Lying to Myself

“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” — Matthew 6:24

I caught myself in a lie the other day. Over the past few weeks, I’ve told this lie to many others, but most frequently to myself. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: “I’m glad I made the decision to leave my job at the parish, but I still need to find steady work.”

I’ve uttered that statement or variations of it countless times in the past month. It is only half true—and the other half, I am realizing, is a lie straight from the serpent’s tongue. Continue reading

Victory Is His

For many years I struggled with a number of habitual sins common to the male of the species. I say I struggled with, rather than against, because for much of that time I was complicit. I knew these things were sinful, knew they weren’t healthy for me or my marriage, and yet I was only willing to resist up to a point.

I remember going to confession with Fr. Siebenaler in the old St. Michael church and confessing these same sins yet again. He spoke kindly but bluntly: “You remind me of St. Augustine praying, ‘Give me continence, but not yet!'” And he advised that if I truly loved my wife and wanted to leave these sins behind I should admit them to her and ask for her help in overcoming them.

I thanked him, did my penance, and returned home thinking, He’s obviously never been married—no way am I telling Jodi! Continue reading

Scuttle It and Swim

Shortly before I left my job at the church, a long-time parishioner and “straight shooter” stopped by the parish office. Seeing me there and knowing I was leaving soon, she inquired what I would be doing next. I told her I hoped to be writing full-time for the Church. She gazed a moment at me, a slight smile creasing her face, then asked, “Are you seeking a life of poverty?”

Her practical candor caught me off guard, compared to the wonder and well-wishes I had received up to that point—as did my off-the-cuff reply: “Well, there are worse things!”

I have now been a month without work. Our bills are paid thus far; I’ve done one small freelance job for a former colleague, and I have a couple more freelance proposals out for review, but no response to date. I’ve applied to a handful of full-time communications jobs at Catholic organizations and several non-Catholic (and even non-writing) positions. The budget will be tight in the coming weeks.

There are worse things. Continue reading

Minimal Materialism Is Still Materialism

I watched a short documentary on Netflix the other day called Minimalism. Essentially it’s a promo piece for a couple of young men who started a website and are trying to start a movement against consumerism. Both had terrible childhoods wrecked by substance abuse, among other things; both threw themselves into careers and consumption, promotions and paychecks, then realized that their lives were basically unhappy, unfulfilling, unlived. Both decided to substantially downsize and simplify, and both seem happier for it.

This topic resonates with me in a number of ways these days, and these two men are not wrong in the observation that money and consumer goods cannot make us happy. They are also not wrong that detaching from stuff and status can improve our happiness. But right off the bat I found myself struggling to buy into their message, for two main reasons. Continue reading

Gaudium et Tremendum*

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”—G. K. Chesterton

We ended yesterday with a boat and a bonfire. The last of the sun turned the clouds baby blue and perfect pink, touched with fire, a cosmic nursery for the birth of stars; the moon a nursemaid all in white, smiling down. The firepit crackled and popped in greeting on our return to the dock; the sky turned purple, then navy and black; breath of spent oak mingled with pipe smoke and marshmallow; laughter and explosions of sound and color in the skies: blues and greens and purples and whites, red rosettes high above the trees to mark love of freedom and the birth of a nation.

At last the mosquitoes drive us indoors, brave descendants of saints and patriots that we are, fleeing from pinpricks and the whine of tiny wings! Homespun strawberry ice cream, jokes and laughter until at last sleep calls too loudly to ignore despite the din. Continue reading