Deacon Brent L. Heathcott was ordained a deacon in the Archdiocese of Baltimore in May 2011. He is assigned to Our Lady of the Fields parish in Millersville. His primary vocation is as husband and father to five children. He can be reached at brent.heathcott@archbalt.org.

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Thanks, Rita. God's blessings to you as well and continued blessings on your great blog.

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So sorry that this is your last blog, but I certainly understand, of course. Wishing you all the best and keeping you in my prayers.

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Musings of a deacon father

Knowing When to Say When -- It’s My Time

This is the first line of my last blog.

I wasn’t sure how to say that, so I just came out with it.

For nearly two years, I have had the wonderful opportunity and extreme pleasure to write this blog for The Catholic Review (CR). I envisioned “Musings of a Deacon Father” as a blog about my experiences as a deacon, husband and father, with a focus on family and faith. In the end, it turned out to be about a little bit of a lot of things, but I like to think my perspectives and experiences concerning our faith and how our individual families and our larger faith family deal with being Catholics Christians in an increasingly secular world have been somewhat helpful and enlightening.

I hope those who have read my blog have gotten something good out of what I have shared – whether inspirational, spiritual or educational – but I’m sure that I am the one who has benefitted the most.

When I was in diaconate formation, I recall a group of deacon couples visiting our class at St. Mary’s Seminary.  As they shared their experiences of living the vocation of marriage and serving as deacon couples, one of the wisest pieces of advice myself and my classmates received that day was that we needed to learn how to say “no” to things after ordination.

I am currently floating through one of those seasons of life where everything seems to be swirling around me. I need to let something go. Between work, my deacon duties, five children and their myriad of sports and other activities, this blog and other responsibilities, I’ve started to realize it really is true – there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Unless, of course, I were not to sleep.

Yeah, I’ve considered that angle. Not so much.


Now, you don’t have to get the violin out for me – I know we are all busy. But I’ve been a writer for a long, long time and I know that there are fits and starts, ups and down and varying periods of eloquent prose and writer’s block. Recently, given the priorities of my life, I am feeling much of the latter. When that happens, I know it is God’s way of telling me to stop and take a hard look at my life and my priorities.

My oldest daughter entered middle school this year. Her teachers told her that the toughest thing they will have to adjust to is the necessity for organization and prioritization. Changing classrooms and getting homework assignments from many different teachers is a huge adjustment.

I feel a bit like a middle school student these days, dashing dizzily from room to room, trying to keep track of many assignments and appointments.

It’s time for me to lighten my load, to say “uncle,” to waive the white flag, to say “when.”

I want to thank Chris Gunty, Jennifer Williams and the rest of the CR staff. For your support, I am truly grateful. I hope I will have the opportunity to re-engage with CR in the future.

I will continue to pray for all of you, especially those who have engaged me over the nearly past two years by responding to my blogs. Please keep me and my family in your prayers as well.

I’ll leave you for now with this: Love God, love one another and love our faith. Hug as many people as possible and tell everyone in your family you love them every day. Pray for our world and for leaders, that they always remember they have been elected to care about people, not votes and ideologies. Pray for the love and peace of Christ in your life, which at times can seem so difficult to taste, touch or feel that you wonder where God is in the midst of the madness. Finally, remember that Jesus is there in that madness, showing mercy, providing forgiveness and sharing His love. 

As the great Irish blessing goes, May God bless you and keep you, and until we meet again, may He hold you in the palm of His hand.

 

October 20, 2013 11:49
By Deacon Brent L. Heathcott


Media’s “Popebombing” Confusing Fact and Fiction


Shocking. Uplifting. Surprising. Controversial. Confusing. Inspiring.

These are all adjectives that can be used – even simultaneously – to explain comments made by Pope Francis in recent interviews, homilies and even off-the-cuff comments. From homosexuality to evangelism, our Pope has definitely brought attention to the Catholic faith in the secular media and world, which in the end can only be a good thing.

Pope Francis’ open, unscripted and free-flowing way of communicating – especially with the media –has provided both hope and heartburn. Some Catholics – including yours truly initially – may have wondered if the Pope was leaning too liberally in expressing himself, thus appearing to contradict Church doctrine and teachings, especially on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and marriage. Non-Catholics or non-Christians have expressed hope that the Church may finally be “changing.”

