Catholic Husband

Love / Lead / Serve

A Single Spark

Inertia stands in our way and holds us back until the moment that it doesn’t. It’s all or nothing; it’s a concrete jersey barrier or completely nonexistent. A single spark in our life is all that it takes to vanish.

Back-to-school time is thought by some to be a second new year. We begin a new grade level, new family activities, and new routines as more children become active in different ways. It’s one of the many fresh starts on our calendars, a chance for us to try something new.

Many of us want to live better, more active lives. We would like to be engaged in our parishes, physically healthy, and growing intellectually, but inertia holds us back. It tells us that our plans are so big, it’s unknowable where we should start.

That’s the funny thing about inertia; it’s so hard to overcome, but is completely broken by a singular step. Once you’re on the other side, momentum builds, and you start to wonder why it was ever able to hold you back.

You just have to be brave enough to create that single spark to launch you into the next phase of your life.

Behold, Your Mother

Catholics catch a lot of shade from other Christians over the idea that we don’t live the Bible. A closer look under the hood would revel just how intertwined Scripture and Catholicism truly are, and not just because we gave the world the Bible. From the way we decorate the sanctuary, to the priest’s vestments, to the words we pray, the daily life of the Church is deeply linked to the Old and New Testaments.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for Christians is the way that the Catholic Church reveres Mary. That’s an odd thing to object to, when Mary’s place in Salvation History links the Old Covenant to the New.

The Fourth Commandment is to honor thy father and thy mother. Seems strange to ignore the mother of Jesus?

In the ancient kingdom of Israel, the queen is not the wife of the king, but the king’s mother. Jesus took His rightful place on the throne of David, making Mary his queen.

On the Cross, Mary stood at the feet of Jesus, along with John, the apostle that He loved. He said to Mary, referring to John, “Behold, your son.” To John, “Behold, your mother.” There’s a cultural context here. In ancient times, a woman was dependent first on her husband for social and economic support. We know that Joseph, her spouse, died before Jesus even began His public ministry. Jesus would’ve taken on that role of protector. Now, at the cross, she loses her only child, a son. She was at grave risk of becoming destitute, until Christ entrusted her to John. John, an apostle, was one of the first bishops of the Church. So to entrust Mary to John was to ask him to care for her materially, but also to make her mother of the Church. This is reinforced when Christ calls John her son.

We do not worship Mary, or ask her intercession superstitiously. Rather, we respect the place of honor that Christ Himself gave to her: the queen Mother of the Church. Holding Mary in this place of honor is not an invention of the Church or a theological musing, but Catholics taking seriously the truths entrusted to us in Scripture. Mary is our mother, and we treat her with the love and respect that she deserves.

Come Let Us Adore

Although I’m a cradle Catholic, I’ve never really read the entire Bible. I learned about parts of it in school, and of course have heard it during Mass, but until this year, I’ve never sat down to study the Bible in a narrative form.

Looking at the Bible, the Old Testament is far longer than the New Testament. It’s the story of the people of Israel, and although I’m not Jewish, it becomes clear how their story is my story. The mistakes that they made in relationship with God are the same ones that I make today. The daily life of the Church is entirely biblical: from the way we decorate our Churches to the prayers we pray.

In the history of Israel, the Ark of the Covenant plays a central role. God dictated exactly how the Ark should be built, decorated, and even carried. Initially, the Israelites were faithful to God’s instructions. But, given time, complacency set in. In the book of 2nd Samuel, the great King David was working on returning the Ark to its rightful place in Jerusalem. We read, though, that the Ark was not being carried by the priests as God asked, but on an oxen-pulled cart.

On the journey, it looked like the cart was going to tip over, and an Israelite man reached out to steady the Ark; God struck him dead. This shocked David to his core, and he became angry with God. Sound familiar? This Israelite appeared to be trying to do something good, keep the Ark from tipping over, and yet God responded harshly. David was so upset and frightened, that he stopped the journey. He left the Ark in the house of Obed-edom, a Philistine.

