Friday, April 30, 2010

A Challenge for You and Certainly for Me

Have you ever stepped back and thought about how concieted are are sometimes? It seems like the one thing that everyone is so sure about is that God loves us. We are sure of it. We are so sure that we even teach our kids songs about it. "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." What Bible verse does everyone know?? John 3:16 --"for God so loved the world . . . " Somehow we are well secure in the fact that God loves us and why wouldn't he?? I know I'M a very lovable person!!

And there is nothing wrong with that. God does love us. We SHOULD feel secure in his love and when everything is in doubt we have that---God loves us. We SHOULD rejoice and be glad because God DOES love us and he DOES want a personal relationship with each and everyone of us. God DOES love the world so much that he sent his only son so that we may have life in him.

Ready for the scary part though? Nothing in Christianity is easy afterall. Think about how much we think God loves us . . . and realize that we are supposed to love everyone else just like Jesus loves us.

Crud! That's difficult because--I tell you what . . . there are a lot of people that I just plain don't like!! And I'm supposed to love THEM just like Jesus loves ME?!?!? CRUD!

But it's right there. Just like I know Jesus loves me because the "Bible tells me so" I know I am supposed to love you just like Jesus loves me. It's right there in black and white. It's in this weekend's reading--John 13---"As I have loved you, so you also should love one another." Let that sink in for just a moment.

That Christian love is what is SUPPOSED to make Christians different. That is how Christians have been identified since ancient days. It's one way that Christianity was spread because people could see God's love in the way that Christians loved and treated others. Jesus also tells us that we will be identifed by the love we have for one another. If we do that, we can be like Paul and Barnabas did in the first reading . . . just going town to town evangilizing--letting people know us by the love we have for another.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

What I've Learned from Mike Sweeney

Mike Sweeney has played baseball for the Seattle Mariners for the last two years and before that he did a one year stint with the Oakland A's. Prior to that though, he played for the Kansas City Royals. He was drafted by them, went through their farm system and was eventually named the team captain. He was the annual All-Star pick and best player for several years. Prior to the 2003 season, he signed a five year contract for $55 million. Unfortunately, after that he suffered injury after injury that limited his playing time and after the 2008 season he was not resigned. As someone who has been a Kansas City Royal fan since I was knee high, I was a Mike Sweeney fan.

You don't have to be a Royals fan to be a Sweeney fan though. He is genuinely one of the good guys. He is friendly, always smiling and just down right nice. After games, he could be relied upon to go out to where all the fans were and to sign autographs instead of pretending the fans weren't there like many players do. And if he couldn't sign, he would tell the fans why. "Sorry guys, I have family in town I have to go meet," he would yell or "Sorry, I have to go get ready for the game." This short explanation showed that he cared.

Mike Sweeney taught me more than how to be a nice guy though. You see, Mike Sweeney is Christian and he lives his faith and he isn't afraid to talk about it. He puts a biblical quote on his autographs. He gives talks at Christian family day and shares his faith. But more than that---Mike Sweeney is CATHOLIC!!! What!?! A Catholic man who not wears his faith on his sleeve but gives testimony?!?! That's crazy! I had never heard of such a thing! He taught me that it was okay to do that. Before that, I was hesitant to reveal my faith to people because I was a bad Catholic and was embarrassed. I didn't want to look like a hypocrite. I'm still a bad Catholic but I'm proud of my faith and simply let people know I'm a sinner--a work in progress--and I'm trying to do my best but I fail. And with the help of God, I try try again.

The last eight years must have been rough for Mike Sweeney. He was a the peak of his career, got married, had children. Then he suffered injury after injury. He suffered chronic back pain. He had to leave the city where he was once crowned "captain" and take a pay cut from $11 million a year to the league minimum just in order to make teams and still play the game he loves. But, Mike Sweeney remains the same nice, caring guy who goes around hugging people. Throughout his suffering, he still remains thankful to God and still counts his blessings. I'm still learning from Mike Sweeney.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How AZ Law Affects Police Officers

Recently, Arizona passed a new law targeting illegal aliens. The law has been widely criticized by many, including people here in Kansas City. I recently wrote about immigration reform and conflicted feelings I have in regard to illegal aliens. What does the Arizona law mean and how does it affect Arizona law enforcement?? I found this article at Police Magazine:

Arizona's new immigration law does not mandate that law enforcement officers get involved in "routine immigration enforcement," the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association's Mark Spencer told a local radio host.

While appearing on Mike Broomhead's radio program on KFYI, Spencer said the law gives officers an additional tool that must be embraced by police chiefs who have opposed the bill.

"You'd think this would be a happy day for alw enforcement, but really it's just the opposite," Spencer said. "It's frustrating when you have to pass a bill to tell a police chief to allow police officers to do police work and enforce the law. This bill mandates that police managers follow the rule of law and allow discretionary contact with ICE to address the crime of illegal immigration."

Spencer said the law has six major components for law enforcement, including that officers must make lawful contact with subjects; have reasonable suspicion based on conduct not skin color;initiate contact at the officer's discretion; refrain from racial profiling; assume everyone is a citizen; and disengage an illegal immigrant if detaining them would hinder an investigation.

It brings a lot of questions up and as I said in my earlier blog, I'm conflicted in regard to immigration. I can understand the bishop's views and I understand the police officers issues when they aren't allowed to use ICE when dealing with criminals. The United States does need to help the poor from Mexico, immigration laws do need to be changed so that more people can come here legally, even if it's only temporarily. But, those who break crimes need to be dealt with too and there are places in Arizona that don't allow their officers to deal with the immigration status of criminals. It's a sticky topic and this is not meant to end source of all arguments but is only meant to speak about how it affects law enforcement.


Imagine being a relief pitcher for a major league sports team. You come into the game in the seventh inning after the starting pitcher has pitched 7 2/3 innings. You have a three run lead. You just don't have it this day. You have trouble finding the strike zone and when you do it's because your curve ball isn't curving. By the time you get that final out your team is down two runs. As you walk into the dugout you hear it from the crowd, "HEY BARNSMITH!!!! YOU S#@K!!!" After the game, your manager faces the heat from the press because he brought you into the game when the starter was still pitching well. The general manager is taking grief because he gave you a big contract that you have not been living up to. That is life in professional sports though isn't it? Your performance is judged instantly by thousands. If you throw strikes you get applause. If you get hit around you hear the boos.

Whether or not a person deserves to be boo'd is up for debate. Obviously, no one deserves to be cursed out but does the fan, who paid good money for a ticket, deserve the right to jibe a player or coach whose performance is sub-par?? It certainly probably isn't the Christian thing to do per say. For the player, coach or general manager, they are expected to take it. But they should take this "rough" criticism and use it. The player who is in a slump might hear those taunts and be motivated to take extra batting practice or review video tapes to figure out where he is going wrong. The coach who is being roasted by the press may look at his coaching style and see if he is doing something that is costing his team wins. The general manager though, he is the one who can get the most out of looking at his team honestly. How can we improve?? Can we make a trade? Should so and so be sent down? Is it time to cut so-and-so?"

Likewise, we also can improve our performance by taking a look at ourselves. A simple way of doing this is by doing a simple examination of conscience every night before we go to bed. We can take a few minutes to replay the day and see where we may have sinned, "I got angry at my kids. I gossiped about a co-worker. I let my eyes linger on that attractive blonde for too long. I thought bad thoughts about my jerk of a boss." When we do this, we are able to see our shortcomings and improve on them the next day. It will help us when we go to confession. We will know where we slip up. We will know what to confess and ask forgiveness for.

The examination of conscience doesn't need to focus solely on the negative things. We can think about the good things we did that day. "I gave that homeless guy the rest of my sandwich. I asked for the Virgin Mary's help when I started to have impure thoughts about that attractive blonde and it diverted my attention. I hugged my kids." By focusing on what we are doing right as well as what we do wrong we will realize better what we need to do in order to succeed. Just like a pitcher may review his video tapes and realize that when he pitches with a certain arm angle his curve ball curves but when it's at another the path of the ball stays flat and ends up in the fountains in the outfield.

Just as those in professional sports can take criticism and use it to better themselves, we can be critical of ourselves in order to get ahead in the spiritual life. That doesn't mean we need to stand in front of a mirror yelling, "Darn it Judy! You are worthless!! Go back to Omaha!!" We are better than that. God loves you and is full of mercy. He wants you to improve but he isn't going to say any "momma" jokes at your expense.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bad Dog! Bad Dog!

The other day we drove by a sign on a telephone pole announcing a lost dog. My seven year old daughter let out an audible, "awwwwww." My ten year old son, who's sensitivity level isn't very high said, "Would you cut it out, Molly! You do that every time we pass that sign. Why didn't the owner keep track of their dog if they didn't want it to get lost!?" I had to go on to explain to him that is't not always the owner's fault. Sometimes the dog gets out on their own. Just as God is there for us and tries to protect us and take care of us, sometimes we slip away. This weekend's gospel reading talks about how he is there for us and takes care of us. Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” I find it interesting that as humans we find it difficult enough to put our problems, our wants and our desires into God's hands when we, ourselves, are already in God's hands.

We are already in God's protective care and nothing can take us away from him, but like an onry dog, we are always trying to slip out of the leash because we think that we will be just fine without God looking our for us. We think that we are perfectly safe wandering the neighborhood because we just have to mark our territory and do our own thing. What always ends up happening though? We wander around, get chased out of the neighbor's yard by that mean old beagle and end up going back home to our master with our tail tucked between our leg.

God doesn't want us to wander away. He wants us to stay right with him because he knows we are safe there from the things what will hurt us and keep us from him. But, we aren't dogs. We kennel our dogs, keep them inside or fenced because we love them. God loves us so much that he does not keep a leash on us. He understands that as humans true love is free love. He understands that we are more loyal when we stay at his side without restraints. He also loves us enough to accept us back after we've wondered off and rolled in cat poop. He will give us a bath, pat us on the head and continue loving us.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Simple Tips Being a Good Dad and Husband.

