Friday, December 21, 2012

Have a Merry Christmas!

We love our readers and are grateful that you continue to read this blog. There won't be much posting over the next few weeks as we enjoy the Christmas season with family. Here are some great Christmas videos to get you in the mood.

Have a Merry Christmas! May the child Jesus be born anew in your heart!

What Would Happen If You Died Right Now?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Book Review - A Grace Given

A Grace Given: A Father’s Love for a Dying Child
A Book Review by Kristine Cranley

In the years that we have lived with Elie’s terminal illness, I have often sensed in other people the belief that it would be better if Elie were to die sooner rather than later.  It always remains unspoken, but the way they frame their thoughts or prognosticate our future, I feel certain that they assume God’s blessing to us would be for Elie to die soon and without pain.  For whatever reason, these people feel she is a hardship, that it would make our lives easier or steadier if she were gone, that it would strengthen our marriage by giving us more time together, less stress. … but these people are fools …My children are the greatest gifts I have known but Elie is particularly special.  She makes my life far richer, more contemplative and more full of joy than it ever would have been without her."  A Grace Given p. 41, 45
This week I had the great joy of reading A Grace Given, the testimony of a father’s love for his dying daughter.  It is a privileged look into the soul of a father and his journey toward self-discovery through relation to his firstborn daughter, rendered handicapped in her battle with a brain tumor.  It is a love story.    
In the wee hours, when she has lain stiff in the nurse’s arms since midnight and even Liz cannot put her to sleep, I will take her in my lap, hold her hand in mine, wrap the blanket around her and she will soften slowly, then bat her eyelids heavily, and within moments drift off into a deep sleep.  She is waiting for me to come to her, but had no way of telling the nurse or Liz other than by stiffening out.  (p. 47)
Elie’s illness sets her father on a journey of faith.  While his wife Liz leans on her Catholic faith to carry her through their crises, Kent Gilges speaks honestly of his own struggles and questions regarding faith and meaning and suffering.  In the end it is Elie herself, in her utter vulnerability and neediness, who unlocks the door to communion with God for her father. 
The truth is that God brings suffering into our lives because suffering brings us closer to Him.  This is the beauty hidden in a brain tumor.  It is a key that unlocks the box filled with love, hope, generosity, beauty, care, gentleness… Why did God give my daughter a brain tumor?  I do not know.  I cannot hope to know.  But He did, and it has brought a blessedness to our home and our lives that never would have entered there otherwise. (p. 107, 109)
John Paul II, in his play The Radiation of Fatherhood speaks about how God the Father desires His Fatherly love to radiate out through human fatherhood.  A Grace Given is a word picture of this radiation.  It is the story of how the vulnerability of a daughter gives birth to a father’s heart.  Through his decision to stand the entire six hours of his daughter’s surgery in solidarity with her, his turmoil over how best to love and provide for his daughter, his grief at being separated from her, and most of all his utter delight in her, he gives us a tiny glimpse of God the Father’s solicitude for us.  This is poignantly portrayed in a passage in which Gilges speculates on his daughters thoughts as he bathes her.
You might wonder what I think about when I’m floating in the bathtub with my eyes closed.  That’s the best part of the story.  I think about God.  I try to imagine what it will be like when God holds me … They say that when I visit God, I will sit on His lap and talk to Him for a long time, and when I fall asleep, He’s going to give me to the angels to hold while I wait for Mommy and Daddy.  I like to think about that in the bathtub because I think being held by God is a lot like being held by Daddy, except better.  (p. 72)
Through revealing his own ‘father’s heart’, Gilges gives us a telling glimpse into the heart of God which theological speculation can never achieve.  I am grateful for his vulnerability in this and I am delighted to recommend his book.

Top 10 Pro-Life Quotes

Yes, this is completely subjective and in no particular order.
Please add others in the comments.

