Friday, April 27, 2012

Blessings For Child In the Womb Confirmed

This is great. I love the idea of blessing children in-utero:
I read in the monthly newsletter of the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship (Vol. 48, April 2012) the following:

CDWDS Confirms Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb

The text of the Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb, approved in English and Spanish by the USCCB in November 2008, has been confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; the English text was confirmed on December 8, 2011 (Prot. n. 1422/08/L), and the Spanish text followed on March 1, 2012 (Prot. n. 125/12/L). Timothy Cardinal Dolan, USCCB President, authorized its use in the liturgy as of March 26, 2012, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

This new blessing was originally developed in March 2008 by the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities for inclusion in the Book of Blessings and Bendicional, and further refined by the Committee on Divine Worship and the body of Bishops. The introduction to the rite observes that the blessing of an unborn child “sustains the parents by imparting grace and comfort in time of concern and need, unites the parish in prayer for the unborn child, and fosters respect for human life within society.”
Continue Reading.

"To Be Born" - A Short Film on "Choice"

This is a short film done by Spirit Juice Studios, who does great film work.

There are graphic depictions of blood and harsh violence - caused by abortion.
To Be Born is about a young woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy that seeks to have an abortion. In the midst of the procedure, she finds herself in a regrettable situation when she hears her unborn daughter begin to describe the chilling details of what is happening to her.

The film is based off a story called "A Letter from an Aborted Child," which had been used for nearly 10 years by Father Stephen Lesniewski for use to show women in a time of indecision. He estimates that over 500 babies have been saved because of his efforts in utilizing the aforementioned piece. Upon its' great success, Fr. Stephen decided to have a film produced with the hope that the overall message would reach an even larger audience.
The end of the film features a song by my friend - Mike Mangione.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Error

A great resource on how to think, and dialogue, logically.
If you want a high-resolution version, click the link above.

Starbucks, Same-Sex Marriage, and You

A question a lot of people have asked recently is - should I stop going to Starbucks because they support and advocate for same-sex marriage? I will try to help you sort through this issue, but want to do so as detailed as possible.

Starbucks has publicly supported the gay-rights political agenda for years, and joined an amicus brief against the federal Defense of Marriage Act. One executive went so far as to say that their stance "is core to who we are and what we value as a company." That is telling.

But, what is a good Catholic supposed to do? There are tons of organizations with dubious practices. Some support Planned Parenthood, some fetal stem-cell research, some same-sex marriage, and some support multiple issues that the Church considers immoral.

Some would say we need not dump Starbucks, because it won't do anything to change their policy. Others think we need a public statement by boycotting them. Others say it is our moral duty to act out. What are we to do? I will get to that. But, let us lay out some ground-work first.

Marriage is the glue that has held together communities, cultures, and peoples for generation upon generation. The values that are within a culture are given within the family and that is then taken out into the wider culture to nurture and perpetuate that culture. Thus, traditional marriage is the foundation of the values that govern life in our society and therefore the core social unit of society itself.

Through the institution of marriage we have one man and one woman who agree to bond together for life, for the good of each other and children. By the cultural recognition of this relationship as a good, we raise up the traditional family to a respected status, for the good of all. Why? Because this is where life is naturally transmitted - through this relationship - and individuals can flourish and thrive best. Marriage isn't about self-fulfillment.

To redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships as an equivalent relationship would mean that traditional marriages' ability to act for the good of society is undermined. It is an attempt to change what is the essential character of marriage - that it is one woman and one man (capable of transmitting life naturally), bound together for life, for the good of each other and their children - as well as for the good of the future of our society.

One man, one woman, and their children unite as a family - every bit of evidence shows that families thrive in monogamous and stable homes with two biological parents of opposite sexes who remain married. This means that there is less poverty, crime, strife, etc. in homes where marriages do well. This is because the mother and father of children cannot be replaced. Two fathers or two mothers cannot provide what one mother and one father can. The role of the father can't be replaced by a woman and the role of the mother can't be replaced by a man. Thus, same-sex couples can never provide all that children need to thrive. When families suffer the rest of our culture suffers.

Marriage naturally involves a public acceptance of the relationship. It is not an acceptance merely of the relationship itself, but it is a recongition that life is naturally transmitted through this relationship and that through the marital relationships of men and women - society will thrive.

Thus, it isn't just about individual feelings, desires or relationships. It is about all of us. Cultural norms and values are for the greater-good, not just about what feels right. For society to change a basic and fundamental building block of the culture would be cultural suicide.

Many people say that same-sex couples "deserve" the "right" to marry and that those that oppose them are merely bigots who want stamp out the rights of others. This isn't the case. The Catholic Church consistently teaches the respect of others, regardless of sexual orientation. It also teaches us to love and serve all. But, we must also work for truth and the common good. This means while we fight against same-sex marriage, we do not fight against individuals.

That being said, marriage laws are by definition discriminatory. They discriminate FOR families (not against non-married persons) in order to build up what is good for society. Where do children thrive? In the traditional family. If we tear that down, then society will suffer. Thus, the government needs to help support this building up of what is good for society.

Thus, marriage is about the good of society - which is why the government got involved in it in the first place.

Some may argue that a same-sex couple should be able to do things such as share property rights, visit in the hospital, etc. But, all of these legal hurdles can already be overcome with current laws and a few documents.

So, what they are really looking for is social acceptance of their behavior. This is why the Catholic Church is enemy #1 for advocates of same-sex marriage. They cast us as homophobic, archaic, and mean-spirited. Which is not the truth.

