Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Year of Favor From the Lord

2011 has been a great year! I can't believe how much life has changed in the past year and how much more it is going to change in the year and years to come. Mary Beth and I shared a lot of great moments over the past year. There were some tough moments as well but honestly all in all it was a incredible year. In past years I have blogged about best and worst moments. This year I am only going to focus on the best because in all honesty I can't think of many bad ones and I figured I would end 2011 with an attitude of graditude.

So here are some highlights from 2011 in chronological order:

1. A visit from Steve which was paid for by Bishop Carroll. He gave some chasitity talks around town and we got enjoy a few days of hang out time with him.

2. A trip to California with my in-laws. This included a trip to Disney Land which allowed me to be 5 for a day not to mention a trip to Stone Brewery in Escondito and some good chill time with family and a night with the my boys Beschen, Thompson, Matt Gregory, and their families.

3. A Trip to Denver for Fr. John Nepil's Ordination. Such a great weekend and so blessed to have been part of the celebration.

4. A visit from Laurie, Larry, and Brad for Father's Day weekend.

5. Celebrating our one year anniversarry with a trip to Peru. This included time in Lima with my extended family and a trip to Cusco and Machuppichu! This was a trip of a lifetime.

6. A trip to Rockford and Chicago for Daniella Andrade's Wedding.

7. A Trip to Texas for Brad's 30th Birthday Party.

8. Finding out we were expecting our first child!

9. A Trip to Rockford Labor Day Weekend for what was an incredible weekend with family as we celebrated my brother Diego's wedding. I gained a pretty awesome sister-in-law that weekend too!

10. A Trip to Denver for the Nova et Veterra Conference and time with Friends.

11. Finding out we are having a little girl! Sophia Rose will be joining us in April!

12. A trip to Illinois for Christmas. We got to spend some much needed relaxation time with family and friends, got a brand new T.V. and Sophia Rose got spoiled to death at a Baby shower put on by my mom.

All in all it was such great year! I am lovign my job teaching, Mary Beth is subbing and doing well and we are also blessed with a second job of me being a TA for the Augustine Institute! God is good! Bring on 2012, the year that will bring Sophia Rose into this world!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Faithful Friend is a Sturdy Shelter

The other night before we went to a nice dinner at Altamore in Rockford with my family we decided to open a bottle of wine and enjoy a nice drink and conversation before heading to the restaurant. While enjoying my family the topic came up about how my parents, brother, and wife are all amazed at how many friendships I maintain in my life. In some senses I guess I am too. This is not something that is news to me though. Throughout my entire life this has been something everyone I know points out about me. This is one of the gifts God has blessed me with. Throughout high school and college my friends in Rockford referred to me as the social secretary of the group. If I didn't call everyone and plan it people sat at home. That is just the way it went. Since college I have been called the glue that holds some of my different friendship groups together. When it came time to planning the guest list for our wedding my wife wanted to scream when she saw my list. Of the 520 people we invited to the wedding, 400 of those where from my list.

The crazy thing is that of course there are people in my life I am closer to than others but I have several friends I consider "close". People think I'm crazy when I say this but there are genuinely a fairly large number of people who have had a large impact on my life. These are the friendships that have shown me Christ. These are the friendships who have challenged me to be a better man, who have held me accountable, and have shown me the face of Christ in countless ways. I know it is crazy to have so many “close” friends but I have lived several places throughout my life and everywhere I have lived I have discovered and developed strong friendships and community. We as human begins are made for relationship. We can only truly discover who we are in becoming vulnerable and sharing ourselves with others. Through this we not only more deeply find ourselves but we more deeply encounter Christ as well. The funny thing is that friendships of mine that are faith based are the ones that have lasted. The friendships that were not are the ones that have fallen by the wayside. Don't get me wrong I still think about some of those people and pray for them but because the only thing really binding us together was common experiences. Theses friendships faded to the back ground when there were no more experiences to share because we moved away from each other. The other friendships God has blessed me with however have forever changed me and will continue to be a part of my life. I may not see or talk to some these people every day or every month even but I know we will always be a part of each other's lives in some way. I would like to introduce you to some of them.

The Rockford Crew: Melissa, Mary, Mike, and Kyle are the closest to me of the Rockford crew. Yes there are others I stay in touch with occasionally and see when I come back to Rockford but these four know me better than anyone else. And of these four Melissa is the closest. She is like a sister. We literally call each other bro and sis. I am her son’s godfather. But the five of us really do everything we can to see each other and spend time together whenever we are in Rockford at the same time. We have known each other since high school. We were involved in youth group together, we spent late nights drinking coffee together, watching movies, having really stupid conversation and sharing in some pretty deep and meaningful conversations. We have traveled far and wide to each other's weddings and we know exactly the things to say to one another that will piss us off and the right things to say that will cheer us up. We have seen each other through good times and bad. We have had to call each other out on stupid crap and celebrated joyous moments in life together. Through it all we have welcomed spouses and girlfriends into the mix and hope to see the day when our children are all old enough to play together and become friends. I would aslo be remiss If I did not mention my friend Alex here. We probably see eachother the least out of everyone from Rockford because our schedules just don't seem to mesh, however we tend to continually be in touch in other ways. He has been around the longest in my life out of any of my Rockford friends. Though we don't always see eye to eye on things I can honestly say there is a special bond between us that keeps us in each other's thoughts, prayers, and lives.

The Steubenville Crew: People who didn't go to school here do not realize the intensity of the bonds that are formed there. The friendships I made there are some of the most profound I've ever had. I am especially close with my Household Brothers from the Knights of the Holy Queen. These men showed me what it is to be a real man. These men drew me into deeper relationship with Christ and Our Lady. My closest friends from this group are Matt, Guy, Andy, Grignon, Cedor and Beschen. Five of these six guys where in my wedding (the only reason Beschen wasn't was because he couldn't get off work to fly out for it). I don't talk to these guys as often as I would like but when we see each other we pick up right where we left off. I have laughed the hardest with these guys as well as shared myself with them more than I have with anyone else. I also continue to stay in touch with these guys and other household brothers through an e-mail list we have. We share prayer request, struggles, make fun of each other, and banter about sports and politics. These e-mails get me through my day a lot. It is a constant reminder of the bond we all share that most people will never understand, especially if they didn't go to Franciscan. Within the Franciscan crew I also must give a shout out to the women in my life from there: Adrien, Abby, Abbie, Maria, Rosko, Trene, Marchelle and Lindsay. These ladies have truly been sisters to me. They have kept me accountable and shown me how girls deserve to be treated and are examples of true womanhood. I was honored to have some of them travel so far to my wedding. It is always great to stay in touch and hear from them occasionally as well.

The Wichita Crew: The Brandts and the Daisy House Crew have been my constants. They provided me with friendship and community at a time in my life where I thought I would never find friends like the ones I had from Franciscan and Rockford again. But they showed me it was possible to love and enjoy a place like Wichita, KS. Tony, Kelly, Andrew, Kristi, Lisa, Sr. Sophia Grace, Marianna, Bonny, and the rest of the Daisy House Crew loved me unconditionally and provided community for me at a time in my life I so desperately needed it. They continue to be constants for me and have welcomed my wife into their lives with open arms as well. They are the people we will raise our children around and share our day to day lives with.

The Denver Crew: I was only in Denver for two years and was a grad student with two part time jobs so friendships were tougher to build but five friendships in particular stick out here. The first is Dave. Dave and I were roommates and going through similar struggles at the time we lived together. We were also both thinkers and over-analyzers, not to mention both enjoyed drinking scotch. This lead to many late night conversations. The second and third are friendships that started in Steubenville but were more of acquaintances there, Hugh and Fr. Kevin. I worked for Fr. Kevin so we go to know each other well through late nights of Makers Mark at the Rectory and at St. Malo's for Totus Tuus training. Hugh moved to Denver shortly after I did with his family and we spent many a late night enjoying beer and good conversation. The next has probably become one of my all time closest friends, Steve. Steve and I met through Totus Tuus training. Over the next year we spent a lot of time enjoying great conversations over beer and whiskey. He ended up being there for me and around for my entire relationship with Mary Beth. He was there with the newness of the relationship, through the struggles and joys, and was there to celebrate with me when we got engaged. Steve ended up being a groomsman and is going to be the godfather of our child. Lastly there is Steve's brother, Fr. John. He, like Steve, was around to see my relationship with Mary Beth Blossom. He welcomed me into their community of friends and made an effort o bring me in and make me feel welcome in Denver. We shared many a good conversation over whiskey as well. These men all provided me with community and support during those years of being a student when I was away from family and friends.

It probably sounds crazy that I would be able to stay in touch with this many people. It honestly amazes me as well but I think it is a special gift and grace God has given me in my life. I think it is because I experience Christ through these friendships. The reason I try to stay in touch with all of these people is because all of them have strengthened my faith. Every one of them has piece of me that has profoundly affected who I am. When I pray I pray for them. When I have opportunities I go see them. When I have time I call them. I am a better man for having every one of these friendships in my life. This then naturally translates into my prayer life. I think that because I have this perception of friendship and I see Jesus not only as a friend, but my best friend I try and spend time with Him by praying and going to mass as often as possible. If I put that much effort into earthly friendships, how much more effort do I need to put in when it comes to my friendship with Christ? I cannot wait for the day we are all in Heaven together, adoring the one who brought us together.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Truth and Society

I love being a teacher. I have taught a variety of things throughout my time but by far my favorite thing to teach is Catholic Social Teaching. I love this subject for many reasons. I love it because it is so relevant. It gives me the opportunity to talk about and apply Church principles to many of our modern day problems. I love it because it is controversial and it ticks people off when they hear the truth that it proclaims. I love it because it fires me up. I love it because it is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted teachings of the Church. I love it because so many people take it out of context and use it to justify their liberal and immoral agenda. It sounds strange that I would love it for that reason but I do. It allows me to really enter into dialogue and conversation with someone about the faith as it applies to modern day problems.

First of all, I find it a little odd that we have a completely separate section of Theology called Catholic Social Teaching. In some ways I get it, it is a practical way of catechizing people in our modern world. But when it boils down to it Catholic Social Teaching is simply the application of the gospel message to society. If we know Jesus and what the Church teaches then Catholic Social Teaching should come as no surprise to us. Every principle that is laid out is rooted in the teachings of Christ and the Old Testament Prophets. It seems that often times groups within the Church that are more "liberal" use the fact that we have a separate section called Catholic Social Teaching to justify actions that go in contradiction to the teachings of Christ by taking those teachings out of context. The more "conservatives" use it as an excuse to not learn about Social Teaching because in their minds it is a "liberal" thing and therefore good Catholics don't really have to know about it. For example, have you ever heard someone say, "Oh that group is only about social justice”? Well actually all Catholics are about Social Justice. It is the "only" part that we have to be concerned about. Actually there is no way to "only" be concerned with social justice. If you are not a disciple of Christ it is not possible to live the social teaching of the Church.

Secondly, as a Church WE ARE NOT social workers. Mother Teresa was NOT a social worker. We are first and foremost followers of Jesus. If Jesus is not a real person that we engage in conversation and relationship with every day then we cannot live social teaching effectively. There is a reason Mother Teresa and the missionaries of charity sit in front of the blessed Sacrament every single day for at least an hour and went to mass along with that before they even set foot on the streets of Calcutta to help the poor. This may sound crazy but unlike the rest of the secular world the reason we are called to help the poor and those that are needy and marginalized in our world is not simply because we feel sorry for them or to make ourselves feel better. The reasons we are called to help the less fortunate is simply because Jesus asks us to. Well why does Jesus ask us to? So that we can draw their attention away from their earthly needs so that they can pay attention to their spiritual needs. When a person has their physical needs taken care of they can then be more free to pay attention to their spiritual needs. We are called to live by the Eschatological Principle. This means that we live in this world for the sake of the next! Our goal is Heaven!

Therefore ultimately the social teaching of the Church is about recognizing the dignity of every single human person and drawing them into communion with Christ so that we can all journey to Heaven together. That means that above all the most important thing we have to fight for is the right to life. If we do not have the right to life we don't have anything. If life is not protected at its earliest stages then it is a hypocrisy to be concerned with the poor on the streets. Do you want an answer to the economic crisis in this country? Start having children! Reach out to women who are in crisis pregnancy situations! Defend the Family! Educate people in chastity and natural family planning! Fight against the contraceptive mentality in our culture! That is social justice! Think about it. If we secure the family and make more babies then we have more people in our country who will spend more money and stimulate the economy. The effects of abortion in our country and in the world are coming to fruition. There are more elderly in the world than young people. Our population is depleting. There IS NOT an overpopulation problem. That is a LIE!

According to John XXIII the individual person is the foundation, cause and end of all social institutions; therefore all societies and institutions must be at the service of the person. This is not the case in our society. Financial figures, technology, and economic progress are primary. Wake up people, all those things our world is worried about will improve if we prioritize and start caring about Human life! For some the Environmental crisis is the issue they want to see addressed. Well read Caritas in Veritatae by Benedict XVI. In that encyclical he clearly states that of course there is an environmental crisis, how could there not be when we don't care about Human Life. How are people going to be concerned with taking care of trees and the environment when they aren't concerned with defending human life in all its stages?

In the end Catholic Social Teaching is not simply about serving at a soup kitchen or protesting outside an abortion clinic. It is about defending and loving Human life in all its stages and the only way to truly understand what that means is by entering into relationship with Christ. He can reveal to us how loved we are and how loved every single soul ever created is! If we want to understand catholic social teaching we must begin by entering into relationship with Christ. Then we should enter into the dialogue by actually reading what the Church has to say in its entirety. We cannot make our own assumptions. We must not take things out of context. We have to be open to where Christ is leading us. We may find ourselves taking some more "conservative" positions on things if we have labeled ourselves as liberal or we may find ourselves taking some more "liberal" positions on things if we have labeled ourselves as conservative. This might be difficult to swallow but remember our job is to be CATHOLIC and the Church is neither democrat nor republican! Sometimes we make the mistake of being more democrat or more republican than Catholic. If we want to start changing this world for the better we as Catholics have to take the lead on this and stop associating ourselves with parties and start preaching the truth regardless of which party line the truth falls under. When the reign of the truth is brought about through charity only then will justice prevail!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Aim of Catechesis is Understanding and CONVERSION!

So I guess I basically fail at this blogging twice a month thing. That lasted for a month. Oh well. I guess better late than never on this one.

I LOVE working with teenagers! Nothing brings more joy to my life than being on the front lines of the New Evangelization and engaging youth. I love the subjects I teach. I love the kids I teach. I love the school I teach at. What I don’t love is how much harder it seems it has gotten to reach teenagers than it was when I first started teaching.

I don’t know what it is but even between the time I left teaching to get my Masters and coming back kids have changed. In many ways they are still the same. The distractions and priorities in their life have remained the same. However, their receptivity to the Gospel message has diminished. I don’t know if that is something only going on at the particular school I teach at or a phenomenon nationwide. Don’t get me wrong we still have some incredibly faithful and amazing kids but the general population has become much more apathetic to the gospel than they were before.

I’m not sure exactly what to do. This has been consuming my prayer life lately: “How can I be a more effective evangelizer as a teacher? How can God use me to light the fire of faith in my students?” There is such apathy here. I want my students to fall madly, deeply, and passionately in love with Jesus Christ. A few weeks ago we had a chastity speaker here. The Chastity speaker at the end of her talk mentioned that when she asked young people in their 20’s who had waited to have sex until they got married what made them wait they all responded that it was because their faith was real to them. She hit the nail on the head. My students were all asking me what I thought of the talk and why we have one every year and yet we still have so many problems with chastity. Well the answer is just that: the faith is not real to them! I told them that our school does not need more chastity talks, they need Jesus! Until we come to have an intimate relationship with Christ none of the morality stuff, doctrine, or prayers we say as a class will mean absolutely anything.

I’m making it my mission to start fighting for the opportunities my students need to experience conversion! I'm making it my goal to introduce every kid I come into contact with to Jesus Christ. Too many of my students have been in Catholic School their entire lives and I find it amazing that the reality of the fact that Jesus loves them passionately and wants them to be happy has not sunk in! I’ve become so caught up in the intellectual stuff and content of the faith that I hardly leave time to stop and reflect on that content. Don’t get me wrong the content is important. They need substance. God knows we’ve gone through too many years of bad Catechesis in our country and focused entirely too much on experience. However, that is where teens are today. They let their emotions and experiences rule them. We have to meet them there and then bring them to the content. I love the intellectual wealth of the Catholic Church but it wouldn’t mean a darn thing if I didn’t first meet and encounter the person of Jesus.

It is time for a change at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School. I don’t think it will happen overnight. It will be a slow process but I am going to refocus my techniques on introducing students to Christ first and the content second or even better Christ through the content. I need to take more time to step back from the content and allow them time to reflect on it. I don’t know what that is going to look like yet but please pray for me and if you are a fellow teacher or youth minister ideas are welcome!

“The definitive aim of Catechesis is to put people not only in touch, but in communion, in intimacy with Christ, only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the divine life of the Holy Trinity” – Bl. John Paul II in CT 5

If you can't tell I'm fired up. In education we get so caught up in this idea of "No Child Left behind" and making sure every student "meets standard". We get so caught up in test scores and making sure they "perform" well on a test that we forget that we are dealing with souls! It does not matter how much kids know if the content is not TRANSFORMING their lives and leading them to bring others to the love of Christ. Understanding means NOTHING without conversion. I am blessed to teach in a diocese where the content is never compromised but it is time to take that content and make it pierce the heart of the kids we teach. It does not matter if they pass a test or answer correctly on a survey if they are not falling madly and passionatel in love with Jesus Christ and then taking that love and sharing it with others. If we are not forming our kids into disciples then what is the point of the content? Our students know so much about the faith that if we give them opportunities for conversion it will sink in so much more deeply than in the average teen that they will be a force to be reckoned with in this world. It is time for a revolution! Souls are on the line! Will you join in the battle for souls?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Greatest of These is Love

What a crazy adventure the last month and a half has been. Through it all the biggest things that stick out in my mind are hope and love. It has been a world wind of emotions and excitement. Through it all though I can’t help but reflect on Christ’s enduring promises and love.

