Monday, September 29, 2008

Sit Up Straight...

Growing up, my mom would always encourage us to have good posture. She would always tell us to “sit up straight” at Mass or at the kitchen table, then explain her concern for our necks and backs and how they were going to be all messed up as we got older. Well my posture is ok now - perhaps my mom gets the credit – but there is something more important about this whole notion of posture.

I don’t know anything about physical posture, so I will spare you the lecture. But I want to propose the concept of spiritual posture. Have you ever thought about your spiritual posture? Maybe now’s the time.

“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” Philippians 2:6-8

Maybe it is because it is the year of St. Paul and I have never truly embraced his words before, but Paul is truly on to something. In the above passage he gives us an image of Jesus as emptying Himself. As the opposite of emptying is grasping, we are given an image to instantly challenge us. Jesus’ spiritual posture is that of the cross. His arms are wide open emptying himself to the world and those he came to save. His act on the cross was the climax of His whole life, moment by moment emptying his grace and love on His people. The alternative for Jesus was to grasp the Father and not be willing or open to be the savior of the world. Thankfully, for our salvation, Jesus chose to come as a man, but still God to redeem the world.

My friends, is your spiritual posture at this moment that of emptying yourself or grasping for something? My opinion is that we all have become pretty darn good graspers. We will grasp for anything these days if it makes us feel good, feel loved, or a part of things. I talk to people all the time who seem to be grasping at attention from other guys or girls. They seem to be grasping at popularity at parties or bars. They seem to be grasping at alcohol or drugs to take away the pain in their hearts. They seem to be grasping at hope, while burying themselves in despair and sin. Some people even grasp to busy schedules or hobbies just to drown out something or someone they want to avoid. We grasp and we grasp, clinging to things and people that lead us away from our true selves. It seems that we grasp in fear and that there is a lack of trust and faith in the One who loves us and longs for us to be free.

Grasping means we let go of the things that lead us away from Jesus and the life He wants us to live. It means opening our arms like Him, and allowing ourselves to be emptied. Another way to put it is, that when we allow ourselves to be emptied and we open our arms to the Lord, we allow ourselves to RECEIVE every gift and grace from the Lord. My friends our spiritual posture must be that of receiving from the Lord. Be someone who receives instead of grasps or takes. Receive the Lord’s mercy and healing for the places in you heart that need to be healed. Receive the Lord’s affection and affirmation and know you are special to Him. Receive your identity and vocation, giving you mission and purpose in your life. Receive everything from Him!

The reality of our spiritual posture is, if we constantly grasp, we are not open to receive. Take a moment today and ask yourself what you are grasping to. Today might be a good day to let it go and open your arms like Christ to receive.

Receive Him,

God Bless You,

Monday, September 22, 2008


Let’s start with a quiz. Extra credit to anyone who knows what kind of crisis took place in America this past week.


In short, there was a very severe financial crisis in which big investment companies (i.e…companies into which people invest their money to eventually try and make more money in the long term) filed for bankruptcy. They simply ran out of money and lost other people’s money as well. How would you feel if you entrusted your money into an investment company and you realized they did not spend it wisely and now the money is no longer there? Needless to say, it is going to take an estimated 700 billion dollars to make up for the money that was irresponsibly lost.

So what does that have to do with us? I thought you would never ask.

Companies and people go bankrupt when they carelessly spend and waste their money. I think it is the same way for us young people today. We can go bankrupt, not in the money sense of course, but we can lose a lot of ourselves and what is important to us when we carelessly live life and waste it away. We see it all the time.

It starts with recognition of what we have. For starters, we have been given the gift of life, the gift of our identity, the gift of our unique selves. We have also been given the gift of family and friends, and the gift of faith in Jesus Christ and His Church. Underneath those things comes: our likes and dislikes, gifts, passions, and talents, and our hopes, dreams, desires and so much more. When we realize what we have, the next question to ask is, “where are we investing it?”

The people who lost their money this past week invested their assets in big companies they trusted. Where do you invest your assets? Today, a lot of young people invest their assets, such as their identity, in different groups of friends, sports teams, or social networks. Even more so, young people invest their hopes, dreams, and desires in Hollywood, MTV, or the popular way. I once again ask, where do you invest yourself? Where do you put the things that are important to you? Who do you trust with your heart, your emotions, goals, dreams, love, and aspirations? Like others, it might be a business, a friend or significant other, sports team, hobby, or career. Whatever it is, we all invest and give ourselves to things that seem safe, comfortable, and even valuable. But how many times, have we been failed? How many times have our assets been lost, broken, stolen, mishandled, or thrown away? How many times have people cheated us and broken our hearts? How many times have people used us, and wounded our self esteem? How many times have we been left out from a job and told we were not good enough? How many times have we been excited about an opportunity but then quickly realized that it is not exactly what we had hoped for? How many times have we been let down? How many times have we been completely bankrupt because we have put our assets and everything that we have in places they don’t belong, and ultimately fail us?

My friends, there is a place that you can invest your assets and your very selves, and there is a 100% fulfillment rate - no chance of bankruptcy. There is no chance being used, hurt, or left behind. That place is Jesus Christ. He is the place where we can come to give all that we are and everything that we do and hope for. He is the place we can find happiness, community, safety, and fulfillment in our dreams for our lives. If we come to make our investment in Him, who is all loving, powerful, and good, we will live lives like we never can imagine.

What does it mean to invest in Jesus? Get up everyday and entrust your life to Jesus. Pick friends that lead you to Him. Play your sports and offer your schooling to Jesus. Please Him in your relationships, friendships, and families. Measure your thoughts and deeds as if it would please Jesus. Hope in Jesus. Pray to Jesus. Love Jesus! Offer up all that you do to Jesus. Entrust your heart to Him, your love and all that you desire. My friends, He is full and ready to overflow our lives with His goodness and love.

It is time to make some investment changes. It is time to invest in the ONE who will not fail you and will never leave you. On the bright side too…it is not that expensive. J

God Bless You,

Monday, September 15, 2008

Knock On Wood...

“To have found the cross is to have found happiness, it is to have found you, Lord!” – St. Jose Maria Escriva

What a great day to have celebrated the Triumph of the Cross. This past week my Philosophy professor brought up a side note in class about superstition. It is funny and interesting to think about how superstitious our society is. Just think to yourself; do you have that piece of clothing you wear that is your lucky pair of socks, shirt, or shoes? Have you ever “knocked on wood before?” Have you claimed that a team does better when you don’t watch? I am guilty! I still have a t-shirt that I wore underneath my football pads that I wore for every single game. I didn’t feel right if I didn’t wear it.

My mom is also a great example of this – sometimes she thinks that if she covers her eyes during a sporting event, the team will do better. We are all guilty of some sort of superstition at some point in our lives, but what exactly is our reason for doing it?

We do these things because we think it will prevent bad things from happening. If we knock on wood, we won’t get sick. If we wear our lucky pair of socks we won’t lose the game. If we don’t watch, our favorite team will win. In the end, we don’t want bad things to happen so we claim certain things might help prevent the loss our outcome.

Last week, my professor related superstition to our faith, because we treat it the same way. We tell ourselves that if we have faith, then no bad things will happen to us. If we have faith, grandma won’t die. If we have faith, my girlfriend or boyfriend will be all I ever wanted. If we have faith we won’t study and still get a good grade. If we have faith the hurricane will miss our house. If we have faith, we will have more money. We can go on and on, but does faith really prevent bad things from happening?

It could. God does many mysterious things. But is that the purpose of faith? I am not quite convinced. My friends, I think faith prepares and gives us all that we need to deal with our experiences in life - the good and the bad. Faith in Jesus is not a cure for the prevention of struggles in your life, it is a gift of endurance and grace to meet life head on. We must not live our lives avoiding failure, losing games, broken friendships, tough times and all the rest. We must live our lives in hope that faith in Christ gives us a new way to see the world, a new way to experience life, and a new way to look to what is to come.

As we look upon the cross today, celebrating Christ’s sacrifice, it is a good time for self reflection in our own lives. Where is the cross in your life? Is it family troubles? Is it challenges in school or sports? Are you having trouble connecting with friends or peers? Are you making poor social decisions leading you to drink or engage in at risk behavior? Do you miss a deceased family member or friend? Are you lonely? Depressed? All these things are the crosses in our lives. And today we celebrate the victory that is ours.

My friends, the great news is that Christ has won! He is calling all of us to suffer faithfully and joyfully with the crosses in our own lives. Remember that faith in our Lord does not take the daily struggles out of our lives, but it gives us the courage and strength to embrace the cross. It also gives us a certain peace to love the crosses in our lives. Love the cross!

Today, instead of putting on the lucky t-shirt, or knocking on wood, or pretending not to watch when your team is down, put a cross in your pocket or around your neck - there is no need for superstition to prevent bad things from happening. We have faith in the cross of Jesus to prepare and inspire us to face the daily joys and struggles of life.

Amen to that! May he be praised!

God Bless You,

Thursday, September 11, 2008


"I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” – Galatians 2:20

In the past week I had a special conversation with two of my friends who are leaving tomorrow to join religious orders. It was kind of a “final conversation” for at least a year maybe even longer. I am very familiar with this as my brother Scott (now Brother Innocent) is a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. He joined them last year and we had to go through the whole transition of him leaving for New York and us not getting to talk or seem him for an extended amount of time. I am a proud brother and friend when I see my best friends leave everything behind and follow the Lord’s dream for them. Don’t get me wrong, selfishly I get sad or discouraged at times because my relationship is different with them, as they have a new life now, but my heart is amazed by the bigger picture of the vocational call. What does it take to give up everything to be a priest, brother, or sister? What does it take to look to marriage with a heart that yearns to make your future husband or wife everything to you, to sacrifice everything for them? To be Christ to the world?

Pope Benedict XVI, in his introduction homily for the Year of St. Paul, stated the following about one of the Church’s most popular and effective saints, “Paul’s faith is being struck by the love of Jesus Christ, a love that overwhelms him to his depths and transforms him. His faith is the impact of God’s love in his heart.” - Just take that in for a second - God’s love struck him. The amazing and powerful love of God wounded Paul so much and transformed his whole life that he became one of the greatest saints of the Church. And just to get the facts straight, before Paul’s conversion, he was one of the biggest sinners. He persecuted and mocked Christians! Despite his sin and weakness Jesus saw something more in Paul and called him to Himself. This wasn’t just another job for Paul. His encounter with the risen Lord changed him. The Pope went on to say, “But what deeply motivated him was being loved by Jesus Christ and the desire to communicate this love to others.” He left everything behind and went in the name of Jesus Christ to convert the nations.

Whether we are talking about Paul, my friends who are becoming religious brothers or sisters, my fellow seminarians, or many of the men and women I know who are pursuing Christian marriage, there is one thing that should be at the basis of all vocational calls. LOVE. The beautiful part about all this, is that Christ does not even ask us to love Him first. He is the first one to make the move, to reach out to us, and to say, “I LOVE YOU!” Our Lord, in every moment, wants to flood your life with His love. He wants to be there when you get up, have breakfast with your family, go to school, go to practice, eat dinner, do homework, talk on the phone, check facebook, and go to bed. He wants to overwhelm you with His love, just like He did Paul. But Paul was ready to receive that love, and when he did, his live changed. Are you ready to receive the Lord’s love? Are you ready to be captivated, overwhelmed, and struck by the love your heart has been longing for? One that makes you whole, complete, and happy beyond your wildest dreams?

We are only ready to say yes to God in what he calls us to do, if we let ourselves be loved by the Lord. And when we experience that love we will have all we need to leave everything and follow the Lord wherever he may leave.

LOVE is the answer my friends. Let Him love you…

To Scott, Kris, and Dan…I love you and will meet you in the consecration everyday. In our meeting there, we will experience once again, the Love that our hearts long for.

God Bless You,

Saturday, September 06, 2008

No Day Like Today...

“I will not wait…I will live every present moment, filling it to the brim with love” – Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan

Have you ever wished away time? I have done it before. If you have ever found yourself saying one of the following lines you have also done so.