There is no homophobia are vice in this stance. That is merely a rhetorical tactic meant to shame Catholics and others into agreeing with them or at least trying to quiet out the public voice of the opposition to same-sex marriage.

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

When we "cooperate" in an evil act our cooperation can be either be:

  • material - without the intention of supporting an evil act - wrong by the circumstance, not intent 
    • may be permitted, with a gravely proportional reason as judged by the principle of double-effect (see below). 
  • formal - with the intention to support or commit an evil act - wrong by intent and circumstance 
    • never permitted.

So, if you went shopping at a store because they had the best prices in town on books and while you were checking out you noticed that they also sell pornography, you could still licitly still shop at the store, if you don't intend to support the selling of porn. But, you are still in material support of the evil. A good rule to follow is that while material cooperation may be licit (morally permissible in some circumstances), we want to be as far-removed from formal cooperation as possible.

So, if there is another option of shopping somewhere with similar prices and selection, which doesn't sell porn, we ought to shop there instead. Remote cooperation (meaning far from the evil act) is licit because we don't intend to cooperate in the evil act and if we did intend to cooperate with evil it is no longer a licit act.

If the evil act is not intended by someone and the person is sufficiently remote from the act, then they are not complicit with it. This is called remote material cooperation. Things that might cause an act to be remote instead of material include (not in order and an incomplete list):

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

There are times when we are not remote from the evil at all. So, the less remote the cooperation, the more we should seek to do something different. Once it is no longer remote from an evil, and therefore material cooperation, we ought not participate.

With the case with Starbucks, it would certainly be better to drink coffee which is made by a company that does not have such problems.

You can sort through it all using the Principle of Double Effect (PDE). It is a moral framework that gives us a Catholic understanding of which acts are moral and which are not, when things aren't very clear. Through the PDE, the act must pass four criteria:

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

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

The good is drinking a good cup of coffee - pass.
I don't intend to support Same-Sex Marriage - pass.
I would not be doing evil to get to the good act - pass.
There are other options - fail.

So, there is no reason you can't dump Starbucks. If you support dumping Starbucks and want to support a petition to have them change their policy - then visit the website.

If you want some good coffee that goes to a good cause try these:

Lucky me - I don't like coffee, so I don't have to worry about it all. :-)

Teacher Suing Catholic School & Diocese After Being Fired For Using In-Vitro Fertilization

As expected the media frames this as - BIG MEAN CATHOLICS go after Sweet innocent teacher. Because IVF treatments are "tough" and the whole issue is "emotional" (don't forget she was a "devoted teacher") the Catholic Church is bad. The fact is that IVF is gravely immoral. Babies are killed and sex becomes a commodity.

The reality is that the school has every right to fire her for failure to respect the Catholic faith. The reason IVF is immoral is this:
  • Sex is not optional to the creation of life.
  • Babies aren't a good to be bought or a thing we have a "right" to. 
  • "extra" embryos are killed through the process - Children die!
Another religious freedom case that should be watched very closely.

The Catechism says:
2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' "right to become a father and a mother only through each other."

2377 Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that "entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children." "Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses' union . . . . Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person."
UPDATE: The Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend has issued a statement about the lawsuit.

Why God Made Dads

So we can do stuff like this with our kids. I do almost identical things with my kids:

Fr. Barron Reviews the Documentary "Bully"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Q - Okay, so what is the deal with Purgatory?

A - Thanks for the question.  First let me tell you what Purgatory is not. Purgatory is not heaven or hell. Purgatory is not a permanent state of being. Purgatory is not a "second chance" after we die to get it right. Purgatory is not how we "earn our way to heaven". Purgatory is not saying that Christ's sacrifice was insufficient.

So, now that we have that out of the way, we can go on to the doctrinal aspects of it. We will start with what the Church says about it.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church it states the following:

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608
1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611
So, from the Church's own official documents we can see that Purgatory is the "final cleansing" of sin that we commit while on earth. This is because as Revelation 21:27 says, "nothing unclean shall enter" into heaven. If we are not perfect, and I haven't met a perfect person yet, and yet still merit (by God's grace alone) heaven, then we need to go through this purgation before entering into glory.
Now, some will say that we do not need any purification, because we are already washed clean in the blood of Christ. Yes, we are washed clean (in baptism), but being made perfectly holy is a process. Think of purgatory as the last step in this process before we enter into heaven. Our sufferings and sanctification never take away from Christ's sufferings on the Cross.

Some also say that it is unbiblical. While the word "purgatory" may not be in the Bible, there are certain passages that implicitly contain the basis of purgatory.

Matt 5: 25-26 says,
"Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny."
--Here we are being told that we will ultimately be held responsible for all of our actions. There are two dimensions to being forgiven for a sin, the divine and the human. While we may be forgiven by God, we still have to go to our brother for forgiveness as well. Here it says that if we fail to obtain the human dimension of forgiveness, then God will hold us responsible ultimately. But, the human element does not merit eternal, but rather finite, punishment. So, it leaves open the door to Purgatory, which is finite.

Next in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 Paul writes,
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."
--Paul is saying that we will not enter into our reward until we are cleansed of all unrighteousness. Clearly Paul says we will be "saved", but there will be loss and flames through which one escapes. Also, this loss will be for those things which are not of value.

Lastly, in 2 Maccebees 12 we see the practice of Jews offering up sacrifices for the dead. They would not do those in heaven or hell any good, so the passage at least points to the Jewish beliefs in some other state of being in the afterlife.

