Friday, December 30, 2011
Mary, Mother of God--and Teenager?
God must have also thought that Mary was an amazing woman. Of all the women in the world over the centuries, He gave Mary the task of being the mother of Jesus. I'm not sure we really appreciate what an amazing woman she must have been. I was sitting contemplating Mary and wondering that. What was Mary like? Loving? Compassionate? Funny? But I know lots of people like that. Why was she so special? We are taught she was without sin. That had to be interesting right? But . . . why Mary? And then I started to think.
I have been a catechist for teenagers for over ten years now. I've helped teach hundreds of teens and I really enjoy it. I also have a daughter who is a sophomore and a niece who is a junior in high school. This all means that I have been around a whole lot of teens in my life. Have you ever walked around a high school filled with a bunch of teens?? I think they can be compared to aliens. They are a unique bunch. Remember the bus scenes in great teen age like "Sixteen Candles" or "Ferris Bueler's Day Off." Teen agers are goofy! I love being involved in youth ministry. I love teaching teens. But. . . they are goofy. Maybe that's why I enjoy it because I'm pretty goofy myself.
Now think of this. Bible scholars think Mary was about 15 or 16 years old when she gave birth to Jesus. Mary was the same age as my daughter. Now I love my daughter. I'm not biased at all and I feel it's safe to say that my daughter, Emma, is one of the smartest, prettiest girls, funniest girls alive on the face of the Earth. I trust her to babysit. But to be made the Mother of God? Oh heck no! No way, I would trust her to hold God in her arms and to raise Him. It would seems like some sort of weird sit-com. And that's my daughter, who I love and adore and think the world of.
But two thousand years ago, a little girl, the same age as Emma, was picked by God to be the God Bearer. She was asked to bring God incarnate into the world. And to raise Him. To feed him. To change His diapers. To teach Him. This scared little girl--was asked to flee into another land in order to keep her son safe. And chose to do so. She chose to stay by His side when His friends didn't. She was at the foot of the cross when her son was persecuted and died.
It was through Mary that Jesus entered the world. Jesus entered the world through Mary and He saved us. Yeah. She must have been an amazing woman. I wish I had a devotion to Mary. I wished I honored her like I should. What about you? Do you have a devotion to her?
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Well Done, Good Job
I really don't know who will appreciate the Supervisory Notice more--the officers or me. It was really nice to give the officers a pat on the back---an atta boy. Sometimes, I feel as a supervisor that I spend too much time being negative, despite my best efforts to be positive. It gets tiresome to be critical of someone because they aren't doing what they are supposed to be doing or not working hard enough. It's much more fun to be complimentary.
I have to wonder if that is what God feels like when we do what is right and pleasing to Him. When we DON'T sin. I wonder if he feels the joy and adulation that I do when I see my people working hard and making good arrests.
I can see several parallels. For instance, I can see how it is easier to sin and not to be pleasing to God. After all, it's easy to sin. Sin is fun. Many times there doesn't seem be any punishment for not sinning. It's difficult to see the rewards.
In the same way, I can see how it's easier not to work hard. Officers who work hard are more likely to get hurt and more likely to get complained on. You are less likely to get in trouble if you just do the minimum. You don't get paid more for working hard. It's difficult to see any rewards.
I think in both circumstances, you have go beyond physical rewards and punishments. In order for us to want to be pleasing to God and in order for us NOT to want to sin we have to have a lot of faith. We have to develop a relationship with God and break the chains of sin. In order for us to want to be good workers and develop a nature of working hard, we have to take pride in what we do for a living. We have to enjoy what we do and really see the big picture.
I know for me, I like to get atta-boys. I like it when people acknowledge that I've done a good job. But, lets face it--no award or certificate is going to compare to hearing the words from my Father, "well done, my good and faithful servant."
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Three Prongs for Confession
I firmly believe that reconciliation should be used by everyone and used often. So, here is a three pronged plan on how to expand the use of confession.
