Category Archives: Dance

Ordination Date Been Set!

Years have gone by. Five and a half of them. Children and grandchildren have been born, parents and grandparents have passed on. This formation process has been full of up and downs, and classes that will never end.

Except that the classes HAVE ended. I have reached the end of this road, and beyond it I can see a new life, a life lived not for myself, but for God’s most precious possession, his Holy Church.

This September, God willing, my bishop will lay hands on me, and through this most ancient prayer I will be changed forever. I haven’t been this excited since I was married to the most beautiful woman I have ever met.

If anyone is still out there after these years of silence, I would ask your prayers. I look forward to writing again very soon.

May God fill you with His endless blessings!

Institution of Acolyte
Instituted as a Acolyte – one of the final steps before Ordination as a Deacon.

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant… RIP Father Eric Freed

I am sorry for having been so reluctant to write, but I want to thank everyone for their condolences and prayers. This post is bound to be more of a journal that an article, so please forgive me my lack of ordered thought. For those of you that don’t know, my priest was brutally murdered on January first this year. He was a wonderful pastor, an educated scholar, and true servant of the gospel, but for me, most importantly, he was my dear friend.

Father Eric and I chatting

It was Father Eric Freed that sent in my recommendation to enter formation, it was he who talked to the local catholic school to help me land my job as a theology teacher, it was he who would cruelly thrust me into ministry after ministry unprepared, and it was he who would save me at the last minute when I would stumble in these ministries. Father Eric was the catalyst, the force behind nearly everything I do now. I cannot tell you how much I miss our weekly breakfast where we would catch up on everything going on in the parish, me rambling on about everything that needed improving, him laughing as he wrote all his notes in Japanese on napkins.

I won’t pretend we agreed on everything, the truth would be quite the reverse, we disagreed on everything, but our disagreement never got in the way of our friendship, and never got in the way of our work. In fact it only seemed to heighten it. Mutual respect is something uncommon in today’s world that seems more interested in debate and argument than the true meeting of minds. Father Eric was never that way.

I had prepared the altar for the Feast of Mary, Mother of God after a long night of staying up with my daughters to ring in the new year. Everyone was tired. Having January first be a holy day of obligation can feel like a bother sometimes, but we all know it’s the best way to start off the year. I know you are a faithful Catholic when I see your red eyes in church on New Years Day! Our deacon and I were chatting in the sacristy about nothing in particular, when we realized Father was later than usual. After calling him with no response, he went over to check on him. When he returned, pale as a ghost and announced to the congregation that Father was sick, and there would be no Mass, I feared the worst immediately. As he ran out of the church, still in his freshly pressed white vestments, I hopped up to the ambo to lead the parish in prayer for Father. As I stood there praying the rosary with our congregation, my mind raced with terror. Our deacon works in a hospital and is a black belt, so it takes more than sickness to drain the blood from his face. I knew this had to be quite bad indeed.

Poicle Tape at Church

After dismissing the congregation, I stepped outside the church for a moment to see my spiritual home being dressed in bright yellow police tape, and them carting out a body. I didn’t cry, I didn’t feel anything at all. All I felt was a pressing need to do something. I sat with our deacon, my friend, as he calmly told the police over and over again exactly what he saw, having to relive that moment again and again while the image of finding his body was so fresh. I felt so numb, and yet was comforted by the strength of he and his wife.

I went home to change for the press conference, only to find my phone full of messages asking if Father was okay, but the police had asked me to be silent. I came back to the Church to a storm of cameras, city officials and worried parishioners. The tears were already flowing everywhere when the mayor gave us the news. I wanted so badly for the cameras to all just go away and let our people cry without our emotions all being documented for the evening’s bout of entertainment. I haven’t watched the news since. I don’t think I ever will.

At the Press Conference

Anyone who has read my blog knows how deeply I respect and admire my bishop, it is built into the tone of nearly everything I say about the episcopacy. All that changed that week. Before, I respected him because in my mind, I saw him as my apostle in some idealistic fashion. However, it took very little time for me to simply love him more than any respect can do him justice. When he got the news, he immediately jumped in the car and drove the five hours from the chancery to our parish, and without missing a beat, took over everything for the parish personally. He handled the funeral arrangements, he handled mourning services, he took over all our masses for weeks, he stayed with us and mourned with us. He brought in Father Eric’s family, and more than that, he did all this in a way that everyone in the parish could participate and help. To think that as he came, I, in my selfishness, was more concerned with whether or not I would be involved in all that would soon transpire. His kindness and generosity knew no bounds, and put my selfishness to shame.

