Tuesday, November 26, 2013

10 Reasons Every Catholic Should Read Pope Francis' New Document


If you didn't know, Pope Francis issued a new document today. It is entitled "Evangelii Gaudium" which means "The Joy Of The Gospel" and it is about evangelization - sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. I am not exaggerating when I say I have read almost every modern Church document and many ancient ones too. But, this is my favorite papal document I have ever read! Why? See below.

10 Reasons Every Catholic Should Read Pope Francis New Document
  1. His language is simple and accessible, which makes it easy for the average Catholic to read and understand. Does this sound too churchy?
    "If we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?"
  2. He cracks jokes! Seriously - check this out.
    "They (the laity) and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them!"
  3. He remains full of hope and challenges the Church to live and act out of hope:
    "One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses”. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents."
  4. Francis doesn't want us to settle for being "ok", he wants what Jesus wants out of us - he wants us to be holy and missionary.
    "We must recognize that if part of our baptized people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they simple or complex, in the lives of our people. In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization."
  5. He wants to shake things up and doesn't want us to do something merely because it has been done that way in the past:
    "Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way”. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities."
  6. He recognizes that some structures and practices of Catholic life aren't helping spread the Gospel. So, serious reform of these things might be tough, but they are also necessary:
    "We must recognize that if part of our baptized people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they simple or complex, in the lives of our people. In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization."
  7. He knows how to get you pumped up for the work ahead!
    "Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour!"
  8. He understands that the message needs to stick to the basics. The Gospel Jesus proclaimed is not complicated nor should the message the Church proclaim even forget the basics.
    "On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.”"
  9. Reading it might do you some good! This is a very personal reflection on what is most important and Francis invites you to conversion!
    "The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost!"
  10. He is selling joy and who doesn't want that! The Gospel is supposed to be something that changes us and gives us joy, even when things are tough. This is a definitive sign that something has changed our lives!
    "The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew."

Monday, November 25, 2013

A "Hobo For Christ"


Recently, God introduced St. Mary’s to a very interesting person: Meg Hunter-Kilmer. Meg is a traveling Catholic evangelist who drives around the country giving talks and retreats to pretty much anyone who will listen. A self-proclaimed “Hobo for Christ,” Meg does not have a permanent home and has everything she owns packed in her car. She travels from place to place spreading the gospel and trusting in God to give her opportunities to preach the good news.

Meg happened to be in College Station, and our Theology of the Body group, TheREVOLUTION, needed a speaker for their Eat.Dance.Love event. Meg spoke about how to live Theology of the Body in our everyday interactions with other people. We were all blown away by her passion and the dynamic way in which she engaged the students. The event was a total success, and we can’t wait for Meg’s next stop in College Station, whenever that will be. You can see the video of her talk below.


If you want to learn more about Meg or how to contact her about speaking, visit her website.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why Jesus Is Harsher On Pride Than Any Other Vice


Last week in spiritual direction I heard something that really stuck with me. I was discussing my work with many young men who struggle with purity issues and how their humiliation and shame also burdened me, because I feel so bad for them. My spiritual director said, "Jesus is harsher against pride than he is against any other sin, including lust."

I have been thinking about this for a while and it is very true. Look at the Biblical evidence. When faced with sexual sins of others, this is how Jesus reacted:
"The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”"
-John 8:3-11
When dealing with lust, he says:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell."
-Matthew 5:27-30
The teaching could be summarized in the following points:
  • Avoid lusting after (using) another person and the things that tempt you to lust.
  • Don't commit adultery with your body OR mind.
  • Repent when you have sinned sexually. 
He does not say it isn't a serious sin, but he is MUCH harsher on pride.
Here are some verses where he talks about pride - notice there are many more instances of rebuking pride than there are sexual sin:
"Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation." -Mark 12:38-40
"Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the front seats in the synagogues, and the respectful greetings in the market places. “Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it." -Luke 11:43-44
“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
-Matt23:2-12
The writers of the New Testament epistles echo these harsh warnings against pride:
"'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Submit yourselves therefore to God. "-James 4:6-7 AND 1 Peter 5:5
Furthermore, in opposition to pride, Jesus praises those who are humble:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” -Matt 5:3

"every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." -Luke 18:14
Pride makes us believe we don't need God. We are either too good or too bad for God. In turn, pride makes us incapable of turning our lives over to God, because we make ourselves into autonomous creatures who have no need of a Savior or Lord. In other words, pride makes us dependent on ourselves alone and God has no place in our lives.

