This Post isn’t very Modest

June 22, 2017 v4 p24

As the temps get higher throughout the summer people try to dress accordingly.  I feel like there’s a big problem with what people think is appropriate or not.

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When my youngest son was going through RCIA he had to be presented to the Bishop of our diocese and have his name entered into the book of the elect.  We were told that he should be dressed in normal Sunday church attire.  This wasn’t a black tie affair, nor did we need to get him a sports coat.  One of the notes in the email sent out to everyone was that the women attending should not wear anything that showed their shoulders.  It later came to light that the Bishop doesn’t approve of that type of dress for women in church.  I agree because church is not the place for anyone, male or female, young or old, to be dressing in a manner where you are trying to attract or impress anyone.  If you’re trying to do either of those things in that environment then you are in it for the wrong reasons.  I’m not to say that you can’t try to meet people of the opposite sex at church, but dressing immodestly is not the way for it to be accomplished.  On most occasions when it’s hot outside my wife will even bring a sweater to church to help keep herself warm in the air conditioned sanctuary, so wearing strappy shirts or short shorts wouldn’t be very accommodating anyway.

I don’t think this is just an issue when people are attending church.  It really points to one of our major problems in society as a whole.  All over the internet and on your television people are inundated with images and videos of people who aren’t dressed appropriately.  It seems that the more skin you can show the better.  Unfortunately that isn’t true.  In the advertising world the term “sex sells” is way too common, and they really don’t seem to care how far they push it.  The racier advertisements are, the more exposure they get.  And that’s not to fault the ad companies, they see a way for their product to get people’s attention and the use it.  Their only concern is making an extra buck, not how their methods may effect society.  If you look back at some of the television shows from the 1970s and 1980s the attire that was worn would be considered prude.  It’s sad that the trend is heading that way.  I remember growing up how a revealing dress used to get a picture or vide banned from TV, now unless the person is actually completely naked there’s no issue.  In fact, if the pics are from the correct angle then they don’t really do anything to censor the photos.

How does this cause problems?  The more we are exposed to that type of imagery, to more we become immune to it.  So in order for those advertising companies, clothing companies, media outlets, to continue to be able to hold our attention they must push the limit even further.  At some point they will the end of that limit and won’t be able to push it any further.  What will happen then?  If you can’t push things any further, then you need to push it more often.  One of the biggest things I don’t miss on cable television is the advertising.  There were many times that I would have to change the channel so that my children wouldn’t be exposed to talk about sex, commercials for lingerie, and other innuendos that they didn’t need to be exposed to.  I can speak to how that type of thing can have a huge impact on young child’s development.  Seeing and hearing that type of thing is part of what started me towards an addiction to pornography.  I’ve come a long way in the last two years towards curbing that addiction, but society doesn’t make it easy to avoid the temptation when it’s all over the place.  The local news is really just as big of a problem as national advertisers.  I understand the stories that people want to hear about are the ones that involve those sensational headlines about sex offenders, but I don’t feel it would be that difficult for the media to be able to report the facts without me having to explain to my 11-year-old what they are talking about.  At the dinner table.

As a society we are heading down a very slippery slope with our immodesty.  There are two places in the bible that I think these practices point directly towards.  The first place I feel today’s society can be compared to come from the Old Testament.  In the Book of Genesis we are told the story of the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  God passed judgment on these two cities because they had fallen in to very immoral practices.  When the Lord led Lot and his family to leave he told them to run and not look back or they would turn to pillars of salt.  It was his wife who proved this when she stopped to look back.  The other place society’s behaviors point to the bible is a little less obvious.  This trend towards immorality seems to me to be a lot like the way the Romans behaved in the times surrounding the life and death of Jesus Christ.  During those times it was not uncommon for multiple people to join together for what were essentially the same thing as a swinger party from the 1970s, minus the fishbowl of car keys.

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I don’t expect most of society to agree with this point of view.  Unfortunately most of that group that won’t, goes to church on Sunday and claims to be Christian.

On the Anniversary of Our Covenant

June 19, 2017 v4 p23

Today I celebrate 18 years of marriage with my wife Denise.  That’s in the eyes of God, not the State of Michigan.

