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Category Archives: All In

Online Ordering and our Heavenly Home

Just yesterday my wife and I decided that for lunch I would order a couple of sandwiches from Potbelly and pick them up on my way home. So, I got on the computer and made our order online, paid for everything and went to the sandwich shop at the time I told them I would arrive. When I got there I went straight to the register, gave them my name, and my name was passed down the line to the person who was to retrieve my food. This was not done silently. Instead, I was greeted with a hearty greeting from each and every one of the restaurant staff, who acted as if I was an old friend or at least a very regular customer (I am neither). Immediately a smile crossed my face as the famous “Norm!” scene from Cheers entered my mind. “You wanna go where everybody knows your name.” Indeed. I think I might be returning (with another online order). 🙂

As I was walking back to my car I was struck with another thought.That’s the kind of greeting all of us are hoping to receive as we enter our true home that has been prepared for us by our Heavenly Father. And yet, it is possible that, based on our actions and the way we respond to the gift of salvation that is being offered to each and every one of us, we will face the Lord on the last day and he will not recognize us. What a terrible and frightening thought that can be and yet, there is great hope, too. Jesus is merciful and in his mercy he has not only granted us the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven with him, he has also given us the tools to help us along the way to salvation. If we have strayed, if we have failed to show love to those we have met, if we have thought more of ourselves and our many needs but less of the needs of our brothers and sisters who have far less, Jesus has granted us the opportunity to do something about that.
Throughout this Jubilee of Mercy, let us seek to be forgiven for our selfishness and our anger. Let us go to him in the sacrament of reconciliation and go to our neighbors asking them to forgive us, too. Let’s explore with the Lord ways that we can truly be instruments of His mercy and generosity and thereby keep our wicks trimmed and our lanterns filled with oil. For me, for starters, that means starting each morning with more prayer and more gratitude and ending it with examination and gratitude. Where we go from here I want to leave to Lord, but it is by his grace that I will be able to do anything and it is through his mercy and love that I can, one day, receive that heavenly greeting where everyone knows my name.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in All In, Prayer, scripture

 

Why I Love Being Catholic

Today, while going through my email and checking Facebook for the first time in a few days, I noticed something very exciting. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is giving away an iPad Mini full of Catholic content! The sweepstakes is easy to enter and there are multiple ways to enter. Go here to find out more about it and all that the Archdiocese is doing to celebrate the Year of Faith!

One of the ways you can enter to win is by commenting on this post and telling the world why you love being Catholic. Well, for those like me who read blogs regularly, leaving extra long comments are not generally good form, even on a post like this. (They generally get skipped over if they are more than about 100 words long.) So, I’ve decided, since there really is so much to say about why I love being Catholic, I should just write my own blog post, like Lindsey Simmons did, and leave my link over there.

So, why do I love being Catholic?

