Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Notes on Mass

I am not much of a note taker.  How I made it through college, I'll never know.  Maybe that's why I started in 1992 and finished in 2005.   Training sessions at work are the worst.   They will give you all this paper so that you can refer back to it at a later time.  I hate to tell them that I won't.  I will be polite and not throw it away on my way out the door.  After all, I am grateful for the paper to doodle on during their lecture.  But I'll be honest.  It will end up in the floor of my car,  get stepped on and muddied.  And about six months down the road, I'll clean out the car and throw said paper into the recycling bin.  I'm just not the type of person to take notes and definitely not the type of person to take those notes and store them in some place to refer back to at a later time.

An interesting thing has happened though.   In September, 2010, I attended a Cursillio weekend.  During the sessions of the Cursillio they have you take notes and then you go over your notes with the other people at your table and discuss the session with them.  I still have my notes.  It's been several months since I've looked at them but I truly treasure them because there are some good nuggets of wisdom in there. 

A couple of weeks ago, when I went to the National Catholic Youth Conference, I took a friend's advice, and took a notebook with me and took notes during the key note speeches and break out sessions.  The kids looked at me like I was a total nerd.  Granted, they normally look at me like I'm a total nerd, but this was on a whole new level.   In the last couple of weeks, I'm really glad I did.  I've looked back at the notes and recalled what was said.

In his talk, "The Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality" the Catholic author, Matthew Kelly recommends taking one item from a weekend homily on something that they took from the homily that will help them become the best person that they can be and recording in a journal.  He says that after a year you will have a very powerful book on spirituality.  He knows human nature well enough to realize that most people will buy a journal, take his advice for one Sunday and then put the journal in a "safe place" and forget all about it.

So, I've been thinking.  Since I've discovered that I enjoy taking notes over spiritual discussions--it helps me focus and recall the information later on, would it be disrespectful or sacrilegious to take a notepad into mass with me and take notes while father is giving his homily?  After all, mass isn't a  revival or a lecture.  It is something higher than that.  It is sacred.  At the same time, if it helps me retain what father is preaching and helps me take some his sermon outside of the mass is it a bad thing.  I'll be honest with you, I don't know.  I do know that 95% I don't recall what the homily was about after mass, much less the next day.

What do you think?  Have you tried this?  Do you think to do so would be wrong?  Why?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Five Cool Catholic Apps

It is no secret to my closest friends and relatives that I am a geek.  Granted, I'm not a super smart geek or else I'd be making a lot more money than I am.  But I've always enjoyed technology.  I've always liked computers.  I am a genuine text addict and it is seldom that I don't have my Droid X in my hand.  I'm also pretty geeky when it comes to Catholicism.  So, I figured, I would combine the two and write about my favorite Catholic apps.   There aren't a lot out there but here are five good Catholic apps.  

1) Confession---It shouldn't be any surprise to anyone who knows me that a confession app would be my favorite.  This one got a lot of publicity when it came out about a year or so ago.   For all of you who think it means you don't have to tell your sins to another person then you are going to be disappointed.   It does not replace the sacrament.  It simply takes who you are, you sex, your age and your vocation and comes up with an examination of conscience for you.  You do the examination of conscience and then it walks you through the steps of confession.   Then, after confession, all of your sins are erased and it only leaves you with the date of confession for your next time.   It is very simple.  Very easy to use.  The only problem I've had with it is that it keeps logging you off so you have to log back on right before you go in if you wish to use it in the confessional. People may also look at you awkwardly for looking at your phone while in line.

2) iBreviary---You don't have to carry around your breviary with you any longer.  This simple app holds all of your daily readings so you have them with you no matter where you are.    It's very nice to have but I have to admit---there is something about having the actual book of Christian Prayer there and moving the ribbons around.

3) CatholicOne--I don't think this app had gotten the press that it deserves.  I love it!  In one little app it has daily readings, the rosary, stations of cross.  Dozens of prayers in English and Latin, a link to iCatholicMedia (an app that I havent' gotten a chance to explore yet but looks interesting) and not one--but two on-line Bibles. Yes, it has both the New American Bible and Douay-Rheims Bible.  The prayers are even divided into different types such as Eucharistic, Marian, novena etc etc.   If you are Catholic then you need this app.  It's fantastic.

4) Sirius/XM--I am including this app even though it is not necessarily "Catholic" because I use it to listen to The Catholic Channel when I'm not in my car or away from the computer.   It's great for listening to The Catholic Guy Show while I'm driving at work.

