How Could it Be?

How could it Be?

Wow! This truly is the best Christmas ever for me…and it still is. Remember that there are 12 days of Christmas. The 12th day of Christmas is Epiphany and is the Feast of Lights!

Sister Carmel, Momma Nancy, Dad, Father Ron, Sister Patricia

This is a picture of some very special people in my life. We celebrated Christmas on December 23rd at my home in which I cooked. Only my dad is related to me biologically, but the others are truly my family by love. Sister Carmel was the Principle of St. Patrick’s School when I was the pastor. Sister Patricia came into my life the second year of my priesthood when I was stationed at Sacred Heart. Eventually she was my Pastoral Associate at St. Patrick’s. These two Sisters of Mercy have been an incredible support over the years and especially through my time in Iraq. I presided at the marriage of my Dad and Nancy two years after my mother died. They have been married for about 10 years and I call her, “Momma Nancy.” I am so blessed.
Now this is how the birth of Jesus came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

Yes! Christmas is about family. God is our Father. Mary is our Mother. The people we call, “Dad” and “Mom” are like Joseph being asked to take Mary and Jesus into his home.

For my Christmas homily, I picked up a baby in the congregation and held the baby in my arms. I shared with the people that one of the greatest sacrifices for me becoming a priest is that I wouldn’t have children of my own. However, for the past twenty-one years, thousands have called me, “Father Ron” or simply “Father.” How could this be? Being a father has required some really great responsibilities. When I was in Fallujah Iraq during the war, there were times I had to let my “sons” and “daughters” depart from this life with great love. It was then that I realized I would never be the same and my grief would almost consume me. Children should never die before their parents.

Our Blessed Mother had to experience the death and torture of her Son. The sword entered her heart and never departed, even to this day. Each of us is asked to look at all people as a little child. God asks us to love them and never condemn nor judge them. I never met a person God didn’t love and would be willing to lay His life down for. So I held a little baby girl who wouldn’t stop looking at me at Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter’s. I held a little boy who wrapped his little arms around my neck as he slept on Christmas Day at Holy Spirit Church. I sang the following song by Michael Card:

How could it be?
This baby in my arms
Sleeping now, so peacefully
The son of God, the angels said
How could it be?

He looks so small,
His face and hands so fair
And when he cries the sun just seems to disappear
And when he laughs it shines again
How could it be?

Father, show me where I fit into this plan of yours
How can a man be father to the son of God
For all my life I’ve been a simple carpenter
How can I raise a King?
How can I raise a King?

That is what Christmas is all about. We willingly accept Jesus into our lives as our child. When we become adults, we welcome Jesus as our beloved husband and the Father of our children. Let us all live knowing that one day we will see Our Father face to face and dance with all of our sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren.

Keep dancing in the Joy of Christmas.

Love, joy, peace,
Father Ron Moses +

P.S. Check out my interview on Veterans Radio that was broadcast on Ave Maria Radio. I am on at the 48th minute of the program. You can find it at:

>http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/19358547

Home for the Holy Days!

Seven years ago, I was in Iraq for the last week of the Battle for Fallujah. It was the week before Christmas when all through the desert, the troops were all longing for a house safe and still. How could we even imagine that this would be the best Christmas ever when we had no way of getting home for the holidays, for we were thousands of miles away from all that we loved?

The last U.S. troops convoyed out of Iraq and into Kuwait yesterday. The Army battalion that I said Mass for in the desert were the ones closing the gate and thus ending this almost nine-year war. There is no jubilation. But there is a sense of peace. Over 4,500 U.S. troops gave their lives. Over 200,000 Iraqi citizens lost their lives. What did we accomplish? Who profited from this fog of war? Who is still paying for the sins of our society?

These are really tough questions that I reckon have no easy or short answer. Each of us must evaluate the part we play in the wars of the world and within our families. If we truly want peace in our lives we must first be peaceful persons in our own hearts. Then we must be peaceful in our families and communities. We cannot give what we do not have. We can’t “give” democracy and peace to another country if we haven’t achieved it in our own country. It has been over 150 years since our Civil War, and yet we still have not discovered a true peace. We still bristle and balk over our unresolved issues of equality, civil rights and bi-partisan issues that seem to be the real root of our discontent and violence.

