Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Credo: Why I Believe

In my last blog I gave a rational explanation for what faith is.  Today I would like to give a personal account of why I have faith.

 First I believe because I myself have questioned and doubted.  I have grappled with every question in my life and have found that only the Catholic Church has satisfactory answers for me.  In many ways I really do sympathize with those who struggle to believe.  There are a lot of difficult situations out there.  There are a lot of personal experiences we can have that make it hard for us to accept the answers given by the Catholic Church.  I completely get why there are certain Church teachings that are hard to swallow.  I get it and in many ways do not blame people for not accepting them.  But most of the time people don’t accept them because they either don’t fully understand them or simply because they are unwilling to change the way they live their lives.  The answers are there, we just need to truly seek them out.

 Secondly, I believe because I am broken and need the power of Christ in my life.  I can honestly say I do not judge people who live a lifestyle I disagree with.  God knows I have done plenty of things I am not proud of and would probably be living in a way contrary to what I believe if it weren’t for the grace of God.  There are so many self-help books out there that try to tell us that “we can do it.”  Or that “the power to succeed is within us and we just need to tap into it.”  The truth is, WE cannot do it.  We do not have the ability to succeed or overcome obstacles on our own.  It is only Christ in us that can.  We need grace.  People are absolutely right in saying that it is ridiculous for the Church to expect a married couple to not use contraception in this day in age or for someone who struggles with homosexuality to spend the rest of his life alone.  But they are wrong when they say the Church expects THEM to.  The Church expects them to rely on CHRIST to do that for them.  “It is not I but Christ who lives in me.”  It was not me who made it to my wedding night a virgin.  It was Christ pouring His graces on us that allowed us to make it.  It is not I who has not resorted to the use of contraception in our marriage; it is Christ walking in us by the power of His Spirit.  It is not I who refuses to look at pornography; it is Christ in me that gives me the grace to refrain.  Every sin and temptation I have struggled with in my life has only been overcome by the grace of God.  We all need God’s grace.  I am not above falling.  I am still nothing more than a sinner.  It is Christ who uses me in spite of my failings.  That is faith.  Faith is what takes over where our natural powers and abilities leave of.  Faith is allowing Christ into our natural world and allowing Him to sanctify it.  This is easier said than done and takes a lot of trust.  So if this is not where you are at, I get it and understand.  I challenge you to simply say pray every single day this simple prayer of Peter’s, “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.”  Or even more simply, “Lord please increase my faith.”

 Lastly, I believe because I have met Christ.  I do not see Jesus as an idea but a person.  He is my best friend.  I have studied and come to understand, although not fully, who He truly is and not some idea I made up.   If he is a real person and I can trust him then I have no choice but to abandon myself to His will.  If I really trust who He is then I have no choice but to believe everything He teaches.  I put my trust in my friends and parents but that is putting trust in finite and fallible people.  It makes more sense to put my trust in a perfect and infinite being.  So many people will say, I think Jesus was a good man and had some good ideas but I just don’t believe He was the son of God.  Well if he was not the son of God he was a bad man and not a good man because he would have lied to many people and convinced them he was.  A liar cannot be a good man.  A liar would not die for his life.  If Jesus was telling the truth then He becomes someone we can trust above anyone else. When we begin to do this we can begin to form a relationship with Him.  When we do this we will fall in love with Him.  The only natural response to this love will be obedience to His teachings and His Church.  It is not about rules.  It is about relationship.   Think about it, every relationship has “rules” and boundaries.  If we don’t follow them, then the relationship suffers.  However, rules without relationship are pointless.  If we want true faith we have to have true relationship!
 
If you are Catholic but really struggle with things the Church teaches or have fallen away I encourage you to do the following:
1.  Come home and get involved in your parish.  Surround yourself with a community of people that can help you on your journey.
2.  Study.  Read and ask questions of people that are well versed in Theology and Philosophy.
3.  Be open to the answers you will recieve through your study.
4. Pray: The simple prayers listed above but also try and take some time in silence every day.  Even if it is just 5 mintues.  Unplug and I bet you will eventually start to hear God's voice
5. Go to the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession as often as possible.
 
This journey is not easy but it is one that makes our lives truly worth living!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Credo

To begin my exposé on faith and reasons for belief I would like to address this first blog specifically to unbelievers.  I will do a second part to this specifically addressed to Catholics in my next entry.  Remember that I am open to having a dialogue and friendly exchange; however I will delete all hateful comments.  There is no reason to be unkind or spiteful, even if you do not agree. 

 Last summer I read a pretty large portion of the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  I stopped reading it part way through not because I disliked it or disagreed with it, but because it was hateful.  I know a few atheists and they quite honestly are not nearly as hateful or rude as most of the authors and speakers out there who claim atheism.  Most of the major atheists out there tend to insult believers and tend to insult their intelligence.  They claim that faith in God is just a delusion not rooted in rational arguments or evidence.  This attitude is mainly fueled by a misunderstanding of what faith is and of the type of arguments that are used to argue for the existence of God.

