In God’s Time

One of the things we’re always told is that God answers prayers in His time, not ours.

When I was fourteen years old, my parents divorced. I took it very hard. Though I wasn’t particularly religious (I had stopped going to church a few years before), I remember praying every night for months, “Please God, let my parents get back together.”

Not only did my parents not get back together, but they both remarried. The marriage of my mother and step-father lasted only about seven years. Truth be told, I did not care for the man in the least.

When my father first married my step-mother I would visit them occasionally on weekends. I remember my new step-mom, Linda, and the efforts she made to be kind to me. I didn’t rebuke her, but I didn’t have the appreciation for her kindness that I should have. I was only sixteen and still very wounded.

Time heals all wounds, no matter the scar tissue left behind and I did come to love Linda very much. I loved her as much as any child could love a step-mom.  My mom and Linda had even become friends and used to talk at length over dinner on holidays.

Thirty three years passed.  Then one day, Linda passed away, suddenly, unexpectedly. It was the first time in my adult life that someone very close to me had passed away. And it hurt. Badly.

About a year after Linda’s passing, of all the unexpected things in the world, my parents got back together. I confess at first, it felt very weird. It felt to me as if Linda was being slighted in some way. Eventually that feeling passed, passing more easily as I reflected that my parents were married for nearly fifteen years before my dad and Linda married. It was right that they were together.

Now it is four years later. Tomorrow, my wife and two daughters and my sister, her daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren will leave on vacation together, with our parents, our Mom and Dad. I’ve not been a vacation with my parents since my early teens. I am ecstatic. It would be easy to mourn the lost years, but I’ll not waste my time. I’m overjoyed. My prayers have been answered…in God’s time.

 

 

 

 

Types of Catholics – A Lexicon

Programs, programs, get your program right here! You can’t know the players without a program!

 

Cafeteria Catholic: “I’ll have a double-order of  ‘sex is holy’, hold the ‘no contraception’, please.”

Convert:  Comes to Catholicism via another faith, or none at all

Extrovert: The one person in your parish who actually greets visitors.

Introvert:  Everyone but the extrovert. (See Extrovert)

Revert: Born and raised Catholic, has left the faith but then returns. Thought – technically, couldn’t a convert become a revert?

Threevert: Obvious, no?

Father:  Describes a man in our parish years ago. Sixty-something, gray beard, always wearing black trousers and a black short-sleeve shirt. I swear he’d have worn the collar if he thought he could get away with it.  Father’s favorite seat in the pews wasn’t a seat at all – it was a chunk of real estate behind the last row of pews in the middle of the center aisle. He’d alternate between standing and kneeling. I don’t know if I ever actually saw him actually go prostrate during the Mass or if it is just something that time has falsely planted in my memory, but he certainly seemed to have been desirous of Holy Orders. Do you have a “Father” at your parish?

Indignant Visitor: Loves to follow up their first Mass at your parish with complaints to the priest about everything that was wrong with the liturgy, the parishioners, the parking lot, the plumbing, etc .

Infallible Idiot: Complains about liturgical abuse, violation of tradition, lack of compliance with archdiocesan instructions, etc., convinced that they are correct, except that they’re not.

Season Ticket Holder:  Their most sacred tradition is where they sit during Mass.

“The air conditioning is too cold!”
“There’s a vent right below you. If you move over there, or there, or there you’ll be fine.”
“But this is my seat!”

Statue: You come into the sanctuary and they’re kneeling at a pew, praying. During the Mass they never move. It’s as if the Mass is not occurring. You leave and they’re still there, not moving. You think to yourself: “Does housekeeping dust them on Saturdays?”

Walking Dead: Described me for the better part of twenty-five years and I suspect it describes a lot of others as well. A Walking Dead is a would-be revert who just never got around to leaving.

Committed Catholic: All kidding aside, most Catholics I know are committed Catholics. We rejoice at our membership in the Church started by Jesus Christ. We revel in the fullness and richness of our Catholic heritage and traditions. We are members of a world-wide family. Any Mass, in any country, we may not know the language, but we know exactly what is going on.

Do you have any humorous categories to add? Send them to me!  Please register (see Register on the left navigation bar) and post them as a comment.

 

 

 

 

Fast Evolution Is Not Evolution At All

 

I’m going to assume that if you’ve come here, I don’t need to explain what flagella are or who  Dr. Michael Behe  is.  If you don’t know, you can check him out on Lee Strobel’s excellent DVD – “The Case For a Creator“.

Just this morning I came across a year old article on a site called “The Scientist“. There was a report about research done at Michigan State University. The report opened with these words:

Bacteria that lack a vital protein for growing flagella—tail-like structures that enable the microbes to swim—can attain flagella in as little as four days given enough pressure to evolve, according to a paper published in Science today (February 26).

Doesn’t developing a flagellum in four days contradict Darwin’s Theory, that of a very long process of “natural selection”?  To me, it would seem that production of such a complex system in such a short time not only suggests an intelligent designer, but one who’s considered many contingencies.

 

Armchair Apologist

Yesterday I inadvertently discovered what is sure to become a new favorite hobby of mine: armchair apologetics. It happened while I was listening to an episode of the excellent radio show Catholic Answers Live (episode #7538). A listener called in with this question:  “How do you balance a well-formed conscience with being child-like?”.  Guest Patrick Madrid (Surprised By Truth) gave his answer, the essence of which was having a “child-like innocence”.

As a budding apologist, I’m in no position to reject Patrick Madrid’s response. However, I had an immediate awareness of what that passage (Mt 18:3) means to me and so I would like to give you my interpretation.

It has only been recently that I’ve come to know Jesus. There are a couple of unintended but most welcome effects of my friendship with Him. First, the things I thought were important no longer are. (That reminds me, I need to disable some programming on the DVR. “The Blacklist” just isn’t important to me anymore.)  The end result is that I don’t feel as pressed for time as I used to.

The most important effect by far is the absence of worry. This is especially surprising because I know people who are “worriers” by nature. I’ve never considered myself to be one of them. It’s only through it’s absence that I’m aware that it was ever there.

People who’ve not yet struck up that close friendship with Jesus may believe themselves to be without worry, but I think most people do have a certain undertow which becomes noticeable only once it is gone.

As a result of my friendship with Jesus, I’ve developed my own personal daily liturgy. I stop to pray at various times throughout the day, asking His favor and giving Him thanks. I say this prayer when starting each workday:

Lord, I thank you for steady employment.

Help me to stay focused today; to discern which tasks are more important than others and to do my earnest best all the day long.

Give me the confidence to know that it is ultimately You who provides for my family and that You will ALWAYS provide for us.

With trust in You, there is no need for anxiety or stress over unreasonable demands.

Should this employment end, I trust in You to send new employment my way.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

In the rough and tumble world of business it is easy to let looming deadlines and stress get to you. This prayer helps keep me focused on the only reality that counts, Jesus.

Have you ever looked at your own children or the children of others when they are young, say four or five years old and caught yourself longing for the days when there was no stress, no pressure; simply going through life holding on to an outstretched hand? Do you long for resting peacefully in the arms of the one that loves you more than anything?

To return to the question from the caller on Catholic Answers Live, my opinion is that’s what Jesus is saying in Mt 18:3. It has nothing to do with “innocence” per se, but rather “trust”. Only when we completely surrender to Jesus and strike up that close friendship are we freed from the chains of worry about the future. It is then that we become like a little child being led by the hand through a crowded mall or zoo or church; no worries, completely trusting.

In summary, it is not that we must jettison our adult intellect and well-formed conscience, but rather our attachment to worry and the concerns of this world. We must let Jesus take us by the hand and guide us through our days and years. He loves us more than anything. He only asks that we love Him in return. When we fully embrace His invitation to friendship, we experience the freedom and inner peace of a little child. That’s the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

 

 

Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic

New Saint Thomas Institute

As I mentioned in my last post, now that God has finally broke through my thick skull, (fifty two years is nothing for Him), I am insatiable for knowledge. I happened to do a web search along the lines of “how to become a Catholic apologist”.  There in the results were some YouTube videos with titles like “Habits of the Effective Catholic Apologist” and “Five Mistakes Catholics Make in Apologetics (Don’t Make These)“. Intriguing, to say the least. Clickity, clickity, clickity click…

I learned that the man in the videos is Dr. Taylor Marshall, a former Episcopalian priest who converted to the Catholic faith. Later I discovered that Dr. Taylor was often asked this question: “how can I learn more about my faith?” He lamented that typical routes to higher education include a graduate degree or doctorate degree. In addition to taking years to complete, these options can be extremely costly and not feasible for many laypersons. After giving it some thought, Dr. Marshall’s response to this problem was to launch the New Saint Thomas Institute (NSTI), a low-cost, online source for learning more about the faith, with an eye toward apologetics.  At NSTI, the enrollment unit is calendar months, not courses and once enrolled, students have access to a wealth of materials, primarily (but not only) lectures by Dr. Marshall on a variety of topics.

Students can watch the videos in any order they wish and there’s no need to watch all of them, but for those students desiring a little more structure and to work toward a goal, NSTI offers four certificate programs. They are: Catholic Philosophy and Thomistic Studies, Catholic Theology, Catholic Apologetics and Catholic Church History.

Learn more about NSTI here.

Insatiable

Many years ago, I recall walking through the living room in our home and seeing my wife watching a show on EWTN. I recall thinking to myself “don’t you ever get tired of watching this stuff? It seems like the same old thing over and over.”.  Lest you be curious, yes, that large slice of humble pie was filling indeed.

Ever since I’ve had my “epiphany” moment, I have an insatiable appetite for knowledge of sacred scripture and for everything about our beautiful faith. I remember hearing people speak of the “fullness and richness of the Catholic faith”. I never knew what they meant my such a description, but I sure do now. I cannot get enough:  St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Ecumenical Counsels, books by Scott Hahn, Taylor Marshall, podcasts like Catholic Answers, in addition to, of course, NSTI.  I feel the need to make up for lost time. I used to work all sorts of hours above and beyond a forty hour work week. I used to watch sports. I used to watch select TV shows… not a lot in quantity, but a few that were high quality. I have several of them continuing to collect on the DVR knowing I’ll never watch them. I listen to the audio versions of the NSTI curriculum during my hour-long commute each morning. I walk to St. Aloysius Catholic Church during lunch most days of the week to attend daily Mass. Just today (Friday) I was unable to attend because I had several meetings in the afternoon and really needed that time to prepare. I definitely felt sadness over missing the Mass today.

Most of all, I feel a deep sense of calm and comfort as I talk I converse with Jesus and Our Lady throughout my day. I know that if I keep close to them, I’ve nothing to fear and no need to worry.

My Crazy Journey – Part 3

The Tipping Point

This takes us right up until recent times. Let me start the last part of this story by saying that my wife Ramona is my inspiration. I just know that she will be one of those people about whom God will say “well done, good and faithful servant.”  I mention this because it was in an effort to have more common interests with her, that I signed up for a class called Symbolon, presented by the Adult Education group at our parish.

One night, during a bit of chit chat during a break in our class, I mentioned to our group that what I really wanted to find were books, not starting from a position of “I believe”, but scholarly, academic books that present information about Jesus the same way that they would present information about the Pyramids of Egypt, the great plagues of Europe or the settling of the New World. I’ll be forever grateful for what happened next. A woman named Judy said “Oh! You should check out a book called “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel.”  I did, and I am forever changed. 

Lee Strobel was the editor of the legal page of the Chicago Tribune. A journalist by trade, he also has a masters degree in legal studies. Strobel said something to the effect of “Journalists are supposed to be skeptical. They want to uncover the facts. At the Tribune we were proud of our skepticism. We had a sign on the wall that said ‘If your mother says ‘I love you’, get a second source'”.

In a nutshell, Strobel had a drinking problem and was an atheist. His wife was an atheist and although you’d think that gave them something in common, they had a troubled marriage. One day a neighbor asked Mrs. Strobel if she’d like to attend church with her. Surprisingly, she agreed to go.  This was the beginning of a transformation over the next few months. Strobel could hardly believe his eyes. His wife was much happier and seemed to have an inner peace and joy about her.

Lee thought “Oh man, we’re headed for divorce now…”  Instead of seeking a divorce attorney, though, Strobel’s inner-journalist took over. He felt compelled to “investigate” Christianity.  How could his wife have undergone such a radical change?

The result of two years of investigation yielded the book “The Case For Christ”. In it, Strobel interviews historians, university professors and other scholars to see if there was any evidence at all for the historical Jesus. Not only was there evidence of the historical Jesus, but also consensus from historians of all stripes that the man known as Jesus was in fact sentenced to death via crucifixion and most amazing of all, there is considerable consensus among historians that Jesus was crucified and that three days later he rose from the dead.

This was a game changer. This was exactly what I was looking for: to take faith out of The Faith. To me, asking whether I believe in God is now as ridiculously rhetorical as asking me if I “believe in” gravity…or rain.

My Crazy Journey – Part 2

Lukewarm

I was born to two very young parents (dad, 17 and mom, 19). My mother was raised Catholic, my dad, protestant. I was baptized in St. Mark Catholic Church in Warren, MI, but that was the last time I was in a Catholic church for twenty-five years.  My parents took me to Sunday school at St. Paul United Church of Christ until around the age of ten or eleven. It was then that I protested going to church on Sunday did not leave enough time for me to play baseball on the weekend. My parents rolled over like trained dogs. I think they took me to church because it was what you were supposed to do, but it wasn’t very difficult to get them to quit.

Fast-forward another ten years to the age of twenty-one.  I was now a U.S. Marine and in the span of about a year and a half, I had three separate brushes with death. After the third incident, I suddenly had a feeling  sweep over me that I was in a very crowded train station.  I heard someone call my name:  “Joe!”.  Surely the voice was calling someone else, not me.  A second call, this time louder:  “Joe!!”. Again, surely the voice is calling some other Joe.   “JOE!!!”.  “Oh…you meant me Lord?”.

Shortly thereafter I was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps and as fate would have it, soon moved into an apartment literally across the street from St. Paul United Church of Christ. At the age of twenty-three I resumed attending St, Paul, this time of my own volition.

I became a member of the church council. I was making great friendships, some of whom had left the Catholic Church. I generally felt “good” about my involvement with the church. I cannot say, however, that I had a very strong faith in God.

Somewhere during this stretch of my life, I met an intelligent and pretty young woman named Ramona. We met. We dated.  Then within a matter of a few months there was just this shared knowledge of “but of course we’re going to marry”. And so we did, a mere ten months after meeting.

The road to the altar proved to be a journey in more ways than one. I had rather presumptuously assumed that we’d be married in “my” church, St. Paul – United Church of Christ. I knew nothing about the United Church of Christ. In my mind, “the church” was the actual church building and the people in it. While discussing our wedding plans, I mentioned getting married at St. Paul. Ramona responded “well, we can do that, but you should know that if we do, my dad would not attend.”   “What??? Why??!!” “Because it is not a Catholic church” she replied.  I could hardly believe my ears. Up until this moment, the Catholic Church, so far as I knew, was “just another denomination of Christianity”.  It was becoming clear it was anything but.

This was the first time that I had ever dug in and learned the differences between the Catholic  Church and Protestant denominations. The more I learned, the more I worked myself into a frenzy. The Catholics I read seemed so arrogant!  I just didn’t see a way through this.  One day I was sitting in my car, parked at a store near my house, brooding over the situation. Suddenly a calm washed over me and I just said “Alright. Alright, you win. I’ll do it your way.”  I was not referring to Ramona.

Over the course of the next several months we attended Engaged Encounter and were married while I was in the middle of completing RCIA. When I completed RCIA and was accepted into the Church at the Easter Vigil, I experienced something quite out of the ordinary. After returning to the pew and kneeling after receiving the Eucharist for the first time,  I closed my eyes and it was if I were an passenger jet at 35,000 feet – only without the jet.   All I could see was blue sky and a some puffy white clouds all around me.  I seemed to be moving because I went in and out of the clouds, unable to see anything but white when I was in them. I felt wind blowing on my face and heard the sound of wind rushing by my ears. When I opened my eyes, it was all gone of course. I wondered if I had a strange look on my face.

I supposed that for a while after that, I felt that “I believed” with some level of conviction, but I wasn’t what you’d call “on fire with the faith”.

Three years into our marriage, one of the worst things that can happen to anyone happened to us: we lost a child. More accurately, our first child was stillborn at full term.  Shortly after our son’s stillbirth, I experienced the first of two strange occurrences.   It went like this:

In the summer of 1992, I was taking an economics course at Macomb Community College. It was one of those summertime cram-down type courses that are only six weeks long when the regular courses were many more weeks in length. I think this course met twice a week, four hours at a shot for six weeks. 

At the time of taking this course, my wife was very pregnant, expecting our first child, a boy, we had already named Joshua Grant. And then… the unthinkable happened. Joshua was stillborn at full term. The “review” session for our final exam fell on the same day as Joshua’s funeral, and I was in no shape to attend class that night. I missed the review. Two days later, I arrived to take the final exam. I was in shambles. I could barely focus and I had missed the review. To make matters worse, as we sat down to start the final, I noticed everybody placing calculators on their desk. We NEVER used a calculator in this class, as the math was very basic. I had never brought a calculator with me to this class.

I asked the person sitting next to me “why does everybody have a calculator? We’ve never used them before.” My classmate whispered back – “he said last Tuesday that on the final, we’ll need a calculator”. So now, on top of being a wreck over the loss of our child, I was panic-stricken that I was going to fail this exam.

I bent over to my book bag to get a pencil and some blank sheets of paper. And there, in my bag…..was my calculator. I never brought that calculator to class, ever… and I know I did not put it in the book bag… and yet there it was. I felt my eyes well up with tears, by now convinced I must REALLY look like I was out of my mind.

I took the final and amazingly.. I’ll never know how, I got an A on the final and an A for the course. And I owe it all to my little Josh who made sure his daddy had a calculator.

As strange as that may seem, what happened following the birth of our oldest daughter more startling:

In 1996, we were finally blessed with a baby, our daughter Monica. My wife had undergone a cesarean delivery and so for the first several weeks, I was the one who got up at night with Monica.

One night, she awoke crying and I went to feed her. She was crying quite intensely but she didn’t seem to be hungry. I checked her diaper… dry. I rocked her, sang to her and walked around with her, to no avail. After a while I was really getting concerned because she was inconsolable.

My mind began to wander into that “what if something’s REALLY wrong with her” territory. You know, the one where a trip to the emergency room enters one’s thoughts.

By now, I was really starting to panic. I didn’t know what to do. And then….. as plain as day, I heard a male voice say “her throat”. I looked down and realized that Monica’s pajamas were snapped right to the very top and appeared to be snug around her neck. I unfastened the top snap and she instantly stopped crying. Considering her brother, Josh, was stillborn due to the umbilical cord being wrapped too tightly around his neck, it sent shivers up and down my spine. I realized that our son Joshua truly was looking after his baby sister.

My Crazy Journey – Part 1

I have a confession to make:  for as long as I can remember, in matters of faith, religion, spirituality, whatever you want to call it, I have been, as they say, “lukewarm” at best and “faking it” at worst.

I cannot count the number of times during the examination of conscience at a “communal penance” mass where the priest said things like “Is Christ the center of your life?” or “as you go through your day, are you conscious of the presence of Jesus in all that you do?”.  My internal response to these sorts of questions varied by my level of lukewarmness that particular day.  It could be as good as “Gee, I wish I could feel that way…” Or it might be as bad as “a person that answers ‘yes’ to such a question can’t possibly be living in the real world.”

For twenty-six years as a Catholic I’ve felt this way and I, more than most people should not have felt that way. I’ve had two supernatural encounters in my life and several other incidents that were clearly “proof”, either of a divine being, or my own insanity.  And still I resisted. Why?

My entire adult life I’ve worked in the realm of software system development. I’m pretty much a “show me” kind of guy. I much prefer operating from a position of knowledge than one of guessing or hoping. In short, behind every “thing” there is a reason and a way to verify it.

Don’t get me wrong: I liked the idea of faith. I liked the idea of an afterlife, of spending an eternity with all my long-departed relatives and friends. I just needed something a little more in the way of…proof, even more than the supernatural encounters I’d experienced. Talk about stubborn!

What is Romeo Catholic?

Simple. I live in Romeo, Michigan and I am Catholic.

Why mention that I am Catholic?  Again, simple.  I am committed to sharing the glory and majesty that is the Catholic Church with as many as people as possible, be they non-Catholic Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists and especially Catholics who have drifted away from the Church.