Advent, Listening and a Call to Prayer


During the course of my “ministry” there has been little time for listening and deep prayer over this past year, as I continue to actively spread the word “Faith formation is job #1” in the lives of Catholic dads and those of their children. Especially, since there have been over 15,000 page views to CatholicDads.org since November 2008. With that, I have felt the continued passion to encourage dads of all ages (and on any social networking platform I can post on) to be mindful of our important role in the faith formation of our children. Oh, I pray all the time like most faithful dads, but not in a way where I am disposed to even a deeper conversion of the type that causes a wonderful fear of God's obvious actions in one's life. Lately, I know in my core, this is something I am longing for. It may well be the same experience I felt when I took a one day personal / silent retreat at Prince of Peace Abbey, where I found myself “captivated by my Lord” in January 2008. That retreat was the catalyst for becoming a novice oblate and for all events and challenges (painful and not) I now find myself engaged in, and ultimately for the better of my soul and and the souls of others.

As Advent approaches tomorrow, I am listening for Jesus and I have purchased A Companion to the Liturgy of the Hours: Morning and Evening Prayer, along with my first copy of Christian Prayer.

I'm listening....and concurrently shedding many distractions in my life that I have come to realize have been nothing more than chatter to leave me unfulfilled by not acutely hearing what the Lord has to say; the distractions are of the type you find yourself competing with in a nice restaurant where the patrons maintain a dull roar preventing one and a dear friend from connecting on a deeper level that both know is there, but find themselves dissatisfied as the circumstance need to be willfully changed. It is only when one or both say, “Let's get out of here” do they create an opportunity to embark on a stroll to discover what it is they long to connect on.

And, that is where I find myself. Listening in anticipation of connecting with my Savior and wonderfully fearful of what it is that will unfold and the deep prayer that is likely to follow. How do you prepare for Advent? Is your prayer life what you would like it to be?

Thankful

I am pleased my children do not know my current struggles. The Lord and very personal friends and family have been my mainstay. As I sort through some of life's greatest challenges, and while some would consider I am experiencing much loss, I think about what I am thankful for. Here are what is most important to me:

"I have the laughter of my children, their warm embrace, their little stories, and our 'bug hunts' at night. We pray when they go to bed and when they get up; when their friends are sad, for their mom when they miss her, their grandfather who died not long ago, and for others who are less fortunate. We attend Mass during the week. And, we visit our place of worship and still volunteer to clean the area around a Marian statue where others meditate. We tickle each other, we sing together, we talk about silly stuff, and we have a usual routine at night (three nights a week).

My oldest (5 years) shares her insights about life, and tells me new things she is learning everyday at school. My youngest (3 years) makes the sign of the cross by tapping her head three times, and I tell her 'That's perfect, Babe...Good job.' And, she likes to run around during Mass, as I stand their solemnly praying, with one eye open to see she doesn't get too far (okay the tears are really there now). We pray the Lord's Prayer, and we say the Rosary together. We have 'faith reading' and 'Anything we want, Papa?' I love washing their clothes, and trying to keep house for them (though I just hate losing those little socks and not find one or the other's mate in the washer, when I know I put both of them in). And I love making them breakfast, and lunch, packing their snack, and drawing funny faces on their snack bag.

I love helping with homework, and taking their pictures, as they love taking them of me, us and whatever catches their eye at the moment. And, when we used to go out more than we do now, I love watching them be independent and order their own food. I love giving my oldest the opportunity to plan with me the night's course of activities...'Let's see, what is your preference, homework first, bath, dinner, faith reading, movie, get ready for school? What's it going to be?' She loves contributing to our family routine, and doesn't know I'm helping her prioritize, sort, and develop executive functioning skills. I love my little one enjoying the bubbles of her bath, and watching her give her bath toys new life. I love hearing her sing, as she splashes about. And I love my oldest wanting to help me in every way, and having to remind myself to reinforce those skills and teaching moments, even when tired and believing I 'need to get this done.'

I love being called in the middle of night, 'Papa!! Papa!!' for a glass of water, or because an 'accident' occurred, and a change is needed. I love them riding on my shoulders, and pulling my hair until it hurts. I love watching them hug their friends, call their names as if their friends will be for life (and some may be). I love their memories, as they remind me, 'Papa, you said...' and being able to say, 'You are right...Thank you, for reminding me...' I love them growing so fast, their clothes are still new. I love drizzling honey from three feet above the cereal bowl, as they try to interrupt the stream with their little fingers that get 'all sticky'. I love their little shoes, hairbands, broken crayons, perfect drawings, unmade bed, and cuts and scrapes that apparently and magically become better with a small kiss and a hug.

For this, and so much more, I am eternally thankful to my Lord."

"Come what may, girls, I am happy to see you grow. And, with our Lord, we will overcome. Always remember Romans 8:38-39. "


Love, Papa


CatholicDads:
- Flickr
- YouTube
- CatholicDads.org

Posted: 11.20.2009
Updated: 11.26.2013

Papa Wastes Water and Later Eats Vegi-Crow

"Papa, you're wasting water!"


Are you on board with "going green"? I have to admit, up until recently, I was not. As a matter of fact, I was pretty smug about it. For example, I went to REI to make a purchase of a fantastic casual shirt, you know the kind, wash and wear (especially nice for busy dads), and after the purchase I remembered another item I needed. I returned to the sales clerk with some trinket or other and the sales clerk asked, "Shall I put this in the bag you already have?" My reply, which I thought was pretty funny at the time, was "Nope, I'm interested in making my carbon footprint as big as possible." The clerk was not amused and my reply shown its effect in his beet red face; I then realized this is really a religion for some. I felt rightly embarrassed and thus began my thinking and reexamination of my life, and its impact on the lives of my children.


Now, I'm getting on board with a "Green" way of living, in no small part due to my oldest (5 years) calling me on it. "You're wasting water, Papa. California doesn't have a lot." She's right, and what is my waste leaving for her? An examination of my habits lead to an examination of our our diets. Could we also be wasting food I thought? Yes, we, I mean, I was and in more ways than one? With this new sensitivity and awareness, and taking off the rose colored glasses that see our natural resources as being plentiful and never ending, we are conserving where possible and inching our way toward a vegetarian lifestyle, and for many logical reasons. How could I ignore the logic of going green and eating healthier?

This way of life has forced me to eat vegi-crow among my peers who know me to not usually be concerned about my carbon footprint. Thanks to the REI clerk, a colleague at work who is educating me on the benefits of reusable products, and my 5 y.o., we're living a greener and more mindful way of life.

For some tips on going green, check out Thrifty Thursdays: Green Home Habits That Save Money

Be all you can be!



As a novice oblate, I am to follow the orders of my teacher, with the tender acceptance that he would never order me to do something that did not bring me closer to God, or help me to be a better person.

The forth step of humility is that in this obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape (The Rule of St. Bendedict in English, paragraph 35).

We are called to this, because it is, as with a priest, that a man submits to his superior in all obedience for the love of God, imitating the Lord of whom the apostle says: He became obedient even to death (Phil 2:8).

When I was a younger man, I would have served my country well (due to medical reasons, I could not pursue this dream), because I believe in giving one’s life for something greater than self (children, county, God, family). And being in the military, to defend "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" would have been a call I would have answered for my country:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

In our lives as men, we may find ourselves reflecting on our childhood, teen years, early or later adult years and thereby find we have committed our trust to those that called upon us to "follow orders", while they themselves had little if any commitment to God, or at least some higher calling. My allegiances to them was a mistake, well intending, but a mistake. Why, because I did not question and take action to assert, "You have no principle guiding you, therefore I cannot follow."

To whom do we pledge our allegiance today? Is it to those who have not enduring and life sustaining principles? Is our allegiance to a lifestyle that detracts from the spiritual development of souls, our children, or homes and community?

During times of my life, I have been grieved that I have overlooked, have been insensitive, mean and selfish, to one or more persons that they themselves are committed to God, and are attempting to direct their lives by his will. I am blessed that that they and the good Lord provides forgiveness, and he has subsequently given me people in my life that have extended that love.

