Category Archives: Spirituality

My Favorite Night of the Week

Every other Sunday, we have guests. Sometimes they fill the house, sometimes it’s just one or two folks. Sometimes it’s loud and raucous, sometimes it’s quiet and prayerful. It is always awesome.

I used to be a Youth Ministry Coordinator, and when one of my former youth group kids asked me to start up a young adult group, I of course said sure. Now when I say young adult, I don’t mean kids or teens. I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand when we started calling late teens adult, that’s just bad vocabulary. I am talking about college age young people, 21-30ish.

I totally understand why John Paul II had such a deep love for this age group. It’s hard not to. Please, don’t ever ask me to work with Jr High school kids, I just can’t take it. Twenty somethings however, I can do that every night of every week.

The reason I love this age group is twofold. First, they are hungry. They live in a world that is constantly attacking them, and they are on loose footing. They truly want to know how to handle life and it’s challenges, and are really trying to figure out who they are with a zest for life that no other age group can match. They are bombarded every day with evils and temptation that would make a roman prostitute blush, and at the same time they are trying to reach towards heaven and understand their place in the world. Talk about a tall order.

Second, they love philosophy. Wow! Most of the time when I start talking in the abstract, whomever I am speaking with starts to get this glazed look and the confusion starts to set in. My own wife just starts to get dizzy, and asks me to stop, my kids just can’t figure out what the heck I am talking about.

This generation though really gets it. They are looking for more than words and rules, they are looking for ideals and ideas on which to base their life. They want the big picture, not a list of regulations. It’s just downright refreshing, and super fun.

So we gather at my house around 6:30, and we have a quick prayer, and we dive right in. Ten minutes of small talk minimum, and then we just go at it full bore. We talk about life issues, marriage and sex, homosexuality, the death penalty, there is just no topic that is too controversial. I led one class where I was teaching how to explain Catholicism to Protestants, and they brought along three or four of their Protestant friends so that they could see it in action.

Who does that? Only this age group has the guts.

The only thing I love more than their guts, is their heart. This generation is truly a great hope. They really and truly feel the dangers that are present in the world, and really want to be the leaven that changes it.

As for me, I think they can.

Prayer of Death

So I’m about to head out on my weekly round to the nursing homes, and I’m suddenly reminded of my first service I was a part of for a retirement community. One of our die-hard parishoners was leading the service, and she asked me to read the prayer she always read right after communion. It was a special prayer to this community, but I did not know that at the time. Here goes.

“Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. You know how easily I abandon You.
Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often.
Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor.
Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness.
Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.
Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You.
Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much, and always be in Your company.
Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You.
Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I wish it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of Love.
Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late and the day is coming to a close, and life passes, death, judgement, eternity approaches. It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will not stop along the way and for that, I need You. It is getting late and death approaches. I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows. O how I need You, my Jesus, in this night of exile!
Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its dangers, I need You.
Let me recognize You as Your disciples did at the breaking of bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion be the light which disperses the darkness, the force which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.
Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death, I want to remain united to You, if not by Communion, at least by grace and love.
Stay with me, Jesus, I do not ask for divine consolation, because I do not merit it, but, the gift of Your Presence, oh yes, I ask this of You!
Stay with me, Lord, for it is You alone I look for. Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more.
With a firm love, I will love You with all my heart while on earth and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity.
Amen” – St. Padre Pio, OFM Cap.

Now let me say right off this prayer is beautiful. I was just unprepared for all the “end of life” talk. It caught me off guard. As I’m reading it, trying to be full of expression, in my head I’m crying out, “Holy Cow! Why am I reading all this stuff about death to these poor people who are so near to it!”

I felt insensitive, rude, callous.

No one seemed to react to me though, and over the last six months, as I have read this prayer over and over again, and lost several wonderful people in the community, I have found such deep consolation in this prayer.

Yes, they are close. They are truly looking into the abyss, and are searching for hope. I am amazed by the courage they show, to look it in the face, see death’s approach, and bear it with gentleness and humor. I truly hope that near my end, those who love me don’t shy away from what is near. I want to be prepared.

I’m not afraid to talk and pray about death anymore, thanks to this wonderful community.

St. Joseph, please grant me a happy death.

Examination of Conscience

Last weekend I was talking about vices and confession, and I promised to show you a way to really analyze the vices you personally have. It is at this point that I must admit that I’m rather old-fashioned.

I think that age old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” would be the operative here. I get so dang tired of everything having to be new to be useful. It’s idiotic. Those men and women who came before us were not stupid. (In case you didn’t notice, I’ve struck a sore spot.) I’m gonna have to save this rant for another day.

Back to tradition. The best way to find out when, where, what and why you are sinning, or where the vices in your life have control, is the same way it’s been done for hundreds of years.

You examine your conscience.

Yup, nothing beats it. It works nearly every time. I have a warning here though if you have never done this before.

Your most frequent sin is probably not what you think it is.

I think the only way to truly illustrate this is through my own experience. I was told to begin recording my examination of conscience in a journal by my spiritual director, and so I had no choice but to obey. I was terrified of this.

Truth be told, I already knew what my problem was. I love my wife very dearly, but in a culture that sells sex at every turn, it’s hard not to notice. All you have to do is walk in the local mall past the Victoria’s Secret, or flip on the TV for ten minutes to know that sex is used to sell everything known to man. “Wow! that cleavage really makes me want to buy that motor oil!” It sounds silly when you put it that way, but that is precisely what the average man is flooded with everyday. I am no exception. I just knew that this had to be a real problem for me, and my journal would be filled with all my lascivious thoughts.

Oh boy, was I wrong.

Yes, that did happen on occasion, but I found my cynicism allowed me to resist that particular temptation rather well. (Three cheers for being a cynic!) The only trouble was, I realized my real problem.

Pride.

Here follows an excerpt from my journal:

“Last night I got three sodas when I was supposed to be quit. I ordered twice as much food as I needed. I carefully inserted that I minister to the sick and do communion services so I would seem like a better guy. I was condescending to my colleague. I purposefully looked away from a homeless person asking for money. I picked the hardest topic in class so I could show off my intelligence. I smoked too much. I was self absorbed when I cam home and did not focus on my family. I bragged to my mother about my service in the Church

Look at that closely. My sin, is Pride. Even with the good things in my life, I’m still just a selfish brat. This is a glaring reality, and it’s 90% of my daily sin. Uh oh. The very sin that cast Lucifer from the heavens is my own as well. It’s rather terrifying to think I have more in common with him than with my Lord.

I share this in hopes that you do not cower at your own examine. We all have our very real problems, we are not perfect yet. We must at least know where we stand to fix ourselves though, so I very seriously recommend you do this.

What do I do? How about some easy to follow instructions?!

First, go to your nearest everything for a dollar or office supply store, and grab yourself a journal. Put it by your bedside, and then every night before you go to sleep, you run through your entire day. I promise it only takes five minutes, ten if you are a woman. (Women think a lot more then men, so they have more material.)

Go through every event in your day from start to finish, and write down everything you knew was a little off, or could have been done in a more holy manner. You are not going to publish this on a blog, so be truthful, you are the only one who is going to read this. If for some reason you forget, don’t sweat it, just pick up the book, and run through everything you have done since the last time you picked up the book.

Do this every day for a week, and you will know yourself better that you ever have before. Plus, now you have real fodder for your spiritual cannon. Load your guns, and get ready to brawl.

One last little thought. If you have ever read any of the the Saints, you know that they thought they were the worst sinners of all. This is because they really took the time to know themselves. If you think you are a basically good person, and all is just hunky-dory, I challenge you to be more like them, and realize you are far from it.

Praying in the Bathroom

Alright, I need to make sure I’m being clear here before I even get started on this.

I am not trying to be gross. I am merely illustrating a point.

