Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why Art Matters

Art is an expression of beauty and God is the most beautiful thing ever. We are made in God's image and likeness, therefore, the human body is the most beautiful thing ever made. Thus, art can be a participation in creating beauty, as God did.

Pope Benedict XVI said the following in 2006:
The inscription that Pope Benedict XIV had placed above the entrance to the so-called "Christian Museum" in the mid-18th century to indicate its purpose: "Ad augendum Urbis splendorem / et asserendam Religionis veritatem"springs to mind: "To add to the splendour of Rome and to assert the truth of the Christian Religion".
The approach to Christian truth mediated through the expression of art or of history and culture, has an extra chance of getting through to the intelligence and sensibility of people who do not belong to the Catholic Church and are sometimes prejudiced towards and diffident about her.
Art can reveal man's worth, dignity and destiny John Paul II reminded us when he quoted from "The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his Letter to Artists, 1999: "Beauty will save the world."

Today, I think we need that saving power more than ever. It saves because it reveals our true worth - who we are as God's children. Through art we can revel in God's created order. Thus, JPII says:
“By means of works of art and the activity of the audiovisual media, all those contents and values can be modeled and studied. But they can also be distorted and destroyed in the heart of man. As can be seen, we find ourselves continually within the orbit of the words Christ spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. Also the problems which we are dealing with here must be examined in the light of those words, which consider a look that springs from lust as "adultery committed in the heart.”
Art can achieve great things or degrade humanity. Today, we seek for it to show us what it means to be human and in doing so, change the world for Christ through beauty.

This is what Pope Benedict XVI said recently about how art, beauty, God, and human faith intersect:


As the son of an Catholic artist, I can appreciate the way artwork can express an interior communion with God. I have learned more about my mother's interior life by gazing upon her artwork, than I have in any other way.

Charity vs Justice

Some thoughts from a member of St. Mary's. It will also appear in as a bulletin insert this Sunday.
Charity vs. Justice: What is the difference and why should we care?
By Carol Lange,
Graduate student and member of St. Mary’s Social Justice Committee

Charity and justice are often used interchangeably when describing acts of service associated with social outreach programs. It is true that both answer the Christian call to reach out to society’s marginalized: the poor, the tired, the hungry; the imprisoned, the impoverished, the lonely; the sick, the weak, the vulnerable. Both encompass compassion towards one’s fellow man in the model of Christ described in the Gospel. Yet, there is a very distinct difference that separates these two components of social ministry.

Charity and justice serve as the opposite, yet complementary parameters of our faith spectrum. At the one end, charity aims to relieve the immediate suffering and discomfort of our society by providing food, clothing, or shelter. Charity is often a private or individual act of reaching out. Global humanitarian efforts are generally met with approval and offer some instant gratification to both benefactor and beneficiary.

Justice sits at the opposite end of the spectrum and focuses on achieving long-term solutions to a difficult and uncomfortable problem. Justice is a joint effort, requiring every member of a given society, or perhaps every citizen of the world, to seek sustainable and everlasting change. Justice is often considered controversial because it is so public, and often political. While charity answers the question “How may I help relieve your suffering today?”, justice wants to know “How can I remove suffering from the equation?”. (www.ihmsjc.org)
Continue Reading (pdf)

I Can't Wait

I get to see my favorite comedian on Friday. He is amazing, he is clean, and he is nice. I can't wait.
Brian Regan - he makes me laugh so hard, I expect to hurt after Friday night.



What is Love?

Some random students were asked the following question on the campus of Texas A&M recently - "what is love?" Here are their answers:



If you want to have a full answer to this question, then join us in Rudder Theater, on the campus of Texas A&M on Friday, September 9 at 7pm.
We will learn about love, God, relationships and more.

College Colors Day - This Friday

Pretty simple and fun idea - College Colors Day.
Step 1: Wear Apparel Representing your Favorite College on Friday, September 2, 2011.

That’s it. It’s that easy! Throw on your favorite college gear, and be a part of one of the most spirited holidays in America.

Whether it’s at the office or school, work or play, running errands or running the company - WEAR your college colors wherever you are!

How To Discern God's Will For Your Life

Very good advice from one of my favorite authors, Peter Kreeft.
A snip:
Does God have one right choice for me in each decision I make?

When we pray for wisdom to discern God's will when it comes to choosing a mate, a career, a job change, a move, a home, a school, a friend, a vacation, how to spend money, or any other choice, big or little, whenever there are two or more different paths opening up before us and we have to choose, does God always will one of those paths for us? If so, how do we discern it?

Many Christians who struggle with this question today are unaware that Christians of the past can help them from their own experience. Christian wisdom embodied in the lives and teachings of the saints tells us two things that are relevant to this question.

First, they tell us that God not only knows and loves us in general but that he cares about every detail of our lives, and we are to seek to walk in his will in all things, big and little. Second, they tell us that he has given us free will and reason because he wants us to use it to make decisions. This tradition is exemplified in Saint Augustine's famous motto "Love God and [then] do what you will." In other words, if you truly love God and his will, then doing what you will, will, in fact, be doing what God wills.

Do these two pieces of advice pull us in opposite directions, or do they only seem to? Since there is obviously a great truth embodied in both of them, which do we emphasize the most to resolve our question of whether God has one right way for us?

I think the first and most obvious answer to this question is that it depends on which people are asking it. We have a tendency to emphasize one half of the truth at the expense of the other half, and we can do that in either of the two ways. Every heresy in the history of theology fits this pattern: for instance, emphasizing Christ's divinity at the expense of his humanity or his humanity at the expense of his divinity; or emphasizing divine sovereignty at the expense of free will or free will at the expense of divine sovereignty.

