Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kickoff Recap

We opened the Youth Ministry year on Sunday with a huge crowd of teens in the Parish Center.  We enjoyed some cake and socializing, before a few introductions and the Rules Video:

Then, we played games.  First up was "The Great Banana Race."  I enjoyed watching this because bananas were flying all over the gym and exploding on the floor.  Then, something amazing happened...something I've always wanted to see - somebody took a banana to the face.  It was just as hilarious as I imagined it would be.  Check it out:

This was my first attempt at video editing.  More to come on Kickoff soon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kickoff Sneak Peek

For those of you who follow this blog regularly, I thought I'd provide you with a little peek into Sunday's Kickoff.

The evening will open with cake - we are celebrating 25 years of Youth Ministry at the parish.  Naturally, this must be done in style, so 3 huge sheet cakes have been ordered.  Fantastic!

The beloved "Rules Video" will be shown before the evening's games and activities, all of which involve fruit in some fashion.

We'll wrap up the evening with the unveiling of our theme ("The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  Jn. 1:5), and the distribution of our t-shirt for 2011-2012.

Tell your friends; it's going to be a good time.  Woot!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This Bites

Recently, my wife took our daughter to the grocery store - a routine trip that is becoming increasingly more like an excursion.

As my wife pulled into the checkout lane - after 9 potty stops and continuous attempts in preventing our daughter from climbing out of the little plastic car attached to the front of the cart - our almost-two-year-old reached out and grabbed a pack of Rolos from the rack.

Then, without hesitating, she bit into them - and victoriously yelled, "MINE!"

I think this is a much better way to shop.  I plan to employ her methods next time I go to the store. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quick Note on Media Coverage

Many of you were probably aware that World Youth Day was happening in Madrid, Spain last week.  The Pope and over one million (one of our teens said the estimated attendance was actually 2.5 million) young people from all around the world gathered to celebrate Catholicism.  To me, any time one million people meet up in one place, at one time, for one thing, something newsworthy is happening.

I kept up with the WYD events through various Catholic media outlets, and was not terribly surprised to find no mention of it when I made my daily CNN news-check.  I did get curious to know just how deep into the CNN site I would have to dig to locate anything about the Pope and the youth.


One had to move from the main page to the "World" tab.  From there, scroll down to the bottom of the page and locate the Europe section.  Here, there is a tiny link with a brief overview about World Youth Day.

This, to me, serves as an important reminder for all of us how limiting the "powers that be" really are and how much influence these "powers" have in determining what is news/important and what isn't.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Freedom From - Freedom For (part II)

My wife and I were reflecting upon the 10 Commandments and Jesus' "greatest commandment" a few days ago.  The reflection follows closely in line with my previous post, and may shed some additional light upon those thoughts.

Check out Matthew 22:34-40 -

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Note that Jesus sums up the first 3 commandments in one sentence, and the 7 remaining commandments with "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 

The 10 Commandments, many of which begin in the negative (Thou shalt not), are necessary to achieve a freedom from sin.  Following the law achieves this.  But, Jesus is proposing something greater than the moralism that had become of the "law and the prophets."

He begins by cutting to the heart of what it means to be human - "You shall love."  Do what you were created to do!

Here, Jesus answers the "why?" surrounding the 10 Commandments.  Why deal with all of these negative commands?  For the positive reason that you were created to love God (which is a proper response for all that is given), neighbor and self.  You were called to love the gift that is your life - perfect love casts out all fear.  Indeed, this requires the purgation and freeing yourself from sin through grace, but it makes so much more sense, and is much more meaningful in the positive light. 

Jesus' response in the Gospel of Matthew pushes us to the proper place before the commandments - a place in which we have an answer to the "why?" behind the law.  For this reason, I often quote Pope Benedict XVI in the beginning of his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est: 

"We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."

It is within the encounter, within the new relationship of the human heart with Christ that the freedom for life leads the conversion from sin.  Without the relationship, the commandments seem limiting, negative and difficult.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Freedom From - Freedom For

Two pro-life videos ultimately pursuing positive ends - recognition of the dignity of life.  Two completely different uses of freedom.  Check these out:

These are two pro-life videos.  The first video is from a Christian group in Iran called Elam.  The second is from a completely secular company - Pampers (this fact, in itself, is a little miracle).

