What was that you said?

images

In 2009 after completing the RCIA program at my parish, I was a soul on fire.

Reading books on the Catholic faith became my new favorite hobby. Catholic radio quickly became the only thing playing in my car. More and more of my lunch hours were spent at the I. Donnelly Company on Troost Avenue and at Trinity House in Overland Park. If there was a Catholic website, I visited it. I joined a Catholic Bible Study group, started a Blog, and even bought Catholic T-Shirts to wear around just to be conversation starters with people. I couldn’t get enough fast enough.

Then one day I grew a brain cell and thought, you know I should probably ask for some direction on this. So I set an appointment with the Parish’s RCIA director, and went in and shared with her the emotional joy ride I had been on as I continued my post RCIA explosion into the faith with a raw insatiable hunger.

When we met I asked her, “Is there like a road map to follow or something? Maybe a suggested reading list? Another program like RCIA to get involved with? What do people normally do as the next step?”  I mean I needed something.  I felt like I was going to explode inside.  My desire for spiritual growth was driving nearly every thought in my head.  In response to my questions this woman just sat there straight faced and patiently waiting for me to become still. She then asked the most confounding question I had yet to hear since becoming Catholic, “Tell me about your prayer life.”

“What was that you said?” I verbally stumbled quickly tilting my head.

“Your prayer life,” she repeated slowly.

“Well, I don’t know,” I said somewhat curiously, “Same as everyone else’s I guess. What does that have to do with what I am talking about? I mean, I pray. We prayed in RCIA class and I pray at home, of course. Are their prayer’s I need to learn? Is there a book? What am I missing here,” I asked impatiently?

That’s when this woman started to smile. She then reached across her desk taking a card and a pen and wrote a name and number down.  She handed it to me and said, “Call this number and make an appointment. You’ll find what you are looking for there.” The phone number was for one of the prayer coaches that the Diocese of Kansas City St. Joseph employs to serve the laity in better developing a fulfilling prayer life. “To use your words,” she said laughing, “It’s the next step.”

The gentleman I eventually met with was based out of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Prairie Village and we met at the church office there. What transpired in our meetings was an amazing opportunity that I still regret not taking more advantage of than I did, and one that I would highly recommend to everyone if they feel it would benefit them. It didn’t take long for me to realize I had received excellent advice in coming there and was right where I needed to be. What came of that experience was a better understanding of my conversations with God. What I learned was that it wasn’t so much about what I was saying to God as I had previously thought.  But more importantly to my faith, prayer is about how I was listening to God.

So what is prayer anyway?

If you ask 50 people that question, you may get 30 or more different answers.  From personal observation I have seen that prayer can solidify a faith like nothing else and uncertainly about what prayer is to a person can hold them back in their faith development.  But really – prayer is simple; its communication.  Prayer is the conversational part of a relationship – the most important relationship of our life.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines prayer through the definition given to us by St. John Damascene, “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or requesting of Good things from God.”

Prayer is a part of our covenant relationship with the Father.  Prayer is spiritual communion.  paragraph 2565 of the Catechism states; …prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.  The grace of the Kingdom is ‘the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity…with the whole human spirit.’  Thus the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him.”

Is prayer important?

The Catechism tells us that that the need for prayer is born out of our creation.  That man, through being created by God is called to Him.  That we, as his children, search him out and call to him.  And that he, as our Father, calls to us.

From a functional perspective, we could ask if communication is important to any relationship?  If you say your relationship with your wife is great, but you never have time to talk to her, is it really as great as you think it is?  Should we ask your wife?  What if we asked God about your relationship with him?  Would he think its as great as you think it is?  Imagine a relationship with your spouse in which you never spoke, or you spoke when you were reminded to speak, or you only spoke in groups?  Don’t laugh, some marriages are like that.  But the pointlessness of that is obvious isn’t it?  What about your relationship to God?

From a practical perspective, if you are married don’t you feel that its important to speak with your wife at least once a day and get caught up on everything you have going on in your life?  What about your kids; the same?  Why should your relationship with God be any different?  Do you talk to him everyday?  Don’t you think he might want to talk to you?  You know your wife and kids do.  Really…do you not think that God might want to talk to you everyday? Have you really thought about that?  Is your prayer life as selfish as your other relationships – is it only about when you have something to say or do you make time for those who seek to be a part of your life?  Are you listening to what God has to say?  Are you listening at all?

