Friday, August 31, 2012

Top 10 Reasons To Be Involved in Catholic Campus Ministry


Top 10 Reasons To Be Involved in Catholic Campus Ministry

10 - Get answers to questions. You are bound to run into other students who have tough questions about the Catholic Church. Campus ministries can help you find the answers.

9 - Make good friends for life. A real friend is someone who will look out for your best interests. You definitely need friends who will support you in growing in faith and respect you as a person. Most good friends in college will be friends for life.

8 - Help when you need to make better decisions. If college has a reputation for anything, it is bad decisions. Finding a place that will help you make wiser decisions is a must.

7 - Discover your path in life. Choosing a career, figuring out your vocation, etc - many things are figured out in college. For life's big steps you might need help and you can get it in campus ministries.

6 - Give back! College is a time to start to think more about others. Most students are mostly on their own. It is time to start to think about how you can give back to God. Remember, if you graduate with a college degree, you will be more educated than the vast majority of others on this planet!

5 - Have fun without the guilt! Campus ministries can provide a great way to have a ton of fun, with great people, without all the guilt that goes along with partying and the other trappings of college life.

4 - Avoid the college trend of losing faith. There are all kinds of bad stats which show that college is a time of losing faith (one shows that only 25% of young adults attend church weekly). Don't be one of the college students that loses what is most important in life!

3 - Learn what is most important. If your classes teach you anything, it is that you don't know everything. The same goes for your Catholic faith. You should learn what the Church teaches on an adult level and most campus ministries provide classes and opportunities to learn more. Having the knowledge of a 15 year old won't cut it for a Catholic adult.

2 - Learn what prayer really is. College is a time for trying new things. Trying a kind of prayer you haven't really done is also important, in order to widen your horizons. It could be attending daily Mass everyday, an hour of adoration every week, a daily rosary, meeting with a spiritual director, etc. Whatever you try, don't ever stop praying.

1 - Jesus Christ. What good is your time in college if you don't leave college with a closer relationship to Christ than you did when you entered college? Catholic campus ministry provides you with the chance to grow in faith, especially through the Sacraments.

A Day In The Life of a Priest


Great video from Fr. John Muir, from the Newman Center at Arizona State.




Thursday, August 30, 2012

Is Jesus Just A Cheap Date?


Do you know any misers? I am not talking about someone who prudently spends their money frugally, but someone who selfishly hoards it. A hypothetical example might help illuminate what a miser is.

Imagine you went on a date with someone who asked you out to dinner. But, the only place they are willing to take you is McDonald's. It isn't because they think that they have great food, but they know they can keep the date cheap. Now imagine that this happens every time you go out on a date. They only want to take you to fast food joints because they don't want to spend their money on taking you anywhere else.

This kind of person is a cheapskate. They selfishly value their money over you. They show just how little they value you by their actions.

How would you feel about the prospects of this relationship continuing? Doesn't sound much like marriage material in my opinion.

But, don't be too quick to judge. Too many Catholics treat Jesus in the same manner. How? Many of us don't tithe, but rather give when it is convenient and easy.

Most Catholics are tippers, not tithers. Many don't sacrificially give to God, but tip Him when they feel like it.

What a shame! A relationship with Jesus isn't just about our convenience. To only give money when you feel like isn't a sign of a love for God. Imagine if someone only showed you love when it was convenient and they never sacrificed for you. The act of tipping God shows selfishness and a love of money.

The questions then start to bubble up:

  • Is God good to us? 
  • Did He not give us everything? 
  • Did He not die for our sins? 
  • Did He not bless us with material belongings? 

 If He did all these things, then what do we owe Him? I believe we owe Him everything.

A good way to examine where we are in our journey with Christ is to check our next bank statement. Have I given what I should? How does this reflect my relationship with Christ? What priorities do I have when it comes to money?

The widow's mite can teach us much:
"He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, 'Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.'" - Mark 12: 41-44
A note on this passage: It isn't the amount that we give that God is pleased with, but the attitude of faith that is behind the giving. We either give with faith or hoard in fear and doubt.

We have a choice - we can give from our abundance and tip God or we can sacrificially give and tithe. We can give to God first or open our wallets and purses when it doesn't hurt too much.

In understand how hard this can be. In fact, my wife and I made one of the two biggest leaps of faith as a couple when we chose early-on in our marriage to start tithing. Why did we start? Because some friends challenged us to do so. I thank them for doing so, because it changed my life and marriage. It changed how I look at what I "own" and what is really owned by God.

We do not regret our tithe and the money we return to God Why?
Because Jesus is more than a cheap date...

The Power of YouTube

Yesterday I posted that the Catholic Church needs to be using Social Media to engage our culture.

Today, I argue that we need to be using YouTube and video more.

This infographic makes the case for me:



Infographic by TechWelkin.com

Are Adam and Eve in Purgatory?


Q - Adam and Eve are not considered saints. Could it be that the first man and woman, our first parents, are still in Purgatory because of the seriousness of the first sin?

A - Thanks for the question. The Catechism gives us a clue to what happened to Adam and Eve after their death (emphasis added):
635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." Jesus, "the Author of life", by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage." Henceforth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades", so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth."
Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. . . He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him - He who is both their God and the son of Eve. . . "I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. . . I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead."488
The second part of paragraph 635 from the Catechism is a quote from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday.

The tradition of the Catholic Church is that after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, Adam and Eve were taken into heaven with Christ. In fact, through many years, their memorial was celebrated in the Church on December 24.

So they are, in fact, considered saints.

I hope this helps.

Why Aggies Love Being Aggies

We are unlike any other school. We have our own traditions, language, and ways of doing things. We also have more school pride than any other school in the country. Which is why we won the right to the ESPN Gameday commercial:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bible Stories: In The Words of Kids

This is AWESOMESLYWONDERFULGREATNESS:

Thanks to Patrick at MakeAFriar for sending these to me.

Noah's Ark:


Adam and Eve:

Why The Church MUST Use Social Media

There is no getting around it - every age and social demographic continues to see growth in the use of social media.

If the Catholic Church fails to use social media, then we are missing a HUGE opportunity to reach out to the masses. Therefore, we MUST interact and engage users of social media or we risk losing out on the evangelization of millions of people.

This infographic is very revealing:

The Growth of Social Media: An Infographic
Source: The Growth of Social Media: An Infographic

Is Confession To a Catholic Priest Necessary or Can You Go Straight To God?


Q - My friend and I were having a discussion about religions and what each had, well myself being Catholic I explained to him how the Sacrament of Reconciliation worked. Then he asked me why could he not just ask forgiveness to God directly? Then I explained to him how Christ is present at the time of Confession. He then asked "well then so far only Catholics have been forgiven for their sins?" Unfortunately I was not sure on what to say, so I just answered "if you want to see it that way then yes." I now realize that I made a mistake by saying that, because I should have just said honestly "I'm not sure." And in a way I really did not know how to respond to that question. Can you help me out here?

