor people having to listen to you.   Some people hold onto complaining and being miserable like it’s a life raft.  And maybe for them it is.  But as Franciscans, we need to be willing to give up our attachment – our materialism – to let go of our need to complain and be miserable. And put on the attitude of Christ. If CNN were able to interview Jesus on the morning of Good Friday,  do you think he would be saying” Oy, what a night, I haven’t slept, but my friends did!  Great bunch of guys, they are. You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through.”  Or do you think he said, ”I loved you the most today. It’s been a tough day, but I got through it. Thanks for asking.”

God makes His presence known to mankind through each of us.  We cannot extend His hand to anyone else unless we are holding onto it ourselves.  And if we are telling our story with both our hands waving in the air, we aren’t holding onto Him. In the famous prayer attributed to him. St. Francis asks…make me a channel of your peace.  Not give me peace.  Make me a channel – let me empty myself.  From  Ephesians, chapter 4 are these words that we need to hear:   Never let evil talk pass your lips;  say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them.  Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander and malice of every kind.  In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.

And just what is evil talk.  We immediately think curse words would fall into that category and they do.  But Evil Talk isn’t a single entry topic.  What about gossip.? What about telling things that you promised you would hold confidentially?  Making fun of people, laughing along with the crowd when someone else is doing the insulting? What about the ‘adult topics’ you discuss when your children or grandchildren are within earshot?

God has given us two hands for a reason.  Keep one hand in His.  And keep the other one free to extend both His and your grace to someone in need. Keeping both hands occupied is a blessing.  After all, remember what your mother told you about idle hands???

May your Lenten journey continue to be filled with the graces that you need, opportunities for your growth, and the ability to take a step or two closer to Our Lord.

 

Lent in the Garden of Gethsemane

Being in the Garden of Gethsemane

As I write this, Lent is just 24 hours old and I feel like I have been sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane forever.

The real problem is, the Garden is very crowded this year.  Even in the midst of misery, there is no peace and quiet!

The pandemic continues to rear its’ ugly head – now in several new mutations.  The political scene is still in an uproar, no matter which side you are on. We are coming up to the first year marker (I refuse to call it an anniversary) of when the shutdown began and life as we knew it was over.

So many problems, so many real tragedies all around.  So many requests for prayers.  It is overwhelming, disheartening.  And isn’t that exactly where the Evil One wants us?  I can see him standing at the Gate to the Garden of Gethsemane with his straw hat and megaphone saying “Hurry, hurry, hurry.  Step right up, folks”.

But, we are in good company.  Our Lord sat in this very Garden with a very heavy heart, feeling lost and abandoned by those closest to Him – including His own Father.  There is nothing wrong with being in the Garden.  After all, Jesus Himself, spent time there.

The difference is, Jesus got up and continued the will of His Father.  What a beautiful example for us.  This Lent we can offer up whatever has us sitting in the Garden – struggling with finances, adjusting to a new job or losing the old one, and certainly all the health issues that are attacking so many of us. Some of these issues have us nailed in place and it might feel like we can’t get up.  But remember Who took all these things with Him to His cross and was nailed there.  How can we do less than was done for us. Don’t let what is holding you down, keep you there. We all spend time in the Garden throughout our lives. Use your experiences in the Garden as an offering to the Father for the time that His son spent there for you.

The only good thing about the Garden being so crowded – you don’t have far to go to grasp the hand of someone who understands what you are going through. Look around.  Everyone who has ever walked this earth has been to the Garden.  Ask your loved ones who have gone “home” to pray that you will benefit from being there.

May your journey through Lent bring you closer to the glory of Easter morning when Jesus broke free of all that had nailed Him to the cross!

Pastoring our Pastors in Time of Pandemic

Photo by Nazim Coskun on Unsplash

Need for Pastoral Care of the Clergy

Herefordshire Monastery of Benedictine Sisters – used with permission

I know the word ‘pastoring’ doesn’t really exist, but I wish it did because it expresses something we are apt to forget. Those to whom we look for pastoral care are themselves in need of care and support. Throughout this pandemic we have heard a lot from parishioners who are sad or unhappy at the way in which some clergy have seemed unresponsive to their needs, especially during periods of lockdown or church closure. As one disgruntled man remarked, ‘They think they have done enough by becoming third-rate movie stars with their live-streamed Masses and what not.’ I daresay some have; but most haven’t. They have tried to be good and dutiful priests in a situation none of us has met before. A few have been blessed with the imagination and creativity to meet the new circumstances positively, but many more have struggled and one or two have been utterly crushed by the experience.