It’s fair to say that the Catholic Church thinks that prayer is important.  The fourth out of the four sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is devoted entirely to Christian Prayer.  All of part four, 75 pages, is devoted to understanding prayer as a part of who we are as Catholics.  Looking for a better understanding of prayer?  Struggling to feel more comfortable praying, or looking for that start down a more fulfilling pray life?  The Catechism would be a great place to start.

What are some other resources for prayer?

Talk to the Priest…please.  Great resource.  Don’t like him, try another priest.  Same result: repeat process until satisfied.  It will happen eventually.

Talk to a friend.  If they can’t help you maybe you will both learn something from what you eventually discover.

Talk to your kids.  Don’t laugh: keep reading.

Talk to your spouse – try praying together. Again…Listening!

Try the Diocese prayer coach – I loved it.

Read books?  You’ll be busy for awhile researching prayer; its a long list of published works.

Like Jesus?  He had a great prayer and its said every week at Mass so its easy to remember.  Explore that one in depth. There is more to it than most people think.

One good resource to develop a more fulfilling prayer life is a prayer book. No, this won’t turn you into an old woman. Nor will it make you dependent on rote prayer. It will however, help you discover language you can use to articulate emotional needs you may or may not be having. If you think of prayer as a foreign language – you know what you want to say but feel that it would be easier to just point at pictures than actually formulate words into sentences – a prayer book might be good for you. They can also put you in listening mode.

St. Joseph’s Prayer Book is a very popular, inexpensive and widely available prayer resource. If you’re an App addict, there are an ever expanding number of Apps for your phone that can serve in this way.

My personal favorite prayer book is my Key of Heaven. I found my Key of Heaven in a used book store while vacationing with my family. We got up early one morning and walked to breakfast at the direction of the concierge to a place we wanted. In coming back we passed through a street market which trapped my wife checking out endless smells and where I found the book shop hidden behind a tent along the street center. My wife knows to steer me around used book stores like I know to steer her and my daughter around shoe stores and Bath and Body Works locations. The copy I picked up is from the 1950’s, has gold leaf trim, is leather bound, was printed in Belgium in English for Regina Press out of New York and still has the Church’s Imprimatur stamped in the back. It was the best $4 I have spent in awhile.

Now even though this book has given me a tremendous education regarding my prayer life, and also shared some insight into pre-Vatican II Faith life, the reason why it’s my favorite prayer tool is the smell. Yes, you heard me – and don’t laugh; it’s the smell. When I open the book in prayer the aroma of the old pages takes me back to the smell of the pews in the old country church my Grandmother attended and served as Treasurer for over four decades. I would go to Church with her when I visited her throughout the year. My Grandmother was the first person who ever bothered teaching me how to pray, and I always enjoyed praying with her. I loved being in that old Church and I loved how she talked to God. She was a plain spoken hard working businesswoman (and that was back then) and she spoke plainly and honestly in prayer to Jesus. She spoke from her heart, and taught me to do so as well.

But why is that experience so important to me? It’s important because I have a prayer room in my mind palace. The room is where I go in my mind when I need to pray, and that smell – like a key – allows me quicker access to the room.

My Grandmother waits for me there, in my prayer room, so we can sit together and pray in that old Church. Our pew sits at the front of the room and my space beside her is never taken.  On the other side of the room is my library of faith books I have read and Christian music I listen too. I keep a journal with those books, along with photographs of places I have visited that have helped grow my faith – the Vatican being one of my favorites. In the journal I write down all of the times I have met Christ in my life. Sometimes I can just sit in the room and re-read the journal as a way of feeling closer to Him. One wall of the room isn’t a wall at all; it’s a memory. The memory is from an early morning while backpacking in the Rocky Mountains when we watched the sunrise from a mountain top some 16,000 ft above sea level. To this day when I see that sun exploding  across the horizon I still think I can make out the face of God. The rest of the room is filled with pictures of my family and has a timeless nature to it I long ago stopped trying to understand. But it’s my place that I know I can go to and listen for the Lord. It’s a place of prayer I can carry with me everywhere.