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  1. The Eucharist. The key teaching of the faith and the source and summit of all the Catholic Church does. We believe that Jesus, in instituting this sacrament at the Last Supper, truly gave us his body and blood and we continue to re-present his sacrifice at every Mass, every day, every hour throughout the world. In the miracle of the transubstantiation, the changing in substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, Jesus shows us at every Mass that he loves us so much and wants to be so close to us as to become nourishment to our very bones.
  2. Mary. No other religion in the world understands Mary’s role in our salvation and her role in the life of the Church today so much as the Catholic Church. Our devotion to her and the honor we bestow on her as our Queen and mother are just a beautiful expression of the depth of the teachings of this Church. Without her great “Yes,” Jesus’ mission would never have come to fruition. Does she not deserve the respect the Church gives her? I say, that’s the very least she deserves.
  3. Its Biblical Roots. Not only was the Church formed in the time of Christ and its inception dictated in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, and its first Papal encyclicals recorded in the letters to the early Church, but the teachings of the Catholic Church can all be found and supported by the Truth found in the Bible. While most teachings also depend heavily on the constant teaching Tradition of the Church, all of them find their inception in the Bible. (Of course, those matters which are new to our specific place in history have teachings whose conclusions were drawn by way of reason from those whose foundations are in the Bible.) It’s spectacular to see when we study the Bible all the connections one can easily make to what the Church teaches today.
  4. Its history. The Catholic Church has been around for over 2000 years and is the only Church instituted by Christ with a direct line of succession to the apostles, whom Jesus picked to form and lead His Church. Throughout those 2000 years it has studied and discussed and taught on nearly every subject that effects our daily lives, and not just once, but studied and re-studied and always it arrives at the truth in love. The position is not always popular, but it is right and true and when we accept those teachings and try to live in accord with those teachings, our lives are all the better for it.
  5. Its Community. Not only is the Church full of wonderful people who love and want to do what is best for all people, especially those who have no one else to care for them and cannot care for themselves, but you can find those people throughout every country in the entire world and we all believe and teach and practice the same faith!! In addition, this community of people doesn’t stop at this world but extends into the next in the communion of saints who are the greatest source of inspiration for us and can show us, by their supreme examples, the way to live today with God’s grace so that we can live in God’s presence eternally in heaven. In addition, the prayerful support we can attain from these saints is nothing short of overwhelming.
  6. Its Sacraments. In addition to the sacrament of the Eucharist, the other six sacraments are like the guideposts and aids for us as we try to live our lives and “become perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.” The sacrament of reconciliation especially is not there to punish us for doing bad things and it certainly isn’t there to make us fools in front of another human person. It is such a wonderful gift that allows us to be free of those past mistakes and to receive the grace of God to help us to not make those mistakes again. The experience of receiving that absolution from the person of Jesus Christ, whose spirit was given to the priest on his ordination (another great sacrament of the Church) is one of the greatest treasures of our faith.
  7. Its Social Teaching. The Catholic Church is the greatest source of charity in this entire world! It beats the great work of national governments in the amount of aid and support they give to all those in need. They stand on the front lines to protect the unborn and the dignity of every human person. To be part of such an amazing institution is just awesome!
  8. Its Cultural Richness. The number of different people and cultures that make up the Catholic Church is almost innumerable. The number of different traditions and prayers and devotions available to help me to get to know, love and serve my Creator are likewise nearly countless. You can never come to the bottom of the barrel as you draw from the well of the richness of this Catholic faith.
  9. Its expectations. The Church, like Christ, expects us to be holy. To live holy and to enter into heaven at the end of our earthly lives is the goal the Church has set for us, because Jesus set that goal for us. They give us the tools to do it, too! With access to God’s grace in the regular reception of the sacraments, the community of believers with which the Church wants to surround us, the many examples of holy men and women throughout the ages and the volumes upon volumes of spiritual readings and reflections from the saints and those who are still studying these things today, the Church not only expects great things but they give us what we need to reach those expectations with God’s grace.
  10. Its Willingness to Stand Alone. The teachings of the Catholic Church are often unpopular and do not change with the times like so many things in society. However, that has not stopped the Church from standing firm in its teaching and doing so by constantly proclaiming the Truth as has been handed to it by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is reassuring to know that even though so many things are uncertain in this world, I always have a steady foundation in the Church upon which I can rely.

That is just some of why I choose to be Catholic and why I love being Catholic and yet, as I said, there are so many other reasons not mentioned above. The smells and bells of the liturgy, the beautiful way in which the Church’s calendar works, the celebrations, the beauty of its buildings and art…I could go on and on with the little things I love about this Church, but none of that matters if I can’t inspire you with my life. So, why do you love being Catholic? Or, for those who left, what made you stop being Catholic? Or for those who aren’t and have never been, what’s keeping you from being Catholic? I love this Church, I want you to love it, too!

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in All In, Discipline, Mass, Prayer, scripture, St. Joseph, Virtue

 

“This” is What Life’s About

Just a few days ago, I was in the car on my way to work and a new (to me) song by Darius Rucker came on the radio. The title of this song was inocuous enough and, in fact, I completely didn’t know what to expect, so when the DJ said, “This” by Darius Rucker, I was intrigued. As I listened, I was blown away and brought back to so many conversations my wife and I have about the way we first met.

