Category Archives: Holidays

The Scapular of Our Lady of Mt Carmel

I am pro with my scapular. Yes, many faithful Catholics wear the scapular, and I am ever so proud whenever I see it creeping up someone’s back, or I see it hanging out of a child’s shirt. But let me ask you this, how quickly can you knot it so it won’t fall off while you are swimming? Like I said, I’m pro.

All levity aside, today is a very special day for me. It seems my entire life as a Catholic has revolved around our Lady under the title of Mt Carmel. You see, I was born on the feast day of St John of the Cross, and my patron saint is St Therese of Lisieux. I even began formation as a Secular Carmelite for a few years before I decided that road was not mine to travel. Truly, I deeply love Our Lady of Mt Carmel.

So today on her feast day, as I was preparing my reflection for a communion service I have today, I could not help but feel sad when I remember how few Catholics wear her scapular, sad to think of the many who do not even know of this powerful prayer. Rather than go through the trouble of explaining what the scapular is, if you are not familiar with it, I suggest you look here to find out all you need to know.

Now wearing the scapular is not really supposed to be just an act we perform, neither is it a mere devotion. While there are also promises of our Lady attached to the scapular, it is not a “get out of hell free” card either. The scapular, above all, is a prayer.

This can often be hard to understand at first. How can just wearing a couple silly little pieces of cloth be a prayer? I mean, we are used to thinking of prayer as a conversation, often one sided, between us an God. We think of prayer as our endless rattling off of words and requests. This is not untrue, but this form of prayer is just one kind of prayer, the prayer of our active mind. Just as we are more than a collection of thoughts though, so should our prayer be.

A great example of this is the Sign of the Cross that we make as we begin every prayer in our daily lives. This is a prayer of the body, a prayer of identification with the Holy Trinity, and even though it’s words are few, its meaning is very deep and profound. When we make the Sign of the Cross, we are professing symbolically our very identity, marking ourselves as Christians, taking the cross of our Lord upon ourselves, and submitting ourselves to His rule in the Kingdom of God. Yes it is short, but its meaning transcends its mere words and gestures.

In a similar way, wearing the Scapular is like wrapping yourself in Mary’s garments. It is accepting that you are a child, and not just any child, but HER child. It is physically taking a submissive role to our mother, and physically feeling her protective mantle around you. So it is less a prayer of words, and more a prayer of emotion, a prayer of solidarity.

As I go about my day, my scapular often gets in my way. I can feel it riding up towards my neck, or it will get twisted around. As I fix it, I remember that it is there, and that she is there, watching over me. When I take it off to hop in the shower, I again feel myself tugging at her skirts like a needy two year old as I put it back on, and know that she is my Lady. These little actions, these little heartfelt remembrances call me home, and remind me of who I am. Not every prayer has to be wordy you see.

If you wear the brown scapular of Carmel, wear it a little prouder today. Take the time to remember what it means in your life. If you don’t wear it, learn more about it, and see if this devotion is one for you. After all, one can never have enough connection to our Blessed Mother.

Also, today, say a special prayer for those who spend their lives praying for us, most especially that most blessed order of Carmelites.

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.

Never Forget

I am a patriot.

Now that doesn’t mean I feel our country is the greatest nation in the world or any of that nonsense. We have our problems, and those problems are very real ones. I have often commented on the slow steady decrease of morality in our nation, I’m not all that happy with how our government runs and I think we have real cultural problems that need to be addressed. I don’t think that we are automatically better than anyone else, though I must concede that I’m glad I don’t live in Cuba or Iran. I think we have great things going for us, and I have little doubt that other countries do too.

Even with its problems and issues though, this is my home, and I would never want to live anywhere else. I always enjoy visiting other countries, but a big part of that enjoyment is knowing that I have my own to go home to.

So I want the best for this nation, and when I critique its people or culture or government, it is because of my deep love for it. I was a Boy Scout in the USA, I was student body president in the USA, I got married and had my children in the USA. I love my home, and would fight tooth and nail for her.

Today, Memorial Day, we remember those who have fought for our nation, especially those who have died doing so. For me, some of these were family. My great-great grandfather lost his leg in the civil war, but far deeper was the loss of his brother. My great uncle died the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. So much war to keep this land of the free, so much pain and death. Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, and the list goes on. Good men are lost, and the cost is so high that I sometime wonder if its worth it.

I remember when my younger brother was in the Navy, I was so scared that he would be sent to the front lines, and I would never see him again. I love my brother so much, and I just can’t imagine how deep that loss would have been for me. I worried over his safety every day, and prayed that the Lord would let him come back home.

I know that it is worth it. I know that the protection of our country is deeply and immensely important. But I would be lying if I said that I thought it was no big deal. Quite the contrary, it breaks my heart every time I see a coffin draped with a flag.

I can see that I am just rambling about my feeling without coming to any real conclusion. I don’t really think there is a conclusion to come to. It’s hard, and that is what it is.

So for our brothers who have died in the defense of this nation, our home, I thank you, and I salute your bravery. Pray for us, we need your prayers.

For those who have been left alone, may God give you strength, and may you find support in those who love you and are near to you. May your sacrifice never be forgotten.

For those who are at home filled with worry over the ones they love being far from them, I cannot give you words that can console. I can give you my thanks for your heroic bravery, and thank you for sacrificing so much to protect my family.

And for those men and women out there serving, I salute you. Come back safe and sound, and with God’s speed.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
-General George Patton

Mother’s Day

The single most important day of the year.

Let me rephrase, the single day you must never forget.

Seriously.

If you forgot, right this second, get off the computer or phone or whatever, go out in the yard and pick the prettiest flower you can find. (The neighbor’s will do in a pinch) Take it to your wife, mother, or any other mother in your house, and ask her if you can make her dinner tonight while she relaxes. I just saved your butt, so get to it.

Then, get on the phone, and call every mother that has any relation to you whatsoever. Mom and wife of course, but don’t forget mother in law, grandma, great grandma, aunt Betty-Sue, everyone, period. Don’t forget to call every pregnant woman you know, and congratulate them too. Not only will you save your very life from utter destruction, the brownie points you earn will come in very handy this week.

(Brownie points do NOT carry on to the next week. Resentment points however, have no expiration date. Just so you know.)

Now that we have that out of the way, on to the task at hand.

I hope I made it clear that you cannot shirk your duties on Mother’s Day, but I must admit I do have deep concerns about the day. It is so very easy to turn mother’s day into another one of the Hallmark card days, a day with a quick and funny note, a sweater with hands painted on it, and a badly made breakfast. Yes, mothers truly need appreciation, and we should give it to them, but make sure that you are taking the time to truly honor her, and not just pay her lip service, or it really is a bit silly.

“Gee Mom, you’re great, thanks for life and stuff.” Yea…, it just doesn’t cut it.

The evening as I am writing this, already the cheese is flowing on Facebook with this kitschy nonsense.”Share this picture of a cute puppy if you love your mom!” Think I’ll pass on that one. “A mother’s love is priceless, hit share to wish your mother a happy mother’s day!” It really almost makes me sick. Please do try to be more meaningful, to do less is really altogether, well, lame.

If you really want to wow your mother or your wife, or your grandmother, I have the perfect method to show you how.

Tell her that her life has shown you what it means to love Mary, the mother of all. Then take the time to list all her most beautiful traits. Speak of her gentleness, her sacrifice to your family. Let her know that you see how she holds your family and it’s mysteries close to her heart. Let her know that you see the toil, the sadness, the struggling, the frustration, and that the elegance with which she handles it shows you what our most Blessed Virgin must have been like.

Of course she isn’t perfect, and she doesn’t model any of those things as well as Our Lady, but Our Lady’s graces are present in her. Let her know you see it, love it, and are a better person for it. Oh, and you better mean it.

Then just ask to pray a Hail Mary with her, and hold her hands while you do. I promise she will never forget it.

Oh, and don’t forget to look in her eyes and say, “I love you.”

Chicks love mushy stuff.

PS, Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

Learning to Bilocate

Deacon classes are always challenging, but my latest task has taken the cake. I am currently studying bi-location.

What the heck is bi-location you ask? Well, to be honest I’m not really all that sure, not having really accomplished it yet, but as I understand, many of the Saints were able to be in two places at once. That sounds particularly challenging since I haven’t really learned to be at one place at once very efficiently as of yet.

So this weekend, at the Easter Vigil, it was time to put my nose to the grindstone and figure it out, because I somehow had to go to both Easter Vigils in my town. (We have two parishes in my city.) Yup, at my parish, I was reading, directing altar servers, helping the catechumen and candidates that I have been working with all year, basically making sure everything went to plan. My kids are altar serving, my wife is an extraordinary minister, we are completely involved in this Mass.

This is just what I signed up for. The Easter Vigil is my favorite Mass of the entire year, and I am knee deep in it’s planning. I’ve been excited for six months for tonight.

On Thursday however, a very good friend gave me a call to offer me a signal honor. Her son was going to be baptized, and she didn’t realize she needed godparents. Of course their Mass is being held at the exact same time as ours.

Really good friend. Really great honor. Really short notice.

(Insert string of expletives here)

Now if this had been a goddaughter, this would have been a piece of cake. I would have sent my wife to represent us, but alas, it is not so. Nope, it has got to be me, and I know it. This boy needs a man to stand with him, and being a godparent is forever, and therefore clearly the more important task.

So I must suddenly learn to bi-locate. We definitely did not cover this in my formation classes.

So here is how it panned out. I showed up an hour early to my parish to help set up and double check that everything was perfect. Check. Jumped into the RCIA class to help with prayers and to congratulate everyone. Check. Got Easter fire ready. Check.

Then off we go. As soon as the crowds leave the Easter fire, I douse the holy barbecue, put it in a safe place and jump in the church to read the first reading. (I was scheduled to read the epistle, but switched with a buddy to get the first reading) Listened to the Easter Praises, and hopped up to read.

What! Dangit, I double checked everyone else, but I forgot to check my own readings! The pages aren’t marked, and the church is packed. I’m up there looking at the Holy Thursday readings! After a couple eons of page turning as hundreds of people stare at me, I find the first reading and go for it. Guess what? Wrong reading. Yup, totally read the wrong thing. Yes, I read a reading for Holy Saturday, just not the reading we had planned on being read.

“The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Walk away from the ambo reverently. Continue walking all the way out the church, hop in car, drive across town, walk into Mass. Stand up for my new godson, finish Mass. Wish all friends there a happy Easter, fly back to my parish, hop in reception, congratulate everyone who just came into the Church, eat cake.

Grab family, fly back to other reception, congratulate godson, eat more cake. Drop off family, walk to church and pick up wife’s car.

Collapse in exhaustion. Sleep until noon. Forget to hide eggs.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a holy and beautiful Easter. But something really got to me.

I was sad that I wasn’t really able to spend Easter with my family. This Easter taught me one thing I knew was going to happen intellectually, but I just wasn’t prepared for emotionally. I have always loved being snuggled up to my wife during Mass, to have my daughter’s hand in mine and her head on my shoulder. I have always been able to be present to them as a husband and as a father.

Being a deacon will mean being separated from my family.