It's pretty amazing what a guy can can find on the internet. He can find advice on how to fix a car, replace a window or solve why his hot water heater keeps going out. He can play fantasy football, watch a baseball game live or find the stats of a baseball game played July 8, 1962. Know what isn't so easy to find? Websites on how to be a good dad trying to raise good, solid Catholic kids. There are good sites out there, such as Catholic Dads Online. --don't get me wrong But even that site talks about how "Catholic moms rock when it comes to building communities. We men. . . not so good." Catholic moms have a ton of resources available to them such as Faith and Family Live.

So why are there so many parenting blogs for moms but not so many for dads? Well, I'm no expert (despite the fact that I have a blog) but here is an idea. I think men, in general, keep simpler ideas when it comes to relationships. This seems to drive our spouses CRAZY! It can appear that we don't care because we don't fret over the small things. There is nothing further from the truth. We do care we just simplify things. For instance, I only want three things in my life. Two of them are that at the end of my life I will have been a good husband and an awesome dad.

But how can we good good husbands and good dads? Simple. Watch carefully because I am going to give my advice on how to be a good dad and a good husband. If you've read my blog before you know I like lists but, I think, in the concept of "keep it simple, stupid" I am going to keep my list at two. Two simple steps at being a good dad and a good husband.

Love your wife--straight from the Bible guys, love your wife like Jesus loved the church. Be ready to lay down your life for her. When other people see the two of you together they should come away with the understanding that she is the most important person in the world to you. Treat her with respect. Don't bicker with her. Don't complain about her to others--ESPECIALLY to other women. Keep your eyes only on her. Stay away from pornography and other temptations. Listen to her talk about her day. Let her believe she is in charge. Make her feel like she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Sure, you are going to have your squabbles and such but at the end of the day she should have no doubt that you love her. Simple right?

Love your kids--and show them you love them. Don't get so caught up in your work, your volunteering or hobbies that your kids are left out. Make time for each of them. Tell them that you love them. Listen to them. Laugh with them. Play with them. Be a cheer leader for them. Prepare them for the world. Discipline them. Be patient with them. Be their parent and not their friend. Teach them about God. Teach them to be ladies. Teach them to be men. Make sure they can recite quotes from old movies. Teach them about the birds and the bees. Teach them to love each other and to defend each other. Simple.

Two simple steps which actually can be narrowed down to one word--love. Love can take you far. Love is simple and yet complex. It takes time. It takes effort. It must be expressed. Maybe I'm making it too simplified. Lord knows my kids surely think sometimes that I'm a jerk. They get frustrated with me. My wife will tell you I don't always follow the tips I gave. My goal is simple--to be a husband and an awesome dad.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Liveliness of Two New Bishops

I realized a long time ago that I'm a Catholic Geek. I may not always act it but my faith is at the center of my life. My car has all types of Catholic paraphernalia. I have a library of Catholic books (most unread) and I could probably wear a different Catholic t-shirt for nearly two weeks. Another aspect of my geekiness hit me Monday when realized that Iwas aware of two PENDING announcements of appointments of bishops in the United States that were to be released on Tuesday. Geekiness doesn't have to mean boring just like these two bishops don't appear to be boring.

When people think of bishops they imagine old men with pointy hats. People sometime imagine bishops, as wells as priests, brothers and sisters as these old curmudgeon type of people who spend all of their time in prayer with all sorts of joy sucked out of them. This couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, there is a fair share of curmedgeony priests and nuns but the vast majority of religious people live life to the fullest and are full of joy. The priests that I know personally are great people who enjoy laughing, movies, television shows, reading and the day to day activities that the rest of us do. They enjoy cracking jokes and drinking beers at Yankee games.

The announcement of the pending appointments of these two bishops yesterday (Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, IL and Bishop Wenski of Miami, FL) are two examples of bishops who are people just like you and me. At the announcement in Springfield, Bishop Paprocki let everyone know that he enjoys running and has run 16 marathons since 1995. He also enjoys playing hockey. He is a goalie and he has been called the "Holy Goalie." Not to be outdone, Bishop Wenski in Miami is an avid motorcycle rider and can be seen wearing his leathers out on the road. In Orlando he even held a benefit ride called Bike with the Bishop to benefit Catholic Charities.

I think these two men are excelent examples that you can be pious and have fun. It is personally a relief to me to know that, while I still need to grow and mature spiritually, that I can still be the jeans and t-shirt wearing big old honking goober of a Catholic geek than I am now.

