“Not Knowing What I love Until it is Gone”

“Not Knowing What I love Until it is Gone”

This past weekend I went to the hospital to see my sister, who is going through a very tumultuous medical procedure that precludes her from seeing her children in person.  So, I had the brilliant idea to bring her son to chat with her through the window of a door. 

I remember guiding my nephew down a dark hallway towards the door my sister was waiting at.  There are few words to describe how dark it was.  As we approached the door, we saw my sister’s face beaming with a smile from ear to ear at the sight of her son she has not seen in weeks. 

At first, my nephew and sister tried to talk through the fire door, but it was so solid sound wouldn’t even go through.  We found a workaround by calling each other on our cell phones.  I then watched for an eternity as my shy nephew stumbled through his words to tell my sister how much he loved and missed her.

 I do not know if you have ever seen a movie where an inmate had an emotional conversation with a love through a glass pane.  If you watch closely, one of the people typically puts their hand on the glass desperate for intimacy, desperate for physical interaction.  That is exactly what my sister and nephew did, they put their hand up against the small window in search of each other.  There was nothing more than my sister wanted to do than to swaddle her son and there was nothing more my nephew wanted to do than to hold on to the security of his mom.

This experience broke my heart.  It made me aware of a wounding sadness in my life.  But sadness is not a bad thing.  We all have horrible experiences each day. 

Saint Gregory of Nyssa said, “The soul is struck and wounded by the desperation of never obtaining what it desires, but this veil of sadness is taken away when it learns that the true possession of He whom it loves lies in never ceasing to desire Him.”

The sadness I experienced and am experiencing is a recognition of a lacking, that something is lacking, namely my awareness of Christ’s presence.  It unveiled my need for Christ, my desire for relationships because I have encountered Him previously.  My love for God is never ceasing to desire Him.  Loving and never ceasing to desire Christ’s presence are synonymous experiences.

As one of my favorite artists puts it, “My most constant mistake is I don’t know what I love till it is gone.” – Noah Gunderson Day is Gone

We must be separated from God, or at least perceive separation if we are to know how much our relationship with Christ means so us. So that we may never cease desiring Him, so we may genuinely love Him. 

When has sadness taught you something about your desire for God?

Did God genuinely let you down or where you just blind in the moment to what God was doing in your life?

Health Care’s Attention to “Human Dignity and Eternal Destiny”

Health Care’s Attention to “Human Dignity and Eternal Destiny”

My grandfather was accidentally stabbed in the leg by his sister when he was around seven years old.  His family for many reasons, including lack of funds and lack of trust in medicine, did not take my grandpa to the hospital until an infection has spread too far. 

When he was finally taken to the hospital, my grandpa was then separated from his family and stripped of his clothes. To replace his possessions, they provided him with one of those hospital gowns, cause you and I know how helpful those are to withhold the little human dignity you have left.  And to make matters worse, they put him into a ward full of other boys with dissimilar ailments. 

They did save my grandfather’s life, but they did not save his leg.  Till his last day, my grandpa was not too fond of the medical field.  But can you blame him? 

Imagine you had a traumatic injury, an injury that would put you up in a rehab hospital.  Then after being stripped of your ability to walk, or care for yourself, you are then stripped of your privacy and put into a room full over other people to observe you in your physical, emotional and spiritual pain. 

In a similar way, my grandfather was stripped of his human dignity.  It is the role of Catholic health care to work to restore as much dignity as possible to each patient it sees.

The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services (ERDs) state: “Catholic health care has the responsibility to treat those in need in a way that respects the human dignity and eternal destiny of all” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2018).

Human dignity is obviously restored through the physical treatments that Catholic health care provides patients.  Treatments that give a patient their life and autonomy back.  But there is a deeper call in this statement.  A call to be attentive to the eternal destiny of all.  To the fact that we are not merely physical, but have a soul, and spirit to attend to as well.

How are you attentive to “the human dignity and eternal destiny of all”?

What is one easy thing you can do to increase your attention to the full reality of a colleague, friend or patient this week?

Picture Citation: Photo By Daan Stevens on Unsplash

When a Butterfly Flies in Your Path: A Reflection on Happiness

When a Butterfly Flies in Your Path: A Reflection on Happiness

When a Butterfly Flies in Your Path: A Reflection on Happiness

I have a friend who very much enjoys other’s company.  He is incredibly hospital and is always making sure that you feel at home.  He will typically go up to people at events or programs that he is participating in or hosting and ask them “Are you happy?” He was telling me about the interesting responses he usually received.  Many of which were watered down to “This is great event/program” or “I am having fun,” etc.

What would your response be if I asked you right now; “ARE YOU HAPPY?”

