Monday, January 29, 2007

Death Penalty and St. Mary's

Q - I do not understand why this parish does not take a more active stance against the death penalty. It is my understanding that the Catholic Church is firmly against against it.

A - Thanks for your email. I would have to disagree that we have not taken a strong stance against the death penalty. On the day of executions we do all of the following:
  • have the bells toll
  • we put up black ribbons with quotes on the trees surrounding St. Mary's
  • we ask for prayers at the daily Masses
Also, we have homilies and classes that have addressed the issue in addition to political activism. That means we are doing quite a bit.

Of course there is always more that could be done, so if you would like to offer suggestions I encourage you to get involved in the Pro-life committee.

Remember that the death penalty is not an intrinsic moral evil like abortion or euthanasia. In other words, the Church does not absolutely exclude a government's right to have recourse to the death penalty. In fact, a Catholic, in narrow circumstances, can support the death penalty and still be in good standing with the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent." (CCC 2267)
Here is a good explanation of the teaching.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Vatican II?

Q - I have been reading some on Vatican II and its consequences. Many writers argue that these changes in the Church are leading to its demise e.g. falling numbers of clergy and a fall in the number of priests. What are your views on Vatican II and how it has impacted the faith? Thanks!

A – Let me provide a disclaimer first. My opinion doesn’t really matter. There are much more educated, intelligent, and authoritative opinions out there. Of course those who know me know I didn't really need to say that. :-)

With that being said, I will give a few very short thoughts and provide you with some other opinions. The fact is that after every ecumenical council there has been significant issues to address; some much bigger than others. Vatican II is no different. But, the difference with Vatican II is twofold: (1) – it is the first council that was more “pastoral” than “doctrinal. This doesn’t mean there wasn't doctrine in the council documents, but the focus was more on implementing the doctrine already taught in today’s world rather than clarifying anything doctrinal. (2) – We are living through the implementation and fallout from this council unlike the other ones.

Now, the unique thing that has happened is that many people (according to Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI) did not interpret and implement the council documents in the manner that was in accord to what the Church intended. Therefore, overcoming these problems has led to some of the problems we see today.

But, Pope John Paul II saw his pontificate primarily as an opportunity to implement Vatican II’s graces into the life of the Church. Also, Benedict XVI has said that his pontificate is a continuation of what JPII did. So, we are still in the process of living out Vatican II.

But, we must be optimistic about the future because there are many signs that the Church has finally started to do a much better job of living out the graces of Vatican II. In fact, the signs are all around us here at St. Mary’s.

I hope that helps. If you want to read anything else, you can find some good commentary here:

What Went Wrong With Vatican II by Ralph McInerny
Pope John Paul II on Vatican II

Benedict XVI and Vatican II
One more article...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Contraception is the Root of our Problems

Think about it -
  • Contraception makes sex into an act of pleasure alone.
  • When it is only about pleasure, then it becomes a selfish act.
  • When sex is no longer about the "other", then when someone becomes pregnant it is an "accident".
  • Accidents can be fixed by abortion.
  • This contraceptive thinking makes relationships disposable.
  • Disposable relationships lead to broken families, poor (and single) mothers and children, and higher rates of crime, depression, etc.

It all starts with contraception. So, a program of this sort is just another part of the crumbling of our society...

More on this in the near future.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cardinal George hits the nail on the head

In a wonderful article (full article), Cardinal George of Chicago talks about how the Catholic Church and identity as Catholics. I will put a long excerpt here, but recommend the full article more. I have put emphasis in the excerpt myself.

At the time of the Reformation, when the visible unity of the Church was broken for doctrinal reasons, the Mass became a memorial service for most Reformers, its unity with Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary became purely “spiritual” and the objective, sacramental, substantial re-presentation of that sacrifice was denied. With the disappearance of the sacrifice of the Mass, the ordained priesthood was reduced to ministry, a function or service based only on baptism. The sacrament of Holy Orders was lost to the life of the Protestant faith communities. With the loss of ordained priesthood, the sacrament of penance or reconciliation became unnecessary, for neither the Church nor the priest mediated the penitent’s relationship to God’s mercy. Nor did the bond of marriage continue to enjoy the character of sacramentality, opening that tie to the contemporary reduction of marriage to an external, legal permission to have sex between two consenting adults. The individualism that is left when mediation disappears makes even the saints competitors with Christ, so there is no room for the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints to pray for us or care for us. At best, they become reminders of good behavior in past history; devotion to them is classed as a form of idolatry.

There are many good people whose path to holiness is shaped by religious individualism and private interpretation of what God has revealed. They are, however, called Protestants. When an informed and committed group of Catholics, such as the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, comes up with an agenda for discussion that is, historically, Protestant, an important point is being made. Catholics assimilated to American culture, which is historically Protestant, are now living with great tension between how their culture shapes them and what their Catholic faith tells them to hold.

This is not surprising. Many writers who claim to be Catholic make names for themselves by attacking truths basic to our faith. Without the personal integrity that would bring them to admit they have simply lost the faith that comes to us from the Apostles, they reconstruct it on a purely subjective, individualistic basis and call it renewal. The Second Vatican Council wasn’t called to turn Catholics into Protestants. It was called to ask God to bring all Christ’s followers into unity of faith so that the world would believe who Christ is and live with him in his Body, the Church. The de-programming of Catholics, even in some of our schools and religious education and liturgical programs, has brought us to a moment clearly recognized by the bishops in the Synod of 1985 (when the Catechism of the Catholic Church was proposed as a partial solution to confusion about the central mysteries of faith) and acknowledged by many others today.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Abortion and the UN

FYI - Since this week is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade you will see more on abortion than usual. Something we should NOT be proud of as a country is the exporting of the culture of death.

The United Nations is especially guilty of furthering the agenda of abortion activists. While most countries in the world have cultures that are pro-life, the UN has forced abortion on many of them under the guise of "human rights".

They are at it once again. Now they are charging Poland with failure to live up to a treaty giving women equal rights because it limits access to abortion, won't pay for contraceptives, and has a "conscience clause" for Doctors to opt out of performing abortions. Wow! Once again the agenda-driven UN leaders and bureaucrats go for the throat.

Have your voice heard too.

For more, here is an article about Poland, the UN and abortion.

Monday, January 22, 2007

College Students and Abortion

Sad but true - women in college are at highest risk of having abortions.

Here is a good article about what we have done and still need to do to reduce this statistic.

Pray to end abortion.

Friday, January 19, 2007

George Weigel Coming to St. Mary's

We have confirmed that George Weigel, John Paul II’s biographer, is coming to St. Mary’s and College Station on Sept 21-22. Please help us spread the word about this great opportunity for our community and campus ministry.

George Weigel, is a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News. He is a Roman Catholic theologian and one of America's leading commentators on religion and public life. He is author or editor of seventeen books including The Truth of Catholicism; The Courage To Be Catholic; Letters to a Young Catholic; and The Cube and the Cathedral. Full bio here.

Great Story

I have to share this one...

BETH MOORE AT THE AIRPORT

For those of you who don’t know Beth Moore, she is an outstanding Bible teacher, writer of Bible studies, and is a married mother of two daughters. She is a member of First Baptist in Houston. This is one of her experiences which has made its run around the Internet:

April 20, 2005

At the Airport in Knoxville


Waiting to board the plane, I had the Bible on my lap and was very intent upon what I was doing. I’d had a marvelous morning with the Lord. I say that because I want to tell you it is a scary thing to have the Spirit of God really working in you. You could end up doing some things you never would have done otherwise. Life in the Spirit can be dangerous for a thousand reasons not the least of which is your ego.

I tried to keep from staring, but he was such a strange sight. Humped over in a wheelchair, he was skin and bones, dressed in clothes that obviously fit when he was at least twenty pounds heavier. His knees protruded from his trousers, and his shoulders looked like the coat hanger was still in his shirt. His hands looked like tangled masses of veins and bones. The strangest part of him was his hair and nails. Stringy gray hair hung well over his shoulders and down part of his back. His fingernails were long, clean but strangely out of place on an old man.

I looked down at my Bible as fast as I could, discomfort burning my face. As I tried to imagine what his story might have been, I found myself wondering if I’d just had a Howard Hughes sighting. Then, I remembered that he was dead. So this man in the airport…..an impersonator maybe? Was a camera on us somewhere?

