Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Vote that Counts. . . the Vote for LIFE

I read a great article in our Sunday Bulletin from the pastor of our Church titled "I'm Catholic. . .but."  It had to do with the idea that so many people identify themselves as a Catholic (or Christian) when it comes to their beliefs, but they don't live the fundamental teachings of the Church.  This begs the question then, "how can one really be Catholic (or Christian)" if he or she is not living the Faith?  In my opinion, you can't separate your personal life from your spiritual life.  God calls us to lead a life that is in communion with our values and beliefs.  In this election, it will become even more important as we chose between two presidential candidates.

The issue that should be at the top of the list for every Christian is the sanctity of life and protecting the lives of the unborn.  As our pastor said, how can someone be both Catholic and at the same time pro-choice?  It's simply not possible.  Catholics/Christians will sometimes justify this by saying that while they don't support abortion, they don't want to force their views on someone else.  Simply put, this is a cop-out.  Why is this any different from say murder or violence against a child where we force our views on what's right and wrong and just punishment on the criminals?

Life begins at conception.  At the point an egg is fertilized, it becomes human DNA and starts to grow.  The fetus is a living being from the very beginning.  As Christians who adhere to God's Ten Commandments and specifically the one that says, "Thou Shalt Not Kill", how could we possibly support a candidate for office that supports killing fetuses -- our unborn, our children??

Some people will say that there are other important issues as well including care for the poor, the economy, education, and world conflicts.  I don't disagree, but how do we even entertain conversations around those things if the most basic rights are not protected?  Those rights of the unborn?

I know many of you won't agree with me for a variety of reasons.  Some of you are on the fence.  I simply would ask you to take the next week to really pray and think about what you are supporting when you go the polls next week.

God Bless,

P.S.  The link to our Sunday bulletin is here if anybody is interested:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

As another day winds down. . .

As another day winds down,
I think about what I did and did not do,
where I went astray.

As another day winds down,
I think of those I may have hurt,
oh, how I'm ashamed.

As another day winds down,
I think about Jesus on the cross,
His pain,
and how I am to blame.

As another day winds down,
I ask Him for mercy,
for my actions
and falling away.

Forgive me, Father,
for all the wrongs I've done this day.

The Mourdock Controversy -- Weighing In

Two mornings ago, I woke up to a barrage of tweets by local and national media about the Richard Mourdock comments claiming he said rape is God's will.  If you haven't seen any of the reports, then simply do a search on Google, and you'll see plenty I'm sure.  I don't want to recap them here because I think some of the media took a comment out of context and twisted the meaning based on a poor ordering of words.  Mourdock has since, of course, clarified his comments, but we still see certain politicians and specific members of a certain party (with some of the media's help) trying to use it to their advantage which is plain sickening. 

Mourdock's point, and one that I happen to agree with, is simply that life is God's will.  Sometimes, we don't comprehend why bad things happen, and it is hard for people who don't have a good foundation or understanding of Christianity (or Judaism for that matter) to understand why we believe that good things can come out of bad things.  I found an OUTSTANDING article today that I recommend everyone (liberal or conservative, Christian or non-Christian) read about why the media is ill-equipped on these issues:


This article provides some of the theological foundations and references the parts of scripture that outline why some of us believe what we believe and are pro-life. 

As the next two weeks come to pass, I hope that voters will look deep inside themselves, reflect on what they believe and why, and pray about making the right decisions before visiting the polls.  Don't be swayed by biased media coverage.  Don't get distracted by issues that really aren't issues.  Focus on what matter's most. 

God Bless. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Reflection on Luke 12: 16-21 (Parable of the Rich Fool)

I just finished reading the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12: 16-21.  It is about a rich man whose land produced a plentiful harvest, and his response was to tear down his old barns and build larger ones to hold all of his 'treasure' for many years.  In his eyes he would always be able to eat well, rest well, and be merry, but God said "You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?"  The lesson here is that God doesn't care about our earthly treasures and riches.  Having lots of money, lots of possessions, and lots of things that we think are going to make us happy mean nothing to God, and don't help us get into Heaven.

