Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Man I Want to Be

I have an image in my mind of the person that I want to be. I am so far from being that person-a great husband, a great father, a great friend. I want to be non-judgemental, caring and kind. I want people to see the face of Jesus when they look at me. I want to be like a guy I know-who for the longest time I thought he was a fake--a phoney. I thought, "no one can be that genuinely nice." But, over the last several weeks I've realized--he IS that genuingly nice. Being that person is just proving to be much more difficult than I ever imagined.

I like to think that I at least put on a good facade. I like to think that at least people see me like that. Alas, my family and friends know me for who am I am. They know me for my weaknesses and failings. Fortunately, they love me no matter what and help me to better myself. They are helping me to be the man I want to be. Hopefully, I help them be the person they strive to be.

I'm not trying to throw on some sorts of "pity party" or anything like like that. I'm just well aware of my feelings and know what my failings as well as my successes are. Instead, I would like to talk about how lucky I am. You see, no matter how many times I stumble and fall, I have hope. No matter how much of a wreck of a man I am, I can see success. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know that I can always pick myself up and climb out of the rubble because I have Jesus helping me. I know that with the grace of God anything is possible.

I know that I have a long road ahead of me. I know I will get back on it only to trip and fall and go off the path several times. Fortunately, God is full of mercy and wants me to get to him.

Does anyone else ever feel like this?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Palms and Crucifixion

Palm Sunday always kind of messes with me because I forget about the changes at mass. Oh, I remember the procession. At my church we always line up near the pond and process around the side of the church, up the stairs and inside. But I always seem to forget that it is before mass that you hear reading the gospel story about Jesus sending his apostles ahead of him to find the donkey for him to ride into Jerusalem amidst cheers and praise from the crowds. Every year I seem to think, "Isn't this the Gospel reading? Why are we reading it now?" It's not until later that I realize that the actual gospel reading during mass is the story the Passion-the crucifixion.

The contrast of Jesus being cheered by crowds followed quickly by the scene of the the crowd calling for Jesus' crucifixion is certainly interesting. While in reality, it was a few days between the few events I think it is especially striking when you hear it in the same mass. It is powerful and you really realize how fickle people are. You can see how in one moment you can be on top of the world, receiving praise and adulation and in the next you are being crucified.

I think it is particularly interesting how the Church puts these readings together in the same mass in order for us to see this contrast so quickly. We can see for ourselves that even for Jesus things can turn sour very quickly. How many times in our own life do things change in a moments notice? We are having a great day and are top of the world and are told bad news and our world changes. We are told we are being laid off. We are being told of a death of a loved one or that we have a rare disease. Maybe something actually happens--an car wreck, a heart attack or a sports injury. Our lives changed in a moments notice.

It's important to reflect on what Jesus went through in these difficult times. It's important to remember what he went through. It's important to remember that the even after the most horrific event that that ever happened in mankind occurred--humans killing God incarnate--that the most glorious thing that ever happened occurred--the resurrection and the opening of the gates of Heaven.

Yes, things can change for us in a moments notice. But no matter how bad things are, as long as we are in a state of grace things will be better.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Can't Buy Me Love

I remember back when started my first policing job, I was making just for $20, 000 a year. Back then, I figured that if I ever made $40,000 a year I will have had it made! I would be able to have the car and house that I wanted. Forty grand just seemed to be the benchmark that would mean that I had reached my life goals. That was fifteen years ago and since then, I went to another department that had much better pay. I got promoted, which came with a huge pay raise. Needless to say when I did our taxes last week, I had surpassed that 40 grand benchmark by a couple of dolars.

Funny thing is, even though I've have passed that mark where I thought that I would have everything I wanted, I still work extra jobs in order to bring in extra money. As a matter of fact, here in a couple of weeks the Royals will be starting a new season and I will be working their games for money in addition to my other off-duty job. Those two jobs are in addition to my regular police job. It's proven to be true that no matter how much money you have it won't be enough.

