Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Isn't Over Yet!!

Twice in the last couple of days, I've seen friends post as their Facebook status they they have taken down their Christmas decorations. My instant response was, "BUT CHRISTMAS ISN"T OVER YET!!" Isn't it ironic that we see Christmas decorations arrive in the department arrive as early as September in the department stores and many houses have them up around Thanksgiving but the presents have barely been opened and people are ready to take them down.

Yes, in modern day society the Christmas season starts on "Black Friday" and may last as long to December 26th, when everyone has the opportunity to exchange the presents they did not like. What a horrible, secular and commerical view point of Christmas.
But in the Catholic Church, the Christmas seasons starts on the evening before Christmas Day and lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This is traditionally celebrated on the Sunday after the Feast of the Ephany (January 6th)
The four weeks prior to Christmas is the season of Advent. This is the time we were prepare for the coming of our Lord. It is a season of anticipation, of penence and preperation. Then during the Christmas season we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
If you have ever wondered where the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song came from it is from this period of Christmas starting Christmas day. It is said that each of the gifts symbolize a different Christian ideal. I found these at

A Partridge in a Pear Tree: Jesus Christ
Two Turtle Doves: The Old and New Testaments
Three French Hens: The Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity)
Four Calling Birds: The Four Gospels / The Four Evangelists
Five Golden Rings: The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”
Six Geese a-Laying: The Six Days of Creation
Seven Swans a-Swimming: The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit or the Seven Sacraments
Eight Maids a-Milking: The Eight Beatituded
Nine Ladies Dancing: The Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten Lords a-Leaping: The Ten Commandments
Eleven Pipers Piping: The Eleven FAithful Apostles
Twelve Drummers Drumming: The Twelve Points of Doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

The other seasons on the Church calendar are "Ordinary Time" which stretches from Epiphany to Ash Wednesday, "Lent" which last from Ash Wednesday to the Easter Vigil, Easter--which starts Easter Day and lasts until Pentacost and then another stretch of Ordinary Time which lasts from the Monday after Pentacost until Advent.

So don't get in a rush. There is no fire. Keep your Christmas tree up for another week, after all--Christmas only comes once a year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Little Baby Jesus

During this period of Christmas most people's image of Jesus is of the Christ-child--the baby in the nativity. It is interesting that when we celebrate most people's birthdays, we celebrate their whole life and not recall the story of their birth. We think of them in the present, open presents, have cake and ice cream then maybe pop open a beer with them. We don't think back and ask their mom and dad to tell us stories about rushing to the hospital, did they use pain medication etc etc etc.

That being said, the birth of Jesus is what you would call "extraordinary." The virgin-birth, the angels speaking to Mary and Joseph, the travel to Bethlehem, birth in a manger are all things that are worth retelling. I think the most compelling reason to recall the story of Jesus' birth every year is to help us reinforce the fact that Jesus is fully human, as well as fully divine. Without this story, it might be easy to think that Jesus was just a man with great powers. It might be easy to think that God just took over some dude's body. By recalling the nativity, you realize that those are two heretical statements and you realize the enormity of what actually occurred.

Sit back and think, from the moment of conception, God--the creator became the created. God became flesh and went through everything that we go through in life. He was born. As an infant he had to be taken care of, nursed and changed. As a child, he had to be taught--how to eat, how to walk, how to dress. As a teen, you can picture Joseph teaching Jesus a trade--how to build things with wood.

God, the creator of the universe, became incarnate and went through all of that. Why?? Because he had a plan. A plan to reunite himself with us. A plan to be the ultimate sacrifice. Because of his love for us, God became the baby in the manger. We often think of Jesus death on the cross but there was even more to it than that. Jesus went through the same things we did, the hunger, the thirst, being tired, bumps, bruises, PUBERTY--all for us.

I think this idea is beautifully expressed in the Nativity Prayer of St Bernard of Clairvaux that I found at the Catholic Key Blog:

The Nativity Prayer of St Bernard of Clairvaux

Let Your goodness Lord appear to us, that we
made in your image, conform ourselves to it.
In our own strength
we cannot imitate Your majesty, power, and wonder
nor is it fitting for us to try.
But Your mercy reaches from the heavens
through the clouds to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child,
but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts,
the gift of eternal love
Caress us with Your tiny hands,
embrace us with Your tiny arms
and pierce our hearts with Your soft, sweet cries.

Finally, as an aside--can't they make a nativity scene with a real infant? Why does the little Baby Jesus always have to be about 25 lbs??

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reactions to Female Body

I have to make an admission. I have a real appreciation for the female body. That's probably not a surprise and I don't expect that anything I'm going to say is going to come a as a shocker to many. In fact, I expect I would expect that if I said I didn't find women attractive people would think that something was wrong of me. What is sad is how normal and even encouraged a distorted appreciation for the female body is.

Let me preface this by saying that my thinking has changed over the years and still has a long way to go go. Growing up, the way I viewed women was probably the way the majority of boys in today's society view women. If I could get my hands on a Playboy or Victoria's Secret I was all over it. If there was a flash of a naked girl in a movie, the VCR was probably going to be paused so I could get a better view.

Unfortunately for me, and for thousands of boys growing up today, I was seeing that female body as a sexual object. I didn't see her as a sister or a daughter. I saw these women as objects to be used for my gratification. Fortunately, I had a healthy fear of my wife and avoided the pornography pitfall that many husbands and fathers fall into.

I have changed in my thinking although, I have to admit I'm a long way from where I want to be. A big step is when I started learning about the Theology of the Body--which, in a nutshell, is Pope John Paul II's teaching on sexuality. One thing I learned was that in the beginning it wasn't this way. Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed. It wasn't until the fall that they were naked and ashamed. They were ashamed because they saw feared that their bodies would be seen as objects to be used instead of someone made in the image and likeness of God.

A story I learned, and a favorite of mine, was the story of St. Pelagia the Penitent. According to which story you hear, Pelagia was either a stripper or a prostitute who became very wealthy because of her work. One day she was walking by the church in Antioch past a group of bishops. All of the bishops averted their eye so they would not succumb to temptation with the exception of Bishop Nonnus. Bishop Nonnus saw Pelegia's inner beauty as well as her outer beauty. He saw in her a sister in Christ and said to his fellow bishops, "Did not the sight of her great beauty delight you?" Pelegia saw Bishop Nonnus looking at her not with lust in his eyes as she was accustomed to but with the love of Christ came back later that day and heard him preach. She was so struck that she became baptised and led a saintly life.

I've come a ways because of this teaching. I actually used to subscribe to Playboy magazine and even after I had cancelled my subscription I kept all of the back issues. About a year and a half ago, I chucked them--tossed them in recycling. I admit that I thought about putting them on Ebay but realized that by selling them I could possible be encouraging others to sin.

That was a big step for me. I'm not going to pretend that I'm all pious and saintly. I still combat lust everyday and pray that God gives me the virtue to fight this sin. It's a change for me. There are still many days when I need to avert my eyes---and many days when I don't even do that (thank God for reconciliation) But occasionally, I can see a beautiful woman and appreciate her inner and outer beauty without lust taking over. It's a long journey---but by golly---I feel like I'm on my way.
I feel that the Theology of the Body is such an important teaching and would like to blog more about it. What does everyone else think?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Real Catholics

There was a television show on NBC from 1979 to 1984 called "Real People." It was based on a news show but went around the country profiling your average, run of the mill type people--although it centered around the quirky type people the most. "Real People" was a popular show and while I remember it poking fun at a lot of people I think it is important to look at everyone, even the one's who may be a little odd as just "real people." In a mass of humanity, it is very easy to forget that the other person you see is a child of God just like the rest of us.

