Friday, December 31, 2010

what I liked in 2010

It may be pretentious of me to think you care, but in the spirit of New Years, I made a list of some people/places/things and apostolates that I've discovered or come to love more in 2010...  In case you haven't heard.  (By the way, I discovered Glee in the fall of 2009...  I didn't forget).  

Here ya go:

5thousand.  Two guys from SC who have put together a great retreat ministry.  They got my too-cool-for-school kiddos singing, praying and into the sacraments.  Plus they played well with others (in this case it was APeX Ministies).  All solid.  But if you haven’t heard of 5thousand (cause they're new-er-ish) check them out.

Seraphic Singles Blog.  (NOT a catholic match making service).  This blog is Ben and Jerry’s for your heart, mind and soul.  She's snarky.  And she’ll help you be holy. 

Stuff Christians Like.  Cause Christians are funny and we need to laugh at ourselves.  John Acuff is a genius.

The Middle.  I got my mom the first season of this series and it’s pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-laugh-at-how-awkward-family-life-can-be.  I don't know when Reverend  Tom Tom, the youth minister shows up, but that makes it even better.

Snuggies.  A blanket with sleeves.  I converted when Hilton Head froze over last January and I’ve never looked back.  Do I do the macarena in it?  You'll never know.

This American Life.  The stories this NPR series tells will make you laugh, cry and sit in a parking lot on the edge of your seat cause you have to know how it ends.  There's also a podcast.  I highly recomend it.  Coming in close second is The Moth.

Martha Fernandez-Sardina. This evangelist gave a talk at the St. John Bosco conference this summer that had everyone on the edge of their seat.  She’ll be coming to Fire at the Beach on Hilton Head in September of 2011.  Save the date.

The Pioneer Woman.  She makes me want to cook.  And homeschool.  And she makes them both seem cool.

Catholic Youth Ministry's Teen Girl Squad/Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants...  or something like that:  Ann Marie CribbinTammy Evevard,  Joia Farmer and  Judy McDonald.  I’m always inspired when I see women leading in youth ministry... it happens less than you think.  I was really excited find these women on twitter and hear youth ministry with a distinctly feminine voice.  Often youth ministry has a very “I play fantasy football and Halo 3” flavor and it’s cool to hear from the perspective of bedazzled True Religions and glitter.  

Cornhole.  I don’t know if it’s the complex scoring system, the Midwest flavor or the fact that it’s replaced conversation at bars.  But I love it.  We got the youth group's set from Bluffton Cornhole.  They look awesome.

NCCYM.  While it had it’s share of cheese, I’m glad I went.  Part workshop, part conference, part reunion, part...  well, there were lots of parts...  but the Saturday Night Comedy was especially epic.

Family Honor.  An organization in South Carolina that’s teaching the virtue of Chastity to Families.  They’re accomplishing what Pope John Paul II challenged us to do in The Truth and meaning of Human Sexuality and it’s awesome.  

The Catholic Drinkie  is filling an interesting role in showing the lighter side of Catholicism...  I realized this when some of my friends on twitter who are very much not Catholic started following her...  and talking to her about the faith.  She's capturing an essential aspect of Catholic culture and reaching out to non-Catholics in the process.  Snaps.

Monday, December 27, 2010

our latest favorite thing...

I scored this Christmas.

I had a feeling it would go over well, but my mom is loving Season One of The Middle.  Sadly, it's one of the few shows not streaming on Hulu right now but you can netflix the first season or just pick up in the middle of the second.

It's awesome because it's hilarious and portrays the essence of family in a really positive way.  The parents-Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn-- aren't infallible but unlike most shows on TV these days they're not clueless and give their kids good advice and set a good example.  And did I mention it's just really really funny? 

Watch now.  Thank me later.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jesus is coming. Let's make Room at the Inn.

The Island Packet shared this today.

My good friend Anne went to visit the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's community) and ended up volunteering in the kitchen.  She was under the direction of a Sister who kept urging her, "Jesus is coming!  Jesus is coming!  We must prepare the soup!  We must cut the onions!"  Anne began cutting onions and the Sister told her, "NOT THAT WAY!  Go get the tomatoes!"  Flustered, Anne went to get the tomatoes and continued to help prepare lunch.  After lunch had been served the Sister realized she had overwhelmed Anne a bit.  She assured my friend, "If you are called to join our Community, God will give you the grace to cut onions correctly". 

