Friday, December 7, 2012

Interactions with the Homeless

I was going to write last week about a picture posted on New York Police Department's Facebook page of a NYPD officer giving boots to a homeless man.   The picture, taken in November by a tourist, shows Officer Lawrence Diprimo giving the pair of boots that he had bought for him after observing that we was walking barefoot on a very cold night.   I was a picture that reminded me part of the the Good Samaritan story and part of the story of Jesus washing the apostles feet.

The story really touched me because I work in a part of town that has a large homeless population and so I have had over the last eight years that I've been assigned here a lot of interaction with homeless people.  I've given it a lot of thought over the last week and I don't think I would have done what PO DiPrimo did.  To be totally honest with you---I don't think I would have.

This is something that has always bothered me in that I don't think that I see homeless people the way that Jesus would be happy with.  I don't think that I would have been moved to such compassion to go buy a pair of boots for the man.  The scariest Bible verse to me is when Jesus said, "whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me" because I'm afraid that I don't have enough compassion or empathy for the homeless people that I do come into contact with.

I think one of the reasons is because of the types of interactions that I have.  The normal interactions I have with the homeless are where they are their own worst enemies.  Ambulance calls where someone is falling down drunk is prevalent, followed by car breaks, assaults to simply waking them up and moving them because they are sleeping someplace they are not welcome.  Often times, the reason they aren't welcome is because of incidents of leaving trash, defecating or thefts.  

So it's difficult to have too much compassion for people when the interactions you have are negative.  I will always treat them with respect like I treat everyone with respect.  But it's difficult for me to have empathy for men standing on the stoplight with cardboard signs asking for money when I assume that they are going to use the money for drugs.  

I wish I saw Jesus in the homeless because I fully realize that many of the homeless are there due to mental illness or drug addictions.  But it's difficult when you know that many of the homeless are there because they choose to be.  It's difficult when you know there are resources for them to get off the street that they do not use.  It is their lifestyle. 

This is a difficult subject to write about because I know what Christ is telling me.  I know that I should love as He loves.  But there are life experiences holding me back.  A self protection that prevents me from seeing all of the homeless as innocent victims.  I suppose I could work on this by volunteering to help the homeless--and I have enjoyed helping with St. James Place.  It's a difficult balance---loving without being too naive.  How do you completely love while not completely trusting?  What are your thoughts?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tragedy at Arrowhead

Saturday I woke up and checked my phone for messages.  I had received a text from a friend saying something to the effect that authorities had been called to Arrowhead.   My first thought, still have asleep, was that it was the beginnings of a joke I had heard before---but reading on, it stated that a player had killed his girlfriend and then killed himself in front of coaches.  I got on the web and determined that it was true.  Chiefs linebacker, Jovan Belcher had killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins , who was also the mother of his three month old child, Zoey.

Over the next 24 hours, lots of questions would be raised on how the team and the city would respond to this tragedy.  There were people upset that the Chiefs decided to go ahead and play a game against the Carolina Panthers just 28 hours after the shooting.  People were upset because they felt that Belcher was being made out to be a hero.  People were upset that the Chiefs were going to wear something, such as a patch or a sticker in honor of Belcher or have a moment of silence in his honor.  [Neither of these happened although the Chiefs did have a moment of silence in honor of victims of domestic violence.]

I believe that the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL made the correct decision in continuing on with the game because of the way they did it.  They went to the players and coaches and allowed the decision to be made by them.   Let's face it---the players and coaches are the ones who would be most affected by the decision to play or not.  Yes--it would have been a nice sign of respect to Ms. Perkins and her family if they would have not played.  But, that's what it would have been--a symbol that would not really have an impact on them like the decision to play had on the players and coaches.

The team---the players and coaches--saying they wanted to play the game says to me that they needed to play the game.   The coaches and the GM were actually there and saw Belcher take his life.  That's something that will stay with them forever.  The players lost a teammate and two friends.  Belcher had played for the Chiefs for four years and Ms Perkins had been active with the Chief's Woman's Organization.  They were family.  I think it was important for them to come together as a team and deal with the loss together.  Because the game was played, they were together in the team hotel that night.  Because the game was played, they had something to occupy their mind.  They were able to make final preparations.  Because the game was played, there was not that void at noon on Sunday.  The game was able to be a valuable distraction and coping mechanism for the team.

I understand that need to make your mind move on after seeing something horrible.  I've been on shootings and homicides scenes.  I have gone on suicides or fatal accident calls.  I've been on scenes where loved ones just did not wake up the next morning and as the sergeant I'm the one who has to tell the family that their loved one has passed.  That sucks.  The thing is----I get to leave.  There is another call after that.  I have seen things that may haunt people for years at the beginning of my shift and have it pushed out of my mind by the end of my shift.  It's the late calls, the ones that come in at the end of your shift and last until you go home that linger.  Those are the one that tend to go home with you and you think about as you try to go to sleep.   So, I understand the players need to play the game and use that as a distraction and a coping mechanism.

Before any of you make an appointment for me to go to our department shrink thinking that I haven't dealt with traumatic things---I'm fine.  There are very few work related things I take home.   I don't live my job when I'm not there.  I have outside things such as family, faith and friends that keep me sane.   And I hope that's the same for the Chiefs players and coaches---I hope they seek the counseling that is being offered to them.

The other thing that bothers me is people making Belcher into something bigger than he was.   Fans should not be posting signs or anything else to praise him. He did murder his girl friend.  That being said . . . people should not be cursing him and calling him names either.   I admit, until yesterday morning I don't recall hearing his name.  All I know of him is the act he committed and what I've read in sort biographies.  But, something went horribly wrong with him.  From what I've read, he was a good man, who loved Ms Perkins.  Something horribly horribly went wrong in his mind for him to repeatedly shoot his child's mother and then to take his own life.  I'm not going to call him evil but there was evil there affecting him.  I think it's best to leave the memories of Ms Perkins and Mr Belcher to friends and family.  Here is a nice recollection of Ms. Perkins from the Kansas City Star.

The rest of need to not get ourselves all riled up and to pray.  Pray for the families.  Pray for the players.  Pray for the Jovan's mom who witnessed the shooting of Ms Perkins.  Pray for the coaches, GM and officers who saw Belcher take his life.  Pray for Baby Zoey.  Pray for all victims of domestic violence and mental illness.  Most of all, pray for the repose of the souls of Kasandra Perkins and Jovan Belcher---may they be in our Father's loving arms.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Best Friend

For years, I've scoffed at people who would make comments that their spouse was their best friend.  You see, I thought that demeaned my wife.  In my mind, a husband or a wife was to be held in higher esteem than just a friend.  After all, friends come and go, and friendships are often fleeting, especially when times are tough.  Your spouse is going to be there for you through thick and thin and they are going to be there with you for the rest of your life.  I felt it was lowering your spouse down to the level of a friend.

Ironically, at the same time, I've always been sad that I didn't have a close friend.  I never had a buddy, a pal, an old college roommate who has always been by my side.  You see them in movies all the time.  So what was wrong with me that I didn't have a best friend.  It was a sadness that I have seemed to have had ever since high school.

