Faith or Bust: India

We're a group of guys tired of being told to be normal. We can't be normal, we're Christians. And we're called to live our faith out loud. WE're going to live our lives Faith or Bust.

This summer we're heading to India to serve the poor and dying!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2022


Faith or Bust Revisited

The Musings of a Father to His Children on his first trip to Kolkata
(Note to self: read this to the girls last night 4/19 and eventually need to re-write less complexly, but will work on future sections first, since the girls want me to write more for them.)


You are a mirror to judge myself

“Well, I don't claim to be smart."

When I read that to you today, you were astonished. Technically yesterday 4/18, but it was bedtime stories and I’m writing this around 2 am before I go to bed. That was from the last story I read of the three: "Take a left at the Goat", "Being surrounded by a bunch of nuns is a bit unsettling...", and "A motley experience".

Hope said “But you’re very smart, didn’t you skip two grades?” And while her intent was right - in terms of “knowledge” of the world, I’ve had outsized success - the truth is she was wrong. Which is yet another example of how “not smart” I’ve been. I haven’t taught you what to value. With God's grace and Mother's help, I hope to fix that. You probably want to know why I call Mother St. Teresa of Kolkata, Mother... some of my stories will explain that, so I'll save it for later, but know that I will mostly be talking about her when I say "Mother" and not "my Mom."

A Definition of Terms

Self Portrait

Let’s start with the word Humility. When I was in ministry, I would constantly espouse that the concept of Humility is harmed in two ways by our culture.

First, Humility is completely misunderstood by the world - St. Thomas Aquinas’ Question 161 Humility (One day I hope you will dive deeper into his beautiful work) tells us what the world believes about humility:
  1. It’s not a Virtue
  2. It’s a Vice
  3. It runs away from great things
  4. It is a desire to be imperfect
  5. It is not intellectual, moral, theological, or inspirational
BUT THIS IS ALL WRONG! This is a perversion(distortion/corruption of original meaning) of Truth, one of the foundational redefinitions that make our language fight against the Lord. We must be savvier! Thankfully my spiritual father continues and to spare you my geeking out, let me poorly summarize.

There is a spectrum at one end is pride, at the other false humility, and in the middle is Humility. And false humility is exceptionally dangerous as it is a pretentious pride. True Humility is centered firmly on Truth. It is recognising who and what we are. Not withering from that truth, not denying it in false humility or embellishing it in pride.

Aye, there's the rub! How can the world understand Truth, when truth is believed to be created by each individual man. They cannot find the middle way, because it’s a contradiction of terms to say Humility is not about one’s self interest but instead about one’s position in reality. We are not called to darken in false humility and we are not called to burn fast with pride, we are called to recognize we are a candle that is meant to light the world around us.

Second (and boy this section is getting longer than I expected), True Humility requires humiliation. They come from the same root for a reason, it’s not just an accident of our language. Think of it as a spiritual easter egg. My humble (spiritual) Mother, St. Teresa of Kolkata taught me this and this pamphlet/booklet/book (wherever God inspires me to) is about those things I learned from my Mother when I met her. I hope to remind myself of this and other truths.

Now why would I talk about humility before I get to the why?

It's her eyes.

Let's be honest, there are two relevant truths in my life:
  1. God has always worked on me
  2. I’ve always been a cocky jerk.
Over the last two years since Serafina’s birth, He’s really moved my heart and graced me with openness to humbling. The first big change occurred on paternity leave, I became aware that the way I carried myself at work - as a multi-patented genius who knew the right way to solve problems (and of course everyone else was wrong) - was not who I promised myself I’d become. With His strength, I went back and started to right that wrong. I am by no means complete in that regard, but I’ve started. And we should not ask ourselves to be perfection now, but to make the choice and action of moving to perfection in Him. We will fail, but we have Confession and His grace to carry us while we fall.

The next big change was humiliation, being unable to leverage my worldly gifts due to the mysterious illness I’ve now had for 7 months. And there is no one like family to humiliate you for your shortcomings, even in sickness. I am realizing how deeply thankful for that. One day when I have been graced with greater perspective and insight, I’ll be able to explain that to you, but trust all things are for our good.

