The past and present thoughts of a Catholic husband, father, and fledgling faith formation director at St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael, Minnesota

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Wear Your Faith Lightly

"Seriousness is not a virtue. …[S]olemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity. 
– G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
About the time I graduated high school, I remember a conversation with my dad about a friend of mine. You know the guy—great fun to be around, but always on the edge of trouble, and one could never be sure he’d stick around if things went south. “But someday,” said Dad, “he’s going to grow up, raise a family, and be an upstanding citizen. And he’s going to look back on his high-school days and think, ‘Man, I had fun.’”

He looked at me and said, “Sometimes I wonder if you’ll be able to say the same.”

I have always been a serious soul—earnestly wanting to do the right thing, to avoid the mistakes I could and learn from the ones I couldn’t. I was the kind of kid who felt so badly for things I did wrong that I ratted on myself. Even today, I am an emotional sort who avoids the news to keep from raging or sorrowing over the terrible things that happen to people I don’t know.

This serious streak has also manifested itself in my faith life. I am so abundantly blessed, both at home and at work, but you wouldn’t always know it. The weight of my faults and earthly concerns drag my gaze downward until all I see is dust and grime. At times I dwell on past sins that have already been forgiven, and against my own advice to others, I worry about things that have not, and may never, come to pass.

This is not what God desires for us. In the parable of the talents from last weekend’s gospel, the master bids his two worthy servants, “Come, share your master’s joy.” Earlier in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus reassures his disciples, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Though Jesus tells us we should expect to suffer for our faith, these are not the words of a Lord who wishes for us to suffer needlessly. God wants us to be happy.

A friend recently gave me a collection of C.S. Lewis speeches entitled The Weight of Glory. Lewis opens with a reflection on the idea that Unselfishness has replaced Love as the highest virtue in modern society, and insists that this shift is a mistake, because it put the emphasis on denying ourselves and not on helping others. The focus has shifted inward, but in a stoic, joyless sort of way that fails to acknowledge the extravagant promises to us who live a holy life. Lewis writes, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.”

Imagine: infinite joy! Should that not put a spring in our step and a laugh in our throat, and raise our gaze toward heaven? And won’t that light-hearted faith be far more attractive and illuminating to those lost souls circling like moths in the darkness, trying to find their way?

Blogger's Note: This article appears in the Sunday, Nov. 23, church bulletin .

Sunday, November 16, 2014

LIFT Links: In Defense of Large Families
and a Great Reflection for Parents

Blogger's Note: In an effort to help friends find great Catholic content that supports them in the practice of their faith, periodically I’ll be sharing articles, websites, books, and other resources that may be of interest.
  • In Defense of Large Families. If you've had more than one or two children, you've probably already encountered someone asking incredulously, "Are all of them yours?" This article, "Your Mother Is Destroying the Earth," authored by an Ivy League grad and sister of four, rebuts the idea that it's any of their business at all -- and links to some solid material about the dangers of declining birth rates. Worth a read, if only to laugh at the audacity of people who, on other issues, would demand the government stay out of private bedrooms and away from personal bodies.
  • They're the King's Kids. A fellow faith formation director from our previous parish, St. Michael in Remus, Michigan, shared this article from Fr. Barron's Word on Fire blog: "Kreeft, Kids, and Cattle." The post, by theology professor Tom Neal, is a great reminder that our job as parents is to "love the Hell out" of our kids and get them to Heaven. It's easy to lose track of that in our day-to-day, hectic lives. Grades, sports, and college choices are important, but they don't necessarily have eternal implications. "They're the King's kids. You're His foster parents."

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Farewell to Puck

Our new pup, circa 2002
We lost Puck today. At 13 years old, he was certainly not a young for a dog, but definitely not old for a Schnauzer. He had begun, in recent years, to sleep longer and run less, and earlier this fall, he had some teeth removed. At that time, the vet said his blood work was clean and extolled how healthy he seemed for his age, but warned that at this stage in a dog's life, anything can happen.

And it did. Over a matter of weeks, Puck went from old to frail. He never complained, but slept more, ate less, and stayed closer to the house and us. He was slower on the stairs and slower to respond to our calls and whistles. Then a few days ago, he lost his balance and struggled to stand. Our other dog, Boomer, had done this several times in his old age -- he would usually sleep for the better part of a couple of days, then be up and around again. Only Puck didn't recover.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Inspiration and Aspiration: Our
Blessed Mother and the Apostles

inspiration - n. - the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
aspiration - n. - a strong desire to achieve something high or great

Last month, our adult faith formation groups talked about Our Blessed Mother. The discussions were good, and the Q&A with our priests each night centered primarily around the Immaculate Conception and the fact that Mary remained sinless throughout her life.

I find Mary to be a tremendous inspiration. By saying yes to God plan and saying no to sin, she received her heavenly reward, body and soul, immediately upon leaving this world. And that simple, resolute yes changed the history of the world! Would that all of us could do the same: resolve to do God's will, whatever the cost, and refuse to yield to temptation, however strong.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

LIFT Links: Resources for “Practicing” Catholics

We are all practicing”Catholics – learning how to live our baptism, our vocation, and a sacramental life here on earth. In an effort to help friends find great Catholic content that supports them in their practice, periodically I’ll be sharing articles, websites, books, and other resources that may be of interest.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Same Blog; New Purpose:
Learning From Life In “The Bubble”

Blogger's Note: The article below will appear in the Sunday, Oct. 26, church bulletin .

Last Sunday, my wife Jodi and I once again experienced the deep faith, honest fellowship, and resounding joy that attracted us to this parish when we moved here in 2003. We began the day with 8:30 Mass and breakfast with our family, then met three other couples for lunch and a book study/discussion about raising Catholic kids. We returned home in mid-afternoon, then loaded the family in the minivan to visit another family here in the community. A lasagna dinner, great conversation, and family games rounded out the evening. We were on the go from the time the alarm sounded, but ended the day rejuvenated.

That’s why life in “The Bubble” of St. Michael’s and St. Albert’s parishes is so appealing to us. Here, we are surrounded by families who can related to our struggles and our goals, culminating (we hope) in eternity in heaven. We feel at home here, secure, and at least somewhat sheltered from the storms of the outside world.