Monday, October 19, 2009

Moving to the Rythms of Grace

It has been a while since a post. Its been a lot tougher to blog since teaching started and the move back to Wichita. This one will be brief but it will be at least something for now.

Life has been a total gift these days. I truly feel, as the Matt Maher Song Says, that I'm moving to the rythms of God's grace. Every day is a new challange, a new adventure, a new joy. I feel as if I am experience Christ in a new way everyday, be that through my students, my fellow teachers, and through both the joys and struggles Mary Beth and I are experiencing. For the first time in a long time I feel like God is in control. I have learned to surrender a little more each day and allow God to take the reigns in a way I never have before. Of course there is always room for improvement, however I am more aware of God's hand acting in my life more than I ever have been.

I have been seeing the fruit of God's work in my life a lot lately. The first fruit I've been experiencing is the fruit of a prayer life that really began to take shape early last semester. Through taking the time to spend at least 20-30 minutes in silent mediation every single day I have encountered a peace and an awareness of God's presence that have allowed me to have this attitude of surrender. Another fruit is the fact that I have been blessed with the opportunity to run into several former students and see how awesomely God is working in their lives. Even the ones who have not had full on conversions are growing up and really taking their lives and studies very seriously. The final and most amazing fruit is my relationship with Mary Beth. She is challenging me to grow so much. She truly makes me desire sainthood in a way I never have before. She motivates me to keep my prayer life and desire for Holiness going because she not only makes me want to get to heaven but I want to see her in heaven and I know that if I want to be a good husband to her some day soon and eventually a good Father to our children I have to strive for holiness now more than ever.

That's all for now. Hopefully I will write more soon. May God continued to be glorified in all our prayers and works!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Life in Wichita: Round 2

I am about to begin week 4 of teaching. Life really never seems to slow down. It has been one month and two days since the move back to Wichita. In many ways it seems like I never left and I have been able to slip right back into life here. But in other ways I know life is radically different than it was three years ago. I have a beautiful fiancée who I am planning a wedding with. I am trying to help Mary Beth adjust to life here. She has given up so much to move here and for that I am forever grateful. In many ways I can see she loves it but I also know she is struggling and having a tough time with the transition. I have a Masters degree now. I am so grateful for the knowledge I received at the AI and I truly feel like it is making me a better teacher.

I remember my first night back here. I had just left the Brandt’s from helping Mary Beth unload her stuff. I was in my new room surrounded by a sea of boxes. I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of joy to be back but at the same time a deep sense of loss for the life I left behind in Denver. There is no way this transition would be nearly as easy without Mary Beth. But nonetheless even when change comes and I want it there always seems to be some sense of loss that comes with it.

At the same time I know this is where God wants us for now. I have the best job in the world. Nothing brings me greater joy than sharing Christ in the classroom and nothing brings me greater joy than to do it at Bishop Carroll. It is an amazing school with incredible students and an administration that I am proud to work for. In many ways things haven’t changed much around Carroll, same students just different faces, same schedule and routine. But in other ways there is a new and exciting adventure with it. A whole new wing of the building has been added. There is a brand new activities complex. The new gym is beautiful and is a testament to the amazing generosity and stewardship way of life that the people of this diocese have embraced. It is actually kind of nice to be teaching a whole new set of students I have never taught before. I get so excited to wake up every morning and go teach. It is so humbling to be given the opportunity to be able to have the opportunity to share the Gospel with young souls. I gave a test earlier this week and as I walked around the room I paused for a moment and looked around the room. I remember being in awe of God’s plan for my life and being so thankful for every student in the room. I asked God to bless them and guide them as they took their test. I don’t think I’ve ever had this strong a desire for every student of mine to get to Heaven.

I didn’t realize how much my experience in Denver had changed me until I started teaching again. Don’t get me wrong I still had a desire for the salvation of my students before and still tried very hard to love them and teach them to the best of my ability but something in me is different and it is hard to explain. I feel settled. I feel at peace. I feel more patient and loving. I feel more in love with my subject. I feel more connected to Christ in prayer. I feel the flame of Faith burning brighter than it ever has in me. I just pray God continues to use me in the way He sees fit.

Life has fallen into a routine around here. The alarm goes off at 4:50 a.m. I go work out at the Y then I go teach for the day. Then I meet Mary Beth for 5:30 p.m. mass after work. Then we spend some time in Adoration followed by dinner. Then we spend some time either just hanging out or doing wedding planning. It in many ways seems uneventful and ordinary but when I know it is exactly what God wants me to be doing it is far from uneventful it is an adventure that I am thrilled to be on. Every moment of saying yes to my King and cooperating with His grace even in those moments that I really didn’t want to has brought me to here and here is exactly where I am happy to be, because here is God’s plan and that is way better than anything I would have been able to come up with. From here the journey continues and I am excited for what He will continue to do and show me throughout this year and the rest of my life!

Praise God from whom all Blessings Flow!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brother to Brother

Over the past week one of my Household brothers from Steubenville has been posting old videos from our time there on youtube. It has been so cool to watch those. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. These moments captured on video have brought me laughter, joy, tears, and profound thanksgiving. To watch these videos brought me back to such a formative time in my life. My time in Steubenville, specifically with the Knights of the Holy Queen, has profoundly affected who I am. My brothers there have left a profound mark on my soul. These guys have seriously been and continue to be some of my best friends. We are separated by hundreds and even thousands of miles today but the brotherhood continues. We have an e-mail list that results in 30-40 e-mails sometimes throughout the day. Some of them are completely hilarious and stupid, some of them consist of vents and rants, and others are profound and draw me into deeper prayer. These guys continue to challenge me to grow and continue to be a source of joy and inspiration. They help me to laugh and love life so much.

For so many of my friends and family that didn't go to Steubenville they don't quite get or understand the bond that is formed between us. A lot of my friends ask how it is that I'm still so close to some of my friends from College. All I know is that Mary has made us brothers and Christ binds us in a way I can't quite explain. I know that if I fall these men will be the first to pick me up. I know that I will drop anything to be there for any one of them. 7 years out of college and I have literally kept in touch with some of these guys over the phone every week for the last seven years. Three of these men are going to be groomsmen in my wedding. Several others will be present to celebrate with me. All I know is that these men are truly my extended family. I would not be the man I am today without them.

The relationship I have with these guys is always a constant reminder that I cannot live the Christian life without help. We are created for relationship. To think that we can battle this world and the enemy on our own is to have lost already. We need community. We need people who will call us out on our failings and challenge us to be better. We need people who are there praying for us and encouraging us along the way. I know in my own life I have had some tough times and fallen hard. I don't know that I would have had the strength to get back up without the help of my brother Knights.

These men have taught me what it truly means to be a man. They have taught me the meaning of sacrifice. They have taught me how to treat women properly. They have taught me to fight for my soul with resilience, to truly battle and persevere until the last day. These men have taught me to be real and live Christianity in a truly human way. These men have taught me that there is a way to live my faith in a way that is attractive and joyful. Thank you brothers for showing me how to be a true man of God!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Am Captivated By You

I am down to three weeks left in Denver. Its hard to believe my time here is coming to an end. For so long I couldn’t wait to get out of here and now I’m beginning to realize that this is going to be a lot harder than I anticipated. Don’t get me wrong I’m so excited to be teaching again and especially teaching again at Carroll. I’m excited to be around so many people I love again. I know without a doubt that this is God’s will for me and the future is incredibly hopeful. I’m beyond excited for Mary Beth to be a part of this journey and to begin planning our lives together. Despite all this confidence in God’s plan and the joys of teaching it still doesn’t make it easy. I’m a person that has never done really well with change even when I want it.

God has blessed me so much in the last couple years. They have been some of the hardest but I have come out with some of the greatest gifts I could ever imagine. I never thought I would meet someone like Mary Beth by the end of my time here. I haven’t made a ton of friends out here but the ones I have made have become incredibly dear to me and the times I have spent with them have been some of the best of my life. I have experienced God’s majesty in the mountains. I have tried my hand at skiing. I have learned under some incredible professors and gained a new love and appreciation for my faith. I have been challenged and grown in so many ways. God has captivated my heart in a powerful way through my experiences here and for that I am forever grateful.