Since the Catholic Men’s Conference 2022 and the start of the Ukraine war, I’ve led you in changing our daily prayer time to center around a nightly Rosary. If you recall, I’m the speaker liaison and I get to chat with them and sometimes get to listen. This year, I got to listen and thanks to Mark Houck’s talk (he's the Founder and President of a ministry to men - The King’s Men), I had conviction churn in my soul. That's the uneasy feeling you sometimes get when you know you've done something wrong. He reminded me “memento mori” (remembering our bodies will die and we will then live with the choices we make now for eternity, so make now count for eternity). He also admonished us fathers (reminded us of our wonderful and serious duty) that the Father is the Bishop of the family as a church, and something I learned so long ago, and strengthened in Kolkata, comfort sucks!

Over the last few months and especially the last few days I’ve had the increasing blessing of conviction. I’m not where I should be. After your mom and I left ministry as a job in 2013 due to a dangerous leader, I’ve felt my calling as a father meant being provided for you through business success. The sadness and bitterness of losing what I thought would be my life’s work in ministry pushed me away from many aspects of evangelization/sharing with others about God’s goodness. Thankfully, God has given me an anchor experience which has centered my life upon His Rock. Not only will I talk about that, my spiritual parents (Mother Teresa and St. Thomas Aquinas), my shortcomings, my challenges, but I hope to do it all to bring you my dear children to Him who I hope you will love deeper than I. Thank you Maria for telling me I should write more and for the compliment that I sound like Percy Jackson.

I am not right, I am on the path to the Right.

Welcome to my stories, my loves.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A defense (a mirror post from

A very good friend of mine pointed out that I should qualify my excitement over the excommunications being lifted, especially in light of the Antisemitism that exists amongst some of the group. So I wrote a short defense to him, which I think would be good to post.

My excitement stems not from their ultraconservative nature or Bishop Williamson. In fact I find ultraconservativism quite distasteful. My excitement is the same that a brother would have, if his father finally told his crazy extremist brother, after several years, that he could come back. A divided family hurts. And it takes humility for the extremist brother to return, and stay home this time.

Plus not all the schismatic Lefebrites are crazy extremists. At least a few are just misguided souls who really could care less about idiocies like Williamson's statement. And there are numerous examples of God saving or being willing to save a whole group of people just for the sake of one just soul.

A third point is that salvation does not depend upon a view of human history. And I don't believe that there's a mandated excommunication in the Church Law books for an ignorant view of history.

And for the most part there will be no difference in the Church, as we already have an almost identical group inside the church called the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. And I doubt any major concessions can ever be made to the Society of St. Pius X, aside from the recent lifting of excommunication. And the excommunication only ever pertained to those four Bishops due to their ordination without the Pope's consent. The rest of the SSPX have never been explicitly excommunicated, and if anyone was implicitly excommunicated, it was most likely only the priests and not the laity.

For me this is a matter of family mercy. Sometimes you put up with your stupid brother just because he's your stupid brother.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bishop Fellay responds!

Bishop Fellay salutes 'benevolent and courageous' Pope Benedict

Posted: 24 Jan 2009 05:11 AM PST

Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the Society of St Pius X and, as of today, no longer excommunicated, has responded to the Pope's gesture in the following letter. In it, he describes Benedict XVI as "benevolent" and "courageous". I'm beginning to think that the Pope's gamble will pay off.

Praise the Lord and our Pontiff's merciful pastoring! The first steps have been made, pray that within the year the Bishops of SSPX will fully unify with Mother Church.


Pope Benedict lifts excommunication of bishops ordained by Lefebvre

Posted: 24 Jan 2009 01:20 AM PST

Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the excommunication of the four bishops from the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) ordained by Marcel Lefebvre in 1988 in a decision he hopes will lead to "real and final unity."

So this is AMAZING NEWS, because it leads the way to reunification with the ultra-conservative Schismatic SSPX... Now if only they return the favour and realise the amazing grace that this is!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Motherhouse and vows

Motherhouse and vows

on the 8th, I was healthy enough and I headed to Motherhouse.
Where I noticed for the first time that there is a statue of Mary on the front.

When I arrived, I was told about the Sister's final vows. But as the time was late I headed up to the chapel to pray. A few minutes later the sister at the door came up and grabbed me. Apparently another volunteer wanted to go to the vows, so we gathered a group of three, and took a taxi.

we were delayed by a fire in a large building.

And I got to see the Indian fire department lose control of their hose momentarially.

Before they were able to start putting it out.

We eventually arrived at the Cathedral.

Which is actually a church I've never been to, but which was quite nice.

The ceremony was beautiful, even though we only made the tail end.

It was after the ceremony that Joe and I bumped into each other and connected.

He brought a group of 8, which by now should be in their respective homes.

