Friday, November 30, 2012

Applause During Mass

Q - Clapping in church has always bothered me because it seems to distract from the importance of the celebration of the Eucharist. That being said, is clapping right, wrong, or indifferent in the mass setting? Am I being difficult by not liking it?

A -
Thanks for the question. I think there are some Catholics who worry too much about these things (not that you are, but I know some others do). How do we know if we are worrying too much about such things? When we allow them to be a distraction or take away from entering fully into Mass. Now, with that being said, I don't like it either. Are you being difficult? Not really. It is when this consumes you that it is too much.

Before Benedict XVI became pope he wrote the following warning about making the Mass into entertainment:
Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attraction fades quickly - it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation (Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy).
He masterfully sums up the problem with clapping in Church. Mass isn't about our feelings, it is about worshiping God. Giving to the Trinity what is due from us. Clapping is usually done for a human achievement and is not for God. So, it is a misplaced act in most liturgies. There are some places where it is explicitly allowed though. For instance, in the Rite of Ordination for priests there is an exception for the USA where the congregation can show approval of the act of choosing the men to be ordained and one of the ways proscribed in doing so is applause.

I can certainly understand spontaneous applause during the liturgy for some big events or announcements. For instance, if the long-time pastor announces after his homily that he has been reassigned and will miss the parishioners, I can certainly understand the congregation breaking out into spontaneous applause and I would probably happily join in.

But, if the applause happens too frequently and is almost expected, then there is a problem. For instance, a priest who thanks asks the congregation to thank the choir every week is distracting the congregation from the reason they came to Mass in the first place.

But, we must remember the Church doesn't tell us exactly how to act in every motion during Mass. So, don't get overanxious about clapping, especially if it isn't a regular thing. Also, there is no reason you have to participate in it if you feel uncomfortable doing so.

I hope this helps.

**How To Get More Out of Mass
**Holding Hands During the Our Father.

Why We Don't Pray

The Hobbit

I don't know about you, but I am a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. I loved both The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. I believe they are some of the best fiction books ever written. I also think the movies are a great adaptation of the books (I have the limited edition expanded DVDs) and can't wait for the new movie.

Here is a snip of a great article about why we are drawn into such tales:
'The Hobbit' and Virtue 
by Joseph Pearce

At its deepest level of meaning, The Hobbit is a pilgrimage of grace in which its protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, becomes grown-up in the most important sense. Throughout the course of his adventure, the hobbit develops the habit of virtue and grows in sanctity, illustrating the priceless truth that we only become wise men (homo sapiens) when we realize that we are pilgrims on a purposeful journey through life (homo viator).

Bilbo’s journey from the homely comfort of the Shire to the uncomfortable lessons learned en route to the Lonely Mountain, in parallel with Frodo’s journey from the Shire to Mount Doom in the Rings trilogy, is a mirror of every man’s journey through life. It is in this sense that Tolkien wrote in his celebrated and cerebral essay "On Fairy Stories" that "the fairy story … may be used as a mirour de l’omme" (the mirror of scorn and pity towards man).

In short, we are meant to see ourselves reflected in the character of Bilbo and our lives reflected in his journey from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Advent - Gangnam Style

ADVENT 2012!

Fr. Barron on Vatican II

Advent 2012


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.
Advent Clearinghouse of links 
 (please post additional links/videos in the comments section)

**US Bishops - Advent Page.
** - Advent page.
** - advent page.
** - Advent traditions page.
**Catholic Information Network - Advent Reflections.
**Our Sunday Visitor - Advent resources.
**Catholic Digest - Advent Articles.
**Catholic Encyclopedia - article on Advent.
**Creighton University - Advent prayer page.
**Passionist - Advent page.
** - Advent Page.
**American Catholic - FAQ about Advent.
**Domestic Church - how to make an Advent wreath.
**CatholicMom - Advent Resources.
**Get an Advent Wreath for your website from Curt Jester.
**4CatholicEducators - Advent Resources.
**CatholicTV - programs on Advent.
**The Anchoress - Advent thoughts and recommendations.


The Spirit of Advent - A Reflection on The Advent Season
by Marcel LeJeune

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pray & Work

What Confession Is Like For a Priest

A great article on the Sacrament of Confession, from the other side of the Confessional.

I was once riding in a shuttle-bus with a number of older folks on the way from an airport. They noticed that I was a priest and started asking questions about it. “Do you do all of the priest stuff?” “Yep.” “Even the Confession thing?” “Yeah. All the time.”

One older lady gasped, “Well, I think that that would be the worst. It would be so depressing; hearing all about people’s sins.”

I told them that it was the exact opposite. There is almost no greater place to be than with someone when they are coming back to God. I said, “It would depressing if I had to watch someone leave God; I get to be with them when they come back to Him.” The Confessional is a place where people let God’s love win. The Confessional is the most joyful, humbling, and inspiring place in the world.

I think there are three things. First, I see the costly mercy of God in action. I get to regularly come face to face with the overwhelming, life-transforming power of God’s love. I get to see God’s love up-close and it reminds me of how good God is.

Not many folks get to see the way in which God’s sacrifice on the Cross is constantly breaking into people’s lives and melting the hardest hearts. Jesus consoles those who are grieving their sins . . . and strengthens those who find themselves wanting to give up on God or on life.

As a priest, I get to see this thing happen every day.
Continue Reading.
**21 Reasons To Go To Confession
**Is Confession To a Catholic Priest Necessary or Can You Go Straight To God?
**Being Contrite
**What Happens If I Die With Mortal Sin Without 1st Going To Confession? 
**Can a Non-Catholic Go To Confession?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Break From Blogging

The blog will have few, if any, posts from now until the week after Thanksgiving. We give thanks for you, all of our readers, and will remember you in our prayers.

Please remember us in your prayers too!

We will let the Pope have the last word before the break from blogging.
"Even in our times there are natural disasters, and unfortunately even wars and violence. Even today we need a stable foundation for our life and our hope, the more so because of relativism in which we are immersed. May the Virgin Mary help us to welcome this center in the person of Christ and his Word."

Is Belief In God Rational?

Peter Kreeft discusses whether it is rational to believe in God.

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Between Muhammad and Jesus": Peter Kreeft & Zeki Saritoprak

A great interfaith dialogue about the differences and commonalities between Christianity and Islam.
A description of the video:
Join Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, and Zeki Saritoprak, Director of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies at John Carroll University, as they explore each others faiths, articulate their own spiritual journeys, and reflect on any common ground that can be found between two fundamentally different worldviews.

Does This Trick Work On You?

Try it out. Math...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

7 Secrets To A Transforming Prayer Life

7 Secrets To A Transforming Prayer Life
  1. The first secret is there are no secrets! Rather, it takes a lot of perseverance  humility, honesty, and grace to grow in prayer. The real secret is to do the other things below, which most Catholics who are trying to grow in prayer already know about - we just have to do them!
  2. Don't over-think prayer. It need not be complicated or burdensome. It is a relationship that God invites you ever deeper into. If we engage our intellect all the time, then we aren't focusing on the best part of prayer, which resides in the heart. Not the head.
  3. Be still and quiet yourself. The place you pray, your posture, and the time set aside are important. But, the real key is once you do these things you must rest and be still inside. Try to focus and allow yourself to tune into God's voice.
  4. Don't think of prayer as a chore. Many of us want to grow in prayer and commit ourselves to daily prayer. But, then life gets you going and you try to go "do" your prayer and get it over with to get to other stuff. But, the "other stuff" isn't nearly as important. So, our priorities and outlook on prayer might need to be adjusted periodically.
  5. Pray even when you don't want to. The real test of love is found when we overcome our feelings and thoughts that push us to stop praying. But, God is even more pleased when we choose to pray when we don't feel like it than when it is easy. Choosing to pray when it is difficult is a sure sign that you love God!
  6. Yes, the Sacraments matter! There is no better way to pray than to go to Mass. Frequent Confession is also a wonderful way to deepen your prayer life. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a great time/place to pray before our Lord. Don't discount the graces you receive from the Sacraments.
  7. You are not alone in prayer - The Holy Spirit is our help! If you know you ought to grow in prayer but lack the desire, then pray for the desire to grow. All of us should ask God to guide us through the Holy Spirit. 
Romans 8:26-27 – “The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”

Fr. Barron Reviews "Skyfall"

I really liked the movie as well.

WARNING - there are spoilers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Good News! Judge Won't Order Abortion!

UPDATE - the Judge who threatened to order an abortion for a mentally disabled woman has backed down!
A Washoe County district judge has decided against forcing a mentally impaired Nevada woman to have an abortion.

KRNV-TV in Reno reports that all parties reached a tentative agreement in court on Wednesday to help the 32-year-old through her high-risk pregnancy.

The case has drawn attention from anti-abortion advocates nationally.