When the Pope recently said who was he to judge a gay person seeking God, the media went berserk and couldn’t get to the keyboard and in front of the cameras fast enough. There were big, bold headlines and long, complicated and misleading stories that implied that our new Pope supported homosexuality. When Pope Francis said as Catholics we must sometimes look past Church doctrine to focus first on bringing the unbelieving into a relationship with Jesus Christ, again the world of media sound bites and spin cut loose, writing and saying that this Pope is turning his back on the stodgy, old-fashioned “rules” of the Catholic Church and that more liberal Church will soon be coming.

(CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters) 

Taken on its face without investigation and education, Pope Francis’ words can easily be spun and presented to appear as if he is advocating for sweeping doctrinal and social justice changes in the Church.  When you dig a little deeper into the full text of his comments, it’s easy to discover that Pope Francis meant exactly what he said, not what the media reported.

On the issue of homosexuality, Pope Francis correctly asserted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that gay persons have dignity and are to be respected as children of God. At the same time, the act of homosexuality is still condemned.

Love the sinner, hate the sin. This, we know all too well, for we are all sinners, but if we are truly contrite, we seek the mercy and forgiveness of God.

When our Holy Father said that we need to sometimes focus on healing the brokenness that exists in the world by bringing people into the Church and to God, he wasn’t suggesting a complete departure from doctrinal matters and truth.

While both conservative and liberal Catholics have been at different times concerned, irritated or in just plain head-scratching mode as they attempt to reconcile Pope Francis’ words with their views of the Church, it is the media that has gone on what I call a “Popebombing” tirade, showing pictures of the Pope behind confusing, misleading or just plain untrue headlines and news reports, which proudly proclaim this Pope is finally going to break with tradition and undermine 2,000 years of Church teaching, dogma and doctrine.

We know it ain’t so.

As Catholics, we can help set the record straight and cut through all the murkiness by educating ourselves in regard to Pope Francis’ comments, so that we can educate and inform others. There will be more challenging and surprising statements from this Pope, you can be sure, so when they happen, be sure to understand the full context in which they were offered so you can educate and inform others who are being misled by the “Popebombing” media.

In the meantime, we can continue to pray for the blessings of Pope Francis’ wisdom and for our own wisdom and understanding of how our Holy Father sees our Church, our opportunity to evangelize and our responsibility to bring those outside of the flock into our beautiful Catholic Church.

Peace to you!


See related: 

In a long interview with an atheist, pope calls for less “Vatican-centric,” more socially conscious church

September 29, 2013 11:16
By Deacon Brent L. Heathcott


“I Have a Dream” and “Never Forget” Still Teaching Us Lessons


Recent weeks have reminded me of history lessons I would sometimes rather forget.

August 28 marked 50 years since Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington. It was arguably the penultimate moment of the civil rights movement. On that day, Dr. King moved a nation forward with powerful words and images of dreams of equality for people of all races while walking hand-in-hand into a different kind of future.

Rev. Martin Luther King is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS file photo)


Racial hatred had taken many lives before King’s speech and it has taken many afterward. It took King’s life five years later in 1968 when he was assassinated.

September 11 marked 12 years since the greatest foreign attack ever to take place on U.S. soil started in New York City as terrorists flew two planes into the Twin Towers, killing nearly 3,000 people. More of our brothers and sisters perished when on the same day, terrorists crashed planes into the Pentagon and into a field in southern Pennsylvania, the last of which was believed to be headed for the White House or the U.S. Capitol.

We were reminded once again this year on September 11 of the theme to “Never Forget” what happened to our country and our world that day.  People in far-away lands who hate us because of our freedoms and our way of life decided it was best to kill as many Americans as possible. 

A picture of New York City firefighter James Crawford is seen at the 9/11 Memorial ceremonies marking the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (CNS photo/Chris Pedota, pool via Reuters)


I had not yet come into the world in 1963, so I have relied over the years on the grainy black-and-white images of Dr. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and the thundering audio of his inspiring words to inform my understanding of that historical day.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was very much alive and very much aware of what was happening, although even now I can vividly recall feeling that day as if I was living a dream – although not the kind of which Dr. King spoke of 38 years prior. I was at work that morning but left after our building by 10 a.m. as our office officially closed once news of the airplanes hitting the Twin Towers rumbled through our building like a freight train.

