Saturday, July 30, 2011

Oh Father, Nooooooooo!

Nine years ago tomorrow I quit smoking for good.  It is a decision that I have not regretted once.  Now I feel the need to tackle another big problem: my weight.

Several years back, I gave up meat for Lent.  AS much as I craved it, I stood firm.  That Lent I lost weight and felt healthier than I have ever felt in years.  Yet the siren song of a Quarter Pounder, of Fried Chicken, of Ribeye was just too much and ate meat like a mad man (which made me sick initially).  I usually associated vegetarianism with malnourished hippie types who look anemic.  Not being the hippie type ( I like bathing and all), I eschewed vegetarianism as a lifestyle and gobbled meat like a true carnivore.

On Camp Maccabee I came across two young men who were vegetarians.  They were not anemic hippie types (though after a few of the outings they desperately needed a shower).  IN fact, they looked quite healthy.  After teasing them a bit, I started to remember how good I felt that Lent way back when and decided to use my birthday again (as I did with smoking) as a time to start a new path.  So, at least for one year, I am going to try the vegetarian diet.  Sure, I might drool every time I pass a herd of cows and contemplate a little steak tartar (or steak mooing).  But I have battling weight now for 20 years and coming our on the losing end.  So, Forest and Beket, either I will thankful for meeting you a year from now or my head will buried in an all you can eat meat buffet, ripping and snarling through the buffet like a lion tearing through a Wildebeest. 

So my vegetarianism is not a political statement (I will still loathe PETA), it is a health statement for me, with the possible exception of a certain priest friend of mine whose entire diet consist of meat, I'll not look at you when you eat meat as if you are beating puppies.  Ergo, please don't look at me as if I am some wild eyed hippie who needs a bath...even if I need the latter:)  

Who is to blame?

For the past several weeks, our elected leaders have been rattling the partisan sabers over the budget, the debt ceiling, and the deficit.  Politocal pundits of all stripes have weighed in trying to find and level blame on who is responsible for the grinding halt that is our federal governement.  Of course, Republican pundits blame the president and the Democrats; the Democrats blame the House and the Tea Party; the White House blames the Congress and vice versa.  Of course, on blogs. class warfare reigns and it is so common for groups to villify the rich or the poor, both leveling the same accusation of the other side being a group of greedy societal parasites. It has gotten ugly. 

Truth be told, though, at the end of the day it is the American voter who is ultimately to blame.  WE are a federal republic, we vote for those who make the decisions.  We elected every single representative, senator, and president their post.  We were the ones who sent the conflicted message to them that we want loads of freebies (which the DNC picked up on) but we don't want to pay for it (which the GOP picked up on).  WE allowed them to play every devisive card (gender, race, orientation, religion, social class, economic class) to cater votes.  We allowed them to replace real debate with a collection of 10 second sound bytes that were rhetorical fluff.  We allowed to demagouge instead of expalin their positions.  We allowed them to throw mud at their opponents, to slander and lie about their opponenets.  Worst of all we rallied around the question "How can my life be made better by this election" (Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago) instead of asking "How can this country and all its citizens be made better?".  How did we think this would end well?

All of these things are in direct opposition to our Catholic faith.  Our faith is based in love of God; that is, a love that by its nature looks out for the good of others.  St. Paul tells us that this love rejoices in the truth, is not envious, and seeks the good of the other.  There is no segment of this life in which the love of Christ is supposed to be absent.  If we are true to our call as Catholics, then we bring that love into our political decisions and demand that those we elect do so as well.  Wouldn't it be great if our elected officials collectively looked at what was really in the best long term interest of this country, even if in doing so the are sacrificing their political careers?  Wouldn't it be awesome if both we and the Congress we elect realized that wisdom and not demagoguery should prevail in our social discourse?  These things are entirely possible, but first we must demand the life of Christian love to be each of our way of life and elect those who will do the same: those who look out for the good of the entire population, not just the part they hope votes for them.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Happy Kind of Tired

This last week, I and 12 campers and 10 other staff took off for the far corner of the Diocese of Jefferson City down in Hickory County for the 3rd annual Camp Maccabee.  This camp was founded to instill a strong sense of Catholic masculinity in our future generations.  In the back of my mind, for years, has been a question that has stemmed from priestly ministry: how do we prepare our youth for being a Catholic adult in a world that is quite content to keep them children?  Now, I know nothing about being a woman...but being a man in this world, that I know a bit about.  On a chance, I was driving with Fr Dave Veit down in the Steeleville area of Missouri and we got to talking about camps and he mentioned there was this rustic resort, Eaglehurst Ranch, run by Catholics and with a Catholic ethos about it and we got to talking about wouldn't it be great to have a camp there to center on Catholic Masculinity.  WE talked to Fr Joe Corel, vocation director of the diocese and the unnamed camp was born.

The camp's name was important.  It sets the tone.  I scanned my memory for men who exhibited great virtue and strength in the face of incredible odds.  I remembered the story from the Old Testament of Judas Maccabeus.  Judas' father, Matthias, has started the Hasmonean Revolt against the Greeks who were looking to completely destroy any and all foreign cultures within the empire, including Judaism.  Judas became the revolt's greatest and first general who not just fought the Greek armies but recaptured Jerusalem and fixed up the temple after it had been desecrated.  In my mind, I saw our secular society as much against both our Catholic Identity and against classical masculinity.  I was seeing this in wedding preparations with overgrown boys and the women who were settling for them, in annulment proceedings where the couple found out the wedding wasn't a magic wand that made immaturity disappear,  and it seminary recruitment and seeing just the overall lack of maturity.  Something had to change and our young men needed a way to understand the call God gives us as men.  The name Camp Maccabee and its mission were fully born.

Both Fr Joe and I had read John Eldridge's books (Wild at Heart) and thought that we could surely give it a Catholic flavor and run with its themes.  IN the first two years we focused on the 4 cardinal virtues.  This year we focused on honor, respect, self-control and holiness as the essential traits of a good Catholic man.  The days were to be filled with outdoor activities and the nights with a retreat aspect.  The campers go to Mass, the summit of our grace and strength, every day.  We pray the Liturgy of the Hours (Morning and Evening Prayer, Compline).  They have a holy hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament with Confessions available.  They learn that to be a true man is to be a man of God and a man of prayer. 

I have just returned from our third summer of this camp.  It was awesome.  WE changed the venues.  The young men went on a float trip, learned to tie flies and fly fish, went to Camp Windmere ( a Baptist Camp that is awesome...why can't we have something like that?) and did exercises in trust and zip-lining.  They heard talks on the four above mentioned topics and also on Christian Courtship and Theology of the Body.  The staff and campers bonded well; all in all a great experience.  But as we were out in 100+ degree heat at times, it is a bit exhausting.  Today I am feeling that happy kind of tired; the kind that comes from seeing God's Spirit powerfully in play and allowing myself to be challenged by the talks as well.  I am already looking forward to next year!