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Patience is a Virtue (that I wish I had)

Below is a post I began writing a couple months ago but until now didn’t get a chance to finish. Reading over the beginning I found that it is as true now (if now more so) as it was then, so I decided to finish it because I need to hear it and it needs to be said.

Attending a beautiful wedding this past Saturday, I was afforded a welcome retreat from the constant movement of taking three kids to Mass. I was actually able to listen to the readings, the psalm and the homily! Of course, it is in those times when we have a chance to listen that God comes in and speaks to our hearts and so it was this time.

The psalm chosen by the wedding couple was one I had heard a thousand times growing up: Psalm 103 “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, the Lord is kind and merciful.” While I know this particular version of the psalm is not drawn directly from Psalm 103 as it is meant to be, it struck me how directly this related to my life and the life of the soon to be married couple on their wedding day!

It is something I’ve been reflecting on a great deal, really and hearing it in Church made it all the more prominent. We are the children of God and as children are wont to do, we make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are huge, sometimes they are minor. Sometimes we don’t live up to our potential and yet, how does our God repay us for those failures? With love! With compassion! With Mercy! With overflowing, total self-giving, sacrificial LOVE! 

And here I am, the father of three children, the husband of one amazing wife, and how does my response to my childrens’ mistakes and bad choices compare to God’s? I’ll tell you right now, that it’s not a pretty comparison. Of course, you might say, we can’t expect to be like God, he is perfect, and that is true, but I remember a line in scripture that says, “be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.” A lofty goal to be certain, but one toward which we should all be striving. And so it is with fathers in a particular way because…well, we’re fathers. So, the image of God the father that my kids will first see is supposed to be me. If they don’t see me being slow to anger, rich in kindness, full of compassion, how can they be expected to understand that God, who is all knowing and all powerful, is also all merciful, all just and all loving.

I think I just realized my new year’s resolution.

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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Children, fatherhood, scripture, Virtue

 

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“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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Family is the Reason for the Season

Okay, so perhaps that isn’t exactly how the saying goes and I, like author Steve Pokorny, certainly don’t want to downplay the importance of Jesus’ birth as the linchpin to our entire Christian faith and especially this Christmas season, but Jesus was born into a family, a pretty awesome one if I might add. But don’t let me tell you, it’s already been said:

While it’s true that Jesus in his divine nature knows all about love because He is Love, we cannot simply whitewash the fact that because Jesus was also 100% human (remember, He’s true God and true man), He had to learn about human love from somewhere and someone(s). That somewhere was during the silent time in his home in Nazareth, hidden away from public eye. And those someone(s) were Mary and Joseph – one sinless, and one a sinner with incredible virtue.

It was in the home of Joseph and Mary that Jesus learned the meaning of love. From the moment of his divine conception, he was received as a gift. Jesus would grow up seeing how Joseph treated Mary, how he interacted with others, how committed he was to taking care of his family. Jesus watched Mary, the most pure of all women, the one whom He had selected from all eternity interact with her husband, of how she fulfilled Proverbs 31 before his eyes. Through their love, He witnessed how their marriage and family life quietly impacted the lives of those around him.

Go here to read the rest>>>

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Children, fatherhood, Uncategorized

 

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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….

********************************************************************************
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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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