Somewhere in my faith experience I was given a very insightful comment about prayer: The sound of God’s voice is the sound of snow falling on snow. Great description; because you need that quiet.  Never did those words take on more meaning to me than when I tried to introduce the The Examen to my kids. The Daily Examen, or daily examination of your conscience, was originally developed hundreds of years ago by St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Examen has several different forms, can and should be personalized to the person using it and is even used by Protestants.  The prayers purpose is to bring to mind at the end of your day what your experiences and connections were to Jesus, and how can you learn from them.

So in challenging my kids with the practice of the daily examination we explored the idea of better understanding life’s moments in which we actually experience God or can hear his voice. At which point my son immediately pipes up with, “Oh yeah Dad, like when we are in the shower?”

Now, if you have young boys you realize that sometimes the way they frame the world for themselves can border on the bizarre. So I turned to him lost saying, “The shower? You’ve got me there bud, what do you mean?”

“You know Dad; in the shower – when the water is running and drowning out all of the other noise of life. When that continuous sound of the spray quiets everything in your head so your mind is totally at peace: That Dad…that is when I can hear God.” He was nine years old at the time, and our faith sharing has only continued to improve since.

Got prayer in your life my friend?

Are you listening?

YBIC

Customs and Traditions

IndiansOrg-Ancestry-300x250-5

H. Roe Bartle (Kansas City’s Bartle Hall); former mayor of Kansas City, businessman, and philanthropist, is famous to the average man for two important reasons: (1) He brought an NFL team to Kansas City which today carrIes his nickname and (2) In 1930, at Camp Osceola in southern Missouri, he began a little known but highly successful leadership development program for young men within the Boy Scouts of America based on the idea of an Indian tribe.

From its origins this endeavor has brought some tens of thousands of boys and honored adults through its ranks changing lives for the better and giving many a purpose previously absent. The program uses the framework of Indian customs, traditions, and culture, as well as a primitive romanticism, to capture the allure and excitement of young men. Paired with these trappings is a wonderful personal development program focusing on the elements of service to God, family, country, and those in need as a path to personal fulfillment for boys transitioning to manhood.

A few weeks ago I was extremely honored to witness some incredible moments learning about this program, and in doing so felt the power of the Holy Spirit close to me as I watched and experienced boys becoming men during some very special moments in their lives..

One such moment came when I was afforded the opportunity to watch boys moving from one tribal rank to the next. As part of the process in a “council ring” on Visitors Sunday, they performed two important dances for the audience dressed in, and acted out in, traditional Indian fashion.

The first dance was a personal expression of thanks to God for the gift of their life and the physical ability to transition to manhood. The movement was physically challenging to do; allowing them to show God their readiness, and was also an expression of thanksgiving for their physical gifts. It was a personal witness to God showcased before any and all to see.

The second dance was more internally driven. Originally done in Indian Culture as a marriage dance, the boys today pull their mothers from the audience and dance with them as their key partner in life. As a community of dancers they moved throughout the council ring as a parade in a successive progression becoming at first an honored pair in the center, and then honoring the next pair in line as a supportive element with the rest of the tribe. The dance clearly demonstrated the relationship between the family and the community: each family both reliant on the greater community as well as a supportive element of that community. Both concepts separate, but linked together as one.

These traditions happen every year.  It was just my first time to see them.  Year after year they occur defining a growing significance in the lives of the participants through a shared experience.  Therefore, these dances, though separate, were significant in theme by how they anchored the importance of tradition and custom to the life of the participant. Though rights of passage to the boy, each was thematic to a part of their life in individual importance. In watching these dances too I was drawn in my mind to a recent read by former Harvard University Sociology professor Carle Zimmerman entitled Family and Civilization.

Zimmerman, a native of Cass County, Missouri himself, draws a strong historical correlation from his research across both time and cultures between the strength of a given civilization and the strength of the influence of the family on its members within that same society. Regretfully in his research, Zimmerman reveals the deterioration of both the family and civilizations throughout history characterized by similar attributes. As the importance of family fades, so does the societal bonds that once tie a community to its values.  Ironically, in assessing the United States, Zimmerman spoke of our parents and grandparent’s generation in making this comparison to the American identity based on his research timeline.

In speaking of the family, Zimmerman explains plainly:

.… The child is born into a family and sees the world through its eyes. His introduction to civilization is through the family. At first he is only a child in a system of social relations consisting of a unity of husband and wife, parent and child. Later he learns that there are relatives (grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) who are closer to him than other people. In time he acquires the idea of friends, and then strangers. Then he learns that he secures his status through his family. He is an American, an Englishman, a Chinese because he is born into a parental unit that belongs to those nationalities. His parents belong to a certain community and so does he, and they are subject to its rules and privileges. He can and must go to the schools of his community.