With all of this evidence we couple some ancient Christian statements on Purgatory and the evidence seems pretty weighty.

Here is another link if this short intro didn't fully answer your question.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Worst. Video. Ever.

I think 3 baby seals died because of this video.
Unfortunately for Mr. Spock, this is completely illogical.

Proposed Kansas Ordinance Would Force Churches to Perform Same-Sex Weddings

This story isn't getting enough publicity - but word needs to get out.
Religious liberty groups are blasting a proposed ordinance that would force churches in Hutchinson, Kan. to rent their facilities for gay weddings and gay parties.

The Hutchinson City Council will consider adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes in the city’s human relations code. They are expected to vote on the changes next month.

According to the Hutchinson Human Relations Commission, churches that rent out their buildings to the general public would not be allowed to discriminate “against a gay couple who want to rent the building for a party.”

Meryl Dye, a spokesperson for the Human Relations Commission confirmed to Fox News that churches would be subjected to portions of the proposed law.

“They would not be able to discriminate against gay and lesbian or transgender individuals,” Dye said. “That type of protection parallels to what you find in race discrimination. If a church provides lodging or rents a facility they could not discriminate based on race. It’s along that kind of thinking.”

Matthew Staver, chairman of the Liberty Counsel Action, told Fox News the proposed law is “un-American.”

“It is a collision course between religious freedom and the LGBT agenda,” Staver said. “This proposed legislation will ultimately override the religious freedom that is protected under the First Amendment.”

He argued that churches cannot be forced by the government to set aside their religious convictions and their mission. And, he warned, some churches could even be forced to rent their buildings for drag parties.

“What we are ultimately going to see is churches forced to confront this law, forced to do things and allow their facilities to be used by people and for events that diametrically undercut the mission of the church,” he said.

Robert Noland, of the Kansas Family Policy Council, said the law would extend well beyond allowing access for gay weddings. “They (churches) could not deny renting space to a gay couple if they want to have a party,” he told Fox News. “This is just another example of government creating a law imposing upon the freedom of religion and basically telling churches what they can and can’t do.”

So what could happen to churches in Hutchinson that refuse to accommodate gay parties or weddings?

Continue Reading.
Catholics have not done a good (or even adequate) job of addressing the attacks on marriage. These attacks continue to grow stronger and without an understanding of how to defend marriage and the reasons behind the break-down of marriage, we will continue to see our culture slide into the anti-marriage mentality.

Further Reading:
**Two Reasons Same-Sex Marriage is Gaining Ground.
**Same-Sex Marriage: Why Not?
**Special Report on Gay Marriage.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Porn Is More Addictive Than Cocaine or Heroin!

Most people would never experiment with crack or heroin.  But, there is something worse out there - pornography.  I have written frequently about the dangers of pornography and one of our posts that receives the most views is because of people searching the internet for the phrase "what is wrong with porn?" and coming across our post with the same name.

We have known for years that porn is destructive to marriages, families, individuals, and society.  We also know that is is addictive - more so than crack or heroin.  Science is just now finding out just how destructive it is to the brain.  Using pornography radically changes the neuro-pathways in the brain by causing the body to inject strong neuro-stimulants directly into the pleasure center of the brain.  Repeatedly doing this means the structure of the brain itself is altered and the effects are devastating.  As one psychologist puts it, "pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their (men in particular) brains."  More:
Viewing pornography is not an emotionally or physiologically neutral experience. It is fundamentally different from looking at black and white photos of the Lincoln Memorial or taking in a color map of the provinces of Canada. Men are reflexively drawn to the content of pornographic material. As such, pornography has wide-reaching effects to energize a man toward intimacy. It is not a neutral stimulus. It draws us in. Porn is vicarious and voyeuristic at its core, but it is also something more. Porn is a whispered promise. It promises more sex, better sex, endless sex, sex on demand, more intense orgasms, experiences of transcendence.

Pornography "acts as a polydrug," Struthers explains. As Dr. Patrick Carnes asserts, pornography is "a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience." Boredom and curiosity lead many boys and men into experiences that become more like drug addiction than is often admitted.

Why men rather than women? As Struthers explains, the male and female brains are wired differently. "A man's brain is a sexual mosaic influenced by hormone levels in the womb and in puberty and molded by his psychological experience." Over time, exposure to pornography takes a man or boy deeper along "a one-way neurological superhighway where a man's mental life is over-sexualized and narrowed. This superhighway has countless on-ramps but very few off-ramps.

Pornography is "visually magnetic" to the male brain. Struthers presents a fascinating review of the neurobiology involved, with pleasure hormones becoming linked to and released by the experience of a male viewing pornographic images. These experiences with pornography and pleasure hormones create new patterns in the brain's wiring, and repeated experiences formalize the rewiring.

And then, enough is never enough. "If I take the same dose of a drug over and over and my body begins to tolerate it, I will need to take a higher dose of the drug in order for it to have the same effect that it did with a lower dose the first time," Struthers reminds us. So, the experience of viewing pornography and acting out on it creates a demand in the brain for more and more, just to achieve the same level of pleasure in the brain.

While men are stimulated by the ambient sexual images around them, explicit pornography increases the effect. Struthers compares this to the difference between traditional television and the new high definition technologies. Everything is more clear, more explicit, and more stimulating.

