Monday, September 15, 2014

Maybe Next Year

I've been a fan of the Kansas City Royals ever since I was a little kid. Some of my fondest memories growing up involved the Royals. Whether it was traveling to Kansas City with my Uncle Mick to catch a game at then Royals Stadium or listening to Denny Matthews broadcasting a game while sitting next to my grandpa. I can remember when the Royals won the World Series in 1985.

Those fond memories seem like a lifetime ago. That 1985 World Series was the last time my Royals even made the playoffs. Since then, there has been a lot of let downs and a lot of bad teams. The Royals have floundered in the cellar only occasionally finishing the season over .500.

It doesn't matter how bad the team is, I've always supported them. I've flirted with the idea of switching allegiances but who would I cheer for? The St. Louis Cardinals? I'd rather eat a bowl full of razor blades. The Minnesota Twins? Nice team with great fans but too far away. Besides, I feel that I owe loyalty to the team for no other reason than because of my Grandpa and my Uncle Mick.

And every winter I always get drawn back. They would make trades and signings and I would think to myself that “maybe they will be a little better this year.” Of course I would also be disappointed when their best players would leave after a few years for more money and better opportunities.

This year has been different though. The Royals finally seem to have their act together and have been playing meaningful games in September. They've lead the division into September. It's been exciting. Fans have been showing up to the ball park and there is electricity in the air.

But it's been so many years since the Royals have been really good and so many disappointing seasons now that even when they do good I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. You aren't sure of a win until that last out in the ninth inning. You are always waiting for the next losing streak. And even this year, two weeks before the end of the season I find myself waiting to be disappointed.

I wonder sometimes if God feels the same way about us. Does He sit there getting exciting thinking, “Maybe Jamie is finally getting his act together. His prayer life seems to be coming together. He's been attending daily mass regularly.” Only to be disappointed when my sinful nature rears it's ugly head and I act like I act instead of how I want to act. God wants to cheer us on but does He hold His breath waiting for us to screw up? Does God get frustrated thinking, “Well Jamie isn't in the cellar. He has been hovering at .500 for several years. But it's time to take his game to the next level and make the playoffs.”

Somehow I doubt it. I expect God maintains hope in us. I expect He has faith in us that He has given us the grace that we need in order to succeed. He is our biggest cheerleader. The biggest homer. Expecting us to succeed even when we have given up on ourselves.

Perhaps, I should hope in my Royals the way God has hope in us. Perhaps, I should have hope in myself the way God has hope in me and take my game to the next level.   

Monday, July 21, 2014

To Love One Another

At the end of May, I went to my high school class's 25 year reunion.   Like many people, I was not a fan of high school.   It was a very lonely time for me.   I felt like no one cared for me and as if I were invisible.    What I didn't realize at the time is that most high school kids feel the same way---lonely, not cared for and invisible.

I figured that out as I grew older but what I hadn't realized until my high school reunion was really, how closed up in myself I was at that time.    I thought I was a caring person and that everyone else were the jerks.    But, as I talked to classmates who were talking about their memories of high school, I learned how much I did not know.  I didn't know that so and so's parents were going through a divorce or that so and so had gotten pregnant.  I didn't know this or that because I was so worried about why people didn't care about what I had going on in my life.

Twenty five years later, and I've matured a little but I think I'm still too wrapped up in my own worries and concerns and I think God is calling me to love others more.    This was realized a couple of weeks ago when I went to the University of Notre Dame for a program for campus and youth ministers called "ND Vision."  

This was my second year at ND Vision and I was intrigued as to what God had in store for me.  Last year, He really put me through the wringer and made me feel His love like no other time in my life--no matter how much I tried to resist.   God loves me despite all my faults and despite all my wrongs.   He loves me because it is what He does.

Now, I believe I am called to love others.   I'm sure you are thinking, "yeah, no kidding.  We are supposed to love others."  I've always understood that but I don't think I've done a great job at it.   I think I've done a good job at tolerating others.  I've done a good job at liking others.  I've done a good job at not hating others.   But I have not done a good job at loving others.  Loving others that way that God wants me to love them.  And not just family and friends but I'm called to love the stranger and the person I'm not familiar with.

It was made obvious to me in the different sessions.  It was made obvious at confession when I laid all my sins out in front of God and was told that if I worked at my vices of not loving others then the others sins would take care of themselves.   It was made obvious in my solitude.  I went to Notre Dame alone and was made to open up with the other youth ministers who were strangers to me and through the week became my friends.

I wish I came home from Notre Dame a changed person and now loved everyone with a new heart.  The fact of the matter is that it is going to be difficult.   I'm a realist and well, lets face it---some people are jerks---myself included.  Some people make it difficult to love them--myself included.    I also have to be self protective.  I have a line of work where people are trying to harm me so I have to leave up a guard.

