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Sweat, Stress, and Shenanigans: Why Do I Even Take the Kids to Sunday Mass?

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Our car’s digital clock reads 9:27 A.M. I am thinking to myself, “Great, maybe we will be able to make it on time to Mass this week…finally!” [we only live 2 minutes away from our parish.]. After we pulling into a parking spot and turn off the ignition, my wife and I rush to get our three children into the church before the entrance hymn starts. Thankfully, we made it in time. I thought myself, “Please let us be able to make it through at least the first part of the Mass without me having to take any one out!”

My prayer was almost answered. Two minutes into the first reading, my 18 month old son, started to lose focus and wanted to escape the premises. The granola bar and sippy cup of water were not enough to appease him long enough for me to finish the firsting reading. I already had perspiration glinting on my temples and forehead from having to hold a squirming and twisting toddler. I gave up the battle. I left my oldest son in the pew by himself for a couple minutes until my wife came back—she had to take our daughter out for a bathroom break five minutes into the liturgy!

“What is the point, I thought. Should I even continue trying to bring the kids along? Sometime people stare at us as if we have an extraterrestrial being dancing behind them in the pew? My kids are insane!” I lamented to myself. Mass ended fairly decent, considering the crazy start, but I felt inspired to write about my inner struggles about balancing family life with my Catholic obligation for Sunday worship. Here are three reasons why I cannot stop bringing my children to Mass despite the enormous “inconvenience” or “stress” it seems to bring.

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1. Because I Experience Truth: Someone once asked my wife, “Why did you convert to Catholicism?” Her reply is probably the shortest apologetic statement in history, “Because it’s true!” The conviction and strength of faith of that level is something I have yet to achieve. I oftentimes feel myself providing caveats and further clarifications for why I am Catholic or why I continue to follow the faith. At the end of the day, I continue to go to weekly Mass on Sundays because the Apostles—the first friends and followers of Christ—started that tradition 2,000 years ago. Jesus informed the Twelve to celebrate the “breaking of the bread” weekly.

I need to persist in taking my children to Mass because Jesus is “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” and we receive the gift of the Eucharist! Truth is not always easy, but without truth I am nothing. Humans long for truth and the truest explanation for the wonders and strangeness of reality I find in the Catholic Church. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1324, “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’136 “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it.” Because of the peak of the Catholic faith is found in the Mass, I am willing to deal with face the difficulties of bringing young children to church. The path toward Truth is not always easy to follow but it is always worth it in the end.

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2. Peace Be with You: A Catholic priest once described the liturgy as a theological GPS that orients us back to the correct path when we fall away. This image always stuck with me. I seem to wander from the path of holiness frequently. My patience wears thin, I struggle with charity of speech, and I act rashly at times. Frankly, I think weekly attendance of Mass is far, far too infrequent for me! If it were not for my familial obligations as a husband and father along with my work duties to my employer, I would go to weekday Mass as well.

Peace is the gift we receive at Mass from the Holy Spirit. The first words that Jesus said to his Apostles in the Upper Room relate to the gift of peace too. In John 20:19 and 21 Jesus says, “’Peace be with you.’… ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” Utilizing my favorite reference book—my trusty Thesaurus—the two synonyms for the word peace that stand out most to me are restfulness and calmness. From my previous posts, you will know that I am not necessarily a calm person. I struggle with anxiety and RESTLESSNESS. Growing up with ADHD and being a father to hyperactive children, I crave peace. I long for rest. The Mass provides me that chance. Not every moment, because I do have to protect my somersaulting son from danger! Still, I found moments in the liturgy where I acquire genuine peace and calmness of heart. The best place on Earth where I have discovered true peace is within the sacrament of the Eucharist during Mass.

3. My Primary Role as Dad: My main role as a father is getting my children to Heaven. I am called to be a saint maker—growth in sanctity occurs in this life. According to the Catholic Church,

The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society (CCC 2207).

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How may I expect my children to love God if I did not establish a habit to visit the Divine Presence and rest in His grace? How do I lead my family on the path of true freedom if I do not experience freedom myself? The answers are incredibly simple—visit God and visit frequently! My father was [and still is] an amazing example of holiness. He is patient, slow to anger, and consistent in his faith. Looking by at how he accomplished the tremendous feat of raising my siblings and I, I realized that the biggest constant is his life [besides my mom] was the Eucharist. God fed my own biological father through this sacrament. The Holy Spirit increased my father’s inherent gift of patience to a profound and loving level—I need to follow that example.

