Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Johnny Went From Being Single to In a Relationship"

For those of us who have Facebook how many times have we seen this little advertisement in our news feed? For me who happens to be friends with several teenagers and college students on facebook due to having taught for several years I see it almost multiple times a day. It's sad how many relationships people seem to go through these days. People seem to think that being in High School and College is about going through as many relationships as possible in order to find one self and figure out what you truly want in a relationship. On the contrary however, all this does to many people is cause them to fail to understand what a relationship really means and in many cases leads them down a path of self destructive behavior that will ultimately damage their chances at a real and faithful marriage. Of course this is not the case with every single individual but it does have an effect.

The reason I bring this up is not to get into a full blown discussion on chastity or proper dating habbits but to truly look at and understand the term "relationship". We have forgotten what this means because we live in an individualistic culture in which we have become selfish and we are primarily looking out for number 1. The idea of relationship begins with the Trinity. The Trinity is a communion of persons. God who is infinite and perfect in His perfect love begets the Son and the love between the Father and Son is the Holy Spirit. This is relationship. A total giving of self to the other. This is what our families are called to image and imitate. It is no suprise that in today's culture people have become selfish because that is what they learn from their families. Parents have either not been taught properly or have failed at trying to imitate the Trinity within their own families. We fail to see that any sort of relationship takes work in order for it to be a good one. We have to cultivate it and work at it. Those of you who are married and have a good relationship know you have to work at it and you have to put effort into continuing to keep the flame alive. All of us have friends and we know that in order for our friendships to remain close we have to work at them. I am close to my friends because I maintain contact with them through calls and e-mails and visits. This costs work and money but I do it because I have a bond with them and they are important to me. I also just recently started dating someone and have dated a couple other girls in the past and know that If I want a relationship to work, it takes work. But If I see those relationships in the light of Christ it doesn't feel like work and it helps me to understand that I don't bail on the relationships when the going gets tough or when things aren't going my way.

This whole concept of skewed relationships is also the reason I think people have issues with the Church. I had a long conversation with my Dad while I was home for Christmas. He has a lot of issues with the Church. These issues have bled into him doubting that God even exists and wondering why so many rules exist in the Church. He finds them too unrealistic in todays world to even try and follow them. He asked me how it is I can follow so faithfully? I told him that I do struggle and don't always live the rules as faithfully as I should but that bottom line is that I don't look at the rules as rules. I don't follow the Church, I follow Christ. I follow the Church because I follow Christ. I find it easy to agree with the rules because I have a relationship with Christ. I'm in love with a person. I have encountered a person and that person has transformed me and continues to transform me daily in ways I never thought possible. Because I have a relationship with Christ the "rules" of the Church become easy to accept. They simply just fall into place. I simply see them as guidlines for maintaining the relationship. The same is true for all of our other relationships. Dating relationships, friendships, marriages, they all have rules we just don't look at them as such because we care for the person and don't want to do anything to hurt them.

In that conversation with my Dad I realized him like so many others in our world are victims of being simply introduced to the Church as an institution and a set of traditions we must follow. He was simply never introduced to the person of Christ and given the chance to truly enter into relationship with Him. So many people have simply been given the truth without love and without relationship. Truth without these two things leads to rebellion. Truth without these two things leads to a poor understanding of relationships in general. If people don't have a relationship with Christ they aren't going to work at cultivating their faith and naturally they won't pray and will fall away from the Church. It is no wonder relationships in our world are a mess, it is because people do not have a relationship with Christ!

"The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity." CT 5

The above quote comes from one of the many documents of JP II. This is where we must begin our work in transforming the culture. We must put our efforts into introducing people to the PERSON of Christ. Once people are "In a Relationship with Jesus Christ" everything else will fall into place, the rules of the Church and their other human relationships. Only then will our culture be radically transformed!

Merry Christmas Everyone! May the joy of the Incarnation lead you all to a deepening of your relationship with Christ!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Keeping Christ in Christmas!

When I was in 7th grade I was grounded for two weeks right around Christmas time. It was because I went hunting around the house for Christmas presents and found them. Well it wasn't so much that I found the presents but that I found them in two very large cardboard boxes that had ben duct taped shut. When I peeled the duct tape off I wasn't smart enough to put the duct tape back on.

I look back on that and laugh now. I was so concerned with what presents I was getting as a child that I don't think I ever really thought about the true meaning of Christmas. I mean don't get me wrong it is still tough even today to get distracted. It is now the 3rd week of Advent and I don't think I've ever felt this out of it spiritually during advent, at least not since the days of hunting for presents once I figured out Santa wasn't real. (To clarify that was long before 7th Grade!). I don't know what it is this time around but I'm just not feeling at all in the Christmas mood. My prayer life hasn't necisarily been terrible. It hasn't been great but it hasn't been bad. Honestly for some reason all the cultural stuff with Christmas has been bugging me a lot more this time around.

It drives me nuts that people who are not even Christian celebrate this Holiday. It drives me crazy that we put more emphasis on sales, Santa, and Frosty the Snow man than we do on Christ. In front of the chancery in Denver there is this big lights display that has a light up nativity scene and then a light up sign that says KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS. The ironic part of it is that when I drove by it the other night the lights for the word Christ for the letters HRS are all out. So the sign reads more like KEEP CIT in Christmas. As I saw that I thought to myself wow, how perfectly ironic. Christ is barely visible in the sign just like He is barely visible in our culture today.

