The Christian life… on ice!

The Christian life… on ice!

I’m an avid figure-skater, but not a very skilled one. I really took to skating while I was in Canada, because, let’s be honest: your outdoor exercise options are rather limited in a place that is frozen nine months a year. But I relished the challenge, the exhilaration, the grace, and, well… lots of falling down and the occasional trip to the frontier emergency room to stitch up the damage done by surgically-sharp new blades and a poorly-executed one-foot spin (“I think your finger is still attached, because it looks like the ligament is only partially severed.”—actual verbatim physician quote). It’s plenty enjoyable to skate around on the outdoor rink somebody made by hosing down the frozen ground in the park, of course, but when I returned to the US last year, I decided to be a little more intentional about it. I signed up for some figure-skating lessons at the local rink. And after a year of figure skating, I’ve noticed that learning to ice-skate and pursuing the Christian vocation have a lot in common. To be fair, they both involve hard falls and sharp edges, and tough lessons in humility (those 14-year-olds make it look so easy). But it’s a little more than that. Skating, as well as the Christian life, starts with limiting one’s own freedom. Ice has certain immutable properties, and figure skates are designed accordingly. If you respect the fact that your elegant, thin blades are meant to go forwards and backwards on a curve, they work beautifully. But if you fight the physics of their design, well, you simply aren’t going to win....
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...
The God of New Beginnings

The God of New Beginnings

As I write this post I am standing on the porch of a log cabin in Oklahoma. I am gazing a a beautiful and brilliant sun slowly making her rapid descent below the horizon. As I watch this I am reminded of two things. First, there will, in all likelihood be a tomorrow. Second, that tomorrow is a gift from God as a sort of promissory note on the new beginning He offers every day. With a new year just days away, we can take hope in that new beginning, in all the new beginnings Our Blessed Lord offers us. 2014 may have been a phenomenal year for you. for me, there were ups and downs. I had a new level of my spine fused together. I also finished the second Masters degree. I lost a dear friend at work to cancer. I also made new friends. I spent another 365 days with my beautiful wife and amazing children. And I saw goodness, beauty, and true love in so many places. A new beginning is not always a reset. Sometimes, it is simply an opportunity to be renewed. Not just when we turn the page of the calendar, but every moment of our lives through the sacraments our gracious God renews us. This time off the grid at this beautiful place has given me the chance to experience that renewal. I am excited for my new beginning! May God renew and bless each of you abundantly in his merciful love in...

Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue…

Blue has never been my color.  I’m more of a black with alternating shades of gray sort of guy.  I remember well the day I told my diocesan vocations director of this fact.  “Why do you want to be a priest?” he asked.  “Well Father, I look really good in black.” All kidding aside, there is a woman who wears blue so magnificently that the color has become her signature.  Prayers, poems, and elegies have been composed; paintings commissioned; all showing a key figure clad in brilliant blue.  That figure, a humble, Jewish maiden who lived 2000 years ago, is the woman who has been my constant throughout my life. Today, the Church Universal celebrates this woman, the fairest of our race.  We honor she who merited to bear the Son of God and whom God saw fit to preserve from the stain of sin even from the moment of her conception.  Of all her titles, Immaculate Conception is one that seems most appropriate for a mediation during Advent; for we need a pure heart to behold Him when He comes.  We need to make our lives immaculate, as it were, to prepare for the Christ, for her son.  Where do we learn this purity?  From whom can we draw great example?  It is in the Blessed Mother, Immaculate from the moment of her existence, that we find the perfect example of a well-prepared dwelling place for God. Mary always points to Jesus. I remember a coworker once lamenting that a priest had invited his parishioners to pray the Hail Mary after the Universal Prayer (General Intercessions) at mass....
Your All-In-One Advent Clickbait!

Your All-In-One Advent Clickbait!

You’ve seen them.  Every day, it seems, something pops up in our newsfeeds or our Twitter feeds exhorting and enticing us.  “Five things you need to know today about X…”  Funny, before I saw the headline, I hadn’t given much thought to X.  Even funnier, X usually stands for “the complete behind-the-scenes lives of the cast of Full House”.  You’re right.  I never knew those five things.  That’s because I didn’t care. But today, my friends, I’ve got something better than X.  “It can’t be done!” you say.  Oh no, it can and it is.  That’s because today, X stands for “things you can do to make Advent come alive for your little ones”.  Don’t have little ones?  Read anyway.  Perhaps you’ll spot a typo and can offer me an opportunity to grow closer to God in the virtue of humility. Without further delay, here now: Five Ways to Make Advent Come Alive for You and Your Family The Wreath It’s a tried and true symbol, a stalwart of the season.  Truly, though, what better way is there to count down the time and introduce our young to pyrotechnics at the same time?  The beauty of this symbol is that it is multiple symbols wrapped in one.  The evergreen speaks to eternal life.  The purple and pink (violet and rose) speak of penitence and hope.  The candles burning down remind us of the end of a long, dark night; much as Christmas itself symbolizes the dawn of a new day of salvation.  The trick here is to know these things yourself and then hand them on.  Keep the wreath...