Saturday, July 6, 2019

104 HARMONICAS? REALLY? THAT'S AMAZING!



ANOTHER AMAZING STORY OF GOD'S HAND IN MY MISSION MINISTRY







Looking back, I am very aware of God's guiding hand in my life, especially since he has called me to be one of his priests. I have always been aware of this fact, but since I got into volunteering in the island missions of the Caribbean, it seems that either he is intensifying his help or I am becoming more aware of it. 

Like manna from heaven in the story of the Exodus in the Bible, it seems that help is coming from everywhere and in so many ways - even funny ways! God truly does have a soft spot in his heart for the poor!

A while back, I heard someone down in the islands talking about the need for "musical instruments." Before that Sister Nyra Anne, at Saint Benedict Home for Children, told me last year that she had a girl who showed some musical ability. She had gotten a violin from someone, but she did not have a bow to play it. Guess what? Someone showed up in my life with a violin bow to give her. 

I had that request for musical instruments in the back of my mind for a while when, all of a sudden, someone who played the harmonica contacted me and asked if I would be interested in some harmonicas for the islands. What a great idea, I thought! It might be hard to come up with enough expensive instruments like guitars, pianos and trumpets to go around, but harmonicas would be inexpensive to ship, easy to maintain and more kids could have access to them! 

As it turned out. this donor had a plan. He said he would contact the HONNER harmonica company to see if they would donate some harmonicas to the kids down in the islands.

He called me a few  weeks back to meet him for lunch. We arrived at the restaurant at the very same time. He opened his trunk and pulled out a box with 104 Honner Harmonicas! The HONNER Company could not give them to him for free, but they gave him a huge discount! 

  

I have already found a harmonica teacher down in the islands who is willing to teach some of kids how to play them.  I will ask the teaching Sisters to help me find interested students. My dream is to create a couple of small groups of harmonica players to go with the kid-drummers who already play at Mass in some parishes.

With 104 harmonicas planted like seeds, surely a small number of them will go on to blossom and excel musically! 



Thursday, July 4, 2019

WHO SAYS YOU CAN'T HAVE IT ALL?

Italian priest concelebrates his 100th birthday Mass with his 4 sons, also priests

    

A spiritual son of Padre Pio, Fr. Vaccarini hasn't wasted a minute of his century-long life.

