Musing on 1 Cor 9:24-27

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. –1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Cinderella.

Every March in the United States, this word gets thrown around continually and casually.

We all know what it means — the “Cinderella” team — the underdogs who proved themselves to everyone; the team no one believed in; the ones whom no one gave a second thought to; the team that everyone glazed over while filling out their brackets. “Oh an 11-seed? They’re going down in the first round, for sure.”

This year, I’ve had the privilege to watch my hometown team, the Wichita State Shockers, become the Cinderella of the 2013 NCAA Championship Tournament. A nine-seeded team that beat four teams — including the two best in its region — on its way to the Final Four.

Yes, we all love those underdog stories, don’t we? We latch on to movies like Seabiscuit, Glory Road, We Are Marshall, Cinderella Man, Miracle, and Cool Runnings (which are all based on true stories, by the way). Why? Because we love to see those teams, those players who weren’t the best still succeed, even when all the odds were stacked against them.

They take a stand for themselves — they prove to everyone that they’re worth something, that they shouldn’t be underestimated, that they shouldn’t be counted out.

We love underdog stories, because the idea of an ‘underdog’ is based on prejudice. “Oh, this team has more money, a better coach, more talented players, a tougher schedule — so, they’re definitely going to beat this second-rate team of schmucks, no problem. Right?”

The idea of an underdog also is based on empathy — we don’t like it when other people underestimate us, and count us out. So, when we see another underdog succeed, it gives us hope. The ‘little guy’ can win, even when the world is stacked against him. David can beat Goliath, and he does.

So life is for us Christians. We are the underdogs; we have the disadvantage, seemingly, against all that we try to combat — the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Think about it.

Everyday, we wake up to our ongoing struggles against all of our erring brothers and sisters, who pressure us (sometimes with good intentions) into joining their escapades with “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” — of rejecting our religion, our relationship with God simply to do what everyone is doing. We wake up to our own bodily desires, which were created good, but have been deformed through our own sinful nature, our predisposition to sin. We continue to pervert those gifts which God created good, because we believe that they will give us pleasure. And, lastly, and most frighteningly, we wake up everyday to combat all the demons of Hell, who have retained their angelic powers and use them to tempt us away from God — to give into our societal pressures, to give in to our own bodily desires, etc.

So, not only is the world against us, but the flesh and the devil, too!

How then — you might ask — can we possibly win?

And I would reply: How can we possibly lose?

We’re the underdogs! Our life as Christians is a classic underdog story. We win as any other longshot, counted-out team does: through Faith.

For athletes, it is faith in themselves, in their coach, in their teammates. For us, it is Faith in Our God, in our Church, in the Lord’s plan for us.

Train yourself for devotion; for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. For this we toil and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the savior of all, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. –1 Timothy 4:7-11

So, like those athletes — those dark horses, who find themselves down at halftime to the best team in the league — we draw on four components of our Christian faith to “run the race so as to win” so that we might win our “imperishable crown” :

HEART

We could also call this passion or desire. Think of those athletes when they say they give “110%” to their sport, to their team, etc. Let us think of HEART as that ability to give of yourself for your Teammates, for your Coach — in good times, in bad; in everyday practice, in a clutch championship game; always. I often see athletes use the Twitter hashtag #NoDaysOff.

Our Faith, our life of training for devotion, must be the same way. These athlete have such commitment and passion for their sport, their team, their way of life. Why can’t we do the same? We must have HEART — passion in our Faith, desire to live for Christ — to “win” in our lives of Faith.

SKILL

No basketball team is going to win in any game, let alone against the overall No. 1 seed, unless the players know the fundamentals. Many coaches describe this as “Basketball IQ.” Sure, sometimes a victory comes down to talent and talent disparity between one team and its opponent; but, as any basketball fan knows, talent doesn’t count for much if the talented players don’t have a high Basketball IQ — if they make bad passes, if they commit stupid fools, if they travel or carry the ball.

In our faith lives, we have something similar: we have four gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, and Knowledge.You can be a good Christian — you can have all the passion to be like Christ in the world — but how can you be like Him if you don’t know Him? If you’re not open to the Holy Spirit? If you have no fundamental knowledge of the Faith — of sin, of right and wrong?