August brought the beginning of school. Every year is a new beginning. Every year brings new challenges and adventures. This year we have been blessed with a pretty incredible new chaplain, Fr. Ben Sawyer. I cannot tell you how blessed I am to be working with him and have him join us at Carroll. He is young, energetic, laid back, funny, and full of love and zeal for the faith. I can see the kids are already warming up to him quite well. I am teaching Catholic Social Teaching and Faith and Reason again. It is really great getting to have the students who are seniors for a second round and getting to know the new juniors has been great. They are a really great and talented bunch. Every year I am reminded of how much I am called to love the students that enter my classroom. While many of them are easy to love some are not so easy and so I begin everyday with a prayer asking God for the grace to love my students more that day than I did the day before. Teaching the youth also gives me hope. While there are many who struggle and have some serious issues and struggles I also have quite a few who are incredibly bright, talented, and faithful. The seniors especially give me great confidence that they will be great lights and examples at whatever University they end up at.

With the beginning of the school year also came the exciting news that Mary Beth and I are expecting our first child! I couldn’t be more thrilled about this. But somehow I don’t think it has really become a reality for me yet. Aside from Mary Beth dealing with “morning” sickness all the time not much has really changed…yet! I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like this before. It is just this weird abstract reality rather than a concrete one yet. In my head I know my life is going to drastically change but I don’t think I can quite grasp this yet and probably won’t until I’m holding that baby in my arms. Regardless my prayer everyday is that God would continue to form me into a good husband and make me into the loving father my kid needs. Once again I am brought to reflect on the reality of the love of God that brought Mary Beth into my life, and the love I have for Mary Beth that has brought forth this other life that is growing within her womb. Love can do powerful things. And of course there is the hope and anticipation of all that life has in store for us as we continue our journey together now as parents. This is such a gift and my heart is profoundly grateful for this opportunity. I just HOPE that I can LOVE this child enough that he or she may encounter the love of Christ through me in this life and so seek to build God’s Kingdom on this earth and so strive for the glory of eternal life in Heaven.

This brings me to the last big event of the last few weeks: My brother’s wedding in Illinois. For the first time in 10 years my entire side of my dad’s finally minus a few cousins was together. My mom’s side of the family was almost all there. It was an amazing weekend filled with love and family. There were moments that were hard for me however. It was tough not to have my brother married in the Catholic Church. On the one hand I actually respect him for not making a joke of the sacrament and getting married in the Church even when he doesn’t believe but its hard to not be able to share the most important thing in my life in common with him anymore. It is also tough knowing that so many of my family members no longer believe or practice the Catholic Faith. But I will say this there was so much love present at that wedding that whether my brother believes it or not God was present. He was in that room. While in many ways there is little agreement about faith and Catholicism with my family the common ground that is there is love and I know that when it comes down to it everyone of them in some way reflect the unconditional love of Christ to me and to each other. I think one of the big things that can be said about my family is that they love passionately. My heart overflowed with joy many times throughout the weekend at seeing my family interact with one another and at the sight of my brother’s happiness on his big day. All of this far outweighed feelings of sadness or frustration over not being able to share my faith with my family. I will say that anytime those feelings emerged I was quickly drawn to focus on the hope that Christ offers. There is hope that they will all come home one day. I know many of them including my brother think that there is no way that will ever happen. But they have no idea what they are up against. As I heard said in a talk by Abby Johnson, “We believe in a God who is in the business of miracles!” And that is some pretty powerful amazing stuff. No matter how far some of my family members stray the fact that they get the essential feature of Christianity, which is love, gives me hope beyond all hope that God is still working in their lives in ways they can’t even begin to imagine or admit. I love them so much that I want them to see the absolute fullness of truth that is found in the Catholic Faith and I know that Christ will answer that prayer. However my love for them will never be contingent on whether that happens or not. I may not ever get to fully see it or it may not happen until many of them are close to death but I can say that I have great hope that it will happen. I gave up trying to change my family by preaching to them a long time ago because that simply won’t work. But I do know that God is in control of this one and there is tremendous peace in knowing, that as witnessed by my brother’s wedding, whether my family knows it or not the love and power of God is present and working in their lives!

I pray that love maybe the driving force in my life as I minister to my students, interact with my family and get ready to bring a child into this world and through that may I always have hope in the promises Christ has given us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Be Perfect As Your Heavenly Father is Perfect

How do you read this verse from Matthew? What does it truly mean? I think this verse is either often ignored completely or taken so literally that it causes people to forget that life can be fun and enjoyable.

The first tendency is to completely ignore it. I tend to see this attitude especially with teens. It is also the typically the mainstream attitude. Most people think that if they simply don't sin and mainly stay away from mortal sin they are good to go. If I obey the 10 commandments and am a nice person then I'm fine and don't have anything to worry about right? Actually not sinning is the absolute bare minimum we as Christians are called to! We aren't simply called to just not sin we are called to virtue! We are called to holiness! Overcoming mortal sin is actually the easier of these two steps. Once we have control of the more serious sins in our life we actually now have to work at being virtuous and not just choosing good things but choosing the greatest goods. I know I'm not there yet. I'm trying but for example what is a better choice, reading a good spiritual book or watching a crappy movie? Most of us probably choose the movie. While watching the movie may not in itself be sinful, choosing the reading is the GREATER good (especially when I haven’t taken any time our for prayer that day yet). We cannot ignore this verse. Yes we may not ever truly achieve perfection in this life but we must strive for it, and perfection is not attained simply by not sinning but by striving for virtue and holiness.

