THE UNBROKEN WORD

 

As the summer days roll by, we connect with family, nature, perhaps visit new places or our favorite haunts of the past. It is a time of renewal, refreshment and at times excitement. One aspect of this time is looking forward to doing “nothing”. Yet, when I analyze my own free time, I often find myself unable to “decouple” from my pre-vacation world.

Can I manage without the cell phone, checking my email daily, worrying if someone did something I asked them to do, is that new customer doing OK with the product I just sold them? The questions seem to rise out of nowhere, so what should I do about them?

My son came to visit us this weekend, he is a busy executive with a lot of responsibilities; he also knows work/life balance is important, so ensures his family gets all the attention they need during the vacation days. Yet, as the evening wears on, and supper is finished, I find him working on the computer till the wee hours dealing with the problems he knows are not being dealt with while he is “out”. Rather than spend time at night worrying about them, he fixes them and then returns to bed with his family.

How many of us fall into the same category? We have the responsibility to do certain things for our working lives, yet cannot seem to disengage fully when we have that precious commodity. Time off from work!

I guess we can deal with these problems in two different ways. One is to look for that work/life balance that keeps us sane and at peace with the world, and the second is to meet the responsibilities we have at work and home.

The key word in all of this is peace, we must search for a way find this peace in our lives; and we all know where this solution lies.

Let is call on God for help in finding peace and solutions to the turmoil often present in our over busy lives; and take steps to notice his presence in all around us while on vacation this summer.

Passing By

PASSING BY

Passing me by,

Recognizing my existence,

Yet not stopping to look.

 

And smell me.

 

© 2017 Michael J. Cunningham

Michael Cunningham is Director of Teen and Adult Faith Formation for St. Eulalia Parish

THE UNBROKEN WORD

 

As the summer days roll by, we connect with family, nature, perhaps visit new places or our favorite haunts of the past. It is a time of renewal, refreshment and at times excitement. One aspect of this time is looking forward to doing “nothing”. Yet, when I analyze my own free time, I often find myself unable to “decouple” from my pre-vacation world.

Can I manage without the cell phone, checking my email daily, worrying if someone did something I asked them to do, is that new customer doing OK with the product I just sold them? The questions seem to rise out of nowhere, so what should I do about them?

My son came to visit us this weekend, he is a busy executive with a lot of responsibilities; he also knows work/life balance is important, so ensures his family gets all the attention they need during the vacation days. Yet, as the evening wears on, and supper is finished, I find him working on the computer till the wee hours dealing with the problems he knows are not being dealt with while he is “out”. Rather than spend time at night worrying about them, he fixes them and then returns to bed with his family.

How many of us fall into the same category? We have the responsibility to do certain things for our working lives, yet cannot seem to disengage fully when we have that precious commodity. Time off from work!

I guess we can deal with these problems in two different ways. One is to look for that work/life balance that keeps us sane and at peace with the world, and the second is to meet the responsibilities we have at work and home.

The key word in all of this is peace, we must search for a way find this peace in our lives; and we all know where this solution lies.

Let is call on God for help in finding peace and solutions to the turmoil often present in our over busy lives; and take steps to notice his presence in all around us while on vacation this summer.

 

PASSING BY

Passing By

Passing me by,

Recognizing my existence,

Yet not stopping to look.

 

And smell me.

 

 

© 2017 Michael J. Cunningham

Michael Cunningham is Director of Teen and Adult Faith Formation for St. Eulalia Parish

THE UNBROKEN WORD

 

Having just returned from a week in the Berkshires with over 200 teens, I can confirm that the Holy Spirit is very active in Western Massachusetts. Pope Francis and Fr. Savage are often heard using the words “meeting people where they are.”

Well, last week, a large number of teens were visiting Lakeside in Pittsfield, MA at a program which has a long history with our parish. This program was designed to meet teens exactly where they are. C.A.M.P.S, or the Christ As My Personal Savior event has now been running for 34 years! The founders are still actively involved. Fr. Savage himself went on many CAMPS retreats during those years.

