Dear Friends in Christ,
I received the call when I picked up my messages, “Fr. Jim, this is Craeg. I am at the Veterans Administration Hospital. Please give me a call.” Although I have kept in touch with Craeg and Di Ann over the years, the call brought me back at least 30 years when I first got to know Craeg as a veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars. As God’s beautiful design would have it, it was at Mary, Mother of the Church that our relationship first began through the RCIA—the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Getting to know Craeg as his sponsor for Confirmation, I was also there when I witnessed his falling in love with Di Ann and their subsequent marriage; but also in the hard times through his heart transplant, the death of his son and Di Ann’s cancer.
So at his bedside once again, it was good being with Craeg and Di Ann seeing the two of them still holding hands after all these years! Before I anointed Craeg, he shared the highs and the lows of his life—including the wonderful miraculous story of God’s Providence that brought him a new heart—literally. As I have witnessed, God’s designs are truly beautiful!
This was my thought as I was praying the Rosary the other morning. As many of you know I am usually up at 5am for my morning prayers in the rectory chapel. As at church, so in the rectory, I have a tabernacle, so am able to begin most every day with a significant time for prayer and adoration before Mass in the morning at church. But on this particular day, praying the rosary, in light of my pastoral visit with Craeg and Di Ann, I felt an overwhelming need to thank God in my prayer.
Upon further reflection, I have felt this same way when praying all of the mysteries of the rosary. It surprised me when I realized that this overwhelming need I feel to thank God, was not only when I was praying the joyful, glorious, and luminous mysteries of Jesus’ life, but also came to me most profoundly when praying the sorrowful mysteries; when I was thinking about Craeg for example, and the cancer that is now ravaging his body. What is so overwhelming is the love of God that Craeg and Di Ann are sharing in their marriage I witnessed, as well as the understanding that Di Ann is able to give, because of her own bout with cancer. Within and between them God’s unmistakable fingerprint—Peace and Divine Love.
What I came to see through all of this and what I want to share with you today is the bright star I see shining over Bethlehem. The place of Jesus’ own birth. As that star guided the wise men, so that star continues to guide through all the mysteries of our life: the joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and luminous.
Yes, I have with the wise men, felt the overwhelming need to go to Bethlehem! With you and in the Holy Spirit of Advent, I have a need to thank, praise, glorify, and adore God. God with us through it all . . . and even now in this time of waiting.
Within our hearts this Advent season, may we come to reflect on God’s marvelous designs. And in the time we set aside for prayer each day, may God bless us on our Advent pilgrimage to Christ through all the mysteries of our life.
My Love in Christ,
through Mary, Mother of the Church,
Fr. Jim Perkl, Pastor
P.S. Permission was given to me by DiAnn and Craeg to share this story of living faith with you.