The Discipline Series: 1/3 through Exodus

We are over a 1/3 of the way through Exodus 90 and it has been a difficult journey through the desert for the guys. We’ve been shedding the distractions and toxins in our life and that doesn’t come without a cost. I noticed early that taking sugar out of my life was much more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Wasn’t expecting that all. I see sweets and all of a sudden I’m jonesin’ for it. While prepared for temptations, that was least expected. I’ve resisted.

I also noticed that by getting rid of distractions like TV and apps on the phone I’ve had to reconnect with the world around me. From my journal on day four,

“What comes to mind today is the word, “presence”. I’m sitting at our middle school youth night and found myself wanting to look at my phone, no reason. Had I pulled the phone out I would have just been filling space. I realized I have been caught up in that. When a lull happens the auto reaction is to fill the space by staring at the phone. News, texts, social media notifications, etc. I would just mentally disappear. Check out. I’m detoxing now and opening my eyes to the moments I would automatically skip.”

I have since been stopping to smell the roses even in those little moments and lulls.

Also unexpected, anger and frustration has become sharper in my days. No longer resorting to distractions to dull away or forget issues, I am forced to take a head on approach to resolving problems that arise. Big and small. And it seems new. Almost like I forgot how to resolve conflict. Nevertheless, I am now solving problems as opposed to distracting myself.

I asked a couple of the other guys to share a few thoughts about the first 30. Bob writes on day eight in his journal,

“Temptation has started to set in, but not in the way I’d expect. It is such a pain to know how the enemy works and yet still fall for the same tricks. Yesterday was tough for me, I won’t lie. While I enjoyed the first weekly meeting with the Brotherhood, I was met with a lot of pain and torment (and no, I’m not talking about the P90X workout). It has come and gone since then, but a real sadness came over me, that thankfully was healed by going to Mass and Life Teen. I still have mixed feelings about the temptations in my mind. I feel helpless and powerless, but I suppose this is where God comes in. I fully recognize that in order for me to be changed, I have to allow God to do it, even if it means breaking me in ways I’ve never been broken before.

Bob continues,

As this day ends, I am reminded that even with the pain/frustration/loneliness/temptation I am beginning to be met with on this journey, there have been many victories so far that I ought to remind myself of and celebrate. It is by God’s mercy and grace that we have made it this far and will continue to progress.

Greg also contributes from day 18,

I struggle to be the lord of myself. I must come to terms with my human limitations and submit myself to the will of God or I stand to lose everything. The further from God I stay, the further from my true destiny I will be. Either a man governs his possessions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.

When I achieve something or something goes my way, how often do I puff out my chest and disregard the involvement that God had. I must submit to God and raise those around me up.

As you see, each guy is on his journey and is battling through. As we enter into the second third of our journey, we are building good habits, defeating old ones, and most importantly letting God heal and rebuild us into better men. St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

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The Discipline Series: Interview with Jeremy Dolph

I sat down with Jeremy Dolph on February 12 to discuss how he applies discipline in his life. As a new husband and leader as the Director of Youth Ministry at Sts. Peter & Paul in Hamburg, NY, Jeremy provides a perspective that is both relatable and fresh. When I first put the call out to interview people with something to say about the topic, he said, “If you’re looking to interview someone who’s considering Exodus 90, but who is also a huge chicken and scared of it… let me know!”

I thought that was a curious place to start. So here is the first interview on my blog with Jeremy Dolph.

A: Where do you see discipline fall short in your life?

J: I get excited for something then lose momentum. It happens in a downward spiral and it is easy to get discouraged. I start on an initiative and when I hit the first road block, stop. It’s difficult to overcome that first hill. I did a six week workout program awhile back where I had put money on the table. Either complete the program and get my money back or fail and lose it. That forced me to stay focused. My trainer also held me accountable during that six weeks and it kept me in the game. Felt good but after I finished the challenge and that accountability was up, I stopped.

A: Why do you think you stopped?

J: I don’t know. Following the quote from Pope Benedict XVI you sent me, “You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness,” I guess I like being comfortable. I feel like in a way, I’m ok being expendable. Like the 301st soldier in the Spartan army. ‘You 300 go ahead, I’ll stay here.’

A: Do you think this is the result of fear, laziness , or lack of will?