Yet, still, I need to see people as children of God.  I need to see them as being made in the image and likeness of God.  I need to see them as people that Jesus died on the cross for just as He did me.    I think it will be a challenge.  But I think doing so will not only be pleasing to God but will make me a saint.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Returning to Galilee

At this years Easter Vigil mass, Pope Francis spoke about how the apostles first met Jesus along the shores of Galilee and how after His resurrection they returned to Galilee and met the risen Christ once again.  Pope Francis pointed out that we all have have a Galilee---that moment where we first met Jesus.  He went on to further state that we must also return ther to, "encounter [Jesus] and let [yourself] be embraced by [his] mercy.  We must return, "to see Jesus risen, and to become a witness of his resurrection.  This is not to go back in time; it is not a type of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the ends of the Earth.

My "Galilee" is the Univeristy of Notre Dame.   Last year I went there for what I thought would be a simple retreat, but I had my world turned upside down.  It was the first time I believe that I truley met Jesus.  Oh, I've had conversions and reversions.  I've had those moments where I've felt the presence of God.  But this was the first time that I TRULY met Jesus and he did quite the piece of work on me.  He cracked open my chest and exposed me to His love and showed me that He loves me not because of who I am but He loves me despite who I am.  He showed me how to love.

This week, I am back at Notre Dame for another week at ND Vision.  I don't have any great expectations.  I'm not expecting any mind blowing, mountain top, transfiguring experiences.  I am just hoping to return to Galilee.  I want to sit on the beach while Jesus barbecues me some fish and enjoy His friendship and love.  I just want to rest in prayer and spend some time with Him.  Oh, I plan on having fun too.  I plan on meeting new people and making new friends.  But, I can't wait to return to Galilee.

So, please remember me in your prayers this week if you could and I'll remember you in mine.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It is an Honor

This last weekend was the North Central Regional Competition for the CrossFit games.  Unfortunately, one of my favorite athletes, Stacie Tovar, did not do well and will not be competing at the Games in Carson, California this year.   In the end, I think that the attitude she displayed when she did not win showed what a true champion she is and she proved herself to be a role model for the rest of us.

Probably the main reason I've always cheered for Stacie is because she is from Omaha, Nebraska which is about an hour an a half from where I grew up in northwest Missouri and I've always been one to support my "local" team.  I'm a Royals fan, a Chiefs fan and a Missouri Tiger fan through thick and thin (and lets face it-with those teams there have been more thin than thick)  So, even though I'm in Kansas City now it made sense to cheer for a top athlete from Omaha.

Another reason I root for her is because I remember seeing her in a CrossFit video from probably 7-8 years ago and she was tiny.  She looked like the average female CrossFitter and nothing like the studette she looks like today.  I realized when I watched that video of her working on her push press how many hours and hours she has put into the gym and into her nutrition to get to the level where she is competitive with the world's fittest.

This weekend's performance solidified me as a fan though.  Friday was rough for her and she ended the day in 11th place.   Saturday was a little better but she was way back in 9th place at the end of the day.  She was in tears on the Update show knowing full well that the odds were slim for her making it back to Carson for the sixth year in a row.  I remember thinking, "how does one even come back and compete on Sunday after two days like that?"  It just had to be crushing to know that she would not only not be competing for first place but she would not end up on the podium at the end of the weekend and would not be competing against her friends come July.  How does on even show up the next day?

Show up she did.  On the first workout of Sunday she crushed it and finished first and actually did better than any female on the day in any regional in that workout.  And she was smiling from ear to ear. Then she did well in the second and final workout.  She ended up in sixth place.  It wasn't good enough to put her in the games but it was a great performance and showed a lot of guts.    Her statement to the interviewer when it was all over spoke volumes about who Stacie Tovar is as a person when she said, "it is an honor to compete."

"It is an honor to compete."  It's a simple statement that showed great humility and one that we should carry with us where ever we are in life.  It's basically saying that we should count our blessings.  It's remembering that everything we have and everything we are is a gift from God so appreciate what has been given to us instead of cursing what we don't have.

When I am at the gym and just sucking air after everyone else has already finished the workout --- it is an honor that I am able to be there, that I am physically able to compete when others cannot, that I'm a few minutes from home instead of being in an austere environment like many soldiers and Marines, remember that I'm surrounded by friends cheering me on.  I'm blessed.

When I'm at work and it's been a bad night seeing the underbelly of humanity--it is an honor that I'm put in the position to help others out in their moment of crisis, that I'm allowed to put this badge on, to lead and give direction to a great group of officers and that I'm kept safe throughout the night.  I'm blessed.

When I am at home and I just want to sleep but the kids are keeping me awake or I have tasks to do--it is an honor to be a father and a husband and have the responsibility to raise three children and an honor to be married to my smoking hot wife who I am madly, passionately in love with.  I'm blessed.

When my spiritual life is turned upside down and I've tripped and fallen.  It's an honor that God has given me the gift of free will and allowed me to grow by allowing me to trip and fall.  It's an honor that God loves me so much that he has afforded me the opportunities, the grace and the mercy to always return back to Him.

So, thank-you Stacie Tovar for not only entertaining me while I watch you compete.  Thank you for showing me what it means to never give up.  Thank you for reminding me how honored I truly am.

Friday, April 25, 2014


The other day I was listening to the radio and they were talking about Pope John Paul II's canonization on this upcoming Sunday along with Pope John XXIII.   One of the things they were discussing was the impact Pope John Paul II had on them.  I grew up with John Paul but I was not really fully involved and formed in my faith until after the Parkinson's had set in and he was in poor health.   Because of this, I cannot say that he had an impact on me growing up, but I think I can say that his teachings have an impact on me now.

In particular, his teaching on the Theology of the Body (TOTB) has had a great impact and my deepest regret is that I had not learned about it twenty years earlier.   The pope taught about the Theology of the Body over a number of years at his Wednesday audiences.   In essence, the Theology of the Body is the study of God through a more profound understanding of the human body and our own sexuality.  

The Theology of the Body helps us understand the church's  teaching on sexuality and explains why she teaches what she does on things such as marriage, contraception and homosexuality.   The Catholic Church's teaching on sexuality, while thought by many to be archaic is anything but. It is beautiful--although sometimes difficult.

It has taught me to not let my life be led by hormones and to allow my soul to have control over my body.

It has taught me to look at women as a people to love and not to look at them as objects to be used.   I realize this may make me sound very sexist but I think it is a safe bet that most men battle lust to some degree and they either succumb to it or they totally shield themselves off and "guard their eyes" when an attractive woman is in the room.  It is still a battle for me and I'm still careful, but I like to think that I can see an attractive woman and appreciate her beauty without seeing her in a sexual way.     To do so would be sinful.

Finally, it has allowed me to have a greater intimacy with my wife.  

It has allowed me to see her as part of me because of our marriage.  We are more than two separate people.   We are made one flesh by the bonds of our marital vows.  When she hurts, I hurt.  When she wants, I want.   I want to do everything I can to make her happy even if I have to make sacrifices myself.

It has helped me see sex as a physical act between two people.  It is an act of intimacy between two people where the husband is giving all of his love to his wife and the wife gives all of her love to the husband and the result of this love is, if God wills it, a child.  Sex between a husband and wife is in reality a reflection of Trinitarian love---the love that flows between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As the three are one so husband and wife are one.  There is nothing more intimate than a husband and wife in the "marital embrace."

What impact has Pope John Paul II had on my life.  A great one.  He has helped me understand my own sexuality and how my sexuality interacts with my wife's.   So, some how, the little old Polish priest over in Rome, who will be made a saint on Sunday, helped my sex life.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Breathing---My Cross to Bear

My family has a history of bad lungs.   I've had uncles who have won the fight against lung cancer and I've had uncles who have lost their fight with lung cancer.   I've seen yet another uncle wither away due to emphysema.  I remember watching my grandfather have to use a breathing machine when I was kid.   So, while their lung problems may have a lot to do with smoking, I've certainly seen relatives with lung problems.

I also have lung problems, although nothing as drastic as lung cancer or emphysema. I do have to deal with exercise induced asthma though.   The only time it really bothers me is when I'm working out.   And if you look at this amazingly sculpted body, it's no secret that I work out.  Occasionally.   When I do work out, I enjoy doing CrossFit---constantly varied, functional movements done at high intensity.   It's great because no matter how good of shape you are in---it's going to kick your butt.   

It does get frustrating for me though because my lungs do not let me go as fast as I want.   Sure, some workouts muscle fatigue hits me too, but nearly every workout my respiratory capacity slows me down and I have to pace myself so I don't "red line."   And, I know I'm not supposed to let my ego get in my way, but it does suck always being one of the last ones to finish.   Fortunately, all of the other people in the gym cheer me on and encourage me.

It sucks not being able to breath.   It sucks feeling like you are suffocating or drowning.   You think to yourself, I could be home on the couch.   A thought came to me one day as I was praying the rosary (I took it up as my Lenten obligation, and did a good job for the first couple of weeks too).   The rosary is a form of prayer where, as you say certain prayers, you meditate of different parts of Jesus' life.   There are different meditations for different days of the week.  So, for instance, this day was Friday so I was praying the Sorrowful Mysteries.  So for a certain set of prayers, I would meditate on the "Agony in the Garden" and then the "Scourging at the Pillar," for another set of prayers, then the "crowning of thorns," followed by the "carrying of the cross" and finally the crucifixion.

As I was praying on the crucifixion, I was contemplating the agony that Jesus as going through as he hung up on the cross.   The  mode of death for people being crucified is actually suffocation.    With the arms outstretched and the person hanging there, the lungs are compressed making it very difficult to breath and the person eventually dies, sometimes hours or even days later, buy suffocating.   In fact, during our Lord's passion, the Romans broke the legs of the two criminals on either side of Jesus. They did this so they could not use their legs (which were nailed into the cross) to lift their bodies for a few moments so they could breath.   By breaking the legs, they could not lift themselves up to breath and their death was hastened. 

I imagined what a horrible way to die that would be.  Then I thought of what a wuss I must be when I feel like I'm gasping for air and breathing heavy just a few minutes into a workout.    I'm doing the workout for my betterment.   I'm doing it so I can be in shape and look good for my wife.    I'm going it for me.      Jesus went through all of that, for me.  He suffocated and He died for me.  Because of my sins.  Because He wants to spend eternity with me because He loves me that much.

It's one thing to contemplate that while siting in a pew at church.   It is quite another to have that thought pop into your head in the middle of a workout.  While you are doing burpees and just slugging it out---throwing yourself down and picking yourself back up, cursing out the trainer who made up this workout and you realize that Jesus went through worse for me.    At that point, all you can do is suck it up and push on and offer up the pain you are going through.

As an aside, my gym posted this great workout for today--Good Friday---The Jesus WOD!!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Discernment Can Be Frustrating

Discernment is the act of making a decision and basing that decision on what we believe God wants.   That's not a definition out of any dictionary or anything---it is straight out of my own head so feel free to criticize it.    Normally when we think of someone discerning something, we imagine a young man or woman trying to determine whether they should go down the road to the religious life as a priest or brother or as a nun for the ladies versus pursuing the married life.    But in reality, we should use the act of discernment in any major life decision we face and even in our daily run of the mill decisions.  After all, if we base our decisions on what God's will it we should end up pretty good.

The problem with discernment is that we cannot ever really be too sure that the decision we come to is ours or God's.    It is not very often that God appears as a burning bush and explicitly tell us what to do.   He gave Moses a couple of tablet with His rules and He told Noah the exact specifications on how to build the ark.   No, for us we pray and hope that God gives us the grace to make the right decision.

I understand the rationale----God does not come right out and say, "Jamie, I want you to do <blank>" because He wants to give us free will to make our own decisions and not be mere robots.    He want us to love Him freely.

But what about when we freely want to do His will.   "Here I am, Lord, I'm here to serve you.  Tell me what you want.   Just stinking tell me what you want already!   Whatever it is, I'll do it."   It can be downright frustrating.

I've been told that when you've come to the right decision you will have a feeling of peace.  I can understand that.   I have no doubt that I am where God wants me in life is because one of the places on Earth that I feel the most safe, secure and happy is when I'm with my wife, Abby.   I'm at peace.

But what about when you make a decision and you are at peace with it and you are happy with the decision and you have no doubt that this is what God wants from you and you have obstacles thrown in your way.  "God, I thought this is what you wanted.   Shouldn't the road ahead of me be paved smoothly?  Shouldn't I have smooth sailing?  Why all of the barrier and obstacles?"

I realize that the Devil is the one throwing obstacles in our way just as he is the one that tempts us and lures us to sin.    I realize that you have to have persistence and patience to follow through on the decision you made through your discernment.   But would it be too difficult to give me a little pat on my back or whisper in my ear so I know I'm on the right path??

Friday, March 21, 2014

Don't Let Hate Win

Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, passed away yesterday at the age of 84.  The Westboro Baptist Church made itself famous by never passing up the opportunity to protest something.   They protested everything from soldier's funerals to concerts to scenes of natural destruction.  And their protests spewed hatred while claiming that they were spreading the word of love.   Unfortunately, even in death, Fred Phelps continues to create hatred--this time towards him and his church.

My Facebook timeline and Twitter feed was abuzz yesterday after Phelps' death.  Most of what I read what the exact same type of hatred that the Westboro Baptist Church delivers.  If there is one thing that Phelps did it was unite people from the left and people from the right in their contempt towards the WBC.   I had people in the military saying, "I hope you rot in hell" and liberal friends who think that everyone should be free to believe what they want saying, "I'll piss on your grave."

Reading all of this truly made me sad because I believe that instead of spreading the word of God they were aiding Satan in spreading hate and Satan loved every minute of it because that hatred was going back to the WBC.  The WBC claims God hates when the opposite is true.   God cannot hate because God IS love and when people hate they are separated from God---just what the Devil wants.  

Everyone has been saying that Fred Phelps is an evil man.  Some even comparing him to Hitler or Stalin.   I'm pretty sure that he did not kill thousands of innocent but I cannot judge how evil he was because I cannot look into his heart and thus I cannot judge the man just like he couldn't just all of those that he claimed God hated.  

I do know this though.   God loved him.   He was created in the image and likeness of God and God desired to have a relationship with him.   I know that Jesus died on the cross for him.  I know that God has called me to love just He loves me.   So, you'll excuse me if I don't hate Fred Phelps and instead, I pray that in the end he found peace with God and is on his way to Heaven instead of Hell.  You see----I won't let hate win in my heart.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How Easy is Sin

I have two little prayers that epitomize where I seem to be spiritually.   The first one is one I learned from Mark Hart and it is, "Lord, I grant you permission to remove anyone--or anything---that keeps me from you."    The second prayer is attributed to St. Augustine and is, "Lord, make me chaste----just not yet."

You see, I want nothing more than to be a saint and to spend eternity in front of the face of God in Heaven, yet the lure of sin is so great that I seem to desire it more than Heaven.  I think there are several reasons for this.  

The first is the deception of what sin is, provided by the Devil.  The Devil convinces us that sin is not that bad, and what people tell me is sin probably isn't really.   I mean, who are we really hurting?  And who is making the rules up anyway?  Who are they to tell me that something is wrong.  I'm the one who knows best about what's right or wrong for me.  

The reality is of course, I'm ignorant when it comes to most things much less theology.   Should I really trust my eternal soul on my own opinion when I don't even know how the combustion engine works much less even begin to understand the inner thinking of God, who created the universe?    We are blessed that God gave us the Church to guide us and help us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to become saints.

They second lure of sin is that, lets face it, sin is so much damn fun.   I enjoy a good snarky comment that zings someone.   I enjoy finding the good juicy gossip on someone and I certainly enjoy complaining about someone and telling my friends how dumb someone else.  And don't even get me started on attractive women---they are pleasing on the eyes.   Even when I know things are a sin and understand why a certain behavior or act is sinful it is so difficult to turn away and and do what is more pleasing to God instead of what is pleasing to Jamie.   Those chains of sin are strong and very difficult to break.  But it's not impossible.  As I've matured, I've broken some and the lures of certain sins are as attractive as they once were.

Finally, I don't think that, as humans, we are more in touch with our physical sides and not so in tune with our spiritual sides.   As such, I don't think we are aware of the damage that sin causes us.   When we sin, we turn away from God.   We are walking away from Him.   So, the real price of sin is death.   So, if I die in a state of mortal sin I've destroyed my relationship with God and I've sentenced myself to eternity without His love and without being in His presence.  Fortunately, God loves us and wants us to be with Him.  So much in fact that He became a man Himself and became the ultimate sacrifice for our soul.  Fortunately, He is merciful.  Fortunately, he gave us a way for us to repair that relationship with us in the sacrament of reconciliation.

God knows me.   He knows that I love Him and want a relationship with Him.  He also knows my failings and how desirable I find sin.    He gave me the Church to lead me and to help me better understand sin and not be fooled by the Devil.   He gave me the Church to help me break those chains of sin.  He gave me the Church to that I can receive that sacrament and be reconciled with Him.   So, yes Lord, remove anyone or anything from that keeps me from you---and do it now, because I do not want to ever be separated from you.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Five Love Languages

Several years ago, I read the book "The 5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman and to this day I think it is one of the most fascinating and eye opening books about love and I believe that every spouse should read it.   It helps you to understand that the way you are expressing your love may not be received in the way that you think it is.

The basic premiss of the  book is that we all speak one of the five different love languages.  The love language that we speak is how we express our love for each other.  It is also the most favorable way that we receive love.   So, a husband and a wife may be madly in love with each other but if they are expressing their love to the other in a language the other isn't speaking then that love isn't being communicated and that person is not feeling loved.    Then problems arise because  that love that the  couple has for each other is not being communicated.  So, the key is to determine what love language your spouse speaks  and communicate to them in that love language, even though it may not be your primary language, so that they more fully receive that love you have for them.

