Monday, December 30, 2013

Cutting the Cord

One of our Christmas traditions for the past ten years or so is sending my kids to my mom's house several days before Christmas.   They get to spend extra time doing Christmas stuff with Grandma Mary and Abby and I get a day or two to ourselves to finish up Christmas shopping.   Even now that I have two teenagers and one tweener, they still enjoy going up to Tarkio to spend time with Grandma and I think that makes my mom happy.
Molly and Emma helping their cousin
Joe, build a gingerbread house

The kids hanging out at Grandma Mary's

This year we made a little change.  Instead of meeting Mom and turning over the kids halfway, my oldest daughter, Emma, drove her siblings all the way there.   To say I was a little freaked out is bit of an understatement.   She had never driven that far on her own so I was worried until I knew they were safe at my mom's house.  I even went as far as having my daughter log onto the "Find my iPhone" app on my iPad so that I could track their progress.

I don't consider myself a "helicopter parent" by any means.  I don't hover around them and try to push myself on them.  While I help guide them, I think I do a decent job letting them develop on their own to include learning the ramifications of their actions.  And they have rewarded me by being their own, unique individuals.

As they get older, I'm going to have a real difficult time letting them out from under my protective wing.  I'm learning this as my oldest is 18 now and fortunately still a senior in high school.   And fortunately, probably going to stay at home for the next couple of years when she goes to community college.  I don't think I'm ready to send her off to some dorm room at a college.  It probably doesn't help that she finally got her driver's license in September.  And three days later, as I'm still getting used to her going places alone, she had a blow-out on the highway and rolled her car, totaling it.   Fortunately, she had her seatbelt on and was safe but my nerves were frayed.
The remains of Emma's Honda after it rolled

It's all part of growing up--for my kids as well as for me as an adult and parent.  And I have to constantly remind myself that I was in the Marines when I was her age (which kind of freaks me out more).

It makes me wonder how God, the ultimate Father, worries about us, his children.  He knows better than anyone the dangers of the world and the troubles that we humans can get ourselves into.  He knows the ramifications of our choices both in the physical and spiritual world.  But He loves us enough to give us free will and allows us to go out into the world.

He lets us go out into the world and He is always there for us when we need Him.  I need to use that model and let my kids go out into the world and be there for them when they need me.  I also need to trust that God will give them the grace they need to make the right decision and to protect them.

Still, I can't help but wonder, how difficult it is for that shepherd to allow that one sheep to wander without just yanking it back to the herd.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

If Only Fitness was as Easy as Confession

I've been CrossFitting off an on since early 2010.  The problem is--I've been off more than on.   Ohhh, I've had good bouts.   I did really well that first year.  Then in 2012 I also did really well.  I logged nearly 200 workouts.  Really started watching my nutrition and I lost over forty pounds and was down to 190 pounds.   I was starting to look good.   I was losing my spare tire.  My performance in the gym was improving and I was reaching goals.

And then came 2013 came along.  I've only logged 75 workouts.   Which doesn't sound bad but in reality---it's pretty bad.  Worst of all---my nutrition has gone to pot and I ate like crap.  All the gains that I made in 2012 are gone and at the beginning of December I was back up to my original weight.  It was very depressing looking at my logs--especially my weight logs.   Those are the ones that contained selfies of myself in front of the bathroom mirror without a shirt.  There was a whole lot of me in the picture taken December 1, 2013 compared to the one of me taken on September 30th of last year.

So, I've been making it to academy to work out.  I've been better about my nutrition although it's been difficult cutting back on the sugars this time of year.   I have cut down to one Diet Coke a day though.   I may even join an actual CrossFit gym.  I'm very frustrated at myself though.  How far would I be if I had continued last years pace.  How fit and healthy would I be now.  How many goals would I have made and surpassed.

It makes me think---I wish there was something in my fitness world like there is in my spiritual world.   When I get lackadaisical in my spiritual life, I can always go to confession and be restored and placed back on the correct path.  When I come out of confession, I am pumped up and ready to go.  I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off of me.   Those first couple days in the gym after missing a month or so are brutal.   It feels like a barbell has been dropped on your head and you just want to go get a Big Mac and forget about the next day's workout.

That's not to say that you are back to the same spiritual level that you were.   There is still damage there to your relationship caused by our sin.   There is still penance to be done.  You still have a responsibility to continue with that relationship that God has just repaired for you but the grace you are given in that confessional goes a long way to helping you.

I'm not the only one wishing there was something like confession in the fitness world--although people may not realize it.  Everyone is looking for that fitness shortcut that fixes you right up and instantly makes you fit.  There is everything from the Thighmaster or the Shakeweight to liposuction.  Confession has them all beat.

Monday, December 16, 2013

My Ministry

I'm embarrassed to say that I don't have a love of the poor like St. Francis.  I suppose on one hand that is what Pope Francis is doing----challenging us and making us see our weakness and how we can improve our spiritual self.  On the other hand---I just don't have a love for the poor.  I wish I did because I feel bad that I don't.   I wish I could be one of these people who want to move to Kenya and build schools and cisterns but I don't.  Heck, I even wish I felt a desire to go to St. James Place or Catholic Worker House to help feed the poor.   But I don't want to do that either.  I don't desire it at all.

I feel a little better when I tell people that my passion and what I love to do is to be involved in Youth Ministry and they tell me, "Oh, there's no way I could do that."    I enjoy being with teenagers and helping them learn about their faith and helping plant seeds that may not see fruition until many years later.  

I found this calling in 1999.  We were putting my oldest daughter into a catholic school that was tuition based--meaning as long as you were tithing parishioners the church would pay for your kids education and they could go there for free ("free" being a loose term--there were always fees of some sort or another.)   Well, we couldn't afford to tithe a full 10% of our income so we tithed what we could and I decided to get involved in volunteer work of some sort or another at my parish.   I volunteered to help out with the Senior High Youth Group at my local parish.

Since that time, I've helped catechize hundreds of teens.  I've been on numerous trips, countless lock-ins and God only knows how much time I've spent ministering to teens.  It has not always been pretty.  I know there have been times I've left church just exhausted or frustrated.

But looking back---I love it.  I love it so much.  I don't think I would have explored my own faith if it weren't for youth ministry.  I don't think I would have gone as far down the rabbit hole on my own spiritual journey if it was not for youth ministry.   I love sitting with a group of kids and talking with them about God and Catholicism.  I enjoy the outlet to be goofy and fun.

It's not always easy and it's the grace that God gives me in those difficult times that reinforces that I'm where He wants me.  It's been a little more difficult this last several months.  I changed parishes recently and this is my first year being involved in the youth program at my new parish.   I don't feel like I've found my niche quite yet or know exactly what is expected of me as opposed to my last parish where I knew exactly what was expected and I knew what the Youth Minister needed even before she asked.

To make things even more difficult is the fact that LifeTeen ends the same time I'm supposed to be at work.   Fortunately, my boss allows me to adjust my hours a little on Sunday nights and go in a little late and stay a little late in the morning.   This has made my Sunday's very stressful.  I don't have a lot of time to breathe.   I get off work in the morning, sleep and by the time I wake up I have enough time to get something to eat, pack my uniform up, pack up my lunch and shower just in time for me to make it to mass.  Right after mass is LifeTeen and then it's time to go to work and the next morning I'm getting off work late and getting home just in time to get the trash out, get my son to school and then back home to bed.  

