Faith Witness to St. John the Evangelist Youth Group

October 17, 2021

Just Keep Dancing

  • Introduction
    • I’ve always been a big dancer.
    • I know that may totally surprise some of you who no me well, but it’s true
  • High School
  • In high school the purpose of the dance was self-aggrandizement.
    • I was really good at attracting attention on the dance floor.
  • Fortunately for me, a big part of that dance floor was the St. Louis CYO in Alexandria, VA
    • I first met the future Fr. Gould there in about 1979 when he was a seminarian assigned to St. Louis for the summer.
    • I was one of the leaders of the group, and I was really good at the dance steps. I was even:
      • On the Diocesan Youth Board
      • On committees set up by the Bishop
      • Asked personally by Bishop Welsh, the first Bishop of Arlington, to speak at a Convocation at the Bishop O’Connell High School on the Liturgy of the Hours
        • I didn’t even know what that was!
      • Very active in the Youth Encounter movement
      • Nominated as the Outstanding Catholic Youth in the Diocese of Arlington.
    • I knew I was anything but an Outstanding Catholic Youth
      • But I was a good dancer
      • I knew how to look the part.
    • But even if I didn’t fully grasp the meaning of the dance, I was on the right dance floor
      • I had good Catholic friends
        • Some of whom were missing the point also,
          • but at least they knew what the right things were, and
        • I was surrounded by the goodness in the Church
  • Notre Dame
    • All that showiness in high school helped me achieve what is a dream for many of you here tonight – get into a great college.
      • In my case, the University of Notre Dame
    • I continued to be the big dancer, always good at the dance steps and always attracting attention to myself
      • I lived with a bunch of guys, who are still my closest friends to this day, in a big round turret room in the original dorm on campus
      • We opened a bar and called it Club 101
        • Every weekend, we had massive dance parties
        • Always with me at the center of the dance floor
      • One cool thing about Notre Dame though is there’s a chapel in every dorm
        • My friends and I went to mass every Sunday at 5 o’clock and then walked over the dining hall for dinner.
          • That was a very important anchor for me in college
          • It is so easy to get washed out to sea, particularly in a large secular college
          • So that, in retrospect, I can see how important it was for me to at least come back into port once a week.
        • But by far the coolest thing about Notre Dame was a beautiful Varsity swimmer who I met on the first day of classes
          • She was way out of my league.
          • When I found out she was in the choir at the Basilica, and that she sang at evening Vespers, I started going.
          • I had heard of it because it’s part of the Liturgy of the Hours, but that wasn’t why I was going.
            • I was going because there was a beautiful girl singing there.
          • Once again, I was missing the meaning of the dance, but at least I was on doing the right dance steps on the right dance floor.

Early Adulthood

  • By far the most impactful thing that ever happened to me was that I ended up marrying that beautiful girl during my senior year.
    • There is no decision you will make that will have a bigger impact on your life than your choice of a life mate.
      • Finding someone
        1. who shares your Catholic faith,
        2. who shares your values, and
        3. with whom you can share a culture
      • Will make all the difference
      • Marriage is hard enough
        • If you choose a mate outside of those three compatibilities, you are choosing to make it even harder
      • As we went off the big city and my big career, I knew I had the right woman, I just didn’t completely understand why – yet.
        • I was dancing with the big dogs now, and I knew it.
        • But my wife kept having babies.
        • I remember when she got pregnant with our fifth, Daniel.
          • I was puzzled – and not celebrating.
          • I thought
            • “We have two girls two boys – perfect symmetry.
            • We’re checked off now.
            • My career is going great.
            • Let’s move to the next step!”
          • How silly I was in retrospect
            • How could I possibly imagine life without Daniel?
              • Or 5 and 6 kids after that, without Ceili and Connor!
            • But fortunately, I had myself a really good dance partner.
          • I work with entrepreneurs who are so focused on their companies, that they won’t let their wives have the families they dream of having.
            • And they say they love their wives.
          • How sad
            • And they won’t even realize they were on the wrong dance floor until it’s too late.

The Turning Point

  • The futility of the dance I was doing in the corporate world became crystal clear when our company got sold.
    • I was a Vice President for a national uniform rental company in Culpeper that got bought-out by Cintas.
      • Maybe you’ve seen their commercials on TV
    • As the IT Director. I led the development and implementation of a totally new state-of-the-art computer system.
      • Then I built a new restroom service company called Sanis that was growing nationally.
      • I had assembled a great team, many of whom I still work with today.
      • It was a super-heady time for me
        • I was in the center of the dance floor and everyone wanted to dance with me.
      • But when Cintas came in, among the first things they did were
        • Replace my beautiful computer system with their own, even though it wasn’t as good,
        • Close all of the Sanis companies and roll that business into their uniform companies, and
        • Get rid of all of my key people.
      • How fleeting was glory
        • How quickly 11 years of work was replaced.
        • I was previously one of the best dancers in the company, and now no one even knew who I was.

