December 9, 2015

Love is (Always) in the Air

Can you feel the love? I sure can. But until a few weeks ago, I had never felt it so clearly and so dramatically.

“God is Love” and love is his first gift, containing all others. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 733)


Last month I attended the Healing the Whole Person retreat at St. Helen Catholic Church in Georgetown, presented by the Florida-based John Paul II Healing Center. The word I kept hearing over and over throughout the weekend was love.

Never was the love of God more evident for me than during Adoration and Benediction on Saturday during the retreat. Time spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament is always remarkable. But I experienced something much different this time. And it forever changed the way I look at the Host during Mass or Adoration.

Earlier in the day, this quote that was discussed at the retreat caught my attention:

The avoidance, rejection or deprivation of love is the source of all functional (physical, psychological, and spiritual) illness. Love heals. Healing is an integral part of human love. Where love is, healing is constantly occurring. – Authentic Love by J. Brennan Mullaney.


As I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament and reflected on this quote and other topics from the retreat, suddenly I could “feel” God’s love pouring out of the circle in the center of the monstrance. It reminded me of water flowing through a porthole on a ship.

Porthole

The feeling escalated until God's love was pouring through that hole with such a strong force that it was filling up the room. I could practically see the love quickly rising up toward the ceiling just as if a boat were rapidly taking on water.

Water splashing

Of course, if I had actually been on a ship with water gushing through the porthole I probably would have panicked and felt a sense of impending doom. But in this case I felt an overwhelming sense of calm, peace, grace and healing.

When I explained this “love pouring” experience to my nine-year-old daughter after the retreat, she grabbed a pencil and did a quick sketch:

Monstrance sketch

This was a great reminder that God’s love is always available, not just at Mass, Adoration or when we feel like we need something from the Lord. The problem is, even though the love is there, we are not always open to receiving it; or sometimes we forget that it is there.

[To read the rest of this story, click over to Austin Catholic New Media.]

 

November 11, 2015

Let the Children Come to Me [ACNM]

[This is a guest post by Norine Shaivitz.]

"[Jesus] called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, 'Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.'" Matthew 18:2-3

I wonder if the child Jesus chose was perfectly quiet and still, after having just woken from sleeping in Heavenly peace.

He or she was probably not behaving like the over-tired toddler I took to Mass on Saint Patrick's Day. My little girl was having a hard time holding still and being quiet. The woman in the pew behind us thought my daughter could use a distraction so she offered a rosary, which my daughter sent airborne. Our eyes watched it sail through the air and land next to the altar with a “clack.”

Rosary

This same little daughter at another Mass decided to make an escape during the Eucharistic prayer. She climbed on the pew behind me as I knelt, passed to the other side and out of the row. I grabbed her dress, but inertia was on her side, causing both of us to fall out of the pew on all fours right in the middle of the center aisle.

Such are the moments I want to hide under a rock and wonder why in the world I bother taking my children to Mass. By grace, it's extremely rare for us to miss Sunday Mass and we often come to daily Mass. Some people are welcoming and smile. Others whip around with disapproving looks to see who’s causing all the ruckus. It happened in Jesus’ time too. In Matthew 19:13, the parents brought the children to Jesus and the apostles rebuked them.

Some unkind words said to a mom at Saint Helen Catholic Church in Georgetown prompted a change for the entire parish. Father Brian McMaster said a mother made an appointment to tell him the story of how an older woman reproached her, saying, “You look like you have your hands full. You know there’s a cry room, don’t you?” The mother was devastated, feeling she and her children were unwelcome.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Matthew 18:10

Father Brian took the mother’s story to heart. Inspired by Pope Francis and the book Forming Intentional Disciples, he was already looking for ways to evangelize through hospitality. Leaders in the parish studied for a while and decided they would order out the chairs that filled the old “Cry Room” and order in several rocking chairs and cushy rugs. The new “Calming Room” is supposed to be used only temporarily, with the hope that a fussy child will calm down and can be welcomed back to the group.