Top 10 Pro-Life Quotes:

"It is a poverty that a “child must die”, So that you may live as you wish."
-Mother Teresa

"The Gospel of Life is not for believers alone: it is for everyone. The issue of life and its defense and promotion is not a concern of the Christian alone. Although faith provides special light and strength, this question arises in every human conscience which seeks the truth and which cares about the future of humanity. Life certainly has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers. The value at stake is one which every human being can grasp by the light of reason; thus it necessarily concerns everyone." 
-Pope John Paul II

"I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? ... By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, that father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. The father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."
-Mother Teresa

“I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion is already born.”
-Ronald Reagan

"To dissociate the child from love is, for our species, a methodological error: contraception, which is to make love without making a child; artificial (in vitro) fertilization, which is to make a child without making love; abortion, which is to unmake the child; and pornography, which is to unmake love: all these, to varying degrees, are incompatible with natural law."
-Jerome LeJeune

"How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers."
-Mother Teresa

"America you are beautiful...and blessed.... The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless. If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then America, defend life."
-Pope John Paul II

"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you."
-Jeremiah 1:5

"Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life."
-Catechism of the Catholic Church 2270

"The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right -- it is the very opposite. It is a deep wound in society."
-Pope Benedict XVI

***What other quotes do you think should be on the list?***

Fr. Barron Reviews "The Hobbit" Movie


Porn & Support For Same-Sex Marriage

An interesting article on the correlation, in men, of frequency of using porn and support for same-sex marriage. A snip:
But of the men who view pornographic material “every day or almost every day,” 54 percent “strongly agreed” that gay and lesbian marriage should be legal, compared with around 13 percent of those whose porn-use patterns were either monthly or less often than that. Statistical tests confirmed that porn use is a (very) significant predictor of men’s support for same-sex marriage, even after controlling for other obvious factors that might influence one’s perspective, such as political affiliation, religiosity, marital status, age, education, and sexual orientation.

The same pattern emerges for the statement, “Gay and lesbian couples do just as good a job raising children as heterosexual couples.” Only 26 percent of the lightest porn users concurred, compared to 63 percent of the heaviest consumers. It’s a linear association for men: the more porn they consume, the more they affirm this statement. More rigorous statistical tests confirmed that this association too is a very robust one.

Theoretically, the same pattern should hold when considering support for marriage in general. And it does, though not quite as distinctively. The less time spent viewing porn, the less critical men are of the institution of marriage. Forty-nine (49) percent of the lightest porn users “strongly disagreed” with a statement suggesting that “marriage is an outdated institution” (and an additional 26 percent simply “disagreed” with it), compared with 14 percent of the heaviest porn users.

Of course, correlation doesn’t mean causation, and I’m not suggesting causation here. But I’m also pretty confident the “causal arrow” wouldn’t run in the other direction. (Why would supporting same-sex marriage encourage you to look at porn?) Still, we should consider alternative explanations. What might predict both porn use and support for new family forms? Religion? Politics? While religiosity indeed matters for perceiving marriage as outdated, it does little to alter the stable link between porn use and same-sex marriage support. The same is true of political affiliation. It matters. It just doesn’t weaken the association between porn use and supporting nontraditional family forms.

In the end, contrary to what we might wish to think, young adult men’s support for redefining marriage may not be entirely the product of ideals about expansive freedoms, rights, liberties, and a noble commitment to fairness. It may be, at least in part, a byproduct of regular exposure to diverse and graphic sex acts.
Continue Reading.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fr. Barron on The Tragedy at Newtown

Advent at Ephesus CD - Review

Good sacred music can lift the mind and heart to God. Yet, all of us have our own musical styles we lean toward, even when it comes to liturgical music. The Church has taught that chant has "pride of place" in sacred music. Because of my own preferences, I was not overly excited when I received the CD Advent at Ephesus. While I love chant in a liturgical setting, I am not a fan of listening to chant in my leisure. Also, I heard the arrangements were "unique". But, I am now a believer. It is very good music which raises our hearts and minds to God.

The CD is a product of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. They are a traditional monastic community of women who are consecrated to our Lady and live to support the work of the Apostles in the world through prayer.  The music on the album contains a variety of traditional Latin and English hymns, polyphony, Gregorian Chant, medieval harmonies and an original piece 

The album is produced by Grammy® and Oscar® winner Glenn Rosenstein, who considers this one of his top 10 all-time favorite recordings. These 16 tracks were fully recorded in only three days, on location at the order’s Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus in northwest Missouri. The album is the first to be released by De Montfort Music.

Here is a description of the album:
The first of its kind for the Advent season, this gorgeous recording captures in song the spirit of hope and expectation of Advent. This unique CD is recorded by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, a young, monastic order of Sisters located in rural Missouri, dedicated to prayer and chant. Advent at Ephesus includes an amazing variety of traditional Latin and English hymns, polyphony, Gregorian Chant, medieval harmonies and an original piece to prayerfully lead you through the sacred Advent season in preparation for Christmas. 17 Hymns include O Come, O Come Emmanuel, O Come Divine Messiah, Alma Redemptoris, Gabriel's Message, Come Thou Redeemer, Maria Walks Amid the Thorn, Vox Clare, and more.

Now, go buy it!

Fear Not - Christ Is Coming!

The best moment of any animated Christmas special is by far when Linus delivers his reason for Christmas message. We should remember that Linus always carries his security blanket panics even when his mom has to wash it. Yet there is one time he does not need it. It is during this scene when he drops it after saying "fear not". Linus does not need a security blanket, he has Christ.

Take a look:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Archbishop Chaput: Advent, Suffering, and Joy

A wonderful reflection from Archbishop Chaput, of Philadelphia:
Scripture is a love story, the story of God’s love for humanity. But it’s a real story filled with real people. It’s not a fairytale. In Scripture, as in the real world, evil things happen to innocent persons. The wicked seem to thrive. Cruelty and suffering are common.

The Psalmist cries out to heaven again and again for justice; Job is crushed by misfortune; Herod murders blameless infants; Jesus is nailed to a cross. God is good, but we human beings are free, and being free, we help fashion the nature of our world with the choices we make.

This is why evil is frightening, but it’s not incomprehensible. We know it from intimate experience. What we never quite expect is for our private sins, multiplied and fermented by millions of lives with the same or similar “little” sins, to somehow feed the kind of evil that walks into a Connecticut school and guns down 26 innocent lives, 20 of them children.

Thirteen years ago, as archbishop of Denver, I helped bury some of the victims of the Columbine High School massacre. Nothing is more helpless or heart-breaking than to sit with parents who kissed their children goodbye in the morning and will never see them alive again in this world. The pain of loss is excruciating. Words of comfort all sound empty.

The victims in the Sandy Hook massacre were even younger and more numerous than those at Columbine, and if such intense sorrow could be measured, the suffering of the Connecticut family members left behind might easily be worse.

With such young lives cut so short, every parental memory of an absent child will be precious — compounded by a hunger for more time and more memories that will never happen. This is why we need to keep the grieving families so urgently in our hearts and prayers.

People will ask, “How could a loving God allow such wickedness?” Every life lost in Connecticut was unique, precious and irreplaceable. But the evil was routine; every human generation is rich with it. Why does God allow war? Why does God allow hunger? Why does God allow the kind of poverty that strips away the dignity of millions of people in countries around the world?

All of these questions sound reasonable, and yet they’re all evasions. We might as well ask, “Why does God allow us to be free?” We have the gift of being loved by a Creator who seeks our love in return; and being loved, we will never be coerced by the One who loves us. God gives us the dignity of freedom – freedom to choose between right and wrong, a path of life or a path of death.

We are not the inevitable products of history or economics or any other determinist equation. We’re free, and therefore we’re responsible for both the beauty and the suffering we help make. Why does God allow wickedness? He allows it because we – or others just like us – choose it. The only effective antidote to the wickedness around us is to live differently from this moment forward. We make the future beginning now.
Continue Reading.

Turning Tragedy Into Politics

Rahm Emmanuel is currently the mayor of Chicago and previously was White House Chief of Staff. In 2008, he said:
"Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."
This has become a powerful way of thinking for most politicians. They use tragedies, crises, and evil acts of others to advance their own political agendas. This has been evident in the reaction to the horrible evil that happened just a few short days ago. Within hours, both sides of the gun-control issue started to make arguments for and against gun control. I won't get into it here, but suffice it to say that I find such reactions remarkably callous, shallow, sad, and especially significant.

Why "significant"?

It shows just how much modern culture believes the solution to our problems can be fixed through political policies. It assumes we have the "power" to prevent evil (by either having more guns available for law-abiding citizens or getting rid of them all together).

Both sides of the argument miss the point. Evil is senseless.

To make sense = "to have meaning."
Yet, evil is not a thing and therefore has no meaning. In fact, it is a lack of something. Evil is a lack of goodness. Just as darkness is a lack of light, so evil is a lack of goodness. When we think of it this way, we see that God, who is good by His nature, did not "create" of "invent" evil. Rather, it is God's creatures' failure to be good which allowed evil to enter into existence.

