Category Archives: Charity

On Being Bullied – by A.J. Avila (PLUS a new novel)


Not too long ago, I published a blog post about how I was spurned in church during the Sign of Peace (see https://reflections911.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/spurned-at-church and also shared on this blog).  Then I made a huge mistake. I mentioned the post on a forum.
You would not believe the negativity I got. I was told what a horrible person I am, how being spurned was my own fault, and how I should have been more sympathetic to the woman who had treated me so poorly.
Silly me. I thought it was a teachable moment. I thought I made it clear this was something I needed to work on, that since St. Paul had rejoiced in his sufferings, I should learn to do that too.
I guess I should have known better than to mention what happened since you would not believe the reactions I’ve gotten when I disclose that I used to be bullied as a kid. I’ve grouped those responses into seven categories:
1. “I Don’t Believe You”
You’re told you’re either delusional or making a mountain out of a molehill. Like Holocaust deniers, some folk find it impossible to believe others, especially children, could be so cruel. Therefore, you must be making the whole thing up, probably to gain unwarranted sympathy for yourself.
2. “You Must Have Done Something to Deserve It”
Folks who tell you this also believe others wouldn’t be so cruel—unless, of course, you’ve given them a reason. You must have been a bully first and the treatment you received was simple retaliation. When you protest that you didn’t do anything, you’re not believed.
3. “Why Can’t You Just Shrug It Off?”
People who tell you this have probably experienced some bullying themselves. I agree that most likely few kids get through childhood without such a confrontation or two happening to them. What this fails to consider is that you’re not talking about a couple of isolated incidents. You’re talking about daily bullying, and not just by other children but by those—like teachers—in authority over you. A person who tells you to just shrug it off has no idea how much shrugging this would take.
4. “Grow a Backbone!” You should have a stiff upper lip and let the insults slide off you like water off a duck. After all, sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can never harm you. What the person telling you this fails to understand is that you were only a child and that names can harm your self-image, especially if it’s chronic name-calling.
5. “You Should Have Fought Back!”
This one seems to envision two little boys slugging it out on the school playground, and the bully, once thoroughly whooped, stops antagonizing his victim. Well, golly gee willikers, why didn’t I think of that? Oh wait. I did—with disastrous results. The problem here is that you’re not bullied by just other kids but by those in authority. So if you call your bully a name, she goes whining to the teacher, and then—behold!—now you’re the bully! It doesn’t matter if you do only a tenth of what the bully did to you. In everyone’s eyes, you are automatically wrong. In fact, you’ve just demonstrated that you deserve everything you’re getting.
6. “You Were the Victim of Bullying? Oh, Goody! I’ve Been Looking for One of Those!”
Amazingly, when you mention that you were bullied as a child, adult bullies, like a shark smelling a drop of blood in the ocean, come out in droves. I’ve been told by people who don’t know me at all that I’m a terrible, horrible person who has all kinds of physical and psychological problems.
7. “It Happened to Me Too”
Every once in a while, I come across a soul I can commiserate with. Unless you’ve been a victim of this yourself, you can only imagine what it’s like. Dealing with daily badgering isn’t easy, and I entirely disagree with the extremes of either jumping off a building or shooting up a classroom. So . . . just what do you do to survive this? My own tactic was to retreat into a world of books. When my nose was in a book, I was less likely to be accosted, and each novel I read allowed me to share an adventure in another world where I wasn’t bullied. I ended up reading a book a day—and if anything good came out of this, it helped prepare me for when I myself would be the novelist creating other worlds.

A.J. Avila has a brand new novel.  Take a look below.

My third Christian novel, Amaranth, is now available in paperback.
Here’s the story:
Would you take an elixir that made you perpetually young and physically immortal?
What if the price for it was your eternal soul?
Billionaire Desmond Sceller acquires such a wonder drug. But when eighty-year-old Marie Long is rejuvenated by it against her will, she quickly discovers unending beauty and youth is not the paradise it seems. Sceller, however, intends on using the elixir to entice all mankind into submitting to his tyrannical control. When Marie and her grandson Peter unearth this evil scheme, they soon discover that only an extraordinary sacrifice on their part can free humanity from Sceller’s nefarious plan.

Click here to purchase Amaranth on Amazon
Also, right now the Kindle version is on sale for just 99¢.

 

One Remarkable Man: Brother Joseph Dutton by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Brother Joseph with some of his leper friends  More pictures at the end.

God gives us the gift of remarkable people to remind us that mankind can be so much more than it often is. One of these remarkable people is Brother Joseph Dutton. Brother Dutton was born Ira Dutton on April 27, 1847 on a family farm in Stowe, Vermont. When he was only four years old, his family moved to Janesville, Wisconsin. Ira was an intelligent boy and industrious student. He worked hard to be able to attend college. After college the Civil War began and he joined the Army on the side of the North. He was assigned duties as a quartermaster. This not only kept him out of battle, but also provided training for what God would call him to do. At the end of the war he met a woman that he fell in love with. They were married, but sadly she left him after a year and asked for a divorce. This really upset Ira because he loved his wife and took his marriage vows very seriously.

Ira took a job where he disinterred the bodies of Civil War soldiers from the battlefield graves to be able to move them to the new National Cemeteries. Ira knew this was an important job, but it was also gruesome and depressing. To deal with his depressing job, and the separation from his wife, Ira began drinking heavily. He was able to remain sober for the day job, but was usually drunk for the rest of the time. He did this for about ten years. Ira saw that alcohol was destroying him, so when our Nation was celebrating the 100th year of the Declaration of Independence in 1876, Ira declared independence from alcohol. At this time he made a decision to get right with God and he began searching out different religions. Ira decided to become a Roman Catholic. When he was baptized, he took on the new name of Joseph. He then moved to a Trappist Monastery in Gethsemane, Kentucky to live and pray and work with the monks. Joseph never took formal vows. He left after almost two years knowing that God was calling him to a life of serving others.

When Joseph attended a religious conference he heard about the work that Father Damian was doing with the Lepers in Hawaii. Joseph immediately felt called to go to Hawaii and help Father Damian. Joseph felt this was a way that he could lead a life of penance and also help others. He immediately began making preparations to go to Molokai. He contacted both Church and Civil authorities to obtain permission to go. He never thought to contact Father Damian. Joseph was set and headed for the long journey to Molokai. The day that he arrived on Molokai, July 19, 1886, a very surprised Father Damian greeted this man. Joseph told Father Damian that he had come to devote the rest of his life to serving the lepers and helping Father Damian. One can only imagine how pleased Father Damian was. Father Damian had made numerous requests to both Church and Civil leaders to send him help. None of them seemed to be able to. Now, Joseph appears and becomes Father Damian’s right hand man (and later successor). Even though Joseph was not part of a religious community, from that day on Father Damian called Joseph, Brother Joseph. He has been known as that ever since.

The day after his arrival, Brother Joseph learned how to clean and care for the lepers wounds. This was quite a hard thing for most people to do since lepers are very contagious and at that time it was a disease that ended in death after grueling suffering. Brother Joseph found that the time he had spent disinterring Civil War bodied had prepared him to be able to deal with seeing and treating the lepers wounds. Brother Joseph proved to be a hard and tireless worker. Even though he and Father Damian had quite different personalities, they became very close. They both shared the same desire to serve God’s people who suffered from leprosy. They also both shared a strong love of God. Father Damian once said of Brother Joseph, “..a middle aged, well educated man. He resides here with me and as a true brother helps me caring for the sick. He too, though not a priest, finds his comfort in the Blessed Sacrament. You will admire with me the almighty power of Grace in favor of my new companion.”

Even though Father Damian knew he was dying from leprosy himself, his new friend brought him new hope that the colony would continue. Both of them worked hard together to make the leper colony as good as it could become. On April 15, 1889, Father Damian died from the disease. They had a funeral mass of celebration (something that they did very often with each death in the colony). After his death, the full responsibility of the Leper Colony fell upon Brother Joseph. He was thankful for his training as an Army quartermaster. It helped him in making sure the Colony had all the supplies that it needed. Brother Joseph was also responsible for significant building projects in the community. Finally another priest was sent to the colony, Father Lambert Carmardy to help.

In 1898 the United States formally annexed Hawaii as a U.S. territory. This made Brother Joseph very happy. Brother Joseph was a true Patriot and from the moment he came to Molokai, he hoisted the US Flag every morning and brought it down every evening. He gave the lepers in the colony a sense of his own patriotism. Now this land was US soil and they all rejoiced. The annexation also brought more help to the colony. The government sent funds and help to improve life in the Colony.

In 1908, Brother Dutton heard that the US White Fleet would be coming past Hawaii. Brother Dutton wished that somehow the Fleet would sail past his Colony. President Theodore Roosevelt heard of this wish and sent a Presidential Order to Admiral Charles Stillman Perry to go by Molokai and give a military salute to the Colony. The ships came in battle formation and each ship dipped their colors in salute and Brother Joseph and the Colony dipped their flag in salute for each ship. It was a huge moment for Brother Joseph and the Colony to receive such an honor from the President and the US government.

