Monday, August 31, 2009

Forgive Me Father AS I Have Forgiven

If you have read anything I've written you will know that I am a big supporter of confession and seeking God's forgiveness. You will know that I've written about God's mercy and how He desires to offer us forgiveness.

Sadly, I may have been remiss in speaking how we need to imitate God in our forgiveness for others. In the Bible somewhere (remember I am Catholic and can't be expected to know where stuff is located!) it speaks about how we are supposed to forgive people not just once or twice. Jesus tells us that we are expected to forgive our neighbor "seventy times seven." You will find the number seven several times in the bible and that is because the number has the significance of perfection. So Jesus is not saying we should only forgive someone 490 times and on the 491st time we can say "forget them!" He basically saying we should forgive someone an infinite number of times. As many times as it takes.

Jesus is a smart guy. He knows that when we hold anger and bitterness over someone we are allowing that person to hold us captive. We need to be able to let go of our anger and hard feelings over that person so that we can be free. I'm not saying you have to forget and allow yourself to make the same mistake. Don't be a sucker and allow yourself to be taken for a fool. Just because we are supposed to be meek does not mean we are supposed to be punching bags.

I would say the most important reason to be forgiving people was pointed out to me in a lecture I heard by Dr. Scott Hahn titled "Understand The Lord's Prayer." In the lecture, Dr. Hahn breaks down the Lord's Prayer bit by bit. He gets to the part of the prayers that says, "forgive us our trespasses AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO HAVE TRESPASSED AGAINST US." In the prayer we are petitioning God to forgive our sins but we are adding a caveat. Forgive us God just like I've forgiven that other guy. So if I haven't forgiven that other guy, I should not expect that other guy to forgive me!
It's not easy to forgive someone. It may be a daily thing that you have to do. You may forgive Joe today and then tomorrow realize you are still holding on to that grudge. Forgive Joe again. Tomorrow forgive him again and again and again until you've forgiven him 490 times. And then forgive him again. Model yourself after Pope John Paul II who was able to forgive Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who shot him and nearly killed him.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Living in a Catholic Cave: A Reflection on the Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Do you live in a Catholic cave? What do I mean by a Catholic cave? Well, do you know who Scott Hahn, Tim Staples or Patrick Madrid are? Do you know which archdioceses Abps. Chaput or Dolan lead? Do you know who David Archeleta, Zach Efron, or Jon Gosselin are? Do you know what football teams Michael Vick or Brett Farve are? If you know the answers to the first two questions but not the second two questions, you may live in a Catholic cave. If you say the word "secular" as in "secular media" or "secular colleges" with a tone of disdain then you may live in a Catholic cave. If you get pangs of jealousy when a friend tells you he went on a retreat hosted by Fr. Benedict Groeschel or that they got to hear a speech by Fr. Corapi then you might live in a Catholic cave.

We often have a tendency to blame our faults or short comings on the outside instead of looking towards the inside. This goes for those of us who may or may not be living in that Catholic cave.

In this weekend's gospel reading, the Pharisees are critical of Jesus' disciples because they observed that some of them did not wash their hands prior to eating. I guess they did not use Purell or anything! Jesus didn't chastise the disciples. He didn't go to them and say, "DUDE!! That's gross! Wash your stinking hands! They are filthy!" (well, hopefully he did later on out of site of everyone else.) Nope-Jesus, always looking for a teaching moment says,

"Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;but the things
that come out from within are what defile. From within people, from their
hearts,come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice,
deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come
from within and they defile.”

While we face tempations from the outside, sin comes from the inside. Yes, the Devil may whisper into our ears and try to get us to do things we know we should not. In the end though, we have free will. Sin boils up from the inside and we cannot blame anyone else when we falter.

The good news is that we have access to God's grace that will quash those urges and vices we only need to turn to Him. If we don't take advantage of the graces that God tries to give us, especially those available in the sacraments, then we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Don't blame the secular world for sin being in the world when it comes from inside of us. Don't hide in our Catholic cave but let God's love and mercy shine from inside us. Go out into that evil secular world and live the gospel. As James tells us in our second reading, "Be doers of the word and not hearers only."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Hypocritical Christians

A couple of weeks ago, a Jewish friend of mine posted as his Facebook status the following quote by Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi:

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so
unlike your Christ"

My friend evidently has something going on in his life because he posted the same quote again yesterday.

Now, I know what you are thinking. You are probably thinking, "Jamie, you have a Jewish friend?" Yes, yes I do. He's a great guy who just happens to look like Peter Griffin from "The Family Guy"---but that's not important right now.

What is important is this quote from Gandhi. To be honest, my first thought was that it seems unfair to place Christians on the same pedestal as Jesus. Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. Jesus was born without sin because of Mary's immaculate conception and did not even suffer from concupiscence--the tendency to sin. Why should we, just because we choose to follow Jesus, be held up to His standards and be expected to be perfect just as He is perfect.