Five general principles of discernment of God's will that apply to all questions about it, and therefore to our question too, are the following:
Continue Reading.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

5 Things You Need to Know About The Catholic Church

5 Things You Need to Know About The Catholic Church

1 - It isn't what you think it is. Catholicism isn't just a set of doctrines or a hierarchy of clergy. Catholicism isn't just a moral code or social teachings. It is much more than we could ever know. The Church isn't so easily definable, which is why we have so many different ways of describing it - the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the people of God, etc. What we need to know is this - The Church's identity is wrapped up into the person of Christ and thus shares in the mystery of God. When we think we "know" the Church, we are fooling ourselves. This is why continued education about God's Church is so important.

2 - The Trinity really does matter. Many Catholics wouldn't care if the Pope declared that we don't need the Trinity anymore, because it makes no difference in most Catholics' daily lives. But, it really does matter. Why? Because if God is a communion of persons, a family, and we are made in God's image and likeness, then our families and relationships are called to reflect the same kind of relationship found in the Trinity - the gift of self to another - true love. This is where the paradox of the Gospel finds a foundation. To gain life, we must lose ourselves. To live is to die. To die is to live. All because of the Trinity.

3 - The Incarnation changes everything. An all-powerful, eternal, all-knowing, divine being decided to create the universe and then he becomes one of the creatures he created. This is mind-numbing. Furthermore, in humbling himself to take on our flesh, he raises up our nature to a greater dignity - one that now shares in his own nature. We share in God's nature. This is flabbergasting. The world is never the same and all of creation and time revolves around this one moment - when God becomes one of us. Our response should be to see God in all of his creation, but most importantly in all of humanity, including ourselves.

4 - The Church is beautiful. Because of the first three truths above, we can now see the beauty of the Church. Is the Church full of sinners? Certainly. But, we sinners are not the source of the Church's beauty, God is. We are called to reflect this beauty as best we can, but true beauty is found in the being of God, who is beauty itself. The Church reflects Christ beauty to the world. Through the Saints' lives, the Cathedrals and artwork, through the music and songs, and through the teachings of the Church. It is in these ways we see God's beauty rise up for a world that focuses all too often on what is ugly.

5 - The world needs the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has the answer for all the world's problems in the fullness of truth and the fullness of grace she offers to the world. The Church gives us a moral anchor, an answer to broken families, addiction, sin, war, violence, abuse, and all the other issues in our culture. More than ever the world needs the Catholic Church, if our society is to last. This answer is the personal relationship with Jesus that the Catholic Church offers to us all through the Sacramental grace, teachings of the Church, and in our own personal prayer we all need.

Jesus created one Church. We are that Church, the Catholic Church. If the world needs the Catholic Church, then the Church needs saints. We need to be holy if we are to change the world.

Time to do our part. Time to be holy. Time to change the world. This is what we all need to know - and do.

Houston Mom Charged in Pre-Teen's Abortion

Father have mercy on the many victims in this story.
A Houston adoptive mother has been charged after arranging an abortion for her 12-year-old special needs daughter during a criminal investigation about whether the woman's biological son impregnated the girl.

Cynthia Greenwood, 50, of Houston, was arrested Friday on one count of tampering with physical evidence. Her son, 19-year-old Isaac Greenwood, was charged in April and indicted in July on three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14. Both are free on bail.

A criminal complaint filed in Harris County alleges that Cynthia Greenwood, knowing that there was a pending investigation concerning the pregnant preteen, concealed biological matter with an intent to impair its availability as evidence in the probe.

Moderately disabled
The girl has moderate mental retardation, court records said. Under Texas law, 12-year-olds cannot legally consent to sexual activity.

The mother took the child for an abortion when she was 17 weeks pregnant, according to criminal complaints against Isaac Greenwood, but the procedure could not be performed because the child was "too hysterical."

Authorities were notified about the pregnancy last fall.

On Oct. 15, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services received an anonymous call about a 12-year-old who was taken to an Ohio clinic for an abortion. The caller also reported the "hysterical demeanor" of the girl and that the mother refused to provide any details about how the child became pregnant. Continue reading.

How Women Objectify Men

How men objectify women is talked about frequently, but how women objectify men is not. Simcha Fisher (one of the best Catholic bloggers around) has some great thoughts on the matter. Here is a snip:
By reducing his worth to the work he can do for her. This is an easy trap, because men often do show love by working hard, and women are often in a position where they need a man’s help. I, for instance, am about as useful as a burned-out refrigerator toward the end of each pregnancy, and my husband does more and more of the work that ought to be mine.

Even though this is only fair (and I am getting some high quality gestation done, after all), it’s important that I let him know that I appreciate his willingness to go beyond his normal duties. I need to let him know that I’m not just glad that someone’s doing that laundry—but that I’m accepting his help as a loving act, making it part of our relationship.

Relatedly: by treating her husband as the sole proprietor of her emotional well-being. Now, a woman who loves a bad man is a miserable woman, and that’s certainly his fault. He should want to make her happy, and he should try to figure out how to do it. But after a certain point, a man has to care for himself, too. His happiness counts, and she mustn’t behave as if her desires are essential, but his are pesky.


Continue Reading.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cardinals and Bishops Think You Need To Read This Book

Some endorsements of Brandon Vogt's The Church and New Media.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap. - Archbishop of Boston 
Author of the book’s Foreword
“Everyone involved in Communications and Evangelization ministries for the Church should read it.”

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan - Archbishop of New York 
Author of the book’s Afterword
“My expectation is that this book will give the Church courage and wisdom to embrace New Media as one of the premier gifts of God to evangelists of our day.”

Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I. - Archbishop of Chicago 
"The Church and New Media provides a valuable guide for others who want to explore how these contemporary and still-growing technological tools can serve the mission of the Church.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. - Archbishop of Philadelphia 
The Church and New Media is the best kind of reading: timely, vivid and rich in valuable information. For anyone seeking to understand and use today’s new technologies in advancing the Catholic faith, this book is an unsurpassed resource.”

Monsignor Paul Tighe - Secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications 
“Brandon Vogt’s book The Church and New Media is a wonderful guide to the emerging presence of American Catholic voices in the digital arena.”