Just as an athlete has to know his sport — know its rules, its strategies, its speed, its techniques, its competition — so, too, do we have to know our Faith. But, beyond that, we have to live it out. We cannot simply draw up the plays, but we must execute them as well. As St. Paul says to the Corinthians, No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1Cor 9:27)

FOCUS

I didn’t know what better word to sum up this idea. I see those athletes who, in a critical game, do something wrong — they do something really stupid: commit a bad foul, turn over the ball, drop the baton, miss a block, etc.

And we sports fans scream and holler at our televisions “What the heck was that? How could you be so stupid?” But, then later, and sometimes not even one minute later, that same player does something awesome — intercepts the ball, breaks a record, or makes a huge shot. And you wonder “How can he be so bad one minute, and so good the next?” Because of focus — of that ability to “shake off” the bad and focus on the good. We Christians must do the same.

Sometimes we mess up. We sin; we fall away from God; we stumble in our lives of prayer and/or ministry. We do something stupid. But, we cannot be discouraged. Because, like that player, if we only focus on the bad, we cannot move forward and do the good. We will be stuck in an endless mental loop of “What if?” We will be focused on the past, instead of on the present and the future.

Yes, we need to correct our mistakes, but we also need to forgive ourselves (and our Teammates) when we mess up, when we do something stupid. We must have that persevering mercy for ourselves and others — we must have that resolution to forgive our mistakes, to sin no more, and to continue on our journey of Faith.

To be good Christians — to be like Christ– we must correct our faults, and focus on our ongoing mission of sharing Christ’s Gospel with others through our prayer and our example.

Think of it this way: at the end of a game, do people remember that you had 29 points, or that you committed four fouls?

SPIRIT

Lastly, a true underdog has to have spirit. Again, I don’t know how else to describe this idea of a ‘spirited’ competitor in one word. But, I recognize those dark horse athletes who look their much bigger, more talented, better coached opponents in the eyes and (through their body language) tell them: “I am not afraid of you.”

That indomitable spirit, that courage, to never back down and to never give up. That spunk, that grit, that determination to keep fighting — and to keep fighting with everything you’ve got until the clock expires. To fight nobly; to compete with dignity.

Win with humility, and lose with dignity, as my bishop once told my high school’s football team.

And, so we as Christians must do the same.

We should not be afraid to go toe-to-toe with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Because, weak though we are, we have the Grace of the Father, the Strength of the Son, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to fuel us for our daily bouts against our three challenging opponents.

But, we cannot back down. We must have courage, fortitude, to keep running the race with faith in God and in His Love and Faith in us. We Christians must recognize that Christ’s grace is sufficient enough for us — He will get us through any fight, so long as we have faith in Him.

Remember St. Paul and his struggles, as he describes them in 2 Corinthians:

Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. –2Cor 12:7-10

IN CONCLUSION

“…the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize… They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”

So, brothers and sisters, we must allow the Spirit of God — the Spirit of Courageous ‘Spunk,’ shall we say — to dwell within us.

These four things — Heart, Skill, Focus, and Spirit — are the four qualities, the four ‘virtues’ that any true underdog must have to succeed in his endeavors, no matter how insurmountable they may seem.

Whether in sports or our lives of Faith, we underdogs must hold fast to these four things to win — we must hold fast to these gifts that God has given us. We must strengthen our passion for Him (Heart); we must learn about Him (Skill); we must learn to forgive like Him (Focus); and we must have the courage to face our enemies head-on (Spirit).

For, while our enemies might scoff and underestimate us and our Gifts — Our Faith in God — we should not. Because we are the underdogs, and God willing, we will be victorious in our struggles. We will “run so as to win.”

After all, what better underdog story is there than the seemingly ordinary Man Who died… only to conquer Sin and Death, and rise Victorious from the grave?

Amen. Alleluia, Alleluia!

Talk: “Signs and Sacraments” (Part 4)

Author’s Note: This the final part of a resource talk that I gave on a retreat in 2011; the topic for the talk, which is a combination of my personal testimony and Church teachings, was on “Signs and Sacraments.” The talk will be posted in four consecutive parts. The retreat that I gave the talk at focuses on “Community” and strengthening our community as a Church through our shared love and service of Christ.

If you need a refresher, read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

HOLY COMMUNION

I just wanted to touch very briefly on the Eucharist. I want to stress the importance of the reality of the Eucharist. What seems to be bread and wine isn’t just a symbol of Christ’s love and sacrifice… it isn’t just a symbol of His body and blood. It IS His Body and Blood. When the priest raises the host up and validly says the words of consecration, it is no longer bread, even though it has the appearance of bread. But the reality of it has changed entirely, even though its resemblance hasn’t. People who come out of the Holy Water font aren’t any different physically than when they went in (other than being wet). But, they’re completely different interiorly because they have been purified of their original sin.

