My Thoughts on Las Vegas

When I woke up to the news of the terrible massacre in Las Vegas yesterday morning, I thought about all of the innocent people that lost their lives because of an evil coward. How many men, women, boys and girls will never see another moment on this earth because of one man’s cowardly act? I can’t fathom the pain and suffering that’s happening because of this.

Naturally, the first place many people go is to question or challenge the existence of God. Wouldn’t God protect his own from danger or from suffering? It’s true God allows us to suffer. Sometimes we suffer for the greater good in our lives. Other times there is no apparent reason for suffering, but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. While we may think we know what’s best for us, God allows us to suffer so that he can reveal what he says is the best for us.

So, how do you comfort someone who lost a loved one in such a horrific manner? Many say there aren’t any words that will heal a wounded heart from such a loss. It’s true that nothing I could say to someone will totally heal them from such a tragedy. The one thing I can say is that we have to keep trusting God, even in the midst of suffering. God hasn’t left us, he hasn’t failed us, he hasn’t forsaken us. He is with us all the time. Jesus died on the cross for us not to save us from the suffering of this world, but to prevent us from losing eternal life. He never said that we would be without suffering while on earth.

So after the worst massacre in modern American history, I am heartbroken, I am speechless, and I am angry. I spent most of the day yesterday so mad at the murderer for taking so many innocent lives. I remain angry and upset today. I’m sure more debates about gun control will spawn from this incident. That’s ok. At least we are talking about it, raising awareness, and taking action to protect the lives of millions of people.  It’s a joint effort we must all take part in – regardless of our stance on gun control. In the end, no level of gun control can completely protect us, but we can take steps in the right direction to prevent very dangerous people from getting their hands on guns.

If you are a parent like I am, the most important piece of advice I can give you is to never take one single moment with your family for granted. Spend time with your spouse and your kids. Love every moment you have as if it were your last. The families involved in this shooting never got the chance to say goodbye. There are kids that said goodbye to their moms or dads before the concert and will never see them again. Life is short. Don’t miss out on every single wonderful opportunity with your loved ones.

Please join me in offering up prayers for the 50+ souls that were lost yesterday, and for the grieving families that must face rough roads ahead. Please also pray for law enforcement, our government, and those that work with the families involved in this tragedy. May God bring them peace, comfort and hope even in the midst of such a tragic event.  I ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for us and lift our prayers up to her Son.

Eternal rest grant unto them , O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

 

 

7 Ways To Be A Catholic Dad To Your Kids

Society has painted an inaccurate picture of what a good dad should be.  Selfish, lazy, abusive, and controlling, are common attributes we see all over TV and in the modern world. Dads are doing things to their families today that are unthinkable and despicable. These types of dads do not deserve to be called “dad.”

7 Ways To Be A Catholic Dad To Your Kids

What Has God Called Us To Do?

Dads are called by God to be the spiritual leaders of the household. We should be raising our families to live and grow in the Catholic faith.  As heads of the household, this does not mean we can do anything we want and treat our family members any way that we want. Being the spiritual leader of the household is a major honor and responsibility. Everything that we do should reflect a Christ-like image. In today’s world, we are so “busy” doing everything else that we often neglect to put our family’s spiritual well-being first. God has not called us to be a busy bee.  He has called us to take up our crosses as dads and follow Him. He has called us to be faithful.

Here are 7 ways that we can guide our kids at home:

  • Don’t Rely on Religious Education Classes to Teach Everything
  • Listen
  • Go to Confession as a Family
  • Teach them the Holy Rosary
  • Educate them with Bible stories
  • Talk about what the Catholic Church believes
  • Go to Mass

Don’t Rely on Religious Education Classes To Teach Everything

Don’t get me wrong, the Catholic Church has a fantastic RE program and our kids should absolutely attend!  But, we can’t expect to send them to a weekly class to get all that they need for their spiritual nourishment. Dads need to take the lead and guide their kids in everything that they do so that what they do is pleasing to God. The most important example of a spiritual life starts at home.

Listen

One of the most important things as dads is that we need to listen to our kids and respond with empathy and understanding. Sure, we need to guide our kids with directions as they are completing their homework and chores, but we also need to be a silent listener to allow our kids the comfort of confiding in their dad.  Sometimes we are too quick to respond and we don’t always completely hear what our kids are trying to tell us. I am so guilty of this! We need to be slower to speak and model the importance of listening with a comforting ear. Our kids are learning so much every day in the world and we need to be able to hear about their experiences. Not all of these experiences will be positive so this will be a good opportunity to guide them in their spiritual journey to handle situations in the right way. If we don’t listen, how do we know what’s really happening in their little worlds?

