Please don’t feel abandoned!

Not that you would, but it’s been a week!  I’m out and about.  I tithed my time at church this week, meaning I gave 10 percent of my week to working or being at church.  Between parish council meeting, gardening, buying security stuff, feeding the priest, feeding the parish, and fund raising, it’s been a very busy week.  Stay tuned!

Along with the effort sometimes comes tribulation…

I said, a couple of posts ago, that we were excited to be working, actually hands on, roll-up-your-sleeves working, in my parish.  Along with that comes considerable investment.  We give that freely, because we’ve been soooooo blessed.  But we negotiate, because it’s all hard-earned money.  We’ve spent something north of $1000 in the last month or so.  We got good bang for the buck, and in fact, we gave some plants we nurtured at home for years.

Sigh, and then someone comes along and messes things up.  Someone actually walked up to this planter, and yanked out a $50 bush, taking the trouble to plant something else there!  Who would steal from a church??? Well, they do.  A few parishes over, someone went in and ripped off the AC systems, apparently for the copper.  Twice.

At any rate, now we’re looking at security cameras.   I thought that city-parishes, like the one I’m in almost every day, needed security cameras, but I guess even in the boonies.

A bit discouraging.  And to think that last night there was so much enthusiasm at our parish council meeting.  The first one I went to a year ago, it was so dry! Last night people were actually talking about growing our parish, with enthusiasm.  Well, growing pains…ya know?

Finally, a parish I can work in!

Sometimes, patience pays…I’ve been a Catholic for 8 years, and have always been raring to take it to the streets, evangelize anyone I see, of course, with love.  But you know, sometimes it’s hard to ‘work in’ to a parish culture…Whether the meetings are convenient or during work, or whatever.  Sometimes, the structure inherent in a Catholic parish is hard to get into.  A little more than a year ago, we found a parish that is close by, and a good community at heart.  But a dying community.  The town is small, there is little industry, and because of it’s proximity, it’s hard for new people to move in.  So it’s an elder community.  And because of that, there is little or no CCD, or Confirmation, or RCIA, or Adult Faith Formation.  In fact, we thought that there was no maintenance, per se, and so we asked pastoral permission to do some work in the landscape, and suddenly, they all came out of the woodwork, so to speak.  We started a project, and ran out of time on the weekend, and on Monday, someone wanted to know what we were thinking…so when we explained, bing!bam!boom! the work got done in no time!

I don’t know whether it was the old priest, or what happened, but it happens to seem like there was a lack of systems in the parish, and things are starting to get done.  Last Sunday, we had a decided increase in attendance, and some children coming who need faith formation.

Prayers, please.  We’re growing this parish!

Who wrote first???

In the homily, yesterday, our pastor mentioned, with some certainty, that Mark wrote first, Matthew and Luke came after.  While not detracting, at all, from the content of his homily, I wanted to comment on all this.

I’ve said before, on here, that I think there’s a reason Matthew comes first, Mark, second, and Luke 3rd, in the pecking order of the gospels.  People often wonder why the three gospels seem similar, and to answer that question, I guess I would just have to say that they’re about the same Person-Jesus.  That’s why they’re so similar.

While ruminating over writing about this, I thought of several examples to account for similarities, and differences.  Yes, both, at the same time.  They’re similar because they’re all about one person.  They’re different because the writers are telling the same stories to different audiences.

Example: Did anyone watch any sporting events this weekend?  Did anyone watch a supposedly neutral television crew exhibit any bias toward the opposing team?  You know, the one you weren’t rooting for?  I find myself, when I’m watching a game, sometimes asking rhetorically “Wait a minute? Which side are you rooting for?” when Troy Aikman and Joe Buck are announcing a game.  It’s true of any human reportage about any event-it’s impossible for someone to report any event without inserting his own bias.  So what about two reporters rooting for the same side to different audiences?  For example, in the US Open, Kei Nishikori was playing in the finals.  There were reporters from all over the world, and you can bet that the Japanese reporters were reporting for their native son.  But suppose there was a French reporter doing play by play, or even John McEnroe?  Would they report different? You know they would!  Even eye-witnesses being asked the same question by the same reporter won’t say the same thing, and if they do, you know something is wrong.

In the same vein, I started watching a 2-hour special on Stonehenge last night…anyone else watching?  I think it’s fascinating, but when they’re taking bits and pieces of rock, bone, or pottery out of the ground, how can we expect them to get the story right?  I watch these things, but often with skepticism, with the question foremost in my mind…”Were you there???”

Third attempt-Adrian Peterson

First, it’s a bad couple of weeks for the NFL.  The problem seems to be delayed reaction at the behest of public scrutiny, to several “news” items (news in quotes because they’re not news…).  But I want to say that there’s a difference in all the incidents.  Several of them included girl-friend beating or wife-beating, or woman-beating.  And one included disciplining a child.  And there’s the difference.

I’m not saying that any of them are bad men.  I think it’s hard for people earning a living in violence to really leave it in ‘the office’.  I also think that having loads of money affects people.  Nobody needs loads of money.  And sometimes, when you have loads of money, it’s hard to figure out what to do with it.  You can buy a nice house for your family members because they sacrificed to help you get where you are.  You can buy a big fish tank and be on television in the off-season.  But when all that bores you, you can go be an outlaw.  Speeding through traffic, out until 4 a.m., and so on.  And because you live your life in public, you have cameras all around, and any little mis-step can be filmed and exposed on TMZ.  No thanks.

At any rate, Adrian Peterson.  Adrian Peterson is one of the faces of the NFL, despite the fact that he has had seven children by seven different mothers, none of whom he’s married to. One was killed by the mother’s boy-friend, a child Adrian never met.  Adrian disciplined his four-year-old child, and granted, the child could have done with a spanking, and be done.  I don’t know, though, that he deserves to be indicted for anything.  I don’t believe he did anything criminal.  He made a mistake-he went overboard in disciplining his child.  My dad went ballistic on me once.  And there’s times I wish there was discipline in some of the kids I’ve seen.  Unfortunately, there’s not.

Family discipline is a private thing. Any adult looks bad spanking a child.  So it’s private.  That the public has pictures of the incident is…disturbing.

I really have mixed feelings about all this stuff going on.  I believe teams should hold their players responsible for their behavior.  I also don’t believe in ‘paid’ separation from the team.  And I believe that, if a player gets in trouble with the law, the player needs to inform the team, and the team needs to immediately remove the player from the roster.  And the NFL needs to enforce that, to a T.

I also believe that it’s time for Roger Goodell to step down.  His judgement is lacking, and he’s detracting from the entertainment of the NFL.  Being a player, or a participant in the NFL is something many people dream of, and it should be a privilege to be associated with it.  There needs to be a zero-strikes policy, based on some common criteria.  We also need to decriminalize the NFL.

I will admit, I’m short on what should be done.  Because it appears that Ray Rice told the Commissioner exactly what happened, and should be rewarded for his honesty in the face of some embarrassing circumstances.  I mean you pay for your crime, but maybe the NFL should pay for his counseling…There needs to be a system, though.   The NFL is not good for people who lack moral character.

Three Good Reasons to Do Two Things on Sundays in the Fall (Instead of One)

Three Good Reasons to Do Two Things on Sundays in the Fall (Instead of One).

 

Three Good Reasons to Do Two Things on Sundays in the Fall (Instead of One)

My wife often jokes to our friends, “We do 2 things on Sundays in the fall: Go to Mass and watch the Broncos game.”

As a lifelong fan of the Orange and Blue, the fall Sunday ritual has been a mainstay for as long as I can remember. For most of my life, I lived and died from August through January on Terrell Davis touchdowns, Jake Plummer bootlegs, Al Wilson sacks, Tim Tebow (yes, Tim Tebow) scrambles, and the Mile High Salute. Whether Denver won or lost usually determined the mood I was in for the rest of that day, and sometimes that week. It was heartbreak when they lost (a lot of heartbreak particularly in 2009 & 2010), and heaven when they won.

