Thursday, July 2, 2015

Deacon’s Digest
Constant connectedness - is it good?
I love to ride my bicycle or walk for exercise around town and have been doing that for several years (I used to run). For me, one of the benefits of being out is that I do NOT 
have my phone with me. I like being “disconnected” for a while every day.
But the one thing I notice from many fellow exercisers is that they are talking on their phone or listening to something or frequently checking their phone as they walk or ride. Now, I’m an old guy who grew up without all of this technology which probably makes it easier for me to set it aside but I do wonder if this constant connectedness is really good for us, for our relationship with ourselves, others, and especially our relationship with God. I have read many reports over the past couple of years about psychological conditions that some people experience when they are away from their phone or are out of range for a good signal. What about you? Can you leave your phone behind when you go for a walk, go shopping, or go out for a nice meal with your spouse or close friends? 
Here are a few tips for taking a step back from your phone, pad, laptop, and social media that I read in a magazine article:
1. Take a weekly technology Sabbath (Sunday?)when you do not carry your phone with you throughout the day. You can certainly check it every once in a while to see if there are urgencies.
2. Plan your data consumption. Cut the number of times you connect on social media or the internet to just 3 or 4 times per day. If you’re really brave you could even set a time limit and close the apps when the timer goes off.
3. Choose just one (maybe two) social media platforms. If you’re currently doing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Hangouts, Yik Yak, and WhatsApp cut out all of them but one to do your connecting.
The idea is this - as you spend less time with the “screens” in your life you will be able to spend more time with people, with yourself and with your God. I hope you’re willing to give this a try for at least a week or two and just see what happens. I think you’ll find that you are a much healthier person in body, mind and spirit.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What to say, what not to say...

Deacon’s Digest
What NOT to say...
One of the most difficult things for us to do is visit someone who is experiencing loss or a bad time in their life. Maybe they just got some bad news about their health or the health of a loved one, maybe someone significant in their life has just died, or maybe they just lost their job. Priests and deacons often find themselves in these situations and it is always tough to find the right words. I’m sure you’ve found yourself in that place a time or two and felt awkward when approaching the person. In my experience ( and probably in yours’) I have learned there are words that are helpful, words that, although well-meaning, are hurtful, and that there are times when saying nothing is the best approach. Also, I recently read an article in “Relevant” magazine that sheds a lot of light on this subject.
First, what NOT to say (things people have actually been told at times of loss):
· “This is all a part of God’s plan.” Recently, a young lady lost a 2-month old baby to SIDS. Naturally, this was a devastating experience for her and for her family. But to tell a 21-year old that God took her baby away from her because it was His “plan” is not helpful and in fact was quite damaging to her own relationship with God.
· “I know EXACTLY what you are going through.” You may have experienced something similar to what others are going through but you probably have no idea EXACTLY what they are feeling. Each of us handles loss and pain in unique ways and we need to be sensitive to that fact when addressing others.
· “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Oftentimes people become angry with God or with others or they may experience depression, anxiety or other emotions in the face of death or other loss. The fact is that they feel what they feel and they probably cannot help it.
· “Get over it, it’s time to move on.” If you’ve never experienced real grief it may seem odd that come people seem stuck in their loss but they probably can’t help it. Telling them to “move on” may be a direct assault on their memories and attachments to the loved one they lost.
· “You should have prayed harder.” In the wake of 9/11 I actually heard a radio station telling their listeners that if they were worried about someone they knew in the World Trade Center or in the Pentagon they should pray for them to be found ’OK’. When people called with stories of death and loss, one of the announcers told the caller that they must not have prayed enough or that they didn’t pray ‘rightly’.
· Don’t worry, God will give you another child or husband or job, etc.” When a person is grieving a profound loss they want a particular child or person or job or whatever back in their life - not a replacement.
So, there are a few things to avoid saying in a situation of loss but what should we say or do? Here are a few suggestions:
· LISTEN! I have found that many people in the wake of death/loss want to talk about the situation or about their loved one. Just being present and listening can be a real help.
· Ask what they really need. Sometimes we think we know that they need help with food or a gift or a memorial, but that may be the last thing they need or want. Ask them so that your efforts can match their needs.
· When the time is right, tell them what the deceased person meant to you and how they effected your life.You may know things that this person said or did that no one else knows - sharing those in appropriate ways with the family can be a real boost.
· Stick with them. It’s easy to forget about a person or situation shortly after the funeral. When a person experiences a profound loss it (usually) take them months to start feeling a bit “normal” again. Be sure to call, send a card, or invite them out.
In the end, the best we can really do is to be a good friend by being present to them throughout the early, middle and later stages of their recovery. And – don’t forget to pray for inspiration and for your friend. This isn’t the least you can do for them but the MOST.
Also, there are many good programs for persons experiencing grief and loss. We offer one right here at St Michael Parish on Thursday evenings. Catholic Family Services and many funeral homes offer seminars and programs as well. Perhaps you could offer to attend one of them with your grieving friend. That support could be what makes the biggest difference for them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Full Life?????

Boston Daniel Devlin
January 9 - March 17, 2015
Exactly one week ago at this very moment I was standing in an emergency room at a local hospital watching the staff do everything they could do to revive a person who had stopped breathing. As I stood there I prayed FERVENTLY that God would put the breath of life back into this person and that we could all leave knowing that everything was going to be OK - job well done!
That didn't happen. The person died despite heroic effort and heart felt prayer. By the way, the person was my 2 month old great nephew, Boston Daniel. As I prayed I was holding on to my niece, Boston's mother Sara. Boston died for absolutely no apparent reason. He was healthy, he was happy, he was well cared for and was well loved - he simply quit breathing. Although an autopsy was done the likely outcome will be "SIDS".
We had a 'nice' funeral and a nice luncheon and everyone went their own way but something remains with me - I AM ANGRY!!! I am mad at God for taking this little life from his mother. I am angry because I've had to watch my brother (one of the toughest men in the world) be reduced to a blubbering mass of tears, heartache and grief. I am angry because of what this has done to my niece, the one who chose life for Boston. I am mad because one of the holiest women I know is now swimming in a sea of doubt and confusion. I am angry because good prayers are supposed to be answered - aren't they? I prayed that God would spare this little one. When that wasn't working I started to bargain with God. I told him to take me instead - if someone needs to die better a 57 year old man than a 68 day old boy, right!? I am angry because NOTHING WORKED.
So, what should I do with that anger? I know I have to take it to God. It doesn't do much good to be mad at someone and then tell everyone in the world except the one you're mad at. So, I've been talking to God - a lot. Although I still haven't gotten over my anger, I have heard a couple of replies from God that I'm still mulling over. First, God assured me that Boston's 68 days was a full life. He reminded me that the deepest human desire is to love and be loved - Boston experienced that every day from his mommy and grandparents and aunt and big brother (and others). Second,  God "said" that he understands my anger very well - he watched Jesus die a violent, humiliating and painful death on the cross. And third, as I asked God for understanding he replied that it would be better for me if I didn't understand. I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean I just hope I can accept it someday.
Some of my friends think I'm having a crisis of faith - nothing could be further from the truth. The God with whom I'm angry is the God that gave me the ability to be angry, to be rational and to be irrational. The same God that created the heavens and earth and Boston created me. That God is patient and understanding and has been loving me all the way through this terrible situation. I can't imagine it being any other way.