Sunday, May 20, 2018

Saying "I Love You"

Saying “I Love You”

How many times have you said “I love you” to someone. I have said it to my wife. I have said it to my dad before he died. I have said it to my mom before she died. One of the first times I  said it was to my grandfather on my mother's side and that is what this post is about.  

The list of people I have loved as friends and family is long while the list of those who I have actually said it to is short. Is it important to verbalize it to someone? If you place it in the salutation of a letter shouldn’t the person know how you feel? If you show it in the form of a gift shouldn’t that be a clear sign how you feel? If you show it in a favor you do for them shouldn’t it be clear? If you put it in the form of the only love poem you have ever written to a woman, your wife, shouldn’t it be clear? Maybe not, there is a very thin line between love and friendship. Actually saying “I love you” makes it clear which side of the line you are on. 

My grandfather on my dad’s side died when I was only nine. I loved him but I only saw him occasionally. My grandfather on my mom’s side died when I was twelve.  I had seen him often and he had made a deep impression on me. He would take my brother and me on walks when we were young. My grandfather would give us wonderful presents at Christmas. He would lovingly call me “muscles”.  Since I was thin as a rail I didn’t fully understand this. I didn’t have muscles and probably never would. It wasn’t important to me since I always sensed he meant it as a compliment. He said it as if he could see something great in me that nobody else could. I would always wait anxiously to see my grandfather again. 

My grandfather was a strong, powerful man but he did have some health problems. He had some kind of problem in his leg and foot, eventually developing gangrene. The doctors were not sure what had caused it or how to cure it. They finally had to amputated the leg. He was given an artificial leg and was having a hard time using it. 

I remember shortly after this my family, my grandfather and my grandmother went on a picnic. It think it was a church picnic. My grandfather was having a terrible time walking.  Finally he got mad and went back to our car. Everyone was upset.  My grandmother had a heart as big as anyone I have ever known. She knew just what to do.  She told me to go to the car and tell him that I loved him. I did love him but I had never seen anyone in my immediate family say this. Eventually my grandmother and mom talked me into doing it. 

I walked to the car and up to my grandfather and looked him in the eye and said “Grandpa I love you”. He grabbed me and gave me a big bear hug, breaking into tears.  I watched as his tears carried away his pain. I watched as a strength I had never seen before filled him. He eventually learned to walk with his new leg. He even learned to drive a car. 

What did I learn from this? I learned that “I love you” can have the power to heal the deepest wounds. I learned that taking a chance to open yourself to someone can be worth the risk. I learned that if I can’t love those near me how can I love a God who is reflected by each of them. By the way, I did find out what my grandfather saw in me.  I did have muscles - they were in my heart, that was what he meant. 

  I love you grandpa!

Copyright 2018 Daniel Strizak

Friday, June 23, 2017

Who Am I ?

Who Am I ?

So, who Am I? 

I am a happily married husband of a wonderful wife who is a perfect compliment to me. Am I a perfect husband?  No! I do my best, every now and then succeeding .

I am a theist, a believer in God.  Have I seen God? No, but I have not seen gravity either, though I have seen it's effects. I was a principal scientist yet I do not fully understand Einstein's work. If I can't understand Einstein, there is no way I would understand a God who created everything. As a statistician I have seen too many coincidences happen in my life to believe that they add up mathematically, they don't. God is too bright for you to see directly. In this universe we only see his shadow.  If you're not even looking for him you'll never see him. 

I am a Christian, a follower of Christ. I believe God gives us our freedom to choose to follow our own way or to follow him. Adam and Eve choose to follow their own way and got lost. They soon learned that without God they had no future. This is called sin. God sent his son, Jesus, the Christ, fully God and fully man into the world as our shepherd. He lifts our sin from us and lead us instead towards God the father. In short we are either moving towards or away from God. The further we are away from God the deeper we sink into hell. With all the confusion and distractions in this world we easily drift away from God. Jesus, the shepherd is the only light  who can guide us to God, the father. He takes our sins and lightens our load. The closer we are to Jesus the closer we are to heaven.

I am a Catholic. Does this mean that I worship idols? No! I worship Jesus. Jesus was a man, he was God and not an idol. As a man I can see his face, seeing him smile, seeing him praying, seeing him weep for me. Since Jesus was before my time how can I see him? I see him in the word pictures drawn in the Bible. I see him in the writings of the early Christians. I see him in the early drawings of the early Christians. I see him in the frozen prayer of the great sculpture Michelangelo. I see him in the hearts of the long line of God's stewards who followed after Jesus in Peter's footsteps. I see him in my local priest when I confess my sins to him and I feel God's forgiveness flow through him, through the cross, through Jesus and into my heart. And finally I am awestruck as I receive Jesus into my heart, not just in words but fully present in his body and blood in the form of bread and wine. I believe this just as the apostles did, as the Catholic saints did, as even Luther himself did. Why do I believe this? I am a statistician, and the probabilities of all the coincidences I have seen in my own life only add up one way. Jesus is the word, he is the light, he is the bread of life. I may not always notice when he is with me, but I do always notice  when I am not with him.