Top Eight Reasons to be Early for Mass

One downfall of working overnights is that my sleep-time usually corresponds with mass times. This means I have to cut my sleep time short in order to make it to mass. But being one that likes my sleep I have a tendency to hit the old snooze button until the last possible moment. It's amazing how much rationalization you can do with yourself while you are asleep ("I don't need to iron my clothes--that's ten minutes." "I don't need to shave." "I brushed my teeth last Tuesday.") The result of this is that we are commonly getting to church just in time for mass to start or shortly after. I know I'm not the only one who this happens to not only because of the stream of people coming in after the processional but because of the common question to Catholic talk shows, "What is the latest I can be for the mass to 'count.'" I know this isn't right. I know it's better to be early in fact. But in order to encourage myself to early to mass instead of late, I've developed these Top Eight Reasons to be Early to Mass."

8. Parking--the earlier you are to mass the better parking spot you will have. There is nothing worse than either parking at the very back of the parking lot or worse--the overflow parking lot, which is grassy and muddy and snowy and downright cruddy. But don't go crazy and get there really early because then you will just run into the traffic from the previous mass and you will just add to the confusion.

7. Catching Up--if you are there early you might run into friends and neighbors and have a few moments to catch up. Granted, in a perfect world you would do this after mass but we know that we have to rush out of there in order to get to the restaurant for lunch before the protestants get there. If you do get there in time to chit-chat please do it in the family room or outside and respect the other parishioners who are trying to pray in the sanctuary.

6. Choir practice--for a cop, "choir practice" is going out after work for some beers with your buddies (nothing like having a beer at 8 am) but here I mean actually watching the choir practice. Think of it like watching batting practice before a baseball game. You might get an preview of who is going to shine and who is going to stink up the joint that day.

5. Better seats--every good Catholic knows that you have to get to church early in order to get the good seats in the back of the church. You know it's true--the front pew is always empty. We like to sit towards the back of church for a number of reasons. So get there early so you don't have to have that awkward encounter after mass with Father who happened to catch you daydreaming during his homily.

4. Save seats--speaking of seats, if you get get to church early you can save seats for others. Obviously, this is relative to the time of year and applicable to the rules of your parish. On a Saturday evening mass in the middle of Ordinary Time everyone is at the lake and the church is half empty so there is no need to save seats. But for that Christmas Eve midnight mass you may need to pitch a tent the night before in order to get in and save seats for the entire family. I actually use this one sometimes when one of the kids is fiddle-farting around getting ready. I'll take the other kids on to church and my wife will come later with the remaining child whenever she---errrr, I mean the kid finally gets ready.

3. Substitutions--this is for all the lectors, extraordinary ministers, alter servers and other volunteers. If you get to mass early, you might answer the prayers of the sacristan who is desperetly trying to fill slots of slackers who didn't read last weeks bulletin to see if they had to serve this week. (Did you know bulletins actually have useful information in them and don't solely serve as a receipt that you attended mass?)

2. Unwinding--as a father nothing stresses me out than getting the kids ready for mass. They act like it's a surprise every weekend. "We're going to mass!?!?!" Yes! We go every weekend!! Get our of bed and get ready!! Then you think you are leaving at a decent time and enter that time warp that seems to be at the doorway to the garage. You know the one--you are walking out of the house right on time but by the time you pull out of the garage you've lost fifteen minutes and are running late. Your blood pressure is up. The kids are fighting in the car and by the time you get to the church they are on your last nerves and you hope that your priest is an exorcist because you are acting like you are possessed. Get to church early and you won't be so stressed out and you will have time to get the kids settled in and you can unwind a bit.

And the number 1 reason to be early to mass:
1. Prayer--This is sort of like "unwinding" but goes a step further. When you get to mass early you are able to spend time in front to the Blessed Sacrament with Jesus in prayer. This is such a valuable thing to do prior to mass and I can't emphasize it enough. Put that kneeler down and pray. Thank God for bringing you to church safely. Ask Him for help that you don't get distracted at mass. Ask Him for help to understand the homily. Ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you and bring life to you. You wouldn't start working out without stretching would you? Think of prayer before mass as spiritual stretching.

These are eight reasons and I'm sure you can think of more but is basically boils down that by being early to mass you are better prepared and in a better mental state to enter into the mass. Now, if you'll excuse me--I'm running late for mass!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Yesterday was the first anniversary to my baby sister Mag-rat, errr, sorry big brother coming out in me--Maggie and her husband Ryan. They are currently pregnant with a baby who they are going to name "James Michael." Well, that isn't totally correct. Only Maggie is pregnant--Ryan isn't.

Congratulations to Maggie and Ryan. Please remember them in your prayers (especially Ryan) :-)

The Universal Church

I was sitting looking around while at mass yesterday morning and the thought struck me, "Wow, this really IS the catholic church." The word catholic means "universal" and the Catholic Church certainly is that. I saw the universal church just in the seats around me. I saw diversity in my little suburban church. I saw people of all types of color, nationality and ethnic background. There were people of Asian backgrounds next to us, Hispanic background in front of us, African-Americans behind us. And in other parts of the sanctuary this diversity was more than just color-it was nationality--Mexican, Vietnamese, Nigerian. The diversity is across the political spectrum (left to right) as well as socio-economic status (rich and poor). All in this little suburban church, all worshiping together, all in communion.

