Tuesday, December 28, 2010

St. Andrew the Apostle Parish

It seems my family and I only like going to mass in the evening---we normally only go Saturday or Sunday evening.  Since, our own parish doesn't have a Sunday evening mass it gives us an opportunity to try out different parishes that do have an evening mass.  This last Sunday we had the opportunity to try out St. Andrew the Apostle in Gladstone.  Now this post isn't meant to serve as a parish review or critique.   I just wanted to comment on my experience and that I found it very interesting, especially in regard to a blog I read last week.

The first thing I noticed, as you'd notice walking into any church, is the church's appearance.  My first impression is that it reeked of a post-Vatican II church.  It seemed very . . . sanitary??.  It has an arch ceiling but with those square ceiling tiles on it.  But then I noticed it wasn't as it first seemed.  The area around the altar was beautiful and very reverent.   The golden tabernacle was right in the middle (as it should be) surrounded by two statues of angels bowing down in adoration.  To the left and right of the altar were statues of Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph.

I'd go into more detail about things but the most exciting thing was the reverence shown to the Blessed Sacrament.  This isn't to chastise other parishes or say they do things wrong. I'm just interested about what I saw different at St. Andrews.  Like I said above, the tabernacle is gold and right in the middle, where you cannot miss it.  Even more interesting was what was in front of the altar---kneelers.  Yes, right where you come up to receive communion are two kneelers so that you can kneel to receive the Eucharist.  I couldn't help but think of Danielle Beans article earlier in the week, "Why I'm Giving Up Communion on the Tongue."  Danielle said she is giving up receiving communion on the tongue because it is too difficult.  Well, here is a parish--that's not doing the Triditine Mass--but is, by offering kneelers, encouraging taking communion on the tongue.  After all, it almost seems natural to take it on the tongue when you are kneeling.  You don't have to kneel though---or take communion on the tongue.  You can still stand or you can kneel and still take it in the hand.

Another thing, I noticed were the altar servers helped with communion by holding pattens to catch any pieces of the Blessed Sacrament that fell.  Then, when the Extraordinary Minister who was next to the priest ran out of hosts, the priest took over both lines (even though they were both still long) instead of giving him more.  Finally, after communion, the priest took a couple of minutes and cleaned the vessels before sitting down.   Nothing seemed rushed.  I felt very much like they were truly making the Eucharist the source and summit of the mass

Another thing, I noticed about St Andrews is it's confession schedule.  They have confession on Mondays at noon, Wednesday's at 5:30, and Saturdays at 3:15.   As a fan of confession, I found this great.  I think I'll still keep going to Msgr. Blacet but it's always nice to know of a parish that has confession throughout the week for when I'm in a pinch.

I was turned onto St. Andrew's Sunday evening mass because a month earlier their youth program was highlighted at the Kansas City Catholic Youth Conference.  I had been discussing it with a friend and we wondered why they were doing so good.  Was it their use of Life Teen? Was it their Sunday evening mass before youth group?  I'm not positive--but I wonder if having a parish that welcomes it's youth as well as putting emphasis on the sacraments may have something to do with it.

Those were just some thoughts and observations.  Again, I'm not criticizing any other parish (And I've been to  nearly all of them in the northland of Kansas City now)  I was just pointing out some interesting things and things I think this parish is getting right.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Fires of Hell

I have a little confession to make.  It's okay---I already took it to the confessional.  I missed mass for a few weeks--and including the Holy Day of Obligation on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  I know, I know, I know--I'm a horrible Catholic, a horrible husband and a horrible father.  What was really bad?? I didn't miss mass.  I was nice to sit at home and relax.  It was nice, at least, until the next time I went to mass.  You see, I hadn't gone to reconciliation before going to mass.  Since I had missed mass, I was in a state of mortal sin and not able to receive communion.   All I could think about during mass was, "If the Eucharist is a taste of Heaven then not being able to receive the Eucharist must be a taste of Hell."

Now, I'm not going to sit her and say that sitting through mass and not taking communion is Hell.  I'm saying it's a small taste of Hell.  No way it compares to the loneliness, sadness and despair of what Hell must be like just like I'm not sure the Eucharist can come close to the happiness, completeness and joy that it's like to be in Heaven.   There are similarities though.  Those in Hell, are cut off--by their own choices--from the love of God.  I was at mass and cut off--because of my own choices--from receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.   Obviously, there were some differences.  I was with family, so I was able to feel love.  I knew that all I had to do to be forgiven was to go to confession, so I was able to have hope.

I'm not sure people are afraid of Hell like they should. Obviously, I'm not or else I wouldn't have missed mass knowing full well that spiritual state it would put me in.  But I hear people joke saying, "I'll see you in hell" or one local radio DJ who said, "If you are going to go to Hell, don't go small and just barely get in--go big so there is no doubt!"  Okay, I'm not going to play the prude--I'm sitting here telling you that up until last Thursday, I was in a state of mortal sin.   I know he was saying it tongue in cheek and for a laugh but considering his whole show revolves around "sex, drugs and rock and roll" I'm pretty sure I can say that there was some seriousness behind it too.   In essence, he was saying, "party now and worry about the consequences later."  

This type of thinking seems crazy doesn't it? That we can think, "I'd rather do A, B and C now, for a short period, and spend eternity without love, without happiness, without hope."   I see people who don't feel like they have love, happiness or hope and I certainly don't want to live eternally like that.  But that's the choice we make when we sin.  

Fortunately, all God wants is our salvation and for us to be reconciled with Him so He makes it very easy for us to reconcile with Him.  It's just up to us to choose Him over ourselves.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Top Ten Reason I Enjoy Youth Ministry

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend the Kansas City Catholic Youth Conference (KCYC.)  It was an amazing time with key-note speakers Sean Dalton and comedian Judy McDonalds.  By Sunday afternoon I was spiritually exhausted (from great mind blowing ideas by said speakers and an incredible time of adoration) and physically exhausted (I felt like I had wrangled cats all weekend)  I have been involved in youth ministry for nearly a decade in some form or another.   I first started out helping out in senior high youth group as a way to offer my time and talent since I didn't have a whole lot of treasure to offer.  What has developed is a real passion for sharing my faith with teens.   Why??  Some of you may say, "Because you are crazy!  That's why!"  So here are my top ten reasons why I love youth ministry:

  1. It keeps you young--I love my faith and I enjoy reading spiritual books or listening to lectures about Catholicism.  You can't teach a group of teen agers thinking like an old curmudgeon unless you want to see a bunch of blank stares and drool.  You have to think like a teen in order to teach them effectively
  2. It gives you a chance to be goofy--It goes along with #1, but in order to effectively teach teens you need to allow yourself to be a little goofy and odd. (while keeping a certain decorum)  If they see you cut loose a little bit you are more likely to keep their attention.
  3. It keeps you real--You can act young. You can act goofy.  But that had better be your real personality because if you are faking it they will see right through you and you'll just look dumb.   It's better to act like a middle aged guy if that's what you are than come is using some lingo from 1995, "Hey! Whatzz up, homedogs!!"
  4. It helps you think in a simple way--Let's face it.  Some of these kids don't know their faith very well and in order to explain things to them you have to simplify things.  You have to describe your faith in the simplist way possible.  You can't assume ANYTHING.
  5. It makes you think in a complex way--Teens have this desire to want to know, "why."  Why this and why that.  You need to know your faith well enough to explain it.  You have to know the answers to those why questions.
  6. It keeps you humble.  You simply cannot fake your knowledge.  They will simply catch you in one of those "why" questions and if you've faked it they won't trust what you have to say.  It's much better to say, "I don't know."  The secret is to add on, "but I will find out and get back to you."  And then do it.   You also have to be able to humble yourself enough to know when to let go.  You have to realize you can only do so much and at some point you have to be able to let God take over and trust in him.  
  7. You don't have to worry about your appearance!  You can normally dress how you please.  It's okay to dress casual. Cargo shorts and t-shirts are acceptable.  There are a couple caveats here. The first one is, "don't try to dress LIKE a teenager." A middle aged guy dressing up like he is 18 just looks dumb.  The second one is, "Be aware that there are times when you SHOULD dress up."  Let the teens see you dressed up at mass so they are aware that mass is a special time.
  8. It makes you be creative.  You cannot just simply stand at a podium and lecture if you are trying to teach your faith.   You have to come up with different creative ways to keeps the kids attention.  This doesn't mean doing games or crafts for the sake of doing arts and crafts.  You have to be more creative than that.  Those arts and crafts have to be done in a way that helps your lesson plan and makes the kids learn.
  9. It makes you become engaging.  The tendency of an adult leader is to hang around with other adult leaders.  You make your own cliques.  Here is an idea.  Get there early, get everything set up and as the kids are coming in and finding their seats, sit among them.  Get to know them.  Teens are more willing to pay attention to the guy who has paid attention to them and showed that he care for them.
  10. It gives me a chance to return the gifts that God has given me.  I've been blessed and have an incredible faith.  By being involved in youth ministry, I have to opportunity to teach others about my Catholic faith.  I think this is my favorite reason of all of them    
There are many types of ways in the church that you are able to serve.  Maybe your thing is going to nursing homes to tend to the elderly.  Perhaps you have a passion being involved in prison ministries or the homeless.    None of those sound appealing to me in the least.  Perhaps, I should  try one of these ministries that aren't appealing to me.   Perhaps being taken outside of my comfort level would be good for me spiritually.  Perhaps.    For now, I'll stick with youth ministry and enjoy it. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Diaconate Dropout

I've been holding something back from many people for the last several weeks.   Very few people knew about it but I'm finally throwing it out there----I'm a diaconate drop-out.   Yes, I've discerned that the diaconate isn't for me--at least not at this point in my life. 

I'd been contemplating the diaconate for over two years.  For the longest time I seemed like something I could be really good at--and I do think I would be a good deacon.  

But every since the first get together dinner back in February I have had uneasy feelings about it.  I had decided to stick it out throught the aspirancy because I didn't want to be running away from God. And then some sort of diaconate function would come up.  I would get incredibly uneasy.  I wanted to be ANYWHERE but there.  I think if I'm doing something that I am passionate about and that would be life changing like ordination I should be excited about it.  I was anything but excited about it.

It seemed to have turned my faith into a job or a chore.  I want to pray because I want (or need) to pray, not because I'm directed to.  I want to volunteer how I want to volunteer.  I want to worship when and where I want to worship not where someone else tells me.  I want to dress how I want to not the way someone else tells me.  I want to blog how I want without the fear of being second guessed.   I realize that doesn't say a lot about my obedience but it's how I feel.  
Interestingly enough, I made my decision at my Cursillo weekend back in September.  I realized that the formation process just doesn't fit into my life right now.  The week-end prior to my Cursillo, I had to be up for over 24 hours for a formation event.  Then, I had to move days off for this Cursillo weekend  (that I was doing as a retreat for the diaconate) and ended up missing a ton of time with my family and was just overworked.  I just couldn't do that for four years.
When I would think of the diaconate I would be stressed.  When I would imagine myself out of the diaconate I would be at peace.  I think that was Gods way of telling me that it isn't my calling.  I don't think its the devils doing.  

Interestingly enough, my Cursillio weekend had another impact on my discernment.  I was able to see and experience these incredible Holy lay people.  I realized that there are other ways that I can win souls for God.  I don't have to be ordained to further my spiritual journey or to become a saint myself.  I have a passion for youth ministry.  I have touched many people with my blog. I don't need the diaconate to become more holy.  There are pleanty of pious lay people.

I will say that I'm glad I went through the process.   I met plenty of great people.  It is a great aspirant class.  The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is very fortunate.   I would definately encourage anyone who feels that ping from God to check it out and discern if it's for them or not. 

I won't say that the diaconate is totally out of the picture.  God may have planted the seed in my head for a reason but right now just isn't the time for me.  Maybe in five years.  Maybe in ten years.  My family will all be older.  I may be in a position where I have a Monday-Friday position on the police department.  Who knows.   I do think I would be a really good deacon.  Now is just not the time.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Bucket List

I was thinking about a what would be on my bucket list tonight---don't ask me why---and I came to the conclusion that I am very much a simpleton.  Well,  I already knew I was a simpleton but this conclusion was reinforced.   I just could not come up with many ideas for my bucket list.  For those who don't know, a "bucket list" is a list of things you would like to do before dying.   Some people have great romantic ideas what they want to do such as run a marathon, climb Mt. Everest or go skydiving.  Perhaps, I just don't have a great imagination or maybe I can't get over the money restriction (heck, I can't even imagine what I'd want to do if I had an unlimited financial source)  So I came up with ten ideas for my bucket list and some of my rational.

  1. Be the best husband and father I can be.  This doesn't seem like something that would be #1 on a bucket list perhaps but I do think it's the most important thing in my life that I could do.  Maybe I'm doing that now--sometimes it seems like I'm doing a great job, other times it seems like I'm failing miseraby.  The thing is, I can't say I've completed this goal until I'm dead.  Only then will I know that I've done my best to raise my children and have been a good husband.
  2. Visit Rome-Live in Rome-I could spin several other ideas for my list off of this one---visit all of the major cathedrals, meet the pope,  climb the scala santa.  I have so many things I want to do in Rome that I could spend a month there and still not see everything that I want.  Maybe I should change it to, "Live in Rome."
  3. Visit all major league baseball parks.  I've been to a total of two, count them, ONE, TWO--2 major league baseball parks.  I wish I would have made it to New York to go to Yankee Stadium before it closed but I missed out so I want to see all of the others--from Boston to Minnesota to Texas to Seattle.
  4. Go to all 162 Royals games in one year.  I figured Abby and I could travel the country for six months, living in an RV.  I'm not sure she's ever really bought into the idea.  Maybe I'd settle on flying to all of the different cities.
  5. Be fluent in Spanish.  I went to a Spanish Immersion course for ten weeks last spring and have retained none of it.  To be honest, ten weeks just was not long enough and I really wish I would have put in for the five week trip to Mexico to be truly immersed.
  6. Learn to fly a plane.  I've wanted to fly since I was a kid.  In fact, when I was younger, I wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force.  But then I learned how much better the Marine Corps is and gave up on my dream of flying to be a Marine.  A good trade off in my opinion.
  7. CrossFit goals.  I have several of them.  I want to learn how to kip so I can do pull ups.  I want to be able to do muscle ups.  I would love to be a CrossFit certified trainer and help others experience CrossFit.  For right now, I'd just be happy if my lungs cooperated and my exercise induced asthma didn't kick my butt on the majority of workouts so that I would perform better.
  8. Be a great youth speaker.  I love being a catechist.  The only problem is that I'm not a very good speaker.  I want to be like some of these guys with charisma who can have teens just mesmerized and fill the youth with the Holy Spirit.  I'd love to be a speaker traveling across the country to different parishes or youth conferences at Steubenville or NCYC.
  9. Have a few beers with some of my favorite Catholic speakers/bloggers.  I don't want to just meet them.  I want to spend time with them.    I was able to spend time at a St. Louis Cardinal's game with Fr. Jim Chern last summer and had a blast.  I'd love to spend some of my other favorites.  Can you imagine drinking with Mark Hart or Danielle Bean?  I think I'd have an incredible time!
  10. Be in-studio on The Catholic Guy Show.  I'd be happy just to sit in the background but how cool would it be to be interviewed for the show.  Alas, that's not going to happen because there is nothing about me that would make a good interview but how cool would it be just to sit there and watch all of the things going on behind the scenes.
  11. (A throw in)  Be the best friend I can be.  Kind of goes along with #1 so why not make the this the other book mark.  Being a good friend is important to me.  Obviously, it's not as important to me as #1---that's my vocation.  But being a good friend is important because like I've said before--family HAS to like you but friends can tell you to take a long walk off of a short pier.

Like I said, not real flashy.  Nothing on there that others will go, "OH!!  I want to do that too!"  No running with the bulls for me----getting my kids ready for school in the morning is scary enough.  What do you have on your bucket list?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Are Y'all Still with Me!?

I got the opportunity for the first time in a long time to jump into the blogosphere tonight.  Obviously I've been gone for a few weeks.  Interesting enough, several other bloggers had pointed out they haven't been blogging a lot lately (as observed by my stealing of the title of this post from my sister.)     Where have I been?  That's an interesting question.

Let's just say, I've been scatter-brained and trying to get my priorities in order.  My wife Abby pointed out that I'm like a juggler who constantly has six balls in the air and trying to figure out what to do and wondering how I'm doing it.   With work, off-duty jobs, Cub Scouts and other activities, I have so many things going on that everything is a mess.  I'm struggling to keep all of those balls up in the air.  So even my blog, which was like an escape for me---someplace to  put my thoughts  became a burden.   It got to the point that I was even juggling my support system. 

So for that reason, among others, I'm trying to get my support system back underneath me.   I feel like I have a pretty good support system made up of my wife, my family and my friends.   I suppose you could use the old analogy of the three legged stool and each one of those legs supporting me.  But I think it's an imperfect analogy.  One reason is because it's not quite that even of a balance.   I lean more on Abby than I do my family or friends.  If she wasn't there for me then I'd be toast.  I'm at a loss.  That being said, the other two legs are necessary because, well, lets face it--I'm so needy that Abby couldn't deal with all of my quirks and insecurities alone and still keep her own sanity.   So I lean on family to support me because they have to love me no matter what---it's the law!  And I lean on my friends because my mom stopped paying people to hang around me years ago so I know that my friends are my friends because they stick around despite my quirks and insecurities.

Another reason that the stool analogy is imperfect is because a stool offers simple support.  It goes one way.  Whereas, I maintain relationships with my support systems.   It goes two ways.  They take care of me and I take care of them.  The problem comes in when you don't take care of your support system or you start juggling it along with everything else or when you focus on one leg of your support system more than you should.   That's when your support system can become a stress.  That's when you need to back off and place the focus where it belongs.   Maybe you've been focusing so much on your volunteer work so that your family is suffering.  Or maybe you've been spending too much time drinking or watching football with your buddies that your spouse is neglected.  

The final reason that the stool analogy is imperfect is because it doesn't include God.  Without God, you are nothing.  It doesn't matter what type of support system you have.  You could have the best wife (which I do), a wonderful family (which I do) and the best best friends (which I do) but without God first in your life then you will never find the peace that you are looking for.  And that's something else I need to work on.  My poor prayer life is kicking me in the butt.  I need to work on my relationship with God just like I have to work on my relationship with Abby, my family and my friends.  

I'm looking for more than just balance in my life.  That would imply that I'm still juggling things.  I think a better descriptor would be that I'm looking for order.  I need to put everything in it's respective place and in the proper order.  What does that mean for RomanCatholicCop.com?   Like I said earlier--I use this blog as an escape so I'm not quitting blogging.  I'm just not going to feel a NEED to blog.  I'm going to use it as escape like I originally intended and stop thinking I need to post three times a week and stop checking out StatCounter.com to see how many people viewed it every day.  It's all about order.  

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Children of God

I was looking back at several of my last few postings and they really seem to be downers:  Spiritual Dryness, Hating God, Why Am I Here?  I can imagine someone looking over my blog titles and thinking, "this whole Christianity thing is for the birds!"  I can understand that and perhaps I have been remiss and focusing too much on the "pick up your cross daily" aspect and not focusing on what we are really commanded to go out and preach about--the Good News.

I suppose it's very easy to focus on "Good Friday" and not on "Easter Sunday" since sometimes it can seem like every day is a battle in spiritual warfare and that we are constantly under attack from Satan and his minions but we really need to step back and realize everything we have going for us and not what we have going against us.   After all, through baptism we are no longer just creations but we are in fact the adopted sons and daughters of God.  We ARE the brothers and sisters of Jesus.  If realizing that relationship doesn't give us hope then I don't think anything will.

Too often we see God in generic terms.  People have even tried to strip away the titles of Father, Son and Holy Spirit that He has given Himself in scripture and instead call  Him, "creator, redeemer, sanctifier."  How sad.  That strips away the description of the of relationship we have with God.  He isn't some abstract concept.  Religion isn't about a bunch of rules to make God happy so we can go to Heaven.  No, it's about a relationship with Him.  Sure, we can sever that relationship through sin but God is merciful and allows us to reconcile with Him. Not sinning can be difficult because of our fallen nature but God is loving and gives us the grace we need not to sin.

So, put on a smile.  Keep your head up.  We are children of God and God takes care of His children. 

Monday, September 27, 2010


When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was He said, "To love the Lord with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul."  He then said that the second commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself.   Too often in life we seem to get these commandments out of whack and fail to follow them because we put lesser important things first.  Sometimes we catch it ourselves.  Other times we need hit upside the head with a 2x4 to get it though our thick skulls that we have our priorities askew.

Obviously, the first thing we always need to do is to put God first in our lives.   It's not a guarantee that things will always be perfect but things certainly aren't going to go well for us if we fail to put God first.  After all, everything we have, everything we own, everything we are, is a gift from God.   It is only through His grace that we will put everything in order and keep ourselves on track.   If we don't put God first, it's all too easy to get off track and then start to get our other priorities mixed up.  

Our second priority should be to our family.  Catholic speaker, Justin Fatica, made a comment on The Catholic Guy Show (Sirius 159/XM 117) last Friday that really struck home with me.  He said that if you fail as a husband or you fail as a father than you fail at everything.   This struck home for me.  It was as if he was talking directly to me.  I'd gotten my priorities askew and had put other things ahead of taking care of Abby and the kids.   Justin's quote was a PING from God directed right at me.  Our family must always come first because they are your foundation here on Earth.   Jobs come and go and true friends will understand that family comes first.   But  if you screw up your family life then you really are lost.  

