Monday, August 31, 2009

Giving Your Testimony

Today, I was asked about how we can teach others to share their testimony or witness with others. Here is something I wrote up a while back. I hope you find it helpful.

Your story is like no other person’s on earth and to tell it is the easiest way of sharing your faith. This is simply witnessing to another about your own life and experiences, because you know your own story better than anyone else. There are several reasons we should witness to other people. The first reason is it is natural to do so. We are made for relationship and communion with one another. These relationships are formed by knowing the life and stories behind other people. To share your story is to let another person share in communion with you in a natural conversation.
The second reason is that telling your story is neither threatening nor demanding in the eyes of the listener. Many people are loath to have a discussion about doctrine regarding the Catholic Church’s teachings in many areas. But when you are merely telling another person about why you are at peace or why you have found forgiveness through God’s grace, this is something the other person is less likely to be defensive or threatened by. This lack of a threat then opens the door for further discussion and questions about their lives as well.

The third reason we tell our stories is because it is an easy way to show the power of the gospel message in a concrete way. While your brother may disagree with the Church’s teaching on contraception, he can’t say your experience of Christ is a counterfeit one. When we can show Christ’s power and love working in our lives and changing us it can be an effective tool in leading another person to the Lord. They will want what you have if you present it in a manner that is attractive to them.

-Working on your story
There are many different ways of telling another person about your life and experience with God. I will propose a basic outline used by many different evangelical and Catholic groups who train Christians in sharing their faith. When working through this technique of witnessing keep in mind we are all unique and beautiful in the eyes of God. The story needs to end on a high note even if it gets sad in parts. The point of witnessing is to let someone have a concrete example of grace changing you. You may think you don’t have anything to say, but if you work through these steps you will find there is an immense amount of good news in your life.

Step #1 – Explain the past
Start by telling what your life was like before you came to faith in Jesus Christ. For some this may mean you were a good kid in a good family who went to a good college and did good things. My wife has a story similar to this and it doesn’t have any real negatives. The point isn’t to make our lives seem like living hell before Jesus, but we are trying to get across this fact – my life was incomplete without God as the center of it.

You may not have one moment of time where you feel God was not in your life. If this is the case, then tell how your relationship with God has grown over time and what it was like before the deeper times with God. You don’t want to exaggerate your story. There may not be anything climatic or crazy to tell and that is fine. Be as honest as possible as well as brief. It need not be a lie or a snoozer.

Many people in the church today have either stopped practicing the faith they were raised in or they come from another faith tradition. If this is the case you want to be careful to not be disrespectful of the Catholic Church of any non-catholic faiths either. For example, if you were raised a Catholic and held a pro-abortion view you don’t want to talk negatively about others who may hold that view presently, because it takes away from the point of the witness if you do.

Also, be careful not to come across as preaching at another person or too high and mighty. You can quickly turn another person off of Jesus if they believe you think yourself too good for them. We don’t want to use negative language when speaking of people in our life either, even if they were a negative influence on us. There is no reason we need to put another person down in order for our testimony to be effective.

Another point to remember is to define your terms. In other words you must be careful with the language you use when giving your testimony to another person. When you say grace, what do you mean? Another Christian might even define it differently and you both need to be on the same page. If at all possible avoid theological language and speak to the person on a more personal level.

Once you start to explain the past be sure you are tell what the center of your life was. It could be another person, money, work, school, sex, alcohol, or just ‘getting by.’ Life sometimes has no purpose for many people. Share this feeling if it relates to your life. If you find it helpful you might even write down your testimony in order to get your thoughts straight.

Step #2 - Conversion
Now you need to talk about how your life changed. This may be a singular moment in time, such as Paul on the way to Damascus or it could be a long story over many months or years. Conversion to Christ comes in many different forms, so take your time when thinking and praying about this part of your story.

You need to talk about your experiences with Christ as a child and how you first heard the good news. What happened when you heard the saving message of Christ? Where did this happen? Why did the conversion take place at this moment and not another? Was it at a moment in your life when you were facing challenges? If so, how did Christ help you with those challenges?

What were you thinking and feeling when you realized your life had changed? What motivated you to make the decision to accept God into your life? Once these questions are answered you will have a guide to help you better prepare your story. There is one more step left in the process.

Step #3 – Life with Christ
This is the most important part of your story. You need to be able to speak to the person’s heart as well as their mind in a compelling way. Tell them how your life is different and why it has changed. Speak from the heart and let them see your vulnerability and how Christ has acted upon your entire life. Let them know there are challenges, but also let them know how life is better. Tell them how your life is different now that grace is actively guiding you.

This last step should be accompanied by a statement or question to stir up the desire for Christ in the listener. This statement should be simple and straightforward, such as – I hope this story of my own experience of how Jesus changed my life was understandable. If I could answer any questions you may have about Christ or about the Catholic Church I would love to discuss them with you or discuss how to learn more about Christ and the Church.

This is a way to directly proclaim Christ to any person or group. You can write out your testimony if you feel you need to, but be careful to not present your story in a “canned” manner, it must be natural. The point isn’t to “close the deal” or to “sell” Jesus, but rather to allow the words of truth soak in and the power of the gospel message to work on a person.

You should be able to give a 1-2 minute presentation of your story as well as a fifteen minute presentation. This way you can tailor your story to different audiences. If you are asked to give your testimony before a small group and you have time you should give the longer version. But, if you are in a line to buy tickets to a concert you may not have as much time.

Be mindful of who you are talking to as well. You may need to emphasize different parts of your story for different people. For college students I emphasize how I was a college student struggling with sins many college student struggle with, so they can identify with me. If it is a mixed group of adults, both young and old, I talk more about how confession and grace played a part.

Fr. Barron on Ted Kennedy

Health Care

A reader sent me this article, which provoked further thoughts about health care reform. Now, I agree with much of what the author has to say, but not all of it and I believe articles such as this about the debate over health care aren't going away anytime soon. This is a good thing. We need to continue to talk and debate this through. But, we need to get down to brass tacks soon. So, I am going to try and throw some thoughts out there to see if I can't straighten them out for myself. But, I have a suprise for those who know me - I don't have all the answers (yes, I usually think that I do and I am probably wrong more often than I think I am).

Here are some principles that can guide us in our debate.

Principle #1 - ALL Human Life has dignity - Simple enough, but think of the ramifications. This isn't just a "Catholic" principle. It is a human one. It comes from the natural law. If we share a nature, we share the same rights which correspond to that nature. Hence, the right to life and the dignity of human life are shared. We must fight for those who cannot speak for themselves - the sick, the elderly, the children, the handicapped, etc. No life is without worth.

Principle #2 - Preferential Option For the Poor - The Church teaches, as did Jesus, that our love of God is reflected in how we treat the least amongst us. The poor are not to be forgotten in this debate. We should be the keepers of our brothers and sisters.

