Thursday, December 27, 2012

How did Joseph feel?

We went to church early on Christmas Eve so we could find a place to sit. As we have done during the past three years we picked a small church in the mountains, to avoid the crowd and appreciate the celebration. We sat in the first pew listening to the Christmas choir and looking at the decorations, waiting for the church to fill and Christmas Mass to start.
Kids are reading books. I am trying to pray... It's snowing  outside and I worry about driving down the mountains in the dark.  I always tend to worry.

There is a large Nativity scene near the altar and I notice Saint Joseph. As I stare at him, I think about how he must have worried on that evening and night when he arrived in Bethlehem with Mary. They probably had no money and could not find a place to stay. Then Mary tells him she knows the baby is coming soon now. Did he panic? He did not have a safe and warm place for her to give birth. They find a stable, a place for animals. Probably not clean and comfortable. How did Joseph feel welcoming his first born son and placing Him in a manger? What a humbling experience for a father, especially for Joseph, who knew Jesus was to be the son of God. Then people find out and come to see the baby, to pay homage. They all witness the poor and raw circumstances.

I wonder how worrisome and trying that experience really was for Saint Joseph. The Bible does not tell us much about it. He was a man, like all of us, with doubts and fears. But he had faith.

Faith is a gift we are all born with, but like every gift, it has to be nurtured with practice and patience.

Christmas Mass is now about to start. I pray I can continue in my path of worrying less and embracing joy more.

Thank you for your sacrifice and example of faith, Saint Joseph.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The real Christmas light

Sometimes things just click and so it did tonight for me, while we were doing a light show with the children. During Christmas time, we drive around different neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights.
But why do people decorate their houses and lawns with Christmas lights? Why do you put lights on a Christmas tree? Sure; to make them look cool and beautiful, but where is the idea coming from?
Jesus comes at Christmas. He comes to this dark world to be the light of the world, to show us the way, to be our guide. It's as simple as that. Will we follow Him? That the question.
As we think about that, we can enjoy some very special Christmas light displays, like the one below:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Christmas gathering and our Christmas letter

A warm gathering of friends at our house for fellowship, Rosary, Christmas music and yummy dessert. 
Thank you to our friend Sara C. for her wonderful eye for photography.

Holy Christmas 2012

Dear friends and family,

Last week we started sending our Christmas letter.
Then, something tragic happened in Connecticut. We stopped. It is a time for prayer and reflection.

God knows suffering. He sent his son to die for us. He knows what it means to lose a son.
Jesus came to bring us hope.
We can help heal this wounded world, if we accept God's loving laws and if we are willing to start saying no to violence: in movies, in the media and in the womb.
This is our new Christmas reflection this week.

Merry Christmas

Enrico and Norine Contolini (and children)


There is an unusual Christmas song that our children like called: “Leaving Heaven”, by Matthew West (  It goes like this:

I’m gonna walk around that broken Earth
Trading in these streets of gold
So if you ever wonder how much you’re worth
You should know
That you’re the reason why I’m leaving Heaven
Just a little old manger, in a little old town
But it’ll do just fine for this humble King
I’m leaving Heaven let all the angels sing
I’m gonna walk around that broken Earth
Trading in these streets of gold
So if you ever wonder how much you’re worth
You should know
You’re the reason why I’m leaving Heaven
And when my time comes to an end
I’ll lay down my life like a truest friend
And when I get back home, I’m gonna make some room
So, don’t you worry, ‘cause I’m coming back for you
And you will say goodbye to that broken Earth
You’re gonna walk on streets of gold
And if you ever wonder what my love is worth
Well you should know
That I’m the reason you’ll be seeing Heaven
Indeed, Jesus left Heaven for us, taught us the “beauty” and value of poverty and of innocent children. He showed us what it means to serve and to love. 
He showed us the meaning of suffering, to not fear it and how to be thankful. In fact, Eucharist (from the Greek Eucharisteo) means Thanksgiving!
So, what have we learned from His example since last Christmas and what do we want to learn from Him this coming year?
As a family, we are trying to recognize our gifts, knowing that from thankfulness comes joy. 
As the book: One Thousand Gifts ( suggests, each member of our family is keeping a list of what we are thankful for. We are slowly working up to 1,000. 
Here are some of our favorites:
Paolo (7):
-          Going to Wal-Mart with mommy
-          The Most Wonderful Mrs. Morrell (my 2nd grade teacher)
-          My new friends Kuba and Brody
-          Tortellini and Subway sandwiches
-          Playing on the Tigers soccer team
Pietro (10):
-          Changing school to Hutchinson Elementary
-          My watch from Zio Franz in Italy
-          My special trip to Utah with daddy and meeting Gail Halvorsen (
-          Playing soccer at recess
-          Watching Shawn the Sheep on the computer
Emanuela (13):
-          Joining American Heritage Girls
-          Monday and Wednesday nights because they are Gymnastics nights
-          Newborn babies, and little children
-          Meeting and getting to know our distant cousin Gina in Oregon
-          Snuggling
Isabella (14):
-          Marching Band Season
-          New Friends in High School
-          Crater Lake and its amazing blue waters
-          Meeting and touching the Kiwi bird Manaia at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
-          The feel and smell of the pages of new books
-          Losing seven pounds
-          Health, health and health again
-          My $150 piano found at the parish rummage sale and listening to the girls play on it.
-          Kids humming when they are creating things
-          When Paolo wants to sit next to me and hold my hand during our Sunday rosary
-          Norine's pony tail
-          My four day work week
-          Empty beach by the ocean in Oregon and finding star fish in low tides
-          LED Christmas lights that do not need replacing
-          Our weekly Holy Hour and the peace it brings
What is your family thankful for this year?
Our best wishes for Christmas!  
Enrico, Norine, Isabella, Emanuela, Pietro and Paolo Contolini

