Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love December. I love the "Christmas season" - although, let's get this straight. It's Advent and Christmas starts on December 25th and goes until the Wise Men come in January. But to the rest of the world, it's the Christmas season right now. As a youth minister, it's my job to explain to others (especially the youth) what Advent really is and to tell them to focus on Advent and preparing themselves for the real meaning of Christmas. I don't think this means doing away with all the holiday festivities though.

Some people get so upset about how commercialized Christmas has become and how everyone has Christmas decorations up already. Calm down people. I happen to like it, and I'm going to attempt to explain why!

While it is annoying that stores begin putting out Christmas stuff right after Halloween and all throughout November, once it's the Friday after Thanksgiving, I say go all out! Turn up that Christmas music, get those lights out on the house, deck the halls and trim the tree. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. God came into our world, incarnate, 2,000 years ago, it is certainly a time to celebrate! Even though he wasn't actually born on December 25th, today we consider it his birthday. And what do we do for birthdays? We decorate, we buy gifts, we go all out for the ones we love. Whose to say God doesn't love all the decorations we put up!? Some even put manger scenes up in the yards (go you!). This time of year is also about the "Spirit of Christmas." My mom is huge on that. And the Church, herself, offers so many wonderful opportunities to celebrate this "spirit," such as St. Nicholas day, the Immaculate Conception, 4 weeks of Advent, our Lady of Guadalupe, and many more. It is definitely a stressful time, but it's also a joyful time. It's a month to really cherish time with family and friends and the many traditions you have or are creating. It's a month to remind you of childhood excitement and wonder and awe. It's a month to admire the beauty of what is around us (lights, decorations, love). It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What Happened to Downtime?

Today I came across an article that discusses our lack of downtime, sacred space, and deep thinking. Or as the author puts it: What happened to downtime? The extinction of deep thinking & sacred space. Maybe this is why my brain thinks about work when I'm at home, sleeping, and in the shower. I don't have a lot of processing time at work because I'm always connected and distracted with my computer. I guess this means I need to make the time myself, I need to shut down my e-mail and web browser for 15 min and work up to an hour. Baby steps.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Quotes

Last night at Adoration I began reading the newest book by Fr. Larry Richards, "Surrender!" I've seen him speak at conferences several times and he's always been inspiring, so when I heard he was coming out with a new book, I jumped at the opportunity to purchase it. I'm not even through the first chapter yet, but several quotes jumped out at me last night and I thought I'd share them:

When we fall, God is still pleased with us for wanting to do His will (p14) 
Holiness is who we are - not what we do (p15)
We are holy...because God dwells in us, not because we are good people 
Sanctity or holiness is a by-product of love. It is not an end in itself (p19) 
You can be holy and still be real (p20)

When I put the book down and began chatting with God, one of the first prayers that came to my mind was to ask for holiness for R and I. And then I was like, whoa, wait, Fr. Larry just said that we're already holy! So I changed the prayer to ask that we grow in our holiness. :)

I'm excited to finish this book. Fr. Larry presents the journey of faith as something very real and he gives tangible examples of how to grow in holiness (at least at the talks I've been to this has been the case). If you'd like to learn a bit more about Fr. Larry and his foundation, A Reason For Our Hope, check out their website:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Things to Check Out

Alright, two things that have caught my eye that others have posted. The first is an article off of CNN how men are "in trouble." Basically, no one is teaching boys/guys/men how to be true men. Well, that's my opinion, anyway.

The second is a video of a college band performing Party Rock Anthem. And they actually shuffle! Enjoy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blessings and Coffee

Happy National Coffee Day! And happy Feast of the Archangels!

This past month has flown by and I cannot believe that October will be here on Saturday! I've got a few speculations as to why this month seemed to disappear, and it wasn't because I've been terribly busy with meetings galore during the week. We moved all high school formation sessions to Sunday night, which has freed up Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights for me. That has been a major blessing!

At work, I've also been blessed with an amazing supervisor. I know that I have his full support and it's also nice to have some actual guidance in my job. He's kick-started the process of putting together a three-year plan for youth ministry. So blessed to be able to work with him.

On the mornings I stop at Starbucks I'm blessed with a sweet smile from the baristas, as well as delicious coffee. It's a nice way to start the work day.

This past month I have celebrated many things with many friends, such as birthdays, baby showers, our parish young adult ministry, running a 5K, our youth softball team winning 2nd place. Those days and moments were filled with much joy and laughter, as we blessed each other with fellowship and smiles, and as we were all blessed in the gift of friendship.

As we approach the month of October, I get more excited to celebrate all the beautiful feast days our Catholic Church gives us! We are so blessed to be a part of a church that is steeped in traditions and the holy examples of the saints who went before us. Two of my favorites: Therese of Lisieux (Oct 1) and Teresa of Avila (Oct 15). Their stories of love and faith are so inspiring, what blessings!

And perhaps the biggest blessing this month has been the start of a new relationship. Last month I was not expecting to meet anyone; funny how God works sometimes. :) Just being with him melts my stress away. And somehow this relationship is helping me in my relationship with God. Blessing after blessing after blessing. :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sanctifying the Day

I love starting the day with morning prayer from Liturgy of the Hours. It used to be such a great habit in college, but I also had friends I prayed with, so we kept each other accountable. And I'll never forget the way-too-early morning prayer during Echo summers, trying to hit the high notes of "Morning has Broken" at 7am. Now I'm trying to get back into the habit. What better way to pray than to use the Universal prayer of the Church!? And turns out that it's much easier to pray in the morning than before bed... those prayers are usually a quick sentence or two thanking God for the day. But with morning prayer, I know I'm sanctifying the whole day and giving it all to God.

I've used morning and night prayer with my youth group; once after a lock-in and once during a youth group session. It seemed to go over fairly well. I think I'll use night prayer a few more times this year for our Sunday evening gatherings.  Someone's gotta teach those kids how to pray. :-P

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter and No Greater Love

I went to see the final Harry Potter movie last night and it was fantastic. It's been a few years since I read the last  book in the series, so I forgot about some of the story elements and how it really is all about love (what Dumbledore stresses to Harry so many times). In the Chronicles of Narnia it's a given that Azlan is a Christ-like figure. In Harry Potter, it doesn't come out until the final book/movies, but his character is also Christ-like!

Throughout the series people died for Harry Potter, and he is known as "The boy who lived." Or perhaps we could even say the chosen or anointed one? The only person he truly fought was Lord Voldemort, or the Evil one. At the end of the book/movie, when Draco and company are about to die in a raging fire, Harry insists on saving them. He knew how to love his enemies. And in the end, with fear pumping through his body, he went to face Lord Voldemort and death. He accepted death, not knowing it wasn't the final death for him.

In his brief time "between worlds" he had a conversation with Dumbledore, and a quite from that really struck me. "Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love." Harry knew love. Throughout the series he was constantly reminded about the love his parents had for him. He was also loved dearly by friends. His love was greater than his circle of safety and comfort though. It extended to those he might not of cared for at first. Ultimately, Harry defeated death and Lord Voldemort with that great love.

Last night as all of this, and more, was going through my mind, my heart hurt for the world. There is a such a lack of love, and yet a deep and unquenchable desire to be loved. All we want, as humans, is to be loved and know that someone cares about us. People seek attention, just look at Facebook! And I know I'm guilty of wanting some social media love as well. We can learn a lot from Harry Potter. Although he is a fictional character and a mere teenager, he lived his life with passion and a purpose. He had courage like none other and he let his love shine through.

This Henri Nouwen quote sums up a lot of the correlations I barely made:

Jesus is given to the world.  He was chosen, blessed, and broken to be given.  Jesus' life and death were a life and death for others.  The Beloved Son of God, chosen from all eternity, was broken on the cross so that this one life could multiply and become food for people of all places and all times.

As God's beloved children we have to believe that our little lives, when lived as God's chosen and blessed children, are broken to be given to others.  We too have to become bread for the world.  When we live our brokenness under the blessing, our lives will continue to bear fruit from generation to generation.  That is the story of the saints - they died, but they continue to be alive in the hearts of those who live after them - and it can be our story too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Death and Ministry

In the past three weeks I have attended three funerals, all of people I did not know. I couldn't help but think that if I was not working in a church, I would not have been at the funerals. The first was a mother of a youth minister from a parish close by, the second was the father of a woman on staff at my parish. I went to give my support and condolences. No matter whose funeral it is, it's always sad. Yes, we're called to rejoice and celebrate their life, but it's difficult when family and friends are grieving that they'll never be able to see their loved one again on earth.

Today's funeral was much different than the other two. Today's funeral was for a 16 year-old boy who's three-year fight with cancer ended last Friday. He attended the parish school and the Catholic high school, so many, many youth were present. The church was packed, as expected, and the torrential afternoon rain probably kept many others at home. Our pastor gave a fantastic homily, making it personal but also explaining the Scriptures chosen. He shared a story about visiting with him, in private, one week before his death. He asked the teen if he had any questions about anything, and he said no, that he was okay. This boy had complete faith in God, that everyone was ok. He was more concerned about his family and friends than his close approach to death. What strength that would take.

