Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nick Alexander on the Show Tonight!

The Garden of Holiness Show on Deeper Truth is featuring Catholic convert, speaker, comedian, singer and songwriter Nick Alexander, tonight! Yes, that Nick Alexander, the Catholic Weird Al!

If you happen upon the intersection of hilarity and holiness you'll probably find Nick Alexander standing on the street corner directing traffic. Some, he finds, could use a little help lightening up. Others might do well to take their faith a bit more seriously. Either way, he's pointing people in the same direction: Straight up.

Listen in tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern/8 p.m. Central by clicking this handy link!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Conversion and Love, Himself: Part I

For the next few weeks I will be rerunning a guest blogger's post from last year. You may remember the story of the musician turned Navy man turned husband and father, Tim Ohmes, from his guest post here or again at Why I Am Catholic. It was a long post, as a life story can often be, so I will be breaking it into more easily digestible chunks.

I am rerunning it because it is so timely right now. With the Health and Human Services Mandate regarding contraception and abortion, this man's journey keeps coming back to the forefront of my mind. Through his experience, you can intuit some of the reasoning, the rightness, behind the Church's teaching on contraception. Although he never practiced contraception in his marriage, the cultural concepts of contraception, what we Catholics call the Contraceptive Mentality, came between him and his wife in such a way that it nearly destroyed their marriage. I'm paraphrasing his own words here from some of our many conversations on this topic.

He prayed for many years, even in the years he barely believed, for God to show him how to love and be loved. Tim thought he'd found that love through his wife, but God taught him a truer and a more selfless love through his children and through his wife's sorrow over losing children through miscarriage.

With that in mind, I will once again let the power of this conversion speak for itself...

A Catholic Becomes Catholic
The Conversion of Tim Ohmes
Part I

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.  Is 49:15

My mother died when I was 5.  Her death shattered my world.   I’m sure she never forgot us but I felt forgotten.  I was one of seven.  My father later married a widow of 4 and had 4 more for a total of 15 children.  In the town we grew up in, this was way too many children.

  We were Catholic in a town that believed Catholics got it all wrong.  I was a social misfit.  I was often told, “You know all you Catholics are going to hell don’t you!”  Our prayer life consisted of Mass, Stations of the Cross and reciting only formal memorized prayers (like the rosary).  I usually spent the time “counting down” the prayers rather than actually praying.  I paid little attention to the words.  I knew nothing of the Bible.   I was poorly catechized and poorly formed, but God had not forgotten about me.

 In an English literature book, I found a short piece about love.  I found it to be so beautiful and brilliantly written I wrote it down in an empty notebook so I could come back and read it again.  It began, “Love is patient, love is kind” and was attributed to St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  I had no idea this was from the Bible.  I began collecting other quotes in this notebook over the next few years.   I also discovered I had a talent for singing.  I found it gave me a way to relieve tension and also gain some social acceptance.   My Father even gave me a guitar for Christmas my senior year in high school.  God was going to use these later.

After graduating from high school I joined the Navy, which proceeded to erode what little faith I had left.  I met up with many who questioned my faith.  I wouldn’t directly deny Jesus, but I would not defend Him either.  I knew of no way to defend the Church.  I never prayed and I quit going to Mass completely.  If I ever mentioned the size of my family, it only triggered derisive comments.

I began to develop a very cynical view of life.  I lived with a Satanist, new agers, lapsed Protestants, lapsed Catholics, hedonists, “bible thumpers” (who I avoided) and the rare faithful Catholic.  I fell deeper and deeper into sin, especially sins of the flesh.  I accepted the contraceptive mentality that believed sex was for fun only and not for children.  I was very far from God and I was going in the wrong direction.  The only thing I had not corrupted was my interest in music.  God (I realize this now) used music to call me back.   One of my Catholic friends invited me to play at a guitar Mass with his wife and several young ladies.  The lure of the women got me into Church and the love of music kept me there.  I was in Church for the wrong reason, but I was there.  I was not paying attention to the Mass and I was not saying the prayers, but I believe it was St. Augustine who first stated, “He who sings prays twice”.  The guitar mass lyrics from the mid- seventies were not exactly full of deep theological insight but they did contain some simple prayers.   I continued to play at Mass when I could until my discharge. 
On leaving the Navy, I then entered college to study music.  But, I was a 24 year old Vietnam vet entering college as a freshman and needless to say I did not fit in well.  After my military experience, I found I wanted more than the superficial life of a college campus.  After a year of studying music, I dropped out.  Again, God used my love of music to attract me back to the Church.  My sister’s new husband was working as a music director at a local parish.  They convinced me to start playing in Church again.  I had not gone to Mass since leaving the Navy but now my music had me going again.  I joined a guitar group first and later the choir.  Now, the songs were much better, and the lyrics were much more refined and thoughtful.  I found I could “get into” this music much better than I had before.  I did not realize it then, but it was because the songs were based on Scripture.  Within a year I was practicing for and singing 3 masses every weekend plus Holy days.  That is a lot of “praying twice”.

 I was still a very nominal Catholic.  I was very modern and modernist. I was willing to try anything new and was always ready to discard anything I viewed as “old”, “traditional” or “authoritarian”, and I felt that about much that the Church taught.  I did NOT believe in Hell.  I especially did not believe in Satan or demons.  

I was also very lonely.  I went from one empty relationship to another.  I realized I was incapable of loving another person if it meant a commitment on my part.    I joined various single groups and organizations. I even reread my old notebook and read that quote on love.  Then one Sunday, I did something I had never tried before.  I prayed for God to show me how to love.  Nothing happened, but I continued praying anyway.  God gave me an opportunity at every Mass I attended to offer my special intentions, at every Mass I offered the same one, and I was doing music in 3 Masses every weekend plus Holy days.  That’s a lot of special intentions.  Years passed.  I was about to accept that I would be single all my life when God answered my prayers and I met the lady who was to become my wife.  She was almost exactly everything I was not.  She was a very devout Catholic.  Prayer for her was as easy as a conversation.  She was very close to her family yet she was one of 9 children.  I fell in love with her almost immediately but it took me awhile to convince her that I was the right guy.   The fact that I was doing three Masses every weekend plus Holy days did help.  We married a year later.

Marriage very much agreed with me.  I was 31 years old and had a beautiful wife who was all I had dreamed of and I wanted it to last forever.  There was only one problem.  She wanted to have 12 children.  I wanted none.  She would not use the pill so we used Natural Family Planning.  I was not a believer in the system; but went along with her stronger faith.  Eventually, I gave in; we tried for a baby and were immediately successful.  She was delighted and I was not.  The pregnancy and birth went smoothly and my first daughter was born.  I was caught up in the wonder of the moment and decided that this was ok.  I mean, most of our friends had a child and they are cute in their own simple way.  The year passed and we were careless.   When the baby was 9 months old my wife became pregnant again.  This upset me.  I was not ready to have another baby.  This pregnancy was difficult; at about 5 months, my wife began bleeding and had to be hospitalized. Her fear and tears of losing the baby made me regret my anger and I resolved to accept this baby too.

But things were no longer going well.  

Part II coming Friday
(if you can't wait, click here)

Tim will share his story live on the Garden of Holiness Podcast at Deeper Truth, March 7, 2012, 9 p.m Eastern/8 p.m. Central. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's Ash Wednesday!

Before you run off to get your sackcloth and ashes, I have to share two thingsone reminder, and a tease.

Thing 1
This is a printable Lenten Calendar for kids developed by Catholic Icing...

Click here to go to Catholic Icing to get your clean, printable copy!

Thing 2
The Happy Fasting Earworm!

The Reminder

Not only is it Ash Wednesday, it's Wednesday, so I will be podcasting again tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/8:00 p.m. Central. This link will take you to the podcasting site for the Garden of Holiness show at Deeper Truth. You can join in the conversation via the chatroom or call in with questions and comments (646) 595-2071. Tonight's show topic is fasting and Lent. What else?

The Tease 

Nick Alexander (whose name is familiar because he is the songwriter and star of the video you just watched) is not just any songwriter, he's a Catholic Speaker, comedian, and convert. He's been called plenty of names but my personal favorites are the King of Catholic Comedy and the Catholic Weird Al. He will be on next Wednesday's Garden of Holiness show, February 29th. You can check him out, book him as a speaker, and buy his albums here at the Nick Alexander website.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Have a miserable Lent, y'all!

Tomorrow's the big day!
Yo, Joe, you got some schmutz there...
Tomorrow is the beginning of the season of Lent. I know that plenty of nonCatholics practice it, but most of the ones I know don't. They look at me a little funny when I mention fasting, so I am taking a minute to once and for all sing the praises of fasting!

Why Fast? Two Reasons...

Fasting Increases Compassion
If there was ever a need for the American Christian, it is fasting!  We have such an appalling abundance that we actually think a car, a computer, heating and air conditioning, and cable are basic necessities. Here in the West, we base our very lives on increasing our comfort, not our discomfort. Fasting goes against the grain. In fact, it runs counter to our culture (ergo, if you ever want to be cool and counter cultural, fasting is for you!)

Why voluntarily suffer? I'd pose that there are plenty of reasons. Fasting and being hungry is a type of suffering because it is uncomfortable. It's the rare Middle Class American who can actually distinguish between true, gut-wrenching hunger and the nagging, "Yeah, I could eat" feeling. Fasting puts you in that gut wrenching place and helps you to understand this a little more.

 Let me take that back. There is nothing comprehensible about this.

Voluntary suffering through fasting, helps you to feel the misery of the world more personally--a world where in some places hunger is the norm. Through fasting you may only  have a taste of hunger, but that taste is enough to make you more viscerally aware of another's real and completely involuntary suffering. So, one reason to fast is to increase your compassion and to assist you in commiseration with others. Muslims fast during Ramadan, in part, for this very reason.

Fasting Strengthens Your Will

 Another reason is to strengthen your will. I am going to make the controversial statement that we Americans are becoming weak willed. I say that for two reasons: we don't exercise it and we don't respect it.

You calling me a weak willed wimp? Sort of, but fasting can fix you by...

Exercising your will
First, our lives are physically easy. There is much less to endure. In the summer, we are cooled. In the winter, we are warmed. Our food does not come to us through our labor in the fields, it comes from a quick visit to a store. There are less physical demands on our bodies that our minds have to willfully force us to endure. Our determination, our will, to stick with a physically demanding task is exercised much less these days and is therefore weaker. Fasting answers that weakness directly. Fasting is voluntarily taking on a hardship. The longer that you endure it, the more you exercise your will. In fact, because it is voluntary, it is incredibly easy to abandon. The act of the will involved to sustain a fast is immense!

Respecting your will more than your whims
Number two, we have been told since the 60s that our feelings were more authentic than our reason and our will. "If it feels good, do it!" has been the rallying cry for the hedonists among us for decades now, and as a result, we have little respect for personal grit and determination until the fruits of them are made conspicuous by success. Even then, we are more apt to respond with jealousy rather than determination to mimic the behavior that led to that success. A fast doesn't feel good if you do it. It takes endurance... meh. It takes determination... ugh. It takes an act of the will to conquer the self... that is so ickily Catholic!

So what? Start small. If you are physically unable to sustain a fast for a day, skip a meal. If that is impossible, fast from a food item, like dessert. If even that is too much for you, and this is entirely possible given the amount of diabetes and eating disorders in the world, fast from something other than food.

Some nonfood items to fast from...

  • Wearing your favorite color
  • Drinking soda
  • Wearing eyeliner
  • Sarcasm (good luck with that)
  • Complaining (these are getting harder)
  • Pride (good, Lord, help me!)

Actually, He will...'s section of Catholic Fasting
Cool spot to reference if you want Biblical support on the topic of fasting

Monday, February 20, 2012