I presume you would have trepidation at that question as well.  There are many good reasons for that!  1) You do not want to jinx yourself and make things worse.  (Because you know we all are thinking that…) 2) You may also think, “How can I be happy in a world where there is so much suffering in the world?”  3) Maybe you think that if you say that you are happy, you are saying that you are content with where you are and what you have?  OR 4) You truly are not happy…

When I reflect on this question I fall somewhere between 3 and 4, I do not say that I am happy because I have been made for more.  As Augustine wrote, “You have made us for You, O God.” 

Father Julián Carrón commented on this quote from Augustin, saying, “We have been made for a destiny that is so boundless, that we cannot reach it by our own strength, we cannot respond to the need of fullness that constitutes us.” 

If I were to cut off Father Carrón’s quote right here, you would say that it is a cruel trick for God to make us this way.  For God to make us insufficient to attain our own happiness.  And it is true, there are few verdicts or punishments that would qualify as worse than that.  But Father Carrón continues:

“This is why Christ came, because without Him we can do nothing, absolutely nothing, to respond to our thirst for happiness, for destiny.”  Christ came so that we can attain the happiness that we were made for, so that we can satiate the thirst in our hearts for love by being in the presence of Jesus Christ, who fulfills our deepest desire. 

The work we must undertake is sensitizing ourselves to His presence among us here and now.  That is the journey to happiness, to be aware of God’s contemporaneous presence, to be aware of Christ who is with us always.  Here is an example of what that looks like:

A colleague was telling me about her busy workload.  And then reflecting on her week, she mentioned that just the day before, when she was speed walking to get one more thing done before the hourglass ran out, a butterfly flew right in front of her face. 

A little startled, she stopped and watched the butterfly gracefully float in the air and gently land on the grass.  Captivated by the butterfly softly flapping its wings, my colleague knew one thing, that Jesus was using that butterfly to remind her of Him.

What are the butterflies in your life that God is using to remind you of Jesus’s presence? 

If you cannot think of one, what is causing you to run so fast that you miss the butterflies flying in front of your face?

The Gift of My Many Flaws

The Gift of My Many Flaws

I am a big fan of letters.  It is a lot of fun to share some stories in my life and read about how things are going in my friend’s lives.  Occasionally, I get a message that makes me step back and reflect.  I received such a message this week when my friend wrote the following to me; “I sense that there are a lot of things that you are unsure about, and there is a confusion about your direction.  And I also sense it has been that way for a while.”

My immediate reaction was – YOU ARE TOTALLY RIGHT!

I do not know have everything figured out.  There is always a lot going on, I am always being pulled in many directions, always not certain about what is the correct action, nor which path to follow…

I reflected upon this for some time.  Reflecting on my needs and how I stumbled around to fulfill them.  In my own abilities, in my work, in my relationships, etc.  And the more I became aware of my most essential needs, the more I realize I cannot fulfill them.  I realized how truly powerless I am. 

Coming to grips with how insufficient I am is a life long journey.  It is incredibly hard to look into the mirror and know all of my faults and all of the ways I fall short in life (especially when people’s perfect lives seem to be broadcasted in front of my face at all times…).  Experiencing the genuine reality of my many faults is when honesty hits home.

But this powerlessness is far from a curse.  Understanding I am not a self-sustaining entity makes me realize how much I need support. Reflecting on my daunting needs makes me recognize how much I need God, who is at the heart of my deepest desire, who is my desire, the source and summit of everything that is sustaining in my life!

Powerlessness drives me to the recognition of how much the encounters with Christ mean to me.  How much having a relationship with God is the only thing that fulfills me. 

I am not saying that human relationship is not helpful to figure things out.  I mean, if you could get another mind trying to help you hold off the entropy in your life, that is 100% more brainpower than only one person.  But doubling a penny for your thoughts is still only two pennies…  And two pennies do not spend like they used to…

Relying on God for everything trusting him with everything, that is the goal.  The journey of attempting to put our lives together so that we can follow Christ fills God with joy.  And in turn, it fills our life with meaning and love.

I close this reflection with a confession, and a realization.  My confession is that I do not have everything figured out, but my realization is that that is okay.  Thomas Merton wrote a wonderful prayer that speaks to my journey and I trust it will speak to yours:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Ketchup Stained Love

Ketchup Stained Love

I went out of town this past weekend. I didn’t go out of town for a vacation but to babysit my sister’s four kids.  There was great anticipation before I even got there.  I was told that as soon as the oldest boy of the family found out that uncle Paul was coming to watch them, he gave a visible fist pump.  I couldn’t disappoint this anticipated joy.

The first thing I taught the kids was how to do was slide down the stairs into a pile of pillows.  Looking back on it, I think I just wanted to do that again…  We had races and the winners would get candy.  What a blast!  We then went out to play baseball outside and then things started to go downhill from there.

I do not know whose idea it was to give children metal bats, especially considering their finite attention span.  My nephew was taking a practice swing when instead of hitting the air, got me painfully on my arm leaving a bruise the size of a baseball.

We decided to go back inside after that.  I probably should say that the children decided to go inside after that and I ended up chasing after them trying to keep up.  They were so hyped up on sugar by this time I thought they would either break something or worse, each other.

Now I am the youngest of seven kids.  The beautiful thing about being the youngest is that you never have to change diapers.  The youngest of the four, my Godson, is just getting potty trained and still has the occasional accident.  Of course, I didn’t find this out until after the fact.  I will let your imagination do the rest…

Finally, I wanted to sit everyone down for lunch.  And you know how sometimes when you open a ketchup bottle there is an internal combustion and then ketchup squirts everywhere?  I am a chemist by training, and I still do not understand how that happens, but it happened that day and went all over my white shirt…  I eventually got the kids fed and by the late afternoon, I was done in.

When my sister walked in, I could see her eyes get bigger as they eyed my red stained shirt.  I was quick to clarify that it was ketchup and that her children were still alive!

Driving back home that evening painfully exhausted, I eyed my bruise and ketchup-blood stained shirt and thought to myself, “This is what it takes to love fiercely.”

During this Lenten season, my mind goes to the cross.  The difference is that the red stains in that scene are not a lot like ketchup.  Christ loves each of a great deal more than the pains I endured this past weekend.  However, we are called to love in similar ways each day.  Each moment God invites us to reflect His love in this world.  And often, it is in the ordinary bruised and ketchup-stained manner of parenting.

When was the last time you reflected Christ’s sacrificial love for another?

Who could use your love today?

Faith, Hope, and Love

Faith, Hope, and Love

There is an important theological significance of the number three. Three reserves the number of completion. When we initially learn to write we are taught to have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.  This way of formulating a written idea is the same with all things.  With all things, there is a beginning, where we learn to take our first steps.  Middle when we perfect the craft through diligent practice. And a conclusion at the climax of the event, some would say this is a grand finale.

By no mistake, we have a Trinitarian God, namely three persons with the same divine nature.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are a cohesive unit that guides us through each day, gracing us with the theological virtues at precisely the correct time.

The three theological virtues that are intended to help us live life abundantly by being fully united to our Creator.  This is our purpose in life, the Baltimore Catechism states that we were created to love and serve God.  These three theological virtues allow us to complete our nature’s purpose.  Faith allows us to believe in the message of the Gospels of eternal happiness and love of God.  We hope to have this eternal happiness in the kingdom of heaven in which we can fully and freely love.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 reads “Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken.” God has given us a strong three-ply cord to guarantee our salvation.  He has given us Faith, Hope, and Love as supreme graces to strengthen us through our journey.  And today is no different, He is there for you here and now.  He is there to complete you.

How have you been graced with faith, hope or love?

Where in your life can you invite God in to bless you with these gifts today?

Humanae Vitae Reflection

Humanae Vitae Reflection

This July marks the 50th anniversary of an important papal document for healthcare, namely Humanae VitaeHumanae Vitae means “Human Life” in Latin, and the core of this letter addresses humanity’s search for freedom and control.  However, this freedom is not the contemporary thought of doing anything you feel like doing, but freedom as defined as the ability to freely choose virtue.  Or another way of thinking about it is to be a master of your passions and desires.

For example; I personally love ice cream.  Now I do not know about you, but I know that it is not good for me to eat an entire tub of ice cream, even though I want to and I am certainly capable… It is not the best decision for me to do it…  So at times, I have to deny myself of eating ice cream…  This denial of self is a small example of what it is like to have self-mastery and thus be truly free.

Every time you tell your bodily desires “no,” takes a discipline.  And just like other disciplines, we have to start out small and work up to the bigger challenges.  As you can see, I am not a runner, but I have been told, that running a marathon takes a great deal of training.  I hate to break this news to you but if you cannot run a mile, you cannot run a marathon…  You have to start small but dream big.  Self-mastery is not a sprint, it is a marathon.

Just like the discipline required to run a marathon, the spiritual discipline to self-mastery cannot be fixed with the next smartphone app or new pill for that matter.  Sure a smartphone app, can remind you to run just like an app can remind you to pray.  But we still need the discipline to get up and run, to get up and pray.  We cannot abdicate our responsibility to the newest technology or smartphone, you have to put in the time to do the spiritual work and it is work.  But don’t worry we are not alone.  In times of spiritual temptation, God’s love is there to strengthen us.  As Jesus said in the Gospel: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

So I ask you, where in your life do you need God’s graces to attain freedom from your bodily desires?

