Thursday, December 5, 2013

What are We Waiting For?

The other day my daughter started whistling a Christmas tune. I don’t know if she did it because it feels like Christmas to our family, or because she wanted to get under my skin. This is our first fall as residents of the Midwest. Where we came from, in the desert, it doesn’t feel like Christmas until February. In early December in our former stomping grounds, one still finds it too warm most days to wear a jacket.

So my family is pretty excited that we will need coats this Christmas. Sorry, but for all my years in Arizona, the whole Christmas by the pool gig just didn’t work for me. I’m an old fashioned kind of guy, and I like Bing Crosby’s version of Christmas better. (Yes, I know Jesus wasn't born in the Midwest, but still...)

At any rate, I suspect she did it just to annoy me. She knows where I stand with the premature Christmas celebrations. I want to enjoy Advent before it slips away, for crying out loud!

The Season of Advent gets neglected--- let’s face it. That’s why one of our priests, in his homily for the First Sunday of Advent, so passionately proclaimed that it is not Christmas yet. He’s right!

The word Advent means arrival, or coming. It means something is going to happen. In this case, it is something big.

I was talking to a colleague about this, about how we are a culture that does not like to wait for anything. We want what we want now. Our culture wants Easter without Lent and Good Friday, and Christmas without Advent. We Catholics have such a gift in our liturgical calendar which helps us stay in season, and in sync with God’s Plan. That is hard for the culture to grasp.

This is a sad thing because so much happens in the waiting.

In the waiting, God prepares our hearts. In the waiting, we anticipate and consider the value of the coming event. For instance, part of the enjoyment of a friend’s visit is the anticipation and planning for it. During Advent we are preparing to celebrate the birth of the Christ which happened, but we are also preparing for the Second Coming which is to come. Are you ready? Are you prepared? Are you working on being prepared?

May I suggest--- stealing an idea from a priest whose blog I read recently--- that one thing we do in the waiting is spend some extra time with the Eucharistic Lord in adoration? Wait with Him in the chapel. Speak to Him in the depths of your heart, and listen to Him as He prepares your heart to celebrate His coming. It will be Christmas soon enough.

(By the way, Drawn to Life Ministries will be presenting an Advent mission in the Valley of the Sun on the evenings of December 9, 10, 11 at St. Helen Catholic Church- 5510 W. Cholla St., Glendale, AZ, 85304. The presentations begin at 7pm and will end by 8:30pm.)

In the meantime, go ahead and whistle some Advent tunes.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Made for... Mediocrity?

I didn’t wake up one morning in my youth and think, “I want to grow up to be a mediocre husband and father, and to fritter away my life on selfish pursuits and unfulfilling drivel.”

But there came a point in which I recognized, as a young man, that was where I was headed. I realized and acknowledged that my life was mediocre and even bad. There was an absence of goodness in my heart, and so in my life. It touched everything around me.

My journey toward badness entailed choices made step by step. The path of mediocrity and moral degeneration is a wide and spacious one, and easy to tread. My own journey will have to be chronicled elsewhere, but to sum it up, basically I bought into the culture's "gospel": "Live for yourself and you will be happy." That is, of course, the sure road to hell. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Eating Humble Duck Pie

Copyright 2013, Used by Permission

God's truth can be found in the most surprising places. Even the infernal mind-jello mould known as television can be used by God to share the wisdom of God.

In my last blog post, Questions that Wake You Up at Night, I offhandedly made reference to people who believe that deep reflection on the meaning of life entails watching episodes of Duck Dynasty. I wasn't criticizing people who watch the show, but those whose theological reflection and inquiry goes no deeper.

While I stand by the point I made with reference to the reality show (which you can find in that post), I am humbled by the following video interview with one of the "stars" of Duck Dynasty. If I had possessed this sort of wisdom when I was this man's age... well...

Watch the brief interview HERE and be schooled by a big-bearded man of God and his bride on the topics of "what really matters in life" and "godly marriage!"

