Be Lifted Up

As 2010 comes to a close, I felt called from the place of Christ's birth to the cross.  To get there, I went home to Prince of Peace Abbey, where I seek spiritual guidance.  There after Mass, I visited the outdoor stations of the cross, under a clear blue sky and sunshine, the warmth of which was slightly broken only by the brisk late morning gentile wind coming off the coast.  The ground was muddy after local rains and reminded me of our origins; the stations reminded me of our Lord's path, and our destination.   I meditated, prayed, contemplated, asked and listened.  I don't know how long the walk took; at one point I was lost in thought and had to find my way back to the trail I have walked before.

Fellowship with the Lord is very humbling.  For all that one is and all that one could be is exposed.  There is no hiding when one comes to the cross.

Finishing the walk, I was mindful of the seeds scattered in the soil of mind and heart.

It took the better part of the day, thinking and searching for a theme to memorialize today; the theme was found in a song by Paul Oakley, Be Lifted Up.  In 2011 I trust the Lord to cultivate and give root to what is for his good pleasure, in my life and in the lives of dads and moms everywhere, seeking to allow Christ to be lifted up in their lives so they and their children will have a clear vision of their destination.  As the early evening of today is upon us, I find myself reflecting on a section of today's reading:

Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. - 1 John 2:15

From this scripture is born the prayer that our fellowship with Christians everywhere be unified to strengthen and cultivate what matters for this generation and the next.

A simple walk under the blue sky of our creator.  A simple purpose guided by the light of his spirit.  May our Lord be lifted up.



- Watch more Videos at Vodpod.




Innkeeper

If you are parent, or have had the experience witnessing the birth of a child, you know of the emotions preceding the event, the adrenalin rush, hypervigilance hours before, blood, sounds and concurrent fear of complications hand-in-hand with the anticipated joy of bringing life into the world.  This is an experience not soon forgotten. Most people reading this entry will have had access to some modern day support, hospital, midwife, whatever.  The point is you likely had, or was with someone who was within reasonable distance to aid, attention and access to support for the birth of a child.

As I read the Bible's account of what lead up to the birth of our savior, I am left with a visceral impression of the event's raw nature preceding an arresting event unrivaled by any of the greatest accomplishments found in humankind.  In reading the scripture, I see that  I (we) are at times like the innkeeper with no room for a wondering couple, unkempt, likely anxious, traveled, musty, dirty and obviously going to be needing attention.  Imagine opening your front door and there stands this couple, the pregnant woman on a smelly donkey.  The couple looking at you with pleading eyes that pierce deep.  Your heart opens just a bit, but not as far open as the doorway between you and them; for a fraction of a moment you contemplate the right thing to do.  But then the door closes quickly and tightly as thoughts of all you have to do come rushing to mind overpowering the image of fatigue that stands before you in the uninvited.  As you close the door, the couple looks at each other in amazement and disbelief. You behind the closed door, maybe give them one more consideration, then return to what is important to you.  Yet, you do not realize you have closed the door on the messengers who usher in the greatest event in human history.

The couple presses on, perhaps, one inn after the next.  Nothing to sell, offer or give that would make the pleading more palatable to the next innkeeper.  No, in fact, they need something, want something, anything for the opportunity to stop and bring this child into the world, and to rest from their dusty journey.

If you have ever been to a stable or some place where there are animals of various sizes, you know well before you are ever on the scene, your olfactory senses are way ahead of you.  As you draw closer, your face is likely reacting to the environment, as is your stomach, both graduating toward the emotion of disgust.  If I were Joseph, I would have been concurrently relieved to have a place for the mother of my child to lay, and at the same time, I would likely be feeling dismay at there being no better option. If I were feeling the experience for Mary, I would be wondering only about safety, security and that my love was at hand.

Moments pass quickly, then the whimpering, giving way to perhaps screaming, pushing, clutching the hand of her betrothed.  There is no doctor on hand, no medication to give, no running water, dimmer for the lights or soft music. There is only love in a very, very raw place to be.

But, that is our savior.  He is the example to go to the places we likely would not, accept by God's grace and calling do we have the capacity.  And, when he gets there, he announces by his presence, likely following the drying and salty tears on the cheeks and lips of those witness to his birth (in swaddling clothes no less) he is "sustenance for the world" 1.


Under circumstance likely none of us would choose, similar to many unanticipated challenges (loss of work, illness, aging, etc.) we would not choose in  our lives today, Joseph and Mary found courage to bring our savior into the world and a commitment to deal with anything that would follow.  How did they do this?  Might this birth experience be an example to handle our own lives, given to us by our Lord?