I would like to leave you with a stanza of a poem by William Ernest Henley:

It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul

What do angels say to God when He sneezes?

What do angels say to God when He sneezes?

Pope Saint Gregory the First, also known as The Great, was born into a wealthy political family around 540 in Rome.  During his youth, Rome suffered a great disease, and father who was a powerful Senator moved his family to their estate in Sicily.  But St. Gregory always had a fierce devotion to the poor and vulnerable and upon his father’s death, he gave everything away to those in need.  Even to the point of turning his family’s estate in Sicily into a monastery.

St. Gregory was named Pope in 590 at the height of the bubonic plague and is most known for establishing Gregorian chant also known as plainchant, which is the oldest known style of liturgical chant in the Western Church.  He is the patron saint of musicians, singers, and teachers.

However, I bring up Pope Saint Gregory the Great because on this day, February 16th in the year 600, he did something very meaningful to our ministry today.  On this day in history, Pope Gregory recommended that the blessing of God is offered to anyone who sneezes in order to protect them falling ill.  He thus decreed that “God Bless You” is the correct response to a sneeze.

I bring this up because I wanted to reflect on how many times we simply go through the motions, even in times of calling upon God to bless someone after a sneeze.

This is certainly a struggle for me, I will sit in Mass and get sidetracked by the many things on my to-do list and will do mindless catholic aerobics “sitting, standing, kneeling, and standing again.”

It is in these distractions that we need to recognize as Eleanor Roosevelt wrote “Today is a gift.  That is why it is called the present.”  Each moment, each encounter is a divine gift from God which we are called to live to its fullest.  We do that by being intentional with our actions in the present.  And by being aware of God’s presence in each moment, especially when we are sick and sneezing.

Image Citation:
Jeff Keane, 2/5/2018 2-2, Retrieved from: http://familycircus.com/comics/february-2-2013/#respond

Reflection on Gifts

Reflection on Gifts

The Diocese of Wichita defines stewardship as “the grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gift and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.” When you look at this picture you see many different symbols for gifts that we each have received from God. You can see the time glass which represents our time, a rosary which represents our prayers, a book, and pen which represents our gift of intellect. My personal favorite is the art that the young child has made represented in the flowers. It is simple but yet a powerful gift for a child. It reminds me of the drawings that my nieces and nephews will give me. I am sure all of you parents remember hanging similar pictures on their refrigerator.

Saint John Paul the second states that “a gift is not a gift until you give it away.” We may think that sounds like an “Indian giver” but there is a deep theology behind it. God has bestowed upon each of us a set of unique gifts, and we are called to share them with others. Treasures are an important piece of this gift, but just like with all things, money is not everything. Your expertise that you bring to skilled based volunteerism, whether on a board or in-kind donations are just as important. The time you spend with the poor and vulnerable in volunteering at the soup kitchens such as the Lord’s Dinner, or outreach projects such as the Medical Mission at Home are equally important.

I ask you to reflect on the gifts God has given you and how you are using them for the greater glory of His kingdom.

Image Citation:
Diocese of Wichita, 1/2/2018 [Stewardship Rotator} Retrieved from: http://catholicdioceseofwichita.org/images/stories/frontpage/rotator/stewardship%20rotator3.jpg

My New Experiment

My New Experiment

Hello world, my name is Paul Wagle.  I am a philosopher who creates, cultivates and communicates ideas that inspire change.

But I have not always been in this field.  I am actually a pharmaceutical chemist by trade.  That career track led me to do research for a couple pharmaceutical companies including Genentech and present my research at a National Chemistry Convention.  However, my research was interrupted when I answered a call to discern my vocation in seminary.

I now work as a Manager of Mission Integration for Ascension-Via Christi in Wichita, Kansas.  In this new role, I work to keep the Catholic identity at the heart of the healthcare culture by enhancing workplace spirituality and forming leaders and associates in organizational and clinical ethics.

This work seems to be the polar opposite of my training as a researcher, but the ability to act experimentally will critical for my success in this position.  There is never a clear solution for an important challenge in our culture.  We must be willing to fail in order to learn and create progress.

When I was looking for a new antibiotic for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, I could not be upset when an experiment failed.  I learned from my failure and adjusted my next attempt to solve the problem.  This same mentality will be critical to making progress to create an authentic Catholic culture in healthcare.

In this blog, I will be sharing some of the experiments and reflections.  It is my hope that you find them helpful and engaging.  I hope that this will be a dialogue, so please comment as you wish.

In Christ,
Paul Wagle, M.A.