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The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament (7:1601 CCC).  I stood in front both of our families and our friends and entered into this covenant with you on June 19, 1999.  I promised to love you through everything.  I entered into it without coercion, freely and whole heartedly.  I promised to love and honor you as long as we both shall live.  I promised to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

Despite a bumps along the road, these vows never changed.  Even in times when we weren’t together in the eyes of the state, I always felt like we were in still in the covenant.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  You have told me how every other guy you dated while we were separated was compared to me in your mind.  I did the same thing.  When I told my friends that we were reconciling they gave me a hard time.  They knew how much it really took for me to get over our separation.  Although I never really was.  I tried to do what I could to get our relationship back to where it was that day when we stood in front of God and entered that covenant.  You probably got annoyed with me a few times over that.  I’m glad that I never stopped “annoying” you.

Over the past few months some pretty big events have taken place in our family that have reminded me of this covenant we entered.  When our youngest son was welcomed fully into the Catholic Church I felt the receiving of the sacrament.  I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s what it was.  It was truly great feeling to see how He was blessing our family.  I was completely shocked at how receptive our oldest son was to attending that event, given his previous lack of interest in the church.  To sit with you and our son at The Mass every week is another time I experience this sacrament.  When we join hands to pray “The Our Father” it doesn’t feel like there is an extra person between the two of us.  It’s as if I was standing right next to you, holding your hand.

I have been feeling the same experience when we have been attending events that are tied to our oldest son’s high school graduation.  I couldn’t explain it after the awards ceremony but it came to me at the graduation ceremony a couple of days later.  The sense of joy, pride, and excitement I felt for him, and our family was the fruits of our covenant and what felt receiving the sacrament all over again.  Once all of the dust settled and we were able to participate in his grad party I felt it again, although on a much smaller scale.  I would feel that same feeling I do at The Mass when I would get up with him early in the morning while we were staying at my parents.  I would put him in bed with me to try and get a few more hours of sleep out of him.  Lying in bed next to him felt exactly like lying in bed next to you.  This can only be from our covenant.

Through the past 18 years we have certainly had our ups and downs.  That doesn’t change any of the vows I said on the day we entered into this covenant.  I look forward to seeing how God guides the rest of our live together and how we will continue to receive this sacrament of matrimony.   This excites me more than anything else about our marriage.  To see how we have grown together over the past two and a half years since we returned to our faith is awesome.  The best dates I’ve had with you have come in that time period, and have all taken place at our church or with other people we know through Holy Family.  Things are a little rocky right now, but we will make it through with His help and the strength of our covenant with God.

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This Friday marks 13 years in the eyes of the state, but it’s today’s anniversary that has proven to be the truth.  I love you Denise!  I look forward to see where the rest of this covenant journey takes us!

This Post is Hectic

June 8, 2017 v4 p22

During the end of May and early June are always hectic for me, this year is no different on my calendar.  The difference this year is where I am drawing my strength to get through it all.

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This year things really started escalating on my calendar when my oldest son turn 18 on May 11th.  It was exactly two weeks prior to graduation, and they seemed to go by with lightning speed.  During those two weeks I had to coach my younger son’s soccer team, take him to scout meetings and go to work.  That doesn’t sound like much, but when you throw in a couple of busy days at work that make my day a little longer it adds up pretty quick.  Then in the mix of that two weeks one of my coworkers was let go in my department so I had to pick up the slack left there.  I was rolling along and managing this quite well, only having to stay over work for about 10-15 a day, not enough to warrant claiming overtime.  Then on graduation day the other shoe dropped.  One of my other co-workers in the warehouse was let go after an incident the day prior where he really didn’t handle some work that came down to us late in the day.  Thankfully the rest of my coworkers, including multiple from other departments, knew that I had to be at my son’s graduation that night and were able to step up and get everything done.

Back in late April, shortly after I had taken a week off to paint our house, I submitted for what seemed to be a bunch of random days in early June.  These were days that I needed to commit to both of my children as they are both going through pretty significant life events this spring.  I used some of my charitable hours, PTO from my employer to volunteer, to help at field day for my youngest son.  If this hadn’t been his last field day in elementary I probably would have given the time up and just worked.  As it was though, I came in early and spent about an hour getting a few things taken care of and then came back after for three more hours to make sure everything was completed for the day.  The next day I spent taking my oldest son to college freshman orientation.  He was accepted into the honors college at Western Michigan University which meant he was able to register for classes in April, ahead of the rest of his class, and then attend a single day orientation instead of three days later in the summer.  This is a life changing event for him and there was no other option than for me to go.  It helped that it was national donut day and I could take him to one of the top ten donut shops in the country, Sweetwater’s.

If that wasn’t enough crazy for you for two days we drove directly from orientation at 5:15 to one my son’s classmates grad party.  I met my wife and younger son there to enjoy the whole thing, as brief as it was.  I say that because after about 30 minutes I had to leave with my younger son to go to the end of the year Cub Scout camp out.  We hadn’t originally planned to stay the night, but my son needed one more camp out to be able to advance to the next rank in Boy Scouts, so I slept in a tent.  It was all worth it when he came home on Tuesday from his Troop meeting and proudly announced that he had passed his board of review and would be awarded the rank of Tenderfoot.  We left the camp out a little before 8 and unloaded our gear into the garage.  About 10-15 minutes later we were back out the door again to go set up a canopy that the Boy Scouts rent out, he earned $50 for his scout activities for about 2.5 hours of work.  Next we had to get home and be ready for a Court of Honor for another scout who was receiving his Eagle rank.  Later in the afternoon we dropped our youngest off at a sleepover and headed to Portage for another grad party.  No rest for the weary.

This past Tuesday I spent the day with my youngest on his last field trip of elementary school.  Again, thanks to my coworkers for stepping up and helping cover my department while I spend this important time with my children.  I came back to work on Wednesday and everything was busy as usual.  I left work and went straight to an officer’s training for the Knights of Columbus.  I only saw my kids that day to say good night to them after they were in bed.  That part sucks, but they understand why I do the things I do.  Today at work has been nothing but putting out one fire after another.  I have a to do list that I have to be done with before I can start my weekend, which was supposed to start at 5:00 pm today so I can spend all day Friday preparing for the grad party at our house on Saturday.  That may mean I have to be here until way after I had planned today, but oh well.

There are two reasons I am able to get through this kind of schedule.  First is because of the company I work for and my coworkers.  The culture at Service Express is one that allows me to continue to take time away from work to be with my family for these important events.  My coworkers are totally bought into that culture too, which is why they are all so willing to step up and help, also because they know full well that I would bend over backwards for any of them in the same situation.  I really can’t express enough how much I appreciate every one of them, and that’s why I’m bringing in lunch for them all on Monday.  The second reason I am able to get through this type of hectic schedule with little or no stress is because I put all of my faith in God.  He has a plan.  Every day I pray for Him to give me strength, knowledge, and wisdom in everything I do, and that I am ready to do his will.  All of this that I am going through is part of his plan, and I will know when that plan has been fulfilled by His grace.  I will then be ready to move on to the next plan He has for me.

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At previous places I’ve worked I had to maintain this type of schedule, but it was all work related.  I know that this is different because I can see that there is an end to it.  Also I know that I can get through anything with the grace and power of God.

A Letter to my Son Nathan, on the day of your Graduation

May 25 2017 v4 p21

When I found out I was going to become a father one of the things I realized was that I would only be 41 years old when that child would graduate from high school.  I never realized just how fast those 18 years would zoom by.

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Nathan, my oldest son.

There is nothing that makes me more proud to be your father than to see what a great young man you have grown into.  I hope that you are growing into that by watching my example.  I hope that you have learned how to treat people with respect and kindness by watching that example from me.  I did the best I could to try and convey to you that it was always the best way to be.  I didn’t always come right out and say that I was trying to do that, in fact I don’t think I ever did.  I am a firm believer that actions speak a whole lot than words.  I hope my actions have shown you what I am hoping for you to have learned.  I am also very proud of you for your academic successes.  It is truly awesome for me and your mother to go to conferences year after year and have to sit there and listen to nothing but glowing praise of how smart you are, and what a great young many you are, and how much success your teachers all feel that you will have in college and beyond.  I’m not sure where you get that smarts from because I certainly don’t understand the math and science that you make look so easy.  It’s great to see you moving forward with your education in those areas.