We were all in mass together at Holy Family but the universality is more spread than that. Yesterday, in parishes throughout the world Catholics were celebrating the same mass, reading the same readings-truly together- in a spiritual sense. The universality of the church can be seen in her liturgies not only throughout the world but even in our own local communities. You can see masses with contemporary music, more traditional music or Gregorian chant. There are even Salsa masses and Polka masses. There are traditional looking churches, modern looking churches and in churches that look like the 1960's/70's threw up in the sanctuary. The universality can be seen in the languages. I know in Kansas City you can find masses in English, Spanish, Latin and probably others if you look.

Obvious issues arise of course when people start saying things that go against Catholic teaching, against the authority of bishops and the pope and, worse of all, conduct liturgical abuses that attack the sacredness of the mass. Because it is our faith, which is handed on to us through the teachings of the church and through the authority of the bishops and the pope and celebrated in the mass is WHO we are. We cannot be "cafeteria catholics" and pick and choose what we want to believe. We cannot make up our own catechism. It is, after all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church--not the "Catechism of Jamie" or of Bill or Ted or whomever.

Our diversity should be celebrated. We are whole. We are one. From Pope Benedict XVI to the Cardinals at the Vatican to the nuns taking care of the poor in third country nations to a simple cop sitting in the pews in Kansas City we are the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Transparency and the Church

It's well known that for the last month or so Pope Benedict XVI has suffered unwarranted attacks in the media in regard to sex abuse scandals. I wrote in defense of the pontiff here. I believe that then Cardinal Ratzinger is innocent of the charges that the media are slinging at him. While I will come to the defense of the pope, I can't, nor do I believe anyone can say that high members of the Catholic Church did what was necessary to do protect the innocent children during the 50's through the 90's. I think they were so scared of the Church looking bad that they hid things and attempted to cover them up. They failed to take the advice of Jesus that everything in darkness will eventually be brought to the light. Obviously this mentality blew up in their face. Bishops would have been better served if they would have been transparent.

Transparency is a buzz-word that has been going around for the last several years. I admit that until a couple years ago I didn't understand what it was. The police department then, always mindful to have a mission statement, a vision statement and all that other stuff that commanders like to have, came out with C.R.I.T.I.C.A.L.---"Critical values." Each letter symbolizes a word the department is striving to be. The only one I remember is "T"--transparent. It means that if we are upfront with the community and are open with our failings instead of trying to cover them up then we, as a department, will build trust because the community will see us being honest. The department has done this by going to the media when officers have screwed up--much to the chagrin of the officers sometimes.

It appears to me that one of the reasons the church got into such a mess is that they were such afraid of a scandal that they swept stuff under the rug. They hid things. They failed to be transparent. To be sure, there are pastoral concerns to take into consideration. There is some secrecy needed in order to protect the child and the priest (they still get that whole "innocent until proven guilty" treatment too, ya know) Even after the priest is found guilty some secrecy is needed because again, the child needs to be protected. I don't think that was the thought process that bishops may have had though. I think they thought that if they covered it up the church wouldn't be scandalized. Not only were they wrong but it actually made the problem worse.

It's been said that the church is not a museum for sinners as it is a hospital for sinners. It is so important for people to remember that. Bishops, priests, nuns, deacons and other religious brothers and sinners are just as much sinners as the rest of us. We should love them and respect them because of their having dedicated their lives to God but we need to realize that they face the same temptations that we do and they are sinners just as we are.

One thing that I has helped me on my spiritual journey is by being transparent. The fear of someone thinking that I'm a hypocrite because I proclaim Jesus but fail to live the life he wants me too was always one of my stumbling blocks. Believe me, I have plenty of flaws--just ask my wife, Abby. That's why I go to confession regularly. I'm doing my best but I fail. I prefer to be up front about this obvious fact. I've been told that I am too open. I've been told that some may be critical an say, "LOOK! This is the type of person that the Catholic Church has accepted into the diaconate formation process!! The church is wrong again!!" I respectfully disagree. I think people see me for who I am and find me more approachable and instead say, "Hey, if Jamie can keep tripping and getting back up then so can I."

I think people in the church need to worry less about scandal striking the church and focus more on what causes that scandal. It has made great strides in the last 8 years. The Roman Catholic Church is now one of the few religious institutions that publicizes statistics of reported sexual abuse. I think this is a great example and how the Catholic Church will start to rebuild trust.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jesus Today

My little sister, Maggie, wrote yesterday in her "From the Heart" blog about a discussion she had with her husband about what Jesus was like and what he would be like if he was alive today--what would he wear, what type of job would he have today. We had been texting each other while she was writing the article (we never really talk on the phone--we just text) so I figured it was only fair that I piggyback off of her blog and add my own two cents.