Even though Brother Joseph was living a life of isolation from the world, he corresponded with many friends. Word of Father Damian’s death and all that Brother Joseph was doing reached out to the world with great interest. Brother Joseph received many letters (and donations) and requests for pictures of him. Brother Joseph was never interested in making himself a hero. He responded to his popularity by saying, “All these writers make me out a hero, while I don’t feel a bit like one. I don’t claim to have done any great things; I am merely trying in a small way to help my neighbor and my own soul”.

After serving almost forty five years at the Colony, Brother Joseph Dutton died in 1931. He was mourned and missed by all in the Colony. World leaders paid tribute to him but one of the best is by President Calvin Coolidge. He said. “Whenever his story is told, men will pause to worship. His faith, his work, his self sacrifice appeal to people because there is always something of the same spirit in them. Therein lies the moral power of the world. He realized a vision that we all have.”

In 1949, Blessed Sacrament Church was built on the land that Brother Joseph’s family farm occupied in Stowe Vermont. It has beautiful Murals painted by Andre Girard on the outside walls of the Church. These murals tell the story of Brother Joseph and the Leper Colony on Molokai. The people of Stowe wanted to tell the story of their remarkable native, Brother Joseph Dutton and to give him honor. I believe that we all should tell the story and give honor to Brother Joseph by the way we live our lives. As President Coolidge said, “he realized a vision that we all have”.

Note: On June 23rd, 2015 the Diocese of Honolulu took the first of many steps to Sainthood for Brother Joseph. They created the Brother Joseph Dutton Guild to gather information for the cause.

St Philomena Church in the leper colony.

Blessed Sacrament Church in Stowe Vermont on the farmland where Brother Joseph was born

Some of the murals depicting Brother Joseph on Molokai located on the outside of the Church in Stowe Vermont.

A close up of the mural depicting Brother Joseph meeting Father Damian

On Spending by AJ Avila

The Everlasting Gobstopper

On Spending by AJ Avila

Posted on May 24, 2017 by ajavilanovels

Occasionally I watch the television show Pawn Stars, shown on the History Channel. It can provide a fascinating look at historical objects, some of which are museum quality.

In a recent episode, the owner of the pawn shop (located in Las Vegas) took a trip to Los Angeles to procure more merchandise for his store. In particular he was searching for movie memorabilia.

But my jaw dropped at the amount of cash he doled out for one item: more money than my husband and I paid for our house. So what was it? The ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz? Perhaps Sam’s piano from Casablanca?

Nope.

For a measly $100,000 he bought the Everlasting Gobstopper prop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I’m not kidding.

I wish I were kidding.

Wait. It gets worse. The pawn store owner bought it for that price because he figures he can sell it at a profit. That’s right: he believes that somewhere out there is a person willing to pay even more for a brightly-colored thingamajig about the size of your big toe.

I puzzled over why someone would consider this item to have any worth. Personally, I wouldn’t pay 2¢ for it. What’s the value in owning such a thing? So you can show off to your friends that you’ve got the Everlasting Gobstopper and they don’t? Is this supposed to produce some sort of one-upmanship over your neighbors?

But even more – I was appalled because that money could do so much good elsewhere. What could a free clinic do with a check for that amount? Or your local crisis pregnancy center?

Imagine going for judgment before Christ and when He asks you what you did with your life, you explain that hey, you bought yourself the Everlasting Gobstopper!

Spending your money like that kind of sounds like a way to get yourself classified as a goat instead of a sheep, huh?

Anyway, I was feeling rather smug and superior about the whole business – when all of a sudden it occurred to me that I do exactly the same thing.

Except I do it in an even worse way. Oh, I don’t go out and waste a lot of moola on movie props. I waste something even more valuable.

I waste time.

Time is always more precious than money. Money I can always earn more of. I can’t earn more time.

In fact, my life is made up of time.

And how much of it have I spent playing video games or watching some inane television show? That’s time I could have spent doing something valuable like praying, especially for the conversion of sinners and for the souls in Purgatory.

When I stand before Christ for judgment, what am I going to say? Something like “Hey I spent a lot of my life on video games and stupid television shows”?

May I always remember that when I point my finger at someone, I have three fingers pointing back at myself.

After all, it’s not gobstoppers that are everlasting. It’s our souls.

 

About ajavilanovels

AJ Avila is the author of four Christian novels: Rain from Heaven, Amaranth, Nearer the Dawn and Cherish.  Her website can be found by clicking here: AJ Avila Reflections

 

COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT by A.J. Avila

Complaint Department  (Link to original post)

Posted on November 29, 2016 by ajavilanovels  (link to A.J. Avila’s blog)

Why does it seem to be human nature that our first instinct is to complain?

Take, for example, my husband’s gripe that the Swiss cheese I bought didn’t have enough holes in it. That’s right: he complained that it didn’t have enough nothing.

Why do we see the negative so much more readily than the positive?

I sure got an earful of it the time my parents asked me to pick them up when returning from a vacation in Hawaii. I had invited my brother to come with me to the airport, and as we were watching passengers disembark from the plane, I nudged him. “You know what?” I said. “After we get the luggage, I’ll ask Mom and Dad how their trip was. I bet they say nothing good about it at all.”

“You’re on,” he answered.

Eventually our folks showed up, and after the customary greetings, we gathered their luggage and found the car. My brother sat up front with me, and my parents took the two back seats.

“So,” I said as we exited the parking lot, “how was your trip?”

Well, you would have thought it was a vacation in Hell itself instead of a tropical paradise. The plane ride going out was bumpy, and the one coming back was worse. The hotel room was dirty, and the window faced away from the ocean. Prices were horribly high, and the food was terrible, especially the poi.

[SIDENOTE: Okay, I have to give them that last one. Poi does taste terrible.]

During the trek home, my parents recounted in detail their horrendous experience, and the story got worse the farther we drove. My brother and I, occasionally glancing at each other, had to restrain giggles at my prediction about their predicament. I actually had to bite the inside of my cheeks to keep from bursting into laughter.

Yet . . . to be fair, how many times have I spent all my energy complaining instead of complimenting?

I used to work at a bookstore, and my manager told me that studies had shown that if a customer had a complaint, he was likely to repeat it to something like a dozen persons. On the other hand, if he had a compliment, he was likely to repeat it to maybe a couple of people.

In other words, when we are happy with something, instead of expressing gratitude, silence is usually the norm. I have to admit I have been exceedingly guilty of such silence.

When I realized this about myself, I resolved to take steps to alter my attitude. So now, if I, for example, eat at a restaurant, besides leaving a tip, I also leave a bit of praise about my meal. If I stay at a hotel, along with my room key, I drop a compliment at the front desk. A comment on how well the checker at my local store processed my order costs me not a cent and only a moment of my time.

When I started doing this, I admit I was a bit shocked at how eyes would widen and jaws drop. And that reaction was always followed by the blossoming of a smile.

Why is it so hard to do this? Take just a moment to make somebody’s day?

The truth is that it’s not.

So I guess my only complaint is about doing nothing but complaining.

Advent Saints – St. Nicholas by Deacon Marty McIndoe

stnicholastomb

The altar above the tomb of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy

Saint Nicholas is one of our very popular Saints.  There are many churches named in his honor and he is the Patron Saint of more causes than any other Saint.  He is the Patron Saint of mariners, merchants, bakers, travelers, brides, prisoners, archers, students and especially of children.   He is the Patron Saint of many countries and towns and cities, including New York City.   His popularity goes from east to west around the world.  So who was this man, Saint Nicholas?  He certainly was a lot more than the popular Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra which is in modern day Turkey.  He lived in the early 300’s and was known to be a very Holy, devout, loving man.  It is difficult to think of Saint Nicholas without thinking of all the legends that surrounded him.  However, most of these legends just emphasize the great person that he truly was.  We do know that he was the son of wealthy parents who raised him as a devout Christian.  His uncle was the local bishop.   Nicholas’s parents died when he was quite young.  They left him a significant estate.  Throughout his life Nicholas used that estate to help the poor.  After his parents died, Nicholas was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara.  During the Roman Diocletian persecution, St. Nicholas was seized, tortured, and imprisoned.  After his release, he continued his many works of charity and served the people of Myra as their bishop.

Nicholas was known for fighting the heresy of Arius.  Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in 325 where Arius tried to push his heresy.  Nicholas became so angered at Arius that he slapped him in the face.  The other bishops censored Nicholas for this, but later he regained his good status.  The love of Jesus and the love of the Church and the love of the poor consumed Nicholas.   Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343 in Myra and he was buried in his Cathedral of Myra.  In later centuries, the area fell in to the hands of non Christians and in the year 1087 a group of Italians took his body and moved it to Bari, Italy where it is today.

There are only a few quotes from St. Nicholas in existence today so I will share two of those, as well as a few quotes from others about him.  The last quote is from Anne Frank during the Nazi holocaust.

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic Gods giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”  St. Nicholas of Myra

“Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor. Ye are the temple of God, says the divine Apostle Paul; If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.”    St. Nicholas of Myra

“Everybody loves St Nicholas, because St. Nicholas loves everybody.”   Fr Andrew Phillips

“Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus! There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.”   Francis P. Church

“Once again St. Nicholas Day Has even come to our hideaway; It won’t be quite as fun, I fear, As the happy day we had last year. Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt That optimism would win the bout, And by the time this year came round, We’d all be free, and safe and sound. Still, let’s not forget it’s St. Nicholas Day, Though we’ve nothing left to give away. We’ll have to find something else to do: So everyone please look in their shoe!” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

 

HALO Missions – Africa – 2016 by Deacon Marty McIndoe

It is amazing what can be accomplished in a short period of time and with limited resources, and with God’s blessings.   Last year, two of my good friends decided to start a local charity that would bring Medical and Educational help to orphan children of the world.   We started our first mission in 2015 by going to Zambia in Central Africa.   We chose Zambia because it has one of the highest concentrations of orphan children in the world.   We shared our vision last year and had two local fundraisers, one in Patchogue and one in East Islip.  Thanks to the generosity of local people, four of us, the two co-founders, Dr. James Bopp and Christopher McGuire, Brother Jim (Nurse) and myself (Chaplain) went to Zambia (we paid our own travel, hotel and food so all the money  collected could go directly to the orphans).  With the help of Teen Missions, we were able to treat hundreds of children for various medical illnesses.   We also were able to help 109 orphans have the means to attend school and we helped finance an addition to the school.   Although we accomplished a great deal, we also saw so much need.  We knew that the children and their caretakers needed more than just medical treatments.  They also suffered from many dental and vision problems.   We were determined to help them with that.  Again with local fundraisers and asking for volunteer dentists, we assembled a team of six dentists and made arrangement with SEE International to give us vision help for our 2016 misssion.  The team is now working in Zambia and I want to share with you some pictures and comments that Christopher McGuire was able to send out.   We also, this year, sent ahead clothing for the children, as the need was so severe.  We also,  gave the children American flags so they could see who were helping them.   Please continue to pray for the team and the patients they will serve.  If you would like to help financially, please go to http://www.halomissions.org        God is so good.

africateamleaving

HALO Missions is off to Johannesburg and on to Ndola.

 

africadentalteam

42 hours door to door. Here is HALO dental team the next morning just before getting to work. Led by Dr. Wynn from Stony brook University. Devin, Justin, Michael and Nichole. The first dentists many of their patients have ever seen. Pulling many infected teeth these doctors were lifesavers.

africadentistskids
The kids love the younger dentists. Here fooling around on snap chat swapping faces.
africapatientshuts
Long day today. 340 Dental patients. 240 medical patients. Tomorrow the ophthalmic starts cataract surgeries if all goes well.
africawork
Hard at work and then taking a break to hand out clothes.
africadrcrissdentist
Hicksville Dentist Michael Criss spent his birthday giving his great talents to the extreme poor. We took him to celebrate at a Zambian restaurant. If you’ve never had Zambian pizza, don’t.
africadrboppclothing
Dr James Bopp (medical) takes a break from treating patients to provide clothing to the orphans.
africahospitalcataracs

Today Christopher McGuire  left the medical team and travelled with Oscar Chama of Teenmissions by bus with 13 candidates to drive to Lufwanyama Hospital, which is about 3.5 hours from our location. The hospital is new and modern for Zambia, but devoid of patients and doctors, making it a virtual ghost town. (The patients have no way to get to the hospital and can’t afford the care even if they arrived.). Since our last visit we labored to gain the approval of the hospital and the government to use the facility for cataract surgeries. Doctor James Bopp worked tirelessly with See International and Argentinian surgeon Dr. Stone to make this a reality. With so many logistical hurdles, including obtaining and transporting the equipment, today Dr. Stone started conducting the procedures. I arrived (Dr. Bopp was treating patients) just in time to see the first cataract surgery performed today and to take these pictures. Dr. Stone will perform approximately 15 more surgeries before he leaves and train the Teenmissions staff to screen candidates for future missions. (The clinic was overrun with dental and medical patients, with over 600 seen).
africachildchild
Children with children.   They are so beautiful and filled with life.  Look at those eyes.
girlnamedcharity
Patients got American flags. Here’s a Zambian girl named charity.
africachildrenclothes
Best part of the day was handing out clothes. with Chris McGuire
africaclothingb4andafter
Before and After
africachildrenflags
We wanted to make sure the children are aware of the best America has to offer.
Please continue to pray for this mission.  If you can help financially, please help us to help these (and other) orphans.  Go to http://www.halomissions.org for more information.