A - Thanks for the question. I hope I can help sort out some confusion.

There are several questions we need to sort through. Is the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) necessary to have your sins forgiven or can you go straight to God? Why do we need this Sacrament? Where did it come from? What does sin do? We have to lay some groundwork before giving adequate answers.

What Sin Does
Sin damages our relationships in an two-fold way:
  1. With God
  2. With Others
Most people easily see that sin can damage the relationship between us and God. This is why all Christians seek forgiveness of sins in some way. But, this isn't the only damage done. St. Paul tells us, in several of his letters, we are all united to God in one body of Christ - the Church. One example of this teaching:
"We, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another." - Romans 12:5
So, when we sin we can damage others. As Paul says in his long teaching on the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians:
"If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy." - 1 Cor 12:26
Thus, we not only damage the relationship with God, but also with other members of the Church. The Catechism teaches:
1440 Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God's forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church.
Who Forgives Sins?
Only God has the authority to forgive sins. Yet, this authority is mediated through others. The Jews questioned why Christ was forgiving sins, because they did not realize He was God. We must not forget that Jesus was also a man. He passes on this authority to forgive sins to his apostles.

After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples who were gathered in the upper room, scared out of their minds and confused. Christ comes and breathes the Holy Spirit on them and then commissions them to forgive sins. This is only the second time God breathes on humans. The first is when He breathes life into Adam. Breath is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."" - John 20 19-23
The apostles are sent as the Father has sent Jesus - with the authority to forgive sins. But, how could they know which sins to forgive and which to retain, if the sins were not confessed? This is why the book of James says this:
"confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." - James 5:16
In this context of this verse, a person is told to "summon the presbyters of the church" (James 5:14). Presbyter is the Greek word for priest.

Therefore, based on the Biblical evidence, we see forgiveness of sins is explicitly tied to confession to a priest, who has the authority to forgive sins, which is given by Christ. Christ thus heals the relationship through the priest and we are reconciled to both God and His Church - healing the two-fold damage done in our relationships.

Can You Go Straight to God?
Yes and no. We are told, as we see clearly in Scripture above, that we are to confess our sins to one another. Thus, the ordinary way we have our grave sins forgiven is through the Sacrament of Confession. Thus, this is the way that Christ has established as the ordinary way to forgive grave (i.e. mortal) sins. But, there are extreme circumstances where God may forgive grave sins outside of Confession if the person has perfect contrition (sorrow) for their sins, but these are extraordinary.

Also, we are only required to go to Confession once a year during the Easter season, and only if we have committed a mortal sin. Thus, all venial sins can be forgiven by going straight to God, though they can also be forgiven in Confession, and this is recommended whenever possible.

Can only Catholics Have Their Sins Forgiven?
The simple answer is no. While confession is the ordinary way to have your sins forgiven, it is not the only way. The Catechism says:
“When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible” (CCC 1452).
If someone is not Catholic (thus they do not have recourse to the Sacrament), then they can be forgiven, with perfect contrition and confession of their sins to God. If a non-Catholic is in danger of death, they can receive the Sacrament - if they are a baptized Christian.
If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop or of the Episcopal Conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they demonstrate the catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed. (Code of Canon Law, canon 844.4)
So, Why Go to Confession If you Can be Forgiven Without It?
Many reasons:
  1. We may not be positive that we have "perfect" contrition without it.
  2. God commanded we confess our sins to one another. We are being faithful when we go to Confession.
  3. It is the ordinary way to have our sins forgiven.
  4. We receive grace to resist sin through the Sacrament, as well as forgiveness.
  5. We learn humility by having to confess to another person.
  6. There is built-in accountability to the rest of the Church.
  7. Our relationship with the Church is healed.
  8. We receive counsel from the priest.
  9. We have certainty that our sins our wiped away, by hearing the words of absolution.
Here is what one early Christian said about Confession:
"Their consciences have been branded as with a hot iron. Some of these women make a public confession, but others are ashamed to do this, and in silence, as if withdrawing from themselves the hope of the life of God, they either apostatize entirely or hesitate between the two courses" -Irenaeus, A.D. 189
I hope this helps.

Some other links of interest:
**Reconciliation
**Being Contrite

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cutest. Video. Ever.

This wins the gold medal in the cute contest.
Wow...

Underage Drinking

Q - What does the church say about underage drinking--not necessarily in regards to drunkenness?


A - Thanks for the question.  I would like to point other readers to my answer to a previous question on whether getting drunk is a mortal sin.  While you ask a question that takes that out of the picture, it is all too common a question and very relevant to most college students.

Now, as to your specific question.  It depends (don't you love that answer).

Alcohol is not, in and of itself, an evil thing.  So, having a beer is not, by itself, wrong.  That being said, there are other circumstances that can make a neutral thing (alcohol) be used for an immoral purpose.

It is not a sin, if you are not breaking the law and drink moderately.  Now, the Texas state law allows a minor to under the supervision of their parents or guardian.  So, this would not be a sin, if you drink a beer or a glass of wine with your parents.

But, I am guessing you mean drinking as a minor without your parents or guardian around.  If this is the case, then you are breaking the law. While some believe drinking-age laws are arbitrary, we must still follow them, because they are not unjust laws. Breaking the law is a sin, if it is a just law, therefore underage drinking without your parents around is a sin.  What level of sin (mortal or venial) depends on other circumstances.  Here are some examples.

Example #1 - Your know that your parents do not approve of underage drinking, but you drink anyway.  Therefore you are also breaking commandment #4 - to honor your father and mother.  By the way, even if your parents encouraged you to drink before you turn 21, you are still bound to follow the law.

Example #2 - Others you are drinking with are drinking too much or participate in unhealthy or immoral behaviors because of drinking.  This is scandalous, because you are giving tacit approval to their actions (even if you don't approve or or participate in their actions) by your presence.

Example #3 - You have a history of not being able to control yourself around alcohol and thus you are putting yourself in a near occasion of mortal sin.

Example #4 - You drink and drive.  Not only is this very stupid / sinful, but it is also breaking another TX law, because a minor cannot drive with ANY trace of alcohol in their system.

There are other examples, but this will do for our purposes here.  Is underage drinking a sin?  The simple answer is yes, it is (most likely) a venial sin when you break the law but do not drink to excess.  But, other issues can increase the gravity of the sin to make it a mortal one.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Advertising, Beauty, and Self-Perception

We have a crisis in how our young people view themselves. Few young people have positive images of themselves and many are unhappy with their bodies, and the way they are perceived by others. The culture teaches us that our value is only found in how much sexual appeal we have and in whether we can easily get the kind of pleasure we seek in the world.

But, there are a few good things happening that I would like to highlight, one of them being the Campaign for Real Beauty by Dove. While it is good that to focus on what our culture defines as "beautiful" in terms of our bodies, this is only going skin-deep (pardon the pun).

If you want to see a great Catholic answer to this problem, aimed at girls, check out Demand Your Dignity. This gets to the much deeper answer, and one that doesn't remain on the surface, as Dove does.

Also, we cannot forget the other side of the equation - boys who will be men soon - and as men we need to make sure we vigilant about how we see women. We need to train our young people to know their worth. We are all worthy of love. Love from God and love from others. We are built for it.

Below are 2 of the videos from Dove which show the power of images and marketing. While I fully support the message of the videos, remember that while pointing out problems with todays advertising, Dove is advertising and trying to get your money. Also, Dove and Axe (one of the worst purveyors of sex in the world of modern marketing) are owned by the same parent company! Talk about hypocrisy.

Yet, the messages below are still great - so I do give them credit for that.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Parent Rap

Mom And Daddy in tha house!
Mom and Daddy own tha house!
Mom and Daddy need to clean tha house!

Fr. Barron on Catholic Social Teaching



More comments:

How To Evangelize Without Being Triumphant


Q - My Protestant friends never ask me about my Catholic faith, but talk about their churches and how great they are (trying to evangelize me, I suppose). Monday night we all attended a Campus Crusade for Christ kick-off party. Good times, games and free food. However, as a Catholic, I not only read the bible, and try to live it out but I get to partake in Christ's life through the sacraments and I get the fullness of truth in the Church.


Question: My parents have taught me humility and not to boast about what I have, especially if other's are not as fortunate. Whenever I get brave enough to explain why I love the Catholic Church, I'm worried I come off sounding boastful and snotty. Sort of an, "I have this and you don't" attitude. 


Can you give me a few good lines to say that show how blessed Catholics are, but don't sound so "holier than thou". I would also like to reach-out to other Catholics in the group and remind them about how wonderful their faith is, and not to abondon it for a nondenom. church recommended by CC for Christ.


A - Thanks for the question. It is good to see that you have a passion to evangelize, but don't want to be triumphant about the blessings and truth we have in our Catholic faith. Good for you! Too often young evangelists have the passion and get too pushy. The work of evangelization is God's and we are merely His instrument. If we are pushy about our faith, then the work becomes of us, not God.

So, what can you do?

1 - Evangelize by example. This is the most important. You have to live your Catholic faith. While you are blessed to be a strong Catholic now, you have to be on your guard if you decide to stay active in Campus Crusade for Christ. Many in Cru will aggressively try to get you out of the Catholic Church. You must protect your faith. So, living it out will be paramount.

Any kind of evangelization must be a genuine gift of our faith to another and a simple testament to what we believe, not a BELIEVE IT OR ELSE mentality.

You can do things such as:
  • invite people to a Catholic social activity, Bible study, class, prayer groups,  Mass, etc.
  • give your testimony about how your Catholic faith has brought you closer to Christ.
  • ask them if they have any questions about the Catholic faith, then do your best to answer their questions. Be ok with them saying they don't have any, they might later. Also, remember to say "I don't know" if you don't. But, then look up an answer and follow up with them.
  • make the sign of the cross every time you pray with your Protestant friends and see if they are curious.
  • use signs of Catholicsm - e.g. statues, paintings, Catholic shirts, crucifixes, etc. to spur conversations
  • give them brochures or CDs that explain Catholic teachings
This is just a sampling of many things you can do.

Because you already have friends who are open to talking about faith issues, then there is one other thing I would do. Look for the open door. Whenever you are given an opportunity to talk about your faith, take it. Don't force these kinds of situations, but be on the lookout for them. Once you do start to talk, make sure you give them an opportunity to share as well, and really listen to them. You can also create open doors by strategically inserting Catholic words into conversations.

We cannot use stiff formulas or practiced presentations in order to build a relationship with another person. Relationships can be through a one-time encounter or a life-long friendship. The more I am aware of the possibility of forming relationships with others, the more I find the Lord presents me with these opportunities.

Ask simple open-ended questions about faith. I find the question, “what kind of faith tradition do you come from?” or "what do you believe about _____" opens the door quickly to a discussion on religion, spirituality and other topics. But, you don’t just want to talk about any topic at all, but more specifically you want to lead the person where you want them to go. Ask them why they believe what they do and take a sincere interest in their answer. We shouldn’t be out to prove them wrong but rather steer them closer to Christ and His truth.

While discussing, we should be actively listening and responding. Use their name, acknowledge their sincerity (even if their beliefs are strange to you), don’t cut them off, be careful of your body language and facial expressions (especially if they say something offensive), and try to show a genuine interest in the person’s well-being. You should not be in the conversation for your own benefit, but rather for their benefit.

Try to make connections with the other person. Common interests can help both of you feel more comfortable. But, be careful of one-upping them. I am a competitive person by nature and seem to one-up other people all the time. If they have a story, I have a better one. This turns people off.

You should also share why you believe what you believe. We do this because no one can say your experience of faith is not valid, even if they don’t share your belief in Christ. When you are talking be sure to take mental notes of how they react. Also, note the important parts of their story as well. Where do they need Christ most in their life – relationships, addictions, etc.?

Just a side-note. Don't assume you know what your friends believe because they are Protestant. Many Protestants, like many Catholics, approach their faith cafeteria-style. That is, they pick and choose some of the doctrines and not others. So, you need to dialogue about what they believe, not what you think they believe.

Prepare yourself to be a good evangelist with:
  • prayer
  • study
  • prayer
  • practicing evangelization by doing it
  • prayer
There are literally BILLIONS of people who need to hear the gospel, and many on campuses around the country. If this isn’t the time of the harvest, then there will never be a time to go into the mission fields.

I am sure you have heard the phrase, “love them where they are”. This is an important principle. We should love them, because our Lord loves them. God wants them to go to heaven, and draw close to Him even more than we do. But, this doesn’t mean we leave them where they are - in their sin or position in life if they are far from Christ. We should love them enough to want them to experience the redemption of Christ.

I hope this helps.
"living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ" - Eph 4:15
FURTHER READING:
**Intro to Evangelization
**Evangelization is Hard and Scary
**Ask A Catholic A Question: evangelization program
**The Do's and Don'ts of Evangelization and Apologetics
**How Not to Evangelize
**Evangelization of Tenderness
**Friendship Evangelization
**Fr. Barron on Evangelizing the Culture

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Scott Hahn on Mary's Queenship

Women and the Priesthood


Women and the Priesthood
By Kristine Cranley

After writing my blog post on Edith Stein and the War on Women, in which I noted that St. Edith Stein believes “woman can [not] be excluded from any secular profession” the obvious question which I left unaddressed was of course “why then does the Church not ordain women priests”?  If woman can do all the same physical things a man can do, what is to bar her from ecclesial office?  Can she not read the prayer of consecration, speak the words of absolution, lift the chalice, and proclaim the word of God as capably as any man?  Is she not, given her ‘maternal gift’, perhaps even uniquely suited to counsel those seeking pastoral guidance, exhort the fainthearted, comfort the sorrowful, and expound upon the spiritual riches of the word of God?  Is she not a vital and essential part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church?

Absolutely.

A woman is capable of doing any of the above.  Indeed, the closer she binds her life to Christ, the more He will send her out to do His own work, with the same exhortation He addressed to His apostles: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (Matthew 10:8).  In one of her speeches recorded in the compilation of her work entitled Woman Stein remarks that for women as well as men:

“Surrender to God is simultaneously a loving abandonment and a compliant obedience.  It means to walk in service to the Lord.  This could be to act as His proxy, to command, to teach, to direct in His name.  To make God’s teachings one’s own is not only to win a share of His love; it also means that one fights against His enemies for His kingdom.  All of this corresponds to the masculine nature; and insofar as this is also realized in the life of the womJackan consecrated to God, it can be said of her as well that she seems like the male species or transcends the limits of her own.” (p. 117)

A woman who allows the power of Christ’s grace to radiate through her via total self surrender to Him will be made a sharer in His own divine Nature.  The Holy Spirit will transform her into love through union with the God whom Scripture tells us, IS Love. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)  This love cannot be contained but will radiate out to all those she encounters.  “Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water - will flow from within him” (and her!) (John 7:38)

And yet, if Edith Stein is correct that our very souls are masculine or feminine, then the way we ‘incarnate’ this Divine Love is going to be ‘informed’ (given form) by our masculinity or femininity.  According to Stein’s anthropology, the love of God radiating through woman is manifest as ‘bridal’ and ‘maternal’ in her.  This is not a weakness or a defect, but is rather a strength; one which Satan himself fears.  As quoted in the original postGod combats evil through the power of woman’s maternal love.  That power exists independently of woman’s marital status and should be extended to all persons with whom she comes into contact”.  Our Lady wears combat boots.  So do her daughters. 

Masculine Giftedness

Men therefore have a corresponding unique capacity to incarnate God’s love as ‘bridegroom’ and ‘father’.  Regarding the characteristics of these two capacities, I have found no thinker more clear and insightful than John Paul II.  According to him, the love of the bridegroom is characterized by the initiation of love.  In Mulieris Dignitatem 29 he writes “The Bridegroom is the one who loves. The Bride is loved: it is she who receives love, in order to love in return”.  Regarding the nature of fatherhood, the character Adam in his play The Radiation of Fatherhood wrestles with the call of every man to “allow the radiation of [God’s] Fatherhood to enter him so that he can refract is as a prism refracts light”(p. 3).  Adam recognizes that this call to radiate fatherhood requires being conformed to Christ Crucified, who definitively proclaimed “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  Adam therefore has to struggle with his preference for loneliness rather than the cruciform vulnerability which the radiation of the Father’s Love requires of him.   

It is this same Crucified Bridegroom who has chosen that his sacramental representatives on this earth be spiritual bridegrooms and fathers, in his image. 

Mulieris Dignitatem 25 states: Christ is the Bridegroom. This expresses the truth about the love of God who "first loved us" (cf. 1 Jn 4:19) and who, with the gift generated by this spousal love for man, has exceeded all human expectations: "He loved them to the end" (Jn 13:1). The Bridegroom - the Son consubstantial with the Father as God - became the son of Mary; he became the "son of man", true man, a male. The symbol of the Bridegroom is masculine. This masculine symbol represents the human aspect of the divine love which God has for Israel, for the Church, and for all people. (emphasis original)

Thus, the reservation of the priesthood to men is not about what men can do but who they are.  They are males called to mediate Christ’s love as ‘Bridegroom of the Church’ and ‘perfect image of the Father’.  While woman can do the same works as a man, she can never be what a priest is called to be; a spiritual father.  Her glory is not in fatherhood but motherhood, a different yet no less vital incarnation of the Love of God.  Motherhood and fatherhood are not the same. 

The holiest creature in the universe, Mary of Nazareth, the New Eve, Mother of God, Sovereign over Angels, Terror of Demons was created by virtue of her femininity, not in the image of the Bridegroom, but rather the glorious Bride Church.  She reveals the proper posture of every creature toward the Father, who alone is the ‘origin’ and ‘initiator’ of love.  While the male stands in the image of what he is ultimately not (God the Father, the origin of Love), woman in turn reveals to both male and female creatures that we are all ‘bride’ in relation to Christ.  The Church consists of those who have “received” the love of Christ through His sacraments “in order to love in return”.  Through imitating Our Lady’s active receptivity toward this Divine love, we become fruitful for the life of the world, and capable of imaging to one another the Divine Love which both ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’ us toward eternal life.

One Body with Many Members

On a personal note, when I was discerning Religious Life, people would often come up to me and lament that it was too bad I couldn’t be a priest.  Despite their good intentions, I always found it rather insulting: as if the unique gift I gave as ‘spiritual mother’ was of no value in their eyes compared to the spiritual paternity of the priest.  Truly the priesthood is an unfathomable gift of grace to the Church; indeed the very “love of the heart of Christ ” (St. John Vianney).   Jesus has not left us orphans.  He has given us his own sacramental representatives so that we may continue to encounter His spousal and fathering love through the Sacraments.  But no less vital is the spiritual maternity through which God helps nourish the seeds He plants through His sacramental grace in the life of His children.  I believe the more we come to recognize and affirm the importance of a woman’s spiritual ‘companion’ and ‘maternal’ gifts within the Church, the less insulted women will feel at being refused the priesthood.  A fatherless Church, like a fatherless society, ends in chaos and disintegration.  But does that fact negate the need for mothers? 

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single organ, where would the body be?... The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you” … on the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable”.  1 Corinthians 12:12, 18-19, 21, 22

God Himself has chosen our place in the body of Christ, and fitted us for it with gifts of grace and of nature.  Each gift has its specific glory; its reflection of Divine Beauty and Love.  Each is absolutely essential for the healthy functioning of the body.  And each has its own crosses.  If it is concern for public recognition which moves some to oppose the Church’s practice of an all male priesthood, it is perhaps good to remember that the only public honor Jesus promised his followers was to be treated in the same way that He was: “No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)  It is anything but culturally fashionable to be a Catholic Priest today!  Sirach 2 warns us that “when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials”.  Yet serve we must, in whatever way He asks us to, for it is our joy.  Communion with Jesus is Life itself for us.  Let us thank Him therefore, for the many spiritual fathers and mothers through which His love has been ‘incarnated’ in our own lives, so that we might be drawn into this communion with Him which is the Church.