5) Ingnio---This app is available for the Android market but after talking to one of the designers at NCYC I downloaded it to my iPod Touch.   Sadly, I don't have anyone to light my flame.  :-(   The basic idea is that we need help from our fellow Christians.  Our "candle" is lit by someone and you develop a small circle of friends that help keep you on task.  Every time you pray or read scripture you push a button and your candle stays lit.  If you go awhile without praying or reading the Bible your candle dwindles and is eventually extinguished.   You are only allowed 12 friends which is perfect--because it's not about social networking.  It's about having a few great friends who will keep you on the right path.  I'm really looking forward to using this app because I need some close friends to keep me on task.

What about you?  Do you have any apps that you like?  I saw some interesting ones on iTunes that I wish were in the Android Market.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eyelash to Eyelash With God

I have a confession.  My favorite sacrament, ironically, is the sacrament of reconciliation.  I know . . . I know. . . the Eucharist is the top sacrament.  It is, after all, the source and summit of our faith.  But, I really love going to confession.  Well, let me add in a caveat . . . I would much more prefer it if I never ever had to go to confession again but, I know that I am a sinner.   I recognize that I sin and that the only way to get rid of that sin is by going to the confessional.  I know that "confessing my sins to God directly" doesn't cut it.   It's not the way that God intended it to be.  It's too easy.  It doesn't take any humility.  People who do so are fooling themselves and are missing out on the closeness to God that comes with confession.

I was never able to describe how going to confession feels adequately.  Not until I heard Mark Hart's keynote speech Friday morning at NCYC in Indianapolis last week.   The morning session is below.  Mark's keynote starts at about the 54 minute mark and the portion that hit me like a ton of bricks starts at about the 82 minute mark---but watch it all.  It is worth it.

I really encourage you to watch the video because I am just going to butcher the explanation.   Mark talks about how people walk with their heads down because they are embarrassed.  They are ashamed of their sins.   He then describes what "cilia" are.   They are little hair like things on cells that help them move.   He continues saying that God, in His infinite wisdom gave humans cilia also.  He says that our eye lashes are like cilia.   And when we go to reconCILIAtion we are brought back together with God.  It is an eye lash to eye lash encounter with God.  He lifts up are chin and makes us new again.

Just that idea--that metaphor sends shivers up and down my spine. To sense the spiritual side of reconciliation and imagining being eye lash to eye last with God during confession stirs something inside of me.   It gets me choked up.  To think that God, the creator of the universe, not only is willing, but desires for me and all of mankind to be reconciled with him.  That He wants that type of intimate encounter with me and is willing to wipe away all of my sin in order to be with me.  

I went to confession the day after Mark's speech and  that visual image struck me as the words of absolution were spoken by the priest and I could barely say my Act of Contrition because I felt God's love.   I felt him lifting the yoke of sin and taking that burden off of me.  Words cannot describe it. I'm truly not worthy but it doesn't matter.  God loves me and wants to forgive me.  He loves you too.  And He wants to forgive you too.   So, if it's been awhile since you've been to confession find out when the next one is and go.   Have that eye lash to eye lash encounter with God.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fifteen Amazing Things About NCYC 2011

We got back home from Indianapolis where I participated in the 2011 National Catholic Youth Conference.  This was my third NCYC and they have all been simply amazing.   After the 2009 NCYC, held at home here in Kansas City, I posted a blog titled, "Fourteen Amazing Things About NCYC."   Truth be told, I had difficulty stopping at fourteen so, I figured I would add on this year and rewrite it to make it applicable for this year.   So, here is the 2011 edition of amazing things at NCYC.  Some of these are taken from last years because there is just no way to leave them off any list but I did try to make new items.

  • Number 15---Lucas Oil Stadium.  This was a fantastic location for the general sessions.  I really think that with the large number of people there, you need to have it in a football stadium.  When you are in an arena, like it was last year at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, you had to make sure to get to the arena early in order to get good seats or else you would be in the "nose bleed" sections.  At Lucas Oil, even if you were late, you could get great seats and feel like you very close to the action.  (I would still recommend getting there early so you don't miss out on the warm-up bands.)
  • Number 14---All of the Religious People  Everywhere you looked there were priests and nuns having a good time.  Heck, one night I was walking back to my hotel and walking next to me was a bishop--a successor to the apostles standing next to me waiting for the traffic signal to change!  This is incredible to me.  I think it is great for the teens to see these religious people as people just like them.  People who enjoy having a good time.  I also think it's good for the priests and the nuns and the bishops to see the young people loving their faith.
  • Number 13---The Food.  Some attendees may be thinking I am crazy to list food considering the lines to some of the food places.  Yes, it can be difficult but it can be done.  With pre-planning and reservations you can find some great food.  Thursday night we had diner at Buca di Beppo before the general session and we were in and out in 45 minutes.  Friday night we had great pizza at this hole in the wall pizza shoppe that was so secluded that it was like finding Diagon Alley.  (We are going to back in 2013 so I'm not giving up where it is)  Finally, our diocese had dinner at Hard Rock Cafe on Friday night.  A great opportunity for kids from different parishes to meet and interact.
  • Number 12---Everything is Just Right.   I'm not sure there is room for growth at NCYC.   Well, sure, there is, but I don't know how.  After all, a million people descended on Madrid, Spain for a week in August.  I think that is extreme though.  Twenty-three thousand Catholics is a lot of people and there are times when places are cramped. Yet having that many people just intensifies the excitement and adds a sense of awe.  Three days is also a long time to be jam-packed with that many people.  After that and I think people would start to get testy.  Any shorter than that and it's just not the same.  I think the size and the length of NCYC is just right.
  • Number 11---You get to miss school/work.  This has two advantages.  The first one is---you get to miss school and/or work!  I don't think I need to expand and that.  The second is that it gives you an opening to share your faith.  You've missed two or three days and you come back and people are sure to ask where you've been or what you've been doing.  At the same time, you are still all jazzed up and excited.  What a perfect opportunity to share Jesus with someone.
  • Number 10---Positive Attitudes.  Imagine 23,000 people in one space for 3 days.  You would think that tempers would be flaring.  Yeah, there are times when people get frustrated but it's short lived.  That type of attitude just doesn't survive in the NCYC environment.  So many people being happy and excited for their faith and negativity just doesn't have a chance.
  • Number 9---The Quotes.  There are so many great speakers and so many great things being said.  I took some advice from a friend and took a journal and took notes during some of the sessions so I can remember them (great idea for youth ministers---make your kids travel journals so they have a place to put their memories)  I'm now able to remember that Mark Hart told me that "Prayer IS our relationship with God."  Or Mike Patin telling me, "Be who you are called to be and we will set the world ablaze!" (Okay--he quoted St. Katherine of Sienna---but he still told it to me in a great session)  Or Fr. Tony telling me to "Don't be Stupid!"
  • Number 8---The Expo Center---WOW!!  Areas for vocations, areas for eating, people selling Catholic books, jewlery, tee-shirts.  Areas for universities.  Areas for HUMAN FOOSBALL!  Being able to meet your favorite Catholic celebrity.  Fun fun place to be.  
  • Number 7---It Just HAS to Bother Satan.  The Devil is the big loser in all of this.  People who are already in love with Jesus have that love set on fire.  Those who have let that fire dwidle get reinvigorated.  Those who done really know Jesus, get to know him.  Sin is talked about.  Hell is talked about.  Evil is brought into the light.  The Devil hates that.
  • Number 6--It is pleasing to God.  It would have been interesting to be in Heaven when 23000 people  are reciting the Hail Mary or when thousands of people receive the sacrament of reconciliation.  People singing His praise and offering themselves to Him.  Surely He had a smile.
  • Number 5---Knocking out the cell network two times in one day.   At the Saturday morning session, Mike Patin had the kids take out their cell phones and at the same time send someone back home a texts saying, "I care for you.  I'm praying with 23,000 other people for you."  That night at mass, Bishop Coyne again had everyone take out their phones and send out a text, a tweet or a status update saying, "We are called to glory!"   I'm sure that many texts or tweets going out at the same moment just had to wreck the cell network---even if it was just for a second.
  • Number 4---The universality of the Church and NCYC.   Several of the sessions were streamed on the interwebs.  So, while there were all these people watching mass from Lucas Oil Stadium there were thousands of others watching on their computers from crazy places like the Vatican and China.   This shows that the Catholic Church truly is Universal.  It is all around the world.
  • Number 3---Youth Ministers.  This could not have been done if it wasn't for all of the hard work done by youth ministers back home.   I know they start recruiting people to go and planning over a year in advance.  Travel arrangements, food arrangements.  I can't imagine how many hours goes into organizing a group to go.  My parish, Holy Family, is blessed to have the best youth minister in the world--Heather Neds.  She makes the whole weekend end appear seamless and ensures that everything runs smooth so that the kids have a great time.  
  • Number 2--Reminders from God that it doesn't End.  We loaded on the bus Saturday night thinking we were a short sleep filled 10 hour bus ride from home.  We thought we'd be getting in Sunday morning as people were filing in for mass.  Not so fast.  We had a slight mechanical difficulty with the bus and had to sit at a truck stop for a couple hours before limping to a motel in order to get some sleep and a shower while they figured out what to do.  About 1pm Sunday afternoon, another bus came and picked us up to take us the rest of the way.  Twenty-one hours after we left Indy, we pulled into Holy Family.  God granted us a 12 hour extension to NCYC.  And the kids kept a great attitude through it all, even though they were tired and had homework to do.  I hope they realize, NCYC doesn't end there---they have to take what they learned with them.
  • Number 1--My Daughter.  This is my third NCYC and my 11th year being involved in youth ministry as a catechist.  It is my first time my oldest, Emma, has been involved and it was great to spend time with her.  We went to one break-out session together.  We spent time in line for reconciliation together.  Time here, time there.  Lots of valuable bonding time and I treasured every minute of it.
Well, I thought I would have to repeat things from my last list, such as the mass or reconciliation.   I could go on and on and list many other things that are incredible about NCYC.  I simply love going there.  It's like a great big CatholicCon for a Catholic geek like me.  Hopefully, I'll have a repeat after the 2013 NCYC, which will be November 21-23, also in Indy so I'll put them there.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Headed to NCYC

