Back to Work

So after some good rest, I return to work today!  I actually saw some colleagues at the Hockey game on Saturday but we’ll be trying to make it through a full workday.

I’m sure there will be a lot to catch up on and review and the start of a new semester is always exciting.

So let’s pray for a good Spring semester.  God of mercy and love, look down on our campus and help us do our work, the work we do that we hope brings others to find you in the midst of their lives.  Help us to see you in our own and in our work.  For myself, I ask for continued healing and wisdom to direct the ministry and provide care for those who are in need.


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.



Do You Have the Time?

Time..don’t run out on me.

It’s a phrase that I’ve mentioned often in ministry as being an element that is essential to the development of faith. I challenge spiritual directees to prioritize their relationship with God by dedicating at least 20 minutes a day to prayer with the hopeful development that 20 minutes will turn into 40 and 40 will turn to 60 or more. What I find is that most people fall between two extremes: they don’t pray at all, or they find that they crave more prayer and end up exceeding my minimal requirement.

Prayer for me, is also a time-consuming matter. I need to brush out distractions and simply be–but also learn how to mix prayer into the rhythms of my day. For example, after lunch each day, I find myself energized by my colleagues in the student affairs division, who I often eat with close to daily. It’s the one time a day that our paths cross and it gives me insight from other seasoned directors and insight into the tone of the college. As I rise from the table each day, I say to myself, “Thank you, God for these people who fill me with joy.”

To become our prayers, to immerse ourselves in relationship with God, we need conversion–we need to be changed and to be constantly asking for change in our lives. But then also to have some constants that we remain dedicated to in order that they might call us to be critical of who we are becoming. For example, when I write I find myself more awakened to the joys in my life: the students I serve, the colleagues I enjoy, the wife I love, the dog warm on my lap, the sunshine on the water or a good hearty laugh. Writing for me is often a form of prayer and when I dedicate time to it, I find myself centered and relaxed and better able to get through the day–or better put, excel at work and be more open to relationships with others.

One of our graduate students, Matt Gorczyca on his blog, Gorc Meets World (which you should be reading if you are not) had a similar experience regarding writing that sums up my own feelings of getting back into the swing of blogging.

For the first time in a while I was fully immersed in my writing. I was filling pages with ink and typing blocks of text into blog posts. I felt like a machine – but not the kind that I have been the past few months. No, instead of being programmed by the day, with circumstances of an alarm clock, a boss and a pillow dictating how I spent my time, this time I was in control. It was as if I was a transformer. I’ve never seen the movie, but from what I’ve heard it’s basically when machines take over the world. Well I was my own writing machine taking back my world.

I felt revitalized and back to my old energized, creative self. It all came back to giving myself time. All I needed was a few hours in a coffee shop and I was back in my mode of writing. I didn’t have the distractions of a TV, a workload, chores or even people. I was retreating to a world that I could feel like myself again. And boy do I feel more alive than I have in a while.

Amen, brother! Thanks for waking me up as well. It is often difficult to dedicate some real time to all the things we want to do. But it is not impossible to dedicate regular time to the things that give you life. This is the Ignatian Examen at its finest–where we move towards consolation, all that brings us life and away from all that lands us in the dumper.

So some New School Year Resolutions are forming for me:
1) Write–just write. Often, if not daily.
2) Connect with someone new each day.
3) Invite people into opportunities with Campus Ministry often.
4) Exercise daily, even if I just stretch and then vigorously at least three times a week.
5) Rejoice in our retreats, spiritual direction and the things I get to do that bring me more life, bring to me the MAGIS.
5) Identify consolation intentionally twice a day, if not more often and write about it as much as possible.
6) Enjoy a good laugh, good times with friends and love and appreciate my wife better than I already do.
7) I’ll get killed for this but, write about the dog more. The Hazehayes blog may return!

And thanks Matt, for reminding me who I should be more often and what I am called to do.

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.

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.


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:


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:

2013-05-09 06.27.50

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:

2013-05-09 06.46.37

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.

Are You Done?

In conversations with some colleagues and one of my spiritual directees, the subject of continual discernment with regards to careers came up. We mentioned that many in ministry burn out and while some of us even confessed to “feeling burned out” sometimes we simply put our shoulder to the wheel and continued on, taking some time for self care along the way.

Others simply stopped.

And there’s no shame in that, because they simply didn’t have any other way to cope. But they weren’t angry or frustrated or even looking for a new career. They just stopped.

