Learning the butterfly

butterflyI’ve been trying to learn how to swim the butterfly stroke for years now. I’m still pathetic. I churn that water so much that the chlorine almost becomes butter. And what’s the effect? I might as well be on a treadmill. I barely move. A lot of violence, no progress.

Sometimes the way we view asceticism is like how I swim the butterfly—or some butterfly-like stroke that resembles a drowning man flapping in a last attempt to catch a breath. Asceticism is a means to reach God. Its purpose is not to do violence to ourselves, though that in some aspect or another is always a result, but not a goal. Continue reading

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The Humility of a Foreigner

humilityIt is Thursday afternoon as you hurry to renew your registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles (D.M.V.). You chose to handle this task at lunch to avoid extending work into happy hour. Nevertheless, you are rushing in hopes that divine intervention will gift you a shorter line today. It is not, of course, as the machine gives you ticket number 27.

After 15 minutes, you realize one person has been at the counter for too long. As you lean in for a closer look, you realize he is not a U.S. native, but a foreigner. And given the government counter attendant’s desperate eyes and posture, the language barrier is proving difficult. Meanwhile, the customer continues pointing at the same document and laboring to repeat a couple key English phrases. Continue reading

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To Trip or Not to Trip

tripI never associated tripping with the feast of Corpus Christi. But this concept unexpectedly was a leitmotif of my Corpus Christi this year.

It wasn’t that I tripped over my cassock or experienced any epic failure as an acolyte. I had the grace of being able to attend the Mass and Eucharistic procession in Bolsena, Italy, along with 50 fellow brothers. Bolsena is the site of the 1263 Eucharistic miracle that became the motivation for the official institution of the feast of Corpus Christi a year later. You could say this is THE Corpus Christi procession. The townspeople decorate the streets with mosaics made from flower pedals. The streets of that mountain town overlooking a calm lake come alive with the color and beauty of the flower, that delicate creature that speaks volumes of the tender love of the Father to his children, who have lovingly arranged them in anticipation of his passing through truly present in the Eucharist that evening. A very moving experience to process through this beauty in the company of Jesus. We all watched our step very carefully to not trip on those magnificent yet delicate mosaics.

But when the Bishop Benedict of Bolsena greeted us at the beginning of the Mass, I had to sheepishly pull out my Kindle dictionary to look up an Italian word he kept mentioning. Was he really saying “trip over the Eucharist”? Yes, he was.

He is a wise man. His point was we so easily pass over this silent, faithful, total love of our most humble God in this sacrament. We either ignore him or rush by as a mere duty of belonging to the Church. We fail to see the Gift! The bishop was inviting us to stop, to trip, to bow down in front of our Eucharistic Lord to appreciate just what this gift means. May we all learn to slow down, stop, and savor more this unfathomable gift we have, this Companion for the journey, Our Lord at our side.

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Being a priest is fun!

confession

What I’ve been up to – Camp Tekakwitha Girls Camp!

The other day I was celebrating mass at a local parish while outside it rained and thundered. The storm grew steadily in volume until at the consecration, as I held up the host, lightning struck the church and the power went out. We were plunged into complete darkness. Complete, that is, except for the altar, where the candles still glowed undimmed.

There were several gasps from the congregation, and it took my breath away.

After mass, the confession line was extra-long. An hour and a half later, I stood up, hoping confessions were over and I could slip out the back door. Then someone walked in. Continue reading

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Keep it Simple

simpleGod so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. — JN 3:16-18

 This is my favorite Gospel reading.  Short.  Clear.  Simple.

I’m a simple guy.  I believe most problems have an obvious answer.  We may not like the answer and it may not be easy, but right is right and wrong it wrong. Continue reading

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New Boat, Old Sea

boatI don’t know much more than the basics of sailing. I’ve been sailing a couple times and enjoyed it, but I can’t say it is on my top ten favorite things to do. In today’s day and age, if you don’t like sailing, get a motor boat. Of course, this is not an ideal world where everyone gets his luxury boat of choice, but the point I want to bring out is that whereas in the past, sailing was the necessary means of transportation, today it isn’t. The ocean is the same ocean, but you don’t need to cross it the same way Columbus did.

I think this analogy can help us discern the signs of the time. Some things never change like the ocean. These are perennial principles. Other things, like our boat, can change with time. These are means. Continue reading

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5 ways to cure information indigestion

informationDid you overindulge in cable news a bit during the election?  Devour Instagram insatiably during spring break?  Gobble up your Facebook feed so fast you didn’t really taste what you were consuming?  Understandable behavior for the season, but now you find yourself tired and carrying an extra 10 pounds of apps and notifications.  How do you get back in shape and overcome information indigestion?

Here are 5 ways.

  1. Eat clean.

A lot of what we are sold as news and information is actually processed regurgitation of opinions.  Read the facts carefully.  Avoid the tempting but informationally deficient mutual admiration society of media pundits that just opines on the opinons of others.  The facts are processed and filled with additives.  You can’t even taste the substance through it sometimes. Continue reading

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Come Holy Spirit

pentecostOn the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” – John 20: 19-23

 Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost, will be a glorious day.  We remember – and continue to experience – the remarkable gift of the Holy Spirit.

It is a gift I neither earned nor deserve.  But I accept it in faith and gratitude. Continue reading

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5 Awesome Real-Life Ways to raise kids Catholic: Parenting Powered by ECyD

kids

Picture: My kids with a team of Kenyan acrobats- funny how well they hit it off…..

In my 20 years of parenting I have gone through almost every possible clever method of Catholic child-rearing one could imagine. Most of them worked (for a while) to support the faith and values that we wanted to raise our kids with. Some were really creative, like saint card albums to create litanies for kids who can’t read yet, star charts for when a little ones does an act of virtue, representing the stars they will have when they receive their crown in heaven. Some were old-school, like regular confession, mass every Sunday (NO.MATTER.WHAT.) and praying the rosary. Continue reading

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The ladies

ladies    “The more the flower of humility blossoms in a soul, the greater is the good odor it imparts to her who possesses it, to those who behold her, and to those who are about her.” -Saint Teresa of Avila

Many years ago, I was at a board meeting with a large group of ladies.  Two new ladies had come that day and one came up to me afterwards and asked the name of a particular lady who sat close to her.  She said, “Fr. Michael, I could tell there was something different about this woman…she had a soft glow, a gentle smile, a profound peace…she only said a few words, but they had a huge impact on me.”  This woman truly was special and I believe that her daily Mass, regular adoration, strong devotion to Mary, and her authentic humility had a lot to do with it!

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