Author Archives: joesuperdad

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. Read the rest of this entry

Veep Debate: Snapshot of Political Discourse

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I’m interested in American politics – duh, as most of us are. I’m not super interested, but I do care, and I pay attention out of the corner of my eye. I regularly vote, and I try to read up on issues and make sound decisions backed up by the (hopefully) well formed conscience that has grown through my Catholic education and my ongoing prayer life and learning. I’ve been enjoying, in a matter of speaking, the debate funness going on. The Vice Presidential debate, in particular, caught my attention. I wasn’t overly excited to watch it, I didn’t catch the entire thing – about 2/3rds of it, but I thought it sort of gave us a snapshot of a typical political discussion in ‘Merica these days.

There is a reason barbers and restaurant servers try not to talk about religion or politics – you very well may upset someone, and you want a good tip from your customer. That’s our state – we’re afraid to talk about what we think are incredibly important things, because we may offend someone or we may get caught having to defend our position with facts we’re not all entirely sure of. And too often these facts are from various news channels that all seem to have different agendas and don’t usually represent issues (especially religious issues) with any thoroughness or real accuracy.

So I think this debate was all too typical, but not necessarily at debates, more like at bars and coffee shops and gatherings of friends and family. I think no matter what political party you affiliate yourself with, you have to admit that VP Joe Biden was less than polite. He interrupted regularly (82 times, according to a count by Republicans- I didn’t see another count anywhere), he laughed dismissively when Ryan was speaking, and he generally gave the impression that Paul Ryan had no idea what he was talking about. During a discussion about nuclear weapons in Iran, Biden thought it appropriate to laugh. My point isn’t to pick on Joe Biden, it is more to point out the dismissive, “I’m right and you’re a fool if you really believe what you’re saying” sort of attitude.

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I have no doubt that Biden was presenting what he would like us to believe are facts. The problem is that I honestly don’t remember the words the candidates said during the debate this many days later. I watched the entire first Presidential debate and paid a great deal of attention to it, and I can only remember a little of what was said – instead, I remember the overall emotions and reactions I had to what they said. In watching parts of the subsequent debates, generally the same thing – snapshots, and in my muddled brain basic perceptions I left watching the debate holding of each candidate. My point is that Mr. Vice President Joe Biden did not make a positive impression on me with the attitude he took.

Candidate Paul Ryan was clearly nervous, was definitely a man thrown into an unfamiliar situation, but he also came in armed with information that he claims can be backed up by fact and by various studies – information that he hopes we take at face value. He took deep breaths, he drank lots of water, and he came across as thoughtful. He seemed to want to be accurate in his responses, and he kept his emotions in check throughout, even though it was obvious from the get go that maintaining his calm was going to be difficult and crucial through the interruptions and laughing and dismissive behavior. He tried to display a respect for when Biden was speaking, though he clearly disagreed.

How often, when we’re in a political or religious discussion do we become the Biden? How often do we dismissively shake our head, and laugh derisively at the person we are disagreeing with? Are we authentically listening to the ongoing discussion, or are we too busy preparing our response? Do we get angry, interrupt, get louder and more vehement in our reactions? I am 100% positive that I have had the exact same demeanor as our Vice President in arguments with people over politics or theology, and probably lots dumber things – and now I see that I totally failed as a Christian in these situations.

I’m not convinced that either Joe Biden or Paul Ryan really listened and thought through what the other was saying – and maybe that isn’t really what can ever happen at a debate at this level. Rather, while their “opponent” was speaking, it is almost sure that each was preparing his own response.

My grandmother used to have a saying: “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” The arguing, the getting louder, the repetition, the disrespect for the person we are talking with will not truly change any minds or hearts.

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We are definitely called to be discussing serious issues in our world today – be they religious or political. It is not something to just shy away from. But we are not called to win arguments. Because honestly, who ever really wins an argument? Rather, lets enter into real discussions about these serious issues that are close to our hearts. Lets have information that we have researched for ourselves instead of relying on tidbits from Fox News or CNN.

Above even the information and the party lines, let us approach political and religious discussions with love and respect for who we are talking with. Because that person you are talking with has Christ within them. And respecting and loving that Christ is far more important than winning any argument.

Post note: this is not an attempt to direct your voting decisions, or even a way to approach these crucial decisions. For more on that, see the write up by my much smarter blog-mate, Kristin.

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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. Read the rest of this entry

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. Read the rest of this entry

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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?

Read the rest of this entry

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