There I sat, trying to concentrate on the Word to keep from being concerned about a thin slice of humanity served on a wheelchair only a few seats from me. All the while my heart was growing more and more overwhelmed with a feeling for him. Let’s admit it. Curiosity is a heap more comfortable than true concern, and suddenly I was awash with aching emotion for this bizarre-looking old man. I had walked with God long enough to see the handwriting on the wall. I’ve learned that when I begin to feel what God feels, something so contrary to my natural feelings, something dramatic is bound to happen. And it may be embarrassing.


I immediately began to resist because I could feel God working on my spirit and I started arguing with God in my mind. “Oh, no, God, please, no.” I looked up at the ceiling as if I could stare straight through it into heaven and said, “Don’t make me witness to this man. Not right here and now. Please. I’ll do anything. Put me on the same plane, but don’t make me get up here and witness to this man in front of this gawking audience. Please, Lord!” There I sat in the blue vinyl chair begging His Highness, “Please don’t make me witness to this man. Not now. I’ll do it on the plane.” Then I heard it… ”I don’t want you to witness to him. I want you to brush his hair.”

The words were so clear, my heart leapt into my throat, and my thoughts spun like a top. Do I witness to the man or brush his hair? No-brainer. I looked straight back up at the ceiling and said, “God, as I live and breathe, I want you to know I am ready to witness to this man. I’m on this Lord. I’m you’re girl! You’ve never seen a woman witness to a man faster in your life. What difference does it make if his hair is a mess if he is not redeemed? I am on him. I am going to witness to this man.”

Again, as clearly as I’ve ever heard an audible word, God seemed to write this statement across the wall of my mind. “That is not what I said, Beth. I don’t want you to witness to him. I want you to go brush his hair.” I looked up at God and quipped, “I don’t have a hairbrush. It’s in my suitcase on the plane. How am I supposed to brush his hair without a hairbrush?”

God was so insistent that I almost involuntarily began to walk toward him as these thoughts came to me from God’s word: “I will thoroughly furnish you unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:17 I stumbled over to the wheelchair thinking I could use one myself.

Even as I retell this story my pulse quickens and as I retell this story, I feel those same butterflies.

I knelt down in front of the man and asked as demurely as possible, “Sir, may I have the pleasure of brushing your hair?” He looked back at me and said, “What did you say?” “May I have the pleasure of brushing your hair?” To which he responded in volume ten, “Little lady, if you expect me to hear you, you’re going to have to talk louder than that.” At this point, I took a deep breath and blurted out, “SIR, MAY I HAVE THE PLEASURE OF BRUSHING YOUR HAIR?” At which point every eye in the place darted right at me. I was the only thing in the room looking more peculiar than old Mr. Longlocks. Face crimson and forehead breaking out in a sweat, I watched him look up at me with absolute shock on his face, and say, “If you really want to.”

Are you kidding? Of course I didn’t want to. But God didn’t seem interested in my personal preference right about then. He pressed on my heart until I could utter the words, “Yes, sir, I would be pleased. But I have one little problem. I don’t have a hairbrush.” “I have one in my bag,” he responded. I went around to the back ot the wheelchair, and I got on my hands and knees and unzipped the stranger’s old carry-on, hardly believing what I was doing. I stood up and started brushing the old man’s hair.

It was perfectly clean, but it was tangled and matted. I don’t do many things well, but must admit I’ve had notable experience untangling knotted hair mothering two little girls. Like I’d done with either Amanda or Melissa in such a condition, I began brushing at the very bottom of the strands, remembering to take my time not to pull. A miraculous thing happened to me as I started brushing that old man’s hair. Everybody else in the room disappeared. There was no one alive for those moments except that old man and me. I brushed and I brushed and I brushed until every tangle was out of that hair.

I know this sounds so strange, but I’ve never felt that kind of love for another soul in my entire life. I believe with all my heart, I - for that few minutes - felt a portion of the very love of God. That He had overtaken my heart for a little while like someone renting a room and making Himself at home for a short while. The emotions were so strong and so pure that I knew they had to be God’s. His hair was finally as soft and smooth as an infant’s. I slipped the brush back in the bag, went around the chair to face him.

