Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Things Catholic Girls Say

These are very much in style. This one is greatness.

Tip o' the hat to Jonathan for sending it to me.

Susan G Komen Foundation Halts Grants to Planned Parenthood

This is great news. The pressure on them has been mounting for years.
The nation's leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates — creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women.

The change will mean a cutoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.

Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen says the key reason is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress — a probe launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.

The rupture, which has not been publicly announced as it unfolded, is wrenching for some of those who've learned about it and admire both organizations.

"We're kind of reeling," said Patrick Hurd, who is CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia — recipient of a 2010 grant from Komen — and whose wife, Betsi, is a veteran of several Komen fundraising races and is currently battling breast cancer.

"It sounds almost trite, going through this with Betsi, but cancer doesn't care if you're pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative," Hurd said. "Victims of cancer could care less about people's politics."

Planned Parenthood said the Komen grants totaled roughly $680,000 last year and $580,000 the year before, going to at least 19 of its affiliates for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health services.

Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun said the cutoff results from the charity's newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. According to Komen, this applies to Planned Parenthood because it's the focus of an inquiry launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., seeking to determine whether public money was improperly spent on abortions.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has depicted Stearns' probe as politically motivated and said she was dismayed that it had contributed to Komen's decision to halt the grants to PPFA affiliates.

"It's hard to understand how an organization with whom we share a mission of saving women's lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying," Richards told The Associated Press. "It's really hurtful."

Planned Parenthood has been a perennial target of protests, boycotts and funding cutoffs because of its role as the largest provider of abortions in the United States. Its nearly 800 health centers nationwide provide an array of other services, including birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer screening.

According to Planned Parenthood, its centers performed more than 4 million breast exams over the past five years, including nearly 170,000 as a result of Komen grants.

Komen, founded in 1982, has invested more than $1.9 billion since then in breast-cancer research, health services and advocacy. Its Race for the Cure fundraising events have become a global phenomenon.

For all its mainstream popularity, however, Komen has been a target of anti-abortion groups since it began its partnerships with Planned Parenthood in 2005.

Life Decisions International includes Komen on its "boycott list" of companies and organizations that support or collaborate with Planned Parenthood. In December, Lifeway Christian Resources, the publishing division of the Southern Baptist Convention announced a recall of pink Bibles it had sold because some of the money generated for Komen was being routed to Planned Parenthood.

Aun, the Komen spokeswoman, said such pressure tactics were not the reason for the funding cutoff and cited Stearns' House investigation as a key factor. Continue Reading.

Fr. Barron on The Obama Administration's Mandate and the Violation of Religious Liberty

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Violation of Consciences and The Bill of Rights

The Federal government, more specifically the Department of Health and Human Services and the Obama Administration, have mandated that every employer carry mandatory contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs in health care insurance plans - without a cost to the employee. The only exemption is for churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. This means Catholic hospitals, schools, universities, etc. will be forced to carry these items or drop insurance coverage and pay fines.

This is a clear violation of the consciences of believers, who will not have the option to opt-out. It will cause many to pay for things they oppose and find evil. Furthermore, it is a violation of the Bill of Rights, which lists the free exercise of religion as the FIRST right:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
Catholics should not let this happen. This is why our bishops are strongly calling on all Catholics to pray and act. The following is from the Bishop of Austin and was read in all Masses this weekend:
January 26, 2012

Dear brother priests,

I ask that this letter be read aloud at all Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses on this weekend, Jan. 28-29, 2012.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.  The federal government, which claims to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people—the Catholic population—and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception.  Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write.  And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.  And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so).  The Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.  People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens.  We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom.  Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights.  In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties.  I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same.  Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

And therefore, I would ask of you two things.  First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored.  Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible.  Second, I would also recommend visiting the website, www.usccb.org/conscience, in order to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Administration’s decision.  You can also find a link to it from the website of the Diocese of Austin.

Thank you for your attention to this timely issue.  May the Lord guide our efforts to defend religious liberty in this country.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez
Bishop of Austin
Bishop Vann of Fort Worth and Bishop Farrell of Dallas had a good guest Op-Ed in the Star Telegram last week.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not "Catholic Christian" - Just "Catholic"

When we here the word "Catholic" a lot of us (even lifelong Catholics) think of the things that make us uniqe - the Sacraments, Mass, Mary, purgatory, the Pope, etc. There is certainly nothing wrong with thinking about those things and our unique status and identity as a Church. But, this thinking is also very limited and if it stops there, it shows an improper understanding of the nature of the Church.

The biggest problem is in the way "Catholic Christian" is used, it insinuates Catholics are merely a subset of all Christians and therefore the larger group (represented by the word "Christian") has as a mere subset of it Catholics. We are merely a portion of this one "Christian" Church. Yet, this isn't what the Catholic Church teaches about itself.

Before I go any further, let me be clear. I am not saying that non-Catholic Christians are not united to the Church of Christ. Nor am I saying anything about their salvation (for more on these topics see the links at the bottom). Rather, I am making a positive affirmation of what the Catholic Church truly is and critiquing the use of the term "Catholic Christian", because it is not only insufficient as a descriptor of who we are as The Church of Christ, but it is also inaccurate and redundant.

If we are to understand the Catholic Church properly, we must understand her nature. This is what Vatican II says about the Church (emphasis added):
"This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth". This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity." - LG 8
The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, not the other way around. If the Catholic Church subsisted in the Church of Christ, then the term "Catholic Christian" would make more sense. But, as it is we should not use the term if we mean to reflect a true doctrine an orthodox understanding of our identity as Catholics.

To put it another way - there is one Church which Christ founded. That Church is the Catholic Church.

