Religion is Irrelevant

How many time have you heard this? Every time I get into a political discussion, whether it be about moral evils like abortion or gay “marriage”, or if I am talking economics or health care, some yahoo eventually will spit out that religion has no part in the conversation, as it is entirely irrelevant.

Where the heck did they pick up this nonsense? Religion isn’t only relevant, it’s the single most relevant issue out there. Nothing compares to its direct impact on literally everything we do and think as human beings.

Over the last 2000 years, every war has had a religious component. Every year of peace has had a religious component as well. Not relevant? Are these people just idiots, or did they just drop out of history class?

Somewhere along the last 60 years America has adopted this really odd stance of “separation of church and state”. I have no idea how a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote became national gospel, but as much as I respect Jefferson, not only is it nonsense, but it has no basis in reality, and certainly no basis in law. How did this come to be considered as such? When did our constitutional clause not allowing the government to establish its own religion become a wall against religious dialogue? This is just crazy. Our forefathers must be turning in there graves.

I would go even further. I would say that as things stand, our government is trying to break this clause. If we are not allowed to bring our religious viewpoints to the political sphere, then politics have become atheist. I am beginning to believe that the government IS establishing a religion, or a rather, a lack of it. This really sets my teeth on edge, and puts deep fear in my heart. Our forefathers had the brilliant idea of letting people choose and live out our own beliefs, and our current politicians have decided to take that right away.

Not relevant? Are you kidding? We have the makings of war on our hands.

So this current debacle with Obama requiring faith organizations to violate their ancient consciences is no laughing matter. It is a direct assault against our entire being, and a rude slap in the face against our constitutional right to exercise our beliefs freely. Don’t think this is a non issue, this is the ONLY issue.

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.” – Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago

 

A Night Without Kids

My youngest daughter’s best friend had a birthday party last night, and being the prepubecent bundle of hormones that they are, they decided the best thing to do would be have a sleepover. So both my daughters were gone all night.

We were alone.

Party Time! Bust out the drinks and the dancing, it’s time to hit the clubs!

Well, at least that is what I was thinking in my head, but here’s how it actually played out.

First I picked up honey at work for lunch and took her to her favorite (but inexpensive) Chinese restaurant. While we had a great time, it was hardly romantic as the second we walked in, we saw some other folks she knows from work. As one of them was sitting alone, we invited him to sit with us and I got to sit there and listen to them talk about work.

Okay, I’m cool with that, I’ve got all night.

So later that evening she gets home, and after the hour long download of her day, I am finally allowed to speak, and suggest my Wild Disco Clubbing idea.

Shot down immediately, but I’m not phased.

So I suggest an evening stroll on the beach with a few suggestive hints as to where that could end. Hmm, that’s not happening either it seems.

She suggests the mall to look at stuff for the house we currently in escrow for.

The mall. How romantic. Okay, sure honey.

So off to the mall, she gets nachos, I get Subway, and away we go. Now I have a plan here. I’m going to make the best of this, so I spend the whole time teasing her and making rude suggestive comments. (What can I say, I’m a man, and my wife is beautiful) Now I’m not getting slapped, so I figure I’ll just keep going.

We went into this fancy bohemian furniture store, and this place is just awful. There is nothing in here that even remotly pleases me. It’s like some cross between a gypsy camp, an eighties nightclub, and a wicker revival. So I am naturally not all that interested. Then it happens. I hear Disco. Oh man, I love me some Disco.

So I’m walking around the store sporting all my best Disco moves while singing along to her across the aisles. The folks who work there are just snickering, but I don’t really care, I want to snicker at them for not shaking their tush a little. My wife of course is embarrassed and beginning to turn a lovely shade of beets. With disdain, she decided to remove me from the Disco. Sadness follows.

More shopping follows as my wife keeps asking me questions about what kind of style furniture I like. At some point she has an epiphany, I really don’t like any of her choices. I try to explain to her that it isn’t true, I really do like them, they just aren’t my favorite, but this is not getting me any points. Then in a typical moment of brilliance, I come up with the 1-10 scale. I let her know her stuff is an 8, and an 8 is a great compromise. She seems fine, but this will preoccupy the rest of the evenings conversation.

Off to home, and here’s where things get really sexy. (Children might want to cover their eyes!)

She goes off to the living room to work on her cross-stitch, and I head back to my office to finish up some extra work. We spend the next four or five hours doing just this. Every now and then one of us wants a snack, or has to get up to go to the bathroom, but here we are finally alone, and we are both in separate rooms, doing our own thing. I would have allowed the kids to see this, but I would hate for them to realize we are so boring.

(Okay kids, you can uncover your eyes now)

And there was our big night on the town. To be honest, I had the time of my life. Nothing beats just being with my wife, it’s pretty dang awesome.

