Friday, April 29, 2011

Wrong Words

Did you ever consider we might be using the wrong words?

I just got an email from a group that began by citing statistics on how people are leaving the Church and the need to respond. Yes, this is an issue. I would be the organization has great ideas and wonderful resources.

But I think our fundamental issue may lie in how we talk about the issue.

We get so concerned over empty pews, low collections, and poor engagement. We play the numbers game. However, might it be our very concern over these numbers indicate part of what drives people away.

Now I know that the reasons people leave the Church or never give it a chance are complex and varied. But might we be missing the boat when we don't look at the relational issues?

Instead of concerning ourselves with those who are or are not coming to Church, those who aren't donating, or those who aren't engaged, what if we addressed things differently. What if we instead concerned ourselves with the fact that all these numbers indicate that there is a large group of people without a relationship with God, without spiritual food, without a community of faith and support? Perhaps if we started to talk about the problem, not as it affects us in the institution, but as it affects people, we may find ourselves on the right track.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Shadow of a Man

Most people at some point in their lives wonder what impact they have had on others. Sometimes this comes when a parent is sending their child off to college or as one lies close to death.

At the ripe old age of 30 I have come to a conclusion. We will never know the full impact of our lives and it is probably for the best that it is so.

With the world looking either to London or Rome, depending on your particular interests this weekend, I was thinking about the impact of Pope John Paul II. He never knew the impact he had on me.

It is because of Pope John Paul II, his creation of WYD, and the words he spoke in Rome 2000 that I am here. By here I mean not only in ministry instead of law, but I wonder if I would be as active in my faith if it wasn't for that WYD experience.

Nonetheless, this is one of those things I realize - in all our ministries we will touch the lives of others in large and small ways. We will rarely see these moments of grace, but that will not negate their power.

In truth, I would rather not know all these moments of grace. If I did, I fear I would believe myself responsible for them instead of the Spirit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Every year for the Living Way of the Cross, we have to rehearse one part over and over. And it is an easy part - The point in the Way of the Cross when the crowds yell, "Crucify Him!"

Every year the kids are too quiet. These are the same kids who just five minutes ago I had to shush for talking too much while 'back stage' in the sacristy. It is one thing for them to talk about the latest app they put on their phone or whose stole looks better (the girls, the guys usually couldn't care less about their costumes). It is another thing for them to shout at the top of their lungs to crucify Jesus.

Why is that?

I know a big part of it is that they are shouting in church and they, as teens, really don't want to stand out that much. But I wonder if it isn't something more.

Is that moment a moment when they enter a bit more fully into the story? Do they start to realize the actuality of what the crowd cried for and what in turn Jesus allowed to happen? Maybe they are, through their timidity, showing how afraid we all are to admit that it is our sins that put Jesus on that cross.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Such an Odd Day

Today is a day of questions.

"Are you the King of the Jews?"

"Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas or Jesus called Christ?"

"Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?"

"Why? What evil has he done?"

"My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?"

These questions that appear in today's Gospel are so powerful. They have the ability to challenge the state, topple religious authority, condemn to death, and express absolute despair.

Tonight's youth group is going to focus on these questions. We will ask a few more, too.

Ultimately, we are going to look for an honest answer. An answer to the question asked at the Vigil on Saturday - Do you believe?

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Oh the difference of a liturgical year!

Last year this time I was debating with a lovely young woman from Wisconsin the relative merits of the two pairs of shoes I had in my luggage. This was a highly unusual conversation for me as I have little interest in shoes beyond looking appropriate. However, that was the crucial issue. Comfort and appropriateness.

Last year on the Saturday before Palm Sunday I was in a retreat center near Rome staying up far too late with new friend from around the globe. Eventually I had to tear myself away from the celebrations and head to bed. I had to leave before the sun would even rise.

I had to catch my ride to the Vatican.

Those of us from the conference who were to be involved in the Palm Sunday Mass had to arrive at St. Peter's in time for our various roles. I went in the first car with several young women from Africa who were ill prepared for the chilly 40-something degree weather we had at 6:00 am. Thankfully it did warm up by Mass, but I felt so sorry for them. While I was chilled, this Midwesterner could hardly complain.

Looking back I remember most strongly a few odd things.

  1. My feet hurt terribly. My legs were turning to jelly. When wearing heels and standing, walking, and standing in St. Peter's Square, you have no hope. Especially when the entire Palm Sunday Gospel is sung while standing in said heels.

  2. The security guy standing right by me. As we who were reading were in the second row, the security was right by us to stop anyone from rushing up to the Pope. The security person by me was a pleasant gentleman in his 30s or 40s. He cracked a smirk when I switched shoes during Mass (the jelly feeling left me questioning my ability to walk to receive the Eucharist). He smiled and pointed to his own comfortable shoes.

  3. Looking out and seeing thousands of people. To be in front of the crowd when you've been in the crowd so many times is a surreal experience. To look out and see where I was at WYD 2000, where I sat taking photos in 2003, and to be awed by the honor.

  4. Making sure I didn't trip because my youth group kids were having a sleepover to watch me at the Mass!

It was only after that I processed things like the Pope was there and listened to me proclaim the first reading. It was only after that I realized that the size of the crowd was likely in the tens of thousands. It was only after that it truly dawned on me that this was a once in a lifetime experience.

And it is only now that I can truly appreciate the exceptionally comfortable shoes I will be wearing to Mass this weekend.