Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Slow Until Jan 4

Blogging will be slow, if any, until Tuesday, Jan 4.
Have a great New Year and remember to stay close to our Lord and Lady.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


On my recent road trip to Dallas there was a bit more traffic on I-45 than usual. Not the stuff nightmares are made of, but a bit tedious at times with both lanes occupied, people trying to pass, getting stuck behind the occasional slow vehicle, etc. Early on in my drive, I found myself behind a large truck. The truck blocked my view of what was ahead so my first instinct was to pass him, to get out in front of him so I could see clearly what all was coming. But as it worked out, I remained behind him for quite some time. I began to notice that the driver of said truck was very good at deciding when to pass and when to wait. I on the other hand, either being too polite or too impatient, often wind up stuck behind the slowest of driver. A couple times I opted not to follow the truck and always to my demise. I quickly learned my lesson and stuck with the truck. (Poor guy probably thought I was a total creepster!) Though I couldn’t see what was coming, he could. I could take my cues from him. He had proven himself worthy of being followed.

As I drove, it hit me. Though I can’t see what is coming, God can. It is okay if I can't see what is ahead. So long as I have God in my line of sight, I can take my cues from Him. Yeah, I know this isn’t some grand revelation, but the imagery of it really hit home.

So many times in my own life I am tempted to pull out in front of God, step away from His timing and His plan to forge ahead with my own. As I don’t much care for surprises (well, at least not the unpleasant kind), I try to get a better glimpse for myself so I can see what all is coming. Yet pulling out in front of God to see things for myself never works. He knows me better than I know myself and He can see far more than my weary, peering eyes. It is best to stick with Him, let Him occupy my range of vision, and trust.

Other times, when God slows me down and wants to work on something in my life - growing some virtue, healing some wound, eliminating some sin, learning some lesson - I’m like the impatient driver trying to will the slow car in front of me to move by glaring at it. It is as if somehow all of life’s woes would be solved if that car didn’t exist, if this or that obstacle was removed, and I could go on my merry way! But the willing and glaring doesn’t work. We must slow down with God, watch Him closely (Psalm 123:2), and allow Him to help us learn and maneuver. Only then can we safely and happily carry on.

Lastly, in both life and driving, I find it rather torturous to turn off the cruise control and navigate my way inch by inch. I much prefer the free-flying, music-blaring, cruise control excursion. But life isn’t an empty open road. It is a journey perfectly designed to get us to our final destination. God chooses the perfect (perfect for us) companions, detours, obstacles, and vehicles that enable us to grow in our capacity to give and receive love (which is hopefully what we’ll be doing for all eternity at that final destination!) We must be willing to fully engage our hearts, minds, and souls on the trip. That is the whole point. No cruise control allowed. We keep our eye on God, stay alert to His movements, and take it one step at a time.

So if you find yourself in a spot where your view is obscured, your pace is painfully slow, or you have to work hard to figure out what is the next step . . . don’t despair. Just keep your eye on God. Take your cues from Him. He can see what is coming and He can help you navigate all obstacles. He has already overcome the greatest obstacle: sin and death. He knows how to get us to our final destination.

This Christmas season, let us learn to follow the One that was sent to save us. “And you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 He has certainly proven Himself worthy of being followed.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6


Q - I have a question regarding the function of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Say I am on my way to confession having committed a mortal sin and I die on my way, am I going to be thrown into purgatory or perhaps hell? How often should we go to confession? If I go to confession and then 3 hours later commit a mortal sin should I go back or can I wait till next weekend? Thanks!

A - Thanks for the great questions! I love the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so I am glad that you have a great interest in it.

Let me first quote a bit from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Reconciliation:

1422 "Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion."

Notice that we seek both forgiveness and reconciliation with God. This leads to conversion and in the entire process we are given the grace of God.

1468 Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament.

Our purpose in this Sacrament is to be brought closer to God, esp. when we have severed ourselves from His love by committing mortal sin.

So, would we be punished in hell for a mortal sin that was not confessed even though our intent was to confess it and be forgiven? No. God is merciful and cares about the heart, which was already seeking out His forgiveness.

Now, we do still have to pay the temporal price for our sins either in this life or by purgatory. So, there would be a cleansing in purgatory before we entered into heaven, but our salvation is assured if we die in a state of grace.

The question of how often to go to confession I will answer in both legal and practical ways:
The Church requires we go once a year during the Easter season, if we are in the state of mortal sin. But, as a general rule of thumb it is a good idea to go about once a month. I recommend that most people schedule it so they don't put it off too long.

I know that I have several tendencies that confession helps me with. I am too scrupulous and I am too prideful. Confession helps keep my head balanced better between the two.

If you commit a mortal sin, the best thing to do is to do the following:

  • Don't beat yourself up too much, because the devil wants you to think you are no good.
  • Don't trivialize the sin, because we all have a tendency to try and rationalize.
  • Go to confession as soon as is feasible and remember that if you are not in a state of grace then you shouldn't receive Communion (this in and of itself would get me running to Confession).
  • Ask the priest for tips on how to avoid the near occasion of sin so that you can continue to grow closer to Christ and resist temptations.

I hope this helps.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Wrath of God

Q -I had a question on something that an atheist friend brought up, and I had heard it before. It concerns the "Wrath of God" on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. How can a loving God be seen as having done that. I tend to see it as just a natural occurrence, and Christ later said how those Jews that had died in the collapse of a structure were no less guilty than anyone else. Anyway, if you have any thoughts or could point me to any books, I'd appreciate it.

A - Thanks for the question! The first thing we need to understand is the progressive way that God has revealed his nature to us. I have frequently heard about the difference between "the Old Testament God" and "the New Testament God" as if there are two different gods. But, this is certainly not the case. There is one God who has slowly revealed his nature to humanity through the ages. The complete understanding of God's mercy can only be seen in God's son, Jesus, giving himself up for us.

God cannot change. But, our understanding of Him certainly can.

We must also remember that while God is merciful, He is also just. If we so choose, we can live a life apart from His love and if we die apart from that love we will certainly have earned eternal punishment. In fact, Jesus warns of hell more than he talks of heaven. We could call this a "tough love" approach. Just as a parent has to teach a lesson the "hard way" sometimes, because the children just won't listen to reason, so God has had to deal with His children throughout time.

With this in mind, it might be the best way to understand what happened with Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember that God sent two angels to look for those in the cities who were righteous. Those righteous people (Lot's family) were spared. Thus we should see the text to be just as much about God's mercy as we do it being about judgment. When the people sought to have sex with the angels it sealed their fate(by their unrepentant and sinful attitudes).

