Friday, July 30, 2010

Woman Stops Robbery By Preaching Jesus

A woman decided to preach faith in Jesus Christ as a better way, and she succeeded (or should we say God succeeded) in preventing a robbery. Wonderful.
Held up at gunpoint, a store clerk invoked her faith to turn the desperate thief into a repentant gunman.

When a man tried to rob a MetroPCS cell phone store at gunpoint in Pompano Beach, Fla., store manager Nayara Goncalves, 20, calmly talked to the man about Jesus and her faith until he left without taking any money.

Goncalves said she doesn't know why she began to talk to him about Jesus.

"I believe it was the Holy Spirit of God that really made me want to tell him about Jesus," Goncalves told

"I would never be able to do that myself. I would never think that God could use me the way that he did," she said. "[God] impressed me."

A store surveillance camera captured the whole exchange between Goncalves and the would-be robber.

The man entered the store and made small talk about the rainy weather. He asked to see a phone, and then showed Goncalves a gun and nervously asked for the money in the register.

"I really hate to do this," the gunman told Goncalves.

She slowly walked towards the register and started to speak to the man, who told her not to be afraid.

"I'm not," she said. "I'm just going to talk to you about the Jesus I have." Continue Reading.
The name of Jesus is powerful.

Big Announcements

Four announcements you don't want to miss:

1 - Pope Benedict will be releasing his second volume of Jesus of Nazareth this coming spring with Ignatius Press. The first book was amazing, so I can't wait to get my paws on this one.

2 - Please pray for author Anne Rice. If you didn't know she had a conversion to Catholicism several years ago. It is now being reported that she is "quit being a Christian".

3 - Dr. Kenneth Howell has been reinstated as an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois. This is great news. But, the conclusion that there needs to be a "strict firewall" between the Newman Center and the University is troubling. This is the same misguided understanding of the "separation between church and state" that has sunk into our consciousness as a people - which comes from an improper reading of the Constitution.

4 - The community, Miles Jesu, is undergoing a purification. Please pray for them.

Friday Fun - The Decision

Probably more important decisions made here than with "The Decision".

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Evil and Suffering

Q - I was researching answers to the problem of evil and suffering--in particular, an answer to things such as natural disasters.  I found that one of the reasons we have them is largely in part due to the Fall of Adam and Eve. This apparently disrupted the order of nature or as the CCC would say: “Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.  Because of man, creation is now subject ‘to its bondage to decay.’”

This was one of the best answers I could find--in terms of natural disasters at least.

But, my real question I was wanting to ask was that if we messed up nature at the Fall, did anything particularly happen at the Cross in conjunction with the passion of Mary, the New Eve, and the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, the New Adam, that would have 'mitigated' or 'made better' anything that happened to nature at the Fall?  I know that we will have a renewed earth when Christ comes again, but is there anything that Christ did since then or that our acts of obeying God now (as opposed to rejecting Him at the Fall) that could, in a sense, un-disrupt the order of nature, e.g., lessening the number of earthquakes or tornados?

A - Thanks for the question. I can tell you have been putting a lot of thought into this, so I hope I can do justice to the topic.

Yes, we have been redeemed and salvation is offered to us. By Christ's passion, death and resurrection we are now able to participate in eternal love in Heaven. But, does this heal all of what was undone at the Fall in the Garden of Eden? Yes, but not necessarily right now.

Ultimately all will be healed - including the fact that the world / nature is not completely redeemed. In other words, Christ has done all that was needed to be done, but the healing of us and the rest of the created order will not be complete until the end of the world. It isn't a question of if He redeemed us fully, but when the Redemption will be made complete.

This is because we are in a time of testing. We are fallen, yet redeemed. We have a sinful tendency, and are re-born in baptism. The struggle between what St. Paul calls "the world" and grace will continue for each of us personally until we die or Christ comes again. The rest of creation also needs the completion of the Redemption. As St. Paul writes:
"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance." - Romans 8: 19-25
I hope this helps. Peace.

Fr. Barron on Praying for Christopher Hitchens

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

There Be Dragons

I am currently at the Theology of the Body Congress in Philadelphia. It is a gathering of many who believe in the power of the message of John Paul II's Theology of the Body. There are some real influential movers and shakers here including academics, leaders, catechists, priests, religious, bishops, laity, etc. from around the country and more than a dozen countries.

We were privileged to get see the first screening of There Be Dragons outside of LA tonight. It is a new movie which will be released in theaters this fall. It is a major motion picture and is currently in post-production, so we saw an unfinished version of the movie. Because of a confidentiality agreement, I can't give details, but suffice it to say - this one isn't your run-of-the-mill "Catholic" film that doesn't have the budget to put together a nice production. Rather, it is a major motion picture with a message for us all.

The film is based upon the life of St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei (who, if you aren't familiar with him - he is a rock star of a Saint you need to get to know). It really brought St. Josemaria alive for me in a new way. It moved me. Once I am able, I will give details about the film. But, you should know this - you will not regret seeing this film. Not one tiny bit.

Roland Joffe is the director of the film. He also directed one of my favorite films of all time - The Mission - as well as The Killing Fields. He was nominated for the Oscar for best director for both films. He is top-notch and There Be Dragons nears the same level of film making.

More about the film from a recent press release:
New major motion film reflects on the life of Opus Dei founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá

View a trailer at

Hollywood, CA, July 28— Academy Award nominated director Roland Joffé returns to Hollywood with an epic film that explores the nature of humanity in his latest movie “There Be Dragons.” The famed director of the deeply Catholic film “The Mission” returns to a spiritual plot in his latest film, a powerful story of forgiveness and reconciliation woven around the figure of St. Josemaría Escrivá during the Spanish republic and Civil War in the mid 1930s. The film combines action, adventure, passion and romance with the extraordinary drama of human tragedy and Divine redemption.