Think of it this way: the True Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood has been masked and disguised as mere bread and wine so that we can unrestrainedly partake of the full sacrament. Just imagine if you went up to the minister in the communion line and he handed you a literal piece of Christ’s flesh. Well, I don’t know about you, but I would freak out! I would be in such awe, such reverence, and wonderment that I couldn’t partake of it. I would feel so unworthy. But, there is no difference except that the Eucharist does not appear to be flesh and blood, but it is. Otherwise, we might be unwilling to take it, right? Christ did that for our sake.

Jesus said to them, ’Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life with in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.’” –John 6:53-57

Does that make sense? It is not a representation of Christ’s sacrifice, but a re-presentation of His Sacrifice! That is why the Eucharist is so important; because it’s not just a symbol, but it’s a reality.

CONCLUSION

So, before I close, I just wanted to stress two key things. Basically, if you forget everything else from this talk (which I know you all will), I ask that you remember these two things:

  1. Always have a reverence for the sacraments. Perhaps you don’t understand all of them. Maybe you were sitting there this whole time thinking, “What on earth is she talking about?” Don’t worry, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Also, receive the sacraments as much as you can. Right now, most of us can receive Communion and Confession on a regular basis, so I encourage you to do so. And also, if you know anyone who’s going through RCIA right now or going to get married or ordained soon, I ask you to support them and pray for them.
  2. Signs… Yes. Those things I talked about way back at the beginning of this talk. Remember the Totus Tuus phamplet? Ok, sometimes those things happen. Sometimes God sends you big neon signs telling you what to do. But, most of the time, He doesn’t. Most of the time, you have to find the sign in your heart. Trust me, you know more than you’re willing to admit that you do. And I just wanted to ask to everyone to always act on those signs, whether physical or interior.

I taught my kids this summer the four things you need to discern God’s will for you (write these down): PSSGF. Prayer, Sacraments!!!, Scripture, and Good Friends. So, remember those four things. Always remember, signs are a gift from God. So, always thank God for them. Thank God for his grace. Thank God for his Sacraments. Amen? Amen!

If you’d like to read the talk in its entirety, the Word Document is here: Signs and Sacraments.

Talk: “Signs and Sacraments” (Part 3)

Author’s Note: This the third part of a resource talk that I gave on a retreat in 2011; the topic for the talk, which is a combination of my personal testimony and Church teachings, was on “Signs and Sacraments.” The talk will be posted in four consecutive parts. The retreat that I gave the talk at focuses on “Community” and strengthening our community as a Church through our shared love and service of Christ.

If you need a refresher, read Part 1 and Part 2.

CONFIRMATION

I don’t know how many of you have been to an Easter Vigil service, but I hope you all go at some time in your life. Yes, it can be long, but it is the most beautiful liturgy I know. And, afterward, there’s usually a huge reception with lots of food. It’s a great way to break that Lenten fast!

But, in the liturgy of the Easter Vigil, the catechumens will be baptized, and then the candidates and catechumens will come forward before the priest to be confirmed. It’s really neat to go straight from the baptisms to the confirmations, because, according to the Catechism, “by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.”(1285)

The two biggest signs of Confirmation are the laying on of hands and the chrism oil. Now, when I was confirmed four years ago, the Bishop was joking, “Gee! Wouldn’t that be cool if the Holy Spirit descended upon us tonight like it did on the disciples in the Upper Room? I bet more than a few heads would catch on fire with all of the hairspray we have in here!” Fortunately, that did not happen.

But, the laying on of hands is a sign of invocation. Has anyone seen people praying with their arms up like this? They’re invoking the Holy Spirit. Well, in Confirmation, the Bishop is doing the same thing, but in a more formal and sacramental way. He, as an apostolic successor, is invoking the Holy Spirit to descend upon the candidates and to seal them with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

And at Confirmation, Sacred Chrism is used again. The Catechism says that the reason for the Sacred Chrism is to highlight “the name ‘Christian,’ which means ‘anointed’ and derives from that of Christ himself whom God ‘anointed with the Holy Spirit.’ The term Confirmation suggests that this sacrament both confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.” (1289)

And later in the Catechism, it adds, It is fitting to consider the sign of anointing and what it signifies and imprints: a spiritual seal.” (1293) The Chrism seals in us the seeds of grace and spiritual gifts that were given to us through Baptism. Now, we are sent out, strengthened by this Seal of Anointing, to share in Christ’s mission of prayer and evangelization.

35723502Check back tomorrow for the last part of the “Signs and Sacraments” talk!

Talk: “Signs and Sacraments” (Part 2)

Author’s Note: This the second part of a resource talk that I gave on a retreat in 2011; the topic for the talk, which is a combination of my personal testimony and Church teachings, was on “Signs and Sacraments.” The talk will be posted in four consecutive parts. The retreat that I gave the talk at focuses on “Community” and strengthening our community as a Church through our shared love and service of Christ.

Read Part 1 on “Signs of God.”

PART 2: SACRAMENTS (OF INITIATION)

Now, the Catholic Church recognizes Seven Sacraments:

  1. Baptism
  2. Confirmation
  3. Eucharist
  4. Reconciliation
  5. Matrimony
  6. Holy Orders
  7. Anointing of the Sick

And a Sacrament, as defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (abbreviated CCC) is “an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.” Each of the Seven Sacraments has its own symbols that are associated with it. For instance, when I say holy water, you think of Baptism, right? Or when I say vows and rings, you think of matrimony?

The Baltimore Catechism says, “A sacrament symbolizes what it affects and it effects what it symbolizes.” Now, that’s just a fancy way of saying “It walks the walk and talks the talk.”

For example, baptism: The water is a symbol, but it is also a necessary for the actual baptism. When the water is poured over the individual, it isn’t just a symbol of their baptism. It is his or her baptism. No longer is it mere water, but it has become the waters of baptism, by which this person has entered into the Family of the Church.

But, at the same time, you need the words of baptism as well, right? If I just pour some water over your head, am I baptizing you? No. I need to say the words, right? And I also have to have the intention of baptizing you (which I can’t do if you’ve already been baptized). We need, as the Catechism says, both matter—the water, oil, etc.—and the form—the words.

It’s the same thing with all the other sacraments. If the priest just lifts up the host at Mass without saying the words of consecration, he’s not consecrating the sacrament. Or if a couple puts their rings on each others’ fingers without saying their vows, are they validly married? No.

Just so, the sacraments ‘walk the walk’ and ‘talk the talk.’ They are not just symbols. They are realities­­—gifts given to us by God to confer grace.

I can’t cover all of the sacraments in depth, but I do want to touch on the Sacraments of Initiation: the Catechism says, “Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ.” (CCC 1275)

BAPTISM

Baptism, as I already said, uses water and two types of oil. There are a lot of signs that are used in baptism. So for those of you who have seen a baptism, you’ve noticed the different symbols they use. There’s the baptismal candle, and the white robe, and the two different oils that they use.35723502

The first is the oil of catechumens, but the other is called Chrism. And chrism… I’ll describe it this way, for those of you who haven’t smelled it before­­—if the smells of oils were martial artists, Chrism would be Chuck Norris. I mean the smell literally roundhouse kicks you in the face! It’s wonderful. And it’s used in other sacraments.

A few years ago, I went to a baptism service at a Baptist church, and I really appreciated the way that they baptized the adults. They got into this pool of water about waist deep, and then the preacher leaned each person back down into the water, and then he would say the words of baptism, and he would “raise” them back up again.

In the early days of the church, they did full immersion baptism, and I think it really demonstrates this idea of being “raised up” and being “resurrected” into this new life with Christ. Remember, “A sacrament symbolizes what it effects and it effects what it symbolizes.”

It doesn’t just symbolize new life, it actually gives new life!

Check back tomorrow for Part 3!

Talk: “Signs and Sacraments” (Part 1)

Update on “NOT IN INK”: I will be traveling for work the rest of the week, but I did want to continue posting to the blog. I should be back in time to post a meditation/musing for this Sunday’s Gospel! But, in the meantime, I am posting parts of a talk I gave at a retreat in 2011 on “Signs and Sacraments.” The words should be pretty self-explanatory, but if they’re not, feel free to ask questions in the comment box, and I will answer them when I get back. Thanks for your patience, and enjoy!

Author’s Note: This the first part of a resource talk that I gave on a retreat in 2011; the topic for the talk, which is a combination of my personal testimony and Church teachings, was on “Signs and Sacraments.” The talk will be posted in four consecutive parts. The retreat that I gave the talk at focuses on “Community” and strengthening our community as a Church through our shared love and service of Christ.