- Teach/Preach Sin--I don't think we really understand what sin is and what it does to our soul. I wouldn't be surprised if many people don't think the sin at all. I don't think that people know what mortal sin is and what it means to be in a state of mortal sin. I think if people knew that being in mortal sin means death and separation from God they would do whatever they need to do to get into a state of grace. But, to teach about sin is scary and we don't want to scare the kids. Preaching about life and death and the possibility of Hell seems to be frowned upon. There is a way to preach about sin and Hell and eternal damnation though, without preaching fire and brimstone. After all, through Jesus, we can break the chains of sin and escape the fires of Hell. But, if we aren't taught we don't know that. It is much more loving to teach truth and about sin and Hell than it is to cover it up so we don't know about it.
- Teach/Preach Confession--I believe another reason people don't go to reconciliation is because they don't understand it. They think that they can just go to God in prayer and be forgiven for their sins. They don't understand that we are only fooling ourselves when we do that. Jesus gave us the sacrament because He understands that we are human and that we need to humble ourselves, and get our sins off our chests. It is through reconciliation that we are given the grace to not sin. People don't understand that we should go to confession at least once a year and definitely when we are in a state of mortal sin. I heard a story a while back of a youth minister who sent out emails reminding the teens that confirmation was soon and they should go to confession. She was contacted by a parent who told her that her teen had already gone to their first reconciliation. (The key word is "first"--which means there should be a second, and a third etc etc) We need to teach how to go to confession so that people will be more comfortable. Heck, just go to where I posted how to go right here. It should be preached to us in the homilies how important confession is.
- Have reconciliation--I heard someone say once that if you are only offering confessions once a month then you are not really offering confession and I find that very true. If a parish only has a confessions once a month then I feel they are telling their parishoners that confession isn't that important. I have seen with my own eyes that parishes that offer confession often have lines to the confessional. Once a week is good but even more often than that is better. I think it would be fantastic if parishes would have daily confession like they have daily mass. I've seen lines to confession with people of all ages, young and old, men and women at parishes that have daily confession. I think daily confession is a blessing to any parish that has it.
Monday, December 26, 2011
My Faith and My Family
I got a few favorable responses about it but I got a couple of smart alec comments from some guys. That probably shouldn't come as too much of a shock. After all, when you make as many smart alec comments as I do, you tend to invite them back towards you. Secondly, guys also tend to give other guys grief when they openly display affection. So calls of man-card revocation should be expected, especially after posting something like that on Facebook, huh?
I realize that comments like I made that are frowned upon in public displays. Some people may thing that telling my wife that I love her is something that should be reserved to quiet times between her and I, when we are alone. Abby is kind of shy, so she may actually agree with that statement. But I am one who tends to be open about what I like. I wear my identity on my chest. I have a ton of t-shirts with my favorite sports teams on them. I have another ton of shirts with "Police" on them and a half ton with "Catholic" slogans on them. If I can wear a Kansas City Royals shirt with pride, I can certainly feel comfortable telling my wife that I love her on Facebook, can't I?
Here is the problem. My faith and my family should be the most important things in my life. And they are. And it's easy to say I love God in a blog post or that "my wife is beautiful" in a Facebook status. But I do not always treat them like they are the most important things in my life. At the top of my list any time I go to confession is, "I've failed to keep God first in my life." I've also put less important things, such as work and friendship, as priorities over my responsibility of being a good husband and father.
This is dumb, I know. I am fully aware that God and my family will still stick with me when everyone else has abandoned me. I know that I can't be wrong if I always put God first and my wife and kids next. Granted, I have to leave home to go to work so that I can take care of my family. But there are too many times when I pull extra off duty shifts so I can buy me something I want or there have been times I haven't prayed so I can spend time with friends. Those are examples of putting myself in front of God and in front of family.
Priorites . . . will I ever have them in the right order? Nothing should come before God. My vocation is being a husband and a father. They should always come before work and friends.
How do you keep your priorities straight? Is there something you try to do every day? Do you have people to keep you in check? Will your wife smack you upside the head when you aren't spending time in prayer or paying attention to her? Or, ironically, do you have a friend that is a role model who keeps you straight?
