The Weakness of God

To be brutally honest, I’ve been feeling very worn down lately.  Numerous things have happened in my life that have left me feeling a bit more broken than usual, and I had really come to the conclusion that I am under attack.  I was already feeling this way when a priest said to me “In your line of work, and with what you’re doing, you are going to be under attack.”  He went on though, “You need to do everything you can to be protecting yourself, spiritually.”

St. Michael the Archangel - Head of the Original Secret ServiceAnd the St. Michael Prayer has been readily on my lips and in my heart lately.  If you’re not familiar with it, here ya go:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

It’s a daily prayer for protection and for knowing and embracing that this decision to live for Christ will come with struggles and challenges, and that we are targets.  We need help to endure – and lately, I’ve been feeling the need for more help than usual.

I’m blessed to work for Life Teen, a Catholic organization that calls for the entire staff to share in a Holy Hour every week at an appointed time.  This week during holy hour, I was lead to reading some of Paul’s writing to the Corinthians.  And I was drawn to praying over 1:25 – For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor 1:25)  I read further, but I kept being drawn back to that.

Though I may seem worm out, and though it may seem harder than ever to live for more than ourselves, I need to embrace the weakness that God is giving to me.  Because in that weakness, God’s strength is all the more evident.  That it seems especially difficult to live out this call to, but I am called to rely on Christ more and more and more.

Maybe I am under attack.  Maybe it is Christ teaching me that I need to rely on him even more than I already tried to.

I think it’s both – that in these attacks, I need to fully embrace that I am not strong enough to overcome alone.  But if I embrace this reliance on Christ – if I allow God to be God, His strength will come through more than I’ve imagined.

The Pope for Everyone

Meet the Pope!

Meet the Pope!

The Church as a whole has seemed overjoyed and hanging on every move of our gutsy new Pope, Francis. The fever ran high immediately: a Jesuit Pope? Just earlier that day I was having a conversation with someone about how there’ll never be a Jesuit Pope. Maybe not never, but not in my lifetime, that was I oh so convinced of. And then he chose the name Francis – it took a while to really get an answer about which St. Francis he was taking the name from – there are 3 pretty big name St. Francises (is that really the plural of Francis?) in our Church history. It came out later that he chose it after Francis of Assisi, for his love of the poor.

St. Ignatius of Loyola gave Jesuits 2 mottos: "for the greater glory of God" and "sinners yet called"

St. Ignatius of Loyola gave Jesuits 2 mottos: “for the greater glory of God” and “sinners yet called”

On top of all of that, he is an American pope – not from the USA, as we so easily think of America, but very clearly, he is a Pope from the Americas. And yet, his family has Italian roots – returning the Papacy to where it had been for hundreds of years prior to Blessed John Paul II.

Ok, so we’ve got an Italian and an American Pope, a Jesuit who took the name Francis.

Everyone got this guy figured out yet? Me neither. And my guess is, the second you think you’ve got Pope Francis figured out, you’re just begging to be proven wrong. Continue reading

Family Reunion #CYMC

ImageThis past Sunday, I arrived at the Doubletree in Scottsdale, Arizona for the Catholic Youth Ministry hosted by Life Teen.  I was excited to see a few friends, looking for refreshment and inspiration, maybe hoping to learn something, and a little out of whack.  (I was in the desert, after all.)  After being there for just a few minutes, I realized that I was in for so much more.

My room had a mix-up, so I couldn’t check in, which forced me to essentially wander around the hotel with my bags for a while – until a slightly familiar face gave me a look that told me that she also found me a slightly familiar face.  After we figured out where we knew each other from, my new friend Brittany, henceforth known as B2 asked if I wanted to leave my stuff in her room until it got sorted.  Hospitality from almost strangers?  I’ll take it!

A few minutes before the start of the main program in the “Forum,” which was the main large group room, I went down to find a seat, and hopefully come across another familiar face or two.  I walked in to find a pal (Kevin!) who gave me a big hug – turned around and had 2 or 3 more friends approaching, and while I was saying hello to them, more familiar faces were making their way over.  I turned to Kevin and said “I feel like I’m at a family reunion.”  He responded immediately “You are.”

That feeling never went away – the entire four days of the event.  I met many new friends over the weekend – got to know some more than others – but I felt welcomed and I felt at home with everyone.

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Routines

I do it every night.  Not because it affects my night, but because it affects my next morning.  (I hope I’m using affect & effect right. If not, KBird will undoubtedly correct me.)  Oh, I forget sometimes, or I just can’t manage to make myself spend that 90 seconds late on a Saturday night occassionally, but I sure want to do it every day.

Actual photo of me in the am. Plus, Goofy is the bomb diggity.

I set my coffee maker.  Clean it out from that day, prep it for the next morning’s brew, and put the timer on.  When I know that coffee is ready and waiting for me when I wake up, I am exactly 78% more likely to not mind getting out of bed.  It’s scientific fact.

I’ve written a few times (for you, it probably feels ad naseum, for me, it feels like it’s barely been brought up) about my running.  When I don’t get my daily run in, my wife doesn’t really want me around.  I’m sort of wacky-hyper-abrasive-irritated.  I’ve got all that pent-up energy – I haven’t worked through things how I do every since day – I haven’t pushed myself to exhaustion – I haven’t stimulated myself. Continue reading

Suit up and Show up

Totally not how I look, because I dress much more stylish and run much faster.

