Sunday, December 30, 2007


When Christians hurt one another it is a bad witness. When clergy beat each other up with broom handles in a church for 15 minutes over how it should be cleaned, in the birthplace of Christ no less, it is scandalous.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Strange Doesn't Do It Justice

I am guessing that most of our readers know the Mac commercials that have the two men, one who plays a Mac and the other a PC. Well, the man who plays the PC, John Hodgman, is also on The Daily Show. Well, he does this video which is a rip-off of Ken Burns' Civil War and other documentary.

Tip O' The Hat to Mark Shea.

Catholic Exchange Article

Here is my first article for Catholic Exchange on evangelization.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tony Blair Becomes Catholic

After a few years of rumors about Tony Blair's impending reception into the Catholic Church, it has finally happened. I know that I am behind a bit on the story, but I do have a few thoughts.

1 - His reception into the Church would be preceded by a profession of faith. It says the following:
"I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God."
Since he had to profess the statement above, I believe he should be given the benefit of the doubt that he means what he has professed (and therefore had a change of heart and mind) - including belief in those issues where he has opposed Church teaching (e.g., abortion, fetal stem cell research, homosexual "marriage", etc)

2 - This is actually a good time to say "judge not". Read my article on the proper usage and application of the above phrase.

3 - I still believe that he should recant his former positions, assuming he has changed his mind. Since he publicly professed opposition to the Church before becoming Catholic, he should publicly stand with the Church now that he is Catholic.

4 - Pray for him. Whether or not he has changed his mind, being a faithful Catholic in today's culture is not easy.

Some articles on the story:
The Times

O Holy Night

I am not a Celine Dion fan, but she does have an amazing voice, as is demonstrated in this version of another one of my favorite Christmas songs.

Best Christmas Cartoon

Charlie Brown's Christmas - none better.

Tip O' The Hat to Mark Shea.

Merry Christmas

Remember that Christmas doesn't end on Dec 25th - it starts.

Tip O' the Hat to Rocco at Whispers.

English Lyrics of "Once in Royal David's City" -
Once in royal David's city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior Holy.

And through all His wondrous childhood
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly Maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood's pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
Set at God's right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

82% of America is Christian?

I don't think a lot of the people who say they are Christian know what being a Christian means.

As the Pope said in Deus Caritas
We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.
Now it is our turn to help those who have a faulty idea of being a Christian come to a real understanding, and relationship, with the person of Christ.


The Pope hails persecuted Christians as the modern martyrs.

Yes, there are Christians still being persecuted around the world. Especially in places such as India and North Korea.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Break

Merry Christmas to all of you who read our blog. We will be posting (at least) by this time next week again. But, if we don't get anything else up, may your celebration of Jesus' birthday be a time of blessing for you.

Think of the picture as being taken in Bethlehem by an angel.

College Students and Faith

A continuing study into the spiritual and religious lives of college students confirms what many of us already know. College students lose their faith more often than they gain it at most schools. But, there is good news.

First the bad news:
Among incoming freshmen, for example, 43.7% said they frequently attend services; by the end of their junior year, that was down to 25.4%. Also, 37.5% of juniors said they did not attend services, up from 20.2% who said so as new freshmen.
Some good news:
One area of potential opportunity: in the classroom. Nearly 60% of students said their professors never encouraged discussions of religious or spiritual matters, and fewer than 20% said their professors "frequently" encouraged exploration of questions of meaning and purpose.
Now, they also say that juniors/seniors seem to be more concerned with helping others and they haven't figured out why. I can tell you in one word - maturity. Most freshman are teenagers. Most seniors are adults (notice "most" is an important word here) in their maturity levels.

We have a long way to go to overcome the obstacles that are in the way of faith in higher education.

Friday Fun - Home Schoolers!

Friday Fun for home schoolers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cheese With that Whine

Oh my. No matter how well off people have it, they find something to complain about - that is, when Christ isn't what they are seeking.

Makes this statement by the Pope even more meaningful:
men and women of our time, who live and receive Christmas in such a way that unfortunately, they often suffer from a materialistic mentality.

Father Elijah - The Movie

Another movie project has been announced. This one is based on the Michael O'Brien book, Father Elijah. If it is done well, it could be very good - I enjoyed the book.

Tip O' The Hat to Carl at Ignatius Insight.

Hard As Nails

There is a ministry that is getting a lot of publicity lately. There is an HBO movie about it, a Nightline interview, NY Times,, etc.

The name of the ministry is Hard As Nails. It focuses on re-creating the true cost of sin, by showing what kind of suffering Christ (and others) have gone through because of it. The radical nature of the way they present the Gospel has both good and not so good aspects.

My take? You shall know a tree by it's fruits. If it is bearing fruit, then may God bless them abundantly.

Tip o' The Hat to Amy Welborn.

Vatican and the UN

The Vatican has been at odds with the UN over many issues. But, this time they both agree - a moratorium on the death penalty is a good thing.

I agree.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Hobbit

Peter Jackson has agreed to make the Hobbit into a new movie. Sweet!

Huckabee Causes a Stir

By simply referring to "Christ" in a campaign commercial, Mike Huckabee has cause quite a stir in some circles. I don't think there is anything wrong with it, but it won't have a bearing on whether I vote for him or someone else.

The comments I have seen about the video are pretty over the top and the video is quite benign.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Letters To The Editor

In our local paper, the following letter was printed on December 11:

Try to get along

Pope Benedict XVI (Eagle, Dec. 1) in a recent encyclical urges Christians to put less emphasis on individual salvation and more on community and on eliminating suffering and misery. The pope goes on to caution that only God can be truly successful in such an endeavor.

I have two observations: If God can eliminate all suffering and misery but doesn't do so, he is not a very loving and compassionate God. The pope seems to be calling for a move away from the mystical Jesus created by Paul in the second century and a return to the first century historical Jesus.

Abundant research by Fellows of the Jesus Seminar ( and many others shows that the historical Jesus was not concerned with abortion, homosexuality, evolution, sin, life after death and other issues that seem to dominate the thoughts and actions of many Christians today. Rather, the historical, Jewish Jesus was concerned with the misery and suffering of his poor and powerless Jewish neighbors who were being exploited by a powerful Roman Empire and by a powerful religious elite.

Jesus' teachings were much more important than was his person to his first-century followers. Over the past 200 years, biblical scholars have been able to strip away the additions to and distortions of these teachings. What are left are excellent guidelines for how we should live together as a community.

I agree with the pope. Let's follow the advice of the historical Jesus and try to get along with each other.

College Station

My reply was printed yesterday on December 16.

Wrong assertions

Bob Presley (Eagle, Dec. 11) makes many assertions about the Pope's intentions in his new encyclical, the mercy of God, and the historical Jesus -- none of which I agree with.

First, Presley says that the pope seems to be calling us away from Paul's understanding of Jesus and to a more historical rendering. It is quite obvious from this assertion that Presley has read little that Benedict XVI has written.

In his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict is extremely cautious of the historical-critical method of exegesis, in particular the Jesus Seminar -- which has been rejected by Christian scholars worldwide, because it is merely a debunking scheme masked as bad scholarship. The pope says that such scholarship blurs the true historical nature of Jesus, which is found in the Bible, and leaves Christian faith behind.

Second, we brought suffering upon ourselves because of our fall. If we are to truly study history we will see that "just getting along" hasn't gotten us very far. Rather, it takes a sacrifice of our own selfishness to accomplish true peace. This is a peace that can only be found in a loving God, not one manufactured by sinful man.

True peace isn't just "getting along," but rather, as the pope says in his encyclical, is found in a relationship with Christ, which should be both personal and communal. The fact that God allows us to suffer doesn't negate true love. True love is to want what is best for the other - and suffering in this life isn't the worst thing that could happen to us.

Assistant Director
of Campus Ministry
St. Mary's Catholic Center
College Station

Monday Morning Manger Scenes

*The Pope on the real meaning of Christmas:
Joy enters the hearts of those who put themselves at the service of the smallest and poorest. God resides in those who love in this way, and he animates them with joy. If instead happiness is made an idol, then the road to true joy, the joy of which Christ speaks, is impossible to find. Unfortunately this is the proposition of cultures which place individual happiness in the place of God, a mentality which finds its emblematic effects in the search for pleasure at all costs, in the spreading of the use of drugs as an escape, a refuge in an artificial paradise, which reveals it to be just an illusion. Dear brothers and sisters, even at Christmas you can make a wrong turn, and mistake the real feast with that which does not open hearts to the joy of Christ.
Read the entire homily.

*Speaking of trying to manufacture happiness, In-Vitro Fertilization clinics have now started screening out babies because of a high-cholesterol gene. Since I have inherited high cholesterol from my parents (though it is under control by medication), I guess I am a candidate for being culled as well.

*Oh my! The Horror! The White House dares to send out a Christmas card that contains actual Scripture verses! AAAHHHHH!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Our Back Yard

“He covers the sky with clouds”
-Psalm 147:8

“Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion?”
-Job 36:29

“The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky”
-Daniel 4:11

Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization

The full text of the note is here.

