Category Archives: young adult ministry

Can We Heal Wounds?

When the horror of September 11th came upon the United States my friends with children fought vigorously to keep their children away from the television screen. Others even fought to keep themselves away from the images we know all too well from that day. Many wondered what to tell their kids when they returned home from school and some even hoped that their teachers hadn’t spilled the beans.

I wondered to myself if this were a healthy approach? It makes sense that we don’t want people, never mind children to be exposed to horrible images that could have traumatic effects on their psyche. But what about telling them about what happened? It seems that many of my friends tried to seal the information from their kids for at least some time, usually before one of their friends remarked about the dreadful news.

I started to think about other things that people don’t tell their kids because they don’t want them to worry. Finances are hard. Mom’s got cancer. There was an accident. Your dog went to heaven. It seems anything that is bad is taboo for children at times and people only tell them things that they need to, only when absolutely necessary.

Slate had a great article today that got me thinking about this. They claim three real reasons that college students (and the rest of us, they claim) are more stressed out than ever before. I’ll riff on each here and add a fourth that stems from them and will add some thoughts about what I see amongst my own students and colleagues.

The first is a lack of community. One colleague of mine said: “I knew there was trouble when I found two student residents in their room arguing with one another–but they weren’t yelling at each other, they were TEXTING and IMing while in the same room! I put a stop to that and made them hash it out.”

Human contact and kinship help alleviate anxiety (our evolutionary ancestors, of course, were always safer in numbers), yet as we leave family behind to migrate all over the country, often settling in insular suburbs where our closest pal is our plasma-screen TV, we miss out on this all-important element of in-person connection. As fear researcher Michael Davis of Emory University told me: “If you’ve lost the extended family and lost the sense of community, you’re going to have fewer people you can depend on, and therefore you’ll be more anxious. Other cultures have much more social support and are better off psychologically because of it.” Another factor that adds to this problem—especially among young people—is our growing reliance on texting and social media for community, which many psychologists say is no substitute for real human interaction. When you’re feeling most dreadful, you don’t run to your Facebook profile for consolation; you run to a flesh-and-blood friend.

I think about my own students with this one. One of the most popular clubs on campus is our Christian Life Communities, a weekly prayer group of sorts that invites people to do a short form of the Ignatian examen in community. We discuss the highs and lows of the week and provide a meditation and a time for affirmations and prayer requests. It’s one of the times in my week that I feel I can really connect with our students and I start to hear just what people are carrying around with them. This is safe space and sometimes when I hear what people are dealing with I’m surprised they are walking and talking, never mind getting a degree. I feel the same way about the students I’ve seen in spiritual direction. And I often feel that they are unprepared for all that life is offering them and impressed that somehow they are still able to function at such high levels.

Professionally, I notice the texting more amongst outside younger colleagues than amongst my students at Canisius. I communicate with many people via text. And sometimes it’s inappropriate. There are some who try to conduct business via text when it would be faster and easier to call and have a conversation. Indeed texting is somehow more efficient but then again, it can lead to problems. My staff does this well. We text when necessary. When we need to get a message to someone quickly and think they are in a meeting or can’t talk. Or when the message is a quick one that requires some kind of action “Can you grab cider for the meeting?” would be an example.

The second is information overload which I discuss at length in my book, Googling God. There’s so much information out there that you can’t possibly consume it all. Our students often ask for bullet points and other quick soundbytes of information and I often give it to them because they just don’t need one more thing to read and information is bombarding them at high rates all the time. I don’t ever not recommend reading and I give them plenty to chew on when I think there’s a book or an article that is worth their time, but I also try to encourage that there’s not a rush to consume this information–to savor the reading process and to enjoy reading and gaining information. I often feel that college would be more enjoyable if we just let students finish when they finish. Now that’s an impossible business model to sustain, but from my own perspective I was able to work and do two graduate classes per semester and I enjoyed that immensely. I found it difficult to take 5 undergraduate classes and hold all that information together while working at the radio station and socializing and all of my campus ministry involvement.