I need to apologize to you for not being the greatest father while you were growing up.  You probably have a vague memory of living with your grandparents for part of the time and with my friend’s part of the time.  I’m sorry having split our family apart when you were less than a year old.  Your mother and I were both young when you came along, you know that you weren’t planned, and even though you weren’t in the plans I wouldn’t change that you came when you did.  What I would change is how hard I fought to keep our family together.  I was young and wasn’t really thinking straight.  I thought I was looking out for your best interest by taking you out of a situation that wasn’t the best.  What I should have done was to do whatever was necessary to fix the situation we were all in.  But when you’re young and aren’t getting the answers you think are right, you do what you think is right.  During that time I didn’t utilize my time with you as well as I should have.  My priority was to try and find the bottom of my beer bottle, not do what I needed to be the best father for you that I could.  I failed you in that way on a continuous basis.

I have a lot of hopes for you as you head off to college.  I really hope that you continue to put a major emphasis on your education as you have all through your life.  I’ve told you before how I fully believe that you will continue to do that and won’t choose the path that I took when I went off to college.  I’ve also discussed with you already that I realize you have much different priorities in your life at age 18 than I did.  What I don’t want is for you to end up locking yourself up in your dorm room for days at a time, leaving only to head down to the cafeteria to eat.  I’m fairly certain that your mother and I have raised you to know that behavior like that will be unacceptable.  I also hope that you take the great opportunity of college to expand the things you like or dislike.  I hope that you are willing to try new foods, new activities, and start new habits.  What that may mean is that you have to leave your dorm room for things other than class and to go to the library.  There’s a whole different world on campus that you haven’t experienced.  A bonus that you may have is that you’ve lived in the Kalamazoo area and can probably help any of your new friends navigate around the area for the first few months.  That will also help you in expanding your circle of friends.

As you move on in your life into college and further in adulthood there a few things I’d like you to know.  First off, you know that your mother and I will help you with the cost of school as much as we can.  I really wish I was able to pay for all of it, but that isn’t in the cards.  Beyond that, I can really only tell you what not to do in college to be successful.  You know that I wasn’t mentally prepared to move out at 18 and not have my parents to make sure I was keeping myself in line.  I know that you are in a much different mindset about college than I was at 18.  I don’t want you to forget that.  You know what you need to do when you’re there, but just as a reminder, be sure to go to every class unless you’re sick, and make sure that you make specific time to study.  I would guess that you’ll find that you aren’t able to get your class work done during class time when you’re in college.  This will probably be your biggest adjustment to college.  I don’t expect you do to nothing but study, in fact I encourage you to join a club, go to sporting events on weeknight (especially since they’re free), and have a social life.  Outside of school Mom and I will always be available for anything you need.  We’re only a phone call and a quick 45 minute drive away.  I know that John isn’t your favorite of my friends, but he and his family are even closer, as well as Mindy and the Sims family.  One of the best parts of you attending Western is those two families.  I’m pretty certain that they will be willing to help too.  You are always welcome to return home whenever you want, and that includes after graduation.  Whatever you need, Mom and I will do our best.

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Your graduation from high school is one the biggest moments in my life.  I am proud of you Nathan!  I love you, and am sure you will be nothing less than a success in whatever you do.

Looking at Myself

May 18 2017 v4 p20

I have been debating on a couple of different topics to write about this week.  Some of my recent blog traffic has pointed me in a certain direction.

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Last year, about this time of year I wrote THIS BLOG about discipline.  It got a few hits when I initially posted it, right around my average for my weekly post.  Someone who was going through my archives found it and read about 5 months later, not unusual.  When I started writing about my beliefs back during Lent there was a pretty significant uptick in my blog traffic.  I was starting to get more views from people on Facebook, and that’s awesome.  The biggest change I started to see though, was that more people who are on the WordPress site to find blogs to read were beginning to click on mine.  That began to show me that I’ve been writing about things people are looking to read.  Not only has my activity in readership gone up on through that site, but I’ve gained a handful of new subscribers through WordPress.  That’s pretty awesome because when I post something new they will get an email sent to them to let them know I have new content.

Not only has that grown my views on my regular posts, but people are then going into my archives and reading older posts.  I’ve never really paid too much attention to which posts they reading until the other day.  My post on discipline from May 2016 has been making a resurgence.  As I looked over my statistics just now that is my most read post this year, not counting new posts.  So I was wondering what it was exactly that I wrote about, so I looked into it.  That post was a lot about how people say they know what they need to do, but ultimately don’t follow through.  This shows a lack of discipline.  It’s something I’ve struggled with for my whole life.  It’s something that I’m sure a lot of people struggled with throughout their lives too.  How many times have you said, “I know I need to….” But then never follow through.  I’m not as bad about it as I used to be, but it still rears its ugly head from time to time.

