Desperate for nuance

There’s a twitter war going on right now about a priest tweeting about women covering their shoulders at Mass. (I feel no need to link to it because the specifics aren’t the point.)

I find the tweet poorly stated and ill-advised. There are things that are best stated in long form, not in a tweet. If I was forced to give a thumbs up or down to the tweet, it would be a thumbs down. It lacked any nuance or tact.

But just as maddening are the reply tweets and blog posts. They too lack any nuance. They write as if covering shoulders is only about the shoulders and not the level of coverage of the torso as a whole. They write as if there is no nuance in the issue of distraction and men should be able to avoid being distracted by a woman no matter how she is dressed. They write as if there are no standards for men’s dress to ensure some level of modesty from them. They write as if a request for modesty in dress from women is mutually exclusive to the request that men control their behavior and their eyes. They act as if the Church can’t work on solving more than one problem at a time (specifically distracting with the issue of the priest abuse scandal).

And I’m not saying the above as if there isn’t some appropriate balance. There’s a spectrum of dress from the very modest to the down-right hyper sexual. I’d hope those defending the priest would recognize that there are times when some scrupulous person takes offense at appropriately modest clothing. We should be wary of making overly black-and-white statements in defense of modesty.

I’d also hope those objecting to the priest’s tweet would recognize that there is a point where immodesty is distracting to even the most chaste eyed man. Along those lines, I’d hope they’d be willing to discuss the idea that clothing standards have value even when the specifics can create arbitrary lines. It can both be true that there can be clothing that meets an arbitrary standard and be more immodest than one that does not, but also true that a semi-arbitrary standard can still have the effect of keeping clothing appropriately modest.

I’d love to be able to discuss the matter intelligently with others. I’d love to have a productive and valuable discussion about how to avoid the worst of both extremes. But I feel like any attempt to discuss the matter in a nuanced and mature way will get shouted down by both sides and nothing of value will be discussed in any depth.

And it’s not just this topic. It feels like just about any topic these days has become polarized and lacking in any middle ground. It seems that in just about any topic, any middle ground statement will be met with condemnation from both polarized extremes. Or (and this can sometimes be worse) it can be embraced by one side and viewed as part of the polarized discussion, despite the evenhanded words.

And thus I am desperate for some nuance in our world.

Weak or humble?

I love the overall message of this video:

Awesome stuff! Really great, great, great stuff!

But I must admit that I recoiled a bit at the choice of the word “weak”. I would have chosen the word “humble”. It is not weak to be an instrument of God’s grace. It is not weak to let God shine through you. In fact it takes great fortitude to say no to the pride that can get in the way of being a conduit to God for others. Humility, which seems to me is the ultimate point the bishop is getting at, actually takes a strength of character that is contrary to human nature.

But one of the things I’ve been learning to do in the last couple years is to be more humble in my assessments. And I’ve wondered in the couple days since I first watched it if perhaps I was being too judgmental. To compound that, when I re-watched it, I saw a theme in the Bishop’s homily that perhaps made weak the appropriate term.

The bishop says that “we are not looking for super-men”, and that sounds right to me. Because to be super-men is to attempt to deny our human weakness. We are not Gods. We are mankind. And for a priest to be effective, he must fully embrace his humanity. He can not let ‘En Persona Christi’ get too close to his heart so that he thinks he shares more with the divine than with the human. He must always be a man, with human weakness, not a super-man, who deludes himself into thinking he has risen above.

And so while I think humble is in many ways the right term and the term I would have used if giving a homily in this arena, I have to admit that there’s a value in thinking in terms of weakness.

Happiness from the past or future?

(Quick administrative aside: It’s still the plan to get to the backlog of videos to post and to get to daily video posting.  Other priorities keep getting in the way.  In the meantime, expect occasional posts about topics as they come to my mind.)

I’ve been slowly reading ‘Seven Storey Mountain’ by Thomas Merton and there was a passage I just read that struck me.  He was talking about an incident where he appeared happy to a friend whom he had bumped into on the street.  The friend asked him, “Where are you going?” under the assumption that it was excitement of a future event that was the cause of his happiness.

