Friday, December 19, 2008
Of course, Katie and I would add a question about the method of conception (always something you love discussing with a perfect stranger - or a friend, for that matter).
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Children have the ability to inspire the best in all of us. The students at Normandy Elementary School in Littleton have taken their love for a teacher to a new level, inspiring their parents, educators and members of the community.
Two students who happen to be sisters, started "The True Gift Fund" to help fourth grade teacher Jewely Del Duca.
Del Duca is fighting stage 4 colon cancer. She is 35 years old.
While undergoing chemotherapy she has remained in the classroom. Del Duca says her students keep her mind off cancer and provide her with encouragement and support.
This experience has provided students many other important lessons too. Del Duca is hoping to qualify for HIPEC treatment (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) which involves a surgical procedure where a heated form of chemotherapy is delivered to the abdominal cavity.
Three times, Del Duca's insurance company denied her request for the expensive treatment.
Take a look here to find out what Ms. Del Duca's class did about it. You may have to watch a commercial before the video begins, but trust me. It is well worth the wait! Trust me. It will be tough to find a Christmas story that will top this one!!!!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
LAKESIDE, Va. - Floyd Schooles often vowed, “I do not want to live one day longer than my wife.”
Virginia Harris Schooles died peacefully Thursday at 12:20 a.m., in bed at their Lakeside home. Floyd followed about 10:15 p.m. in the room he shared with his wife of 76 years.
Both were 99....“The night before Nannie died, Granddaddy asked when her funeral was,” said Kennedy, who was with both at the end. “I said, ‘She’s still alive.’ He said, ‘No. No, she’s not.’ Less than two hours later, she died in her sleep. He knew.”
Floyd’s reaction to her death was predictable, Kennedy said. “He said, ‘Why, oh why, couldn’t I go first?’ “
May we always bear with one another’s weaknesses and grow from each other’s strengths. Help us to forgive one another’s failings and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and the spirit of placing the well-being of one another ahead of self.
May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year. Bring us both ever closer to You through our love for each other. Let our love grow to perfection.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I tend to be an easygoing, optimistic person who focuses more on my little corner of the world than the macro issues of the day. I tend to want to believe the best about people, and guard against buying into hyperbolic rhetoric that makes generalizations about the activities of certain groups of people being particularly heinous -- so often, upon reasonable analysis, that type of claim pans out to be nothing more than a lame attempt to vilify people you disagree with.
So I wonder:
If were a 31-year-old woman with three little kids in a busy house in Germany 1941, would I have fully understood the evil that surrounded me? As a woman living in 2008 I can see the horror that was going on there, but at the time there were some
awfully sleek lies being told about the situation; it would have been really, really convenient to let myself be persuaded by the lies and just make the nasty little problem go away by telling myself that it wasn't really a problem at all.
Recently I was looking through some genealogy documents and noticed that a distant ancestor of mine owned a slave. My own flesh and blood, people probably not unlike me at all, participated in the horror of slavery. Can I be so sure that I would have seen the truth? Or, if I had lived alongside my ancestor, would I have included a human being on the list of possessions I owned? Even if I didn't own a slave myself, would I have shooed the distasteful subject from my mind by surrounding myself with the comfort that all my friends seemed to think it was fine and, after all, it was
perfectly legal? Evil's most powerful tool is that it always works through lies; the lure to tell yourself that something bad is not really bad at all is a powerful temptation, and one that I'm not sure I could have resisted.
Sometimes I think about this, and wonder what advice I would pass along to my own descendants to make sure this never happens again; to help future generations guard against being blinded should they find themselves in the midst of a culture where something terrible is taking place.
Go take a look and see what she has to say!
This has certainly been a historic week. The election of Barack Obama will have ripple effects throughout our society. Less than fifty years ago, President-elect Obama would not even have been able to drink from the same water fountain as me, and now he will live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
I wonder. One hundred and fifty years from now, will they talk about Roe v. Wade the same way we talk about Dred Scott today? I pray it does not take that long.
Apparently I am in distinguished company by making that analogy. Rocco has the scoop on Cardinal George's address to the USCCB today:
"If the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision that African Americans were other people’s property and somehow less than persons were still settled constitutional law, Mr. Obama would not be president of the United States."
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I am always amazed at the timelessness of the Second Vatican Council documents. As we teeter on the brink of economic meltdown, endure a brutal presidential campaign, and wonder what the heck is going on in all corners of the globe, we can turn to the Church's teaching. Take, for example, the following.
In no other age has mankind enjoyed such an abundance of wealth, resources and economic well being; and yet a huge proportion of the people of the world is plagued by hunger and extreme need while countless numbers are totally illiterate. At no time have men had such a keen sense of freedom, only to be faced by new forms of slavery in living and thinking. There is on the one hand a lively feeling of unity and of compelling solidarity, of mutual dependence, and on the other a lamentable cleavage of bitterly opposing camps. We have not yet seen the last of bitter political, social, and economic hostility, and racial and ideological antagonism, nor are we free from the spectre of a war of total destruction. If there is a growing exchange of ideas, there is still widespread disagreement about the meaning of the words expressing our key concepts. There is lastly a painstaking search for a better material world, without a parallel spiritual advancement.