So, political solutions may provide an illusion of meaning, but ultimately they fail. There is no meaning to evil outside of the cross. From the cross Jesus screams out to us:
"I know it hurts, I too have suffered. But, suffering is my way of salvation for you and for many others. Combine your suffering with mine and great good will come of it.
I hear your cry to heaven and I am with you still.
Do not lose hope, but believe and be saved.
Your suffering is only for a short time.
Soon you can rest with me.
Believe. Love. Hope.
I am with you."
But, when we interject a political solution into such tragedies, even before the bodies of the slain are laid to rest, we give a much different kind of answer to the problems:
"There is nothing good that can come of this. There is nothing except evil here. Thuse, there is nothing which can help us except making sure it never happens again. If you would only believe in the almighty political solutions, then we can eradicate evil and create a world without such tragedies."
Ultimately, it is an exercise in nihilism and is a statement that our culture has forgotten the crucified Christ. It is a belief that there is no higher power than the government. Thus, it shuns hope.

I say "no" to such politics.
I say "no" to such lies.

This is not to say there is never a time for political debates, but the right time is not while the wounds are so fresh. Not unless you believe you should "never let a serious crisis go to waste."

Christ is coming to meet us once more in a few short days as a little baby who, as a man, will suffer just as the children in Newtown, CT did. He is not a God who fails to understand and provide TRUE meaning to the riddle of evil. Just as St. Paul once wrote:
"Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." -Phil 3:8-11
Pray. Mourn. Believe.

The Broken Places

Some great thoughts by Tom McDonald at God and The Machine:
There is a darkness in the world. It’s always been there, since we made our first wrong step and chose ourselves over God. Most of the time, the darkness is just there for us, a shadow on our souls where sin more readily grows. Sometimes, it erupts in spasms of violence or disease and knocks us back on our heels, changing the course of our lives. And sometimes, the darkness cracks a hole in the world and breaks through in a monstrous wave of evil so overwhelming we can’t even fathom it.

And so we pray. Yesterday, we prayed for the innocent souls murdered in Newtown, because that’s what we do. We prayed at mass, in a time and space that is sacred. We prayed for healing. For understanding. For mercy.

In the evening, I had to face a room full of 14-year-olds, and I knew there were questions in their minds. I was there to lecture on Church history: a lecture that normally begins with the Ascension and Pentecost.

Last night, instead, we began where it all ends and begins again. Here:

How To Win The Culture War

Peter Kreeft has some great advice while speaking at Steubenville.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How to Talk To Your Kids About Tragedy

These are great tips from a Counselor. I would also add to this list praying with your children and comforting them with affection.

Tragedy Talking Points 
by Dr. Brad Schwall

The following guidelines may help you in addressing the incident with your children based on the information currently known about the tragedy to this point.
  • Avoid exposing children to too much media coverage.
  • Avoid fostering rumors and speculation about the tragedy.
Age and Stage Responses

Preschool-2nd grade – discuss the incident only if the child has heard any of the news. There is no need to inform the child of the tragedy if the child does not know about it.

3rd- 5th graders are more likely to have heard the news. Decide whether to bring the issue up with 3rd and 4th graders based on their temperaments.

Check for what your child knows – Ask, “What have you heard today?"

You may choose to approach the subject with children in 6th grade and older.

No matter your child’s age, consider the following responses based on how you believe you need to address the tragedy with your child.
  • The tragedy is isolated and tragedies like this happen rarely.
  • The fact that this tragedy happened does not mean there is an immediate danger where you live.
  • Emphasize that safety precautions are in place in schools.
  • Reflect what your child may be feeling – “I know this is scary news. It is very sad.”
  • Emphasize empathy for the victims – “It is very sad that this happened to those families and children.”
  • Teenagers may reflect on the fragile nature of life and the unpredictability of life.
The conversation may focus on:
  • Validating your child's feelings - it is OK to feel scared or sad
  • Emphasizing that your child is safe
  • Empathizing with the victims
Dr. Brad Schwall
Permission granted to re-distribute these tips.

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

One of the most common questions asked is about the seeming contradiction between God's goodness and human suffering.
  • Why would God allow innocent children suffer?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • If God is good, why do we suffer so much?
  • If God really loves us, why doesn't He take away suffering?
These questions, and many others like them, haunt many people.

The answers some have received do not always satisfy unless we have a good idea of who God is. To really understand the answer, and in turn God's very nature, we have to dive into exploring the nature of evil first.

Evil is not a thing. In fact, it is a lack of something. Evil is a lack of goodness. Just as darkness is a lack of light, so evil is a lack of goodness. When we think of it this way, we see that God, who is good by His nature, did not "create" of "invent" evil. Rather, it is God's creatures' failure to be good which allowed evil to enter into existence.

Furthermore, the reason death and physical suffering exist is because there is spiritual and moral evil. The cause of suffering and death is ultimately man's sin. Because of our disobedience we suffer, in both body and soul. What we have earned by our sin is suffering and death for eternity.

