Is the Holy Family Still a Relevant Role Model?

01/15/2014

In a previous post, I told you a little bit about my Catholic side.

I told you that I have owned hardbound copies of the Vatican II Daily Missal and Vatican II Sunday Missal, published by The Daughters of St. Paul, for more than twenty years.  I told you that I enjoy the general commentaries on the day’s liturgical theme, the specific synopses of the readings, and the daily meditations.

Sadly, both of these volumes are now out of date.  The revised English translation, or Third Edition, of the Roman Missal was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in November 2011.  Through countless years of research and careful study, the original text of the entire Roman Missal has been more faithfully and carefully translated.

I still enjoy and appreciate having my own missal.  My smart phone serves as a worthwhile, if imperfect, substitute for the Daily Missal.  I did purchase a replacement for the Sunday liturgies.  My new translation is the Saint Joseph Sunday Missal, published by Catholic Book Publishing Corp.  This missal also includes Mass themes and commentaries.  They are written by Rev. John C. Kersten, S.V.D.

You know how you prefer one author to another?  You gravitate toward a particular writer because you enjoy their writing style?  Or maybe what they’re trying to tell you?  There’s a noticeable difference in the style and spirit of the commentaries between my old and new missals.

Just like there’s a difference between apology and apologetics.

Possibly, it’s simply a matter of writing style and my interpretation of the writer’s meaning.  But I often find myself questioning or confused by the commentaries in the Saint Joseph Sunday Missal.

For instance, here’s a sampling from Sunday, December 29, Feast of the Holy Family.  The first reading was from the Old Testament book of Sirach (3:2-6, 12-14).  The passage speaks of our duty to honor our father and revere our mother.  To my simple mind, this is seemingly straightforward, common sense advice.

The second reading, from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians (3:12-21), gives direction on God’s plan for family life.  It focuses our attention on love, peace, and thankfulness.

The Gospel, from Matthew (2:13-15, 19-23), tells of the instructions Joseph receives to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt and later to return with his family to Israel.

Beyond the obvious celebration of the family, the feast reminds us of the importance of the family unit to all classes of society. The Church encouraged and formalized the idea of family as an autonomous, self-contained unit and marriage as a personal, exclusive relationship between one man and one woman, with each person having equal rights and obligations.

That concept is often overlooked.  It has been misunderstood and improperly interpreted since Vatican II, and still is today.

The notion that the Church created or has blindly insisted upon an antiquated, unequal, patriarchal relationship between man and woman is a modern misconception.  In fact, societies that have failed to recognize the vital nature of the self-contained family structure have destroyed themselves.  Note the destruction of Greek and Roman society.

So when I read the introductory comments by Rev. Kersten in my new St. Joseph Sunday Missal that these readings “necessarily reflect the patriarchal family pattern, hence the subordinationist family ethic” and that “(w)e should distinguish between the core of the Christian ethic and the cloth in which it is wrapped,” I found myself disagreeing with a writer who no doubt is better educated on this subject than I.

When I further read that “(b)y keeping in mind that the point of (the first reading from the Book of Sirach) is conditioned by time and culture, a modern Christian can succeed in learning from it,” I found myself confused and disappointed that the message being conveyed to the lay reader of the Missal was that these beautiful ancient words were somehow no longer applicable to our relationship between father, mother, and child.  Somehow, we must view these primitive words in a new way, given our enlightened modern society.

It seems to me that we are doomed to repeat the past failures of so-called “enlightened” societies who convinced themselves and others that the basic family unit was no longer essential to a free society.

The books of the Torah and later the Old Testament, and finally the New Testament, with the promulgations of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, serve as the basis of the new way of thinking.  Much of what our “modern” society has allegedly discovered in recent years has been tried and done before.

And has failed.

May we not make the same mistake.  We’re headed that way.

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Let Me Tell You About My Catholic Side…

01/14/2014

I’m a Mass junkie.  As in Roman Catholic Mass.

As a Catholic family, we go to Church every Sunday and try to attend on Holy Days of Obligation.

But I also make a strong attempt to at least listen to Daily Mass.  That commitment began about two years ago when I rediscovered the Catholic television channel, EWTN.  About the same time, I got a new smart phone that easily allowed me to stream internet radio and television, including programming from EWTN.  I pondered my options for filling my early morning drive time as I made the trek between clients: talk radio, music, audio book, Daily Mass…

The answer was obvious.

And beyond that, as far back as I can remember, I was a bit of a Mass junkie.  When I was a kid, maybe 9, 10, 11 years old, I would occasionally take a missalette home from church (should I have confessed that?) so I could hold “Mass” in the tiny utility room “sanctuary” in our house on Main Street.

I’m not sure what inspired that appetite to know more about the Mass.  But it continues to this day.

Before I go any further, my intention in sharing this is not to boast about what a great saint I am or to suggest in the slightest that I am a better Catholic, a better Christian, or a better person than you.  I can assure you that I struggle every single hour with my faith, with sin, and trying to get even the little things right.  And I think I mess up more than I get it right.  Rather, I tell you all of this to tell a story, to let you know who I am, as background to my main point.

I enjoyed studying the Bible in a college class (although I didn’t take it as seriously as I should… could say that about many classes) and some adult Bible study groups, as well.  I enjoy knowing and understanding the specific Bible readings selected by the Church for daily and Sunday Mass, how they flow and fit into the liturgical seasons of the year, and the messages they impart to us.

I have been a Lector (reader) at church since the early 1980s.  I cherish the opportunity to deliver God’s word to the congregation in a manner that they’ve never heard before.  I am an excellent Lector.  One of the best.  That’s not a boast.  That’s a testament to a gift God gave me.  I’m not a great extemporaneous speaker.  I don’t think I’m a very good conversationalist.  But I’m an excellent reader.  And I feel compelled to use that gift.

My fascination with the Roman Catholic Liturgy and desire for deeper connection with the word of God inspired me to purchase hardbound copies of the Vatican II Daily Missal and Vatican II Sunday Missal, published by The Daughters of St. Paul more than twenty years ago.  I enjoy being able to follow the chronology of the liturgical seasons.  I appreciate the commentaries preceding each Reading and Gospel.  There’s a meditation for every weekday liturgy that reads like the briefest of sermons.  These meditations are quite helpful to understanding my faith and guiding me through life’s struggles and quandaries.

I have a particular story I want to share that makes all of this a little more relevant, but for now, that’s a little about me, the Catholic side of me.

I guess to wrap up, my meager experience serves to demonstrate in a very small way what a long and complex heritage we have as Roman Catholics.  Now, I’m not a biblical scholar nor a Roman Catholic scholar.  I haven’t exhaustively devoted my life to the study of the Mass or the bible or the liturgy or the Church.  But I have come to know and appreciate the complexity of our history through my humble, meager study.

The Roman Catholic faith derives from the Son of God, the creator of you and me.  How awesome is that?  How incomprehensible!  And we now have more than two thousand years of reflection, insight, discernment, and inspiration to learn from.

I know many of you have strong opinions about the Catholic Church, positive and negative.  My faith journey continues to prove to me that the Church is the one true Christian faith.  That doesn’t invalidate other Christian denominations, but it does mean there are differences between Catholicism and Protestant Christian denominations.

I’m interested in your thoughts and opinions.  Have I said anything that stirs you?  That you agree with, disagree with?  That you don’t understand?  That challenge you?  Let me hear from you.


Mouth Clamped Shut: the Anguish of a Responsible Personal Trainer

01/09/2014

It’s a recurring theme. 

To speak or not to speak?  To be a Buttinsky or keep my mouth shut?

One of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced since becoming a personal trainer is maintaining my own fitness.  Between maintaining balance between scheduling appointments, travel, administrative and personal obligations, I also had to deal with what was for me a new phenomenon.

Celebrity?!?

Okay, so that may be slightly overstating things, but there’s no question that I became a popular and sought-after figure on the fitness floor.  Consistently completing an intense, focused workout became more and more challenging in my “home” fitness center.

So many people stopped to chat — fitness center members, staff, my clients — that I couldn’t follow my usual routine: maintain an intensity that I was used to or complete all the exercises I wanted to do in the time I had to do them.

Oh, I know.  I could have politely but firmly excused myself and continued my routine.  I could, and did, wear headphones (didn’t help).  But that’s so against my nature that I almost always allowed the interruption.

So, for this and other reasons, I’m a member of more than one club.  I need my space!

That presents its own set of challenges.  Not the least of which is learning to keep my mouth shut.

And not interrupt my workout!

(I mean, how true is the expression “Life Imitates Art?”)

Well, life imitated art as recently as this morning.  A young lady — who I’m certain was doing her fair share of courting (that’s a polite, old fashioned way to say flirting) — was asking her buff, male companion for help as she performed a series of strength training exercises.

I cringed as I watched her do the first exercise.  Dumbbells overhead, sitting on a flat bench, her lower back arched too far forward, shoulders rounded back, and emitting a cute little grunt as she heaved the weights heavenward.

She was imitating her musclebound companion, who was performing the same exercise right next to her, on a chair with proper back support.  He tossed the much heavier dumbbells above his head with such ease that they could have been plastic toys.

They both finished their set, she on the bench and he in the chair.  Then he sat her down in the chair and gave her instructions as she performed a second set.

Back still arched unnaturally forward, negating the benefit of sitting in the chair, shoulders molded around the top and back of the chair.  Same cute little grunt as she heaved the weights high above her head.  That is, when she wasn’t telling him “I want to look like youuuuu!”

I finished my set of chest presses and I need a stretch.  I’m watching her lift as I walked directly behind her chair, the words screaming in my head, “pardon me; may I make a suggestion?”

But I can’t bring myself to open my yap.

Just like driving past a traffic accident, I had a hard time looking the other way.

I see this scene repeated virtually every time I’m in a gym or fitness studio.

What to do?  Where does my responsibility begin and end?  Do I have any?  It’s like knowing CPR and not offering assistance.

But… she was getting assistance.

How did I know the guy wasn’t her paid personal trainer?

How would my friendly advice have been perceived?  Would my interruption have been any different than those friendly interruptions I get during my workouts?

It was getting late.  I finished my workout and headed for the locker room.  There were my two new, unnamed friends, behind me now at the leg press machine.  She was on the seat, a couple light weight plates on either side of the machine.  He was offering instructions.  Her head off the bench, neck muscles straining, shoulder blades rotated forward, teeth clenched, as she drove her legs forward.

Heading toward the shower, I had visions of shoulder and cervical spine issues in this lady’s future.

Should I have been a Buttinsky and said something?

Would she have listened?

What do you think?


500 Words a Day

01/01/2014

So I’ve committed to writing 500 words every single day this month.  Help me, won’t you?  Any words of encouragement, helpful hints, kicks to the hind side… all appreciated.

This commitment is really a last minute resolution.  My one resolution for the year is to be as transparent as humanly possible.  To live life REAL-ly.  Honestly.  Humbly.

That’s my one resolution for 2014.  To be as real as I know how.

To make my intentions known.

And to live them.

So let me know how I’m doing.

Back to this secondary, let’s call it a side resolution.  500 words a day.

My intention will be to write more.

Because I have a lot to say.

Because I have a TON of catching up to do, seeing as how this is what I intended to do with my life when I left high school.  And somehow I got sidetracked for the last 37 years.

So I have a lot to say.

Expect a heavy dose of words on fitness and nutrition, since that is my current full-time avocation.  ‘Tis the season for resolution (where have I heard that before?), and I intend to incite a 2014 health, fitness, and nutrition New Year’s Revolution.  (See what I did there?  I could have said “inspire new year’s fitness resolutions,” but no!  I went straight for inciting a new year’s fitness revolution!  How clever!  Perhaps a harbinger of a future 500 words??  Hmm… we’ll all have to wait and see…)

Expect some random stuff on tax and financial matters, as I am still sentenced to preparing tax returns; this has been my primary avocation for the better part of the 33 years of professional life since graduating college.  It was my early experience as a small business owner, specifically a professional service provider as a Certified Public Accountant, tax consultant, and financial planner, that shaped and determined my sharply conservative political views.  And made me a black sheep in the family, just by mentioning my affinity for Rush Limbaugh (heavens!!) and other conservative commentators.

Curious.

Expect some flame-throwing.  In the spirit of honesty and humility.

Expect to read about parenting and step-parenting, child-rearing and being a father.  Since meeting Kathy March 31, 1984, I’ve had a child in my life every day since.  No “honeymoon period.”  No real time to ourselves.  It’s been a crazy ride and there’s much to say.

I’ve also experienced the pain of divorce.  Will I have anything to say about that?  Probably.

Expect a fair amount of hockey talk.  My passion since I was very young, thanks to my dad.  We have enjoyed the Blackhawks’ recent success as season ticket holders, thanks to my generous family.  I would rather watch any kind of hockey game than just about any other sporting event.  The Winter Classic today was, well, classic!  Watching Detroit and Toronto play in the snow, the puck barely cutting through the snow, transported me directly back to Boltwood Park in Evanston, Illinois (remember Boltwood?  Before the name change to Robert Crown Park?  Before the indoor ice rink?).  My friends and I would meet at the hockey rink in the center of the park as soon after school as our moms would allow.

I’m sure there will be other topics, but let’s just let this evolve and see what happens.

I invite you to enjoy this ride with me.  Your feedback will help me make this journey meaningful for you, so let me know what you think.

Good or bad.  Positive or negative.

Thanks for joining me.

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If you have any inclination to write, any aspiration to become a writer (or as I’m doing, free your inner writer), I also encourage you to accept this challenge.  My fellow Illinois College alumnus and mentor, Jeff Goins, is leading the challenge.  You can find more information here: http://goinswriter.com/my500words/


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