End of Year Thoughts (From my St. Pius X Bulletin Reflection)
As this year comes to an end, I realize that one of my most important relationships is also coming to an end, and I don’t like it. My great friend Bishop “Bob” Brucato is in the hospital and it is becoming more obvious that his time with us is limited. This man was at both my parents’ funerals, vested me at my ordination to the priesthood, and presided at my sister’s and brother’s weddings. He was the first priest I talked to about this crazy idea about the priesthood that came to me while on retreat. I went to talk to him after a school retreat and I was sure he would say it was a passing inspiration and happened to everyone on retreat. I never really thought anything would come of my thinking that God had called me to the priesthood.
At a family gathering along with the three priests that were close to our family, my mom mentioned a little confusion as to how I ever considered a vocation. We had never really talked about it as a family and my parents were a little speechless when I told them. All three chuckled and were shocked that this was a surprise to my parents. They said in the Air Force we were always the family in the 2nd or 3rd row by the ambo as my dad was a reader. I was an altar server since 6th grade, and my parents were very involved with marriage encounter. Our social life as a family revolved around the church. We would get there early and be the last to leave. My parents didn’t have to say anything about living the faith, it was an essential part of who and what we had become. When they were first married, my mom would frequently go to Church alone and my dad didn’t start receiving communion till my first communion (long story). From about the time he was promoted to Lt. Col. he would go to daily Mass whenever he could, especially during Advent and Lent. When he retired, he would often spend as much time at church as some priests. He led the RCIA and reader programs for more years and at more places than I can count! My mom did many things other than proclaim the Word; that was not her thing – her actions spoke the Word.
Thoughts for New Year
As we end this year, I am struck by the importance of what we do and what we believe, about how much they influence those around us. As we set our goals (resolutions) for the new year, how can we be better? What can we do to increase the impact we have on those around us? How can we draw people deeper into their faith? How can we learn from and respect those that have been essential to who we are? It really shouldn’t be about losing weight or stopping a bad habit; those things should be a byproduct of being the person God made us to be, respecting the gift of our lives and all that we have been given. I was feeling like a hypocrite preaching about being all we were created to be and being 100 pounds overweight. I had to fix that and now have 30 more to go. Now I ask the deeper question: what do we need to do in order to be for this world what God calls us to be and needs us to be? Let’s resolve to work on that.
The questions in this song remind me the amazing faith of Mary and the complexity of that simple, “Your will be done!” I don’t like songs like “Sing of Mary Pure and Simple” I don’t see her as simple. She is an amazing model of faith in the midst of uncertainty.
I figured this would be a great song to think about while we get ready to end Advent and smack right into Christmas!
As many of you know, I have spent years volunteering with the Horse Show Committee. I announce and have driving just about every piece of commitment there. It was a huge commitment that I can’t do and be pastor at the same time. Although I thought about quitting many times as it is a huge investment of my time, every-time I see the scholarships given and the kids helped, I get drawn back in to help.
the last few years, I have helped with the Youth Connection. A good friend of mine runs this program that gives our youth service hours and experience of the “back end” of the stock show portion of the event.
When this started and I was announcing they asked if I would take some of the kids while announcing and were silly enough to ask my what category of volunteer I wanted. Being me, and to be as obnoxious I said, I really don’t care, but cheerleaders would be nice. My friend was clear that I would not be getting cheerleaders. She comes up to my the first day I got volunteers and I could tell by the look on her face that I had done something wrong. Well turns out that the only students that wanted anywhere near a microphone were the cheerleaders. I have met some amazing young people through this program. Kids that actually were probably better announcers than I was, as they understood what they were talking about and could add real color, not just humor to what they were saying.
Wanting to stay involved, I asked what I could do for Youth Connection without all the hours. They have asked me to raise some money to offset the cost, so more money can go into scholarships.
For a big enough sponsorship we can get you a banner at the connection office in the horse arena. (there are some restrictions due to other advertisers.) The biggest part is helping out the kids. Please don’t call the number on form directly without talking to me.