Thursday, December 22, 2011
A Manger Scene
When we view a nativity scene, we generally think of a baby born to a virgin in a manger. We think of peaceful animals, a humble St. Joseph, and of a bright star. But, something is missing.I encourage you to read more here.
It is the drumbeat of war. It is the spiritual battle that rages in places we cannot see with our eyes or hear with our ears. It rages in our hearts.
Even in the peaceful image of Jesus being born, we need to see God warning His people to prepare for war. The victorious king has entered the fray and he calls us to take up our weapon.
I think even as Christians, who are trying to focus on Jesus, it is difficult to imagine what is going on . . . what we are trying to remember. We focus to much on the simple story of Mary giving birth to Jesus in a feedbox but something so much more than that is going on. We are remembering that the God of the universe. The God who created everything---from the tiniest atoms and molecules to the biggest galaxies--became man. God, who is everyone, became incarnate. He decided to humble Himself and became the created. He became that tiny baby in the manger.
When we think of "the shot heard around the world" we think of shots fired at Concord during the American Revolution or of Bobby Thompson's game winning home run that clinched the pennant for the 1951 New York Giants. But the ORIGINAL shot heard around the world was the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. Because it was through the birth of Jesus and his eventual sacrifice on Calvary that Satan loses the spiritual war. It rages on today as the Devil continues to try to ruin souls and it is up for us to pick the correct side and to take up arms against the Devil. As Marcel says in Aggie Catholics, "Pick up your cross - it is your weapon against the enemy - and follow The King of All into battle. He is about to be born as a poor babe to a virgin.
Working on Christmas Eve
Working on Christmas Eve On Christmas Eve in 1977, I learned that blessings can come disguised as misfortune, and honor is more than just a word. I was riding one-man patrol on the 4-12 shift. The night was cold. Everywhere I looked I saw reminders of the holiday: families packing their cars with presents, beautifully decorated trees in living room windows and roofs adorned with tiny sleighs. It all added to my holiday funk.
The evening had been relatively quiet; there were calls for barking dogs and a residential false burglar alarm. There was nothing to make the night pass any quicker. I thought of my own family and sunk further into depression.
Shortly after 2200 hours I got a radio call to the home of an elderly, terminally ill man. I parked my patrol car in front of a simple Cape Cod style home. First aid kit in hand, I walked up the short path to the front door. As I approached, a woman who seemed to be about 80 years old opened the door. He's in here she said, leading me to a back bedroom.
We passed through a living room that was furnished in a style I had come to associate with older people. The sofa has an afghan blanket draped over its back and a dark, solid, Queen Anne chair sat next to an unused fireplace. The mantle was cluttered with an eccentric mix of several photos, some ceramic figurines and an antique clock. A floor lamp provided soft lighting.
We entered a small bedroom where a frail looking man lay in bed with a blanket pulled up to his chin. He wore a blank stare on his ashen, skeletal face. His breathing was shallow and labored. He was barely alive. The trappings of illness lay all around his bed. The nightstand was littered with a large number of pill vials. An oxygen bottle stood nearby. Its plastic hose, with facemask attached rested on the blanket.
I asked the old woman why she called the police. She simply shrugged and nodded sadly toward her husband, indicating it was his request. I looked at him and he stared intently into my eyes. He seemed relaxed now. I didn't understand the suddenly calm expression on his face. I looked around the room again. A dresser stood along the wall to the left of the bed. On it was the usual memorabilia: ornate perfume bottles, white porcelain pin case, and a wooden jewelry case. There were also several photos in simple frames. One caught my eye and I walked closer to the dresser for a closer look. The picture showed a young man dressed in a police uniform. It was unmistakably a photo of the man in bed. I knew then why I was there.
I looked at the old man and he motioned with his hand toward the side of the bed. I walked over and stood beside him. He slid a thin arm from under the covers and took my hand. Soon, I felt his hand go limp. I looked at his face. There was no fear there. I saw only peace.
He knew he was dying; he was aware his time was very near. I know now that he was afraid of what was about to happen and he wanted the protection of a fellow cop on his journey. A caring God had seen to it that his child would be delivered safely to him. The honor of being his escort fell to me.
When I left at the end of my tour that night, the temperature had seemed to have risen considerably, and all the holiday displays I saw on the way home made me smile. I no longer feel sorry for myself for having to work on Christmas Eve. I have chosen an honorable profession. I pray that when it's my turn to leave this world here will be a cop there to hold my hand and remind me that I have nothing to fear.
I wish all my brother's and sister's who have to work this Christmas Eve all the Joy and warmth of the Season. Working on Christmas Eve for the cops or former cops and the members of their families, you will understand the memories. For those of you that haven't spent Thanksgiving or Christmas working the streets this will give you some insight to the life of a cop.
Richard Valdemar, Sergeant LASD (Retired)
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The Four Theresas
In "The Four Theresas," Ms. Loehr lets us look into the lives of St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. The four women are as different and as diverse as four people can be but are similar in their love for Jesus and the ways that they can all be models for us. Maybe Therese of Lisieux doesn't touch you Teresa of Avila calls you to deepen your spiritual life. Maybe thinking philisophically like Teresa Benedicta of the Cross did isn't for you but giving aid to the poor and less fortunate is something you are passionate about. We can explore each of their lives and learn from it.
Each of the Teresas is given a whole chapter in the book. The chapter explores their biography and then talks about each of their lessons. Finally, it delves into how we can each live each of the lessons. I find this is a good layout. We are able to understand why each one teaches what they do because of their personal history and background. We then are able to look at what each Teresa teaches and finally, how to apply that in our personal life.
Overall, I liked the book. I like reading about spirituality and I find it very interesting how each of these saintly women got to where they were in life. We are all called to be saints and if I can get some tips and tricks of the trade from actual saints, you can bet I'm going to take it.
This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Four Teresas . They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Keep It Simple, Stupid
My humble advice as a person in the pew is K.I.S.S.----just Keep It Simple Stupid (I stole that---I didn't make it up) Yesterday was the first time in advent that I was some place that had said the new confetior (that prayer that starts off with "I confess, to all mighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters) and the first time that I had said the new Nicene Creed in all of it's consubstantial beauty. But it just flowed easily. Although, I was three for five in the "And with your spirit" scoring.
The music was simple and easy to sing. The Holy Holy Holy and the Lamb of God was in Latin so I was comfortable with it. There weren't all sorts of Christmas decorations up. There are a lot of statues but they help you focus on God. Even though I was not at my own parish nothing was out of the ordinary. Even. though I had to beat my children like twenty times (they were being well behaved) I was able to focus. Heck, even my son was singing along to the music. He did have some choice words and gave me a weird look when the priest said in his homily that Mary was the Mother of God as well as our spiritual mother. I guess we get to have to have a little theological disussion. But that's okay. He heard something in the homily that we can talk about.
|taken from wdtprs.com|
The second piece of advice is "Say the Black, Do the Red." In the Roman Missal, everything that the priest is supposed to say is in black. Everything the priest is supposed to do is in red. If you do everything the way it is supposed to be and don't feel like you have to add anything then you won't get in the way. True, the focus won't be on you, but you will look like a genius.
Just simple advice---do what you are supposed to do and keep the mass focused on Jesus. Not that anyone is going to listen to me. After all---you know the old joke. Do you know what the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist is?? You can negotiate with a terrorist.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
I expect, on average, I tell God "no" to simple tasks about 150 times a day. Not just in the making time for Him category but doing acts that would be pleasing to Him. How am I supposed to not gossip when I've got a juicy tidbit to share about Officer Soandso. How can I not complain about things when my department just . . . well, don't get me started. I think St. Augustine said it best when he said, "Lord, make me chaste. Just not yet." No. No. No. No. Noooooooo. Not now. Maybe later but probably not.
Yet, this weekend at mass, the 4th Sunday of Advent, when the angel Gabriel says to Mary, "Mary, you are so awesome that you are going to have a baby who is going to just knock it out of the park." And you remember that Mary points out the difficulty in that since she hadn't been "intimate" with a guy and Gabriel assures her that the Holy Spirit is going to take care of everything. Mary doesn't chime in and ask what she is going to tell the people in her family, in her village, or to Joseph. She simply says, "Yes. Let it be done to me according to your word."
And we sit back in our seats and think, "Yeah, that sounds about right." It makes perfectly good sense. The fact that she said yes seems as natural as can be when we've told God, "no" several times just since we've walked into church. After all, in my mind, it's okay to be judgmental about the people talking loudly, or peeking at the nice legs of the lady in the short skirt the next pew over or to roll my eyes at the liturgist because he is playing this hokey music.
No. I need to stop. I need to be holy like Mary was holy. I need to say "Yes, Lord! Transform me. Make me pleasing to you. Remove any and all obstacles to you." I need to make time for God--in prayer, in reading, in studies. I need to act in a manner pleasing to God.
Yes, Lord---but if you'll excuse me----I see I have (3) Facebook messages pending.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Priorities and Obstacles
I'll give you this, I've never really been a good person at prioritizing things. If I did so I would be plucking those obstacles right out of the way and would be much more efficient. I should probably use those lessons I learned at the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" class that work sent me to. I would probably be better off financially because I'd do a better job at saving money and not have to rely on credit. I would be in better shape because I'd be working out and eating better. And I definitely would be better off spiritually because I'd be praying like I should.
I allow obstacles to be thrown in my way though. Sometimes it looks like Normandy Beach because there are so many obstacles in my way. There is barbed wire, landmines and other beach obstacles. Sure, sometimes they are high priority things that need to be done but too often they are things that just waste time. I'd give examples but my wife reads my blog sometimes and I don't want her throwing things back into my face.
It's difficult to get rid of obstacles and to get your priorities straight. Sometimes it can be painful because they are things you really enjoy doing. Sometimes it's painful because those obstacles are people that you like. But no obstacle is worth you getting stuck on the beach when the goal is Heaven and being with God.
Here is the secret, you don't have to do it on your own. God will help you. Throughout your day, ask God to help you remove any and all obstacles that are getting in your way of getting closer to Him.
Just because I won't share my obstacles doesn't mean you can't. What are things in the day that keep you from prayer. What are sins you can't seems to shake that are obstacles in your spiritual life?
Monday, December 5, 2011
We Are Not Alone
Why does things that are good for you have to be so difficult? Why can't greasy hamburgers and fries clear out cholesterol instead of cause it? Why does going to the gym have to be so painful? Why does sin have to be so much fun? Yeah, I realize that if these are the horrible problems we have to suffer through in a first world country then we don't have a lot to complain about but it's my blog so I can ponder them if I want.
I don't think life is ever really perfect. It may be stable but we always seem to be facing some sort of tribulation. If we aren't, then are we really pushing ourselves towards perfection? Maybe today it's something small like pushing away a piece of German chocolate cake because you've already had a piece or having to study for a test instead of watching something on Hulu. Maybe it's something bigger like separating yourself from a friend because you know they aren't good for you or maybe it's not knowing if a meeting you are going to is going to change your life. Hopefully, it's not something huge like a death in the family or a painful disease.
Big or small . . . life is never perfect to us in our Earthly state. And it's okay to be concerned. It is important to realize that we are never alone. God loves us and is always with us and as long we long that God's will is done we will reach that perfection. That is God's will---that we reach perfection and are able to be face to face with Him in heaven. So, we suffer through tribulations in order to make sure that we are where God wants us to be in life because we know He will take care of us and if we are blessed, we can help others reach that perfection.
Nope. We are never alone. Not only is God always there but as members of the Body of Christ we have others to help us. We have family members to support and help us. We have friends who are there not only to listen and give moral support but to serve as models to strive for. We have the Saints and a giant cloud of witness cheering us on in this crazy race. And we have others that need our help.
It's all about reaching perfection. It's never easy. To do so we have to break the chains of sin that is gluttony and sloth and anger and lust. God is there to give us the grace we need today. Our friends and family are there to support us. We are not alone.