As someone who is always looking for doorways which lead to the Holy Spirit, I can certainly now appreciate why Fr. Jim is such a supporter of these type of retreats. During the course of the week, the teens and staff encountered an early morning optional swim (7:00am, and not optional at all), morning prayer by the lakeside, competitive games in and out of the water, oodles of singing and worship, evening Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Speakers were flown in from around the states. A Disney theme followed the week. (I bet you didn’t know there are at least six scriptural references in Toy Story!) A veritable feast for the body and soul.

A few weeks ago, another retreat experience was made by many other teens from St. E’s at the Catholic Heart Work Camp in CT. Again, a wonderful experience, this time of serving others in need with campers providing physical help. This program also has a large component of daily prayer, worship and the Eucharist, linking our need to serve with our spiritual welfare. Thank you for all the teens attending, parents who funded them and the volunteers from the parish who donated their week to this important cause. (Mike Angotti, Jared Blake and Bobby Hillis).

We can see the satisfaction, peace and joy on the faces of those who have met our Lord through these retreats. Retreats which offer an opportunity for both renewal and conversion. The use of retreats, special time away to consider our relationship with God in a community, is one of the most nourishing gifts we can offer to ourselves and to others. Perhaps now is the time to consider a retreat for yourself. Maybe you have never encountered one. If not, please add it to your bucket list! It might be one of the most important gifts you can give.

Think about it as going on vacation with God. You will come back refreshed.

He does give us a guarantee which He paid for with his life.

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Before Morning Swim Photograph © 2017 Michael J. Cunningham

Michael Cunningham is Director of Faith Formation for St. Eulalia Parish

THE UNBROKEN WORD

 

Driving to the parish this last week, I was listening to a talk radio program where they were discussing the pedestrian crossing lights on the crosswalks in Boston. Now I do not consider myself a stupid person but I just learned that they do not work. By this, I mean they are all on an automated timer, so even though we press the buttons and wait for the light to change, they are all on a timed cycle controlled by a computer somewhere in the sky. Our button pressing is just an exercise in futility.

For years, decades in fact, I have been pressing these buttons expecting to influence them, i.e., make the crossing happen, yet most of them are placebos: there to placate me into being a good citizen. Apparently 30% of elevators are also programmed accordingly, so the next time it takes forever for the elevator door to close, don’t be surprised.

So, we are doing something which has the appearance of being compliant with the law, that is, not jaywalking into the intersection. We wait patiently for our reward for doing what is expected of us, and then respond to the call to walk when it comes … to walk now. As I am listening to this program, I stop at a red light in Winchester, and witness a cyclist do exactly what is being described on the radio, as if God needs to give me an example of how this works in real time. I am still somewhat amazed at my own gullibility, but now I see a young girl with her bike doing the same. I wonder if she knows. No … she doesn’t.

Perhaps some of my own behaviors are also like this Boston crossing. Have I already made the decision about how I want to have someone react to me, or treat me, and want everyone to do the same? This is the essence of respect, something which we earn and are not given automatically. When someone finds us doing the same thing, expecting respect but not doing anything to deserve it , does it have the same effect? Do we have our own “fake crossings” in our life where we ask others to wait for us, be courteous or patient?

I guess I do.

Now how do I change them without admitting I have been trying to fool others for years?

 

the-lonely-gate_sdi2762

An Unnecessary Gate

THE UNBROKEN WORD 30 July 2017

 

Have you ever had that feeling for someone, or a group which was so strong you felt like family? Even more so; you are interconnected in some way words cannot possibly express. The ebb and flow of life which places us in each other’s path sometimes creates strange bedfellows. You enter a new place with expectations and hopes, or perhaps even trepidation, and then you see how it all pans out.

I have just finished my three years of academics at Catholic University, traveling with eight other souls on my journey. Everyone, well most everyone, was nervous to begin. Am I capable of this level of study or rigor? Am I going to look stupid? Am I going to fail? All questions we have, in the end, to put at the back of our minds and trust in God. A God who brought us to this place together.

From that first day of web based introductions I tried to situate their ministries. Open air Masses in Nigeria, the rector at the Seminary, the pilgrim leader bringing a flock to Israel, the catechist struggling to communicate the love of God through a fog of media misinformation. These now, are all my friends on this journey of a lifetime. A journey seeking the truth, which remains, as always, a pillar upon which we all can rest.

