Oddwalk Ministries


NCYC Is Special. Here’s Why…


This past week, Orin and I had the great privilege of serving in a variety of roles at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis. For much of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, he and I were on a dead-run hosting the Music and Message Stage, leading music at two Masses, and even getting to do…

A Matthew 25 Kind of Readiness


I don’t know about you, but when I think about Jesus, I prefer to think of sinner-pardonin’, loaves and fishes multiplyin’, ear-healin’ Jesus.  It makes me uncomfortable to think about table-turnin’, Peter-scoldin’, Gehenna-throwin’-into Jesus.  Jesus is supposed to be nice, right? Surely a God who loves us wouldn’t ever turn us away, right? RIGHT?! Well,…

Living The Justice of the Sunday Scriptures


Hi all. Shannon and Orin both are contributors at anygivensundayproject.org once or twice and year, and in fact have back-to-back reflections on the Sunday scriptures there right now. Orin wrote a bit about yesterday’s challenging Gospel passage, and Shannon wrote about this coming Sunday’s readings. We’ve posted theme here as well. But, keep visiting anygivensundayproject.org…

Are You God?


School is back in session at the parish where I, Orin, am music director. Sometime near the beginning of each school year, we gather the entire student body, PreK-8th Grade, in the Church to go over some music that we’ll be using at some upcoming Masses; that day this year was this past Thursday afternoon,…

We’re writing a book!


Hey everyone! Shannon and Orin are excited to announce that… wait for it… we’re writing a book! If you had not guessed from the title of this post, seeing some news on social media that led you here, or from this super-cool graphic, we’ll say it again – we’re writing a book!

It will be published next July by Twenty-Third Publications, a division of Bayard which specializes in books and devotionals for nourishing your spirituality and celebrating the liturgical year, as well as the newest resources to help you lead and guide your parish community.

Our book has a working title of “Praying and Living the Faith Through the Year” and is a collection of twenty interactive prayer services on various Church themes and celebrations as well as other special times during a school year. Each service has suggested music, prayers, scripture, and interactive, prayerful activities to help bring faith to life. While the “target audience” for this book is middle-school-aged youth and those that minister to them, this collection should also be useful for other ages, as well as other situations, like youth ministry and family units.

Here’s the rundown (for now) on “chapters” the resource will have:

• Welcome to Teachers/Staff/Students (Community)
• For Grandparents (Generations, Wisdom)
• At a time of tragedy (Consolation)
• All Saints (Communion of Saints)
• All Souls (Deceased Family and Friends, Tradition)
• Thanksgiving (Gratitude to God)
• Christ the King (Dominion, Sovereignty)
• Advent (Waiting in Joyful Hope)
• Immaculate Conception / Guadalupe (Mary, Dignity)
• Christmas (Incarnation)
• Discipleship (Learning, Following)
• Before an Exam (Peace, Assurance)
• Ash Wednesday (Repentance)
• Lent (Returning to God, Conversion)
• Holy Week (Suffering, Obedience, Cross)
• Easter (Resurrection, New Life)
• Mercy (Divine Mercy)
• Ascension (Church and Our Mission)
• Pentecost (Holy Sprit, Gifts of the Spirit)
• At Graduation (Transitions)

Each chapter will also include some introductory material from us, for those putting together each service.

We feel this resource will pull together strongly many aspects of Oddwalk’s varied ministries – storytelling, humor, prayer, music, retreats – and hopefully be a welcome and successful resource for many folks helping to lead the young Church on their journeys to and with God.

Watch this space for more updates, especially as the project gets closer to completion! We can’t be more excited to be working with 23rd, and can’t wait for you to be able to hold this book in your hands – and use it!

That’s Extraordinary!


In case you forgot…

You know what ordinal numbers are, right? Well, you probably do even if you don’t know that’s what they’re called. Ordinal numbers are the ones we put st, nd, and rd behind: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. They’re the ones that describe the position of something, usually in a list.

Ordinal numbers are the reason that the upcoming 6 month stretch of the Church year is called Ordinary Time — you know, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time and all that. Now, Ordinary Time following Pentecost does start with the celebrations of the Holy Trinity and the Most Holy Body and Blood, but it’s still Ordinary Time.

The point is, it’s not Ordinary Time, as in something commonplace or normal; it’s not Ordinary Time because it’s not Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter; it *is* Ordinary Time because the Sundays and weeks are counted. That’s all.

Yet, I knew one priest years ago who insisted on calling it “Extraordinary Time.” He didn’t get into all the mumbo-jumbo about ordinal numbers, he simply referenced what is indeed true about all these coming Sundays, particularly the Gospel passages we will hear at those Masses. The Gospels are always about what Jesus said and did in this world; these upcoming Ordinary Time Gospels are all about Jesus teaching us to be disciples. That’s why this particular priest liked the expression “Extraordinary Time.” It’s a 6 month length of time where, if we pay attention and are open, Jesus teaches us still today what it means to be his follower and his witness in a modern world.