Another thought - "Catholic Christian" is redundant. Catholics are by definition Christians. As another document in Vatican II stated:
"it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God." -UR 3
Being Catholic is the very definition of being a Christian.
Just "Catholic" please.

Related Posts:
**"Outside the Church There Is No Salvation"
**Is Receiving the Eucharist a Requirement for Salvation?
**Can Non-Catholics Be Saved?
**How Do We Know The Church Teaches Truth?

Catholic Motivational Poster - 3:00 AM

Something I came up with last night, when some storms woke me up.

Feel free to share, but please credit us with a link.

Ann Konderla (Fr. David's Mother) Requiescat in Pace

Fr. David's mother, Ann Konderla, died this morning.
The following is a note from Fr. David:

Your prayers and support have been so helpful. My mother died peacefully at about 5 a.m. this morning surrounded by her husband and children. We are planning visitation from 4 to 6 p.m. with a rosary and vigil service starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, January 27th at Christ the Good Shepherd Chapel on Coulter in Bryan.

The funeral mass will be at 10. a.m. on Saturday, January 28th at St. Joseph Church in Bryan with burial to follow immediately at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Bryan.

My family feels so blessed that her time of trial is over and appreciates your prayers as we prepare to celebrate her life.

Fr. David
Fr. David has 11 brothers and sisters and most still live in the area. Please keep them all in your prayers.

Eternal Rest, Grant Unto Her, O Lord. 
And let perpetual Light shine upon her. 
May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Pro-Life Commercial That Says It All

What is Mortal Sin?

Q - What exactly qualifies as a mortal sin? According to a website I read, breaking any of the 10 Commandments along with a slew of other things is a grave sin? In this light, what if we've taken the Eucharist in mortal sin before without the prior knowledge that we weren't supposed to?

A -
Thanks for the question.

For a sin to be mortal, it must meet the following criteria:
  1. The act must be grave (serious)
  2. Must be committed with full knowledge
  3. The sin must be committed with deliberate consent
If these three conditions are met, then the sin is mortal - the life of grace is "killed" in our souls. This is a choice, on our part, to turn our backs on God.

If these conditions are not met, then the sin is venial - it "wounds" us.

While all sins are bad - mortal sins are deadly to us. Thus, the apostle John says:
"If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly."
- 1 John 5:16-17
Notice the distinction between those sins that kill us spiritually and those that do not.

St. Paul has several lists of sins that will keep us from heaven and are considered grave sins.
"Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
- Galatians 5: 19-21
"Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God."
- 1 Cor 6: 9-10
So, we can see that there are quite a few acts that are gravely immoral and are thus mortally sinful.
Thus, breaking any of the Ten Commandments may be a mortal sin. But, we must understand that each of the three conditions must be met.

The Catechism says this about grave matter:
1858 "Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother."132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger."
Now, if you were to receive Communion in the state of mortal sin, then it is very serious thing. But, if you did so out of ignorance, your culpability is lessened. The Catechism comments on this as well.
1860 "Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest."
When in doubt about mortal sin - go to confession.
Also, when in doubt - do not receive the Eucharist.
I hope this helps.

Related Post:
**Is Confession To a Catholic Priest Necessary or Can You Go Straight To God?

The Nature of God

God’s existence is absolute
  • God is the source of being for all things
  • God is the fullness of being, so in other words, he “is” and must always be…his existence and being are not separate.
God is infinite
  • There is no cause of God’s existence…he is
  • God has no limitations
God is one
  • Because there is no limit to God, there can only be one, because if there were more than one, then God the other God must possess something that the other doesn’t and vice-versa, therefore limiting them.
God is spiritual (simple)
  • Bodies are limited and subject to change, therefore God has no body. Thus, God is spiritual being. He is not limited by space and he has no parts.
God is eternal
  • Just as God isn’t limited by space, neither is He limited by time and thus is eternal therefore he has no beginning of end.
God is transcendent and immanent
  • God’s creation, the universe, must be something that is not God, otherwise He would be limited by it. Therefore He is above all created things and is unchanging this is why
He is Transcendent
  • At the same time, God must exist in all things, because God gives all things their being. This is his immanence.
God is intelligent
  • Because creation has an intelligibility and we can understand it, we can infer that the creator is intelligent.
God is omniscient and omnipotent
  • God knows all and can do all.Otherwise he would be limited.Things such as sin because of free will were given to humans by God and are a sign of his power, not limitations of it.
God is personal
  • A who, not an it.
  • Persons are capable of loving and knowing.
God is free
  • He has no needs, but is complete in and of Himself.
God is good
  • First thing we have to understand is that evil is a lack of good and since God is the source of all that we know as good, even being itself, and there can be no lack of anything in God, God must be all-good, in fact goodness itself. God is, evil is not.

Monday, January 23, 2012

An Aggie Chooses Life!