She requested Anne everyday after that.

The Missionaries of Charity have got it right.  They don't say "the poor, the needy, the people with poor judgment, the people that didn't plan ahead, etc. are coming".  No.  To them, it's Jesus.  Jesus is coming.

It's December 23.  Jesus is coming.  We need to make some Room at the Inn.  I'm a youth minister on a budget, but I clicked on their pay-pal link and gave what I could.  I challenge you to do the same. 

Amidst all your preparations for Christmas, remember that Jesus is coming.

not quite, colbert...

My crunchy granola Christian friends have been sharing this on Facebook this week.  I'm not a religious follower of the Colbert Report, but I find his snarky take on the news to be pretty funny and this is certainly no exception.  ("I make my kids play Christbox"...  classic).

However, while everyone flutters to upload this video, commenting that he makes some good points in hopes to appear hip and free-thinking despite their Christian affiliations (and I'm not judging.  I love you hipsters and tea party people and regular party people and...  well, you get it.  I love you all) but I just have to pipe up with a quick "Jesus wasn't affiliated with any political party" and I get really cranky when people imply that just because I'm not in favor of government programs doesn't mean that I'm sitting here, drinking champagne from my red-soled jimmy choos, not caring about the fate of my neighbor. 

I'm just a fan of the principle of subsidiarity.  In the Catechism, # 1894 it's explained that "neither the state nor any larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and intermediary bodies".  In plain language, we need to be helping each other-- not leaving it up to the state.  Individuals and charitable organizations do a pretty decent job.  The danger of all these government programs being created is that people are forgetting that it IS our responsibility to care for the poor-- not just pay our taxes and hope that it all works out in allocated aid funding.  I know this system can't be fixed overnight, but don't shirk personal responsibility by saying it's what Jesus would do.  He didn't do politics.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

homeschooling 101

Yesterday I tweeted Marc Cardaronella about my formula for producing non-awkward homeschoolers and it's slightly more than 140 characters so it ends up here.  I should clarify that I have tremendous respect for parents and think they have the hardest job in the world.  I don't believe there's a definitive answer for where or how to school your children, as long as it's not in the Hitler Youth.  I truly think that the only universal method of parenting is frequenting the sacraments and eating together as a family as often as possible.

However, as a product of homeschooling, I am quick to both defend my upbringing and harshly criticize the lifestyle when I think it's going awry because it gives everyone a bad rep (example:  raising kids in tents with nothing but a bible as a text book).  My parents didn't originally homeschool for religious reasons (I was struggling in school and was too shy to speak up to get help.  If you can believe that.  The quiet thing was a short-lived phase) but then we were learning so much as a family from Seton- the curriculum we used- that they just never stopped.

Now, I could go on and on about how brainy my siblings are (I was never "that kid" at the National Spelling Bee or editing Encyclopedias, but I do credit the attention I finally received at the kitchen table with giving me the skills to balance my check book and write a thesis statement) but what I think is a real success is general social awareness.

A lot of people are quick to defend the social awkwardness of some homeschoolers with, "if they're awkward at home they'd probably be awkward at school too".  Maybe.  However, my friends and I did an informal survey among our college classmates and discovered that of all who had been homeschooled-- the ones who appeared the most "normal" were the ones who....  (drum roll)...  got their driver's license at the same time as their traditionally-schooled peers.

Laugh all you want, but this has turned into an extensive study by my friends who asked every homeschool alumni they've encountered since this theory was devised on a train to Venice in 2002.  We've developed some theories on this.  First of all, it is an expression of why you are homeschooled in the first place.  Homeschooling is an opportunity to engage the world and culture through the family-- not be sheltered from it.  For example, as kids we used to talk openly about current events at the dinner table, my parents listening to us as we shared our thoughts and solutions about the problems of the world.  No topic was taboo.  This is engaging the world-- but through the family.  We were also active in our parish, community service and pro-life activities.  All of this allowed us to encounter lots of different people and understand that was how the world was.  "Sheltering" would be refusing to acknowledge the challenges of the world or interact with anyone different so that students are completely unprepared when they encounter it, brute force, when they leave the nest.

Allowing kids to get their driver's licenses gives them a common milestone with their peers (they have so few others-- no lockers, pep rallies or freshman hazing) and gives them a little bit of independence to begin exploring the world on their own.  It involves taking  a test from someone who isn't related to them and answering to authority that isn't their parents-- and important step.

I have other theories about how homeschoolers can be well-socialized, but my friends and I have determined that the drivers license is the first way.  Even if you're rolling in a 13 passenger van, it's your first taste of freedom and gives you an experience to share with your peers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

the latest best thing ever...

I'm sure I'm not the only youth minister out there who, while trying to not get too hung up on messiness, still cannot believe the capacity of youth to make a mess.  I mean, when a 9th grader eats popcorn, I swear it multiplies in their hands and they intentionally drop half of it on the ground.  My time in food and beverage has me trained to grab a broom at the first hint of a dirty floor, so I've really had to supress that instinct or my "relational ministry" looks more like "merry maids". 

Beverages always pose a particular challenge, I learned that pouring vs. cans vs. juice boxes are all about the same, the only good strategy is very, very small cups so that the puddle you find under the couch two and a half weeks after the spill is, at least, only the size of a dixie cup.  (moving furniture often is always a good idea.  for lots of reasons, but especially the fact that pizza smells, eventually.  better to find it before that point)>  Anyways, hot chocolate is always a win but seems to be a huge challenge between portioning the powder, hot water and mixing.  Enter the CL400BR-60-Ounce-Hot-Cocoa Maker  for the win. 

and no, I did not pay that much for it.  found it at TJ Maxx this weekend.

The beauty of it is that it elminates about twenty of the hazardous steps-- you pour water and hot chocolate mix in, it mixes, heats and dispenses from a spigot.  Not to mention that it can sense when it's getting cold and keeps the hot chocolate at a perfect temperature for hours yet not so hot that kiddos will burn themselves.  Plus, there is no pouring involved which we know to be a win if you've got middle schoolers remotely near liquids.  

Technology never ceases to amaze me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I absolutely love my alma mater, Franciscan University of Steubenville.  I am also aware that as a graduate of FUS who is a youth minister, I fall into a certain stereotype and while I try to defy it by not hugging people and keeping my hands to my sides when I say "and also with you" at Mass, I acknowledge that sometimes I am pretty cliche.  I use Lifeteen materials and occasionally St. Mary's press but nothing crazy.  I follow Mark Hart on twitter.  We attend The March for Life and Steubenville Atlanta.  I go to the St. John Bosco Conference each year.  I re-read The Catechism of the Catholic Church to avoid a millstone and Evangelii Nuntiandi to be inspired.

It's not that I'm opposed to other views or ways of doing things.  It's more that I just feel that I don't have time.  I know that my fellow graduates and I are infamous for not checking out other resources and writing it all off as fluff.  The days are just so busy that I get into a routine and forget to go outside of it.  I also thought NCYC was a little overwhelming and cheesey, so I categorized these as one and the same in my head and didn't give NCCYM a second thought or column in my budget.

When I had 5thousand and Apex Ministries come to Hilton Head to lead retreats in October (I highly recommend both ministries, by the way.  Catholic, low-maintenance and engaging) and in addition to swapping all sorts of hipster music topics, they strongly encouraged me to check out NCCYM.  When I straight up asked Gene if it would be lame, he replied, "I'm an organizer".  Oh. 

Plus it was in New Orleans and I had never been.  I made reservations.

I realized I had never been to a gathering of just youth ministers-- I love the Bosco Conference at FUS because it's all people who are in ministry for Team Catholic, but it's always comical to swap stories with teachers and DRE's cause we all still have such different challenges.  DRE's worry that their catechists are teaching heresy...  youth ministers worry that their teens are like, bringing pot on retreats.  The cool thing about NCCYM is that it was over 2000 people who knew exactly where you were coming from.  Anyone you struck up a conversation with may have been from a different state but still "got it".  Even the people from Notre Dame!  Who knew us FUS folks had anything in common with them?

NCCYM was also a crazy fun reunion.  There was something crazy about walking to the French Quarter for beignets with friends from college, South Carolina and even twitter and all just chatting about fashion, theology and safe environments.  The workshops were helpful, but I think the networking and socializing was my favorite.  I was even in a flash mob, which you can see here on my new Canadian Friend Clayton's website.

Did it have it's share of cheese?  Of course.  Old school praise and worship made an appearance in addition to cross-clapping.  However, it was cool that there was a collective awareness that this is where we're coming from and this is what we're working with and if we can't laugh about safe environments well then, what can we laugh at?  Just like youth ministers need to take time for retreats and ongoing theological training, NCCYM made me appreciate the need for ongoing socializing.  I'm rarely cognizant of the fact that I am the only full-time youth minister for team Catholic in my deanery (not to minimize the very competent part-time youth minister in the parish in the next town over).  NCCYM made me appreciate what I didn't even realize I had been missing out on.  Communio.

After my first NCCYM I can say without a doubt that as long as I'm in youth ministry...  I'll be there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

why yes...

as a matter of fact, I do believe in Santa...  click to read the latest Pastor's Corner column.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Flannery, Doritos and Pepsi

Yesterday, Thomas Peters, aka, @americanpapist, posted a link to an advertisement that Pepsi/Doritos posted to youtube and has since removed.  I'm not sure if I found it offensive or clever.  In it two pastors (both in Roman Collars) discuss how they can better "feed their flock".  (while they may appear to be Catholic, to the experienced eye they clearly are not.  They call each other "pastor" and use the "shot glass" style communion cups found in non-catholic churches).  They decide to use doritos and pepsi max in lieu of traditional communion.

While the ad is certainly controversial it does raise the question, why?  Why are we offended when doritos and pepsi are substituted for bread and wine at church?

While conversing with others about communion someone made the comment, in the presence of Flannery O'Connor, that it was a nice symbol.  Her reply?  "Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it."


Thursday, December 2, 2010

and we don't even use vuvuzelas...

I, for one, would've attended the World Cup in the US for... uh...  love of the game?
Originally published in The Bluffton Packet:

Published Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Watching the players in the World Cup reminds me of one of my most embarrassing moments involving my college's soccer team -- and my friend Ann failing to look out for me.
Ann had invited me over to her house for an evening cookout her fiance and his family. Despite the fact that her fiance was the soccer coach, I was not intimidated by hanging out with him (taken) and his family (from Detroit). So I rolled out of bed from a nap, threw on jeans and a T-shirt and went to what I thought would be a quaint family gathering. What Ann failed to mention was that this was a quaint family gathering with her fiance, his family and his entire team.

I don't know what it is about soccer players. Maybe it's that, unlike many sports, they don't wear helmets so you can actually see their faces as they casually push hair out of their eyes with a savvy that Justin Bieber could never pull of. Maybe it's that they all have accents. Maybe I haven't gotten over my crush on the coach from "Bend it Like Beckham." In short, I wished I had dressed differently for the evening.
Ann, being blissfully engaged, was oblivious to the fact that the scenery in her Ohio home had dramatically improved, and I'm not talking about the river cleanup. She was excitedly introducing me to her future in-laws when one of the soccer players, a graduate theology student with dirty blond hair and blue eyes asked, "Who's your friend?" So I extended my hand and said brightly, "I'm Alison's friend, Ann." Yes. I forgot my own name. And introduced myself as Ann.

I was mortified. But it served as an important lesson to me: There will always be moments when you are caught off-guard by life and literally cannot think of what to say, even if it's your own name. Sometimes it's an innocent problem and you merely embarass yourself, but sometimes it's serious. The question, when you're left speechless regarding sin, is simply this: Who are you really hurting?

One of my favorite illustrations of this is in Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." If you haven't read the book, you should. But allow me to spoil the climax for you. Jane Eyre has fallen in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers he is married. He tries to convince her to run away with him anyway. She wants to, and he asks who, exactly, they would be hurting?

Jane's reply is so eloquent that you should read the whole bit, but let me summarize. She acknowledges at the moment, her feelings have completely carried her away. She wants to be with the man she loves to the point where she describes herself as "mad." But she firmly states, "I will keep the law of God, sanctioned by men... Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation; they are for moments as this... If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?"

Now, maybe it won't be as dramatic as a wealthy Englishman asking us to be his mistress, but we all encounter moments where we are at a loss as to the right answer. Our feelings may push us one way, even though we know deep down that way isn't a good idea. I re-read this passage often to remember that the law of God exists for one's well-being and the common good. In the end, it works out for Jane. And when we do what's right, it works out for us, too.