As the child grows up, he founds a family of his own where the roles are reversed; instead of remaining a child, he becomes a husband (wife), parent, leader, breadwinner, responsible person, disciplinarian, and status conferrer. In the course of a lifetime, most people play changing roles within the organization known as the family. A broad and philosophical knowledge of the meaning of this to the individual and to the society is one of the first requisites of understanding the society of which he is a part. …. – Carle Zimmerman

In the United States its hard to define true American culture and tradition as it changes quite regularly.  As Americans we define ourselves by not being our parents.  We define ourselves by the change we bring to the world.  But what do we value?  What is important enough to continue to define how we see ourselves and establishes the expectations we have to define our legacy as a people?

Not an American Thing

I have a long time friend from Sheffield, England that I met in college. Later on in life, when I lived in England myself, I spent lots of time with he and his family when opportunities permitted. To my periodic chagrin, he continually reminded me that if his fellow Europeans thought Americans had no culture, they obviously hadn’t yet heard American Country music. Not a fan myself, I always rolled my eyes at this comment. But age and experience has made me appreciate his point. Country music, in its own way, defines a reliable constant in American culture.  But surely, we could and should have others?

What about our Faith Family

Family is strongly institutionalized and valued throughout the Bible.  Sirach 3:2-16,12-14 and Colossians 3:12-21 are both emphatic testaments to the importance of family.  Jesus modeled family for us and built the foundations of the Church around family.  The Catholic Church recognizes this through the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph each December 30th.  The Feast of the Holy Family celebrates the human family unit, as well as the ultimate family unit: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The feast, not a solemnity, is usually celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas. If Christmas is a Sunday, then the feast is celebrated on December 30th.

holyfamily

The Feast of the Holy Family is not just about the Holy Family, but about our own families too. The main purpose of the Feast is to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families, and for domestic life in general. Our family life becomes sanctified when we live the life of the Church within our homes. This is called the “domestic church” or the “church in miniature.” St. John Chrysostom urged all Christians to make each home a “family church,” and in doing so, we sanctify the family unit. Just how does one live out the Church in the family? The best way is by making Christ the center of family and individual life. Ways to do this include: reading scripture regularly, praying daily, attending Mass at least on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, imitating the actions of the Holy Family, going to confession frequently, and so forth, all done together as a family unit. (www.churchyear.net)

Tradition in the Catholic Church is Sacred, literally. As Catholics Sacred tradition is a cornerstone of our faith. We recognized sacred Tradition preceded the written New Testament by several hundred years as well as the Canonization of the Bible itself. Sacred Tradition is the faith as communicated by Christ to and through the Apostolic line and as such created the divine authority of the Church herself. Luke 10:16 tells us “Whoever hears you, hears me. And whoever despises you, despises me. And whoever despises me, despises him who sent me.”

In the Second Vatican Council’s document on divine revelation, Dei Verbum (Latin: “The Word of God“), we understand the importance of sacred Tradition through comparing it to sacred Scripture: “Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.

Thus, by the light of the Spirit of truth, these successors can in their preaching preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same devotion and reverence.”

This is important for us as practicing Catholics, as the Laity, to remember. It is important not just from the perspective of jurisdictional authority as espoused wonderfully by our apologists, but also more practically as a vital tool for us to use in the living out of our faith. What does that mean? It means we have the same responsibility to own our traditions as members and families of the church as the Church has in protecting and preaching it.

Like my observations of the Indian ceremonies giving personal growth value within the Boy Scouts, we as the heads of our families – our increasingly at risk families – need to own the responsibility of creating and maintaining our family’s traditions and link those traditions and customs to those of our faith. For it will be through the care taking of these traditions by which we fulfill our new role as head of our family in Zimmerman’s explanation of the link between family and civilization. As we move from child to parent it is incumbent upon us to fulfill that role so that our children share in the same identification and warmth of development that we did (or even more importantly, as I can personally identify with, that we may have even been denied as a child).