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Questions That Wake You Up at Night

Copyright 2013, Used by Permission

What if this whole Christianity is one big, wish-it-could-be-true sham?

What if we have latched on to some ancient mythology out of a desperate desire for something beautiful, something to allay the deep loneliness of the human heart, which, no matter how superficially connected to others of the species it may seem to be, fears in its depths that it is somehow disconnected and alone? What if Christianity only depicts, like a painting, a beauty that is too good to be true?

What if Jesus of Nazareth has become the mythic man-god of Christian belief, a great man clothed with divinity by man's collective imagination?

These are questions that are especially prevalent in this skeptical age. They are questions that must be faced with courage because they will not go away. They will be asked with more frequency. And they will be asked not only by skeptics outside the Church, but those within.

When I was agnostic, I worked next to a fellow who loved the Lord. He took his Bible with him on his lunch hour for prayer and study with a colleague. He seemed happy and secure.

I asked him once how he could be certain God was real. His answer irritated me. He said, "I just know it in my heart." I wanted more. I wanted him to give me a reason for his certitude, for his hope.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand up?

Copyright 2013, Used by Permission

It seems to me there are a lot of impostors out there. 

When I was a kid we watched a show called "To Tell the Truth." I am dating myself here, but the way it went, to the best of my memory, was this: A celebrity guest would face three guests claiming to be a certain person. Two were impostors and one was the real deal. The celebrity's challenge was to question all three and figure out who was being truthful. At the inquisitor's questions, the impostors could lie their heads off to trick the guest, but the authentic person had to tell the truth. 

I sometimes get the feeling we are in the position of the celebrity guest, having to discern between various claimants to the role of Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. 

In this case, the question is: Who is the real Jesus Christ among a myriad of impostors? 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Vanity of The Gospel of Jesus Nice

The Gospel of Jesus... Nice?

Following my entry into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil as a young man nearly two decades ago, I was bewildered. Much of what I heard in catechesis seemed saturated in a banal sentimentality that presented Jesus as more of a sort of Deepak Chopra figure than the revolutionary Son of the Most High God who said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49, NABRE)  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Rediscovering the Sacrament of Mercy, Part Two

One's view of God determines just about everything.

In Part One of this blog, we looked at the societal loss of the sense of sin, and how that may be a root cause of Catholics' avoidance of the confessional. 

But I am convinced that there is a second reason so many Catholics don't celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation. 

Many of us live with a distorted image of God.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rediscovering the Sacrament of Mercy, Part One

In the coming months children will celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation for their first time, and some—perhaps many, I regret--- will not return for many years, if ever.

Jesus, the Divine Mercy, will wait in the confessional, eager to offer His healing salve to bruised and wounded hearts, but His wait will be long.


I believe the simplest answer is this: Mom and Dad have left the Lord waiting. They have neglected the care of their own souls through avoidance of the confessional. Children learn how to view and live life from their parents.

And why do parents leave the Divine Mercy waiting?

I believe there are basically two reasons.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why it Matters to ME that YOU Be a Good Catholic

I was talking to a buddy on the phone yesterday and I confessed, “I am more Catholic cheerleader than apologist.”

When I watch apologists debate the Catholic and Protestant sides, I feel like I am watching an unbearably long Ping-Pong match without any record of score. Each observer has to imagine the score in his own head.

After half an hour or so, my brain goes numb.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe apologetics is a very important discipline, and I have great respect for those who engage in this essential ministry professionally. Many a seeker has made a definitive choice for the Catholic Church because the case for Catholicism was well argued and systematically presented. I have learned a great deal from the likes of Patrick Madrid, Jimmy Akin, and Michelle Arnold, brilliant apologists all.

Also, I believe that every Catholic should be able to articulate his faith well enough to present a logical and reasonable defense of Catholic doctrine, especially in these relativistic times when truth seems up for grabs and logic and reason are a rare commodity, obscured as they are by rampant emotionalism and banal sentimentality.

But when it comes down to me, my primary drive is to evangelize the disengaged, or the lightly engaged, of the fold. Perhaps this is because I found myself astounded upon my entry into the Church at twenty-nine years old, and following a life of impoverished agnosticism, by the many Catholics who seemed bored by the Faith. I was like a starving man that looks on in wonder as other hungry people sit before piles of the most exquisite food without partaking.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Five Ways to Lead Your Children to Heaven, PART TWO

Most of us have encountered people who journey through life in a way that exemplifies Thoreau’s famous line from Walden: “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”

I have observed that a common denominator in the “quiet desperation crowd,” barring other emotional causes, is often a seeming lack of a sense of purpose and meaning.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What a Real Man Looks (and Smells) Like

My four year old son, Joshua, came up to me at church the other day and said, a big grin on his face, “Daddy, smell me!”

When a four year old boy asks you to smell him, you get nervous.

I leaned over with some trepidation and smelled him.

He smelled kind of like me. Only his smell was lower to the ground.

“Do I smell like a man?” he asked with wide eyes.

“Oh, absolutely, buddy. You smell like a man, for sure,” I assured him, mussing his thick hair.

“I used your perfume!” he gushed.

Kim corrected him, “That would be cologne, honey.”

He asked me recently when he could start shaving (that reminds me, I need to get a play shaving kit like they had when I was a kid--- do they even have those anymore?). My little guy wants so much to be a man. 

And you know what really scares me?

I am the one who is supposed to be his teacher; it is my responsibility to show him what a man looks like!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happiness Isn't a Warm Puppy: Five Ways to Lead Your Children to Heaven

When teaching baptism classes to parents, I would begin the first class with the question: “What do you desire most for your child?”

Nine times out of ten the response was, “Happiness.”

Parents want the very best for their children. Parents sacrifice a great deal to give their children everything they believe they need to be happy. Parents--- healthy, sane parents--- want their children to be happy today, as children, and tomorrow, as adults.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Catholicism is a deep matter--- you cannot take it up in a teacup." Bl. John Henry Newman
Copyright 2013, by R. L. Drake

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Games We Play At

When I was a kid I enjoyed playing at war. No, I don’t mean video games. I grew up in time when kids knew what real play was. Real play was movement, it was outdoors, it was imagination running on overdrive.

We didn’t need much in the way of props for hours of pleasure. Toy guns sufficed, and if they weren’t available, a stick would do. T-shirt and jeans, transformed by our imaginations, became dirtied, bloodied fatigues. We enjoyed playing at war, but as true veterans know, playing at war and really waging it are two very different things.

I wonder how many of us play at Christianity more than we live Christianity for real. I include myself in this in this inquiry, by the way.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Battle Begins HERE!

As a Catholic husband and father I find our recent losses in the culture wars disturbing, to say the least. I am raising my children in a world that wants to redefine God’s institutions, reform religious thinking, and do violence to the Christian conscience. The popular culture seems intent to undermine, in effect, my efforts to educate my children in the ways of Christ.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Love That Saves

His name was Ed, and he had been married to Peggy for 57 years.

Ed had come to a presentation of the Catholicism series at the parish and we were visiting over coffee beforehand. Ed was talking about his marriage, and at one point he leaned in and whispered, “I don’t know if this is true to what the Church teaches, but I have come to believe that my salvation is inextricably bound to my fidelity to the vows I made to my wife 57 years ago (verbatim).” His eyes actually teared up when he said it.

I thought of Jesus’ words, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith (Mt 8:10).”

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Unholy Fear and the Frustration of Faith, Part Two

There are healthy fears: first and foremost, what the Bible calls “fear of the Lord.” This is more than reverence; it is a deeply experienced, holy awe. It is what moved Moses to cover his face before approaching the burning bush (cf. Exodus 3:6). It is the recognition of God’s glory, and corresponds with an awareness of our smallness, and that of all creation, before such majesty. This fear acknowledges the total dependence of the creature upon the Creator. It leads one to contemplate the divine love that wishes only good for such unworthy creatures, and the astounding beauty and goodness of such a Love.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Unholy Fear and the Frustration of Faith, Part One

I have heard it said that there are two things a person fears most: loss of what one has, and not getting what one wants.

