What is a Deacon?

I received a message late in the afternoon on Monday morning from my friend, Jon Leonetti, asking if I’d be interested in being interviewed on the Iowa Catholic Radio Morning Show, to help answer the question, “What is a Deacon?”  I guess being a deacon myself, Jon figured I might have some insight into the question.  All I had to do was be ready to go on live at 7:20am the next day!

It was especially exciting to be able to share about this ministry in the Church on the day of the inauguration of Pope Francis, named after St. Francis of Assisi, who was himself a deacon!  The audio clip below is courtesy of the good people at Iowa Catholic Radio.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

+Peace

Something Worth Giving Up

For the past 2 years, I’ve written posts suggesting that our big “giving up” for Lent is not all it’s cracked up to be. You can read them here and here. To be honest, I was prepared to write just such a post again this year (maybe I will, since I actually preached about it last Sunday). But, things seem a little different today.

It is hard to ignore the elephant in the room, namely, the fact that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, plans to renounce the Petrine ministry in just a few weeks. And with all that is being said and written about his papacy, and the next pope, I finally think I’ve found something worthy of “giving up”.

For Lent, I’ve decided to give up reading or writing about who will be the next Pope, listening to or participating in discussions about who will be the next Pope, or even considering the qualities I’d like to see in the next Pope.

Why, you may ask?

Because the election of the Pope is nothing like the election of the President, or the Governor, or the local school board representative, or the dog catcher, and as tempting as it may be, I’m not going to treat it like it is.

All I’m going to do is pray for our Church, and for the Cardinals who will be electing the next Pope, and for whomever the next Pope will be. That’s it.

My prayer is not going to include any helpful hints for the Holy Spirit about the qualities I think are needed or not needed in the next Pope, the continents that should or should not have a native son elected Pope, or the most important issues facing the Church and the world that the next Pope will need to address.

You see, to be Catholic means to accept Jesus promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. But, that is not to say that evil will not have its way from time to time. Jesus’ promise is an eternal promise. Sometimes it is difficult to recall that eternal promise in the face of the evil of any one day or period.

If we get (another) terrific Pope, glory be to God! May we offer up our prayers of thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father! Powerful experiences of God’s grace and mercy are part of the life of believers and of the Church.

If we get (another, although none recently) not-so-terrific Pope, glory be to God! May we offer up our prayers of thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father. In addition, we may offer up our sorrows, and if it comes to it, our sufferings. The apparent absence of God’s grace and mercy are also part of the life of believers and the Church. And, to be honest, great growth can follow these times of difficulty. So, rather than thinking the Holy Spirit got it wrong, we turn to the Holy Spirit as consoler and advocate.

Jesus promised to be with the Church to the end, and that’s that. I’m done worrying about the details. I’m giving it up.

Oh, and guacamole. I’m giving that up, too.

Top 10 Reasons Why I Can’t Be Part of the Genesis To Jesus Bible Study at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish

This past summer, I attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville Summer Conferences for the 23rd consecutive year.  It has been a great blessing in my life, and I give thanks to God for the good work of FUS!  One new thing I did this past summer at the conference was take the Journey Through Scripture Bible Study course, Genesis to Jesus, offered by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and Dr. Scott Hahn.  It was really the training to be an instructor, and I’ve been anxious to offer the study at my parish, Sts. Peter and Paul in Springbrook, IA.

Well, that time has come!  The study begins on October 14 at 7:00pm, and there will be sessions on 7 consecutive Sunday evenings.  I am working to have a huge turnout from my parishioners!  I am challenging them to be a part of this study.  But, for those that are hesitant to sign up, let me present the:

Top 10 Reasons Why I Can’t Be Part of the Genesis To Jesus Bible Study
at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish.

10.   I don’t have a Bible.  Well, okay, I have a Bible, but I’m not very familiar with it, and just a little nervous.  I don’t want to look like I don’t know my Bible.

No problem!  I will make sure everyone has a Bible!  If you need a Bible, ask.  Or, better yet, go get one!  We use readings from the New American Bible at Mass, but most of the readings for this study are taken from the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition.  Any way you slice it, we’ve got a Bible for you.  And this study doesn’t expect you to be an expert.  It is a study that shows everyone how God has been working throughout all of history, from Genesis to Jesus, to bring us into his life and love.  And that is a message for Bible beginners and Bible experts!

9. I don’t have a way to get to the parish.  I don’t like to drive at night.

I will arrange for your transportation!

8. I have young kids, and I don’t want/can’t afford to get babysitting for 7 weeks.

If you let me know what you need as far as babysitting so that you can be part of this study, I will do whatever I can to make it happen!  I just need to know what you need!

7. I don’t have the $10 for the workbook.

I will not let $10 stand between you and being a part of this study!  Let me know what you need, and I will help.

6. I’m a high-schooler, and I don’t think I have the time, but I’m intrigued.  Didn’t you say something about a special offer?

Well, I can’t do much about the time management problem, but I bet with a little effort, you can.  And, yes, I did mention a special offer!  If you sign up and participate in this study, I will give you your workbook for FREE!  I know you were probably just going to get mom or dad to pay anyway, but I want you to know it is important to me and to the parish that you participate.

5. I would like to be part of the study, but honest, Sunday nights at 7:00pm just don’t work for me.

I know it seems like I’ve been gone a lot lately, but most of that should be coming to an end.  I would be thrilled to also offer the study at another time during the week!  I’m good with any time, Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday!  Let me know!

4. I don’t know how to get a hold of you to sign up.

3. I go to Mass every week, and I pray my Rosary.  Surely that is enough.

What is “enough” when we are talking about our relationship with our Heavenly Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?  Of course we need to go to Mass, and praying the Rosary is a powerful prayer.  But there really isn’t such a thing as too much of God, is there?  See how this makes your experience of Mass and prayer even better!

2. I don’t think I need to study the Bible.

A lot of people don’t think they need to study the Bible.  But if the Bible is God’s word to us, and we are serious about wanting to grow in our relationship with God, then we all need to study the Bible!  St. Jerome once said that “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

1. The truth is, I just don’t want to be part of a Bible Study.

I was really hoping after eliminating all the other reasons, we wouldn’t get to this one.  Unfortunately, this is the one where all I can do is encourage you, and pray that you have a desire to know God’s word more intimately.  Maybe, you should do it anyway, even though you don’t want to, and let’s see what God can do.

See You at the Reunion!

I typically write a little “Deacon Speakin’” for my parish, Sts. Peter and Paul in Springbrook, IA, each week.  This is what the deacon had to say for this upcoming weekend.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Last month was a Schmidt family reunion, and my family had a reunion in North Carolina, and today is a Kilburg family reunion.  In case you didn’t notice, Sara and I were not at Mass with you this morning, because we are attending Sara’s 30th High School Reunion in Zanesville, Ohio.  In 2 weeks, we’ll be traveling to Kingsley, Michigan for my 30th High School Reunion.

What is it with all these reunions?  What are they all about?  Do they tell us anything about who we are, and about God and the Church?

To be honest, I’ve never really given it much thought.  But as I find myself excited about the recent reunions I have been and will be part of, it has given me reason to reflect.

One of the things I’ve been impressed by in my time in Springbrook is the importance of family.  I see it all around me, with all the Kilburgs and Sieverdings and Steines and Michels (with and without the “s”), just to name a few.  Family ties are very strong in this community.  People know who their relatives are out to third cousins and beyond.

And these families gather together.  We are a social people.  We were born into the community of a family, and we grow in a larger community.  And it seems natural to want to gather with these different communities to share the stories of our lives, to reconnect with our history.  Without really thinking about it,  we know our lives are wrapped up in the lives of these other people, and that we need to touch base.

Part of the reason we know this is because we are made in the image and likeness of God.  And God in the Trinity is a family.  God the Father pours out his life in God the Son, who gives His life back to the Father.  The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, a love so real that it is actually a person of the Trinity.  And so our desire to connect is because made in the image and likeness of God, we are made to be in relationship, in communion with God and with others.

In a sense, we might think of our gathering at Sunday Mass as a family reunion.  After all, in our baptism we are adopted into the family of God, making us each brothers and sisters.  In the Mass we gather around the family table (the altar) to share in our great family Thanksgiving meal (the Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving”).  In the Scriptures, we tell our family stories, and hear of those who have gone before us.  And hearing the stories again and sharing in the meal, we go back out into the world, strengthened and renewed in knowing who we really are and to whom we belong and with whom we are connected..

Maybe we need to use this idea of the family reunion, the family gathering for the family meal, as a way to reach out to our family and friends that have been away from Mass.  This meal, the body and blood of Christ, and the feast of the Word of God is meant to be shared with family.  It is in this family, the family of God, that we find a source of our strength, and actually can find God himself.  Jesus told his disciples, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20).

So invite a brother or sister in Christ, and I’ll see you at the reunion!

+Peace,

Deacon Sean

Pick Your Battles

I wrote last year that I was going to give up guacamole for Lent.  You can read about it here.  It was a light-hearted attempt to bring a different perspective to the true eternal question, “What are you giving up for Lent?”

Sure enough, right on schedule, yesterday the question rang out anew,  “What are you giving up for Lent?”  And so I responded in manner similar to last year, about focusing more on growth for love of God and neighbor and less on guacamole or caffeine or chocolate or non-diet soda.

I actually got quite a bit of pushback.  I was told by multiple people that not giving up something that we like, such as chocolate, is actually missing the point of Lent!  We are always supposed to be growing in our spiritual life by working on our vices, so that is just a given.  The sacrifice of giving up chocolate is supposed to be “an extra layer of discipline” and “an opening for grace”.

Without denying either of those points, do we not understand that the 40 days of Lent is a desert journey, following our Lord’s same journey?  The opening of our Gospel for this weekend is,

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan. (Mark 1:12-13)

Jesus didn’t go into the desert for self-improvement; at least not in the way we think of self-improvement.  And he didn’t leave his candy dish at the edge of the desert so that he could gorge when the 40 days were over.  And he didn’t come out of the desert to a DVR full of TV shows that recorded while he was in the desert.  And I’m guessing he didn’t get Sundays off.

He went into the desert to do battle!  He certainly did not take this battle for granted, and neither should we!  And if we are going to take Lent seriously, we should be prepared to do battle, too!  I’m sure for some people that giving up guacamole or caffeine or chocolate or non-diet soda would be a battle; the question is with the real battles to be faced, is it a battle worth fighting?

I do not deny there are graces to be received from fasting from something that we enjoy.  What I’m not convinced of is that most of us are disposed to that grace because of all the other stuff in our life that we don’t give up.

I doubt I am the only person that professes a desire to love the Lord more, yet lives in a manner that betrays that profession. And at least in my life, it isn’t guacamole or caffeine or chocolate or non-diet soda that is the source of that betrayal.  It is nothing short of sin.  And if I am focusing on the sacrifice of guacamole or caffeine or chocolate or non-diet soda, while that sin is in my life, that seems to me akin to Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

Whatever the spiritual practices you follow this Lent, I pray that we all are conformed more and more to Jesus, the source of our salvation.

+Peace

Do The Math

It has been nearly a week since Susan G. Komen for the Cure, probably the best known advocate for a cure for breast cancer (pink ribbon anyone), implemented new procedures for determining how they will allocate grant money. The big “news” in this is that Planned Parenthood, probably the best known advocate for killing unborn children, will no longer eligible for grants because they under investigation by Congress. Watch and listen to Nancy Brinker, Founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and sister of Susan G. Komen, as she explains the decision.

The cry that has gone out across the land is that millions of women will be put at risk because Komen has chosen to “play politics” and “cave” to pro-lifers that have been objecting for years to this odd association. For some reason, I haven’t seen anyone actually take a look at these claims that have made otherwise reasonable people froth at the mouth. So, we’re going to do a little math today.

First, let me give you the sources for my data. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America 2009-2010 Annual Report, and a report detailing of the grants from Komen to PP for 2009-2010 from the American Life League.

According to PP Annual Report, they performed 747,607 Breast Exam/Breast Care services. This is out of a total of 11,003,366 services. The simple math there is that 6.8% of their services were breast exams or related to breast care.

According to the detailing of the grants from Komen to PP, in that same year PP received grants totalling $629,159. This is out of total revenues of $1,042,800,000. The simple math here is that 0.06% of PP revenue came from Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

More simple math…on an average, Komen grants provided 84¢ toward every breast exam/breast care service that PP provided. 84¢

How is it that this adds up to millions of women being put at risk?

The truth is, it doesn’t.

Susan G. Komen has chosen to direct its money and energy to organizations that do not have the baggage that Planned Parenthood has. To my way of thinking, they have chosen to focus more clearly on their mission, and to associate with others that are focused on the same mission. If you would like to be part of Komen’s mission of saving women’s lives by finding a cure for breast cancer, you can donate here. If you’d like to be part of Planned Parenthood’s mission of killing unborn children, find your own link.

A Second Reading from the Gospel According to White Castle

image

It’s not my fault that my God moments happen in odd places!

So, as I said the other day, I took my NCYC teens to White Castle for lunch. The next day I had a different mix of boys, and they weren’t quite as interested, so, we took them a little further down the street to a different fast food place. Then, I headed back to WC to buy a bag for myself! Hey, just because they weren’t interested doesn’t mean I should go without!

While I was standing in line, dressed in full NCYC silliness (re: picture above), the young woman behind the counter said something about my necklace. I had a bunch of things around my neck, so I asked her what she was talking about. It turns out it was a keyring with a peace sign that I had traded for earlier in the day. She said that she really loved the peace symbol and what it stood for.

So, I reached down and took the keyring from around my neck and I handed it to her. She was so surprised she didn’t know what to say. She excitedly gushed out a thank you, and ran to the back of the store. A moment later she came back, proudly showing everyone, coworker and customer alike, her new keyring which now held her house key.

