Tag Archives: church

I Should Be Happy

I should be happy with my life because I’ve found God and His Church, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because I have two healthy, happy sons, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because I have a wife who is honest and loves our family, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because I have a full-time job, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because I am healthy, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because my family and I aren’t homeless or starving, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because I can just change my thinking and be positive, but I can’t.

I should be happy with my life because I can make changes and please my wife, but I can’t.

I shouldn’t be happy without my life because all my pain and suffering can end right here and now, but I am.

 


New Feature: Sunday Musings

credit: yen

This is a new section entitled Sunday Musings. It consists of thoughts, observations, and experiences that I have during or immediately after Sunday Mass.

It is a semi-regular feature; I will update it on Sundays as I feel inspired to do so.

 

1. When Babies Cry

During the homily this morning, a baby started screaming. Not uncommon during Mass. However, parents are usually quick to exit the sanctuary so as not to disturb others.

This is for other parishioners, though: Don’t gawk at the screaming babies. Because, most importantly, you are letting your attention drift from the homily to the crying baby. And then, you and your spouse discuss for a moment longer how annoying the situation is. By that time, you have missed out on the important message of the homily.

So, the next time a child goes ballistic, just stay focused on worship; the parents will remove the child soon enough. If not, then the ushers will step in.

 

2. Lose the Banjo During Mass!

Do I really need to elaborate?

I know this is Texas, but come on. It’s distracting and ruins the sacred hymns.

 

3. Come to Church with a Pure Heart

By this I mean one that is free of sin. When I am knee-deep in lust and pornography, I can’t quite connect to the Mass (duh).

This morning, I had chills as I approached the altar to receive the Eucharist. Being vigilant toward sin and keeping it out of our lives makes a huge difference in our perspective on all that is holy.

So, make every effort to avoid sin. You will experience the difference.

 

4. Accompany Your Kid to the Restroom

An announcement is made every weekend before Mass, reminding parents to accompany their children to the restrooms. And every week, I see four, five, and six year olds alone in there.

This morning, I was, ahem, occupied in a stall with the public restroom all to myself. I heard the men’s door open very slowly. A boy, about five years old, had just come in by himself. No sign of any parents.

Parents: I could have been a pedophile (which I’m not) waiting to pounce on your son.

Obey the announcements!

 

A Bit Off-Topic

 

5. A Great Time for Breaking & Entering

If you want to try B & E and get away with it, chances are you’ll succeed on Sunday mornings in my sleepy little town.

After Mass, the security alarm for a medical office across the street began piercing the calm Sunday morning air. Man, was it loud. Lots of gawkers. After about five minutes, I decided to call 911.

According to the dispatcher, no one had called it in yet. She said it would be 15 minutes before a police car would arrive.

I went back into church, and when I came out about 20 minutes later, the police car pulled up.

~t


How Are You Doing?

Credit: Pushead

Saint Anger ’round my neck

He never gets respect

                                                –Metallica, “St. Anger”

Recently, a friend and reader of my blog asked me how I was doing. A nice, simple email. She really does care about me, but I didn’t answer her question. Actually, I gave a pat answer to the effect of, “I’m pretty good.”

Well, I’m not pretty good. Last Friday I had yet another court date. I am supposed to be in the trial phase (the contest phase, to be precise), but the damn legal system here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. drags everything out for months and months. My case has been open for over a year — a friggin’ year! — and my lawyer is just now getting my signatures for the release of my hospital files.

My wife is on my case about pressuring my lawyer and the court system to move faster. Yeah, right. That’s like telling Obama to become pro-life or else. Ha ha.

She also keeps reminding me that the system in Japan, her homeland, isn’t as screwed up as it is here. I’m sorry, but I’d rather leave my fate to a jury instead of to a panel of three grumpy judges like they do in the Land of the Rising Yen.

Here is some more info on how I’m doing: Today I have managed to piss off everyone who works around me. It’s almost like I’ve been looking for trouble.

I took the last two days off for “personal” reasons. I will take the next two off for the same thing and then go back on Monday.

I’m doing well (?) spiritually, but you sure as heck can’t tell, can ya??!

The truth is, dear readers, is that I’m an a**hole. Plain and simple. I do fine within church boundaries and at church events, but my daily life is often different.

Blame it on my illness? Yes, but not all of it. Mostly it’s because I’m an a**hole like my dad.

