Sunday, April 27, 2008


They laugh.  They mock.  Inevitably, they ask for it.

One of the essential items I pack for any youth ministry event - whether it is a retreat, camping, service project, or international travel - is duct tape.  This miracle product will repair ripped jeans, hold up broken airline tray tables, suspend just about anything, and will, without fail, be used on each and every event.

Somewhere is a stunning picture of me standing in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.  I have my day pack slung over one shoulder.  On the other shoulder is my flute with a role of duct tape on the strap.  

With two retreats just wrapped up and the massive undertaking to attend World Youth Day now less than 80 days away, duct tape has a comfortable position on my desk.

For all those who have ever mocked me (and there are plenty), here is a bit of higher vindication. 

Monday, April 21, 2008

Another Minor Miracle

I survived.  Basically the month of March through this past weekend served as a crucible for me.  Whether it was the normal chaos of Holy Week, the State Conference, or back to back retreats it has been a challenge.  While there's plenty to keep me busy (as always), it is at least down to the normal level of chaos.

As I am enjoying the first day off where I haven't had to do some work here at home, I am enjoying some of my favorite simple pleasures.  The list of Jenn's favorite things to enjoy on her day off:
  1. My favorite pair of sweat pants.
  2. My incredibly holy, incredibly oversized sweatshirt.
  3. Lebanese take out for dinner (I love chicken shwarma, hummus, and fattoush salad).
  4. West Wing DVDs.
I must say that I deeply mourn the loss of West Wing on Prime Time.  I love the show and the switch from discussing relationships withe teenagers to the world of politics and government.  It was after all my first love.  

So I shall continue enjoying a truly relaxing day with some of my favorite fictional characters and some excellent take away.  A bit of rest before heading into the Educational Trust Fund benefit, end of the school year activities, and preparations for World Youth Day and international service trips.  For the time, I shall enjoy the time watching Josiah Bartlett appoint a new Supreme Court Justice.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jenn's Law #1

We all roll our eyes and quote "Murphy's Law" when something goes wrong.

I propose a new set of laws - Jenn's Laws.  These relate to the specific ways things roll in ministry.

To begin with:

"When you get sick, you will go from fine to death warmed over in about two hours.  Of course, this will occur the first two hours of an overnight retreat.

Anyone care to hazard a guess as to my current condition? Anyone? Bueller?  Bueller?

Yup, exhausted, finished a retreat around noon and have youth group at 7:00 pm.  And I have almost no voice, difficulties breathing, and am generally a breeding ground of charming forms of mucus punctuated by horrible coughs.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mangoes & Greek Salad

Today is a mango sticky rice & Greek salad sort of day.  What exactly, dear reader, does that mean?  - Basically my schedule is so hectic that I didn't have time to put together a lunch or dinner.  Thankfully lunch was included in the morning meetings I had and a Whole Foods store was on my way from the meetings to the office.

This is one of those days where I almost wish I didn't care so much about what I do.  Or that I wasn't a bit of a stubborn perfectionist.  Bad combination when you're faced with two weekends of back to back retreats, state conference wrap-up (and planning next year's), a diocesan council or two, and various other projects.  I want everything I do to be perfect partially due to my own perfectionism, but mostly because I don't want my imperfections to mar the experience of others.

Especially when it comes to faith it seems people demand perfection from those in leadership.  Hypocrisy, sin, or even just the minor everyday faults we all have are highlighted as faults with the faith, faults with the leadership, and used as an excuse to doubt or criticize.  Thus, when I am putting together an event, a h
andout, a presentation, I truly do want to make it faultless.  If there is one less thing that people can object to as they continue on their journey of faith, the better.  

However, this creates several problems.  Not the least of which is that I (like everyone else) am full of faults, sins, and unintentional hypocrisy.  No one is perfect.  I am buying into the demands that others place on me that are fundamentally unreasonable.  It also causes me extraordinary levels of worry and stress.  Not healthy, especially when your mother had a heart attack in her early 40s due to stress and so forth.  By seeking to be without fault I also am giving an implicit statement that others should be perfect and without fault.

Yes, we should strive to be without sin and strive to be like our Father.  I know that I am called to live my life as a disciple, actively and consciously.  I am called to be a disciple, not a perfectionist.  Thomas, Peter, and Paul and the lot were always falling short.  I take comfort in that.  God used their imperfections to bring light to others.  Jesus did not demand perfection from Peter.  He forgave him his denial and then asked not for faultless, but for Peter to love and feed his flock.

Not perfection, but love.  Therein lies the true call of discipleship and those of us who feel called to ministry.  We are called to love, not to be perfect.  We are called to love ourselves, our neighbor, and our God. 

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Sometimes I am astounded by what I consider typical.  Typical meals, typical schedules, typical behavior, typical trip planning...

I'm usually caught up in something 'typical' when someone comes in, comments, and then leaves saying something akin to: "You have such an unusual job."  That, in and of itself, has now become typical.  This week is much a typical week for me, both the past and coming weeks actually.

This past week I had The Big World Youth Day (WYD) meeting on Thursday.  Of course Tuesday was the young adult group and Wednesday was the youth Bible study.  After 2 1/2 hours where everyone, including the intrepid leader, was a bit overwhelmed the WYD meeting wrapped up.  The quantity of information and paperwork that had to be handled was a bit overwhelming.  All told, I handed out about 3 inches of handouts to the 23 people going.  As three did not attend, I still have more meetings to look forward to in the coming weeks.

In between the regular and irregular meetings, I have the project that I am very excited about.  We're restructuring, redesigning, and generally completely revitalizing our high school youth ministry web site.  In addition we are looking to put up podcasts.  As our pastor is over 60 now and never much of a computer person, I am amused when I get on a roll about the changes.  He is very supportive, but the language is completely foreign to him and so while he checks that progress is being made, there's a level of disconnect.

I find that disconnect one of the most challenging aspects of youth ministry.  The generational difficulties take on a new dimension when you factor in technology, culture, and social changes.  Though just over ten years older than most of my students, the world I grew up in is quite different from the youth today.  The generations that came of age in the 50's, 60's, 70's, even 80's must stretch far beyond their understanding of adolescence to embrace the existence today's youth face.

So I return to my typical day - morning Mass, quick lunch, some office time, some coffee shop time, and then glow in the dark putt-putt golf with the high schoolers who are all on spring break.  Typical.  And no other way I would like it.