Faith and family: such an important part of our lives. Our family began in faith when Vickie and I shared our vows at St Rose in Santa Rosa, CA on September 3rd almost 24 years ago. It’s clear to us that we have been led step by step from that moment into each new vista by the hand of Divine Providence. Our choice has been to consistently choose ‘mission’ over ‘money’ when presented by the opportunity: Catholic radio in Portland in 1994, Steubenville before that, and now years of ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area will become a self contained memory as we will be moving to San Juan Capistrano in the Diocese of Orange as I begin a new position as the religious studies teacher for Juniors and Seniors at J Serra High School. I leave on Sunday. By the way you might not have known that I have been without employment since December 22nd 2012. Not something I had planned.
A couple months ago I was sitting across from Cardinal Dolan in his office in New York talking about the Family Life / Respect Life Director position for which I was one of the last 3 out of 1500 inquiries. Though the job wasn’t offered to me, during that time Vickie kept saying “well it’s either ‘apples’ or ‘oranges’!” She didn’t know why she kept saying that until this past Tuesday.
So I am asking you to keep me in your prayers especially in the next week as I leave this Sunday to drive down to San Juan Capistrano because my first day is Tuesday the 13th. As of right now, I have no idea where I will be staying for the first 6 weeks as I start school and scout out a place for us to live. Luke and James have already been accepted into the Orange Coast College and start classes on August 26th. I have called the pastor of the Mission and the local SVDP to inquire about a room, but haven’t heard back. I believe in miracles. When we moved from Sebastopol to Portland in 1994 we were inspired by the Holy Spirit to load up the UHaul and just drive. No pre-rented houses, no arrangement other than the permission to stay at Our Lady Queen of Peace Retreat House for a couple of days. We found our house the very next day in the hour of Mercy on May 18th Blessed John Paul’s birthday.
This has been a test of patience and humility for us. Jesus said deny yourself pick up your cross and come follow me. In this time of poverty of spirit we are grateful for each of you Simeon’s who have helped us carry our cross down this pilgrim path where we can better know love and serve him as his brother and sister in true solidarity with the poorest of the poor.
When we organized the first Catholic Radio Institute in 1996 and had Dr Scott Hahn and Fr. Mitch Pacwa led a rosary rally in St Mary’s Cathedral where nearly 2000 people prayed for the New Evangelization, we didn’t do it for the money; I was a High School teacher at Marin Catholic with a young family. The Culture of Life Conference we hosted where Fr. Spitzer and Tim Staples spoke to a healthy crowd in March of 2000 wasn’t done because of the financial return on investment; it was done with the spiritual return on investment in mind and with a prophetic call for all those who had ears to hear. Now 17 years have passed and it’s time to leave this locale to embark on a new era for our family. As our last child in High School begins her journey in a few weeks, we have a moment to pause to reflect on God’s hand of blessing on our lives.
But it’s only just a moment.
We can testify from personal experience that God is faithful to provide for your ‘daily bread’: if you allow Him. 24 years of marriage (which by the way is stronger than ever) and Vickie has had the ability to be home with our kids, never having to work for our survival. We have been able to pay for braces, Irish Dancing, Piano and Violin lessons, Sports, High School and College tuition, years of text books and school supplies, not to mention one wedding to remember: all on one ‘sole provider’ income (though sometimes in the form of three jobs). Most of the time we have lived in brand new homes, near open space, and in safe neighborhoods. Our children now all have a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ and are fully confirmed and committed Catholics. Though we always were in need financially, only rarely would we be in distress. And as with any investment, our many conscious decisions have placed us in a position to more than capitalize on our returns; for the last 2 and ½ years we have been given the opportunity to ‘double down’ on the already strong faith life we had established and have been living a truly Franciscan lifestyle on purpose, and with permission from God (through our spiritual director).
We truly depend on, and have been humbly blessed by the generosity of our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ over the past few years. Most recently because of a few loving brothers and sisters we were able to pay for some months of overdue rent on our storage unit in American Canyon, CA. (just imagine all your possessions in three storage units). Otherwise we were getting close to losing our possessions and keepsakes all because we couldn’t keep up with a $310.00 per month storage fee. Our material needs are incredibly small today and yet we have been continually in need like always, in order for Our Lord to continue to teach us one of the most important lessons one could ever learn in life: “For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that”1 Tim 6:7-8.
This ‘school of detachment’ is something we have been enrolled in for quite some time, and the message and moral of it all is something we intend to share with whomever will listen. It has many applications for many institutions and families. We have been specifically thinking about our many friends who we see struggling under the oppressive financial obligations while looking over their shoulder as their children leave the home and leave the faith. We have chosen to walk out into the clearing where our emotional insurance is out of reach in order to force ourselves to examine the true nature of what we call our Trust in the Lord. Many of us claim to trust in God, but if we are honest, we would admit that we are paying regular premiums on the emotional insurance of things like a healthy bottom line or income, which rests on the false assumption that our own hard work is what fuels the hand of providence in our lives: we are blessed because we work hard and take advantage of opportunities.
Thoughts like the previous few sentences embody the spirit of what we have named the New Life Family Mission, our 501c3 ministry that seeks to renew family life and the church from the inside out. New wine needs new wine skins; it cannot be contained in the stretched out programs of the past. The message is clear and simple and we have been living it for many years. Now we will turn to presenting it through everything from the digital media arts to silent retreats. More of a movement than a program; more ‘caught’ than ‘taught’. For now, these new developments in our family life will allow us to be closer to the holy ground of 100 acres just North of Santa Barbara where we have already begun building a place of renewal for families and young people.
To those of you who have been following us on facebook or elsewhere we thank you for your prayers and encouraging thoughts and actions. For those of you who have been watching but not engaged, I encourage you to open your heart to what the Holy Spirit is saying through our lives. We are only broken vessels praying that God use us to be channels of His Peace!
Thanks so much for reading this, please stay tuned and stay in touch, and pray for us! We always pray for you!
I think it worth reflecting on Pope Francis’ recent address on May 16 to the four newly accredited Ambassadors to the Vatican. In his remarks to these new diplomats, Francis argued:
“Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. … The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”