I wrote previously about the parable of the Rich Man in Mark, and this has a similar theme.  Our secular society has become enamored with having more and becoming more.  Our kids want more toys and nicer clothes.  As adults we may desire the new car, the new/bigger house, that nice boat for the lake, or to be able to take that vacation to the Caribbean.  But, to what end?  Seemingly for nothing other than some sort of shallow and short term satisfaction.  Now, granted, there are some innocent reasons for needing some of these things (i.e. a larger house for a growing family, a new car to replace an old one to get to work), and the point is not that material things by themselves are bad.  The issue is that we get obsessed and become a slave to these things.

Rather than using our time, talent, and treasure to glorify God and become rich spiritually, we become slaves to material things.  Before we know it, we are making excuses and thinking how we really need that new pair of shoes when in reality we don't and the $50 could buy several cases of food for the local soup kitchen or bedding for the homeless shelter.  We have to work those long hours in order to keep the high paying job that pays for the nice house at the expense of spending time with our families or at Church.  We skip Church on Sunday so we can take out the new boat on the lake that we just bought.  We focus so much on the house we need, the cars we need, and how much money we need for retirement 20 years from now that we don't stop to think, "what if I'm not here?"  "What if I am called to God before then?" "Will I be able to say I fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, or clothed the naked?"  Or, will I have an excuse that is rooted in my own desire to have more?

We have all heard the saying "live like there is no tomorrow", but it's time to think about this in context of our eternal life.  Even if our earthly time comes to an end, are we ready for eternity?  There is going to be a tomorrow, but are we prepared for it?  How about, "live like your eternal life starts tomorrow!"

I am as guilty as anybody here.  I pray that my reflections on Sacred Scripture help me make better choices and maybe others that happen to read this as well.

Comfort from Sacred Scripture

This is going to be a short post with a simple message -- spend some time reading Sacred Scripture, the Bible.  I have mentioned that I'm working my way through the New Testament, and I've tried to read some every day.  Some days I read several pages and chapters in a Gospel, and others I read just one short section.  But, what I've found is that on the days where I need it the most, God speaks to me through what I read.  I may be thinking about a difficulty I had at work or in my personal life, and it is truly amazing how on those days I run across a certain passage that gives me comfort.  It may be a passage of love or it may be a passage that speaks almost directly to what I was struggling with on that day.  But, one thing is for sure, I almost always find comfort. 

Some people express disappointment that God never "talks to them" or "gives them a sign" that he is listening.  But, God always hears our prayers.  We just don't always hear him or want to hear what he has to say.  We don't open our ears and eyes in a way that opens our hearts to God's revelation.  My experience these last few weeks in reading Sacred Scripture is a good example of that.  God hasn't spoken to me verbally or given me any visible signs of his presence, but he has spoken to me through the words of the writers of the Gospels and through the words of his Son Jesus Christ.

Don't make an excuse.  Make time for God.  We can all find five minutes, 10 minutes, or 15 minutes a day to spend with him in prayer and meditation.  A good way of spending time is by reading the Bible.  You will be glad that you did. 

God Bless.   

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Christianity in Today's Society. . .What can we do?

I read an article a week or so ago that has been just eating at my a bit.  It has caused me a great amount of sadness.  The core of the article was about the decline of Christianity overall and the rise of the portion of the population that identifies themselves as atheists, agnostics, or people with no particular religious beliefs.  In addition, there were quotes about how far fewer Christians are going to Church and only identify with certain parts of their faith.  For those of you that are Christian, regardless of the denomination, this has to be somewhat discouraging.  For me, as a Catholic who is working very hard to become a better version of myself every day, I am deeply bothered. 