2 Samuel tells us that the Ark was physically present in Obed-edom’s house for three months, “and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.” This was not a household of the chosen people, but that of an occasional enemy. Yet, in God’s presence, they couldn’t help but be blessed.

In every Catholic Church, all throughout the world, is a tabernacle, an Ark of the New Covenant, God physically present in our midst. He sits there in repose, longing to spend time with us, longing for relationship with us, longing to ease the burdens of our lives with the grace He has prepared for us.

Adoration is an opportunity to enter into God’s rest. It’s a chance to give ourselves permission to not worry, to not fret, to not be concerned with the stresses of our daily lives, but to pause and encounter the eucharistic Christ. Like Obed-edom, when we spend time in God’s presence, we can’t help but be blessed.

Comfort

Last night, when my work for the day was done, I laid down in my very comfortable bed. I recently replaced my pillow, which made for an extra cushy experience. The late summer heat was kept at bay by my air conditioner, backed up by my ceiling fan. I used a supercomputer that easily fits into my pocket to turn off all the lights in my house, arm my security system, lock my doors, and turn on a white noise machine, so no loud noises would disturb my sleep.

We live in a world of peak comfort. We have access to every piece of human knowledge, the ability to travel the world through powered flight, and view any work of art on a screen. Musicians play their music for us, at will, through our speakers, and we have more minutes of video to watch than we could ever possibly get around to.

What have we done with this comfort? Despite overcoming almost every natural barrier, we haven’t found happiness. Like the people of Israel, we have a direct connection to knowledge of God, but we choose not to let it change us. They had the prophets, we have the Eucharistic Christ and all of His words. Still, we are asleep.

It’s good for us to harness technology and use it to power our betterment. We can use our phones to pray using the Hallow app, or to doom scroll away our day on social media. We can use air conditioning to protect us from dangerous heat, or to resist spending time in God’s creation. We can use medicine to correct dysfunction, or to cause death and destruction.

The people of Israel had little comfort in the world, and they turned away from God. We have all the comfort in the world, and we still turn away. It's time to wake up.

Letting Go of Efficiency

It’s a Friday morning and time to run errands in the big city. Before we leave the house, I cycle through the various routes, selecting the most efficient option. Our departure time is calculated carefully, accounting for bathroom breaks, finding shoes, and getting out the door. Along the way, seconds are shaved off our travel time as I select the best lane, optimal cruise speed, and maneuver around slower traffic.

This is how my mind works, always working for optimization. I plan, recompute, and adjust my day to get things done in the best possible way. It just happens. For most things, that’s fine. We safely and efficiently move through our errands, check tasks off of my list, and get more stuff done.

In parenting, efficiency isn’t always the right choice.

I can clean the kitchen, wash the cars, and reorganize my closet with speed and precision on my own, but should I? Shouldn’t I let my two-year old pull dishes out of the clean dishwasher, one at a time, at random, instead of insisting on pulling out entire category groups? She’s so gleeful to help.

I can go to the office and knock out an hour’s worth of work in 45 minutes, but shouldn’t I take my son along with me to check out an airplane, and play with his LEGOs while I work? He’ll ask questions, share his thoughts, and slow me down. It’s not efficient, but is it better?

I can wash a car in 90 minutes, getting it to showroom perfection, but shouldn’t I let my daughter pick up the hose and go a little crazy? Shouldn’t I hand her the wash mit and let her take some of the dirt off of the car, too?

We all remember that point in time when we realized that our parents were their own people. They have their own thoughts, needs, hopes, and dreams. As children, our minds weren’t able to comprehend that others have the same desires that we have. Now on the other side of that equation, I can see into my children’s minds, but they cannot yet see into mine.

I’m a very efficient person, but when it comes to each day and each task, it’s okay if I invite my children into my world, and I perform at a level just a few notches below peak.