I find my present students are great at balancing their time. Many are involved in much and have heavy duty science majors or are working on a big time business degree. I never knew how the medical students kept up at UB and the pre-meds are just as impressive at Canisius. But I do notice their anxiety. I do notice that it is not easy for them. And I do see them when they get overwhelmed by their to-do lists and the pressure of being good students and having a social life and trying to figure out what they would most like to be and do with their lives.

Some are brilliant: They’ve realized that they are never going to know everything that someone else thinks they should know. It took me years to get that idea through my thick skull.

Finally here’s the last major point:

Put simply, Americans have developed habits for dealing with anxiety and stress that actually make them far worse. We vilify our aversive emotions and fight them, rather than letting them run their own course. We avoid situations that make us nervous. We try to bury uncomfortable feelings like anxiety and stress with alcohol or entertainment or shopping sprees. Psychologist Steven Hayes, creator of a highly effective anxiety treatment formula called acceptance and commitment therapy, told me that we’ve fallen victim to “feel-goodism,” the false idea that “bad” feelings ought to be annihilated, controlled, or erased by a pill. This intolerance toward emotional pain puts us at loggerheads with a basic truth about being human: Sometimes we just feel bad, and there’s nothing wrong with that—which is why struggling too hard to control our anxiety and stress only makes things more difficult.

Amen! We protect ourselves way too much. And we protect others from our sadness and what we perceive is their sadness way too much.

Interestingly enough, comedian Louis CK hits the nail on the head with this: (warning: vulgar at times).

Perhaps our call is not to remove our student’s sadness or stress, but to help them more appropriately deal with that. We often do this in community on retreats, prayer groups, spiritual direction and on more than a few occasions by collaborating with our counseling center.

Our students need us and more importantly, they need community, they need time to chill to detox from information and they need to share their fears in a safe space where they can actually feel their emotions and be supported by peers and ministers.

In a world that is marked by terrorism all too often, anxiety is ever present globally and we have fewer resources to turn to because everyone is so busy that we have a hard time paying attention to those who need us. Older Americans might note that they were afraid of the Russians or of the bomb–but their community structure was much more intertwined with one another than our students’ lives are today.

This is our call as higher ed professionals and as Catholic Campus Ministers. As Pope Francis put it in the recent interview in America Magazine:

“I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

Heal the wounds… the wounds that are felt deeply and all too easily pushed away. Help people to feel their wounds and then to not be afraid to place your hands in the wounds of Jesus, like Thomas and allow the healing that God has to offer to take place through you, even in small and simple ways. This is ministry.

And it is where we always encounter God waiting for us and asking us to heal wounds.

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First Day at School Memories

While many of my friends are sending their kids off to their first day of school and my wife heads in to her first day as the new after-school coordinator at her school, I’m filled with first day of school memories.

Of course, there’s nothing like that first day of school, for the first time. Mine was Kindergarten and my mother walked me to school which was one block from my house. We unexpectedly found my teacher in the hallway and my mother introduced me to her. Miss Suess took me by the hand and we walked to our classroom together and Mom went away. I was excited and anxious at the same time. What was going to happen next?

It was only a half day and I was in the afternoon class. I got switched to the morning class for some reason half way through the year and learned about getting up early.

Each year, we went school clothes shopping and I struggled to cover my books on that first day.

That first day though may very well have been my favorite memory of a first day at school, equalled only by a return to college each year.

Two worse first day memories come to mind:

The first was high school. I walked into my school and was excited. I was off to find my homeroom and was there pretty early. As I past the cafeteria smiling, I saw a group of Seniors sitting at a table. I sighed as I walked past and then I heard them:

“Duh…let’s see who I can make friends with! Stupid, freshman.”

Clearly high school was going to be a problem.

The second was middle school. I was coming into our parish school after going to public school from kindergarten until 6th grade. It started out well. I had come in three days late after a bout with some kind of illness. Mrs. Wasp my teacher, introduced herself and then looked to find me a seat.