Small wonder then that many of our contemporaries are prevented by this complex situation from recognizing permanent values and duly applying them to recent discoveries. As a result they hover between hope and anxiety and wonder uneasily about the present course of events. It is a situation that challenges men to respond; they cannot escape.
- No. 4 from Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)
Can you believe that was written over 40 years ago?!?! It is well worth a read. So, with all due respect to Deacon Greg and his colleagues in the mainstream media, I invite you to take some time this weekend to turn off the talking heads on the TV and read how some very forward thinking folks in the Church felt we should live out our Christian vocation.
Jen F. over at Conversion Diary has some wonderful thoughts on this whole topic of vocation. Her thoughts we very helpful to me:
A couple years ago some Catholic readers responding to this post introduced me to the concept of "vocation," that every single person is called to one of the vocations that God has given us -- the most common being married life, the priesthood or consecrated religious life -- and that each of us is to discern to which vocation we are called. What I found most interesting about this whole concept (and, frankly, shocking and slightly disconcerting at the time), is that your life's vocation isn't as much what you do as much as it is whom you serve. This worldview basically said that each of us is put on this earth to serve others, and your vocation is simply a matter of discerning whom you'll serve and how you'll serve them. In other words, there is no living for yourself. There's no optimizing your entire life around what you feel like doing.
What I realize now is that I completely misunderstood the concept. I came to see that this worldview is not an expression of absolutes, but of prioritization. To live a life of service does not mean that you never take time for yourself; it means that taking time for yourself isn't the entire meaning of life. It does not mean that you turn your hopes and dreams over to the dustbin; it means you turn them over to God.
It was only very hesitantly that I put this concept into practice in my life. Slowly I began to embrace the fact that the defining purpose of my life is to be a wife and mother, that to serve my husband and my children and my parents and the world around me was what God wanted me to do...that it was even what he wanted me to do far more than write great articles or books or blog posts (even if those articles and books and blog posts were in an effort to bring glory to him). It was one of my first big exercises in trusting God to accept this premise that selfless service of others is objectively a higher life priority than seeking personal gain.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
As I have posted before, I have recently been impressed with the undercurrent of spirituality that flows through Bruce Springsteen's lyrics. I am not alone. America Magazine just pulled an article by Andrew Greeley from its archives and dusted it off.
Springsteen is a liturgist, I propose, because he correlates the self-communication of God in secular life with the overarching symbol/narratives of his/our tradition. Moreover, I also propose that he engages in this "minstrel ministry" without ever being explicit about it, or even necessarily aware of it, precisely because his imagination was shaped as Catholic in the early years of life. He is both a liturgist, then, and a superb example of why Catholics cannot leave the church.
A word about the Catholic imagination: Unlike the other religions of Yahweh, Catholicism has always stood for the accessibility of God in the world. God is more like the world than unlike it. Hence Catholicism, unlike Protestantism, Judaism and Islam, permits angels and saints, shrines and statues, stained glass and incense and the continuation of pagan customs—most notably for our purposes here, holy water and blessed candles.
The entire article is worth a read.
Friday, September 12, 2008
We have met several times to work out the logistics, and decided to open last night's meeting with a dry run. Since we are preparing for something we hope we will never have to use, it is a bit tough. As those who preside at liturgy know, the only way to get comfortable with leading a congregation in worship is to actually do it frequently. That will not be an option, since this will be the "celebration of last resort." Anywho, I was asked to prepare the reflection for last night's service:
Seven years ago today, we gathered in this very space – in shock, in fear, in mourning. And, by this point in the evening, the very first stirrings of anger had begun to sink in. We prayed to God and asked him to see us through these difficult times. The Hebrew people depicted in the First Reading made similar requests during their time in the desert. However, their complaining to God, verbal expressions of ingratitude for all God HAD provided, was also a metaphor for sin, an attempt to assume the role of gods, entitled to all they wanted simply because they wanted it. Such behavior had resulted in painful, deadly consequences. Suffering abounded, and they blamed God for their situation.
Now, you will certainly recall the response of a number of preachers in the days following September 11. The terrorist attacks were labeled as a punishment from God. Retribution for the sinful society we had become. And while the devastation of that day was not solely the fault of the terrorists in the plane, or Al Qaeda, or their supporters around the world, it was certainly not the fault of people who lived or supported immorality.
After all, there are always two aspects to sin – the individual and the communal. The choices each of us make - good and bad, have a residual effect on all of creation. Individual acts of greed and pride become institutionalized, and the corporate accumulation of those decisions is eventually reflected in public and foreign policy.
Every choice each of us makes has an impact on the world around us. Like drops of water, they accumulate. Over the millennia, they have formed into a pool that would make the Water Cube in Beijing look like a shot glass. The ability for tragedy, pain and suffering to come into the world as a result of the sinful behaviors of a given culture at a given point in history is no more likely than the ability for a couple of guys with straws and buckets to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. And likewise, it would be easier to empty that pool with the same straws and buckets than to prevent tragedies such as 9/11 with a change in a Presidential Administration or the introduction of a few new policy initiatives. No, there is a lot more at play.
However, trying to understand and explain the tragedy of September 11 is only part of the story. St. Paul reminds us “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.” The construction of the Water Cube was important in as much as it provided a venue for some amazing achievements. And so it is with God’s story.
The swimmers who competed in last month’s Olympics prepared for a lifetime to do so. Years of sacrifice and practice conditioned them to stand on the starting block and await the starter’s signal. One race that will always be etched in my memory is the Men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Along with most of America, I sat on the edge of my seat as, Michael Phelps, Cullen Jones, Jason Lezak, and Garrett Weber-Gale pulled off an amazing come from behind victory. I mention all their names not in order to show off my vast knowledge of Olympic Swimming, but rather to emphasize the importance of team work in all we do. As a Church, we are One Body. We do not stand alone! That being said, and even though without them Phelps would leave China with only seven gold medals, I am pretty sure that if I had asked you who else besides Michael was on that team, you would have been hard pressed to give an answer. (I have to admit, that without Google, so would I!) But none the less, all four had to give their all in order to succeed.
And so it is with this assembly. As we can see, without a priest, something is most certainly missing. But Christ is still truly present here today – through the assembly gathered together as well as the Word of God proclaimed and preached. Through this celebration, we are able to worship and praise God!
After one of his many other victories, Michael Phelps exclaimed, "That was probably one of the most painful races of my life. Everything was left in the pool.” In the second reading today, Paul reminds us that Jesus, if interviewed after the resurrection, probably would have answered in much the same way. Everything was left in the pool. He gave his all to save each and every one of us.
In recalling an ancient Christian hymn, Paul tells us that Jesus “did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.” The Greek word translated as “grasped” comes from the same root as our verb “to cling.” In the today’s Second Reading, I think that makes more sense. The hymn goes on to tell us that Jesus emptied himself – leaving everything in the pool. His obedience to God’s will, an obedience that required him to Love regardless of the consequences, resulted in pain and suffering beyond imagination. But, through the eyes of faith, we can see that left in the pool as well!
And so, like the Hebrew people in the desert, as we reflect on the world around us, we turn to God and ask for a sign. We already have the sign, and it is hanging on the wall behind me. We are called to be like Him. To Love. To reach out with kindness and forgiveness, never, ever to strike back. In the Gospel for today’s daily mass, Jesus instructs us to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Considering the anniversary, what a coincidence! However, if Christ was here, I bet he would be somewhat indignant at our needing to connect the reading to the anniversary of the terror attacks in order to view it as significant. After all, the entire Gospel- God’s entire being - is based upon that very message.
The Cross we celebrate today is a constant reminder that we are not called by God to Love simply because it feels good or because we are loved. We Love because God Loves. And God Loves because God is Love. To Love like God loves requires us to be willing to risk losing everything we hold dear in order to reach out and be the presence of God to others. That kind of love recognizes each and every life as priceless from the moment it was thought into being by God until long after He calls it back home. It does not take into account what that life has done or has not done. It is loved by God. That is all that matters. Every other decision is made after placing that truth at the forefront. It must be the foundation of every political platform, policy decision, and election.
That is all well and fine. But I challenge you to reflect this evening about what that means if you were to encounter Osama Bin Ladin in the parking lot tonight, looking for a meal. Or perhaps Seung-Hui Cho might be there, asking for someone to help him find a place to sleep. Now, let me make something entirely clear. I am not minimizing the tragedy, suffering, pain, and pure evil that each of these men wrought. Far from it. They are horrible people who did horrible things. And I do not even presume to stand here before you and suggest that I am at a place where I can say with certitude that I would act in a manner consistent with the theme of this reflection. But nonetheless, I ask you to join me in praying that God would grant – will grant – each of us the grace to do His will should that unlikely event ever take place.
Living our lives according to such a standard is a daunting task. One we cannot undertake glibly. It is not enough to think of it only when we are seated here once a week. We must wake up every day determined to climb the stairwells of whatever buildings God puts in front of us, knowing full well we may never reemerge. Then, strengthened with the gift of God’s Grace, we have to dive into our lives - leaving everything in the pool.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The following quote from Archbishop Chaput has been first and foremost on my mind:
But [Catholics who support pro-choice candidates] also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it. What is a “proportionate” reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life—which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed.Take a few moments to view the following. It may not help you make up your mind, but perhaps it can help you focus. I know it helped me:
H/T to Deacon Greg & Catholicvote.com
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be kingSo, crank up the volume, roll down the windows and enjoy!