Despite your attitudes on Lincoln car commercials, I found what says this best was the conversation that Matthew McConaughey’s character in the movie Interstellar said to his daughter when discussing a father’s purpose, “Now, we are just here to be memories for our kids.” Well that is in many ways right, and it is those memories that define and align our children to their greater society. It is those memories you make for them that will protect and guide them throughout the struggles of their life. Do you want your children to be tightly anchored in the storms of their life or are you too busy for that and leaving them free to be taken by the winds of the day? Or more sadly, are you like so many parents in America today and outsourcing that responsibility to others?

Are you helping your kids take root in the faith? Are you honoring sacred Tradition in your family?

Brothers, if we observe your family from its traditions can we recognize what Tribe you are from? Do you know yourself?

Happy Father’s Day,

YBIC

Let us pray

Jesus, our most loving redeemer,
You came to enlighten the world
with your teaching and example.
You willed to spend the greater part of Your life
in humble obedience to Mary and Joseph
in the poor home of Nazareth.
In this way, You sanctified that family,
which was to be an example for all Christian families.

Graciously accept our family,
which we dedicate and consecrate to You this day.
Be pleased to protect, guard, and keep it
in holy fear, in peace,
and in the harmony of Christian charity.
By conforming ourselves to the Divine model
of Your family,
may we attain to eternal happiness.
New St. Joseph People’s Prayer Book

Book Review “Into the Deep” by Robert Rogers.

Hello to all.  I am not a great writer, but I just finished a book that I feel all of you should consider reading.  The book is titled Into the Deep and it is by Robert Rogers.  This is a true story of a family of 6 living in Liberty, Mo.  The background of this family is amazing to begin with, a couple with 4 children, the oldest daughter who was 8 at the time of the story, a brother named Zachary who was born with Down syndrome, another son, and then a year old adopted daughter from China.  On Labor Day weekend of 2003 (i might be a year off), the family traveled to Wichita for a family wedding and headed home in a downpour late that night.  Just south of Emporia their can was caught in a flash flood at Jacob Creek near mile marker 116.  Their van stalled and water began to enter the van.  Soon a wall of water gushing at 30,000 gallons a second hit their van, wiped out the concrete median and pushed their van off the turnpike.  The husband, his wife, and oldest daughter were sucked out of the window that was broken open, the younger three were trapped in their car seats.  In the end, the father survived, and his wife and children sadly passed away.  However, his story of faith before, during, and after this tragedy is what made me unable to put this book down.  I literally began on Wednesday at noon and finished the 230ish page book on Thursday at noon.

I checked out the book from the Bonner Springs Library, but there are a couple copies available through JoCo libraries and I believe it can be purchased on amazon for 10-15 bucks.

I have attached a link to a video about this amazing guy.  If it doesn’t work, youtube Robert Rogers.  The pics do not do this justice.  Jill and I had just started dating not long before this and were actually headed to Wichita the day after this flood.  The destruction in such a short time from the water was incredible.

Bless you all

TJ

The Traveler’s Pass

Are you traveling this summer?  Will you be going to Mass when you’re away?

In my pre-catholic years the idea of going to Church on vacation was never anything I, or my family, really ever thought about. As a protestant, your Church wasn’t universal; your Church was in effect your local congregation. Your Church was the place you went to get “fed.” So when you went on vacation, the idea of going to Church while traveling became a somewhat practical, and often more conceptual, impossibility. You had those that occasionally would, of course; but outside of attending with family or friends most who did so were being opportunistic travelers visiting a “spiritual place” or celebrated church of note.  For the average traveling family, however, this was not usually the case.  So as a Catholic, the often debated urban legend of the “Traveler’s Pass” for not attending Mass while traveling is something I continue to find fascinating.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 1389 that The Church obliges the faithful to take part in the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days and, prepared by the sacrament of Reconciliation, to receive the Eucharist at least once a year, if possible during the Easter season.  But the Church strongly encourages the faithful to receive the holy Eucharist on Sundays and feast days, or more often still, even daily.

Our friends at Catholic Answers (www.Catholic.com) responded to this more practically by saying, “It depends on the availability of Mass while you are traveling. If there is no Mass available in an area in which you are traveling, or if just reason exists while traveling that makes attending Mass that Sunday or holy day not possible (e.g., illness, job requirements, unfamiliarity with the area), then you are dispensed from the requirement to attend Mass that Sunday or holy day…

…As a rule of thumb when traveling, it is good to try to make provision for Mass attendance before your trip. That way you have opportunity to find a local church, work a Mass time into your schedule, and make arrangements for transportation to the church. If Mass attendance is made a travel priority — at least as high a priority as leisure tours and/or business meetings — it is less likely that scheduling and transportation predicaments will derail Mass attendance while traveling.” (Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers, 10/10/2007)

So how did Mass become optional to so many Catholics while traveling?