Some clergy have felt abandoned by their bishops and left to soldier on, not sure what to do for the best. They have been burdened with an extra load of admin at the very time when those they chiefly rely on to help — mainly more senior members of the parish, who may well be shielding because of age or infirmity — are not available. They live alone; some admit to being close to breaking-point, others cannot bring themselves to articulate their feelings of loneliness and discouragement. For them celebration of the Holy Mysteries is not the only aspect of priesthood that gives joy and purpose to their lives. They miss the interaction with people. More than one has confessed that, being naturally shy and without the ‘excuse’ that coffee after Mass or regular parish meetings of one kind or another provide, they are becoming more and more isolated.

Wrap and Throw Service

Happily, this is where the brotherhood of the priesthood takes on fresh meaning and importance. It has been heartening to learn of the support received from friendly ‘phone calls and video meetings with fellow priests; but it isn’t enough. Here at the monastery we do our best to listen non-judgementally and sympathetically to those who feel the need to unburden themselves of the distress they feel. I hope we manage to reassure them that they are not letting the side down or being a failure because they are not exercising their priesthood in ways familiar to them. We try to give encouragement. In the monastery we refer to this as our ‘Wrap and Throw Service’, meaning we do our best to wrap those who come to us in the love of God and throw them back into their parishes to minister to others. But again, it isn’t enough.

The Role of Parishioners

The people best placed to support the clergy through this time of pandemic are their parishioners. Yes, you! The bishop can only do so much; fellow priests and monasteries can only do so much; but you are there. You know your priest in a way no one else does. It does not take much time to send a friendly email asking how he is and saying you miss seeing him on a regular basis. A word of thanks and appreciation for what he is doing to meet the needs of the parish will never go amiss. An offer of help may be warmly received. Who can tell? Pastoring our pastors isn’t a difficult art. It simply requires a warm heart and the ability to see the human person wearing the collar — someone just as much in need of encouragement as we are ourselves.

Be Contagious in a Good Way, from the Heart of the Minister Feb 2021

Be Contagious in a Good Way

Life has been mighty hard lately; so, aren’t we all ready for something to change? One of my favorite hymns is Let There Be Peace on Earth.  If you are familiar with it, you know the next line is….and let it begin with me.  But there aren’t any instructions in the hymn on how to do that.

PP (prior to the pandemic) instead of giving up something for Lent, I would try to add something.  Hold the door for the person coming out of the store behind you.  Help someone with a large grocery order put the bags in his or her trunk;  and the easiest one of all….smile at people.  Say hello, have a nice day.  More times than not, the other person will smile back, hold the door for the person behind him or her, say hello back to you.  See???  It’s contagious!

Fast forward to DP (during the pandemic)  We are all wearing masks.  You can’t tell if someone is smiling or sticking their tongue out!  You step back at the end of the aisle in the grocery store to let someone else pass by but they don’t see that kind smile on your face.  How do they know you are trying to be neighborly?  In the Prayer of St. Francis, he asks to be an instrument of peace.  Francis isn’t praying to have peace himself.  He is asking to be the instrument.  Let your peace pass through me to someone else.  These days are different – standing 6 feet apart, no hugs or shaking hands, and the first impression someone gets of us is hidden behind a mask.

We need to shake things up a bit and step out of the box where we are safe, protected and alone.  The rest of the world is outside of your box so step out in faith.  Find a way to project your neighborliness. Even though Lent is several weeks away, why not start now to make that sacrifice of adding something to every day instead of giving something up.  Drop a “Thinking of You” card in the mail to someone you haven’t seen or spoken to in a long time.  Pay for the person behind you in the fast food line. Take your neighbors’ trash can back to their house after the trash truck passes.  Ask your elderly neighbor if you can pick up a book for them at the library.

Life is different now.  We can’t live like we always did and expect to fit in with the new way. We need to change.  Don’t wait for life to get back to normal….this is normal now.  We have to catch up and move slightly ahead.  Ask God to be His instrument, and it wouldn’t hurt to ask Him just how He wants you to do that!  Did I hear an Amen??!!

Change me, Lord – a Prayer for our Present Situation

CHANGE ME LORD
Change me Lord.
As I flip over the calendar to a new year,
Let me flip over a new attitude in my life.

Change me Lord.
Help me to let go of the baggage that is
attempting to push its way into my future.

Change me Lord.
Let me see and believe in all the possibilities
that a new year and a new attitude can bring to my life.Take my hands Lord.
Let my fingers never type or post words of division and hurt.
Renew my fingers to release words of hope, encouragement and love.
Let my hands never be a part of ill-will or a cause of disunion.
Renew my hands to be used to bring comfort, friendship and aid to others.

Take my feet Lord.
Let my feet never lead to places of discouragement, despair or separation.
Renew my steps and lead me where I can share your love and hope in the world.

Take my eyes and ears Lord.
Let me never limit my mind to only what I think or hear.
Open my eyes and ears to see and hear the cries of those who need my help
within my small life and within the larger world.

Take my heart Lord.
Take my heart of stone and apathy.
Give me a heart so full of awe and love for what You have created
That I will burst forth from my cocoon to live fully in Your Spirit.

Take my life Lord.
Change me Lord.
Amen.

January 11, 2021
Kathy Taormina, OFS
FY/YA Commission SA
Queen of Peace Regional SA

From the Heart of the Minister – January 2021

Seeing the Good When Nothing Around You Is!

I’ll be honest with you. So far, I’m not all that thrilled with 2021.  But I have to admit that in spite of the rough spots, there have been some pretty hefty blessings.

Being alone at Christmas is dismal.  Between Christmas Eve and Christmas day however, I was visited by three Christmas angels who all arrived separately and brought some unexpected presents…my very own version of the Magi!

But it was the fourth Christmas angel that brought the biggest blessing.  Yesterday morning started with some very upsetting news that a family crisis was unfolding.  I immediately headed to my sister’s house to do what I could to help.  She needed some scripts picked up at the drug store and then asked me to get milk and bread.  Getting the scripts was no problem but the CVS didn’t have the 1% milk and I never did find the bread.  Down the street is a super WaWa so I stopped in there.  No 1% milk.  About a block away was an Aldi store.  I was glad to go in there because I needed a few things myself and could take care of my sister and me at one place.

I didn’t get much – it all fit in the seat part of the shopping cart.  I waited in line and had a very pleasant cashier checking out my order.  As she was getting to the end of my items, I went in my purse for my debit card.  It wasn’t there.  Being a stubborn redhead, I must have gone through my wallet ten times before I was willing to give up.

Unfortunately, when I counted my cash, I had a five and five ones.  The total was $18.  I wanted to crawl under the conveyer belt and stay there.  By this time I had apologized at least a dozen times and told the cashier I only had $10 and would have to put some things back.  When I started reaching for some things to put back – my face a brilliant crimson –   the cashier said “Hold on a minute, Honey, I’ll be right back”.  She was right back but I used the time to look once more through my wallet willing that card to magically appear.  Didn’t happen.  But what did happen was the cashier handed me a slip of paper and said “Here’s your receipt, you are good to go”.

I was completely and utterly confused.  She looked at me standing there and said “Go ahead, you are all finished”.  I was finally able to mutter something like “How can that be” and the cashier said “Happy New Year, Honey, now go on.  You are all checked out.”  I started to cry and she quickly said, “No need for that, now…Happy New Year”  To the relief of the customer behind me, I finally started walking away.  I turned around twice before I got to the door and caught the cashier’s eye long enough to say thank you.

This wasn’t a case where I was a dollar short and the person behind me paid it.  It wasn’t a case where I was a few cents short and the cashier waved me on.  My entire bill was paid in full.

I called a friend to share this story and when I got to the end, she said…..”That must be how it feels to come to the realization that Jesus has paid your debt.”  The gasp I heard was my own.  Although I have known from a young child that Jesus paid for my sins, I was never able to see it so clearly.  Or feel it so deeply.  Or be so utterly grateful.  Or to love Him back so completely.

Am I embarrassed that I didn’t have the money to pay for my groceries?  Yes, indeed!  Am I grateful that this happened so that I see Jesus a little more clearly?  You bet!!

I was still flabbergasted when Joan Pesta, OFS, Minister of Holy Dormition, called to discuss a few things.  When we had taken care of her concerns, I timidly asked if I could tell her a story.  She, too, was moved and suggested that I share it.  So, thanks Joan, for your encouragement!

Happy New Year brothers and sisters.  May you, too, take a step closer to Jesus in the coming year.