Saturday, July 19, 2014

a bigger family

soccer game in our backyard when it all hit me
Dear Family and Friends,

The other day I was playing soccer in our backyard with a group of boys. We were having a send-off party for a good friend, Father Timothy Walsh, who is heading on to a new assignment. I worked closely with him over the last year, and he has been a godsend of a mentor in more ways than one for this baby priest.

There were over a hundred people there in our backyard – quite the crowd!

Moments earlier, I had pulled out the soccer ball, and little by little it drew the boys in like a magnet. Before long we must have had a 10 on 10 game. Lots of fun, needless to say. After tiring myself out, I had taken the place of the goalie, and was watching the game. The boys ranged from 3-year-olds all the way through a few high school freshmen. Most of the little ones hadn’t really passed the “mob-ball” stage yet. They spent the game stealing the ball from their teammates and trying desperately to score. It was a lot of fun watching them, really.

Earlier that day, I had been thinking about one of the hard parts of being a priest. You take a vow of celibacy, and so you don’t get married. No wife. No kids. It was something I had to think long and hard about before I took that vow. Because, personally, I’d love to be married. I’d love to have a family. I know it wouldn’t be all fun and games – one sitting in the confessional makes that clear very quickly – but I do know that it would be very fulfilling, that it would fill a hole in my heart.

But I took the vow. And I became a priest. And I didn’t do that out of masochism, or a spirit of penance, or hoping that the rules would change. I did it because I believe God called me to be a priest. I did it because I believe that there is more to fatherhood than physical fatherhood alone. But there’s always been plenty of mystery to all this.

As I stood there in the goal, watching the boys play, God gave me a little more clarity. Simply put, I realized that these were my children. My family. My spiritual family. My spiritual children. And these were only a part. There are more than just the hundred that were there. Many of them go to the school where I’m chaplain and they call me father. Others I meet in my travels. Others I serve on retreats and summer camps.

If I were to have my own family - a physical one – I’d have as many children as God would give us (I always wanted to have lots!). Nine, maybe, like my mom and dad had, if I was lucky, But not a hundred! And the kids I was playing soccer with are wonderful kids, from wonderful, faith-filled families. I would do my best at parenting, but I doubt if any of my kids would turn out as good as these.

Get it? If I were physical father to some, then I couldn’t be spiritual father to all. After taking a vow of celibacy, God has given me more children, and better children, than I could ever have otherwise. It seems so contradictory, and you certainly don’t see it that way when you’re contemplating never walking down the aisle with Miss Right at your side.

Sure, my desire was, and is, to be married. But there is a greater reality. That hole in my heart is still there, but, to my surprise, there is One who fills it in a marvelous way.

It all doesn’t make sense at first glance, or even at the ten-thousandth glance… but for God it makes sense. And sooner or later, often little by little, God lets us see things His way. He gives us glimmers and moments of clarity that help us keep going.

Please pray for all priests, that we may be faithful to our vows, and that we make seek our wholeness from the only One who can truly give it – God Himself. His is the everlasting Romance.

May He bless you and your families,
Father Kevin

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Entrance to the Carmelite monastery of Piacenza, Italy. The plaque reads: "God gives His whole self to those who leave everything out of love for Him"
Dear Family and Friends,

A few years back I was traveling around northern Italy with another seminarian and we stopped to visit the Carmelite nuns in the town of Piacenza. They have a rather small and simple convent in the farmland outside town. At the time, Pope Benedict was in Brazil, taking part in World Youth Day.

Twelve or thirteen of the sisters welcomed us and we exchanged stories. I told the sisters about life in the seminary, studies, living in Rome near the Pope, and our recent vacation time. Then Mother Superior spoke about how the sisters had gone on “vacation”.

These were cloistered sisters – the ones who never leave the convent – so I raised my eyes at that. She went on to explain. That afternoon, all of the sisters had gotten together in the courtyard of the convent. One of them, an artist, had drawn a huge picture of Pope Benedict in his airplane. Then they all sat in chairs and pretended to fly with him to Brazil for World Youth Day. They sang songs and a few of the sisters pretended they were stewardesses. They also prayed the rosary with the pope en route. During their explanation, the sisters were laughing and giggling as if they had just gotten back from Disneyland.

At this point, both of us seminarians had our mouths hanging open. The sisters were so joy-filled and happy as they explained the whole thing to us. And their “vacation” must have lasted no more than an hour. Wow!

We listened, breathlessly, as another sister chimed in: “Oh yes, and we had a special surprise. The family of one of the sisters gave us all ice cream!”

I was speechless. To be honest, only a little while back I had been complaining about how I didn’t like the place where my seminary went on vacation. Hearing the sisters talk about theirs with such simple delight sure nipped that in the bud!

It was a tremendous testimony to how simple things can bring such tremendous joy. I’d be willing to bet that the sisters' afternoon “vacation” was a hundred times more enjoyable than the vacations many people have at five-star resorts.

As you start or finish your vacation this summer – or even just wish you had one! – take a moment to thank God for the simple things, the simple joys he gives you. Life is full of them. Be content with them. Joy is something you can’t buy. You find it in places that aren’t advertised on travel websites.

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Mary is the perfect example of someone who had nothing, but really had everything –“My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior”.

May she watch over you all this summer,
Father Kevin LC

PS I just finished helping out at my third summer camp. Here’s a video I made for the last one: . They were lots of fun, but I am still pretty tired. Thanks be to God, we had no broken bones and no lost children. Now it’s on to preparing for the new school year!