Eucharistic Prayer

We could not have done it without him. The services went on and on, they never seemed to end. Masses for Father, an all night vigil, the funeral, the graveside service; it seemed as if we fit three months of liturgies into a couple days, and our bishop never broke a sweat, and never stopped being able to smile.

The funeral was hard. I was given the second reading, the same reading we read last week from Romans, about how all creation groans for our redemption. I don’t think the bishop knew this when he chose it, but this was one of Father’s favorite scriptures. The Holy Spirit just helps with stuff like that. It was odd being so busy while trying to deal with my own emotions and prepare to read for such a massive crowd. One minute I was was making sure we had all the stuff for the funeral mass, the next I was condoling with someone new, the next I was relaying some message for the bishop, it was quite surreal. I did not go to the graveside service, I knew I couldn’t handle it.

Bishop lays father to rest

The outpouring of love for Father Eric was so intense that it crossed all boundaries. People came from the college he taught at, from the Newman center he worked with, for the Japanese community he served, from other faith communities, and so much more. He was loved so very much, and his loss hurt so many so very deeply.

I cannot speak as to how Father touched any of these people’s lives, but I can say who he was to me. He was one of the most masculine men I have known. He loved his sports, and his quiet evening with a beer and a cigar. He would actually vacation to Chicago. His knowledge of scripture was so immense that we could talk for hours on a single word, translating it from language to language to further understand its meaning. He believed that joy was the true christian vocation, that it was the heart of what it meant to love Christ, and he really tried to live that joy out everyday. He was ever the Salesian, and could not forget where he came from for a moment. (Never get him started talking about John Bosco!) He looked like a white man, but he was really Japanese to the core. He would talk with homeless men and women for hours. He was not the greatest of Saints, but on most days, he really tried to be.

Mostly, he was my friend.

Father in presiders chair

I want to say something trite, like live your friendships while you have them, or never take those around you for granted. Instead, I would say that bad things just happen, and sometimes, terrible things happen. But God does not leave us orphans, he is with us every step of the way. This event was one of the most terrible events I can imagine ever happening, the random murder of a good and faithful person for no reason at all, and yet, the blessings that God has poured out through this tragedy has been immense. I have written enough, and have no desire to talk about the individuals whose faith has been strengthened or renewed, the conversions or any of these particulars. Suffice to say, the blessings have continued in great abundance. Father’s message speaks louder in death than it ever did in life, however paradoxical that may seem. I have also found it ever so fitting that he died on the feast of our most beloved mother, the woman he always remembered was that greatest disciple of them all.

I want to thank all those who did so much for us, for the Knights of Columbus who stayed with the body all night long so that people could come and mourn in peace at their own time, the Women’s Club who handled all the arrangements for reception after reception, our sister parish for giving us full use of their church with no question asked, for my friend from my old youth group who organized the making of thousands of origami cranes, for the hundreds of people who left candlelit memorials at Father Eric’s door and lining the entire block, for the funeral home that comped all the funeral expenses, for all of our priests who drove from across the diocese to mourn with us. The thanks just go on and on, I could never get them all.

Funeral with altar servers

In closing, I would remember a tradition that Father would do every year from his days as a Salesian priest. Every year, he would print out a short thought on a card for everyone to reflect on for the whole year, and he would bring it up over and over again in his homilies. It is called a strenna. When he had the strenna printed out for the year, I felt it was nice enough, but I was unhappy with the artwork. It was meant to show God’s grace in the form of rain coming upon the earth, but I thought it looked sad, almost like tears. He liked it though, so we printed them. Those tears, the grace, the message, they have all burned into my mind now almost as if they were his identity in my thoughts now. There’s that ole Holy Spirit doing his thing again.

“To be happy, be thankful.

To be thankful, have faith.

Faith is understanding that all is God’s.”

-Fr. Eric Freed

Fr Eric Strenna

Eric, it has been six months, and I still can’t forget for even one day. I miss you very much, as do all those whom you served. May our Lord whom you served so faithfully give you the opportunity to serve him even more abundantly in heaven my friend. And while you are there, please continue to pray for me.

Versatile Blogger Award

There are few blogs that I follow regularly, in fact, there are less than ten. So when one of my personal favorite bloggers sends me a recognition of some kind, I can’t help but be thankful for the notice from someone I personally read so regularly. You see, I’m a homeschooling father, and to be honest, I’m not all that creative. It’s not so much that I’m not artistic as much as I’m never sure quite what to do when it comes to the kids. So they knit. A lot.

Insert Jennifer at Crafolic.com. She has so many ideas over there for kids that it will make your head spin. I have told her repeatedly that she needs to write a book, and if she doesn’t then many families will simply miss out on her, and I don’t want that to happen. Not only that, but her husband has a beard, and I respect any woman who loves a man with a solid beard.

So if you have kids and are looking for something special and fun to do, check her out. If you are a grandparent, always check her page when you know the kids are coming over to stay. I can think of few better ways to have fun with them that so clearly helps to solidify the faith of children.

So, to the award. I am supposed to nominate some other bloggers for this “Versatile Blogger Award”, as well as tell you seven things about myself that I haven’t mentioned already. Well, I’m not sure who I would nominate for this award, I would just take the time to go through my blogroll. Most of those blogs are written by solid Catholics, and are all worthy of some notice. That is of course why I put them there. To be honest, most of the blogs I follow would not be all that interested in a small little blog like mine taking notice of them, I am after all, a very small bug in the world of blogging.

That being said, I’d love to pass the award to other blogs that follow me, I’ll link them as I get word:

TJBurdick – Adorationality.wordpress.com Check out his title, it’s hilarious. Definitely check out his article on Confusing White People. I do this too, just with Latin.

Now, seven things about me.

1. I failed skipping in kindergarten. All I could do is gallop. This would be the only test I have ever failed in my life. My kids love to make fun of me for this.

2. I’m deeply interesting in native cultures, regardless of the nationality. I always wanted to be a cultural anthropologist, specializing in native cultures. I am simply interested in how people lived when they lived as naturally and close to the earth as possible. I often sit back and dream of fishing and hunting all day, and I’m sure my prayer life would be a lot better if that was all I had on my plate!

3. My sister is also my cousin. Dead serious. No incest here, so I’ll have to explain. When my mother divorced my father, her next husband was his cousin. So she’s my half sister through my mother, and my cousin through my father. I still think that’s funny every time I say it.

4. I love watermelon. When I was a little boy, I would go and visit my father in the south every couple years. Every time I went, it was summer, and my grandfather would take me out on the farm in his tractor first thing, so that I could get my watermelon. We would roll through the oppressive heat to find the perfect one, and then he would toss it on the ground to break it open, and I would eat the whole thing right there. We would of course grab another to bring home, but he always said he loved watching me eat that watermelon.

5. Bald is sexy. (At least that’s what my wife keeps telling me!)

6. I can play almost any instrument you put in front of me. I can play the didgeridoo, the ukulele, the Irish flute, you name it. I come from a musical family, my parents even have a rock band!

7. I don’t like reading the bible. I know, that’s just stupid. I love to quote it, and I love what it teaches me, but every time I sit down to read it, my eyes glaze over. Don’t get me wrong, I have forced myself through every book, but I’m actually better at reading books about the bible, than reading the bible itself. The office of readings is about all I can handle in a day. Go figure.

And there you go. Seven random things about me for your amusement.

(Just a note for any bloggers that follow me, if you would like me to link you on this page and send you this award, let me know, and I’ll hop right on it.)

Father’s Day

So today I am going to do something entirely different.

I want to tell you about my Dad.

My mother was very young when I was born, and unfortunately, that marriage did not work very well for her. I have never really gone into it with her, to be honest it really isn’t any of my business. In my earliest years, I didn’t really have a father. Yes, there was mom’s second husband, but my only memories of him near the diabolical. What can I say, bad memories seem to stick better than good ones.

My real father never really wanted anything to do with me. While I did not really understand when I was young, now as a man I see things much clearer. I did a lot of stupid things when I was 18, and I’m not sure I would want a living reminder of my mistakes and heartaches walking around to bother me either. I’m not saying it is excusable, I’m just saying I understand.

In walks my father. He was my mom’s high school sweetheart, and he never stopped loving my mother. He kept conversation with her though all the stupid stuff I just talked about, seemingly waiting. I’m not sure he ever bothered with another girl, instead he contented himself to work hard on his photography, rode his bicycle across the country, and basically had every adventure he could come up with. I was going into kindergarten when I met him for the first time.

Papa is a red headed, fully bearded man. (Mom won’t let him shave, he looks too young!) He is well built, but not like a truck. He is the single funniest man I have ever met, and the only way to get him to stop making jokes is to get him talking about politics. He laughs all the time. He has never in my entire life yelled at me, not to say he hasn’t been angry, but he was always in control.

Papa is one of the best friends I have ever had. It’s not just that he is my father, or that he chose to be my father when my father left me. It’s not only because he took me to boy scout camp outs and made me eat the weird food my grandmother would cook. It is because he can listen.

Let me put it like this. When I was a kid, every morning we would wake up to NPR. Now NPR is a radio station with a rather liberal slant, and that makes sense, as he was liberal. But he really listened. In the listening, we was able to be open minded enough to see that the conservative view had some serious points, and over time has changed his views.

You see, he is not stuck in a mental rut. I’m not saying that it is better to be conservative than liberal. All I am saying is my father can think, and think very well. When I speak to him, he really tries to understand what I am saying, and what better friend is there than one who will listen to what you have to say with honest ears, and give you honest feedback?

He works hard, to the wee hours of the night. He is loyal to a fault. He makes farting jokes with my children, and they still love to sit in his lap even though they are moving into their teens. He takes care of his aging mother, going up to her house every morning to make sure she has breakfast. He plays a mean harmonica, and plays it in his band every weekend. His photography is some of the best I have ever seen, and if you want to see how amazing his graphic art skills are, just look at my header. I asked him for it one night, and he stayed up till 2:00 in the morning to make sure it looked great. And to this day, every time we talk on the phone, he never forgets to tell me he loves me.

I could spend five hours and fifty pages and not begin to tell you how much I love and respect Papa. So I will just say this. He may not be Catholic, but he is what a saint looks like. I pray that I grow to become more like him every day of my life.

Heck, we even wear the same hat. I love you Papa.

I’m Better Than You

Human Dignity.

I have to admit, that I am at times very confused about this.

The trouble is, it all sounds so nice on paper. We claim that every person has the same innate human dignity because we all were made in the image and likeness of God. We say that there is some equality between every person that has ever been born, and then we choose this odd word to describe it, dignity.

Dignity –

1.The state of equality of being worthy of honor or respect

2. A composed or serious manner or style

Now we are obviously talking about the first definition of dignity here, we are not saying that every human person has a serious manner, that would just be silly. So when we say that every person is equally worthy of honor or respect, do we really mean that? Am I really called to honor and respect everyone equally?

This all sound nice and fluffy, but when I actually try to put it into practice, this is a really hard teaching. Am I really supposed to have the same honor and respect for Stalin that I would have for Mother Theresa? Seriously? I mean, this is simply beyond my comprehension. How can I possibly put the Holy Father and the druggie Meth head who just got out of prison on the same level? It’s no challenge to imagine my bishop as having dignity, not so easy for the wife beater down the street.

But here is the real rub. That’s exactly what Jesus did. Spot on. He didn’t even flinch when talking with the prostitute. Poverty and sickness? Didn’t bug Him one bit. The only thing that really seemed to get His goat was religious hypocrisy, and guess what? I am most assuredly not a prostitute, but I have certainly been hypocritical about my beliefs. I’m not sure Jesus would have liked me all that much. That’s pretty darn scary. So since Jesus was clearly tied in to this idea of human dignity, even though it doesn’t make real sense to me, I have to accept it as true. That doesn’t make it any easier.

“Mrs. Turpin occupied herself at night naming the classes of people. On the bottom of the heap were most colored people, not the kind that she would have been if she had been one, but most of them; then next to them- not above, just away from- were the white trash; then above them were the home owners, and above them the home and land owners, to which she and Claud belonged. Above she and Claud were people with a lot of money and much bigger houses and much more land. But here the complexity of it would begin to bear in on her, for some of the people with a lot of money were common and ought to be below she and Claud and some of the people who had good blood had lost their money and had to rent and then there were colored people who owned their own homes and land as well.” -“Revelation” Flannery O’Conner

This is me. Maybe the tools I use to judge everyone are different than Mrs, Turpin, I’m pretty blind to race for example, but I still have a clear strata in my subconscious. That homeless guy is somehow beneath me and that guy at the country club is above me. Where the heck did I get the idea that I could possibly be better than someone else? How did this nonsense get into my brain?

Where do we get this need to place ourselves from? How did I get this way? Why is it so automatic for me to look down on the dirty hippy asking for money, and so easy for me to defer to someone just because they have loads of cash? And like Mrs, Turpin, it only gets more confusing the deeper you get into this mess.

More importantly, how do we break out of this evil cycle? How can we get to the point where we truly see every human person as having the same, true, innate dignity that they were given at their conception. I’m not saying we have to love sin or anything crazy like that, but how can we learn to love every person equally? Jesus pulled it off, and brought it into the realm of perfect possibility, how can we change what is so deeply ingrained in us?

I am certain that we can’t. I think it has to be done TO us. I think only the grace of God can possibly cure me of this evil, and I pray he does just that.

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.” -Galatians 3:27-9