Copyright 2017 Daniel Strizak

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Prayer and Hearing God

Prayer and Hearing God

When we pray and ask for something from God how do we know he hears us? 

If we get what we wanted then we know. Maybe not. Maybe it is just a random natural occurrence that God permits. Maybe God wants us to learn for ourselves that what we want is wrong. After getting what we want things don't always work out in the long run.

If we hear him when we pray and he tells us he is granting our prayer then we know he has heard us. Maybe not. Maybe we are not hearing God but only our own mind, our own desires. 

If we don't get what we prayed for then it must not be his will. Maybe not. Maybe we just have to wait longer. St Augustine's mom had to wait many, many years for her sons conversion to Christianity. Maybe God is building patience in us.

It seem like praying is almost impossible. I once heard a wise priest on television talk about this and give me hope. He said that if we pray, wrongly thinking we heard God, he will still honor our prayer. Following our own will instead of his may take us in the wrong direction but God will eventually get us where he wants us to be. We may, however, travel the longer, more difficult way to get there. Over the years I have often followed my own will, learning painful lessons. There were a few times, however, when it was crystal clear to me that I had heard God's voice. While God speaks to each of us differently there are some things I noticed about God's voice when I was sure he spoke to me. For what it is worth, I will share these with you. 

  • God's voice in my case is not an actual voice but a clear voice in my mind. It is usually something that I myself would not say or think.
  • What God has told me is never contradictory to the Bible, often giving me a deeper understanding of it. Neither is it contradictory to any Catholic doctrine. 
  • When I pray about something and my wife and I receive the same answer then it is almost always God's answer.
  • When I pray more often God's voice becomes clearer, knowing it becomes easier. 
  • Often when I am doing some simple chore, like mowing the lawn, God talks to me then and there.
  • When I am praying in church, hearing God's voice, it is almost always his.
  • When I receive the Eucharist (the actual body and blood of Jesus in the form of bread and wine) in the state of grace, the voice I hear is always him.
  • When God is talking to me it is always an enlightening and teaching moment.
  • When God is talking to me he is often asking me to follow him by stepping out further in my faith.

Prayer is a journey with God, an adventure. He is always with each one of us. We need to listen for his voice. We will eventually hear him. We need to look for his answers in the many small signs that build up around us. A prayer journey with God will never be boring!

Copyright 2017 Daniel Strizak

Wrong Statue!

Jesus, Mary and Joseph
St. Dominic's
Mobile, Al

Wrong Statue!

A statue is a work of art. What is art? Art is an attempt to create a scene from real life and depict it's meaning in a visual form. A statue is an attempt to do this as a three dimensional art form. A statue attempts to show what the artist is seeing, reflecting an image from the camera of his mind. To me a religious statue is also a work of art, reflecting a frozen prayer from the artists heart. I seriously doubt that an artist's intention was to create an idol to be worshiped. His intention was to share his prayer, similar to a writer sharing his prayers in a devotional book. I don't see the difference. 

I find it easier to understand an artists prayer as a statue rather than in a book. A lack of imagination on my part? I have often used statues to pray to the Lord. I have never actually worshiped the statue itself. When I was young I was fortunate enough to see Michelangelo's "Pieta " at the New York World's Fair. This was one of the few times it left Rome. This was a statue of Mary holding her dead son Jesus in her lap. This is a classic, timeless work of art. It was so real that if not for its pure whiteness, I would have expected to see Mary start to move. Michelangelo has taken us to the last moment between Mary and Jesus before he was placed into the tomb. You feel like you are an interloper actually standing there watching. That is quite a prayer!

While you can pray anywhere, a church is a good place to pray. It is a structure built by human hands dedicated to God. Catholic churches often have statues inside to help place our focus on God and his gifts of faith. Once I was having some problems with my family and I had decided to visit a church and pray.