Well, I've come to the conclusion that I'm an idiot (no comments from the peanut gallery!!)   You see, here I was sad because I didn't have someone to plug into that hole of "best friend" yet everything that I wanted in a best friend I already had in my wife.  She is my buddy, my pal, my old college roommate who has always been by my side (don't tell my kids that last part---I'll deny it)  My wife is that person who can always make me smile and who I can talk about anything to.  She is the person who I can just sit with and do nothing and be entertained.  She is the person who I miss when they aren't around.

I've also realized that a 41 married guy with three kids doesn't need that "best friend" that I felt I'd always been missing.  Sure, it would have been great in high school or college but at this point in my life that type of friendship would be just too difficult.  For the most part, because it would be too time consuming.  I'm a father.  I'm a husband.  That vocation is what my life purpose is all about and I really don't have time for a close friendship.   Sure, I have friends----good friends---friends who I know will be there to help me in a moments notice and who know I will help them with whatever they need.   I love the friends I have.  But I don't have the time for that bosom buddy type of friendship.  That time is reserved for my wife and kids.

Saying that my wife is my best friend doesn't take anything from her status as my bride.  I think it only describes part of our relationship.   I guess a marriage that isn't composed of friendship is a marriage that is going to be difficult.  Yes, it's important to hold your spouse and the mother of your children up on a pedestal but she has to be someone you want to spend the rest of your life with.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nutrition and Sin

In August, I went on a 30 day "Paleo" challenge in order for me to trim down, lose weight, and help my physical performance at the gym.  Eating "Paleo" is basically eating the way our caveman ancestors ate before the agricultural age.  I cut out all grains and bread, dairy and legumes.  Basically, I ate "lean meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugars and kept intake to levels that support exercise but not body fat."   I did pretty well.  I ate Paleo 90% of the time and 93% of my meals were healthy with only 5% of them being "cheat meals."  I lost 10.5 pounds, 2.1% body fat and improved my performance a little.

One thing that struck me while going through this 30 day challenge was how "dieting" and avoiding sin have a lot in common.

1) Sin and junk food is attractive.  By junk food--I'm referring not just to sweets, cakes and fast food.  I'm referring to all of the foods I cut out--breads, dairies and legumes as well as sugars.   When you are so used to eating those foods, your body craves them and the mind has to be stronger just as the soul has to be stronger than the body to avoid sin.  Your body will try to convince you that having those cheese sticks or those donuts won't hurt you that much just like it will tell the soul that sinful things such as gossip or skipping mass aren't so bad.   It takes a strong will to over come that thought and push it aside.

2) In order to succeed, you have to avoid temptation--You have to avoid those places where you may fail on your meal plan in order to succeed.  For instance--I can't expect to eat clean and to go an Italian or Mexican restaurant.  There is just no way I am going to avoid breads or dairy there.  Sonic or Steak n Shake?? Forget about it!  In the same way, we may need to avoid going to the bars with the boys or staying away from those people who like to gossip and tear other people down.  All of those places may be fun but they don't help you succeed.

3) We have to prepare---The only way I could have succeeded with Paleo is by preparing.  Several days a week, I'd prepare meals and put them in Tupperware to tide me over for a few days.  That way, when I left for work, it only took me a few minutes to prepare my lunch.  Likewise, in the spiritual life--we have to prepare and be on the defense so we don't sin.  We do this through prayer--by cultivating a relationship with God and by frequenting the sacraments such as the Eucharist and confession.

4) It's never too late to start over--There are times we will fail.  There are times we may succumb to that Cold Stone Creamery and be a total glutton (which is a sin in itself)   But just because we've failed once doesn't mean we have to continue to fail.   Eating clean is just a meal away just as being sin free is as easy as going to the confessional.

5) Both are life changing events--Earlier, I called eating Paleo as a diet. It's not.  It is a life style change.   Sure, I did a 30 day challenge to see if I could do it---but to continue to enjoy those successes, I have to continue and make it a part of my life.  Like wise---avoiding sin is a life style.   It's something we have to do daily because being in a state of mortal sin is just a sin away.

One difference between nutrition and sin is that with nutrition an occasional "cheat meal" is okay.  In many circles, it is even encouraged   When it comes to sin, "cheating" is never acceptable.  When you sin, you are causing a break in your relationship with God and that is never okay.    A double cheeseburger with mustard, ketchup, pickles, mayo, fries and a great big double chocoate fudge shake from Steak and Shake---ohhhhh, that's delicious!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Orthodox Priests

Why is it that when people think of orthodox priests they think of grumpy old men who are joyless and don't want you to have any fun in life?  People tend to visualize some curmudgeon who will rather condemn you to eternal hell fire than crack a smile.    I'd like to challenge that stereotype and propose that conservative, orthodox priests are fun people who, although can be blunt, are happy, cheerful people.

Now, a little disclaimer, I have to admit that I really don't know a whole lot of priests.   I grew up Catholic but for most of the 1990's I was Catholic in name only.  It was a rare occurrence that I was in mass much less go to confession and never went to adoration.  So really--I was pretty typical.   And since my "reversion" in 1999, most of the priests I've gotten to know well have been via the internet.   But, the ones I've gotten to know well are ones that I would consider conservative or orthodox, although they may just claim to be "Catholic."

These are priests who I would like to spend time with.  They are priests that I could sit around and share a beer with while discussing theology or while talking baseball.  They are priests who unashamed of wearing the Roman collar.   There is a priest who works on a college campus who I've become good friends with.  We've gone to a St. Louis Cardinal game and he's counseled me through difficult times.   There is a priest I know from the blogosphere who enjoys bike riding and getting ready for the zombie apocalypse.  I wouldn't be surprised if he was carrying a Glock under his cassock.    When I go visit my mom, I enjoy it when she invites her parish priest over so we can sit and chat.  

These are priests who live life to the fullest and enjoy every moment life.  They are men who struggle with trying to figure out what God wants but aren't afraid to trust in the church for guidance.  They are joyful because they allow God to work through them.  For instance, the priest of a nearby parish is uberconservative---he has gotten rid of extraordianry ministers for the most part and wants to put in alter rails---but I not only see Jesus in him but I feel the love of Jesus radiating from him.

I wonder if it's because they know they are leading souls to Heaven by being strict and by being honest instead of just telling people what they want to hear.   I enjoy the honesty.  I appreciate the example that the chains of sin can be broken.   I like the reminder that we all must strive for holiness and that we can still have fun in life while working striving to be like Jesus.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On Joy and Her Faith

Last night, my Uncle Alan posted on Facebook some of his reflections on the faith of his wife, Joy, who passed away last January.   With his permission, I'm sharing them here:

I apologize that I do not have a Blog because an experience at Mass this morning caused me to have heavy reflections on the humble faith possessed by the beloved spouse I lost some six months ago, and I feel the need to take a few paragraphs to share her monumental witness. I hope and pray you will bear with me as I share in the only venue I possess.

At Mass to
day, we had a visiting Priest, and in his homily, he shared his consternation with the casual manner in which most Catholics receive the Eucharist. We Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharistic Host, but as the Priest observed, you wouldn’t know that by observing the nonchalance of Catholics in the reception of Communion. Joy, on the contrary, quite visibly telegraphed her belief in the Real Presence, without demonstrating any overtones of pretension. This was in spite of the fact that she was a convert. Her humble, yet fervent faith would put that of any “cradle Catholic” to shame.

A testament to the awe we should display at the prospect of receiving the true Body and Blood of Christ was exhibited by the angel that appeared to the three children of Fatima. Before offering the Eucharist to the children, the Angel suspended the Chalice and Host in the air, and prostrated himself before the Blessed Sacrament and had the children recite a prayer three times before giving them the host. Consider that an angel lives in the Beatific Presence of Christ eternally, thus this show of devotion to the Host truly exhibits the significance of what many non-believers consider only a symbol.

This story brought Joy’s devotion home powerfully! I remember that when Joy attended Eucharistic Adoration, (This is when a large host is displayed in a monstrance for prayer and adoration of the faithful), instead of making the customary genuflection, or kneeling before entering the pew, she would prostrate herself flat on the floor for a period of time. I must admit that on those times I was with her, I found this mildly embarrassing, and I even tried to get her to stop, especially as she persisted in this practice even when her back and knees were beginning to weaken. I told her she was going to find herself down and not able to get up. But she felt it was something she had to do and she kept the practice until she simply could not physically will her back, knees and joints to do it any longer.

As Joy’s physical condition continued to deteriorate, she found it increasingly difficult to even kneel at Mass, a practice she refused to cease, even when she needed all my strength to assist her in getting up and down. She tried so hard to mask the pain she was obviously feeling. Finally, things got so bad that I actually had to order her not to kneel anymore, but to simply be seated. She reluctantly accepted this, but there were tears that would well up in her eyes in the realization that she could not show the depth of humility in posture she felt was due our Blessed Savior.

When she was still ambulatory, Joy took pride in being able to assist in the distribution of the Blessed Sacrament. Just in case I, or anyone else, would even think to question the depth of Joy’s faith in the Real Presence, please consider this testimony from a parishioner at St. Peter’s. In this woman’s own words: “I loved receiving the Blessed Sacrament from Joy. When she held up the Host before me and said the words; ‘The Body of Christ’, I would look into her eyes and see Jesus!”

While these memories are a bit painful for me personally, I take great solace in the certainty that Joy is now pain free and reaping the rewards for her unbridled faith in the Real Presence of our Savior! She is now basking in that Real Presence together with Jesus and his beautiful mother!

Sam's Baptism

Yesterday my nephew, Samuel James (who happens to be the second son of Maggie Crawford of From The Heart fame and Ryan Crawford), was baptized by Fr. Vince Rogers at St. Andrew the Apostle in Gladstone.  Conner Crawford is his godfather and Michelle Hughes from Endless Strength.   Afterwards, we went and had dinner at Smokehouse Bar-B-Q and finally some Yogurtini to celebrate my daughter Emma's 17th birthday.

I thought I'd share some photos.  

First, of the Church:

The sanctuary

 The crucifix over the tabernacle.  The crucifix has several first class relics in it

The Virgin Mary and baby Jesus

St. Joseph

St. Therese of Lisiux

St. Michael the Archangel

Washing away all original sin
Ryan, Maggie, Fr. Rogers and Sam

My family--my mom, my son Max, my wife Abby, me, my daughter Emma, Maggie and Sam, Ryan holding Joe and my daughter Molly.
I have lots more photos but I don't want to steal Maggie's thunder too much so keep an eye on her blog.  I'm sure she will post some more soon.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rape and Abortion

By now, it does not appear that Todd Akins is going to remove himself from the Missouri Senate race.   I find that unfortunate because, in my opinion--despite his stupid comments about "legitimate" rapes and the rate of conception--he would be a better senator for the State of Missouri and for the country.  Unfortunately, because of his comments and the uproar, I don't think he stands a chance at unseating the incumbent and Obama underling, Claire McCaskill.

What it has done, is challenge the popular notion that abortion is okay in situations where the baby was conceived during a rape, even among many people who would otherwise believe that abortion is wrong.     It has brought the idea into the light that abortion kills a baby whose only crime was being conceived because of a crime.  

Some people may be aghast that I am saying that abortion is wrong even in the case of abortion saying that it is causing the rape victim to be victimized twice by having to carry the child to term and give birth to it.   By no means am I belittling rape and what the victim goes through.   Sex is supposed to be a beautiful act of love, selflessness and of giving and rape, instead is a horrible act of hate, selfishness and taking.   But, abortion is killing an innocent child.

Timothy Carney posted an interested article in the Washington Examiner titled, "When a Horrific Rape Leads to an Innocent Life" that highlights two young women and a child who were conceived because of rape.  Three women who would not be alive today if their mother's had not shown courage and kept their child.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top Ten Things That I Like to See in a Parish

I love my faith.  I love the fullness of faith and the truth that the Roman Catholic Church gives.   There is also a lot of "variety" when it comes to parishes though.  There are some parishes that are very ultra conservative and then there are some that are very liberal.   I was thinking it over the other day and came up with ten things I like to see in a Catholic parish

1) For the church to look like a Catholic Church---I like to see statues reminding me of the saints in heaven.  I like to see a crucifix. I like seeing the tabernacle right up front so I don't have to look around for it.  I like walking into a church and having no doubt that I am in a Catholic church.

2) Catechisis in the Homily--I used to think that Catholics were poorly educated about their faith because the priest only has about ten minutes to give a sermon as opposed to protestant ministers who may preach for an hour or so.   But over the years, I've seen priests who are able to teach during the homily.  I've discovered that it's not too difficult.  They simply quote from the catechism.  They quote the saints and popes.  They provide the teaching of the church is a simple way.

3) Honesty from the pulpit--I've heard many feel good homilies but that's not what we always need to hear.  Sometimes we need to hear that our actions are wrong and why.  Sometimes we need to hear that hell is real and that Satan is a liar.  We don't always need fire and brimstone preached to us but we need to hear the truth.   After all, our goal is to get to Heaven and sometimes we need to be reminded what the alternative is.

4) Prayers to end abortion--why this isn't a petetion at every mass I don't know

5) Prayers for the souls in purgatory--very basic, very Catholic.  I was especially touched once when I heard during the prayers of the faithful, "and especially for those who don't have anyone to pray for them."

6) Latin--I believe that the mass should be said in the vernacular but it is very nice to hear the Holy, Holy, Holy or the Lamb of God in Latin to remind us of the language of the church and that the church is universal.

7) Kneelers--how awesome it is to be able to kneel in prayer, or to kneel during the consecration.  If we truly believe that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus then why wouldn't we be kneeling?  

8) Purification of the vessels--we don't see this at a lot of places---when the priest carefully cleanses the sacred vessels that contain the Eucharist and clears the table.  This only takes a couple of minutes, but I think it is a subtle reminder that the Euscharist is special and that these items that have contained the Eucharist must be treated with respect and not just set aside like dirty dishes to be cleaned later.

9) Loyalty to the Magisterium and her teachings---this one should be obvious but you don't always see it.  The parish is a Catholic parish and it should not be embarrassed of the Church's teachings.  The parish and it's members should be ready to defend them.  They should show respect to her bishops, archbishops or cardinals.

10) Ample Times for Confession---Anyone who has read my blog knows I'm a big fan of confession.  I think it should be offered daily.  I heard once that any parish that only offers it once a month or once a week really doesn't offer it.

Those are my top ten---off the top of my head.  What are things you like to see in a parish??

Monday, August 20, 2012


Some couples have pet names or other terms of endearment for each other. My wife, Abby, and I have a couple. For instance, for the last twenty years, whenever she tells me that she loves me, I respond with, "I love you more" because---well, because I do. For our tenth wedding anniversary we went to a Kansas City Royals baseball game and I had "Abby, I love you more" put on the score board.