J: Definitely lack of will. I need something that I need to achieve but if I screw up, I get off track. It’s like if I screw up the day after Ash Wednesday, there goes the other 39 days of Lent. I think I avoid this whole process because of complacency. It’s easier to not start than to get down on myself about starting and failing. We can blame the devil or the way of the world but my will should be stronger than that.

A: How are you applying discipline to achieve your goals?

J: I don’t think the short boot camps are for me. I want little achievements to add up over the years. Making the daily sacrifices pay off. I can look back now and say that I am better now than I was before. Events in life have been the catalyst of small changes. I can see that looking back.

Getting married has made me a better man for example. It has changed my mindset from doing things because ‘I have to’, where now ‘I want to’. Household chores for example, dishes. I want to do them for my wife. Before, I’d just say “Hey, I’ll get back to it,” and have her do them. Now, I don’t want to let them sit for her. I got this.

I want to make more out of the day so I have been more intentional in my commute. Instead of learning the Spanish parts of ‘Despacito’, I’ve been digging into more podcasts and audiobooks. I’m learning to say ‘no’ to things I don’t want and ‘yes’ to things I do. Saying ‘yes’ to spending time to my wife requires me to say ‘no’ to staying later at work. I know this is small but before going to bed I put my watch, my wallet, and keys on the bed stand so I can be ready to go in the morning. It’s given me real practical results and I’m hoping these add up over the years.

Long term, I want to be a Saint. I’d love to walk that path that takes me to Heaven. Maybe this is a matter of pride but I’d love to have a church named after me. St. Jeremy’s parish maybe? Should I be thinking that? I’m just kidding of course but whatever that path is, I want to walk it. I need to be disciplined to do what God has called me to do. I’m reminded of the quote by William Law, “If you look into your own heart in complete honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not a saint: you do not wholly want to be one.”

A: You signed up for the Tough Mudder, how are you preparing for this?

J: Like I did for the “Couch to 5k” and pacing through training. If I can run for two minutes, I can do three tomorrow and move up from there. I have to start early though, like now, to be ready by summer. The plan was to start this week but I got sick so I’m planning on starting next week. I have a group of guys I had as prayer accountability partners that I’m reconnecting with. They’re going to push me through. I love accountability but hate being held accountable.

There are many ways to find and execute discipline in your life. Jeremy has shown the everyday pursuit and application of discipline in the little things. The big and brash boot camps can often psych ourselves out by compare-and-contrasting ourselves with an image of bravado. It can be intimidating and for many of us unattainable or unrealistic. I’m hoping with this series to uncover the disciplines we apply in our life to build our interior strength. So let’s apply that to virtue and grow stronger together.

As a husband and a leader, Jeremy has been building and growing intentionally all along. Don’t sell yourself short and take a realistic assessment of where you’re at.

What intimidates you?

Where are you victorious?

The Discipline Series: Exodus

I’ve been working over the past several years on my self-discipline. I heard a talk years ago at one of the Franciscan U. conferences about building discipline in your life. Being painfully unstructured in my early 20’s, I heard that as a call to arms. It was already a hunger but I didn’t know how to put it into words or action. The speaker, ex-military, spoke of starting your day off right by making your bed well. Every single day. Even days you just don’t feel like doing it and build off of that.

So I did.

Started off strong but as days turned into weeks I noticed I started losing the will to keep at it. I recognized that desire to quit. It was something I was familiar with. I’d get excited about something, get started, then move on to something else. Not everything was like that however. There were enough things in my life that I was keeping up on. Just enough to make me feel consistent but I was fooling myself.

I began to realize I was losing time and burning opportunity to be the best I could be. I realized I wasn’t living as what Matthew Kelly would call “the-best-version-of-yourself”. The most capable version of myself that God had designed. If God truly built me for more than I was being, then how would I get there?

That answer has been lying in the hard fought battle of prayer and self-discipline; prayer providing the compass and discipline as the engine. Jocko Willink, ex-SEAL and entrepreneur, defines discipline in his “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual” as such,

Discipline: The root of all good qualities. The driver of daily execution. The core principle that over comes laziness and lethargy and excuses. Discipline defeats the infinite excuses that say: Not today, not now, I need a rest, I will do it tomorrow.

While I am far ahead of where I was, I feel like I am just getting started. Starting February 15th I will be starting an intense 90 day regimen focusing on asceticism and physical discipline with a program called Exodus90. I will be shedding the niceties and distractions of life like warm showers, sugar, and social media (except for work). In addition to what will be cut, it will include rigorous physical and spiritual exercise. Lastly, a small group of us will keep each other accountable. All of this is designed to wrench out vices and build virtue in men.

I’m building a small band of guys looking to enhance the same thing in their life. Calling it “The Brotherhood”, we’ll keep each other accountable with a group chat and weekly meet up. This will be the most challenging Lent yet but as one of the Brothers have said, “Let’s make this the best Lent ever!”. Definitely not your “I’m giving up chocolate,” kind of fast.

I feel as if the Holy Spirit has been leading me further down this road, so appropriately, the 90 days end with Pentecost. I’m hoping this will be the start of a series on the topic of discipline. I will try something new with the blog by interviewing other men in what it means to been disciplined in their life. I will also be cataloging the 90 days periodically through our young adult Instagram account for St. Greg’s, @stgregsyouth (that’s the work element) with the intention that our test group will serve as an example for future endeavors. Stay tuned for more.

Check out Exodus90.com for more information.

Christmas season – Vocational thoughts

As I sit at Delta Sonic waiting for an oil change for Ani’s car, I thought I’d put together some thoughts I’ve been having over Christmas. It’s the second day of Christmas and my true love sent to me, one adorable family.

I didn’t think it was possible but I’ve been growing more in love everyday with my wife and baby. Both surprise me more everyday. Ani has been having a tough go with sleep lately but regardless, still has a glow to her. Izzy just keeps getting cuter everyday. She is becoming more aware and audible, melting my heart just over a week ago with her first “dada!”.

I was sitting down with the girls Christmas morning opening Izzy’s first gift, a dolly, and I just had a moment where I couldn’t be more greatful for my vocation of marriage. Me and my girls, sitting on the floor by the tree, just having fun. I just took a mental note. God has done wonders through this marriage to my heart as I continue to discipline myself to be the husband and father I’m created to be. God is good.

The girls and I will be representing the Holy family tonight at St. Greg’s and I’m just reminded of St. Joseph’s example. As a young dad, I’m sure he had his fears like the rest of us. Some relatable and some not. Relatable, how am I going to put food on the table? Not relatable, how am I going to raise the Son of God? 

He did it one day at a time, trusting the Almighty in his labor and love. So tonight, I will huddle with my wife and kid among live animals and hay, dressed as St. Joseph and just give my trust and thanks to God. 

How to do Halloween right…

Originally written in Oasis Magazine for St. Greg’s College Ministry.

It’s that time of the year; the dew is turning to frost, the leaves are changing, and Halloween candy has been in stores for at least three months. Ah, October, the start of the maddening holiday rush to Christmas. So while everyone is going nuts about pumpkin spice lattes and what they should be for Halloween, there are a few things you should consider.

 1. Halloween’s history. I honestly couldn’t write anything better than this article about the history of Halloween. I highly recommend you check it out. It’s a complex history but essentially, Halloween is Catholic in origin. Say what? Yes. All Hallows Eve is a celebration before All Saints Day, a festival that goes back to the dedication of the Pantheon from the pagan gods to the Martyrs of the Church. Fr. Steve, the author of the article, makes a familiar comparison, “Halloween is the precursor to All Saints Day and as such is kind of like what December 24th is to Christmas Day.” All Saints Day being a Holy Day and All Souls Day the day after that, are really where the meat and potatoes are; keeping in mind those living way past the humanly shelf life in Heaven. 

It wasn’t until much later that we started getting all of the ghouls and freaky stuff attached to it. Today Halloween is just the secular and commercialized farce of what it’s suppose to be. Much like other Church celebrations like Easter and Christmas.

 2. The Occult isn’t cool. You like scary movies? A lot of people like a good thriller, especially around this time of the year. Here’s how this plays out. You watch something spooky, then try walking across campus, at night, with the wind, and wolves howling, get lost, then you decide to split up with your group to find a better way, find a scary door to go through, then that Thing gets you with a chain saw. Yep. Fun!

 There is a lot of scary fiction out there. What’s even scarier is the fact. Movies like “Ouija” have spurned people to the thrill of the game. The reality is when you open yourself to such spiritual inclinations, the spirits will use you and find a home. Exorcists are real in the Church for a reason, people face serious spiritual problems from dabbling in the occult. It becomes a downward spiral.

 Check this out in Matthew 12:43-45,

When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.

 If that’s not scary enough for you, try the account of Legion in Mark 5: 1-20. It goes like this. A man was possessed by demons who howled and walked among the graves. He could not be contained by the locals, even with chains. He came to Jesus and when asked what his name was, “Legion is my name, there are many of us.” Legion pleaded with Jesus not to send them away and asked if they can go to the swine instead. Jesus let them and they possessed the herd of two thousand pigs nearby who proceeded to jump over a cliff and drown. Creepy. Imagine witnessing that? The man was saved and proceeded to tell the work and power of Jesus.

You will find power coming from two sources. God the Almighty and the Devil. If it’s not from God, it’s of the Devil. Seances, witchcraft, mediums, ouija, tarot, and more can open the door. Use your conscience. If something doesn’t seem right at a party this fall, stay away from it. Don’t let the first of Legion in the door. Remember, God’s power is unlimited and can bring you joy. The Devil’s, while limited, will seek to consume you through deceit and only you can let him in.

 3. Modest is hottest. Be reasonable and be mindful of who God made you to be. It can be fun to run around like Hei Hei the chicken from Moana. Just don’t sell yourself short and use Halloween as an excuse to be something you’re not and dress up as a sexy whatever. Yes, I’m talking to you frat guy in the kitten skivvies. Enjoy but don’t sell out. 

 At the end of the day, keep in mind that this season belongs to God. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do to the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31

Race to the bottom?

Race is a difficult topic to talk about, it is almost intimidating putting it to paper. Almost. Everyone is walking on eggshells when it comes to this topic. The recent flair up in Charlottesville is just an ugly example of this. The landscape in politics is intense and race has been used as a political football for a long time. Over-generalizations and ignorance stoke the flames and build rhetoric. It’s going to end poorly if we keep going this way. Like the song “Stuck in the middle with you,” I feel like I’ve got clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. White supremacists need to learn empathy and love. Antifa and Black Lives Matters needs to understand violence and suppression is only a means to recreate the monster you’re fighting against. This isn’t a race to the bottom.

I was told this year, for the first time in my life, that I’m racist and my privilege discredits any voice I have. I was slapped a with a label as if my story and heritage can be automatically assumed. As if I come from a background of slave ownership seeking the return to glory days. Here is my story. My heritage. My great grandparents fled the Russian conscription of Poles to escape to America in search of a more secure future in freedom from tyrannical oppression. My grandfathers fought against real fascists and imperialists in World War Two. My grandmother’s brother kept his life but lost his sanity at the infamous battle of Guadalcanal. My grandmothers, like our family’s own ‘Rosie the Riveters’ contributed to the war effort. Relatives who lived in Oświęcim we’re forced out of the ancestral home to make way for the Nazi officers who ran the infamous Auschwitz death camp. My uncle received the Purple Heart in Vietnam and my own brother serves proudly in the U.S.A.F. I come from a heritage of freedom fighters, not oppressors.

What my heritage is carved from is that of immigrants who escaped the hardships of late 19th and early 20th century Europe with nothing. From the ravages of famine in Ireland to the forced oppression of the Poles, my blood consists of the hope that America promised to those who would shed their old life for a new one. A life where hard work matters and makes your future family tree. A life in a place that really is unique in the history of the world. They took a chance but for what?

“That all men are created equal.” 

The history runs deep. The American experience is born from struggle. Nobody is free from a life without it. What’s an important starting point through this is understanding others and where they come from. Media and political parties love playing identity politics and putting people into blocks. We can do better than that and empathy is the antidote here. The founder of The Free Hugs Project, Ken Nwadike Jr., gets it as a bold man stepping in front of hate and breaking the ice by hearing other’s stories.

The American struggle is a shared experience. Our African-American brothers and sisters do not have a separate history from other Americans, it is our history. Our descendants from Europe are not clumped as one. Our history. Our Latin and Asian brethren have walked difficult roads too. Our history. This is the melting pot where culture and ideas collide. This is American history. Our Declaration of Independence doesn’t tolerate the supremacy of one people over another in any direction. Let’s look at each other as individuals instead of buying into the manipulation of group identity politics.

