I was having a quiet conversation with my Mom last week, explaining to her all of the different activities that has been keeping me busy over the last month.  I talked about my Knights of Columbus activities, some of the homebound visits, and all of the good things that had happened recently.

I told one story of how I spoke to advertise our recent Knights of Columbus spaghetti dinner during the Mass announcements.  A woman approached me excitedly after Mass to offer some help, she volunteered at a local crisis pregnancy center and wanted to assist us since we were raising money for the national ultrasound initiative.  It was one of those “something’s happening here” moments and it showed me how something so little as a few words after Mass can make something very big happen.

At this point, my mother stopped me.  She asked whether or not my friends had distanced themselves at all as I became more involved in my faith and my Church activities.  I quickly answered, “Yes, and it is very lonely.”

Our conversation ended shortly thereafter, but that question continued to make me think.  (It is funny how often Mom Questions can do this.)  I recounted the conversation to my wife later, and she said that it was true that many of our friends have stepped back for various reasons but we’ve also made new friends.  This is true, and a huge blessing.

This type of distance is a gift, in many ways.  It gives time to reflect, and in this case it makes me realize that the narrow road to the small gate can be a lonely one but it’s a path worth traveling.  I view this to be a cross that is worth bearing, but I am not sad.  This has presented me a truly rewarding opportunity to do good work in the community.  The Knights, my parish, and my loyal family and friends are with me and understand what it means to do something for the greater glory of God.

If anything I have done allows one baby to not be aborted or brings one person back to God, what choice do I have but to pursue those goals?  Furthermore, is a someone really a friend that would walk away from me if they knew this was my goal?

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16 (NRSVCE)


The New Saint Thomas Institute Opens!

New Saint Thomas Institute


Last Monday, one of my favorite apologists/writers/bloggers Dr. Taylor Marshall launched the New Saint Thomas Institute.  I am pleased to be one of the first 500 charter members!

Great!  What the heck is it?

It’s an online institute aimed at bringing theology and philosophy education forward in a fun and engaging way.  If anyone is familiar with Dr. Marshall’s writing and teaching style, they will understand that it is going to be a fun way to dive deeper into the Catholic faith by studying the greats.  As one might imagine from the name, there will be a strong focus on Thomastic scholarship which will be very interesting and rewarding.

What do you get out of it?

One of the other compelling aspects of the Institute is that they are offering a continuing education program for credit, offering a one-year certificate of mastery and an eventual two year Master’s Degree program.  For those of us with busy lifestyles, a job, and a kid being able to study in this way for credit is a real benefit.

I have had an affinity to Saint Thomas Aquinas for awhile, and I even attempted to read the Summa on my own this year.  It was very challenging, so I suspected that I needed some additional background.  (This is actually what led me to find Dr. Marshall in the first place.)  This Institute will provide some of the foundation necessary to appreciate Saint Thomas’ work fully, and I’m very excited about that.  You can read about 7 reasons to join the New Saint Thomas Institute over at Dr. Marshall’s blog.

Also, there is a community aspect.  Dr. Marshall aims for a collegiate-style feel and I have already seen some of that in action.  The member forum is taking on the feel of a college orientation mixer, and I have already been contacted by someone local to me that also belongs to the Institute so we can discuss the video presentations and study together.  My brother-in-law also signed up from Illinois, so plenty of bonding experiences abound.

There’s even a clever mascot, Tommy the Muskox. (Saint Thomas had the nickname “the dumb ox” because he was quiet and large.)

Curious?  Good!

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, I encourage you to check out three preview videos provided by Dr. Marshall.  Then you should really head over and sign up.  You won’t be sorry, it’s great being a Fighting Muskoxen!

If you’re a current member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, feel free to chime in with why you have joined up and what excites you about the program.


Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference: Day 2

I am relieved to finally be back at my laptop after a long day of traveling, so here is a recap of the second day of the Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference.  Before I begin, let me just say that I will not be able to do this conference justice in a short (or even a long) article.  I will do my best to provide a general recap of each talk with a few of my own thoughts.

The Speakers

The day started with Tim Staples’ talk entitled “Black and White in a Gray America”.  Tim was a great speaker to lead off the day with… his enthusiastic speaking style was energizing.  The speech examined the condition of American culture as it relates to moral issues, and laid out a compelling argument for why apologetics is so important.  It provided a good framework for the other presentations of the day, and provided some lucid insights on common moral objections brought forth from our secular society.  Going in, I already understood the many reasons that apologetics is important but this talk provided the proverbial “shot in the arm” that makes me want to dig deeper and learn more.

After a short break, it was time for Trent Horn’s presentation “Science: Necessary but Not Sufficient”.  This was a very broad topic, and Trent provided an articulate, well-defined effort to carefully define some of the terms commonly used by atheists and agnostics to parse out their true points of contention.  He also went on to examine the common arguments for atheism and presented some useful ways we can navigate these seemingly tough questions.  Horn has recently released his new book and DVD entitled Answering Atheism, which provides a much deeper treatment of these topics.  I know these are definitely going on my to-watch/read list.

The highlight of the day was Jimmy Akin‘s talk “The Greatest Scandal of All” which dealt with the important topic of evil and suffering.  Akin explained that the problem of evil in our world is the greatest scandal of all, because of the voracity that it causes doubt in an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God.  He defined evil as both moral evil, and physical evil (such as suffering).  Jimmy went on to provide six examples of things not to say to someone that is dealing with evil (moral or physical) and then three ways that you can actually comfort and support someone in the same condition.  This talk truly resonated with me, so much that I immediately thought of several people that would benefit from hearing his words even while the presentation was still going on.

After lunch, our speaker was Matt Fradd who discussed gender and sexual roles in his talk “Sex-less America”.  Matt presented several cases of an escalating cultural phenomenon of embracing a denial of one’s gender (in some cases even rejecting it).  He cited medical research that explained the physiological differences between the two sexes and outlined some ways to enter a discussion on this topic using a physiological approach and a pastoral approach.  Thankfully, Matt was kind enough to take notes for us and post it up on his own blog for everyone to enjoy.  I haven’t really encountered this sort of discussion yet in my own attempts at evangelization or apologetics, but it certainly was one to file away.

The final speaker of the afternoon was Catholic Answers founder and president Karl Keating.  His speech entitled “Closing Time for Western Civ?” was delivered in a beautiful, traditional oratory way.  Karl took us through around 1600 years worth of history starting with a beautiful imagining of the completion of St. Augustine’s “City of God” and took us to the present time, noting the variety of cultural shifts that took place along the way.  He outlined the need to restore a culture based on truly Christian values, but noted the difficultly presented by the way that cultures can be replaced.  This outlined the true need for well formed consciences and strong apologetics, so that the culture that inevitably replaces ours is better than the one it left behind.  The content was information-packed and very interesting, but I was more enthralled by Mr. Keating’s construction and delivery of the talk itself.  It is definitely one that I must digest further to fully appreciate.

After the scheduled speeches, there was a Q&A panel with the apologists.  Conferees were told to submit questions on 3×5 cards throughout the course of the day, and the panel took turns answering those that fit best into their specialities.  This was a very fun and informative portion of the event, so much so that I wish they would repeat this sort of forum on their radio broadcasts.

The Fellowship

One other major benefit to the conference was the fellowship with other conference-goers.  This event brought together many people cut from the same cloth, and for me it was very much like a retreat in that regard.  You didn’t have to worry about speaking aloud your Catholic faith because you were among people that understand the same as you.  During the reception on Friday night, I got into several great discussions with absolute strangers and I even met a couple that happened to be from a parish right up the road from where I live here in Colorado.  At lunch on Saturday, I met a wonderful couple and we talked about apologetics, youth education, and our own experiences while we sat on a bench on the waterfront.  Just before dinner on Saturday night, I met some wonderful men from St. Paul Street Evangelization (one of which I know has found the blog) and was excited to hear about their ministry and experiences.  I think I met more truly faithful Catholics in one day than I have met in the previous year combined.  I pray that some of these connections continue into friendships.

The Mass

The conference hit a crescendo with the Holy Mass given by Bishop James Conley with a homily by Father Vincent Serpa, the chaplain from Catholic Answers.  There was beautiful singing courtesy of members of Catholic Answers staff, and it was truly awesome to hear a room with 400 Catholics singing Salve Regina together.  I have always enjoyed Bishop Conley’s reverence of the Holy Eucharist.  Father Serpa’s homily was insightful and drew forth from the gospel contemporary examples of serving the poor and the poor in spirit, primarily from Mother Teresa’s life.  The whole Mass was truly gorgeous.

