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Columns with The Monitor (2014, 2017-2020)


Below is a collection of Rambling Spirit columns I wrote for The Monitor, the newspaper of the Diocese of Trenton.


The Rambling Spirit column shares everyday practical wisdom while daring to explore the mysteries of the Catholic Faith. Through the column, I aim to capture what it’s like to be a young Catholic in today’s world, and debunk the common belief that young Catholics have to leave their religion in order to explore the world and complete their elusive soul search.


 

8/23/2020


"The stars filled the night sky, as my brother-in-law and I reflected on the sheer size of the universe."


“Some years ago – never mind how long precisely,” I attended a board of education meeting as a journalist, covering a story about the use of R-rated films in class lessons at a local high school....

 

A priest wants to buy a car for a friend who has been down on his luck, but can’t for one ridiculous reason. A new father needs to buy a home because his one bedroom apartment is too small for his growing family, but the same barrier prevents him. Countless young men and women have bought things they never needed in attempt to dodge the same predicament: no credit. Not bad credit. Just no credit....

 

Have you ever walked out of a movie theater or finished a novel wondering, “What happened to good storytelling?”


Movies full of special effects and famous actors, and novels full of profanity, sex and shallow suspense seem to cover up the reality that most of today’s popular storytellers aren’t that good at telling good stories anymore.



 

There are two popular ways of looking at human history, as far as I know. Either it is linear like a highway headed to a destination, or it’s cyclical like the seasons and has no ultimate end....

 

We are in a philosophical crisis, and it is caused by too much self-interest. This leads to us thinking a great deal about one another as well, which sounds good until we realize that our impetus for doing so comes from the same dangerous philosophy of self.

We are so interested in not offending one another that we avoid speaking truth due to its tendency to often offend people. God, being truth, subsequently falls into a very inconvenient corner of our conversations....

 

My friend Jerry loves to work out. He knows all the best exercise routines and has made staying in shape into an admirable hobby of his. He also loves his Catholic faith, and somewhere along his spiritual journey, he noticed that he was spending a lot more time exercising than he was with God. His faith life suffered as a result....


 

The streets of Manhattan had a rigorous ambiance that Monday evening. People were rushing home from work, robustly conversing on their cell phones in expensive suits, loading trucks and delivering food on bikes....

 

Before the popular HBO series “Game of Thrones” aired, George R.R. Martin was mostly known by just fantasy book geeks. Despite this esoteric reputation, the literary source of the HBO series – “A Song of Ice and Fire” – inspired Time Magazine to call the series’ Bayonne-native author the “American Tolkien.”


 

When I was 23, I was restless, so I moved to Philadelphia with the determination to start an intentional Catholic young adult community with some friends. It is a chapter of my life I don’t talk about too often because we kind of failed at what we tried to do. In the eight years since, however, I have noticed how that failure was just what I needed at the time....


 

We often think of “mission territory” as those cultures in areas of the world yet to be evangelized and catechized, but it goes far beyond places on a map....


 

Irony can be humbling, because it shows us how life is the exact opposite of what we expected. More often than not, the supernatural is the same way.


 

Work can be tough. Often, it is draining, daunting and hectic. Sometimes it is monotonous, other times it might be frustrating and time-consuming. Yet, it is still good.


 

If we look at the advice Jesus gives regarding wealth, it may seem like he is calling everyone to denounce all possessions: “Sell what belongs to you.”(Matt. 19:21) and “store up treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20) because “Where a man’s heart is, there his treasure is also” (Matt. 6:21).


 

The family, local community and land that I am a part of are what bring me back to what matters...


 

Words are all I’ve ever written, read, or spoken. Yet when I need them most, they often flee. ...

 

I firmly believe that the most assuring thing about being Catholic is how normal we are. Yes, there have been many saints who have lived exceptionally holy lives, but most of us Catholics are masters of the mundane parts of life, fulfilling routine tasks with patience and humility.

 

If God has a plan for me, what’s the point in having free will? This is a question that comes up every now and then among friends when we’re talking about choosing a path in life, and trying to make sense of our deepest desires.


 

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).


With these words God calls Jeremiah and appoints him a prophet to the nations. Keeping in mind that we are all called to be prophets, our journey begins where Jeremiah’s does – with a calling to greatness.


 


“Not all those who wander are lost.”

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf uses these words to describe Strider, the suspicious ranger in the corner at the Inn of the Prancing Pony. As a young “roaming Catholic,” I find reassurance in the wizard’s words, because they point to the reality that there is freedom in adherence to the truth; and once someone has found the truth his journey has only begun....

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