Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tolerance? Forget that.

     Love is the point.

The last few days I’ve been flooded with talk radio and national news and boy that’s a downer.  I had a roommate who whenever I’d get agitated would keep saying, “why ya mad though???” and he’d repeat it over and over until I realized that there is no reason to be mad.  Or I’d start to get mad at his incessant repetition of the phrase and so I’d let go of my original complaint.  I digress, this phrase kept popping in my head while I was listening to these talking heads go back and forth.  Why is there so much anger in them trying to get their point accepted by another?  If you felt like you were right wouldn’t you be exuding peace at the fact that you know it so surely?  

You know those people on Facebook who argue about politics in comments to the point where you read it for the humor of grown people acting like kids throwing tantrums?  Yeah…I was that guy not to many years ago.  Throughout high school I would post things to entice my friends with opposite political views and would use sarcasm and gang up on people who disagreed with me.  Why?

I’ve since hung up my political gloves so to speak because I was missing something.  I was missing the why.  Today I am just as opinionated but the reason I egged on these debates in the past is because I knew that I was right and I was hoping to gain some gratification in someone seeing it my way.  I have since found that my opinions line up with those of wise and holy Mother Church.  Praise God for Her; She’s so smart.  I’ve also gained my “why” from Her as well.  Love.

In these arguments between myself, a stupid sheep, and my stupid sheep friends they weren’t rooted in love and neither are the big shots who yell on TV.  Love is what matters.  As a seminarian it seems a lot of people want to argue with me about what the Church teaches about this or that and I’ve found that because Her teachings have a pure foundation in Christ I need not concern myself with rhetoric.  I can argue, I can get loud, that’s easy.  It takes a true strength to ask the Lord to calm your heart in times of passion, and then to trust Him with the struggles.  Obviously I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand up for our beliefs, that would be absurd and totally not my style but what I am saying is make sure to keep your foundation with the  Church in love. 

This foundation of love doesn’t mean be weak.   Many people today are calling for tolerance.  I’m not calling for tolerance; I’m calling for love.  Love, especially in today’s world, is counter cultural.  Love is willing the good of another.  Love isn’t saying that sin is okay.  You’ve all heard it, love the sinner, hate the sin.  That’s what I live by.  I detest sin.  It breaks my heart when through my actions I damage my relationship with God and it breaks my heart when through your actions you distance yourself from Him as well.  Whether you believe Jesus died on the Cross for you or not, He did.  Whether you believe sin exists or not, it does.  I want to reach out and ask you to take some time to ask the Lord to open your heart, that you may share His love to everyone you meet, and that you may detest sin in order to live a life of holiness.  I also ask you to evaluate how that love is trying to move you though.  It will not be in unrighteous anger and frustration but truth and fervency of faith.  I can be quick to anger when I come home from school and am pounced on for being so closely united to the Church.  Then I think for a second, who am I that I have the privilege of enduring even just a little persecution in order to unify myself even more fully to the crucified Christ? 

“The issues” can be argued till we are blue in the face and they will be all over cable TV but more importantly for us as Christians we need to see why our brothers and sisters fall into sin; it’s the same reason we do.  We are broken and trying to find some fulfillment.  We can’t help them heal by telling them that they are wrong and not show them the true cause of our joy.  We can however allow the Lord to share the message of love through us that they may recognize that fulfillment will not be found in disordered choices. 

In a few days we celebrate the birth of the Christ, the Christ who came in the gentleness of a baby and fulfilled His loving mission giving Himself fully in death on a cross.  Let us ask Him for the strength to die to self that by our example and care of the individual, truth may be seen. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mother Knows Best

I was trying to update my computer and it told me I had to restart it so I did and that blue screen came up that said "Updating 1 of 21" ahhhhh! 10 minutes later I'm sitting staring at this page that still was updating 1 of 21 and I decided instead of going crazy by just sitting there I would pray today's entry in the total consecration to Mary.  Heavy and beautiful words as always.  When I finished the litanies my computer was sitting at 6 of 21.  I decided this gave me an opportunity to pray my rosary so I set my computer over on my desk, shut my light off and laid back on my bed.  I prayed the first decade and then I opened my eyes before starting the second so I wouldn't doze off before finishing and my room was covered in blue light. 

I guess that slow loading was a gift after all.  The blueness of everything kept me focused on the rosary because I heard Mary looked pretty spiffy in blue.  There came a revelation from this too though. 

If you follow my blog at all you know that my Marian devotion is new, really new.  I've been praying my rosary every day for about three months and I'm really starting to get to know her and to know her is to love her.  She has been slowly showing me how much she cares for me and in this long computer update I learned something new.

This blue light covered everything in my room; without it I would've been completely blind to what everything was. Could I see everything perfectly? No but much better than otherwise.  Mary is like that blue light.  Without it we can be sitting in the dark not knowing what's going on, not knowing what God wants of us.  Is that because their is something wrong with us? No of course not, but God chose to use Mary to bring His Son to us and I don't know why that would stop at the Resurrection.  At Christmas Jesus comes to us through Mary, because He loves us and He uses her gentleness and simplicity to come without bringing fear upon us.  At the wedding feast Mary again is the one who brings Christ to us when He begins his public ministry.  At the Crucifixion Mary does not fight with the fact that her Son has to die to save us.  She willed for that sacrifice when she said yes to the Angel at the Annunciation.  Today Mary still brings her Son to us, not because we can't pray otherwise, not because we think she's God no no no it is because He loves her and she is our Mother.  The Lord Jesus still comes to us through the loving hands of His Mother. 

We are not meant to be alone, we are communal beings and in that we very much need to be in communion with our Mother.  I've gotten very close to her Immaculate heart in the last few months and do you know what you can find in the heart of Mary?  Her Son.  Her will is united with His in heaven.  It just so happens we have the gift of having Mary as our Mother and friend to lead us to Love, to her Son.  She has been guiding me for a very long time and it is just recently that I have begun to notice and thank her.  She's even using those pesky happenings of impatience in me. 

I didn't know why I needed Mom but I think that's the wrong question.  It's kinda like asking why do we have to go to Mass on Sunday.  I always correct my CCD students when they ask that with a quick, "Why do we get to go to Mass on Sunday?"  The same thing goes for Mom; it's not why we need her, but how did we get so lucky to have her.  That reason my dear brothers and sisters is because Jesus loves us. 

Albeit is easier said than done to grow a relationship with Our Lady I think I have realized one of the reasons it was so difficult at first for me to love her:

We live in community in the truest sense of the word at the seminary and every seminarian wants to be a part of everything his brothers are doing, and they always want to help.  For instance, I'm playing poker with some guys, not gambling don't worry ;), and there is a seminarian walking down the hall and he comes to look over my shoulder at my hand, no big deal.  However he starts to give me advice on what to do with this hand and I start holding my cards close to my chest.  I let him know I don't want his advice I can handle it on my own.  I could handle it on my own, either I win the hand or I don't.  If I don't, maybe his advice would've helped.  Even if his advice would've been the same as what I already planned on doing it doesn't hurt to get that second opinion.  I think with our lives we keep our hands close to our chest because we are afraid of someone telling us what to do but with Mary, she truly does know best because she is in perfect union with our Lord in heaven.  Maybe her advice in our lives wouldn't be different than the path we are already taking but it can't hurt to allow that second opinion, especially because Mary is a poker legend in the spiritual life. 

I know a lot of good and holy Catholics who have strong love for our Lord and they try their best to do what it is that He wants of them.  It's admirable, I very much look up to those holy people but if you are one of those holy people, and yet you don't know Mary all that well, Jesus gave you her and vice versa as a gift, not a burden.  Accept that gift and let her accept you because in that, fruit will grow. 

I want to leave you with a song that we seminarians love to sing after Night Prayer called "Lady of Confidence" and its not just because it is a short hymn; it's cuz its awesome.

It goes like this:

"Lady of Confidence, Mother of all, teach me and lead me into His thirst, so I may come to know God's only Son.  Lady of Confidence, Mother of all."

Take some time and talk to her even if it's as simple as the first prayer I offered up in September: 

"Mary, I don't know you but I think I'd like to." 

God bless all of you this week.  Know of my prayers for you and my continued petitioning of Momma Mary to keep you close. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Making New Friends

I have a lot of love in my heart today.  The Lord has used the love of his Mother to open the eyes of my heart so to speak and let me tell you, there is a lot of beauty to see all around us.  I often forget to notice the many gifts that I receive every day.  Normally the reason I miss it is because I’m very selfish.  Whenever something goes right, it didn’t go right enough, or there is something more that I think I deserve when in all actuality if I would just look I’d see that I should be very well content and even overwhelmed with love. 

Some may say that I am a bit of a social butterfly.  One of my favorite things about going home is serving at Mass and then talking with people afterwards, even in just telling them to make it a great week.  I love interactions with people and in a special way I love making new friends.  It’s a gift and one of my most enjoyed encounters when learning more about a person and a relationship growing that brings both parties closer to heaven.  When I joined the seminary I was so excited to meet new people.  I was leaving Illinois going out of state to a school where I only knew two guys going in.  New professors, new priest examples, new friendships to grow.  About 3 weeks into seminary my first year, I realized that I wouldn’t really make new friends from that time on until the next year.  Reason I say that is because out here we become family fast which is a much different and much deeper type of relationship.  I take great joy in that.  Last year and again this year, same thing, new men come in and within a few weeks its family.  How lucky am I to be surrounded by 46 brothers who have my back at all times, even if we don’t always agree on everything.  However come to the thick of the semester, my heart starts to yearn to branch out, to reach out to more people.  Last year I didn’t even know this was a reason why loneliness started to creep up on me.  I reached out to old friends from back home and the majority of them had changed…or maybe just maybe I had changed. 

In the short time that I’ve been in the seminary I’ve learned a few things very well.  One of them is that the Lord sent me here to become a better man, and in that He has given me the opportunity to grow in discernment of my vocation.  He also has shown me that I am not alone.  I talk about the importance of realizing that you aren’t alone a lot but I’ll be honest, the reason I come to that phrase so often is because I do have bouts of feeling alone.  This semester has not been to different when it comes to not having the opportunity to reach out and meet more of the Church however I now have the pleasure of teaching CCD on Wednesdays.  God bless those kids for having to listen to me ramble off my stories.  There is one other difference this semester too though.  I’ve made a lot of new friends.  I’ve also had many relationships become deeper where I can rely more on them.  These friends I’m making, these relationships I’m deepening…they are with the saints. 

I’ve always had an affinity for reading about the saints, especially the martyrs.  There is nothing that gets me more jacked up than reading the lives of men and women who gave it all because they love Jesus.  I don’t know many seminarians who haven’t thought about how cool it would be to be martyred while participating in the mission of the Church.  Every guy has his own vision of it but we all have it.  That may sound morbid to non-seminarians but let’s be honest; there is no greater love then to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  I also like to read about the strong women of the Church.  They seem to have some of the clearest messages because they lived their lives with a level of transparency that many of us struggle to do today.  I rarely took my mind out of their stories to actually ask their intercession however.  This year that has changed and I think the Lord realized I needed the back up.  I know this is already a long post but I’d like to tell you about some of my new friends who have been teaching me a few things this semester.

My friend Mary, she has been taking every aspect of my life and talking to me about it.  She’s started to take the most confusing parts of my life and unscramble them.  When she's around I see so clear what I am supposed to do, and she also helps me to truly feel how much God loves me. 

My other friend John Paul, he’s been my sounding board.  I love the Church and especially everyone in it but sometimes I feel like I don’t do enough.  He always answers with hey man, just keep loving.  I ask him how and he just smiles.  That’s it.  A lil ol’ smile and yet it’s never been so clear.

Whenever I’m mad I start reading some old letters I got from Paul.  He’s like a big brother.  He calls me out when I’m not following God’s will, but he’s also not afraid to pat me on the back when I’m going in the right direction.  The best advice he has given me is probably ‘rejoice in the Lord always.’  What else could be better than that?

I have a bunch of friends I could tell you about but all of them have been pretty open with me about how they want to be your friends too.  Whatever it is that’s on your heart, there is somebody out there who understands completely.  If you don’t know who it could be, shoot me a message and maybe we can search and meet em’ together.  God bless all of you.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hearts on Fire

Our hearts were made to be full of love.  Our hearts were made to love fully. 

As it says in the beginning of Genesis 1:26, “Then God said: Let us make men in our image, after our likeness.”  It would reason to seem that our hearts would too be made in the image and likeness of the heart of He who made us.  I don’t know about you (but I’m feeling 22…just kidding) but my heart is far from perfect.  It doesn’t exude charity at all times and it definitely doesn’t make sacrifices as the heart of our Lord does daily.  It should though. 

In the last few months I have come to the conclusion in prayer that my vocation first and foremost is “the universal call to holiness”, however as a Catholic I have heard this phrase over and over and I think it doesn’t carry with it the weight that our true calling carries.  I was thinking what phrase would exude my true understanding of this universal call and I think, “we have a call to be beaten down daily for the love of the cross, that our will may be perfectly united in the sacrificial love of GOD who died for each and every one of us,” has a much better ring to it.  That’s how I feel anyway.  Whenever I struggle and I bring that to the suffering of Christ crucified my heart ignites with love.  However, when I start to question why I am struggling, AKA bring about contempt for said suffering, my heart starts to cool.  The coldness of Christian’s hearts, I believe, is one of, if not the worst plague that can hit the Church.  As sad as it is for me to admit, I have been a part of that plague and I think if push came to shove most of you reading this would have to admit your own struggle with being a part of the cold heart’s club.  Daily I get up and I ask Mary to let my heart beat in unison with her Son’s.  Some days it does and I can look around and have no problem in proclaiming that today is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it; other days however, it seems it is easier to say this is the day the Lord has made, when is Friday?  

In answer to this struggle the Lord has been posing the question to me lately, why do I do the things that I do?  I’ve been applying that question to every aspect of my life and I’ve come up with a few answers that are good and holy and other answers that are grounded in laziness and pride.

The lesson the Lord has taught me through my asking this question, is that my actions must always be for a purpose, and a good purpose at that.  I’m a cradle Catholic, I pray, that’s what I do.  Why though?  I have forced myself to dig deep and ask, what is the purpose of my going to the Lord?  Is it obligation?  Is it tradition?  Yes and yes but even more than that, it is because I was made for perfect love, to be loved perfectly and to love perfectly.  That is why I pray.   That is why I fast.  That is why I get out of bed in the morning.  Before I go to bed I do an examination of conscience and I ask of every happening of that day, did I do that out of love?  Sometimes I receive great joy that the Lord helped me to love in that time but other times I can see that I didn’t do said action for love’s sake but for something more selfish.  In that I learn how to improve daily, to be a “better version” of myself tomorrow than today. 

It’s getting to the point in the semester where I can either, lose sight of the goal and let my heart cool, or I can tighten up on my attitude, that the goal may be the shining light that guides my path and warms my heart.  The choice is mine; God loves me enough to give me that choice.  The choice is yours too; I warn you though, it is much harder to be you when you extinguish the flame that lights your heart.  Don’t be afraid to analyze your daily actions for why you do them.  The answer should be that we do everything for the greater glory of God. 

At the end of this semester, this year, my seminary studies, my life I hope to be able to pray 2 Timothy 4:7 with my whole heart.

“I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

My dear brothers and sisters, when the going gets tough get jacked because it’s another opportunity to give everything.  There is no greater feeling than being poured out as a libation.  When the Lord was emptied He gave the most.  Let us be empty that we may fill the world with love.   

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Saint's/Soul's Day

All Saint’s Day…The day we celebrate all the Saints, and all the saints.  As a priest reminded us this morning, God willing we are in heaven someday this is going to be our feast day.  Maybe some of us will make it on the calendar but either way today is a big day for our fallen brothers and sisters who are looking on God’s face.  I told Father after Mass that his homily made me long for death, and it wasn’t out of boredom this time.  It was because I long for heaven.  To see God’s face, to be in perfect union with him…that’s worth everything.  It’s worth every sacrifice, every struggle, every confusion of this life to have that eternity. 

I think sometimes we can lose sight of that goal.  I’m studying to be a priest and when I’m struggling with a brother seminarian or with my classes I look to the future where I will, God willing, be serving the people of God as a Father.  It truly is a beautiful thing to mediate on.  Maybe it’s married life for you, or to be a sister but either way looking to a found and fulfilled vocation would excite anyone.  Not often however do I mediate upon heaven when things are falling apart.  I don’t know why because it would seem looking to the brightest end of the tunnel would bring the most peace.  Today I’ve spent the day baking and listening to Praise and Worship music.  Every song sings about how good God is and dang right He is but He’s not just good.  He’s perfect.  He loves me.  My biggest desire is to someday hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”  I get goosebumps thinking about my loving Heavenly Father speaking those words.  Seriously though. Think about it. Ahhhhhhh! GOD IS SO BIG!  I don’t know what you are going through right now but I can imagine some of you are having a hard time.  I want you to know that I’m praying for you.  It’s all worth it.  Even in the most difficult times remember that you are loved.  As I’ve said before let that love guide you; don’t be afraid to take a moment to think about the glorious destination though.  When we live our lives with Christ as the center, our eternity will have Christ as the center. 

All Soul’s Day.  This day we remember and pray for the holy souls in purgatory.  I spoke of the joy in being in heaven and celebrating the face of God but for most of us we will first be purified.  The idea of purgatory has two levels for me.  Firstly, there is great excitement in reaching purgatory for that means that you will be in heaven with God after you are purified of sin.  However there is one aspect that has brought a bit of sadness to me.  Sometimes in the intercessions it is mentioned to pray for all the souls in purgatory especially those who have no one to pray for them.  There are souls in purgatory that have no one to pray for them.  This was even mentioned by the main character in the movie Gravity.  She said she didn’t want to die because she would have no one to pray for her.  I petition you to remember the souls tomorrow and every day.  If you have time in the next couple days make a visit to a local cemetery and say some prayers for the souls in purgatory.  It carries with it a plenary indulgence for a soul in purgatory.  What this means is that you could be responsible for a soul being released from purgatory and entering heaven.  I can imagine that new saint would be very grateful and would pray for you in return.  That’s a pretty sweet deal. 
In a special way though please remember the priests of your diocese who have passed away.  I don’t pray for the priests I know here on earth nearly enough but I have greatly neglected those who have gone before us.  Our priests deserve the love and support of their spiritual children but I think we take them for granted.  I could write an entire post on the many things priests do for us but for the sake of meditation just take a few examples.  Our spiritual father’s listen to our problems and carry that weight much like our earthly parents would.  They sacrifice for us that we may grow closer to God.  They unify us as a family and show us how to be brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.  The priests in my life have been some of the greatest leaders spiritually and in every other aspect of life as well.  Tomorrow when we are praying for the holy souls in purgatory, our family members and friends who have left this earth let us not forget our spiritual fathers.  I hope in however many years when I am on my way to see God there is someone shooting up a prayer for me.   God bless all of you.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Then what?

