Showing the Path

November 22, 2017 v4 p56

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling disconnected from my prayers because I was letting my scheduled get in the way.  Last week I made sure to refocus my priorities and right on cue, things came to light.

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It was a little over a year ago when I started telling God that I was ready to do His will in my prayers.  It was a couple of days later that my manager at work let the warehouse know that he would be moving on within the company and that someone else would be taking his position as Supply Chain Manager.  He had told me this a few months earlier, before it was public knowledge to the rest of my co-workers.  He was able to do that because he could trust me not to let it out, and that he knew of my desire to move into management at my company.  By no means did I think that his moving on would mean I would even be considered for that position, but I know that he told me ahead of time so that I could be prepared to lead my department through the transition.  I do believe there was some connection between me telling God that I was ready to do his will and the timing of my manager’s announcement.  I’m not exactly clear on what that connection is, but I know it’s there.

I’ve continued to include my desire to do His will in my prayers.  There have been times when I thought that I knew exactly what that is.  Usually I end up realizing that I may not be right, or that if I am right, the time may not be.  It was about a month after my manager’s announcement that I let him know that I had an interest in the position that was opening up.  I made it clear that I didn’t expect to get the position, but that I really wanted the experience of seeing what going through the process within my company looked like.  That would be extremely valuable in my career.  At just about the same time I had reconnected with an old family friend, and it was actually by accident.  I realized that I must have clicked on the “send a request to all of your contacts” link on LinkedIn.  We were already connected on other social media platforms, but this one led me to reach out more to him.  It turns out that my friend is a C-level executive in Procurement/Supply Chain for a major world-wide manufacturer.  This was the mentor my manager had asked me to seek out a couple of years ago.

Through that mentoring relationship I had started on a course of professional development that was geared more towards my work and a little less on leadership principles.  This was an area I needed to grow.  I had 20+ years of supply chain knowledge, all gained through work experience.  I knew some of the terminology and the basic principles of supply chain leadership, but not a very deep understanding of how they operated or how to implement them at my company.  I did some self-guided studying on a couple of different process improvement initiatives and actually read through the course materials for a professional certification program that my mentor consulted on.  All of this gave me a completely different point of view on the entire supply chain process.  It also showed me that some of the ideas I had going on in the back of my mind were exactly what I could see needed to happen at my job.  The biggest questions I had now were; how do I begin to implement these changes, would the new manager come in and try to change the new things I was implementing, and how did I get over my lack of self-confidence to follow through with all of this.

As I was continuing to pray for guidance, I thought there were other areas I was being called to go towards at the same time as trying to get through this transition at work.  The more I thought I was doing the right, other things, the more I was getting frustrated at work.  Then we brought home the Chalice.  As a family we had a strong week of prayers, then I went camping and fell away slightly.  I was really eye-opening how much just one day of missed prayers would affect me.  As I refocused my prayers the following week I went to one of my go to sources for guidance.  One morning I had four different videos brought to my attention that all spoke to me about what I was going through.  I came to the realization that I was trying to get guidance in too many different areas.  It helped me realize that the one area I really wanted to focus on the most was the only one I needed to focus on right now.  Once I have that area figured out it should be easier to begin to focus on the others, one at a time.  That has allowed me to realize that my job is where He is calling me to excel.

In the past few days I have been able to think clearly about what needs to happen at work to get things in order.  It has allowed me to be calmer when faced with people at work who aren’t yet on-board with what needs to happen to move my department forward.  I have a clear vision of how things need to be handled.  I have regained some of my self-confidence in my vision.  When the warehouse was going through the management transition I was really excelling in my job.  Things were starting to change and people were seeing things the way I had hoped.  When the new manager came in, it allowed my self-doubt to creep in.  Nothing anyone said at work reversed that.  It was my prayers and my inward reflection that led me to that.

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This wasn’t a case where my prayer for something broken to be fixed was answered by a physically evident result.  This was a case of my prayer for guidance being answered by being shown how He has discerned this for me.

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This Post is Clear

September 13, 2017 v4 p35

In the Old Testament Elijah is told to listen to for the voice of God.  There is a fire, an earthquake, some thunderstorms, but he doesn’t hear him in any of those.

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Over the past couple of months I was kind of getting a stale feeling in my prayer life.  Through the faith studying I’ve done on my own I’ve learned that that is going to happen.  That wasn’t really a surprise to me, because I’ve had the same type of staleness happen in my professional and personal life.  What I also knew was that I needed to continue on the path I was following, because so far it’s been the right one.  After some time I began to see my prayers being answered.  That again told me that I was going in the right direction.  I was still getting a stale feeling though.