But in fact, it was the other way around, Merton’s joy came from having come from Mass and receiving the Eucharist.

It makes me think of the odd trend we as American’s have regarding Christmas.  We spend a month (or more) in a joyful mood looking forward to Christmas.  Yet most of us spend no more than a day celebrating Christmas.  The most common sight I see the day after Christmas: Dead trees on the curb.

Obviously both the future and the past should be opportunities for happiness in our minds.  As Christians we are people of hope.  The thought and planning for the future should bring us happiness and joy.  But I think we’re too quick to let go of our past joys instead of letting them linger in our hearts.  We should let the good of the past hour, day, week or even month, constantly infect us with happiness and joy.

Let’s make that a goal for the near term, to be as happy about the joys of the past as about what we are looking forward to.

The little ways God speaks to us

Last Friday through Saturday, our parish has a day of prayer and fasting for the reparation of the sins of the Church.  We exposed the blessed Sacrament on the altar at noon and scheduled parishioners to be present and pray all day and all through the night, ending with daily Mass on Saturday morning.  All of the clergy, both deacons and priests, committed to spending significant time in prayer along with the parish.  To that end I came from the noon exposition through 2:30 PM (when I needed to return home for the kids getting home from school) and then returned in the evening from 6:00 PM through 10:30 PM.

The first thing to comment on is how good it is to be in silent prayer for long periods of time, particularly if one can have the benefit of being in front of Christ in the Eucharist.  We live in a world that is remarkably noisy.  It is very rare that we’ll spend 4 hours in silent prayer.  And if you’ve never done it, I urge you to do it soon.  God talks when we listen, it just takes a while for us to clear our head enough to listen.  Do it soon!

To that end, during the 9 o’clock hour I was kneeling for Taize prayer (OK, it wasn’t entirely silent).  My legs weren’t cooperating.  I’ve gained a fair amount of weight this year and my legs haven’t been that happy with the extra weight when I kneel for extended periods.  But I was determined to stay on my knees throughout Taize.  After about 15 minutes, just when it seemed I would have to sit down, the outside of my vision got foggy.  Not the center; I could see the monstrance very clearly.  But my periphery vision got pretty out of focus and clouded.  It was as if God was encouraging me to be solely focused on him.

And then I heard his wisdom in my mind.  “Trust in me.  I am more powerful than anyone could possibly imagine.  Anything is possible.”  From that moment, kneeling became much more easy and I was able to last the entire 40 minutes of Taize on my knees.  Additionally, never in my life have I been so sharply focused on staring at Christ.  Not much more was said between us for the remainder of the time.  There were echos of what God previously had shared with me, but mostly it was just quiet.  Instead it was spiritual communion unlike anything I had previously experienced.  Christ was with me and I was with Him.

I am very grateful for the experience.

So… spend time in prayer.  Make it a priority.  Find some quiet time to listen to God.  Turn off the phone (really, not just on vibrate, make it so it will in no way interrupt you in any way, even a minor way).  Turn off any music with words that will grab your attention.  Give the Lord at least an hour to speak to you.  Give God the time He desires.  Give you brain the time it needs to calm and clear itself so that it can truly listen to God.

You will not be disappointed.

I’ve realized I made a mistake

This occurred to me last Friday night during adoration… I’ve boxed myself in too much with the format I was planning on for this site.  I need to be more flexible that wanting everything to be a video/podcast/blog in one.  So expect to see more text-only posts in the future.

I’m still hoping to get through my summer backlog of videos and get them posted.  And when I’m done with that I’m still hopeful I can post 3-5 videos a week.  But I’ll also be just posting thoughts in text-only posts as they come to me.  I also may add an after-mass podcast feature in the future.

So, while things have been slow here, they will pick back up in the future and be more diverse.


I haven’t posted in almost a month… Oops! 🙂

The back-story is multifaceted. The first is that I’ve been struggling with motivation on doing the video editing for my backlog of videos. It’s a lot more fun to record them than edit them together. It’s one thing to record, then immediately edit and post, but it’s harder to find that motivation when there’s a big backlog to get through.  To make matters “worse”, I kept recording videos until a couple weeks ago, so the backlog kept getting bigger and bigger.

Then, school started for the kids two weeks ago and the family has been struggling through getting back into school-time routines.

Finally, I decided I wanted to make some changes to the video setup.  Improved lighting.  New backdrop.  Better audio.  And frankly, that hasn’t been going as well as I’d like.

So when one puts that all together, the result is no posts for a month.  But fear not, there’s a plan to get back on track:

  • Next week is going to be video editing catch-up week.  My goal is to get all the backlog posts edited and uploaded
  • I won’t be recording any new videos while I’m doing that, to free my time to do it
  • I will be finishing the video setup changes so that starting after Labor Day I’m ready to rumble
  • Starting 9/4, I’ll do my darnedest to record, edit and post every morning, so you’re actually getting fresh content

So stay tuned… more is to come!

One set down, two more to go

OK, I got through part of the video backlog. I posted all the ones associated to the backpacking trip: 7/11, 7/12, 7/13 and 7/14.

I figure I’ve got two sets let to catch up on. One is the “from the cabin” set recorded 7/16, 7/17 and 7/18 (although 7/18 was recorded at home, but is reflective of the trip). The other is the ones from this week, which I only found time for two thus far: 7/24 and 7/26.

But unfortunately I’m not going to get to those soon as I’m back off to the cabin for one last trip before the kids are back in school (in less than 2 weeks!). I’m hopefully I can catch up on the backlog by the end of next week, but we’ll see, because I also hope to create videos tonight, 7/27 and tomorrow 7/28 from the cabin as well as a couple early next week from the cabin.

Expect to see my next post, next Weds., 8/1.

Video Diary: 14th Saturday in Ordinary Time

(Posting note: This was recorded on Saturday July 14th, but I didn’t find time to edit, transcribe and post until today, Friday July 26th.  I apologize for the poor audio quality.  Between the cars going by on the road and I think a weak connection between my microphone and the smartphone, it isn’t my best audio.)

A blessed 14th Saturday in Ordinary Time to you and your family.  I’m Deacon Ken Crawford and this is my 11th video in my series as a newly ordained deacon.  As expected I did make it back to the cabin today.  Perhaps you can see behind me here, I’m no longer on the trail or in my tent.  It was a lot of very difficult hiking to get here.  My youngest son Peter did exceptionally well in very difficult hiking environments.

A question people may have had is how do I keep up with my prayers while on the trail?  Do I bring my full book along?

This is one of the rare cases where I actually resort the phone and particularly the iBriviary app.  I have to bring a phone for other reasons on the trail.  It’s how I take pictures.  It’s how I do satellite communication and a number of things.  I think it’s worth it to have it all in one package.  I’m very weight conscious on the trail.  Normally I’m very opposed to the idea of doing the breviary out of the phone.  A lot of people like it because it automatically organizes everything.  You don’t have to worry about all your ribbons and getting everything straight.  And that’s a reasonable concern.

But for me, that’s a big distraction having that on my phone.  A text comes in; an e-mail comes in; anything like that, and it really breaks my prayer concentration.  So I’ve decided long ago that for the most part I never use the app.  I use the book.  That way I can focus on prayer and not worry about the interruptions that come along with trying to do your prayers on the phone.  It is nice how they organize things.  You don’t have to worry about what day it is and setting the ribbons and all that kind of complicated stuff.  But I just don’t think it is worth the penalty that comes from having to be connected to your phone.

Now on the trail, I’ll use the app, in part because of the weight, but also because there’s no e-mails coming in.  There’s no texts coming in.  I’m in the middle of nowhere where there’s no cell reception or wifi or anything like that.  So it’s not a concern out there.  Kind of a win-win in that situation.  Not only do they have it all organized, but you can download a whole week’s worth of it, which is what I did in this case, and still keep up with your prayers.

Now, a little bit of a mea culpa, for the first time this morning, throughout the trip, I didn’t do my morning prayers.  I was so consumed with getting here to my destination that I overlooked it.  I think it’s the first time since I’ve been ordained that I’ve missed my prayers.  I’m not sure exactly how I’ll deal with that.  Tonight I’ll do some sort of make-up prayer.  Maybe I’ll do both evening and night prayer as kind of a compensation.  Maybe I’ll do morning prayer as well as evening prayer.  I haven’t decided.  But I do think it’s important to keep up your prayer routines and find some way to make up for it when you don’t.  Even though technically it’s not fulfilling the letter of the law, I think it is following the spirit of the law.

I’m very glad to have finished the trip successfully.  I’m very proud of my boys for having done it.  We did 54 miles in 4 days.  That’s a lot of miles and a lot of up and down.  They did great.

Now I have a few days at the family cabin that you see behind (me).  I won’t be posting anything still yet for a number of days.  I won’t be posting tomorrow or making a video tomorrow because Sundays I try to take off.  I will try to do one Monday and Tuesday before returning to the home studio Wednesday.

Hopefully the background noise of vehicles passing by having completely ruined this video (no such luck!).  The great news about being out on the trail, again, none of those distractions.  But here we have vehicles driving by and what have you.  We’ll see when I get home how bad that’s been for the video.  Hopefully it will work out fine.

In any case, hopefully you like the clean version of me.  A nice (clean) shirt here and all of those sorts of things over the very grimy person you saw growing every day on the trail.  But in either case, God bless you.  God bless you and your family.  I will pray for you.  I ask for your prayers for my ministry and safe return.  There’s no need to pray for the trip anymore because we’re done.  By the glory of God it was a wonderful, wonderful trip and we got home safely, to the cabin safely.  So thank you for watching, and God willing, I’ll be able to post one of these on Monday.

Video Diary: 14th Friday in Ordinary Time

(Posting note: This was recorded on Friday July 13th, but I didn’t find time to edit, transcribe and post until today, Friday July 26th.  This is the last one on the trail so video quality will be improving with the next post.)

A blessed 14th Friday in Ordinary Time to you and your family.  I’m Deacon Ken Crawford and this the 10th in my video series as a newly ordained deacon.   I was ordained on June 30th, just coming up on 2 weeks now, pretty soon.  For those of you who have been watching, I’m on a backpacking trip right now.  I finished day 3.  I’m here in the tent.  It was a long day today, 16 miles, which was very hard on particularly my 10 year old (son).  Which is I think my topic for this evening, when he was distracted, when we were talking about his older brother’s potential girl interest or about things that didn’t get done this summer that dad wasn’t too pleased with his older brothers, he was fine.  He would hike and hike and hike and hike.  But then when the focus would come on to how tired he was, then all of a sudden he would be on the verge of tears because it was a long, long hike.

In fairness to him, it was a long, long day.

But my point is, I think that’s a good metaphor for life.  There are times when we let our difficulties consume us in ways that we shouldn’t.  If we were just to focus on other things; focus on the positives in our lives; focus on the good things that we want to focus on; we could endure many of the hardships that we sometimes let cripple us.  One of the neat things about being on the trail is that there are so many metaphors for struggle and perseverance in life.  This was the one that stuck out to me today.  Sometimes we just need to focus on other things; not worry so much about the particulars of what is bother us and just say ‘you know, just keep doing what we’re doing’.  Do we have a path to success?  Are we following where God wants us to go?  And if so, just endure the hardship.   Don’t worry about it.  It will be fine.  You’ll look back on it as a great thing.

That’s the funny thing about the backpacking trips.  (And I’ve been doing them for 5 plus years now with the boys, as they’ve reached the appropriate age, so the youngest one is just now starting, this is his first year.  Where my sophomore in high school has been doing it for a number of years now.)  There’s so many trips where it just seemed like they couldn’t care less, that they hated the experience, that they hated their father for at least some short period of time.  Then they get home.  They want to talk about how it was the most awesome thing that ever happened.  They are so glad they went.  It was awesome.  It was wonderful.  Telling their mother, my wife, all about it.  And again, it’s often that sort of thing.  Sometimes we look back on our hardships as the greatest times in our lives.

So lets endure them with more peace; with more comfort; with more knowledge that God puts us where He needs us to be.  Sometimes that’s very challenging.  Sometimes He needs us to grow in some way and the only way for that to happen is by going through this hardship.  Sometimes this hardship is for someone else’s benefit, who really needs it and can’t bear it, but we can bear it for them.  And that’s OK.  Let’s not worry so much.  There’s so many good things in life.

There’s an old musician who had this analogy, he said, “If we could just start flying.  Not in an airplane, but like we had wings and FLY!  We’d be thrilled for… you know… a week.  And then a week later it would be like ‘Well everyone can fly, why am I special? I can only do what everyone else can do.'”  We are blessed with so many things but we compare ourselves in relative ways that are unnecessary.  Poor children in the worst part of the world have joy in their lives.  How can that be?

Well, it can be because there is still joy even amongst poverty.  Not that we shouldn’t try to help people in poverty, but no matter what situation you are in, in life, this existence is a beautiful, wonderful existence.  It is something to be joyous about.  Sometimes we forget that.  Sometimes we need to be put through hard times to recognize that.  Sometimes we need to know a difficult time so the good times are all that much better.

Let’s just try endure those tough times with peace.

This actually should be the last on the trail report.  I’m still not going to be back in internet connectivity land for a handful of more days because we’re going to be at the family cabin and it is out of internet zone.  I don’t know how my children will survive that travesty.  So I’ll post a couple more from the cabin, but of course you won’t know any of this until I get home and can post the entire series.

With that, God bless you.  God bless your families.  Pray for me.  Pray for my ministry.  Pray retroactively for this hike that I’m finishing up.  I will pray for you and your family.  And God willing, I’ll be able to post one of these tomorrow.

Video Diary: 14th Thursday in Ordinary Time

(Posting note: This was recorded on Thursday July 12th, but I didn’t find time to edit, transcribe and post until today, Friday July 26th.  And while the in the tent version today is a bit better than yesterday, I still apologize for how horrible I look.  What can I say, the trail is not kind to one’s appearance!)

A blessed 14th Thursday in Ordinary Time to you and your family.  I’m Deacon Ken Crawford and this is my 9th video as newly ordained deacon.  You know, as I recorded this the 1st time (this is a repeat, for those of you who want to know the truth behind the series, so to speak) I couldn’t remember whether this is the 9th one.  It has been such a long couple days on the trail that you start to wonder, is this still the 8th, is it the 9th, I’m not sure… so… but I’m pretty confident after doing this again, that this is indeed my 9th video.  It is Thursday and I’ve recorded every day this week, plus 5 last week.

My topic for today is more about accepting the path in front of you.  As I was walking along today I did something that I very frequently do on the trail, and it is particularly easy to do when it is a long day of hiking, is that you really get frustrated when the trail goes down and then goes up and then goes down and then goes up.  And you’re thinking WHY?  Sometime you can even see a way that the path could gone a different path and stayed more level.  Personally, I can hike a lot faster on flat ground.  I can go 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 miles an hour with a loaded pack on flat ground.  But going downhill I’m down to about 2 miles an hour as you’re trying to watch your footing.  And uphill it can go really slow.  I can be down to a mile an hour.  In fact, I usually judge it not so much based on distance but based on how many vertical feet I’m gaining.  I think I can do usually about 800 feet an hour, or when I was in a little bit better shape 1000 feet an hour.  It didn’t matter whether that was over a half mile or two miles.  So it’s a lot slower doing those things that going on flat (ground).  So you’re thinking, “WHY IS THIS TRAIL TORTURING ME!?!  They could have just moved around that peninsula over there and I would have had to go down and up and up and up.”

