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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Northwoods Relay for Life

Modern Radiation Treatment Equipment

    In June of 2006 I was visiting a friend in Atlanta and received a call from the office of my urologist informing me that I had prostate cancer.  Because I had been going for regular checkups and screening my cancer was a very early stage one and was very treatable.  Nonetheless when one hears the word cancer with one's own name attached it gets one's attention.

   I had to call St. Peter's in Eagle River, WI and let them know that I wouldn't be able to come there that summer because I had to visit doctors and decide on a treatment option. I was told that in my case the decision was up to me regarding surgery or radiation as well as some other approaches.  With that I began a spiritual, emotional and physical journey that continues to this day.  Even though I had confidence that the cancer could be treated I still had to face the fact that this was something that could kill me if I did not take action.  It was an encounter with my own mortality.

   I returned from Atlanta to my friary in St. Petersburg and found my mailbox already filling up with cards and letters with prayers and support from the parishioners in Wisconsin.   I was deeply moved by that.  I had every intention of getting something done quickly but found that the whole process would take several months.  After visiting with several doctors I chose a course of radiation therapy. A combination of radiation beam therapy and radioactive seed implants was recommended and I accepted that.

   The good Lord knew that I needed to slow down.  Although I never felt ill or in pain I was not able during that time to do my work of traveling around to different parishes.  I had to show up at the hospital every weekday for five weeks as well as attending to other medical appointments to prepare me for everything.  It was a time of letting God be in control and giving myself over to the care of wonderful doctors for whom I will always be grateful.  I still see them for annual followup and am glad to report that after nearly 6 years everything is fine.

    I truly believe that I was healed.  No, there were no miracles in the sense of supernatural intervention but the had of God was with the doctors and nurses who provided not only high quality medical treatment but truly compassionate care, with my Franciscan community and so many people who offered me prayers.  Healing for me consists in knowing that God is with you no matter what.

   My perspective on life has subtly changed.  I appreciate every moment that God gives me.   I pinch myself when I take a long bike ride and feel so grateful that since then I have started this blog, preached several missions and retreats, am having a book published (release in early 2013), went on a mission trip to Honduras and had the joy last week of presiding at the marriage of my niece Michelle to Kevin Donahue.  I mention those things not to boast but because I am grateful that I am alive and have had a chance to do these things.

    This Friday and Saturday, August 3&4 I will be participating with the team from St. Peter the Fisherman parish in the Northwoods Realy for Life. These relays go on all over the country during the year and raise money for cancer research, new treatments and above all the hope for a complete cure. I will participate as a grateful survivor.  If any of you are so inclined you can click on the link below, when you get on line you will see a donation box on the right side of the page.

  And one last thing please get your regular  gender and age recommended cancer screenings--prostate,colonoscopy, mamogram. etc. They're not always fun, but they save lives.

 Just click on:    Northwoods Relay for Life

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kevin and Michelle's Wedding--Some Personal Thoughts

Their First Dance








   What a weekend it was!  As my regular blog readers know by now I have been in Boston to preside at the marriage of Kevin and Michelle (my niece) Donahue.  Words cannot describe what it meant to me to celebrate that great day.  To be Michelle's uncle and to be able to perform the ceremony was something really special.

   More that at any other wedding I've attended or performed there were certain aspects of a marriage ceremony that I felt throughout the whole experience.  I remember Christmas of 2011. They had been engaged or just a month and I blessed their engagement at  my brother's home.  Kevin's mother, Ruth Ann, was there, as well as my family. With that there was the realization that two families were coming together. The rehearsal dinner last week and the wedding Mass and reception added to that.  The two families are indeed off to a good start. 
Michelle and Kevin

   A wedding is also a bridge between past, present and future.  As I met with the newlyweds several times over the past year there was much discussion not only of their past, but of the deceased members of our families.  There was a certain sadness over the fact that some of them could not be there, but also a deep appreciation of what Kevin, Michelle and all of us had received from them.  As for the future that was brought home at the post wedding brunch on Sunday morning.  Kevin and Michelle appeared with Red Sox shirts.  His had the name Donahue on the back and hers said Mrs. Donahue.  She's not Michelle Anglin anymore. She's Michelle Donahue. I like that, but I'll have to get used to saying it.  It says that something new is beginning.  It says this is how we're moving into the future.

   After all the preparations were made the wedding Mass was celebrated this past Saturday afternoon, July 21, 2012.  As I stood at the head of the center aisle and the doors in the back opened, framing the image of my brother Michael and the beautiful bride Michelle my eyes watered immediately.  Everything that this wonderful event was about came into focus. My brother's eyes were tearier than mine. After all we Anglins are incurable romantics.  I composed myself and the Mass began. Everything about it was extra special for me.  I'm planning eventually to have a video clip of the homily and marriage vows, but for now I'll just share that I ended the homily with some lines from the musical, Les Miserable. The words are spoken between a dying father and his daughter, but they certainly apply to a marriage and to husbands and wives in general.  they go like this, "Take my hand and lead me to salvation. Take my love, for love is everlasting. And remember the truth that once was spoken, 'To love another person is to see the face of God.' "

   It is my prayer for Kevin, Michelle and every married couple that they see the face of God in each other every day of their lives.  I got choked up saying those words as well.  

   One final note. You may wonder why there are no pictures here from the church.  Those will follow. After all I couldn't very well pull out my camera during the Mass.

Above:a clip of Mr. and Mrs Kevin Donahue being presented at the wedding reception.
A true Red Sox Fan

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Triumph Over Tragedy

  It is a Saturday afternoon and I am preparing to preside at the wedding of my niece Michelle and her fiancee' Kevin. I am filled with joy over the prospect of doing that and over being with family and friends for a joyful celebration afterwards.

  At the same time I am saddened over the senseless and insane tragedy that happened last night in Aurora, CO with a deranged gunman going into a movie theater and killing at least 14 people and injuring others.  I will not try and analyze why such evil takes place. To do so would place it within the realm of the rational, a place that it does not deserve.

  With all the bad news that seems to emanate from Church circles these days I thought that the message given by the bishops of Colorado and the support that the Church there is giving the victims is very encouraging and is a wonderful expression of how the Church can be at its best when things in the world are at their worst. Among other things one of the bishops cited Paul's letter to the Romans which says that "nothing can separate us from the love of God".  Evil will happen not only now, but until the end of time.  God does not abandon us at times like this but rushes in to comfort and strengthen, especially does God rush in through those who bring love in God's name.

   This brings me back to today's wedding. I will certainly have another blog post to report on the wonderful events that will take place.  The one thing I want to say now is that what Kevin and Michelle and every couple who decides to marry are saying, among other things, is that all of the evil, pain and suffering in the world cannot stop them from loving each other.  It is a small way of claiming that love conquers all, that in the end, real though it is, evil will not prevail.  In the future when they bring children into the world they will be saying that yes, we will have children, even in spite of all that is wrong in the world, because we believe that our love for each other and for them will make a difference in the world.

   And so for Kevin, Michelle and every couple I say, "Just keep on loving." The world needs it.





Saturday, July 14, 2012

There's a Wedding in my Family

 As I mentioned in an earlier blog post my trip to Honduras, as exciting and fulfilling as it was, will not be the highlight of my year. Why? Because I will be traveling to Boston this week to witness the marriage of my niece, Michelle, to Kevin Donahue.

  A little bit of Catholic theology is in order for my readers who are not Catholic.  You may have noticed that I used the word witness to describe my role in the wedding ceremony.  That is because for us the minister of the Sacrament of Matrimony is the couple themselves.  The priest, the best man and the maid of honor serve as witnesses to the event.  For any family, including ours, a wedding is a big event.  It marks the passing of the family torch on to the next generation.  As a hopelessly incurable romantic I'm sure that my eyes will not be dry when I see my brother Michael walking Michelle down the aisle. Michael and his wife Laureen must surely be proud of Michelle.  She has worked hard in recent years to get her MA in education and to obtain a Massachusetts teaching certificate. More importantly she has found a wonderful man to be her husband.  Next weekend will indeed be one big celebration.

   The wedding will be over sometime before 6:30 on Saturday night.  The marriage will be just beginning. We Catholics count matrimony as one of the seven Sacraments.  What does it mean to call marriage a Sacrament?  In this case it means that every day of their lives Kevin and Michelle will be a living sign of Christ's love for His people in everything they do.  Many good Catholic couples do not fully realize this. They think that the Sacrament is simply a blessing on their marriage at the time of the ceremony. It is that, but so much more.  It is loving each other deeply. It is struggling to get through hard times. It is forgiving the failures that every marriage must endure.  As newlyweds they may be tempted to think that such moments will never happen, but they will. Forgiveness is one of the keys to making a marriage grow.

   An old saying goes "A wedding is a moment, a marriage is a lifetime."  My prayer for Kevin and Michelle and for every married couple is that they share a lifetime filled with many joys and blessings.

   Next week look for a reflection on the big event.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Prophets among us.

Jesus preaching in the synagogue
   When we hear the word "prophet" we tend to think of someone who has the ability to foretell the future. In the news we are regularly bombarded with "prophecies" about the end of the world.  This understanding entirely misses the point of what prophecy really is. The word prophet comes from the Greek for spokesperson, one who speaks for another. The religious meaning is one who speaks for God.  Often in speaking for God future consequences are announced regarding what will happen if the message is not received.  Prophets also announce hope, good things to come in the future.

   In the Gospel text from Mark  (Mk: 6, 1-6) for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary time Jesus is preaching in the synagogue at Nazareth, his hometown and is rejected. He is speaking a truth that they don't want to hear.  Likewise isn't He just a carpenter's son. what could he possibly have to say?  Jesus points out "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." (Mk 6:4). Even He, the Son of God, was not able to perform miracles there because of their lack of faith.

   What are we to learn from this?  About a year ago I saw the movie, The Help. It was based on a novel by the same name and told the story of  African American maids in Mississippi in the 1960's. A young woman from the town in which the story takes place becomes a writer and tells the story of the mistreatment of these maids.   She is rejected, even in in her own family.  She was a prophet. She told the uncomfortable truth that they didn't want to hear.

   There is something in human nature that causes us to become blind to evil in our midst.  We get comfortable and fail to see what is wrong.  This happens in every country and town, in every political party and in the Church as well. It happens in families too. Who are the prophets among us, our own kind, who will name the wrongs that we fail to see?  Who of us will accept the call we have through Baptism and Confirmation to be prophets?  Do we reject our prophets because after all "They're just ordinary folks who have no business speaking out?