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Category Archives: Discipline

The Question About Fasting

wineskinsLent has officially started, and perhaps on your Facebook or Twitter or Instagram feed you have already been inundated with articles and infographs like “40 things to give up this Lent” or “15 Ways to Make the Most out of Lent” or even “10 Things You Shouldn’t Give Up this Lent.” But so many of those articles seem to assume something that I’m not certain it is safe to assume: What is the purpose of fasting?

I am a member of a small prayer group here at the Archdiocese’s central offices and yesterday, on Ash Wednesday we prayed together through Luke 5:33-39 where Jesus is questioned about why his disciples did not fast. Jesus, I think, gives a very interesting response to the question. In typical Jesus fashion, he answers their question with a question, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” He then goes on to give a parable about old wineskins and new wineskins, old cloth and new cloth and old wine and new wine. What does this really tell us about fasting?

At the surface it seems that the initial comment about the bridegroom and the parable about the incompatibility of the new and the old are virtually unrelated, but as we dig a little deeper we start to see what Jesus is trying to tell us. Let’s take first his comments about the bridegroom and his guests. It is apparent here, that Jesus is making a very simple point about the purpose of fasting: it is a means to an end. Fasting is meant to prepare our hearts and condition our wills to enter into a closer relationship with Christ. Of course, the ultimate closeness we all seek is to be with Jesus in heaven. Thus, while he was present among his disciples, there was no need for them to fast, because they were already with him who is the bridegroom and source of all grace. We have not reached that beatific vision, thus, we must fast.

Following that, then, we dive into the parable about the new and the old. In verse 38, Jesus says, “Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” As we make our way toward Easter, the Lord, as he always does, desires to fill us with something new, but before he can do that, we must present him with fresh wineskins to fill. Jesus says that “No one (who has gotten comfortable in the old ways) desires new, for he says ‘The old is good,’” and it is so tempting to become like that. For so many of us, our relationship with Christ has gotten really nice. It’s comfortable and safe, but Jesus desires more; he desires something fresh! Therefore, we must try to detach ourselves from all that stands in the way of his desires, even the good comfortable relationship we currently have with him, and prepare for a new relationship with Christ that would make our old wineskins burst. Through fasting, let us spend the rest of this lent preparing those new wineskins so that, on the day of his Resurrection, we can receive that overwhelming flow of new wine and end our fasting for the bridegroom has returned.

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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Discipline, 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

 

Confession with Dad

Astonishingly enough, my boys, from time to time do things that are not nice and on occasion they don’t do what my wife or I ask them to do.

I’ll give you a little time to get over the shock….

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Okay, you with me again?

The other day while driving in the van one of my sons was apologizing for something he had done wrong and I accepted his apology and asked him to then sit quietly for a couple minutes without any music (torture for this one, I’m telling you). He then proceeded to repeat the wrongdoing about 5 times in a row during the next 60 seconds and after each time apologized.

Now as you might or might not agree, at this point, I’m really starting to not believe his apology and here is where the revelation of the wisdom of the Catholic Church came to me and I proceeded to explain what true contrition really is (of course, I used little kid words).

True contrition can only be recognized when three things are in place: you recocognize that what you did was wrong, you feel remorse for what you did, and you will TRY not to do it again. You may end up doing that thing again (several times) but you must promise to TRY not to by avoiding the situation, finding different words to express yourself, taking a deep breath before responding, etc. When one of these three things isn’t there, it is sensible to believe that you are not sincerely contrite. I think we recognize this pretty regularly in society. When someone hurts us and then apologizes, we expect that he won’t repeat that hurt over and over again. We tell him to “say sorry like you mean it.”

This all plays out beautifully in the sacrament of Confession. When we go to confession we begin with the sign of the cross and then proceed to tell the priest all the things we can remember doing wrong since our last confession. The priest then gives us a little counsel and then gives us some form of penance to do. Finally, he asks us to say an Act of Contrition. In that little prayer, and there are many variations, we say three things: I’m sorry for what I’ve done, I will try to do reparation for those failures, and I will try not to do it again!