There are five Aggies, out of the 11 contributors, who are in this book. I am humbled to be one of them. If you want to buy the book, you can get it a number of places:
-OSV
-Amazon - paperback or Kindle
-My Website

Also, if you live in town, you can buy them at St. Mary's front desk.

The Wild Wild West - Dog vs. Cat Version

Pick a side. I knew the winner before the video started.
:)

100 Catholic Ways to Pray

This post is a collection of different kinds of prayer, ways to pray, devotions, sacramentals, etc.  It is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is the numbering in any way more than a simple way of listing them.  You will probably find most of the list familiar, but I have tried to give a link to all of them in order to explain the content, method, or kind of prayer in some way.  I recommend your feedback or additions to the list.  I hope you will find this helpful.
  1. Mass
  2. Baptism
  3. Confession / Reconciliation / Penance
  4. Confirmation
  5. Matrimony
  6. Anointing of the Sick
  7. Ordination
  8. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
  9. The Holy Rosary
  10. Sign of the Cross
  11. Liturgy of the Hours
  12. Our Father (The Lord's Prayer)
  13. Hail Mary
  14. Glory Be
  15. The Apostle's Creed
  16. The Nicene Creed
  17. The Angelus
  18. Guardian Angel Prayer
  19. St. Michael The Archangel Prayer
  20. Lectio Divina
  21. Meal Blessing (Grace)
  22. Divine Mercy Chaplet
  23. Bible study
  24. The Beatitudes
  25. Indulgences
  26. Novenas (There are many different ones)
  27. Litanies (There are many different ones)
  28. Act of Spiritual Communion
  29. Consecration to Mary (this is a sample of one way to do it)
  30. Blessings (There are many different ones)
  31. Hail Holy Queen
  32. Fatima Prayer (for the Rosary)
  33. Fatima Prayer (for reparation)
  34. Examination of Conscience (There are many different ones)
  35. Fasting
  36. Act of Contrition (There are several different ones)
  37. Act of Faith (There are several different ones)
  38. Act of Hope (There are several different ones)
  39. Act of Love (There are several different ones)
  40. Prayer of Abandonment (There are several different ones)
  41. Prayer for a Happy Death (There are several different ones)
  42. Morning Offering (There are many different ones)
  43. The Divine Praises
  44. Blessing and Adoration to God
  45. Meditation
  46. Vocal Prayer
  47. Petition
  48. Intercession
  49. Thanksgiving
  50. Praise
  51. Contemplation
  52. Repentance
  53. Regina Coeli
  54. Memorare
  55. Singing hymns
  56. Chant
  57. Praise and Worship
  58. Lorica of St. Patrick
  59. Prayer for Travelers
  60. Anima Christi
  61. Renewal of Baptismal Promises
  62. Prayer for Vocations (There are many different ones)
  63. Prayer After Mass (There are many different ones)
  64. Prayer Before Mass (There are many different ones)
  65. Offering Suffering for Others / "Offering it up" (There are many different ones)
  66. Prayers for Souls in Purgatory (There are many different ones)
  67. Prayer to the Holy Spirit (There are many different ones)
  68. Come, Holy Spirit
  69. Prayers of the Saints (There are millions of different ones)
  70. Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
  71. Holy reading / Spiritual reading
  72. St. Alphonsus method of mental prayer
  73. St. Theresa of Avila’s method of mental prayer
  74. Canticle of Zechariah
  75. Canticle of Simeon
  76. Prayer before Confession (There are several different ones)
  77. Blessing of a house
  78. Praying with the Psalms
  79. Devotion of the Scapular (There are different kinds of scapular devotions)
  80. Prayer as a couple (There are many different ones)
  81. Family prayer (There are many different ones)
  82. Spiritual Bouquets 
  83. Spiritual journaling
  84. Sacred Heart devotion
  85. Confiteor
  86. Benediction
  87. Devotion to the Miraculous Medal
  88. Praying with Holy cards
  89. Agnus Dei
  90. Prayer before a crucifix (There are many different ones)
  91. Votive Offerings - Prayer while lighting a candle
  92. The Holy Face
  93. Devotion to the Child Jesus
  94. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
  95. Devotion to the Five Wounds
  96. Pilgrimages
  97. Charismatic prayer (speaking in tongues, slain in the Spirit, etc.)
  98. Prayer for peace (There are many different ones)
  99. Prayer for healing (There are many different ones)
  100. Prayer for the unborn (There are many different ones)
Please add your own in the comments.

Below are a few sites that have tons of prayers:
-EWTN devotionals.
-Catholic.org
-Catholic Doors
-Awaken To Prayer

Friday, August 26, 2011

How Toy Story 3 Should Have Ended

This is great...

What New Wives Need to Know

Great column by Simcha Fisher, who is a great writer everyone should read.
Ten Things I Wish I Had Known as a New Wife
BY SIMCHA FISHER 
1. You’re just an amateur, and that’s why your marriage isn’t perfect. The first meal I cooked was disgusting, indigestible—but I learned over time, and now I have the hang of it (with the occasional mealtime disaster). It’s the same with marriage, which is a much more complicated recipe to follow. Be patient with yourself and your husband, and be patient with the relationship. You’re in it for the long haul. Things that are worth doing take time to learn. 
2. Do not mention divorce. Do not even allow words beginning with the letter “d” to cross your brain. If you’re hurt and angry with your husband, but it was a valid marriage and he isn’t doing any of the things listed in those abuse hotline posters in the YMCA bathroom, then remember that you married a human being, not a god. You can either work it out or learn to live with it, but no, you cannot leave.
Continue Reading.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Another Abby Johnson?

