Archive for January, 2018


Is There Something More

What do you do when you feel this inner pull that wants to move your life in a different direction? When the day to day brings you no joy and you get the sense you should be doing something else, something worthy, that somehow has value and meaning. Maybe you just ended up in the job you have now, it doesn’t bring you satisfaction, doesn’t set your heart on fire, or give you any sense of deep accomplishment. It takes every ounce of strength you can muster to get yourself out the door each day.

Is this all there is, or is there something more?

The finite will never fill the hole you have in your heart, or your life. You were made for greatness.

So what do you do when you wish you were doing something else? When you feel this pull inside of you to take a different route, try a different course, follow a dream you once had before the reality of life kicked in the door.

There is a course of action that will bring you great satisfaction, fill the recesses of your hearts longing even when you don’t know what you are longing for. You can only ignore the feeling, and distract yourself for so long. Cause it’s always there in the background, just under the surface, right around the next bend, calling, compelling, inviting you to stop and sit and listen.

Why are we so afraid of silence? It is but a respite from our frenzied life, a pause button on an irritating song, an exit off the highway that leads to a beautiful park. How do you know what that something more might be if you don’t stop and listen? There is so much noise now. So much confusion than ever before. So much more loneliness, disconnectedness, fear.

It needn’t be so.

So I invite you to find a place each day where you can stop, sit, and listen to the wee small voice that won’t shout, won’t make itself heard over the whirl and pulsations of the world. Take off your headphones,  silence the phone, and stop all the distractions that keep you on the hamster wheel from hell.

Do this for yourself, just 10 minutes each day. You will find that you will crave this time where you can recharge, be free of finite things and ponder the Infinite.

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Dear Struggling Marriages

In my work preparing couples for marriage, I have had to account for the unexpected implosion of a marriage where I was once part of the preparation. Sometimes I hear about the troubles first hand, other times when I see one of them meeting with the Nullity Minister. It saddens me every time when those couples who looked and acted so much in love, and desired to dedicate their whole lives to one another in sacramental marriage; give up and quit. I feel I have an investment in each and every couple. I connect with them, and give my whole heart in the work God has called me to.

The work of marriage however, is the couple’s work to do together for the benefit of their own souls, their family, and for society. The work they do will effect generations for good or bad and ultimately the whole world. We see this lived out in today’s culture when parents don’t take seriously their duty to raise up responsible, moral, hard-working future citizens. Those children left to their own devices, can easily become everyone’s problem. Choosing themselves and their personal happiness over working things out with a spouse, can have a devastating effect as children are left in the debris of divorce.

As in every disagreement, there is her version, his version, and the truth. I hate it when I hear cruel accusations lobbed at their spouse. Was this the same couple who cuddled on the couch in my office as we talked about marriage? What happened? What changed, or rather, what finally came to the surface and reared its ugly head? How do two people so in love that they want to be together for life, give up on each other, “fall out of love,” or cheat on their spouse?

It is easy to quit on one another- that is what the world wants and that is exactly what Satan wants! Quitting is easy, staying married is hard. One man told me “if it is this hard, then it must not be love.”
Really? Exercising is hard. What would happen if we quit on that? Just look around to see the fruit of that life style. What about our jobs? They can get pretty demanding. Should we not work? Picking produce, fermenting grapes, stocking shelves, is a real pain in the back day in and day out. No one’s talking about giving up on wine.

Love does not quit, give up, walk out, or point fingers… or lie or choose every other thing including work, children, or friends, over the beloved. Marriage is the sign that God instituted to point most to His unconditional, irrevocable, faithful, exclusive love for each of us. It reflects Christ’s love for the Church. You know Christ, the One impaled on a tree, barely clinging to life, bloody, and bruised. Perhaps there is something to learn in that icon. Love hurts. It hurts like hell sometimes. St. Teresa of Calcutta wrote, “Love to be real, it must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self.”

And therein lies the problem, “ self.”

Love isn’t about you, your feelings, your happiness, or unlimited fun. Love is about other. Love is giving, and pouring out without cost, or measure, or return. The word is sacrificial, because not putting me first-hurts. It takes dying to self over and over, until it becomes natural, a habit honed over time. When husband and wife do that very thing, we see such a beautiful, attractive window into God’s marvelous love for us. We desperately need this kind of witness in our world. Married couples have the power to raise up, or warp, twist, pervert, or elevate, how humanity sees God, imitates love, and understands marriage.

Almost always the couple does not make dedicated time for each other, pray together, or practice their Catholic faith regularly through attending mass. There is critical importance in placing each other above all else, of making God, faith, and prayer, a part of your daily existence. After thirty-eight years I can assure you, without God, we would not have lasted long on our own.

I have nothing to lose by being frank in writing these things sent in love, and empowered by truth. I beg you, do whatever is necessary to remain true to the vows you both made in front of God. “For I hate divorce, says the Lord…” (Malachi 2:16). I too hate divorce with all my heart. It leaves everlasting devastation in its wake. It harms children, and grandchildren for generations. It poisons those around us, it poisons how humanity thinks about marriage and a lifelong commitment, and it poisons how people think and relate to God. I have read one hundred raw testimonials from adults whose parents divorced, and the negative consequence it had, and continues to have, on how they think, and interact with others. (Primal Loss-Miller)

With God’s help and the healing power of confession, anything is possible. We believe in the God of Miracles! There is a retreat called Retrouvaille for couples who find themselves in dire straits and who are willing to do whatever it takes to seek help. It means “rediscover”. It is Catholic, but any faith can attend. I know it saves marriages, even the most horrible and seemingly UN-savable marriages.

So if you ever really loved each other, and if you are willing to let God do what He does best, then I invite you to do this, because you both deserve it. It is not magic. Nothing will change if you both are not willing to trust, love, surrender, and do the hard work.

It’s all up to you whether you are a part of a miracle, or just another statistic.

Blessed Doughnuts

What is the deal with Catholics and doughnuts? I have memories of being bribed by doughnuts through much of my young and snarky life, to either behave in or attend extra masses. My father was successful at getting all five kids to join him at daily mass in the sacred summertime with simply a nod towards Winchell’s doughnut establishment. That sweet, fried, circular vision of yumminess was all the incentive we needed to get up early for over a month.

Sacrileges? Not at all. Any good parent realizes that you can catch more kids with doughnuts than with bagels, at least here in the west. Doughnuts have been used for decades to threaten, bribe, and otherwise make an unruly kid straighten up and think twice about messing around in God’s house. I overhear parents threatening their kids when they are walking into mass, “you better behave, or no doughnuts.” Hey, I’m not pointing any fingers, I used that for years myself.

Jesus used bread to get folks to hang around and listen to the good stuff on many occasions. Fryers just hadn’t been invented yet or I’m pretty sure he would have had doughnuts here and there, to mix it up a bit. Like after the Resurrection when Peter and boys had gone fishing and caught nothing. Jesus would have captured their attention mighty fast, if they saw him walking along the shore with that bright pink box in his hands. “It’s the Lord,” and I think he has doughnuts.

I don’t know if it is just a Catholic gimmick, “hey I gotta idea of how we can get more buns in the pews.” Or, perhaps a Christian hook or if all religions see the value in sweet endings. I suppose it’s harmless as long as we eventually grow up and out, of having to be encouraged with sugared O’s to spend time with the Lord.

We are a people who can nosh quiet happily on junk food for a long time and somehow feel satisfied. Mistaking the counterfeit for the real deal can be spiritually dangerous. No, I’m not suggesting that Catholics confuse doughnuts for the Eucharist. Gees!

In our parish we are undergoing renovations to the sanctuary. Additions include a life-sized Crucifix where there was once a Risen Jesus, and moving the Tabernacle from a side location “among the people” to its new home central to our worship, behind the altar.

Don’t worry, Jesus has a new gig hovering over the Baptismal Font.

Our recently appointed Pastor explained in great detail the catechetical reasons for the proposed changes back in January. He might have had less kickback had he suggested that a Ferris wheel be brought into the worship space. The emails and comments he received were truly unchristian and really unkind. I have to wonder how someone can come to mass, even with the hope of doughnuts after, and have such cruel and heartless words to say. As expected, our numbers are decreasing, because that is how American Catholics show their disproval; in the plate, and in the pew.

Some have shared with me their feelings of our church “going backward” or that they are “not being fed.”

Really?

It’s not, to the first, and impossible to the second! And I’m not talking about the doughnuts! Jesus shows up 100% of the time.

What I believe part of the problem may be, is a lack of good formation and the ability to recognize what is really happening at every mass. The critical nature of entering into the timeless beauty, where heaven meets earth, despite whether we like or dislike the music, the sermon, pews, parishioners, or the priest.  I wrote an article a few years back about lost opportunities in the homily for catechesis and formation. When did it stop being about the Lord and all about us?

When we grow up eating a lot of doughnuts we can get confused about the importance of the Real Presence versus presents. One might get us in the door, but it is the other where we encounter the Lord and He doesn’t come dressed in sprinkles. Plain, simple, and pure love for the receiving. An unquenchable, insatiable, desire fulfilled at every mass if we have our appetites and minds focused on the Real deal.

One round circle can change our lives, transform our hearts, and make us new. The other circle just makes us fat.