Archives for 2011

Elsewhere: New Year’s resolutions


I do not usually “do” the New Year’s resolutions “thing.” If you do, I respect that – but personally I do not see a point in waiting until then. It is, after all, just a holiday celebrating a calendar event! Being introspective and working on what needs fixing should be on-going as conversion itself is.

So many people are into resolutions that by now you may have seen some online lists. They can be interesting because (if for no other reason) they represent what their authors feel society should work on at the individual level.

The most sound advice on that point has been given before!

Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus breaks this into two parts so that it is clear to us, but if we really understood the first part then the second part would already be apparent. At least at the intellectual level. In practice, we sometimes fail – at least I do – so it is good to be specifically reminded.

To that end, the best resolution list I have seen recently was a piece written by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur. Instead of suggesting that we loose weight, recycle more or stick to a budget (not bad things of themselves, but not the “big picture”) – Patrice gives practical advice on qualities necessary to fulfill the commandment of loving your neighbor:

Compassion means to suffer with someone – to be with him in his sorrow and to seek to alleviate it as much as it within our means to do so. Who do you know that is suffering – physically, spiritually, emotionally? What can you do to help? Can you offer assistance in some way? Perhaps there is no way to actually remove the source of suffering, but can you spend time with the person? Listen to them? Pray for them?

Kindness is a general goodwill towards others. Do you wish others good things, or do you get jealous when others lives seem to be better than yours? Do you indulge in gossip? Do you treat service people with respect? What about the homeless? Do you greet others with a smile?

Humility is to see ourselves as we are before God. It is to realize that we are totally dependent on God for all the blessings and gifts we have received. It also calls us to serve others. How can you better serve those you come in contact with?

Gentleness, sometimes known as meekness, goes together with kindness and humility. It calls us to be slow to anger. It also means to care about God and others more than we care about ourselves.

Patience means to be willing to wait, whether that be something as simple as waiting in line at the grocery store without complaint, or something more difficult, such as waiting for God to come through on a long time prayer request. How can you be more patient with the difficult situations you encounter in life? How can you make good use of those times when you must wait?

Forgiveness asks us to not hold another’s wrongs against them. We all make mistakes. We want God to forgive us. So, too, must we forgive others, even when it is hard – especially when it is hard. What wrongs are you still holding on to? Who do you need to forgive?

Love means wanting whatever is best for another person, even when it hurts you – it requires us to put other’s needs before our own. How can you better love the people in your life?

A good list of qualities to strive for that even anti-“New Year’s resolution” me can get behind!

Read the whole article Qualities to Work on for the New Year.

An anniversary

An Anniversary

No, not my wedding anniversary – that is not until June (our 33rd). Today marks the first anniversary of this blog so I thought I would share some of its background and my experiences.

Some people are naturally great writers – knowledgeable, articulate and interesting. Not me. I had no intention of writing a blog and even the idea of it seemed a little presumptuous. A phrase some bloggers use to describe themselves, might fit me…   just another fool with an Internet connection. Case in point: my credentials. I do not have any theological degree, am not sought after for interviews, have written no books and never spoke at a religious conference.

In December 2009 I was 4 months into RCIA, but fully Catholic in my heart. My eyes were just opened to the fullness of the Christian faith. We say that phrase all the time to describe Catholicism, but it is so true.

I remembered how motivated I became the preceding August when my Protestant denomination went full-tilt “liberal.” I knew I was in the wrong place, but where was the right one? There had to be others “out there” just like me, searching, surfing the Internet looking to learn about other Christian communities in general or Catholicism in particular. This is something I had to share.

For lack of any other way to describe it, I felt called to blog. I said no and my reasons were excellent: no credentials, no experience, no time, no content and no ideas. On top of all that, I was thinking about writing a Catholic blog and I wasn’t even Catholic (yet). All that I really had was a technical background and a growing love for the Church.

The thought would not go away. After failing, repeatedly, to push it out of my mind, I decided to at least consider it. To see if I had enough ideas for posts, I made a list and was surprised how many topics I felt passionately about. It had been some time since I wrote any essays, so I made a trial-run at writing 5 or so. It was time-consuming, taking around 6 hours each to research, fact-check, write and polish. That is still about the time it takes per original piece.

I knew I could figure out the technical details, had enough worthwhile topics and had a few posts to get started. It is not my nature to give up on anything, so if I decided to do this, I would be “all in.” I was on the fence, but with the new year, reflections on the past and hope for the future…   I decided to move ahead. I registered on January 3rd and published the first piece on the 4th.

It has all been worth it if just 1 person is reached by something on this blog. I am not aiming for taking them all the way, just being a stepping stone at the right time. At first the blog had only a few visitors (mostly family, friends and neighbors). After a while a few strangers from somewhere out in the “blogosphere” began to show up. I was quite happy with that!

Over time, more and more visitors came. Other bloggers kindly linked to this one or even gave prominent plugs. I am grateful to them all, but the popular sites introduced this one to a wide audience. Julie Davis at Happy Catholic was one of the first. Patrick and Matthew Archbold added Convert Journal to their blogroll at Creative Minority Report and Marcel LeJeune also added it to his over at Aggie Catholics.

At this point I have written over 60 brief essays and published around 75,000 words (supposedly equivalent to a 300 page book). The blog has been seen thousands of times (by at least 5,000 different visitors) in over 90 countries. Most days see 20 to 40 people stop by and the number of subscribers has crossed the 100 mark. This is by no means a major blog, but I am humbled and blown-away by the success it has had.

One of the great, unanticipated pleasures I have had is meeting so many wonderful people online. Some by comments left, many by e-mail. Some are fellow Catholic bloggers, some are clergy or religious, many are converts, most are simply faithful Catholics and very importantly – some are interested non-Catholics.

Another benefit is a bit difficult to explain, but I was asked for a quote on Catholicism in new media recently (for a book to be published this fall). This is what I said:

I admit that sometimes my pieces, while hopefully factual, may be uninspired. There are other times however, when I read what I just wrote and know that the insights and presentation are better than I am capable of. The peace and encouragement I feel in those moments is overwhelming.

I am not sure exactly where this is all going. I am sure it will evolve. It is a lot of work, but I have developed a rhythm and enjoy doing it. It keeps me focused, exploring and deepening my understanding of our faith.

Going forward, I am also working on an exciting new project. A couple months ago, through one of my essays, I met some folks with a great apostolate. More on that later.

May Our Lord bring you and your loved ones a happy and blessed new year!