FURTHER READING:
**Why Can't Women Be Priests

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why My Dad Is My Hero


One of my biggest heroes is my dad (my mom is also one). My dad is a great guy, but he would be the first to tell you he isn't perfect. Yet, he is still a great role-model and a wonderful person.

He was raised in Southern Louisiana in a very poor home. Neither of his parents were educated very long and my Paw-Paw (Cajun name for grandfather) was, for the most part, illiterate. My dad learned early in his life how to live off of the land. His family didn't have electricity until he was in high school and he spent a lot of time working to help the family.

He spent many hours picking cotton in the fields and pulling weeds out of the rice patties, all the time watching out for water moccasins - for pennies a day. My father and Paw-Paw cut down cypress trees in the swamp and then had them sawed into boards for their house. For nails, they salvaged old ones from abandoned buildings. There were no creature comforts of the modern household.

My dad was the first person in his family to go to college, but he didn't stop there. He was voted "Catholic Youth Of the Nation" during his time in college. He worked his way through school and was very involved on-campus as well as in the campus ministry, while getting very good grades. He later earned a Master's degree, spent two years in the seminary, then married my mom, and served in the Navy during Vietnam.

My dad is a very hard worker who provided for his family, overcoming many obstacles. My dad has always been a gentle man who was intelligent, faithful, and kind.

He was always involved in civic communities (e.g. The Rotary Club, on local school board, etc.), church groups (worked as a campus minister for a while, served as Grand Knight several times in different Knights of Columbus councils, Knighted by the Pope in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, etc), and other ways of serving others. He also spent many years in the Navy Reserve and retired as a Commander. He worked for most of his adult life in the State of Texas in the Department of Human Services.

But, one story of his life, in particular, has always stood out to me.

While in college, my dad spent a summer with a missionary priest, and another college student, traveling to the most rural parts of Alabama to evangelize the local population. Some counties had only a handful of Catholics, or no Catholics at all, and they were not always welcomed with open arms. He said they got very used to having the door slammed in their face at the first mention of the word "Catholic".

Their standard procedure was to go door-to-door in the community inviting people to a "Catholic tent revival" in town. They would then set up a large tent in the town square and the priest would preach about the Catholic faith to all who would come. It was very basic preaching about the Good News of Jesus and the role the Catholic Church plays. They would then establish a small community of interested people to continue to meet about the Catholic faith. Many small parishes were planted this way.

In one small town, the door-to-door missionary work went as expected, but when night came nobody showed up. They were puzzled as to the reason, until they saw a large group of men show up with torches, dressed all in white. The KKK had shown up to run the Catholics out of town. My dad and his friend had to convince the priest that they had better move on to the next town instead of going forward with the revival. The priest finally agreed and they moved on.

This is the kind of man my dad is. One who loves someone enough to spend their summer talking to people about Jesus Christ and His Church - to a population that will, by and large, reject the message. Ultimately, it is my dad's character which defines him and why my dad is my hero.

BTW - One of the towns they ended up holding a revival in and planting a community in was Irondale, Alabama. Which is now home to a large Catholic organization.


Texas A&M Women's Basketball Team Visits The Vatican

Gig 'em and God Bless.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Talking in Church. What Should I Do About It?


Q - I get angry when I see people at Mass that talk, text, etc. - just a general lack of reverence before God in the Blessed Sacrament. I just get so frustrated and hurt that people come to Mass and act the way they would during a lecture or class, and are ignorant that others may wish to try to grow in holiness and closeness to God (so that they might “sin no more”), let alone care about their own relationship with God. Can you help?


A - Thanks for the question. It isn't uncommon for people to carry on a conversation quite loudly before, during, or after Mass while still in the sanctuary. Before I address any other issues, I would like to say quite plainly that this kind of behavior in any Catholic Church before or after Mass is inappropriate. These kind of conversations should not happen in church. Even if you are visiting, not praying, bored, etc. there are still others that would like quiet time in prayers. We should always respect others enough to be quiet while in church.

Also, using your phone in church is inappropriate as well, unless you are using it to pray or get the readings. Lastly, if you are a parent and you have a young child who can be noisy, please take them to the back if they get noisy (here are some practical guidelines for noisy kids).

These requests might seem like common sense to some, but not to others.

So, why would people act in this way?
  • Maybe they don't understand what is going on with the Mass - so they are ignorant of the sacredness of it.
  • Maybe they are visitors and people at their local parish do this all the time and they are used to it.
  • Maybe they are uncomfortable in church and want to talk to comfort themselves.
  • Maybe they are hard of hearing and don't know how loud they are being.
  • Maybe they like attention and having others hear all about their lives.
  • Maybe it is some other reason.
So, what are you to do about it? Well, you might not like my answer. I would offer it up as a sacrifice. Your annoyance and pain is nothing compared to what our Lord feels because of our sins. We need to set a good example and shushing people or giving them angry looks will not draw them closer to God.  Also, we need to learn that we cannot control other people's actions, but we can control how we react to them. I also believe it is best to offer up prayers for those people and thank God that they are in Mass and not just wasting all of the Sabbath.

Not long ago, I had to deal with loud conversations before Mass. It took a lot of effort, but I offered up my frustrations and ended up having some great prayer time.

Now if this is a continual problem, I would voice the issue with your pastor and let him decide how to best handle the situation, which is really his problem, since it is his flock that is having the issue.

The exception to this rule would be those that are frequent repeat offenders. If someone is continually talking in Mass, I would politely (very politely) ask them to please continue their conversation outside of church so you can pray.

I hope this helps.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Edith Stein and The War on Women



Is There Really a ‘War on Women’?
by Kristine Cranley

The claim that there is a ‘war on women’ going on is a serious accusation.  According to the news, women everywhere are under attack by the Catholic Church because of their refusal to pay for women’s contraception and abortion.  As a woman who works for the Catholic Church, these assertions affect me directly, because the accusers claim to be speaking in my name in their attack of my Church.  I have had to ask myself seriously whether I am truly under attack, and by whom?  Are Catholicism and Femininity intrinsically opposed to each other such that one is incompatible with the other?

The question has forced me to ask even deeper questions regarding the nature of femininity itself.  What does it mean to be a woman?  Are women essentially different than men or the same? Is there an ideal of femininity toward which I am supposed to strive?  What do I need in order to flourish and find fulfillment as a woman?  Do contraception and abortion help me to reach this fulfillment or distance me from it? 

In researching these questions I have found varying responses.  Many thinkers claim that there is no true difference between men and women.  Sexual difference, like hair color or eye color, is just a biological happenstance that says nothing about who I am at my deepest level of being.  It is asserted that if women behave differently than men it is because they are conditioned to do so by cultural influences.  Yet this claim does not resonate with my experience of the world and my own instinctive responses to it.  While I recognize that women are capable of performing the same physical works that men can, I also intuit that the way we approach these activities is different. 

An example: at our staff meetings here at St. Mary’s Catholic Center the men often have a vision for the way the Holy Spirit is moving us forward as a campus ministry, while the women have more of a sense of how the various programs fit together as an organic whole and the specific needs and problems that might arise for one area when we change something in another area.  Under Fr. David’s leadership we ‘breathe with both lungs’ (feminine and masculine) asking the Holy Spirit to use all of our gifts for the glory of God.  I have experienced the difference between masculinity and femininity, and the varying gifts which they bring, to be one of the things which make us strong as a campus ministry.   But does this personal experience of a difference between our male and female staff point to anything universally true about men and women in general?   

Saint Edith Stein on the Nature of Woman

After a summer of research, I have finally found a satisfying answer to my queries regarding the nature of woman in the work of St. Edith Stein.  Before her conversion to Catholicism this Jewish-atheist philosopher probed deeply into the question of the nature of woman.  Actively involved in the feminist movement, she spoke of herself as a ‘radical suffragette’ during her first years of university.  A woman of exceptional brilliance, in 1917 she passed her doctorate summa cum laude, during a time when the involvement of women in higher education was uncommon. 

In reflecting on the nature of woman in light of her experience, education, questioning, and new found faith in Christ St. Edith Stein concluded that woman needs to be understood in light of three truths about her nature.


1) Fundamentally, she is human.  She is not a lesser being, nor is she created to be used by another.  She is made in the divine image, and like man, she is called to intimate relationship with the Triune God through Jesus Christ.  This call to ‘divinization’ through communion with Jesus defines the dignity of the human person, male and female.  Catechism 460 states “The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature": "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God." "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."  For both sexes, our ultimate fulfillment comes through our free consent of faith and obedience to Jesus, who forms us into His Mystical Body.  Edith Stein would often quote St. Paul in this regard: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28) Thus a woman’s deepest identity, like a man’s, is in being a ‘child of God’.  She finds her fulfillment as a woman through responding to God’s call to communion by making her life a total self gift to Him. Nothing but God can satisfy her. This following of Him will require putting all her gifts of nature and grace at His service, according to the unique path He sets out for her.

2) She is an individual.  God has endowed every human being with gifts for the building up of the Church.  Thus a woman’s mission in life is going to be shaped by the gifts God has entrusted to her.  Stein does believe women are more suited by nature for some professions over others (specifically work concerned directly with helping other persons, such as the medical profession and education).  However she does not believe woman can be excluded from any secular profession because every woman has different gifts.  While she believes men have more of a tendency to think abstractly, and women more concretely, this does not prohibit God from giving gifts to a particular woman which will assist her in a taking up a field traditionally thought of as ‘masculine’ (such as engineering, mathematics, etc.)  These gifts do not make her any less of a woman, and are given so that she can bring her unique feminine perspective into these fields.

3) She is a woman.  Edith Stein believes that we are not just women in body alone, but that our very souls are feminine.  Our femininity thus animates our work and our love, leaving its mark on everything we do.  This femininity is recognized in two gifts which are present in every woman, regardless of her individual gifts or her state in life. 

a) The Maternal Gift - In summarizing the works of Edith Stein on women, Freda Oben writes “Stein believes that God combats evil through the power of woman’s maternal love.  That power exists independently of woman’s marital status and should be extended to all persons with whom she comes into contact”(p. ix). Women have an innate capacity to nurture life in others.  This endowment is also a call to her by God to place these gifts at the service of others, in whatever state of life the Lord leads her to. 

In the above quoted work, Stein writes “woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole.  To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning.  Lifeless matter, the fact can hold primary interest for her only insofar as it serves the living and the personal, not ordinarily for its own sake.  Relevant to this is another matter: abstraction in every sense is alien to the feminine nature.  The living and personal to which her care extends is a concrete whole and is protected and encouraged as a totality; … her natural line of thought is not so much conceptual and analytical as it is directed intuitively and emotionally to the concrete.  This natural endowment enables woman to guard and teach her own children.  But this basic attitude is not intended just for them; she should behave in this way also to her husband and to all those in contact with her.” (p. 45)

b)     Companion Gift: Women also have a unique capacity for being the companion of another.  God placed Eve at Adam’s side in the garden as an Ezer Kenegdo – a ‘saving help’ at his side. While men are often gifted for specialization in one particular field and are sometimes tempted to focus on this specialization to the exclusion of all else, women have a distinct capacity to receive the vision and mission of another and to help it to bear fruit.  This does not preclude her being given a vision or mission of her own, but even so, she retains a natural brilliance in assisting others. 

In Stein’s own words: “This maternal gift is joined to that of companion.  It is her gift and happiness to share the life of another human being and, indeed, to take part in all things which come his way, in the greatest and smallest things, in joy as well as in suffering, in work, and in problems.  Man is consumed by “his enterprise”, and he expects others will be interested and helpful; generally, it is difficult for him to become involved in other beings and their concerns.  On the contrary, it is natural for woman, and she has the faculty to interest herself empathetically in areas of knowledge far from her own concerns and to which she would not pay heed if it were not that a personal interest drew her into contact with them.  An active sympathy for those who fall within her ken awakens their powers and heightens their achievements.  …this function will come into play also with one’s own children, especially when they mature and the mother is released from their physical care.” (p. 46)

Because of these gifts, a woman is essential in the home.  They enable her to play an irreplaceable role in raising and caring for her children.  However God did not intend these gifts for family life alone.  This ‘active sympathy’ which ‘awakens [other peoples] powers and heightens their achievements’ is something needed by all who work to accomplish a God given mission.  The more a woman grows in holiness, the more these gifts will become spiritually active in her.  Her spiritual maternity and companionship is meant to be a blessing for all those she encounters, and ultimately to lead them to God.  I believe this is what John Paul II is referring to when he speaks of ‘the genius of woman’ which is needed everywhere for the world to become more human. 

In the encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem he writes:
“The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. … A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting, strong because of the fact that God "entrusts the human being to her", always and in every way, even in the situations of social discrimination in which she may find herself. … In our own time, the successes of science and technology make it possible to attain material well-being to a degree hitherto unknown. While this favours some, it pushes others to the edges of society. In this way, unilateral progress can also lead to a gradual loss of sensitivity for man, that is, for what is essentially human. In this sense, our time in particular awaits the manifestation of that "genius" which belongs to women, and which can ensure sensitivity for human beings in every circumstance: because they are human! - and because "the greatest of these is love" (cf. 1 Cor 13:13).” (paragraph 30)


“I will put enmity between you and the woman”

What light do these reflections by this great philosopher saint and martyr shed on the current claim that there is a ‘war being waged on woman’?

If God truly does ‘combat evil through the maternal love of a woman’ then we women are indeed at war.  It is ‘evil’ itself which we do battle with, and which sets itself against our distinctive mothering and companion gifts.  From the fall of Adam and Eve it has been prophesied that God himself “will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman” (Gen 3:15).  This perennial battle is described vividly in the final book of Scripture:  

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman - clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon… Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. … The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it. … Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus – Revelation 1, 3-4, 9, 13, 17

In serving pregnant women in New York, I have witnessed this same story retold in countless women who came in search of help to continue their pregnancy.  Upon discovering that they were pregnant, they were subjected to an overwhelming pressure to abort their child.  Doctors telling her she must terminate, parents telling her they will withdraw all financial support if she gives birth to the child, boyfriends threatening to leave her, or even worse, punching her stomach or pushing her down the stairs to try to cause an abortion … it seems that the dragon waits before every woman to devour her child. 

If companionship and motherhood (whether physical and/or spiritual) are integral to our vocation and fulfillment as women, then abortion and contraception themselves constitute a ‘war on women’. 

We who have been given a distinctive genius for wrapping our hearts and our lives around our beloved are rendered sterile through contraception in order to prevent the sexual pleasure our intimacy provides from resulting in a child which will bind its father to us permanently.  Handing out free contraception to college students means promoting the norm of sex without commitment.  Through ‘casual sex’ woman are treated as mere objects for another’s sexual gratification, while the enduring bond which is intrinsically linked to our bodily self giving is expressly rejected.  The ‘hookup culture’ which contraception makes possible is crushing our feminine hearts. 

We who have been endowed with a fierce instinct to preserve and nourish all life are being pressured through abortion to turn against our own children.  As Federica Mathewes-Green put it "No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg."  

The spiritual and physical fruitfulness with which God has endowed woman is desperately needed in every aspect of life and culture if we are going to ‘breathe with both lungs’ and be a truly human society.  However the contribution we women make can not be given at the expense of our God-given gifts as companion and mother.  Rather these gifts must animate all our works if they are going to be spiritually fruitful. 

The promotion of contraception and abortion is indeed an attack on our nature as women, and a rejection of the very gifts we bring for the healing of the world.  It renders us sterile in our vocation to ‘combat evil through maternal love’. 

Yes ladies, we are at war.  Let us thank God for the pastors of our church and all who fight courageously with us in defense of our true glory as women.

Vote For Your Favorite Catholic Speakers

A few years ago the talented Matt Warner (Aggie Catholic extraordinaire, blogger, owner of Flocknote, friend, etc.) decided to get the word out about Catholic speakers around the country. Now, my buddy, Brandon Vogt, has taken it over.

Here is more from Brandon:
Over the last couple days we compiled a list of 250 Catholic speakers, with the eventual goal of narrowing it to 100 by next Thursday (8/23). This morning we opened up the vote, inviting people to choose their favorite 15 speakers. The voting will end next Thursday (8/23), and then Catholic bloggers will choose one speaker to write about. Whether they compose a biography, an interview, or something else is totally up to them, but the goal is to connect 100 bloggers with 100 speakers and promote everyone involved.
Did I mention that I am on the list? If you want to throw me a vote, I would appreciate it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cardinal Dolan Explains Why He Invited Obama And Romney To a Catholic Fundraiser


NOTE - if you comment on this, please be charitable. Comments will be strictly monitored. 

You should read the whole thing, but here is the heart of the matter.
The Al Smith Dinner has never been without controversy, since, as Carl Anderson reminded us, politics can inspire disdain and negativity as well as patriotism and civility.

This year is surely no exception: I am receiving stacks of mail protesting the invitation to President Obama (and by the way, even some objecting to the invitation to Governor Romney).

The objections are somewhat heightened this year, since the Catholic community in the United States has rightly expressed vigorous criticism of the President’s support of the abortion license, and his approval of mandates which radically intruded upon Freedom of Religion. We bishops, including yours truly, have been unrelenting in our opposition to these issues, and will continue to be.

So, my correspondents ask, how can you justify inviting the President? Let me try to explain.

For one, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner is not an award, or the provision of a platform to expound views at odds with the Church. It is an occasion of conversation; it is personal, not partisan.

Two, the purpose of the Al Smith Dinner is to show both our country and our Church at their best: people of faith gathered in an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate. Those who started the dinner sixty-seven years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them.

Three, the teaching of the Church, so radiant in the Second Vatican Council, is that the posture of the Church towards culture, society, and government is that of engagement and dialogue. In other words, it’s better to invite than to ignore, more effective to talk together than to yell from a distance, more productive to open a door than to shut one. Our recent popes have been examples of this principle, receiving dozens of leaders with whom on some points they have serious disagreements. Thus did our present Holy Father graciously receive our current President of the United States. And, in the current climate, we bishops have maintained that we are open to dialogue with the administration to try and resolve our differences. What message would I send if I refused to meet with the President?

Finally, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner in no way indicates a slackening in our vigorous promotion of values we Catholic bishops believe to be at the heart of both gospel and American values, particularly the defense of human dignity, fragile life, and religious freedom. In fact, one could make the case that anyone attending the dinner, even the two candidates, would, by the vibrant solidarity of the evening, be reminded that America is at her finest when people, free to exercise their religion, assemble on behalf of poor women and their babies, born and unborn, in a spirit of civility and respect.

Some have told me the invitation is a scandal. That charge weighs on me, as it would on any person of faith, but especially a pastor, who longs to give good example, never bad. So, I apologize if I have given such scandal. I suppose it’s a case of prudential judgment: would I give more scandal by inviting the two candidates, or by not inviting them?

No matter what you might think of this particular decision, might I ask your prayers for me and my brother bishops and priests who are faced with making these decisions, so that we will be wise and faithful shepherds as God calls us to be?

In the end, I’m encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners; and by the recognition that, if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone.

Continue Reading.

Vatican Investigation Into Leaked Documents Concludes

Paolo Gabriele, the former butler to Benedict XVI, who is accused of stealing Vatican documents and then releasing them, has been indicted for aggravated theft. He admitted responsibility for the crime, and has undergone psychological evaluation which revealed he was fully aware of his actions. A second person will also stand trial for aiding and abetting in the crime.