The closing song was "How Great Thou Art" and I had to choke back tears as I watched the family leaving, all wiping their own eyes. As I was leaving to head over to the gym for the reception that followed, I saw all these young people with tears in their eyes and I thought "I can't do this." Once I reached the gym I stood against the wall next to a school faculty member. Many people greeted him, for they knew him from when they went to the elementary school. I did not know many of the youth there, maybe 10. I didn't know what to do, I froze. I could have mingled, but even then, what was I to say to people I didn't know? And I thought maybe it was best that they could all be with each other, supporting each other. I didn't even know the boy who died...

I hope that next time (not that I ever want there to be a next time for a teen's death), I'll be better prepared about what to do and say. This is a learning job and we can't be prepared for everything, but we can be better prepared for the future.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Mighty Macs

I came across this today and the movie looks good! Check out the trailer below and the website:

Roses, Roses Everywhere

It has been a tradition at our parish, as well as many others I'm sure, to sell roses on Mother's Day as a fundraiser. I haven't done many fundraisers yet, but overall I'd say it was successful. Unfortunately I have 4 dozen roses left over, which I suppose I'll bring into our Pastoral Center (offices). At first I was a little disappointed; I was hoping to raise about $500 ($700 including the cost of roses), but we brought in just under $400. When the day was done and I was turning the money in, I realized that it was a learning experience and that I needed to be happy with what we did. It could have been a lot worse! I had at least 2 youth at every table for every Mass on Sunday, which was awesome! The money we raised will help students (and their parents) pay for upcoming trips, such as Steubenville, DCYC (Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference), and NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference).

It was a warm and exhausting day, but well worth it. I think we'll do a bake sale on Father's Day weekend to rake in some more money. One girl suggested popcorn balls decorated like baseballs. I'm in.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

We are an Easter People

Sometime in college I actually started to listen to the priest's homilies at my home parish in Wisconsin. It was an Easter homily that I actually liked and realized that his homilies weren't all that bad, they were just difficult to listen to because he was slightly monotoned! He started it with "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song." He then went into what "Alleluia" means and I thought it was a great homily and really liked the quote. Well, this Easter season I saw some others quoting that on Facebook and just found out today that Bl. John Paul II was the one who said it first! Funny how it took 3-4 years to realize it wasn't his own original quote, but one by our beloved and late Pope!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Too Early to Think

This morning I was woken up by my brain thinking about youth ministry things an hour before my alarm was to start playing music! And my brain wouldn't turn off, it kept thinking about more things, mostly about the upcoming rose sale I'll be doing Mother's Day weekend. Praise the Lord I have a 5-day weekend coming up! This brain obviously needs a rest! But... do we ever get a rest from thinking about youth ministry!?

Friday, March 11, 2011

First Sunday of Lent - Gospel Reflection

This morning I was running just a tad late. I thought I was doing great on time with getting ready for the day, until I had to get my lunch together and only 15 minutes before I was supposed to be at a Department Heads meeting. As I was scurrying out the door with ten minutes to make it to work (the usual amount of travel time it takes to get there) I said a quick prayer, "God, please don't let there be any stupid drivers on the road today."

By the time I parked, dropped my stuff of in my office, and headed over to the meeting I was a few minutes late. Thankfully everyone was still chatting. It is a custom to begin all of our meetings by reading the upcoming Sunday Gospel and reflecting on it using a lectio devina style (what word or phrase stick outs to you, what does that word or phrase mean to you, and what comforts or challenges you about the word or phrase).

This upcoming Gospel passage is the temptation of Jesus found in Matthew. The phrase that stuck out to me was: You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test. It was then that I realized that with my little prayer this morning I was testing God; instead of making sure I woke up early enough to get ready and make my lunch, I threw my lack of preparation onto God, expecting Him to magically remove the bad drivers from the road. How often do we test God in our daily lives without even realizing it?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Giving Things Up for Lent

I find it so interesting that so many people give up sweets and/or chocolate for Lent. Or soda, another popular one. There are some legit reasons for doing so, but others may give it up just because it seems like the "norm" or maybe it's the easiest hardest thing to do. For me, I'd rather do things that matter (although I'm not saying that giving up sweets doesn't matter to some!), that affect my spiritual life. It's the night before Ash Wednesday and I'm not 100% positive about what I'll be doing for the next 40(+) days, but I'll figure it out tonight/tomorrow.