I got back down on my knees, put my hands on his knees, and said, “Sir, do you know my Jesus?” He said, “Yes, I do.” Well, that figures, I thought. He explained, “I’ve known Him since I married my bride. She wouldn’t marry me until I got to know the Savior.” He said, “You see, the problem is, I haven’t seen my bride in months. I’ve had open-heart surgery, and she’s been too ill to come see me. I was sitting here thinking to myself, what a mess I must be for my bride.”

Only God knows how often He allows us to be part of a divine moment when we’re completely unaware of the significance. This, on the other hand, was one of those rare encounters when I knew God had intervened in details only He could have known. It was a God moment, and I’ll never forget it. Our time came to board, and we were not on the same plane. I was deeply ashamed of how I’d acted earlier and would have been so proud to have accompanied him on that aircraft.

I still had a few minutes, and as I gathered my things to board, the airline hostess returned from the corridor, tears streaming down her cheeks. She said, “That old man’s sitting on the plane, sobbing. Why did you do that? What made you do that?” I said, “Do you know Jesus? He can be the bossiest thing!” And we got to share.

I learned something about God that day. He knows if you’re exhausted because you’re hungry, you’re serving in the wrong place, or it is time to move on, but you feel too responsible to budge. He knows if you’re hurting or feeling rejected. He knows if you’re sick or drowning under a wave of temptation. Or He knows if you just need your hair brushed. He sees you as an individual. Tell Him your need!

I got on my own flight, sobs choking my throat, wondering how many opportunities just like that one I had missed along the way… all because I didn’t want people to think I was strange. God didn’t send me to that old man. He sent that old man to me.

John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Life shouldn’t be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly shouting, “Wow! What a ride! Thank You, Lord!”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Benedict Evangelizes Soccer Star

I love to hear a good conversion story. Well, it appears that Pope Benedict XVI had a huge influence on a German soccer legend. Enough to lead him back to the Church. Here is the full article.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why do Catholics Sing In Mass?

Ever wonder why some Catholics sing and some don't during Mass? Well, a new study attempts to answer that question. Some interesting findings include different ideas from those involved in doing the music and those who aren't.

Those who don't help with the music are more likely to sing if it is an easy song and they are familiar with it. Those involved in the doing the music have different ideas.

Here is the full survey.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Important Task Force

Our Diocese has had an important Task Force formed last year that is addressing the scourge of pornography. I am a member of the Task Force and The Catholic Spirit has an article about the mission and purpose of it. I recommend it.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I was an embryo once too...


Another article on stem cells continues to prove the point that embryonic stem cell research isn't helping anyone live better or fuller lives, but is destroying it instead.

There is no certainty we will ever find any treatment using this technique. They can't get past the problems with tumors, mutations, rejections by the host, and the fact that there is no certainty that it will ever be able to become adult stem cells. This opinion piece is absolutely amazing in shooting it down...

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Emotions

A few questions to get us thinking:

*Do our emotions mean more in our faith-life than what we know deep in our hearts and minds?
*When our emotions aren't all positive, how do we react in prayer?
*Have we relied on our emotions to dictate how we treat others?

Part of Christian discipleship is self-mastery. Part of self-mastery is controlling how we react to our emotions. Easier said than done, right?

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Pope Benedict's Christmas homily

From PB16's homily on Christmas:
Christ gives himself to us and, in doing so, gives us his peace. He gives it to us so that we can carry the light of peace within and give it to others. He gives it to us so that we can become peacemakers and builders of peace in the world. And so we pray: Lord, fulfil your promise! Where there is conflict, give birth to peace! Where there is hatred, make love spring up! Where darkness prevails, let light shine! Make us heralds of your peace! Amen.
If you want to read the entire homily, which isn't very long, you can find it here.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

U.S. Bishops Statements

The US Bishops Conference issued a series of statements after their annual November meeting that may collectively be the best series of statements they have ever issued. I highly recommend them all.

*Statement on Iraq
*Worthily Receiving Christ in the Eucharist
*Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination
*Married love and the Gift of Life