Many of us in middle age who have been in our careers now for some time mention the fact that they’re “done”. They’re heading towards retirement and simply are biding their time in their career, continuing to do what they do without much fanfare. Some do this because they’ve chosen a family. The need to put 4 kids through college keeps someone moving in their career, but not exactly moving forward. They just go to work every day but there’s not much thought behind it anymore. They like their job and can do it well and it pays the bills. Is there something more challenging for them out there? Perhaps, and perhaps they long for it. But they’ve chosen family over career and they are happy doing that. One father of a college student simply said “I’m just done. I go to work each day to put my kids through college.” Another parent of a colleague was a doctor. On Saturdays he could have been out on the golf course making all kinds of business deals, but instead he’d be home with his kids. He would report that it was his choice to do so and while his practice didn’t suffer, it probably didn’t grow either and he was just fine with that.

We all make choices in life. John Scarano, my mentor for my CCMA accreditation once said, “You can be a great minister or a great family man, but you probably can’t do both at a high level.” I know my own wife often complains about the amount of time that her workaholic husband spends with his students. I’ve dialed it back a bit this year, spending more time with her and it’s been great to have her company. We often do things together in ministry, like marriage prep and cooking for the students. We don’t have children, so we can do this well. But even without children it can be tough.

I’m not close to done. There are still benchmarks for me to hurdle and books to write and students to sit with and listen to. I’m feeling more generative lately and lately this ministry has also given me some new life and insights into myself. Like my love of spiritual direction with students and helping them discern who they are. I’m also finding out more about myself and my maturity. I used to really get upset when I’d have disagreements with people, and I still do. But now I can be calm in those moments and ask myself what is really going on here. I’m not perfect at this and still get defensive, especially if I get blindsided by something unexpected, but I can articulate my feelings better in the moments after and see where I need to move forward.

So I’m far from done with ministry. I’m saddened sometimes by others who simply stop, but also feel for their frustration, especially in today’s polarized climate in the church and in our political life. When I look at that, even just superficially, I wonder why more people haven’t stopped doing the good work that they often do.

So today, let’s pray for courage and energy to “keep on, keeping on,” despite obstacles, despite disagreement, disappointment or just plain exhaustion. May we remind ourselves that God is with us and can provide us comfort, guidance and rest. And when we actually are done, may God provide us with the rest for his “faithful servants” and by his grace, allow us to be satisfied with all that we have done with our lives.

Millennials to Boomers: We KNOW We’re Not Special

Some time ago, David McCullough, Jr wrote a commencement speech for Wellesley High School which, in my opinion, was a dirge and quite frankly inappropriate. Essentially, he told them that they were not special. There was an overlying assumption that millennials feel entitled and special. I didn’t blog it because I thought it was overdone and not at all an accurate depiction of how millennials see themselves. It was actually more of a depiction at how millennial parents see millennials.

Millennials don’t see themselves as special. They see themselves as people that everyone else THINKS sees themselves as entitled.

The truth is that millennials live very fearful lives. In a angry rant against the McCullough rant, Sierra over at the Phoenix and the Olive Branch has a lot to say about what millennials face:

We grew up accruing praise, but not self-esteem. We learned that praise was a parenting strategy, not a sincere reward for merit. We stopped listening when you told us we were smart, brave, beautiful and unique. “You have to say that because you’re our parents,” we told you. You agreed.

So we looked to our teachers to learn where we stood. They couldn’t tell us the truth, either. “Did I get an A because I really wrote an exceptional essay, or because my teacher was afraid to deal with my parents?” We learned to suspect the latter.

When our teachers couldn’t tell us, we looked to our bosses. They despised us: the pampered, electronic generation who doesn’t know the meaning of hard work. When we worked hard, they were surprised. But they cynically assumed we were only working hard to build our resumes. That 16-year-old who went on a humanitarian relief trip to Haiti? Just another yuppie trying to pad her Harvard application. What would it take to convince you that we really care? Even the things we do for fun – playing sports, joining a band, riding a horse, writing a story – you have made into a competition. You’ve taken our creativity and told us that it matters not because it fulfills us, but because we can sell it to a college and reap the returns on our “investment” decades from now. Every little thing we do must be harnessed for profit. And you wonder why we seem to have no spontaneity left.

