Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How Young People Will Both Benefit & Suffer From Hyperconnectedness


A very insightful survey about the hyperconnected Millenial generation and what we can look forward to. Here are a few insights I that got my antennae up:
Futurist John Smart, president and founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, recalled an insight of economist Simon Kuznets about evolution of technology effects known as the Kuznets curve: “First-generation tech usually causes ‘net negative’ social effects; second-generation ‘net neutral’ effects; by the third generation of tech—once the tech is smart enough, and we've got the interface right, and it begins to reinforce the best behaviors—we finally get to ‘net positive’ effects,” he noted. “We'll be early into conversational interface and agent technologies by 2020, so kids will begin to be seriously intelligently augmented by the internet. There will be many persistent drawbacks however [so the effect at this point will be net neutral]. The biggest problem from a personal-development perspective will be motivating people to work to be more self-actualized, productive, and civic than their parents were. They'll be more willing than ever to relax and remain distracted by entertainments amid accelerating technical productivity.

“As machine intelligence advances,” Smart explained, “the first response of humans is to offload their intelligence and motivation to the machines. That's a dehumanizing, first-generation response. Only the later, third-generation educational systems will correct for this.”
Then there is this response (I have added emphasis):
Another comprehensive insight came from Barry Chudakov, a Florida-based consultant and a research fellow in the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. He wrote that by 2020, “Technology will be so seamlessly integrated into our lives that it will effectively disappear. The line between self and technology is thin today; by then it will effectively vanish. We will think with, think into, and think through our smart tools but their presence and reach into our lives will be less visible. Youth will assume their minds and intentions are extended by technology, while tracking technologies will seek further incursions into behavioral monitoring and choice manipulation. Children will assume this is the way the world works. The cognitive challenge children and youth will face (as we are beginning to face now) is integrity, the state of being whole and undivided. There will be a premium on the skill of maintaining presence, of mindfulness, of awareness in the face of persistent and pervasive tool extensions and incursions into our lives. Is this my intention, or is the tool inciting me to feel and think this way? That question, more than multitasking or brain atrophy due to accessing collective intelligence via the internet, will be the challenge of the future.”
Should we stop and ask "if" and "ought we" a little more?
Read the entire thing here.

Lent - The Video Game

This is awesomely cheesy fun.

What Is In Your Trash?

We throw away too much. But, the root cause is that we want too much, so we buy too much.

What's In Your Trash Infographic
Via: Bolt Insurance

Friday, February 24, 2012

DVD Drawing Winners Announced



The winners of the drawing for "The Way" DVDs are:
  • Corey Dossey
  • Mary Jo Schuette
  • Ryan Moore
Congratulations.
Please send me your address via email at:

  • mlejeune (AT) aggiecatholic.org 

If you live in town you can also pick it up at St. Mary's front desk.

Thanks to the producers of the movie and the Maximus Group for the DVDs.

Why Is A Nun Walking The Oscar's Red Carpet?

Because she starred in multiple movies alongside Elvis, entered a convent, became the superior of the order, and is now the subject of a documentary that is nominated for an Oscar.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Moment You Realize "I Am Fail"

Have you ever had that feeling that you just can't do anything right or that your day is completely crudtacular? I mean, I pretty much just had the "I Am Fail" experience when I asked this question because everyone has had this experience. Duh!

Seriously.

It can be accentuated when you fail at a relationship with someone you care about. It usually starts with the "why do I hang around you again" look they give you when you completely messed something up (dirty socks and toilet seats might inflate the problem). It might also send up a red flag when you realize that you were not using your internal voice anymore and the words really did come out of your mouth and you could not catch them first. It might also include forgetting something, lying, digging deeper holes, etc.

Maybe it is one of those times your temper got the best of you and you thought you might teach somebody who is boss and then you learn that either person can be fired from the relationship.

Yeah, those kinds of fail.

You might ask why God allows us these moments of complete Faildomness. Why couldn't He have just made relationships easy? It is because he knows better than you or I that we actually need them.

I know what you are thinking - we need help to be good, not bad. Exactly. Too often we have the mentality that we can succeed in life on our own. But, we can't. So, we fail. This is why God allows us to fall on our faces, so that we remember that God is the anti-Fail.

God is Win. We need win and therefore we need God. So, get more God and get more win. Confession is so much win because it gets rid of all the fail and then implants win right into our souls. Mass is double win because we get the Body and Blood of God.

But, human relationships don't work quite so easily. We have to put a lot more effort into them to get rid of the fail in them. "I am sorry, please forgive me" is a good start. But, only a start. Another reason we need God - so we allow him to help us with others.

Got it?
Good.
Now go win.

"The Grey" A Review by Fr. Barron

SPOILER ALERT:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why Would A Congregation Applaud a Homily? Because A Priest Gently Preaches About Contraception

Thanks to Jen Fulwiler for posting about Fr. Jonathan Raia's homily on sin, the HHS Mandate, and Contraception. Fr. J is a great guy and a friend. He was assigned, as a transitional deacon, here at St. Mary's Catholic Center for a year. We were blessed to have him and he is a great priest. But, this topic is difficult for many priests to handle, but he does a masterful job, which Jen describes.

Here is a snip of her post on the homily:
A couple of weeks ago, our priest gave a homily about contraception. While speaking about the Health and Human Services mandate, our associate pastor, Fr. Jonathan Raia, made a few allusions to the fact that the Church believes that contraception is bad. There were over a thousand people packed into the building, and a slight but noticeable tension developed as he inched closer and closer to the subject. This most controversial of Catholic teachings had been splashed all over the news in recent days, ridiculed and denounced throughout popular culture, and the question hung in the air: “Is he going to go there?”

He did.

You can hear the whole homily on our parish website here. In the second half of his talk, he gently but unflinchingly explained that the Catholic Church teaches that contraception is wrong. He gave a bit of background about the reasoning behind this stance, cleared up some common misconceptions, and pointed people to resources where they could find out more about methods of Natural Family Planning. As he spoke, the thought came to mind:

I think we’re finally ready for this.
Continue Reading.
I highly recommend you listen to the entire homily.

Furthermore, the US Bishops continue to fight the mandate, releasing another letter.

What Are You Willing To Do For Jesus? - Archbishop Chaput Challenges Us During Lent

1st Century Manuscript of Gospel of Mark Found!

This is cool:
Dallas Theological Seminary professor Daniel B. Wallace has said that newly discovered fragments from the Gospel of Mark could be the oldest New Testament artifacts ever found and date from the first century A.D., or during the time of eyewitnesses of Jesus' resurrection.

Wallace announced his findings at UNC Chapel Hill on Feb. 1, 2012, during a debate in front of 1,000 people, where he unveiled that seven New Testament papyri had recently been discovered – six of them he said were probably from the second century, and one of them, the Gospel of Mark, probably from the first. The records will only be published next year, however.

The professor of New Testament Studies identified a fragment from the Gospel of Mark, the second book of the New Testament that chronicles the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, as perhaps the most interesting find among the new discoveries.

Wallace explained that the fragment was dated by one of the world's leading paleographers. The oldest manuscript that had Mark in it was Papyrus 45 (P45), from the early third century (c. AD 200–250). This new fragment would predate P45 by 100 to 150 years, almost certainly placing it in the first century and making it the oldest of its kind, according to the professor. The other oldest known manuscript of the New Testament has been P52 (discovered in 1934), a small fragment from John's Gospel, dated to the first half of the second century.
Continue Reading.
Tip o' the hat to Mark.

Need to Get Into The Feel of Lent? Try This.

Miserere mei, Deus "Have mercy on me, O God" was written by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri. It is based on Psalm 51 and was composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, for use in the Sistine Chapel during matins, as part of the Tenebrae service on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week.

I believe it is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed.

Tip o' the hat to Rocco for this version.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Did You Give Up Facebook For Lent?

If you gave up Facebook for Lent, then you are welcome to use these images, made by Paul Michael Piega (one of last year's Campus Ministry Interns) for your profile pic to let others know that you have given up Facebook. Right-click on the pics to save them to your computer. Then you can upload them to Facebook.

Also, if you don't like St. Mary's Catholic Center on Facebook yet, we invite you to do so.



Potluck at the Park

Potluck at the Park
Reflections From Students at St Mary’s 
A one day experience feeding the heart: reflections on a simple lunch in the park
By Fernanda Preciado, student
Bread...check. Apples...check. Ham...check. You can find those items on a typical grocery list. Of course, the list goes much further. Shoppers calculate approximately how much they (and their dependents if any) will consume within the week, usually adding a little more depending on the income and other factors. How much more would it cost you to buy a little extra for just one more person? How much more would it cost you to feed your hungry brother in Christ?

As children of God we must practice solidarity and try to imitate the generosity of the Lord, who "though he was rich, yet for your sake became poor so that by his poverty, you might become rich." (2 Cor 8:9)
A group of Aggies, trying to put solidarity and charity in practice, set out to feed people (some currently residing as immigrants) at a park and realized they fed much more than their stomachs.
Continue Reading

Opinions You Should Read and Watch

First - check out these articles
Now watch this...

Win A Free DVD of "The Way" by Emilio Estevez + A Review

UPDATE - The winners of the drawing for the free DVDs are:
  • Corey Dossey
  • Mary Jo Schuette
  • Ryan Moore


As many regular readers know, I am very critical of feelgood Christian movies that have little artistic merit (bad acting, writing, etc) and are overly pious in how they present faith. I feel Christians settle too often for a lower form of cinematic art. While many of the movies that are made by Christians for Christians are done on small budgets, that still doesn't mean you have to settle for poor acting, poor directing, poor production value, etc. You can make a good art with a small budget. Also, for it to be truly artistic it ought to speak to the common man, not just the church-going Christian who is going to see it just for the "message".

"The Way", a movie by Emilio Estevez, achieves the goal of making a good movie, with a good message, that will appeal to a broad audience, all surrounded by a Christian worldview.

Martin Sheen stars as Tom, a widowed dentist who is very comfortable in his country club lifestyle. He learns that his son (played by Estevez) has died in France just as he began a pilgrimage on the historical Camino de Compostela - The Way of St. James - a long trek over the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, the burial place of the Apostle - St. James. Once in France Tom decides to finish the pilgrimage for his son while carrying his son's ashes with him.

Tom soon learns he is not alone in his journey and is accompanied by a rag-tag group of pilgrims who join him in his adventure. He also discovers that the time outside of his comfort zone is a time of change for himself and not just about finishing the journey for his son.

Without giving away too much, there is a subtle transformation in each pilgrim's life. But, unlike most modern "christian" movies, conversion isn't full or immediate. When most people have a conversion, it doesn't necessarily make great movie endings and this is where "The Way" shines. It gives a great message without preaching to the audience. The tagline for the movie is perfect - "You don't choose a life, you live one."

Still, the movie isn't perfect. It is slow in parts and several scenes seem to have been a bit underdeveloped. But, aside from these faults, the movie achieves it's purpose - to show that a messy life can still be transformed by the power of God in unexpected circumstances and even pain and suffering.

-------------------

Along with this review, I am giving away 3 copies of the DVD of "The Way", (officially released today) which were made available to me. To be eligible to win a DVD, please put your real name in the comments below. On Friday, 2/24/12, (at 12 Noon) I will draw 3 random winners (using a random number generator) and post the winners names. Once I get addresses for the winners I will send each person one of the DVDs free of charge.


Monday, February 20, 2012

The Moral Problems of Obama's "Compromise" on HHS Mandate


The National Catholic Bioethics Center spells is all out for us:
NCBC Statement on the HHS Mandates and the So-called Compromise
Thursday, February 16, 2012 4:42:00 PM

The National Catholic Bioethics Center (the NCBC) consistently has voiced its strong opposition to the mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that all employers provide insurance coverage free of charge to their employees for contraceptives, surgical sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs and devices. There was widespread outrage to this measure which was seen by many as an attempt to force religious organizations to violate their moral convictions and religious beliefs by providing drugs, procedures and devices that they considered to be immoral because they violated human dignity. The opposition was so strong and from so many different quarters that President Obama proposed what he called a “compromise” on Friday, February 10. The NCBC has been involved in providing analyses of the “compromise” to its various constituents and collaborating with others involved with trying to influence public policy. As soon as the government documents were actually made available and studied, it became obvious that there was no true compromise at all but rather some slight modifications to procedure that left the substance of the mandate entirely intact. In fact, the day the “compromise” was announced, the mandate was entered into the federal register with no changes.

Since the announcement of the “compromise” organizations of varied religious beliefs and political affiliation have called upon President Obama to withdraw the HHS mandate in its entirety.

Some of the fundamental reasons the “Mandate” must continue to be opposed are:
Continue Reading.

5 Simple Ways to Share Your Catholic Faith On Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is a great time to share your Catholic faith with others. Therefore, below are five simple suggestions on how to do just that.

5 Simple Ways to Share Your Catholic Faith on Ash Wednesday
  1. Explain why you have ashes on your forehead. It is inevitable that if you get your ashes early enough in the day, you will run into someone who tells you that there is something ("dirt", "smudge", "stuff", etc.) on your forehead. Remember, they are being polite in telling you this. So, return the favor by explaining what the ashes are for (a Biblical sign of repentance) and share your faith by explaining Lent and Ash Wednesday to them.
  2. Invite someone to Mass with you. Anyone is welcome to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday in a Catholic Church. They need not even be Christian to receive them. This isn't the case for Communion though, so it is a good time to explain our liturgy, belief in the Eucharist, basis for Sacraments, etc. to them. If you don't know a good way to explain why a non-Catholic cannot receive the Eucharist, then this explanation should help.
  3. Discuss lent with your social media network. Most of us are connected to others through social media. With these connections come the availability and opportunity to help them come closer to Christ and His Church. So, start a discussion about what lent is for, what it means, or what you are doing for lent. Keep it positive and encourage all to participate in lent.
  4. Fast and Pray for others. The heart of evangelization is found in our prayer. We cannot help others if the source of our spiritual life is not deeply rooted in Christ through prayer. Since lent is a time of "increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving", we should use this increase in our prayer and fasting for others.
  5. Invest yourself in a relationship with a new friend. To make any relationship work you have to invest time and effort into it. You must open yourself up to the other person and truly love them. True love would always want what is best for the other person. What could be better than helping them know Christ and the Catholic faith better? Ultimately all effective evangelization comes down to good relationships. So, spend your time investing in others!
Related Links:
**Evangelization is Hard and Scary
**Intro to Evangelization
**Do's and Don'ts of Evangelization and Apologetics
**10 Reasons To Come Back to the Catholic Church

End of Life Issues And The Catholic Church

Q - Is it morally justifiable, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, to refuse medication in the hope of dying sooner?


A - Thanks for the question. I know the end-of-life issues can be very hard for those who are suffering as well as friends and family who feel helpless. Even in the midst of these situations, we are called to make the best moral decision we can, even if it is difficult or there is much suffering involved. There are several things we need to explore in order to answer your question and the issues that surround it.

Principle #1 - All human life has dignity.
Each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. This is where we find our identity. We are adopted into the family of God (the Trinity) and made partakers of the divine nature. This means we that our nature is caught up into God, by our participation in God's divine life. A new-found identity in Christ means we can no longer look at ourselves or others in the same way. This is why the John Paul the Great quoted the following verse more than any other from Vatican II:
Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. (Gaudium et Spes 22)
If we want to know who we are, who others are, and the answers to the other questions that have been planted deep within us, then we need to understand who Jesus is and who we are in light of Christ. When God became man in the Incarnation, He didn't lower His own divine nature, which is impossible - because God is unchangeable, rather He raise up our human nature higher. Our nature
has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man.
This is our "supreme calling" - to find who we are in Christ. To live fully in the Fathers' love, truth and grace. This is what we were made for.

We were made to live this way, to find this truth. When we do so, we find what real human "dignity" means.
The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light.
The mystery of man and the mystery of God isn't just fun to think about. It is the most important thing to search for. It is what will change us and our culture. It is the answer to the questions of life. As Gaudium et Spes 22 ends it says it all.
Such is the mystery of man, and it is a great one, as seen by believers in the light of Christian revelation. Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by His death; He has lavished life upon us so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit; Abba, Father
Principle #2 - Suffering can be redemptive.
Suffering and physical death are not good, but neither are they evil in and of themselves. In fact, through the cross, suffering and death can be redemptive. That is, they can help us to re-capture some of the purity, love and holiness that we are called to. The cross is God's answer to evil and suffering. In it, He conquers and shows us how to overcome them.

From this, suffering and death can lead to holiness and union with God. Therefore, neither are "evil" if we can redeem them for our the good or ourselves and/or others and God's glory. It is the eternal death of the soul we should be afraid of. All of this perfectly explains the reason St. Paul could write these words to the Romans:
For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous. The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. - Romans 5:17-21
Without Christ's suffering on the Cross, none of use would enjoy God's grace or salvation. Thus, Christ has shown us how suffering can lead to great good.

Principle #3 - We cannot intentionally kill an innocent human being for any reason. 
The fifth Commandment says "thou shall not kill". The commandment is better translated "not murder", that is, not to kill innocents. So, with that distinction we can see that euthanasia is never an option.

Euthanasia treats suffering as the ultimate evil and then a person is murdered or commits suicide in order to "escape" the pain.  The intentional taking of an innocent human life might be intended to achieve a good end (stopping suffering), but that is no justification for the evil means which are used to get there.

As I have explained before, we cannot use evil means to achieve a good end.

It is not "health care" to kill. This is my the Hippocratic Oath states:
I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan
The Catechism says:
2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.

Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.
Some argue that it is more "dignified" to kill someone or allow them to commit suicide when they are in so much pain. Others say they don't want to "burden" anyone. It is very rare that in today's health care that we cannot help alleviate or at least lessen the pain, which is morally acceptable even if it might shorten someone's life unintentionally. Also, some who are suffering a great deal might be depressed and need psychological help not someone to kill them.

Principle #4 - The sick and dying are not obligated to use extraordinary treatments to treat their sickness, but only ordinary treatments.
This is the area that most people find confusing, so I hope I can help provide some clarity.

We will start with the Catechism:
2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.
Therefore, when death is imminent, a person can refuse "burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate" treatments. The ordinary treatments, in contrast, are those that are required to maintain our health.

What exactly are these kind of extraordinary treatments?

We can first answer that nutrition and hydration are ordinary, not extraordinary. Only in a few rare and extreme cases would either fall under the "burdensome" designation (when they no longer help a patient continue to live). The Terri Schiavo case brought this issue to the forefront.

An example of extraordinary treatments would include painful and expensive cancer treatments for a terminally ill cancer patient. But, each case is a different situation. If there is doubt, you should consult with a wise, prudent, and orthodox priest (who knows medical ethics) or a good medical ethicist. If you are having trouble finding one, you could contact the National Catholic Bioethics Center, who does great work.

_____________________________________________________________

I don't think I am qualified to answer your specific question, because it all depends on individual circumstances and whether the medicine being given is ordinary or extraordinary, whether death is imminent even with treatment, etc. I know it might not be the easy answer you were looking for, but it is the best I can do at this time.

Peace.

For more on this issue (and others in health care), see the USCCB's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.
I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak." Psalms 31:9-10

Thursday, February 16, 2012

LENT 2012


Once again, it is time for our Aggie Catholics annual Lenten mega-post.  Links, videos, and resources will be added and updated throughout the Lenten season.  Please leave your feedback and anything that needs to be added in the comments.  Thanks for reading.

Things you will find below include:
  • LENT FAQ
  • MORE QUESTIONS ON LENT
  • LENTEN SUGGESTIONS
  • LENT LINKS
Scroll down to get to all the goodies.

LENT FAQ
When Does Lent Start in 2012?
Lent starts on Ash Wed, Feb 22 and ends with the start of the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, which is the beginning of the Triduum. Easter Sunday is April 8.

What is Lent?
Lent is a time when the Catholic Church collectively enters into preparation for the celebration of Easter. Lent originally developed as a forty-day retreat, preparing converts to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. It is now a part of our Church's liturgical calendar and a season of conversion for all. Conversion is the process of turning away from sin and turning to God. 

Are Sundays a part of Lent?
Sundays are always a day of celebration of Christ's passion and Resurrection, so we celebrate on these days. While still part of the season of Lent, they have a mixture of both celebration (because it is Sunday) and repentance (because it is Lent).

Does this mean I can "cheat" on Sundays?
Since Sundays are not part of the penitential season, you are not required to practice signs of penitence on these days. But, there is no reason you can't do them either. If you feel you are "cheating" then it isn't helping! Since the Church has some conflicting information (different documents state different things) I think you should do what you feel is best regarding the Lenten season and Sundays. In other words, follow your conscience. 

Why forty days and not some other number?
Because 40 is a special number in the Bible. It signifies preparation for something special - as in the 40 day flood of Noah.
  • *Moses stayed on the Mount Sinai forty days (Ex 24:18),
  •  Jonah gives the people of Ninevah forty days to repent (Jon 3:4) - (there are many other Old Testament stories)
  • *Jesus, before starting his ministry, spent 40 days in the desert in prayer and fasting (Matt 4:2).
So, as in the Bible, we spend 40 days in preparing ourselves to rejoice at the Resurrection of our Lord at Easter.

What is Ash Wednesday all about?
Ash Wednesday is so named because this first day of Lent is where we are marked with ashes to show the repentance of our sins and mourning. This is also a Biblical sign that we live today. We can see this in several verses.
  • "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Dan 9:3)
  • Other verses include: 1 Sam 4:12, Jon 3:6, Esther 4:1 and Matt 11:20-21
Today, ashes are still this same sign of repentance and mourning for our sins. They also represent our mortality. "I am nothing but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27). We started as nothing and our bodies will become dust and ashes after our death. Reminding ourselves that nobody escapes physical death, we look forward to eternal life.

So, why are the ashes made into a cross on the forehead?
Because it is the ancient sign of being marked by Christ in our baptism. We are no longer our own, but Jesus Christ owns us. The book of Revelation tells us that all the elect will be marked by the sign of Christ - "On Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads." (Rev 14:1)

Where do we get the ashes?
They come from burning the palms from last years Palm Sunday Masses.

Who can receive ashes?
Anyone can receive ashes on Ash Wed. While we have communion only for Catholics who are in good standing with the Church, all may receive ashes.

Is Ash Wed a holy day of Obligation?
No. But all Catholics are strongly urged to attend, because it is the start of the Lenten season. 

Do we have to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wed?
Yes. This means that all Catholics from 14 and up are required to abstain from meat and Catholics 18-60 are required to eat only one average meal and two snacks without anything else. Children, the elderly and those who are sick are not obligated to do this.

Why fast?
Again, this is because we are called to by Jesus. By denying ourselves something good, we remember what the highest good of all is - GOD. We also practice self-discipline and self-mastery, which we need in order to achieve holiness. Jesus fasted in the desert and calls us to as well.
  • "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." (Matt 6: 16)
  • "and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer." (Luke 2:37)
  • Fasting also helps focus us in our prayer. *Yet when they were ill, I...humbled myself with fasting.” (Psalm 35:13)
Why abstain from meat?
Because of the spiritual discipline it provides. "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . 'I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'" (Dan 10:1-3) We give up meat, which still today is a luxury in some parts of the world, as a good thing that we offer up in order to remember that Christ is better than food and needed more by all of us than anything else.

Why is fish not considered meat?
Because it was the food of the poor who could not afford meat, yet could catch fish to sustain themselves.

So, what are the other days of fast and abstinence?
Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence from meat, this is because Christ died on a Friday.

So, why do people "give up" things during Lent?
While we are not required to “give something up” we are required to do something penitential. Lent is a great time to break a bad habit and give it to the Lord. These sins and vices we should not take back after Lent. It is also a time to give something up that is good during this season. This is why people give up something they enjoy. In doing so we can draw closer to God by our temporary sacrifice. We should find an appropriate balance of giving something up and not completely cutting ourselves off of good things. We will find our need for God if we do it correctly.

What else then IS required during Lent?
The Church asks us to increase our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is assumed that we are already doing these things and should merely increase them.

Got any suggestions?
First off, pray about what you are going to do for Lent. Ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your spiritual practice of Lent. Then find a few things that you feel called to do. Don't do too much or too little. Stretch yourself, but don't pick things you won't stick to.

MORE LENT QUESTIONS

LENTEN SUGGESTIONS
Increased Prayer:
  • Wake up 20 minutes early and start the day in prayer.
  • Daily Mass 1-2 times a week.
  • An hr. in Adoration a week.
  • Go to Confession.
  • Read Scripture daily.
  • Go to a Lenten Bible study.
  • Read a spiritual book.
  • Start to pray a daily Rosary.
  • Pray the Liturgy of the hours.
  • Pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet.
  • Stations of the Cross on Fridays.
  • Pray for your enemies.
  • Watch The Passion of the Christ and then meditate on Christ’s life.
  • Read about the life of a saint.
  • Do an extra spiritual activity at Church
  • Get involved in your parish if you aren’t already.
  • Memorize Scripture verses.
  • Check out a book on spirituality from the parish library.
Increased Almsgiving:
  • When you fast from a meal, give the money you would spend to the poor.
  • Use a coin box from and put all change into it for the poor.
  • Volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul or another charitable organization.
  • Spend more time with your parents.
  • Visit a nursing home.
  • Start tithing.
  • Make a pledge to a worthy charity.
  • Forgive an old grudge.
  • Invite someone to Church.
  • Share your faith with someone.
  • Give someone a Catholic tract or CD.
  • Exercise patience and love.
  • Speak in a pleasant tone to everyone.
  • Look for extra ways to help others.
  • Go out of your way to talk to someone who is shy or difficult.
  • Offer to watch a mother’s child(ren).
  • Drive with love.
  • Write a letter to a relative you haven’t seen in a while.
Increased fasting:
The following are good things we can fast from and have back at a later time:


The following are things we fast from and continue to give up:
  • Fast from speeding.
  • Fast from sarcasm or gossip.
  • Fast from envying what others have.
  • Fast from being lazy or procrastination.
  • Fast from not studying / working hard.
  • Fast from complaining.
  • Fast from some other bad habit.
LENT LINKS
Here is a list of links about lent. If you have any to add, then leave in the comments or shoot me an email.

Prayers, History, Lenten Suggestions:




Archbishop Chaput on Lent:


Archbishop Gomez on Ash Wed and Lent:



Apostleship of Prayer on Lent:
Ash Wed and Lent in 2 minutes:


Listen and Pray along - Allegri: Miserere:
The goofiest Lenten video ever is by Nick Alexander (done to the song "King of Pain" by The Police) - This Time of Forty Days:

Please help me find more by putting links in the comments. Thanks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What The Catholic Church Teaches About Contraception And Why


This is a tough topic for many people to understand and to follow, but once the situation is examined in depth, I think it is easy for us to understand what the Catholic Church teaches about contraception and the surrounding issues related to it. History, Culture, Relationships, Theology, and more are affected by this issue.

Yet, before we start we have to answer this question - What is love?
Many people think it is a feeling or something that comes and goes.
How about these two definitions:

  1. Love is a gift of the whole person given to another.
  2. Love is choosing what is best for another regardless of the cost to myself.
Christ gave us one new commandment -"Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 13:35). How did He love us? He gave everything He had to each of us on the Cross. It is the perfect gift of His whole person. He also wanted what was best for us and offers it to us even though it cost Him His life. So, Christ is our model of love. Keep this in mind.

HISTORY OF CONTRACEPTION
All of Christianity rejected Contraception until 1930 – where the Lambeth Convention of the Anglican Church allowed it in narrow circumstances.

Just a few years later a Protestant group of denominations (the Federal Council of Churches) allowed it. A day after the Federal Council of Churches declaration, a shocked Washington Post wrote the following:
"Carried to its logical conclusion, the committee's report, if carried into effect, would sound the deathknell of marriage as a holy institution by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraception would be 'careful and restrained' is preposterous."
Can you imagine the Post writing that today? Regardless, they were right. Society had a common sense about contraception as well, which is why contraception was outlawed until the 60’s. This common sense wasn't something new, just look at the Protestant reformers.

Martin Luther:
"[T]he exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches . . . is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime.”
John Calvin:
"The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring."
Our choices in light of this history is this:

  1. Either 1,950 years of consistent Christian tradition (and the current stance of the Catholic Church) is wrong or;
  2. All of Christianity had it correct until 1950 (and the Catholic Church still does).
SOCIOLOGICAL/RELATIONAL REASONS
Here are some of the common predictions about what would happen once contraception was legal and widely used:
1 - Marriages would be better - Unwanted pregnancies would decrease - Abortions would decrease
But, what has happened?

  • Divorce rate doubled between 1965-1975 from 25% to 50%
  • One demographer has shown that access to the pill paralleled the increase to the divorce rate
  • Those that use contraception have fewer children and later in marriage.
  • Early years of marriage are fun, but there is a change in attitude
  • But, children are harder to walk away from - They also make you less selfish
  • Also showed there was more adultery because a women is more “available” and the natural consequences (babies) aren’t as easy to achieve.

2 - Less unwanted pregnancies?

  • In 1960 some 6% of white babies were born out of wedlock - 22% in 1992
  • In 1960 22%of black babies were born out of wedlock - 68% in 1992
3 - Fewer abortions?
  • 50% of women who have abortions go because contraception failed.
  • “I got pregnant by accident”…how? This means something went RIGHT not.
Even the phrase “unwanted pregnancies” was never known before contraception. Because humanity knew that pregnancy followed sex. But, now that people have tried to separate the two (and have a false sense of control), when contraception fails, they are shocked that babies happen.

Our culture now views pregnancy as a "disease" that needs to be "prevented".

Pope Paul VI’s predictions
In his groundbreaking encyclical, Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI predicted the following would happen if contraception was widely used:

1) “how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality”

  • he got this one right
2) “It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”

  • Pornography
  • Rape
  • The other person is no longer a person, but an object for pleasure.

3) “Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious? In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy.”

  • Forced abortions
So, how did the Pope know that this was going to happen? 3 reasons

  1. He had Christian tradition
  2. He had the Holy Spirit
  3. He used natural law - We should use thing according to their nature.

  • If I want grass in my backyard, I better not pave it.
  • If you want to have a car run correctly – Don’t put oil in the gas tank.
  • If you don’t use your bodies and sex according to their nature, then it is going to mess things up.
PURPOSE OF SEX
Most people never ask the question, “what is sex intended for” or “what is the purpose of sex”. They merely assume it is for pleasure. But, God didn’t create us just to have a good time in bed. Sex has two purposes:

  1. Procreation – babies
  2. Union of the Spouses – bonding
If we take either out, then sex loses its meaning and becomes something it isn’t intended for. For example:

  • Rape – the purpose of rape is neither for babies or bonding.
  • premarital sex – It certainly isn’t for either thing, though many disguise it as bonding. Why isn’t it bonding?
Because is it a loving act (remember how we defined love above before you answer) to take a risk with getting someone who isn’t married pregnant? Is it loving to risk the emotional, spiritual or physical harm that comes with premarital sex (break-ups, sin, disease, etc)?

