Grotesque Spirit

Have you ever seen a gargoyle wedged in the trunk of a tree?

I saw one recently, and it scared me. It looked evil, as if it had materialized from the ether, or some misguided soul had put it there as an antennae for bad mojo.

I know these gargoyles and grotesques, adorn buildings and cathedrals, and it makes me wonder, what’s their purpose? Do they sit atop cathedrals as guardians to ward off evil, or are they simply reminders of the evil that exists in the world, and we are safer inside the church?

I sincerely hope it’s the former.

I love the idea that ugly disfigured monsters are in fact the trusted custodians of sacred places, and the warriors of God. This idea persists into our own modern day culture. Chewbacca, Groot, Cyrano de Begerac, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Beast (Beauty and the Beast), The Incredible Hulk, Sloth from Goonies, are all monstrous in appearance yet driven by an indomitable spirit and an inherent sense to protect those they love.

It got me thinking: What else exists in my life that I overlook because of its ugliness? What about myself do I find abhorrent and disgusting that might just hold the key to my true heroic purpose?

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1st Samuel 16:7.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

p.s.

Gargoyle: 1a: a spout in the form of a grotesque human or animal figure projecting from a roof gutter to throw rainwater clear of a building b: a grotesquely carved figure 2: a person with an ugly face

Grotesque: 1a: a style of decorative art characterized by fanciful or fantastic human and animal forms often interwoven with foliage or similar figures that may distort the natural into absurdity, ugliness, or caricature

Blind Faith and Driving

Do I actually believe?

I wish I could say yes. I wish my faith was blind because it would give me freedom.

I could live life in unwavering confidence. Fear of death would be vanquished, uncertainty would hold no power over me, and each breath would fill me with gratitude. My purpose would be God’s purpose and I would no longer torment myself in the search of my “true self.”

But, I struggle. I’m inquisitive, I ask questions, I wonder about stuff. It’s maddening in my mind and I wish I could turn it off sometimes. I seek and seek and seek ad nauseum and I am never closer to any answers.

The rosary has helped to calm my mind. I listen to it on my way to work. Every day, as I weave through traffic I contemplate the Sorrowful, Glorious, Joyful and Luminous Mysteries. It’s proven to be an anchor for my turbulent subconscious. It is God and Mary and Jesus. It is protection. Padre Pio called it his weapon, and I often wonder what forces it keeps at bay. What battle between Good and Evil rages within my own spirit?

What foundation do I build my faith? I think it all starts here, in prayer and contemplation of those mysteries.

Pray the rosary. For me, it has become a doorway for renewal.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Raising Them Catholic

I have two sons, I’m Catholic, and I don’t really know what I’m doing.

We were camping this past weekend in a little town not far from our own. On Saturday I returned from grocery shopping and asked if anyone wanted to come to church with me. I told my oldest he could make a wish whenever he goes to a new church and that seemed to do the trick.

“Besides,” I said, “it’s hot, so the priest probably won’t give us a long homily.”

Boy, was I wrong.

He had a soft voice and undulating cadence, and it wasn’t long before my head was snapping up at regular intervals. I chanced a look to my left, and my son was deep in prayer. I felt a little guilty about it considering I was the one who wanted to go and he was the one utilizing his time to communicate with God.

He must have felt me looking at him because his eyes opened a little. He leaned close to me and whispered, “I just made my wish. It’s a great one.”

I smiled and pulled him a little closer to me. We held hands to say the Our Father and whispered jokes about the older cantor’s unexpectedly powerful voice. “If God has a rock band this guy would definitely be the lead singer.” It suddenly wasn’t so bad sitting there in the heat on those creaky pews.

We got back to the campsite and when I put my younger son to bed we prayed. “Should we pray to Mary?” he asked.

I didn’t know what he meant at first; he has a cousin named Mary, but I suddenly remembered last weekend when he couldn’t sleep. I said a rosary and he listened and it must have made an impression because now he’s requesting Hail Marys.

The next day would be Pentecost Sunday, the day when the Holy Spirit gave Jesus’ disciples the power to speak in tongues, to better communicate and understand the messages and lessons of Christ. Maybe the Holy Spirit came to me too. Maybe my sons do understand me.

“So if you, despite being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:13 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2011&version=NASB)

Or maybe it just whispered, “You’re doing fine.”

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

A Prayer for Cancer

Something is wrong. Something is happening. A loved one is missing. I can’t find him. He vanished or was taken and I am screaming.

I wake up with a gasp. My heart is pumping so hard it’s all I can hear in my ears, and it’s painful in my chest. I’m relieved it’s over, but somehow I still feel scared and alone.

My wife sleeps soundly, I can’t wake her, but I need comfort. I need to feel safe.

And so I pray.

It may sound strange, but praying after a nightmare is a huge reason why I came back so passionately to my faith.

I realized that there in the dark, in my most vulnerable state, I instinctively turn to God for help. He’s always there with open arms. Without Him I am alone and fearful until morning.

Cancer is a nightmare.

It attacks without limit, unfairly assaulting the healthy, the frail, the old, and the young. It creeps in slowly or strikes swiftly. It invades for reasons unknown.

How do you battle something so evil which exists internally? How do you strike the head of the serpent of cancer?

You listen to your doctor and you pray.

You pray your ass off.

Because where there is prayer there is hope and where there is hope there is salvation. To live without prayer is to live without miracles.

If you or someone you know is battling cancer I offer the prayer below. It is a prayer to St. Peregrine, a man who turned to Jesus when he himself had cancer. I hope, in some way, it helps:

O, St. Peregrine during your lifetime you bravely endured the pain of cancer and turned to Jesus for assistance. Today you continue to turn to Him on behalf of others stricken with this devastating disease. We ask for your intercession on their behalf (list names), that they may find strength and, God willing, a miraculous healing. Please also pray that a cure for cancer might soon be found, too relieve future generations of this suffering. https://franciscanmissionassoc.org/prayer-requests/devotional-saints/st-peregrine/

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

A Good Confession

He sat on the left side of the church. A thick rosary hung from his hand as he prayed, eyes fixed on the crucifix above the altar.

I hated to interrupt him, but he must have sensed me staring. He turned abruptly as if awakened from a deep slumber and said, “Do you want to go to confession?”

“Yes, Father.”

It had been a year since I was in a confessional. I blamed it on COVID, but that’s ridiculous. I hadn’t gone because I didn’t want to go. I was afraid, I was embarrassed, I was self righteous. “It’s not like these are the worst sins, I mean God loves me, there are people a lot worse than me, I say the rosary every day…” and on and on and on. Maybe I just didn’t want to stop sinning.

Well, whatever, I finally manned up and went.

I had a whole speech prepared. I’d sort of slide my sins into a new faith-based-manifesto proclaiming my love for Jesus and preempting any admonishment from the priest with a, “…and that’s I why I will go forth and sin no more.”

Instead, I knelt there, spilling out sins and frantically trying to remember the Act of Contrition (FYI it was literally taped on the bench in front of me.)

It was over in minutes. I felt like I had rushed it or that I had forgotten some major sin, but I couldn’t remember anything, so I thanked the priest and went out into the church to say my penance.

By my second Hail Mary I was crying like a baby.

Why?

Was it finally being free of what I had been holding onto for the past year? Was I reveling in Jesus’s unending faith and forgiveness for me? Was I proud of myself for finally confessing? Was I ashamed for ever doubting God’s love? Had I, through confession, given myself a second chance to live the life I want, doing the things I know I should?

Yes.

I encourage you to go. Who knows what weight will be lifted or how loved you’ll feel.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

A Simple Prayer

“God, give me strength. Make the pain in my legs go away just for a little bit so I can run fast so I can help my team.”

My eleven year old son made this prayer before his last track meet. He’s in sixth grade and has been yoked with running the mile and half mile races for his team, his two least favorite events. He comes home every day with a heavy heart.

Recently, during a flag football practice he injured his foot and legs. The pain was bad enough to draw tears.

Before his last track meet I put him to bed and he was distraught. “My legs hurt, Dad, I’m not sure if I can run the race tomorrow.”