The woman's legal guardian told KRNV that Judge Egan Walker agreed the woman wants to carry the pregnancy to term, and the evidence so far doesn't show it's medically necessary to abort.
Continue Reading.

Tim Hawkins on Modern Worship Music

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Judge Says He Can Order Abortion Of Mentally Disabled Woman's Baby Despite Family's Objections

Pray for this woman and her baby! Parental and family rights are trumped again...
A Nevada state judge says he has authority to order an abortion for a pregnant 32-year-old mentally disabled woman, even against the will of her Catholic adoptive parents.

Washoe County District Court Judge Egan Walker didn't make a decision, but asked the Nevada Supreme Court on Monday to let him go ahead with hearings as early as Tuesday to collect medical evidence about the woman's case.

The Las Vegas Sun reports ( ) that Walker called it "illogical and contrary to law" to prevent him from gathering evidence to determine if an abortion should be performed.

In a case being watched by national anti-abortion organizations, the woman's parents want the state high court to stop the proceedings.

The parents argue that as their daughter's legal guardians, they have exclusive authority over her health care decisions. They cite their religious beliefs and say they want the baby to be born.

Six couples have expressed an interest in adopting the baby, the woman's parents said.

The parents say their daughter has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old. She was living at a group home when she became pregnant.
Continue Reading.

Should I Date Someone I'm Not Attracted To?

Q - Is it wrong to not want to date someone that you aren't physically attracted to, even though you enjoy spending time with them?

A - Thanks for the question. I am guessing that you are not already dating this person, by the way you have phrased your question.

You are under no obligation to date anyone. Many Christians have been taught that all that really counts is what is inside. I would like to tweak that statement. What is "inside" is more important, but physical attraction does matter. There is such a thing as physical beauty and it really does make a difference in a relationship which might lead to marriage - the thing dating should be about.

While physical attraction is less important than finding someone you are attracted to in other areas (faith, personality, interests, etc.) it really does matter in a relationship and you should not feel bad about wanting to date someone that you are physically attracted to.

I don't think any of us would be here if our parents were not physically attracted to each other!

One caution - be careful of how you are defining "beauty". Most people are not made by God to look like models and yet our society has held this up as the standard of beauty and looks. Men and women are made come in different sizes, shapes, colors, etc. All have different features which stand out. Yet, all can be said to contain some kind of physical beauty.

Now, I am not saying all people are objectively equal physically, but rather we must be careful to remember beauty can come in many different ways. In other words, don't let the culture alone define "beauty" for you.

The most beautiful woman this world has ever seen may not have been the most physically beautiful women (by our culture's standards) - Mary.

I hope this helps.

**How Far Is Too Far?

3 Threats To & Opportunities For The Church

3 Threats To & Opportunities For The Church

Sometimes the same things that threaten us are also opportunities, if we have the eyes of faith to see them that way. Think of how Jesus approached the threats to His ministry. He didn't avoid them, he tried to change them.

1 - Contraceptive Mentality - This is the idea that sex is for pleasure alone and  it is whatever we want it to be. Therefore, sex is not for making babies or for bringing two spouses together. It is purely a selfish act of fulfilling a 'need', not a giving of self to another. This mentality is tearing apart our culture. It happens when sex between two people becomes about me rather than you. It happens when pornography entangles someone in it's snare. It leads to such things as abortion as a backup when contraception fails and the idea that lust can't be controlled.

The opportunity is found in the Church's teachings. This mentality ultimately leads to misery and emptiness. The Church has hope and life in her teachings on sexuality, relationships, marriage, family, and chastity. So, we must teach, proclaim, form, and educate our culture in these teachings as an antidote to the contraceptive mentality.

2 - Same-sex Marriage - The family is the fundamental building block of human society. In fact, because of the natural ability to procreate, marriage is the very source of life and even the future of our world. The role of the government is to promote the common good. So, promoting relationships which re-define marriage harms children (the future of our society) and is a failure to promote the common good. Marriage isn't just about the romance and feelings between two people. There are serious social consequences. Traditional marriage is the foundation of the values that govern life in our society and therefore the core social unit of society itself.

Many times Catholics are told we are bigots when we speak out to support traditional marriage. This isn't the case.  But, we are going to have to change hearts on this issue one person at a time. First we must become more informed on the social consequences of such radical ideas. Then we need to speak out, vote, and influence others. Don't forget to do it with kindness, love, and courage - covered in prayer.