This also helps us to understand the eternal love of God for us. "But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." -Romans 5:7. Even though what we merit by our evil is death and punishment, we are forgiven.

The amazing thing about this paradox of love overcoming evil is that it leads us to the answer of why God allows evil. The answer is found in the cross.

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. In it, He conquers and shows us how to overcome it.

From this the questions might be turned on their head. We can now understand why bad things happen to good people, but why do good things happen to bad people? It is once again because of the love that God has for all people. Not just the "good" ones.

Suffering and death can lead to holiness and union with God. Therefore, it isn't as evil as we make it out to be. 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
But, in the midst of suffering all of the reasons still don't necessarily make suffering easy.

Here are some thoughts from Abbot Charles Wright:

Further Reading:
**Where Are You God?
**Evil Once Again
**How God Uses Our Suffering

Minor Revisions - An Aggie Catholic's Reality TV Show

Jen Fulwiler is an atheist-to-Catholic convert who is also an Aggie. She came to A&M as a Freshman, but transferred out before graduation because she thought it was too religious. A few years ago she (and her family) converted to Catholicism. Jen is a great writer, who blogs at Conversion Diary and The National Catholic Register. Now, NetNY TV has a reality TV show about Jen and her family. Here is the first episode:

An Advent Tradition

An Advent Tradition
by Kristine Cranley

Advent is a time of expectant waiting. It is a time of asking the Lord to prepare our hearts to receive Christ anew this Christmas. We sit in silence with our Lady, pregnant with the silent Word, and ask the Lord Jesus to speak to us in the silence. We pray that He may ready us so that He can be born into our hearts in a new way this Christmas.

There is a beautiful Advent tradition that speaks so profoundly of the focus of this joyful season. In it you set out an empty cradle (either the one from your manger scene or a homemade one) in which you will lay an image of the Christ Child on Christmas day. Near to this empty cradle, place a supply of straw or grass.

Then throughout the season of Advent, make various acts of love for Jesus. They can be physical acts such as feeding the hungry, speaking kindly to someone, participating in an Advent giving tree, writing someone in prison, etc. Or they can be spiritual acts such as setting aside time in your day to read the scriptures, or praying for those in need, or thanking Jesus for all His blessings in your life. Every time you perform one of these acts of love, place a piece of straw in His cradle.

When Christmas day comes, our tiny Lord will have a warm bed to rest in, prepared for Him by your acts of love. And reigning in Heaven, His Sacred Heart will be truly warmed by the bed of love you have provided Him. What better birthday gift could we bring for the birth of Love Himself?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tears of Joy. Tears of Pain. Tears of Blessing.

What Are You Searching For?

What are you searching for?

  • intimacy?
  • love?
  • meaning?
  • acceptance?
  • pleasure
  • happiness?

Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) made this video. While St. Mary's is not affiliated in any way with them (nor do we necessarily recommend the website they link to), this is one of the best video depictions of the Gospel message ever done and believe it is a valuable way to present the Good News.

Peter Kreeft - The Problem of Evil and Suffering

Related Posts:
**Evil and Suffering
**Why Does God Allow Suffering?
**Where Are You God?
**Evil...Once Again
**How God Uses Our Suffering

Why Do We Have Original Sin?

Q - If Jesus died for our sins, then why didn't original sin go as well? Why is it that we have to be cleansed of that particular sin by baptism when couldn't we just ask for forgiveness? 

A - (answered by Kristine Cranley)
Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned …But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many. Romans 5:12, 15
The Catholic doctrine that everyone inherits original sin from Adam even before we are old enough to commit personal sin is a difficult one to fathom in the individualistic world view we find ourselves in today. We moderns often assume that every individual is intrinsically unrelated to every other individual. Thus our choices affect us alone.

But this is a very different understanding of the human person than that which is revealed to us in the Scriptures. While having a deep reverence for the individual, the chosen people had also been taught by God that every individual is at the same time intrinsically related to the whole. This understanding, sometimes referred to by Biblical Theologians as ‘corporate personality’ is difficult to wrap our modern minds around. In essence, ‘corporate personality’ is the belief that an entire people can be represented in one individual. According to the theologian H.W. Robinson
“The whole group, including its past, present and future members, might function as a single individual through any one of those members conceived as representative of it”.
For instance, in Hebrews 7:9-10 it states
“One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, was tithed through Abraham, for he was still in his father’s loins when Melchizedek met him.”
Wait a minute … Levi was in his father’s loins when Abraham met Melchizedek? But Levi was Abraham’s great grandson. Isaac was not even conceived at the time, much less his son Jacob who would be Levi’s father. St. Paul is claiming here that when Abraham gave tithes to the high priest Melchizedek, all of his progeny was affected by his action. Abraham ‘tithed’ his great grandson in his gift.

In another example, the Lord instructs the chosen people to explain to their children in the generations to come the meaning of the law by stating,
“Later on, when your son asks you, “What do these decrees and statutes and ordinances mean?” which the LORD, our God, has enjoined on you, you shall say to your son, “We were once slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and wrought before our eyes signs and wonders, great and dire, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and his whole house.”
The proceeding generations are not to change the wording to indicate ‘our ancestors’ were once slaves, but rather must insist that ‘we’ were once slaves. ‘What happened to them happened to us’.

It is this belief in the capacity for the one to stand for the whole and the whole to be present in the one which undergirds St. Paul’s entire theology. The defining moment of his life was when the Lord revealed that Paul was persecuting Jesus Himself when he persecuted His followers. “I am he whom you are persecuting”. St. Paul spent the rest of his life meditating on, and teaching about, the mystery of the unity of all believers in Christ, spoken of in theology as the ‘mystical body of Christ’. He writes
“so then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” -Ephesians 2:19-22
Not only are believers formed into a unity in Jesus, but because of our common ancestors in Adam and Eve, all human beings are united in one human nature. This understanding of the unity of the human race is what undergirds the church’s teaching on original sin. When Adam sinned, we were all brought into sin. Just as Levi was ‘tithed’ in Abraham, we sinned in Adam.

And yet the unity which led to our downfall is also that which enables our salvation. Christ died to save us all. He died for our sins and in our place. And yet I must first be united to Christ in order to access that salvation. In Adam, my first father, I sinned and merited eternal death. In Baptism I died in Jesus and was born to eternal life through communion with Him.
“Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” Romans 6:3-5.
It is only through union with Jesus in His death that we are made free from the sin we inherited through Adam. And yet it is only because the human race is capable of being represented by one individual, that His death can affect each one of us now. Therefore, in response to this mystery of our unity in sin through Adam and salvation through Christ, the Church proclaims exultantly at the Easter Vigil Mass
“O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a redeemer”.
**Did The Children of Adam and Eve Commit Incest?
**Infant Baptism In The Bible?
**What "Power" Does Baptism Give Us?
**Why Have Exorcism During Baptism?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

12 Things Everyone Needs To Know About The Catholic Church

12 Things Everyone Needs To Know About The Catholic Church

  1. The Church isn't rich and selling off her "riches" isn't going to help much
  2. Catholic Mass is not boring. If the mass is what the Catholic Church says it is, then it is the most exciting thing to happen in thousands of years. 
  3. The Church is not anti-woman. In fact, the Church is the #1 defender of a women's most basic rights.
  4. Celibacy didn't cause the abuse scandal. If that were so, then we would see higher rates of abuse in Catholic clergy, but we don't
  5. The Church loves the Bible. Heck, the Catholic Church gave the world the Bible. So, why would she not revere the written Word of God?
  6. Catholics are not only called to think for themselves, if they don't they are not truly taking on the faith. You can't believe merely because someone else decided it already, you have to choose belief personally.
  7. Catholics don't worship Mary or the Saints. But, we do ask them to pray for us, because the Bible says they are interceding for us before God.
  8. Purgatory and indulgences are real and yes they are still a part of Catholic teaching.
  9. The Church teaches that everyone is called to love and respect those who have a same-sex attraction. There is no homophobia taught by the Catholic Church. (see CCC 2358)
  10. The Church believes that everyone who goes to Heaven is saved by Jesus Christ. No grace comes from any other source.
  11. The Catholic Church is not anti-sex. Why would Catholic have big families if this were the case? Sex is a wonderful and beautiful thing. Just like any good thing it can be abused.
  12. The Church is growing. In fact, in many parts of the world the population is absolutely exploding

There are many others. What else do you think the world needs to know?

The Christmas Scale

The lesson at the end of this video is wonderful.

Friday, December 7, 2012

What is The Immaculate Conception?

Q - Can you tell me what exactly the dogma of the Immaculate Conception does and does not teach for us?

A - Thanks for the question!  The dogma of the Immaculate Conception (IC) is a widely misunderstood teaching of the Catholic Church, so I am glad to try and clear up some of the misconceptions (pun intended) about it.  Before I do so, I want to remind everyone that Dec 8 is a Holy Day of Obligation (Opportunity).  Check Mass times for St. Marys here.

The IC is not a teaching about Christ being without sin or being conceived without a father.  These are different teachings.  The teaching of the IC is the following, from Pius IX - defined in 1854:
"We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."
Here is what the Church teaches about the I.C. - Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother without original sin.  This grace is the same supernatural grace we receive in baptism, but is given at the moment of her creation, thus freeing Mary from the affects of original sin - in her soul. Humans, after the fall, are not created in the state of grace, but in a fallen state and in need of grace.  Mary is the one special exception, chosen not for her own sake to do this, but for the sake of being the Mother of God.

The I.C. does not teach that Mary is in any way God or non-human.  She is in need of God's salvation, as we all are, but she was given this special grace because she was chosen by God to be the Mother of our Lord and be a pure vessel that could carry Christ.

Mary is sometimes called the New Ark of the Covenant by the fathers of the church.  The original Ark of the Covenant was the holding place for the staff of Aaron - the high priest, a piece of manna from the desert, and the tablets of the Ten Commandments.  In Jesus we have the fulfillment of all that these foreshadow.  Jesus is THE High Priest, He is THE Bread from Heaven, and He is THE law.  Thus, to be made ready to bear God Himself, Mary was created in purity and without sin.  Just as the Ark of the Covenant was considered the place of the "holy of holies", so Mary is made pure and holy in order to have the holiest thing of all (God), inside her.

Come praise God this week with us as we praise Mary's Son, Jesus Christ and the wonderful things He has done for us, through Mary, Immaculately Conceived.

For more on this dogma, I recommend these articles:
*Deacon Greg Kandra's homily on the IC - magnificent.
*Catholic Answers article on the IC.
*Catholic Encyclopedia article on the IC.
*Fr. William Most on the IC.
*History of the IC.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Do You Really NEED Another Gift?

Some great thoughts on Christmas from a former member of our staff, Julia Motekaitis:
The other day, I was kindly asked what my children would like for Christmas. So, I surveyed their bedrooms, looked through their toy bins and took stock of their clothes and shoes. But I came up totally empty.

My husband is an unabashed geek and being technologically savvy is the bread and butter of our existence, but we try to keep our kids as unplugged as possible. So they don’t have hand held devices or even the Wii, and the little screen time they are permitted is more than slightly policed. Scratch out video games, for the time being anyway. Feeling a bit lost, I sat down with a catalog that came in the mail, and tried to narrow down a few things. But I couldn’t run away from the vision of the lego debris all over the floor (that never seems to subside in our house), and the matchbox cars that I find under the piano and in my purse on any given day, and the stacks of old board games which no one seems to have the time to play. Stacks + Piles + Debris = dusty garage sale items. Eeek. Scratch that.

Then I began thinking along the lines of practical things, like fishing gear, a tool box, a telescope or an archery set. But those require time to acquire a certain skill, time which is hard to find at this stage of our parenthood.

The only thing that makes sense to me is books, since we love to read with our children and reading is my favorite way to spend time with them. If I had to ask for anything, books are the clear winner (cue the confetti!)

But stuff? No, we don’t need any more stuff. Recently we were generously given by family some great new board games, puzzles and a few fantastic movies. I will wrap those up, with some new shoes that I bought for the boys. My hubby is launching some secret backyard project, and maybe this will be the year we will get that bike trailer so we can take family bike rides. And we will be thankful!
Continue Reading.

Killing The Least Among Us - An Amazing Story

Servant of God, Jérôme Lejeune, was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th Century. He discovered Trisomy 21, the cause of Down Syndrome, and received many honors during his life. But, he was an even greater human being who was named a "Servant of God". The cause for his canonization is ongoing.

He was also an outspoken advocate of the dignity of all life, especially those who had abnormal genetic issues. As the American tendency of doctors to kill sick children started to spread to Europe, he said:
“They brandish chromosomal racism like the flag of freedom…. That this rejection of medicine—of the whole biological brotherhood that binds the human family—should be the only practical application of our knowledge of Trisomy 21 is beyond heartbreaking….”
In this video he gives an amazing story that made me stop and reflect on life and our preconceived ideas about others:

If a child in the womb is diagnosed with Down Syndrome, it is aborted in 90% of cases. We need prayers. Servant of God, Jérôme Lejeune, pray for us!

BTW - Doesn't he have the greatest last name ever?

