Confessor Got You Down?

Confessor Got You Down?

Lately I’ve been trying to take the advice of some really good mentors.  I’ve been aiming for more regular confession.  Throughout much of my adult life I’ve probably gone to the sacrament on average 6-8 times per year.  In the past few years I’ve gone at least once a month.  In the past few months I’ve stepped it up and have been trying to go once every week or two. Growing up I remember the prevailing notion that was taught to me (using Vatican II as the excuse) that Reconciliation was something to be approached when we were conscious of mortal sin.  The follow-up element in the description of confession that somehow always got dropped was that we can confess our venial sins too and that the there is always a particular grace bestowed in the sacrament to help us in fighting our particular sins.  Those mentors I mentioned?  They are none other than the great saints of our faith and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. So in my recent quest to step it up I have been surprised to find myself hearing some unusual things in the confessional.  Hey, I’m not under any seal here… First there was this one: “Are you in the habit of going to confession every week or…?” Well, Father, I’m trying to get into that habit and habits require practice so thanks for lending a hand and playing along.  Should I leave? How about this one? “You know you don’t have to come here so often, right?” Pretty sure I knew that.  What’s your excuse, Father?  Wait, was that too blunt? Finally there was this...
Being Catholic Dad Begins with Giving Thanks

Being Catholic Dad Begins with Giving Thanks

We all yell at our kids from time to time.  And don’t look at me like that.  How else was I supposed to react when I discovered that my six year-old son, the would-be engineer, had dismantled the drain plug in the tub and I had to attempt to reassemble it in front of him without looking like an idiot.  Took me 20 minutes.  Who knew that carriage bolt was supposed to go through the plug and under the cap?  Or how would you respond when your four year-old daughter growls at you like Eastwood in Gran Torino because you turned off Frozen after her ninth viewing today. If you’re like me, you recognize that you occasionally have to raise your voice to get a point across.  You also feel like the worst person in the world after you’ve done it.  You might even question yourself at the end of the day in your examination of conscience: “Was I too harsh?”  And you might begin to wonder where that awesome, hope-filled, buoyantly proud, and gracefully humbled guy went.  You remember him?  He’s the man you were when you first heard the words “We’re expecting” or “Congratulations, Mr. Hester, it’s a boy!” “Hairy baby…” Perhaps he hasn’t gone anywhere and perhaps you do go overboard sometimes.  I try to console myself by remembering that it’s my job to discipline because I love them.  Wouldn’t want them to get out in the world and not know how to act properly.  But then I remember that it’s my vocation to discipline them in love.  Every now and then Our Blessed Lord reminds...
Taking It For The Team

Taking It For The Team

I was talking to a non-Catholic friend the other day when, for whatever reason, the conversation turned toward sex and morality. I always get a little uncomfortable when this happens because I’m a serious Catholic, and people know that: my friends have become conditioned to expect that I’m unable to participate in a discussion on the comparative merits of the pill or the IUD, or that hearing about steamy Tinder hook-ups makes me a little green about the gills. I’m happy to express my opinion when asked, but on such sensitive topics, I think that discretion is almost always the better part of valor. So I was taken aback when the most recent conversation ended abruptly with, “If that’s what Catholics believe, it’s a stupid religion.” Don’t get me wrong: I welcome serious debate because I think it’s an honor to share my knowledge and dispel some common misunderstandings about Church teachings. I’m well aware that not everybody is going to like or agree with what I have to say. But there’s a constructive way of debating, and then there’s school-yard name calling. It concerns me that many otherwise sensitive people don’t seem to realize how hurtful it is to call a person’s faith or religion “stupid.” It’s like insulting a member of the family. In charity, I have to suppose that most people who thoughtlessly insult Catholics or launch hurtful attacks on our Church, our beliefs, and our practices fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be a religious person. Before I started taking the faith seriously, I didn’t get it either. Being a Catholic and living it out...
Living More Abundantly

Living More Abundantly

It may be different now, but the chapel of the Newman Center at GWU when I was a student was in pretty rough shape. The floor creaked, the AC/heat was unreliable at best, and it had the general run-down, jerry-rigged feel of the room that was built over a retro-fitted garage in an old campus townhouse that urgently needed renovation. Its general decorative theme skewed heavily to 1970s “youth ministry,” with tacky multi-colored stained glass panels covering the windows behind the altar. They had Gospel quotations on them, only one of which I remember: “I have come that you may live more abundantly.”[1] The first time I visited the chapel, I remember looking at that verse and thinking, “That’s what I want.” When I began coming to the Newman Center as a sophomore in college, I was pretty unsure of my faith. I’d been baptized and confirmed as a Catholic, but faith was never an active part of my life. I didn’t know about the Real Presence, I thought most of the moral teachings couldn’t possibly be applied in modern life, and I didn’t want to be seen as one of those religious people. But I was inexplicably drawn to Catholicism—enough to cagily sneak over to the Newman Center’s free Tuesday night dinners without telling my friends where I was going, to sit for a few minutes in the chapel praying that no one would recognize me, and to tell myself that I was just there for the social events, not for any of that God stuff, which I was of course only doing out of politeness before nipping...
A Saint Among Us

A Saint Among Us

Recently, my family celebrated the fifth birthday of one of our little saints.  There was cake and soda, laughter and love and family.  We sang “Happy Birthday” for the fifth time to a little girl who passed away five days after her birth as her baby brother (who has never met her) blew out her candles.  We celebrated her short life because we know that, much as we miss her, she is taking part of that everlasting celebration of heaven.  We celebrated because we have faith. “There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world” — Annonymous Bernadette, the “brave bear”, was a fighter.  Her mother was told that her baby had a condition known as anencephaly less than halfway through her pregnancy.  This meant that, should her child survive to term she would most likely be stillborn or at best live a few hours.  She surprised us all and lived five full days.  In her short life, both in and outside of the womb, she managed to leave a lasting impression on all those who knew her and her parents.  Most who witnessed her parents’ unswerving faith in God’s mercy and love had one of two responses.  They were either in awe of it, as I was, or they were perplexed to the point of being incapable of accepting it, much less understanding it.  There were some whose rudeness in the face of something they did not understand was downright disgusting.  But her parents ignored them and continued to prayerfully, faithfully, walk the path God had set before them, not understanding why but knowing full well...