Over Fourth of July Weekend I went camping in the mountains with some friends. We spent the first night camping on Cotton Wood Pass and then went on to Crested Butte. This by far had to be the most gorgeous part of Colorado I had ever been in. The Drive was breath taking. On Sunday of the trip a bunch of us crammed into a Jeep Wrangler and went four wheeling up a mountain. On the way up the mountain we were listening to the song Captivated by Shawn McDonald. It was the first time I had heard the song and honestly it spoke to me because it honestly encapsulated everything I have experienced in the last two years. Here are the lyrics:

When I look into the mountains
I see Your fame
When I look into the night's sky
It sparkles Your name

The wind and the clouds and the blue in the sky
The sun and the moon and the stars so high
That's what draws me to You

I am, I'm captivated by You
In all that You do
I am, I'm captivated

When I wake unto the morning
It gives me Your sight
When I look across the ocean
It echoes Your might

The sand on the shore and the waves in the sea
The air in my lungs and the way You made me
That's what draws me to You

I am, I'm captivated by You
In all that You do
I am, I'm captivated

'Cause I am, I'm captivated by You
In all that You do
I am, I'm captivated

The wind and the clouds and the blue in the sky
The sun and the moon and the stars so high
The sand on the shore and the waves in the sea
The air in my lungs and the way You made me

The blood in my veins and my heart You invade
The plants how they grow and the tree and their shade
The way that I feel and love in my soul
I thank you my God for letting me, letting me know

I am, I'm captivated by You
In all that You do
I am, I'm captivated

'Cause I am, I'm captivated by You
In all that You do
I am, I'm captivated

At that moment with the mountains in front of us, streams and waterfalls to our left and the laughter and joy of good friends I felt completely enveloped in the Father’s Love. I felt so intensely loved by God at that moment. All I could think about was how thankful I was for Mary Beth, the job waiting for me in Wichita, and the great friends He had blessed me with here.

Since that trip has ended the days seem to be going faster and my time to enjoy Denver is speeding past me. I’m trying t savor every moment that is left. I’m enjoying spending more time with Mary Beth than I was able to during school. I’m enjoying time with some great friends out here and I am continually trying to enjoy what is left of this precious gift God blessed me with for two years.

As I return to Wichita I will leave here a little sad but I am so excited for what is in store for me there. Even though I am going back home it is not the continuation of what was before it is the beginning of a new chapter in my life. And despite the difficulties that will come with it I continue to be captivated by my Father and the blessings that will come from this experience.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Living the Dream

It has been quite some time since I've blogged. Life has kept me quite busy in the last month and a half since I last posted anything. God has been showering his blessings upon me and I have absolutely nothing to complain about these days (I mean there is always Obama and Liberals but we won't go there this time) :)!

Starting in January my life really started to hit a turning point. It has honestly been nothing but uphill since then and right now I feel like I'm at the top of the mountain simply soaking in and enjoying God's Glory. I am for the first time in a long time simply resting in my Father's love and it is awesome!

These last two years have been some of the toughest since I finished my undergrad but the suffering has produced some amazing fruit in my life. In December I started dating an amazing girl. Mary Beth has challenged me to grow in so many ways and makes me want to be Holy more than any other woman I have ever met. In January the whole prayer thing sunk in more than ever and as my prayer life has grown my love has grown tremendously. In April I was offered a position back at Bishop Carroll. In May I defended my Thesis, took my last final, and graduated with my MA in Evangelization and Catechesis. The biggest shock and honor of that was finding out I was Valedictorian. I so did not deserve that but God for some reason bestowed that on me. I was honored to give a speech in front of my professors, classmates, family, Archbishop Chaput, and Cardinal Arinze (speech posted below if you want to read it). It was so awesome to experience that.

From graduation life moved into full force Totus Tuus mode. Training started a week after Graduation at St. Malo retreat center in the Mountains. This year was an incredibly blessed training. We have some incredible teachers with us, some of the best I've ever seen. I got to spend a great week hanging out with Fr. Kevin and Steve. It was also great to have Drew and Clay added to the Totus Tuus mix. God really drew me closer to Him that week and gave me some great opportunities to teach and grow in brotherhood with Steve and Father Kevin.

Then came one of the best days of my life. The Monday after training ended was mine and Mary Beth’s 6-month anniversary. On that day I took her hiking in the mountains and on the way to lunch we stopped at the Chapel on the Rock at St. Malo and I asked her to marry me. She said yes! We are both super happy and excited. The wedding is set for July 3, 2010 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Wichita, KS.

Since then it has just continued to be awesome. I've been spending time with Mary Beth and just enjoying being engaged and each other without the stress of school finally. I've also been enjoying time with friends and my last couple months in Denver. Its honestly beginning to feel very bitter sweet that I'm moving. I'm so excited to be in the classroom again and to move home but I'm actually going to miss this place and some of the friendships I've made here, not to mention the weather and the mountains.

This last Saturday was also pretty incredible. I climbed a 14er for the first time, Mt. Bierstadt. It was so awesome and such an intense experience but worth every ounce of it. It honestly felt like such an analogy to my life, heck the Christian life in general. The climb was tough and physically draining. The air thinned, it was an uphill battle. At moments you felt like turning back but I refused and pushed myself incredibly hard to get to the top. All along the way all of us that climbed together encouraged each other and helped each other out. It was hard but I felt encouraged, loved, and safe because of the community of people I climbed with. At the top all the difficulty faded. I experienced such a sense of accomplishment. The view was incredible, probably the most beautiful view I've ever experienced. It felt on top of the world. I felt bathed in the Glory of God.

Life is definitely a roller coaster. I've had some rough times but right now I'm basking in the good ones. I know rough times will come again but as always God will give me the grace to get through them. Melissa is coming to visit today so she can meet Mary Beth. I can't wait to see her. She leaves Friday and then it’s off to camp in the mountains for 4th of July weekend! T-minus 4 weeks and 6 days left in Colorado. I'm going to savor every moment and continue to rest in my Father's love. For all you Kansas folk: can't wait to come home and have you all get to know Mary Beth more!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Augustine Institute 2009 Valedictorian Address

Your Eminence, your Excellency, Dr. Gray and Augustine Institute faculty, and fellow graduates, I am humbled and honored to be in front of you today. It is with great joy that I address you on this momentous occasion.

George Weigel, in his book, Letters to a Young Catholic writes, “While Catholicism is a body of beliefs and a way of life, Catholicism is also an optic, a way of seeing things, a distinctive perception of reality.” This is what I believe the Augustine Institute has given us; a vision for life. We’ve written countless papers, sat through many lectures, stressed over memorizing more than what we would have thought possible for Dr. Sri’s exams, read an average of 1000 pages a week for Dr. Reyes’ class, and tried to decipher what Professor Innerst was really saying. And while education is a good in itself, all these things were merely means to an end. They served to give us an authentically Catholic worldview and shape us into leaders for the New Evangelization. We come to this day with a clearer understanding of what we must do to contribute to rebuilding a Christian culture.

The Servant of God, John Paul II, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Catehesi Tradendae, wrote, “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.” As we go out into this world we must first realize that we are not offering people merely a moral code or a competing set of ideas but a call to relationship. To be Catholic is to be in an intimate relationship with Christ. Our lives must first and foremost bear witness to this.

In today’s world people are lost. They are starving for authentic relationship. They are desperately looking for “meaning”. Instead we are building what, then, Cardinal Ratzinger called a, “dictatorship of relativism.” People have lost their moral compass accepting the most atrocious crimes against humanity as “personal choices.” Where is “meaning?” Is it in Going Green? Is it in being a Champion of Choice? Is it in the Constitution? Or is it, in these days, to be found in financial security (being “debt free”)? The answer of Christ and his Church is, of course, that man is invested with a great dignity and a higher calling. St. Augustine writes, “You have made us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Again, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, “Human life cannot be realized by itself. Our life is an open question, an incomplete project, still to be brought to fruition and realized. Each man's fundamental question is: How will this be realized—becoming man? How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path toward happiness? To evangelize means: to show this path—to teach the art of living.” We have lost this art of living. It is unlikely that rational arguments are going to sway people from today’s relativistic thought. The only way we are going to make a difference is by living a life that is radically other and at the same time attractive because it witnesses to love.

Lastly we must be people of prayer. John 15:5 reads, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Without being rooted in Christ our efforts will be in vain. The only way to stay rooted in Christ is through prayer. The Augustine Institute has reawakened in me the realization of the desperate need I have for prayer. If we are to accomplish anything we must take time in this busy world to silence ourselves and allow God to speak to us and transform us.

Mary’s Fiat, St. Joseph humbly accepting the will of God to become the Foster Father of Jesus, St. Paul preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth despite persecution and suffering, St. Augustine leaving behind a life of pleasure for the sake of the Gospel, St. Therese doing small things with great love, St. Polycarp and many other martyrs like him in the history of the Church accepting death rather than denying Christ, St. Francis embracing a life of poverty, St. Benedict renewing the Church by becoming the founder of western monasticism, St. Maximillian Kolbe willingly laying down his life for the sake of another in a Nazi Concentration camp, Bl. Mother Theresa picking up the poor and diseased from the gutters of Calcutta; all of these things are examples of radical love. It is this radical love that allowed these Saints to transform the world around them. As we learned in Dr. Reyes’ class, “History is not made by large groups of people but by individuals.” With the formation we have received here we are to go forth and be those individuals committed to transforming the culture by radical love as these and so many other Saints have done.

In conclusion, I would like to thank my parents for all their sacrifices on my behalf, without them I would not be here today. I would also like to thank all the professors for not only their work in our intellectual formation but also for their witness of life in showing us the “art of living.” I would like to thank Archbishop Chaput for his support of the Augustine Institute, without it none of us would be here today. And of course thank you to Cardinal Arinze for taking the time to celebrate with us today. My fellow graduates, I leave you with these words of Christ to the Apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Congratulations Class of 2009! Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Go Therefore and Make Disciples of All Nations

I'M DONE!!! I'm officially finished with Graduate School! I took my last final last night. All I have left to do is walk across a stage and get my diploma. I can't believe its over and I have my Masters Degree.

Two years ago when I arrived in Denver I had no idea what God had in store for me. I knew I would grow spiritually from the experience and learn a little something along the way but never in a million years did I imagine it would be like this. I thought I would move out here take some cool classes, write some papers and walk home with a degree. I came in slightly prideful feeling because after all “her I have an undergrad in Theology”. I knew I didn't know it all but I also didn't really think going to the Augustine Institute would have as profound an impact on me as it did. I grew intellectually way more than I thought I would but above all the spiritual growth and formation I received there have deeply changed me.

Pope Paul VI in EVANGELII NUNTIANDI writes, "Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection." I had read this once before in undergrad but I don't think I realized the importance and seriousness of these words until recently. There is an urgency in today's world to go out and evangelize. If we are Catholic, then we have an obligation to share in this mission. It is NOT an option. The world is crying out for truth and is one of the biggest states of confusion it has ever been in. As Catholics we are called to bring Christ to all people. We are called to transform this culture and that can only be done through Evangelization.

My time at the AI has given me a newfound sense of what Evangelization is and means. It has changed my perception of how I view the world. In a sense I've had a second conversion experience. In so many ways I have rediscovered my Catholic faith. The lens through which I view the world all of a sudden seems so much clearer. I feel renewed and ready to go back into teaching. I feel ready to take on new challenges and adventures as I continue to serve Christ through the Church.

Here are some bits of some of the ways the Augustine Institute has shaped me and prepared me to better serve the New Evangelization.

1. I have to ramp up the witness of my life. I have to strive to live in a way that is so much more radically other than I have in the past while at the same time do it in a way that is attractive and loving to others. Rational arguments are not going to convert people from their relativistic worldview. Benedict XVI says so many people reject Christianity because we have lost the "Art of Living". If our lives don't bear witness to the beauty and excitement of a relationship with Jesus Christ we will not change anyone.

2. I've come to a much more profound realization that I am a son of God. My first semester in Dr. Sri's class we talked about Divine Sonship; that lecture changed something in me; it’s like all of a sudden something clicked in my head. "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. And so WE ARE!" (1 John 3:1) We are truly and fully God's children. He loves us profoundly and will take care of us no matter what.

3. I have come to hunger for the Eucharist and prayer in a way I never have before. The readings from the Saints we had to do and the time I spent in prayer over them have brought me to a point in my prayer life where daily mass and at least 30 minutes of silent meditation are essential to my day. The few times I have missed those in the past few months have resulted in bad days where things feel off. I still have a long way to go in my prayer life but before I knew in my head prayer was important but now its importance has penetrated the depths of my heart. It is slowly becoming the air I breathe. I hope I never lose sight of this one.

4. I have come to understand the history of why things in the world are the way they are today. All of a sudden all the things that have always frustrated me about the culture and politics make sense. Not that they don't frustrate me any more but I have begun to realize that a lot of the reason people are the way they are is not their fault. Our culture has been severely attacked and affected by centuries of incredibly bad Philosophy and thought that have left people with a very poor understanding of human anthropology and left them confused and in a state of hopelessness. This is why Evangelization is so key to the transformation of our society.

5. Lastly, probably the biggest thing the Augustine Institute has given me is brought me to a point were I have realized more than ever that I am nothing and God is everything. In the words of John the Baptist, "I must decrease, He must increase." I am slowly learning that I have to completely abandon my self into the arms of my Father. The only reason I have ever been effective in ministry and will continue to be effective in ministry is because of Him! Without him I am NOTHING! I will not go on from here and do great things; He will go onto do great things through me! "Apart from me you can do nothing!" Left to do things on my own I completely and totally suck. It is God who allows me to help in the building up of His Kingdom. It is God who blesses me with all the gifts in my life. It is God who gives me life and holds me in existence.

It is with a grateful heart that I journey into the next phase of my life. I'm ready to serve, ready to love, and ready to trust. No doubt God will continue to challenge me and form me. I still have much to learn and experience but the knowledge I have gained at the Augustine Institute will be indispensable in my task to go out and make disciples and on the road of my own personal journey.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"I Have Come that You Might Have Life and Have it Abundantly!"

On Monday I was at noon mass at the seminary and the Father's homily focused on the verse in John's Gospel, "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly." He asked us how often we really reflect on this? How often do we realize the gift of abundant Life that we have been given? How often are we a witness to others of that abundant life? Christ promises a life this is more amazing and more profound than anything we could ever imagine. We are pilgrims on a journey. This world is passing. One day we will hopefully all be welcomed into eternity and be able to fully experience this abundant life that Jesus speaks of.

As I reflected on this during mass and in my prayer time later that I day I realized how much Jesus is calling me to be detached from the things of this world. How often do I seek "life" from earthly pleasures. Not to say that all those earthly things are necissarily bad but they are just that, earthly and material. These are things that will fade.

Monday when I walked into mass I was so frustrated. I was stressing out about debt I need to get rid of, things I need to save money for, my computer was having issues and chances are I'll have to get a new one, a Parish canceled for Totus Tuus this summer, finals on the brain, all the stuff I still have left to do to get ready for Totus Tuus Training. To quote the movie Office Space, I was definetally having "A Case of the Mondays". While I sat there listening to the Gospel and then Father's Homily I started to realize, "seriously Jose, you are upset and stressing about all this? Have you not learned anything this past year? Look at all the amazing things in your life that are on such another level than these ridiculous material and earthly problems!" I started to snap myself back to reality. There is a God who loves me more than anything! Jesus Christ is Risen and redeemed me! I have access to the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist every day! I am blessed with an amazing girlfriend! I have been given an incredible job for next year! Things all of a sudden started to come back into perspective. All of these things are a glimpse of the abundant life God has to offer me! Sure there are all these stresses but God will give me the grace to get them figured out. He always does. I realized despite the difficulties I have to keep the bigger picture in perspective. That bigger picture is the amazing graces God pours into my life every single day. That bigger picture is abundant life!

I am truly blessed beyond words. Yeah all those stresses I mentioned are still present. I have no clue how all those things will shape up. But I do know that God will get them done through me like he always does.

There are so many problems in today's world. There are a lot of unhappy people. There are so many people who have lost hope. We as Christians have an obligation to be witnesses to the abundant life Jesus has promised us! If we lose sight of the big picture and focus too much on earthly realities then others will not grasp the concept of the greatness what God has in store for us. We must be lights in this dark world and be greatful for the abundant life God has bestowed on us in order to restore joy and hope to those who have lost it in this world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Moral and Spiritual Theology

For my Moral and Spiritual Theology Class we had to write two one page single-spaced spiritual essays. I wrote both of these last weekend when we were snowed in. I think they are pretty decent and hopfully offer some insights. For the first essay we had to pick any quote we wanted from our readings and expound on it by making connections with other quotes from the other readings. In the Second essay we had to pick a quote from one of the readings that defined prayer and then expound on that using quotes from the other readings as well. I think they are blog worthy. Hope you all enjoy!

Essay #1
Father Jacques Philippe in his book, Searching For and Maintaining Peace, writes, “In order to understand how fundamental it is for the development of the Christian life to strive to acquire and maintain peace of heart, the first thing which we must be convinced is that all good that we can do comes from God and from Him alone: Apart from Me, you can do nothing, Jesus said (John 15:5)” (pg. 3). This is the key to the Christian life. Often times on our journey we get frustrated because we ourselves try to be in control. We must put God in control of everything in order to be successful in our Christian walk. Mother Teresa affected the lives of so many people because she had this exact attitude. She writes, “I don’t think there is anyone who needs God’s help and grace as much as I do. Sometimes I feel so helpless and weak. I think that is why God uses me. Because I cannot depend on my own strength, I rely on Him twenty-four hours a day.” (No Greater Love 3). She recognized that God used her because she saw that without Him she could do nothing. St. Augustine is a saint we can easily relate to with our struggles to depend on God in all things. He spent many years being restless and struggling because he wanted to be in control and cling to his sins. In the Confessions he writes, “For you have made us and called us to yourself Oh Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in you Oh Lord” (Book 1 Chapter 1). Later he also writes, “You are the strength of my soul; make your way in and shape it to yourself, that it may be yours to have and to hold, free from stain or wrinkle” (Book 10 Chapter 1).
So how does one go about doing this? It is a lot easier said than done. The first thing one must do is to know their place in God’s plan; to allow one’s self to be God’s servant and know one’s limits that are part of one’s humanity. St. Bernard writes, “The impudence of the sinner displeases God as much as the modesty of the penitent gives him pleasure. You will please him more readily if you live within the limits proper to you and do not set your sights at things beyond you” (Sermon 3:4). In other words to rely on God requires humility. Secondly, we must seek to do God’s will and His will alone. St. Catherine of Sienna writes, “O sweet, eternal will, you have taught us the way to discover your will! And if, most merciful Father, we were to ask your gentle, loving Son about this way, he would answer as follows: ‘Dearest children, if you want to discover and know the fruit of my will, dwell always in the cell of your soul’”(Pg. 24). This stems back to becoming humble. St. Catherine goes on to say, “This cell is a well containing soil as our own poverty, knowing that of ourselves we are nothing. In this knowledge we appreciate that our very existence comes to us from God” (Pg. 24). It is important to recognize that when we rely on God’s will we will be happier than if we try and do things our way. Greatness lies not in what the world tells us but in what God desires for us. St. Therese of Lisieux writes, “It pleases Him to create great Saints, who may be compared with the lilies or the rose; but He has also created little ones, who must be content to be daisies or violets…The happier they are to be as He wills, the more perfect they are” (Pg. 2). Lastly, in order to accept God’s will and do it in humility prayer is necessary. When we pray we grow in love and become more trusting of our Father. Fr. Dubay writes, “anyone who grows in love grows in happiness, even to the point of ‘rejoicing in the Lord always’ (Phil 4:4)”(Pg. 80).
God has a great plan for all of us, but if we are not rooted in Him we can go nowhere. If we want to let go and put God in control then the questions we must ask ourselves are, “How can I let Jesus act in me? How can I permit the grace of God to freely operate in my life” (Philippe 4)? For only when we allow God to take control will we come to our true fulfillment.