Today I wanted to kill someone because the person was messing with me and with the way I do my job. I’ve had run-ins with this person before, and the individual likes to push my buttons. Why? Maybe because my buttons are easy to push.

So, my friend, to answer your question: I’m doing pretty sh*tty. Could you pray for me?

~t


I’m Not Dangerous, Folks

Credit: morguefile

This past Sunday was my first time as lead teacher for Children’s Liturgy of the Word at my parish. I’m pretty sure I’m the first male to volunteer as lead teacher. In my diocese, there must always be two adults in the classroom (or one adult and two teens — according to the diocese, 2 teens = 1 adult).

I felt the calling to join this important ministry, mainly because I am an educator by trade, and what better way to teach children about Christ and His Church than to be involved in CLW.

As I led the children out of the sanctuary and into the classroom, I noticed no adults or teens in our single-file line. I felt uncomfortable enough having to stand up in front of hundreds of parishioners, so there was no way I was going to yell out for help.

When we got to the classroom, there wasn’t one adult waiting, nor were there two teens waiting for me. Rather, two teens and five adults, including one sister (nun), stood against the back wall, all seven sets of eyes staring right at me. My paranoia and anxiety immediately went into overdrive: They think I’m a big, mean pervert, and all seven of them are waiting to pounce on me the moment I make a sudden move. Sister is here so she can strangle me with her thick rosary beads.

It turned out, of course, that I had nothing to worry about. I still wonder why there were so many “chaperones” there on my first day, though. I mean, I know that my gender and size can be intimidating (6’5″/192 cm and 220 pounds/100 kg), but it doesn’t mean I’m dangerous.

I remember reading an account of an African American father who was teaching his young son about growing up in the United States. One thing he said really stuck with me: “Son, when you get older, be sure not to run into an open elevator, especially if there is a lone white woman in it.”

I am digressing a bit, but I can relate to what the father said. While I am Caucasian, I often startle people with my presence — especially when I lived in Japan.

One time I was walking briskly from a train station in a residential part of Tokyo at night. I was trying to find a friend’s apartment. However, a young Japanese lady happened to be about 25 yards (23 meters) in front of me. She took one look back, screamed, and did her best to sprint in her high heels.

I had never been so insulted. Could I blame her, though? Should I have placed myself in her situation? I guess so. But still

The Children’s Liturgy went well. The children, between 4 and 9 years old, weren’t the least bit afraid of me. I taught them about the parable of the mustard seed from that Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke 17:5-6):

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

I probably learned just as much about this passage as the children did. Children’s Liturgy of the Word is great because it’s broken down in a way in which kids can relate. I talked about how faith is a gift from God, and that faith enables us to believe in Jesus and in His Church.

If we start out with just a tiny bit of faith, we can ask God to make our faith grow, and He will do it. Our faith can also grow when we obey our parents and teachers, and when we help others who are in need.

As I led the children back into the sanctuary after the priest’s homily, I stood proudly as I waited for the children to disperse and find their parents in the pews.

I was happy, but mainly I was relieved: not because it was over, but because everyone was assured that I was not a menace to their children.

I’m just a giant teddy bear on steroids.

~t


Homosexuality and Bullying

Credit: Fotolia

I have taken part in several flash fiction challenges over the years. I love writing, and writing extremely short pieces of fiction really pushes me and helps me to develop more as a writer. Hopefully at some point I can make time to continue this guilty pleasure.

I had wanted to discuss two different issues on this blog at some point in time; however, after going through my old file of stories, I found something that should really be categorized as “flash flash fiction:” The challenge was to write a story in only 100 words. 100. That is probably as long as my “About Me” page on my blog. Ridiculously brief. And that’s why I took the challenge!

What’s interesting is that the 100-word flash fiction piece addresses both of the issues that I wanted to write about. Why not kill two birds with one stone? I originally wanted to discuss each topic in separate posts, but I will attempt to merge them here and try not to bore you with an outrageously long post.

Anyway, here is the flash fiction piece entitled “Bullies and the Bullied:”

We always made Todd close his eyes in the shower after gym class.  Once, during our barrage of insults, I threw his clothes in the trash barrel.

Todd spoke softly with a lisp and only hung out with girls.  As far as I knew, he never got beat up; no guy wanted to touch him.

After that school year, we never saw him again.