I would like to share with you just one of the amazing reflections from a book I am reviewing for the Military Writers’ Society of America. The book, Faith Deployed…Again (More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives) is composed by Jocelyn Green and 25 contributing authors from every branch of the U. S. military. Many of us agreed to the war in Iraq at first because we believed it would make our house safe. Even though Jesus, Mary and Joseph did not have a house at his birth, they did find a “home for the Holy Night of Birth.” Consider what Leeana Tankersley writes:

Safe House
God makes homes for the homeless
Psalm 68: The Message

I UNDERESTIMATED THE GRIEF I would experience when I moved home from the Middle East. We received orders back to my hometown, and I naively assumed I would be able to jump back into life with relatively little transition. I was blindsided when reeling feelings of loneliness arrived.
Back home, everyone’s life had changed while we were gone—including my own—and I felt like I was trying to jump into a game of double Dutch.
What really threw me was how isolated I felt. In Bahrain, I only had a few close friends, but somehow that felt like plenty. Back home, I was surrounded by hundreds of people I had practically grown up with, and yet I rarely felt known or understood.
Of course, everyone wanted to know, “How was Bahrain?” But every time I tried to put my experiences into words, I’d feel these unwelcome tears rising and I’d search for words. How could I ever express the breadth and depth of this strange place that had shaped me so significantly?
What is more painful than feeling like you don’t belong? Especially when what you thought was home turns out to be the most foreign place of all?
Scripture contains countless stories of those who were exiled, plagued with the gnawing sense of being foreign, wondering where they fit. The story of God is a story of reconciliation, belonging, and homemaking. In fact, isn’t that the central narrative of Scripture: Once we were not a people, but now we are a people (1 Peter 2:10)?
If you are feeling homeless today—whether you have returned home and it no longer seems to fit you, you have left home and you are lost in a sea of strangers, or you have no idea where home is anymore—don’t lose hope. God makes homes for the homeless.
Rarely does He build to our measurements, expectations, or time frames. In fact, God’s shelter for us can come in all shapes and sizes.
Shortly after we returned home from Bahrain, I happened onto a group of women who took me in. We have spent the last five years listening to each other’s lives, being a sacred shelter to each other. We make a point to listen instead of advise, pray instead of preach, hope instead of judge. Somewhere in the alchemy of validation and love, a sense of belonging has been forged.
Slowly, this group has become the hands and feet of God in my life, a place of belonging and comfort for me—a home.
May God be building a safe house for you, even today.

Ask
Do I have people in my life I can trust?
Am I willing to reach out to them when I need support?

Pray
God, please build me a home. May I find the enduring shelter of safe individuals around me, and may I be brave enough to live in the warmth and protection they provide. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

To learn more, please visit http://www.FaithDeployed.com
*************************

O Beloved, there truly is no place like home for the holy days. We are all called home to be with our true family. Our Mother will again wrap her baby in swaddling clothes and lay him in a stinking manger because there is no room for him in the many beautifully decorated homes for the holidays. I realized where my true home was back on a dreary, rainy and cold Christmas day when I was in a war torn country where Abraham almost sacrificed his son, Isaac.
After preaching at about 19 Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services among the troops that “this has to be the best Christmas ever”, I no longer believed it. But when I reluctantly trudged up the 5 flights of stairs to the 19 year old Marine who wanted Communion on Christmas, life seemed cruel and empty to me. Then I placed my a vulnerable Jesus into the battle scarred and filthy hands of this young man who probably struggled in his faith also. Like Mother Mary, I basically wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in a stinking manger. When the Marine began to sing O Holy Night louder and more beautifully than I could, I knew I was truly home for all eternity.


Gratitude and love filled my being. “Do not be afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you Good News of great joy that will be for all peoples. For today in the City of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Beloved. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!”

****************
So my Beloved, let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us. Let us enter into our very own hearts and journey into our hearts to our home. Christ Mass is where we will find our eternal home…Today!

Merry and Joyous Christmas!
Let us pray that all people of all nations will find their Way Home!
Love, joy, peace,

Father Ron Moses +

The best Gift ever!

Christmas can be a very anxious time because people that love us give us gifts. Whenever we receive a gift, it comes with a burden. Think of the last gift that you received. Did you feel like you owed something back to the person?