A couple of months ago I was feeling this stress--the combination of not quite feeling my groove along with being stressed because of the rush of the day left me at the beginning of mass wanting to be anyplace else.  I didn't want to be at mass.  I didn't want to go to LifeTeen.  I was wondering if this might be the end for my participation in youth ministry.

Then a funny thing happened----mass.  I was put as peace and rest.   The music was fantastic (which is why I love Sunday evening mass.  The musicians do a great job of remaining part of the background and they play a mix of traditional Catholic songs along with contemporary music---the Matt Maher type of contemporary not that 1980's Bread of Life-stab-me-in-the-eye-with-a dull-pencil contemporary music)   The came the sign of peace.   I turned around and there was one of my LifeTeen kids.   She had the type of smile on her face that said "I'm so glad to see you!" and instantly I was a peace.   This is why I'm here.  Yes, I love youth ministry because of the fun and enjoyment I get out of it---but ultimately---it's the kids.

So another funny thing happened.   This time was just yesterday.    I felt the same way.  I was very stressed out getting preparing and getting ready for mass.   I even discussed with Abby that maybe we need to go to Saturday evening mass (which I don't really want to do because of the reasons discussed above.)   So again, I go to mass stressed out.   And again, at the sign of peace, I turn around and who is there---the same girl.   It was like God whacking upside the head with a 2 x 4 and yelling at me, "Hey dummy--how many times do I have to tell you?  This is where you are supposed to be!"

Maybe I shouldn't be embarrassed for not having that passion for the poor like Pope Francis does.   But maybe my mission fields doesn't have to be huts or soup kitchens.  Maybe my mission fields are class rooms and buses.    I do know this.   Teens are just as hungry as the poor.   They are just in search of a different type of nourishment.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Why Do I Do the Things I Do??

I've been praying and thinking over something that is really confounding me.

A few weeks ago, I went to confession and it was a pretty typical confession for me.  "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned, it's been four months since my last confession so on and so forth" and then I told the good monsignor my sins starting with the ones that I feel affect me most or are more severe.

When I was done giving my confession, he says to me, "in regard to your sin of [such and such], typically, the main cause of that sin is because of [such and such.]"  (You'll forgive me if I refrain from spilling all of the beans.  Those who know me well enough can figure it out but I would like the rest rest of you (like my mom) to still think I'm sweet and innocent.)  He then asked if I felt that was the situation in my case.

I thought about it for a moment and then said, "No, Father, I don't think it is true in my case because of [such and such.]"

After a pause, he then said, "okay, in that case, for your penance, I want you to pray and ask God why you are drawn to that sin."

Son of a gun!!  What's wrong with ten Hail Mary's?!?!

So I've been praying on this and, frankly, it's been troubling.  Why do I do this?? I understand the ramifications of sin and I understand that sin injures my relationship with God and separates me from Him.   I want nothing more than to be pleasing to God.  I want to be a saint.

But, no---I know what is pleasing to God but I always seem to do what is not pleasing to him. I'm not the only one who has wondered why they sin.  I think that's why one of my favorite Bible quotes is when St. Paul says, "I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." (Romans 7:15).

I do know this much though---it was a very good penance because I has kept me thinking about my sin--and not in a guilt ridden sense or anything like that--but making my tendency to sin and especially--to steer towards this particular sin.  I think this, in turn, has caused me to stay away from this sin when in the past I may have fallen into temptation.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Absentee Blog

When I first started Roman Catholic Cop in 2009 i posted quite a bit.  This continued into 2010 when I started to slow down.  Since then, I've been averaging a couple posts a month while sometimes going several months with no posts.  

The funny thing is----I enjoy writing.   I consider it therapeutic in some ways.   But I'm also somewhat lazy.  (My wife would argue then "somewhat" part and my eldest child will be ticked because now she knows where she inherited it from). 

So, in an attempt to bring Roman Catholic Cop back to live but not get overwhelmed by it----I'm going to try to make one post a week, at the bare minimum.  I'll try to make it every Monday---that way I can write it at any time and then schedule it to post on Monday morning.  Occasionally I may post throughout the week if it is a timely post. 

Hopefully you'll like this.  If not---if you couldn't care less, well I hope you keep it to yourself.  If not, I hope you choke on a chicken bone.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Notre Dame and Van Gogh

Every since I was a kid, I've been a television watcher.   I was always watching television and I had my favorites such as "Dukes of Hazard" or "The A-Team."  Today, with DVR, Hulu or Netflix, I'm not so restricted with when I watch tv because I can watch shows at my leisure and in any order.

One of my favorite shows is the BBC series, "Doctor Who," which just recently celebrated it's fiftieth year.    Doctor Who is about an alien time lord who travels through time and space in his time machine/space ship called the TARDIS---which looks like a 1960's police call box.  

I've seen all of the newer Doctor Who episodes which entails the last six years  but I think there are about 682 of the classic episodes that I haven't watched yet.   I've enjoyed the whole series but I have several favorite episodes such as "Blink," "Let's Kill Hitler," or  "Closing Time."  One of my favorite episodes is titled, "Vincent and the Doctor."

In "Vincent and the Doctor," The Doctor and his companion, Amelia Pond, go back in time and meet Vincent Van Gogh and battle a space monster that was stranded on Earth and which only Van Gogh can see.  It seems that for some reason, Van Gogh can see things that the rest of us cannot see.   This was really demonstrated in a scene where the Doctor, Van Gogh and Amy are laying in a field looking up at the stars.  Van Gogh starts describing what he sees and how the blacks aren't just blacks but more shades of blue and this star is different from that star.  Before your eyes, the evening sky is transformed into his painting "A Starry Night."

I feel like I had that type of transformation last summer when I went on a retreat at the University of Notre Dame.   God really worked me over that week.  He broke me down and built me back up and helped me see things differently.   I really had that "Ah-ha" moment one afternoon when I was wandering around Geddes Hall and I saw a Van Gogh-like painting  of the Main Building, or the "Golden Dome," at Notre Dame.

My week at Notre Dame caused me to see God in a new light.  It was like God opened up my chest cavity and poked my heart with His finger.   You can ask the people I was with.  I was an emotional wreck.  I've never felt that vulnerable or that exposed.    I would start crying at the drop of a hat the whole week.   I've never felt the presence of God like I did that week in June.
Because God choose the Notre Dame as the location of this encounter I had with Him, the way I felt and saw Notre Dame that week really felt a lot like this painting---new lights, new colors--a whole new perspective.   

I wish I could say that I went through a transformation but it was really a mountain top experience.   Since then, I have retreated back to my old self, my old habits and my old sins.   But I remember that experience whenever I see a Van Gogh painting, whenever I see that episode of Doctor Who or whenever I see anything Notre Dame.  I remember it and I am drawn back to that experience and I recall where I want to be---in that presence of God.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Favorite things about NCYC. Issue No 3

This last weekend was my forth National Catholic Youth Conference I've been to.   In 2009 in Kansas City, I posted a blog called "Fourteen Amazing Things About NCYC."   I wrote another after the 2011 NCYC in Indianapolis called, "Fifteen Amazing Things About NCYC, 2011."  I figured I should continue the trend so here are my "Top Ten Favorite Things About NCYC 2013."  I should note---the first two editions are more generalized articles about NCYC that could be used for almost every year.  For example, the music, the speakers, mass, confession---those things are fantastic every year and could be listed year after year.   This list seems to be more specific about the 2013 NCYC and even more to my experience specifically.

1. Being able to spend four quality days with my daughter, Emma.  She is 18 and was with me in 2011.  But who knows how many opportunities for quality time like this we will have.  She will be going to college next year so she is growing up.   

2.  This year was more relaxed.  We didn't go with a parish.  Due to circumstances, we went with a family group of five kids and four parents.  So the only person I was responsible for was Emma and since she is 18 I didn't have to worry about her every moment.  (I've very grateful that they were able to make this family group happen, by the way)

3.   This year seemed to run more smoothly in my opinion.  I'm sure it helped that it was the second year they've done it at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center.

4. The mega sessions were in held in much bigger venues it seemed.  We weren't able to make one session because it was full but we were able to go across the hall and see Mike Patin in a mega session and there probably a couple thousand people already in the hall but we were able to slip in and have plenty of space. There were also able to see Mark Hart and the comedy show when in years past they were full. 

5. They opened up seating in Lucas Oil Stadium which meant you didn't have to stand in line waiting for the doors to open in order to get seats.  We were able to enter well into to warm up sessions and still find seats, although it probably helped we only had a group of nine. 

6.  I felt the general sessions were a lot smoother and never seemed to drag at all.  Sure, not everything caught my attention but you can't please everyone all the time.  Jesse Manibusan was wonderful as emcee.  He did his job very well and let the magic happen.  

7. Matt Maher.   He was the opening night key note and one of my favorite musical artists.  He has been at NCYC before but this was the first time I had seen him. He apologized and said he voice was horrible but I thought it was great.  Probably one of my favorite sessions. 

8.  The plane.  This was the first year we flew and let me tell you what---an hour and a half flight on Southwest is much better than a 10 hour bus ride especially when that 10 hour ride has turned into 24 when the bus breaks down and you have to spend the night in a cruddy motel off the highway. 

9. The comedy show.  This is the first year I've made it to the comedy show and I had a blast.  Judy McDonald had me in stitches (with the dogma joke especially) .  I saw some of my favorite acts like Popple and I saw a couple of new ones I'd never seen before like Chris Padgett.

10.  Probably my favorite thing about NCYC 2013 was getting to meet a ton of people I look up to.  I got to touch base with Mark Hart--who I've met before.  I met Lino Rulli and had him sign my book "Saint." And one of the kids from my group got to be on The Busted Halo Show!

The next NCYC will be in 2015 again in Indianapolis.  I don't know if my son will be going but I am hopeful to be able to find some way to be there--either by tagging along with another group or maybe leading my own again.    If you will be in high school in 2015, or have a kid who will be in high school in 2015---I highly encourage you to be there.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thoughts on NCYC

I spent this weekend with my oldest daughter in Indianapolis for the National Catholic Youth Conference  (NCYC).   It was my forth NCYC and I always have a blast.  I've always encouraged all high schoolers to go when they have a chance.   But it's not just for the kids.  I've always gotten something out of them.

Sunday morning as I was getting ready to fly home, I received a text from a friend who is a youth minister with another parish.  She asked me how my NCYC went and what I had learned.  I replied that I had a great time but that I hadn't really learned anything.  I never had a great "ah-HA!" moment in any of my sessions.  

She then put me on the spot.  She said, "God gave you something to learn .... What was it?? I expect an answer by 5pm today!"  So I told her I would think about it on my flight. 

So what did I learn?   After some thought and prayer, I realized that I may not have learned anything, I was reminded that saints come in all different shapes and sizes.  You don't have to be straight laced and stuffy and all holier than thou.  I've realized that even someone as odd and peculiar as I am are to be saints.     

I met a ton of great people this weekend.  Many were from The Catholic Channel on Sirius/XM satellite radio.  I met Mark Hart (who I really look up to), Fr Dave and Brett from the Busted Halo Show and Lino Rulli from The Catholic Guy Show (a show I've listened to for years and enjoy a lot.)   They were all great.  Very warm, funny and caring.  And they all have dedicated their lives to serving God. 
Brett Siddell, Fr Dave and I
Lino Rulli and I

But that's not all you get at NCYC.  The whole experience is about letting your hair down, being fun, and goofy, yelling and having fun,  all while experiencing God.  There are teens in goofy hats and bright shirts and right next to them are nuns and brothers, priests, other religious all in their habits, robes and cloaks.  There are even several bishops around. (One of my favorite signs was one challenging you to play Bishop Paprocki at air hockey and win his book)

Then I started thinking about all the other Catholic figures I've met and been fortunate to see them out if the office when they could be more sociable.  They've always been warm, funny and caring. 

Next I started to think about all of the "professional" Catholics God has put in my life.  I've made many friends in Youth Ministry.  People who not only led me into youth ministry and helped it become one of my passions but who have helped me greatly spiritually.  And some who, ironically, I probably wouldn't have hung out with outside of a church setting.  

What do they all have in common--- they are nice normal people who aren't afraid of allowing their selves to be out there.   They can be goofy, and fun.  They aren't all Ned Flanderesk or pious and self righteous.  They are flawed individuals who have dedicated their lives to pleasing God. 

And that's me.  I'm goofy.   I'm a dork.  But I'm not afraid to put myself out there and I want to be pleasing to God and help teens realize that God loves them.  

So what did I learn at NCYC????  Well, I've known for awhile that we are called to holiness and sainthood.  But after meeting and experiencing all of these great, holy people---I realized that God EXPECTS me to be a saint.   Despite all of my flaws and dirt, He keeps putting these people in my life to steer me towards Him.  

My hope is that I make Him happy and help others realize the same thing. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Altar rails

Several months ago, my priest Fr. Vince Rogers had altar rails installed in our church and I love them.   I actually would have been surprised if I hadn't liked them.  He has had kneelers at the front of the church for years so that people would be more comfortable kneeling to accept the Eucharist so I had been kneeling for awhile---even when I was at other churches.

The reason I like kneeling at communion is because I believe it is more reverent.   I believe that our interior mind is a reflection of our posture. So I think there is a huge difference in reverence between standing and accepting in the hand kneeling and accepting on the tongue.  In the first you walk up to the priest, stick out your hands, take the Blessed Sacrament and put it in your mouth on your way back to the seat  (I realize you aren't supposed to be moving as you place It in your mouth but that is what you see people doing).  As opposed to kneeling down and receiving the Eucharist.   I just believe there is a lot more reverence in kneeling than standing.   This is God, who not only humbled Himself and allowed Himself to be sacrificed on the cross but to allow us to receive Him under the appearance of bread.   The God of the Universe.  My creator.  You're darn tootin I'm going to be kneeling.

The altar rails not only allow you to kneel but they encourage people to kneel.  They let people know that it is okay to take the Eucharist on the tongue---even encourages it.  They set the tone for a posture of reverence.  They help you realize that something special is going on here.

A couple other advantages of the altar rails are that they allow communion to move more quickly and efficiently.  Father is not standing there waiting for the next person to step up.  He is able to move up and down the line in a more efficient manner.

I also like the fact that it give me a few seconds kneeling there for extra preparation that I'm about to receive the Eucharist as opposed to just moving in line and then trying to get out of the way.  An added plus is that I get to receive communion with my wife, Abby, right next to me.

I've heard arguments that altar rails "separate the people from the sanctuary!"  I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing.   It should separate that way it is seen as something different than the rest of the church.  That way people see it as a sacred, holy place and not just a stage.    

Have you had experiences with altar rails?  What do you think??

Monday, August 5, 2013

What's in a Name?

I am horrible with names.   I tell everyone that I'm so bad with names that I have a job with my name tag on my shirt so I can look down and remind myself what my own name is.

I suppose the first time I realized this was while helping out with Senior High Youth Group.  The youth minister would talk about a particular teen and call them by name and I would not have a clue who she was talking about--so she would have to describe them to me.

She tried to help me and one year she took pictures of all the teens who were in confirmation and wrote their name, their school and their grade on the back and I was able to use them like flash cards in order to learn everyone's name.   And I nailed it.  I knew who everyone one was.   That is, until the next class and wouldn't you know it---they all changed clothes or hairstyles and I was lost once again.

I got so bad that in 2009 at a conference and just called all of the teens, "Timmy" with an adjective in front.  There was Tall Timmy and Short Timmy and Smiley Timmy, just to name a few.  And I of course was, "Mr. Timmy."

It's not just at youth group though.   It's everywhere.   At work, I've forgotten the names of the people who work for me and had to resort to looking at their names tabs and to make it worse---I have three officers who work for me that have the same name!   At home, I've been known to go through a litany of names in order to get my own kids names right.  It's not uncommon from me to called my oldest daughter by youngest daughter's name or even call one of my dogs by the kid's names.  Heck, sometimes I have to ask them what their name is and threaten them not to lie to me because I live there and I'll find out who they are  (credit to Bill Cosby for that one).

I get frustrated.  It's like there is a glitch in my brain----a short circuit.  A month ago I was at a conference and on the last day I started calling one of the ladies I was there with by the name of a mutual friend---who was not even at the conference!!

What makes it particularly frustrating is that I understand the importance of a name.   It's a person's identity. It is who they are.  In the Bible, when God changed people's mission in life He would change their name.  Abram to Abraham, Saul to Paul or Simon to Peter.  I understand the importance of a name.   I've used people's names in order to calm them down.   I've been on calls where someone is upset and I'll ask them their first name so that I can talk to them in a calm, rational discussion and it's amazing how well it works.  Because, by calling a person by their first name shows a little familiarity so it helps the person realize that you are trying to understand why they are upset and are showing them some respect.

So, I understand the importance of a name.  I understand the respect that it shows.   And it drives me up the wall that I'm so bad with it.   What bothers me more---I can remember numbers---just not names.  Go figure.    So, if I ever stumble over your name or out of the blue just call you "Timmy" please understand, I'm not being disrespectful.  That part of my brain just doesn't work.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Totus Tuus

My ten-year old daughter, Molly, finished up a week of "Totus Tuus" at St. Andrew's on Friday.  Totus Tuus, besides being Pope John Paul II's motto "Totally Yours," is a week long program in parishes lead by college students and seminarians geared towards elementary and middle school students.  I think a lot of people would compare it to a Vacation Bible School type of thing---but Catholic.  

I might be speaking out of turn.  I don't have much experience with Vacation Bible School but what I've seen is that it is basically the same program as the Methodist or the Christian Church down the street---same characters, same songs, same skits etc, etc, etc.  And I'm not taking anything away from the volunteers that help put on the VBS programs.  I know they work very hard and do it out of love for the kids.  My question is for those who do the programming.  Why do we have to rip something off from the Protestants when we have such a deep and rich faith that really goes unexplored at a typical VBS program.

My daughter came home every day talking about the different saint they learned about or a different sacrament.  She went to to mass everyday and even went to adoration.   My daughter, who is only ten years old, was looking up Padre Pio on the internet so that she could learn more about him.  I didn't see her bringing home a bunch of crafts or practicing songs (although they did do some crafts and did sing songs).   We didn't have to wash her t-shirt every night so that she would be color coded for her age group.  It didn't feel like a big production.  It was catechesis. It was evangelization.  It was fun.  

I think our children have been underestimated and have been spoon fed this vanilla "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know, For the Bible Tells me So" education for too long.  And that is fine for pre-schoolers but really down plays what our elementary and middle school kids are capable of.  My daugher, who loves to escape into books and enjoys Harry Potter and Doctor Who and all types of fantasy came home every day talking about her faith.   Our kids should be challenged and not dumbed down.

I believe more programs should be like Totus Tuus and centered around the Eucharist and the sacraments and Mary and the saints instead of focusing on some cartoon characters and sing-along songs.  Unfortunately, I don't see things going in that direction.  I see them going in the wrong direction where middle school programs are blended together with the elementary programs and the elementary programs are dumbed down even more.  And that's just wrong.  Because you'll never bring middle schoolers to their faith by treating them like children.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Father's Love

Over the past month or so I've heard a couple people talk at different venues about how God describes Himself as "Father" and how sad it is that in today's world so many kids don't understand that example because they don't have good examples of fathers for themselves. Their own fathers are bad examples because either their fathers were just sperm donors and they never knew him or because they were abusive or just absent--even if they were physically present. 

I am one if those kids who fit in that profile. My parents were never married and my mom left my father when I was an infant.  And he never made any effort to keep in contact.  I looked him up when I was 21 and we met.   I don't know what I was expecting.  But things didn't work out and I didn't keep in contact with him.  

So as I started getting into my faith, I did have difficulty understanding what what "a father's love" meant because I didn't think that I had ever really experienced it.  But upon meditating upon it I realized I had.  

First of all, my biological father may not have been there for me but there were several men in my life who were father-figures to me.  Primarily my grandfather who I lived with while growing up.  But I also had six uncles who all provided examples of fatherhood to me and even though I was just a nephew they loved me and took care of their baby sister's little boy.  Finally my babysitters husband, Kenny Harris, was another man who was like a father to me.  So, I may not have grown up with a biological father but I was better off--I had eight men in my life who showed me what it meant to be a man and to be a father. 

Secondly, by the time I really started getting into my faith, I was a father myself.   In fact, the reason I came back to the Catholic faith was for my children---- because I wanted them to know God's love.  So, I knew what a father's love was because it was what I felt for my own children.  

Finally, I knew what it was because I had felt God's love for me.

The are some who don't believe we should use the analogy of a "Father's love" because of the fact that so many people don't have father's of their own.   They have even tried to turn God into a woman and into a more motherly role.  

I think this is a mistake----not to take anything away from mothers.   But if God describes Himself as a Father---calling Himself "Abba" or daddy---then who are we to challenge that.   It is wrong to change scripture to fit our agenda. 

And in the end---maybe it is for the men in the world to mold ourselves into that example of Fatherhood that God has set for us instead of changing what He said.   We should show a Father's Love to our children....tender, stern, loving, forgiving, merciful, and fun.   All of the deadbeat dads in the world need to look at God as and example of what they need to be or transform themselves into that roll. 

Friday, July 19, 2013


Recently, Rolling Stone magazine has taken a lot of flack because of their putting Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, on the cover.   People complain that it makes him appear as a celebrity.  I've found it very interesting, though, as to what makes a person a celebrity.   What may be a celebrity to one person is unknown to another (I don't recognize most of the celebrities in the celebrity magazines).  I think the important thing to remember is that these "celebrities" are just people going through trials, just like you and I, and deserving of love, just like you and I.