 Why do I believe in God?  Why am I a Catholic?  The answer to both of these questions begins with the fact that I have faith.  But what is faith?  Hebrews 11:1 states, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” The dictionary defines faith as “confidence or trust in a person or thing.”    However, it also defines faith as, “belief that is not based in proof.”  This is where I disagree.  Often times those of us who genuinely have faith don’t seem to understand what it really is.  We tend to use that second dictionary definition.  Have you ever been told by someone when asking a question about something the Church teaches, “Well we can’t fully explain that, you just have to have faith”?  I’m guessing if you have gone through enough years of religious education you have heard that at some point.  Well that sadly is the answer given by a well-meaning poorly educated catechist.

 So then, what is Faith? 

 “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. As personal adherence to God and assent to his truth, Christian faith differs from our faith in any human person. It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely what he says. It would be futile and false to place such faith in a creature.” (CCC 150)

 To spell this out a little more clearly let us first talk about what Faith is not.  Faith is not a feeling or emotion.  True faith is an act of the will.  Faith is also not something based only on experience.  While experiences can deepen our faith or give us a different perspective on life, they do not offer support for or against the faith.  If faith is any of those things then it is a faith divorced from reason. 

 
Here is the key to understanding faith; true faith is something that is rational.  True faith is firmly grounded in reason.   Our culture today is rooted in materialism and scientism.  This means that if you cannot put it under a microscope and empirically prove it to be true it must not be true.  That is actually quite ridiculous.  There are some things that science has not answered and never will answer.  For example, can you scientifically and empirically define love and prove that it exists?  Or can you scientifically and empirically define the meaning and purpose of life?  How about goodness?  No, these are what we call Philosophical questions.  These questions can only be answered by Philosophy and Theology.  However, faith is not opposed to science or reason either. 

 
“Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason.  Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.” (CCC 159)

 The human person is composed of body and soul.  The two powers of the human soul are the intellect and will.  In the intellect dwells our power to reason.  We then use our reason to cause the will to act.  Reason is what allows us to prove, discover, and understand the world around us.  Reason, when used properly, leads us to discover truth.  However it cannot work alone.  As stated above, reason or science does not have all the answers.  Reason can only take us so far.  Reason takes us to the threshold and it is faith that makes us step over the threshold.  In faith the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace.   Reason is the natural power, while faith is the supernatural power. 

 You see there are certain things that are revealed by God but are not understandable, discoverable, or provable by reason.  These are truths that have a certain level of rational explanation but could not be discovered by reason alone (for example the Trinity). We cannot prove these particular truths empirically; however we can answer all the arguments and against them.  Then there are those things revealed by God & understandable, discoverable, or provable by reason.  These are things like the moral law and the existence of God.   Keep in mind that the proof for these things is not scientific or empirical.  It is a philosophical proof.  This means that we prove that belief in them is rational and logical.  Then there are things not revealed by God but known only by human reason, for example the quadratic formula or a theorem in Geometry.  True faith picks up where reason leaves off.  It is not something we make up to simply explain something we don’t have an answer to.  Rather it is the answer to the things science cannot answer.   Bl. John Paul II said it best in his encyclical, Fides et Ratio, “Faith and reason are like two wings in which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” 

 
If you are someone who does not believe you need to understand a few things.  True faith is rooted in reason.  There is historical and philosophical proof to back up what we as Catholics believes.  It is not a fairy tale or nice story told to explain what we cannot like Greek Mythology was.  There is a 2000 year intellectual tradition to back-up what we hold dear.  Have you truly explored and studied that?  Have you truly read everything that is out there?  Can you honestly say science has explained away without a shadow of a doubt the existence of God?  Simply because you don’t understand it does not mean it is irrational or illogical to have faith.  True faith is not just something based in sentimentality or emotion, but rather something backed by the irrefutable truth that there is something bigger than myself responsible for everything around us!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Republic of Texas?


So I know I said I was going to start blogging about Faith and reasons for belief and I will, but I had an interesting thought that I felt the need to blog about. 

 This morning on facebook I came across a link to a petition for Louisiana requesting to secede from the union.  I know I recently said I would seriously consider moving to Texas but we need to think about this a little.  Let me start off by saying that I’m not opposed to the idea of Texas, Louisiana, and some of these other more conservative red states seceding but I think we need to step back and rationally think about this for a  bit. 

 To begin with, what is our true motive for this?  I think a fundamental flaw in our society is that we think we can create some sort of utopia here on earth.  We think that we can have Heaven on earth.  The reality of this is that we cannot.  We are called to further the kingdom of God and work against injustice but we are NEVER going to have a perfect society.  We live in a fallen human world, and there will always be sin and corruption. We are not citizens of this world; we are merely pilgrims on a journey. 

 Second of all we have to remember that extremes are never good.  The spiritual life teaches us that very clearly.  We have to live our lives rooted in truth and in a balanced way.  I mentioned in a previous post this week that in our culture today no one recognizes anything as evil anymore.  We don’t want to say something is sinful or wrong.  Well that is not the correct way to live.  But neither is being overly pious and living in a way that everything is sinful.  This we call scrupulosity, this is also not the correct way to live.  The problem with extreme liberalism is that it destroys the moral order, the family, gives people a false sense of compassion, and destroys any sense of truth our society has.  The problem with extreme conservatism is that it creates an “ever man for himself” mentality and does not take into consideration the human condition with a true sense of compassion. 

