This Post is Addicting

August 2, 2017 v4 p30

There were a lot of things I was looking forward to when I returned to my faith.  Coming face-to-face with my worst faults wasn’t one of them.

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I began looking for more content about my faith a couple of years ago.  I came across a bunch of different speakers on YouTube.  Fr. Mike posts all of his podcasts there so I put his name into the search bar.  It returned a bunch results that weren’t his weekly podcasts.  It seem that he is a speaker in high demand around the country at Catholic Conferences.  I started listening to his talks at some of these conferences while I do my inventory control work, where I’m out in the warehouse away from the rest of my team.  It is something I look forward to every morning.  My wife and I started watching them together after the kids go to bed and they turn control of the TV back over to us.  There are a lot of the other speakers from those events who have their talks posted as well.  They are all great, and very insightful to me.  There are two besides Fr. Mike that I listen to regularly.

After a few months I started to notice something in common among most of the male speakers I listen to.  Almost all of them have admitted to having an addiction to pornography earlier in their lives.  That really hit home, because one of those faults I wasn’t looking forward to meeting was what I’ve now come to realize was my own addiction to porn.  This has been a significant thing for me to come to grips with.  I’ve listened to the speakers describe how the women are usually drunk when performing, forced into performing, and generally treated as a slave.  It help me put together that by watching porn I not only backed the people enslaving the performers, but I was more or less treating all women the same.  It really made me think about how I treated sex in my own marriage.  I’ve apologized to my wife for the way I approached out sex life.  It’s allowed me to take my faith to a whole new level.

There are some pretty astonishing facts about the porn industry that actually shocked me.  The porn industry in the United States makes more sales than all four professional sports leagues.  The average adolescent boy has seen a pornographic image by the age of 11.  I was way ahead of the curve on that one, thanks neighborhood high schoolers.  So it’s out there, everywhere.  It’s never been as easy to access it as it is right now.  There was a report done on the local news on how a teenager could access porn in less than 10 seconds on their mobile devices a few weeks ago.  It showed how simple it is to find it on search engines.  We do image searches to see what kind of parts we’re looking for at work.  The joke used to be how far you would have to scroll down on the results before you came across a result that was NSFW.

It’s starting to make its way into mainstream media as well.  As people become desensitized to what they see in private, it takes more for something to grab your eye in public.  That has caused marketing teams to gravitate towards more immodest advertising.  Clothing industries start making their clothes smaller.  Sports media groups start publishing magazine article with athletes posing nude.  It’s hard to go on the internet and see articles that show how little a celebrity wore to the beach.  Which famous person is in the latest sex scandal.  These images are the biggest struggle I have with my addiction right now.  I struggle to not click on the articles or scroll through the slideshow in the magazine article.  To help combat that I don’t do much surfing on the web.  I spend more time on the internet than most people because of my job, and that help’s too.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I watched what most people would consider pornography.  Unfortunately I have many images stuck in my head that I have to struggle against for the rest of my life.

I gain the strength to fight this addiction from my faith life.  The speakers I listen to.  My deepened love for my wife, our marriage, and our Covenant with God.  My daily prayer life is centered on asking for forgiveness.  I have been to confession for this, and it was at that point when I began to feel the His forgiveness.  It also lead me to more introspection about myself.  Through that I have been able to be more of the man my wife needs me to be so that I can fulfill my Covenant by making sure she makes it to heaven.  I have come to realize that is what I am here for.  Through all of our past I always felt that it was still meant to be.  We took a tough road to get here, but I hope my wife can see how I have changed and trusts that I will do everything I can for her.  I can never say I’m sorry enough for the pain I put our family through due to my addiction.

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They say addicts are never really fully cured.  I guess for now you can say that I’m “on the wagon.”

Won’t You Join Me?

July 27, 2017 v4 p29

One of the first things I knew when I returned to my faith was that I needed to be more involved than I was growing up.  I have been trying to figure out how to do that ever since.

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When I made the decision to return to my faith I wasn’t sure where it was going to lead me.  I’ve shared that whole story a couple of times I believe.  After a few months I began to get the feeling that I needed to serve more in my church.  I began to pray to God and let him know that I was ready to serve in whichever way he wanted me to.  It didn’t take too long for that way to be revealed to me as I was approached about joining the local Knights of Columbus Council at our Parrish.  I had figured I would end up joining them anyway before I started those prayers because I could see how they were active in both the church and the community, much as I am through Scouting and was through the Lions Club.  It was pretty much a no-brainer.  I joined and immediately felt welcomed to the Council and began volunteering whenever I could.  The older members have been more than appreciative for my support.

