Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Does The Christian God Exist" Debate

Below is a nice debate at  St. John's Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois. They do some very nice work, and are especially known for their excellent program of theology, especially having classes in Catholic thought for credit at the University (we are working toward this here at St. Mary's). They are also known for their large Catholic dorm, Newman Hall, which houses hundreds of students in the heart of campus (another project we are working toward here at St. Mary's).  They are generally regarded as one of the best campus ministries in the country, along with St. Lawrence at The University of Kansas as well as us here at St. Mary's.

Here is the description of the debate:
A Debate between Dinesh D'Souza and John W. Loftus, 2/9/10. Mr. D'Souza is the author of "What's So Great About Christianity?" and answered in the affirmative; Mr. Loftus, author of "Why I Became an Atheist", answered in the negative.
The video below is part I:

The rest of the debate can be found here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Breaking Through the Clutter

This post is by Chris Smith, a Campus Ministry Intern at St. Mary's. Heand the other interns are guest blogging for us during Lent. 

The average American is exposed to 3,000 ads per day. On the Internet, at movie theaters, billboards, sporting events, television, and in bathroom stalls- advertising is everywhere! (Media awareness) With giant corporate monsters such as Starbucks, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, and Apple dominating the advertising industry, we can look to these business empires for tips on marketing the Church. Yes, even the two thousand year old bride of Christ can and must be marketed to its people.

The Church has a stable brand image that has stood the test of time even when threatened by society‘s questions on her views on marriage, contraception, and abortion. But even a stable brand image must be able to break through the clutter that engulfs our subconscious by increasing brand awareness and customer loyalty. During my advertising classes at MAYSBusiness School, I sometimes reflect on whether or not the Church is called to invest in advertising. I looked to scripture and found in the Gospel of Luke that we are called to “market” the Church as we are challenged to “Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled.” (Luke 14:23) The Church’s brand manager, Pope Benedict XVI realizes the need for marketing the Church and has begun to encourage priests to blog and post their homilies on-line. This is just one step in taking the Church and her Truths to the people.

One example of utilizing advertising in the Church is seen in the Archdiocese of Washington. “As lent begins, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington launched a marketing campaign to reach members who have stopped attending mass. The diocese is spending $75,000 on a video (YouTube), blog, and advertising campaign with the slogan, “Longing for something? Maybe it’s God?” Their hope is to reach people online and help members who have drifted away to feel more comfortable returning to the church and let them know they are welcome and invited." (Church Marketing online)

Just like the Archdiocese of Washington, the Catholic Church must continue to market to its people by utilizing modern technology and advertising techniques. If the Church’s global brand image does not compete with the 3,000 ads, we must ask ourselves whether the lost sheep will forever wander amidst the clutter?

Lent - The Season of Guest Blogging

Lent is apparently the season of guest blogging.  Here at the Aggie Catholics Blog (aka - Mary's Aggies) we have Stephanie, Kevin, and Chris, our Campus Ministry Interns, guest blogging for us.  Stephanie and Kevin have already posted their first reflections - now we just need to get the blonde intern to follow their lead (psst - Chris - this means you).

While we are on the topic, I have also been asked guest blog at Creative Minority Report, once a week for the next four weeks. I am honored to be able to contribute to their blog, because I consider it one of the best blogs in the blogosphere today. Of course, I haven't quite figured out why Matthew and Patrick asked me to do it.  I have my concerns that they are just trying to make their readers appreciate them more...but I digress.

My first post for them is up now and is about the Most Influential Theologians in The World.

On another topic, you should check these links out:
**Jimmy Akin offers some nice resources on understanding prophecy in Scripture.

**The 15 minute Mass is a hit in Ireland.

**Love of money is slavery.

**Archbishop Timothy Dolan, of New York, gave a great interview on all kinds of controversial topics.  Watch it here.

The Catholic Church Goes High-Tech?

The Catholic Church isn't exactly known for being high-tech, but this wasn't always so.  In fact, if you study a bit, you will find the Catholic Church (her members to be more precise) is responsible for some amazing advancements in technology. For example, Catholics have:
  • started the Western codes of law.
  • invented the university
  • developed the basis of free-market economics
  • founded modern science.
This is just the beginning of the list.  So, to say the Church is not high-tech, isn't accurate (to read more on the history of the Church on this topic, I recommend "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" by Thomas Woods).  But, to say we aren't keeping up with technological advances in our Church today is, in many ways, accurate. It isn't because of an aversion to technology however.  Rather, I believe, it is because we haven't done a good enough job of being proactive in engaging our culture with technology and using it to our benefit.