3 - HHS Mandate - I know many Catholics are very worried this is the merely the first step of suppressing religious freedom and it may be. If a right is granted by the state, it can be taken away by the state. Rights are above the government. This is why the power of our government was purposefully limited by the Constitution: to prevent oppression — ESPECIALLY religious oppression.

Yet, the Church has an unprecedented opportunity before it. Never before have the Bishops in the USA been as united as they are today. They clearly understand the threat that the current policy is to all people of faith. They are speaking with one voice, but we must also speak with them. This is not just a fight for our Bishops to face without us. We must reach out to others who support us - Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, etc. and see them for what they are - allies in the culture wars, not enemies.


The Catholic Church faces a culture of religious apathy, relativism, utilitarianism, and needs bold and holy Catholics as a response. This is our opportunity to make things better!

The Catholic Church has the answer for all the world's problems in the fullness of truth and the fullness of grace she offers to the world. The Church gives us a moral anchor, an answer to broken families, addiction, sin, war, violence, abuse, and all the other issues in our culture.

More than ever the world needs the Catholic Church, if our culture is to last. This answer is the personal relationship with Jesus that the Catholic Church offers to us all through the Sacramental grace, teachings of the Church, and in our own personal prayer we all need.

Jesus created one Church. We are that Church, the Catholic Church. If the world needs the Catholic Church, then the Church needs saints. We need to be holy if we are to change the world.

Holiness is the key. Holiness is the answer.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Les Miserables and Women’s Fashion

Les Miserables and Women’s Fashion
By Kristine Cranley

I had the great joy of going to see my all-time favorite musical this weekend: the great Les Miserables. As always, I wept copiously at the fate of Fantine who, for love of her daughter, is driven by destitution to sell herself in prostitution. The audience is appalled as they watch her exit the stage wearing her poor yet dignified peasant's garb and re-enter wearing next to nothing; her breasts half exposed, her shoulders bare and her legs uncovered, in order to be more appealing to the men who will come to purchase her.

Your heart breaks every time, as you watch the scene progress, and witness the men treating her like an animal with no right to refuse their sexual advances and perverse designs for her. In clothing her scantily, the costume designers did a stunning job of portraying Fantine’s utter vulnerability and the stripping of her dignity in the eyes of the world. Throughout the ages, royalty is always highly clothed, while slaves are paraded around practically naked. The denial of adequate clothing is an age old technique for showing the subordination of one class of human beings to another. This weekend’s production of Les Mis used this archetypical reality brilliantly to make its audience weep at the fate of the beautiful Fantine.

But the thing that I couldn't shake from my mind as I left the theater was the fact that society tells me as a woman that I should wear even less clothing than the defeated Fantine was given to wear. Her breasts were no more exposed than many of the fashions of today encourage. Our shorts expose much more of the leg than Fantine's 19th century prostitution garb did. Even the 'pants' we are given to wear are so skintight that they appear to the observer as merely painted skin which leaves our backsides entirely exposed to the hostile eye.

The effect on those who saw Fantine in the streets was to treat her like an animal rather than a human being. What is the response in our society to the women’s fashions of today? Are men so desensitized that it doesn't affect them to look upon us so exposed? Does their love for us overcome in them the temptation to treat us as objects, which bodily exposure invites? Or is the idea that lack of clothing is equal to lack of dignity something which is much more archetypal and universal that we would like to believe, and thus haunts us even still, despite the good intentions of the wearer and the looker? And if we truly are a culture which values the equality of women, why aren’t the fashion designers making clothing for us which dresses us with the dignity of queens, rather than pushing on us the attire of slaves and prostitutes?

**Top 10 Reasons Men Should Practice Custody of the Eyes
**Top 10 Reasons Women Should Dress Modestly
**Facebook + Bathing Suits = Bad Idea
**Reflections on The Questions of Modest.
**What I Wish College Students Knew About True Womanhood

Football, Life, and Faith. Why it All Matters.

How about those Aggies!

Clearly, the buzz about the future of Texas A&M's football team isn't going to wear off anytime soon. If I would have told you before the season that we would have the following right in front of us, I would have laughed at you:

  • Top 10 ranking
  • Chance at a BCS bowl
  • Win over #1 Alabama on the road
  • Only 2 losses
  • A quarterback superstar in the making who has a real chance at the Heisman

Wow! What a season already, and we still have 3 games left.

With that being said, there is more to life than sports and sometimes we can take them too seriously.