Father, priest, father of priests, centenarian, author, disciple of Padre Pio, Veteran of World War II … Perhaps we could think of Fr. Probo Vaccarini as a sort of spiritual Forrest Gump: someone who has received all 7 sacraments—some from his own children—and conferred most of them as well, and who has seen some of the most significant events and personalities of the 20th and 21st centuries first-hand.
He turned 100 years old on June 4, and he celebrated the occasion by concelebrating a Mass presided over by Bishop Francesco Labiasi, of Rimini, Italy (the diocese where Fr. Vaccarini ministers), and with his four sons who are also priests. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Vatican, sent a message relaying a message of congratulations and a papal blessing from Pope Francis, read aloud during the Eucharistic celebration.
His story has, unsurprisingly, gone viral, with coverage in Vatican NewsVatican Insider, and other news outlets around the world. The information they provide would make for a great movie script.
Vaccarini was born in Italy in 1919. Like many young men of his generation, he was sent to fight in World War II, serving in a campaign in Russia; unlike many, he lived to return to his home and start a career.  One day, he ran into a friend and fellow war veteran, who was “handsome and had everything” but was “always sad … always distressed,” he recounts in an interview on Italian Catholic television station TV2000it.” This time, he was “happy, changed!” Vaccarini asked him what had happened, and his friend told him he had gone to confession with Padre Pio.
He took his friend’s advice and went to meet Padre Pio himself, who became his confessor. During one of Vaccarini’s visits, Padre Pio told him to get married and have a “big and holy family.” He answered, “Big is easy, but holy …?” Vaccarini’s tone in the interview is as if to say, “Easier said than done!” He went back to see Padre Pio again a while later, still single, and the saint told him, “Get a move on!”
Anna Maria Vannucci caught Vaccarini’s attention when he saw her regularly at Mass and around town. They married, and set about fulfilling Padre Pio’s advice about their family being big. They had 7 children—4 boys and 3 girls—and Vaccarini says, “It wasn’t by chance; I wanted all of them!” Sadly, his wife died in 1970, after only 18 years of marriage.
Nonetheless, Vaccarini continued to fulfill the second part of Padre Pio’s advice: making sure his family was holy. All four of his sons entered the priesthood: the first was ordained in 1979, and the last and youngest more than 20 years later (after his father). One of his daughters also entered the lay consecrated life.
In the meantime, Vaccarini himself became a permanent deacon. Assigned to a parish (San Martino in Venti), he was happy to carry out his duties, but “the problem was always finding some priest to come celebrate Mass,” he told his local diocesan newspaper, Il Ponte. It was then that that during a Mass at San Giovanni Rotondo he heard Padre Pio’s voice in his heart telling him, “You’ll become a priest.” Sure enough, in 1988, at the age of 69, he was ordained to the priesthood. He’s celebrated Mass every day since.
This has created a unique relationship between Fr. Vaccarini and his family. In the TV2000it interview, one of his sons explains how Fr. Vaccarini has been, in a way, his father, his son, and his brother: his biological father, by birth; his spiritual son, when (not yet a priest) he went to his own son for confession; and then his brother in the priesthood, when he was also ordained a priest. “In the faith, there are no limits,” his son says.
Fr. Giuseppe, one of his sons, told Il Ponte that even today as a priest, his father always refers back to his wife, saying, “My wife used to tell me …” which, his son says, may have made people who don’t know him yet “give him strange looks.”
Despite his age and many accomplishments—besides what we’ve already mentioned, he’s published more than 15 books, including an autobiography in Italian titled Husband, Widower, Priest—Fr. Vaccarini hasn’t retired. He’s the oldest active priest in the diocese, and possibly in all of Italy, but he says he still feels “like a newly ordained priest.”
“Day by day, I’m waiting for the Lord to take me,” he said during the 2013 TV200it interview. “I’ve had a wife, I’ve had children, and spiritual children too … Now, I’m waiting for the Lord to call me.”
Articles in other editions of Aleteia, and in Acidigital and Alfa y Omegawere also consulted for the preparation of this article.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

PAPPAW???? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?


DELUSIONAL? 

The other day, I was at a Dollar Store picking up some snacks for the kids down in the islands who will be coming to our second annual Computer Camp. There was a young couple pushing their "bascart" with two small boys in it. One of the little boys saw me, looked right at me, and started reaching for me and saying "Pappaw!" He would not stop. Every time I turned a corner and ran into them he started up again, "Pappaw! Pappaw!" 

Here is a recent photo of me looking at myself. Honestly, do you think I look like anyone's "Pappaw?"  I certainly don't see a "Pappaw" when I look in the mirror!!!!! 

No comments, please! 




Sunday, June 30, 2019

NO! MAYBE! YES! DEFINITELY!

COMMITMENTS



No one who sets his hand to the plow and looks to

what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:62

Most of you know my story by now – how I got to the priesthood and many of my adventures since, but today’s readings make me want to tell you again, but hopefully in a new way.

I knew I wanted to be a priest when I was in the second grade and I have never wanted to be anything else since. I entered seminary at age fourteen, the earliest possible date, of my own free will. No one talked to me into it. In fact, most of the adults in my life, including my pastor, tried to talk me out of it or tried to make sure I didn’t make it. Of course, the reasons I started were not the same reasons I stayed. Who could know at age fourteen? For twelve rough seminary years, with God’s help, I overcame all the obstacles thrown on my path and kept my eye on the finish line – ordination to the priesthood, which came when I was twenty-six years old. 

Almost fifty years later, here I am still standing, still priesting and very happy doing it. My goal is to die at a ripe old age with my collar on, doing some kind of priestly ministry. 

I have never looked back, never regretted it and never seriously thought about anything else. There were a couple of days, back when the sexual abuse scandal broke, when I actually thought about it for the first time, but it soon passed. 