I hope this helps.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

There Be Dragons Facebook Contest

I was blessed to see an advance screening of this movie and put up a short review here. Now, there is a contest on Facebook for the movie:
Here are the prizes:

Grand Prize Winner will receive:
* One (1) $500 Apple Gift Card, and
* Two (2) tickets to see There Be Dragons in theaters May 2011
* BONUS: Ten (10) tickets to give to friends to see There Be Dragons in theaters May 2011. (Note: The 10 Bonus tickets will be distributed to the friends you request. The friends MUST also sign up to enter-to-win in order to become eligible to receive these tickets, so spread the word to your friends.)

The Second Prize Winner will receive:
* One (1) Kindle 3G loaded with two books by Josemaria Escriva, and
* Two (2) tickets to see There Be Dragons in theaters May 2011.

The Third Prize Winner will receive:
* One (1) $100 Apple Gift Card, and

Two (2) tickets to see There Be Dragons in theaters May 2011.
Click here to enter contest.
Check out the trailer:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Welcome Him In

As I sat half hanging off of the crowded pew Christmas Eve, in a seat I would not have chosen (despite getting to the church 40 minutes early!), I tried to put myself in the presence of God and reflect on the meaning of this holy day. You see, during the last two weeks of Advent I had become quite the scrooge. Not even my beloved holiday music could snap me out of it. As I was getting ready to head out to mass I found myself saying, “I want more time! I’m not in the holiday spirit yet!” Instead of being full of joy and hope, I found myself sick, frustrated, anxious about a few things, confused about a few things, and longing for things I was quite certain I wouldn’t be “getting” this year. As I entered the sanctuary, I was craving a peaceful, meaningful, inspiring liturgy. That wasn’t exactly what I got. :)

Instead of silence before Mass there was a rather comical children’s nativity play. When Mary took baby Jesus (a doll) into her arms out of the manger, she did so by grabbing him by the head (palming it in her hand like a basketball player would the ball). Awkward. I laughed out loud. Three of the shepherd boys got bored part way through. Two began throwing the stuffed sheep they were holding in the air, while the third was flailing his about holding it by the tail. Again, I laughed. There was also a small boy dressed up like a star who stood on a step stool behind the manger scene. At one point, he began swaying to the music a bit too enthusiastically and lost his balance. We all gasped, then laughed as he steadied himself back to safety.

Mass itself was, well, interesting. There was an elderly couple next to us who could not get situated and were moving about. They talked loudly much of the time and then doled out candy to one of the grand kids half way through. The priest had an accent I couldn’t navigate (or hear over the couple!), there was a strange interruption during the creed, the cantor’s microphone was barely audible, and there was a crying baby nearby. I have never in my life so earnestly meant the words “Peace be with you” then when I turned to my mom during the sign of peace! The evening had been anything but peaceful. We are all imperfect human beings and when we come together in that great a number . . . well, that is a lot of imperfection!

Cataloguing in my mind (as I just did above) all that had gone awry I kept thinking, “Why in the world would Jesus willingly enter into this mess!?” The answer? Because He loves us. And He desires for us to know that love.

We often imagine Christ’s first coming as one of peaceful joy and stillness: a bright star, gentle Mary, sleeping child, angels singing. But I suspect it was not all smiles and loving gazes. An anxious young first time mother, a scurrying-to-provide father, a dark night, a damp cold place, smelly animals, a crying baby, so many unknowns, numerous questions, no worldly comforts, no familial or communal support, and one serious lack of sleep. It is into this uncertainty and into this mess that the Christ child came. Why? Because He loves us. He loves us enough to enter into our mess and to transform us.

Notice I said transform “us”. Christ’s coming does not always transform our circumstances. It won’t instantly answer all questions or ease our pain. It won’t necessarily cure illnesses or eradicate frustrations. It certainly didn’t shush the couple next to us in mass or enable me to decipher the priest’s homily! However, Christ’s coming can transform us. It can enable us to bear our illnesses, be patient in uncertainty, trust despite anxiety, accept imperfection, navigate the unexpected, and welcome the unsolicited happenings of life. This is why Christ came: that we may know and experience His transforming love.

Entering the church last night, I wanted a blissfully joyful Christmas without sickness, frustration, anxiety, confusion, longing, chatty pew mates or language barriers. But what I got was something better. Not a serenely prayerful couple of hours, by no means! But an encounter with Christ and the much needed reminder that He is with us amidst the mayhem of life.

So this Christmas season (which has only just begun!) may we strive to welcome Christ into our imperfect lives. Don’t wait for peaceful, serene moments to be mindful of Him. Welcome Him into the dark, damp, lonely, stinky, anxious, exhausted nativity scene of your own life. And let Him transform you.

He loves you. He longs for you to know His love. Welcome Him in!

When I Die...

The story below made me think of this verse:
"Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us." - Romans 5: 3-5
This is awesome character, filled with hope.

Tip o' the hat to CMR.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Documentary Exposes Abortion Industry Roots

From Life Dynamics comes a documentary called Maafa 21, a word which means "A terrible tragedy" in Swahili. It aims to do the following:
Maafa 21 exposes a plan to create “racial purity” that began 150 years ago and is still being carried out right now. It’s about the ties between the Nazis, the American eugenics movement and today’s “family planning” cartel. It’s about elitism, secret agendas, treachery and corruption at the highest levels of political and corporate America. Maafa 21 will show you things the media has been hiding and politicians don’t want you to know.
Here is a trailer.

I have ordered one and once I view it I will put up a review.

When Did Salvation Become Possible?

Q - When did salvation become possible - at the death or resurrection of Christ?

A - Thanks for the question. The simple answer is neither (in ordinary circumstances). While we consider the Incarnation, life, suffering, death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ one salvific act; the salvation of souls was not possible for all until Christ ascended into Heaven. Yet, each part of Christ's life is indispensable for our salvation:

A short summary of the parts of Christ saving us might help, note that this is not the full story of what each of these do for us:
  • The Incarnation - When God takes on flesh in order to lower Himself to our state. This is the beginning of the Redemption of humanity and shows the great desire God has to save us.
  • The Life of Christ - God offers us the example and teaching we need to know Him personally. He reveals Himself and His plan to us through the person of Jesus Christ.
  • The Suffering of Christ - Christ takes on our sin to bring meaning to our personal suffering when combined with His. His suffering is for our redemption.
  • The Death of Christ - Christ sacrifices his life for our eternal lives. He pays the price for our sin and liberates us from the bond of sin.
  • The Resurrection of Christ - Christ defeats death by showing it has no power over Him. By His grace we can now have eternal life.
  • The Ascension of Christ - Christ opens the gates of Heaven for us all.
This is what St. Thomas says about the Ascension being needed for our salvation:
On His part, in regard to those things which, in ascending, He did for our salvation. First, He prepared the way for our ascent into heaven, according to His own saying (John 14:2): "I go to prepare a place for you," and the words of Micheas (2:13), "He shall go up that shall open the way before them." For since He is our Head the members must follow whither the Head has gone: hence He said (John 14:3): "That where I am, you also may be." In sign whereof He took to heaven the souls of the saints delivered from hell, according to Psalm 67:19 (Cf. Ephesians 4:8): "Ascending on high, He led captivity captive," because He took with Him to heaven those who had been held captives by the devil--to heaven, as to a place strange to human nature. captives in deed of a happy taking, since they were acquired by His victory.

Secondly, because as the high-priest under the Old Testament entered the holy place to stand before God for the people, so also Christ entered heaven "to make intercession for us," as is said in Hebrews 7:25. Because the very showing of Himself in the human nature which He took with Him to heaven is a pleading for us. so that for the very reason that God so exalted human nature in Christ, He may take pity on them for whom the Son of God took human nature. Thirdly, that being established in His heavenly seat as God and Lord, He might send down gifts upon men, according to Ephesians 4:10: "He ascended above all the heavens, that He might fill all things," that is, "with His gifts," according to the gloss.
The reason I said "ordinary circumstances", is that there were exceptions to this rule (e.g. the thief on the cross).
Thank you Christ for saving us!

Counseling From Bob Newhart

How not to counsel others.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jesus Vs. Santa

Pants Save the Day!

Thank God for pants!

Tip o' the hat to Mark.

The Holy Grail

Q - What are Catholic teachings on the Holy Grail?

A - Thanks for the question. There is no official Catholic teaching on the Holy Grail. First of all, the legends about it don't even agree as to what the Holy Grail is. Some say it is a chalice used at the Last Supper, while others say it is a ciboria. Still others say it is the platter that the paschal lamb was on when Jesus ate the passover meal with his apostles. Yet all of them agree it is supposed to be the vessel that held the blood of Christ.

Most of the legends have Joseph of Arimathea as the central character and many of the legends have him bringing the Holy Grail to England, others to Spain, and still others have it different locations with different people involved.

The Church has basically ignored the legend, which leads me to believe they are merely legends. While there is nothing preventing a Catholic from believing the legends are true, I don't see too much value in expending too much time or effort in looking deeply into the issue.

For more on this topic you can read the following:
**Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the Holy Grail
**The Quest for the Holy Grail

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Do Vocations Change?

Q - I was wondering if vocations can change. As in, you feel called to do one thing but are really called to another. I personally felt called (intense desire) for marriage and to be a parent. Recently, I have felt a tug in the religious life direction, but have absolutely no desire for it. Is that strange or am I being called in a direction that I thought I wasn't? I am thoroughly confused.

A - Thanks for the question. First for a few definitions:
Vocation = A call from God.
Discernment = The process of finding God's will by listening to and obeying his call.

I know that discerning God's will for your life can be quite a tangled mess sometimes. I can't tell you what you are called to, nor can anyone else. But, a spiritual director might be able to help you sort through what is going on. Here is Fr. Thomas Dubay on what it is all about:
"What, then, is spiritual direction? It is the guiding of a person into a life truly under the dominion of the Holy Spirit, who is the primary director. It helps the directee to be more and more docile to the light and promptings of the divine Sanctifier, identifying impediments to this, as well as ways to overcome them, giving instruction and encouragement in living a life of virtue, and assisting the directee to advance on the path of prayer — the road to union with God."
Sometimes we can't make heads or tails of what is going on in our own lives and a spiritual director is able to take a more objective view of whether what we feel and think are from God or not. Here at St. Mary's we are blessed to have many spiritual directors who regularly see over 200 students to help them. I suggest you contact one of them.

Now, as to your question - I don't think it is strange that you are feeling a different calling. The process of living out a vocation can be seen in layers - some of them need to be discerned and others do not.

Some vocations that need not be discerned - the vocation (call) to holiness, virtue, chastity, etc. All are called to these things.

Some vocations need to be discerned, for instance - the call to married life, religious life, or priesthood. Lower-level kinds of decisions should also be discerned - where should I live, what should I study in school, who should I be friends with, etc.

When we talk about vocational discernment in the Catholic Church, we usually focus on the big issues - marriage, priesthood, and religious life. These are life-long commitments once a vow is taken or ordination happens. Once you take a permanent vow or are ordained, you need not continue to discern whether you are called to that life, you just need to live it out the best you can.

But, up to the point of getting married, getting ordained, or taking final vows - the process of discernment continues and a call may not be what you think it is.

I hope this helps. I will pray for your discernment.

Vatican Issues Document About Pope's Statements on Condoms

I know this won't put the issue to rest, but it might help. I just wish they would have gotten it out two weeks ago.
A few snips from the statement, with my emphasis added in bold:
Following the publication of the interview-book Light of the World by Benedict XVI, a number of erroneous interpretations have emerged which have caused confusion concerning the position of the Catholic Church regarding certain questions of sexual morality. The thought of the Pope has been repeatedly manipulated for ends and interests which are entirely foreign to the meaning of his words – a meaning which is evident to anyone who reads the entire chapters in which human sexuality is treated. The intention of the Holy Father is clear: to rediscover the beauty of the divine gift of human sexuality and, in this way, to avoid the cheapening of sexuality which is common today.

Some interpretations have presented the words of the Pope as a contradiction of the traditional moral teaching of the Church. This hypothesis has been welcomed by some as a positive change and lamented by others as a cause of concern – as if his statements represented a break with the doctrine concerning contraception and with the Church’s stance in the fight against AIDS. In reality, the words of the Pope – which specifically concern a gravely disordered type of human behaviour, namely prostitution (cf. Light of the World, pp. 117-119) – do not signify a change in Catholic moral teaching or in the pastoral practice of the Church.

As is clear from an attentive reading of the pages in question, the Holy Father was talking neither about conjugal morality nor about the moral norm concerning contraception. This norm belongs to the tradition of the Church and was summarized succinctly by Pope Paul VI in paragraph 14 of his Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae, when he wrote that "also to be excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means." The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought. On this issue the Pope proposes instead – and also calls the pastors of the Church to propose more often and more effectively (cf. Light of the World, p. 147) – humanly and ethically acceptable ways of behaving which respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meaning of every conjugal act, through the possible use of natural family planning in view of responsible procreation.
Continue reading.