It then struck me that in fact we called to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. We are called to imitate Christ and be just like Him. It's not fair. It's not fair at all for someone to expect us to be perfect but that's the path we choose if we choose to follow Jesus. Fortunately, because of His divine mercy we know that when we do stumble and fall He will be there for us to forgive us and put us on our feet to send us back out again.

Our failings as Christians come when we presume in God's forgiveness. We take God's mercy for granted and instead of trying to live that Christian life like we know we should, we live life the way we want to. So we go to church on Sunday and tell everyone we are Christian but live a hedonistic lifestyle or become judgemental of those who are not like us for whatever reason. This is why people see Christians and hypocrites.

Granted, it is ironic that the same people who will call you a hypocrite will also call you pious, a prude or out of touch with reality if you try to live that Christian lifestyle. Ironically, it's often the ones who try hard to live a moral life who are persecuted when they fail while the marginal Christians who are Christians in name only do not take any grief for the lifestyles that they live.

We were never promised an easy road though. We are still called to pick up our own crosses. We are still called to love God above any other. We are still called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If we follow those two commandments that Jesus gave us then we will live as Christ

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An Experiance

I walked to the front and partook like I've done hundreds of times in the past

but this time as I returned to my spot something different happened.

Instead of the same routine, the world I knew was there in theory transformed in front of me into reality.

Jesus was there

Mary was hugging me

The question that must have been haunting me came to mind:

"How can I get here? I fear making a mistake and failing."

Jesus says to me, "How can you fail when you have all of these people behind you."

Suddenly around me were my loved ones who have passed.

Grandparents, uncles among others looking at me with a smile, love in their eyes.

Past them I saw a swarms of saints as if they were fans in a stadum cheering me on.

Jesus then put my arm around his neck and his arm around my body and lifted me off of my knees.

He started carrying me and I realized that the only thing that can stop me from reaching the finish line is me.

I didn't want to leave but the song was over

I opened my eyes and sat back down

Monday, August 24, 2009

Grieving Is For the Living

"Grieving is for the living. "

Who said that?? I did.

It seems all too often that death is a time for pain, anguish and sorrow. It should be. It should also be a time for celebration and remembrance.

Sometime in our life, someone we all love, a brother, a father, and an uncle, will leave us and we will miss them. There is nothing that is going to take away the pain and sadness of missing our loved one.

If you were given the chance to spend those last moments with your loved one, to watch their pulse go to zero and their body give away then you were witness to some truly wonderful actually happening. You were able to see your loved one freed. They are free for the first time in years. They are free from sin, free from worry and free from suffering. We imagine them being greeted on the other side by friends, family and loved ones who have gone before them. They are able to feast, able to eat without their teeth hurting him or choking. They are pain free and worry free and having the time of their life--er-should I say the time of their death?

That is just the beginning of why we should be happy for our loved ones and celebrate their passing. Sometime this weekend, when it is nice and clear out, drive out to the country to some old dirt road where it is nice and dark. Look up to the stars. Watch a sunrise or a sunset. Marvel and awe at God's creations and how wonderful he must be to make things so beautiful. Then think of the love that you personally hold for your loved one. Now, just TRY to grasp the feeling of love that they are feeling now that they is in the presence of God. Live is a marvelous thing. I'm reminded of that every time I see my children. Creation is a wonderful gift from God. But don't be confused and think that as he gave us life when he created us that he destroys us when he gives us Death. No, in fact, death is another gift he gives us. He sacrificed himself so that we may conquer sin and spend eternity with him. Imagine---eternity in the presence and love of God. What a is truly in a wonderful place we will be in and that are loved one is in now.

There is a theory in forensic science called the "transfer theory". It means that wherever we go, we leave a bit ourselves. We leave hair, dirt, threads, cells. I believe that whenever we come into contact with someone we leave a little bit of ourselves behind---positive or negative. I know my loved ones have left some of their personality behind in me. I see traits of them in me. Their wonderful wit and sense humor. Their mild nature. His enjoyment of the Beatles. One of the reasons I chose law enforcement was because of my Uncle Mick. So my loved ones have left a bit of themselves behind in me and I'm sure you can see in you some of what your loved ones left behind. Whoever my Uncle Mick left his enjoyment for Schlitz and cranberry sauce to---I feel sorry for.

I know we are in pain. But in our pain, be happy for our loved ones and remember them. Celebrate their life and their passing. As long as we have memories they will still be with us. As long as we have the communion of saints, they are still next to us.


I wrote this several years ago as a post on my families website at after my Uncle Mick passed away at 54 years old. He was the Chief of Police in the small town where I grew up and left behind two daughters, Amy and Megan.