Tonight, myself and thirty-two other adults and teens are leaving Kansas City and headed to Indianapolis for the 2011 National Catholic Youth Conference.   This will be my third one and I am pumped and excited.   There isn't much that I look forward to more than NCYC.  I'm really hoping to see Fr. Tony this year.

Why do I love it so much?  I wrote a post after the one in 2009 titled, "Fourteen Amazing Things About NCYC" that does a pretty good job explaining it. 

I'll try to keep you updated of what's going on here or at my Twitter--@JamieMc4525.  If you are there tweet me and maybe we can meet up.Or, you can watch along by going to www.ncyc.info (was ncyc.com taken?)  The following sessions will be streamed.

Thursday, November 17th
beginning at approximately 8:00 PM EST
General Session

Friday, November 18th
beginning at approximately 9:30 AM EST
Morning Session
beginning at approximately 11:30 AM EST
Parent Mega Workshop, "The Gift of Parenthood"
beginning at approximately 1:30 PM EST
Parent Mega Workshop, "Stories of Faith and Family"
beginning at approximately 3:45 PM EST
Parent Mega Workshop, "Talking with Teens about Taboo Topics"
beginning at approximately 8:00 PM EST
General Session

Saturday, November 19th
beginning at approximately 9:00 AM EST
Morning Session
beginning at approximately 11:30 AM EST
Parent Mega Workshop, "The Family that Prays Together"
beginning at approximately 8:00 PM EST
Closing Liturgy

Monday, November 14, 2011

Don't Let the Devil Win in KC-St. Joseph

God is in constant battle with the Devil.  God wants us to be with Him and He loves us so much that He gave us free will so that we will freely choose Him.  The devil wants us to be separated from God and he tempts us so that we will sin--which is separation from God.  God snatches victory from the devil when we do sin by forgiving us for that sin and reconciling with us.  And we help defeat the devil when we forgive others when they harm us.

The devil has been winning some major battles in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.  First, the devil caused Fr. Shawn Rattigan to sin by possessing child pornography and possibly taking inappropriate  photographs of children.   Bishop Finn and the diocese then sinned by not fully protecting the children that they are supposed to protect by not turning over the information promptly to the proper authorities.  The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is now in turmoil because of those sins.   

The people in the diocese are hurting.  They feel like they have been betrayed by Bishop Finn.  I have heard rumblings of people asking whether or not they can allow their teen to receive the sacrament of confirmation from "that man."  Others have asked if the confirmation would even be valid. [it would be--the validity of a sacrament does not rely on the holiness of the priest] People are mad and angry at the man who is supposed to lead them.  They do not trust him and having trust is at the core of good leadership.
Bishop Robert Finn

Bishop Finn immediately came out after Fr. Rattigan was arrested and stated that mistakes had been made.  He stated, "Things must change.  I also have to change."  He employed the law firm of Graves, Bartle, Marcus and Garret, LLC to conduct an investigation and to recommend changes to the policies and procedure of the diocese.   He apologized for the mistakes that the did make.