As Americans, we are constantly rushing to the next thing. Jump up and get to work, quick fifteen minute break, and we are off again. Take a half hour hunch, fly into the nearest fast food crack dispenser, and make it back to work just in time to plug in another four hours of labor. When it gets time to go home, we are no better. Dinner on the table by six, except for Tuesdays and Thursdays where we have to go grab food yet again at Carl’s Mac Burger Bell on the way to soccer practice. It never stops.

Now, our good Lord told us we are to pray always, and while that is most certainly possible or He would not have said it. It can simply be a great challenge with our schedule to remember at any given moment the mandate He gave us.

I would even venture to say that for us, it is impossible. Only God could help us achieve this.

But wait! There is something I have found that helps!

No one ever bothers me in the bathroom, and no one ever bothers me if I take a couple minutes too long. It’s like a mini siesta, a short break in the middle of every couple of hours that is usually rather quiet and undisturbed.

I know it sounds silly, but I’m serious. Since I have started making sure to focus my bathroom time on the Lord, whether it’s just to wash my hands, take a shower, or take care of other unmentionables, I have found it keeps me centered for the next thirty minutes or so, sometimes longer. In the stall I can make the Sign of the Cross without my coworkers giving me funny looks. It’s really pretty awesome.

Now, I know you might think you are being irreverent, but remember, he said always, right? Always means no period of time without prayer, so that by necessity must include this time. Don’t forget that bodies were one of God’s ideas, so you only have to go to the bathroom because He made you that way. It certainly doesn’t bother Him.

To be rather frank, He is there whether you notice His presence or not.

So make your time alone less lonely, and ask the Lord to be with you for the next few hours. Say an Our Father or a Hail Mary. If you still feel a little silly, then just say the Hail Marys, I promise she will know exactly what’s going on, as I have little doubt she had the same practice.

3000 year old toilet from Jerusalem

Deja Vu Again

If you have not read yesterday’s post, this will make no sense. Go back and do your homework or I will make you write 100 sentences.

So we have this engine running full steam, and we know God put it there, so it must be a good thing, right? You bet it is. It is not only a good thing, it is your source of power for creating good.

What we need to do, is take the drive shaft connected to this engine and give it something to do. Right now, it’s driving you crazy because it is not focused, not attached to anything. That’s why it’s bouncing around your life slamming this sin into your relationships. We have got to get this under control.

Here is where we usually make the big mistake though. We think we can just stop it. We honestly think that if we can just suppress the urge to commit this sin, all will be right in the world, and we will become saints.

I’m sorry guys, it is not so. This engine was put there by God, and has fuel from eternity, so it is pumping away whether you like it or not. You suppressing this power is just going to explode inside you. It just can’t be done.

What to do?

Well I’m so glad you asked! I’ve got just the thing!

First, we can look at the Saints. That is why they are there, of course. They provide the example for us to follow, they are the ones who have figured it all out for.

One of the driving powers that the saints have in common is their engines were all very strong, and they let them run at full bore. They did not try to stifle these engines, in fact, they used them to their benefit. I think some examples would be appropriate at this point to give you a clear picture of what I mean.

St Francis Xavier was a very proud man. His big sin that he had to fight was without a doubt pride. He came from an aristocratic family, was the sports champion, he was a real “my way or the highway” kind of guy. In fact, most of the brothers and priests who came to live with him couldn’t stand it, he was just too overpowering, and would ask for transfer within a matter of months. He was just dang hard to live with. But he took all that power, and instead of allowing it to run crazy, he focused it upon his task, to evangelize the East, and to build the Society of Jesus. He took the very thing that drove his sin, and untwisted it, plugging that power into virtuous pursuits.

A more recent example would be my patron, Therese, the little flower. This woman just loved. She loved and loved and loved. If she had let her passions control her, she would have doubtless been a harlot. Instead, she took all that desire to love, and turned it to God. The same effect can be seen in Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

So the very engine that is driving you to sin, is the same engine that God put inside you to drive you to sanctity. Of course it is not going away, it is your vehicle, your power. It is the misuse that is driving you crazy, not the engine itself.

So figure out how to connect this thing, and let’s get to God’s work already.

(You are going to have to figure out the connecting part yourself. Good luck.)