Monday, November 30, 2015

Saint Andrew and "Being Compared to Others"

Today is the Feast day of St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter.

I would assume that a time or two after the Resurrection of our Lord, St. Andrew may have gone home to visit family.  He surely got asked the question a lot walking around Jerusalem in the early days of the Church -

"Hey, aren't you Andrew, Peter's brother?"


"Hey, isn't your brother the Pope?  He's awesome!  I love your brother?"

And people from Andrew's churches that he founded probably asked him, when they wanted to try to manipulate him or get under his skin or play one of the millions of other mind games we humans play with each other:

"Why can't you be more like your brother, THE POPE!?!?!?"

Here's the deal.  We all live in people's shadows, and we all cast our own shadows that other people live in.

In working with a lot of people as a priest, whether spiritual direction, confession, or just talking with them about their struggles in general, I can safely say that A LOT OF PEOPLE STRUGGLE WITH THIS SHADOW THING.

And here's how you get over it - STOP CARING ABOUT IT

People will try to heap expectations on us.

"Why can't you be more like your mom?  Why can't you be more like your dad?  Why can't you be more like your roommate?  Why can't you be more like your coworker?  Why can't you be more like your sister?"

You know how long their heaping of expectations on you will work to get you down?  Precisely as long as you allow it to.


The only expectations that matter are the expectations that Christ has of us - the expectation that we be a saint.  And we all can become saints if we listen to Christ's call inside us and follow Him wherever He leads and do whatever He asks us to do.  That's all that matters.  St. Andrew knew that.  That's why he's a SAINT.

St. Andrew didn't worry about what others wanted him to be.  He worried about what CHRIST wanted him to be.

Andrew surely got to the point where he said "Yep, that's my brother, the first Pope, and he's awesome and I'm really proud of him and I love him dearly."

If he didn't get to that point, then he wouldn't have been a saint.  He'd still be miserable and whining.

Who cares about the "shadows" that others cast.  Be yourself.  Be who God made you to be.

Be a saint.  Period.

"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till." - J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Drunkenness vs. Advent

The World's Last Night

This is totally worth the six minutes.  I saw this on "New Liturgical Movement" this morning.

My brother, deacon Tony Hollowell, sent me the actual essay last year and said it was one of the best things he'd ever read


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Black Friday

"At about noon, darkness covered the whole land"

The only Black Friday that will bring you peace!

Friday, November 20, 2015

5 Quick Points Made by "The Mockingjay Part 2"

1) War sucks.

The first Hunger Games book (and the movie) are written in such a way that some people might secretly think about it all in a sugary way..."Sure the games are a terrible idea...but it all is kind of romantic"

However, the final installment is the whole point - look at what war does - so many people die - it's horrible - there's nothing romantic at all about war.  Collins delivers an intentionally violent and deadly punch in the gut with the final book because war is a violent and deadly punch in the gut

2) We are the capital

Gale has a line in the film when they spend a night hiding in a capital home.  He eats some of the food, which is way better than anything he's ever tasted, and says something to the effect of "I'm starting to understand why the people who live in the capital are the way they are.  If I had food like this, I'd go along with whatever else was happening too."

We ARE the capital.  The money we spend on hair and makeup and fashion would literally feed the rest of the world

this add from cover girl makes the point perfectly

3) The ends do not justify the means

The only place that says this is ALWAYS the case is the Catholic Church.  The Hunger Games reinforce that.  There is a scene where lots of innocent civilians are killed, and it is done, by the rebels, under the pretense that it will save lives in the long run.  The beautiful and Catholic point is made in the book and the film - that under that type of logic anyone could kill anyone else whenever they wanted if they just came up with a good explanation for what MIGHT happen in the future

4)  There are evil people on both sides of any war

So often people forget this.  The Hunger Games reminds us of this very perfectly.

5) We humans have VERY short memories

Toward the end of the film, as peace is being established, the following dialogue says it nicely

Are you preparing for another war, Plutarch?" I ask.

"Oh, not now. Now we're in a sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated," he says. "But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction. Although who knows? Maybe this will be it.

St Meinrad and the Paris Attacks

St. Meinrad was a hermit who lived and prayed in the woods.

He had a vision that some men were going to come and visit him and then kill him.

When they came, he still welcomed them, fed them, and treated them as Christ would have.

The men killed St. Meinrad.

St. Meinrad is considered a martyr of hospitality.

We talk all the time as the "pro-life" movement that we're not running out of room in our country and that the whole world would fit inside Texas...and rightly so...but some stop short of saying that when people are trying to flee war? 

Women who have abortions are scared about what MIGHT happen?

And we shut our doors because we're scared of what MIGHT happen?

I get it...we have to bring people in responsibly...and that's something to continue to work at... be vigilant about it and hash out how to do it.  Get a lot of smart people in the same room and figure out how to make it happen in the right way.

But ..but what are the radical Muslims REALLY afraid of? I think the radicals are afraid that moderate Muslims will see who we really are...what Christianity really is...I think that's what they're afraid of.

Why else would they send people to attack Paris through France's refugee isn't because its the only way into France...come on...let's be it stands right now if radicals want into France they're going to get in.

If you're the radicals, you send attackers in through the refugee program because you want it to want America to stop taking in the tired, the poor, the immigrant...because then your prophecy about America as the Devil looks true.

Here's my point - the only thing more RADICAL than radical Islam is LOVE. And I think LOVE welcomes the stranger, the poor, and the dying.  We can do it in a prudent way...we don't have to simply tear down our borders, but the only way to out radical the radicals is through love

...and if I die because of it...if someone kills me because I was too loving, too welcoming, too hospitable...then, well, there's not many better ways to go than being a martyr for being too hospitable.

I'd rather error on the side of hospitality and love then on the side of not letting Christ in the door

Monday, November 16, 2015

Postpartum Depression and Priesthood

NOTE: Postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are medical conditions and need immediate medical assistance.  What I describe below is often referred to as "the baby blues" and is a short term situation that occurs in almost all mothers who give birth, just as the "pastor blues" is short term and occurs in almost all priests who are given new and larger assignments

Priests can also fall into depression, particularly when getting new and overwhelming assignments.  They too should seek professional help.

I've been mulling over a thought for a while and wanted to express it here:

I don't know the ins and outs of postpartum depression, but I've certainly talked with and worked with moms who battle the post-birth blues.  Often times, in the wake of giving birth to a new child, partly due to physical exhaustion, partly due to hormones, partly due to real fears, there can be a depression that sets in for a time.

Most of the fear surrounding postpartum depression comes from a belief that "There is NO way I can actually care for this child - it will be too much."

I'm not saying I know what it is like to have postpartum depression, but I do think that for priests as well, particularly young priests, this same thing may take hold for varying lengths of time.

It basically arises out of getting physically run down (or allowing this to happen) but also out of a realization that "there's no way I'll be able to handle all of this!"

I think it is one reason that we see alcoholism and other addictive behaviors among percentages of our priests - when any person feels like things are spinning out of control, addictive behaviors seem to provide an element of "control" in the sense of providing some sort of "routine" or "coping mechanism" for stress.

I say this for a couple of reasons:

1) pray for priests, moms, and dads, particularly new pastors, and new moms and dads, and see what you can do to help with the work load.  There are two types of people who volunteer at parishes and who offer to help new parents:

a. "Father (or new mom), I want to help, and this is how I'm going to do it"
b. "Father (or new mom), I want to help, what can I do to help?

PLEASE NOTE: a. isn't actually much help

2) As for moms, dads, and priests in this situation, we need to:

a. get the proper amount of sleep

b. admit that things are, in a sense, ALWAYS out of control

c. be okay with the unpredictable nature of things

d. realize that putting up with the insanity of shepherding hundreds of families is PART OF the sacrifice we're called to

e. get some healthy exercise 4-5 days a week, and pray 7 days a week

f. realize that we figure things out on the fly and we DO start to get better as we go forward.  We never figure everything out about being a priest (just as mom's never figure it all out) but we learn how to do it well as we move forward in time

g. stop comparing ourselves to other moms, dads, or priests.  We all know moms, dads, or priests that we think "have it all together".  STOP comparing yourselves to them.  You don't know them as well as you think, and they carry crosses, suffer, and sometimes fall into sin as well.  The Devil LOVES when we look at others and try to compare ourselves based on information WE DON'T HAVE!  We can be inspired by others, but it has to be healthy, and we have to realize we DON'T know what others are dealing with.

As Archbishop Tobin said: "If we see what we are doing as a mission given to us by Christ, we will never get overwhelmed".  That might be one of the best things I've ever heard.  We have to realize that Christ has invited us into motherhood, fatherhood, or the priesthood, and he knows we don't have it all figured out and Christ is okay with that!

A quick story from my teaching days before the seminary: As my first year of teaching went on, I think I was just constantly stressed and overwhelmed, so much so that I didn't even have time to recognize that I was stressed and overwhelmed!  I was teaching 6 classes and then coaching football, and then I got a week off from football and then started coaching track.  My hair fell out.  I lost a lot of weight.  I suffered terribly, and I constantly thought that I probably was a fraud.  I was always about 90 seconds ahead of the students and I crafted my lesson plans on napkins during lunch! second year of teaching WAS SO RADICALLY MUCH EASIER THAT I CAN'T HARDLY DESCRIBE IT!  I remember being so happy on the first day of my second year that I cried!  I suddenly realized that I knew a little bit about what I was doing.  I remember telling a colleague, with tears of joy in my eyes, "I wish someone would have told me how much easier this second year is."

New moms, priests, dads, etc. - it gets better.  Keep going forward.  Be okay with the craziness.  Of course you don't know what you're doing in every area but press forward and you'll figure it out in time.  

To parishioners and those that support new moms, new priests, new dads, etc., pray for them regularly.

Some times, although rarely, I hear people say, particularly about new priests, "IT'S OUR JOB TO BREAK IN NEW PRIESTS".  That's just absolutely dumb and wrong.  It is the job of the Body of Christ to affirm and support new parents and new is the job of bullies to show people "how we do things around here"

Here's to all you new moms and dads and priests - we're all with you.  Let's all hold each other in prayer and journey together through the craziness!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Making the Third Way

This is a video I kept meaning to finish up but just finally got around to it.  All of us involved in the production shot footage "behind the scenes" as we went along, and I wanted to put this together.

Putting "The Third Way" together was a truly wonderful experience, and one that has a major part of my life for several years.

Thanks to my sister Emily for the vocals on this song and for Brian "B Shags" Shaughnessy for the lyrics and for producing the song.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Simple Fix to the Annulment Issue

I'm not a canon lawyer, so I just want to throw this out and see if I'm missing something

I recently had someone come to me who is totally on fire for the Catholic Faith, wants to join the Church, is devouring Catholic videos and homilies and cd's etc.

And she's been married four times.  None of those marriages was in the Church.  I recently got word that it looks like three different annulment cases.

You know what would fix all this?  If we, as a Church, said "If you aren't married in a Catholic Church, it wasn't a marriage in the first place."

That might upset the ecumenical movement a little bit, but we already talk about some of their other 'sacraments' being invalid, and, in all honesty, most protestant aren't going to care one bit if the Catholic Church says that the Catholic Church doesn't recognize their marriages as valid.

If we said the only time you need an annulment is if you were actually married in the Catholic Church, that would free up about (I'm guessing) 75% of our marriage cases.

And let's think about it - what protestant denomination does marriage preparation like we do?  If two people get married at a Baptist Church, do we really think they were taught and had, going into the marriage, the Catholic Church's understanding of what they were doing when they made their vows?

If you were married in the Catholic Church, you need an annulment.
If you weren't married in the Catholic Church, but now want to join, welcome to the Catholic Church!

Monday, October 26, 2015

When NFL players shy away from out

Quick back story for non-football fans

Jim Harbaugh is Catholic
Jim Harbaugh was a gritty, tough, scrappy football player in college and the NFL
Jim Harbaugh started coaching
His first head coaching job: San Diego State.  When he arrived they were terrible
Jim Harbaugh turned them around year 1 and went 7-4.  The next two years he went 11-1 twice
Jim Harbaugh went to Stanford.  Took them from mediocre to national title contenders
Jim Harbaugh went to the NFL and SanFrancisco 49ers.  He turned them into a team that was two plays away from playing for two superbowls
Jim Harbaugh took over this year as the head coach of Michigan.  They were terrible when he got there, and in a matter of a few months, they are one of the best teams in the country

The point here: Jim Harbaugh is the type of coach that, in sports terms, is a miracle worker.  The results above are UNHEARD OF!!!

If a good coach takes over a program, it ALWAYS takes a couple of YEARS to get good and Jim Harbaugh does it in a few weeks.

It's also important to know that Jim Harbaugh is known for his intensity.  The Onion had a hysterical fake newspaper story on Harbaugh the other day -

The "headline" is funny because in real life:
Jim Harbaugh is intense
Jim Harbaugh wants to win
Jim Harbaugh is a man of faith
Jim Harbaugh talks about toughness, intensity, masculinity, etc.

Here's why I mention all this - last year, when Harbaugh was coaching the 49ers, reports began to surface that players didn't like playing for Harbaugh because he was too intense, too into it, etc.

Your one job, in the NFL, is to WIN GAMES, and Jim Harbaugh does that for you, and you COMPLAIN that the guy is too intense?

Fast-forward to this year.  I sat down the other night and watched 10 minutes of the 49ers and it was an absolute disgrace to the game of football.  They were awful in every conceivable way, and it made it really easy to turn off.  That night the 49ers, when I stopped watching, were having one of the worst games in the history of the NFL

The 49ers were a great team under Harbaugh, one of the best, but the players were complaining that Harbaugh was too masculine.  And once the players got their wish, and Harbaugh was let go, the 49ers instantly became irrelevant and a joke, just like they were before he arrived.

Masculinity is mocked in a culture that thinks of gender lines as blurry (or at least wants them to be blurry).  When NFL players, who are supposed to want to win, and who are supposed to be hard-nosed and tough, when they start complaining that a guy is too masculine, we should probably start to prepare for the end of the world, or at least the invasion of our country by men who DO want to fight

Authentic masculinity is something that should be praised.  Intensity, hard work, discipline, etc. - these are helpful traits in our world, and we should celebrate them and hold them up when they are lived well.

I worry that cultures start to get soft and squishy and afraid of masculinity when things are plush, no one is invading, and everything is comfortable.  The day may soon come where we will once again look around and hope real men will step forward.  If that happens, I hope there are a few left in our country.  Evidence suggests that the 49ers locker room would not be a good place to start looking.

High School Religious Ed class 2 - virtues

I try to do a pushup, we watch a little bit of "Gladiator"...