Abby was a big story nationally (and especially here locally, where she worked) when she quit her job at Planned Parenthood and became pro-life. There are many others that have done the same. Here is the story of another Texas woman who has crossed over the abortion lines:
DALLAS, Texas, August 25, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a story with clear echoes of the now famous conversion of former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson, four months ago a manager at a Planned Parenthood facility in Sherman, Texas resigned from her position with the abortion giant and is now speaking out about her pro-life conversion. 
In a press release from 40 Days for Life-Dallas, Ramona Trevino explains that although the particular Planned Parenthood where she worked did not perform surgical abortions, she was struggling “with [her] conscience . . . on contraception, abortion and [her] role in it all.” 
Just like Abby Johnson, Trevino credits a 40 Days for Life campaign outside her Planned Parenthood facility with helping her movement towards a pro-life way of thinking. 
After the 40 Days campaign came to Sherman, she says she went from believing she was providing a service to women in need, to realizing that Planned Parenthood “treated women like cattle and how they only cared about making money” – a realization she says was “long overdue.” Continue Reading.

World Youth Day, Fr. Barron, and an Aggie Catholic

While at World Youth Day, one of our interns from last year, Brittany Brown, met Fr. Robert Barron. She was wearing an Aggie Catholic t-shirt and Fr. Barron told her how grateful he was that we post his videos frequently and how impressed he is with our campus ministry. Here is a pic of them.
But, the thanks should go to Fr. Barron for delivering the Gospel in such a compelling way and making it applicable to so many in our culture. The truth is the Catholic Church certainly has the fullness of truth, we just don't communicate it well sometimes. Fr. Barron gives us what the Church needs - he communicates the Good News of Christ to our modern world in an attractive way.

Below is Fr. Barron with a great reflection on World Youth Day. His part on how the media portrayed the event is very insightful.

Texas A&M Leaves the Big 12

The speculation is now official - Texas A&M is leaving the Big 12:
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M University today officially notified the Big 12 Conference that it is exploring options related to the institution's athletic conference affiliation. Texas A&M also requested that the Big 12 outline the process to be followed should the university elect to withdraw from the conference. 
In the letter to Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe, Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin indicated that if the university withdraws from the conference, Texas A&M would do so in a way that complies with the Big 12's bylaws. Additionally, Texas A&M would be supportive of the Big 12's efforts to seek a new member of the conference. 
"As I have indicated previously, we are working very deliberately to act in the best long-term interests of both Texas A&M and the State of Texas. This truly is a 100-year decision," said Loftin. "While we understand the desire of all parties to quickly reach a resolution, these are extremely complex issues that we are addressing methodically."
"Ultimately, we are seeking to generate greater visibility nationwide for Texas A&M and our championship-caliber student-athletes, as well as secure the necessary and stable financial resources to support our athletic and academic programs," Loftin added. "As a public university, Texas A&M owes it to the state's taxpayers to maximize our assets and generate additional revenues both now and well into the future."

Vatican Publishes Guide for Confession and Spiritual Direction for Priests

Thanks to Edward Pentin for pointing this great document. Here is his description:
The Vatican has published an aid for confessors and spiritual directors, reflecting an urgent need for both priests and the faithful to rediscover the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Published by the Congregation for the Clergy, “The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy — An Aid for Confessors and Spiritual Directors” is essentially a manual on how to be good confessors.
The 70 page document is a fruit of the Year for Priests during which the Holy Father urged priests to return to the confessional, both to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation but also as a place where the priest should “dwell” more often. Continue Reading.
You can find the full document here (.pdf)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From The Mouths of Babes

One of our regular readers, Kevin from Ireland, sent me a link a while back to some wonderful videos from his homeland. The background is below, followed by one of the videos in the seriess.
Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful.
This series, including the original Oscar-nominated short, from Brown Bag Films is based upon the 1960s recordings of young children telling Bible stories in a classroom to their schoolteacher. When a film crew arrives at an inner city Dublin National School to record the children, the result is a warm, funny and spontaneous animated documentary, featuring young children telling the story of John the Baptist, The birth of Jesus, the Crucifixion, Saint Patrick and others. Give Up Yer Aul Sins combines simple humour with clever animation to create films with a timeless quality and appeal to a family audience. Give Up Yer Aul Sins has screened in almost 50 film festivals, including The Galway Film Fleadh (where it won Best Animation), Cork Film Festival (Best Irish and Best International Animation), Cartoons on Bay (Special Award for Original Idea), NewYork Comedy Festival, Boston Irish Film Festival, Aspen Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival.

The Best Images From World Youth Day

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You REALLY Should Watch This

Paul Michael Piega, one of my interns last year, went on a pilgrimage to Italy this summer. He put together an amazing video of his experience. It might be the best pilgrimage video I have ever seen.



Did I mention Paul Michael is entering the seminary for the Diocese of Austin?

Also, check out his blog on his journey into the seminary.

Men Believe That Talking About Problems is a Waste of Time

I am sure a lot of people will disagree with this study, but since arguing about it is just a waste of time, I offer it without comment.
"For years, popular psychologists have insisted that boys and men would like to talk about their problems but are held back by fears of embarrassment or appearing weak," said Amanda J. Rose, associate professor of psychological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. "However, when we asked young people how talking about their problems would make them feel, boys didn't express angst or distress about discussing problems any more than girls. Instead, boys' responses suggest that they just don't see talking about problems to be a particularly useful activity." 
Rose and her colleagues conducted four different studies that included surveys and observations of nearly 2,000 children and adolescents. The researchers found that girls had positive expectations for how talking about problems would make them feel, such as expecting to feel cared for, understood and less alone. On the other hand, boys did not endorse some negative expectations more than girls, such as expecting to feel embarrassed, worried about being teased, or bad about not taking care of the problems themselves. Instead, boys reported that talking about problems would make them feel "weird" and like they were "wasting time."
CONTINUE READING.

Reading This Blog Makes You Work Harder - Study Says

Seriously. Check it out.
Don't feel guilty about browsing the Internet at work—turns out it may actually improve your performance.
According to a new study, Web browsing can actually refresh tired workers and enhance their productivity, compared to other activities such as making personal calls, texts or emails, let alone working straight through with no rest at all. 
The study, "Impact of Cyberloafing on Psychological Engagement," by Don J.Q. Chen and Vivien K.G Lim of the National University of Singapore, was presented last week in San Antonio, Texas, at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, an association of management scholars. 
The researchers conducted two studies. In the first, they assigned 96 undergraduate management students into one of three groups—a control group, a "rest-break" group and a Web-surfing group. All subjects spent 20 minutes highlighting as many letter e's as they could find in a sample text. For the next 10 minutes, the control group was assigned another simple task; members of the rest-break group could do whatever they pleased, except surf the Internet; and the third group could browse the Web. Afterward, all of the subjects spent another 10 minutes highlighting more letters. 
The researchers found that the Web-surfers were significantly more productive and effective at the tasks than those in the other two groups and reported lower levels of mental exhaustion, boredom and higher levels of engagement. 
CONTINUE READING.

Welcome To Aggieland

We have hundreds of students here for our first session of Welcome Weekend, our new student retreat. Last year we had 224 retreaters come in addition to almost 200 student staffers, this made for a jammed-packed activity center. We expect between 300-350 retreaters this year, after splitting into two different sessions of Welcome Weekend - one starting today (Tuesday) and going through tomorrow and the second one on Fri-Sat.

I ask you all to pray for our new students. College is a time of losing your faith for most Christians, including Catholics. About 80% of active Christians who were active in their faith in high school will stop practicing their faith by the time they graduate college. This is a scary and we need all the prayers you can offer.

Also, if you are a new student, it isn't too late to sign up for the Fri-Sat retreat!

Fr. Will Makes the WYD News

Skip to :55 and see if this isn't Fr. Will Straten, our new Associate Pastor...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Birth Control Makes Women Less Happy.

Interesting study:
Ah, the Happy Face. That ubiquitous circle with the wide smile that is so irritating when used to dot i's, end sentences, punctuate instant messages or stand in for greetings in email. 

And yet, something about that silly grin also makes us a bit cheered up, even as we roll our eyes. 

Along those lines, Adam Guastella and colleagues at the Brain & Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Australia, have recently discovered that our responses to happy faces can be hormonally induced and result in a highly selective social memory. 
Based on the notion that the hormone oxytocin plays an important role in the ability of nonhuman mammals to recognize each other and form attachments, the researchers gave 60 men a shot of oxytocin or a placebo, and then showed the subjects photographs of a bunch of people. Some faces were obviously angry, some happy, and others neutral. The next day, the men who were swimming in oxytocin remembered the happy faces but couldn't recall the angry or neutral ones. 

While it's interesting that a shot of oxytocin can put men into la-la-land when it comes to interpersonal relationships, the more interesting point is that women are more often already awash in the stuff. 
Oxytocin is the hormone that helps dilate the cervix before birth and is responsible for letting down milk for breastfeeding. In cultures with no birth control, adult women give birth more often and lactate much of the time. Over most of human history, women have also been involved with babies most of their adult lives. 

Traditionally, then, women have been constantly under the influence of a hormone that promotes selective social memory, and women seem often to be the keepers of positive social interactions and the initiators of diplomacy and peace-making. CONTINUE READING.
The notion that children cause us to be unhappy is an offensive myth. Take it from a dad of five who came from a family of five.

Tip o' the hat to Taylor.

Random Acts of Culture

If you haven't heard of Random Acts of Culture, it is a program which is striving to have 1,000 performances of culture and art randomly, throughout the country. They have done 379 to date. Here are a couple of recent ones:

29 Members of Seraphic Fire (a group of singers) serenade a mall crowd:



Here 7 performers from Florida Grand Opera surprised people at Miami International Airport:

I am still waiting to see one of these myself. It would make my day.

Teacher Suspended For Posting Opposition to Gay Marriage on Facebook

This is troublesome, to say the least.
A former “Teacher of the Year” in Mount Dora, Fla. has been suspended and could lose his job after he voiced his objection to gay marriage on his personal Facebook page.

Jerry Buell, a veteran American history teacher at Mount Dora High School, was removed from his teaching duties this week as school officials in Lake County investigate allegations that what he posted was biased towards homosexuals.

“We took the allegations seriously,” said Chris Patton, a communication officer with Lake County Schools. “All teachers are bound by a code of special ethics (and) this is a code ethics violation investigation.”

Patton said the school system received a complaint on Tuesday about something Buell had written last July when New York legalized same sex unions. On Wednesday, he was temporarily suspended from the classroom and reassigned.
Continue Reading.
Now, let us turn the situation around. The school district says that some students might feel "uncomfortable" because of this teacher's views, but is this a reason to suspend him?

What if a teacher is in a same-sex relationship and has a facebook page that supports gay marriage? Would this not make it "uncomfortable" for those students that disagree?

Pray for our culture.
Tip o' the hat to Mark.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How a Father's Porn Addiction Changes His Children

A sobering article.
My father was a porn addict
BY MICHELLE VANLOON

My father taught me how to ride a bike, the value of a great punchline, and what a woman was supposed to look and act like.

My dad was a great guy with a bad habit.

When we consider relationships negatively impacted by a pornography addiction, most of us first consider the addict’s spouse or girl/boyfriend. It is not just the adult partner who is affected by a porn habit. Even if the addict believes he or she has the habit under wraps, porn’s toxicity leaks into other relationships in an addict’s life.

When I was growing up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, porn made its way into our home in the form of Playboy magazines on our coffee table, next to copies of my mom’s Redbook and Ladies Home Journal. My parents had come of age in the Mad Men era, when Hugh Hefner’s magazine was a signpost of cool in the same way that other sophisticates of their generation smoked cigarettes in the doctor’s office, slow-danced to Sinatra, and imbibed a dirty martini before dinner.

The coffee table reading was only the tip of the iceberg in our home. I can still remember the shock waves that hit me when I discovered the cheaply printed hard-core erotica stashed in my parents’ bedroom. I was 11 or 12 when I discovered a stash of the stuff in my dad’s dresser drawer and nightstand. Whenever my parents left the house, I pored over each plain-wrapped volume. I didn’t fully understand what I had read, but I knew that I’d been initiated into the world of adulthood at an age when I barely understood the mechanics of how babies were made. Continue Reading.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Are Colleges Inflating Grades for Students?

