Holy Week! Bring Your Whole Heart to the Story!

This weekend, we enter into that most holy of times as we begin to celebrate the fullness of the paschal mystery, living through Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.

At Palm Sunday, we remember that we stand beside all those who seek to end Christ’s life through our own sin, as we too cry out, “Crucify Him!” It is an emotional time for me. I cannot help but be drawn up into the mystery and emotional roller coaster of it all.

Today, as I was praying my morning office, I came upon a reading that stopped my heart, and I wanted to share it with you.

From a homily by Saint Gregory Nazianzen, bishop

I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified.

If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other scoffing thief to die outside in his blasphemy.

If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make your own the expiation for the sins of the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.

This weekend, we will be the crowd, crying for his death. Let us also be those who call out for life! Let us stand to help Christ carry his load like Simon of Cyrene, let us hang on the cross beside our Lord like the good thief, let us beg to bring Christ down from the cross like Joseph of Arimathea, let us rush to anoint Him like Mary Magdeline!

This week is a time to live, to be alive with the joy of everything it means to be in love with the Lord. Let us bring ourselves deeply into the mystery, and find ourselves written in throughout the greatest story that will ever be told!

Rugged Rosary – Review

I am not exactly…..dainty….

I’m loud, a bit brash, and I am generally really rough on things.

However, I am also really sentimental, and have a tendency to really hold on to stuff. I like nice, simple things, and I like them to last forever so I never have to buy it again. I also really want it to be able to stand up to, well, life.

Rosaries have always been a problem for me. I know I won’t pray it if I don’t have one one me, so I must keep one in my pocket, as one of the few permanent “things I must always have”. This means I will constantly be pulling it out, but frankly, most rosaries are just…girlie!

I don’t do girlie.

Even the “men’s rosaries” seem like dainty in black. They get all tangly, wrapped around my keys, and just don’t seem to have the weight to them that my monster hands require. I am sure am not going to go using some fancy case thing either, so don’t even suggest it.

Out of frustration, I began scouring my good friend, the internet. I found manly, I found stone, I found blacks and browns, all sorts of stuff, but nothing seemed to quite nail what I wanted. Then I found Rugged Rosaries.

I must admit, at first I thought it would not be “fine” enough for my tastes, I can be a pompous git sometimes, and do remember, I hold on to stuff, so nice is very preferred for something as important as my rosary. Here’s how it ran down.

Manly, but still not quite what I wanted…

The basic idea here is these rosaries are intended for men and women in the service, be it military or police, etc., so the beads are big enough to be used with gloves. The tie the whole thing together with paracord, which is quite strong and nearly impervious to the elements.

Did I mention I was picky? I liked the idea, but none of them were “perfect”. That was when I found the custom option! I had a blast, and ended up with brass (heavy as a brick!), black (because black is always best), and a pardon cross with a miraculous medal and a St Benedict medal (‘Cause I love me some indulgences). I even had them put an extra split ring for a medal of my patron I wanted. I was in high hopes I had finally found “the one”.

The Deacon Dance Special!

A few days later they emailed me a picture of my new rosary, all fancy looking, just to make sure it looked right. A custom rosary, with no extra charge. What a very personal experience, it was perfect. I couldn’t wait for it to arrive.

I’ve had it for some time now, and it is just what I had hoped for. This thing feels like a weapon, and every time I pray it, I feel like I beat Satan with a mace. It fits comfortably in my suit jacket pocket, but it’s substantial enough for me to know in a second if it’s not there, I feel all unbalanced. I love this rosary.

No, they didn’t pay me to say it, and I’ll probably never buy another because this one will last forever. So I can say with an easy conscience, this is quality stuff.

Check them out. Rugged Rosaries

I know you will ask, so here’s the answer. Yes, I put skulls on my rosary. No, I’m not trying to be macabre, I just like to remember that prayer is serious business, because death is around the corner.

Deaconstore – Review

I am a procrastinator. I don’t try to be, I actually work quite hard to be proactive, but sometimes my lazy nature just kicks in, and before I know it, a deadline approaches, and I am caught unprepared.

So, I was to be ordained in a few weeks, and I had not yet bought any clerical shirts. I work in a school, and so with permission from my bishop, I was looking forward to express my ordination to my students by showing up the first day after my ordination by wearing my new school uniform. Not actually having bought these shirts, I found myself in a bit of a bind!

So I took the plunge, and ordered a few grey clerical shirts from DeaconStore.com, just a random site I found online. What I didn’t know was this is a one man show, and he was on a well deserved vacation.

I had simply ordered them and forgot about it, but when they didn’t show up, I suddenly got worried. A week before my ordination, I got an email from him letting me know he had been out of the office, but had just put the order in, and that they would come a week after my big event.

It was my fault, and I knew it. I should have been more forward thinking, but I’m an idiot. I shot him an email letting him know my situation, just to see if there was anything he could do for me.

Within a few hours, he let me know that he had contacted the manufacturer and had upgraded shipping right to my door, out of his pocket. They arrived on time, and the quality is great. All told, this was a great experience, and I will definitely be using them again.

Along with my shirts, I ordered some “iron on” deacon crosses. These things are fabulous, so I felt I had to mention them. They are as simple as you could ask for, but they are simply awesome. I have put them on many of my dress shirts, polos, even a jacket, and they look like they were embroidered right onto the fabric. I love these things.

The best part is they are simple and clean without being overbearing. I have worn shirts with them to conferences, hospital visits, RCIA classes, all sorts of stuff, and everyone gets what they mean almost instantly. I have found them to be just as effective at letting others know I am a cleric as actual clerical shirts.

I did have to make an extra purchase to get them on right though. I needed this teflon paper stuff, which I found in a fabric store and have been able to use over and over again. It gets wrinkled, but that doesn’t seem to stop it from working.

If you are a deacon, buy a ton of these. They are really that awesome.

I love everything I have purchased from this place. While I can’t review products I haven’t bought, I can definitively tell you that this guy is running a top notch shop. I should also let you know I have not received any kind of remuneration for this review, I just had too good an experience not to say something. (But you could tell him I sent you!)

Check them out, DeaconStore.com

 

Homily from Ordinary Time, Week 5, Cycle A, 2-5-17

The readings for this homily can be found here.

Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket. It is put on a lamp stand where it gives light to the whole house. Just so, your light should shine before others.

I think Jesus has this one all wrong. You see, I don’t really want to be a light, I want the light to shine on me. I want everyone to notice what a great guy I am, how well I have it all together. I want everyone to think I am a genius when I speak, to marvel at my poise and and to be in awe of my dashing good looks and fantastic hair. I want people to notice me, and so I put on a mask that I think everyone will like. I act cool and calm, but really, I still feel like a kid who can’t get his act together. Sure, I do all the right things, I show up to work on time and make sure I get the job done right, I pay my bills on time and shower every day, but in my mind, where it counts, I’m still just a kid. I’m a whiney brat who wants every toy in the store. I want everything to be about me, me, me. I want my kids to think about me, my parents to think about me, my wife to think about me. I honestly wish when I walked down the sidewalk that people would step out of the way just because I’m such a great guy. I’m annoyed in the grocery store when people won’t get out of my way, when they don’t notice how special I am.

More than this, I want my life to mean something, I want to be important, even if just to those close to me. I am scared of the truth, that I am really nobody at all. 10 years after I die, my children will only think of me once and a while, and the rest of the world will have forgotten I even existed. Soon after, I will simply be gone, it will be as if I were never here. I know, I’m kind depressing, I’m sorry.

I was driving to Santa Rosa last weekend, and I saw they had dedicated road or a bridge to some guy. I bet he was a great guy, loved and cared for by his family and friends, and is now just a name on a road. Buildings and cities named after people who are little remembered or cared for just a few years after their passing. Even as we look through history, little is left of those who have gone before us. I bet many of you have heard of Abraham Lincoln. Who was president before him? Who was president after? Time deletes us all.

