Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Assault on Religious Liberty Continues


How bad is the assault on religious liberty? Read the interview below about Belmont Abbey's new lawsuit. Belmont Abbey College is a small, Catholic college (run by monks) which is now required by the government to purchase contraception, morning-after pills, and ella (week-after abortion pills) for their students and employees. This is in violation of the religious convictions and consciences or the monks. But, the government doesn't care:
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Why is Belmont Abbey suing? The monks don’t need contraception, and why deny someone who wants/needs this new apparent right under Obamacare?


MARK L. RIENZI: The monks of Belmont Abbey College sued because the government left them no choice. The government is forcing these devout monks to purchase certain drugs for their students and employees, in violation of their religious convictions. For example, the government now requires the college to purchase Plan B (the “morning-after pill”) and ella (the “week-after pill”) for their students. These drugs likely cause abortions, which is a grave sin to the monks. It is one thing for the government to decide it should distribute these drugs itself, which of course is not part of this new law. But it is quite another for the government to mandate that religious Americans with conscientious objection purchase these drugs and participate in their distribution.

The law also forces the college to pay for “related education and counseling” about these drugs. The monks may preach to their students against abortion and contraception on Sunday morning, but on Monday the feds will make the college pay for a counselor to send the exact opposite message to its students. The First Amendment forbids this type of forced speech and burden on religious exercise. 

As for denying anyone else the right to buy or use these drugs, the lawsuit seeks nothing of the kind. This lawsuit is not about forcing others to believe and act as the monks do, but rather about preventing the government from forcing these monks to act as the government imposes. Nothing at all prevents employees of the college from purchasing contraception — the monks just shouldn’t be coerced by the government to be the ones to provide them. And if students or employees need or want insurance plans that pay for these items, they are free to go to any of the vast majority of other employers and schools that have no religious objection to them. But everyone at Belmont Abbey willingly came there knowing that their diplomas and paychecks would be signed by Catholic monks.
Continue Reading.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Self Defense

Q - I have been considering purchasing a gun for my home for protection but then I got to thinking what would the consequences (sin / God's judgement) be of me shooting and killing an intruder in my house. Is it wrong to take another's life in defense of one's family and home?

A - Thanks for the question. No, it is not a sin to use a gun to protect yourself from an intruder. I am happy that this is a concern for you though, because it means that you value human life.

The principles that would guide the Church's thinking in this matter are as follows:
Each of us has a right to life and an inherent dignity as humans, even the intruder. So, if possible, we should use non-deadly force to stop the intruder. So, if you could do so, you should use a non-lethal means of stopping them. This may mean threatening to shoot first and then, if necessary to stop them, shooting to wound, not kill.

We also have a right to protect our own life, property and family. Just as the intruder's life is valuable, so is our own and the lives of our families. Therefore, we have an obligation to protect our own lives as well. Each of us should follow our consciences in determining what level of force would be necessary to defend our lives and other lives, but this could mean taking the life of another in order to do so.

Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about our legitimate right to defense:

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor.... The one is intended, the other is not." 
2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: 
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.... Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's. 

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another's life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.
A good hypothetical situation might be that an intruder with a knife enters your home. You wake up, get your gun, and then threaten them. They come at you with the knife so you shoot them in the leg to stop them. If on the other hand they had a gun, you might shoot at any place you can, because they might very well shoot you, if you don't stop them with the first shot.

I hope this helps.

Inside My Head - You Will Find the Following:

A few thoughts that have been rolling around inside my head.
  • Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." - Matt 18:3
    I think this means that I will suffer damnation unless I start taking a daily nap.
  • If country music had smack in the songs like rap does, would they start bragging about who has a more dysfunctional life?
  • I don't like any of the current candidates for President.
    Maybe I should run.
    I would vote for me, but nobody else would.
  • Can we stop calling it "reality" TV now?
  • I would have been happy to skip the entire NBA season and just get on with the playoffs.
    College basketball is much more fun.
  • Entitlement mentality + contraceptive mentality + utilitarianism =
    the death of Western civilization.
  • I love and hate all the Google apps at the same time.
  • My goal everyday is to "win today".
    Win spiritually, mentally, physically, socially, etc.
    When I hit the bed tonight, I want to know I did all I could to win.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gifts that Give Hope

A message from Clotilde Pichon - our Director of Social Ministries:
Gifts that Give Hope: Work of Human Hands Sale -
Fair Trade Crafts and Specialty Foods 

The 14th annual Work of Human Hands Sale sponsored by St. Mary’s Social Justice Committee will take place at St. Mary’s on the first weekend of December in the Activity Center. Not only does this give our community an opportunity to see and buy beautiful handcrafts and delicious gourmet foods from around the world, but this offers a shopping alternative that reflects the values of our faith by putting our dollars toward helping the artisans and producers of these fair traded items. 

What benefit is there from a project such as this? 
The Work of Human Hands program is a partnership between Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and SERRV, a nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide. These organizations collaborate to bring high-quality handcrafts and specialty food items from small-scale artisans and farmers worldwide to consumers in the US as part of their shared mission to promote human dignity and self-sufficiency.

How does purchasing Work of Human Hands products help to build a world with less poverty? 
The always-popular chocolate bars and coffee, as well as the handcrafts available at the sale are Fair Traded. “Fair Trade” refers to the exchange of goods based on principles of economic and social justice. The key goals of Fair Trade are to empower low-income, disadvantaged or otherwise marginalized artisans and farmers around the globe by giving them access to US and European markets to better their conditions and to promote understanding between them and consumers.

In contrast with large manufacturers, there are no middlemen and instead, a significant portion of the price of the products is returned directly to the cooperatives who produce the goods. The workers are assured decent working conditions and paid a just wage for their crafts, thus helping to eliminate “sweatshop conditions” and providing dignity, hope and income to poor families in many parts of the world. That means that artisans and farmers are able to afford food, clean water, shelter, basic healthcare, and education for their families. With stable income, these artisans and farmers are able to pull their families out of poverty’s strong hold.
Continue Reading.

Advent 2011



Advent is the forgotten liturgical season. With all the business of Thanksgiving and then the build-up of Christmas, we have forgotten, as a culture, how to celebrate Advent.  Yes, we realize it when we go to church and see the purple (and then pink) candles lit on the Advent wreath.  Some of us might even have an Advent wreath at home.  But, we miss out on what the season truly can bring to us if we don't slow down.

I have prepared a long list of resources at the end of this post, but first a reflection I wrote a while back.

The Spirit of Advent - A Reflection on The Advent Season

The Advent season brings with it a number of joys, expectations and opportunities to celebrate. It also brings with is crass consumerism, exploitation of the true meaning of Christmas and an opportunity for self-indulgence. We should be careful, this holiday season, to truly celebrate the most monumental moment in human history – the Incarnation of Christ.

Advent is a season of preparation for the birth of the Lord. Just as the Israelites awaited the birth of the Messiah for generations upon generations, so we await the coming of our king – Jesus. Many Israelites waited to see the day of salvation when the Anointed One would be crowned king and save the nation from captivity, a wordly salvation. But, the day never arrived during their earthly life, because Christ brought a spiritual kingdom. We, on the other hand, have been blessed to live in this Kingdom of God – the age of the Church. So, our anticipation of salvation must be re-lived every year as a commemoration of Christ becoming man. But, we too can be caught up in believing that our salvation is of an earthly form.

Think of a mall or large store in the weeks of Advent, decorated with Christmas decorations since Halloween, crowded with many people searching for presents for friends and family. They may be shopping for items for the office “holiday party” or for something to decorate their homes with. Unfortunately, this really has nothing to do with Advent, as the church understands it. Our culture has inculcated in us a desire to give and receive objects, to celebrate with eggnog and by putting up Santa in our yards. While these things are not bad in and of themselves, they certainly can serve as a distraction for us.

I recently heard that “this season is about loved ones and celebrations”. While spending time with friends and family is a good thing, for Catholics the season of Advent is not all about celebrating. More than celebrations, Advent is an opportunity to make the spiritual preparation for God-becoming-man a sacred opportunity to grow in faith, hope, and love. We need to stop, which is difficult enough in our busyness, and reflect on the fact that the supreme being, the omnipotent One, the Alpha and Omega, the Lion of Judah, the Morningstar, the Messiah, King, and our Lord and Savior – GOD – humbled Himself to take on our fallen nature in order that we might be raised up with him to the heavenly heights of the divine.

Instead we settle for mistletoe, stockings, and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.

I would like to propose some practical ways in which we might turn this season into one of hopeful preparation and penance. But first, we must remember that while the Advent season is a penitential one, it isn’t quite as somber as Lent, because of the Joy that accompanies the expectation of Christ’s birth.

Suggestion #1 – Pray throughout the season. Simple and common sense for a Christian, it is also the most important part of making the season truly sacred. Without this prayerful connection to God, we cannot expect the season to be a spiritual success. Advent traditional prayer activities include the Advent wreath, Jesse Tree, and Posadas. You can also use an Advent devotional to help as a daily prayer guide. Of course the Eucharist and the Mass should be the center of any prayer life.

Suggestion #2 – Give your self as a gift to the less fortunate. There are ample opportunities to serve those less fortunate than ourselves. Spend an afternoon at a shelter or food bank. Help build a Habitat for Humanity house. Buy a gift for a needy child or family using the giving tree. Help St. Vincent de Paul distribute food and gifts to families in need. Visit the elderly or sick in a nursing home or hospital. These are the kind of gifts that require true sacrifice, but also have an eternal reward.

Suggestion #3 – Try to spread the real meaning of the season. This suggestion might be the most difficult for some. This means we don’t go overboard with Christmas until Advent is over. You might try some simple suggestions to help anticipate Christmas.
  • If you have a manger scene at home, don’t put Jesus into it until the morning of Christmas. We have started a tradition of having the three wise men wander throughout our house until Epiphany. The children look forward to "finding" where the three statues.
  • Progressively decorate. Remember that our Christmas lights and decorations are a symbol of the “light of the world” – Jesus – coming into the darkness. He isn’t here until Christmas, so try to postpone the lights until then.
  • Allow yourself to slow down. Try not to rush through Advent in order to “get to the good stuff” of Christmas.
  • Donate money to your local charity in the name of a loved one. Give this as a gift instead of another item from the store.
Whatever you do to make Advent a special time of preparation, remember that nothing is as important as nurturing the relationship you have with Jesus. Simeon and Anna waited their entire lives for the Messiah to come, and when they finally met the babe in the Temple, they were filled with the greatest joy imaginable. Let us await Christ in Advent in order that our hearts may also be able to overflow with gratitude and then truly say, as Simeon did -
Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people.
A light to reveal you to the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel. – Luke 2: 29-32
-------------------------------------------------------------
Advent Clearinghouse of links 
(please post additional links in the comments section - I will add later)

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Break...


The blog will be quiet for a while - until at least Nov 28 - for a nice time off from blogging.

Thanks for reading, we are honored that you find our thoughts worthy of your time. Please keep us in your prayers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

3 Tips to Make Life Easier

Things you could be doing to make life easier:

An easier way to cook pasta:


An easier way to fold clothes:


An easier way to solve a Rubik's Cube (instead of using a hammer):

A New "Marcel The Shell"

A new video about Marcel the Shell.
First the original (with over 12 million views), then the new one.

The videos are almost as cute as the real Marcel...

The Original:


The new video:

Catholic Blessings

Q - Can you tell me the significance and purpose of a priest's blessing versus someone not ordained. Is it different if the person is consecrated?

A - Thanks for the question. A blessing is a prayer in which we invoke God's favor over a person(s) or object(s) for the purpose of setting them aside as being under God's care. It is not a magical chant that actually changes the nature of the object or person.

Blessings are considered Sacramentals. Every Sacramental is a sacred sign (an object or action) which bears a likeness to the Sacraments and whose effects are obtained by the prayer of the Church.
The Catechism says:
Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a "blessing," and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons). - CCC 1669
So, depending on what or who is being baptized and for what purpose, the blessing may or may not be reserved to the ordained. For instance, those things which are more closely connected to a liturgical or ecclesial (thus related to the Church) reason are more likely to be reserved to priests, deacons, and/or bishops.

An example would be the blessing of a rosary, palm branches used on Palm Sunday, and the blessing of ashes for Ash Wed. Lay persons do not bless any of these things. Rather, the blessing is reserved to the clergy.

On the other hand, lay persons are free to bless their children, family, food, etc.

The blessing of a lay person is no different from the blessing of a consecrated religious.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Study - 3% of Catholics Left Church Because of Scandals


Which congregations are getting the 3% of Catholics who have left?
Baptists, in large part.

Below is an interesting report from Notre Dame economist Daniel Hungerman (full report here - pdf) on signs that the Catholic Church has lost 3% of her members due to scandals, in addition to billions of dollars.

The abstract tells the story:
This paper considers substituting one charitable activity for another in the context of religious practice. I examine the impact of the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal on both Catholic and non-Catholic religiosity. I find that the scandal led to a 2-million-member fall in the Catholic population that was compensated by an increase in non-Catholic participation and by an increase in non-affiliation. Back-of the- envelope calculations suggest the scandal generated over 3 billion dollars in donations to non-Catholic faiths. Those substituting out of Catholicism frequently chose highly dissimilar alternatives; for example, Baptist churches gained significantly from the scandal while the Episcopal Church did not. These results challenge several theories of religious participation and suggest that regulatory policies or other shocks specific to one religious group could have important spillover effects on other religious groups.
As one of my coworkers put it, "we all have to make sure that the students never view the Catholic faith as “substitutable” for anything else. The Mass, Eucharist and sacraments have no substitute."