What a testimony for choosing life!
This morning I put the following quote on our Facebook page:
"Society as a whole must defend the conceived child's right to life and the true good of the woman who can never, in any circumstances, find fulfilment in the decision to abort." -Pope Benedict XVI
In the comments under the quote, the following testimony was given. I have been given permission to share here on the blog:
In 1975, at age 17, I went to PP for a pregnancy test... it was +. They were very convincing that I should abort, gave me a form for my parents to sign (but said no one would check the signature *wink wink*). The day before abortion, I changed my mind. I called to cancel appt, & they harangued me. But I rebelled! I chose life without even being a Christian. 
I clung to my baby's life even when my parents' insisted I have an abortion when they found out (I ran away & got married). My son is 36 and such a blessing to me! Years later, I went back to PP for a pregnancy test - this time I was married and excited about the + sign. PP (a different "clinic") still pushed the abortion option saying I was still a bit young to have a child (I was 26). My daughter is now 28 and a teacher! Eleven years later I converted to Catholicism - finding the perfect expression of my faith in the fullness of Truth. 
Now I pray outside our local PP. And I grieve for babies lost and families destroyed. I know first hand... you see, PP did manage to murder one of my children... my first grandchild. The grief was so overwhelming for those involved. If people would only listen to the Truth, no one would willingly choose such mass destruction. 
Choosing life is definitely not the easy choice. But it's the better choice. Which can lead to other choices. Like adoption (my niece & nephew are adopted - we love them so much!!!) I have made many bad choices in my life - but choosing life was not one of them. 
For those who have had abortions, my heart aches for you! You are loved and precious and I hope you have experienced God's infinite mercy in healing - because He wants that for you. 
Pro-lifers should always embrace with love and compassion those who chose abortion... we're supposed to be pro-ALL life. A "problem" pregnancy is an opportunity for everyone to pitch in to help, be the BEST version of ourselves God created us to be, and reach out to those in need of our help.
Thanks to Barbara for the beautiful testimony for life!

The Acceptance Of Injustice

The great Lutheran theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, once said:
"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."
We cannot allow injustice stand while we watch it happen and remain guiltless. Justice demands that we speak against it. But, all too often we hear the argument that we shouldn't "impose" our views on anyone. This is relativism and a cop-out.

Our life is not our own. We owe it to God and others to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. We must do so or else we will pay for our sin of cooperation in allowing the evil to persist. Social evils are owned by every individual in the society that allows them. They are our evils.

The worst of all modern evils is abortion. The killing of innocent and defenseless human beings who should be protected. We must not stand for such injustice. We must continue to speak for the voiceless children who are killed because they are inconvenient and powerless. We must speak up for parents who feel trapped and alone. We must reach out to them and truly love them, not in a way that condemns them, but in a compassionate and caring way.

My mother found out about the Roe v Wade decision while she was pregnant with me - Jan 22, 1973. I was born six months later. A few years ago, she told me the story of how she wept for our country that day, because she now had the legal right to kill me if she so chose. My mother knew there really was no "choice" to make, because the decision of my life wasn't her own to make, it was for God alone.

My mother's tears have caused me to love life from that moment in her womb.

One way to speak up is to participate in the different pro-life marches that will take place around the country. If you are in DC or went to the West Coast Walk for Life, our prayers are with you. The Texas Rally for Life will be this coming weekend. If you are not going to any, please pray for our country and act locally.
"A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer." - Blessed Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae

Is It Sustainable?


Friday, January 20, 2012

Archbishop Dolan Responds to Administration's Mandate on Contraception

Tip o' the hat to Rocco for the video.

Here is a full statement from the US Bishops.
January 20, 2012 
Unconscionable to force citizens to buy contraceptives against their will
No change in limited exemption, only delay in enforcement
Matter of freedom of conscience, freedom of religion

WASHINGTON—The Catholic bishops of the United States called “literally unconscionable” a decision by the Obama Administration to continue to demand that sterilization, abortifacients and contraception be included in virtually all health plans. Today's announcement means that this mandate and its very narrow exemption will not change at all; instead there will only be a delay in enforcement against some employers.

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The cardinal-designate continued, “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable.It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty."

The HHS rule requires that sterilization and contraception – including controversial abortifacients – be included among “preventive services” coverage in almost every healthcare plan available to Americans. “The government should not force Americans to act as if pregnancy is a disease to be prevented at all costs,” added Cardinal-designate Dolan.

At issue, the U.S. bishops and other religious leaders insist, is the survival of a cornerstone constitutionally protected freedom that ensures respect for the conscience of Catholics and all other Americans.

“This is nothing less than a direct attack on religion and First Amendment rights,” said Franciscan Sister Jane Marie Klein, chairperson of the board at Franciscan Alliance, Inc., a system of 13 Catholic hospitals. “I have hundreds of employees who will be upset and confused by this edict. I cannot understand it at all.”

Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, voiced disappointment with the decision. Catholic hospitals serve one out of six people who seek hospital care annually.

“This was a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection,” Sister Keehan said.

Cardinal-designate Dolan urged that the HHS mandate be overturned.

“The Obama administration has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand,” he said. “The Catholic bishops are committed to working with our fellow Americans to reform the law and change this unjust regulation. We will continue to study all the implications of this troubling decision.”

"Some People Can Come Into Your Life and Without Even Knowing it, Change it Forever"

Sent to me by a friend and former student.
I asked him if I could share it with others and he agreed.

Gig 'em and God Bless.

Religious Institutions Ordered By Federal Government to Cover Contraception in Health Insurance

This is a huge blow to religious liberty and I hope the Supreme Court gets a good look at it soon.
The final regulation retains the approach federal health officials proposed last summer, despite the deluge of complaints from religious groups and congressional Republicans that has poured in since then. Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, but religious-affiliated hospitals and universities only get a one-year delay and must comply by Aug. 1, 2013.

“This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services." Congressional Republicans slammed the decision as an assault on religious freedom.

"This ruling forces religious organizations to violate the fundamental tenets of their faith, or stop offering health insurance coverage to their employees," said the Republican Policy Committee. "Time will tell whether those institutions choose the former or the latter course — but neither option should be necessary, if the administration had not taken such an unbending approach to appease its liberal base."

Access to birth control is the most controversial aspect of the healthcare reform law's preventive care provisions, which require plans to cover such care without co-pays and deductibles. The assumption is that such coverage will prevent people from getting sick and keep healthcare costs down.