Now I must do the same. Recently, I have found myself committed to greater service, but not without challenge. While in prayer yesterday after Vigil, before the Blessed Sacrament, I was later lead to a test that tells me how much I still need to grow in humility and obedience to Christ. I realized later I cannot have it both ways, to kneel in the shadow of contemplative light, in a safe place, the womb of the Church and say I am serving my God, and refuse to serve him by caring without him for the most blessed people and challenging responsibilities he places in my hands. I cannot wipe away tears and wonder why is not God showing me a path, and turn my head from the very challenges that will increase the weight of a cross on my shoulders, and refuse to let Christ, and my trust in Christ, to lessen the weight by becoming a more humble man, paradoxically strengthened by his might, for the benefit of others.

To embark on a path past the gate of selfishness by the key of prayer and to follow our Lord is a wonderfully fearful event, for I believe great things can be accomplished in my and our service to God, but to get there one cannot remain ignorant and inattentive to the need to submit to Christ’s molding of one’s life to God's call. Among our brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot be ignorant, and must mutually support each other in our service to Christ:

This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin (59). In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits (Catechism of the Catholic Church).

How might our allegiance be stated, if we rethink to whom or what our time and attention is given. How would that oath be stated, if we turned away from those commitments that hold us back from being all you can be? Perhaps it might be stated as such:


With all my heart, I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Scriptures of my God against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of my Lord, and the orders of those he places in my path, that have they themselves committed their lives, and are appointed over me, the Pope, my Bishop, my Priest, my spiritual advisor (wife, partner, friend, colleagues, etc.) according to the regulations of Love that the Scriptures reveal.


Or more simply stated as in Scripture:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.

I asked my Lord, on my knees to show me a path to better service. And, like many, I have failed at times. But, like many, with the grace of our Father in heaven, he has picked me up and helps me to not deter from Christ's call, and bear the cross of Christ to defeat all enemies foreign (outside the home) and domestic.

I asked God to show me the way, and he put in my path special people to remind me the fight we are called to in dealing with social and family issues be of such a challenge, we cannot do it alone without the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and each other; or without being in humble service to the tender hearts within our own homes and among our own brethren.

Be All You Can Be - Allow God and time with the blessed sacrament to change your life and change the lives of those around you!

Single Catholic Dads

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear about the role of parents, when they are married. But what is the role of a Catholic parent who finds him or herself single? Specifically, what is the role of a Catholic dad in the faith formation of his children? These are just a couple of the questions that will be dealt with in this blog.

I submit, the challenge to fulfill one's role as a single Catholic dad is difficult, but no less important. However, when approached from a spiritual perspective, there are a wealth of resources to maintain one's hope in accomplishing the will of God, no matter the outcome.

Personally, when I have been faced with difficult challenges, I have found myself, as many do, praying, "Father, I will serve, if you will...(fill in the blank)." But, by yielding to available spiritual support of others, allowing God to speak through their actions and prayers, I have learned to say, "Father, I will serve you no matter what."

Serving God is not just a matter of practice, it is a matter of heart. Is one really serving God, by going through the steps, and by having his heart not in the action taken? I think, to some degree, yes. However, there is a greater blessing to be had. By acknowledging that to truly serve God, one must yield to the grace of the Holy Spirit, then one's service, even when faced with the trials of being single, is truly heartfelt. It is in that experience, we learn how to be Christ like, and as a dear friend of mine has said, it is how we learn to be "Jesus with skin on."

How do you see your role among many single Catholic dads? Are you trying to accomplish that role alone, or with heart, by the grace of God? Give it some thought today, and listen to what God may have to teach you.

Happy to See You (Both) Grow

video


“B” – I love watching you assert your independence. You just recently turned five, and I cannot believe how fast your are “becoming”. After your doctor's appointment, we went to one of our favorite restaurants, Daphne's Greek Cafe and while there, I ordered our usual chicken, Greek salad and drinks, for you me and your sister. Thinking the world is perfect when I'm with you and C, you reminded me it isn't, especially when I forget something as important as rice. That was your chance! And you took advantage of it. You asserted, “I can get it, Papa...” in a can do voice. Well, wanting to relish the moment, I handed you some money and you skipped over to the line where you waited...and waited...and waited, while two other adults went ahead of you. I guess, us adult-types just would not think to see a five year old as someone we have to wait behind when out and about taking care of all we need to. Seeing the situation, I called you over, and you skipped back to the table where C and I were waiting. You took my encouragement to heart, “When you go back, step up to the counter and say, 'I'm ready to order now.' And, the lady at the register will hear you.” Well, that is all you needed to get the job done. Both “C-mister” and I were so proud of you, we gave you high fives all the way around.