Rozann Carter from Word on Fire Catholic Ministries sent me this reflection on Aggie football and the Art of Coaching she wrote up. Here is a snip:
Saturday night, I watched in (admittedly hopeful) disbelief as the Fighting Texas Aggies upset top-ranked Alabama in a flurry of big plays, even bigger turnovers, footage of sad fans in their regrettable body paint, and overwhelming amounts of traditional school spirit. As a college football fan with a vested interest in the “choking” of teams above my team’s ranking, I took a certain level of delight in the halting of the rolling tide. But, as I watched the epic battle unfold, as the cameras panned to each team’s coach and to their pre-play action and post-play reaction to a missed field goal, a fumbled chance to cross the goal line, or a silly lack of coherent decision making on the crucial third down, I thought about the distinct difference, but delicate balance, between this “pre-“ and “post-“, and what the balance has to say about leadership.
Continue Reading.

Fulton Sheen on Birth Control

"Birth Control" isn't about "birth" & the "control" that is sought out is a fiction.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Least - A Story You Ought To See

One of my goals as a father is to raise kids who care more for others than themselves. I see signs that we are doing a decent job.

For instance, my son (who is about to be 11) has a science experiment he had to demonstrate this week. There is one boy who is not well liked by others (he isn't easy to get along with). But my son asked him to help with the experiment because he knew "nobody else would ask him." This kind of charity made me so proud, I got tears in my eyes.

When I saw this video below, I thought of my son and the kid that nobody ever reaches out to.

Imagine being bullied because you are a special-needs freshman in high school who had trash thrown at you, insulted and marginalized. Imagine how scared and lonely you might feel.

Then one day a true friend decides to stand up for you. Real friendship is found in caring more for others than yourself.
"Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me." -Matt 25:40

Mental Possessions - What Ideas Are You Clinging To?

Some say that a pessimist sees a glass as half-empty and an optimist sees the glass as half-full.

I believe Christians are called to see it full.
Full of God's grace and providential care. Full of the love that surpasses all understanding. Full of care for us even in the midst of a fallen world.
We are not in charge.
God is.

Even though He oversees all things and could make all decisions, He allows us the ability to choose our actions, beliefs, values, etc - we call this "Free Will".

It is the greatest gift we have and many times I (like most others) really don't like it much. More precisely, I don't like the free will of other people.

I am a pretty stubborn and prideful guy. This means that I think WAY too much about my own opinion. When I get annoyed, frustrated, or angry with another person, it is my problem, not the other person's. Of course, I usually don't start off seeing things that way, which is why I get frustrated, annoyed, and angry. But, the truth is that I allow myself to wallow in those feelings.

I love my own free will. I love the freedom to choose how I am to act, what I will believe, etc. But, I despise the free will of others all too often. This is because I think I know better than they do. I think things would be fine if they just did, said, and thought how I think they ought to. What pride!

Why should I choose when or how others change?
Why should I be the one to choose the actions of others?
Why would I ever want to have someone change just because I think it is best?

Of course I shouldn't be the arbiter of what someone else chooses or how they live their lives. But, in many cases, I think I should.

My spiritual director agrees that most other people think the same way, even if they don't realize it. The few that really and truly love the free will of others are saints. Since we are all called to be saints, we have to all work on loving the free will of others and not letting their decisions change how we react or give away our interior peace.

This AMAZING quote from Jacques Phillipe, from his book Interior Freedom, sums it all up for me.
At times of struggle we need also to recall the conversion we should be concerned about is not our neighbor's but our own. Only if we take our own conversion seriously do we stand any chance of seeing our neighbor converted too. This point of view is realistic and encouraging. We have little real influence on other people, and our attempts to change them have only a very slight chance of success, since most of the time we want them to change in line with our criteria and aims more than God's. If we are concerned first with our own conversion, however, we have more hope of making a difference. It does more good to seek to reform ou hearts than to reform the world or the Church. Everyone will benefit.

Let us aks ourselves this question: "To what degree can the evil in my surroundings affect me?" With apologies to those I am going to scandalize, I say that the evil around us - the sins of others, of people in the Church, of society - does not become an evil for us unless we let it penetrate our hearts.

The point isn't that we should become indifferent. Just the opposite. The holier we are, the more we will suffer due to the evil and sin in the world. But external evil only harms us to the degree we react badly to it, by fear, worry, discouragement, sadness, giving up, rushing to apply hasty solutions that don't solve anything, judging, fostering bitterness and resentment, refusing to forgive, and so on. Jesus says in St. Mark's Gospel: "There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him!" Harm does not come to us from external circumstances, but from how we react to them interiorly. "What ruins our souls is not what happens outside, but the echo that it awakes within us." The harm that other people do to me never comes from them, it comes from me. Harm is only self-inflicted, the Fathers of the Church said long ago.