The provision has attracted more than 200,000 comments, HHS said — most of them in favor of access to birth control, which the vast majority of healthcare plans already cover. Some religious institutions, however, said they would sooner close their doors than cover birth control, which they liken to abortion in some cases.

"What war and disease could not do to the congregation, the government of the United States will do," Nashville's Dominican congregation said. "It will shut them down."
Continue Reading.
But, here is the part of the article that will bring it all home:
Abortion-rights groups immediately applauded the decision.

"Birth control is not just basic health care for women, it is an economic concern," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "This common sense decision means that millions of women, who would otherwise pay $15 to $50 a month, will have access to affordable birth control, helping them save hundreds of dollars each year."

And Nancy Keegan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, praised the administration for standing "firm against intensive lobbying efforts from anti-birth-control organizations trying to expand the refusal option even further to allow organizations and corporations to deny their employees contraceptive coverage.

"As a result, millions will get access to contraception — and they will not have to ask their bosses for permission," she said.

The regulation comes after Sebelius rejected her agency's recommendation to allow over-the-counter sales of the Plan B morning-after pill to minors, a political decision that had infuriated Democrats' natural allies in the abortion-rights community.

How To Respond To Catholics Who Don't Act Catholic?

There are many approaches and opinions on how to handle Catholics who don't act Catholic. But I, for one, and very happy this is up to the Bishops not me. I understand how the Church works and couldn't imagine having to make such difficult decisions. With that being said, an important part of how the Church understands herself is the teaching of John Paul II (echoed in the Catechism) that "the Marian dimension of the Church precedes the Petrine". This means the Church is contemplative and receptive to God's grace and guidance before she exercises her authority and apostleship.

Now, there are some Catholics who clearly reject what the Church teaches. Politicians, pundits, lay and clergy alike - there are many examples of Catholics who reject the Church's teachings and do as they like in every walk of life. One article I read a few years ago, by a national Catholic columnist, rejected the hierarchy, the teachings of the Church, the authority of the Pope, and wanted to "impeach" the Pope because he is upholding centuries of apostolic teaching.

Amazingly bad. So many of the people who reject the Church's teachings don't understand them in the first place. When we form a dogmatic understanding of our own opinion, which is based on ignorance of the "opposition", we do ourselves a disservice.

Again, I ask, what should the Church do about Catholics who don't act Catholic?

Some say kick them out. I think this is the worst response. It serves no good. While the Church must try and make sure that doctrine is taught properly, we can't kick out all the Catholics that have a teaching incorrect. What we need to do is pray and catechize. We need to love them into understanding what the truth really is about the issues they rejecut. They have never truly heard the "good news" if they believe the Catholic Church is hateful to women, just wants power, is repressive, etc. What a shame! What a call to be merciful! Do we really see those in the Church that we disagree with as our true brothers and sisters? Truly? Because we can't just kick someone out of a family.

I am not suggesting we merely overlook every fault, error, or problem. But, coming out first with the hammer over the head is probably not the best option. The Church's law always "tends toward mercy". This means we act in a just manner when necessary, but always seeking mercy first.

I repent of ever wanting to kick out a brother or sister who just doesn't understand or believe in what the Church teaches - or better yet, what they believe her to teach.

Some others want to excommunicate Catholics who disagree with the Church in public. One of my former profs argues that it is a possibility the Bishops should look into. Maybe. Maybe not. I think it should be a last resort in the instance he is writing about. There are other ways of addressing it before getting into canonical penalties. If those don't work, then excommunication could be a possibility.
(NOTE: excommunication is a medicinal penalty that bars one from active participation in the sacramental life of the Church. It is meant to serve as a way to call back into the fold, the wandering sheep. It is NOT getting kicked out of the Church or being damned to hell.)

Pray for our bishops and those Catholics that do not understand the Church and reject what they believe she teaches.  Evangelize them, if possible. Lastly, thank God that you and I are not bishops who have to make these decisions.

God bless our dysfunctional Catholic family!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mother. Wife. Catholic. Attracted to Women.

A compelling and moving article.
A snip:
One of the most controversial teachings of Catholicism is its teaching on homosexuality. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (2357)
For most of us, this teaching is challenging, especially if someone we love is gay or lesbian. But what if you are the Catholic struggling with these desires? Is it possible to be faithful to the Church’s teachings and still be happy?

Yes, it is.

I am a 37-year-old Catholic woman who has been happily married for nearly 15 years. We have five children that I homeschool. I also struggle daily with same-sex attraction.
Continue Reading.

7 Lies About Homeschoolers

I absolutely love this video.
"Didn't you take yourself to prom in your living room?"

Why I Love Religion and Love Jesus - Spoken Word

Best. Response. Yet.

UPDATE - It seems the young man in the original video is admitting he made some errors and went too far with his criticism. Seems like a very humble young man. Good to hear. A snip:
If I can be brutally honest I didn’t think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn’t as air-tight as I would’ve liked. If I redid the video tomorrow, I’d keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly… My prayer is my generation would represent Christ faithfully and not swing to the other spectrum….thankful for your words and more importantly thankful for your tone and fatherly like grace on me as my elder. Humbled. Blessed. Thankful for painful growth. Blessings. Continue reading.

Star Wars Nerds Unite!

I still won't buy a VW, but it is greatness.

Tip o' the hat to Deacon Greg.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fr. Barron on "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus"

Here is my own commentary and the compilation of other videos and articles I put up. As usual, Fr. Barron nails it.

The Don't Miss Video of the Year. Seriously.

This video made me laugh out loud, bring me to tears, and it caused me to think. It was created by a class of Alabama middle school students and it is one of the best videos I have EVER seen. Please share with others.