“I wish I was done with high school!” “
"I wish it were three years down the line so we could get married”
“I can’t wait till my freshman year is over!”
“I am tired of being a teenager!”

So often I get caught up in thinking about what is going to happen in my life. We all look forward to the future and have the attitude: “oh I can’t wait till that happens,” or “I can’t wait till God gives me in my life.” Our excitement or fear of what is to come is a natural part of growing up and becoming who we fully are.

Today I start another year of seminary. I am humbled and blessed to be a seminarian studying for the priesthood. Building up to the start of the year, I found myself acting like my life is a waiting room at the doctors’ office. I am here waiting for the Lord to do His thing, to call me back to his office to show me who I am and what I am called to do and that will be it. Somehow I don’t think it works that way. All of us, whether we are in middle school, high school, college, or out of school, can have the attitude of always seeming to be waiting on something else to come. Since we are waiting, we miss the truth of our lives that is right in front of us. Oh how much we miss! How much there is to learn in the present moment!

Bishop Francis Xavier was a bishop from Vietnam who came to understand this concept in a clear way. He was put in a prison camp in Vietnam shortly after becoming bishop. He missed his people very much and was in deep distress over being taken away from his ministry. After coming to terms with what the Lord was calling him to, he embraced the grace of each moment to live for the Lord and give his love and service to others. He reflected that his whole life was different after he started to live that way. How much we can learn!

Most likely there will be no prison for us or any experience that dangerous, but we are still called to live like the humble bishop from Vietnam! How often do we think school is boring? How often do we think work or practice is boring? How often do we not enjoy being with our family? Every moment is a gift from the Lord to be embraced and lived! Every moment and experience can help us to become more fully who God made us to be only if we choose to live them with great passion and love. Just imagine if we took each moment at school as if it was an opportunity to enter into the gift of life that God has given us. To learn, meet people, be challenged, and overcome all that is before us for the greater glory of God and to become who we were created to be. Just imagine if work was a time where we looked forward to the labor of the moment, the task at hand, and the satisfaction of a job well done in order to give God glory for the ability to work and serve all people. Just imagine!

My friends, life does not have to be a series of moments that we pass over because we are constantly longing for something different or something to come. Right now at this very moment, you are who you are, where you are, and doing what you are doing, because Jesus loves you and in His great mystery you are living out His plan. Live each moment, embrace each moment and live for the Lord!

No more waiting or looking for something in the future. The perfect will of the Lord is now…Just look around and see how beautiful it is…

God Bless You,

Living The Dream...

“Persevere in the exact fulfillment of the obligations of the moment. That work — humble, monotonous, small — is prayer expressed in action that prepares you to receive the grace of the other work — great and wide and deep — of which you dream.” – St. Jose Maria Escriva

The Olympics are in full force and - can I just say for all of us - that it is great to be an American! We haven so blessed this past week to see our American athletes rise to the occasion to win their events and see their commitment and years of work pay off in the winning of a medal. Athletes like Michael Phelps winning 8 gold medals, or Dara Torres winning 2 silver medals at the age of 41 have reminded us all that old-fashioned hard work and determination can still pay off.
Americans were glued to their TV screens at prime time every night to see a 23-year old swimmer break world records, humbly receive the gold medal, kiss his mom and sisters, only to get prepared to do it all over again. People like Michael Phelps and Dara Torres remind us all about it takes to be GREAT. In an interview I saw with Phelps they asked him about what his secret was and how he managed to be so prepared for each race. He remarked that it was the little things that he was committed to in his life and workout that led him to be successful in the big races. (Did you hear that eats 12,000 calories a day? Oh my!)

My friends, his reflection there hit home with me. So often most of us blow off the small things while desiring the bigger things. We let the small, less significant moments slip by while anticipating the more romantic moments or events that we think we will be prepared for. For example, if we are obligated to make our bed in the morning, do it with passion and love instead of skipping it because it might not seem that important. Also, I remember how class in high school could get boring at times, even so, embrace each moment of class with passion and as an opportunity instead of acting like it is a big waste of time. In sports practices, it is doing each drill with passion and intensity to get better and be prepared for the big game. In friendships, it is being devoted to your friends in good times and in bad. And in your spiritual life, it is saying your daily prayers and being faithful to God in the little moments, to then be His own in the greater moments of life.

My friends, as St. Jose Maria says, it is the little things done well that prepare us for the fulfillment of our dreams! Every time we give up, give 50%, act like we don’t care, or say we can do it another day, we lose the opportunity to receive grace and experience that will lead us to what we desire or dream about in the future. Everyday we live, we are preparing for what is to come. We are preparing for the moments and decisions that if responded to in God’s way, will make us saints and heroes.

The life to which we are called might not be on prime time TV, or might not get us any gold medals, but I can guarantee that the reward of our faithfulness will bring an even greater reward in the end. If we persevere and are committed to the small things in life, and do them with passion and love, we will be prepared to live our dreams and be saints to serve God in a world that so desperately needs them!

May God be praised for our country and Church!
God Bless You,

We Are Going to Czestochowa!...

I just got back yesterday from a visit to see my brother, who is a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in New York City. My sister and I joined them for a pilgrimage celebrating the Polish culture of New Jersey and honoring our Lady of Czestochowa. It was such a blessing to be there as it gave me a greater understanding of the pilgrimage we are all on in life. Sometimes our vision can be pretty short term only looking at the given moment, missing a greater context of what life is to come. The 60 mile pilgrimage I just went on, (yeah I said 60 miles!) reminded me of this greater pilgrimage, this journey that all people of God are on to eternal life in Heaven. And that is worth reflecting on and being reminded about. Walk with me…
This past Thursday morning all those participating in the pilgrimage started at St. Peter and Paul Church in Great Meadows, NJ at 6am. It was early for those of us who are on a summer schedule. As the walking started, I was inspired by the groups of people I was with. All the groups, the Polish, the English, and the Hispanics were all committed, enthusiastic, and joyful as they started 60 miles of walking. It struck me that all of these people, or most of them anyway, could have this attitude because they were excited and determined to get where they were going. The Franciscan brother who was in charge kept yelling, “We are going to Czestochowa!” All were excited to end at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, to honor Mary and to fulfill their pilgrimage in every way. That was our goal, that was our end, and we strived to do it with great joy.
On our pilgrimage of life, it must be the same way. If we know where we are going and are determined to get there, it should show in our attitude and personality. Heaven is our goal my friends! Our inspiration of living through the day is not going to the mall, or sports games, or school, or work for that matter, but everything we do should be started and completed with the idea and attitude that everything is leading us to our final goal and destination which is to be in Heaven with the God who made us and loves us beyond all else. Are you living as if you know where you are going? Trust me it changes everything.