Calming chair

“We want to encourage those people who made a transition from the single life to married life to life as a parent,” Father Brian said. “They can’t pray in that pious, attentive way anymore. We want to honor that the care of that child is part of worship. It seems like a struggle, but it is prayer and holiness being acted out right there.”

“We also wanted to consider the experience of the people around those with the children,” Father Brian said. “They want to have undistracted quiet and that is good. But we are also called to love one another. We don’t want to admonish people and say, ‘Why don’t you go to the cry room?’ We want to say instead, ‘How can I help?’ We are a family in this parish and we are all called to practice charity.”

Father Brian said he wants the message to be known throughout the parish that families are valued. They are wanted in the midst of the celebration, not shoved off to the side places. However, there are times when it’s appropriate for a child to be taken to the back for a bit.

Calming Wide

“A parent can discern and say, ‘My child is not quiet. The crying isn’t stopping. I can take them out to calm down.’ And it’s not a defeat,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with going out to the back for a moment. We wanted to create a space for that to occur. But we put signs up in there that say this is not permanent. When your child is calm again, we want you to come back.”

calm room sign

Father Brian is not immune to distraction. “As a priest, I have a high tolerance,” he said. “There are some people who can really focus better and there are some people who can’t as well. For myself, I have a higher tolerance. If there is consistent crying, then it’s distracting, especially if I am in the middle of a homily and I have to concentrate more. I have to make a point for myself to pray for the child, pray for the parents and pray for the people around them to be charitable. Again, if a child is crying consistently, it’s okay to go to the back for a little bit. It’s not a defeat. It’s normal.”

[To read the rest of this story, please click over to Austin Catholic New Media.]

 

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October 14, 2015

Shred Away Your Sins [ACNM]

You can learn a lot about sin from a paper shredder. At least I did. Stay with me. It’ll make sense eventually.

With apologies to my local letter carrier, most of what arrives in my mailbox falls into the dreaded category of junk mail. It would be quick and easy to toss all that unwanted material directly into the recycle bin. But much of it has a name, address or other personal information on it or in it. So I’d rather shred everything before getting rid of it.

shreds

In our household we have a dedicated shred box in the kitchen. It sounds simple enough. Just toss in the junk mail and any other document that needs to be shredded. We have a small shredder in the kitchen too. But somehow I managed to make that process more difficult than necessary. While I was good at putting things into the shred box, I wasn’t very good at actually going back later and shredding it. As a result, our shred pile was frequently unwieldy and overflowing.paper pile

Then every few weeks – or more likely months – I would turn on the paper shredder and try to tackle the unmanageable mountain of paperwork. But stuffing paper into a shredder becomes rather burdensome after a while. By waiting so long in between shred sessions, it became harder and harder each time to get it all done in one sitting. The task was downright tedious.

shredder

Finally I came up with a better idea. Why should I even bring the junk mail into the house in the first place? I moved our paper shredder into the garage right next to our big recycle bin. Now when I get home from work every day I spend just a few moments in front of the paper shredder eliminating the day’s allotment of junk mail.

Keeping up with the shredding regularly turned out to be much easier than putting if off for months at a time and having to tackle a huge pile all at once. Does that remind you of anything? Confession!

confessional

Just like paperwork that needs to be shredded, letting your sins pile up over a long period of time makes it that much harder when you finally seek the sacrament of reconciliation. I would rather walk into the confession booth frequently with a smaller list of sins than waiting a long time in between confessions and carrying the burden of many more sins in with me.

[To read the rest of the story, please jump over to Austin Catholic New Media.]

 

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September 16, 2015

Making the Rosary Fun for Kids [ACNM]

It's never too early for children to learn how to say the Rosary. Here's some documented evidence:


That was my younger daughter when she was just two-and-a-half years old. I didn't know how (or have any desire) to say the Rosary until well into my 30s, so let's not make the same mistake with the next generation of Catholics.

In a recent reflection, Pope Francis reminded us of the importance of family prayers, no matter how little time we think we have:
Our families need to ask for the gift of the Spirit! Through prayer, even in the busiest times, we give time back to God, we find the peace that comes from appreciating the important things, and we encounter the joy of God’s unexpected gifts. Through daily prayer may our homes become, like the house of Martha and Mary, places where Jesus always finds a warm welcome.
The first step to getting youngsters excited about the Rosary is getting them actively involved. Here are a few ideas:

Walking Rosary - This is perhaps my favorite way to involve my entire family in saying the Rosary as it can help strengthen both your spiritual and physical health. All you have to do is walk around while you're praying. In my household with two small children, we do walking Rosaries in follow-the-leader style. Whoever is leading at the decade at the time will mix in a few other actions while leading the walk, such as sitting on the couch and quickly standing up again or spontaneously doing a jumping jack in the midst of the prayer. Then everyone in line has to follow along. The kids love it, usually. Some parishes have Rosary gardens which is a great way for children to follow along as they hop from one bead to the next.

Singing Rosary - Sure, it would take quite a long time to sing an entire Rosary. But from time to time to keep kids interested, you can mix in some singing by letting them create their own tune for the Hail Marys, or borrowing from an existing hymn such as Hail Mary Gentle Woman.

Drawing Rosary - There are endless possibilities here. Children may enjoy drawing their own Rosary beads and using their creations to follow along during the prayer. Or as youngsters start to learn the mysteries they can draw a picture depicting each one and then use their pictures while families reflect upon each mystery. And it's always a joy to have children draw pictures of Mary.

Rosary Toys - This one used to keep my older daughter happy during the Rosary when she was a toddler. Just grab ten small toys and children can line them up and use them to help keep track of the Hail Marys.


[To read the rest of the fun Rosary ideas for kids, please click over to Austin Catholic New Media.]

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August 11, 2015

Happy Birthday Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard

Now I know how the Three Stooges must have felt in the 1934 Academy Award-nominated classic Men in Black. That was the famous short film in which Moe, Larry and Curly graduated from medical school "with the highest temperatures in our class" and were assigned to work in a hospital.

The running gag was that the the loud speaker in the hospital's dispatch board constantly screamed, "Calling Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine, Doctor Howard," while the annoyed Stooges ran from patient to patient causing chaos along the way. Finally they were so tired of the loud speaker that they tried to destroy it. But it kept talking until they shot it which caused it to sputter, "Ohhhhhh, they got me!"

My Three Stooges scenario involved a birthday cake decoration instead of a loud speaker. Some relatives visited us after they had attended a birthday party and brought us the cake top decoration because they thought our kids would like to see it.

It was a single-use musical candle decoration that opens up like a flower, ignites several little candles and plays Happy Birthday. Here's a picture of a similar one I found on the Internet:

 

Our visitors said it malfunctioned at the party; the flower opened up, lit up and spun, but it didn't play Happy Birthday. It sat on our counter for a day or two, although we had intended to throw it away once our kids were done admiring it.

Then late one night I was startled when the flower suddenly started playing Happy Birthday. We had no use for it, so I tossed it in the trash. The next morning I woke up before the rest of the family and went downstairs where I discovered the darn thing was still playing Happy Birthday from inside the trash can.

It was kind of creepy that this thing was still playing, so I figured it was my duty to stop it. My first thought was that water would short it out. So I tossed it in the kitchen sink and gave it a good soaking:

 

No luck. It kept playing. Next I tried to crush it by placing it into a plastic bag and stepping on it over and over. There was plenty of crunching, and the flowery parts of the decoration were destroyed. But it still kept playing:

 

I thought perhaps I should go back to the sink and do a better job trying to drown it. So this time I put it into a coffee mug and filled it with water:

 

It stopped playing the song briefly. But alas, it resumed when I poured the water out of the mug:

 

Okay, so soaking, crushing and drowning weren't enough. How about freezing? I filled the mug with water once again and left it in the freezer for a while. But the song still played even under a layer of ice:

 

Maybe icy water didn't do the trick, so what about hot water? I moved the mug from the freezer to our trusty Keurig coffee maker and filled it with scalding water:

 

Just like the loud speaker in the Three Stooges film, this little Happy Birthday speaker wouldn't die. I was ready to give up and let it play on forever. But then my wife came downstairs and put it out of its misery.

