Saturday, February 11, 2012

To My Beautiful Daughter With Love

Dear Sophia Rose,

As I write this you are still growing in your Mother's womb. We are both waiting with great anticipation for your arrival. However, if you are reading this you are probably a teenager who is pissed at me because I wouldn’t let you leave the house wearing a sorry excuse for a dress to go hang out with some guy who is not good enough for you and I’ve given this to you as a reminder of my great love for you. Yes that is right, I loved you intensely the moment I discovered your existence in your mother’s womb. As Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”. Although those are God’s words and I can’t quite say that in the same way, I do know that I can share in those words in a smaller way. Before you came into this world I loved you! My life was forever changed the moment your mother told me she was pregnant. At first we weren’t sure that you were a Sophia. I thought maybe you could be a Dominic, however deep down inside we always knew you were going to be a beautiful little girl that will one day grow into an amazing young woman.

I don’t know what these next several years will hold for us. I sit in prayer and thought several times throughout the day wondering what life will bring. Will I cry tears of joy as I hold you in my arms for the first time? I imagine the first time I will see you smile or laugh and it brings a smile to my face. I imagine the pride I will feel as you take your first steps or speak your first words (which will definitely be papi by the way)! I imagine the way my heart will melt the first time you walk out of your room wearing a big girl dress. I imagine the first time my little girl will dance with me. I imagine the day you head off for your first day of school or go off for your first sleepover at a friend’s house and wanting to not let you go experience life without me. But I will have to let you and start to let go slowly. I imagine the day you start liking boys and getting the urge to not let you talk to them but having to resist that urge. I imagine the days I will have to still guide you and parent you while at the same time allow you to make mistakes and not be overprotective of my beautiful little girl. Will I walk you down the aisle and dance with my princess on her wedding day? Will I sit in a big Church as a beautiful habit is placed on you and you join a group of women to spend your life in service to others and prayer for the conversion of the world? Will you give me grandchildren or spend your days praying that your mom and I get to heaven? Who knows what life will bring but I know that every day will be a new adventure with you and my heart is full of joy and anticipation to experience life as your dad!

I can’t promise you your life will be perfect. I can’t promise you your life will be easy. I can’t promise you your life will be without suffering. But I can promise you that you will be loved unconditionally. No matter what I will always love you. My love for you is not dependant on what you do or who you become but simply on the fact that you are God’s precious gift to me and NOTHING can ever separate you from my love for you. You are beautifully and wonderfully made and you must remember that the only thing that defines you is that you are a beautiful girl that is precious to me and more importantly to God our Heavenly Father.

I can also promise you that I am your parent first and your friend second. I ultimately want what is best for you. There are going to be times in your life that you don’t like me and even times where you “hate” me and as much as it will hurt I won’t give in to you. I have been entrusted with your soul. My number one priority will be to get you to heaven and introduce you to Christ. You may someday reject this but none the less my job is to teach you the truth. This means there will be a lot of things your friends will be allowed to do that you will not, but I am asking you to trust me as your father. I desire your happiness and your holiness and I will always have these two things in mind when raising you.

I also promise you that I will pray for you every day. I started praying for you the moment your mother told me you were coming to us. I pray that you will meet Jesus and enter into a deep and abiding relationship with Him. I pray that He becomes your best friend. When you smile I will Thank God for your smile. When you laugh I will thank God for your laugh. When you do great things I will thank God for the amazing talents He has given you. When you make mistakes and fall into sin I will ask God through the intercession of Mary to put you back on the right path. When you are suffering or hurting I will ask God and Our Lady to comfort you. When you are unsure of what decisions to make I will ask God to give you wisdom and guide you and Mary to give you the grace to respond to His will as she did. The greatest gift I can give you is to offer everything you are to Mary our Mother and Her Son so that you may be given every grace you need to become a Saint.

This world is an amazing place but also a scary place. There will be a lot of things in this world that will distract you from what is important. You will be tempted to do things that go against the will of God and the way your mom and I will raise you. I want you to know that when you do make mistakes I will be here to help you. I want you to know that God’s mercy is infinite and no matter how many times you fall I will be there to help you back up and lead you back into the arms of our heavenly Father. There is no mistake or sin too big that will make me or God stop loving you. Remember is it not about how many times you fall, it is about how many times you get back up and keep fighting!

Lastly, I promise you my protection. I will protect you as a King defends his daughter the princess. That is exactly what you are; my princess and I will defend you until the day a worthy knight (be it a good holy man or Jesus) proves himself worthy of you to take my place as your protector. I will fight for you when you need to be fought for. I will stand in the way of things that seek to harm you. I will protect your heart and help you guard your purity. I will teach you to see and discover the beauty inside you. I will teach you to detect the wolves and dragons in disguise that try to trick you into giving your heart away when you should not. I will teach you to understand that your worth is in Christ and not in your body. I will take a bullet for you if I have to!

I love you so much! God has an incredible plan for you! I am humbled that God has picked me to be your father and help you discover that plan. You are beautiful, you are amazing, you are talented, and you are loved! Never forget that! I will make mistakes when raising you. I am not pretending to be perfect. I hope you will forgive me when I do make mistakes. Everything I will do will be to show you how beautiful and precious you are. As I said my goal is your sanctity and happiness. I can’t wait to hold you in my arms Sophia! I have a feeling you are going to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me!


Your Daddy

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Evangelizing Cyberspace?