Essay #2
Simon Tugwell writes, “‘Prayer,’ according to one ancient definition, ‘is keeping company with God.’ And that really throws us right in at the deep end. Prayer is not another part for us to act, another skill for us to master, another subject to study for an examination: it is a relationship, and a relationship with God” (vii). In order to cultivate any sort of relationship in our lives we have to put effort into it and spend time with the person. If we want a relationship with God we must pray. Mother Teresa writes, “My secret is very simple: I pray. Through prayer I become one in love with Christ. I realize that praying to Him is loving Him” (No Greater Love 3). Despite prayer not being a skill for us to master, it is something many of us struggle with. Bernard Bro writes, “One of the first observations to be made about our prayer life is that we do not know how to pray. The Apostles themselves recognized this very soon and make this request to Christ” (Pg. 28).
As mentioned above, prayer is about relationship with God, but how do we enter into that relationship? Just as the Apostles asked how to pray we must ask that same question. St. Catherine of Sienna writes of three kinds of prayer. “The first is unceasing: it is a holy and constant desire which prays in the sight of God, no matter what you are doing…The second kind is vocal prayer: you engage in this when you say the office or other prayers aloud. This is meant to bring you to the third kind, namely mental prayer”(Pg. 22). While all three of these types of prayer are good, if we want to truly grow in the Christian life one has to commit to mental prayer or meditation. “Just as you and I get to know people by meeting, listening, and speaking to them, so in meditation we get to know God interpersonally by conversing with him in a quiet place…We listen to him speaking to us through the beauties of nature, Sacred Scripture, the texts of the liturgy, the lives and writings of the saints” (Dubay 67). While prayer can be difficult and often times we get discouraged because we don’t feel like we are praying well, we must persevere. “If you want to pray better, you must pray more” (No Greater Love 4).
As we grow in love and prayer God may stir our hearts and call us to a deeper form of prayer called contemplation. However, contemplation is not something we can achieve on our own. “While meditative prayer involves reading, thinking, imagining, drawing conclusions, and conversing inwardly with the indwelling of the Trinity, contemplation is none of these things. Rather it is a real awareness of God, desiring and loving him, which we do not produce but simply receive from him when we are ready for it” (Dubay 85). St. John of the Cross refers to the soul called to contemplation in his writings. He writes that a person, “should allow the soul to remain in rest and quietude even though it may seem very obvious to them that they are doing nothing and wasting time…Through patience and perseverance in prayer, they will be doing a great deal without activity on their part” (Pg. 185). We can dispose ourselves to contemplation, but we cannot attain it on our own. In order to dispose ourselves to it one must, “lift up your heart up to the Lord, with a gentle stirring of love desiring him for his own sake and not for his gifts. Center all your attention and desire on him and let this be the sole concern of your mind and heart”(Cloud of Unknowing Pg. 48).
Prayer is the key to being in relationship with God. It is only through prayer that we can come to know and love God more and in the process come to know ourselves so that we can perfect ourselves in holiness. St. Bernard writes, “I assure you my sons, I find joy in nothing else if he is not here, who alone gives me joy. And I implore him not to come empty-handed but full of grace and truth…I need both of these: I need truth that I may not be able to hide from him, and grace that I may not wish to hide” (Sermon 74, III, 8). Prayer helps us grow in perfection and find joy in His presence!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Final Countdown

It has been entirley too long since I've written a post. I can't believe how much has happened since the last time I posted. God has blessed me with so much in the last few weeks. I can't get over how abundant his graces and mercy have been in my life. I so don't deserve it but I am eternally greatful.

After weeks of waiting with a giant knot in my stomach I finally interviewed for the Bishop Carroll job and got it!!! I'm so excited to be back there in the fall and am so thankful to have a job when so many friends of mine are out of a job and searching. I pray for them daily and realize that I could be in their shoes just as easily.

The trip to Wichita was awesome. Mary Beth loved it and is actually excited to move there with me. I'm in total awe of how incredibly open and willing she has been through all fo this. It blows my mind that a Colorado native is willing to leave everything she has known to come to Wichita with me. I don't deserve it. I love her for it so much and continue to fall more in love with her everyday!

I'm less than three weeks away from being done with grad school. My Thesis is done and bound. I'll be presenting it on May 1st. I have one paper left to write and finals to take. I'm feeling suprisingly relaxed as this semester comes to an end. I have tons left to do but just feel confident that it will somehow get done because it always does.

I'll be back in Wichita in about three weeks as well to sign my contract, fill out all my paper work and watch my boys graduate. I can't believe they are going to be done. It has been such a joy to be a part of their lives and watch them grow into young men over the past four years. I pray they continue to grow and go onto great things as they enter college next year.

My parents will then be in town for my graduation on the 23rd. My mom will meet Mary Beth for the first time. Caridnal Arenze will be out commencement speaker. I'm really excited for that weekend. Its going to feel darn good to get that diploma.

Then one amazing summer left in Denver. Totus Tuus training starts May 28th. Josh Mans is coming back this summer and Drew Maly and Clay Kimbro will be teaching for the first time. I'm super pumped to have those guys out here. I'm also really excited to get to enjoy some great summer hikes with Mary Beth and be able to have a little more free time to spend together without school hanging over my head. The big move is scheduled for August 3rd or 4th. Please pray that Mary Beth finds a job.

Two years have gone by so fast. It is so crazy to look back on an reflect on all that has happened. It has been an incredible ride and one I never thought would end up the way it has. God never ceases to amaze me. Life has been a struggle but I have to say that all the tough times have been worth ever difficulty and annoyance to experience the moments of joy I have had here in Colorado and the blessing of Mary Beth. I'm excited for what is left and I'm hoping to just soak it all in and enjoy now that the major stress of finding a job has been taken care of. I'm excited to move back but I'm also incredibly excited for what is left of school and the summer; to just sit back and soak in the beauty of the Rockies for one last summer!

Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Standing For Truth

The following is an article that I had to read for my History class by Cardinal Stafford describing his experience at the time of the dissent brought on By Humanae Vitae. It is a little long for a blog post but well worth the read! Let's remember our duty as Catholics to stand for Truth no matter what as we read this article, especially in light of the current Notre Dame and Obama situation. Hope you enjoy!

