Just Say No….To Self-Reliance

“But Susanna cried aloud: ‘O eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me.'” ~Daniel 13:42-43

Here we have Susanna, crying out to God after being falsely accused of a crime which we didn’t commit (for the whole story, read chapter 13 of Daniel). I’m inspired by her. Not because I’ve been accused of crimes I didn’t commit, but because of her faith in the midst of trial. I wish I had that much faith! My troubles aren’t nearly as bad as Susanna’s, yet do I cry out to the Lord for help? Oftentimes I do not.

I spend too much time relying on myself to solve my problems. I suppose that is why I have so many to begin with. I need to realize, in the midst of my trials, that God knows “what is hidden and [is] aware of all things before they come to be”. He is in charge! I need to rely on God the Father to solve my problems, not me! Self-reliance is not an option.

Because of her faith and reliance on God, God heard Susanna’s prayer and answered it. He saved her from her wicked accusers. We need to rely on God to provide for us and all that we need. We need to rely on Him to free us from our sins, to save us from the grips of evil.

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 4:40 pm  Comments (1)  

My Online Rambling Serves a Purpose!!

Writing to me is like therapy. I have found that when I keep a journal that my life is more spiritually enriched. I’m not talking about the type of journal where you write down all the good and bad things that happened to you today, although that can be therapeutic as well. The journal I have kept is more of a spiritual journal.

I have moved beyond the written journal into the realm of blogging. This here is my online journal. I write a blog just as much, if not more, for me than for those who read it. I started it as a way to minister to the teens that are in the parishes I serve as a youth minister, as something extra they could do to strengthen their own faith. What I didn’t expect, however, was for it to strengthen my own faith as well. The spiritual writing I do requires reflection on my part. It requires me to think about the topic I am writing about.

I try every day to find Christ at work in my life. When I encounter those experiences, I reflect on them. Sometimes I read something that touches my heart, whether it be a scripture passage or something from a book I’m reading. Oftentimes I stop whatever I’m doing and write. I feel strengthened when I put pen to paper….I mean when I see the words flow on the screen as I type them. God is truly at work in my life. If I take the time and reflect on it and write about it I will be drawn closer to Him

Why don’t you try it? I’m not saying that you need to start blogging. Just get a notebook or journal and a pen and start writing. Write what is on your heart. It may be only one word. If you keep a spiritual focus on what you write, God will reveal Himself to you.

Published in: on March 29, 2009 at 6:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Want to Deepen Your Faith–Try This…

I’ve mentioned several times in my blogs that I’m a big fan of Matthew Kelly’s book “Rediscovering Catholicism.” One of the things he discusses in his book is the importance of spiritual reading. He even goes so far as to say:

“We could…dream up of all types of elaborate adult education programs, but my proposal is that we encourage Catholic adults to read good spiritual books.”

Catholics are leaving the Church in droves because they don’t agree with certain teachings. But these Catholics that are leaving the Church don’t understand WHY the Church takes the stance it does. We can do whatever we can to try to get them to stay or come back but they will never understand it fully unless they discover it themselves. Encouraging spiritual reading will give all Catholics (not just the fallen away) the opportunity to discover the fullness of our faith on our own. If all of us would just take the time to read why the Church teaches what it does we will gain a better understanding of the beauty of the truth the Church is bestowing on us.

Likewise, if good, faithful Catholics immerse themselves in spiritual reading–even if it’s only 15 minutes a day–then they will deepen their faith and grow closer to Christ. I have tried this Lent to spend time each day doing some spiritual reading and I am already feeling the difference. So my challenge to all who read this is to spend time each day reading something spiritual. It will change your life!

Published in: on March 28, 2009 at 3:09 am  Comments (2)  

Voyeurism Anyone?

The world is a different place now than it was when I was a teenager only 20 years ago. The introduction of the internet and online “social networking” has had a dramatic impact on how people interact with each other. Websites like twitter, Facebook, MySpace and others have revolutionized communication. Even the cell phone and texting has played a major role in this dramatic change.

So, what do I think about all of this? At first glance it appears as though these sites are a great way to communicate with others. I have “be-friended” old high school classmates with the sole purpose of seeing what they were up to. I had no interest in reconnecting with them. Most of them weren’t really my friends. It seems as though people are more interested in a voyeuristic view of others than they are in a real connection with them. It also seems that these sites have become an avenue of self-promotion, “twittering” every aspect of their lives. This video illustrates my point.

There is no real connection between people through online social media or even texting. You cannot have a real relationship with people without interacting face to face, without verbal communication.

So what do we do? We need to consider why we are engaging in these online social networking sites. Are we there for voyeuristic reasons? Are we there to brag about ourselves? If you answered yes to either (or both) of these questions, then you really need to reconsider being a part of it all. I, myself, am making a resolve to use these sites as a part of my ministry–to share with others my faith and encourage them in theirs. I need to keep in mind, however, that my faith is more than just a status update on my Facebook or twitter page. I need to be living it out through my thoughts, words, and actions. You should try to do the same (right after you join my twitter network, CradleCatholic!)

Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

You Must Die!

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat.” In this Sunday’s Gospel, Christ is alluding to His own death. He is the grain of wheat that must die. “But if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Christ’s death has produced so much fruit! The field is full of wheat that was produced from Christ’s death. His death, and resurrection, will continue to produce fruit until the end of time.

Christ is also speaking to us. We, too, must fall to the ground and die. We must die to our sinfulness, our selfishness, our greed, our fear and anger. There is so much fear and anger in this country right now. Fear about the economy. Fear and anger about the direction the country is going in. We must die to these fears. We must let go of all of it!

We are all called to bear fruit. It is our mission as followers of Christ. Unless and until we die to our fears and anger, to all that is keeping us focused on Christ, we will never rise. We will never bear fruit.

Heavenly Father, we give to you all that is keeping us from you. We give you our sinfulness, our greed, our fears, and our anger. Give us the strength to die to these things so that we may bear the fruit you are asking us to bear. Amen.

Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 5:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Won the Lottery!!!

My daily journey to work takes me past a Powerball billboard. The estimated jackpot as of this morning (March 23rd) was $81 million. I have spent a lot of time and energy over the course of my life desiring more money. I would think, “Man, I wish I could win the lottery! It would solve all my problems. If only I could win that Powerball Jackpot, I would be set. I would not have to worry about anything.”

Over the past year my whole perspective on life has started to change. I no longer desire to win the Powerball. Would I turn it away if I did win? No, but the pursuit of money and worldly possessions is not the main goal of life. The “Adventure to Salvation” is the main goal of life. I teach a Financial Life Skills Workshop to high school and college students. I always end the workshop with this final thought from St. Paul:

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

We are being assulted on all sides by commercialism. Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and billboards try to convince us that we need the products they are advertising–that we are entitled to them. Do not fall into the trap that you are entitled to have everything you want. I firmly believe that that is the true source of this financial mess that we are in. Americans have come to believe that they are entitled to anything and everything they want. We, as a country, got greedy–ALL OF US, not just the corporate CEO’s or politicians. The fact of the matter is that we are not entitled to have everything we want. Life is not about the pursuit of worldly goods. It is about serving the Lord and sacrificing our wants and needs for the needs of others. Just think of the poor widow in the bible who gave her last coins to the poor. She gave everything she had. Did she concern herself with how she was going to eat the next day? No, she trusted that the Lord would provide her with what she needed. That is how we should try to live our lives. If I can live my life that way, then I have indeed won the lottery of eternal salvation.

Published in: on March 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Amazing Speech by a 7th grader

This speech is a couple of months old, but I thought I would share it with those who have not had the opportunity to view it yet.

Published in: on March 19, 2009 at 5:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Accident

I shouldn’t be here today. I should have died 15 years ago, when I was 19. It is only through God’s grace and protection that I survived and am here to tell you about it. It was an event that I have taken for granted the past 15 years, an event I haven’t thought much about. I should praise God EVERY DAY for His grace and protection that snowy day when the accident occurred. I should never take it for granted. I should never think it was “no big deal.”

Allow me to back up a few years. When I was in high school I was searching. I was trying to fit in. I went to a Catholic high school, so you would think that my peers would be loving and accepting—that they would be Christian. My experiences in my high school were quite the opposite. I felt ostracized. I didn’t fit in because I didn’t go out drinking with everyone else on Friday night. I felt left out and alone.

The summer before my junior year, I was introduced to a youth group. It was there that, finally, I felt loved and accepted. The friends that I met there had an unimaginable positive impact of my life. It changed the course of my life, changed the direction I was going in.

I decided to attend college at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, which I was introduced to in youth group. The experiences I had there were truly amazing as well. I met many college students with strong faith and a desire to grow closer to Christ. It was while I was there during my freshman year that I felt the pull to discern a vocation to the priesthood. After my freshman year, I left Franciscan and went back to my hometown of St. Louis to enter the Diocesan seminary there. I was in the seminary when I had my accident.

I had decided to go to Steubenville on my spring break to visit some of my old friends. So I set off, by myself, on a road trip. The trip up was uneventful and the stay there was very nice. It was good to reconnect with some old friends. On the way home, I ran into a nasty snow storm on I-70 in Ohio. I thought several times that I should get off the highway and find a hotel to stay in for the night, but I kept telling myself “Just another ten miles. I’ve got to come out of this storm eventually.” I was driving carefully, but I guess not carefully enough.

It all happened so fast. It was over before I even realized it. I hit a patch of ice on the road and lost control of the car. I’m not exactly sure what happened next, but from what eye witnesses told me this is what took place. My car went into a spin. The back end ran into the guardrail on the side of the highway. My car came off the guardrail moving across the lanes of traffic just as a flat-bed semi was passing by. The front end of my car went under the bed of the flat-bed semi. The only thing that stopped my car from continuing to move under the semi was that the back tires of the truck hit the side of my car and pushed my car out from underneath it—with the help of what I imagine dozens of angels protecting me and my car.

I walked away from that accident virtually unscathed. The only injuries I sustained were a cut on the forehead and a sore neck. My airbag didn’t even deploy to protect me. One of the witnesses commented, after asking me if I was alright and if there was anyone else in the car, that he expected to pull a dead body out of the car.

I’ve shared this story with family and a few close friends, but haven’t thought much about it over the past 15 years until just recently when I shared it with a couple of people who hadn’t heard it. Both people I shared this story said it was an amazing story. One person went so far as to say that I should be on T.V. sharing my story. I’ve never thought it was an amazing story until just recently.

God has a way of working in our lives. He has a plan for each and every one of us, and He will not let us depart from this planet until we have fulfilled His plan for us. I did realize, after the accident, that God must have something in store from me. My time was not yet up. But as the years passed and the memory of the accident began to fade, I stopped thinking about it. I also stopped thinking about God’s plan for my life. I just started living my life, as most Americans do, completely oblivious to the will of God in my life. Sure, I went to Church. I had spirituality. I prayed. I could even feel God’s presence in my life. But I was living MY LIFE, not God’s. I was living my life as a worldly person with spirituality. And that is why I never thought much about my accident. It did not impact my world view as it should have. God gave me life, then He SAVED MY LIFE. My life should have changed with that event, but it didn’t.

It is so easy to get caught up in the things of this world. It is so easy to get distracted from the true purpose of our lives. We are not worldly people living with spirituality. We are spiritual people living in the world. Our bodies will rot and decay. Our souls will live forever. When am I—when are we—going to start living life that way? I need to start thinking about God’s plan for me, not my plan for me. We all need to stop searching. What we are looking for is God. He is with us always. All we need to do is turn to Him and He will lead the way.

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 4:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

What Are You Serving?

Upon reading and reflecting on yesterday’s Gospel, one line in particular spoke to me,

“Such is the case with the Son of Man who has come, not to be served by others, but to serve, to give his own life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Our Lord was and IS a servant King. He is here to serve us, not to have us serve Him. We are all called to do the same. I’ve reflected on this in my own life. Do I serve others? I am a youth minister. That’s service to others, isn’t it? I’m a husband and a father as well. That qualifies as service to others as well, right? Yes, I do serve others in my job and in my vocation as a husband and a father. But true service to others is done without expecting ANYTHING in return. Do I do that? The answer to that would have to be a resounding NO!

I am not completely selfless in my service to others. I do, oftentimes, expect something in return. Whether it’s a pat on the back for a job well done or the opportunity to put my feet up and let others serve me for a while, I do desire a payback in my service to others. This is not what Christ was intending. He wants us to give of our selves, and then give some more. We will be repaid for the service we do to others, in this life or the next, but we should not EXPECT the pay back. We should give without any expectation for a “return on our investment”.

Lord, give us the strength to serve You and others without expecting anything back.

Published in: on March 12, 2009 at 7:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Where Are You?

“The Lord God then called to the man and asked him, ‘Where are you?'” (Genesis 3:9) This is the question that God asked Adam and Eve in the garden after they had eaten of the fruit. They were full of shame and were hiding from God. God didn’t need to ask them this question. He knew where they were. So, why did God ask Adam and Eve where they were?

God asked Adam and Eve this question because He wanted THEM to realize where they were. He wanted them to see that they had turned their backs on Him. He wanted them to see that they had left Him.

God asks each of us this question as well. “Where are you?” Are your eyes focused on Him? Are you running after Him? Are you placing yourself in the center of God’s love for us or are you placing yourself at the center of the universe? Where are you?

Published in: on March 11, 2009 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment