Speeding and Sinning

04/19/2015

We live in a unique area here at the northeast tip of Lake County, Illinois. Drive due south along picturesque Sheridan Road and it’s a 50-mile city and suburban drive to Chicago and parts south of the city. Drive due north along Sheridan Road and it’s a city and suburban drive 50 miles north to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Can’t drive east. Lake Michigan gets in the way.

But drive five miles due west and you’re in the middle of pasture, horses, and farmland.

This morning, I needed the wide open spaces.

We were late for church. We’re Kwiecinskis. We’re late for almost everything, much to my wife’s chagrin (poor Kathy; she obviously was not born a Kwiecinski). St. Patrick’s is south and west of us.

To make matters worse, Martha and I were scheduled to read. Mass was going to start in 20 minutes. It’s a 9-mile drive if we stroll through the country, only 8 miles if we head south on Sheridan. But the shorter route is the city route. Lots of traffic lights. Slower speed limits. More traffic.

The choice was obvious. Head for the wide open spaces and pray for no squad cars.

As we’re careening southward on Kilbourne Road, I’m thinking about the second reading. The reading I was going to be reading.

My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep
his commandments.
Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments
are liars, and the truth is not in them.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him. – 1 John 2:1-5a

“What happens if I get tagged for speeding? We’re two minutes from church. One of us needs to be there in two minutes. If a cop starts following us, he can arrest me at church.”

Yes, I’m actually thinking this on the way to church.

So we don’t get stopped, we get to church (in two minutes), plenty of time to prepare before Mass begins, all good.

Was speeding to church sinful? Was I being a hypocrite?

Are we all liars who do not carry the truth inside us?

Or does God already understand that about us?

(And as I’m putting the finishing touches on this, watching the Blackhawks vs. Nashville playoff game, you can only imagine the sins spewing outta my mouth…)

—————————————-

Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.


Would You Die For What You Believe In?

01/16/2015

Would you die for what you believed?

Could you?

I’ve told you before that I listen to at least a portion of the Mass on EWTN almost every day (TV when I can and radio when I’m on the road). Today, I listened on the radio as I drove to my next appointment.

Today is a feast day for the Franciscans, honoring five early followers of Saint Francis who martyred themselves instead of renouncing their faith.  Father Leonard Mary celebrated Mass today. He used his homily to give a brief history of the martyrs and how they were tempted by their captors before being killed. Father Leonard then mentioned something called White Martyrdom. White Martyrdom is not a physical death, he explained, but a dying to oneself.

The comparison was clear. How can we martyr ourselves in our everyday lives?

—————————————————-

Later this morning, sitting in Panera before my next personal training session, I overheard a gentleman telling his companion how Catholics had … oh… let’s call it, “a damaging way” of looking at sin, and how sharing that perspective with others is harmful to the way other people live their lives.

What?!?

I couldn’t get my headphones shoved into my ears fast enough. I needed music. Loud music. I didn’t want to listen to what this man was saying, kind and soft-spoken though he was. Despite his demeanor, his opinion — at least on this matter — didn’t strike me as kind and gentle, but rather reckless and damaging. I wasn’t angry, but I was upset at what I perceived as some egregious misconceptions.

I was trading text messages with my son, Stephen, at the time that I happened to overhear this conversation. I fired off a text message to him, expressing my exasperation over what I heard.

After I sent it, I decided that my words were so clever, I had to post them to Facebook.

—————————————————-

I’m a member of a small, Christian Facebook group whose purpose is to “uplift and encourage (others) through the Gospel of Christ” (that’s a paraphrase of the mission statement). Today, the founder of the group, Mariane, continued and concluded a series of reflections on moving “from darkness to light:”

“I wish that we were all full of light and love and good works always. But no, we’re still sinners, imperfect, we’re still influenced by our flesh, the world and the voice of Satan…

“… there is the aspect of free will. We need to say YES to Jesus and God’s will and say no to the devil and our flesh every day. We need to die in our flesh every day (1 Cor 15:31).”

I read Mariane’s words just after my “clever” text to Stephen. Before I almost posted my “clever” words to my Facebook page.