Recently, more than 68 million Catholics in the United States and more than1 billion around the world marked the feast day of St. Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei. Without question, this controversial religious organization and the entire Catholic Church have been the subjects of much criticism and conspiracies. Yet, even during these challenging times, the life of this intriguing Catholic figure has inspired the making of a $35 million major motion picture.

Related: Currently playing on Franciscan Radio is an interview I did with them about Theology of the Body. You can listen to it here (start about 19 minutes in). One mistake they made is that I am not presenting at the TOB Congress, which is actually quite nice for a change.

Aggie Catholic Followers

I am constantly amazed that so many people read this blog. Not that we are a "major" blog by any stretch of the imagination - but that isn't our goal anyway.

But, I digress. Thanks for reading. We love having you along for the ride.

As of a few days ago, we had these numbers:
207 Google Followers, 163 Networked Blog Followers, and 372 Google Reader subscribers.
We have nearly 750 people subscribed or following the blog. THANKS!

This is in addition to nearly 2,800 Facebook fans of St. Mary's that get our blog on their feed and 34 Twitter followers (hey, we just started Tweeting).

If you don't follow us yet. Please do so.
We don't want to have to send in Chuck...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Things Left Unsaid

What an amazing column. Heartbreakingly sincere and touching. The first line is enough to get you started...
The great love of my life marries today and I am not the groom. I had my chance, a few years ago, but did not realize until too late how fleeting my moment with her was meant to be. Whether it was my fault or hers, and, let's face it, it was probably mine, I will wonder always about the life I might have had with the most loving and loveable woman I have ever known. Sometimes, I finally now understand, love, even crazy love, is not enough. Sometimes, as the romance novelists know, timing is everything.

But today is not a day for remorse. It is not a day for lost causes. Today is a day for celebration. The woman I once promised to keep happy is happy. She tells me she is marrying a wonderful man, with a good heart, whom she believes I would have liked had we met in different circumstances. She lives where she wants to live. She has selected her life's path. All that is left for me to do is to wish her well and to hope that she has made the right choice; that she continues to find in him what she did not find in me. And I am sure he considers himself today the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

The present I humbly send her today is this column; this public note, this irrevocable display of affection and support and gratitude; this worldly absolution from any guilt or sadness she felt between the time she said no to me and the time she said yes to him. No one ought to have to carry that with them into a marriage. I showered her with as much love as I could muster when we were together. I still love her and always will. So I am only too happy to offer my toast to her now, one more time, before she takes her vows.

I want to thank her, mostly, for rescuing me from hopelessness. When we met, back in the spring of 2005, I was nearly 40 and had been dating off and on for two years following an unexpected divorce. I had lost faith in relationships. I had given up on love. She arrived, unexpectedly, and showed me what was possible. She raised me up from the emotional dead. She drew out of me the poison of divorce and betrayal. Eleven years younger but already more mature than me, she was dazzling, brilliant, funny, and sweet; she both gave and taught me patience and devotion and sacrifice. No woman before or since ever made me feel as desired, needed, beloved, appreciated as she did. No one has yet made me want her more. Some men live their whole lives without this kind of love. At least I had it for one brief, shining moment. Continue Reading.
Tip o' the hat to Deacon Greg.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Deepak Chopra's New Age Nonsense

Chopra's own New Age nonsense comes back to refute him.

Tip o' the hat to Francis Beckwith.

Really Cool Stuff

I love having a "cool" post once in a while. Here are some things I find cool:

**Really cool logos. Some of these are absolutely amazing. I put one of my favorites up on the right. Look closely to see both the golfer and the face of the Spartan soldier.

**The $35 tablet that is scaring every other tablet and ebook maker.

**Photos that tell us what babies might dream. Some are extremely fun and creative.

**History of the Beatles as told by their hair.

**If you are a runner, you NEED to read this carefully. Running shoes are about making money and if you buy them from someone who "tests" your feet, they are almost guaranteed to cause injuries.

**Soccer Moms are going to love this one:

"Inception" Rocked My Face Off

or did it?

What is reality? This is the question the the new movie, Inception, leaves you asking. For being able to leave me with such a deep question, I commend the director and writer, Christopher Nolan. I think Nolan is an absolute genius. His movies Memento, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight were all great. He has now moved into the top spot as my favorite movie director.

All of the four movies above captured my imagination and made me think deeply. This is part of why I think he is masterful at telling a story.

The movie has regret, guilt, redemption, depression, and more. The interplay between reality and our emotional reactions also plays a part. Ultimately, the questions which arise are deeply philosophical and can leave your mind swirling.

I won't say any more about the movie, but Carl Olson and Steven Greydanus loved it as well.

As both of them say - I need to see it again - it is that good.

Dog Receives Communion

I wish the headline were made up, but it is not.
From The Toronto Sun.
Donald Keith can’t believe the fuss that has been made because a Shepherd received Holy Communion.

The Shepherd called Trapper — a Shepherd mix rescue dog — received the wafer that represents the body of Christ at St. Peter’s Anglican Church on Carlton St.

“This happened a month ago,” Keith said. “One church parishioner had a problem with it. This morning (Wednesday) I wake up and see it on the news that some guy’s dog received communion. Then I go to the dog park and people were talking about it being on the radio.”

When Trapper received communion, Keith was a new member of the church, where pets are allowed.

“The minister welcomed me and said come up and take communion, and Trapper came up with me and the minister gave him communion as well. Then he bent his head and said a little prayer,” Keith said.

“I thought it was a nice way to welcome me into the church,” he said. “I thought it was acceptable.

“There was an old lady in the front just beaming when she saw this,” Keith said. “Ninetynine-point-nine per cent of the people in the church love Trapper and the kids play with him.

“It was just one person who got his nose out of joint and went to the head of the Anglican Church,” he said. “Holy smokes. We are living in the downtown core. This is small stuff. I thought it was innocent and it made me think of the Blessing of the Animals.”

