Christ is King of the Universe, is He the King of yours?

If your life had a motto, what would it be?  If you could summarize your entire attitude about life in one simple phrase, what would you say?  There is a common one floating around our world today, YOLO.  It stands for “You Only Live Once.”  As if to say, do as much as you can, experience as much as you can because…you only live once.  YOLO!  Perhaps one would say, “I’m going to go skydiving because YOLO!”  And if you think about it, it is true, right?  … I mean, we do only live once.  But the attitude about life behind YOLO is based solely on the individual person.  It’s fundamentally selfish.  I’m going to experience all that I can for me because I only live once.  Now, in contrast, what if we were to see Mother Teresa’s motto on life?  I think her motto would be “I Thirst.”  As in “I thirst for the salvation of souls” and in a particular way to the poor she ministered to.  Her life and attitude towards life reflected her fundamental selfless attitude.  Rather than focus on herself in life, she focused on God and others, which led her to sanctity, to holiness and eternal life.  Or let’s look at another one of the worldy kings’ mottos, that of Burger King.  For the past 40 years, Burger King’s slogan has been, “Have it your way”*  signifying that you can order your hamburger any way YOU want it.  Like YOLO, it seems a bit selfish.  Essentially, I should approach Burger King selfishly and get a burger how I want it, not necessarily how they make it.  It’s about me, not others.  So today on the feast of Christ the King of the Universe, I have a proposal for you.  If you do not have a motto for your life or are looking for a new one, I propose that you take Burger King’s motto and flip it (no pun intended).  Instead of “Have it your way,” make your motto, “Have it His way.”  As in live your life God’s way.  Make your attitude that of living your life according to God’s will as king of the universe.**
For the past number of weeks the readings at Mass have focused on parables concerning the end of time and how we are to prepare for it so as to receive eternal life.  The parable of the ten virgins encouraged us to be prepared for the end times like the five wise virgins who were prepared for the coming of the bridegroom. The parable last week with the servants increasing the talents that their master gave them shows us how to prepare for the end times, by living a life in Christ, by increasing the talents God gives us. Today Jesus speaks directly about the moment of Judgement when he says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” This is the moment of judgement we will all undergo at the end of time. Jesus speaks about this moment by using the image of sheep and goats. Jesus himself is the shepherd who will separate the sheep from the goats and places the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Before we get too involved with the judgement at the end times, though, we must remember something about Jesus as Judge.  He is not only judge, but also shepherd with infinite love, as Ezekiel and the Psalm remind us. He is the shepherd that seeks out the lost, brings back those who stray, binds the injured, heals the sick, and refreshes our souls.  He is also, however, the shepherd that will destroy the sleek and the strong as he shepherds us rightly. So it is important to remember that Jesus is not a pushover shepherd, meaning we can’t do whatever we want and Jesus will be okay with it.  Jesus is a just shepherd who we must follow every day in order to be counted among the sheep who heed his voice.  This means we must strive each and every day to be like Him in order to be led by Him because each and every one of us (including me!) will end up in one of those two groups, the sheep or the goats, at the end of time. The sheep are the ones who are told by Christ, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  This is the group we all want to be in because they are headed for eternal life! The goats, on the other hand, are told, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” This group we know are headed to eternal punishment, to hell.
And both the sheep and the goats, had a life motto!  And I bet you can you guess what they were. The goats had the life motto of YOLO or “Have it your way.”  They are the ones who lived their lives for themselves.  And Jesus directly points this truth out to them.  Jesus tells them that whenever they saw someone who was hungry, thirsty, alone, naked, ill, or in prison, they ignored them. Their life was so much about themselves that they did not to reach out to those in need.  They neglected to see Jesus in those around them. They chose to live their life for themselves, they had it their way, rather than God’s way.  And because of a life lived for themselves, Jesus tells them they are going into the eternal fire of hell.  
A wise deacon once told me that the theme song in Hell would be “My Way” popularized by Frank Sinatra.  This song itself reflects on a lived lived for oneself..not for others and definitely not for God.  Here are some of the lyrics:  
“And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and ev’ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!”
The song makes it clear that this man approaching death proudly reflects that he lived his life his own way and not based on anyone around him.  But this kind of attitude is exactly what Jesus is referring to when he speaks of the goats.  The goats, too, lived their lives for themselves only and that only led them to eternal damnation.  This is the attitude we must avoid to receive eternal life. 
The sheep, on the other hand, have the opposite life motto, they “had it His way.”  They lived their life God’s way.  Whenever they saw someone hungry, thirsty, naked, etc. they reached out with charity to help them.  They lived their life for God through others.  I think this is beautifully modeled in Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in her thirst for the salvation of souls.  She not only saw Jesus in the poor, but brought Jesus to them by becoming poor herself and loving the poor as Christ.  There is a quote from Mother Teresa on the poor that I’d also like to share with you.  She says, “The shut-in, the unwanted, the unloved, the alcoholics, the dying destitutes, the abandoned and the lonely, the outcasts and untouchables, the leprosy sufferers – all those who are a burden to human society, who have lost all hope and faith in life, who have fogotten how to smile, who have lost the sensibility of the warm hand-touch of love and friendship – they look to us for comfort.  If we turn our back on them, we turn it on Christ, and at the hour of our death we shall be judged if we have recognized Christ in them, and on what we have done for and to them.”  Mother Teresa recognized Christ in everyone and recognized her own salvation was tied to how she loved with Christ here on earth.  She lived her life God’s way.
So now, today, we must ask ourselves, how do we be a part of sheep at the end of time and receive eternal life?  Well, it’s simple, we make their life motto our life motto.  We allow Christ, as the King of the Universe, to be King of the universe of our hearts.  We live today and each day “having it His way.”  We live modeling Mother Teresa’s own loving attitude by reaching out to those around us who are poor.  They may not be the same poor that Mother Teresa ministered to, but how many of us know someone who is lonely and could use a phone call from a friend, or a cup of coffee?  Or even visiting the elderly in the nursing homes this Advent and Christmas season would be a great way to get out of oneself and see Christ in others.  I know the young men and women in the confirmation program at my parish back home love going to the nursing home to sing carols for the elderly there.  They see Christ in the elderly they sing to.  The opportunities to recognize and love Christ in others are endless in each of our daily lives.  And so as we approach the Eucharist today, I invite you to ask Jesus for the grace to see Him in everyone you encounter.  And in a particular way, let us all pray for the grace to live our lives not by Burger King’s motto, “Have it your way”, but by the motto, “Have it His way.”
*on a side note, Burger King changed it’s slogan this year to “Be your way” instead of “Have it your way.”

**In a beautiful way this motto is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s words, “Be it done to me according to your Word.” (Luke 1:38)

Christ is the King of the Universe….is He the king of yours?

Fall in love…with food?

A few weeks ago I had supper with a close seminarian friend of mine, Frankie, and we ate supper at Piatti Italian Restaurant & Bar. As we began to enjoy the experience, from our friendly (and highly engaging) waitress, Wende, to the amazing food presented to us with style, Frankie and I launched into a discussion about the nature of food. He remarked that food is something that is intimately part of his ethnic background (Italian) and that the process of cooking food should be, in a sense, analogous to “falling in love.” Time should be spent getting to know the food as you prepare it. That process begins a journey that the more you know the food and understand it, the more you will enjoy cooking it and ultimately you will relish eating what you have prepared (espeically if shared with other people). The whole process, from an idea to the plate, should be enjoyed and not simply rushed through. In our current world of instant gratification and an attitude of busyness, one can easily overlook the depth that is missed in the process of cooking and eat quickly and run to the next thing on the to-do list. So that evening I took a mental step back and allowed myself to just enjoy the meal and friendship and was blessed with a nourishing experience.

That meal has since put an image to a challenge I am facing. I, too, have been occasionally caught up in the attitude of busyness, of “getting through.” I had a heavy academic work load this past year and the year itself was less joyful than it could have been. I “got through” the reading, the homework, the papers, the exams; it was mentally exhausting. Sometimes I forgot to enjoy the moments in life as they came to me. I focused on the end goal of finishing and didn’t always live fully in the present. Near the end of the spring sememster, I went for a walk with Andy (a close seminarian friend) and as we walked around the block talking about nothing in particular, he became fascinated with some ants piling up on the sidewalk. I became fascinated by his fascination. He had stopped our leisurely walk to become engrossed with the beauty of nature around us, something that I was, in the moment, oblivious to. Andy reminded me of something incredibly important in the spiritual life that day: that the beauty of God is always around us and so is His presence, we need only to remind ourselves of this daily so that we can relish the small moments in our days with God who is always present.

This past week I have been living more “in the moment.” I have cooked homemade buffalo wings and last night made homemade dough for pizza while listening to Star Wars on a record player. I also picked up flying a kite to just mentally step back to enjoy this awesome life I have. Granted, it is easier to “live in the moment” when I’m not stressed about upcoming papers or exams and when I’m sitting at home spending quality time with my family, but it’s good practice for when the academics come again (and they will) or when future ministry proves stressful and seemingly overwhelming. It’s these experiences that I will fall back on to remind myself just how close God is during each moment in my life, even amid a stressful and hectic life, which is sure to come.

Reflections on 2nd Theology

So once again I’m trying to get a blog going and this time I think I may have something that I want to stay with. The Roamin’ Catholic Seminarian… to chronicle my life and its many journeys throughout Wyoming and the rest of the world, specifically when I’m in Guatemala this summer and elsewhere in the future. (Plus it’s punny…get it?)

 

So to kick it off I wanted to share a brief look at my life this past year in seminary. I was in 2nd Theology this year at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, CO and wow, what a year! Many graces came my way during this year including a newfound interior freedom to love myself, new friends, new theology classes, new mountains climbed, new trails hiked, new races run, and new places visited. It was quite a busy year.

 

If I were to synthesize my year I would have to say that, interiorly, it was characterized by a spiritual movement of love to accept the person God created me to be: a Beloved Son of the Father. I spent the time unpacking the graces received last summer at the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF). At IPF I was blessed by experiencing an 8-day Ignatian silent retreat where I was able to encounter God the Father in a way that I had never experienced before. I learned how to receive the Father’s love for me and began to finally see my life in a radically new way: my life, with all its triumphs and trials, is not bad or corrupt (because I know my own failures), but is a blessing and God is using it to reveal His glory. My own sufferings will only help me in my future priestly ministry to bring others to God’s healing love as well. My semester at St. John Vianney was an unfolding of that primary grace. I readjusted back to seminary life easily and made some incredible new friends. I found myself much more comfortable just being me, which hasn’t happened in a long time. I managed to get outside a fair number of times, hike a mountain (Mount Bierstadt), find some geocaches (Roxborough State Park), run a few races (the Run Denver series) and still felt like academics were a little too much and preventing me from heading outdoors. I also was assigned to a local parish, St. Vincent de Paul, and was involved there and met the wonderful parish family and was blessed to minister there. The primary spiritual push from God this spring was to encourage me to learn how to enjoy God in the individual moments of life, even amidst the crazy, stressful, and hectic academics that were occurring.

Right now I am home for just a couple of weeks, soaking up as much vacation as I can, allowing myself to be renewed and rejuvinated by God before witnessing the priest ordination of my fellow seminarian brothers, Deacon Brian Hess (see his blog here) and Deacon Bob Rodgers in the middle of June. Then I’ll be headed off to Guatemala for 8 weeks for a Spanish immersion to learn the language and the culture where I will hopefully be able to update my blog for you all to keep you informed of my progress and, of course, to share pictures!

 

Enjoy the barrage of pictures below from my 2nd year of Theology in Denver!

St. John Vianney Theological Seminary
Hiking on our annual seminary-wide camping trip. Bryce Lungren (Helena, MT) and I atop Medicine Bow Peak in the Snowy Range (near Laramie, WY).
This year I have formed a great friendship with Andy Miller (seminarian from Phoenix, AZ). Together we kicked off the school year and summited Mt. Evans (we drove a car up the mountain).
Atop Mt. Bierstadt (14,065 feet)
Celebrating the hike up Mt. Bierstadt.
John Paul Lewis (Oklahoma City, OK) and I on Mt. Bierstadt.
Last fall I was blessed to be installed as a lector. My family came down to share in that moment with me.
In October I flew to Phoenix, AZ to visit Kim Komando and her staff. We got to watch her broadcast her show live and toured the Musical Instrument Museum afterwards.
Deacon Keith Kenney (Phoenix, AZ) really likes Christmas (and so do I!).
One of the races I ran with a group of friends, including Deacon Brian Hess.
I was blessed to be a part of the wedding ceremony of some great friends, Sean and Mary.
I ran a 10K in Arvada, CO in January: the 2014 Polar Prowl.
We watched the annoying defeat of the Broncos in the Super Bowl…and had a cupcake war.
Deacon Brian and I were visited by Padre Pio!
I was surprised with brunch by a group of friends for my birthday.
Andy also took me out for my birthday. We spent a fun day in Dillon, CO.
The next weekend we found the botanitcal gardens…in March. The outdoor exhibits weren’t growing yet…but the catci were cool!
Climbing Castle Rock and I almost got stuck.
But we still summited Castle Rock.
Deacon Brian and I made a whirlwind trip during Easter break to Ontario, Canada. The Niagara Falls were beautiful!
We arrived at St. Meinrad School of Theology for the diaconate ordinations of two Wyoming seminarians, Augustine and Hiep!
Last hike of the year…Maxwell Falls trail in the foothills of the Rockies, near Evergreen, CO.
It was very fitting to begin and end the year in the mountains with Andy.
Until next time!
-AK

 

Supper of Opposition

I braced myself before entering the dining room.  I knew what lay beyond that door and did not want to face what I knew await.  But it was suppertime and I had to eat, so that meant I had no choice if I wanted to keep living.  Taking a deep breath, I slowly pushed open the door.

The gloomy darkness engulfed me as soon as I stepped into the room.  The only light source came from a small candle burning meekly in one of the chairs surrounding the circular table.  What light it provided was obscured by the oppressive fog that hung about the room like cobwebs in an attic.  I waved my hand in front of my face as if trying to clear some of the Anxiety that was suspended in front of me as I stepped forward towards my chair at the other side of the table.  A sharp, menacing growl tore through the silence as I walked around one of the chairs.  I jerked in surprise and caught a glimpse of the source of the growl.  Red, glowing eyes glared at me.  Fear was here.  Quickly I scampered around it and kept hedging around the table.

A figure that looked oddly familiar appeared in the next chair as I approached.  As I got closer, the distinguishing features of this figure became more distinct and I realized that Doubt was here too.  Without fail he always managed to come to supper even though I always wished he wouldn’t.  Doubt looked at me with my own creepily distorted features, and with a cool voice, commented, “You’re not worth it, and so you might as well quit trying.”

I closed my eyes and turned away.  I picked up my pace and rushed to the next chair, which was, thankfully, mine.  I quickly sat down, ready to be done with the experience.  The oppressive fog of Anxiety settled into the far chair and appeared to look at me with expectation.  Fear was drooling on its plate with hunger, its fangs highly visible and they looked dangerously sharp from my vantage point at the table.  Doubt smiled oddly at me as if he knew what I was thinking and said again, “It’s not worth it, quit trying.  Friendship, love, meaning, all of it is an illusion.”

I avoided looking at him and looked over to the other side of the table but I couldn’t see anything because my sight was distorted as tears welled up in my eyes.  It didn’t seem fair.  Nobody else seemed to have the same company for supper as I always had: anxiety, fear, and doubt.  Outside the dining room, the other people I hung out with seemed to always to be in the company of joy, love, and confidence.  They always seemed to have it all together.  Why couldn’t I be so fortunate?  Am I really not worth it?  Maybe my lot in life is to be lonely…maybe friendship and love are really just illusions, just fruitless desires.  The tears quickly fell from my eyes, as Doubt’s smile grew wider.  “I knew you would feed me,” he sighed in contentment.

Fear and Anxiety both kept quiet as I fed them too.  There was no need for them to say or do anything as I was doing all the work of feeding them myself.  I swallowed hard.  A decision seemed to have been made within me.  It was pointless to continue doing this without a purpose.  Life seemed hopeless.  Love seemed unattainable.  I wiped the tears from my eyes ready to end it, but looked up and caught sight of the small candle, which provided the only light source within the room.  Wait… I stood up quickly and focused on it.  Although the flame was tiny, it danced Joyfully around on its wick.  The dancing flame captured my whole attention.  My mind became utterly blank as I watched the dance.  I smiled.  Doubt scowled.

I walked over to the tiny candle and picked it up from the chair.  The warmth of the flame rose and hugged my face.  I smiled again.  Doubt’s scowl deepened.  With this new light source in my hand, I noticed that underneath the chair was a pile of kindling.  Curiously, I peered at it and leaned down, picked some of it up, and put it on the chair.  I used that Joyful little flame to light some of the wood and watched in fascination as the fire grew.  It morphed into a rolling, jumping, dancing, Joy-filled fire on the chair.  My heart seemed to dance with the fire as it Joyfully grew higher.  The air in the room cleared and brightened as Anxiety was forced to retreat to its seat.  It couldn’t fight against the fire. 

With more light in the room, I turned and noticed two chairs that I hadn’t noticed before being occupied.  In the first chair was a middle-aged man with long hair and a beard.  He was in white garments and he smiled at me Lovingly.  He stood up, rushed to me, and embraced me.  Looking at me with great affection he said, “I died for you, what greater Love is there than that?”  Fear, sitting in opposition, shrunk away and slouched in its chair dejected.

A mirror lay propped up in the last chair.  I reached down and picked it up and looked into it.  I saw myself, but there was something different.  What I saw was Confidence.  Confidence was staring back at me with a huge grin on his face.  I realized I was grinning too.  The image in the mirror showed me myself, as I truly was; I was not distorted whatsoever.  The image in the mirror spoke to me and through his eyes, which were mine too, conveyed the message that friendship, love, and meaning are not only possible, but also a true certainty, even if it doesn’t appear so.  Doubt averted his eyes and wouldn’t look at me, but continued to scowl, muttering under his breath, “liars…not worth it…meaningless…”

I stepped back to my original seat and surveyed the scene.  My, what a drastic transformation the room had undergone!  It was now bright and cheery with Joy licking the ceiling playfully with its flames.  Love had no eyes for anything but me and smiled in such a way that I knew Love was true.  Confidence mirrored myself back at me and showed me that I am worthy of love, friendship, and showed me that I do have meaning.  Anxiety was a small pitiful cloud hovering in its chair, Fear slouched and was quiet and I noticed that it was much less intimidating now.  Even Doubt lost the control that he had before and was staring at the floor.

I realized that Anxiety, Fear, and Doubt do not rule my life.  They are always there, this is true; they are always at the supper table with me, but also present are Joy, Love, and Confidence.  If only I had noticed this before!  I realized that I had to accept all the members of my table. As much as I may want to, I can’t pick the company at the supper table of my mind, but I do have the power to choose whom to feed.  Joy, Love, and Confidence needed my nourishment more than the others.

Now was the time to eat, so I smiled, sat down, and ate.    

©2012