While looking at the stains of our shared heritage can be painful, it doesn’t diminish who we are. The hope for our country, the hope that caused my great-grandparents to settle here, doesn’t lie in our stains but in our freedom to be independent to make of our lives as we wish. That hope is for all citizens. How’s about we share our story with each other and empathize that we’re trying to move our family tree forward in this messy but beautiful land we call home. The framework is there and it’s available for all who pursue happiness. There is no promise of a struggle free existence but when you dig deep, work hard, don’t quit, and treat people with respect; no one is going to stop you from Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Everything else is an excuse. Speaking as the third generation from ground zero, your future family tree will thank you. Let’s stop racing to the bottom. 

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Gal 5:13

In defense of! Why I’m Catholic.

You know what’s awesome about being Catholic? A lot. If you really think about the reasons being Catholic is awesome it dawns on you that you are headed in the right direction. I was thinking about this the other night. Why am I Catholic?

I feel like we get beat up pretty good by others and all too often it’s too easy to shrink back and shrug when approached and challenged. But in defense of our faith, I think we don’t just have a leg to stand on but we actually have solid ground to plant our feet in. Let me explain…

Being a Catholic puts you in the defensible position right in the center of the world stage, joined by over 1.3 billion others. One side of us is other Christians denominations, who are our brothers and sisters, but often represent us poorly because we get clumped as one. Keep in mind the residual West Borough Baptists who preach hate. “Oh all those Christians are all the same,” does not apply. Not everyone is like that but there are still reasons why we aren’t all the same. There are clear differences between us in theology and Tradition.

On the other side of us is the atheists and progressive philosophers who argue against the God ordered universe. Of course they too are our brothers and sisters and we should love without abandon. So how do we stand our ground when challenged from so many directions but love at the same time. Here’s some fuel for you.

Question number one. Is there a God? Absolutely, and you should feel great about that. That’s a good thermometer to figure out where the discussion is headed. You can’t debate scripture with an atheist, they’ll just laugh at you. Thankfully, God ordered the universe in a way that we can debate with reason and science for them too.

St. Aquinas, brilliant Doctor of the Church, gives five proofs for God’s existence. I’ll encourage you to check them all out for some serious meat and potatoes but I’ll give you my favorite. The argument of the Unmoved Mover. Newton’s Law of Motion is stated as “an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.” Everything that is in motion today is put into motion by something else yesterday.

There is a seemingly unlimited amount of motion and energy creating movement today but if you were to follow every action and reaction to it’s logical beginning, something couldn’t have just started moving by itself. Rocks don’t jump unless moved to do so, right? Energy doesn’t form without cause. So you follow billions of years of movement to the start, what started that chain? Science tells us movement isn’t prompted by itself and the theory’s of Evolution and Big Bang point to this. The Big Bang Theory, created by astronomer, physics professor, and Catholic priest, Georges Lemaitre, looks at the ever expanding universe coming from one central point as just further justification of this. Aquinas was way ahead of his time.

There is order in the universe as if by design. More like an artist’s painting with how well concepts like mathematics, gravity, time, are formulated with precision unlike a bowl of marbles being spilt on the ground in seemingly random order. You can spend lifetimes digesting this but when you measure out the debate, it’s clear this isn’t doopty-doo and we’re here.

Lastly, St. Augustine dug deep into the philosophy and nature of man. The human heart yearns for meaning, “We were made for You, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Our nature causes us to pursuit the God who built us. This God shaped hole has had people looking for answers across history through many traditions. So if a God does exist, how do we know It isn’t just some far away deity that started everything from some planet and is now sitting cozy and distant watching as we kill ourselves here?

Question number two. So if God is out there, who is right about Him? It’s so tricky in a world where everything is relative to say something is actually true. There are three major Monotheistic religions covering about three billion people. There is a plurality of religions outside of that and a growing segment who think it’s all fooey. To top it off, there are over 30,000 denominations of Christianity. So what the heck Adam?

Here’s how I look at it myself. If the universe points to a creator, then who is it? Jesus of Nazareth is the only leader of any of the major world religions to claim that He is actually God. As C.S. Louis said, either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or He was actually telling the truth.

Think about it, how long would it take for people being eaten by lions to just say “whoa forget this,” if it were a lie? Many early Christians being persecuted by the Roman’s were told to just renounce the faith to live. They didn’t. If he was a lunatic, would the eyewitness accounts corroborate given miracles or would they walk away? What would they have to gain from supporting that crazy guy over there and devoting their life to him?

Or was He actually who he said He was. The Son of the Living God. Here on and with purpose. If that’s true, that should actually blow your mind because that means the world around you is so much more than what you actually see with your eyes. Life takes on a much different meaning. How do you respond to that?

Question number three. Lastly out of the 30,000 denominations, why Catholic? I’ll give you two reasons to start. First, Jesus himself started it. Catholic, meaning “Universal” was his Church. “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.” [MT 16:18-19] Jesus literally changed Peter’s name from Simon to “Rock”. Jesus continues, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” If this guy who isn’t crazy or lying, bestows authority to lead onto Peter, I think that’s a clear sign on where He intends to go. And go he does, Peter preaches the first sermon, performs the first apostolic miracle, baptizes the first Gentile, presides over the first council, and pronounces the first apostolic council. [Dr. Marshall, New Saint Thomas Institute] This creates the foundation of Tradition that predates the bible, actually to compile the bible.

Second, the Eucharist. Jesus didn’t just die and we live on in His memory. He gave us Himself as daily bread. If you determine that Jesus isn’t crazy or is lying and says, “You have to eat my flesh and drink my blood,” and when pressed for clarification He says, “No really.” [Jn 6:52-58 read it] The Eucharist really is the source and summit, if you doubt this, do your best to explain Eucharistic miracles to me.

At the end, nothing we touch is perfect and that includes the Catholic Church or my defense of it. I can’t defend those who’ve fallen to carnal pleasures and used the Church to destroy. Power corrupts as we’ve seen in any human setting. But for me, it’s not about the man, it’s about the God leading the man. As Bishop Fulton Sheen has said,

“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who have what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

Originally written for St. Greg’s Oasis Magazine, 10th edition 8/8/2017.

Baby season – Vocational thoughts

My wife and I are expecting a baby soon, within the month actually. It’s kind of blowing me away. We will leave our house, just the two of us, then return as a trio. Sure baby has been growing for eight months but it gets really different after birth. I’ll be introduced to wiping butts and being thrown up on. Wails and giggles. More Disney movies than I ever thought possible.

I was reflecting on this the other day along with the fact that our first anniversary is next month. Wow, what a year. Marriage is awesome, hard and challenging, but awesome. It’s a very different way of living than during my bachelor years in the wilderness of discernment. Living single-hood out felt like it was the trunk of a tree and I knew inside that at some point that my branches would split the further I got along. I didn’t think I would spend the rest of my life in single-hood but looming decisions on where I wanted to go versus what I thought God wanted me to do had me digging my feet in.
I resisted the thought of anything other than marriage. Single-hood was a no go and priesthood, haunted me. Even years after promising God my life I still resisted giving Him my all. I had a hard time trusting where He was taking me, so I walked the wilderness. With a pull on my heart for the priesthood battling with the desires for marriage I spent over a decade discerning. It wasn’t until God wrestled me into spiritual submission that I relented and offered my heart for whatever He had in store. It could have gone any direction at that point. Enter Ani, my wife.

I wanted to write about this to you because vocations is something that we put away in our head for later or we just assume one is our destiny without any thought or prayer. The challenge for you as you are plotting the course of your life through work and class, is to remember that God is calling you to something bigger than the career you’ve chosen at 18, 19, 20, 21, 22+.

For many of you, you know what you want. Is it what God wants of you? Have you asked? Yes, He wants a great relationship with you but how are you living that out? Have you given your life direction to Him? Have you thought about it? Does it scare you? What is holding you back? What would it take to do so? Just questions I want you to ask yourself. Go ahead. I’ll wait. No no, He’ll wait.

Single-hood, Marriage, Priesthood/Religious life are all good things and God knows your heart better than you. “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4. Need help figuring it out? That’s ok. There are some great places you can turn. All you have to do is ask. Priest, spiritual director, youth/ campus minister, and sponsor are great starts. As St. Gianna Molla advises, “To know your vocation: 1/Ask God in prayer 2/ Ask one’s spiritual director 3/Ask oneself, knowing one’s own inclinations.”

College goes quick, what’s next?