Clearly, I was the new guy, but I was known to some in the school because I was an altar boy in the parish. One guy, Claudio, had began spreading rumors about me early and often. We had gotten into an altercation once after a bit of name calling. Apparently, he objected to me bringing up his mother in a foul way and this was his revenge.

Recess came and we played punchball–a kind of baseball game. Someone launched one far down the third base line and I raced over but it was well past me. The ball crawled under the fence before I could get to it. We weren’t allowed to climb over.

“HAYES!” Claudio yelled. “YOU OWE ME A NEW BALL!” He may have pushed me after that. What was worse was that he told all the girls that I stupidly let the ball roll under the fence. I saw someone passing by and got their attention and they retrieved the ball for us which Claudio took credit for later. But damage done. Worst two years of my life was that school and I didn’t look forward to a single day there.

But as I look to our freshman and see their excitement and yes, the jitters that still come with a new place, I recall my own college years as amazing. It fills me with much joy to be a small part of their experience and I hope that these years are a blessing to them.

Today, let’s be grateful for first day experiences, both good and bad. For even the bad ones make us more sensitive to others who may be struggling. The start of something new reminds me of God’s continual wiping away the slate of our sins and giving us a renewed chance to start again.

So as you start again…be grateful for the chance to start over and to make all that you can out of this, nothing more, but more importantly, nothing less. Amen.

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Dancing Through College

So in the past few years, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon amongst millennials and I’d like to contrast it with my own college experience.

So yes, this is going to be one of those “When I was your age” moments.

Don’t worry millennials, you come out looking good in this one.

But let’s go back even further…to high school and I can remember my first high school dance.

I was terrified. Not of asking anyone to dance, but simply of dancing. I didn’t know how to dance really. My parents were older and they didn’t know any of the latest moves. I could certainly slow dance with a girl, but first I had to get a girl to like me and I was having a bit of trouble doing that. I spent that first dance pacing around the outskirts of the dance floor, under-confident and disappointed. For the next four years, I never really got dancing down, but I at least had the guts to get out there with friends and move a bit. One of our teachers, Mr. Campbell was a great dancer and he showed all of us a few classic moves.

Advance to college…dancing was still not high on my list. At the end of freshman orientation there was a semi-formal dance and when the music started, two Jesuits got out on the floor with two freshmen and started the dancing off. It was marvelous to see all of us just jump out onto the dance floor together. No partners, no pressure–just a bunch of freshmen dancing.

My college roommate then, was a fantastic dancer and had a way with the ladies. I remember him telling me that a bunch of girls out on the dance floor came over to him and said “Hey are you going out tonight?” and he would politely decline. Cool as a cucumber. I sort of danced around and one young woman and I locked eyes at one point and danced together for a bit. It didn’t turn into a relationship or anything but freshman year was off to an OK start for a shy guy who couldn’t dance too well.

Fast forward to today. I would say I’m a “passable” dancer. But something happens to me when I dance with my Marion. Everyone says it. There’s an intimacy between us that is hard to describe. Together we are pretty good swing dancers and we enjoy it. Not bad for a guy who has gained too much weight and doesn’t have the best knees anymore.

Back to our college students. I’ve noticed that dancing is different for them. There was a bit of a pecking order in my day with dancing, a kind of survival of the fittest. If you couldn’t dance, you just got left out.

But for college students today, dancing is a bit more of a communal practice. Sure people show off their moves and there are “dance battles” and some move better than others and get a bit more attention for it, but then something happens.

“Hey everyone, let’s do the wobble!”

Line dancing has a new place with this generation. And there’s a bunch of experts that will say this is because they have grown up in an over-programmed way, to the point that they can’t just get out there and boogie on their own. They need some kind of organizing mechanism to enable them to even dance.

I ain’t buying it.