We tend to forget that others are broken, in need of love, vulnerable, and searching. The pain, fear, and experiences that the people in this video share, is perfectly put together, in the midst of walking down a school hall and forgetting that all of us are human. We need one another and I for one take others for granted too often.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hello - Is It Me You're Looking For?

This is greatness - Lionel Richie's song Hello via a movie montage.

This of course reminded me of this:

Child Denied Transplant Because of "Mental Retardation"

IF true - this is absolutely horrifying (we are getting only one side of the story). But, the story is about a special-needs girl who was denied a needed liver transplant, because she was "mentally retarded". A snip from the family's blog:
After the labs, Amelia falls asleep in her stroller and we are called back to a large room with a screen and about sixteen chairs. Joe and I get comfortable and leave a space between us to fit the stroller. After about five minutes, a doctor and a social worker enter the room. They sit across from us but also leave a space between the two of them.

The doctor begins to talk and I listen intently on what he is saying. He has a Peruvian accent and is small, with brown hair, a mustache and is about sixty five years old. He gets about four sentences out ( I think it is an introduction) and places two sheets of paper on the table. I can’t take my eyes off the paper. I am afraid to look over at Joe because I suddenly know where the conversation is headed. In the middle of both papers, he highlighted in pink two phrases. Paper number one has the words, “Mentally Retarded” in cotton candy pink right under Hepatitis C. Paper number two has the phrase, “Brain Damage” in the same pink right under HIV. I remind myself to focus and look back at the doctor. I am still smiling.

He says about three more sentences when something sparks in my brain. First it is hazy, foggy, like I am swimming under water. I actually shake my head a little to clear it. And then my brain focuses on what he just said.

I put my hand up. “Stop talking for a minute. Did you just say that Amelia shouldn’t have the transplant done because she is mentally retarded. I am confused. Did you really just say that?”

The tears. Oh, the damn tears. Where did they come from? Niagara Falls. All at once. There was no warning. I couldn’t stop them. There were no tissues in conference room so I use my sleeve and my hands and I keep wiping telling myself to stop it.

I point to the paper and he lets me rant a minute. I can’t stop pointing to the paper. “This phrase. This word. This is why she can’t have the transplant done.”


I begin to shake. My whole body trembles and he begins to tell me how she will never be able to get on the waiting list because she is mentally retarded.

A bit of hope. I sit up and get excited.

“Oh, that’s ok! We plan on donating. If we aren’t a match, we come from a large family and someone will donate. We don’t want to be on the list. We will find our own donor.”

“Noooo. She—is—not—eligible –because—of—her—quality– of –life—Because—of—her—mental—delays” He says each word very slowly as if I am hard of hearing.
Continue Reading.
The story has hit the national news now and gotten all kinds of social media response.

A Warning About Making Heroes Out of Celebrities

We need heroes. We long to look up to someone and say, "I want to follow in the footsteps of a great man or woman like that." To be able to see good examples of what it means to be fully alive and to live life for all it is worth, while still doing the right thing, helps to give us the courage and motivation to attempt it ourselves. This is why we are so quick to latch onto someone and make them into the next cultural hero. The problem is that every time we do this, we are latching onto a sinful person who could just as easily let us down in a single moment.

Think of Mel Gibson.

There is nothing wrong with looking up to others, but we have to be very cautious in who we look up to and we have to be careful of putting them on a pedestal that is too high for them to live up to.

We even do this with the Saints. A Saint is someone in whom the Church has found heroic virtue. This does not mean the didn't have personality flaws, moments of weakness, or that they didn't sin. Of course they did. But, we sanitize the lives of the Saints all too often, because it is easier to digest them without flaws. But, this isn't good for us to do. They are Saints because they overcame their flaws, through Christ's grace, not despite them.

So, with this very long disclaimer, I offer this video of a man who seems to be trying to live a life close to Christ, through his Catholic faith. Even though the public is watching his every move.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Is it a sin to fear death?

Q - Is it a sin to fear death?

A -
Thanks for the question. The simple answer is no. Fear is an emotional response to a situation. There is no sin in feeling a certain way. Even Jesus feared the suffering that he was to undergo and the death he was to have. We see this when he asks His Father to take the cup from him.

But, we should also follow Christ's example when he abandons himself to the Father's will. Fear can lead to sin, when we allow it to rule our lives. For example, if out of fear, we failed to act in a way that justice or love demanded of us, then we have sinned.

So, the feeling itself isn't sinful, but can lead to sin if we do what we ought not do or don't do what we ought. (For more - here is St. Thomas Aquinas take on fear and sin.)

On a slightly different note, while it is quite natural to have somewhat of a fear of the unknown, this is where we need to develop the virtue of hope. We should pray for God to increase hope in us and then do our best to hope in God's loving providence. He is in control and our hope must be anchored in the mystery of the Resurrection.

Through sin, death entered the world. Through Christ dying and rising again, He conquered death. We participate in this act of salvation through believing in Christ's grace for us and that we will one day be with Him forever in heaven.

May the hope of Christ bring us beyond our fears!
"'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth'. "Blessed indeed', says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!'" (Rv 14:13).

Archbishop Dolan's Homily on Sex Creates a Buzz

His Sunday homily was about sexuality. The New York Daily News did a decent job in covering it, although I don't think it was a "fire-and-brimstone homily".
A snip:
“I’m going to preach about sex,” he declared.

“Now I’ve got your attention.”

Dolan linked “sexual immorality” with society’s ills — violence, sex crimes, disease and broken families — and called on priests to do a better job of encouraging the sexually virtuous.

