American Idol

I read chapter 32 of Exodus the other day. It’s the “golden calf” chapter of the Book of Exodus. Moses was up on the mountain for 40 days talking to God. Oh, how I wish I could spend 40 days in the mountains alone, talking to God……Anyway, when Moses came down from the mountain he discovered that the Israelites had fashioned a golden calf and were worshipping it. I have thought in the past, after reading this passage, that we have come a long way from biblical times. We don’t worship golden calves, rocks, or trees. We, as Christians and descendants of the Israelites, no longer worship false idols….or do we?

Upon reflecting on this last reading of Exodus 32, I have come to realize that we do indeed worship idols. It’s just no longer as obvious as making a golden calf and worshipping it. We now, as Americans, worship money, power, and fame. We worship our own bodies through our obsession with our looks. We worship the bodies of others. We worship our technology–our iPhones, Facebook pages, text messages, televisions; and I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else out there. The lure of this world and the things in it is great, and hard to resist.

Fortunately, we don’t need Moses to go to God in reparation for our sins. Christ has paid that price for us. However, that does not give us free reign to do as we wish. We must not worship our money, our bodies, and our possessions. We must not use these gifts to give glory to ourselves. We must use the things of this world to give glory to God. As St. Augustine said, “Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.” God has given us a free will to do as we wish with the gifts He has given to us. We must choose to use these gifts to build His Kingdom. If we don’t, God might come down and “smite” us.

Published in: on July 31, 2009 at 7:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Where Are You Taking Me?

The current phase of my “adventure to salvation” began two summers ago. I remember it quite well. I was, at the time, an adult volunteer for my parish’s youth ministry program. I volunteered to chaperone the youth group’s annual trip to Atlanta for Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Summer Youth Conference. Having spent my freshman year of college at Franciscan, I knew what a life changing event it could be for the teens that went. What I didn’t know is that it ended up being a life changing event for me as well.

While attending the conference and spending much of the weekend in prayer, I got the feeling that God was calling me to get more involved in ministry than I already was. I came out of the weekend with the resolve to start a men’s ministry. I felt that this is what God wanted me to do, and besides, I was working as a financial advisor at the time for a major national firm and this would give me the opportunity to network and pick up a few clients….at least that is what I thought.

After the weekend, I approached the adult faith formation coordinator at my parish and shared with her what I wanted to do. She had a job for me right away! While it wasn’t necessarily what I was looking to do, she got me involved in leading a small group discussion on the Eucharist with other adults. Still, I felt the call to start a men’s ministry and kept praying for the opportunity to do so.

And then my world fell apart. In October of 2007 I lost my job with that major national financial advisory firm. All of my plans to start a men’s ministry were put on hold while I began the very difficult job of finding a new job. I started my search in the financial services industry because of my experience but opportunity after opportunity closed behind me. After about 5 months of searching with no luck at finding anything, I was starting to become desperate. I started applying for anything and everything. I even applied to be a manager at Burger King. They never even contacted me! (I hope it’s because they thought I was over experienced and not unexperienced!) I also saw an opportunity for a Director of Religious Education at a local parish and I applied for it. I didn’t want to do that job, but I need a job, any job! The pastor of that parish called me a few days later and said that he already had a candidate that would fit the DRE position better than I and wondered if I would be interested in Youth Ministry. I hesitated, not because I don’t like working with teens, but because I feared that I would not be able to provide for my family on a youth minister’s salary. But I agreed to an interview anyway, probably at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

A few weeks ago I returned to Atlanta for my second trip to Franciscan University’s Summer Youth Conference, this time with a group of teens from my own youth group. I spent some time reflecting on what had occurred since my last visit. A lot has changed. God was definitely calling me to ministry, just not what I thought. I wanted to start a men’s ministry. God wanted me in youth ministry. I’ve just completed my first year as a youth director for two parishes in Pinellas County, Florida and I can truly say that I love what I do.

What’s the point of this story? God is talking to you. He is telling you what He wants you to do. You don’t need a Steubenville Conference or a retreat to hear it, either. You just need to quiet your heart and listen. He’s talking to you like he spoke to me. Allow God to reveal Himself to you. I knew that I was going to be in ministry in 2007. It took God a full year to reveal His plan to me. It took a lot of hardship as well. I’m not saying that God’s plan for you will entail hardship, although it might. Pray, listen, and wait patiently for God. Endure whatever hardship comes your way in pursuing God’s plan for you. You won’t regret it. I certainly don’t!

Published in: on July 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm  Comments (2)  

Faith is NOT a Feeling

There is a quote from St. Augustine that has been bugging me for two days now. It is a quote from the Confessions of Saint Augustine: “I sought you, not according to the understanding of the mind, in which You were pleased that I should surpass beasts, but according to the sense of the flesh.” It has taken me a considerable amount of time to wrap my head around this one. Basically, what St. Augustine is saying is that he was pursuing a relationship with God based solely on the “flesh”. His whole purpose in pursing faith and religion was surrounded by what made him feel good. He quickly realized as he aged that pursing a “feel-good” faith is not what God ultimately wants for us and that this kind of faith will not lead to any sort of long-term satisfaction. St. Augustine realized that he needed to understand God in the mind in order to have a lasting sense of deep satisfaction in his faith.

Let me use an analogy to try to explain this. Take a young couple. In the early stages of their courtship, when they first start dating, their relationship is based primarily on their feelings. The young man and young woman are attracted to each other because they make each other feel good. After a period of time the good feelings fade, and the young couple has a decision to make. They can break the relationship off, they can continue to try to find those “feelings”, or they can take their relationship to the next level. Unfortunately, many marriages are based on continuing to pursue those feelings and that is a major reason why the divorce rate is so high. You see, no relationship can be based solely on feelings. The couple needs to get to know each other. They need to take it to the next level by connecting intellectually. It is through this dialogue that they enter into a deeper level of their relationship and develop a deeper, more meaningful love for each other.

What happens many times with our faith is that we never get past the “courtship” phase in our relationship with the Lord. We either break off the relationship after the good feelings fade or we keep pursing more “good feelings”. Our relationship with the Lord will ultimately end up in a broken “divorce” if feelings is the main goal of our faith. We will not find a lasting satisfaction. We need to take our faith to the next level. We need to dig deeper intellectually. We need to try to not only know the precepts of our faith, but understand them. I find over and over again that the more I understand my faith on an intellectual level, the more intimately I feel the love of Christ at work in my life. It is the only way any relationship will work. It is the only way that we can achieve true and lasting satisfaction in our faith.

Published in: on July 28, 2009 at 7:46 pm  Comments (2)  

Story of the Church–Book Review

What a truly wonderful book! When I selected this book as a part of the reviewer program for, I was expecting a dry, factual history of the Church. While there is nothing wrong with that format for a history book, this is not that type of book. The author tells the history of the Church through stories, fictional accounts, of life in the Church. He then delves deeper and explains what is going on during each significant period of Church history. I was truly excited to read this book!

The chapters are short and there are questions at the end of each chapter for personal reflection or discussion. If you are a homeschool parent with high school students, I highly recommend using this as a text on Church history for your teens. It is engaging and informative and definitely not “boring”, as some teens find history. Make sure you check out The Story of the Church today!

Published in: on July 27, 2009 at 6:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why Women Can’t Be Priests

My blog posts are normally spiritual in nature. I do not normally venture into the world of politics and the teachings of the Catholic Church. However, there is an issue that has been on my heart for a while. It started with questions from my youth group teens, and then I read a couple of articles on the subject, one from a blog called Roman Catholic Cop. The title of the post, Why Jimmy Carter is Wrong, got my attention. It was a blog about why women can’t be priests in the Catholic Church–the question I have been asked several times by my youth group teens over the past year.

My answers to my teens have always been what I was taught: “Jesus was a man”. “Jesus appointed 12 male Apostles, not female.” “It’s tradition.” While these arguments are true, they don’t hold much weight. Then things, like Jamie McAdams blog and other resources, kept presenting themselves to me. I didn’t look for them, they just found me. While I agree with Jamie and his arguments, I want to share my thoughts on the matter.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition states:

Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination. The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry…The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible. (1577)

Clear as mud, right? This is the same argument I heard growing up. While biblically based, I believe that there is a much deeper reason for this, and one that is also biblically based. For that, we have to go to St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. In chapter 5, St. Paul says, “For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.” (Eph. 5:23-24). Paul is talking about many things here. He is talking about the relationship between husband and wife, but he is also talking about the relationship between Christ and the Church. Just as a man is the bridegroom and his wife the bride, so is Christ the bridegroom and the Church the bride. In other words Christ is married to the Church as a man is married to a woman.

You might be asking, what does this have to do with women not being able to become priests? A priest acts “in the person of Christ” when conferring the sacraments. It is not man that can change bread and wine into the Body and Blood, but Christ. It is not man that can forgive sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but Christ. Just as Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church, the priest acts in “His person” as a bridegroom in giving up his body for his bride, the Church. For a women to attempt to confer the sacraments, this changes the relationship altogether. You no longer have bridegroom to bride, but bride to bride.

St. Paul also says: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Eph. 5:31). In the same way, a man who becomes a priest leaves his father and mother and joins his wife–the Church–and becomes one flesh with the Church. A priest marries the Church–enters into a covenant with Her. This becoming of one flesh can only occur in the context of the covenant of marriage. This line of reasoning also works with priestly celibacy. No where in the bible (correct me if I’m wrong) does God ask any one person to enter two covenants at the same time. A man must either make a covenant with his wife in marriage or with the Church through holy orders. He can’t do both. (Revision: It has come to my attention that my statement on married priests is not theologically sound. I need to give more thought to this matter. Thank you to Scott P. Richert and Adoro (see comments) for your input.)

I don’t know why God put it on my heart to share this, but I hope it proves helpful to anyone who reads it. I keep finding the more I seek to find the answers of my Catholic faith, the more I come to understand the wisdom of the Church. Everything the Church teaches just makes sense. I just hope and pray that my youth group teens choose to seek out the truths of the Church to gain a better understanding for themselves.

Published in: on July 24, 2009 at 7:22 pm  Comments (10)  

Who Is The Good Shepherd? You!

I recently went through a lectio divina exercise in which I meditated on John 10:7-11. In that exercise there was one phrase that grabbed a hold of me. It was the last line of the passage:

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

Christ is the Good Shepherd. He did lay down His life for us, His sheep. However, my conversation with God in that prayer was not about Christ being a good shepherd. God told me that He wants me to be a good shepherd. He wants me to be a good shepherd first and foremost to my spouse. He wants me to nurture her, love her, and lay down my life for her. He also wants me to be a good shepherd for my children. He wants me to guide them into a loving relationship with Him. This is the same call that he has for me as a youth minister. He wants me to shepherd the teens I serve in my parishes and bring them into a relationship with Christ.

This is a big responsibility. I have the salvation of my wife, my children, and the teens I serve in my hands. I am being called to lay down my life, to serve them, and to guide them. I cannot do this….on my own. I can only do this through the power of the Holy Spirit. I can only do this with Christ, the true Good Shepherd, as my guide. Although this is a big responsibility, I am not overwhelmed by it. I know the Holy Spirit is working through me. I just have to get out of the way and allow Him to work.

We are all called to be good shepherds. Whether we are married with children or single men and women. Whether we are working in ministry or corporate America. We are all called to serve the people in our lives, to shepherd them. We are called to lay down our lives–to sacrifice our fears, our selfish desires–to bring all we encounter closer to Christ.

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’ve Got It All Backwards

I pray every day. Well…I attempt to pray every day. In my line of work (youth ministry) it is absolutely critical that I pray every day. How can I feed the youth if I am not fed myself? How can I teach them to have a relationship with God if I don’t have a relationship with Him? So, as any good youth minister would do, I schedule an hour every day to pray. And every day I go to the church and sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament and pray. However, I rarely make it through the full hour I schedule. As soon as I sit down I feel a pull to go back to my office and do something productive (as if prayer is not productive). I feel the strong desire to leave Jesus’ presence as soon as I enter it.

I was reflecting on this today as I was praying in the church. It hit me that if I really knew what I was attempting to do (i.e. talk with God) then it should be more difficult for me to leave the church. My desire should be to remain in front of the Blessed Sacrament ALL DAY LONG! Instead, I’ve got it all backwards. I want to stop praying–to stop communicating with God–as soon as I start. How can I have a relationship with God if I keep running away from Him?

This world has many distractions. We allow ourselves to get caught up in them. No wonder we are all physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. We don’t take the time to nurture the ONE relationship that will truly fill all of our needs–physical, emotional, and spiritual. We should not allow ourselves to become distracted with everything else we feel that we have to do. The only thing that we absolutely HAVE to do is to talk to God, to enter into a relationship with Him, through prayer. And that goes for doctors, lawyers, astrophysicists, and grocery store clerks in addition to youth ministers. We all need to take the time-and get our priorities right–to enter into a relationship with God through prayer.

Published in: on July 22, 2009 at 8:05 pm  Comments (3)  

Truth and Lies

“If I really know the truth, then I have to change something.” This is a quote from a speaker at Franciscan University of Steubenville’s summer Youth Conference in Atlanta which I attended this past weekend. It really struck me. I have always thought that I really know the truth. I’m a Catholic youth minister, so my life is surrounded with the truths of my faith. This statement got me thinking about whether or not I really do know the truth.

So, what is the truth? The truth is that God the Father sent his Son to save and redeem us. He started a new covenant with his people with the blood of His Son–a covenant that we are all a part of through our baptism. It is a covenant that requires a commitment on both parties to give of themselves completely to each other. God gives Himself completely out of love for us. This covenant requires us to give ourselves completely to God. It requires us to change something–to change everything–in our lives. This is the ultimate Truth in life.

So, the question again–Do I know the truth? I can speak the truth, I can write about it, but do I really know it in the depths of my soul? Yes, I have changed some things in my life. Unfortunately I have not changed everything. I have, on some level, bought into the lies of the devil–lies of individualism, hedonism, and minimalism. I often times live for myself, for my own pleasures. I want the maximum return with minimal effort. This is not living the Truth.

I, we all, need to make a commitment to reject the lies of the devil. We need to reject the lies that life is about ourselves. We need to reject the lies that tell us that pleasure is the ultimate goal of life. We need to reject the lies that tell us that we don’t need to exert any energy to achieve salvation. The adventure to salvation is about rejecting self and turning away from the pleasures of this world. It requires a lot of hard work and energy. It is only in living in the Truth that we can obtain the joy, the glory, and the love of God. This is accomplished through prayer–through a relationship with Christ. It is in sharing our struggles and joys with Him that we can obtain the Truth and achieve salvation.

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 3:18 pm  Comments (3)  

I’m Inadequate

Have you ever felt inadequate? Have you ever felt that you just don’t measure up, that you are just not succeeding at anything in life? I have. As a matter of fact, I’m in the midst of that feeling right now. I’m feeling inadequate as a father, a husband, a provider for my family. Mostly, though, I’m feeling spiritually inadequate. This feeling has just come at me out of nowhere. In expressing these feelings I had someone tell me that a feeling of spiritual inadequacy may mean that the Holy Spirit is at work in me. Could that be true? Could the Holy Spirit be truly at work in me? Yes, I do believe that the Holy Spirit does work in me, but why the feeling of spiritual inadequacy with it?

I took these feelings to prayer. Even though I schedule time every day to spend in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I went early today. I just had to get in front of God and ask Him about this. I also took my bible today, something I don’t normally do. So as I was pouring out my heart to God and the tears were flowing down my face, I felt the overwhelming sense that I should pick up my bible and read the Book of Jeremiah. I opened my bible to the first chapter and this is what I read:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. “Ah, Lord God!” I said, “I know not how to speak; I am too young.” (Jeremiah 1:4-6)

I can feel what Jeremiah is going through. He felt inadequate as I do. It makes me feel better knowing that a prophet like Jeremiah struggles with the same things I do. It makes the scriptures more real to be able to relate to their struggles. God has an answer for Jeremiah. He has an answer for you and me, too.

Say not “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. Then the Lord extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying, “See, I place my words in your mouth! This day I set you over nations and kingdoms, to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:7-10)

We all are inadequate. None of us measure up. We must rely on the Lord God to “touch our mouths” and give us the strength to do what He wants us to do. It is through the power of God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–that we become competent. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to measure up.

Maybe the Holy Spirit is at work in me. What He is up to, I don’t know. Only time will tell. Until then, I give it all to Him.

Published in: on July 8, 2009 at 7:04 pm  Comments (3)  

God’s Grace is Sufficient

Today’s second reading is from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. As it was being read during Mass, one line stuck out to me. I kept repeating that line over and over throughout the rest of Mass. I just could not get it out of my head. That one line is:

“My grace is sufficient.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

Much of my blog is writing about the struggle between this world and the lives God wants us to live.

“My grace is sufficient.”

Many of us are struggling with financial hardship.

“My grace is sufficient.”

Many of us are struggling with health issues.

“My grace is sufficient.”

Many of us are struggling with the temptations of sin.

“My grace is sufficient.”

Despite all of our struggles, the grace of God is sufficient. St. Paul was in the midst of a struggle. He went to God and “three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me.” God’s response was probably not what Paul was looking for. Paul was looking for relief from his struggle and God’s response was “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect from weakness.” God was not going to take Paul’s struggle away from him. God may or may not take our struggles away from us, but we all need to remember that “My grace is sufficient.”

Published in: on July 5, 2009 at 5:40 pm  Comments (1)