Thursday, March 31, 2011


Awhile ago now, I stumbled upon a great prayer resource: I encourage you to explore it. Here is one that spoke to me today -

O great and powerful ocean,

I fear and respect your beauty.

I wish not to take away

nor leave anything behind.

I only wish to dance

with you a short while.

~A surfer's prayer

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mountain Tops

This past Sunday we heard the story of the Transfiguration at Mass. We're all (hopefully) well acquainted with it. Often this story brings up conversations about the mountain tops - the high points - in our lives and spiritual journeys. Homilists, catechists, and even us youth and young adult ministers quickly bring up that we cannot live on the mountain top. We speak of how there are usually only a few such highs in our lives. The rest of the time is spent somewhere in the average terrain.

Our hope is that we help people understand that faith is also made up of the ordinary, and even those low points in the valley (Psalm 23 anyone?). And that is good.

However, when we consider the high points - any high point - in our spiritual journeys and lives, we often forget one thing. The hike.

Peter, James, and John had to hike up the mountain with Jesus. They put work into it.

Even when a high point is a miracle or seemingly so far beyond anything we could have created or even asked for, there was work we did to lay the grounding for that high point. We had to make the day to day spiritual journey, we had to make the preparations for that big event, we had to study hard to pass our college finals. High points don't just happen. Work happens.

Before getting discouraged that we haven't been on the mountain, that the light hasn't shone down from heaven, let's make sure that we're laying the groundwork.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reality Check

Today we could not use our computers in our office until about 11:00 am. For most of the morning, we were hamstrung. Everything on my "to do" list and all the things I could possibly think of to do required my computer. I ended up sorting through the piles on the credenza behind me. No more looming piles of paperwork or magazines.

But it was quite the reality check. Once upon a time, not so very long ago, youth ministry and young adult ministry happend with out computers. It happend without the Internet. Wow.

Okay, all kidding aside. It was a good reminder that work still goes on even if your computer doesn't. It got me to thinking about what we can do when we unplug.

In a couple of weeks at youth group, we're doing a special night on prayer that will focus on very low-key, no technology reflections and prayer techniques. We will actually have the kids silently reflect for a period of time. And you know what, last time we did this, every single teen loved it. They adored the chance for silence.

And isn't that telling?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Young Church

On Saturday I have the task of somehow expressing in approximately 50 minutes the experience of the young adult Church around the world....


Now it can be safely assumed that there is no possible way to completely present that topic in that time allotted. So, I find myself whittling things down to a few ideas:

1. My experiences of Church. I've traveled to some different places under different circumstances. As an outsider in the country, what are my observations?

2. With those travels, and especially the Pontifical Council for the Laity's Youth Forum last year, I have friends from around the world. What are their thoughts on the Church, young adult Catholics, and the particular experiences of those young adults?

So over the course of the week, I'm going to pull together my notes, emails and Facebook messages sent to me from friends, and any other tidbits I can think of. Should you have thoughts to share, please do. I would love to hear them.

If you're in the great state of Michigan, why not come to the Michigan Catholic Young Adult Conference this Friday & Saturday? You could hear this blogger speak or go to one of the other (much better) workshops.

Between Apathy and a God-Complex

Somewhere between apathy and a God-complex lies the day to day life of your average youth minister. Finding a healthy, holy spot in that spectrum is a daily challenge.

This is particularly challenging when faced with all those teens you see in your community that are not crossing the threshold of the youth room. There is a great temptation to believe that if we don't reach them, then they are doomed to a life of faithless hedonism that will only result in never finding a home in God. There is also the temptation, often particular to a nearly burnt out individual, to not see what else we could possibly do to reach out to that individual.

Finding a way to operate on a day to day basis where you have a constant desire for effective outreach, evangelization, catechesis, and pastoral care that is balanced with the recognition that you, in fact cannot save the world (for Someone else already did) becomes the balancing act we all struggle to walk.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"They could be twins"

I have to watch Hotel Rwanda in the next day or so. I need to pull a clip from it for youth group on Sunday. Our discussion is focusing on "Us and Them," the divides we create or believe are there when we talk about social justice issues and service.

