We Are All With Child

Blogger’s Note: This reflection was originally published in the Sunday, January 19, edition of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.

Last weekend marked the official end of the Christmas season and the Church’s return to Ordinary Time. Of course, our life in Christ should be anything but ordinary. In early days, Christianity was known as the Way, and its followers lived lives that were different from the world around them, marked by solidarity, charity and joy.

As modern disciples, our lives should also be distinct from the world around us. As a community, this distinctiveness appears in our regular participation in Mass, Confession and the other sacraments; in our reverence for and adoration of the Holy Eucharist; and in our visible adherence to the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church as taught by Jesus and His apostles.

We are also called as individuals to follow Christ in a particular way. This Advent and Christmas I found myself reflecting on our Blessed Mother, Mary, as the model of discipleship. While she, like all of us, was called to holiness, her specific vocation was unique and deeply personal. Called upon to bear the Son of God, once she said yes, “the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38). She was left to explain her unplanned pregnancy to her betrothed and her family, to risk death by stoning, to endure the accusing stares of her community, to bow in obedience to the will of God and watch her son suffer and die at the hands of her own people. Continue reading

Wednesday Witness: On Busyness

Blogger’s Note: This post first appeared as part of the Wednesday Witness blog series on the St. Michael Catholic Church website.

“Idle hands are the devil’s playground”—so goes the old saying, and I can verify its truth. So many of the sinful traps I fell into as a young man were concealed in downtime and baited with curiosity and pleasure.

It’s good for young men to keep busy, but I am no longer young. These days I struggle with having too much to do rather than too little, and that, too, can be a sin trap. A mentor of mine even has an acronym for BUSY:

Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke

Even if you work for the Church, as I am blessed to do, the acronym may still apply. Perhaps the best Christmas gift I got this year was the Monk Manual, a special sort of planner based on the prayerful patterns of work and reflection in monastic life. This beautiful leather-bound book serves not only to organize and schedule your work days, weeks and months, but leads you to examine what you achieved versus what is really important to you, at which points in the day you were at your best and worst, the state of your relationships and habits, and what God may be trying to teach you. Continue reading

Wednesday Witness: His Plan, In His Time

Blogger’s Note: This post first appeared as part of the Wednesday Witness blog series on the St. Michael Catholic Church website.

“So I hear you’re back at St. Michael?”

That’s been the refrain almost every day for the past few weeks, usually with the lilt of a question at the end—and no, I am not sick of it yet.

The short answer to the implied question is yes – I am now working as the parish’s communications manager. It is a full-time contract position, which gives the parish and me flexibility in how we approach the work that needs to be done, when it needs to be done. This is my dream job, and I am grateful and excited for the opportunity.

The longer answer is that I never entirely left. I resigned from the Faith Formation role here because God was calling me to write and evangelize on behalf of the Church. I had many dreams at the time: to start a radio program, to finish a book, to drum up enough writing and speaking opportunities to be self-employed. But before I pursued any of those, I sought this job—a job that didn’t exist at the time. And for the past two-plus years, we have remained Mass-going, LIFT-attending, sacrament-seeking members of this parish. Continue reading

Call and Response: Embracing the Already of Christ’s Saving Act

Blogger’s Note: This was my final paper for the fourth semester of the Catechetical Institute, “Prayer: The Blessing Given and Received.” In this reflection, we were not only to discuss the final pillar of the Catechism, but the book and Institute as a whole. After two years of study, the Class of St. Padre Pio graduated this evening, following Mass with Bishop Kettler presiding. 

The fourth pillar of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) calls us to deeper relationship with our heavenly Father who loves us and redeems us by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, and the actions of the Holy Spirit in the world today. This relationship is cultivated through the gift of prayer, “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God” (CCC 2558), approached “‘out of the depths’ of a humble and contrite heart” (CCC 2559). We are creatures, completely dependent on God’s love and mercy, not only for salvation, but for our basic needs, our next breath, our very existence. Even our desire to pray is prompted by the One who desires us, seeks us, spies us from afar and runs to greet us with great joy and love.

As with the previous pillars, I was struck by how much of the “work” of prayer is in God’s hands, not ours. We bear it like a burden at times, but it is He who beckons and inspires, who teaches us what to pray for and in what order (CCC 2763), who knows our needs before we express them and even when we can’t express them. It is He who changes us in prayer, not the other way around. I was also drawn again to His proximity: We sometimes cry out to Him as though He dwells a long way off in Heaven, but that Catechism reassures us that the heaven in which God dwells—“Our Father who art in Heaven”—is less elsewhere and more elseway:

This biblical expression does not mean a place (“space”), but a way of being; it does not mean that God is distant, but majestic. Our Father is not “elsewhere”: he transcends everything we can conceive of his holiness. It is precisely because he is thrice holy that he is so close to the humble and contrite heart.

“Our Father who art in heaven” is rightly understood to mean that God is in the hearts of the just, as in his holy temple. At the same time, it means that those who pray should desire the one they invoke to dwell in them (CCC 2794).

So we are not only immersed in God, but He in us—the Holy Spirit is not only as close as oil on skin, but so thoroughly fills us that, in truth, our only escape from Him is an act of the will in which we reject His love and refuse to turn back to Him. He who has the power to save us desires my salvation more than I do myself! Continue reading

Spiritual Cardio, Part 2

Blogger’s Note: This is the latest in a collection of daily posts outlining my journey to the Sacred Heart over the past year or more. See an overview and links to past posts here.

My departure from home to the Engels was bittersweet, of course. I was sad but resigned to going solo and making the most of my time alone with God. Even as I drove, I prayed for the ability to forgive my family, for Jodi (and Emma) to forgive my anger and hurtful words, and for God to have mercy on us all.

I arrived after dark, opened things up and turned on the lights, then turned Bruno and Dusty loose in the house together. Immediately they began tearing around the house, wagging, snarling, rolling, and wrestling. I began streaming the Friday night blues programming from Jazz88 and opened the windows to the lake breezes and nightly noises, then cracked a beer. I sat, watching the dogs, listening to the blues, nursing a beer, and feeling calm but discontented. Continue reading