Boys in Trouble

Once an a while I get are real treat. I get to discipline boys. This is double the fun since I only have daughters.

One of the things many homeschoolers do is co-op classes. We all go to each others homes and have classes for things we teach rather well. For example, I teach a Latin class. It’s a great way to let the kids get together, not have to teach every subject, and it gives the kids an opportunity to not listen to mean hairy dad all the time.

There are very few homeschooling fathers in our group, so when one of the ladies has trouble with one of her boys, instead of wringing his neck and burying him in the back yard, they will take my girls out for a fun day, and leave the boy with me.

This is awesome. What could be more fun than disciplining boys that are not your own?

A while back I got a call from a distraught mother who’s son was just being a dang pest. She offered my kids a trip to the cheese factory in exchange for some time with her son. He was just being outright disrespectful, and for some reason unknown to me, these boys just think I’m some kind of great guy. Boys aren’t all that bright you see. (Trust me, I was an idiot. Heck, I still am.)

Man, this is better than Christmas. My kids get to go on a field trip, and I have a personal slave for a few hours. Sometimes I wish these boys would be more trouble, as I have plenty of work around the house that needs to get done!

So she drops off her boy, and we start having the talk. The best part is, he has no idea why he’s here. So he’s thinking, “Sweet! I get to spend the day with Dance! Maybe we will burn stuff or build a rocket or set off explosives!” (I used to be a scoutmaster, so these kind of events are not uncommon) So after mom leaves, I get to have the talk about respecting your mother.

The face he made was priceless. He totally realized he was in for it. What had looked like a bright summer’s day had fallen into the deepest, darkest abyss. “Oh no, I’m in trouble, and there is no escape!” I’m just loving it.

After about thirty minutes squirming under the flames, I do the worst thing¬†imaginable. Now you might think I made him clean up after the dog outside, but no, that wouldn’t do it. This boy is high strung, so an active activity simply isn’t going to really hone in on the problem. No, this one needs some sensory deprivation.

So I go out to the shed, and get the prettiest old pink desk with flowers on it that my kids had in kindergarten, and I push it up to a large white wall. Then I give him 500 sentences.

I will not disrespect my mother.
I will not disrespect my mother.
I will not disrespect my mother.

He brings me his first sheet, and I light it on fire. “Sorry buddy, but your handwriting just wasn’t good enough on that one, try again.

I will not disrespect my mother.
I will not disrespect my mother.
I will not disrespect my mother.

You know, he hasn’t been back in a very long time? I hear that all they have to do is threaten to take him to my house, and he shapes right up.

I still keep that pink desk though, just in case.

I Bit Off More Than I Can Chew…. Again

I do this every year.

I have these great plans for Lent. I’m not just going to give up chocolate, heck no. I’m going to totally remake my life. I’m gonna be a new man. I’m going to put my entire life back in order in one fell swoop.

Heck yea! I’m gonna man it up! I can do it! I’m going to start that exercise regime! I’m going to read the entire bible by the end of Lent! I’m going to pray like a monk in a cloister! I’m going to get all my business in perfect order! I’m one tough guy!

Then I pull it all off for one day, namely, Ash Wednesday, and by the end of the day I’m so exhausted I can hardly stand it.

Today is my own personal reconciliation day. It is always the first Thursday of Lent, and it always sucks.

It is today that I always wish I were a better man than I am.

I am not. I am just me, and while I think I can perform my way into sanctity, today is always the day the Lord reminds me how weak I truly am. I really cannot do anything without Him at all. It’s altogether humbling. I suppose that is the point.

Today, I really understand St. Paul in a way that most of the year, I must admit I frankly miss.

“Yet it was only through the law that I came to know sin. I should never have known what evil desire was unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”” Romans 7:7

“I cannot even understand my own actions. I do not what I want to do but what I hate.” Romans 7:15

“So with my mind, I serve the law of God but with my flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:25

It’s maddening. I simply am unable to do what I know should be done.

There is hope in this of course. I look at how I have changed over the years, and the wonders that God has worked in my soul and in my life, and I know that change is happening. God is moving even though I cannot. Every task I try to perform for Him seems to fall flat on it’s face, and yet, I am not the same man as I was ten years ago.

I may not like that God has not just remade me, given me strength instead of weakness, but I have to admit that His process is most definitely working, and mine is not.

He is quite seriously, divinely effective.

I suppose this Thursday is a good reminder that I cannot lean upon myself, but instead must be carried by Him.

Lord, remake me into yourself. (the sooner the better!)

Catholic Face Painting

This evening our priest had to deal with a sudden emergency, so our deacon and I were asked to do a communion service with the distribution of ashes.

I just love surprises, especially when I have no idea what the heck I am doing.

Now I realize it’s not all that big a deal. The only thing I had to add was ashes right? How hard can that be? It’s not rocket science. You just dip your thumb in the ashes, and mark a cross on the forehead of everyone that walks up, right?

Well, first you have to realize I found out about the change about five minutes before the service started. I also was suddenly appointed to read the readings for the day, which I had not read. Not to mention that this particular service was held in the middle of adoration, so the monstrance and all appropriate paraphernalia had to be put away as well. So in the rush to get the alter prepared, I did not have time to even look over the readings, and of course the church was packed to the brim.

Then it happened. Our lovely and wonderful choir director asked me to sing the psalm, which I also have not looked at.


You get the picture. I’m suddenly overly involved in a service where I had planned on sitting in the pews with my family. As our deacon was doing the introductory prayers, I’m reading the readings for the first time. As everyone is saying the confiteor, I’m studying the music for the psalm.

Everything went alright of course. I read okay, and while I started the psalm a little high, I was canting so there was no accompaniment to showcase it. So as I came back to the pew, I was thankful that I had pulled it off. I thanked the Holy Spirit for His guiding hand, and then I was suddenly reminded.

I have to do the ashes.

I just didn’t think about it at all before. Yes, yes, I knew I had to do it, but until that second I just didn’t really think about it. As the deacon was reading the gospel, it suddenly dawned on me that I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t remember what to say!

My mind is racing back to last year, “What was it that they say?” Something about ashes? The phrase “dust to dust” kept rolling through my mind. Crap! Crap! What to say?! I am seriously freaking out.

It’s time. I just walk up as confident as possible, while inside I am a dang whirlwind of Lenten phrasology. (Yes, I know that’s not a word, but at this point I’m making up words left and right.)

Then the obvious happens. You probably already saw this coming. The deacon crosses my head, and says everything I need to hear. “Repent, and turn back to the gospel.” Now I know what to say.

Phew. Let the finger painting begin!

I have to say, I think it’s awesome that all these people are coming up to have me wipe black stuff on their foreheads. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally into the solemnity of the moment, but I just can’t escape the fact that this is plain fun. It’s like kindergarten all over again.

I love watching the kids give me that blank stare, feeling their foreheads as they walk away. You can almost feel the fear from well dressed women, “Oh I hope he doesn’t make the cross so big that my whole forehead is black.” (By the way, I have found that getting underneath a woman bangs is quite an exercise in dexterity!) The men are all acting tough. “Go ahead man, mark me, do your worst.” I have this wonderful duality going on through my mind, the solemn atmosphere of penance, coupled with the fact that this is absolutely hilarious.

We should do this all the time.

Mardi Gras!

Alright, so I fully realize that Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is not really a Catholic holiday per se, but let me be honest.

Lent is a lot less scary when celebrating Mardi Gras.

Yes, tomorrow I will be famished, and walk around with ashes on my forehead. My sudden enactment of resolutions will make New Year’s look like child’s play. I’ll be praying, fasting, working out, eating better, doing everything possible to clean up my spiritual house.

But not today. Today, is Mardi Gras.

I like to think of it as Catholic Procrastination Day.

One day a year, (or if you are more like me, one week a year!) I try not to be so dang hard on myself. I eat too many sweets, we go out to eat too much. I sit around and watch TV all day and neglect my morning prayers for sleeping in. I don’t work enough, the house is filthy with dishes I don’t feel like cleaning.

So picture a fat slob with cookie crumbs all over his chest as he lies around watching TV all day, and you’ll be getting close. Tomorrow I will get it put back together.

But not today. Today, is Mardi Gras.

There is a side benefit to this attitude that maybe you haven’t thought of before. After a week of being a couch potato, I’m flat out getting excited about tomorrow. It was fun for a day or two, but at this point, I can’t help but realize I don’t really want to live like this. I’m sure to gain five pounds this week, and it will feel so good to get it off next week. My stomach hurts from all the bad food, and I really want my kitchen to be clean again.

I feel fat, lazy, uninspired. I have to be honest. In reality, this kind of living is rather boring. I could never accept myself as this kind of person. Everything in me screams that I can be a better man than this.

But not today. Today, is Mardi Gras.

Ash Wednesday is starting to sound quite exciting.

Keys to the Kingdom

I’m a regular St. Peter. No, I’m not all that infallible, sadly, but I do now have the keys. Not to heaven of course, but to the church.

Yes, I’ve had the keys to the church for a good long while, but it wasn’t common knowledge. Now as parishioners learn that I have the keys, I have found myself a new meaning and purpose for my existence.

I am now a doorman.

I’m in good company. There have been an inordinate number of holy doormen. There must be something about that line of work…..

Saint André Bessette

But I digress.

I am now the go-to guy for locking up the church. I have the keys, and so therefore, I should have to stand around for an extra half hour while everyone moseys out of the church. I find it interesting that there is no person actually assigned to this task. There is no rotating schedule of key-bearers as to who is going to laze about reading old pamphlets while old ladies talk about their hats and kids run marathon laps up and down the choir loft. Nope, it is just done by however does it.

That person is now me.

It all started when we had a bit of vandalism over the holidays. Someone got in the church somehow, and stole our processional cross. We live in a rather poor community that is rife with homelessness and drugs, so this kind of thing is not really all that uncommon. When cleaning up the church we often find beer cans in the confessional, (I’m pretty sure they weren’t Father’s, as he would just enjoy a cold beverage in the rectory 3 steps away.) and on occasion we will open the narthex to find it stinks of cigarette tobacco or marijuana. What is one to do?

The string of vandalism over the holidays had a more violent, destructive nature. So those going to daily Mass had to be a bit more careful to make sure that everything was locked up good and tight.

By “those”, I of course meant “I”.

So there you go. I feel like a kid who got all excited at having the keys to the car, only to find out that it means I have to drive my sister to gymnastics class.

Yuck. I might get cooties.