As the walking started, I had a big smile on my face and great joy in my heart. I was on this journey with my two best friends - to one side was my sister and the other my brother. Experiencing this pilgrimage with them gave me great comfort, energy, and kept me going when I was tired and wanted to rest. When I looked up and down the crowd we were walking with, I was humbled by the other people with us. I was a stranger to most of them, but it was the hospitality and love that was shown to me that inspired me and encouraged me as we were walking.

On our pilgrimage of life, those who are walking beside us are the ones that will inspire us and lead us to our destination. Those family members, friends, mentors, or strangers who influence us are the ones that will give us hope when we are discouraged, peace when we are troubled, and energy when we don’t want to go on. The Lord has called us to be a people in community! What great news it is to know that we are called to journey not by ourselves but with others who are committed and inspired to the final end as we are. Who are your traveling partners to Heaven?
Lastly, it didn’t take very long for all of us who were on the pilgrimage in New Jersey to have to starting dealing with the adversity of the walk. Some got blisters, some got poison ivy, some were tired, and most of us were sore. It rained one of the days, and the hills we walked up seemed daunting at times. There were many points of adversity that we all had to preserver through with our eyes on our final end and goal. Czestochowa!

On our pilgrimage of life, the adversity we experience and struggle with can beat us down and hold us up. The blisters of broken relationships and friendships; the poison ivy of bad influences in our lives; the rain of tragedy or incontrollable events; and soreness of broken hearts and sickness or death - all these things can affect our journey to heaven. But the real question is how we deal with it all. Do we let it distract us and take us off the path of our final goal? Or do we take time to heal, get patched up, put on a poncho, take some Tylenol and get back in the game?
My friends, in our pilgrimage back to our Heavenly Father, we must be determined to get to where we are going, take joy in whom we are traveling with, and respond to the adversities of the journey with faith and hope. As I am sitting here recovering from the walk to the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in New Jersey, I am inspired and now committed more than ever to push forward on my pilgrimage to Heaven.

May I see all of you on the way! We are going to Heaven! Let us be on our way…

God Bless You,

Love The World!...

“Bring the whole world, all the human values which attract you so very strongly — friendship, the arts, science, philosophy, theology, sports, nature, culture, souls — bring all of this within that hope: the hope of Christ!” – St. Jose Maria Escriva

A few weeks ago I was at the Boys’ Leadership Camp held in the diocese of Lincoln. I must admit that I am not much of a camper - this camp was held at a camp ground owned by the diocese with the usual cabins, big open fields, hiking trials, and much more. Some other seminarians and I were there to be a spiritual presence and a support to the staff and campers. It was an incredible week and the focus of the camp inspired me and that is what I would like to reflect upon this week.

Going into camp week I didn’t really know what to expect. I figured it would be a very spirit filled week with Mass, adoration, confession, and time to pray, but beyond any of that, I didn’t know how the camp organizers were going to keep 50 boys interested for a whole seven days. It wasn’t until the afternoon on the first day when I was asked a pointed question while I was preparing to play dodge ball with the others kids. A young camper asked, “We can play dodge ball at a Catholic camp? I didn’t know we could do that!!” The priest who was with us exclaimed right back as he threw a dodge ball the kids way, “That is the point! We can do regular everyday things and love Jesus doing them! That is what it means to be Catholic!” It all made sense! That is what the camp was about. At that moment, I could not have been more excited to be there or to help these kids realize that their life can be full of sports, mud, water fights, and so much more, and still have Jesus at the center.

So many times people think of Catholic schools, camps, or programs and think that it is going to be times filled with intense prayer, crazy penance, and NO FUN! You are smiling right now because we all know that it is true. My friends, being Catholic is not running from the world, but living in it, and bringing Christ to it. To play sports, be on the stage, play the instruments, be in the bands, paint the paintings, write the stories, imaging the things that have not yet be imagined, and do it all for Jesus and with Jesus. That is what it means to be Catholic! This might be news to you, but the Church was not created 2000 years ago to be apart from the world, but it was created to be part of it – and to be redeemed through Jesus and the gospel.

Deep in our hearts we all want to be great, we all want to be saints, but so many of us get discouraged because it doesn’t seem possible. Here is the great news! St. Jose Maria Escriva, a Saint of our time and founder of Opus Dei, proclaimed to the whole world that we all can be saints. He used to proclaim to big crowds, “You can be a saint in this time and place!” And the way he taught that was to be in the world, and to bring Jesus into everything that you do. He made sainthood a reality to thousands of people only if we would all strive to sanctify our work, recreation, family life, and all that we do and do it all for the love of Jesus and the Church. We can be saints! Do you truly believe it?

As I have said before, that Church is not a fun hater. God and the Church do not want us to be a part from the world, but to embrace it, living for the truth of Jesus and the gospel. And that my friends is great news…

By the way, I had fun praising the Lord beating everyone at dodge ball…

Praise the Lord in your everyday life this week! God Bless You,


Time For A Change...

"Remember this and never forget it: even if it should seem at times that everything is collapsing, nothing is collapsing at all, because God doesn’t lose battles” – St. Jose Maria Escriva

Do you ever come across people in your life where you just can’t figure out what is going on inside of them because they seem so happy and positive all the time? We all have people in our lives that we can look and exclaim, “I want what you have!”

