On Saturday morning I made the 40-minute drive to pick up two of my sons from Cub Scout Residence Camp. Listening to my “Praise and Worship” list on the way and singing at the top of my lungs, I was on top of the world. Then it hit me. In a few minutes, two boys would enter my vehicle and want to tell me all about their last several days. My initial reaction to that thought was selfish disappointment. “I’ll be interrupted from listening/singing all the way home,” I thought. Just as quickly as that thought came, another took its place. I needed to offer patience and proper praise.
Patience and Proper Praise
What do I mean by patience and proper praise? I mean setting aside what I want to do, and what I think pleases God, in favor of offering Him what He really desires from me. God desires a humble and contrite heart, as Psalm 51 tells us. Convicted of my selfishness, I repented in the truest sense, turning away from my own desires and in the direction of serving my kids and their need for their father’s attention. This is pleasing to God.
I recently rediscovered some things I wrote several years ago. It’s been a joy to revisit those pieces. Some are forever relevant, so I decided to start a series of “Lessons From Memory Lane” posts for your enjoyment. The post that follows is titled, “I Hate Cats… But I Still Love Mine.” Though I no longer have a cat, the message endures, because it’s a lesson on the nature of love itself. Enjoy!
I Hate Cats… But I Still Love Mine
I really do hate cats. I always have. As a young boy, I was allergic to them, which probably didn’t help me to like them much, but beyond that, I never liked how sneaky they were, how they didn’t listen to commands (at least not in the way dogs do), and how they just stare at you, as if to say, “I’m in charge here.”
As an adult, I grew out of my allergy to cats. I fell in love with a cat-lover. I married her and we adopted two kittens of our own. Sure, they were cute and cuddly, and they were fun to play with, but I very quickly grew tired of cleaning their dirt and the messes from their hairballs. Almost nine years later, it’s rare that a week goes by that I don’t find some mess somewhere in the house. It’s rarely on the hard floor, though the mess will be found right NEXT to the hard floor – on the carpet. I am convinced it is some great cat conspiracy to drive me nuts. On top of all that, I agree with the funny e-mail someone sent me recently, which said that cats try to kill their owners by scooting right beneath their feet as they are taking steps… and particularly when owners are ON steps. Things of that sort bring me to my thoughts from this morning.
One thing I find myself constantly fighting is distraction. Lest the reader think I mean the normal distractions of daily life as a spouse and parent, let me explain. When I say distraction, I mean the interior variety. What I really need is focused thought. I imagine you can relate in one way or another.
In order to be healthy, we need to take care of the spiritual, physical, mental, vocational, and recreational aspects of who we are. In my case, this summer of dreams is about revitalizing all of them. To that end, this summer has been incredibly productive and edifying. It comes with an unexpected cost, however. A renewed commitment to prayer, exercise, learning, producing content and building a platform, and balancing it all with appropriate rest and relaxation leaves me constantly… invigorated. Invigorated? Doesn’t sound like a problem, right? It’s a good problem to have, for sure, but it is a challenge! You see, I feel so good that my level of creativity is at an all-time high… and I don’t have time to accomplish everything that comes to mind. More than ever, I need focused thought, or nothing at all gets done. That part should sound familiar to just about everyone.
Focused thought is possible even amidst distraction of the interior kind. I offer the following suggestions…
This morning I was in the perpetual adoration chapel at my parish and praying the Rosary. Since it’s Thursday, I prayed the Luminous Mysteries. As I prayed, I realized how much these particular mysteries shed light on what this summer is about for me, and more importantly, what that means for others.
What are the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary?
The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary come from Scripture and they focus on significant events in Jesus’ ministry. They aren’t representative of all the important events of His ministry, but they illuminate in ways that others may not.
Reflecting on John the Baptist, I imagine it must have been quite a thing to finally see Jesus coming his way. He prepared for that day by training himself in asceticism and preparing the way for the Lord by preaching repentance to crowds of people. His life was a mission. He had no illusions about his purpose. John took his role seriously. He embraced it and got to work. We remember him for it.
The words, “God” and “Dog” are a semordnilap (there’s a trivia nugget for you!), which occurs when one word spells a completely different word backwards. There’s really no comparison between God and a dog, and there never could be, but a trip to Confession yesterday got me thinking.
A little background…
My pastor sometimes brings his dog with him during Confession hours on Saturdays in the church. Father’s joke never gets old, either… “The dog’s under the seal!” For those who aren’t familiar, “the seal” is the seal of Confession, whereby a priest is obliged by the severest possible consequences to keep private those things which he hears confessed by the penitent. Naturally, a dog repeating the sins of a penitent is an impossibility, but it’s still funny to hear him say it. It’s one of the endearing things about our pastor.
When the dog is there, it’s excited to see each new penitent (or I assume so since it’s always excited to see me!). It wags its tail vigorously and does all the things friendly dogs do, you know? It’s well-behaved, so it never jumps on me or anything like that, but it sure seems pumped. Inevitably, Father calls the obedient dog to his side and it lays down next to him. It almost appear as if it’s listening, with its brows moving and ears perking as I speak. The dog doesn’t judge or condemn. It doesn’t get sad or angry. The dog doesn’t lash out at me. It silently allows the confession of my sins to fall upon it and then, guess what? It’s over. Father gives me my penance and absolution, and the dog wants to say goodbye as I leave.
Am I really sharing a post on prevenient grace and… Netflix? You betcha. Indulge me.
When a friend suggested a few days ago that he planned to begin a 33 Days to Morning Glory trek toward renewing his consecration to Mary this Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, I told him I would do the same. Having done it using that method, as well as according to the traditional method given by St. Louis de Montfort, I opted for a third way in hopes of discovering some fresh insights. That method is
The author of Totus Tuus is Father Nathan Cromly. He’s something of a “rockstar” among my wife and her friends, as well as several other folks I know. According to my wife, he gives amazing retreats. She should know. She’s been on two in consecutive years. I hope she goes on more. Shoot… I think we all should go on more retreats, especially ones led by the Holy Spirit and great priests. That’s a bit of an aside, but the point remains that Father Nathan blazes a trail in the Church today, and when I recalled he put together a book on Marian consecration, I figured it would be very good.
Two days into the path to consecration, and the lessons blow me away. That’s no easy feat, mind you. With a Master’s degree in theology, a catechetical diploma endorsed by the Vatican, 15 years of experience teaching religion, and theological study as a hobby of choice, exposure to something entirely new to me is rare. Oh, how I love it when I am, though! It reminds me of those heady days in my 20s, when I felt like I was learning something new about God, His Church, and myself in relation to these things everyday.
What blows me away? Prevenient grace. Stick with me. This is good stuff!
Our family lived in Europe from 2012-2015. We experienced some amazing things. One of those was to eat at a 3-star Michelin-rated restaurant set in a former castle. I fondly remember that meal for many reasons, not the least of which is that it was the first time the taste of food ever made me cry! I digress, but one of the things I remember most clearly was the service of one bite-sized sample after another.
The chef at that castle restaurant was so proud of his art, and rightly so. No doubt, he studied hard and honed his culinary gifts with years of experience before he produced such fine cuisine. Reaching that level, he desired to share his gifts. Not out of arrogance, but because gifts, by nature, are meant to be given – and received by others. Our expressions of joy at tasting each bite-sized sample became our gift to him.
Am I a world-class chef? No. I’m not sure I’m a world-class anything! I know this, though… I have studied hard and had experiences in my life that helped me earn a reputation for excellence, particularly in the fields of catechesis and theology. Students, parents, parishioners, and even priests come to me when they don’t know how to answer certain questions regarding the Catholic faith or related issues. It’s true. When I’m at a loss, I dig and dig until I find those answers. It’s my passion, just like our chef, and I need to share my gift with others.
With these things in mind, I offer just a bite-sized sample from my first booklet, Food For Thought: An Appetizer. Of all the questions in the booklet, this is the only personal one. I believe it’s a good insight into who I am, and I hope it will entice you to read the rest of the booklet and share it with your friends. It’s available for sale by using the links on the sidebar – or get it for free by signing up for my newsletter! Without further ado, I hope you enjoy what follows.
I’m old-fashioned. I like the idea of courtship, even with a modern twist or two, but something happened recently that made me think, “Forget courtship. Young people don’t even know how to date anymore!”
So what was it?
A teenage girl I know very well received a text from a boy the same age. It was the first time the boy ever contacted her. He asked her to be his girlfriend. Let’s break that down a bit…
- It was the first contact.
- He asked her to be his girlfriend.
- He did it via text. Let me repeat that one. He did it via text.
Lest you think I am too hard on the boy, I assure you I’m not. He gets a pass for two reasons. First, he’s a young man and likely prone to boneheaded decisions. Second, his actions are a function of the culture around him and how they do things today. That said, it caused me to reflect on how I can prepare my children appropriately.