The Christian life is a whirl wind.  Just for a minute think about Holy Week, the first Holy Week.  Jesus goes from being loved all the way to being put to death and then He resurrects from the dead.  In between He institutes the Eucharist at the Last Supper and the priesthood at the washing of the feet.  He goes to pray in the garden and His best friends fall asleep.  They promise to follow him and yet Our Lord is denied in that week.  Jesus gave everything in that week…Jesus gives everything every week.  Think about that.  Gosh we are blessed.

As Christians we are called to be “little Christs” but I was thinking about my life and I have had big spiritual events and my own little crosses and resurrections but nothing as packed as the life of Christ.  I know that I am called to give every moment to God though.  I started to ask the question a few years ago; how can I give my life to the Lord?  Many of you are probably thinking, ‘oh Bobby is great, he is following his call toward the priesthood’.  Thank you but to be honest that’s a decision I have to make every day as well as the decision to give every moment to God, even in the little things.  What guides us towards this though?

I was recently talking with another seminarian about how he realized his call to come to seminary and he told me a simple and yet profound story.  For the sake of the blog the seminarian's name is Jeff.  Jeff's brother was a few years behind him in school, but in high school Jeff’s brother asked him, “Jeff, what are you going to do with your life?”  Jeff responded with, ‘Well I’m going to go to college.’ ‘Then what?’, his brother asked.  ‘I’ll get a good job.’ ‘Then what?’  ‘I’ll find a pretty girl and settle down’ ‘Then what?’ ‘I’ll have a family’ ‘Then what?’ ‘Ummm, retire?’ ‘Then what?’ With sadness Jeff replied, ‘Well, I guess I die.’ ‘Then what?’

All be it every ‘Then what?’ got progressively more annoying the last one hit Jeff hard.  Then what…

On the surface I could go on to discuss the need to reflect on the last things and how we need to repent from our sinful ways and believe in the gospel.  That’s well and true, “REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL” is one of my favorite phrases to yell in the hallway but I think there is something a little more in depth to look at.  Why was Jeff’s brother so consistent in asking what was next in Jeff’s life?  Maybe it was just the fact that he was an annoying little brother.  Maybe, but I think the Holy Spirit used him, in a very simple way to bring to light the calling of God for Jeff.  Daily the Holy Spirit is active in your life.  Firstly, let us not forget that He is the third person of the Trinity.  We see images of the dove and fire and wind and yes He has manifested himself in such a way but He is defined as a person.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit is described as such: The Love between the Father and the Son was so great that it is another Person.  How cool is that?  Seriously though, Love itself is asking you to move.

LOVE ITSELF IS ASKING YOU TO MOVE.  There was a song I sang back in the good ol’ youth group days that had the line, “Every move I make, I make in You, You make me move.”  I’ve had some serious desolation in prayer in the last few months and when it is difficult to pray it can became easy to forget where we need to be moving.  If you are having a rough time praying, know that you are nowhere near alone in that, and also I ask you to do me a favor.  Go to your place, everybody’s got one, mine is out in our courtyard by a Mary statue, maybe yours is your room or a spot in the chapel or maybe you like to walk and pray, no matter what it is go there and just say this simple prayer: “Holy Spirit, I’m empty.  Holy Spirit, I’m lonely.  Holy Spirit, I long for your love.  Fill me.”  Sometimes desolation can be a positive thing, making us strong for the future but other times, at least in my own life, I have found that when I experience desolation it’s because I haven’t allowed myself to move toward the Lord.  Matt Maher says it best when he says, “I was looking outside, as if love would ever want to hide.”  I don’t know why I search for consolation in all these earthly things when the Holy Spirit is beckoning to us.  Know that I am praying for you, whoever it is that reads this.  We are called to make every move in God and for God.  When we don’t we need to start asking the question, ‘Then what?’  It’ll take different steps for me and you but I know what the ultimate “then what” is.  It’s to be loved.  Forever.  Perfectly.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lightside of the moon (Light Part 2)

I’ve tried 3 different times to write about Our Lady and every time it just didn’t seem like it made enough sense, or even was worthy of posting so I didn’t but I’ve been reading a lot about our Mother recently and I believe I have finally found a context that will be cohesive and conclusive and that my dear brothers and sisters is the context of Christ.  As you may have noticed this is Part 2 of a 2 part little series on light.  If you haven’t read the first one it’s not necessary that you do but I strongly recommend reading it first.  It can be found below.
Yes I am a nerd, and yes I did misquote the title of a Pink Floyd song for the title. Since I got that little confession out of the way I think we should talk about Our Lady in the context of her Son.  Jesus was the purpose of her life, as it should be ours as well but with her there is something special.  I’m going to be honest with you my Marian devotion has been lack luster for most of my life.  I don’t want to admit it but I feel as if a lot of Catholics have lost the beauty of Our Lady.  I will venture to say after this past month that it is necessary that the Church faithful find her, and not only find her but love her.  A few weeks ago I had a very close friend of mine ask me if I prayed my rosary every day.  I beat around the bush, “I try to pray it every day.”  Hardly.  I had gotten into the habit of missing it or forgetting to do it throughout the day.  I was numb to the fact that it was hurting me.  To be honest had my friend not mention it to me I’d still be missing it for the most part; I’d still be lost. 

I’m not lost anymore though, at least not as lost.  I spoke about in part 1 about how Christ is the Light that guides us home but I think sometimes it takes something softer than the brightness of the Son to reel us into His love.  This is where Mary comes in, in my life, as well as the life of the Church.  Before I go further I would like to bring forth the image that Fulton Sheen has brought to my attention, of our Lady as the Moon that reflects the brightness of the Sun.  Before you read further just take a moment to meditate on that image.

If you would like to share any of your thoughts or things that have come to you through meditation please feel free to share it with me; I would love to hear it.

I will give you an example from my own life.  When I began this year I had made a resolution to carry with me three characteristics that had, in truth, carried me for the summer.  These three ideals are humility, enthusiasm, and love.  They seem simple and vague enough that I could find places in my life in the seminary that I could tell myself that I was living them but when you scrutinize your actions it’s also very easy to see one’s faults.  I love Jesus and I wanted desperately to love my brothers, to be humble, and over all to be enthusiastic.  For the first week I did that.  By looking to Jesus in the Eucharist I was able to fulfill my resolution but things started to get tough, and I started to lose sight of the brightness of our Lord even though I was spending a lot of time in His presence.  Other things began to flood my mind but it was in the simple pray of the rosary that I once again took notice of our Lord’s warming light.  It was in the silence of our loving Mother that I was able to see God ever so clearly.  Besides the fact that she was and is a sinless example of how to love like Jesus, and how to love Jesus, she also happens to be with Jesus.  I could just see her saying, “Son, let me handle this one” speaking about needing to come to me in a place I least expected it, in simplicity.  God and I have always had a pretty upfront relationship.  I am clear with Him and He is clear with me.  I’m used to coming to deep prayer in big ways, whether it be in a deep entering into a holy hour or in fasting for another person but I’d let myself get preoccupied with other things, albeit I was still going through the motions of those prayers.  Our Lady came to me through my friend, who in gentleness and simplicity asked me a pretty straight forward question.  Do you pray the rosary every day?  I didn’t but because this friend asked me I wanted to start.  I went to our Lady and told her, I don’t know you well but I think I’d like to.  She answered with a quiet response, “Do whatever he tells you.”  My dear brothers and sisters, sometimes we the need gentle point of view of our Mother to show us the obvious things.  Since I’ve begun running to Mary in the rosary every morning and offering up prayers for the people I love to our Lady daily I have also been seeing more clearly the love of our Lord.  The gentle gleam of our Lady’s love reflects the bright light of the Son so that we may seek where her light is coming from.  She comes in the night, in the simple and unlikely places in our lives that we may be brought to a deeper sense of His sacrifice for us, that we may see that we are loved, and that we may truly be led home. 

The Light will guide you home (Light Part 1)

The Light will guide you home.

Many people don’t know this but growing up I always wanted to be an astronaut.  I spent many an hour prior to 7th grade pondering about how one day I was going to go to space.  Obviously the Lord has called me to something a little different.  I still hope to go to the great beyond, but I think more about the everlasting one these days.  Yes I am a nerd, and yes I did misquote a Coldplay song in the title.  Reason for the little preface is I had a pretty good prayer session last night.

As many of you know I live in Nebraska and in our town there aren’t many lights so the stars are breathtaking.  It stands as the one thing that Seward Nebraska has over Rockford.  In the past I’ve loved walking around the campus out by our pond and praying by the starlight and this year I’ve been doing it even more.  There is something about the silence of night that makes the voice of God that much louder.  Last night I was laying on the wall by our Mary statue out in the court yard praying and I was overwhelmed by the love of God shown to me in the beauty of the night sky.  I was 4 decades through my rosary when someone in the gym flipped on the lights so in an instant the stars were no longer the cause of the light in the court yard.  Not only were they not the cause of the light, all but three of the stars had disappeared from my vision.

Of course I finished my rosary but that last decade was the hardest.  I was so distracted by the light from the gym.  It was almost blinding.  Not blinding in the sense of my eyes only but also spiritually.  Every day as Christians we, in a perfect understanding, would be searching to know, love, and serve God so that we can live with Him forever.  I start off every day by doing that but some days it seems within about 30 seconds I have something to take care of and my focus is quickly drawn away from our Lord. 

I was thinking about the title of the Light to describe God and I recommend taking some time to ponder on that.  I thought back to different times in my life.  I remember going to a Steubenville Conference with a bunch of people that I love.  Up in Minnesota that weekend the Light was so warm and bright.  I couldn’t look away; it was like a mosquito to a lamp.  Then I remember my first semester at Boylan High School and I was so caught up with my new friends and classes and the sheer pride that comes with being a Titan that I didn’t take the time to realize the Light had led me there, and was still trying to lead me.  But whaaaat?  If the Light of our Lord is so bright and warming it can draw me in for a whole weekend how can I go so long without noticing it? 

I think it has a lot to do with how close we get to the lesser lights.  Last night I could’ve walked out back and I wouldn’t have been able to see the gym lights, and the stars would’ve been just as bright previously and yet I didn’t move.  So laziness kept me from that light, but what about in other instances?  Well my freshman year had I looked for the Lord guiding me I would’ve seen Him clear as day, and I am pretty comfortable saying I would’ve been infinitely more joyous; I didn’t want to take the risk of shutting my other lights off.  I didn’t want to trust that the Lord would provide me with the Light and warmth when I gave up my own feeble attempts.  I’ve come to the conclusion the Lord isn’t going to strong arm Himself into my life; that’s not what he wants.  He wants us to open ourselves to His love and to freely love Him in return.  Freely.  Which means we’ve got to make the effort.  He’s waiting, and when we are finally willing to follow the true Light we won’t have to worry about the darkness. 

We all have, or will have a dark day here or there where the earthly lights will blind us from our Lord but it’s in our best interest to do everything we can to stay close to the one who loves us fully.  Take some time, right now, and find a quiet spot and just ask the Lord to shine brightly for you.  Let Him know how desperately you yearn for the true warmth and guidance.  He’s going to surprise you.  Obviously my dear brothers and sisters we will go through times where it seems that the Light isn’t shining for you but maybe, just maybe, the Lord is asking you to open your eyes just a little wider.  Let Him lead you.  Let the Light guide you home to Our Heavenly Father.

Brothers and sisters, I thank you for taking the time to read this but as you may have noticed, it is only part 1.  In part 2 we will consider the one who most perfectly reflects the light.


Part 2 can be found at:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


“Lord I come, I confess, bowing here, I find my rest. 

Without You, I fall apart.  

You’re the one that guides my heart.”

I have a hard time accepting the help of others.  I have a hard time accepting correction from others.  I have a hard time accepting advice from others.  I have a hard time accepting love from others.  I have a hard time accepting lessons from others.  I am a prideful man. 

These things do not stop at the border of my spiritual life.  Many people think that because I am a seminarian I have everything figured out but my dear brothers and sisters I have to be honest with you, I have less figured out than most.  The Lord has used my pride to teach me a lesson though.  Abandon. 

If I have a project I will do anything, anything, to prove that my way is right.  For example, I am the baby of the family and I decided that I was going to get rid of the swing set in my back yard at home.  This swing set was a beast though, heavy duty wooden swing set put together with bolts that have long since rusted making the swing set even harder to get apart.  I started this project at about 2 in the afternoon, my mom was due back from work at about 330 and I figured I’d be done by then.  I wasn’t .  I didn’t bring any tools with me to take this swing set apart, I was going to man handle it.  My plan was going to tear it apart piece by piece because danggit I am Big Bad Blood and this sucker is going down.  However, as I said it still wasn’t all the way taken down when my mom got home.  She saw me in the yard and came back to see what I was up to.  I was struggling, covered in dirt, soaking in sweat, my hands were sore and red from breaking boards.  She asked me if I wanted to get a hammer for the nails and the wrench for the bolts.  Nahhh, I’ll pass.  After 5 more minutes of her watching me struggle she asked me again if I wanted her to bring me some tools.  No Mom, it’s really okay I got this.  10 more minutes and I’m getting visibly frustrated, at this point she brings the tools from the garage and tosses them on the ground near me.  I still didn’t use them.  I had this mentality that I needed to finish this project with the plan I had originally come up with.  It didn’t work.  I was tired, angry, and defeated.  At that point I picked up the tools and my mom noticed so she came back outside and she helped me take it apart.  It took about 10 minutes once I gave up on my plan and trusted in another’s.

My spiritual life is the same way.  I will sit in the chapel for hours upon hours in a month with no true prayer before I will admit to the Lord that I can’t pray.  I’ve had that experience many a time where I will do everything I can think of to improve my spiritual life and there is no improvement or visible growth.  Then when I get frustrated I will go into the chapel and plop down in my pew and let out a deep sigh.  At that point I let the Lord in on my secret, Lord I don’t even know what I’m doing.  I need you.  The Lord constantly gives me hints to what will make life, especially my spiritual life, easier not much unlike my mother with the tools and it takes me being broken to recognize that the Lord knows best. 

All of us have aspects of our lives that we have a hard time accepting help with and I ask you to take some time with the Lord and ask him to show you what you need to let go of.

This could apply to you in many different ways, for instance, when I was in high school I had sins that I seemed to commit over and over and I would go to confession but never gave those to the Lord.  I would tell myself that, hey I got a handle on this no worries.  I didn’t have a handle on them; I needed to give them completely to the Lord in order for those to be purified.

When you ask the Lord to show you what you need to give up, be ready for him to break you in order to get you comfortable enough with giving things to Him.  This summer I learned many things and that got me in the right frame of mind to pray this prayer when I got to the seminary, “Lord, this year is Yours.  Make of me what You want me to be.  I give You every aspect of my life. Use it.”

I warn you, when you pray this, be ready for Him to take your thoughts and plans and turn them on their head.  God is so big and when you let Him flex that God muscle He is going to flex you. 

It wasn’t to long ago that I had a dear friend bring to my attention that I needed to learn to love our Mother Mary more than I have in the past.  I’ll be honest, quickly I shut my heart and began to run in the opposite direction because the Lord was asking me to take a part of my life and admit that it could be better, as well as admit that others can teach me how to love more.  I tried my way of shutting off all advice from the people I care about because I know how to pray.  That didn’t work.  I had to abandon myself and learn from those around me, and ultimately, learn from our Lord how to love in a more pure way.  Do I understand the plan in which the Lord showed me that I needed to love Mary more? Not really.  Do I understand that the Lord showed me that I needed to love Mary more? Yes.  To be honest, that is all that matters.  Since I have given up my will for the Lord’s in this matter I have had the strength to say my rosary first thing every morning and I found an image of the Immaculate heart of Mary that I have put above my bed.  Every time I go to bed and every time I get up I remember that I am loved by Mary as well as her Son.  The Lord isn’t asking us to analyze His plans; He’s asking us to abandon ourselves to them.  This is a lesson that the Lord is teaching me in a menagerie of ways as of late.  Pray for me that I may abandon my life daily to our Lord through the hands of our Mother Mary, and I promise to pray for you that you may give everything, your plans, your sins, your questions to the God and Father who loves us.

“Lord, I need you.”

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lift High the Cross

The Lord gives us many crosses to bear.  Our crosses are specifically ours.  They are a certain weight, a certain color, and they bring with them their own certain pains.  As intimidating as this might seem these crosses are given to us for the sole sake of carrying something heavy.  They are given to us to teach us, to strengthen us, to share in us the glory of the resurrection.

I don’t know what your crosses are.  They very well could be completely different than mine.  That doesn’t change the fact that we are in community in the fact we are bearing these difficulties together.  While thinking and praying about my weakest moments I realized that one thing always happens amidst those moments; I feel alone.   Feeling alone in and of itself is a cross and when other struggles get stacked on top of it, it can become unbearable. 

You are not alone.

Do not be afraid.

These two phrases are used over and over and over, especially in Catholic circles. Read them again though. 

You are not alone. 

In our weakest moments, the reason we feel we can’t overcome certain struggles is because we can’t overcome any struggles alone.  We need the love of God the Father, we need the strength of God the Son, and we need the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit.  My dear brothers and sisters, they are always there, always loving you, always strengthening you, always inspiring you.  When you think that you are completely alone ask the Lord to give you peace.  Come to him in the Eucharist.  Return to union through reconciliation.  Most of all though…

Do not be afraid.

As strong men and women we never want to admit that we are weak.   Through this bravado we also don’t want to admit that we are afraid.  Afraid that we will go through life falling because of the same struggles day in and day out until the day we die with no triumphs.   Afraid that we are going to be judged, especially by those that love us.  Afraid that we are not moving in the right direction.    Afraid that we will never know, let alone fulfill God’s plan for us. 

Do not be afraid.

There must be a reason Scripture as well as the greats such as Blessed John Paul II said it so much.   It’s because we all are afraid.  Some days are better than others but we all have moments of despair.  Trust in the Lord.  He wins. He always wins.  If you let him.  It takes time.  It takes sacrifice.  But it is worth it. It is worth it.  

I’m not just blowing smoke, but truly do I also struggle with these same difficulties.  When the tough gets going…I get ready to get going in the other direction.  I have to remember that if I am walking with my cross, I must be going in the right direction.  This direction is going to make you die to self but it is also going to allow you to rise. 

I’ve found in my own life I am good at pawning off my struggles for a time, but they always come back.  When they do come back they are usually heavier and I am more aggravated.  I was having one of those days after becoming impatient with some of my dear brothers so I texted one of my seminarian brothers on the East coast.  He gave me great comfort and I ask you reading this to find men and women you can relate to.  Share with them your burdens, your fears, and your loneliness and I know that that will lighten your load.  I leave you with the words I was told by him in hopes that it gives you new hope and a new strength.

“The cross is a daily suffering that we must pick up.  The important thing is to not look at the past and add those struggles to the current weight of the cross.  Carry what you have that day and the next day pick up the cross given you then.   God will provide the strength necessary for that to happen.  He won’t abandon if you ask for his grace.  He wants us to carry our cross and carry it to him. “

My dear brothers and sisters, we are pilgrims on a journey home.  Let us lift our crosses in Christian unity and head to Calvary, that through these loving actions we may see the face of God.