Recently, we have started a new saying we share with each other. We will tell each other, "I love you madly, passionately, and extraordinarily." We are crazy for each other. We are passionate for each other. And our love for each other is extraordinary.

What does that mean though---"extraordinary." I figure, too often in today's culture, "love" is tossed around too easily. Everyone loves something. Some people love pizza. Some people love the Kansas Jayhawks (losers) or the West Virginia Mountaineers (what else is there to love in that state) Some people fall in love and get married in Las Vegas marriage chapels only to get an annulment the next day. Some people fall in love and get married in great big weddings--only to get divorced 72 days later. Those examples of love---if they truly are love---are plain and ordinary.

But the love that Abby and I have for each other, is EXTRAordinary. It's a love that has been tested by fire. It's a love that has been proven. It's a love that's been through three kids, several dogs, many houses and a few jobs. It's a love that doesn't quit even when the going gets tough. Sadly, in today's world--where over 50% of marriages end in divorce---that is extraordinary.

So, you'll excuse me when I take offense that the word "extraordinary" gets maligned and changed and misused. Many of your are probably thinking, "I rarely hear the word much less see it misused." Well, the specific example I'm thinking about happens in the Catholic Church when the laity is put into the position of "Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion." Many places will call them "Eucharistic Ministers" but the correct term is "Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion."

You see, the use of the laity in the position is supposed to be exactly that---extraordinary. It's not supposed to be an common every day occurrence. The ORDINARY Minister of Holy Communion is supposed to be a priest or a deacon. Yet, you will see 7-10 extraordinary ministers at every Sunday mass so that the lay people can "feel more involved." At some parishes---there is a down right infestation of extraordinary ministers. During the "Lamb of God" they are coming from every where.

I believe that this takes away the sacredness of the Blessed Sacrament in many people's eyes. If anyone can dispense it, I don't think people appreciate what/who they are receiving. If we need all these people so that we can quickly get through communion then I don't think people will appreciate why they are there. I think if people have to wait an extra 5 minutes to receive Our Lord and then to receive Him from a priest that they will better will understand that what they are experiencing is a sacred, holy moment and have an extraordinary love for the Eucharist.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Things About Being Catholic

It's been awhile since I've posted anything and we were recently given a task by our parish to produce a top ten list so I've decided to do my top ten things about being Catholic

10. Universality - Catholic means universal and we truly are.  It was once said that the sun never sets on the British Empire.  The same could be said about the Catholic church.  It's all over the world.  We are different ethnicities, different nationalities, different languages, different skin colors, but we are one.

9. Liturgy - I've been to mass at Lucas Oil Stadium with 22,000 teen-agers and I've been to mass with only a handful of people present.  I've been to mass in the middle of the desert with a make shift altar and I've been to mass in beautiful cathedrals.  Different variations but it's the same mass because Jesus is there.   It's so simple and beautiful.

8. Bible - the Word of God given to us by the Holy Spirit by the church.  We don't study it like we should but it's a treasure.  Spend some time reading the gospels tonight.

7. Adoration - my favorite way to prayer and spend time with a friend.  I love spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and just talking to Jesus.  Sometimes, I just sit there in His presence.

6. Tradition - We have nearly 2000 years of tradition behind us and because of that, I feel right at home in the church setting.

5. Priests, Nuns and other Religious - I admire our priests, nuns and brothers who give their life to God.  It is a selfless act to dedicate your life to the church and to make a promise of obedience, chastity and in some cases, poverty.  It's a life that isn't meant for everyone but it's a life that should be encouraged.  

4. Magisterium - by giving Peter the keys to the kingdom of God Jesus gave authority to Peter and the other apostles.  Today, our pope is the successor to Peter and our bishops the successors to the apostles and they retain that authority.  This is a great gift because we are assured that we will not be led astray by what society tells us may be right.  We are led to truth.

3. Saints - not only is it a good thing to be able to ask the saints in Heaven to intercede for us it is also a great reassurance that life doesn't end when we die or that those in Heaven are not disconnected from us.

2. Confession - a gift given to us that takes humility accept and because of that is often turned away.  The words of absolution are some of the sweetest words your ears will hear.  If you haven't heard them in awhile, perhaps it's time to seek reconciliation.

1.  Eucharist - Jesus made present to us, body, blood, soul and divinity in the appearance of bread and wine.   There is no greater thing than this.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Mrs McAdams---Take 2!

Nineteen years ago, Abby and I were married at the Platte County Courthouse.  (We had our marriage blessed by the church several years later so it IS indeed valid)   Two years ago, I wrote a post titled "Happy Anniversary, Mrs. McAdams" in which I compared our marriage like two puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly even though they appear opposite.  Well, I have to say that in these two years, I have certainly done my best to mess up that puzzle.

You see, I had gotten my priorities messed up for awhile.  I had placed a friendship ahead of my marriage and allowed it to consume my time and energy and neglected my family.  I treasured this friendship and thought it was the friendship I had always wanted.  Interestingly enough--I've always said that Abby wasn't my best friend like a lot of husbands and wives say about their spouse because, in my mind, a spouse was much, much more than just a friend.   Yet, here I was---allowing this friendship to take priority.   It took a swift kick in the back side by Abby and a lot of pain to walk away from this friendship, but it had to be done.

Today, I think our marriage is stronger than ever.   We spend a ton of time together and enjoy every moment.  We make our children shudder in disgust at our intimacy and I've never been happier.   I went through a dark, dark time where I feel like I turned away from God and away from my family for a friendship.  I cannot tell you the embarrassment and the shame I feel for acting like such a fool.    I know that it is because of the grace of God, many prayers, Abby's love for me and that swift kick in the butt that we are as happy as we are today.

I've learned a lot in the last two years.  I've learned that you always need to keep your priorities in order----God and family come before anything else.  If you keep your priorities in check then happiness will follow.   I've learned that friendships don't have to consume your time.  I've learned that the friends I do have will be there when I need them and will lean on me when they need help.  But they won't consume you.  I've learned that true friends will always support you and lead you towards God.  I am blessed for the true friends I have. 

Abby, I'm sorry for allowing anyone to come between me and you.  You may have better butt kicking skills--but I STILL love you more.

Monday, June 4, 2012

To Be "Inclusive"

Let's face it.  We all want to belong.  We never want to be excluded from something, even if that something is something we don't want to do.  We hate to be excluded.  And as Catholics, we want to be welcoming to everyone.  We don't want to make anyone feel excluded either.

But, can that inclusive behavior go too far?  I say yes.  I say inclusive behavior goes too far when you are expected to sacrifice your own beliefs or to do something that you believe is wrong is order just to make someone else feel included.   This does not mean that you should ever make someone feel unloved or that you do not care for them but neither should you sacrifice your beliefs.

God is not all inclusive.  He WANTS to include everyone but gives us free will to either choose Him or to deny Him.  That is why there is a Heaven and that is what there is a Hell.  You can spend eternity with God but, to put it simply, you have to live by His rules.  If you choose to live a life outside of God's ways then you do not have to spend eternity with Him.  It's your choice.  God is full of mercy though and is always willing to forgive you and to accept you back.