Of course in our context it is college students. In the broader context it is every Catholic that needs to be evangelized.

In many ways our Catholic parishes, dioceses, apostolates, ministries, and Catholics themselves have forgotten their mission is to "make disciples of all nations." If we are not doing that, we aren't being the Church Christ wants us to be.

What are you doing to make sure the Catholic Church is gaining in numbers, not losing them?

Links of Interest:

Catholic News


Headlines you might want to know about:

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Breathtaking Visualization of Life - From Conception to Birth

This is an amazing visualization of human life. From the TED series of talks, this one is by Alexander Tsiaras, who is a master at helping make the human body come alive by computer animations and visualizations. He also freely admits that the body is a mystery that can only be explained by divinity.

Enjoy.

Tip o' the hat to Terrance for sending this to me.

Digging Holes and Burying God's Gifts


This Sunday's gospel, in which the parable of talents was read, hit me between the eyes with one sentence:
"But the man who received one (talent) went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money."
A talent is a coin worth about 17 years worth of wages. In today's modern income, this would be equivalent of about $750,000 today. This is no small amount of money. The point of the story is - digging holes and burying God's gifts can get us in serious trouble.

Jesus is letting us know that we all have been given great gifts. Sometimes we look at other's gifts and compare our own. Think of the man with 10 talents - $7.5 million - what would the servant with only 1 talent think of him?
  • If I only had his money.
  • I could really do something good with that.
  • I deserve it as much as he does.
  • Why not me?
We sometimes do the same thing. It is the entitlement attitude. We think we deserve some gift or thing, when in fact what we truly deserve is death and hell. Yet, by the mercy of God alone are we even offered forgiveness, life, and heaven.

Even in our giftedness we sometimes forget how valuable we are to God. We are God's prized possession which He buys back with the life of His Son. He gives us everything and asks for just a little in return. Some of what he asks back is that we use the good gifts he has given us to glorify His name, to become holy, to make the world better, and to bring others to Him - all to the extent we are able.

All of us go through times when we want to make God comfortable in our lives. But, this isn't how God wants to operate.
God isn't a God of the status quo.
God is a God of vision, daring, and courage.
God is a God of growth and life.
God is a God of power and authority.

This is the kind of God who loves us and gives us good things. A father who knows how to give us all good gifts.

Which is why we dig holes when we do the following:
  • Rely on our own power too much.
  • Think we are above needing God.
  • Think we are unlovable and below God.
  • Find ourselves too comfortable with God.
It gets worse when we bury our treasure by:
  • Giving up on God.
  • Sitting out the battles God asks us to fight. 
  • Stopping our prayer life.
  • Not doing the right thing.
  • Letting fear paralyze us.
  • Becoming lazy or complacent in our spiritual lives.
Whatever holes you are currently digging and whatever the talents you have buried. It is time to dig up your treasure and then throw your shovels down! God is calling us to be bold and take action now!

It is time to multiply our talents and return them to God. This is our choice, by His grace. He empowers us to do what we can to make a good return to God with our lives and actions.

Who doesn't want to hear the Master of the Universe tell us:
'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.'

Friday, November 11, 2011

Temptation: What is it and When Does it Become Sin?

Prayer for Veterans

Today is Veterans' Day. Please thank a veteran for their service.
Prayer for the War by Fulton Sheen 
"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."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Humility?

Q - How do I monitor my pride? I am blessed and do very well in nearly everything I try. I feel that if this keeps up long enough, I might get an ego and begin to think that I am invincible. This is an exaggeration, but I worry that I am not humble enough. I do well in school, volunteer, care about others, etc. I feel that I am trying to do the best I can, but still want to be humbled before God.


A - Good question. But, you are asking the wrong guy. I might have the answers, but do as I say and not as I do. Humility isn't my strength. If you want to know what my strengths are just ask. See I told you I am not humble.


The first step is to get someone to hold you accountable. A good confessor or spiritual director can help here. They act as a kind of spiritual mirror to help you recognize where you are being prideful. Also, pray for humility. This sounds simple, but it can become very difficult if you really mean it.


Humility is not thinking you are no good. Humility is the proper understanding of who God is and who you are in light of who God is. We are given certain gifts and blessings from God, but they are His and are on loan to us. We must recognize our nothingness before God and make sure that we are not crediting ourselves for our giftedness.