Out of the resources I had found to study my faith I began to struggle to find new content.  The videos I was finding were just the same ones I had already watched.  It’s not a fault of the speakers.  I was only able to find speeches online from the same year, just at different events.  I would liken it to an author out on a speaking tour.  They would give the same speech at every bookstore they appeared at.  Generally the audience is different, but the subject matter is the same.  So I began looking for older videos to watch.  That didn’t really produce much content.

At some point I stumbled on some new speakers though.  They came to me by looking back at the events I had watched videos for that featured the speakers I was initially looking for.  YouTube is great for that.  It really made me thing about how many possibilities I could come up with because the people I was listening to initially clearly weren’t the only speakers at those specific events.  Especially the ones I knew were multiple days long.

For the most part my wife and I were watching mainly male speakers.  That was partially because the first people I started looking toward for teaching were priests.  We watched a lot of general session speeches, and men’s session speeches.  I thought that they all had great content that was applicable to everyone, but that maybe my wife would enjoy listening to some female speakers.  I’m always trying to soak in as much as I possibly can too, so a different perspective if always refreshing.

One of the best sources we’ve found for videos to watch has been the ones produced at The Steubenville Youth Conferences.  These are a series of conferences around the country that are geared toward bringing the message of the Catholic Church to teens.  There were 25 total conferences in 2017.  Although these are geared towards high school aged kids the content is still great.  Does it really matter what age the audience is when you’re speaking about faith?  It applies to young and old the same way.  That goes the same for men’s sessions versus women’s session.

Not only is that message important to all ages, but I feel it especially hits home for me.  It was in my early high school ages that I really started to drift away from my faith.  So for me listening to the speeches is kind of picking up where I left off.  I still attended Mass on Sunday and went through my faith formation classes all through high school, but I wasn’t engaged.  I was pretty much only there because I was told by my parents that I had to be.  That wasn’t the right way for my evangelization to occur.  I have a feeling that a lot of the people that I went through faith formation were experiencing the same thing.

The other day I finally came up to a video of a speech by a priest at the Grand Rapid’s Diocese Men’s Conference.  He was pretty brash, and really didn’t hide it.  He also didn’t care if you didn’t like his attitude.  I totally get that though because his message was completely on point.  I immediately started following him on social media and shared the video with my best friend, another Catholic.  I mentioned that the video was filmed in Grand Rapids at the conference neither of us could find time to attend.  He replied a day or two later that he had watched it and stared following him on social media as well.

I went and searched out more videos from that same priest.  He actually gave two talks at the conference in Grand Rapids, and in the second one he mentioned one he had given earlier in 2017 at a conference in Atlanta.  I found that one pretty quickly and put it in my que.  Before watching that one I had some time to contemplate what his message was.  I was beginning to see that he was going to be a good source for me to study.  I could start to see that I needed to listen more.

I put a post out on social media about starting to get messages clearly and that I needed to be a better listener.  I watched that third video by the same priest yesterday and it really hammered home what I was being told.  I’ve always knew that I needed to continue to strengthen my faith actions, but I’ve always been afraid.  I’ve been afraid of what others will say, which is kind of strange since I don’t seem to have any difficulties writing blog posts about it.  I will admit the first few that spoke so much about my faith did kind of make me feel a little naked.  But now I was receiving the clear message that what I thought I needed to do is exactly what I need to do.

I had another moment of clarity this morning during my morning prayers.  I’ve been kinda-sorta practicing Lectio Divina prayers.  I read the daily scripture readings, but haven’t taken too much time to meditate and pray on them for whatever reason.  Today however was different.  Not sure why or what prompted it, but did the meditation portion.  Today’s readings seemed to fit in with what the video I watched yesterday was saying.  During my meditation and prayer I was shown the next steps I must take in my faith formation, and I’m ready.  For those of you keeping score I am planning to take my lunch break on Thursdays and drive to my church for Eucharistic Adoration, I am going to fast on Friday’s (not just during Lent), and I want to begin praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  That sounds like pretty insignificant changes, but only if you don’t truly know what each of those entails.

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Sometimes He shouts at you from the mountain tops, other times He comes through as a softer whisper after a huge storm.  All that I know is right now I’m hearing and listening clearly.

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

What I Belive – Part 5

April 27 2017 v4 p17

The more I study my faith, the more I become aware that I am heading in the right path.  I’m learning that I really believe a lot differently than I used to.  Here’s a start to what I’m talking about.

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Just in case you haven’t been following along, I would like to start by reminding you that I am a Catholic Christian.  I was born and raised Catholic, and no, I wasn’t brainwashed by my parents or the church into those beliefs.  I did question our faith growing up, more about why we were Catholic and not some other sect of Christianity.  The answer my parents gave me didn’t cause me to want to change that in any way.  To sum it up, they explained how the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus, and that while the other Protestant sects believed in Christ, they didn’t always agree on things with the Catholic Church.  At that young age I knew that I wanted to follow Jesus in his original church.  Even during my early adult years when I was away from my faith, I always answered the questions about my faith with a firm reply that I was Catholic.  Even though I wasn’t practicing.

Some arguments may be made that not everyone has the same view point as Catholics, so their sect of Christianity is still right.  I certainly can see why someone may have that point of view.  Here’s where we start getting into the meat of this series.  One of the resources I have found to aid me in my faith formation is a priest from Minnesota, Fr. Mike Schmitz.  He is the director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese that Duluth MN is part of.  He is also the priest at the Newman Center on the University of Minnesota at Duluth Campus.  Where I found him is through Ascension Press, a Catholic Media group.  He hosts a weekly pod cast that has short five to ten minute videos that really hit home with me on a wide variety of topics.  And one fun fact about Fr. Mike is that he made it to the final cut of auditions to play the role of “Robin” in the movie “Batman Returns.”  He is one of my major sources for my faith formation over the last couple of years, so I will often reference what I have taken away from his speeches.

When it comes to the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism he uses the analogy of a large boat.  After Christ was resurrected and ascended into heaven there was one Christian Church.  So picture everyone on the same boat, and it sets sail.  Over time some people feel that there are parts of that boat that they don’t like, so they decide to build their own boat.  But, they’re out in the middle of the ocean.  Where are they going to get their materials?  Those must come from the original boat.  So over time, numerous different “boats” have been built out of the original one.  How do I know that Catholicism was the original boat?  If you trace the history of the Pope back to the very first one, it is St. Peter.  In Matthew 16:18 we are told “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”  I’m not sure how much more clear that can be.

Does that mean I feel your point of view is wrong?  No, what it means is that we have different points of view.  Is that ok?  Yes, if we all thought the same way there would be no variety in the world.  Everything would be beige.  And while Jim Harbaugh’s wardrobe would fit in well, but I don’t think too many other people would.  This is where the problem lies with political ideologies such as Communism and others similar to it, but that’s a whole other tangent I would like to stay away from.

The Parrish mission of the church I attend is stated as “We are called as a family to know, love, and serve God.”  Every time I leave the church, whether it’s after a meeting, or service, or I just stopped by to say a quick prayer, I am reminded of that as I leave.  There is a sign on the way out of the parking lot that reminds us that we are entering the mission field.  This church mission is directly in line with the directive of the Catholic Church.  The Vatican mandates that as Catholic Christians we must treat all human life with compassion, dignity, and respect.  This includes all human life.  Whether born or unborn.  Whether Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, etc.  Whether you are a murder, drug user, alcoholic, or a member of the LGBT community.  That’s all human life.

I’m sure most of you have had an encounter with a Catholic person that doesn’t match up with that directive.  It really doesn’t surprise me if you have, and would actually be more surprising to me if you haven’t.  I have had that same type of experience with fellow Catholics and I didn’t really think they were in the right.  That isn’t the Catholic Church that I was raised to know.  In every form of religion though, there are extremists.  Examples would be ISIS, or the Westboro Baptist Church.  Groups that do things to the far extreme of what they feel is right.  By doing that, you are doing exactly the opposite of what Christ was trying to teach.

I can confidently say that I haven’t had an encounter of that type with another Catholic since returning to my faith in January of 2015.  In fact I will be the first to tell anyone who is willing to listen how much of that compassion, dignity, and respect I have seen from my fellow Catholics.  I try my best every day to treat everyone with compassion, dignity, and respect.  I say that I try my best because as much as I study the scripture and pray, I’m still a sinner.  I still have faults.  I still fail God every day.  One of the parts of my nightly prayers before bed is to look back to see where I have failed to treat people in those ways.  This is part of an Examen Prayer that was discussed this spring during our Parrish mission speech.  It causes you to look back on yourself on a daily basis, it’s very introspective.  The longer my wife and I have been doing this to end our day, the quicker I have become at identifying when I have that failure and I know that I need to ask for His forgiveness.

I’m not telling this story because I’m trying to convert anyone.  If you’ve read something here that has caused you to want to convert, great!  If you’ve read something here and want to ask me some questions, I’m willing to answer the best I can, or try to point you in a direction to find an answer (I’m still “young” in my faith formation).  If you’re willing to take some time on your own, I would encourage to you go on YouTube and check out Fr. Mike Schmitz.  He has a lot of 5-9 minutes podcasts, but if you search far enough you’ll find a lot of speeches he has given at various conferences around the country.  Those are the ones where I find the most value.  They usually range in time from 20 minutes to up to a couple of hours.

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There is a huge misconception about the Catholic Church in our country.  All that I ask is that you give me the same courtesy as a Catholic that I give everyone else regardless of who they are or what they believe.

What I Believe – Part 4

April 20, 2017 v4 p16

As I returned to my faith I knew I had to do more than just show up, I had to understand what all of it meant to me.  It didn’t take long to figure out which sect I belonged to, and what I needed to study.

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There were a few instances after my wife and I returned to our faith that really showed me that I was heading in the right direction.  There was the obvious one when we first went to Mass.  There were some other times when the Gospel readings and the Homily delivered by the priest felt almost as if he had written them specifically aimed to me.  There was the instant connection my wife and I had with the priest.  The more we got to know him on a personal level, the more we knew that this man wasn’t the same type of priest we had grown up around.  I could tell at an early time that I needed to serve the church more, but I didn’t know how.  Shortly after I began praying for guidance on how that I was supposed to serve it was revealed.

I was approached by one of the other gentlemen from our church at a breakfast one weekend between the early and late Sunday Mass.  He explained to me a little bit about the Knights of Columbus and joining them was something that had immediately came to mind when I returned to church.  However, I knew that before I could join I needed to make thing right between myself and the Lord.  It had been nearly 23 years since I had been to confession, something that is required of Catholics to do on a yearly basis.  My wife and I found the time to go and we began to make atonement for the sins of our early adulthood.  After that first confession I almost immediately knew that I had received His grace and mercy.  There is not greater feeling than when that happens.  I love my wife deeply, but the love I feel for and receive from God is like no other.  I can’t describe it, but I know when He shows it.

Shortly after joining the Knights I discovered that one of the things Catholics are called to do is evangelize.  Again, this not like what the corrupt mega-church pastors (not all mega-church pastors) do.  My first thought was to start attempting that through my blog.  There were two things that held me back.  First, I didn’t have a great knowledge of what I believed, I just knew that what I was doing felt right so I kept doing it.  Second, I was afraid that writing about that subject could cause problems.  I might lose some friends, I might get dragged in to some conversations with people and end up chasing rabbits down a hole (I’ve written about it before).  So I decided that if I was truly going to do that I needed to know what I was writing about.

During the Advent season, then again during Lent and the time following Lent our church provided some small books.  These were short, daily readings that tied into that day’s scripture and a little bit of guidance.  During the reading of those books the first season I began to follow more Catholic groups on social media.  This is where I really began to see what direction my faith formation needed to take.  Once I completed those short books, they were about 45 pages each, I began to read a book that our Parrish had provided to the entire congregation.  This was about another Catholic gentleman’s journey through his faith.  While his was much stronger through his entire life, I found many similarities in my own life, things were really starting to come together.  It was after I finished that when my faith formation really took a precedent over everything else in my life.

At the end of each daily reading the pages close with, “Spend some quiet time with the Lord!”  It was at that point when I first started to kneel and pray on a daily basis.  I had never done this type of thing before so I didn’t know if I was doing it right.  I started off praying for guidance and blessing for my family.  I would then finish with the opening pray sequence to The Rosary.  As time has gone on that has become a daily activity.  I still pray for those same things, as I have seen how my prayers have been effective.  There are things that I add for certain time frames, such as when the Knights of Columbus call for a Novena.  There are other things that I have added that will always be in my prayers.  I still finish with the same opening sequence of The Rosary.

About a week after I had finished that book and had started back to reading my professional development books I started to notice a change in my life.  My attitude had been different, my focus was off, it felt like something was missing, or had gone away.  I began to look inward and discovered that the only thing that had changed over that short time was that I wasn’t getting the daily reading that I had been.  What a huge difference it had been, in a really short time.  That’s when I knew that I needed to get back to reading the scripture more.  So in early June of 2016 I picked up my bible and started at Genesis 1:1.  When I read for professional development I read 10 pages every day, no matter what I’m reading, so I figured that would be a good place to start.  Well, I don’t know how many bibles you’ve ever looked at, but the print is pretty small in most of them, and 10 pages is probably closer to the equivalent of 15 pages in a normal book.  None-the-less, I made it my new morning ritual.

This put a damper on my professional development reading.  I didn’t want to rob myself of anymore sleep than I already was, so I put that to the side.  What I ended up doing was finding a few evenings here and there when I could get that professional development reading in.  It slowed down my pace, but I knew in the long run that it was what I needed to do.  There are some pretty tough spots in the Old Testament to read.  In the book of Joshua it speaks a lot of how the Holy Land was to be divided.  There are portions of it where it almost reads like a real-estate manual, describing by landmarks where certain tribes were to make their stake in the land.  I could feel myself getting a little discouraged.  At some point during this time frame I began following a social media page that would post the daily Gospel reading.  So after a tough reading of the Old Testament one day I decided to look up the Gospel reading again.  What Google gave me was another avenue for my faith formation.  The first page in my search was for the daily Mass readings as specified by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Here was a new part of my daily reading.

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It took me about six months to finish the entire Bible, and it had changed me.  It had changed what I knew, and explained why I believe in the Catholic Church.  This has been a long route to get to it, but my next post is where I will begin to “unpack” some of that.