The scriptures reveal both Joseph and Mary were given a command and reason for the command:

  • Joseph was told by an angel in a dream, "Do not be afraid..." (Matthew 1:20).  Why? Because "he [Jesus] will save his people from their sins" (21);
  • Mary, "who was greatly troubled" (Luke 1:29), was told by the angel, Gabriel, "Do not be afraid..." (30).  Why? Because Jesus (31) born from her will be "...great and will be called Son of the Most High..." (32).
What a powerful message in what lead up to the birth of our savior, which can only be understood by not only opening the door, but taking on all that will accompany the birth of a child and accepting there are no clear answers, ideals or helps at times.  And relinquishing one's self to God, who will quell any fear (but not always remove challenges) for the ultimate purpose of salvation from sin by Jesus, who's name "is a Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua (Yehoshua), which means "Yah is Savior" 2.

What is more important than this child, delivered by a tired and anxious couple?  As innkeepers, if we let them in and accompany them to deal with this pregnancy and birth, we will be distracted, fatigued, taxed and have to deal with the uncomfortable.  However, by embracing the challenge of this child's birth, we are witness to "the most momentous single event in the history of the world" 2.

Now that is an adrenalin rush for any innkeeper.













1. Brown, Raymond, E. (ed.), The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, (Prentice Hall, 1990)
2. Farmer, William R. (ed.), The International Bible commentary, (The Liturgical Press, 1998)

My Treasure

Watching my four year old daughter love her treasure, gets me thinking about what valuable treasure will I leave to her and her sister (age 6) when I am gone.

"There she goes", I think to myself, as my youngest, "Co-Co" blurs past one room to the other, catching my eye, like a cat noticing a bird flutter by to settle on a branch out of reach.  I wait a little while, because I know she is squirreling away, in a place she calls "My Treasure", some new and little thing-a-ma-bob she has found and holds dear to her heart. It could be her sister's bracelet, taken without permission in the hopes it will just be forgotten about, a puzzle piece, a special rock we found at the park, my favorite pen, or something really peculiar like used children's floss!  I learn two very important lessons: 1 - There is no rhyme or reason to what fancies a girl's heart and 2 - If I'm missing something, I know where to look.

Co-Co's treasure got me thinking about My Treasure, too.  My faith.  As one who has explored his faith and lack there of over the course of at least three decades, and having explored becoming an atheist, turned agnostic, and ultimately returning to the Catholic faith of my youth, I am feeling blessed to know more fully in an adult way what a personal relationship with Christ means.

A personal relationship with Jesus is like any other that requires daily attention to remain vital; it includes the "little things" of prayer, mindfulness, scripture reading, and action.  It is these "little things" that amount to a treasure I am adding to daily for my own spiritual edification, that of my community's and eventually to pass along to my children as an inheritance of faith.  With each passing day together, we squirrel away memories in our hearts, that result in a shared history able to get us through any of life's challenges (and we have had our fair share).

By no means perfect, I could do better on many days.  But rather than striving for perfection, I renew each morning a commitment to looking for what is meaningful in our faith, taking the time to explore answers to the questions I had long ago (and currently) and practice being the best I can be in my relationship to Christ. Why?  I determined long ago, I would not allow my children to flounder in all the world will throw at them, without a good faith effort to give them a framework by which to gage the progress of their lives and the progress of the world in which they live. I once heard,

If you will not teach your children, someone will.  Do you think that someone will have your children's best interest at heart in the temporal world or hereafter?
The answer to that question is obviously, "No!"  So apart from my belief in the importance of modeling for my children a relationship they can have hope in and will come to appreciate in their own lives when older, I believe in personal accountability to the knowledge I have of a creator.  To not act on that knowledge would leave me emotionally and psychologically bland.  Not something I wish to be for my children.

During this holiday time, in celebration of the birth of my Lord, I am particularly mindful and thankful for my children and what I learn from them.  And I am thankful for my faith, My Treasure and God's grace that allows it.  This gift doesn't come in a box; it fits from within given by a Savior to last a lifetime and thereafter.  As with so many gifts we are offered, it must be accepted for there to be a continued binding of the relationship between the gift giver and gift receiver (to do otherwise is simply to reject the gift).  To experience the full impact of the love with which a gift is given, it must be accepted with a fully open mind and heart, leading to a treasure of unimaginable value for this generation and the next.

What is your treasure?  What inheritance are you working daily at to leave your own children?  What treasure do your own children enjoy?

Resources:
Why do Catholics Do That?
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization




Favourite Time of Year
The Florin Street Band (Christmas 2010)

========================



Star of Bethlehem 
Amazing research confirms the book of Revelation

For more information, see The Star of Bethlehem

"well-researched and reasonable"
Former Chief of Planetary Astronomy, NASA, and Technical Editor, Sky & Telescope magazine

"an interesting look...at the star...genuinely thought-provoking"
Christianity Today magazine


I Got Pooh for You!


One of the major life experiences that occurs in every parent's life, which binds you as the parent to your child occurs at "Potty Time" (written about extensively by experts in the field, who offer parents a multitude of suggestions and secrets in their books).  That is the time where bonding really occurs.  Make Potty Time a good experience and my guess is you've sealed the relationship pretty well.  Now, I have just a bit of an aversion to "Potty". But no matter who you are, CEO, M.D., Clerk, Domestic Engineer or Fashion Model, we all deal with "Potty".  Our parents dealt with it, their parents did and every single generation after us will deal with it.  Potty is so serious a matter, there is actually the Real Diaper Association researching the subject. They report, "27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed every year in the U.S."

Where there is Pooh, there is Pee.  Kinda like Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, or Sonny and Cher or Batman and Robbin  It is impossible to separate the two.  It can't be done.  You cannot have a discussion about Number 2 without Number 1.  They go hand-in-hand, so to speak (Yuck).

The other night, my four year old had an accident (You'd think she was running around in her room and collided head on with another moving object at 1 a.m.  But, that didn't happen and we had to deal with an accident). So I get up, can't find my glasses and take my little one by the hand, mindful of not wanting to have any experience related to Pooh be traumatic and have her end up in therapy some day, dealing with her Pooh and Papa.  So, I take her by the hand, and assure her, "Oh Honey, That's okay, Babe, accidents happen".  I get her cleaned up, and back into bed after removing the fancy bed cover, fearful another accident will occur, but I'm tired, she's dry, happy and enjoys the snuggles before she is back to sleep.  Like any good parent, I can handle the situation without glasses, and in a semi-lighted environment, with the skill and precision of a Navy Seal assembling a weapon on the shores of a foreign beach in nearly pitch black conditions, so quiet as not to wake my other daughter.

This whole experience, reminds me of those times, I actually long for.  Can you believe it?  I long for those times of changing diapers.  Am I nuts, or what?  But, truth be told, I do.  Then I think of the song I made up for my first daughter that served her and my second well.  When I used to sing it, no matter how bad the accident, the song brought a smile to both our faces and bonding was reinforced:

I got pooh, just for you!  Papa, I got pooh for you. I got pooh, just for you!  Papa, I got pooh for you!!


Neat times.

So before she gets up after sunrise, I already have the comforter involved in the accident washing; and I have cup of coffee in hand ready to take on the day.  After the wash is done, I'm struggling to take the thoroughly wet comforter out of the wash (and just at this moment it occurs to me, should that have been dry cleaned?) and my little one walks up to me standing at the washing machine.  She takes one look at the all consumed and dripping wet comforter and says, "Wow, Papa, that's a lot of pee!!"  I bust up laughing, and say, "Babe, I don't think this is all because of you.  I don't think I can even have an accident like this!"

She giggles, not really understanding what I mean, but more so at may laughter.  I pull over a chair, she climbs up and together we finish struggling with the dripping wet comforter to get it to its intended destination, the dryer. With my gentle instruction, she turns a nob and pushes a button.  She's amazed at her near mastery of turning on the dryer; I pick her up, snuggle and we're on to the next morning's task...breakfast (after our morning's prayer of course).







Speechless

A colleague asked me today to help her with a project that has to do with online teaching, and she needed me to recall when writing became so important in my life.  While I have had many occasions to write to family members of clients in the course of my career for one reason or another, immediately my mind settled on the day I started to blog for my then only daughter, "Baby B".

July 16, 2004 - "Baby B", unbeknown to her was compelling me, by her peaceful existence, to capture an experience I had never known, an experience that was so dynamic I could hardly find the time to write each new awareness that was rushing into my mind, heart and soul, at times drawing from me emotions that most men like myself find it difficult to admit to.  She was in the world for only a little over six month, and as she continued to grow, nurse, move, cry, slumber, wake, I was transformed each and every moment we were both together and apart. I found myself listening attentively to her, trying to learn her language directing me to meet the most fundamental of her needs.  Never in my life did I want to hear something so well, or wanted to get something so right.  Intuitively, I did pretty well.  However, upon reflection, I do recall how overwhelmed I felt.  I was so taken with joy, I could only blog the simple observation, "Baby B takes a break from play to discover her feet".  Today, both she and her sister, "CoCo", at times, still leave me nearly speechless.

Play





Enjoyed playing 123 Number Jumble with youngest who had a cough today, "sneezies" and a runny nose. Life is good for us both, no matter how many tissues we need.


 You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing.  What!  Is it nothing to be happy?  Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long?  Never in his life will he be so busy again. - Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762





Honor





Caring is defined in many different ways and is manifested in the seemingly small gesture, as when a friend invites you to coffee to listen to an issue that is troubling you, or it may be in a determined commitment to show you love in ways that will bring tears of joy and admiration, and will be remembered for the rest of your life.

Like you, I am faced with many opportunities to provide care, especially in the work I do (see Profile) and more importantly when my children become ill. Taking care of an ill child (or children) is an honor, for one day that child will care of of an old man, and my hope is she will find the same honor. I am not of the belief we are to put away the burdens that face us in life, for I believe those "burdens" are the very elements that strengthen our character and make us unique physically, psychologically and spiritually. From a refined character, then comes great gifts to those we love and those we may never know.

How do you care? Who inspires you to care deeply? Here is a dad and son who inspire me.




Holiday Conflict and the Path to Healing from Domestic Violence

During this time of year, schedules can become more intense, though the children are not in school; budgets are challenged and we try to do more with less. Also, there are the important appeals from local and national organizations seeking assistance to help the needy, which may lead to a sense of feeling guilty for not being able to give more.


If a family was previously experiencing stress, the loss of a job, medical bills and concurrently dealing with alcohol or chemical dependence, or some mental or medical health challenge, then unmet expectations can increase the stress and result in spontaneous and unintentional abuse in the home. And, if abuse in the home was already an established pattern of interaction, then circumstances can get worse.  Perhaps you have a sister, brother, uncle, mother, father or friend who can use your assistance.

What’s the solution? Break the silence.


Whatever the circumstance, help is available and new coping strategies can be learned. More importantly, there is healing through Christ for all involved.  Imagine for a moment, experiencing for a loved one or friend the peace and healing Christ offers. Can you think of a better gift, than to bring someone aid and information?


Resources:

  • To refer a friend (or to use for yourself) to his local priest for reconciliation and counseling, visit www.MassTimes.org. There it is easy to identify a local Catholic Church and contact information to schedule an appointment with a priest. Also, calling you local diocese and asking for a list of Catholic counseling services in the area is easy enough to accomplish;
  • For our sisters and their children who are thankful for a day free of violence - Faith and Trust Institute;
  • The Church on domestic violence - "Scripture leads to... equal dignity of men and women" (USCCB);
  • Are you called to share with someone you know a path to freedom from violence? Learn to identify abuse in the home here;
  • Be Still and Know, Stephen Curtis Chapman - Music for contemplation;
  • Domestic Violence Recovery Books;
  • Catholic counseling support;
  • Getting help for a loved one or friend suffering from domestic violence - Video;
  • 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) / 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) - Anonymous & Confidential Help 24/7



+ Catholic Dads HQ - Faith formation is job #1 - Working toward "Strengthening: Heart, Soul and Mind" (sm) of Catholic dads, their families and communities everywhere (Mark 12:29-31)



Gifts to Our Children by Service to Our Neighbor

 

As we enter into the season of giving, you may have some interest in volunteering, or introducing a young person to this aspect of community-fellowship. The message from our Lord is clear and should touch the depth of our hearts, and can only be modeled for our young people to understand by what we do more than what we say about how giving is important in meeting the temporal needs of others, and eternal needs beyond what is immediately apparent.

This observation is nothing new as the following excerpts indicate from as far back as 1899 to "modern day" 1947":

"Education consists in preparing the moral character of a child, in teaching him the few fundamental invariable principles accepted in all the countries of the world. It consists in giving him, from tenderest childhood, the notion of human dignity" (Lecomte Du Nouy, 1947. Human Destiny, p. 208). 
"In a day when selfishness brings so many temptations, [the Bible] supplies us with information and knowledge of what God has done and can do with individuals and nations given over to His service...[The Bible]...will mean very little to the modern man unless he reads and hears and answers its challenge...." (Ted Evans, 1928. What Place Religion? p. 159). 
"...[W]hether the parent likes it or not, whether the parent knows it or not, whether the parent helps it, hinders it, or ignores it, the education of the unconscious is ever going on...The soul (unconsciously) observes and reflects and assimilates the countless products of nature and art which enter it. The result is formation of character, and all which we call life is impressed. The influences from without make a man what he is" (Alfred T. Schofield, 1899. The Unconscious Mind, p. 190).
As we consider the days ahead and the gifts we will exchange, wrapped in either the love shared at a special meal, giving aid to the homeless, or a favorite holiday paper, may we give a momentary thought to the gift we give our children wrapped in our actions on the value of human dignity served by our time and attention to those less fortunate.

Many blessing to each and everyone and may there be joy in every home and in the hearts of those you touch by your generosity.





Loving Nature, Loving You

I chose this piece, Flowers with Relaxation Music for my blog today, because my daughters and I love nature.

When we're together, they don't just smell the flowers, they pick them and give them away as gifts of love and affection.  Also, I know that my spending time with them, enjoying what brings them happiness, the standard begins to take form, as they learn about relationships.  For they will know, in love, we share with those what bring them happiness.

They remind me to embrace nature with all the senses, to draw the attention of others to it, and with love fear not giving nature and one's heart away, a gift that requires a lifetime of attention to its fragility.

"Thank you, my little ones, for the gifts you give.  ~ Love, Papa"


Image: Favorite flower of my youngest. Photo taken at Flower Frenzy - Florists, in Encinitas, CA

Veterans Day 2010

"November 11th is Veterans Day, a day to honor America's military Veterans. Since 1954, the Veterans Day National Committee has worked to ensure Veterans Day receives proper and widespread observance. Part of that outreach this year includes this video for students explaining how and why we honor Veterans, not just on Veterans Day, but year-round.  On the VA Veterans Day page you'll find not only this video but also Veterans Day History, local and national observances and resources to teach students the value of honoring our Veterans" (US Department of Veterans Affairs).

- TAPS - "Caring for the families of the fallen..."
- Taps Bugler on YouTube
- Taps Bugler

In addition to paying respect, we extend the honor deserved to those who have served and their families, by teaching our children to respect those who protect our county from all enemies foreign and domestic, and teaching them the freedoms we enjoy come at a high price. We can do no less than to instill this awareness of gratitude, which may well be the seed to courage (ECLD).





"O God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord" (Prayer for Deceased Veterans).


Resolving Conflict Between Kiddos Traveling 40 MPH


Invariably on any venture with kids, as with a lot of parents and ventures, wrinkles in the daily "plan" accumulate, especially if traffic begins to backup.

When that happens, one needs a little grace, St. Christopher and prayer to effectively and safely navigate down the highway, headed straight  for school, a play date, yogurt outing, shopping venture or bug hunt at the local park.  One too many red lights, and tensions rise.

You know what I mean.  You're sitting at the light, looking at your watch and then hear from the back seat little ones launch into "How much longer?"  "Are we there yet?" or "Papa, why is she staring at me?" Or, that one we all love, "I have to go pee again" (Wouldn't it make life a little easier if car seat companies had a fitted and pee resistant covers, just like we use for their beds?  But, I digress).  If you have had enough rest the night before (Yea, right), and plenty of coffee or diet-whatever, then these queries are effectively managed with a polite any one of the following canned comments:

  • "Nope.  I'll let you know when we're there."
  • "Nope, it will be just a little longer."
  • "Hon, look out the window and let's see who can find the next sign with numbers."
  • "Hang, in there, let me find a bookstore. Can you hang on?"  (Bookstores are harder to find, but they are the cleanest; and since my daughters loath gas stations, I know just about how long it takes to get to each bookstore from any particular intersection in our community).

If this is all you have to deal with before arriving at your destination, then you have literally "arrived" and a Snoopy dance or the latest dance step is in order.  Life is sweet and yes, there is a God who listens to St. Christopher.  Pause.  Wait a minute, life isn't so sweet all the time, is it?  Sometimes, St. Christopher and God have other designs and lessons to teach when kiddos get into it in the backseat.

Are you ready?  If your little ones begin lobbing stuffed animals at each other, or Lord forbid, take the last sticker from someone's new sticker / coloring book, and all heck is just about to be unleashed back there, under these circumstances, you've got little time to react.  Rather than trying to manage WWIII from the front seat of a war zone traveling at 40 MPH approaching a yellow light, take a deep breath and say, "Hey, guys.  I thought you were wanting to go to (Fill in the blank here).  Guess you are not ready, since you can't be nice to each other. Sooooo, we're pulling over and we are not going anywhere until you stop fighting and makeup."

Of course, for maximum effect, you'll want to (a) have practiced this with your colleagues and CEO and (b) keep your voice low, determined and just a little difficult to hear, James Bond style.  Start yelling, and you lose the full effect and beauty of this peace keeping mission (Don't forget to turn off the engine so you can then bask in peace a quiet).  I usually stay at the side of the road for about the number of minutes equal to the average of their ages.  And, just for grins, to ground myself, I adjust the rear view mirror and watch their little confused faces looking at each other, and without out a word, try to figure out, "What are we going to do?"  What was initially a potential conflict that could rival any, turns into three to four minutes of entertainment.

Now, I'm not kidding, the fist time I tried this little maneuver, the kids were in shock. Truth be told, I was, too.  The war stopped!  That's when I discovered, keep a child from her intended destination, and you will have her full attention and compliance.  After about two more trials of this, the mere threat of pulling over has resulted in nearly 99.99999% effectiveness.

My little ones are four and six years old.  So, I encourage you, try this in your home (I mean car), but keep in mind, this strategy to end conflict between older children, to my knowledge, has not been tried.  So be cautious!  In a few more years I will let you know how it goes.  But until then, let me know how your peace keeping mission turns out.

Active, Involved, Informed and Engaged: Dealing with Reproduction

Dealing with reproductive issues is a very sensitive issue and can make one or both spouses feel isolated and alone, unless they have exceptional communication skills and are mutually supportive of one another.  Post-Gazzete reports:
 "...infertile couples often break up because they can't talk about it in healthy ways. Men have a hard time talking about infertility, and their wives may conclude that they don't care because they don't talk about it, he said. Women, because they realize there is no one to blame for the problem, sometimes displace their anger about it onto other issues in the marriage, causing great friction" (Read more).

"The Pope Paul VI Institute is the only Catholic Institution of its type in the United States and perhaps the world that has dedicated its services to the development of morally and professionally acceptable reproductive health services. The Institute is nationally and internationally recognized for its major accomplishements, including the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System (CrMS), the official language of a woman's health and fertility and the new women's health science, NaProTECHNOLOGY" (The Pope Paul VI Institute).

I wonder if men in fact do find it difficult to talk about with their wives?  If so, what makes that a difficult discussion?  I know there are as many reasons, as there are open hearts to the blessings of a child.  To my brothers, I'd suggest the easiest and first step woud be simply to get informed; and if a Catholc brother knows of another dealing with such burdens, it is a gift to share this information on The Pope Paul VI Institute, keep him (and his wife) in your prayers, and be there for support.  If you extend this gift of charity, who knows, you may become someone's uncle someday.

The Well of Consciences...How Deep is Your Well?

Fewer and fewer Catholic dads with young families seem to be actively involved in their local parish's community activities .  But is the well of conscience growing deeper, or more shallow among Catholic  dads?


Prior to March 2002, I like most obtained much of my political and general information from secular radio and T.V.  Of course, I talked with friends and family about their views, went to church and listened to what the priest had to say; and I relied heavily on my education to understand the "right thing to do". I wonder if you are the same way?

Little did I know my consciences wasn't as deep as I would like it to be to actively manage the complex moral and social issues our culture faces today; this was in part due to my lack of awareness and prior laziness many years ago.   No longer passive (a passive soldier is the best kind for evil to spread), I am much more active and informed to defend truth, the rights of the helpless, homeless, hungry and those marginalized. The Lord gained my attention through several life events I have faced throughout the course of my life, and I see there is so much yet to be done.  What about you, brother?  Are you actively engaged in your community?

As you consider the degree of your own involvement, here are resources to replenish what may be a well running dry.

A great downloadable resources entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, can be found at http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org/.

For documents from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, pertaining to Protecthing Human Life, you can go to CatholicDads.org and click on Pro-Life Updates for documents listed in alpha order. For a short video on clarifying the Catholic's responsibility, see Faithful Citizenship at The Catholic Life playlist (Youtube/CatholicDads).

Together, actively living and  spreading the Gospel, we contribute to the well of conscience that grows ever deeper, refreshed by our Lord's love to satisfy our thirst for life and truth, empowering one another to make a positive change in the communities in which we live.  So, how deep is your well?  Deep enough to make a difference in the lives of rich and poor?  In what way(s) will you make a positive change in your community today?





Got Rap? Our Pope does!

What do you get when you blend the commitment of a loving father with a simple desire of his children? You get creative ways to further enhance the relationship between them.

Similarly, I am pleased to see the Vatican creatively come up with a method for outreach to the young, by endorsing the group Ooberf├╝se, and their song, "Heart's Cry", which has been selected to represent (italics inserted) the Papal visit in the UK" (A rap is the soundtrack to the forthcoming visit of Pope to the United Kingdom, RomeReports.com, 2010-09-11-10:00).

Music is a universal means to stir the soul and this is a fantastic way to do just that, stir the soul for Christ!


Reflections of Faith

Catholic Dads Headquarters: Reflections of FaithThe soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary was the space from which God was able to gain access into humanity (Pope Benedict XVI). Today God welcomes on earth the holy throne which he had prepared for himself.  He who established the heavens in wisdom has fashioned a living heaven(Byzantine Liturgy, Adapted from Magnificat, The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8, 2010).


On this special occasion, I am mindful of the interior disposition that gives rise to the beauty found in artistic expression, which is a simple, powerful, and yet an imperfect reflection of our Creator.  The images provided here (Reflections of Faith) have been a blessing in my life and I hope they will provide some enjoyment for you, and an encouragement to take note of all the beauty found in our respective places of worship and the places we share with each other.

Labor of Love

Catholic Dads HQ - On your side: The important role of today's Catholic dads cannot be overstated, when it comes to their responsibility for the temporal and spiritual well being of their children.

While Labor Day has been traditionally focused on the contributions made by workers to the well-being of our country, we cannot overlook the concurrent importance of a dad's "labor of love" for his children.

The cumulative contribution of modern day fathers to their children's lives is well documented in current literature and social services: "Fathers are far more than just 'second adults' in the home...Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring."   And, that importance is brought to life in popular media and underscored in our outreach. Catholic Dads HQ is committed this Labor Day and everyday to the proactive and effective involvement of Catholic dads in their children's lives.

This Labor Day, reflect on your "labor of love" and what new meaning it can have for you and your children.

Enjoying Geco Juice

I've been experimenting with different breakfast drinks, and came up with Geco Juice. I have found that getting my children (ages 4 and 6) to join me in these experiments is a lot easier if I give these creative and healthy concoctions a funny name.


Cooking Time: N/A
Servings: 6 cups
Preparation Time: 5 minutes


INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups - organic apple juice
  • 1/2 - organic large cucumber
  • 1 - organic carrot
  • 1 - medium banana
  • 4 tbs - Organic Blue Agave Sweetener (Trader Joe's)
  • 2 tbs - soy Lecithin Granules (Sprouts)
  • 3 tbs - sunflower seeds
  • 2 cups - ice
DIRECTIONS

  • Pour juice in blender;
  • Add each ingredient one at a time, and blend until smooth;
  • Add Agave Sweetener and ice to taste and consistency desired.
  • Enjoy!

Teaching a four and six year old about (dignity and miracle of) life

Each day parents are faced with issues of our time related to education, the economy, changing social norms and then the big one, dignity of life.  As parents it is important to take life’s challenges, show confidence in our Lord (John 16:33) and put issues in “digestible” terms for our children.


Around the dinner table, my daughters and I really, really enjoy a meal with white rice.  Recently, as we sat chatting about the day’s events, I recalled news in my mind on the right to life issue.  In a flash of inspiration, I picked-up a single grain and directed the conversation to how “Magnificent you are to me and how much I love you.” Each of my daughters’ eyes widened to hear my enthusiasm.  From there I proceed to reflect for them, “How magnificent is God our Father and what a miracle it is to be created by Him from something smaller than this grain of rice.”  By this point, I had the full attention of my girls as I held a single grain up with an out stretched hand and proceeded to point, “God is so wonderful, He made you, and you and me”.


“Really, Papa?” my oldest questioned.  “Yes.” I responded.  I continued, “And, then from there you became the size of the nail on your little pinkie.”  I pointed to each one’s little finger with the precision and gentleness as if to poke the Pillsbury dough boy in the tummy and then proceeded to shake my youngest daughter’s little finger with vigor, resulting in giggles all the way around.  From there, I persisted as their little faces reflected with amazement what their minds began to conceptualize and marvel at in the comparison of their current size with that little grain of white rice; which lead to some discussion on who they will become, “Someday, as big as me!”


“Wow!” exclaimed my oldest, jumping up to her little feet, as if to make herself stretch a little taller at this “teaching moment” to get there a little faster.


The dinner conversation was now theirs.  “Papa, were we smaller than that?” my oldest pointed to a stray half-grain of rice. “Yep…” I said confidently.  Then my youngest, grasping her own little finger, “Was I smaller than that?”  “Yep…” I said nodding my head again with a smile, “Can you believe it?”


That brief period of time over dinner, for me set the foundation for my daughters to grasp just how miraculous they are, and how their very existence fills me with great pleasure and love. From a tiny grain of rice is born the idea (albeit not fully formed for some years to come) that something so small (and smaller) can become so big and wonderful.  I am sure there will be many dinners that will challenge me to find creative ways to infuse the ideas of dignity and value packaged in such small miracles.  And, so will continue the education on the dignity and miracle of life.



The Miracle of Life - "The “Miracle of Life” shows us how amazing and wonderful the gift of “Life” is that God has blessed us with. Through incredible ultrasound video and photos we can actually see this miracle as we watch a baby develop in the womb. This video will make a great...illustration when you are preaching on the topics of abortion and sanctity of life" (Hyper Pixels Media).

Ms. Banana Marries Mr. Tomato


I have to admit, plopping a very ripe tomato into the blender did widen my daughters' eyes.  I had no idea the girls would absolutely love this new drink, we call Ms. Banana Marries Mr. Tomato (carrots and spinach are members of the wedding party):



  • One whole very ripe tomato
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 apple
  • 1.5 cups of organic apple juice
  • 2 tbs wheatgerm
  • 2 tbs soy lecithin granules
  • 2 tbs Agave sweetener
  • 2.5 cups of ice
      Blend all ingredients and voila, happy kids!

Lions, Tigers and Bears...and Nail polish?!

Most dads want to have daughters that can take care of themselves; I am finding that helping them overcome their fears and feel feminine are equally important goals.  Weekend before last, I finally got an opportunity to take my daughters “test camping”. “Test camping” is what smart dads do when aware little princesses may not adapt well to all their little imaginations can create out in the “wilderness” of the rough and tough back county of San Diego county, where if not careful you may only get one of five bars of cell reception.  "Test camping" is basically a day camp experience; and, if my little ones and I did well, then we could plan a future commitment to stay the evening and fight off lions, tigers and bears!

In any case, my little princesses have a known aversion to bugs of all sizes, shapes and colors.  While I teach my girls respect for life, I have to admit, if one bug happens to cross that invisible boundary line and put a little too much fear into one of my daughters, the only thing a dad can do is put forth the executive shoe to end a bugs life, which brings the trauma to an end and is 100% of the time effective in restoring a little girl's sense of security (future boyfriends, beware)!

Anyway, our little test camping adventure includes teaching them to pack, checking out audio books at the library, purchasing survival supplies (among the usual stuff needed for sandwiches and snacks, marsh mellows and roasting sticks - yes, the market sells marsh mellow roasting sticks now for $2.00 for four sticks), and an unwavering commitment to build a fire, pitch a tent, roast marsh mellows and see the evening stars, which in my opinion are the minimum requirements to see if the little ones (and dad) can handle future adventures (It’s been about 30 years since my last camping adventure with my own dad).