I'm fortunate that I've been able to work off-duty several years in the dugouts or bullpens at Kauffman Stadium so I've had more than my fair share of brushes with celebrities.  I'll admit, I appreciate my situation, knowing few people get to be there. It is pretty cool thinking, "I'm standing next to a future Hall of Famer before he goes up to bat."  That being said, you also get to see the players as people--celebrating their successes, angry at their failures, being kind, being not so kind.  And ironically, going unrecognized in the parking lot. 

The same is true in the Catholic world.  There are all types of "Catholic celebrities."  These celebrities are famous for different reasons, some are people in power such as Timothy Cardinal Dolan or Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia.  Some people are bloggers such as Father Z or Deacon Kandra.  Scott Hahn and Tim Staples are famous speakers.  Lino Rulli is a radio host on Sirius/XM's The Catholic Channel.  And in there youth ministry world there is Mark Hart, Jesse Manibusan, Father Tony and many many others. 

These people are held up as celebrities, yet they are unknown outside of their own circle.  I know that if I mentioned their names at work, people would not know who they are.  But I make time to read their books or blogs.  I'm interested in what they have to say and will make efforts to see them do presentations.  I even consider a couple of them as roll models. 

Here is the thing---I may see them as "celebrities" but I also see them as people---worthy of my admiration. But because I see them also as fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, I don't get bent out of shape if they make mistakes.  On the other hand, I don't "freak out" over them either.  Oh sure, with my friends, I'll act all fanboy sometimes but they understand that's just me being goofy.  And sure, I would love to sit with many of them and over a beer discuss theology, youth ministry or even baseball---but that's just because I do have admiration for them just like I admire certain co-workers, my parish priest or family members.  

Celebrity is good--- as long as they are celebrity for the right reason--that they are people to look up to for the right reasons.  But it takes a lot for me to get too excited---after all, my favorite "celebrities" are my wife and my best friends.  Because they like me back!!  And not to name drop---but I had a nice conversation with God this morning---I have His number in my cell---so top that!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I think it would be safe to say that I am one who is easily distracted.  I'm one of those people who you complain about that goes out to eat with the family and is constantly looking their phone.  I might be looking at Facebook, Googling something that came up in conversation or looking at a sports score.   People have teased me because I'll be having a conversation with them while watching a movie and playing a game on my phone.  Heck, back in the day before smartphones and I had Motorola Razor and I could feel the buttons---I could be looking at you and be conversing with you and have my phone down at my side and texting someone else.

So, prayer is very difficult for me.   It's difficult for me to sit in a quiet place and talk to God when I'm not sure He is listening.   And that whole "be quiet and listen" thing?  Not a chance.  I wish I could be some great mystic who has this great relationship with God and talks to Him and know what He wants or what He is thinking.   I fully realize that you have to work at prayer in order to have a good prayer life.  Just like everything in life---if you want something, you have to work for it.

That's easy to say but it is more difficult to put into practice especially when you cannot sit still for a moment.What are these distractions really though??  Distractions are things keeping us from God.   They may be distractions in prayer keeping me from talking with God.   They can also be things of this world that we seek in placement of God.  

I heard someone say, and I don't remember who, that everything we long for in life are actually substitutions for God.  It is truly Him that we are after but in His place we long for that new car or that vacation or some other thing instead.   This person said that when we long for something in this world that we should refocus ourselves onto God instead.

I find it difficult to even lay down and go to sleep most of the time.  How I wish I could go to sleep as fast as my wife---it seems that as soon as she closes her eyes she is a asleep.  I toss and turn, thinking about different things.  I even have different "daydreams" that I think about when I'm trying to put myself to sleep.  I have different scenarios that help remove me from reality in order to shut my brain down.

So, I've been trying this.  When I'm bored and can't focus I'll stop what I'm doing and try to refocus on God.   It's only been the past few days that I've been trying it so I can't report to you and tell you how it's working so far and I can say that I've only used it when I've caught myself daydreaming.    I'll have some scenario running through my head where I'm saving the world or something and I'll refocus myself and either think about God or enter a prayerful moment.

I get frustrated because I know I want God's love.  I get frustrated because I want to be pleasing to God.  And now I get frustrated because I recognize that these distractions are my substitutions for God because I've experienced replacing those distractions with prayerful times with God and realize that they do make me happier. But yet...... Those distractions still come up. I still fail to always put God number one in my life.  I still choose sin.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Understanding God's Love

I was having a crisis of faith last week.   I was meditating on the fact that God loves me.  That much I cannot doubt.  I know it from a theological angle--from everything thing I have been taught.  God loves everyone.  God IS love.  God gave His love for the world.  I also know it because I recognized how God has shown me His love.   Through my wife's tender touch on my shoulder and kind words when I'm sad.  By my children's joy when they see me.  And by having friends who know the right time to be there when I need them, or know the right thing to say.   These are all examples of graces that God has given me that to deny God's love for me would just be ignorant.

My question that I had going through my head is WHY does God love me.  Again, I can give myself the correct theological answer.  God loves everyone.  We are made in His image and likeness.  God is love and cannot help but to love us.  It is His nature.   I understand those as best as I can---I think.  Let's face it, it is mind boggling to think that God loves everyone and wants a personal relationship with everyone---even the crazy cat lady.

But, I was having difficulty wrapping my head around--why does God love ME??  I was having problems getting this idea from my head to my heart.  You see, I can understand why my wife or my kids or my mom loves me.  I can even understand why my friends love me.   But, I know everything that goes on in my little head.  I know my sinful past. I recognize my faults that I have now.  I don't trust myself not to sin again if and when the temptation strikes me again.  I see all those faults in my and it bothers me and I'll be honest--I have problems liking myself much less understanding why God, who knows all and see all, would also love me.

Strange thing starts to happen.  Mark Hart posted on his Facebook. "Facing a challenging situation?  You should feel affirmed - God obviously thinks more of you than you do."    Ahhhhhhh, exactly what I needed to hear on that day---almost as if Mark Hart is stalking me.

And then, I was discussing my thoughts with a friend and she used my dog Amelia as an analogy.  At my house, we have a pack---four dogs.  On Valentine's day, Amelia got into a scuffle with one of our other dogs, Sarge, and we had to take her to the vet because she got cut up and was bleeding.   By the time we had gotten her to the emergency vet she had bled all over my car.  It looked like a crime scene.

My friend said this, "Of course there is disappointment when we chose to sin, but He is still there loving us just like you still love Amelia when she sheds blood all over your car from yet another fight."

It clicked right there for me.  Yeah, I still love Amelia when she is bad.  I'll still love her when she jumps up on my dresser or tears something up or eats my food.  She's just a dog and it's her nature.  And that behavior is to be expected until she is trained well enough not to do that.    "DING"---An Ah-Ha moment.  In my pride, I try to put myself on God's level or bring Him down to mine in order to understand Him.  But, I'm not on God's level.   It's the same difference between God and me and me and Amelia.  God understand who I am better than me and understands my sinful nature and loves me enough to stick with me until I'm "trained" well enough not to behave sinfully.  Obviously, "trained" is not the appropriate word---it's actually a conversion of heart.