From C's to A's
Created by: Masters Degree

Money Quotes From Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day

Here are the money quotes from his homilies and presentations so far. I will add more later.

***Welcome Ceremony:
I have come here to meet thousands of young people from all over the world, Catholics committed to Christ searching for the truth that will give real meaning to their existence. I come as the Successor of Peter, to confirm them all in the faith, with days of intense pastoral activity, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; to motivate the commitment to build up the Kingdom of God in the world among us; to exhort young people to know Christ personally as a friend and so, rooted in his person, to become faithful followers and valiant witnesses.
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The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations. They see the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption. They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy, and thus pouring out their enthusiasm in the attainment of an authentic life. But, with God beside them, they will possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected. 
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But, with all my heart, I say again to you young people: let nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord. He did not spare himself in becoming one like us and in experiencing our anguish so as to lift it up to God, and in this way he saved us.
***Initial Address:
The Lord has brought us together here so that during these days we can experience the beauty of World Youth Day. Through your presence and your participation in these celebrations, the name of Christ will echo throughout this great City. Let us pray that his message of hope and love will also resound in the hearts of those who are not believers or who have grown distant from the Church.
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Make trust in Christ’s word the foundation of your lives! Planted and built up in him, firm in the faith and open to the power of the Spirit, you will find your place in God’s plan and enrich the Church with your gifts. Let us pray for one another, so that we may be joyful witnesses to Christ, today and always.
***Welcome Ceremony With Young People:
Dear young people, listen closely to the words of the Lord, that they may be for you “spirit and life” (Jn 6:63), roots which nourish your being, a rule of life which likens us - poor in spirit, thirsting for justice, merciful, pure in heart, lovers of peace - to the person of Christ. Listen regularly every day as if he were the one friend who does not deceive, the one with whom we wish to share the path of life. Of course, you know that when we do not walk beside Christ our guide, we get lost on other paths, like the path of our blind and selfish impulses, or the path of flattering but self-serving suggestions, deceiving and fickle, which leave emptiness and frustration in their wake.
+
Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves. They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment. These temptations are always lying in wait. It is important not to give in to them because, in reality, they lead to something so evanescent, like an existence with no horizons, a liberty without God. We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness, responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative co-workers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation. God is looking for a responsible interlocutor, someone who can dialogue with him and love him. Through Christ we can truly succeed and, established in him, we give wings to our freedom. Is this not the great reason for our joy? Isn’t this the firm ground upon which to build the civilization of love and life, capable of humanizing all of us?
***Meeting With Young Women Religious:
In a world of relativism and mediocrity, we need that radicalism to which your consecration, as a way of belonging to the God who is loved above all things, bears witness.
This Gospel radicalism proper to the consecrated life finds expression in filial communion with the Church, the home of the children of God, built by Christ: communion with her Pastors who set forth in the Lord’s name the deposit of faith received from the apostles, the ecclesial Magisterium and the Christian tradition; communion with your own religious families as you gratefully preserve their authentic spiritual patrimony while valuing other charisms; and communion with other members of the Church, such as the laity, who are called to make their own specific calling a testimony to the one Gospel of the Lord.
Finally, Gospel radicalism finds expression in the mission God has chosen to entrust to us: from the contemplative life, which welcomes into its cloisters the word of God in eloquent silence and adores his beauty in the solitude which he alone fills, to the different paths of the apostolic life, in whose furrows the seed of the Gospel bears fruit in the education of children and young people, the care of the sick and elderly, the pastoral care of families, commitment to respect for life, witness to the truth and the proclamation of peace and charity, mission work and the new evangelization, and so many other sectors of the Church’s apostolate.
Dear Sisters, this is the witness of holiness to which God is calling you, as you follow Jesus Christ closely and unconditionally in consecration, communion and mission.  The Church needs your youthful fidelity, rooted and built up in Christ.  Thank you for your generous, total and perpetual “yes” to the call of the Loved One. 
***Meeting With Young University Professors:

At times one has the idea that the mission of a university professor nowadays is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labor at any given time. One also hears it said that the only thing that matters at the present moment is pure technical ability. This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread, even at the university level, promoted especially by sectors outside the University. All the same, you who, like myself, have had an experience of the University, and now are members of the teaching staff, surely are looking for something more lofty and capable of embracing the full measure of what it is to be human. We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power. The authentic idea of the University, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity. 
In truth, the University has always been, and is always called to be, the “house” where one seeks the truth proper to the human person. Consequently it was not by accident that the Church promoted the universities, for Christian faith speaks to us of Christ as the Word through whom all things were made (cf. Jn 1:3) and of men and women as made in the image and likeness of God. The Gospel message perceives a rationality inherent in creation and considers man as a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of this rationality. The University thus embodies an ideal which must not be attenuated or compromised, whether by ideologies closed to reasoned dialogue or by truckling to a purely utilitarian and economic conception which would view man solely as a consumer.

More to come.

Planned Parenthood Closes Numerous Sites in Texas Due To Cuts in State Funding

This is why cutting government funding to Planned Parenthood is so vital.
Still reeling from funding cuts in Texas, Planned Parenthood is closing clinics and merging affiliates throughout the state, Texas Right to Life reports. The national abortion giant received a major blow this summer when Texas Governor and presidential contender Rick Perry signed into law a bill that stripped the organization of its funding, and prohibited the state government from contracting with any organization that provides abortions.
Continue Reading.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Arguments For God's Existence

Yes, I post a lot of videos from Fr. Robert Barron. Watch this one and you will know why as he explains why God exists from the contingency argument.

It is a clip from his new CATHOLICISM series coming out on DVD and on PBS in the fall.



Tip o' the hat to Matt Warner.

Do You Commit?

A video from the Ruth Institute's initiative called Emerging Leaders.
One of our Aggies in this video.

Fr. Barron on Morality and Conscience

Why Are These Musicians So Unhappy?

Have you ever noticed that musicians in promo pics almost never smile? Here are a couple of examples:


I think I have figured out why all of these musicians are so unhappy. If you notice the location of the photo shoots of most bands - a field, an old barn, a rock outcropping, a brick wall, a railroad track, etc. - then you might also have noticed that there are others who have invaded the same location...WAY TOO HAPPY ENGAGED COUPLES! This is why the musicians are so unhappy.


If you had to wait for the a giggling engaged couple to take their photos, in order to shoot your band promo shots, you might not be happy either.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

103 Year-Old Nun To Leave Convent For First Time in 84 Years To Meet Pope

What a great story.
She has spent every day of the past 84 years inside the walls of her convent in central Spain.

Now, however, 103-year-old nun Sister Teresita will finally emerge into the outside world on Friday for a very special occasion.

The nun will meet Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the Spanish capital of Madrid to celebrate World Youth Day.

Sister Teresita is a member of the Buenafuente del Sistal Convent, which is located around 60miles north of Madrid.

She has been a resident at the convent since April 16, 1927. This, by coincidence, is the same day that Joesph Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict XVI - was born. Continue Reading.

CATHOLICISM

I can't wait for the CATHOLICISM documentary series to come out on PBS and DVD from Fr. Robert Barron this fall. It looks spectacular.

It will be joined by the release of his new book, with the same title. I was blessed to get an advanced copy of the book and I read it cover-to-cover this weekend while traveling to give some presentations.

It is one of the best books I have ever read on the faith. I am not allowed to do a full review yet, but let it suffice to say that I can't recommend it higher.

Couple that with what looks like an amazing documentary and I think many lives will be changed.

Welcome To Aggieland

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Surprise Wedding

For all you romantics out there. Everybody but the bride knew she was getting married on the day of her wedding.

Personally, if I were still single, I wouldn't want any women to see this. It really sets the bar high for surprising your fiance'.
Of course it isn't a Catholic wedding, but it is a cool idea and shows just how well he listened to his bride.

How Can Dating Couples Show Affection?

Q - What are types of physical gestures that maintain a state of chastity during the engagement period of a relationship?
A - Thanks for the question. I think we ought to start with something even more basic. What is the point of dating?

Dating can be separated into several different kinds of activities, depending on who is defining the term and what they mean by "dating". They include:
  1. Hooking-up for sex regularly with the same person.
  2. Discerning marriage. Once you are in serious discernment, the dating should be exclusive.
  3. Getting to know one another. There should not be an exclusive commitment in this kind of dating.
  4. Some combination of the above.
I would argue, of course, that #1 is never a healthy option for a Catholic. So, I won't focus on it.

#2 is the real ultimate purpose of dating, but if you are on your first date, you shouldn't really be worried about whether you are going to marry someone or not.

#3 is something we are missing all too often in our culture today, even among faithful Catholics. We need to have a time to get to know someone without all the strings of dating someone exclusively. That way, you can get to know someone as a friend.

I believe there should be little, if any, kind of physical affection for a couple who is dating without exclusivity.

Now, the real question becomes, if I am exclusively dating someone, and we are discerning marriage, what kind of affection is good? This is a very good an reasonable question, but it isn't the primary thing we should ask. The first thing we should ask is - how can I better love the person in front of me? How can I avoid too much physical, emotional, or even intellectual intimacy? How can I protect them, even from my sinful desires? These questions should guide you.

Remember that whenever we say "no" to something, we say "yes" to something else. We just have to remember that our "yes" to loving God and others is always bigger than any "no" we can ever speak. Chastity frees us to always say "yes" to loving God and others.

With that being said, there is a clear guideline I would like to put out there for you.
--Any physical affection which causes either person to lust after another person is not good. This is using them for your own pleasure and is not a loving act.--

With this principle in mind, I think the rest is easy enough.

I hope this helps.

Related Post:
**How Far Is Too Far?

Catholic Medical Ethics

Q - Proper training for a health care practitioner requires many weeks of OB/GYN-related clinical work/experience. In that period of time the students are advised (by attending physicians, PA's, NP's) on appropriate treatment plans and protocols. Suppose a student is advised to give "treatment" that is contradictory to church teaching, and personal conviction. How can the student approach the situation, express their concerns in the treatment plan, and maintain a sufficient environment in which to learn, all while following the teachings of the church?
Here are some examples (you don't have to address all):
  • An attending physician advises you to write a prescription for RU-486 (the morning after pill) to a 19 year old in the emergency room
  • You are doing a 6 week rotation with a private-practice Obstetrician. He gives you a prescription pad and asks if you can take care of all the patients who need re-fills on their monthly oral contraceptives
  • The office you spend 8 weeks in for women's health gives planned parenthood brochures to all their new patients.
  • Your professor tells you that you must give ALL options for your young pregnant patient (including the option to receive an abortion)
A - Thanks for the question. Being a faithful Catholic medical practitioner is not as easy as it once was. The problems are legion, as you point out. I don't want to get into too specific an answer, but rather I would like to give some guiding principles that should be able to help you and then point you to other resources.

Principle #1 - you should never do anything that violates your conscience. From the encyclical Evangelium Vitae by John Paul II:
Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. (EV 73)
Then from the Catechism:
Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters. (CCC 1782)
Principle #2 - Life is always valuable.
"Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being." (CCC 2258)
Principle #3 - Contemporary medical ethics is off-base in many ways, because of the separation from morality based on the dignity of all human life, which is found in our creation in the image an likeness of God and redeemed by Christ.
Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable. Even certain sectors of the medical profession, which by its calling is directed to the defence and care of human life, are increasingly willing to carry out these acts against the person. In this way the very nature of the medical profession is distorted and contradicted, and the dignity of those who practise it is degraded. (EV 4)
Principle #4 - By refusing to participate in an act that violates your conscience, you are not "imposing" your beliefs on another person.

This is quite contrary to what our modern culture teaches. You cannot impose your belief on another person by refusing to participate in what you deem is immoral. In fact, if you don't refuse to act when your conscience guides you to do so, you allow others to influence you and are sinning.

I know that I didn't directly answer your questions, but I would have to write a book to do so, and others have already done that. What I will do is pray for you. May God's wisdom guide you and the Holy Spirit fill you. Thank you for your service to the world!

RESOURCES
-National Catholic Bioethics Center (an excellent resource for the issues listed above)
-A Catholic Guide to Medical Ethics by Eugene F. Diamond, MD

St. Luke, patron of medical workers, pray for us!

Pray for World Youth Day!

We have a number of students who are in Europe for World Youth Day. Please pray for all pilgrims who will be joining the Pope in Europe.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Didn't Expect This...

Students whose first language is an Indian dialect do better in English than native speakers.
It's long been known that Indian students outperform their global counterparts in science and math. But here's a stunning finding: even students whose mother tongue is an Indian language fare better in the Test of English as a Foreign Language (Toefl) than those whose native language is English. That's according to a recent analysis by Educational Testing Service, or ETS, which conducts Toefl. British students applying to American universities are required to take the test too.
Continue reading.
I guess, like, I shouldn't, you know what I'm saying, be surprised or like anything. Whatever.

Sheep In Church

A great short film:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Great Video on the New Mass Translation

This is a very well done and simple explanation of what the Church is changing and why.

Sex and Love

A lot of people believe the Church's teachings on sex are all about "NO". But, this isn't the case, when we understand why we need to have a "no" once in a while.

What does the Church say "no" to? Things that are not good for us:

  • sex outside of marriage.
  • homosexual sex.
  • porn.
  • rape.
  • etc.

The Church says "no" to the culture's messed up idea of our sexuality, which is ultimately a "yes" to love and sexuality as it is meant to be. It says there "no" to the thought that we are supposed to seek out our true happiness through sexuality that leaves behind love and focuses on pleasure alone. We need the laws of the Church to help us have a proper guide to what is good, true, and beautiful.

It also helps us answer the question - what is the purpose of sex?

Here is Fr. Barron on the thinking behind the Catholic Church's teaching on sexuality.

83 Year-old Great Grandma Gets Breast Implants

This story really makes me sad.
Marie Kolstad, of Orange County, is the mother of four, the grandmother of 12 and great-grandmother to 12. Last month, Kolstad decided she needed a little boost in her breasts. So she spent $8,000 for a three-hour procedure. She figured her family wouldn’t approve, so she didn’t tell them about the surgery until a day before she was scheduled to go under the knife. Kolstad is not unique. The New York Times reports that a growing segment of the population, namely seniors, is opting for age-defying plastic surgery like never before. And Kolstad told the newspaper that her doctor has patients even older than she. One NY plastic surgeon said nearly ten percent of all procedures involve people over 65. Continue reading.
The quote that really bothers me is this one:
Kolstad, a property manager, told the Times that it wasn’t about lifting her boobs as much as it was about lifting her self-esteem. “It was more about looking in the mirror and liking who I am,” she said.
Surgery isn't going to fix this problem. She needs to find out who she really is and that trying to find her lost youth in dangerous elective surgery isn't the way to do that. She is a beloved daughter of God and her body is a gift. The age in her body is a sign that her life was not worthless, but full of experiences that help to form her.

We have lost an understanding of our worth. Life is so much more than our society tells us.

If you want to see one of the most beautiful women who has ever lived, then look at this picture of Mother Teresa. She has a big nose, a wrinkly face, and features that most in our culture would say are "ugly". I say she is beautiful just the way God made her. Her beauty is found not in the way the world looks at her, but in the  way God, her Father, looks at her. He looks at her with love and sees the most amazing thing He has ever created - his daughter.

This is the same way He looks at you and me. There is no need to "improve" our bodies with such surgeries, unless it also restores our health.

I have more to say about plastic surgery in a previous post entitled - The Catholic Church and Plastic Surgery.

Please pray for our culture that worships youth, pleasure, and lust. Pray for this woman as well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Praying With Icons

Religious icons are commonly referred to as "windows to heaven" or "windows to the eternal". They idea that a piece of artwork can give us a glimpse of the invisible comes from Christology - the study of the person of Christ - which focuses on the Incarnation. Because God took on human flesh, He allows us to see the person of Christ, who is God.

Icons have a long tradition in Catholic circles, though to be more specific they have a strong tradition in Eastern Catholic churches as well as the Orthodox Churches. There has been a resurgence in recent years, in the west, of the appreciation for and reverence of icons.

But, icons are not just pieces of nice artwork. They are meant to be prayed with. They allow us to focus our prayer, using our senses - thus it is an incarnational prayer. Praying with an icon can allow us the glimpse into the divine that many of us are hungry for. Because they reflect such sacred mysteries, they can be venerated and should be treated with respect, especially if blessed.

Icons can be thought of as a natural outgrowth of a sacramental understanding of the world. God uses the created world to reveal Himself to us and to give us grace.

When an iconographer creates an icon, they are said to "write the icon", not paint it. This is because it is a prayerful exercise in humility before God. They are highly symbolic using shapes, colors and forms to symbolize different spiritual realities. They are not signed by the artist on the front, if at all. It takes a long, long time to become a master iconographer and becoming one is a calling, not a profession. The best iconographers are not famous artists, but holy saints.
"O Mother of God, the indescribable Word of God, became describable through you in the incarnation, for through the divine goodness the Word spoken from eternity became an Image: may we who believe in salvation both in word and deed clothe ourselves in the same Image." -5th Ecumenical Council of Nicea
I have had a love for religious icons for a long time. I have quite a few of them, including three in my office. One was given to me as a gift after I finished grad school. The other two were given to me by my mother. I have placed photos of them in this post.

They are meant to be prayed with, not just be decoration.

For more on icons, I suggest:
-Icons in the Byzantine Catholic Church
-John of Damascus on Icons
-Orthodox Church Icon Info
-Wikipedia has a nice article
-Temple Gallery collection on Icons

"What the Book of the Gospels explains by means of words, the iconographer shows by means of his works." -Saint Basil the Great