I think, too often, we tend to make other people faceless people instead of people with cares and concerns, without joys and worries. One way we do that is by stereotypes. Heck, look at catholics and how we are stereotyped. People look at us as joyous, guilt filled type people who are trying to earn our way into heaven. I even wrote before how a "joyous catholic" isn't an oxymoron before. It goes further than that--we see nuns as these stern sisters with rulers who are going to yell at them. There is a horrible stereotype of priests out there due to the scandals. What do you imagine when you picture a catholic mom who stays at home to home school her eight kids?? Probably as some prude who wears "denim jumpers" and is boring as all get out.

I'm here to say that these stereotypes are not true. Catholics are some of the funniest people out there. And I'm talking about Catholics who LIVE their faith. Sure, sometimes it's hidden. Sometimes you have to spend time with the priests to see them laugh. Sometimes you have to see the nuns on their free time in order to see them playing soccer (and hiding the soccer ball under their habits.) Sometimes you have to get to know the Danielle Bean's and the Maggie Crawford's of the worlds to find out that the stay at home moms out there are anything but prudes!

As Catholics we have to live past the stereotypes--that's for sure. We should be happy, and goofy and joyous because we know that whatever struggles we face that we already know the ending. ;-) We also need to return the favor and look out and instead of seeing faceless drones we see those children of God---our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Visitation and Our Own Service--a Reflection on the 4th Sunday of Advent

I am currently in the application process for the diaconate formation process. Part of the application process is for Abby and myself to be interviewed by two separate deacon couples. We had one interview last week and another this week and they were really informal. Really, more of a conversation between ourselves and the other couple. It was really an enjoyable experience. It afforded me an opportunity to ask questions about the process and about the diaconate. The one question that I had for both couples was "why?"

I expect if you ask an average person what the role of a deacon is they would tell that it's to help the priest at mass. It is much, much more than that though. You see, one of the main roles of a deacon is to provide service. They are to take care of the poor, the ill, the sick, and the forgotten. They are there to provide service to their brother and sister.

So my question goes back to, "why?" Why become a deacon if they do what we are supposed to be doing anyway?? Why go through five years of discernment and become ordained to be a minister of charity and justice?? Aren't we all supposed to be ministers of charity and justice? Aren't we all supposed to be signs of Jesus in the world??

In this week-ends gospel reading, Mary is an example of service to another. Mary has just been told by the angel Gabriel that she will give birth to the Messiah. She is also told by the angel that her cousin Elizabeth is with child. Mary rushes off on a long and perilous journey of several days to help take care of her. This is another example of how we can try to follow Mary's example of taking care of one another. It's an example of selflessness.

I think Elizabeth makes a great point when she says, "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" If our Blessed Mother---the Mother of God---is able to offer herself in service to Elizabeth then who are we to sit back and do nothing?? We need to step up and offer our assistance to those who need it.

As for my question as to "why?" I dunno. I mean, I have an idea, but I'm not sure. Good thing the discernment process is five years, huh??

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sex and Broken Glass

I find it interesting that one of the things that turns people away from the Catholic Church is it's teaching in regard to sexual topics. Two thousand years of tradition, history don't mean anything. A claim that it was instituted by Jesus means nothing. The sacraments, the saints, the Bible---none of that means a thing because people see the church's teaching about sex goes against their own beliefs. Heck, some people don't even think that the church should have teachings about sex saying to "keep your beliefs out of my bedroom."

It is very true that the church's teachings go contrary to popular thinking. The church's teachings on birth control, masturbation, divorce or homosexuality seems so archaic!! The church needs to catch up with the times, right?? The author Christopher West says that this type of thinking is like driving on flat tires. It is so ingrained into our thought process that we think it is normal. He says that the church's teaching about sex inflates those flat tires and after you understand it you will wonder why you spent all that time driving around on flat tires.

I would like describe it another way. I see each of the teachings like a broken colored piece of glass. The teaching of pre-marital sex may be a green shard in the shape of a triangle. The teaching on birth control may be a red square. The teaching on masturbation is a sharp golden shape with many sides. All of these teachings are different colors and different shapes.

Society has taken these broken pieces of glass and thrown them in an empty lot where they get partially buried. The shards sticking up through the ground. We then walk through this lot and cut our feet and society tells us that it's perfectly normal to cut our feet. So we see the sadness and hurt that comes from a mistaken view on sex as something that comes with the territory.

That isn't the way the Catholic Church sees these shards of glass though. The Catholic Church takes these pieces. She cleans them off and makes them shining and spectacular. She then lays them out and you will see that even though each piece is different they fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. The Church fits all of these pieces together and as you step back instead of a bunch of individual teachings that are difficult to understand separately, you will see a beautiful mosaic. You gasp and think to yourself, "wow!" You wonder why you didn't see it before.

The Church has done a poor job of telling people, "Step back!! Look at the big picture!" It's spent too much time saying, "if you do that you'll go blind!!!" It wasn't until Pope John Paul II started teaching about the Theology of the Body that people have started looking at this beautiful mosaic that the church has put together from a bunch of assumingly separate teachings. It is part of our responsibility to tell our friends and family to step back and look everything!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Incredible Hulk and Sin

In the comic, The Incredible Hulk, scientist Bruce Banner is exposed a gamma bomb. The exposure to the gamma rays causes Dr. Banner to involuntarily turn into the Incredible Hulk, a giant, green, humanoid monster whenever he gets angry. (Disclaimer: I am NOT a comic book geek so if I get any Incredible Hulk factoids wrong please do not persecute me). In the 2008 movie, The Incredible Hulk, they occasionally put on the screen, "DAYS SINCE LAST INCIDENT" followed by the applicable number.

I have to say, sometimes I feel like Bruce Banner in a constant battle to ward off those temptations and triggers that cause me to sin. I know very well what my faults are and when I fall to temptation and sin I feel like a giant green humanoid monster that makes people go screaming in the other direction. Am I the only one who feels like they have that sign following them around, "DAYS SINCE LAST INCIDENT" and feel the embarrassment when that sign says "zero." At least Bruce Banner only had one sin--that of wrath--that he seems to have to worry about. Sometimes I feel like I have done all of them. I feel like I could go into confession and tell the priest to put me down for a least one of everything. Envy? Yeah. Pride? Okay. Wrath? A few times. Lust? Whoa, Nelly--definitely lust.

Poor Bruce Banner does not seem to have any hope in sight though. He may try anger control techniques or breathing exercises but in the end he is left with only a pair of torn jeans on. (And just why DON'T his jeans rip off anyway?) On the other hand, we have God's grace to help us combat the sins that face us. Through the sacrament of reconciliation, God dusts us off, gives us a new set of clothes to wear and sends us off again. At that point, it doesn't matter if the number on that sign "DAYS SINCE LAST INCIDENT" says "zero" because I'm as clean and pure as the day of my baptism.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Our Lady of Guadalupe

As I drive through the West Side here in Kansas City, which has a large Hispanic community, it is not uncommon to see the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe everywhere--from the sides of buildings to the backs of pick-up trucks. What is this image all about?? Why is it important? I figure that since we are celebrating the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

On December 9, 1531, a man by the name of Juan Diego was walking to mass when the Virgin Mary appeared to him. She asked Juan Diego to go to the bishop and ask that a church be built in her name. Juan Diego did go to the bishop and tell of his vision but the bishop was skeptical and told Juan Diego to return another day.

That evening, Our Blessed Mother again appeared to Juan Diego and encouraged him to return the next day. He did so an again was rejected. The bishop asked Juan Diego to ask her for a sign.

On December 12th, Juan Diego's uncle became ill and he was in a rush to attend to his uncle so he avoided the spot where he first saw the apparition. It didn't matter--Our Lady appeared to him again. She asked Juan about her request for a church and Juan Diego spoke of his sick uncle. She told him that she had already attended to his uncle. As for the sign, she told Juan Diego to go to a nearby hill and pick several roses. It was not the season for roses but Juan Diego found several in full bloom. He filled his cloak with them and ran to the bishop's residence. Juan Diego opened his cloak to show Bishop Zumarraga the roses. A dozen red roses fell out and imprinted on Juan Diego's cloak was Mary's image.