There is also a flip-side to pride. That is, we can also think too little of ourselves. When we believe that we are unlovable, unforgivable or no good at all, this is pride as well. We need to guard against it as well.


A proper understanding of who we are would see the beauty that God has put within us, but know it is all because of Him and nothing to do with our own abilities. Christ showed us true humility by becoming one of us. We shouldn't try to then make ourselves into our own god.


Lastly, I recommend you pray this litany of humility any time you feel your pride is flaring up. But, pray it slowly and try to mean every part of it. It is one of the most dangerous and difficult prayers you might pray. Dangerous because if you mean it you must change. Difficult because humility does not come without cost.
LITANY OF HUMILITY
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…
Some quotes that might help.

  • "The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it." -Saint Vincent de Paul 
  • "Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance."  -Saint Augustine 
  • "You cannot attain to charity except through humility." -St. Augustine 
  •  "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" -James 4:6

Pope May Visit Mexico and Cuba in Spring

The Catholic Church and Evolution

Q - Does the Catholic Church believe in some sort of evolutionary process or that humans came from Adam and Eve as stated in Genesis? 

A - Thanks for the question! The Catholic Church teaches the following about creation from the Catechism:
  • God created man and all of creation out of nothing and has no need of His creation. (CCC, 296)
  • Man is the height of God's creation (CCC, 343)
  • There is good in God's creation. (CCC, 302; 315; 339)
  • God's Providence guides history toward it's final end. (CCC, 314)
  • All of creation is for man's purpose. (CCC, 358)
  • Man was created in goodness and relationship with God and fell from grace by man's sin and not by anything God did. (CCC, 374; 396; 311)
So, the mechanism by which man became man (e.g., evolution guided by God's design, literal seven day creation, etc), is still left for an individual Catholic to decide on their own as long as the above are part of the belief. The other thing we must remember was given to us by Pius XII. He wrote:
"the teaching authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions...take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—[but] the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God."
So, while we can say that our bodies came from other creatures that existed before us, our souls did not "evolve". But, at some point man became fully "man" with the infusion of eternal human souls.

The reason that individual Popes in recent ages have given opinions that the creation texts in Genesis are more metaphor than literal is because the scientific evidence points us to a non-literal understanding of how God created the world. But, we just don't know this with 100% certainty, because nobody was there when God created something from nothing. So, a Catholic is still free to believe in a literal 7-day creation, if they so choose. But, the evidence points toward some progression in life, which Catholics are free to believe as well, as long as the points above are also held as true.

For more on this topic here are more good reads:
I hope this helps.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fr. Barron on the New Translation of the Mass

EWTN to Show Fr. Barron's CATHOLICISM

The amazing series by Fr. Robert Barron - CATHOLICISM - will be shown by EWTN (in addition to a number PBS stations around the country). You can find the dates and times for the programs here - set your DVR. I bought the DVDs for our library here at St. Mary's and they are even better than advertised - seriously watch the extended preview below and see if you don't agree.

The Impact of Over-Sexualization of 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 Girls. The 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:
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.

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.

Read the entire report here.

New Podcasts

St. Mary's has several podcasts you might be interested in listening to.

First, our religious sisters - the Apostles of the Interior Life - have a series of talks on discernment. The first two (of three) talks have been posted.

Also, one of the talks I did on the New Roman Missal is now up as well.

You can listen to these, and more, online on our website or you can download the podcasts from iTunes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Be Who You Are

Work in some kind of apostolate or ministry? Volunteer in one? Think about it?
This video is for you.

A&M Student Newspaper Features Article on New Mass Translation

A front page story from The Battalion:
Catholic Mass changing translations
By Barrett House
The Catholic Church is not known for change.

Catholic traditions are an integral aspect of followers' faith and religious practices. Parishioners born as early as the 1960s have known the same Mass liturgy for their entire lives.

However, with the Vatican's blessing, English-speaking Catholics will adjust to an altered liturgy, beginning this month.

"What's not changing is the heart of the Mass," said Marcel LeJeune, assistant director of campus ministry at St. Mary's Catholic Church on Northgate. "What is changing is in the English speaking countries, we're having a new translation of the Mass from the original Latin translation."

When the Mass first changed from Latin to vernacular languages, LeJeune said the English translation was hurried. In comparison to other languages, the resulting English Mass was not translated to reflect the Latin origin entirely.

"If you go to a Korean or Spanish Mass, and translate them into English, they'd be more alike compared to the Latin," LeJeune said.