Evangelization From the Vatican

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a document today on evangelization. I can't wait to read the whole thing, but it isn't out in English just yet. So, I have to settle for the summary.

Here are some highlights of the summary:

The reason for the Note:
Today there is "a growing confusion" about the Church’s missionary mandate. Some think "that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom," suggesting that it is enough to invite people "to act according to their consciences", or to "become more human or more faithful to their own religion", or "to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity", without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith. Others have argued that conversion to Christ should not be promoted because it is possible for people to be saved without explicit faith in Christ or formal incorporation in the Church. Because "of these problems, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged it necessary to public the present Note."
Cultural implications:

4. While some forms of agnosticism and relativism deny the human capacity for truth, in fact human freedom cannot be separated from its reference to truth. Human beings are given intellect and will by God that they might come to know and love what is true and good. The ultimate fulfillment of the vocation of the human person is found in accepting the revelation of God in Christ as proclaimed by the Church.

7. Through evangelization, cultures are positively affected by the truth of the Gospel. Likewise, through evangelization, members of the Catholic Church open themselves to receiving the gifts of other traditions and cultures, for "Every encounter with another person or culture is capable of revealing potentialities of the Gospel which hitherto may not have been fully explicit and which will enrich the life of Christians and the Church." [n. 6]

8. Any approach to dialogue such as coercion or improper enticement that fails to respect the dignity and religious freedom of the partners in that dialogue has no place in Christian evangelization.

Implications for the Church:

10. For Christian evangelization, "the incorporation of new members into the Church is not the expansion of a power-group, but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, different continents and ages." In this sense, then, "the Church is the bearer of the presence of God and thus the instrument of the true humanization of man and the world."

Ecumenical implications (I am guessing this is especially pointed to Russia and South America):

13. When Catholic evangelization takes place in a country where other Christians live, Catholics must take care to carry out their mission with "both true respect for the tradition and spiritual riches of such countries as well as a sincere spirit of cooperation." Evangelization proceeds by dialogue, not proselytism. With non-Catholic Christians, Catholics must enter into a respectful dialogue of charity and truth, a dialogue which is not only an exchange of ideals, but also of gifts, in order that the fullness of the means of salvation can be offered to one’s partners in dialogue. In this way, they are led to an ever deeper conversion to Christ.

"In this connection, it needs also to be recalled that if a non-Catholic Christian, for reasons of conscience and having been convinced of Catholic truth, asks to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church, this is to be respected as the work of the Holy Spirit and as an expression of freedom of conscience and of religion. In such a case, it would not be question of proselytism in the negative sense that has been attributed to this term."
14. The Doctrinal Note recalls that the missionary mandate belongs to the very nature of the Church. In this regard it cites Pope Benedict XVI: "The proclamation of and witness to the Gospel are the first service that Christians can render to every person and the entire human race, called as they are to communicate to all God’s love, which was fully manifested in Jesus Christ, the one Redeemer of the world." Its concluding sentence contains a quotation from Pope Benedict’s first Encyclical Letter "Deus caritas est": "The love which comes from God unites us to him and ‘makes us a we which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is all in all (1 Cor 15:28)’."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Human Experience - A New Film

To quote myself -
Most movies just really don't excite me too much. I might enjoy a good movie, but I don't get too reactive one way or another.
"Most" is the correct word to describe me. But, then a movie comes along that is exciting for me. It sounds very different and challenging. From the makers of the vocations video Fishers of Men, this story is about two brothers true search for meaning in a world of suffering, death and violence. It is called The Human Experience. St. Thomas Aquinas (a local parish) is hosting two screenings on Feb15-16 and I think I will put it on my calendar.

I must admit, this is the kind of movie that gets my radar up and running.

Check out the trailer below:

Thursday Random Thoughts

*Even with the explanation in the article about scientific research, I still don't quite understand why you would want a cat that glows in the dark.

*Read the warning labels carefully. They might help you avoid death, for instance, this one reads, "Danger, Avoid Death".

*The Pope warns against using scare tactics when talking about the environment. Good for him. Good for us. While we are to be good stewards of the environment, many people have taken the Armageddon view of the world's destruction as imminent. It seems to me that, in some respects, they are just as off-base as those saying they know when Jesus is coming back.

*Below is a video of an abortionist admitting that he lies to his patients. Here is the story:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Great New Resource

This is a great resource. Bookmark it!