***

My son’s junior high photo smiles at me from the mantle. “Of course I still love and accept you, Michael,” I say to it, wiping my eyes.

When you get home from school, I’ll tell you that, buddy.

(I wonder how many of you counted those words…? I might have been off by a few.)

The inspiration for the second half of the “story” came from a conversation that I had with my wife shortly after our oldest son (now seven-years-old) was born. I have read about quite a few parents over the years who had to come to terms with the fact that their son or daughter was gay. When I lived in Japan, I had a Canadian friend who was disowned and told to “go to hell” by his parents after coming out to them.

Of course my wife and I didn’t have to think about our response at all; we would love and accept both sons because they mean more to us than life itself. I would never have the heart to cut off all contact with my two little buddies.

Now, that doesn’t mean we would support the lifestyle. I’m sure you noticed that this blog is written by a Catholic, and I accept and believe what the Catholic Church teaches on homosexuality. But nowhere does it say that anyone should be looked upon as sub-human.

I am really ashamed to admit that the first part of my story really happened. I was young and foolish. Too concerned with trying to fit in, I joined in on the taunting and verbal abuse of my fellow seventh-grader. How I wish I could go back and shake my younger self by the shoulders and scream, “Look at yourself! Think about what you’re doing to this poor kid!”

But I can’t go back. All I can do now is hope and pray that “Todd” is safe and not going through the harassment like he did every day after gym class so many years ago.

Maybe I joined the crowd because the focus of my peers was temporarily off of my awkward, uncoordinated self. Or maybe because I had to take my frustrations out on someone more vulnerable than I; anger and hurt from my father’s continued physical and verbal abuse during my entire childhood would build up from time to time.

There is never a legitimate reason to bully or hate someone. In fifth grade, our family moved to a new city, and that meant a brand new school for my sister and me. By that age, every kid in my new class already had their social groups fixed, and they made it clear that I wasn’t allowed in. Needless to say, I was bullied and even had mud thrown at me. It wasn’t until later in junior high that I finally made a few friends: other outcasts who knew that strength in numbers would be the only way to survive the dark, scary corridors of high school.

Going back to the topic of homosexuality, the Bible and the Catholic Church have never taught that it is a sin.  Rather, they teach that homosexual activity is a sin because it goes against the laws of God.

God gave each and every one of us dignity when He created us. As a result, every person on the planet deserves our love and respect.

~t


Stand by Me

A bench in McGregor (Texas) Cemetery

My sister flew down from Missouri this past weekend. My kids were excited for her to visit because, when any of my family members come, my boys receive “presents.” My sister, Kay, always has fun visiting.

However, this was no ordinary visit.

For the past two years, Kay and I had been talking about driving down to McGregor to visit our aunt’s grave. We kept mentioning it but never made time for the trip. Finally, the stars and planets aligned, so we chose this past weekend for our road trip.

Actually, our aunt died three years ago, but not a single family member knew about it until Kay’s 2010 Christmas card to our aunt was returned to her. Baffled since our aunt had lived in McGregor for ages, Kay did some online investigation and discovered that our aunt had passed away back in March of the same year.

You see, my sister was the only family member who had kept in touch with our aunt and sent Christmas cards to her every season. (Kay has a big heart, obviously much bigger than mine.)

You may be wondering, Why did no one keep in touch with her? Well, my grandfather ruled our family with an iron fist. A shrew self-made multi-millionnaire, he wielded incredible influence and power; we lived in fear of him, referring to him behind his back as The Godfather.

Years and years ago, my aunt met a man and ran away with him to Texas, where they eventually settled in a small quiet town called McGregor. “Leaving the family” against my grandfather’s wishes, he severed all ties with her, excluded her from the will, and told us never to contact her again.

The only memories I have of her have faded a little: going to her house with my mother for coffee; playing with her big, furry dog; rolling around on her shag carpet like I was in the woods; and her trademark cackling at everything we kids did.

So my sister and I were glad that the day had finally come. Only a few hours away from where I now live, our biggest regret was that we hadn’t visited her while she was alive. By traveling there and paying our last respects, however, I believed it would comfort her lonely soul and put a smile on her face as she looked down upon us.

The fresh bread in this Czech town of West always reminds us of our heritage and the kolache that our great-grandmother used to make.

It’s always exciting to take a road trip, especially with a friend or family member. My sister and I are only three years apart, and we have been growing closer as we get older. She suffers from bipolar disorder and a troubled marriage like I do, so it would be the perfect chance for us to, in essence, be counselors for each other.

I made a playlist on my iPod of various dance/pop/R&B songs for the road trip, and we loaded up my car with a cooler full of bottled water (Texas summers tend to be pretty brutal). We set off in good spirits with the music creating a cheerful background as we chatted and took in the landscape of rural Texas.

I told my sister as we left the metro area that everything we were doing reminded me of the movie Stand by Me: Although the purpose of our quest was a somber one, we would have fun along the way, make a few detours, and enjoy each other’s company. Lifelong memories would be formed.

One humorous moment was when we stopped at a small Mexican restaurant along the way for lunch. Kay ordered a margarita since she wasn’t driving, and the waitress asked to see her ID. Having been given such a compliment, my sister quickly gave the waitress her driver’s license. The waitress looked at it and said in a disappointed tone, “Oh. You’re not from here.” She walked away with Kay’s driver’s license without saying another word. My sister and I exchanged puzzled looks. Ten minutes later, though, my sister was happily sipping her strawberry margarita.

Later, as we rolled west on highway 84 toward McGregor, I started to get butterflies in my stomach. This is it, I thought. I hope we find the grave. All we had to go on was what our aunt’s former landlord had told us; nothing on the Internet helped us at all. The city cemetery didn’t have an address or phone number.

Loose gravel crunching beneath the tires, we pulled into the cemetery.

No map. No office building. Just what we expected.

One thing we didn’t expect, though, was the size of the cemetery: It wasn’t a little podunk scrap of land that we had imagined. Rows and rows of headstones and memorials in all shapes and sizes stretched as far as we could see.

St. Eugene Catholic Church in McGregor. I had planned on lighting a candle inside for Aunt Lois, but a wedding was taking place.

“No problem,” I said confidently to Kay. “Look. The dates on the ones near the entrance are as recent as 2012. It’s got to be up front here. See?” I pointed to the next headstones. “2010.”

We quickly found out that there was no organization whatsoever that we could perceive. Gravestones from 1882, 1910, and 1963 were intermixed with ones from the 21st century. Our hearts sunk and reality hit us: We would have to park the car and roam around in the 103-degree (39 C) heat until we found it. Well, Aunt Lois, I thought, we’re definitely thinking of you now. There was no one to ask for help; we were the only ones in the cemetery.

Kay took one vast side of the cemetery, and I took the other. Our iPhones in our hands like walkie-talkies, we began the search. My sister soon texted me: This is like a game. Kinda fun! I smiled.

We both got caught up in pausing before interesting gravestone/memorials. Each one told a story by the engraved pictures, words, and items placed in front. This distracted us from our true mission, but we didn’t mind. I couldn’t help but set vases of flowers and teddy bears upright as I came across them. I apologized out loud before touching these precious items, though. I wanted to do it out of respect, but, at the same time, I felt like I was invading the peace and tranquility of the departed souls.

Two hours later, after numerous breaks under shade trees, a bag full of empty water bottles, and sweat-drenched clothing, my phone rang.

It was Kay.

I prayed in this spot on the church grounds before we drove to the cemetery.

My heart fluttered in my chest. We had texted up until now (don’t ask me why), but she was now calling me. I answered.

Yep. Just as I thought: She had located the grave.

I jogged toward my sister who was standing way back at the far end of the cemetery, not far from where I parked the car (ugh). On our way into town, we had bought four different kinds of plastic flowers at Dollar General because we wanted them to last longer that just a couple of hours.

We planted the four sprigs in diamond formation around the small but gorgeous headstone. I suggested that we have a moment of silence. (I didn’t want to use the word pray because my sister is definitely not the praying type.) I bowed my head as my sister respectfully gazed down at the flat rectangular stone.

In silence, we got back into the car and drove along the gravel trail back to the entrance. Suddenly a thought came to me: We didn’t waste the past two hours wandering under the fiery sun. Aunt Lois had no family and very few friends when she died. To her, the past two hours were like an afternoon of coffee and chit-chat with her niece and nephew in the run-down apartment complex that she called home.

All I know is that Kay and I were the only family members who had made the trip to pay our last respects.

I imagined Aunt Lois smiling and seeing us off at the entrance, her hair in the same beehive style that I remember.

“That was a nice visit,” Kay said as we slowly drove away.

“Yep. It was.”

The Circle of Life: We saw these horses directly across from the cemetery as we left.

~t

(all photos by Topaz)


An Antisocial Outcast in God’s Temple

Today is Sunday, so that means 8:30am Mass! Ask any Christian, and they will say that Sunday is their favorite day of the week: Mass/service, fellowship, hanging out, lunch together…

Unfortunately, I can’t relate.

Don’t get me wrong; I go to weekly Mass and my soul actively participates in worshiping God. It is an exhilarating, mystical experience. By the end of Mass, I sometimes have tears of joy and gratitude streaming down my face.

And then…

I go home.

Believe me, I want to hang around afterwards and chit-chat with people; laughing and smiling is good for the soul. I just have trouble making my body… um, do that.

During the Mass, there is a moment when we greet and shake hands with parishioners around us (No, it’s not some awkward trend that happens only in Evangelical churches). I know exactly when it is coming: shortly after the Our Father and before the consecration of the Eucharist. Since I know when it’s going to take place (think of Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day), I dread the moment and wonder each time how I will manage to get through it. Will someone ignore me? Will a husband smooch his wife and then turn to someone else, leaving me out (not that I want to be smooched)? Or will an old woman scowl at me while offering a limp hand?

“I knew this was gonna happen.”

Last week, I have to confess that I did something different for the first time and unbecoming of a Catholic and Knight: During the meet-and-greet part, I clasped my hands in prayer, bowed my head, and shut my eyes tightly. I could hear the greetings die down, so I knew when to open my eyes again and rejoin the Mass.

I know. That was bad. I won’t do that again. Luckily I wasn’t wearing my white K of C name badge. Just like people who put the Christian fish symbol on their car: They are expected to be polite drivers. If not, then it’s full-on scandal mode featured on the nightly news or something.

Right after Mass (*not during), I retreated to the safety of my car and tweeted about how lonely I always feel sitting by myself each week. I even try to avoid smiling at kids in front rows who turn around to look at me, afraid that I would be seen as a pedophile (you know, big tall nerdy guy sitting all alone in church, smiling at kids). (I am not a pedophile by the way.) (Man, I just realized I use a lot of parentheses.)

I mentioned in my tweet that I wished our parish had a section of pews where solo churchgoers could sit; we would feel more secure perhaps. Well, Topaz, um… Why don’t you go sit by someone who is alone?! Duh! Because it’s hard, and I am afraid that they would consider that a weird request: “Hi. I don’t want to look like an idiot, so can I sit by you?”

Anyway, this wonderful Twitter follower of mine responded with: “Jesus was alone in the garden while He struggled with his emotions. Lean on Him.” Wow. That is awesome.

I immediately went back into the chapel (the church was emptied out by this point) and knelt in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I spent some good time there before the tabernacle in the semi-dark chamber lit by gorgeous white candles along the walls with the single red one that symbolizes the presence of Christ.

God always speaks to me in some way — usually in a barely-audible whisper that comes from the far reaches of my soul. He told me basically to take my beatings as I go. He reminded me that, in just a few hours, I would be going over to the grand knight’s house to prepare the food for our pool party to honor the altar servers in the parish. Then God reminded me again — I’m such a blockhead — that I needed to get going because, being the council youth director, I was the one leading this whole event and I had work to do.

(By the way, I didn’t become the K of C council youth director and an officer because I’m so awesome. It’s because nobody else wanted the job.)

So, in essence, God’s reply to my loneliness and anxiety was to get over it and focus on others. Later in the day, when the pool party was in full swing without any major disasters going on, I thanked God for helping me through yet another episode of my depression and anxiety.

So, this Sunday turned out to be the best day of my week. Not because I’m such an important Super Christian ™ and born to mingle, but because I remained faithful through all the pain and torment of my illness.

Hopefully all of you reading this had a good day. If not, there’s always tomorrow.

I am not a trained psychologist or therapist, but if you feel all alone and need someone to talk to who understands, please leave me a message or contact me at: thepsychword@gmail.com. Seriously.

~topaz

*I sometimes think people are blatantly texting or surfing the ‘net on their smartphones, but they could be following the order of the Mass and the readings instead. So it’s probably not the best idea to assume they are the bane of your existence.