I think our Church used to focus so much on giving things up for Lent that it becomes the norm - "what are you giving up for Lent?" is quite a popular question today. But why not "what extra things are you doing for Lent?" Adding more things will affect your spiritual life more than simply giving up some form of food or beverage. I like the idea of giving up the snooze button, as long as it means they're getting up earlier and using that time to pray. That might be a possible "Lenten resolution" for myself. I've also thought about focusing more at work, whether it's cleaning my office or reading an article or book on youth ministry. I've also thought about praying the rosary more, since I've neglected that form of prayer in the past year. I need to pray and discern about what I'll be doing so this Lent will be the best Lent yet.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stages of Change

The other night during Adoration I was thinking about how we, as humans, go through phases and change throughout our lives. But as I continued to reflect further, I wondered if we really change or do we simply continue to grow into the person God created us to be. But growing could be change... as we physically grow older, our bodies change, but is that the change that happens in our minds and hearts? I'm only 25, so I've experienced some "change" and growth, but not as much as a person who is, say, 50, or even 70 years old. The following are what I would say are key moments in formative change in one's life:

  • Starting high school and then Junior year (when one begins to seriously consider college and look to the future).
  • College - Freshman year and Senior year
  • 6 months out of college (either that's after a bachelor degree or master's degree) and learning how to be an adult (and paying student loans...)
  • Engagement and Marriage - making that leap into a commitment you'll have for the rest of your life
  • Children

I know there can be a lot more and it depends on how people approach life and the events they go through, but those are my top 5. I've only gone through the first three and I know there was a lot of growth and development of my personhood in those years. I also believe that the most difficult transition comes from school (college) to adulthood. Sometimes I think back on my college experience and remember how great my prayer life was and I wish it could be like that now, but I also have to remember that I'm at a different place in my life and it can't be the same! So now I have to figure all that out and what does work best for me?

Ok, ramble time is up... back to work! Hopefully the mice won't come out to play until after I'm gone...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Today is a pretty cool day...1/11/11. So many ones! The day started with 8th grade bible study where we finished watching the movie "The Star of Bethlehem." It's pretty cool how an ordinary guy took it upon himself to investigate the star present at the birth of Jesus, but I don't think all his theology is correct. If his findings were 100% correct, why hasn't any church come out and supported him and his research? One thing that stuck out to me was that he said the wise men were probably Jewish, since they had knowledge of Scripture. In my Ignatius Study Bible it said the Magi were Gentiles, which makes sense, since they were from Persia. He also calculated everything and shows that the Magi would have appeared on December 25th, bringing their gifts. Is that what really went down? I'm just a little skeptical, but hello American culture! I think the website is

So then I went to the diocesan youth ministry network; youth minsters from the diocese gather once a month or lunch and are then told about events going on and the like. It's a lot better after attending NCCYM in New Orleans; before I went to the conference and got to hang out more with the yms of the diocese, going to the lunch networks were actually pretty awkward. I was the new person and didn't quite know what to do! But now I feel better about seeing everyone. I'm super excited for NCYC taking place this coming November. It seems like that is right around the corner! But first things first: summer. I'll be taking a group to Steubenville South, which I'm also pumped for and I'm hoping to take a minimum of five teens. We shall see!

Enough with the random post... adios for now!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Ultimate Couple

At Mass this past Sunday I started to think about my grandparents and miss them. It seemed sort of random, I'm not sure what brought it on, but probably the holiday season. My grandpa passed away in February 2009 and my grandma passed away six months later in August 2009. Later that day I wrote a little something about them, thinking about the stories my dad shared with me. It's not perfect, but here it is:

The Ultimate Couple

I didn't even know them that well, but I now know that they were the ultimate couple. Every year brings new stories about my grandparents, especially after their deaths. Some are sad and others are joyful. I know their love ran deep for their grandchildren, but they didn't often express it. My brother and I were their "candy testers," a job we certainly enjoyed (and which probably later led to my brother not liking sweets). We probably spent the night a few times, but only one time do I have memories from; we watched a show on miracles, especially those dealing with Mary. The TV was often on some show or another. My family stopped by after church on Sundays, but when my parents got divorced, my trips were less frequent. My more vivid memories are when they were both ill, especially my grandpa. Every time I saw him he would say that might be the last time. The Christmas before he died was probably the hardest. We all knew he wouldn't be around for very long but put on smiles nonetheless. When I got in my dad's car that night I cried. Saying goodbye is hard, especially when you don't know when you'll say goodbye for the final time.

Till the end, until my grandma's death six months after my grandpa's, their love for each other and their bonds remained strong. They took care of each other, even if it meant only offering a friendly conversation or a loving glance. They were each other's lives, which explains the short period of time between the deaths; my grandma just couldn't live without the love of her life. My dad tells stories about how they'd fight and argue and he was always afraid they would get a divorce, but later on they always made up and went about life as usual. They also talked every morning; my dad says that was one of his favorite things about them. Before they got up for the day they talked. Even into their old ages they always had things to talk about. I wish I had known them better, that we would have had a better relationship. I wrote them cards, but never called. I was scared for some reason. Maybe it was my way of protecting my heart from pain after death, but somehow I think it might be worse.