Back to Faith and Family

  • Fortunately, I still had the girl of my dreams, and my still growing family.
    • 9 of the 12 had come.
    • My family and Saint John’s were the two constants in my life through all this.
      • We’d been sitting in the front row for years so the kids could be occupied by Janet Winston, then Janet Walbroehl, playing the guitar with her brother Carl.
    • I started my own businesses with some of my key guys back at Sanis
      • But now I had a little more perspective.
      • Thanks to my wife and my good Catholic friends
      • I started to better understand the meaning of the dance
    • At this point, my older kids were starting high school, and my wife, with incredible wisdom, directed our family to Seton School in Manassas.
      • I decided to get involved by volunteering
        • To teach my kids high school math classes, which I did until 2012, and
        • To coach the swimming team, which been doing for going-on 21 years now.
      • The Catholic Community at Seton was the perfect dance floor for my family, but it was also the perfect dance floor for me.
        • I was suddenly surrounded by people who understood, not just the dance steps, but also the dance.
        • And I saw the impact a man’s sacrifice can have on a kid who is trying to figure it out.
        • I started to internalize and then teach some of what I had learned from two great men – Deacon Bernie Ragan and Pope John Paul the Great
      • The things I had been surrounded by all my life were starting to make more sense.
        • And my Catholic faith became the framework that gave me such clarity.
        • The world made sense now because of my Catholic faith.

Lessons from Deacon Ragan

  • I thought of the lessons I learned from Deacon Ragan, for whom the Deacon Ragan Pavilion is named
    • He always told me that he did not believe God would have to judge us
      • He believed that we would judge ourselves first.
    • That when we look into the face of God,
      • It will be like a little child who knows he’s done wrong,
      • Looking up at his mother
        • Ashamed and sad that he’s disappointed her.
      • That suffering is something we would want to endure so that our soul would be cleansed for the beatific vision.
        • Even suffering on earth.
      • Such an easy concept intellectually – but how hard it is to internalize.
        • Suffering is a blessing?
        • When offered up, it cleanses our soul so that we can stare into the face of God with joy?
        • Really?
      • But have you ever heard a clearer explanation for what you observe in your lives every day?
        • People suffer.
        • Some of those evangelical preachers that preaching their Gospel of Prosperity just don’t any sense to me
          • Just look around our world – it is so obvious.
            • We will not always be prosperous and free from suffering, but that can be a great gift!
          • No wonder it is so easy for some to lose faith and wonder why an almighty God allows anyone to suffer
        • Our Catholic faith has given us the answer all along.

Lessons from Pope John Paul the Great

  • I thought of the lessons I learned from reading about Pope John Paul II
    • Who became Pope when I was in high school.
  • He calls it the Law of the Gift
    • Responsible self-giving, not self-assertion, is the road to human fulfillment
    • Karol Wojtyla’s favorite lines from Vatican II says, “Man finds himself only by making himself a sincere gift to others” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 24).
    • Radical Personal Autonomy is not the key to happiness.
      • Some of you may hear the opposite at school or from your friends every day.
      • The key to happiness is total self-giving.
      • It’s this desire for Radical Personal Autonomy, and I use the word radical intentionally, that leads us to justify things that should be otherwise impossible to justify, like:
        • We can end another human life so that we can live our lives as we wish
      • Paradoxically, I have realized that sacrifice was the key to happiness
        • So many of us, including me sometimes, live our lives as if our purpose is to avoid discomfort
        • If we want to get to heaven, we should be embracing discomfort!
      • It changed the whole way I thought about Fatherhood
        • Fatherhood means rejecting the prison of selfishness.
          • It means being conquered by love
        • Fatherhood means to give birth in acts of self-giving
      • Once again, our Church had the answer to life’s most perplexing questions, all I had to do was accept it.
        • After years of dancing with the Church and with friends in the Catholic community, it finally sunk in:
          • The meaning of human life is found, not in self-assertion, but in self-giving.
          • It’s not all about me!


  • You won’t find me in the middle of the dance floor much anymore.
    • Even at my kids’ weddings, a dance with bride and a dance with my wife are about all you’ll get out of me.
    • I mostly confine my dancing at such events to a big rocking chair with a 50-ring cigar where I give gratitude to God for:
      • my beautiful wife,
      • my beautiful family,
      • my wonderful friends, and
      • and the beautiful faith that explains it all
    • A bunch of you here may just not quite be feeling it yet.
      • Even if that is true, just keep dancing! .
      • Just keep doing the steps the best you know how,
      • Because at least you’ll be doing the right dance steps on the right dance floor, and
    • If you can stay on the right dance floor dancing with the right people, I think you’re going to find:
      • That eventually it might all start to make some sense
      • That will be a whole lot happier here on earth, and
      • That you will ultimately be invited to the big dance to which we all aspire.

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