Amelia was a rescue--this was her shelter picture.
So, it's really silly and pointless to sit around and worrying about WHY God loves me or WHY God forgives me.   I'm not going to figure it out so shut up, sit back, accept God's grace and let that grace transform me into the man I want to be.

Interestingly enough, over the next several days, I've seen several things on Facebook that seem to be the Holy Spirit talking to me and reminding me that God is trying to show me how much He loves me. Another one happened just today when I say a picture posted on the Facebook page, "UCatholic."   It is a quote from St. Augustine that says "There is no Saint without a past, no sinner without a future."  

God loves me.  I don't know why---but He does.

Amazing Priests

As a married man and a father of three, I believe that I have a huge responsibility in care for the spiritual needs of my wife and my kids.   I believe that was a responsibility I took on when I got married.    Our roles in life as married people are to assist each other in getting to Heaven.   I also took on that responsibility when I had my kids baptized into the Catholic Church.  I made a promise to God to raise my children in the Catholic faith.    Sometimes this seems like a daunting task.   Heck, sometimes it seems like a gargantuan chore just to take care of my own spiritual needs much less those of four other people.  As great of a responsibility that I face, I sometimes wonder would it would be like to be a priest with a parish of hundreds of people.

I realize that a priest isn't ultimately responsible for every soul that is in his parish.  We, as individuals with free will, are responsible for ourselves.   But, a priest has a lot of responsibility too as he oversees his flock to do everything that he can to guide them towards a healthy relationship with God.  For these men to take on this responsibility is why I believe our priests are amazing.

First of all, they take on vows and make promises to God that I do not think a lot of us would be willing to make.   I mean, that whole "chastity" thing---that's when I realized the priesthood wasn't for me.  I liked girls too much.  It was a sacrifice that I was not willing to make.   But I'm thankful for all those men who do feel that call and are willing to make those sacrifices.  And for them, they not necessarily be sacrifices.   For them, the calling may be a greater gift than what they are giving up.

Secondly, as I mentioned above, I would think that as a priest you would feel and incredible responsibility for those who come to your church.   I would think that you would feel that you are the ultimate role model.  I would feel a certain responsibility towards ensuring that I do whatever I can do to get every soul that I encountered to Heaven.   I'm not dumb.  I realize that while priests may be the vessels that we receive the sacraments we have free will and are ultimately responsible for ourselves.   Also, a side bar; I do realize that all of us, ordained or laity, have a certain responsibility towards ensuring we do to get every soul that we encounter to Heaven.   We are all called to discipleship and there have been more than one instance where I've gone into confession and said, "for leading others into sin."

Finally, the reason that I think priests are amazing is because they are just like you and me.   Too often, we paint the picture of priests as these stodgy old men who are against having fun.   I'll tell you something, most of the priests I know are fun, fun people.  They are happy and joyous and are a cross section of humanity.   Some could be police officers, fire fighters, accountants or computer programmers, or even actors or musicians.  They are athletes and nerds.  I know some that I'd take to a baseball game and some that I'd take out shooting (because you never know when the next zombie apocalypse is going to begin)

Yes, being a cross section of humanity there are bad priests.  I think the abuse scandals that haunt the church are the easy reminder of that.  And there are some stodgy priests.  Some who have no personnel skills and some who, well, should be hermets in a cave praying to God with a little contact with people as possible.

But, overall, I think priests are amazing.  I admire them and I'm thankful for them.  I go out drinking with a lot of them.   If you are a priest.  Thank you.   If you are seminarian.  Thank-you.   If you've ever wondered if you are right for the priest hood---I encourage you to invest some time and looking into it.  God may be calling.  

Friday, July 5, 2013

Notre Dame's Catholic Identity

A week ago Sunday was the first time that I had stepped foot onto the campus of Notre Dame.   A friend had been going every summer for several years and had become a huge fan of it.  I had grown up a Notre Dame fan if for no other reason than "they are Irish and they are Catholic."  In reality, as a kid from a small town in northwest Missouri,  I was very ignorant of the campus in northwest Indiana.

As I grew older, I became more neutral towards Notre Dame than anything.  I think I had a couple of Notre Dame sweatshirts from the early 90's (I don't really throw clothes away) and I might have cheered for them if I happened to see them on television.  That changed in 2009 when Notre Dame featured President Obama as their commencement speaker and gave him an honorary degree.   As a Catholic, I felt it sickening that they would do this considering how pro-abortion President Obama showed himself to be then and has proven to be.  The president doesn't try to downplay this, even saying recently, "God bless Planned Parenthood."

At that point, I became anti-Notre Dame.  There was no way I could support them.  It was then that I signed up and got on Project Sycamore's email list.  Project Sycamore is an organization made up of Notre Dame alum and supporters that is concerned about the secularization of Notre Dame and want to help maintain her Catholic identity.  

Every few months since then, I've gotten bulk emails from their president, William Dempsey, telling me about different events or situations at Notre Dame that would be considered scandalous or goes against Catholic teaching.  I'll be honest, I usually only glanced at the headlines and rarely read them in detail as they were just another thing filling my email.  For all I know, the email may also talk about the great Catholic events that were occurring on campus.

After several years of getting these emails, my mind was made up.  I believed that Notre Dame was Catholic in name only and should be stripped of the title of being a Catholic University.  There was certainly no way I was going  to spend my money or waste my time going there.   I'm not sure what made me change my mind and persuaded me to go----------correction, I didn't know what changed my mind and persuaded me to go but I do now.

I got to Notre Dame on Sunday night, just in time to make it to the 9pm mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and left five days later right after the ND Vision mass at DiBartollo Hall.  In those few days, my opinion of Notre Dame has forever changed.  There is no doubt in my mind that Notre Dame maintains a strong Catholic identity.  There is no doubt in my mind that God changed my mind about going and persuaded me to go because I encountered God on that campus like I have never encountered Him before.  For a few example as to how I encountered Him there check out my post on my "Favorite Things about ND Vision-CYM."

That being said, I will acknowledge the fact that I was basically on a week long retreat and surrounded by other people on the same retreat.   I am totally ignorant of what the atmosphere may be like during the school year and in the classrooms.  I will also point out that the Sycamore Trust would acknowledge the fact there is still a Catholic Identity.  In fact, it states that it's mission is, "....preserving the Catholic identity of the University."

So, I've gone from quasi-fan, to anti-Fighting Irish to thinking that the campus of Notre Dame is my favorite place on Earth.   I would be frustrated that it took me so long to discover this but I trust that I discovered it when I was supposed to.  I'm also glad that there is an organization, like Project Sycamore, that is protecting my favorite place on Earth and helping her keep her Catholic identity.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

What I Learned at ND Vision

Last week, I spent the week at the CYM portion of the ND Vision conference at Notre Dame.  It was a conference that put me in spritual turmoil where I felt like God was a baker and I was the pile of dough that he was kneeding.   I was told that "grace meets us where we are but she doesn't leave you there."   That certainly was true for me this week.

So, what did I take from ND Vision??  For me, the atmosphere for the whole week was set by Terry Nelson-Johnson, who just cracked the shell surrounding me and broke down any barriers that I may have had and made me totally vulnerable.  God used him to break me down and used the speakers throughout the rest of the week so that come Friday morning, although I have a long spiritual road ahead of me, I was at least able ready to face the world again without shedding tears everytime someone said, "Jesus loves you."

I have to give credit to Msgr. Michael Heintz for the two lines that my whole week seemed to revolve around.  The first one was, "you can't give what you don't have" and the second was that being a Christian is more than just doctrine or morality---although they are both very important.  But being a Christian is about transformation.

There was no "ah-ha" moment for me at this conference.  The whole conference was spent in a lot of prayer trying to figure things out in my spirtual life.   It wasn't until a several days after everything was over and I am back at home that I can formulate a concrete response for what I took from the conference.  The truth of the matter is, I'm still working through a lot of what I took away from there and will probably be working on it for years to come.  But, if you were to ask me for that concrete response of what I learned it would be this.  In order for me to be a disciple of Jesus, I have to love.   I cannot minister to youth and expect them to want to transform their lives unless they see someone who themselves has been transformed and loves God.  They have to see someone who knows they, themselves, are loved by God and passes that love onto them.  I can know my faith forwards and backwards and I can know a ton of ice-breakers or games and show up to lock-ins and pizza parties but unless I show them the love that God has for them then it's all going to be for nothing.

This may seem like a simple premis but because of the spiritual battles I was facing all week I was having a heck of a hard time letting it sink it.   It's been a long week of allowing ideas in my head make their way to my heart and allowing the scales to fall from my eyes.    I can't wait to see what next year holds for me . . .

Monday, July 1, 2013

Favorite Things About ND Vision CYM

Last week, I spent a week at Notre Dame in South Bend at a conference called "ND Vision-CYM."   When I had signed up, I was basically planning on being a chaperone for high school teens like I have been for a wide variety of different events in the past.

I was wrong though.  While ND Vision is a program for teens, the CYM portion is geared just for the adults.   The teens are taken care of by "mentors"--college students who help guide them and expand their faith and the adults have minimal contact with the youths.

As soon as I realized this, I was excited.  With no kids to be responsible, I could have a nice relaxing week to myself.  Was I ever wrong.  At Vision, God pushed me and pulled me and turned me inside out.  He really put me through the gauntlet.  And I loved every moment of it.   So, like I did after returning from NCYC, I've made a list of my favorite things about ND Vision-CYM.  You may think some things are missing from my list, such as the grotto or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  They aren't missing.  Those items would be part of my "Favorite things about Notre Dame" but this is solely covering my experiences for this week.

1. Closing mass-- As I said, this week was very trying for me.  There were a lot of tears shed.  I felt the presence of God like I had never felt Him before.  What was lacking, was joy and it concerned me.  I was having a good time but that joy, that I've always been proud to show off was missing.  Until the closing mass.  There, something happened that made me smile and giggle a little bit.  And then, I could not help but to smile.  God was there with me again and I was smiling ear to ear.  I actually got the attention of the person next to me to show off my smile.

2. The Presence of God.   God was with me all week.   But one incident, though subtle, struck me as miraculous.   Wednesday afternoon, I had decided to spend some time in prayer and to walk around one of the lakes on campus----the Lake of St. Mary.  Along the back side of the lake was a bench and I sent down for a few minutes of alone time with God.   There is nothing around me a view of the campus and woods.  All of a sudden, I smelled the fragrance of flowers.  It wasn't strong but it wasn't subtle. I looked to my left and I looked to my right.   I felt it was a sign that God was with me.   I've since been made aware that the scent of flowers is a sign of the presence of the Virgin Mary.  It was the Lake of St. Mary.  Perhaps this was it.  I'm not saying who was there.  I'm just describing what I experienced.  

3. Returning Home At the opening theological primer, Dr. Timothy O'Malley quoted St. Augustine when he said, "My heart is restless, O Lord, until it rests in you."  When I returned home at about 1:30 on Saturday morning, I saw my wife Abby as a sacramental---a physical sign of God's grace and love and a symbol of this quote.   It was more than just being home.  It was more than being with my spouse.  I was calm.   I was relaxed.  As Abby placed her hand on my forearm, I felt God's calming presence.

4Reconciliation Tuesday evening was reconciliation and I went for the first time in three months.  Confession is so freeing.  It will probably make any list of my favorite things.  This was even freeing in the penance given.  It wasn't difficult but it was challenging.  It pushed me and made me think.  

5. Solitude  Prior to the reconciliation service on Tuesday night, I spent some time alone.  I went down to the Lake of St. Joseph where the have a Stations of the Cross set up.  I did that and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that at station 12---the crucifixion--there is a life sized statue of the crucifixion along with statutes of the Virgin Mary and, I assume, Mary Magdaline, along with a kneeler so you can pray at the foot of the cross.  Afterwords, I continued to walk around the lake.  I then went towards the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  As I walked under the Golden Dome I realized I was alone.  Literally, there was not another human in sight--up and down the normally busy quad.  I realized that I was alone during most of the time while I was walking the lake.  I then went inside the basilica and there were only a couple of people in the large church. I felt as if I were alone with Jesus.  I enjoyed the quietness, with no distractions.  I enjoyed the solitude, although I know I wasn't alone.

And---as an extra bonus . . .

6. Adoration -- just like reconciliation, will make any of my "favorites" list.  This was in a beautiful chapel in one of the dorms.  I walked in with my friend, separated and went over by a window, set my stuff down and sat there in quiet prayer.  The priest then came in, took the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle and placed it in the monstrance.   I placed my arms across the back of the chair in front of me and placed my forehead on my arms and a wave of emotions came over me and tears started streaming down my face.  What a feeling to be in the physical presence of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A New Parish

Last Wednesday, my family and I did something that was very difficult, while at the same time the decision to do so came very easily.  After fourteen years, we changed parishes.  It was sad because of the things that we were leaving behind but it was easy for a couple of reasons.  We have so much to gain by changing and so much to lose if we did not.

Leaving after fourteen years in one place leaves me with a lot of sadness.   We leave behind a lot of memories and a lot of friends.

It was at my old parish that I was confirmed as an adult on Pentecost by the parish priest.    My wife, Abby, and I had been married outside of the church so during this same time period of "reversion" we had our marriage blessed there.   Abby had been raised in the Methodist tradition but she went through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and was welcomed into the Catholic church there at Easter Vigil in 2000.

My children, the biggest reason for my "reversion," received their sacraments there.  They were baptized and received their first communion.  My oldest was confirmed by Bishop Finn there.

I've spent hundreds of hours ministering and catechizing teens there.   I spent so much time in that church teaching kids about their faith.  I spent the night there several times for lock-ins.  I remember gathering there before going on retreats, canoe trips or mission trips.   My family and I had many laughs in the parish hall during different dinners, donuts after mass or trivia contests.

We will miss the friends we leave behind.  There are so many good parishioners there.  They are good, holy people that we love very dearly.

We will be losing a lot by leaving but we have so much to gain.

I love going to mass at my new parish.  It is so very reverent.   There is an attitude there that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.   I do not get the feeling that the mass is a show or a production like I did at my former parish.   I trust that, liturgically, everything will be done according to the norms and regulations set forth by the Church and not according to what the priest or liturgist thinks.

We feel welcome at our new parish.   Sadly, due to conflicts I had with our former parish priest and members of the parish staff, I did not feel that my family or I were welcome at our old parish.   I did not feel comfortable with the looks and attitudes I received by certain people there.  I want to reiterate---the parishioners there were wonderful and the parishioners made me feel very loved.

Finally, I feel that my new parish is faithful to all of the teachings of the Catholic Church.  I feel that my family and I will be spiritually fed, spiritually challenged and spiritually defended.  I did not feel this way at my former parish and as the spiritual head of my household, I have a responsibility to ensure that they are not left spiritually hungry or vulnerable.

It really saddens me to leave.   We are leaving so much behind.  But it's what we feel we have to do.    I am excited about the change.  I can't tell you how much I love my new parish, priests and fellow parishioners (including my sister).

Friday, April 12, 2013

Prayer Works

My son, Max, has been suffering from horrible migraines since about last November.  At first we thought he was simply ill with some bug.  First it was strep and then mono.  He was given antibiotics and given time to recover.    After about a month, we went to Urgent Care and they diagnosed him with migraines and stated the nausea was due to the headaches and referred us to Infectious Disease (because of enlarged lymph nodes) and neurology.  After about another month with no improvement we were sent to the Ear Nose and Throat specialist who had an MRI done.  The MRI revealed a large tumor right under his left jaw and we were referred to other doctors and the decision to take the tumor out was made.
Max's tumor

I don't think I really expressed to people how scared I was.  I was scared as heck.  The tumor was intertwined with a bunch of nerves right near his carotid artery.  We had to have the surgery scheduled at the University of Kansas Medical Center instead of Children's Mercy Hospital so that a vascular surgeon could be on stand-by.  I had the worst case scenario's constantly in my head.  The only reason I was not in the fetal position and crying was because of the facade I put on for Max and Abby so that they would not be afraid.

So, I did the only thing I could do.  I asked people for prayers.  I asked priest friends for prayers.  I let the parish know.  I posted updates on Facebook which seemed to bring in comforting prayers.   The St. Brigid Needlework Group at Holy Family even made Max a prayer shawl.  I expect there were hundred's of people praying for Max.  People who have never met Max and probably never will.  

Finally, the day of the surgery came.  I was a nervous wreck wondering what the day would bring.   We got Max checked in and went to the surgical section of the hospital.  Max changed out of his clothes and into a hospital gown.  We met with nurses and doctors---who were all very wonderful people.   The anesthesiologist was wearing a cross necklace---which as silly as it sounds---was comforting.  We were told that the surgery was scheduled for four hours but that it could be five or six hours before he was actually out.   They started giving Max an IV and I was hoping they had a sedative for me.

We were taken out to the waiting room and given numbers.  One number was so that we could keep track on a monitor where Max was---pre-op, in surgery, post op.  Another number was on a sticker so that nurses could come out and give us updates.  We were told that Max's doctor would probably come out every couple hours to updates us also.  So we sat down for the long haul.  I had food and drink so that I would wouldn't have to leave.  I had my cell phone with charger.  I even brought the big-guns---my lap top.  I could have been there for days only having to leave for the bathroom.
The monitor with which kept us informed

We watched the monitor like a hawk.   Waiting for Max's number--406388--to come around.   Finally, it changed and said "In Operating."  This was going to be a long day.  It was nerve racking.  Occasionally nurses would come out, calling numbers and giving families updates.  I remember one young lady left crying with the nurse grabbing her belongings.  

At about 9:30--a couple of hours into the surgery, Dr. Francis (don't think she is any relation to Pope Francis) came into the room and had us step out into the hallway.   I was expecting her to tell me and update about how the surgery was going.  In fact, they were done.  It only took two hours.  The tumor was connected to a nerve in two places and came out very easily.   The surgery could not have gone any better.

The first thing I could think of was that prayers work.  The second was, "Oh crap, I left my wallet on the table in the waiting room.  I need to go get it!"   AFTER I got my wallet, all I could think about was how many people had been praying for Max and not only had everything got well, not only was my boy okay, but surgery was quick and easy.  It did not take 4-6 hours.  Heck, I had barely started my Three Stooges movie!

Pathology later revealed that the tumor was a neural sheath schwannoma---which is benign and non-cancerous.  Max is recovering well a week later.  It'll be seen if the tumor was the cause of his migraines but I think we have medication that has been keeping them in-line.
Max recovering--prayer shawl at his feet

Prayers work.  I didn't have any doubt that they worked before the surgery.  That wasn't the root of my fear.  My fear was that God's will was different than my own.  I am so thankful for God and for all the people praying for Max.   But now, I believe God has given me more time with my boy to help form him into a saint----which will take more prayers so keep them coming please!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Max Update

This update is several days in the waiting---I've been slacking.

Friday night, after I had gone home to sleep, they moved Max down to pediatric ICU.  The room was much nicer than the one we had up in the burn unit.  It was darker, nicer designed, and fortunately for Abby, it had a fold out couch she could sleep on and a bathroom in the room so she did not have to actually leave the unit.  It was a much nicer stay than I had the night before.

I can't complain because she let me go home to sleep and sleep I did.  I went to bed about 9:30 and woke up 11 hours later.   I scurried and picked up breakfast and ran down to the hospital.

I was there for about an hour and the doctor came in and checked Max out.  He removed his drain and said he was good to go home.  The nurse came in, gave us our discharge paperwork and we went home.

Max was happy to be home.  The main problem he has been facing is that the Tylenol 3 prescription that they gave him was in liquid form and it evidently tastes like poop (Abby won't let me sample any). Because it tastes like poop, Max won't take it.  He would rather suffer for hours on end having a neck that hurts and down a shot of medicine.

Other than that (like constant misery isn't so bad) things have been going well.   He has a doctor's appointment today so we will update after that.

The Grace Card

The other night I was watching a movie called "The Grace Card"--a faith based movie filmed by several churches in the Memphis, TN area.  The movie is intended to show the healing power of forgiveness and God's grace.  The Holy Spirit can use the same vehicle to pass different message onto different people.   For me, I took that I should trust in God.  The only problem was---I was having difficulty trusting in God until Thursday morning.

The movie deals with a Memphis Police officer, Mac McDonald, who's 4 year old son was killed after being struck by a car driven by a fleeing felon.    Mac lives the next 17 years as a very angry man, becoming racist and having problems with his wife and other son.  He is partnered up with Sam Wright, who is also a part time pastor.   The partnership causes Wright to question his ministry.

The part of the movie that spoke to me was Mac's--especially the way he dealt with the death of his son and the way he dealt with his other son.   Mac had totally pushed God out of his life.  Mac had actually pushed everyone out of his life and was about to lose his family and any friends he had.  He had totally lost trust in God and he was put into a position where it was very difficult to turn that around.   It wasn't until he allowed himself to trust God that things started to turn around.

The reason this movie was such a punch in the gut was because Mac was dealing with the loss of his sons---one who died as an infant and the other who he did not have a good relationship with.   At the time that I watched the movie, I had a great fear of losing my own son.   My thirteen year old son, Max, was having surgery in a few days.  I did not let anyone know this but the surgery scared me to death.  It was to remove a tumor from his neck that was near his jugular.  His doctor's did not make it out to be a real risky surgery but that did not matter.  The thought of losing Max on the operating table was a very real thought in my head and it scared the heck out of me.

I believe that the only thing that kept me sane the past several weeks was my trust in God.  Although, I have to admit, at the time it did not feel like I had much trust in Him.  After all, one would think that if they trusted God they would not have fear of loss.

In the end, everything ended well.   Surgery went fantastic and Max is doing well.  And I did not go crazy from the fear that was in my head.