 I would be afraid that a country that was composed of only red states would not solve the issues we have as a nation.  I think we would have a whole new set of problems.  Once again don’t get me wrong, if things get really bad I’m thinking moving to Texas and joining the secession is better than the alternative, however what kind of society would that create?  For example would it be a more racist society?  Those states already have a tendency to be more racist.  In the process of fighting against the redefinition of marriage would we react with hatred of homosexuals?  I’m not ok with gay marriage and gay adoption but I am also not ok with gay bashing and hatred of gays.  We would we have some sort of compassion for the poor and government assistance programs or would we eradicate those things completely?  Would we allow immigration and welcome those who need a better life or would we completely close our borders and have even stricter immigration policies than we currently do?  I’m just speculating here.  I don’t know what would happen but I think we need to think about these things a little bit. 

 
I know where Catholics stand on all those issues and I have a feeling we would still have things we have to speak out against in a “red state” world.  The Catholic position in political life goes much deeper than no abortion.  The pro-life issue maybe the biggest and most important issue but it is not the only issue. If Abortion was illegal our job would not be over.  So would seceding be a better situation than what we currently have?  Maybe, in some ways, but let’s not be too quick to divide this country up yet.  We can’t make a perfect society.  Maybe we need to work harder in Evangelizing the current culture and country we have rather than making a new one.  I know some of us may end up with no choice and end up having to go the “let’s move to Texas and secede” route.  However, I think we need to remember that while it could be better and provide solutions to some things it will come with a whole new set of problems.  Our job as Catholics will never be complete whether we remain the United States of America or divide into The Socialist States of America and The Republic of Texas! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Year of Faith

Pope Benedict XVI has declared this the year of Faith.  I can't think of a more inspired and wonderful proclomation.  Even though I'm about a month behind in response to that and the posts I made earlier this week I have decided I'm going to dedicate the remainder of this year of Faith (now until October 2013) to focus my blog on explaining the reasons for belief in the one true faith and reflect on what the nature of Faith truly is.  The first official post of this will be coming next week!  Please be on the lookout, read, and share.  I will encourage comments from people of all faiths and backgrounds with these I just ask that it be kept a respectful DIALOGUE!  Let's get some good healthy discussion going this year (this means all hateful and disrespectful comments will be deleted)!

Looking forward to the first post next week!  Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged"?


I felt inspired to write yet again today and so I did!  I think that this needed to be said in order to clarify what I wrote yesterday.

“Don’t be Judgmental”, and “learn to be tolerant”, seem to be common phrases/themes we hear or see in our culture.  First of all, our understanding of both of these things is severely skewed.  To begin with, tolerance is gravely misunderstood in our culture.  Tolerance in a sense has become the god of this generation.  Tolerance DOES NOT MEAN I have to keep my mouth shut and keep from commenting when I disagree with someone.  Tolerance DOES NOT MEAN I have to simply accept beliefs and lifestyles different than my own.  Tolerance DOES NOT MEAN everyone is free to believe in whatever they want to choose their own truth.  As my friend Chris Stefanick says in his talk on moral relativism, “you have to DISAGREE with something before you start TOLERATING it.”  Tolerance means I simply put up with something I don’t like.  I can still LOVE someone and disagree with them.  To say that homosexual actions, contraception, abortion and voting for Obama is wrong is NOT INTOLERANT! To say that there is such a thing as absolute truth and that one religion is more right than another is NOT INTOLERANT!  To have moral convictions and stick by them is NOT INTOLERANT!  For example, most people in my family do not believe a lot of the same things I do.  They are wrong in their beliefs, period.  Does that mean I love them less or we can’t get along?  No!  Can we have intelligent dialogue and conversation?  Yes!  Are they 100% wrong?  No!  Are there a lot of things they get right?  Yes!  Do I still respect them and see good in them?  Yes!  Believing that someone is wrong does not mean you are intolerant nor does it mean you hate them. 

 Secondly, one of the most common things I hear is, “We shouldn’t judge people.”   That is absolutely correct!  We should not judge people, only God can judge people.  However, what people mean by “not judging others” is not what Jesus meant by this.  For example in today’s culture to go up to a friend or family member and say, “I don’t think you should be having sex outside of marriage”, or “you shouldn’t be getting drunk every weekend” would elicit a response like, “don’t judge me, I’m a good person even if I do those things, who are you to tell me what to do?”  That my friends is not judgmental.  That is actually doing our Christian duty of loving our neighbor.  That is showing care and concern for another.  We actually are called to judge actions.  We can’t judge PEOPLE, but we can judge ACTIONS!  What is the difference?  Well judging actions is calling someone out and telling them what they are doing or have done is wrong.  Judging people implies that you assume the state of their soul.  To tell someone they are going to hell because of what they are doing is judgmental.  To tell them something is sinful is not judgmental; it is actually loving and scriptural. 

 “‘If your brother* sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

 As Pope St. Felix III said, "Not to oppose error is to approve it; and not to defend truth is to suppress it; and indeed to neglect to confound evil men, when we can do it, is no less a sin than to encourage them."  When someone corrects me for the way I am acting or for what I am doing, I don’t see it as judgmental.  I actually often take some time to think about it and take it to prayer.  More often than not I realize that the person who provided the criticism is correct and I am thankful for that.  Why?  Well, because I can then use what I have learned or discovered through the situation to grow in virtue and holiness. 