The overall structure of the Mass will not change. Instead, worshipers will notice changes in the prayers and the manner in which they are used during Mass. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Liturgy Committee aimed for the prayers to better reflect not only the original Latin text, but also the biblical texts.

"A lot of the biblical background of what's in our Mass and prayers is going to come out a little more for the English speaking people in the English speaking countries," LeJeune said. "So they're going to have more meat on the bone in a sense."
Continue Reading.

State of North Carolina Forcibly Sterilized Thousands of Women

This story is a shocking reminder of what any government is capable of. Remember that even in the United States we allow the killing of those in the womb and the ill.

Elaine Riddick was 13 years old when she got pregnant after being raped by a neighbor in Winfall, N.C., in 1967. The state ordered that immediately after giving birth, she should be sterilized. Doctors cut and tied off her fallopian tubes.  
“I have to carry these scars with me. I have to live with this for the rest of my life,” she said. 
Riddick was never told what was happening. “Got to the hospital and they put me in a room and that’s all I remember, that’s all I remember,” she said. “When I woke up, I woke up with bandages on my stomach.” 
Riddick’s records reveal that a five-person state eugenics board in Raleigh had approved a recommendation that she be sterilized. The records label Riddick as “feebleminded” and “promiscuous.” They said her schoolwork was poor and that she “does not get along well with others.” 
“I was raped by a perpetrator [who was never charged] and then I was raped by the state of North Carolina. They took something from me both times,” she said. “The state of North Carolina, they took something so dearly from me, something that was God given.” 
It wouldn’t be until Riddick was 19, married and wanting more children, that she’d learn she was incapable of having any more babies. A doctor in New York where she was living at the time told her that she’d been sterilized. 
“Butchered. The doctor used that word… I didn’t understand what she meant when she said I had been butchered,” Riddick said. North Carolina was one of 31 states to have a government run eugenics program. By the 1960s, tens of thousands of Americans were sterilized as a result of these programs. 
Eugenics was a scientific theory that grew in popularity during the 1920s. Eugenicists believed that poverty, promiscuity and alcoholism were traits that were inherited. To eliminate those society ills and improve society’s gene pool, proponents of the theory argued that those that exhibited the traits should be sterilized. Some of America’s wealthiest citizens of the time were eugenicists including Dr. Clarence Gamble of the Procter and Gamble fortune and James Hanes of the hosiery company. Hanes helped found the Human Betterment League which promoted the cause of eugenicists. 
It began as a way to control welfare spending on poor white women and men, but over time, North Carolina shifted focus, targeting more women and more blacks than whites. A third of the sterilizations performed in North Carolina were done on girls under the age of 18. Some were as young as nine years old. 
For the past eight years, North Carolina lawmakers have been working to find a way to compensate those involuntarily sterilized in the state between 1929 and 1974. During that time period, 7,600 people were sterilized in North Carolina. Of those who were sterilized, 85 percent of the victims were female and 40 percent were non-white. 
“You can’t rewind a watch or rewrite history. You just have to go forward and that’s what we’re trying to do in North Carolina,” said Governor Beverly Perdue in an exclusive interview with NBC News. 
While North Carolina’s eugenics board was disbanded in 1977, the law allowing involuntary sterilization wasn’t officially repealed until 2003. In 2002, the state issued an apology to those who had been sterilized, but the victims have yet to receive any financial compensation, medical care or counseling from the state. Since 2003, three task forces have been created to determine a way to compensate the victims. Officials estimate that as many as 2,000 victims are still alive.
What the story won't tell you is the full history of eugenics movement in the United States. This movement still exists today in Planned Parenthood, founded by Margaret Sanger, one of the most influential eugenists of her day who wanted to get rid of the "undesirables" and those that were inferior. We are still paying the price today.

Creation Sings God's Praises!

"Then God said: Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky. God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of crawling living creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw that it was good, and God blessed them, saying: Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth. Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day."
-Genesis 1: 20-23

Tip o' the hat to New Advent.

Monday, November 7, 2011

How Should Catholics Vote?

Q - As the election season heats up, I'm having trouble discerning what Catholic voters are called to do in good conscience.  Can you help clear the air? 


A - Great question and very timely - thank you for asking. First of all, let me give you the link to the USCCB document which is a guide the Bishops put out. I  recommend you read it fully.


The point of the guidelines the Church gives us is never to tell us who to vote for. Rather, they want us to be informed and guided into a decision that is intelligent and in concord with Catholic teaching. As they write:
In this statement, we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth.
But, let me assure you that not all issues are the same. As the Bishops write later on:
There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia.
They continue on this same topic:
It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed. 
Similarly, direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life, such as human cloning and destructive research on human embryos, are also intrinsically evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.
With this in mind the focus of the document is rightly forming the conscience. That is, the interior guide God gives each of us. They want us to live an integrated life of Catholic teaching, prayer, discernment and charity.


The document does a very good job in pointing out two mistakes that many Catholics are prone to make.
  1. The mistake of not making proper distinctions. Some issues are always intrinsically wrong and others are not. We cannot act as if all issues are the same.
  2. The other mistake is making the distinction, but then ignoring the "less important" issues all-together. Even if they aren't intrinsically evil or if there are different answers in how to solve the problems, we can't just ignore them when voting (e.g., how to serve the poor, health care, etc).
Now, the Bishops do say something else very important which can help us:
A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.
An example might help. What if there are two candidates who are identical on the issues surrounding the intrinsic evils? How do we vote? Well, other issues would then have to be taken into account.


They don't cut any corners with this quote:
It is important to be clear that the political choices faced by citizens not only have an impact on general peace and prosperity but also may affect the individual’s salvation.
This isn't just about a vote. It is about souls and lives. The Bishops know the gravity of it all. But, they also know it isn't a simple thing to do. Which is why they say:
As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.
So I don't write all day long. Let it suffice to say that a Catholic should do the following before entering the voting booth.
  1. Inform yourself on the Church's teachings on different subjects. Not all carry the same gravity. Also, the Church generally gives moral principles, but it is our job to prudentially apply them in specific circumstances - even the voting booth.
  2. Continue to form your conscience. This is a life-long process. Reading one voter's guide isn't enough. I highly recommend you read the Bishops' document I have linked.
  3. Follow your conscience when you enter the voting booth.
We are obligated to exercise our right to vote, when we are able to. The Catechism says:
2239 It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one's country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community. 
2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country:
Pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. [Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners. . . . They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. . . . So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.
The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way."
If you want a Bishop's take on things to consider, then Archbishop Chaput has a great column on it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Aggie Catholic Vocation Numbers

I thought I might provide some numbers for you about the current state of Aggie vocations coming from St. Mary's Catholic Center


Total Aggie Vocations:
* 1 bishop
* 70 priests (in 19 dioceses and 6 religious orders)
* 32 deacons (in 6 dioceses)
* 15 - brothers (in 4 religious orders)
* 12 - sisters / nuns (in 8 religious orders)
130 TOTAL AGGIE VOCATIONS (clergy and professed religious)

Locations of these numbers:
(click here for a Google map of locations of Aggie priests):
* Texas - 82 Aggies
* Other States - 43 Aggies
* Other Countries - 5 Aggies

  • Argentina
  • Canada
  • France
  • Mexico
  • Puerto Rico

Number of Aggies in formation:
* 22 - Seminarians (in 12 dioceses)
* 1 - Diaconate Formation
* 10 - Religious Men (in 10 religious orders)
* 8 - Religious Women (in 8 religious orders)
TOTAL AGGIES CURRENTLY IN FORMATION - 41

Please pray for those discerning a vocation - regardless of what it is.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Polygamy: Why Not?

Q - I am studying polygamy in one of my classes, and I have surprisingly learned that those marriages are highly successful with high reports of happiness. So it got me to wondering, why is it considered to be wrong by the church? God is in love with everyone at once, and in heaven we will all be unified to each other equally; so why would God create humans to be monogamous?


A - Thanks for the question. In our modern culture, marriage is being constantly redefined. Not long ago, it was the cultural norm that marriage was between one man and one woman, till death do they part. Now, marriage is whatever someone can think up - same-sex marriage, polyamory, polygamy, etc.

We must first understand what the Church teaches about marriage before I get into polygamy.

WHAT MARRIAGE IS
Marriage is the basic cultural building block of society. One man, one woman, and their children unite as a family - every bit of evidence shows that families thrive in monogamous and stable homes with two biological parents of opposite sexes who remain married.

This means that there is less poverty, crime, strife, etc. in homes where marriages do well. This is because the mother and father of children cannot be replaced. Two fathers or two mothers (or any other combination of differing numbers) cannot provide what one mother and one father can. The role of the father can't be replaced by a woman and the role of the mother can't be replaced by a man. Neither can multiple mothers help a confuse child understand why daddy has many wives.

When families suffer the rest of our culture suffers.

