Archive for January, 2010

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Passing on the Faith

January 31, 2010

Note: I wrote this post a few days ago and am just now getting around to posting it although it doesn’t seem finished. The reason it doesn’t seem finished, though, is that there is just so much more to say. Its possible that someone coming across this might get a little bit discouraged if they have slipped into one of these pitfalls. If that is you, don’t get discouraged. Just move on and work at communion with the Church. Still, others might disagree with these suggestions completely, which is your right as a free thinker. But please know that I wrote all this out of a great desire to pass on the faith to subsequent generations of Catholics and please consider my thoughts with charity.
In my earlier post concerning the Walk for Life West Coast, I mentioned how inspiring it is to watch the faith really take hold in the youth. At an event like the Walk for Life this is very apparent, but even as big as the march feels its still a very small sample size of young people. There is still a lot of work to do, and everyday opportunities to pass on the faith to the next generation passes us by. This makes me quite sad.

While I was on internship, every so often a mother would approach me and pick my brain a bit. They would ask, “What did your parents do to keep you so involved in the Church?” Try as they might, their kids just didn’t seem interested in Church… and if they were interested in Church, it wasn’t always the Catholic Church. It seemed as though a lot of these mothers felt like they had failed in their attempt to keep the kids Catholic.

I’m not a parent, and the truth is I don’t know how to keep your kids Catholic. When faith really takes ahold of a high schooler or college student, randomness seems like its the reason as opposed to some parenting method. That being said I think there are some things I can share that you should not do.

  • Don’t discourage questions. It is not the devil that causes questions to arise in the hearts of the faithful. It is God who places the questions, because he places in each of us a desire to know Him. Thus, when questions arise, even really difficult ones, the important thing to remember is that the very fact that these questions arise is evidence of God at work in the hearts and minds of those asking.
  • Don’t make Mass too worldly. This one can be a bit counter intuitive. We might think that because a person listens to a certain type of music at home or with their friends they might want to listen to it in Church. I don’t agree with this. It seems to me that young people go to Church when they find something that they can’t find in the world. Here, I need to mention silence. This world is loud and iPhones have only made it louder. Mass (and Church buildings) are one of the last places where silence really can be found. When Parishes try to attract youth by eliminating silence and replace reverent hymns with music that attempts to get heads bobbing they might actually wind up repelling youth. I was working with a confirmation group several years ago and after the rehearsal for their big mass I walked outside and heard a few of the students – mostly popular kids – making fun of one of the songs that was added in an attempt to impress them. We actually wound up having a really good talk and I admitted that I found the song annoying as well. I could go on and on about this but the lesson here can be summed up by saying that Christians need to make the world Holy, not make the Church worldly. Parishes shouldn’t rush into ‘youth masses’ expecting it work wonders. This stuff has to be discerned very, very carefully.
  • Do not impose your own issues you might have with the Church on your kid. That might sound really harsh, but I believe it is extremely important. These issues might be some kind of moral position of the Church, like its stance against abortion and the use of contraceptives – both moral teachings that actually (believe it or not) attracted me and many of my friends to the church when we were in college, when they were presented in a positive manner.

    The “ban” on women priests is another sore spot many have passed on to the next generation of Catholics. My heart goes out to anyone, especially a woman, who feels hurt by this teaching. But before you vocalize this to your daughters, remember that many young women are actually strongly opposed to women’s ordination. In fact, many young women are the biggest critics of the “Ordain Women” movement. I remember when our Bible Study in college touched on this subject. Many young women struggled with it at first, but after we continued to ponder the meaning of priesthood, and the meaning of femininity, I’d say with confidence that the vast majority of the young women not only came to accept the Church’s teaching, but actually found great joy in it and are more excited about their faith because of this teaching (perhaps if one of them drops by they can affirm this in the comments?).

    These are just a couple examples, but there are lots more. The fact is, voicing your own anger towards the church when unprovoked probably won’t keep your kid Catholic; it will probably just make them think you’re a bit strange for wanting to associate with such a confused, oppressive and backwards religion. The Catholic faith is not easy to live, and if there is something that makes it difficult for you to embrace the fullness of the faith, don’t allow it to fester. Face it head on. Our goal is communion – of mind, heart, and deed – and communion is something we always need to work at.

  • Don’t try to make church “cool.” It isn’t. Something you must always remember: It is not cool to be Catholic, nor will it ever be cool to be Catholic. That, is what makes it so cool to be Catholic.
  • That’s really all I can say right now. Although this isn’t an exhaustive list of things to avoid, I think it provides a general way of thinking about evangelizing the youth of the Church.

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    Lyrics about Bellingham

    January 31, 2010

    From Death Cab for Cutie, a band that formed in Bellingham while they were students at Western…

    The song is called, “A Movie Script Ending.”