The second tendency I notice is to interpret this verse in a way that leads to scrupulosity. We become so caught up in trying to be Holy that we forget to try and be human. This tendency seems to cause us to think everything is a sin and can cause us to be judgmental of others. This can also lead to pride and self-righteousness. This is not healthy. I refer to people in this category as PODs (Pious and Overly Devotional). I tend to see this especially among young people in the early stages of conversion who in an attempt to not fall back into old habits decide that every activity that doesn’t mention Jesus’ name is sinful.

So how do we reconcile these two views? How can we live this verse? I think the key is in living a BALANCED life. We have to make time not only for prayer and devotion but for our families, exercise, friendship, and reading (this includes academic, spiritual and leisurely). Being scrupulous is just as bad as just scrapping by through life doing the bare minimum to avoid sin. We have to live lives that are radically other. This is going to involve living lives that seek virtue and holiness while at the same time soak in the joys and pleasures of this world in a way that we don't overindulge and avoid sinful actions. For example G.K. Chesterton said one of the greatest joys of this life was a cigar with a pint of beer and good conversation (I’m paraphrasing here but its pretty darn close to what he said). This is the balance I attempt to strike. I don't think I've quite fully figured it out but with each passing day, month, and year hopefully I'm getting a little bit closer. What are your thoughts on this?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart

It is that time of year again. Time for new students, the first all-school mass, BC football games, fantasy football, the feeling of being refreshed form a summer of vacationing and relaxing, and the feeling like I am ready to engage in a serious battle for souls. I LOVE the start of the school year. The fall semester is always a time of new beginnings and there is an excitement in the air to see what God is going to do and accomplish through me and all His other humble servants at Bishop Carroll this year.

The one thing that runs through my mind as this school year starts is gratitude. I am thankful for my beautiful wife and the fact that we have celebrated one year of marriage. I am thankful for the amazing amount of support that exists in my life through my family, my friends, and the Knights of the Holy Queen. I am thankful for my job and the Bishop Carroll Community, especially at a time where so many people I know are without one. I am thankful for Fr. Ben and blessing he will be. God has truly blessed us with an amazing chaplain this year. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach and preach God's word every single day. I could not imagine doing anything else at this point in my life. Getting the opportunity to be on the front lines of God's battlefield by bringing the souls of young people to Christ is truly one of the greatest joys I have in my life.

I think that so often we look at all the negative in our lives without focusing on all the amazing gifts God is showering upon us daily. God has called us into this life and everyday has to be seen as a gift. If we don't start there we are not going to be able to evangelize anyone. If we cannot bear witness to the good things God gives us how can we bring people to Him? Complaining about the negatives in life has always been a struggle of mine and I have just really been reflecting over the last several months about how I truly have nothing to complain about. In the grand scheme of things the struggles and difficulties I encounter throughout my life are so minimal compared to what some people deal with that it really is almost sinful of me to complain about anything. I want to make a serious effort over this next year to root this out of my life. I need to look at those minor challenges and annoyances as opportunities to recognize the good things God has done in my life and ask Him what He is trying to teach me in those circumstances.

Everyday is a gift. Every moment is a chance to see the beauty of God and to enter into the drama of creation. We are called to engage this life with joy and passion. "The Glory of God is man fully alive!" said St. Irenaeus, and man fully alive is man experiencing and embracing EVERYTHING about life and giving glory to his creator for letting him experience it! Too many people have a negative outlook on life and if we live as Disciples of Christ with an attitude of gratitude then we are going to change and affect the world. Thankfulness is what will lead us and propel us to help and love those who need it. Thankfulness will draw us into the heart of our Father so that we may worship Him. The very heart of our worship is the Eucharist and Eucharist literally means thank offering!

How beautiful are your ways O God even when we don't understand them. How beautiful are your ways O God even when they cause suffering and frustration. How beautiful are your ways O God that allow us to experience this life and all that it brings!

I begin the new school year a week from today. I pray that God would use me to affect and change the lives of my students. I pray that when they see me they see Christ and when I look at them I may see Christ in them. I pray that I would lead them and be an example of someone with a grateful heart!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Return to Blogland: God is For Real!

I have not blogged in a very long time. This is dumb. I like blogging, writing, ranting, reflecting, etc. So I've decided it is time to return to such things in my life. Beginning with this post y'all can expect at least one post every two weeks and hopefully a post once a week. I've changed the backdrop of the blog, updated the picture and now I'm writing the first installment of Gonzo's return to his rants and reflections. I've decided that to begin my return to blog space I will begin with more of a rant.