The Year of the Peirasmòs - 1968
By Cardinal James Francis Stafford

“Lead us not into temptation” is the sixth petition of the Our Father. Πειρασμός (Peirasmòs), the Greek word used in this passage for ‘temptation.’, means a trial or test. Disciples petition God to be protected against the supreme test of ungodly powers. The trial is related to Jesus’s cup in Gethsemane, the same cup which his disciples would also taste (Mk 10: 35-45). The dark side of the interior of the cup is an abyss. It reveals the awful consequences of God’s judgment upon sinful humanity. In August, 1968, the weight of the evangelical Πειρασμός fell on many priests, including myself.
It was the year of the bad war, of complex innocence that sanctified the shedding of blood. English historian Paul Johnson dubs 1968 as the year of “America’s Suicide Attempt.” It included the Tet offensive in Vietnam with its tsunami-like effects in American life and politics, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee; the tumult in American cities on Palm Sunday weekend; and the June assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in southern California. It was also the year in which Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical letter on transmitting human life, Humanae Vitae (HV). He met immediate, premeditated, and unprecedented opposition from some American theologians and pastors. By any measure 1968 was a bitter cup.
On the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, I have been asked to reflect on one event of that year, the doctrinal dissent among some priests and theologians in an American Archdiocese on the occasion of its publication. It is not an easy or welcome task. But since it may help some followers of Jesus to live what Pope Paul VI called a more “disciplined” life (HV 21), I will explore that event.
The summer of 1968 is a record of God’s hottest hour. The memories are not forgotten; they are painful. They remain vivid like a tornado in the plains of Colorado. They inhabit the whirlwind where God’s wrath dwells. In 1968 something terrible happened in the Church. Within the ministerial priesthood ruptures developed everywhere among friends which never healed. And the wounds continue to affect the whole Church. The dissent, together with the leaders’ manipulation of the anger they fomented, became a supreme test. It changed fundamental relationships within the Church. It was a Πειρασμός for many.
Some background material is necessary. Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan, the sixth Archbishop of Baltimore, was my ecclesiastical superior at the time. Pope Paul VI had appointed him along with others as additional members to the Papal Commission for the Study of Problems of the Family, Population, and Birth Rates, first established by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1963 during the II Vatican Council. There had been discussions and delays and unauthorized interim reports from Rome prior to 1968. The enlarged Commission was asked to make recommendations on these issues to the Pope.
In preparation for its deliberations, the Cardinal sent confidential letters to various persons of the Church of Baltimore seeking their advice. I received such a letter.
My response drew upon experience, both personal and pastoral. Family and education had given me a Christian understanding of sex. The profoundly Catholic imagination of my family, friends and teachers had caused me to be open to this reality; I was filled with wonder before its mystery. Theological arguments weren’t necessary to convince me of the binding connection between sexual acts and new life. That truth was an accepted part of life at the elementary school connected with St. Joseph’s Passionist Monastery Parish in Baltimore. In my early teens my father had first introduced me to the full meaning of human sexuality and the need for discipline. His intervention opened a path through the labyrinth of adolescence.
Through my family, schools, and parishes I became friends with many young women. Some of them I dated on a regular basis. I marveled at their beauty. The courage of St. Maria Goretti, canonized in 1950, struck my generation like an intense mountain storm. Growing into my later teens I understood better how complex friendship with young women could be. They entered the spring-time of my life like the composite rhythm of a poem. To my surprise, the joy of being their friend was enriched by prayer, modesty, and the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.
Later education and formation in seminaries built upon those experiences. In a 1955 letter to a friend, Flannery O’Connor describes the significance of the virtue of purity for many Catholics at that time. “To see Christ as God and man is probably no more difficult today than it has been. ... For you it may be a matter of not being able to accept what you call a suspension of the law of the flesh and the physical, but for my part I think that when I know what the laws of the flesh and physical reality really are, then I will know what God is. We know them as we see them, not as God sees them. For me it is the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the resurrection which are the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, destruction are the suspension of these laws. I am always astonished at the emphasis the Church places on the body. It is not the soul she says that will rise but the body, glorified. I have always thought that purity was the most mysterious of the virtues, but it occurs to me that it would never have entered human consciousness if we were not to look forward to a resurrection of the body, which will be flesh and spirit united in peace, in the way they were in Christ. The resurrection of Christ seems the high point in the law of nature.” O’Connor’s theology with its remarkably eschatological mark anticipates the teaching of the II Vatican Council, “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” (Gaudium et Spes 22). In those years, I could not have used her explicit words to explain where I stood on sexuality and its use. Once I discovered them she became a spiritual sister.
Eight years of priestly ministry from 1958 to 1966 in Washington and Baltimore broadened my experience. It didn’t take long to discover changes in Americans’ attitudes towards the virtue of purity. Both cities were undergoing sharp increases in out-of-wedlock pregnancies. The rate in Baltimore’s inner-city was about 18% in 1966 and had been climbing for several years. In 1965-1966 the Baltimore Metropolitan Health and Welfare Council undertook a study to advise the city government in how to address the issue. At that time, the Board members of the Council, including myself, had uncritical faith in experts and social research. Even the II Vatican Council had expressed unfettered confidence in the role of benevolent experts (Gaudium et Spes 57). Not one of my professional acquaintances anticipated the crisis of trust which was just around the corner in the relations between men and women. Our vision was incapable of establishing conditions of justice and of purity of heart in which wonder and appreciation can find play. We were already anachronistic and without hope. We ignored the texture of life.
There were signs even then of the disasters facing children, both born and unborn. As a caseworker and priest throughout the 1960's, part of my ministry involved counseling inner-city families and single parents. My first awareness of a parishioner using hard drugs was in 1961. A sixteen-year old had been jailed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. At the time of my late afternoon visit to him, he was experiencing drug withdrawal unattended and alone in a tiny cell. His screams filled the corridors and adjoining cells. Through the iron bars dividing us, I was horror-stricken watching him in his torment. The abyss he was looking into was unimaginably terrifying. In this drugged youth writhing in agony on the floor next to an open toilet I saw the bitter fruits of the estrangement of men and women. His mother, separated from her husband, lived with her younger children in a sweltering third floor flat on Light St. in old South Baltimore. The father was non-existent for them. The failure of men in their paternal and spousal roles was unfolding before my eyes and ears. Since then more and more American men have refused to accept responsibility for their sexuality.
In a confidential letter responding to his request, I shared in a general fashion these concerns. My counsel to Cardinal Shehan was very real and specific. I had taken a hard, cold look at what I was experiencing and what the Church and society were doing. I came across an idea which was elliptical: the gift of love should be allowed to be fruitful. These two fixed points are constant. This simple idea lit up everything like lightning in a storm. I wrote about it more formally to the Cardinal: the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage cannot be separated. Consequently, to deprive a conjugal act deliberately of its fertility is intrinsically wrong. To encourage or approve such an abuse would lead to the eclipse of fatherhood and to disrespect for women. Since then, Pope John Paul II has given us the complementary and superlative insight into the nuptial meaning of the human body. Decades afterwards, I came across an analogous reading from Meister Eckhart: “Gratitude for the gift is shown only by allowing it to make one fruitful.”

Some time later, the Papal Commission sent its recommendations to the Pope. The majority advised that the Church’s teaching on contraception be changed in light of new circumstances. Cardinal Shehan was part of that majority. Even before the encyclical had been signed and issued, his vote had been made public although not on his initiative.
As we know, the Pope decided otherwise. This sets the scene for the tragic drama following the actual date of the publication of the encyclical letter on July 29, 1968.
In his memoirs, Cardinal Shehan describes the immediate reaction of some priests in Washington to the encyclical. “[A]fter receiving the first news of the publication of the encyclical, the Rev. Charles E. Curran, instructor of moral theology of The Catholic University of America, flew back to Washington from the West where he had been staying. Late [on the afternoon of July 29], he and nine other professors of theology of the Catholic University met, by evident prearrangement, in Caldwell Hall to receive, again by prearrangement with the Washington Post, the encyclical, part by part, as it came from the press. The story further indicated that by nine o’clock that night, they had received the whole encyclical, had read it, had analyzed it, criticized it, and had composed their six-hundred word ‘Statement of Dissent.’ Then they began that long series of telephone calls to ‘theologians’ throughout the East, which went on, according to the Post, until 3:30 A.M., seeking authorization, to attach their names as endorsers (signers was the term used) of the statement, although those to whom they had telephoned could not have had an opportunity to see either the encyclical or their statement. Meanwhile, they had arranged through one of the local television stations to have the statement broadcast that night.”
The Cardinal’s judgment was scornful. In 1982 he wrote, “The first thing that we have to note about the whole performance is this: so far as I have been able to discern, never in the recorded history of the Church has a solemn proclamation of a Pope been received by any group of Catholic people with so much disrespect and contempt.”
The personal Πειρασμός, the test, began. In Baltimore in early August, 1968, a few days after the encyclical’s issuance, I received an invitation by telephone from a recently ordained assistant pastor to attend a gathering of some Baltimore priests at the rectory of St. William of York parish in southwest Baltimore to discuss the encyclical. The meeting was set for Sunday evening, August 4. I agreed to come. Eventually a large number of priests were gathered in the rectory’s basement. I knew them all.
The dusk was clear, hot, and humid. The quarters were cramped. We were seated on rows of benches and chairs and were led by a diocesan inner-city pastor well known for his work in liturgy and race-relations. There were also several Sulpician priests present from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore to assist him in directing the meeting. I don’t recall their actual number.
My expectations of the meeting proved unrealistic. I had hoped that we had been called together to receive copies of the encyclical and to discuss it. I was mistaken. Neither happened.
After welcoming us and introducing the leadership, the inner-city pastor came to the point. He expected each of us to subscribe to the Washington “Statement of Dissent.” Mixing passion with humor, he explained the reasons. They ranged from the maintenance of the credibility of the Church among the laity to the need to allow ‘flexibility’ for married couples in forming their consciences on the use of artificial contraceptives. Before our arrival, the conveners had decided that the Baltimore priests’ rejection of the papal encyclical would be published the following morning in The Baltimore Sun, one of the daily newspapers.