Many Saints have said that the most foundational of all virtues is humility, because without a dose of humility, we aren't open to God's love and grace. This is why Jesus was much harsher on pride than sexual sins.

In fact, Jesus frequently uses the humiliation and shame of sexual sins to crush our pride and increase our humilty - so we depend on Him even more. God can take something bad and bring something good out of it. With that in mind, we are to become like Christ who was the model of humility. As St. Paul says:
"Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross." - Phil 2:3-8

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Christian Spirituality In A Math Formula???

I don't exactly get this, but a friend sent it to me a while ago.
He likes math.
He is Catholic.
You might try it out to see if you get it...
I like to think about the perfection concept in mathematical terms…

The measure of my individual perfection is p, and this is a function of t (the span of my life measured in minutes, days or years). We will denote the day of my conception as t=0 and the day of my death as T, and I will enter the next life at T+ε, where ε is an infinitesimally small positive value. At any value of t, I know that the measure of my perfection is finite, that is, pt<∞. I also know that to enter eternal life, pT must be infinite. Considering that pt+1 is also a function of pt, that is, the decisions I make today influence my level of perfection tomorrow, I realize that pT must also be finite. My perfection is bounded from above by a finite function of t and thus can never meet the conditions to enter eternal life. The formula for this is:
Now, consider the perfection of Jesus Christ, which will be denoted XP. At any given t, XP is infinite. Even so, XP can operate on my perfection functionally in a finite manner but generally increasing at an increasing rate. Thus, my individual perfection does not have to be bounded; rather, it can be bound to the infinite through a transformation. If my individual perfection is conditioned on Christ’s and is transformed, I know that my perfection can approach Christ’s asymptotically. This can be expressed in the following formula:

(Note that, even when conditioning on XP, f(p) can, over some subsets of t, increase at a decreasing rate since pt+1 < pt for some t. This is known as the concupiscential tendency for the imbedded error distribution in pt to degenerate.) The properties of the dependent perfection can also be understood via the graphical representation below.

So, I am not perfect, but, given a transformation through Christ, I can be perfect.

I’ve been waiting a long subset of t to hear a homily that expressed this concept so clearly and succinctly. I have a feeling that t will reach T before I actually hear such a homily. I am assuming ultimate perfection at the conclusion of this life without considering the allowance for the perfection in the next life prior to entering the kingdom
I think he is saying that human perfection is achievable in this life (in one sense of "perfection"). His full explanation - in terms I understand, and agree with.
I haven’t been perfect, therefore I can’t be perfect. I have to be perfect to enter eternal life, so it is basically hopeless to strive for that which I cannot achieve. If, however, I depend on Christ, rather than myself, if I am incorporated into the Body of Christ and allow Christ to transform me, then my imperfections diminish and His perfection comes to life in me. It is fruitful, then, to strive for perfection because the Will that enlivens me is infinitely perfect.
Amen!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Attraction of CS Lewis


I am a big fan of CS Lewis. I believe he is one of the best Christian authors in the English language to ever live. Some of my favorite books were written by him, including Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce. In addition the Chronicles of Narnia are some of the best children's literature I have read. The Narnia books alone have sold over 100 million copies!

Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite, if you haven't read much from him:
On learning:
"God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than any other slackers."

On love:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. "
On pain:
"We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities, and anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
Then there is the masterful image of the "red lizard of lust", which I believe can be life transforming for someone suffering from the vice of lust.

If after reading these short snips from Lewis you aren't motivated to read more, then listen to what Fr. Barron says about him:

How To Understand Predestination From A Catholic Perspective

Q - I was having a discussion about free will and the concept of predestination with a Catholic friend. Now, I am thoroughly confused as to if and how the concept of predestination fits into our faith. The idea put forth by my friend was that through efficacious grace alone can we accept God. Also, this grace is offered only to some and that it is not within us to reject it. I do not see how free will fits with this idea. Will you straighten me out – should I believe in predestination as a Catholic?

