Speaking to People on Their Level

“Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. …….. I have become all things to all, to save at least some.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, abbreviated

How did he do it? Let’s face it, Paul was The Man. This is my deepest frustration, it’s like playing target practice 24/7.

With all the new tasks I have been given, I have to speak with such a wide range of people, that I never really know what is coming next. One minute I am speaking with the Knights of Columbus, the next to the youth group.  I won’t lie, I miss the mark rather too often, either treating people like they have no idea what is going on, or shooting philosophy so high over their heads that they have no idea what I’m talking about. I would be terribly confusing to have to listen to.

The other night I was teaching a class for RCIA. Now right off the get go, this was an unfair topic. I think that simple sweet RCIA director is out to get me. Sure, she is super nice, and always complements me on how nice it was for me to come, but when she gets home, I’m certain she grows a sly grin and thinks to herself, “What devious topic can I assign him next time?” Do I get topics like, “Why is Jesus important in our lives?” No, of course not. I get “Sin, Grace and Redemption.”

Now how the heck am I to cover three such major theological ideas in an hour? Seriously? I could talk for a semester on just one of these three topics and just scratch the surface. Yes, I know that it is important for the new Catholic to understand these basic principles, but wow, that’s a serious challenge.

So in my plan to weave all of these ideas together in to one cohesive whole, I shot the mark so high, that at the end of it everyone was looking at me dumbfounded. It took 30 minutes of question and answer just to fix all the misconceptions that I had sprouted. I certainly don’t desire to make anyone feel stupid, and to do so makes me feel stupid. (don’t worry, it wasn’t as bad as all that, and they walked away with a decent understanding)

So I was speaking with a men’s group, and I had the opposite problem. Here were a bunch of full grown men, lifelong Catholics, all in ministry, and I was talking about ministry.

What truly valuable thing can I say to my elders, men far more experienced in the very thing I am talking about? How am I supposed to really share the love of the Christian life when I would be better as a student to those I am talking to? Arrgh. Double Arrgh.

Of course in both cases, everyone was kind, and said I was great and all other necessarily common niceties, but I am frustrated.

Every time I have to speak publicly, I try to remember:

“When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:19-20

Lord, I hope you said something someone really needed to hear amid all that nonsense coming out of my mouth.
Maybe I should start speaking in tongues.

Convalescent Home Adventures

Every Monday I have the pleasure of visiting Joan. Now let me start by saying I have spoken with Joan’s daughter at length, and she is very glad that I come to visit Joan once a week to bring her Communion. Not to say that Joan isn’t glad, quite the opposite. She is ecstatic to see me every week. The only trouble is one of identity.

Yes, Joan has full fledged dementia. So every week, I am someone else. And most weeks, I am several people in the same conversation.
One week I was there, they were having a social event. Every time they have a recreational opportunity for the residents, they give them some fake money, and this was their chance to spend it. While far less dangerous than Black Friday, this was still some very serious business. Haggling is a lost art form, we should all attend these events to brush up on our skills.
Joan however was not all that engaged, as she had fallen asleep in the hallway with her wad of cash. Joan was rolling in the dough, with a stack of bills that would have been the envy of all the other participants had they seen her, but in her quiet corner, she had been mostly forgotten.
“Good morning Joan!” is usually all I really ever get in, and this was no exception. It took me a good five minutes to realize I was her nephew today, as it didn’t really dawn on me until she was giving me money to help with my rent. I of course let her know how deeply I appreciated the help, took the cash, and when she wasn’t paying attention, slipped it back into her lap.
She went on to tell me about all sorts of things, no more than one sentence devoted to each topic, a bit about her new baby, some silly thing her husband did this morning, (he died here in one of the bathrooms, and she can often be found trying to get in there to talk to him in the middle of the night) about her aunt pulling her hair, all sorts of great, very short stories. Then she noticed the money in her lap, and proceeded to give me some money for rent, since I am having such a hard time.
This played out four or five times till I realized I needed to get to my other friends, and needed to get her Communion. So after praying with her, (while she tells me how to cook artichokes) I finally lift up the host.
It never fails. She stops talking immediately, and just stares, until she receives it on the tongue, as she always has, making the sign of the cross.
It is a golden moment of clarity for her, and you see it every single time. It is also a golden moment of clarity for me.
Ah, but it only lasts but a moment, and with the host still in her mouth, she begins again, offering me some money to help with the rent.
God bless Joan. 
Lord, I don’t really need my mind, as long as I always know who You are.
(of course her name isn’t really Joan)