The truth is that this is about inclusiveness. Milennials have a tendency to try to include everyone, to get everyone involved. I noticed this at our bonfire at Canisius the other night that when they did some kind of line dance everyone got out there and danced and when they didn’t, a good deal of people left the floor.

And then …

Cha cha slide gets everyone up again. I’ve even seen this one at the ballgame.

So I brought up my observation with my colleagues who confirmed my suspicions and then I asked some of my students about it.

“It’s the only kind of dancing we do.” That line was repeated to me many times, by many different kinds of students. One also noted that “Well, once you learn the steps, that’s all you need to know to be part of the dance. And you can learn by doing..it doesn’t take much to learn.”

True enough. It’s very inclusive and seems to be a way that even someone who can’t really dance is able to dance without fear. The dances are easy enough to do.

So you go, students. Keep dancing together.

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And They Returned Rejoicing

So our Canisius Students returned home from Rio after spending a few weeks with the Magis Program and then of course with the world’s most famous Jesuit, Papa Francisco.

Look at the energy that they returned with!

A good time had by one and all. And they got a great glimpse of the Pope:

It seems that the infectious nature of the Pope has gotten into the spirit of the students here. We’ll build on that as we go.

Scott Paeplow, who you saw in the first video, led the students on the trip as their Campus Minister. He is also leaving us for graduate school at Dayton. He’ll be sorely missed, but he really brought much energy not just to the campus, but to this final trip for him and for a few of our seniors. I have told my sources in Dayton that they are to educate me and then hand him a cell phone when he gets off the graduation line to discuss where he’ll be off to next and to not get any funny ideas about stealing him from the great city of Buffalo. Nice job, sir! You lived the MAGIS!

A final note. I’m officially old. Alice Zicari is the daughter of my very own college classmates, Dan and Marcy Zicari who readers will remember fondly from this old post. I held her in my arms as an infant and now here she is all grown up as a graduate of Canisius and a leader on this trip.

This “Pope as Rock Star Celebration” continues to bring young people to the faith. And I’ll say this….This Pope seems to be the biggest “rock star” of them all.

Welcome home, folks! See ya around campus!

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This Might Be the Most Quotable Pope in Decades

The esteemed Dave Sampson from our diocese passed this on to me moments ago.

“We need saints without cassocks, without veils. We need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies, that listen to music, that hang out with friends.

We need saints who put God in first place, ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints who look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity, and all good things. We need saints, Saints of the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time.

We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it.

We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends.

We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open, sociable, normal, happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.

–Pope Francis, World Youth Day 2013, Rio

All I can say is “Amen.”

Well…maybe that’s not all I can say. This is a very Ignatian moment for the Pope talking clearly about finding God in all things. I’m not sure if I’ve heard anyone say this more simply nor more eloquently than Papa Francisco.

I hope the Canisius students are finding these messages as uplifting as I am finding it and that they see the clear Jesuit connection from the Holy Father.

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Canisius Represents at World Youth Day

Here’s some of our students at the MAGIS Program which is an Ignatian preface to World Youth Day!

Jess is awesome! Can’t wait until all of these folks get back, but am glad to see them having a great time in Brazil.

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For All That I Am, Lord

Written at the Collegeville Institute as our prayer to describe where the spirit is moving in our communities with regards to their own vocation:

Thank you God for calling me into this place
For the courage to be who you have made me to be
For the gifts I have that have gotten me to answer this call
For the strength to go on when I feel I cannot
And for those around me in this place
Who gather me up when I cannot move for myself.

Rekindle my soul; restore my enthusiasm
So I do not find my self saying
Who the hell signed me up for this?

When I am cranky and squeal like a first grader
Remind me of my first call
And place the cry of the psalmist on my lips
So I remember to call out to you in my deepest fears and lamentations
When I think even the dogs get the scraps that fall from the table
but here I feeling empty and alone.
In those dark times
Rekindle my passion and renew me into the person
You want me to become.

