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.