Friday, July 31, 2009

The Bread of Life: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week-end we visit Part 2 of my favorite section of the Bible: the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. Part 1 was discussed in last weeks blog when we talked about the multiplication of loaves and fishes.

We get a glimpse of what is to come in the gospel in the first reading (Interesting how the Old Testament gives light to the New Testament). In Exodus 16 we get to see the Israelites grumbling. These guys always tickle me. The Israelites always seem to be the ultimate "what have you done for us lately" people. Moses has led them out of slavery, split the Red Sea so that they could escape from the Egyptians and what do they say? "Man! We would have done better dying in Egypt! At least then we could sit and eat as much bread as we wanted. You two [Moses and Aaron] have brought us out here and now we are all going to die of starvation."
God hears the grumbling and tells Moses that he is going to feed them. He says that in the evening there is going to be their fill of quail on the ground and in the morning there is literally going to bread on the ground like frost. This bread is called manna and since it went bad at the end of every day (to teach the Israelites to trust in God and not try to store it up) we do not know what it looked like except for how it is described in Exodus : "fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground." It might not have looked like bread because they ask each other what it is and Moses answers them, "This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat."
So we fast forward several centuries to Jesus' time. You remember last week, Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes and then fled so that they would not carry Him off to be King. In today's gospel the people ask, "Hey!! That guy who made all the fishes and loaves multiply---where did he go?" They then set off in boats and went looking for him and found him in Capernaum and asked Jesus, "Hey! When did you get here?"

Jesus, being the wily guy he is, says "You aren't looking for me because you saw signs. You are only looking for me because I multiplied the loaves and your bellies were full." Jesus goes on and tells them, "Don't look for food that is going to go bad. Look for the food that endures for eternal life. The Son of God is going to give it to you."

The Jews, who have realized that eternal life is a good thing, ask Jesus, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" Jesus tells them that they need to believe in him.

Over the centuries, the Jews haven't changed much. They are still the "what have you done for me lately?" type people. They had just seen Jesus feed multitudes with fives loaves of barley and two fishes. They ask Jesus, "What have you done that we should believe in you. At least Moses gave our ancestors manna to eat in the desert!"

If I would have been Jesus I would have rolled my eyes and raised my hand like I was going to slap them upside the head. Luckily for us, Jesus is nothing like me, and he probably calmly said to them, "It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven. My Father gives you the true bread from Heaven. The bread of God that comes down from Heaven gives life to the world."

The people reply, "Sir, give us this bread always."

Jesus tells them. "I am the bread of life;whoever comes to me will never hunger,and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

Jesus IS the bread of life. Whoever goes to Him will never hunger and whoever believes in Him will never thirst. That is some pretty heavy stuff but what's it mean? Does it literally mean that we will never go physically hungry or physically thirsty? God provided the manna and quail to take care of the Israelites physical needs but Jesus goes further than that.

Jesus fulfills our spiritual needs. He provides for us the spiritual nourishment that we need to live our days. It's in the sacrament of the Eucharist that we receive this nourishment. It is in the Eucharist that we receive the Bread of Life. Without the Eucharist, we will surely die. We need the Bread of Life so that we can battle the struggles that face us every day. Without proper nourishment we will fail.

That's why the mass is necessary. The Church looks after us. She knows that we need our nourishment. Like a protective mother, the Church tries to ensure that we go to mass so that we can receive this nourishment that is necessary. Make sure you go to mass this weekend so that you can receive this nourishment and come back next week for the next piece of the puzzle.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What, Me Worry??

There are a million and one thing that we can be concerned about. On an international level, we can be concerned about issues going on in Iran or Honduras. Here in the United States, we can be concerned with losing the health care we do have if socialized medicine is imposed on us. In very state, county, city and town, there are issues such as road repairs, taxes, parks and education. At our jobs, we might have concerns that Joe isn't carrying his fair share or that the boss is taking credit for our hard work. Finally at home, we have all types of concerns facing us--bills, home repairs, pregnancies, car break downs and unemployment.
We can do either one of two things. We can let those concerns mount up and stress us out until we are ready to explode or we can allow God to carry all of our worries away. Obviously, if we take the first option, we will turn into people that we do not want to be. We will turn into people who lose their temper, are always depressed, annoyed or perpetually frustrated.
By taking the second option we will live a happier life and be that person we want to be. If we allow God to lift the weight of the world that is bearing down upon us we can be free to be happy, joyous and loving people. The question that looms is why would God be willing to take our worries and concerns from us. The simple answer is that God loves us in ways that we can never imagine. God wants us to be happy. God wants us to love.

That's not to say that we will not have any struggles. The expression--tired and it may be--is that God will never give us more struggles than we can handle. That would infer that God will indeed give us struggles. God allows us to struggle in order to make us stronger. He knows that we have free will and will not always follows His will. By not following His will, we may incur obstacles that are of our own making. If we are not strong and ready to face obstacles we may turn away from God and in the end lose. It's a loving God that imposes obstacles on us just as a loving father allows his son to fall in order that he can learn to walk, and then run.
The real challenge then is to be able to always turn to God and ALLOW Him to take our worries off of this. How do we do this?? The answer is the answer for whenever we face struggles--pray. We ask God to lift our burden. He will always answer our prayers even if it does not seem it. It may not seem as if He is with us but be assured He IS there. How much more difficult would our challenges be if He was not there for us. God may be the only one to know the answer to that question.

Does anyone have any examples of God carrying your load when you were struggling??

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Joyous Catholic--Not an Oxymoron

You know--if there is one thing the Roman Catholics do is make ourselves look somber. Maybe gloomy would be a better word. I've spent a good twenty minutes (maybe shorter) sitting here wondering why. Oh, sure--there is something to be said about redemptive suffering. The church does that right.

My favorite movie line is out of the movie Dogma and it goes something to the effect of, "I have issues with anyone who treats God like a burden instead of a blessing like some Catholics. You people don't celebrate your faith . . . you mourn it." That is so true--as a generalization. Knowing what we have, with the whole fullness of faith thing, why do Catholics have to be all curmudgeons?? Oh sure, there is time for seriousness. We should not be laughing and goofing when we are in line for the confessional. That's a time for serious reflection. Even then though, I've caught myself with a grin because I know that my sins and burdens will soon be gone.

We should be excited about our faith. We should be running around, jumping up and down and acting like idiots because of what we have. Instead when you walk into a mass everyone acts like someone just shot their dog. Come on!! We have the sacraments!! We have the Eucharist--confession!! Those are some amazing things!! We have the Bible!! So sure do other Christian faiths but we have more of it!! YEA!! We have the church fathers, the magisterium. We have the pope and apostolic succession! We can trace our roots 2000 years back to Jesus not to some committee formed 100 years ago! Isn't' it ironic when the priests says at mass, "let us sing the song of the choirs of angels" (or whatever the exact words are) you get 500 people singing as blandly as possible "Holy, holy hooooly, blah blah blah blah blah." How about a little spring in your step?

I've been having a discussion with some people in regards to a "Lifeteen" mass which is basically a mass with contemporary music and I keep getting the same comments. "Who says mass is supposed to be fun?" Who says it's supposed to be boring?? Of course they get all offended if you say the mass is boring. "Anyone who fully understands the mass would never say it's boring." Oh please!! Who reading this has never, ever EVER in their life been bored at mass?? We ALL get distracted and bored at some point. If you didn't raise your hand I'm not going to call you a liar but . . .

As Catholics we need to be happy and joyous about our faith not just because our faith is the best thing since sliced bread (actually it was here before sliced bread) but we need to be joyous in order for us to evangelize. In order to spread the Good News we need to act like we have Good News. We shouldn't go around acting like we are toast!

We shouldn't act all stuffy and pious when someone questions our faith. That's a sure way to turn people off. We need to be patient. The Catholic faith isn't one that's easy to understand and or to agree with. I've struggled with some of her teachings and had to spend time and effort to learn and understand them.

As Catholics, we need to be going out into the world and making people wonder, "What's that guy been drinking because I want some!!" We need to be able to "preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." The Catholic faith is so amazing, so wonderful---why would anyone want to act like a sourpuss. Remember--it's possible to be loyal to the teachings of the faith and to the magisterium and walk around with a smile on your face.

*-one added note. I would like to point out that this is a generalization and if you think it may be directed at you, well, maybe you need to smile.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Loaves into Fishes--17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The next month is exciting for me in regard to the weekly gospel readings. For the next several weeks, we cover a little bit out of my favorite part of the Bible--the sixth chapter of John. It's the section of the Bible that the "Bread of Life" discourse is in. This is an EXCITING section. There aren't any battles in it. No one dies. There is no adultery. But it's exciting because Jesus has got something to say in this chapter. He normally has great words of wisdom but in THIS chapter---He's REALLY got something to say. What he says provides us with the Eucharist--the source and summit of our faith.

Before we jump into that, we are given a little sample, of what were are about to see. In the first reading (2 King 4: 42-44), the prophet Elisha does his own multiplication of loaves. A man brings forth twenty barley loaves and Elisha tells his servant to feed everyone with the 20 loaves. The servant protests but Elisha persists. And what do you know---the 20 loaves feeds a hundred people with bread left over.

Jump forward to the gospel and we see that just like last week, even though Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee the people follow him. There is a huge throng of people and Jesus asks Phillip, "Whoa!! That's a lot of people!! Where can we get enough food to feed all these people?" Scripture lets us in on a little secret though---Jesus already knows what He's going to do. He's only testing Phillip.

I can picture Phillip looking around and going, "Crud!! What are you looking at me for?? I don't know." He goes on to say, "Two hundred days wages worth of food wouldn't be enough to feed everyone just a little bit." Two hundred days wages---that's a lot of money even back in that time.

Andrew--Peter's brother--comes up and points out a kid with five barley loaves and two fish. He also points out, "Hey--it's something but it's not going to feed everyone."

Jesus hears nothing of it. Jesus takes the loaves, gives thanks and proceeds to feed the multitudes. Every one has their fill of bread and fish (I wonder if they filled everyone up on the bread like they do at The Olive Garden first). There was even some left over that they filled up twelve baskets!

Okay, so you are thinking--Jesus does another miracle. Big whoop. He's always doing that. But knowing what is coming you the the multiplication of loaves and fishes in a whole new light. You see, Jesus keeps feeding us and providing us nourishment. At every mass, we are fed and nourished with the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is showing that it's no big deal for him to multiply fishes and bread so why can He not multiply Himself and feed us for eternity.

On a side note--here is something that kind of irritates me. Some of you have probably heard this homily before: "It's possible Jesus did not really multiply the fishes and the loaves but that people actually had food on them and they shared with their neighbor and that's the real miracle--that he was able to get people to share." OH BALDERDASH!! Stop trying to explain away everything. That's a bunch of post-Vatican II liberal weenie hogwash. God made the Heavens and the Earth out of nothing--surely He can multiply some fishies and bread!

If you don't have faith that He can do that, how can you have faith that every week He turns (through the priest) bread and wine into His own body and blood??

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Image of Pope in Emergency Room

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI, who is vacation in northern Italy, fell in the middle of the night and broke his wrist. The next morning, after mass, he was taken to the local hospital. Normally, you would think when a world leader would come into the hospital he would go to the front of the line. Pope Benedict XVI waited his turn though and let the person who was in front of him to be seen first.
I just had several humorous images of what the next guy who came into the ER saw when he walked in. Was the pope:
  1. In his full length cassock. Sitting there holding his crosier with his miter on his head? I know, I know--the crosier and miter are for liturgical purposes but I just get a kick out that image of him sitting there in the ER

  2. The news said he came after mass--but what if he would have gone there in the middle of the night in his papal PJ's. They'd be white of course--with a white robe and red slippers of course.

  3. Finally, the Pope is on vacation so would he be in his favorite vacation wear. Maybe khaki cargo shorts with flip flops, sunglasses on his head and a t-shirt that says, "I'm with stupid" with a finger pointing to his right at some cardinal who came along for the ride??

One last thought--were the Swiss guards there with their pikes, helmets and funny outfits?? Just thoughts, maybe a little on the crazy side. I fully commend the Holy Father for waiting his turn. Heck, I think any of us would slip in front of people as opposed to sitting in the ER!!

Why Jimmy Carter is Wrong

Former US President Jimmy Carter recently severed his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after six decades. He posted an article in The Observer on July 12, 1999 explaining that it was due to the organization's decision to prohibit women as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

Much of what President Carter wrote is common sense in that we are all equal in the eyes of God. I'm not going to comment about anything that the Southern Baptist Convention has decided upon for themselves because I have not looked into what they teach or their reasoning. I do feel pressed to comment on the president's implicit attacks on the catholic church's teaching that women cannot be priests. Especially wrong are his claims, right after admitting that he has no religious or theological training, that there were female priests in the first centuries. President Carter goes on to claim that it was not until the fourth century that "dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted holy scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy."

The president's claims that women in the first centuries were priests and bishops is wrong. There were heretical sects and pagans that had female priests but not Christians. There were deaconesses that were basically the forerunners of nuns but there have never been female priests.

What is the opposition to female priests? I don't think anyone will deny that women are capable of being priests. It's more of the fact it is just not possible for the church to ordain women. The Church teaches that while we are equal we are not the same.

To start off with, when Jesus chose the twelve apostles to whom he gave His authority on Earth He chose all males. Some will refute and say that Jesus was merely following the cultural norms of the day. I don't know if you noticed this but Jesus wasn't really one for following cultural norms. He sat with thieves, tax collectors and prostitutes. He sat with the Samaritan woman at the well and said that He is the Son of God. Jesus was not really afraid of rocking the boat. But He did not choose women as His apostles. I don't know why. You can call Jesus sexist if you want to but I'm going to guess that he had a good reason.

The Catholic Church is following the wishes of Jesus in not ordaining women. It cannot ordain women. It just simply is not possible. To be ordained you have to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Sacraments need certain things to be valid. For instance you cannot baptize someone with soda pop or baptize them in the name of the "Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier." You can not transform Ritz crackers and grape juice into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist. To be ordained you have to have-----a baptized male. Otherwise it will not be valid.

What are the chances of the Church changing it's stance? None. Zero. Zilch. In 1994 Pope John Paul II stated in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful."

Just because the Catholic Church does not have female priests does not mean that it does not think that women should not be held in high esteem. She has quite the devotion the the Virgin Mary. Several of the doctors of the church, including St Catherine of Sienna and St. Therese of Lisieux, are women. Women are our mothers, our sisters and our wives. We are to love them as "Jesus loved the Church." Women hold many ministerial positions in the church. They are music ministers, youth ministers, they are parish directors. The Church teaches that we are to respect women---they just cannot be ordained.

Interestingly enough President Carter started off his editorial with a quote from Galatians, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." I found an interesting article at that points out that Paul is talking about justification and not our roles in the church. The article goes on the point out that in Corinthians Paul says that while we are all parts of the same body we have different roles. (1 Corr 12: 5-29)

I commend the hard work and Christian values that President Carter has done over his life time. I'm not challenging his decision to leave the Southern Baptist Church. I do believe that when someone like President Carter attacks the teachings of the church it's important to defend the the faith..

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Living Life with No Regrets

For centuries people have been trying to figure out when the world is going to come to an end. There have been different religions cults who claim the Bible says it's going to end on a certain date only to have to "recalculate" when the date comes and goes. Jesus says that only the Father knows when the world will end and when Jesus will come back. There is one thing I can tell you though. The world as you know it WILL end in your life time. Either Jesus will come back like He promised or . . . you are going to die. That IS the world as you know it changing.

We all hope that the end will come later as opposed to sooner but the fact of the matter is we don't know when the end will come. Last Friday night a mother on her way home from the theatre with her 14 year old daughter and mother in law was shot and killed. No one knows where the shot came from--it may have come from a rolling gun battle. Saturday night, a lady was standing on a street corner when she too was shot by a stray round fired between two cars. Last week, a 32 year old man was riding his motorcycle on his way to meet friends when he wrecked and was killed instantly. He friends continued calling and texting him asking him where he was as his body was covered up by a yellow blanket.

Finally, a young man in his early twenties was celebrating a friends birthday. He was sitting on the balcony when he fell backwards. It wasn't a tall fall, only 16 feet, but he was killed. Later when the medical examiner rolled him over the young man's belly was exposed which revealed a tattoo. The tattoo read, "No Regrets."
We have to live our life like that--with no regrets. We need to live every day of our life as if it is our last but while preparing for the next. We should leave no doubts with our loved ones that we love them. We should forgive that person now while we can. We should be happy and joyous and leave all of our concerns and worries with God.
While we should live with the "no regret" mentality, we should be careful not to live with the "live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse" mentality. That leaves too many loopholes and the very good possibility that we aren't living with God at the center of everything. If we live life with God at the center doing His will as opposed to our own we will have lived a good life. If we take our lessons from God and lead the moral life as He wants us to do we will have loved and cared for our fellow man. If we do that then we will be spending eternity with Him and we truly will have "no regrets."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mass: An Obligation or a Necessity

I had kind of a brutal day yesterday. I got off of work at 7:30 in the morning and had to be at Kauffman Stadium at 12:30 to work the Royals game. I was then supposed to be back to work tonight at 9:30. That doesn't leave a whole lot of time for sleeping. Oh wait-there is something else you are supposed to do on Sunday. Oh yeah!! Mass!! How was I going to fulfill my Sunday "obligation?"
I'll tell you what. I would have been real easy to go home and sleep after the game. Instead, I left the game and went to 6pm mass and after mass I came to work (I switched with someone and came in early) Please don't think I'm bragging and saying, "Oh, look at me! I'm so pious. I went to mass!!" No. I'm not saying that at all because the smart thing would have been to go to mass on Saturday evening and then I COULD have gone home after the game and taken a nap.
Why didn't I just skip mass though?? Well, besides the fact that it's a mortal sin and dying with mortal sin on your soul when you die means you go straight to hell. And going to hell--well lets be blunt--that would suck.
There is more to it than that though. I need mass. I NEED the Eucharist. Last time I said in confession that I missed mass, I got a friendly butt chewing from Monsignor Blacet. I took what he told me to heart (isn't that what you are supposed do with lessons learned from the confessional?) Monsignor Blacet told me that when we intentionally miss mass it's like telling Jesus, "Don't worry, Jesus. I don't need you this week. I've got it all under control." Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth because I need Jesus every week. And what a better place to find Him than in the Eucharist.
For the record, I wasn't let down either. I was tired but I had an wonderful experience at mass. Have you ever partaken in the Eucharist and had a physical experience? An experience where you feel the grace radiating through you. I kind of simplified it to a couple of my friends and said it's like when you have that first cup of coffee in the morning and can feel it pulsing through your veins. That's how I felt yesterday.
Please do not ever think you are too busy or that things are too complicated in your life. Ask yourself if you are too busy to pass up the person you need the most. No excuses. You NEED the Eucharist. And if it's been awhile since you've been to mass then get your rear to confession first and get to mass!!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Desire for God--16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Have you ever had a loved one or someone close to you hurt your or disappoint you? Is it not just the most heart wrenching feeling? Have you ever hurt or disappointed a loved one? Let's just pretend that you have so that I do not feel all alone because I sure as heck have. Don't you feel like a total schumck??

Now, how do you think God feels when dealing with us?? Surely, He's been disappointed and saddened by us since the days of Adam and Eve. All He has wanted from us since the dawn of creation is our love. It's what we were made for. And yet, due to the sin we are constantly disappointing Him.

Personally, I would be getting pretty darn frustrated. It's not like He has not done everything to bring us back to Him. The last few weeks our first reading has been from one of the many different prophets. This week we hear from Jeremiah who spent his life warning the Israelites to beware. He would tell them to stop worshipping idols and turn back to God. The Israelites would not listen and eventually they were exiled.

Two and a half millennia later and Jeremiah could be giving us those same warnings. He could still be telling us to stop worshiping idols--the idols of money, fame or a number of other things that we seem to become focused on as opposed to God. If we do not stop worshipping the idols that we face today, we too will also will be sent to a permanent exile.

Why do we find it so difficult to focus our attention on God instead of ourselves? As I mention above, we were made to share in God's love. People will flock to Jesus. We see this in this weekend Gospel reading. We see in Mark 6 that Jesus and the Apostles try to escape the crowds and go someplace deserted in order to get away from the crowds in order to rest. The people found out about it though and they traveled on foot and arrived to where Jesus was going even before He did. Jesus had pity on them because, "they were like sheep without a shepherd" and He began to teach them things.

Just like the people in Jesus' time, we too desire to be with Him. St. Auguistine said, "My heart is restless until it rests in you, Oh Lord." We, too, have a hole in our heart that can only be filled with God. Our problem is that we try to fill this hole with other means. We need to be attentive to this desire and ensure we shift our focus towards God as opposed to those other things that may distract us. The only way we will be truly happy is when we allow God's love to fill us.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Popes: 265 and Counting

Yesterday, I called into my favorite radio show--The Catholic Guy Show on Sirius 159/XM117 and competed in a little game show, "Let's Make a Catholic Deal." In the show, you are asked a question regarding Catholicism. The question may be about church fathers, the liturgy or the Bible. If you get the question right you are given a prize. You can either choose to keep that prize or pick door #1, #2 or #3. Two of the doors have good prizes behind them such as rose scented rosaries blessed by the pope, prayer cards, or the coveted pope bottle opener. The third door is a boobie prize. You could get stung by bees, attacked by a boar or hung up on.
After some witty banter, Lino asked me to name two of the first five popes. My answer: St Peter and St. Linus. I was even able to throw Clement in there for good measure. I'm not incredibly smart. The fact I knew the answer says something about the show in which you have fun and helps you learn your faith without even realizing it.
I was thinking later about how amazing is it that today, in 2009, I am a member of a Church led here on Earth by Pope Benedict XVI. He is the 265 successor to St. Peter. Yes THAT St. Peter. The guy in the Bible. And he was put in this position by Jesus when He said in Matthew 16: 18-19: "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. 14 Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

We believe that Jesus intended there to be a visible church here on Earth led by Peter and the first apostles and that they would be succeeded by others. We believe that this Church would always be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Through 2000 years, men have succeeded Peter and the rest of the 12 apostles as Pope and Bishops. These successors have shown their humanity that's for sure. Oh boy--we've had some bad popes and we have had bishops who were real bastards. But in the end, no matter how bad they were--how many girlfriends they messed around with or no matter how spoiled they were in their wealth--they never changed any theological truths of the Church. Because of that the truths that the Catholic Church proclaims today are the same truths that it preached 2000 years ago. Some may say that the Church is old fashioned and needs to get with the times. In the end, even though society changes, truth does not.

So today, the universal church is led by Pope Benedict XVI. My home diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is led by Bishop Finn and these men are both successors to the original 12 apostles. There is something calming in that.

You may be wondering about my prize. I won "Saint Book" by Mark Hart--the Bible Geek. I was hoping for either a Mark Hart book or a DVD of Generation Cross so I took the book. If I would have picked a door I would have won a rose scented rosary blessed by the pope. That's okay--I'm happy with my book and it beats a glass of Haterade.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

God's Will vs My Will

Trying to do God's will SHOULD be our goal in life. Everyday we should wake up and pray for His guidance in doing what HE wants us to do. Only problem is that OUR will constantly gets in the way.
Obviously, one of our main goals in life is that we follow God's will in our vocation--whether it be the married life or the religious life (and some would say the single life). But then it seems to break down from there. What career should I pursue? Is this the person for me? Should I be a priest or a brother? Should I quit this job in order to take that one? Diocesan priest or religious order?
Sometimes the answer seems to be obvious. For instance, if you select option A it will help your career and you will make lots of money versus selection B which will leave you in a dead-end position. But what happens when you feel God pulling you elsewhere that doesn't appear to be an easy road? What if you are comfortable where you are but you are wondering if that is where God wants you to be?
I, personally, am facing that dilemma. I am happily married, great family andI have a job I love. I'm happy where I live and I have great friends. But I feel God's pull into a certain direction and to be honest that direction scares me. It is a difficult direction. It's one that will take a lot of time and sacrifices. It's a position that I'm not sure I would be good in. In the end, it will be "permanent."
I've spoken to few people about this pulling I feel, including my spiritual director, and for the most part they have been encouraging. Fortunately, for me, I'm discerning whether or not to enter a formation process that is a several year process. Fortunately for me that whole process IS a discernment process. Fortunately for me, in the end I will still have my marriage, family, job and friends. My decision will have an impact on them and that is part of the discernment process.
It makes me realize how blessed I am and have empathy for those who don't have the safety nets I do. I couldn't imagine starting out in life and wondering what direction I need to go. I couldn't imagine facing those difficult decisions that are going to have an immediate impact on their life.
Maybe in a few months, I'll announce to my friends, family and co-workers what my decision will be. For now, I'm choosing to keep it hush-hush (but for some reason giving hints about it on my blog??) Please pray for me in my discernment process and please pray for all those who are trying to decide on a vocation. May we all choose God's will over our own.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Vacation Time and Prayer Time

Part of the problem with vacations is that you always need at least one more day. Either you are just wiped out from the trip and need to rest or the stuff that is waiting for you at work makes you think you would have been better off never leaving.

The second dilemma was my problem last night as I returned from a week away. When I returned, I was bombarded with personnel issues, crime issues and discipline issues. In my first hour, I had three closed door meetings with my subordinates. One had a transfer request and the other literally had a list of issues.

To say that I wanted to just turn around and go home is an understatement. The only problem is that those issues would be there whenever I returned so I had to stay and battle it out. I've discovered over the last--oh, few months--that when things get stressful like that I need some God time. Oh, it's easy to say, "turn it over to God." That is easier said than done. It's times like this when you need a good prayer life.

My prayer life is the weakest link of my interior life and that's sad I know. I wish I could say I spend hours a day in prayer or meditation but to be truthful, I'm lucky if get my morning or evening prayers in. Here is the great thing about prayer though---there are so many forms and means that there really isn't an excuse for not having SOME form of prayer life.

There is meditative prayer, Liturgy of the Hours, the rosary or even just ejaculatory prayer (the quick and sudden, "I love you, Jesus" or "Be with my, Lord" type of prayers) The type of prayer I find myself using most often is just the conversational prayer. I just talk to God and tell Him my problems or ask His advice. It's easy to do and you can do it whenever or where ever. You can do it on your morning walk or on your drive home from work. The most important thing is shutting the heck up and listening instead of doing all the talking.

This is what I had to do last night. While I wanted to go one of my hiding spots that I know is close to Jesus and do my evening prayer, I needed to go talk to people and do some supervising. So while en route to where I was going, I just talked to God. Instead of me feeling like I was just putting my problems at His feet I felt like He lifted my burden.

Another important thing about prayer, is no matter what form you chose, you need to do it often. You wouldn't feel comfortable going to someone that you had not spoken to in years and talking about all your issues with them so why would you be comfortable talking to God that way. Also, you will find that He will help you in your daily struggles. I've heard that someone suggested to the nuns of Blessed Mother Theresa's order that they could do more for the poor if they didn't spend so much time in prayer. They were aghast and said they couldn't do what they DID for the poor without their prayer life and that they wanted even MORE time for prayer. Personally I know that I can tell those days when I haven't prayed. My struggles seem more intense. I can tell that my vices work more on me on those days.

Returning from vacation does not need to be that bad. Our daily struggles do not need to be that bad if we just talk to God about them. He will be there for us.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Good news and evangilizing

In this weekend's second reading, Paul expresses God's love for us (Eph 1: 3-10). He says that it was God's plan, even before the foundation of the world was laid that we would become more than just His creation--we would be made His adopted sons and daughters. He grants us mercy and forgivness for all the wrong things that we do and through the blood of His very Son we would be redeemed.

There are people out there who do not know the love that God has for them. They are seperated from God's love either through ignorance or because of sin. We must in some way or another go and proclaim God's word. We must rise from our slumber and realize that there is more for us to do. We may not be called to be prophets like Amos was in our first reading but we are called to rise for our past job as shepards--or nurses, mom, dad, policeman or whatever your vocation may be and go spread the word of God.

You may not think you have it in you to literally stand behind the pulpit and proclaim the Word of God but sometimes we have to listen to the words of St. Francis of Assisi who said, "preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary--use words." That means the best way to evangilize is by being the Christian we are called to me. For me sometimes, that seems impossible. The call and temptation is so great that it seems easier to go with the flow than to follow Christ's path. We must trust that God will give us everything we need. In the Gospel this weekend (Mk 6:7-13), Jesus sends the disciples out telling them to only carry the clothes on their back and the shoes on their feet. We must trust that God will give us everything we need to proclaim His word.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Top 50 Annoying Things at Mass

A couple weeks ago on my favorite radio show, The Catholic Guy Show" on Sirius 159/XM 117, they did a segment titled "Things that annoy you at mass." Interestingly enough, it was a listener's suggestion and it went so well that it lasted the rest of the show. Lino Rulli, the host, even continued it the next day. I thought it was hilarious so I wrote them down and am presenting them here for you.
A little disclaimer--not all of these bug me personally. They were just on the show. Also, I didn't included every one and I added a couple--just to round it out to 50.

So here it is--Fifty things that annoy you at mass.
  1. The second collection--especially when no reason is given. Did they not meet their quota?
  2. When parents don't take their upset baby to the cry room
  3. When people in the choir are whispering amongst themselves
  4. The "Super Catholic"--the one who stands, kneels, or sits before everyone else. The one that is the first to do everything.
  5. That snotty nosed little kid who is sitting a few rows in front of you and is turned around just staring at you.
  6. The people who do a mini-genuflection, or a curtsy move instead of kneeling down or when it looks like they are swatting flies when they make the sign of the cross because they are doing it so fast
  7. The person with their checkbook out during the homily.
  8. When someone's cell phones go off and they ignore it so people won't know it's theirs.
  9. When a cell phone rings and the person just silences the ringer so either the phone rings again a couple minutes later or the alert goes off because the caller left a voicemail
  10. When people give you a dirty look when your kids are misbehaving, there-by making the kid act worse
  11. When you go to communion and return to your pew to discover that the people who were sitting in front of you are now gone and now you can't figure out exactly where you were sitting
  12. When the homilist has no command of the English language and you can't understand a word he is saying
  13. People who wear clothes with holes in them (and they can afford good clothes) or inappropriate clothing--jerseys, shorts, flip flops . . .
  14. When the choir sings the same song week after week or the same version of the Gloria season after season
  15. The guy who is sneezing and coughing throughout mass and then extends his hand to shake yours during the sign of peace. DUDE! Are you kidding me?
  16. When the priest mumbles and speaks in a monotone voice so you can't hear him
  17. When the congregation speak in a low, monotone voice and with no sincerity or excitement. You can't get excited for the Holy, Holy, Holy?? The song the angels are singing perpetually?? Seriously?
  18. Cantors who can't carry a tune
  19. When the organist goes freelance and starts playing what he wants
  20. Cantors who CAN sing and start showing off
  21. Holding hands during the Our Father
  22. When the sick list during the Prayers of the Faithful keeps growing and growing and growing
  23. When the parish doesn't follow the GIRM and just kneels or stands when they want
  24. When what the lector is reading is different than whats in the misselette
  25. When the person next to you bathed in perfume or cologne
  26. The late comers who pass by the open seats in the back and climb over you to get to an open seat
  27. When the priest says the creed so fast you can't keep up
  28. The people who say the creed at their own pace so they are either a few words ahead or a few words behind everyone else
  29. When the priest changes the words in the prayer in an attempt to make it gender neutral or politically correct. Read the prayer that's in the book!
  30. People who aren't participating and just sitting there instead of singing, reciting the Creed or saying the Our Father
  31. When you are visiting a parish and you get singled out by the priest welcoming you in front of everyone
  32. When there is an unexpected "guest speaker" at the end of mass and you are ready to leave
  33. When you are kneeling in prayer and the person in front of you sits down and leans all the way back
  34. When you are holding hands during the Our Father and the lady behind you wants to hold your hand causing you to be bent around like a pretzel
  35. Applause
  36. When people slam the kneelers either up or down so it sounds like you are in a bowling alley
  37. The person who gives you the skunk eye when you don't present yourself for communion for whatever reason
  38. When the priest asks everyone to introduce themselves to those around you or welcome each other at the beginning of mass
  39. People who come extremely late
  40. People who leave right after communion (this would be my number one annoying thing)
  41. Kids crawling under the pews, over the pews or down the aisle or banging their toys into the pew
  42. The pew blocker: the guy who sits at the end of the pew and won't slide in making you climb over him (I'm guilty!)
  43. People praying the rosary during mass.
  44. When the priest forgets to turn on the microphone so you can't hear a word he's saying
  45. When the priest forgets to turn OFF the microphone and you have to listen to him sing or say "Body of Christ" 200 times during communion
  46. Horrible sound systems that sound like a parent from Peanuts
  47. Hoot-N-Anny music--"contemporary" Peter, Paul, and Mary music from the 60's
  48. People who are fading away during mass--especially cantors or alter servers who are sitting in front of everyone.
  49. Songs with notes either too high or too low for 90% of the congregation
  50. When, during Father's Day, Mother's Day or other special events certain people are asked to stand and the rest of us are asked to "raise our arms in blessing" making the congregation look like some Nazi Rally

Does anyone have anything else?? Something you thing belongs on the list or doesn't belong on the list??

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Idolatry of Celebrities

I expect you are tired of hearing the name Michael Jackson but I just have one thing to say before we shut the lid on him. I'm really disturbed about how people treat celebrities. It seems to me that it either borders on idolatry or on hatred.

On the one hand, you have people going absolutely bonkers over a pop music singer. Police were telling people not to even try to go to Staples Center during Michal Jackson's memorial service because of the throngs of people. For the last week and a half, Michael Jackson is all we heard about. Talk about your Golden Calf. People seemed to be bowing down and worshiping at the feet of the deceased singer.

On the other hand, you only have to go as far as your local grocery store check out lane to see the venom that society spews at celebrities. The tabloids spew hatred about different singers or actors speaking of what stupid thing they did this week, or how they looked disastrous in such and such outfit. They post pictures showing how they have cellulite or how they appear anorexic. To make it all the more confusing--the same celebrity they are tearing down this week they will be building up next week.

This isn't going to be some posting on how celebrities or athletes are overpaid or shouldn't be someone to look up to. Sure, it's a shame that athletes make millions while teachers are below the poverty line. Sure it's a shame that singers are fawned over while paramedics receive little praise. But that's the way society is. Nothing I'm going to say is going to change it so why complain about it.

What I'm more interesting is getting people to see the humanity that is wearing that sports uniform. Or see the person behind the persona that they are playing for the camera. We spend all our time either idolizing or tearing down a celebrity that we fail to remember that they are made in the image and likeness of God just like us.

Two things help me remember this. The first is that because of my job I've been fortunate enough to watch baseball games from inside major league dugouts. I've been able to watch Major League Baseball games standing next to the likes of Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, Mike Sweeney or Derek Jeter. I've been able to have conversation with these world class athletes and they are just people like you and me. They have ups and downs, joys and concerns and they like to joke around and have fun just like you or me.

The other thing that helps me remember this is Twitter. I'm an admitted geek so I admit I follow a few celebrities like Joakim Soria or Adam Savage from Mythbusters. But admittedly one of the more interesting people to follow is Alyssa Milano. I don't recall how I found out she had Twitter but it was a fluke. I had a crush on her as a kid so I figured what the heck and clicked, "Follow." I'll tell you what---she is fun to follow. Her Tweets range from Iran to being on the movie set, from baseball to dancing around with pimple medicine on her chin. She just strikes me as a normal, down to Earth girl who just happens to be famous.

I firmly believe that if fail to humanize celebrities or athletes and instead idolize them or tear them apart it becomes easier for us to dehumanize the people that we come into contact on a day to day basis. We need to see Jesus in all people--whether it be a celebrity or a bum on a street corner. If we do that then we are one step closer to being Christ-like ourselves.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Universal Church and Mass

Another title for this could be "Why I love the Catholic Church: #532."

The word "catholic" means universal and that really strikes home when you think about the mass. The mass is the same wherever you go in the world and because the Roman Catholic Church is spread around the world, there is literally a mass going on someplace 24 hours a day.

Each mass is laid out the same way, although there are going to be some variances because of different regulations made up by different bishops throughout the world. They all contain the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist and contain the same pattern. This means that no matter what country you are in you can going to mass and be familiar with what is going on.

The readings at all the masses are the same (for the most part) for that day wherever you are in the world. Again, there are going to be some variances. For example when one diocese celebrates a certain feast day and there are occasionally options for longer or shorter readings. For the most part though, every mass you go to has the same readings for that day. For example, the first reading for today (July 6th) is Genesis 28: 10-22a and the Gospel reading is Matthew 9: 18-16. The readings readings for every day can be found at the Bishop's Website.

A third aspect is on the spiritual sense of the mass. When we are in mass, we are not locked into a certain time and space. As difficult as it may seem to believe--considering you may be sitting there bored--the mass transcends time and space. When you participate in the mass, you are not just with the people in that building. No--you are at mass with the universal church--the whole body of Christ--throughout the world and with those in Heaven. I know you are thinking, "Jamie, you should have recovered that marijuana and not smoked it" but it's true. We honestly don't appreciate the mass and how amazing it is.

What does this mean as for the universal church and why do I love it so much? Well, it means that no matter where I am in the world, or what time it is, or what language it is in, I can go to mass and follow along, hear the same readings, and truly feel as if I am part of the Body of Christ.

Friday, July 3, 2009

When I am weak

Many say that there are contradictions in the Bible. It is true that many verses seem to contradict others but in reality they can be understood if we study the passages But what about when one verse seem to contradict itself though. Take for instance when Jesus says, "the first shall be last and the last shall be first." It really is the type of verse that makes you shake your head and go, "huh?" Whenever you hear these types of verses it is important to read the whole thing in context so that you understand it.

The second reading from this week-end readings (the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time) is sort of like that. The very last line will just leave you scratching your head. "For when I am weak, I am strong." What?? I'm sure by the time this line is read at mass, if you are like me, you mind is wandering and you don't have a clue as to what is being said. This line will be said this weekend and as you are replying to the lector, "thanks be to God," your mind will be asking, "What did he say??"

Let's look at the passage as a whole. It is from Second Corinthians, Chapter 12, Verses 7-10:
Brothers and sisters:That I, Paul, might not become too elated,because of
the abundance of the revelations,a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel
of Satan,to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the
Lord about this, that it might leave me,but he said to me, "My grace is
sufficient for you,for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast
most gladly of my weaknesses,in order that the power of Christ may dwell with
me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,hardships, persecutions,
and constraints,for the sake of Christ;for when I am weak, then I am
Prior to this, Paul is talking about having received different visions and revelations. Now, if I was receiving visions and blessings from God--I would think I would have a tendency to get a little--a little cocky. Ever notice when we tend to get too cocky God puts us right back in our place and feeds us a little humble pie. It sounds like maybe this happened to Paul. It does not say exactly what happend but that Paul begged God to stop whatever He was allowing to happen. How does God answer Paul's plea?--"nope--not going to do it. My grace is enough. Power is made perfect in weakness."

This must have been one of those turn-on-the-lightbulb, AH-HA, moments for Paul because he says that if he had to be weak for Christ to dwell within him then that is what he will do.

We need to let that Ah-ha, moment work in us too. We have a tendency to want to fix everything. Especially as police officers because it's what we do. We go on a call between husband and wife or between neighbors, listen to the problem that has been going on for years and try to solve it in ten minutes so that we can go on to the next call. We do it in our personal lives when we try to do everything on our own without bring God into the picture. "I want to do it this way." "I think I need to do that."

We need to realize that we cannot do it alone. We have to rely on God. And the only way for God to dwell within us is to give up. Stop trying to lead and allow Him to take over. When we turn ourselves over to Him and become weak He will lead us and we are much stonger with Christ dwelling within us then we ever are trying to do things on our own.

"For when I am weak, I am strong." May it isn't a contradiction. Maybe it is a motto.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Infant Baptism

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about purgatory. A friend of mine had questions about purgatory so I tried to answer him the best I could. My friend also had questions about infant baptism and why we baptize babies. Infant baptism is often criticized by certain Protestant denominations because they believe that only adults should be baptized. The Catholic Church has been baptizing infants since the first century. To better understand why we baptize infants, it's important to understand what Catholics believe happens at baptism.

Catholics believe that when we are baptized:
  1. we are washed free of all sins, both original and actual, as well as all punishment for sin
  2. the baptized is made "a new creature" (1265 CCC) and given sanctifying grace
  3. we are made members of the Body of Christ, the Church
  4. we are given an indelible spiritual mark

The Church teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation to all those who have received the Gospel and who are able to ask for the sacrament based on Mark 16:16 (1257 CCC)

So we believe that as parents we have a responsibility to ensure that our children are baptized. If we think of original sin-that sin which is transferred to us from our original parents, Adam & Eve--as dirt and grime, would we not be remiss if we did not ensure that our children were washed clean through the sacrament of baptism?

I understand that when adults are baptized they are able to stand up for themselves and proclaim their faith. When Catholic parents have their children baptized, they are standing up for the child and promising that they will raise them and Christian and the child is given grace to help it grow spiritually.

There are several instances in the Bible where whole households are baptized including Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33 and 1 Corr 1:16. When this happened, it means more than husband and wife. It included children and probably any slaves that were included in the household.

The argument against infant baptism can be explain if it is understood what Catholics believe happens at baptism. It is also important to point out that the Church has been baptizing infants since the early church. This is shown not only in early writings but in Scripture.

There is a good article, if you are interested in further reading at the Catholic Answers website. This is just a short brief post, I realize. Is there anything that you catechists out there can add to help explain it better?? Anything I missed?