The Congregation for the Clergy now has a searchable Bible with commentary from the Magesterium and the Church Fathers.

Check it out.

Pro-life OB/GYNs asked to refer for abortions.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that all OB/GYNs, including those that are pro-life, refer women for abortions when asked. They state that conscientious objections don't matter.

For good news, read about a 20 year-old woman who is leading the fight for the right to be defined a "person" from the moment of conception.


Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

She is the patroness of the Americas and today is her feast day.

If you want to read an enlightening and fun post about how great the Church is doing and how to truly celebrate a feast day, read it from Rocco at Whispers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Favorite Comedian

If you have never seen Brian Regan, he is the funniest guy I have heard in my life. He is also clean and never tries to make others look worse than himself. He is what comedy should be. So, in honor of Brian, here is a look at some of his stuff.

Kant Attack Ad


Tip o' The Hat to Mark Shea.

USCCB and the Golden Compass

The US Bishops' conference employs a good number of people. Two of them work to review films for the USCCB. They gave the anti-Catholic/anti-Christian movie, The Golden Compass, a good review. Then New Line Cinema used the review in it's advertisement, in effect saying the US Bishops think it is a good movie for Catholics to support.

Some have gone as far as to call for the firing of the reviewers. Others have called for more balance. Now, the drama takes another twist. The US Bishops have pulled the review without explanation.

Read more at Insight Scoop and AP.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Planned Parenthood - Sickening

I find this "ad" sickening. Dawn Eden continues to provide some insights into the thinking of such an organization.

See more ads at the link above.

With that in mind, take the RoeIQ test.

I did well:
Congratulations! You've completed the Roe IQ Test.

You got 11 out of the 12 questions correct for a 91.67%.

That result puts you in the 99th percentile when compared to everyone who has taken the test.

Spidey Saves a Baby

A real-life Spiderman saved a baby from a burning building in Brazil. Hey, that is alliteration.


I briefly mentioned the movie in a post last week. It caused a bit of a stir in the combox discussion. I want to reiterate that I am not either pro or anti-Noelle. I am merely passing on the concerns of some others. I most likely won't see the movie, but that doesn't mean it isn't good for others. Most movies just really don't excite me too much. I might enjoy a good movie, but I don't get too reactive one way or another.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Churchy Stuff

*As someone who works in Campus Ministry, it is especially troubling to me when I see stories about Catholic universities that seem to be losing more of their Catholic Identity. Pray for the University of St. Thomas in Minn.

*Remember to go to Church tonight or tomorrow morning to fulfill the obligation for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. But, even more than an obligation, do it in order to join our prayers with our Immaculate Mother - Mary, in praise of her son, Jesus. Mary, pray for us.

*When a Pope says it, it sounds profound. If I said it, it would sound silly or pretentious. But, if it works for you:
Hope, therefore, transforms all personal, social and religious spheres. Christian hope is invoked in a prayer to Mary, the "Star of the Sea," which shines above us and guides us on our path; a path that should be run with the feet of hope.
*I can't wait for this document. Sounds like a timely and important one. Of course, anything written about evangelization is up my alley.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Star Wars???

Tip O' The Hat to Mark Shea for this one.

Mitt Romney's Speech

I don't do politics on this blog. I do faith, culture and other things.

That being said, Mitt Romney crossed into our territory in two ways:
1 - He gave his speech in my backyard. 2 miles from where I sit.
2 - He talked about faith, both his and my own.

Two days ago, I was asked by a reporter what I thought about the speech he was giving, especially in light of it being compared with Kennedy's speech about his Catholic faith. I gave a few reflections that I will echo here.

*I think the comparisons have some merit. Kennedy was addressing a group of Evangelical leaders who were afraid that the Pope would rule the USA from afar if Kennedy were to become President. Kennedy needed to allay those fears, but he went too far. His "personal belief, but" formula became the easy out for Catholics since then. Now, politicians all too frequently use it as the scapegoat. "I personally believe that abortion is wrong, but..." doesn't work. There is some anti-Mormonism in the USA. But, not as much anti-Catholicism as there used to be. The LDS church just isn't big enough to garner too much hate. But, he needs to address his faith, as did Kennedy - but unfortunately neither really got to the heart of the matter.

*I also told the reporter that I hope that Romney is a man of enough integrity to say he is Mormon, that what he believes impacts his life, and that those beliefs will shape the way he governs. It is a matter of conscience for someone to stand up and say what they believe, then to integrate that fully into their life. I don't believe he did that.

Now onto what he said.

I think he tried to do too much - and failed at much of what he wanted to achieve. But, a few pointed observations.

*He doesn't want to offend, that is obvious.
*He is not apt to shy away from being Mormon, but doesn't focus on it. This quote struck me:
My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.
Why can't we criticize it? If we believe something is wrong, then shouldn't we? I do believe, as the Catholic Church teaches, that Mormons are not Christians. But, they do share many of the same values. I consider Mormons to be allies in the culture wars.

But, he also said this, which I am glad to hear:
There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers – I will be true to them and to my beliefs.
Good for you. Stand up for what you believe in.
Lastly, I focus on the following:
We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'
Again, I agree, to a degree. The separation part is somewhat disconcerting.

One other small criticism. Very little is said about how his faith actually plays a part in his decision-making as a leader in government. This is important. Are they completely separate or are they integrated.

I hope it is the latter. Otherwise, why give this speech at all?

Wednesday's Wild Ways.

*Well, the Pope is from Germany. Another Mercedes won't hurt, will it.

*"Well, really, you see your honor...we, um, think that he should, you know, give the kid money and stuff." In all seriousness, I don't know who made the bigger mistake in this one.

*Why do I think a comedy would have more of an impact for the pro-life movement? Because it will reach more people who need to hear the message. We can debate whether it is really all that pro-life or not, but it appears that Juno has a basic message that could be a kind of "stealth" pro-life movie.

I Need One of These

But only one. I am not greedy or anything. Just one would do.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Candles are cool.

“Candles are cool,” a friend commented as we set up for a prayer meeting. “There is just something about them.”

“Yeah,” was all I could really add as my eyes were drawn to the flame. There is something neat about that flickering flame. It is much more soothing than fluorescent lighting. It has a soft glow. The flame is somehow both gentle and effective, peaceful and strong. Beautiful.

Last month I helped facilitate a prayer service that involved the lighting of candles. Each individual lit their candle from a larger candle. It was a beautiful idea, quite symbolic, but we had the wrong kind of matches. They were not intended to be lit and re-lit over and over. There were some awkward pauses, the smell of burning wood, and slightly panicked moments when the “flame” got out of control. But as I watched person after person light their match and candle, God spoke to me about some of the similarities to our faith, our spiritual flame. Here are my observations:

Lighting the match required going to the larger candle. We couldn’t manufacture the flame or will it into being. We had to get it from the source. The same is true of our faith. It is a gift. We can’t manufacture it. We must go to the source and receive.

Sometimes lighting the match required time. Often the participants had to hold the match to the flame for a good 30 seconds before it would light. Patience was essential. The same is true of our faith. We are quite accustomed to immediate results, high-speed searches, fast food fixes, and instant gratification. Faith is ultimately about a relationship with God. Relationships take time. We must go to the source, and remain there, letting God work his grace in us over time.

Away from the source, the match’s flame would sometimes go out. If someone moved away from the larger candle too quickly, the tiny flame that had caught would go out. A flicker had begun, but it hadn’t had time to grow and gather strength. Sometimes we easily catch a flame of faith, a moment of inspiration, purpose, hope, or trust. But then we return to life as usual and the tiny flicker goes out. Again, we must remain with the Source (of all life, purpose, hope, trust) and let him strengthen us.

It was always possible to relight. When the match did go out, we knew exactly what to do. Go to the source. If only we were this logical in our spiritual lives. Sometimes when our match of faith goes out we panic. We spend so much time wishing it hadn’t, being ashamed of why it did, or trying to manufacture the flame again on our own. We wonder if we’re worthy and doubt if God is capable of re-lighting our flame. We can bypass that misery by simple putting our match to God’s flame. Over and over if we need to, trusting our heart to His.

And lastly, it was possible to light another candle with the new flame. This was, after all, the whole objective of the prayer activity. When we have faith and remain close to the Source we can (and should!) share our flame with others.

Today may we remember the faith we have been given. Care for it, fan it into flame, and always remain close to the Source.

Candles are indeed cool.

Golden Compass gets a Beating

Amy Welborn completely dismantles the arguments that some are making about the Golden Compass being good for children and faithful Catholics.

On another note about the movie, Bishop Listecki has warned his flock not to see it.

Of course, our own Bishop Aymond warned against it first - not that it is a race or anything.

Pope's Visit to USA gets Website

Zenit has a story about the Catholic University in America launching a website for the Pope's visit to the US. See it here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Thesis on Mother Teresa

A friend of mine (and Godmother of my daughter Anna) just finished her Master's Thesis in Communication Studies. The title of her thesis is "Give until it hurts: the speeches and letters of Mother Teresa". I told her I would read it, and I will, but it is going to hurt me to do so, because it is 100 page long - and I am not sure I will understand all the analysis she is going to put it through. But, nonetheless, a deal is a deal. If you want to read it all, then here is the link to it. The abstract is below:
Although Mother Teresa has been described as one of the most publicized women of the twentieth century, her speeches have often been criticized and/or unexamined due to their perceived rhetorical inadequacies. This thesis examines four speeches and letters by Mother Teresa using a close textual analysis. Through close textual analysis, this study finds that within the simplicity of her discourse lies a multi-faceted way of expressing her complex faith to an array of audiences. She selects from a few consistent tools of persuasion, such as the redefinition of regularly used terms such as love, poverty, and giving. She tackles multiple moral and theological matters, but explains each of them by how they relate to the topic of giving. Her words mirror the theological ideas of her religious counterparts of the twentieth century, such as Pope John Paul II. However, her discourse is unadorned, and reflects the simplicity of the life that she lived and her worldview on life.
Good job Roni! I am proud of you. Jesus is too - for evangelizing through all this hard academic work.

Life is a roller coaster. Strap yourself in.

Growing up I loved roller coasters. The unexpected turns that solicit a quick yelp, the random twists that feel like flying, the big hills that give a glorious view of the park, the big dips that make you wonder when you’ll pull up again. Fun times.

I’ve decided lately that life is a bit like a roller coaster.

There are certainly the unexpected turns. Things we thought would happen don’t. (We are still without job, home, savings, children, spouse, etc.) Things we never thought would happen do (A loved one dies, falls ill, is injured, killed, is wayward.) Of course there are the happy unexpected turns as well, but often we forget those.

There are random twists. The twist of betrayal, of injury, of hurt, of family dysfunction. Things seem all out of whack. It feels like “flying” alright, but more like free falling.

Gratefully there are big hills. Moments when we feel God lift us up. We see clearly. We are filled with zeal, commitment, and the pursuit of holiness. We are optimistic, idealistic, and we feel as if St. Paul’s words are true for us as well, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” But the getting up the hill is sometimes more laborious and we usually climb anxiously and begrudgingly. Sometimes we are dragged.

Then we experience the big dips, the downward side of the hill. It feels as if the bottom dropped out. Who am I? Where am I headed? Is God really in control? Does He really care about me? Does He really love me? When will this pain, illness, heartache, desperation, debt, or temptation end? You may feel you’re riding with arms up and flailing, screaming at the top of your lungs.

Yes, life is like a roller coaster. If we expect smooth sailing, we’ll be sorely disappointed. But if we can begin to enjoy the ups and downs, the twists and turns, the unexpected perspectives it will be much more pleasant.

How is that possible? How can we “enjoy” the ups and downs of life? How can the dips and twists ever be remotely pleasant?

Well, how can one enjoy a roller coaster? Because you are strapped into the car. You are safe.

The psalmist says: “My soul clings to thee; thy right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:8) “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 18:2) “The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1) “ . . . for thou alone, O LORD, makest me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)

There were no roller coasters in ancient times, but there was life and all the ups and downs that go with it. The psalmist new what to do: to cling, to take refuge, and to strap himself to safety, to his God.

This is what we can do as well. Strap ourselves to God in prayer. This is a powerful image for me. It is no guarantee we will feel no pain or no fear through the ups and downs. (Being strapped into a roller coaster does not prevent your stomach from dropping or your pulse from racing.) But the strap ensures you’ll arrive safely to the end of the ride.

You can enjoy the ride (emphasis on the word joy – which is something different and deeper than fleeting pleasure) because you’re strapped in safety to the one who is in control of all things.

Life is a roller coaster. Strap yourself in.

Tuesday Tidbits

*The Golden Compass is still causing quite a stir. Insight Scoop does a good job of fisking those that are claiming it is good for the soul and that Catholics who are debating the story are over-reacting.

*The American Papist has an interesting story on how New Line Cinema is now spinning a quote from the USCCB to try and show that they support the Golden Compass.

*Benedict XVI's prayer intention for December - "That human society may be solicitous in the care of all those stricken with AIDS, especially children and women, and that the Church may make them feel the Lord's love." Mission Intention - "That the incarnation of the Son of God, which the Church celebrates solemnly at Christmas, may help the peoples of the Asiatic Continent to recognize God's Envoy, the only Savior of the world, in Jesus."

*Zenit has an article where the Pope sums up Spe Salvi.