The Washington statement was read aloud. Then the leader asked each of us to agree to have our names attached to it. No time was allowed for discussion, reflection, or prayer. Each priest was required individually to give a verbal “yes” or “no.”
I could not sign it. My earlier letter to Cardinal Shehan came to mind. I remained convinced of the truth of my judgement and conclusions. Noting that my seat was last in the packed basement, I listened to each priest’s response, hoping for support. It didn’t materialize. Everyone agreed to sign. There were no abstentions. As the last called upon, I felt isolated. The basement became suffocating.
By now it was night. The room was charged with tension. Something epochal was taking place. It became clear that the leaders’ strategy had been carefully mapped out beforehand. It was moving along without a hitch. Their rhetorical skills were having their anticipated effect. They had planned carefully how to exert what amounted to emotional and intellectual coercion. Violence by overt manipulation was new to the Baltimore presbyterate.
The leader’s reaction to my refusal was predictable and awful. The whole process now became a grueling struggle, a terrible test, a Πειρασμος. The priest/leader, drawing upon some scatological language from his Marine Corp past in the II World War responded contemptuously to my decision. He tried to force me to change. He became visibly angry and verbally abusive. The underlying, ‘fraternal’ violence became more evident. He questioned and then derided my integrity. He taunted me to risk my ecclesiastical ‘future,’ although his reference was more anatomically specific. The abuse went on.
With surprising coherence I was eventually able to respond that the Pope’s encyclical deserved the courtesy of a reading. None of us had read it. I continued that, as a matter of fact, I agreed with and accepted the Pope’s teaching as it had been reported in the public media. That response elicited more ridicule. Otherwise there was silence. Finally, seeing that I would remain firm, the ex-Marine moved on to complete the business and adjourn the meeting. The leaders then prepared a statement for the next morning’s daily paper.
The meeting ended. I sped out of there, free but disoriented. Once outside the darkness encompassed me. We all had been subjected to a new thing in the Church, something unexpected. A pastor and several seminary professors had abused rhetoric to undermine the truth within the evangelical community. When opposed, they assumed the role of Job’s friends. Their contempt became a nightmare. In the night it seemed that God’s blind hand was reaching out to touch my face.
The dissent of a few Sulpician seminary professors compounded my disorientation. In their ancient Baltimore Seminary I had first caught on to the connection between freedom, interiority, and obedience. By every ecclesial measure they should have been aware that the process they supported that evening exceeded the “norms of licit dissent.” But they showed no concern for the gravity of that theological and pastoral moment. They saw nothing unbecoming in the mix of publicity and theology. They expressed no impatience then or later over the coercive nature of the August meeting. Nor did any of the other priests present. One diocesan priest did request privately later that night that his name be removed before the statement’s publication in the morning paper.
For a long time, I wondered about the meaning of the event. It was a cataclysm which was difficult to survive intact. Things were sorted out slowly. Later, Henri de Lubac captured some of its significance, “Nothing is more opposed to witness than vulgarization. Nothing is more unlike the apostolate than propaganda.” Hannah Arendt’s insights have been useful concerning the dangerous poise of 20th century western culture between unavoidable doom and reckless optimism. “It should be possible to discover the hidden mechanics by which all traditional elements of our political and spiritual world were dissolved into a conglomeration of where everything seems to have lost specific value, and has become unrecognizable for human comprehension, unusable for human purpose. To yield to the mere process of disintegration has become an irresistible temptation, not only because it has assumed the spurious grandeur of ‘historical necessity’, but also because everything outside it has begun to appear lifeless, bloodless, meaningless and unreal”. The subterranean world that has always accompanied Catholic communities, called Gnosticism by our ancestors, had again surfaced and attempted to usurp the truth of the Catholic tradition.
An earlier memory from April 1968 helped to shed further light on what had happened in August, 1968 along with de Lubac’s words about violence and Arendt’s insights into the breaking point reached by Western civilization in the 20th century. During the height of the 1968 Baltimore riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I had made an emergency call to that same inner-city pastor who would lead the later August meeting. It was one of numerous telephone conversations I had with inner-city pastors during the night preceding Palm Sunday. At the request of the city government, I was asking whether the pastors or their people, both beleaguered, might need food, medical assistance, or other help.
My conversation with him that April night was by far the most dramatic. He described the view from the rectory while speaking on the phone. A window framed a dissolving neighborhood; his parish was becoming a raging inferno. He said, “From here I see nothing but fire burning everywhere. Everything has been set ablaze. The Church and rectory are untouched thus far.” He did not wish to leave or be evacuated. His voice betrayed disillusionment and fear. Later we learned that the parish buildings survived.
‘Sorting out’ these two events of violence continued throughout the following months and years. The trajectories of April and August 1968 unpredictably converged. Memories of the physical violence in the city in April 1968 helped me to name what had happened in August 1968. Ecclesial dissent can become a kind of spiritual violence in its form and content. A new, unsettling insight emerged. Violence and truth don’t mix. When expressive violence of whatever sort is inflicted upon truth, the resulting irony is lethal.
What do I mean? Look at the results of the two events. After the violent 1968 Palm Sunday weekend, civil dialogue in metropolitan Baltimore broke down and came to a stop. It took a back seat to open anger and recriminations between whites and blacks. The violence of the priests’ August gathering gave rise to its own ferocious acrimony. Conversations among the clergy, where they existed, became contaminated with fear. Suspicions among priests were chronic. Fears abounded. And they continue. The Archdiocesan priesthood lost something of the fraternal whole which Baltimore priests had known for generations. 1968 marked the hiatus of the generational communio of the Archdiocesan presbyterate, which had been continually reinforced by the seminary and its Sulpician faculty. Priests’ fraternity had been wounded. Pastoral dissent had attacked the Eucharistic foundation of the Church. Its nuptial significance had been denied. Some priests saw bishops as nothing more than Roman mannequins.
Something else happened among priests on that violent August night. Friendship in the Church sustained a direct hit. Jesus, by calling those who were with him his ‘friends,’ had made friendship a privileged analogy of the Church. That analogy became obscured after a large number of priests expressed shame over their leaders and repudiated their teaching.
Cardinal Shehan later reported that on Monday morning, August 5, he “was startled to read in the Baltimore Sun that seventy-two priests of the Baltimore area had signed the Statement of Dissent.” What he later called “the years of crisis” began for him during that hot, violent August evening in 1968.
But that night was not a total loss. The test was unexpected and unwelcome. Its unhinging consequences continue. Abusive, coercive dissent has become a reality in the Church and subjects her to violent, debilitating, unproductive, chronic controversies. But I did discover something new. Others also did. When the moment of Christian witness came, no Christian could be coerced who refused to be. Despite the novelty of being treated as an object of shame and ridicule, I did not become “ashamed of the Gospel” that night and found “sweet delight in what is right.” It was not a bad lesson. Ecclesial obedience ran the distance.
My discovery that Christ was the first to despise shame was gut-rending in its existential and providential reality. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Paradoxically, in the hot, August night a new sign shown unexpectedly on the path to future life. It read, “Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered.”
The violence of the initial disobedience was only a prelude to further and more pervasive violence. Priests wept at meetings over the manipulation of their brothers. Contempt for the truth, whether aggressive or passive, has become common in Church life. Dissenting priests, theologians and laypeople have continued their coercive techniques. From the beginning the press has used them to further its own serpentine agenda.
All of this led to a later discovery. Discernment is an essential part of episcopal ministry. With the grace of “the governing Spirit” the discerning skills of a bishop should mature. Episcopal attention should focus on the break/rupture initiated by Jesus and described by St. Paul in his response to Corinthian dissenters. “You desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we shall live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor 13: 3-5).
The rupture of the violent death of Jesus has changed our understanding of the nature of God. His Trinitarian life is essentially self-surrender and love. By Baptism, every disciple of Jesus is imprinted with that Trinitarian water-mark. The Incarnate Word came to do the will of him who sent him. Contemporary obedience of disciples to the Successor of Peter cannot be separated from the poverty of spirit and purity of heart modeled and won by the Word on the Cross.
A brief after word. In 1978 or thereabouts during an episcopal visitation to his parish, I was having lunch with the Baltimore pastor, the ex-Marine, who led the August 1968 meeting. I was a guest in his rectory. He was still formidable. Our conversation was about his parish, the same parish he had been shepherding during the 1968 riots. The atmosphere was amiable. During the simple meal in the kitchen I came to an uneasy decision. Since we had never discussed the August 1968 night, I decided to initiate a conversation about it. My recall was brief, objective and, insofar as circumstances allowed, unthreatening. I had hoped for some light from him on an event which had become central to the experience of many priests including myself. While my mind and heart were recalling the events of the night, he remained silent. His silence continued afterwards. Even though he had not forgotten, he made no comment. He didn’t lift his eyes. His heart’s fire was colder now.
Nothing was forthcoming. I left the matter there. No dialogue was possible in 1968; it remained impossible in 1978. There was no common ground. Both of us were looking into an abyss - from opposite sides. Anguish and disquiet overwhelmed the distant hope of reconciliation and friendship. We never returned to the subject again. He has since died while serving a large suburban parish. The only remaining option is to strike my breast and pray, “Lord, remember the secret worth of all our human worthlessness”
Diocesan presbyterates have not recovered from the July/August nights in 1968. Many in consecrated life also failed the evangelical test. Since January 2002, the abyss has opened up elsewhere. The whole people of God, including children and adolescents, now must look into the abyss and see what dread beasts are at its bottom. Each of us shudders before the wrath of God, each weeps in sorrow for our sins and each begs for the Father’s merciful remembrance of Christ’s obedience.

