Category Archives: Relationships

Judge Not by A.J. Avila

Judge Not – by A.J. Avila

We all have a tendency to jump to conclusions.
That was certainly the case for me one time after a visit to my local library. Back then I was still single, and so I had gone there alone. On the way out, my arms laden with books, a rather seedy-looking man—who obviously hadn’t bathed for quite some time—held the door open for me. I thanked him as any lady should do when extended this courtesy.
But when we got outside in the parking lot, it was a different story. It was night, and except for the two of us, the lot was empty. I could hear this guy’s footsteps right behind me. And he was whistling the way a man whistles at a woman he thinks is attractive.
I began to panic. If he grabbed me, I had no defense. Fortunately, the police station shared the same parking lot. It occurred to me I should turn around, hurl my books at him, and run for the police station as fast as I could.
As I approached my car, I readied myself. To my distress, the footsteps were getting closer, and he was still whistling. I whipped around, about to pelt him with my books—
—and fortunately discovered what was really happening.
He wasn’t whistling at me.
He was calling his dog.
I have to admit the greater part of the reason I thought he was going to attack me was because of his appearance. Yes, I had judged him based upon that.
In Matthew 7:1, Christ admonishes us to “Judge not, that you may not be judged.”
So . . . what does that mean, exactly? Some folk seem to think anyone who judges another is guilty of breaking this prohibition. But then, ironically, those who think that way have already set themselves up as judges.
Does it mean I can’t judge someone without the proper placard or license plate parking in a handicapped space? Well, no—but also yes.
I can judge that it is breaking the law to park in such a space without the proper authorization. However, I can’t judge what is inside the heart of the person doing so.
For all I know, he missed the sign saying it’s a handicapped space. For all I know, he forgot his placard at home. (Not, I believe, that those would make any difference to a police officer who merely sees the car parked there.)
I can, in other words, judge an action, but I can’t judge a motive. We can’t judge even someone like Hitler that way. We can judge Hitler’s actions as wrong. But for all we know, Hitler was insane and therefore not responsible for them. Only God can infallibly determine that.
I’m sure that man in the library parking lot had no idea he was scaring me. I’m certain he wasn’t thinking about me at all.
I was right to be cautious about his actions.
But I was totally wrong about the motive for his behavior.

Posted on November 21, 2017 by ajavilanovels.  Visit A.J. Avila at Avila web page

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¢.

 

