Farewell for Now to The People’s Prince.

•August 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

There are many lessons about the human condition one can learn from a rock.  I sometimes think we put too much stock in just the appearance of this stone or that.  Diamonds are a woman’s best friend.  Why?  Because we put value into these things based off the shininess, clarity and lack of “defects.”  My grandpa taught me that there is much more than that that should be valued.  Not only in rocks, but in us too.

One year, when my grandparents came to visit, my grandpa brought my brother and I a gift.  It was heavy and round, wrapped in paper…about the size of a softball.  He told us that he had some trouble getting it through airport security.  We had no idea what on Earth it could be!  We unwrapped what appeared to be a small moon, only it was split in two, held together with string.  He explained to us that it was a geode.

He said that he had had it cut in half but instructed the man not to let it fall open or look inside it.  He also relayed this message to airport security who obviously didn’t appreciate the meaning that rock held for us.  Thankfully, this argument happened prior to September 11, so it made it’s way through unchecked.  We had it in our hands and on the count of three we opened the rock. It was hallow, filled with beautiful little quarts crystals sticking out of it.  He told us that the rock formed millions of years ago, yet we were the first ones to ever look inside.  It was the most precious gift I’ve ever received.

Papa gave me a lot of things, some were material, but it was the immaterial that I will take with me for the rest of my life.  I got my belly laugh from him, his orneriness.  It took me awhile, but his faith in Christ rubbed off on me too.

I still remember the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school.  We drove down to visit them in Houston.  I had taken several books with me; the first three in a long series of Left Behind series.  They were really short, I hadn’t realized that they had been meant for kids younger than I.  I was, however, totally engrossed in the story.  I had them read by the time we got to our destination.  While we were there, I stayed in Grandpa’s room and one night I glanced over onto his bedside table and there was the first book in the Left Behind series, only it was much bigger!  They had written a series for adults too.  I asked Papa if I could read it, and he, of course, handed it over.  I had it read by the time we left and they even took me to the used book store there in Pearland to get the next two.

I like to think that that was the first steps I took on my journey to faith.  I give Papa credit for giving me that gift.

We shared a birthday, which I always thought was unique. We called it the PB&J day…what were the chances that a grandfather would have the same birthday as his twin grandsons?  Every few years, our birthday would fall on Father’s day.  Kind of a big day for the men in our family.

He looked like Santa Claus.  He and grandma would suit up and visit the kids every year  in the town they lived in. Even when they would come up to visit us, they would stop by our school to eat lunch with us…kids would hurry over to see if they could sit on his lap and tell them what they wanted for Christmas.  I always liked to think of him as the rebel Santa because he had tattoos on his forearms from when he was in the military.  He told me once that he regretted getting the tattoos, but I always thought it gave him character.  They were both also in a Christian Motorcycle gang, which only added to the rebel feel of  Papa’s Santa persona.

His name was Cecil, but he went by C.A. or Sonney.  He was step-dad to my dad. He was my grandma’s best friend.  He was papa to all of my friends.  He was friend to all and brother to many.  Mom always called him “the Prince.” I liked that nickname. He was gentle and kind to everyone he met, though he still had spunk.  You should have heard the names he uttered under his breath concerning the young man that had to wand him down at the airport because the chewing gum container in his pocket was setting off the metal detector.

He succumbed to stomach cancer and passed away Thursday morning (8/4/2011).  I’m sad, but I’m thankful too.  Thankful that he didn’t have to suffer long.  I prayed to God that He either heal my Papa completely or take him swiftly.  I didn’t want it to be a long battle, and it wasn’t.  Kind of bittersweet.  I’m going to miss his laugh the most, the way his eyes would tear up from laughing so hard.

His faith was strong and he knew where he was headed.  He knew he had a job to do, to look after all of us.  I regret that he won’t get to be there when Kellie and I get married, but he saw the day that I was baptized and I think he was content with that. I’ll see him again before long.

It is not without a heavy heart that we bid a fond farewell for now to the People’s Prince.

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The Apostle Paul was Hardcore

•June 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment
Or: “Why My Meager First World Problems Pale in Comparison.”

2 Cor 11:18, 21-30

Brothers and sisters:

Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast.

To My shame I say that we were too weak!

But what anyone dares to boast of (I am speaking in foolishness)

I also dare.

Are they Hebrews? So am I.

Are they children of Israel? So am I.

Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.

Are they ministers of Christ?

(I am talking like an insane person).

I am still more, with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, far worse beatings, and numerous brushes with death.

Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked.

I passed a night and a day on the deep, on frequent journeys, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at Sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure.

And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant?

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

Adoration Hour – The Second Best Hour of the Week

•June 14, 2011 • 3 Comments

As a Catholic Christian, we believe in the realness of Jesus’s presence in the consecrated host. A lot of Catholic churches have a chapel where a consecrated host is placed for adoration. Some churches have certain times in which they display the host, while others offer the host in what is called Perpetual Adoration. This means that there is someone in the church, 24 hours a day…7 days a week praying/meditating/reading in the presence of the host. We have this perpetual adoration in my church (All Saints).

I had always been interested in participating  but complained that the only times available were during the week at 2 or 3 in the morning. I’m a night owl, but that’s late…even for me. As luck would have it, a time slot opened up on Saturday from 4-5 p.m. I knew I had to jump on it. I was looking for things to participate in to full fill my Stewardship and this was an awesome opportunity.

I went to my first adoration hour this last Saturday and it was really neat. It was quiet and peaceful. I can’t wait to go back this Saturday. I mentioned in the the title that it’s the Second Best Hour of the Week…surpassed only by the hour allotted for Mass.  It really is a great experience.

I happened across this video and thought I would share it with you. To often, practices and things within the church are misconstrued as “being for the old people.” I like that this is kind of geared towards the young ones. Enjoy!

The Ascension of Jesus and the Beginning of a Mission

•June 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Had a great Mass today with Father H. I always love to hear his teachings and his perspectives on things. Sometimes, it’s tough to swallow, but I like that. He doesn’t sugar coat things, and it’s not always feel-good.  Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, a celebration of the moment when Christ was taken up into Heaven. Father H, to most of our surprise, said that this wasn’t about Jesus. Yes, he ascended but the importance and meaning of this event wasn’t a Jesus moment. It was an US moment. You and I. It signaled the beginning of our mission. He was finished teaching us what we needed to know, it was now our responsibility to carry that information on.

How are you doing, as a Christian? Would you say that you are doing enough to spread the Word of God? Are you teaching the saving grace of Jesus? How about personally? Are the actions that you put forth, to your friends…family…enemies…strangers a direct example of the way Christ taught us to live? I know I fall short. It would be easy for me to say, “Well, I am new at this, I haven’t had a chance.” We’ve had roughly 2000 years! Our mission begins the minute we decide to dedicate our lives to Christ.

I kind of like what happens right after Christ ascended to heaven. Acts 1:10-11 says that “while they were watching him going up to heaven, behold, two men stood near them in white vestments. And they said: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall return in just the same way that you have seen him going up to heaven.”  I can just imagine everyone staring up into the sky and these two guys walk from the back of the crowd to the front staring up with them, looking down and saying, “Whatcha lookin at? He’ll come back, go forth and do what he meant for you to do.”

When I came home, I started stumbling around the internet (stumbleupon.com) and happened to come across this video that I thought fit today’s message. It’s pretty awesome. Will you be a trader?

If you would like to know more about the saving grace of Jesus Christ…come visit our local parish or any of the others in the Diocese of Wichita. Not from the area? Visit masstimes.org to find a church and their Mass times near you! If you have specific questions, feel free to comment below. If I don’t know the answer…I’ll pass it on to someone who can!

All Saints Catholic Church      ~       The Diocese of Wichita

A Case for the Need of Photographic Evidence of the Death of OBL

•May 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I have said recently that I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist in my reservations of the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death. I want to believe that we killed the most wanted man on Earth. There are, however, many aspects of what we have been told, when combined together, makes all of this sound kind of fishy. Yes, they are easily explainable…but in a world where 24/7 news networks rule the world, where politicians are full of lies and half-truths, I can’t help but feel a little bit of cynicism when everything seems to have happened so quick…so clean.

I know I sound like  a horrible person, but I’m not denying that this didn’t happen. I just think that, for our sake and the sake of the rest of the world, we need some kind of proof that he is actually dead. The families of those who died in the 9/11 attacks deserve it.

There is also a historical backing for the need of proof for things like this. Especially, for those who support OBL and his spreading of hate. General Dwight D. Eisenhower knew of this need. This was taken from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission in regards to the Nazi Concentration Camps:

“As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in World War II, General Eisenhower had been given information about the Nazi concentration camp system well before he led the invasion to liberate Western Europe (June, 1944). Reports on the massive genocide inflicted on Jews, Gypsies, political prisoners, homosexuals, dissidents, and other groups by the Schutzstaffel (SS) had been circulated among all the Allied leaders. Very few of the Allied commanders, however, had an accurate conception of what is now known to the world as the Holocaust until their troops began to encounter the death camps as they marched into Western Germany.

Ike visits the concentration camp at Ohrdruf with Generals Bradley and Patton

On April 4, 1945, elements of the United States Army’s 89th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division captured the Ohrdruf concentration camp outside the town of Gotha in south central Germany. Although the Americans didn’t know it at the time, Ohrdruf was one of several sub-camps serving the Buchenwald extermination camp, which was close to the city of Weimar several miles north of Gotha. Ohrdruf was a holding facility for over 11,000 prisoners on their way to the gas chambers and crematoria at Buchenwald. A few days before the Americans arrived to liberate Ohrdruf, the SS guards had assembled all of the inmates who could walk and marched them off to Buchenwald. They left in the sub-camp more than a thousand bodies of prisoners who had died of bullet wounds, starvation, abuse, and disease. The scene was an indescribable horror even to the combat-hardened troops who captured the camp. Bodies were piled throughout the camp. There was evidence everywhere of systematic butchery. Many of the mounds of dead bodies were still smoldering from failed attempts by the departing SS guards to burn them. The stench was horrible.

When General Eisenhower learned about the camp, he immediately arranged to meet Generals Bradley and Patton at Ohrdruf on the morning of April 12th. By that time, Buchenwald itself had been captured. Consequently, Ike decided to extend the group’s visit to include a tour of the Buchenwald extermination camp the next day. Eisenhower also ordered every American soldier in the area who was not on the front lines to visit Ohrdruf and Buchenwald. He wanted them to see for themselves what they were fighting against.

During the camp inspections with his top commanders Eisenhower said that the atrocities were “beyond the American mind to comprehend.” He ordered that every citizen of the town of Gotha personally tour the camp and, after having done so, the mayor and his wife went home and hanged themselves. Later on Ike wrote to Mamie, “I never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world.” He cabled General Marshall to suggest that he come to Germany and see these camps for himself. He encouraged Marshall to bring Congressmen and journalists with him. It would be many months before the world would know the full scope of the Holocaust — many months before they knew that the Nazi murder apparatus that was being discovered at Buchenwald and dozens of other death camps had slaughtered millions of innocent people.

General Eisenhower understood that many people would be unable to comprehend the full scope of this horror. He also understood that any human deeds that were so utterly evil might eventually be challenged or even denied as being literally unbelievable. For these reasons he ordered that all the civilian news media and military combat camera units be required to visit the camps and record their observations in print, pictures and film.

As he explained to General Marshall, “I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’”

His prediction proved correct. When some groups, even today, attempt to deny that the Holocaust ever happened they must confront the massive official record, including both written evidence and thousands of pictures, that Eisenhower ordered to be assembled when he saw what the Nazis had done.”

Imagine what would have happened if Ike merely said, “I am 95% sure that this event happened. Believe us, when we say that this happened because we saw it with our own eyes and know it to be true…so you should too.”

That being said, I have also been known to believe that there are things that we aren’t meant to know. If we knew all that every President of the United States knew, we probably wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. Who knows, maybe this is one of those cases, but there are so many unanswered (or seemingly too easily answered) questions out there. It would be irresponsible of us as human beings to accept on blind faith all that we are told by the government.

I am not an Obama birther, a 9/11 truther, a Holocaust denier…far from it. I have to say though, that Obama’s response that they don’t want to insight a reason for the enemy to commit more acts of violence is iffy at best. The release of evidence of the Holocaust didn’t cause more Nazi violence, a resurgence of the Nazi regime…it caused them to run. To hide, to kill themselves because they knew that it was over.

It is Finished…the End or Beginning of a Journey?

•April 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The famous last words of Jesus Christ before giving up His spirit the day He was crucified. Powerful words for the One who took on the sins of the world and died so that we may live. These words resonated through every fiber of my being on Saturday night, Easter Vigil. I wanted to write about my experience after I got home that night, but I really couldn’t put into words all that was going through my mind. I still find it hard to articulate the meaning of that night. I will probably never be able to give it the full justice it deserves.

We had class tonight, one of the few remaining in our session. The minute Mass was over on Saturday, I couldn’t wait to come to this class. Have you ever had something happen to you, read a book, watched a movie, listened to a beautiful piece of music that, when done…you just HAD to talk about it? You had to share it with someone? I kind of felt like that. That’s exactly what the topic of discussion was tonight.

They hadn’t done it before, but they took us into the church and asked us to reflect on everything that happened that night. We sat in the pews where we sat, anxiously awaiting our moment. We stood by the altar next to the baptismal fount. And we talked. Father H would have been amazed had he been there, having made fun of us at the retreat a couple of weeks ago that we didn’t talk much. It seemed that everybody was just as anxious to talk about it as I was. We broke down the entire Mass, what we were thinking and how we felt. What stood out to us.

We shared a lot of the same moments that struck us the most. First, that it was the most beautiful service we had ever been too. I think the music struck me the most. The entire Mass was sung and Father H showcased a beautiful voice. Everything from the Gloria to the Litany of Saints was more wonderful than anything I had heard thus far. Jessica, a fellow classmate, and I brought up a time somewhere near the beginning of our classes where Father H said that a perfect Mass for him would be that he would process down the aisle and everyone would be singing with an utmost of passion…blowing the roof off the church in glorious sound. I think he found that Saturday night. It was beautiful.

Other moments that stood out for me and the others? Father got choked up after baptizing us. He’s a pretty outspoken guy so it was and wasn’t surprising when closing the Rite of Baptism he let out a loud, “WHOOOAH!” Ha ha. It was funny, but was a perfect way to show his happiness. He then had to stop for a minute and collect himself. I almost lost it then. To me, that’s dedication. He felt the power of baptism and confirmation, the importance and meaning that comes with an adult entering with full willingness into the church. He then stepped down from the altar and gave each of us a hug. It was beautiful.

I think the Liturgy of the Eucharist, for me was the defining moment of the night for me. Yes, my baptism was important as well as my confirmation. But as he consecrated the host, I was so overcome with emotion that I couldn’t help but shed a few tears. It’s hard to describe exactly why and how I felt the way I did. Up until this point, we weren’t allowed to partake in the sacrament of communion. I didn’t understand until that moment why that was. By having to wait, it became something special for us, something sacred. Through this entire process we learned every aspect of why and what the act of communion means. Like I said, it’s hard to explain. Its more than just “knowing” what it’s about…its “knowing” it on a different level…feeling it into the very depths of our hearts.

Our teacher tonight said that our reflection about Saturday night was originally meant to be a gift for us, but ended up being our gift to him. Hearing about our experiences from each of our perspectives. The joy and happiness that we felt. As I said in the beginning of this post, Christ’s words resonated with me the entire night. It is finished. I can finally call myself a Catholic. But just like Christ’s last words, it isn’t just an end of a journey…it’s also a beginning. A new life, a new journey.

Lessons From a Blind Woman

•April 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Today was the fourth Sunday of Lent.  Just three short weeks until I am baptized. It’s been a journey, to say the least. When I first started the process of becoming Catholic, I did it almost begrudgingly. I knew I wanted to become Catholic, to be baptized in the Church…but I absolutely hated the fact that I had to go to “classes” and that the process took a little less than a year. It wasn’t until the first day of Advent that my viewpoint had started to change. I thought that I had already known all that I needed to know. I already knew the Apostle’s Creed, I could pray the Rosary from memory, I had read most of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I found that I didn’t know NEAR enough. I focused on the technical aspects of the Church, but was missing out on everything else.

As an introduction to  the class, we were asked why we wanted to join the Church. For some, it was because they had a significant other who was Catholic and they were doing it for them. For one, his mom was making him do it. For me, I was doing it for several reasons. Yes, Kellie is Catholic and a part of me was doing it for her. I was also drawn by the tradition and the music. Not so much the weekly Sunday Hymns, but Gregorian Chant and the music of the early Church.

The common factor in all of these introductions was that we were doing it for reasons other than seeking out a life in Christ and becoming a member of a community that supports us. I think somewhere deep down, that’s what we all were searching for, but we didn’t realize it then. We were doing it for selfish, or misguided reasons. We’ve all had moments throughout the process that have touched us…that turned our hearts, that more aligned us to the true nature of why we have entered this process. Today was one of those moments for a lot of us.

Our classes are taught by members of the Church. One of our teachers, a lady named Vicki  was born into the Church. A cradle catholic. She obtained her Masters Degree in Theology and once was a Cantor for the Church. She’s an extremely bright woman, with a passion for teaching those new to the faith. She’s also blind. She reads scripture to us in braille. She has taught me about humility and perseverance  in the face of adversity.  Today was kind of a special day for her too.

The Gospel reading today was from John 9, verses 1-41 about Jesus’ healing of a blind man. After the man had been healed, he was presented to the Pharisees. Instead of reveling in the awesomeness of the healing…the Pharisees were focused more on the breach of the law that Jesus had done work during the Sabbath. Father H talked about situational awareness and how we are sometimes blinded by focusing more on the technical aspects of our religion. We lose focus by only trying to follow the “rules” instead of the meaning behind those rules.

We also studied 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a where God tells Samuel to travel to Jesse of Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons God’s King. Remember, we are talking about situational awareness and the blindness that it sometimes causes. When Samuel was presented with the sons of Jesse, he found that the one that was to be anointed wasn’t among them.  He asked Jesse if those were his only sons and Jesse said that their was one other…the youngest who was tending the sheep.  When Samuel saw the young boy, he knew that he was the one. We all know him as David. Because of Jesse’s blindness and situational awareness…he looked to the oldest, the strongest and the most talented of his sons. But that was not what God wanted. God said, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.

Today was also the second scrutiny. Those of us in RCIA…the “elect” are called forward and Father H instructs us to look deep into our hearts and search out that which keeps us from God. Because we discussed blindness…we were to look at how we are blind in matters of Christianity. What is it that we aren’t allowing ourselves to see. I think today was a good day to focus on my Lenten promise. I gave up judging people for Lent. While I haven’t done a very good job at it, today allowed me to focus on WHY I judge other people… my blindness.  I see as man sees, I judge people based off of appearance. Of stature. Of perceived actions. I need to focus more on what God sees. Their hearts. People I once judged are slowly finding a place in my heart. Would I have still had that if I had chosen to give up pop for Lent?

He then laid his hands on each of our heads and prayed silently on our behalf. When we were dismissed for our class, Vicki (the blind woman) asked us a question:

What did it feel like?

We were all kind of dumbfounded and unsure of what to say. What did she mean? She went on to explain that even though she had a Masters in Theology and was born a Catholic, she had never experienced the scrutinies…she had never viewed Catholicism from our viewpoint. Basically from an infants perspective. She wanted to know what we were feeling as he placed his hands on our head. It was then that others in the class started to open up, to explain how they felt. Not just from today but our transformation from the beginning. Amazing, Awe Inspiring, Personal, Calming, Peaceful. A couple cried, I got a little choked up. A lady in the class apologized and the blind woman told her not to be sorry…this wasn’t sorrow…it was happiness. I think we all hit a milestone this morning.

I wouldn’t say the we are all friends, yet. We don’t speak much, but we share a connection. At the end of each class we say a prayer and pray for the intentions of others. For a couple us to find work, for the safety of one’s boyfriend fighting in Afghanistan, for a brother who is hospitalized with a mental disorder that isn’t doing well, for a sister who will find out soon if she has cancer, for a grandfather dieing of a brain tumor.

Like I said before, beginning this process I was blind. I saw it only as technical. To learn the rules. Couldn’t I speed it up? I was totally wrong, it’s not about the rules, but the relationships we create through Christ. Through this process we have been welcomed into the Church by our sponsors (Rite of Acceptance), by the community that is our local parish (Rite of Sending Forth) , by the Church as a whole and the entire Diocese (Rite of Election.) On Easter Vigil, we will fully become one with the Church. What an amazing journey.