Newly married, my wife had also left work after her office closed. We called each other in shock, not knowing what do with ourselves. We were afraid – everyone was – and the last thing we or anyone really wanted to do was to be alone. So, we found ourselves meeting for lunch.

In perhaps my most vivid memory of that day, I remember sitting in a booth in a diner, which was undoubtedly normally extremely noisy, yet that day was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. The place was full, but everyone sat quietly, eyes glued to  a little color TV that had been placed on the counter so patrons could watch the evil and horror that was unfolding in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. 

Separated by 38 years in time and by great chasms in intent and historical significance, these two events had something in common when they occurred which still rings true today as well:

Evil exits in the world and it always will.

We have tyrannical leaders of countries like Syria killing its own citizens with chemical weapons. People continue to terrorize and kill because they don’t like the skin color or religion of others. There are too many stories like that of Willow Long – an innocent little 7-year-old girl in Illinois whose life was snuffed out last Saturday night by her uncle, who decided to stab her to death.

In recent days as I reflected on “I Have a Dream” and “Never Forget,” it was a jolting reminder to me that modern-day evil exits in our world. We pray, we fast, we do our best to live holy lives. We do our best to love and protect others and to be aware of the world around us, knowing that may not always be enough. “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for something do devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).

Ah, but the next two verses in the First Letter of Peter give us the hope that Dr. King spoke of in his dreams that day in 1963, as well as the model of courage, strength and steadfastness that Americans showed that unbearable day in 2001 and in the days and years afterward: “Resist him, steadfast in your faith, knowing that you fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you after you have suffered a little.”

May God bless you and keep you!

September 16, 2013 10:21
By Deacon Brent L. Heathcott


Change of Seasons Brings New Rituals


The winds of change are swirling.

While it’s not yet fall, the sun is starting to set earlier as the days get shorter. The mornings are a bit cooler.

School doors have opened again, welcoming back our children. Swimming pools that were just a few weeks ago filled with sun-baked swimmers are now looking like ghost towns, abandoned and empty.

We know that for all intents and purposes, summer is over. Labor Day weekend has passed, so even though the calendar says it’s still summer for another few weeks, we know it really isn’t summer anymore.

So, if it’s not yet fall but it’s also not summer anymore, what season is it?

College football season.

Yes, that’s right, college football. In our household, college football reigns supreme. While most women lose their husbands on pro football Sundays, my wife knows that my attention span for anything other than college football on fall Saturdays is nil. But she’s right there with me, taking it all in, as football is her favorite sport. We love the Ravens, too, but Saturday’s during the college football season are definitely different, bordering on somewhat of a religious experience for the Heathcotts.

Yes, there are rituals. There are rites.

University of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly watches his team during practice. (CNS photo/Jeff Haynes, Reuters)

First, there’s the raising of the colors. Humming the prelude to the fight song, the colors of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame are marched from the laundry room out the front door and raised proudly, as the “ND IRISH” flag flies in all its glory. Then, the family dons Irish football gear virtually from head to toe. This includes all children, including our 3-year-old twin girls. This summer on the way back from vacation, we restocked on ND apparel, stopping at the bookstore on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

Once the flag is proudly flying and the family adorned in Irish gear, the appropriate provisions are prepared – chips and dip, other snacks and beverages – to provide the nourishment needed to survive the nerve-racking four hours, sure to bring moments of extreme jubilation and wild celebrations as well as frustration, worry and disappointment.

My friends, many of who root for other college football teams, will occasionally remind me that God doesn’t play favorites when it comes to Notre Dame. “God doesn’t care who wins,” they say.

I smile and nod, relishing in their foolishness. I mean, let’s be honest, what other team has a mural of “Touchdown Jesus” overshadowing its football stadium?

Just before kickoff, there’s the occasional prayer that is said, mostly that the players on both teams will be safe and avoid serious injury. But I cannot lie – I seek a little divine favor and intervention for the Irish, as any good fan would for his or her team.

Victory or defeat will eventually come, but in the end, it’s more about enjoying rituals and experience of the day.