On Thanksgiving Morning, Things that I am Thankful for…
I woke up on this Thanksgiving Morning missing my parents. To remedy that I decided to take my own advice to others and look at all the things that I have to be thankful for this day. I will not remember everyone, but this is just those I thought about this morning With the title, I have to start with my parents.
I am thankful for the combined 140 years that they spent in this world and the difference they made. For taking chances and in that showing us the world. For raising a few ADHD kids in a world that just thought we were “bad” or not focused, they always pushed us to be what ever we wanted to be. They never expected one of their kids would become a priest, yet they gave us the freedom to know and follow God’s will. Faith was an essential ingredient for all that they did with us. I still encounter people whose lives were change because of who were. What a great example of living the Gospel.
Olph and Holy Spirit
I am thankful for Archbishop Gustavo for taking a chance on this priest off the street. For Fr. Jim Fischler for all the work he did to make this happen. Especially to Fr. Thumma and Sr. Leonita Barron who brought me back out of a dark time when things were not looking good. To Fr. Eriic Ritter who introduced me to the archdiocese and the entire staff at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Selma, for being there for and helping. For Deacon Louis and Diana Heimer who understood the challenges of owning a business with so much uncertainty about timing.
To Fr. Carlos and the community at Holy Spirit for an amazing 5 months and preparing me for St. Pius. You will always have a warm place in my heart. (Gabby’s too)
St. Pius X
To the staff of St. Pius X. I am very different from my predecessor, thank you for being so patient through the transition, patient with me,my dog and my way of doing things. Thanks to the people of St. Pius X. I was a little talken back when I was handed pages of pastoral priorities to implement. Looking back, I can’t think of a better way to start. Taking what all of you had worked on, and making it a reality. We are almost there. What a great way to learn a new community.
To Mrs Zarate and Mrs Brown for being there as we take a good school and not only make it great, but give the teachers and students the tools they need. By the end of December, we will have more technology and a better student teacher ratio than any school in the area. Thanks for building such an amazing team and putting up with all my crazy ideas and being able to tell me when they are maybe a bit too crazy.
To all the volunteers that make things happen, the Woman of St. Pius, the Knights and the list goes on and on. There is a real concern in our church that the young people are no longer engaged. I have a different experience. Our youth programs and Teen ACTS are thriving, I had the young people that volunteered all summer, nicknamed the Minions, and all the youth ready to pitch in, St. Pius is blessed with their youth.
Probably my best source of humility and regardless they are always there. My brother and his wife gave me the grill that produces the amazing meals that have made over $25,000 for the church. My sister is a natural cook and worked with some amazing chefs and is a great consultant when I try new things.
Frequently a joke, but I truly see this “deficit” as a gift. To Dr. Gay who did my evaluation for the Archdiocese and was the one who really put the pieces together behind my falling out with my previous diocese. Your insights have been very helpful. I thought I would include this video which really sys it all and you will understand that if you think you should have been on this list, that it wasn’t personal that you are not, just how my brain works
This may seem odd, but this year I am thankful for doubt. If we knew everything about God, we would not be able to go deeper. We don’t ever consider again that 2 apples plus 2 apples gives us 4 apples. We learned that a long time ago! So there is no reason to delve deeper, 2+2=4, PERIOD. Talking to some High School students a few months ago who were worried about doubting parts of their faith it dawned on me. These were very smart creations of God, all good students at Incarnate Word High School. I realized in that conversation how important doubt as it draws us deeper into our relationship with our God. Doubt is truly a special gift from God.
Catholic Television of San Antonio
Being ADHD there are times when I am preaching that things come out of my mouth that I really wish hadn’t. SO when the Archbishop asked me to host his show, I was taken back. I was sure that they didn’t know me well enough and that a disaster was looming. The Archbishop even asked me before first show why I was so nervous. I happily gave him great examples of what could go wrong. He laughed, picture on Facebook. They hadn’t seen the side of me that used to be the painfully shy kid that would hide behind my dad’s leg meeting new people. I was also following in the footsteps of giants in the archdiocese. I was still feeling like a barely reverend and it was a bit much. A year later, I would really miss the show if it was cancelled. I love seeing the different parts of the diocese, meeting new people and the process of doing a show that is live to tape. Basically we film as if we are live so that it isn’t edited. And to date, my brain and mouth have cooperated. (My dad just rolled over in his grave now that I tempted fate, but oh well) The bishop did start us at St. Jude’s, patron of hopeless cases, but it seems to have worked out.