There are all kinds of ‘signs’ in our life. There are stop signs, street signs, billboards, posters, flyers… the sign of peace, the sign of the cross, a sign of friendship, a sign of faith, a SIGN-ature (or a signature). But, ultimately, what are signs? I would like to say that signs are a representation of a person, place, thing, idea, or entity of some kind.

For instance, this is my signature, but it’s not me. It’s just a sign. There’s something beyond it—something bigger, something more important. What is this? Just a piece of paper with some scribbles on it. But what does it represent? Me.

What is the sign of the cross but some hand motions, right? I taught little kids this summer, and we would always have to correct them, because they all loved doing it either the wrong way, or with their left hand or something. But, what does it matter? It’s just some arm movements. No, it represents something more… our Faith!

SIGNS OF GOD

Well, up till now, I haven’t told you much about myself. I grew up in a great Christian atmosphere, thanks mostly to my maternal grandmother.

She passed away a few years ago, and it was really hard on my family. She was the anchor of the Christian faith in my family. She was always praying for us, and she had so many rosaries. And, for whatever reason, she loved cardinal birds. One Christmas, she gave me an ornament shaped like a red bird. She also gave me a jewelry box with a cardinal on it for my First Communion.

When she passed away, it was tough, but it really strengthened my Faith. But, now, every time I see cardinals, I can’t help but think of her. I feel like she’s sending me a sign, of a sort; like she’s just reminding me that she loves me, and that she’s always with me. So, now, whenever I see cardinals, I see a sign and it really strengthens my faith and love in God. So, that’s just an example of a sign from God in my life.

There are a lot of signs in the Bible. There’s the rainbow that God sends to Noah in Genesis; there’s the burning bush that Moses encounters in Exodus; and there’s also the Ten Commandments, and the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ Baptism.

One of my favorite scenes from The Passion of the Christ is when Jesus is in the Praetorium, and the chief priests are talking with Pontius Pilate. And all of a sudden, Jesus looks up and sees this dove hover over the Praetorium. It’s really quick, and if you weren’t paying attention, you would probably miss it. But, it’s always stood out to me, and I think it’s a sign to give Christ hope, comfort, and strength for what is to come.

But, I want to tell you guys another quick story. Almost a year ago, I had been trying to figure out what I was going to do for the summer. And I’m one of those indecisive people. I’m always saying, “God, if you want me to do this, send me a sign.”

And one Sunday night, I was sitting in a class at my church; and I forget what the teacher was saying; it was something like, “We need to do what God wants us to do. Follow God’s will”… something of that nature. Well, as the teacher was saying it, I looked down on the floor, just randomly, and there was a pamphlet for Totus Tuus. (A program that sends out college students to teach and evangelize grade school and high school students during the summer.)

And then it hit me—“There’s your sign.”

And I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I thought about it all through class, all through Mass. I called up one of my best friends, who had told me all her amazing Totus Tuus stories, and I talked to her about it the entire way home.

But, there were so many obstacles to overcome, just practically and with my own reluctance. I struggled with this call to teach Totus Tuus for several weeks. I applied, but I was reluctant, and I just wasn’t sure. I got another job offer, and I really wanted to take it because it wanted to get enough money to buy a car. And whenever I told my dad about Totus Tuus, he said that I’d be better off getting a real job for the summer and doing some intern work. His disapproval only added to my reasoning against it.

So, one rainy, Saturday afternoon, I was walking to the Campus Center—and, how fortuitous, but here comes my pastor. He was just the one I wanted to talk to. So, I told him the situation, and I said, “What do I do?”

And, in a very cliché and Disney way, he said, “Follow your heart.”

I had no idea how right he was. The more I thought and prayed about it, the clearer it became to me. I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced anything like this. I’m sure some of you have. It’s not really a feeling, but it’s just this sort of knowledge in your heart where you know what to do—you know what the right thing is.

And I just want to emphasize that signs, yes, they are physical. Sometimes things just jump out at you for no particular reason, and it just makes sense to you. But, other times, it’s a little more subtle. And the sign is right here, in your heart.

When I was preparing for this talk, I looked up the “Bread of Life Discourse” in John 6; and as I was reading it, verse 26 jumped out at me.

Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.’”

So, his followers saw the physical signs, but they were even more captivated with the Truth, with the bread he had given them. They knew in their hearts that this guy was special, more than just a prophet, and that’s why they were following him. “Not because you saw signs, but because you… were filled.”

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A Totus Tuus tradition: Sundae-ing a teacher at the end of the week

Sometimes signs are physical; other times they’re interior; but no matter what, we should never be afraid to act on them! That’s why God gives us grace—to act on those signs, those impulses, those movements of the Spirit. And the greatest and the best way to receive grace is through the sacraments.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2! (Side note: I did teach for Totus Tuus that summer, and it was an incredible experience! A lot of prayer, work, and sacrifice; but also a lot of joy teaching those kids and teens about the Faith.)

Feature Story: “Faith In Service”

Author’s Note: This article was written as a school project and ran in the Wichita Catholic Advance in January 2008. The Wichita Catholic Advance is the diocesan newspaper for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita Kansas.

Faith In Service

Lt. Guy Schroeder had not been a Wichita police officer long when he was stopped by an elderly lady while patrolling the Wichita streets. The woman, whom he had never seen before, took great care to wave him down.

As he stopped his patrol car, the woman handed him a St. Michael prayer card. There were no spoken words, but Schroeder said there was a silent understanding between them. Even though he is now a lieutenant, Schroeder keeps the card with him while on duty.

“I have no doubt,” he said, “that there is someone over our shoulders, looking out for us.”

Lt. Guy Schroeder with the St. Michael the Archangel prayer card that an elderly woman gave him.

Lt. Guy Schroeder with the St. Michael the Archangel prayer card that an elderly woman gave him.

For the average 9 to 5 worker, faith may not play a significant role during the workday. But for the Catholic members of the Wichita Police Department, faith has a definite impact on their careers.

Faith affects work

Detective Hans Asmussen converted to Catholicism in 1996 and currently works as a Crime Stoppers coordinator for the Wichita Police Department. Asmussen admits that he wasn’t always as involved in his faith as he is now.

“I was more nominal as a Catholic, at first,” he said. “It wasn’t until I became a detective that I became more active in my faith.”

Asmussen acknowledges that his Catholic faith has had a beneficial influence on his career as a police officer.

“I try to treat everyone as someone created in the image of God,” he said. “We are constantly confronted with people who need compassion, both victim and suspect, but are often overlooked. I must see Jesus in both and treat them with charity.”

“I am much more compassionate,” Lt. Schroeder said. “My faith gives me direction, and helps me understand the needs of people in all types of situations.”

Schroeder, who volunteers as a resource officer at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, also says that his Catholic faith helps him make a better connection with the students and their families.

“It makes it that much easier,” he said. “You can talk about things that you can’t talk about at a regular high school.”

“My faith helps me to be a factfinder, not a judge – to assist in justice, not to deal out judgment,” Detective Asmussen said.

Work affects faith

Officer Daniel Oblinger once considered becoming a priest and attended the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minn.

However, Oblinger did not feel called to serve God in the priesthood, and has now been an officer on the WPD for five years.

As an officer, Oblinger has noticed how the things he sees on patrol affect his Catholic faith. Oblinger, who works on a Drug Recognition Expert Unit, has encountered several cases of drug and alcohol abuse, and realized it was a slavery to sin.

“My career helps in my spiritual life by showing me both the best and the worst in humanity,” he said. “I get to witness the capacity of men to harm their brothers and sisters.”

Several officers agree with Oblinger and admit that their careers in law enforcement have only strengthened their spiritual life, including Sgt. Clark Bolan and Detective Sarah Hamilton.

Lt. Schroeder and Sgt. Clark Bolan pose with the Wichita Police Department squad car.

Lt. Schroeder and Sgt. Clark Bolan pose with the Wichita Police Department squad car.

Sgt. Bolan, who has been on the force for 25 years, works as a Community Policing Sergeant for Patrol West. He, like Oblinger, has noticed how his career has impacted his Catholic faith.

“I see a lot of bad things on the job,” said Bolan, who converted to Catholicism in 1984. “I think it’s made my faith stronger.”

“I’m dealing with the people Jesus dealt with – the people that are suffering, like addicts and the homeless,” Detective Sarah Hamilton said. “This job is about helping people.”

Hamilton works as an investigator for the Gang/Felony Assault Unit and sometimes assists on homicide cases. While she just converted to Catholicism two years ago, Hamilton prays for the victims she encounters, both at home and on the job.

“If one had no faith,” she said, “they could become overwhelmed by all the bad things on this job.”