Too often our priorities get messed up for one simple reason.  We become too self absorbed.  I'm not saying you are necessarily selfish.  You may be doing selfless acts of charity and taking care of other people but if you aren't putting God first or you aren't taking care of your family then you are too absorbed into other things and need to step back.  Too often we are just plain selfish though.   We become so ingrained in hobbies or other things that are pleasurable to us that we forget those things that are most valuable.   We become so wrapped up in television shows, working out, fantasy football, or other addictions that we fail to focus solely on those things that we should always be focused on.

Think to yourself today, "am I truly putting God first.  Am I doing everything to I can to fulfill my spouses and my families needs?"  If you aren't you need to ask what are you putting in front of them and fix it.  

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Am I Here?

One of life's most pondered questions is "Why am I here?" or "What is my purpose in life?" We imagine guru's sitting on mountain tops meditating to those questions. Ironically, the answer used to be taught to elementary kids for decades in their CCD classes but we have seemed to have forgotten the answer. The Baltimore Catechism gives the the answer very simply, "God made us to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in Heaven". Very simply, God made us to for relationship with Him. We need to remember this and think of it through out our lives.

Too often we go through life seeking happiness without trying to involve God. Too often we go through life seeking happiness while trying to omit God because we don't think our happiness lies with him or more importantly we don't want the answer he gives us. That's so ironic since we are made in His image and likeness and we made for relationship with Him. Rich or poor, married or single, healthy or ill--there is no way that we will ever be truly be happy until we are with Him. St. Augustine put it very well when he said, "My heart is restless, oh Lord, until it rests with you."

What does this mean for us? It means we need to involve Him in our lives and not just an hour at week when we are at church. We need to ask for his assistance and guidance in all of our life decisions. We need to ask Him how or why things are occurring. Ask, "Lord, is this the job for me, is this the man or woman for me, why is this happening to me." Involve Him in even the small decisions of our lives, "Lord, help me to spend money wisely as I go shopping today." Most importantly is the prayer, "Lord, let your will be done and not my own."

When we ask that God's will be done and not our own we trust in God. Considering He created the world out of nothingness that is a good place to put our trust. If we don't seek relationship with God we are only going through the motions. We are just simple animals seeking out life's pleasures--seeking out what makes us happy for the moment. We weren't made just to participate in life. We transcend life--we have a high calling and that is why we should always put God first in our lives.

This is sometimes difficult.  I'm not dumb.  I know that it's difficult to always put God first and to try to do His will because God's will is not always what we want.  Heck, I'm the poster boy for pushing God aside to do what I want.  And I really have no excuse. God's been good to me.  Yet, I seem to mess up my priorities and put a million and one things ahead of God.  I haven't prayed yet today, but I made time to watch the season premier of "The Office" on DVR.   I have a book on meditation that is screaming at me to read but I'm going to go clean the refrigerator.   If cleaning the fridge isn't pushing God aside I don't know what is.

So why are we here?  If we keep that answer in mind . . . to know God, to love God, and to serve God in this life and to be happy with him in Heaven then the real question to ponder is, "How is this going to help me find holiness."  Is what you are doing know going to make you a holier person?  Is this person you are with going to help you get to Heaven?

We all have purposes in life.  We all have different vocations.  I believe that God has different missions for us and we have different life encounters in order to fulfill those missions.    But we must always stay focused on our ultimate mission to love God with all of our hearts and all of our souls.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hating God

The story goes that St. Therese of Avila was riding in a carriage one day when the carriage hit a pot hole and the saint was knocked out of the carriage and into a mud puddle. St. Therese looked up towards the Heavens and said, "Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few." That statement resonates with me as I discuss God with friends who have been knocked into their own puddles of mud in their lifetimes. How can you present God as loving and merciful when their lives have been so difficult through no fault of their own?How do you say "God is good" when all they see from God is pain--physical and emotional? How do you say little quirky lines such as, "let go and let God" when their lives are currently upside down? If you say that be prepared to get, "F#@k God!" thrown back in your face. Be prepared to suffer a diatribe of hatred towards God, "Why would a loving God do this to me? I had plans. I don't deserve this. I wanted babies. I just want to be normal. How much suffering should one person or one family have to undergo? God isn't real--a loving God wouldn't have done that to my mom!"

Be prepared to sit there feeling about two inches tall. You'd better be ready to say a quick prayer and say, "Come Holy Spirit!" and not try to respond on your own lest you give a pretty sound theologically correct but not a very pastoral statement such as "well, you know, God wouldn't put you through anything he wouldn't put himself through---after all, He died for you and for me on the cross." For someone who is hating God right then, the thought of Jesus dying 2000 years ago on the cross is too abstract. And if that doesn't get you cussed out saying something like, "Well, God never gives us more than we can handle" certainly will. Say that and you will probably get you chewed out royally. "Are you kidding me? Why don't you try walking in my shoes, having to have someone help you go to the bathroom! I've suffered so much. Why can't he just give me happiness for awhile! I'm a good person. I've never hurt anyone. I don't deserve this."

What do you say to someone who has been hurt so much by God that they are hating the Lord or that they have lost their faith. Well, if you are smart, you aren't going to say anything. Hopefully you shut up, pray, and let the Lord do the talking through you. There is nothing you can say that will make them feel better or bring them closer to God. The only thing that can help them is God's grace. There is a good chance that this person has a long road to ho before they find their way back to God and just like you can't convince one person to forgive another one, you won't be able to convince this person to forgive God. They have to allow themselves to be infused with God's grace and do it on their own.

But, if you are like me, and just have to try to fix everything because it's your nature as a cop then be simple. First, invoke the Holy Spirit and ask the Lord to guide you. And from there . . . I don't know. I mean, I understand that God's ways aren't our own and that we sometimes can't understand His will. I understand that. But when you aren't the one who is hurting you feel helpless. All you can do is pray, offer some sort of mortification in order to relieve some of their pain, so that they find it easier to turn to the Lord.

Prayer, prayer is the answer. If they won't do it then pray for them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Cursillo

"My name is Jamie, I'm from Holy Family Parish in Kansas City, MO. My cursillo was #241, September, 2010 and I sat at St. Peter's Table."

That sentence was repeated by me several times this weekend as I was at the Sisters of St. Francis Retreat Center on my Cursillo weekend. How was it? I hated every moment of it . . . . until I was home. Once I was home and unpacked I realized how much I had gotten out of it. The reasons I didn't like it really had nothing to do with the Cursillo itself--it was more personal. I had only had one day off for the last two weeks prior to attending. I had no idea what to expect. I didn't want to be there. I had spiritual battles going on already before I went there so really . . . the only place I wanted to be was at home. This morning when I awoke, I realized how glad I was that I went.

I think I would describe a Cursillo as sort of a spiritual boot camp. Thursday night everyone came in, kind of nervous because we didn't know anyone and we didn't know what to expect. The first day you look at yourself and for me that really broke me down. The next day I was build back up and on they third day I was sure I could go out and be the next St. Paul on my "forth day." During the Cursillo you learn how to use a three prong approach of piety, study and apostolic action in order to become saints for ourselves and to go out and win souls for the Kingdom of God.

