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!


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.


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.


Finding God at the Airport

Finding God on a PlaneI have had the inauspicious pleasure of having flown on five flights in the last week for my day job.  It’s not really in my nature to travel much aside from my work duties, so I didn’t have much experience flying until much later in my life.  After the initial novelty of air travel had worn off, I found that I started looking for things to fill the invariable delays caused by rescheduled flights, long tarmac delays, and cheaper one-stop connecting flights.


This all began after a friend of mine suggested that I check out the Catholic Answers podcast to deepen my faith.  It worked, and the format lends itself quite handily to air travel.  You can listen to a few questions, taking breaks for the flight attendant’s safety briefing (yes, some of us do listen to those), take-off, landing, or whatever else happens that prevents your ability to use portable electronics.

Over time I added a few additional podcasts to the fold, foremost among them Jimmy Akin’s podcast.  There are dozens if not hundreds of other excellent options for Catholic podcasts, if there are any others that you enjoy feel free to leave them in the combox and share with the class.


The last few trips, I have packed in a faith-based short book or two.  I prefer shorter books because they’re easier to fit in the carry-on luggage, such as C.S. Lewis’ theology books or anything under a couple hundred pages.  On my latest trip, I brought William T. Ditewig’s “101 Questions & Answers on Deacons” and finished almost the entire book during the two hour flight.

I prefer traditional (dead tree) books because they can be read during the non-electronics segments of the flight and can present you a great evangelization opportunity if someone asks about the book you’re reading.  It’s a little harder for this to happen with an e-reader like the Amazon Kindle because people can’t see the book cover.  Not to say that Amazon Kindle won’t work for self-education purposes… in fact one of the greatest epiphanies I have had while reading on a flight was when reading Patrick Coffin’s volume “Sex au Naturel” on my Kindle… but that’s a story for another time.

My wife has suggested reflection books like the Magnificat for this type of reading as well.


Flight offers some great time for quiet reflection.  During one of my flights last week, I decided to do a rosary.  While praying, I noticed that there was an old lady a few rows up from me that was sniffling a lot.  This made me wonder if she was sick or had just lost a loved one… and then I started  thinking about what kind of stories that everyone else on the flight had.  I ended up saying most of my rosary for the people that were on the flight with me and for those that were missing them back at home, along with my own intentions.

Add to that the flight crew, the safety personnel, the flight attendants… the nervous old man that clearly doesn’t like flying at all… and you can see how your time during take-off can present an interesting opportunity for a different kind of prayer.

For me, I find that quiet time away from my own loved ones makes me reflect on why I miss being around them.  This often leads me to pray for them for my own safe return at the end of my trip.

A Makeshift Retreat?

I wish I could say that I sat down with the firm intent to build myself a spiritual development program that I could use to fill this spare time.  The truth is that these ideas grew organically over time and I have only recently realized that it was adding together to be like a miniature retreat.  It sure beats reading the SkyMall catalog or doing a crossword puzzle!


Do a good deed this Friday!

Aunt GailThis is my Aunt Gail.  On Friday, she would have been 57 years old.  She passed away seven years ago after a heroic but brief fight with brain cancer.  She lived her life in kind service of others, quick to help anyone that needed it.  She loved animals, she loved kids, she loved her family… and we all loved her back.  She truly lived the Golden Rule in her life and was an shining example of good Christian ideals.

Last year, my Mom organized an effort to collect good deeds in Gail’s memory.  The plan was to shoot for 56 different good deeds, and the response was overwhelming… good deeds of all shapes and sizes came in from all over the United States and even one from France!  Many of the people that participated didn’t even know my aunt, but loved the idea of remembering her with charitable good deeds.

Some examples: buying dinner for a random family at a restaurant, mowing lawns for disabled neighbors, taking a donation of pet food to the local animal shelter… it didn’t have to be much, but it all added up to to a wonderful way to remember a fantastic woman.

To participate, all you have to do is perform a good deed on Friday.  It doesn’t matter for who, it doesn’t have to be a lot of money, but try to make it from the heart.  If you do decide to participate, please send me an email and let me know what you did (if you want, you can stay anonymous… just let us know that you’d like that).  I’ll pass this information on to my Mom, who has been collecting a count of the good deeds in hopes that we can make 57 good deeds.  I’m also asking that you pray for anyone who participates and for the repose of my Aunt Gail’s soul.


BREAKING NEWS: DOMA overturned, Christ still Lord and Savior

Once again, the Federal government has succeeded in making my Facebook an intolerable place today.  In case you’re living under a rock, you probably heard that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was partially overturned and the Supreme Court chose not to rule on Proposition 8.  I have intentionally linked CNN so you can be sure to see some top-shelf grandstanding.

I have read much of the commentary on both sides and the reactions.  The usual suspects have scuttled out from the fringe to gloat in the usual ways, often engaging in hyperbole to over-reach the point in hopes that they can “rub our nose in it.”  But none of that is what I want to write about today.  I don’t really have the desire to nit-pick the Supreme Court’s ruling, looking for small glimmers of goodness amid the bad news.  It’s bad news, we can deal with it.  Here’s how:

Remember that True Love has already won.

One of the prevailing soundbytes that I have seen so far is the notion that love won today.  This is a lie, the fact is that a misapplication (or privation) of love won a legal victory today.  Properly oriented love is unitive between the spouses and oriented toward the creation of new life, modeling God’s Love for all of us.  For a bit more discussion of how traditional marriage and homosexual “marriage” are different, check out my previous article Five Facts: Homosexuality And Marriage.

True love won around 2,000 years ago in the form of Christ crucified and the reality of that love will never need a law to protect it.  Today I remember that Christ died for all of us regardless of our human faults, race, color, sexual orientation, or station in life.  He calls us to live according to His teachings fully, to embrace His salvific love, and to pick up our Cross and follow Him.  If we cherry pick teachings in such a way to fit our comfortable lifestyle or to support our sin, we are hardly living up to the standard our Lord set for us.

We’re going to enter a stage in this country where we must look to the wisdom of our Lord from Mark 12:17:

And Jesus answering, said to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

If we continue to place our faith in the government to present for us sound moral teachings, we’re going to be constantly disappointed.  These laws will come and go, but we should not allow them to point us away from what is actually True.  This ruling by the Supreme Court is bound to have repercussions.  Pat Archbold wrote a rather chilling article that paints a grim picture of how this could affect the Catholic Church.  I pray that it doesn’t come to this, however I won’t be surprised if it does.

For my part, I am trying to not fall to despair on this topic.  I pray that the Lord brings some good about with this defeat and that this act galvanizes the faithful, encouraging us to become stronger in practice, protect our faith, and protect the institution of marriage even more.  It is important for us to remember the wisdom from the Sermon on the Mount:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Remember to pray for our government, pray for the Supreme Court justices, and pray for those that delight in and embrace their sinful behavior.  Love all of them, so that they come to understand what real love looks like.  Last but not least, pray for the lay faithful, just politicians, blessed priests, and all others that keep up the fight.  We have assurance that the gates of Hell will not prevail against our Church, but that does not mean that the road ahead will be easy.


The 33 Day Rosary Challenge: COMPLETE!

At the beginning of May, I joined the Real Men Pray The Rosary 33 Day Challenge.  The rules were simple: pray the rosary once a day for 33 days in remembrance of Christ’s human ministry.  Here’s what I learned along the way.

I DO have the time

One of the greatest lessons of this challenge was the discovery that I do, in fact, have enough time for prayer in my average day.  I believe this month is probably the first in my entire life where I’ve made a sufficient effort to include structured prayer in every day.  I found it possible to pray the rosary in the gaps of my daily grind, or during times when I would otherwise do something more idle.

Some of my favorite times to add prayer might seem unusual.  I discovered that my Sunday driving route to visit the homebound of our parish was plenty of time to pray the rosary.  Instead of listening to the radio, I turned if off and prayed instead.  This was made especially profound for me because Christ was literally with me on that trip each week.  I tend to do my Apostles Creed, then pray aloud for the intentions of my rosary… on these Sundays, it took the form of talking with a friend who was in the car with me for a minute or two before I went into the reflective prayers of the rosary itself.

Beyond that, my favorite time to pray was putting my two-year-old daughter to bed.  I would whisper the prayers softly in order to keep proper track of my progress and she was usually asleep midway through the third decade.  A few times she would pat my hand with the rhythm of the prayer… it doesn’t get more special than that.

On days when my work schedule would permit it, I discovered that a lap around the hiking trail that surrounds my office building was just enough time to get a rosary in.  If I started as I walked out of the office door, I would finish the final prayer as I walked up the ramp that led back to the parking lot of our building.  It really worked out perfectly and gave me a special deposit of grace that often would help me during a challenging workday.

On the remaining days when life got in the way or the schedule was too hectic, I found considerable peace in waiting for the rest of the family to go to bed and I would pray my rosary in the quiet house before retiring myself.  Sometimes, this was force of will… I was tired too.  However, despite my fatigue, it was always worth it to end my day with prayer… I found I slept better.  It’s the next best thing short of ending your day in Adoration like I did at the Knights of Columbus convention.