Then, it got me thinking about how great it is to share “our story” with so many people. Each time we tell it, we get to go back to all those little decisions we made that eventually brought us together and kept us together. We remember how we looked when we first met, what we did together when we were first dating and learning all the quirks about one another, how we felt when we had our first kiss, the letters we used to write to one another when we couldn’t be together that first summer, and the memories go on and on. But most of all we look back over all of it and see the way God was guiding us through it all. There were so many things that could have gone differently in our lives and so many other decisions we could have made that would have kept us from ever knowing one another. How different our lives would have been! And yet, for some reason, God saw it fit that we should meet, that we should make all those decisions because in the end, the greatest good we could each hope for has happened to us and continues to this day.

Now we are tasked with maintaining this gift, keeping it beautiful, keeping it alive and strong and I think, again, it comes down to decisions. There are times when we feel like the last place we want to be is in the presence of the one we love. There are times when we just want to be alone, with no spouse, no kids, no responsibility and it is in those moments when we have to make a decision to continue to love. I think that everyday, in fact, we must make the decision to love again and anew. Some days, it’s easy; somedays, not as much, but if we recognize that each time we choose to love our spouse, we are also choosing to love the God who brought us together by way of all those other crazy decisions in our lives, then we also have hope that God will continue to bless that love and help it to grow stronger.

Mr. Rucker has it right. There is a certain freedom when we can say, “Thank God for leading me to this.” (You can literally feel the freedom with which he sings the song.) In that statement we have hope and trust that in this moment we are exactly where God wants us to be and we have the opportunity to love, to learn, and to grow more closely to Him and to the ones in our lives with which he has blessed us.

Now, I have three parting favors to ask:

This by Darius Rucker

1. Listen to the song!

2. If you haven’t done it recently, think back to when you first met your spouse, think back to all the decisions you made that led you to meet, and tell someone.

3. Thank God for leading you here to “this!”

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in All In

 

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A Priestly Calling from a Father’s Perspective

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a national convention for Diocesan Vocation Directors. This convention has several functions for the priests who attend: social networking and just plain camaraderie with fellow Vocation Directors, education and “professional development,” and spiritual and physical refreshment. Each of these pieces year in and year out are equally valued by the members of the NCDVD and I, being a lay, married, father of 3 children and an associate vocation director, get a chance to experience all this from a decidedly different perspective.

Throughout the week I listened as priests and lay people taught priests how to work in the field of Vocation Promotion, how to increase the effectiveness of the message they hope to spread and how to reach more efficiently the right young men who are being called to the priesthood. I listened as priests taught their brother priests in the homilies during Mass. I watched as young priests met fellow young priests from across the nation and shared what is working for them and what they need help with and all the while I was able to sit back and think, what does this all mean for me as a husband and father.

The answer I received on the last day of the convention was one that surprised me a little. The realization is that almost everything that was being taught in those workshops and applied to the priesthood in those homilies was also very personally applicable to my life! Sure, the “professional development” applied very directly to my work, but the homilies about the role of a vocation director, the hard work of the vocation director, the importance of the priesthood in the life of the church all applied to me personally, because, I am a FATHER!

In paragraphs 1655-1657 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read that the family has the special distinction of being called the Domestic Church, the place in which our Faith is first introduced, fostered, and shared and it is in leading ones children to discover their vocations that a father and a mother participate fully in the priesthood of the baptized.

At the conclusion of this fantastic week of learning and reflecting, I finally understood that my role as father of my family is not so different than the role of the priest of my parish. We are entrusted with the souls of our families. It is our duty to make sure that while attempting to work with God’s grace to get ourselves to heaven, we live out a life of total self-sacrifice that enables those around us to get to heaven as well. We are expected to be holy examples of virtuous living and when we fail to do so, it matters all the more because of the responsibility in being entrusted with God’s children (no matter the number).