I don’t know that I personally like the expression, but I appreciate the motivation behind it. How will this summer be extraordinary for you, as a person of faith, as we count our way through many weeks of Ordinary Time? I suggest by really focusing on what Jesus teaches his faithful Sunday after Sunday, and living it each week to the best of our abilities. Happy Summer everyone!


What the Ascension Tells Us About Social Justice


Note: a version of this post originally appeared at Any Give Sunday Project two years ago. If you’re a regular church-goer, you surely know that the pews are at their fullest on Christmas and Easter. No surprise there. Take a moment and see if you have a guess what the next two most attended Church…

The Joy of the Scriptures


Psalm 87

Hello all, Orin here.  One of my roles as Music Director at Sts. Joachim and Ann in suburban STL is to prep music for school masses.  One of the tasks for each mass is ensuring we have a responsorial psalm and a psalmist or two ready to go: both I and the pastor at J&A prefer to do the readings of the day, so I need to ensure that the psalms are easily grasped both by the psalmists from the different homerooms in school (on limited rehearsal time), as well as by the assembly.  Before sitting down to write this, in fact, I needed to create a new one for a school mass tomorrow, led by our 4th graders.  You can see an image of the simple music just over there…

By now, ending my 5th year at J&A, many such psalms are already written, and it’s rare I need to take a moment and create a new one, but this morning was such a time.  A quick count shows I’ve created over 130 of these in 5 years.  An unexpected joy of the role here at J&A has become getting to know the psalms in such a broad way.  Many of us know several of the more common Sunday responsorial psalms well, but the psalms at daily mass are much more diverse than at Sundays alone, and as a result, some unexpected poetry, theology, spirituality, and expressions of faith come to my attention over these few years.

This hymn of praise to Zion, for instance, responds joyfully to a reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which we hear how the early Church grew far past Jerusalem, partly because early followers of Christ were scattered to many places, avoiding persecution, and were bolstered and taught by the likes of Barnabas and Paul.  This passage ends, “…it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.”

There is a joy in the scriptures which only grows and blossoms the more deeply one knows, prays, and lives them.  As broad as the scripture passages are on Sundays, an easy way to encounter so much more is to attend daily mass – a practice which was not a significant part of my life before arriving at J&A, but is now.  When was the last time you attended a daily mass?  Perhaps it’s time to consider a new discipline in faith, and rediscover the joy of the scriptures, like I have.

Holy Week and Catholic Social Teaching


Pope Francis Washing Feet at a Previous Holy Thursday Celebration

Our “Jesus Justice Joy” reflection this week is a little tardy, owning to two full days of Oddwalking on Monday and Tuesday…

As we approach Holy Thursday evening and the beginning of triduum, I’m struck by how, at Thursday night’s mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Gospel is not what it seems like it should be. One would think that we’d hear one of the evangelists tell about that Passover meal. Rather, we hear in the epistle Paul describe how the tradition of that meal was handed down to him. Instead in the Gospel, we hear a narrative unique to John – the humble washing of the feet.

John’s Gospel doesn’t even include a narrative about the last supper meal the way the synoptics do. Some see the significance of this – that the description of the meal is replaced with this story of the foot washing – as one which instructs the early Christian community to live lives of solidarity and service – both important tenants of contemporary Catholic Social Teaching.

In fact, the whole evening, if one listens from a certain vantage point, is linked to issues of justice: liberation, solidarity, service…

I have often wondered why foot washing didn’t “make the cut,” so to speak, as the Church finally focused in upon seven “Big S” sacraments. It seems like it would meet the usual requirements and definitions of one. Pause for a moment and imagine if, when preparing for first communion, young people also learned about and prepared for foot washing along side of that.

How much more linked then would we as a Church find our reception of Eucharist to the command we are given just a few minutes later: Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. Eucharist, as much as it is thanksgiving is also service, solidarity, and our freedom. May we recognize it as such the next time we gather around the table.


Justice Can Be Hard to Define


Justice shall we pursue…

It’s quite likely you’ve seen an image on the internet the last couple of years that looks like this one – or at least looks like the first two panels of this one.  Usually, the first two panels are meant to describe the difference between equality and justice.  That image has always been appealing to me (Orin), but has also bothered me for a reason I at first couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Then the other day, I saw this version, and that particular cloud was lifted from my eyes.  It was that the barrier in front of the people trying to see the baseball game was still in place.  I immediately thought of the experiences Shannon and I have with the summer teen work and learning camp Young Neighbors in Action – youngneighbors.org – in which we often talk about not just filling the cracks that those who most need are help are falling through, but asking why those cracks are there in the first place.  The graphic talks about equality, equity, and justice.  Some before had called the second panel justice, where what justice really is, and what our faith calls us to pursue, is in that third panel.  Mercy might be the act of showing kindness and support to those suffering any affliction; justice is attempting to remove that oppression from our midst.  Click the image to take a closer look.

Isaiah 58:6-10 tells us:

Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking off every yoke?

Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry,
bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: “Here I am!”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the accusing finger, and malicious speech;

If you lavish your food on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then your light shall rise in the darkness,
and your gloom shall become like midday.


When you do good works in the world, are they acts of equality, equity, mercy, or justice?  All are needed, but true works of justice are ones that might strip away even the need for the other three.  Do you help people see over the fence, or do you take that fence away?  Difficult questions for all of us, myself included.  Something to pray about this week as we enter into Lent, a time for (among other things) service and self-sacrifice.  —Orin

Another “Any Given Sunday” Reflection


Shannon’s turn again at Any Given Sunday – take a read!

First, check out the Sunday readings here!

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want…” This line, from Psalm 23, is one of the most recognizable lines in all of scripture. I know I’ve heard it most often when someone is worried or afraid and is in need of a few words of comfort. What does it mean, though? What does it mean for us? For you?

Let’s break down the line, “The Lord is my shepherd”, word by word. If you were to say, “The LORD is my shepherd”, you would be making a pretty definitive (and very powerful) statement about how your life is ordered. Letting ANYONE else tell you what to do is hard. Giving your life over to a God you believe in through faith, but cannot always see in a conventional way, can be very difficult. It might even make you look a bit crazy to those who do not know the Lord. That is, however, what our Lord requires. Remember what Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me…” Jesus said that right after calling Peter ‘Satan’ for questioning that Jesus’ life would end by being killed at the hands of the chief priests and elders. Peter, no doubt, feared that his own life could end the same way. This is the same Peter, though, who in our first reading today was able to stand up and publicly say: “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” No longer was Peter afraid of where discipleship with Jesus might lead him. Through faith, and filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter could confidently state who Jesus was and is. Jesus is Lord. The LORD is my shepherd. Can you say the same thing?

Next, if you were to say, “The Lord is MY shepherd”, you are making this faith VERY personal. In the Gospel today, Jesus says things like: “…and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…” and “…the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice…” This suggests a shepherd (God) who is interested in being very close to His sheep (us). That is very Good News. And God has done God’s part in all of this, affording us all the opportunity to be extremely close to Him through the sacraments, through prayer, doing service in God’s name, and even through devotionals like adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Are you doing your part to grow closer to God? Are you taking advantage of these opportunities, or are you making God do all the work?

Finally, if you were to say, “The Lord is my SHEPHERD”, you are stating without a doubt that you recognize God as your leader/guide and know that your role is to be part of the flock. It can be very difficult to see ourselves this way. After all, God created us unique and special, right? Right, but all of us have in common the urge to sin, the need for God and others, a shared mortality, etc. Recognizing that we are part of a community with God at the head, a community that leans on one another in good times and bad, can help us to be free of this need to live our lives on our own and for ourselves. Let God be your shepherd and be free! As Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “…I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Let God tell you what that ‘life’ is supposed to be about. Then you can say with confidence, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want”.

Orin’s Contribution to Any Given Sunday


Here’s Orin’s most recent contribution to the great resource Any Given Sunday:

Click here to view the readings from the USCCB

Perfection – raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten a 100 on a quiz.  I have; but I also recall a time when I saw that grade on the top of a test or a paper, and knew, really, that I could have done better.  I didn’t answer a question fully, I misspelled something, the teacher overlooked an obvious error, rushing to get everything graded.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever planned a party to perfection – right down to the last detail, only to have the guest of honor arrive early, or the cake fall to the floor, or some other disaster occur.  Truth be told, we often strive for perfection but rarely ever achieve it.

Yet that is what Jesus asks of His disciples in this Sunday’s Gospel: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Whoa.  Be perfect like God the Father is perfect?  Talk about an unattainable goal.  It’s nearly unreasonable, this challenge placed before us.  For mere earthlings, humans with the stain of sin, it sounds impossible, at least while we are still living on Earth.  We know though, that Jesus never calls us to things we can’t attain somehow, someday. You’ve heard maybe that God doesn’t call the gifted, He gifts the called.  In what ways can we work, with God’s help, toward this perfection God asks for?

Well, take a look at the first reading, where God asks the Israelites to “be holy” because God is holy.  A definition I like for the word holy is to be “whole” – that is, to be complete.  Especially within our faith lives and journeys, our goal is that wholeness, that unity and oneness with God. The Lord tells Moses how he should instruct the Israelites on that same journey: to not keep hatred for one another, to not pursue revenge, and to love all. The Psalm continues the teaching – the Lord is kind and merciful, and so should we be.  The word mercy sums up this journey, doesn’t it?  Be merciful to those around you in need.  Be merciful to those around you who harm and persecute you.  Be merciful to yourself when you fall short of the life God asks of each of us. In fact, when Luke writes this same teaching in his Gospel, he doesn’t use the word perfect, he uses – you guessed it – the word merciful instead.  Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians adds the layer of humility, and in fact reverence, for what God has created in you, the human being.  No one belongs to Paul, or Apollos, or to Cephas: all belong to the Lord.  And it is in belonging to the Lord, on a journey to holiness, with mercy toward one another and toward ourselves, and aware of the mercy the Lord has shown on each of us, that we ultimately can be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect.