Monday, October 15, 2007

pardon the interruption

Well it’s been awhile (again) in between posts. We were on vacation one week, our middle daughter, Mary, was in the hospital with viral meningitis another week (she’s fine now), and the normal day-to-day craziness just conspired to keep me away from the old Blogger for a while. We’ve been back in the Catholic Church now for about 3 months now after our ten-year hiatus while on a sojourn through non-denominational, Evangelical Christianity and I have a few observations and/or rants:
1. Ratzinger has turned out to be a pretty good Pope & I really like his book, Jesus of Nazareth

2. I really did miss the sacraments; like rain on a hot summer’s day

3. It seems to me that nuns are the migrant workers of church ministry: cheap, available labor

4. I still don’t get nuns that don’t wear habits, or at least a veil. If you’re going to make the sacrifice at least look the part.

5. We’ve got some pretty good priests at our parish & I’m glad we decided to go with St. Joe’s.

6. The state of religious ed./faith formation at the parish level leaves much to be desired. Actually, the same can be said to some degree at the diocesan level too.

7. RCIA doesn’t work as a universal, catch all program. You can have one person with no prior relationship with God or church and another with a graduate degree theology in the same group. How can one class/group possibly meet the needs of both?

8. There are not enough young adults in ministry/lay leadership roles. By “not enough” I mean there are none. Where is the whole generation or two born after the conclusion of Vatican II?

9. I think it’s safe to say that several of the Evangelical, non-denominational churches I’ve been involved with were driven by worshipping worship itself.

10. You can have charismatic, lively worship in the Catholic Church too but it tends not to be so focused on the act of worship itself that it loses its context.

11. It’s cool to see the excitement in those I know who have decided to follow us into Catholicism.

12. All things being equal, I would love to work in the Church again in the area of faith formation either at the diocesan or parish level, but the reality is there’s just not enough money there to support my family. That makes me sad.

13. I really like having the lectionary & knowing that those readings are set and are not based on what I want to hear or how I feel or what cultural events/trends are happening. They’re just there for me to take in and let them change me. They’re like vitamins rather than candy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Remembering Rich

Ten years ago today the Lord called Rich Mullins home. Rich was more than a Christian recording artist; he was a poet and a prophet. He was inspired by the example of Francis of Assisi and did his best to follow Christ with Francis as his rolemodel. During my sophomore year at Franciscan University our student activities committee scheduled a concert with Rich for the fall semester. It was an intimate evening with just Rich & Beaker in the campus chapel, more of a worship night than a concert. In the follwing spring our student activities committee got a call from Rich. He said he was going to be near the school while on tour & had an open night in his schedule. They told him that they already had their spring concert and had no money left in the budget. Rich told them he'd come for free along with the rest of his band just because he remembered how great that fall concert had been.

Rich didn't profit from his fame. He took a modest salary and donated the rest of his income to his church & helping the poor. The last few years of his life was spent living on an Indian reservation in the Southwest teaching music to children. One of his final projects was assisting some of his friends with a musical based on the life of St. Francis set in the American Old West called the Canticle of the Plains. They called themselves the Kid Brothers of St. Frank.

The video below is for one of my favorite songs by Rich, "Hold Me Jesus". Everytime I hear it it cuts to the heart almost as if my spirit is praying the lyrics through while I listen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

so much to say, so little time to say it

I've been wanting to blog for some time now but just can't manage to find the time. Between my hour long commute and the girls' hectic after school schedules and starting RCIA classes (as a sponsor) it's usually pretty late by the time I can get a few moments alone with the computer. Even then it can be hard to get up the will to do anything with it after working on a computer all day long. Well, here are a few topics for discussion I hope to explore soon:

In light of the recent gospel readings over the past couple weeks, Jesus' "hard sayings" just don't jive with so much of Westen Christianity, especially evangelicalism and/or Pentecostalism.

I've been thinking about a line from a Caedmon's Call song Faith My Eyes: "But I get turned around/And I mistake my happiness for blessing/But I'm blessed as the poor/Still I judge success by how I'm dressing". That's got me thinking about what it really means to be Franciscan, and how to live out that calling in a secular setting while trying to raise my girls and give them the best I can.

On the sixth anniversary of 9/11 I'm still trying to figure out how a Christian responds to terrorism and rampant patriotism.

Here's a nice quote from Benedict XVI from his book Jesus of Nazareth:

"At the heart of all temptations, as we see here, is the act of punishing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if no actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives. Constructing a world by our own lights, without reference to God, building on our own foundation; refusing to acknowledge the reality of anything beyond the political and material, while setting God aside as an illusion--that is the temptation that threatens us in many varied forms."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Isn't it ironic?

I'm sitting in my living room watching this episode of Good Eats on the Food Network. The topic for the episode is making cocktails. As they went to a commercial break they showed a screen shot with the symbol for the United Methodist Church and the voice over said that tonight's episode of Good Eats was being brought to us by the United Methodist Church whose opinion on alcohol is pretty well known. Can you say ironic?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Great Quote

I was talking with a friend who was telling me about how he described his attraction to Catholicism to his non-Catholic friends. When asked about why he would want to get involved with such traditions and such his response was simply, "I found beauty there." I wish I had thought of that quote.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Simpsonize Me!

I went to this site & found out that this is apparently what I'd look like as a character on The Simpsons. Good times.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mother Teresa

Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence
and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not
hear.— Mother Teresa

Here's an observation or two after reading this article about a new book from Mother Teresa's confessor. The new book shares her deepest spiritual struggles and reveals that she endured a dark night of the soul lasting for nearly 50 years with little relief. In fact, in corresponded with the entire time she conducted her ministry in the slums of Calcutta even as her ministry grew and expanded in numbers and recognition. I can't count the number of times I've heard teachings from leaders within Evangelical circles that were completely contradictory to Mother Teresa's experience. So often the popular version of spiritual discernment relies completely upon our feelings. If you just don't feel God leasing you, or you don't feel his presence then you must be going in the wrong direction, you've got to be outside of his will. In think this is the direct result of a theology & soteriology that is completely egocentric. When your theology begins with your personal experience of God then using your feelings for spiritual direction seems only logical.

This is one thing that would drive Lisa & I crazy. Not thinking in this way also one of the hardest things to try to get someone to understand who had been raised in the Evangelical world. In the end (as it was in the Beginning) it's just not about me, its all about Jesus.

PS - My wife & kids were hasseling me about having an ugly blog so I've changed the template.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If Jesus is the answer, what's the question?

I recently saw a bumper sticker that read "Jesus is the Answer". I commented to Lisa that Jesus isn't the answer, he's the Question. What do we do with him? How do we respond to him? What was his message & how do we respond to it?

The Gospel reeading from mass this past Sunday is one of those "hard sayings" of Jesus that make us squirm and question our preconceived ideas about him"

"Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire,and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided,three against two and two against three;a father will be divided against his sonand a son against his father,a mother against her daughterand a daughter against her mother,a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-lawand a daughter-in-law against
her mother-in-law.” - Lk 12:49-53

So much for gentile Jesus, meek & mild, eh? I was reminded of this passage as I read this quote from the dust cover of my new reading project, Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI:

"What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God. He has brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually...He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love."

It's so tempting to get caught up in finding the right sound bite & bumper sticker slogan. Unfortunately, we so often miss the forest for the trees. Jesus didn't come to make me happy, he came to make me whole--by following his example of emptying, humility, and self-sacrifice--so that I can know God. He came to reveal the Father and call us to be sons in the Son, filii in FIlio. When we finally begin to wrap our heads around the idea that the Gospel isn't about us, that salvation isn't about us, that being a Christian isn't about us, but about God then we can really start to understand what it means to be a disciple, to be a community, a family of God.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Looking back on the road

Did we miss something? As we've journeyed back to Catholicism that's one of several questions Lisa and I have struggled with. Sometimes it seems like we were on this ten year detour just to end up where we left.

Before leaving the Church Lisa and I were very active and involved in ministry. I have a degree in theology from the Franciscan University. I was working as a religion teacher at a Catholic high school in MI and actviely involved in youth ministry for the diocese on the side. I was planning a career in the Church, hoping to land a diocesan level position in faith formation or as a principal. Part of me looks back at the last ten years & I have to wonder what might have been if we had stuck with it.

Then again, "God works all things together..." We've learned much and gained a greater, deeper appreciation for both Catholicism and the wider Body of Christ. I've been blessed with good, well paying jobs--more than full time ministry pays--that has given us the ability to pay off debt (from our ministry years). Most importantly, I think our journey has given us the chance to understand who we are, and now we can be true to ourselves.

People have asked us why we've decided to go back to Rome. The simple answer is that it's who we are, who we've always been. I've been watching My Big fat greek Wedding on TV while typing this. At the end of the movie the main character, Tula, says that she came to the realization that her family was big and loud, but they were her family & would alsways be there for her. I think that is part of the realization that I've had during this process. She may have her warts but Rome is my home, my family & it's where I belong.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Back Where I Began

After ten years in exile Lisa & I have finally crossed the Tiber back to Rome. The years spent in Protestant pastures have been quite an adventure. If I've learned anything during our sojourneying it's that the grass is not necessarily greener on either side of the fence. There is much that Catholics can learn from their separated brothers and sisters and vise versa. Having said that, I'm convinced that the best show in town is in the Catholic Church in spite of its own weaknesses and shortcomings.

It has been a difficult journey back to Rome, yet now that we've made that choice and been received back into communion it feels like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. We've come out of the Catholic closet to just about all of our friends and have been blessed by their encouragement. I still don't know for sure what will happen to our community, Matthew's House. For our part we've decided to continue gathering on Sunday evenings with our small group and continue sharing our lives with one another while supporting each other in our pursuit of Jesus.

We've been warmly welcomed back into the fold by Fr. John Caulfield at St. Joseph's here in Lakeland. I'm sure there could have been a temptation for some finger wagging & "you should've known betters" but that didn't happen. He has been very understanding and encouraging to our great relief.

My hope & resolution is to stay more current and consistent with this new blog, althoughI think I've made that promise before with less than encouraging results. I want to post about our experiences over these past years to share what we've learned and how it translates into where we're going. Of course, I also want to be a little more proactive on posting about theology and current events as well. The name of the new blog, Mysterium Dei, loosely translates as the "Mystery of God". I can't help but think that it will come into use again if/when we ever realize our dream of developing an lay monastic community--yet another blogging topic.