Archive for July, 2010

Dinner at a Friends House – 7/11/2010

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

     In the Fall of 2008, my parents, my wife and I, chose a particular weekday and made the drive downtown to attend midday mass.  We were even more excited than usual because for Wendy and I, it was our first time to be inside of the newly completed, blessed, and dedicated Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral of the Galveston-Houston Diocese. Oh we had driven by the beautiful landmark on numerous occasions, but never had the opportunity nor the time to actually enter the doors and see for ourselves what so many of our friends had been marveling about for months on end.  We had heard stories of the lavish marble altar, the high-rise stained glass art, the imported statues of various Catholic saints, and all of the other facets that contributed to the majestic appeal of this new place of worship in our fair city.  We were, needless to say, a tad more enthused than usual when we parked the car and crossed the street to attend mass.

     My parents, who had been able to attend one of the initial celebratory masses during the Co-Cathedral’s first week of official usage, were beside themselves with delight as they awaited our reaction.  We made sure to arrive at least 30 minutes early for the midday service so that we would have time both before and after mass to take photographs and for individual prayer time at some of the many shrines housed within the walls of such a holy place.  While I could truly go on and on at attempting to describe the beauty and elegance of the structure and all of the amenities within, let me just say that everything we had heard was true.  It is a breathtaking tribute to our Lord and our faith.

     Before we knew it, it was time to be seated for the start of mass.  I looked around and saw people of all walks of life filtering in for the service.  Businessmen, health professionals, families like our own, individuals of all ages gradually made their way to a pew and awaited the announcement of the opening song.  I couldn’t help but smile as my mind drifted momentarily to other notable times in my life when I had been blessed to attend Catholic mass at a place other than my home parish.  Whether that mass took place in a neighboring state or across the Atlantic in Europe it was universally the same service that we were experiencing at that moment.  One of the truest gifts of our Catholic faith is its sameness.

     Later that same day,  my wife and I were recalling our exuberance and enthusiasm as we were preparing to visit this newest “house of the Lord”, it reminded me of a time when we had been invited a friend’s house for dinner.  I had volunteered to teach a Bible study for a small group of interested youth from our parish.  As it turned out, the only attendees for my class were three daughters from the same family.  Their parents appreciated the fact that I was willing to devote 6 weeks of my time to teach a class that was basically for their kids.  As a result of this, they had invited both Wendy and I to their home for a family dinner.  As we were making the drive to their home, we shared our anxiousness about the evening that was about to unfold.  What would they be serving for dinner?  What would we talk about?  Will we feel comfortable?  Will they?  How long should we stay?  Should we bring anything with us? Do they have a dog?

Of course, once we got there all of our nervous questions and doubts disappeared almost instantly.  We were given a comfortable place to sit.  They offered us something to drink.  The dinner was incredibly tasty.  We laughed together.  We shared stories.  We broke bread.  We prayed.  We felt at home because the family made us feel instantly welcome once they opened the door.  Believe it or not, we had such a wonderful time and before you knew it, it was time to go.  They assured us that we could come back any time, and we could tell by the look in their eyes and on their faces that they were all so very sincere with their open invitation.  On the drive home, we had only one question, “How long would it be before we would be able to come back?”

The very same feelings of excitement and anticipation that we had felt on our way to this parish family’s home was identical to our feelings about our first visit to Houston’s new Co-Cathedral.  It makes me wonder if other people look at going to mass the same way as this.  In the past 10 years or so, our Catholic church has been the victim of countless, ongoing attacks from Hollywood, the media, and society in general.  While this is hardly a new development, the Catholic church being under siege from outside and from within, it is nonetheless a factor that some people use as their justification for turning away from their house of the Lord.

I also acknowledged the tendency that occurs when there has been some distance between relationships.  Have you ever had a friend that you sort of lost contact simply because you’re both preoccupied?  You keep thinking of them, and meaning to pick up the phone and call, but for some reason you don’t.  This happens to me quite a bit.  At 45 years old, I have met so many wonderful people in my life, but its physically not possible to stay close to each and every one of them.  So time passes.  These people remain in my thoughts but sometimes it feels like the longer I wait to re-establish contact with them, the harder it is to do it.  Perhaps this is also how it is with our brothers and sisters who have fallen away from their faith?  Maybe they keep thinking about coming back to church, but things keep coming up or thoughts keep arising that blocks them from making that much needed return. 

My prayer is that for all those people who somehow find themselves cut off or forgotten or betrayed by the church, that they stop and remember that our God, our Father loves us unconditionally.  We are ALWAYS welcome in his house.  There is always a seat at his table.  Much like my wife and I’s visit to the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral or to the parish family for dinner, a return to the table of the Lord should be just as exhilerating and just as fulfilling.  My prayer is for all of those out there who have allowed time to pass and obstacles to keep them from returning to church, that they remember how it feels to be in a loving, inviting, welcoming house.  Such is the house of God. 

I also believe that more of us should take a moment while at mass to look around and realize that we are home.  We are loved.  We are there as part of the body of Christ.  As we sit there, and look and listen to what God has provided for us, our fears, worries, and shortcomings will be lost.  It is at moments like this, where our doubts are replaced with peace, our fears are replaced with faith, and the question of “Will I feel comfortable??” will be replaced with “How long until I can come back?”

Life Nite – May 9 – “Senior Roast”

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

     Youth Director, Bobby Streight initiated a very popular tradition from his home parish in Corpus Christi, TX with the dawning of “The Senior Roast”.  This special Life Teen event is an evening which focuses on the graduating senior class from the program.  The entire night is run as an “open mic” opportunity.  This year 6 graduating seniors were seated at the front of the room at a long table and served dinner and a beverage by members of the Core Team.  After everyone got their food, Bobby invited any representative from the Life Teen attendees to step up to the podium and offer some “roast/toast” remarks about any or all of the seniors being highlighted.  After that, the Life Teen Core was allowed to throw in their two cents.  The night ended with each and every honored senior coming forward to have their “final say” of the night.   Karina, Alyssa, Pamela, Ryan, Lewis, and Elise thanks be to God for you and all that you contributed to the Life Teen experience while you were here.  There is no doubt that you will all go off to achieve a host of accomplishments.  There is also no doubt that your journey will be filled with pitfalls and valleys.  This is the nature of being alive.  However, take with you the fact that after one year of Life Teen you should be better equipped to handle those inevitable bumps in the road.  And you are always welcome back at STA.

     The night was a tremedous success because it came at the end of a school year, a  Life Teen year, and a high school era.  The event was a valuable exercise in public speaking and I have no doubt that each year from now on will be smoother, and even more powerful.  After all, juniors, sophomores and freshman in the Life Teen program now know what they have to look forward to when it is inevitably going to be their turn to sit at the front of the room as graduating seniors.

Consider This:     Being a graduating senior is a significant milestone for every teen because it symbolically represents your passage from dependent child to young adult.  For many it means leaving “the nest” and going out of the comforts of the cave and out into the “real world”.  Are you ready?  What tools have you gained so far in your life to better prepare you for the journey?  Devote some prayer time to ask God to help you see all of the gifts and tools that he has provided in your life.  A gratitude prayer is an ideal way of not getting too caught up on selfish wants and needs, and re-focusing on all the ways God is getting you prepared for the day you depart high school and embark into the world that awaits you.