And a king ain't satisfied till he rules everything.
I wanna go out tonight, I wanna find out what I got.
Now I believe in the love that you gave me
I believe in the faith that could save me
I believe in the hope and I pray that some day
It will raise me above these
Friday, August 22, 2008
Image: Deacon candidates prostrate before the altar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles during a 2004 diaconate ordination liturgy. Photo by Rick Flynn, owned by Eric Stoltz.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
- Scott Nehring at Good News Film Reviews
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Let's all keep her - and the children she helps - in our prayers. To find out more about the work she is doing take a look at her website. There are pictures as well as a link to her blog.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Girl: We'll just go to confession afterwards.
Boy: I'm Protestant - we don't have confession.
Girl: You don't? Well, what do you have?
Boy: Umm.... Guilt... Shame... Regret... Yeah, we have
Monday, August 4, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
One of the characteristics of a well-written parable is that it allows the reader to place him or herself in a position to view the action from several perspectives. Such an approach permits us to enter deeper into the mystery that is God. When we do so, the questions for which we find answers rarely take the form of either/or. No, God’s answers are almost always both/and! I am sure that is why Jesus, the master teacher, makes use of parables throughout the Gospels. Take, for example, the readings from this past Sunday.
Quite often, the Parable of the Sower is understood as depicting God as the Sower, the seed as His Word, and the ground as those who hear that Word. That perspective is certainly valuable, and ripe with opportunity to cultivate and harvest a deeper understanding of the mind of God. In fact, this is the perspective that Jesus uses in the second half of last Sunday’s Gospel when he explains the parable to his disciples.
However, it is not the only one. For this reason, I prefer the shorter version of that Gospel which does not include that lengthy explanation. In fact, many scripture scholars believe that the second part of the reading was added by the Gospel’s author. That makes a lot of sense to me. By not explaining what the parable teaches, the master teacher allowed the parable to teach us even more!
For example, let’s imagine for a moment that God continues to be represented by the Sower, but what does this parable teach us if we are the seed, and the world is the ground? It is a subtle change, but one that has far reaching implications. I have to admit that it makes me a bit uncomfortable. Why would God allow my gifts and talents to be cast on the equivalent of rocky ground or among thorns? If He loves me and cherishes me, why would he allow my life to be less fruitful than others?
I do not know the answer to that question, but this morning’s Canticle from the Book of Wisdom gives me some comfort. There is a bigger plan at work. One with which Wisdom “who knows your works and was present when you made the world; Who understands what is pleasing in your eyes and what is conformable with your commands” is familiar. The author petitions God to make that Wisdom present in his life. “From your glorious throne, dispatch her. That she may be with me and work with me, that I may know what is your pleasure.”
And so I have come to another perspective on the parable. This time, I am in the position of the Sower. The treasures, talents and time God has given me in this world are the seeds, and the many ministries in need of help are represented by the ground. I am called to lavish my time, talent and treasure upon those ministries. I ask for the Wisdom of God to be with me when I do so, as an active co-worker. I must always realize that my talents, my treasure, my time - my contribution – is not really mine. It comes from elsewhere. Likewise, the fruitfulness of my action will be the result of forces that are not my own.
Archbishop Romero once wrote, “We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise… We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.” John’s Gospel reminds us, “One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work."
There is a place in God’s plan for the path, the rocky ground, the thorns as well as the rich soil. Each serves an important and unique purpose. And, each is part of God’s creation. God calls us to spread our talent, treasure and time without evaluating how fruitful we may think each target may be.
We are all here having spread our seeds far and wide. Some landed within our families; hopefully others took root in the workplace; still others fell upon various church ministries; more than a little found their place here within the Pastoral Ministry Leadership Formation Program. Some of us have spread seed while discerning a vocation to the diaconate. Over the next few weeks, those seeds will continue to grow. As time progresses, some of us will be chosen to begin formation for ordination, some will not. Some will continue with the PMLF next year, some will decide that they can no longer devote the time, talent and treasure necessary to participate. I admit that over the past few weeks, this uncertainty has created more than a little anxiety in my mind.
But prayerful meditation upon last Sunday’s scripture readings made me realize that the seeds you and I have scattered all wound up exactly where God wanted them to land. Each one will sprout according to God’s will. The prophet Isaiah quoted God in last week’s First Reading, saying, “my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”
The result may not be exactly what you and I want or think it should be. But I am at peace with that possibility, and suggest humbly that you should be as well. It is easy to be frustrated and to view our previous efforts as wasted. But in those times, I am reminded to call upon the Wisdom of God to help me to understand that the seeds I scattered landed exactly where God wanted, and needed, them to land. Teilhard de Chardin once equated time with “grace and circumstances acting on your own good will.” We scatter the seeds, God makes them grow. De Chardin closes the same work by noting,
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept
the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
It was something along the lines that we are called to spread the Gospel throughout the world. But the world is not just Ethiopia and South America. The 'world' is our workplace, our marriage, our family. At the moment it occurred to me, how many times have I said that "my family means the world to me"?
When I got home, the kids were their usually wild and crazy selves. Jack in particular wanted to show me a "sign" he had made for my workshop (the part of the basement where my tools are). It was an 8-1/2 X 11 piece of white paper with red crayon scrawling - some letters were recognizable, but none that formed any words. In the middle was a perfectly drawn heart. He proudly pointed at the sign and said, "You are the best dad in the whole world!" I broke down in tears and held him as tight as I possibly could. I can't believe those little ones are five years old already!
As I reflect upon that little episode this morning it occurred to me how much it can tell us about catechesis. Jack could not form the words, but he could sure draw that heart! While I am on the topic, here is a snip from a comment I posted on someone else's Blog a few weeks ago:
As a child, my family made the trek to Florida about three or four times.
Then, Katie and I made the trip a couple times before we had children. As
wonderful, and memorable as all those trips were, they cannot compare with the
experience we had when we brought all four children down for their first
It did not even take fireworks to make me tear up! Since we were staying at
one of the resorts, we took advantage of the Shuttle Bus service from the
airport to the hotel. The bus had little tv's to keep the kids (of all ages)
occupied during the trip. Then, as we approached the main gate, the bus driver
turned off the monitors.
"Alright folks, here we go! Help me count down.
"Ten, nine, eight, seven..."
I looked over at my six year old son His nose was plastered to the
"six, five, four ..."
I thought, how cool to see the excitement in his face.
"three, two, one... WELCOME TO DISNEY WORLD!!!"
I was crying. The joy that I had remembered from my childhood. The magic of
those days as a young couple, all the wonderful happy experiences that I
associated with Disney World. We were going to be able to share with them as
they made those experiences their own.
I could not help but wonder, "Is this how God feels? Is this the kind of
joy that he feels when we are able to experience His Kingdom?"
I gave Christopher a huge hug. He looked at me, puzzled, and asked "Why are
you crying?" I replied,
"Someday, you will know. Until then, promise me you will never forget this
I know that I never will. I look forward to the day when, nose pressed up
on the glass, I will ride into the Heavenly Kingdom and feel the embrace of God.
I just hope that the wait for Space Mountain won't be as long!
Saturday, July 12, 2008
The Holy Father enters the stage, accompanied by 12 pilgrims in
After waving to the pilgrims, the Holy Father and his attendants go
to the chair on a raised dais.
The stage is still in semi-darkness, with the Holy Father lit.
An announcer invites all present to sing the hymn Our Lady of the
I mean it is World Youth Day, and it is Australia...
Friday, July 11, 2008
This week I have been interning with the North American Forum on the Catechumenate. Last year after I attended one of their workshops, I was invited to consider becoming one of their presenters. It was a humbling honor to be asked since being a catechist is not my "day job." To have those who do this work professionally identify a rank amateur such as myself as having something to contribute has been very affirming.
As the name of this blog reflects, I am very fond of the apprenticeship metaphor for catechesis. It works so well on so many levels. However, yesterday, one of the presenters discussed how we are called as Christians to be 'ambassadors for Christ.' Someone stood up and began to explain how that expression brought to her mind images and concepts of diplomacy. We must dialogue with others, not talk at them. She said, "So often we attempt to use 'shock and awe' to get our point across."
WOW! The Danish physisist Niels Bohr once said, "The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth." When I encounter people in a catechetical environment (or elsewhere for that matter), especially those who are at a different place in their faith journey, I must remember that God is not just at work teaching them. I will be transformed as well - If I allow Him to work on me!
In tracking down Bohr's quote for this post, I came across this gem: "It is the soulless scientist who contents himself with merely undeniable facts. Bohr’s quote shows that he and his ilk are after purely irresistible truths." Aren't we all!
Friday, June 6, 2008
At the beginning of the discernment process for the diaconate, I was asked to submit a spiritual autobiography. These past few days have brought a section of it to mind:
Falling in Love
The other day, I was asked to meet with a young couple to answer some of their questions about the Catholic Church. They are planning to get married; she is a cradle Catholic, he is a member of a non-denominational faith community. He wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what the Catholic Church believes and his fiancé thought that it would be better if he heard it from someone besides herself. After my 2-1/2 hour meeting, Katie asked me to stop by the store for some groceries.