Sometimes, a simple “thank you” is just not enough. We sometimes try to be prepared if someone gives us a gift. We don’t want to feel cheap or inconsiderate if we don’t reciprocate with a gift that is even more thoughtful. We clamor to figure out if we have paid our debt for this generous and kind gift.

Now think of God, who gave us His beloved Son as a gift. Do we sometimes attempt to outdo God? Ouch! Even though our parents aren’t perfect, we are still so filled with gratitude for the life they sacrifice to give us. Sometimes we try to repay our parents by spoiling our children or grandchildren. We never feel satisfied in our giving.

Christmas is definitely about giving gifts. But it is so important for us to realize that the best gift ever has already been given; Jesus the Christ. We can’t reciprocate or come close to matching this gift. We receive the most awesome and amazing gift ever given or that will ever be given.

This doesn’t mean that we come to the Midnight Mass empty handed. But we do need to bring an empty heart. God cannot fill us with intimate and compassionate love unless we have the room. “Mary wrapped the infant in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.” We must bring our emptiness and longing for a love that will help us survive our death and the death of those we love.

Advent is a time to prepare our gift for our One and Only Love. We bring the only gift that God desires. What is the gift that you can bring to God for giving us Jesus? Each of us is capable of playing our drum for the babe in the stinking manger. God desires each of us, more than we desire God. We must recognize this and respond in kind. We can bring our charity and love for the poor. We can bring our studies of sacred Scripture. We can bring our contemplation. A great gift would be to simply come home to the Sacred Heart and family of the church, warts and all!

In my 52 years of life on this earth, I have celebrated Christmas (Christ Mass) in many different places and countries. Whether it was in Korea, Okinawa, Puerto Rico, or in Fallujah, Iraq during a war, I always felt I was at home at the Mass. It reminds me of when Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days when he was twelve, and Jesus simply said, “Why did you search for me, didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” I am always at home at Midnight Christmas Mass.

When I returned home from my first year in college, my parents had sold and moved out of our house (a mom and pop motel in Daytona Beach), and forgot to let my brother Rick and me know where they were staying. We felt so homeless. We eventually found them and celebrated Christmas as a family of eight in a small motel inn…and at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church where I would eventually celebrate my First Mass as a priest twelve years later!

Although it is awkward and difficult for me to celebrate the revised Mass, there is one clear translation that is a tremendous help. “Pray my brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” Our sacrifice is our gift for Christmas, Easter and every Sunday Mass of the year. We offer the gift of plain unleavened bread, wine and water. These simple gifts that were given to us by our gracious God will be transformed into the Lamb of God who suffers and dies. This brings up the second part of our gift to God: suffering.

St. Augustine, our patron saint, is quite clear:
“Whenever we suffer affliction, we should regard it both as a punishment and as a correction. Our holy Scriptures themselves do not promise us peace, security and rest. On the contrary, the Gospel makes no secret of the troubles and temptations that await us, but it also says that he who perseveres to the end will be saved.”

Another word for “saved” is “Christ”. The more accurate word for “Mass” is “Eucharist”. Therefore, the Mass is really about “the giving thanks for being saved”.

John the Baptist, Our Blessed Mother and all the apostles and saints suffered greatly. If we truly follow Jesus, we must expect suffering. And we must give thanks for our sufferings! Give thanks for your sufferings, cancers, homelessness, struggles, disappointments, broken relationships and persecutions. They all make the best Christmas gift ever if you give them to Our Father. He loves the gift of your sufferings.

And God will top that gift when you hear the priest invite us to the best Supper ever and proclaim as he holds up the Body and Blood of Jesus the Christ:

“Behold the Lamb of God,
behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb!”

Love, joy, peace,

Father Ron Moses +

YES, JESUS!

In the last meditations of Father Anthony De Mello in The Way of Love, he begins one of his mediations:

“Think of a flabby person covered with layers of fat. That is what your mind can become—flabby, covered with layers of fat till it becomes too dull and lazy to think, to observe, to explore, to discover. It loses its alertness, its aliveness, its flexibility and goes to sleep. Look around you and you will see almost everyone with minds like that: dull, asleep, protected by layers of fat, not wanting to be disturbed or questioned into wakefulness.”

After copying this in my journal on November 29, I wrote the following:

Come, Beloved Jesus…
WAKE US UP!!! WAKE ME UP!!!

Then on Saturday morning on the memorial of St. Francis Xavier, as I was preparing to hear Confessions at St. John the Evangelist Church in Interlachen, I wrote the following:

Yes, Jesus
You have awoken my Spirit.
Yes, I will follow
and lead the way
through the darkness into your heart
although I am already within, but I didn’t know it!

O Jesus, all alone again
Bob, my brother priest helps me through the bog

You truly have come
to set a fire on the earth
and division.
You baptize me with your blood…so hot at first that I recoil

Patience, kindness, gentleness
Thanks for the fruit and sweetness
Generosity, purity, faithfulness
Thanks for the warm bread
Love, joy, peace,
Thanks for the strength and depth!

How long you must have waited for my soul to awaken
Groggy, whiney complaining

And yet, I feel and experience
how you purify me
spit on my eyes
hold me close to your breasts
like my Italian grandmother, Teresa,
pulled me in with her love and arms
It was so very uncomfortable
to breathe and think
with my face smashed into Grandma’s breasts
And yet, I now long for that uncomfortable love that conquers all

O Beloved God,
smash my face into your breasts
make me uncomfortable
call me to grow up and mature

I am here this morning
with You,
Just like three years ago
after Bishop John encouraged me
that sometimes I have to carry my cross
And then the man who ordained me
laid hands on me again
and forgave me.
As I drove down to Interlachen to hear confessions,
it hit me
the oils of Chrism flooded my eyes,
poured down on my beard (that has been long ago shaved off)
and into my heart and soul

Yes, You, O God, have ordained me
to be Your son
Your brother
and your lover
I am truly Father Ron
and I tremble at the prospect
just as every father does
as his tiny babe drawn from his loins and his beloved’s womb
is placed in his hands for the first time
Love pours like oil—a father forever
even if it costs him his life,
he will defend his wife and children
and then the world.
And now I beg forgiveness
and as I whimper my request
the words pour forth from your heart and soul
as you are tortured on the cross
“Ron, today you will be with me in Paradise!”

Today?!
Take it in. Savor it.
Be protected by these words.
Rejoice in it.
Celebrate it.
O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining
This is the day and night of Our dear Savior’s, and Our birth.
Long lay my world and our world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared,
my Father and your Father,
my Brother and your Brother,
my Lover and your Lover
and my soul felt its worth
a thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices
for yonder and here breaks
a new and glorious morn—
Fall on my knees
I hear the angel voices
“O night divine when Christ was born,
O night, O night divine”

Breathe on me Jesus
Enflame my soul
Burst my dullness and darkness
Bring Light! Bring Light!
Use me
Your will be done
Shatter my deafness, my loneliness, and my darkness
Devour me so that I might live
Breathe in…
Breathe out…
Proclaim to all the world and universe
God is with us,
Always,
Until the end of time…and beyond!!!
o my! o wow! and oooh!!!

*************************************************************************
And then on Sunday morning as I was sipping my coffee on the back porch and praying the Office of Readings, I read the words of St. John Damascene, priest and doctor, on his feast day:

“O Lord, you led me from my father’s loins and formed me in my mother’s womb. You brought me, a naked babe, into the light of day, for nature’s laws always obey your commands.
By the blessing of the Holy Spirit, you prepared my creation and my existence, not because man willed it or flesh desired it, but by your ineffable grace. The birth you prepared for me was such that it surpassed the laws of our nature. You sent me forth into the light by adopting me as your son and you enrolled me among the children of your holy and spotless Church.
You nursed me with the spiritual milk of your divine utterances. You kept me alive with the solid food of the body of Jesus Christ, your only-begotten Son and our God, and you let me drink from the chalice of his life-giving blood, poured out to save the whole world.
You loved us, O Beloved…”

Beloved, I pray you are having a wonderful Advent. I am. This week I am going to be courageous and offer you a homework assignment. Go ahead and read Psalm 104 out loud. It speaks in very poetic words and imagery of how God creates our world and all who live in it. God is an Awesome God. God is Good…ALL THE TIME!
Yes, Jesus!

Love, joy, peace,
Father Ron Moses +

CROSSING THE LINE by Bill Cain

Review by: Ron Camarda, MWSA

Crossing the Line takes the reader on a journey to Iraq and back again. The subtitle is misleading. The story isn’t just about one soldier, his eight-month pregnant wife, his children, an embedded journalist, or even the 42nd Field Artillery Brigade faced with a deployment to a warzone that was different than any other war, and yet a war like all other wars. As the story unfolds, the reader is allowed to experience, taste and be frustrated by the absolute boredom, tedious desert buildup and the aching for home along with the adrenalin rushes of the battle. The book is personal.

Those of us who have served or deployed (and those of us who watched and prayed for a loved one go off to war and return), Bill Cain captures that incredible place where a few days of waiting seem like an endless twilight zone. As a young intelligence officer at the time, Cain gives insight about how difficult and frustrating simple communications were in 1991. Cain places letters and notes of family, peers and enlisted throughout the book in chronological order, even though many were actually received days, weeks, or months later. It seems to be effective. Bill was tortured by not knowing whether his son was born. Historically, this book is very important for us to understand a time when most communications were done by snail mail. Today it is unfathomable for us to experience a war without Skype, Facebook, or cell phones. Yet the real fear of biological and chemical warfare wreaked havoc on the troops and all of us back home. It reminded me of my first convoy in Iraq in 2004 when I was terrified, whiney and just didn’t know what was coming next. Cain does a good job in showing the differences and similarities of the two Iraq wars. If a picture is truly worth more than a thousand words, the picture of Cain just before deployment with his caption pierce our humanity: “That’s me in the holding area, Rhein Mein, trying to cope with all the emotions of the moment.”

Even after we veterans return, we notice that something is left undone. Something remains in the desert, in the loneliness of being with others, and longing for the love in our bed beside us. Lovers have lost days, weeks and months that will never ever be found. We attempt to write them in books, journals, poetry, or songs, but we seem to never finish the story that has no ending. Crossing the Line is about crossing into the place of being lost, and then taking a shot at finding our way home…even if home is now changed forever. The true war is within. It isn’t political, although it often masquerades behind the political, capitalist, or communist machines of man’s creation.

Bill and Renee’s son who was born during the Desert Storm is now almost 20 years old. Their children’s lives are forever affected by this five-month deployment to a war zone. Their choice of studies, the kind of family they grow, and their involvements with the military were and are probably profoundly affected. It was only mentioned that their oldest son served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Yes, we are soldiers and soldiers’ spouses…but our greatest love always sustains us and is victorious over any war or battle. The book left me longing for the real mark of the war in Bill’s relationship to his wife, family, and self over the years. Regrettably, Cain inadvertently puts too much emphasis on Saddam Hussein as the source of the war and evil. Much self-criticism of country and self is missing in action.

The last chapters were the most intriguing for me. Bill shares his wisdom as a seasoned colonel with his own bias that sometimes bordered on apologetics. In the chapters leading up to the “crossing of the line” I was a little bogged down by the military jargon, complaints, and tedious details of the plan of war. However, the weaving of Bill and Renee’s letters of love throughout the book kept the storyline anchored. Conclusions were based on his intimate experiences blended with his trustworthy and professional assessment in which disagreement was an option. On a few occasions his neutrality as an historian was skewed to the right, but for the most part he presented a very fair presentation. As one who went into Fallujah, Iraq in 2004 as a chaplain without this knowledge and understanding of the Gulf War, the book would be of great value for college and high school American History courses. The discussions would be lively.

When Bill writes about OIF: “…it’s easy to see how the insurgency was initially fueled by our failure to properly account for the immediate aftermath of war.” and “…it was clear that we had problems to solve beyond the enemy situation in Iraq.” These quotes revealed to me how crucial this book was to our growing awareness of the part we play in the wars of the world. Self-evaluation is always tough. Bill Cain was courageous in his attempt.

Bill Cain offers his own insight, craftily written to allow the reader to insert one’s own insight without negatively or positively reacting to the author. Bill is a hero for serving…especially for writing this thought provoking journey. It warrants all liberals and conservatives to read and then to come together and discuss on a back porch treating each other with profound respect and love.

This book was an honor to read. It offered me the opportunity to also go back to Iraq again to better understand what I (and those who love me) experienced. Thank you.