 The mentality behind these two concepts is truly ruining our culture and causing serious moral degradation in society.  No one wants to call anything evil or sinful anymore.  It seems like the only sin in society anymore is having moral convictions and telling someone they are wrong.  As Pope Benedict said before he became pope, “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.”  This is a scary thought.  I think we can all agree that Hitler was an evil guy and what he did was pretty messed up.  However, I seriously wonder that if Hitler was alive today and committing the same evils if we would think they were wrong.  We would honestly try and stop him?  I seriously question the fact that we would.  Someone would surely say that we were being “intolerant” or “judgmental” if we disagreed with him. 

 Here is the problem, people see Christians as judgmental and intolerant because they haven’t been given the whole message.  They simply see Christianity as a list of rules.  Christianity is not simply a belief system; it is a RELATIONSHIP with a living God.  The best part about it is that when we are wrong about something, or someone calls us out on a sinful action, is that there is mercy and forgiveness available.  The mercy of Christ is infinite.  He desires nothing more than for us to recognize our faults and imperfections so that he can forgive us and begin to heal us and make us whole again!  Today's Gospel from Luke says it well:

"The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
"This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
So Jesus addressed this parable to them.
"What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.'
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance."

Jesus was not “tolerant” in the way today’s liberal leftist are want everyone to me.  He was and is tolerant in the way that he loves us in spite of our sin and weaknesses and calls us to become who we are meant to be.  There is hope, joy, and love in Christianity.  Are there Christians who can be judgmental and truly intolerant?  Absolutely, but most often than not the culture simply tells us we are behaving that way, when in fact we are being loving. 

 
In conclusion, it is because I love my family and friends that I will continue to call a spade a spade.  I will continue to refer to things as immoral and sinful when they are.  If you disagree with me, fine, but please be TOLERANT yourselves and accept the fact that I am simply preaching what I have come to discover as the truth and I will not back down from it simply because it offends someone.  If it offends you and you disagree then let us TOLERATE one another so we can go lovingly enjoy a beer or a good glass of whiskey as we laugh and discuss those things we can agree on! After all once I have said my piece, I can’t change your heart or mind.  I’ll leave that one to the Holy Spirit and pray for you in the quiet recess of my own heart while we enjoy that beer or whiskey together!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post Election Thoughts

I went to bed early last night, about 9:45.  I decided I didn’t want to wait for them to call the election.  I woke up at about 4:30 this morning to check the results and then workout.  I have refrained from sharing my true reaction because I really wanted to reflect on it and take it to prayer today.  I’ve decided that I need to get my thoughts down. They may seem irrational to some of you but I don’t care.  You can disagree with me but if you do I don’t want to hear it on here.  I will delete any and all negative comments.  Comments that are in agreement with how I am feeling are welcome but I am not in the mood to “dialogue” about this right now.

 First of all, I’m angry at all the Catholics that voted for Obama in this election.  The outcome is mainly on you.  Most of you should know better.  The Church was clear.  You disobeyed.  This makes me angry.  I’m tired of people claiming my faith and my Church and then only following it when it is “convenient”.  I’m sorry you didn’t like Romney as an option, I was not thrilled with him either but he was clearly the lesser of two evils and the best option we had. You have betrayed me and my Church by voting for Obama.  End of discussion.

 Second of all I’m scared.  I had to pause my workout this morning and go check on my daughter who was crying.  As I picked her up to console her, a ton of emotion flooded over me and I must admit I shed a couple tears as I was holding her.  I am terrified of the world she is going to grow up in.  This administration is going to continue to further the culture of death and I truly fear the kind of America my daughter will grow up in.   I don’t think America is going to be able to recover from this.  In addition to the President, the moral depravity that people in certain states voted to legalize is atrocious and God will judge us as a nation for it!  Have mercy on us Oh Lord!

 Thirdly, I feel betrayed by family and friends who refused to see the impact this administration is having on religious liberty.  I understand you may not fully agree with what I believe but for you to go ahead and vote for someone who wants to take away my religious liberties is hurtful. This could result in me losing my job or me being fined and thrown in jail because I refuse to pay for things that violate my conscience. This election was personal and the fact that you decided you look the other way on this issue makes me disappointed.   I still love all of you but I am sad.  I understand some of you may not fully know or understand why I feel this way but I need you to know that I do feel this way.   I hope and pray I am wrong about all these things occurring but for the first time in American History they are real possibilities.

My mother-in-law constantly says to us, “when are you moving to Texas?”  I have honestly always thought to myself that this was unlikely.  After this election I can honestly say that this has become a real possibility now.  I think that it will be the safest place to be when our economy crashes. 

 Lastly, I am still trusting in God. My resolve to Evangelize and fight for our culture is growing stronger within me. I will preach and teach the truth more fervently. I will continue to teach my students the truth regardless of how it is taken. I will share Christ with whomever I encounter. The sense of urgency for us to evangelize has only gotten stronger. If you are a Catholic you must join me and the Church in this mission. It is our moral obligation to preach the truth to others. We cannot go down without a fight. We cannot be silent anymore. Our Catholic faith cannot just be about you or me sitting in the pew at Sunday mass. It has to be about being transformed and going forth to share that joy with others. I am thankful for my Catholic Faith.  I know that Christ is my real King and in Him my true hope lies. However it doesn’t make this any less scary and it doesn’t change how I feel.   If things get bad I will bear the crosses he gives our family and I will continue to praise Him.  I’m sure people will read this and think I’m being an alarmist and over dramatic, but this is how I feel. I honestly think it is a problem that more people don’t see things in this way.  I cannot predict the future and I hope I am wrong about the things I fear, but it doesn’t make the fear itself any less real.   God is bigger than all of this but I firmly believe the suffering and the persecution is coming.  If it doesn’t occur in the next four years, at least the ground work for it will be laid in the next four years. 

 
For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Random Rant/Reflection


So here I am finally getting around to blogging again! I have the best intentions of blogging every week but then life happens and before I know it, it has been over a month since my last blog post. Oh well so goes life. Since I actually have a ton of things on my brain I've been wanting to blog about I figured I would write on a bunch of little things rather than one big blog (Kind of like a 7 quick takes blog, except it is not Friday and I feel like I would be breaking some sort of unspoken blogger rule calling this a 7 quick takes on a Monday). However, this won't be too quick, so grab a cup of coffee, a beer, or a glass of Whiskey and read on my friends!

----1----

I have begun to settle into my 9th year of teaching. This would be my 11th year had I not taken two years off to get my Masters. I still can't get over the fact that it has been 10 years since I first moved to Wichita and started teaching at Bishop Carroll. It is weird that I have spent most of my young adult life here. To think that 10 years ago I was not happy to be here and even mad at God for bringing me here and now I love it here and am so thankful God brought me here. I can honestly say I teach at one of the best Catholic Schools in the nation and have been blessed to be a part of so many students’ lives. I don't know if I will be here the rest of my life but I can say that this diocese and Bishop Carroll have played an indispensable part in my formation as a man and a teacher. When I think about the last 10 years, I can't help but think about the quote from Mother Teresa, "If you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans."

 

----2----

Sophia is awesome! I LOVE being a Dad! It is crazy how much life is changing. She is getting to be so big. Not to mention she is already trying to crawl. She is not being successful yet but I'm sure it is coming. She is able to get on all fours but then when she attempts to crawl she face plants and doesn't get anywhere. I can't even believe it has been 4 and a half months since she was born. In some weird way it is hard to remember life without her.

video
 

----3----

I am so tiered of politics. I am especially tired of Catholics interpreting Catholic teaching in a way that helps than sleep at night; rather than interpreting it correctly. We are Catholics first and Americans second, period! I'm tired of Catholics trying to justify voting for Obama. We as Catholics cannot vote for him, end of discussion!

 

----4----

I had a friend e-mail me this last Friday. It is by a professor at Benedictine College. I think it quite nicely summarizes the way we are called to live. I really needed this last week:

5 tips for living an awesome life

Dr. Mulholland

1. Believe that the sacraments work. Really. Base your journey to God, beleaguering marathon that it is, on the pit stops that He himself designed and placed throughout your day, week and year. Live the liturgical seasons as real events with real graces to harvest in order to live out the unique role that you have in God’s plan. Live knowing that God wants you happy, weak sinner that you are, because He loves you as a child, and has given you a brother in Christ, who in turn has shared with you a mother in Our Lady. Live in awe of those holy men and women, named and unnamed, who did so much to hand down the Catholic Faith to us. Feel part of something great and carry it on.

2. Find out what God wants you to do with your life. Don’t over stress about it, but don’t put it off. Tim McGraw, in his song “My Next 30 Years” (in his case, from age 30 to 60) includes among his goals, “…figure out just what I’m doing here.” I would suggest a more aggressive timetable. The perennial question? How do I know what I’m doing is what God wants? Tough one. Two clues: it doesn’t contradict his plan and you feel deeply fulfilled doing it. First prize, a vocation. Second prize, a profession. Third prize, a career. Fourth prize, a job. In your creation is your calling. Do what fulfills the good qualities God has given you, and which puts them at the service of others, for their betterment.

 

3. Think of that vocation in wide terms. Your first task is to be God’s creature and adopted child. You live that out as a priest, religious, married or single person. How you make a living should not rule how you live your life. But have education enough to do both. Let your professional life be at the service of your family life, and in turn at the service of God. Concentric circles pulling toward the center will unify your life. A pie graph where each section contends for your personality and focus will pull you apart and leave you unhappy.

 

4. Build community. Surround yourself with people who share your deepest loves. And make sure those loves are worthy of that depth. Don’t take too many things too seriously, but take very seriously the things that deserved to be so taken. Build others up constantly. Shed anger and petty grudges as soon as possible. Show the people you love that you love them. Often. Prefer to visit people rather than places. Never be too busy to make new friends. Carve time out of your week to reach out to others. Other people’s happiness is so your business!