As I walked through the aisle searching for a can of ‘lite’ cherry pie filling, I reflected back on my day. I woke up early and recited Morning Prayer. I then went to work where, in my role as chief financial officer, I used my gifts and talents to make help make decisions that provide a living for my family and the families of my co-workers. I came home and enjoyed dinner with my family, helped bathe the kids and put them to bed. Then, I ran out to spend time with a young couple, sharing stories of our faith and helping them to discern God’s call as they travel on life's journey. Then, it was off to the store, to help Katie get ready for a get-together she was having at the house the next morning. I thought to myself, "Life is good. God is good. I am so happy right now." I remembered something that the late Msgr. Charles Kelly once said. "If you see a priest who is truly living his vocation, he will look like a man who is in love." How true of any vocation! It is certainly true about my vocation to married life. However, I have come to appreciate that another love has been at work throughout my life. It is a love of service to the church.
As I was sifting through my daily selection of blogs, I discovered that Julie over at Happy Catholic is hosting a 'cyber book tour' appearance by the Jesuit author James Martin. Although I have yet to find the time (go figure) to read one of his works completely, it is definitely on the top of my To Do list.
He related a wonderful prayer by the Servant of God Pedro Arrupe, S.J.:
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.”
I said to myself, "Yeah, that about sums it up!" People wonder how I find the time to do all I do for the Church. The answer, I have come to realize, is "Because I love what I do." I think many people view Church ministry as one in a list of activities, dare I say hobbies, in which they participate. They do it for the enjoyment they receive out of serving and helping other, or perhaps out of some sense of obligation.
I have to say that has not been the experience for me. As I discern a calling to ordained ministry, I have grappled with why I serve. I have held the words of Fr. Kelly close to my heart. I have reflected upon all the ways I have served the Church. Then I look at my relationship with my wife and family. The parallels are unmistakable. Fr. Arrupe's words today helped me to realize that my service to the Church is really no different than my service to my family. It is not out of obligation, or even because of the benefits that I receive as a result. It is out of love. A love of Church that can only be described as agape.
That is probably why it is so hard to answer the question, "How do you find the time to do everything you do?" The answer can only be found in the Love between a husband and her wife. A Love that is but a foretaste of the Love that God has for each and everyone of us. A Love that is so intense, so focused, and so passionate, that it excludes all else. What is amazing to me is how that kind of Love cannot be contained. It overflows into the rest of my life, whether I like it or not. It affects the way I treat my family, my co-workers, my friends.
May God continue to grant me the Grace to love him and serve him!
Thanks be to God!!!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Like many other overanxious first-time parents, I used to go into my son's room at night to make sure he was still breathing. Now I go in because I know he's resting. I want (and need) to welcome him into my life not only when he's awake and busy but also when he's asleep.
Perhaps the way a child sleeps after a day full of discovery is similar to the way God rested after he finished creating the world. Perhaps the love, gratitude and awe we feel when we watch our sleeping children is similar to the way God wants us to be aware of his presence during our times of quiet.
Imagine that the hours of our Sabbath day of rest are no longer numbers on a clock but pillars supporting a beautiful temple. Sleeping in perfect peace in the centre of this temple is the Creator of the universe. Our Sabbath invitation is to enter into this "temple of time" and to simply rest with God, who on this day has nothing but time.
I don't know the details of how this happens for any one of us. What I do know is that there was a marked contrast between my experience of my son during the work of toilet training and my experience of him when I watched him sleeping in my arms or in his crib. I need both experiences, and so does my son. The same goes for our relationship with God. May God continue to show us how to enter into the Sabbath temple of time to learn more and more how to rest with, and in, God.
I often do go check on my little ones after they have fallen asleep. Our house is so wild and crazy when they are awake. Seeing them resting peacefully is always a comfort!!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Please make sure that there is something soft in front of you before you watch this. I don't want your chin to get bruised when your jaw hits the floor!!!
When I first viewed it, a comment made by fellow blogger Andie over at Theophany All Over came to mind: "Liturgical dance stupid".
The Anchoress (host of the the blog where I found this er, celebration) noted, "Ever notice how all liturgical dance looks the same? Lunge left, lunge right, leap and spin - it’s always the same."
How very, very true. HOWEVER, please click below for the exception that proves the rule!!
I know, I know, including the Colbert "King of Glory" clip in a post on Liturgical Dance is way, way too predictable in the Catholic Blogosphere. I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself.
Perhaps someone should suggest Gigantic Puppets to Stephen. Then again, they might remind him too much of bears...
Thursday, May 8, 2008
A Vatican reporter last week said John Paul was the perfect pope for the television age, "a man of images." Think of the pictures of him storm-tossed, tempest-tossed, standing somewhere and leaning into a heavy wind, his robes whipping behind him, holding on to his crosier, the staff bearing the image of a crucified Christ, with both hands, for dear life, as if consciously giving Christians a picture of what it is to be alive.
Benedict, the reporter noted, is the perfect pope for the Internet age. He is a man of the word. You download the text of what he said, print it, ponder it.
That really spoke to me. I grew up with JPII. It is easy for me to remember images of the only Pope I knew - kissing the ground after descending the airplane steps, spreading his hands out to a sea of young faces at World Youth Day, you get the idea. The only Pope I knew - until recently.
When I was fortunate enough to receive two tickets to the Papal Mass at National's Stadium, I took it as an opportunity to get to know more about the man who was the successor to Saint Peter. The more I read, the more I liked. Now that he has left, I continue to read and pour over his public statements. I came across this gem from his homily during the Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
I would like to draw your attention to a few aspects of this beautiful structure which I think can serve as a starting point for a reflection on our particular vocations within the unity of the Mystical Body.
The first has to do with the stained glass windows, which flood the interior with mystic light. From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers – here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne – have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself. It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.
This is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, “from the outside”: a world which deeply senses a need for spirituality, yet finds it difficult to “enter into” the mystery of the Church. Even for those of us within, the light of faith can be dimmed by routine, and the splendor of the Church obscured by the sins and weaknesses of her members. It can be dimmed too, by the obstacles encountered in a society which sometimes seems to have forgotten God and to resent even the most elementary demands of Christian morality. You, who have devoted your lives to bearing witness to the love of Christ and the building up of his Body, know from your daily contact with the world around us how tempting it is at times to give way to frustration, disappointment and even pessimism about the future. In a word, it is not always easy to see the light of the Spirit all about us, the splendor of the Risen Lord illuminating our lives and instilling renewed hope in his victory over the world (cf. Jn 16:33).
"The one who has hope lives differently." How can I live my life in such a way that those who have yet to experience the grace, beauty and gifts that are to be found inside the Church are inspired to "Come and see"?
Where has my experience of Church been "dimmed by routine"? What can I do to change that?
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Now, a new study has confirmed what first-borns like Joshua have always suspected: The oldest kid in the family really does bear the brunt of parental strictness, while the younger brothers and sisters generally coast on through.And...
When a job needs to get done, it’s the habit of the parent to call on the first-born, because they’re the most reliable and conscientious,” Leman says. But it's no accident that the oldest has become a responsible wonder child; it's the parenting strategy that made them that way.Amen! (emphasis added by me)
By the time the second and third kids come around, many parents lighten up, and realize that they probably overreacted a little with setting rules for their first kid, Leman says. “The first-born’s a guinea pig; we practice on ‘em,” he says. “Once the other kids come in, we lighten up. Or exhaustion takes over.”So, Diane, I was not making it up those many years ago. Mom and Dad were tougher on me. And I am the "wonder child." Science says so!!!
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
387 - Augustine of Hippo, 32, was baptized on this Eve of Easter. He told the story of his Christian conversion from a profligate life in his "Confessions," written between 397-401.The site also has a really good lexicon which comes in handy when you are taking a class in Old Testament Scripture (as I am)!
1576 - Birth of St. Vincent de Paul, French Catholic priest. He founded several religious orders during his lifetime, including the Lazarists (or Vincentians) in 1625.
1870 - At the Vatican I Ecumenical Council, the dogmatic constitution "Dei filius" was published. Explaining the relationship between faith and reason, it declared that God could be known by human thought processes.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
From the Washington Post:
Sgt. Jesse A. Ault rejoined the National Guard to take the place of his wife, Betsy, on a deployment to Baghdad.
He called home to Dublin, Va., every day he was in Iraq, including his last. Ault died Wednesday in Baghdad of wounds suffered in Tunnis, Iraq, when his vehicle encountered a makeshift bomb, the military said. Ault, 28, was assigned to the Roanoke-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion.
Jesse Ault met his future wife during summer training camp in 2002. "One day, while standing in line, I turned to him and said, 'When are you ever going to ask me out on a date . . . alone?' " Betsy Ault said.
They were dating by the time their units were combined and deployed in 2004 to Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq. During a five-day pass home for Christmas, Jesse met and bonded with her son Nathan.
When they got back from Iraq, Jesse told Betsy that he wanted to start a family. They got married on the front steps of her father's house. Soon after, their son, Adam, was born. He's now 15 months old.
In early 2007, Betsy was alerted that she would be redeployed to Iraq. "Her number came up to go back for another tour," Ron Ault said. "At the time, they were trying to get pregnant. [Jesse] thought the best thing for him to do for his family was reenlist. He went back in her place."
Besides his wife, Jesse leaves behind two sons, Nathan (10) and Adam (1) and a 4 month old daughter, Rachel.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Julio Diaz remembers being robbed on a subway platform in the Bronx.
It totally set my day off in a great direction!! And brought this to mind:
"To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:27-31)
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
My confirmation name is Stephen. I chose it not because of that Stephen, though for a number of reasons that now seems to be quite appropriate. No, I picked that name because of the faith story of another witness with the same name, Steven McDonald. When I was in high school, I was very interested in law enforcement. I seriously considered pursuing it as a career. One day I was in the library during my lunch break, thumbing through a copy of Reader’s Digest when I came across an excerpt from a book called The Steven McDonald Story. It was written by a New York City police officer who was shot in the line of duty. The wound left him paralyzed from the neck down.
I was so fascinated with this man’s story that I tracked down a copy of the book and read it cover to cover in one weekend. I was particularly moved by how his faith, and the faith of those around him, got him through that difficult time. He went on to forgive the young man who shot him. “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60) Thanks to a post by Deacon Greg, I have learned that he is still out and about, sharing his experience with others. A few months after reading the book, when I was asked to provide a confirmation name, I could not think of a better one than that!
Nearly twenty years later, I am in the very beginning stages of preparation for another sacrament. As you may know, I am actively discerning a call to the permanent diaconate. Last week, Katie and I went for an interview. I was asked “How did I see ministry as a deacon fitting in to the rest of my ministerial life?”
An interesting question. It is one with which many deacons and prospective deacons surely struggle. After all being a deacon, in and of itself, is not a ministry, is it? Serving the poor, teaching religious education, assisting the priest during mass – those are all ministries, but lay people can do all of those. What does being a deacon add?
I found myself providing an answer I never thought of before (Ain’t the Spirit grand?) I said that I did not think it would so much change my ministry, as reorient it. Most of us choose ministries because we enjoy them. However, as a servant of the church, a deacon is called to serve where he is needed. In the early days of the church, that need was in providing fairly for the widows and orphans. Today, it may be somewhere else.
This past week provided a good example. Deacon Gordon Cartwright is a very close friend of mine. He has volunteered to return to helping with RCIA in our parish. It is a ministry he truly enjoys and I knew he was very excited to take part in our catechetical session this past Sunday. Right before Mass began, his wife Gloria came up to me to tell me that Gordon would not be at RCIA today. The pastor in a neighboring parish fell ill, and Gordon was asked to lead a Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest.
He wrote me the next day to apologize for missing RCIA. I am sure you would agree there was no need to apologize. He was doing what deacons do. He was serving the needs of the Church with no regard for his own desires. I guess it would be safe to say that Christ’s prayer in the Garden is the prayer of all deacons: “Not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Only God knows whether I will ultimately be ordained a deacon. But I do know that I am called to be more “deacon-like” in living out my faith. At home, at work, and at church.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I remember gathering with the priests, deacons and bishop prior to the Mass. I recall processing around the outside of the church while Latin hymns were chanted. I especially remember all the neat rituals that are unique to a dedication liturgy. I will always cherish the look on our Associate Pastor's face when Bishop Rodimer took the jar of Chrism, dumped it on the newly installed hardwood altar, and worked the oil into the wood with both hands!
Rocco has dutifully provided links to the website announcing the dedication of the newest Cathedral in the United States. Lots and lots of great pictures and a really imformative worship aid that explains the theology behind the rites and rituals of the dedication liturgy. What is especially moving for me is how much of the church is consecrated simply by its use. For example, the Ambo is not consecrated by the Bishop saying a prayer over it, it is consecrated when the Word of God is first proclaimed from it!
What is also cool is how the dedication ritual mirrors our own Christian initiation. First, it is turned over to the bishop by the builders (just as our parents and Godparents present us for baptism). Then it is washed with a blessing of holy water. Next, the entire building is anointed with Chrism, just as we are when we are sealed with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation. Finally, the Eucharist is celebrated. The 'source and summit of our faith', the completion of our initiation into the Church is likewise the completion of the dedication.
However, whereas the installation of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle wraps up the initiation of a Cathedral, we are sent - "To Love and Serve the Lord." The living stones emerge from the building to take the Church out into the world!
Congratuations Galveston-Houston! May the beauty of your new Cathedral be paled only by that of the Living and Growing Church that worships there!!!
Sunday, March 30, 2008
A man who was entirely careless of spiritual affairs died and went to hell. And he was much missed on earth by his old friends. His business agent went down to the gates of hell to see if there was any chance of bringing him back. But though he pleaded for the gates to be opened, the iron bars never yielded. His priest also went and argued: 'He was not really a bad fellow, given time he would have matured. Let him out, please!' The gates remained stubbornly shut against all these voices. Finally, his mother came; she did not beg his release. Quietly, and with a strange catch in her voice, she said to Satan: 'Let me in.' Immediately the great doors swung open upon their hinges. For love goes down through the gates of hell and there redeems the dead.
The view of the incarnation being proposed here never says that we forgive sins, that we bind and loose, that we heal each other, or that we anoint each other. It is Christ, working through us, who does this. The power is still with God, not with us, but in the incarnation God has chosen, marvelously, to let his power flow through us, to let our flesh give reality to his power.