The Birth of Mary and the Protoevangelium of James by Deacon Marty McIndoe

If we asked most Catholics who Mary’s parents were they would probably answer Anna and Joachim. But if we look in the Holy Bible there is no mention of Mary’s birth or the name of her parents. So how do we know their names? The simple answer is through tradition. As Catholics, we believe that God reveals His truths to us through the Holy Bible AND through tradition. Tradition was sacred to the Jews (we all know that great song from Fiddler on the Roof) and is also sacred to us. St. Paul tells us to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).
On September 8th we celebrate the birthday of Mary. This is exactly nine months after we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. This feast was celebrated no later than the 6th century. An eastern Saint, St. Romanos, a deacon who composed numerous liturgical songs, wrote a hymn celebrating the birthday of Mary. The hymn was quite popular and used in liturgies to celebrate the birthday of Mary which helped lead us to the feast day. The Eastern Churches first celebrated it and then within a century the Roman Church celebrated it. St. Romanos relied heavily upon the apocryphal writing, The Protoevangelium of St. James, in composing the lyrics to his hymn on the Nativity of Mary.
As an apocryphal writing, we must realize that the Church decided that this book was not inspired as scripture and it was not placed in the canon of the bible. However, this writing has been seen as a good source of tradition from the earliest times of the Church. Most scholars believe that it was composed around 145 AD. Because of this, and the language structure, we know that St. James did not write it. However it came from an area where St. James had followers and there may be some things passed on from him in the writing. In view of all of this, and with a certain amount of caution, I would like to share some of the points covered in the Protoevangelium concerning Mary and her birth and upbringing.
The Protoevangelium does repeat many items found in the scriptures concerning Mary and the birth of Jesus. But it adds details prior to that not mentioned in the sacred scriptures. It tells us that her parents were named Joachim and Anna and that Joachim and Anna were unable to conceive for many years and that both of them became depressed at not being able to have children. It tells us that Joachim became so depressed that he went out to the desert to live in solitude in a tent where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights pleading with God. At the same time, Anna grieved not having Joachim with her and not being able to become pregnant. She prayed that God would bless her as He had blessed Sarah with Isaac. The Protoevangelium tells us that an angel appeared to Anna and told her that God had heard her prayer and that “you shall conceive and bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world”.
About the same time, an angel appeared to Joachim and told him that God had heard his prayers. He was told to go to Anna and that Anna would conceive a child. Nine months later Anna gave birth to a little girl and they name her Mary. The Protoevangelium tells us that at the birth Anna said, “My soul has been magnified this day.” The writings go on to say that Mary walked at six months old. When she was one year old, Joachim held a great birthday feast for Mary and invited the priests, scribes and elders and all the people of Israel. The priests blessed Mary saying, “O God of our fathers, bless this child and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations”.
The Protoevangelium tells us that at the age of three Joachim and Anna took Mary to the temple to be raised there hoping that her heart would be captivated by the Temple. When they gave her to the priest he kissed her and blessed her saying, “The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel.” The priest put her down on the third step and the grace of God came upon her and Mary danced with joy and the people loved her.
The Protoevangelium goes on to tell us that Mary stayed in the temple until she was 12 years old. At that time the chief priest received a visit from an angel while in the Holy of Holies telling him to assemble the widowers of the people and that God would give a sign as to which widower He chose for Mary. When all of the widowers assembled the High Priest again prayed to God for a sign to show which widower would receive Mary as his wife. When a dove appeared and landed on Joseph’s head, the high priest declared him to be the one who was chosen. At first Joseph declined saying that he had children and was an old man and it wasn’t good for him to take such a young girl. The chief priest reminded Joseph that it was God’s will and Joseph said to Mary, “Behold I have received you from the temple of the Lord; and now I leave you in my house and go away to build my buildings, and I shall come to you. The Lord will protect you”.
As interesting as all this is, we must remember that the Church refused to recognize the Protoevangelium as sacred scripture. We cannot be sure of any truth found here, but as I said earlier, this is a very early writing that passes on at least some of the tradition handed down about our beloved mother, Mary. It might help us imagine a little better the life of the most significant woman who ever walked the earth (and rule in Heaven). Hail Mary full of grace…….
As Saint Augustine said, “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOTHER MARY….WE LOVE YOU

 

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

Spurned at Church by A. J. Avila

Spurned at Church

When we go to Mass, we don’t necessarily expect the folks there to be warm and welcoming. After all, it’s human nature to occasionally be aloof. We’re weak, sinful people, and we don’t leave our foibles at the church door before coming inside.
But we do expect—have a right to expect—that the people we encounter there will at the very least be polite, especially during that one time in the service when we greet one another: the Sign of Peace.
So imagine my surprise when at one weekday Mass I put out my hand to shake that of the young lady in front of me and got snubbed.
Well, a lot more than snubbed. One look at my hand offered in friendship and she crossed her forearms in front of her head, turned her face aside, and shuddered with what I can only describe as utter disgust.
As though touching me would make her vomit.
Before you even ask, yes, I bathe, and yes, I use deodorant.
Now I realize some people are germaphobes, but a simple “No, thank you” or “I don’t shake hands” would have sufficed.
Needless to say, I was shocked. More than shocked, I was deeply hurt.
Of course I immediately forgave her and offered up the pain to God for her sake.
In case you’re wondering if she ever shakes anybody else’s hand, I wouldn’t know. Since this was a weekday Mass, the church wasn’t very full and we two were the only ones within arm’s reach of each other.
When something like this happens, it bumps up against what I find to be one of the most difficult verses of the Bible: “And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints” (Romans 8:28).
“All things work together unto good.” All things, including this.
So I had to stop and ask myself how this worked unto good.
It reminded me of an incident from the life of St. Teresa of Avila. She’d been poorly treated, and she complained to Jesus about it. He answered her, “But Teresa! That’s how I treat My friends!”
She immediately snapped back “No wonder You have so few!”
Yet . . . how on earth could what happened to me be something positive? How could I see it as God treating me like one of His friends?
Then I remembered another difficult Bible verse: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).
St. Paul is telling us he actually rejoiced in his sufferings.
Okay. I can tolerate what happened. I can even get to the stage where, intellectually, I can thank God for it. But in all honesty, I don’t think I’m far enough along in my spiritual journey to where I can rejoice at being treated like last week’s garbage.
Definitely something I need to work on because, you know, suffering makes us more like Christ, and that is cause for rejoicing.
As for that young lady, I sincerely hope that if both of us make it to heaven, she’ll be glad to shake my hand then.
She might even allow me to give her a hug.

