Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Title will be: Confessions of a Faith Formation Coordinator, or "What time is the 10am First Communion Mass on Saturday?"

 It is Sacramental Season, y'all.

Technically, that does not exist.  There is nothing on the Catholic Liturgical Calendar that is designated as such and we do not get our own color on the wheel. However, ask any Director or Coordinator or Youth Minister about Sacramental Season and we will get a glazed look in our eyes and our hands might tremble.  We will plaster a pained but brave smile on our faces and we will tell you how happy we are but the reality of our lives are we are waiting for the 'weekend after' and maybe a spa day.  Or a trip to our favorite Sports Bar or Winery.

I love our families.  I love 'my' kids.  I will go to the mat for them and do whatever I need to do to make their day of first Reconciliation or the first time they receive Our Lord in the Eucharist the best day of their life.  However, I will also admit that there are times I want to grab a parent by the shoulders and shake them, while shouting, "I have been telling you she needs to wear a white dress for the past 9 months and I have the emails to prove it!".

The logistics behind planning any Sacramental day are difficult.  Planning the day during the Covid-19 Pandemic has tested my strength, my courage and my sobriety.  Granted, it has been a tougher year than usual because I also lost my dear mother in 2020 and so all the 'firsts' one goes through without the rock have been jarring to my serenity.  I have done it and I am so grateful for all the prayers, practical help, willingness to surrender and angelic support I have received.  My goal has been to walk through all of it with grace and dignity and with the exception of the occasional tantrum over the football season from HELL, I have met that goal.

This does not mean planning first Reconciliation and First Holy Communion and helping to coordinate Easter Vigil did not have its ups and downs.  From the 'no, you may not wear a Metallica Tee Shirt to your Baptism' to the 'yes, your sponsor needs to be a practicing Catholic' conversations, the juggling of personalities is rough.  People want what they want when they want it.  Don't expect a mother of a child who has four Godparents to take the initial instruction of 'one Godparent next to the recipient' at face value.  Up until three days before First Holy Communion you will receive emails asking if all of them can sit with little Johnny, how many can sit with little Abigail again? and whether or not its okay for the Godparent to wear their Dallas Cowboy jersey to the ceremony (no and double no, by the way).  

It is crazy, it is stressful and it can make me cry.  

All this being said, the day of First Communion I see the faces of my little ones and it hits me that they are about to do something outrageous in the eyes of the world.  What they are about to do makes us different, a sign of contradiction, a reason for people to walk away from Jesus when they first heard Him declare that this is necessary to achieve eternal life.  I cannot help but be struck by the profound miracle I am witnessing and all the struggle melts in my heart.  Once again, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their lives, especially now.  I flash on the fact that someone like me, a drunk, rock and roll pagan who made horrific choices in order to fit in with a world that does nothing but hurt women and degrade men in the name of 'freedom' has been forgiven and made whole so that I can watch them receive Our Lord for the first time.

Pray for my kids, will you?  For the next two weeks the miracles are going to happen.  I am so grateful.

But I am STILL going to need a spa day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Fourth is With Me

 Today is Star Wars Day.  Today is also my 29th sobriety birthday.

I have been a Star Wars fan since the first movie back in the 70's.  When I got sober, May 4th was nothing other than the day after the 3rd; however, in the past 29 years a lot of stuff has happened.

Not only is it Star Wars Day all over the world but I get to live in George Lucas' hometown.

Don't tell ME there is no God and that He does not care about me.

One year ago today, my mother said, "Thank you for 28 years of peace".

Today, I knelt and prayer, "God and Mama, thank you for holding me up for this past year".

I am eternally grateful.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


 Guilty on all three counts.

Now, the question becomes, "How do we move forward?".

Training issues? Psychological Exams? Honest dialogue about the nature of crime and criminals? 

Do we reinforce our police ranks with men and women from the neighborhoods that suffer the most from poverty, racism, substance abuse, domestic we make an effort to get people on the force that not only look like those they protect and serve but have lived where they live so they know what they endure every day?

How do we change the minds of people who think someone like George Floyd deserved what he got because he was a man with a criminal record and a substance abuse problem?

How do we deal with the men and women who come up through our military and may join our police forces with a mindset of conquer rather than serve?

Power can corrupt.  Bad cops exist.  How do we guard against them?

I cannot think of any pithy answers but I sure can come up with a lot of questions.

No one who knows me can claim I am some sort of cop hater.  I support the men and women who serve our communities.  I also have a really clear eyed knowledge of some of the horror they endure every day because they see the worst of what people can do to each other.

However, I know bad policing when I see it.  This man is going to serve time in prison because his bad policing lead to another man's death.  That is as it should be...that is justice.

Now, again, how do we move forward and how do we begin to rebuild?