The Dinner and Conclusion

After Mass, I struck up the aforementioned lively conversation with some fellow conference-goers that continued right into dinner.  The discussion was so enthralling I was almost annoyed when the presentation began again, but I was quickly quieted by Bishop Conley’s keynote address entitled “Ever Ancient, Ever New: The Role of Beauty in the Restoration of the Catholic Church”.

I’m not even sure I can adequately describe the breadth of this address.  Bishop Conley took us through his conversion experience, his education in the Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas, and how this exposed to him the importance of beauty in life.  Further, he explained how this cultivated for him the ability to appreciate beautiful things ranging from calligraphy to architecture to fine music and that this resulted in many conversions to the Catholic Faith.  He said that the focus must return to this beauty in our culture and our practice of the faith, and that this can rebuild the world.  I sincerely hope this address is made available in some form so it can be heard by others, because the world desperately needs it.

I can say that this short conference was certainly worth the time and money.  I can also say with certainty that the full effect has not yet sunk in, and this experience has given me much to think about.  As always, I thank God for Catholic Answers and the fine work they do, for the friendships gained, and for the beauty that is our Catholic Faith.

I believe that Catholic Answers is going to make some of the conference speeches available in the future.  I strongly recommend you check them out, and plan to attend this conference next year.


Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference: Day 1

20130927-214143.jpgToday I made the trek to the first annual Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference!

The events kicked off at 3 pm with the “live” broadcast of the Catholic Answers radio program. I say “live” because a technical problem prevented the broadcast of the first hour, but the second hour did go out live. The guest was Bishop James Conley, former auxiliary bishop of Denver and the current bishop of Lincoln, NE.

The two hours flew by with some great questions, including one from yours truly. For the record, I was nervous asking a question knowing that millions of people worldwide would hear it. I asked about the importance of consistency in messaging when evangelizing, given the broad spectrum of focus in the Catholic Church. I won’t spoil the answer by poorly paraphrasing it here, but it was very insightful.

After that it was time for a buffet reception, where I got to meet many of my apologetics heroes: Patrick Coffin, Jimmy Akin, Tim Staples and Matt Fradd just to name a few. I also met a bunch of fellow conventioneers, including one couple from a parish not far from my home. Small world!

The first day ended with the opening address by Christopher Check entitled “Put Not Your Trust in Princes” where he outlined the problems facing the Church and society today. He then offered some energizing ways we can cultivate change from within our own family outward to society.

If this sets the tone for the rest of the conference, tomorrow is going to be amazing. More soon!


Heading to San Diego!

In just a few short hours, I will be hopping a plane to San Diego to attend the Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference.  I am excited to get to listen to some of my favorite apologists in person and listen to the great speaker lineup for the weekend.  In an interesting twist, the keynote speaker is our former bishop (now the bishop of Lincoln, NE), Bishop James Conley who I met two years ago at our Knights of Columbus State Convention.  Providing there will be no delays in my flight, I will be there to attend a live broadcast of Catholic Answers from 3 – 5 pm.

Catholic Answers really helped to deepen my faith and they are a large reason why I am out here writing on my own.  To say I am looking forward to this weekend would be a dramatic understatement.  Providing a decent internet connection, I may attempt to post something up from the road… but a full recap will likely have to wait until next week.


A Pope, A Vision, A Prayer

Pope Leo XIII

Pope Leo XIII

We started That Man Is You! two weeks ago at my parish.  This session started out with the program’s founder, Steve Bollman, telling a compelling story regarding the authoring of the famous prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel.  This piqued my interest, as I have held a special affinity toward Saint Michael and I had never heard the origin of this prayer before.

