Jul 132018

Power made perfect in weakness

weakness

Last week I was struggling to come up with something to say. I spent days working myself to the bone and trying to avoid the elephant in the room. I was depressed and I was feeling very insecure about my abilities. My struggle was with my weakness. I cannot say that I am better this week, but I am trying to find my path through this struggle.

I know you are tired of hearing of my struggles. Everyone has their limits. I have been told time and time again that I need to stop talking about my brokenness and my struggles. However, Saint Paul did just that in last Sunday’s reading:

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Saint Paul talked about his brokenness a lot. And he said that we find strength in our weakness. That God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

I talk about my brokenness not to puff myself up or to make people feel sorry for me. I speak about it so that others know the struggles I have gone through and they too can find hope. It is my desire to help people find hope even when they feel so hopeless.

So talk about your struggle. Share your brokenness with others. Yes, it makes you vulnerable and some may hurt you by rejecting you. But they did that to Jesus too:

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
Are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

(Mark 6:1-6)

Let us move forward in proclaiming the love of God and showing his power through our weakness!

Jun 292018

My own battle with worry

Worry

I worry a lot. It is something that has plagued me for years. Don’t get me wrong, I have faith in God and faith in my church family. I just allow myself to worry about things I have no control over.

I think we all do that to a degree. We allow ourselves to envision the worse possible scenario for every situation. I know that this is my great curse. I always “prepare” myself for the worst possible outcome. This, of course, causes me to worry and takes a tremendous toll on my health.

I do this for a wide range of things too. A couple of weeks ago I had to leave an event early because I was sick. I should have left far earlier than I did, but I stayed because I was worried about what people would think or say about me. I consider all those people my friends and I have a great amount of respect for them. But I still worried about what they would say or think of me because I had to leave.

And a part of me still worries about it. You see, I have spent years of my life trying so very hard to earn people’s respect. I have always felt like I am inferior to everyone. I am the least educated of my friends and family. I am not as healthy as many of them are. I am broken and damaged. Even down to the fact that I suffer from PTSS and depression.

I allow all those things to bounce around in my head and convince me that I am not worthy of love or respect. And then comes the worry. What if I am not good enough? What if I say the wrong thing? Will I end up running everyone off because of my brokenness? What will happen if I cannot do all the things they can do or stay through all the events they need me to stay for? Will they still respect me, love me, want me around if I cannot be what I think they want me to be?

And then the race has begun. The great race in my own head. It keeps going and going until I am almost paralyzed with fear, worry, anxiety, and overwhelming sadness.

I speak about these things not to get sympathy, but so that you can understand the struggle that I and many others deal with on a daily basis. Pastor’s deal with depression and anxiety in record numbers. That is why so many quit and so many loose their faith. They cannot continue fighting the battle that wages within themselves.

Yes, I still worry. I am far from perfect. But I continue to fight everyday to improve. I try to be there for others despite my own struggles. But I am also learning that I must take time to care for me too. And I am working on that. I am going to take a day off every week. I may not return emails or phone calls on that day unless it is an emergency. And at some point, I may have to give up some of the organizations I work with now for my own health’s sake. (Not the church, but other civic organizations I volunteer with. )

I understand your struggle with worry and anxiety. And hopefully, if you do not experience worry and anxiety, maybe you at least understand the struggle many of us have with it after reading this.

The goal is to keep on keeping on and to rest from time to time so that we can keep on going!

And do not worry, I still love you just the way you are!

Jun 082018

Suicide

I had started writing this week’s blog post when a notification popped up on my phone. My stomach sank as I read that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide. This after reading earlier in the week that fashion designer Kate Spade had also committed suicide.

So I threw away what I had written and decided to try again.

Many people say that these people had so much going for them. They were rich, famous, well-liked, and had many friends to support them. Why did they kill themselves? Others will claim that if only they had more faith, more love, more strength, more courage, they would not have killed themselves. And then there will be those who will say they took the cowards way out or that they were only being selfish.

All of that is crap.

I tried to kill myself as a teen. I have had thoughts of suicide throughout my life. And I can tell you that it was not because I lacked faith. It was not because I was not strong or courageous. It was because I had come to the end of my strength. I had come to the end of courage. And I believed that I would see God and that maybe, just maybe he would be merciful to me and let me into heaven.

I was tired of being abused. Rape and sexual assault had left me a shell of who I had been. I had no hope that life would improve. And when I dared to speak up, no one would listen or believe me. I was strong, but even that strength had its limits.

And to those who say I was being selfish, I was not. I believed that others would be better if I was not around. Society had convinced me that my struggles were a burden to others. I was left feeling like I had caused the abuse, rape, sexual molestation, and that everyone would be better off if I was not here. I was not suicidal because I was being selfish, I felt it was the ultimate sacrifice for others.

It is not being selfish, but it is also not going to help others either. Having to help families cope with the loss of a loved one who killed themselves has shown me the other side of those situations. Families are left in despair. They realize, all too late, that they missed the warning signs. Guilt consumes them. And then there are the questions about how they could let their loved one die. There are the condemning looks.

And even that is not fair.

That is why more and more people need to speak up about their struggles. That is why, as pastors, we share our brokenness with others. And yes, you may get tired of hearing us talk about how broken we are. But if it helps one person find the help they need, if it saves one person from killing themselves, then I will speak about my brokenness night and day!

After all, that is what I am called to do. That is what you are called to do.

My struggle is not over. And the struggles of my brothers and sisters who wear the collar are not over. Our struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of worthlessness may never end. It is my commitment  to do whatever I can to help others through their struggles and to find the help they need. And in a way, helping them helps me. It helps me find peace with my lot in life.

So, what can you do to help those of us who struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of worthlessness?