Bishop Zumarraga built the church and dedicated it to Our Lady of Guadalupe and it's written that within ten years some 9 million Aztecs became Christians.

We celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe this second week of Advent, which is our preparation time for Christmas. Advent is the time of year that we not only prepare for the coming of Christ but show hope in times of desolation or despair. In this time of winter, when the trees around us have lost our leaves and everything is brown. Evening comes to us early in the evening and stays with us later in the morning. Certainly, there are no roses blooming. But Our Lady showed Juan Diego roses in bloom on this day and left her image--left it on a cheap cloth made from cactus fibers that should have deteriorated within several years. This isn't a time of despair. It's a time of hope, a time of excitement of preparation for the coming of our savior.

We need to take time out of this busy season and stop preparing for Christmas morning or Christmas day. This season isn't about shopping, or parties, or baking. It's a time when we need to step back and spiritually prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. Maybe our prayer life has become stale. Maybe it's become non-existent and we need to rededicate ourselves. Maybe we need to bring our family together nightly to the family dinner table, surrounding the Advent wreath--light the appropriate candles, pray, and share our faith with our children.

Yes, in this season of Advent, Our Lady of Guadalupe shows us hope. From the death of winter, she shows us life and helps lead us to her son, Jesus Christ. Let us be reminded to take the time to prepare ourselves and our family spiritually for the coming of Jesus.

A couple of interesting side notes. Like I said, the cloak that the image was on is called a tilma. It's made out of cactus cloth and should have deteriorated after twenty years or so. But it can still be seen 470 some years later at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. In the 1920's a Freemason exploded a bomb near the image. Wrought iron and marble that was around the image was destroyed but the image was undamaged. Modern examinations of the image show no stenciling or drawing, no use of dye or paint. Also, images have been found in the eyes of Our Lady. For more information go to

Friday, December 11, 2009

What to Say When You Don't Know What to Say

I learned the other day that part of the aspirancy stage of the diaconate program is going to Research Hospital and learning how to minister to those who are sick and dying. I really think this would be good training for me because I stink when dealing with those who are facing troubles. I can be very empathetic but there is something there that makes it difficulty for me to convey that empathy.

It may be because of this defense that I have to put on when I go to work. I feel like at work the police have to be stoic--the ones who are being strong while everyone else can crumble around us. That's a reason that police officers develop such a dark sense of humor. When we are at scenes it seems better to crack a bad joke than to shed a tear.

That's not to say we don't offer sympathy. It's part of the job that comes with having sergeant stripes on your sleeves. I have to be the one that goes to the family members and says, "I'm sorry for your loss" and give a human touch. It seems fake to me sometimes though. Maybe it's the bullet proof vest I'm wearing or maybe it's this imaginary shield we put on when we put on the uniform.
It's a gap I want to get across though because I feel it creeping into times when I'm not on crime scenes or dealing with strangers. For example, Jackie Malena is the wife of one of the officers who works for me. She has been battling cancer since 2001 I believe?? Her husband, Joe, has worked for me since 2007. In the last two and a half years, they have traveled all over the country looking for treatment. This week it was decided that she needed to start chemo again and she will be traveling to Tulsa, OK every two weeks for the next six months for treatment.

Today, I was texting Joe and he said that he doesn't know what God's plan is. You know what---I knew every single cliche in the book to throw at him. "It's not our will--it's about God's will." or "God never gives us more than we can handle." I don't know---it just seemed cheesy and fake. I don't understand this phenomenon. All my life, I've been known as a good listener. I'm the guy to go to when you have personal problems so why do I seem so stiff when it comes to this??

I don't know. All I can say is, "Joe, you know I love you and Jackie and you guys are in my prayers." And all I can ask is for anyone reading this to offer the Malena family your prayers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Seeing God

There is a service offered by the Kansas City Area Transit Authority called "Share-A-Fare." The service provides door-to-door service to those whose disabilities prevent them from using traditional bus service. The service has on all of their vehicles two hands holding a coin between them. Well, every time I see a Share-A-Fare car or bus driving next to me with that icon, I don't see two hands holding a coin. I see a priest holding the blessed sacrament up during the consecration.

I suppose there is nothing wrong with seeing God in unintended symbols such as a sign on the side of a bus. We often see God in sights in nature such as a beautiful mountain view or while looking up at the stars. We can even see God in man made structures such as in a cathedral or a piece of art.

The one place where we should see God and often don't is in each other. I'm not saying in anyway that we are God. But we are made in the image and likeness of God. We should see each others as brothers and sisters. We should see Jesus in the face of everyone. I realize I need to work on this because, well lets face it, people are stupid. People are annoying. It is difficult to see Jesus in that person from work who talks too much and is always gossiping. It's difficult to see Jesus in the cubical next to you who has a body odor problem. It's really difficult to see Jesus in the people that I deal with at work. It may be the crack addict who has been "robbed" once again or the drunk who has passed out in the middle of the road and soiled himself.

Jesus tells us that the two most important commandments is to love God above all others and to love others as we love ourselves. I think that's why the cross is a brilliant icon for the Christian faith. Yes, like the vertical beam of the cross, we are to love and praise God. But we also have the horizontal beam of the cross. Like that beam, our love is to go horizontal too. Our love is to go up to God and out to our neighbors.

If I can see an image of God in a bus sign, why is it difficult to see an image of God in the people who are riding that bus??

Monday, December 7, 2009

What Has God Done For Me??

The question was recently posed, "What has God done for me?" Do I have enough time to break it down?

  • He has given me my family. My family defines who I am. They are the reason I am the way I am (good or bad). My family loves me no matter what.

  • He has given me the property I have. I have a lot more things than some and a lot less than others. I have to appreciate that everything is from Him.

  • He has allowed me to suffer. It is through suffering that we become stronger.

  • He has given me a job I love. There are many out there who would like to have any type of job and I have one that I enjoy.

  • He has given me friends. They may come and go but they bring joy to my life.

  • He has given me health. I could be healthier--that is for sure but I know a lot of sick people and I am happy for the health I have.

  • He has given me nature. The stars, the skies, the oceans, the moutains, the valleys, the canyons. Do I really need to say more?

  • He has allowed me to make mistakes. As a loving Father, God knows that without making mistakes we will never become better.

  • He made me an American. I know that all of God's creation is wonderful but I have to say that I could have grown up in a lot worse places that the United States of America.

  • He gave me love. I may not always realize it. I may not always feel it or even accept it, but it is there.

  • He gave me mercy and forgiveness. Time after time God has forgiven me and I know his mercy is so deep that I could never use up all of His mercy. That is good for a screw up like me!

  • He gave me faith. He has revealed Himself to us so that we can get to know him. We can make a relationship with Him so that we can experience his love and his mercy.

  • He gave me existence. All of the physical things I have would mean nothing if He did not allow me to exist. I try to remind myself everyday that every breath, every heartbeat is a gift from God. I try to remind myself that He is always thinking of me and if he ever stopped thinking of me I would cease to exist.

Those are few things that God has done for me. I realize that He may have given some people more suffering or worse families. I know some people he didn't give as much property or not as good health. But I do know that no matter what He gives us love.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Now On Sale for $19.99!!!

My wife, Abby, and I have agreed that we just cannot have salesmen come over to our house any more. For some reason we always fall for their pitch. Twice in the last year we have succumbed and agreed to some unwise purchase. The first one was for water filtration system and the second was for new windows for our house (and that was after being told by my window salesman uncle that they were way overpriced!!) Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and I called them both the next day to forget about it. But I don't think we are the only ones. People fall for the fast talking salesman everyday. The late Billy Mays made a career out of it. I saw at some store they have a whole "As Seen on TV" section. People buy Sham-wows, Ginsu knives or those silly blankets with sleeves on them. (Which in reality is just a robe worn backwards!)