No, she didn't shoot it like Moe, Larry and Curly. She just pulled out the (now rusty) little batteries. So this was indeed the day the music (finally) died.

 

You're probably wondering why I didn't just take out the batteries in the first place. Well, that's fine if you like doing things the easy way!

 

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July 22, 2015

The Garment of Grace [ACNM]

On the Brown Scapular around my neck it reads, "Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire." What a promise Our Lady of Mount Carmel made to St. Simon Stock in 1251!


On July 16, 2015, the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, more than 50 people at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church in Pflugerville, Texas made a vow to enter the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular.

Blessing of the Scapulars

After having a couple of smaller investiture ceremonies over the past few years, St. Elizabeth started a ministry of the Brown Scapular which coordinated last week's enrollment Mass followed by a reception and Marian art show. Several Austin and Georgetown Lay Carmelites attended as special guests.


This confraternity is under the authority of the Carmelite Orders; however, it doesn't make you a member of the orders. It is a nearly 800-year-old private devotion that is a sign that you trust Our Lady to take you to her Holy Son.

Those who have such trust are willing to pray, and so there is a daily requirement of prayer – as little as three Hail Marys or up to a daily rosary or the Divine Office. There is also the requirement that you wear the Scapular in both your waking and sleeping hours with one tab of wool over your chest and the other over your back. Keeping it in a purse, wallet or somewhere else doesn't count because it wasn't the agreement Our Lady made with St. Simon Stock. You can, however, remove it for bathing.

The Catechesis of the Brown Scapular by the North American Province of Carmelite Orders says a person invested in the Scapular must be in good standing within the Church, practice chastity according to one's state in life, and make frequent reception of the sacraments. One must strive to be like Mary: having a love of holy scripture, an active prayer life and an openness to God's will.

To wear the scapular and say the accompanying prayers is very highly recommended in the Church – in fact 16 popes have given their recommendation to this private devotion. But there is a difference between wearing it privately and being "enrolled" or "invested." Those taking that next step should very seriously consider the vow just like contemplating the vows of Holy Matrimony.

The promise of the Scapular is not a guarantee. It's not a good luck charm. To wear the Scapular without an interior disposition to live in the faith is a kind of superstition. As it says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

[To read the rest of this story, please jump over to Austin Catholic New Media.]

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June 24, 2015

Miracle Stories: The Case of the Missing Tumor [ACNM]

Quick, I need the number to the Vatican SMU (Special Miracles Unit). Okay, maybe this one is not worthy of getting on the Pope's calendar. But it is certainly the most amazing miracle I have experienced.

It involves my eight-year-old daughter who is a happy, healthy cancer survivor. In fact, just a couple of years ago her oncologist said, "I consider her cured." That was indeed amazing news and something that has to be attributed to the grace of God. But the miracle itself occurred a few years earlier.

To get you to that miracle without making you read something comparable to the length of War and Peace I am going to have to fast forward you through some of the most difficult days of my life.

My first daughter was born in 2006. During those joyous and exhausting moments after childbirth, one of the nurses looked at our baby's little rear end and said something to the effect of, "What's this? We'll have the pediatrician check that out." My wife and I did not sense any alarm.

Now I'll really speed up the story. The next day a pediatric surgeon examined our child, suspected (and later confirmed) that she had a potentially life-threatening tumor on her tailbone and declared that she would need surgery almost immediately.

Following an emergency baptism by a priest (thank God we were in a Catholic hospital), our one-day-old baby was loaded into an ambulance and moved to the local trauma hospital where she underwent surgery to remove the tumor.