Yet, in some areas of the Church, we have done a good job (not excellent). I believe St. Mary's is one example of the Church doing a good job incorporating technology into the lives of the faithful. I talked yesterday to a woman who is doing a presentation at a conference on "new media". She sent out dozens of emails all over North America asking for examples of parishes who are doing a good job incorporating technology into the daily life of their parishes.  She got many responses, but only one example was given - St. Mary's Catholic Center.

I thought I might share some of the examples of what St. Mary's is doing to incorporate technology.
  • Our website, like most parish websites, was a problem when I got here.  While we had a very dedicated webmaster who did a good job, he was limited in time.  Thus, our website quickly became outdated and was underutilized.  We decided to partner with (full disclosure - the owner is an Aggie Catholic). This allowed us to have a good looking, easy to use website where we could have several administrators on staff and dozens of contributers.  This meant a huge website with updated info.  Just what we needed.
  • We have online liturgy scheduling software that was created from the ground up.  Trying to schedule dozens of volunteers at dozens of masses every week isn't easy (especially with college students).  This program gives us the ability to manage all the people, times, no-shows, etc. that go along with a big parish like ours.
  • Facebook is huge.  We had to have a presence, and little did we know how it would explode on us.  In less than 1 12/ years we have added thousands of fans. Check out St. Mary's Catholic Center on Facebook
  • Another problem we face is getting registration from our students.  We partnered with another technology company, Flocknote, to solve this problem. I wrote a longer post last year about our efforts at getting students to text us their information and then communicating to them in various ways. This is just cool - check it out.
  • Holy Vision - this is a closed circuit broadcast of our weekend masses that is shown on a high-def 52" TV in our chapel, for those who can't fit into our church (talk about a good problem to have).
  • In the next week or so, I will roll out our new library search feature, which will make our library searchable on the internet.  Once it comes online, you can find it here.
  • Kerygma Studios - dedicated media space to roll out video and audio products.
  • Other initiatives you may already know about:
Some of the ideas we are bantering about include:

  • Setting up TV monitors in strategic locations throughout our buildings - instead of print media and flyers.
  • More podcasts, video, etc.
  • Expanding the registration features.
  • Updating our network, hardware, and software.
  • God only knows - I just hope he tells us soon, because we are about to form a new Technology committee.

Technology is a gift. I hope more Catholic parishes, ministries, apostolates, and groups will start to think proactively.

Pray for St. Mary's please.

Black and Aborted

There is an initiative started recently which is provocatively trying to spread the message of blacks and abortion in the USA (others initiatives from the black community started a while ago) . The difference with the newer campaign is the way they are going about getting the word out.  They have received a lot of attention recently about their billboards and videos (shown below).  The most notable part of the campaign highlights the fact that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers prey on minority communities. The facts are frightening and telling - 39% of abortions are of black children and yet the black community is only 13% of the nation - meaning that black women abort at a rate 3 times more than white women.

I think it is time to wake up to the reality that Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, had a dream to eliminate the "unwanted" populations (i.e. minorities) and it is becoming a reality.  She wrote:
"We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population," Woman's Body, Woman's Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America, by Linda Gordon
"More children from the fit, less from the unfit -- that is the chief aim of birth control." Birth Control Review, May 1919, p. 12
Here is a video telling more.  It is described as:
Maafa, Swahili for 'great disaster' or 'tragedy', refers to the time when a people in the US lived by blood, sweat, flesh, and torment, forced into slavery by the elite of the nation. Maafa refers to a time when people were valued as property and treated as subhuman.

Maafa 21 tells of the time in which this subhuman treatment continued: the 21st century. It tells how when slavery ended, elites in the US decided that black people had no place in America. It tells how they tried to eliminate a people.

Eugenics. Forced sterilization. Birth control.



Don't let eugenics continue. Write your representatives. Vote. Engage. Be pro-life in all areas of your life.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Present Moment

This post is by Stephanie Curtis, a Campus Ministry Intern at St. Mary's.  She and the other interns are guest blogging for us during Lent.