 

5. Savor things. Don’t escape from things (drugs, alcohol, superficiality), escape into them (poetry, nature, good conversation, good music, beer in bottles, not cans.) Take walks. Think thoughts. Ponder the goodness of others more often than their faults. Make and take jokes. Laugh. See each day as a gratuitous mystery in which God has hidden Himself in your path in a million ways. Never tire of finding Him in them, be they joys, pains, petty annoyances or your team making the playoffs.

 

Bottom line: The real you is saint you. Who you truly are is who you are in God’s eyes. And who you are in his eyes is who you can be each day by combining the best of you, little though that be, and the infinity of his greatness.

 

Because… after all, the only real criterion of an awesome life is if it was lived in such a way that it merits true awesomeness hereafter. Listen and play along to the part you have in the symphony of the universe. The true symphony is still to come. May our lives, under God’s grace and direction, resound a worthy overture.

----5----



I am completely addicted to playing Ticket to Ride lately. My wifeand I played it just the two of us quite a bit over the summer. Now we keep trying to find excuses to get together with other friends to play it or teach them how to play.

----6----



God is so good to us. I am constantly amazed at how He takes care of us. Every time I start to stress out financially about something He makes it work for us. At the beginning of the summer the Augustine Institute didn't have a job for me as a TA anymore and then along came Jim Beckman and offered me a position working under him with FORMED. This summer when we started to stress about the budget along came Fr. Hoisington at St. Mark's and offered me a paid position teaching Junior and Senior PSR two Wednesday's a month. Mary Beth is still able to substitute teach two days a week and we have been blessed with free child care thus far. I honestly believe this is because we have been faithful with Stewardship. I have started lectoring at our parish and will be helping teach RCIA this next year. We give of our treasure to the parish and help support two FOCUS missionaries. This is the first thing we take out of our paychecks. To a family that makes what we do and has the bills we have this hurts but I can honestly say we have never gone without what we need. I am amazed at how the budget works and comes together every month but it does. Every good gift truly comes from God. When we place our trust in Him and put Him in control of everything, including our finances He provides in powerful ways.

----7----



My prayer life is finally getting back on track again. I am slowly getting back in the swing of it and finding moments for silence. It has seriously been a challenge to figure out any sort of routine much less a prayer routine with a baby. Finding time to pray became a real challenge when Sophia was born and I seriously missed my silent time with Jesus but didn't know how to find a groove with it, especially this summer. With school starting I have made it a point to go to mass every day and simply take at least 20-30 minutes of one of my planning periods to go to the chapel and pray no matter how stressed I am or how much I have to do. I am making prayer a priority again and I am noticing a huge difference in my life just from returning to it in the last two weeks. I am starting to find that true peace and joy in my life again that I didn't even realize was missing.
 
 
 

 
 


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Engaging the Battle

I’m getting ready to go on retreat with 50-60 young men this weekend.  They range in age from freshmen in High School to men out of college and in their early years in the work force.  The name of this group is the Knights of the Holy Queen.  We are a group of young men that is consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and striving to live lives of virtue and honor in this crazy world of ours.  Every time I am with this group of young men my faith is renewed and my hope in humanity seems to be restored.  These guys are real.  These guys are far from perfect but the beauty of this group is the perseverance these young men have.  They are not good men because they never fall, rather they are good men because they get back up and keep fighting when they fall.  The whole theme of our retreat this weekend is Engaging in the Battle.  In other words, how can we be men who live in the world and fight for what is true, good, and beautiful in this life.  This is a question that has been on my mind quite a bit lately, especially in light of what is going on in our country and throughout the world.  How do we change and affect this world when it seems like everything that is being thrown at us is in direct opposition to the way we as Catholics are called to live our lives? 
St. Paul says it best in his letter to the Ephesians:

“Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.  Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones"(Ephesians 6: 10-18)

We are in a SPIRITUAL battle.  It is very real.  We have no choice but to either engage in it or be defeated by it.  There is no room for sitting on the fence or watching from the sidelines.  Christianity is not a spectator sport.  You are either a varsity starter or a couch potato.  There is no in between when it comes to being a Christian, especially in today’s culture.  But what does this look like practically?  We can’t all be Mother Teresa and John Paul IIs.  We can’t all be good Catholic politicians.  We can preach, protest, and pray but at the end of the day Obama might get re-elected, the HHS mandate pass, and abortion remain legal.  Does that mean that we have failed or lost the battle as Christians?  Absolutely not!  The victory has already been won!  But how do we cooperate with that victory?

Within the first few weeks of my daughter’s birth I was sitting on the couch watching TV and she was sleeping on my lap.  In that moment I came to this new realization:  There is very little I can do about the world as a whole, but what I can do is live my life as an example of holiness for my daughter and raise her to become a great Saint!  That is my contribution to the world.  That is what I am called to!  What an amazing thing.  I can be Mother Theresa to my family, to my students, and to those I encounter.  My Calcutta is my own small circle of people.  So to break it down here is what I believe I am called to do engage in the battle:

Love My God Above All Else:  I have to cultivate a personal relationship with Christ.  He must be my number one every day.  That means taking time to seek Him out and engage in prayer with Him EVERY DAY! 

