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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Matthew Kelly, the Dynamic Catholic...

Last week, I got a chance to spend part of the day listening to Catholic author and gifted speaker, Matthew Kelly, with my wife and about 750 faithful, both young and old, at an event sponsored by St. Augustine Catholic Church in Coral Gables and the University of Miami's Catholic students outreach ministry.  While I won't get into the details of his talks, which was mostly about how we can become dynamic Catholics that go out change the world, like the original Catholics did in the first century, I wanted to share some quotes to ponder:

"When we say 'yes' to stuff that we shouldn't, we miss out on stuff that God created us to say 'yes' to."

"Clarity emerges from silence.  Once we're in silence, we begin to hear the voice of God."

"Needs are primary.  Wants are secondary.  We live in a culture that is obsessed with the want but it's never enough because you simply can't get enough of what you don't really need."      

"As Catholics, we have forgotten our story and we're letting the anti-Catholic media tell our story."

"Catholic education in the United States saves tax payers over $18 billion each year and the Church contributes over $60 billion in food for the needy; regardless of their faith, race or ethnicity."

"Over one million kids get confirmed in the Catholic Church each year.  Eighty-five percent of them leave the Church within seven years."

"Part of the problem is that most of us think we're pretty good Christians... as compared to what?  That is the sin of comparison.  Measure your life against the Gospel."

"We don't read the Bible because we know the Gospel has the power to transform our lives.  We don't mind a little tweaking but we don't really want to transform our lives!"

"Athletes are training right now and waking up at 4:30a every morning to train for the 2024 Olympics, for a competition that may not last 10 seconds.  Now, that's commitment."

"As a nation and as Catholics, we are deeply committed to mediocrity because we don't see things as they really are, especially ourselves."

"Our lives change when our habits change."

"Every relationship improves when we start to listen."

"Less than seven percent of Catholics in the pews contribute over 80% of the funds to support the parish and perform over 90% of the services."

"We are made for happiness but we can never find it because we have a God-size hole that is so big, only God can fill it."

"How did the first Christians change the world?  They lived differently.  They loved differently and they worked differently.  Modern Catholics just blend in."

"If we actually lived what we believe, we would work differently because our work is our gift to God."

"To be anti-Catholic is the only acceptable prejudice in the United States."

"The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that holiness is not possible.  Ninety percent of Christians are neutralized by this lie and so we're destined for mediocrity." 

"If you can create one holy moment in one day, holiness is attainable.  Holiness is replicable."

"Don't be afraid of the deep water.  We need some depth in our lives."

Kelly, an Australian-born internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, author and business consultant for several Fortune 500 companies, has dedicated his life to helping people and organizations become the better versions of themselves.  In recent years, he has been committed to helping the Catholic Church in America regain it's prominence one parishioner and one parish at a time through The Dynamic Catholic Institute.  He has written over 15 books, several of which have become New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today best sellers...

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Day in the Life; Walking the Dog, a Welt and Superhero Dreams...

When you got to go...
"Carlos, the dog," my wife said as our new Australian Terrier mix, that we rescued from the pound several weeks ago, stood on his hind legs, scratching at the bed with his front paws to wake her up, as he had done the previous two times that morning.

"It's the third time this morning!" I complained (Annoyed that I was going to have to get up AGAIN!).

"That was part of the deal.  We got a dog because you said you would walk him," she shot back. 

Great, she used the "you said" card again!  I did promise to walk the dog if we got one, only after years of hearing our kids beg us to get one (Our two previous dogs died about six months apart four years ago), but, are you kidding?  Three times in one morning?  I had no idea it would be so often!

I threw the blankets off in a huff, climbed out of bed, slipped into my shorts and sandals and headed for the door, as the terrier, who we named Winston, broke into his happy dance when I pulled out the leash (Yes, it's a lot of fun for me too, I thought!). 

St. Paul did say, "Love is patient.  Love is kind," but, let's be real, do you think he really meant before the first cup of morning coffee?  I couldn't believe it.  He woke up at 5:30am, then at 7:30am and again at 8:30am!  I swore I had to check the fiber content in his food.  This was ridiculous!

It had been a rough morning.  Aside from the lack of sleep, during my first two walks (the first one in the dark), as I slumbered along following the determined half-pint, I ran into a spider web that I thought I ate the first time around and it was back when I walked the same route the second time! 

Walking the dog battle scars...
However, I think the second time the spider got ticked that I had ruined her all-night creation again and so she rode me like an avatar on one of those green dragon flying things because, for about two or three blocks, I could feel spider webs down my arms, head and legs, as I broke into spontaneous air Kung Fu moves every few steps and slapped myself silly trying to get rid of the annoying pest.  It's a good thing most people were still asleep on a Saturday morning.     

Obviously, by the third walk I avoided that area like the plague but when I got home and went to the bathroom, I noticed a bright red welt over my left eye that was sore and apparently left over from our second walk.  That female dog!  I must have gotten bitten by the vengeful spider!

For the rest of the week, I kept waiting for the welt to go away.  It was swollen and tender.  I put a couple of different antibacterial and antibiotic creams on it but nothing.  It must have gotten infected. 

By Friday night, my wife asked if I was going to turn into Jimmy Smits, from the movie The Believers, and I begin screaming, "Culebra!" at the top of my lungs, before spiders started to come out of the welt on my forehead.  As for me, I think I started feeling my spider senses tingling and was ready to use my Kung Fu moves on real bad guys, only I couldn't climb up walls or get the spider webs to shoot out of my wrists!  Hey, a guy can dream can't he?

Oh, well; lesson learned.  To avoid embarrassing myself and the kids in the future (with my air Kung Fu moves), I'll have to look for one of those fly-whisks that people in the Middle East use to swing and scatter the flies as they walk, so I can walk my dog in the mornings and evenings after dark.  In the meantime, I think I'll walk him by the edge of the street to avoid the trees, where spiders spin their webs.

Fortunately for me, Winston's bowel movements have gotten acclimated to his new environment.  He still wakes up early every morning and goes to my wife, like my kids do (I wonder why?), so that she wakes me up to walk him but, at least, it's just once!...

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Cross; from Torture to Salvation...

The blood of the martyrs...
When the hooded ISIS terrorists (Real manly to cover their faces isn't it?) brutally beheaded twenty one Coptic Christians in cold blood on a beach in Libya, they said it was a message "in blood to the nation of the Cross," meant to taunt Christians around the world, as they threatened to conquer Rome next (meaning the Vatican; the most recognized center of Christianity).

Yet, the Cross, which is venerated by Christians on Good Friday, is actually a taunt to ISIS and all the powers in the world that be, who maim, torture, terrorize and murder as a show of force and intimidation.

The true power of the Cross was displayed by many of the victims of the massacre, who were seen mouthing, "Jesus Christ" or "Jesus is Lord," as the executioners plunged their blades into their necks to sever their heads.

Like lambs led to slaughter, in the example of Jesus, the Coptic Christians gave up their lives, believing that their fate was not in their killers' hands but in God's.

In a recent video commentary (see below), Catholic theologian and author Fr. Robert Barron explains that it is through the Cross of death, which Jesus boldly embraced, that the "nation of the Cross," became the nation of life in the Resurrection.

There was nothing more horrific and terrifying for people in the ancient world than that of the cross.

During the Spartacus rebellion about 100 years before Christ, Roman authorities crucified thousands of his men along the road leading to Rome, as a message, like the terrorists of ISIS, of what can happen to those that "cross" the Empire.

In Jesus' day, Barron says, the cross was the Roman Empire's version of state sponsored terrorism.  It was used as a deterrent to anyone who considered stepping out of line; a brutal instrument of torture meant to leave victims in excruciating pain until they died and then their bodies were left hung on the cross, for all bystanders to see, until scavenging animals devoured their remains.

The wood of salvation...
Consider that when Jesus was arrested, his disciples ran for cover.  Possibly with the exception of John the beloved, they all fled from the cross and went into hiding, in fear and trembling.  The cross was too horrid, too terrible, too grotesque a reality.  Barron says it was the most disgusting, terrifying and humiliating death that anyone could imagine at the time, which is the irony of what Christianity started proclaiming.

On the heels of the Crucifixion of Jesus, it was a disturbing claim for first century Palestinians and Greeks to hear that God became Man and was brutally and sacrificially slaughtered like a criminal upon a cross.  And, if that weren't shocking enough, St. Paul, St. Peter and the rest of the Apostles were telling believers that they too should emulate and follow Christ on the Cross!

It was absurd.  It was preposterous and it was hard to imagine.  Yet, their conviction and fervor converted thousands and spread throughout the Roman Empire like wildfire until the Empire was converted within 300 years.  Why?  How? That is a mystery that only God knows but, to me, it can only be explained by this; they saw and experienced the Risen Lord, which gave them the strength and courage to boldly and effectively proclaim such a radical proposition, knowing very well their fate was on that same cross, if they ever got caught (and most of them did!).

In fact, the Cross became a symbol of taunt to the Roman authorities, as if saying, "I know this is what your power is based on but we're not afraid."  Barron says that Christians held up the Cross as a symbol of God's love, which conquered sin and death once and for all.

The priest also points out that, unlike Islam, whose followers get offended by cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammad in compromising positions, Christians hold up the mocked, humiliated and tortured Jesus, because we know that God's love is greater than any pain, suffering or disgrace in this world.

Thus, the Cross is a taunt, but not to Christians, as ISIS meant it to be, to those who abase it.

Second and third century Christian author, Tertullian once said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."  Without a doubt, those Coptic Christians were martyrs. And, that same Church that Tertullian spoke about, which started amidst the scandal of the Cross in the first century, and has outlived kingdoms, governments, systems, persecutions, wars, scandals and constant attempts to destroy her for the past two thousand years, continues to carry the Cross on high, enduring, like its founder, its full weight because of its promise.      

As our parish priest sang at the Veneration of the Cross service on Good Friday afternoon, "Behold the wood of the Cross on which is hung our salvation."...