For healing to start, it is now up to the community of the diocese to forgive Bishop Finn and the other leaders of the diocese for the mistakes they made.   And Bishop Finn does not deny that mistakes were made.  I get frustrated reading how some organizations, such as the Catholic League, have tried to down play the mistakes and make it sound as if everything that the diocese was okay.  I spent several hours reading the Graves report. [I have several thoughts that I'll bring up in another post] The report comes to the conclusion that the leaders of the diocese erred. So don't down play it.   Just like we should not rationalize our sins, we should not rationalize the mistakes of the diocese.  Let them admit their errors so that they can learn and grow from them just as we learn and grow from our mistakes.

We must forgive and start to move on.   I'm not saying forget.  We must ensure that changes are made so that mistakes do not happen again.   But don't let the devil win. Don't let him shake your faith.  I know forgiveness isn't easy.  Especially when you are mad.  When you are angry and when you feel betrayed.  But we must forgive in order to let go and to heal.  We must forgive in order to defeat the devil.  Yes, Bishop Finn made big mistakes but so are we when we do not forgive.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Love of Jesus

Recently, I went to reconciliation and the priest gave me an odd penance.  The priest told me to go to adoration, to sit in front of the blessed sacrament and ask for Jesus to show me the love He has for me.  It was definitely an "outside of the box" type of penance.  I'm used to throwing out some Hail Mary's or Our Father's and being done with it but this one went a long way with me.  

It seemed very weird.  Why should I pray for Jesus' love?  I know Jesus loves me.  It's probably one of the first things I learned in my life.  Heck, it's in the children's song, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."    The fact that Jesus loves us and wants to have a personal relationship with us is what our faith is built around.  He gave His life for us.  If there is anything I'm sure of in life it's that there is a God and that He loves me.  So what is the point of this penance?? 

The Holy Spirit was working through that priest it turns out.  This may sound totally insane, but even though I know Jesus loves me, in some weird place in my head I had doubts have doubts that Jesus really does truly love me.  There is some portion of my brain that can rationalize that Jesus loves everybody--except for me.  I mean if Jesus knows everything about me how can he possibly love me through all my faults.

Then it hit me.  If I have trouble believing that Jesus Christ loves me then it's no wonder I sometimes have difficulty believe that those closest to me, and who know all my faults, truly love me.  After all, Jesus is full of mercy.   He desires to forgive me.  He expects me to mess up.   My loved ones??  I can't expect them to be as merciful and forgiving as Jesus is.  Can I?  After all, the depth of Jesus' mercy is like the ocean.  Seriously? I'm full of faults.  I can be difficult to get along with.  I have quirks.  I'm forgetful.  I can be needy?  Doubt me?  Ask my wife.  Ask my friends.  Ask my family. 

So, I wonder, why does my wife, my family, or my friend love me past my faults if I'm not ever sure Jesus, who is all-forgiving, loves me.   There is something irrational about that thought process though.  Why would I think that Jesus doesn't love me while I believe in His mercy?  If someone is willing to forgive you for anything you do then there MUST be love there.  If I believe in Jesus' mercy then I must believe in His love for me.  

So, it's not rational thought that Jesus does not love me.  So why do I have it?  I'd like to call it a glitch.  Just like a computer or a computer program may get a glitch in it I think there may be a glitch in me.   I am the type of person who needs constant reassurance.   When my loved one isn't around, I start to doubt their love for me.  It only makes sense, that when I haven't been with Jesus in prayer for awhile that I start to doubt his love for me.   Jesus is eager and willing to show His love for me just as my family and friends are eager to share their love for me.  I just have to be more trusting.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Catholicism Is Not a Social Group

I grew up Catholic.  I grew up proud of my faith.  I grew up ready to defend my faith.  I didn't know much about my faith growing up.  I didn't receive my first communion or reconciliation until I was in 7th grade.  Heck,  I wasn't confirmed until I was in my late twenties.  That didn't matter.  I identified myself as Catholic even though I probably couldn't tell you what that meant.   As such, I led a pretty secular life and did things that a person in my teens or twenties wanted to do.  I moved in with a girl at twenty years old.  I married her in a courthouse.  I rarely went to mass.  Confession?? Forget about it.

I was ignorant about my faith and I lived that way.  But, if anyone would have asked me---I was Catholic--and PROUD OF IT!   Here is the deal though,  I don't think I ever spoke ill of the Catholic Church's teachings.   I've always trusted her teachings as truth even if I didn't always live by them or understand them.    I don't know what I would have done if someone would have questioned me about them.  What would have I done if someone asked, "Aren't you supposed to go to mass every Sunday?"  or "Should you be having premarital sex?" or "Doesn't the Church teach against birth control?"

I recognize the fact that I may appear hypocritical when I criticize "Cafeteria Catholics."  Cafeteria Catholics are those who claim to be Catholic but pick and choose from the Catechism what they believe in or don't believe in-- as if they were going through a line in a cafeteria. I'll also be the first one to admit that I don't always live according to Church teachings today.  After all, I am a sinner and if it weren't but for the grace of God and the fear of Hell I would be a bad bad guy.

As much as I may cause scandal by being a sinner and saying that something is a sin and then going and committing that sin, I believe it is a great scandal to say that you are Catholic and then criticize what the Church believes and teaches.   Yes, there is a hell and people go there every day.  Yes, contraception is wrong.  Homosexual acts are wrong.  Abortion is wrong.  The bishop is the authority of the diocese and should be shown respect.  Masturbation is wrong.  You are supposed to go to mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation.  You are supposed to go to confession once a year.  You are supposed to abstain from meat on Fridays during lent and fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Only men can be priests.  To say otherwise goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Catholicism is not a social group.   As the apologist John Martinoni has said that do so is basically taking a Catechism of the Catholic Church, ripping out pages and turning it into the Catechism of Gene. (It's been years since I've heard that talk so you will excuse me paraphrasing what he said)    Mr. Marinoni's point is that if you are Catholic then you are saying that you can pick up the Catechism and say, "This is what I believe."

If you have problems with some of the Church's teachings--which is perfectly understandable because there are many difficult teachings--then educate yourself about the teachings.  Find out why she says what she says.  Then pray about the teachings.  It may take the grace of God to get you to understand some teachings.  Then, finally, trust our Church.  Jesus gave Peter and the apostles authority and that authority was passed down through the ages.  Trust in that authority.  Everything that is in that Catechism----I believe it.

What are teachings you have difficulty with?  Which ones did you have difficulty with and how did you get over that difficulty?   Are you or have you been a Cafeteria Catholic?

Friday, November 4, 2011

You Don't Know the Hour

I have seen my fair share of death in the 15 years of having been a police officer.   Sometimes the death is expected like the incidents where the grandmother has passed away at home with her family at her bed side Sometimes the person may have lived a high risk life style where they are involved in drugs and gangs and the family members are saddened but not too surprised at the news.  More often than not though, if I am there, the death is unexpected and a shock to the family.  Sometimes it is because of an accident or sadly sometimes, people just don't wake up.

In this weekends gospel reading, Jesus tells us the story of ten virgins who go out to wait for the bridegroom.  Some of them do not take enough oil for their lamps so by the time the bridegroom gets there they don't have any light.  They are forced to go to the merchant and they miss the bridegroom.  When they go to the wedding feast they are told they cannot come in and that the bridegroom does not know them.  Jesus finishes off by saying, "stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

This is commonly meant that we do not know the time of Jesus' return to earth but, seeing death come so quickly and unexpectedly as I have, I see it as we do not know of the time or the hour that our own deaths will come so always be prepared for our deaths.

This is most important in the spiritual sense.  We should not be afraid because Jesus has conquered death.  As long as we cooperate with the graces that God has given to us then death can be a victory over sin.  If we live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to God then we are assured of spending eternity with Him. If we live a life of sin then we are probably not got going to like the outcome.  Fortunately, God is always trying to reconcile Himself to us.  He gives us plenty of opportunities for us get fix our relationship with Him---most specifically, confession.

I think there is another idea that can be taken away from this reading.  Since we do not know the day or the hour of our death--love like we never know when we are going to die.  Don't go to bed angry.  Tell our wives and our kids that we love them before we leave home.  Hug those we love.  Don't be afraid to express our affections.  We don't know if that is going to be our last hug or our last kiss.  We don't want our loved ones last memory of us to be of a fight.

I've seen too many people live like they are never going to die.  I've been on scene where the person had some terminal illness but yet had no funeral arrangements leaving their loved ones to make them in a time of grief.   Don't fear death. Don't live being worried that something bad is going to happen.  But, live the life that is pleasing to God and make sure our friends and family know we love them.  Oh yeah---and make sure that there is plenty of beer at the funeral wake.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Top 4 Favorite Souls

Like I was saying in my previous post, My Top 5 Favorite Saints, the processional song for mass last night was the Litany of the Saints.  My liturgist does something interesting with the song and he starts throwing in great people who are not cannoized saints but who are probably a good bet to be in Heaven such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Merton.  They then start reciting all the people from the parish who have died in the last year.  I have to say, I'm not sure about how theologically correct doing this is but I think it is comforting to the people who have died.

I did think it would be interesting if instead of singing "pray for us" after each name, if the congregation could some how switch to singing, "pray for him."  After all, we are supposed to offer up our prayers for the dead that they may more quickly make it out of purgatory and into heaven.  But I suppose that might be difficult.  I then thought about doing a follow up to the Top 5 Favorite Saint post for All Soul's Day  and list people who I know and love who have passed and whom I would like for you to pray for.

I'm worried about people being offended because their loved one did not make my list s:o I'm taking off the "Top" part of my title and just listing five people in my life who have died and had a BIG impact on my life.

Why do we pray for those who died?  As Catholics, we believe that when you die you are going to either Heaven or Hell.   Very few of us are purified enough to make it to Heaven right away so, through the grace of God, we are allowed to go to purgatory first so that we may be made pure in order to enter Heaven.  That is a very simplistic explanation but we pray for those who have died that they may leave Heaven and be in God's beatific vision.

1.) Grandpa Chub: That is what all of my other cousins called him.  I just called him Grandpa.  I grew up as a single child until I was 13 years old with a single mom and Grandpa was my main father figure.  He was sixty by the time I was born and in his seventies by the time I was in my formative years and passed away when I was a teenager.  He was a printer most of his life and very involved in Cub Scouting.  I took my Mic-O-Say name from him.  He was "Black Parchment" and I am "Little Black Parchement."

2.) Grandma Margaret:  She died years before I was born when my mom was still a young teenager.  That doesn't mean she was forgotten.  I've heard so many wonderful stories growing up from her kids---my mom and her brothers.  She was from Shendoah, Iowa.  She started dating my grandpa and converted him to Catholicism.  They had six boys and one daughter.  

3) Kenny Harris:  He was my baby sitter's husband and coincidentally, his workshop was across the street from my house growing up so I spent a lot of time there hanging out.  He drove grain trucks, worked on cars and helped farm.  I got to do lots of cool things because of him--or at least cool for a kid growing up.  Like riding in a combine during harvest or riding to Kansas City in a semi-truck.  

4)  Uncle Mick:  Mick was the Chief of Police in Tarkio, where I grew up and was one of the reasons I am the way I am.  Don't hold that against him.  But, I would say he is a big reason I became a cop.  He was a contributor to my wit and great sense of humor and a leading cause for my fondness for the Beatles.  Sadly, he passed away before his time.  I was only in his mid-fifties and died from emphysema from years of smoking.  I may mention---he is also a leading factor in the reason I hate cigarettes.

5) Max and Doris--my wife's grandparents.  I couldn't separate them because they are, in my mind, forever combined.  I never met them until I was in my 20's and dating Abby and are a model for me what a happy marriage should be.   I see so much of Doris in my wife--kind, caring, stubborn and tough.   Max (who we name our son after) was one of the most kind and gentle people I have ever known.  I pray that Abby and I are as happy as they were.

So there they are.  Hopefully they are already in Heaven.  To hear my uncles talk, my grandmother was probably a straight shot for Heaven and probably some of the others.  But, pray for them anyway please.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Top 5 Favorite Saints

Last night I was at mass for All Saints Day and they started off the mass with the Litany of the Saints.  I've always enjoyed this song. Not only do I like the tune but I just enjoy listening the names of all the saints and thinking about each one, remembering their stories and reflecting on what makes them special.   Some of them I  was very familiar with.  Others, I hadn't heard of at all.  

