Prayer Nuggets from Bill Marty

January 31, 2019

Bill is traveling this week, so we have a guest nugget from Julia Rudden.

At a recent choir warm-up before mass, we were not singing together. We were in DIS-harmony. Our choir director gently spoke with us, and shared a quote from Bishop Robert Barron “Anything that brings us together is a sign of the Holy Spirit!”. We tried again, listened to each other, and our voices rose in harmony. I felt a shiver as we ended our hymn-indeed, the Holy Spirit came upon us!

Just as a group of singers can be in disharmony, so can a community be out of connection with its members. As St. Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” When we act without consideration for the rest of our “body” (that is, our community), we separate ourselves not just from each other, but from God.

It’s easy to become separated from others. A slight, a perceived harsh word or injustice, a mistake, can all lead us to turn inward, to disconnect from our greater community. But that separation makes our sorrow larger, because it is when we are in community with our fellow humans that we can find the happiness and peace and joy of Jesus.

Father Crispin reminded us at mass this past weekend, that “the more you focus on the good of others, the happier you will be.” When we keep ourselves open to the needs of others, showing empathy for their sorrows and challenges, that is where we are brought together, and we feel the power of the Holy Spirit working within us, and within all of God’s creation.

[Thanks Julia.]

If you have nuggets you’d like to share, email Bill Marty, Thanks!

January 24, 2019

Here’s a favorite nugget from June 2017. Enjoy!

A Prayer Nugget from The Friday Night Knitting Club
{Background: Georgia Walker isn’t Catholic, but she has just gotten some bad news, and when she encounters the local priest out running some weekend errands, she has a question for him. So, she invites him in to the corner coffee shop.}

“Father, I want you to know that I’m not into all sorts of churchy mumbo-jumbo,” she began.
“Okay, I’ll try to keep the mumbo-jumbo to a minimum.” To her surprise, he didn’t seem the least bit offended.
“I didn’t mean to be rude,” said Georgia. “It’s just that I, well, I’ll get straight to the point. I’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.”
“Yes, yes, I see. That’s a trying thing.”
“I haven’t told my daughter yet. She’s thirteen. And it just seems so unfair. Unreal. I just want to know why this happened to me.”
She waited expectantly. The priest looked back at her, pensive, nodding.
“Well,” he said, after a time. “I don’t know. But I do know it’s not because you did something bad, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s not something you deserve.”
“It’s not, right?”
“No, Georgia Walker, it isn’t.” Father Smith shook his head. “I’ll tell you right now that I don’t have all the answers you may be looking for. I’m not God. But I can tell you some things that I believe.”
“I believe sometimes medical issues just happen – they’re not cosmic tests; they’re not retribution for all the naughty things you’ve done over a lifetime,” he said. “It’s not some moral righting of the universe. It’s just something going wonky with the wiring.”
“Okay, and…”
“And I think God cries when we’re in pain; he cries with us and he supports us. But I also believe he stands back and lets us sort things out. Lets the doctors do their work. Lets your body heal itself.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
“Then he welcomes you with open arms. God isn’t really about the body, you know – he’s about the soul.”
“So if I pray hard enough, I’ll get better?”
“No, no, that’s not what I mean at all. Praying isn’t a form of divine insurance. It’s just a way of communicating, just a way of opening your heart.”
“By that definition, an honest conversation with anyone is a form of praying.”
The priest tapped his nose. “You’re right on there, Georgia Walker.”

{From The Friday Night Knitting Club, by Kate Jacobs, p. 304. Via Sheila Marty. Thanks, Sheila.}

If you have nuggets you’d like to share, email Bill Marty, Thanks!

January 1, 2019

In my imagination, the Little Drummer Boy arrives at the manger scene with the Wise Men.

Our finest gifts we bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the king
Pa rum pum pum pum

But we, like the Little Drummer Boy,

…have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give our king
Pa rum pum pum pum

Inspired by a friend’s question, I’ve been thinking about what I would bring to the Christ child at the manger scene? I love music, but I don’t play, or really even sing. It’s not as if the Word of God, who spoke the universe into being, needs any thing I can bring. Unless. Unless the thing I bring is my creation, me using the talents with which He endowed me, before he knit me, fearfully and wonderfully, in my mother’s womb. So, what is the talent that makes me me? What do I do when I am being most naturally myself?