Go to Confession as a Family

7 Ways To Be A Catholic Dad To Your Kids

One of the most important sacraments in the Catholic Church is the wonderful gift of Reconciliation! Use it! Go to confession regularly!  Don’t just go once a year. God has called us to ask Him for forgiveness for our sins, and we need to receive absolution. Again, this is another wake up call for me. This is an area where I think I can improve as a dad. We need to teach our kids the importance of confessing both venial and mortal sins.  Confession has always been one of those things that has been hard to go to. Make it a regular occurrence and encourage your family to go. Don’t let anything hold you back from going!

Teach them the Holy Rosary

Prayer is touching the heart of God in one of the most intimate ways possible. Make learning and reciting the Rosary a daily practice in your family. What a wonderful way of contemplating on all of the major events in the life of Christ. If your kids do not have their own rosary beads, make it a habit to get them their own.  There are so many tutorials online on how to pray the Rosary. Get your kids involved in learning how to recite it and get them comfortable with praying it daily. The rosary is the most powerful weapon in protecting our souls from the fires of Hell.

Educate them with Bible Stories

7 Ways To Be A Catholic Dad To Your Kids

Our kids need to know the major stories in the Bible, along with many of the Catholic traditions that trace back to the time of Jesus. Make it a habit to pick up the Bible every night and study God’s word. There are wonderful Catholic study tools and children’s Bibles on the market, so investing in them is a very good way to run a successful Bible study at home.

Talk About What the Catholic Church Believes

We need to educate our kids on what the Catholic Church teaches and believes. Use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as your guide in educating them on the important foundations of our faith. Teaching them about the sacraments is a great place to start. Not many kids actually know what the sacraments are. Most of them don’t learn them until they are in religious education classes. Make it a point to be the leader in developing your kids’ understanding of the Catholic faith from an early age.

Go to Mass

This may seem like an obvious one, but go to Mass. Demonstrate to your kids the importance of attending weekly.  Talk to them about the different parts of the Mass and encourage their participation.  We are so fortunate as Catholics to receive Jesus himself in the Eucharist.  Many younger kids will not understand how and why we receive His body and blood. Talk to them about it and answer any questions they may have.  Get your kids in the habit of getting up and going to church on Sunday. Make it a requirement. We can’t control what our kids do when they are old enough to leave the nest, but we can control the foundation we set at an early age.

Conclusion

In all things that you do as a dad, don’t ever forget to be humble. Demonstrate that power, money, success or fame don’t lead to heaven.  Take up your cross.  Lead by example. Just because God has called you to be the head of the household doesn’t give you the right to be exempt from things. Lay the foundation of serving others first. If you teach your kids to be selfish and money hungry, what do you think will happen in the future? We need to teach our kids how to serve the hungry, the needy and the naked in our world. Giving to others is a great sign of Christ’s love. Be sensitive to what you say and what you do around your kids. Don’t just talk the talk.  Walk the walk. Be a sign of Christ’s love to your family.

How to Join the Catholic Church

How to Join the Catholic Church

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Coming into “full communion” with the Catholic Church is an absolutely beautiful experience.  It is one that a candidate should never take lightly and should fully understand what they are doing and why.

Here are the steps you take to join.

Note:  there are several paths you may follow depending on whether or not you have been previously baptized in the Catholic Church.

Find a parish – Hopefully you will have a local parish nearby.  If you are unaware of where a Catholic parish is in your area, search Google or MassTimes.  Most parishes have their mass times posted online.

Contact the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) Coordinator – Call the church office and get in touch with their RCIA Coordinator.  He or she will more than likely want to meet with you to talk about your background, as well as go over the process to come into the church at Easter Vigil.

Attend RCIA –  For children at the age of reason (age 7) and for adults, the Catholic Church has a very well-established RCIA program.  RCIA is designed to teach the basics of the Catholic faith to new Christians as well as those who are converting from a non-Catholic background. If you have already been initiated into the church, you do not have to attend RCIA. Even if you have not yet made up your mind whether or not you are going to come into the church, you can still attend RCIA to gain more knowledge about the faith.

There are 5 stages of the RCIA process:

Inquiry – this is the initial period where you are asking questions, figuring everything out, and determining whether or not you are ready to commit.

Catechumanate – period after you have made the decision to enter the church and are being “catechized” about the faith, or learning all of the basic points of the Catholic Church.  You will attend regular RCIA meetings to discuss readings for the week, as well as major points in the Catholic faith.  You will attend, learn, and grow all the way until Easter Vigil.

Purification and Preparation – Your sponsor and the Church will help you along your path to the day you are received into the church during Lent.

Initiation – this marks the time when you are received into the church and will receive the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist).  For those who have previously been baptized, you will not be baptized again.

Mystagogy – a period of reflection after being received at Easter Vigil where you are able to reflect and learn more about the mysteries of the faith.

My Experience

I was born and raised a Southern Baptist down in the deep south (Georgia, if you haven’t figured that one out by now).  I am the son of a retired Southern Baptist preacher and my older brother is still a Southern Baptist preacher. I spent many years playing the piano for a non-denominational Christian church until I moved to Ohio in 2004.

I really didn’t know much about the Catholic faith, nor did I have much desire to, until my wife got me to attend mass with her. It was so foreign to me. There were bits and pieces of things that reminded me of my Baptist background, but there was so much I didn’t know.

The one thing that stuck out to me right off the bat was the amount of scripture readings in each Sunday mass. There wasn’t any of this “look at how well I sing” or “we have a huge congregation” or “our band is awesome.”  Don’t get me wrong, being able to use your talents for God is wonderful, but I just began to feel as if the Protestant churches I had been attending emphasized themselves more than God.

What’s so wonderful about the mass is that it is not about our accomplishments – how well we sing, what we wear, how many Sundays in a row we attend Church.  The mass focuses on Jesus and His body and blood which we receive every mass in the Eucharist.

My wife and I decided we were going to attend RCIA so we began the long process. We quickly got involved in the weekly RCIA classes, and began to learn more and more about the Catholic faith. By Easter Vigil, 2008, we had come into full communion with the Catholic faith.

Going through RCIA opened my eyes to the many things I thought I knew about the Catholic faith, but I quickly began to realize I was wrong. And those preaching to me from Protestant pulpits were wrong. And my dad was wrong about it. God moved us into the Catholic faith and I am so glad he did. It’s truly the only church He founded and the only one that is traceable back to his time on Earth.

Important!!! Go to mass regularly – Once you are fully in the church, you have only just begun your new life in Christ’s church. Attending mass on a regular basis very important in the continual development of your faith. Meet new people and ask questions. Receive the Eucharist weekly and look for ways to participate and interact with other Catholics.

I hope this brief explanation of the process is helpful if you are considering joining the church. If you have any questions that I may not have answered above, please contact me at jeremy@goaskyourdaddy.com.

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Catholicism 101: What's The Deal with Statues and Images?

Catholicism 101: What’s The Deal With Statues and Images?

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The Catholic Church’s history stems all the way back to the time of Jesus Christ.  In fact, it’s the only church in existence that does. There are over 2,000 years of Christian tradition that still influence Catholicism today, so today I’d like to touch on the tradition of the presence of statues and images inside Catholic parishes.

Before we dive into the meat of the conversation, one needs to understand a Catholic’s belief regarding the communion of saints.  Catholic tradition (stemming back to Jesus himself) has taught us that just because a member of the body of Christ is no longer with us physically on earth, he or she is still a part of the spiritual body of Christ.  We do not separate our departed brothers and sisters from the body of Christ’s church.  The Bible teaches us that those in Heaven are aware of the prayers of those on Earth, which is why we ask them to intercede for us (NOT WORSHIP).

When we ask a saint to intercede for us, we are making God happy. God loves it when we ask others to pray for us, and it makes no difference if that member of the church is here with us, or in Heaven.  These godly men and women prayed fervently while here on Earth, so why would they stop praying for us once they are in Heaven?

Because the communion of saints is so important to us, we want to always remember these souls and ask that they pray for us and with us to God. We don’t pray to them INSTEAD of God, we simply ask them to intercede on our behalf.  This does not violate 1 Timothy 2:5.  Isn’t it kind of great we have a whole spiritual army praying with us?

Why statues?

Catholicism 101: What's The Deal with Statues and Images?

Let’s think about one of the greatest college football coaches ever to step onto the field – Bear Bryant – for the University of Alabama. I think most of us would say he will forever be known as a legend – not only in Tuscaloosa, but in all of college football. He accomplished so much on and off the field, and left a legacy that few may ever be able to imitate.  Because of his accomplishments and the legacy he left, the university placed a statue of him outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

When fans file in and out of the stadium for games, or just leisurely pass by, they can stop and remember the wonderful coach that Bear Bryant was, and never forget all that he did in support of the university.

With this in mind, would you say that any fan worshiped the statue of Bear Bryant?  Of course not!  The statue is simply there as a reminder of the school’s rich history and to honor the life and career of Bear Bryant.