The church has since told Keith he and his dog are most welcome at the church, but Trapper can no longer receive communion.

“This has blown me away. The church is even getting e-mails from Catholics,” he said.

Everything is fine, said Peggy Needham, the deputy people’s warden at the church.

“The backlash is from just one person. Something happened that won’t happen again. Something our interim priest did spontaneously,” Needham said.

“This person went to the top and e-mailed our Bishop to make a fuss and change things,” she said. “But he misjudged our congregation.”
Matthew 7:6 needs to be taken literally this time.

The only good thing is that Anglicans do not have a valid Eucharist, so this wasn't the True Presence of the Lord.

Related Post:

Tip o' the hat to my buddy Mark and CC.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Prayers For a Bald Man

Several young women from St. Mary's made a trip to Italy this summer to visit with our Sisters (The Apostles of the Interior Life) who spend the summer there. While there they visited many locations. One of the locations they visited was the tomb of St. Marcellus II. One of the students, Brittany, took a picture of the tomb because she prayed for me there. Thanks Brittany! She didn't even know that he is my Confirmation Saint.

Here is a description of the tomb from the St. Peter's Basilica website (which is a cool website).
In a niche next to the tomb of Paul VI, is an early Christian sarcophagus with the remains of Marcellus II Cervini from Montepulciano, who died on May 1, 1555, after 22 days as pope.

His first tomb in the old basilica was located at the northern wall of the shrine of the Holy Veil. It was a simple coffin with a convex lid. Later, the elaborate funerary monument of Nicholas V was located at its side. The inscription on the front was a eulogy of Marcellus II and an excuse for the modest burial he was given. On September 15, 1606, the tomb was opened and the pope's body was found intact. It was then taken to the grottoes and deposited in a sarcophagus that had recently been found during excavations for the new basilica.

On the front of this ancient sarcophagus is the figure of the Savior with the scroll of the new law, standing on a rock with four mystic rivers flowing from underneath. The 2 figures of young men on the sides may represent the Disciples. On the sides are 2 strigilled panels and on the corners two figures of men holding scrolls who may represent the Apostles Peter and Paul and are looking toward Christ.

Engraved on the lid is the coat-of-arms of the pope and a brief inscription from 1606, dictated by the pope's nephew, Cardinal Bellarmine.

Under the sarcophagus is a Renaissance marble base with a plate in the center and fruit festoons on the sides. Immured above the sarcophagus is a marble plaque with the coat-of-arms of the pope.

In his 1955 guidebook to the Grottoes, Iohn de Toth stated that the figures on the corners of the 4th century sarcophagus were the likeness of the christian couple whose bodies were previously placed there.
St. Marcellus II, St. Marcellus I, and St. Marcellinus pray for us!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Top 5 Books For Those In RCIA

Q - If one of your friends (who is a voracious reader) came to you and said they were planning on enrolling in RCIA to at least learn about the Catholic Church (if not to become Catholic), but wanted some solid Catholic books to read in the mean time...which five books or so would you suggest to whet their appetite?

A - Great question. I put some thought into this and decided it is a very difficult question to answer, because of the limit you gave me. So, I will put my top 5, with a few extras that almost made it.

Remember the purpose is to help someone who isn't Catholic learn about the faith, so I don't want to overlap topics or kinds of books too much. Furthermore, The Holy Bible has to be the first and last book every Christian should read, so it doesn't even need to go on a list like this.

5 - Theology and Sanity. - Frank Sheed

4 - Humanae Vitae - Pope Paul VI

3 - The Faith of the Early Fathers. - Edited by W. A. Jurgens, 3 volumes,

2 - Catholic Christianity - Peter Kreeft

1 - Catechism of the Catholic Church

Others that almost made the list:
Surprised By Truth. edited - Patrick Madrid.
Ignatius Study Bible NT
The 4 Dogmatic Constitutions of Vatican II
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization - Thomas Woods
Triumph - H. W. Crocker III
Good News About Sex and Marriage - Christopher West
The Imitation of Christ - Thomas a Kempis
The How-To Book of Catholic Devotions - Mike Aquilina
The How-To Book of The Mass - Michael Dubruiel
Catholicism for Dummies - Fr. John Trigilio
The Lord - Romano Guardini
By What Authority? - Mark Shea
Confessions - St. Augustine
Why Do Catholics Do That? - Kevin Orlin Johnson

Jesus Is My Friend

The Ultimate Youth Minister

This killed me. Absolutely killed me.
Unfortunately, it isn't too far off.

Tip o' the hat to Mark.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Burying My Father's Ashes

Q- My dad passed away in 2004. He wanted to donate his body to science and be cremated. He wanted his ashes to be buried with his mother, but since the cemetery wouldn’t let us put them with her, we could not grant his wishes.

His ashes are still in the box that we received in the mail and are sitting on a top shelf in my mother's house. This bothers me VERY much! I have expressed several times that I want him to be buried. I'd like a place to go and visit, bring flowers, etc....She told me that I could come to her house anytime to visit. I can't go into religious reasons with my mother because she doesn't care about them, even though she is Catholic and may know them already. Every time I bring it up (which is almost once a year), I get uncomfortable because I don't want to upset her and sometimes I feel like it is not my place to say anything at all.

My oldest sister is fine with the ashes at my mom's house, my other sister wants him buried too. Just recently I asked if we could go look at places together and she said that she would make the calls to find out the details. I told her I wouldn't mind calling the cemeteries if she didn't feel up to it and she told me that she would call me if she changed her mind.

Should I just stop asking and give this over to God? I keep praying that she will realize the importance of burying his ashes but my prayers have gone unanswered.

Thanks for any advice you can give me!

A - Sorry to hear about the stress this has caused in your own life and in your family.

