February 11, 2010

I have Olympics Fever right now! I’ve always enjoyed the Summer Olympics, but this year I’m excited for these ones. I think the biggest reason I’m so excited this year as opposed to previous years is that most of the events will be going on about an hour from my hometown, just a little south of the US-Canada border.

I’ve always loved the city of Vancouver, and I’m happy that the rest of the World will finally get to see it. I’ve had the privilege of taking a few people up there and they are always shocked at how big and beautiful the city’s skyline is. I’m especially looking forward to seeing Whistler, the Alpine and Nordic skiing venues, on TV, since I’ve traveled there many times and have very happy memories from my college days. As for snow, Whistler should be just fine, but as you might know, Cypress (location of snowboarding, moguls, and aerials) might have some issues as they have been trucking in snow from other parts of the mountain.

If you use Twitter, there are many athletes tweeting their experiences and sharing photos of the various venues and experiences they are having in the City.

I only wish that I was back home so I could take in a few events myself.




February 10, 2010

Warning: This is long. It will seem irrelevant at first, but it gets interesting (I hope) below the fold.

EDIT:Val read it and she said it was definitely not interesting. Read at your own risk, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I love baseball. I always have and I always will. More specifically, I love the Seattle Mariners which is one of the least successful franchises in all of sports. The Mariners haven’t just been bad. Their badness has set records. Just two seasons ago, they set a record when they became the first team to ever lose 100 games and spend 100 million dollars on payroll. It was during this season where I took my love for baseball to new levels.

I desperately want to see the Mariners win a world series in my lifetime. Two years ago, it was apparent that the people running my favorite team were doing something very wrong. Thanks to a lucky google search I discovered a couple of blogs run by fans who wanted what I wanted. Only these guys were way ahead of me. They were evaluating the mariners in ways I had never considered, based on a system of statistical analysis called “Sabermetrics.”

The original Sabermetricians began by challenging conventional wisdom. They looked at the statistics that were used to evaluate players and asked, “Is there a better way we can do this?” There was a better way. Consider Earned Run Average (ERA). This statistic had been used for many years to evaluate pitchers. It is the average number of runs that a pitcher gives up in 9 innings. A good ERA was seen as 3, and a bad ERA was around 4.5 and above.

But there was a problem with ERA, and the sabermetricians were all over it. They noticed that there were other variables that determined a pitcher’s ERA that weren’t being considered, primarily defense. They made the obvious observation that if a pitcher had a better defense behind him his ERA would be much better. So they developed a series of statistics known as Defense Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS). This series of statistics only factored in data that the Defense had nothing to do with; Home Runs, Walks, Strike outs, and hit batsmen (the statistics varied based on which weight they gave to each piece of data). I learned that the Mariners were spending millions on pitchers who had great ERAs, but very poor DIPS. Other teams who had begun to apply these statistics were spending much less on players with bad ERAs and good DIPS and getting much better results (they were winning more games).

ERA was only the tip of the iceberg, though. Conventional wisdom of every aspect of the game was under scrutiny. The more I read about these statistics, the more I became interested in how this knowledge could be applied to other things. Naturally, I wondered how it could be applied to the Church. I asked many questions. Can we judge whether or not a parish is successful? Which indicators have we been using to judge this? Are these good? Are there better indicators?

I have thought about these questions an awful lot, and I think I’ve gone as far as I can for now. The rest of this post is only my thoughts. I am not saying that this is what I’m going to do if, God willing, I am ordained and placed in a parish. I am not saying my thoughts are correct, either. At this point I consider them experimental. Theories might be a better word. So you shouldn’t see them as anything else. I’m merely floating them out there to see if anyone finds it interesting and to see if anyone has anything else to offer. Ideally, a Catholic sabermetrician will come along and help out. That probably won’t happen, though, but if you’re interested, click below the fold to read on…
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How Catholic of You, Mars Hill

February 9, 2010

I am extremely intrigued by Mars Hill Church in Seattle. No, that statement definitely did not capture what I feel towards Mars Hill Church. Its way more complicated and confusing than that. I love Mars Hill Church. I can’t stand Mars Hill Church. I’m jealous of the resources Mars Hill Church has. Mars Hill Church has it figured out. Mars Hill Church just doesn’t get it.

Confused? So am I. Let me try to explain.

If you’ve never heard of Mars Hill Church, check out their website. Yes, that is an impressive website for a Church. Very, very slick and probably very expensive to maintain. I first heard about the Church from my friend Mike. Mike was a very good friend of mine during my freshmen year at WWU. Mike and I attended The INN, a non-denominational church service designed for college students. On days when he wasn’t playing the drums, we’d sit up in the balcony to take in the experience and we’d walk home talking about faith and other deep subjects. It was something I looked forward to each week, and I was sad Mike wound up transferring away from Western.

Fortunately for me, I reconnected with Mike after we both graduated. After moving back to the Seattle area Mike began attending Mars Hill and he told me the type of sermons he heard. They were challenging and touched on controversial and extremely relevant social topics. I had instant respect for what was going on, even though I had never heard of the place. It wasn’t until a few years later that I saw their pastor, Mark Driscoll, being interviewed on CNN (or one of those channels) that I decided to really look at what was going on, mainly through their website.

Mars Hill gets it. They understand the power of the Gospel and how much its needed in a city like Seattle. They understand how hurt people can be by buying into this culture’s lies, so the pastor Mark talks about these in a caring yet challenging manor. The people know their “Preaching Pastor” loves them, and their “Preaching Pastor” understands his role in helping them encounter the Risen Lord. He also understands the need for unity of belief among Christians. Mars Hill has grown to 10 locations, including one as far away as Albuquerque NM. On most Sundays, they use Satellite and Internet technology to broadcast the sermon to each location. They obviously want to expand their Church, and I don’t think its out of the realm of possibility that they will one day be in every state, if not every country.

And they just don’t get it! They don’t get how Catholic they are trying to be, and they don’t know how Catholic they will never be.

The reason they are trying to be Catholic, which means “universal,” is that they interpret the bible correctly. They believe that God offers salvation to all people, and that this can only happen through Jesus Christ. Jesus prays that all His believers may be one (John 17:20-21). Mars Hill Church believes this. The Catholic Church believes it too. One in mind, one in faith, one in deed. But the Catholic Church has attained this long before internet and satellite technology. One way is through the lectionary, which is the cycle of readings that we hear every day at Mass. The Catholic Church has recognized the right of every Christian to hear the word of God and established the universal lectionary so that the entire Church might hear the word – not just words that the pastor is comfortable preaching. For centuries, unity of mind, faith and deed have been promoted through gathering the Church leaders (which the early Church and modern Catholic Church called bishops) at Councils, which find their scriptural precedent in Acts 15. These councils continued with Nicea and Constantinople which formulated the creeds which have been recited as a symbol of unity across generations. Still, these councils continued through the ages with the councils of Chalcedon, Lateran, Trent, and Vatican to name a few. Furthermore, when a pressing need arises, the Pope has made use of encyclicals to speak on issues of politics, economics, human rights, theology and faith, and a host of moral issues.

Can Mars Hill achieve this type of unity? Of course. Who knows? it might! But Jesus designed His Church to attain a unity that goes beyond even belief and charitable/moral actions. Jesus established the Eucharist. In this celebration, Christians enter into the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus. It is not a repeat of the sacrifice. It is the same sacrifice that is re-presented in a non bloody way. When I am at Mass, I -and all Catholics around the world- are made present to that single event in history. Past and future are made present. Every Christian who partakes in this mystery who has ever lived is united with God and each other because the Eucharist is really the substantial presence of Jesus Christ, who is physically in heaven right now. It doesn’t get anymore universal than that. A relationship with Jesus does not get more personal than that.

That is why Mars Hill can never be what the Catholic Church is at this very moment. I long for the day when we will be united under our Risen Lord.


More Death Cab

February 4, 2010

The song is “Stability.” Its long, but good. Slow, maybe a bit repetitive and somewhat hypnotic. I can’t get enough of it. I’m listening to it as I write a paper on “Priests as Fathers.”


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.


    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.


    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.