We buy things from these strangers who come into our homes either on television or in person and spend our money easily. Why are we so hesitant to believe the Church when she tells us what the truth is about faith and morals. We know that Jesus loved us so much that he started the Church. He put the people in place to lead it after he was gone saying whatever you say is valid here on Earth and in Heaven. Jesus said that he will be with the church until the end of times and it will never fail. Peter and the other apostles ensured that a line of succession was established for when they were gone.

Two thousand years later and the church remains. It has a lineage of popes and bishops that can be traced back to the twelve apostles. She has seen some tough times that is for sure. Many things have changed but the Catholic church has never changed any of her teachings on matter of faith and morals. Oh sure, plenty of things have changed in matters of discipline and some things have been been clarified but no teachings on faith and morals have changed.

"Just proof that the Church needs to get with the times," you might say. Society changes but truth does not. That's another reason to follow the church as opposed to the slick snake oil salesmen that try to sell us something that sounds too exciting to be true. Those salesman have another goal in mind besides our good. The churches goal is to save souls.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Remembering the Lakewood Police Officers

I've been a police officer for fourteen years now. I do not even have a clue as to how many police officers have been killed in the line of duty in that time period. Two from my own department, Thomas Meyers and Craig Shultz, have given their life in that span. Seldom does a police shooting shake you like the one that occurred in Lakewood, WA on Sunday November 29, 2009 when four officers were murdered in a coffee shop.

The officers were just starting their shift and had parked their cars in front of a coffee shop. They were inside, sitting at a table on their laptops completing paperwork to begin their shift. The suspect walks up to the counter, turns towards the officers and begins shooting. Two of the officers did not even have time to react. A third was able to stand but was not able to draw his weapon. The forth officer was apparently able to return fire and possible struck the suspect.

Any officer who has pinned on the badge knows it's a dangerous job. Heck, you have a gun on your hip and are wearing a bullet proof vest. It's no secret that people want to hurt you. You prepare for situations, both physically and mentally. You go through months of training to learn how to use physical force or how to use a gun. You constantly run mental scenarios through your head. "If scenario A happened, what would I do?" Have you ever gone to a restaurant with a bunch of cops?? Everyone rushes to sit down so they have their back towards the wall and able to keep an eye on the door because everyone has had the Lakewood scenario go through their minds.

But your defenses go down. You cannot constantly be in that red state that you are in when you walk up to a house on a disturbance or towards a car you just stopped. I'll bet they were sitting there talking about work, sports, their personal life--just like any group of co-workers sitting around having coffee. If it was my officers and me I can hear the chitter chatter--talking about the NFL games on tap for the day, complaining about some decision made by command staff, or what they did the night before. I wonder if they gave their kids a hug and a kiss before leaving for work or did they let them sleep? Did they leave for work arguing with their spouse about something silly? What are the emotions of any officers who had that day off? Are they wondering, "Why not me?"

I don't even want to into the emotions of how I feel towards the coward who didn't even give these officers a fighting chance. I would prefer to take time to remember the officers who were murdered.

Sgt Mark Renninger--39 years old, thirteen years law enforcement experience who leaves behind a wife and three kids

Officer Tina Griswold--40 years old, fourteen years law enforcement experience who leaves behind a husband and two children

Officer Ronald Owens--37 years old, twelve years law enforcement experience who is survived by his daughter

Officer Greg Richards--42 years old, eight years law enforcement experience who leaves behind a wife and three children

Please pray for the repose of the souls of these four officers and for the family and fellow officers that they left behind.
Those interested in supporting the families of the slain officers are welcome to make a donation through the Lakewood Police Independent Guild (LPIG) Benevolent Fund at PO Box 99579, Lakewood, WA 98499. Please visit their website for more information visit

Since the crime occurred just outside of Lakewood city limits, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department has jurisdiction. Those with information on the crime should call 866-977-2362.

Monday, November 30, 2009

We Should Never Lose Hope

I had an occurrence that was pretty troubling the other night. I had contact with a prostitute who had just become the victim of a crime. She stated that she had been prostituting for about seven years and she had recently been trying to quit. She admitted that she sold herself for crack money. She stated she had been in and out of rehab so much that she knew what she had to do but she doesn't seem to have the will power to get off of the drugs. She stated that she hates herself for what she does and that she has just about run out of hope.

Here's the thing about being a cop. You become jaded. People lie to you all time for all sorts of reasons and you always have to keep your guard up. I realize that this girl may have just been saying what she thought she needed to say. She really did not have any reason to lie though. She had already admitted to prostituting. I was just really taken back when she said she was almost out of hope.

We can never allow ourselves to be hopeless when we are down. Oh sure, we might give up hope that God will help us win the lottery or that the Chiefs will make it to the Super Bowl this year. It is very possible to lose hope in receiving the exact thing that we want. But we must never lose our hope in God.

It's hard to be positive all the time. All types of things happen. You lose your job. You get bad grades in school. Your spouse leaves you. Friends lie to you. There are just a million and one things that will beat down on you and make you feel miserable. I cannot even begin to give a reason why bad things happen. Maybe sometimes it's the devil attacking us. Maybe sometimes it's God trying to make us stronger. Maybe sometimes it's just life. I do not know.

What I do know is that we must always have hope in God. He made a promise to us and he does not break his promises to us. As long as we accept him and do separates ourselves from him through sin, then we shall spend eternity in His presence.

If we lose hope then we will fail. Without hope for this eternal reward, we will stumble. We will sin. We will choose our will and not God's. But God is a merciful God and he will always forgive us as long as we seek his forgiveness. No, we should never lose hope.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Not What You Think--A Reflection on the First Sunday of Advent

Last week I bought the newest CD from the band "Popple." I supposed the best way to describe "Popple" is to use the description on their website. "Popple" is a "unique blend of comedic-acoustic-fun-loving music." One of the songs off of their new CD titled "Hip Hop Hooray" is called "Not What You Think." The first verse goes, "I like pineapples. I like the color blue. But if there's on thing I like more than that is the fact that I love . . . to eat banana's." The rest of the verses are like that. They set you up and make you expect one thing and every time they change it to something about banana's.

That is the way I felt while reading this weekend's readings. You see, it is the first Sunday of Advent--a time when we are preparing for Christ's birth. Maybe I haven't really paid attention in years past (which is very possible) but I was kind of expecting readings of joy, expectation or anticipation. We get that in the first reading from Jeremiah where it is talking about God fulfilling his promise and Judah will be safe and Jerusalem will be secure. But then the gospel reading is talking about the end times and how there will be the roaring of the sea and waves and how people will die of fright. That doesn't sound very promising!

As you explore the readings, you see another twist. You are expecting anticipation in Jesus' soon arrival and see scary stuff about the end times but you are getting a message of hope. It's a message of hope because we are told we know how to act and how to be pleasing to God.

In the second reading from 1 Thessalonians, Paul asks God to help his readers love so that they will be blameless before the Lord. He then goes on and tells the Thessalonians that they indeed have been given instructions on how to act and they should conduct themselves accordingly in order to please God.

We then go back to the gospel and see that instead of a message of doom we are warned. We are warned not to become drowsy "from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life." We are told to be vigilant and pray for the strength to escape the tribulations.

So, indeed, it may not be what you think--at least at first--but it is a message of the coming of Jesus. Maybe not as an infant but for his second coming. It should not be foreboding though. We should be excited. Sure, we must stay the course but as Paul says we know how to act. It has been revealed to us. We know the way to please God and as St. Josemaria says, "Does your soul not burn with the desire to make your Father-God happy when he has to judge you? (The Way 746)

It's the first Sunday of Advent and I'm excited because Jesus is coming and I like to eat bananas.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful for My Mistakes

Today centered around banquets in homes all across the country, people are giving thanks. There are many things that people are thankful for. Many of them are your traditional things to be thankful for--for family, for friends or for good health. Some are nontraditional such as being thankful for good grades or that the Kansas City Chiefs have actually won three games this year!! I am thankful for those things in the first category but there is something in the second group that I am thankful for. You see, I am thankful for my mistakes.