I decided to pull this out of the archives of the family website and edit it to make it available to the blogosphere.

Stoked for NCYC

Do you sometimes wonder about the future of the church?? Do you look around and only see old farts waiting to die?? Does the church seem stale and boring??

Well, the future is here. It is young and vibrant. There are young people who are full of zeal and passion for the Lord. They are excited about their faith and they are bringing that excitement to Kansas City, Missouri this November during the National Catholic Youth Conference.

On November 19-21st, nearly 25,000 catholic youth are going to be taking over downtown Kanss City. The theme is Christ Reigns and the general sessions will be held at Sprint Arena with other sessions at Bartle Hall.

If you have never been NCYC then you are missing out. I attended the one in 2001 in Indianapolis and it is truly breathtaking. As someone who assists with confirmation classes it is truly refreshing to see teens with such passion and love for God.

I was able to get a glimpse of NCYC at a youth rally this weekend here in Kansas City and had a really good time. There was a band composed of several young singers from area parishes and we got a sampling of the songs that will be sung at this fall. There were only a few hundred kids from around the KC Metro area there but it was enough to get a person excited if they already weren't.

One of the things I am eager to see it Eucharistic Adoration in the Sprint Arena. The same place that has held concerts for Garth Brooks and the Jonas Brothers will now have 25000 kids showing love and respect for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. This will be followed by a Eucharistic Procession through the Power and Light District to Bartle Hall. I seriously want video.

If you are a parent or just an adult in the Kansas City area who wants to help I know they are looking for volunteers. Go to the website for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas to sign up.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Truth is Out There: The 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

The truth is out there. That was one of the tag-lines for the cult-hit television show, The X-Files, which ran in the 1990's. In the show, FBI Agents Mulder and Scully searched for paranormal activity as well as extraterrestrial life. Some would watch the show and think, "look at these whacko bastards." Well, I have something to tell you about that that is crazier than space aliens, Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster. What I'm about to tell far exceeds anything that some guy wearing a hat made out of tinfoil will tell you on the coo-coo scale. What I'm about to tell you is the foundation of the Catholic faith and the truth is not out there. It is right here. The truth is in the tabernacle.

The truth is that God made the world. Sin entered the world through man. God loved man so much that he wanted to be reunited with us so He became man. He was born through a virgin. He was persecuted, died and was buried and on the third day he rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven. Wait . . . Wait---that's not all. At every mass, the sacrifice is re-presented and bread and wine is transformed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

Personally, I think that is as far out there as any science fiction book but it's the truth. It's not easy to believe now and it was not easy to believe then. In the previous few weeks, we've looked at John 6 and Jesus has repeatedly told us that He is the bread of life and that to have everlasting life we must eat his flesh and drink his blood.

The Jews had a hard time dealing with this claim. "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" they said. It was just a difficult concept for them to get their heads around that many of them left him. Jesus didn't stop them though. He didn't say, "Whoa!! You misunderstand!! I meant that as a metaphor!! The bread and wine is only a symbol!!" Nope. He did not do that at all. He let them walk away.

Jesus must have been upset. They didn't believe him after everything he had shown them. He turns to the twelve and asks them if they were going to leave him too.

Simon Peter (our first pope) steps up to the plate and says, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life." Simon Peter tells Jesus that he believes and is convinced that He is the "Holy One of God."

This is the truth. We do not have to go searching the vast reaches of space. We only need to inspect our heart. As St. Augustine says there is a God shaped hole in our heart. As Joshua says in this week-end's first reading we must decide today who we will serve. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Jos 24)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mortification Through Smiling

I'll let you in on a little secret of mine. I revel in the witty comeback. Ohhh, nothing excites me when someone says something and I have just the zinger for them and I fling it at them. It must be how a pitcher feels when he puts one right over the edge of the plate and catches the batter looking for strike three. And I have to admit that my favorite comeback is the old "that's what she said!" This is reserved for when someone says something completely innocent and you turn it into something of a sexual nature and say, "that's what she said!"
Obviously, it's not good for my spiritual life turning innocent statements into sexual ones because I have to have my mind in the gutter. The witty come back, I think, can be a hindrance to my interior growth too because quite often there is someone at the other end of the remark. To have a good zinger sometimes you have to have some who has been zinged. Sometimes, it is better to hold my tongue so that someone does not get hurt.