At least that’s what I tell myself when Notre Dame loses.

Today, a new season begins. There's excitement in the air as old, familiar rituals return. I'm left with one overwhelming feeling...

GO IRISH!

Peace to you!

August 31, 2013 08:12
By Deacon Brent L. Heathcott


Vacation Offers Little Sleep, Lots of Faith


There were certain things I expected as our family headed out of town recently for a week-long vacation in the Midwest.

First, there was the long drive to central Illinois – 13-plus hours of pounding the pavement on the highways and byways of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.  After three days, we planned to hit the road again for another 4-hour drive to southeastern Wisconsin to visit more family and friends.

So, there was that.

My wife and I also were prepared to be sleep-deprived warriors -- young children in new and unfamiliar places equals broken sleep patterns for all. Should have brought more vitamins and Red Bull.

So, there was that, too.

And of course, we expected to have great fun, which we did. We went to the beach, hit a county fair, ate at many of our favorite food haunts and spent quality time with friends and family. My son also continued a family tradition of learning to ride a bike without training wheels at my father’s house in Wisconsin, just as his oldest two sisters did before him.

And there was that as well.

But given all of this (and that), what I think I’ll remember most about this family vacation was completely unexpected – Mass and conversations about faith and God.

The first occurred in the living room at my father-in-law’s house late at night after 13 hours of driving. Thinking my daughters would be worn to a frazzle and ready to crash, they instead starting asking questions about death and heaven.

Here are a few examples:

“Can people in heaven look down and see us?”

“As Catholics, when people die don’t we believe they go to purgatory?”

“If someone is bad his whole life and then and the end says he believes in God, will he be saved?”

The second question prompted a really good discussion with my father-in-law, who is Protestant. But it was a blessing for my daughters to hear what other Christians believe about death, purgatory and the souls of those we believe to be in heaven. At one point, my daughter thought my father-in-law and I were arguing so she wanted to stop the conversation because she was afraid we were fighting! We laughed and told her that we were fine and that we were just strongly expressing our beliefs.

Finally, I told the girls, “Time for bed, it’s late.”

“No!” my oldest daughter said. “This is fun, we want to keep talking!”

Then came Mass this past weekend in Wisconsin, when in the Gospel reading from Luke Jesus tells his disciples, “I have come to set the earth on fire” and “Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth?”

I could see the confusion on my daughter’s face as she heard these words being read! Then, her brow furrowed and she looked at me with the most incredulous look I think I’ve ever seen from her.

Before she could say anything, I said: “Listen to the homily, the priest will explain,” I told her.

Unfortunately, he really didn’t, but I did after Mass, which led to another great conversation about Jesus and faith.

So, the moral of the story for our family on vacation was: Not much sleep, but lots of family, food, fun and faith!

Peace to you!


August 20, 2013 10:22
By Deacon Brent L. Heathcott


Seasons Change, God Stays the Same


Really? It’s August already?

It’s hard to believe that we’re just a few weeks from the figurative end of summer, when vacations are completed and school is just about to begin. I thought it was just my increasing age the made the warm, carefree months of June and July whizz by in a proverbial blur, but then my 9-year-old daughter said to me the other day at the dinner table, “Dad, this summer went MUCH faster than last summer.”

From the mouths of babes.

The passing of whimsical summer days, where the biggest concern was whether or not the family would go to the pool and have dinner there or stay home and put burgers on the grill, to the impending return of school, schedules, sports practices and games and increased traffic on Beltway can leave one feeling a bit nostalgic for the Fourth of July.

Namely, me.

But the good news is the changing of seasons always means opportunity for reflection, growth and learning. And, it’s not just the calendar seasons that provide these opportunities – whenever we return to school, start a new job, take on a new hobby, challenge ourselves to change bad habits or strive to improve our prayer and spiritual lives, we can be reborn and re-energized by the hope we feel.