I was told a few months later that it didn’t take long for my name to start coming up for leadership positions.  That doesn’t surprise me.  In every job I’ve held I have showed up and done my job to the best of my ability.  That has always resulted in me being given more responsibilities, and ultimately promotions.  All of that coupled with all of the other leadership positions I’ve held in volunteer organizations explain to me why those conversations were happening.  I had hoped it would be a couple of years before I was approached about taking a leadership position, but I kind of knew that I could only delay the inevitable for so long.  I stepped up this year to take on the role of treasurer, which I’m sure is the first of many positions I will hold in this organization.

One of the directives of the Knights is evangelization.  I’m fairly certain that this is tied to the Pope’s call for a new evangelization of the church.  I began sharing some of the Catholic blogs that I have been following with my wife and some fellow Catholic friends.  They have all found them very helpful.  But those are the easy people for me to evangelize to.  They are already active in their faith, and while everyone needs to continue to grow their faith, there’s a different audience I would like to reach.

I know a lot of people that were involved with the Catholic Church growing up.  Most of them, like myself, strayed away throughout their late teen and adult years.  During that time is when the Catholic Church began to fall on hard times.  There were multiple sex scandals, the beliefs and teachings of the church were skewed in the public eye.  There really wasn’t much of a reason to stick around.  That’s not why I left my faith, but I am fairly certain those may be some of the reasons that some of them did leave.  These are the people I would like to reach.  These are the people I would like to share more of my journey with.  These are the people I would like to be a part of their journey.

One of the biggest factors in my faith formation as an adult was reading The Bible.  Not just a few of the books, or specific chapters.  I read then entire Catholic Bible, from cover to cover.  After I finished it I tried looking for a different way to continue my faith formation.  I tried simply reading the daily scripture readings, something I had picked up during my first reading.  It was nice, but I was feeling like I still needed more.  A few months ago I decided to read all of Letter’s from the Apostle Paul, in chronological order.  That’s been pretty insightful.  I’m almost through all of them and need to figure out what area I want to read next, I’m leading towards the Psalms.

Aside from reading my Bible on a daily basis there are a few Catholic speakers that I get a lot of good content from.  One of them is Fr. Mike Schmitz, a younger priest from Minnesota.  Most of the rest of the speakers that I’ve listened to have mentioned him in their talks.  He seems to be the unofficial face of the new evangelization.  He is very well spoken and is very engaging.  I have shared a few of his posts on social media and get a positive response from Catholics and Protestants alike.  Another one of the speakers I started following early on is Jeff Cavins.  He is a former Protestant Pastor who was raised Catholic, left the church in his late teen years, only to be called back to Catholicism by The Lord.  His journey is a really fascinating story.  Both of these speakers publish their podcasts through the Catholic media company, Ascension Press.

Along with their weekly blogs they produce faith formation materials.  They range from studies of The Bible, adult and teen faith formation, and historical studies of the Catholic Church.  During some of the podcasts I subscribe to from Ascension they run short ad spots for their study programs.  In each of them they mention that some of them are free if you get a group of four or more to participate.  I haven’t looked too far into that but this is where I feel my calling to evangelize is leading.  I’m looking for a deeper understanding of The Bible.  The program I’m particularly interested in going through is “The Bible Timeline.”  This study takes the participants through the entire Bible and dives deeply into each period of salvation history.  There are multiple ways to read The Bible, and chronologically is one I’d like to try.

This is where you come in.  If you’ve been interested in deepening your faith and understanding of The Bible, I believe that this may be one way for you to do it.  If you’re looking to get back to your faith, Catholic or Protestant, this may be one way for you to do it.  I’m not looking to try and convert anyone to Catholicism, but if it happens I will support you any way I can.  What I hope to get out of this is a deeper understanding of my own faith, to help other people gain a deeper understanding of their faith, and possibly strengthen some families or friendships.  Feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in joining me this fall.  I don’t know what the study group would look like yet, but that’s something I will figure out along the way, much like I have the rest of my faith formation.

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So if you were Catholic, have always been Catholic, are interested in learning more about the Catholic Church, or are a Christian looking to strengthen your faith, please consider joining me.  What have you got to lose, except everything you could gain by participating?

Happy 241st Birthday!

July 4, 2017 v4 p26

Today we celebrate the Fourth of July, the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  If the Founding Fathers were to look at our country today, would it be what they envisioned?

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The First Amendment to the Constitution outlines some of the most basic freedoms that our country ensures.  Those include the freedom to establish and practice religion, the freedom of speech and the press, and the freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the Government to change laws that they don’t agree with.  The Declaration of Independence states that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Both of these documents are the framework that our country was founded on.  Over the course of nearly 250 years, they have stood the test of time.  It is what holds our country together, and it could also be what ends up being the downfall of our great country.

There is still a big push for the separation of church and state.  There should never be laws enacted that prevent any person from worshiping in whatever manner they see fit.  There should never be laws enacted that force people to believe or worship things they don’t believe.  But is there a need to remove God, or faith, from the way we govern our lives?  Over time there have been many forms of government that have tried to force their ideology on its citizens.  Following World War II the Russian empire set up Communist governments throughout Eastern Europe.  Many of those governments tried to force the Russian Orthodox religion on their people.  Most countries didn’t have the ability to fight against their religious oppression.  It was Pope St. John Paull II that led the way in his home country of Poland to fight and ultimately bring down Communism.  He repeatedly fought for his fellow countrymen to be able to worship how they wished.  Despite opposition from Russia he was able to visit his home country and hold numerous events.  These lead to concessions by the Communist government to allow the people of Poland to worship as they did.  That was followed by the eventual downfall of communism in Poland.  That was followed by the rest of Eastern Europe and most of the U.S.S.R. to break apart from Russia and begin to worship freely.

In the Old Testament of The Bible we are told over and over again of stories of tyrants trying to force their beliefs upon people of faith.  The Jews were punished for their sins and exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon.  It was during this exile that their faith was tested repeatedly.  In the Book of Daniel we are told the story of his three friends.  While King Nebuchadnezzar was forcing the Jews to worship him, there were three who refused.  They were sentenced to be burned at the stake for their disobedience.  It was through their faith in God that they were saved and not harmed once the furnace was set ablaze.  The King recognized that it was their God who had saved them because of their faith.  From that point on the Jews were allowed to peacefully worship in their own was without fear of harm or persecution.  This lead to the eventual release of the Jewish people and them being allowed to return to their homeland of Jerusalem.

What does all of this have to do with the United States?  I have seen a disturbing trend happening in our country over the past five years.  In a country that was founded on Christian values, we are living anything but that.  In Galatians 3:28 we are taught “So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.”  This does not mean that we should persecute others for believing differently that we do.  This does not mean we should force our beliefs on others.  In John 13:34 we are taught “And now I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have love you, so you must love one another.”  That’s pretty plain and simple.  Jesus wasn’t speaking in parables when he said this.  He not only told us that this is how we should treat each other, but he lived it as well.  It’s something we have all gotten away from lately, even though this same basic principle is taught in every religion, and applies to those who don’t believe in faith.

There needs to be a shift in the mindset of most humans.  It is rare today to find someone who is willing to step out of line and address this issue.  We’ve become a society of people who are immune to what is happening around us.  We’ve taken an attitude of not wanting to get involved in anything if there isn’t any benefit to ourselves.  That isn’t what Jesus taught us to do.  He taught us to take the time to help others.  He taught us to go out of our way to help others.  He taught us that the way to Him is through our love for one-another.  We need to focus on more of that.

If we truly are a State that separates government and faith, then why is God so rooted in our government?  The Pledge of Allegiance states that we are “One Nation under God.”  One of the most popular patriotic songs about our country is “God Bless America.”  On our money is printed the phrase “In God We Trust.”  Every once and a while I will see posts on social media referring to the removal of the “under God” portion of the Pledge of Allegiance.  I see that this is an issue from time to time.  What I don’t see is protests or bills being introduced in State or Federal Government to make that happen.  If this is such a big issue of keeping God out of our government, then why isn’t it happening?  And if this isn’t such a big issue, then why aren’t those who wish to keep God, or faith, in our government doing more to make sure it stays?

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While you’re grilling with friends and family, enjoying a few adult beverages, and watching fireworks this weekend, ask yourself if we’re still what our founding fathers envisioned 241 years ago.

I’d like to finish with this prayer:

Father, how wonderful it is to enjoy the privelages available to those who live in a free country.  We give thanks for those who enlisted and served in our military, fighting for and maintaining our independence.  And how glorious it is to enjoy freedom from sin, thanks to the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus, on our behalf.  Our lives, once enslaved to sin, now enjoy the freedom from that which once held us captive to Satan’s bondage.  We live in victory because You have set us free and we are now free indeed.  Thank You, Father, for delivering us from the domain of darkness and transferring us into the kingdom of Your Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins!

Amen

More on Modesty

June 29, 2017 v4 p25

In my last post I discussed a little about the problem in our society lately with a lack of modesty.  That post really was geared towards how women dress, but it’s not just them.  For whatever reason it seems to be that it’s necessary for women to show as much skin as they can get away with.  And the skimpier and tighter female clothing seemed to get, the baggier men’s clothing seemed to get.  That trend tells me that in a society that is largely controlled by men, it is ok for them to dress however they wish, but that they also feel it is ok to pressure women to trend in the immodest direction.  This is telling women of all ages that they must conform to what the majority feels is what is right for them.  If they don’t then they will be ridiculed by their peers, and nobody will be attracted to them.  Often young girls conform to this even though they don’t feel comfortable dressing that way, or they know that their parents would disapprove of what they’re wearing.  It doesn’t help when their peers are mean and unkind if they don’t conform.  I have some friends that are parents of middle school aged girls and almost every one of them has mentioned how their daughters have faced that peer pressure.  It would be my guess that if they aren’t dealing with that then it’s their daughters who are doing the ridiculing.

The problem of body shaming isn’t anything new.  It also isn’t restricted to females.  It often happens by males to females, and between males.  All of this is nothing new.  What’ new is the amount exposure the stories get when they are made public.  The speed at which stories move through social media is astounding.  On top of that, it’s hard to determine which of them are fake or not.  For someone to post that kind of story online, only to be lying, is a whole other issue.  The more times we see these stories, fake or not, we become more desensitized to them.  By the time you’ve seen a similar story four or five times you almost come to expect it.  Eventually when you hear that same similar story you stop being disgusted by it and it becomes part of everyday life.  In order for people to stay in the front of other people’s minds they must then do more.  Looking back at the fashion industry, if one clothing company creates a short skirt, then another will come along and create one even shorter.  Eventually you only end up covering parts of your body that should only be revealed to a doctor or your spouse.

It’s easy to lump all of these issues of dressing immodestly on the female wardrobe options, but it’s a problem with males too.  The other night I was watching a popular talent show on television with my family.  One of the acts was a small group of men who were dancers.  Their wardrobe consisted of a pair of blue jeans and footwear.  Note they weren’t wearing shirts.  Now these men had obviously been working out for some time to achieve a muscular tone in their upper bodies, and that’s very admirable.  But what did not wearing a shirt have to do with how well they danced?  When they were meeting to discuss their wardrobe for the show why did they choose that?  Did they feel insecure about their dancing ability and decide that it was necessary for them to not wear a shirt in the hopes that some females would admire their physique and vote for them based on looks rather than talent?  Doesn’t that bring into question the integrity of the competition?  Shouldn’t the contestants all be judged on their talent, not their costume?  There have also been a few other male acts on the show that for whatever reason decided that they needed to perform their acts completely nude.  I credit the editors for effectively censoring their performances, but once again this seems like a case of making one appear more sensational than they truly are in order to cover up for lack of talent in their act.

It’s hard to point a finger at one single event or thing that started all this trend.  Unfortunately thought most people in society don’t feel that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.  Either that or they just don’t care.  The problem with both of those points of view is that it is a problem and everyone needs to care.  We have become a society of people who only think of themselves.  Yet they then go to church on Sunday and praise God and Jesus for all of the great things they have done for them.  That’s not what Jesus taught us to do.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-40 “He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  If you were to only love your spouse one day a week how long do you think your relationship would last?  The part about loving your neighbors doesn’t only apply to the people who live in the house you can see across the road from your bedroom window.  I think people have forgotten that.

We are on a slippery slope and falling the wrong way fast.  The only way to reverse that is to start by asking yourself if you’re loving God and your neighbor as Jesus has taught us.

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.

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.

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.