I am very aware that I did not do this of my own power and strength. I have felt God’s strength helping me all the way. Looking back, I can see clearly that even the setbacks, disappointments and failure have all been part of God’s plan for me. In fact, some of the greatest blessing in life have come to me as a result of remaining faithful to my call through thick and thin. At 75, I can say unabashedly that I am a happy man, a man who has been blessed in more ways than I ever thought imaginable. 

Today we have some wonderful readings about making commitments. In the gospel, three different people wish to make commitments to following Jesus and Jesus warns them about how easy commitments are to make and how hard they are to keep. Surely, we can all see ourselves in one or more of these people.

The first man is gushing with enthusiasm. He represents the people among us who rush into commitments without much serious thought. Think of that incredibly stupid and na├»ve TV program “90 Day Fiance!” The man in the gospel says to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go!” Jesus stops him in his tracks with a warning. “My friend, before you can follow me, you must count the cost before you get in and you must be willing to pay the price after you get in, because following me is not a cake-walk. It requires the ability to handle much suffering.” 

The second man wants to follow Jesus, but he wants to put it off for a while until the time is right, until things are taken care of, until, until, until…..” He represents the people among us who procrastinate, hoping for the right time, the ideal situation, the perfect circumstance. Jesus says to him, “Don’t bother! It’s either now or never! Either commit now or forget it!” 

The third man wants to follow Jesus, but as soon as he commits, he begins to second-guess himself. He represents the people among us who are always looking around for a better deal, looking back at the options they didn’t take, looking ahead at ways they can get around their commitments. 

These readings are so appropriate today when commitments are in a deep crisis. We live in a world of the “latest best offer.” Today, commitments are often made without thought and abandoned without guilt. Today, commitments are delayed longer and made later and later in life, with some people never getting around to making a commitment to anything permanent. Today, commitments are made more often than they are kept, because many commit with a roaming eye, especially when those commitments require anything painful. 

The greatest joy in life, I believe, is making a commitment and keeping it. To have this joy, you have to count the cost beforehand and you have to be willing to pay the price afterwards. No, keeping a commitment is not easy in the short run, but in the long, it is a source of great satisfaction.

Young people here today, there is a lesson here for you, especially because you are at the age when life commitments are traditionally made.

(1) Some of you will be tempted to rush into commitments that you do not yet have the inner resources to keep. Anyone can make a commitment, but it takes a very “together” person to carry though on it. Look before you leap, especially before marriage! That person in front of you might look good and make you feel good today, but the real test is whether you can live with them and love them when they no longer look good and you no longer feel good about them? Do you have enough insight into yourself and enough inner strength to love them “for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?” If you want to look for role models, forget the rich and famous of Hollywood! They are the worst role models for keeping commitments. Most of them have disaster after disaster in their personal lives. Their children are harmed in the process. Rather, look at somebody who knows what they are talking about, somebody who has a proven track record. Look at your grandparents, for instance, anybody who has loved another through thick and thin! That’s where you will find out how to do it!

(2) Many of you have so many options that you are paralyzed by those very options. Some of you will find it hard to get around to committing to anything - be it a major in college, a profession or a relationship – because you will hold out for the perfect option. Since there are no perfect options, you may find yourself going into your forties without ever having made a choice. Commit to something and give it all you’ve got! The word “decide” means to cut in two. When you decide, you choose something and you reject something. You cannot have your cake and eat it too! A choice is hard to make, yes, but it also brings a certain freedom from having to explore choice after choice, after choice. 

(3) Many of you may have already rushed into some simple commitments, failed to keep them and learned from your mistakes. Maybe it was a relationship that you got into too quickly, when things only looked good. Maybe you bought a new car on credit with money you did not have, only to see it repossessed and ruining your credit. Those kinds of simple mistakes can actually be great learning experiences. Hopefully, you have learned the lesson that Jesus is trying to teach all of us today: don’t rush into commitments before you know yourself and the one to whom you are committing. Count the cost first, and once a commitment is made, do not look back in regret or look around for a better offer. 

When you are merely interested in something, you do it when it’s convenient. When you are totally committed to something you do it no matter what! Only then can you experience the joy that comes from keeping a well-thought-out commitment.