28 December 2013

An afternoon inspired by Pope Francis

Pope Francis ... He's right about ministering to the poor and those in need. I feel guilty writing about this because I'm tooting my own horn, but I hope in doing so, I inspire others to reach out.

It's not every day I am in a big city. So being in Denver for a friend's wedding provided for me the opportunity to be around many different people from all walks of life. I've always been fascinated by people-watching.

After I had lunch with some UD friends here, I decided to get some coffee and read a book. However, I wanted to be outside since the sun was shining and the weather was very pleasant. After sitting at a chess table for a while and trying to avoid eye contact with the homeless, Jeremy approached me and asked if I had any pieces.

At first I thought of drug pieces or gun pieces, then I realized I was sitting at a chess table. Haha. Jeremy shared most of his life story with me and said he had been homeless for the first time starting a week ago. He said it's been a trying experience. I asked him some questions about his life, his family, his work, etc.

Without him asking I decided to give him some money. I struggle giving away money like that, but it felt like the right thing to do.

Debbie, Me and Jeremy playing chess in Denver, CO

Debbie, sitting at the table next to us, asked if any of us wanted to play chess. Jeremy played with Debbie and I watched. Debbie, from what I could tell, has hitchhiked around the world. She is now homeless. She's originally from Akron, Ohio.

A short time later, Steve came by. Apparently, he is really good at chess and is very humble about it. He seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. He had a thoughtful and wise quietness about him. He is homeless, too.

It was a good experience to immerse myself with them instead of passing them by. I know not everyone has this opportunity, but it was a good experience. I didn't necessarily put myself in this situation, but I happened upon it, and I'm glad I did. I have so much more to share about their stories, but I will save that for another time.

We've been hearing a lot from Pope Francis about engaging the poor ... those poor in spirit, finances, humor, emotions, family, food, etc. Regardless of your beliefs, I think we were created to be in communion with others. For me, it was very meaningful to be with my UD friends this morning and then to connect with new friends "on the street" this afternoon.

I told my new friends that I could learn just as much from them that I could in a book. I told them I appreciated their company and conversation. We can learn a lot from one another and inspire one another. I think that's what Pope Francis understands and is teaching.

I hope my interactions with people from all works of life demonstrate to them that I care, that there is hope and that because I am a Christian -- that they believe God cares. I hope they are inspired to pay it forward and to spread a bit of hope.

I can't help but think God created this beautiful day for my friends to get married and to also lead me to enjoy my coffee outside in order to meet some friends.

20 November 2013

I have a cool Mom

My mom is pretty awesome. Most moms are pretty awesome. One way in which my mom is pretty awesome is that she blogs. What makes her a rockin' blogger is that she helps breakdown the Catholic faith in a way which helps those who might judge it or have preconceived notions about it or practice it without really understanding it, understand it.

My mom and dad were my first teachers, and I appreciate how I still learn from them -- particularly in this unique way from my mom.

Here is a link to her blog: http://catholicenlightening.blogspot.com/

My mom and my nephew/godson Holden.

26 June 2013

A Shirtless Conversation

For the past 5 days I've encountered highs and lows of fraternity life among the brothers of Beta Theta Pi from across the continent. We spent these days in Oxford, Ohio positively (Read: in a positive, cultivating way, not tearing them down) shedding light on the values of our Fraternity in order to encourage brothers to face the hard facts and the good facts about their undergraduate experience in this great and good fraternity.

Our Beta Theta Pi Core Values:

Mutual Assistance – Betas believe that men are mutually obligated to help others in the honorable labors and aspirations of life.
Intellectual Growth – Betas are devoted to continually cultivating their minds, including high standards of academic achievement.
Trust - Betas develop absolute faith and confidence in one another by being true to themselves and others.
Responsible Conduct - Betas choose to act responsibly, weighing the consequences of their actions on themselves and those around them.
Integrity - Betas preserve their character by doing what is morally right and demanding the same from their brothers.

Last night, I posted to Facebook and Twitter that I was up until 2:30 a.m. talking about the values of our fraternity with brothers who were struggling with what proper new member education should look like. After that, I went to shower, and another brother from another chapter stopped me to talk about the same issue as well. (Picture me shirtless having this conversation in the middle of the men's dorm restroom ... this is as real as it gets!) An hour and a half later, around 4:00 a.m. he, another facilitator and I took the conversation in the appropriate, values-based direction. Though, he was still wrestling with how to foster "brotherhood".

While I am extremely grateful and hopeful we had this conversation, it concerns me that other brothers who are struggling with similar issues are not facing the hard facts about their chapter.

Some of the less than stellar means through which men enter our fraternity really, really upset me. Some brothers don't understand that there are so many ways to POSITIVELY build bonds of fraternal unity among one another, yet they are not willing to explore these options due to misconstrued beliefs and morals or because it would be unpopular among the rest of their peers or they have the "we've always done it this way" mentality.

I often think in metaphors, and I describe what they're experiencing as the hamburger syndrome. Personally, I like a pretty loaded burger. If I only know what a hamburger is as a beef patty and two buns, that's all I know. Someone may try to convince me to add cheese, lettuce, onions, bacon and ketchup, but because I am OK with just the hamburger, I am unwilling to try something that might be so much better. However, once I get a taste of the loaded burger and realize how much better it tastes, I am going to continue that method of eating burgers instead of just the hamburger.