I was recently on a discernment retreat that took place in the beautiful countryside, where we were surrounded by Caspian horses.

One afternoon I found myself sitting on the wooden fence near the back pasture and some of these beautiful Caspians came up nuzzling me with their noses. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always had a deep love and fascination with horses. The next evening when I came back to this same place, much to my disappointment, they were on the other side of the lake, far from where I was. However, I sat there, for who knows how long, simply watching them.
All of a sudden I heard something snap behind me. Standing close enough to bite me was a little brown donkey. Earlier when I had climbed up on the fence, I had noticed the pasture and the few animals behind me, but I had not given them much attention.
I was completely consumed and caught up in the beauty of the large Caspian horses, hoping they would wander back near me like the day before. I was so captivated by the horses that I had not even heard this little guy come up behind me
Then it hit me. How many times have I spent dwelling on the past or hoping for the future? Thinking to myself, “I should have done this, or I wish that would happen again.” Or even saying, “I can’t wait for this to come, or I am so nervous for that.” How many times have I looked or longed for the bigger events in my life and missed the little moments in between? When I become so consumed in the past or future, or the bigger things in life, I become oblivious to things around me in the present moment.
We should know where we have come from and should be able to see a little ahead, but at the same time we are called to embrace and live in the present moment. For in the present is where we are in contact with reality, but more importantly, where we have the opportunity to be in communion with God.
“We do not commune with God in the past or the future, but by welcoming each instant as the place where He gives himself to us. We should learn to live in each moment as sufficient to itself for God is there.” (Jacques Philippe)

Theology of the Body Congress

There is a new Theology of the Body effort underway - The National Theology of the Body Congress, which will bring together an amazing group of people passionate about the Theology of the Body (TOB).  The speakers they have lined up are top-notch and you can also nominate someone to receive an award for living out or helping spread the Theology of the Body.

TOB changed my life and transformed my marriage.  I cannot emphasize how great it is to see such initiatives. This is why I speak and write about the topic regularly (did I mention I have a book coming out this summer on TOB?).

Here is bit more info on the Congress:
alt=The National Theology of the Body Congress will be the most expansive gathering of experts and popularists in the history of this extraordinary teaching. Held in the Philadelphia area from July 28-30, 2010 and hosted by The Theology of the Body Institute, the world’s leading experts and members of the Church hierarchy will gather to teach and network with educators, activists and devotees to apply this teaching to many facets of the Catholic Faith and everyday life.

As the world slips further into moral relativism and deeper into apathy towards issues of faith and the moral life, the Theology of the Body is creating an international groundswell of interest with both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Many contend that God gave the Theology of the Body to humanity for times such as these. Yet this body of work offers more than just a new way to approach morality; it offers us a new lens to look at life itself. Continue Reading.
I think I might have to go to this...

Cool Stuff to Check Out and Cool Stuff to Read

Cool Stuff To Check Out.
**Check out the free, web-based, image editing application called Aviary.  Photoshop 'till your heart is content.

**Make music on the web at drumbot.

**BitBomb sends free reminders to you via a text message.

**Ever try scheduling a meeting with several people all with different schedules? Doodle solves the problem. We use this at St. Mary's.

**If you like internet widgets, widgetbox is the place for you.

**Tech stuff you never knew you wanted.  Coolestgizmo.

Cool Stuff to Read.
**The Dominican Sisters taught Oprah the rosary.

**17 Million more Catholics in 2008 alone. Like adding the entire Southern Baptist Convention to our Church.

**Why fish is ok and meat is not on days of abstinence.

**Profiles of life.

Why Did You Choose A&M?

Something to think about. Why did you choose to come to A&M?
In answering a similar question, the admissions office of Yale decided to think about recruiting a bit differently and did this video - basing it off of High School Musical. Great stuff!
Check it out:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Our Daily Bread

This post is by Kevin Pesek, a Campus Ministry Intern at St. Mary's.  He and the other interns are guest blogging for us during Lent.

The gospel reading from Mass today was Jesus teaching the apostles the "Our Father" (Matt 6:7-15). This past summer, I had the privilege to make a pilgrimage to Israel. On the Mount of Olives, we visited a French church called the Church of the Pater Noster (see picture) which is dedicated to this teaching of Jesus. One of the priests with our group made this interesting point.