Many of my comments are stupid (my wife's word!) puns. I'll take a comment and twist it around and repeat it in a way that the person obviously did not mean. Stupid I know, but it's a family trait. I inherited it from my uncles and I realize it's probably not as funny to anyone else as it is to us. How can biting my tongue help my interior life in these cases? It can be my little way of interior mortification. This struck me when I read a quote from St. Josemaria Escriva:

"The appropriate word you left unsaid; the joke you didn't tell; the
cheerful smile for those who bother you; that silence when you're unjustly
accused; your kind conversation with people you find boring and tactless; the
daily effort to overlook one irritating detail or another in those who live with
you . . . this, with perseverance, is indeed solid interior mortification." The Way, #173

If there is one quote that I would put one a Post-it and put on the dashboard of my car so I could remember it would be this one. Through a little mortification we learn to sacrifice and endure a little suffering. I am always one to preach joy and happiness but through a little sacrifice and suffering we can share in the sufferings of Christ and become more Christ-like. Mortification does not require us to wear camel hair undergarments or scale the Scala Santa on our knees. We can follow St Therese of Lisieux and just do those little things that help us get closer to Christ.

That's why the quote of St Josemaria means so much to me. It's filled with a list of small little things what would be difficult for me. Not telling that joke. Giving someone I do not like a cheerful smile. Having kind words or conversations with people I do not really want to talk to. These are all interior things that are very difficult for me to do.

Sometimes the biggest mistakes we make in our conversion is trying to make huge leaps. God is patient and gives us the grace we need to change. It's a long race. There are sidetracks. Sometimes for three steps forward in our interior life we take two steps back. The important thing to do is to make sure is that we keep moving forward even if it's my taking small steps like biting our tongue.

So next time you see me and I give you a pleasant smile ask yourself, "Did I just help Jamie get closer to God because I am that person who annoys him??" :-)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pssst!! Have You Heard??

So you may read my blogs about confession and think, "But Jamie, I'm a good person. I don't have any vices. I don't drink to excess. I don't sleep around. I'm not a jealous person. I just don't really have anything to confess!" Imagine, all this time the Church has taught that Jesus and Mary were the only ones without sin. I didn't realize that you too were sinless. Here is one sin that you may not have thought about. How about . . . . murderrrrr!!!!. Yes, that's right. Murder. The vast majority of us are guilty of it in a way whenever we gather around the water cooler and gossip. Hold on--correction--I'm a cop. We are guilty of it when we gather around the "Coke Fort" at the local Quik Trip and gossip about what is going on. (And yes--cops are notorious gossips--worse than little old ladies.)

Your next question is probably how do I relate gossip to murder. A little innocent gossip never hurt anyone right?? If you have ever had an untrue rumor going around about you then you already know the answer to that. Gossip and rumors may not physically hurt a person but they sure as heck can emotionally and spiritually kill a person.

I can hear your next argument. "But there is nothing that I'm saying that isn't the truth!" It does not really matter does it? Sometimes the truth hurts more. Sometimes people mess up but that does not mean that they need to be tried in the court of public opinion. There are private things that the whole world does not need to be privy to. People put themselves in difficult situations and have a more difficult time dealing with their mistakes because of what everyone else is saying. Sometimes their mistakes hurt those who are innocent even more because of the rumors that go flying around.

I'm not casting stones here. I'm as guilty as anyone else. Everyone likes to gossip. Everyone likes to get the latest big juicy news. Why?? Pride. When we spread rumors we are able to look at people in a bad light. We are able to put them beneath us. This makes us feel better about ourselves. Pride is at the bottom of the gossip mill and we need to humble ourselves and shut that mill down.

Whether or not a rumor is true or false they do not need to have their reputation beat down. We need to be loving people. It is a difficult thing to tell someone to stop what they are saying and tell them that you don't want to participate in the rumor mills. Gossip is a vice like any other. The good news is we can bring it to Jesus in the confessional. He already knows what's going on anyway.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Evil in Our Midst

For some reason in today's world, we tend to make evil something abstract. No one wants to believe in Hell. No one wants to believe in Satan. People in today's world try to say that biblical references of the Devil are just attempts to personify the wrong that occur in the world.

Isn't ironic that Satan, who was top amongst all the angels and who fell because of his pride, probably likes slipping in under the radar. He knows that when we don't believe that he exists it actually makes it easier for him to make himself more present. It makes it easier for him to attack us.

I don't think that any police officer, except for maybe Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife of the Andy Griffith Show, would say that there is not evil in the world, although some might still debate about the reality of Satan. As someone who has sat outside of houses with butchered families inside, rolled up on scenes of homicides where an innocent girl was murdered for gas money, or been present when automatic gun fire has erupted in a crowd, I am here to tell you that Satan is real and present in our world. No human could unleash the evil that is present without demonic assistance.
The devil is not only present in the Hitler's, the Manson's or the murderers of the world though. He attacks each and every one of us every day and wins quite often. The devil's goal is to claim as many souls as he can. Every time he causes us to sin he causes us to become more and more separated from God. The further from God we go the easier it is for us to sin and the cycle begins again.