I lived in Mobile, Al and I decided to go to a local church that had a life size replica of the "Pieta". I got there and the church was locked. I was upset and decided to go to my own church where there was a statue of Mary in our small chapel. I got there and the floor was being replaced and the chapel was closed. I was again wounded but I  went into the main part of the church to pray near the statue of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As I prayed a strange feeling came over me. I looked up at the statue and saw the Holy Family. I suddenly realized that this was not only the right place to pray and it was also the right answer to my prayer. God had guided me to the place where he wanted me to pray. What better example could I have of the perfect family than Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It helped me see my family through the lens of Jesus’s family. I suddenly knew what I needed to do. I knew what a true family was. I also knew that I would always be part of God's own family. I would always be part of His church.

Copyright 2017 Daniel Strizak

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day

What is this day, this precious gift of love?
God sends to us a snow white turtle dove.
Sent to break our hearts as cold as stone,
His Spirit comes to make our hearts His throne.

And as we look within each others eyes,
we see God's light of love is there inside.
We only see this light when reaching out,
that's what a Valentine is all about.

I know sometimes I only see myself,
an empty cold reflection looks for help.
Not knowing where to turn I see your smile,
I know that I'll be warm here for a while.

I have not much to give I know it's so,
but all the love I have I give, you know.
Of all the gifts God gave me it is true,
His sweetest gift of love, He gave me you.

Monday, November 7, 2016

What If?

What If?

Yesterday was the last day of the "Forty Days for Life." Tomorrow is the election for our new president. The two are tied together.

One candidate believes that the fetus inside a woman is not life and the other believes it is. As a Catholic I believe that life starts from the moment of conception. As a scientist I believe that the possibility of existence should have priority over the extinction of possibility. (e.g. "Don't waste good" - Gibbs NCIS, "Don't waste life" - God, Heaven.)  I have heard many Catholics say that they would not have an abortion but believe that it is the woman's choice. Since Adam and Eve's choice in the garden was their own then I guess God does let us choose. This does not make our choice correct however, and does not mean that it will not have repercussions much as Adam and Eve's choice did.

What if life starts at conception? What if the soul enters this fetus at conception? If this is true then this fetus is a living being, neither the mother nor the father. The genetics show us that at the moment of conception the fetus has genes that are distinct from both mother and father. In a criminal court of law this distinction would be enough to identify a distinct individual, yet not for a fetus. The word fetus itself attempts to hide from us the actual facts of this genetic distinction. If life does not start at conception then we must abandon our use of genetic markers to identify individual living human beings in criminal cases.

If life starts at conception then the fetus becomes an infant and has rights like any other human. People argue that the child is dependent on the mother.  The mother does not have to honor that dependance, especially if it risks her life. I will not get into this argument, however most all abortions are for convenience and not to save the mother's life, making this argument mostly irrelevant. This is especially true since modern advances in medical care have made this less of a problem.

If life starts at conception then it is murder to destroy it. If life starts at conception then it is a child of God. If life starts at conception then it is part mother, part father, and part God's creation. God has a plan for each of us. It is one thing to destroy our own part in God's plan but it is much worse to destroy another's part. God sees the faces of these little ones. God's mother, Mary,  protects these little ones as her own. Look into the night sky and you can almost see the souls of these little ones twinkling as stars in the night. The light you see is a reflection of God's face.

Copyright 2016 Daniel Strizak

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Litany for the Unborn

Litany for The Unborn

For the conceived, Lord protect them.
For the conceived who are loved, Lord protect them.
For the conceived in danger from natural causes, Lord protect them.
For the conceived who are unwanted, Lord protect them.
For the conceived who are unloved, Lord protect and love them.
For the conceived who cannot defend themselves, Lord protect them.
For the conceived who have no rights, Lord protect them.
For the conceived who are viewed as soulless, Lord show them your Spirit.
For the conceived inches from life in this world, Lord protect them.
For the conceived longing to draw their first breath, Lord fill their lungs with your breath.
For the conceived thirsting for mother's milk, Lord let them suckle their fill.
For the conceived aching for a mother's touch, Lord let these mothers' hearts ache until they hold these tiny ones.
For the conceived aching for their father's firm hold, Lord let these dads' hearts ache until they hold these little ones in the protection of their strong arms.
For the departed unborn who never tasted life, Lord give them your everlasting life.
Lord for those unborn who's possibility of life was stolen from them, avenge them with the sword   of your pure love by wounding their thief with a permanent emptiness of this loss.
Lord bless those fighting for these unborn with a special blessing.
Lord bless those fighting for these unborn by surrounding them with the millions of unborn souls in the times when all seems lost.
Lord bless those fighting for these unborn by surrounding them with the millions of unborn souls at the hour of their death to guide them to their rest with you.
Father give us your guidance.
Jesus give us your strength and wisdom.
Holy Spirit give us your love.


Copyright 2016 Daniel Strizak