Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Library

An hour at the library can give one the impression that this is a different world from the one I grew up into on Detroit's East Side in the 50s.

Of course, libraries are bigger than the small parish school library at Saint Thomas the Apostle Church on Miller and Townsend.

Yet, when I visit to do some reading and internet work, the tone is one of anxiety as people are looking for a job online, and more.

Facial expressions, and outbursts of anger are common while people sit at one of the eight computers available in this small suburban library on Gratiot, just north of Fifteen Mile Road.

During my lunch break, I find this adventure a rewarding one.

It helps me stay in touch with what people are experiencing daily.

Once, someone passed me a note asking me if I was a priest and then quickly printing that his mother didn't want him living at home anymore.

When I had a chance to respond, he didn't want me to visit him and his mother at home.

So much for reality.

Life is a challenge.

I love every moment of it.

Cold. . .

So, you're wondering and questioning God on this polar freeze, are you?

With months of this cool air coming our way, I've learned to accept it.

After all, what's the alternative?


If I don't feel the 'freeze,' I'm dead.

And, that option, is far from my thinking since I enjoy life so much.

People tell me they're waiting for the robin. 

They are.

Furthermore, many of those same persons are secluded in their homes.

That option doesn't work for me either.

I prefer embracing each day, come as it may, and accept it.

The need to adjust to the great Weatherman is the best I can do, I think.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

When My Dog Dies

Often, I think of my first Bichon Frise dog, Wolfgang, a Canary Island favorite.

Bichon's disposition and temperament is distinguished, and, memorable.

After 13 years of joy as my family pet, this pure-white beauty died after kidney problems, among others ailments.

Finally, I needed to recognize that his dying was about him more than about me.

And, I had to euthanize him, although it was a most difficult task.

Grief is a process.

It took time for me to come to terms with the loss of this faithful, unconditional companion.

Wolfgang greeted me at the door as I came home each night. 

With exuberance, he jumped and licked, and delighted me each time.

Pets are part of one's family.  He was always there.

Loyal, and more.

Too watch him struggle those final days was wrenching.

And, when they die, a part of their family passes also.

Yet, I relish the time I had with him at home, the jogs we ran, the routine of eating together, and playing often.

How one gets through the loss of a pet who dies, I'll never know.

Human grief is as grueling a process of wondering if I did all I could to keep Wolfgang well, and more.

When I finally had to put Wolfgang down, we had our exit time, and the doctor injected the medicine.

Dear God,
I'm grateful for the time
with Wolfgang.
You gave us pets like guardians to be companions.

Like all life, however, that moment of breathlessness
takes my breath away.
It did.

Such an unconditional love manifest in Wolfgang is unmatched.

No one dies until I die, however.  Memory and more lives on in me to savor long and forever.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Black History Month

It is.

And, one repeats history if one forgets the story.

A bit of such history emerges often as I recall sitting in a clinic at Georgia and Van Dyke in Detroit the 60s.

Obviously, at least to me, I was the lone Caucasian in the waiting room.  I resisted leaving after realizing that fully. 

"No," I said to myself quietly, "learn what African-Americans experience when they may be the only Blacks in an all-White restaurant, for example, I thought.

I stayed.

And, I learned a valuable lesson that hot, summer day while I was employed at the late Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish during the summer months between my college years at Saint Mary's, Orchard Lake, MI., my alma mater.

By the way, I noticed online that the former school, church and rectory  land is for sale for $65,000 for development at Townsend and Miller where the sprawling campus thrived since 1927.  The large convent with its two stories and flat roof is the lone building still sitting there housing Boystown, I'm told.

Just happened to notice that as I seek to purchase the convent at St. Peter's Parish, Harper Woods, where I'd relish establishing a three-quarter home, SU CASA:  YOUR HOME - a Center for Addictions and Substance Abuse for working and recovering residents.

40 million US addicts are in needs of supervision and support in an epidemic this nation has yet to address fully.

That's an aside, although it is a story line of all Americans confronted by attachment disorders, and more, awaiting some closure, healing, and remission, perhaps.

Black History Month.

So much of my story is wrapped up in it.

It is.

Wisdom of Winnie the Pooh!

"Some people talk to animals.  Not many listen though. That's the problem," noted author of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne.

It is a problem.

Listening is part of a dialog.

That is, unless one relishes talking without respect for a response from the one listening to the monolog.


Practicing my listening skills is as artful as communicating well without a lot of words.

When Cara, my four-legged, brown and black dog emerges, I know she wants something, if only recognition by way of a 'pat' on the head.

I've learned to stop and play a bit as she often jumps up on my lap at the computer.

Yes, I may be too busy for her, but, Cara has taught me to take time out amid a deadline for a newspaper story, the need to get to a pastoral visit, or, being on time for Mass, or confessions.

On the other hand, Woofie, my pure white Bichon, often wonders who is getting all the attention in the house.

If I listen, I feel her feelings of being forgotten or left out at times.

You know, a parent goes to the one who needs dad or mom most at any given moment.

And, Cara was spayed weeks ago with a transparent, circular cone crown decorating her head, and having her band into everything, it seems.

Free now of that piece, she is back to her usual self.

That is, frisky, vibrant and with ears always perked high in vigilance.

Listening to both companions affords rapport and wellness.

Both teach me much.

Listening, mostly, to what they are attempting to tell me in their world totally devoid of twenty-six letters of the English alphabet.

Nevertheless, they are effective teachers when I pay attention.

After all, that's what spirituality is all about:  Awakening to the present moment.

It is.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Family, Flag, Freedom

When I passed Saint Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Clinton Township, Michigan, earlier today on my way to the library, appointments, the hospital, and a few meetings, I was proud and pleased to see the waving red, white and blue.

After all, it's the U.S. flag that the military personnel presented to my dear parents when we buried, PFC. Lukas Ventline, my brother, who died in Vietnam this day 46 years ago.

That distinguished flag decorated the space over the balcony door where I live in the pastoral Harrison Township where about 25,000 residents relish their boats and other water toys on the bright blue, frozen now, Lake Saint Clair.

Running, bicycling, or, walking my dogs daily is a treat in this town.

Yet, all that that precious flag symbolizes, I cherish mostly.

I do.

The oldest of seven, with two sets of twins, my parents were farmers in Port Austin and Cheboygan, MI., before they came to the Motor City of Detroit to find work in the automotive industries not far from that diverse and 'model' city of Hamtramck, a diverse community like Dearborn.

Hamtramck became home of many immigrants from Poland in the 50s when dad worked at the Dodge Plant, and, the Budd Company, while today immigrants are emerging from elsewhere, including the Middle East, Bosnia, Albania, South Asia, and more.

Red, white and blue stripes astound me.

Like all symbols, my flag flies high for freedom, and more.

In it I see my dead brother, the oldest of seven of us who grew up on Detroit east side.

And, even though it represents less today than I've witnessed over the decades, I still love this Nation.

I am a proud American.

And, I will stand up when I see injustice that brings tears to my eyes.

Tirelessly, I wonder what's happening to my land, my home, my flag and all that it represents

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Families and Faith

Drawing from a four-decade study of 350 families, authors Vern Bengston and Norella Putney and Susan Harris, professors of the University of Southern California, show how faith is passed on from generation to generation in their tome of 267 pages, Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations.

Parental influence is a considerable factor in children embracing the faith demonstrated in the family early on in the life of children.

Family and faith is deeply entwined, beyond a cultural assumption that it is solely an individual choice.

Strengthening the bonds of one may enhance the continuity of the other.

The millennial generation is largely influenced by parents who practiced no faith in the family.

This book merits a close read by pastors, and, others.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Voice of Faithful

Thomas Hinsberg is a well-known leader in Metro Detroit.

He asserts that the reason for the reduction in abortions is the use of contraceptives, Catholic teaching opposing them, yet ignored by 80 percent of American Catholics.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


With my twin sister, Patti, 65 years of living are celebrated Feb. 9th.

She's older, of course by a few minutes.

Ladies first, you know!

Over this time I've learned:

1)  Life is short, live it to the fullest;

2)  To keep it positive since others may want to dwell on the negatives side of life's roller-coaster like desolation and consolation;

3)  Without prayer, I am a noisy gong and an empty cymbal to paraphrase Paul from the Christian scriptures;

4)  Rest is as vital as exercise to wellness;

5)  Laughter makes the trek most enjoyable;

6)  Envy, jealousy and other evils run rampant.  But, goodness has the final word with God.

7)  Relating is most important in building bridges, and more.

8)  Being a pastor and a counselor 37 years affords me the luxury to watch people mend and morph.
9)  Good news is that,  GOOD!

10) Keep life simple and move ahead giving and forgiving all the way to heaven, unless one has other plans.

11)  What goes around, comes around.  It does!

12)  Prayer does work.  Asking allows me to receive from the Maker who is so generous, praise be to God all the time.

13) Even when it seemed that I had little, I had enough.

World Marriage Day

On this Fifth Anniversary of the signing and enacting of the Macomb County, MI., Community Marriage Covenant Policy, this second Sunday of February is proclaimed, World Marriage Day.

Since Americans never do enough for marriage and family, here's another effort at enhancing this revered foundation of our society.

With Valentine's Day in the wings, Feb. 14th, all the more that the globe celebrates marriage.
Hearts, bird and roses are emblems of love.

In 1981, World Marriage Day began in Baton Rouge, La., with couples inviting their local bishop and mayor to proclaim Valentine's Day as "We Believe in Marriage Day."

More celebrating of marriage will occur March 9th at 3 pm in Big Jack's in Roseville, MI., and also on Thursday, June 19th at 4:45 in the Warren, MI.,  Civic Center Atrium with countless clergy, marital advocates, and civic leaders, including Warren Mayor Jim Fouts who will address participants after the opening  prayer June 19th. 

DVDs celebrating family will be produced for airing at this event to show how festive families are today.

The public is welcome.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Welcome to Michigan

Rabbi Yisrael Pinson was seen touring Detroit's first Chabad House in Midtown Sunday.

Good for him.

Outreach and support is the aim of the worldwide Chabad movement for Jews to throw out the welcome mat to other Jews in the neighborhood.

Young people is also the focus of the good Rabbi. His aim is narrow here and that can be most productive.

Thanks be to Yahweh!

The generation of promise will do this.

They will help build Detroit.

They will.  And, Rabbi Pinson knows this.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Contraceptive Culture Cannot Stop Rolling of Lowest Abortion Rate Since '73

Abortion is down.

That number has descended to 1.06 million in 2011.

That's down from about 1.2 million in 2008 according to the Guttmacher Institute.

They wouldn't have a reason to lie since Guttmacher supports abortion access.

A double standard is upheld by the media who savor Pope Francis' tone on controversial issues, but, with abortion, the media chooses to spill little if any ink or digital notice on the pope's opposition to abortion.

The generation of promise marched by millions in Washington, D.C. this past January on the anniversary of the memorial holocaust taking of human life.

They will win this battle to end destruction of life in and outside the womb.

They will.