I will try to give you the best advice I can, but am limited so as not to violate privacy issues on the internet. In other words, if this post isn't enough information for you, I highly recommend you talk to someone you trust who is knowledgeable about such issues - in person.

First off, here is what the Catholic Church teaches about cremation and burial. I have taken some of this info from a previous post about cremation.
The official position of the Church comes from several current documents, but first a little history. Cremation used to be quite popular throughout world cultures including many pagan cultures and China. But, through the growth of Christianity and the belief of the sacredness of the body and that one day all will attain the resurrection of the body, cremation faded out of use in the Western world. This was because the body was to be revered and held as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Church officially outlawed cremation in 1886 when the Vatican issued a statement banning it, particularly because it was commonly used in Masonic rituals [see the book Questions and Answersby Father John Dietzen]. The Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law (1918 Code) upheld this by law.

This changed in 1963, when the Vatican, through what is now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, took away the ban on cremation, but only in narrow circumstances. Burial was still to be HIGHLY preferred and if a cremation happened, it could only happen after a Catholic service where the body was still intact.

In 1969 the Vatican allowed Christian burial for those who were cremated in the document - Ordo Exsequiarum.

Then when the new Code of Canon law came out in 1983, it stated the following in canon 1176, section 3:

The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.
Finally, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says this, while citing the Code of Canon Law:

The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.
The Compendium of the Catechism says:

479. How are the bodies of the deceased to be treated?
The bodies of the departed must be treated with love and respect. Their cremation is permitted provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.
254. Christian piety has always regarded burial as the model for the faithful to follow since it clearly displays how death signifies the total destruction of the body. The practice eschews meanings that can be associated with mummification or embalming or even with cremation. Burial recalls the earth from which man comes (cf. Gen 2, 6) and to which he returns (cf. Gen 3, 19; Sir 17,1), and also recalls the burial of Christ, the grain which, fallen on the earth, brought forth fruit in plenty (cf. John 12, 24).
Cremation is also a contemporary phenomenon in virtue of the changed circumstances of life. In this regard, ecclesiastical discipline states: "Christian obsequies may be conceded to those who have chosen to have their bodies cremated, provided that such choice was not motivated by anything contrary to Christian doctrine"(369). In relation to such a decision, the faithful should be exhorted not to keep the ashes of the dead in their homes, but to bury them in the usual manner, until God shall raise up those who rest in the earth, and until the sea gives up its dead (cf. Aps 20, 13).
Your sense about wanting to bury your father is correct. It is the best way to care for his body.
In other words, we need to treat his remains in the same way we would if he wasn't cremated.

Now, your mother obviously doesn't feel the same way. But, you can express your feelings to her, without violating the honor you still owe her as your mother. Your mother obviously is still wounded by your father's death and so you must tread lightly.

You might approach it with a conversation similar to this:
  • You - Mom, we talked about having Dad's ashes buried sometime. Have you thought more about it?
  • Mom - I have, but don't want to do anything yet. I am not ready.
  • You - I know you still hurt from Dad's death, but I want to let you know how I feel. We all were wounded by Dad's passing away, yet I can't help but feel that it would be better for us all if we had his remains buried. I also think it is a better way to care for his ashes. I know you may not completely understand where I am coming from or agree, but I just ask you to consider my wishes.
  • Mom - I will.
  • You - Thanks for listening Mom. I love you.
Keep up your prayers for her. You might even ask for your Dad's intercession.

I hope this helps.

Who Wants a $5,000 Scholarship To Texas A&M or Blinn College?

If you do, then check this out:
St. Mary's Catholic Center
603 Church Avenue
College Station, TX 77840
(979) 846-5717 Fax: (979) 846-4493

St. Mary's Catholic Center, provider of Catholic campus ministry to Texas A&M University and Blinn College, is offering a $5,000 scholarship for the 2011 spring school semester. The comprehensive campus ministry program at St. Mary’s has received national recognition, and Texas A&M has expressed its appreciation for the value of our work. The young adults involved at St. Mary’s are an asset to Texas A&M and add much to campus and community life.

Currently, Texas A&M University is experiencing record enrollment and is processing a record number of applications for incoming freshmen and transfer students. There are an estimated 13,000 Catholic students on campus, up an estimated 2,000 from five years ago. More and more students are requesting and requiring the services of our campus ministry staff. St. Mary’s must grow to continue to meet the needs of the students who come to us. Only a quarter of our annual budget comes from the weekly pew collections. Since we are not a standard parish with members who have jobs and incomes, we depend on the generous support from former students, parents of current students, foundations and friends.

St. Mary's Catholic Center is asking parents to partner in ministry by registering as a parent of a current student and become a supporter of the Living Faith Society at a minimum of $25/month, or an annual gift at a minimum of $250. Current students are asked to register as a member of St. Mary’s while they are here in Aggieland and support the church as a monthly Living Faith Member at a minimum of $10/month. The Living Faith Society is composed benefactors who support St. Mary's Catholic Center monthly and electronically – either directly from a checking account or credit card. Applicants and/or parents must support St. Mary's Catholic Center electronically through the Living Faith Society to receive eligibility to the raffle. The drawing will occur at St. Mary's on December 1, 2010, at 5:00 p.m. (central time).

Prize: Tuition/fees up to $5,000 for the spring 2011 semester at Texas A&M University or Blinn College for any current student

Who May Apply:
  1. Any Texas A&M University or Blinn College student who is a registered parishioner/member of St. Mary’s Catholic Center and a member of the Living Faith Society of at least $10/month by December 1, 2010.
  2. Any parent/guardian of a current Texas A&M University or Blinn College student who registers with St. Mary's Catholic Center as a parent and either make a gift of $250 by December 1, 2010, OR is in/joins the Living Faith Society at minimum $25/month by December 1, 2010.
** If both student and parent support St. Mary's Catholic Center and meet the aforementioned
giving requirements, the student will receive two entries into the drawing.