The Church in Her wisdom gives us this opportunity to publicly make amends for what we did. It allows us the opportunity to tell someone that we truly are sorry and that we promise, with the help of God’s grace, to avoid that sin in the future. If we fail again, we come back again and again until we get it it right. The point is our real sorrow, and our real struggle to kick the bad habit out of our lives so that we can truly be closer to God and his entire family.

In that car ride home, I got to be the priest to my family once again; the counselor and the forgiver of sins. For a few more years, my wife and I will get to stand in that role and what an awesome responsibility and privilege that is. Our children will be going to confession with Dad (and Mom) and, hopefully, will get to see in us the mercy, forgiveness, and justice with which God treats each and every one of us. We will fail (perhaps miserably at times most of the time) at reaching that level, but that will give us the opportunity to experience that mercy, forgiveness and justice ourselves.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Children, Discipline, fatherhood, 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

 

I’m Back…Did You Miss Me?

Hello handful of friends,

I can’t believe it has already been almost a month since my last post and I’m ashamed to say my lack of discipline and perseverance is starting to show quite brightly on this blog…elements of a great father and leader of a family? I think not. Okay, I’ll admit it…I’m a work in progress.

All that being said, here’s what I’ve been up to since my last post:

 I am happy to say that I was able to complete the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon in less than 4 1/2 hours by the grace of God and am looking forward to my next one in which I plan to RUN the entire race instead of walk so much of the last 10 miles. I am very happy to have finished and I truly can’t thank enought my wife and friends and family who were there to support me the entire way.

Since then, I’ve gotten back to work (I took a week off before the race), my legs are back under me and I was able to get back on the road on Monday with a very satisfying run. I’m telling you, this excercise stuff is like really cheap drugs! It gives you a great high and allows me a great chance to connect with God in prayer.

Speaking of which I heard an excellent talk yesterday by Fr. Kyle Schnippel on prayer and how each of us prays in a different way, yet there is something almost scientific about prayer in that it should always include certain elements: recognizing the majesty of God (praise), recognizing the goodness of God (thanksgiving), recognizing the loyalty of God and our loyalty to Him (examination, repentence), recognizing our need for God (intercession/asking God for the things we need). I have often thought of myself as a horrible prayer…perhaps I haven’t found the type of prayer that fits me. Hmmm…something to chew on.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Discipline, fatherhood, marathon, Prayer

 

Support Good Habits: Help a Worthy Cause

Not much to say today except for a plug for me and a worthy cause.

You may remember a certain article I wrote a couple weeks back about Folding Underwear in which I mentioned training for a marathon. Well, it seems I’m not the only one training for a marathon (who knew?!) and some of these people are actually training and running these marathons to raise awareness about some cause or another (again, am I the only one in a bubble about these things?). Well, it turns out that my job title as Associate Vocation Director and the fact that I was training for a marathon made a young woman in Cleveland make a connection and ask if I could join her Marathon team. After reading a little bit about it, I couldn’t help but say, “YES!”

Suport Good Habits is a group of young women (read their stories here)  who have been accepted into a religious order, the Franciscan Sisters TOR of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother to be exact, but cannot join until their debt has been erased. So, this group has joined up with Run for Nuns (which is a group started by seminarians in Pennsylvania two years ago) to create a team that will be running the Cleveland Marathon. Of course, the difficulty for me is that I am already registered for teh Flying Pig Marathon here in Cincinnati only two weeks before this. So, I’ll be running solo for the cause.

So, now the point of the post: I need your help! I want to raise at least $1000 for the young ladies at Support Good Habits, a meager drop in the bucket when considering the extent of college debt that one can rack up over the years, so here is what I ask of you:

  1. Prayer! Let’s storm heaven for these young ladies (and say a few for me, that I can finish this thing on their behalf) and all others who have found themselves in a similar predicament. And don’t forget to take to prayer how much you may being called to give.
  2. Donations – go to their website and make a donation in my name or send a check to this address:
  3. Support Good Habits
    Attn: Run For Nuns
    24 Adalbert Street
    Berea, Ohio 44017
  4. Buy a tshirt and come out to cheer me on throughout the course. As I said, I’ll be alone out there, so any support you can give me along the way will be very much appreciated! Of course, if you can’t make it out, your prayers will be very much appreciated.

I thank you in advance for all your prayers and support. I know that it means a great deal to these young women and it means a great deal to the Church to have such powerful witnesses of complete trust in God’s providence. Let us be willing to do the work of the Lord.

Finally, please send me your prayer requests as well (just comment below). I will be sure to bring them with me and offer up my pain and struggles throughout the run for these intentions.

 

The Sin of Lust: Why is it so tough?

The Sin of Lust: Why is it so tough?

When we think about Joseph, we often think about a rugged looking man in brown. He has a beard and often, he is teaching Jesus his trade or holding the baby Jesus in his arms, or leading Mary through the desert to Egypt or Nazareth. The Joseph we hardly think about is the one in the bedroom with Mary, the VIRGIN mother of God. We know Mary was a young woman and that Joseph had asked for Mary’s hand in marriage before the news that she was pregnant, so we know that he desired to be with her in a marital, sexually intimate relationship, and yet the Church teaches that Mary remained a virgin throughout her married life. Thus we can conclude that Joseph, too, remained a virgin throughout his life.

How hard this must have been! We know he was not conceived without sin and yet we also know that he won the battle for sexual purity throughout his life and remained the chaste spouse of Mary. By what graces was he able to do this and by what virtues?

Lust, as we all know, is one of the seven deadly sins, but according to Dante’s Inferno, it is the least serious of the deadly sins. And yet, as Mark Shea points out, it is the one that gets the most attention in our world today (and probably throughout history). While I understand this to be the case, it doesn’t make sense that if Lust is truly one of the least of the deadly sins (obviously, deadly means deadly serious – as in immortal-soul-is-in-danger serious), why is it the focus of our society today? Perhaps it is the initial hook by which evil grabs us and pulls us further down into despair, but I don’t think that’s the case.

In reflecting on St. Joseph and who I believe St. Joseph to be, I find that one of his defining characteristics is his humility! And what a fantastic virtue to attain! Humility, of course, is the virtue by which we conquer the vice of PRIDE, the most severe of all the deadly sins. In fact, pride is found at the base of Mt. Purgatory (again, in Dante’s Inferno) as the foundation of all other deadly sins, including lust!

And so, perhaps here we find the answer we are looking for. Lust is so tough because we are trying to tackle it from the top down rather than attacking it at the ground level as St. Joseph did. Isn’t it the case that when we lust have after another person, it is our pride which sustains the thoughts? “I could definitely see myself with her” or other much worse things. We will naturally see beauty and be attracted to it,  but when we lust after someone, isn’t it nothing more than our pride telling us that we “deserve the enjoyment of that person” or that we have the ability to attain the enjoyment of that person? Pride turns our focus internally and denies the fact that everything we have, including our very own bodies, is a gift from God. Beauty is a gift from God meant to raise our thoughts toward God. Even those moments when we notice death, destruction and evil can be seen as gifts that help us to recognize and truly appreciate the life, creation and good that is God. In pride we see these things as things to be used for us and in lust, we see people in that light.

Humility, though, is the virtue in which we empty ourselves and allow God to fill us as he sees fit. We remember as we hear on Ash Wednesday, that “we are dust and to dust we shall return.” We are NOTHING, we have NOTHING, and we can achieve NOTHING without God, our creator! And St. Joseph, above all (those conceived without sin), knew this and put it into perfect practice. He could have easily “claimed his rights as a husband” and he had every right to do so, but instead he remained humbled by the gift of responsibility both he and his wife were called take on (remember, it was his ancestral line through which Jesus, the savior, was prophesied to be born! Matthew 1:1-17).

When we are able, as Joseph was for his entire life, to recognize all that we have as gifts from God; to recognize that we are nothing without God; to stand in awe at the many wonderful things and responsibilities God has given us; and to see even beauty as another gift from God to raise our minds toward Him, then, by the grace of God, we can start to conquer pride through the virtue of humily and in so doing we will be able to break free, eventually, from the sin of Lust.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Discipline, Virtue

 

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