Yesterday morning, for the 115th day in a row, I laced up my running shoes and dashed (in my own head) out the door for my routine morning run.  Walking down the driveway, I did my hamstring stretches, reached the road and started running.  As I ran down my street, I began my run how I always do – with the prayer “Lord, I give you this run, I give you this morning, I give you this day.  Lord, I give you my heart.”

And then I don’t remember anything else.  I mean, nothing, except having a sub-par run.  It’s like it didn’t happen, except I know it did.

Generally, focus is something I’m good at while I run.  It’s what keeps me running – on days that I can’t focus, I know I have a lousy run in front of me – and I can usually tell pretty quickly.  But usually I can still work through some things on my mind and on my heart – be they family related, work related, friend related, etc.  Running is my time for communing with my Creator, with the depths of myself, and with attempting to not get run over.  Sometimes that order gets messed up. Continue reading

Morality part 2 – Peer Pressure can be AWESOME

Note: This is part 2 of a 3 part series on helping empower teens to make moral decisions.  The series introduction can be found here, and part 1 can be found here.

As you’re probably aware of by now, I’m a Catholic.  It’s not just a fitting-in sort of label for me, like a 3rd generation 20% Irish-person around St. Patrick’s Day.  (Yeah, I said that.)  My being a Catholic is part of who I am, how I define myself, how I hope to portray myself.  I strive for it to affect literally every part of my life – the fact that I fail constantly is irrelevant here.  As I try to live out my faith and my identity as a Catholic, I am always on the lookout for that community of Catholics to share my life with – friends who share our faith, values and priorities.  I want to know I’m not alone in my challenge, and I can be there to support and lift up others who are trying to navigate the narrow road.  Having a community of Catholic men, women and families around us has been a humongous blessing & help to myself and my wife – and of course it is!

We all know how important friends are to teenagers.  This is the time of life when teens are beginning to break from their family.  They like to believe they are independent, but they are so, so far from real independence from family and parents.  (see part 1 for how important adults are)  A huge part of this break is the friends teens have.  Teens quite often list friends as more important than family.  This may or may not be the case – and that doesn’t really matter for this discussion – the apparent truth of it matters.

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Lean on Me – Morality, Part 1

Note: This is part 1 of a 3 part series on morality in teens - introduction & explanation can be found here.

We want to be independent. Or rather, we think we want to be independent. But in reality, none of us wants true independence – we want others to depend upon us, and we want others to be there for us to depend upon. Though we have this romanticized view of independence, we don’t really want that.

And neither do teens. More than us, probably, they want to feel a part of something – they want to know they’re not going it alone.

More than teens realize, and more than adults know – teens need us. And I don’t mean that we are needed for our money or housing or food or clothing. I’m talking about being that reliable, safe, trustworthy, accountable, old-steady, even-steven sort of partner for a teen.

Teens need at least one adult they can rely upon and trust.

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Oversimplified morality – in 3 parts

Working in youth ministry with junior high and high school students over the past I don’t know how many years has given me lots of things.  First, it’s given me an incredible amount of failures.  It’s given me a lot of entertainment and laughs.  It’s given me gray hair.  It’s given me headaches and sleepless nights.  It’s given me countless privileges to walk on a faith journey with a young person.  It’s given me lots of tears, stress, extra hours of prayer, challenges, successes, awesome retreats… ok I could go on.

One other thing is that it has given me a little bit of insight into the heart and ind of a teenager.  I’m not claiming to have all the answers – I’m not claiming to be very smart – I’m claiming that my experience with teens over the last 12 years has given me a little bit of insight with teens.

I hope that isn’t too much of a stretch.

Ok, why all this?  Because, morality. There are so many well-meaning people at our parish, at other parishes, and from who knows where telling me we need to do more things to teach morality to our teens – but it all sounds and feels more like “you need to crack open their heads and brainwash them into thinking this one thing that I think is the end all be all issue and it needs to be this.”

And we do morality nights – on chastity, on obeying God, on pro-life, on stealing, on cheating… etc.  Do I expect a big turnaround in the life of teens based upon these nights?  Heck no.  It can start a discussion or get them thinking, but if convincing others of the truth were as easy as one 90 minute youth night, well, we probably wouldn’t have too many youth nights.

I’ve come up with a bit of a theory here – and it is that teens essentially need 3 things to really be empowered to make good moral choices in their life.  All three of these things are important, none of them is a quick fix, and they all take efforts from the teens, the parents and the Church.

So this, I guess, is a 4 part series – and you’ve just read part one.  Congratulations!  And I realize, this told you nothing more than – Hey, I’m writing a morality series!  Parts 2-4 will come out about every other day for the next week or so – so stick with me.

Again, I’m not claiming this is the end all – be all.  And I’m not claiming that this closes the book on teen morality – this is my discussion starter – based on my experiences loving, being rejected by, listening to, supporting, praying for, praying with and observing teenagers.

What are you waiting for?

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Resolution time?

I know, I know. Its not New Years time right now. But as we approached Lent, and people were all bandying their Lenten resolutions about, I was thinking of how it felt like New Years resolutions all over again. I, and I’m sure you, heard all the usuals. No snacking. No chocolates. No ice cream. More prayer. Daily rosary. Daily mass. No facebook. Writing letters. The good thing with all of these is that they’re good. They are decisions and changes that can have long term and awesome impacts on us. But why wait? If they’re good choices, good changes that can actually matter, make us better, more holy people, why wait an extra week or so, go all crazy one day, and then get Ashes and all of a sudden act like we mean it now?

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