One of the things I really realized from my Cursillo was how many wonderful pious lay people there are out there. All of the team leaders that gave the talks were just amazing. And the group wasn't what you'd normally expect at a gathering of Catholic men. There was every walk of life there, from mechanics to realtors to pipe fitters to well, . . . police officers--and all wonderful pious people (well, maybe not the cop--he was rather tarnished)

Another thing I learned is that I really need to involve God in more things in my life and go to him in prayer more often. I'm horrible in prayer anyway so thinking about calling on the Holy Spirit prior to doing things is kind of abstract for me. It seems rather fooling though, not to ask him to guide you when dealing with difficult situations or difficult decisions. Why wouldn't you want to involve the designer of the universe prior to designing your kitchen? Before you go in to have have that personal discussion with someone who works for you, shouldn't you ask He who knows the heart of everyone for guidance.

I realized my purpose for being there when I realized how much they were talking about friends, how important they are and how we should help our friends get to Jesus. Well, one of my prayers is that the Lord help me to be like the friends of the paralytic who carried their friend to Jesus. I don't think God has great aspirations for me. I'm a simple husband, father and friend but my life's biggest goal is to make sure I get my friends to heaven. And I realized that the thing is I can't give what I don't have so I can't give my friends the Holy Spirit is I don't have the Holy Spirit in me. I need to work on that aspect so that I can lead my friends to God.

I would highly recommend anyone attend a Cursillo weekend, and I AM going to attend my closest friends and family to attend one.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot . . . . DE COLORES!!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Spiritual Dryness

It's been about a week and a half since my last post. I wish it was just because I've been busy but unfortunately, I've been going through a bit of spiritual dryness. Spiritual dryness is basically when you go through a phase where you do not receive any consolation, such as relaxation, awe, elation or release, in your prayer life. You just aren't feeling God's presence. There are a number of reasons this may happen.

I wish my reason was because God is trying to draw me closer to Him but I fear it's more because of me pushing Him away. Let's face it, growing in the spiritual life is hard work. It takes dedication, time, sacrifice, willingness to pick up your own Cross and die to yourself. And to be honest, I really have not wanted to do all of that. I've been busy these past few weeks. I haven't gotten nearly the amount of sleep that I need. In fact, I think last week from Monday morning to Friday afternoon, I had gotten like 13 hours of sleep. When you are constantly on the go, it's normal for a person's prayer life to suffer if they weren't attentive to it and for me, prayer doesn't come easily anyway so it was very easy to let it slide.

I'll admit, I've been lazy. I've felt that it'd be easier just to go the past few weeks without having to answer to God. Just let me do what I want. I don't want to take precious moment to spend in prayer when those moments could be better served on Facebook. I would rather call that guy a jerk or to spew my anger instead of being Christian to my brother. To be honest, I haven't wanted God imposing on me. The thought, "I have free will and by-golly, I'm going to use it"seems to have been my mantra. I recognize that this has probably been due to spiritual attacks on me. Yes, Satan is real and he does whatever he can to take us away from God, and I think I've been allowing Satan's attacks to work on me.

Fortunately, I think what has been saving me is a healthy fear of the Lord, fearing the fires of Hell and of offending God. That's been my reason for going to confession regularly, for going to mass even when I really wanted to do anything else but spend an hour at church. A friend's been making me go to adoration regularly which has helped also---nothing like quiet time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The problem is that I haven't gotten the consolation that I seek. I haven't had that sense of relief after reconciliation or great feeling of love and joy after receiving the Eucharist and once I'm done with my Holy Hour and outside of the church I feel like Secular Jamie--back to cussing out the guy who is driving the speed limit in the passing lane (jerk).

Hopefully, relief is at hand. Thursday night I am going on a Cursillio--a retreat--until Sunday morning. I'm really hoping that a few days with no worries of kids, bills, work and other stresses and focusing on God will get me back in the saddle and come back next week recharged and ready to go. We'll see.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Five Ways That Life IS Like a Race

One of my favorite analogies in the Bible, and one that I think seems to help me the most in my spiritual life, is when St. Paul compares life to a race. He says that we must rid ourselves of every burden and sin so that we may win the race (Heb 12:1.) He also reminds us that not all runners win so that we must run to win the prize (1 Corr 9:24). I like this analogy because you can get so different ideas from it.

The spiritual life is a race and not a spontaneous event. Some believe that to win all they have to do is to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. That's like saying all you have to do is to strap into the starting blocks. It's a great start--and but it's only the start! You have a long race ahead of you, buddy. Many things can change between the starting line and the finish line. Some people get bogged down by sin and don't finish. Some people quit all together. You have a long race ahead of you. Don't get too excited because you started the race. You have to endure until the end and Satan is going to do his best to try to make you lose.

There are many strokes we can use to use to get ahead. In swimming there in the butterfly, the breast stroke, the backstroke as well as others. Swimmers may be better at one stroke than the other. We have many different devotions that we can use in order to help us get closer to Christ. Some people really enjoy the rosary while others may enjoy the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Some people have a devotion to one certain saint or another. It doesn't matter what you do. You don't even have to anything but realize that there are these devotions out there that can assist in helping you get closer to God.

We must stay on course. In the swimming pool there are lane dividers to help keep the swimmer in their lane and keep them from going off course. Hopefully, in our own lives we have people that serve as our lane dividers and keep us from going off course. Our family and friends are there to keep us on track and on course. Sometimes we are paddling so hard that it's hard for us to see that we are messing up and we need that friend to point out that we are doing something wrong. We need that spouse to tell us that we aren't acting correctly. We need these people in our lives to help guide us and to stop us when we are screwing up so we know when to take a step back and get back onto course.

The sacraments can boost us right up to the front. There are times in this race when we start falling behind. Sin is dragging us down. We are in the back of the pack and we are losing big time and it looks like there is no way we can possibly win. Going to reconciliation can be like a shot of nitrous oxide and just shoots us right up to the front. You will go from being loaded down with sin and sinking in the pool to free and clear and flying on top of the water. Going to mass and partaking in the Eucharist gives us the nourishment we need to keep us at the front. If you are at the back of the pack then get yourself back to the sacraments now!

We never know when the race may end. In a race, you may sign up for the 100m, 400m or even 800m race. You know how far you have to go until you reach the finish line. In life though, we don't know how far away the finish line is. I'm 39 years old. Hopefully, my finish line is at least another 40 years away. But I must always be realistic and keep in mind that today may be my last. I want to be winning the race whenever that yellow tape comes up. I can't be slacking, sucking wind and getting my butt beat. I have to be always on the top of my game and winning this thing.

The most important thing that we must remember in this race is that we can't and won't win it alone. Yes, we need the family and the friends but most importantly, we need God in our lives in order to win this race. We need prayer, the sacraments and we need Jesus along with us ever step of the way. So don't try to leave without Him.

Friday, September 3, 2010

I'm a (Future God)Father!

My baby sister, Maggie, gave birth yesterday morning to Joseph Eric Edward Crawford yesterday morning. Little Joseph was 8lbs, 15.2 oz (maybe he's big Joseph) and 19 inches long. And Maggie and Ryan asked ME to be the Godfather! What an honor!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

To Be a Martyr

Looking back through church history, it’s not difficult to find stories of people who have literally given their lives for Christ. From the Acts of the Apostles up through modern times, there are numerous examples of people who died at the hands of an executioner for not denying their Lord. It makes me wonder if we would be willing to give our lives for the name of Jesus.

It’s seems kind of obvious, while still remaining admirable that yes, of course we would give our lives for Jesus. We look back at the first centuries and see how the first Christians were tortured in order to make them deny Jesus. They were decapitated, burned alive, skinned, drowned and even crucified upside down. We read these stories and think to ourselves (at least I do), “well, of course they died for Jesus! That’s an easy decision! Boy, martyrdom would be an EASY way to go to Heaven! We all have to die sometime.”

The interesting thing is that Christians are still being martyred for their faith today. In different countries around the world Christians are literally dying because they will not deny Jesus. Can you imagine that? It today’s world, people are being tortured and killed because they are trying to evangelize or in some cases just living a Christian life. Just for trying to go to mass they are being killed. It makes you feel like a wimp for not wanting to fast during lent doesn’t it? An interesting thought is that for some reason, I read these stories today and I wonder to myself, “Why don’t they just deny they are Christian? Jesus will understand. That way they can go back to their families. They don’t really have to stop believing!” What is the difference between looking up to the early Christians for giving their life and questioning the modern Christians for giving up theirs?

Here is an interesting thought. We actually have opportunities to be martyrs on a daily basis—just not in a bloody way. How many times a day are we presented an opportunity to live our lives in the way Jesus wants us to even though doing so means not doing something that we don’t want to do? We have an opportunity at that point to die to ourselves, pick up our own cross and become a martyr. We have a chance to not gossip, not get angry at our kids, not to check out the attractive brunette. We have the opportunity not to bad mouth the co-worker or poke fun at someone. What do we do though? Do we do the right thing and die to sin or do we help nail Jesus to the cross? Martyrdom isn’t as easy as it sounds, huh?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Jesus is My Friend

I got an email this morning who gave me a link to 10 Unintentionally Hilarious Christian Music Videos at Christian Colleges Online and it reminded me of a segment they do on my favorite radio show, The Catholic Guy Show on Sirius 159/XM 117 satellite radio (3pm Central, replay at 11pm Central.) They bring on Kayla from The Message Amped and play parts of 4-5 songs and then rank them in an attempt to spread the word that there is good contemporary Christian Music and that it's not all like the below video that all good TCGS listeners will recognize:

The link to the 10 Unintentionally Hilarious Christian Music Videos is great. Check it out---it even shows a video fro MC Hammer and definately check out Lino Rulli on The Catholic Guy Show!

Friday, August 27, 2010


One of my favorite bloggers, Danielle Bean, had a really nice article at National Catholic Register titled "No Need to Imagine" about Mercy Me's song, "I Can Only Imagine" and the true presence. It starts off:

I have always like the inspirational song, "I Can Only Imagine," made popular by the contemporary Christian group, "Mercy Me." While some popular Christian songs have lyrics that are problematic for Catholics (Mary Did You Know, anyone?) I never I never really considered the lyrics to this particular song problematic in anyway.

And there isn't really a problem. But as the video above makes clear, there does exist a more Catholic way of looking at the lyrics of "I Can Only Imagine."

The video and the rest of the article can be found here: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/no-need-to-imagine

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eucharistic Prayer Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the prayer I say after receiving the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist. I explained about the first half of the prayer and here is the second half:

Thank you for my friends. Help me to be a good friend in return. Help me to be like the friends of the paralytic who carried their friend to Jesus.

Thank you for a job that I truly do love. Help keep my people safe and keep all people safe. Help my people to be in the right place at the right time to help people and help them to catch the bad guy.

But thank you the most for sending your son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for our transgressions so that we can have everlasting life.

My friends--What do I say about my friends---next to my family they are the most important thing in the world to me. You see, your family has to love you because they are your family. Your friends though---they simply love you for who you are. A good friend will make your cruddy day happy again. A good friend will make a good day just fantastic. They'll make you life. They are like the cherry on top of a Hot Fudge Sundae! I only ask God that he makes me a good friend to my friends and that I help them to find Christ. In the Bible there is a story of a paralyzed man whose friends carried him to see Jesus in order to heal him. The place was so packed so that what they did was carry him to the roof, cut a hole in the ceiling, and lower him down. I'm not sure anyone wants me to cut a hole in their roof but I want to be a friend like that---doing everything I can possible do to help them find Jesus.

I have a great job. I love it! I can't imagine doing anything else. I ask that God keeps me and all of my people safe from harm. I ask that he puts my people in the right place at the right time in order to help others. And help them to arrest bad guys----help them to find the murderers, rapists, robbers, and burglars and to keep the city safe.

And this may seem odd to put it last but I like it there because it's the last thing that I think of in the prayer and I hope that I carry it with me throughout the day. Thank you Lord for becoming incarnate and giving his life for us. The ultimate sacrifice will help me the I am in Heaven forever.

I realize that there are a ton of other things that I could pray for and should add---such as my family. My family raised me and helped me to become the man I am today. Yeah---I think I will fix it up just a little.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Eucharistic Prayer Part I

After communion, I go back to my seat and I say a little prayer of thanksgiving. It's something that has evolved over the years. It's something personalized to me but I thought I would share it. It is simply:

Thank-you, Lord for everything you have given me. I realize that every heartbeat, every breath, is a gift from you. Help me to do the best with the gifts that you have given to me so that I will lead my life the way that you want me to.

Thank you with my super beautiful, smoking hot wife. Help me to be a good husband to her. Help me to be always faithful and always loving.

Thank you for my three wonderful kids. Please keep them health. Help me to be a good Father and roll model and to lead them to heaven. (sometime I add it, "help me to make it out of mass before I smack any of them upside the head.)

Thank you for my friends. Help me to be a good friend in return. Help me to be like the friends of the paralytic who carried their friend to Jesus.

Thank you for a job that I truly do love. Help keep my people safe and keep all people safe. Help my people to be in the right place at the right time to help people and help them to catch the bad guy.

But thank you the most for sending your son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for our transgressions so that we can have everlasting life.

The first half seems pretty simple. Basically, I know that everything in my life is a gift from God. Everything in my life has been given to me and can easily be taken away from me. Every time my heart beats or my lungs take a breath is because he allows it to happen and I owe Him my eternal gratitude. I only hope that I complete in my life all of the goals that he wants me to complete. I'm not sure what they are but I hope I make Him happy.

My wife, Abby---whoa momma--what my life would be without her. That thought scares me. She is such a blessing. Everything is my life makes sense because of her. I only hope that I make her half as happy as she makes me.

Finally, my kids---they truly are a gift from God. It's impossible to explain the love you feel towards your own children until you have your own. Watching them grow and mature is just an incredible joy. My oldest is starting out as a freshman in high school and about to try to go get her driver's permit. My son is very special to put it simply but in the end it doesn't matter because he is "my boy." My youngest is a girly girl and one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. I hope that I raise them to be pleasing to God and that they will always know how much I love them.

That's the first half. Like I said, it's a simple prayer and more to follow soon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Courage: The Backbone of Leadership

I attended a five day course last week on "High Core Values/Courageous Communication" that is based on Gus Lee's book, "Courage: The Backbone of Leadership." The course centers around the high core values which are integrity, courage and character. The course then shows you how to live those values. Part of living those values is being able to communicate effectively and being able to stand up for what is right.