I learned the prayers, and kept my word too!

Another (expected) side effect of the challenge was that I actually learned the prayers that I often struggled to remember.  The ‘Hail Holy Queen’ and closing prayer of the rosary would often trip me up, but now I can do them from memory.  I also struggled with the Apostles Creed (as ashamed as I am to admit this) and now it comes much more smoothly.  I still sometimes conflate the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, but it’s better than it was by a long shot.

Because of the daily habit, I also found that I was actually praying for others.  I made it a point to remember in prayer those that needed it… my sick friends, those with ailing family members, those with particular issues to work through, and even my own family.  I often fell into the habit of telling someone I would pray for them, and during this month I did much better at making good on that promise.

I also found that after the second week, I was able to recall and meditate on the mysteries of the rosary itself.  I would have trouble remembering which were the Glorious Mysteries and which were the Joyful ones… what day to pray which mysteries on, and so on.  It is nice to not struggle so much with that anymore.  In addition, I also feel more able to both pray the rhythm of the rosary verbally (one Our Father and ten Hail Mary’s per mystery) while mentally actually meditating on the mystery itself.

The rosary is much more of a ‘whole body’ experience than I expected it to be.


This process helped me cultivate a virtuous habit, raise my mind better to God, find time in my day to pray, and reflect more on the life of Christ.  In general, I consider it a tremendous success and am grateful for the challenge to get out of my comfort zone.  This process has made me appreciate the deposit of grace that comes along with daily prayer, and it truly helped me get through some tough times this month.  It also made me appreciate the dense spiritual beauty of the rosary, something I never fully understood until now.

Will I continue?  In some ways, yes.  There are some other daily devotions that I am interested in trying (the Liturgy of the Hours being foremost), and now that I know I can make 20-35 minutes a day for prayer I might explore some of those more closely.  I will definitely pray the rosary as often as I can, since it honestly hasn’t been that difficult to find the time.

In closing, I strongly suggest that you check out Real Men Pray the Rosary and make your very own 33 Day Rosary Challenge and see what it brings to your spiritual development.  I want to take a moment to thank those responsible for this program.  It has really improved my daily prayer life and helped me overcome that obstacle in my spiritual development.


No Meat Fridays

No Meat FridayToday is the first week where my family is returning to the practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays.  When I touched on this topic a few weeks ago, I pointed out a timely article by Matt Fradd where he explains his reasons for continuing to perform this practice post-Lent.  Here, I would like to take the baton from him and explain what led our family to return to this practice.

First, some background

The simple reason we are to abstain from meat on Fridays is in remembrance of the Lord’s Passion and death.  This still enshrined in Canon Law (see the details here), however it points to the conference of bishops to fully determine the specific rules to follow.  When we dig deeper, we find a nice summary of both the rationale of the practice and what is prescribed for American Catholics.  I encourage you to read the entire section entitled “Christ Died For Our Salvation on Friday”, but I will excerpt some details here:

23. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.

24. Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat.We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law. Our expectation is based on the following considerations:

  1. We shall thus freely and out of love for Christ Crucified show our solidarity with the generations of believers to whom this practice frequently became,especially in times of persecution and of great poverty,no mean evidence of fidelity to Christ and His Church.
  2. We shall thus also remind ourselves that as Christians, although immersed in the world and sharing its life, we must preserve a saving and necessary difference from the spirit of the world. Our deliberate,personal abstinence from meat, more especially because no longer required by law, will be an outward sign of inward spiritual values that we cherish.

So in summary: they have abolished the binding practice of abstaining from meat (i.e. you don’t have to and it’s not sinful if you do), but they clearly have the hope or intention of individual Catholics continuing the practice or replacing it with some other visible outward sign of our values.

Why We’re Doing It

Like I mentioned in my last article, this all came about because of a few inklings I had of continuing this practice.  Matt Fradd’s article came along right around the same time to really drive the point home, and it started a conversation between my wife and I where I discovered that was considering the exact same thing.  A lot of tumblers clicked into place and we decided that we would re-enact this practice in our house after Pentecost when the celebratory season of Easter is over.

I had the opportunity to speak to my priest about this, where he also explained that individual Catholics have been called to replace the abstinence from meat with something else if they choose not to practice it.  He explained that he would go and visit the poor and the homebound each week, sacrificing his time instead.

I already volunteer a lot of my time in a variety of activities, and my priest’s comment made me consider whether I could just earmark one of those activities as my sacrificed time to satisfy the abstinence/penance requirement.  After reflecting on this idea, I came to realize that I don’t do any of those things sacrificially… I actually enjoy serving our parish community in those ways so to me it wasn’t internally consistent to “count” those things.  Furthermore, I enjoy the Lenten practice of doing something that causes me to take pause and reflect on why I’m doing it.  I enjoy praying the rosary because it takes me through the mysteries of Christ’s life and this practice is a way to reflect on the Sorrowful Mysteries one day each week.

Lastly, I like the sentiments expressed by Section 24.b above.  Abstaining from meat is an outward sign of my internal spiritual values.  Every Lent I get to respond to the questions about why we abstain from meat, why can you still eat fish, and so on… this continues that visible practice in such a way that it gets noticed by people.  It gives me a chance to evangelize with my actions and it has regularly started a discussion about my Catholic faith.  Sacrificing a cheeseburger is a small price to pay if it eventually leads someone closer to Christ.

I’m going to heat up my cheese quesadilla now!


Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

Malcolm and I

Malcolm (left) and I after our Knighting Ceremony

Last week, I received word that a friend of mine had entered hospice care.  He had been sick for quite some time and had began frequent dialysis for his failing kidneys, but his heart had grown too weak to continue the treatment.  Unfortunately, that meant that the end was nearing for him.

His name was Malcolm and I knew him through my involvement in the Knights of Columbus, in fact he and I received our Fourth Degree on the same day.  Last year he had volunteered to be our Council Warden and our Assembly Purser, so we frequently worked together in our respective duties as officers.  As he grew sicker, I stopped seeing him at Mass and he had to be absent from the Knights meetings.  One night I called him up to see how he was, and he responded that he said “honestly, I’m doing good but I’m starving for air.”

That was the only time I ever heard him come close to complaining during his illness.

As the end grew closer, several of my fellow Knights had gone to see him.  I was having a very hectic week, but I had a persistent concern that Malcolm and his wife were having to suffer alone.  I don’t know why I felt this way, so I decided to visit him last Thursday night.  As I was driving down to the hospice facility, strange thoughts kept wandering through my head.  Malcolm was my friend, yes… but we always corresponded about Knights activities, Mass, or his health… none of those topics seemed appropriate given the situation.  What do you say to someone that is nearing the end of their time on Earth?  How do you comfort his wife when you have no idea the ordeal she must be going through?

My head was swimming by the time I arrived.  Malcolm’s wife met me at the front of the hospice facility and took me back to his room.  I was impressed at how tough she seemed.  She explained to me that he had a bad turn the previous night and they had him on persistent medication now.  He was sleeping, but I was welcome to come and spend some time with him and his family.  I was relieved to see that my concern about her being alone was unfounded, the room was full of his family.  She quickly explained to them that I was a friend of Malcolm’s from the Knights of Columbus.

I stayed for a half hour, Malcolm was asleep the entire time.  His family asked that we all pray together, so we did.  His wife encouraged me to talk to him, so I took my rosary out and said a mental prayer for the grace of a happy death for him.  I told him that he was an exemplary officer and that I would miss him.  I thanked him for being there for me in the Knights and for being my friend.  I asked him to say hello to the Lord when he saw him.  One of his family members was next to me and remarked that his breathing changed when I talked, but I didn’t perceive a difference.  I stood with them as they said another prayer before making my exit.

Malcolm passed away at 5:20 am the following morning.

His wife requested an honor guard for his funeral Mass, so I had the privilege of standing guard for him.  In addition, my responsibilities as Faithful Navigator required me to read a Decree of Condolence to his family during the Mass.  I had attempted to practice, but the raw emotion of having to read a heartfelt decree while standing in front of a mourning family proved to stiff of a task.  I made it halfway through before making the crucial mistake of thinking about all of Malcolm’s family, his peaceful tolerance of a long illness, and his contributions to the Knights.  I knew I was in trouble when my voice cracked at the start of the third paragraph, and let’s just say the rest of the decree was extremely challenging to get through.

I’m not ashamed of showing those emotions.  Malcolm was my friend.  I have it easy compared to his family and close friends, but I think it helped his family to see how much Malcolm meant to us too.  Our priest said that it always means so much to have the Knights of Columbus present at funerals, especially when we are close to the person that passed away.  I understand a little better now how powerful that can be.

Everyone can take some solace in the face that Malcolm is now enjoying his eternal reward, and that is an encouraging thought.  He will be missed.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. –Matthew 5:4