A - Thanks for the question.  This is a common question and many Catholics wrestle with it.  Predestination can be understood in many different ways and considering how you define it we can say the simple answer is, yes, the Catholic Church teaches predestination as part of the doctrine of the Church. But, what exactly does that mean?

A definition of predestination can be taken from the Catechism:
"To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness." - CCC, 600
Notice how predestination is defined. God knows all who will accept His gift of saving grace.  So, for all time, the knowledge of God being unlimited, God has known whom would say "yes" to His grace.  This is the plan of salvation offered to us from the Father, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The confusion about this doctrine arises when theologians attempt to explain how the mystery of free will, grace, and the fore-knowledge of God all fit together.  There are several options for Catholics to choose from and we are free to do so.  But, there are also some positions the Church rejects.

The first position the Church rejects is one called Pelagianism.  This originated from a man called Pelagius who taught we choose free will apart from God's grace. In other words, Pelagius taught that we don't need God's assistance to save ourselves, it is all an act of our own will. This has always been rejected by the Church, because it makes salvation a work of man. We certainly can't choose to save ourselves by any act of the will alone, apart from God's gift of grace first acting on us.

The second position the Church rejects is sometimes called double predestination. This is the position of some who follow the Calvinist/Reformed tradition. This is the teaching which says God actively chooses some to go to heaven and damns others to hell. This would mean we have no free will to choose salvation at all, but all the work is from God alone and we cannot change our destiny, but it is predetermined no matter what. It also means God is the cause damnation, which the Church has always rejected.

Notice the first error removes God as the prime actor and second removes any cooperation from man. So, where does that leave us?  It leaves us with several options.

The first option is built from both St. Augustine and then St. Thomas Aquinas. Others come from Molina and other scholars. I won't go into the details here, but let me sum up the positions by saying that the Thomists emphasize grace and the Molinists emphasize free will. But, neither camp rejects the other side they do not emphasize.

Here are the things the Catholic Church teaches about predestination and the doctrines surrounding it:
  • God is the source of all good.  God does not create evil (which isn't really a "thing", but rather an absence of a good).  God cannot do an evil act.
  • God allows humans to choose to do good or evil.  We have free will.  It is possible to reject God's grace.
  • God's knowledge is infinite. There is nothing He does not know.
  • God wills (desires) that all be saved.
  • God always acts first. His grace comes and then we are empowered by it to be able to respond.
  • Even after saving grace is received, we can reject it later.
Within the framework of this discussion about predestination, a Catholic has the freedom to formulate how it all works out.  Thus the different opinions from Thomists, Molinists, etc.

I hope this helps.

Here are some other posts that relate to this subject that might be of use:
-Salvation and Catholics
-"Faith Alone"
-Am I Saved?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Mother's Tears


A while back, my mom sent me this article on abortion and the cost of abortion to our nation. I told her the following quote struck me:
"Abortion was not a cause, but a reflection of our decadence and deviancy. One does not begin to kill babies until other dominos have fallen. And once they have fallen, it becomes difficult to set them aright because to do so would require an admission of something so horrible that those responsible for this fetal holocaust would have to acknowledge their sin and repent of it. Such a thing is not a character trait of this most pampered generation."
My mother and father raised all of us to be very pro-life. They modeled it by showing how everyone needs to be loved. 

  • They took us to pro-life rallies.
  • They prayed for the unborn and their parents.
  • They loved those that disagreed with them.
  • They voted their consciences.
  • They voiced their opinions.
  • They took in foster children, when no one else would.
My mother and father are truly witnesses to the Gospel of Life, especially through their suffering and sacrifices. So, when my mother wrote me back the following - it struck me to the heart.
"In 1973 when I sat and cried the day the Supreme Court voted to allow abortion as a legal right, my first thought was that our nation had fallen into a great abyss, clouded by the great sin of killing one's own. How could we sink any deeper?
Thank you so much for loving and caring for the little ones that God has sent you."
On the day Roe v Wade was decided, I lived inside my mother's womb.
I cried with her.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Inappropriate Wedding Songs

Mike Macicek, our Director of Music and Liturgy, got married this weekend. So I thought these videos would be appropriate.







On a serious note - please pray for Mike and his new bride, Amber.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Who Are You? What Is Your Purpose?


We humans, in many ways, have lost our identity. While individuals might have answers to the big questions of life, that isn't the case with us as a community of persons. Our culture no longer has the answers to these questions:
  • Who am I?
  • What is the purpose to life?
  • Who is God?
  • Why was I created?
These questions and the corresponding answers directly affect what we believe, how we view life, and how we live. The root of the issue is this - without an identity in Christ, we cannot see ourselves, others or the world in the proper context. We mistake a lie for the truth.

What is the truth about you and I?

It is that each of us are created in the image and likeness of God. Big deal, you might think. But, it is. It is our identity. We are adopted into the family of God (the Trinity) and made partakers of the divine nature. This means we are caught up into the love of God, by our willing participation in God's divine life. Notice this work is always an act of God, but it requires our consent - through faith. God will never force us to participate in following Him.

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

This is the truth about the mystery of humanity. We were made to live this way, and called to find this truth. When we do so, we discover what real human "dignity" means. Which is why the document continues with:
"The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light." 
When we do not live in this truth we bring suffering upon ourselves and others. This is the root of EVERY problem in our culture today. Let me offer a few examples of this.

1 - Abortion. When we do not see a developing baby in light of the mystery of God and humanity, then the dignity of a baby who can't act as we act or do as we do is lost. They then become something that impedes our attempt to be happy, as we understand it. They are an inconvenience. But, if we see the child through the eternal eyes of God they have an inestimable value. They are priceless and their dignity is not dependent on what they "do". Their identity is a son and daughter of the Father. They are the brothers and sisters of the God-Man, Jesus.

2 - Relationships. When we enter into a relationship with another person who is as valuable as me, then I will do nothing but truly love them and give of myself to them. I will never treat them as someone who exists for me, but rather who exists for God. They are never to be used. They are always to be valued. What I say to them and what I do with them will always reflect this reality. More than anything - I will never use God's own beloved in for my own selfish pleasure or allow them to enter into any danger, whether it be a physical, mental, spiritual, or social danger because of me. This means chastity, prudence, and charity are the virtues that will come from such a relationship.

3 - The poor. How would I treat my own child if they were to come to me and in need of food? I would give it them. Just so, God's children sometimes are in need and we are called to treat them as God's children, not as someone who is inconvenient. If we see them for the persons they truly are, there is no other reaction but for us to do what is best for them.

4 - View of self. The times we see ourselves as worthless or without dignity are the times we fail to see ourselves in light of the Incarnation. God took on flesh, not for His own sake, but for my sake and your sake.  He became a man in order to show that there is nothing more worthy of love than the height of His creation - human beings. Nothing more worthy of love than you. Not a "feeling" of love, but a sacrificial love. A love that humbles Himself to live and die for another. That is love. It is for you.

5 - Suffering. Without Jesus crucified, there is no purpose to suffering. It is to be avoided at all costs and is the worst thing that can happen to us. Without the crucifix, pleasure becomes the highest good. But, pleasure comes and goes. When it is gone, our lives lose meaning. The Cross rightly orders our lives. It points us to the real meaning to life - living in the truth of who we are as humans made by God for sacrificial love. In this identity we can find why God allows suffering - in order to draw us closer to Himself.

Theses are just a few examples, but this is part of the antidote to the problems of our culture. 

The mystery of man and the mystery of God isn't just fun to think about. It is the most important thing to search for. It is what will change us and our culture. It is the answer to the questions of life. As Gaudium et Spes 22 ends it says it all.
"Such is the mystery of man, and it is a great one, as seen by believers in the light of Christian revelation. Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by His death; He has lavished life upon us so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit; Abba, Father"
Amen.

The Book of Revelation


The last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation, is probably one of the richest books in the entire Bible, but one that many Christians struggle with the most because of the symbolism and language that St. John uses.