I remember playing football my freshman year of college and not really feeling at home on the football team. I liked the guys, loved the coaches, but just didn’t feel I had a place in that part of the college culture. I remember one practice where a few guys, who were quite bigger, stronger, and very intimidating came up to me and stated, “You have something that we don’t have, and we want it.” I became somewhat confused and started to wonder if they wanted my helmet, shoulder pads, or the jersey I was wearing. As I was fumbling around, one of them gently clarified what he meant: “no we don’t want any of that, we want to know why there is always a smile on your face and why you are happy all the time.” I was amazed by the question and had never really thought that my desire to have a smile on my face, and respond to life with a cheerful and positive attitude had any affect on people. A few short weeks after that conversation, the season ended and I hung up my football uniform - but still remained close with some of the guys on the team who were sincere in seeking a deeper happiness and freedom when it came to life.

Numerous times in my spiritual journey I have also looked at other people and desired to have what they had. Their faith seemed so deep, their hope unbreakable, and love boundless. And in every inquiry of mine to know what it was that made these people happy it all came down to the context of their lives. You see my friends, so many of us define our lives by winning, or having the most money, or being in the position of power, or being the most popular, or doing better then everyone else. These very contexts are why we have young people today positioning themselves to be fierce competitors in the culture of Hollywood and Wall Street. And it should be no surprise that the outcome is one that leads to depression, broken relationships or families, loneliness, or even suicide. This way of thinking reveals a cheap imitation of happiness and it is responsible for what you see going on in our world today.

With that said my friends, here is the great news! If we establish a context in our lives where we know and embrace our true identity of being sons and daughters of God, and that we believe that God is ever faithful, life will look much different. Every Catholic or Christian probably does know that he or she is a son or daughter of God, but what does it mean to truly live that? It means that we understand that our lives are not our own, that everything that happens to us is a gift from God. It means that we deal with pain and struggle as if they are a part of God’s plan for us and work with Him to find healing and peace And it means that we deal with every moment of our lives as if we are doing God’s work! Our lives will not be boring if we see God’s hand and will in everything that we do. If we begin to live this way, and invite God into every aspect of our lives, we will start to become those people we all admire, those people that seem so free and happy.

Rejoice today because God is faithful! Rejoice today because God wants to be intimately involved in our lives! Rejoice also because a life of happiness is God’s plan for everyone!

Today my friends, don’t just sit around and admire someone else for being happy. Its time to change the context of our lives, and experience that life that God dreams for us! God Bless You,


Are You Satisfied?...

May the Trinity be praised! At this moment I have taken a deep breath for the first time in seven weeks. My summer of traveling and teaching is over. May the Lord and His abundant mercy and grace be praised for the work He did this summer. When you’re doing God’s work there is no time off! In a few hours I am heading out to a Boys Leadership Camp for the week and then off to other obligations after that. I beg of your prayers!

This week the economic concept of dividing up your assets (money) into many different accounts, plans, or areas of interest was introduced to me. A friend of mine was reflecting on this at a high school talk and I was thinking to myself, “Where is he going with this?” His point was this. In economics dividing up your money might be good, in case one account or plan falls through, you have assets in other places to make up for it. But if you apply that same concept to the human person and the spiritual life, it might be detrimental. So many young people today do exactly this. They put their energy, passion, commitment, and work into many areas of life such as sports, school, friendship, dating relationships, money, leadership, work etc. that every one of their “personal assets” are spread thin. Once we are spread thin and find ourselves doing too many things, we feel let down and unfulfilled.

The treasures that we have been given; our gifts, abilities, talents, passions, desires, and all that we are were not made to be divided up. What would you think if I told you their was one place, one account - if you will - that you could put all your treasure in that could give you infinite rewards and benefits. This account is not in danger of busting or going under and its promises are limitless and eternal!

“Who satisfies that essential human yearning to be one, to be immersed in communion, to be built up, to be led to truth? The Holy Spirit! This is the Spirit’s role: to bring Christ’s work to fulfillment” – Pope Benedict XVI, World Youth Day 2008

I feel like your local bank representative! But here is the point, invests your whole self into Jesus Christ, the one who can give you it all. Take your assets out of the ways of the world that lead us to mediocrity and boredom! Take your assets out of the friends and relationships that are selfish and lifeless at the same time. Take your assets out of your daily routine and schedules where you find yourselves having no time for God and authentic living. Take your assets out of MTV and Hollywood where they are being wasted away and broken. My friends it is time to reclaim ourselves, pick up the pieces, and invest them where they belong… Jesus, the one who dreamed of you and calls you to the fullness of life.

For the record, here is what I am not saying. Don’t play sports, don’t go to movies, don’t have any friends, don’t have fun, just look to Jesus! No all of that is wrong. What I am saying is make your investment in Jesus and let the Holy Spirit fulfill the plan God has for you. Give Him your whole self and then let Him be the reason you play sports, do well in school, hang out with your friends etc. Draw from the wealth of the Holy Spirit in your daily life to then take Him to the rest of the world! Believe in the words of Pope Benedict that Jesus through the Holy Spirit is the only one who can satisfy and fulfill the work that our Creator has for us.

My friends, reclaim your assets and invest them where they belong. Your fulfillment is waiting…

God Bless You,

He's So Beautiful...

So there they were kneeling in front of the tabernacle waiting for me to open it and show them what was inside. The first and second graders in Friend, Nebraska asked to see inside the tabernacle, so as we finished touring the Church, we received permission to open it and see Jesus. The excitement and anticipation that was present in that moment was refreshing to me as it truly led me to reflect on who the young children wanted to see. They wanted to see Jesus. We had talked about Him all morning, and had pictures of Him up everywhere we turned, but they wanted to experience the real thing…Jesus in the Eucharist. I opened the tabernacle, and each child got to come up, genuflect, and peer inside at their savior and friend. As the last young girl came up to have her turn, she genuflected and peered into the tabernacle, and exclaimed in a soft voice, “He is so beautiful!”

At that moment my heart was filled with immense joy. The world in that instant was so simple and true. A little six year-old girl, who could easily be the twin of ‘Dora the Explorer,’ peered into eternity, and proclaimed the beauty of Jesus, the one who left us the Eucharist as a sign of his love and faithfulness to His people. HE IS SO BEAUTIFUL. Praise God for the little girl and all the kids that believed in that moment, they were dwelling with Jesus. Oh how much we can learn from them!

When is the last time you looked at Jesus in the Eucharist and were overwhelmed with His presence? I had to ask myself that question as I experienced the simplicity and truth of the young kids desiring so much to see who was in the tabernacle. I experience Jesus in the Eucharist everyday and do my best to kindle the flame of his love and presence in my life. But at that moment, I asked Jesus and Mary once again to reveal to me the truth of the Eucharist.
I once heard a story of a young seminarian who used to visit his spiritual director often. One afternoon the spiritual director summoned the young seminarian for spiritual direction and told him to meet him at the dock so they could go out on his boat. When the seminarian arrived, the priest was marveling at his new anchor he had just finished welding together. The two spent most of the afternoon in the middle of the lake, rejoicing over great conversation and fellowship with one another. As it got into the evening the priest, upon observing the clouds, thought it was time to head towards the dock because it looked like it was going to storm.

Glancing at the clouds a second time, the priest decided that it was going to storm and there was no use in trying to get to shore. He figured they would be just fine if they dropped the anchor in the lake and waited out the storm. He motioned to the young seminarian to grab the new anchor that was stationed behind him and toss it over the side into the lake. The seminarian excitedly grabbed the anchor and tossed it overboard - only to realize that they anchor was not attached to the boat! It headed straight to the bottom of the lake!

Realizing what he had done, he looked at his spiritual director expecting the wrath of hell to come over him. But his spiritual director calmly used it as a moment to teach. Amidst the rain he proclaimed, “We can have the nicest, most well made, and most durable anchor ever made, but if it is not attached to the boat, then it makes no difference.” Then he brought the point home to the young seminarian saying, “We can have Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world present in our lives, but if we are not attached to Him, then it makes no difference.” With a smile on his face and wonder in his eye, the seminarian and his spiritual director waited out the storm with no anchor but Jesus.

My friends, it does not matter that we have an anchor, it matters if we are attached to HIM or not. Jesus in the Eucharist is the anchor of our faith and of our lives. Are you attached to Jesus in the Eucharist? Ok, you might receive Him every Sunday, but are you truly attached to Jesus, bonded with Him, as we experience the gift of Him on the cross? We so often go through life on cruise control, assuming of we just go to Mass and say a few other prayers then everything is ok. Oh how minimal this way of life is!

Let Jesus be you anchor and your refuge. Make Him a part of every moment in your life. Embrace His love and let His presence lead you to experience greater things in your life. So we all may know the true beauty of the Lord…

God Bless You,

Playing For Keeps...

Well it is July and that means that it’s wedding season! I just arrived home today from Dubuque, Iowa where I had the honor of serving the wedding Mass of my two dear friends. It was a beautiful wedding. As I was praying for my friends, I couldn’t help but be amazed and grateful for what God had done to bring us all to that moment. He brought two people together to love proclaim their love for one another and for Him. It was a sight to see. As I saw the couple praying together to the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her to guide and bless their marriage, once again I couldn’t help but have a moment recognizing that this marriage was God’s Will! May all praise and glory be to Him!

After reflecting on my experiences this past weekend, I drove home asking myself why all weddings have not given me the feelings of hope and peace that I was experiencing. Every day I come into contact with individuals and relationships who desire to be in love and spend the rest of their life with the one who loves them in return. Some of these relationships mirror that of my friends who were married yesterday, but a majority of the relationships between young people today prohibit themselves from finding that true freedom and grace to enter into the true gift of Christian marriage. That’s right I said it, a Christian marriage.

You see, our culture has a completely different understanding of marriage than the Church does. For instance, in our culture you get married because it just seems like the next logical step. You have been dating your significant other for two years and now it’s getting boring - so you might as well get married.

Another thing that happens in our culture is that marriage is sometimes entered into with the safety net of always have the option of divorce in case it doesn’t work out. (FYI: The divorce rate in American is over 50%! You can’t tell me this way of operating is not true). Our culture has re-defined marriage as a playground of selfishness and lust, an experience that is temporary and played by your own rules.

But here is the good news! True Christian marriage is nothing like what I just described! If you have seen or experienced what true marriage is, you know exactly what I am talking about. My friends, a true marriage is CHRIST centered. The reality of marriage is that every time a husband and wife live the truth of their marriage, they mirror a greater reality to the rest of the world. They reveal Christ to us! When a husband and wife lay their lives down for one another and the children they bear, we see Christ at work in His Church. What a gift!

Marriage is for keeps. In Christian marriage the man and woman unselfishly pledge their lives to one another - mirroring what Jesus did for his Church. Marriage for all Christians is an experience with Christ. The husband and wife enter into a love that is so deep and so pure, that the love they share overflows into their family and community in which they live.
When two people decide to live the truth of Christian marriage, our culture will change. When we can all be at weddings and see two people giving themselves up for one another and Christ, and sharing that love with the world, our culture will change. If you are in a relationship now or feel that God is calling you to marriage, think about what kind of bride or groom you want to be.
What kind of relationship and marriage do you want to have? Allow the Lord to fill you and lead you to a true relationship and marriage in HIM!

God Bless You,

I Was Speeding...

Today I got to go to STOP class. How wonderful uh? For those of you who do not know what it is, well…I was caught speeding and got to go to a class to “refresh my memory” of the traffic laws that govern our streets and highways. The class was for eight hours and wasn’t that bad. Of course, leave it to me to allow myself to let the Lord turn it into a spiritual experience. Thus, my column for the week stems from the 25 people who were at STOP class with me today. It was quite an experience.

Within ten minutes I had heard the “f word,” the Lord’s name taken in vain five times and countless stories and choices that brought on deserving as well as tragic consequences. Before the instructor even introduced the class, I was already disturbingly fascinated of the world I was in. The room was a replica of our culture. Most people in the room didn’t care about why they were there. Some admitted drinking and drug problems, marital and relationship problems, and most people in that roomed looked like they lived their lives in quiet desperation. I wanted to yell out loud to all of them…I care about you! There is a better way! You were made for something more!

I didn’t yell those things, even though I wanted to. But I did all I could do and felt called to do in the moment, and I prayed. I clutched my rosary and prayed for all the people in that room who were crying out for a better life.

As I continue to talk to young people this summer and as I listened to mostly young men and women in STOP class today, it seems to me to be a conversation focused on identity. Why are we making the decisions that we do, when we drink, do drugs, participate in unhealthy sexual relationships, treat others like objects, do anything to be popular, and make ourselves the most important things in our lives? We do all these things and more because it simply comes down to the fact that we don’t know who we are. If we truly knew who we were, we would be tempted to worship one another. If we truly knew who we were no one would every consider taking advantage of someone else or using them for their own pleasure. If we truly knew who we were we would safeguard and protect our bodies and souls from anything that could destroy them.
My friends, most people don’t know who they are, and the path to finding our true selves is not made to be difficult. A great theologian said, “to know who we are, we must know where we came from.” All of us must stop and recognize who made us and where we came from. If every struggling young person I get to listen to or the members of my STOP class this morning stopped to recognize where they came from and who made them, their lives and our world would be a lot different.

My friends, we come from God. He created us in His own image and likeness. He created us for Himself, to love Him, know Him, and follow in His way. But it’s like we are living as if we were created by Hollywood, MTV, or even some trashy magazine. We reflect the people or things we follow. Who are you reflecting in your life? We were made to reflect Jesus! We were made to reflect Him, to experience His love, and share Him with the world. Not to reflect something we don’t truly understand.

Even though we all are surrounded by an identity crisis, I am very much encouraged. Because in many conversation and moments, I find young people stopping and looking back to where they came from, and who they came from, and their lives are truly changed. May the Lord be praised…

Stop to reclaim your true identity in the one who made you and start to live that life that you were made for…

God Bless You,

I Have a Better Idea...

Lately I have been reminiscing about a pilgrimage I took to Poland a year ago this summer and reflecting on the deep impact the country and its history have had on my life. From the Nazis to the Communists, the country was wounded by what seems to me to be an idea. Both the Nazis and the Communists both had an idea about the worth and potential of the human person. All because of a certain ideas, the people of Poland suffered at the hands of dictators, war, and death - all because someone had an idea.

The more I watch TV, see advertisements, listen to talk shows, and take part in everyday conversations, I am more and more convinced that the battle we face in our culture is a war of ideas. It really seems to come down to who is screaming the loudest, who has the most money to buy a TV advertisement or billboard, or whose ideas seem to be the most popular or appealing. Who has the better ideas? MTV? Barak Obama? Us Magazine? John McCain? Ellen Degeneres? The Republicans or Democrats? Or how about the popular crowd at school? We are in an all-out war in our culture and it comes down to ideas. And the reality is, there are REAL causalities, REAL people who suffer because of the embracing of ideas that are contrary to who we are as sons and daughters of God and the nature of the human person.

So are their any better ideas? I thought you would never ask.

The idea I propose is a pretty old idea. I cannot claim it for my own and I did not just make it up last week. The idea stands on Tradition and the most popular book ever published. You see my friends, the idea is not a passing way or reliant upon the stock market or a political poll. The idea that I propose to you is a person and that person is Jesus Christ. Ever heard of Him?

Don’t you ever get tired of it - the noise, the opinions, and everything that comes with our culture? I sure do. I can barely listen to the radio or watch TV without being bombarded with the forces of our culture with the ideas they have of what will make us happy or fulfilled. Have you ever kept a list of what comes up on the TV in a given hour? The last time I sat down I kept track of the commercials. It went from patch contraceptives, to makeup, to weight loss pills, Dr. Pepper, Nike shoes, and a pitch for the TV show Mom Swap. I was amazed! The commercials covered sexuality, outward appearance, pop, shoes to buy, and a show about how messed up the family unit is. All it was, was ideas being presented for the consumer to take in and choose. We are in a war of ideas and the battle is all around us.

Everyday I encounter and have the privilege of listening and working with young people who have made a choice in their lives for Jesus. In all their stories they all came to a point where they tired of being let down, used, and feeling unfulfilled. You see my friends, the ideas of our culture give us a cheap imitation of happiness and lead us to desire something more. And when we are done looking and searching, Jesus is always there to welcome us back and invite us into a better place - a better idea if you will. An idea you were made for. The idea is that we are only complete in God, the one who made us, and that true freedom and happiness are found in becoming fully ourselves. In this relationship with Jesus, we come to understand what love is, and experience love in a way our culture has never seen or cannot take way.

In the end, my friends, this idea that the Church and Jesus claims as the true way and life, is not only an idea, but a way of life. The battle is ours to win. Let them waste their time, money and ideas, the victory is ours.

Don’t give into the ideas of our culture! Jesus is the only idea and life we need!

God Bless You,

Amazed By You...

Just arrived home from Dwight, Nebraska last night. May the Lord be praised for the young people and families in Dwight who truly showed us the Lord this past week. As I continue to travel this summer with my teammates and continue to meet so many kids and families I can’t do anything but lift my heart in praise for this experience and the many wonderful moments and gifts that Lord has blessed me with. And with that, as I was thinking about what the Lord wanted my column to be about this week, I am inspired to turn to the topic of PRAISE.

Lord I’m amazed by you
Lord I’m amazed by you
Lord I’m amazed by you
How you love me…

Take a moment right now…STOP, CLOSE YOUR EYES, and LIFT your heart in praise to the Lord for all He has given you and done for you. Let your heart, body, and soul be lifted in great joy and love to the one who has given you everything and will never leave you. Let the fears of you heart, the stresses of the day, and worry of the future be taken away as you realize that Jesus is near. He is powerful beyond understanding, as he gives mercy and peace to those who so desperately need it. Just praise HIM. We praise you Lord Jesus; we are amazed by your love and presence in our lives. Give us your peace, a peace that the world cannot give.

I find our human nature fascinating. I had a conversation with someone this past week about what the answer is to our broken culture and more importantly our broken selves. The obvious answer is Jesus. But upon reflection I submit to you that the perfect medicine for all that we go through and deal with is PRASIE.

Picture this, what happens when you have a bad day? What happens when you lose the big game or fall short on a test? What happens when there is a crisis and you can’t deal with the stress of the day? What happens when a friend or family member gets sick or passes away? What happens when your first love breaks your heart? All of us, when some difficult happens tend to dwell on the issues. And as we dwell on the issue we turn our eyes inwardly and often feel sorry for ourselves and dwell in our own misery. My friends, I do it all the time.

Through the great spiritual mentors in my life, I have been challenged in those moments of great despair and distress to lift my heart in PRAISE to Jesus. If you think about it, it makes complete sense. Turning our hearts in praise to Jesus, we take our eyes away from the issue and ourselves and turn them upwards to the one who gives mercy and peace. My friends, we are so consumed with ourselves and spend most of everyday with our eyes fixed on the problem, only looking to ourselves for the solution.

When we turn to the Lord in PRIASE, we look to Him and realize how great He truly is. In praising the Lord we understand that He gives us everything and that we are nothing without Him. When we lift our hearts in PRAISE we experience the love of the Lord and know that He is the beginning and end of all things. HE is the Lord!

Take this very moment, to raise your heart in PRAISE to Jesus. PRAISE Him for you life, your family, friends, gifts, and all that you have.

Let us PRAISE the Lord this day…Amen

God Bless You,

Love the Lord!

I spent this past week with the young people of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Seward, Nebraska. Praise God for their lives, faith, and hospitality they showed to me and my fellow Totus Tuus missionaries. For those of you that don’t know, Totus Tuus is a summer catechetical program in many dioceses around the nation. My team and are will be traveling around the Lincoln, Nebraska diocese for the next seven weeks! I beg of your prayers as we strive to witness to and teach the young people of the Church. May God be praised.

“When shall we finally begin to love God?” – St. Phillip Neri
In the final chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus asks Peter the question, “Do you love me?” After asking this question three times in a row and after Peter gets upset his master for asking him these questions, Jesus tells Peter to follow him.

With young people there are so many questions! Whether they are in first or second grade, third or forth, fifth of sixth, seventh or either, or in high school and college, we all have questions.
What is God like?Where does he live? Does he have a mom and dad? Does he love me? Am I special in his eyes? What am I suppose to do with my life? Why does the world suffer so much?
Questions are a part of our quest for truth, our desire to know ourselves, and understand the will of God in our lives. Jesus in his question to Peter points to a simply reality of faith. At a moment when he could ask all sorts of questions, Jesus points to the foundation of our faith which is love.

Having an apostolate of teaching for the summer so many things have been running through my mind. What am I going to teach? Are they going to understand it? Will I succeed? And after getting worked up over all the particulars of what my summer full of teaching will be like, the Lord hit me over the head with his call for my teammates and me this summer…to love HIM and to bring those whom we teach into that love. Do you love me? He asks.

My friends, when will we realize that our primary vocation in life is to LOVE the Lord? Of course only because he first love us! And in that love and with that love that we give and receive, transform the world around us. I have heard someone describe the love of a mother and a father like this; it is not the primary goal of the mother and father to love their child. The primary goal of a mother and father is to love one another so fully that their child is swept up into that love, therefore experiencing a truly whole and transforming love. How beautiful!

I think the question that St. Phillip Neri poses is a significant question. When will we finally begin to love the Lord? The relational love that we can share with Jesus is one that some how becomes secondary to most in the Christian life. We are very much consumed with other things and forget about loving Jesus. I know it sounds simple and most of you are probably thinking this is old news, but I figured it is always good to reminded about what Jesus what for us. He wants us to love Him. He wants loving him to be a priority in our lives. To love him means to spend time with him at Mass and in the other sacraments and in that exchange of love, bring others closer to him and his church.

My friends, enter into a relationship of love with Jesus, and see the world change around you. Now is the time to love Jesus…

God Bless You,

Sh! It's a Secret!...

“I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts” Ezekiel 36:26

This past week we celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May the Lord be abundantly praised for His heart that is so perfect in mercy and overflowing with love.
In the past month I was sitting around the dinner table of a dear friend of mine and he looked at me seriously and asked, “What is the secret?” He was referring to the secret of being truly happy in the world we live in, of being truly fulfilled. My first response, was explaining to him that it was not a secret! But unfortunately, it was to him because our culture has drowned out the message of Jesus Christ and the implications He can have our lives. What is the secret? I thought you would never ask.

“Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of him who has loved us.” -Romans 8: 38.
I heard someone say that if you take a look around, young people in our world mostly fall on the extremes of the spectrum when it comes to life. Think about it, you have the people who repress and deny the truth of who they are because of indifference or fear, and then you have others who might indulge themselves in their desires looking for something more. What extreme are you on? Our culture has done such a great job at convincing us that we need to repress or indulge our desires and beliefs, only leading us to take an unhealthy and unbalanced approach to life. When we operate in the extremes of our desires in life, we miss what we were made for, what the Lord longs to give us.

My friends, middle ground in life is where the answer is. Between indulging our desires and beliefs and repressing them is REDEMPTION. Jesus came to redeem us! And when we look to the desires of our hearts and that we are not happy repressing them or indulging in them, we see that Jesus is waiting for us to come to him with our “stony hearts” ready to transform us and truly redeem our hearts in Him. From Him we receive hearts of flesh, hearts that can be loved, molded, and renewed from the way of the world.

Here is the great news! There is no secret to happiness. There is not equation to figure out or puzzle to complete to recognize what it takes to be happy. Authentic happiness comes when we let the Lord redeem us. It comes when we let the redeeming love of Christ into our lives and allow him to be our all, our everything. Through prayer, the Holy Eucharist, Confession, and the other sacraments, we encounter the redemption of Christ in our world. We must put ourselves in place where we can come face to face with the Jesus who died for us and rose from the dead. He came to redeem us! He came to give us life, a life that does not repress or indulge but a life that truly renews and transforms all who are open to it.

Lets your hearts be changed by Jesus! Redemption is at hand my friends…

God Bless You,