I think for the last 35 years, thanks to such shows as "Jesus Christ, Superstar" and others we have sort of developed the image of Jesus as kind of a hippie. Long hair, sandals, not really working, sitting around and discussing the problems of the world. Even Maggie's husband said that if Jesus were alive today he would, "drive barefoot in a 1967 Volkswagon bus." Well, Ryan grew up in the Brookside neighborhood of Kansas City--the land of yuppies and old hippies so I can see why he would think that. (Maggie, you don't need to call mom to complain about me I'll save you the time and tell you what she will say, "Maggie, you know that's just Jamie--he's just a big butt head sometimes.) :-)

What would Jesus wear today? What job would he have today? Then other questions start popping up in your head. What movies would Jesus like? Would he like Mexican food (or, as they call it in Mexico--"food") What type of car would Jesus drive? Would he be in a minivan. I definitely not a Smart Car--probably one of those big old vans so he could haul the apostles around. Would he be fighting allergies right now like everyone else is? I'm pretty sure he wouldn't like soccer. He's definitely a baseball man.

It's a fun little game and you could probably go on all day with it. Heck, you could even change people. Would Abraham Lincoln need a teleprompter? Would Napoleon wear camouflage utilities instead of a big hat?

What is important is to reflect on who Jesus was, who Jesus is. If I could travel through time and be with the crowds of people or even sit with him and the apostles would be an amazing experience. We would have an advantage that the apostles did not have. It seems that even though they were told that he was the Messiah or that he was the son of God it didn't really seem like it sunk in. But we would know the future. We would know about his death, resurrection and the spread of Christianity. But we couldn't be a fly on the wall because we would have that knowledge. I would probably fall flat on my face in awe. Would I break down in tears? Would he look at me with a smirk because he knows who I am?

To sit in his presence though . . . to listen to the parables first hand . . . to see him perform miracle----I don't think words could describe it. I think that to even try to even imagine it is like pondering what it will be like when we are (hopefully) experiencing the beatific vision of God in Heaven. It will be like nothing we can imagine.

I think it is natural for us to imagine what Jesus would be like today. We understand that which is around us the most so we want to put Jesus in the surroundings we are familiar with so that we can understand Him better. Two things that I do know: Jesus IS with me now and he will be with me for eternity and Jesus doesn't like "American Idol."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Immigration Reform and the Church

For the last ten week, I have been in a Spanish Immersion program. It is the equivalent of four college semesters in ten weeks. The course is put on by my department and the class is composed entirely of officers, detectives and sergeants. A number of students in the class will be going to Morelia, Mexico for an additional five weeks of immersion with more class room time and by living with a Mexican family. The police department is trying to be pro-active and train it's officers to speak Spanish because of the influx of people from Mexico and Central American who only speak Spanish.

The course doesn't stop at merely trying to teach the language but tries to teach an appreciation of the Latino culture and to help the students better understand why people are coming to America. About once a week, men were brought in from the Westside CAN Center to speak with us. Then men were illegal aliens mostly from Mexico but also from other Central American countries. Being able to speak with them not only helped us practice to our Spanish but also help us understand what these men, and their families went through in order to get here and why.

I don't think it takes a brain surgeon to figure out why they come here--the economy in Mexico is horrible and life is difficult. I personally do not blame them for doing what they have to do in order to survive. I think most American's would do the same thing if the roles were reversed. And these guys go through some hardships just to come to America to work. They leave their families for a year or more, travel for a month or so across the desert or they pay a lot of money to "Coyotes" in order to make it across the border.

Throughout the course, I became very conflicted. As an American, I feel that our borders need to be made more secure. I get angry and concerned at the resources being used for illegal aliens that our taxes pay for such as the health care system, the education system and the criminal justice system. I do think that we need to do something to stop the flow of illegal immigration. This feeling has made me upset at those who try to push for immigration reform or amnesty programs. Those who have pushed for these reforms are sometimes the bishops of the Catholic Church which has always bothered me because I try to be a faithful Catholic and loyal to the magisterium. Especially when I know that those bishops are following the precepts set out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For example, paragraph 2241 of the Catechism says:

“The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.” (2241 CCC)

So, I'm having to re-explore my feelings to immigration and come to grips with the reality that we, as as a wealthy country, need to do something in order to help those who are only trying to support their family. Some interesting articles I've read they help me to better understand the Catholic views on immigration have come out recently. Just last week The Catholic Key put out an article on immigration reform. Also, last week in the Catholic Key Blog was an article of a speech given in Missouri by Archbishop Gomez, the successor to Cardinal Mahoney in Los Angeles. It's a fascinating speech that has many good points, although I disagree with some of his opinions. It can be found here.

I've come to the conclusion that we do need to strengthen our borders, especially after 9-11, for our own safety and to keep criminals out. But I can also see how we need immigration reform. I believe that we can help our country as well as our neighbors and brothers to the south out by allowing my migrant workers into the US. By allowing these people to be here legally we are more likely to get tax money from them. They are more likely to make money and return back to their homes and to their families. I'm not naive--I know it's not a simple issue and there are many things that need to be looked at. I'm only saying that the subject needs to be looked at with a Christian heart.

