Deaconstore – Review

I am a procrastinator. I don’t try to be, I actually work quite hard to be proactive, but sometimes my lazy nature just kicks in, and before I know it, a deadline approaches, and I am caught unprepared.

So, I was to be ordained in a few weeks, and I had not yet bought any clerical shirts. I work in a school, and so with permission from my bishop, I was looking forward to express my ordination to my students by showing up the first day after my ordination by wearing my new school uniform. Not actually having bought these shirts, I found myself in a bit of a bind!

So I took the plunge, and ordered a few grey clerical shirts from DeaconStore.com, just a random site I found online. What I didn’t know was this is a one man show, and he was on a well deserved vacation.

I had simply ordered them and forgot about it, but when they didn’t show up, I suddenly got worried. A week before my ordination, I got an email from him letting me know he had been out of the office, but had just put the order in, and that they would come a week after my big event.

It was my fault, and I knew it. I should have been more forward thinking, but I’m an idiot. I shot him an email letting him know my situation, just to see if there was anything he could do for me.

Within a few hours, he let me know that he had contacted the manufacturer and had upgraded shipping right to my door, out of his pocket. They arrived on time, and the quality is great. All told, this was a great experience, and I will definitely be using them again.

Along with my shirts, I ordered some “iron on” deacon crosses. These things are fabulous, so I felt I had to mention them. They are as simple as you could ask for, but they are simply awesome. I have put them on many of my dress shirts, polos, even a jacket, and they look like they were embroidered right onto the fabric. I love these things.

The best part is they are simple and clean without being overbearing. I have worn shirts with them to conferences, hospital visits, RCIA classes, all sorts of stuff, and everyone gets what they mean almost instantly. I have found them to be just as effective at letting others know I am a cleric as actual clerical shirts.

I did have to make an extra purchase to get them on right though. I needed this teflon paper stuff, which I found in a fabric store and have been able to use over and over again. It gets wrinkled, but that doesn’t seem to stop it from working.

If you are a deacon, buy a ton of these. They are really that awesome.

I love everything I have purchased from this place. While I can’t review products I haven’t bought, I can definitively tell you that this guy is running a top notch shop. I should also let you know I have not received any kind of remuneration for this review, I just had too good an experience not to say something. (But you could tell him I sent you!)

Check them out, DeaconStore.com

 

Homily from Ordinary Time, Week 5, Cycle A, 2-5-17

The readings for this homily can be found here.

Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket. It is put on a lamp stand where it gives light to the whole house. Just so, your light should shine before others.

I think Jesus has this one all wrong. You see, I don’t really want to be a light, I want the light to shine on me. I want everyone to notice what a great guy I am, how well I have it all together. I want everyone to think I am a genius when I speak, to marvel at my poise and and to be in awe of my dashing good looks and fantastic hair. I want people to notice me, and so I put on a mask that I think everyone will like. I act cool and calm, but really, I still feel like a kid who can’t get his act together. Sure, I do all the right things, I show up to work on time and make sure I get the job done right, I pay my bills on time and shower every day, but in my mind, where it counts, I’m still just a kid. I’m a whiney brat who wants every toy in the store. I want everything to be about me, me, me. I want my kids to think about me, my parents to think about me, my wife to think about me. I honestly wish when I walked down the sidewalk that people would step out of the way just because I’m such a great guy. I’m annoyed in the grocery store when people won’t get out of my way, when they don’t notice how special I am.

More than this, I want my life to mean something, I want to be important, even if just to those close to me. I am scared of the truth, that I am really nobody at all. 10 years after I die, my children will only think of me once and a while, and the rest of the world will have forgotten I even existed. Soon after, I will simply be gone, it will be as if I were never here. I know, I’m kind depressing, I’m sorry.

I was driving to Santa Rosa last weekend, and I saw they had dedicated road or a bridge to some guy. I bet he was a great guy, loved and cared for by his family and friends, and is now just a name on a road. Buildings and cities named after people who are little remembered or cared for just a few years after their passing. Even as we look through history, little is left of those who have gone before us. I bet many of you have heard of Abraham Lincoln. Who was president before him? Who was president after? Time deletes us all.

But not everyone. Some still stand bright. Some turn their lives into lamps, to bright, shining rays of light that fill the world around them, a light that burns through the centuries. These people are so real, so normal, and yet so extraordinary that they are never forgotten. Real people, ordinary people. Yet they gave their lives to being a light, instead of shining the light on themselves.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, just another noble born, entitled kid, who gave it all up to become a monk. He poured himself out, and became a spiritual advisor to the whole world. I always loved stories of knights and princesses when I was a kid, before him, knights were little more than bloodthirsty mercenaries, but they listened to this humble monk, and with him was born the code of chivalry. Popes and princes would write him for advise, and he would put their letters on the stack with peasants, responding to everyone in turn.

St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, and he wasn’t even Irish. He was dragged to Ireland as a slave, and forced to work menial labor. After escaping, he decided to come back a preach the Gospel to his captors.

St. Veronica, who’s only claim to fame was that she helped a criminal condemned to death wash his face.

St. Anthony of Padua, was a quiet monk that nobody ever noticed. During an ordination, it was realized no one had planned to give a homily, everyone thinking someone else was going to do it. In a panic, his prior forced Anthony to speak, not wanting to be embarrassed himself. He became a preaching legend, and St Francis put him in charge of teaching his friars.

St. Joseph was nobody. He was a poor refugee, even among his own family, he did not have enough clout to find a room for his pregnant wife. He was completely unknown and unseen his whole life.

St. Mary, a poor woman with the scandal of a unwed pregnancy constantly looming over her. Yet she is so devoted to others, that even when she finds out she is pregnant with God himself, he first thought is not to look after herself, but to trek through the desert to he pregnant cousin to help her out.

They are lights. They shine through the darkness, but they are real, ordinary people. St. Giana Molla, who gave her life for her unborn child, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, shunned by her family and people for her faith, St. Thomas More, just another politician, until he is called to stand for what is right, St. Cecilla, St. Agnes, who’s heroism is not forgotten millennia after their deaths, St Ignatius oaf Antioch, who begged his flock to not defend him so that he could prove his love through death,

And my current favorite, Blessed Chiara Badano, who was a sweet girl playing tennis when she realized her shoulder hurt. It was bone cancer. She refused painkillers, because she wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings. As her hair began to fall out, she would hold it up and say, “For you Jesus”. She would sit with her mother and they would plan her “wedding” together, her funeral. She wanted to be buried in a wedding dress, because she was going to our Lord. Her friends would come to comfort her, and would leave realizing they were the ones comforted, and that they needed her for more than she needed them. Thousands came to her funeral, she will be the first saint from my generation, she died in 1990 at 19 years old.

Lights, all of them, and never forgotten.

Don’t be afraid to follow them. Don’t be afraid to stand with them for Christ who is love itself. I know you will get home and not feel like praying tonight, pray anyways. I know someone will tick you off or be cruel to you, be holy anyways. I know there is work to do and the tasks of everyday life are piling up around you, make time anyways. I know you are busy, and I know what you are doing is important.

But it’s not THE important thing, and you know it.

Don’t be afraid to make our Lord the point of your life. Don’t be afraid to pray before going to work and at work, to share your faith with your friends and colleagues, don’t be afraid to as the Lord’s help when you go fishing, or when you clean your house. Don’t be afraid to let Jesus in to you whole life.

For in the end, if we are really be a light to the world, not only can we not cover ourselves up with fear, selfishness and insecurity, but we must also always remember that we are not, in fact, the light at all, but that we only truly shine bright when it is Christ that is shining through us.

Homily from the 4th Week of Advent, Cycle A, 12-18-2016

One thing I was taught in my homiletics courses was “Good homilists borrow, great homilists steal.” I can’t tell you how true this is. There are so many great saints, theologians and thinkers who have gone before us, that we would be crazy not to use their wisdom, even their words.

This homily is a great example. I freely stole from Chris Stephanick of Real life Catholic. You should check this guy out, he is an amazing catechist. The section I borrowed can be found at this youtube link, A Child is Born.

Earlier this month, our president, as he lit the national Christmas tree, had this to say:

“Over these next few weeks, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, as we retell the story of weary travelers, a star, shepherds, Magi, I hope that we also focus ourselves on the message that this child brought to this Earth some 2,000 years ago — a message that says we have to be our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keepers; that we have to reach out to each other, to forgive each other.  To let the light of our good deeds shine for all.  To care for the sick, and the hungry, and the downtrodden.  And of course, to love one another, even our enemies, and treat one another the way we would want to be treated ourselves.” (-Barak Obama)

I am not a very political man, and these comments have nothing to do with my opinions of Mr. Obama, but I cannot help but see that for most of the world, Christmas has lost it’s meaning. Sure, our good deeds should shine for all, and yes, social justice issues like caring for the sick, feeding the hungry and lifting the downtrodden is important. Yes, we should smile at people we meet and wish them a Merry Christmas, but Jesus did not become man to tell us to behave ourselves and treat one another the way we would want to be treated. These are all good things, and Jesus does indeed call us to good behavior, but morality is NOT the reason for the season. God did not become man so we would be nicer during the holidays.

Instead, Christmas is about God revealing who he really is. In our relativistic culture, everyone seems to want to make up who God is for themselves, as if he were some figment of our imagination instead of a real truth, a real person. We want to give him some attributes, and ignore others. God does not give us this option. In the Incarnation, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, we see exactly who God is, we see him face to face. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict,

“God is not a conclusion we have reached by thinking, which we now offer to others in the certainty of our own perception and understanding. When we talk of the living God, it means this: This God shows Himself to us. He looks out from eternity into time and puts Himself into a relationship with us. We cannot define Him in whatever way we like. He has defined Himself and now stands before us as our Lord, over us and in our midst.” (-Pope Benedict)

So who exactly IS Jesus then?

“Prophetic writings several hundred years before his birth called him Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Father Forever, God with us. He referred to himself as The Way The Truth and The Life. He said I am the resurrection and the life, and he called himself the bread of life.

St. Paul said of him, “In him we live we move and we have our being.” The central claim of Christianity is that God, the maker of the universe, became one of us two millennia ago, not myth, historic fact, that God at one point would fit in one seat in a taxicab, that he would actually in one point of his life fit in a baby seat in that taxicab.

That’s insane, that’s crazy, that is the most radical claim of any faith in human history. At first glance it makes no sense that God would do that. It would make no sense that God would do that, if God were into power like us. It would make absolutely no sense for God to become like one of us, to become poor, helpless, like a little baby if he valued all the same things that fallen humanity values.

You see, when man creates god, we tend to create deities like in ancient Greece, in our image and likeness. We tend to create gods who are into lust and vanity and power. When God revealed himself, he revealed himself to be more than we could have ever hoped for, and yet everything we’re made for. He revealed that he was love. And not just this warm fuzzy feeling love, but a love that’s powerful enough to create space and time. A love we could never be worthy of, but who lays down his life for us anyway.

And if God is love, than God made flesh makes perfect sense. Love would do nothing less than enter our frail humanity with us, as one of us. He didn’t come as some great spirit in the sky, because his goal wasn’t to wow us. His goal was to woo us. He didn’t come as some mighty conquering king who’s going to force us to bow down to him, because he came looking for more than our submission, he came looking for our hearts. When you really think about it, could God be anything less radical, less absurd, less beautiful than the love that we Christians say He is? When you think about it in this light, what we celebrate at Christmas makes perfect sense. In fact, it’s the only thing that does.” (-Chris Stephanick)

This last week of Advent, I encourage you to fill yourself with the holiday spirit. I encourage you to care for those around you, say hello to strangers and to open your hearts in love to all those who touch your life.

