I Will Give You Rest

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

-Matthew 11:28-30

Anyone who has studied as a seminarian can tell you that there is a lot that has to be done in his daily schedule- myself included. Often our schedule starts before six in the morning, and can often end almost sixteen hours later. The beginning of the day is merely a faint memory by the end of the day, simply because there are so many different directions to travel and things to accomplish every day. By the time Night Prayer ceases its procession forth from our mouths, each one of us is very exhausted. Even in our exhaustion, though, there is still more meaning to Matthew 11:28 than simple earthy rest.

In fact, the rest that we are invited to in this Gospel passage has a couple additional potential types besides this. It invites us, first of all, to the security of reliance upon Christ, and this is a rest in a certain respect. We cannot rule ourselves, no matter our effort, or how much power, strength, or intelligence we have. We cannot bring ourselves to rest by our own rule. What our own rulership can look like in our daily lives is getting to the highest positions that we can, gaining the most money we can, or simply making ourselves as important or as busy as possible. These things seldom bring us to lasting rest and peace- and to the contrary can often bring us to unrest and dissatisfaction. These things cannot innately satisfy- because we logically cannot corner any of these things- and this means that we will likely be led to frustration. What Christ invites us to here, then, is the ability to simply place Him as our ruler. This means that He is the one to take care of our needs- if we follow His leadership. This enables us to gain rest from the security that only Christ, as our ruler, can provide.

The last rest that we are ultimately led to, as indicated by this passage, is Eternal Life. This is by extension of the rest that we are given in our earthly life. This can only be made possible if we have relinquished rulership to Christ, and not to ourselves. We are led to our final goal and final rest- because we are able to find what our hearts truly desire. Whether we are at the seminary, at work, at home, at Church, or even sleeping- we are ultimately seeking that rest- the rest that only God can provide. That is a rest that is physical, secure, and eternal. It is one and the same with the rest St. Augustine identifies in the first book of The Confessions: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Even though our work as seminarians keeps us busy, we certainly strive to live in this rest as much as possible, even though we work long hours and have many things to do. We take upon ourselves the yoke of study for now, but ultimately, it is done, as God wills, through a man’s taking of Christ’s yoke upon him. This is even physically symbolized at the celebration of each and every Mass through the priest vesting in the chasuble- the outer vestment that is in the shape of a yoke. In his celebration of the Mass, he takes upon himself the very same yoke of Christ and His work. It is only in this same work that seminarians too, busy as we are, will find rest- and will be able to help countless others find that very same rest- now, and in eternity.

 

On Summer Assignment: Spanish Studies

An Afternoon Soccer Game during my Immersion Weekend

For the duration of the months of June and July this summer, I am in Pittsburg, Kansas studying Spanish, by attending Spanish Summer courses, attending Spanish liturgies, and recently, taking part in a Spanish Immersion weekend. This summer assignment, though it can be difficult, is something that I know is heavily needed for future ministry in my home diocese. Within the diocese, we have many Hispanic immigrants, and a majority of them are Catholic. This is both a difficulty and a privilege for the clergy and those of us aspiring to be a part of the clergy in the future, because it creates, not only a larger group that needs ministry, but a group that needs ministry in a new language, at least for most seminarians, including myself. This means that, since my curriculum is very busy during the school year, it is advantageous for me to take time during the summer to learn both language and culture in an environment that puts me in the midst of those who will need me to have a good foundation in Spanish to tend to their sacramental and spiritual needs in the future.

During my Immersion weekend, it impacted me in a profound way just how important it is that I work diligently in learning and practicing Spanish into the future. In my immersion weekend, I was placed with a Hispanic family in Carthage, Missouri, which spoke almost exclusively Spanish. I don’t have a very large vocabulary in Spanish just yet, so it became a struggle to communicate at times. However, even in the midst of this confusion, there were three things that particularly struck me.

First, these people are very diligent about their faith. In each home I visited, there was some sort of devotional altar which was prominently displayed in the entry of each home. Some are ornate, and some are a bit more simple- but each one was special to that family. Many practice prayer at multiple points throughout the day, and are most certainly regular participants at Mass.

St. Ann’s Parish in Carthage Missouri

Second, life is difficult for them in the U.S., but it is more difficult for them where they came from. Even though many Hispanics find themselves in a place where they have to point at photos to order at McDonalds, because no one else understands them, they still feel that they are in a much more privileged place than where they were before. They have more than what they had, and even in the midst of a culture and language that may not understand their own very well, they are very happy and overjoyed to be here.

Finally, they are excited that their future priests are working hard to learn the Spanish language. Even though I felt the family I stayed with for a weekend had every right to be frustrated with my finite amount of Spanish education, they were not frustrated, and were actually excited that I was there, both trying to piece together what I could in the Spanish language and also learning about their culture.

This summer is a little over halfway over, and I feel that I have learned a tremendous amount- both in what I will need to focus on in the future, and in the tools that I will need to have to be a Father to all of God’s children. To that end, my studies continue!

A Tale of Two Ministries: Courage vs. New Ways

We know that, in this life, we have numerous choices. Many hold very heavy implications, and many are seemingly without an effect one way or the other. Unfortunately, sometimes we can make choices between two things as if they don’t matter, and in all reality, they matter far more than we realize.

One thing that has become apparent, especially recently, is that there is a heavy amount of confusion about how the Catholic Church is supposed to approach those that identify as someone who struggles with same-sex attraction. What is the Church supposed to do? What does Christ want for us to do?

To answer that question, it seems to present itself as a choice- in some real way- between two different apostolates\ministries. First, there is the well-known apostolate known as Courage (A Roman Catholic apostolate for Chastity for those who experience same-sex attraction). This organization works hard with those who come to them to help them to live out the Christian Life to the best of their abilities- through support of each other, through support of direction, and through the support of the sacraments. Second, there is a ministry, called New Ways Ministry, which boasts “35 years of ministry to the LGBT Catholic Community.” Are these two organizations one and the same?

No, and there is quite a stark contrast between the two. In fact, it seems that this difference can illustrate well what the Church’s ultimate call to those with SSA is. What is the ultimate goal of New Ways Ministry? It seems that it is inclusion of those with SSA into the Catholic community. The Courage apostolate is slightly different. Courage wants them to be included in the community as well- but there seems to be an important caveat- they should be seeking to live a chaste life- something that it seems that New Ways Ministry doesn’t necessarily concern itself with.

Why is this important? It is important because our entire earthly Christian life is a journey of changes- because we are seeking to ultimately conform ourselves to Christ, and the Image of God in which we were created. This requires that we let go of all of those things that distort that image in us. This can require that we let go of any number of things- an inordinate desire of material goods, a habit to gossip, the want of power, habits toward viewership of pornography, or any number of things, no matter how big, nor how small. This has a twofold impact on us as Catholics- First, we certainly cannot close our doors on anyone who struggles with any particular hindrance or sin to the fullness of Christian life. We are called to be heralds of the Gospel to others. Second, we must be open to amending our lives, no matter what it is, nor what the cost is.

This is the approach that Courage wants to take with those with SSA. They know that the Christian Life is concerned with more than sexuality by itself- but we do need freedom. New Ways Ministry, as their website reads, is about acceptance. Acceptance is good- in that Christians are able to help each other in community to pursue the Christian life; acceptance of behavior contrary to the Christian life is not. Again, we each have things that hold us back in the Christian life- and we have to let go of these things. We don’t accept sin as a way to help others- we accept others as a way to help with sin. For us to be a part of the Church- we have to desire that we are wanting to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ ourselves. For anyone to want to be accepted into the Christian community should mean that they themselves want to accept the Gospel message- no matter the implications that it has for them.

This is why it is important for Catholics to promote the Courage Apostolate. It is striving for conformity with the Church’s teachings- and has been doing so for 37 years. Those with SSA absolutely must be allowed in the Church, as we all must be allowed in the Church- but that is so that we are supported and fed on our journey, and able to let go of those things that hinder us from freedom, and the authentic Christian life. We should not be confused by the choices we have to make. It seems that, by what New Ways is doing, there is undue confusion, and also improper application of what the Church’s mission is all about. We are to accept others into the community of the faithful, yes, but that means that they must be ready to join us in reforming our lives to the Christian life, no matter the vice, nor the virtue that we may lack. Will we all have the courage to admit our own faults and weaknesses, and admit our dependence upon God? Will we each have the courage to reach out to others in our similar state- and help each of us reach our ultimate goal of heaven?

The Youth of Discipleship

Photo By: Cyndi Belken

“He called a child over, placed it in their midst,and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

-Matthew 18:2-3

The photo to the left is a photo of one of my youngest brothers, John Paul. One of the many endearing characteristics that he possesses is that he is not afraid to seek the truth. Whether he learns something by his own powers of apprehension or by asking someone that he thinks will have the answer, he wants to know. When he is given the answer, he is ready to trust it and guard it as the truth, even if it means arguing with another simply based on his trust that he has been entrusted with truth.

Though it would seem that this indicates a lack of knowledge on his part, as is natural to a young child, there is actually a piece of knowledge that he possesses that we so often forget- he is and needs to be seeking something. Not only is he seeking, but he is doing it in such a way that he is open to whatever he may find in his pursuit. He is comfortable in acknowledging that sometimes there are things that he cannot answer on his own- and he has to rely on others to apprehend: and he is quite satisfied with that.

This seems to have implication in what Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Matthew. Allow me to repeat: “Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Certainly, there is a certain way that this passage has to be applied- but it is much broader than what one may think. What Christ is calling us to with this passage is the curiosity and trust of a child. This requires an openness- or receptivity- to what God is drawing us to. We have to desire to know the truth- about God, about salvation, and about His plan for us to get there.

This looks easy on paper- but in practice, it requires much from us as Christians aspiring towards Eternal Life. It requires a death to the falsehood that can take root in our own thinking. It requires us to openly seek the Truth and to seek God- and to trust in what we are given. If my brother were to go about his daily exploits only relying on what he fabricated in his head, rather than trusting in what he is given both by his senses and by others, he would quickly become frustrated, because things will not line up.

There is a constant struggle- so it seems- in society today, in which reality is being misplaced by subjectivity, and it is never for the betterment of any particular person. In fact, it often causes serious harm. For example, let’s say my phone gives me a tornado warning notification. What am I to do with that? Am I going to place my trust in the National Weather Service’s qualification to warn me about potentially dangerous situations, or am I going to ignore them, simply because my own intuition is superior? We can quickly put ourselves in practical danger- and even moral danger- if we are not seeking with an open and trusting heart.

This is the message that Christ has for us- we are to openly seek God, and to seek our salvation. In that pursuit, there is no room for our own fabricated reality. We have been called, as children of God, to follow our Father. This requires docility, selflessness, openness, trust, and confidence- for we know that our Father has in mind a particular plan to each of us. We may not have all the answers- and we don’t need to. We are given this aid us to remain open to the One who knows them. It is a long and arduous pursuit- one that lasts a lifetime, as my brother is well aware already, but it is one that rewards for an infinitely longer time. It’s all built on what we have done from our first moments- seek.