NOT ABOUT "LOVE" 
True love is to choose what is best for the other regardless of the cost to myself. This means polygamous relationships can never have loving sexual relationships. This is because the true act of sex is about giving yourself away, but if a man has multiple wives he can't do this fully with one woman, because the body isn't made to be given to multiple partners and it certainly doesn't proclaim faithfulness to one other person.

A married couple can say, with their bodies, I want to create life and bond with you only - for life. I want to be one with you. This is impossible with polygamous "marriages", because while the body might still be saying this, the act itself is ordered toward selfish pleasure.

NOT ABOUT EQUALITY. 
Marriage laws are by definition discriminatory. They discriminate FOR traditional families (not against others) in order to build up what is good for society. Where do children thrive? In the traditional family. If we tear that down, then society will suffer. Thus, the government needs to help support this building up of what is good for society. Therefore, marriage is about more than people who have good feelings for one another. It is about the good of society - which is why the government got involved in it in the first place.

WHAT ABOUT OLD TESTAMENT POLYGAMY?
In the times of the Old Testament, the people were being led by God toward the truth, but He didn't give them the fullness of the truth, because they were not ready for it. If the Father had sent the Son during the times of Noah, the people would not have been prepared to accept Him. Therefore, we can see the Old Testament as a school for humanity. It is a training and education in the basics so that we would be ready to accept the advance education and training of Christ. When Jesus came, He revealed the fullness of the law of God. So, the moral law - the 10 commandments - was never taken away. Rather, our understanding of it was deepened (see Matthew 5-7).

What was changed were those things that were not part of the moral law. For instance - Christ says this about divorce and why God allowed it in the Old Covenants:
"Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?" He said in reply, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate." They said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)?" He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery." [His] disciples said to him, "If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." He answered, "Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it." - Matt 19:4-12 
His answer to the question of why divorce is allowed gives us insight into the training that God was giving His people. But, God wants more of us. He wants us to live life out fully and with all truth, therefore He gave us the grace to be able to do so through Christ - both in His teachings and in each of our souls. The same kind of situation happened when the law allowed for multiple wives.

The Bible doesn't answer the question of polygamy directly, but we can infer much from this situation. This was because the tribes and kingdoms which surrounded Israel allowed for the same, and the Israelites were not ready to accept the fullness of the law. Therefore men were allowed, for a time, to have multiple wives. Why?

Well, maybe because there are more women than men (due to war, lifestyles, etc. of ancient times). Also, an ancient near middle-eastern woman would not be able to provide for herself and would need the support of a relative or husband. In the new covenant of love that Christ reveals to us, we see that marriage is to be between only one man and one woman, because this relationship mirrors the relationship between Jesus and the Church (Ephesians 5) and that the two become one. The new law is one of love and faith, not just rules.
"I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." -John 13:34-35 
Finally, the Catechism says the following:
2387 The predicament of a man who, desiring to convert to the Gospel, is obliged to repudiate one or more wives with whom he has shared years of conjugal life, is understandable. However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law." [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive." The Christian who has previously lived in polygamy has a grave duty in justice to honor the obligations contracted in regard to his former wives and his children.
Ultimately, the answer lies in this fact - we were made for one other person. That relationship will ultimately be with God in heaven, but in this present life, we are made to be a sign (Sacrament) of that relationship with God in our marriages between one man and one woman, until death.

I hope this helps.

Greatest Father-Daughter Dance Ever!

Too bad none of my four daughters are allowed to marry. ;-)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fr. Barron on Becoming a Saint

Catholics Come Home To Air Prime Time Ads

This is really good news. I am a big fan of Catholics Come Home. They do great work and the numbers speak for themselves:
The bi-lingual Epic ad is scheduled to air on CBS, NBC, Univision, TBS, USA, TNT, CNN, Fox News, and other networks during shows like 60 Minutes, NCIS, NBC Nightly News, the Today Show, Jay Leno, O’Reilly, major sports, and highly rated sitcoms. They’ll be airing over 400 times during the three week period before Christmas (starting December 16) through the Feast of the Epiphany, reaching more than 250 million television viewers in over 10,000 U.S. cities and every diocese.
I am really hoping we see a national surge of interest, just as it happened on the local level. The one difference is that the local dioceses that hosted the commercials were ready with programs for returning Catholics. That is why we had numbers so high.
Based on where the ads have previously aired, in partner dioceses from Chicago to Seattle, Catholics Come Home believes that as many as one million souls could come home to local parishes as a result. Mass attendance, where the ads have aired, has increased an average of 10%, and helped more than 300,000 return to the Church since 2008.
Here is the "Epic" Ad, that is so well done.