“The church has at times in the past, sadly, come across as as some naysaying, puritanical nag, always giving a big ‘No, no, no’ to one of life’s greatest joys,” he said.

But modern society often reduces sex to “animal rutting” or its “most popular contact sport,” he said.

He didn’t mention any one show or star by name, but Dolan clearly seemed to be targeting the bedhopping that’s become regular fare on TV and reality shows like “Jersey Shore.”

“Truth be told, it is chastity and purity that liberates us, while immorality enslaves us,” he said.
Continue Reading.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Are Ouija Boards Satanic?

Q - Is using a Ouija Board ok, if just for fun? Also, what do you think of the comments at the bottom of this websiteI can't believe that Hasbro makes this and Toys 'R Us sells them!

A - Thanks for the questions. I think my answers might just surprise some of our readers.

The origin of these boards is not from a game. Rather, they come from a practice of "channeling" or "divination". Channeling is asking the dead to give us answers to questions or power and is an ancient - and dangerous - practice. Thus, the word "occult" = "hidden". The Bible speaks directly to this practice:
Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortune-teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the LORD, and because of such abominations the LORD, your God, is driving these nations out of your way. - Deuteronomy 18: 10-12
He practiced soothsaying and divination, and reintroduced the consulting of ghosts and spirits. He did much evil in the LORD'S sight and provoked him to anger. - 2 Kings 21:6
And when they say to you, "Inquire of mediums and fortune-tellers (who chirp and mutter!); should not a people inquire of their gods, apply to the dead on behalf of the living?" - Is 8:19
So, the history of divination and channeling is ancient, but it has some more modern forms, which have become popular again from various sources, including - New Age practices, the Occult, fortune-telling, Wicca, astrology, and "games" such as the Ouija Board. All of these have Pagan spiritual origins and should never be practiced by Christians.

Ultimately, this is a dangerous practice because it is an attempt to seek spiritual power from somewhere other than God. If this is the case, then demons or evil spirits are most likely the ones supplying it. We open ourselves up to demonic influence if we do so - to the point of having possession being possible down the line.

Some might think this is an overreaction and that it is just fun. I have heard some say - at most, it is a spooky time for kids to pretend they can talk to the dead. But, demons can work through this kind of attitude to quietly induce someone to their way of thinking and acting.

A personal disbelief in the power of Satan, does not make his power go away. Just ask an exorcist who has had to fight with such demons. They will not beat around the bush in regards to such practices.

The danger is very real.

Thus, the Catechism states:
2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future.48 Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.
So, in answer to your question - I believe the Ouija Board and other kinds of New Age practices to be very dangerous. I also think it is scandalous that they are marketing it as a "game" and so many people accept such things uncritically.

More Responses to "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus"

If you somehow missed the debate about a viral YouTube video that has everyone talking, you can see it and read more about it here. My response has also gone viral, though to a much lesser extent.

UPDATED - I have added other videos and will continue to put responses in this post. Check back for more. Put any others in the combox. Thanks.

More commentaries here from Catholics and non-Catholics:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Does Jesus Hate Religion? Should You?

I have had several people ask me to comment on the following video, which has gone viral in many Christian communities. It is entitled, "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus: Spoken Word"

So, is there anything wrong with his message? Absolutely. In fact, there are a lot of things wrong with it. But, let us start with what is good about it.
  1. Hypocrisy is wrong and brings a false witness to Christ. True.
  2. The veneer of faith can be hidden by religious practices, while never touching the heart. True.
  3. Outward actions does not make one a believer. True.
  4. The focus of Christianity should be on the relationship with Christ, not on just following a bunch of rules. True.
  5. By grace alone are we saved. True.
  6. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day, because the didn't practice what they preached. True.
What did he get wrong then?
Well, he starts with a false premise - that religion is the root of the problem and therefore Jesus hates it. This is false.

We must define our terms before we go any further.
Religion can be defined in many ways, here are a few:
  1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects
  3. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
I can't see how Jesus would hate a set of beliefs, a moral code or ritual observances, when he came to teach us these things. The sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper, the parables, etc. all teach us these things. So, Jesus certainly doesn't hate them.

Furthermore, Jesus wouldn't want us to be taught these things and then not follow them or observe the practice of them.

So, the problem isn't with religion, but hypocricy - saying you are a Christian and living far from him. This is a different argument.

Jesus certainly didn't come to "abolish religion". You might say he came to complete it, purify it, raise it up, etc. He certainly didn't want to do away with it. You might remember Jesus saying "I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them." -Matt 5:17

What this young man has done in the video is set up a false dichotomy, which is rooted in modern Protestant evangelical thought (esp. in the emergent church movement). This thought tries to "re-package" the Gospel for modern man, which isn't a bad idea, but they have the wrong diagnosis - religion isn't the sickness that needs to be cured. The video's implication is that a person who has religion is someone who isn't a "real" Christian. Hence, the quote:
Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice
Tend to ridicule God's people, they did it to John The Baptist
They can't fix their problems, and so they just mask it
Not realizing religions like spraying perfume on a casket 
See the problem with religion, is it never gets to the core
It's just behavior modification, like a long list of chores
Like lets dress up the outside make look nice and neat
But it's funny that's what they use to do to mummies
While the corps rots underneath
He also makes the argument that "religion has started wars" and "Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor". This is another false dichotomy. People have certainly misused God's name to fight wars, but that doesn't mean the faith and practice of religion caused them. Also, Christians provide more for the poor than anybody else, so why make this argument? We can do both - build beautiful churches to worship God (and proclaim His glory) and feed the poor.

