Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Pathway to Infidelity

One of the most recognizable elements of marriage is supposed to be permanence.  But marriage is also about exclusivity and fruitfulness.  Most people understand the importance of exclusivity in marriage but remain willfully ignorant about the importance of fruitfulness.  A marriage with less children has more of what?  Certainly not trust in the future.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Where a "Clown Mass" comes from..

Lenten Mission 2013 St. Mary Immaculate (Day 3)

Sparough Family Mission Team During Mass 2015
I was reading a Facebook thread a few weeks back when I came across a picture of the Sparough Family Mission Team complete w/ juggling during Mass.  A quick internet search turned up some of their recent mission activities.  I couldn't help but think about the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Hotdog Dance when I was watching this part.  I was inspired to make my first ever Youtube video to showcase my sentiments.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


In a few short months I will be 36 and possibly announcing a 6th pregnancy with my wife.  While it may be popular belief that Catholics "breed like rabbits" because they are mind-numbed robots brainwashed by the Catholic Church, nothing could be farther from the truth.  In fact, being open to new life has helped us better understand and appreciate the vocation of marriage.  Our children have enriched our lives beyond anything a few extra minutes or a few extra bucks in my pocket could ever do.

Having a few more than the average 2.1 children routinely produces both positive and negative reactions.  After the birth of our 3rd child people often assumed that we were done having children - often citing how nice it was that we had them all early so we would have plenty of time to enjoy life after they grew up.  After the birth of our 4th child most people's curiosity would get the better of them and they just had to know - Did we know where kids came from?!  Yes many voiced their surprise with jokes, my favorite: "Don't be a fool, vulcanize your tool!" - from a coworker.  But the jokes were never made in good fun, they were a segue to a pontiff-like chiding.

Much like abstaining from meat on Fridays, having "many" children peaks the curiosity of even those of casual acquaintance.  I have had people say to me, "you must be Catholic" when I told them about how many children I had and that I was planning more.  Another women recently said to me, "I hope your done!", citing the need to provide "nice things" for them as they grow up.  She told me how her parents were "very Catholic" and that she had 9 other siblings.  In her home was nothing to suggest she retained any sort of Christian faith.  Yet she herself was very well off  - a successful business owner for more than 30 years.  Apparently her sisters had all received Ivy-League educations and chosen to ...shiver... marry and stay at home.

Fully embracing Catholic teaching is not easy.  When I was younger I remember hearing something that was attributed to JPII along the lines of how only the most devout Catholics would be able to adhere to to Catholic teaching on contraception.  I used to breathe a sigh of relief when I thought of that statement because I believed that most Catholics were not devout and that made it okay - sort of like an example to strive towards but nothing obligatory. 

Before marriage I tried to maintain a chaste life.  I read up on natural family planning "NFP" and became convinced that it could be utilized effectively to prevent pregnancy and my then fiance agreed.  Yet the stereotypical "rhythm method" was often cited by my parents as doomed for failure.  Of course they all waited with baited breath for each pregnancy to poke fun by asking how the "natural birth control" was working.  Truthfully it was working great.. but we were not looking to avoid pregnancy so things took their natural course.

Rabbits Everywhere!


Our 4th child was conceived immediately after our 3rd you better believe things weren't quite so funny anymore.  Family was concerned, heck I was concerned.  I found myself asking God whether or not I was strong enough to uphold my faith as I was soon to have two children in diapers and my wife at 26 years old likely had many natural child bearing years ahead of her.

Our 4th ended up being our first boy and of course we got all the comments about how we finally got a boy... "and your not planning on having any more right?"  You see 3 is a common mistake and 4 is borderline fanatic but understandable if you really want that boy, but more than 4!?!!  You gotta be nuts!  So when the question came up I started telling family and the rest that I was thinking about having at least 6 and wow you should've seen the looks on their faces!

Three years later we had our 5th child , completely expected but it was only after several years of struggle and regular prayer.  After #4 we were overwhelmed.  Our parents were no longer willing to watch 4 at a time and 2 toddlers were difficult in all circumstances.  We were too tired and busy to keep track of NFP charts so we rationalized the use of condoms just in case.

A Deep Rooted Deception Exposed


Surprise!  Condoms do not provide "safe sex"!  Yep, they break...regularly from my experience.  I would say that 1 in 4 failed, not exactly something that was taught in the public school system.  No matter the brand or type or careful method of use - they all had their failure rate.  I marveled at the realization that I most certainly would have ended up with an unplanned pregnancy when I was 16 years old.  You see I was trying to do what all 16 year old boys were trying to do and I was somewhat successful more than once.. I won't go into the details now except to say that I rolled that relationship back to point where sexual intercourse did not occur in order to reduce the stress brought on by that possibility. 

But never did a failed condom result in pregnancy as we rationalized the use by using them during times where NFP charts suggested infertility.  After much prayer and penance I threw away the remaining stash of condoms that I used as the safety net for when I wanted to indulge in the sexual use of my wife when I knew through NFP that a greater risk of pregnancy existed.  Yes I said "sexual use" because that is exactly what it was, there was no giving of oneself to their spouse.  All this you could say I learned the hard way, including the use of NFP to avoid pregnancy for selfish reasons.

The Physical, Mental, & Financial Burdens?


After our 2nd child the burdens of daycare resulted in my wife quitting her job allowing us to selling a car which helped balance our finances.  When our 3rd child was born we realized how much harder it was to manage 3 children and we worried.  We also needed a larger vehicle - hello mini-van.  After our 4th child the hospital bills and all the other related expenses were adding up too.  Full time parenting took center stage in our lives.  My wife put her career plans on permanent hold in favor of raising her children - a decision I strongly support.

Okay so does this mean spiritually rich but materially poor?  No not at all.  Without "tempting God" one can exercise financial responsibility and general prudence and still provide a comfortable and financially secure life for their family.  Our marital success, material blessings, and overall happiness are a direct result of obeying Catholic teaching.  Surely God knows what will make us truly happy on this earth!  If only we are willing to reject the lies spread throughout this world by the devil and his minions.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is a silly rabbit.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Discouraging Words

The Diocese of Grand Rapids sends out this magazine to registered parishioners every month.  Usually I just throw it in the trash without reading it but this month a friend pointed out a rather troubling article on page 4 titled 'Mass Appeal: The posture Catholics use at Mass train us how to be Christ in our world' by Fr. Chris Rouech - who also happens to be the diocesan director of worship.

In the article Fr. Rouech explains why Catholics sit, kneel, bow, and avoid expressing signs of personal piety during Holy Mass.  Find that last part confusing?  According to Fr. Rouech such behavior is distracting and creates division in Christ's body.  Still scratching your head?  I should have prefaced with his comments about kneeling where he points out, "in an earlier era of the Church, kneeling was forbidden during the Easter season because of it's penitential and private character".

Page 4 of Faith Magazine
Instead of expounding on the importance of kneeling Fr. Rouech diminishes the practice with his vague reflection.  But after reading his well crafted comments on bowing the true intentions of this article come into focus.  "The bow is a beautiful gesture that expresses honor and humility" and the "prescribed gesture of reverence before receiving Communion".  Yet kneeling or genuflecting before receiving Communion is described as "expressions of personal piety" and are "discouraged".  Worse yet, offenders are labeled as those who "distract from our efforts to be united as Christ's body".

Thankfully Fr. Rouech found time to explain what to do when you enter a church where the tabernacle is not present - a profound bow to the altar.  Nowhere does he mention what Catholics should be doing when a tabernacle is present in the church - something many could use a refresher on.  Both  are sad realities if you ask me.

Certainly there is an underlying negative message to those who desire to receive Holy Communion on their knees.  Even in the concluding paragraph kneeling is referenced as something you do when you "wipe up the vomit from a sick parent or child".  Considering this priest serves as the diocesan director of worship I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  Such attitudes have driven many Catholics to wits end. 

Schola Sancta Caecilia: Advent & Christmas Music

A beautiful rendition of traditional hymns in Latin and English, perfect for this Holy season of Advent and Christmas! Sung by Sacred Heart of Jesus' own Schola Sancta Caecilia.  Purchase this CD for yourself and as gifts for family and friends. You will not be disappointed.  Proceeds benefit the Sacred Heart of Jesus music program.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Holy Communion For Adulterers: A Different Perspective



 A Pastoral Solution


The recent extraordinary synod has raised much discussion (and scandal) for those who find themselves in the unfortunate state of divorce.  Considering how common divorce and remarriage have become, it should come as no surprise that some priests and bishops would welcome some form of relief to this growing problem.  The majority of priests have already developed "pastoral" solutions - if you can call turning a blind eye a solution.  Welcome to my perspective, where the pastoral solution provides no solution at all. 

My mother was already pregnant when she hastily married my dad at his Episcopal church.  My mother raised Catholic had permission from her bishop and her parish priest was present for the wedding.  Shockingly the marriage didn't last, less than 5 years later my parents were divorced.  For a long time my parents were victims of their own foolish decisions.  Both my parents abandoned their faith but neither blamed the Church for their sorry state.  My mother at least would eventually return to her Catholic faith.

All I hear are stories in the news about how hurt and disconnected the Catholic divorced feel regarding the rigid and unforgiving rules of the Catholic Church.  I even had a friend who's Catholic grandmother "suffered greatly" when she abstained from Holy Communion because her annulment was not granted - when her husband died she left the Church for some feel good fundamental protestant community.  So what if she was on her 3rd marriage!  This injustice was cited as one of the primary reasons he himself rejected the Catholic Church.

My experiences with my mother at church were not marred with shunning or rebuke - not by priest or parishioner!  I only heard complaints about the the Monsignor who "always repeated the same sermons year after year" from her childhood but he was long since retired.  A new priest ran the parish now and he was as unremarkable as anyone could be.

My mother became pregnant while dating a guy she met through work, once again she hastily married - this time at a friend's house while on vacation in Florida. The ceremony was in the living room of someone who had the legal authority to issue a marriage certificate.  This would be my new step-father's 3rd marriage and problems from his 2nd marriage followed him everywhere.

Years later my mother and step-father would return to regular attendance at the Catholic church she grew up in.  My brother and I attended CCD classes and became confirmed Catholics.  Our whole family started attending Holy Mass regularly.  My mother supervised the Eucharistic Adoration program for a time and helped teach Catechism classes.  My step-father and I joined the Usher's Club.  You could say we looked like a model Catholic family.

More Unhappiness


My mother's 2nd marriage was a plagued with problems of all sorts.  Oh sure you could say this of any typical family - things are always different than the outward appearance, and our family was no exception.  At least we could all go to church and pretend that the my mother's decision to marry this man was not only right - but had Christ's blessing.  My mother even befriended an old priest who was the associate pastor at our parish.  He would stop by regularly for meals and socializing but sensitive topics were never brought up.

You could say that the Church was more than understanding to the irregular situation of my mother's adulterous relationship.  Many times she considered divorcing because of irrational, abusive, and irresponsible behavior inflicted on her, but she never did because she believed the Catholic Church and God condoned her marital situation and she needed to honor her vows.

Yet she would ask me why God had stricken her with such a hopeless situation in life - financially, emotionally, and spiritually?  I had been reading the Q&A section of  the EWTN website and many of the questions were about marriage.  I started sharing these stories with my mother in hopes of helping her unhappy situation.  My mother was such a devoted Catholic but seemingly so ignorant of Church teaching on marriage.

No Solution At All


After a lifetime of being confirmed in her sin by the pastoral solution of ignoring the elephant in the room, my mother was not very open to discussing the mistakes she had made in life, certainly not with her children.  My mother refused to divorce my step-father because she feared what he would do and she feared breaking her marriage vows for a second time.  Sadly nobody ever told her that her second marriage was not recognized as valid.

Circumstances escalated to a point where I revealed to my mother that I had come to believe that her marriage was not recognized by God and thus not recognized by the Church or myself.  I encouraged her to leave him because I saw no moral impediment to abandoning the relationship which was causing her so much harm.  My half brother was almost 16 years old and very independent, I saw this as the best time for her to return to single life where she could be happy.

Faced with increasingly difficult circumstances my mother eventually decided she would seek an annulment to help her resolve questions I raised about the validity of her marriage.  After some effort she was able to obtain that annulment and I leave that to God's judgment.  My step-father was unable to obtain an annulment because he had no means to reach his first wife and one could argue that he lacked the mental capacity to try.  The annulment process progressed rather quickly for my mother even after all this time, I guess the process is already "streamlined" in our diocese.

My mother was diagnosed in 2010 with Acute Leukemia and died 7 months later at 52 years old.  With her death came closure to all the marriage-related issues.  My former step-father moved to Florida and took with him all his problems.  I am grateful for all the good times that we had together, but I often wonder how our lives would have been had my mother and father feared the consequences of divorce and remarriage.  Instead they lived those consequences which clearly were not desired.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What To Call The Fullness of Christian Faith?

Lately I have been reflecting on what it means to be a faithful Catholic.  Over the last 20 years I have gone through more than a few spiritual transformations where I always considered myself Christian and Catholic but with only a vague understanding of what differentiated the two.  When pressed by friends or co-workers about my beliefs I would reference my Episcopal upbringing as part of my Christian identity.  I didn't hold any Episcopal beliefs but non-Catholics seemed to be less confrontational when I explained myself in this way.

As I better learned my Catholic faith I developed a stronger Catholic identity and openly referred to myself as such despite confrontations with protestants.  I also became painfully aware of the large number of Catholics in name only.  These "fallen-away Catholics" still consider themselves Catholics in good standing with the Church.  Still to this day faithful Catholics battle the negative stereotypes that exist because of these people.  I quickly learned that I needed to refer to myself as a "practicing Catholic" to differentiate myself from this group.

But I have learned that a "practicing Catholic" is considered someone who goes to church regularly, not necessarily someone who believes and lives out the Catholic faith.  For a while I subscribed to the idea of referring to myself as a "conservative Catholic" but people like Cardinal Dolan have been referred to as such so it's clear that I do not fall into that camp.  Besides, the idea of liberal/conservative Catholics suggests that the two are like political camps where both are Catholics but with different views on who God is, kind of like protestantism.

At one time being called "Christian" was all that was needed to distinguish the faithful followers of Christ, but it became necessary for those who were faithful to all of Christ's teaching to differentiate themselves from those who did not by calling themselves "Catholic".  After the disaster better known as Vatican II it is clear that the Church is becoming more divided between those who accept Catholic teaching as it has traditionally known, and those who accept compromise and wish to "make a mess".

Now I consider myself a "traditional Catholic" which helps me distinguish myself from the millions of pseudo-sedevacantists who reject fundamental Catholic doctrine on marriage, the sanctity of life, and even the Holy Eucharist.    I've been introducing myself as such to both Catholic and non-Catholic alike for some time now.  Through this introduction I have found a greater opportunity to evangelize others - even apostate Catholics because they retain a certain nostalgia to what was lost.  Most of all I love sharing the profound beauty and deep reverence that is found in the traditional Mass!