The Roman Catholic Church is the same way.  We are not an inclusive organization.  We are very exclusive.   We have a set of beliefs that is not always pleasing to society and we are in many ways persecuted for holding on to those beliefs.   Yet, we hold strong to them  We are also very loving and always welcome people back to the church.  We do everything we can to draw people into the church but at the same time, we don't change what we believe just so someone can belong, even when we are persecuted for such behavior.    The current HHS travesty is an example of the church being persecuted for her beliefs.  The church says that it does not believe in contraception and the US Government is trying to force churches and religious organizations to purchase contraception for their employees.

Yet, not everyone sees it the way I do.  It seems like many are willing to toss their beliefs aside so that they are seen as kind and caring.  They are afraid of appearing too strict, too staunch or too unwavering.  This is how you get nuns helping to escort young ladies to abortion clinics or how parishes allow sinful behavior even to the point of hosting organizations that promote agendas and events that are contrary to church teaching.  This is how holy scriptures gets changed to a more "inclusive" language.   These are all things that are sinful and only serve to confuse faithful Catholics.

Ironically, those who champion this "inclusive" behavior are the first ones to exclude you if you stand up for your beliefs.  Try telling someone that you believe in Natural Family Planning and you'll be looked at as if you have a 3rd eye.  Say that you don't believe in sex outside of marriage and you are looked upon as old fashioned.  Dare to say that you believe homosexual acts are sinful and you'll be called a bigot and a homophobe.

This makes me wonder, who is really being inclusive?  Those who appear to be exclusive but treat you with love, respect and dignity, even when they do not agree with you or those who claim to be inclusive but mock you, chastise you and even ostracize you if they do not agree with you?  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What is Spiritual Fitness?

Catholicism has not necessarily transformed my life as much as it has guided me and formed me into the man I am today and aspire to be tomorrow, spiritually.   CrossFit is in the process of guiding me and forming me into the man I aspire to be tomorrow, physically (I have only been involved in it for four months)  What is CrossFit?  It is a strength and conditioning program built on constantly varied, functional movements done at high intensity. It's not about losing pounds or inches.  It's not about being just healthy.  It's about being "fit."

What is fitness?  If you ask five different people you'd probably get five different answers.   In October, 2002, Coach Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, posted an article in the CrossFit journal in which he tries to answer that question, "What is Fitness."   Coach Glassman writes in 100 words the guide to world class fitness.  Simply:

  • Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. 
  • Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. 
  • Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. 
  • Regularly learn and play new sports.
To say that I've bought into the CrossFit program would be an understatement.  For the first time in my life, I love to go work out.  In four months, I've lost twenty pounds.   It's become a family event.  My wife and kids have been going to the police academy (KCPD CrossFit--a non-profit CrossFit affiliate) and been working out with me.  It's been great, but just like you cannot focus on one thing too much in CrossFit, you also cannot focus simply on your physical being.  You have to focus on your spiritual side too.   This brought me to the thought, "what is spiritual fitness" and the comparisons to Coach Glassman's article came to mind.

The first comparison was in CrossFit's first fitness standard.  Coach recognizes ten general physical skills:  cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy.  Coach states that, "a regimen develops fitness to the extent that it improves each of these ten skills.

In Catholicism, we believe that we are each given each of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom,  understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the lord.   Just like the ten general physical skills, we should always try to develop these seven gifts.

How do we do this?  In CrossFit, the ten physical skills are developed by playing sports, weightlifting, gymnastics, metabolic conditioning and nutrition.   There are portions of the spiritual life that compare to each of these physical areas of development.

Sports is "the applications of fitness in a fantastic atmosphere of competition and mastery" and can be compared to "living the Christian life."  St Francis of Assisi has been attributed with the quote, "Preach the gospel always.  If necessary, use words."   We are supposed to LIVE the gospel, not just talk about it.

Weightlifting can be compared to study, whether it is theological study or Bible study.   Whenever I've tried to read or learn about God, I have felt like I've done some heavy lifting.  Sometimes it is because what I've learned is "heavy" or mind blowing and other times it's because my brain hurts as if I have a stack of 45 pound plates on it.

I compare gymnastics to the interior life--or the prayer life.  That's because I see these gymnasts doing things  like flips, hand stands, or feats of skill on the rings or parallette bars and it blows my mind.   I want so badly to be able to do that and I believe, that some how, I could---but not anytime soon.  In the same way, I see these people with great prayer lives who act as if God is their best friend.  I want to be like that too.  I so badly to be able to break into conversation with God as easily as my best friend---but I don't see it happening anytime soon and not without a lot of practice.

In the physical fitness world, cardiovascular activity is looked upon as the one thing that you need.  Often, it's looked upon as the only thing needed in order to "get fit."  In the spiritual world, it seems like some believe that "social justice" is all they need to do to get closer to God.  Social Justice is very important.  We are called upon to feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit them imprisoned and to bury the dead.   But, it seems to me like many people think that all they need to do is to be "good people."   They may do something in the social justice arena but then live an immoral life.

Finally, one of the most important things we need to be fit is nutrition.  You can work out seven days a week but if you eat a #3 extra value meal from McDonald's daily or if your diet is filled with pizza and ice cream then you are not going to see the progress you hope for.  You need a healthy balanced diet.  Like wise, in Catholicism, what we eat is very important.   Jesus gave us the Eucharist--his body, blood, soul and divinity under the appearance of bread and wine in order that we may be nourished and fed.    Being able to attend mass, the source and summit of our faith, every Sunday is the most important thing we can do every week.   Without the Eucharist things are much made much more difficult.

A Christian may expect to make some progress in the spiritual life if he only concentrates on one of these items just as a runner may expect to make gains in endurance and stamina.  But, they will only grow weaker in other areas just as that runner won't become strong and powerful.  It's like a puzzle.  We need all of the pieces--the Eucharist, social justice, interior life, study and living the Christian life if we expect to succeed.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Imagining Heaven and Hell

A few weeks ago, I was reading a passage from the gospel of Matthew where the Sadducees, who did not believe in life after death (that's why they were Sadd U Cee), were trying to trick Jesus and asked Him about a woman who's husband passes away and remarries.  That husband also dies and she remarries again.  This happens seven times.  The Sadducees ask Jesus who's wife will she be at the resurrection.   Jesus simply explains in Heaven there is no marriage (insert your own jokes here)   But, if you think about it---there is no need for marriage in Heaven.  After all, He gave us marriage for several reasons.

One, is to help each other get to Heaven.  As a husband, my life's biggest task is to help my wife get to Heaven and her's is to help me get to there also.  The second reason for marriage is the love we give each other which results in children to populate the Earth.  Finally, marriage is a reflection of the Holy Trinity.  I give all of my love to Abby and she, in return, gives all of her love to me.  The result of our love is the aforementioned children.  In the Trinity, God the Father pours out all of His love to God the Son who, in return pours out all of his love back to God the Father.  The result of such a perfect love is another person--God in the Holy Spirit.    So, in Heaven, there really is no need for marriage.  We have gotten each other to Heaven (hopefully--she has the more difficult task ahead of her).  There is no need to repopulate the Earth.  And there is no need for a reflection of God because He is right there in front of us.

This is kind of problematic for me because it makes me wonder what Heaven will be like.  My wife is a part of me.  I don't want to imagine a time when she isn't a part of me, when she isn't my wife, when she isn't MRS. Jamie McAdams.  So what will Heaven be like if she isn't my spouse.