Is Evangelizing Cyberspace possible? Can we really be effective witnesses and Evangelizers via social netwroking sites? In the last few days I have come to realize that this is the one place where the only way to evangelize is through silence. To simply keep out of political and moral discussions on facebook is probably the best course of action. Let's be honest noone has ever been persuaded to faith because of a long and intense discussion thread on facebook. These discussions are pointless! I think the occasional good article posted to one's profile or the occasional Saint or Bible quote in one's status or on one's profile might throw some good thoughts out there to get people to think, but that is it. Actually getting into a discussion over said quote or article is pretty useless. All it does is cause people to take things way to personally and get people riled up to say things they normally would not say in a face to face discussion. I have been a sucker for these little debates for years. Well I'm done. It is just not effective and it just makes me an angrier and more frustrated person. If I'm going to love someone and bring them to the truth facebook is not the way to do it.

How did Jesus win people over? Through forming relationships with them. We can't build relationships on facebook. It just is not possible. Facebook simply makes people think they are engaging in real relationship. The way to bring people to Christ is by engaging in real face to face conversations with them. We have to spend actual quality time with people to have an impact on their lives. A really whitty or intelleigent post on facebook is not going to do anything!

In conclusion I would like to apologize to cyber space if in the heat of a discussion I have said anything in a way that has made Christians or Catholics look bad. I'm not necessarily apologizing for speaking truth. I will always defend my faith to the death even if it offends someone. But if I have ever defened my faith in a way that Christ would not be proud of or ok with I apologize. I am a passionate person and sometimes that can get me into trouble. At the end of the day I can with all honesty and sincerity say the reason I get riled up and say things is because I love Jesus Christ and His Church so much that I want to share that with others. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the Truth is found there and it has made me so infinitely happy that I want everyone I love to experience and have what I have. However facebook is simply not the place to do that and I'm done. For now I will focus my energies on evangelizing others the way Christ did: In person! So if anyone is up for a good healthy dicussion lets go grab a beer and enjoy some laughs while we do it so I can get to know who you are as a person and understand where you are coming from far better than I ever could through some statuses and pictures you have been tagged in!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Forming Disciples

Last year Fr. Jarrod came to me and another teacher asking us if we would consider working with a group of seniors to prepare them to be the ones who put on the freshmen retreat for the next school year. We both thought it would be a great idea and we jumped all over it. However, neither of us imagined the fruit that this would bear.

Back in November we put our team of seniors together after taking several weeks to pray about it and come up with a list of names. I honestly did not know some of the senior boys I asked extremely well but I felt the Holy Spirit moving me to ask them. Aubrey would be working with the girls and I would be working with the guys. I knew five of the guys we chose fairly well from Knights of the Holy Queen but the other five I only briefly knew through other school activities and a couple of those I had taught but had only gotten to know briefly through that. When I asked these five men they all agreed although I must say a few of them seemed a little taken a back that they had been asked.

With our team assembled we began to have meetings on Wednesday mornings before school and on Saturday afternoons. The meetings were long and required a big commitment from the team. We did not just meet to plan a retreat however we did much more than that. When we met I spent almost more time building a relationship with these men and giving them formational talks and praying than we did planning the actual retreat. We grew in friendship as a group and began encountering Christ more deeply in our lives. Over the course of the two months we met to plan the retreat I began to see these guys' lives transform before my eyes. They grew in confidence, they grew in their ability and desire to pray, and they began handing their lives more fully over to Christ. Three of the five men that were not Knights of the Holy Queen become more involved in the group and came on retreat with the Knights right before we put on the freshmen retreat. One of those men was a guy I met his sophomore year when I was helping with the sophomore retreat and on that retreat I felt God put on my heart that he needed to be involved with Knights. It took me two years to get into this kids life and bring him to Knights but the Holy Spirit did a number on him by getting him involved in the freshman retreat and now with his continued involvement with Knights I see that the Holy Spirit has grabbed hold of his heart in a powerful way. Through this whole experience these ten guys have all become closer friends and developed a brotherhood amongst themselves. I see them challenging each other to grow in holiness and keep each other accountable. The transformation and fruits of the team alone made this whole experience worth it!

Then came the retreat. These men lead the day by letting the Holy Spirit lead the way. They gave incredible talks and where very real with the freshmen boys. They had the freshmen boys hanging on their every word. They were true examples to these freshmen guys. They were open and honest about the mistakes they had made in High School and how Christ had met them in their woundedness and brokenness and was working to make them whole. They truly gave the freshmen boys the message to not be afraid of their faith and to allow Christ into their lives. They emphasized the mercy of God as well, telling them that Christ was waiting for them and would wait as long as it took for them to figure it out. Every single freshman boy went to confession that day. Every single one of them received the Eucharist at mass that day. We received countless e-mails and phone calls from parents who were amazed at the fact that their freshmen sons had enjoyed the retreat and gotten so much out of it. For Senior boys to give them this message spoke volumes to them, especially when half those freshmen worship the ground these seniors walk on.

Up until now the freshmen retreat had been put on by NET. I never heard many positive comments from the freshmen after they would come back from a day with NET. I'm not knocking NET. I have many good friends who have done it and I think they do excellent work. However, teens today are much easier to reach through relationship and so I think the freshmen responded much better to kids they see in the hallways every day that they look up to giving them the message than to a bunch of college kids they have never met before. I think that this approach could begin to transform our school. The team and the freshmen are still talking about their experience and putting the things they learned into practice even two weeks after the retreat. I pray it continues. I am amazed at the work of the Holy Spirit through this and look forward to see what sort of fruit this continues to bear.

This has by far been the most rewarding and awesome thing I have done since I have returned to Carroll. I am excited to continue being a part of this process. Thank you Lord for little things like this that remind me how blessed I am to teach and be a part of the lives of the students at Bishop Carroll. I am always humbled by things like this. It amazes me that God is able to use me as an instrument in situations like this despite my own sinfulness. Thank you Lord!