Who really knows? It’s fair to question where many things came from pre-Vatican II and pre-Catechism. I have heard many Bishops within the Church, when publicly interviewed, admit the lack of Catechesis that permeated the American Catholic Church over the last two generations. Much true understanding has fallen from many.

We could blame it on the Protestants, of course. It’s a fair argument in the face of un-catechized generations. One could easily imagine a husband-wife conversation such as, “Honey, the neighbors don’t go to church when they go on vacation, why do we have too? And don’t tell me it’s because of your mother!”

We could blame our parents because they never instituted the practice for us on our family vacations when we were kids; but we blame them for everything else.

We could blame it on our spouse, but it’s our responsibility to get them to Heaven – not the other way around.

Regardless of our rationale, I think the more important question we should ask ourselves though is….Why Not?  Why not go to Mass while traveling?

Father Robert Barron (www.WordOnFire.org) produced a DVD series released prior to Christmas in 2013 simply called, “Catholicism.” (www.CatholcisimSeries.com) The series is a fantastic overview of the depth, breadth, and historical scope of our Catholic faith. Not only is the cinematography very eye catching, but the ever expanding context of the series reveals an underlying belief most dedicated Catholics share; there isn’t enough life to learn all you can learn about the faith. Being a Catholic is a daily journey and learning about the faith is something you can only do in little bits one day at a time.

Stephen K. Ray (www.catholic-convert.com) in his book Crossing the Tiber described our faith and his conversion to it in this way:

“The ‘something’ we had once militantly resisted, the Catholic Church, was found to be glorious, beautiful, and splendid – like a massive creature, too grand and colossal to comprehend fully, yet modest and personal enough to put affectionally in your pocket.  It was fullness.  Why the term fullness?  Because the Catholic Church encompasses so much more than we had ever known in our Protestant past – the fullness of the faith carefully preserved and nurtured through the centuries.  We are not going from Cristian to Catholic, as though we are leaving the ‘Christian’ part behind.  We are developing and experiencing the Christian faith more fully by becoming Catholic Christians.  Catholicism is ancient, yet forever young; it is constant and firm, yet forever lively and robust; it is old, yet always new and vital.  It is simple enough for a mouse to wade in, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim in.” 

So…if you are curious at all about understanding your Catholic faith more, and you don’t attend Mass while traveling, you are missing what is arguably your greatest and easiest opportunity to do so. Whether it be different nuances within the Mass, the construction of the Church, the age of the Church, the placement of the Altar, the placement of the pews, the name of the Church, the location of the Church within the community you are visiting, the congregation that welcomes you, the Priest, the music, the art work, how the liturgy is presented, the communal prayers, and even the Mass times can all help you understand so much more about what it means to be Catholic.

Though far from attending Mass one hundred percent of the time while traveling, I have had the pleasure of participating in the Mass in many different cities, states and even in other countries. Going always – always – becomes a highlight of my trip. Even when I have to drag protesting family members with me, we always leave glad we came and that we made Mass a priority.  Oh and the kids – which is the best part – are like freshmen on campus, especially in the older Churches.  Their eyes are glued to the art and design of the building and They are curious as to where the people and the sounds of the Mass come from. To them, a new church is like a new car, they want to check it all out and see what is different.

One of the great things about being Catholic is its Universal nature, and that the Eucharist is available to you nearly everywhere in the world through a service you understand and can participate in. How could you not appreciate access to the Eucharist wherever you are?

Now as a traveler, might I ask if you know what a Basilica is? A Basilica is a Catholic Church with special privileges conferred on it by the Pope. Did you know that there is a Basilica in many of the major cities throughout the United States?  Some US cities even have two or more. St. Louis has two and New York has four. Several cities in Europe and South America have six to nine. Basilica’s are amazing places with a public mission and breathtaking art work. Many Basilica’s even show up on the top 25 places to visit in a city on web tools like Trip Advisor. Did you know that you can attend Mass at a Basilica? They usually have multiple Mass times daily, and if you do attend Mass there you’ll likely brag about it when you come home. It’s hard to keep the phone on your camera put away as many of them offer tours in between Mass times.

