Happy Easter – Jesus is on line one

Do you have a cell phone?  Does your cell phone tell you who it is that is trying to call you?  Do you usually check that caller ID and decide, based on who it is, whether to answer the phone or not?

“Answer”, “Ignore” or “Send to voicemail”?

I do! In all honesty, when someone at my school says to me, “You have a call on line one,” I almost always ask, “Who is it?”  Then, I decide if the person is worthy of my time, if I am prepared to talk to that person, if I don’t like that person or if it is conversation I would prefer to have later.  I am sure the same thing happens to me when I call others as well.  I am not offended , trust me, I am a high school principal.  Try calling a parent in the middle of the day.

Caller ID

I love caller ID.  When I know who is calling, I know how I am going to react.  I am going to pickup the phone if it is my mom or wife because I want to make sure they are OK.  I am going to pick up my calendar if it is my Pastor because he probably has something for me to do.  I am not going to always pick up the phone if it is my best friend because, we will talk forever and I got to make sure I have time to sit and chat.  I am not going to pick up the phone at all if I am driving because that is dangerous and I am not trying to kill anyone. Like many of you, I make these discernments each time my phone rings.  And that it OK.

If it is God, pick up and answer!

But, when it comes to Christ, when it comes to God, you can’t hit the “ignore” button but so many times; Can I get an amen?  I shouldn’t say to God,” I will call you back later.”  You shouldn’t say to God, “Not now I am busy.”  We shouldn’t say to God, “I have something more important to do.” You can’t say to God, “This isn’t a good time, go talk to someone else and get back to me later.”  You can’t put God into your voicemail but so many times.  When God calls, you must pick up the phone and answer.  And unlike your mother, pastor, wife or best friend, don’t simply say “Hello.”  Answer God’s call by saying, “Here I am Lord, what do you want me to do!”

Are you sure you have the right number?

Brother and sisters, I know at least for me, I have put God on hold many times in my life.  I hit the ignore button, turned on my voice mail and took a message.  And he kept calling.  I tried my best to not be a deacon but God kept calling and I kept saying, “You must have the wrong number.”  God said, “Follow me” and I said, but I don’t have the time. I said to myself, “Most Deacon’s are retired, I still have to work” (Which isn’t true by-the-way, but that was my excuse at the time).  God said, “I gave you that job that keeps you so busy, want to keep it?”  I said “God, I have not studied religion since high school, and I wasn’t all that great at it.”  God said, “I am the perfect teacher, I can teach anyone, including you.”  I even said “God, I am really not sure I am worthy.” And God said, “I know; That is why the Holy Spirit will be heavily involved in this endeavor.”  Like the disciples on the Sea of Galilee, with me, God knew whom he was calling.  Sometimes, we think God doesn’t know what he is doing don’t we?  God’s doesn’t ask for a resume because he already knows our qualifications.  This is important because we often ignore God’s call not out of spite for Our Lord but rather lack of confidence in the graces he has given us.  You see, God is not asking us to change who we are, he is asking us to take the talents that he built into us and use them for the Kingdom of God.

I knew you before you were formed in the womb

I often meditate upon the reason why God chose fisherman to be the first disciples, the first Bishops of the flock.  Maybe because fishing was a dangerous profession and he needed men who would not be frightened easily.  Maybe it was because fisherman had to be patient and building the Kingdom of God requires among many things patience.  Perhaps it was because fisherman had to be able to read subtle changes in the weather and water conditions in order to fill their nets and those same skills were needed in leading the early Christian community.  Perhaps it was because fisherman rarely worked alone and they had a sense of community that he wanted in his Church on Earth.  Maybe it was all of the above and maybe it was a set of qualities that I have yet to understand. But he never said to them, “Stop being fisherman.”  Rather, I will take those skills I gave you and make yourselves “Fishers of men.”

Brothers and sisters, when God calls us, he knows what he is doing and he knows whom he is calling.  When you answer God’s call, you will never hear God say, “Sorry, I dialed the wrong number!”   I heard a priest say once, “God never calls the qualified but qualifies everyone he calls.”

Each of us has a talent or a gift that God wants us to use to build his Kingdom.  God is calling us to use that talent.  For some of us, you are being called to lector, join the choir, be a minister of holy communion, join the St. Vincent de Paul Society become active in any number of ministries we have in an average parish.  Your phone is ringing, answer the call, it’s God!  Some of you are called to be priests, deacons, religious sisters or brothers.  Don’t send God to your voice mail, answer and say, “Here I am Lord.”  Some of you are called to be married and to be parents, maybe even adoptive parents, God is calling, don’t text him back saying, “I am busy.”

Say yes!

Brothers and sisters, God is calling and when we answer yes, he doesn’t promise that our life will be easy.  But, he promises that our life will be fulfilled.  In your prayer life, God is calling; Through your friends, God is calling;  Through the voices of your family, God is calling.  Perhaps even through this blog post, God is calling.  Answer the phone and say, “Here I am Lord.  What do you want me to do?”   Happy Easter!

Name it and claim it!

“Name it and claim it” is a common refrain in historically African American churches. It refers to any one the many blessings God has in store for us every day.  It also refers to the type of attitude a faithful one must have in order to receive a blessing from the Lord.  The Holy Scripture says that, “If any of your lacks wisdom, ask it of the Lord who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly.  But, that person must ask in faith. For the person without faith is like the wave, tossed and driven by the wind, erratic in all things. Such a person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” – James 1:3

“Prosperity Gospel”

I have heard this refrain used poorly, especially by a few preachers that appear on television.  They have a theology, often referred to as “prosperity gospel” that suggests that this refrain can be used for material gain – Claim a luxury car and God will give it to you.  I have never been motivated by the refrain for material reasons.  Furthermore, a humble Christian does not order God around.  Rather, like Christ taught, we say, “Your will be done.”  “Name it and claim it” should help me focus on the spiritual blessings of God such as wisdom, faith, hope and charity.  My material needs will take care of themselves – And I don’t NEED a luxury car!

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

At my school we use this refrain and this scripture to encourage each other and to help one another focus on Christ.  For example, when I am dreading a certain meeting or a possible negative encounter, I am tempted to say to myself, “This is going to be a horrible day!”. It is at this moment that I must remember to “Name it, then claim it!” If I name my blessing as “This is a day that the Lord has made” then I can claim it.  In other words, God’s blessings are always before us.  It is just that sometimes, we cannot see the blessing and thus, we fail to claim it.

Name it and claim it!

As you read this, name and claim a blessing.  If nothing more, you have the blessing seeking a relationship with God.  Sometimes, that alone is enough!

Prayer – "Hand to Hand" Combat

Peace be with you!

After a prayer service for peace in the troubled neighborhood in which I teach, I was asked, if it were legal, would I carry a weapon for protection. I pulled out a rosary and said, “I already do!”

Armed and dangerous

Ok, I was being a little factitious. But, I really meant it. I try to pray the rosary each day on my way to work. I think often about the 15 promises of the rosary and realize that it is indeed a powerful weapon. In fact, any prayer in the name of Christ is a powerful weapon. But, unlike a firearm, it cannot backfire, there is no moral question that needs resolved before its use, it cannot be turned around and used against me, it will never fail and the only training I need is found in my faith.

Furthermore, it is weapon that can effectively defend me against evil but unlike a firearm, it cannot be used to harm anyone else or used in a vengeful manner.

Is it proper to refer to a pious devotion as a weapon?

The Holy Father spoke of the Rosary as “a particular prayer of the Church and a spiritual weapon for each of us.”

Ephesians teaches us — “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you are able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Therefore take unto you the whole armor of God, so that you are able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, take the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” -Ephesians 6:10-11, 13-17

Earthly vs. Spiritual Weapons

The word “weapon” is often associated with pain, destruction and death. Unfortunately, Earthly weapons are often used unwisely for these purposes. However, when we are talking about the use of spiritual weapons for the destruction of death and sin, we should all seek to be armed and dangerous.

Brothers and sisters, as Lent approaches, don’t forget to arm yourself!

Catholicism – the original "megachurch"

The Original Megachurch

Imagine 25,000 young Catholics cheering for their bishops, priests, religious and deacons! Imagine a standing ovation at the mere mention of the Holy Father. Then imagine a moment in the Mass when those same 25,000 young people come together in a perfect silence while praying for the safety of the unborn.

That was the scene at the Mass for Life in Washington’s Verizon Center. Here is the really neat part. About four miles away the same thing was happening with another 10,000 young Catholics in the DC Armory building. Now, add the rest of us older folks attending Mass in dozens of parishes throughout the city and you had a pretty exciting day to be Catholic.

I have been to several hockey and basketball games in the Verizon Center but no professional athletic team could excite me more than that many teens worshiping Christ and resolving themselves to fight for the rights of the unborn.

You were created for a purpose

This week, we mark the sad anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized the murder of the unborn. Please continue to pray for and end to abortion. Pray for the women who have suffered an abortion and certainly pray for the children who never got a chance at life.

The Church has a future

Finally, if you get discouraged, please know that future of our Church is brighter than you might think. I know of at least 35,000 young people who are ready and willing to be workers in the vineyard.

Why I will go to the March for Life

As a follow up to Msgr. Pope’s post “I have a dream about the Pro-Life March” I would like to offer my reason for going to downtown Washington on Monday.

In the Archdiocese of Washington virtually every deacon ordained in the past ten years or so spends one summer of their formation working in a crisis pregnancy center. Now, I don’t mind admitting that I did everything I could to avoid this requirement of formation. I was nervous about counseling women who were faced with an unexpected pregnancy. I was especially nervous because I knew I was trying to save two lives – the mother and her unborn child. I worried mostly that I would do something wrong and the stakes were too high to tolerate my inexperience or mistakes.

As it turns out, it was one of the most remarkable experiences of my formation.

Seeking the light.

Contrary to some popular misconceptions, most crisis pregnancy centers do not “bait and switch” women. In fact, the one at which I worked made it clear, before a client entered, that it did not counsel or refer for abortions. Some women read that statement a left without another question. Many however would respond, “I know; that is why I am here.”   I learned quickly that many of the women who came to the center had already suffered the trauma of an abortion and never wanted to experience that pain again.  They actually sought us out because we would counsel them toward healthier solutions to their unexpected pregnancy.

One life ended, another one harmed.

The harmful effects of an abortion on the unborn is obvious. It ends a life. But the effect on the mother often goes overlooked. In fact, many women are not warned by an abortionist about the potential emotional harm that comes from ending a life. My passion for the March for Life does not come from a personal experience or even a contrived political leaning. Rather, it comes from a desire to prevent the death of an unborn innocent AND the pain a procured abortion has on the mother.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” – Jeremiah 1:5

Before my ministry at the crisis pregnancy center, I never attended the March for Life.  I certainly embraced the teachings of our Church and supported the efforts of those who went but, the passion in my own heart was lacking. This Monday, I will be in downtown Washington. I will go to the Mass at the Verizon Center and I will pray in front of the Supreme Court. I will pray for the women I met, for their children and for those women and children who may become victims of abortion in the future. I also hope that many more of the faithful have their eyes opened to the pain abortion causes to its multiple victims.  And, I hope that someone reading this will join me for the first time in Washington on Monday.

Every Saint was a sinner and every sinner could be a Saint.

That could never be me!

While getting ready for Mass one Sunday, one of my fellow parishioners commented that he felt so far from the Kingdom of God sometimes. Specifically, he said that when listening to the stories of the saints, his only thought is, “That could never be me!” 

His comment was not simply a statement of humility but rather one of despair.

You should have known me when. . .

The stories of the saints are supposed to inspire us but if we think the saints were born perfect, sainthood does seem unattainable. Only Saint Mary, the Mother of God, was born without sin. The rest of the Saints had the same human weaknesses and failings that all of us pilgrims on Earth are experiencing now. Saint Peter denied Christ three times. Saint Augustine was raised by a Christian mother but became pagan before turning his life back over to Christ. Each declared Saint of God was a flawed sinner. In fact, some of their flaws were far greater than ours. Yet, God can meet anyone anywhere in their lives and lead them to heaven, including you and me!

Not perfect, just holy.

There is a big difference between being perfect and being holy. I work every day on holiness, not perfection. There has been only one perfect man in the history of humankind and you all know what we did to him. I have no interest in being perfect. Being holy on the other hand is something I strive for everyday. 

The saints were certainly not perfect. But, each of them was holy even though they were sinful. 

In the midst of the holy season of Christmas, let’s strive to be holy, not perfect!

How’s that for a New Year’s resolution?

A Ghost of Christmas-Present

Bah Humbug!

For years, I have been a Scrooge! Let me distinguish that from a “Grinch.” The latter wishes to steel Christmas. I don’t wish diminish the joy of people who seem to love the season. For years, I just haven’t happened to be one of those people. Thus, I am a “Scrooge” not a “Grinch”

More specifically, I grimace at the first decorations that appear in the mall. I wince at the thought of shopping and I really find decorating an unwelcome chore.  When asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” my response is often less-than-charitable.  And, as a matter of further disclosure, I was born on December 25th.  That alone is enough reason to be a Scrooge.  (More on the pains of being a Christmas baby later)

Now, of course as a Christian, I joyfully celebrate the “Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord”. The theological significance of the day is not lost on me but, I just don’t like the secularism that intrudes on the season. And I recently realized that I have allowed my disdain for the secularism of Christmas to diminish the spiritual joy the season should bring.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Like Ebenizer Scrooge, God sent me a “Ghost of Christmas Present.”  However, she isn’t ghost but rather one of the English teachers at my school. This young colleague discovered my lack of enthusiam about Christmas and set herself on a mission to get me to better like the season. She is the type of young teacher that has an abundance of innocent idealism, much of which I have abandoned years ago.  And, through the grace of God, some of her idealism penetrated the hardened heart that I have unfortunately developed over the years about Christmas.

Welcomed insubordination

She admitted flat out, “Curtis, I am going to get you to like Christmas!” to which I replied, “Don’t try!”  Now, that sounded like a pretty clear order to me.  It was clear to her too but, she thankfully chose to be insubordinate.

First, when my school had a door decorating competition, I hung a “bah humbug” sign on my office door. Against my wishes, she took upon herself to decorate my door as pictured. Then, she insisted that I wear red and green one day (I didn’t do that one!). She even tried saying “Merry Christmas” in the most annoying way every time she passed me in the hallway.  Of course, I replied each time with a hearty, “Bah Humbug!”

Finally she sent me an email that contained the following:

“At this time of year, people come together, even though you are the scrooge of the season, it is a time when you can really hope and pray for a light in the darkness, its a time where anything is possible….Mary gave birth as a virgin in a barn for goodness sake.

It is a time when people think about each other, families re-unite, make great journeys to see each other, good friends, old friends and distant friends take the time to send a card that has been selected just for them, with really personalized contents.

Of course it would be nice to do that all year round, but lets face it, it isn’t possible really!….Its also a time when you can talk about Christ, where Jesus can penetrate, all-be-it subtly, every mall, home and even every public school. You can spread the Gospel just by humming a carol.

This is your time to go out and really minister to those who usually would not otherwise be open to listening.”

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Brothers and sisters, this came from a young teacher. This is someone I am supposed to be guiding and mentoring. But sometimes, the Holy Spirit allows the master to become the student. And the real miracle, she restored some of the idealism that I abandoned long ago.

Normally, if a teacher is insubordinate, I would write them up.  So, for the record, a hard copy of this blog entry will go into her file.

Thank you Ms. Waterhouse, English Teacher and Friend, Saint Frances Academy!

Oh, and Merry Christmas too!

How long is this prayer?

OK – It has been over a month since my last posting. And just today, I realized that I fell into the very trap that I often preach to others about avoiding – namely, rushing your relationship with God.

How long is this prayer?

I was recently at a meeting. This meeting had an ambitious agenda and I was worried that we would not cover all of the items in a timely manner. The meeting started with prayer and the prayer was longer than normal. It was so long in fact that I actually found myself looking up from the table and, instead of praying with everyone else, I was wondering, “How long is this prayer?”

Don’t rush your relationship with God

Providentially, I immediately recognized the absurdity of my thought and joined everyone else in prayer. However, on my way home, I started to reflect on other ways I may have been trying to rush through my relationship with God. Do I get impatient because Mass is going a little longer than expected? Do I forget to say grace before my meals? Do I neglect going to a Bible study class because I am too busy? Do I go too long between blog posts? (A definite “yes” to the last question)

Love is patient

I suspect that many of us are more susceptible to this trap at Christmas time. The traffic around popular shopping areas is heavier. Even the local pharmacy and grocery store are difficult to navigate quickly. My calendar quickly fills up with extra commitments during the month of December. At times, I feel hurried, anxious and edgy. But, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us that with our God, “Love is patient” (1 Cor 13:4)

Take the time to pray. It is time well spent!

My prayer for myself and for you is that your love is patient especially during the Christmas season. And if you find yourself looking at your watch during Mass, forgetting to say grace before meals or asking yourself “How long is this prayer?” remember, we have a God that is willing to listen to us ramble on for hours if necessary. God’s love is patient and no prayer is too long or too short!