That may be true. One thing I know is that fear prevents me from being available to God, and from walking forth in faith when He calls me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Bird in Winter

We were praying a family rosary the other day, in union with the Cardinals who were gathered in prayer, in Rome, in preparation for the Conclave in which a pope is to be elected.

I live in the Midwest now, a recent transplant from the desert of the West. That day we got a heavy snow, and when you looked out our windows, it was like gazing at a village in one of those Christmas globes. It struck the eye as hauntingly lovely for someone like me who has, for most his life, measured the seasons by whether or not his skin feels it is baking when he steps out the front door.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hey, You Annoying Christian, How Can You Believe?

I was employed at a company that did spot drawings for the yellow pages, a frustrated young man, miserably chained to a drawing board in a tiny cubicle, hunched in a cloud of cigarette smoke (second-hand, not mine--- this was before no-smoking laws reigned in buildings). I worked across the aisle from another artist named Ron. What we had in common was that neither of us contributed to the bar-like air of the art department. But we had one radical difference that I had a real problem with.

Ron was a Christian.

On his cubicle wall, Ron had tacked a bright and colorful poster of some guy majestically flying through the mountain air on skis. There was a caption that read: Those that hope in the LORD will renew their strength and soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, a quote from Isaiah 40:31.

Man, that ticked me off.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Back to Basics: What We Thirst For

When I was a kid growing up in the Arizona desert, we used to come in from the heat of the summer and greedily yank sodas from the refrigerator. I remember the intensely sweet taste of the soda as it went down. It tasted SO good!

But as I drained that last delicious drop from the can, something strange happened. You may know exactly what I am talking about. I realized I was far thirstier than before. So I grabbed another can of cola.

No matter how much soda I drank, the thirst increased.

It wasn’t until I guzzled a glass of ice-cold water that I found relief from the thirst.

I think that’s kind of how life works. We all thirst for God. It is a driving desire "written on the human heart." It is part of the human condition, which makes sense when we remember that we were created to experience happiness in communion with the Blessed Trinity in eternity. We were made by God, for God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 27). 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Loving the Church

When I read his final general audience in St. Peter’s Square, what struck me is how Pope Benedict’s words revealed a certain quality that would be good to see in more abundance these days, a selfless love for the Church. It seems evident that his decision to resign was motivated by his love for the Church that formed him into the exemplary Christian that he is. It made me reflect on what it means to love the Church, to lay down one's life for her.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Evangelization of the Children: Who will do it?

I wonder how many of us parents ever stop to think about the fact that our children are being evangelized all day, every day.

I am not talking about the evangelization of the Good News of God’s love and His call to holiness. I am speaking of the proclamation of an anti-gospel, one that proclaims the following lies: Your worth is based on who you hang out with, what you do on a Saturday night; your happiness depends on what clothes you wear, what kind of cell phone you own, how good looking you are, whether or not you’ve got a boyfriend or girlfriend, whether or not you’re “having sex.” It claims that a baby isn’t a human being but a “choice,” and that the elderly have nothing to offer or teach us because they are "old," that they aren’t “useful” or "valuable" to society anymore. This anti-gospel is imbedded in the culture like cancer cells in a body. It isn't the culture, but it permeates the very mind and heart of the culture. 

I’m not trying to scare you… oh, wait a minute: yes, I am. We parents need to be startled. We need to wake up. Especially those of us who call ourselves Christian but just sort of go through the motions. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


A Prayer for God's Will

Lord, help me to NOT be an obstacle to your plan for me today. Help me to hear your voice and respond with a generous YES to all you ask of me. Help me to NOT be distracted from your holy will by my own weaknesses, fears, and selfish desires. Help me to be obedient and faithful to you in all things, and attentive to the movements of the Holy Spirit. Form my heart to desire nothing but your will. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.