Religion gives form and structure to faith and there is nothing wrong with it as such. It is the whole "spiritual but not religious" argument, which is another false dichotomy.

It all has to do has to do with the perception that there is a rigidity and a formalism that doesn't translate into true transformation of hearts in religious practice. Certainly someone can go to church (any church) and not have a relationship with Christ. But, religion doesn't have to be the cause of such problems. Thus, this video (and other's who believe this line of reasoning) believe religion is an institutional and man-made construct that keeps us from a true relationship with God. False.

His premise and conclusion are therefore wrong. Thoughts are appreciated in the combox, but please remain charitable.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fr. Barron on A Persecuted Church and Heroes

We sometimes forget that there are still millions of Christians who face terrible persecution. 75% of people killed around the world for their religious belief are Christians...

Google Honors Blessed Nicolas Steno

They don't mention that he was a Catholic priest, but he was. He was beatified by JPII in 1987. Some of his accomplishments below:
The Danish natural scientist — who was born “Niels Stensen” on Jan. 11, 1638 — is widely considered the father of geology.

Fittingly, today’s green-topped logo is rendered as rock strata with embedded fossils — reflecting twin ideas for which Steno is best known.

The strata illustrate Steno’s “principle of original horizonality,” which essentially says that rock layers form horizontally — and only appear differently if later disturbances cause the deviation. And the fossils in the lower stratified rock help illustrate Steno’s “law of superposition,” which — simply put — says that the oldest rock layers are sequentially deposited on the bottom unless otherwise disturbed.

For such research, Steno also became known as the father of stratigraphy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Joy Of Books

I love books. I especially love books that make me think deeply or move me. But, I never knew there were books that felt the same way.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Studying the Stars For Guidance Leads to Evil

Something we can learn from the Magi and Scripture.

It is not uncommon to hear we should follow the star to Christ. Yet, we should be careful to look to the stars for truth. The star of Bethlehem first led the Magi to the evil King Herod in Jerusalem, not to Jesus in Bethlehem.
"When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." -Matt 2: 1-3
In other words, studying the stars didn't lead to truth initially, but evil. This is because astrology is a search for truth in the wrong place. Only when the Magi studied the Sacred Scriptures did they realize where they should go. Once this was ascertained, then the star continued to guide them and rested over the place where they found Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
"Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way." -Matthew 2: 4-12
The truth is found in the Sacred Scriptures and then another truth is directly revealed to the Magi through a dream. Do not look to the stars for truth. Look to God in His Holy Church, the Holy Scriptures, and your conscience.

Do Women Want to be "Pretty' or "Hot"?

A very good read from our friend Pat Archbold.
A snip:
This post is intended as a lament of sorts, a lament for something in the culture that is dying and may never been seen again.

Pretty, pretty is dying.

People will define pretty differently. For the purposes of this piece, I define pretty as a mutually enriching balanced combination of beauty and projected innocence.

Once upon a time, women wanted to project an innocence. I am not idealizing another age and I have no illusions about the virtues of our grandparents, concupiscence being what it is. But some things were different in the back then. First and foremost, many beautiful women, whatever the state of their souls, still wished to project a public innocence and virtue. And that combination of beauty and innocence is what I define as pretty.

By nature, generally when men see this combination in women it brings out their better qualities, their best in fact. That special combination of beauty and innocence, the pretty inspires men to protect and defend it.

Young women today do not seem to aspire to pretty, they prefer to be regarded as hot. Hotness is something altogether different. When women want to be hot instead of pretty, they must view themselves in a certain way and consequently men view them differently as well.

As I said, pretty inspires men’s nobler instincts to protect and defend. Pretty is cherished. Hotness, on the other hand, is a commodity. Its value is temporary and must be used. It is a consumable.
Continue Reading.

Why Can't I...

Why can't I get a flight like this?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Subscribe to Aggie Catholics

A reader asked me to add a "subscribe by email" function to the blog. You can now find it in the right-hand column, under the Networked Blogs box.

Thanks to everyone who follows us in these different ways:

  • Google Friend Connect - 458
  • Networked Blogs - 287
  • Google Reader Subscribers - 797
  • Total = 1,542 people who subscribe to Aggie Catholics!

This doesn't even count the following:
Twitter - 383 followers
Facebook - 4,778 likes

Courageous - A Review

Courageous is a movie about fatherhood. It is the latest project from Sherwood Pictures, which is a part of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. I know that many disagree with me on this, but I found Sherwood's movie Fireproof (the last movie from them I viewed) barely watchable, even though it had a great message. I believe a good movie is a work of art. As a form of art, I hold artistic merits of a movie to a high standard. The message is important, but so is the writing, directing, production value, etc. If other aspects of the movie are lacking, then the message is diluted or virtually lost.

A few months ago I had a disagreement about this issue with some good friends. They got upset at me because I was critical of the feelgood Christian movies that have little artistic merit (bad acting, writing, etc). They thought the message was most important. I understand their argument, especially in light of the trash that Hollywood makes, but disagree that Christians need to settle for a lower form or movie art.

To tell the truth, I had no plans on watching Courageous. But, then I was sent the DVD for free in order to review it. The good news was, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The bad news, it was still below average.

After a tragedy to one of the main characters' family, one man decides to challenge himself to stand up for God and his family by being a good husband and father. His friends follow his lead. While the message about fatherhood is desperately needed in our society, the movie becomes too preachy about it as well as being too sentimental. Yet, I applaud the movie-makers for taking on an issue that is all too forgotten in our culture - the vital role that good fathers play in their children's lives.