When sex loses it’s intended purpose, then it becomes something that isn’t good.
In fact, as Catholics we say sex is even better than good – which we will explore below.

THEOLOGICAL / BIBLICAL REASONS
How does society view children and portray them?

  • More children will take our money
  • More children take our freedom
  • More children will use up the earth’s resources

In other words, they are a burden.

But, the Bible has a different view.

  • As a blessing from God. Curse – to be barren in the Bible
  • As Gifts
  • That the Earth was made for humans to properly use
  • As immortal souls that we participate with God in creating. WE CREATE WITH GOD (pro – create)
God designed sex to be open to life. When one has sex and contracepts, they are, in effect, telling God that they want to have the effects of sex (pleasure) without the purpose. “NO THANKS GOD, WE DON’T WANT YOU TO BE A PART OF THIS”.

3 things that contraception does:

  • It blocks God out of the sexual act (violates procreation)
  • It treats children as a burden, not a gift.
  • It prevents bonding between the spouses.
Love = Total self-giving of yourself. To withhold your fertility from another, is partial gift at best. Use at worst.

Think of these two different phrases:

  • I want to have sex with you vs I want to have a baby with you - one says I want to pleasure myself and use you to do it the other says I want to spend the rest of my life with you.
When a couple has sex they are worshiping God with there bodies when done in the proper context.

God the Father and God the Son love each other so much and so powerfully that the result of their love is the third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. This is why John could write that “God is love”.

We are made in God’s image and likeness. We image God in our relationship with our spouses and in sex. When the husband and wife come together as one, the result of their love is their children. Sex then becomes worship of God, which is why it is so much more than just pleasure. It isn’t just good. Sex is sacred.

How does the pill work? Makes the woman’s body think it is pregnant

  1. Stops ovulation
  2. If that fails then - it changes the mucus so that the sperm isn’t in a good environment
  3. It prevents implantation of a fertilized ovum into the Uterus - ABORTION
The Pill can cause blood clotting, and liver tumors among younger women. Fatal heart attacks are approximately twice as frequent among women who take the Pill. It can cause weight gain, decreased libido, depression, etc.

Moreover, all chemical forms of birth control can act as abortifacients – that is, a chemical abortion.

So how does NFP work?
NFP experts say that when a couple understands and follows the method, NFP is about 99 percent effective in avoiding pregnancy.

  • Billings method uses signs of cervical mucus
  • Sympto-Thermal Method monitors the cervical mucus, changes of the cervix and uses temperature as a cross-check. A second kind is ecological breastfeeding, which uses frequent suckling and longer feedings.
What is the difference between the two?
The difference is that using contraception is akin to speaking a lie with the body. When we have sex, we are saying with our bodies “I give everything I am to you, except my fertility”.

To use NFP is not to say anything with the body, because it is merely avoiding sex during the fertile times.
Remember that you can’t justify the ends by the means. The “end” of contraception as well as NFP (to not have a baby) are the same. BUT, the means are completely different.

The Church affirms that efforts at birth regulation "must be done with respect for the order established by God" (Humanae Vitae, 16). We may not act against our created human nature in pursuing some purpose or pleasure. When you have sex you are reaffirming your wedding vows. You are saying, with your bodies, that you love another person. You sacrifice yourself for them. You give yourself, ALL of yourself to them.

--NFP is like taking the 5th amendment in court. You can’t be held guilty for doing something if you never acted.

Think of Euthanasia -Active killing vs. passively letting another die.
NFP passively lets nature run its course while contraception acts against procreation (thus CONTRA)

Now think about Praying. It is good. The Church says to pray. But, we aren’t called to meditate on the Cross of Christ all the time. But, when we do…it should be done with reverence. At any time it is okay to pray or not to pray (that is our choice), but we are never to blaspheme.

Some of the Benefits to NFP

  • More sex on average.
  • Women have more self-respect for themselves
  • Sex isn’t about just feeling good and therefore the women don’t feel like objects
  • More satisfaction
  • Better communication and marriages. Must talk for it to work
  • Marriages last longer (less than 2% get divorced)
  • Freedom from guilt and sin
  • Grow closer to God
  • Cheaper than contraception
  • No side effects
Now, NFP isn't perfect. It is difficult for many couples to have self-control or to carry the cross that NFP might be for some couples. But, it is certainly worth it.

The Church gets the final word in answering the questions above. From the Catechism:
2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self- observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil:
Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.... The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.
I hope this helps frame this issue for you.