For some further words of wisdom on the subject, our very own Deacon Barry Cuba (transitional Deacon extraordinaire) had this homily this morning:
I checked Facebook this morning and saw a wide variety of reactions from my friends, and I'm looking at your faces right now. Some people are brimming with excitement and joy and some seem weighed down by fear and uncertainty. I know I've had some mixed emotions in the last twenty-four hours. But, I don't imagine my job this morning is to calm anyone down or cheer anyone up, it's to direct you to the Gospel, which today ends with this line: "Every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple."

I think some of the possessions that we cling to are mental, and one of these is this idea that we can save ourselves--that if we get the right party or the right people in power it will solve all of our problems. But, that's not how I understand grace to work. We can't do everything ourselves and it will wear us out to think we can. God often works despite our weakness and through our weakness. We do the best we can to take care of our affairs here on earth, and even with our best efforts we make mistakes, no matter who is leading the charge. No leader is perfect, because no person is perfect.

It's a noble thing to aim toward a more just and compassionate society and legal system. However, the Christian realizes that ultimately a perfect society is not something we can create by ourselves. (We've had a lot of attempts at it in the past.) If we're walking around without hope, maybe it's because we're placing our hope in places and people who can never live up to our expectations. If we believe God is all powerful, we believe he's in control.

There's some comfort that at the end of the day we're responsible for our own decisions, no one else--even if those decisions are at times easier or more difficult. If we don't like the decisions other people make, by all means, we can try and change their mind, but we shouldn't react with anger or force.

Some things change and some things stay the same. If we don't like the change we can sharpen our logic, hone our rhetoric, and soften our hearts. What should stay the same is our joy, a joy that no human being can give or take away, hopefully a joy that is attractive and contagious. Let's engage and love others.

Cardinal Dolan Writes To The President

A letter sent this morning:
Dear President Obama,             
             In my capacity as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to express my congratulations on your re-election as President of the United States.  The people of our country have again entrusted you with a great responsibility.  The Catholic Bishops of the United States offer our prayers that God will give you strength and wisdom to meet the difficult challenges that face America. 
            In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant.  We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom.  We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone. 
            May God bless you and Vice President Biden as you prepare for your second term in service to our country and its citizens.                 
Sincerely yours,
Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Church and Voting

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
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."
We have been given an election prayer by the USCCB.
Lord God,
as the election approaches,
we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city, state, and country,
and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness
so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,
one and equal in dignity,
especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.
We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned,
men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.

We pray for discernment so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word,
live your love,
and keep in the ways of your truth
as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles
and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.


Monday, November 5, 2012

What To Say To Those Who Believe Nothing Is Wrong With Pornography?

Salvation By Politics Always Fails

"Now, as then, we need to repeat that there can be no genuine solution of the "social question" apart from the Gospel, and that the "new things" can find in the Gospel the context for their correct understanding and the proper moral perspective for judgment on them."
-John Paul II
While on earth we should constantly battle for what is just and good. We cannot sit idly by and watch as injustice flourishes or disassociate ourselves from this world. This means we have an obligation to be politically engaged and make our voices heard.

But, we also should not equate politics or governmental policies with salvation. Our hope is in the Lord, not in the things of this earth.
  • If we rely on this world for our hope, then we will be let down.
  • If we rely on politicians to provide solutions to our problems, then we will be let down.
  • If we rely on governmental programs and policies to grant justice, we will be let down.
Remember, those who misunderstood the nature of Jesus' mission wanted him to be an earthly king. They were also looking for salvation through political power.

On the other hand, if we rely on God, our hope is assured and stands firm.
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." -2 Cor 4:16-18
"Through Him we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us." -Rom 5:2-5
Thus, while we have both feet firmly planted in the muck of this world, fighting for God's reign, we should remember - OUR SAVIOR REIGNS!

Go ahead and rejoice...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pope JPII to Young Adults - YOU ARE OUR HOPE!

JPII has a message for you (Bold emphasis added):
At difficult moments in the Church's life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit, just as Kateri Tekakwitha did here in America and so many other young people have done.

You are young, and the Pope is old, 82 or 83 years of life is not the same as 22 or 23. But the Pope still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations. Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young. You are our hope, the young are our hope.

Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fr. Barron: We Should Not Allow Aggressive Secularism Push Catholics To The Margins

Scott Hahn: Evangelization Is Like Falling In Love

A Requiem for All Souls Day

Please pray for the souls in Purgatory today. It is especially beneficial to offer the grace you receive in Mass for them.
Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor:

Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.
You are praised, God, in Zion,
and homage will be paid to You in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer,
to You all flesh will come.
Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Day of wrath, day of anger
will dissolve the world in ashes,
as foretold by David and the Sibyl.
Great trembling there will be
when the Judge descends from heaven
to examine all things closely.

The trumpet will send its wondrous sound
throughout earth's sepulchres
and gather all before the throne.
Death and nature will be astounded,
when all creation rises again,
to answer the judgment.
A book will be brought forth,
in which all will be written,
by which the world will be judged.
When the judge takes his place,
what is hidden will be revealed,
nothing will remain unavenged.
What shall a wretch like me say?
Who shall intercede for me,
when the just ones need mercy?

King of tremendous majesty,
who freely saves those worthy ones,
save me, source of mercy.

Remember, kind Jesus,
my salvation caused your suffering;
do not forsake me on that day.

Faint and weary you have sought me,
redeemed me, suffering on the cross;
may such great effort not be in vain.

Righteous judge of vengeance,
grant me the gift of absolution
before the day of retribution.

I moan as one who is guilty:
owning my shame with a red face;
suppliant before you, Lord.

You, who absolved Mary,
and listened to the thief,
give me hope also.

My prayers are unworthy,
but, good Lord, have mercy,
and rescue me from eternal fire.

Provide me a place among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
guiding me to Your right hand.

When the accused are confounded,
and doomed to flames of woe,
call me among the blessed.

I kneel with submissive heart,
my contrition is like ashes,
help me in my final condition.

That day of tears and mourning,
when from the ashes shall arise,
all humanity to be judged.
Spare us by your mercy, Lord,
gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
liberate the souls of the faithful,
departed from the pains of hell
and from the bottomless pit.
Deliver them from the lion's mouth,
lest hell swallow them up,
lest they fall into darkness.

Let the standard-bearer, holy Michael,
bring them into holy light.

Which was promised to Abraham
and his descendants.

Sacrifices and prayers of praise, Lord,
we offer to You.
Receive them in behalf of those souls
we commemorate today.
And let them, Lord,
pass from death to life,
which was promised to Abraham
and his descendants.

Lamb of God, who takes away
the sins of the world,
grant them eternal rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away
the sins of the world,
Grant them eternal rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away
the sins of the world,
grant them eternal rest forever.

Let eternal light shine on them, Lord,
as with Your saints in eternity,
because You are merciful.
Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them,
as with Your saints in eternity,
because You are merciful.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Peoria Bishop Offers Voting Guidance

Bishop Jenky of Peoria asked that the following letter be read at all Masses this weekend:
By virtue of your vow of obedience to me as your Bishop, I require that this letter be personally read by each celebrating priest at each Weekend Mass, November 3/4.

Dear Catholic Believers,

Since the foundation of the American Republic and the adoption of the Bill of Rights, I do not think there has ever been a time more threatening to our religious liberty than the present. Neither the president of the United States nor the current majority of the Federal Senate have been willing to even consider the Catholic community's grave objections to those HHS mandates that would require all Catholic institutions, exempting only our church buildings, to fund abortion, sterilization, and artificial contraception. This assault upon our religious freedom is simply without precedent in the American political and legal system. Contrary to the guarantees embedded in the First Amendment, the HHS mandates attempt to now narrowly define and thereby drastically limit our traditional religious works. They grossly and intentionally intrude upon the deeply held moral convictions that have always guided our Catholic schools, hospitals, and other apostolic ministries.

Nearly two thousand years ago, after our Savior had been bound, beaten, scourged, mocked, and crowned with thorns, a pagan Roman Procurator displayed Jesus to a hostile crowd by sarcastically declaring: Behold your King. The mob roared back: We have no king but Caesar. Today, Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord. They are objectively guilty of grave sin.

For those who hope for salvation, no political loyalty can ever take precedence over loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel of Life. God is not mocked, and as the Bible clearly teaches, after this passing instant of life on earth, God's great mercy in time will give way to God's perfect judgment in eternity.

I therefore call upon every practicing Catholic in this Diocese to vote. Be faithful to Christ and to your Catholic Faith. May God guide and protect his Holy Church, and may God bless America.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C.