Deacon Brent reminds us that changing seasons are times of opportunity


Sometimes we seek out seasons of change; sometimes they find us, grab us by the hand and pull us begrudgingly along. Either way, God is by our side, especially when we are carrying our crosses for his greater glory. By turning to Jesus Christ during these seasons of change, we guarantee that whether the new season is stormy or clear, our hearts will be ready for whatever comes our way. “And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” (Col 3:15)

In recent weeks during Ordinary Time, we have been hearing Gospel stories about Jesus sending out the disciples to proclaim the Gospel, while telling them that they can be confident that their needs will be met. We have also heard and will hear more about Jesus imploring those who are listening to focus on storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth and that we never know when God will ask of us our very earthly lives.

While these challenges and messages can be daunting and make us feel that we can be separated from the love of God, we know that if we truly do our best in all the seasons of our lives to strive for holiness by turning to Jesus, we will always be within the loving embrace of our God.  As the apostle Paul wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

So, as summer begins to slip away from our grasp and the seasons of another school year and fall rapidly approach – much to the chagrin of my daughters – let’s remember that while seasons change, God stays the same. He is there for us, if only we will turn to him and his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and Savior.

Peace to you!


August 09, 2013 10:21
By Deacon Brent L. Heathcott


Youth Will Lead Church Evangelization Efforts


We did not need to witness the scenes of 3 million pilgrims flooding Copacabana beach in Brazil to participate in the final Mass of World Youth Day July 28 to tell us that our young people are the future of the Church.

But is sure was a beautiful reminder!

Pope Francis has galvanized and re-energized young people around the globe, seemingly making Catholicism “cool” and relevant again. He has made an intentional effort to be a “Pope of the People,” putting himself close to Catholics and all who look to him as a spiritual leader. This was no more evident than on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

Pope Francis challenged all of those in attendance – especially young people – to share the Gospel with all they meet in loving service, evangelizing with love and a faith that is palpable and visible to those who are seeking to know Jesus and his gift of salvation.

Three million people attend World Youth Day closing Mass on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

When in the past we relied on our institutions – dioceses, parishes, bishops and priests – to take on the lion’s share of the work of evangelization, it is our young people who will determine the success or failure of our future evangelization efforts. It’s a young person’s world – a viral world – where information is quickly and effectively spread via Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

The sad truth is that the church bulletin is no longer relevant as an evangelization or educational tool. Parish Web sites, although much more robust as a whole than even 10 years ago, are marginally more effective than the proverbial Sunday bulletin.

The Church has lagged terribly behind in activating local parishes and communities to be effective centers of evangelization. This is because it has hung on too long to outdated modes of information sharing, educating its faithful and even collecting the financial gifts needed to keep our local churches growing. There are many reasons for the glacial speed at which the Church has evangelized, communicated and educated when it comes to our faith, but it’s time to put those aside and take the necessary steps to move into the 21st century. It’s all about marketing the Catholic brand, knowing our messages and talking points to effectively bring Jesus Christ to those who are desperately seeking him.

At the core of this effort will always be our young people. Every generation looks to those who have the most invested in the future to lead the way. All the more reason World Youth Day and all other opportunities we have to educate, empower and encourage our youth to be lovers of the Gospel and evangelists of our faith are so critical, especially in a world that increasingly will reject them, misunderstand them or try to change their beliefs and alter their values under the veil of “tolerance.” 

As I read the stories coming out of Brazil, I was energized and hopeful. Let’s pray for our young Catholics. They need our prayers and support now more than ever.

July 29, 2013 04:23
By Deacon Brent L. Heathcott


Martha, Mary Put Focus on ‘The Better Part’


Is there any doubt that we are creatures of anxiety?

This weekend's Gospel reading from Luke finds Martha and Mary greeting Jesus for a visit. We know the story. Martha rushes around preparing food and drink to serve Jesus, while her sister Mary seemingly does nothing, sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening while he speaks. Martha grows agitated by her sister’s apparent laziness and implores Jesus make Mary help her with the preparations.

Jesus replies to Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Jesus telling Martha she is anxious and worried about many things spoke to me, because Jesus obviously knew that, even beyond her hurriedness and flurry of activity on his behalf, Martha had other things on her mind and in her heart that were preventing her from experiencing “the better part.”

I can empathize with Martha. I have always been prone to anxiety. I have battled it my whole life. I have taken anxiety’s ugly cousins -- stress and worry -- to legendary levels. My father has told me more times than I can count that I am “my mother’s son,” as my mother, bless her heart, is a ball of anxiety and worry.

(CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec) 

I have worked hard over the years to find ways to reduce my overall anxiety, to varying degrees of success and failure. But this Gospel reading made me pause and reflect on how as Catholic Christians, there is much going on in our present-day world that can fuel our anxiety to dangerously high levels.

We see a culture and society increasingly thumbing its collective nose at God (and Jesus Christ) more and more each day and the consequences are not pretty. Religious liberties, which we have enjoyed as a country since its founding, are under assault by our government leaders. Issues that are so central to not only our faith but the long-standing foundational aspects of society, such as the sanctity of life and the protection of marriage, are being altered, redefined and overrun. This can all lead to great anxiety, stress and worry.

We can all see ourselves in Martha’s shoes.

But there’s good news. There are antidotes to anxiety that we feel. First, we can actually DO something. Hopelessness can creep in when we feel anxiety and worry, which can lead to us standing still or giving up. But if we jump into the fray, roll up our sleeves and face anxiety head on, our stress will lessen. We do this by being disciples of the Gospel. We share the good news, as we’ve seen Jesus imploring his disciples to do in the Gospel readings in recent weeks.  We do this by understanding our faith and professing it unabashedly and without shame. We do this by standing up for what we believe in, even if it means we will be mocked, shamed, laughed at or humiliated. If we are Catholics, we must do this!

Secondly, and most importantly – we sit at the feet of Jesus and listen, as Mary did. In the stillness of silence and in earnest prayer, our loving Lord hears our prayers and supplies us with the all that need. Jesus is “the better part.” In truth, he is the BEST part. But if we are immersed in busyness, if we are distracted by frivolous activity, we increase our chances of feeling anxiety, because we are not placing ourselves in the light and love of Christ. 

During the Lord’s Prayer, as we pray to God the Father, the celebrant says “In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety, as we await the joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

If we focus on doing all we can to me more like Mary and less like Martha, we will surely be protected from anxiety and become the true disciples of Jesus.

Peace to you!


July 18, 2013 10:31
By Deacon Brent L. Heathcott


An Open Letter to Catholics, With Love

Dear Friends in Christ,

                Earlier this week, the Supreme Court passed down two rulings which took yet another chunk out of the sacred institution of marriage, ordained by Christ and the Church, as well as society, which has recognized and protected it as unique throughout the history of our great country. Archbishop Lori issued a statement calling attention to the continuing trend of lawmakers, judges and voters ignoring the fundamental truth about marriage being “the most valued, the most important social unit in our society.”

                There’s a larger and more critical issue in front of us though, my friends. As Catholics, we aren’t speaking with the voice of Jesus on this issue, along with many others on which the Mother Church has proclaimed and taught. A friend of mine who is a marketing professional mentioned to me how many large companies jumped on the same-sex marriage bandwagon immediately after the Supreme Court rulings, using their branded messaging and slick marketing campaigns to cash in on marketing to the gay and lesbian demographic.

                This got me to thinking, my Catholic brothers and sisters – who are we as a Church? What is our brand and how are we getting out the message of truth, from the magisterium to clergy in our parishes and communities to the laity? Why do so many of us, who tell our friends and co-workers that we are Catholic, say things like: ‘I don’t really believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” or “I think God is fine with same-sex marriage,” or “I don’t believe there is a hell” or finally “I don’t think the Church has any business telling women what they should do with their bodies when it comes to abortion?”

                We have a branding crisis, my friends. Our messages are missing the mark. People on the outside look at Catholics and they don’t know what they see. When the majority of us don’t go to Mass on Sunday, when we say we believe things contrary to Church teaching, when we don’t understand what our faith teaches and why, when we shake our fists in defiance of the Holy Father, the bishops and our church leaders, we confuse and harm not only ourselves, but those who look to us because they are craving love and truth in the greatest time of fear and uncertainty in the history of our country, if not the world.

                We can blame poor catechesis. For decades, particularly after Vatican II, the Church did a poor job teaching not only our children, but our adult faithful as well. We didn’t know what we didn’t know and we weren’t sure how to explain what we did. Let’s pray for one another that we will be committed to continually learning, reading and studying what our faith teaches. It is rich with knowledge, wisdom and tradition and furthermore, it has been inspired since the beginning by the mercy, wisdom and grace of the Holy Spirit. If you don’t believe that, you may be Catholic in name only.

                You have a decision to make, friends. We all do. We’ve never looked into the eyes of someone God does not love, yet we have been given free will. You have to decide if you want to share the truth, in love, and risk persecution from outside and within our faith, or if you want to be a luke-warm Catholic who sits in the pew turning up your nose while not believing all or most of what the Church teaches. You can get up tomorrow and walk out of your parish forever. You can choose to go down the street to the Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Non-Denominational Christian or any other church if it better suits your belief system. Our wonderful and beautiful Catholic Church welcomes all and does not wish anyone to lose their salvation. I certainly do not. But like anything in life, there comes a time when we have to take stock, take a hard look at who we are and what we believe, and then make decisions how to live accordingly.

                Along those lines, we need our leaders – Pope Francis, the Cardinals and our bishops – as well as all the clergy and the laity to defend what we believe and to speak it in plain language that all can understand. As Catholics, we are being muzzled and shamed by those who oppose all we stand for and believe. They call us bigots, homophobes. They say we are full of hate. Let’s start the conversation simply by saying we are not any of those. We came to believe what we believe because we LOVE, not because we hate, and because our greatest hope is that every man and woman lives the life that God desires for them.

                  When non-Catholics look at us, let’s hope they see loving and welcoming people who desire to share the Gospel message, the gift of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the hope of salvation. That’s the starting point for all conversation. But let’s not sell them or ourselves short – they want to know who we are and what we believe. So, the final question is: Are you Catholic and if so, what do you believe and why?

With Blessings to You,

Deacon Brent

July 01, 2013 07:57
By Deacon Brent L. Heathcott


Got Jesus? Pencil Him Into the Starting Lineup


There are few things in life that mean more to parents than wanting their children to succeed.

Let’s be honest. Parents want their children to win and be winners. Period. Emotions fire and spill out onto the field of battle as parents cheer on their children. 

Our oldest daughters just finished their spring softball seasons. Since late March, our family has been immersed in softball, having a practice or a game nearly every night during the week and many weekends with the same. As a family, we lived, ate and breathed softball for three months.

In the Heathcott household, the proverbial blood, sweat and tears sports mantra came true during our grueling journey through the season….and we loved every minute of it. My wife and I were just like the other parents – cheering wildly for good plays, bemoaning bad ones. 

Now, it’s over.

(Image via Flickr, tinatruelove)

I am a bit sad to see the season end, but there is also some relief. It was a long three months. I coached my oldest daughter’s 10U travel softball team. We did quite well, finishing in what they called the Super Six (final six teams) during the season-ending tournament. Pretty good for a league with 21 teams.  My nine-year old finished her season over the weekend after an all-star tournament.

Reflecting back on the season, there was much for me to be proud of regarding my girls. They played hard, played well (most of the time) and most importantly, they had fun. I felt like they learned a lot about the game of softball and competition in general.

Unfortunately, they may have learned and seen a bit too much. Parents arguing with parents, parents arguing with coaches…parents arguing with umpires. See a pattern here? One of our games had to be stopped when the umpire forfeited the game because the coaches and parents were screaming at him. When that happened, I pulled our girls and talked to them about the importance of treating opponents and umpires with respect, while at the same time playing the game with dignity and character.

There were times this year when I wondered if we all sang the national anthem before the game or better yet, said a prayer for the safety and well-being of the girls while they played and had fun, if cooler heads may have prevailed. Just like our schools, our kids’ sporting events could use a little bit more of a Godly presence. Reminders of tragedies such as Oklahoma and Boston – where children were lost and parents grieved – might put things into perspective and make a parent think twice before screaming about their child being called out on a close play at first base.

It’s amazing how competitive parents can become when their kids are on the field. I’ll add myself and my wife to this mix because we have our moments as well. Who doesn’t want their children to do well and to be on the winning team?

Maybe we should picture Jesus on the field with our little Johnnies or Susies? Think about that. I mean, What Would Jesus Do if the umpire called him out on a pitch that was just a bit outside?    

June 25, 2013 03:46
By Deacon Brent L. Heathcott

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