Pitching the tent was easier than I remember it when I was a young boy.  Apparently, they have done away (at least for the tent size of ours, which sleeps eight) with 1-inch diameter aluminum poles and have replaced them with lightweight fiberglass, shock-cords pre-installed to make the whole process very easy (apparently, I was lucky enough to purchase a “tent for dummies”).  Building the fire took longer than pitching the tent, and resulted in the usual cries of “I got smoke it the eyes”, which were quickly attended to and forgotten once we broke out the marsh mellows.  Probably, the most glorious time of the test camp experience was watching my daughters get dirty, and having fun, followed by my oldest using her first telescope to take in the grander of a 99% full moon that evening.  What an exhausting day!  A test camp experience is not for the faint at heart, but I believe gave me and them a good orientation before we take the big step of staying somewhere overnight.

The following day, my little campers who braved their imaginations of lions, tigers and bears, needed a dose of civilization, so I took them “fashion shopping” at a couple local thrift stores, where they purchased a few of their favorite items.  Also, they purchased nail polish for a later “fashion show” at home.  Preceding the fashion show, I didn’t realize I’d have to apply the nail polish purchased on our shopping excursion (lemon yellow nail polish for my little one and neon-green for the oldest).  While my oldest was 55% effective in getting the nail polish on all her nails, and 45% efficient at getting it on her fingers and legs, my youngest needed A LOT of help.  Do you know how difficult it is to get nail polish on little toes?  Very, difficult!  I stood my youngest on the dining room chair with strict instructions, “Don’t move...Pops has never done this before, so give me a break while I try this...”  Applying lemon yellow nail polish to the moving miniature toes of a three year old is a lot harder than shooting a target at a shooting gallery at the local Summertime County Fair.  While I wasn't able to paint them all, she did not notice the one or two toes I just could not hit with a polish that has viscosity much harder to apply that Whiteout (Maybe I should have tried Whiteout, at least I have a lot of experience with that)!  I’m not sure how long nail polish takes to dry, but my little one was happy enough to amuse Papa by sitting on the dining table with her feet on the chair until dad thought it was okay to do a “touch test” for dryness, which was about 4-5 minutes.  She was happy to have most of her toes painted lemon yellow, and dad was happy to have a carpet free of lemon yellow nail polish.  After their dress-up time and showing off their new digs and "fancy nails", all was right in the world for Papa and my two little princesses.

Making sure my daughters are rough and tough  is important and as I was reminded by a few good friends and colleagues, it is just as important to nurture their love of fashion and the need for dress-up.  I can see how important it is to likewise provide opportunities to overcome their fears, while at the same time encouraging attention to feminine qualities, which I am sure will help them to take on any adventure they find themselves faced with and to likewise feel pretty.

What's Important

This last Monday, my youngest daughter, who is three made her way up to the stage with the other “Lambs” to receive her Dove pin, signifying her advancing to kindergarten.  Mildly sheepish, she stood there with her friends as they all tried to take in the applause, flash from cameras, music and then ushering off of the teachers like mama cats herding their young to meet once again their adoring parents, grandparents and friends.

It is now Thursday at 1:30 a.m. and the dryer is finished.  In the load of laundry is my other daughter's (who is the oldest and is six) blue checkered uniform skirt, maroon knee-high socks, white short-sleeve standard issue shirt, with school emblem and maroon sweater now washed and dried for “school dress day” later this morning for her participation in her advancing to the first grade celebration.  I’m up at this early hour because my oldest said yesterday after dinner, “Papa, I can’t wear my jumper anymore.  I’m a big girl now and I want to use my skirt (I’m not even sure that’s the special name for it, but it looks like a skirt to me)…My teacher said, we need to be extra clean tomorrow because we’re going to the first grade.”  Taking her little face in both hands, I told her how much I am proud of her, now that she is such a big girl and so smart she is ready for the first grade (Of course I held back the tears of pride and joy of her accomplishment).

But, am I ready for the first grade?  Am I ready to do kindergarten with my youngest? This last year with all of the personal stresses in the backdrop,there was “homework”, school activities, countless and beautiful handmade crafts, paintings, stories of friends on the playground, snacks, lunches to pack, preferences to learn, countless alphabet songs, “eye-spy” drives to school, challenges to read numbers on signs in the produce section at the market and then, the real tearjerker, my oldest getting too big to sit in the little car at the market with her little sister (Damn, I so loved the two of them sitting side by side pretending to race down the aisle, making driving and screeching sounds around corners as fast as I could push the cart without drawing too much attention)!

Each of my daughters exclaims in her own way that simple statement of an emerging identity and I am concurrently proud as can be and saddened that the stress of it all doesn’t last just a little longer.  I want small shoes to fit a little longer.  I want clothes to stay big so I have to cuff pants and roll up sleeves.  I want their struggle to find letters, sounding out words and putting numbers together to last just a little longer.  I find myself trying to embed every memory in my brain so these wonderful moments don’t slip away unnoticed  or unappreciated.
Upon reflection, I guess I’m ready to do kindergarten with my youngest and the first grade with my oldest (after a nice summer of rest).  All in all, I am reminded to keep doing what I am doing because what is important is creating what is necessary for my daughters to say with definite readiness, “I’m a big girl now.”