Don’t like Basilica’s; how about a Cathedral?  Every diocese has one.  It’s the main church of the diocese where the Bishop normally resides.  They aren’t too shabby either.  You might check one out. Have you ever checked out your own?

Another thought; does your Priest give good homilies? Not that it truly matters, but how do you know? Compared one lately? My favorite Priest to listen to is at my in-law’s parish where they live. It’s a small country parish on the outskirts of small town America. All of the music is played by a single guitarist, the singing sounds like someone strangled a cat, and the Altar Servers all wear high-water jeans and hand-me-down Air Jordan’s under their garments. But the homilies…the homilies are off the chart’s incredible and move your heart to the Eucharist every time.

So why not add value to your summer trip this year?  Go to Mass somewhere.

How about you brother?  Do you plan Mass attendance into your vacation?  Why not?  Have you thought about what your missing?

YBIC

Good Things

In 1991 the Band BoDeans released the Album Good Things which carried the title track by the same name. Though it is essentially a whimsical love song about the expectations a young man has about the future of a relationship with a girl he falls in love with, the song reminds me on occasion of the same attitude carried by some people of faith regarding their relationship with God. They only expect Good Things to happen to them because of God’s love.

A good friend of mine that lives in Olathe, and Mormon mother of four children, has seen her faith tested. Her husband was diagnosed with a debilitating muscle disease which lost him his job at Hallmark after running out of long-term disability. Until then a stay-at-home mom, she returned to work to provide for the family and nursed him at home when she wasn’t on the job. He came through it, and began a period of recovery.

One morning not soon thereafter he kissed her goodbye and sent her off to work. After she drove away he threw some personal belongings in his new car they saved for, took what money was in the house, and drove off to California with plans of restarting his life with his old high school sweetheart. A couple days later when she and I met up for me to hear the story, she cried openly with me and kept saying, “I don’t understand. We lived out our faith perfectly. We did everything we should have done. Why? Why does this stuff keep happening to us? We should have good things happening to us.

A current co-worker of mine went to lunch with me one day, and I drove, which allowed him the opportunity to discover I listen to Christian Radio. He was very excited to learn this and felt the need to share his witness with me at lunch. I sat, listened, and appreciated all he had to say. He then wanted to know about my faith experience. Not having the time to get into it at that point of our lunch hour, I just asked for his home e-mail address and later sent him a copy of my CRHP witness.

The next day he was my new best friend, and set up camp in my office. “I knew it. I knew it!” he said over and over again. You are a Christian, and that is why things are going so well for you. Everybody recognizes your success, and you have that because you have Jesus in your life.” And he kept pointing at me when he said it. “As Christians, God brings Good Things to us,” he finished.

Dumbfounded, I looked at him like a monkey doing a math problem and asked simply, “Did you read my witness? Not really sure if you appreciate my level of thanks to have Christ in my life. I don’t expect anything. In fact I’m trying to give more of myself everyday because I feel that my life has been too much about me?”

To this day my friend and I continue to debate over our versions of the Good Things that have come through my relationship with Jesus Christ.  He, like my friend the Mormon, attribute a sense of expectation to their faith.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life, (John 3:16).  Arguably one of the most famous of Bible versus.  But what is Love? What is God’s love? Is it the parental forgiveness of a patient father, or is it the responsive accolades of a praise appreciative creator?  Or is God’s Love possibly the commitment, and subsequent sacrifices, to a relationship of value many of us struggle our whole lives to fully understand?  More importantly, could it perhaps be the joy we receive from seeing the fruits of that mutual commitment and sacrifice in our relationship with Him?  And then…the model it becomes for us in our relationships with one another?

Personally, I am just thankful for Christ’s forgiveness. I have stopped asking for personal things in prayers and just thank God for all He has given me. In many ways I see my life as being over, and see each new chapter of my life through the purpose of serving others or serving in the role of husband, father, brother, neighbor or friend. Still a sinner in need of a savior, my prayer is that I may give in thanksgiving for all I have already received.

So bothers where do you stand? Should we expect something for our faith? Should we expect Good Things? Or have we already received it? If our relationship with Christ is on-going, what should our expectations be? Should there be any expectations at all?

YBIC