This is a difficult subject and I'm still conflicted. What do you think? Are you ready to open your mind and see that immigration reform may be helpful in order to stem the flow of illegal aliens? Are you willing to see that illegal immigration is a dangerous thing?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Defending Pope Benedict XVI

A couple of weeks ago, my wife, Abby said to me, "I heard something bad about the pope today." Without even listening to what she had heard I told her that it was probably a bunch of bunk--and I'm not ever sure what "bunk" really means--but for the sake of this conversation, I'm going to assume it means "horse poop." I told her that there were some scandals that have been in the news and being mis-reported in the press. I've been asked by some others about the scandals and heard other disparaging remarks about Pope Benedict XVI so I thought I would write about what I know while keeping it relatively simple.

One of the scandals that has recently been published is about a priest in Munich who was removed from his position due to allegations of sexual abuse. He was later put back into a pastoral position and he went on to again commit acts of sexual abuse. Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, was archbishop of Munich which is where the the offense occurred and is where the priest was assigned so Cardinal Ratzinger was ultimately responsible for the assignment according to "the buck stops here" mindset. The rub is that, according to Cardinal Ratzinger's vicar general, Fr. Gerhard Gruber, the future pope trusted personal matters to subordinates and was not aware of the transfer. Yes, the argument could be made that Cardinal Ratzinger should have done whatever was necessary to ensure that the priest was not put back into a pastoral position but considering that Munich is one of the largest archdiocese in the world as well as handling other matters at the Vatican it is understandable that he would allow others people to handle personnel matters.

The second situation is one dealing with Fr. Murphy who was accused of sexually abusing boys at St John's School for the Deaf in the 1950's and 60's. He was removed from his position in the 70's when the accusations came to light but due to the details being sketchy no action was taken against him. Due to requests by several victims and advocacy groups, the matter was revisited in 1996. A section of the Holy Se called the "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" was consulted because Fr. Murphy was accused of making solicitations in the confessional. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was headed by Cardinal Ratzinger. The investigation and trial was being led by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee but before the matter could be dealt with Fr. Murphy died. There is an interesting article in the "Catholic Anchor" written by Fr. Thomas Brundage, who was the judicial vicar for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and oversaw the investigation, that can be found here.

Another incident that is starting to be talked about in the press is about a case that occurred in Arizona that took, according the Associated Press, twelve years from the time it was assigned to Cardinal Ratzinger until the time that the priest was removed from the priesthood. The fact of the matter is, the priest in question, Fr. Teta, was removed from his position in 1990. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took an active interest in the case during the time the trial took place because it also had allegations of solicitation in the confessional. But sex abuse cases were not the direct jurisdiction of the CDF. The priest was "laicized" or removed from the priesthood in 1997 but he appealed. Due to restructuring, which placed serious crimes under the jurisdiction of the CDF the appeals were delayed and it took until 2005 for Fr. Teta to be defrocked. The process certainly took a long time, but it should again be repeated that Fr. Teta had been relieved of pastoral duties in 1990 and the situation was not under the jurisdiction of Cardinal Ratzinger until 2001. An article on this incident can be found at the Catholic News Agency here.

Pope Benedict is taking a lot of heat for these scandals which is wrong. He had led the cause for reform in the church and ensuring that these abusive priests are removed from the priesthood. In 2001, sex abuse cases were placed under the jurisdiction of the CDF and Cardinal Raztinger started a change in the church were these scandals were brought to light and the priests were punished. As pope, he was met with victims of sexual abuse and started the path to healing.

It's been a decade since the sex abuse scandals in the church started coming to light. Since then, the Catholic Church has made huge advances in protecting children and it can be argued that the Catholic Church is now one of the safest places for children to be. There were only six reported cases of sexual abuse in the United States last year. Six cases too many--that is to be sure but a drastic improvement.

Why the sudden publicity about cases that took place decades ago and certainly before reforms were put into place? I think the Catholic Church will always be a target because she stands up and says that things are wrong that modern society should be okay. The church made itself a target by sweeping these monsters under the carpet when they did occur due to fear of scandal. It was only when the scandal broke that the church was forced to look at itself and make changes. Catholics continue to make the Church a target when, instead of defending the pope with facts, they try to make excuses like, "oh, many of these charges don't involve pedophilia because they involve teen age boys and pedophilia deals with pre-pubescent boys." Stop it with the semantics and just say that any abuse of a child, whether 8 years old or 16 is wrong.

The Roman Catholic Church has made great strides in protecting God's children and 98% of priests are good men who have been given a black eye by the other two percent. They deserve our admiration and respect just as Pope Benedict XVI deserves our support and prayers.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Offering It Up On Good Friday

Today I was texting a friend and I was joking with her. Since it is Good Friday and we have to fast and abstain from meat, I suggested that we go to Texas Roadhouse for a good steak. She replied that it sounds great but her family has a tradition of going to a certain church for their noon mass. She said she likes the symbolism and that she feels like she is there with Jesus as he walks and is crucified. It reminded me of how fortunate we are as Catholics to have the tradition of "offering it up."