In the time before Jesus there was a popular kind of Jewish writing called Apocalyptic writing (AW). This writing had several characteristics including:
  • It dealt with the subject of the last age of the world when good triumphs over evil
  • It made much use of symbolism taken from the animal kingdom, astrology, numbers, etc.
The OT book of Daniel influenced much of this writing. This kind of writing also resembled some of the styles used in the OT prophetic books like Isaiah and Zechariah. But, there are differences with the prophetic books, they include:
  • AW doesn't use an author's name, but one of a celebrated persona
  • AW conceives of this world as being of Satan and incapable of regeneration. Therefore the most that man can hope for is a new world that he can pray for.
  • AW has determinism. That is, that there is very little room for personal freedom or conversion.What is, is.
Revelation is not therefore an Apocalyptic Writing, like some call it, but rather a work of prophecy. The only one in the NT. Prophecy is not always telling the future, but rather giving a message of God to a people. This is the purpose of the Book of Revelation and it includes language that tells us about the future in part.

Fr. Barron has some great comments about how we ought to read The Book of Revelation:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Faith AND Science vs Faith OR Science


A while back I sat with a group of highly educated Catholic friends. The company was great and the conversation always gives me something to think about. We started to talk about modern culture, as we inevitably do most times we are together. We had just witnessed a new app on a phone that we all thought was very inventive and helpful.

One of my friends observed that, "modern people don't have wonder and awe in God anymore, because our technology and science provide it for them." There is some truth in what he said. But, only up to a point. With the rapid pace of scientific achievement, many believe any problem can be solved with enough time and effort put into solving it. Human ingenuity and creativity are the means to achievement and those achievements leave humanity in awe over the things we can achieve. One Google exec is taking 250 supplements a day in order to stay as healthy as possible, until technology finds a way to cheat death.

But, is it true and can we really be the creators of all things. Can we become our own gods? No. We cannot create from nothing, know all things, solve all problems, fix the universe (or even properly measure it), etc.

It seems to me that what has happened is a kind of scientism. For some, truth is determined only in a lab, where it can be measured and repeated. Unless something is able to be found "true" through science, it isn't real. This kind of worldview is advanced by popular atheistic scientists such as Stephen Hawking, PZ Myers, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, etc. They teach that the Catholic Church is a backward and anti-science group due to our stances on abortion, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, etc.

The problem is that science does not answer the questions which faith answers and vice versa. While they both seeking the same thing - truth - they do so with different methods. Science explores the physical aspects of this world, while faith explores the spiritual things, which by definition cannot be measured by science. Yet, science and faith still need each other to operate properly. Why? John Paul II said:
"Science develops best when its concepts and conclusions are integrated into the broader human culture and its concerns for ultimate meaning and value. Scientists cannot, therefore, hold themselves entirely aloof from the sorts of issues dealt with by philosophers and theologians. By devoting to these issues something of the energy and care they give to their research in science, they can help others realize more fully the human potentialities of their discoveries. They can also come to appreciate for themselves that these discoveries cannot be a genuine substitute for knowledge of the truly ultimate. Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish."
-John Paul II
Of course, the modern scientific method itself was fashioned by men of faith and that the history of science is dependent upon the advances which faithful men and women have made. Just look at this shortened list of Catholic scientists and the advancements in our knowledge they found.

Benedict XVI put it this way - “Far from being in conflict, faith and science go hand in hand in the service of man’s moral advancement and his wise stewardship of creation.”

Faith AND Science not Faith OR Science.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Impact of Over-Sexualizing Little Girls


In 2007 the American Psychological Association issued an eye-opening report that scares me, as the father of four little girls. It is entitled the Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of GirlsThe report is research-based and gives a good overview of the impact over-sexualization of girls has had on our culture and on girls/women. I recommend a full reading, but have provided highlights below, along with a bit of further commentary.

From the intro (emphasis added):
There are many examples of the sexualization of girls and girlhood in U.S. culture. Toy manufacturers produce dolls wearing black leather miniskirts, feather boas, and thigh-high boots and market them to 8- to 12-year-old girls (LaFerla, 2003). Clothing stores sell thongs sized for 7– to 10-year-old girls (R. Brooks, 2006; Cook & Kaiser, 2004), some printed with slogans such as “eye candy” or “wink wink” (Cook & Kaiser, 2004; Haynes, 2005; Levy, 2005a; Merskin, 2004); other thongs sized for women and late adolescent girls are imprinted with characters from Dr. Seuss and the Muppets (e.g., see www.princesscassie.com/ children/cat.shtml) (Levy, 2005a; Pollett & Hurwitz, 2004). In the world of child beauty pageants, 5-year-old girls wear fake teeth, hair extensions, and makeup and are encouraged to “flirt” onstage by batting their long, false eyelashes (Cookson, 2001). On prime-time television, girls can watch fashion shows in which models made to resemble little girls wear sexy lingerie (e.g., the CBS broadcast of Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on December 6, 2005). Journalists, child advocacy organizations, parents, and psychologists have become alarmed, arguing that the sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls (Bloom, 2004;“Buying Into Sexy,” 2005; Dalton, 2005; Lamb & Brown, 2006; Levin, 2005; Levy, 2005a; Linn, 2004; Pollet & Hurwitz, 2004; Schor, 2004). 
The Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls was formed in response to these expressions of public concern. In this report,we examine and summarize psychological theory, research, and clinical experience addressing the sexualization of girls.We (a) define sexualization; (b) examine the prevalence and provide examples of sexualization in society and in cultural institutions, as well as interpersonally and intrapsychically; (c) evaluate the evidence suggesting that sexualization has negative consequences for girls and for the rest of society; and (d) describe positive alternatives that may help counteract the influence of sexualization.
Reading about the impact that the rapid sexualization of girls has on them saddest part of the report. Here are just a few of the findings:
Ample evidence indicates that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality, and attitudes and beliefs.
The next quote was surprising to me:
Taken together, the work on the cognitive and physical decrements associated with self-objectification suggests that sexualization practices may function to keep girls “in their place” as objects of sexual attraction and beauty, significantly limiting their free thinking and movement in the world.
In other worrds, the evidence shows that when girls are objectified in the culture, they tend to over-sexualize themselves and suffer the consequences by not living up their full potential. As a father of four girls, this more than worries me. While we try to keep our girls from such things, they see it on magazine racks at stores, billboards, etc. There is no avoiding it.

A side-note - one of the things that has shown to be a great help in this is seperating girls and boys in school (the Catholic Church has known this for millenia).

Another finding:
Research also links exposure to sexualized female ideals with lower self-esteem, negative mood, and depressive symptoms among adolescent girls and young women.
The study also states the negative impact on men and boys - esp. in regards to what porn does to them and their concept of women. You can imagine it isn't good. If girls and women are seen exclusively as sexual beings rather than as complicated people with many interests, talents, and identities, boys and men may have difficulty relating to them on any level other than the sexual.This could dramatically limit the opportunities boys and men have to interact intellectually with girls and women, to compete with and against them in sports or games, to create art or make music with them, to work together for higher causes (e.g., volunteer work or activism), or to enjoy their company as friends.
I do not agree with every conclusion in the study, however. They advocate "comprehensive sexual education" among other ways of battling this phenomenon, which seems to play right back into the heart of the problem - teaching sexuality from a "they are going to do it anyway" attitude.

They do cite "religious/spiritual practices" as well as athletics, extracurricular activities and education as ways to help change the culture - I agree with all of these. They also highlight working through the family. I think this is the key.

Without strong family bonds, our culture will continue to over-sexualize girls and the problems will get worse. The APA's report, while not perfect, is a step in the right direction and will at least get some professionals talking about and advocating for change.

If we get to the root of the problem, the breakup of the traditional family and lack of good male role-models (i.e. dads) is a big part of the social problem. But, for today's culture, any way you define "family" is just as good as any other.

Read the entire report here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

How To Truly Honor Soldiers

"You do not become members of the armed forces in order to die. That is not the vocation of a soldier. But you become members of the armed forces ready to die in order that certain loyalties will not be trespassed."
-Fulton Sheen
Archbishop Fulton Sheen was a great patriot as well as a Catholic Bishop. He was the first cleric to receive the Distinguished Service Medal and wrote a great book for soldier's in war - Wartime Prayer Book.