But not everyone. Some still stand bright. Some turn their lives into lamps, to bright, shining rays of light that fill the world around them, a light that burns through the centuries. These people are so real, so normal, and yet so extraordinary that they are never forgotten. Real people, ordinary people. Yet they gave their lives to being a light, instead of shining the light on themselves.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, just another noble born, entitled kid, who gave it all up to become a monk. He poured himself out, and became a spiritual advisor to the whole world. I always loved stories of knights and princesses when I was a kid, before him, knights were little more than bloodthirsty mercenaries, but they listened to this humble monk, and with him was born the code of chivalry. Popes and princes would write him for advise, and he would put their letters on the stack with peasants, responding to everyone in turn.

St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, and he wasn’t even Irish. He was dragged to Ireland as a slave, and forced to work menial labor. After escaping, he decided to come back a preach the Gospel to his captors.

St. Veronica, who’s only claim to fame was that she helped a criminal condemned to death wash his face.

St. Anthony of Padua, was a quiet monk that nobody ever noticed. During an ordination, it was realized no one had planned to give a homily, everyone thinking someone else was going to do it. In a panic, his prior forced Anthony to speak, not wanting to be embarrassed himself. He became a preaching legend, and St Francis put him in charge of teaching his friars.

St. Joseph was nobody. He was a poor refugee, even among his own family, he did not have enough clout to find a room for his pregnant wife. He was completely unknown and unseen his whole life.

St. Mary, a poor woman with the scandal of a unwed pregnancy constantly looming over her. Yet she is so devoted to others, that even when she finds out she is pregnant with God himself, he first thought is not to look after herself, but to trek through the desert to he pregnant cousin to help her out.

They are lights. They shine through the darkness, but they are real, ordinary people. St. Giana Molla, who gave her life for her unborn child, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, shunned by her family and people for her faith, St. Thomas More, just another politician, until he is called to stand for what is right, St. Cecilla, St. Agnes, who’s heroism is not forgotten millennia after their deaths, St Ignatius oaf Antioch, who begged his flock to not defend him so that he could prove his love through death,

And my current favorite, Blessed Chiara Badano, who was a sweet girl playing tennis when she realized her shoulder hurt. It was bone cancer. She refused painkillers, because she wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings. As her hair began to fall out, she would hold it up and say, “For you Jesus”. She would sit with her mother and they would plan her “wedding” together, her funeral. She wanted to be buried in a wedding dress, because she was going to our Lord. Her friends would come to comfort her, and would leave realizing they were the ones comforted, and that they needed her for more than she needed them. Thousands came to her funeral, she will be the first saint from my generation, she died in 1990 at 19 years old.

Lights, all of them, and never forgotten.

Don’t be afraid to follow them. Don’t be afraid to stand with them for Christ who is love itself. I know you will get home and not feel like praying tonight, pray anyways. I know someone will tick you off or be cruel to you, be holy anyways. I know there is work to do and the tasks of everyday life are piling up around you, make time anyways. I know you are busy, and I know what you are doing is important.

But it’s not THE important thing, and you know it.

Don’t be afraid to make our Lord the point of your life. Don’t be afraid to pray before going to work and at work, to share your faith with your friends and colleagues, don’t be afraid to as the Lord’s help when you go fishing, or when you clean your house. Don’t be afraid to let Jesus in to you whole life.

For in the end, if we are really be a light to the world, not only can we not cover ourselves up with fear, selfishness and insecurity, but we must also always remember that we are not, in fact, the light at all, but that we only truly shine bright when it is Christ that is shining through us.

Homily from the 4th Week of Advent, Cycle A, 12-18-2016

One thing I was taught in my homiletics courses was “Good homilists borrow, great homilists steal.” I can’t tell you how true this is. There are so many great saints, theologians and thinkers who have gone before us, that we would be crazy not to use their wisdom, even their words.

This homily is a great example. I freely stole from Chris Stephanick of Real life Catholic. You should check this guy out, he is an amazing catechist. The section I borrowed can be found at this youtube link, A Child is Born.

Earlier this month, our president, as he lit the national Christmas tree, had this to say:

“Over these next few weeks, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, as we retell the story of weary travelers, a star, shepherds, Magi, I hope that we also focus ourselves on the message that this child brought to this Earth some 2,000 years ago — a message that says we have to be our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keepers; that we have to reach out to each other, to forgive each other.  To let the light of our good deeds shine for all.  To care for the sick, and the hungry, and the downtrodden.  And of course, to love one another, even our enemies, and treat one another the way we would want to be treated ourselves.” (-Barak Obama)

I am not a very political man, and these comments have nothing to do with my opinions of Mr. Obama, but I cannot help but see that for most of the world, Christmas has lost it’s meaning. Sure, our good deeds should shine for all, and yes, social justice issues like caring for the sick, feeding the hungry and lifting the downtrodden is important. Yes, we should smile at people we meet and wish them a Merry Christmas, but Jesus did not become man to tell us to behave ourselves and treat one another the way we would want to be treated. These are all good things, and Jesus does indeed call us to good behavior, but morality is NOT the reason for the season. God did not become man so we would be nicer during the holidays.

Instead, Christmas is about God revealing who he really is. In our relativistic culture, everyone seems to want to make up who God is for themselves, as if he were some figment of our imagination instead of a real truth, a real person. We want to give him some attributes, and ignore others. God does not give us this option. In the Incarnation, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, we see exactly who God is, we see him face to face. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict,

“God is not a conclusion we have reached by thinking, which we now offer to others in the certainty of our own perception and understanding. When we talk of the living God, it means this: This God shows Himself to us. He looks out from eternity into time and puts Himself into a relationship with us. We cannot define Him in whatever way we like. He has defined Himself and now stands before us as our Lord, over us and in our midst.” (-Pope Benedict)

So who exactly IS Jesus then?

“Prophetic writings several hundred years before his birth called him Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Father Forever, God with us. He referred to himself as The Way The Truth and The Life. He said I am the resurrection and the life, and he called himself the bread of life.

St. Paul said of him, “In him we live we move and we have our being.” The central claim of Christianity is that God, the maker of the universe, became one of us two millennia ago, not myth, historic fact, that God at one point would fit in one seat in a taxicab, that he would actually in one point of his life fit in a baby seat in that taxicab.

That’s insane, that’s crazy, that is the most radical claim of any faith in human history. At first glance it makes no sense that God would do that. It would make no sense that God would do that, if God were into power like us. It would make absolutely no sense for God to become like one of us, to become poor, helpless, like a little baby if he valued all the same things that fallen humanity values.

You see, when man creates god, we tend to create deities like in ancient Greece, in our image and likeness. We tend to create gods who are into lust and vanity and power. When God revealed himself, he revealed himself to be more than we could have ever hoped for, and yet everything we’re made for. He revealed that he was love. And not just this warm fuzzy feeling love, but a love that’s powerful enough to create space and time. A love we could never be worthy of, but who lays down his life for us anyway.

And if God is love, than God made flesh makes perfect sense. Love would do nothing less than enter our frail humanity with us, as one of us. He didn’t come as some great spirit in the sky, because his goal wasn’t to wow us. His goal was to woo us. He didn’t come as some mighty conquering king who’s going to force us to bow down to him, because he came looking for more than our submission, he came looking for our hearts. When you really think about it, could God be anything less radical, less absurd, less beautiful than the love that we Christians say He is? When you think about it in this light, what we celebrate at Christmas makes perfect sense. In fact, it’s the only thing that does.” (-Chris Stephanick)

This last week of Advent, I encourage you to fill yourself with the holiday spirit. I encourage you to care for those around you, say hello to strangers and to open your hearts in love to all those who touch your life.

But more than all this, I encourage you to open your heart to our Lord Jesus the Christ. I encourage you to look into the manger of the poorest of the poor, and there find the king and creator of the universe. I encourage you to see the risen Lord, present for you now in the Eucharist. Open your hearts to the reality of his presence, and let him transform you into Himself.

His Name is Emmanuel, which means, God with us. Is he with you? Have you room in your heart for Him, or will you send Him to the stable of your life?

The Ramblings, Teachings and Archive of a Catholic High School Theology Teacher, and Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.