You have done our work for us, then called us lazy.
You have threatened our teachers, then told us “just an A” isn’t good enough.
You have gotten our jobs for us, and called us underachievers.
You have recorded everything we do, like researchers breeding a better mouse.
You have made us trophy-seekers, then mocked us for our walls of worthless awards.
You have pitted us against each other in a fight for success, which has become survival.
You have given us a world in which even our college degrees are meaningless because there are just too many of us.
You have made us depend on you. When we followed your instructions – went to the best schools, got the best grades, took the most internships and did the most independent study projects, met the right people and got into the right grad schools and chosen the right majors – we’ve ended up stuck in your basement because nobody in your generation is willing to pay us a living wage.
Then you called us the “boomerang” generation that refuses to grow up. When did we have the chance?

Accurate! And I love a great rant, especially a justified one. Many millennials see me for spiritual direction. The thing I think they fear the most is screwing it all up. Many have trouble settling on a decision because they think they have to figure it all out tomorrow. Others fear a mistake they made in their younger years and think there’s no way they can ever be forgiven for that mistake. Others don’t realize the inability they had to be free to make a decision and hold themselves hostage to a life they need not live, knowing no way to change course. Others simply beat themselves up for mistakes or what they see as failure when they don’t meet exalted expectations.

When I hear of what some young people are going through, I’m frankly surprised that they are walking and talking, much less, doing well academically or finding a job.

Listen to more of Sierra here:

We learned something else along the way to becoming “special.” We learned that you depended on us. For validation. For certainty that you did everything right. If we did not succeed, it reflected badly on you. When you told us that you loved us and that we were smart, beautiful, creative, independent, and destined for greatness, what you implied was that we must be all of those things or that you would cease to love us. That our lives would cease to be worth anything. That we might as well die if we’re not the best.

The truth is that millennials are tired of being lied to. They want someone who will tell them the truth, not spin or fluff. They want to be challenged, not coddled. They want to live a life of meaning but also want to be able to make mistakes without fear of retribution. They want people who don’t have a vested interest in their success to actually care about THEIR goals and dreams and not make it some sort of prize for their own mantlepiece. They want the freedom to be able to discover who they are—so simply put they can become all they are called to become.

Considering I do a good deal of writing about millennials and am not one, I can see the backlash coming at me too–and perhaps deservedly so. These folks are not who we have molded into being. They are simply themselves.

One millennial who I direct, taught me much about direction with millennials in particular. They were frankly stuck in believing that their worth was dependent on how another might see them. I tried, with limited success, to get them to realize that this isn’t true. That God has already made them valuable simply by the gift of life itself. I mostly journeyed with them in their struggle, not trying to get them to see MY point of view but rather asking questions more about their image of God and their image of themselves.

It wasn’t until they were able to sit with much of these images in mind in silence at adoration that they realized how forgiven they already are and how loved they are by God, despite failure, despite the past, despite confusion. Once realized, self-worth came flooding the psyche and true healing and more importantly, true living could begin.

My lesson is that Christ is the one who awakens people to themselves, not me. I have the honor of walking people towards seeing Christ more clearly so that Christ can do the healing needed for people to become all that they are. My greatest gifts are often patience and listening for the gentle voice of God within these people, that I can point them to more directly–so that they hear that voice of God in their hearts.

In my new book Loving Work, I recommend trying to find out what you are passionate about and try to harness that passion into a drive for the lives, not necessarily their careers. Some are able to do this well. Others have no clue what they are even passionate about because they’ve never had the freedom to think about what life would be like outside the rat race. Most simply can’t yet hear or feel God’s stirring inside them because their lives are too cluttered with what everyone else thinks they should be doing. It blocks most of what can occur in developing a passion and also drives people into a desperation, where they take what they can get because often they have no other choice. We haven’t given them the luxury of a world where they can find their passion, instead we give them a world where they must find work, any work.

Even McCullough, in the midst of stabbing our supposedly inflated egos, urged us not to do anything that we didn’t love or feel passionate about. You know what? We don’t have that luxury. That idea is a relic of days gone by. We are not the generation that finds itself in creative abandon. We are not the generation that goes off in search of personal fulfillment and the satisfaction of a job well done, only to come back millionaires. We are the generation that takes whatever work we can get, that knows no matter how hard we try we might not succeed. We know our lot, and it’s not nearly as bright as yours. Woodstock? Ha. Like any of us could afford to take time off to lie around smoking and writing songs. Don’t accuse us of your ennui: we’re too busy trying to find a job.

A bit much here, one doesn’t need a Woodstock to discern where God is calling them. What one needs is silence in a world of noise. And that silence is often absent and frightening when they engage with it. Others have filled their lives thus far with the clutter of fake praise, empty promises and one more bad Taylor Swift song. They don’t know whose voice to trust and don’t have enough confidence to trust their own.

Millennials post-college now, more than ever, need mentors who will be patient, who will help them REFORM meaning in their lives, because they have often missed that step thanks to those wisdom figures (well, not really) who simply pushed them to believe not in their own specialness, but in the people that their generation hopes they will become.

It’s time for millennials to shirk off the promises that their parents and teachers offered to them and move into the challenge of becoming free. To engage in solitude with who they most wish to become and where mentors will wait with them, in their freedom to be mentors and to not make it all about the mentor-guru. Tony Robbins wannabes beware. It’s not about you. It’s about THEM.

Read the rest Sierra’s whole note. It’s quite something. And then, listen to some millennials in your life. And gently let them know that you’re there for them.

Chaput Shakes Up Philly Archdiocese

Hat tip to Deacon Greg who exclusively reported on this from the Catholic Media Conference in Indianapolis where Archbishop Chaput announced the following:


On Thursday, Chaput announced deep and drastic cuts for the church back here in Philadelphia, including 45 layoffs, the consolidation of several offices and ministries, and the elimination of its print newspaper, the Catholic Standard & Times, a very old reading habit for local Catholics.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Susan Matthews, a former Standard and Times editor who runs the website. “With over a million Catholics in the city, it was not only a source for news but for historical records.”

In a news release issued Thursday, the Archdiocese said it would be closing the paper and suspending the production of its monthly magazine, Phaith.

The diocese said the website would continue to be the official source of news for the Archdiocese.

We all know this is because Archbishop Chaput smartly is looking ahead in anticipation of further financial troubles down the road because of the sex abuse cases that will soon make Boston look like a day at the beach.

However, this further piece troubled me greatly and will go overlooked:

The Archdiocese will merge or combine 19 offices and ministries. The Office of Youth and Young Adults, which operates the Catholic Youth Organization, will close, though the Archdiocese said the youth sports programs will continue on “with no change on the local level.”

Right. Because God forbid kids can’t play soccer, while legions of 20 and 30 something adults go without an official office at the diocesan level and largely go ignored in parishes. I hope when he realigns these offices he smartly puts young adults and campus ministry together as opposed to youth and young adults which are hardly the same thing.

This is not a time to ignore the very group that has been affected by the sexual abuse crisis. And because Archbishop Chaput is a smart guy, I will trust that while the Archbishop has closed the young adult office he’s also transferring the responsibility of caring for youth and young adults to someone else’s job within the Archdiocese. Let’s pray that THEY make young adults a continued priority because their list of priorities is going to be lengthy.

That said, this also is an opportunity for Philadelphia’s young adults and individual young adult ministry organizations at the parish and vicariate levels. You need to step up and plan something big on your own to ensure that young people are heard in the diocese and more importantly to show your bishop that you can be self-sustaining in this time of trouble, financially and otherwise. Know of my prayers and know that my phone is always on for you should you want to bounce ideas off me. Busted Halo® has young adult ministry in a box which could prove to be a very valuable resource for you at this juncture.

So today let’s pray for Philadelphia Catholics. May they be able to be served well and trust that God will see them through the tough times.

Coming Your Way Soon to the Small Screen

This is an amazing effort by Joe Patane, of MTV’s Real World: Miami fame. Now a social worker and a licensed therapist, Joe has built a foundation and started Dream Camps for teens who have been through many traumatic experiences in their lives. He’s worked hard at finding a production company that won’t exploit the teens for ratings and I think he’s finally zoning in on a completed project that is sure to be inspiring. Check out a clip:

Full disclosure: Joe is my college roommate and has been a friend for nearly a quarter century. He’s amazingly creative and has a real heart for the youth he serves. He’s gained tremendous support from some big names like Steve Wozniak, Drew Carey and Charles Schultz’s family (creator of the Peanuts comic strip, better known as Charlie Brown and Snoopy).

So keep you eyes pealed, while I’m not a fan of reality TV, this show will not be like watching a train wreck, as way reality TV often is. It’s sure to inspire.

How do I know? Because Joe has inspired me for nearly 25 years now.

Well done, my friend.