A few weeks ago Mary Beth and I had the incredible opportunity of spending two weeks in Peru. We got to spend time with my family as well as experience the amazing sites of Cuzco and Machupicchu. While the trip was awesome not really the point of my blog but feel free to check out pictures on Kodak Gallery:

The real point of this blog is the book I began reading on the way to Peru. I started reading a book called THE GOD DELUSION by Richard Dawkins. While it could be frowned upon to comment on a book until one is done reading the whole thing I can't help but do so at this point. I may write more once I am finished with it but for now here are some of my thoughts.

First of all I think trying to argue with an Atheist is almost pointless. What we need to do at this point as Christians is begin praying for God to work some miracles in the lives of the people in this movement. The reason it is pointless is because many of them are angry and have such a completely different worldview. I think intelligent conversations and dialogue can be had with some of them but many of them are very stubborn and not open to dialogue on the issue (just watch EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED for an example of this). To begin with the thing I notice about Dawkins is he is angry. The guy has some serious wounds. The way he goes after and attacks Christianity in a very bitter and nasty way instantly begins to discredit the guy. The one thing the guy has going for him is that as Revelation states that it is better to be hot or cold than lukewarm lest God spew you out of his mouth, this guys is anything but lukewarm. He is down right cold. And that at least makes him ripe for conversion :).

The second big thing I note is that we as Christians need to be reading this and reading any sort of books that refute it. We need to not only be reading books that refute this but any sort of books dealing with apologetics, Philosophy, History etc. The common man, heck the common Christian is grossly uneducated and that is why millions of people are falling pray to the absolute nonsense written by Dawkins and the other militant New Atheists out there. People are buying into what Dawkins is saying because we live in a world where people have not been taught to REALLY and TRULY think. Therefore we have a lot of really intelligent stupid people out there. Dawkins is a classic intellectual idiot. He knows some stuff about science, is well read, and therefore thinks he can understand the universe, how it works, and comes to the absurd conclusion that God does not exist. The entire premise of a book written by Frank Sheed called THEOLOGY AND SANITY is that to live an existence where we view the world as if God did not exist is to live with a skewed perception of reality. What do we call people who do not live reality? Insane! We as Christians cannot afford to be insane. We cannot afford to be uneducated. The world is going to throw everything it can at us and the only way to fight against it is to train ourselves intellectually. So many people are unaware of the incredible intellectual treasures the Church has. Start reading!

This next critique I have ties into the point above. Just as the average Christian is grossly uneducated so is Dawkins. The man is a Scientist with no formal training in Philosophy and he goes after St. Thomas Aquinas. Really? I mean really? If you haven't studied Philosophy you have absolutely no place critiquing Aquinas. Aquinas is a respected Philosopher even in secular circles people! His chapter refuting the five proofs is laughable. If you know Aquinas, Theology, and Philosophy please read that chapter and you will have yourself a good laugh (or a good cry at the fact that there are actually people out there who are buying into his garbage). He also makes a statistical claim that most intelligent people and Scientists are Atheist. Well Dawkins that is a very faulty argument when most of those people have not read both sides of the issues and have not truly been informed on what good Philosophy and Theology are. Also some of the smartest scientific people I know are also some of the most faithful Catholics I know. What do you say to that? Really all Dawkins is arguing on is semantics and not logical, clear, and philosophical reasoning.

Evil is real. God is real. And when we fail to recognize God's existence Evil begins to subtly win but hey if you don't believe in God how can you believe in evil? It is truly sad to me that people are buying into the things Dawkins, Hitches and others are writing. Faith is a gift and some may not have been given it but have those people really sought after it? Have those people who have bought into Dawkins and others really, I mean really read some of the great treasures of Philosophy and Theology and then actually reflected on them? I doubt it. Maybe Dawkins had and grossly misunderstood those works but his average readers have not. And this is why he and others are so dangerous. They are really and truly poisoning our society and sugar coating it as they are simply revealing to people the truth they deserve. It is time to tell our story as it is meant to be told. It is time to be true witnesses and martyrs for our faith. It is time to be radical examples of love. It is time to educate ourselves in truth and then go out and proclaim that truth in love. We live in a world full of insane people who think they are perfectly sane and that my friends is the answer to why we live in the political and economic climate that we live in. Until we recognize that God is For real we will continue to live in a delusion and none of our problems will ever be fixed. This is the real delusion! May God have mercy on Richard Dawkins and all those who choose to believe his writings.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Call to Live

Who am I? I am a man, I am a husband, I am a friend, I am a son, I am a brother, but most important of all I am a Catholic. Being Catholic is something I can honestly say has been something that defines my very being and existence. Not in the sense that it is my Religion, but it in the sense that it is the vehicle that drives me into relationship with Christ. Jesus Christ is the very source of my existence. I am nothing without Him. Every struggle, successes, failure, and joy I have is seen in light of my relationship with Him. Everything that happens in my life is call from Him to engage some aspect of my relationship with Him.

I've been reading a book by Fr. Jaques Philippe called "Called to Life." The book focuses on God's call in our lives, primarily the call to exist as human persons. This book is so simple yet so profound. In reading this book during my prayer time it has caused me to contemplate on the beautiful gift of life God has given me and that everything that occurs in our lives comes with grace and an invitation to love God more deeply through our experiences. Philippe writes, "Openness to the call is openness to the fullness of life. Not only natural, physical, emotional, and intellectual life, but also the life realized through relationships, love, communion and, ultimately through participation in divine, supernatural life. Every call is a call to love more and find fulfillment by participating in the purity and ardor of divine love." Every experience we have is a calling to enter into this relationship.

Philippe goes on to say that every trial in our lives is a call to faith. Do we believe God is there? Do we rely on his mercy and grace? Every trial is also a call to Hope. In whom do we place our trust during these times? Do we expect to get through it on our own? Trials are also tests of love, especially in our relationships. Do we choose to love even when it hurts or is difficult? When the good times come these are invitations to be thankful and receive the gifts in their fullness Philippe tells us.

I've really been meditating on these things over the past few weeks. They really hit me in a powerful way. To be in relationship with Christ is to bring Him into everything; the joys and the struggles. The world tells us to run from our sufferings and failures. Christ tells us to embrace them and come to encounter Him more deeply through them. It is by doing this that we will experience life to its fullest. In allowing ourselves to experience these little deaths and sufferings and our lives we will become more alive. Through our sufferings we conform ourselves more and more to the one who gives us life and are able to experience joy more fully. Our goal should be to one day say with St. Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and life I now live is no longer my own but Christ who lives in me."

I feel as if Christ is blessing me with incredible graces. I want nothing more than to live life fully in Him. Every relationship and friendship I have experienced has been Christ showing me his face on this earth. Every struggle and difficulty I have had to overcome has made me the man I am and brought me to where I am today. Every joy small, and large, has been a manifestation of God's glory in my life. As St. Irenaeus said, "The Glory of God is man fully alive." We become fully alive in accepting EVERYTHING that comes our way and asking God not "why is this happening?" but "what are you calling me to through this situation?"

To all my wife, friends, and family: Everything I have experienced with you, the good, the great, the bad and the ugly, has been an experience from God to bring us closer through trials and joys. You have been His instrument in helping me live His call to live! Let us continue to live life to its fullest so that one day we may behold His face. Let us strive to arrive at the Heavenly Banquet where we will truly live there the way God intended us to live for all eternity!

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 In Review

It's time for the top 10 Best and Worst of 2010. Overall this really was an incredible year. The Best Greatly outweighs the worst.

Top 10 Worst

10. Having my Driver Side window on my car smashed in and discovering it at 5:00a.m. on my way to the gym one morning.

9. Engagement. It sucks, don't do it unless its 6 months or less. The beginning of 2010 marked 7 months of being engaged and 6 more to go.

8. House hunting. Owning a house is great, but going through the process of trying to find one was awful.

7. My car breaking down in the middle of nowhere Colorado on our way home over Labor Day Weekend.

6. Having to drop lots of money on car repairs.

5. Stripping our house of wallpapper.

4. Gaining some weight back

3. Not having my cousin Fernando at our wedding.

2. Although not all of them or even most of them but having to deal with more than my usual number of apathetic students. In other words a growing sense of apathy an entitlement among my students.

1. David's death and having to watch my students suffer through that.

So you see aside from number 1 I can honestly say that the other 9 were really not so horrible just the worst in an amazing year.

10 Best

10. Our Trip to Denver for Ashley and Alex's Wedding.

9. Buying our first home! As awful as the hunt was and then having to deal with stripping the wallpaper in the end it was all worth it! We love our little home!

8. My Bachelor Party in New Orleans

7. Our Trip to Texas for Erin and Ryan's Wedding

6. Our Trip to Illinois for the second wedding reception my parents had for us

5. Sitting on the back deck of Andrew's house hanging out with Fr. Kevin, Chris, Tony, Guy, Steve, and Blake two nights before the wedding having a mini bachelor party.

4. Our Trip to Denver for Jackie's wedding and Thanksgiving.

3. My parents coming to visit us for a weekend in November and getting to spend some good quality time with them.

2. Honeymoon in Aruba.

1. Our Wedding Day. This day and the week leading up to it is full of so many amazing moments that I should honestly do a Top 10 list of my favorite moments just from that week and day. We are so blessed!

As 2011 begins we look forward to our first full year of being married and are excited to see what God has in store for us. Goodbye 2010, hello 2011!