Finally, come Holy Spirit
Make me listen to the stirrings of my heart
call me into being while I am doing
And doing in my being
So that I might serve the world with all that I am
And be aware of the gift I am
Because of who you have made me to be.

Amen

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To Find the Sunrise Amidst the Rain

So I just spent two glorious days at the Collegeville Institute in Minnesota, which is one of my all time favorite places. Whether the lovely setting, the St. John’s Abbey, the St. John’s Bible, the amazing people who work there and the groups they gathered to talk about Vocation in Communities, I can’t pick just one great experience.

We discuss how we are helping people discern their vocation in community during these conferences. I do this for instance with a small group of young adults and then some people individually and it’s what brings me life the most in my ministry.

Each time this group gathers to talk about projects we might consider doing in our parishes and communities I get very excited and see dozens of possibilities. Our group, an ecumenical one, meaning a diverse group of different Christian denominations, are simply a group of pastoral people who like to think about these things.

But it also leads us into deeper discernment as well for ourselves. One female Anglican priest was moving from full time to part time status, another person was simply questioning where her community was heading, another was preparing for ordination.

And I’m always considering what it is that I do and how I’m doing it and how I might do it better.

And so I decided to get up early and pray in the St John’s Abbey with the monks. But I also got up earlier because I wanted to see the sun rise over the abbey. In fact, when I woke up I had a strong desire and felt called to go see the sunrise. This has happened to me before on retreats and it has never disappointed.

If you’ve never seen St. John’s Abbey:

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Now imagine what it looks like when the sun hits the honeycombs on the wall! I can only imagine it because it rained this morning and there was no sun to be seen.

And so rather than wallow in disappointment in the rain-soaked morning I had dragged my behind out of bed for, I decided to take a moment of opportunity for silence inside the abbey, one of the most beautiful places I know.

The starkness of the Abbey always moves me into a deeper place of contemplation and today was no different. The small lighted altar gave me a perfect setting in the darkness of the morning:

2013-05-09 06.13.14

After about 15 minutes of silent prayer, i asked God to more intimately remind me of the times in my life this year where I really felt like I was engaged with my vocation. All of these moments involved working with students and young adults on questions of vocation. Whether in spiritual direction or a small group or an alternative break experience or even in the Medical School’s simulation center, I found myself deeply engaged with others talking about who they hope to become.

And when that clarity hit me, I felt much gratitude. And then this happened:

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Coincidence? Perhaps, but I remembered that I had longed to get up and see the sunlight—and here was a much more glorious picture than I had imagined. God always gives us what we need—not always what we expect.

And then…when I thought I could not find any more beauty in this:

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These monks really thought about this place. If you look closely, the lights hit the tiny wires they have attached and it looks like sunbeams emerging from the altar of God! God stretching Himself farther than I asked for to show me just a bit more of what God wants from me in my life, that is simply to be myself, nothing more, but most importantly nothing less.

As we prayed with the Monks I was introduced to a new favorite Psalm:

Psalm 143
Lord, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
3 The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
like those long dead.
4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
5 I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
6 I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.[a]
7 Answer me quickly, Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
9 Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.

I began the trek back from the Abbey to the Institute fully refreshed for the day ahead. But mostly, grateful for the opportunity to hear God’s voice speaking to me loudly in the silence of the Abbey, leading me to a deeper sense of my own vocation where I work with people in discernment. People who have deep decisions to make often turn to me to companion them. And that’s a special gift that I have for allowing people to more intimately see who they are becoming and who God has already made them to be.

And that is worth everything.

For God has made it so.

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Mommy Always Comes After Nap and Snack

IMG_2058-1My dear friend and longtime colleague Ginny Kubitz Moyer has a wonderful new book out that’s perfect for Mother’s Day called Random MOMents of Grace. It’s all about her experience of being a mom and a nice addition to her very fine blog, Random Acts of MOMness which I love for the Fisher-Price toy on her homepage banner alone.

Ginny is the mother of two boys: Matthew and Luke–they’re just about past the toddler stage, but they are boys. And Ginny is this regal woman, a classically trained English scholar. She carries herself so elegantly everywhere she goes, with her hubby Scott, another classy guy himself.

So now picture her with two boys who think poop is the most hysterical thing in the world!

Boys indeed are yucky. They love mud and boogers and playing with food. And somehow this woman rolls with it as the mother of these two…BOYS.

I’m sure I was no worse than Ginny’s boys when I was her age. And one of her chapters jarred a memory of me and my own mother.

I was 6 and in first grade. My elementary school was a block from our apartment house. To get home I would walk out the gate and walk down to the corner mailbox where my mother would be waiting across the street. I would catch her gaze and wave each day. A reunion that I would look forward to each day. Somedays my sister (who is 16 years older) would be the one to meet me and I loved my sister, but she wasn’t mom.

A bit of a backstory. My mother has suffered immensely in her life with the disease of rheumatoid arthritis and a host of other ailments. There were numerous hospital trips and a few times when I was young it was touch and go as to whether mom was going to survive. She rallied each time and today at 85 she’s still around. But to be a little boy with a sick mother was no easy task. It caused me much anxiety and so each reunion with my mom was always a reason to rejoice. It meant a day of health and not a day of hospital, where I was too young to go and visit mom.

So mom would always tell me that “Someone” will be there by the deli to help me cross the street and walk the rest of the way home. I trusted that knowledge and it was as dependable as the sun.

One day I was walking towards the corner with the mailbox and for some reason Robert Kastner thought it would be a good idea to push me…repeatedly. My mother saw two boys pushing and she knew that it couldn’t possibly be her son. I looked across the street and didn’t see mom. I was slightly worried but I was also excited. I am going to cross the street by myself and walk the rest of the way home and surprise mom!

I looked both ways and then another mom decided to give me a hand and cross me. I ran past the three houses to my home and bounded up the stairs. I knocked on the second floor door to my parent’s home.

Nothing. No answer.

Mom was gone. Where did she go? Maybe she went to the hospital and won’t come back and I’ll never see her again? Maybe she’s inside and can’t answer the door? Maybe she just got fed up with me because I wasn’t a good boy at school today?

I started to cry. Loudly. So loudly that my neighbor, Mrs. White heard me from her apartment below mine and then Mrs. Nappi, our landlord upstairs also heard me. They came to see what was wrong. I told them I didn’t know where my mommy was and that I had walked home but mommy was not by the deli and I thought I had just beat her to her post. Mrs. Nappi got the key to our apartment and they went in and searched the whole apartment with me waiting in the living room. It was empty.

Mrs. Nappi, always a little gruff said, “Are you sure you just didn’t walk past her and she didn’t see you?”

“I don’t know!” I replied through tears.

“Don’t worry, Michael, we’ll find her.” Mrs. White said.

We began to go downstairs to try to find mom outside. Mom meanwhile walked up to the school when she didn’t see me pass her on the corner. I had just not seen her (probably because the jerk Robert Kastner was pushing me). Mom had ignored the pushing kids and looked for me in the scrum of other kids, but I was not in that crowd.

As we reached the bottom of the stairs the door opened and there she was: Mom! I ran to her and was screaming crying. My mother was as white as a sheet when she arrived. Alls well that ends well, but this was too much. Simply put, mom missed me in the crowd of pushing kids.

Ginny in her book talks about the importance of routine for a child and the honor she has of picking up her boys “after nap and snack.”

There’s a satisfaction in knowing that I am bound to my little boys as surely as God is bound to me. I reaffirm this covenant over and over, every time I change a diaper or hug someone after a nightmare or pick up my little preschool scholar after nap and snack. And I like knowing that I am providing two little people with a sense of security, that I am giving them the confident assurance that Mom isn’t going anywhere.

My childhood was shattered when that sense of security was breached. My mom WAS in fact where she was supposed to be, but this time she just lost sight of me and I, her. The terror in her heart was probably 10 times mine.