We can apply this same logic to why we as Catholics place statues of important figures in our faith. We place statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, popes, and other saints inside our churches to simply remember and honor the lives they led. There is no act of worship taking place when we do this.

Jesus wants us to never forget Him.  We are to always remember the sacrifice he made at the cross, and having a crucifix with Jesus on it inside our church reminds us of that sacrifice.

Why so many images?

Just as we honor with statues, you will also find many images (both on the walls and inside stained glass) to remind us of the different events in the life of Jesus. A good way to think about this is in comparing this to me hanging a picture of my family in my house. I’m not worshiping the image, right?  It is hanging up because I am proud of that person and love them. It’s the same with religious images. With such a rich history, the Catholic Church encourages us to think, and think often, about all of the things that make us Christian.

Why does Pope Francis bow to and kiss a statue of Mary?

Catholicism 101: What's The Deal with Statues and Images?

To an outsider, mostly of the Protestant denomination, it may appear as if the Pope is bowing in worship to the statue of Mary, and is committing idolatry. This is so far from the truth. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the most honored saint in the Catholic faith, and rightfully so, but we are forbidden to give her more honor than we do to Jesus.

The Pope is simply showing honor to the Blessed Mother AND to Jesus when he bows to and kisses the statue. This is not idolatry, but rather following God’s commandment that we honor our father and our mother. Showing honor to Mary honors God.

There are three “levels” of honor/worship recognized in the Catholic Church.  If you are not Catholic, and are looking at this from the outside looking in, looks can deceive you.  There are three Greek words used to identify these levels:

  • Dulia – This is a type of honor that is reserved for only the saints.  We honor the saints for the exemplary lives they lived while on earth, and to recognize them as stewards for Christ. This level of honor is subordinate to the honor we give to God.
  • Hyperdulia – honor/veneration reserved only for Mary.  Mary is the Mother of God, a positive role model for her “yes” she gave when she was told she would bring Jesus into the world.  Again, this level of honor is subordinate to the honor we give God.
  • Latria – This is the highest form of honor/worship and it is only given to God. To worship another figure or anything other than God with this amount of honor is strictly forbidden in the Catholic Church.

Conclusion

I hope this brief explanation of one aspect of my Catholic faith has been educational and provided you with new information.  If you have any questions about what I’ve covered today, or have another question about the Catholic faith you’d like me to blog about, please send me an email or post it in the comments section.  God bless!

Be A Dad Who Always Makes Time For His Family!

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There’s no question that being a daddy takes a lot of time and hard work. That’s why I am committed to being in the moment of every part of my kids’ lives from day one until I leave this earth. Right now, I have the pleasure of having all of my kids under my roof, but I know one day they will move out and build families of their own. The day will come when I will have to pick up the phone to talk to them, and I’m not looking forward to it.

Being a dad means more than handing out directions. It’s about letting you kids see how a daddy should be present for his kids, both physically and emotionally. Kids gain early impressions of how they will treat us as they get older by the way we treat them today. Are we going to set up and be the dad we know our kids need even when they may be grown up and living miles away, or are we just going to go about doing what we want to do for ourselves and forego having a lifelong relationship with them?

I may not understand every decision my kids make in their lives, but that doesn’t mean I can’t support them and show interest in what they are interested in – whether it be in school, play, sports, or every day life choices.  I can’t imagine being a dad that decides that he would rather stay home than attend sporting events, ballet recitals, school activities, first communions, or family vacations. My life would be completely empty if I didn’t have my kids.

Unfortunately, my own dad has decided that he is not going to continue to be a dad to me or to his grandchildren. I am at wits end with him.  I have tried everything I know to do as his son to tell him that being a dad doesn’t stop even though I’m 37 and living over 400 miles away. He has 4 grandchildren that are begging to see their Pawpaw and they are once again going to be disappointed that he has chosen himself over spending time with them over the Christmas holidays.  Although my mom makes the effort to travel to see her grandchildren, she has not succeeded with getting my dad on a plane to visit a couple of times a year.

There is absolutely no excuse for my dad’s behavior. Even though he’s in his mid 70’s, he’s not dead yet and has been given every chance possible to visit and spend time with me and my kids.   Every time he has been invited to visit and attend a special event in my kids’ lives, he’s said no. And no is the answer my kids keep hearing regardless of the reason, which at this point doesn’t even matter to them.  They want to see their Pawpaw and play with him. They don’t care that he has a reservation with his couch to watch TV.

I want my dad to have a strong relationship with me and his grandchildren.  I want my kids to be able to remember all of the fond times they spent with their grandfather.  I honestly can say I don’t even think they will remember much of him after he’s gone.  They keep asking me why their Pawpaw doesn’t want to see them.  Even if it’s not the impression he is intending to put out there, that’s how they are perceiving it. Only grandma travels to visit, so they automatically think Pawpaw has better things to do than come with her.

How am I supposed to tell my kids that my dad will not be joining us for the Christmas vacation we had planned for the families to get together?  I’ve already heard all of his excuses and have passed them off as just reasons not to want to make an effort to spend time with us.  I’m not about to make those excuses for him when explaining to my kids where Pawpaw is.  They are going to hear the truth every time.

My dad is missing them grow up. There’s no excuse in the world that will suffice. No action on his part is acceptable other than true effort to see his grandchildren.  I’m not apologizing for moving to Ohio.  I’m not apologizing for becoming Catholic against his wishes. I’m not doing it. I’m living my life the way God has directed me to, and I am raising my kids to do the same. If he wishes to see his grandchildren, who are all the greatest blessings God gave his son, then he needs to make the effort and stop saying “no.”

Dads, it’s time for us all to step up and be the fathers that God has called us to be. Don’t let time slip away.  Before you know it, you’ll be longing for the good ole’ days and all you’ll have left is today. Love your kids and put them first. Whenever you have the chance to spend time with them, do it. Don’t make excuses and don’t put other things above them.

Dad, if you are reading this by some chance, just look at what you are doing every time you refuse to make an effort to see us.  Do you think it is fun for me to have to explain where you are to your grandchildren? I already went through a period of time with you and mom separated – and you might as well have been 2,000 miles away. Your grandchildren are the greatest and they deserve a grandfather who makes an effort to see them – even when he’s not feeling his greatest.  I’ll do whatever it takes for that to happen – even if I have to drive down there myself and bring you back. You are getting up there in age, dad, and you don’t have much time left to be able to make a difference in their lives.  Is this really the example you want to leave them before you are gone? Mom is always the one who makes the effort to call and to visit.  I know you have a phone and can use one.  Their eyes light up every time they get to talk to you or see you.  Imagine how their eyes are going to look when they find out you are going to miss the big trip that’s already been planned for Christmas.  What do you have that is more important that seeing your family? When they ask me where you are, I’m going to tell them you said you weren’t coming.  I am not looking forward to their reactions, but I’m also not going to stick up for you any longer.  You either want a relationship or you want to do what’s best for yourself.  I’m a great dad, and they are great kids.  We aren’t perfect, but we are family.  I wish I had a way to be able to credit you for raising me to be a great dad, but I have become one on my own.  I have worked hard, but it comes with ease because my kids make living worthwhile.  I will continue to work hard and show my kids what a dad is supposed to be, and when they have kids of their own, they will be able to count on their grandfather no matter what. Think about all of this. Think about all you are missing out on as you sit at home during our vacation. I still love you dad, but please make more of an effort. Time is running out…

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An Attitude of Gratitude

The priest spoke this morning on having an attitude of gratitude in our lives.  We need to be grateful for our families, our friends, our church, and most of all, for our Lord and Savior who died for us. Too often, we get distracted by the busy world to be grateful for what we have, who we have, where we live, and what God has done for us.

There are people in this world that need our help. We don’t have to be rich to be able to make a difference in the world.  One small random act of kindness can go a long way.  From feeding one homeless person a meal to adopting a child, we can show our gratitude for others.

The current election in the USA strays far away from what really needs to happen in our world.  Rich businessmen and powerful politicians care more about doing what’s best for themselves than reaching out to others in need. While there are still some good people left in Washington, I can’t help but think of the select few in the world who haven’t thought of anyone else but themselves.

From the time we wake up in the morning until the time we go to bed, the number of blessings we receive (whether we realize it or not) are so many in count that we are overwhelmed by the love and grace of Jesus Christ. The air we breath is enough to be grateful to God for giving us another day to live.

I can’t always say that I have lived with an attitude of gratitude. I am extremely blessed with a wife, 4 kids, a job, a roof over my head, and a strong foundation in God’s love. God wants me to get out into the world and feed the hungry, minister to the poor, and clothe the naked. What I do for the least of us I do for God.

Just as I’m writing this post, my oldest son and daughter started slapping each other over a Kindle. What a perfect opportunity I had to tell them that their love for each other was so much more important than an electronic.  I hope that I can get through to them to realize that the way they treat each other now will carry on through life)

What will you be grateful for today, tomorrow, and the weeks/years to come?  Are you living with an attitude of gratitude?