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Category Archives: Prayer

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

 

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

 

A Surprise When Cantoring At Mass

Last weekend it was my turn to sing at the Saturday Vigil Mass. I don’t regularly sing at that Mass and so that set of our parish rarely sees me and almost none of them know who I am. In a way, that’s great because I can make mistakes and nobody would remember for long, but in a way it is a little bit nerve wrackiing because my style of singing might not be what they are looking for and the last thing I want to be is a distraction to the people at Mass.

So, I got there a few minutes early to run threw the unfamiliar songs, especially the Psalm and the Gospel Acclamation verse and we were set to go. This time around I made sure to pray that God lead me and help me to lead the people to worship Him and not to draw attention to myself. (Being in a parish with no choir area near the sanctuary makes this difficult at times.) As Mass began I belted out the opening song (originally starting on the wrong page, mind you) and we were off. I made it through it and through the Gloria and it was time for the 1st Reading. I tried to listen attentively, but was also occupied by the music I was about to sing for the psalm. Then it was my turn. The organ played the intro and I hit the refrain perfectly and reverently, thinking about the words I was saying. It was beautiful (not my singing per se, but the prayer that was coming out of my mouth)!

I moved into the first verse and paid even closer attention the words, the phrasing the sentiment of the words spoken so many centuries ago, memorized by people for more centuries, finally meticulously written down and copied, word for word, then translated and eventually put down in front of me…it was thousands of years of human civilization giving praise to God in a song written on the heart of a prophet and it was meant to be sung! It was beautiful and in that moment, in that Mass, I realized how important the psalm is and how important it is to be part of the Mass.

I don’t remember the words I prayed that evening, but I was moved by the connection I was able to feel with the entire Church at that moment and at the same time overjoyed at the priveledge and responsibility I had to pray that psalm properly. I am a cantor so that I can use the voice God has given me to lead others into deeper prayer and love of Him. That night, I think, I was able to do that in a very real way. Thank you, God, for that gift!

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2011 in Mass, Prayer

 

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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

 

A Tile in the Mosaic of Holiness History

With great clarity and even greater charity, Pope Benedict XVI has once again shown how blessed we are to have him as the leader of our universal church! In his most recent weekly Wednesday address, the pope urges all of us to answer our call to holiness and gives us practical advice on how to do that:

Vatican City (CNS) – Pope Benedict said there are three simple rules for living a holy life:

[1] “Never let a Sunday go by without an encounter with the risen Christ in the Eucharist; this is not an added burden, it is light for the entire week.”

[2] “Never begin or end a day without at least a brief contact with God” in prayer.

[3] “And along the pathway of our lives, follow the road signs that God has given us in the Ten Commandments, read in the light of Christ; they are nothing other than explanations of what is love in specific situations.”…

He then goes on to talk about the communion of saints, both canonized and not canonized:

The unnamed saints “are people who are, so to say, ‘normal,’ without visible heroism, but in their goodness each day, I see the truth of the faith, this goodness that has matured in the faith of the Church. For me, their goodness is the surest form of apologetics for the Church and a sign of where truth lies,” the Pope said.

(HT: Cindy Wooden at www.ncregister.com – Read the rest!)

These simple rules are as basic as they are compelling as they are difficult! The first rule, to experience Christ in the Eucharist every Sunday could have easily been worded, “Go to Mass on all Sundays,” and yet that doesn’t cut it for the Pope. As Catholics, we truly have the opportunity to receive Christ in our bodies every single time we attend Mass, but it is our openness to truly experiencing him and his passion, death and resurrection and all that His life entails that will open the doors to the grace hidden in the form of bread and wine on the altar. We need to EXPERIENCE Christ in the Eucharist, not just receive or see Him. An experience is something that sticks with us and, as the pope suggests, helps to mold us!

The other rules are much the same. It is the choice of words that the Pope uses here that make these statements so profound. Quickly we see in his second “rule” that he is talking about some form of prayer and yet how many of my prayers are a bunch of words strung together that mention God and my relationship to Him while my mind is running on what I need to do next (or what I am doing, in most cases). Real contact requires much more. When we come into contact with something, we are changed (in even the smallest way). When we pick up a knife to butter bread, we leave some part of us on that knife (even if if is just germs). When we bump into a person on the street, we get jarred out of our step even for a moment. When we hug our loved ones, something stirs in our gut. True contact with God requires us to do much more than talk. It requires a movement of the heart toward God who is constantly reaching toward us.  

The ten commandments are the staple food for examinations of conscience and yet I’ve never looked at them as “what love is in specific situations” (perhaps I’m just not too bright), but what a concept to meditate on! If we love God, we are grateful for his many blessings and we honor him in using rightly the gifts he has given us (including the people, places and things we come into contact with everyday). This is love in action.

The last little bit, quoted above, really strikes me hard as I reflect on my daily dealings with my family as a father and husband. How am I giving my sons and daughter and wife an earthly example of a saintly life? Will my children think of my life when they think of someone to emulate in total, self-sacrificing love? Do they see in me the goodness of the Faith or do I give them room to see something else as a “greater good” because of my actions? It’s times like these when I don’t envy St. Joseph in the least!

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Children, fatherhood, News, Prayer, St. Joseph, Virtue

 

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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.