A Pope, A Vision, A Prayer

The story centers around Pope Leo XIII, who was said to have witnessed a prophetic vision of a conversation between the Lord and Satan regarding the future of the Church.  There are several retellings of this story (more on this later) but I found a synopsis on Wikipedia that approximates Steve Bollman’s retelling, so I will use it here:

Pope Leo XIII was climbing the steps to the altar when he suddenly stopped, stared fixedly at something in the air and with a terrible look on his face, collapsed to the floor (some accounts say he fell shrieking). The Pope was carried off by those around him to another room where he came around. As one rendition of the story tells it:

“When asked what had happened, he explained that, as he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he suddenly heard voices – two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh. They seemed to come from near the tabernacle. As he listened, he heard the following conversation:

The guttural voice, the voice of Satan in his pride, boasted to Our Lord: “I can destroy your Church.”
The gentle voice of Our Lord: “You can? Then go ahead and do so.”
Satan: “To do so, I need more time and more power.”
Our Lord: “How much time? How much power?”
Satan: “75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.”
Our Lord: “You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will.”

A powerful story, no doubt… and fascinating.  I wanted to find out more.

Some Confusing Research

After I got home from work that night, I began doing some digging and found some peculiar results.  It seems the Saint Michael prayer is the source of some controversy in Traditionalist circles, who claim that the “original” version of the prayer was shortened without explanation in 1934.  This interested me even further, and I wanted to read the text of the original version of this prayer in it’s entirety… ideally from a Vatican-approved source.  (It is, after all, good practice to verify one’s source when investigating something.)

I found out that Pope Leo instituted his Leonine prayers to be added after every Low Mass in 1884.  Citations indicate that the Saint Michael prayer was first added in 1886 [note: I have not located a copy of Acta Sanctae Sedis or Irish Ecclesiastical Review 7 in English that is referenced, therefore this is unverified until such a time as an antique book dealer contacts me].  Many websites cited a source from the Raccolta, an official collection of indulgenced prayers that was published and revised often up until 1957.  It seems that a longer prayer to Saint Michael started to appear in the 1888 edition of this book, and continued until the aforementioned shorter version usurped it in 1934.  You can see a copy of this longer prayer, and a citation to a motu proprio letter from September 23, 1888 in this digital copy of the 1910 edition of the Raccolta.  I can’t find even a single copy of the text of the referenced motu proprio letter… but there is a significant chance that I just don’t know where to find such a thing.  The fact that it is referenced by the 1910 Raccolta will do for my curiosity level.

Regardless… these dates don’t seem to make sense.  The Traditionalist claim that the “original” Saint Michael prayer is the same one I linked above from the Raccolta.  So what prayer were people saying between 1886 and 1888?

I found my answer in two excellent articles by Rev. Anthony Cekada (article 1 and article 2) that confirmed my hunch.  We’re actually looking at two prayers here, the original shorter one that we all know and love (in the original Latin via Irish Ecclesiastical Review 7) and the longer version from 1888.

Saint Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel

Back to that vision

In his second article, Father Cekada goes on to outline the different accounts of Pope Leo’s vision.  Some were undated, some accounts referred to 1880, 1884, and 1888.  Some have Pope Leo collapsing at the foot of the altar, some after a conference with the bishops, one account has him attending the Mass and not celebrating the Mass.  These accounts are deftly captured in the article I linked before, if you’re interested in reading them please take a few minutes to see them there.  It seems the accounts vary and the story has grown over the years as it was passed around.

Does this cast doubt on the exciting tale of Pope Leo’s vision?  Perhaps, but this is the precise reason why you don’t have the Church ruling too often on the value of private revelations.  The fact that Pope Leo XIII did not recount this story on his own does nothing to confirm or deny the fact that this actually happened.  One theory I particularly enjoy is that the vision did happen, and the longer Saint Michael prayer is a result of that sobering experience.

Why none of this matters

All stories, accounts, conspiracies, and citations aside… none of this matters much to me.  Why?  Because these prayers (both the short and the long) are still profound, beautiful, and act as strong tools in one’s spiritual arsenal.  The shorter prayer can be easily memorized, and even the first two lines are a perfectly fine exhortation against evil and plea for protection: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!

The longer prayer isn’t exactly a candidate for memorization (at least, not if you’re me!) but I am certain it is useful if you are struggling with a particularly thorny spiritual battle and needed the grace of such an intense, forceful, and evocative prayer.

As with any prayer, the most important thing is that you pray and that Saint Michael’s intercession brings you closer to Christ.  Saint Michael acts as a mirror for the ultimate defense and the ultimate spiritual power that is our faith in Christ Jesus.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

The text of the longer prayer to Saint Michael can be found here.


Caring for the Poor

A Begging Man

As I was leaving Mass on Sunday, I was surprised to see a man begging near the front entrance of the Church.  This doesn’t happen often at our parish, I can probably count the number of times on one hand.