The different love languages are:
Words of Affirmation- Compliments, words of love, verbally expressing your love, appreciation and admiration about the other
Acts of Service--Doing something for the other, especially something that the other person does not like doing
Receiving Gifts--Actually giving something physical to someone such as something that you've noticed they need or something as simple as a card or a love letter
Quality Time--sitting down with the person, eye to eye contact, uninterrupted time
Physical Touch--goes beyond the bed room (but certainly includes it),  holding hands, a gentle touch as you pass by, hugs

An example is the husband who constantly brings home gifts for his wife but she is frustrated because she just wants him to help around the house more often.   He then gets upset because she is fixing dinner instead of appreciating the gift.

It is important to know your spouses love language not only so that you can communicate your  love to them in that language but to hear it from your spouse.

I think a reason I enjoyed this book so much is because my wife and I don't speak the same love languages.   I have no doubt that Abby loves me but there are times when I'm sad and lonely because she is not speaking my language.   I actually have two----"Words of Affirmation" and "Physical Touch."     When she isn't speaking those languages, I have feelings of rejection and my self-esteem tanks.   It is in those moments that it is important for me to hear her communicate in her love language---which is "Quality Time."    So, I realize that her going to the store with me or watching television with me are ways that she expresses her love for me.  And I, in turn, have to make sure that   I plan dates nights and such for her.

We can't alwaysexpress our love for our spouse in the way that only makes us happy.   Buying your wife a bowling ball when she does not bowl (like Homer Simpson did for Marge) doesn't make sense.   Sometimes, we have to get dressed up and go to the ballet.   Sometimes we need to take time to tell her how beautiful she is, or buy him the video game he wants, or hold hands.  Whatever your loved one wants.

If you have not read, "The 5 Love Languages" then order it today.   Download it to your Kindle or Nook and read it tonight.   There are some great ideas in there for showing your spouse you love them.   You can also checkout their website at 5 Love

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More Than Just a Cop

A few weeks ago, my department came out with a new social media policy.  It is a typical social media policy that any professional organization would put into place to protect itself and to protect it's employees.  One part of the policy may be a little different than your employer because it suggests not identifying yourself as a police officer.   Now, this may seem ironic sense I have a blog titled, "Roman Catholic COP" but I really do not have a problem with that suggestion because I do not necessarily like to be seen as a cop.

Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of my profession and I'm proud of all of my fellow officers throughout the world who are professional and dedicated.   I would be proud to have my badge etched into my tombstone when I die.    At the same time, I do not normally volunteer that I'm a police officer.    It always seems to turn awkward.  

It never fails---once someone find's out I'm a police officer the questions start.  "Have you ever shot anyone?"  "How many people have you shot?"  "Aren't you scared?" "What's the worst thing you've seen?" "What's the weirdest thing you've seen?"  "What's the scariest thing you've seen?" "Do you know my cousin, Joe--I forget his last name, but he works for [insert some other agency 100 miles away]"

A lot of these questions are questions that, unless I'm close to you, I may not really feel like opening up about.   Some stories are ones that I may not want to have dragged up and rehashed.   I do have some canned stories that I use just to satisfy people's curiosity and to shut them up.  But, I'm very good at compartmentalizing things and when I'm not at work, I don't want to think about work.

I'm proud of my profession but I don't want to necessarily be put into that box.   I would be much happier to be labeled by my vocation of husband and father.    At the end of my life, if no one remembers me as a police officer it will not be that big of a deal.  In fact, I realized a long time ago that I won't change the world as a police officer and I probably will never realize the lives that I do touch.   But it is much more important that I am a good husband and a good father but I will know how I impact the lives of my wife and my children.    It is much more important to me that they know that I love them and that I do everything I possible do to lead them to God.

Both my profession and my vocation have had negative effects on the other.    I work a lot of overtime and off duty jobs that take me away from family time but it's to provide for my family so they are never wanting.    And on the other hand, I have never put in for any specialized units and I have remained on the overnight shift for most of my 15 year career so that I can see my family during the evenings, take my kids to and from school and not have my schedule messed up.      It's a delicate balance and I think I do a reasonably good job.

Yes, I'm a police officer.  I'm proud to be a police officer.   But if I had to be labeled----I'd rather that label be "husband" or "dad."

Friday, February 14, 2014

Loving and Honoring

Today is Valentine's Day--or more specifically, "St. Valentine's Day."   It's a day of looooooooove!!!   Hearts and roses, chocolate candy, pink and red.   Really, a bunch of fluff.  I think there is something more important to look at when you are thinking of your significant other.  Something that is normally thought of, at least in my mind, in a military manner.  And that is "honor."

