Our Newest Author: Matt Keppel

Classic Matt Keppel, MTS

Matt Keppel is a newly minted Master of Theological Studies with a concentration in scripture and Catholic Education from Boston College.  He proudly hails from the Rome of the West, St. Louis, Missouri, but spent his undergraduate years in Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University finishing with a degree in Philosophy. His professional has spanned just as widely as his academic career going from teaching Junior High to brewing beer. You can follow him (and his sports ranting about the Blues and the Cardinals) on twitter: @mtkeppel.

The “Too” Malady: On Vocation

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By Matthew Janeczko, OFM Cap.

There is a story that is told by one of our friars with great mirth:

One of the friars, upon being asked to do one thing or another would always decline, saying, “Oh, no, I’m just a poor religious.”

Another friar, after hearing his brother in religion deny all types of requests to use his own gifts and talents for the benefit of others day after day, finally snapped.

“Yes,” he shouted, “You are a poor religious!”

This story came to mind as I reflected upon today’s first reading from the beginning of the Prophet Jeremiah.

We hear:

“Ah, Lord GOD!” I said,
“I know not how to speak; I am too young.”

The story of the friar quoted above and Jeremiah today speak, it seems to me, of the same spiritual malady.   It’s what I might call a case of the “too’s” – as in, too old, too young, too spiritual, too worldly, too rich, too poor, too saintly, too sinful – the list could go on and on.

As a Christian people, we are called into relationship by God and then sent by this same God into relationship with each other.  The problem, I would maintain, both in consecrated life and married life (and any vocation one can find between them), is not that people all of ages, shapes, and sizes aren’t being called by God.  It’s not even that Christians are not listening.

I would submit instead that the real problem is the overarching, yawning sense of “too” that we all have: rather than hearing the call of the Lord and getting “to” it, we’re all too worried about being “too much” or “too little” of one thing or another.

Just a thought or two.

The Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: Capuchin Edition

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By Matthew Janeczko, OFM Cap.

Preaching, therefore, is a duty that is apostolic, angelic,  Christian, divine.  The word of God is replete with manifold blessings, since it is, so to speak, a treasure of all goods.  It is the source of faith, hope, charity, all virtues, all gifts of the Holy Spirit, all the beatitudes of the Gospel, all good works, all rewards of life, all the glory of paradise: Welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you.

Lawrence of Brindisi, Sermo Quadragesimalis 2

Facebook, Fritos, and the Gospel

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By Sara Knutson

We’re reading a lot of junk food these days.

I know I am. I snack on blogs and Facebook links like they’re Skittles and Fritos, jumping from the hilarious to the faux useful to the wrath-inducing as my whims dictate.

Not all online content is junk food, of course, and not all online reading constitutes a bad habit. After all, a little web browsing can help people unwind after work or keep up with the news while waiting for the bus.

At issue is the online reading that’s delicious in the moment and guilt-inducing afterward. It looks harmless, but the rabbit hole of “related” articles and provocatively-titled blog posts can trap us for hours in stories we know are worthless but click on anyway.

Online junk food is certainly encouraged by the cutthroat competition of online publishing. The battle for page views has spawned more and more Upworthy-esque headlines, where subpar stories masquerade as must-reads.

Continue reading

Best (Or Is It Most Interesting?) Thing We’ve Read All Day: Funeral Edition

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From the desk of Catholic How Contributor Javier Soegaard.

Chad Bird blogs:

There will come a day, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, when the man in the coffin will be me. They say the dead don’t care, but I’m not dead yet, so as long as I’m still alive, I’d like to have some say in what goes on at my funeral. And, truth be told, I think the dead do care. Not that they will be privy to the details of what happens at their own funerals, but they still care about the world, about their family, about the church. The saints in heaven continue to pray for those who are still on their earthly pilgrimage, so how could they not care about them?

Because I do care now, and will care even after I’m with the Lord, here are some things I hope and pray are not said at my funeral. I care about those who will be there, about what they will hear. I want the truth to be spoken, the truth about sin, the truth about death, and, above all, the truth about the love of God in Jesus Christ.

So, please don’t say…

Read them all here.

 

 

An Open Letter, Part II: Our Writer Responds

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Editor's Note: The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous because (s)he is currently employed at a Catholic High School.  His/her identity has been verified by CatholicHow.

Yesterday, a Facebook follower of Catholic How made this statement after reading the “Open Letter” to Catholic High School Principals and Presidents:

Really, I’d say that’s about the same as you’d hear from a public school teacher.

Our poster responded in the ComBox on his original post, but its thoughtfulness merited posting here.  So, without further ado:

I’d like to add a post script to the piece based on a comment that a reader left on Facebook. The reader points out that many of the problems that I have enumerated in the piece above can be found in our public schools. This is a true and noteworthy comment, and it deserves a response. My initial thoughts are threefold:

1) Public schools almost always pay a significantly higher salary than parochial schools and those operated by religious orders in the same region. If the frustrations are similar and the potential (financial) reward much greater in our public schools, then the Church is going to continue to lose young teachers who, after bolstering their resume for 3-5 years, will leave for greener pastures. Who can blame them? This is what’s currently happening in schools around the country, and it should be a red flag.

2) If I were a public school teacher, I would never dream of writing a letter like this because it would be pointless. The CST principle of subsidiarity is instructive here. One of the extraordinary things about working in a Catholic high school is that almost all decisions are made locally by the particular administrators of the particular school. This means that if a President or Principal wants to include faculty, staff and students in their decision-making processes, they can do so without running it by a distant school board or state legislature.

3) We are not public schools, nor should we seek to become like them. If the only thing that distinguishes us from our public school counterparts are the crucifixes on our walls, then we have failed as both educators and as Christians. We’re called to something higher, and we should aspire to be not only equal to, but better than the nation’s top public schools. I believe that we can achieve this goal, but the solution entails creating a school culture that is distinctively Catholic, and not derivative of what appears in school boards throughout the United States.

 

Update: An Aspiring Carmelite Meets Her Goal!

As an update to my post earlier this week asking for financial support and prayers for my friend Leah, I’m overjoyed to report that she has met her goal in full! She raised enough money to cover her student loan debt and to pay for her health insurance as she moves forward with her preparation to become a Carmelite Sister.

Leah published the happy news on her own blog. Here’s a look at her joy and gratitude, beginning with an Edith Stein quotation she shared:

“The deepest longing of a woman’s heart is to give herself lovingly, to belong to another, and to possess this other being completely. Only God can welcome a person’s total surrender in such a way that one does not lose one’s soul in the process but wins it. And only God can bestow Himself upon a person so that He fulfills this being completely and loses nothing of Himself in so doing. That is why total surrender which is the principle of the religious life is simultaneously the only adequate fulfillment possible for woman’s yearning.”
– Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

I am incredibly blessed beyond belief to be able to say that I am debt free, and that I will be entering postulancy this year. I can’t express the joy I feel in knowing that God is calling me to move forward. He has opened the door wide open, and I will run through it.

I have learned so much in my year of Candidacy, and it is humbling to think of everyone that supported me in so many way to enable me to move forward. I’m so very grateful.

Follow this link to read more about Leah’s her next steps for her vocation. And thank you all again for your prayers, your interest, and your financial support of this grace-filled woman. Please keep her and all the women currently pursuing the vocation of consecrated life in your prayers.

Today, on your feast: Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

An Open Letter from a Catholic High School Teacher

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Editor's Note: The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous because (s)he is currently employed at a Catholic High School.  His/her identity has been verified by CatholicHow.

Having had a chance to read and reflect on the newest CARA report about the state of the Church in the United States, a recurring question emerges: how can the Church continue to reach out to, engage, and retain young people? As a young adult who works in Catholic ministry (in my case, high school education), this is a pressing issue not only because I happen to teach children, and because I care about the Church, but also because I have watched as a number of my peers choose to leave their ministry after only a few years. The question of “How do we stop it?” inevitably leads to the question of “Why does it happen?”

I suspect that many of the reasons why young women and men choose to stop working for parishes and Catholic schools can tell us something about why the Church at large is failing to capture the imagination of young people in this country. Here then, is my letter to the people in charge delivered, I hope, in the spirit of charity and honesty. I am an anonymous high school teacher, but the challenges that I speak of below are neither unique to one particular institution, nor exclusive to the teaching profession.

—-

Dear President/Principal:

You correctly point out that young people are the future of the Church. You say that you don’t want to lose people like me, and I trust that you’re telling the truth. That said, there are a shockingly high number of teachers my age who have abandoned the profession altogether. Often, these are the very same dedicated, hard-working and talented teachers that you claim that you want to keep. So, for what it’s worth, here’s a bit of unsolicited advice from one of those young, dedicated, hard-working and (I think) talented teachers that you claim that you want to keep around:

  1. Please don’t be hypocritical. If you say that teachers and students are the most important aspect of the work that we undertake, don’t spend tens of thousands of dollars upgrading the stained glass windows in the chapel while diverting funds away from classroom maintenance and teacher salaries. Don’t evaluate me and my young colleagues differently than you do the veteran teachers down the hall while claiming that you’re being objective about the whole thing. Hypocrisy is a cardinal sin for my generation, and a hypocritical institution breeds resentment.
  2. Please don’t waste my time. Useless meetings, professional development seminars, and committees take up an ungodly amount of my day. This is time that I could otherwise be using to think of imaginative ways to bring the material to life in my classroom, or to volunteer to chaperone a service trip, or to give a talk on a Kairos retreat. Trust me, I want to do these things, but I only have so many hours in a week. I realize that sometimes these are unavoidable, but please try to minimize them whenever possible. When a significant chunk of my time and energy is spent dealing with a sprawling and pointless bureaucracy, my work suffers and I get frustrated.
  3. Please don’t ask me to take on responsibilities that you’re not asking everybody else to do. I’m young and I don’t have a family yet; therefore, I’m the first person that you ask to volunteer for every committee, to lead every retreat, to serve as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and to chaperone students at the Homecoming dance. Most of the time I do it, free of charge, because I love working with kids and sharing my experience of Christ with them. That’s a reward in and of itself; however, when I see my colleague—you know, the one who’s making twice what I am—beat the kids to the parking lot at 2:30, I start to wonder whether those late nights and weekends away from home are really worth it. So continue to ask me to volunteer, but please ask them to pitch in too. I don’t want special treatment, I want a consistent standard (see point #1).

Since I don’t want to dwell on the negative, here are three things that you can do to make me want to stay in Catholic ministry (even if it means taking a pay cut to do so): Continue reading

Augustine and Francis on being a Shepherd

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By Tom Palanza, Jr.

Priest Matt’s last post and article about shepherd imagery and its influence on the priesthood brought to mind a passage from the Office of Readings from last Monday and a quote from Pope Francis.  The reading was from a homily by St. Augustine and the quote was from the Pope’s 2013 Chrism Mass homily.  I would like to look at how these two quotes detail the nature of ordained ministry, especially concerning the role of shepherd.

Pope Francis’ quote comes from his 2013 Chrism Mass homily.  There the pope urges priests to be shepherds “living with the ‘smell of the sheep,’ shepherds in the midst of their flock.”  The pope urges priests to the same qualities that Augustine does; especially: concern for their sheep.  The pope’s sensuous image of “smell of the sheep” makes it clear that he expects an intimate, immediate concern from pastors.  Good shepherds are close with their sheep.  The closer, more intimate you are with your sheep, the more comfortable they are with you and the more likely they will be to follow you when you call.  The closer, more intimate you are with your sheep the better you know their needs and can give them exactly what they require to flourish.  The closer, more intimate you are with your sheep the better you are able to protect them and give of yourself for their good.  Even well meaning shepherds who want to protect their sheep but do not stay close to them will not reach them in time to save them from danger.  Good shepherds know that they must be close to their sheep in order to protect them.  Ironically, it is only by doing your job well, being close to your sheep and thus closer to danger, that you risk losing your life – and then can hope to gain it. Continue reading

World Cup 2014: So Now What?

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By Javier Soegaard

And irony of ironies! as we like to say here at Catholic How.

ESPN posted a wonderful article by acclaimed sports journalist Wright Thompson this morning called “The Rio the World Cup Didn’t Show.”  In it Thompson talks about his encounters with social advocates and journalists working in the tattered and violent streets of Rio’s favelas.

As someone who watched about 85% of the World Cup games, I can corroborate Thompson’s headline.  Live ammunition, non-existent sewage systems, drug cartels—these were never part of the coverage.  All I saw were beach parties and varying angles of Cristo Redentor.  And Chris Wondolowski miss that open net.  It still haunts me.  Why Wondo?  WHYYYYYY?

Several lines into the piece, however, my head began to shake in cynicism—shouldn’t the headline have read “The Rio that ESPN Didn’t Show”?  I understand that the Worldwide Leader has a very specific and particular mission: to show sports all of the time—and I love them for that.  Yet I question the wisdom of running a piece about forgotten narratives and unheralded social movements when in fact you were the network with all the cameras and journalists in the area.  It’s only a minor slap in the face to those affected by the social turmoil in Brazil. Continue reading

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