(The night of course got far more awesome, but I don’t kiss and tell…)

A side note, I really do love Disco, and we lost one of the greats this week. God speed Donna Summer, I pray the Lord has Disco in heaven, and that we can shake our fannys with joy together when we get there.

Understanding Discernment

So a regular reader of mine, a friend looking into the diaconate asked a great question today that I thought deserved more than a quick pat answer. Here is his question.

“Seriously – what resources did you find helpful during your discernment process prior to Aspirancy and what has helped you on your way through that phase as well as your current journey toward ordination?

Thanks SO MUCH! for all of the candid comments. This journey is both exciting and scary!” -Tom

This is a great question, and I’m not sure I really have the answer, but I’m willing to explore how this has played out for me personally.

I really already knew that I had to at least explore this option. This was not something I had ever really questioned. The real question has been regarding my worth. I had to deal with the fact that I am simply not a good enough man to deserve to be ordained. That I felt called wasn’t really the issue, it was more the issue of knowing that what I felt called to be, was and is more than I currently am.

There are a couple of big points here. One is the realization that I am lame. I don’t want to be lame, I want to be awesome. I want to be the hero, the knight in shining armor. When I actually look at myself in the mirror though, instead of a saint I see a quickly aging man who doesn’t really have much going for him. I am balding, I don’t pray enough. I am not very successful and I feel emasculated by my inability to have more children. My life is frankly still a work in progress on so many levels that the mirror image I see is just not the image I have of what a clerical man should be.

The second issue is of course all of your responses to the above paragraph. (As so many of you exceed me in holiness) God deals with the imperfect, and makes great things come from it. God takes losers like me and makes saints out of them. Just look at Peter, he is frankly a bit of a dolt, but his encounter with the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit changes him completely into a man of great articulation, a man who can stand before crowds and speak with them logically and persuasively. A man who can turn his tush around and follow Christ back into Rome to the cheers of the Colosseum. Maybe he can take this worthless dolt and fix him too.

So that’s what goes on in my head, and it is still going on. I’m not sure I can ever meet my own expectations, all I can do is continue to move forward in hope that Jesus is walking with me, and carrying me past the obstacles of my own idiocy.

The other thing I have to deal with constantly is fear. I’m really scared of becoming a deacon. I am terrified of standing up at the pulpit and telling all my friends and loved ones that the birth control (fill in any other hot issue here) they are using is evil. I just know how that is going to play out, and I know the cost is going to be ever so high for me and my family. To set myself with the Church is to set myself against the world, especially in my county where we have the only city in the nation with a Green Party majority. When I say I am setting myself up to be a soldier for Christ, I’m really not playing around. I’m really scared of the social ramifications, and I have an honest fear that at some point I will come home to find my tires slashed and windows broken in.

At the same time, all of these reasons are also reasons I continue to move forward. The truth MUST be preached, and I know that is something I am called to do. I just rue the day when they realize that I am calling the kettle black, and tear my glass house to the ground.

As for resources for helping you in your discernment, there are plenty of books out there, read them if you must, but to be honest they just confuse things. The process will bring plenty of words on its own for you to read.

Focus on the people who are calling you, most importantly if you are married, your wife. How does she feel about this? Does she know you need to follow this path more than you do? I’m willing to bet she is the one who truly knows, just trust her. Also look to other clergy you know, are they too suggestive that you should be in this process? Trust them. If it’s not right, you will find out in the process, I promise. Don’t forget other lay ministers in the parish you work with. Listen to their responses and feelings, they too have great wisdom and experience.

Don’t be afraid you won’t know, and will be moving in circles you do not belong. We have men who are called, but leave because the timing is not right for them, and others who realize they simply aren’t called. We have men who have come back after leaving the program years before. The process is so long, and your thoughts so overwhelming that you really can’t screw it up. If you aren’t meant to be there, you’ll just find out, really.

If you are ever worried you are overstepping your bounds, remember that a vocation goes two ways. The Church has to call you too, and you can’t fake that. If the Church says you are the man, and you still feel that way too, then you’ll know.

Why Do You Visit My Blog?

I have a rather silly little hobby. Whenever I remember to sit down and write a post, I take a look at who visited my site, and I try to figure out why they came. I think it’s really rather funny.

So I thought for today, I’d share with you the information I gleaned from yesterday.

Yesterday was a good day volume-wise. I had 237 folks take a look. They promptly realized that I am a terrible writer, so 75% of them said “Forget this, I’m off to other things.” Well, I can’t hold the attention of my daughters for 2 minutes, so I can hardly expect to hold anyone else’s for that long.

Here is where the fun starts. Where did they come from?

Well, most of my traffic yesterday came from the support of other great bloggers throwing my links and posts up, but there is always a ton from the good old search engines, especially Google. So what did they search for that brought them here?

Well, ten folks were just interested in “four leaf clovers”. I guess that just makes me lucky.

I have one here who was interested in “methods for washing feet”. Phew, glad I don’t have that problem, hope I helped.

“How to decorate a dead tree” I have always wanted to get into exterior design, maybe I missed my calling.

“4 Yaprakli Yonca” I have no idea what this is, but it brought them here. I bet they were just thrilled to land on my blog.

I think I am using my Nazi = Abortion metaphor too much, as someone looking for “Nazis killing Jews” found their way here. I’m sure to be entered into some white supremacy blacklist soon.

“Love Handshake” I’m not sure this site really has what you are looking for…..

“Should Not.” Really? That brought you here? How?

Now I just love that the internet thinks of me when it thinks of “Boys in the mud.”

Now here I have to be careful. I really don’t want people to get the wrong idea when they “Put kids in the closet.”

“You’re such a deacon” Makes it sound like a really nasty thing doesn’t it?

“Gift idea for someone who is ordained as a deacon in the catholic church” Oh man, I should put in some recommendations for this one. I’m thinking they would just love a years supply of pizza.

“How to make a blanket mattress fort” I didn’t even realize anyone knew about my secret childhood passion.

“How to bi locate” Don’t worry my friend, I will be giving lessons at some point for the low, low price of $99.95. Results not guaranteed.

Mr Know it All, My Hero

And my personal favorite, because they finally found who they were looking for, “Know it all person.”

 

Lord, What Shirt Should I Wear Today?

You might think I’m being humorous, but I really do ask that question. I know it’s not a big deal, but it’s an easy question to ask. I’ll tell you why it’s so easy, I get dressed right after my morning prayer.

Yup, I don’t even get out of bed, I just wake up and start talking. God must think I’m worse then a pack of thirteen year old girls with how much I blabber. I don’t really have anything formal, I just decided a long time ago that the first person I should address each morning should be God, and so I’ve made a habit of it. At first it did not come easy though, it was a serious struggle. You see, there is a fundamental problem we face when we begin to learn to pray.

To really begin praying, you have to pretend like you are praying.

I swear, I’m not making this up, I’m just telling you how it worked for me. At first, you really don’t know what praying is, and you just feel silly. I felt like I was just talking to myself, like one of those nuts who walks around the grocery store with their Bluetooth in. I tried reading the bible, but in honesty, I got bored. I tried reading rote morning prayers, but that was no better. You see, I just didn’t feel like anything was really going on. I remember being asked when I first came into the Church by a buddy of mine,

“What does it feel like to pray? Do you hear God or anything?”

To which I replied, “Well, as best I can tell so far, I just sit there feeling like an idiot.”

You see, I was trying so dang hard to talk to this God I didn’t really know, but He just wouldn’t talk back. I might as well have been talking to a wall. All the fancy words in the bible and in these rote prayers just made it harder for me because I was so distracted by the readings themselves. I just didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. I still feel this way at times.

It was Brother Lawrence that fixed me up. If you have never read “The Practice of the Presence of God”, I totally recommend that you do. It is so short that you could read the whole thing while waiting for the doctor to call you at your next visit, by which I mean about an hour and a half.

Brother Lawrence taught me to pretend. He taught me to just chat with God as if He were there, paying attention to every moment in my life. At first, I still felt silly, but at least I wasn’t distracted. I could just focus on the pretending, and that was enough to do the trick.

This is why kids are awesome at praying. They don’t really try to over think it, they just go for it and see what happens. They are great at pretending, and therefore learn to pray super easy.

Now I won’t lie, I have never been able to keep this up for more than fifteen minutes without losing my train of thought, but it broke the barrier for me. After a while, I really began to know that there was something going on that was more than I was putting in. I can’t really quantify it in any way, but in the pretending, I learned some shadow of the real thing, and it has made all the difference.

Here is the kicker. At some point, I really knew this presence was, well, present. I learned what it felt like, and then I was able to access that feeling during other prayers, even those really complicated ones like bible reading. Whenever I start getting lost, I just pause, and focus on that presence that is always there. He still doesn’t chat back with me, but instead of the echo I used to get from the wall, I hear silence. I can’t really explain it, but it is very different then what I heard and felt before. It’s bigger, stronger, and quieter.

If you have ever had trouble with prayer, and I think we all have, I really recommend you look into this. I’m not really all that smart a guy, so I really like simple ideas and short words. Brother Lawrence is my man. And guess what! You can have it FREE! Click here, pick your format, and read it now or print it out later for while you are waiting for the kids to get out of baseball practice.

So yes, every morning I discuss my wardrobe for the day with the Lord. I’m there, I’m paying attention, and thank goodness he has never picked out that pink sweater my grandmother bought me that I should just throw away. Well, he never actually seems to have an opinion, but I suspect that’s because I have such great taste.