“C” - You likewise astound me! You are nearly three, and the other day, we sat down to lunch. And after prayer for the meal, and getting ready to dive into our “Coleslaw Wraps” with cilantro sauce and chips on the side, an invention of your good ol' Papa, you asked, “And, how is your day, Papa?” Well, I just about did a double take and began to answer, halfway expecting you to share some insights I need to consider on how to make my day better. I should have expected this, since the night before, you and your sister enjoyed our going to Trader Joe's to help me shop for groceries. Of course you each had to have your own Eco-friendly bag to carry your non-breakables. Since you were unable to carry the colorful and standard bag Trader Joe's offers, I quickly adapted a wine bottle carry tote (which is about 60% smaller than the usual shopping bag) to the task and you were quite satisfied to drag that thing around the entire market tying to fill it with anything that was way too large and heavy. When your effort didn't work, you waited for me to fill it with an orange or two, tomato and other small items. That did the trick, and you considered yourself a genuine shopper!
I suspect the good Lord likewise cares for us. He is there to give us the tools we need, guidance, love and concern to help us grow and succeed. All we need to do is listen, take His direction and trust he will help us navigate the world around us. I suspect He is likewise happy to see us grow. But, remember, who loves you more than Papa? Yes, that's right, “Jesus!”


Love,


Papa

A Man Looking for Refuge Following Miscarriage



The e-mail to homeschooling parents for prayer to God for help, “to come to terms with the loss” of a child to miscarriage, as “I know many of you [moms] have gone through this before”, took me back many, many years to Mark's story of an identical loss with his partner, Ann (The names have been changed). Unlike Ann, Mark found himself alone, pained and with the only avenue to solace found in writing his daughter, Samantha, a “goodbye letter” in the Emergency Room waiting area in the early morning hours before the sun came up that day over fifteen years ago.

Both Mark and Ann, a young couple were ecstatic, to say the least about their pregnancy. They were very much in love, and this child was conceived from the union of their hearts and they enjoyed the daily anticipation of the “new addition”, as any young couple would find themselves basking in the affection they have for one another in the early years of adult life. Their pregnancy was laden with intimate stories of anticipated Christmas', birthdays, and new roles they would have in the community and among friends and family.


Their joy was solidified one evening at dinner after Mark and Ann came home from work one night and at dinner each shared, with a twinkle in their eyes, “I think I have the perfect name!” Over their usual fare and before an evening comedy programs, they agreed to say their respective choice for their new baby at the same time and then discuss the merits of each name. “Samantha” was the name blurted out in near unison. Wide eyed and to each other's amazement they thought this was surely a sign of more happiness to come for the four of them, Mark, Ann, Samantha and Jake, the cat. They loved thinking of themselves as “the four of us” and no longer “the couple with the cat”.


Several weeks after that dinner, Mark and Ann found themselves in the Emergency Room after midnight. Ann was being attended to in a separate room, while Mark sat alone in the dimly lit waiting room unsure of what was happening. After he found out about the miscarriage from the doctor, who seemed to convey the news as if out of obligation rather than a sense of compassion, Mark was devastated, numb and so much so, there were no tears or questions for the doctor. Ann's family members soon arrived after receiving the news and quickly shared with Mark their condolences, as they rushed past to Ann's room, to “see how mom is doing” (It took some time for everyone to let go of Ann's role as a new mom). Following after them were deliveries of flowers, condolence cards, phone calls, invitations to coffee, lunch, encouragement and reminders, “God has a reason.”


All these wonderful gestures for Ann were very much appreciated by Mark, but he could only reflect and find comfort in the memory of being in the E.R., sitting there doing the only thing he knew to do...write his dear daughter, Samantha a goodbye letter with paper he found in the cold waiting room and using the only pen he had in his pocket. The tears now came, as his goodbye told of his love for Samantha, what his grandfather would have said about her if he was alive, and of how much she was wanted. That letter is, I am sure, in some box in Mark's home now, but Samantha has a special place untouched by time.