What do you do in Heaven.   I'm sorry, but I would think that singing Holy, Holy, Holy with all the angels and all of the other saints would get boring after a bit.  But, in Heaven you are outside of time and space.   I won't have my phone---who will I text?  What would a constant state of euphoria be like?  I can't imagine.

Will there be sadness in Heaven or will being in the presence of God and feeling His love over come any feelings of sadness??  Possibly.  That's difficult from me to imagine because I'm sure there will be some loved one or friend who isn't there with me.  Wouldn't I be sad if I knew that they weren't in Heaven too?

What about Hell?  I think Hell is severely underestimated.  I've heard people joke about going to Hell as if it's some sort of playground where you get to do everything that is considered wrong an immoral on Earth.  As if it's just a great big party.

But think of it this way.  Hell is an absence of God.  It's actually a mercy for those people who do not want to live God's way.    For them, to be in the presence of God and to feel God's love that intensely would be too painful.  So, they get to go where they are in the absence of God.  But, if God is love and they are absent from God then that must mean that they are absent from love.   I don't imagine it's a party.  I imagine the lowest, saddest and loneliest period of life and imagine that feeling multiplied two times, ten times, a hundred times or more.   And then, to imagine that that is where I would be for eternity with no hope of ever being happy again.  That does not sound like a party

I cannot imagine what Heaven is like.  I cannot wrap my head around the feeling of happiness that must be there.  I can start to imagine what Hell may be like and that, well, it scares the Hell out of me.

So, Lord, give me the grace to do your will, avoid sin and keep the Devil away from me.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Defending Marriage

Last week President Obama came out in support of "gay marriage."   Newsweek championed him as the "First Gay President."  I have to admit that I'm a little confused.   I'm confused as to why President Obama supporting gay marriage is a surprise.  Did anyone really believe that he was against it?  I'm confused as to why people who believe homosexuality as wrong are branded as bigots.  If we are supposed to be all open minded, why don't people question why they believe homosexuality is wrong instead of lumping them in a broad catagory?  Or are they afraid of what the reasoning may be?  Finally,  I'm a little confused as to where I stand on the whole question of "gay marriage."  Will the world fall apart if homosexuals are allowed to marry?

Don't get me wrong---I fully understand and believe the Catholic Church's teaching that marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman and that partaking in a homosexual act is a sin.   That being said, I think that marriage has been bastardized almost beyond all recognition by heterosexuals and by Christians.    I feel like marriage has not been defended for what it is for too long and I wonder if, as a society, we are capable of looking at it for what it is supposed to be.   How are we supposed to look at marriage as sacred when weddings, which are supposed to be holy, sacred moments are trashed by drive up wedding chapels or "bridezillas?"    How are we supposed to look at marriage as a sacred bond that no human can break when the divorce rate is at 50% and accepted in many protestant denominations?

That being said, how can homosexuality be thought of as wrong when sex, which is supposed to be a beautiful act between a husband and a wife showing that they love each other so much that they will give each other their all and accept the child that comes from that act of love when sex before marriage is widely accepted or when even sex between a husband and wife is tarnished to a act where one spouse uses the other for their own pleasure and does not accept the child that may result from that act?

Yes, I believe that engaging in homosexual acts is a mortal sin.  I also believe that it is a mortal sin to have sex outside of marriage--either before marriage or with another person while married.   I believe that contracepted sex inside or outside of marriage is a mortal sin.   I also believe that marriage to another after a divorce is a mortal sin.   These are not easy teachings of the church, especially in today's society.   And because it's a difficult teaching, I think we, as Christians, have turned a blind eye to it and now sex before marriage, contraception and divorce are acceptable in today's society.  If those grave acts are acceptable, when why are we shocked to find that "gay marriage" is the next step?

Why should we take a step against "gay marriage?"  Because, the family unit---the unit of husband, wife and children are supposed to be the basic foundation of our society.  Our society is in disrepair and we have a responsibility to stop stepping aside and defend our beliefs.    We have to defend marriage by saying that sex outside of marriage is wrong, by saying contraception is wrong, and by saying that divorce is wrong just as loud as we are saying that "gay marriage" is wrong.

Some say that we should just let others live their lives and not force our beliefs on others.  I'm sure what I'm saying will anger many people.  I'm sure some will call me names.   But we have a responsibility to spread the gospel and part of that is to preach the truth in love so that others may see truth and choose to live in a way pleasing to God.   I think that to say keep quiet is the more hateful thing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Sinking Ship

I've worked for my department for fourteen years and never have I seen morale as low as it is now.  There are people who have been on for longer than me--20, 25, even 30 years who agree--morale has never been lower.    All you hear are officers rumbling and complaining.   Their job has been made more difficult.  They have been treated unfairly.  It just doesn't seem like the people in charge care.  It is harder and harder for officers to go out and do their job every day.  And yet they do.

There are several reasons that morale is down.  Technology has made the job more difficult.  The computer systems that have been selected have made things more difficult and time consuming instead of easier.   Things that used to be simple have been made difficult all in the name of "progress."   You used to be able to take someone to jail, fill out a quick form, write a ticket and a quick report and the officers were back on the streets looking for more bad guys.  Today, an officer has to book the person into two different systems, get into another system to write the tickets and into another system to write the report.  An arrest takes three to four times as long as it used to.  Everything takes three to four times as long as it used to.  Heck, just to start my shift, I have to enter a password of one sort or another seven to eight times.

The recession has hit my city hard which means less taxes which means spending cuts.  This means officers haven't gotten raises.  Not just the yearly step increases they were promised when they were hired but just simple cost of living raises.   There are officers who have been on for several years who are making the same as an officer just off of probation.   This means they are having to work side jobs to make ends meet which means less time with their families.

And now, our governing board decided to combine with the city's health insurance plan in order to save the city money on the backs of it's public servants.  The city council and local paper thinks we are dumb by saying they will give us pay raises if we join city health insurance not realizing that it doesn't take a genius to figure out that that paying more for health insurance than any raise they give will, in essence, take a pay cut while getting inferior health insurance.  They are simply adding insult to injury.

Fortunately, the city has not had to lay any officers off.  But, they haven't had to.   Officers are leaving in droves.  We are losing an average of one officer a week.   And they aren't getting replaced.  The last academy class graduated at the beginning of last summer and the next one doesn't graduate until the middle of this summer and won't be riding without a field training officer until this fall---and they wont even replace those officers we've lost since the beginning of the year, much less the ones we lose between now and then.  What's this mean for morale?  It means we have sectors that are down 25% in manpower.  It means we are working with skeleton crews.  It means officers aren't able to take time off.  It means public safety is at risk

It feels like we are all on a sinking ship and no one that that should care does.  There is a huge disconnect between the officers on the street and the commanders downtown and I don't feel like many of them have a clue as to how bad moral and how difficult they have made this job.  The Board of Police Commissioners who were put in place in the 1930's to protect the department from the corruption in city government cowers to what the city council and the local newspaper want.   The city council certainly doesn't act like they care (although they have brought police and fire together like never before--they may care come election time)   It appears that the city council is too worried about putting in trolley lines than worrying about public safety.

