Who Am I?

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I'm just a guy trying to trust in God and be the best I can be for God and others, then myself.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dealing With Death

Most every day in class I ask a few questions to kind of get things started. They might have something to do with the days or they might not. I've asked a wide range of questions and as you can imagine I've gotten a wide range of answers from these teenagers.
Recently I asked some questions about death. Teaching a world religions course we look at how the different religions look at death, so I asked three questions to get my students thinking. These were the questions I asked...

     1. What do you believe happens to humans after they die?
     2. How have you come to this belief?
     3. Is death something you fear? Why or why not?

Most students gave the expected answers. They believe we either go to heaven or hell with a few mentioning purgatory. That they learned this from parents, the church or religion class. Most were somewhat afraid of death, with hoping not to die young for fear of not doing enough on earth. Pretty standard answers until I got to a student who has bugged me all year.
Here are this students answers to the three questions...

     1. Undecided
     2. There’s so many different beliefs and stories that say what happens. Too much to sift through. I’d rather just not waste my time until I’m faced with it
     3. Yes, because it’s unknown. You can control most things in your life and how to happen, but not death.

The answer to #2 has really gotten to me. I give this student credit in saying what others would not or do not fully comprehend. Most teenagers live this way anymore. Well, honestly, many adults do as well. That mentality is frustrating to me though, and again, I feel almost powerless to help change it. 
Death is not a problem, it is something we will all face. Yet so many don't want to think about what is to happen after death. There are a great number of feet firmly planted in this world with no desire to look heavenward until they feel they absolutely have to.

I've been thinking about death a great deal lately. Only a few hours after I wrote my last post my grandfather passed away.

Rest in peace Pop. I love you.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Cross is Steady

The Carthusian order of monks have a motto: Stat crux dum volvitur orbis, which in Latin means, “The Cross is steady while the world is turning.”

My world is turning right now. Back home in Montana my grandfather is dying. Dementia has been slowly affecting him for the last 4 to 5 years but it has been rapidly speeding up as of late. My grandmother has thankfully been getting more help. It seems to figure that as soon as she has gotten help he has started to quickly deteriorate. 
Since I left home in August there has been the worry of sad news coming every time my cell phone has rung. That feeling looms even deeper now that I truly know that that call will be coming sooner rather than later. 
That was a choice I had to make over the summer. How much of it was really my decision, in the end, I really cannot tell. The need to get back into doing some kind of ministry drove me only a year ago now. I could have taken a job closer to home, but this job seemed like a better fit. I honestly thought it would probably be easier as well (my laziness has unfortunately guided too many of my decisions in life).  So I moved over 1000 miles from home knowing that my grandfather could pass at any time. As of right now, I do not regret my decision to move. My time here teaching these students has honestly been a good thing I truly believe. The students I have worked with, at the very least, have less of a bad taste in their mouths towards God and the Catholic Church. At the recent senior retreat I truly felt like I had made an impact on them thanks in large part to their own words.  
As I have said before I've felt like my work here has been that of a missionary. Leaving home to bring to good news of Jesus Christ to those who are in need of God's love is what I have done.  This is not something I have done perfectly, but I have tried to do it with great love.

There is a statement made by Jesus to one of his disciples that has always bothered me a bit.
"Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead." - Matthew 8:22
 I feel as though I have in a sense done just this. Leaving my home to witness to the Gospel while my grandfather has wasted away has been tough. Some would say I should have stayed. At this point I believe I am meant to be where I am. The struggles my family has gone though were ones that I could not have done much to have eased. Maybe I am trying to convince my self of this. God only knows. But I do know that I will be able to return home when I am needed to help bury my grandfather and console my family. For this I am truly thankful.

So the cross remains steady, and thankfully, if I focus on that cross, the turning of the world seems less chaotic.

Peace all

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Modern Suffering

I've been helping at a local parish with some youth catechesis. Unfortunately I'm to the point where I dread the every other week two hour stint I'm there. The freshman class that I'm trying to help with is tough. The main teacher is a very sweet lady who is a retired teacher. She does the very best she can and if nothing else is showing them love even when they show her very little. This class has gained a reputation of being a tough group to handle and are continuing to live up to that. They are all public school kids who have been coming to religious education their whole lives but can't really tell you much about the Catholic faith. Most don't attend mass on Sunday but there parents make sure to drop them off at R.E. twice a month on Wednesday nights. Next year when they start Confirmation prep and are required to attend mass it wouldn't surprise me one bit if the parent drop their kids off at mass on Sunday and come back to pick them up.
The lack of parental involvement in the Church is in my opinion what is causing the majority of problems with religious education. I can't blame the kids that they can't take the faith seriously when they don't see their parents taking the faith seriously.
And then there is Kyle. Kyle's parents are in the midst of a divorce. The few classes I've been to I've never heard Kyle say a word. He sits with ear buds in and talks quietly to his friend. He doesn't participate, he doesn't follow any directions and he clearly does not want to be there. Tonight he pulled out his phone and the teacher asked him to put it away. He refused and as she went take it from him he got up and stormed off while uttering a few curses. I went to check on him and ended up sitting next to him on some stairs. With horrible rap music blaring very loudly in his ears he didn't acknowledge me at all, so I just sat there. He finally got up and moved to a different spot away from me, and that was that. There are most likely I believe some other mental or psychological problems there, but maybe not.
What frustrated me the most out of the whole encounter was this...

I did not know how to show him love.

This young freshman in high school and many others like him are suffering and I have to answer on how to help them.
It's getting to be too overwhelming when I think about kids like Kyle, who through no fault of there own are suffering in a very real way.

Pray, pray and pray some more.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Catholic Missionary at a Catholic School

Over Christmas break is was able to figure out just how this year has felt in terms of teaching theology at this Catholic school. I'm doing my best to teach a group of teenagers the Catholic faith. The tough aspects and the easy to understand, all with compassion and understanding. The reactions I've gotten coupled with the eye opening realizations have been fun but also sad. Questions that have been both encouraging while also slightly unbelievable. I've got students who have gone to a Catholic school for 10+ years who are learning new things, simple things, from me.
I feel like a Catholic missionary bringing the Catholic faith to a Catholic school.
It's a testament to what Catholic education has become across much of the United States. Being Catholic in name but not in substance. This Catholic school like many is not really ingrained into the community, rather it has created its own little community that it thrives off of. I have a few coworkers who have been at the school for 20+ years. They've seen small changes over the years, but at the end of the day the school hasn't really changed much. Being proud to be a Catholic school but failing to be authentically Catholic has been the way things have gone for a long time as far as I can tell.
I have a student who is extremely bright. She has recently been accepted to Notre Dame and is one of those students who has challenging questions every day and is always ready to pounce should I slip up. I mentioned to her class how I feel like a missionary and all she could do was laugh. She understood completely and the only reaction she could muster was full on hysterical laughter.
So I've got one semester left to continue my missionary journey at this school and hopefully leave it better than I found it.

Peace all

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Frustrations Abound

I'm just going to rant a little bit for no one benefit but my own.

My car doesn't like to start when it's really cold out. So today I thought I would be proactive and get a brand new battery for my car. After installing the new battery I got in and started my car. It had a harder time starting then it did with the old battery! What the heck?! So I drove around, filled up the tank, and it started up fine that time. It sat for a while and again, it had a difficult time starting. So that's something I have to figure out now.

I'm helping a local parish with their R.E. on Wednesdays. The freshman class is rather large and they've had only one teacher all year. She's a nice older lady who has teaching experience and is doing her best. This group of kids though is tough and from what I hear they have been for a few years. I've worked with the class a bit and all of them are there because their parents are making them. The only way to get them to a point where they will be quiet is to give them assigned seating. But then they just tune out whatever the teacher is trying to do. Let them sit with friends and they constantly talk. None of them want to be there and quite honestly trying to teach them anything is almost a joke. It's a struggle for religious education everywhere. The parents drop their kids off and expect them to learn the faith. Or maybe they don't. Maybe the parents don't really care about the faith at all but something inside them pushed them to force their kids to go to R.E.
I envision having a Religious Ed program where the parents have to attend right along with their kids. Where parents are required to receive just as much instruction as their children do. I think the numbers of students going to R.E. would drop dramatically unfortunately. But the is what is needed. These parents do not know the faith and many parishes do not have the ability to be the sole instructors about the faith. There is no easy answer.

I feel like there was something else I needed to rant about, but I'm tired.

Peace all

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Why Am I Catholic?

Because it's tough, it's a constant challenge and it gives my life meaning.
Life would be boring and mundane if it weren't for my Catholic faith.
I fail constantly and struggle each and every day. In that struggle I feel alive though.
I see what kind of lives people lead who don't have the challenges of living up to something greater. When we set our own expectations and limits we can change them as we feel. Life becomes boring when I can set my own rules and go with whatever "I" think is best.
But with my Catholic faith the objectives are set in stone and on my heart. The rules don't change to my own whims. What I feel or think doesn't matter when the truth is there right inside of me.
Yes, it's a struggle, but I know in my heart the struggle is worth the outcome.

Finding the desire to pray, sit quietly and listen is tough most days though.
A few of my students compare me to Jesus. The only reason they do is because they don't know of anyone else who lives like me or acts like me. Yet I know there are much better people than myself out there.
It's a struggle to not get caught up in material things, like bikes and guns, which are my two hobbies at the moment. If I spent the time talking to God that I do thinking about bikes and guns, well, maybe I'd be able to truly say I do love God.
The more I learn and grow the more I see how I don't love God.
I'm trying, not always hard or hard enough, but I'd at least like to think that I'm trying.
I'm also trying to not compare myself to others. The less of that I do the more humbled I feel.
So I'm Catholic because it's hard. It's not easy living this life when it goes against a great deal of what society preaches and what the world expects from me.
If only I can keep reaching toward heaven and start letting go of this world a little more each day.

Peace all

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Today's Youth Are Boring and Headed for Hell

The self-proclaimed atheists do everything they can to try to not fit in with society. They don't look boring with their colored hair, but truly they are. They have no true aspirations in life and only want to "do their own thing" which means follow anything that isn't main stream. Their lives are so boring they spend all day trying to convince themselves they aren't happy even though they have nothing to complain about when it comes to the basics of life. And they'll fight the Catholic faith every chance they get just because it gives them a bit of a rush.
But don't worry, they aren't the only boring ones. The good kids are just as boring these days. Getting so caught up in good grades and getting into the college of their dreams means they live lives so over planned and lacking of any excitement they don't know what actual passion is.
The kids that actually have a passion for something get ostracized for being different and not fitting any one of the acceptable molds.
Parents are so caught up in making money and what society dictates their children should be doing they have no idea what their kids might actually have interests in. It's no wonder the kids have no passions. Parents do all they can to support their kids while failing to teach their kids essentials in life. Families don't spend time together anymore, yet parents complain that their kids schedules are so filled up.  They let their kids pick where they want to go to school and what classes they want to take and at the end of the day their kids have free reign to believe and do whatever they like.

A debate broke out in one of my classes today. A very staunch pro-life student ended up getting hit from all sides by other students who were pro-choice. Everything from "the government has no say in what I do to my body" to "a fetus is not a human" where hurled at her in very nonchalant ways that it was almost unsettling. The grip the culture of death has on a great deal of our youth is scary. Their only passions are self pride and selfishness.

I fear for a lot of souls and don't quite know what I can do.
God help us.