J. Francis Cardinal Stafford
Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dare to Know!

I'm currently in a History Class for my graduate program about the Church and the Modern World. This class is completely changing my perception of things and getting me to think and connect the dots of what is going on in our society in amazing ways. How many of us think? How many of us really and truly think? How many of us combine the use of our Faith and Reason to make decisions and evaluate the world around us. This is something I've been making a much stronger effort to do over the last few years. Let's take a quick stroll down memory lane and think about why we are where we are in our world today.

In ancient and early Christian times God was at the center of everything. Man believed truth was something outside themselves. There was belief that some form of higher power existed that was the source of that truth. Atheism was almost non existent because people actually believed in some form of higher power. The world then mainly became Christian and people lived in a world heavily influenced by Christ and his teachings. It was by no means perfect and people were not perfectly moral but people viewed the world in a Christian way.

Then came the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was not a relativistic movement. It did believe in truth. However it throughout faith and taught that truth could be arrived at through reason alone. The great cry of the Enlightenment was "Dare to Know!" The great thinkers of the enlightenment, like Kant, believed if you got a bunch of people together in a room and argued for something on reason alone you would come up with some sort of universal truth. We can all guess why that didn't work. Because when you take God out of the equation and leave it only to human beings to decide truth you're in big trouble. A sub movement that was part of the enlightenment was Romanticism. Romanticism was also not relativistic. Romanticism believed you could come to truth based on your sentiments and feelings. Sound familiar?

The failure of these movements have brought us to where we are today. A Post-Modern world that is in chaos. We began with God at the center. Then Man was at the center. Now, nothing is at the center. We have completely rejected Faith and Reason. People do not think and allow themselves to be manipulated by the media and Propaganda! Why do you think Obama won this election? I honestly believe that if people would have allowed Faith plus REASON to evaluate the situation no human being would have put their trust in this man. First of all CHANGE? Why the heck would Americans want Change? We have the most comfortable lives and have had the most stable government in the world for the last 200 years. Seriously, Change? And HOPE? What exactly does he mean by Hope? Cause I've had Hope for years. My Hope is in Jesus Christ. He has completely altered the meaning of these two words to tug at the heart strings of America and get them to blindly follow based on nothing but their passions and emotions. Hitler and the French Revolution did the same thing. The Pro-Abortion Movement does the same thing as well. I'm not saying Obama is the same as Hitler but I am saying be weary of people who throw out reason and manipulate the meaning of words for the purpose of getting people to follow them. My Professor said something last week in class that hit the nail on the head: "Every Revolution in History began with a revolution of words. He who manipulates and owns the definitions of the words owns the people." Folks It's not pro-choice, it's pro-abortion! If you think otherwise you are kidding yourselves. The pro-abortionists coined the term and manipulated the meaning of the word choice to make their stance sound good. The French Revolution used "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" to rile up the people. All these terms are good things when defined with their true meaning but the French Revolution manipulated their meaning. And if you think Obama did not do that with the words Hope and Change then you're kidding yourselves. Obama's cabinet is made up of some of the most avid pro-abortionists in this country. Embryonic stem cell research and cloning for research purposes is now legal. Our tax dollars are now funding Abortions in foreign countries. All this in less than two months in office. You wanted Hope and Change America, well you're getting it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Living In the Moment

I am about two months away from taking my last graduate school final and and then graduating. It is hard to believe that the two years of grad school I moved out here for are almost up. It feels like just yesterday I was packing my life away and leaving Wichita. Time really does fly and it seems to moving even faster as I get older. I can't belive it has been 7 years since I finished undergrad. My 10 year High School Reunion took place this past fall. Life has definetally been an adventure and I look forward to what is next. But I also can't forget to live in the now and cherish every moment.

The common human tendency is to constantly worry abou the future. We constantly live in worry or excitedment of what is to come. And who can blame people given the current economic climate of things. But you know what? When we do that we might miss something incredible that God is trying to teach us or show us right then. St. Thomas Aquinas talks about how too much worry and anxiety about the future can even be a sin. Plus he says that it is pointless because God gives us grace to deal with trials in the moment. If we spend time worrying about future trials it can cause us a lot of undue anxiety because we haven't been given the grace to deal with them yet, but we will when the time comes.

I have always known this in a sense but it really hit me last night while I was in prayer. I was reading one of the letters Catherine of Sienna wrote to her brother who was dealing with some struggles in his life. Catherine urged him to deal with them patiently and to live for today because life is so short and we can't be certain that tomorrow will even come. I've been doing a lot of worrying lately about the fall and what job I will have, where I will live and how it will all play out. While I have to do what is necissary to secure a job upon graduation I need to not worry so much. God is in control and he will take care of all of it. I only have a few months left here in Denver and I need to soak it in. I'm actually enjoying my Thesis so I should soak in the time I have writing it. I need to soak in what I have left of class. I'm never going to have an opportunity again like this one. Yeah its tough and stressful in many ways but as I look back I have enjoyed it immensely despite the difficulties and trials. I want to continue to cherish what I have left.

I've gotten to go skiing a few times. I've gone on some incredible hikes. I've gotten the opportunity to work for some amazing people that have really helped me grow so much: Fr. Kevin, Jim Beckman, Fr. Payo. I've gotten to learn under some of the most incredible professors: Dr. Reyes, Dr. Gray, Prof. Innerest, Dr. Sri. I've fallen in love with my faith all over again in a more powerful way than I ever thought possible. My view of the world has changed dramatically, it has become more Catholic. I've made some really great friends: Dave, Steve, Jon, John, Wendy, etc. I've gotten to reconnect with old friends: Hugh and Pete. I've met the love of my life. Mary Beth has been such a blessing and calmed me down big time. I'm in my most stressful semester of school and I'm the least stressed I've been out of all the other semesters. I think she is a big reason for that. I've had the joy of witnessing former students work for me through Totus Tuus. This list could go on and on. The good of the decision to come out here definetally outwieghs the bad.

And so I'm here with only a few months remaining. I pray that I can soak it all in and cherish every last moment. Enjoy this time with Mary Beth. Enjoy the friendships I have made. Enjoy the learning and reading. Enjoy another summer of Totus Tuus and the beauty of Colorado!

I have an interview at Bishop Carroll next month some time. I'm not sure what will happen. I do ask for all your prayers that it work out but for the time being I'm going to try really hard and not worry about it. TODAY is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Waiting on the World To Change

Have you ever looked around? I mean really looked around? Have you ever looked inside yourself? I mean really looked inside yourself? I would venture to think most people really haven't done this because if they did they would not like what they saw. John Paul II said the biggest crisis in the modern world is the lack of an interior life. We have stopped being self-reflective. We have stopped evaluating what our senses take in around us. We have become people who are on autopilot going through day to day life without ever taking time out of our days to reflect on what is really going on inside and around us.

We go to movies and watch television shows without ever evaluating what messages they are giving us. As Christians we basically tell ourselves that as long as there is no nudity and the violence isn't too graphic that it is a perfectly wholesome movie or television show. But is it really? Is there actually anything on T.V. or at the movies that doesn't attack our Christian values or tear down the culture in some subtle way?

We listen to music and don't even pay attention the lyrics. As long as there are no explicit lyrics we tell ourselves they are fine. But are the lyrics painting a false picture of what love or reality is?

We spend more time on facebook socializing than we do in person with people. Are we actually communicating and building relationships this way? We sit and text Suzy the entire time we are having coffee with Johnny. We talk on the phone while we are at the check out line at the grocery store barely even acknowledeging the check out person.

We have our kids enrolled in so many activities and work so much that we are lucky to sit down and have dinner as a family once a week. When we sit down and have conversations with people they mainly consist of gossip and the latest episode of LOST or the OFFICE or what Beyonce is singing about. Rarely are conversations meaningful and life changing.

We have forgotten how to pray, how to relate, how to think and use our reason, and how to engage the culture.

I'm not saying watching movies and listening to music is bad or that facebook is the devil or that cell phones are evil or that we should not talk about LOST or the Office with our friends. But I am saying that we need to evaluate what we take in, oursleves, and how we approach our relationships. We need to take our minds with us when we go places or sit in front of the T.V. Our reason and faith need to be used in conjunction with one another to evaluate the culture and engage it.

We have to look inside ourselves. We have to figure out what the sins are we struggle with. We have to work at building virtue. We may not like what we see if we really evaluate ourselves but that's ok, that is why God gives us grace and mercy. We don't like to do this because this may mean we have to change and give up things in our lives that we enjoy. To be a Christian means to be counter-cultural. How do we do this?

We have to look around and us as well and challenge the world to change. I'm not saying be judgmental. I am saying though to fight against the things in this world that are constantly in oposition from reclaiming a Christian worldview and culture. How do we do this?

I'm not sure how exactly to do all these things. If I had the answers I would already be doing them. I'm by no means perfect. I'm a victim of the culture as well but lately I've been really thinking about this stuff a lot more. I've been driving around in my car without music lately and it has given me a lot more time to be reflective. I'm coming to realize how much I need to change and grow in virute but I'm also coming to realize how unhappy people and our world are. How much we are rationalizing our actions. How much we have completely lost use of our reason. We are fooling ourselves into thinking we are "enlightened" and "free". Society has decided that there is no God simply to justify their own immoral behavior. I would venture to say there there are very few Athiests out there that actually believe there is no God, they actually just tell themeselves that so they can sleep at night.

