Month: November 2013

Happy Holidays! (A meme by me to help you remember)

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Soon we will be barraged with rhetoric about the “War on Christmas” because someone wishes us “Happy Holidays.” As Catholics, Christmas does not begin until the Vigil on the 24th of December (Christmas Eve). Before that, we are in the season of Advent. A time of preparation, of supplication, of penance, of prayer. To wish others a Merry Christmas, though well-intentioned, ignores a very important time in our Catholic faith and our spiritual lives. We must prepare ourselves spiritually to receive Jesus Christ, the bearer of the Gospel message. The Christian life is not easy, the message brought by Christ challenges everything about what it means to be human. Even the disciples proclaimed: “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (John 6:60). If we do not properly prepare ourselves for the Coming of Christ, we will not be ready to receive him into our hearts and lives. We will leave him in the cold, shuttering, alone and rejected. When he comes there will be no room for him just as it was so many years ago when his mother and father were left without a proper place to bring him into the world. Do not be so rushed to usher in Christmas; Christ will come just the same. But, will you be ready for him? If you do not take this Advent season to prepare then perhaps you will be the one who, when his parents knock, tells them “We have no room.”

Wishing others a “Happy Holidays” is not an attack on Christmas at all, but rather, a recognition of the Advent season and other days of observance in preparation for the coming of Christ. Once Christmas arrives, wish one another a Merry Christmas, but until then, let’s not forget the fullness of this holy time of year.

The Four Sundays of Advent
December 8 – Immaculate Conception
December 12 – Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 25 – Birth of Our Lord
December 28 – Holy Innocents
December 29 – Holy Family
January 1 – Mary, Mother of God
January 3 – Holy Name of Jesus
January 6 – Epiphany
January 12 – Baptism of the Lord

For Catholics, until we get to December 24th/25th, we should all wish one another Happy Holidays or Blessed Advent!

God’s Peace be with you all!

Be a Man! Play with dolls?

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There is a lot of faux masculinity promoted in our society. One area in which this rears its ugly head is how many people oppose young boys playing with dolls, kitchen sets, shopping, dancing and various other so-called feminine activities. I take issue with this for many reasons. First, I was given a Cabbage Patch doll when I was only two or three years old. I had six sisters and three brothers growing up. We were expected to play together. My sisters wanted to play house, play with dolls, and play in the toy kitchen so my brothers and I were expected to play too. None of these activities detracted from my masculinity. If anything, it enhanced it. These times of play helped me understand healthy male-female relationships. It taught me not to demean or think that household chores were below my dignity as a man. It taught me how to nurture children, to play with them, soothe them, care for them. Playing with dolls actually helped me be a better man, and I believe it will one day result in me being a better father (as I do not currently have any children of my own).

Why is it important to allow young boys to play with dolls? Think about the status of families in the United States these days. Households are wrought with absent fathers. Now, there are many causes for this but a major cause is the lack of manhood in men; a lack of responsibility in men. Men have ceased to be taught how to put other people’s needs first. They have been raised to be selfish and have not learned how to sacrifice for others. They have not learned how to have healthy relationships with women. They have not learned how to chip in at home. They have not learned how to cooperate with others, particularly the mother of their child and/or children.

What better time to begin to instill the virtues needed for lifelong commitment in marriage and fatherhood than in a boy’s childhood. If we teach boys that men can do laundry, do the dishes, learn to sew, take care of children, change diapers, read to babies, clean the house they will be better prepared for manhood, for family life. Afterall, men living in monastic communities must do all of these tasks, are monks any less manly than others? Try telling Saint Moses the Black that he wasn’t masculine enough. 🙂

My dad is a “man’s man.” He grew up a farmer,  entered the Army in the 60’s, returned home and joined the local volunteer fire department, drove semi-trucks, worked in a factory, renovated our house room by room down to the studs (teaching us vital carpentry skills, my brothers and sisters alike). My dad also could hand stitch better than my mom, a skilled amateur seamstress herself. Dad changed diapers, washed dishes, folded laundry, rocked children to sleep, and scrubbed toilets. Dad did not oppose my brothers and I playing with dolls or playing house. He also did not oppose to my sisters playing outdoors in the dirt, learning how to swing a hammer, or bait a hook. Lest we forget about Saint Joan of Arc and her break with societal  norms of her day (and even into our own time). There were no “women’s jobs” and “man’s jobs” there were only jobs to be done for the support of the family. There was work to be done in order to support and sustain the family and both boys and girls were expected to do it. Dad helped us all learn true masculinity by ensuring that we did not impose false definitions about what it means to be a man. Instead he taught us how to love, sacrifice, forgive, persevere, fidelity, and honesty by his actions and the lessons he taught us.

