23 December 2014

Trimming the Spiritual Fat

I've been trying to wake up (or at least my alarm goes off) at 4:03 a.m. each morning. I might not roll out of bed right away, but when I do, I go grab a cup of coffee from our monastery equivalent of a living room, head back to my cell (my room) and read until our first community prayer at 5:30 a.m.

I'm reading in the morning "God is Near Us" on the Eucharist by then Cardinal Ratzinger (emeritus pope "Father Benedict" -- as he prefers to be called now). It's a pretty dense and academic book at least for me for 4:17 a.m. I was sluggishly working through it while on my heart was to read Pope Francis' comments to the Roman Curia from yesterday.

The Roman Curia is the administrative body of the Catholic Church. I saw yesterday on social media that Pope Francis gave a rousing challenge to those in the attendance. I was curious to read what he said, so I visited the Vatican's news site and read the following article here.

In the monastery, we set aside two or more times a day for Lectio Divina -- simply put, it's an intentional way to read and pray with scripture or other spiritual material. Occasionally, lectio-type revelations strike me from very modern-day texts ... such as Pope Francis' rousing challenge to the Curia.

Here's a simplified list of his "ailments" from his address:
  1. The sickness of considering oneself 'immortal', 'immune' or 'indispensable'
  2. 'Martha-ism', or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work
  3. The sickness of mental and spiritual hardening
  4. The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism
  5. Sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance
  6. 'Spiritual Alzheimer's' disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation
  7. The ailment of rivalry and vainglory
  8. Existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life; This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters
  9. The sickness of chatter, grumbling and gossip
  10. The sickness of deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence
  11. The disease of indifference toward others
  12. The illness of the funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim
  13. The disease of accumulation
  14. The ailment of closed circles
  15. The disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism
(Visit the link above for further details he provided on each. Worth the read!)

In this list, I find myself looking at the ways I fall short of doing what is right, and because a new year is dawning, I found in his words many ideas for new year resolutions. Maybe you can, too?

In years past, I said I would exercise more throughout the new year, or do a certain amount of pushups every day or walk after lunch, etc. In a conversation with a friend yesterday, we were talking about the body, the mind and the spirit. He said that when he focuses on fulfilling his spiritual needs the rest seems to fall into place. For him, healthy spiritual practices lead to healthy practices of the mind and body. This resonated with me.

So, this year, I'm looking to trim the spiritual fat out of my life. The journey inward in monastic life has been a blessing because I am seeing more and more the "immensely-greasy", "heavily-sugared" and "chemically-charged" "stuff" I am soaking in and seeping out. Each day in this journey, though, is a workout toward a healthy, balanced, nourishing and fruitful life of prayer and work.

On another note, last year, I found this link to a list of Pope Francis'ism that were listed in a New Year's resolution list. It's another helpful resource: http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/46933-new-year-resolutions-pope-francis-quotes


Candidate Timothy

P.S. All 5 of us candidates were voted upon by the solemnly professed monks to move on to novitiate. We start our novitiate on January 19, 2015 for a year and day. It's a more formal period of discernment, prayer, work and study before, and God-willing, we make our temporary vows as monks.

04 July 2014

A One in God Chance

I'm here again ... processing One Bread, One Cup conference 2. This time it involves what I like to call Godcidences -- or a coincidence which may have God's involvement.

See my post about One Bread, One Cup conference 1 where I give an overview of my work in the Stewardship and Hospitality liturgical formation session. This will get you caught up to speed if you're not familiar with One Bread, One Cup.

Fast-forwarding to my first time teaching the students during conference two when I am laying out our roles from baptism as being anointed priests, prophets and kings. For the prophet role, I use the word "witness" to help them remember what we are supposed to "do" as contemporary prophets. We are to witness to others how God has shaped our lives.

My activity for the prophet role was to first share with them some ways in which God has impacted my life. I told them that I often have Godcidences where I wonder, "Hmm, was that God sending a sign?"

For instance, the day prior to this session, I was driving to Saint Meinrad from Michigan, and I wanted to listen to Matisyahu (a music artist) on my iPhone. I hit shuffle on my iPhone music playlist, however, without navigating to Matisyahu. Coincidentally, of the 720 songs on my iPhone, Matisyahu began to play. Second, I was trying to find a motivational video to show my students, and I thought of Kid President's Pep Talk. As I thought of this video, I happened to open Twitter, and one of the first Tweets I saw on there was a retweet from a friend of a post by Kid President. Coincidence? Third, at our opening Mass for One Bread, One Cup. I was out in the foyer of the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel looking at his statue. I was looking at his relic when Fr. Brendan said in the chapel, "Welcome to St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel". Hmm?

The ultimate coincidence so far in my life was when I was able to read to my father a eulogy I wrote for him in a speech class in college. This was while he was still alive, and I had no idea he was going to die only a couple months later. I was able to read that same eulogy at his funeral Mass.

I shared all these stories with my students and then encouraged them to find someone from the other small group in the class to meet and hear a story from one another's lives where they experienced God. I told them this was part of witnessing about their lives to others. I also suggested that a good "prophet" is a good listener and that I would go around the room and have one of the partners share the other partner's story.

This is where it got very interesting. (Changing the names for the sake of anonymity) Brian from Indiana and Sara from Indiana partnered up and shared their stories with each other. When I asked for volunteers to share stories, Brian shared Sara's story. Sara received some sad family news as she was preparing to head to NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference) in Indianapolis last fall. Many of the young people bring all sorts of items to pass out to each other. Sara said one of the things she received was a clothes pin attached to her bag or shirt with a scripture verse handwritten on it with something along the lines of casting your cares on the Lord. She said this really helped her understand things would be OK regarding her sad news. She felt at peace.

Then, out of the blue, Amy, another participant in the room from Louisiana said, those are the clothes pins that my youth group wrote on and passed around at NCYC, and that's the exact same scripture quote I was tasked with writing. Needless to say, all our jaws dropped, and we may have set a world record for most goosebumps received.

I can't make this stuff up.

Over the next several days I was trying to process this coincidence in terms of math. There are three conferences of OBOC, and there are probably on average 100 youth attending each conference. The youth, prior to the conference, are asked to choose their top 3 liturgical formation sessions to participate and learn in at that conference. Some returning youth participants can choose "advanced" sessions. I think there are something like 10 sessions from which to choose, and some sessions have multiple groups in them. Typically, too, the youth ministers or campus minister choose their top youth leaders to attend OBOC in order to allow them to develop their liturgical leadership skills so they can go back home and lead their peers.

So ... How is it that these two students were chosen to attend this year, this conference and this formation session and have this connection? How is it that Brian felt compelled to share Sara's story? How is it that Sara even shared that story when she likely had a couple other stories to share? Why did Amy decide to write that particular scripture verse on the clothes pin? Why did her youth group even write on clothes pins?

I tried to add all this up in my head to think of it in terms of "this is a one in ####" chance that this could happen, and the only number I could come up with is that this was a one in God chance -- a Godcidence.

I am sure there were many other Godcidences which happened this week at One Bread, One Cup, and I very much look forward to working with the OBOC staff, interns, catechists and monks for conference 3 next week.

20 June 2014

On the Other Side of S&H

As is my typical fashion, writing after having helped with a leadership conference like “One Bread, One Cup” helps me process my thoughts, take away’s and emotions. You’ll see how my “teaching” role quickly turned in to a learning role at the airport today.

This week, I was blessed to work very closely with two incredible college interns in the Stewardship and Hospitality formation session – helping their 16 youth participants take on a better grasp of their roles as priests, prophets and kings. When we are baptized, the priest anoints us priests, prophets and kings.

I told them to pay attention next time at a baptism and listen for these titles. I suggested they remember their roles as priests, prophets and kings with the following three words: participate, witness and serve. In what ways are they participating, witness and serving in/to/for/with the life of the Church?

Our roles as stewards and ministers of hospitality tied very closely with the king role or the service-based role. Our project for the week was the “High 5 Project”, which was in addition to serving lunch and dinner every day, bringing up the gifts at Mass and greeting all those who entered the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel before Mass.

Through the “High 5 Project”, youth from the S&H group encouraged their peers to give up a latte, a $5 footlong, 5 soft tacos at Taco Bell, a clothing purchase, etc. in order to give $5 5 times throughout the year to our program. This financial support will then go toward providing a scholarship for a youth group or high school group to attend the conference in future years.

We looked at fundraising, not just as an answer to a crisis, but as a ministry which needs continual cultivation and commitment from both the giver and the receiver. As Christian faithful, we don’t raise money for our own needs but we raise funds in order to make that money available to God.

Finally, on our last day of formal class together yesterday, we discussed practical ways around their parishes and high schools the students can serve as stewards and ministers of hospitality. We also reflected about what good, solid Christian-living looks like in terms of stewardship and hospitality: welcoming the unwelcomed, treating others as sacred gifts from God, treating our bodies with respect, etc.
We were a sassy bunch of stewards and ministers of hospitality!

Why am I sharing ALL of this with all of you…? I learned a lesson about stewardship and hospitality at the airport today.

I had my Honor Your Inner Monk t-shirt on, and the TSA agent asked me about it. I was about 40 minutes way from my flight at a new airport, so I didn’t know what to expect as far as security lines and gate procedures. Needless to say, I was in a hurry. I told the TSA agent that my shirt was from a monastery in southern Indiana. She asked me if I was studying to be a monk. I told her I soon would be in October. I think she could tell I was in a hurry, and she wished we had more time to talk about why I was choosing this path. Briefly, I told her that the monastic way of life right now is where I feel closest to God. She excitedly congratulated me and wished me well.

I really do wish I had stayed longer to chat. In hindsight, I certainly had plenty of time to do so because the airport was not busy at all.

I was struck by this woman’s hospitality – a TSA agent of all people too. Stereotypically, I see them as very rigid and stoic figures with no room monkey business. Yet, here she was, just as human as all of us looking for connection, providing hospitality to a hurried guy like me who probably should have been honoring his inner monk a little better.

Again, I was struck by her hospitality, and it reminds me of a homily from Archabbot Justin (for what occasion, I don’t remember), but he said often Benedictines are identified with the charism of hospitality (and the monks of Saint Meinrad do hospitality well), but he asked how are we being good stewards of the hospitality we are shown? It’s just as important to be a responsible guest as it is the host.

My lesson: I was very richly blessed this week to encounter Christ in the face of so many youth, youth and campus ministers/teachers, interns, coworkers, catechists and monks this week. I primarily focused on my role as “teacher” of stewardship and hospitality this week, but Miss TSA Agent showed me that it’s just as important to be a dutiful recipient of hospitality as it is to be a minister of hospitality.

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.