If we actually used our reason and intellect in its fullest capacity we would come to realize that we need God, we need to change, and we are created for a much higher purpose. We aren't created to be society's drones, but that is what we are becoming. How do we fight it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


So I've decided I need to blog but have a million ideas and can't seem to decide on one main thing. So Its time for another random rant.

1. I'm completely and totally in love. Mary Beth is pretty much the best thing that has ever happened to me and I am beyond excited to see what God does in our lives. I'm learning so much about myself and coming to experience a peace in my life I have never felt.

2. I'm loving school more than I thought I would this semester. Its been tough but somehow I'm finding a grace to get things done and I am not nearly as stressed as I have been other semesters. My Thesis is coming together and It is looking like I should be completely done with it in a few weeks.

3. I'm slightly nervous about the future. I'm really hoping that I'm back in Wichita this fall. I'm praying and trying to stay open to other possibilities but my heart keeps being drawn back there. It is going to be completely different than the first time but I'm really feeling called. I just pray for patience while the whole job thing gets figured out. Also pray I can help find Mary Beth a job if I get a job there.

4. I'm getting really excited about another summer of Totus Tuus. I've interviewed some amazing people thus far and can't wait to see who ends up teaching for us. I'm also super pumped that Drew Maly, Clay, and Brett are all applying along with the fact that Josh is coming back.

5. My family is coming to town to go skiing this weekend. I'm really excited for that and the fact that they get to meet Mary Beth.

6. Mary Beth's parents want to meet me so they are flying us both down to Austin, Texas for a weekend in March to meet them.

7. Mary Beth and I are taking a road trip to Wichita for Easter. I am incredibly excited to have her meet everyone there.

8. I've been working on my practicum helping developp curriculum for a small group discipleship youth ministry model with Jim Beckman, Steve Nepil, and Dave Merrick. This has been amazing. All three of them are amazing men who are so knowledgeable and it is a huge blessing to get to work with them. Especially with Jim. This guy is a stud when it comes to Youth Ministry. He has seen and done it all and it is incredible to be able to learn from this guy.

9. This is going to be a really tough Lent but I'm excited for it at the same time. Get your game faces on!

10. I've been feeling incredibly greatful lately for all the amazing people in my life God had blessed me with. I have a loving family, incredible mentors, and the most amazing friends a guy could ask for. I'm becoming increasingly aware of how amazing this is. God has truly blessed me and I am not always as thankful as I should be for all these people.

Ok so that was a lot of randomness. I have some political rants and some deeper stuff to reflect on but I'll save that for another day. I figure I would just keep this one positive and thank God for all the great blessings going on in my life right now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Battle Within

Over the past week I was assigned to read sections from The Confessions by St. Augustine. This is the second time I've read it, but this time I didn't have to read the whole thing in a week so I was able to read it slowly and in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The last time I read it the thing that stuck out to me the most was St. Monica and her perseverance in prayer for the conversion of her son. This time, as I continue to reflect on conversion in my own life what has really stuck out is St. Augustine's genuine disgust and horror for the sins of his past.

Sin is an interesting thing. Whenever I commit it I definetally find myself feeling horrible about it and running to confession. But on the same token I always find myself drawn back to it. The devil, the world, and the flesh have a very interesting way of making it look so stinking attractive. Yet the result is always the same, instead of giving me some sort of joy or pleasure it ends with feeling horrible about myself and standing in the confession line. It amazes me how much Augustine hated sin once he had his conversion. And this guy had seen and done it all. He had this amazing internal struggle and fought with God and himself in a way that I think most of us can relate to. The difference is once God got a hold of him there was no more sitting on the fence and when God won, Augustine gave him his entire life and never looked back. Granted it took him a while to get there but his conversion is one of the most fascinating conversion stories I've ever heard. I guess it is because I feel like I can relate to it so well.

How many of us have "conversions" and yet there is still a part of us that wants to cling to that old way of life? I know I struggle with it. I wish I could say I have eradicated all the sins that I struggled with from before my conversion. But that is not the case. I still fight the battle every day. Sin still looks attractive. Yeah I know its wrong and I dislike sin, but I don't HATE it the way Augustine did. The interesting thing is though I HATE it in others. When someone I truly care about is making poor decisions and struggling it tears my heart a part. It kills me and I pray my butt off for them, much like St. Monica did for Augustine. I sometimes think to myself man if it sucks this much when one of my teens from Wichita or here in Denver struggles how much is it going to suck when I have my own kids and they struggle with sin. Which makes me think, how much more does it upset God when I sin then. If I can be in that much pain over someone who isn't even my son or daughter because of the sins they struggle with, how much more is God hurt over what I do. It is easy to feel pain over the sins of others, but I need to look at myself the same way.

The thing with sin is its not easy to overcome. Thank God for His infinite mercy which I cling to everyday. I know I've had a conversion and truly strive to live for Christ but I have to remember that conversion is a daily process. I hope and pray that I can get to a point like Augustine that sin isn't something I merely dislike and try not to commit but something I LOATHE because it offends the one I call my best friend, Jesus.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An Ode To Those Who Have Shown Me Christ

This weekend back in my home town of Rockford, IL there will be another Kyrios Retreat taking place. Kyrios 35 to be exact. For those who are not familiar with Kyrios, it is a parish retreat for teens. Kyrios is in many ways responsible for the man I am today.

This morning on my drive to work I was praying and reflecting on my life and reflecting on the conversion moments in my life. In this year of St. Paul I've been thinking about conversion a lot and how greatful I am that God showed me his face in a way that forever changed me so many years ago. But with that comes a general sense of incredible gratefulness for the people God used and placed in my life to show me who He was.

It was January of 1996 and I was a mess. I had had a huge falling out with my friends at school. I was lonely and miserable. At the time I was in confirmation class that was meeting at the Hoffman's, Russ and his wife Helen were our leaders. In that class was a friend from middle school, J.P. Meyers. Ironically enough I had ditched him in middle school because I thought I was too "cool" for him and he was too much of a nerd. Russ had a huge impact on me and had opened my heart to things of the faith in ways I hadn't been before. Because of him I was ripe for the taking. J.P. invited me to come to High School Youth Group, what was then Peer Ministry at the Parish. Even though I had been a jerk to him in the past he extended the invitation and I accepted it. We became friends again for the rest of High School and the first couple years of college. We lost touch after wards but it was merely a loosing track of each other, not a falling out. Thank you Lord for Russ and J.P. whereever they are.

Like I said I accepted J.P.'s invitataion and showed up. I was instantly welcomed into the group. At first I thought all the praying was wierd but the fact that they welcomed me with open arms and invited me to start hanging out with them outside the group instantly showed me there was something different about them and I wanted it! Those first few weeks I became friends with MaryJo, Giz, and Amy. They welcomed me in and showed me Christ in such a subtle way, simply through their welcoming spirit. Thank you Lord for MaryJo, Giz and Amy!

As the months went on I got more involved and met more people. I found a community and then that summer I eventually made a Kyrios. It was Kyrios #7. I met Mary Garbe, now Doestch who to this day is one of my best friends. I met Melissa who became part of my family and I part of hers and had the honor of reading at her wedding last summer. I met Mike. We hated each other at first but now has become one of my best friends. I met Brianna and Nicole. I don't know where they are these days or even if they believe in God anymore but they are a big part of why I'm Catholic today. I met Bill and Dave and a whole mess of other people that became examples to me of Faith and challeneged me to always live my faith and persevere. Most importantly I met Christ. I encountered the person of Christ in every one of these people and powerfully experienced His love in the Sacraments. Thank you Lord for the Kyrios community, especially Melissa, Mike, Mary, and Bill who continue to be a huge source of support for me.

I spent the last two years of High School actively being a part of the Peer Ministry team and continuing to grow in my Faith. Len and Colleen became huge mentors for me. They challeneged me to grow and taught me how to give talks, challeneged me to pray and even made me ask the hard questions. To this day I will never forget the day I was talking to them and told them I really wanted to study Theater and was dead set on it. They turned to me and asked me if that was what God wanted? It forced me to take that question to prayer and really ask Him. Turns out it wasn't what He wanted. I largely thank God for His work through them because it was them answering God's call to be in ministry and develop Kyrios that is the reason I am where I am today. Lord Thank you For Len and Colleen!

There are so many more people I could thank God for putting in my life. I'm sorry if I didn't mention you but know that everyone from the Kyrios community has a special place in my heart and always will.

Today I am hundreds of miles from Rockford. I haven't served on a Kyrios in almost 5years but every time one approaches I pray for it. I may not always write a prayer letter for them but I do pray because I would not be who I am without Kyrios and Holy Family Youth Ministry.

As Kyrios 35 approaches I will be praying and ask all of you to pray this weekend as well because who knows how many lives will be touched and changed in the way mine was 13 years ago.