What has caused this?  Is it a lack of evangelization on the part of believers?  Is it a poor upbringing of children who were "unchurched" and are now adults?  Is it the distractions of today's secular society that pull people in so many directions that they've stopped making time for God and Church?  I think it's perhaps these and much more.  If it were just one thing, all remaining Christians could ban together and fix it.  But, it isn't. 

Even those that identify and call themselves Christians aren't always living their faith.  In the Catholic Church, it disturbs me to no end to hear prominent Catholics voice their support for abortion rights.  How can you be a good Catholic (or a Christian at all) and not believe in protecting the sanctity of life?  Forget all other dividing political views.  If you are Catholic, then nothing else should matter when you go to place your vote if a candidate supports abortion.  This is just one example though.  Protecting the sanctity of marriage is another.  As Christians, we are called to love all of our neighbors, but the sacrament of marriage is sacred and was designed between a man and a woman -- who are we to change it?  The laws of man do not override the laws of God.  We do not get to pick and chose which parts of our Faith we want to believe.  I saw one person quoted as saying, "I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious."  What does that mean?  Someone else says, "I don't believe everything the Church teaches, but I have my beliefs and that's good enough."  No, actually, it isn't.  The Church's teachings aren't made up.  They are based on the Bible and Sacred Tradition.  To not follow all of them is to stray away from not just the Church, but God as well. 

What can be done about all of this?  Many say, "I'm just one person.  What can I do?"  If all of the individuals and families band together, we can have a large impact.  Here is what I think we can do:

1)  Pray -- Don't underestimate the power of prayer.  Pray for the conversion of non-believers, pray that non-Catholic Christians may come to understand the fullness of Truth, pray that believers may live their faith, and pray that we all may have the courage and conviction to live a good, Christian life. 

2)  Evangelize -- The Catholic Church recently kicked off the Year of Faith and a key component is the call for all Catholics to Evangelize.  We all need to talk about our Faith, learn more about our Faith so we can explain it better, and be proud of who we are and what we believe.  Passion in our beliefs will pierce the hearts of those that don't believe or don't understand.  God will help us in our efforts.  We have to be proud and find our voice again.

3)  Live by Example -- Be good.  Simple, right?  Easier said than done, but live good, act good, and be good.  Teach your children about the Lord.  Volunteer at Church, feed the hungry, visit the sick and homebound, do charitable work, and comfort the lonely.  Be a good husband/wife, father/mother, and live a life of holiness.  You don't have to be a priest, monk, or sister to live a holy life.  If you live a life of holiness, others will be drawn to you -- believers and non-believers.  As others ask questions, it provides an opportunity to evangelize and bring them back to the Church and back to God.  Leverage your time, talent, and treasure for the glory of God.

We are all called to share our Faith.  We cannot sit by and just watch as our society strays further and further away from God.  Pray, Evangelize, and Live by Example.  Let's start there. 

God Bless you all and may the Peace of Christ be with you as you start this journey. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

4 out of 5 and looking forward to Sunday

This week I was able to attend morning Mass from Tuesday through Friday.  . . 4 out of 5 of the weekdays.  I said it in another post early on, but there is no better way to start one's day.  My wife Tammy asked me the other day, "are you becoming a holy roller?"  Of course she was joking (I think), but I told her I just enjoy it, that it only lasts for 30 minutes, and I only get to work about 15 minutes later than I used to while getting up only 15 minutes earlier in the morning.  Being able to participate in the Eucharist helps me feel that God is within me and it gives me the support I need to lead a good life. So, why not?  Many people struggle to find time to just pray every day, and by going to Mass it helps me more disciplined about spending time with God.  I don't consider it a sacrifice on my part at all; rather, I consider it a blessing.

On a separate note, I'm so glad it's the weekend.  It's been a long, hard, physical week working outdoors, but for a great cause.  I'm definitely ready for some rest and family time.  I'm really looking forward to what we have planned for High School Youth Ministry on Sunday -- we are spending about 30 minutes of the time doing Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Spending time face to face with the Blessed Sacrament is about the closest one can get to being in the presence of Jesus Christ.  If you are wondering what I'm talking about, go to Google and type in "Eucharistic Adoration" or here are a few links:




I hope everyone reading this has a great weekend.  Peace of Christ be with you all.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mark 10, 17-31: The Rich Man

I think I've mentioned that I've been making my way through the New Testament.  I started with Matthew, and now I'm on Mark.  My goal isn't to read it quickly just to say I did, but rather to really focus on quality, spiritual reading so that I may learn and understand certain messages.

Last night, I ran across the story of The Rich Man.  This is the story where a rich man approached Jesus and asked the question, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus replied a few sentences later to the man to "sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven."  This made the man sad as he had many possession and Jesus told his disciples, "It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."  What a powerful message this is to hear.

This doesn't mean that a rich man can't enter heaven, but it does suggest that many of us get too attached to worldly possessions and the idea of such possessions, and even Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 that "no one can serve two masters. . . You cannot serve God and mammon."  These two sections of Sacred Scripture in Mark and Matthew invite us all to think about what is most important in life, and why we are here on Earth.  It is not, and should not be, to collect material things.  We are put here to glorify God, and we do that by loving our neighbor and by helping those in need.  If we are worried about being rich and having the nice new car or the new house or the latest, trendy clothes, how can we focus on what matters most?

I am guilty of these things myself.  I have tried to succeed in the corporate world just to be "successful", I've wanted to give "more" to my family and not make them "want" anything while occasionally treating myself to nice "stuff", and yet I haven't looked around enough to make sure I'm doing those things that make God happy.  I'm working to change this, but praying over these passages in the Bible helps me understand I have a long ways to go.

God, help all of us understand how to serve you more faithfully and not become a slave to mammon!  Amen.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

A day outside. . . A day of spiritual rest

Who would know that a day full of hard work outdoors could be so refreshing?

I am a corporate "suit."  Okay, so I don't wear a suit every day (in fact not really ever), but I work at a Fortune 500 company and am part of middle/upper-middle management.  I am in a sales/marketing job responsible for managing some of our largest customer accounts.  I have a good job and I work with a lot of great people, but at times I do wonder if this is what I was supposed to do?  Should I have done more with my life?  I believe I have done well for my career, for my family, we live in a nice home, and we don't have to worry about many things that those less fortunate have to worry about every day -- for that I feel truly blessed.  But, the job certainly comes with its stresses.  For example, I seem to never be truly "off" work.  There are the late night and weekend phone calls, the constant internal/external e-mails making my phone vibrate at all hours, and the feeling of failure at times for things that often we don't control and that are really trivial when put next to many of the world's problems.

So, on days like today, I have to be thankful.  One of the good things that BrightPoint does is it has a "Week of Caring" every year where employees volunteer at a local non-profit organization for an entire week and do all sorts of activities "free of charge" to simply help the organization.  This year I'm part of the committee responsible for the Week of Caring and we picked a place called Jameson Camp which provides services for under-privileged, poor, and at-risk youth year-round.  It has the traditional "camp" atmosphere, but also has buildings where it has indoor activities.

My "team" each day is responsible for essentially taking this acre or so area of woods, clearing out a space for a 650 foot nature trail, removing debris and invasive plant species (which I can tell you is the hardest part), defining the trail, laying mulch, and planting native species to provide a learning experience for the kids.  Today was the first full day and I LOVED it.  Not only did I love it because I was doing something great for the community, but it provided my a bit of "spiritual rest."  Yes, the work was physical and tiring, but mentally and spiritually, I felt more refreshed and less tired than usual after a day of normal work.  I was able to breathe in the fresh air, and felt fortunate to be working with my hands surrounded by God's beauty.  Somehow, this was fuel for my soul, and I can't wait to get back at it tomorrow.  I did have to run to the office for about an hour and checked e-mail once or twice on my phone, but most of the time I was immersed in the work at hand.  I couldn't help but wonder, if I did something like this every day, would it make me a better person?  Would it please God more?  If I didn't have to answer the late phone calls, look at e-mails all the time, and be stressed over work even after work was "over", would I be a better Dad, Husband, and, most importantly, follower of Christ?  I think I know the answer to that question, but I'm just not sure how to make it a reality. . . that's probably for another post.

God Bless. . .

Surprised by Truth -- A book worth reading for all Christians and non-Christians

As I renew my faith and devotion to the Catholic Church, I'm trying to immerse myself in its teachings.  One way of doing this is obviously by reading the Bible as much as possible which I believe I've done every day for the last couple of weeks (I started at the New Testament Gospels and have now made it all the way through Matthew and am on Mark).  Another way of enhancing my understanding is by reading other spiritual books/papers.  I just finished a great book titled Surprised by Truth by Patrick Madrid, a renowned Catholic Apologist.

This book was just outstanding.  It contains several stories of  people who either were Protestant and converted to Catholicism, Catholics who left the Church and came back, and even a story of someone practicing Judaism that converted to Catholicism.  In all cases, these people did a tremendous amount of personal research into the Church's teachings and deep discernment to come to the same conclusion -- to experience Catholicism is to experience the fullness of the Church's teachings.  These readings helped me to understand more deeply some of the Catholic Church's teachings including papal infallibility, Communion of Saints, purgatory, the value of Sacred Tradition, and the importance of Mary.  These are often subjects misunderstood by others outside, and even inside, of the Catholic Faith for all of the wrong reasons.  Once understood, it is tough to deny that Catholicism is the truest and fullest form of Christianity.  It's not that other forms of Christianity are bad -- they are just incomplete.

If you are Catholic, I recommend this book to help better understand why we believe what we believe.  If you aren't Catholic, I recommend this book to help you understand what Catholics believe and why we believe, and, just perhaps, you'll start asking yourself some of the same questions that others in this book asked of themselves at one time.

God Bless you all.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Confession. . . the feeling afterwards

I will save a post for a later date that discusses the theological basis for going to Confession, but for now whoever reads this will have to trust me that it exists (because it does).  But, this isn't about the theology, this about the feeling afterwards. 

I woke up this morning aroud 7 a.m.  My wife and two kids were already awake.  We meandered around the house, I went to McDonald's to get Abby pancakes and me a couple of biscuits and a coffee, and then we all started cleaning up around Colten's first nap.  I looked at the clock and realized that Confession started at 9:30 on Saturdays, it was already 9:45, and I wanted to go.  I huried and got cleaned up and threw on my clothes, and I told my wife I was going to run to Church and do Confession.  She looked at my a little sideways since I'd just went a few weeks ago (which was the first time in years), and she said, "What do you have to confess?"  I simply told her that everybody sins, and I, for example, used the Lord's name in vain a few times, I got angry at others, I was impatient, and a few other things. 

I went to Church into the Blessed Chapel where the confessionals are located, said a prayer beforehand, re-examined my conscious, and entered the Confessional to sit face-to-face with the priest.  I can honestly say that in the little room, as I sat across from the priest, I felt like I was confessing my sins to not just the priest, but that Jesus Christ himself was listening.  I expressed sorrow and I received my penance.  I left and went back to the Chapel to pray and do my penance and was home before Colten even woke up from his nap. 

I have felt great all day.  I didn't have any mortal sins to confess -- just venial sins.  But, to be forgiven by Jesus Christ through his priest cannot be described.  Yes, we all can ask forgiveness outside of Church, and should do every day, but it's just not the same (which even Bible teaching supports) and going back to Confession has reminded me of that.  I feel like a different person when I'm finished.  I feel like a better person.  If you are Catholic and haven't been to Confession in many years, then I'd encourage you to take the plunge and go back.  Put your heart and soul into it.  Tell the priest everything.  You'll feel better for doing it.  And, if you aren't Catholic, this is one more reason to consider the Faith.  Trust me, it is life-changing. 

God Bless you all.