Jolly Old St. Nick Punches Heretics In The Face. Seriously.

Happy St. Nicholas Day! (AKA - punch a heretic in the face day!)

Most of us think of St. Nicholas as a plump happy old man who comes down a chimney. The reality is he punches heretics in the face. Taylor Marshall (our distinguished speaker for next semester) has more:
When President Teddy Roosevelt was a college student, he taught a Sunday School class for elementary school children. During this time, Roosevelt awarded a dollar to a boy in his Sunday School class for beating the snot out of a bully who tormented little girls. "You did exactly right," said Roosevelt with pride. However, the congregation disagreed. They immediately dismissed Roosevelt for teaching the "un-Christian" principle of laying the smack down on those who have it coming to them.

Well, if tradition is true, that little boy was also richly rewarded by Jolly Old Saint Nicholas since the good Saint Nick allegedly "h-slapped" ("heretic slapped") the heresiarch Arius. You see, Arius wrongly taught that Christ was not fully divine but rather a mere creature. Rather, Arius taught that Christ had been created by God the Father.

During the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325), Arius was called upon to defend his position on the inferiority of Christ. Saint Nicholas just couldn't listen to all of Arius' nonsense and so he stood up and laid in to Arius with his fist.

The Emperor Constantine and the bishops present at the Council were alarmed by Nicholas' act of violence against Arius. They immediately stripped Nicholas of his office as a bishop by confiscating the two items that marked out a man as a Christian bishop: Nicholas' personal copy of the Gospels and his pallium (the vestment worn by all bishops in the East).

Now if that were the end of the story, we probably wouldn't know about Saint Nicholas, and our children wouldn't be asking him for presents.
Continue Reading.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

10 Problems With Jesus

10 Problems With Jesus

10 - He isn't what you expect him to be.
Jesus shatters all expectations of what the Messiah is "supposed" to do. He doesn't come in all his power and majesty, but as a poor baby in a barn.

9 - He is the source of all that is good. 
Not us. This means we owe him everything. He only asks for a small part of that back. A small part of our time, money, gifts, etc.

8 - Jesus won't ever force himself on us. 
This means faith must be exercised in order to follow him. Prayer is the key.

7 - He speaks with authority. 
His words are truth and can change you. If we let them.

6 - We can't have it all.
Jesus said to follow him and to leave the rest behind. There is freedom in being detached from worldly things, power, and glory.

5 - To follow Jesus means we must do as he commanded. 
We can't just pick-and-choose whatever we want if we are to follow Him.

4 - The cross is mandatory for a Christian. 
We have to pick it up, daily, and follow him. Expect suffering.

3 - We must share our faith with others, clothe the naked, feed the sick, etc.
These are not optional. They are where the Gospel is put into action.

2 - He claimed to be God.
The Incarnation, life of Jesus, death, Resurrection, etc. is either the biggest lie sold to humanity or the greatest thing to ever happen.

1 - Jesus life and words demand we choose.
He is either Lord and Savior of your life or not. There is no middle ground. But, the choice is always your own. Choose wisely, because we can't take the final test over again.

Monday, December 3, 2012

10 Things The Pope Should Tweet

The Pope is now on Twitter. You can follow him @Pontifex - (but don't forget to follow Aggie Catholics and if you want to follow me you can as well.) So, I have a list of what he OUGHT to tweet, though I doubt he will.

10 Things The Pope Should Tweet

  1. "Can't wait to visit @MarcelLeJeune in #Aggieland Whoop!"
  2. "Popemobile Schmopemobile. I live in Italy. Somebody hook me up with a Ferrari! #ILikeToGoFast"
  3. "All bald men get a plenary indulgence just for their beauty. #NotKidding"
  4. "Being Pope is very Popey. #IDontKnowWhatItMeansEither"
  5. "Found a rosary today. Anybody lose one? #VaticanLostAndFound"
  6. "Moving Vatican to Texas, except during the summer. #PerksOfBeingPope"
  7. "I don't get Europe's fascination with Soccer. #PleaseTripleTheGaurds"
  8. "Lost in Ikea. St. Anthony help me. #MightDieInMaze"
  9. "Big changes to the Church are coming. That is right. Replacing Bishops' zucchetto with Cowboy hats. #sweet"
  10. "Is the Pope Catholic? Wait. I guess I shouldn't use that phrase... #Duh"
DISCLAIMER - this is a joke. We don't really expect the Pope to tweet such things. We love the Holy Father and ask you to please join us in praying for him.