Bishop Removes Arizona Hospital's Catholic Status

This is huge news...
The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has removed St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center's status as a Catholic hospital for failing to strictly adhere to Bishop Thomas Olmsted's demands that the hospital comply with church moral teaching.

The decision, announced at a Tuesday news conference by the diocese, came after negotiations between Catholic Healthcare West and the bishop failed to resolve major ethical differences.

The diocese and the hospital spent months trying to reach agreement over the bishop's belief that the hospital violated the church's Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care in a case in which the pregnancy of a terminally ill woman was ended to save her life.

Olmsted has declared the surgery an abortion, while St. Joseph's has argued that the procedure was allowable under church-approved exceptions to the abortion policy. The exceptions allow for termination of the fetus if that is not the direct purpose of a surgery, such as in cases of uterine cancer or a blockage of a fallopian tube.

The bishop, in a letter dated Nov. 22, said he disagreed with an extensive analysis by Marquette University theologian M. Therese Lysaught that argued that the intention of doctors involved in the case, and the mother, was primarily to save the mother's life - not to end the life of the fetus.

Discussions between the bishop and officials of Catholic Healthcare West, St. Joseph's parent company, have been going on for more than a year, ever since the surgery was reported to the bishop. Hospital officials later said they did not believe the informant violated federal health-care privacy laws.

The ultimatum from the bishop followed his request over the summer that CHW provide him with a moral analysis of the case. The request for the analysis was passed on to Lysaught in August. She completed her work and forwarded her analysis to Lloyd Dean, CHW president, in late October. By the end of November, the bishop had rejected her conclusions.

UPDATE: Jimmy Akin has the Bishop's statement. A snip:
CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital, as part of what is called “Mercy Care Plan”, have been formally cooperating with a number of medical procedures that are contrary to the ERDs, for many years. I was never made aware of this fact until the last few weeks. Here are some of the things which CHW has been formally responsible for throughout these years:

• Contraceptive counseling, medications, supplies and associated medical and laboratory examinations, including, but not limited to, oral and injectable contraceptives, intrauterine devices, diaphragms, condoms, foams and suppositories;

• Voluntary sterilization (male and female); and

• Abortions due to the mental or physical health of the mother or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

This information was given to me in a meeting which included an administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital who admitted that St. Joseph’s and CHW are aware that this plan consists in formal cooperation in evil actions which are contrary to Church teaching. The Mercy Care Plan has been in existence for 26 years, includes some 368,000 members, and its 2010 revenues will reach nearly $2 billion. CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital have made more than a hundred million dollars every year from this partnership with the government.

In light of all these failures to comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Church, it is my duty to decree that, in the Diocese of Phoenix, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, CHW is not committed to following the teaching of the Catholic Church and therefore this hospital cannot be considered Catholic.
Update #2 - You can now read the statement on the diocesan website along with the decree from the Bishop which officially revokes his permission to call the hospital "Catholic".

Monday, December 20, 2010

Highlights From Fr. Barron's Series - Catholicism

The Catholicism Project - will be a ten-part series for TV and DVD. I can't wait. It looks amazing.
Word on Fire Catholic Ministries offers a vision of the Catholic Faith, which has never before been seen. This vision seeks to explore, through a global journey, the living culture of the Catholic Church. From the lands of the Bible, to the great shrines of Europe, to the shores and heartland of America, to the mysteries of Asia, to the rich landscapes of Latin America, to the beating heart of Africa - and beyond, witness the passion and glory of the faith that claims over a billion of the earth’s people as its own. Now in production. Ten part series for TV and DVD: Production to be released Fall of 2011.
Watch this and see if you don't get excited, then please pass this on. Others need to hear about it!

American Cancer Society Supports Planned Parenthood. Should I Not Support Them?

Q - I recently discovered that an organization I volunteer with, the American Cancer Society, has provided various grants to Planned Parenthood for smoking cessation and cancer prevention information. While I have no proof that there is any cooperation between ACS and PP locally, I am torn on what to do about my involvement. Should I resign from my position or use it to get the real facts about cancer out for the world to hear?

The local Relay For Life honestly has the best intentions at heart for fundraising for a cure. Almost all of the money raised stays in the area for programs and research here. With my own family so impacted by cancer, helping to find a cure is one of my top goals, but not at the cost of my Catholic values. If I can find a way to make it work without sacrificing my morals, I will do so.

A - Thanks for the question. This is a difficult subject for many people that can raise the tempers of many. I, like most of us, have been changed by cancer. My sister died last month after battling cancer for five years. It has taken the lives of my grandfather, uncle, and many others as well. Dying from cancer can mean horrible pain, disability, and more. I want to see a cure as well. But, like you, I don't want to have a cure if it means we do it immorally.

There is definitely a problem with the connection between the ACS and Planned Parenthood. So, what are you morally obligated to do? I hope I can offer a few thoughts to guide you.

We can never directly support intrinsically evil actions. Abortion, same-sex marriage, cloning, fetal stem cell research, euthanasia are some of the actions a Catholic cannot support morally. Yet, there are times it seems we get "tangled up" in these issues despite our best efforts, and end up supporting them indirectly. This is where the principle of material vs. formal cooperation with evil comes in handy. No matter how hard you might try, there are situations were good an evil are mixed up and sometimes we get caught being complicit in an evil act.

When we "cooperate" in an evil act our cooperation can be either be:
  • material - without the intention of supporting an evil act - wrong by the circumstance, not intent
    • may be permitted, with a gravely proportional reason as judged by the principle of double-effect (see below).
  • formal - with the intention to support or commit an evil act - wrong by intent and circumstance
    • never permitted.
So, if you went shopping at a store because they had the best prices in town on books and while you were checking out you noticed that they also sell pornography, you could still licitly still shop at the store, if you don't intend to support the selling of porn. But, you are still in material support of the evil. A good rule to follow is that while material cooperation may be licit (morally permissible in some circumstances), we want to be as far-removed from formal cooperation as possible. So, if there is another option of shopping somewhere with similar prices and selection, which doesn't sell porn, we ought to shop there instead. Remote cooperation (meaning far from the evil act) is licit because we don't intend to cooperate in the evil act and if we did intend to cooperate with evil it is no longer a licit act.

If the evil act is not intended by someone and the person is sufficiently remote from the act, then they are not complicit with it. This is called remote material cooperation. Things that might cause an act to be remote instead of material include (not in order and an incomplete list):
  • Time between the complicit act(s) - in some cases, time between events can cause distance. But, time is not a cure-all. For instance, using research gained from the Nazi death camps is still immoral.
  • Steps separating the complicit act(s) - For instance. If you buy a piece of clothing that was originally made in a child-labor sweatshop from another part of the world, then you are many steps from the original evil (sweatshops using child labor). If we intended to buy it because we support sweatshops, then we would be complicit.
  • On-going or one-time (or completed) complicit act(s) - The US supporting slavery is an example. We no longer allow it, but how are we now responsible as a people for once doing so? On the other hand, the sex-trade is still an on-going problem. We cannot participate in such evil.
  • Severity of the complicit act(s) - For instance, abortion. The act is an indescribably evil in and of itself. We cannot cooperate in acts that formally support such evil. On the other hand, there are lesser evils where it is not quite as clear.
  • Nature and Immediacy of the Goods - The most common example is a custodian at a hospital that performs abortions. As long as the person does not formally cooperate in them and disapproves of them, he is not complicit in them - if he is dependent on the job for his livelihood. If he is able to get a job elsewhere, then his cooperation could be formal and not material.
There are times when we are not remote from the evil at all. So, the less remote the cooperation, the more we should seek to do something different. Once it is no longer remote from an evil, and therefore material cooperation, we ought not participate.

With the case for Relay for Life, it would certainly be better to fight against cancer by supporting organizations that do not have such problems. Unfortunately, there are other organizations who give much more to Planned Parenthood, including the Susan G. Komen Foundation. So, how do you settle the issue? You sort through it all using the Principle of Double Effect (PDE). It is a moral framework that gives us a Catholic understanding of which acts are moral and which are not, when things aren't very clear. Through the PDE, the act must pass four criteria:

  1. The moral object must be good or neutral, not intrinsically evil.
  2. The evil result is tolerated, not intended; the good effect is what the agent intends. Then, the evil effect comes indirectly from the act, while the good effect comes directly from it.
  3. The good effect doesn't occur as a result of the evil effect, in other words, you can't do evil to get good. Therefore, the evil effect is not intended directly as a means toward the good effect.
  4. There must be a proportionate reason for doing the act. This implies that there can also not be any other alternatives.

In your particular case, it is left up to your prudential judgment as to your course of action. So, you should follow your conscience after prayerfully discerning what God wants you to do. But, if I were applying this to my own life, here is what I would find:

  1. The good is trying to find an end to cancer - pass.
  2. I don't intend to support PP - pass.
  3. I would not be doing evil to get to the good act - pass.
  4. There are other option - fail.

I hope this helps.

College Athletics Recruiting - Money Not Morality

Some of the practices in the recruiting of high school athletes to play at major universities around the country continues to cross the line of moral/ethical behavior, especially in the two big sports - men's basketball and football. The teams often bring in millions of dollars, all while the coaches treat the kids (teenagers) like God's greatest gift to the world one minute and then they toss them to the curb the next. All in the name of money and winning at all costs.
Some of the issues I see cropping up:
  • Early recruiting - we are now seeing continued pressure to sign sophomores and juniors in high school. These kids are being ranked as young as junior high in some sports. This leads to a kid worrying about things they shouldn't have to when they are too young to figure it all out. How many kids in the fall semester of their sophomore year are mature enough to decide where they want to go to college 2.5 years later? 
  • Off-season / AAU teams - These teams are not affiliated with high schools. Thus, they do not have the restrictions that the high school coaches/teams do. They have been the center of many problems in recruiting, esp. in basketball. What happens is that these teams have coaches who are often looking to profit off of the kids by getting jobs at colleges. They sometimes encourage kids to transfer to different schools to get a chance to get a college scholarship. They push personal numbers (to pad their stats) instead of a team concept. They also work closely with shoe companies who put on big events in order to influence young kids who might sign shoe contracts if they make the pros. All-in-all, it is a broken system.
  • Over-signing - Many schools now sign so many recruits, they go over the limit for players they can offer scholarships to. Thus, they pull a scholarship from another kid they made a promise to. Some kids have been offered scholarships as early as junior high!
  • Agents - there have been numerous stories recently about how professional agents are out of control in courting (bribing) students to sign with them. These agents are risking the kids college eligibility and if they don't turn our to be as good as they want, they dump them. Shameful.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. College sports recruiting is broken, immoral, and messing up the lives of young people by preying on their dreams. The NCAA should fix it, but then again, the NCAA is in it for the money the schools get too.

I don't expect major changes anytime soon. Watch this video to get an idea of some of the problems and the way the spiral down to change lives negatively.

Social Network Christmas

This is even better than the Digital Nativity.

Tip o' the hat to Thomas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vatican Goes After China

Glad to see this happen:

Is A Catholic + Atheist Marriage Valid?

Q  - Is it possible for a Catholic and an Athiest to get married in the Catholic Church so that the marriage is valid in the eyes of the Church and in the eyes of God?

A - Thanks for the question. Yes, a non-Christian and a Catholic can be validly married, but the marriage will not be Sacramental. Marriage is not only for Christians, but for all people. Thus, marriage can be validly entered into. But, for it to be a Sacrament, both spouses must be Christian (i.e. validly baptized). This is because the spouses confer the Sacrament upon one another and to be disposed to receive any other Sacrament, you must be baptized first. Thus, the Church believes that any valid marriage between any two Christians is a Sacramental marriage in addition to being valid.

For a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic, they must first get permission from the Bishop. There are two different kinds of permission needed. If you are marrying a non-Catholic Christian, then you need "permission to enter into a mixed marriage." If the person is a non-Christian, then you need "dispensation from disparity of cult."

As for an atheist, the same rules apply. Just because they lack belief, the Church doesn't see them any differently than any other non-Christian.

From the US Bishops:
A valid Catholic marriage results from four elements:
  1. the spouses are free to marry;
  2. they freely exchange their consent;
  3. in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and
  4. their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister.
Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by church authority.
If an atheist and a Catholic both are able to have these conditions met, then they can marry validly in a Catholic Church - though the marriage won't be Sacramental.

I hope this helps.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

He's On His Way

Great campaign.

Death Penalty Dialogue

A very interesting panel dialogue on the death penalty will be taking place in Houston soon. Details here:
On January 18, 2011, a panel of Houston’s religious leaders will participate in “The Dialogue of Religious Leaders on the Death Penalty” at the Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall in downtown Houston. This unprecedented event precedes the Houston Grand Opera’s performances of the award-winning Dead Man Walking Opera January 22- February 7, 2011.

Please join us for this special event aimed at heightening the awareness of death penalty issues in Houston and starting the conversation that moves us forward.

Details: Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 7:30pm – Free Event with RSVP (RSVP Below!)
Location: Zilkha Hall (Hobby Center); Houston, Texas

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo (Catholic)
Bishop Janice Huie (United Methodist)
Bishop Mike Rinehart (Lutheran Synod)
Rabbi David Lyon (Jewish)
Reverend Andy Cole (Presbyterian)
Reverend Harvey Clemons, Jr (Baptist)

Sr. Helen Prejean, csj (Author, Dead Man Walking)
Vicki Schieber (Board Chair and Spokesperson for Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights)

Question & Answer session moderators:
Msgr. Frank Rossi
Fr. Gene Kelly

Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Dominican Sisters of Houston
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church
5th Ward Coalition of Churches
Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
StandDown Texas Project

Confirmation and Salvation

Q - I was thinking about the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285 quote ‘Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace’. I’m not sure how else to read this unless one is to say that our baptismal grace isn’t complete until confirmation; but that does lead to a conclusion that some how our baptism is not enough.

Also on a related note is CCC 1129 ‘the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation’. Note the plural of sacraments. What other sacrament than Baptism brings salvation?

A – Great Questions! Thanks for asking.

First off, why don’t we begin by exploring what the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are and aren’t.

Baptism is the first of the Sacraments of Initiation, that is, a Sacrament which cleanses our souls of the guilt (not the stain) of original sin, makes us partakers of the Divine Nature, brings us into the family of God (the Church), makes us sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Christ, and it gives us sanctifying and actual grace. It is not complete in the sense that it doesn’t give us every grace we need to have a mature Christian faith. It is the gateway into the Sacramental life.

The Catechism describes Baptism in this way:
1213 “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”
Baptism is not intended by Christ to do everything for us in the spiritual life, but to start the process of living a life bound to Him and the Church.

Confirmation is the strengthening process of the graces we already received in baptism. It is NOT just an affirmation of the person getting confirmed, as if it is about what we do – but more about what Christ does for us. Most Catholics believe it to be the other way around. They incorrectly view Confirmation as our “choosing Christ” and about our desire to be Catholic.

In reality, the traditional ordering of the Sacraments is Baptism – Confirmation – Eucharist. Only in the last 100 years or so has the process changed to have Confirmation come after Eucharist. But, there is a trend, in some areas of the Church, to reverse this.

In Vatican II, the Church taught the following:
“They are more perfectly bound to the Church by the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that they are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ” (LG, 11)
This teaching about how we become evangelists, full of the Holy Spirit, who go out into the world to preach and live the Gospel comes straight from the Bible:
“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 8: 14 – 17

We see here that Baptism isn’t complete and all there is. The laying on of hands (Confirmation) was needed for the completion of the Sacrament and the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what happens in Confirmation. It is the same thing that happened to the Apostles at Pentecost. Once they received the Holy Spirit they immediately went out and preached.
The Catechism states:
CCC, 1303 “From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!";
- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
- it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:”

So, in the sense that our Baptism isn’t enough to complete (but rather begin) our initiation into Christ, you are correct – it isn’t enough. In the sense that Baptism does what Christ intended it to do (begin the life of grace) – it is enough.

As for your second question – in the sense that the Sacraments are the means by which the grace of the Cross of Christ is given to the members of the Church, the Sacraments are truly necessary for man’s salvation.
Vatican II taught, about Baptism, this necessity:
“[Jesus] Himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence, they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it” (LG, 14)
Building on this the Catechism states:
“Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the Sacrament of Baptism, but He Himself is not bound by His sacraments.” (CCC, 1257)
This means that while Catholics are obligated to receive the Sacraments for Salvation, God can save outside of the Sacramental economy in ways known only to Him (baptism of blood, baptism of desire, etc.).
So, in the sense that a Catholic would knowingly and purposefully refuse to receive the Sacraments when they were bound to do so, they would be endangering themselves spiritually and thus we can say they are necessary for salvation.

St. Thomas answers this question in the Summa Theologica:
Whether all the sacraments are necessary for salvation?
Objection 1: It seems that all the sacraments are necessary for salvation. For what is not necessary seems to be superfluous. But no sacrament is superfluous, because "God does nothing without a purpose" (De Coelo et Mundo i). Therefore all the sacraments are necessary for salvation.
Objection 2: Further, just as it is said of Baptism (Jn. 3:5): "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter in to the kingdom of God," so of the Eucharist is it said (Jn. 6:54): "Except you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink of His blood, you shall not have life in you." Therefore, just as Baptism is a necessary sacrament, so is the Eucharist.
Objection 3: Further, a man can be saved without the sacrament of Baptism, provided that some unavoidable obstacle, and not his contempt for religion, debar him from the sacrament, as we shall state further on (Question [68], Article [2]). But contempt of religion in any sacrament is a hindrance to salvation. Therefore, in like manner, all the sacraments are necessary for salvation.
On the contrary, Children are saved by Baptism alone without the other sacraments.
I answer that, Necessity of end, of which we speak now, is twofold. First, a thing may be necessary so that without it the end cannot be attained; thus food is necessary for human life. And this is simple necessity of end. Secondly, a thing is said to be necessary, if, without it, the end cannot be attained so becomingly: thus a horse is necessary for a journey. But this is not simple necessity of end.
In the first way, three sacraments are necessary for salvation. Two of them are necessary to the individual; Baptism, simply and absolutely; Penance, in the case of mortal sin committed after Baptism; while the sacrament of order is necessary to the Church, since "where there is no governor the people shall fall" (Prov. 11:14).
But in the second way the other sacraments are necessary. For in a sense Confirmation perfects Baptism; Extreme Unction perfects Penance; while Matrimony, by multiplying them, preserves the numbers in the Church.
Reply to Objection 1: For a thing not to be superfluous it is enough if it be necessary either in the first or the second way. It is thus that the sacraments are necessary, as stated above.
Reply to Objection 2: These words of our Lord are to be understood of spiritual, and not of merely sacramental, eating, as Augustine explains (Tract. xxvi super Joan.).
Reply to Objection 3: Although contempt of any of the sacraments is a hindrance to salvation, yet it does not amount to contempt of the sacrament, if anyone does not trouble to receive a sacrament that is not necessary for salvation. Else those who do not receive orders, and those who do not contract Matrimony, would be guilty of contempt of those sacraments.
I hope this helps.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Infertility and the Catholic Church

Q - I've heard that if you are not yet married and are infertile then the church teaches that marrage is not your vocation because your marital union cannot fulfill both the unitive and procreative purposes. Would it be against the churches teaching to get married and then adopt children if you are infertile? What about all the people whose spouses die and they get remarried in the church at an older age with no intent to have children? And this example is a little extreme, but probably happens. A married couple has several young children and from the complications of the final child birth the woman must have a hysterectomy. The husband dies shortly after. Would the church teach that the woman should not get remarried? I also find it interesting that Mary and Joseph were married yet they never had sex.

A -
Thanks for the question! Unfortunately the information you were given was wrong. While it doesn't directly answer your question the Catechism has a short paragraph on infertile couples:
2379 The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord's Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.
Only those who are intentionally infertile by means of surgery, drugs or device are doing anything wrong. But, even then, the vocation is not determined by this. Even in your example nothing was wrong, because the intent was not to make the woman infertile, but rather to treat an illness.

Not every marriage must will bear children. This does not mean that it isn't a valid or good marriage. Many sterile couples are more free to devote themselves to the works of mercy or other apostolates. Children are a gift from God, but not every couples is blessed with this gift. This is not the fault of the couple that is infertile and therefore has no bearing on their vocation.

I hope this helps.

How to Waste 5 Perfectly Good Days

Do this:

Win Thousands of Dollars or a Trip to World Youth Day!

Two contests that you might be interested in, if you are a young adult (I have posted both previously). These sound like good ways to spend your time during your Christmas break from college, while playing around with a camera.

1 - Win a trip to World Youth Day from Goodness Reigns:
Goodness Reigns: Share the Story fuses the imagination of youth and young adults with the art of filmmaking to produce short films about the Catholic faith.... and did we mention that it's COMPLETELY FREE TO ENTER?!?
Details here.


2 - Win thousands of dollars from Reel Love Challenge by the Ruth Institute:
  1. We are looking for college students or young adults (18-24) to answer the question, “How is lifelong love possible” in 30 seconds!
  2. Upload your video from anywhere! Just make it in English.
  3. Be original! Be creative! No logos, songs or art by other artists.
  4. You don’t have to be a professional photographer or video producer to enter your visual answer to “How is lifelong love possible?” Use a camera, flip, webcam or even still shots!
  5. Enter your film between September 20-February 1, 2011
  6. Want to get your group of friends together and submit a video? The more the merrier.
  7. Your video must end with, “Vote for my video at

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Closer to Love

Great song by Mat Kearney - Closer to Love

She got the call today
One out of the gray
And when the smoke cleared
It took her breath away
She said she didn't believe
It could happen to me
I guess we're all one phone call
from our knees
We're gonna get there soon

If every building falls
And all the stars fade
We'll still be singing this song
The one they can't take away
I'm gonna get there soon
She's gonna be there too
Cryin' in her room
Prayin' Lord come through
We're gonna get there soon

Oh it's your light
Oh it's your way
Pull me out of the dark
Just to show me the way
Cryin out now
From so far away
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love

Meet me once again
Down off Lake Michigan
Where we could feel the storm blowin
Down with the wind
And don't apologize
For all the tears you've cried
You've been way too strong now for all your life

I'm gonna get there soon
You're gonna be there too
Cryin' in your room
Prayin' Lord come through
We're gonna get there soon

Oh it's your light
Oh it's your way
Pull me out of the dark
Just to show me the way
Cryin out now
From so far away
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love

Cause you are all that I've waited for
All of my life
(We're gonna get there)
You are all that I've waited for
All of my life

You pull me closer to love hu huuh
Closer to love hu huuuh
Pull me closer to love
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love oh no
Closer to love
Closer to love

Pull me closer to love

Over 1,000 Followers. THANK YOU!

Thank you to everyone who subscribes to our blog in different ways. Here are the current numbers:
We have 1,007 people following the blog! THANK YOU!
If you aren't subscribed, we encourage you to do so. It is much easier than surfing to it. I esp. like using a reader which compiles all the blogs you want to read.

These numbers are in addition to:

In thanks, we offer the following:

Why Have Exorcism During Baptism?

Q - Why are prayers of exorcism necessary even though you are baptizing a child, with no apparent sin? Also, why is oil needed to be unged on the forehead even if you are using water?

A -
Thanks for the questions. We will look at what Baptism is first, because it is much more than many people think.

This is what Baptism does:

  • Makes us children of God.
  • Cleanses us from the guilt of original and personal sin.
  • We die to our old lives and are born again.
  • It is the doorway to entry into the Church.

Thus, we are freed from evil and made sharers in Christ. This means that evil had dominion over us before our baptism. Even if a child has not sinned personally, they share in the same fallen human nature and are in need of redemption. What they have inherited is condemnation, not salvation. Therefore, only by the mercy of God is anyone saved, not by our nature at conception.
As the Catechism says:
1237 Since Baptism signifies liberation from sin and from its instigator the devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate. The celebrant then anoints him with the oil of catechumens, or lays his hands on him, and he explicitly renounces Satan. Thus prepared, he is able to confess the faith of the Church, to which he will be "entrusted" by Baptism.
The kind of exorcisms performed at baptisms are considered "minor" exorcisms. For a catechumen (adult preparing for baptism), this is a sign of their desire to renounce the devil and evil. For a child it is a sign of the parent's desire to renounce evil for the child. The Catechism tells us about exorcisms here:
1673 When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing. In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called "a major exorcism," can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.
Thus, at baptism, the minor exorcism is a rite performed in order to cast out the devil so that the person is made ready to receive Christ's life.

Now, on to the second question. The reason oil is used is because of what it symbolizes. Oil is used, when baptized, in two different kinds - the oil of catechumens and the oil of chrism. The oil of chrism symbolizes the reception of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the oil of catechumens symbolizes the reception of strength and wisdom. It is part of the process of preparing a spiritual home for Jesus to reside in a person's life.

I hope this helps.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Digital Story of The Nativity


Open Letter to Inactive Catholics

Fabulous. Just fabulous. Read it. Pray about it. Send it to others.
Bishop Thomas Tobin knocks this one out of the park:
My dear Brother or Sister: In the spirit of the Advent and Christmas Season, and as the Diocese of Providence nears the end of its “Year of Evangelization,” I’m writing this letter to inactive Catholics of our Diocese – perhaps you’re in that category – to let you know that we miss you, we love you and we want you to come home to the Church.

The first dilemma I faced in writing this letter was how to describe you – an “inactive Catholic,” a “fallen-away Catholic” or a “former-Catholic.” I chose the first option.

I decided against “fallen-away Catholic” for it suggests someone falling off a fence or out of a tree. The image isn’t helpful.

And there’s really no such thing as a “former Catholic.” If you were baptized a Catholic, you’re a Catholic for life – even if you haven’t been to Mass for years, even if you’ve renounced the title and joined another Church. Your baptism infused your soul with Catholic DNA – it defines who and what you are.

Thus, I’ve chosen the title, “inactive Catholic,” because even though you haven’t been “active” in the Catholic community for awhile, especially by attending Sunday Mass, receiving the sacraments and otherwise participating in the life of the Church, you’re still a Catholic. Sorry . . . you’re stuck with us!

Perhaps the exact name isn’t very important though. What’s more important is why you drifted away from the Church, why you stopped coming to Mass, and what we can do about it.

Did you leave the Church because you disagree with some of the Church’s teachings and practices; or because you found it boring and “didn’t get anything out of it”; or because someone in the Church offended you or disappointed you; or because you just got a little complacent, spiritually lazy, in the fulfillment of your obligations? Let’s look at each of these reasons.

If you left the Church because you disagree with the fundamental teachings of the Church I’m afraid there’s not much I can do to help you. The essential teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals aren’t negotiable – they weren’t made up arbitrarily by human beings but, in fact, were given to us by Christ. They can’t be changed, even if they’re unpopular or difficult to live with. I hope that you’ll take some time to really understand what the Church teaches and why. Sometimes, we find, good folks get bad information and that leads to confusion and then alienation.
Continue reading.
Seriously. Read the whole thing.
Tip o' the hat to AmP.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas.
Las Mañanitas is a traditional Mexican song that is sung on birthdays and other important holidays. This is from 2007 in Mexico City.

Here are the lyrics and translation:

Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David,
Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti,

This is the morning song that King David sang
Because today is your saint's day we're singing it for you

Despierta, mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció,
Ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió.

Wake up, my dear, wake up, look it is already dawn
The birds are already singing and the moon has set

Que linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte,
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte,

How lovely is the morning in which I come to greet you
We all came with joy and pleasure to congratulate you

Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio,
Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.

The morning is coming now, the sun is giving us its light
Get up in the morning, look it is already dawn

El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores
En la pila del bautismo, cantaron los ruiseñores

The day you were born all the flowers were born
On the baptismal font the nightingales sang

Quisiera ser solecito para entrar por tu ventana
y darte los buenos días acostadita en tu cama

I would like to be the sunshine to enter through your window
to wish you good morning while you're lying in your bed

Quisiera ser un San Juan, quisiera ser un San Pedro
Para venirte a cantar con la música del cielo

I would like to be a Saint John I would like to be a Saint Peter
To sing to you with the music of heaven

De las estrellas del cielo tengo que bajarte dos
una para saludarte y otra para decirte adiós

Of the stars in the sky I have to lower two for you
One with which to greet you and the other to wish you goodbye

Feelings and Faith

Q - Can you offer some advice on your motivation and commitment to live each day immersed in the faith? Do you ever have feelings of apathy which I have been experiencing for a while? Any advice on how to stay focused would be appreciated!

A - Thanks for the question. Rest assured, you are in good company! All of us have difficulties with prayer and faith-issues and this is not abnormal. But, there is good news, you can go beyond these feelings.

Prayer and a spiritual life is like any other relationship. Many of us start out basing it, in many ways, on experience and emotion. This, as in a romantic relationship, is a good thing, because it helps bring two people closer together. But, real love can only be fostered once we stop relying on emotions and how we feel about the other. Once the emotions leave, we must decide to love the other. Real love being choosing what is best for another regardless of the cost to myself.

This kind of love doesn't come easy and there are times when you will feel far from God and that your prayer is dry. But, you are not alone and should seek the help of a good spiritual director or confessor to help you. Also, you need to continue to pray, even though it may not feel good to do so. This is a sign of true love - to choose to pray, even when you may not want to, because you know it is the best thing to do. If you continue to pray, your faith will continue to grow beyond the feelings.

These dry times are a gift from God. They may not feel like a gift, but they truly are. The reason they are a gift is because we have the opportunity to leave behind our feelings and go deeper into a true loving relationship with God. So, don't waste such an opportunity!

I will keep you in prayer.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Night In Bethlehem

One of the most haunting and beautiful Christmas songs I have ever heard. This is from my favorite Christmas album, The Bells of Dublin by the Chieftains.
Lyrics are below.


I sing of a night in Bethlehem
A night as bright as dawn
I sing of that night in Bethlehem
The night the Word was born
The skies are glowing gaily
The earth in white is dressed
See Jesus in the cradle
Drink deep in His mother's breast
And there on a lonely hillside
The shepherds bow down in fear
When the heavens open brightly
And God's message rings out so clear
Glory now to the Father
In all the heavens high
And peace to His friends on earth below
Is all the angels cry

Catholic Priest To Be Featured on PBS

A new documentary on the PBS show Independent Lens,  will feature a Catholic priest, Fr. Steven Gamez of St. Philip of Jesus Parish in San Antonio, TX.
The show will air on Mon/Tues, Dec 20-21 · 9:00pm - 11:00pm both nights. More on the show:
It takes a true calling to make faith a way of life. The Calling is a four-hour documentary series that follows seven Muslims, Catholics, Evangelical Christians, and Jews on a dramatic journey as they train to become professional clergy. Embarking on life paths that demand tremendous personal sacrifice and commitment, these seminarians must uphold timeless truths in an era that values quick fixes and hot trends, and face a public that challenges the very relevance of their mission. A new look at an old job, The Calling takes viewers into the unknown world of seminaries to tell entertaining and compelling personal stories of how faith is lived in today.

The Calling intercuts its characters’ stories from their first days of training, through years of study, and into their early practice as religious professionals. We follow them within and beyond the walls of their schools, confronting the sacrifices they’ve made to pursue this path. We see them debate theology and philosophy, learn to deliver sermons, perform their first weddings and funerals, and counsel people in crisis. We also experience them as young people at the crossroads of their lives, struggling with dating, partners, family, and other challenges of coming of age.
Continue reading.
This looks very interesting.