To me, the above metaphor is what we are trying to instill in our brothers. Though they may believe their method is creating "brotherhood", those of us who "get it" realize they are suffering from the hamburger syndrome. We know what the positive, loaded burger looks and tastes like, and that's what satisfies us the most and uplifts us and builds us up in the most effective, positive and values-based way.

Time to step off my podium. I think what Beta Theta Pi has done over the past 15 years is reduce the effects of the hamburger syndrome to create a much more positive experience for undergraduate and alumni members.

More than these negative stories, I heard stories too numerous to count of the good facts of Beta Theta Pi that are happening around our continent and the world. John Wooden Purdue '32, who, along with his wife, we named our institute after (The John and Nellie Wooden Institute for Men of Principle), defined success as "peace of mind, attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best that you are capable."

This week throughout this institute, I think we came as close to achieving that "peace of mind". I know we have a long way to go in attaining full peace of mind, but if these past 5 days are any evidence of where we are heading, I am assured we (undergraduates, alumni, Friends of Beta and the General Fraternity) are and will continue making the effort to do the best we are capable.

Don't settle for the hamburger when you KNOW the loaded burger is what men need and desire to become men of principle for a principled life in order to live Beta's values for the rest of their lives.

10 May 2013

Life and Death

The past couple weeks have been very trying emotionally. I've faced life and death and questioned both.

I've questioned how amazing life truly is -- especially new life. I have taken life (of friends, family and enemies) for granted. After my nephew Holden was born, I reflected on a whole new meaning of life, from infancy to death.

Fr. Scott Carroll ordained to the Roman Catholic
Priesthood on May 8, 2013 and entered
eternal rest on May 10, 2013.
Death, too, has been knocking on my emotions. While I knew Fr. Scott Carroll fairly well, I can't imagine what was going through his thoughts and feelings knowing he was close to meeting his maker.

Scott Carroll, for those of you that don't know, was one of the most quietly-humble, servant-oriented and loving men I have ever met. Scott also had a great sense of humor, too. We worked a TEC together, and our paths crossed frequently at Saint Meinrad. He made a mean pizza at the UnStable.

He discerned, a little later in life, to join the seminary and become a priest. He studied at Saint Meinrad from 2006 to 2013, and was set to be ordained a priest on June 22, 2013. Due to his struggle with cancer and at the nudging of some friends and priests, he was ordained to the priesthood on May 08, 2013 and died on May 10, 2013 shortly after saying Mass. I don't know why God had to take this good man so young, but I do know that Fr. Scott will be an advocate for us in heaven praying on our behalf. I have solace in knowing that the Gospel at Fr. Scott's Mass today was as follows from John 6:20-23:

Jesus said to his disciples: 
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
On that day you will not question me about anything.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”

Baby Holden born May 3, 2013
(Thanks to his grandma on his mom's side for this photo.)
As I commented earlier today on Facebook: May he now find eternal rest, peace and joy. Fr. Scott, you taught us how to keep "death daily before our eyes" and to give life everything you had, even saying Mass shortly before settling in to an eternal Eucharistic feast.

With regards to new life, I am in awe of my nephew, Holden (born May 3, 2013), and the joy he has brought into my life. Knowing that this small, tiny, helpless child that can only eat, sleep and poop will have so much potential to do great things is AWEsome. I am excited to watch as his parents love him, as his family loves him and as I love him. He will learn that love and share it in his own unique way throughout life. New life is very miraculous, and I thank God for showing me a new sense of joy.

Just some thoughts on life and death that I've been pondering lately...

Be well, and do something special for someone.

28 March 2013

A Timely Article for Holy Week

One of the oblates at Saint Meinrad wrote this beautiful article about suffering and rejoicing and how one's relationship with God is impacted during times of sorrow and joy.

Thanks, Ann, for your insights and pulling together some great resources to craft this article.

20 February 2013

The Sound of Discipleship

Eucharistic Adoration during TEC 370 in
the Diocese of Toledo in Ohio.
The sound of discipleship is the sound of silence.

I gave a talk during TEC (Teens Encounter Christ retreat) on discipleship, and the scripture passage I used was John 20:21. "As my father has sent me, so I send you." Discipleship has been on my mind a lot lately.

We closed TEC with Mass. At the end of Mass, participants lingered, signing one another's Bibles, sharing affirmations, giving hugs, maybe shedding a few tears and laughing about the memories made.

As time went on, more and more of the participants made their final goodbyes and went their way. The church grew more and more quiet, and finally the last person left. I was the sacristan for the weekend, so I made sure the lights were turned out in the church and that it was in the same shape as we found it.

The silence was at first intimidating and little bit saddening, but then I realized silence was the sound of discipleship. The youth and adults who attended TEC left to head back on their own journey of faith. They certainly were inspired this weekend to do something great, and I cannot wait to be inspired by the stories from their journeys.

My prayer is that all who were involved with TEC this weekend were strengthened and fortified to continue spreading peace, love and joy among their friends, families and enemies.

Let us go forward in peace, our eyes upon heaven, the only one goal of our labors.
      St. Therese of Lisieux

10 February 2013

What's your dance? [What's your trademark?]

I'm watching the Grammys right now, and Justin Timberlake is singing and dancing. He has his trademark high-pitch singing voice, and in general, a particular style about him. It made me think about the Gagnam Style dance, and how that's its own trademark dance. Then there is the YMCA, the cha-cha slide, the electric side, crank that by soulja boy, etc. etc.

It makes me wonder what my own trademark will be throughout life. What will be your trademark? Do we even need to have a trademark? Maybe each person we encounter will label us with a certain trademark. What would you want that trademark to be?