Categories
Church Reflections

One Priest Can Make All The Difference

Today is the birthday of Fr. Ivor Koch, who spent hours sitting outside of the funeral home with my mom after my dad died. We were lapsed Catholics and a family holding a lot of pain from church mistakes decades before.

I was baptized, but we never went to church for the 11 years that followed. But, nevertheless, he sat there, listening to my mom’s grief about my dad and her pain about the church.

We always considered ourselves Catholic. But the Church had burned us. Fr. Koch wasn’t pushy. He was simply present.

He was present in ways that the priests weren’t in the 70s when my mom wanted to talk about her brother’s suicide.

And that made all the difference. He cared. He brought Christ to us again.

He wasn’t perfect. He was a bit grumpy. But, he made all the difference, healed a massive rift in my family, and gave me a spiritual home when I needed it most as a 12-year-old dealing with losing a father.

He died a few years ago, but I keep his birthday on my calendar. If you’re one of the priests that follow me, know that you’re changing lives every day by just being you. Keep fighting the good fight.

Categories
Politics Reflections

Happy Independence Day! 🇺🇸

Today, we celebrate our nation’s birthday. Before country, God is my first sovereign and following that I have a deep love for our country.

The American Experiment, 244 years after the Declaration of Independence, is still ongoing and still a work in progress.

The declaration made by the thirteen colonies is a declaration that we continue to make—”we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Thomas Jefferson, who penned these words, had many faults. All those who signed the Declaration in 1776 had faults. All of us who lived under the country formed by these words have faults.

The American ideal is one where we do not accept these faults. The American ideal demands that we work through them and past them.

“That all men are created equal.” Even in 1776 as we proclaimed it to be self-evident, it was not realized. When they said “men”, men are to whom rights were extended. White men, actually, and property owners at that. In the last 244 years, we have continued to shed away boundaries and distinctions that have separated us from stating that “all men are created equal” and living that all people are created equal.

Next month, we celebrate 100 years of women having the constitutional right to vote. Last February, we celebrated 150 years since race was no longer a factor—though it took us far too long after that to realize that constitutional amendment in a substantial way across the land.

Today, we continue our struggle making the American Ideal a reality. We are dealing with long-brewing inequality that still exists in our society. For many, this has been a daily experience. For many others, they may never have realized it existed. This is a difficult time—but that is not a bad thing. For us to best honor our heritage, we have to continue pushing to realize our Declaration of Independence, which means continuing the American Revolution. The battle against England has long, long been settled, but the battle to rise above ourselves to be better, to be the shining city on a hill that serves as the beacon of democracy and governance to all.

I love this country. I firmly believe that being an American and striving for these ideals make me a better person (and a better Catholic). That love of country does not mean there are not faults in America nor does it mean that I accept these faults. My love demands that I take an honest account of where we stand in our American Experiment, to utilize our self-evident rights that we have etched into our Bill of Rights, and to push to make this country better for my children and grandchildren than the one I’m in today.

If I can’t look at this country honestly, if I can’t hear the experiences of others and see the flaws that we still have, if I fail to heed the least of our brothers and sisters—both citizens and those outside our borders who believe this land is the land of hope and opportunity, then there is no way for me to make this country better for myself, my family, or my fellow citizens.

Categories
Microblog Reflections

Happy New Year!

The start of the new year feels often like a natural time to kick off new things. We shouldn’t wait until January 1st to start something new or improve ourselves, but since today is January 1st, might as well start today.

Categories
Reflections

This Doesn't Make Sense

The weekend before Thanksgiving, my niece passed away. She was 22 years old, leaving behind her husband and two sons.

I officiated the service and offered a reflection on making sense of her death. A friend of her husband’s family is a pastor in town and gave another one that focused on the afterlife. My reflection is below as prepared, slightly edited to remove her name:

This doesn’t make sense. We’ve now had just over a week to try to make some sense of such a sudden and tragic death, and it doesn’t make much more sense than it did a week ago. We cry, yes, because of how much we loved her and the sadness of not having her next to us today, but we also cry because of how surprised and shocked we are to lose her so quickly at such a young age.

It just doesn’t make sense. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children. Husbands aren’t supposed to be balancing two babies in their arms while at their wife’s funeral. But here we are.

In the past week, two things have helped me, not make sense of this, but to help me begin my own personal process of healing. First, what we see here today is not what she sees now. As the Old Testament tells us:

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead,
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.

Wisdom 3

Even as we view her passing with sadness and something that destroyed our world, she has been entrusted to the merciful hands of God and she is now at peace.