There are clear differences between men and women. There are clear distinctions that must be made with regards to femininity and masculinity and cannot be ignored. Men and women compliment each other, they cannot be confused as being the “same.” However, we must be careful not to impose artificial social-constructs or stereotypes on femininity and masculinity. Doing so creates problems in many areas of life, perhaps none more than marriage and family life.

So, I simply ask, if your son or nephew comes out of the toy room carrying a doll, take the time to show him how to hold it right and care for the imaginary infant, rather than tell him to go put it away. Maybe even sit down and help show him how to make supper for the family in the imaginary kitchen. You just might help restore marriage and family life in our world.

Be “Both/And”!

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Many of us do not like complexity; we like things simple. Highly educated and intelligent are just as guilty of such mentalities as anyone else. We create categories and assert falsely that they are necessarily opposed to one another. They myth of “race” is one such category that we have created in our temporal life. This is even more the case when it comes to the Church. We think in terms of “Pre-Vatican II and Post Vatican II” Catholics, as if Vatican II was a complete break from the previous 1,930 years in the Church and Revelation of God. We divide our allegiances in our parishes between the “Liturgy people vs. the Social Justice people” even though without the Liturgy our actions in social justice tends toward emptiness, and without taking social action in society to serve others, our reception of the Eucharist borders blasphemy. There are those who argue for a solely “Gospel-centric” Catholicism, ignoring the other books of the New Testament and the entirety of the Old Testament, reducing all we should focus on are the words and stories of Christ. However, without the other books we cannot fully understand and appreciate the Gospels. If our only reference point to determine right action and thought in this life are the Four Gospels then we also deny every other revealed truth that was not recorded in Sacred Scripture but was still handed to us by God through the Apostles. Every word Christ spoke is not written in the Gospels. If this were the case then Jesus really didn’t speak very much in his three years of ministry (roughly 2000 words are attributed to Jesus in the Bible). Every truth revealed to humanity out of love of the Father is not recorded in the Gospels, or even the Bible. If we want to be honest about what God desires of us, we have to be more comfortable with complexity, with a “both/and” attitude and not an “either/or” attitude. We have to be more comfortable entrusting ourselves to Christ by entrusting ourselves to the Church that he established and continues to guide and guard.

Relax, do good, avoid evil, and Holy Mother Church will be just fine

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I know a lot of people who get upset when they hear others argue that the Catholic Church needs to “get with the times” and change Her teachings in order to remain relevant in the “modern” world. I almost always have an internal chuckle at such comments because the Catholic Church is the oldest institution on Earth and has outlived every “modern” society without having to worry about changing fundamental doctrines. She has outlived the Roman Empire; Han dynasty, Sassanid Empire, British, Spanish, Portuguese, and French Empires, Ummayad Caliphate, Mongol Empire, Soviet Union, and will continue to outlive all “modern” societies. Her stability and longevity is because She has remained faithful to the truth, especially those revealed truths that came directly from God, not by molding herself “to the times.” Her truths are eternal and so they stand the test of time. Why get mad? The Church wont “get with the times” in the way that many people would like because She knows better than the times. G.K. Chesterton once said (paraphrasing) “there are no new heresies, only old heresies wrapped in new packages.” Much of what people want the Church to change, to “get with the times” are simply old heresies in new packaging. Those heresies failed in the past, they will fail today, they will fail tomorrow because error decays, and truth remains. Don’t worry about Holy Mother Church, She will care for the Deposit of Faith. Instead, worry about whether or not you are truly living up to Her teachings. Worry about whether or not you are truly living a loving relationship with Christ; whether or not you are living a loving and merciful relationship with all of humanity. Do good, avoid evil. God will continue to guide and guard the Church; we must continue to follow His commands.

Iowan Firefighters Volunteer

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I have been a volunteer firefighter since the year 2000. Of the more than One Million firefighters in the United States, the vast majority of them are volunteer (over 70%). Over 90% of fire departments in the State of Iowa are staffed completely by volunteer firefighters (90.7%)? Another 5.5% of Iowa fire departments are considered “mostly volunteer” (the majority of firefighters are volunteer and not paid). Only four states have a greater percentage of all volunteer fire departments: Nebraska (92.7%), North Dakota (92.4%), South Dakota (92.5%), and West Virginia (91.3%). Iowans volunteer and place their lives on the line for the safety of others for no other reason than to serve. They do not receive much in return, except the knowledge that they have done what needed to be done. The mission of the fire service is simple: Save lives, protect property. In order to accomplish this goal, firefighters, especially volunteers, need your financial support. Please remember to support your volunteer fire departments with donations, taxes, maybe even a hot meal. And, if you feel called, consider joining up. You wont regret your service!