I've always tried to keep an open mind about the leadership courses offered at the academy but always been kind of leery because I feel like if you are trying to live your life the way God wants you too you should already be living those values that they teach you in these leadership courses. I think there is still something to be said for that. If we live our lives the way God wants us to then we will be the best person that we can be.

But there is a different perspective they give that I appreciated in this course and that I took out of it. That was that I need to take the interior change that I'm always looking to make and by living those values I transfer them over to other people. In order to do that, I have to live up to those values and allow other people to challenge me when they see me not living up to those values.

Another way I need to live those values is by standing up and correcting wrongs when I see them. When you do this, you aren't only living up to your values but you are also challenging them to live up to their own values. This is difficult to do. We are afraid of being judged. We are afraid of "imposing our values on others." But isn't that what courage and integrity are all about? Having the fortitude to stand up for what is right?

Part of what goes along with this is the communication technique that you use. The book talks about talking collegiately, listening, empathy, asking questions. Basically, it talks about speaking with the person about the values that you want to convey with love while not being judgmental because you really are trying to understand their view point.

In a capsule, the two main things I got from the course can be encompassed in two quotes. The first is by Mahatma Gandhi, "We must become the change we want to see in the world." and the second is from Proverbs 27:17, "As steel sharpens steel, so man sharpens his fellow man." It's now up for me to take these idea and take them to the world.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Living Saints

One of the cool things about Catholicsm is it's the use of saints. By looking at saints, are are able to see real people who went through real struggles and succeeded and ended up in Heaven. We can then ask those saints for their intercessions just like we may ask a close friend to pray for us. Of course there are more saints than those recognized by the Church. Anyone who dies and goes to heaven are saints. They just haven't been "canonized" by the church. There is another type of saint though. Saint actually means, "holy person." This means that you don't even really actually have to be dead to be a saint. I'm fortunate enough to know two "living saints." These people are role models for me and people I can look up to.

One of the best decisions I ever made was asking my Aunt Joy to be my son's Godmother. Her husband, Alan (other wise known as "that guy with Joy") is his Godfather. Joy just exudes happiness---which is a good thing given her name. She is always smiling, laughing and cracking jokes. Yet, at the same time she is a very pious woman who is not shy to show her love of God. She reminds me that it's possible to be religious and still have a good sense of humor.

Another living saint I know, I happen to know because of this blog. She started reading it, befriended me on Facebook. We became closer friends on there and eventually started talking in real life. We have even since met. She is closer to my age and she'd kill me for posting this about her so I'm at not going to mention her name. I've been blessed to get to know her and talk with her as she has going through some medical issues. I've also been fortunate to get to know her daughter as well. Her courage, strength, humility and how she has dealt with her suffering through her medical issues is just incredible and I'm very proud of her. Her prayer life is also something that I look up to.

These aren't the only two living saints and these two will totally deny my "accusation" that they are living saint. But I know others too--my mother for instance--who represent all that is good and who I consider to be living saints. I'm so blessed to know these people and hope that they rub off on me and hope they put in a good word to the Big Guy for me!

The Blessed Sacrament

I've been going to adoration weekly with a friend for a few weeks. Normally, I meet them at Our Lady of Good Counsel in the Westport area of KC. Thursday I stayed closer to home and went to my home parish at Holy Family. I took this picture with my Droid X on they way out.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Cookie Was Right! (But the Cake is a Lie!)

So, a little confession from your Roman Catholic Cop. I like Chinese food. That's not really a confession you may be thinking. But I like your junk Chinese food. Not the types from your nice, authentic Chinese restaurant (or, as they call them in China--restaurants) but the Chinese food from your fast food type of places, like Panda Express or those ones in the food court at the mall. YUMMY! I know it's sort of like saying you like Taco Bell compared to a nice Mexican Restaurant. The food isn't the same at all. But the one thing that is the same is the fortune cookie! I just happened to go to Panda Express on Monday and the fortune that I got really spoke to me. It was one of those you actually keep and stick on your bulletin board. It's says, "Look towards the future, but not so far as to miss today."

"Look towards the future, but not so far as to miss today." That speaks volumes to me. I'm the type of person who is always looking ahead. In boot camp, every day was, "68 days (or how ever many days it was) and a wake up!" I'm the type of person who, at least mentally, marks the days off on the calendar. I'm looking ahead thinking, "One day the kids will be gone and my house will be clean!" I'm the type of person who gets all worried about something that MIGHT happen. I'll be on vacation and instead of enjoying myself I will be fretting about having to go back to work. Heck, I sometimes worry about what MAY happen instead of enjoying what IS happening.

It's good, I think, to look towards the future. It helps us set goals. It helps us keep on task. tI defeats the every day boredom that comes about. It's good to visualize ourselves as having lost that ten pounds, graduated college or being healthy. If we just live in the now we loose those goals and aspirations and it can make the future much more difficult for us. By looking towards the future we become disciplined so that we can attain those goals and dreams.

It's also good to look towards the past, but again, not to live there. It's important to look and see how we have done--whether good or bad. It's good to remember where we have come from so that we can see where we are and where we are going. It can be an encouragement. It can be a wake up call. It's good to see what types of sins we've committed in order that we don't commit them again. But we can't live there. That's just sad. It's sad to see someone who is still living in there "glory days" and their life stinks now. It's sad to focus on our pasts sins when we've already confessed them and been forgiven but we haven't forgiven ourselves.

We are in the present and that is where we should focus most of our attention, even if we are in a bad situation. While sometimes there is nothing for us to do, it is in the present that we can fix things we have done in the past and prepare ourselves for the future. But we must always concentrate right now on being the best person we can possibly be right at this moment. Just as God is timeless, we have to kind of float between the past, the future and the present. But we must concentrate on the present.

Don't worry about the past. Don't worry about the future. And CERTAINLY don't miss today. You'll miss things. You may miss the enjoyment of your friends and family because you are worried about what may happen. That's why the cookie was right, "Look towards the future, but not so far as to miss today."

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's Mary's Fault

Sunday was the feast day of Mary's Assumption to Heaven. During mass yesterday, I was thinking about my lack of devotion to Mary. Don't get me wrong. I don't have anything against Mary. And it's not like the Catholic Church says you have to have a devotion to her. The church just teaches, to put it simply, that as the mother of Jesus she is a model for us and she can help us get closer to her son. I've seen people's response to her and how much they love her and how close they are to her. Personally, I've just never felt a need for that devotion. And then, yesterday, I had an, "AH-HA" moment.

It's no secret that my spiritual life isn't where I want it to be. I'm always wanting to make it better. Which is a good think, I think. I think one of my stumbling blocks to God is accepting a Father's love. I grew up without a dad. The main fatherly image I had growing up was my grandfather. It was amazing but lets' fact it--when I was ten years old (which is how old my son is now) my grandfather was over seventy years old. So, I know how to give a "Father's love" but accepting it is another thing. It's different. So, I'm sitting in mass thinking, "Mary . . . Our Blessed Mother . . . wait a minute . . . Mary was a girl!!" This may not be a brilliant revelation for the rest of you and the fact that the Mother of God is a female wasn't really for me either. But since I never really had much of a masculine influence in my life, I have always had a special connection with women. Women have had more of an influence on me than men. I've always had more female friends than men. In fact, I was telling my wife about reconnecting with my best friend from high school a couple of months ago on Facebook. Her question was, "What's her name?"

So, the church teaches us about Mary and about how she can be such a positive role model for us in growing closer to her son. I'm looking for a better relationship with Jesus. I connect better with women. Why WOULDN'T I use Mary to help me grow closer to Jesus?? I thought to myself, "What a brilliant idea!" And then I felt like an idiot because it took me so long to figure it out. It's not like the church doesn't put a special emphasis on Mary. She isn't some secret devotion. Heck, every time I go to confession, Msgr. Blacet tells me that when I'm faced with temptation I should ask for Mary's intercession. I've repeatedly been told she will help me. Sometimes I'm not as smart as I think I am.

I am going to start going to Mary for help. I'm going to ask her to pray for me when I'm tempted. I even have a special intention that I'm going to lay at her feet for her assistance. I'm going to ask her to teach me more about Jesus and to pray for me that I may be pleasing to him. That way, as Msgr Blacet told me, when I get to Heaven I can tell Mary that it's her fault that I'm there.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Need Me a Prayer Life!

I've recently been blessed by helping a dear friend rediscover her faith. It's been very rewarding and I'm proud of her for humbling herself and trying to find God in her life. Every day she tells me, "I said my prayers today!" I encourage her all the while thinking, "Good gravy! At this point she has a better prayer life than I do!" You see, I have an ATROCIOUS prayer life and it was pointed out to me by a priest friend that it's very possible that God is using her to help me to find my prayer life as much as He is using me to help her to find her faith.

It's not like I haven't tried and worked on it. It's not like I don't have the desire to have a prayer life. It's not like I don't have the desire to have a passion for scripture or a great Marian devotion. It's just not there (yet.) I also realize that a great prayer life isn't going to happen over night. To be honest, I'm just lazy. So I guess I'm guilty of the sin of sloth and need to go to confession, huh? Here is the deal. I've been blessed and have felt God's presence in my prayers before. Talk about an experience that will knock your socks off. I'm just such a chuckle head and skip my prayers the next day. I don't keep it up. I just want it to come easy for me!

I'm reading a book now that I'm going to review in a couple of weeks. The book has a chapter on St. Teresa of Avila. She describes prayer life as "four methods of watering." She says that sometimes prayer is like pulling water from a well--it takes muscle and labor. Other times it's less difficult--like taking it from a water wheel. Sometimes it's as simple as taking water from the "river" that God provides. Finally, if God sees fit--he can provide a "spiritual rain" that requires nothing.

I really like this analogy because it reminds me that even though I'd like like to just sing in the rain and have this great prayer life I need to work on it and pull those buckets out of the well. For me that may mean working on saying the Liturgy of the Hours every day. Maybe I need to just be simple and say an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" every morning and evening and supplement that with the Liturgy of the Hours until that becomes habit.

I don't know. I know I need to do something. I've got a couple books such as "The 'R' Father" by Mark Hart and "The Better Part" by Fr. Bartunek. I'm hoping they give me some motivation and encouragement.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


About a year and a half ago, my wife and her mom went to Greece and Turkey for ten days on a cruise. I stayed at home with the kids so I was never actually alone but I'll tell you what--from the moment she stepped on the plane until I picked her up I was lonely. What a horrible, helpless feeling it was too. For the next week and a half, I could have been in a room filled with people but I felt all alone. I couldn't imagine going through life with that feeling.

You may be wondering what this has to do with you? Sure, people do go through life feeling like they are by themselves. Whether intentionally or by circumstance, men and women around the world are lonely. Perhaps they have recently gone through a separation or lost their spouse to death. Perhaps circumstances in their lives have caused their family to disown them. They are left with no one to comfort them or to show them love. You have family and friends, though. How is this blog applicable to you?

I would say the first reason I'm bringing up the subject of loneliness is to raise awareness of those who may be hurting around you. If we are all parts of the Body of Christ, we need to take care of those brothers and sisters who are around us. It's one reason we should always treat everyone with love and concern. We should always allow Christ to shine through us so that those people who may be lonely can feel his love. Our kindness may be the only compassion they are shown all day. Don't rely on someone else to be kind.

The second part, and something that may have a bigger impact on you--especially if you don't think you should show love and compassion to those who are lonely around you. I believe Hell is a very lonely place. I know we have images of flames and the devil with a pitchfork. What Hell is, at it's very basic though, is simply an absence of God. That is the answer to your question, "If God is ever loving, how can he send people to Hell." Well, the answer is that he doesn't send people to Hell. He would prefer that everyone be with him in Heaven. But people chose a life apart from God by sinning and doing things their own way. God only gives people their wish. If they wish to be apart from God then He will allow it, for all of eternity. So God only gives us what we want. If we want to spend eternity away from them, then He will allow it. It's just going to be very lonely.

For those who are suffering loneliness, please realize that we are never really alone. God is always with us and always cares for us and always loves us. I realize that it may be easy for a guy with a wife and kids to say that you shouldn't be lonely because God is with us. But, it's true. God is always with us and is never away from us. Heck, he may even be using your lonliness to bring you closer to him.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Living Sanctuary

My son and I were at Cub Scout Camp last week while my daughters were visiting their grandmother. So Sunday morning I went to my mom's and picked them up causing me to miss mass Sunday morning. No, no--this isn't a blog about how I missed mass this weekend. I did miss mass at my home parish but I went to the 6pm mass at St. Gabe's. It's a teen mass and I always enjoy it. Everything is still liturgically correct. The music are the same songs and everything, is just a little more contemporary, which I realize for come people may be too much.

During communion, the choir--actually more of a band--goes up first and while they were there one of the members stayed beyond and sang this wonderful, prayerful song while playing the piano:

"Lord, prepare me, to be a sanctuary; pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I'll be a living sanctuary for you."

This slow, reverent song being repeated really struck a chord with me It's a prayer I'd like to remember but it was especially meaningful after I was made to feel like Jacob, who wrestled with God, at mass the week before. It was a reminder for me of what God wants us to be and what we actually are right after mass.

The tabernacle, or sanctuary, is where the consecrated hosts are placed in-between masses. It's normally a golden object placed at the front of the church (unless of course your church has been built in the last forty years then they may be hiding Jesus) An interesting thought though is that right after mass, we are actual tabernacles. At that moment, the consecrated host resides in us. It is the closest we will ever physically be to Jesus. That's why we shouldn't be playing bumper cars trying to get out of the parking lot after mass! Everyone we see is another living sanctuary.

So this song speaks to us in a very literal way. "Lord, prepare me, to be a living sanctuary." We will all literally be little walking, talking tabernacles. I think the song speaks to us in a spiritual way also. We should always be living tabernacles for Christ even long after mass is over. We should always allow him to live in us. People should always be able to see Him in us and Him working through us. After all, we are challenged with taking God out into the world. We have more of a responsibility than going to church one hour a week. We are to take what we are and what we are transformed into out into the world. We have to be that tabernacle with Jesus in us and take him to our workplaces, to our schools, stores, streets, where ever people may be so that they can follow him also.

This prayer/song was a reminder to me that I need to be that person that people can see Christ in and who leads people to Him and not scare away. That seems to be a huge task. It seems to be very daunting. It's a thought that had me "sweating from my eyeballs" as my wife, Abby put it. But I realize that I just need to shut up and be the sanctuary and let Jesus, who is with me do all of the heavy lifting.