—————————————————-

I briefly thought about speaking up. But what would I have said? Would my “clever” words to the gentleman have been constructive? Or provocative? Would I have properly seized the moment, as Saint Paul preached, and attempted to “walk into the light?” Or would my response, in that awkward, uncomfortable moment, have demonstrated to the world that I have not — yet again — died to the flesh?

Shoving the earbuds against my skull proved to be the more prudent, if only merely accidental, course of action.

—————————————————-

Father Leonard is right. White Martyrdom is possible. Any day. Every day.

Consider how challenging it is to die to the flesh at any given moment.

Then contemplate the lives — and deaths — of those who make the ultimate Earthly sacrifice.


EWTN as “Bad For Catholics?”

09/04/2014

I was alerted to criticism of EWTN ( Eternal Word Television Network) yesterday. EWTN is a Catholic television and radio network. A gentleman named Michael Voris, who posts to YouTube under the name ChurchMilitantTV, took the network to task for being too liberal, too Modernist, since forcing Mother Angelica to the sidelines years ago.

I was stunned. I had never heard anything that remotely suggested this.

That led me down a path of discovery this morning and to some websites that were totally off my radar. I was stunned to view and read about EWTN as “whitewashed,” “sanitized,” “Modernist (or maybe more accurately ‘post-Modernist’),” etc., and how Mother Angelica was systematically forced from leadership and control of the network.

I’m not a holy roller. I’m a casual student of the Church, more for my own spiritual growth, that of my children and my family. But I think I have at least a rudimentary handle on what God wants us to do.

I think I remember an epistle verse something along the lines of “if they’re with Christ, they’re with us.” That’s an absolutely horrible paraphrase, but like I said, I’m not a Church scholar!

I’ve watched and listened to many of the regular shows on EWTN. Just read a follow-up comment on a blog post criticizing the show Crossing The Goal, just to pick an example. I’ve watched the show. Not one of my favorites, but if it brings one man closer to Christ, isn’t it worthwhile? The Journey Home, in which host Marcus Grodi, himself a convert to Catholicism, interviews a guest about their journey to — or back to — the Catholic faith, is a magnificent show!

I watch and listen to EWTN every single day. I rediscovered it four or five years ago. It’s been a fixture in my life ever since. With the accessibility of listening to EWTN Radio or now even watching EWTN TV on my phone, there’s no excuse in the world for not making prayer and God a part of every day and being able to focus my thoughts or prayers or study in a specific way. At least for me.

I awake to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy Monday through Friday and I try to watch or listen to at least a portion of the Mass daily if I cannot physically make it to church (which is most days because of my schedule). What a wonderful resource for the average Catholic who isn’t going to spend more than an hour or two in prayer or even simply contemplating their faith. And how many of us, really, are doing that on anything close to a daily basis?

Not once have I thought of EWTN as “bad television” or “sanitized.” I have never caught them in a “liberal” moment. I have specifically heard them cover, discuss, and yes, even criticize some of the liberal movements within the Church. The National Catholic Register (newspaper) seems to take on liberal issues without much problem. Aren’t they wholly owned by EWTN?

The average Catholic, who is already (and still) struggling with the language of the new Missal, is looking for faith answers, for meaning in their own pathetic existence. For me, life is enough of a struggle. I believe in my heart of hearts that the Roman Catholic faith is the true faith as handed down by Jesus Chris through Saint Peter and all the succeeding popes. Hundreds of millions of Christians don’t agree with me.

Should I criticize them for being wrong? What good purpose would that serve?

I know I should go back and correct my previous observation, but I liked the way I said it. You know, the ‘epistle’ that says “if they’re with Christ, they’re with us.” Well, it’s not an epistle. It’s Mark’s Gospel. Jesus says to John (Mark 9:40) “For whoever is not against us is for us.”

Let’s continue to educate and debate one another. Let’s continue to passionately persuade. But let’s not waste time criticizing whatever is clearly not contrary to our own understanding of Truth.

As for me, I will always believe that God is pure Love and pure Mercy. We’re going to screw up just about every second of every day. But if we humbly, earnestly, honestly, passionately plead for forgiveness, let’s not “despair, nor become despondent, but with great confidence, submit ourselves to (God’s) holy will.”

Okay?


“A Psalm of Life”

01/19/2013

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of Life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act, — act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life”


%d bloggers like this: