Frank discussions, advice, and opinions from a Catholic Director of Religious Education.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 6)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 144)

1. And They're OFF... We had our kickoff night this past Wednesday for Lifelong Learning (our religious ed. program). Each year we try to do something a little different to start things off. This time, we started with a prayer service where our catechists received a blessing from Father and then moved on to a barbecue cooked by our men's club. I also rented a bouncy castle and the super cool obstacle course to the right. BIG hit with the kids.  

I've seen sillier...
2. Every Dollar Counts. I try to double up whenever possible so during our kickoff night I thought the youth group could provide a little entertainment and raise some money as well. I made a bunch of signs with things the kids would do for $1. Parishioners could have the kids make bad balloon animals (advertised as such), follow other parishioners and tell cheesy jokes. We also had a group of girls you could pay to STOP singing (they made a LOT). I think we actually got close to $100! For what it was, I was really impressed.

3. Young Adults Group. We are going to get some additional help in the office and maybe start a few new programs. I know we are certainly going to start a young adults (20-39) group. I have some good ideas for individual events, but the form for something really lasting is still elusive. Any ideas?

4. Low Participation. Still struggling to get people involved at the parish. Everyone seems to like the events we have, but getting them to actually commit and come is a struggle. For instance, my assistant was having a retreat for girls in the 4th-6th grades. Plenty of mothers expressed interest, but we still don't have many signed up. I can only hope that as we keep having events our rate of participation will climb.

5. Virtus Training. We just made the move to VIRTUS for our safe environment training. Our volunteers took it pretty well considering that many of them got trained on the old program last year (which was supposed to be a one time deal) and had to go through it all over again this month. Still, we had some good conversations about keeping the kids safe and got through it in one piece.

6. Close to Crawling. I am sure my son is going to crawl any day now. He can get on all fours, lifting his stomach off the ground, and rock back and forth. He REALLY wants to go...anywhere...

This game is SO much fun.
7. Settlers of Catan. OK. I want it. I was trying to let it go, but after playing Settlers of Catan with some friends a few weeks ago I want the game. My wife and I have really embraced German board games (Carcassonne, Dominion, etc.) after being introduced to them by another couple and now I fear that we are too far down the road to turn back. We're addicted. Hello, my name is Ed, and I'm a German board game-aholic. 

Found what you were looking for?

Truth time. I like to read heretical publications. Why? Endless reasons, but my favorite is that I get to puzzle out how I'd respond. It keeps me in my apologetic prime. Anyway, I was reading one such publication a few days ago when I came across this gem: "I no longer look to the church and see any of my values, my priorities, my convictions reflected back at me..."

It left me dumbfounded for a few moments. I always have a hard time understanding these types of comments. I've never thought about the Church as something that should reflect back what I already thought. On the contrary, the more my faith has deepened, the more I've seen how necessary it is that I change the way I think. The Church is supposed to challenge me to move out of my comfort zone and radically change my life. The more I thought about the comment above, the more I saw our society gazing into a mirror, adoring itself. It doesn't want to be challenged. It doesn't want conversion. It wants happy-clappy, feel good, affirmation of the grandeur of ourselves.

As I pondered this, I remembered the words of our Lord: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you..." I think we all need to really sit down and ask what we're seeking, because as I thought about all this I got the growing sense that this verse can read two ways. I've always thought about this as a comforting verse, assuring us that if we seek Jesus we will find Him, but now I am realizing that the flip side is that if we seek ourselves we will find that too, for eternity. Hell isn't other people. Hell is no other people. Hell is looking in a mirror forever, and being sick with what we see. At the end of time, we will find what we were looking for.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (September 27, 2011)

Concupiscence: Often called the "tinder" of sin, concupiscence is the inner weakness of mankind after the fall. Ever wanted to do something you knew you shouldn't? Of course you have! That is concupiscence. This doesn't mean you must sin (you still have free will), but it does mean you WANT to sin.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 5)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 143)

7 Reasons Distributism Has Me Interested
(Not committed, mind you, but interested)

Before I get to my list, you may be wondering what in high heaven Distributism is.
You're not alone. A good resource would be located HERE.

1. The People Who Recommend It. I was first introduced to Distributism via Mark Shea, a solid Catholic. As I looked into it, I found that G.K. Chesterton was one of the initial formulators of the philosophy and it was specifically created to apply Catholic social teachings. A very good start.
2. Too Big To Fail. Remember that? We were told that certain banks and businesses had become so big that their bankruptcy would ruin the economy. Too many people depended on these institutions for their livelihood and so, as a result, they could make whatever bad decisions they wanted with the certainty that the taxpayer would bail them out. Distibutism prevents companies from becoming so big that they can essentially hold us hostage.

3. Increased Competition. I remember hearing a story some time ago which sums up the current situation quite nicely. A potato chip company was having a meeting and the boss asked a simple question: "What is our goal?" Someone responded, "To be the best company around." "Nope", said the boss, "It's to be the ONLY company around." Our current system doesn't foster competition, it fosters war. The goal? To be the last one standing. By keeping corporations from the "too big to fail" level, Distributism would necessitate a larger pool of smaller companies all competing with one another. Since companies would get to a point where they could no longer expand, they would have to give up their desire for sole dominion and focus on being the "best" to stay in business.

4. Smaller Government. I think socialists might have a point when they criticize the wealth disparity in our world. When too few have too much they can hold the rest of us hostage (see number two). The problem is that Socialists think transferring the excess wealth to another small group (the government) somehow changes that. I fail to see how making citizens reliant on the government for handouts is any different than relying on two or three mega corporations. Distributism does not redistribute wealth, but works toward a more even distribution of the means of generating wealth (ie: productive property). It also encourages the principle of subsidiarity and thus the primacy of local organizations and communities.  

5. Property Has Purpose. Our current system tries to get people to buy, buy, buy! The thinking goes that the more you buy, the better the economy! By the way, it doesn't matter what you buy, so long as money is spent. Distributism views property as a tool needed for a dignified existence. In other words, Distributism recognizes the need for property without encouraging the extreme materialism we currently have. 

6. Consumers Are People. I am more than a consumer of widgets. Our current system tends to view people as tools to drive the economy (see #5). Distributists tend to put human beings in the center and recognize that Distributism is the tool which is supposed to serve mankind.   

7. Catholic Social Teachings. I am not saying that capitalism isn't compatible with Catholic social teaching, but rather that Distributism ALSO happens to be compatible. There are, happily, many roads to get to the same destination in this case. As a result, we only need to work to find the best of many. I won't consider something that goes against the Catholic Church's teaching, so #7 is a big deal if I am to consider Distributism.  

For more "Quick Takes" check out Jennifer at Conversion Diary!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (September 19, 2011)

Monstrance: The vessel containing the Host when exposed for adoration or a Eucharistic procession. (Etymology: Latin, monstrare: to show, point out, indicate.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Dear Demons: Advice for Junior Tempters

By: Satan

Just a quick lesson today, my dear demons. If you achieve nothing else, guide your teens to an extreme dependence on gadgets. Internet, video games, texting, TV: it all works.Two things will happen. First, they will lose all patience. They will be so used to instant information and pleasure that books without pictures and conversations longer than “Hi” will become so boring they will lose interest right away. This will make prayer to the Enemy almost impossible for them and greatly increase our chances of ushering them home to ME.  Secondly, these gadgets give your teens the illusion of love. It makes them feel connected with other people, but leaves them without a truly satisfying relationship. If you do this correctly, your teens will talk to people all day online and still feel terribly alone.  -Non Serviam, Satan

Satan's "My Dear Demons" column appears in monthly additions of Ed's youth group newsletter. If you would like to ask Satan a question, please e-mail him at:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (September 12, 2011)

Arianism: A fourth century heresy proposed by a priest named Arius who denied the divinity of Christ. It was condemned by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. The same council defined the term homoousios (one in the same substance or nature) to identify the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Today we say "one in being" in the Nicene Creed. (This Advent we will begin saying "consubstantial.")

This heresy really draws out the history behind a part of the Creed that we say every Sunday. In one sense, we should be thankful for heresy because, ultimately, God uses it to bring forth precious gems like the creed.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 4)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 140)

Seven Ways to Show your Parish Staff that you Appreciate Them!

1. Cookies! It may seem like a small gesture, but, believe me, it is greatly appreciated. Don't do anything fancy (unique creations often lead to uneaten cookies). Just bake some nice chocolate chip cookies and leave them with a note thanking the staff for their hard work. (If you want to be really sweet, you can bring a gallon of whole milk!)
2. Spiritual Bouquet. Your staff would feel quite humbled and appreciative if parishioners spontaneously delivered loads of cards listing Mass intentions, penances and prayers which they have said for them. (Please do not deliver a real bouquet if men are included in the staff. We feel weird getting flowers.)
3. Letters of Encouragement. You have no idea how many times we hear "I just wanted to bring up a concern" and "I think you should really do blank." The rest of the time we don't exist. Constructive criticism is great, but when it is all you hear your outlook gets bleak. It really helps when a parishioner sits down and writes a letter explaining why they appreciate our work. One letter like that can cover up a multitude of negativity and make everything feel worthwhile.  

4. Lunch. I know I already said cookies, but people like food. It's a fact. If you got together with some other parishioners and brought in a lasagna or even a cold-cut platter (with a note) it would do wonders to help staff remain positive and enthusiatic.

5. Don't Complain. If your DRE holds training sessions or your secretary is making you fill out a form then it is for a reason. Procedures are in place because, somewhere along the line, their absence caused a problem. Please just fill out the form or get trained.

6. Support Parish Events. There is nothing more depressing then spending a month planning for an event in which five people show up. You feel your work doesn't matter and nobody cares. (Actually, there is something more deppressing and it happened to me. Imagine spending a month preparing for Event X, having promoted it fully, and then nobody shows up. The next day, still in your depressed state, someone calls to complain because you don't ever have Event X and so they are leaving the parish. It's like being kicked by a child after you cleaned their room for them.)

And the BEST thing you can do for your staff...

7. Volunteer! Believe it or not, someone actually does all the stuff the Pastor requests help with at the end of Mass. When we ask for volunteers and nobody calls or signs-up to help, the staff are usually pressed into service (and not always with due compensation). This requires us to take extra time (sometimes hours) away from our families in order to do by ourselves what could have been done in half the time with a few extra hands. 

If you want more Quick Takes then check out Jennifer at Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Me Church

Frequent church shopping is a BIG problem by us. We have four Catholic parishes within just a few blocks, not to mention the Lutheran and non-denominational communities, so this video sounds very familiar. One of my biggest concerns is that families frequently insist on being members of parish X, while attending Mass at parish Y and using the youth group at parish Z. It just seems like one of the main points of a parish is to have a stable community of brothers and sisters for support and mutual self-giving. When people start looking at their Church as a collection of good and bad parts they turn a living community into a spiritual chop shop and, most of the time, end up lonely and confused as to why they aren't satisfied. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (September 5, 2011)

Pantheism: The erroneous belief that all things are divine or that the universe and God are identical.

This is often professed by "New Age" or spiritualist groups. One of the great failings of this belief is that it cannot explain sin in a satisfactory way. If all things are divine then murderers are divine. If murderers are divine than divinity/god does what is evil. If god does what is evil then he isn't really God, is he? The pantheist needs to either deny the existence of evil or deny that their "god" is really perfect and benevolent.

Friday, September 2, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (3)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 140)

Seven things my children will NEVER be allowed to do (and that I've seen other parents allow)...

1. Call me at work every five minutes. Look, I get it. I did the same thing when I was a kid, but my mom started the "spurt, fall and die" rule. Basically, if something isn't spurting out of you, falling off of you or dead, then your phone call means you need more chores.  

2. Wear flip flops as an Altar Server. My children won't be wearing anything that flips or flops at Mass, period, but this offense by an Altar Server is especially heinous.

3. Mouth off to anyone in authority (whether they deserve it or not). Look, I'm not necessarily talking about heinous actions by dictators or legitimate criticisms, but cursing out a police officer because he gave you a ticket or a catechist because she wouldn't let you talk over her is way out of line. When we exercise prudence and guard our language we grow in holiness, develop the habit of respecting rightful authority and actually open more doors than we would have otherwise.

4. Watch unlimited TV. Want to make sure that your kids can't pray and have no patience? Give them unlimited techno time. Internet? TV? Video games? Just let them do whatever they want. I'm pretty sure they know what's best.

5. Complain. I know kids complain. What I mean is that I won't (to the best of my ability) enable those complaints. Your kid is whining that I won't let him go on the youth group trip because he didn't bring his permission slip? Don't look at me, address the situation. Either get me the slip or tell your son he made a mistake and needs to understand the consequences of failing to follow the rules. Trust me, when your son is lying in pain at the hospital for hours because no doctor will touch him without parental consent for medical assistance, you'll be singing a different tune.

6. Too much free time. Every time I've seen kids say, "Wanna' light a fire", it has been because we they were bored.

And the one thing I will be absolutely sure to never allow...

7. Skipping Mass. Sick? OK. Flat tire? Fine. You signed up for too many sporting events this weekend?  Wow, your teams are gonna' be mad at you, because we're going to Mass.

Special Thanks to Jennifer at Conversion Diary for hosting this!