This is still my favorite Super Bowl win (unfortunately...)
Still my favorite Super Bowl win (unfortunately…)

Throughout that time, I still went to Mass and watched the Broncos game on Sundays, but for the most part I might as well have only been doing one. I understood fully why I was watching Broncos games, but I didn’t fully understand the importance of Mass. I was faithful to both, but I wasn’t sure why I was faithful to the latter.

About two years ago, that started to change. I still loved the Broncos as much as ever, but I began to seek out and understand more fully why it was important to love Mass as well. This is what I’ve learned:

1. NFL players are no different that you and I.

Well, at least on the level of our souls and worth as human beings we’re no different. As I began to learn more about the faith, particularly my Catholic faith and the idea that God created everyone in his image, I started to place it in the context of my love for watching football. I realized quickly that glorifying a sport or a team like I had been doing automatically included the glorification of some (if not many) of the players playing the game. They were made out to be gods by the media, fans, and companies, and I bought into it.

Buying into that glorification always involved thinking highly of that player when he did well, but denigrating him and calling his worth into question when he stunk it up. It was a rude awakening when I realized how gross of an offense it was against not only his dignity, but my own dignity as well. I was basing a fellow human’s worth off their performance in a game, and I was hurting my own soul in the process.

2. There’s a difference between pleasure and joy.

It’s nearly impossible to describe with human words the burst of emotion that happens when Peyton Manning connects with Demaryius Thomas on a 50 yard bomb for the score, or when a receiver running across the middle gets lit up by a roving middle linebacker. It’s also hard to describe the disbelief, say, when the center snaps the ball over your quarterback’s head on the first play of the Super Bowl (but we don’t need to bring that up…)

That euphoria is a good thing. Make no mistake, God created pleasure. Pleasure is, by it’s very nature, a good thing. BUT, pleasure, like anything, used in the wrong context or elevated to an unsustainable level is no longer good. Pleasure is good as a means, but not as an end.

Joy, on the other hand, is an end that should be sought instead of pleasure, and, quite honestly, the distinction is very difficult to wrestle with. It came natural to me to put all my stock in a game that exacted such a visceral and enjoyable reaction each week, but the high, inevitably, was followed by a crash. Every time. Without fail. It felt, likewise, very unnatural (and often uncomfortable) to go into a quiet place and quiet myself for an hour.

The problem, I began to notice, was that hedging my happiness on the next game not only was unsustainable, but it was, more importantly, unproductive in terms of my overall well being. I was self-focused and seeking my own fulfillment, instead of looking outward and offering my life to Christ through helping others and being attentive and intentional at Mass. Trying to see what people and things could do for me were shallow waters. I learned that it was through the action of self-giving, on the other hand, that a person ultimately attains joy within their own life.

3. It’s okay to love football…

…but not more than your relationship with the Lord. Sports have a place in living a virtuous life, without a doubt. Pope Francis himself is a huge fan. The training of one’s body to compete at a high level, the dedication to doing so for the good of the team, and the parallels sports offer to essential lessons in life all come straight from Scripture. After all, it was St. Paul who said in 1 Corinthians, “Run so as to win.”

But sports, the NFL in particular, have stopped occupying merely a place in life and have become its center for so many people in our country and around the world. And, in many cases, who can blame them? Often, sports is the only stable thing in a kid’s life. Other times people have little in life to look forward to other than rooting for their favorite teams. Still, for these cases especially, it’s important for every athlete, coach, and fan to recognize that sports must remain just a way of learning to live life well, rather than becoming the end-all be-all of life itself.

After instructing the people of Corinth to “Run so as to win,” Paul said this:

Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.
No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:25-27; emphasis added)

As much as I loved them, I realized that the Broncos, the NFL, sports in general, only offer perishable crowns. They still have value for my life, but they aren’t the value. A “relationship” with or a devotion to sport could never, ever measure up to the relationship and devotion I began to experience at Mass and in my growing relationship with God, the Creator of the imperishable crown.

The devotion you hold most dear is sometimes obvious, but more often, as it was in my case, it’s hidden and harder to see. So I challenge you, as another football season begins, to take a hard look this fall and ask yourself one question:

Which crown am I seeking?