I am a very happy person. Thing is--it's not because of my salary. It's not because of the extra money my off-duty jobs bring in. Heck, now that I think of it, I've was happy when I was a kid and we were poor, living on welfare and food stamps. Money doesn't bring happiness (although it certainly doesn't hurt at times--lets be honest) But it is love that truly makes a person happy.

St. Josemaria said that "You need a heart which is in love, not an easy life, to achieve happiness." (The Furrow, 795) It is through love that you achieve happiness--both in this life and in the next. It isn't until that we realize this and give up trying to buy our happiness that we can be fulfilled. Happiness--we are all after it. Unfortunately, we all seem to think that money will get us there. Maybe it's $40,000. Maybe it's a Cadillac. Or a house with a three car garage and a swimming pool. None of that's going to do it. I don't know why we try. After all, the Beatles told us forty-five years ago that you "Can't Buy Me Love."

Has anyone else tried to find happiness through material goods?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Honesty and Politicians

Someone posed a question to me on Twitter that said, "If the rest of us tried to lie daily at our jobs we'd be fired. Why do we not hold our elected officials to the same?" It was in response to my tweet about being naive for trusting politicians because I had put faith in Rep. Bart Stupak and other "pro-life" politicians who, I feel, that instead of standing up for the rights of the unborn bowed to party lines and voted for the health care resolution. I felt lied to and it was not the first time I had been lied to by a politician. I have also received a letter from my state senator in regard to the Health Care bill and the response was filled with lies.

Why don't we hold elected officials to the same standards we hold ourselves to? I know that as a police officer my word is all I have. I have to be trusted. If I'm not trusted then I may not be believed when I am testifying and a criminal may be let go. Officers who have "Brady issues" might as well consider their career over. If other people would lie to their boss or lie to co-workers they would find it difficult to to their jobs.

But there are some professions that lying seems to be considered okay. There are stereotypes of used car salesmen. Gauging by all the "lawyer" jokes that are out there, people think that attorneys are snakes. Politicians are another profession that people do not trust because they say what they have to say to get bills passed and to get re-elected. That, as they say is, politics.

But, isn't lying a sin? Aren't we, as Christians, held to a high standard? Is lying ever okay? Sure, sometimes we don't tell the truth in order to protect people. Anyone ever have a spouse say, "Do these pants make my butt look big?" Any guy who has been married for any time knows how to answer that. I've gotten in trouble because my wife will ask me how she looks and I'll tell her, "beautiful" without even looking at her. We can lie in order to protect someone. You can't say that some family in World War II was sinning if they were hiding Jews and they denied that to some Nazi soldier. And I have been known to spin a lie in order to help my kids continue to believe in the white bearded, red-suit wearing fat guy from the North Pole.

But is it okay lie in order to sell a car, in order to brokerage a deal, or in order to pass a bill? I fully understand that is how things are done. It doesn't mean that I have to accept it. I surely won't buy another car from a salesman who lies to me and I certainly won't vote for a politician who lies to me. So for those who do, I have my eye on November, 2010 and 2012.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Adulteress and Jesus

Isn't it ironic that whenever Jesus seems to chastise someone in the Gospels we have the tendency to say, "YEAH! That's so obvious! They should know better than that!" When in reality we need to say, "Whoa--that's me that he is chastising." An example comes in this weekends reading about the crowd bring the adulteress to Jesus.

If you remember, Jesus is sitting there preaching and teaching and doing the things that the Son of God does best when the people bring a lady who had been caught in the act of adultery. They tell Jesus (as if he needed to be told) that in the law, Moses told them that they should stone the woman. And they ask him--in order to test him--what should they do with the woman. Jesus bends down and writes something on the ground. They press him when he doesn't answer and Jesus simply says, "Let him without sin cast the first stone." Jesus then continues to draw on the ground. And what do you know, everyone leaves. Jesus looks up and it's only the woman standing there. He asks, "What? No one's left?" The woman shakes her head and says "no one." Jesus tells her that he will not condemn her either. He forgives her of her sins and tells her to go and sin no more.