As Catholics, "Give us this day our daily bread" is clearly a reference to the Eucharist we receive at Mass every day. However, in the translation from Greek to English we lose some of the significance of this verse. The word "daily" in "daily bread" does not capture the essence of the original Greek. Essentially, the gospel writer made up a word to convey Jesus' description of the Eucharist (the word used, ἐπιούσιον, only appears one or two other times in the next 400 years of Greek writing). In older translations of the Bible like the Douay-Rheims version, the text says "Give us this day our supersubstantial bread." The Eucharist is much more than our daily bread; it is necessary and more than substantial for our spiritual life.

This has helped inspire me to have a greater love for the Eucharist and to attend daily Mass as often as possible in order to receive it. Let us always thank God for this most precious gift of the Eucharist, and let us pray for a greater appreciation and understanding of this sacrament.

St. Mary's in the Snow

Our third snowfall of the year today.  This is very rare in this part of Texas, where we usually see snow once every 10 years or so.

Planned Parenthood Exposed (again)

Live Action has another video of Planned Parenthood breaking the law.

Catholic Mega-Parishes

The phrase "mega-church" has been around a while now, but the definition of a mega-church does not include Catholic parishes.  A mega-church is not only about size, but also about the culture and characteristics that surround them. Thus, the official demographics on mega-churches do not include Catholic parishes. This means that we currently have very little research on Catholic mega-parishes. One statement the Hartford Institute for Religion Research had about Catholic parishes put the situation in perspective:
There are many very large catholic churches and if we extended our interest in megachurches from just the Protestant megachurches to very large Catholic congregations with attendance over 2000 on average weekly we would add roughly 3000 additional Catholic churches to the 1200 or so that are over 2000 in attendance.
This means there are more than double the number of Catholic mega-parishes than there are Protestant mega-churches.  This is an area of church life that we have not really studied much, but need to, because the phenomenon is only going to continue to grow (Note that CARA defines a mega-parish (PDF link) as having 1,200 or more registered parishioners).

Look at these numbers:
St. Ann's in Coppell, TX has 8,500 registered households and 28,000 members!
This means that the only non-Catholic church in the USA bigger than St. Ann's is Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston. From what I could find St. Ann's is the largest Catholic parish in Texas, but not the largest in the nation. Thus, there are others within the same range.

If we define a mega-parish as one with 2,000 or more in attendance, then St. Mary's Catholic Center clearly qualifies.  The difference with us, obviously, is that we are not a traditional territorial parish.  We are a "personal parish" which means according to canon law, we do not cover a geographic territory, but serve a group of people (the campus communities of A&M and Blinn College). So, the issues we face are unique in many ways, but cross over into what many other mega-parishes are going through.

Think of the issues that arise when you get into larger parishes:

  • administration issues
  • leadership structure for apostolates / groups / ministries
  • engaging visitors
  • budget
  • buildings / facilities
  • handling volunteers
  • communications / marketing
  • parking
  • evangelization 
  • etc.

To top it off, no seminary I know of does a good job preparing priests to manage budgets, work on administration issues, handle human resources, good business practices, etc.

Of course there are also advantages to having mega-parishes:

  • it prevents priests from having to handle several parishes + more priests.
  • they can provide a wider range of services / organizations.
  • they generally have larger staffs.
  • generally have better RE and youth ministry.
  • they usually have better facilities.
  • they are more diverse.
  • etc.

Furthermore, the mega-churches have, in my opinion, handled growth better than mega-parishes. Here is why:

  • They push small groups and communities more than Catholics. This helps individuals have more to tie them into the community.
  • They make evangelism (Catholic generally call it evangelization) a priority.  They don't sit back and wait for new members to show up at their door.  This is why they grow so rapidly.
  • They make adult education an emphasis.  Catholics have it upside down - 17% of Catholic churches offer no adult religious ed. and what we do have is generally weak, with little participation.
  • They continue to think differently than small churches, Catholic mega-parishes think "small" too often.

Put it all together.  We have a situation (growing mega-parishes) that we aren't even talking much about yet. How do we work to handle the issues raised above (and many more)?  I am not sure. But I would sure like to know who is going to participate in the conversation and when will it start?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Guest Bloggers - St. Mary's Interns

I am glad to announce that our three Campus Ministry Interns will be each blogging at least once a week for the remainder of Lent. To get you acquainted with them, I will give you a brief introduction to each:

Stephanie Curtis.
Stephanie graduated from Texas A&M last year with a degree in education.  She is currently discerning the religious life and plans on continuing her discernment with the Apostles of the Interior Life this next year.

Chris Smith.
Chris is a Senior who will graduate in May with a degree in Marketing.  Chris grew up in College Station and is planning on spending a year doing mission work after he graduates - most likely with NET Ministries.

Kevin Pesek.
Kevin will also graduate in May, but with a degree in History.  Kevin is currently engaged and will be moving to Houston this summer and begin graduate studies in Theology.

FYI- if you are interested in applying to be an intern for 2010-2011 and will be a senior of grad student in the fall of 2010, applications are currently open.

Monday Round-Up

The first weekend of Lent is past already and here are some items you might be interested in:

**The Astros #1 fan, a religious sister, has died.

**An abortion doctor in Arkansas says he "welcomes" the 40 Days for Life protesters.  Pray for him.

**Here is one bishop who is engaging culture in a way that shoots straight to the heart.

**CMR has America's next top (role) model.

**Msgr. Charles Pope asks - what makes someone an anti-Catholic bigot?

**I have been watching the Olympics and admit they can be a lot of fun.  But, I have to agree with some writers (this is my personal opinion and you are free to disagree) that certain sports don't belong in the Olympics.  For example - if you don't have to exert yourself (curling anyone?) or if medals are awarded because of subjective judging alone (ice dancing), then is it really a sport. No, I am not saying I could compete in either...and I know that other sports might not make the cut depending on how we define "sport".  Then again, if poker can be considered a "sport" and be on ESPN - then why not Olympic blogging or texting?
FYI - I don't mind disagreement, if you comment on my comments, but keep them nice.

**Something else I don't understand.  How a guy can buy a "virtual" island for tens of thousands of real dollars and make money off it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Do You Still Not Understand?

Q - In one Gospel reading, Jesus says, "Do you still not understand?"  And every time I hear this reading, I answer, "No." And no priest has ever tried to tackle that question.  Perhaps you can explain it.

A - Thanks for the question.  Sometimes the Bible isn't easy to understand, even Peter says this when he writes, "In them (Paul's epistles) there are some things hard to understand." - 2 Peter 3:16.

Here is the reading you are having trouble with:
Mk 8:14-21
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
To approach this reading, we should start with the literal sense.  This does not mean a word-for-word literal interpretation, but an examination of the text to discover what the original human author intended to teach and how his audience understood him. We must also look at the context of this reading, and what the Church has to say about it.

In Mark, the scene just prior to this selection, Jesus has just multiplied the loaves and fishes for the crowd. He then gets in a boat with his disciples and this scene begins. Because the disciples "had only one loaf with them in the boat", Jesus uses this situation to teach them.  He tells them to "guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." Leaven, of course, is used to make bread rise.  Just a little bit changes the bread.  So, the disciples should beware of those (Pharisees and Herod) who are corrupt and can change them (or the crowds), for the worse.

But, they don't get it.  As St. Josemaria Escriva says,
"they (the apostles) weren't educated; they weren't very bright, if we judge from their reaction to supernatural things....When Jesus uses the image of the 'leaven' of the Pharisees, they think that he's reproaching them for not having purchased bread....These were the disciples called by our Lord."
They are not unlike us, who don't understand everything!
But, Christ continues to teach them, even though they may not get it all.
The 12 baskets of bread in one episode and the 7 in another are symbolic numbers.

The numbers in the Bible mean a lot more than what we might first think.  Especially to Jews, numbers had deep symbolic meaning and this is the case here as well. 12 is a symbol of the 12 tribes of Israel, whom Jesus has come to save. 7 is a symbol of the 7 tribes of Canaan who lived alongside Israel and to whom the Gospel message is also intended to serve.  Thus, he is telling them that as Messiah, he has a universal mission to all people.

But, the disciples still do not understand and they will continue to struggle with understanding the true nature and mission of Jesus until Pentecost.

I hope this helps.

Elton John Says Jesus Was "Gay"

Ridiculous claims from Elton John:
"I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems."

He adds: "Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don't know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East - you're as good as dead."
Here is an example of making God in your own image. Elton John is no different than most of us.  We all like to have the issues we struggle with go away.  One way to do this is to rationalize away our behavior.  Another way is to re-create moral truth into our own "truth". This is simply relativism - the philosophy that truth is relative to situations, persons, places, etc.

I am not going to throw Elton John under the bus.  He is wrong, but he is also loved by God as much as anyone else. I will say this belief that Jesus was "gay" has no bearing in reality.  There is no evidence in Scripture or history to support such claims. We know this - Jesus was loving, but not in the sentimental, do what you wish, kind of false "love" Elton John is proclaiming. Jesus was a man of tough love. He called the Pharisees "white-washed tombs" and the Samaritans "dogs". Jesus was gentle when necessary, but the toughest man who ever lived.  We shouldn't emasculate Him or His message.

Jesus Christ has a love that is concrete and solid.  His love is one of sacrifice and truth.  I wonder if the following would sound "loving" to many modern ears - though it is, because Christ is calling others to repentance:
"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' but not do what I command? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed." -Luke 6:46-49
Living by the entire message of Christ is very difficult, because we have to conform our lives to Jesus' message, not conform the message to our lives. Elton John could use a bit of THE Truth = the real Jesus.

Pray for Elton John.

Research on How Harmful Pornography Is

A new website has been set up which is "dedicated to providing the most accurate peer-reviewed research on the harm from pornography, along with relevant news and opinion."

This website was started by Patrick Trueman, a former chief of the U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. He says this about the project:
"Pornography is a neglected pandemic and it will remain so until knowledge of its destructive forces is widely understood and disseminated. The Pornography Harms website is dedicated to this task of education,"
I couldn't agree more. I have bookmarked the website and I encourage you to look at it as well. It is a great clearinghouse of information.

I have written about this epidemic frequently on this blog. Here are a few samples of posts you may be interested in:
**What is Wrong With Porn?
**Porn Is More Addictive Than Cocaine or Heroin.
**Trouble With Pornography?
**Pornography Research.

Fr. Barron on JPII's Harsh Moritfications

Very nice insights.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ash Wed Pictures and Video

Here are some pictures from Ash Wednesday at St. Mary's and on-campus at A&M. We had approximately 5,000 students attend 9 Masses.

This picture is of a standing-room only Mass inside the church.

This picture is from the overflow Mass in the Activity Center at the same time. 
The overflow Mass was overflowing

Finally, this is one picture from 2 of the Masses we had at Rudder Theater on-campus at A&M.

Here is video from a local TV station of one of the Masses at Rudder Theater:

Impact of Social Networking

If you don't think that communication has changed in the digital age.  Check out these two videos.

This one is business oriented
(FYI - "ROI" = "Return On Investment")

How does social media and social networking impact your life?

Thursday Round-Up

For your Thursday reading list, I give you:

**Another Anglican bishop has converted to the Catholic Church.

**Msgr. Charles Pope recommends a much more somber sign of peace.

**Archbishop Chaput tells us that the most just thing for us to do is to give ourselves to God and then to bring the light of Christ to others.

**40 Days For Life has exploded in the past few years.  Aggie Catholics taking over the world. It isn't too late to help with the Spring campaign.

**On the really bad news front.  The Archdiocese of Washington has been forced out of the adoption business because of same-sex "marriage" laws on D.C.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Overpopulation Is a Myth

The Population Research Institute has put out their second video on overpopulation. Another home run.

Click here to view their first video.
Tip O' the hat to Thomas Peters for this video.

Lent 2010

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

Things you will find below include:
***LENT FAQ***

Scroll down to get to all the goodies.
When Does Lent Start in 2010?
Lent starts on Ash Wed, Feb 17.  Easter Sunday is Apr 4.

What is Lent?
Lent is a time when the Catholic Church collectively enters into preparation for the celebration of Easter. Lent originally developed as a forty-day retreat, preparing converts to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. Lent is a season of conversion. Conversion is the process of turning away from sin and turning to God. Lent starts with Ash Wednesday (this excludes Sundays, which are not part of the 40 days) and ends on Holy Thursday, the first day of the Triduum, the three holy days before Easter.

So why aren't Sundays part of Lent?
This is because Sundays are always a day of celebration of Christ's passion and Resurrection, so we celebrate on these days.

Does this mean I can "cheat" on Sundays?
Since Sundays are not part of the penitential season, you do not have to practice signs of penitence on these days. But, there is no reason you can't do them either. If you feel you are "cheating" then it isn't helping! There are some others that believe that Sundays are a part of Lent, but I do not agree with their take. Since the Church has some conflicting information (different documents state different things) I think you should do what you feel is best regarding the Lenten season and Sundays.

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

So, what is Ash Wednesday all about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why fast?
Again, this is because we are called to by Jesus. By denying ourselves something good, we remember what the highest good of all is - GOD. We also practice self-discipline and self-mastery, which we need in order to achieve holiness. Jesus fasted in the desert and calls us to as well. * "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." (Matt 6: 16) * "and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer." (Luke 2:37)
Fasting also helps focus us in our prayer. *Yet when they were ill, I...humbled myself with fasting.” (Psalm 35:13)

Why abstain from meat?
Because of the spiritual discipline it provides. "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . 'I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'" (Dan 10:1-3) We give up meat, which still today is a luxury in some parts of the world, as a good thing that we offer up in order to remember that Christ is better than food.

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

So, what are the other days of fast and abstinence?
Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence - Friday was the day Christ died.

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

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

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


Increased Prayer:
*Wake up 20 minutes early and start the day in prayer.
*Daily Mass 1-2 times a week.
*An hr. in Adoration a week.
*Go to Confession.
*Read Scripture daily.
*Go to a Lenten Bible study.
*Read a spiritual book.
*Start to pray a daily Rosary.
*Pray the Liturgy of the hours.
*Pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet.
*Stations of the Cross on Fridays.
*Pray for your enemies.
*Watch The Passion of the Christ and then meditate on Christ’s life.
*Read about the life of a saint.
*Do an extra spiritual activity at Church
*Get involved in your parish if you aren’t already.
*Memorize Scripture verses.
*Check out a book on spirituality from the parish library.

Increased Almsgiving:
*When you fast from a meal, give the money you would spend to the poor.
*Use a coin box from and put all change into it for the poor.
*Volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul or another charitable organization.
*Spend more time with your parents.
*Visit a nursing home.
*Start tithing.
*Make a pledge to a worthy charity.
*Forgive an old grudge.
*Invite someone to Church.
*Share your faith with someone.
*Give someone a Catholic tract or CD.
*Exercise patience and love.
*Speak in a pleasant tone to everyone.
*Look for extra ways to help others.
*Go out of your way to talk to someone who is shy or difficult.
*Offer to watch a mother’s child(ren).
*Drive with love.
*Write a letter to a relative you haven’t seen in a while.

Increased fasting:
The following are good things we can fast from and have back at a later time:
*Fast on bread and water on Fridays.
*Fast from TV.
*Fast from snacking or candy.
*Fast from the radio in your car.
*Fast from ‘facebook’ / internet.
*Fast from caffeine.
*Do not use seasoning on your food.

The following are things we can fast from and continue to give up:
*Fast from alcohol (especially if you drink too much or are not 21.
*Fast from speeding.
*Fast from sarcasm or gossip.
*Fast from pornography.
*Fast from being lazy or lying.
*Fast from not studying / working hard.
*Fast from complaining.
*Fast from some other bad habit.

Here is a list of links about lent. If you have any to add, then leave in the comments or shoot me an email.

Church Resources:

Prayers, History, Lenten Suggestions:
* - Lenten reflections, questions, and more.
* - Lent 2009 pages
*Creighton University - Lenten prayers.
*Catholic Encyclopedia - entry on Lent
*Catholic Culture - Personal Lenten program.
*Our Sunday Visitor - Lenten resources.
*Catholic Online - Lent 2010.
*Jimmy Akin - all about Lent.
*Jimmy Akin's Annual Lent Fight - good stuff if you like details.
*Byzantine Catholic - Lenten resources for Byzantine Catholics.
* - exploring Lent.
*Catholic Pages - Lenten links.
*National Catholic Register - Fasting for lent.
*North American College - the Station Churches of Rome for Lent.
*Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - Lent store.
*Fr. Jerabek offers a Lenten reading plan.
*Thomas Peters recommends Fr. Longenecker's book "The Gargoyle Code" for Lenten Reading.
*Pray the Spiritual Exercises during Lent.
*40 Lenten Resolutions by Sherry Antonetti.
*Catholic Mom Lenten resources.
*Faith & Family lent blogs.
*Jen Fulwiler's recommended Lenten reading.
*Free online books to read for Lent.
*Jimmy has all the Church laws on eating during Lent (or not eating).
*The Anchoress tells us about Lent.
*Don't Waste Lent.
*Deacon Greg's Ash Wed. Homily.
*A&M student newspaper on Lent.
*Fr. Dwight's homily gets a boy to Spend Lent In a Tent.
*How Real Are Your Ashes?
*The Instinct of Repentance.
*A Brief History of Lent.
*Penance and Reparation.

Catholic New Media on Lent:
*The Pope says Lent is a time of silence.
*Lenten radio retreat with US Bishops.
*The Pope is once again drawing attention to those who are hungry and poor throughout the world for our reflection during this Lent. Just as he did last year,
*Rosary Army asks, "How many rosaries can you give away during Lent this year - one-by-one?"
*Cardinal Rigali gave a series of reflections on Lent in 2007 starting with this video.
*Archbishop Chaput did a homily series on Lent in 2008
*3 Minutes a Day Retreat from Loyola Press.
*Get a free booklet and CD on the Stations of the Cross Meditations.  Patrick Madrid has details.
*Fr. Barron on Lent:

*Apostleship of Prayer on Lent:

*Listen and Pray along - Allegri: Miserere:

*The goofiest Lenten video ever is by Nick Alexander (done to the song "King of Pain" by The Police) - This Time of Forty Days:

Compulsory Ash Wed. Reading and Viewing

**Ash Wed Mass readings are amazing today.  Check them out. Probably my favorite Psalm of all time is used today, Psalm 51. I will give just one verse, 16, to whet your appetite - "Rescue me from death, God, my saving God, that my tongue may praise your healing power."

**The annual Lent article from the A&M student newspaper - The Battalion.  Not bad. A quote from Fr. Chris:"
We can't make a place for him to dwell unless we admit that we are in need of him."
**Fr. Dwight's call to "do something radical for Lent" got one boy to want to "spend lent in a tent."

**How real are your ashes today?

**The Instinct of Repentance.  Good stuff.

**The baby Gianna story part III.

**Allegri: Miserere - jaw-droppingly beautiful.  Close your eyes and listen to this.  Translation found here.

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.
Go to Mass today and hear these words:
You are dust and to dust you shall return
Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.
Receive ashes as a sign that we are sinners in need of forgiveness.  Enter into the season.
From the Eucharistic prayer for Reconciliation I, the following words come:
Father, all powerful and ever living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks and praise. You never cease to call us to a new and more abundant life.

God of love and mercy, you are always ready to forgive; we are sinners, and you invite us to trust in your mercy.

Time and time again we broke your covenant, but you did not abandon us. Instead, through your Son, Jesus our Lord, you bound yourself even more closely to the human family by a bond that can never be broken.

Now is the time for your people to turn back to you and to be renewed in Christ your Son, a time of grace and reconciliation.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Spiritual Life...In a Math Formula

I don't exactly get this, but a friend sent it to me today.  He likes math.  He is Catholic.
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 birth 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.

Ash Wednesday

We are expecting about 6,000 students at 9 Masses tomorrow. Fun times in Aggieland.  Masses are as follows:
-7:00 am - St. Mary's Catholic Church
-11:00am - Blinn College (E 120)
-12:05pm - St. Mary's Catholic Church
-12:40pm - Texas A&M (Rudder Theater)
-5:30pm - St. Mary's Catholic Church
-5:30pm - St. Mary's Activity Center (overflow)
-5:45pm - Texas A&M (Rudder Theater)
-7:30pm - St. Mary's Catholic Church
-7:30pm - St. Mary's Activity Center (Spanish)

**If you have questions about Lent, if you want suggestions about what to do for Lent, or if you want to read more about what the whole Ashes thing is about (or other topics), then read more here.  I have added about a dozen links recently to the original Lent Megapost.

**There is a special free Ash Wed. presentation being done by Sr. Helena of the Daughters of St. Paul. "PHILOSOPHY 101: Discovering the Powerful Philosophies Behind the Media" - Wednesday, February 17 at 7pm Room 201. The Daughters of St Paul are Missionary Sisters who use the mass media to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.