REVISED THOUGHTS 6/5/17 ***

I don’t know how I didn’t include an important vocational milestone here so I’m going to reflect further. Fr. Leon celebrated his twenty-fifth anniversary of Ordination this past weekend. That’s a big deal. Fr. Leon celebrated Mass with a full house, surrounded by people he’s built over the course of his lifespan. From his sister, brother-in-law, and nephews sitting in the front pew, his teachers from elementary school, Bishop Grosz as one of his fellow fraternal brothers from Assumption parish, parishioners from every assignment he’s been blessed to serve at, all in the environment of his current home here at St. Greg’s.

Answering the rhetorical question of the priesthood being a solitary life, Fr. Leon looked around and said, “If this is a lonely vocation, then give me a double helping!” Afterwards, over eight hundred fifty guests came over to party at the Ministry Center as a celebration of a life well lived in vocation. Now that’s community!

The priesthood was on full display this weekend with celebrations here at St. Greg’s and across the Diocese as four new priests were Ordained on Saturday.

Whether you’re celebrating one, ten, twenty five, fifty, or anywhere in between of whatever vocation God is putting on your heart, it’s a celebration worth embracing for a life well lived. I’m sure no one will say it’s easy, but it’s certainly a life worth fighting for.

“All the Lord’s ways are beautiful because their end is one and the same: to save our own soul and to succeed in leading many other souls to heaven, to give glory to God.” – St. Gianna Molla

 

*Originally published in Oasis Magazine 6/2/17

The march for Life continues

I’m taking a group to Washington DC this week, joining a large Buffalo contingent, for the March for Life. I’ve done this trip four or five times before. The travel is usually rough; a long overnight bus ride which I don’t get much sleep on and usually end up motion sick, a days worth of sightseeing, followed by unrestful sleep on a gym floor, hit the Mall in frozen temperatures, then get back on the bus for an equally uncomfortable ride back.

You would think that 600k+ people peacefully protesting in the Capitol would raise some eyes from news organizations, but no. Most ignore it or will site the fifty counter protesters standing for a worthy cause. The pro-life cause is often a lonely one however the tides are turning.

A few years ago pro-lifers became the majority in the US and on January 17, the Guttmacher Institute released findings that abortions are now at the lowest levels since the 1973 decision from Roe v Wade. Even Roe herself is now pro-life and is fighting to overturn her own case. President Trump signed an executive order to defund the International Planned Parenthood the day I write this. The rally for life is gaining and not because of force. People are waking up.

I made the case for life here if you want to img_5149see the reason for why I believe this but I’m really writing this as a reflection of where we are at. As a man who has conceived, lost, and conceived again; my greatest work is this developing life. Seeing our child’s heart flutter at 5 weeks and feeling he/she kick at 18 weeks has only strengthened what I’ve known all along, that defiant babe here is a someone. Our someone. That someone, like all the someones that age, deserve the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

 

 

New Year Resolution: Building spiritual discipline

The following is re-posted from an article I wrote for St. Greg’s College Ministry through Oasis Magazine.

The New Year brings us an opportunity to recharge and refresh but I feel like I’m spotty on my resolutions. Some years I crank them out, others, I consider them a waste of time. A few years ago I committed to hitting the gym and staying physically fit. Knowing that I didn’t want to be one of the many who get a gym membership and stop going in February, I made a long term plan to build the discipline to stay at it.

 When I started at the gym in January of that year the place was packed. Getting time to do a circuit was obnoxious. Someone would be on the bench for way too long or the cycles would all be taken up. Workouts would take a lot longer than I’d hope for. But I kept at it and sure enough, March came around and the place was empty. I knew at that time that I wasn’t one of the casualties of lost discipline to see it through. Victory. I stayed at it and found the benefits of making goals and actually doing it. Over time I found myself getting stronger.

 Time hurts though, life happens. There have been times I’ve been more motivated and less motivated. I’ve risen to the occasion to get in the best shape of my life for the Tough Mudder and got sleepy in my post-wedding delight. However, I’ve maintained the discipline and at times have had to check myself to get going. In many ways, prayer is the same.

I’ve found a connection between the discipline it takes for my physical fitness and my prayer fitness. It requires drive. It requires decision. It requires action. In the same way that we grow physically, we grow spiritually. The exercises are different but the discipline is the same. Goals, reps, and endurance. So as the New Year comes in, think about setting yourself a resolution to grow in prayer. There are many workout plans to get there but you have to decide to start… and then start… and keep going beyond March.