Love my Wife and family: This is my primary vocation.  I need to die to myself and put the needs of my spouse above my own.  I need to serve her and give my whole heart to her.  I must call her to holiness and lead her to heaven no matter what the cost.  Through this then together we must love our daughter unconditionally and lead her to heaven.  We must form her and raise her in the faith and give her all the tools she needs to become a Saint.  We must to the same with any other children God blesses us with.

Love my students and give them truth: My secondary vocation is to be a teacher.  Not just any teacher, but a teacher of the faith.  This comes with huge responsibilities.  I must love my students unconditionally.  I am called to impart the truth and lead them to encounter Christ in a personal and intimate way.  Through educating and forming them I pray that I can be God’s instrument that plants seeds in them so that they go out and transform the culture.  Maybe I am forming a future Mother Teresa, JP II, or politician. 

Be an example in my own parish and community: If I live my life the best way I can by loving my god, family, and my students then I can pray that witness influences others.  I may not solve world hunger but I can volunteer to help the poor in my community.  I may not convert the Muslims but I might inspire those in my parish or some of my friends to be better Catholics.  The point is that if I simply strive to live in a way that bears witness to Christ in my own circle and corner of the world then I am affecting this world and engaging in the battle.  By being involved in something like the Knights of the Holy Queen God could be using me to impact more lives than I could ever imagine. 

I need to stop worrying about the outcome of elections and the larger problems in our world in a way that causes me to get distracted about the things I CAN do right in front of me.  This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be informed or not vote, or not care about those problems it simply means that my role in solving those problems starts with doing the things that I mentioned above.  As Mother Teresa said if you want to change the world, “Go home and start loving your families!”

So I’m heading on retreat this weekend and praying that God uses me and the others involved to affect some lives that will then in turn affect the culture and world we live in.  Please pray for us!  Let us find the battles we can fight and win and not worry about the ones we can’t.  That my friends will lead to being on the winning side when the war comes to an end!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

10 Years Later Episode 1: Ode to Franciscan University

Ten years!  It has been ten years since I graduated from college.  I can’t believe it has been that long.  I never thought my life would be what it is today when I drove out of Steubenville 10 years ago.  Franciscan University was an amazing place to go to college.  I honestly don’t think people who didn’t go there can ever really grasp what my college experience was like.  It was so incredibly unique and marked by so many experiences that seem completely foreign to the average college student. Most college students are encouraged by their fellow classmates to get laid and hammered while most of us at Franciscans had friends who challenged us not to do those things.   Everything about Franciscan was unique, odd even; from the household system, to the professors, to the eclectic people that went there to the cafeteria food and to the semester abroad program in Gaming Austria.  It was a place that deeply changed me and forever left an imprint on my soul.  I would not be the man I am had I not gone to school there and if I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. 

I still very vividly remember the day I arrived on campus in August of 1999.  My dad and I got up very early and began the 8 hour drive from Rockford, IL to Steubenville, OH. We pulled up in front of Marian Hall and we were instantly greeted by some very welcoming and energetic students that were part of the Orientation team.  I remember one of those happy faces being my friend Mary who I knew from Rockford.  My dad and I barely had to lift a thing.  They unloaded the entire car and moved me into my dorm room.  My dad and I then walked around to get me checked in and get things in order.  I remember taking my dad to show him the Port.  On the way to the port I remember meeting a girl named Sarah.  Sarah was in a household called the Roses of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  She introduced herself to us and took the time to make sure we knew our way around.   After that my dad called my mom to check in and I will never forget him saying to her, “This is a good place.  There is something different about this school.  Our son picked a good place to go to school.”  This meant the world to me because my parents had been having a tough time with my decision to go there and major in Theology.  Shortly thereafter my dad left and I was left to unpack and get ready for the orientation activities.  I was placed in a small group where a guy named Courtney Brown was my leader.  I instantly felt like I was home within hours of arriving on campus. 

Within that first year I made some incredible friends.  I joined the Knights of the Holy Queen, got involved in SENT, which was a retreat ministry, and dove head first into the life of the campus.  Daily mass and adoration became part of my daily routines.  Instead of going to parties and getting hammered I filled my weekends at the Castle.  The Castle was an old house off campus where the older members of the Knights lived.  Evenings there consisted of meaningful conversations, laughter over ridiculous things, playing mafia, guitar playing, and just a general atmosphere of joy and genuine friendship.  Don’t get me wrong the beer would flow there but not in a frat party sort of way; but more in a Chestertonian drink life in sort of way.  The brotherhood I had with the Knights was solidified there and the friendships I made out of household where made there.  It was a place that for me embodied not what the college experience in our culture is but what it should be. 

My three years there went by fast but I also feel like I was able to drink in every single moment.  My second year I spent my first semester in Austria.  I made some incredible friends there and traveled all over Europe.  I experienced the universality of our Church.  I prayed in front of Maximillian Kolbe’s starvation cell in Auschwitz, knelt before the image of Our Lady of Chestahova, saw the Shroud of Turin, drank sangria in a square in Barcelona, went to the Prado in Madrid, saw the flesh of my Lord in Santarem, experienced Fatima on October 13th, prayed before the tomb of St. Therese in Lisieux, saw an incorrupt St. Katherine at the miraculous medal shrine, bathed in the waters of Lourdes, went to a papal audience with JP II, walked through the Holy doors of St. Peters, took in the ancient city of Rome, visited St. Anthony in Padua, saw the original Portiuncula in Assisi, walked the streets of Venice, hiked through the Swiss Alps, and enjoyed the beauty of Austria.   I got to do all that with some of my best friends in the world.  We laughed with one another, irritated each other on long trips, drank beer from a giant glass boot, and experienced mass in some of the most beautiful churches in the world.  That semester was one of the most formative of my time there.

My last three semesters on campus continued to bring new adventures and joys.  I was humbled to be coordinator of the Knights my senior year.  I soaked in every ounce of my Theology classes and continued to enjoy the brotherhood in my household and the other friendships I had.  There were many late nights studying, some serious foosball playing in Adrien’s basement, and random bonfires down by the river.  It really is hard to sum up my entire experience there but it was one that I will always look back on with a heart full of joy.  I am blessed beyond words to have had the opportunity to be a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville. 

To conclude I give you my top 10 things, in no particular order, I miss about my time in Steubenville (although there could be many more but for the sake of bringing this blog to a close I’ll keep it to 10): 

1.       Skipping class to go to Twines (A dumpy out door trailer bar at the bottom of the hill).

2.       Nights at the Castle on fourth street.

3.       A Knight with the Flowers (Formal wine and cheese Christmas party we did with the Little Flowers)

4.       Bull Dog Nights with Adrien, Trina, and the gang

5.       Lords Day and Household Holy Hour

6.       Spanky’s after mass on Sundays

7.       Bonfires down by the Ohio River

8.       Driving to Pittsburgh to go to Mulayney’s Harp and Fiddle

9.       Being able to easily scandalize the overly pious people

10.   Parties and Foosball at the Angel House Senior Year

Here’s to the memories we all hold dear and the friendships we are blessed to still have from our years at good old Franciscan U.  Happy 10 years class of 2002!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

In the Blink of an Eye

It has been one week since my daughter was born.  It is funny how much can change in the blink of an eye.  I can’t even begin to fully describe it but my life has forever changed.  Yeah that is a pretty “no duh” statement but I needed to say it.  Why?  Well while Mary Beth was pregnant everyone kept telling me that my life was about to change.  Every single one of my friends who has children has told me numerous times that it changes you and turns your world upside down.  The thing was I completely believed them.  Not believing them wasn’t the issue.  The fact of the matter is that you can kind of get it, you can prepare for it in different ways but you don’t ever fully get it until that little bundle of joy actually arrives. 

 On Tuesday I went to work out for the first time since Sophia arrived.  I got on the treadmill and as I was running thought to myself, “The last time I was here Sophia wasn’t born yet.  Wow!  I know it has only been 4 days since the last time I was here but it feels like a lifetime ago.”  All of a sudden my world pre-Sophia began to feel like a very distant memory.  A smile came to my face.  Everything in my life leading up to this point had been wonderful but from here on out I knew I never wanted to go back.  I never wanted to know what life was like without Sophia in it again.  It is crazy how quickly that feeling sets in. 

 God has molded me in very different ways throughout every part of my life.  In my childhood he showed me His great love through the presence of my family.  In High School he started re-building self-confidence in me I had somehow lost along the way and brought me to an encounter with my faith that started the journey I’m on today.  In college he affirmed my manhood and brought a lot of healing to my life through the amazing brotherhood I had with my household and gave me a deep and abiding love for His Church. In my first years of teaching He showed me how to grow in patience, trust, and instilled deeper virtue within me.   Through my years in graduate school God showed me true abandonment to divine providence.  He stripped me of my desire and need to always be in control and showed me how to rely on nothing except for Him.  It was in this moment of finally relinquishing control that He brought Mary Beth into my life.  Through our time of engagement and first year back to teaching in Wichita God continued to prepare me for this moment as He showed me how to love even when it was difficult.  He showed me what it means to truly enter into the covenant of marriage.  Throughout our first year of marriage God showered us with many graces and taught us how to love one another more profoundly and work on our relationship.  I firmly believe that every one of those moments and times in my life have been moments of grace to prepare me to be a father.  I am not fully aware of the ways God is going to continue to shape and mold me throughout this experience of being a father but I have a feeling it will be full of joy, excitement, happiness, heartache, pain, and sheer bliss.  I am excited to see where life takes our little family from here.


Last night Sophia slept soundly on my lap and as Mary Beth slept next to me on the couch as we watched Harry Potter.  It was a very surreal moment for me as I thought to myself that a week ago I didn’t even know what Sophia looked like.  I sat there thinking that within a couple years or even sooner she will be too big to sleep on my lap.  However the most amazing yet difficult thing to swallow is that I am responsible for her eternal soul! Not only that, God used me and my wife to help bring this new eternal soul into being.  This to me is so humbling and awesome that I don’t know if my mind will ever be able to fully wrap itself around it. 


I am in love with my little girl.  I am in love with my wife.  I am in love with my life.  The last week has been hard in the sense that I no longer have my old routine and don’t think I’ll ever get it back.  I am going to have to start figuring out a new routine and even that will be one that has to be much more flexible than the old one cause as I’ve already learned in the last week, kids are unpredictable!  However anything worth it in this life is hard and if this is what hard is then I will take it any day of the week!