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??