And the second is being reminded of how much God loves us, which can be really hard to believe right now. One thing I’ve heard by different friends and loved ones this week is some variation of not understanding how God could have this be his plan, not understanding why God would have done this. Why would such a loving God let such a loving person perish? Why did God’s plan have her taken away from us now?

It wasn’t God’s plan. God didn’t plan out each day of our lives from the beginning and just hoped that we stayed on that path. God’s plan for us is, ultimately, to return to him, he who made us. God so desires this that His plan for us is too powerful—it figures out a way.

I don’t think God plans for us to get sick, to get cancer, to get in that accident. I don’t think God penned a plan that would have us together in this funeral home gathered today around her up here in the front.

God’s plan for us, though, is that we all have the free will to decide for ourselves what we will do today or what we won’t. God’s plan for us is generally for the world will play out with how all of those decisions every day by all of us here impact each other. God’s plan for us is to live in his creation, accepting the scientific rules and realities that have evolved over the eons.

God’s plan for us is to accept the decisions we all make, to accept that what brought us to this point brought us to this point, and then for us to decide to make it better from this moment forward. To use what we have before us—good or bad—and transform it with the grace of the Spirit to something better.

Paul in his letter to the Romans helps us:

If God is for us, who can be against us?
He did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all,
will he not also give us everything else along with him?
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish or distress or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?

No, in all these things, we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God.

Romans 8

God loves us so deeply, so fully, so passionately, so all-consuming. God doesn’t just like you or thinks you’re okay, or tolerates you only when you’re in a good mood. God loves you. God is like fully obsessed-in-love over you.

God’s love for us is something that God wants us to share with each other. God can not but have his love spill out onto each one of us and, in return, being given such full and complete love, we have to share it with those around us.

And that’s how, maybe, while being here today for this reason still doesn’t make any sense, that’s how it can give us purpose and hope.

She had such a beautiful spirit who shared so much love with us and the world is a worse place for her not being here anymore. She is better off — she is at her peace — but we still have less here with us.

While I don’t think God’s plan was to have her life on this earth end a week ago, I think that, maybe, God’s plan for us today moving forward is to take a moment to pause, realize how much love the world lost when it lost her, and then for us to commit to being that love. To be that extra love for each other–her friends and family, for us to be that extra love for the rest of the world who never will get to experience her love this side of heaven, to be that extra love in some small way for her husband, and to be that extra love for her boys so they will always know their mother by her love.

I don’t think her death will ever make any sense to me, but we can accept love, we can show love, and we can love for each other. And through us and through that love, her light will continue to shine.

Categories
Daddy's Corner Reflections

We don't move on from grief

I haven’t lost a spouse, but a dad when I was 12 and been touched by grief very recently. She’s hit the mark pretty well.

Categories
Current Events Featured Reflections

El Paso Shooting (and Dayton too)

Thankfully, we did not have any family or friends involved at the recent El Paso shooting, but far too many people are not able to say the same thing today. One family member was there no more than two hours before the shooting and there is no reason why she was spared while others were not.

I am glad and hopeful that President Trump called this senseless act of hatred what it is: racism and white supremacy.

The President, though, needs to do far more to make me believe that he meant it. He needs to do far more to make those who choose hate and for those that choose violence to believe him.

According to researching at the University of North Texas, counties where then-candidate Trump held campaign rallies in 2016 had a 226-percent increase of hate crimes compared to those that did not host a rally.

The President has consistently referred to the issues at our southern border “an invasion”. The cornerstone of his campaign has been to create fear of “the other”. His Twitter account is full of racially-charged derogatory nicknames. He laughs off when someone at a rally yelled that they should shoot people.

I hope that this is the time that enough is enough and that he will change his behavior—for our country but for his own soul—but I’m not going to hold my breath. Until that happens, I can only assume something from a teleprompter is what his aides thinks he should say and his Twitter account is what he actually wants to say.

Guns are complicated, to a degree. As a society, though, do we need weapons with the disruptive power freely available? The Dayton gunman had an 100-round drum—legal. He killed nine and injured 14 within 30 seconds when shooting on a street. Imagine if he started within the crowded bar he was walking toward? He didn’t have priors, though there were warning signs he had issues a decade ago, nothing that made into a system.

Even treating the 2nd Amendment like a Golden Calf, there are better ways to control guns.

I’ve read on Facebook people say that guns are only tools and we need to dig deeper to the root causes. I don’t disagree with that either—we can still look at the tools while going deeper. As a country, we have plenty of problems, but as long as President Trump uses the amazing power he has to stoke fear and excite those with extreme xenophobic and racist views, we’re going to continue to see more and more weekends like last weekend.