Now, we read this and we think, "Yeah Jesus! You tell them! Let him without sin cast the first stone! What a bunch of pious jerks!" (Okay, that's what I think, anyway) Isn't it ironic, that we know it's not right to bring someone else's sins to Jesus but yet we do that nearly every day when we gossip. And heck, we aren't even bringing it to the attention of Jesus, we are bringing it to the attention of co-workers, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. And we act so pious about it, as if we are doing a service by bringing these sins to the light of day for the world to see. (not the same as when we give fraternal correction and bring the light of ones sins to the sinner to see by the way) But isn't that the same thing that the people in the gospel reading did? We may not be bringing someone forward for a physical stoning but they sure are getting a emotional and spiritual stoning every time we gossip. And sometimes the emotional injuries sustained last for years.

Why do we love to gossip though? Why do we always look forward to the juicy stuff? It's simple if you think about it. It's pride-the root of all sin. We feel better about ourselves when we are putting others down. We feel better when someone else's shortcomings are out there for the world to know about instead of our own. It's easier to talk about the neighbor's wife sleeping around or talk about how someone is dressed or--wait, did you hear about the stupid thing Sally did yesterday than it is for us to look inside and realize all of the sins that I've committed today.

How do we combat this? What is the virtue that combats pride? It's humility. When someone comes to you with some juicy gossip realize that we've sinned as much as the other guy and if we haven't that's it's only by the grace of God. Think about how we would feel if we had our lives opened up like a book for the world to see. I know I don't want everyone to see my failings and shortcomings so what makes me better than that guy. One way to work on our humility is by doing a regular examination of conscience and bringing our own sins to light and taking them to Jesus. What a gift reconciliation is because we can be like the adulteress (hopefully without the adultery) and take our sins to Jesus (though the priest) and hear those words that we aren't condemned and that our sins are forgiven.

As an aside--I wonder what Jesus was drawing in the dirt. I bet it was a unicorn!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What I Want

What do I want? Or maybe the better question is, "What does God want from me?" Those two questions weigh heavily on me as I begin my first year of aspirancy into the diaconate. Aspirancy is the first year and a half of the diaconate formation process. It is a time of discernment to determine if the candidate, the candidate's spouse and the church feels that the aspirant should move onto the rest of the formation process.

To be honest, I never thought the process would weigh as heavily on me as it has. The sense of apprehension that I've had was not expected. I consider that a blessing though. If, at the end of this process, I feel that I am called to be a deacon, I think I will feel better having had doubts and having worked through them. I think that will give me a better sense of security in my decision.

There are a number of reasons for my apprehension and I can't wait to discuss them with my spiritual director. There are two things that are comforting. The first is that I am very comfortable in my life and that if it's determined that being a deacon is not for me then I won't be any worse off. The second is that I am doing my best to follow God's will. I'm not being like Johna and running away from God. That makes me feel secure that whatever happens--it shall be God's choice and not my own.

Now. . . if I can get God to speak up and tell me what he wants! Or perhaps I should just shut up and listen . . .

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Defend Us in Battle

I added a new blog to my blog list, which is found in the side bar to the right. It is Defend Us In Battle and it's hosted by Joe from the great state of Alaska and Brian who is from Michigan.

I don't know how a guy from Michigan hooked up with a dude from Alaska and started collaborating on a blog together but it is certain worth your time to go over there and peruse the site.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

An Eye Opening Experience

I've been absent from the blogging scene for the past week but it's not for a lack of desire. The police department is putting me, along with 19 other officers, in a ten week Spanish Immersion program. It's basically four college semesters in ten short weeks.

This week though, we are on "spring break" and we have the option of either taking vacation. The second option is being placed in different locations, such as schools or old age centers, with a large Hispanic population. So for the last four days I have been at Our Lady of Angels Catholic school. I've been in the 4th, 6th and 8th grade classrooms. It has been an eye opening experience. I've been able to spend time with kids that I never would have gotten to meet any other way. I've gotten to find a new appreciation for what teachers go though. Hopefully, they have gotten to see police officers in a new light.

We went in as "community volunteers" so that they could know us as people without having a bias towards us because we are police officers. Well, kids aren't dumb and this is the third year that they have done this so many of them knew right away who we were but that doesn't matter--I think it's been a positive experience.

Tomorrow is my last day. We will show up in uniform and I am going to pick up a police car so the kids can experience that. I've enjoyed the week---I'm not sure I can last any longer though. God bless our teachers!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I am having to moderate my comments more closely so unfortunately I have had to change my comment setting to where I approve them prior to them being posted. The other day someone came through and make a bunch of anti-catholic posts to various posts.

I find this unfortunate because I would like comments to be posted right away in order to facilitate conversation but I can't have anti-catholic posts. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about debate and I can defend the Catholic faith, especially against the amateur and ignorant posts that were being made. But this person was using the "shotgun theory" where they were throwing everything out there on various posts and I just don't have time to go to every post and defend it, especially when the answers are in the post.

So for the time being, feel free to post, but it may take a bit for the comment to appear.

Friday, March 5, 2010

But For the Grace of God

I think one of my favorite expressions is, "there, but for the graces of God, go I." It keeps me humble and it helps me realize how many times in my past I could have gone down the wrong path. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I haven't always been a church going type of guy. In fact, it's wasn't until I was in my late 20's that I had a "reversion" and started going back to mass regularly for the first time in a decade. How many times did I have the opportunity to go down the wrong path. How many times did I start to go down the wrong path and somehow find my way. How thankful am I that God is merciful and forgive me for my sins for when I did start to go down that wrong path?

In this weekend's reading, Jesus speaks about others who have died and says, "do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did." I would have to say that I am guilty of this. I see someone who's is leading a life that is obviously sinful. I happen to run into a lot of these people in police work. The suspects, the bad guys and often the victims themselves are involved in a sinful life. On Friday and Saturday nights, I work the entertainment district in the city and see people doing things with a "what happens in Westport stays in Westport" mentality.

How often to I begin to judge these people before realizing that that "there, but for the grace of God go I?" I need to realize that they aren't any more guilty of sinning any more than I am. Maybe I am on the right path now but maybe they will be. Like the parable that Jesus tells about the fig tree. The land owner was going to go cut it down because it had never bared fruit. The gardener said to him to let him tend to it. Maybe with cultivation and fertilization it may bear fruit in the future.

We all needs God's grace. It is only through God's grace and our cooperation with that grace will be get--and stay--on that right path. That is why we shouldn't judge people. We are just as guilty as everyone else is. We can be honest with that person. We can pray for that person. Must of all we should maintain hope because with God's grace that person may still bare fruit. But we should never judge because, "there, but for the grace of God go I."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Notre Dame Does It Again

Notre Dame is probably one of the most popular Catholic universities in the United States--if not the world. But some people wonder about it's "Catholic" title. If you recall, last May Notre Dame invited President Obama to give the keynote speech at it's commencement. The university also gave the president an honorary degree. The problem with this is that President Obama is believed by some to be the biggest pro-abortion president in the history of the United States. The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a grave evil. Many, including many bishops, believed that by giving President Obama an honorary degree is scandalous because it would appear to some that the church is supporting what the president supports.

Well, Notre Dame is again causing scandal but this time not on a national scale like it did last May and this time not by something it did but by something that it did not do. Dr. Charles Rice is evidently a regular contributor to the school newspaper The Observer. Dr. Rice wrote an article for the newspaper about the church's teaching on homosexuality. The article was rejected because the article was considered to be too much of a hot potato. If you read the article, which can be found here you will see that the article is mostly all quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other church documents. Certainly not something that a newspaper for a Catholic university should shy away from.

A little research and you will find out that the reason that homosexuality is a hot topic right now is because in mid-January The Observer posted a crude and anti-homosexual cartoon in it's newspaper. The cartoon was bad and it was even edited down from the original cartoon. The cartoon has since been dropped and the paper has been apologizing to several LBGT groups as well as they should. In my opinion, the cartoon was vicious and goes against the basic commandments that we should love each other.

The paper messed up, there is no doubt. But what a perfect time to explain what the Catholic Church teaches. If you are a Catholic University then you should stand behind it. I understand it is a difficult teaching, especially in today's society. There is an interesting exchange of emails between Dr. Rice and the editor of the newspaper than can be found at the Defend Us in Battle blog. Dr. Rice says it better than I ever could have.

Notre Dame needs to take steps in order to return to it's Catholic roots. I have no doubt that there are plenty of good Catholics students and alumni who desire Notre Dame to have a Catholic identity in more than just words. Dr. Rice's column could have been a great start.

Monday, March 1, 2010

On Wolves, Sheepdogs and Sheep--Take 2.

Last May, I wrote about Dave Grossman's article "On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs." My blog can be found hereif you would like to reread it. Mr. Grossman's article says in a nutshell that people can be divided into three categories: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. I recently had a new thought about that article and mine. In my May blog, I commented on how the sheepdogs also need to be careful about those spiritual wolves and to alway seek comfort in the Shepherd.

My thought that even the sheepdogs of the world need their Shepherd made me think. While I really like the analogy of everyone in the world is either a sheep, a wolf or a sheepdog, I think we can look at the analogy another way. I believe that in the end, we are all sheep, in need of our Shepherd.

As I've already said, the sheepdog is always in need of the protection of his shepherd. But while the sheepdogs do their job of protecting the sheep they are just as helpless as the sheep. They need to be cared for and taken care of. They may put their lives on the line for the sheep but without their shepherd they are nothing.

Then we move on to the wolves of the world. There is an old expression of a wolf in sheep's clothing. In reality, the wolves of the world are instead sheep in wolf's clothing. The wolves are predators and prey on the sheep but they themselves are sheep being attacked by the true demons of the world. Satan and his minions attack all sheep and cause them to sin. Some of them he attacks to such a point that they in turn attack the other sheep. But in reality, they are not true wolves, but are also sheep that need our Lord's care and protection. Don't get me wrong, I'm not someone who says that they criminals are actually victims who shouldn't be held responsible for their actions. No--that's not the case at all. The wolves choose to wear the wolf clothing. It is, in the end, their free will that keeps the wolf costume on. They need to take it off and allow their sins to be washed away.

This brings us to the sheep of the world. I've already said that we are all sheep. I've sort of separated two types of people out already according to Mr. Grossman's article--the sheepdogs and the wolves. What about the others?? What about the sheep who don't see themselves as sheep, sheepdogs or wolves? These are the lost little sheep. They probably don't even know they are lost. They definatly won't admit to being lost and darn it to heck---they will refuse any help from a shepherd. Heck, they may even mock those who do accept help from the Shepherd. These sheep can also become wolves when they prey on other sheep not for gain but to drag them away from the shepherd and make them become lost sheep also.

I realize this is kind of scatterbrained and does not flow very well--except maybe in my mind. In the end, it's very simple we ALL need the from Jesus--the Shepherd. We are all, in reality sheep. If we turn away from Him we will become lost. The sheepdogs will become strays, the wolves will continue to pray and the sheep who refuse to follow Him will be lost.

If you are lost, fear not. It says in scripture that the shepherd will leave the 100 (probably because he knows the sheepdogs have his back) in order to go find the one lost sheep. If you are lost, allow yourself to be found. Pray for God to lead you. Pray for his forgiveness, and turn yourself over to the shepherd.