What struck me about this man was that he was on his knees on the concrete.  It was hot and sunny, heading toward record-breaking heat.  He was there with his physically disabled daughter.  He had a sign that got the point across that he had lost his job and needed money or food.  As I approached, he stood up and pleaded with me to help in broken English… “anything, anything” he said, “for comida.  Food!  For familia!”

I helped how I could, but it was alarming to me the number of people that just streamed right past.  I tried to explain to the man that he should go and talk to the Father and he would give him food if we had any in the food bank.  He thanked me profusely.

As I walked to my car, the urgency of this man’s plea bothered me.  I remembered that I had an extra soda in my cooler that I could do without, so I got it and was headed back toward the Church entrance.  It bothered me even more to see people clustered in small groups talking, shooting sideways glances and exerting some effort to ignore the situation.  A few stopped and gave some change or some sympathy.

As I approached, someone had come out to ask the man to go.  It was encouraging that they explained about the parish food bank and that he could call the Church to get some help for his family but nobody could take him in today.  I gave the man the soda, which he opened immediately and shared with his daughter as he was sent away from the Church.

Why didn’t more people stop?  I understand that many people don’t like to give money because they fear that it would be encouraging some addiction, or they fear getting hustled by someone that “puts on a good act.”  I prefer to give someone in this situation the benefit of the doubt.  I don’t need the loose change or few dollars in my pocket so bad that I would deny someone kneeling on the hot concrete begging.  Compassion and prayers are free.  It would have cost nothing but a few seconds to make eye contact with this man and tell him that you would pray for him.

This whole experience reminded me of Deuteronomy 15:7-11:

If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.  Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.  Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin.  Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.  There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

I’m not looking for praise for having helped in this situation.  This encounter made me really stop and think about how people treat the poor, and I hope that sharing this story will provide an opportunity for reflection.  What you would have done?  Would have walked by?  Ignored the man and his crippled child, judging them as you go past?  Would you have offered a prayer or a helping hand?

I am going to remember this man and his daughter for a long time.  I pray that this man and his family gets the help that they need.


Fasting for the Greater Good

Fasting For Syria

This week, Pope Francis has called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world.  This day of prayer and fasting will take place on Saturday, September 7.  This particular graphic is courtesy of Ignatius Press, and I have been happy to see this message spread beyond the normal Catholic circles.

One of my Christian friends, in fact, shared the photo with some sentiment that “this doesn’t have to be just a Catholic thing.”  She was right, in fact the transcript directly states that Pope Francis has called “each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will” to participate in whatever way that they can.

But what good will it do?

I got this question after explaining to a few friends that I was going to participate.  Prayer and fasting are two of the three ancient spiritual disciplines (the third being almsgiving) designed to elevate the spirit to God in prayer.

For me, fasting leads directly into prayer.  It usually beings as a superficial “wow, I’m hungry” followed by “remember why you’re doing this” and then leads to prayer for that cause.  This behaves similarly to abstaining from meat on Fridays, but fasting is usually a bit more demanding.  The rules for fasting and abstinence remain less rigorous than in previous decades, but I still tend to prefer the Ash Wednesday and Good Friday rules: no meat and two meals that must not add up to the same amount of food as one meal.

I believe that the world needs more prayer.  The more hopeless or extreme the situation, the more prayer is needed.  In this case, I echo the words of Pope Francis:

It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

You can read the full text of Pope Francis’ Angelus address here.

Join me in fasting and praying for Syria and the rest of Pope Francis’ intentions on Saturday.  Spread the word, share this post, share this graphic, and get the word out!


The Narrow Door

narrowdoorToday’s Gospel reading was one I had heard many times, where Saint Luke recounts Christ’s answering of the question “will many be saved?”:

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.  Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.  When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’  Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’  But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out.  Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.  Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:22-30)

Our presiding priest started his homily today by pointing out how discouraging or even frightening these words are, that many who try to enter the narrow door (or gate, in some translations) will fail.  He related the long journey of life as it’s own trial, and what do we find at the end?  A narrow door that is very difficult to pass through.  Pessimists might think that God is cruel, giving one last difficult task to undergo… but this isn’t the case if we take into account the second reading from Hebrews 12 (emphasis mine):

And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—

“My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
or lose heart when you are punished by him;
for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
and chastises every child whom he accepts.”

Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?  If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children.  Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness.  Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

He went on to explain that the trials that we face as we go through life are to discipline us how to best turn to God and release the baggage of sin, attachment to anger and distrust, and the myriad of other weights that prevent us from being able to slip through that narrow door.

I read this Gospel for one of our homebound parishioners, and her caretaker asked if I thought this meant all throughout life or just as we approach the end of the road.  It was a good question.  I answered that I think it means that we must always be striving for further discipline and self-awareness… I don’t know whether Christ was specifically intending this analogy to refer to the life’s daily trials or the major trials we face as we approach death, but the fact is we don’t know when our time will come.

The sobering point about Christ’s answer is this… He essentially answered the question “will many be saved?” with an analogy that points to an answer of “no, but many will try.”  My main take-away from these readings is simple: it’s very important to know when one has baggage, and know when and how to drop it.  Said differently, drawing from the second reading… discipline leads to peace and righteousness; peace and righteousness leads to Heaven.

In light of readings like this, I hope the lines to the confessionals are backed up out the door next weekend.


Simple Ways

This week, I began a new program at our Knights of Columbus Council that encouraged all Knights to participate in very simple activities that add up to meaningful change.  I asked each man to bring canned food to the next meeting or they could pray a rosary for the intentions of the homeless and hungry of our community.  We ended up collecting 105 items for our parish food bank.

This idea was inspired by some great examples such as Pope Francis, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  Each of these holy people exemplify what it means to truly live the Catholic Faith in the world using a simple and humble approach.  On the sign-in sheet for the program, I included the following quotation from Mother Teresa:

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.

I prefer simple ways to practice my faith, here are a few of my favorites:

Bless Your Children

Every night before bed, I bless my two and a half year old daughter.  I trace the Sign of the Cross on her forehead and say “God Bless You”.  She usually says “Thank you, Daddy”.  I don’t know when she figured out to thank me, but it is a constant reminder of what a great gift my child is.

Pray At Work

I make time to say a few silent prayers before particularly stressful meetings at the office.  If possible (and weather permitting), I sometimes take the walking trail around our office building and pray a rosary.  This was particularly helpful during the 33 Day Rosary Challenge and I found that it was a great way to de-stress and face the second half of my work day.

This week, I have been reminded often of the words of Saint Josemaria Escriva (founder of Opus Dei).  The fine folks over at the Catholic Gag Facebook page captured the quotation in a memorable picture that I reflect on often when my work day gets to be too much:

Don't say: 'That person gets on my nerves.' Think: 'That person sanctifies me.' --St. Josemaria Escriva

Build Worship Into Your Day

One of our parish deacons recommended that I end every day by thanking the Lord and praying that my own sacrifices are pleasing to Him.  He explained that we often forget that the daily sacrifices such as patience, prudence, time spent at work, time spent for the care of others, and time spent in prayer are all done as sacrifices for the Glory of God.  I find that I often remember to pray in this fashion right as I’m closing up the house for the night, and associating it to a necessary task that I do every night makes it an easy practice.

My wife has taken to reading the Magnificat every night.  Sometimes we talk about her readings, or she shares something that she thinks may particularly help me.  It’s a great way to reconnect and worship together.

There are also several electronic avenues to deepen your spirituality daily, such as the Catechism in a Year program at FlockNote where they email a small segment from the YouCAT to your email inbox each morning.

Help Me!

I keep coming back to the simple ways that you can help others as a part of your faith life.  I am confident that your parish has outreach programs, charity programs, RCIA sponsorships, and a myriad of other ways that you can help your community.  The Knights of Columbus are a great avenue for practical Catholic men to find new opportunities to give back.

I intend to continue posting the subject of our Simple Ways program here.  If you like the activity presented, I encourage you to participate by mirroring the activity at your local parish, Knights of Columbus Council, or local charity.  For the month of August, we donated canned food to our local parish food bank.  If you couldn’t do canned food, prayer counts: pray a rosary for the hungry and homeless of the world.

If you do decide to participate in the Simple Ways program, send me a short email or leave a comment and let me know how you participated (you can remain anonymous).  If your Knights of Columbus Council is participating, please let me know your council number so I can mention it in our annual program round-up.