I've always been grateful for everything in my past--good and bad. I figure that without everything going the way they have I would not be where I am today. I really started thinking about it after reading Patrick Madrid's blog about why you parents should not let their kids date non-catholics. There was also a follow up about dating non-catholics by Lisa Hendley at Faith & Family Live.

Those posts got me to thinking about how Abby and I got to where we are today. Many, including Mr. Madrid, would say that Abby and I made many mistakes in our relationship. She was not catholic. We had only been dating about a month when we moved in with each other. (Note: Mom--if you are reading this close your ears) While we were living together we did things that people who live together do prior to getting married. (you can open your ears now, Mom) We got married in a courthouse by a judge. We practiced birth control. The list, for some, goes on and on and on. While I would not recommend to anyone that you follow this route to a long lasting relationship, it has worked out amazingly for Abby and I. So if these are mistakes then I have to be thankful for my mistakes.

Obviously, there are some mistakes in my life that I wish I had not done. Heck, about 138 times a day I make mistakes that don't anyone any good. Although, I can still better myself by learning from many of those mistakes to make myself better. That's what the whole examination of conscience is all about--learning from your mistakes.

Abby and I followed a path that I cannot really recommend following. There have been highs and lows. There have been pitfalls. Looking to where we are today though, I cannot look at our relationship and see where we have come from and not see the hand of God at work. We balance each other. We are like two puzzle pieces who fit together perfectly. We are . . . one flesh.

So thank-you, Lord, for my mistakes. Help me to learn from them when they do occur so I do not make them again

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We Can Rebuild Him--the Six Million Dollar Cathechist

In the 1970's television show, The Six Million Dollar Man, astronaut Steve Austin is severely injured in a plane crash. Steve Austin, "a man barely alive" is rebuilt as a cyborg. He is rebuilt, "better, faster and stronger." The week after attending the National Catholic Youth Conference I have decided that I, as a catechist, need to be rebuilt and be at least better. I'm not sure being faster or stronger will assist me in teaching the gospel.

I have helped my parishes senior high youth program for nearly ten years by either helping with senior high youth group or teaching confirmation. My frustration has been trying to figure out how to properly teach while at the same time keeping the teen's attention. The last thing a high school kid wants on a Sunday afternoon is to hear some lecture, especially from me. Let's face it, I'm not a great speaker. On the other hand, the projects that seem to be out there that the teens enjoy do not easily get the point of the lesson across. In my humble opinion, they come across too much as arts and crafts and not as a catechitical tool. I really do not feel that the "Crayon Jesus" stuff properly teaches. I also do not feel that listening to me speak on a Sunday afternoon teaches either. I have not done any studies but I believe that glassy, blank, stares are the look of people who are not receiving the message you are trying to get across. But at least they have their eyes open!

Friday afternoon I attended Mark Hart's workshop on the Bible and just had a really good time. He was funny and entertaining and I learned some interesting things. The next day, someone pointed out to me that I should take that as a challenge. Speaking about Jesus should not be boring. I thought about it and realized--there are no boring speakers at NCYC. From Mark Hart to Bob Rice to Fr. Tony--they all reach and speak to the teen where the teen is.

When I presented this idea to someone they said, "Sure, if you have the gift." That's a valid point. I also realize that the guys who give these high energy talks give them repeatedly and can spend time to iron out the rough spots. Your average cathecist only gives a lecture once a year.

My Marine drill instructor taught me that "Excuses are like [belly buttons]. Everyone has one and they all stink!" He used something more graphic than belly buttons though. The point is that we should not use excuses. If my time is valuable enough to give up to teach confirmation. If I am really serious about wanting to teach the gospel then I need to do better. I need to do a better job preparing. I need to make the lesson my own and do whatever I have to do to reach the teen.

Mark Hart may not have directly told me, "Jamie, you need to do better." But he sure as heck raised the bar and showed me what is possible.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

St. Maximilian Kolbe

Note--I am honored to have a guest blogger this morning: My nine-year old son, Maxwell. He had to do a saint report for school complete with drawing of the saint. Originally he had St. Veronica but could not find much about her so he chose St. Maximilian Kolbe. His mom helped him with it and I he didn't do a bibliography so I don't know how much is plagiarized. Enjoy:

Saint Report on St. Maximilian Kolbe
By Max McAdams

Maximilian Kolbe was born in Zdunska Wola, Poland in 1894. When he was 12 years old he had a vision of Virgin Mary. He asked Mary what was to become of him. She came to him holding to crowns, one white the other red. She asked him if he was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that he should persevere in purity; the red one meant that he should become a martyr. He told her he would accept both. St. Maximilian entered the Franciscan junior seminary in1907, at the age of 13. He took his final vows at the age of 21. He almost died of tuberculosis in 1917. This left him frail for the rest of his life. Maximilian Worked in Poland, Japan, and India. He printed Japanese version of the magazine Knight of the Immaculate, which he had published in Poland to fight religious apathy. He founded a monastery in Nagasaki, which continues today. In mid-1932 he left Japan for India. He created another monastery in Malabar. Poor health forced him return to Poland. Maximilian was arrested by Nazi forces and put in prison Feb. 17, 1941. On May 28, 1941 he was transferred to Auschwitz and branded prisoner 16670 He was beaten many times. He ministered to other prisoners and said mass using smuggled bread and wine. In July 1941, there was an escape from the camp. When a prisoner escapes, ten other prisoners are killed. The guards chose Francis Gajowniczek, a married man with young children to die for the escape. Maximilian volunteered to take his place. Maximilian dies as he had wished, in service to others. Maximilian Kolbe’s feast day is August 14. He is the patron saint of prisoners.

What I most admire about Maximilian Kolbe was the vision he had of the Virgin Mary. He was only a kid at the time and he chose to both options she gave him, to maintain purity (priesthood) and to become a martyr. His decision was a good man.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fourteen Amazing Things About NCYC

I returned home from the National Catholic Youth Conference yesterday. Fortunately for me it's only about a thirty minute drive from our parish to the hotel we were staying at so I did not have to suffer through a long bus or plane ride. A ten to twelve hour bus ride would have been worth it though! For those who have never been there--NCYC is a jaw dropping, mind blowing, inspiring, awesome, breathtaking experience. I could probably figure out some more descriptive words but I would have to go Imagine 20,000 kids from around the United States descending on Kansas City in order to praise God and learn more about their Catholic Faith.

