So, it’s come to this. I finally need to share my brush with fame, real fame, none of this fake fame stuff. But it’s going to take a little bit of backstory, so humor me while we all sit down with our respective drinks and I spin my tale.About 2012, I was finally chosen to go to a weeklong leadership class for my work, driving down 2 hours to Richmond for it. At the time, I was on an upward trajectory at my work, and my ambitions frankly were to advance and get higher at work, etc. I think we all know what this is like, but if you don’t, don’t tell me, my sinfulness is enough). I’d been angling for this class and finally got to go, it was my pathway to promotion.
At some point of prepping for it, I wanted to get things to listen to on the drive down and back. I think I had been doing audiobooks and enjoying them immensely, but on this occasion, I’m not sure why, I thought that I would find something Catholic to listen to. So I searched around a found a couple podcasts, and went on the road. This is where I first heard “Catholic stuff you should know”. Fast forward 2 years and I’m a regular listener to their pod, having gone through the whole catalog, and also addicted to the “Lanky Guys”, another Catholic podcast. But they only updated once a week I needed to get my Catholic learning fix! Enter “The Catholic Cafe” (TCC).
TCC is done by Deacon Jeff, a permanent deacon down in Tennessee, is about 20-30 minutes a show, and he’s got 400+ podcasts to go through. He talks to stalwarts such as Cardinal Wuerl, Bishop Barron, Scott Hahn, and a personal favorite, Peter Kreeft. Heavyweights. Deacon Jeff has an easygoing, southern way of making you feel at home, and making you feel like you are there, having a cuppa with your mates and talking about things that matter in the cafe. It’s my kind of experience, where the judging is pushed aside and the discussion is served fresh and authentic. Deacon Jeff was also a motivator for becoming a permanent deacon myself, although now with ALS I think it’s not possible.
The podcast is sponsored by the Order of Malta, Federal Association. WHAAAAT???
When I hear I was going to Lourdes, I wanted to see if I could meet Deacon Jeff, but I didn’t see him on the charter plane or the first day at all, so I thought this was the year he wouldn’t make it, and frankly the first few days I wasn’t in a great place to experience it. But, on day 3, after the malade lunch, I ran into a very tall Deacon in the Moderne hotel and I fanboyed out.
That’s right, I met Deacon Jeff. Total fanboy, but like an idiot I didn’t get his autograph. I’m sure to others I looked an idiot, but I had to tell him I listen to his podcast and how much it meant to me. Seriously, we geek out over athletes we like, right? I geek out over people I feel like I know by listening to conversations with them for years!! Don’t judge me!!
After that brief encounter, where I “think” he said I could maybe come watch the podcast, but I was a little giddy to remember, we went our separate ways to our scheduled events and whatnot. But, I was still so stoked to have met him.
Fast forward to dinner time on day 4. As Mel and I walked into the dining room, we were met by Deacon Jeff!! I introduced Mel to him and then he invited me to be the live audience for one of the podcasts at 0800 the next morning!! Well, of course I said “yeah!” The cool part is that day 5 was a “rest morning”, we didn’t have anything scheduled so we could go do this, see behind the scenes of how a real pod is made, etc. Plus, I think that theologically, he hits me more where I need it than some of the other pods.
So, Mel and I were able to attend a session, and really it was 40 minutes, tops, with the background chat beforehand, instructions, etc. Really nothing, but the time spent for me was fantastic. One, as you see, I was able to see a hero at work. Two, the topic discussed was really moving! I don’t want to spoil it (July 22 broadcast date), but I was impressed by the father and his 3 sons there at Lourdes. As a father of two boys, as an uncle and godfather, raising children to focus on God even at a young age is a struggle, but even these young men were doing things that I never dreamed of at their age and I know my boys aren’t. Helping malades, serving those on the pilgrimage, others before self! Ah, all we can learn from it! I cried. And I gave all 4 a big hug at the end (I’m a hugger!)
I am a better man for having experienced this and met Deacon Jeff. Not because he’s famous, that’s silly, but because he helps me focus on what’s important. I got to talk to him a couple more times on the pilgrimage but never as deep as I would have liked (over a coffee, for example). Perhaps another time soon we can have that chance, but if not, I’m very grateful for the amount of interaction that we had. It’s small blessings like this that make you realize that with God, nothing is left to chance.
Go check out his podcast! He titles them well and talks about real things. Pick one and you won’t be disappointed!!!