In a Catholic wedding, the couple makes several vows, among them are that they are there "freely and without reservation to give [them]selves to each other," and to "honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives" and finally to "accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church."

What does it mean to "honor each other" though?   Honor is to regard with great respect.   I think more marriages would survive if more people worked on honoring their spouse instead of whatever their idea of "loving" is.   In today's society, "love" is thrown around too much and too easily.   People love certain foods or businesses or even celebrities and it's easy to take that mindset into a relationship.   When that happens then love is just a trend.   A tattoo today only to be lasered off tomorrow.

But to honor your spouse means to respect them.  It means to treat them better than you would treat yourself.  It means to want the best for the other person.  It means sacrifice.   It means to go that extra mile to express that love that you claim for them and doing what makes them happy, even if it is something that you may not want to do.

Honor your spouse by not treating them as a lesser person.  Don't talk bad about them in the lunch room to your fellow workers.   Treat them special.

I am very good at loving my wife.  I'm not always good at honoring my wife.  I get lazy.  I get selfish.  It's easy to love.  It's not so easy to honor.

So, this Valentine's Day, don't limit yourself at just loving that person that you are spending the rest of your day with but work on honoring them too.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Prayer, not Performance

There has always been something that bothers me when people choose where they go to church because of the music.   I understand why it bothers me---there is much more to consider than the music.   But at the same time, I understand why someone would take music into consideration, especially when you take into account the saying that goes something along the lines of, "He who sings, prays twice."

Music is important in worship and in fact, it is one of the reasons I take into consideration as to why I go to the mass that I do.   I realize that may sound conflicting because I started off by saying that it bothers me when people do that so let me explain.  I enjoy the music at all of the masses at my parish because the music supplements the liturgy while not overwhelming and taking it over.

 The particular mass I go to has a group of young adults leading the music. I wouldn't call it a "choir" nor would I call it a band.   They have an acoustical guitar and a bass guitar as musical instruments but they are so subtle that in reality they could go without them and you wouldn't notice.   They sing contemporary music while at the same time sing traditional Catholic hymns with a nice mix of Latin hymns such as Tantum Ergo.  And by contemporary, I mean songs that might be sung by Matt Maher for Pope Francis and not any songs taken from the Glory and Praise hymnal.

I believe these young musicians at this mass do such a wonderful job in being reverent which in turn makes the music more prayerful and therefore more vertical.  What I mean by being "more vertical" is that the music makes you focus upwards towards God in a form of worship as opposed to going vertical and being all about how great we are in the congregation.   The music isn't about "I" or "we."  The only time I've heard "me" being sung is when the request for God to "consume me" or "transform me."

The best way I can describe the music and the reason I believe that it fits in so well in the mass is because it is "prayerful." I get the sense that I am praying while singing.   It does not feel like a perfomance is going on during the mass.   There is no stage director cuing people in.   There are no props.    

And wouldn't you know it--the congregation is still "fully, actively, participating in the liturgy."  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Looking Back at ND Vision

It's been seven months since I went to Notre Dame for ND Vision.   Normally, when I've been to retreats I come back on a high from the mountain top experience but quickly settle back down to normal day life.   ND Vision was different.  It still rocks my world to this day.  It's not uncommon for me to have dreams about going to Notre Dame.  That's not to say that I haven't resorted back to my sinful nature but the amount of spiritual growth I made in those five days was more than I had grown in years.

For the longest time, I always said that I wanted to be a window that people can see Christ through.   I wanted God's love to shine through me and to attract people to Him.  The problem is that throughout the years, I've tried to point people to God saying, "there He is.  Isn't it wonderful" when instead I should have been saying was, "HERE He is.  He is wonderful."   I was pointing towards Him without fully experiencing His love for myself.   I was cowering down in the shadows, afraid of His light, afraid of His love because I was afraid that it would expose my darkness.   I was pushing Him away because I did not feel worthy of His love.

At Notre Dame, God touched me and exposed me to His love like I had never felt before.   I believe it was a sample of what purgatory must be like where God slowly exposes Himself to us and purifies us.   It was overwhelming.  It was torturous.  It was painful.  And it was the most amazing and wonderful feeling in the world.  He tore me down and built me back up and made me realize that, no, I'm not worthy of His love but it doesn't matter---He loves me not matter what I do.  No matter the secrets I think I'm hiding from Him and no matter my blemishes.

So now, when I talk about God, I no longer point down the road saying, "He is down there."  I am able to point at myself and say that, "He is right here."   I truly can let His love shine through me.

The second huge event that occurred that week that I would compare to the moment in John 19:27.   Jesus was on the cross and He saw the Virgin Mary and John, the beloved disciple.   He said to Mary, "Woman, behold your son!" and then He said to John, "Behold, your Mother!"  