Saturday night, I sat in the lobby of our hotel and asked the kids from my parish what their favorite thing of NCYC was and there were a number of good answers. For me though, I would like to list my top ten amazing things about NCYC. Well, it was GOING to be top ten but I couldn't stop! So starting with number fourteen and going to number 1:
  • Number 14-The Music--How can anyone think of NCYC and not think about he music?? It is everywhere! Every session started with warm up bands--from John Angotti to Celili Rain to Rightous B and DJ Bill Lange. The emcee's Steve Angrisano and Jesse Manibussan kept the music rolling throughout the sessions along with the teen choir and the animators (teens from the diocese who did an amazing time singing, dancing and performing) The music didn't stop at the Sprint Center though. At the convention center there were bands playing all day long at the Rein Forrest Cafe, there was music in the Power & Light District and different sessions had musicians such at Matt Maher playing
  • Number 13-The Speakers--Each of the speakers brought some great messages with them that really spoke to the young church. Thursday night started with NFCYM executive director bob McCarty REPELLING from the rafters of Sprint Center telling the kids how we, as Christians need to Show up, Step up, and Step out. Friday morning Cardinal DiNardo and Brian Johnson spoke. That evening the kids heard from Jason and Crystallina Evert speak about sex. Many of people's favorite speakers were at Saturday morning's sessions. Five different teens from around the country spoke on how God has affected them and what they are doing to have an impact on the world around them.
  • Number 12--The Police Presence--You can't come to Roman Catholic and not expect me say what an amazing job my department did can you?? My brothers in blue really made me proud. They blocked traffic and provided protection for all the visitors. How big of an area did they have to cover?? There were buses parked for a mile south of the Sprint Center in a three block span. The distance from Sprint Center to the convention center was nearly a mile. The whole Power and Light District was packed with kids. I know officers who had to change days off and some worked sixteen hour days.
  • Number 11--The People Behind the Scenes--I cannot even imagine everything that goes on behind the scenes of an operation like this not only on the national level but on the diocesan level. Someone has to set up the stage, design the layout of the thematic park, coordinate an army of volunteers, determine where buses will be parked. Someone had to coordinate the paperwork, get the hotel rooms lined up and sort name tags. I got just a brief peek at the hard work just a couple of these people and they are the reason that things appear to go off without a hitch to the participants.
  • Number 10--The Size--Over 20,000 participants!! That is how many people came to Kansas City for NCYC. There were kids EVERYWHERE. There were so many people that Sprint Center could not contain everyone and some participants had to view the general sessions via closed circuit television from the Ball Room at the Convention Center.
  • Number 9--The Attire--The uniform of the day at NCYC is "goofy." People are wearing shirts coordinated for their parish or diocese. About a forth of the people are wearing goofy hats. I saw pirate hats, cow hats, sheep hats, flamingo hats and reindeer hats. I may have even been wearing reindeer antlers myself. Everyone has their credentials around their neck with their name on them. Clipped to the credentials are "swaps"--different pins, clips and other assorted items. Also around necks are beads and necklaces made of plastic cheese. Everyone has glow in the dark bracelets and necklaces and other things that light, shine and blink.
  • Number 8--Meeting people--All that goofy attire and swaps makes it easier for the kids to approach and meet other people from across the country. My parish volunteered at a food kitchen for the poor. Not only did they get the opportunity to serve the poor they also met other kids who were volunteering. My personal favorite--I got to meet Mark Hart, aka The Bible Geek, and Lino Rulli, host of The Catholic Guy Show heard on The Catholic Channel on Sirius/XM Radio. Two people that I look up to and hope to learn from.
  • Number 7--The Assurance that the Church is in good hands--Obviously, we have the assurance in scripture that Jesus will be with the Church until the end of times but seeing all of these kids and their passion and their love of God makes you sit back let out a big sigh of relief and realize that we are in good hands.
  • Number 6--Workshops--There were five different workshop sessions. Each session had a selection of a dozen different workshops. There were a wide variety of speakers from Bob Rice to Mark Hart to Fr. Tony. There were sessions for Youth Ministers to parents. There was something for everyone!
  • Number 5--The Emcee's--Steve Angrisano and Jesse Manibussan were the emcee's from both Sprint and the ballroom. Both are funny and inspiring. The keep the kids excited and pumped about their faith.
  • Number 4--Eucharistic Procession--On Friday morning Bishop Finn and Archbishop Naumann led a Eucharistic procession from Sprint Center along 14th Street to the Adoration Chapel. Imagine 20,000 youth literally taking Jesus to the streets!! Can't imagine it?? Well, I've included a picture I took from the Catholic Key blog. That mass of humanity that you see actually stretches around to the back side of the Sprint Center there in the back ground.
  • Number 3--Adoration--Saturday afternoon I slipped into the Adoration "chapel." This "chapel" was bigger than many churches! I expect that it could fit 1000 people and at the time I was there I expect there were close to seven to eight hundred kids praying in front of the blessed sacrament. When I walked in my jaw literally dropped.
  • Number 2--Reconciliation--I may be jaded but I love reconciliation. It's one of my top seven sacraments. So I decided that I would go and take some of the kids from my group with me. I thought my jaw dropped when I saw the reconciliation chapel?? Nothing compared to when I saw the line for reconciliation. The line stretched for probably nearly 100 yards--the length of a football field and was two or three people across. Unfortunately, I expect the size of the line scared some away but it went really fast. It took me about ten minutes to get to the front of the line. I won't say how long it took for my confession though. The area set aside for reconciliation was also a huge room. There were about fifty priests in the room at the time listening to confessions for two hour stretches. This line was like this all day!!!!
  • Number 1--Mass--Saturday evening, the end of NCYC 2009 was mass. As Steve Angrisano said, "We saved the best for last." Obviously, mass is always supposed to be fantastic. It IS the combination of Heaven and Earth I mean but this mass was big! Have you ever been to a mass where the bishop was there and there was a couple of priests concelebrating with him? Imagine going to a mass in an arena and there are eleven bishops there and a couple hundred priests! We heard an amazing homily from Bishop Soto. I'm not sure how long the mass actually took but it had to have been over two hours. Communion itself, from the time of "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed" to final prayer took about 45 minutes! And did I mention that there was another mass being said at the ballroom????

I think a good nickname for NCYC would be NC"WOW"C because for three days all you can say is "WOW!!" NCYC 2011 will be in Indianapolis--ten years after they hosted in in 2001. There are 20,000 people who can't wait but until then, I will see you in the Eucharist and remember---"YOU ARE LOVED!!"

Note--the general sessions and many of the workshops were shown live online and will be available for views at

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm Going to Kansas City!!!!

I've been busy the last several days getting prepared for the National Catholic Youth Conference in Kansas City. Last Saturday night, my parish held a lock-in for the teens who are going and I had a great time. Right now, I am making final preparations and getting ready to leave for Kansas City!!!! YEAH!!! Oh wait, I live here. Anyway, I'm getting ready to hop on a bus and go to the hotel where we are staying.

Tonight is opening session. Tomorrow morning they are having a Eucharistic procession through downtown Kansas City from the Sprint Arena to the chapel set up at Bartle Hall. I think that will be quite the site to see. We'll follow the day up by several sessions and all types of great fun!!

I'm really excited to get some Jesus time in and I can't express how excited I am to see 22,000 high school teens excited for their faith.

I'm going to try to update my blog as soon as I figure out how to from my Blackberry. So stay tuned. If at the very least I can't do it on here I definitely will be sending Twitter updates @JamieMc4525

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

COD: Modern Warfare 2 and the Spiritual Life

Last week a new video game came out. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" is a first person shooter game (where what you see on the screen is what the character is seeing). In Call of Duty you play the role of a soldier and are put into several scenarios with tasks that you have to accomplish. It is a pretty violent and bloody game but I did not hear a single bad review. So obviously, I had to go buy it for my X-Box 360. I spent several hours on Saturday playing it shooting things and blowing them up and getting aggravated when I couldn't find my way to accomplish my task.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and I'm a small group leader at Senior High Youth Group. My small group of four high school boys is tasked with answering the question, "What do you do when you are faced with obstacles in your spiritual life." (For the record, that my have not been the exact phrasing).

I told my group that the spiritual life can be like MW2. You have an ultimate objective-a closer life with God but sometimes there all types of obstacles thrown in front of you. Satan is throwing everything he has at you trying to kill you and sometimes you run into a wall. Everything seems to be pointing in this direction but you are just stuck. You have to take a step back and look around. Rest and regroup. Look for a way around. Maybe use a different weapon.