One area I’ve been trying to focus more discipline on is my faith.  Not just getting up every Sunday and going to Mass.  Not just praying every day.  Those things are both necessary in order to be strong in your faith, but if you don’t live it out in your day to day life what difference is it making?  This is evident to me in so many other people’s lives.  I don’t claim to be perfect myself either.  In fact, if they asked all of the sinners to line up I would be the first person to make the movement to get into that line.  I have no problem admitting that I’m a sinner.  I’m doing a lot to try and make myself more disciplined in my faith, which will help me to not sin as much.  That really started taking off last summer when I discovered the Act of Contrition prayer on the back cover of the hymnal at my church.  I started praying that every Sunday and eventually worked it into my daily morning prayers.

Over the winter I flipping through the TV channels and there was really nothing on that I found worth watching.  We don’t have cable so our choices are pretty limited.  One day I was listening to one of the YouTube videos I had found from one of the Catholic speakers I listen to on regular basis.  I was about to share it with my wife but I stopped myself.  I had been sending her some of the videos I was listening to at work, but I know she was having a difficult time remembering to watch them, or would get busy with housework and forget to.  So for this one I decided to save it in a playlist so we could watch it that night after our boys went to bed.  That was helpful.  She really enjoyed the fact that I wanted to sit and watch those videos with her.  I went through some of the channels I subscribe to and created a pretty big playlist for us to watch.  Now most of our evenings are spent watching those types of videos instead of the poor programming on TV.

Earlier this spring I attended the parish mission speaker series at my church and listened to a speaker by the name of Thomas Smith.  He spoke to use about a couple of different ways we could pray.  The first one is called Lectio Divina, Latin for divine reading.  This is a method of prayer that includes reading the scripture and meditating on them before praying about them.  This is what I had been doing for some time already.  On the second night he spoke about Examen prayer.  This is a method of prayer to be done at the end of the day as a reflection, or examination of your day.  You start off by thank God for the day, then pray about how you walked in his word that day, and where you may have taken some missteps, you ask for forgiveness of your sins and the close with an “Our Father.”  Every night before bed my wife and I sit next to each other and hold hands while we silently go through this exercise.  On the first weekend we both fell asleep on the couch watching TV and decided just to go to bed.  The next day we both said to each other how we missed that prayer time together.  Now we go through that prayer every night, no matter what.

What that has done for me has been pretty profound.  When we first started this I would have to purposely think about what areas I had taken steps away from the Lord that day.  After the first couple of weeks it took me less time to determine where that was.  Now, it’s almost like a switch.  As soon as I do whatever it is I need to admit to that night, I know it.  Whether it’s some action, words, or whatever, I know.  I know it immediately and will apologize to the party that I may have offended immediately.  It’s become very eye opening to say the least.  It’s certainly changed my thought process on how I approach my daily life.  Through those changes I have been able to be more disciplined in my following of Christ, I hope others are seeing too.  Earlier this week my wife and I didn’t watch any of those YouTube videos I mentioned earlier.  Then as I went to say my Examen prayers the other night I wondered why I was struggling.  Not to find where I wasn’t walking with Him, but why was I having so many cases of where I wasn’t walking with him.  Then it dawned on me that we hadn’t been watching those videos for a couple of days.

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What does that have to do with discipline?  I discovered that if I don’t have the discipline to continue to look inside myself that I won’t change anything that shows on the outside.

Mëmë, Ana, Majka, Okaasan, Mueter, Mom

May 11 2017 v4 p19

As Mother’s Day is approaching I’d like to take a moment and pay homage to the day and some of them who have been a pretty big influence in my life.  Everyone owes more than they can ever repay to their mother.

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Most people think that Mother’s Day is just a “Hallmark Holiday.”  While some of that is true there is a deeper meaning to it.  The holiday as we know and celebrate it today was started in 1908 by Ann Jarvis.  It was named an official United States holiday in 1914.  Later in her life Ann actually lobbied to have the holiday removed from the calendar because she didn’t like the way it had been commercialized.  Early celebration of Mother’s Day were actually called “Mothering Sunday.”  This was a Christian celebration that was observed on the fourth Sunday of Lent in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.  This was a time when Christians would return to their “mother church,” the one that was the main church in the area they lived.  It was a time to prepare to return to the church in observance of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  In more recent times the day has been used to launch feminist movements.  In 1968 Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr’s wife, used the date to organize a march in support of underprivileged women and children.