After watching these two clips, I noticed a difference within myself.  The Elam video resulted in a feeling of sadness.  I desired a freedom from the results of abortion - the death, the despair, the darkness.  This was a real feeling and a real desire - and one that I believe drives most of the pro-life movement.  We want a freedom from the culture of death.

Meanwhile, the Pampers video casts this entire freedom issue into a different light.  I remember watching this clip for the first time months ago and almost fell off my chair - mostly because Pampers did it, and secondarily because it is beautiful.  (Now, I realize the In Vitro Fertilization clip is in there.  We could obviously discuss this in a separate paper.  Regardless of the political/moral point they were trying to make with IVF in the TV ad, life still happens in those situations, and the baby is still a real human being - even if moral ramifications exist.)

The Pampers commercial emitted a response from within me of freedom for life.  The clip is chock full of the beauty of new life - the beauty of this life that takes us by surprise, holds us, spins us around, and keeps us longing for more if it.  This is a positive movement of the soul.  This is a real, positive emotion and desire for freedom.

These clips do a good job of illustrating this issue of freedom from and freedom for, which are ultimately up for our consideration.  Certainly we want freedom from sin and death, but why?  Just because they are bad and limiting?  Shifting the focus from a negative vantage point, to a positive one, allows for a full answer why.  Why do I want freedom from a culture of death?  Because the good (life itself) is great and worthy of my pursuit.  I want freedom for more life.  This is a movement into a positive, and ultimately more attractive light.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fractio Panis

What you see above is a painting from the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome.  It dates back to around 250 AD, and is entitled Fractio Panis (The Breaking of the Bread).   

A friend of mine from high school was recently ordained to the priesthood, and used this image for the prayer card for his ordination.  

I was struck by the simply beauty of this image.  You may notice that the individual features of Christ and the apostles are nearly indistinguishable.  But, what stands out are the postures of the individuals.  They appear to be deeply engaged in conversation, and intimate in friendship.  

This painting stems from the heart of the Christian persecutions in Rome, and portrays the intense hope that comes from a relationship with Christ.  It is certainly worth examining this image, and pondering what the early martyrs went through and how closely they must have clung to Christ.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

In All Things

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  - Romans 8:28

Sometimes life makes very little sense.  Stuff spins out of control.  Relationships may crash.  Your resolutions result in naught. 

It is during these times when we easy snap into tunnel-vision mode.  This quote from Romans challenges us to take out our wide-angle lens and see the bigger picture.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's been a while

I have struggled as of late to keep up with this blog.  My apologies. 

Here is a recap of summer thus far:

In June, we made gigantic ice cream cones at the festival.  We also attended a Reds game.  Overall, the baseball played on the field was horrible, but a handful of the teens did make it on the jumbo-tron, because they were dancing fools!  We sent a group of 12 to Glemnary Farm in Vanceburg, KY, along with a group from IHM, for a week of mission work.  They had a great time and grew in faithfulness and charity.  Some of the guys who went on that trip love this song:

NOTE:  This video gets really exciting at the 4:55 mark.

July.  What a crazy month.  A small group of us went hiking with Fr. Albert.  Enjoyable day with an epic cornhole tournament.  We were a group of nine - and proceeded to eat 11 hamburgers and 12 bratwursts!  I also watched a bird poop on the head of one of our senior guys.  It was fantastic.

Our teens lying in wait for our bus.
A week later we were on the bus to Steubenville.  The Youth Conference was powerful.  Many of our teens experienced initial conversion, and many more had the opportunity to re-affirm, and re-commit to living the Christian life.  Check out pics from the weekend on our Facebook page.  Our bus also broke down on the way back.  I will have to save that story for a different post. 

The month ended with an event by Presentation Ministries.  They brought Dcn. Ralph Poyo to XU for a day of talks on our battle to get to heaven.  It laid out the current climate toward truth and Christianity, and the challenge we have before us to respond as light in darkness. 

Now, we prepare for the upcoming year with parent info sessions and Kickoff!