I treasure my mom and know that she has never left me and never will. Moms make that first theological truth for us tangible: God never forgets us. For us to believe that, we need mom to claim us as her own, to always be there and for us to be comforted by those rhythms of the covenant. In a world too often marked by neglect and divorce, mom’s have a tough job in getting their little boys to trust that they will always be there “after nap and snack.” That nothing can ever separate them from mom, just as nothing separates us from God’s love either. It is the heart of our faith.

413FdiAHnML._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ginny’s book outlines all those times that moms reflect God’s presence for us. It’s a gem of a book and I have just purchased a copy for my mom for this mother’s day. Perhaps you might too and let it jar the memory of your now-no-longer-little boy memory?

I will never know the joy of having children. It is an unrealized dream for me. So I have to live vicariously through Ginny. So I treasure her stories. In some ways, Ginny’s writing has mothered me through the death of this unrealized dream, softening the blow a bit and moving me into the other dreams that God always offers me. It is there that I find the mother-God is always there waiting for me.

After nap and snack.

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Consolations of the Week

It’s been quite a week. Besides the joy of seeing a new Pope emerge, my week has been blessed with many gifts where different people offered me much to be grateful for.

The first are a bunch of new students and a new colleague. Instead of our usual spring break plan of organizing and taking students on an alternative spring break experience we decided to concentrate on what we do well on those trips which is helping people focus on the reflective elements of these trips. The University was already planning to do a fee alternative break experiences of their own and they invited me to be part of one of them. It was a “give where you live experience” in Buffalo. Each day the students went to a different service organization in Buffalo that served the needs of children and teens in the area. They even asked me to set up a day of service at our parish school which had our students being teacher’s aides for the day and another group painting sets for the kids’ upcoming performance of “Annie.”

The highlight of the week was working with a bright young woman named Baylee. Fresh out of undergrad, Baylee is working on a graduate degree at UB in higher Ed administration and she planned and organized the trip and trained the two student leaders, Kate and Erica who were also amazing. Each night I’d gather with them to help deepen the experience through reflection. The students had some amazing insights and the full day I spent with them at St Joe’s was a heartfelt reminder of how much they have to offer to people who are in need of their gifts. Baylee really did a wonderful job and was gracious enough to invite me into their space and gave me an opportunity to witness to all the good work that had been done. I had great conversations with the students over meals and evening hang outs, hearing about their relationship struggles, their homelike and their college experience alongside the service experience.

I was also able to offer them a brief tour of our church building. And nearly all of them signed up to do service projects with our campus ministry in April. One student even said she was inspired to go back to mass after the tour of the church and many others were certainly thinking about it. In our “highs and lows” of our days one student said, “Without a doubt, my high was the church, cause I haven’t been in a church in sometime and it was so peaceful and beautiful. I’m glad I know it’s there.”

Yesterday, I traveled to New York City and spoke at my old stomping grounds at St. Paul the Apostle to a group of about 60 young adults at their group called Apostolist. It was a networking event where lots of business cards were exchanged between people. I got to talk about my book, Loving Work and sign a bunch of copies. Lots of inspiration was flowing and I could see the wheels turning for people. It was interesting to see so many people who were looking to deepen their experience of work and many who are hoping to change tracks in their career. Fr. Steven Bell, CSP invited me and it is always great to spend time with him and his dynamic personality. He introduced ,e and it was the first time I’ve ever been referred to as a “Titan”.

So all in all, much to be grateful for. I also get the opportunity to see my parents, my best friend, my college roommate, celebrate a dear friend’s birthday and spend time with friends who soon will be married. A fun-filled two days in my hometown that has already renewed my spirit.

Today, let us pray for the gift of inspiration and renewal in our lives. Come Holy Spirit and renew our lives with hope and energy to be able to be men and women for others. May St. Ignatius intercede for us in helping us to find God in all things today.

And it is St Patrick’s Day in NYC….a great day for a parade!

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