Detective Asmussen had a similar feeling about prayer’s role in his career.

“I get to see evil firsthand in the world,” he said, “and I understand my role in praying against it.”

Faith on the job

Since law enforcement can sometimes be a dangerous occupation, a number of Catholic officers find comfort and strength in using their Catholic faith while at work.

Detective Hans Asmussen kneels in prayer.

Detective Hans Asmussen kneels in prayer.

Several officers, like Detective Asmussen and Sgt. Bolan, wear a medal of St. Michael, the patron saint of police officers, while on patrol.

Officer Oblinger wears a vest underneath his uniform that says “Roman Catholic, send for priest.” This ensures that his spiritual needs will be met, in the event that he is wounded while on duty.

In addition, Asmussen, Oblinger, and Lt. Schroeder pray before they go to work. Bolan says that he offers a prayer every weekend at Mass, asking God to help him make good decisions and become a better officer.

“Without faith,” said Oblinger, “we can go pretty far astray.”

A strong connection

Although the Wichita Police Department doesn’t maintain records on religious affiliation, Deputy Chief Tom Stolz believes there is a definite religious diversity among the department.

“I believe there is general connection between people of faith and police work. The Wichita Police Department is made up of many good and decent officers who are Methodist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Protestant, among others,” Stolz said. “I know people of faith who use their various spiritual principles to help guide them in their daily jobs as police officers – to help people and to serve others.”

Stolz, who was raised Catholic, has seen a relationship between the Catholic faith and serving as a police officer during his 26 years with the WPD.

“In my view, there are strong similarities between the Catholic faith and working in the police department,” he said. “They both care about social justice – about people that are less fortunate or who are enduring hard times. As police officers, our job is to help people, no matter what social strata they fall into.”

While there are many different law enforcement agencies throughout the country, all are vital to members of the Catholic community and ultimately, to the world.

“Law enforcement is a sociology,” Detective Asmussen said. “We help people, so that crime exists at its bare minimum.”

“Without the police department,” said Officer Oblinger, “there wouldn’t be an environment where people can go out and witness.”

Poem on Fr. Emil Kapaun

Fr. Kapaun says Mass for soldiers on a battlefield in Korea.

Author’s Note: This poem was written in 2008 or 2009 to honor Fr. Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain during WWII and the Korean War. He died in a prisoner-of-war camp in China, after spending months praying with and ministering to his fellow soldiers. He was from the Diocese of Wichita, and he has been honored with the title “Servant of God.” His cause for beautification has been submitted to the Holy See in Rome. For more information on Fr. Kapaun’s life, please visit www.frkapaun.org . Also, I apologize but this blog is not very conducive to poetry.

A Man of God

He was a farm boy

Born on Holy Thursday

Raised on Pilsen prairie

Always looking up to God

He was an altar boy

Who strove to be perfect

And practiced whenever he could

Always looking up to God

He was a good student

With an agile mind and memory

Constantly challenging himself

Always looking up to God

He was a classmate

Who loved to fish and play

Had a lively wit and good humor

And was always looking up to God

He was a seminarian

With a special devotion to Mary

Sometimes doubting his call

But always looking up to God

He was a friend

Who loved to play a harmless joke

Wrote humorous letters when he could

While always looking up to God

He was a priest forever

In the line of Melchizedek

Ordained June 9, 1940

While looking up to God

He was a young pastor

Playing with the children

Dressing as a “cowboy priest”

Always looking up to God

He was an auxiliary chaplain

Writing letters to those in service

Gathering the wandering sheep

Always looking up to God

He was an obedient servant

Who did the will of his bishop

But also wanted the best for his men

Always looking up to God

He was military chaplain

Driving thousands of miles

To say Mass for the troops in India

While always looking up to God

He was a university student

Working toward a master’s degree

Anxious to lead others to salvation

While always looking up to God

He was an Army chaplain

Serving on the front lines in Korea

Guiding his brothers in their fight

Always looking up to God

He was a leader

That could have fled to safety

But instead stayed behind to help his men

While always looking up to God

He was a shepherd

Who prayed with his men when he could

And always had a smile on his face

While always looking up to God

He was a prisoner of war

Who stole food and washed clothing

To provide for the suffering troops

While always looking up to God

He was a man of God

Who forgave his captors

And loved his men to the end

While always looking up to God

He is Chaplain Emil Kapaun

A martyr and a saint

And even now, he is

Always looking up to God