Since grieving for such losses is hardly acknowledged for fathers in our society (and much less so fifteen years ago), the next workday seemed surreal for Mark. There was "no longer the four of us", he ruminated. And, unlike Ann after returning to work, there was no question put to Mark in the form of, “How are you doing, Mark?” “How is this affecting you?” which made the loss even more surreal if that is possible, since surely everyone knew that he wanted Samantha as much as Ann. For some reason, what came to his ears every time he met someone who new them both, was “How's she doing? Is she okay?” Of course, Mark wanted the best for Ann, and with genuine concern, he found himself reassuring them she was doing “as well as could be expected.”


I wish I could say Mark, Ann and Jake went on to have another pregnancy, and the dreams of the four of them enjoying Christmas', birthdays, and all the rest followed, but I can't. The reasons are perhaps for a different recollection prompted by another prayer request in an unanticipated e-mail for another time.


Conservatively, miscarriage occurs in twenty percent of pregnancies (1, 2) and it is nice to see that there is some attention now being given to the loss that fathers experience (3). If you have had a loss, and have found yourself similarly alone, perhaps a goodbye letter may help. In any case, your loss is real, no less important and likely your love for your unborn child is as profound for you as it was and is for Mark; the loss may have changed your being in some unanticipated ways. It is okay to say, “goodbye” and look for the hope that our Lord promises in the life hereafter, where there will be no tears and perhaps the opportunity to embrace your child and let him or her know just how much their precious life was wanted.


If you need prayer, please don't hesitate to send out your own e-mail request to someone you know personally, schedule time to talk with your priest, a friend and take time to seek other avenues of healing (4). You don't have bear the burden of loss alone, especially the loss of your child. If you have support, then you are fortunate and may consider making yourself available to other young dads faced with such challenges. The memory of Mark's child, and your child surely is deserving of any love hidden away from others. You may find that sharing what this child has meant to you brings to light the breadth and depth of who you are as a person, father...Catholic man. Then, more whole and present to embrace any precious moments that come your way.

1 - All About Life Challenges - http://www.allaboutlifechallenges.org/miscarriage-statistics.htm
2 – When do Most Miscarriages Occur - http://miscarriage.about.com/od/riskfactors/f/miscarriagestat.htm
3 – Dealing with Miscarriage - http://fatherhood.about.com/od/pregnancyandfathers/a/miscarriage.htm
4 – Angel Teddy Bears - http://www.angelteddybears.org/




Strong Tower, by Kutless

"Brother, if you have lost a child to abortion, miscarriage or some other painful event, remember the Lord is there for you. Maybe he can be your Strong Tower of refuge and hope" (ECLD).


Strong Tower (by Kutless):
When I wander through the desert
And I'm longing for my home
All my dreams have gone astray
When I'm stranded in the valley
And I'm tired and all alone
It seems like I've lost my way
I go running to Your mountain
Where Your mercy sets me free
You are my strong tower
Shelter over me
Beautiful and mighty
Everlasting King
You are my strong tower
Fortress when I'm weak
Your name is true and holy
And Your face is all I seek
In the middle of my darkness
In the midst of all my fear
You're my refuge and my hope
When the storm of life is raging
And the thunder's all I hear
You speak softly to my soul...

When Childen Take Their Papa for a Walk


Today started out as being the first time I would take “B” and “C” on a contemplative (nature walk) at Prince of Peace Abbey. By the time we packed up after the dusty midday stroll, I found it was a much different experience than anticipated.

During our walk to each station of the cross, I was amazed at how “B”, who will be five soon, could “read” the stations of the cross with a little help. It was clear to her when the Lord received help to carry the cross, and when the “men hit Jesus”, were “mean to him” and when others “are praying for him”. At each station, I challenged her to “see if you can tell me what the picture says.” After some brief discussion, it was on to the next. The day was warm, sun was bright and the view was peaceful, as we listened for the small birds fluttering by as we walked, talked and held hands. Moreover, it was such a blessing to hear “B” say, “Hurry, let's see what the next one says” and watch both her and her sister break free and run to the next station. These precious moments were punctuated with, “I'm tired...I want water...It's hot.” Those little voices seemed to echo the voice of Jesus' own path, only with him, there were few to give any comfort or concern.

As we walked from station to station, “C” didn't appreciate all the “bees” (flies) that flew about her; but drawing her attention to “Let's see who can find the next bird, or butterfly” seemed to help distract her from the minor discomforts that go with nature walks (heat, sun, dust, etc.).