The Sound of Music

Right now I am being blessed. If you walked into my house at this moment, you might not think it is so, but I assure you it is true. You see, my daughters are performing their mandatory half hour of musical jubilation. I am completely aware they do not feel jubilant about it, and to be honest, it’s not exactly, well, musical to my ears either. My piano playing daughter is playing at about twice the speed needed, over and over again, and my budding violinist doesn’t really have great pitch yet, and I cannot help but recall the sound of two cats fighting.

I will say this, they are oh so much better than last year, the bleeding in my ears has finally stopped.

It is a blessing. I think of all those who get to miss these real moments just because they are not altogether pleasant. They are my daughters, and though their music dulls my taste for any sound whatsoever, I am so thankful for hearing them.

I have two points, one about homeschooling from a father’s perspective, and one about music.

We live in a culture absolutely saturated with sound. Every advertisement, movie, ride in the car, ride in the elevator or walk in a department store is done with an accompanying soundtrack. Our children can’t hear us over their ipods, and we can’t even go for a jog without ours. So much noise. The worst part is, it is all of such good quality.

Good music is a bad thing you say? What do you mean by that Dance?

Well, good music is not a bad thing, but so much of it gives us a totally incorrect view of music in general. Let me put it this way, what do you think it takes to become a country, opera or rock star? You have to be good, really darn good. In fact you really have to be in the top .01% of mankind to be good enough to reach that kind of success. So all we ever listen to is the very cream of the crop whenever we listen to music. Guess what? Nothing you can do will ever match that. A hundred years ago you would go to the local dance hall, and hear good folks in your community play some music, and it was good, and you loved it. It was a treat to hear music at all. The fact that everything wasn’t perfect didn’t hurt your expectations in any way.

Now however, one of the main complaints I hear about at Mass is the choir is terrible. Actually, they usually aren’t, but your ear is way to dang good. If you were surrounded by the top .01% of speakers every day, you would never open your mouth because you would feel like a fool, like you weren’t good enough. I think the fact that someone is willing to sing and play at all in our modern age speaks volumes for their courage.

Next time you hear some good live music, just say thank you, that was wonderful, and I love your selections. Keep the bad opinions to yourself, chances are, they don’t deserve it.

Now for homeschooling.

I realize that homeschooling is not for everyone, and would never advocate that it is. For me though, the greatest blessing is not moral, but personal. I just love my kids so very much, that I can’t imagine a day without their lives flying around me like acrobats in a circus. They drive me crazy, they play badly, they sing at the top of their lungs the same line in a song over and over again, and they laugh like angels playing the harp. I treasure it all. I would hate to give even a moment of it up for a kings ransom. The fact that I only have had to pay for that honor by owning old beat up cars and living in a cheap small house seems like a great bargain.

Not to mention the fact that I get to show them how serious their faith is on a daily basis with daily Mass and prayer built into our life. That is worth more than a kings ransom, that, is what my soul was made for.

What a Know-It-All

Have you ever noticed that every group you are involved with has one, pesky, know-it-all type person in the group? I don’t care if you are talking about work, play, crafting or school, if there is a group of people, this guy seems to show up.

I may have a view that is rather skewed on this topic, since in almost every group, sad to say, I am that person. So for me, every group has a know-it-all, because I’m in it.

I’m here to tell you, it’s a dang curse. I don’t really want to be this way. It’s just if I’m bothering to show up, chances are I am interested. If I am interested, I’ve probably done my homework, and am really there simply because I want to know more then I could find out in ten minutes on the internet. So I come in, blasting away with all this information and excitement like a cat in a room full of mice. It’s ridiculous. Somebody just tell me to shut up already.

So I’m in my deacon formation classes, trying to put on a bit of that humility I so desperately need, but because I’m so engaged in the topic, I feel like I’m controlling every question or topic that comes up. Yes, it is good to be inquisitive, but there is a point where it’s a bit over the top.

So now I get to the funny part. The rest of my class? They are mostly the same way. Is this just one of the traits a deacon naturally has? Are we all plugged in naturally with the ability to annoy our fellow man? It seems to me, that for the sake of our communities, we should all be given a timer we have to carry with us at all times, so that we can limit every response to two minutes or less. I’m surprised we can even hear when we get back home from all the noise. You never heard such a group of loud, opinionated men.

Thank God half of the noise is often laughter at our own silliness,


I realize my post yesterday was rather firm. While I cannot help but be serious, that is my nature, I can however choose a lighter topic for today. I want to talk about feet.

I bet when you read this title you thought i was going to use being barefoot as an analogy for some great spiritual topic. I am not.

God made us without shoes.

Seriously, he really did. I know this will come as a surprise for many of you. You have worn shoes since the day you were born, and they have become a staple for you. I am willing to bet you cannot even imagine going a day without them. I agree warm feet can be quite intoxicating, but I must say, I feel much better without them

Yes, if I had a choice, I would only wear them in the snow. I would walk around the department store barefoot, go to the mall barefoot, go out to eat barefoot, even go to Mass barefoot!

Let me hearken back, way, way back to the beginning of things. Adam and Eve were barefoot. It was a result of eating from the tree that God made clothes for them. While it is not explicit, I would say that God did not include shoes in his wardrobe choice. Why would he take so beautiful a creation as the foot, and then shield it from what it was made for, contact with the dirt?

Maybe you think I’m silly. Well let me show you! After Adam, God keeps an eye on things, giving language and making floods and such, but for most of history, he is a behind the scenes kind of guy. Then comes Moses.

“When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to look, God called out to him from the bush: Moses! Moses! He answered, “Here I am.”God said: Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father, he continued, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” Exodus 3:4-6

That’s right. Sandals were evil, and even not allowed in God’s presence. Okay, maybe it would have been clearer if he said, “Taketh those shoes of evil and cast them off thy feet!” but I think we can all agree that is clearly what he meant. Alright, no, he didn’t mean that, but still, shouldn’t we cast them off anyways, just in case?

Now I must handle some objections. First, hygiene. If I walked into a standard restaurant barefoot, I would be kicked out. Not because of any actual health violation, (there are no such health laws in any of our United States, county laws may vary) but because of a perceived health risk. What risk is this exactly? Spreading germs and disease? Maybe my bare feet are tracking in all sorts of nasty stuff, right?


So, when was the last time you washed the soles of your shoes? I wash my feet every day in the shower, so I would bet my entire fortune that the bottoms of my feet are far cleaner then the bottoms of your shoes. That is one of the reasons nurses and doctors have to wear foot coverings when they go into surgery. I hope my doctor is barefoot as well.

“Bare feet are less safe, you could stub your toe or something.” you say, but again, I think bare feet are far safer. With my feet uncovered, I watch every step I take. It’s when I put on shoes that I run around clod hopping with no attention. I have never stubbed my feet then they are bare, except around the house where I am running around not paying attention. But more then that, when your feet are flexing and bending the way they are supposed to, you would be amazed of the effect on the rest of your body.  When you walk barefoot, you naturally walk the way you are supposed to, on the balls of your feet, near your toes. No more jarring the bones in your legs = no more back pain. I’m serious, if your back hurts, start by taking off your shoes.

God doesn’t make junk. Feet were made for walking. Sure you may have to walk slow for a while, or wear light sandals or something while you get used to it, but I’m telling you, it’s worth it. They even make shoes now to try to emulate the barefoot walk. I don’t really like any of them, but for the sake of social compliance I wear them when I must.



Lord, I pray that you show me the day when everyone is using the feet you gave them the way you intended. (Especially my wife who just thinks I’m silly!)

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