BE THERE. Be present to us. You don’t have to say a word. Just listen. Be a shoulder to cry on. Invite us to dinner. Ask us to join you for lunch. See if we want to go to the mall.

BE PREPARED. There are many resources that you can find to help those who need it. Carry the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number in your phone. Have business cards printed up with the help line numbers on them. I am planning (when I can afford to) to have new business cards made for the parish. On the back, I will have the Lifelines listed.

BE LOVING. Be ready to give them a hug. Just pick up the phone and call someone for no reason. Send them a message on Facebook or via their phone that just says you love them. And understand that sometimes they may not respond right away. Your message of love, your call, just knowing you are there and you care, could mean the difference between life and death.

AND DO NOT BE AFRAID. If you feel someone is in immediate danger of committing suicide, DO NOT hesitate to call the police or EMS. They may be angry at you for calling for help, but in the long run, they will thank you for caring enough to reach out for help. They may not be able to reach out, you might have to reach out for them.

At the end of the day, a person may still end their life. As a Bishop, as a Christian, let me make this very clear: Suicide is NOT a guaranteed ticket to Hell. NO WHERE in the Bible does it say that if you kill yourself you will go to Hell. The church for many centuries was wrong and caused so many people hurt and pain when they needed love and compassion. But if your loved one has committed suicide, God understands what they were going through and in his mercy, he will grant them peace and joy in his kingdom.

If you need help, please do not hesitate to ask. We have a new page here at our website that give you resources that can help you through your struggles.

Please know that God loves you and so do we!

Jun 022018

Dark and Light

Dark

They say the night is darkest right before the dawn. Given the struggles I have experienced in my life, I believe this to be true. But the dark can never truly overcome the light.

The last two weeks have been difficult. Today is day 16 of my life without my pain medication and my anti-depressants. The worst of the withdraw is behind me. And now I begin the process of finding my new normal. It has been tough, and the last week has been the darkest by far. But now the light is beginning to shine over the horizon.

One the interesting parts of the journey through PTSS and depression has been the rediscovery of my emotions. This means that I am experiencing a full range of emotions where in the past I had a rather muted range of emotions. That process of discovering my new emotions and normalizing them can take months or even years.

Father Rick reminded me today that in life “sorrow and joy walk side by side.” This is so true. We cannot experience light without the darkness. Sorrow helps us understand joy. Unrest helps us know peace. And doubt helps us know what true faith is all about.

When life is its darkest, we must remember that Christ is right there with us. He experienced all the pain, sorrow, frustration, joy, peace, love, and even darkness that we do. Christ comes to us in the moments to walk with us and provide us with the strength and love we need to survive and flourish.

And the church is here to provide you with the support and love you need to move forward. Without my brothers and sisters in the church (especially my fellow clergy in the OCCI) I would not have made it this far. It is our goal to provide a church family where you can find strength, love and support through the struggles of life.

Come and experience a different way to be Catholic!

May 252018

Life can be hard

life

Life can be hard. At times it seems like no matter how hard we try, things remain difficult. As a clergy person, I experience people at the worst moments in their lives. And sometimes that occurs when I am dealing with a difficult time myself.

God did not promise that life would be easy. In fact, we see story after story in scripture about how difficult life can be. Matter of fact, the entire book of Job is one long story about how difficult life is. Job was a man that worked hard to follow God. And still he suffered from some very sad and disturbing things. He lost his family, his money, his possessions, and then his health.

Despite it all, he did not give up. Yes, he felt upset, angry, and even depressed. But he never walked away from God. He trusted that God would bring him through all these sorrows to a better day.

We are called on to stand firm on our faith even in the darkest moments of our lives. You are not alone in your struggles. Too often, people think that they are alone and that no one understand what they are going through. But that is wrong. So many people struggle everyday too. We must not isolate ourselves, but instead, we need to reach out to those around us for encouragement and strength in these difficult times.

And the church can be an outlet to help you through those times. We are not perfect people, which means that we have been through similar things to what you have been through. It is our hope that we can be there to help you through your struggles too.

And together we can work toward a brighter day!

May 052018
loneliness

I have been very open about my struggles with my health and with my past. It is not always easy to be this open and it has led to hurt in the past. However, I make clear my struggles in the hope that it helps others who also struggle. One of my greatest struggles is with loneliness.

I am have this horrible curse that even when in a room full of people, I can still feel lonely. In reading Holy Scripture, I find that Jesus and even John the Baptist, may have felt this way too. I am certainly no Jesus or John the Baptist, but I can understand how they felt.

There are many reasons that people feel lonely. It could be because they have very few friends or family members. It could be because, like me, they suffer from PTSS or depression which make them feel lonely even when they are around lots of people. They might also feel inferior to those around them and thus they feel alone.

Whatever the reason, we are never truly alone. Even in the dark of night, when I tend to feel the most alone, I know that God, the saints, and even the Blessed Virgin Mary is right there with me. And for me, I know that I am not alone, but I have many brothers and sisters in the church who are there for me.

Here lies the other big issues. Despite knowing that all I have to do is pick up the phone and call one of my family members in the church, I don’t because I do not want to be a burden to them. They all work so very hard and the last thing they need is me burdening them because I am lonely. However, this is only in my own mind. They would be the first to say that I am not a burden and that I need to call anytime!

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy! When we allow ourselves to believe that we are burden to others we feed into the cycle of depression and loneliness. Instead we need to remember that we are fearfully and wonderfully made! We need to remember that there are so many people that love us! And we need to be unafraid to reach out to those around us, to our biological family, church family and friends for support during our dark moments.

And if you know someone who struggles from depression or loneliness, take a moment to reaffirm to them that you are there for them. Take a moment to call them out of the blue and express how much you care. Invite them to get a cup of coffee or to go to lunch.

You never know how such those small acts will mean to someone struggling with loneliness!