It takes so very little, sometimes, to reach out to people and offer them a sign of peace. Don’t let it be something you do only at Mass.

Let us offer each other the sign of peace.

The Gospel According to White Castle

Okay, so maybe White Castle didn’t proclaim the good news.  But that doesn’t mean the Good News can’t be told at White Castle.

Last weekend was the National Catholic Youth Conference 2011 (NCYC 2011) in Indianapolis, IN.  This is a biennial a gathering of Catholic young people and their adult leaders from all over the country, nearly 23,000 strong this year.  The event is 3 days of prayer and praise, singing and dancing, teaching and learning, silly hats and crazy baubles for trading.  Several dozen bishops, hundreds of priests and seminarians, many deacons and religious, along with the lay leaders and thousands of teens, make this a high-energy experience called repeatedly during the weekend “Young Church”!

This was my first experience of NCYC, and it has taken me a week to write about it, primarily because I was exhausted!  The event is at the same time draining and exhilarating!  For sure, no one comes away from the experience without being changed in some way.  The great hope is that the change is toward Christ, toward the Church, living in the world but with an eye on heaven.  And for the most part, those are the changes I saw around me.

Fine, Deacon Sean, but what about White Castle?

The biggest logistical problem with the event is figuring out how to feed 23,000 people.  The solution that my group of young men decided on was to skip out on an afternoon session and walk to get something to eat.  It so happens that right outside the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, about a block away, is a White Castle.  Now, for those not familiar with White Castle (and not one other person in my group was), their hamburgers are affectionately called “Sliders”.  You “Buy’em by the sack” because they are teeny tiny little burgers. Have a look.

So, I figured I’d give my kids an experience not to be missed, and we went to White Castle.

Still waiting on the Gospel part of the story, Deacon Sean!

On our way to the store, we came across several men “begging”.  We’d been told stories about this at the weekend, but it was still a new experience for the kids.  One of the gentleman, smelling of alcohol, said to me “I just want something to eat.”  I told him we were heading to White Castle, and if he wanted to come along, I’d buy him something to eat.

After I placed my order, another gentleman already in the store said “I don’t beg like that man.  I got my pride.”  He asked me why we were there, and I told him we were part of a Catholic youth conference.  He asked me if I’d pray for him, and I said yes.  He bent his head down, and I laid my hand on his head, and asked God to be with him, for Jesus to be the Lord of his life and for the Holy Spirit to give him peace.   When we were done praying, a man sitting at the table next to him gave him some sliders.

When my name was called that my order was ready, I grabbed the sack.  I took out a few of the burgers, and gave the rest of the sack to the other man that was hungry.  He also asked for money, so I gave him a few bucks.  He then started to hit up the kids in the group, and they reached for their wallets.  I shook my head to them, and told the man that he had food and some money and should now be on his way.

I confess that I really like White Castle.  For the most part, the kids seemed to enjoy their White Castle experience, although I had no idea how much.

At Mass tonight, the mother of one of the teens came up to me and said that her son has been talking about NCYC all week!  She said he had a great time.  And she told me that this was the first story her son told her when he got home:

Teen:  Hey, Mom!  Did you know that Deacon Sean really likes White Castle?
Mom:  Now how would I know that?
Teen:  Deacon Sean said the 2 keys to happiness in life are Jesus and White Castle!

Now, I did in fact say that, so he is getting the story correct.  I may have overstated the role White Castle plays in happiness, but at least he remembered that Jesus is first on the list!  And he is sharing that story with others.  Jesus used parables and stories that spoke to his time, and if White Castle speaks to this generation, then praise God!

Who knew a slider could lead a teen to share that Jesus is the key to happiness?

 

 

“You Never Get A Second Chance…

…to make a first impression.” At least that’s how the adage goes.  I’m going to hope that isn’t true for blogs, because this is my second chance, and I will definitely need more chances after this.

I started “The Deacon Speakin’” earlier this year as a free, Blogspot-hosted blog. I posted for a few months, and then I had some big changes in my life (more on this later), and I quit speakin’ for a while.

After attending the Catholic New Media Conference in Kansas City, KS this past October with my brother, Christopher (@crsmith89), of Christopher’s Apologies fame, I was re-inspired to begin speakin’ again. I secured my own domain and set up my blog using WordPress. I did bring along my old posts, though, so you can see what was on my mind back then.  As you can see, I went with a default template, so it is pretty vanilla.  Hence my future need for another first  impression.  At this point, I hope you bear with the fact that this isn’t as refined or aesthetically pleasing as it could be. I’ll get around to it one of these days.

But for now, the deacon is speakin’ again!

+Peace