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Truth About Self-Examination

 One of the toughest things I struggle with is the value I place on my own suffering.  I constantly talk myself out of expressing how I feel, sharing my good and bad days with another, because I just don't think how I feel is that important.  I care about how you feel, especially if, like me, you deal with the mental illness and physical allergy that is Alcoholism but I can always dismiss my own feelings as just not that big a deal.  

I don't want to wallow.  I do not want to be one of those people who sit squarely in a mound of self-pity and demand that other people provide them with relief - relief they resist because if they avail themselves of it they will not get the attention provided when one says, "I need help" or "I feel bad".  I want to be the person who provides a solution to the problem I bring to the table.  Comfort and understanding is good, but it cannot stop there.  I know my weaknesses and my reverse anger (depression) and reverse pride (no one is as unloved as me) can be dangerous and can, even after 28+ years, lead me back to a drink.

To make a discipline of self-examination is to recognize that I am one among many, a creature and not the Creator, and someone in need of grace.  The act of self examination allows me to practice a true humility but it can also mean I must guard against that self-satisfied smugness that can affect so many.  This assertion that God speaks to me and I am only following His commands when I talk to you or about you can become one more excuse to be 'self will run riot'.  My experience is becoming this:  if God is telling me to chastise you or direct you or school you but my treatment of people around me is arrogant, demanding, self-seeking or otherwise rude?  That might not be God's voice I am hearing in my heart.

Is it possible to be both?   Is it possible to struggle with that self obsessed Narcissism that makes me a demanding "do it my way and why not why not why not" type of person AND be an effective Catechist?

I am not sure.  I am certain there is always value in Truth no matter who speaks it but the value may not include effectiveness.  I cannot imagine someone who is constantly battered by my selfish interests, my nasty mouth, my meanness is going to believe me when I speak of the healing power of the Sacraments.  I think, rather, their reaction will be much like Sister Ignatia's reaction to Dr. Bob Smith when he called her and said he and this friend of his had stumbled upon a 'cure' for Alcoholism. 

 "Have you tried it on yourself?".

I also believe that if I do not admit to the occasional feelings of being down and lonely or sad or in mourning no one is going to believe me when I try to bring comfort to someone else experiencing those emotions.  How can I possibly know what they are going through if I do not admit to the experience?  If people think I float two inches off the ground and commune with God no one is going to think I know what it is like to sit quietly in my livingroom, weeping and missing my parents - both of them, even the bad one.  Without my admission of human weakness my evangelization efforts fall flat.  St. Paul models that for us, right?  

The Truth about Self Examination is this: unless it results in a change, even a minor one, it is worthless.  I lied to someone this morning....and I corrected myself immediately because I know I did it to make them feel like I understood them.  I didn't have to do that, but I did and it was wrong and correcting myself gave them pause because until that moment they thought I was perfect.

Now they know.  Not only am I far from perfect, I am a human being in need of forgiveness and grace.  So, today I will take that sin to the confessional and I will start again.   With that grace comes the chance to not do that kind of self aggrandizing that a narcissist does and it puts my feet plainly on the path towards God.

One day at a time....

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Don't Take the Bait

 Restraint of Tongue, Pen and Keyboard is the philosophy I try my best to live, one day at a time.

I think the reason I struggle with it is that I usually welcome correction.  I try my best to listen and not pronounce but man, it is a struggle because I WANT to pronounce a lot, especially when I read or hear something that is lacking on its face.

Restraint of Tongue, Pen and Keyboard - it should be a bumper sticker, on a tee shirt and emblazoned across the sky.  Maybe it should be tattooed on the inside of my eyelids so I never forget. 

Reading statements by people on social media that are just, well, wrong - factually wrong or philosophically flawed or even just silly - tweaks my 'evangelist bone'.  However, the context in which the person is usually writing on Facebook or MeWe really does not invite discussion or criticism.  It is not about them stating something and then inviting a dialogue.  It is almost always self obsessed and.  It always ends in, "This is MY page and I have a right to say what I want and if you don't like it then just scroll on by" which is hardly conducive to a discussion.  AND, if (as I have done) one concedes that they might not be smart enough to follow the argument being made you can bet you will be taken to task for saying you just don't get what point they are trying to make.  

Restraint of Tongue, Pen and Keyboard - a motto by which many people could live and find peace. I don't adhere to it often enough.  I take 'the bait' and ask a question, make a point, respond in a way the other person would not agree with and KERBLAM the fight is on.  Not the argument or discussion - the fight.  And I will withdraw from that because that was not my intention in the first place.

I almost have learned to follow this advice.  Do not engage unless you know it is in a platform that allows for give and take without regret.  Let the people vent on Facebook, on MeWe or Twitter.  Do not get sucked in to an exchange fraught with sin.  

Restraint of Tongue, Pen and Keyboard - perhaps the title of the book I will write when I retire?

Which would, of course, be a title fraught with irony, yes?