Why Catholics Pray To Saints - Spoken Word

**MORE on why Catholics Pray to Saints.

From the creators of the video:
We gave this video the title of "Idol Worship" because many times that is exactly what Catholics are accused of without really knowing what we believe. This video is an attempt to creatively give expression to what the Catholic Church teaches about the Communion of Saints and our relationship with Mary the Mother of Jesus our savior.

We are not idol worshipers. Catholics know very clearly who they worship and that is one God in three persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We do honor the saints including Mary and we believe that through Jesus Christ we are connected, we have a communion.
Hail Mary Full of Grace the Lord is with theev The mighty words of Gabriel that echo salvation history
Beads pass our hands whispering verses from the Bible
A Connection through Jesus but we are accused of having idols
Those holy souls that ran the race we honor and we bless
But some want to make it me and Jesus and forget all the rest
His family is ever expansive and participates in his mission
If I can ask you to pray then saints can make petition
Especially the woman who said yes to crush the serpent's head
The gate by which divinity became humanity to save us from the dead
The New Ark of the covenant, Queen Mother yours and mine
One woman designed to carry the glorious savior of mankind
Not one of his own would deny the power of intercession
And if it can be found on this side, why is other side in question?
As if those one with God in heaven are cut off from what they left
The battle for souls that grows on Earth they never will forget
No séance, no ouja boards, we are not conjuring up the dead
It is thru him, with him and in him that all is said
Jesus, light of the word, love divine, connecting his own
By Design no Man is an Island, No man walks alone
We are a communion, a union of persons, a Body only one
One creator, One mediator, one way, God's only Son
The torch from the empty tomb has been carried in every age
Books cannot contain the sacrifices our mothers and fathers made
To know them is to know Christ, not idols but heroes for you and me
To deny the communion of saints is like cutting down his family tree.

Fr. Claude (Dusty) Burns
Aka Pontifex

7 Reasons to Celebrate Holy Days of Obligation

St. John Chrysostom commented in the 4th Century about holy days:
"many people celebrate the holy days and know their names: but of their history, meaning and origin they know nothing."
So, having questions about the Holy Days of Obligation is nothing new for the Church.

Before we get to the reasons why we celebrate the holy days of obligation, we have to answer - what is a holy day of obligation?

A holy day of obligation is an extraordinary celebration in the Church's liturgical calendar the Church asks and obliges us to attend, just as we are to do every Sunday. The Church, through these days, is reminding us we have something extra special going on during these special times. Therefore, it is a sanctification of time itself.

The Church's liturgical calendar we follow, starts in Advent. The calendar has many feast days, solemnities, and other celebrations on it. Most days have no special celebrations, but the ones that do celebrate the lives of Saints and others celebrate important events. But, all are to help us remember our history as a Church and honor the Saints as models for us.

So, why are they important?
They are important because we come together in a Church to honor Mary or an important event in the Church's calendar as a way to celebrate these things as one people of God. We are not just individuals, but also one Body of Christ - the Church. So, as a universal Church, we celebrate the Eucharist and this time as "holy" for God's sake and our own. The Church has laid it down as a "basic" element of a practicing Catholic to attend Mass and Holy Days of Obligation - it is one of the precepts of the Church.

It might be different and a small sacrifice to go to Mass during the week, but as Catholics we are asked to be counter-cultural and sacrificial. This is one of the ways we show God we place Him as our highest priority.

As Fr. David likes to say - they are so much obligations, but opportunities, if we have the eyes of faith to see them as such. The question I would ask is this - what is more important than celebrating Mass, where Christ Himself comes to be one with us in Holy Communion? With that in mind, the obligation melts away, and the eyes of faith are opened to see how awesome a gift we get.

7 Reasons to Celebrate Holy Days of Obligation:
  1. We get to unite with Catholics throughout the world to show how special the day is.
  2. We get to unite with Christ in the Eucharist.
  3. We get to worship God and love Him.
  4. We get to put our priorities in order once again.
  5. We get to pray in the highest form of prayer there is - The Mass.
  6. We get to stand out from the crowd and proclaim to the world our faith.
  7. We get the opportunity to share the faith with a friend who is non-Catholic and may not understand why we do such things.
Here are the Holy Days of Obligation or "Opportunity":
  • January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God;
  • Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the solemnity of the Ascension;
  • August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
  • November 1, the solemnity of All Saints;
  • December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception;
  • December 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Whenever January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, or November 1, the solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated.
Other links of interest:
**Precepts of the Church
**What is the Sunday Mass Obligation?
**Does Having a Small Baby Excuse One from the Mass Obligation?
**What is the Sabbath Rest?