But more than all this, I encourage you to open your heart to our Lord Jesus the Christ. I encourage you to look into the manger of the poorest of the poor, and there find the king and creator of the universe. I encourage you to see the risen Lord, present for you now in the Eucharist. Open your hearts to the reality of his presence, and let him transform you into Himself.

His Name is Emmanuel, which means, God with us. Is he with you? Have you room in your heart for Him, or will you send Him to the stable of your life?

Homily from Ordinary Time, Christ the King, Cycle C, 11-20-16

This homily was my first real challenge, as I wanted to marry the ideas of Thanksgiving with the feast of Christ the King. How well did I do?

You can find the readings for this homily here.

I love cranberry sauce. I don’t want to offend anyone here, I am sure many of you make great cranberry sauce, but I am partial to the jellied stuff that comes in a can. For me, that can shaped glob of red, sitting in a fine crystal bowl is the very symbol of Thanksgiving. This holiday has many meanings to many people, and I have noticed there is only one thing that seems to be held in common. For some this is a day of family, for some this is a day to celebrate veterans and our national ancestry, for many, this day is a day to sit and watch the game. But for everyone, it’s about turkey.

Turkey, that’s the main thing. No ribs on thanksgiving, no steaks, no crab, turkey. Turkey the symbol for all this holiday means to all those traditions and things we live out on this day.

What I love about this holiday, is we aren’t just talking about what we are thankful for, we actually live out what we are thankful for. Watching the grandkids run in the yard, the laughter and jokes rolling through the halls, and everyone filled to the brim with delicious food that has been lovingly prepared. It’s the best kind of holiday.

Today, we celebrate the end of the Christian year, next weekend we begin anew with Advent. We take time to remember not only the end of year, but the end of life, the last things, Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. We pray for our beloved dead. We ponder what our own deaths may bring. We renew our goals of becoming a heavenly people.  We look into our futures, and see what lies beyond the veil, from our illusions and into the reality of eternity. And what we see is a King, and a Kingdom.

I am glad we celebrate thanksgiving now, because it is in my mind, the perfect view of the essence of what heaven is. The great banquet, where everyone is free to be their true selves, where everyone is known and loved, where the game is always on, our smiles are always bright and laughing, and our bellies are always full. Jesus often talked about the kingdom as this kind of banquet.

At the same time, it won’t be the same at all. Because at the head of this thanksgiving table sits our Lord himself, clothed in his own unending light. As we get to see him as he really is, the very look of him is so bright that it will take our breath away. We will be full, because we will be full of Him.

This King, and this Kingdom are not at all like anything we have ever experienced. A Kingdom built not on politics and backbiting, but on the washing of feet. A Kingdom of paupers who are royalty. A kingdom where love is the only currency. A King who’s greatness lies in His Cross, a King who does not put on airs, but who’s light cannot be denied. A King of humility higher and stronger than fires of the sun. A king who is not served, but instead who serves his people.

The best way we can become a people of this Kingdom, is by living the values of this Kingdom now, by becoming a heavenly people now. Tomorrow morning, the Knights of Columbus will be working at the Betty Chinn Center, preparing tons and tons of food so that the homeless in our community will have a thanksgiving too. Across town, people work tirelessly at the pregnancy care center to help women with unplanned pregnancies. An army of volunteers who bring communion to the homebound. Nurses and doctors at rest homes, prison chaplains, the men and women who defend our nation in the armed services, police and firemen, this is all holy work, pointed at this new Kingdom.

Let us not be afraid to join them, to help build up this kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. Let’s not stand idly by while others step forth to serve. We must join our voices to the heavenly choir, our labor to the heavenly work, and join our hearts to the heavenly King. For in the end, it is not the poor, the lost and the forgotten that we serve, but the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. If there is anything we should be thankful for this thanksgiving, it should not be the turkey, but instead we should be thankful, for being able to give something of real value to the King, to love and care for his children.

We should be thankful, that we can partake in the giving.

Homily from Ordinary Time, Week 32, Cycle C, 11-6-16

This homily was challenging. I knew I had to talk about the upcoming election, but I wanted to talk about marriage too. This was a lesson in compromise I suppose.

The readings for this homily can be found here.

This Gospel has aways bothered me, this idea that there is no giving and taking of marriage in heaven. I love my wife so very much, my life has been spent circling around her light. I know her face so much better than I know any other, her loves and her dislikes I take as my own. I experience such goodness through loving her.

Can it really be that in heaven, she will be just like everyone else to me? Does our marriage, our love, really just get deleted? I have thought long and hard on this, I’ve spent more time pondering this scripture than most others, because it seems as if some great goodness will be taken away.

But the truth is so much more beautiful. All the love, all the goodness I find in my marriage will not fade one iota, not one drop of it’s goodness will be removed. Instead, I find that I will have that same closeness with all those in heaven. Think of it, to know and be known by everyone, to see everyone’s goodness, and to have everyone see yours. The marriage feast that Christ so often talks about is OUR marriage, to him and to each other. Marriage is simply a model, a picture of what the closeness of heaven will be like. We will, in a much deeper sense, be married to everyone.

It’s a big week for America. This Tuesday, we make our four year pilgrimage to the polls to state our thoughts on our nations highest office. I’m not here to beat a political drum, you can already find that happening on every news channel and in every coffee shop across the country.

I do think this Gospel shares something important to remember as we look towards voting. I will love all those in heaven as much as I love my spouse. So now it matters how I vote, to keep those I WILL love, so deeply, in mind, to think of their well being and their safety. How deeply I will love those who now have nothing, how deeply will I love those who now are in prison, homeless on the streets, in business for themselves or are unknowingly about to die under a surgeons scalpel. I will love these people in heaven more than I love my own children now.

I can begin to love them now. Is that not the entire moral teaching of the Church, to learn to love them now? Should I not think of them now, think how they will be affected by my actions, by my vote? Do I not want life, goodness and truth for them? Do I not want them to know beauty?

Why is voting such a big deal? Every time this comes around, I look at the numbers pop up on the news in red and blue, and I can’t help but think that my vote just doesn’t mean much. I’m certain no one really cares what an obnoxious bald man from the north coast thinks about the policies and presidents of our nation. I can’t help it, it all feel so pointless.

I find solace in the scriptures. Today we read of the Maccabean revolt. A mother and her sons. Rome has come to put them down, to teach them who is master, and who slave. But these men and their mother will not bend. God comes first in all things, and as the story continues this mother watches her children taken from her one by one, but she will not back down, and encourages them to endure all for the Lord until their last breath, goading them on, to not allow themselves to sin. Death before sin.

This woman and her sons seem to know something that I think we often forget, that the politics of the day are but a passing of the seasons. She knows the real point of life, and though shaken and broken and afraid, she stands for all that is true, good and beautiful. This family will not deny God, they will not move from God one inch.

In the end, our personal vote may have no effect on how the nation swings on Tuesday, but it does have another effect, it has an effect on US. With a few moments in a cold auditorium booth, we state what we believe, what we value, what we really care about. We put our money where our mouth is. I would bet, that if I asked any of you who you voted for in previous elections, you would remember. It marked you. You decided what it was that you wanted this world to be like, and you wrote it down, you went to be counted. How did you decide then?

Did you seek good foreign policy? Economic prosperity? Did you vote because of freedoms you desired, or projects you want to see completed? Did you keep the poor in mind, did you think of how your vote would affect those who are unable to speak for themselves? Did you fight evil, did you promote good?

You are more important than the issues. I love America, I am proud to be a part of this grand experiment, but in the end, America will fade as every nation before us has. Rome will pass away, but you will not. You are eternal, and how you choose to vote shapes YOU. Choose goodness, choose beauty, choose truth. Choose life and goodness for others, others you will love with your whole heart. Choose these things even if you stand alone. Choose light no matter if you stand with other light bearers, or if you stand in the darkness. For in the end, you are not voting for the country at all, you are voting for who you really are, and what you really believe.

The Ramblings, Teachings and Archive of a Catholic High School Theology Teacher, and Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.