I’m an engineer. It’s who I am, how I think, my vocation. I figure out how to make new things. So, what would I make that is simple, beautiful, maybe even musical? I think I would make a music box. I would design visible works because I love that sort of thing. And it would play Frank Mills’ Music Box Dancer. That’s what I would bring.

Then he smiled at me
Pa rum pum pum pum

Want a little joy in your Epiphany? Go to YouTube and play the Pentatonix version of Little Drummer Boy. Then find the Music Box Dancer video with the ballerinas.

What would you bring? [Thanks to Teresa Lombardi for the inspiring question.] Drop a note with your answer to Bill Marty, Thanks!

November 7, 2018

I’m coming to the end of my year of Bible reading, following the Bible in One Year app by the Alpha folks. In the course of my Bible reading, I found Proverbs to be a strange book. It seems to me that the proverbs in Proverbs fall into two categories, obvious and useless. Now that thought worries me. Another way to say it is, there are proverbs I understand and proverbs I don’t. While browsing in an Amazon book store recently, I found a book titled God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs, by Timothy and Kathy Keller. Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and author of several widely read books on faith. I’m hoping to learn the wisdom of Proverbs from a wise teacher.

As students often are, I’m impatient to get to the ‘answer’. So, while I plan to work my way through Keller’s book over the next year, I turned first to the last day’s devotion in Keller’s book, figuring I would find his ultimate wisdom nugget there. Here’s the money paragraph, written as a prayer:

“Lord, I have learned that wisdom is only a by-product of wanting something more than wisdom — to see God! Aim at knowing you, and you get wisdom thrown in. Aim just at wisdom — in order to be successful — and you get neither. At last I see it. It took me long enough. I praise you for your patience with me. Amen.”

Or, in the words of one of our hymns, Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you, Allelu, Alleluia.

If you have a prayer nugget you’d like to share, email Bill Marty, Thanks!

October 31, 2018

“How many of you remember the King Dome? Do you remember when it opened in 1976? In May of 1976, an event drew the largest attendance ever for an event in the Kingdome, and I was there. It wasn’t a sporting event, or a rock concert. It was a church service. It was a Billy Graham crusade. I believe Billy Graham is the real deal. By that, I mean that he’s a real man of God. (I just wish he was Catholic.) At that crusade, he told this story about the early days of his ministry. In the first five years, his ministry struggled. Billy Graham was a true believer, and a great orator. He could speak powerfully to large audiences. But somehow, people just weren’t buying it, and his ministry was struggling. So one day, he was in a small town in Kansas, staying in a cheap motel. He needed to mail a letter so he went looking for the post office. He walked up and down the streets, looking for the post office, but not finding it. Finally, he stopped a young boy on a bicycle and asked him where to find the post office. The boy told him. Then Billy Graham said, ‘Son, I’m a preacher, and I’m holding a crusade this evening. I’ve got a big tent on the edge of town. I hope you will come to my crusade and bring your whole family. Will you do that?’ And the boy asked, ‘What’s a crusade?’ So, Billy Graham told the boy, ‘I’m going to preach the Gospel, and tell everyone how to get to heaven.’ The boy thought about this for a bit, and said, ‘No, we won’t be there.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Mister, how’re you gonna find heaven? You can’t even find the post office.’ ”

Billy Graham thought about that conversation, and he said it changed his life. He realized he’d been telling people to follow Billy Graham to get to heaven, and that was missing the point. It’s not about Billy Graham. It’s about Jesus Christ. From then on, all his preaching was about Jesus Christ, not Billy Graham. And his ministry started to grow.

It’s the same in the Catholic church. The Catholic church isn’t about priests. It’s not about bishops. It’s not even about the Pope (“a job I’ve applied for every time it’s been open”). It’s about Jesus Christ. The church is flawed, and it’s full of sinners. Sinners like you and like me. We’re all broken. And there are some priests guilty of more than just personal failures. Actual evil. Criminals. But it’s not about them. It’s about Jesus Christ. Stay in the church, like I did, for Jesus.
The church can use our prayers right now. If you have prayer nuggets you’d like to share with the parish, email Bill Marty, Thanks!

P.S. “Hey, Father!” is the title of Fr. Doug’s book, published in 2001. The subtitle is “32 Stories from a Doorman in the House of God.”