My youngest child still has not called me “daddy” nor even uttered the word! Somedays I struggle to cope with this developmental delay. I noticed that my 18 month old will immediately fold his hands in prayer when I begin the Prayer Before Meals blessing. Seeing those little fingers crossed together humbled me. This small act has made me prouder than anything else. Life is not about how smart, or beautiful, or successful you are. Life is about love and truth. The Holy Spirit sent me a reminder through the person of my toddler.

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Do not be overwhelmed when it comes to raising your children in the faith. Even if you are a single person without children and struggle with motivation to go to Sunday Mass, I encourage you to still go. The joy and peace I experience at the end of the Eucharistic celebration is worth it. I wish that every Sunday Mass felt as good as the above picture looks—but that is not always the case in the reality of life. I need to continue to trust that my apparent feelings of failure and seeming ineptitude of corralling my children at Mass are distinct from the truth we experience every Sunday—that Jesus graces us with the ability to partake of His body, blood, soul, and divinity! No amount of Sunday Sweat, Stress, and Shenanigans will change this truth!

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How an Unexpected Compliment Revitalized My Week

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According to the urban dictionary, the phrase “case of the Mondays” means: a general malaise felt on the first day back to work after the weekend. I was set-up to have a profound “case of the Mondays” yesterday. I came off a superb weekend with visiting close friends and their newborn son . Additionally, I had extra work built up due to me leaving early last Friday–perfect ingredients for a terrible start to the work week! My Monday started with an unexpected three hours of training—I only remembered getting a single email reminder about it as week leading up to it. I am a person who thrives on routine and consistency. I was primed to be a knotted ball of stress going into my lunch break. Something sudden and seemingly inadvertent happened—I received an unexpected compliment!

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1. Thankfulness is life-giving: I received praise from a team member that I worked with on a couple escalated accounts last week. She lauded me for my professionalism in dealing with the troublesome situation caused by mistakes in our business line’s process. This flabbergasted me. I felt like I failed in a myriad of ways to end last week—I got frustrated, lacked trust in workflow processes, and doubted my ability to perform my job.

This simple complimentary email filled me with joy. Gratitude tends to reinvigorate souls in despair. The great American poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou once said, “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good”. The only thing I would change about her statement is that we should carry the pillow of gratitude throughout the day not just at night.

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2. Praise Pontoon Against my Pride: Normally, when I receive praise at work I struggle to stay humble. My pride tends to well up until it overflows and leads to problems for me later that day or week. Authentic praise and gratitude is a theological ark against the sin of pride. Monday’s workday consisted of many deadlines and high priority cases. The compliment provided protection from the rain of Monday’s anxiety.

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3. Wrestling Wickedness: St. Catherine of Bologna lived in the 15th century, yet her holiness remains relevant for us today. She compiled a list of seven general tenets [I call them weapons to fight sin] to grow in holiness. Here is a brief summary:

a. The first weapon I call zeal, that is solicitude in doing good, since the Holy Scripture condemns those who are negligent and lukewarm in the way of God (Apocalypse 3.15-16).

b. The second weapon is mistrust of self, that is, to believe firmly and without doubt that one could never do anything good by oneself, as Christ Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15.5).

c. The third weapon is to put one’s trust in God and for love of him to fiercely wage battle with great readiness of spirit against the devil and against the world and one’s own flesh which is given one in order that it might serve the spirit.

d. The fourth is the memory of the glorious pilgrimage of that immaculate lamb, Christ Jesus, and especially his most holy death and passion, keeping always before the eyes of our minds the presence of his most chaste and virginal humanity.

e. The fifth weapon is to remind oneself that we must die.

f. The sixth weapon is the memory of the goods of paradise which are prepared for those who lawfully struggle by abandoning all the vain pleasures of the present life in accord with the saying of the most holy doctor Saint Augustine that it is impossible to enjoy present goods and future ones too.

g. The seventh weapon with which we can conquer our enemies is the memory of Holy Scripture which we must carry in our hearts and from which, as from a most devoted mother, we must take counsel in the things we have to do.

 

The overall theme in these tenets is that gratitude and trust overcome the prowess of evil. Catherine uses the term memory. Thankfulness boiled to its simplest meaning is essential remembrance of an act someone did toward you. To remind ourselves of God’s trust and the good [and maybe not so good] things in our lives is a way to help in cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

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4. Sow tears…acquire joy: The psalmist proclaims in Psalm 126:5, “Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy.” Prior to this week, the meaning of these words eluded my understanding. Understanding prayers of laments usually do not occur until after a blessing is granted. This is definitely the case for me. In a way, I planted a theological garden with my tears of frustration last week. Over the weekend, God worked in the heart of my co-worker and inspired her to write a generous thank you letter to show how I am appreciated. Growing takes time. We just need to trust that God will transform tears into joy in His providential scheduling.

C.S. Lewis understood the importance of living with thankfulness on the forefront of our mind. He once said, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good; if bad, because it works in us patience, humility, contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” Let us continue to rely on time and space as a schoolhouse in developing gratitude!

Resistance 

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The dictionary defines resistance as the refusal to accept or comply with something. A common fruit of resistance is inaction. Today I am struggling immensely with resistance— resistance to get up this morning, go to work, and resistance to write! My family had a busy weekend. We celebrated my son’s birthday party and we had 15 kids running around our backyard for a few hours. On top of that Sunday we celebrated our priest’s going away party at our parish and took the kids out to the municipal zoo for a few hours before wrapping up with night by watching the Lego: Batman Movie. All in all it was a jam-packed weekend.
I normally get inspiration for my daily blog topic on my morning drive to work when I listen to Christian music. Today, I do not experience any such inspiration. I felt tired, unimaginative, and slothful. Resisting  my feeling of resistance seemed futile. Thank goodness that statement is not true. I chose to act. Not with a grandiose or creative act, but with just a simple act. I choose to start writing. Sometimes that starting act is enough. We experience highs and lows in life. Today I am experiencing a low, a lull moment. My resistance to resistance is not much, but I am hopeful that it is enough to carry me to the next day—where my battle against resistance will begin anew. Tomorrow, I hope to write about how music inspires me. Hopefully, I will be inspired tomorrow during my morning drive to work listening to the radio. Hope. Because of its existence resistance is not futile!

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3 Reasons Why my Secular Job Has Made Me a Better Catholic

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I am a cradle Catholic. I was baptized at the age of 1 week. I went to a Catholic elementary school, middle school, high school, and college. I even attended a Catholic graduate school. Interestingly, it is at my secular work place that I have taken the virtues I acquired in Catholic schooling and deepened them. I give you three reasons why my secular job has made me a better Catholic.

  1. Different Perspective: The major difference between my Catholic cradle upbringing and my daily work today is summed up in a single word—perspective. I have learned to see relationships, problems, daily tasks, and even conversations from a different perspective. I used to view the world in a dichotomous manner. There is black or white. I still view the world largely in this manner, but I have learned that sometimes there is gray in the world. Sometimes both people may be right in workplace conflict. It just depends on my perspective. This ability that I am daily improving upon is not hampering my Catholic identity, rather enhancing it. By taking a different perspective on things, I acquired a tool to combat the sin of judgmental thinking.
  1. Changes through Change: Similar to viewing things from different perspectives, I have learned in my job that change is inevitable. I am becoming more and more patient in my secular work place. I firmly believe God has graced me with the opportunity of my job to help me develop and deepen the virtues of patience and understanding. I still have a long ways to go, but I can tell I have made great strides in my spiritual life through my learning to embrace change even though I may find it difficult sometimes.
  1. Seasoning Adds Flavor: Jesus urged his followers to be “the salt of the Earth” in his Sermon on the Mount Discourse (Matthew 5:13). The purpose of salt is two-fold: preserve and season food. I believe that I the reason that I thrive in a non-Christian environment is for those same reasons. God wants me to act as a preservative of Truth against this worldly culture which promotes the self. Secondly, God gave me the gift to evangelize in a special way to non-Catholics. I need to continue to pray for God to reveal his graces to me on how exactly He wants me to add “flavor” or joy to my workplace.

I will end with this question: How may you be the salt of the Earth? Everyone is valued and God has you placed in your current job for a reason. Ask Him for guidance in knowing your purpose.