Fathers Floreat!

DaneBairdFFADane Baird

My blog “Father's Floreat”

Dane Baird has been a witness member of the Home of the Mother for 3 years. He has two daughters, Jean and Susannah. The newest addition to the family is Halo, wonder-dog! His profession is teaching autistic children and he enjoys acting in several parish and diocesan ministries, as well as supporting the Home of the Mother.

His blog is called "Fathers Floreat!" Floreat is a word he heard on retreat, it is latin for to flourish, to bloom. Men should be blossoming according to God's plan.

Saturday, 29 February 2020 03:50

St. Dismas. Pray for Us

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Maybe it has been the recent Lenten season, but, for some reason, I don’t know why I’ve been contemplating the good thief. I believe his name was Dismas, St. Dismas. He’s a saint, I believe because he knows our Lord. He recognizes who He is and repents, even under the most difficult of circumstances. If I imagine myself in his place, taking his place upon his cross and making it mine, I am awestruck. What would my likely response be to Dismas’ very real cross? What if his cross was mine? 

The Catholic church does a good job of inviting us into a time and space I don’t like traveling into, i.e. Lent. It’s like looking into a mirror after a long night of sleeplessness or maybe evening carousing. I look pretty bad. That’s my ‘sin’ face in the mirror. But even though I don’t like this reality, I realize the wisdom of reflecting on my fallen nature. It’s a true and present reality that I cannot run away from. I believe our church calls it concupiscence, a disorder caused by our propensity to sin. 

During Lent, albeit at times uncomfortably, I reflect and find solace vis a vis my sin when contrasted to our Lord in the desert. To defeat my devilish thoughts and actions, I simply need to look to our Lord and how He does battle. Jesus is our teacher and role model. He fasts and prays to the Father while preparing for battle. All I need to do is ‘copy and paste’ His actions, albeit imperfectly.

Ironically, winning the battle against sin has nothing to do with my physical strength. Where the world values physical strength, Jesus’ actions are a statement, the truth on how to win, to master ourselves and thwart the devil. 

I must become dismantled, become weak. I choose to become physically weaker through mortification, maybe some fasting, so that God, the Father, can make me stronger. If I look at our Lord during His desert sojourn, including His fasting, His prayer, if I simply choose to replicate these actions, I win. As my body descends physically, my spirit ascends. When I become physically weaker, I experience a surrendering of self to the true power, which is God’s fortress for me, his agape love.  

In spirit, it is God who does the fighting. This is always a good thing, as God is God and all-powerful. For me, the weak sinner, this is a welcome, hopeful mystery for me to embrace. I want to win this battle and now I know how.

So, back to the good thief…

This thief hung on a very real, physical cross for his sins. He violated the civil law in such a way that he earned a death sentence, a horrible, cruel crucifixion. And on this cross, he somehow notices and recognizes our Lord, on His cross. It’s amazing for Dismas to look outside of himself because his insides are experiencing intense pains. He’s been physically tortured, nails driven through his limbs. He’s suffocating to death, as the cross does the terrible job of slowly asphyxiating him. Dismas is very aware, for a long time, that his life is coming to an end.

But, the thief, somehow, while suffering excruciating pain, finds the power to cry out to our Lord, asking for forgiveness. Even in this thief’s great despair, that his life, filled with mistakes, is going to end on a cross, he still asks for divine mercy. 

Of course, when he asks, with a contrite and humble heart, for forgiveness, the great harbinger of hope, Jesus, delivers. In Dismas’ case, his faith in the Son earns him an upfront seat in paradise, where he can ponder the great beauty of love, of Jesus, Heaven itself, for eternity. 

I find this Gospel passage fascinating. 

If I close my eyes and imagine taking the good thief’s place, would I recognize our Lord for who He is? At this point in my spiritual journey, I'd have to say, "Likely not." For me, I do have crosses. But, when asked to bear them, my response is so very weak and flawed.  

So, if I were to take St. Dismas’ place, I would likely be focused on me and me alone. I don’t like suffering. I sometimes get angry that I have to suffer and quickly despair. 

Unlike Dismas, at the moment of suffering, I have great difficulty in embracing it and saying to myself, "OK, so I’m suffering but I trust the Lord will make something good from it." No, my faith is quite weak. When I suffer, all I can really think about is the end of it. I beg, "Lord, take this from me, please!"

So, I am more like the bad thief. He’s on Jesus' other side, opposite of Dismas. He hangs from a similar cross, but his response to our Lord is the opposite of St. Dismas’. Like Dismas, he’s in great pain. But unlike his counterpart, he chooses anger, a lack of accountability for his actions and accosts our Lord with disparaging remarks. He belittles the Lord. He cannot get outside of His pain to realize that all he needs to do is ask our Lord for some help, for forgiveness. So, he is doomed, doomed to hang from his cross all alone, to die a terrible death, both physically and spiritually. Don’t I often relate more often with this man, the unrepentant thief? 

At first, the gift of a cross seems strange and unworldly. That’s because the devil has created a fallen world with valueless values. At some level, with the world as my classroom, I have been taught that what I should value is my very own self, to be selfish. I have been taught to trust big government and bad ideas, like feminism or socialism. Instead of praying, while I am "of and in" the world, I might spend most of my time accumulating goods for temporary comforts or seeking fame. This means I am rarely or never investing time praising God’s holy name. 

In this mindset and state of being, the only name I really praise is my own. Instead of courageously lifting my cross, the devil wants me to be delusional, comfortable and, as it turns out, lacking in Christian virtue. He wants me to run and hide from my crosses. The devil knows that if I choose to run, I become one of the lost sheep. Running means I, most likely, lack fortitude and temperance. This is never a good place for me to be because, outside of the church and the confessional, I, the lonely sheep, am more likely to be devoured by the big bad wolves of sin.  

But let’s say I absorb Jesus and learn from His desert journey. I learn and decide to fast, learn ‘how to’ and decide to pray. I learn about and decide to value the Mass as well, and I go more than once per week. With this learning and action, am I more likely to have a Dismas response to my cross, or will I remain the unrepentant thief? 

St. Dismas, pray for us.

 

Saturday, 09 November 2019 01:50

Remembering God

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Possible solutions to my forgetting the Creator:

1) Many prayer prompts. Ok, so, I am distracted, confused, and in need of redirection. How about some prayer prompts? Why? Because how can I love someone I

do not know? I need to become a great communicator with the Divine. This means a continual conversation, a continual prayer with my Maker. It is then, that, with time, the great relationship

starts unfolding, offering me the opportunity to glimpse and experience God’s sacred love for me and the whole world. So, what about some prayer prompts to keep reminding me to do

what is the most important activity of my life, a life full of prayer? 

Tuesday, 05 November 2019 17:20

Forgetting God

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Many times, each day, I need help. After all, many times, I am a lukewarm, despondent Catholic. It just happens, especially when I forget. I forget God, His love for me, His blessings, and I forget to spend time with Him. I forget to be charitable, kind,and patient. And, unfortunately, in my forgetful state, I become very ‘at risk.’ I am more likely to sin. My sins are varied and numerous. I am at risk, in this state of forgetfulness, because each moment, absent from God, the near occasion of sin is much more likely to become real mortal or venial sin. I become more and more distant from the God-source. I am becoming loveless.

Not good. 

The fix to this, for me, is simple. To become vivified, to resurrect from my sorry state, I begin to remember again. I remember His love, His sacrifice, my relationship with Him, and I remember how this relationship is my defining relationship, the purpose of my life. 

If I can get this relationship right, I will be on the path to sanctity. All my other relationships will fall into order and become enlightened with His love. This is not to say the challenges dissipate. No, they are always present. But my responses to them are transfigured by God. I know what to do because I know something about our Lord, something about His love. 

And all my sins, no matter how numerous, dark, and mistaken, will always be overcome by Divine Mercy, if I simply ask for it, with a contrite heart. 

But the key to continue obtaining this mercy and sanctifying grace is to, again, to remember our Lord’s love for me as quickly as possible.  

Lord, how do I awaken out of my forgetfulness and enter Your Sacred Heart? 

Before postulating an answer, I think I need to communicate a dose of my reality. Let’s be real. Today’s environment is so very distracting. How on earth can I focus on what is good, remembering the Lord’s love for me again, when so very distracted? 

Here are just a few, possible real distractions:

- As a man, I might be working a lot. At some juncture, I might have decided that my family needs certain material support, some type of material ‘non-negotiables.’ I tell myself in order for my wife and children to be happy, they ‘need’ a 3500 square foot house and endless consumer products, such as designer shoes and branded shirts and blouses. All of these supposed needs keep me working a lot, so I can pay for my many debts. In this reality, I have little time for the Lord as I have made a self-defined, culturally defined lifestyle my god.

- Or, I’m addicted. I have a smartphone and like all the instant gratification, all the visuals that my ‘connectedness’ offers me. These visuals are pleasurable and make me smile. But, often enough, these visuals are not God-centric, and they consume lots of time and distract me from prayer time. I distance myself from God and His wisdom by spending too much time on personal technology. 

- Or, I never received good formation: “I don’t know what a man is, according to God’s plan, because I sort of pay attention at Mass, but not really. After all, I’m really a minimalist, where I invest minimal attention to God’s words. As a result, I don’t know Jesus, His strength upon the cross. I don’t understand holy manhood. Maybe, I have become an unknowing feminist, too. At some level, I believe that men and women are the same, or, that a woman is able to be both father and mother and there’s no need for men anymore.” The culture, instead of the Catechism, instead of the Bible, instead of the sacraments, is my life’s template. 

I believe I know a priest that, if reading the above self-description, would call me a ‘neo-pagan,’ which is making my immediate surroundings my gods, with little to no attention for the true God.

Again, I am distracted and possibly very confused because I believe what the culture believes and I do what the culture does. I am totally at risk of losing God and access to the pearly gates of heaven.

Lord, help me to remember You, please. 

Thursday, 11 April 2019 19:03

Choices

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Some time ago, I found myself in the military. At times, it just seems surreal that I was in the military at all. After all, truthfully, weapons make me a bit nervous. But there I was, in training, in a hot and muggy place called Ft. Benning. At certain times, the training tempo called for night maneuvers, which gave further occasion to feel a bit nervous. Why? There’s no light! Even with moonlight, in the thick of the woods, it’s completely dark. And in the darkness, there are plenty of opportunities to trip up, to tumble down, to fall and get lost. 

Friday, 01 March 2019 17:17

Yes, I believe

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I know a wise woman; I believe her to be wise for many reasons. Her faith insures that at least some part of her day is dedicated to prayer. She’s a daily Rosary lady, reads scripture and tries, whenever possible, to open herself up to divine beauty. So when I talk to this woman of faith with such daily practices, I am more likely to glean some wisdom from her words, or from observing her actions.

Friday, 15 February 2019 11:55

Battle Readiness

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I kept turning to the same page in what seemed a random occurrence. Have you ever played Bible Roulette? Just open and start reading. I was doing the same with Mary of Agreda’s City of God, i.e., her visions regarding Jesus’ public ministry and His mother’s instrumental role in supporting Her Son in the Father’s great effort to redeem souls

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