So my question is how do we as Christians defend it? On our last day of finals Jon and I were driving back to the house and noticed a Church marquee sign when we were stopped at an intersection that read: "Christmas is not a date but a state of mind and heart!" I wanted to vomit! That is such crap. How are we as Christians supposed to fight for the true reality that is Christmas when there are even Christians among us who don't get it. Christmas is a REAL, HISTORICAL event! Benedict XVI when he was Cardinal Rarzinger said that when you take History out of the equation all you are left with is Gnosticism. Christmas is not a feeling or state of mind! It is a real Historical event in that took place in History. It is a moment that transformed time and eternity forever! If it is not a date, then it doesn't mean anything! We celebrate the moment in History that as St. John puts it, "THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH"! GOD BECAME MAN! Have we ever stopped to really think about that. I mean we hear it all the time but have we really thought about it? It is mind boggling! And this actually happened! This took place at a definitive moment in History.

There is a HUGE supernatural reality that our culture fails to see. We are about to celebrate something so incredible that I can't believe we aren't all sitting in awe in prayer during this great feast. In stead we go insane with all the preparations and are more concerned with presents than anything else. I love my family and I LOVE celebrating with them but if I don't make a serious effort to take time and be spiritual on Christmas it doesn't happen with them. That is why every year for I don't know how long I always leave the house for Christmas Eve about an hour before the rest of my family just so I can get to the Church and sit in silence with my King before the craziness of the night ensues. That honestly is my favorite moment of Christmas. It is just me and Jesus in the quiet of the Church before the people start filing in for mass. And it makes all the difference in the world.

But is that enough? How do we enage the culture and change these false perception? How do we get people to come to conversion and realize that what they are celebrating is the feast of their Savior coming to save them? How do we get people to realize the greatest present they are recieving on Christmas is Christ himself? How do we get people to step back from the hustle and bustle and take time to just be with the King of Kings? How do we create authentic Catholic culture in general but especially surrounding Christmas?

I just pray I can focus more on prayer and the true meaning and not get sucked into all the distractions myself. Blessed rest of Advent to you all and Merry Christmas! Let us all remember this year that great Historical event that has transformed everything we are!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I'm so sick of teaching 7th grade confirmation at the school! These kids are a bunch of brats with no self-control. I'm at my wits end. I honestly don't know how to work with them. I have such a hard time being Christ-Like with them. I feel absolutely helpless around them. I feel worse than a first year teacher around them. I need some serious insight and grace here. I gotta kick up the prayers to love these little hudlums more. Thank God for two weeks away from them!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Letting Go

I just got back two days ago from another amazing trip to Wichita. This trip however was different. God spoke to me in a different way while I was there. It was still an amazing week, it was just different.

I arrived on the Friday before Thanksgiving and went straight to Bishop Carroll. I got there in the middle of 7th hour and went and said hi to teachers and students. It was great to be there but it was different. In a lot of ways it still felt like home, comfortable and familiar, but in a lot of ways it felt different. There were now two entire classes of students who had no idea who I was. I knew none of the Freshmen or Sophomores. There is only a handful of Juniors and Seniors there that know me. A huge chunk of the staff I had worked with is no longer there. That over excited welcome I recieved from the school last year had diminished. There was still those few that were every excited to see me and I them but the number of people that knew me had greatly diminished.

The number of people I saw this time around was also less. I still did a lot of running around and tried to spend time with a lot of people, but it was a lot less. I have started losing touch with certain people, mainly former students. And frankly thats ok. I still miss them and pray for them daily but I didn't feel the need to make sure I spent every waking moment trying to catch up with every person I have ever met in Wichita.

The time I did spend with people though felt better and more quality than it had before. I left so impressed with how much my boys had grown up. The boys that were sophmores when I left are now Seniors and I still have a hard time believing they will be graduating this year. It still kills me a little bit that I can't be around for their Senior year but I'm realizing how much they are really starting to make life and their faith their own and am blown away by how the conversations between us while still funny and sarcastic at times are more mature.

The time I spent with the boys who were graduating before I left and are now college sophmores was even more impressive to me. The conversations we had were much more real and much more candid. I honestly felt like I was hanging out with friends and not former students.

Spending time with my young adult friends was also great but things had changed there also. Kids running around, new faces, less drama, people that were married that hadn't been when I left. Still a few socially awkward people but I found even those a little more tolerable than I had before.

Then there was the conversation with Fr. Jarrod. This was pivotal. I finally came to the realization that returning to Bishop Carroll may not happen next year. Its not out of the realm of possibilites but there is no gauruntee that will happen. And you know what, I'm actually ok with that. Another key conversation that happened for me was with Barb Pianalto. I love this woman, she just has a way of making and keeping things so clear and real. I realized in that conversation that I cannot have back what I had before. Life has changed, Carroll has changed, I have changed. Even if I go back to Carroll I cannot recreate what once was. I have to be open to the possibility that God might be leading me some place else. Maybe I'm supposed to be at Kaupan, maybe I'm supposed to work at a Parish or for the diocese, maybe I'm supposed to work in a completely different city. I want to go home and being back at Carroll is still my dream but its because it is comfortable. Maybe God is planning something completely different. All I know is that He's in control and I want to be open to whatever He has in store. It is a little scary not knowing what will happen but it is also so exciting to know the possibilites are endless come May.

This last week I finally let go of my former life in Wichita. It was the first time I came back to Denver and didn't cry. I'm not letting go of the possibility of being back in Wichita but I know that if I am back there it will be a new start. Round 2 will be much different than round one. I'm not letting go of friendships just putting God more in control of them. I came to realize that no matter where I end up Wichita will always have a special place in my heart, I will always go back to visit, and the relationships I built there will continue to last a life time.

I also ask all of you for your prayers as I enter the last week of classes and finals. Pray for me and my thesis and my last semester. Also pray that God would send me where He wants me. I'm applying to places here in Denver, Wichita, Kansas City, New Orleans, and I think I might even apply in Rockford. Bottom line God is in control. I know what I want but I want God to take that desire from me if its not what He wants. I desire His will and His will alone!