*Mitt Romney is coming here, to the largest Catholic University in the USA (Texas A&M), to talk about his Mormon faith.

*SCHIP = more contraception for kids, less parental involvement.

*Russian Orthodox say if the Vatican abolishes Catholic Dioceses in Russia, then all problems are solved. Well, does that mean the Orthodox would abolish their dioceses in Catholic territories? I doubt it, the double-standard still exists.

*Some critics are saying that the movie Noelle is anti-Catholic.

Prayer for Final Exams

God of Wisdom, I thank you for the knowledge gained and the learning experiences of the semester. I come to you this day and ask you to illuminate my mind and heart. Let your Spirit be with me as I prepare for exams, guiding my studies, and giving me insight so that I can perform to the best of my ability.

Please grant me the strength to handle the pressure during these final days of the semester, the confidence to feel secure in my knowledge, and the ability to keep an appropriate perspective through it all. Help me to keep in mind what is truly important, even as I focus my time and energy on these tests in the immediate future.

Finally, may I sense your peace in knowing that I applied myself to the challenges of this day.
+ Amen +

Monday, December 3, 2007

Advent Stuff

1 - Here is a cool Advent calendar. Check it out. One of the best Advent sites I have ever seen.

2 - The Dominican friars in DC are doing a series of videos and articles on Advent. Check it out here. Below is the video:

3 - Thanks to Jeff at the Curt Jester for the advent wreath and countdown to Christmas to the right.

4 - Tip o' the Hat to AP for this beautiful stamp the USPS has this season.

5 - Catholic Fire offers tips to help celebrate Advent.

6 - The Ironic Catholic has a great video about the "True Meaning of Christmas".

7 - Danielle Bean is posting on Advent daily.

8 - Ignatius Insight has a great article by Fr. Baker about The Meaning of Advent.

9 - If you have any more Advent suggestions, then please put them in the combox.

10 - Finally, here is a little reflection I wrote for a local newsletter.

The Spirit of Advent

The Advent season brings with it a number of joys, expectations and opportunities to celebrate. It also brings with is crass consumerism, exploitation of the true meaning of Christmas and an opportunity for self-indulgence. We should be careful, this holiday season, to truly celebrate the most monumental moment in human history – the Incarnation of Christ.

Advent is a season of preparation for the birth of the Lord. Just as the Israelites awaited the birth of the Messiah for generations upon generations, so we await the coming of our king – Jesus. Many Israelites waited to see the day of salvation when the Anointed One would be crowned king and save the nation from captivity, a wordly salvation. But, the day never arrived during their earthly life, because Christ brought a spiritual kingdom. We, on the other hand, have been blessed to live in this Kingdom of God – the age of the Church. So, our anticipation of salvation must be re-lived every year as a commemoration of Christ becoming man. But, we too can be caught up in believing that our salvation is of an earthly form.

Think of a mall or large store in the weeks of Advent, decorated with Christmas decorations since Halloween. They are crowded with many people searching for presents for friends and family. They may be shopping for items for the office “holiday party” or for something to decorate their homes with. Unfortunately, this really has nothing to do with Advent, as the church understands it. Our culture has inculcated in us a desire to give and receive objects, to celebrate with eggnog and by putting up Santa in our yards. While these things are not bad in and of themselves, they certainly can serve as a distraction for us.

I recently heard that “this season is about loved ones and celebrations”. While spending time with friends and family is a good thing, for Catholics the season of Advent is not all about celebrations. More than celebrations, Advent is an opportunity to make the spiritual preparation for God becoming man a sacred opportunity to grow in faith, hope, and love. We need to stop, which is difficult enough in our busyness, and reflect on the fact that the supreme being, the omnipotent One, the Alpha and Omega, the Lion of Judah, the Morningstar, the Messiah, King, and our Lord and Savior – GOD – humbled Himself to take on our fallen nature in order that we might be raised up with him to the heavenly heights of the divine.

Instead we settle for mistletoe, stockings, and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.

I would like to propose some practical ways in which we might turn this season into one of hopeful preparation and penance. But first, we must remember that while the Advent season is a penitential one, it isn’t quite as somber as Lent, because of the Joy that accompanies the expectation of Christ’s birth.

Suggestion #1 – Pray throughout the season. Simple and common sense for a Christian, it is also the most important part of making the season truly sacred. Without this prayerful connection to God, we cannot expect the season to be a spiritual success. Advent traditional prayer activities include the Advent wreath, Jesse Tree, and Posadas. You can also use an Advent devotional to help as a daily prayer guide. Of course the Eucharist and the Mass should be the center of any prayer life.

Suggestion #2 – Give your self as a gift to the less fortunate. There are ample opportunities to serve those less fortunate than ourselves. Spend an afternoon at a shelter or food bank. Help build a Habitat for Humanity house. Buy a gift for a needy child or family using the giving tree. Help St. Vincent de Paul distribute food and gifts to families in need. Visit the elderly or sick in a nursing home or hospital. These are the kind of gifts that require true sacrifice, but also have an eternal reward.

Suggestion #3 – Try to spread the real meaning of the season. This suggestion might be the most difficult for some. This means we don’t go overboard with Christmas until Advent is over. You might try some simple suggestions to help anticipate Christmas.

-If you have a manger scene at home, don’t put Jesus into it until the morning of Christmas. We have started a tradition of having the three wise men wander throughout our house until Epiphany. The children look forward to "finding" where the three statues.

-Progressively decorate. Remember that our Christmas lights and decorations are a symbol of the “light of the world” – Jesus – coming into the darkness. He isn’t here until Christmas, so postpone all the lights until then.

-Allow yourself to slow down. Try not to rush through Advent in order to “get to the good stuff” of Christmas.

-Donate money to your local charity in the name of a loved one. Give this as a gift instead of another item from the store.

Whatever you do to make Advent a special time of preparation, remember that nothing is as important as nurturing the relationship you have with Jesus. Simeon and Anna waited their entire lives for the Messiah to come, and when they finally met the babe in the Temple, they were filled with the greatest joy imaginable. Let us await Christ in Advent in order that our hearts may also be able to overflow with gratitude and then truly say, as Simeon did -

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people.
A light to reveal you to the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel. – Luke 2: 29-32

New Label

Because I love reading Sarah's reflections (our writing is very different and gives me a different perspective), and I know others do as well, I have created a new label entitled "Sarah" for those wanting to find her reflections a little easier.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Step by Step

When I was a little kid we had to do a “how to” presentation. I think I did mine on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As an adult that seems so simple, but I recall the order of the steps being very important to me.

This past week I’ve been helping a friend refinish her bathroom and again I was reminded the importance of the order of the steps. We had about 10 projects going on and I had to sit down and see which order things must be done in and how much drying time was required between each.

In both cooking (if you can call making peanut butter and jelly cooking) and home repair the order of the steps is important. This morning as I was reading one of the gospel stories, I was reminded that the order of the steps is important in our spiritual life as well.

I read Luke 13:10-17 – the story of the woman who was bent over for 18 years and was healed by Jesus on the Sabbath. As I read, something neat happened. Sentences I would usually have simple viewed as “scene setting” or chronology spoke to me. There was a neat ordering of things, a certain step by step process to the healing.

Step 1: Put yourself in the presence of God. The passage begins simple enough, setting the scene: “Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years;” The phrase “in one of the synagogues” stood out to me. Jesus was there. The woman was there. She was in pursuit of God. She had put herself in Christ’s presence. That is step one. We cannot start anywhere else.

Step 2: Admit you cannot fix the problem on your own. A small little descriptive phrase spoke volumes to me: “she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.” She could not straighten herself. She could not. And she knew this. She was aware of her limitations. To be aware of our limitations is not weakness. It is humility. And it is a very important second step.

Step 3: Believe. “And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.’” How strange those words must have sounded. Infirmed for 18 years and now you say I’m free? I’m not sure I would have believed him. Perhaps I would have walked off embarrassed or frustrated, convinced he knew nothing of my infirmity and wasn’t able to help me. But she believed. A very important step.

Step 4: Receive. “And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight.” Simple. We aren’t told how the healing felt. Did it hurt? Did she hear the creaking and crackling of each bone as her body straightened? Those are perhaps questions I would have asked. “Lord, is this gonna hurt?” She didn’t delay. She received. She allowed the Lord to lay his hands on her and to heal. Another essential step.

Step 5: Give thanks. The action ends with this: “and she praised God.” Remember step 2? This healing was something beyond her doing. She was humble enough to know she couldn’t do this on her own. Now, from that humility flows her praise. She was grateful to the Lord who did for her what she could not. A final step.

I am certainly not suggesting some “magical” formula for healing or change in our lives. “If you follow these 5 simple steps you’ll have the perfect life/health/job/house/career/spouse/future you desire!” That reeks of infomercial.

But today, if you find yourself in need of some grace, some help, or some healing - follow the example of the woman in Luke 13. Place yourself in God’s presence. Admit your limitations, your need for help. Believe. Receive. And praise Him for whatever He does in you.