It was a little difficult for me to point out the burial ground of the Abbey's former brothers who were buried at the Abbey's cemetery, each under his respective cross, and even more difficult to answer the question, “Will we all be there someday, Papa?” But, the sting of death was made easier in reminding her and myself, “We will all be with Jesus” and “It is only our bodies buried, not our souls” (It shouldn't be too long before I will need to share these thoughts again when “C” is older. I suspect it will not be easier).

Their enthusiasm to “Let's go pray in the church” after our walk was a joy. And, I thought to myself, “If this is just a small portion of what heaven is like, the joy to come is incomprehensible.”

“C” (soon to be three), modeled after her sister in the presence of our Lord, as each knelled down in an uncoordinated attempt to respect the silence of the sanctuary. With their little hands folded together, and looking to me for approval before our Father, I was moved to humbly ask God, “Please help me to be a better father so this lasts.”

What started out as a nature walk turned into a time of fellowship between my sweet daughters, God, his creation and the awareness that the sense of love that flows from such fellowship can only be had in making the time for moments such as this.

Thank you, sweet daughters, for taking me on a contemplative walk and helping me to have a better appreciation for our joy together and that which awaits.

Your Child's Potential

A congruent life is one where we are each able to see reality as clearly as we are able, and make decisions about our lives within the context of our respective belief systems, and understand to the degree possible what the implications are for the present time and as far as possible into the future, and accept responsibility for those decisions not only for ourselves but all those who are influenced by our decisions. But what if you or I is having difficulty making a decision? Then, where do we turn? Usually, one will turn to a trusted friend, family member, pastor, priest, rabbi, doctor, therapist or some other trusted source. If we are alike in some way, we turn to God for direction to make decisions both temporal and those that will outlive ourselves.

If one seeks counseling services, one may turn to a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Psychologist (Ph. D.) or Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). It is helpful to know the position of each profession when seeking services, especially if the issue is related to a child who is not yet born.

The National Association of Social Workers state, in part: "Social workers have long been involved in advocating for reproductive choice for all women. The NASW Code of Ethics guides social workers to promote clients' self-determination. Standard 1.02. NASW’s policy statement, Family Planning and Reproductive Health states, Self-determination means that without government interference, people can make their own decisions about sexuality and reproduction. It requires working toward safe, legal, and accessible reproductive health care services, including abortion services, for everyone" (NASW, 2006 - http://www.naswdc.org/ ).

The American Psychological Association recently released a report that states in part: "The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver that pregnancy" (http://www.apa.org/).

Marriage and Family Therapists: Their website does not site a position on abortion or self-determination. Studies sited are available only to members.

When making a decision about your child who is not yet born, it is not difficult to have fear result in rationalizing abortion (the termination or ending of a child's life) as being as valid as childbirth (http://www.prochoice.org/get_involved/pro_choice_proud.html#choice).

The long term implications of a child's birth are far reaching, and may result in changes that cannot even be dreamed of. Give your child and yourself a chance to become something more than we can imagine. Imagine the Potential (CatholicVote.com). The good Lord is calling each of us, me, you, my children and yours to his will. God has open arms of forgiveness and will provide grace, knowledge and will for direction when you are ready to be healed.

Captivated by my Lord




This last Tuesday I went on a 24-hour crash course retreat at Prince of Peace Abbey, by invitation of Brother Mario, with the intent to submit to the call of my heavenly father, and to in some way come to know what Mary's perspective was in submitting to the Lord's call by way of the angel Gabriel (Luke1:38). Moreover, I had hoped to gain a better perspective of Joseph's responsibility as a father, who dealt with challenges from the moment of Mary's conception. At my arrival to Prince of Peace Abbey, I sensed this was not going to be familiar experience (photos).

The walk to my room was a little mysterious, as I entered the cool unadorned walkway. As I spent some time looking for my room, my anticipation grew, as I could feel myself wondering what the Lord had in store. Setting my things down, which was in a modest space of double beds, one desk, closet, crucifix, picture, phone and fan, I was steeped in silence. There was an immediate letting go of pager, cell, computer, fax, back-up software, T.V., radio, Plaxo, Linkedin, Twitter, Plurk, possessions, etc., etc., etc. No longer would I be connected to the world's plan for this 24 hours, but hopefully to my Lord's. My room had a view of the main entrance to the church. Its sanctuary called me during the times of prayer for the next 24. Never had I been so drawn to mediate and experience Vigil (5:30 a.m.), Lauds (7:00 a.m.), Holy Mass (11:00 a.m.), Vespers (5:00 p.m.) and Compline (8:00 p.m.). The rhythm of prayer, the song of the brothers, seemed so natural and necessary, but I hadn't known this before. At the ringing of the bells at 11:00 a.m., I embraced the experience, as I had done entering my grandmother's and grandfather's home when I was a young boy. I felt calm, secure and knew there was peace here, and it was a place to discover and grow.

During the day, I spent much time in the library, exploring the history of the Catholic church in America, anthropology, and the topic of morality and the Catholic church of the 70s. I came away more convinced than ever, of the need for our young people to be well versed in their own faith, for it was even more obvious that throughout history, the foundation set by parents and leaders is that which sustains or diminishes the faithful vitality of subsequent generations, and will either make more firm or precarious the salvation of their souls.

When not in the library, I took (photographs) and meandered about, listening to my mind, heart, soul and talked with God, and at times just felt the presence of his grandeur to my frail stature. The most potent experience for me was on the Prayer Walk, where there are fourteen stations of the cross. The stations of the cross seemed to me in similar manner what I might call the Stations of Fatherhood. At each station, I could see some parallel that fathers experience throughout life, where we at times may feel belabored and alone. And, during our walk, we may feel the relief of help at times, all the while knowing we have a destination and that our families depend on us to complete the task set before us, with the hope that in the end, not only will we rise to eternal life, but those we love will as well because of the example we set. This walk is where I was captivated by my Lord, both by embracing partially (due to my finite mind) the meaning of his sacrifice and God's love, but also by realizing the importance of my own sacrifice and love for the faith formation of my children, family and community.


That 24-hours was more intense than I had anticipated, and it left me renewed and committed to my Lord's work. During this period, I met with Brother Daniel to discuss becoming an Oblate in The Order of Saint Benedict and have since picked up a copy of The Rule of Saint Benedict. In all my experiences in the Catholic faith, this one 24-hour period seemed to solidify the vague teachings I had as a child. In this 24-hour period I was captivated by my Lord, and became wonderfully fearful of what he will reveal. Now, I believe in some small part I know what both Mary and Joseph experienced. Now, I can only pray for the Lord's grace to submit to his will and follow where he leads.


The Rule of Saint Benedict (An Image Book Original)

Dads Fighting the Freedom of Choice Act

The fight for life will not be over if The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is passed in congress January 21-22, 2009. This fight leaves me deeply moved by the events resulting in the destruction of innocent life. While I am soulfully sorrowful that the I was not able to see the magnitude of what is occurring prior to the Lord's recent conversion of my mind, heart and ears to both know and hear, I am also more than ever certain of my convictions.

As I mentioned to a woman at a talk given by Fr. Denis G. Wilde (http://www.priestsforlife.org/) yesterday, I went through undergraduate school and graduate school, became a medical health professional and not once did I see photos (see links in right column) of the remains of dead children from an abortion. I clearly remember my professors not wanting us to choose the debate of abortion because "it had already done time and again." So, my then peers absorbed the teaching of the universities, not knowing better and not prompted by a well formed awareness through our faith.

I say this, because I want to underscore the importance of our work as parents in the faith formation and education of our children to the issues around them. Without a firm foundation, our children will take in the teaching of a secular world, only to one day perhaps find themselves learning the truth if they yield to the Holy Spirit. Often, I feel as perhaps Paul felt, as a former persecutor (out of ignorance) of the Church: "...Whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ..." (Philippians 3:7).

Can I or we continue to give consent by silence? No, not I and it is this scripture which seems to be the one that captures the challenge for me: “Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish pesons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord” (Ephesians 5-16-17).

To those who are faithful, I adopt this encouragement for you and your family: "Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me [St. Paul]. Then the god of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:9).

Resources:
American Center for Law and Justice / Issue Index on Abortion

CatholicDads.org / Pro-Life

Fight FOCA

Americans United for Life

Track FOCA through Congress

Calendar for Life

Abortion Medical News