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).

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