To the doctors at St. Pius X especially Deacon Jose, Doc Mike and Dr. Cassias for all your help with my crazy diet. To Dr. Ross who put it all in perspective as I was worried about my diet being unhealthy and he pointed out being 284 pounds wasn’t really healthy either. I am at the weight threshold between obese and just overweight, so about 33 pounds to go, but thanks for helping me with the first 67 pounds. And to Marshall Smith who did the last round with me and actually made it fun. Thanks to all who have not tempted me and helped me stay the course. I feel at least a million times better and no longer fall asleep at my desk.
This is much longer than intended and I still miss my parents but that is in a better light now. As I head to mass and end this 1000 word plus blog, thanks to the rest. From the sisters that sell that gave me a great place to work and grow to all the friends that I met along the way. I am pretty sure I was not following God’s plan through much of what I did, but I do know God was able to work through everything I did to help me be a much better priest than I ever could have been before. Thanks to those from the first time around that were so encouraging, The Hopkins, Gerbers, Delines, O’Learys, Fr. Marty Lally, Fr. Bob Fisher, Fr. Kevin Fausz, CM, Bishop Brucato (Bishop Bob), Fr. Ed Deimeke and of course my mom’s 4th kid, Fr. Jim Thomas. Thanks for being a part of the journey, then and now.
Thanks Archbishop Gustavo and Fr. Jim for making this all possible.
To all those I didn’t have space to mention here, Thanks!
Happy Thanksgiving to all and a special prayer to all those deployed and in harms way as they are serving our country.
Thoughts after Southerland Springs 1st Baptist Shooting.
I didn’t want to respond to the violence in Southerland Springs right away. I was mad and frustrated. How could this be and so close. This will be a summary of my homily and for those upset that I am not jumping on the gun control wagon, please look at purpose of what I am trying to do.
Is it the guns?
My opinion is that guns are not the issue. The closest I have come to being hurt in an attach was in Germany, with very strict gun control. There they used a propane tank. Oklahoma City was a truck. 9/11 were planes. Chicago, DC and Mexico have amazingly strict laws, yet shockingly high levels of violent crime. I think it is us…
Are we silly virgins from Gospel parable?
Multiple times in the last year I have had to deal with threats from middle school kids to kill someone. This is in a Catholic school. Yes, we take it more seriously now, but these were kids with a plan. I have watched young kids in less than 10 seconds wipe out a small village in a first person shooter game. That has to have an impact.
I remember the first time I was in the ER as a Chaplain and a chest was opened and the smell and the sound almost made me toss my lunch. After time, I became accustom to it. Are we “virtually” becoming desensitized to violence through movies and games? Or by texting and not talking, especially while in same room.
What about the mental health angle. I have tried to get people help. I have friends that have family members, but their personal rights seem to get in the way of getting them help. Everyone is too afraid to do what needs to be done because they might get sued. How is that being our brother’s/sister’s keeper?
How do we help overworked and under prepared parents?
I don’t have answers, yet. But I am working at finding them. I am hoping this blog starts a discussion. I will not approve any comments stuck on guns. That is not the point here. That is a whole other issue.
How to we regain a sense of godliness or holiness for each other? How do we engender that in our youth?
Some of my ideas:
If you die in a first person shooter game, you are dead, you have to buy the game again.
Make all violent movies and games NC-17. Let the person form before subjecting themselves to these “games.”
If we are going to really fix health care, we need to fix our mental health system. How?
We can’t ban texting, but can we force more interpersonal relationships. We are shifting to more project based education to help facilitate this.
Please take a moment of prayer for all those affected by violence before responding.
Weight-loss and the Relationship you have with your Scale!
For those that didn’t read another blog of mine on weight-loss; I’m a slow learner and this is the third time that I have had to lose a significant amount of weight. Each time I have have lost, I have maintained that loss for at least 10 years and some tragedy or stress has taken me out of my rhythm and I love to eat, so that has been my comfort.
Many popular diet programs say that you need to only see your scale once a week. That has never worked for me. The idea is that you look at the whole and don’t get freaked out about fluctuations. Those variances, however, tell a story.
I need to see my scale everyday…
If I look at my periods of weight gain, they are periods where I have not been seeing my scale. If there are even a few weights together, there is a dip in my weight that follows. When I step on my friendly scale everyday, this is always weight-loss.
Yes there are days and a few times a few days that I have stayed the same or even gained and have not exceeded 800 calories on any of those days. This is where you need to be patient and understand that this is a direct ratio, but there are many factors. Did I get extra salt? Are there certain foods that I shouldn’t eat? More for another blog. Salt is the biggest culprit and the best news when this happens because that means there is a water/hydration issue and drinking more water will fix it. Salt is in many prepared and restaurant foods. I even go off diet and introduce some caffeine and that fixes it in a day or two. There are other tricks, but they are plan dependent.
Remember advice is worth what you pay for it and this advice is from a priest and not a doctor. I have to get on the scale every day. Everyday see the damage I caused the day before. I can’t stand an upward trend and self correct. Even on last maintenance period when I was bad and didn’t get on scale, 2 pounds appeared. Getting on the scale fixed that.
Reverence, how do we or should we show reverence….
I was asked today about how I project reverence. That took me back a little, because I’ve struggled with that question. I don’t really think that working at showing reverence is appropriate. How do we show reverence? Kneeling? Folding our hands? By what we wear? The prayers we say out loud? I don’t think it is any of those things by themselves.
Reverence is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
1 :honor or respect felt or shown :deference; especially:profound adoring awed respect
4 :one held in reverence —used as a title for a clergyman
So what does that mean for me?
On Ash Wednesday, I find the readings challenging. We are told to pray in quiet and not to mark ourselves, and yet we do just that. We put a big black cross on our forehead. I reconcile that because our intent is to show our humanity and frailty, not that we are fasting. We show our dependence on God.
We all see those people doing things to be noticed. The person with the wad a prayer cards or the 30 rosaries dangling from their hands, arms and neck. Any overtly obvious sign to look at them praying or being holy. We have all seen it. This doesn’t apply to all. I think of the widow and the one coin, the woman at the well, the tax collectors and all those Jesus lifted up and they all have one thing in common, they were humble and simple of faith. Simple, doesn’t mean shallow, but unencumbered. Simple faith can be the deepest. We know when we meet those people too.
So how do I show reverence?
By respecting all of God’s people. Whenever I slip and think or say bad things about someone, I feel that I have not been reverent to God’s creation. Same is true with self-talk, we need to respect ourselves. As a priest, it is about being respectful of my duties. It isn’t my Mass, it isn’t your Mass. All our official liturgies belong to the Church. I show reverence, by doing them as closely as possible to what the Church intended. I show reverence by being the best possible priest that I can. Showing reverence is being all of who God created us to be.
2 suicides- one day. Please get to those maybe thinking of suicide
Modified a little, this was on Facebook last week. But with funerals this week, decided to also post here.
I’m sitting here a bit dazed. I’ve been a chaplain at a level one trauma center and am usually pretty unflappable, but today has me thinking and praying! 2 people working or attending my parish lost siblings to suicide today. So please, if you, or someone you know are at risk, please know there are people that care. Even people you may not know, care. The incredible pain this causes those who your life has touched is immeasurable.
If you are not sure if you can take another day, or know someone that might be feeling that way, call a church, call the suicide hotline or go to an emergency room. Always better safe than sorry!
No matter what you think right now, your life does matter. If you truly believe that no-one cares, know you were created for a purpose and ending your life in noway serves that purpose.
Here is the number for the suicide hotline. They have a chat option too in case you can’t call privately or can bring yourself to talk about it. Just google suicide hotline or call…