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent Prayer

I was going to post about St. Lucia at our house and the date with Norine, but then the sad events in Connecticut brought darkness to the weekend. While our prayers and tears are with the families affected, words cannot express what the hearts feel. So, instead of trying to reason about what happened, I am just going to share a very simple but powerful prayer by Max Lucado, which was posted yesterday here:

Dear Jesus,

It's a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.
These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.
The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?
Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod's jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.
Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.
Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won't you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.
This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.
Your Children

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Leonardo Da Vinci Exhibit

Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci invented a "floodlight" using a candle to work at night? He also designed a bicycle, a system of ball bearings to reduce friction, he improved the Archimede's screw, he experimented with flying machines and perpetual motion, and much more...
Paolo was at a friend's house today, Norine and Emanuela went to a children chorale concert and so Pietro, Isabella and I, the engineering types, visited the Da Vinci Exhibit: Really impressive!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Lord withholds no good thing

As we prepare for Christmas, in Psalm 84 we find: "The Lord withholds no good thing", because in the end "life's good things are usually not things".

I like when she sings: "Pain is no measure of His Faithfulness". Jesus came and suffered the ultimate pain for us. Enjoy the journey to Christmas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Suffering and the Eucharist

A friend of mine runs a website called One Billion Stories where he collects testimonies of Catholic people along their journey of faith. This story struck me in a special way. The reason? The video is about suffering and the Eucharist. We all experience suffering in life, some of us more than others, but how we handle it determines our joy or sadness. I struggle with this. The secret, I am discovering, is "thanksgiving". Giving thanks for the small things and giving thanks even for the hard things. We are not entitled to anything. Everything is a gift from God. Every new day, every breath we take, every beat of our heart. So, give thanks...Eucharist comes from Greek and means "thanksgiving". So Eucharist is the secret.

Father John Nepil Experiences Suffering on his Path to Knowledge of God

Friday, October 5, 2012

The day Pietro met Gail

Back in 1948, the United States was involved in the Berlin Airlift, flying food, fuel and supplies to the starving population of that destroyed and divided city. One young pilot, named Gail Halvorsen, felt a call to do something special for the children of Berlin. On his way toward the short landing strip at Tempelhof airport, he started to drop candies with little parachutes for the children that gathered around the airport.  His simple act of kindness and generosity changed his life as well as that of many other people.
Colonel Gail still drops candies to children now around the world to deliver an important message. He tells them to be thankful for all that they have, to put others before self and to invites follow their dreams.
You can read Gail's story in several books:
Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot, The Berlin Candy Bomber, Candy Bomber. Pietro, our future pilot, and dad met Gail at a candy drop in in Kaysville, UT.
It was a touching, uplifting and emotional experience.
Read more about it:

Thank you Gail for your kindness and for reminding us to always be generous and thankful. May God Bless you.

On our way to Utah

The Mormon Temple

Pietro meets Gail

The helicopter used for the candy drop

Pilots rule

One last picture together
The Great Salt Lake

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thankfulness for: Oregon and... so much more

My theme of this trip and of the time since we have been back in Colorado has been thankfulness. Norine and I are trying to read together a book titled: One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp. We hope to finish it by Christmas... Yes, reading time is very limited.... It is a wonderful, spiritual and inspiring read and a compelling invitation to be thankful to our creator for what we have and experience every single day, starting with the very small things.  Being thankful is helping to change my attitude and to enjoy each moment more. All that we are, we have received for free from God and does not come from our ingenuity, money or hard work. I am thankful for my children and their health and smiles and hugs even when Iam grumpy. I am thankful for the opportunity to visit wonderful places and experience life in other parts of the world. I am also thankful for the sun that shines and the cool air that is starting to bring touches of fall to Colorado. I am thankful for my wife and life companion, who accepts me for what I am and helps me to be better. And today, I am thankful for these pictures and the memories that they bring back. And for "Jonathan", the little Redwood tree that Pietro bought at the  rangers' station in Crescent City, CA. I hope it will survive here in Colorado.
If you  read my previous post, I promised to "disclose" the location of the pictures shown there. The waterfall is Multnomah Falls near the Columbia River. The pictures by the ocean were taken in Bandon and Tilamook (yes, that's where they make Tila-Mook cheese), Oregon.

I still want to post a video of the 19-legged star fish.  Just need some time to pull it off the video-camera. Sign off for automated email updates (up on the right side of this page), so you'll know when I do.

I also have a couple of more exciting things (at least, I think they are) to post really soon, so do come back to visit again...

Pietro, at the amazing 747-Evergreen water park in McMinnville, OR. 
Scooby doo on his shirt seems excited as well.


starfish at a tide pool in Bandon, OR

Enjoying a cool beach and tide pools

I have always wondered why the Oregon license plate has a huge evergreen tree on it, and not the beach. After driving hundreds of miles through the state, I now know. Duh....

One of the most beautiful lakes we have ever seen: Crater Lake, OR

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The sound of the Ocean

What do you think about when you hear the word "ocean"?
For our family it is not just hot sun, warm waters and  snorkeling, but rather quiet beaches, cool breeze and amazing tide-pool discoveries in early morning fog.  We spent ten days driving along the Oregon coast and experiencing sand dunes, cold ocean water, observing star fish and anemones, watching birds flying just above the crest of waves and then diving beak first to catch a fish. What kind of birds are those?
More than anything, Norine and I enjoyed sitting on a quiet cool beach and just listening to the sound of the waves. Have you ever listened to the waves? what do they tell you? They have a soothing effect and the ability to make me forget about my worries and list of things to do...

So where were the photos below taken?  Wait for the next post to find out.