You can visit A. J. Avila’s blog at Reflections On My Catholic Journey

Lopsided Relationships by A.J. Avila

Lopsided Relationships by A.J. Avila at ajavilanovels

There’s an old saying that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you get your Prince Charming.

That was certainly the case for me. One young man, with whom I had a summer romance, had to have everything his way. And I mean everything. A sandwich, for example, had to be made to his exact specifications: “First the mayonnaise, then the lettuce, then the meat, then the tomato, in that order only.” If the sandwich had all the same ingredients but the mayonnaise was next to the tomato, he absolutely refused to eat it.

This attitude of his drastically affected our relationship. Any behavior of mine that wasn’t completely up to his standards was cause for criticism. For example, he told me how rude I was for phoning him while he was watching television – as if I could have known what he was doing while I was dialing. Trust me, nothing makes a girl feel more special than being told talking to her is not as desirable as watching reruns of The Munsters.

One night, at the end of our date, we arrived at my home, only to find two police cruisers, their red and blue lights flashing, parked at my house. Desperate to find out if my family was okay, I jumped from his car and ran inside. Fortunately, it turned out the police had overreacted to my mother’s complaint about a neighbor. But would you believe my boyfriend griped that I hadn’t kissed him goodnight first? In fact, he told me, I should have spent at least five minutes making out with him before checking on my family.

The last straw was what he said when he was leaving at the end of summer to go back to college. He told me that if I wanted to hear from him, I needed to mail him a self-addressed, stamped envelope “because it’s too much work to get an envelope and a stamp together.” Guess I wasn’t worth even that much to him.

[SIDENOTE: Don’t you occasionally wish you could go back in time with the perfect retort? Only years later did it occur to me that I should have responded with “You’re right. It’s too much work. I don’t think I can manage it.”

If you’re wondering why I put up with such abuse for an entire summer, I can only say that like many young women, I was desperate to be loved. I was willing to endure an awful lot of bad for the little scraps of good I was getting. People do this far more than they realize. Consider: who hasn’t spent half an hour in the hot sun waiting in line for an amusement park ride that lasts just a few minutes? At the time the trade-off seems worth it.

Anyway, when I thought back on this relationship, it got me thinking about how we sometimes treat God the way this young man treated me. Instead of saying “Thy will be done” how often will we “eat the sandwich” only if it’s made exactly the way we want it? How many times do we tell God “Don’t bother me right now. I’d rather watch an inane television show” instead of communicating with Him through prayer? And, worst of all, how often do we insist that God kowtow to us by doing all the work of our relationship with Him while we just sit back and reap the benefits?

I know I’m often guilty of such behavior.

My relationship with God is already far too lopsided for me not to put into it the effort that I should.

In case you’re wondering whatever happened to my ex-boyfriend, I managed to track him down on Facebook. I saw that, not only is he still single, but the first post I read by him was a complaint about women.

Thank goodness I had enough sense to break up with him.

And thank goodness that, despite everything, God hasn’t broken up with me.