Thought Of The Month January 2023 – “Embracing Gratitude!”

As we begin the New Year with its new experiences and new strengths, we are filled with the gift of hope and wonderment. Yesterday, 2022 is over; it’s history. Let’s take the time to do an inventory of the past year with all of the lessons God has tried to teach us. As I reflect on the past year there are so many lessons, I hope I can learn from my experiences. It was a year of change and growth for me from the weather to my 82nd birthday. God works in mysterious ways to remind us that we are never done. Change is the secret of life. We are being taught that there are no absolutes. We are always in the process and hopefully always growing and changing. Life is such a great adventure. From the miracle of birth to our final journey back to our Creator.

Over 82 years ago, God and his angels had a meeting with me before my birth telling me they were sending me on a journey into the world. They warned me that the world was dysfunctional, and I would be a part of it. They gave me my first teachers, my parents, and my family. They told me that as part of my creation they would give me guardian angels to protect me along the way. I was also told I will be given the gift of free will so I will be able to make choices. I was also told all I had to do was ask for help and it would be given to me. In my early years I was a simple, beautiful, little child still connected to my Creator. As I got older my ego began to take over and I forgot my connection with God. My intellect actually thought I was in charge. God sent me to a very interesting Italian family with its craziness and love. I began to live in fear instead of love. This is the ultimate lesson that I would have to face on my life journey – the choice between fear and love. The world I was born into was trapped in the fear and craziness of war and hate. Each time we experience the lack of love, we are faced with labels, judgments, and more struggle. Even God, our Creator, is put into the middle of the battle over who is right and who is wrong. The words fear and love create more guilt and fear. As the great mystical teachers always tried to tell us there is no winner in battles, just lessons to hopefully be learned.

My journey took me to the city of Camden which at one time was the jewel of our area. Hopefully as we look at Camden today, we can see what fear and greed can do to a city. This is a lesson for all of us. Fear and greed are like a plague that can destroy us. We need to learn so many lessons from history. From the Roman Empire to our present day, fear, control and ego are destructive. We are reminded every day that each one of us is God’s creation and no one is better than anyone else. Each person we meet was given the gift of love by God. We are all engaged in the biggest battle of life, EGO (Ease God out) vs. GOD (Good, Orderly Direction). Each person we meet is our teacher for that moment. In grammar school I had some interesting teachers that lived in a time of fear and guilt. The 40’s and 50’s were a period of fear and separation. We were all being taught everything in life that is worthwhile must be struggled for and earned. We need to pray every day in the spirit of gratitude and openness so that we can always be in the process of growing.

My Creator with the help of my family and the Nuns led me on my next journey, the priesthood. Twelve years of study and twenty years in the priesthood taught me some great life lessons. These years were filled with confusion, greatness and would one day be part of my personal spiritual awakening. These years were filled with such uncertainty and fear of the unknown. My journey led me to face many struggles and led many teachers and mentors into my life. I guess I can sum up those years in a story that I love to tell. God teaches us in strange ways and sometimes we all must learn the hard way.

When I was ordained a priest in 1966, my ego and fear of losing control led me to face the world alone. I decided I would save the world all by myself. Talk about playing God! This attitude led me to a burn out point and I was forced to slow down. Around 1972 I decided just to save the United States and my life became a totally crazy mess. I was on a run from life. I was so busy doing things for others that I forgot one very important person – me. My body, my hygiene and everything about me was out of control. Like many of us, I was running from life. My real spiritual awakening came in the middle eighties when I had to face my major decision and make changes. I became connected to a very special program that introduced me to so many great teachers. The 12 Steps, the principles of life taught me the real meaning of spirituality. I would need many more pages to share all of the wonderful teachers God sent into my life. They still do to this day teach me so much about this journey I’m on.

I was given the honor of celebrating my 82nd birthday with so many memories and teachable moments. God sent me some beautiful angels like my wife, my stepdaughters and seven wonderful grandchildren. All of these wonderful teachers are gifts I hope I never take for granted. As I write this on an airplane 39,000 feet in the air, I am humbled by the wonderment of life. In gratitude and love, I ask forgiveness of anyone I may have harmed or hurt. Each day I get on my knees and pray in the spirit of gratitude for what my yesterday’s history, and the teachers who helped me to face lessons that have led me to appreciate today! I pray every day to be open to the lessons God has in store for me in the great unknown of tomorrow, which by the way will never come, then it will be today. Let us pray every day in a spirit of gratitude: “I’m grateful for what was, I’m grateful for what is, and grateful for what will be.”

God bless us all in this New Year and may it be filled with gratitude and love!