The acting, writing, editing, etc. in Courageous was much better than Fireproof, but that isn't saying much. I know that the actors (and many others) are volunteers, but I don't understand why. I can't help but wonder how much better could the movie have been if the whole thing were done in collaboration with movie professionals? What would it hurt to have someone take a look at the script, edit out 45 minutes (it was WAY too long), work on lighting, etc.

If the goal of this film is to help recapture good fathers and husbands in our culture, then we need to speak to the culture. A church-going Christian man may be challenged by this movie, but I don't see this movie appealing to the guy who isn't going to church regularly. In my book, that means the movie doesn't measure up to being a good Christian movie. To be a good Christian movie, it has to reach others where they are. But, this one is too preachy and too heavy-handed with the Jesus talk. A good Christian movie, in my opinion, should have both a good message and more than just a message, but should be for all.

All in all, the movie was better than I expected but still a big disappointment. Do I recommend it? It depends. If you are someone who cares more about the message than the artistic merit, then I recommend it to you. If you are like me, don't watch it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes

Q - In the miracle of the loaves and fishes it states that Jesus broke the loaves and fishes and handed them to his disciples. If he broke it and handed it to his disciples, were the 5,000 given a small piece of bread and were satisfied or did it really multiply? If it multiplied then why were the disciples still doubtful as to whether Jesus was really the Messiah? I know if I saw bread multiply before my eyes I would not have any doubts.

A - Thanks for your question. I would like to define a miracle according to this definition:
"A sign or wonder...which can only be attributed to Divine power." (CCC Glossary)
Now, I know how you feel. Sometimes I read the Bible and think - what about of hard-headed fools! If only I had the opportunity to see Lazarus raised from the dead, a cripple walk, water turned into wine, demons cast out of people, or the loaves and fishes multiplied. It would have been so much easier to believe!

But, then I realize that it wasn't any easier for the persons who walked with Jesus than it is for us. Put yourself into this scene for a minute. You are in a crowd and this man (a human like us) teaches some hard sayings - including forgiving your enemies and lending without expecting repayment. You are challenged, but not quite convinced. You then see him ask for some food and he is handed some loaves and fishes. He then gives them to his followers who start to distribute them to others. Before you know it, he has given enough for everyone in the crowd to eat. Some are awe-struck. Others think it is some kind of trick. You aren't so sure. Neither am I. But, I want to believe. So do you, but your have questions.
Matthew 19:26 - "Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.""
It isn't that God can't do something miraculous, it is that our ideas about God are too small.

This story is a foreshadowing of the gift of the Eucharist that Christ gave the Church at the Last Supper. One miracle points to a greater one. Instead of being fed bread that can satisfy the body, we are given bread from heaven that will last forever! There is no greater miracle, so at the center of our faith is the Eucharist. Is it obvious? No. That is because God doesn't want to make it "easy", God wants us to believe, though we can't "see" Him.

There are six times in the Gospels that Christ feeds the crowds - Matthew14 and 15, Mark 6 and 8, Luke 9, and John 6. So, this was apparently a very important story. So, why would this story be told? To reveal to us, once again, the divinity of Christ, among other reasons. What would be extraordinary about everyone getting a tiny morsel? Nothing.

If it were not miraculous, then some would not have had this reaction:
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone. - John 6:15
Based on this evidence we can get a "literal" meaning from the text. In Catholic exegesis of the Bible the literal understanding means "what meaning the original human author meant to convey and what his audience understood him to mean". Thus, the literal meaning of this passage is John (and the other gospel writers) thought they saw a miracle and their readers would think the same (as is reflected in early Church reflections on this event).

But, even with this, they don't fully understand the reason or implications. They think he is some powerful king come to rescue them from the Romans. Thus, he later says in John 6:
And when they found him across the sea they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.
After this Jesus uses the event to give the greatest teaching on the Eucharist - the bread of life discourse in John 6. When he is done teaching many leave because "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" - John 6:60.

We can learn something here. Christ words SHOULD challenge us. But, our response is what will determine everything.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Top 20 Catholic Bloggers of 2011

Top 20 Catholic Bloggers of 2011
(in no particular order)

Yes, these are the blogs I read most. If I missed one you like, mention them in the combox. If you don't like one of them, be nice about it. If you think one is better than the others, be nice about that as well.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Make A New Year's Solution, Not Resolution

When many people try to start off a new year well, they make new year's resolutions. The definition of a resolution is:
"the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc."
The problem is that once many determine the course of action they will choose for their new year, they soon fail to change their habits and therefore they don't follow through to the end to change what needed to change in the first place.

If most Americans were making honest new year's resolutions, then it would be to get bigger, lazier, let relationships slide, stop working on our prayers life, etc. Establishing bad habits is always easier.

I propose (full disclosure - the idea was planted during a homily this past weekend) that you make new year's solutions, not resolutions. The definition of a solution is:
"the act of solving a problem, question, etc."
This is what most Americans need. We need solutions to our problems, which certainly involve a resolution to change, but a solution is never complete unless the resolution is followed through completely.

Last year I had a problem that needed a solution. I was addicted to caffeine.  Therefore, in all of 2011 I didn't have any caffeine. The solution solved my problem.

With this in mind, I propose some solutions to problems many face today:

  • Go to Daily Mass more frequently.
  • Go to Confession at least once a month.
  • Exercise 5 days a week.
  • No fast food.
  • Fast once-a-week.
  • Prioritize prayer in your schedule.
  • Wake up 30 minutes early to pray.
  • Share your faith more openly.
  • Spend one night a week as family game night.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit Facebook / video games / Internet / etc.
  • Spend an hour a week volunteering.
  • Get out of debt.
  • Stick to a budget.

Try one. Make it a solution. Let God give you the strength to stick to it for a year. Then see how your life is better for doing it.