Everyone has at least one mother.  Whether that is their birth mother, step-mother, or adopted mother, they all have one.  A lot of people grew up very close to the families of their friends and often refer to their mothers as a second mother.  I didn’t grow up that close to my friend’s mothers, but there were a few that were always looking out for me.  The neighbor across the road always had an open door for me, and would offer a place for me to hang out.  She also makes one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever eaten.  The mother of one my best friends from high school always let us utilize her house after school as we waited for soccer practice to start (the coach was an elementary teach and his day didn’t end until about an hour after the high school).  She opened her door for more than one of her child’s friends.  She also opened her door for me to stay with them for a summer while my parents were traveling.  This was at a time in my life when I should have taken that path instead of the one I did, but none the less, without her I wouldn’t have had that option.  I am extremely grateful to have had these women in my life.

There are three other mothers in my life that have had a profound impact on my life.  The first is my Mother-In-Law, Barb Miller.  When my wife and I first started dating I always got the feeling that her mother didn’t really like me.  Being a single mother of three since her daughters were all under the age of six would make one very skeptical, I’m sure.  Over time she grew to accept me, and I feel that she even began to like me.  Even through the divorce she was always cordial with me and didn’t give me any difficulties when I would stop by to pick up or drop off our oldest son.  That was a great example of some of the grace and mercy she offered to me during that time.  After my wife and I had reconciled I felt that she started to open up more to me.  As we participated in the Relay for Life over the years and as I have helped her daughter and grandchildren grow in their faith, I feel even more that she has warmed up to me.  Thank you Barb, for allowing me the chance to show you who I truly am, not the person I was at age 19.

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The second mother that has had a profound impact on my life has been my wife Denise.  When we first met that summer way back in 1995 at Boy Scout Camp I never imagined that you would be the woman I would devote the rest of my life to.  As time went on it didn’t take long for me to recognize that you were special and that we were meant to be together.  When we sealed our covenant with God at our first wedding, it was one of the first times in my life that I truly felt His presence.  I didn’t realize it at the time, and actually it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized what had happened.  You have put up with so many reasons that most ordinary women would have ended their marriages.  From laziness, poor monetary decisions, an addiction to porn, and numerous other small things that all add up, I don’t really know how I got so lucky.  When you made the decision to return to our faith with me a few years ago I believe that it really confirmed and renewed our covenant with God.  I look forward to seeing how our relationship flourishes in His eyes.  Most of all though I want to thank you for helping me to raise two very smart, well mannered, kind, and thoughtful boys.  Even as scary as it may be to think that one of them will be “leaving the nest” in the fall.

The third mother that has had a profound impact on my life is my own mother, Ann.  This will be the 10th Mother’s Day that I celebrate you in remembrance.  Each year is just as tough as the first one was, and this year will be no different.  I feel like a part of me is missing on that day, and it truly is.  It’s tough to be out in public on that day and see other families who get to celebrate with their own mothers.  That includes my wife’s family.  I don’t hold any grudges or ill feelings toward them, but the emptiness is there.  In order to help fill that emptiness I have to do what I know you would have wanted from me.  You set a great example for me of what it meant to serve others.  I used to think I had to carry on the legacy that you and dad left for me by serving in the same areas that you two did.  Over the years I have come to realize that it isn’t really about where I serve, but just that I do.  While I do believe in the principals that Scouting teaches, the program you loved so much, my life has taken a different path.  I now concentrate on serving God and my family in the same way you served so many youths through the Scouting program.  If I can reach half as many people by serving God as you did by serving the youth in the West Michigan area I will have made very profound impact on many people.  I can only hope to live up to what you expect.

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So while you’re shopping for a hanging basket or a card for your mom this weekend think about everything she’s done for you.  Then ask yourself if you are doing everything in your being to be the person she raised you to be.

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Another Chapter

May 4 2017 v4 p18

There are times I sit in front of my keyboard and I know exactly what I want to write about.  Then there are days like today where I’m not really sure where this post is going to go, but I hope you enjoy it.

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The Catholic Church teaches that there are seven sacraments given to us by Jesus.  These are signs of grace that he instituted, and are entrusted to the Church to dispense to us.  I’ve mentioned before how I’ve experienced grace after attending Mass or during one of the projects I’ve worked on with the Knights of Columbus.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I was indeed receiving a sacrament when I felt that grace.  Before I didn’t know how to define what it was that I was receiving, but it dawned on me last weekend that I was indeed receiving sacraments.

The first sacrament most Catholics receive is Baptism.  For cradle Catholics like myself, it is usually received within the first couple of months following birth.  Of the ones I’ve seen performed at Mass over the past few years rarely do I encounter an infant who cries when the Holy Water is poured over his head.  In the case of a toddler being Baptized, I have seen it.  My guess would be that those children aren’t really cooperative at home when it’s bath time.  That would lead them to thinking that this is going to be the same thing.  The couple of that has happened they almost immediately stop crying after the Priest says Amen.  When my son was baptized at the Easter Vigil this year I could see his eyes opening.  All of the children going through RCIA, all 11 of them, with him had the same reaction.  It’s pretty powerful to be able to see that grace happen to someone else, let alone your own child.

A few years after I was baptized I had to attend and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  This is where Catholics attend confession and received penance for their sins.  This must be completed in order for a Catholics to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  This is when a Catholic is invited to receive Jesus in the form of bread and wine just as the Apostles did at the last supper on Holy Thursday.  This is the new covenant that God has entered into us.  By dying for our sins on the cross, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of when God would come to earth and walk amongst us.  By giving us himself in the form of bread and wine we enter into that covenant on our own.  For RCIA candidates that are being baptized, they don’t need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation because the Baptism cleanses them of original sin.  Candidates who were baptized in another sect of Christianity however do, because they have surely sinned since their original Baptism.

As a young adult, at age 17 when I was growing up but closer to 14 now, Catholics receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.  During the RCIA process this is actually occurs before the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  Confirmation is an anointing with chrism, or holy oil.  This seals a person’s indoctrination into the Catholic Church.  They are then full members of the church and have agreed to follow Jesus and live their lives in a Christian manner.  My son was confirmed at the Easter Vigil even though he is only 11.  He thought that meant he wouldn’t need to continue to attend faith formation classes with the rest of his classmates because moving forward they would be preparing for confirmation.  I told him that wasn’t the case and that even though he was already confirmed he would most certainly continue to learn about his faith by attending formation.

Those are the sacraments that most Catholics receive.  The most common of the seven that others receive is the Sacrament of Marriage, or Matrimony.  This is where a man and a woman enter into a covenant with God to have a life-long commitment to each other and God.  Within that commitment they must be willing to respect each other, work on problems, and love each other through all circumstances.  The couple must also be open to creating a family.  That’s what the vows are all about.  After the vows are exchanged there is a blessing that the priest says over the marriage.  This seals the marriage covenant between the couple and God.  This is why many Catholics and Christians fought against the Supreme Court decision to recognize gay marriage.  In order for that to happen they had to change the definition of what marriage is, because the sacrament from God clearly says it is between a man and a woman.  There is no room left for any other interpretation.

The least common sacrament that is received is the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  This is for men who are ordained as bishops, priests, and deacons.  Not many people take the next step in their faith to receive this sacrament.  When I perform my service with the Knights of Columbus this is what I equate the feeling of grace that I receive with.  I have not been ordained.  I am not a deacon, but have looked into what exactly it is that a deacon does.  But what is it that bishops, priests, and deacons do?  They serve God and their congregation.  As I serve others in my congregation I get an overwhelming sense of fulfillment.  I can’t explain it any other way than that I am receiving His grace through one of the sacraments.

The final sacrament is the Anointing of the Sick.  This is reserved for people who are on their death bed.  This is to give people spiritual healing prior to them leaving this world.  There have been numerous stories of people who have had miraculous recoveries after receiving this sacrament.  The one that spoke to me the most was that of my faith formation mentor, Fr. Mike Schmitz.  In the introductory film for him with the Catholic media group he works with he tells the story of how he received this sacrament on his death bed and was healed and given God’s grace to move into his calling as a priest.  I hope that I receive this sacrament at a later date in my life, a much later date.

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I look forward to receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist every Sunday.  I never know when I might receive any of the other ones, but it is truly a great feel when I do.