    Whenever I come back
    The air on Railroad is making the same sounds
    And the shop fronts on Holly are dirty words
    (Asterisks in for the vowels)
    We peered through the windows
    New bottoms on barstools
    But the people remain the same
    With prices inflating, inflating…

    I’m not sure what dirty word they’re talking about at a shop on Holly, but I’ll vouch and say that although a Long Island at the Beaver is a bit more expensive now than it was while I was in college, the bartender is still the same guy who checks your ID each time, even though you know for sure he remembers you from prior visits.

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    Something Beautiful For Your Ears

    January 28, 2010

    Its part of the score from “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” which in my opinion is the best music composed for a motion picture in the last couple of years. Its sort of a lullaby, so don’t fall asleep.

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    More on Grant Desme

    January 28, 2010

    I’m still very inspired by Grant Desme’s decision to choose to enter the Norbertines over the game of Baseball. I love baseball and there was a time in my life where I would have killed for the opportunity to play professionally. I’m honestly not sure that my faith is strong enough to have made the decision he did.

    This isn’t a bad interview from Dan Patrick. I think a word I like to describe is honest. A lot of the questions that Grant was asked have been asked all over the blogs – Catholic related and Baseball related. There are a lot of themes running around and this interview does a pretty good job of addressing them, and the discussion afterwards between Dan Patrick and his co-hosts is pretty fascinating as well.*

    During the discussion afterwards, Patrick points out that Grant didn’t seem too comfortable. I think his exact words are that he sensed an inner struggle in Grant. To tell you the truth, Grant did seem a bit timid. Now, maybe thats just his personality. But I think there are some other things I can certainly relate to. One thing is that our vocations -whether toward marriage or to religious life or priesthood- are mysterious. Very few newly weds can really describe why they love their spouse without trying hard to find the right words. I can’t always find the words to describe how I arrived where I am. I’m not sure there even are words. I’m already dreading any interview I’m asked to give for my ordination because I’m just not sure I’m going to be able to say what I really feel. Actually, I just told my “vocation story” at a lunch table the other day and I had a rough time explaining why I am where I am. So I’m not surprised that Grant sounded like that, just a few days after he answered the call.

    Another point brought up was the Tim Tebow comparison. Tim Tebow, a devoted Christian, uses his gifts to play football to his advantage to preach the Gospel. That is certainly noble and great to see. But Grant Desme is not Tim Tebow. As Grant stated in his interview, he isn’t even sure he’ll make it to the big leagues. And even if he did make it to the big leagues, it is far from certain that he will be a good enough to impact people on a stage like Tebow can right now. But for right now, Grant Desme is as big of a story, if not bigger, than Tim Tebow precisely because of his decision to leave his bat, ball, and glove behind to follow the Lord.

    Still, a rather bzaar point is being made that Grant is somehow acting immorally by joining the priesthood because he is not using his God-given gifts to play baseball anymore. First of all, Grant did not lose his gift and abilities to play baseball. He still has them and I would be shocked if he did not use them in some way in the future. I expect that it will be through the Norbertine’s apostolate at J Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano, Ca. What an asset to that baseball team and school! A young, morally upright Catholic guy with major league talent coaching at your Catholic school? What a help he could be to form young men, on and off the field!

    I mean… seriously… I went and kicked a ball over a fence twice a week last year during the fourth graders kickball games and that won them over for the rest of the year. Grant will be able to evangelize high schoolers (and hopefully a few of their dads) in a way that only he can. I’m thrilled he’s answering the call to priesthood, but he will need all of our prayers. He has unique gifts, and it will bring about unique challenges for him. Joining an order and living in a monastery is way harder than diocesan seminary, where I’m at. He will rely on our prayers to help him persevere.

    Oh, and Grant… I’m at a seminary in Southern Cal as well, so if you want to grab a beer sometime let me know. Email me.

    *To hear this part of the show you’ll have to click on the show’s third hour. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to do that by the time you read this.

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    Walk for Life – San Francisco

    January 27, 2010

    If you are hurting from an abortion in any way, whether it be grief or regret or physical pain, please visit Rachel’s Vineyard or call them at 877-HOPE-4-ME. You do not need to continue living with this burden. If you are facing a Crisis Pregnancy and need to talk to someone about it, please call 1-800-395-HELP.

    As I mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco last weekend to participate in The Walk for Life: West Coast. This is probably my favorite annual event I participate in. I missed the first year, but have been to each since and hope to make it to every single one in the future. I hope that I will be able to take parishioners (lots of parishioners) as well. It is simply an inspiring event.

    It inspires me because it is overwhelmingly attended by young Catholics. This post from the WFLWC media blog will give you a small taste of the youthfulness of the event. Anyone who is under the impression that the Catholic Church is irrelevant to young people need only attend this event (and the one in DC) to change their mind. The truth is that the Catholic Church is extremely relevant to young people. I believe it is more relevant to them than it is to their parents, in many cases.

    There were some moments that were particularly inspiring. I stayed at St. Patrick’s seminary in Menlo Park and had the opportunity to meet seminarians not only from there, but from Mt. Angel Seminary in the Portland area and St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver Colorado. The dedication of these future priests was inspiring, as always.

    Friday night a few of us drove into San Francisco to the beautiful Saints Peter and Paul Church where I was again inspired. We walked downstairs to where the Sisters of Life were hosting a little reception. I spoke to Sr. Antoniana, a very young nun from Vancouver, and we discovered that we knew a lot of the same people. Such a small world. We then ventured upstairs to Eucharistic Adoration. I got chills when I walked – at 28 I was one of the oldest people in the Church. There was a large group that traveled down from Oregon State University, and they were all reverently adoring our Lord. Other groups wandered in and out for the 45 minutes or so I was there.

    Photo Credit: Walk for Life West Coast Media Blog

    Mass Saturday morning was another opportunity to observe how God is reaching young people through the Church. This was easily the largest Mass for Life in San Francisco I have been to. In fact, it was the first time I’ve seen the Cathedral full! The Media Blog has some great pictures of this.

    As for the rally and protest itself, I think the best place to go for coverage is this post at Pajamas Media by “Zombie.” Zombie is actually pro-choice, but tends to lean conservative on many other issues which puts him at odds with many in his home-region. Thus, although he might agree with our opponents, I believe he identifies more with us. He covers many of the key issues in his report and I believe he gets it right, although there are one or two things I would have minor quibbles with (note that it is several pages long… read the whole thing). But there is one picture he took that I need to place here in order to take us back to the era of Jim Crow Laws where we let some people use one bathroom and made other people use another:Photo Credit: Pajamas Media

    And then, of course, there is the media who failed to report on this. The WFL estimates that there were 35,000 or so people that attended. The media says it was between 10 and 20 thousand. That stuff used to bug me a lot more than it does now. I’m not sure how big the crowd was exactly, but I know a few things. It was bigger than last year, it was comprised of mostly young people, there were all kinds of ethnic minorities, and it was big enough to fill those of us who attended with all kinds of hope for the future of our Church and our Country.

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    Great Vocation Story

    January 25, 2010

    The news broke while I was in the Bay Area (more on that later today or tomorrow), so you’ve probably all already heard the good news, but one of the top prospects for the Oakland A’s baseball team has decided to retire from Baseball in order to enter the priesthood.

    Grant Desme was destined for pretty big things in baseball, at least in the short term, as he was widely considered one of the top prospects in the organization. In fact, he was the only player in the Arizona Fall League to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. Although he would have been a long shot to reach the big leagues this season, his performance in the minors was enough to turn heads of A’s fans.

    Although I would love to have Grant at my seminary next fall he won’t be headed here. He is joining the Norbertines down in Orange County. I have had the opportunity to visit the Norbertines on several occasions at their abbey and enjoyed it quite a bit. One of their apostolates is at J. Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano. I’m sure that Grant will do well there.

    Its so nice to hear inspiring stories like this. It motivates me to work harder and trust God more. So thanks for that, Grant. You’re in my prayers and I hope I’ll get a chance to meet you next time I’m down at the abbey.

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    Spring Courses

    January 14, 2010

    A new semester means a new set of courses. I must say, I miss my classes from last semester. They were very thought provoking and I found myself pondering the subjects all the time. This semester, not so much.

    – Spanish (as always)
    – Psalms and Wisdom literature (probably the one I’m most excited about, although the prof is really laying on the workload for a 2 credit class)
    – Theological themes in the Old Testament (Its a seminar and I’m not looking forward to it at all)
    – History of Christian Spirituality (This one won’t be too bad, but holy smokes I’m sick of studying history)
    – The RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults… could be alright, although it will be a lot of work)
    – Theology of Ecumenism (Not that I have anything against Interreligious dialog, but wow I’m not in the mood for this one)
    – Liturgical Music (I’m the only guy that signed up for this one which means I’ll get a lot of good practice singing and I’ll get to steer the class a bit to focus on what I want to focus on.)
    – Theology of Ministry and priesthood (This one would be great if it wasn’t at 8am when I’m still groggy)

    So there ya go… The plus side? My last class of the week is Thursday from 10 to noon, which means 3.5 day weekends! This weekend’s big plans? Head into LA to watch some playoff games and then head down to Orange County to spend the weekend with some friends and their new baby. Should be sunny, should be warm, should be relaxing.

    Take care everyone, and have a great weekend!