Joe, 2 girls from his group and I headed back to the Motherhouse. Where we got to participate in the reception. Which included samosas, jabeeleis (I don't know how to spell that) and a drink.

It's always nice to celebrate with the sisters.

And to rejoice in their happiness.
In the picture, the ones with the blue and silver garlands are the ones who made final vows.


Kolkata arrival

Kolkata arrival
I arrived in Kolkata on the 5th (I think). And headed straight for Peter Cats. Which is also known as my "send off" place.

I ordered the "Peter Cat" cooler, which was a nice drink.

And I had Harem's or Afghani chicken (I can never remember which is which).

And my two Swedish train buddies enjoyed one of their last meals in India, Before heading to Thailand.

And I enjoyed helping two travelers wrap up their trip.

The next day for breakfast, I headeed to my ol' stand by (Fresh and Juicy) and had some mango cornflakes and fried eggs on toast with cheese.

It was a nice return meal, back into the grind.

It also just so happened that my first full day back was the first day of the new branch of the internet place. So I was the first laptop customer to enjoy the new digs. And as I mentioned earlier... I was the esspresso tester.

The next day I changed rooms from Paragon to Maria and then had breakfast at JoJo's. On my way back the 20 feet or so to my hotel, I realised I was too weak to head to work.

That night I headed out for dinner and stopped by Kathleen's confectionary. Where I saw some nice pastries.

Which promptly reminded me that pastries in India, do not taste as good as they look. Though they do taste pleasant, nonetheless.

Anni and I then met up and had a real dinner at Khasala... where it appeared some hungry people had been before us.

And where, I continued to delight in my new found friend of Chili Chicken.

I love that I now crave Indian foods.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I'm back in the US, and now engaged to a beautiful and holy woman.
A more in depth post is pending.



Sunday Morning I headed to Shishu to pick up my paints/brushes and to talk to sister about the painting. I explained to her how it would take about a week to dry, and then how the girls would cleanit, varnish it and apply the photos.

(Where it will sit for a week)
I did some research on varnishing and it seems that since I'm doing it so soon, the varnish will actually merge a little with the paint. Which is okay, since this is not a piece of work that I expect to be in a museum, or ever of interests to the field of art restoration.

After talking to her, I headed to where Van suggested she needed help.

And I found myself dealing in the blue market of powdered milk.

Along with some other "workars".

A German and Britisher...

Van (an american from Penn but living in Boston).

And of course Sister who was a French Swiss, but whose name I'm at a loss for. Sister graced us with her vocation story, which was funny, fun and quite beautiful. She had run for so long from Calcutta and Mother Teresa, that when she finally came to Calcutta, she ended up in a jail (for sleeping on the street). And then Mother came to pick her up. The cops placed her in Mother's care until her flight back to Europe, and Mother put three sisters on the job to keep her from running away. Something she still tried to do repeatedly. And this Mother did, because, as she told the three sisters, "this one has a vocation, but doesn't know it yet, so don't let her get away!"

Another cute aside was that when she met Mother for the first time, she dodged Mother's blessing, and was a little rude to her. Which Mother reminded her about, when the two were flying to Africa together after she became a sister.

After helping to bag 600 milks, I headed to have lunch with Sharlot. Who is a Calcutta friend from my first trip, and who is actually (it turns out) a Muslim convert.

We ate lunch at Mocambo, and had the fish steak sizzler.

Which also came with the exact same (aside from the restaurant name in the lower right had corner) placemat as Peter Cat's.

But the sizzler was much much better than Peter Cats, and I think I'm in love with Bekti fish.

Today, I went to Mother house for the volunteer breakfast, and then to Shishu to talk to the girls and ensure they knew what was up. Then I came back to Motherhouse and did my morning prayer. As I went downstairs to the tomb to say goodbye to Mother, I discovered a priest who was preparing for mass. I asked if I could join, and he said yes! So got to receive Jesus for my trip! Viaticum! Only not for my final journey (hopefully).

When I returned to sudder street, I saw that the hostel was still not done with it's Christmas preparations.

Which makes me wonder how decked out they'll be.

After my final lunch with Anni, I said bye to a few friends. Including Sunelal, who is an Indian friend from my first trip, and who promised me that he would get to 400 push ups (in a few hours) a few days before I left. (He was at 300 about a week ago when he promised.)

Not only did he do 400, but he made like 435! With two days to spare!

I also got to say goodbye to Hano, a friend/dormmate of Michelle and I, from the August.