Fortunately for us, the Catholic Church gives us everything we need to to help us in our spiritual journey. We are given a road map with the scriptures and the teachings of the magisterium. Through the sacraments we are given rest and nourishment. And weapons?? The church is an arsenal. The rosary isn't working for you?? Try the liturgy of the hours. If that one isn't working try the chaplet of divine mercy. If that's not working try another devotion. There are so many that you will never be unarmed.
Ultimately though, we have to trust in God. It is only through Him that we are going to reach our goal. We have all these weapons and guides at our disposal but in the end, it is only through the death and resurrection of Jesus that we are able to make it to Heaven.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

End of the World in 2012?? Only the Father Knows--a Reflection on the 33 Sunday of Ordinary Time

The ancient Mayan culture evidently predicted the end of the Earth if you believe the upcoming movie, 2012. This epic adventure movie shows scenes of the world's destruction, complete with meteor strikes, earth quakes, floods and the crushing of icons such as the Washington Memorial and St. Peter's Basilica. But not only the Mayans tried to predict the end of the world. There have been plenty of Christian groups who tried to set dates for Christ's second coming only to see the dates come and go. Even groups who haven't tried to predict the date have tried to predict how it would end supposedly based on the final book of the Bible--Revelation. These predictions have spawned books and movies such as "Left Behind." This has even lead some to say that President Obama is the anti-Christ and we are now at the end times!

This weekend's readings talk about the "end times." The book of Daniel talks about it being a time of great distress while Jesus says in the Gospel that, "the sun will be darkened,and the moon will not give its light,and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken."

I think the most important thing Jesus says about the end of the world is at the end of the gospel though: "But of that day or hour, no one knows,neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

No one knows!!! So stop worrying about it!! Stop trying to predict when it will come and stop trying to correlate "Barrack Hussein Obama" with 666 using some weird formula. Only the Father knows!!

Here is something that is more important to realize. The end IS coming for each and every one of us. At some point we will die. And just like the end of the world--only God knows when this will be. So be prepared!! Do what you have to do to accept God's salvation. Do what you have to do to get yourself closer to God. You may think you have another forty years but the truth of the matter is--it could all come to a crashing halt tomorrow. Turn to Jesus today. Don't wait until 2012. It may be too late.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Church Politics

Every week we are supposed to take the gospel out of the church and into the world. Sadly, sometimes there seems that sometimes the gospel does not even get out of the church and politics gets involved. Church and politics are two words that should not go together. Wherever there are people involved there are going to be people worried about their "territory."

Obviously, the bigger the stage the more politics is going to be involved. I can only imagine what type of political games go on in the diocese or larger level. I've heard stories of politics causing disasters in different denominations. I'm not sure that anything can really be done about that.

What we can work on is keeping politics out of the local level. Keep it out of the parishes and local Churches. I won't share specific stories but I am aware of stories of church politics from all across the country in different churches and different denominations. All it causes is hurt feelings and things not getting accomplished. I've seen what hurt feelings it can cause in people who are deeply rooted in their faith. I can only imagine what damage it would cause in someone who doesn't have a solid foundation in their faith.

I can easily see how pettiness on a church council or a shrew like behavior from someone in the church office could push someone away from a church. Like it or not, the behaviors of a few can be seen as a reflection as a whole on the whole congregation.

As a parishioner at Holy Family, I feel very blessed. Our parish staff is wonderful. Now, I'm sure their may be bickering as there is in any office. But from a parishioner's view point, I see a staff that bends over backwards to help the parish go forward. Whenever I call the church office, I feel like I'm calling a cherished family member and I'm happy to talk with whoever answers the telephone. I've had several situations when I've been in a pickle and they've always been there to help me out.

In the very least, the gospel has to make it out of the doors and into the office next door. So if you are on a parish staff, church council or any church group or organization and you see political type behavior, please remember the gospels and ask your self if you are a reflection of Christ.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Marines!!

I wanted to take a break from spiritual thoughts to wish all of the Marines out there "Happy Birthday." Today, November 10th, we celebrate the Marine Corps 234th Birthday. Here is a birthday message from the Commadant of the Marine Corps.


Monday, November 9, 2009

15 Ways to Pay Attention at Mass

I’ve never been diagnosed with Attention Deficient Disorder (ADD) and I really don’t think I have it. I believe my characteristic of having to do two or three things at the same time is a learned behavior. I think in today’s world of multi-tasking we have trained ourselves to operate on different levels and our mind gets bored and wanders easily. This is why I can have a conversation with you while texting someone else and thinking about what I’m going to do the next day. So you take a guy with that mentality and put him I a Catholic church with statues and paintings and stained glass windows surrounded by people and you expect him to concentrate on the mass?? It’s even worse if the mass is in a contemporary church with plain walls and new fangled art and it is even more difficult to concentrate because for an hour they poor guy is wondering, “What in the HECK were they thinking?? Where is the tabernacle?? Where are the kneelers??”

With that in mind, I’ve decided to give 15 ways to pay attention at mass.

  1. Prepare. Don’t go into mass waiting to get blindsided. Find out what the readings are going to be before hand and read them. They can be found many places. They were probably in last week’s bulletin. You can find them in The Catholic Key and easiest of all you can find them on the US Bishops site. Read them before hand. Meditate on the readings. Let scripture speak to you.
  2. Arrive early. A sure way to be distracted is by walking down the aisle either right before or after the processional. People should not be wondering why you are not wearing an alb.
  3. Pray. What should you do with that extra time?? Sure, visiting with your fellow parishioners is nice but get to your seat 5-10 minutes before mass starts and spend it in prayer. Ask God to be with you during mass and to give you the grace to actively participate in the mass. And if you choose to continue visiting please do it in the entry. The sanctuary is a holy place and people are trying to pray.
  4. Sing. During the processional, the Gloria and all of the other parts of the mass. It’s been said that when you sing you are actually praying twice. You don’t have to be Pavarotti to sing as mass (if you haven’t noticed by the singing of some of the cantors!) Don’t be embarrassed. None of us are great singers but we are singing God’s praise and that’s a good thing. That doesn’t mean that you have to belt it out louder than everyone else in the congregation either.
  5. Follow along. I’ve heard pros and cons of following along in the missalette. I’ve heard that the lector is breaking open the word of God and we should be listening and not reading. Well, that’s a valid point but there are some of us out there who can comprehend better by reading than by listening. If this is you then follow along. Some churches have the readings in the back of the hymnal. Some have seasonal missalettes for you. Or you can bring your own. They sell them bound or in a monthly periodical called the “Magnificat.”
  6. LISTEN to the homily!! Father has got something to say!! He may not be some inspirational speaker. He may have been busy this week and not prepared the best homily but you never know. You can always find some nugget in what Father has to say. Sometimes you may have an “Ah-ha!” moment and you wonder if Father wrote this with you personally in mind. You will think to yourself, “No—it couldn’t be. I haven’t talked to him about this issue I’m having –besides—I’m from out of town and have never met the man!”
  7. LISTEN to the prayers of the faithful. For some reason I always find this a distracting time. It’s after the homily. It’s after the creed and my mind is stretched to the limit. Listen to each intention and when say, “Lord, hear our prayer” know what you are asking for. Maybe you will remember the name of a sick person or recently departed to take home to remember in your prayers there.
  8. Meditate. If you are still too shy to sing during the collection than spend that time meditating. Think back to the readings. Think about Father’s homily. Or prepare yourself for what is about to come.
  9. Repeat to yourself what Father is saying during the Eucharistic prayers. I admit that I get distracted during the Eucharistic prayers. So much is being said. After the priest says something simply repeat what he says in your head. A simple way to become a more active participant.
  10. Visualize what is being said during the consecration. Imagine Jesus at the Last Supper. Only he is right in front of you saying, “This is my body.”
  11. Appreciate what is going on around you spiritually. Sure, sure, you may be in a church surrounded by your friends and family but much more is going on in the spiritual realm. The mass is a unification of Heaven and Earth. You are in Heaven when you are at mass. It’s more than your wife and kids there with you. There is a giant cloud of saints there with you. Your loved ones who have passed are there with you. Even more than that—you are truly unified with the universal church and you are there with the church from across town as well from the church on the other side of the world.
  12. Realize what is about to happen as you walk up to communion. You are about to hold Jesus Christ in your hands. The creator of the universe is about to be put I your hands and you, the created are about to consume the creator.
  13. PRAY! The time after receiving the blessed sacrament is one of the best times to pray. Think of it. Jesus is never closer to you than at this moment. Jesus is literally in you. Thank him. Praise him. Offer him your petitions.
  14. Stay!! Mass isn’t over after communion! There is still a closing prayer!! Don’t be like Judas who left the Last Supper before it was over!! Sing that final song!
  15. Now here is probably the crazy suggestion. Stay after mass and pray some more!! Why rush off?? The parking lot is going to be crazy!! You are not going to get out of there for a good ten minutes anyway.

This list by no means is an end-all list. I’m sure there are hundreds of other tips and suggestions to pay better attention at mass. This list can actually be boiled down to three things: pray, concentrate and realize what a gift we have in the mass. Does anyone else have any ideas?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Constant Vigilance!!

"CONSTANT VIGILANCE!!!" That is the battle cry of "Mad-Eye" Moody, a character from the Harry Potter series. Mad-Eye is a auror--someone who combats dark wizards. Yeah, yeah, I know--you are going to say, "All witches and wizards come from the dark-side and go against God." Okay, whatever--I enjoy the series. It doesn't mean I am going to practice witchcraft just like even though I like Star Wars, I'm not going to try to use Jedi mind tricks to convince my wife that I didn't leave the toilet seat up (it doesn't work--trust me). What is important is a lesson we can learn from a book about dealing with evil.

Mad Eye Moody tells his pupils that they must practice "constant vigilance" and to be aware that dark forces can attack you at any time from anywhere. We too need to practice constant vigilance and be aware that Satan is trying to attack us all the time. He is looking for our weak moments. He knows our faults and our vices and he is always there to tempt us with them. And the closer we become to God the stronger Satan is going to attack us.

Satan attacks us by relativism--thinking that we can decide what is right or wrong. He attacks us by thinking our past sins are so unforgivable that there is no reason to turn to God. He attacks us by making us think that God is not there. He attacks us in television, in music, in radio. He tempts us in bad jokes and in gossip. He is always there trying to find the weakness in our armor and by trying to make us sin and become separated from God.

Satan attacks us, ironically, by making us not believe in him or making us not acknowledge him. Yes--the Price of Pride is willing to humble himself in order to make us sin. He attacks us by making us think that there is no Hell. Ladies and Gentlemen, Jesus preached "love thy neighbor" and Jesus also preached that there is a Hell. We MUST listen to everything that Jesus says and be very aware that there is a Hell and not dismiss that message.

Constant Vigilance!! We must always be aware of evil. Evil is in the world. We must be alert to Satan's attacks. Fortunately, Jesus gave us weapons against evil such as prayer, the Bible, the rosary, prayer, confession, prayer, the Eucharist, prayer and oh yeah--did I mention prayer?? "Deliver us from evil." Ask God to "lead us not into temptation!" Ask for the Blessed Mother's help to combat temptation. Guys--if you see a hot girl and you start getting those thoughts and you ask for the Virgin Mary's help and for her to hold your hand you will not retain those impure thoughts.

Satan is real. Hell is real. Don't say, "But Jamie--Satan could use Harry Potter books to attack you." Yes, and he could also use "Hello Kitty." Have you seen "Hello Kitty??? Pure pure evil.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Single Life

Commonly, when people talk about discerning their vocation they are talking about the religious life. Should I become a priest? Maybe just a brother? If you are a female you may ask, "Should I be a sister?" Which religious order? Do I want to be in an order or do I want to be a diocesan priest? The other option besides being in the religious life seems is the married life. Do I want to get married?? Well, in my personal opinion (as in--this isn't dogma, and I realize that it can probability be torn apart theologically and you can believe what you want) is that there is a third vocation--that of the single life.

Now, I realize that the argument against this third vocation is because because you do not make vows. You are in more of an in-between state of life. If you enter a religious order, you take vows of celibacy. If you become married, you take vows to be faithful to your spouse. But with the single life, while you are presently chaste (or SHOULD be chaste) celibacy is not permanent necessarily.

I know too many people though who are single and potentially will remain single. Some of them seem perfectly happy remaining single but don't belong in a religious order. Some of them would prefer to be married but can't seem to find the right person. Others, are struggling and still trying to decide whether they should be religious or married. Whether it be a transitional or permanent, I don't think it's fair to say that it's not a vocation.

Again--that's my opinion. I'm sure the argument would be that a vocation is a permanent state in life. That is not my point. My point is, that I think the single life should be looked at as a vocation, whether it be transitional or permanent, because every day we need to try to decide what God wants us to do with our lives. We should always try to trust in God and try to do His will as opposed to our own. It may not seem fair. We may feel lonely and want a spouse to spend our lives with. We may want children. The fact that you can't pursue the goals that you want may make you angry at God. We need to step back and say, "not my will, but your will be done."

I'm not going to say that your life will be easier. You still may have a lot of suffering in your life (that is a post for another day). I am saying that by putting aside what we want in life and doing what God wants us to do with life we will be closer to him. Remember that everything we have, our very life and existence, is a gift from God. Should we not be doing with that life what He wants us to do?

If the single life is your vocation please remember that you are never alone--especially if you are pursuing God's will. God is with you. God loves you. Rejoice that by being single you are given the opportunity to spend more time with God getting closer to him.
Now, you can feel free to let me have it. Am I an idiot of thinking of the single life as a vocation??

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Remembering--A Reflection on the Solemnity of All Saints

On November 1st, we celebrate on the church calendar All Saints Day. For me All Saints Day is one of my favorite days of the year. We don't just remember all the saints in heaven. We don't just remember all of our family members. We get an opportunity to step back and realize what a wonderful faith we have.

You see, we once were cut off. We were cut off from heaven and cut off from a chance at eternal happiness. But, as the weird rainbow haired guy reminds us by holding up that John 3:16 sign, "For God so loved that world that he gave his only begotten son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life." Think about that. God loves us so much that he sacrificed his very son to die a very horrible death nailed to a tree so that you and I could spend eternity with him.

We remember this on All Saints Day by remembering those who have suffered death and are with God in Heaven. You see by recalling those who have passed before us we are reminded that we too will be able to spend that eternity there with them. That's a great gift of the Catholic faith is that we do remember those who have passed and use them as models for us to follow. One criticism Catholics face is our honoring saints. There are some who think that we worship saints by honoring them or asking for their intersessions. Nothing is further from the truth.

No one is worthy of worship but God. But by honoring the saints, we do recall Christ's death and resurrection which is the reason that they are in heaven. We are able to model ourselves after them so that we may follow in their footsteps. Most importantly, we are able to recall that death does not separate us because we are all part of the Body of Christ!!

And no where is this reminder that death does not separate us made more present than in the mass. You see--at mass Heaven and Earth meet. That shroud is pulled back and we are able to worship with those who have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev 7:14). At mass the shroud is pulled back and we are able to be with those who have left us prior.

That's why I love All Saints Day. I can do it any mass but this one especially is a good time to remember that I'm not just at Holy Family Catholic Church with my wife and kids. I am united with all those living and departed in the Body of Christ. I am reminded that nothing can separate me from any of my brothers and sisters in Christ. It's a special opportunity to pray my own Litany of the Saints:

Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us
St Joseph, pray for us
St Michael the Archangel, pray for us
Grandpa Chub, pray for us
Grandma Margaret, pray for us
Grandpa Max, pray for us
Grandma Doris, pray for us
Uncle Bud, pray for us
Uncle Dave, pray for us
Uncle Bob, pray for us
Uncle Mick, pray for us
All holy men and women, pray for us