I told him he can play it safe and wait until he was closer to full capacity though it might hurt his team. But, if the pain was just pain, and he could push through it, wow, that would be awesome. Because, if he could run the two longest races while injured, he would know, deep in his heart and soul, that he had accomplished something, something no one could take away from him. If he could do that, there’s nothing he couldn’t do. “And,” I said, “Don’t forget you can pray for strength.”

I missed his two big races the next day, but I made it in time to see him get trounced in a relay. The loss did little to dampen his spirits.

“Dad, today before the race I was so nervous my stomach hurt. So, I went to the port-o-potty and prayed. I said, “God, give me strength. Make the pain in my legs go away just for a little bit so I can run fast so I can help my team.’ And you know what? He really did. My legs instantly felt better and I got my best mile time ever!”

In a life of consistently being proud of my son this was the greatest. He taught me the power of simple faith and prayer. He didn’t just pray for himself, he prayed to help his team.

Think about that for a moment.

God loves this stuff.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Memento Mori

Memento Mori.

“Remember Death,” is, I think, the direct translation from Latin, but, what does it mean to me?

Death seems a dark concept to meditate on. I think about it more than I care to admit, and it sometimes spirals me downward. What have I accomplished? What legacy will I leave behind? How will they remember me if I die today?

The message is threefold:

Am I prepared to die, spiritually?

The things that bother me today, do they matter when compared to death?

How should I live my life if every breath could be my last?

It dawns on me that this is my purpose in life. To enter Heaven is to serve Christ. To serve Christ is to serve the sick, the homeless, the naked, the thirsty, the hungry, the doubters, the incarcerated, the dying and the dead. A life of service, prayer and confession prepares my soul for Heaven.

To find happiness is to seek it. The day to day aches and pains of life, act to test me, to wear me down. It is not to say these feeling and problems are not real or unimportant or insignificant. Instead they are a path to seek peace from God. I close my eyes when the pain is too great and I remember: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27.

It’s easy to think about what I would like to do if I knew I had one day to live. A cascade of sin, delectable in its temptation lays open me. But, when I contemplate those options I realize no taste of food, wine or woman would hold a candle to embarking on a great adventure with my family, to hear my sons laugh or watch them conquer some great obstacle. I’d spend my day reveling in their love. Imagine treating every day like that. Every single day seeking their happiness.

Pray, serve, and enjoy the good life. It’s not a bad purpose.

Memento Mori. Memento Vitae.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

D.A.R

Decide. Act. Reflect.

Is this the secret to life?

My mind reels with ideas. My imagination swirls and explodes in short bursts of energetic power. Inventions, careers, books, stories, epiphanies reveal themselves to me, yet nothing comes to fruition. Everything seems unlikely or impossible, so my desires and dreams remain locked in my mind.

Time slips by, and nothing changes. 

Still, a nagging thought follows me into sleep. What if I acted on the imperfect plan?

What happens if I make a decision, put it into action, and reflect on how it went? I imagine that reflection would lead me to another decision. That decision would lead me into more action and so forth.  

Isn’t that the better cycle?

I think I’ll try it. Maybe you should too.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

The Warrior Poet of 4th Grade

I estimate, over the past fourteen years or so, I’ve taught over three hundred students. They have ranged in age from five to eighteen, represent all races that I can conceive, and stick in my memory for good and bad reasons. I have reveled in their successes and helped them through hard times. 

I have attended funerals and memorial services for them and their families. They have made me laugh and cry, tremble with rage and ache for their security. I can’t, for the life of me, remember all of their names or faces, and the years I knew them are starting to run together.

I do remember a few quite vividly, and I certainly remember Dat.

Dat was a student in my first fourth-grade class. He was half Chinese and half Korean and by far the smartest amongst his peers. I remember him for three reasons.

Once, on the bus heading to a field trip, another student was crying. His classmates began snickering, and before I could say anything, Dat spoke up and said, “Don’t laugh at Luis for crying.” As he said it, he stabbed them with his eyes and a hard thin line of lips. He said nothing else, but the laughter ceased quickly.

Compassion and empathy.

Whenever Dat took a test, he never sat down. He would stand and lean over his desk, scribbling furiously. When flummoxed, he would stand straight, tap a finger on his chin, look up at the ceiling, and pace. This contemplative exercise always succeeded. “A-ha!” he exclaimed as he bent over again and finished his response. 