It would be a very gloomy picture if it were not for the good news that been given to us. And that good news is that God became incarnate and became the perfect sacrifice for us. It is because of this perfect sacrifice that we have the possibility of eternal life. It is because of God's mercy that we have the fount of God's grace available to us in the Eucharist and his forgiveness available to us in the sacrament of reconciliation.

We are warned in scripture to keep guard. Paul tells us to put on the armour of God so that we are able to stand firm against the tactics of the Devil (Eph 6:11) To do this we must partake in the sacraments. We must go be reconciled for our sins. We must receive His grace through the Eucharist. We must pray daily. Whatever your vice is, ask God for the opposing virtue to battle it.

Do not belittle evil. Don't toy with the Devil and play silly little games. Do not be afraid either because if God is for us then who can be against us. (Rom 8: 31) HA!!! Two bible verses in one blog!! Pretty good for a Catholic huh???

Friday, August 14, 2009

St. Maximilian Kolbe

Today, August 14th, is the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe. St. Maximilian was born in 1894 and ordained at age 24. He founded a magizine called, Knight of the Imaculata. (I wonder if he would have a blog today?)
St. Maximilian spent several years in Japan but moved back to his homeland in Poland. He was arrested in 1939 and again in 1941. You may not realize this but Hitler was not real fond of those Catholics either and St. Maximlian on May 28th he was sent to Auschwitz. St. Maximilian's time as Auschwitz as prisoner 16670 was harsh. He was beaten severely several times because of his dedication to the faith and his compassion towards the other prisoners.
In July, a prisoner escaped and to set and example and prevent further escapes, the commandant decided to execute ten random men by starvation. Ten men were selected and St. Maximilian stepped up and volunteered to take the place of Francis Gajowniczek because the man had a wife and children.
The commandant allowed the switch and the men were put into a block house and for the next three weeks, St. Maximilian was starved but he led the others in prayer and son. Finally after three weeks of being starved, St. Maximilian was given a shot of carbolic acid to kill him. His body was burned.
St. Maximilian was canonized in 1982. I can't really say why I like St. Maximilian so much. I think it's because he spent his life spreading the word of God and under harsh circumstances caring for his fellow man. In the end, he calmly gave his life for a man he did not know.

Five Reasons We Need Eucharist: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My wife gave me a C- on this blog yesterday so I had to start over and provide you with better than C- work. This week's Gospel reading definitely deserves better than C- because as we see in this portion of the sixth chapter of John, Jesus explains in His own words why we need the Eucharist.

In the past, I have reworded what people say in scripture in a way that people might better understand. Forgive me for not doing that today because so much of what is written is red-letter stuff. Since I'm writing to Catholics, and we know there are many Catholics who don't read the Bible, let me explain. In many Bibles, the words of Jesus are written in red to draw attention to them. I'm not going to pretend to be able to improve one what Jesus said or improve on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (I'm humble like that) so let me just write what Christ said.

He starts of with the ever-important, "Amen, Amen, I say to you . . . " Remember, I pointed out last week that whenever Jesus says this it's time for you to sit up and pay attention because He is about to get His preaching on:
"unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his
blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my
blood has eternal life,and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is
true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life
because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of
me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate
and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
In the Eucharist, bread and wine is consecrated and transformed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist, we are following the directions of Jesus in this passage. Jesus is explaining to us why we need the Eucharist. Let's break it down to the five reasons Jesus says we need to eat His body and drink His blood.
  1. If you do not you will not have life in you. If you do not have life in you then you are dead. You are physically and spiritually dead.

  2. Whoever does has eternal life. Eternal--you know--today and tomorrow and forever and ever. Isn't that what we all want??

  3. Whoever does remains in Christ and He in us. Even if we live for eternity but it's not with Jesus then it's not worth it. A day without Jesus in you is a day wasted. I know for me those days where I have not made Jesus a part of my life just seem blah.

  4. God, the Father, had God the Son become incarnate and gave Him life. Jesus reiterates that whoever eats and drinks will, like Him, have life.

  5. All of our nourishment on Earth, even though it's provided by God, still only leads to death. It is through the Eucharist that we are given life.

We will get into more of the apologetics next week but one thing is interesting. Jesus is not being symbolic here. He is speaking of flesh--actually meat. When he says "eat" the actual word he is using means "gnaw" or "chew" like one would do when we eat meat and not eat as in when we eat bread.

In this passage, Jesus is pleading with us. He is repeatedly saying whoever eats His body and drinks His blood will have eternal life and whoever doesn't shall die. He's not saying do something that is LIKE eating and drinking. He is saying we must actually eat and drink.

And yet people fail to partake in the gift Jesus gives us. People belittle it and say it's only a symbol. People who take every other Bible passage in a literal sense seem to gloss this passage over and say that Jesus does not mean eat his flesh and drink his blood when that is exactly what He is saying. Or sadly, people demean the Eucharist and let the opportunity pass by and miss mass choosing to sleep in. Worse yet, they partake in the Eucharist when they are in a state of mortal sin.

Wake up, people! Jesus is saying we must eat and drink His flesh and blood. Let yourself be nourished by Christ. Let Jesus live in you and you in Him.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Marriage as a Vocation

Here is a little tid-bit about me that very few people know. I've been married twice. The first time was on July 2, 1993 when I married the most beautiful woman in the world. The second time was on or about April 17, 2000. That is the day that Abby and I had our marriage blessed and it became a sacramental marriage. You see the first time, we got married by a judge at the Platte County Courthouse. According to the Catholic Church, it was not a valid marriage until it was blessed. (So technically---I could have gotten an annulment!!)
This isn't about how confusing the rules and regulations the Church has about marriage can be. It's about how the Church holds marriage to be a sacrament and a vocation.
Marriage is one of seven sacraments. Marriage, along with Holy Orders, are two of the sacraments that are directed in the salvation of others. This means that marriage and holy orders (the priesthood) "confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God." (From paragraph 1534 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church) Marriage and Holy Orders causes a permanent change in a person. When two people are married they are sealed by God and this seal is unbreakable.
On that day in 2000, when my marriage was blessed by the church, Abby and I were no longer two separate people. We were one. Adam speaks of this in Genesis when he says, "flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. " Our marriage was now our vocation and our roles in life was to assist the other to get to heaven.
Everything I do, must be geared towards helping my wife get to heaven. Her role is to get me towards heaven. Because we are one everything we do should be geared towards making the other person happy. I should be more willing to sever a limb than to cause harm to my wife. Every decision in our lives are geared at serving God and each other. God may allow us to struggle. God may give us challenges. But God will not place any obstacle in our way that would cause irreparable damage to our marriage. If there is an obstacle in a married couples way that would cause damage like that then it is placed there by one of the spouses and not by God.
Marriage isn't easy. Marriage requires sacrifice. Marriage isn't all about games. I have no doubt that marriage is my vocation and that God has blessed me with my soul mate.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Report me to if you must but . . .

I few weeks ago we were at mass at St. Gabe's and during the prayers of the faithful they brought up healthcare and I kind of unconciously rolled my eyes. My wife--always alert--gve me an elbow. Last Saturday we were at mass at Holy Family and again during the prayers of the faithful they brought up healthcare. Wary of receiving an elbow in the ribs again I was careful to control my emotions. Am I wrong to hold back my prayers on something I am against?
Here are my feelings on nationalized heathcare. Have you ever seen the federal government touch anything that isn't jacked up?? The US Post Office isn't known as the model of efficiency. Amtrak?? It would be bankrupt if it was privately owned. President Reagan once said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"
I have a good job. I have good health insurance. I was bad enough when the department's health insurance got rolled into the cities health insurance. I surly don't want it having to be mixed up with a national healthcare package.
Am I being selfish because I don't want the goverment to mess up what I have--what I work hard for??? I understand that there are people out there who are in need of healthcare. There are people who, for whatever reason, are uninsured. I understand the plight of the poor. I grew up on welfare, on foodstamps, eating government cheese and peanut butter. I don't think socialized medicine will help out the poor.
I agree that the healthcare system needs some sort of reform and regulation. I've seen friends harmed because insurance won't pay for certain tests. But I strongly disagree that a total overhaul of the health insurance system is what is needed. Before I can trust the federal government to provide an effencient healthcare system, I need to see them provide effecient healthcare at VA hospitals. I need to see them provide efficent healthcare to medicade/medicare recipiants.
When the government can do that then I need to see a system where my taxes aren't going to pay for abortions (doubtful with an admistration with a science czar who believes in forced abortions or that newborns aren't fully human). I don't want my taxes going to euthanazia. I want a system where the the elderly and disabled are treated with respect and not as someone who would be better off dead as was the case in the Northwest were a cancer patient was told by her state run insurance that they would not pay for cancer treatment but would pay for euthanasia.
In the end, I try to maintain a Catholic social teaching out look of caring for the poor and the less fortunate. But am I wrong to pray for a system of socalized medicine that is being paraded in front of us by the president and those in congress that, instead providing the promising medical care for all will give less coverage to all?? Am I wrong not to pray for a heath insurance system that does not provide respect for all human life despite age or physical condition.
Call me unpatriotic for using my constitutional rights to voice my opinion like Speaker of the House Pelosi says I am. Report me to the Party--errrrr, I mean the White House for writing something "fishy" at but until a bill is put foward that respect human life and does not affect my insurance now or in the future do not expect me to support it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

If You Believe Then Why Aren't You Eating?" 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This is our third weekend exploring John, Chapter Six. Two weeks ago we read about the Loaves and the Fishes and last week we read another portion of the Bread of Life discourse. This weekend we continue where Jesus left off last week.

At the end of last weeks reading, Jesus says, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger,and whoever believes in me will never thirst." The Jews, who must have had the same mentality as cops because they are always skeptical, started talking amongst themselves saying, "Whatever--This is Jesus. We grew up with him. We know his mom and dad. He didn't come down from Heaven. He must be smoking something." Never mind the fact that he just multiplied the fishes and loaves.
Jesus tells the Jews, "Stop talking amongst yourselves. I'm RIGHT here. I can HEAR you!" (that parts not actually scripture but I can imagine it)
Jesus then says, "Amen, Amen, I say to you." (I find that whenever Jesus says, "Amen Amen, I say to you" he is about to say something important) and continues:

"whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors
ate the manna in the desert, but they died;this is the bread that comes down
from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came
down from heaven;whoever eats this bread will live forever;and the bread that I
will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

I gave the rest of the reading because I didn't want to take things out of context but three lines there strike me. The first is "whoever believes has eternal life." The second is "whoever eats this bread will live forever." Finally, "the bread that I will give is my flesh."

As Catholics we believe in the "real presence." We believe that during mass that the bread and wine is consecrated and changed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Several years ago, there was a statistic going around that only a third of Catholics believe in the true presence. This stat came from a confusing survey asking people to pick between several confusing theological definitions. It would have been better served as a question on a theology students test. Recent studies have shown that the statistic is closer to 81%. It's still sad that there are 19% of catholics who don't believe what has been described as the "source and the summit" of our faith.

I find a more shocking statistic is that less than half of catholics attend mass on a regular basis. That means there are nearly a third of catholics who DO believe in the real presence but don't come to mass regularly. How can you explain understanding that you will be in the physical presence of Jesus--in the physical presence of GOD and not go there regularly?? At least the 19% who don't get it don't understand what they have. You do!!

So to you catholics out there who have read this far--go to mass this weekend!! Make a habit out of it! Like the angel tells Elijah in our first reading, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hatred and Racism in the Beer Garden

Okay, I need some help in understanding something and that is racism and hatred in general. Not the what but the why. As a white police officer working the inner city, I experience racism nightly but not in the way most of you all might expect. My officers and the the other officers on my department are professional and deal with people fairly and equitable. The racism I experience is FROM minorities. It's not uncommon to be called a "[expletive] white cop," a "pecker wood" (derogatory term for white people) or to have the n-word thrown about from black people describing other black people. With the election of President Obama, we heard it all. From drunks, drug dealers, and wife beaters I heard, "Oh things are going to change. You won't be able to harass us now because we got ourselves a black president." I like to point out, being the smart alec that I am, that President Obama is half white. Oh man! That ticks them off.

Then a couple weeks ago the nation was exposed to an incident that happened in Cambridge, Mass because of a question that was asked at a nationally televised presidential press conference. Police were dispatched to the home a Harvard Professor Henry Gates Jr. in regard to a burglary in progress. The police arrive and simply ask Professor Gates for identification to prove he lives there so they can be on their way. Prof Gates, obviously an educated man, starts a racial tirade after refusing to provide identification that shows he lives there. The discussion moves outside and he is arrested for disorderly conduct (a charge which is later dropped).

Why the question of a local incident is posed to President Obama I do not know. But President Obama, showing Joe Bidenesque qualities in his answer, says that he does not know what happened but that the police acted "stupidly." Why? Why? Why would the president throw down the race card about an incident that he does now know the specifics about? For someone who is supposed to bringing people together he certainly seems to be a divider and makes my job more difficult. Now all the minorities who happen to be burglars, robbers and other racists think they have an ally in the White House because we are only targeting them because of their race.

So last week, President Obama, Vice President Biden, Professor Gates and Cambridge Sergeant James Crowley had a meeting "over some beer." The results were an "agreement to disagree." You are trying to tell me that no one could admit that maybe mistakes were made?? Maybe the situation could have been handled differently by Sgt. Crowley. Maybe the situation could have been resolved by Prof Gates by simply showing identification so the police could move on? Maybe a comment by the president saying that mistakes were made but racism doesn't seem to be the cause. No, President Obama, who has made a career of hanging out with professional racists such as Rev Jeremiah Wright, leaves the race card out there instead of doing the right thing and bringing it back.

Move forwards a few nights and I'm working in Westport, an entertainment district here in Kansas City. By entertainment district I mean a place where there are a lot of bars. I park my patrol car on the corner of Westport and Pennsylvania. On the street corner are two "street preachers." They aren't yelling. They aren't screaming. They are simply handing out cards inviting people to their church and speaking about Jesus to people. After awhile, I see there seem to be having a heated discussion with a gentleman on a bicycle. By heated, I mean the guy on the bike is raising his voice. I hop out and go lean on the hood of my car so I can listen in. This guy is, well, he seemed to dislike Christians but I could not tell what he actually did believe in. At one point he was telling these two guys, "I HATE YOU for what you are doing and for what you believe in." The street preachers simply replied with, "I love you and God loves you." This discussion went on for over an hour. It left me wondering what is wrong with this guy who would argue with these two guys so much that he would spend this much time spewing so much anger. I never stepped in (although I admit a few sarcastic comments MAY have been let loose.)

In the end, I am left wondering, what in the human mind, causes such hatred and venom be spewed towards another group of people, whether it be because of race or religion. I understand hatred if someone has personally offended you and even then we are called to forgive them. I think we are all called to love one another. We are made in the image and likeness of God. God is love. Isn't it easier and more calming to love someone than it is to expend the energy to hate them??

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Forgive me Father. . .7 Simple Steps for Confession

The other morning, I was looking through the Catholic Answers forums when I saw a question in a post: "What would you do if you went to confession at St. Peter's and realized you were confessing to Pope Benedict XVI?" I don't know if His Holiness still hears confession but my answer was this. I'm enough of a Catholic Geek that I would be geeked out. I would go home and tell my friends and family, "Yeaaaaaaah, the pope and I are tight. He's my personal confessor." Realizing that of course, I would be lying and have to go to confession again.

I then had a realization (spurned on by the other postings.) When we go to confession, even if it's a a simple parish priest, we have a greater confessor than going to the pope. You see, when we confess to a priest, BECAUSE he's an ordained priest, we are actually confessing our sins to Jesus. The priest is in persona Christi, in the person of Christ.

Confession is one of my favorite sacraments. We are confessing our sins in the way that Jesus wants us to. In the gospel, after His resurrection, He breathed on the apostles and said, "whoever's sins you forgive are forgiven and whoever's sins you retain or retained." That's a paraphrase--you'll forgive me for not knowing the exact words--I'm Catholic and don't know the Bible that well :-).

A second reason, confession is so great, is that it is freeing. There is something releasing about telling someone your sins. It's like lifting a burden. And it's not like the priest can tell anyone anything you said without suffering the pains of excommunication. And besides--the priest hears many confessions. He has probably heard it all.

A third good reason for confession--if you have a good confessor--is that you can get some good spiritual guidance. The priest I go to is amazing. He can help you with things are troubling you. Don't ask me his name or parish--I'm not going to tell you. The lines to confession there are long enough!!

So I have two request to ask. The first is to everyone. GO TO CONFESSION!!! Make a habit of it. It isn't difficult and if it's been a while here are X simple steps for confession.
  1. Make an examination of conscience. You may think you only have one thing to say but examine your conscience and think of other sins. There are plenty of places, resources you can go to find. Personally, I always listen to Fr. Larry's CD on Confession that can be found here at Fr. Larry talks about confession (hence the name of the CD) and give a quick list of things that you may have done and not realized it such as have you ever

  2. Go into the confessional. Don't know where or when to go?? Go to and find someplace. You can go face to face or with a screen.

  3. The priest may say a few words and you simply start off by saying, "Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It's been (amount of time) since my last confession. Don't be embarrassed. If it's been 12 years then fantastic!! You are here now--that's the important part.

  4. Say your sins. In however order you choose. I usually like to get the big ones out of the way first. That way I don't forgive them and besides--you are there to confession them not try to hide them. I usually finish off with "and for other sins that I may have forgotten. You are forgiven anyway for things you may have forgotten anyway but I just like to finish off.

  5. The priest then may say some words--give you guidance and finally, the best part--the words of absolution.

  6. He will finally ask you to say an Act of Contrition. You can find this simple prayer on line or say what you wish out of your heart. I usually say something along the lines of, "Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I fear the fires of Hell but most of all because it offends Thee my God who art all good and deserving of all my love. And I firmly resolve to go forth and sin no more. I know it's wordy and sounds stupid with the thee's and stuff--but that's what I learned when I was a teenager and it's stuck

  7. Penance. The priest will give you some sort of penance. It's nothing that big--normally like 10 Our Father's and 10 Hail Mary's. My biggest penance was "read the book of Genesis." What the heck!?!?! (It was my first one by the way)

There you are done!!! There is nothing like a clean slate.

That brings me to my second request. This is to all the priests out there. Actually--there are two things: PUSH CONFESSION!!!! Encourage it!! The second request is: have confession more regularly. The second Saturday of the month from 3:30-4:30 isn't going to encourage anyone to go!!

Confession--ahhhhh, what a feeling. It's a great gift that Jesus and every time I go I want to say to all my Protestant brothers and sisters---na na na na booooo booo!!!