As the film accurately explains, the difference between the Hutus and Tutsis was basically imposed during the colonial era. In the film, the white reporter cannot tell the difference. As he comments, regarding two women one of whom is Hutu and the other Tutsi, "They could be twins."

From the earliest age we place different labels on ourselves and others to try to understand the world around us. And to an extent, we have to do this. Animal, vegetable, mineral. Stranger, friend, family. Inedible, edible. Often these labels help us to know what is good or right in a situation.

What becomes dangerous, is when we apply fictitious or inaccurate labels, or worse yet, impose such labels on others. That, and the negative effects of the colonial era, helped lead to the genocide in Rwanda. That, along with insecurity, is what leads to bullying.

While I sincerely hope that the world has learned its lesson and the tragedy in Rwanda will not be repeated, I worry. We like our labels far too much. It is a slippery slope we venture on when we let ourselves fall prey to labels.

(Note, I also posted this on my personal blog)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Which Pew Are You

A couple of weeks ago, a friend posted a question on Facebook that started a huge discusison on the simple geography of where one sits at Mass on Sunday.

Very, very quickly people jumped in and bewailed how there are so few of the good sort of Catholics who sit quietly, reverentially and so very close to the altar. They disparaged those that lurk near the doors of the church, hinting that those in the back pews are on the cusp of their seats, ready to flea as soon as they receive the Eucharist (and only the Body, not the Blood - they are bad Catholics after all).

I stumbled on this post after about a dozen others had traveled along the line of congratulating themselves and others for sitting in the front pews and happily pointing fingers at those bad ones in the back.

And I was mad. Really mad.

We're not even going to touch the whole 'judge not' thing - someone else, long ago, covered that point much better than I could.

Are these people paying attention? Are they even paying attention to the theology they hold so dearly to? Is not Christ present in the community at Mass? Keeping one's head down, only gazing at the altar and the priest, you miss Him in one of the ways He is present.

Also, do those people in the front realize what they have said to Him? Do they realize that there are young families who sit in those bad pews so that their toddlers can have a bit of space and they can escape to change dirty diapers? Do they realize that there are people who are handicaped that find the harsh eyes of judgment too much? Do they realize that these special brothers and sisters of ours, are trying not to disturb the 'goodness' of those up front? Do those good ones, up front, realize the doctors, nurses, police officers, military reservists, that sneak in during that opening hymn (or Heaven forbid during the second reading) are just eternally grateful for an hour of peace to center them in the midst of serving their community? Do those in front, realize their lay ministers may be hiding out in the back because they don't want to receive that tap on the shoulder during the Prayers of the Faithful asking why we didn't pray for life issues this week (despite the fact that we prayed for the incarcerated and the immigrants)?

What really irks me is knowing a saintly frined of mine, a single mom (gasp) with two children. She adopted these kids. So she faces the judgement of those who see a single parent at Church with a resigned heart. What she shouldn't have had to face was the cutting remarks and harsh looks of those in front when her youngest acted out. This little child (did He not say to bring them to Him?), came from a horrible medical background and had gone through countless foster homes. No, all those up front saw was a little girl with a single mother acting out.

When my friend moved to the back, they helped her. Those bad ones in the back offered board books on Bible stories, pouches of cereal, and understanding hugs during the Sign of Peace. Yes, bad Catholics in deed.

So perhaps before we judge people at Mass based off where they choose to sit, we should get to know each other a bit. Maybe instead of allowing our self-righteous thoughts or annoyances to cloud our judgement, we should look for Christ in our neighbor. For Christ is there at Mass - in the one praying the Rosary before the entrance hymn just as much as the single parent arriving late with a child in tow.

Christ came for all. The rest is just geography.