As Catholics we hold saints up in high regard.  They are people we can model ourselves after.  Some of them seemed to be saintly from the birth.  Other's led very sinful lives before turning to God.   In 2009, I wrote a blog titled Top 5 Saints.   Looking back, I find it interesting that the who I considered my top five saints today aren't the same as I thought of back then.  I suppose that's because I'm not in the same place spiritually as I was back then (that can be either a good thing or a bad thing)  So, I thought, I would revisit that blog and update it.  So, here now are my Top 5 Saints (as of this moment):

1. St. Maximilian Kolbe--a priest who was placed into the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz and gave his life in exchange for another prisoner.  I can't say as to why I like St. Maximillian but there is just something about him that I really respect.

2. St. Therese of Lisieux--this may seem a little hokey.  I thought her autobiography was very sappy when I read it several years ago.  But, I like the story about a fellow nun that she did not like.  The nun was always mean to her but St. Therese just put on a smile and went on her way.  Finally, one day, the old nun asked Therese, "why do you love me so."   Therese didn't even really like the nun but she made the nun feel loved.   I want to be like that.  You see, people annoy me and I find that it's too easy to be mean back.  I don't want to be two-faced, but at the same time, I want to be Christ-like and make people feel loved.

3.  St. Faustina--Jesus appeared to her and showed her imaged of heaven and hell and wanted her to pass on the message of His mercy.  That's a message I like to hear because I mess up a lot. And I mean A LOT!.  It comforts me to know that Jesus loves me know matter what and forgives me.  It's a virtue that I try to carry forward and be forgiving to other people.

4. St. Michael--he is a carry over from the 2009 list but, he is the patron saint of police officers.  Plus, he is who people think of when they talk about spiritual warfare--the guy who kicked the Devil's butt.  And I recognize that we are all in a state of spiritual warfare, whether you want to believe it or not.

5. St Gianna Beretta Molla--she died in the early 1960's in order that her child could live.  She had the option of aborting her child and living or carrying her child through birth and possibly dying.  I like her because she is saint of the modern days.  She is a lay person.  And because I'm not sure I could make that decision.  Let me clarify---if it was between me or my kids then yeah--no brainer--take me.  But, if it was my wife and our unborn child--I'll be honest, I don't know what I'd do.  (close your ears Abby!)  It would be a huge moral dilemma for me and I respect St. Gianna's decision.

So, there you have it--my five favorite saints for November, 2011.  Come back in 2013 and see the next update.  Well, come back before then--I may write something good.  Probably not, but we'll see.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

You Again

A couple weeks ago, I watched the movie, "You Again."   The movie is about a girl named Marni (played by Kristen Bell) who was kind of nerdy in high school and tormented by another girl, named Joanna (played by Odette Yustman)  After high school, Marni blossomed into an handsome woman and is successful at her job.  She flies back home for her brother's wedding, only to find out that her brother's bride-to-be is Joanna, who seems to have turned a new leaf.  She is now sweet and helpful.  Worst of all, she does not remember Marni at all.

Marni, cannot seem to let the pain and suffering go though and does everything she can to show everyone that Joanna isn't the person they think she is.  To make things worse, Marni's mother (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) had been best friends with Joanna's aunt (Sigourney Weaver) until they had a falling out in high school and are now bitter enemies--despite not having seen each other since high school.

These four women spend the entire movie trying to destroy each other because of some pain or hurt cause years and years ago.  And they do everything they can to hurt the other because of hurt caused them.   The problem with holding grudges and continuing to be angry at someone is that they are holding you as slaves to them.  Your anger causes you to be held down by that other person.

This is when we should be imitating Jesus and showing others the mercy and forgiveness that He shows us.  To forgive is to show love.   There is a second reason we should show forgiveness and mercy.  We we forgive someone for the hurt they have given to us, we actually break the chains that are holding us to them.  We are no longer tormented by that other person.  They stop hurting us when we forgive them.

If you have someone who has hurt them but you can't seem to forgive them just let go of that hurt.  Forgive that person.  Break the chains.  I'm not saying you have to forget what they did to you.  I'm not saying you have to trust them again.  But forgive them. Free them.  Free yourself.

I realize it's not difficult.  Especially if that person hasn't shown remorse.  Or if they don't know the hurt they have done to you.  You may feel like you want to "let them have it."  You want closure.  You want to try to make them feel bad.  How would you feel if God did that to you every time you sinned against Him?  God loves you. He forgives you for your sins.  Love that person and forgive them for theirs.