Principle #3 - Conscience Protections Are Non-negotiable - There are many forces out there which would want Christians to compromise their consciences and force them to practice medicine in violation of their conscience. This cannot happen. We cannot negotiate in this area.

Principle #4 - The Federal Government Should Be the LAST Option - Why should they be the last option? Because of subsidiarity, which is the social justice principle that every issue should be handled by the lowest-level or least centrally-organized group when possible. Thus, the federal government should be the safety net, not the primary operator.

Principle #5 - Basic Health Care is a Right, but Not all Health Care is "Basic" and the right is political, not human - This is where many disagree - what compromises "basic" health care? To answer this, it is easier for me to define what is NOT (e.g. abortion, sex-change surgery, sterilizations, elective cosmetic plastic surgery, etc.) For the right being political, not human, read Bishop Nickless' column on this subject.

Pray for our country during this debate. Pray for our leaders.

This Weekend

The good news from this past weekend:
-190 retreaters at our Welcome Weekend retreat for freshman and transfer students. This is 60 more than last year, which was a record. We will have to seriously look at having two retreats next year.

-Estimated 5,000 in masses this weekend, including 1,400 at the 11 AM mass. We had two masses at 11 AM - one in the Church and one in the Activity Center. Plus, we had a closed-circuit TV (we call it "Holy Vision") in the chapel. All were packed with people standing.

The bad news:
We had people leaving because they didn't want to stand throughout mass. I hope they came to a later mass, but the reality is that some probably didn't. Regardless, I am glad to see St. Mary's continue to grow. Now we have to handle the growth better.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Liturgy Reflection

St. Augustine

A great Saint and a Doctor of the Church. Today is his feast day.
"I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so." St. Augustine
St. Augustine and St. Monica (his mother) pray for us and our students!

Diocese of Austin News

1 - A message from the newly elected Diocesan Administrator:
On Monday, I was elected by the Consultors of the Diocese of Austin to serve as Administrator during the interim before a new bishop is named. I am very grateful for the confidence and trust my brother priests have placed in me. I look forward to serving the diocese in this way.

We do not know when a new bishop will be named; however, the process may take six months to one year. I hope each one of us and every parish community will pray daily for the person who will be named by the Holy Father as the bishop of Austin.

In the meantime, let us work together for the greater honor and glory of God and to advance the mission of Jesus Christ in our diocese. I assure you of my prayers for the diocese and for each person, especially those who are sick or in need.

During this Year for Priests, let us remember to pray for priests so that we may be holy and be renewed in spirit.

I thank everyone that has called, e-mailed or sent congratulatory notes. I gratefully acknowledge your best wishes.

Msgr. Michael Mulvey
Please keep Msgr. Mulvey in your prayers.

2 - The Matt Maher concert scheduled for this weekend at our neighboring parish, St. Thomas Aquinas, was cancelled because of an injury sustained by Matt Maher. Please keep him in your prayers.

Too Religious?

A court has decided that a homeschooled girl reflects "her mother's rigidity on questions of faith" and therefore can't be homeschooled. This is outrageous and very worrisome! Details below:
Although the marital master making recommendations to the court agreed the child is “well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level” and that “it is clear that the home schooling...has more than kept up with the academic requirements of the...public school system,” he nonetheless proposed that the Christian girl be ordered into a government-run school after considering “the impact of [her religious] beliefs on her interaction with others.” The court approved the order.

“Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children. In this case specifically, the court is illegitimately altering a method of education that the court itself admits is working,” said ADF-allied attorney John Anthony Simmons of Hampton. “The court is essentially saying that the evidence shows that, socially and academically, this girl is doing great, but her religious beliefs are a bit too sincerely held and must be sifted, tested by, and mixed among other worldviews. This is a step too far for any court to take.”

The parents of the child divorced in 1999. The mother has home-schooled their daughter since first grade with curriculum that meets all state review standards. In addition to home schooling, the girl attends supplemental public school classes and has also been involved in a variety of extra-curricular sports activities.

In the process of renegotiating the terms of a parenting plan for the girl, the guardian ad litem involved in the case concluded, according to the court order, that the girl “appeared to reflect her mother’s rigidity on questions of faith” and that the girl’s interests “would be best served by exposure to a public school setting” and “different points of view at a time when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief...in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”
In other words, she is too Christian. This needs to get turned around and quick. Injustice and another infringement on the rights of parents and religious freedom.
Tip o' the Hat to CMR.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Texting While Driving PSA

If you are going to make an effective Public Service Announcement (PSA), then this is the way to do it. This is from Wales and some think it is too graphic. Not me. Young people don't make good decisions and letting them see the possible consequences can help save lives.

New Sisters in Austin

The Diocese of Austin has a new order working in schools, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Their new motherhouse is being built here and we hope to have 100 sisters in a few years. Why the hope for rapid growth? Because they can't build fast enough to keep up with the amount of new members.
On August, 29, one day after the 17 new women arrive to join the community, the sisters are planning to host an event celebrating the completion of construction on the final new additions to their Motherhouse.

The construction, which started last May, brought the total number of monastic cells to 100, explained Sr. Maria Guadalupe Hallee, OP, director of mission advancement. “If all 17 Aspirants enter, we will have 99 Sisters – again, we are at capacity.”

“In short,” she added, “we can hardly build fast enough to keep up with the growth of the community.”
We look forward to having the Sisters visit us here at St. Mary's often.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sacramento to Roll Out 'Catholics Come Home'

I have said it before and will say it again. The best video ever done on the Catholic Church is the one below. Glad to hear that the Diocese of Sacramento is doing this. They are hopeful that 100,000 non-practicing Catholics will return to practicing their faith. Let us pray for their success. Part of the reason they are doing this is because it was pushed by an Aggie Catholic, Carson Weber, who is the Director of Evangelization in the diocese. Carson also does a very nice job with his podcasts and catechesis.

Conversion Is On God's Timetable

What a great story of conversion.
Famed Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke, who was at the Sarajevo Film Festival last week, told a Bosnian newspaper that he thanks God and his Catholic faith for giving him a “second chance” in life to overcome his addictions, which almost led him to commit suicide.

Speaking to the Bosnian daily “Avaz,” Rourke said, “God gave me a second chance in life and I thank Him.”

Rourke achieved fame in the 80s with action films and erotic thrillers. At the beginning of the 90s he left film for boxing and fell into heavy drug and alcohol addiction.

According to the newspaper, during the most difficult moments of his life, his psychiatrist and his priest were his best friends.

“When you fall people push you down even more. The world is full of materialism and envy. When you are famous and you fall, people don’t want you to come back. It is almost impossible to come back. It’s hard enough the first time, but the second time it’s like you don’t even exist …God gave me a second chance, the guy upstairs helped me out,” he said.

Several years ago Rourke began his return to the big screen and this year he won his first Golden Globe Award for the film “The Wrestler.” Rourke was also an Oscar favorite.

Now, he says, he doesn’t think about Hollywood much. “I don’t care about Hollywood and what the people of Hollywood think. I don’t think about how it works because I simply don’t care. I don’t even dream about it.”

In 2005, when he began to land bigger roles in films, he revealed to a magazine that he was meeting often with his pastor in New York and was on the verge of suicide. “If I weren’t Catholic I would have blown my brains out,” he said.

A Must See

Wow. I hope this gets a wide viewing after it is released.


Tip O' the hat to Patrick Madrid.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Catholic News

**Bishop D'Arcy, the Bishop of South Bend who has to deal with Notre Dame, has an interesting article about the issue of Catholic identity at Catholic universities. Here is how he wraps it all up:

As bishops, we must be teachers and pastors. In that spirit, I would respectfully put these questions to the Catholic universities in the diocese I serve and to other Catholic universities.

Do you consider it a responsibility in your public statements, in your life as a university and in your actions, including your public awards, to give witness to the Catholic faith in all its fullness?

What is your relationship to the church and, specifically, to the local bishop and his pastoral authority as defined by the Second Vatican Council?

Finally, a more fundamental question: Where will the great Catholic universities search for a guiding light in the years ahead? Will it be the Land O’Lakes Statement or Ex Corde Ecclesiae? The first comes from a frantic time, with finances as the driving force. Its understanding of freedom is defensive, absolutist and narrow. It never mentions Christ and barely mentions the truth. The second text, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, speaks constantly of truth and the pursuit of truth. It speaks of freedom in the broader, Catholic philosophical and theological tradition, as linked to the common good, to the rights of others and always subject to truth. Unlike Land O’Lakes, it is communal, reflective of the developments since Vatican II, and it speaks with a language enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

On these three questions, I respectfully submit, rests the future of Catholic higher education in this country and so much else.
**Factcheck.org has the facts about the proposed health care reform bill and abortion. The gist of the article:
As for the House bill as it stands now, it’s a matter of fact that it would allow both a "public plan" and newly subsidized private plans to cover all abortions.
Tip O' the hat to AmP.

"Big News" - Wait a Minute

It seems that some Vatican officials are putting the brakes on the "reform of the reform". They say there is nothing concrete about to happen.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Diocese of Austin Administrator named

From the Diocese of Austin's Facebook page:
Msgr. Michael Mulvey, former Vicar General of the Diocese of Austin has been elected Administrator.
He is a good man and will do a good job until we have our bishop.

Prayer Requests

1 - Please pray for my family. My sister who is having a difficult time with her cancer treatments. Also, my dad is having a difficult recovery from knee surgery. Lastly, my mom is taking care of both of them as well as my adopted nephew, who has some special needs.

2 - Pray for Tish Morone as she enters the convent tomorrow. Tish worked here at St. Mary's for one year as a campus ministry intern. Tish is entering the Contemplative Sisters of St. John.

Was Darwin Wrong?

Well, yes Darwin was wrong about a lot of things. No, he didn't get everthing wrong. I am not talking about evolution as evidence of our beginnings but rather the appendix. Yes, the appendix. Darwin hypothesized that the appendix was a vestigial organ that was "left over" from our evolutionary anscestors. This theory has become the most common answer to what the appendix does, or rather, doesn't do. However, doctors now think that theory needs to be tossed out because the appendix plays an important roll in our health.
"Maybe it's time to correct the textbooks," said researcher William Parker, an immunologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. "Many biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a 'vestigial organ.'"

The vermiform appendix is a slimy dead-end sac that hangs between the small and large intestines. No less than Charles Darwin first suggested that the appendix was a vestigial organ from an ancestor that ate leaves, theorizing that it was the evolutionary remains of a larger structure, called a cecum, which once was used by now-extinct predecessors for digesting food.
"Everybody likely knows at least one person who had to get their appendix taken out - slightly more than 1 in 20 people do - and they see there are no ill effects, and this suggests that you don't need it," Parker said.

However, Parker and his colleagues recently suggested that the appendix still served as a vital safehouse where good bacteria could lie in wait until they were needed to repopulate the gut after a nasty case of diarrhea. Past studies had also found the appendix can help make, direct and train white blood cells.

Now, in the first investigation of the appendix over the ages, Parker explained they discovered that it has been around much longer than anyone had suspected, hinting that it plays a critical function.

"The appendix has been around for at least 80 million years, much longer than we would estimate if Darwin's ideas about the appendix were correct," Parker said.

Moreover, the appendix appears in nature much more often than previously acknowledged. It has evolved at least twice, once among Australian marsupials such as the wombat and another time among rats, lemmings, meadow voles, Cape dune mole-rats and other rodents, as well as humans and certain primates.
A reminder of how little we really know, even about ourselves.

Why Give?

News and Such

**Rocco has a great story on the installation of Archbishop Aymond. We miss him already, and this was all the more obvious this Sunday, because for the first time in the history of the Diocese of Austin, we do not have a bishop to pray for during the Eucharistic prayer. If you didn't recognize it, the picture on the right is of Bishop Aymond's Cathedral in New Orleans - St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Cathedral in the USA. A beautiful building.

**Why? Because the government knows how to raise your children better than you. That is why Sweden has banned homeschooling. This is offensive.

**In another government attack on religious freedom, Wisconsin is requiring Catholic institutions to carry contraceptive coverage in their insurance.

**I can't emphasize enough how big the liturgical "reform of the reform" is. Did I say this was big? Here is more on it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

B I G Liturgy News AGAIN

Hot on the heels of the US Bishops' rolling out a website to prepare the Church for the new Mass translations, we have this even bigger news - the "reform of the reform" of the liturgy looks to have begun. This is B I G Catholic news (emphasis added):
ROME The document was delivered to the hands of Benedict XVI in the morning of last April 4 by Spanish Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. It is the result of a reserved vote, which took place on March 12, in the course of a "plenary" session of the dicastery responsible for the liturgy, and it represents the first concrete step towards that "reform of the reform" often desired by Pope Ratzinger. The Cardinals and Bishops members of the Congregation voted almost unanimously in favor of a greater sacrality of the rite, of the recovery of the sense of eucharistic worship, of the recovery of the Latin language in the celebration, and of the remaking of the introductory parts of the Missal in order to put a stop to abuses, wild experimentations, and inappropriate creativity. They have also declared themselves favorable to reaffirm that the usual way of receiving Communion according to the norms is not on the hand, but in the mouth. There is, it is true, and indult which, on request of the [local] episcopates, allows for the distribution of the host [sic] also on the palm of the hand, but this must remain an extraordinary fact. The "Liturgy Minister" of Pope Ratzinger, Cañizares, is also having studies made on the possibility to recover the orientation towards the Orient of the celebrant, at least at the moment of the eucharistic consecration, as it happened in practice before the reform, when both the faithful and the priest faced towards the Cross and the priest therefore turned his back to the assembly.

Those who know Cardinal Cañizares, nicknamed "the small Ratzinger" before his removal to Rome, know that he is disposed to move forward decisively with the project, beginning in fact from what was established by the Second Vatican Council in the liturgical constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, which was, in reality, exceeded by the post-Conciliar reform which came into forceat the end of the Sixties. Theporporato, interviewed by monthly 30Days in recent months, had declared regarding this: "At times change was for the mere sake of changing from a past perceived as negative and outdated. Sometimes the reform was regarded as a break and not as an organic development of Tradition."

For this reason, the "propositiones" voted by the Cardinals and Bishops at the March plenary foresee a return to the sense of sacredness and to adoration, but also a recovery of the celebrations in Latin in the dioceses, at least in the main solemnities, as well as the publication of bilingual Missals - a request made at his time by Paul VI - with the Latin text first.

The proposals of the Congregation, which Cañizares delivered to the Pope, obtaining his approval, are perfectly in line with the idea often expressed by Joseph Ratzinger when he was still a Cardinal, as it is made clear his unpublished words on the liturgy, revealed in advanced by Il Giornale yesterday, and which will be published in the book Davanti al Protagonista (Cantagalli [publisher]), presented beforehand at a congress in Rimini. With a significant nota bene: for the accomplishment of the "reform of the reform", many years will be necessary. The Pope is convinced that hasty steps, as well as to simply drop directives from above, serve no good, with the risk that they may later remain a dead letter. The style of Ratzinger is that of comparison and, above all, of example. As the fact that, for more than a year, whoever approaches the Pope for Communion, have had to kneel down on the kneeler especially placed by the cerimonieri.
Wow is not saying enough. Hold on to your hats. This is going to be a heck of a ride - and one not without some bumps.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Monday Morning Radio

I will be on Relevant Radio's Morning Air on Monday about 7:15am.
Tune in if you can.

I will be talking about getting involved in campus ministry as well as vocations at St. Mary's.

Federal Debt and Stewardship

Talk about not taking care the gifts given to you. By the time today's college graduates are ready to retire, the federal government will owe so much money that our economy will be in complete shambles and every part of our economy and culture demolished - and that is with doubling the tax rate during those years. That is, unless something drastic happens soon. This is a 30 minute version of a longer documentary. It is frightening, to say the least. But, we need this reality check.

US Bishops New Liturgy Website

With the new translation of the Roman Missal around the corner, the USCCB has put out a new website to help the transition to the new translation.
Missale Romanum (the Roman Missal), the ritual text for the celebration of the Mass, was first promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as the definitive text of the reformed liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. A second edition followed in 1975.

Pope John Paul II issued a revised version of the Missale Romanum during the Jubilee Year 2000. The English translation of the revised Roman Missal is nearing completion, and the Bishops of the United States will vote on the final sections of the text this November. Among other things, the revised edition of theMissale Romanum contains prayers for the observances of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Votive Masses and Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass. The English translation of the Roman Missal will also include updated translations of existing prayers, including some of the well–known responses and acclamations of the people.

This website has been prepared to help you prepare for the transition. As this site continues to be expanded, you will find helpful resources for the faithful, for the clergy, and for parish and diocesan leaders.

May this process of the implementation of the revised Roman Missal be a time ofdeepening, nurturing, and celebrating our faith through our worship and the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.

They are anticipating release in early 2010.

Interesting Articles

*The Anchoress has a phenomenal post about the importance of what we do when taking communion.


*Slices of Catholic life from around the globe.

*Bishop Vasa on diocesan priests. Great stuff. One snip:
It comes as no surprise to any pastor that St. John Vianney was severely abused and derided because he called his people to chastity when debauchery was the norm, to sobriety when drunkenness was rampant, to holiness when secularity was much more popular. Because he loved, however, he did not cease to challenge sinfulness and call his people to repentance. He did this at great personal cost because of his determined love for souls. I strongly suspect that if St. John Vianney himself were in many of our American parishes there would be an abundance of letters from concerned parishioners about the direction in which he was taking the parish.

40 Days For Life

40 Days for Life, which started here in Aggieland with Aggie Catholics, is about to start the fall campaign. Pray for the success of this initiative and get involved locally if you can.
Get ready for the largest, most widespread coordinated pro-life outreach ever! More than 200 cities in 45 American states, 5 Canadian provinces ... plus Denmark ... are poised to launch 40 Days for Life campaigns in their communities.

"There will be campaigns in at least 212 communites," said David Bereit, 40 Days for Life's national director. "Last fall's campaign was conducted in 177 cities. This shows that support for the pro-life message is spreading — and that 40 Days for Life continues to have a positive international impact."

Liturgy Reflections for Sunday, August 23

They are doing a nice job with these liturgy reflections:

Spain and Abortion


Spanish doctors are willing to go to jail before they perform abortions.

God's mercy be on these faithful doctors!

Pray for our culture - a culture of death!

LCWR and the Vatican

After reading this article, I now know exactly why the Vatican ordered the visitation to religious orders.

Pray for our religious.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Final Profession of Vows

This is a very nice video of the final profession of vows for the Nashville Dominicans, where we have a number of Aggie Catholics and one former campus minister. This video includes the profession of Sr. Gianna (formerly Jen Junker), a friend and Aggie.

Archbishop Aymond on Health Care

Archbishop Aymond may not be the bishop of Austin anymore, but I still listen to him closely. Here is a joint statement with Archbishop Hughes:
The Catholic bishops in the United States recognize a pressing need for health care reform. Too many American citizens lack basic health care coverage and the cost of health care is becoming prohibitive for many more.

The Lord Jesus, who came to save us from our sins, manifested a great concern for the sick in his public ministry. He also urged us to reach out to the poor and sick in our midst. The Church rightly considers that government has a responsibility to ensure access to basic health care for all.

The bishops do not propose a specific plan or policy. But we set out the following principles to shape public policy:

* We need to develop a plan which ensures access to basic health care for all.
* We need to make sure that the poor and the vulnerable, including legal immigrants, are part of this plan.
* We need to control health care costs so that it is affordable to all.
* We need to make sure that abortion, euthanasia or other immoral activities are not mandated or financed with tax payer dollars. This includes conscience protection for all providers, whether institutions or individual persons, and for all recipients.

The bishops, without proposing either a public or private sector option, urge that any plan which is developed embrace these principles. Catholics are urged to contact their United States Senators and Representative to ask them to use these principles to evaluate all proposals that are developed.

Strident or shrill rhetoric does not help us to engage in civil and respectful deliberation about a serious social issue with significant moral implications. God grant us the wisdom to discern what is right and the courage to do it.

Evangelicals and Caritas in Veritate

First Things has an Evangelical Call for Response to Caritas in Veritate with 68 Evangelical Protestant leaders signing on. Very nice.

Pro-Choice?

When it comes to actually participating in an abortion, the reality of the situation can't be avoided by most people. That is why one pro-choice reporter struggled to watch an abortion. Although she tries to explain her feelings away, the reality is evidently weighing on her.

The Story Behind the Story

As is frequently the case, the story behind the story is even better. I briefly mentioned a story about a nun chasing down a thief earlier this week. Well here is the whole story.

“Nun on the run, pursuing justice,” read the headline in the Kansas City Star daily newspaper.

“You don’t mess with nuns from the Sisters of St. Francis,” said one TV reporter.

“Thou shalt not steal — especially within sight of a convent,” said another.

Now for the rest of the story, a story that is just beginning.

There is a 17-year-old man confined in the Jackson County Jail as he awaits serious felony charges who now has an entire community of sisters — not nuns, an important distinction — praying for him. If he needs any help to turn his life around, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist will provide it as best they can.

But he should know now that he is loved, said Sister Connie Boulch, one of the two sisters who helped police capture the burglary suspect as he tried to cut through their motherhouse property in northern Independence.

“I hope we get a chance to talk to him,” said Sister Connie, the community’s vicar who also works as the director of the Office of Consecrated Life for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

“I would like to tell him that he was on our property not by accident, but by providence,” she said.

“All sorts of people wander onto our property,” Sister Connie said. “They are all prayed for, and hopefully because of that, their lives are better.

“This young man has his whole life ahead of him,” she said. “He has the opportunity to change. I know that the prayers of the sisters will be with him for a long time.”

Sister Connie rose at 5 a.m., as she always does, on Aug. 13 to pray in the motherhouse chapel before reporting to work at the diocesan chancery.

Shortly before 7 a.m., she opened a window in her non-air-conditioned office, not far from the chapel, to let in the cool, early morning air for herself and Sister Catarina da Silva.

Sister Catarina saw a young man walking through the soybean field on the 82-acre property.

Read the rest. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Aggie Vocations

Because we should shout the good news from the mountaintop - here is an update on Aggie Vocations.

As of today, August 18, 2009, here are the numbers:

*Current Aggie priests/permanent religious = 128

*Current Aggies in seminary / religious formation = 42

*# of Aggies who entered seminary or religious formation:
  • 2009 = 8
  • 2008 = 7
  • 2007 = 8
  • 2006 = 14 (record number)
*For the last 12 years - average number of Aggies per year entering seminary/formation = 8.17
*2009 ordinations = 3 priests + 1 transitional deacon
*2009 religious = 2 final vows + 1 first vows + 1 entering novitiate

These numbers have translated into helping many orders and dioceses around the country. For instance:
  • The Austin diocese, one of the biggest pipelines from Aggieland, has a record number of seminarians for this fall = 46 (a record number for the third year in a row)!
  • The New Orleans province of Jesuits who has about a dozen Aggies.
  • 5 Aggie in the Nashville Dominican sisters.
The only "vocations crisis" we have is getting all of the vocations directors in front of our students.
Gig 'em Aggie Catholic Vocations!

Health Care Reform - IMPORTANT

There are two items about health care reform that are very important.

1 - ALERT - In the current health care plan in Washington there is a provision that could allow Planned Parenthood access to public schools so they could run health clinics. We have to make sure this doesn't happen. While it isn't explicit in the bill, it is a very real possibility.
In Title V of H.R. 3200, Subtitle B, called School-Based Health Clinics, outlines a new federal program where the government would fund health clinics near or in the nation's public schools.

However, Section 399Z indicates that school officials won't be responsible for administering the clinics. Instead, that responsibility falls to the clinic sponsor, which could be Planned Parenthood -- the nation's largest abortion business which does more than 350,000 a year.

The section says "the SBHC sponsoring facility assumes all responsibility for the

SBHC administration, operations, and oversight." Under the bill, a "sponsoring facility" is "a hospital, a public health department, a community health center, a nonprofit health care agency, (or) a local educational agency."

Victor Medina, writing in an opinion column for the Dallas Republican Examiner, is worried about the practical effect of the language.

"Such broad wording outlining the qualifications for government funds and access to schoolchildren could open the door for groups like Planned Parenthood to operate the clinics in schools with no oversight and full federal government support," he says.

"The clinics would be funded by federal grants awarded by the Obama administration, which has made it clear that they expect Planned Parenthood to play an active role in their proposed health care system," he says.


2 - Bishop Nickless of Sioux City has a great column on health care. I recommend a careful reading. I re-post it here in full, because it is so well-written:

The current national debate about health care reform should concern all of us. There is much at stake in this political struggle, and also much confusion and inaccurate information being thrown around. My brother bishops have described some clear “goal-posts” to mark out what is acceptable reform, and what must be rejected. First and most important, the Church will not accept any legislation that mandates coverage, public or private, for abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic stem-cell research. We refuse to be made complicit in these evils, which frankly contradict what “health care” should mean. We refuse to allow our own parish, school, and diocesan health insurance plans to be forced to include these evils. As a corollary of this, we insist equally on adequate protection of individual rights of conscience for patients and health care providers not to be made complicit in these evils. A so-called reform that imposes these evils on us would be far worse than keeping the health care system we now have.

Second, the Catholic Church does not teach that “health care” as such, without distinction, is a natural right. The “natural right” of health care is the divine bounty of food, water, and air without which all of us quickly die. This bounty comes from God directly. None of us own it, and none of us can morally withhold it from others. The remainder of health care is a political, not a natural, right, because it comes from our human efforts, creativity, and compassion. As a political right, health care should be apportioned according to need, not ability to pay or to benefit from the care. We reject the rationing of care. Those who are sickest should get the most care, regardless of age, status, or wealth. But how to do this is not self-evident. The decisions that we must collectively make about how to administer health care therefore fall under “prudential judgment.”

Third, in that category of prudential judgment, the Catholic Church does not teach that government should directly provide health care. Unlike a prudential concern like national defense, for which government monopolization is objectively good – it both limits violence overall and prevents the obvious abuses to which private armies are susceptible – health care should not be subject to federal monopolization. Preserving patient choice (through a flourishing private sector) is the only way to prevent a health care monopoly from denying care arbitrarily, as we learned from HMOs in the recent past. While a government monopoly would not be motivated by profit, it would be motivated by such bureaucratic standards as quotas and defined “best procedures,” which are equally beyond the influence of most citizens. The proper role of the government is to regulate the private sector, in order to foster healthy competition and to curtail abuses. Therefore any legislation that undermines the viability of the private sector is suspect. Private, religious hospitals and nursing homes, in particular, should be protected, because these are the ones most vigorously offering actual health care to the poorest of the poor.

The best way in practice to approach this balance of public and private roles is to spread the risks and costs of health care over the largest number of people. This is the principle underlying Medicaid and Medicare taxes, for example. But this principle assumes that the pool of taxable workers is sufficiently large, compared to those who draw the benefits, to be reasonably inexpensive and just. This assumption is at root a pro-life assumption! Indeed, we were a culture of life when such programs began. Only if we again foster a culture of life can we perpetuate the economic justice of taxing workers to pay health care for the poor. Without a growing population of youth, our growing population of retirees is outstripping our distribution systems. In a culture of death such as we have now, taxation to redistribute costs of medical care becomes both unjust and unsustainable.

Fourth, preventative care is a moral obligation of the individual to God and to his or her family and loved ones, not a right to be demanded from society. The gift of life comes only from God; to spurn that gift by seriously mistreating our own health is morally wrong. The most effective preventative care for most people is essentially free – good diet, moderate exercise, and sufficient sleep. But pre-natal and neo-natal care are examples of preventative care requiring medical expertise, and therefore cost; and this sort of care should be made available to all as far as possible.

Within these limits, the Church has been advocating for decades that health care be made more accessible to all, especially to the poor. Will the current health care reform proposals achieve these goals?

The current House reform bill, HR 3200, does not meet the first or the fourth standard. As Cardinal Justin Rigali has written for the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-life Activities, this bill circumvents the Hyde amendment (which prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions) by drawing funding from new sources not covered by the Hyde amendment, and by creatively manipulating how federal funds covered by the Hyde amendment are accounted. It also provides a “public insurance option” without adequate limits, so that smaller employers especially will have a financial incentive to push all their employees into this public insurance. This will effectively prevent those employees from choosing any private insurance plans. This will saddle the working classes with additional taxes for inefficient and immoral entitlements. The Senate bill, HELP, is better than the House bill, as I understand it. It subsidizes care for the poor, rather than tending to monopolize care. But, it designates the limit of four times federal poverty level for the public insurance option, which still includes more than half of all workers. This would impinge on the vitality of the private sector. It also does not meet the first standard of explicitly excluding mandatory abortion coverage.

I encourage all of you to make you voice heard to our representatives in Congress. Tell them what they need to hear from us: no health care reform is better than the wrong sort of health care reform. Insist that they not permit themselves to be railroaded into the current too-costly and pro-abortion health care proposals. Insist on their support for proposals that respect the life and dignity of every human person, especially the unborn. And above all, pray for them, and for our country. (Please see the website for the Iowa Catholic Conference at www.iowacatholicconference.org andwww.usccb.org/healthcare for more information)

Tip O' the hat to AmP for both.

Of Interest

*Subsidiarity and Health Care. One of the most important, and forgotten, social principles is that of subsidiarity. It certainly applies in the case of health care, as Carl Olson points out.

*Top 50 Catholic movies. I agree with some and not with others. Off of the top of my head I would add The Passion of the Christ, Schindler's List, Life is Beautiful, The Dark Knight, Cinderella Man, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

*The Mystic Monks (aka Carmelite Monks of Wyoming) have a little bit of a property issue with Bill and Melinda Gates. Pray for the Monks.

Pope On Mary

I recommend you watch this video twice. The first time, listen to the teaching closely. The second time, look at the faces in the crowd closely.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Paradox of Modern Psychology

A very interesting column.
A man goes to a psychologist with a problem. "Doctor," he says, "I'm suffering terribly. I feel like a woman trapped inside the body of a man. I want to become a woman."

The psychologist responds: "No problem. We can discuss this idea for a couple of years, and if you're still sure you want to be a woman, we can have a surgeon remove your penis, give you hormones for breast enlargement and make other changes to your body. Problem solved."

Gratified, the first patient leaves, followed by a second. "Doctor," he says, "I feel terrible. I'm a man but I feel attracted to other men. I want to change my sexual preference. I want to become heterosexual." The psychologist responds: "Oh no, absolutely not! That would be unethical. Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic!"

The irony of this little tale is that, while reading like a joke, it is in reality an accurate description of the mental health professions today. While dismissing and condemning reparative therapy for homosexual orientation, the majority of psychiatrists and psychologists in Anglophone North America have embraced the concept of "sex change," a procedure that does nothing more than mutilate the patient to appease his confused mind.

Archbishop Aymond Installation Mass

You can watch it live on the internet on Thursday at 2pm Central.

UPDATE: EWTN will be carrying it live as well.

Catholics and Health Care

Two examples of why we ALL need to speak out against health care reforms that would violate the dignity of the human person.

1 - Spain's Justice Minister says doctors have no right to conscientious objection in the case of abortions. Some "justice".

2 - Doctors in England are asking for permission to not treat the elderly, obese, and smokers (and others) in an effort to save money.

When some say that we are just alarmists trying to use scare tactics in getting a Catholic perspective into the health care debate, I say look to other countries who are leading the path down the slippery slope. We are soon to follow.

Pray. Advocate. Speak out.

Don't Mess With Sr.

We have several religious on staff at St. Mary's. This story reminds me of why I don't get away with anything around here.

How To Lose Your Atheism

Ponder this video:

Tip O' the hat to Mark.

Farewell from our Shepherd

From Archbishop Aymond.
Today I fly to New Orleans in order to prepare for my new ministry as shepherd of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

I leave Central Texas with a heavy heart, the last nine years have been a great blessing to me and Austin has become home. Thank you for teaching me how to be a shepherd. Thank you for being partners in the work of Christ.

I will remember you often and each time it will be in gratitude for your faith and our sharing in the ministry of Jesus Christ.

May God’s peace be with you and with all those you hold lovingly in your heart.
We are without a Bishop for now. Pray for a good shepherd to replace Archbishop Aymond. In other diocesan news, we have a new order in town:
Please join me in welcoming Dominican Sisters of May, Mother of the Eucharist: Sr. Elizabeth Ann, Sr. Maria Gemma, Sr. Thomas Aquinas, Sr. Mary Cecilia, Sr. Mary David, Sr. Mary Jacinta, Sr. Mary Regina and Sr. Michael Vincent. The sisters moved to the diocese on Monday. The sisters will be working in our Catholic schools.
I expect we will be seeing them frequently here at St. Mary's.

Teens, Sex, and Media

While this Frontline report came out years ago, it is still highly applicable to today's teens. The most telling part is the manipulation of teen culture, through sex, for a profit. The sexualization of the younger generations is already having devestating ripples throughout our society. If we don't get it straightened out, look for a quick slide to oblivion for modern western culture.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pope on the Assumption

Saturday is the Feast of the Assumption:

Priest Dies Trying to Save Nephew

An everyday hero who dies trying to do good. God rest Fr. Repsys and his nephew who both drowned.
Father Ricardas Repsys' Catholic parishioners said Wednesday they weren't surprised their quiet, compassionate priest died doing something selfless: trying to rescue his drowning nephew in Lake St. Clair.

"I'm still walking around in a surreal life right now," said Alma Butkunas, an office manager at Divine Providence Lithuanian Catholic Church in Southfield. She had worked with Repsys since the priest joined the 500-member church five years ago.

"It doesn't surprise me that he jumped in to save this boy. He was not going to let this boy drown, even if it meant his own life."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

US Bishops on Health Care Reform

Things about health care that I think need to be addressed.

1 - What level of health care is a "right" and what level of health care is not?
We need to determine this before we move forward on reform. The Catechism says:
2288 Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.

Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.

So, the US Bishops are teaching that "adequate health care" is a human right. What does this entail? For instance, these questions need to be answered clearly before the church should support any reform:
  • Does the government consider elective surgeries to be part of adequate health care?
  • Is preventative care part of adequate health care?
  • Are sex-change surgeries and other mutilations part of adequate health care?
  • Are contraception, abortion, in-vitro fertilization, and sterilization part of adequate health care?
  • Are euthanasia, assisted suicide, or starving/dehydrating an ill person part of adequate health care?
  • Does reform contain conscience exemptions for providers who do not want to perform acts that violate their conscience?
  • Are the vunerable, the poor, the marginalized all included?
The last five should be absolute non-starters for any Catholic in supporting health care reform. In other words, as a Church, we cannot support reform that includes any immoral practice or excludes those who need our assistance. The first two are open for debate (as are other questions), as Fr. Orsi has pointed out in his article (of which I agree with some of it and disagree with other parts).

2 - How is this funded?
I absolutely agree that health care pricing has gotten out of control. But, how much responsibility does the government have in taking over the health care system in trying to keep costs down? There are many mechanisms of helping control costs besides a government run medical system. The federal government has never efficiently run a major beaurocracy of this size, so how will it keep costs down without raising taxes astronomically?

3 - What other options are there and why are these not being debated?
The Catholic Bishops have a strong voice in the health care debate because of the Catholic health care system in this country. They should help take the lead in a dialogue of bringing people together. Archbishop Chaput has done another masterful job of drawing out themes that various camps can agree upon, including seeking "common ground" on health care. We cannot compromise on issues like abortion, but we should dialogue on negotiable issues.
He says:
The test of White House and congressional honesty about seeking “common ground” will be the details of the health care plan being worked on this summer and fall. The whole meaning of “health care” would be subverted by any plan that involves mandated abortion access or abortion funding. The reason is obvious. Killing or funding the killing of unborn children has nothing to do with promoting human health, and including these things in any “health care” proposal, no matter how shrewdly hidden, would simply be a form of lying.
His entire article is worth a close read for any Catholic truly open to discussing health care reform. It includes four points of emphasis that should be in any reform:
  • It should provide access to basic, quality health services for all persons, from conception to natural death, with a special concern for the poor, elderly and disabled, and the inclusion of legal immigrants;
  • It should protect the conscience rights of individuals and religious institutions;
  • It should exclude all so-called “services” that involve violence against the dignity of the human person, such abortion, physician-assisted suicide and their funding;
  • It should be economically realistic and sustainable, with costs spread equitably across all taxpayers.
Basic and "adequate" health care is a right, but not all of the different ways we can reform the system can be supported and others should and ought to be debated. We need to continue to educate ourselves and speak out against those who would force immoral practices onto a government mandated health care policy.

Let us pray to the divine physician to guide us all.
"When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: "He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases."
- Matt 8:16-17

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

JPII

"Even though you are young, the time for action is now! You are ready for what Christ wants of you now. He wants you – all of you – to be light to the world, as only young people can be light. It is time to let your light shine!"
-JOHN PAUL II - TO THE YOUNG PEOPLE AT THE KIEL CENTER St. Louis, January 26, 1999

"Christianity is not simply a doctrine: it is an encounter in faith with God made present in our history through the incarnation of Jesus."
MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II TO THE YOUTH OF THE WORLD ON THE OCCASION OF THE XIX WORLD YOUTH DAY 2004

"It is true: Jesus is a demanding friend. He points to lofty goals; he asks us to go out of ourselves in order to meet Him, entrusting to Him our whole life : 'Whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it' (Mk 8:35). The proposal may seem difficult, and, in some cases, frightening. But – I ask you – is it better to be resigned to a life without ideals, to a world made in our image and likeness, or rather, generously to seek truth, goodness, justice, working for a world that reflects the beauty of God, even at the cost of facing the trials it may involve?"
-JPII - MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER TO THE YOUTH OF THE WORLD ON THE OCCASION OF THE XII WORLD YOUTH DAY

New Religious Younger and More Faithful

Sadly, many religious orders are suffering from a drought of vocations and some of the problems in these orders (not all orders, but too many) are because of issues with faithfulness to the teachings of the Church. But, those orders that are doing well have some trends that look good.

The Center For Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) did a study recently on religious life and here are some of the reported findings:
The NRVC reports that religious are an aging population overall, with most communities reporting diminishing numbers. According to the institutional survey results, about 75 percent of finally professed men and 91 percent of finally professed women are aged 60 and over, while a majority of those under the age of 60 are in their 50s.

However, some religious orders are attracting new members and a few are experiencing “significant growth.” “Men’s communities and women’s communities following more traditional practices have better success attracting younger members today,” the NRVC says.

Looking at the big picture, the report finds that a majority of religious communities have at least one person in formation but only about 20 percent had more than five people in initial formation. Further, some responding institutes had recently merged, increasing the proportion of those institutes with postulants.

The survey reports that most new religious members want to live, work and pray with other members of their community. New entrants prefer to live in large communities of eight or more, while institutes in which members live alone face challenges attracting new members.

Older entrants to a community are drawn to its mission, while younger entrants look for an institute’s fidelity to the Church. Younger members also seek to wear a religious habit.
Here are some findings directly from the study (pdf) emphasis added:
• Younger respondents are more likely than older respondents to say they were attracted to religious life by a desire to be more committed to the Church and to their particular institute by its fidelity to the Church. Many also report that their decision to enter their institute was influenced by its practice regarding a religious habit. Significant generational gaps, especially between the Millennial Generation (born in 1982 or later) and the Vatican II Generation (born between 1943 and 1960), are evident throughout the study on questions involving the Church and the habit. Differences between the two generations also extend to questions about community life as well as styles and types of prayer.
Then there are the "Best Practices". Very interesting, because almost all orders do what is mentioned in the first bullet, so I don't know how it could be considered a "best practice" if it isn't working for many of them:
Best Practices in Vocation Ministry
• The findings from the study suggest a number of “best practices” for vocation promotion. These include instilling a “culture of vocations” and involving membership and leadership in concerted vocation promotion efforts; having a full-time vocation director who is supported by a team and resources; using new media, especially websites and other online presence; offering discernment programs and other opportunities for potential candidates to meet members and learn about the institute; and targeting college students and young adults as well as elementary and high school students to expose them to the possibility of religious life and inform them about the institute.
• Although these practices can have a positive impact on attracting and retaining new members, the research suggests that it is the example of members and the characteristics of the institute that have the most influence on the decision to enter a particular institute. The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.
One point - wearing a habit does not equal fidelity. But, in most cases the religious who wear a habit are those who don't have issues with remaining faithful to Church teaching. But, as is the case with the Apostles of the Interior Life who work here at St. Mary's, there are exceptions to the rule. They are an extremely faithful and orthodox community, but they don't wear a habit, for several reasons - one is because in their work of evangelization a habit is off-putting for those who are not en-culturated into church life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Interesting Film

This documentary on a New Orleans priest looks very interesting. It might even make the Sundance Movie Fesival.
The documentary film entitled Father Tony is an inspirational story of Father Tony Ricard, a black Creole Catholic Priest from New Orleans. For the past 4 years, independent producer Cynthia Capen and her camera crew followed and filmed the struggles and triumphs of Father Tony. Viewers will see a quite touching portrait of his unshakeable faith during the most difficult test of his priesthood - the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Questions God Can't Answer

"Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable."
-CS Lewis
In honor of the great Christian writer CS Lewis, I thought I might compile a list of questions that are ridiculous enough that God might find them unanswerable, because of their nonsense.

1 - Can God make a rock so big even he can't lift it? (note: you might find this question in a basic philosophy class at A&M or on message boards)

2 - Can God kill himself forever?

3 - Who made God?

4 - Was Jesus a fictional character?

5 - Why doesn't God just prove that he exists?

6 - Aren't all religions the same?

7 - If God is love, then why is there a hell?

8 - Why are there so many hypocrites?

9 - Why is the God in the Bible so mean?

10 - Why doesn't God want me to have pleasure?

Note - "nonsense" doesn't mean that people might not honestly ask these questions and not know the answer. Nor is it a statement about someone's intelligence. Rather, it is better understood as being absurd - i.e., once a rational answer to each question is given, the question should seem absurd.

Friends

"When friendship disappears then there is a space left open to that awful loneliness of the outside world which is like the cold space between the planets. It is an air in which men perish utterly."
-Hilaire Belloc

Monday, August 10, 2009

Relationships

In June and July I had a five-week series of classes on dating and relationships for our college students. We taped most of the five weeks and the first three classes are now on YouTube.

Here is a link to the first part of the first class (if you want to start from the beginning) and below is a sample from the first part of the second class.

Living in Christ

"Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?"
-St. Gerard

"Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven."
-St. Ephraem

"We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self."
-St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

"My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his designs. Our single endeavor should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to him, and not to spoil his work by our shortcomings."
-St. Isaac Jogues

Ridiculous

For the most ridiculous item of the day, click here.

Belmont Abbey and EEOC

Belmont Abbey has been charged with "discriminating" against women for taking contraceptive coverage out of their healthcare plan.

It seems the school is trying to follow Catholic teaching and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is interpreting this as breaking the law.

I don't think this issue is done yet.

For more info on why the Catholic Church believes contraception is wrong, click here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Goodbye Archbishop Aymond

I ask for all of you to keep our beloved Archbishop Aymond in your prayers as he prepares to leave Austin for New Orleans in a week or so.

On Thursday he came to College Station to celebrate Mass with our part of the diocese one final time. It was wonderful celebration of his time spent shepherding us and we will certainly miss him. He is one of the best bishops I have met. He has all the skills needed to be an effective apostle - good leadership, good preacher, very pastoral, orthodox, good administrator, good with people, connects with his priests closely, emphasizes vocations, good formation, and campus ministry, etc. But, the most important is that he is a disciple of Christ himself. He radiates faith and charity and you can tell where his heart lies - with Jesus Christ and his Church.

New Orleans is blessed to get him and I know he is leaving one of the healthiest dioceses in the USA for one of the more challenging. He oversaw a doubling in the Catholic population of Austin in the last decade (growing twice as fast as the general population of one of the fastest-growing areas in the country), vocations skyrocketing, a very successful financial plan and fundraising, as well as a re-organization of the diocese with an emphasis on adult formation. He has brought in great people as well to help, including some initiatives that haven't even happened yet. For instance:
Eight Dominican Sisters from Ann Arbor, Mich., arrive in the diocese on Aug. 10. They will be housed in two convents and will serve several of our schools. Two of the sisters will work in the diocesan Pastoral Center with diocesan staff to establish their long-term plans for a significant presence and ministry in the diocese. We pray that more sisters from the Ann Arbor mother house will continue to come each year and serve more of our schools.
Archbishop Aymond is also very well-respected amongst his brother bishops for his ability to handle public relations, run with big issues, balance a lot, and as a Bishop who unites different groups and people. Just one example - he was entrusted with implementing the Protecting God's Children plan for the USCCB.

God bless Archbishop Aymond.
May God grant us another holy and good Bishop for Austin.

Monday Morning

I have a radio interview on The SonRise Morning Show on Monday morning. We will be discussing how to keep your Catholic faith at a secular university. I know it will air live in Cincinnatti, but it will probably be taped and played later in the week across the country on EWTN.

Happiness

"God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."
- C.S. Lewis

"Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you."
-St. Augustine

FOCUS

FOCUS - Fellowship of Catholic University Students - is adding several new campuses this year. I think highly of FOCUS, the leaders of FOCUS and the missionaries, because of the good work they do, esp. at campuses that have little or no other Catholic campus ministry programming on them.

Two Aggies, for the first time, are joining FOCUS as missionaries this year. We don't have FOCUS here, which is part of the reason that we have never sent any missionaries out, but I am guessing the pipeline to FOCUS has just been opened.

Pray for these missionaries.

Reflections for Sunday

Nice work again.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Abortion Is NOT Health Care

Abortion is NOT health care. A simple enough fact, unless you don't understand what abortion is or deny that the babies are human. The sad reality is that these kind of facts need ad campaigns to teach such common-sense truths.
Pro-life advocates hoping to ensure that abortion is not furthered in proposed health care legislation are planning a campaign of public prayer vigils, rallies, lobbying and demonstrations urging “Abortion is Not Health Care.”

The campaign is scheduled to begin on September 12, with a large rally and 28 hours of prayer beginning September 13 on the West Lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. According to a press release from the campaign, it is being organized by the Christian Defense Coalition and other national pro-life organizations.

Campaign goals include ensuring that taxpayer money is not used to pay for abortion and that conscience protections are maintained for healthcare providers who decline to perform abortions. Organizers also hope to prevent federal mandates which require health plans to cover abortions and to prevent the invalidation of state laws restricting abortions.

Further, they insist that Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., should never become an “essential community health provider.”