What does this mean for me?   Well, there are a lot of things that concern me---pay, benefits, manpower, work conditions and stuff like that.  The problem is--I have no control over that.   I cannot worry about that.   All I can do is worry about that which I have influence over.  I don't have influence at city hall and I don't have influence at police headquarters.  I have influence in my family,  I have influence over myself, I have influence over my officers and I have influence with the people I come into contact while I'm at work.  I have  to put on a positive attitude and go out and do my job to the best of my abilities.    I have to go to work with a Christian attitude.  I have to show my people that I care for them even when they think I'm being a jerk--and I do love my people.  They are good people who want to work hard.  I have to some how motivate them and encourage them that what they the work they do transcends what goes on at city hall.  I have to encourage them to keep bailing even when the higher ups don't seem to want to fix the hole in the ship

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stations of the Cross (Fit)

I was born and raised a Catholic and I've never done what many people are going to do on this Holy Thursday and Good Friday.   I've never done the Stations of the Cross, which is where you spend time meditating on Jesus' passion and crucifixion.   There are typically 14 to 15 "events" or "stations" and you spend time meditating on different them.  For example, the first one is "Jesus is condemed by Pilate" and you would normally read a Bible verse, a reflextion and then spend time meditating before moving to the next station.

Last week, for the first time in forty years, I did the Stations of the Cross after it was suggested to me by a priest.  I didn't do them in the traditional way that you think of.  I didn't do them in a church while in front of a statue or an image of the different stations.  And I wasn't on my knees nor was I really actying reverant in any particular way.  I did the stations of the cross while doing my workout of the day.

I've been doing CrossFit for the last two months.  CrossFit is not your traditional workout that you do in your typical gym on a treadmill or a weight machine.  CrossFit combines cardio, gymnastics and Olympic lifting into a functional, varied and intense workout creating some of the fitess men and women of the world (yes, I've drank the CrossFit Kool-Aid.)

The workout I did, named "Del" (named after US Army 1st Lt. Dimitri Del Castillo who was killed in Afghanistan in June, 2011).   The workout is comprised of nine different parts.   Between each part, I stopped, read the Bible verse and the reflection and while working out---meditated as best I could.   The workout was for time and consisted of

-25 Burpees (which, I believe were created by Satan, himself)
-400 m run while carrying a 25 pound medicine ball
-25 weighted pull ups (I didn't use a weight--in fact, I used a rubber band for assistance)
-400 m run while carrying a 25 pound medicne ball
-25 handstand push ups (I used a box for support)
-400 m run while carrying a 25 pound medicne ball (I had to go down to the 14 pound one)
-25 chest to bar pull ups (I had to do regular pull ups--again using a band)
-400 m run while carrying a 25 pound medicne ball (went down in weight again to the 10 pound ball)
-25 burpees

I was a tough, tough workout.  I stopped the timer during the reflections and it still took me 55 minutes to complete. (Remember--I'm fat, old and out of shape)  It was a unique way of doing the Stations and yet a very intense way of doing it.  It was a way of understanding the suffering that Jesus went through and the love He had for us.   For instance:
--while during the burpees, I was nervous and apprehensive about what was to come
--running with a medicine ball I was able to begin to imagine the physical pain of Jesus carrying the cross
--I was able to understand the love Jesus felt when he met the women when "Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem" when I would pass people and they would offer me support and encouragement
--I was able to understand the exhaustion Jesus had when he fell with the cross
--I was able to understand what a loving act it was Veronica wiped the face of Jesus as the sweat ran into my face.

Now, I'm sure some are shocked and aghast and my perceived irreverence and thinking that I'm comparing my CrossFit workout with what Jesus went through at Calvary.  That's not what I'm saying at all.  And I'm not saying this is necessarily a good way to do the Stations of the Cross.  I'm saying, that I think we take for granted exactly what Jesus went though for us (or at least I do)  I'm saying that it was a good excercise for me--physcially and spiritually--because I realized that I had not been betrayed, abandoned, scouraged, beaten and condemned as Jesus had been. I knew that in 30 minutes, I was going to be sipping my protein drink and sitting at home in front of the comptuer.   I realized that Jesus did that all for me.  I don't think I would have realized that while sitting in a quiet church.  I only came to that realizeation by sweating, panting and suffering.

What is your expereince with the Stations of the Cross?  Are you doing it on this Holy Week?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Real Friends

The path to Heaven is not easy.  We are told that we have to pass through the narrow gate.  I imagine the path is thin, rocky, with steep cliffs on either side.  We definitely need God's help to make it there.  We depend on His grace and His mercy.  We also rely on other people to help us get there.  One of my roles as a husband is to help my wife get to Heaven, and she is charged with helping me get there too.  And we are both responsible for raising our children in the faith so that they can know and love God.  But what about our friends?

There is an old joke that a friend is someone who is there to bond you out of jail.  A REALLY good friend is someone who is sitting next to you in the jail cell saying, "That was pretty cool, wasn't it?!"  Well, I've never been in jail, but I definitely thought that a friend was someone who was fun to be around and someone that was there when you needed them---someone to lean on.  And I thought I was a great friend.  I'm fun to be around (or at least I think I am) and I'm always there to listen when someone needs advice.  I have a great shoulder to cry on.

But, being a friend means much more than that.  Mark Hart tweeted once, "The truest friends in life are the ones who won't let you settle for less---the ones who help you get to Heaven."  Seeing that quote made me realize where I've failed as a friend in the past.  Sure,  I was a great friend in the fact that I listen to my friends and try to help give them good advice.  But, too often, I gave them advice that they wanted to hear or advice that might help them with what they wanted but not what God wanted.

I have lacked the fortitude to do a good "buddy check."  Gus Lee, author of "Courage, The Backbone of Leadership,"  says that before soldiers parachute out of an airplane they look each other over to ensure that all their straps are fastened so that they will be safe.  He calls this a "buddy check" and that we are supposed to do that for each other so that we keep our buddies safe.

I've realized in the past month or so that I have friends who are willing to give me a "buddy check."  They may not be friends who I talk to every day or text every moment--but they are there to keep me in line.   It started at the end of January when I went to a lock in with my parish's youth group.  My friend, Heather---the director of youth ministry---challenged me to racquetball.   I knew going in, I was going to stink up the joint.  I have no athletic ability to start with.  And then you add in the fact that I'm fat, old and out of shape--lets just say, things didn't go well.   I realized exactly HOW fat and out of shape I was.  But, I had fun, the kids got a good laugh.  And I got a black eye when Heather hit me with the racquet.  (That's my story and I'm sticking too it!)

It was then that I decided that I needed to better myself.  I decided to get back into shape.   But, I hate working out.  I needed someone to keep me in line because, let's be honest, I have no self-discipline.  So, I wrote four of my friends an email and explained my dilemma.  I told them I was going to check in with them once a week.  In the email, I was going to explain my goals for the upcoming week and how I did previous week.  I asked them that if I did not check in to call me out.   But, I was going beyond the physical side--I was also going to check in what I was doing nutrition wise as well as spiritual wise.

Seven weeks later, I'm still at it.  I'm going to the academy to work out 4-5 times a week.  Eating better (far from where I need to me nutrition wise--but better), reading scripture and spiritual reading most nights and I've been going to weekly mass and adoration.  I'm starting to make new good habits, because of my friends who are keeping me on the right path.

My email now goes to ten different people and it's helped rekindle friendships.  And that's what friends are supposed to do--they are supposed to help you keep on that road to perfection, even when it's tough.  The biggest thing, is that I've learned to be a better friend.  And all it took was getting hit in the face by a racquetball racquet (by Heather--I didn't hit meself)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Contraception and Me

With all of the talk about the HHS mandate and contraception going on, Michelle over at Endless Strength and Rebecca at The Road Home recently did a blog together titled, "We are the 98%" about their experiences with contraception, how they discovered Natural Family Planning (NFP) and how it has affected their marriage.  They asked other bloggers to join in their "blog hop" and post about our experiences.

I've been hesitant due to several reasons.  The biggest reason is because I don't know how much to share or not share.  I'm not so sure I am up to sharing like Michelle and Rebecca did on their blogs.  They were very open, honest and frank.   Under many circumstances, I can open up and talk up a storm.  If you get a couple beers in me, and I trust you, I'll tell you anything you want to know.  But, here is a funny thing about me and Abby---we have never really talked about what went on in our personal lives before we met.  It doesn't matter to either one of us.  But that being said, I don't think it would be right to discuss something so personal to the blogosphere when I've never talked to Abby about it.   For all she knows, until we met----wait . . . my mom reads this blog too-----for the sake of this conversation about contraception, we will just say that I was as pure as the newly fallen snow until my wedding night.

The second reason, I'm hesitant to open up too much, is because it does involve Abby, and while I'm willing to say whatever, I'm not going to infringe on Abby's privacy.  I don't feel it would be right to say what she did or didn't do with her body.    I will say that, yes, we got married in 1993 and we have used contraception in our marriage.  I was born and raised Catholic and Abby was born and raised Methodist, but for the first several year we were together we were the typical twentysomethings that did not attend church regularly.  After all, we were products of the 1980's.   The age of Aids.  Protected sex was encouraged.  It made sense that we would use contraception.   Did I know that the church taught against contraception.  I suppose I had heard that someplace.  But, again, I was a child of the 1980's and I did not get a lot of religious education growing up.

My son Max was born in 1999.  I wanted to get him and my oldest daughter, Emma, (who was born in 1995) baptized.  I figured, that if I wanted to get our kids baptized Catholic instead of Methodist I should start going back to mass.  So, I did.  The year 2000 was very big for me in the spiritual sense.   I was finally confirmed.  Abby and I had our marriage blessed by the church and Emma and Max were baptized.  Abby even started RCIA that fall---the road to becoming Catholic herself.

In 2002, my daughter Molly was born.  Abby and I decided that three kids was enough so the next logical step in our minds was for me to get a vasectomy---the old snip-snip.   After all, it would have been more intrusive for her to get her tubes tied and cause more issues.  For me, it was supposed to be a simple procedure and we wouldn't have to worry about birth control or having any more kids.   In reality, it was the worst pain I've ever had in my life.  I know people say that it's not that painful, but the doctor actually almost stopped and rescheduled a time when I could be put under general anesthetic.  I guess I wasn't built to be tied up down there.  But, it was still less intrusive than what Abby would have had to go through.

I didn't feel like we were doing anything wrong spiritual wise.   We'd been going back to church for two years and I didn't hear any teaching against contraception in that time period.  Heck, I'd even gotten a "Get Well" card from a friend from church.  I figured the church teaching against contraception was more a "guideline."

It wasn't until a few years later as I learned more and more about my faith that I started to explore the church's teaching about contraception, even though, at first, I tried to just skip over those teachings.  Finally, I sat down and read Humanae Vitae,  Pope Paul VI's encyclical on contraception.   It did not really clear up a lot of things for me but I did know at that point that contraception is a sin, so I took my vasectomy to the confessional.

The Aftermath

It was just after this that I started to learn about Pope John Paul II's teaching on human sexuality called, "The Theology of the Body,"  that I started to really learn WHY contraception is wrong.  It was then that I started to learn about how beautiful that sex between a husband and wife really is.  It was then that I learned that sex is more than just a physical act.  It is a connection between a husband a wife where the husband is telling the wife that I love you and everything I have I am giving to you and the wife in return is saying that she loves him and the two are one and the result of that love is another human being.  It was then that I learned that because of contraception, the couple is saying that they want to give each other ALMOST everything but not everything.  I learned how contraception takes a loving act and turns it into just a physical act--one where two people are using each other and not loving each other.

I became frustrated.   This has always been Catholic teaching.  Pope John Paul II didn't "invent" the Theology of the Body.  He just taught it.  I was frustrated that it was in the 1980's when he taught the Theology of the Body during his Wednesday audiences.  Why was it 20 years later and I was just now learning it?  Why was I having to learn it by myself and not at church?  Why is the fact that contraception is considered wrong not being preached from the pulpit?  That was nearly seven years ago.  I've taught TOB to several groups of teen agers since then.  But what about the young adults--those in their 20's and 30's.  Or what about to those other parishioners like me who came of age post Vatican II whose catechesis was lacking? 

I struggled with doubts as I learned more and more about the church's teaching.  I wondered if Abby and I could continue to have sex since I had gotten a vasectomy.   I did research and never could find a clear, defined answer.   I took it to prayer--should I get the vasectomy reversed, should Abby and I live as "brother and sister" if I didn't?  I never did get a clear, concise answer.  In the end, I decided that the reversal would be a financial burden on us and with as many issues as I had getting the vasectomy I didn't know if it would even work.  So, even though I received a vasectomy, I decided that we are open to life.  After all, vasectomy's aren't 100% reliable and God can make anything happen.  There have actually been a couple times when we thought there may be a possibility that we would have a forth child.  You may think that is a cop-out and I could understand if you tried to argue against my decision.  But I'm going to stand by it.   

I do wish that Abby and I had been exposed to Natural Family Planning instead of sterilization.  I think it would have brought us closer together.   Call me a geek---but I have an app on my phone called, "MyDays" that tracks a woman's cycle that people can use for Natural Family Planning.  I use it to track Abby's periods because I've learned that there are times when a man can stand up for himself and there are times when a guy needs to just shut up and keep his head down.  So, this app ensures that I'm not too oblivious.  But it also helps me be aware of Abby's body and brings us closer.  I can only imagine how Natural Family Planning, along with "the marital embrace" can help strengthen a bond between a husband and a wife.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

My One Thing--1st Sunday of Lent

I really need to realize that it's not so difficult to log in to Blogger and do this.  This is my "one thing" that I took from mass last weekend.---here is week 7 of Ordinary Time as well as week 1 of Lent.

1st Sunday in Lent @ Holy Family by Fr. Matthew: "Start every day by thinking, 'Even if I totally blow it--God still loves me.'  Then strive for excellence."

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time @ Holy Family by Fr. Matthew: "In order to be truly whole and to enjoy complete well being, we must let God into our hearts and into our lives."

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time @ St Andrew the Apostle by Fr. Rogers: "What leprosy does to the body, so sin does to the soul."

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time @ Holy Family by Fr. Matthew: "We all need people in our lives to comfort us and to challenge us."

Aunt Joy's Funeral at St Peter the Apostle in Joplin, MO by Fr. Jay: "We should live life right up to the edge but to be careful not to go over."

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, 5:00 Saturday Evening mass at Holy Family: "We are running out of time so the time for change is now--the time for grace is now."

Epiphany--6:30 Sunday evening mass at St. Andrew's the Apostle: "If we are truly living out our Catholic identity then we should expect to be a little weird."

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, 5:00 Saturday Evening mass at Holy Family: "God calls us to peace in the midst of chaos."