Where Did Evil Come From?


Q - Not why, but How did evil come to be, if God is everything and everywhere and evil wasn’t created how did it come to be. The absence of God is evil but can the opposite of everything really exist….. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but the basic question is How can it even exist?

A - Thanks for the question! First, I need to be precise - god is not "everything" though he does hold every thing in being. But, that is a side-point.

For others who may not quite following what you are asking, I will do a bit of background. Evil is not something, but rather an absence of something - good. Just as dark is not a thing, but rather an absence of light. This is why the apostle John often contrasts light / darkness and good / evil. God did not create evil, but it sprang forth from the actions of man, who lacked that which is good in their actions and thoughts.

Now, let us discuss the will of God and creation. The Catechism teaches that God created all things from nothing out of love. He created them for the ultimate purpose of being united to Him and to bring Him glory. It also teaches:

306 God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan.
So, we freely can cooperate with his plan. But, what if we don't cooperate? Then this is where evil enters in. God's will can be divided into two different kinds of will, the active and permissive. The active will is that which God chooses to happen - which always does. All things God's actively wills are good. The permissive will of God is when he allows things to happen, although he does not desire it, - and thus he allows evil in order to allow us freedom.

From this, we can see that God does not ordain evil, although he allows it. But, then other questions arise - couldn't he just get rid of evil? Yes. Then why doesn't he? Because we would not be free to not choose him if there was no choice.

The Catechism discusses all these issues.
310 But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world "in a state of journeying" towards its ultimate perfection. In God's plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.
311 Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it:
For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.
Then, it addresses the mystery of evil and good.
324 The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life.
Therefore, the reason death and physical suffering exist is because there is spiritual and moral evil, caused by human beings. The cause of suffering and death is ultimately man's sin. Because of our disobedience we suffer, in both body and soul. What we have earned by our sin is suffering and death for eternity.

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

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

Suffering and physical death are not good, but neither are they evil in and of themselves. In fact, through the cross, suffering and death can be redemptive. That is, they can help us to re-capture some of the purity, love and holiness that we are called to. The cross is God's answer to evil. In it, He conquers and shows us how to overcome it.

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

Furthermore, suffering and death, when united to the cross, can lead to holiness and union with God. Therefore, it isn't as evil as we make it out to be. It is the eternal death of the soul we should be afraid of. All of this perfectly explains the reason St. Paul could write these words to the Romans:
"For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous. The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
- Romans 5:17-21
But, in the midst of suffering all of the reasons still don't necessarily make suffering easy.

I hope this helps.

There really is no easy answer, but that is where hope and faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross help us understand that we have a God who can sympathize with our suffering.
Hebrews 4:15 - "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin."

Monday, August 13, 2012

PLEASE PRAY!

Please help us get a prayer chain started for our community.

Today another tragedy hit the Bryan / College Station / Texas A&M community.

Just south of the campus of Texas A&M - a man opened fire and killed 1 County Constable and 1 civilian. The shooter also wounded 2 others, including an officer who responded to the scene.

Officers then wounded the shooter, who later died.

  • 3 are deceased - 1 officer, 1 civilian, and the shooter.
  • 2 others are shot and in the hospital - 1 officer and 1 civilian.
  • 2 other officers were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

We request your urgent prayers for those involved, esp. the deceased and their families and friends.
Please share with others!

UPDATE #1 - Mass at 5:30 PM will be offered for the victims of the shooting and their families.

UPDATE #2 - Constable Bachmann was serving an eviction notice, when the shooter opened fire. Two officers were close-by when the Constable Bachmann was shot. They responded quickly and engaged the shooter and shot him.

The male civilian who was shot and killed has not been identified yet.

The female civilian is still in surgery.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Church Documents Every Catholic Should Read


A colleague asked me what Church documents every Catholic should read.

I decided to put together this list and I hope it isn't too long. This list contains writings, primarily Magisterial documents (official Church teaching), but it also has a few that are not. It should be helpful for those who don't know where to start or what to read next.

NOTE - Every different kind of Church document bears a different authority. You can read more about the differences here. With that being said, just because one document bears more authority than others, it doesn't mean I believe it is more relevant today. For instance, the documents of the Council of Trent bear more authority than an encyclical, but I would recommend many encyclicals before the documents of Trent, because the teaching in Trent is summed up in other documents, including the Catechism.

NOTE #2 - Many of these would be better with a good commentary, because many can be hard to understand. Some commentaries are better than others, so make sure you are getting your money's worth if you buy one.

Without further jibber-jabber, here is my list of what EVERY Catholic should read:
  1. The Holy Bible. No replacement for Divine Inspiration. Several good commentaries available.
  2. The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The basics of the faith in an accessible format. The first general catechism in nearly 400 years. I recommend the Pauline edition. The YouCat is a decent stand-in, with a more readable format.
  3. The 4 Dogmatic Constitutions of Vatican II. While I recommend that everyone eventually read all 16 documents of Vatican II, start with these 4.
The following Documents are those MANY Catholics should read:
  1. Humanae Vitae - Pope Paul VI. The encyclical that rocked the Church
  2. Theology of the Body - John Paul II. (Many people will not be able to get through it, so a popular version should suffice for most Catholics).
  3. Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla. Even more applicable, in many ways, than Theology of the Body.
  4. Writings of the Church Fathers. There is a ton of stuff out there. So, I recommend both this one-volume book or, even better, this three-volume set of books on the Church Fathers.
  5. Spiritual Writings of the Saints. This is a huge category. I would start with the more popular writings (e.g. Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, etc.) and the Doctors of the Church.
  6. History of the Catholic Church. I recommend the Warren Carroll four-volume version. If you want a much shorter and less scholarly one-volume history, try Triumph by Crocker.
  7. JPII's most important encyclicals - Christifidelis Laici, Veritatis Splendor, Redemptor Hominis, Evangelium Vitae, and Fides et Ratio. All of these can be found on the Vatican's website.
  8. Pope Benedict's encyclicals.
The following Documents are those SOME Catholics should read:
  1. Code of Canon Law. I don't necessarily recommend a cover-to-cover reading, but at least a good introduction to it. This is a decent intro.
  2. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
  3. General Directory for Catechesis.
  4. Evangelii Nuntiandi - Pope Paul VI. On evangelization.
  5. The other Vatican II Docs.
  6. St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica
  7. Divino Afflante Spiritu - Pope Pius XII
  8. General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
  9. JPII's other encyclicals.
While this list certainly isn't complete, it is a starting point for what every Catholic should know + much more.

I also have a list of recommended Catholic Books for those who wish to learn more.