2014: Get Lost!

So the end of a crappy, crappy year is upon us. I spent today taking my beloved pet, Haze Hayes to the eye doctor who thankfully sent him home with meds and not with surgery plans.

Might as well end on a sort of an up note.

But the Holy Father noted today that the end of a year should be marked by gratefulness, for what has been and for what will be, but more importantly…

“…the Church teaches us to end the year, and in fact each day, with an examination of conscience. This devout practice leads us to thank God for the blessings and graces we have received, and to ask forgiveness for our weaknesses and sins.

The fundamental reason for our thanksgiving, the Pope explained, is that God has made us His children. It is true, he said, that we are all created by God – but sin has separated us from the Father, and has wounded our filial relationship with Him. And so “God sent His Son to redeem us at the price of His Blood.” We were children, the Pope continued, but we became slaves. It is precisely the coming of Jesus in history that redeems us and rescues us from slavery, and makes us free.”

This indeed is true. And so here’s a look back at some of the great things in 2014.

From the World of Medicine
My father survived a bout with colon cancer.
The dog went through a lot of surgery but lived despite it all.
Great doctors, great vets are a sure sign of thankfulness.
Two tough guys duked it out with illness and prevailed.

From the World of Vocation
3 semesters into being the director of Campus Ministry with ups and downs, joys and sorrows.
New initiatives taking hold as we move forward.
Appreciative students who make it all worthwhile and easy.
Good colleagues and friends continue to bring much joy and companionship, especially on tough days.
I’ve developed a greater appreciation for order, calmness and beauty.
That God-forsaken rickety ugly church sign is gone and replaced by a lovely smaller sign affixed to the outer church wall.
I will be editing/writing a new retreat manual for the U.S Pilgrims with two of my favorite colleagues.

From the World of Relationship
Marion and I have been together for 14 years, 12 of them married.
That girl, loves me, you know?!
And I love her more with each passing day.

So the year hasn’t been all bad.  And in the process, I will begin a new year of more focused blogging again.  So I am indeed grateful for much…and for you dear reader.

And so we pray…

Dear Lord, teach me to be grateful and patient.
Teach me to find you in all things, past, present and what will be.
In these things, remind me that I need to see the goodness in the world
Even when times are tough.
Mostly, Lord,
Teach me to find you in all things
For your love and grace are enough for me
If I but remember this all the year through.



Top 10 Things We Can All Resolve to Do in 2013

So here’s a list of easy (or-not-really so easy) things we can all do in 2013.

1) Stop Complaining: I started this one a bit early this year when something didn’t go my way. I just looked to my wife and said, “Well, we’re just going to have start this project over!” There’s no use in complaining about anything, it doesn’t really help matters. Let your anger and disappointment motivate more positive thoughts.

2) Help One Person a Day: Even if it’s something simple, go out of your way to do something for someone else. That co-worker who needs an extra hand, offer one before they ask. Boss seems overworked, offer to pick up something extra for him or her. Spouse is tired, offer to cook or do the dishes or some other task. Someone seems down, give them a kind word.

3) Cultivate Gratitude: It sounds sappy when people say have an “attitude of gratitude,” but gratitude is at the heart of all religions and traditions. Whenever we take stock we often find there’s more there than meets the eye. It’s often where we find God lurking. So why not try to keep this primary?

4) Welcome Others: Each day my dog greets me at the door as if I was saving him from a prison (which I kind of did!). Do we ever welcome even our own family members home as vibrantly? How about our parishioners? Friends and neighbors? Even strangers at our door?

5) Get Some Exercise: Even if you just walk around the block, get moving. The next day, walk a little farther, a bit faster. Before you know it…you’ll be in great shape.

6) Write cards and letters: We’ve lost this art. How many people do we ever get a letter from these days? E-mail is great, but sometimes seeing someone else’s handwriting and knowing the took some extra time to write goes a long way.

7) Dress up: Find a few outfits that you look awesome in and just wear them for the heck of it. It will make you feel great about yourself and build some confidence.

8) Examine your career: Are you really happy? Time to make some changes? Grateful for all that is? Whatever your case, just look on your life with critical eyes.

9) Do one thing a month you’ve never done before: Take a spin class, go to a museum, see a ballgame, attend a concert, swing dance. Whatever. Just try something new.

10) Pray: once a day. Not too much to ask. Need help starting? Check out these two pages:

BustedHalo’s How to Pray Page

St Ignatius’ Examen of Consciousness

I Resolved in 2012, In 2013….

So it comes down to a few more days left in 2012, which was a topsy turvy year for me. I took a look back at my resolutions from last year. Here’s the scorecard:

1) Work out every weekday: SCORE: Got to 4 days a week most weeks. So I improved until about a month ago when I hit the wall. I joined a gym closer to my home, so I think this will continue to be important to me.

2) Stick to a diet and drop 20 pounds by Spring: SCORE: Down 5lbs from where I was last year. Was down ten. New diet and exercise should help me reach a new goal.

3) Spend more time on Campus: SCORE: Excellent! This fall I really took this seriously and it worked great this semester. I found some new places to interact like the simulation center and teaching a class. I have to think of a few new place for the spring. The best part was that I concentrated on the South Campus and it paid off in big ways with a whole crop of new students coming our way.

4) Friday or Saturday is Family Day: SCORE: I was pretty good with dedicating Saturday most of the time.

5) Live the Magis Daily: So in spiritual direction, I’ve discovered that the essential part of my ministry is spiritual direction: SCORE: BIG TIME. I really did well with this and it really helped me expand my ministry and helped me see my gifts. I went for more training at Canisius High School and that’s been great. I did direction on Skype with one person and that worked out OK with some technical glitches and I have been directing lots of different kinds of people this year. My book being published was also a big help.

6) Join a softball team this spring: Score: NOPE! I still haven’t found a team.

7) Do three exclusively spiritual things per day:
1) Read something spiritual–a book or an article. SCORE: SURE, been great at doing this and even better since I got an iPad.
2) Pray. Do the Examen. Really discern. SCORE: Pretty faithful to this.
3) Do something for someone else to bring God into their lives. Simple. A kind word, a small task, a flaw overlooked. SCORE: I pray that I’ve done this for at least a few people.

So not terrible. Not awesome, but I actually kept a few of these.

So this year, I resolve….

1) Lose 50 lbs by 2014. Now there’s a realistic goal that will still be challenging. That would put me at 180 lbs.

2) Eat less meat and animal products: I don’t think I could be completely vegan, but when possible, at least try to eat a bit healthier.

3) Be more patient with those closest to me: I find I have lots of patience for people I minister to, but less with those I love most. In order to do this, I must….

4) Take one hour for quiet a day: Start with an examen and stay in the quiet. Perhaps even include some kind of ritual element to end this time of prayer?

5) Join an improv group: Acting in the simulation center at the med school has been lots of fun. One of the docs said that I am a great improv actor, so I’ve been toying with this idea and there’s a group on Saturday nearby. I’ll see how it fits into my schedule.

6) Find some new ways to interact with students on the South Campus. We still struggle to connect with some of the other pre-professional programs and the residence halls. So we are looking at that this semester after a really successful semester this past term.

7) Continue living the Magis: I’ve really enjoyed being a spiritual director for many people and need to hone that even more deeply. Staying focused on my gifts is important to me and that was a big part of 2012. Adding some retreat elements along with the individual elements of spiritual direction will be helpful to getting a group involved.

So here’s to 2013. May it bring us all what we desire most deeply.

Losing Weight

So one year ago, I weighed in at around 238lbs. Today I’m around 218. So I dropped 20lbs just by exercising. My diet has fluctuated from being very rigid at times about that and then not paying much attention at all. Being on a college campus doesn’t help as food is always a nearby temptation. But at least I’m eating healthier than I used to.

So the other side of this is that muscle is much heavier than fat and I’ve gained a ton of muscle. One of the things that I’ve noticed is how much weight I can push these days. When I started it was all I could do to bench press the bar 5 times with no weights on it. Now I’m pushing 155-160lbs that many times for three reps.

I can squat 135 lbs now 3 times and a bit more for one time.

Some days I get disappointed that the scale isn’t down as much as I’d like it to be. But as diet improves this year I hope to lose another 20lbs and improve my personal bests. I’m running better than ever in terms of sprinting and my agility is really good during drills. I’m really looking forward to our faux “NFL combine” drill that our great trainer, Ben Woods wants to put us through at some point.

But here’s the tell tale sign. Here’s me in 2008 after climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge–which had me slightly winded walking up so many stairs.

I love the fact that I climbed that bridge and it was a great experience. But I look so fat in that horrid gray suit they make you wear. It helps you blend into the bridge so you don’t freak the traffic out.

Recently a student snapped this picture of me with my students at Glenmary:

OK—now I believe that seeing is believing. I look a lot thinner. Still a bit of a paunch, but for a man of 42 who has only gotten back into shape, not so shabby. 20lbs makes a difference and if I can do it again this year, then I’ll be below 200lbs by year’s end–a very realistic goal.

So today, let’s pray for better health and for those who push us to be healthier, trainers, doctors, therapists, spiritual directors. I am especially grateful to Ben Woods, who pushes me and our crew of young students who work out with “the old man” in the morning.

A final story from the gym:

I was doing rows the other day. Now when I started doing rows I think I started with a 20lbs dumbbell. I’ve graduated to 50lbs recently. Ben looked at me the other day and pushed me to do 15 reps with that weight and I successfully did it. But that means only one thing. The weight is too light. “Up you go to 55lbs!” Ben triumphed.

“Ugh!” was my first thought. I struggle to do 12 reps with the 55lbs. As I finish a young student comes over and asks, “Hey is that a 60?” And I say “Nope, 55.” He turns his nose up at my weight–mind you, a personal best, for me. And heads over to get a 60 pound dumbbell.

OK, now I’m not very competitive in general, but the student pissed me off. I looked at Ben and said, “That little (word I shouldn’t say), I just do the most I’ve ever done and he made it seem like I was lifting a pillow!”

Ben’s simple response: “Well, ya think you can do 60? Cmon, you’re strong today. Go show him that you can lift as much as him.”

I grabbed a 60 and began to row. I got to 10 with my left arm and I thought it would explode. The student got a glimpse of me rowing and smiled. I switched arms to my stronger right arm and started rowing away.

“10, 11, (grunt) and 12!” Then I glanced at the student and fired the weight into the floor with a thud and said “There! And I’m twice your age!”

He laughed and said, “Way to go! Now you’re motivating me.”

Someone told me he went and got a 65 pounder soon after that.

I knew my limits and went upstairs to do some running.

But that’s the kind of community that we have. We push each other. Men and women, faculty and students, ministers and athletes all supporting each other. It’s beginning to break down a lot of doors, mostly because I’m mouthy. If I’m running behind someone, you’ll hear me saying “Don’t let me catch you, Doc!” to one of my colleagues who is a former athlete and in great shape. He’ll realize that I shouldn’t be close to him and push that much harder, making it harder for me to catch him, but ultimately giving me a better workout.

I’ve never felt better, in a number of ways. I can’t imagine not being at the gym three days a week and even feel a bit lethargic when I’m not there.

So pray for my community of friends and our trainer, Ben as a new school year starts. May we be able to stay healthy and move more swiftly and strongly as time goes by.

Resolutions 2012

Resolutions always seem to be taken lightly, almost as if we intend to break them even as we make them. “I know I should do this…but I’m not going to.”

And perhaps instead of making light or resolutions, we should take them more seriously. And by that, it means we should really think about our resolutions and make them realistic and then DO THEM.

So I’ve decided that I can make eight resolutions. The number of infinity—which means I should make all of these habits for the rest of my life. If I waver I expect you, dear readers, to point out my flaw:

1) Work out every weekday: I already work out three days and resolve to double that. 8a-10a is “my time” and I devote it to exercise on M-W-F. Hitting the bike or treadmill those two extra days isn’t that big of a stretch.

2) Stick to a diet and drop 20 pounds by Spring: Again, this has gotten easier in 2011, but I fall way too often. I’m a compulsive person and so creating habits like eating right need to be a priority and I need to take them seriously. I can’t eat one cookie, because I’ll eat 12. It’s a good thing that I’ve never tried drugs because I’d be selling plasma for my next fix if I did. If I stick to the diet I’ve designed, generally speaking I lose about a pound a day. If I don’t I either gain a pound on non-workout days or I don’t lose any weight on workout days. No donuts.

3) Spend more time on Campus: Sometimes just hanging around, “loitering with intent” as my colleague Michael Galligan-Stierle says, provides opportunities for us. I’ve gotten to know a bunch of people simply by working out at the UB fitness center and that’s led to other opportunities for ministry. You can’t be a campus minister without actually being on campus. Hey students, look for me and find ways for me to interact more with you on campus. I will do the same.

4) Friday or Saturday is Family Day: Wife and Dog deserve a day too. I have to pick one of these days and simply be with them. No distractions, no excuses. My first call is to them. Keeping in better touch with my parents and sister is another element of this.

5) Live the Magis Daily: So in spiritual direction, I’ve discovered that the essential part of my ministry is spiritual direction. The Magis–the word means greater, is what we do that really expresses who we are, mores than other things. So I’ve dedicated myself to getting more training in this area and to offer myself more to people seeking someone to companion them on their spiritual journey. I’m open to exploring new creative solutions with this as well. Spiritual direction by Skype anyone? More importantly, what’s the Magis for you?

6) Join a softball team this spring: I loved doing this throughout my life but then stopped for no reason. I’m in shape now and competing in some kind of sport is something that will continue to bring me life. Besides, I need to make some new friends and not be so occupied with work–that’s more of the reason for this task actually.

7) Do three exclusively spiritual things per day:
1) Read something spiritual–a book or an article.
2) Pray. Do the Examen. Really discern.
3) Do something for someone else to bring God into their lives. Simple. A kind word, a small task, a flaw overlooked.

8) Give things away: I will repeat last year’s Lenten project of the Lenten 40 day giveaway.

Googling God will continue in 2012. So we’ll also be dedicating some evening hours to that and random times throughout the day. I think this is a do-able list. Anyone think I’m crazy?