And it occurred to me that I’m being way too picky.  I’m blessed to have the life I have.  I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be on the trail with my boys.  My boy Peter is sitting right here with me in the tent.  (In fact, I hope you like the ‘in tent edition’.  I was hoping that perhaps it would be a little bit more stable and have good video.)  But it’s just such a blessed place to be.  There’s wonderful scenery out there.  It was a great day on the trail.  And here I am spending a good third of my time obsessing about whether the trail could have been that much more perfect.

I think we do that with a lot of things in our life.  We get too bogged down in minutia that by the way, we may not be right about.  We may be wrong.  There may be an exceptionally good reason why the trail went up and down as opposed to around the way that looks to me like a reasonably good way to go.  But I didn’t actually hike over there.  I don’t actually know whether that would have been good and fine.  And I think this analogy applies to so many things in our lives.  We get worried about the path and which way it goes and it should be and whether it is ideal as possible.  We need to instead focus on, is this overall a good journey?  Is this overall where God is leading us?  Are we thinking about what is really important and not letting the minutia, the details, mess everything up?

That’s my thought for today.  I always like to keep these short.  I think I’m going to keep them doubly short on the trail because I am TIRED!  We did 11 miles yesterday and it was almost all up hill, about 5500 vertical feet up.  Today we did 12 miles and we did it all before 2 o’clock so that we could get to this campground and hopefully get a spot before it filled up on a Thursday of people starting to think about coming out for the weekend (which we did, thank goodness).  Thank the Good Lord for that!  It would have been very hard if the campground wasn’t open.  So, going to keep this short.  Hopefully you like the ‘in-tent edition’ better.

God bless you.  God bless your families.  I will pray for you.  I ask that you pray for my ministries.  I ask that you pray retroactively for this journey that we’re on, this backpacking trip.  And God willing, I’ll be able to record one of these tomorrow.  God bless.

Video Diary: Feast of St. Benedict (July 11th, 2018)

(Posting note: This was recorded on Wednesday, July 11th but I didn’t find time to edit, transcribe and post until today, Thursday July 26th.  Also, I apologize for the *HORRIBLE* video quality and my ridiculously ugly mug.  I don’t think I really looked that bad in person, but the combo of the lighting, poor video quality and the such made me look ridiculously bad.  The good news is I think the following two days, which were recorded inside the tent, look a little better.)

A blessed Feast of St. Benedict to all of you, and blessing to you and your family.  I’m Deacon Ken Crawford and this is the 8th in my video series as a newly ordained Deacon.   As a reminder I was ordained Saturday June 30th, a week and a half ago.

As promised I’m doing video diaries from the field.  This is me at my first campsite for the evening.  As you can see, I’ve been working hard all day.  This is not the most attractive mug you’ve ever seen but oh well!

It was a beautiful day today.  We hiked up a very large hill to get up on the plateau above the river canyon, the boys and I.  It just reminded me how special of a creation that God created for us.  I love getting out here and being amongst the trees and nature and all those sorts of things.  The other thing that struck me, we past a ton of hiker today.  The Pacific Crest trail has become amazingly popular.  We passed 70 people today going the other way on the trail.  It’s the peak period.  At some level it’s not surprising the number is high.  It is surprising that it is THAT high.  In any case, people are very nice on the trail.  They greet each other, they say hi, all those things.  And I noticed I wasn’t willing to give them any sort of a Catholic or Christian greeting.  You know, ‘God bless you’ or ‘God’s spirit be with you’ or anything like that.  I was very secular in what I would say.

I’m not sure I like that.  I think that this is something I need to consider and work on.  But on the other hand I need to do it in a way that is tactful and not derisive to anyone.  (Sorry for the mosquito swatting.  I’m wearing repellent but these suckers are very, very determined to get to me.)

So I think that’s my thought for the day.  How far do we go?  How much do we challenge ourselves?  As a deacon, do I challenge myself further than I would have as a lay person.  I don’t know…

I’m going to keep these short as always.  God’s blessing to all of you.  I hope all of you have opportunities like this to get out into nature to commune with the creation that God made for us.  I will pray for you.  I will pray for your families.  I continue to ask for you prayers for my ministry and in the short term (although you won’t see this until after I get back) I wouldn’t mind prayer for our safe journey.