Dat always handed in his assessment last. I would walk over to him and whisper, “Dat, it’s time, my man.” He would hold a finger to my face, respectfully, finish his last thoughts, bow to the test, and say, “Mister…I have finished.”

With extreme reverence, I would place his test on top of the pile and nod solemnly. For some reason, I backed away, like a commoner leaving the court of a king.

Honor.

I had an old brown wing-backed chair in my room. My parents were going to throw it away, and I snatched it. I made a banner for it that read: The Throne of Knowledge. Students could sit upon the throne if they earned it. They could show exceptional self-control when others were off task, or help a friend when they needed it, or for feats of intellectual daring.

On a hot day in May, I announced, “Boys and girls, today we will have a Math Bee. The winner will sit upon the Throne of Knowledge for the rest of the day.”

Dat leaped from his desk, shook his tiny fist in the air, and exclaimed, “The Throne is as good as mine!”

He stood there with a raging fire in his eyes and a face contorted in a manic frenzy. His classmates looked on wide-eyed, and a few laughed nervously, but it was Dat who sat upon the throne after slaying the Math Bee.

For the rest of the day, as students passed him to sharpen a pencil, he would ward them off with an outstretched arm, “Stay away from my kingdom!”

Faith in one’s self.

Compassion, honor, and faith. 

Got Dat?

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Finding Purpose

Photo by Josiah Lewis on Pexels.com

Imagination is the source of your purpose. Let your imagination set you free.

My first Latin teacher was ancient. She was a year away from retirement and had based her career on one objective: conjugate verbs. The classroom was hot and quiet and mind-numbingly dull

In my second year, it was Mr. Pearsall. It was the mid-nineties, and Mr. Pearsall was that decade’s poster boy. He wore pleated pants, striped shirts with a tie, and wire-rimmed round glasses. He was young, a first-year teacher, incredibly smart, and approached Latin in a new way. We still conjugated verbs and translated ancient text, but we also learned about ancient Greek and Roman culture. We had toga parties and read Dante’s Inferno. We learned about gladiators and Greek Myths. I looked forward to every class.

Mr. Pearsall assigned us a project. We could choose to recreate a model of the Via Appia or the Roman aqueducts, we could make a diorama of the Agora, or we could write a modernized, four-paged version of a Greek Myth. I chose the latter.

As part of my project, I would also have to read my creation aloud to the class.

I remember the story of a young kid named Aeneas traveling to New York City. His father, kidnapped by a league of assassins who have taken on Greek Gods’ traits, must be found. Apollo uses a bow and arrow to kill his targets; another uses throwing knives in the shape of lightning bolts, like Zeus. Instead of traveling to the Underworld, he goes to an abandoned subway tunnel. Sisyphus does not roll a boulder up a hill; he’s a homeless man who tries in vain to get the dents out of a soda can. Tantalus scrounges for cigarette butts but has no lighter etc.

The Muse flowed through me that night in the green glow of my giant laptop, for, in the end, my story was twelve pages of action-packed text, not four.

So, to the front of the class, I went. I perched myself on a rickety stool and began reading. It was so long that as I reached the climax of the story, the bell rang. Just as it did, I heard a gasp. Talia, the cute sophomore in the front row, stared at me wide-eyed. “No!” she yelled, “I wanted to hear the end!”

I looked up, dumbfounded. Mr. Pearsall was grinning, “Obviously, an A,” he stated. Even the introverted heavy-metal kid in the back nodded approval.

Folks, this was magic.

Never in my life did I realize I had the power to bring out emotion in others purely through my imagination. I am, by no means, a great writer; still, something in that moment captured the hearts and minds of my Latin class.

I love telling that story. I feel it has power to it. We go through reality, wondering what lies ahead. We get caught up in the minutiae and mundane, yet I think we all search and seek for something else.

We wait and look for answers when maybe we should imagine them. What reality can we imagine for ourselves? What talents do we possess to realize that conjuring?

If, like me, you seek your purpose, go within, and let your imagination set you free.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

%d bloggers like this: