He’s Saving Me

SoulApostolateOne of the books I’m reading in my “down time” right now is The Soul of the Apostolate, by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard. The book has been bedside reading for popes and saints, and was recommended on Jason and Chrystalina Evert’s Chastity Project website as a critical step second only to prayer for anyone aspiring to active ministry. Fr. Chautard was a 19th- and early 20th- century Cistercian abbot in France, who saw a proliferation of active Catholic ministries around him, led by priests, religious, and lay people. Some prospered; others did not. Some were fruitful, and some weren’t. Some prospered in a worldly sense, but bore little spiritual fruit.

He saw the reason for this as a neglect of the interior life: seemingly good people became so busy doing seemingly good works they no longer had time to spend in intimate relationship with God. They neglected prayer, scripture, the rosary, even communion—forgetting that God is the only source of goodness for the works they are attempting.

That’s a summary of the book, so far at least—I’m only a third of the way through. I share it now because it has led me to a new reflection on these past two months of joblessness. Continue reading

Daily Bread and Darkness

It’s been awhile since I’ve written here. Last Wednesday I started a part-time job at FedEx  Ground in Rogers, just to bring in some money while I pursue writing work. It is a young man’s game: 3:45 to 7 a.m., Tuesday through Saturday, sorting packages for daily delivery. I rise, stretch in the darkness, dress, eat a light breakfast, drink a little coffee followed by lots of water, and pray on the way into town. I work on a conveyor belt, loading trucks for their daily routes, and my manager and I are perhaps the only people over 30 working on our line. I am stiff and achy, but getting in shape and losing weight.

I am also losing sleep, in part because it’s tough to adjust to going to bed when the sun and the kids are still up, and in part because of the dreams. Continue reading

The Right Pomp for the Circumstance

We were at Mass one morning many years ago, at St. Michael Catholic Church in Remus, Michigan, when the local Knights of Columbus Fourth-Degree Honor Guard marched into the nave. I remember our son Brendan—only three or so years old at the time—watching with wide eyes as men in capes and feathered hats processed toward the altar, two by two, ahead of Father. They spaced themselves evenly on either side of the aisle, pivoted in unison to face the center, and drew and raised gleaming swords in salute to the cross and priest of Christ that passed between them.

After Mass, having watched the KCs process out again, Bren asked his burning question: “Why were there pirates in church?” 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

She Brews

She brews she-brews, like the c-store. She brews see-throughs; see the cream pour!

Several years ago, having been informed by my bride that she liked cappuccino, I surprised her with one. She appreciated the gesture, but took a single sip and shuddered.

“This tastes like coffee!” she said in dismay.

As well it should, I thought to myself, since it came from a coffee shop.

A short conversation revealed that what Jodi likes are gas-station cappuccinos: the sweetened-and-flavored, machine-made concoctions dispensed from the same spigot as hot cocoa at convenience stores and highway rest stops across the country. She likes caffeine and sugar—coffee, not so much. Continue reading