And then I said good bye to Sudder street. Which was remarkably similar to not saying goodbye.

Christ-Mitch time.

Christ-Mitch time.

So India apparently thinks the time to put up Christmas decorations is within a week of the day.

Which I accept as a very nice accomodation to Christians.

Though I'm of the opinion that the best time (in Christian countries) to have Christmas stuff up is from the first week of Advent to the last day of Christmas. But I also didn't expect an extreme minority to receive such a public acknowledgement. It would be akin to American Christians putting up Chaunnukah decorations. Which would be sort of a nice acknowledgement of our elder brother faith.

Sunday night, I attended Tia and Mitch's final wedding party. Which was the Bengali wedding reception.

It had fantastic Bengali food.

And for my second time, I had pan.

This time I liked it alot better and actually figured out how to enjoy it. I think the key is to chew a little, tuck it aside in your cheek, suck a little, and when it's run out of flavour, repeat. At the end, you just chew up the leaves and insides and swallow the remnant. The pan at the party was tricky though... they were inside of banana leaf pouches... which lucky for me, Mitch found out first when he bit into it and thought it was unpleasant pan. Relatives eventually explained that it was inside of a banana leaf. Thanks to his pioneering, I didn't have the chance to make the same mistake.

It was nice to be one of three (non-immediate family) people to participate in both the US and Indian segments. One was a professor at Washington Univ, who is a friend of Tia's dad, and the third was a friend of Mitch.

An interesting story about the party:
After eating, I was given a comment card which asked me to rate three things (one was food, one was service and I think the third was environment). I put very good on all, but in the comment box I put a note.
"The desert seemed to be not very good, but only average".
As I was filling out the form, it was obvious that the staff was watching me and waiting to see the results. And once I finished, they took the card ten feet away in visible distance and two people immediately read it. While reading, I could tell they were a bit disturbed and confused, as they were looking periodically at me and at the desert and were discussing amongst themselves. A few minutes later, I was walking around and they came up to me. They asked me about my comments and I explained, I had never had the deserts before so I wrote "seemed" not very good, since I had no reference. To which they explained that that's the way the deserts were supposed to be made (blandly).

I'm happy I was still around to clarify my comments, as I could see how they would be confused. But I also find it a very good example of cultural differences. In India, privacy is not honored above understanding. This is something I admire in many of it's various forms, but also something that is very very very alien to an American.

Closin' on up

Closin' on up

Friday, I headed to the tailors to pick up my "item". Afterwards, since I was in the area, I met up with Tia and Mitch and we headed to dinner. I think the place was named Tandoor, and it was on Sarat Bose road. It was a bit swanky and had good food. It was recommended by Tia's aunt as "hygenic".

We had a nice complimentary cup of butter milk with pepper, chilies and some spices.

It's decor was on par with nice restaurants in the US. Including an abnormal (for India) amount of beautiful wood.

The speciality of the restaurant was South Indian, and each of the dishes in the menu had the location it came from listed. I started with a fish and chili item that was nice and delicious.

And Tia started with a veg Item of potatoes and chili, cooked in what Mitch and I agreed, must have been a white wine sauce. I think her veg item was quite fantastic.

My main course was a chicken dish, that ordered with "little" hotness. And for once I was actually understood! It was quite tasty, and I actually wished it had been a pinch hotter!

Apparently, December is Wedding season. And at various points in time you end up stumbling across a random one or two. And each time it's fun to hear the drums and see the costumes.

It also coincidentally is Puppy/kitten season...

And you constantly find puppys everywhere... the kittens however have demonstrated to me why we say "'fraidy cat".

Everytime they see you come near, they run away into a hole... like rats. Ironic.

I had my last tender coconut on saturday. Boy am I going to miss them. They're perfect to calm down your mouth after a spicy meal.

I'm also going to miss my new favourite fruit, chicku. But I will not miss the weekly pasttime of the communists...

Strikes! Raise the Red flag! Three day weekend!

I feel like the communists are akin to this lobster... and I wish they were more akin to the ice cream.

Scoop by the way, though it claims to be an ice cream parlour, only had four types of "ice cream" on the menu, and only one of them did they actually have. The four types were four types of sundaes. They didn't ever list their individual flavours any where... but the creative thing was that their menus were seasonal, and the ice cream sundaes all had christmas/new years themes... I wanted Jingle something (it had mint chocolate chip), but all they had was the new years one.

Oh, how I will not miss menus that only have a few real items on them.

But I will of course miss India. But I think in an odd way.