The tumor had "cancerous elements." So we gradually realized that the next several years of her life, if not longer, would consist of frequent pokes, prods and scans. We brought her home from the hospital on her twelfth day of life, but the situation was far from over. In fact, she needed blood drawn frequently to monitor her alfa-fetoprotein (AFP) levels which could indicate a recurrence of the cancer if they increase.

Now I'll skip the recovery phase and jump ahead to when she was 13 months old. The oncologist called to inform us that her last blood check showed a rise in her AFP. The next several tests showed a clear pattern that her levels were increasing rapidly. Translation: the tumor was coming back.

After consulting with the "tumor board in Boston," the oncologist laid out the treatment plan for us: Our little girl would need three rounds of in-patient chemotherapy followed by another surgery to "scrape out the rest of the tumor." For brevity (if it's not too late for that) I'll skip past the chemotherapy experience other than saying this: It's horrible to sit there and watch nurses pump poison into your child's veins that makes her throw up and lose her hair. But it's worth it if it knocks out the cancer.

My brave chemo patient

We hated the idea of having to subject her to another surgery. This one was going to be more invasive and result in a longer, harder recovery time than her first operation after birth. The surgeon said he might have to "go in from both the front and the back" because he "won't know exactly what I'm dealing with until I get in there."

In the midst of chemotherapy we half-jokingly tried to talk the oncologist out of requiring surgery. "Maybe the chemo will just take care of everything, and she won't need it," we said. It was a nice try, but the best pediatric oncologists in central Texas were adamant that surgery was necessary.

[Don't stop now. You can find out what the miracle was by reading the rest of the story right over here at Austin Catholic New Media.]

 

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June 15, 2015

The (Unlikely) Hugging Bandit

A funny thing happened to me on the way into church last Sunday. To stay true to the introvert persona, I am not a very touchy-feely person. Not at all. So that makes this story even more unusual.

In May I attended a men's ACTS retreat coordinated by my parish. It was a very powerful experience. Once you return from an ACTS retreat, it's a common practice to greet your fellow ACTS brothers with a hug when you run into them at church or anywhere else.

It's usually what's known as a "man hug." You know what I'm talking about, right? It starts with a handshake but then the left arms reach around for a hug, frequently involving lots of back slapping because, apparently, guys still want to show that they're tough while hugging each other!

[Image credit: higherunlearning.com]

As my family and I were walking into Mass, the usher who held the door for us was from the ACTS retreat, so we did the standard man hug greeting. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But then things got strange when I encountered someone else.

As we passed by the baptismal font, another guy walked up to me and very enthusiastically said, "Hi, Adam. How are you?" and reached out for a handshake. Based on his enthusiasm, I instinctively assumed he was also from the ACTS retreat, so I immediately escalated the handshake into a hug.

I could tell from his body language that he was a little surprised by the hug. Then he said, "I didn't know you go to this church." It immediately became obvious that this man was not from ACTS. In fact, I have NO IDEA who he was.

We both quickly said farewell phrases like "so long" and "take care" and went our separate ways. Perhaps you're wondering why I didn't just ask him what his name was. That probably would have been okay at the beginning while we were just shaking hands. But I think it was a little too late for that. You can't initiate a hug and then say, "By the way, who the heck are you?"

I'm guessing the unknown hug recipient is probably a former coworker from several years ago. But I really have no clue.

So if you come up to me and say hello from now on, don't be surprised if I stare at you for a few extra seconds before making any sudden movements.

 

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June 12, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 118 (Sears slang, greasy tie, holy theft and more)

 

ONE: Sometimes things get lost in translation. With my (increasingly profitable) e-commerce side business, I regularly come into contact with major retailers. Recently I needed to ask Sears a question about an order, so I used the online chat function. Here's the answer the Sears guy gave me:

"But the email which you received is regarding the order information is correct but as you said that item is available on website right now I am totally agree with that actually the item is out of stock when you placed the order."

Thanks, that clears it up.

TWO: In other amusing e-commerce news, I received a funny email from Overstock reminding me that I have zero dollars in rewards to spend.

I'll try not spend my $0 all in one place!

THREE: There seems to be a bacon obsession in this country. A local toy store has an entire section of bacon accessories and apparel, including this bacon necktie:

 

FOUR: The same store had an amusing variation of the "Don't Mess With Texas" slogan. In this case, it was a baby onesie that said, "I messed in Texas." Get it?

 

FIVE: Not everything from the 70s and 80s is out of style. My mom back in Florida still has the same towels we used to take to the beach when my brother and I were kids. She sent this photo:

 

SIX: Six priests were ordained in the Diocese of Austin last weekend. I didn't get to attend the always amazing ordination Mass on Saturday. But I did go to the next best thing on Sunday, the Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by the one of the new priests.

 

SEVEN: After Mass there was a great reception, although there must have been some stiff competition for reserved seating. In this case, it looks like the Ladies Club stole a table from the priests:

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.

 

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May 27, 2015

Welcome to the Liar's Club [ACNM]

Thank you for your interest in joining the Liar's Club. You have been approved for membership. I would introduce you to the other members, but it would take an awfully long time to meet seven billion people. Don't worry. You don't have to learn everyone else's name. Just call each of us Pinocchio.

I discovered the Liar's Club during the Easter season. When I was looking at the Mass readings for the third Sunday of Easter, the second reading (1 JN 2:1-5A) really stood out, especially one sentence in particular which I will bold for emphasis:
My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world. The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Those who say, "I know him," but do not keep his commandments are liars; and the truth is not in them. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.

Did you catch that? John just called me a liar. And he called you a liar too. That is very powerful. If you say you know God but do not keep his commandments, you are a liar. Now you can see why the Liar's Club is so crowded.

The third Sunday of Easter was also the day of my monthly volunteer shift to assist with communion services at the county jail. I had the opportunity to give a brief reflection about the day's readings and took some time to stress that bolded sentence from the second reading.

I cannot read minds, but based upon my observations of the expressions, nods and other body language in the room, I am quite sure that the statement about being a liar if you say you know God but don't follow the commandments resonated profoundly with several people, just the same way that it did for me.

Most of us already know that we are sinners, but for some reason the phrasing from that reading really put things into serious perspective, and I kept thinking about for several days.

Then a few weeks later that same Bible verse crept back into my mind when I attended a men's ACTS retreat* coordinated by my parish. While the particulars of my experience are not for public discussion, I can tell you that I need to work harder not to be a liar. We are all the same in the eyes of God and we all need to get to know Him better.

So now that you are in the Liar's Club, you probably want to get out as quickly as possible, don't you? The good news is you can cancel your membership at any time...

[To read the rest of this post, please click over to Austin Catholic New Media.]

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May 22, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol 117 (Crest conversion, haircut revival, bad back and more)

ONE: Suddenly I feel like my faith life has come full circle. I always knew that my late grandfather owned a movie theater in Wilmington, Delaware sometime in the 50s and/or 60s. But I never knew until my Aunt mentioned it recently that my grandfather sold the Crest Theater building to a Catholic church which is still there today. You see, my grandfather was Jewish, and I'm Catholic, so it was kind of fascinating to have learned this.

Credit: cinematreasures.org

 

As best I can tell from Google maps, my grandfather's theater is now part of St. Matthews, although this does not look like the same building.

Credit: Google Maps

 

TWO: From Thursday to Sunday I attended a men's ACTS retreat coordinated by my parish. I can't really tell you anything about it except that if you haven't been on an ACTS retreat you should absolutely go on one as soon as possible.

THREE: My old Introvert's Guide to Haircuts post from a couple of years ago got some new life recently. The "Introverts are Awesome" Facebook paged posted a link to it, and suddenly it became one of the most viewed posts on my blog.

FOUR: I think we've reached the point where weather forecasts are too specific. I suppose on a day like this one, the best time to go out is 6 a.m. when the rain chance dropps to 99 percent.

 

FIVE: Somehow in my family we accidentally mailed a card without a stamp on it. A couple of days later it came back marked "Return to Sender - Insufficient Postage." When someone mails a letter without a stamp I wonder if the people at the post office hold it up and laugh at it before sending it back.

SIX: The strange tale of the billiard club (or "billard culb") with two typos has come to an end. I discovered the other day that the place is closed and the sign has been pained over. You can see what I previously wrote about this place here and here.

Before
After
Yes, I know it doesn't quite look like the same building. I think the brick and the walkway roof must have been redone since the original photo was taken.

SEVEN: My eight year old told me that she is almost old enough to be at the point where her back hurts when she sits on the floor. I told her, "Welcome to adulthood."

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.

 

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April 29, 2015

The Water (and Blood) of Baptism [ACNM]

Ten years ago I took the plunge, literally. This Easter season marks ten years since I received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion. What a ride it has been. When people ask me what I remember most about my baptism from ten years ago, four things come to mind:

  • I was wet.
  • I was worried.
  • I was (very slightly) bloody.
  • I wish I could do it again.

The wet part makes sense; after all, it was a baptism, right? But I mean really wet. This was a full immersion baptism, courtesy of the walk-in baptismal font at St. John Vianney in Round Rock, Texas. By the way, a decade later I am still thankful to whomever decided to make it a heated baptismal font.

FullSizeRender (1)
Image credit: St. John Vianney - Round Rock, TX

 

The amusing thing about it is that I was expecting the priest to push me under water three times, once each for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At least that's the way the dutiful coordinator said it would happen. But actually he just dunked me once. He may have said, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." But all I heard was, "I baptize you in the name of the... [sounds of water and bubbles] Spirit." (I'll stipulate that he did indeed mention the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, therefore making it a valid baptism!)

What's the first thing I did as soon as I emerged from the font? I hustled to the men's room. That was all part of the intricate plan. All of us who were baptized that night had to hurry off to the bathroom to change out of our wet clothes into formal, dry clothes and be back in the front pew of the church in just a few minutes.

That's what I was worried about. You'd think on such an amazing night I'd have faith and trust in God. But I must admit that I did far too much unnecessary worrying. Before Mass I had to hang my suit and towel in the men's room so I could dry off and change quickly. And so I worried:

  • What if I get to the men's room soaking wet after getting baptized and my suit isn't there?
  • What if I get to the men's room and someone is locked in the stall with my suit?
  • What if my suit is there but my dry shoes and socks are missing?
  • What if I somehow commit a sin on the way to the men's room and immediately ruin my new-found holiness? (I probably did that just by worrying so much.)

Of course, my clothing and towel were there exactly where I had left them. But something else did go slightly wrong. That's where the bloody part comes in. I don't know exactly how it happened. But in the mad rush to get out of my wet clothes, dry off and change in the men's room stall, I cut the top of my left hand. I must have scraped it on something in the bathroom.

I did my best to try to stop the blood with my towel. But the clock was ticking, and I knew that the Easter Vigil couldn't continue until the new entrants into the faith returned to the church.

When I got back to the pew, I noticed my hand was still bleeding...

[To read the rest of this story and see a rare photo of me on the night of my Baptism, jump over to Austin Catholic New Media.]

 

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April 24, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 116 (Hazardous lunch, tuna humor, Slinky strangulation and more)

ONE: My eight-year-old may have a budding future as an accident investigator. My wife and kids witnessed a car accident the other day involving a speeding car that skidded across the road, knocked over a light poll and then left the scene. My daughter drew these sketches to help explain what happened:

 

TWO: Her third grade class had a fun lunch project. Each kid wrote down their favorite lunch items on little cards and then they picked the cards at random. The children had to secretly bring in the desired lunch for the person on the card. The teacher encouraged parents to pack the lunch in something clever. So my wife and I stuffed the lunch for my daughter's classmate in a hazardous waste disposal bag. And we put the kid's drink inside a sharps disposal box.

 

THREE: At the annual fundraiser dinner for the school, we bid on and won a fun prize in the silent auction. It was a bag full of miscellaneous toys and games that supposedly became popular in the 1950s. One of the toys was a Slinky. Until I saw the warning label, I never knew it was dangerous to play with a Slinky in the car. I suppose if the car hits a big bump the Slinky could fly out of your child's hands and strangle the driver.

 

FOUR: Some kids are downright hilarious. My wife and I served on the Parish Advisory Team for a seminarian who did his pastoral year at our parish. The last meeting of the team was an appreciation party. One little boy at the party had some hilarious conversations with the seminarian.

They were talking about fishing, and the boy said, "I went on a fishing trip and was hoping to catch a tuna. But all I caught was a stomach ache."

Another discussion went like this:

Boy: I want to be a saint and go to heaven.

Seminarian: That's the goal.

Boy: Yeah, it's like soccer!

FIVE: It's embarrassing to admit but last week I had a dream that I was having trouble typing a text message while using one of those old side-wheel Blackberry smartphones like this one.

My (former) employer gave me one of these back in 2006. The Blackberry is probably still trying to reboot at the bottom of a scrap heap somewhere.

SIX: Speaking of technology that will become obsolete, I haven't paid much attention to all the Statcast hoopla that Major League Baseball has been overhyping lately. But when I saw this picture on Twitter, it reminded me of the late 90s when Fox started using a fluorescent puck effect while showing NHL hockey games. I know firsthand how much viewers hated it. At the time I was working for the FOX station in Detroit, and we used to get complaint calls all the time saying, "Turn of that @&$*%^! flashing puck!"

Image credit: MLB.com via Twitter

 

SEVEN: One missing word can make a hilarious difference in a photo caption. Check out this one from the Atlanta newspaper. I have a feeling that's not really Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell!

[The original caption says, "Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell smiles as Keyarra Mason (foreground), 16, finds her prom dress...]

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.

 

 

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April 10, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 115 (Easter splash, perennial pizza, workplace stooges and more)

ONE: Ten years ago I took the plunge. No, not marriage (that was eleven years ago). I was baptized a decade ago on Easter. If you're wondering what I remember most about that powerful experience, I can sum it up in four points:

  • I was wet.
  • I was worried.
  • I was (very slightly) bloody.
  • I wish I could do it again.

You'll have to wait until my next Austin Catholic New Media post in a few weeks for more details!

TWO: While some people overdose on chocolate and other candy at Easter, my problem this year was pizza. Due to an unusual set of circumstances, from Holy Saturday through Tuesday I had pizza as a meal five times. It started with our family over-estimating how much pizza we needed when we decided to order takeout Saturday night, so there were tons of leftovers. Then we were unexpectedly invited for pizza Sunday night. I made the ultimate sacrifice and finished the last two pieces for lunch on Tuesday.

THREE: I didn't eat any for Easter, but I was amused by the label on on these croutons. It seems like a marketing clash to have New York and Texas on the same product.

 

FOUR: Federal Express changed its name to FedEx in 2000, but Sam's Club didn't get the memo. After I ordered something from Sam's online (for business purposes; personally I prefer Costco.), my receipt said the product would ship by Federal Express. I wonder if Sam's Club calls people using American Telephone & Telegraph or searches for things on the web using BackRub.

FIVE: I'm so glad baseball season is back, even though my team is in rebuilding mode this year. Perhaps the Braves will surprise people.

SIX: I can relate to what happened to former major league pitcher Jamie Moyer recently. He and other tourists got stuck on a roller coaster at Disneyland. In the 80s I got stuck on the "It's a Small World" ride at Disney World and had to be led out an emergency exit. The most terrifying part of the whole experience was having to listen to that Small World song over and over until were were rescued!

SEVEN: My beloved Three Stooges Christmas ornaments haven't made it onto our tree for several years. So this week I finally gave them a new home and relocated them to my office as a year-round decoration.

 

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.

 

 

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