happy birthday

I thought I would do something different today. Today, July 21st is my birthday. I am not saying this to garner gifts. Birthday cards and well-wishes are not being sought after. No, on the contrary, I am giving you a glimpse into my life. This is my gift to you, so to speak, of how I, a real, living person have experienced God throughout his life.

I grew up in North Philly, a few short blocks from a gang hangout. I was strong for my age, but fighting other gangs did not have any appeal for me. If I walked a little distance farther to the north there was a park. Now, sports, they DID have an appeal for me; and whatever the season I could go up there and play until it was time to come home for dinner. This was, for the most part, how I grew up. Competing and playing, striving to win, and on occasion, bearing the weight of losing. On looking back at this time of my life, I realize, now, that God was gently guiding me. He gave me a burning desire for sports, and NOT for gang fights. A shorter walk to the west and my life’s path would have been totally different. I have no desire to know where that path would have led me. But I believe, even then, God was nudging me in the direction He wanted.

Our family life was poor. Let me re-phrase that, we were poor, but our family life was rich in love. We never knew we were poor. Finances never seemed as being oppressive to our parents, so we, the children, never considered ourselves as ever being in need. (I am sure my mom and dad thought about the lack of money in the house, but they never once succumbed to its need, nor showed us…………….) We grew up knowing we were loved, and that was all that we needed.

Sadly, when I was married my maturity hadn’t grown very much. I thought primarily of myself, my needs. It is a miracle that my wonderful wife even consented to being married to me. Here again, I (we) believe that God stepped in and let us meet each other, and grow together with each other. My marriage was the most important step that I had ever taken to begin growing. And, I didn’t even realize it at the time. We complimented each other. We completed each other. We grew together in a marriage that was guided by God.

The first twenty or thirty years, of our forty two year marriage, seemed to fly by. We had been blessed with two sons, who I, unfortunately, gave them the same craving to compete and to win. (The sins of the parents fall, sadly, onto the children, I am afraid.) And, to some extent, my immaturity prevented me from giving them a stronger foothold on life. However, I can truthfully say that during this time, I was feeling a need to “DO” something. What it was, I wasn’t sure. But I felt that I should be doing something. I ought to be doing something. (More on this later.)

My first realization that I wasn’t invincible came in 2002 when I had a heart attack. But the real kicker was the removal of my cancerous bladder, in 2008. We often ask, “Why, God?” But these …negatives, by worldly standards, were really God taking a more active step in my life. See my “Padre Pio” blog for a better understanding of what I mean. After this last operation, and the Padre Pio experience, I started to realize that the “should do” and the “ought to do” that I mentioned earlier are nothing more than the language of obligation. (As if I could ever pay back my indebtedness to my God and Savior.) I began to want to do something. I want to love Him. I truly desire to help people see His goodness, His love for them. God’s ways are not our ways. We are constricted by time, He is not. We want to see progress immediately. God allows the progress to come when, and as, we are ready for it.

After the operation, as the months and years passed by, different people came into my life. Situations came up that required a move in a slightly different direction. I had to read more, to accommodate these situations. None of these people did I seek out. They seemed to just materialize into my life. Once again, God was gently nudging me. Opportunities to teach RCIA, to be a Eucharistic Minister, to visit people in the hospital, all seemed to gradually enter my life. More paths appeared before me, and gingerly at first, I tried them out.

The purpose of this piece is not to be a biography, but rather an example of His goodness. He bestows His love on each of us in an infinite manner, in an infinite way. We could not hold any more, if we wanted to. Each of  us have lives that travel different routes. No one’s life is better than the life of someone else. Each life has its bumps, its valleys. And each life has God guiding us, helping us, encouraging us to embrace Him. Our lives, yours and mine, have good and bad spots. Sometimes we can think that the bad spots will never end. Do we truly believe that a God who is good, that a God who loves us, that a God who sent His Son to die for us, doesn’t care about us? His love for us is endless. He is constantly aware of us (you and me). His arms are embracing us, always. Be patient. Be aware that He loves you. Trust Him as you have never trusted anyone. He does love you. He is aware of you. He is simply waiting for you to reach out to Him and trust Him. Thank you, God.