What are those moments in your life? Let us rest a moment on the pillar of interconnected love. And bask in His grace.


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The Stub

 

Visible on the path,

The tree stub of my presence remains,

Like a mile marker on a journey,

When once they sheltered under my branches,

And now they walk by,

Wondering why this vestige has not been removed.

 

Not knowing what sort of tree grew here.

 

© 2017 Michael J. Cunningham

The Unbroken Word

July 23, 2017

Photography is both an art form and a documentary medium. Often a photograph is taken purely to record, mostly accurately, what happened, or what you expect to happen in a certain situation. This could be as simple as a record of an event (to prove it happened), or for instructional purposes. For example, this is how this should look during an assembly process.

Photography, as an art form takes a different direction. Still it is the same tool used for recording the image, but then it may be manipulated further, in the darkroom, or in the digital darkroom with Photoshop, to convey a message. Every photograph usually serves some purpose, such as the artist is intending to evoke a feeling by using a particular lens, focusing on certain aspects of the image, or using color and spatial relationships to evoke a response from the intended viewer.

This same process occurs during the Eucharistic celebration. It is a ritual using imagery and objects which the celebrant and congregation hope will convey the various elements of the Mass in such a way they “feel” or experience the special nature of what is happening. We cannot consider the visual nature of what is being viewed in photography, or in a “live” image laden festival like the Eucharist without considering the matter of visual objects themselves.

While the eye, brain and the mind may be processing this imagery, the visual objects themselves have a major part to play in this process. In the Catholic Church, we often associate sacramentals as the means by which a personal relationship is forged between the person and the object. We can see relationships between sacramentals and individuals such as a crucifix or rosary beads, but they are not limited to “holy items”. A family photography album or cherished wedding picture can evoke deep feelings of connection, releasing grace and love in the process. The connectivity of the image of the item or the action it visually triggers sparks a divine response inside of us. As this source is only available from God, we then are recipients of grace as a result.

Perhaps today we can look for the sacramentals in our life, our parish and our Church as we take our leave after Mass this week; and see the connection between them, us and God’s everlasting love.

© 2017 Michael J. Cunningham O.S.F.

Michael Cunningham is Director of Faith Formation for St. Eulalia Parish

The Unbroken Word

July 23, 2017

Photography is both an art form and a documentary medium. Often a photograph is taken purely to record, mostly accurately, what happened, or what you expect to happen in a certain situation. This could be as simple as a record of an event (to prove it happened), or for instructional purposes. For example, this is how this should look during an assembly process.

Photography, as an art form takes a different direction. Still it is the same tool used for recording the image, but then it may be manipulated further, in the darkroom, or in the digital darkroom with Photoshop, to convey a message. Every photograph usually serves some purpose, such as the artist is intending to evoke a feeling by using a particular lens, focusing on certain aspects of the image, or using color and spatial relationships to evoke a response from the intended viewer.

This same process occurs during the Eucharistic celebration. It is a ritual using imagery and objects which the celebrant and congregation hope will convey the various elements of the Mass in such a way they “feel” or experience the special nature of what is happening. We cannot consider the visual nature of what is being viewed in photography, or in a “live” image laden festival like the Eucharist without considering the matter of visual objects themselves.

While the eye, brain and the mind may be processing this imagery, the visual objects themselves have a major part to play in this process. In the Catholic Church, we often associate sacramentals as the means by which a personal relationship is forged between the person and the object. We can see relationships between sacramentals and individuals such as a crucifix or rosary beads, but they are not limited to “holy items”. A family photography album or cherished wedding picture can evoke deep feelings of connection, releasing grace and love in the process. The connectivity of the image of the item or the action it visually triggers sparks a divine response inside of us. As this source is only available from God, we then are recipients of grace as a result.

Perhaps today we can look for the sacramentals in our life, our parish and our Church as we take our leave after Mass this week; and see the connection between them, us and God’s everlasting love.

© 2017 Michael J. Cunningham O.S.F.

Michael Cunningham is Director of Faith Formation for St. Eulalia Parish