How to Apply:
  1. Join the Living Faith Society online and comment that you wish to enter the “Spring 2011 Tuition Scholarship.”
  2. Contact Debra Richmond or Angie Cooper at St. Mary's Catholic Center at or (979) 846-5717 to sign up via telephone.
  3. If you are already a current member of the Living Faith Society, contact Debra Richmond or Angie Cooper at or (979) 846-5717.
Don't wait to get your name in the hat!

PBS to Take On "God In America"

I hope PBS does a good job with a topic that is very important - "God In America".
How has religious belief shaped American history? What role have religious ideas and spiritual experience played in shaping the social, political and cultural life of what has become the world's most religiously diverse nation?

For the first time on television, God in America, a presentation of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and FRONTLINE, will explore the historical role of religion in the public life of the United States. The six-hour series, which interweaves documentary footage, historical dramatization and interviews with religious historians, will air over three consecutive nights on PBS beginning Oct. 11, 2010.

God in America examines the potent and complex interaction between religion and democracy, the origins of the American concept of religious liberty, and the controversial evolution of that ideal in the nation's courts and political arena. The series considers the role religious ideas and institutions have played in social reform movements from abolition to civil rights, examining the impact of religious faith on conflicts from the American Revolution to the Cold War, and how guarantees of religious freedom created a competitive American religious marketplace. It also explores the intersection of political struggle and spiritual experience in the lives of key American historical figures including Franciscan Friars and the Pueblo leader Po'pay, Puritan leader John Winthrop and dissident Anne Hutchinson, Catholic Bishop John Hughes, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, reform Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise, Scopes trial combatants William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, evangelist Billy Graham, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Moral Majority's Jerry Falwell.

"The American story cannot be fully understood without understanding the country's religious history," says series executive producer Michael Sullivan. "By examining that history, God in America will offer viewers a fresh, revealing and challenging portrait of the country."
Continue Reading.
This could be very good, because they are acknowledging the importance of faith in US history. Therefore, I will be saddened if they mess up this opportunity.

Double Your Radio

Most of you who live in town probably already know that St. Mary's has a radio station - KABC 96.9 FM. This radio station is a low-power FM station which we run out of our Center. It is mainly student run and has a mission of reaching out to those who are not regular church-goers. All of our programming is original.

What you may not know is that we now have a second Catholic radio station in town. KEDC 88.5 FM is now on the air! They are a high-power FM station which is currently playing a mix of EWTN Radio and Relevant Radio programming. The call letters "KEDC" come from the name of the apostolate which was formed to educate families in the faith - The RED-C Apostolate: Religious Education for the Domestic Church. You can also find them on Facebook (KACB is also on Facebook).

This morning, I was blessed to be on Morning Air with Sean Herriott on Relevant Radio. I didn't think that I would be on locally, because the station normally switches from Relevant to EWTN the time I was going to be on. But, I got this email, from the head of KEDC (Dennis Macha), telling me the whole story:
I was listening to the station on my way out of town this morning when I heard that Marcel was to be interviewed during the 3rd hour of Morning Air on Relevant Radio! But, our station changes over to EWTN at that time and only gets the first two hours of Morning Air. So, I was able to pull over in the gas station parking lot and change the signal from EWTN back to Relevant Radio with the RED-C iPhone! I kept losing the signal on my car radio when an 18 wheeler would roll by, so I continued on. I then turned the Relevant Radio feed back down at the top of the hour, while my wife helped me listen to our home speakers over the cell phone. I plan on changing the programming a little tonight so that Marcel's interview will be reaired at 11 pm in the place of Father Corapi, if you all would like to listen...
Very cool - thanks Dennis!
We are uber-blessed to have two Catholic stations in an area this size. Thanks to everyone in town who has helped make both stations a reality.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How To Take Down The Inaccuracies of The Press

Fr. Z should give lessons on how to uncover the truth the press won't give us.
Check this out.

I have nothing more to say.

Our Taxes Pushing Contraception in India

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in India paid for this commercial.

Tip o' the hat to CMR.

Planned Parenthood Lies Again and Again and Again...

Live Action doesn't have to try hard to catch them in their lies.

For some good news, this if from the Coalition for Life:

Earlier this week a mother scheduled to abort her child this Saturday at Planned Parenthood decided to pay us a visit first.

That decision, she learned, would save her from a lifetime of regret!

During her visit, the expectant mother learned the facts about the precious human life she is carrying. The mother was given the opportunity to look at 7 and 9 week old fetal models which revealed to her the hidden treasure she is carrying.

This is all that was necessary for her to quickly denounce her decision to abort the life she bears and instead choose life.

Life advocating life...isn't it beautiful!
Truth matters.

Keep Your Kids Catholic

Great post by Jen at Conversion Diary:
A snip:
I do think it would be helpful to those of us who still have young children (and especially to those of us who are also converts) to have a discussion about what the most important things are that parents can do to pave the road for their children to have a deep, lasting relationship with God. Again, there are no magic formulas, and whether each child chooses to follow the road that's been paved for him is up to him and God alone. But what can parents do to set their children up as well as possible in that department?

In my little informal study, I found three factors that almost every single family had in common:

The parents prayed for their children to have faith

The children saw the parents rely on God in real, concrete ways (e.g. if the father didn't get a big promotion at work he'd pray about what God wanted him to do next, express trust that God would bring good out of the situation, etc.)

The parents and children prayed together at least occasionally

The families I talked to were surprisingly diverse in terms of the parents' outward holiness, faithfulness to church attendance, type of schools the kids went to, amount of time spent in group prayer, etc. -- yet all of them had those three factors in common. (And I should note that I'm using the plural "parents" as shorthand: I did talk to some single-parent families and families where only one parent was a believer.)
Continue Reading.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Things To Know About...

Here is a short list of a few items you might like to know about:

**For the local readers (and others interested) - Texas A&M is about to have another round of lay-offs. Please pray for those who will be out of a job, their families, and all looking for employment.

**The secular world does not understand that children are a blessing. Think of contraception, abortion, and the selfishness that pervades our society. Now you might understand the problems with this Time article about why having one kid is better for parents.

**There is an eclectic group of writers who have been asked to envision the future of the Catholic Church. The end product is quite an array of different ideas.

**I will be on The Sonrise Morning Show (EWTN Radio) on Wednesday and on Morning Air (Relevant Radio) on Thursday Morning - 8:00am CST.
I should be live on Thursday, but probably taped on Wed.


One of our former students, Zach Rathke, is teaching in Kenya at a school for impoverished youth. He is blogging about his experience. Here is part of his first post:
After an intimidating drive through the dilapidated streets of Nairobi, I arrived at my new home, St. Brigid Franciscan Friary, on Saturday, July 17th. I was escorted by a professor of political science who studies corruption in the government (even though he is apparently funded by the government...). Thirty seconds after arriving at the friary, I was shuffled over to my first notable experience. Fr. Christopher, who is the Franciscan friar who helped to organize my mission to Kenya, was across the street at the Starehe Boys Centre. The Starehe Boys Centre is a boarding school for impoverished youth whose mission is to offer the students an outstanding education, so that they can then go off to college (95% go to college and many of them go off to prestigious universities abroad). In fact, on Sunday, I met a student who will go to Boston in September to finish his final year of high school, and then he plans to go to Stanford.

On this day, the President of Kenya was speaking at the school to celebrate the tremendous impact that Starehe has had on disadvantaged youth. Upon entering the campus, I was given a full body search by soldiers holding intimidating guns. When I arrived at the celebration, I saw a sea of hundreds of black faces. I mentioned to my escort, "I don't stand out, do I?" He gave me a funny look, so I assume that he didn't get my humor. We listened to the president and other dignitaries, but I did not get a chance to actually meet them.

However, during the fanfare, we found Fr. Christopher (the friar who is generously helping me). There are not words to describe Fr. Christopher, as he is something of a legend among the people of Nairobi. He seems to be everywhere at once, helping the people in abject poverty with his spiritual guidance and charisma. Yet, he does his work in complete humility. As soon as we met him, we left the celebration, returned to my new home at St. Brigid Friary, I was shown my room, and then I slept from 5 PM until 8AM the next morning!

The next morning was Sunday. Fr. Christopher was scheduled to preach at 3 different masses: at Starehe Boys' Centre, at a church in the heart of the Nairobi slums, and at another impoverished church for the people of Fr. Christopher's tribe (the Kamba tribe). Again it is hard to describe these churches, but I expect that if a Westerner man who has grown sleepy with his religion was to enter one of these worship celebrations with singing and dancing and heartfelt speaking, he would be jolted awake.

So I don't continue writing so much, I just want to talk about my church experience in the slums. The slums look like the pictures we see on television in America, except for when you are actually there, the harsh reality of it is painfully felt. The pain is felt when you breathe in the awful smells of sewage and burning trash, when you see the fields of shanties woven tightly together with scraps of materials and mud, and when you see the dejected people frantically trying to earn money in the streets by selling their meager goods. Yet, when you enter into the church, the people come to life. The people may face the harshest of poverty, but their belief in God grants them solace and peace of mind, along with invigorating them with a spirit to continue to fight to better their lives. The church was packed from wall to wall, with people standing outside for lack of room, and the whole congregation raised their voices in singing. This is not like the poverty that I have seen in America. In U.S. poverty, you see lonely individuals who have lost hope in themselves; yet, in this Nairobi church, I saw families drawn closer together by their struggles and by their desire to serve and worship God. Continue Reading.

Please keep Zach, and all missionaries, in your prayers.

Who Should Be Doing The Praying?

Q - We ask saints to pray for us and to intercede for us.  Can we ask those we love who have passed away to pray for us and to intercede for us as well?  I'm really not sure, because I know that we are supposed to pray for people who have passed on because they might be in purgatory instead of Heaven...I would greatly appreciate it if you could answer this question.

A -
Thanks for the question.

It is fine to ask family or friends who may be in heaven to pray for us. No prayer is wasted. The prayer will be effective unless it is to someone who is not one of the elect (those who will be in heaven eventually). Therefore, if the person is in purgatory or heaven it is a good thing to ask them to pray for us.

On the flip side, don't forget to pray for your deceased family either. They need your prayers if they are in purgatory.

The Catechism brings both ideas together very nicely:
958 Communion with the dead. "In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and 'because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins' she offers her suffrages for them." Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.
I hope this helps.

Other post you might be interested in:
**Can The Saints Hear Us?
**Where Did Purgatory Come From?

My Letter To The Editor

Below is a recent letter to the editor of The Eagle, the local newspaper, which I wrote last week and was published today. I did not provide the title to the letter.
Why are there so many anti-Catholic stories?

I thought it might have been my Catholic bias showing again, when I recently noticed the Faith and Values section of The Eagle was full of "Catholics do bad things" stories.

I pulled up the Faith and Values section on The Eagle's website. I was wrong. It wasn't just my bias. The vast majority of stories about the Catholic Church or Catholics are "Catholics do bad things" stories. What a shame.

With a billion Catholics in the world and every one of them a sinner, it makes for an easy target, especially when some leaders do horrible and sinful acts while abusing their authority. Furthermore, I know the media doesn't understand what they consider the antiquated doctrines of the church and the reasons behind the Catholics who would freely choose to follow such a life.

Every Catholic has failed (as has every non-Catholic), but I can look in the mirror to find a sinner easy enough. Why read about one every time I open the Faith and Values section of the paper?

If the purpose of the section of The Eagle is to point out bad Catholics, never mind my bias. But, if it is to report on faith and values, why not try something different for a change?

I am not asking for The Eagle to ignore facts, tough stories, or not to report on what should be reported.

But, with a billion Catholics in the world, I am sure there are many interesting stories being told daily which could be found worthy of being printed.

But, then again, maybe I am biased.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Commercial Markets Created by Abortion

This article may be long, but it is absolutely worth reading.

Commercial Markets Created by Abortion

Abortion is commonly viewed from an ideological perspective. Little is publicly known about the abortion industry’s role as a supplier of aborted fetuses to industries that exploit them for economic gain. In fact, abortion provides the foundation for a fetal distribution chain where profits grow with each link. Can human body parts be bought and sold? Technically, they cannot. But money can change hands to reimburse for “reasonable” expenses associated with securing human tissue. The question is at what point trafficking in fetal parts violates the law.
In 2000, Congress became concerned about this distinction. The House of Representatives began hearings on the marketing of body parts obtained from fetuses killed in elective abortions. The information at the heart of the hearings was based on a thirty-one-month undercover investigation by Life Dynamics, Inc., a nonprofit pro-life organization in Texas founded by Mark Crutcher in 1992. Information was provided by employees of Comprehensive Health for Women, a Kansas affiliate of Planned Parenthood.1

Sellers and Buyers

The undercover Life Dynamics report describes a system devised within the abortion industry to financially profit from the growing market in fetal tissues, parts, and organs. The system circumvents legal restrictions on buying and selling human bodies and body parts. Three participants are commonly involved—the seller, the buyer, and the wholesaler. The wholesaler (or middleman) enters a financial agreement with an abortion clinic (the seller) to pay a monthly “site-fee” to the clinic, comparable to rent. In exchange, the wholesaler is allowed to position a retrieval agent inside the clinic, where he is given access to the dead fetuses and a workspace to harvest their parts. In some cases, the retrieval agent may be a clinic employee who was trained by the wholesaler. The buyer is usually a researcher working for a medical school, pharmaceutical company, biotechnology company, or government agency. When orders are received by the wholesaler from the buyer, they are faxed to the retrieval agent at the clinic, who harvests the requested parts and ships them to the buyer via common carrier.2
On the surface, this system does not appear to violate the legal prohibitions against trafficking in human body parts since, technically speaking, no one is buying or selling anything. The loophole is that site fees and retrieval reimbursement amounts are unregulated. The law requires that such payments be reasonable and reflect the actual cost of securing the parts, but there are no state or federal laws which establish guidelines or set limits regarding these payments. Additionally, no governmental or law enforcement agency is charged with overseeing the system. This means that the wholesaler is free to set site fees and retrieval fees at any amount.3
The fundamental legal question is whether site fees and retrieval reimbursements are used as proxy payments to circumvent state and federal laws making it illegal to buy or sell human body parts. For the transfers to be legal, the fetal parts and tissue must be donated, not sold. Only reasonable costs associated with the retrieval process may change hands.
There are three entities in a position to profit from the fetal parts industry: (1) the abortion provider, who supplies fetuses from abortions performed; (2) the wholesaler, who fills researchers’ orders by procuring the fetal parts, preserving them, and preparing them for shipment, thus facilitating their transfer; and (3) the researcher, who is the end user of the fetal parts. Technically, the abortion provider is permitted to receive only reasonable reimbursement for retrieval costs incurred. This amount is easily augmented through negotiation of favorable contract terms with the wholesaler, along with the application of some accounting ingenuity.
Wholesalers’ profits can be substantial. There is a material difference between the costs of harvesting fetal parts—consisting of wholesalers’ financial obligations to the abortion providers plus administrative overhead expenses—and the amount they can realize from researchers. The most significant profit potential, however, rests with the end users, the ­researchers, who work in educational and governmental institutions and in the product-development departments of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and cosmetics companies. The prospects for profit here are virtually unlimited.

Adding Up the Numbers

The Life Dynamics report illustrates these arrangements with concrete numbers. During the undercover investigation, it was determined that the Comprehensive Health for Women clinic received monthly site fees or rent supplements of $600 per month. In addition, they were paid $10 an hour for each hour the retrieval agent used work space at the clinic. The abortion clinic received these payments without having to incur any additional costs, “just because [the wholesaler’s] technician walked in the door.” 4 Calculations based on this information show that during the period under review, the clinic would have netted additional income of approximately $1,200 a month from this arrangement.
Traveling up the fetal distribution chain, profits of the company acting as wholesaler were calculated to be much higher. The wholesaler paid the clinic an average of $1,200 per month. It also incurred costs for salaries of its retrieval agents, administrative overhead, amortization of equipment (instruments, hood/dissection table, etc.), and disposable supplies. These costs were generously estimated to be approximately $5,500 per month. Total costs, including the payments of $1,200 to the clinic, were thus about $6,700 per month.5
To calculate the wholesaler’s monthly net profit, gross revenue received from the researchers was first computed. Payments for specific fetal parts and harvested tissues were based on a price list called “Fee for Services Schedule A” published by wholesaler Anatomical Gifts Foundation Inc. (AGF).6 The fee schedule purports to estimate the reimbursable cost allocable to retrieval of a particular body part, organ, or tissue. If the laws against trafficking were being observed, the fees for providing the fetal parts ordered should essentially correspond to the wholesaler’s costs of $6,700 computed above.7
According to logs detailing tissue shipments by AGF, 155 “specimens” were shipped in a representative month. These included 47 livers, 11 liver fragments, 7 brains,
21 eyes, 8 thymuses, 23 legs, 14 pancreases, 14 lungs, 6 arms, 1 kidney/adrenal gland, and 3 intact specimens for purposes of securing the blood.
8 When priced out according to the fee-for-service schedule, the shipments of parts for the month would have generated gross revenues of between $18,700 and $24,700, depending on whether the parts were shipped fresh or frozen.
Based on these transactions, the calculated monthly profit to the wholesaler was between $12,000 and $18,000 (gross revenues of $18,700 to $24,700 less monthly costs of $6,700).
The profits being earned by these middlemen are so significant that it now appears that some researchers are cutting out the middlemen to deal directly with abortion clinics. In these cases, the site-fee and reimbursement system is replaced with a bartering system. One bartering example involved a medical school that traded pathology reports for fetal cadavers or parts. “However, if an abortion clinic is trading baby parts for services which it would otherwise have to pay for, and the school is trading services for baby parts it would normally have to buy, both are still in violation of those statutes which prohibit trafficking in human body parts.” 10 Continue Reading.

Best Catholic Websites

Our Sunday Visitor has a news item for us:
The number of Catholic-oriented websites out there has exploded, and keeping track of the ones that are truly useful gets harder as they proliferate.

OSV Newsweekly is pulling together a "best of the (Catholic) web" for its annual Catholic Internet Guide.

Tell us your favorites in four main categories we've chosen (spirituality, news and resources, opinion and community building) and if your pick makes the cut we'll give you credit (either by full name or initials; your choice) and a free copy of the guide. If the sites you submit are hidden treasures (until now!), even better.

For fun, you'll also have an opportunity to submit your favorite Catholic YouTube videos and mobile device apps.

Here's the link to the survey. Don't miss your chance for fame! And to help out your fellow Catholic web-pilgrims!
If you want to throw a vote our way, we won't disagree with you!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Campus Ministry

It is always good to see a campus ministry grow and if St. Mary's can play some small part in another campus ministry's growth, we are happy to do so.

Here is a story from the Diocese of Beaumont:
Growing Campus Ministry helps grow the Church
June 1, 2010 by easttexascatholic

Every year more and more students are enrolling at Lamar University, Beaumont, and with every enrollment is an opportunity for vocations.

An important part of college life – whether the student stays at home or goes off to live in a different city or state – should not only be what classes to take or where to live, but should include where the student will be continuing to practice their Catholic faith.The transition between high school and college is critical when it comes to continuing to practice the Catholic faith. It’s easy to get caught up with all the new and exciting things at college campuses.

As a solution, many colleges and universities around the country have active Catholic Student Centers and with active participation at student centers come more vocation opportunities.

St. Mary Catholic Center at Texas A&M University is a great example of how a strong campus ministry can create a successful vocations program.

St. Mary Catholic Center serves Texas A&M University and Blinn College. Marcel LeJeune has been the assistant director of campus ministry there since 2006.

“We’ve built a culture of vocational discernment here,” LeJeune said. “We encourage our students to really go through the process of discerning what God’s call is for each one of them individually. And that they each need to do that to be able to understand it’s not just a decision I make on my own but this is something that God has given to me. It’s a gift.”

Through the years more than 130 who have come through the doors of St. Mary have gone on to vocations in the priesthood. Currently about 50 are in formation.

But it took time to build to this, LeJeune said. About 20 years ago St. Mary was not the thriving campus ministry it is today. Then fulltime staff was hired who were dynamic leaders, money was invested in the programs, and the ministry began to thrive – with the result of increased vocations to the priesthood and lay leaders going into the world “with a Catholic view and understanding of who they are as children of God,” LeJeune said. Continue Reading.

Jesus and Football

Soup To Nutz

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Birth in 3D

Technology once again brings life "to life".

Other videos:

More here.


I used to collect comic books as a kid (and still have a box of them in my attic). So, I really like this story by Salt and Light TV:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Researchers Show Increased Religiosity = Decreased Fraud

Interesting correlation found by researchers at Texas A&M's Mays Business School:
When you’re evaluating the risks associated with investing in a company, one item you may not have thought to consider is its location relative to the Bible Belt. However, that may be a salient detail, if you’re worried about fraud.

New research from Mays accounting faculty members Sean McGuire, Thomas Omer, and Nathan Sharp suggests that firms headquartered in counties where residents report that religion is important in their daily lives exhibit less aggressive financial reporting.

This is especially true in small-to-medium sized firms that have less external monitoring from financial analysts. For such companies, religion can act as a substitute for other monitoring.

There is a significant association between the measure of a county’s religiosity and measures of aggressive reporting, including shareholder litigation related to accounting malfeasance. In fact, after controlling for other firm and county characteristics, they find that an approximate 10 percent increase in the population that indicate religion is important to their daily lives results in a 48.8 percent decrease in the odds that a firm headquartered in that county is sued for accounting malfeasance.

Which states overall reported the highest numbers of residents claiming religion was important in their daily lives? The top ten are all Bible Belt states, with Mississippi (86 percent), Alabama (84 percent), and Tennessee (79 percent) in the first three spots. At the bottom of the list by this measure are Alaska (48 percent), Vermont (46 percent), and New York (44 percent). Texas is number 13 on the list, with 71.9 percent of residents reporting religion is important in their daily life. The religion data were collected by Gallup, Inc.

Another finding of note is that firms located in more religious counties scored lower on measures of corporate social responsibility, including support for the community and diversity initiatives. On the surface, this seems surprising: shouldn’t firms where religion has an impact show higher levels of corporate social responsibility? The researchers hypothesize that this finding may be easily explained: in more religious counties, there is likely less need for corporate involvement in providing for needs within the community, as those activities are already being addressed by religious groups. Also, if a company’s CEO or other managers are already involved in community efforts personally through a religious group, they may not see the need to involve the corporation.

While the religiosity of the county where a firm is headquartered is significantly related to fraud risk in a large sample of firms, Sharp notes that it is only one of many factors potential investors must examine. It is significant, he says, but one should not invest solely on this criteria.
The student newspaper, The Battalion, has a story on it as well.