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?

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.