And with that, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Posts finally coming!

OK, I apparently needed a vacation after my vacation.  Backpacking always takes a lot out of me and I’ve spent the last week getting my feet back underneath me and cleaning up.  As a result, the video editing, transcribing and posting has been non-existent.  The good news is I do have a few new videos created since I got home, so there’s lots of content to post.  My hope is to get a handful posted before I leave on a 4-day vacation starting tomorrow.

Backlog going to take a few days…

I made videos on:

  • Weds 7/11
  • Thurs 7/12
  • Fri 7/13
  • Sat 7/14
  • Mon 7/16
  • Tues 7/17

But the whole time I was “off the grid” and so they haven’t been posted.  I had indicated in previous videos (as well as a number of the yet to be posted ones) that I would get them posted today, but I sorely under estimated my other backlog items, including an online class I need to finish up this week.

My expectation is I’ll be able to post 2-3 a day and be caught up by early next week.  I’ll also be recording episodes for the remainder of the week, but I’ll post them in chronological order.

I apologize for the delay.

Video Diary: 14th Tuesday in Ordinary Time

A blessed 14th Tuesday in Ordinary Time. I’m Deacon Ken Crawford and this is my 7th video as a newly ordained deacon. God bless you to you all this morning and God bless you to your families.

Today I want to talk a little bit about spiritual direction, something I had to engage in during the formation process, with specific spiritual direction with a spiritual director. I started out with somebody who was a dear friend and priest but not particularly trained in spiritual direction. It was an enjoyable experience but later learned when I went to someone who was well trained in spiritual direction that actually it was not good spiritual direction.

I think there is a great need in our world for spiritual direction. It is so difficult to see in ourselves certain patterns. It’s the same reason we need a psychologist in certain cases. But unlike a psychologist who really is trying to deal with negative situations and correcting them, spiritual direction can hopefully be something in the positive direction. We can look at our lives and our spirituality and our relationship with God and finding ways to grow to closer to Him.

It has changed my life to have good spiritual direction. Fr. Dave has done a wonderful job of guiding me, not telling me what to do, but letting God tell me what to do and helping me listen to God better. There was one key moment where I said something and he told me, “Do you think that came from Christ?” And I had to reflect and say “No, I don’t think it did.” It was not something that would have occurred to me without the benefit of spiritual direction.

The difficult part is it is difficult to get a spiritual director. I was able to get one because I was in formation and I have been able to latch on to him and stick with him as a newly ordained deacon, but it is very difficult to find a spiritual director. But I encourage you to try. It’s a difficult thing. It’s worth the effort. It’s not something you only need when you’re in trouble or struggling spiritually. If anything it is at its best when you are not, when you are trying to grow and deepen your spirituality. So go out and find one. Find someone who’s well trained. A clergyman is awesome but it doesn’t need to be. Lay people can do this job wonderfully. Just find someone who’s a good trained spiritual director. I personally I like an Ignatian model but there are other models that are worth investigating as well.

So that’s my topic for today, but I do have one more thing to discuss. I’m going on a backpacking trip and then a trip to my family cabin, starting tomorrow. So I won’t be posting videos but I will be recording videos from the trail. So what you’re going to see is for about the week, you’ll see some short text posts that will say they are from an InReach device (because that’s my satellite device that I can communicate with from on the trail) to the blog portion. But no podcasts and no video diary.

But I will be recording the video diary every day so when I get home I will do my best to post all of those within a couple days of returning, as well as returning to the normal daily format from my home office. So it’s going to be a little quieter for about a week. There will be some content hopefully posted just in text format. But a lot of content coming in about a week, because it’s all going to be queued up waiting on my phone where I’ll be recording on a daily basis. So, look forward to those.

God bless you all. God bless you in all that you try to do for God’s sake, for the Church’s sake. God bless your families. I ask for your prayers as I embark on this backpacking trip with my sons. We’re going to do about 60 miles in 4 to 5 days, so a lot of hiking in front of us. I ask for your prayers for the safe travel of my family because they will be meeting us at the cabin. And God willing (I won’t really see you tomorrow, but I’ll be posting tomorrow) and I’ll see you in about a week.

Video Diary: 14th Monday in Ordinary Time

A blessed 14th Monday in Ordinary time to you and your family. And also a blessed memorial of the Japanese Martyrs include St. Augustine Zhao Rong.

Today I’m going to talk about my first Mass assisting by myself. Last week’s Mass we had a special feast with both priests and all 3 new deacons. This Sunday it was just me and (by the way) the newly ordained priest who was just assigned to our parish. So it was kinda the new squad just up from “triple A” and now playing in the “majors. He has been ordained for a month so he’s a bit more veteran that I, but we’re both still pretty fresh.

A couple of mistakes right off the bat…

I was worried about this from the beginning, but the sleeves on our dalmatics and albs are so big and bulky. Particularly as men we’re not used to clothing with extra parts on it. So, sure enough, in the sacristy, my arm catches a ciborium full of hosts and sends them flying on the floor. They had to be thrown away. Thank God they were not consecrated so they could be thrown away as opposed to have to bury or consume them. So Mass hadn’t even started yet and I’m already blundering away.

My 2nd big mistake was, and it was kinda something I had heard what they had done with past deacons and hadn’t realized there had been a change… it used to be that the main chalice that the priest used that was they lone chalice filled by the deacon, was used for the entire congregation after it was used on the altar. There had been complaints that the deacons weren’t filling it all the way and so there wasn’t enough (precious) blood for the congregation from that chalice.

Well, apparently that had changed and now just the priest and deacon are taking from the celebrants chalice. All the additional chalices that have always been there are the ones used for the congregation. In any case, I took all of the wine and poured it in its entirety into this chalice not realizing that it was going to be for me and father. So he just took a little. Then because of a much smaller mistake on my part I ended up taking from another chalice and so we had this nearly full, I mean 3/4ths to the top, chalice of precious blood.

Then I kinda panicked (not as far as the congregation saw) because I didn’t know what to do, so I ended up having someone take it down to the congregation. Then it wasn’t brought back (to the altar) because of the way we do things at our parish they are cleaned afterwards in the sacristy, so the celebrants chalice didn’t make it back onto the altar because that one is usually cleaned (by the priest on the altar)… Oy!

There’s all these little details!

And it can’t be part of the training because it is specific to each parish. And then dominoes fall if you don’t get it right.

But I think I did learn, or I had learned in the past and it helped yesterday, that I knew to just roll with the punches. Take it peacefully. Not worry too much about it. Just make sure that perhaps after the fact the right things were done to make sure the chalice was properly purified and all of those sorts of things. Thus 99% of the congregation had no idea what was going on. It was just the few Eucharistic ministers, the priest and myself and our liturgy coordinator who were in the know.

Then afterwards we talked it over, we understood that in the future I just need to put enough wine in there for father and I. So these are all the little details that make… I don’t even think this is a new deacon thing, this is kinda a new to a parish or with a new priest kind of problem that of course when you’re serving as a new deacon is going to be the case. So I learned that one the hard way.

The other pieces, I could already feel it’s week 2, I’m remembering my lines better. I’m more comfortable. I know what to do. Even though I was doing all the parts of the Mass that the deacon does, unlike the prior week where it was spread out (between us 3 new deacons), I could just feel myself slowly getting more comfortable with that. I can imagine 3, 4, or 5 weeks from now, so much of this is going to be… 2nd nature is too strong… but easy to remember and not something I get stressed about. I think you just have to be patient with yourself and let it develop. See how it goes and not worry too much.

Again, love to keep these short. Tomorrow I’ll be talking about my spiritual director because my meeting with him is today. But I want to say:

God bless you! To all of you who made it to Mass yesterday I hope it was a blessed experience. Even with the little debacles it was a blessed experience for me. I will pray for you and for your families. Pray for me and my ministry. And God willing, I’ll see you tomorrow.