I Love You, Accidentally

Have you ever accidentally told someone you loved them? I totally have. It usually goes something like this.

“Hey Roger, wha’up bro. Did you see Carp’s no-no last night? Ridiculous. So yeah, get back at me if you are going to Kelly’s tonight. K, Love you.”

Hang up. Wait, did I just tell Roger that I “love” him? I barely know Roger. I mean, he’s a good dude and everything, but I don’t really know him. Plus, I just don’t usually tell my buds that I love them. Wait, maybe I do love him. Crap. Should I say something? Do I need to fix it?

Never try and fix it. Just let it ride. Trying to fix it is like trying to clean food off your shirt with water in the bathroom – it is only going to make the problem bigger.

Today we celebrate a big I LOVE YOU that was no accident – the Annunciation. For some reason I have always felt attached to this moment in the story of the incarnation and have found great joy in artwork depicting this moment. The humble “yes” of Mary, the gentle invitation of the Angel Gabriel, and the cosmic consequences in this peaceful beautiful moment all captured in a few brush strokes. Amazing.

My favorite piece of art depicting the Annunciation painted by the Italian Fra Angelico. Take some time to peek through the painting to see all characters present. Further, I am always moved by the empty room behind Mary, which represents the empty tomb of the resurrection. Great stuff.

I’ve included the painting and the scripture from Luke below so that you could take some time to pray through the scripture and do a little Lectio/Visio Devina on this day celebrating the Incarnation.

The Annuciation by Fra Angelico

26In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,* and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” 35And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. 36And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived* a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37for nothing will be impossible for God.” 38Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.  Luke 1:26-38

Friends don’t let friends be cologne guy.

Cologne Guy in Hawaiian ShirtYou know the guy I am talking about. Maybe he was a high school chemistry teacher or a buddy from college or maybe a crazy old uncle – he was the guy who wore too much cologne.  I don’t know what motivates too much cologne guy to regularly over spray.  Maybe he is worried that he smells badly otherwise. Maybe he thinks this is the way to get the ladies. Maybe it is just habit and he doesn’t know any better.  What I do know is that whatever his motivation, he isn’t aware his odor is overwhelming.

This morning as I was getting ready, I accidently sprayed one spray more cologne than normal and I suddenly became super worried, that for at least today, I was going to be that guy. I was going to be the stinky cologne guy.  In fact, not only was I worried I was going to be outrageously odiferous, but I began to fret about an even worse fate – no one would tell me.  The only thing worse that not being self aware about some personal fault, would be not having anyone in my life willing to tell me, warn me, correct me.  What if I went through life and no one tried to help me by calling me out.  As I write this I am beginning to worry that maybe I AM cologne guy every day and no one is telling me. Quick, smell your computer screen and tell me if my blog smells too strong. (Man, I hope you didn’t actually do that.)  I digress.

Maybe there are people in my life who I should be challenging, warning, correcting.  I don’t mean about the cologne thing (though maybe that too); I mean about important things.  I think there is something truly holy and good about helping out our friends and neighbors by inviting them to change.  If that is true, then we need to figure out a way to challenge our friends without offending and alienating them.

Being called out is hard. No one likes to be told they are falling short or outright screwing up.  This is why people react so crazy to being invited to admit fault and confess sins – they don’t like to be wrong.  People don’t get too crazy about being told about spinach in their teeth or static electricity mucking up an outfit, but when we start to get into the realm of personal behavior people tend to freak out when corrected.

I don’t have a good answer. I don’t know how to do this personally, and I am not sure how to do this communally/institutionally.  What I do know is that at the end of the day the only valid and appropriate motivation is love.  The only reason we can ever call someone out is because we love them, and we want them to be happy, healthy, and holy.  Anything other than that is self-righteous judgment which stinks worse than cologne guy.

Nope, That’s NOT Why I’m Catholic (Part 2: Love is in the air)

In my part one, I mentioned that the firestorm of debate that the HHS Mandate has created encouraged a number of conversations with people who are not Catholic or Christian…with atheists, with Satanists, with agnostics…with those who outright hate organized religion and those who are just suspicious of it.

Some of those conversations have been openly hostile, others have been vaguely mocking, and a few have been even curious, but there’s one thing they all have in common.  They all have made (faulty) assumptions about why I am a Catholic.

So, I’m here to set the record straight…

You’re Only Catholic Because You’re Afraid You’re Going to Hell

Going to HellThis is a pretty common argument from those who reject religion outright.  Here is one example from a discussion with an old college coworker (who at least at that time was a self-professed Satanist) on his blog:

The Catholic Church holds itself as the moral standard bearer for the world because it gains its authority from the divine. These rules are not up for a vote or appeal. If its rules are not followed, the sinner is punished in the afterlife. This is coercion not unlike someone giving orders at gunpoint. It negates the possibility of free will.

Or this comment on one of my Facebook posts by a really close friend.  We usually avoid religious discussions, and though he likes to poke fun and provoke me, it’s all in respect and love (I hope).

Well I was going to get a vasectomy but knowing the Church is against it and that Jesus won’t let me into the kingdom of heaven if I do, I’m just going to abstain going forward!

It’s a pretty common argument that assumes that the reason I follow the Church’s teachings or even believe at all is based on my fear of eternal consequences if I don’t.

Just like the “You’re Only Catholic Because You Were Raised That Way” argument, this assumption has some basis in truth, but is missing a much bigger picture.  In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s an analogy that explains that bigger picture…

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Real Life Romance

Romantic movie poster

Recently, a few of the girls in my youth group were talking about how they were planning to see the new movie The Vow which is coming out this weekend.  As they were all agreeing on how romantic the concept of the movie is and how much they are going to cry when they watch it, one of the girls said, “I wish things like that happened in real life.”

I proceeded to tell them that the story of “The Vow” is, in fact, based on a real life couple, and that there are people who actually are committed to their wedding vows.

It saddens me to think that many teens and young adults (and, heck, even adults!) live under the assumption that people can’t or don’t have marriages that are good, happy, beautiful, and romantic.  They see and experience unhappiness, broken marriages, relationships with no commitment that never lead to marriage and eventually fall apart, etc.  They find it hard to believe that someone could actually live the vows they make at a wedding. Read More

The Miraculous Desk Plant of Chris Kostelc

This is my desk plant.  My wife bought me this plant while on a visit to Ikea almost 3 years My Office Plantago, and it has sat in that place on my desk since.  For the most part, it is green and lush and happy, which makes me happy.  Also, this is a miracle plant. It is a miracle it is still alive because I am a notorious plant killer.  This is plant number 3 for me, and so, everyday it remains more than a brown husk is a win.  Honestly, I rarely remember to water, and then when I do, I go on a bender and water with a fire hose till I have drowned the thing (okay slight exaggeration).

Needless to say, I proud of my little plant that could.  I have brought it back from the edge of death so many times, I have thought about naming it Lazarus. (Then I remember it is a plant and come to my senses; talking to plants is foolish.)  The little leafy beast has come back from death so many times that honestly it has become a mini reminder of life in the face of death.  I live in Minnesota where I don’t see a green leaf or blade of grass for about 5 months out of the year. The little green thing in my office reminds me that soon the world will be resurrected in springtime and life will return to this barren tundra.  As silly as it sounds, my office plant reminds me of the paschal mystery, resurrection, my salvation, and the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Really? Yes really. Read More