Things that come to mind when thinking of Jared Zimmerer: faith, family, fitness. Things that don't come to mind: the typical 27-year-old male pop culture paradigm. Today, Zimmerer talks about his conscious eschewing of the drifter-stoner-manchild model in favor of something with a good deal more sanctity.
My name is Jared Zimmerer, and I have come to find out that I am a bit of an anomaly. Not in any outside-the-law kind of way, like the outliers I used to watch on the old westerns, but more in the light of the fact that my life does not correspond with most of the men my age. I am twenty- seven years old, I have been happily married for over six years, and have been blessed with four beautiful children all of whom God has placed in my protection. This kind of life didn’t just fall in my lap. No, in fact I still look back over the past several years in awe and amazement. Yet it seems apparent that when I look to most of my peers, those young men in the same age bracket, I don’t seem to fit in. Not that I desire to be a simple puzzle piece in the mural of secular society, yet my hearts aches because I want to share with them the awesome power of grace when a man’s vocation is set, the road before him is cobbled, ready to be trudged and the blood, sweat and tears of manhood makes sense.
Being an outlier of the stream of society isn’t bad at all, in fact, I have found that more happiness lies in fighting the current than in floating aimlessly downstream. Yes, it takes a while to get used to the comments like, “You know how that happens, right?” when telling others about having four kids in five years. It becomes commonplace to have gawking when walking through the supermarket with the entire family and the first thing people ask is, “How old are you?” Yet it is in these moments when I feel most at peace with my decisions and in my vocation as a husband and father. Many people try to stand out in some way their entire lives; however they struggle to do anything really different. Many rebel and get tattoos and piercings, but everyone has those these days. I have found that in living out my calling within the parameters of the divine truths taught by the Catholic Faith I have achieved the indescribable feeling of happily expressing my individuality...
Believe it or not, not even Jesus Christ himself was spared the tangled dynamics of a less-than-perfect family. It sort of makes our own little familial eccentricities a little easier to handle, doesn't it? Ellyn von Huben looks back at the Christmas season with her own wonderfully human brood, and gets us thinking about what it means to be blessed, rotten fruit and all.
Broken branches and rotten fruit. Those words kept bouncing around in my mind after Mass on Sunday. The priest was preaching on the Holy Family and the tangled family dynamics into which our God chose to be born. Being born of a mother free from sin and raised by a foster father beyond reproach, our Lord, when he became fully human, was not spared the fully human family experience.
There are no perfect families. Anyone who says his family is perfect is lying. Or has at least excised those on the family tree who would tarnish the image and excluded those whose presence at gatherings might crack the façade of perfection. To hear the limitations of what is found in all families is not only an interesting take on how we regard the Holy Family, but also a wonderful antidote to be delivered at the time of year when we are often deluged with the unavoidable Christmas Family Newsletters. (I can’t be the only person who enjoys listening to David Sedaris read from his book "Holidays on Ice" while wrapping gifts. Hearing “Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!”is a special comfort before facing the mail)
Why begrudge people their accomplishments and happiness? I don’t. I really, really don’t. But…there is that temptation to compare ourselves to the perfection presented by the mass produced letters. And that leads to the temptation to self-pity. Plus, there are things better left unshared. I didn’t include a note to my friends the years when we have encountered bankruptcy, fleas, prolonged neurologist visits, and a variety of other soul searing events. Oh, and how about when I found out that my late grandfather once served time in prison? That could make for a newsletter that would stand out.
We have had a happy Christmas. There are many wonderful things that I could ‘brag’ about. It is the things that I would leave out that are still weighing on my mind. 2012 has not been the easiest of years. (and here I succumb to the temptation to look back on other bumpy years with a wistful sigh and see those years as ‘good old days’.) The economy has been bumpy and having 5 out of 6 of our children living at home has made for a unique drama that is a combination of Downton Abbey meets the Rabbitte family from Roddy Doyle’s novels. Tight quarters make life interesting. Let’s just call it interesting...
What is it about asking for help that is so hard? What more, what is it about help that is so hard to give? Father Damian Ference, recovering from knee surgery, shares some insights about what it means to help those in need—from someone who was.
My mom died a year before I was ordained. My dad is 87 and legally blind. And my only brother has a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old that keep him very busy. So when the Scientist asked me where I was going to recover from my knee surgery, I didn’t know what to tell him.
I considered recovering at the seminary, which is where I live, but the priests I live with told me that was a bad idea. There aren’t many people around here in the summer, the hallways are long, and the only way that I could receive visitors after hours would be if I made my way down to the first floor and let them in myself.
A few of my friends who are pastors invited me to recover in their rectories, which sounded like a good plan at first, but after thinking about it, I realized that all of their rectories had the guest rooms on the second or third floor. I liked the idea of living in a rectory again, but I didn’t like the thought of stairs nor did I want to be a burden to busy parish priests.
I was running out of options. I needed to find someone to take care of me. And I was getting desperate. Surgery was only a couple weeks away and I was running out of ideas. Then it hit me.
I remembered that line in the twelfth chapter of Exodus—if the family is too small for the Passover lamb, then they should join a larger family. This biblical inspiration gave me hope, and it also took away some of the fear and embarrassment that often comes with asking for help. I started thinking back to all those people from my first parish assignment that had told me, “Father, if you ever need anything, don’t be afraid to ask.”...