Struthers explains this with compelling force:
Something about pornography pulls and pushes at the male soul. The pull is easy to identify. The naked female form can be hypnotizing. A woman's willingness to participate in a sexual act or expose her nakedness is alluring to men. The awareness of one's own sexuality, the longing to know, to experience something as good wells up from deep within. An image begins to pick up steam the longer we look upon it. It gains momentum and can reach a point where it feels like a tractor-trailer rolling downhill with no brakes.
So, what can we do about it?

There are a few options. If you think you are an addict, then you need to see a mental health professional who specializes in addictions. Don't wait and think you can kick it on your own. The Austin Diocese can help you find a counselor with expertise in this area.

If you are not an addict, but you are having trouble stopping, then I recommend you try our accountability group at St. Mary's (if you are a male college student) or asking for help from a pastoral team member, but don't be surprised if you are referred to someone else who is able to help you.  For other recommendations on behaviors that can help, see this previous post.

Music You Should Listen To

Below is an amazing band you need to know about
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

If discovering a great new band is like making a new friend, then we are going to be really close, because this is some great music.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Spiritual Master - Dom Hubert van Zeller

One of my favorite authors on prayer and spirituality is Dom Hubert van Zeller. He is a master of simple wisdom that is very challenging and deep. I highly recommend him, especially Holiness: A Guide for Beginners; Spirit of Penance, Path to God; and To Be In Christ. He has dozens of books and my guess is that all of them are terrific.

Let me quote from To Be in Christ. Here hes talks of having the mind of Christ:
The ability to think in Christ is not just a knack of the mind, a habit acquired by the belief that is is the most sensible way to go about things: it is a gift, a grace. Even in the human relationship between friends it would be impossible for both to think alike - on any subject, let alone on all subjects - unless the one had imparted his thought to the other. Jesus gives us his thinking provided we pray for it and are serious in trying to shape our lives according to his teaching. It is as a consequence of our prayer life that we hold up to his judgment the circumstances which face us, and it is on the findings of this submission that we come to judge as he judges, to think as he thinks.
He then talks about speaking in Christ:
In the light of the two sons, one of whom said he would work in his father's field and stayed where he was, while the other said he would not go yet eventually went, it is curious that Jesus should make words the deciding factor between acquittal and condemnation. There is no real contradiction, however, and what he surely meant us to understand was that while the main consideration must be the attitude of the mind and heart - the interior choosing - the exterior of expression is found in speech. Just as an air bubble under water forces itself to the surface in our character comes out in the form of what we say.

If this is so, then people who are habitually united with Jesus within will reflect him in their conversation. This does not mean that pieties will flow from their lips. There is all the difference between sanctity and sanctimoniousness. It means that what they say, coming as it does from a different level within themselves, will reach souls at a different level. Jesus in one soul will move out to Jesus in another. there will be a corresponding exchange. The man who is reliving the life of Jesus has no desire to edify, but those who talk to him come away the better for it.
The last section I will share is, in my opinion, the most profound. It is on living out God's will (with my emphasis added):
The terms of human existence are given us by God. We are born into a fallen world; we grow up with grand ideas of bettering this fallen world; we find in later life that our hopes have come to nothing, that our efforts have been wasted, that there is not a thing we can do about it. Either we make the act of faith or sulk. Our Lord could have avoided disappointment but he went ahead and accepted it. He could have avoided temptation but endured it. St. Paul, after experiencing disappointment and temptation, was able to say, "In whatever state I am I am content therewith." Contentment - so much easier to gauge than happiness - comes of surrender and not of achievement, not in the fulfilling of desires but in seeing God's hand in the dealing of the cards.
Lord give us the grace to have your mind, speak your words and live your life.

Purity Ring 3000

This are some very good lessons in this kind of video. I will post them below:

Notice the disclaimer at the end:
Not meant as a replacement to actual self-control, boundaries, and good decision-making. 
Too many young people take a pledge of purity or put on a purity ring (or promise ring) without the proper understanding of chastity. That is why the teenagers who have purity rings or take abstinence pledges are just as likely to engage in sexual activity as those who don't!

Purity is a learned behavior and chastity is a tough virtue for any teen. We need better mentoring, accountability, education, and support.

Now, I am not saying that an external sign of an internal attitude and commitment is always a bad idea. But, the ring itself is rarely going to help anyone. Thus, the purpose of the video.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stop Wasting Your Life

Archbishop Fulton Sheen is blunt, in the video below, about how we are all wasting our lives. I can't stress more how beautiful this video is, but hard to watch. Here is one quote from the video (emphasis added):
"Really, most of us live below the level of our energy. And in order to be happy, we have to do more.  Now, we can do more, spiritually and every other you see how important it is to have in the mind to do all that you can.  To work to the limit of your ability.  Our world is really suffering from indifference. Indifference is apathy, not caring.  I wonder maybe if our Lord suffers more from our indifference, than he did from the Crucifixion."
He then quotes from a poem called about entitled "Indifference" by G. Studdert-Kennedy, written in 1929 about Birmingham, England - but it could be written about any modern city. What a wonderful meditation for Lent:
When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do,'
And still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary.

Part II
Part III

How Can We Be Different And Still Equal?

Q - If we are all made in God’s image, why are we different from each other?

A - What a great question! Thanks for asking. I hope I can do it justice with my answer.

Being made in God's image and likeness teaches us all of these things below and more:
  • We all share in a magnificent gift of God - our creation.
  • We each have an equal dignity (worth) given by God.
  • Our equality with one another is based on this dignity.
  • Being different from one another does not affect our equality or dignity.
  • We are not God.
  • Our individual uniqueness has meaning and goodness.
  • Our uniqueness tells us something about God.
  • Our differences should compliment one another.
  • Our differences are gifts from God and are part of God's plan for creation.
Remember this - God is three persons in one Divine nature - a Trinity of persons. Thus, he is a family and community of persons. The three persons do not differ in action or nature, but by relationship with one another. Therefore, when we were created, we were made with a share in God's image and likeness in 2 ways:
  1. Each individual human reflects God's image in likeness - just as God has a divine intellect (knows things) and a divine will (freedom to make choices) so each individual human has a human intellect and will. 
  2. We are also made in the image and likeness of God as a community of persons. Just as there is a Divine Father and Son + the love between them, so we are called to image God by being in communion with others, especially our families.
The Catechism says this:
 "1704 The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection "in seeking and loving what is true and good."

1702 The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves
In the communion of persons we live out the image of God not only through our own individual gift of humanity, but also through the communion with others.

Thus, we are called to see how God is reflected in our own selves as well as in others, even though they are different. Each of us reveals, in a mysterious way, a truth about the nature of God, which was given to us in our creation. Part of our purpose in life is to find God's presence within. Our humanity is connected to our individual giftedness and in the differences we each live out the image and likeness of the Trinity in a different way.

What we need to avoid is the idea that equality = "sameness". This is wrong. We can never be truly equal if this is true, because there is no way to achieve "sameness", due to our innate differences.

We must ask how our differences complement each other, and how we are tied to one another and to God. If we side with the view of sameness and the world-view that humanity is defined by what we do, then, for example, the unborn child has no rights since it cannot "do" anything (nor is it the "same" as a fully developed human). But if we side with the Church and the sacramental, sign-value, view of humanity, then our dignity is tied to the fulfilment of our beings as found in each other and in the relationships God created between us.

True equality acknowledges our differences and then finds that which transcends them and is shared by all - our human dignity. Thus, we are "different but equal" while still being made in God's image and likeness.

I hope this helps.


Do you need to smile today? Try this on for size:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fr. Barron Answers - Are You "Born Again"?

Vatican Names Bishop To Oversee Reform of Leadership Conference of Women Religious

This is really big news:
April 18, 2012

Critiques doctrinal aspects of LCWR assemblies, publications
Faults work with Network social justice lobby, financial, legal Resource Center
Calls for advisory group of bishops, sisters and other experts to assist in renewal
WASHINGTON—The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has called for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and named Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle as its Archbishop Delegate for the initiative.Bishop Leonard Blair and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki also were also named to assist in this effort.

The CDF outlined the call in a “Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious” (, released April 18. The document outlines findings of the 2008 CDF-initiated doctrinal assessment of LCWR, conducted by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, which included his findings and an LCWR response submitted at the end of 2009, as well as a subsequent report from Bishop Blair in 2010.

A statement by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is also available at The 2010 report included “documentation on the content of LCWR’s Mentoring Leadership Manual and also on the organizations associated with the LCWR, namely Network andthe Resource Center for Religious Institutes,”CDF said. Network is a social justice lobby founded by nuns. The Resource Center provides religious orders with legal and financial advice.

The Archbishop Delegate’s role is to provide “review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work of the LCWR,” the CDF document said.

The mandate for the Delegate “will be for a period of up to five years, as deemed necessary,” the document said. It calls for additional advisers – bishops, women religious and other experts – “to work with the leadership of the LCWR to achieve the goals necessary to address the problems outlined in this statement.”It also asked for a formal link between the Delegate and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“It will be the task of the Archbishop Delegate to work collaboratively with the officers of the LCWR to achieve the goals outlined in this document, and to report on the progress of this to the Holy See …. In this way, the Holy See hopes to offer an important contribution to the future of religious life in the Church in the United States,” the CDF document said.

CDF said Pope Benedict XVI approved CDF’s taking action January 14, 2011, two days after a regular session of the CDF decided that “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious Congregations in other parts of the world.” CDF also recommend that after the Apostolic Visitation of Religious Communities of Women in the United States, the final report of which was submitted to the Holy See in December 2011, “The Holy See should intervene, with the prudent steps necessary to effect reform of the LCWR.” It also said CDF would “examine the various forms of canonical intervention for the resolution of the problematic aspects present in the LCWR.”

The mandate for the Delegate includes:

·Revision of LCWR statutes

·Review of LCWR plans and programs, including its General Assemblies

·Creation of programs for LCWR member congregations in initial and on-going formation

·Review LCWR’s application of liturgical norms and texts

·Review of LCWR affiliation with Network and the Resources Center for Religious Life.

The doctrinal assessment criticized positions espoused at LCWR annual assemblies and in its literature as well as the absence of support from LCWR for Church teaching on women’s ordination and homosexuality.


When Does Temptation Become Sin

Monday, April 16, 2012

What Constitutes Grave Matter - What Makes Mortal Sin "Mortal"?

Q - My question is regarding the distinction between mortal and venial sins. I have read (many times over) the description in the Catechism, specifically sections 1854-1864. I am still unclear about the definition of grave matter. How does a decent person know how to distinguish when a sin has moved from venial to mortal? Section 1858 of the Catechism seems to imply that violation of the Ten Commandments is a mortal sin. But aren't venial sins also violations of the Ten Commandments? Are sins on a continuum where the same act could be defined as mortal or venial depending on how the sin occurs, to whom its directed, etc? Is there a sample list of mortal vs. venial sins that could help clarify this for people?

A -
Thanks for the question. Some sins are easy to define and others are borderline, so I will do my best to answer your question, but there may be times when the distinction seems unclear.

You are on the right track - the Catechism does say that violation of the Ten Commandments constitutes 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." 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."
Still, how do we know for sure what constitutes grave matter? In regards to the Ten Commandments and grave matter, I would make the following points:
  • The 10 Commandments do not exhaust the list of mortal sins.
  • Not every single subjective violation of each of the Commandments constitutes a mortal sin. For instance, a 10 year-old child stealing a nickel from a rich man might violate the commandment to "not steal", but it is not mortal, because it is not grave matter.
  • While each of the 10 Commandments might be mortal, the principles they imply might be an even better guide. This is why Jesus breaks open the 10 Commandments in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.
Here is the issue that we must struggle with. The Catechism says that Mortal sin destroys charity in the soul, while a venial sin does not. Thus, we no longer live in relationship with God after sinning mortally. Thus, grave matter must be serious enough to cut off the life of God's grace from our lives.

The gravity of the matter in each sin is based upon the harm done. Thus, the best way to sort through it all is in the confessional with a holy and wise priest. The good thing is that the longer we live, if we continue to inform ourselves about God, then the easier it is to distinguish what is grave and what is not.

So, while it is  almost impossible to come up with a definitive list of sins that are mortal, here are some that should be confessed (pardon the randomness, I did it off the top of my head and from a few other lists):
  • Murder
  • Blasphemy
  • Idolatry
  • Adultery
  • Pride
  • Abortion
  • Rape
  • Despair in God's mercy
  • Occult activity
  • Superstition
  • Divination / Using Magic
  • Illegal Drug Use
  • Intentionally getting drunk
  • Defiant disobedience of your parents, for non-adult children
  • Wanton destruction on another's property
  • Lustful thoughts that are dwelt upon
  • Prostitution
  • Fornication
  • Pornography / Masturbation
  • Homosexual Acts
  • Incest
  • Theft
  • Greed
  • Envy
  • Abuse of the Poor / not giving to the poor
  • Defrauding others of what they are due
  • Serious Lies / Lying under oath (perjury)
  • Jealousy
  • Laziness
  • Bad-mouthing others / gossip
  • Missing Mass on Sunday or a Holy Day
  • Presumption of God's forgiveness
  • Anger that has no justification
  • Hatred of others
  • Euthanasia
  • Grave scandal
  • Atheism
  • Heresy
  • Apostasy / Schism
  • Gluttony
  • Extortion
  • Terrorism
  • Divorce and re-marriage
  • Spiritual Sloth
Remember this - there is nothing we can do to make God stop loving us and no sin so big that God can't forgive it. If I were to commit every sin on this list a thousand times over, God would still love me and still forgive me if I truly repented.

Confession is a beautiful thing. Go often.

I hope this helps.

Things Young Women & Men Need to Know

2 great lists that Sarah pointed me to.

First a snip for the women - entitled, Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls - but it applies to many older than that:
3. When you talk about your friends “anonymously” on Facebook, we know exactly who you’re talking about. People are smarter than you think they are. Stop posting passive-aggressive statuses about the myriad of ways your friends disappoint you.

4. Newsflash: the number of times you say “I hate drama” is a pretty good indicator of how much you love drama. Non-dramatic people don’t feel the need to discuss all the drama they didn’t start and aren’t involved in.

5. “Follow your heart” is probably the worst advice ever.
Then there is the list for the guys. A snip:
7. Women do not think like you do. You think you look cool because you’re wearing a new shirt. She thinks you look cool because you actually ironed it. You think ‘I love you’ means ‘I think you’re fun.’ But she’s thinking about words like ‘forever’ and ‘always’ and ‘The Notebook.’ Speaking in this romantic language as a teen guy is like trying to speak to hostile Latin King gang members after watching an episode of Dora. You don’t really understand what you’re saying, and you’re going to get yourself shot.

7b. Oh, and those women want you to pull your pants up.

Friday, April 13, 2012

No More "Boys" or "Girls" - Those Are Bad Words

Some school in Sweden have decided to adopt a "gender-neutral" environment.
In an effort to support gender neutrality, Sweden recently added a gender-neutral pronoun, "hen," to the country's National Encyclopedia. Slate reports that several preschools in Sweden have stopped making references to the gender of their students. Instead of calling children "boys and girls," teachers are referring to students as "buddies." One school even stopped allowing free playtime during the day because "stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented. In free play there is hierarchy, exclusion, and the seed to bullying." And the country just published its first gender-neutral children's book, "Kivi och Monsterhund."

The objective of creating a society that focuses on "hens," of course, is to allow children to grow up without being limited by gender stereotypes. "It's a laudible goal," Stuart Lustig, M.D., a child psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, tells Shine. "But the notion of gender is deeply ingrained," he says, and depends on how children are socialized.

Elise Claeson, a columnist and a former equality expert at the Swedish Confederation of Professions, has been quoted as saying that the term "hen" could even confuse children because it introduces an "in between-gender."
This also means Sweden is setting their child up for failure. It is a social experiment on children in order to push an agenda and try to further "societal change" toward a progressive culture.

I believe that at the least, it is extremely damaging to the children. But, the progressive thinkers in psychology and gender-studies believe that being male or female is a societal construct that is forced upon us by antiquated ideas and societal norms. The truth about what gender we are is deep inside and must be brought out by experience and finding our "true selves", whether that is transsexual, bisexual, male, female, etc.

The problem with all of these ideas is that they make a false separation between the body and the "true self". If you aren't your body, then what are you? If the real you isn't your body, what happens to the real you when it doesn't have a body to hold it any longer? What is the body, if it isn't a part of you?

These questions and many more highlight the need we have for the theology of the body. There are clear answers.

Modern society has placed a litmus test upon the way in which we relate to one another: this test is basically one of function. The secular criteria of functionality has become commonplace in the way our society thinks of equality and if this is so, then we must probably conclude that the Church is archaic and sexist. But in the eyes of the Church, equality between men and women is based on something much more important than mere function. Our equality goes beyond mere function and takes us to the heart of humanity.

In the beginning, Adam was alone in his humanity and he knew something was missing. God also knew this and said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). What we see here, is that Adam did not enjoy the full range of his human capacity for relationships with creation as it was. As a human, he needed something else to be complete. The “other” that gave him the full meaning of relationship was Eve. Thus, they are created for and ordered to one another.

An important note we must make about the creation narrative is that Adam was not referred to as “male” until there was a female to contrast with his maleness. As Pope John Paul II point out, prior to Eve, Adam is just “man” in the sense that is used to define all of humanity; that is, mankind as a whole in which gender is not even considered. Adam only takes on the masculinity that is part of his nature after Eve is created and she can then provide the femininity that is needed to give masculinity its meaning. In other words, without female, there is no male. God created this distinction between male and female and it is consequently a divinely instituted distinction.

What happened next in the Garden of Eden is what we have come to know as marriage. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Here, the dynamic of the relationship between man and woman changes. Now we not only have man and woman in the narrative, but we have husband and wife. This brings on a real change in both the relationship of Adam and Eve, and in Adam and Eve themselves. The two become one. They complement each other in the differences that they bear by their nature. But the two are not interchangeable. The woman cannot be husband and the man cannot be wife. To complete each other they first must realize that in their differences, they find what the other needs to be complete. Exactly the opposite happens in modern thought when, attempting to make man and woman equal, it ends up making them the same, thus denying precisely that which truly makes us equal, our reflection of the divine.

It is now becoming clearer why the Church has a view which seems to be in conflict with society - it is. According to a function-based definition of equality, the roles that a woman once had are now open for men to fulfill, and vice-versa. We each are capable of doing what everyone else “does” regardless of our nature. This then justifies such ideas as that women should be priests because women can do anything that a men can do as priests (proclaim the Gospel, wear vestments, give homilies, run parishes, and so on). But as we have seen, this way of thinking about humanity is a denial of the purpose in which God created us -- male and female. If we are able to be whatever we want, just by willing it, this boils down to a refutation of what God intends each of us to be.

If we as men and women seek to understand our differences, then we also must ask how our differences complement each other, and how we are tied to one another and to God.

If we side with society and the world-view that humanity is defined by function, then, for example, the unborn child has no rights since it cannot “do” anything, and more generally women and men are no longer distinguishable except by how we might function. But if we side with the Church and the sacramental view of humanity, then our dignity is tied to the fulfillment of our beings as found in each other and in the relationship that God created between men and women at the beginning. What does this criterion of equality based function end up doing to us? It means that we can never truly be equal; for true equality can only be found by acknowledging our differences and then finding that which transcends them.

It also means we shouldn't experiment on innocent children.

World's Top Religions Infographic

science education

NOTE: The Catholic Church (among others) does not consider Mormons to be Christians, because their understanding of the Trinity is faulty and therefore their baptisms are invalid. They have a theology that is not even close to be consonant with Christianity and therefore cannot be considered Christian. But, we did not make the infographic, which otherwise is very well done.

Do Mormons Believe in Many Gods?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Does Life Have Meaning?

Don't ask a cat that question.

I warned you...

Tip o' the hat to Mark.

Top 15 Phrases Not Found in the Bible

These quotes are either frequently misquoted from the Bible or not there at all. I also have some things that are frequently thought to be in the Bible, but are not. I have tried to provide a origin of each, if I could find one. I have avoided doctrinal items (both valid and invalid ones) not found in the Bible, because that list would be never-ending.

Top 15 Phrases & Sayings Not Found in the Bible

15 - The Three Wisemen
They Bible calls them Magi, not "Wisemen", though the two are synonymous in common parlance. The Magi are found only in Matthew 2 and no number is given to them (three comes from the number of gifts given).

14 - "Moderation in all things"
This idea behind this phrase originates from Aristotle's ethics and the direct quote comes from Rome, several hundred years before Christ. Two different Romans are generally given credit - one named Terence and the other Petronius.

13 - "The Lord (or God) works in mysterious ways"
Comes from a Hymn ("God Moves in a Mysterious Way") by William Cowper, who lived in the 18th century.

12 - "The eye is a window to the soul"
Matthew 6:22 says "The lamp of the body is the eye", but there is no reference saying it is a window to the soul. There is no consensus as to the origin of this phrase. Some attribute it to a proverb of varying origin and others to several writers including Shakespeare and Milton.

11 - The Apple in the Garden of Eden.
There was fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2, 3), but we do not know what kind of fruit is was. The apple grew out of Christian tradition and may have been a result of artists trying to depict The Fall. It might also have come from the Latin word for evil ("malum" = evil / "malus" = apple). Some say it was likely a pomegranate. But, we do not know.