I had an experience on the Tuesday afternoon while walking around St. Mary's Lake where I believe that I felt Mary's presence.  I believe she was with me and I believe that Jesus used that week encourage me to find a devotion to Mary and remind me that she is my mother too and that I should use her when I need help.   And what a better place to this than at Notre Dame, a university dedicated to Our Lady.

I look forward to going back to ND Vision this summer.   Right now I don't know how I'm going to get there but I'm going to get there somehow.  I don't care if I have to drive myself, fly a plane or walk.  I am going to get there.  And I'm excited to see what God has in store for me.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Change is Good

Last night at mass we celebrated the Solemnity of The Epiphany of the Lord---when the three wise men came to visit Jesus in the manger.   In his homily, Fr Rogers gave us several lessons that we can take from this encounter in the Bible.   The last one is the one that really struck me.

At the end of the gospel reading, we are told that, ". . .having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way."  (Matthew 2:12)   Fr. Rogers pointed out that after we encounter Jesus we should not expect to return to being the same person.  There should be a change in us.  

Change is scary.  Nobody likes change.   But we cannot prevent it.   We all change---physically, mentally and spiritually.   I'm not the person I was ten years ago.   Nothing stays the same.  Not even televisions shows.   The popular BBC television show, "Doctor Who" recently celebrated it's 50th anniversary and it certainly has not remained the same.  The main character hasn't even remained the same.  The Doctor, an alien timelord, is able to regenerate whenever he is about to die.   He changes into a different body but with every regeneration The Doctor doesn't just change his body but his personality.  It's the same person but with a different body and different personality but with the same personal history (Not quite as difficult as trying to explain the trinity but close)

This is why fans of Doctor Who have their favorite "Doctor."    Some people have their favorite from when they were growing up while others have one of the newer doctors as their favorite.   There is always a lot of anger, sadness and gnashing of teeth when one regenerates into another.   This last occured during the most recent Christmas special when the eleventh doctor, played by Matt Smith, regenerated into the twelfth doctor, played by Peter Capaldi.  Before his transformation, as he was in the Tardis, "Eleven" tells his companion, Clara:

Yes, we are all changing.  And it's okay.  The important thing is that we are changing for the positive.  Especially in the spiritual life.  We must always move forward and part of moving forward is a constant evaluation of ourselves and an evaluation of where we need to make those changes in our lives so that we can move closer to Christ.   That's not always easy.  In fact, it can be downright difficult.

A prayer that I say quite often is one that I learned from Mark Hart.  It is, "Lord, I grant you permission, to remove anyone, or anything, that will keep me from you."   I only hope that I change into someone who is pleasing to God.  And that God finds bowties pleasing.  Because bowties are cool.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

Spiritual Funk

So earlier this week I was down in the dumps.  I was depressed, blue, melancholy.   It was a big pity party for me.  Everyone and everything was ticking me off.  I even texted my wife and told her I was feeling down.  

By Tuesday things weren't better but it was more than just winter doldrums.  I felt that someTHING was causing me to feel like this.  It wasn't just depression or dryness or anything like that.  It was more of a detached ness or numbness.    I felt like I was suffering from a spiritual attack.  I texted a friend who I can go to in all things spiritual and asked for prayers.  

Come Wednesday night, I was so off the mark that I didn't even take communion when I went to mass.    I texted my friend again and received some good, sound, advice.  I also decided to go to confession.  

So this morning, I woke up early and went to Our Lady of Good Counsel for confession.  It was amazing.  It really was. After I gave my confession, the priest read a couple of Psalms to me and it was like he was looking right into my heart and telling me what I needed to hear.  And it wasn't advice that came from what I had told him during my confession.  It was fascinating.  It was as if he had read the text messages between my friend and I and knew exactly what was going on in my soul.   

People criticize Catholics and ask, "why go to a priest when you can confess right to God?" And a good response is that the priest is acting "in persona Christi" or "in the person of Christ."   Let me tell you what, that may have just been a priest on the other side of that screen, but don't tell me I wasn't confessions my sins to God and definitely don't try to tell me that it wasn't Jesus talking back to me because there is just no other way to explain what the priest told me.

I told myself the last time I went to confession that I needed to go more often.  Every three or four month was too long.  I decided that once a month was good.  Well, I waited over a month and I think I waited too long.  The problem is, at four weeks, I don't feel like I need it. I wonder what I would say.  I've behaved, I've been good.  Maybe all I have to take is some small, veinial sins but maybe that is eight.  I think I need that reset every four weeks. Maybe it's how I'm wired.  I dunno.   But that's what I'm going to try to do.