Now, I'm no theologian and I find this to be sort of difficult to explain so if someone knows how to better please speak up. Jesus, as God incarnate, was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. We celebrate that sacrifice he made on Golgatha today when we celebrate Good Friday and recall His sacred passion and death on the cross. Actually, we recall, and enter into that sacrifice every time that we go to mass.

But, as Christians, we are able to offer up our pains and sufferings as our own sacrifices and sufferings. Whenever we are in pain, physically or emotionally, we are able to take that and offer it up, perhaps for reparation of our own sins or even for the sins of others. Yes, we are forgiven for our sins because of the death of Jesus and nothing we do could ever amount to that sacrifice. We are forgiven, but we are still tainted by that sin and are not fully purified until we are "purged." This is what purgatory is all about.

What a great benefit we have that we are able to take our pains and sufferings and offer them up. I actually do this while working out. When doing the CrossFit I offer up my pains to three different friends who have passed away in the last year. Today, I did CrossFit on my lunch hour and, like my friend, was able to feel like I was walking with Jesus because I could offer up my aches to Him (and believe me--with overhead squats and GHD sit-ups--there is pain).

We all have aches, pains and sufferings. It is a relief for me that I am able to take these pains and use them for something better. Perhaps they will even get me out of Purgatory sooner and in Heaven faster.

Like I said, I'm no theologian and I'm sure there is a better way of explaining this so if someone wants, please take a stab at it!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Best Of: Holy Thursday, Washing of the Feet

This is a repeat---errr, I'm sorry--a "best of" from last year. A re-post of last years Holy Thursday blog.
Today is Holy Thursday which is the first day of the Tridium (those three days between Lent and Easter)

On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Lord's Supper---the night before Jesus' passion and death when He instituted the Eucharist. The Gospel reading for Holy Thursday is from the Gospel of John and it recounts Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.

A little refresher: So Jesus finishes up with supper. He gets up and takes off his outer garments and ties a towel around his waist. Now, his disciples, who have seen some WILD stuff the last few years are probably wondering, "what's He going to do now?" Imagine--they seen Jesus walk on water, raise people from the dead, heal the blind and made the lame walk. They have to be intrigued by what's going on. Jesus starts to wash the disciples feet. Again--remember--back in these days they aren't wearing some nice Nike's---they are wearing sandals and walking through the dirt--walking down roads that the live stock also travel on. I don't know if you realize this--but live stock tend to leave things behind so they've probably stepped in some "stuff." Their feet have to be FILTHY!! And here is Jesus, the man that they now know is the Messiah--the anointed one--crouched down washing their feet.

Finally He gets to Peter and--well, you have to love Peter--you know Peter's going to stick his foot in his mouth (no pun intended) Peter says, "What are you doing!?!? Do you think you're going to wash my feet?!?" (I'm paraphrasing here) and Jesus says, "Don't worry about what I'm doing cause you ain't going to understand. You'll get it later." (again--paraphrasing. You aren't going to find those exact words in red letters in any Bible (see footnote))

So Peter goes on, "Oh nooooooo, you are NOT washing MY feet" to which Jesus replies, "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me." And Peter says, "In that CASE--don't just wash my feet but my hands and face too." You see--Peter didn't have it all put together quite yet but he knew what Jesus had to offer.

Jesus finishes up and goes and sits down and says, "Think about this--you call me master and teacher and, well I am. If the teacher and master has washed your feet you should wash each others. This is the model I set for you."

I'm not Bible scholar by any means but I think what Jesus is trying to be a model for us. My first clue? "This is the model I set for you." Yeah, yeah--It's subtle but it's there.

What does it really mean? It means we are all supposed to be servants to each other. You see--before the fall, the first sin of Adam and Eve--that's the way it was supposed to be. We were all supposed to take care of each other without any concerns to ourselves. Jesus is saying that it's STILL supposed to be that way. We are STILL supposed to take care of each other without any concerns to ourselves. But due to sin, we are inclined to look out for #1 first of all--we take care of ourselves. Oh yeah--we might take care of our loved ones but even then we tend to move them to the side if they get in our way.

Why washing feet though?? Like I said--it was probably a pretty messy task. Now days at the Holy Thursday mass we recreate this by the priest washing some parishioners feet but you know darn well they were clean before they got there. Probably gave themselves a pedicure. But the disciples?? Can you imagine that bowl of water?? It probably had to be changed out a few times--pouring out muddy water for clean. This is a messy, disgusting task. And Jesus gets down, probably on his hands and feet to do this. The model Jesus is setting shows that when we take care of others we should not be happy with something subtle--although the little things do add up. But we are expected to do the big things--that we are not over anyone. We should be prepared to get down on our hands and knees and to get our hands dirty in order to take care of others.

Footnote: for our Catholic readers who may not have picked up a Bible in awhile--in many Bibles the words of Jesus are written in red letters. It's really a protestant thing)