10 - "The lion will lay down with the lamb"
A very common misquote of Scripture. Isaiah 11:6 reads "Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them."

9 - "A fool and his money are soon parted"
Not even close to a Biblical reference - this comes from Thomas Tusser who wrote it in 1573 in in Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie.

8 - "This too shall pass"
The origin of this phrase isn't even Christian. It comes from a Persian Sufi (Muslim) poets some time in the middle ages.

7 - The Seven Deadly Sins
The list of the 7 deadly sins = wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. The first evidence of the list is from a monk in the 4th century. The list was then altered slightly by Pope Gregory I in 590. It was then popularized by Dante in his Divine Comedy.

6 - "Money is the root of all evil"
1 Timothy 6:10 says "For the love of money is the root of all evils". It is the love of money that causes the problem, not the money itself. Money doesn't have a moral value all to itself, it is what we do with it that makes the action good, neutral, or evil.

5 - "Pride comes before the fall"
Proverbs 16:18 says "Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
The origin of the misquote is unknown, but The Beatles' song "I'm a Loser" has the line in it.

4 - "Charity begins at home"
Generally credited to Terence, the Roman comic writer. It is sometimes also attributed to Sir Thomas Browne who wrote the phrase in 1642.

3 - "To thine ownself be true"
Comes from Hamlet by Shakespeare. In a bit of context the quote reads, ”This above all: to thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Not bad advice, but not from the Bible.

2 - "Cleanliness is next to godliness"
While there are many references in the Mosaic law to cleanliness (esp. in Leviticus), there is none that we can ascribe to this quote. Some say it comes from a 2nd century Rabbi. We know the first English version comes from Francis Bacon. He wrote the following in Advancement of Learning, "Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God." John Wesley then changed it to the phrase we use today.

1 - "God helps those who help themselves"
This very common phrase comes from Algernon Sydney, who wrote it in an article titled Discourses Concerning Government. It was then popularized by Ben Franklin in 1757 in Poor Richard's Almanac. In many ways this phrase is wrong, because God helps (saves) those who can NOT help themselves (sinners). Though we must agree to allow Him to help us. An earlier form of the phrase may have come from "God loves to help him who strives to help himself" by Aeschylus (6th C BC).

Do you have any others?

Cheating God Has Consequences

In one of the more dark stories of the New Testament, we here the story of Ananias And Sapphira, from Acts 5:1-11. They lied to the disciples (and therefore to God) and paid a terrible consequence for their action.

It is visualized well in the video below.

Pics of Easter Vigil

Some great pics of our Easter Vigil. Thanks to Andrew for taking them and sending them to us.

Father David lights the Easter Fire.

 Procession into the church:

Reflection of candles in a light fixture:

Deacon Uche with the Easter Candle:


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tough Love

Sometimes dealing with children in a "tough love" manner is the most unpleasant thing to do. As a father, I really don't enjoy having to punish a child in order to discipline them. But, it is sometimes the best thing we can do for them. It can help teach boundaries, self-control, prudence, right judgment, etc. If we didn't, we would leave them to their own fancies and a child's fancies aren't necessarily the best thing in for them, despite what they would have you believe.

God treats us in the same way. He wants what is best for us and sometimes it isn't necessarily what we would choose. As the Sacred Scriptures tell us:
“Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.” - Deuteronomy 8:5

“because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” - Proverbs 3:12

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” –Hebrews 12: 7-11
Sometimes we do not want our crosses. We would rather trade them in and pick our own. Yet, God knows what we need more than we do and there are times we need to be molded through the fire of suffering or discipline.

This is a gift, if we have the eyes of faith to see it that way.

Thank you God for the trials you allow us to have. May we grow closer to you through them.

Being Contrite

Q - After committing a mortal sin, I desired to go to confession, but am not sure if I have a truly contrite heart. I think this is partly so because I don't have a good idea of what a "contrite heart" is. I know that its a sort of remorse or guilt for sin, but its still a bit hazy. I and want to make a good confession. Is my desire to receive forgiveness enough, even though I am not sure of my honest remorse for sin outside of a fear of hell?

A - Thanks for the question. The first thing I want to tell you is - fear not! God is not a God who wants to accuse you and sentence you to death. He is a father who loves you and calls you to himself. He wants nothing more than a relationship with you. He is pleased with your desire to grow closer to him, to ask forgiveness of your sins and he only wants what is best for you - life.

This is what the Catechism says about contrition:

1451 Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again."
1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.
1453 The contrition called "imperfect" (or "attrition") is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin's ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.
1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic Letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.
Therefore, imperfect contrition is enough to have your sins forgiven through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. No, it isn't perfect, but it is enough. Perfect contrition arises from love, imperfect from fear of punishment. So, it is a start.

I recommend that you bring this to your confessor the next time you go, in order to hear the words first-hand. God forgives you even in your imperfection - as he does all of us.

There are several reasons that you might not have perfect contrition yet. I don't know your specific circumstances, but it could be due to an attachment to the sin, a misunderstanding of God's love, or another step on the road we are all on to holiness. Whatever it is, don't be afraid to let your confessor/spiritual director know about it.

As is the case with most things in the spiritual life, this is a process and not a one-time decision. Pray and seek out holiness and hatred of sin. Talk about it with your confessor/spiritual director and don't let despair sink in. Hope in God's mercy and love and rest in that. True contrition will come as a gift.

Only with difficulty does one die for a just is precisely in this that God proves his love for us: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” - Romans 5:7–8