So, there I was, at the convention’s closing Mass, in front of the icon of the NCDVD patron, St. John Vianney, asking for prayers that I might be a good and holy priest for my family because, in that moment, I realized, that is my vocation; that is my responsibility; that is my gift.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in All In, fatherhood, Virtue

 

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Learning about Love

When I think about this blog and what it is meant to be, very often I think about how I have failed at this blogging enterprise (and for the sake of drawing in a following and making a name for myself, I have) but then something like this article comes along and I am reminded that this is the purpose of this blog: to remind me, and anybody who stops by, of what it means to be a great husband and father, and what it takes to truly love, and live, and serve as Joseph did for Mary and Jesus.

Today’s bit of wisdom comes from the exceptional blog, Speaking of Scripture (really, you should read everything they post!). Peter Williamson sets up a little story of two disciples walking with Jesus wanting to learn about Love. They simply ask him, “What is true love?” Here is just a snippet of what he had to say:

“If a man and a woman find joy in one another’s presence,

if they can scarcely keep themselves apart,

if to her,

He is like the sun rising in its strength and beauty,

if she loves to hear his voice, to look at Him and to feel his arms around her,

and if to him,

She is like the moon and ten thousand stars shining on a summer’s night,

or like the fragrance of roses at dawn….

if her touch is like magic and her kisses sweeter than wine,

if they love to laugh together, sing together, dance together, cry together—

this is a gift from God, it is good.

But, I tell you solemnly, this is not true love;

it is changeable, and you cannot rely on it.”

Such a beautiful expression of what society would tell us is true love. A couple who enjoys spending time with one another and wouldn’t dream of spending one day out of the presence of the other without an aching heart and yet that is not enough! It is almost unfathomable anymore that more would be expected of us and our relationship with our spouse. So often we get caught up in the emotions and the ‘feeling’ of love and we fail to seek true love, which is described later in the story.

“If a man chooses to love his wife as Christ loves his Church,

if like Christ, he lays aside his pride and sacrifices himself for her—

putting her needs before his needs,

her happiness before his happiness,

if he will care for her and take thought for her,

if he chooses to keep loving her

when their interests diverge,

when her youthful beauty fades,

when she doesn’t speak sweetly

and when he doesn’t feel ‘loving’….

“And if a woman chooses to put her husband first,

to follow his lead as the true Church defers to her heavenly Bridegroom,

if she is patient with his failings (those he sees and those he does not),

if she encourages him and forgives him,

if she respects him even when his faults are obvious or she must pay the price for his mistakes,

if she has the courage to tell him the truth in love,

yet stand by him through it all….

 I love this explanation and yet, I still find it wanting (practically speaking). The student in me still says, but what does that really look like? I mean, that sort of sounds exhausting and somewhat depressing: “her needs before his needs, her happiness before his happiness” and “she respects him even when his faults are obvious or she must pay for his mistakes.” How can there be true joy and a strong marriage when she gets everything and I get nothing; when I have to pay for his mistakes? But then I would be missing the point. Marriage is about MUTUAL self-sacrifice! Love becomes an act of giving. If I have it, it is yours; if I want it, you may have it; if I need it, it is for you. And in that giving, you take away all the superficial stuff that can change or decay and get in the way of true love and you find yourself united forever to an eternal soul, whose Source will forever feed you with life, peace, and joy.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2011 in All In, Uncategorized

 

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Passing on the Praise

This past week, I spent 5 days in Chicago, IL with the youth group from my parish doing mission work and attending a Catholic youth conference at Alive in You (fellow youth ministers, check it out!!). During that conference, whose focus this year, “Cornerstone,” was on using scripture to help build our foundation in Christ, one of the speakers gave us all a very simple formula: NO BIBLE, NO BREAKFAST; NO BIBLE, NO BED. The first thing you do in the morning is read the Bible, the last thing you do before going to bed is read the Bible. It’s a simple formula and one that I’m sure many of you already are following in your daily routines, but for me, this was earth-shattering – why didn’t I think of this before?!

I am not one to regularly read the Bible. In fact, I would say that my Bible knowledge is probably somewhere close to that of a 3rd grader (maybe worse). I love going to Mass on Sunday and hearing the word of God proclaimed and sometimes I even take the chance to read the readings ahead of time. However, I have never been good at opening Scripture when I pray. And like our speaker asked this past week, “How can we get to really know Jesus if we don’t take the time to listen to the words he spoke and see how he interacted with people?

So, I decided to try this new formula and it’s amazing all the connections that I have made already in my daily life. Today’s lesson is a must share.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is traveling through a town and people are bringing the deaf, the lame, the blind, etc. to Jesus and he is healing them left and right. The way the story reads it is almost as if by the end of the day, there wasn’t a soul left untouched by the miraculous healing of Jesus! Then it comes to the last verse in that story and it says “the crowds were amazed…and they glorified the God of Israel.” This struck me because, I think, it shows us a little bit about the person of Jesus.

So many times in our society when we see a great deed done or someone acts kind to a stranger, we immediately lay the praise on the individual doing the good deed (and rightly so), but here in this story, the thanks is not given to Jesus (even though he has just spent literally hours performing one miracle after the next), but to God! I have no doubt in my mind that almost every one of those people who had been healed were grateful to Jesus, but, even though he was the Son of God (and could even more rightly receive the praise), he humbly asked them to pass their praise to God who made possible the miracle. How often do we accept the praise that might otherwise be passed on to God? Again, I think it is right that we are thanked for the good work we do. However, do we just let it stop there? Do we take the opportunity to pass that praise on to God by whom we were able to perform that good deed or challenging task? By God’s grace I hope that one day I will.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in All In, Discipline, scripture, Virtue

 

All In

There is a Lifehouse song that is pretty popular right now on our local Christian radio station and I was listening to it just yesterday. The title of the song is “All In” and, while the lyrics don’t suggest this interpretation, I got to thinking about poker and how that phrase is used in the game of Texas Hold ’em.

I don’t watch much TV but I have seen the televised poker tournaments and have played at enough “Guys Night” poker tables to understand that when a person goes “All in,” that’s a pretty big deal. It means if the right card falls (or doesn’t fall), that person could be done. All the money he has just worked so hard to gain could be lost. Everything he has is now riding on this one card and this one hand and he’s just assuming the odds are in his favor. There is no turning back either. Once the person has proclaimed he is “all in” the money is counted and it is all taken from his hands. It’s in the pot. And this requires those playing the game to respond. They need to stay in the game or fold. There’s no half way now. It’s either all or nothing. And this all has a huge effect on the people watching. I find my heartrate increase as I look at size of the pot and gasp at the sheer volume of money these men are putting on the line (to win or lose) and in the end, I find myself thinking of my own boldness and whether or not I would have the guts to do that. And thinking about all this got me to thinking back to what that means in the spiritual life and what the lyrics to this song are really meant to convey.

In our faith lives, just like in that game of poker, it is a shock to see someone go “all in.” Even if all the signs are pointing in that direction, even if all the odds are in our favor, to go all in means to let go of control of everything, and leave it up to something out of our control. When we decide to go all in (spiritually speaking), it means we decide to let our will be guided by the will of God. We constantly seek the will of God and accept that He truly does know what is best for our lives. When struggles come, we trust, completely, in His providential, loving care. When kids drive us nuts at home, we choose to love them and be patient with them because we know that it is only by the grace of God that we are still on this planet and (hopefully) in his good favor. And then, just like in that poker game, all those people who are watching us will not be able to help but be affected.

There are obvious challenges and risks to living our lives “all in” and for many (including me) that challenge is a bit daunting, but at the same time, it is so intriguing and a little bit…contagious! For many in the gambling world, the thought of being able to go all in and win is what drives them to keep playing. The experience of seeing someone win the jackpot is what drives people to the casinos everyday. And the same is true for the faith…when we see someone who has gone all in and we see them rewarded with an unexplainable joy, we want it! When we read about the lives of the saints and we know that right now they are experiencing the unending glory of Heaven, we yearn for it! In fact, in those moments of yearning we can’t help but sit back and think, “why can’t that be me?”

Suddenly we will find ourselves in the middle of an argument between our reason and our desire, our fear and our faith.  Jesus Christ started the betting…he’s all in, what about us? Are we in or are we going to fold?

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2011 in All In

 

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