He wrote the following prayer for soldiers. Please join us in praying it for those who have served in the armed forces, their families, our country, and an end to war.
"Our Father, who art in Heaven: give us, we pray You, the courage and the strength to stamp out the threat of paganism and slavery that hangs over the world today.

Be merciful to all those who have died in the service of our country.

Console those who have lost their loved ones in the struggle.

Help our fighting men to be always clean of heart and therefore unafraid.

Soothe the wounded in battle.

Sustain the courage of those who suffer persecution for conscience’ sake.

Have pity on all those who have been insulted, robbed, tortured, defiled, ensalved by their conquerors.

Grant wisdom to our leaders, civil and military, that they may most effectively direct our efforts, at home and abroad.

Teach us all to walk humbly with You, so that we may be worthy to conquer, and having conquered may build a peace with justice, based on the Brotherhood of Man, under the Fatherhood of God. Amen.
– From the Wartime Prayer Book by Fulton Sheen
If you want to witness some powerful preaching about the dignity of being a soldier and how we ought to truly honor them, watch this:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Debunking The Debunkers Of The Bible & Jesus


Fr. Barron debunks those that debunk The Bible and Jesus (i.e. - those that try to say the Bible and the story of Jesus life are made up or unhistorical).

Very appropriate for today's culture, which is full of atheists and non-believers who are quick to dismiss the evidence for Jesus and the reliability of Sacred Scripture.

The interesting thing about many skeptics is they take by faith the historical record on many other items, without question, even when there is less evidence than there is for an accurate depiction of Jesus' life. It is only on the question of Christianity / Jesus that there is a default toward skepticism.

Fr. Barron has more:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Top 25 Ways To NOT Evangelize


Top 25 Ways To NOT Evangelize

25 - Never have fun. But, be super-serious. ALL THE TIME!

24 - Get overly emotional or react in a negative way when someone attacks your beliefs.

23 - Only go for numbers and keep strict track of how many Catholics "you have made" of others.

22 - Ask the person you just met, "do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?"

21 - Start a conversation with a non-Catholic with "What can I pray to Mary about for you?"

20 - Don't pray. Prayer has no power and can't change anything.

19 - Never think of the conversion of others. That isn't the point.

18 - Think it is all up to your own power of persuasion or personality. Forget that God is Savior and believe you can convince someone else even if Jesus had people reject Him.

17 - Think of evangelization as the work of a committee, group, or activity. Never think about it in the ordinary things.

16 - Apologetics-only approach. Pound it. All the time.

15 - Never ask questions of someone else. They are only interested in what you have to say.

14 - Assume lots. For instance, if someone says they are "Catholic" assume they go to church. If they are an "agnostic" assume they are afraid of making a decision. Etc.

13 - Never consider that culture might have a profound impact on others.

12 - Don't ever talk about how God has changed your life. Testimony schestimony.

11 - Hide in safe Christian environments and never try to change the world. It will only be bad for you and you can't change anything anyway.

10 - Post a sign outside your church that says "Eternity is a long time to be wrong". I actually saw this once.

9 - Argue with someone about being right, either in person or on the interwebs.

8 - Use violence or manipulation. Try to be a religious bully.

7 - Mistake social justice as the whole of evangelization. Mother Teresa was only a social worker, didn't you know?

6 - Scream into a bullhorn and use "going to hell" often. Talk about fornicators, sinners, etc.

5 - Avoid all controversial subjects so others will like you more. Stick to weather and sports. Don't talk about Jesus ever.

4 - Expect everyone to be at the same place you are, to see the world as you do, and to speak the same language you do.

3 - Don't do or say anything that might challenge you to reach out to others.

2 - Preach a false gospel (e.g., the health and wealth gospel, all religions are the same, etc.)

1 - Live a life contrary to the Gospel. No need to live it out.

---

Any others I missed? Add them in the comments.

Seeing Jesus In The Broken, The Loser, The Outsider


When you are part of the cool crowd, it can be hard to break down that barrier and let others in, especially when you are young and the esteem of your peers means so much. This happens in too many church communities as well. We get comfortable with those we know, we fail to reach out to others who are on the fringes.

We hear about the problems in young people all the time. But, too few stories are told about the good kids. The ones who make the right decisions. The ones who reach out to those who need someone to acknowledge their existence and goodness.

The kids in the video below could teach us all something about seeing Jesus in those who are broken or outcast - the losers, the outsiders, and even those we don't like.



Pope Francis is also teaching us about this. He washes the feet of convicts, spends time talking with atheists, greets the average person with the same gusto as a head of state, and even kissed a horribly disfigured man with tenderness. In other words, he loves as Jesus did and asks us to do the same. During Holy Week he said:
"Following Jesus means learning how to come out of ourselves - as I said on Sunday - to reach out to others, to go to the outskirts of existence, to be the first to move towards our brothers and sisters, especially those who are most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, consolation and help. There is so much need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love!

"Living Holy Week means increasingly entering into God's logic, the logic of the Cross, which is not first of all that of pain and death, but of love and of self-giving that brings life. It means entering into the logic of the Gospel. Following, accompanying Christ, remaining with Him requires a "stepping outside" of ourselves, of a tired and routine way of living the faith, of the temptation to withdraw into pre-established patterns that end up closing our horizon to the creative action of God. God stepped outside of Himself to come among us, He pitched His tent among us to bring the mercy of God that saves and gives hope. Even if we want to follow Him and stay with Him, we must not be content to remain in the enclosure of the ninety-nine sheep, we have to "step outside", to search for the lost sheep together with Him, the one furthest away. Remember well: stepping outside of ourselves, like Jesus, like God has stepped outside of Himself in Jesus and Jesus stepped outside of Himself for all of us.

"Some might say to me, "But, Father, I have no time", "I have so many things to do", "it is difficult", "what can I do with my little strength?", with my sin, with so many things? Often we settle for a few prayers, a distracted and inconsistent presence at Sunday Mass, a random act of charity, but we lack this courage to "step outside" to bring Christ. We are a bit like St. Peter. As soon as Jesus speaks of the Passion, Death and Resurrection, of self-giving, of love for all, the Apostle takes him aside and rebukes him. What Jesus says upsets his plans, seems unacceptable, undermines the sense of security that he had built up, his idea of ​​the Messiah. And Jesus looks at the disciples and addresses Peter with perhaps one of the strongest words of the Gospel: "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do"(Mk 8:33). God always thinks with mercy: do not forget this. God always thinks with mercy: our merciful Father. God thinks like a father who awaits the return of his child and goes to meet him, sees him come when he is still far away ... What does this mean? That each and every day he went out to see if his son was coming home. This is our merciful Father. It is the sign that he was waiting for him from the terrace of his house; God thinks like the Samaritan that does not approach the victim to commiserate with him, or look the other way, but to rescue him without asking for anything in return, without asking if he was Jew, if he was pagan, a Samaritan, rich or poor: he does not ask anything. He does not ask these things, he asks for nothing. He goes to his aid: This is how God thinks. God thinks like the shepherd who gives his life to defend and save his sheep."

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Clerics & Faithful Not Allowed To Take Part In Medjugorje Messages

The Papal Nuncio in the U.S. wrote the Secretary of the US Bishops (Msgr. Ronnie Jenkins) for the CDF in the Vatican. They gave a clear direction that
"no cleric or faithful may participate in any meetings, conferences, or public celebrations in which the authenticity of the apparitions are taken for granted."
This is quite a statement. It also says:
"To avoid scandal and confusion, Archbishop Miller asks that the Bishops be informed"
The letter is below.
If you want to know more about Medjugorje, here is more info.

Are You Just Going Through The Motions At Mass?


Do you sometimes go through the motions at Mass? I think we all do. To break out of the doldrums, we have to choose to love, believe, and hope in Jesus. The video below does a wonderful job of bringing out the reality of what happens at Mass, based on this passage:
"That very day two of them were going to a village named Emma′us, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cle′opas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."

"So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread."
-Luke 24:13-35


RELATED LINKS: 
**How To Get More Out Of Mass
**Too Loud In Mass
**20 Tips For Proper Etiquette In Mass
**Why Do We Bow During The Creed?
**What Is The Sunday Mass Obligation?
**How Is Jesus Present In The Eucharist?
**Why Can't Non-Catholics Receive Communion?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013